Sunday Reads: One Sad Goat Makes A Happy Ass

We sailed with the reading by the sea of ​​literature  Navegamos con la lectura por el mar de la literatura (ilustración de Deena Pagliarello)

We sailed with the reading by the sea of ​​literature Navegamos con la lectura por el mar de la literatura (ilustración de Deena Pagliarello)

Good Morning

Summer is here for my kiddies…at least it is the second week of vacation for them. One thing though, change is coming. Today we are switching bedrooms, moving my brother up to the main floor and bringing my son down to the basement bedroom. Ya, the transformation to adult son living in basement just got all that much closer to reality.

My son will have his own entrance, his own fridge and his own little game room. He will even have a little intercom for those times when he needs a little nourishment.

Longer clip here.

Anyway, to make this switcheroo happen we have to take my brother out for the entire day, and let all hell brake loose when he comes home to find his desk, complete with all Dukes of Hazard paraphernalia has been moved upstairs.

So if you are near the vicinity of Banjoville, and hear the wrath of Uncle Gordy (my kids nickname for my brother) as he cusses us out but good….you will know that we have gotten back from our long drive to Atlanta, and that Denny has realized there was more to that fancy lunch at The Cheesecake Factory than just a huge hunk of cheesecake.

Alright.

Now for the links. Which are all over the place today.

I guess the shit is meeting the fan? At least it looks like it from this headline at the New York Times After Deadly Rampage, Sheriff’s Office Faces Concerns About Conduct

A week after Elliot O. Rodger’s violent rampage in Isla Vista, Calif., that left six college students dead and 13 other people wounded, state lawmakers are now calling for an investigation of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office’s previous contact with Mr. Rodger. Some are calling for wholesale changes to how law enforcement officers respond to calls that someone could be a threat to himself or to others.

Sheriff’s deputies visited Mr. Rodger on April 30, just three weeks before his rampage, after receiving a call from his mother, who had been concerned by videos he posted online.

At the time, Mr. Rodger had already bought at least two firearms, which were both registered in his name. But sheriff’s deputies were unaware of that when they visited Mr. Rodger, because they had not checked the statewide gun ownership database. They also had not watched the videos Mr. Rodger had posted.

You go check out some dude who is a “threat” and you don’t even watch the damn video? They did not even do a quick check to see if he had any guns. That is some shitty police work if you ask me. But, I will let you read more about this here:

Kelly Hoover, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, would not elaborate on why no weapons check was done, and declined to confirm whether there would be an internal investigation of the visit.

But Hannah-Beth Jackson, the state senator who represents Santa Barbara, said a comprehensive investigation of the deputies’ visit to Mr. Rodger’s apartment was needed to give the public a full accounting of the events leading up to the massacre. “The community will not tolerate any half-baked approach to dealing with this,” Ms. Jackson said.

Law enforcement agencies across California have said that it is not necessarily standard practice to check the state gun registry before any check by officers on someone’s well-being. And the sheriff’s office has defended the six deputies who visited Mr. Rodger in April.

“Based on the information reviewed thus far, the sheriff’s office has determined that the deputies who responded handled the call in a professional manner consistent with state law and department policy,” Ms. Hoover said in an email on Saturday.

After Mr. Rodger’s rampage in Isla Vista, Ms. Jackson co-wrote legislation that would create a “gun-violence restraining order.” If family members or friends alert law enforcement that someone poses a threat to themselves or to others, law enforcement would then be able to petition a judge to prohibit the person from purchasing firearms.

But if you really want a freak out, read this: Lessons From a Day Spent With the UCSB Shooter’s Awful Friends

Tuesday morning, I logged into a chat room full of refugees of the since shuttered PUAHate forum once frequented by University of California-Santa Barbara shooter Elliott Rodger. And I stayed there, silently watching them, for 8 hours. Here’s what I learned.

PUAHate, as other outlets have discussed, is an offshoot of the Pick Up Artist community populated by men (and, allegedly, women) who believe Pick Up Artistry to be a sham waste of money not because women are more than “targets” and “prey,” but because women are fucking hopeless cunts who can’t be convinced to give nice guys a chance. Women, argue PUAHaters, will only go out with good looking alpha males and would never look twice at anyone who isn’t a musclebound dreamboat with a six-figure income, and most men will never be those things, and so the world is against them and life is unfair. From an observer’s perspective, PUAHate is a group of self-pitying babies who believe they’re entitled to women who are much more attractive than they are.

Big news this day however:

Bowe Bergdahl, American Soldier, Freed by Taliban in Prisoner Trade – NYTimes.com

Hagel: U.S. acted fast to save Bowe Bergdahl’s life – CNN.com

Official: Freed US soldier on Way to Military Hospital in Germany

Republicans attack Obama over soldier swap – The Times of India

There is video of Bergdahl eating in freedom at the CNN link. Of course the GOP would be pissed…can you imagine the shit storm if they had known?

Hagel: Congress Kept in Dark on Swap Because Bergdahl’s Life in Danger – NBC News.com

Here is an interesting bit of Snowden news, Russian Web Journalism Award to be named after Snowden – Little Green Footballs

This takes the cake. From the country at the forefront of institutionalized oppression of journalists, featuring a massive surveillance apparatus, comes the Snowden Award for Journalistic Excellence. Not a peep from Snowden about his new host country’s behavior. And no word on when this Russian media outlet plans on an expose on Putin’s marginalization and oppression of his countryman’s journalists and media owners.

Moving on, I told you this post was all over the place…Canadian Bar Sells Cups with Lids to Curb Roofied Drinks

 

A bar in Saskatchewan right across the border from North Dakota has taken it upon itself to keep an eye out for it’s female patrons by offering drinking cups with screw-on lids. The hard plastic cup is selling for five dollars, and is being sold as a way to prevent spiked drinks. CBC reports that the bar’s management simply wants so keep things safe for their women customers:

“I want girls to be able to come into our bar in groups of two or three, or if they don’t have dates, they can still come in here and have fun and dance and not have to worry about somebody drugging them,” Regina Rooks, manager of the Derrick Motor Hotel bar, told CBC News. “There has been a couple incidents.”

“We are now a boomtown and undesirables do come to town,” she said

Rooks very clearly means well. She obviously wants to protect her customers, and she’s showing a resourcefulness and inclination to try and solve a serious problem.

At the same time, it’s still just a bandaid solution to a much bigger issue. It reinforces the idea that potential victims are responsible for their own sexual safety. And charging for the cup adds a whole other layer to that idea. Putting a lid on a beverage isn’t telling rapists they shouldn’t rape, which is, you know, the main problem. It’s not really deterring rape.

Hey, at least it is something. I mean…it tells the rapist who plan to drug women that they should move on to the bar next door, which is not a solution I know. But I will take what ever extra protection is offered, wouldn’t you?

On Wednesday, I brought up the subject of women who are pulling the victim blaming bullshit on the Calhoun rape victim here in North Georgia. I even went so far as to put a label on them…the C-word…you know that one which rhymes with bunt.

Check this out: Men Aren’t the Only Ones Slut Shaming Women | Care2 Causes

Thousands of women have rallied around the hashtag #YesAllWomen on Twitter sharing personal stories of the everyday harassment they face. The response has been overwhelming and put a spotlight on the sexist culture we live in where a young man resorted to murder for being rejected by women.

