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From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

Words of Wisdom for 2015 Grads

"You're stepping into a world that's, well, pretty rough. It's pretty chaotic, pretty divisive. You've got climate change, you've got debt, you've got wars, you've got political paralysis. It's kind of a grim story. But the story, I think, can be retold. And I really believe that you're the ones to do it."
---Robert Redford, Colby College

"I’m here to tell you that activist is not a dirty word. And I’m here to tell your parents that, as well. I didn’t expect to be an activist---I sort of stumbled up on it because, in the words of Larry Kramer, one of the AIDS activists and a mentor of mine, you have to fight for what you love."
---Mark Ruffalo, Dickinson College

"While you’re on Mars, stroll by the Spirit, Opportunity, or Curiosity Mars rovers. Each is fitted with a photometric calibration target, a small sundial that serves as a test pattern for their cameras. Look closely. Engraved on each are these words: 'To those who visit here, we wish a safe journey and the joy of discovery.' The joy of knowing: that’s science. That’s what drives us. It brings out the best in us and makes our species worthy of the future."
---Bill Nye, Rutgers

"A new door is opening for you---a door to a lifetime of rejection. It's inevitable. How do you cope? I hear that Valium and Vicodin work."
---Robert DeNiro, NYU's Tisch School of
the Arts

"Hold on to your old friends. Kiss your Mama. Admit what your dreams are. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know what you’re gonna do tomorrow. But work hard and don’t be lazy. And put away your damn phone once in a while. And be nice to jerks because we still don’t know the criteria for getting into heaven yet."
---Maya Rudolph, Tulane

"if you think today’s gridlock is bad, let me remind you that it was a good century between the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the passage of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. And of all the women at the Seneca Falls women’s suffrage convention in 1848, just one lived to see women cast their votes. Just one. But these folks didn’t let the ugliness and the obstacles deter them."
---Michelle Obama, Oberlin

"Any standards worth having will be a challenge to meet. And most of the time, you will fall short. But what is nice about having your own set of standards is that from now on, you fill out your own report card. So do yourself a favor: be an easy grader. Score yourself on a curve. Give yourself extra credit. You have the power. You are your own professor now. Which I know is a little creepy because that means you’re showering with your professor. But you have tenure. They can’t fire you."
---Stephen Colbert, Wake Forest University

Congrats and happy world changing!

Your west coast-friendly edition of  Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]

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Mental health and income
A new study from the Centers for Disease Control—Serious Psychological Distress Among Adults: United States, 2009–2013—confirms what common sense and the experts have long told us: The poor have more mental health problems than the rich. The study was derived from responses over five years in the in-person National Health Interview Survey. Jonathan Cohn reports:
The study, whose lead author is CDC epidemiologist Judith Weissman, does not address the issue of causality—in other words, whether mental health problems lead to more economic hardship or whether economic hardship leads to more mental health problems. But most researchers believe the process works in both directions.

Studies have shown, for example, that infants and toddlers growing up in low-income communities are more likely to experience the kind of “toxic stress” (neglect, abuse, seeing violence in the home) that can hinder brain development and lead to mental illness in adulthood. Additional studies have suggested, though not conclusively, that adults who become unemployed are more likely to develop depression.

At any rate, it's no surprise that people with mental health issues are more likely to have a tough time finding a good job or keeping one. And that means they are less likely to have health insurance that enables them to get treatment. The availability of mental health coverage through the Affordable Care Act should make some difference in this regard. But the CDC data are mostly too early to show whether there has already been change on that front. A study published last August indicated that a 2010 ACA provision allowing children aged 18-25 to get mental health coverage on their parents' insurance plans had boosted by 5.3 percent the proportion of this cohort that sought treatment for mental illness or disorders.

