Late Sunday Reads

16195811-standardGood Afternoon!

Sorry this is so late.  JJ’s mother-in-law passed so she will be taking the week off.  It’s my turn today to fill those big shoes!  However, my A/C went out yesterday afternoon late. I thought it was only struggling to keep up with the heat when I left for a cocktail hour gig.  When I got home from that gig last night, I opened the door on a very hot home and three very miserable animals. It was obvious that the A/C wasn’t just struggling.  It was pretty dead.  I spent the night trying to get to sleep and only did so at about 4am with the help of Benadryl. Fortunately, I got some relief at 8 am when the owner of the local repair shop got to me and fixed it quickly! I was lucky to meet Julian Marin at my local watering hole awhile back because he ended our suffering here at the KatHouse. I went back to sleep and didn’t get up until around 2 my time.  Fortunately, it’s a bad capacitor that’s still under warranty.  It turned out to be a quick fix.

So, I’m not letting this mass shooting in Lafayette go for awhile.  Several things stand out to me.  First, the killer was a rabid misogynist who went on Talk Radio shows screaming about the Biblical roles of women. It shouldn’t be lost on any one that he chose an Amy Schumer movie which was going to have a larger than normal number of women in attendance and that a solid majority of his victims–including the dead ones—were women.  Second, there are mass shootings in New Orleans all the time.  Gun Violence is a near every day occurrence here and many victims are innocent children playing in the street and elderly people sitting on porches.  Where is the national news media on those instances?  Third, Louisiana’s gun laws are among the loosest in the country and our deaths attributable to guns are the second highest.  Our governor is eager to show the NRA and the state his gun fetish.  His policies of disabling whatever few gun laws the state had are exactly why these kinds of problems happen.  He can pray to his imaginary friend as much as he wants and focus on the victims.  But, he needs to realize that the blood of every gun victim in this state–since he’s started disabling the few reasonable restrictions that we’ve had–is on his hands.  If he and others only say “no one could imagine” then he and those others join the ranks of the deliberately avoiding the obvious club.

A governor issuing a call for prayers in the wake of a fatal mass shooting is almost boilerplate by now, but what good does it truly do? Prayers will not pull the bullets out of those people, nor repair their flesh. The frequency of these terrible events has somehow numbed us, and the lack of political courage on the right (and at times, on the left) to do anything to stem the flow of guns into our country is staggering. But can it help, somehow?

“Prayer in these moments serve two basic functions in my opinion: one as a sincere attempt at showing sorrow and hoped for comfort for the deceased, and second, as a hope the violence will stop,” Butler told me. “However, these prayers, while sincere, tend to be diffuse, non focused, and often are not prayers that are about the root cause of the situations: usually people’s actions, changes in gun laws, or repentance—sorrow for being a part of a culture that promotes the violence. Personally, I think it is more about soothing of those who have lost loved ones, and a way to forget the real issues at hand that need to be addressed.”

Jindal is asking us to comfort ourselves in this moment, which sounds right. There he was in Lafayette on Thursday night, recommending prayer as the first recourse and saying,“We never imagined it would happen in Louisiana,” and expecting to be taken seriously. Having now suspended his presidential campaign, he’s going back to being just the governor of the state with perhaps the nation’s weakest gun laws and definitely its worst gun violence. Jindal uses guns as campaign props, frequently touting his hunting acumen, A+ grade from the NRA, and enthusiasm for firearms in speeches, interviews, and in his Twitter feed. “In Louisiana and all across America,” Jindal told the CPAC audience in 2012, “we love us some guns and religion.”

Both came into play on Thursday night in Lafayette. But comforting people after mass shootings, by definition, makes them comfortable after mass shootings. Praying may make you feel better in the moment, but Jindal is essentially asking that citizens do nothing to solve the actual problem of gun violence. People can talk to God if they want, but someone had better be calling Wayne LaPierre at the National Rifle Association. A few members of Congress, too.

As Slate writer Jamelle Bouie noted Thursday night on Twitter, we live in a country willing to accept dozens of murdered children—in a tony Connecticut suburb, no less. Also, we seem to be able to swallow a child and five others being killed in an assassination attempt on a sitting member of Congress, Gabrielle Giffords. Urgency on this issue seems to be out of style, but I’d think that perhaps even out of sheer boredom, this nation would not simply shrug its collective shoulders in grief and resignation for nearly a hundred times in the last several years, and join those actually trying to make our national gun policies make sense. In the absence of any faith that can be done, it will take work.

The words “well-regulated militia” are always the ignored parts of the second amendment when you’re around the gun nuts.  Their answer to gun violence is always more guns.  Let me ask you something, if you sawguns mental illness a child throwing rocks at other children in a playground would you give those other children rocks and expect the problem to be solved? And, what would you think about arming every one in a dark crowded theater then calling for a virtual shoot out at the OK Corral? Certainly, responsible gun owners know that kind of environment is not likely to produce a positive outcome.  However, white male apologists like Rick Perry always blame mental illness and are blaming “gun free zones”.  It’s never about the issues of right wing extremists and their racist, misogynist, radical christianist screeds. It’s always about mental illness and not enough guns.

Rick Perry said in an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, earlier this week shows why gun-free zones are “a bad idea” and said he believes people should be able to take their firearms to the movies.

“I think that it makes a lot of sense to send a message across this country,” Perry said when asked by host Jake Tapper if the former governor believed a way to prevent such violence would be to allow moviegoers to take guns inside. “If we believe in the Second Amendment, and we believe in people’s right to protect themselves and defend themselves, and their families.”

John Russell “Rusty” Houser on Thursday shot 11 people, killing two, in a theater using a handgun he legally purchased from a pawn shop, authorities have said. Houser, who authorities say had a history of legal and mental problems, then turned the gun on himself.

“I will suggest to you that these concepts of gun-free zones are a bad idea,” Perry said. “I think that you allow the citizens of this country, who have appropriately trained, appropriately backgrounded, know how to handle and use firearms, to carry them. I believe that, with all my heart, that if you have the citizens who are well trained, and particularly in these places that are considered to be gun-free zones, that we can stop that type of activity, or stop it before there’s as many people that are impacted as what we saw in Lafayette.”.

Perry said shootings in gun-free zones like movie theaters and churches — such as the one in Charleston, South Carolina, the scene of a racially-motivated bloodbath that killed nine last month — happen because of a failure to enforce existing gun laws. He said current laws should have prevented Houser from obtaining his gun.

“I think we have the laws in place. Enforcement of those laws is what seems to be lacking, both in Charleston and here in Lafayette, Louisiana,” he said. “We see individuals who are obviously mentally impacted. These are individuals who I think that somewhere, somebody didn’t do their job in the standpoint of enforcing the laws” that are already on the books.

Governors like Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry aren’t about enforcing laws already on the books. They are about eliminating them and installing some Hollywood version of the Wild West in every state in this country. Blogger Julian Drury discusses the steps Jindal’s taken to appease the NRA and to remove any sensible gun regulation.  Remember, even the constitution uses the worlds “well-regulated”.

Why does New Orleans have so much gun violence? Yes, many nuances and history of gangs and crime are to be taken into account. City crime is always complex to certain degrees. Yet, one of the major contributing factors in Louisiana is the fact that the availability of guns is much higher than in states like New York, Illinois, and California.

Louisiana has one of the most lax gun laws in the country. Gun sales are hardly regulated properly. You can buy a gun at a pawn shop quickly, provided you are 21 years old and have a Louisiana state ID. If that doesn’t work, well there are the gun shows that Louisiana has held.

The gun show loophole is problematic, and allows anyone to buy military grade firearms without proper background checks. As long as the cash is in hand, many retailers at these gun shows will sell guns if the buyer has proper ID or not.

Now who would show up to a gun show with thousands of dollars in cash, and not want a background check? Hmmm? Criminals, perhaps?

Then factor in Bobby “Louisiana Loves Guns” Jindal, governor of the state, who seems to sit deep in the NRA’s pocket. Under his terms in office, Jindal has regularly weakened gun safety regulations, and often appears at gun stores during his campaigning, to have pictures of himself with whatever the shop’s biggest rifle is.

bobby_jindal_gun_ap_imgIn 2013, Bobby Jindal signed six gun laws.   Most of these laws made it easier for criminals and mentally ill people to obtain laws.  He should’ve known he was setting the state up for more mass shootings but as usual, he’s more concerned about things that would contribute to his presidential ambitions.  He did sign bills into laws to increase the ability of state and federal agencies to share information on people who should not have access to guns.  However, the gun show loop hole alone means that nothing will ever be done with that information. The Lafayette shooter is perhaps a textbook example of some one that should not have access to guns, yet he legally acquired one.

The most discussed piece of legislation in the batch signed Wednesday was House Bill 8by state Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City. The new law will enforce penalties on the intentional publication of the personal information of concealed handgun permit holders.

Citizens face penalties of up to six months in jail and $10,000 for those who “intentionally disseminate for publication” the personal information, such as names and addresses, of permit holders. Law enforcement or public safety employees who share such information will face up to six months in jail and a fine of $500.

Thompson, who helped found the pro-gun group Defend Louisiana this year, said the legislation was introduced largely as a reaction to the publication of New York gun permit holders’ names and addresses by The Journal News last year. He said permit holders’ lives and property were put at risk by the release and he wants to ensure such publication will be penalized in Louisiana.

“It is a great day in Louisiana and across this nation for those of us who refuse to give an inch when it comes to defending our right to protect our families and we will stand strong in the defense of the Second Amendment,” Thompson said Wednesday.

“Responsible, law-abiding citizens should not be villainized simply because they are concealed carry permit holders,” he added.

The bill received significant push-back from journalists, including Baton Rouge Advocate Executive Editor Carl Redman and Louisiana Press Association Executive Director Pamela Mitchell. Penalties will not be imposed if the permit holder had approved the information release or if it was already in the public domain. Publication would be allowable if the permit holder committed a felony involving a gun or if the information is subject to a court order.

jindal gun shopBobby Jindal says “Lousiana Loves us some guns”.  That’s not exactly obvious to any of us that live in a city where gun violence costs many lives every day.

“We love us some guns,” Bobby Jindal once said of his fellow Louisianans. Two of them were killed, and nine others wounded, on Thursday night when a man walked into a movie theater in Lafayette, sat for a while, and then fired more than a dozen rounds from a .40 caliber handgun.
“We never imagined it would happen in Louisiana,” Jindal said afterward, though the state has the second-highest rate of gun deaths in the country, more than twice the national average. Louisiana also has some of the laxest firearm regulations, for which Jindal bears much responsibility. During his eight years as governor he’s signed at least a dozen gun-related bills, most intended to weaken gun-safety regulation or expand access to firearms. One allowed people to take their guns to church; another, into restaurants that serve alcohol. He broadened Louisiana’s Stand Your Ground law, and made it a crime to publish the names of people with concealed carry permits. At the same time Jindal has pushed for cuts to mental health services.

Jindal treats guns not as weapons but political props. On the presidential campaign trail he’s posed repeatedly for photos cradling a firearm in his arms. “My kind of campaign stop,” he tweeted earlier this month from an armory in Iowa. After the Charleston massacre, he called President Obama’s mild comments about gun violence “completely shameful.” The correct response then, according to Jindal, was “hugging these families,” and “praying for these families.”

So, today on MSNBC, imagine my shock and surprise when I heard that Jindal said the Layfette shooter should’ve been denied access to guns.

The gunman who opened fire in a Louisiana movie theater should not have been allowed to legally buy the gun he used to kill two people and injure nine because of his mental history, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Sunday.

Shooter John Houser “should have never been able to buy that gun,” Jindal told NBC News. “That should have never been able to happen.”

Houser had been involuntarily hospitalized for mental conditions in Georgia and denied a concealed weapons permit in Alabama in 2006 because of a domestic violence complaint and a previous arrest connected to an arson plot.

Jim Cavanaugh, a retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent and now NBC News security analyst, said those red flags should have kept Houser from buying a gun in any state.

“If he’s adjudicated as a danger to himself or others, or not able to handle his affairs due to his mental capacity, he is also barred from having a firearm,” Cavanaugh said.

Still, Houser was able to legally buy a Hi-Point .40-caliber handgun in Alabama in 2014. And that is the gun he used to fire more than a dozen shots into a Thursday night movie audience of about 25 people before killing himself, officials said.