Sure, not all men are like Elliot Rodger (there’s even a hashtag to prove it: #NotAllMen), but there is no denying that we live in a society where women are targets of violence and shamed for their sexuality. Women are called sluts for having sex and, like Rodger angrily proclaimed, sluts for not having sex, at least with him. Either way we’re sluts. But as the two studies below prove, men aren’t the only ones responsible for slut-shaming women. Sometimes we women are just as guilty.

The first study published in the Social Psychology Quarterly tracked the lives of 53 women attending college at a Midwestern university and found that women often participated in slut shaming one another as a means of maintaining their social status. The findings suggest that high-status women, those women who participated in Greek life on campus and often came from upper-middle class backgrounds, used slut shaming as a means of bullying lower-status girls and keeping them from climbing the social ladder.

On the flip side, high-status women were also far less likely to be slut shamed by their lower-status peers despite engaging in more sexual relationships. It stands to reason then that lower status girls were targets of slut shaming regardless of whether or not they had sexual experience. Lastly, while high-status women with more sexual experience defined their lifestyle as “classy,” their low-status peers who tried to mimic this behavior to fit it were immediately called “trashy.”

This study illustrates that the ladies are also guilty of creating a culture where women are stigmatized and defined by their sexuality. If women are calling each other sluts as a means of pulling social rank, what are their sexual partners saying about them behind closed doors? Does the fact that women are calling each other sluts make it OK for the men (or women) they are sleeping with to do so? If the Mean Girls assembly taught us anything, then yes.

“You’ve got to stop calling each other sluts and whores,” says Tina Fey’s character. “It just makes it OK for guys to call you sluts and whores.”

It may not make it OK, but it does create a culture where slut shaming women is acceptable.

Another study from a think tank in the UK has found that women are also guilty of slut shaming one another online. The study tracked the use of the words “rape,” “whore” and “slut” on Twitter for about a year and found that 12 percent of the tweets containing these words were intended as a direct threat or insult. What was more alarming, however, was the finding that women were almost as likely as men to send tweets with these words both casually or offensively.

For some sense to all this,

Time magazine looks to Kate Farrar, the vice president of campus leadership programs at AAUW, a non-profit focusing on women’s empowerment, who argues gender based insults have become s0 ingrained in our culture that it’s the norm:

Words like “slut” and “whore” are thrown around so frequently they “become a part of our cultural conversation [about women] from the time we’re very young…there often aren’t instances that we’re told that it’s not okay or that there’s accountability for that.”

And thanks to our culture’s paradoxical attitudes towards female sexuality, where women are expected to be sexy, but not overtly sexual, one of the most effective ways for men and women to bully, judge and degrade a woman is to brand her a “slut” or “whore.”

…that while women are often victims of a sexist culture, we are sometimes part of the problem. I for one will admit that as a college, and even high school, student I used the word “slut” very casually and as a means to put down other women, even if they weren’t actually promiscuous. I wish I could say I hadn’t, but like Farrar points out it was so ingrained in how we spoke that I didn’t think twice, and I was never told it was wrong. Well, here I am now, saying that it is wrong. Defining a woman by her sexuality, or worse demeaning her for it, is wrong whether you are a woman or a man. It’s high time we speak up when someone calls a woman a slut and analyze our own reasons for using this language.

I have done that as well…and perhaps the c-word was also along that line…but I still have to defend my use of that word. It is true, in my opinion, these women who blame rape victims are the most vulgar of women and deserve the most vulgar of titles.

The rest of this post in dump fashion…

Look who graduated: Rachel Jeantel, the close friend who was on the phone with Travon Martin moments before he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman has graduated from high school.

A football player who was taking clomid for low sperm count has been suspended: Robert Mathis of Indianapolis Colts suspended four games for PEDs – ESPN

I looked it up, they do use clomid for this condition on men…go figure.

Did y’all see this?

Ledge cracks at the Willis Tower, closed for inspection – chicagotribune.com

 

 

 

And it is scary considering less than a month ago my daughter was just doing this in that exact Ledge:

chicago trip 183

Yeah, they are jumping up and down in there.

This Graph From The CDC On Measles Infections Should Scare You – Forbes

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From Addicting Info– Virginia Court Official Tells Atheist Couple They Have No Right To Get Married Because They Don’t Believe In God

Also from Addicting Info, btw Dan says this store is full of bullshit, something is not right at that store: – Walmart Employee Picks Up Stray Coins On The Floor Of Her Store And Gets Fired For Theft

You’re fired! The bad news came to Ashley Johnson, former Walmart employee, as a surprise. She had been working in Store #5440 in Oregon in security for more than a year and a half when the Asset Protection Manager requested an interview with her. Another man attended. The man asked her if she had ever retrieved change from the store floor when she was working.

The question stunned Ashley, but she decided honesty was her best answer. “Yes,” she admitted. The man demanded how much, and Ashley said to him, “Maybe a quarter”.

No. It was much more than that. We’ve been watching you for a long time. I estimate that you’ve stolen about 45 dollars from us.

The company fired her on the spot and given one month to repay the coins or face a lawsuit. This was rather extreme to say the least. Before the incident Ashley had asked the store’s manager, Ben Carlson, for financial aid from Walmart’s controversial Critical Need Fund. Ashley wonders if this the real reason they fired her?

The Walton’s 4759 stores earn a revenue of $469 billion, which is more money than that of nearly 50% of all Americans combined. As America’s richest family, they exploit a variety of legal loopholes in order to make certain they perpetuate the dynasty’s wealth rather than contribute their government share, according public-records requests for court documents and the Internal Revenue Service filings. Yet the company still feels the need to pocket even the loose change on their store floors.

Joan Lorring, Oscar-Nominated Supporting Actress, Dead at 88

Joan LorringJoan Lorring, who was Oscar nominated for best supporting actress in the 1945 film The Corn Is Green, died Friday in the New York City suburb of Sleepy Hollow.  She was 88.  Born Mary Magdalene Ellis in Hong Kong on April 17, 1926, Lorring fled with her mother from the Japanese invasion in 1939 to San Francisco.  Her showbiz career began in radio, and her first American film at 18 was the 1944 MGM romantic war drama Song of Russia. She signed with Warner Bros. for the role of the scheming, trampish Bessie Watty, playing opposite Bette Davis, in The Corn Is Green.

Because this next link is a picture of my idol Jonathan Frid:

Miss American Vampire, 1970 – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money

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A blog post about film: moviemorlocks.com – Cassavetes vs. Ottinger – Arthouse Grudge Match

A few articles on The Rose Tattoo…the play.  Left overs from Wednesday’s post:

“The Rose Tattoo as Comedy of the Grotesque”–Brian Parker

Where I Live: Selected Essays – Tennessee Williams – Google Books

A Life in the Wings: THE LADY AND TENNESSEE : The New Yorker

A LIFE IN THE WINGS about Lady Maria St. Just, the playwright Tennessee Williams’ long-time friend, who after his death became executor of his estate and exercised tyrannical control over his literary legacy. She died in England on February 15, 1994; and was said to be the model for Maggie in Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Lady Maria was born Maria Britneva on July 6, 1921 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her mother, Mary, and brother left their father Dr. Alexander Britnev and went to England in 1922. Maria’s biography “Five O’Clock Angel” tells about her life and is quoted throughout article.