But, as Cohn points out, getting insurance doesn't solve all the problems for low-income people because many providers won't accept it and the out-of-pocket costs are often very high. The National Alliance on Mental Illiness is pushing for various fixes, including requiring insurers to post accurate directories of treatment providers that are accepting new patients, requiring them to publish standards they use to approve or deny mental health claims, requiring the federal Department of Health and Human Services to mandate that all health plans "provide clear, understandable, easy to access information about health benefits," and urging Congress and the executive branch to find ways to cut out-of-pocket costs for low-income Americans.

That ought to be an agenda item for activists who pledged years ago to improve an ACA that they feel falls short. As long as millions of Americans have no health insurance—for mental health matters as well as others—those pledges will remain unfulfilled.

Discuss
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) speaks about funding for the Department of Homeland Security during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington February 25, 2015. Conservative Republicans urged House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner no
Boehner gets his day in court, and a friendly judge.
Will it ever end? No. Remember how a year ago House Republicans were all up in arms over President Obama's executive actions on immigration? And how they were talking about impeachment? Remember how Speaker John Boehner mollified them? With a lawsuit against Obama for a completely unrelated executive action—delaying the employer mandate under Obamacare, which was something that they wanted to have happen, anyway, and to use Treasury funds that were not appropriated by Congress to pay for $175 billion in subsidies to Obamacare customers.

It took Boehner three tries to get a lawyer to take the case, and thus it ended up not being filed until November. The first hearing in the District Court for the District of Columbia was heard Thursday, a hearing on the White House's motion to dismiss the case and to determine whether Congress actually had standing to sue. But Judge Rosemary Collyer, a George W. Bush appointee, made it clear that she was far more interested in the substance of the case, and furthermore pretty damned hostile to the president, including at one point pondering whether impeachment might not be an option.

Justice Department attorney Joel McElvain opened his argument by describing the House's objections to the Obamacare rules by calling it an "abstract dispute over the implementation" of federal law, and the House therefore had no standing.

Collyer responded by saying, "You don't really think that." She later added, "This is the problem I have with your brief—it's just not direct, you have to address their arguments." She did acknowledge more than once that she was tougher on the administration's lawyer.

The judge also had pointed questions of the House GOP's attorney, George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley. Turley said that dismissing the lawsuit could limit the legislative branch's ability to combat future executive overreach. "That would mean that there's nothing we could do that would stop them," he said.

Collyer later responded in jest: "What about impeachment, is that an option?" She added, "I don't want to suggest… Don't anybody write that down."

McElvain went into the hearing to argue standing, and reasonably so because of that whole separation of powers thing in the Constitution which demands that disputes between the executive and Congress be worked out legislatively. There's also plenty of legal precedents "are pretty clear that members of Congress do not have standing to sue the executive," as Tim Jost, a Washington & Lee University law professor and Obamacare authority explains. "If they did, the litigation would be endless, as every time a president did something a member disagreed with, the courts would be dragged in." We'll see if Collyer puts much stock in precedent.
Discuss
Reposted from Comics by Barbara Morrill


Click to enlarge

The massive recall of cars with exploding airbags got me thinking about other things that are deadly and/or dangerous either by design or neglect.

The recall of the Patriot Act, or at least the sunset of its most pernicious sections, looks like it could really happen, thanks to Mitch McConnell being incredibly bad at Majority Leading the Senate. Unfortunately, everything else in this cartoon will probably be injuring/maiming/killing innocent people for years to come.

Discuss
Repubican presidental candidate Ben Carson announces his candidacy in Detroit, Michigan May 4, 2015. Carson announced in television interviews on Sunday that he is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and is expected to hold a formal an
The news that Ben Carson will be continuing give paid speeches for fees of $40,000+ per appearance in spite of being a presidential candidate is, I have to say, unsurprising. While it's unusual, giving paid speeches is what Ben Carson does now. It's that or needlepoint, and Ben Carson is all out of needlepoint.