It is unclear whether officials in Georgia filed records about Houser’s involuntary hospitalization, which would have been funneled to the FBI’s database and therefore surfaced during a background check in any state, according to The Associated Press.

“Obviously somebody with this kind of history should have never been able to buy a gun,” Jindal said, noting that Louisiana laws would have prevented Houser from legally buying a gun.

In order to acquire a concealed handgun license in Louisiana, an applicant must “not suffer from a mental or physical infirmity due to disease,” according to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. But private owners and gun show sellers aren’t required to perform background checks to determine the mental health and arrest history of prospective gun buyers.

In the immediate wake of the shooting, Jindal, who is running for president and is generally known as pro-gun (the NRA last gave him an “A+” rating), declined to speak on gun policy, saying he wanted to give Lafayette a chance to grieve.

Authorities have yet to determine a motive for why Houser chose to attack people at the showing of “Trainwreck,” why he chose to target Lafayette and why he picked a Thursday evening.

So, let me address the mainstream media and police confusion about Houser’s “choices” of victim.  These are the same groups of people that rarely address the daily violence against and murder of women by the rick perry gunmen in their lives.  This is from a blog that tracks and monitors male misogyny called “We Hunted the Mammoth”.  The author is David Futrelle.

Police in Lafayette, Louisiana are evidently struggling to understand why the outspokenly misogynistic, racist and anti-Semitic John Russell “Rusty” Houser murdered two women and wounded 9 other moviegoers at a showing of “Trainwreck,” a film written by and starring Amy Schumer, a feminist comedian with a Jewish father, known for joking frankly about sex.

[For more, see my latest post on Houser: “Did right-wing attacks on “Trainwreck” inspire John Russell Houser’s shooting rampage?”]

Col. Michael D. Edmonson, superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, wondered aloud about Houser’s motives at a press conference: 

Why did he come here? Why did he do that? … We may not find a motive.

It seems to me that Houser’s likely motive is staring them in the face.

Because it turns out that Houser was pretty well-known, at least to regular viewers of one local TV talk show in Columbus, GA, as an angry right-wing fanatic who hated women. As one former host of the show recalled,

He was anti-abortion. … Rusty had an issue with feminine rights. He was opposed to women having a say in anything.

Houser evidently appeared on the live show dozens of times as a “gadfly” whose appearances “would generate calls.”

When Houser’s career as a loudmouthed crank on local TV apparently came to an end years ago, he moved to another medium, leaving a long trail of hateful comments on assorted websites, many of them openly praising Hitler and talking ominously about the future of what he saw as a deeply “immoral” culture.

Yes. “Men Kill Women in the U.S. So Often that It’s Usually Not Even Newsworthy.”

When news emerged that a middle-aged white man in Lafayette, Louisiana opened fire at a showing of the Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck, I immediately had this sinking feeling that the movie choice wasn’t a coincidence—that this was, like theElliot Rodger and George Sodini killings, an act of rage at women. While Trainwreck is a fluffy rom-com, it’s also a popular topic of chatter in the feminist-sphere, and therefore likely to be noticed by the seething misogynists who monitor the online activities of feminists with unsettling obsessiveness.

That fear is now moving from the uneasy-feeling column to the likely-possibility column, with Dave Weigel of the Washington Post reporting that alleged shooter John Russell Houser was a rabid right-winger—he even went to one of those unranked conservative Christian law schools—who had particularly strong anger towards women for their growing independence and rights. Former talk show host Calvin Floyd had Houser on as a frequent guest, knowing that his off-the-wall opinions would generate audience interest: “The best I can recall, Rusty had an issue with feminine rights,” Floyd said. “He was opposed to women having a say in anything.” Houser also had a history of domestic violence.

It would be nice, as Jessica Winter argued in Slate after the Charleston shooting, if this country could have a grown-up conversation about gun control in the wake of crimes like this. Instead, we’re just going to hear a bunch of ridiculous rhetoric about how more guns will fix this problem, as if Lafayette isn’t one of those parts of the country where every and their poodle is packing heat. But since that’s not happening, maybe we can talk about the continuing role that misogyny plays in the relentless drumbeat of gun violence in this country.

My colleague Ben Mathis-Lilley noted today at Slatest, there were 14 other gun-based murder-suicides in the past week in this country, resulting in the loss of 36 lives. If you look down the list of the killings, an unmistakeable pattern pops out: “shot and killed his 37-year-old wife… shot and killed his ex-wife… shot and killed his 62-year-old wife… shot and killed his 23-year-old girlfriend…” and so on. Most of these killings involve men killing women that they were in a relationship with, had lost a relationship with, or likely wanted a relationship with, but were rejected. This last week also featured a bizarre story of a woman who not only survived beingkidnapped and raped by a man but also saw her boyfriend and a random other man killed in the rapist-murderer’s rampage.

So much of this stuff seem clear to us and it escape our policymakers, the police, and the media who are co-conspirators in the gun deaths that impact so many women and racial minorities on a daily basis.  I can only shake my head at the amazing lack of self evaluation by those basking in the glow of  white male christianist privilege.

The Advocate says Jindal has wound up in a “controversial spotlight”.  Well, it’s about time some one write about this.

The day after the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, that killed nine people in a church June 17, Jindal said it was not the time to discuss gun control but rather an occasion for prayer and hugs.

Jindal officially announced his entry in the campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination a week later, but he was regarded as a candidate for months before then — and it was in that light that he was asked to respond to President Barack Obama’s suggestion that the Charleston tragedy fit a distinctly American pattern of firearms violence that should be addressed.

Jindal characterized Obama’s comment as a “completely shameful” attempt to “score cheap political points.”

In the hours after the Lafayette shooting, in which a gunman fatally shot two women and wounded nine others before taking his own life, Jindal again said prayers and hugs made for the appropriate response.

“There’ll be a time; I’m sure folks will want to jump into the politics of this,” he said. “Now is not the time.”

That didn’t prevent gun control advocates from landing on Jindal with both feet. The New Republic accused Jindal of enabling gun violence in Louisiana — a state with one of the highest rates of firearms violence and least-restrictive gun regulations — citing his enthusiastic pro-gun record and support for legislation that permits guns in churches and creates lifetime concealed-carry permits. In the Daily Mail, commentator Piers Morgan was particularly vehement, saying the blood of the victims was on Jindal’s hands.

But such attacks are unlikely to faze Jindal, said Bernie Pinsonat, a veteran Louisiana political pollster.

“That’s like throwing him into the briar patch,” Pinsonat said. “Democrats or anyone else who is anti-gun, they’re not voting for Jindal anyway.”

Like some one on Twitter said, once you allow a mass murderer to come in and gun down innocent children and you can still do nothing as a policymaker but talk about more guns and prayers, you’ve pretty much lost the battle to the gun industry.  You’ve also conceded to the moral high ground to greed and political ambition.

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: We Do Not Welcome our Corporate Overlords

Beetlegeuse Chewbacchus 2015Good Morning!

The Krewe of Chewbacchus rolled through my neighborhood Saturday night.  I decided to post some of the photos I took of the participants to liven up the thread today.  The parade is a celebration of Fantasy and SF books, movies, games, and TV series.  More professional pictures can be found here. See if you can recognize them!  I only wish the celebration of fantasy was limited to movies and books.  Unfortunately, it isn’t and the Koch Brothers fantasy economics plans are ruining states around the country.

I keep having conversations with people who are either politically active or politically knowledgeable about finding a way out of our current mess.   There are several key problems that seem out of the hands of voters to solve. At least, those voters that actually vote.

Things have been on the down slope since the Reagan administration but have really picked up steam with the final fifth vote locked into the Supreme Court. The Citizen’s United Decision is throttling American Democracy which is why we really need to bring back the Fairness Doctrine among other things.  It seems odd that Brian Williams can be hounded out of journalism for one mistaken memory when at least 60%–if not more–of what Fox broadcasts daily is an out and out lie.  Is Facism on the rise in America and what can we do to stop it?

As the American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”

Well, it it may well on our doorstep.  And the oligarchs are plotting their final takeover by using their economic dominance to capture governmental power – specifically, the governmental power which sets the rules for the very marketplace that provides the oligarchs with such massive wealth.

Once the American corporate barons own the institutions that are meant to regulate them, it’s game-over for both rational capitalism (including competition) and for democracy.

Last week, at David and Charles Koch’s annual winter meeting near Palm Springs, California, it was announced that the Koch Brothers’ political organization would spend close to $900 million on the 2016 election.  If this goal is met, the group of corporate leaders will spend far more than the Republican Party and its congressional campaign committees spent, combined, in the 2012 campaign.

Once upon a time, it would have been illegal for the Koch Brothers and their fellow oligarchs to buy an election.  Of course, that time was before the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

In 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, presented the best opportunity for the Roberts Court to use its five vote majority to totally re-write the face of politics in America, rolling us back to the pre-1907 era of the Robber Barons.

As Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The New Yorker (“No More Mr. Nice Guy”): “In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.

You can see the influence of the Koch Brothers money in the states that have Republican Governors.  It is pimp darth chewbacchus 2015especially true of those Republican Governors with presidential aspirations who want the promised $1 billion the Kochs have pledged for the next campaign cycle.  I want to cover Bobby Jindal, Louisiana, and the horrible budget problems that we have from Jindal’s campaign to please the Kochs.  But first, I’d like to tell you what Scott Walker is doing to one of the nation’s premier public universities.

One of the major things the Kochs hate is people that aren’t miseducated or trained to be working zombies.  This fits right in with their agenda.This is similar to what’s going on with the destruction of public education and universities in Louisiana and similar issues in Kansas, both of which have Koch sucking Governors.

More than 35,000 public employees would be removed from state government rolls if Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal stays intact through the legislative process.

Walker’s 2015-17 budget proposal, which was introduced Tuesday, makes major changes to the operation of the state’s University of Wisconsin System. The second-term governor’s plan would split off the system into its own public entity.

By creating a separate authority for the University of Wisconsin System, it would no longer be under the direct management of the state.

According to Walker, University of Wisconsin System supporters have been asking for more autonomy for years, claiming it would help cut costs and better serve students. The Republican governor’s plan also includes a $150 million funding cut in each year of his biennial budget in exchange for the greater autonomy.

The annual reduction is equivalent to a 2.5 percent cut in total public funding. Opponents of Walker’s reform have claimed aid is being cut by 13 percent. That, however, only takes into consideration general fund spending from the state.

He also tried to actually change the mission of the University.

You might think that changing the mission of a flagship public university would be an issue put up for public discussion. Not in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker submitted a budget proposal that included language that would have changed the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code  — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

Walker, in a budget speech given earlier this week, didn’t bother to mention the change, which is more than a simple issue of semantics. There is a national debate about what the role of colleges and universities should be. One group, including Walker, see higher education in big part as a training ground for workers in the American workplace; another sees college education as a way to broaden the minds of young people and teach them how to be active, productive citizens of the country.

brainsHe earlier tried to tell University faculty and staff that they needed to work harder and not include “service” in their list of duties.   This is all part of the privatization craze that attempts to put union workers and public servants into the parasite category.  However, when privatized, the same workers suddenly are doing something valuable with lower compensation so that management and stockholders can skim profits from the actual work being done.

Governor Scott Walker–whom Charlie Pierce refers to as “the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to run their Midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin”–plans to unveil a budget on Tuesday evening that will reportedly “slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s public universities over the next two years.” Alice Ollstein of ThinkProgress said that students, professors and state lawmakers “are already blasting the plan — the deepest cut in state history…” They told ThinkProgress that they are “organizing to block its passage.”

Even a Gannet owned newspaper complained about the cuts and the entire attitude towards faculty and higher education in general.  Oh, and he’s calling for nearly $500 million tax dollars for a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Gannett Central Wisconsin Media Editorial Board thinks that Walker’s proposed cuts to the university go too deep. With regard to economics, the board wrote “the more educated our workforce, the higher our state’s overall standard of living will be. And in all sorts of intangible ways the university system improves our quality of life — injecting culture into communities, offering broad-based liberal education, helping define our sense of Badger identity.” The board added that “Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed Draconian cuts to the system will undermine those values and hobble future economic growth.”

Gannett Central Wisconsin Media Editorial Board:

Walker compounded the sense that cuts are driven by political animus when, on Wednesday, he told a conservative radio host that faculty and staff should simply increase their workload to make up the difference. It was a condescending, somewhat nasty thing to say, and it was not based in fact. UW-Madison professors, a February study showed, work on average 63 hours a week; we see no reason to assume profs on stretched-thin regional campuses work less… 

Taking a chainsaw to the UW budget now is no way to make smart, lasting reforms. Insulting UW faculty is no way to demonstrate an interest in positive reform.