Tom and Lorezo’s review of Maleficent | Tom & Lorenzo Fabulous & Opinionated

“Let us tell an old tale anew,” the ever-present and somewhat talkative narrator intones at the start of Disney’s Maleficent. But by the time we got to the story’s end, we wondered if it was really worth the bother. Like 2012′s Snow White and The Huntsman, Maleficent attempts to take a more nuanced look at an old and (by design,) simplistic tale, in that “everything you know is wrong”manner. Like Broadway’s “Wicked,” it attempts to turn a classic villain into a hero – or at least, a villain that cries and has motivations beyond the acquisition of power or the destroying of annoyingly perfect little girls.

It’s an apparently irresistible thing to modern audiences; this retelling of fairy tales and childhood stories by layering them with darkness and angst; meaning and themes. The Tolkienization of Disney. And we’re not sure it’s to the story’s benefit. Fairy tales are supposed to be relatively simple stories populated by characters with the kind of motivations that children can understand. They evolved over time, but they always served the same purpose (outside of entertainment): to teach the very young about difficult concepts like evil and anger and jealousy and to reinforce a basic moral code about goodness and love and family – and also to not trust strangers or go wandering through the woods. Purely universal childhood themes that still resonate centuries after the original stories were devised. Classic old fairy tales were shockingly dark, so the basic idea behind the darkening and deepening concept of this film might’ve worked  - except we’re talking specifically about Disney characters. And we’re not sure adding paper-thin rape metaphors is something that needed to be done to the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty.

Read the rest of that at the link…love TLo!

Can you believe it is 70 years? Operation Mincemeat: One of the biggest hoaxes in history | Stephen Liddell

With the 70th Anniversary of D-Day around the corner I thought that I might write a short series of posts about this historic event.  The first of which might be one which you’re unfamiliar with but in its own way was one of the key points of WW2.

After a long series of battles in North Africa had seen the Italians defeated and Monty’s Desert Rats routed Rommel’s dreaded Afrika Corps at El Alamein which set the scene for the Axis retreat from North Africa all together.

More history:

‘Sadly and with a Bitter Heart’: What the Caesarean Section Meant in the Middle Ages

Caesarean Section

 

One sunny spring day, a Resurrectionist priest sips tea and speaks of his time as a Bolivian missionary in the 1960s and ’70s. His recollection of the local ‘Indians’ is obscured by more than three decades’ distance. China cup in hand, he recalls vaguely their mud huts, flocks of sheep, herds of llamas, and the beautiful, rugged terrain of the altiplano. With greater precision, he speaks about the local belief system, especially attitudes towards stillbirths. This left a strong impression upon him. The priest emphasizes how deeply fearful the locals were of stillborn babies, and he flavours his recollections with two sad anecdotes. One day, he says, some villagers brought him a small blue corpse. The baby’s father insisted that the missionary baptize it. Since this was canonically impossible, the priest performed an impromptu blessing. It effectively banished the evil spirit conjured by the unfortunate birth. Satisfied with the blessing, the villagers relaxed and returned to their normal lives. On another occasion, one of the priest’s confrères was less delicate. A mother presented him with her dead baby, pleading for a postmortem baptism. At last the cleric told her, “The Church will only permit me to baptize your child if it draws milk from your breast.” Since this was impossible, the mother went away frustrated and ill at ease, having been unsuccessful in her bid to exorcise the unlucky spirit.

Click here to read this article from Florilegium

Also from Medieval.net: Richard III had severe scoliosis but was not a hunchback, researchers find

 Scientists and researchers have completed their study on the spinal column of Richard III, revealing that his scoliosis caused these bones to curve to the right, a well as a degree of twisting, resulting in a “spiral” shape. However, he would not have been hunchbacked as he was depicted by later writers.

Richard III spine - Spinal Curvature - Credit- University of Leicester

This research has been published this week in the journal The Lancet. It was carried out by experts from the University of Leicester, University of Cambridge, Loughborough University and University Hospitals of Leicester

The kind of scoliosis Richard suffered from a form of adolescent onset idiopathic scoliosis, which would have not started until he had almost finished growing. By the time he was an adult, Richard’s right shoulder would have been higher than his left, and his torso would have been relatively short compared to his arms and legs. The scoliosis also caused him to be several inches shorter than his normal height, which would have been about 5 feet 8 inches tall otherwise. This matches a contemporary description of Richard, by the chronicler John Rous who described the king as “small of stature, with a short face and unequal shoulders, the right higher and the left lower.”

Science up: This New “Super-Hydrophobic” Material Is So Waterproof That Water Bounces Off It Like A Ball | Geekosystem

Foodie stuff: Yogurts With More Sugar Than A Twinkie

Since I am dealing with my kids a lot in this post, and since they are named after Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises: 10 Incredible Facts About Ernest Hemingway – Listverse

And since Hemingway was a “cat person” we have this next link: Study Shows the Personality Differences Between Cat and Dog Lovers | Geekosystem

New research presented this month at the annual Association for Psychological Science shows the contrasting personality traits associated with cat and dog owners–or in other words, people who would rather scoop a creature’s poop up from the street vs. those who prefer it buried under litter.

Denise Guastello of Carroll University conducted the study using a group of 600 college students. Participants were asked whether they were cat or dog lovers, what attribute they most admired in their pets, and then given a series of questions as part of a personality assessment. 60% of those polled claimed to be dog lovers, 11% copped to a cat fancy, and 29% said they had no preference, i.e., they were scared their cat would find out if they answered truthfully.

Based off trends found in the personality assessments, “dog people” were shown to typically be outgoing and rule-abiding, whereas cat fans appeared introverted, open minded, sensitive , innovative, and more intelligent than dog devotees. But pet owners shouldn’t take the study’s findings too seriously–the research was obviously conducted on a specific segment of the population, so it’s impossible to say how allegiance to one kind of animal over another might manifest in the personality traits of different age groups or demographics.

Guastello suggests the trends in personality associated with cat or dog owners might be related to the kind of care the animal requires:

It makes sense that a dog person is going to be more lively, because they’re going to want to be out there, outside, talking to people, bringing their dog [...] Whereas, if you’re more introverted, and sensitive, maybe you’re more at home reading a book, and your cat doesn’t need to go outside for a walk.

Maybe… or maybe cat owners are just too weakened by allergies to do anything but lie on the couch and hope the neighbor’s dog won’t smell their fear.

And one last fun link, the source for this morning’s title: Depressed Goat Is Reunited With His Burro Best Friend

Mr. G, a goat, and Jellybean, a burro, were both rescued from the squalor of a hoarder’s home earlier this year and were, for the first time in their lives, separated to live in different animal sanctuaries. The separation left Mr. G depressed and he didn’t move or eat for six days. Until he was reunited with his best friend.

After Mr. G and Jellybean were rescued, each was taken in by different animal sanctuaries 14 hours apart. Mr G. became depressed in his new home without his lifelong friend, refusing to leave his stall or eat.