I do wonder if his famous ability to fit his foot in his mouth is going to complicate things, though:

Candidates who give paid speeches risk violating campaign finance laws, says Larry Noble, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance legal advocacy group. When Carson now gives a paid speech, he cannot mention his candidacy or refer to his presidential campaign, because if he does so that would make the event a campaign speech from a legal perspective.
... and you're not allowed to give $40,000+ checks to a presidential candidate directly, because until the Roberts court gets around to nixing them there are still laws about that. So Ben Carson has to navigate each one of these speeches without mentioning his campaign once, and this is a fellow who's not known for navigating tricky ground in appearances without having to issue an apology a few days later.

So we'll see. Mind you, it's still possible that Carson isn't serious at all about running for president and is just doing that in order to milk his time in the lucrative conservative speaking circuit for a few dollars more. His campaign hasn't done much, but the fundraising? The fundraising has been going on for years.

Discuss
Republican leaders Senator Mitch McConnell (R) and John Boehner speak after a bipartisan meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington June 10, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Have fun with this, guys.
We've just got one more month before the Supreme Court issues its King v. Burwell decision, which means that Republicans—the ones in charge of Congress—have just a few weeks to figure out if they're going to do anything to help the 8 million people who could be losing their Obamcare subsidies. They sort of have an idea to pursue, Sen. Ron Johnson's (R-WI) temporary extension of subsidies, which is really just veto-bait and a way to blame President Obama if the subsidies end. Even that, though, is just too much for House extremists who will refuse to vote on anything that keeps any part of the law alive for any length of time.
Any plan that includes subsidies, even for a brief period, would be "real problematic," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. "We have to say: 'Here’s our replacement that will make health care better,' but not any type of fix to the plan," he said.

That group of more than 30 lawmakers hasn’t taken a formal position on the issue, but conservative opposition could make it hard to pass legislation in the House.

"That view suggests Obamacare was the right answer and that's not what Republicans promised last fall," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R., Kan.). "This is a golden opportunity. If Republicans squander this opportunity to repeal and replace Obamacare, they squander an opportunity to actually win the White House. It’s not the time to support and extend Obamacare."

There's not going to be any help forthcoming from Democrats, either. They'll demand a permanent fix and nothing else, and the problem Johnson has is that his legislation makes it very clear that a permanent fix is ridiculously easy. He's included the language to do it, just with an expiration date which is conveniently after he might be re-elected in 2016.

The basic problem for Senate Republicans is that they represent states that will be hit very hard economically if the court strips subsidies, because those are the states using federal exchanges. Twenty-two of the 24 Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2016 are in these states, and they have to run state-wide, not in specially carved-out heavily Republican districts, like their House colleagues. As we've seen demonstrated time and time again, their House counterparts aren't very good at the big, long-term strategic thinking. They also just don't give a damn about the Senate.

All that is going to make it pretty difficult for Republicans to blame Obama if the court does its worst.

Discuss
Former Representative J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) listens as U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa January 2, 2008. REUTERS/Keith Bedford (UNITED STATES) - RTX566T
Denny Hastert
A new report in the New York Times fills in some important details about former Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert's shocking indictment:
J. Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, was paying a man to not say publicly that Mr. Hastert had sexually abused him decades ago, according to two people briefed on the evidence uncovered in an F.B.I. investigation into the payments.

Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced the indictment of Mr. Hastert on allegations that he made cash withdrawals designed to hide those payments and for lying to federal authorities about the purpose of the withdrawals.

The man—who was not identified in court papers—told the F.B.I. that he had been touched by Mr. Hastert when Mr. Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach, the two people said on Friday. The people briefed on the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a federal investigation.

Hastert is accused of promising $3.5 million to an unspecified "Individual A" to cover up "prior misconduct" on Hastert's part. That alleged "prior misconduct" was not detailed in his indictment, but it certainly sounds like this is it. The Times doesn't outright say that the man described above is Individual A, but the piece is framed to strongly indicate that he is. That's buttressed by a separate report in the Los Angeles Times:
One of the officials, who would not speak publicly about the federal charges in Chicago, said "Individual A," as the person is described in Thursday’s federal indictment, was a man and that the alleged misconduct was unrelated to Hastert’s tenure in Congress. The actions date to Hastert's time as a Yorkville, Ill., high school wrestling coach and teacher, the official said. [...]