And $300 million in new cuts is too much to swallow.

In a commentary published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday, members of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Faculty Senate Executive Committee said that news reports had confirmed  that the “UW System campuses are slated to take a combined $150 million base budget cut (over two years, so $300 million total) in his upcoming 2015-’17 biennial budget proposal.” The Journal Sentinel claimed that the numbers were “staggering.” This will reportedly be “the largest cut in the 45-year history of the system.

Well, Wisconson, welcome to the world of Governors owned by the Koch Brothers.  Here’s our reality down here in Lousyana. We’re on our 8th of year the same kind of BS.  We’re sending tax dollars to Chinese falcor the luck dragon chewbacchus 2015corporations, Arkansas Corporations, and Hollywood, but taking money away from every school but the religious madrassas and for-profits preferred by Jindal and the Kochs.

Widespread layoffs, hundreds of classes eliminated, academic programs jettisoned and a flagship university that can’t compete with its peers around the nation — those are among the grim scenarios LSU leaders outlined in internal documents as the threat of budget cuts loom.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration is considering deep budget slashing to higher education for the fiscal year that begins July 1 to help close a $1.6 billion shortfall.

LSU campuses from Shreveport to New Orleans were asked to explain how a reduction between 35 percent and 40 percent in state financing — about $141.5 million to the university system — would affect their operations. The documents, compiled for LSU System President F. King Alexander, were obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

The potential implications of such hefty cuts were summed up in stark terms: 1,433 faculty and staff jobs eliminated; 1,572 courses cut; 28 academic programs shut down across campuses; and 6 institutions declaring some form of financial emergency.

At the system’s flagship university in Baton Rouge, the documents say 27 percent of faculty positions would have to be cut, along with 1,400 classes, jeopardizing the accreditation of the engineering and business colleges. Some campus buildings would be closed.

“These severe cuts would change LSU’s mission as a public research and land-grant university. It will no longer be capable of competing with America’s significant public universities and will find itself dramatically behind the rest of the nation,” the documents say.

Leias chewbacchus 2015One of the first things these folks want to do is to dumb up the population and get rid of faculty and schools that won’t teach the crap they want to continue to force their economic fairy tale.  No amount of peer review is ever going to make the trickle down economics crap do anything but float in septic tanks.  But, they’re sure doing a great job of forcing it into things by owning politicians.  Both Kansas and Louisiana are in freaking budget nightmares.

The country is full of examples illustrating the failure of Republican economic policies. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin and Sam Brownback’s Kansas have become poster children for the job killing, budget busting, folly of pursuing supply side economics. Were it not for the damage that right-wing policies inflict upon working families, the Laffer curve would be simply laughable.

Yet, Grover Norquist’s army of tax-hating Governors continues to run roughshod over red state budgets promising a fiscal utopia. The fact that the utopia never materializes apparently doesn’t matter. Red state voters re-elect them anyway. The words “tax cut”, like an elixir, cures their fears, even if the people whose taxes are being cut are not the ordinary voters, but rather the ultra wealthy.

Joining Brownback and Walker on the list of Governor’s facing serious budget problems, is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Louisiana is anticipating a 1.6 billion dollar budget shortfall for next year, and that the deficit will remain in that range for years to come. When Jindal took office in 2008, the state had a 900 million dollar surplus, and the unemployment rate was just 3.8 percent. Now, in addition to having a gaping budget shortfall, Louisiana’s unemployment rate is at 6.7 percent, above the national average.Despite the state’s budget woes, Jindal has continued to resist any tax increases. He has depleted the state’s reserve funds to fill budget holes and is still coming up short on the needed revenue. Louisiana has one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, and as a consequence, the state ranks near dead last in quality of education and health care. Nevertheless, the supply side dogmatism of Governor Jindal virtually guarantees that the state will continue on its current path to economic perdition.

Jindal is often mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for President. However, Jindal’s fiscal mismanagement has made him deeply unpopular even in his own state. A November 2014 Public Policy Polling survey found that only a third of Louisiana voters approved of the Governor’s job performance while 56 percent disapproved. Supply side economics has been a nightmare to the residents of Louisiana.

Notice the similar policies?  Kill the Universities or warp them into places to train the zombie drone workers of the future?    Anyway, I really hope that the 2016 voters change some of this.  I can’t wait for Hillary to tackle the Republican that tries to mainstream this crap.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Is a change ever gonna come?

8227547625c9ff3ded3e33b7d71095fcA Change Is Gonna Come

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I’ve been running ev’r since
It’s been a long time, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die
‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there, beyond the sky
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

I go to the movie and I go downtown
Somebody keep tellin’ me don’t hang around
It’s been a long, a long time coming37a9cacb762dbab7a2648de7d1518fd1
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knockin’ me
Back down on my knees, oh

There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

Read more: Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come Lyrics | MetroLyrics

c9a24aed88abcbf0cedab38f28438f20When Sam Cooke wrote that song back in late 1963- early 1964,

“A Change Is Gonna Come” was partially inspired by an incident in which Cooke and his band tried to register at a “whites only” motel in Shreveport, Louisiana. On October 8, 1963, Cooke called ahead to the Holiday Inn North to make reservations for his wife, Barbara and himself, but when he and his group arrived, the desk clerk glanced nervously and explained there were no vacancies.[1] While his brother Charles protested, Sam was fuming, yelling to see the manager and refusing to leave until he received an answer. His wife nudged him, attempting to calm him down, telling him, “They’ll kill you,” to which he responded, “They ain’t gonna kill me, because I’m Sam Cooke.”[1] When they eventually persuaded Cooke to leave, the group drove away calling out insults and blaring their horns. When they arrived at the Castle Motel on Sprague Street downtown, the police were waiting for them, arresting them for disturbing the peace.[1]

01ae899dfdf6cfe0081a647323c59805I wonder, if Cooke could have ever imagined that some 51 years later we would have a Governor of color…being the brown skin of a Hindu raised Indian, however he is now (as BB puts it,) the whitewashed Governor of the  “Southern” state of Louisiana.

Yes, the very state where the Holiday Inn incident occurred that inspired this Anthem of the Civil Rights, which Cooke eventually recorded on January 30th, 1964….this Governor would compare in not so veiled words… black neighborhoods to the no-go-zone Muslim IS/ISIS laden, filled, burdened, overrun,  (whatever the paranoid idiot right wing nuts want to call it) neighborhoods that are…according to Jindal, threatening our very existence.

From CNN on January 21 of this year: Bobby Jindal slams ‘no-go zones,’ pushes ‘assimilation.’

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday stood by his criticism of so-called “no-go” zones in Europe, where sovereign nations allegedly cede authority to Muslim immigrants, a controversial idea that many critics say is overblown.

And the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate decried what he called immigrants’ insistence on “non-assimilation, the fact that “you’ve got people who want to come to our country but not adopt our values,” which he called “dangerous.”

939bba26f208b10aa5b8b519698e11d7Interestingly, Jindal’s parents are immigrants from India, and he was raised in the Hindu religion.

But pressed for specific examples of such no-go zones, Jindal demurred, saying he had met with “elected officials and others” to discuss them and noted a report in UK tabloid the Daily Mailthat purported to highlight the challenges facing law enforcement in such areas.

“I knew by speaking the truth we were gonna make people upset,” Jindal told Blitzer.

Jindal was also unable to offer examples during an earlier interview with CNN’s Max Foster, saying that he’s “heard from folks here that there are neighborhoods where women don’t feel comfortable going in without veils … We all know that there are neighborhoods where police are less likely to go into.”

“I think that the radical Left absolutely wants to pretend like this problem is not here. Pretending it’s not here won’t make it go away,” he told Foster.

Pressed for details, Jindal said only, “I think your viewers know absolutely there are places where the police are less likely to go.”

Hmmmm. . . that sounds to me like not-so-subtle race baiting from the whitewashed Louisiana Governor.

Seriously?

0032d5780376c6357875f763f96b3cdaWhen I read about this yesterday from Boston Boomer’s and Dakinikat‘s post on Friday I had to pause a moment…because I was waiting for the ba-dum-dum of the drum punch line to beat out the cue to laugh.

Now I have been sick beyond all I could say, so things are a little cloudy to say the least, but a few things are clear.

I grew up in one of these supposed “places where the police are less likely to go”  that Jindal is referring to. It is an area of my hometown in Tampa called West Tampa. Now…before I get all Brian Williamsed here, I will tell you that I grew up on a street five or six blocks North of Columbus Dr. My Nana’s house was just one block away from Columbus Dr. and my Cousin Cathy…who I spent a hell of a lot of time and nights btw, was right in the heart of the neighborhood…being about 10 blocks on the South side of Columbus Dr.  I think you get the picture…right?

997d8cac806554c49f15d3f035d9c111Cathy and I would go riding on my moped, or riding on our bikes, all through the neighborhood, taking a tour through the “projects” (that is in quotes for a reason) that were built along the river all the time. Yes, two little white girls. Cathy knew how to handle herself, and believe me…there are times when I feel less save up here in KKK Baptist Jesus Christian Bible Banjoville, than I did riding that moped back in the day through the streets around the West Tampa.

I never had to pull a gun out on anyone to protect my family in Tampa back then in the early 90’s, but I had to do it up here in Banjoville around 1992, when some redneck name Robbie was harassing and intimidating my mom as she tried to call my dad from a payphone at one of the local gas stations in town.   I hope you get the point I am trying to make.

So how could Jindal be allowed to get away with this shit? How can all these other assholes be allowed to get away with this shit?

1d4990f0bbc231d7819e026696a4ca4dWar memorial separates dead by race, divides Southern city – U.S. – Stripes

Along Main Street in a small South Carolina city, there is a war memorial honoring fallen World War I and II soldiers, dividing them into two categories: “white” and “colored.”

Welborn Adams, Greenwood’s white Democratic-leaning mayor, believes the bronze plaques are relics of the South’s scarred past and should be changed in the spirit of equality, replaced like the “colored” water fountains or back entrances to the movie theater that blacks were once forced to use.

Yet the mayor’s attempt to put up new plaques was blocked by a state law that brought the Confederate flag down from the Statehouse dome in 2000. The law forbids altering historical monuments in any way without approval from legislators.

Historians, black and white, have reservations about replacing the plaques, saying they should serve as a reminder of the once-segregated U.S. military.

War memorial separates dead by race, divides Southern city - U.S. - Stripes 2015-02-08 01-24-35

“Segregation was the accepted social order of that time,” said Eric Williams, who spent 32 years as a historian with the U.S. Park Service. “If we alter the monument, we alter its historical integrity.”

c414872cfcd50ef3fb6d44a47b6a6dd9The memorial is owned by the American Legion post in Greenwood and is on city property. On two of its sides, it lists soldiers who died in World War I and World War II that were from Greenwood County. A third side lists Korean and Vietnam War dead from the county without any racial distinction because the military was integrated by that time.

Adams said he asked other South Carolina mayors and doesn’t know of any other similar memorials in the state. Several historians also said they haven’t heard of a monument where fallen soldiers are separated by race.

Maybe Sam Cooke would not be that surprised by the situation of the times as they are today…because the song is just as relevant. I mean things gonna change…right? After all, 51 fucking years is a long ass time to wait…no…150 fucking years plus/minus for something as simple as all men to be treated as equal. (Uh…I won’t even go off on the issue of Equal Rights for Women, cause I am just too exhausted…blame it on the Norovirus. )

052e64f1539f34a05a1c265900ab2dc4And just a side note…that monument in South Carolina:

The Confederate flag law says no historical monument, erected by the state or by a local government, may be relocated, removed, disturbed, or altered without a two-thirds vote from state lawmakers. The law lists 10 wars, including the “War Between the States,” — the genteel, Southern name for the Civil War.

The purpose of this part of the law was to appease people who worried 15 years ago that Confederate memorials and street and park names in honor of generals would be torn down in wake of the flag being removed from the Statehouse dome and being put in front of the South Carolina Capitol alongside a Confederate soldier monument. The flag is still a sore point for the NAACP and other black leaders.