That’s when the staff of Animal Place in Grass Valley, Ca. decided that the two needed to be together again. They arranged to have Jellybean transported and from the moment Mr. G heard his burro buddy being unloaded, he immediately perked up.

Watch that video and have a wonderful lovely day!


Wednesday Reads: Of Saints and Bastards

ddd66aca71973596df57574f0881d534Good Morning

Can you feel it? A Minkoff rant coming to ya? Yeah, it is…so just roll with it, you may find this post all over the place.  But then y’all know how I get when this happens so, I will just get on with it.

First off, this shit with the Supreme Court and public prayer at town meetings. You know…what the fuck happened to a moment of silence? Do they still do that? I mean if you are going to take time out to pray a little, do it to yourself on the quiet…if you want to…because this shit SCOTUS just ruled on gives the Christian right to fuck over anyone who isn’t born again. By that I mean you too Catholics! Which is something I think those who do vote “Republican” and are Catholic seem to fail to grasp.

8ac55ef11b2cc7c8c1b9540fea3aee5dYou see them, especially here in small towns like Banjoville. They are high and mighty evil bastards who feel above you and actually discriminate against those who are not “born again.” That means those of the Catholic, Anglican/Episcopal faith…Jews, Buddhist, Muslims, oh you all know what I am talking about.

They will say the most horrible things to kids too…shit that is beyond fucked up! And…they teach their children to behave just like them. It is an endless cycle of disgusting behavior in the name of Jesus. (Excuse me…Geeezus.)

eb11a16fe7a5384b4e86a0bf7fc7b397All this shit about prayer in schools, is not for any other prayer but theirs.

It is only their religious freedom they are concerned with.

It is only their “God” or “Gawd” they consider real and therefore legitimate.

So many conservatives who are not in line with the “christian” way of believing do not get this…they don’t realize that these assholes are not really speaking for them. They vote for these bastards because they only see them as the politician who spouts on about praying in school, and other conservative value shit…but they don’t see the big picture behind it.

a32871be6d96eeced3ed0e75ed850df9And why am I picking on these Jesus freaks? Because these are also the people who are the hypocritical bastards, and act the least charitable. They are hateful motherfuckers and prejudice and judgmental too. They say horrible things with an air of snotty intolerant Baptist superiority. (This is from my experience here in the Southern bible belt.) Both men and women are misogynistic as hell, the women are not supportive of other women within their circle and the girls are awful to other girls who are, “not one of them.”  They take any reason and twist it, manipulate it into a reason for Geezus. It is unbelievable the way they can justify their behavior…I don’t know how they can do it and consider themselves “good Christians.”

This is the backbone of the GOP, the conservatives who are changing the laws in this nation bit by bit. The assholes that are cutting out all social programs and any hope for a future in areas of science and discovery. I can honestly say these people are ruining this country. Maybe that is taking it too far, I don’t know. But what the fuck is wrong with these people?

e2d8e675cee866b319ff8ab454586944I am afraid, really I am.

I see what a small town mentality is like and I see it is taking over our Supreme Court. It has taken over our House of Representatives and it damn well can take over the Senate.

Gawd help us…what the hell are we going to do?

Here then are the links for today, there are a lot of them so some are in link dump fashion.

First a group of stories illustrating some of the talking points above.

Rep. Paul Ryan targest Poor as his “Signature Issue”, and I do Mean Targets (Cartoon) | Informed Comment

jamiol_ryan

House Bill Cuts Transit, Housing Assistence | BobCesca.com | News and Politics Blog and Podcast | We Cover the World

12e7e1c43296ee7d6181fd1d740d8415House Republicans have unveiled their version of the transportation, housing and urban development (THUD) appropriations bill and, not surprisingly, it cuts funding by nearly $2 billion.

The bill cuts TIGER grants, a favorite of many lawmakers, by $500 million to a total of $100 million. It does not allow funds for bike and pedestrian paths.

The FAA is funded at $7.3 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and the Federal Railroad Administration is funded at $1.4 billion, a reduction of $193 million. There is no funding for high speed rail, an Obama priority.

To cut costs, Amtrak would be required to put overtime limits on employees and not use federal funding for routes where Amtrak offers a discount of 50 percent or more peak fares.

All together, the House bill would set spending at a level nearly $8 billion less than what President Obama requested for the next fiscal year.

Opposition to the president’s request isn’t earth shattering news, but House Republicans going out their way to eliminating funding for bike paths and railway while instituting overtime limits for Amtrak employees is certainly illuminating.

Republicans have a big problem with pedestrian-friendly urban and mass transportation. You know, hallmarks of socialism; liberal stuff.

3f20c6490c97520e66e8717d740763e0The Next Frontier In The War Over Science

The Obama administration and the scientific community at large are expressing serious alarm at a House Republican bill that they argue would dramatically undermine way research is conducted in America.

Titled the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014,” the bill would put a variety of new restrictions on how funds are doled out by the National Science Foundation. The goal, per its Republican supporters on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, would be to weed out projects whose cost can’t be justified or whose sociological purpose is not apparent.

For Democrats and advocates, however, the FIRST Act represents a dangerous injection of politics into science and a direct assault on the much-cherished peer-review process by which grants are awarded.

“We have a system of peer-review science that has served as a model for not only research in this country but in others,” said Bill Andresen, the associate vice president of Federal Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania. “The question is, does Congress really think it has the better ability to determine the scientific merit of grant applications or should it be left up to the scientists and their peers?”

f2aa4c688c823841910abdcc9598cb8dIn recent weeks, the Obama administration and science agencies have — in less-than-subtle terms — offered up similar criticisms of the FIRST Act. At an American Association for the Advancement of Science forum on Thursday, presidential science adviser John Holdren said he was “concerned with a number of aspects” of the bill.

“It appears aimed at narrowing the focus of NSF-funded research to domains that are applied to various national interests other than simply advancing the progress of science,” Holdren said.

Meanwhile, in a show of protest that several officials in the science advocacy community could not recall having witnessed before, the National Science Board released a statement in late April criticizing the bill. As the oversight body to the National Science Foundation, the NSB traditionally stays out of legislative fights. So when it warned that the FIRST Act could “significantly impede NSF’s flexibility to deploy its funds to support the best ideas,” advocates said they were surprised and pleased.

020a840156d10a50de9992d936837a44“The fact that the NSB commented on legislation, I don’t know if it is unprecedented but it is at least extremely unusual,” said Barry Toiv, a top official at the Association of American Universities. “And we think that speaks to the really serious problems posed by the legislation.”

Susie Madrak » Blog Archive » See how that works?

Despite all the pissing and money about the district wasting money on outrageous teacher salaries and pensions, seems the real problem is the Santa Claus provision our Republican-dominated legislature ticked away into state law. This is, of course, contrary to the right-wing wisdom shared on our local newspaper site, but oh well! Nobody cares about schools, anyway:

4f3c895075c53c60acaad56051b652d4Unless the Philadelphia School District raises more than $200 million extra in a hurry, Moody’s Investors Service warned it will cut the district’s bond rating — which is already down at Ba2, junk status, forcing the district to pay extra when it borrows money — because the district’s proposed $2.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year will “materially imperil its ability to provide students with an adequate education.”