Asked why Hastert was making the payments, the official said it was to conceal Hastert’s past relationship with the male. "It was sex," the source said. The other official confirmed that the misconduct involved sexual abuse.

There is still much we don't know, including how Hastert and Individual A knew one another, but we'll be keep track of all developments in this story. You can find our full explainer on the case here.

1:50 PM PT: A new CNN report says that Hastert "was paying a former student in order to keep quiet about allegations of sexual misconduct" from Hastert's time as a teacher and coach, according to two nameless sources "with knowledge of the federal government investigation."

Discuss
Members of Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America and more than 20 other organizations hold a
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Idaho abortion laws in a ruling issued Friday. The laws banned the procedure after 20 weeks and also required that all second trimester abortions be performed in hospitals.
The Idaho laws have not been enforced in the state, as a lower court judge had reached the same conclusion as the 9th Circuit. A spokesman for the Idaho attorney general was not immediately available for comment on Friday.

The Idaho case began when a local prosecutor filed a criminal complaint against Jennie Linn McCormack for self-inducing an abortion by ingesting a pack of pills. That case was dismissed, but McCormack then filed a civil lawsuit challenging several Idaho abortion statutes.

In a unanimous three-judge opinion on Friday, the 9th Circuit said U.S. Supreme Court precedent barred the Idaho laws.

The Idaho attorney general has not yet released a statement about the state's intention to appeal. But the 20-week abortion ban has been passed in 12 other states since 2010. States and anti-abortion groups are pushing very hard to have this ban reach the Supreme Court as the next challenge to chip away at Roe v. Wade. Likewise, the U.S. House voted earlier this month to impose a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks, and were clear in doing so that they are making it a litmus test for presidential candidates and intend to keep pushing it.
Discuss
Explosion in late 2014 variously described as an ISIL truck bomb or a U.S. airstrike in the town of Kobane on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Explosions in late 2014 variously described as an ISIL truck bomb or a
U.S. airstrike in the town of Kobane on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Michael Crowley reports from Washington that there's a push for a new "surge" in Iraq. And guess what? It's being promoted by some of the same imperialist jackasses who proposed the first one in 2007.

The idea this time is to send perhaps 20,000 U.S. troops there and embed them with front-line Iraqi soldiers to fight ISIL, the extremist militants also known as ISIS, the Islamic State and Daesh. Those troops would, goes the talk, rarely engage in combat, but rather work as advisers and trainers as well as spotters for precision U.S. airstrikes:

“It will take accepting risk. It will take accepting casualties,” retired Gen. Jack Keane, a former Army vice chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. Keane helped persuade Bush to order his surge of [30,000] troops against the opposition of military commanders who insisted their Iraq strategy was working; Obama opposed that surge but later admitted that it “succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”

In an interview with POLITICO, Keane said he supports sending between 10,000 and 20,000 troops to Iraq, primarily to speed up the training of Iraqi forces and tribal fighters in Sunni areas where ISIS is especially strong. His view is backed by another Bush surge architect, Fred Kagan, a military strategist at the American Enterprise Institute, who also discussed the proposal with POLITICO.

Kagan is a good deal more than that. He (along with his father Donald and brother Robert) were all signatories of the 90-page seminal neoconservative document Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources For a New Century (2000), which called for a steep rise in military spending and continued global dominance by the United States with emphasis on its "'constabular' duties associated with shaping the security environment." Like other neoconservatives associated with the Project for a New American Century, Fred Kagan was pushing for an attack on Iraq as early as 1998.

Kagan, Sen. John McCain and others who back a new surge in a new form, have all sharply criticized President Obama for bailing on the Iraqis when he ordered the last U.S. combat troops to exit the country in 2011. They've blamed that withdrawal for the emergence of ISIL. And they've credited the original surge with great success, indeed with "winning" the Iraq war. So why not do it again?