A bill has been filed to change the Greenwood memorial and half of the members of the state Senate are listed as sponsors, but some legislators who helped craft the Confederate flag law are leery to bring the divisive issue up again.

e574d274dbc149a7573484f8d50d7b07“I’ll look at the bill,” said Sen. John Courson, a Republican from Columbia who has been in the Senate since 1985. “But I don’t want to reopen the whole debate. That was last century’s battle.”

I would like to tell this asshole Sen.Courson…the law, however, that bars the monument from being changed was passed in this century. Dick.

The rest of links in dump, I just can’t do any more.

PCH Closed In Malibu After Bruce Jenner, 6 Others Injured In Fatal 4-Vehicle Crash « CBS Los Angeles

Is his gender change for real, or is it a thing to keep his reality show going? I mean, I am skeptical when it comes to anything dealing with those Kardashians et.al.

Jordan Hits Islamic State With 3rd Day of Airstrikes

16e48a8db8c6b02c4c1fb3b5ebdba98eNeighbors: Man opened fire on ex-wife’s home killing 5,… | www.wsbtv.com

Three wounded in shooting at Pittsburgh area shopping mall | Reuters

Emergency Officials in the Pacific Northwest Report on Strange Milky Ash – Pioneer News

Sochi Winter Olympic stadiums lie empty and abandoned – World – News – The Independent

Mom delivers 14-pound baby after recently learning she was pregnant | theGrio

And that was a vaginal delivery.

Mike Luckovich: Brian Williams Under Fire – Mike Luckovich – Truthdig

Associated Press Confirms Flooding and Floating Bodies Near Brian Williams’ Hotel During Katrina – Little Green Footballs

3fd220e81ee68ecd7f97ff34f42e7e8fWASHINGTON: How does Islamic State justify its atrocities in name of Islam? | Syria | McClatchy DC

The History Channel – The Washington Post

DeKalb police respond to critics of officer who shot 911 caller | www.ajc.com

UVa police investigating report of sexual assault at dorm

‘Rape dungeon’ allegations emerge in abuse report on Florida’s notorious Dozier School for Boys

High School Police Ask Judge to Let Them Pepper-Spray and Arrest Unruly Students | Mother Jones

a782007e5a0fb57b5bd70a80ac3db283Secret Teacher: exams have left my students incapable of thinking | Teacher Network | The Guardian

Repro Wrap: Woman Convicted for Both ‘Feticide’ and ‘Neglect’ and Other News | Care2 Causes

Addicting Info – Pope Francis Called Hitting Kids ‘Beautiful’ As Long As ‘Dignity Is Maintained’

Shakesville: Quote of the Day

“Hillary has my endorsement for all of her life and mine. She can have my Lasso of Truth, formed from Aphrodite’s girdle and forced whomever was bound with it to obey the commands of whomever held the other end.”Lynda Carter, who will always be THE unrivaled Wonder Woman to many of us.

db0bf4fc699889def7b47198b564659fUpdate on that little girl who was thrown from the Skyway bridge in Florida: Carlton: From Bradley to Phoebe — how many kids have to die? | Tampa Bay Times

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Legos trailer – Business Insider

Fifty Shades of Bricks….awesome.

Teaching in the Age of Minecraft – The Atlantic

A New Textbook Could Revolutionize the Way Law Students Learn About Reproductive Rights

c7b5d3615d444074016f94e5819e950fWas The Giving Tree A Chump? | Off The Shelf

The Only Baby Book You’ll Ever Need – NYTimes.com

That is about an anthropology textbook btw…“The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, Changelings,” by David F. Lancy.

Aaaaaannnnnnd, let’s just call this an open thread.

 

**Updated to add these beautiful photos…most of them Victorian, but you can see a lot more here:

 

Pinterest– History!

Unique Victorian Images on Pinterest 

And here is a gallery of images that could not fit on this post.

 

 

 


Wednesday Reads: History according to Lego and other things

5116b9018bff112970689c3d9157ac0b (1)Good Morning

If you want to kill some time today, check out these images of Lego greatness:

Over a thousand pictures here: Lego Art on Pinterest 

There is even a Klimt in this one:  Lego mania on Pinterest

e7a647c998afa3841b4466b2288f71a8And more artsy fartsy stuff here: Lego Creations on Pinterest

Why do I bring all this up? Because today’s post is going to center around popular culture and nothing represents that more than Legos…used as an artistic representation in historic museums.

As a history major, and a geeky one at that…you know being a wonky sort of history geek, specifically Medieval, I don’t know how to feel about this.

cf9c84490868a589aa2b87e5ad38672dI am so enthralled with these works of Lego art, the detail, the delight it brings…but there is also a part of me that thinks…Lego? Used in a legitimate archaeological/historical sense?  Then I slap myself and say, don’t be such a pompous ass JJ…get over your fucking self. These things are not your typical play toy Lego “houses” just look at the scale models the artist create.

The latest made its debut in Sydney this past month. LEGO Pompeii Excites New Audiences – Archaeology Magazine

 

Professional LEGO builder Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught has crafted a model of Pompeii at the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum, according to The Conversation. The project, which took more than 500 hours to complete and used more than 190,000 blocks, is one of the largest LEGO historical models ever built. The display shows three phases of the ancient city: as it looked in A.D. 79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted; as it appeared when it was rediscovered in the eighteenth century; and as the ruins stand today. Over the past two years, McNaught created a scale model of the Colosseum out of the colorful bricks, and the LEGO Acropolis, now on display at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

This thing is amazing!

From the link to the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum above: Lego Pompeii creates less pomp and more yay in the museum

Lego Pompeii was painstakingly recreated from more than 190,000 individual blocks across 470 hours for Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum – it’s the largest model of the ancient city ever constructed out of Lego blocks. There is a mix of ancient and modern elements within the model’s narrative; displaying Pompeii as it was at the moment of destruction by the volcano Vesuvius in 79AD, as it was when rediscovered in the 1700s, and as it is today.c4583b144ba8bcad2c555720b7cfc100

The historical model is the exhibition centrepiece in an archaeological museum where, until recently, displays of Lego would have been unthinkable.

The Nicholson Museum, with collections of artefacts from the Mediterranean region, Egypt and the Middle East, is a place where visitors can expect to see Greek vases, Egyptian sculpture and ceramic sherds from Jericho.

Yet since 2012, the museum has commissioned professional Lego builder Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught to recreate three ancient sites made from Lego. Together these models represent an interesting experiment; attracting a new audience to the museum space and demonstrating the importance of fun in a museum context.

This is not the first rodeo for The Brickman…

The first Nicholson Lego scale model was a replica of the Colosseum in Rome.

The joy of the model was its ability to contrast the old with the new. Half the model featured the amphitheatre in antiquity; the other half featured the building in ruins with Lego modern tourists.

The model proved such a success it subsequently toured several regional NSW galleries and museums. It is currently displayed at the Albury Regional Art Gallery along with Roman artefacts from the Nicholson Museum’s collection.

The second model, opened in 2013, was the Lego Acropolis, which featured buildings of ancient Athens peopled with historical Greek figures. It is now displayed at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

Go to the Nicholson Museum link to read the rest of the story, and how The Brickman studied and designed his Lego city of Pompeii.

 

Brickman is one of Lego’s Certified Professionals, these people have amazing jobs…check out some of the artist work at that link. (Mini Bios at that link too.) It seems that most of these LCP’s are men…but I have not researched enough of the culture to be sure of this…that is just my observation as I look through the websites and images. And, the one woman that is a Certified Professional is associated with education, autism, special needs and using Lego as a teaching tool. But I will just say this is only my thoughts on the matter. Let’s just go on with the post.

b9cbb10ad2d15a817e44c0d13bac09d1Alright then, how about that Blizzard? Here’s some pictures for you:

16 Images to Illustrate the Blizzard of 2015 – Scientific American

City dwellers in New York hoping to wake up to mountains of snow will have to content themselves with trawling Instagram pictures from New England. The blizzard of 2015—or really the #blizzardof2015 if we’re doing this right—brought less snow than expected to New York Cityb1e0bc0dc37ce8abac82abbe0b4ab9d5 and a number of points south. But to the east on Long Island and north throughout New England, the storm has lived up to, and in some ways exceeded, expectations with heavy snow and coastal flooding.

Snow totals are still being updated but as of Tuesday morning, a National Weather Service weather spotter has reported the highest total from the storm so far, with 30 inches in Framingham, Mass. Other central Massachusetts and South Shore locations have also piled up more than 2 feet of snow.

The second-highest snow total comes 28.5 inches measured in Orient, N.Y., on the far eastern tip of Long Island. In both places, wind gusts are piling up drifts and sending snow cresting over the eaves of houses.

 

Holy shit! I hope Boston Boomer and Pat, along with X and the rest of our Sky Dancing New England regulars…Sophie and…oh…I know I am missing some others too, are all doing okay this morning!a61ff5a45e146bf46ac0a26874a97a67

But there has been some complaining. For a look at the technical side of forecast, Cliff Mass Weather Blog: Forecast Lessons from the Northeast Snowstorm

The complaints swelled quickly this morning, both in the social media and the press:

8f4ee0d3ea03c4dd2131112f6d965d17National Weather Service forecasters had predicted two to three feet over New York City and adjacent suburbs for Tuesday and only about 8-10 inches showed up.

The city had been shut down overnight–travel banned on major roadways, mass transportation systems (e.g., subways) closed, schools and businesses closed–and all for a minor snow event!  A few samples from the press illustrates some of the commentary:

 

And then a National Weather Service forecaster even apologized for a  “blown forecast”, something that doesn’t happen very often.

And you had to expect that some global warming critic would use the forecast troublex to cast doubt on global warming predictions.

9a403543373ad0213d1e87763d4866e9So what is the truth about this forecast event?   As I will describe below, although the forecast “bust” was not as bad as it might appear, it did reveal some significant weaknesses in how my profession makes and communicates forecasts, weaknesses that National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini says he recognizes and will attempt to fix.

The general forecast situation was well understood and skillfully forecast starting on Saturday.   A low center (a midlatitude cyclone) would develop off the SE U.S. and then move northward up the East Coast–a storm commonly called a Nor’easter.  Here is a surface weather map at 4 AM PST this morning, when the storm was near its height.  e96907b49653ca28d24ede22ef46fb92In such a location, the storm can pull cold air off the continent while swirling in moisture from off the ocean.  The result is moderate to heavy snow to the west and north of the low center, as well as strong winds over the same areas.  Thirty years ago we could not forecast these storms with any skill. That has changed.

Go and read how it has changed at the link.

In other science-ish news, y’all know that big ass rock that flew by us Monday?

Best images! Asteroid 2004 BL86, as it swept near Earth | Today’s Image | EarthSky

A video still of asteroid 2004 BL86 and its newly discovered moon from Goldstone Solar System Radar.  The image is from last night (January 25).  Image via Slooh.com.

A video still of asteroid 2004 BL86 and its newly discovered moon from Goldstone Solar System Radar. Image via Slooh.com.

46a3a41c379e657d458b0dd6c3bcbbd1Well…turns out the thing has it’s own moon!

Check this shit out:

Asteroid that flew past Earth on Monday has a moon! | Science Wire | EarthSky

Radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86 confirm the primary asteroid is 1,100 feet (325 meters) across with a small moon 230 feet (70 meters) across.

Wow! Scientists working with NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California have released the first radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86, which flew closer to Earth on Monday than any asteroid this large will again until the year 2027. Closest approach was 1619 UTC (11:19 a.m. EST) on January 26, 2015. Nearest distance was about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers, or 3.1 times the distance from Earth to the moon). The radar images confirm what other astronomers first discovered this past weekend, that asteroid 2004 BL86 has its own small moon!

cde3bc59f08305a4960d464aff53632aVideo and more info at the links.

Let us move from science to environment, but still on a pop culture connection…cause what else would you expect from something like this? Chinese Methanol Plant in Louisiana ‘Cancer Alley’ | Al Jazeera America

Uh, okay… I will just give you a quick overview of the area and the situation. This plant is poisoning people. These people are poor. They are people of color. Nuff Said!

This article is the second installment of a three-part series on China’s role in redeveloping southern Louisiana called China’s Louisiana Purchase. The first part investigated links between Chinese government officials, Chinese gas giant Shandong Yuhuang and Gov. Bobby Jindal.

ada6a7b045883973320c2fabe045b969Chinese company behind methanol plant in mostly black Louisiana town has come under fire for shirking health laws

ST. JAMES PARISH, La. — No one asked Lawrence “Palo” Ambrose if he wanted a Chinese company with a controversial environmental record to build a methanol plant in his neighborhood. But if they had, the 74-year-old Vietnam War vet would have said no.