Without $216 million in additional funding, Moody’s analyst Dan Seymour wrote in a report to clients, the district threatens to increase the average class size to 41 students and lay off more than 1,000 staff. ” This is credit negative because a further deterioration in education services will likely result in additional student flight to charter schools and other alternatives,” further reducing district revenues, Seymour added. 3 in 10 Philadelphia students already go to charter schools.

a6f650feced450bed9e37fa50896f502“Rising charter school enrollments have been a drag on the district’s finances, as state law mandates that public school districts pay the costs of sending students to charter schools. Driven largely by charter school tuition costs, the district’s costs per pupil have increased 70% since 2004. Further enrollment declines would exacerbate the district’s financial pressure as charter schools capture a larger share of the district’s expenditures,” Moody’s adds.

Conservatives Have Free Reign In Kansas. It’s Failing. | The Daily Banter

In Kansas, Republicans dominate the state government. They have the Governorship (Former Senator Sam Brownback), the State House (92-33 for the GOP), and the State Senate (32-8 for the GOP). Democrats don’t have a say in this blood red state that went 60%-37% for Mitt Romney in 2012.

Brownback and his buddies have enacted all manner of conservative economic policy in the state. Cutting taxes, etcetera. What is the result? Guess.

Citing a sluggish recovery from the recession, risk inherent in the governor’s tax plan and uncertainty over the Legislature’s ability to keep cutting spending, one of the nation’s two major debt rating agencies downgraded Kansas’ credit rating Thursday.

Moody’s Investors Service dropped Kansas from its second-highest bond rating, Aa1, to its third highest, Aa2. The Kansas Department of Transportation also took the same downgrade.

f6964ca89bbb0e9540a1331bb4cc1a61As Businesweekexplained, “the immediate effect has been to blow a hole in the state’s finances without noticeable economic growth.”

Even with the cut in taxes, big companies like Applebee’s and Boeing have moved out of Kansas.

As a result, the most recent polling there shows Brownback’s approval rating down to 33%, while he’s slightly behind the Democratic challenger.

In Kansas, they can’t (honestly) blame liberals for this. They’ve been given a free hand. They were able to enact whatever they wanted, and it has been a miserable failure at a time when other states – including very blue Democratic states like here in Maryland – have been recovering from the Bush recession.

Why?

Because conservative economics doesn’t actually work. It is a faith based program untethered from reality. The numbers don’t add up and it is destructive to societies.

90d80323549f4203fba1e32825e491c9Charlie Crist Says He Became A Democrat Because Of GOP Racism

It was partly for that reason that Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida who’s now trying to reclaim his old job as a Democrat, broke with his former party.

“I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there,” Crist told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. “I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me.”

[...]

Crist was savaged on the right when, as governor in 2009, he hugged Obama. He said earlier this year that racism motivated the outrage over the embrace.

1a2968938471c1f5fb9ce8980f223146“I think another part of it was that he was a Democrat, but not just a Democrat, an African-American,” Crist, who’s challenging Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), said during an appearance on “The Colbert Report.”

Just 7 percent of journalists are Republicans. That’s far fewer than even a decade ago.

A majority of American journalists identify themselves as political independents although among those who choose a side Democrats outnumber Republicans four to one, according to a new study of the media conducted by two Indiana University professors.

Write Lars Wilnat and David Weaver, professors of journalism at Indiana, of their findings:

Compared with 2002, the percentage of full-time U.S. journalists who claim to be Democrats has dropped 8 percentage points in 2013 to about 28 percent, moving this figure closer to the overall population percentage of 30 percent, according to a December 12-15, 2013, ABC News/Washington Post national poll of 1,005 adults. This is the lowest percentage of journalists saying they are Democrats since 1971. An even larger drop was observed among journalists who said they were Republicans in 2013 (7.1 percent) than in 2002 (18 percent), but the 2013 figure is still notably lower than the percentage of U.S. adults who identified with the Republican Party (24 percent according to the poll mentioned above).

Image courtesy of The American Journalist in the Digital Age

That link about the journalist is more for information purposes. Read what else Cillizza thinks too at that link.

 

8c2a3f14e9851505e3f1992043567145Los Angeles now spending more on Wall Street fees than on maintaining roads | PandoDaily

Los Angeles councilman Paul Koretz has called for banks NY Mellon and Dexia to return $65 million in “unfair profits and termination payments” they received between 2008 and 2014. This follows a report (embedded below) revealing that the city spent more than $200 million in fees to Wall Street in 2013 alone.  Koretz says he may push the city to take punitive action against the financial institutions involved if they do not renegotiate the deal.

a63f17097d9b76b0c8b35d6fe18f5a72The report, published by the union-backed Fix LA Coalition, notes that “the City of Los Angeles last year spent more on Wall Street fees than it did on our streets.” Indeed, the report notes the city “paid Wall Street $204 million in fees, spending only $163 million on the Bureau of Street Services.”

The fees are connected to the controversial interest-rate-swap deal cemented by Los Angeles in 2006. It is a deal similar to those engineered by Wall Street in cities across the country. Those deals have made headlines in recent years in some of the country’s most high-profile municipal budget crises.

For instance, a recent study by former Goldman Sachs investment banker Wallace Turbeville found that an interest-rate swap deal was a primary driver of Detroit’s fiscal crisis. Noting that the banks used the city’s bankruptcy to demand “upwards of $250-350 million in swap termination payments,” Turbeville concluded that “a strong case can be made that the banks that sold these swaps may have breached their ethical, and possibly legal, obligations to the city in executing these deals.” (A court recently reduced the amount the city has to pay Wall Street to unwind the deals).

 

28e2e3ff15881c293a7bd3a3c9b36dcdBorder Patrol rarely punishes agents accused of abuse, study shows | Courts & Crime | McClatchy DC

A new report by an immigration watchdog finds that the United States’ largest federal law enforcement agency rarely punishes its agents for their mistreatment of immigrants and American citizens.

The report by the American Immigration Council found that 97 percent of abuse complaints lodged against Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers resulted in no disciplinary action once an investigation had been completed. Those included a complaint from a pregnant woman in El Paso, Texas, that she had miscarried after a Border Patrol agent kicked her in the stomach, and several complaints from women that they had been forced to bare their breasts while in custody.

The survey also found that many complaints against U.S. border agents take years to resolve. The council reviewed 809 complaints filed in the three years from January 2009 to January 2012. But of those, only 485 had been investigated and resolved. The remainder are still under investigation, including a nearly 5-year-old allegation of forced sexual intercourse lodged July 30, 2009, against a Border Patrol agent in El Centro, Calif.

a53e10fafb6c21876f0987f47a562693Among the cases that were still “pending investigation, the average number of days between the date the complaint was filed and the last record date provided in the data set was 389 days,” the report said.

“This absolutely confirms the experiences of our border families and communities,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Regional Center for Border Rights in New Mexico. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection is now the largest law enforcement agency in the nation, and yet this massive buildup of border enforcement resources has not been matched with adequate accountability and oversight.”

And about that SCOTUS decision:

64379ac1050440ca30257e0e75359f39With the Supreme Court’s Help, Religion Creeps Toward the State – Garrett Epps – The Atlantic

The 5-4 decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway shows how far the ground has shifted under the Establishment Clause in the last 30 years.