Hmmmmm. We "won" the Iraq war? Could have fooled me. Given the convenient amnesia regarding the invasion and occupation being displayed of late by many prominent American hawks, including Jeb Bush, as well as Obama's own unfortunate if reluctant praise for the surge, this revisionism about Iraq should surprise nobody.

In fact, it was Bush who in 2008 signed off on the timeline for combat troop withdrawal and it was the Iraqi government that refused to sign an agreement to allow U.S. forces to remain. More importantly, the surge didn't win the war. It merely helped tamp down the insurgency temporarily.

More on the new surge below the fold.

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  • Today's comic by Mark Fiore is Mitch McConnell and Snuggly the Security Bear Beg to Spy:
    Cartoon by Mark Fiore -- Mitch McConnell and Snuggly the Security Bear Beg to Spy
  • What's coming up on Sunday Kos ...
    • The myth of lost manhood in America, by Mark E Andersen
    • The white riot that burned Greenwood to the ground, by Denise Oliver Velez
    • Book Review: Dire Predictions 2nd Edition, by DarkSyde
    • The most accurate pollsters of 2014...(and why that title, quite frankly, doesn't mean very much), by Steve Singiser
    • No longer girls, they are military veterans, by Susan Grigsby
    • When it comes to voting, conservatives want some people to count more than others. Sound familiar? by Ian Reifowitz
    • Americans need more than a listening and learning tour from Hillary Clinton right now, by Egberto Willies
  • U.S. GDP contracted in first quarter: Real, that is inflation-adjusted, gross domestic product fell at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to the second estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis Friday. The first estimate had put the rate at 0.2 percent, but the consensus of experts had forecast that the second estimate would be negative. In the fourth quarter, real GDP had increased at an annual rate of 2.2 percent. It's the third time we've seen a first-quarter contraction since the economic expansion after the Great Recession began. In the first quarter of 2014, for instance, the annualized rate of growth fell 2.1 percent. A key measure, real final sales of domestic product, which excludes inventories, fell 1.1 percent in the first quarter, the steepest plunge since the first quarter of 2009, during the depths of the recession. Many economists see the contraction as a blip.
  • Sandy victims blame Gov. Christie for the fact they're still not back in their homes:
    More than two and a half years after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the coast, thousands of residents are still waiting for their homes to be rebuilt and for funding to come through. And this week, the New Jersey department overseeing the recovery announced that almost half of the low-income homeowners who applied for rebuilding aid had been rejected. [...]

    But Christie has been resistant to moving forward legislation which would help the victims recover. Early last year, federal officials said they were investigating his use of millions of dollars in Sandy relief funds for ads to promote tourism that also prominently featured the governor. And the state is currently disputing the Fair Share Housing Center’s claim that 15,000 families are still waiting to rebuild, saying it’s “a gross and irresponsible distortion of the facts.”

  • Gallup: Nation's pro-choice views lead for first time since 2008:
    “Half of Americans consider themselves 'pro-choice' on abortion, surpassing the 44% who identify as 'pro-life.' This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice position has had a statistically significant lead in Americans’ abortion views.”
    But 20 years ago, 6 percent more Americans were pro-choice than now and the forced birther cohort was way below 40 percent. Among Democrats, 68 percent are pro-choice; among Republicans, 31 percent are.
  • Greatest photobomb ever?
  • 66 chimpanzees that were key to developing hepatitis vaccine have been left to die:
    In 2005, the New York Blood Center left its research chimps to retire with a promise of lifetime care on an island. In March, it abandoned them for somebody else to worry about.

    The 66 chimps are currently surviving on a reduced feeding schedule paid for through emergency funds pieced together by the Humane Society and the personal donations of a handful of individual conservationists. But they only have enough money to support the chimps’ care for a few more weeks.

  • The extent of Arctic ice for this time of year is at an all-time low (since satellite data have been available):
  • Surprise! Jeb Bush to cozy up to coal barons at closed-door meeting:
    Jeb Bush will convene next week with a clutch of coalmining barons and reliable Republican party donors who have paid at least $7,500 each to huddle in secret with the presidential hopeful at a golfing and fly-fishing retreat in a hidden-away corner of Virginia.