A town hall meeting about it in July at St. James High School, which is close to the site of the plant, in a sparsely populated area with mobile homes and a few farms, took place only after the St. James Parish Council approved the project.

“We never had a town hall meeting pretending to get our opinion prior to them doing it,” said Ambrose, a coordinator at St. James Catholic Church. “They didn’t make us part of the discussion.”

The St. James Parish Council did not respond to interview requests at time of publication.

Edwin Octave, 92, who lives with his family in the area, agreed with Ambrose. “I don’t think the way they went about getting the plant was right. They bought the property before they tell people it’s going to happen.”

The area has gotten the nickname Cancer Alley. I don’t know the state of Louisiana is becoming more and more like the poster child for all that is bad and could be bad when fuckwads get elected and have shit everything up. “Literally.”

There is a term being used, it is called Environmental Racism.

‘Environmental racism’

St. James Parish gas station owner Kenny Winchester said he hopes U.S. environmental standards will be enough to prevent any abuses too detrimental to the health of his community. “There shouldn’t be a problem if they follow the rules,” he said. “If they take shortcuts, we’ll have a problem.”

But Malek-Wiley said that hope isn’t realistic. “It’s not feasible to just hope they will abide by regulations. Most of the industry environmental reporting requirements are done by companies without a secondary check with the Department of Environmental Quality or EPA,” he said. “In effect, if a company was doing wrong, it would have to write itself a ticket. I know every time I’m going down the interstate too fast and there’s no cop, I pull over and write myself a ticket … No, it doesn’t happen that way.”

297757e9be0827b6e7a5f1944c11c44eThe only way to tell if a company breaches regulations, he said, is “after the plant’s built, unfortunately.” An environmentalist nonprofit focused on opposing petrochemical pollution in the region, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, could “teach folks how to take air samples in their community,” he said, and that tactic has led to “a number of companies to be fined for air pollution, but that’s after the fact.”

After successfully organizing legal bids around black communities not consulted on energy projects, Malek-Wiley believes that “with St. James Parish, they could have brought up concerns about environmental racism.”

f23e3a57ddb5ed39a0039b5531581e92Take this from Charles Blow, it dealing with yet another polluted area of Louisiana, a Superfund site… Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant near where Blow’s relatives call home:

Inequality in the Air We Breathe? – NYTimes.com

How could this plant have been allowed to contaminate the groundwater for 40 years? How could the explosives have been left at the site in the first place? How is it that there doesn’t seem to be the money or the will to more safely remove them? Can we imagine anyone, with a straight face, proposing to openly burn millions of pounds of explosives near Manhattan or Seattle?

3885f12203ffd8ab775e508c93499c3bThis is the kind of scenario that some might place under the umbrella of “environmental racism,” in which disproportionately low-income and minority communities are either targeted or disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous materials and waste facilities.

There is a long history in this country of exposing vulnerable populations to toxicity.

Fifteen years ago, Robert D. Bullard published Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality. In it, he pointed out that nearly 60 percent of the nation’s hazardous-waste landfill capacity was in “five Southern states (i.e., Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas),” and that “four landfills in minority ZIP codes areas represented 63 percent of the South’s total hazardous-waste capacity” although “blacks make up only about 20 percent of the South’s total population.”

More recently, in 2012, a study by researchers at Yale found that “The greater the concentration of Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans or poor residents in an area, the more likely that potentially dangerous compounds such as vanadium, nitrates and zinc are in the mix of fine particles they breathe.”

Among the injustices perpetrated on poor and minority populations, this may in fact be the most pernicious and least humane: the threat of poisoning the very air that you breathe.

I have skin in this game. My family would fall in the shadow of the plume. But everyone should be outraged about this practice. Of all the measures of equality we deserve, the right to feel assured and safe when you draw a breath should be paramount.

BTW, Bullard’s website with lots of links can be found here: Environmental Justice / Environmental Racism

I just get so damn sick about all this.

But if you want some more sick shit to read, the Koch Brothers.

Koch Bros To Spend Nearly A Billion Buying The 2016 Elections | Informed Comment

And again…going back to the pop culture of the day…that link will take you to an article and then a video with a discussion from Cenk Unger and Ben Mankiewicz .

In other news, something that is really becoming too frequent a headline. Yet another college athlete is accused of raping a woman…this time it is a swimmer. Fancy that? Former Stanford swimmer accused of raping unconscious woman on campus – LA Times

…former Stanford University swimmer will face several felony charges after prosecutors say he raped a  woman as she lay unconscious on campus grounds.

Brock Allen Turner, 19, is expected to be formally charged Wednesday with five felony counts, including rape of an unconscious woman, rape of an intoxicated woman and two counts of sexual assault with a foreign object, the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office told The Times.

Early on the morning on Jan. 18, prosecutors say, two men riding bikes on campus spotted a man later identified as Turner on top of an unconscious woman. Turner ran away, but the pair tackled him. A third person called police.

Turner was arrested, booked into the Santa Clara County Jail and released after posting $150,000 bail, prosecutors said. He’s scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 2.

It is a good thing those two bike dudes went after the asshole.

Just a few more pops on the pop links: Gabrielle Union Says Smart Things About Ferguson, the NFL, Hollywood

On the events in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, Yahoo points out that she generally tries to stay positive in her public comments and Union acknowledges that she makes an effort to be responsible about what she says publicly:

There’s a bit of a gap between what I really want to say and what I know is responsible to say. The general lack of compassion for your fellow man is really frustrating. I think what the protesters are saying, or at least some of them, is it’s not just about police brutality. It’s about a widespread systematic crippling of some people in this country by birthright, and no one’s acknowledging it. There may be a power shakeup if you’re really going to do something about it. A lot of people aren’t interested in that. They say, “It’s not that bad. We have Barack Obama. We’re good.” Or, “You’re not getting lynched.” They’re not acknowledging the institutional racism that impacts daily lives.

You should read the other things Unions says, it is nice to see a smart woman being quoted…too bad it probably won’t get much attention outside of Yahoo Entertainment and Jezebel.

 

Also, in History News, Seventy Years After Auschwitz, One Survivor Has Her Revenge – Truthdig

Eva Slonim was a child when she was taken to Auschwitz, where she was tortured and experimented on by Dr. Josef Mengele.

The camps that made up the Auschwitz complex were liberated 70 years ago by Soviet troops. But not before the Nazis killed 1.1 million prisoners there.

Slonim was held with her twin sister in a special section of the camp, which had to do with Mengele’s fascination with twins.

She tells the Australian Broadcasting Corp. she is still haunted by the trauma: “I have this madness about locking the bedroom door every night, and I have a light under the door so I can see if there are any boots there.”

But, Eva Slonim says, she got her revenge in the end, by producing a large family to take the place of the one she lost. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, and has 27 grandchildren.

 

Have you seen this?

Domino’s Unleashes the Most Terrifying Print Ad in History

 

Domino's Unleashes the Most Terrifying Print Ad in History

 

WTF?

 

Finally, let’s get a little Medieval on ya: Erik Kwakkel • A horse on wheels, what’s not to love? Great…

 

A horse on wheels, what’s not to love? Great post.

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manuscriptbook:

Medieval Connections to ‘Classical Roots’

This manuscript (British Library, Royal MS 20 D I) of the Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César (‘Ancient history up to Caesar’) is the earliest surviving manuscript of the second redaction of this work. This redaction, like this manuscript, was produced in Naples around 1330-1340. It focuses on the story of 904fe6f6198d33fe46a60189b543f8b4Troy, which is no longer taken from Dares, a supposed eyewitness of the fall of Troy, but from the prose version of Benoît de Sainte-Maure’s Roman de Troie. As a result, it is much more extensive.

The goal of these types of histories was to join the classical past and the medieval present. The author, therefore, did not always keep historical accuracy in mind if it did not fit his purpose. This allowed nobles to bind themselves and their families to classical founders.

I love that the horse is supposed to represent the wooden horse, and the scribe/artist drew the thing with wood-like knots and tree rings as the pattern of the horse itself.

But I wonder if a large wooden badger would not have been more appropriate?

 

Have a wonderful day and for Gawds sake…watch out for the Knights who say Ni!

 

The-Knights-Who-Say-Ni-monty-python-and-the-holy-grail-591173_1008_566


Monday Reads: We call it riding the Gravy Train

Louisiana Purchased

Good Morning!

I’m going to go a bit local on you again with this eye popping set of numbers and business welfare stories from The Advocate.   The state’s budget is in ruin.  Public hospitals and universities have been defunded to the point that their services are in shambles and their accreditation/certifications have been questioned.  However, we seem to have plenty of room to subsidize rich people and high earning industries.  The eight part series is extremely well documented and it shows exactly how much our state has given to these businesses for nothing comparable in return. Watch out for give aways like these in a state near or around you.

Duck Dynasty” is the most popular show in the history of A&E. Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer. Valero is America’s biggest independent refiner, earning $6 billion in profits last year.

But despite all that success, they’re all receiving generous subsidies from the taxpayers of Louisiana, through programs that funnel more than a billion dollars every year to coveted industries.

Every time the Robertson clan films another episode of “Duck Dynasty,” Louisiana is on the hook for nearly $330,000, at last count.

During the past three years, state taxpayers agreed to fork over nearly $700,000 to Wal-Mart to build new stores in two affluent suburbs.

And when Valero announced an expansion of its Norco operations, creating 43 new jobs, Louisiana promised to cover $10 million of the cost, or nearly a quarter of a million dollars per job.

Louisiana’s giveaways to businesses, aimed at boosting economic development in what historically has been one of America’s poorest states, have been growing at a much faster rate than the state’s economy.

Louisiana isn’t the only state that actually bribes Walmart to ruin its local businesses and labor markets.  I’ve linked toscizzorhandz the subsidies in Louisiana, but you can find your own state’s largess at the site too.

There are no centralized databases of economic development subsidies, but Good Jobs First found 20 deals worth a total of about $96.5 million in Louisiana.  …

Many Wal-Mart workers are ineligible for health coverage from their employer or choose not to purchase what is available, because it is too expensive or too limited in scope. These workers often turn to taxpayer-funded health programs such as Medicaid. Louisiana is among those states that have not disclosed data on the employers with the most workers or their dependents enrolled in such programs.

What we have is a mess and I have no doubt that Kansas and other Republican run nightmare states can’t be too far behind in the race to the bottom.

When the Legislature convenes next year, an even bigger shortfall of as much as $1.4 billion is expected. Many legislators, including Republicans overseeing key financial committees, speak of a “structural deficit” of at least $600 million that they trace in large part to the growing giveaways. Because the programs are built into the law, they don’t have to compete for funding with other state services: The state just pays the tab, whatever it is.

Indeed, Louisiana’s incentive programs are viewed with increasing bipartisan skepticism.

Liberals have long complained that the giveaways divert money from programs that help the poor and middle class, directing it instead into corporate coffers. Conservatives are uncomfortable with the state picking winners rather than letting private enterprise sort things out in the marketplace. An alternative would be to simply let taxpayers keep more of their money. And many members of both parties think the cuts, especially to higher education, have gone too far.

Still, the programs have proven difficult to corral, in part because Jindal — who holds considerable sway over the Legislature — has pledged not to raise taxes in any form. According to the rules of the pledge, promulgated by the powerful group Americans for Tax Reform, any legislative action that increases revenue to the state constitutes a tax increase, even if the action simply gets rid of a costly giveaway. Jindal responded to requests for an interview for this story by issuing a written statement saying his administration’s policies have led to economic and population growth, and that the state should not seek to increase revenues.

Jindal’s fealty to the anti-tax pledge may have helped keep his presidential ambitions alive, but it hasn’t necessarily made the business world see Louisiana as a tax paradise. Though some surveys put the Pelican State’s actual tax burden among the five lowest in the country, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation recently ranked Louisiana No. 35 among the states with the best tax climates for business.

It’s not hard to see why.

“States are punished for overly complex, burdensome and economically harmful tax codes but are rewarded for transparent and neutral tax codes that do not distort business decisions,” the group said in a news release.

With more than 450 tax breaks enshrined in state law, some of them massive, Louisiana undeniably fails that test.

You can read horror story after horror story in the paper’s 8 stories written by various Advocate staff.   Here are two more examples that just left me flabbergasted.