Supreme Court: Tear Down This Wall!

Yesterday’s ruling in Greece v. Galloway is an affront to religious equality, but it also reflects the poisoned fruit of a bad precedent.

Symposium: Town of Greece v. Galloway going forward : SCOTUSblog

Symposium: Dismantling the wall that should separate church and state : SCOTUSblog

Symposium: Thoughts on Town of Greece – if the kilt fits : SCOTUSblog

In fact for SCOTUSblog coverage look here: Town of Greece v. Galloway : SCOTUSblog

1393a34602c9fa0037e721e27659418bWith all this shit that happened yesterday, and the recent other shit like the repeal of some key parts of the Civil Rights Act, this next article should come as a surprise: Supreme Court popularity rebounds, survey says | Suits & Sentences | McClatchy DC

 

The Supreme Court’s popularity has rebounded, with more than half of U.S. residents surveyed now voicing a favorable view of the justices, a new survey finds.

The Pew Research Center survey, conducted last month among 1,501 adults, found that 56 percent have a favorable view of the court, while 35 percent had an unfavorable view. Last July, only 48 percent held a favorable view of the court. That rating was among the lowest ever recorded by the court, though still well above the abysmal poll numbers earned by Congress.

Intriguingly, 63 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of the court led by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., compared to 54 percent of Republicans.

 

Take a deep breath…I know I have to. More after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Wednesday Reads: A Bare Chestnut Tree grows in Washington DC

Portrait by Nico Jungmann

Portrait by Nico Jungmann

Good Morning

We have a variety of links for you today, shall we just get down to it?

By the way, the images are from the Sketchbook of Nico Jungmann… enjoy them.

They have heard another series of pings, this time it lasted longer than 7 minutes, via USA Today: Official: Plane may be found in ‘matter of days’

Meanwhile: Ukraine says separatists hold hostages; activists deny charge | Reuters

Congrats to UCONN: Another National Championship for Connecticut Women’s Basketball

Out of all the news hitting the internets this past day or so, the one story that was more moving to me was this one…about the sapling that is being planted at the Capitol.

A very special sapling it is:  WASHINGTON: Sapling from Anne Frank’s “bare chestnut tree” coming to the Capitol

Congressional leaders will plant an Anne Frank Memorial Tree on the U.S. Capitol’s west front lawn April 30.

The sapling was taken from a chestnut tree that stood outside the Amsterdam annex where Anne Frank and her family hid during World War II.

51RpgWALCVLIn her February 23, 1944, she talked about the tree:

“From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the sea gulls and other birds as they glide on the wind…I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”

The tree itself collapsed in 2010, but its stewarts crated saplings. Eleven have been given to sites throughout this country.

Isn’t it a pretty thought to have a connection to  a little girl who equated “solace in all troubles” to the very branches that brought forth this sapling? What I am yearning for right now is solace in all troubles, bet you are too.

Here is an picture of the tree viewed from inside the attic where Anne Frank hid, it was taken  before it fell back in 2010: Anne Frank tree knocked down by storm

In this Nov. 14, 2007 file photo the chestnut tree which comforted Anne Frank while she hid from the Nazis during World War II, as seen from the attic window in the secret annex at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands The monumental chestnut tree has fallen over on Monday, Aug. 23, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Museum says. Peter Dejong/AP/File

In this Nov. 14, 2007 file photo the chestnut tree which comforted Anne Frank while she hid from the Nazis during World War II, as seen from the attic window in the secret annex at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands The monumental chestnut tree has fallen over on Monday, Aug. 23, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Museum says.
Peter Dejong/AP/File

 

As I was saying, we could all use some solace now, with this kind of shit going on: Los Angeles Times Was Wrong to Retract Article on Rape at Occidental

 

On March 14, 2014, The Los Angeles Times issued a retraction of an article in which reporter Jason Felch stated that Occidental College failed to disclose 27 sexual assaults in its 2012 Annual Security Report (ASR). The retraction states that “Occidental representatives approached the Times early this month to seek a correction. Documents reviewed by The Times this week show that the 27 incidents did not fall under the law’s disclosure requirements for a variety of reasons.”

However, The Los Angeles Times did not perform due diligence in their investigation of the numbers, and they never should have issued a retraction. Felch had incontrovertible evidence that the College did not include anonymous cases in their 2012 ASR and had verification that the college could not lawfully account for 27 missing cases.

51HPaG-TJ5LGiven the evidence, The Times should issue a mea culpa, and especially after Occidental spokesperson Jim Tranquada recently admitted to the LA Weekly that Dean of Students Barbara Avery ignored federal Clery reporting requirements that year. “In 2012, out of concern for student confidentiality, the Dean of Students office did not always communicate to Campus Safety when a student initiated the sexual-misconduct process or otherwise reported a sexual assault.”

Harrumph…I think Jezebel is on to something there, don’t you?

Since we are talking about issues of “due diligence” or maybe somehow having the wool pulled over one’s eyes, there is an update to a little news story regarding a former Star Trek actress and a Scientist who had No Clue How He Ended up in Holocaust-Denier’s Creationism Documentary

A new documentary titled “The Principle” is the latest from creationists and geocentrists.  The film perpetuates the long disproven notion that the sun revolves around the Earth. It is narrated by “Star Trek’s” Kate Mulgrew, who starred as Capt. Kathryn Janeway in both “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Nemesis.” From the looks of the trailer, this film is the antithesis of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s scientific look at the universe in “Cosmos.”

The film was funded by the ultra-conservative, ultra-Roman Catholic Robert Sungenis, who also appears in the film. Sungenis is also known for denying the Holocaust, and for his  anti-Semitic articles, which his bishop demanded he stop writing.

According to  Raw Story, the film features several scientists — some without permission. Clips from the trailer show Michio Kaku, Lawrence Krauss and Max Tegmart. Krauss is incensed, and tweeted:

For all who asked: Some clips of me apparently were mined for movie on geocentricism. So stupid does disservice to word nonsense. Ignore it.

— Lawrence Krauss (@LKrauss1)  April 8, 2014

K51XDDYMu9tLrauss also wrote a piece for  Slate to explain his complete bewilderment at being included. He is also unsure the means taken to get the clips. Krauss will probably not take legal action, in order to not further stoke the publicity for the pseudo-scientific doc. He also lampoons the idea of geocentricism, saying, “The notion that anyone in the 21st century could take seriously the notion that the sun orbits the Earth, or that the Earth is the center of the universe, is almost unbelievable.”

Okay, so this in the lack of due-diligence I was referring to: OH THANK GOD: Kate Mulgrew Is Mad About the Geocentric Documentary, Too

Yesterday, we ended the day on a major bummer when we learned that Kate Mulgrew, the actor best known for playing Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager, would be narrating a documentary backed by geocentrists and Holocaust deniers. Today, she’s set the record straight.

Mulgrew took to her official Facebook page about an hour ago to address growing concerns that her involvement with The Principle, a documentary about how NASA is totally trying to hide the truth that the Sun revolves around the Earth from us or whatever, in some way reflected her own views.