    Bush’s scheduled one-hour speech at the Coal & Investment Leadership Forum will take place at the members-only Olde Farm club in Bristol, Virginia, where the civil war-themed golf tournament is a “cherished tradition.”

  • Team Blackness discusses the fact we live in a stupid world as epitomized by the people wasting their time hating on Dwayne Wade just because he paints his toenails.  Apparently many of his 4.3 million Instagram followers judged him for it, but that's not stopping Wade: “I was on vacation in the Bahamas with LeBron and when he saw my toes he was like, ‘Something is seriously wrong with you.’ But eventually Bron was like, ‘You know what? You’re crazy, but that’s just you.’ Also discussed were the abolition of the death penalty in Nebraska, why Chuck Johnson is a dick, and how Iyanla is going to "fix" Baltimore.

    Subscribe on iTunes | Subscribe On Stitcher | Direct Download | RSS

  • On today's encore Kagro in the Morning show, alphabet soup with Greg Dworkin: POW; EPA; VA. How the Gop accidentally forced a nat'l health care exchange. PsychoSuperMom's "GOP Hypocrisy Blues." How open carry hijacks brands. Scott Brown's into something shady.

Discuss
Amanda Scott (L) and Christina Corvin (R) celebrate after getting married outside of the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds office in Charlotte, North Carolina, October 13, 2014. Monday was the first day that Mecklenburg County issued marriage licenses
Amanda Scott and Christina Corvin celebrate after getting married in North Carolina
North Carolina magistrates won't be allowed to refuse to officiate all marriages as a way of getting out of officiating the same-sex ones, after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed a bill that would have legalized such discrimination.
McCrory explained in a statement that allowing officials to pick and choose how they perform their sworn duties is not good law: “Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer, or magistrate, no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath; therefore, I will veto Senate Bill 2.”

Though the bill was designed to create a way around performing same-sex marriages, its effect would have been equally as inconvenient for different-sex couples. Magistrates and Assistant Registers of Deeds would not have been able to pick and choose who they marry; they could only pick between all marriages and no marriages. If it was when a same-sex couple requested a marriage that they decided to stop performing the duty, that recusal would last for at least six months. And counties would still have had to provide somebody that could officiate marriages, even if all magistrates had recused under the policy.

It's pretty simple, really: If it's important to you not to do a key part of a job, that's not the job for you.

Doubtless the inconvenience to different-sex couples and the shining example of Gov. Mike Pence's Indiana made the decision to veto less difficult for McCrory.

Discuss
I see we're still ignoring the Waco murders to focus on "cartoon contests."
You can draw your own conclusions as to why a bunch of fourth-tier patriots have decided that drawing pictures of Muhammad and showing them to Muslims is the very best way for them to show how much they love freedom. That's going to be their thing, though, so a group of freedom-fighting biker-yokels are converging today at the Arizona mosque that the two Texas cartoon-contest would-be terrorists worshipped at in order to shout and wave those pictures.
In a Facebook event for the contest, entitled “Freedom of Speech Rally Round II,” organizer Jon Ritzheimer wrote, “This is in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist, with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad.”
He also asks freedom-lovers to come armed. Not because they want to stir up trouble, just because.
“People are also encouraged to utilize there [sic] second amendment right at this event just incase [sic] our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack.”
Helpful tip: You can leave out the "sic" when quoting the things that America's most freedom-loving patriots write. If we have to put a "sic" for every error of basic English that the Tea Party Red Dawn Patriot Brigades write on a sign or on Facebook wer gong to be heer awl dayh.

Despite all this, the protest is expected to be peaceful, though stupid. The mosque has asked their patrons to not interact with the group as usual (this is the second protest, not the first) and the police will be there to ensure that none of the Red Dawners get their guns and their crayons mixed up.

Head below the fold for more.

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