  • Louisiana’s film incentive program cost state taxpayers $251 million last year and returned less than 25 percent of that to state coffers in the form of taxes. Considered the most generous of its kind in the nation, the film incentive has made the state America’s busiest locale for making feature films. It’s no wonder: State taxpayers cover 30 percent of the cost of movies filmed here, including eight-figure star salaries such as the estimated $20 million paid to Tom Cruise for 2013’s “Oblivion.”

  • Refunds of a property tax that businesses pay on their inventory have more than doubled in the past seven years, reaching $427 million last year and widening the hole in the state budget. The tax, little known to most Louisianians, is assessed at the local level and paid by businesses to parish governments. The state then cuts refund checks for the entirety of the tax paid, under a law passed in 1992. The pass-through in effect means taxpayers around Louisiana are subsidizing parishes with heavy industry, which generates most of the tax. For example, roughly 6 percent of the revenue from the inventory tax program goes to St. James Parish, which has just 0.5 percent of Louisiana’s population.

So like nearly every other Republican who screams about being a fiscal conservative,  Bobby Jindal is pretty much proving it’s not so much about that as ensuring his donor base is tax free and  subsidized.  So some one please tell me why Tom Cruise is so deserving of a multi million dollar income support but we can’t feed poor children?  Any one?

EmperorOr hey, what about this?  You’re filthy rich, you own a highly subsidized business–namely a pro football team–so you’ve got big bucks.  Why not go take advantage of some homeless people?

Before every Tampa Bay Buccaneers home game, dozens of men gather in the yard at New Beginnings of Tampa, one of the city’s largest homeless programs.

The men — many of them recovering alcoholics and drug addicts — are about to work a concessions stand behind Raymond James Stadium’s iconic pirate ship, serving beer and food to football fans. First, a supervisor for New Beginnings tries to pump them up.

“Thank God we have these events,” he tells them. “They bring in the prime finances.”

But not for the workers. They leave the game sweat-soaked and as penniless as they arrived. The money for their labor goes to New Beginnings. The men receive only shelter and food.

For years, New Beginnings founder and CEO Tom Atchison has sent his unpaid homeless labor crews to Tampa Bay Rays, Lightning and Bucs games, the Daytona 500 and the Florida State Fair. For their shelter, he’s had homeless people work in construction, landscaping, telemarketing, moving, painting, even grant-writing.

Atchison calls it “work therapy.” Homeless advocates and labor lawyers call it exploitative, and possibly illegal. It is the latest questionable way Atchison has used homeless people, and public money, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.

Now Atchison is applying to run Hillsborough County’s new homeless shelter, a contract worth millions of public dollars that would entrust him with the county’s most vulnerable people.

The Times reviewed thousands of pages of public records about New Beginnings, including police reports, bank statements, grant documents and court proceedings, and interviewed more than 20 current and former New Beginnings residents and employees. Among the findings:

• Employees and residents said Atchison took residents’ Social Security checks and food stamps, even if they amounted to more than residents owed in program costs.

• A New Beginnings contractor told the Times he overbilled the state for at least $80,000 of grant money, then gave the money to the program instead of returning it.

• While claiming to provide counseling, New Beginnings employs no one clinically trained to work with addicts or the mentally ill. One minister cited his experience running a motorcycle gang as his top qualification. The Times couldn’t verify the doctorate in theology Atchison said he earned from a defunct online school.

Atchison, 61, defended the work therapy as a vital component of his program, and an important source of revenue. He said he never stole any Social Security checks or food stamps.

So, here’s today’s list of people that got huge sums of money that certainly didn’t do anything deserving of it. First up, I know will think twice before I EVER EVER EVER watch anything on ABC again.   Why?  ABC Reportedly Paid Darren Wilson Six-Figure Fee for Interview

ABC offered Darren Wilson a “mid-to-high” six-figure payment to give his first and only public interview on the network, according to the website Got News. An unnamed source from NBC reportedly told the website that both networks engaged in a bidding war to score the first interview with Wilson but NBC backed out after its rival “upped the ante.”

WTF?  Will they be hiring Mr and Mrs Charles Manson for a show for Newly Weds next?feature7c47790737384c50fcf3162a3b1d

Two republican senators–Diaper Dave being one of them–think that breathing is a privilege.  Two little piggies at the taxpayer’s trough continue to sell their souls to big oil.

Right-wingers are already peeved about the  new EPA regulation proposed by the Obama administration this week. The new rule would cap ground-level ozone—pollutants that make air risky to breathe—at 65 to 70 parts per billion. The standard “will represent one of the costliest rules ever issued by EPA and will serve as one of the most devastating regulations,”  wrote U.S. senators James Inhofe and David Vitter, in an effort to convince the American public that gradually choking to death is much, much cheaper. (The New Republic reports that the histrionic numbers they’re bellowing about are based on “the strictest assumptions to generate the highest dollar value.”) Luckily, Inhofe and Vitter will soon have the opportunity to vote for the  “Science Advisory Board Reform Act” when the bill hits the Senate, thereby assisting big business temper tantrums to drown out peer review science in EPA advising. But why should we trust Inhofe’s and Vitter’s take on the relative frivolousness of breathing air? Because they are respected experts, that’s why. Inhofe once conclusively debunked climate change  by citing the Bible, after which he presumably dropped the mic and ran off to stone his co-conspirator David Vitter  for adultery.

It’s enough to make one run for the borders of Canada!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: Bigots Among Us

images (36)Good Morning!

I have read the most horrifying stories this week.  It makes me wonder if a good portion of humanity has a death wish. I’m going to share a variety of links that I’ve found; and a lot of them aren’t the most uplifting, I’m afraid.

Knowledge is power.  Ignorance may be bliss to the holder but not to the folks around them. There is no lack of headlines in the area of bigotry and intolerance. This is truly discouraging to those of us that care passionately about social justice.

Crime rates have been falling recently but our incarceration rates are not. There’s a huge study out on the economic costs of our prison society and its images (37)findings are not pretty.  We’re spending billionaires of dollars locking up the poor, the uneducated, and the mentally ill in a distinctly racist way.

While crime rates have fallen 45 percent since 1990, the memo said that the incarceration rate is now at a “historically unprecedented level,” jumping 222 percent between 1980 and 2012. An African-American man who never graduated from high school has a 70 percent likelihood of being imprisoned by his mid-30s; for similarly educated white men, the rate is about 15 percent. And the United States imprisons at a rate six times greater than most peer nations, including those of the European Union, Japan, Israel, and Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced rules last month that would give the Obama administration wider latitude to extend clemency or reduce sentences for drug-related prisoners who don’t present a threat to public safety. In addition, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously in April to reduce sentencing guidelines for certain nonviolent criminals, a move now before Congress that could go into effect Nov. 1 if lawmakers don’t take any further action.


Ronald S. Sullivan Jr.
 is a clinical professor of law and director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School. The program focuses on criminal practice, education, and research, and hosts a teaching clinic for third-year law students to represent indigent criminal defendants in local and juvenile courts. Sullivan spoke with the Gazette about racial and national sentencing disparities, the economic and social costs of mass incarceration, and the sentencing reforms now under consideration.

GAZETTE: According to the memo, while the overall crime rate fell 45 percent between 1990 and 2012, the rate of imprisonment has spiked 222 percent between 1980 and 2012. What’s behind this disparity? Is that strictly the result of policy decisions like mandatory minimum sentencing, repeat-offender laws, and the growth in for-profit prisons? Or are other factors at work?

SULLIVAN: That’s certainly a big piece of it. … policy decisions in respect of mandatory minimums drive the huge incarceration rate. But there are other factors as well. What those factors are is the subject of a lot of academic debate nowadays. And to be honest, we’re not exactly sure what it is. We do know that on a per-capita basis the U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world, including Rwanda, Russia, Cuba, all of the places one does not associate with a robust tradition of liberty. And that’s in many ways shocking.

The theory would be … with the high rates of incarceration that the crime rate would go down and then that would be followed by less incarceration because there just wouldn’t be as many crimes committed. But those numbers have gone in opposite directions. Mandatory minimums simply don’t explain all of it. Part of it, at least I think, has to do with selective law enforcement — the over-policing of certain neighborhoods, particularly minority neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods. That is to say, if police are there and looking for crimes, and over-police certain neighborhoods, you’re going to produce more defendants in particular areas. And if the populations are drawn from poor populations, they’re unable to afford to be released on bail, they’re unable to afford good lawyers, and studies show that if you’re not released on bail you tend to stay in jail after sentencing. An unfortunate reality of the United States is that far too often the justice you receive is a function of how much money you have.

The prison-industrial complex is also an important factor. It doesn’t take an economist to know that if … you make your money by people going into prison, then there’s going to be higher incarceration rates. So I think that certainly plays a role as well.

GAZETTE: What are the areas of debate among scholars?

SULLIVAN: One explanation has to do with the United States’ articulated goals of punishment. Back in the ’70s and before, rehabilitation was an articulated goal of the criminal justice system. The Supreme Court has said clearly now rehabilitation is no longer a penological goal. We look at incapacitation, we look at deterrence, and we look at retribution as goals that the penal system serves. When you take rehabilitation out of the mix, then that de-incentivizes the system from having shorter sentences because there’s no longer an affirmative goal of reintegrating people meaningfully back into the community. That’s one of the things that scholars argue drive up the incarceration rate.

The other has to do with our system of elected judges in most states. Judges who are elected, the argument runs, respond to democratic pressures. We live in a political economy where people think that more and harsher punishment is better, even though most competent data suggests that longer sentences, after a certain point … make people worse as opposed to making them better. But you have democratically elected judges who respond to the will of the people, and if that will is for longer sentences, no matter how misinformed, then judges oftentimes acquiesce to those pressures.

The other issue has to do with legislators. It, again, has to do with the political economy in which we live. With this mantra of being “tough on crime,” legislators essentially race to see who can draft legislation with the harshest, longest penalties. I think that legislators don’t believe that prosecutors will attempt to enforce the most harsh provisions of particular laws, and in that sense, from the vantage point of the legislator, it’s sort of a win-win situation: They can get the political credit for drafting an incredibly harsh law, but not really have to deal with the effects because the notion is the prosecutor will sort it out and will recommend a fair sentence. That assumption, though, just hasn’t really been borne out in reality.

GAZETTE: The current incarceration gap between white men and African-American men is particularly striking. Does that figure surprise you, and what accounts for this gap? Is access to justice a factor?

SULLIVAN: The figure does not surprise me, and it is unfortunate that the figure does not surprise me. The figure reaffirms that race insinuates itself into almost every aspect of our life still, and it has a particular salience in the criminal justice system. … Here we see the effect of over-policing much more dramatically. In our culture, unfortunately … blackness is seen as a proxy for criminality. So the same or similar conduct engaged in by a person of color is seen through a lens that views that conduct as criminal, where others simply are not taxed in the same way.

The debate over the use of lethal injections and the drugs used for state executions continues.   Three newspapers–including the UK Guardian–have sued to 8706624f946740fb5bfd634de4b31b58make public the source of drugs for these injections. Most states are trying to make that information private.  Many of the recent botched executions came from simple druggists compounding the formulations because many of the major drug manufacturers–especially those in Europe–refuse to do so.  Should the formulation and the source of death penalty drugs be kept from the public?

The growing secrecy adopted by death penalty states to hide the source of their lethal injection drugs used in executions is being challenged in a new lawsuit in Missouri, which argues that the American people have a right to know how the ultimate punishment is being carried out in their name.

The legal challenge, brought by the Guardian, Associated Press and the three largest Missouri newspapers, calls on state judges to intervene to put a stop to the creeping secrecy that has taken hold in the state in common with many other death penalty jurisdictions. The lawsuit argues that under the first amendment of the US constitution the public has a right of access to know “the type, quality and source of drugs used by a state to execute an individual in the name of the people”.

It is believed to be the first time that the first amendment right of access has been used to challenge secrecy in the application of the death penalty. Deborah Denno, an expert in execution methods at Fordham University law school in New York, said that more and more states were turning to secrecy as a way of hiding basic flaws in their procedures.

“If states were doing things properly they wouldn’t have a problem releasing information – they are imposing a veil of secrecy to hide incompetence.” “This is like the government building bridges, and trying to hide the identity of the company that makes the bolts,” said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center. “Those involved in public service should expect public scrutiny in order to root out problems, particular when the state is carrying out the most intimate act possible – killing people.”