“I understand there has been some controversy about my participation in a documentary called THE PRINCIPLE. Let me assure everyone that I completely agree with the eminent physicist Lawrence Krauss, who was himself misrepresented in the film, and who has written a succinct rebuttal in SLATE. I am not a geocentrist, nor am I in any way a proponent of geocentrism. More importantly, I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary. I was a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that. I apologize for any confusion that my voice on this trailer may have caused. Kate Mulgrew”

51+e-aOLdfLSeems to me that she needs to, along with her assistants…agent, be a little more diligent when it comes to accepting offers to narrate a documentary as batshit crazy as this one. Unless the producers of the documentary have fraudulently re-edited her voice over to fit their agenda…but I believe she was a voice for hire as she states and just did not do the proper homework on the matter, and only seeing a check at the end of a day.

Speaking of crazy, have you seen this? Baby Accused of Murder Plot Goes Into Hiding in Pakistan

A 9-month-old Pakistani baby accused of raiding a state-run gas company and plotting to murder police has gone into hiding following his first court appearance last week.

Alleged infant criminal mastermind Muhammad “Musa” Khan was charged with conspiracy to commit murder Feb. 1, along with his father, grandfather and around 30 others. The group was protesting an increase in gas prices and a lack of available electricity in their area.

Baby Musa was granted bail in a Lahore court last week, and has another court appearance scheduled for April 12. His family hasn’t decided whether he’ll show up.

“Police are vindictive. Now they are trying to settle the issue on personal grounds, that’s why I sent my grandson to Faisalabad for protection,” the baby’s grandfather, Muhammad Yasin, told Reuters.

I guess the reasons for his arrest are being explain as, guilt by association?

A police sub-inspector apparently claimed in a report that Yasin’s entire family beat him up during the protest. That sub-inspector has since been fired.

What else would we expect when they also will stone women for adultery when they are raped.

41MkHYQX+9LWith all the talk on equal pay these days, Researchers: More U.S. mothers staying at home because of unemployment | The Raw Story

More mothers in the United States are staying home, but the increase is linked more to unemployment and demographic changes than to choice, a study published Tuesday suggested.

In 2012, nearly one in three mothers, or 29 percent, did not work outside the home, up from 23 percent in 1999, said the study from the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

Most of the homemakers, 85 percent, indicated they stayed at home to look after their children. However, six percent said they did so because they could not find employment — up from one percent in 2000.

And another article dealing with numbers: This Map Shows The Deadly Aftermath Of War Right Here At Home

In 2008, The New York Times compiled a list of 121 cases in which veterans were charged with a killing after returning home, and Current TV, GOOD and MGMT.design collaborated to update the research in 2010. The Huffington Post collected data from these sources and more recent news articles to create the infographic below, which shows that at least 194 veterans have been charged with killings after returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. It also shows that there has been a concentration of such incidents around military bases. Our research may not be a complete tally, but these were the cases we could confirm.

Infographic at the link above.

Alright then, the rest of the links are all dealing with shit, whether it be bullshit…fish shit, Japanese print fart shit, or GOP dipshit(s). (yes plural)

First the GOP assholes…GOP Candidate Wants To Get Elected To Keep His Daughter From Learning Evolution

I don’t know where the hell these people come from and yet…they keep getting elected or in this guy’s case, backed by those politicians already in office.

Aaron Miller, a Republican congressional candidate in Minnesota, said a big reason he’s running is to end classroom instruction on evolution, according to the Mankato Free Press.

Miller, a hospital account manager and Iraq War veteran, said during the congressional district’s Republican Party convention in Albert Lea on Saturday that Minnesota needs more religious freedom. He cited an incident in which his daughter was forced to learn evolution in school.

According to the Mankato Free Press:

He also called for more religious freedoms. He repeated his story about his daughter returning home from school because evolution was being taught in her class. He said the teacher admitted to not believing in the scientific theory to his daughter but told her that the government forced him to teach the lesson.

81xX07cI-QL._SL1500_Miller first mentioned his daughter’s evolution lesson at the Blue Earth County convention in March, according to the Mankato Free Press.

“We should decide what is taught in our schools, not Washington, D.C.,” Miller, who won the Republican endorsement for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District on Saturday, said during his speech.

Despite Miller’s attacks on Washington’s influence on education, Minnesota’s academic standards in science are set by the state Department of Education.

Not only is this guy a dipshit, he is a dumbshit.

Eric Holder got in some good jabs yesterday, Eric Holder to Louie Gohmert: ‘Good Luck With Your Asparagus’ | The Daily Banter

Gohmert brought up the “Operation Fast and Furious” scandal (because of course he did) and reminded Holder that he was hit with contempt of Congress charges by the House two years ago for failing to turn over Justice Department documents which the House had subpoenaed. Holder warned Gohmert, “You don’t want to go there, buddy.”

But that wasn’t the really good one. At the end of Gohmert’s time, Holder got the last word. As the chair recognized a different committee member, Holder said to Gohmert, “Good luck with your asparagus.”

This was an hilarious reference to an exchange between Holder and Gohmert last year when Gohmert inexplicably said that Holder “cast aspersions” on his “asparagus.”

Yes, Louie Gohmert said “cast aspersions on my asparagus.” What?

Oh Gohmert, you round-headed nincompoop. You’re lucky that’s all Holder said to you regarding that. If I was Holder, I’d make it a point to work the word “asparagus” into every other sentence. Why? Because this is exactly how a nutbag like Gohmert deserves to be treated.

Videos at the link.

51pmFCaSmxLOh, be glad we don’t have this kind of trouble to deal with: Carnivorous piranhas found blocking sewers in Shropshire

Residents in Telford have been informed “fishy smells” erupting from sewers in the area were actually thanks to the presence of sharp-toothed, carnivorous piranhas.

The fish, which are known for their voracious appetites and are commonly found in slightly more tropical climates than Shropshire, had been blocking the sewers after a resident chose to dispose of the dead fish down their toilet.

Matt Final and Jay Slater, who went to investigate the blockage for Severn Trent said: “We’ve certainly seen some weird things in the sewers over the years but we were a little shocked to remove piranhas.

Yeah, dead piranhas down the drain is a bit strange indeed. But at least they were not let out into the local pond or river while alive…I know it isn’t much of a news story, but fish down the shitter is only a segue to the final link: Today We Learned: Japanese “Fart Battle” Scrolls Exist

Let’s talk about farts. Specifically, fart battles as depicted in these hundreds-of-years-old Japanese “he-gassen” scrolls. They’re a real thing, and they might be the best real thing we’ve seen today. Check out some more examples below.

Fart-Battle-640x426

Besides just being incredibly fun to look at, because farts being funny is as much a universal constant as the speed of light, he-gassen scrolls also served some political function in their day. They were sort of like New Yorker cartoons—but with farts. The joke, according to Dangerous Minds and The Daily Mail seems to be that at the time, Japan’s view of foreigners wasn’t a favorable one.

When I saw that headline I immediately thought of Monty Python’s….I fart in your general direction..and it seems that the person who wrote the post thought the same thing.

This, but in Japan.

 

More pictures of Japanese prints at the link, as well as more info on the artwork.

That is all I have for you this morning. Have a good day and please share your thoughts with us today.