A Guardian survey has identified at least 13 states that have changed their rules to withhold from the public all information relating to how they get hold of lethal drugs. They include several of the most active death penalty states including Texas, which has executed seven prisoners so far this year, Florida (five), Missouri (four) and Oklahoma (three). Attention has been drawn to the secrecy issue by the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma on 29 April in which the prisoner took 43 minutes to die, apparently in great pain, from an untested cocktail of drugs whose source was not made public.

Lockett’s lawyers had argued in advance that he might be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment as a result of the lack of information surrounding the drugs, but the state supreme court allowed the procedure to go ahead having come under intense pressure from local politicians, some of whom threatened to impeach judges.

In the wake of the events in Oklahoma, in which the prisoner writhed and groaned over a prolonged period, the state has agreed to pause for six months before carrying out any further judicial killings to give time for an internal investigation to be completed. President Obama described the Lockett execution “deeply troubling” and has asked US attorney general Eric Holder to review the way the death penalty is conducted.

Until last year, Missouri which is now executing prisoners at a rate of one a month, was open about where it obtained its lethal injection chemicals. But like many death penalty states, its drug supplies have dwindled as a result of a European-led pharmaceutical boycott, and in a desperate move to try to find new suppliers it has shrouded their identity in secrecy. In October, the state changed its so-called “black hood law” that had historically been used to guard the identity of those directly involved in the death process.

The department of corrections expanded the definition of its execution team to include pharmacies and “individuals who prescribe, compound, prepare, or otherwise supply the chemicals for use in the lethal injection procedure”. Six inmates have been executed by Missouri since the new secrecy rules came in –they went to their deaths entirely ignorant of the source or quality of the drugs used to kill them. All that is known is that the pentobarbital that Missouri deploys in executions probably came from a compounding pharmacy – an outlet that makes up small batches of the drug to order in the absence of stringent regulation.

We continue to see GLBT civil rights characterized by the right as an attack on their religious rights and their homobigoted behavior and language The-Birth-of-a-Nationwrapped up as a first amendment issue. How does the right play the victim card in a debate about limiting the rights of others?  It is doing the same things with women’s reproductive rights.

While Religious Right leaders are quick to equate criticism as an attack on their freedom of speech and religion, some of them are all too happy to limit the free speech or religious liberty of the people they disagree with. That includes the Benham brothers.

In the flurry of public appearances in the wake of the HGTV cancellation, the Benhams and their right-wing fans have portrayed themselves as committed to the principle that everyone in America should have a chance to express themselves.  On the O’Reilly Factor, David Benham denounced the gay agenda for seeking “to silence those that disagree with it, and it begins with Christians.” Jason warned that “when an idea seeks to silence any other idea that may disagree with that, then we have ourselves a problem on hand.”

But as blogger Jeremy Hooper recently pointed out, back in November 2004, David, Jason, and Flip Benham were all part of a group of about 15 people who went to a Charlotte, North Carolina city council meeting to complain about the gay pride celebration that had taken place in a city park six months earlier. They were among a group of people who had gone to the Pride event to, in Jason’s words, “tell them that Jesus loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way.” But the Benhams and their friends were appalled at what they saw. “This is filth, this is vile and should not be allowed in our City,” said David. Jason urged city council members to reject future permits for Pride celebrations – and seemingly for any LGBT-themed event:

They have a right to apply for this permit, but you have a right and responsibility to deny it. I [implore] you not to be governed by the fear in which you feel. If you deny them this permit you will open a can of worms but you in your leadership position have to take that responsibility and you have to not allow the fear of making this homosexual community mad. You have to accept that responsibility and deny them every permit that they ask for.

In the words of Charlotte Pride organizers, “The Benham brothers once tried to silence us. They failed.”

Some Benham fans, like the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, say flat-out that the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections were only meant for Christians and don’t apply to Muslims, Mormons or other minority faiths. Back when many self-proclaimed “religious liberty” advocates were opposing efforts by Muslims in New York to build a community center – which critics gave the inaccurate and inflammatory name of “Ground Zero Mosque” – David Benham and his father Flip were among them. According to the Anti-Defamation League, David participated in protests against the Center, calling it a “den of iniquity” and labeling Muslims “the enemy” that was attacking America.

In these public debates, “Christian” as used by Religious Right leaders often doesn’t really apply to all Christians, but only to a subset of Christians who share their right-wing politics. Other Christians don’t count.  The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who has bemoaned “cultural elites” who want to “silence” and “bully” people like the Benhams, recently said that pro-gay-equality Christians don’t deserve the same legal protections as he does because “true religious freedom” applies only to those with religious views that align with those of the political Right.

We’ve seen a lot of this coming from Governor Bobby Jindal who is a bully that insists that GLBT rights activists are bullies. 

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s commencement speech at Liberty University was a masterpiece in this type of dishonest projection. Posing as a champion of free speech and freedom of religion, he actually made a chilling argument in favor of stripping both of those freedoms away from ordinary Americans, businesses and anyone who might disagree with turning this country into a theocratic state. He started by defending Hobby Lobby for trying to strip contraception coverage out of their employees’ own healthcare plans. “Under the Obama regime,” he argued, “you have protection under the First Amendment as an individual, but the instant you start a business, you lose those protections. And that brings us to the second front in this silent war: the attack on our freedom of association as people of faith.”

It’s all nonsense, of course. In fact, Hobby Lobby’s intention here is to reduce religious freedom by forcing their employees to adhere to certain religious rules in order to get the benefits they already earned. ( They have a history of trying to impose their religious dogma on non-believers through other means as well.) The only people in any real danger of losing freedom are women, who are in danger of losing their freedom to use their insurance benefits in a way that fits their personal beliefs.

But Jindal was just warming up, claiming the “Obama administration” was gunning to decide “who can preach the Gospel.” This outrageous conspiracy theory was justified, in his opinion, by supposed other attacks on “free speech,” namely that TV networks are reluctant to house the opinions of open bigots. “The left no longer wants to debate. They simply want to silence us,” he said of Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty, who was never silenced and has, to this date, been allowed to say any fool thing he wants. But he was briefly suspended from A&E, leading conservatives to decide that “free speech” means you have a right to your own TV show.

All of this has gotten me interested in again in White Supremacist movements.  I really believe that most of these Southern Republicans fall squarely 67294811_blossoms_241543binto the neoconfederate mold and aren’t that far off the KKK tree.

White supremacy is referenced in relation to specific news events as well. For example, the murder rampage by the neo-Nazi Frazier Glenn Miller, the recent weeks-long debate between pundits Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathan Chait about “black pathology”; birtherism; stand-your-ground laws; and the open embrace of the symbols and rhetoric of the old slave-holding Confederacy by the Republican Party have been framed and discussed in terms of white supremacy.

Conservatives and progressive often use the phrase “white supremacy” in divergent ways. Conservatives use the phrase in the service of a dishonest “colorblind” agenda, evoking extreme images of KKK members and Nazis as the exclusive and only examples of white racism in American life and politics. Conservatives use extreme caricatures of white supremacy in order to deflect and protect themselves from charges that the contemporary Republican Party is a white identity organization fueled by white racial resentment. Liberals, progressives and anti-racists use the phrase “white supremacy” to describe the overt and subtle racist practices of movement conservatism in the post-Civil Rights era, and how American society is still structured around maintaining and protecting white privilege. This analysis is largely correct: however, it often conflates concepts such as racism, white privilege, and white supremacy with one another. Language does political work. In the age of Obama, the phrase “white supremacy” is often used in political discussions like an imprecise shotgun blast or a blockbuster bomb. If the Common Good and American democracy are to be protected—countering how the right wing has used the politics of white racial resentment, racial manipulation, and hate to mobilize its voters in support of a plutocratic agenda—a more precise weapon is needed. A necessary first step in that direction requires the development of a more detailed and transparent exploration of the concept known as “white supremacy.”

tumblr_m643ofO3Mw1r194ulo2_1280One of the sure signs to me of either a racist or a misogynist or a homophobic bigot is that they all insist they have no problem women, racial minorities, and/or gay people.  The believe they are the victims by being forced to deal with any one else in terms other than their own choosing. Therein lies the problem.  Here’s a perfect example from Kristen Powers writing at USA Today.   You can’t call out bigotry without being called a bully obsessed with political correctness.  Then, you’re told that the real victims are white conservative christians.

Each week seems to bring another incident. Last week it was David and Jason Benham, whose pending HGTV show was canceled after the mob unearthed old remarks the brothers made about their Christian beliefs on homosexuality. People can’t have a house-flipping show unless they believe and say the “right” things in their life off the set? In this world, the conservative Tom Selleck never would have been Magnum, P.I.

This week, a trail-blazing woman was felled in the new tradition of commencement shaming. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde withdrew from delivering the commencement speech at Smith College following protests from students and faculty who hate the IMF. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, this trend is growing. In the 21 years leading up to 2009, there were 21 incidents of an invited guest not speaking because of protests. Yet, in the past five-and-a-half years, there have been 39 cancellations.

Don’t bother trying to make sense of what beliefs are permitted and which ones will get you strung up in the town square. Our ideological overlords have created a minefield of inconsistency. While criticizing Islam is intolerant, insulting Christianity is sport. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is persona non grata at Brandeis University for attacking the prophet Mohammed. But Richard Dawkins describes the Old Testament God as “a misogynistic … sadomasochistic … malevolent bully” and the mob yawns. Bill Maher calls the same God a “psychotic mass murderer” and there are no boycott demands of the high-profile liberals who traffic his HBO show.

The self-serving capriciousness is crazy. In March, University of California-Santa Barbara women’s studies professor Mireille Miller-Young attacked a 16-year-old holding an anti-abortion sign in the campus’ “free speech zone” (formerly known as America). Though she was charged with theft, battery and vandalism, Miller-Young remains unrepentant and still has her job. But Mozilla’s Brendan Eich gave a private donation to an anti-gay marriage initiative six years ago and was ordered to recant his beliefs. When he wouldn’t, he was forced to resign from the company he helped found.

Got that? A college educator with the right opinions can attack a high school student and keep her job. A corporate executive with the wrong opinions loses his for making a campaign donation. Something is very wrong here.

The right seems to be really confused about the first amendment, which clearly deals with the relationship between the federal government, religion, the press, and the people’s free speech.  The same idiots that scream that Hobby Lobby can deny its employees contraception and say that businesses should be able to refuse to serve GLBTs will shout out a corporation that says they don’t want to be known for bigotry of any kind.  They also misunderstand the protection given to University professors when it comes to academic freedom.  Companies have to comply with the law.  They do not have to keep employees that don’t represent their corporate values.  PERIOD.

Anyway, it just amazes me that this intense amount of uncivil bigotry and hatred seemed to have burbled up again after all these years.  All it took was an African American President and a few powerful women–namely Hillary Clinton–to bring the crazy out.

I just wanted to mention that most of these silent film images come from “Birth of  a Nation” but one comes from “Broken Blossoms” also known as the “Yellow Man and the Girl”.  Both of these films were directed by DW Griffith around 1919. Both movies starred Lillian Gish and were received differently by white audiences than by the racial minorities they also depicted.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Bjy32YbCYAAE11RI’m going to remind you today of some events that happened 4 years ago with the BP Oil Gusher and show you that bad things are still going on in the Gulf.The leftover issues from abandoned oil rigs are bigger than Louisiana.Please consider this an open thread while I let you know how I feel.

If corporations are people, then BP and others in the extraction business are serial killers.    All over our country and throughout our history, extraction companies have killed their employees, the people that live around their businesses, and the wildlife and the environment and water systems that sustain the life of our country.  Look at that map.  Those are active and orphaned/abandoned oil wells/pipelines that are disintegrating, leaking, and killing someone.

“I started noticing, towards the end of 2010, other leaks that were unrelated to the BP disaster,” Henderson says. “I would find wellheads that were leaking or platforms that were leaking. Just in the last year, I have filed 50 reports for different leaks and spills unrelated to the BP disaster.”

Under the Clean Water Act, when a company spills any amount of oil in the water, it must file a report with the National Response Center run by the Coast Guard. But when Henderson checked, he found many of those smaller spills were not making that list.

So environmental groups formed the Gulf Monitoring Consortium to get a better count on spills. The partnership is a blend groups of complementary skills.

Gulf Restoration Network, for example, has personnel who can spot spills from the air and file complete reports.

SouthWings, a group of volunteer pilots, helps get those spotters aloft.

Louisiana relies largely on the oil industry to self-report leaks and spills. The Gulf Monitoring Consortium was formed to improve that effort and said it often finds smaller leaks like this one, near Golden Meadow, that go unreported by the companies.

A third member, the West Virginia-based tech group SkyTruth, finds the spills on satellite photographs, then applies a formula used by spill experts to translate the size of the oil sheen into gallons of oil in the water.

SkyTruth spokesman David Manthos says its estimates typically are much higher than what’s been reported.

“We found that the spill was usually 10 times larger than had been reported, and that was averaged out across a lot,” he says. “In some, the mismatch was much larger than that.”

The sheer size of the industry here means there’s seldom a quiet day for the consortium. In an average year, the NRC receives 10,000 reports of spills in the Gulf.

It’s a number that surprised even SouthWings Gulf Program Director Meredith Dowling, a veteran of monitoring efforts.

“I can’t think of a single instance where our volunteers have flown offshore and not found spills,” Dowling says. “This was something that was really amazing to me when I first moved here … that is was a continuous, absolute failure of business-as-usual practices.”

There are many active spills around here.  Many come from orphaned and abandoned wells.  Many come from active wells.  They are all spewing toxicil_570xN.378041774_q0qdwaste and it’s not just in Louisiana.  Here is a program in Pennsylvania dedicated to plugging orphaned and abandoned wells.  There are similar issues in Texas, New York State, and just nearly anywhere there’s been activity.  Louisiana alone has about 6000.   You can see that they are nearly everywhere if you look at the map at the top of the post.  Many of these  wells were first put into play in the 1850s and were just left where they were.  They are rotting, they are decaying, and they are leaking.  They are also dangerous. 

Methane is an odorless, colorless gas that exists naturally below the surface. It isn’t poisonous, but it’s dangerous. When enough methane gathers in an enclosed space — a basement or a water well, for instance — it can trigger an explosion.

The gas didn’t come from the Butters well, nor did it originate from the Marcellus Shale formation that a nearby Shell well had recently tapped into. What most likely happened to cause the geyser in June, Shell and state regulators say, was something of a chain reaction.  As Shell was drilling and then hydraulically fracturing its nearby well, the activity displaced shallow pockets of natural gas — possibly some of the same pockets the Morris Run Coal company ran into  in 1932. The gas disturbed by Shell’s drilling moved underground until it found its way to the Butters well, and then shot up to the surface.

Areas impacted by oil spills are never the same. The BP Oil Gusher has introduced issues into the ecosystem that have left endangered species teetering further towards extinction.  In the case of Louisiana, it’s even the state bird.

On a bright spring morning, P.J. Hahn is walking through a graveyard in the middle of Barataria Bay.

It’s a 30-yard patch of mud and sand bristling with bare, dead mangrove brush surrounded by miles of open water. Each mangrove is a tombstone marking the death of a nesting site used for decades by brown pelicans and roseate spoonbills on what was once the string of wetland pearls that made up the Cat Islands chain.

But in 2010 the oil spewing from BP’s Deepwater Horizon would send them all to an early grave.

“Four years ago we had more than five acres of habitat and there were tens of thousands of birds nesting on these islands,” said Hahn, director of coastal zone management for Plaquemines Parish. “Then the oil came in and coated the mangrove roots, and two years later the islands started going.

“I don’t know where those birds are nesting now – but they can’t do it here any more.”

The post-BP story of the brown pelican, Louisiana’s official bird, is the perfect metaphor for the crisis confronting the state’s coast.

Before the Deepwater Horizon blew out on April 20, 2010, brown pelicans were living the good life in southeast Louisiana as one of the great wildlife comeback stories. In 1963 not a single brown pelican could be found in the state due to impacts from the insectiside DDT.  The comeback started in 1968 when the state began transplanting birds from Florida, and populations began to soar after DDT was banned in 1972. Thanks to the abundant food in one of the world’s most productive fisheries, by 2010 their numbers were thought to be near historic levels, as high of 85,000.*

il_570xN.369622702_4p2jFour years later, the sea floor closest to the spill and even the shores in the Gulf of Mexico are  comparable to an Arizona Desert. It is barren, bleak and dead.  There was life there.  Now, there is the look of a forest fire without the resultant new growth.  Nothing will grow back amid the poison of Corexit and Oil.

When a crew of journalists and environmental groups studying the effects of the BP Deepwater Macondo oil spill disembarked on Cat Island in Baratria Bay last week, there was a collective gasp.

“It looks like the Arizona desert,” said Eileen Fleming, who’s reported for WWNO spring after spring since the April 20, 2010 spill.

“It looks like there was a fire here,” said Doug Meffert, vice president of the National Audubon Society and president of the Louisiana chapter, “but there wasn’t a fire.”

The bones of black mangrove stumps are all that remain of what was a thriving bird rookery here in Plaquemines Parish Four years ago, footage of oiled brown pelicans and the thousands of shorebirds nesting here went around the world in the aftermath of the 200 million gallons of thick crude that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

Today the only green thing on the beach is a glass bottle. There are no pelicans, no mangroves, and worse, much of Cat Island itself is washing away. It and most of the barrier islands and marsh in Barataria Bay are steadily degrading, losing their battles with coastal erosion and subsidence faster than ever.

The NIH is still studying some of the direct health impacts of both the oil and the toxic Corexit used to hide the extent of the spill.

Areas around Barataria Bay and Grand Isle, La. were particularly hard hit, but they weren’t the only affected areas. Moreover, thousands of birds, other wildlife and marine life including dolphins perished, were oiled, sickened and overall left in distress. The effects on the area resonate now, which is only a shock to those either unfamiliar with garish oil spills or unwilling to accept the truth.

In the days following the “spill”, BP, apparently colluding with the US Government, doused a horrific amount of a deadly dispersant in the affected areas. Called “Corexit”, the cutesy name belies the sickening effects it brings to all it touches. On background, an environmentalist working in the area explained to me last year that they were, essentially, damned if they did, and damned if they didn’t, but chose the lesser of two ills.

That remains to be seen as the National Institutes of Health continues its 10-year “GuLF” study of BP spill health effects, from those most affected out on the Vessels of Opportunity boat that included BP-hired personnel trying to contain the spill, to residents in the line of fire, such as around Barataria Bay.

There is a way of life dying along the southern parts of the Gulf Coast in Louisana.  The coastline disappears daily, the salt water intrudes in to the fresh il_570xN.382956444_9et2water marshes, and the land doesn’t sustain the people or the animals like it once did.  There is not better place to study the impacts of the extraction business and human addiction to fossil fuels than many parts of Cajun Louisiana.

Sea level rise is like an ultra-slow-motion hurricane for low-lying areas, but unlike a hurricane, it can be forecast decades in advance. Projections that some town or road will be underwater in 100 years can—and must—be mitigated against today.

Osborn characterizes the choice as “being proactive rather than reactive. Once you get into situations like Louisiana facing some very serious challenges in a very near time frame, all of a sudden you’re in a reactive posture.” Louisiana is a harbinger of things to come for New York, Miami, and other major coastal cities that would do well to look 20 to 75 years ahead and budget accordingly. Local, state, and federal governments will have to make critical decisions about infrastructure, water and sediment diversion, and wetlands restoration in the next 10 to 15 years, he says, and while NOAA scientists can contribute data, they can’t green-light projects or secure funding.

Osborn makes a technical distinction: “Right now it’s what’s called frequently flooded. And the risk is it will be routinely flooded.” Routine flooding will start to happen as early as 10 years from now, he says. They can call it whatever they want, but Gill says soon LA 1 will be “flooded every day during high tide.”

NOAA scientists predict that eventually all the marsh that surrounds LA 1 and Port Fourchon will disappear, connecting two major bodies of water that now are distinct: Barataria Bay and Terrebonne Bay. The only thing out in the water at all, by 2100, may be a raised road and Port Fourchon. “I can imagine Port Fourchon being like the Florida Keys,” says Chiasson, “being on its own, in the middle of open water, maybe a little marsh around it, but nothing between here and there.”

The fact that the entire extraction business is so fraught with so many bad things is why the men that run it must find politicians to protect them from lawsuits and regulations.  Making these guys pay for what they’ve done would undoubtedly run their companies deeply into the red. Donation whores like Republican Governor Bobby Jindal will do anything to protect the benefactors that he hopes will fund him to the White House. There is nothing about Louisiana that this man is interested in except as a step on the rung of his personal ascent.

The state Senate targeted the flood protection authorities around New Orleans and the lawsuit one of the levee boards filed against the oil and gas industry for damages to the state’s wetlands.

In one bill, advanced by a Senate panel Wednesday morning, Gov. Bobby Jindal would get sweeping power to remove members of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authorities. Opponents said the move, which would allow a governor to remove authority members under certain conditions, reintroduces politics into the levee boards, which is precisely what revamp after the 2005 hurricanes was designed to prevent.

Another measure, which was passed by the full Senate late Tuesday night, would derail a lawsuit filed last year by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority — East against 97 oil and gas companies. The levee board sought damages for contributing to coastal erosion and led to higher than anticipated storm surges.

Jindal opposes the lawsuit and has called it a windfall for lawyers, who would be paid with a portion of any winnings rather than a flat fee. Critics say the legislation would keep the oil and gas industry from taking responsibility for damage caused by drilling and productions activities over the years.

SB553 is aimed at a lawsuit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. It would not impact similar suits filed by Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes. But other measures currently being considered might.

The legislation passed Tuesday night, Senate Bill 553, would apply to retroactively. That measure was sent Wednesday morning to the Louisiana House.

Even kindergartners know they should clean up their messes.  That is ones that aren’t sociopaths.

But, wherever there has been the extraction business, there are the sociopaths.  We have the hundred year anniversary of just such an example.

Linda Linville climbed down the steep stone steps into the dugout on the southern Colorado prairie Sunday where one branch of her family was wiped out in one day 100 years ago.

Her great aunt, her unborn baby and two children died in a fire that broke out during a battle between coal miners striking against John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and the Colorado National Guard in what became known as the Ludlow Massacre. Twenty-seven-year-old Cedilena Costa, 4-year-old Lucy and 6-year-old Onofrio suffocated from the smoke as they hid below ground to escape the battle. Linville said Cedilena’s husband, Charlie Costa, was captured and shot in the head that day and never knew his family’s fate.

“Anyone who says they died in vain is wrong,” said Linville, a retired history teacher from Corona, Calif., referring to the fact that the miners eventually ended up going back to work without winning any of their demands.

The massacre and battle left 21 people dead, including the Greek-American union leader Louis Tikas, and set off 10 days of civil war in which the miners killed 30 mine guards, supervisors and strikebreakers. They surrendered only after President Woodrow Wilson sent federal troops to the state.

The deaths drew national attention to the long running strike and forced Rockefeller to take a public role in Colorado Fuel & Iron. He instituted a company union and grievance system, which the miners later rejected when the won a right to unionize on their own during the New Deal. The massacre and the deadly Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911 are credited with the helping win the eventual passage of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act.

Linville and over 100 others — including members of the United Mine Workers of America wearing the red bandanas the strikers wore — gathered at the site of the former Ludlow tent colony to mark the massacre’s 100th anniversary with a Greek Orthodox Easter service. It was very similar to the one the miners, who came from a variety of countries, shared in 100 years ago with the Greek strikers the day before the massacre. In a coincidental reminder of Ludlow’s international community, the Easter service will include the traditional reading of the Gospel story in many languages to symbolize the universality of its message.

It is easy to look back at the years of coal and oil and see that not much has really changed in terms of the business.  The only thing that’s changing is that people, nature, and animals don’t have a chance at all and the deathtoll and damage are obvious if you actually get to see it.  I have a small car.  I really don’t drive much at all.  I think in a busy week I may put on 15 miles.   I have a bike and nearly everything I need is about a mile away. I suppose, for me, that it’s nothing to say that I really don’t benefit from any of this.  I’d frankly rather pay for every single person to have some form of solar or wind generator in their home than the tax breaks we give to the oil industry.  I think it would save every one in the country a lot less grief in the short and long run.  But then, I could care less how much money the likes of the Koch Brothers earn.  I’d frankly rather be dancing on their graves.

I just wanted to add that I found some of  these wonderful skull art prints from this site. 

I know it doesn’t look like it, but this is an open thread.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?