Thursday Reads: Guns and American Culture (and other news)

Morning Paper at Cap Ferrat, by Rebecca Kao Wang

Morning Paper at Cap Ferrat, by Rebecca Kao Wang

Good Morning!!

I live in a state that has very strict gun control laws. A recent study by Boston Children’s Hospital found that states with the toughest gun laws have the lowest rates of gun deaths. And Boston tends to average between one shooting victim every other day to one victim per day. I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of days since I read this article at WBUR: When Mass. Criminals Want A Gun, They Often Head North

Massachusetts gun laws are widely considered some of the toughest in the country. But with a rash of shooting deaths in Boston this year, some law enforcement officials say it’s obvious that there are ways around the rules. And when Massachusetts criminals want to get their hands on a gun, they frequently head north.

In 2012, more than half of the guns that law enforcement seized in Massachusetts and managed to trace to their origins came from other states, according to federal statistics. The biggest suppliers by far were New Hampshire and Maine, as is the case most years.

According to the article, ATF agents discovered that gun traffickers in Massachusetts were legally buying large numbers of guns from New Hampshire and Maine, where they are much easier and cheaper to buy, and reselling them to people in Massachusetts.

The flow of guns from northern New England to Massachusetts is propelled by key differences among state gun laws. It’s all about private handgun sales, in particular. In Massachusetts every private handgun sale must be recorded and reported to the state within seven days. And the buyer must have a license to carry from local police, which in turn requires a background check. The Massachusetts rules are tight.

Up north, not so much. Buyers at federally licensed gun shops in Maine and New Hampshire are subjected to a federal background check for prior felonies, or a history of severe mental illness. But when it comes to private gun sales — at a gun show, or even a commuter parking lot — no documentation is required — no background check, no record of the transaction.

Darcie McElwee, an assistant U.S. attorney in Maine, says that in her state a private seller doesn’t even have to ask the buyer for a driver’s license.

Now it’s still illegal to sell guns to a convicted felon or for a felon to buy a gun, so if someone is caught doing this, they’ll go to jail for two years minimum. And the rates of gun deaths and injuries are still lower in Massachusetts than in states with less strict gun laws.

Clearly strict state laws are not enough to prevent gun violence. We need federal laws to control gun sales and to encourage gun safety–like the Massachusetts law that requires guns to be unloaded and locked up when not in use. But how can we make that happen? According to the WBUR article, Congress has even made it difficult to keep track of guns that are used in crimes and for academic researchers to access federal government data on gun trafficking.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has introduced a bill to require all guns to be personalized so they can only be fired by the owner or another authorized person. These so-called “smart guns” already exist.

One of California’s largest firearm stores recently added a peculiar new gun to its shelves. It requires an accessory: a black waterproof watch.

The watch’s primary purpose is not to provide accurate time, though it does. The watch makes the gun think. Electronic chips inside the gun and watch communicate with each other. If the watch is within close reach of the gun, a light on the grip turns green. Fire away. No watch means no green light. The gun becomes a paperweight.

A dream of gun control advocates for decades, the Armatix iP1 is the country’s first smart gun. Its introduction is seen as a landmark event in efforts to reduce gun violence, suicides, and accidental shootings….

Of course the NRA will fight this tooth and nail, and it’s not going to get through the Senate, much less the House, in the current environment.

Now check this out. According to a piece at Venture Beat, you can quickly and easily buy guns on Facebook!

Fifteen minutes.

That’s all it takes for children, felons, and people without IDs to buy illegal weapons on Facebook pages dedicated to the sale and celebration of guns.

A VentureBeat investigation has uncovered dozens of pages on Facebook where guns are for sale, including semi-automatic weapons, handguns, and silencers. While the transactions don’t actually happen on Facebook, the social network is a remarkably easy way to find shady people willing to sell you a weapon — no questions asked. The illegal transactions then take place in diners, dark parking lots, and isolated country roads — away from the prying eyes of the feds and local police.

In Kentucky, Greenup County Sheriff Keith Cooper remembers when a call came into dispatch last October saying a 15-year-old student had been arrested on the Greenup County High School campus for carrying an unlicensed and loaded 9mm handgun to school. The boy was arrested and brought to Cooper’s office for an interview.

When Cooper, a former Kentucky State Trooper with a heavy Southern drawl, asked the kid where he got the gun, his reply was shocking: Facebook.

Read it and weep. Oh, and Facebook claims they don’t allow people to sell guns or explosives on their pages, but clearly they’re not enforcing these rules very well.

It’s not news to anyone that America has a love affair with guns. Guns and hunting are part of American culture, going hand-in-hand with the cult of rugged individualism. I’ve always thought it came from the frontier tradition. Most of the country was settled by pioneering who set out from the East coast to begin new lives in the Midwest and West before the arrival of the accoutrements of civilization–like law enforcement, banks, and insurance companies. In my generation at least, kids saw endless movies and TV shows about “cowboys and Indians;” and we played with toy guns–even us girls. And of course, since we were born shortly after World War II, many of us watch movies that glorified war.

Still I’ve never wanted a real gun. It seems to me that the gun culture is much stronger in some ways than in those innocent days of the 1950s and ’60s. But why? The obvious answer is the lobbying and propaganda efforts of the National Rifle Association (NRA). And what about  the recent work of ALEC and the Koch Brothers to get state “stand your ground” laws passed around the country? Dahlia Lithwick has posted a fine piece about this at Slate.

“Stand Your Ground” Nation: America used to value the concept of retreat. Now we just shoot.

Last week, Kriston Charles Belinte Chee, an unarmed man, got into a fight with Cyle Wayne Quadlin at a Walmart in suburban Arizona. Quadlin opened fire midargument and killed CheeOfficers decided not to charge Quadlin because, they concluded, the killing was in self-defense. According to the police spokesman, “Mr. Quadlin was losing the fight and indicated he ‘was in fear for his life.’” Just a week earlier, a jury in Jacksonville, Fla., found Michael Dunn guilty on four counts of attempted murder but did not convict him on the most serious charge of first-degree murder, in the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Dunn shot and killed Davis, also unarmed, because the music coming from his car was too loud. Dunn claimed he saw something like a gun in the vehicle, and that was apparently enough for some members of the jury to conclude that Dunn hadn’t committed first-degree murder.

Given all this, it’s not unreasonable to argue that, in America, you can be shot and killed, without consequences for the shooter, for playing loud musicwearing a hoodie, or shopping at a Walmart. The question is whether the wave of “stand your ground” legislation is to blame.

Is it true? Lithwick quotes doubters who say that neither George Zimmerman invoked “stand your ground,” However juries were told about the “stand your ground” principle, and could have been confused by the growing consensus in Florida that people [at least white males] have the right to shoot an unarmed person if they “feel threatened.” Lithwick writes:

It’s clear that at least some of the jurors in both cases took the principle of “stand your ground” into account to some degree during deliberations. We now know that at leastone juror, and possibly two, in Dunn’s trial took to heart the specific instruction that Dunn “had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” Whether or not jurors in Florida are technically instructed to apply the “stand your ground” component of self-defense law, it’s increasingly clear that they are, at minimum, confused about it (understandably) and may even be starting to apply it reflexively. Yes, Dunn’s attorney argued traditional self-defense. But, as former assistant U.S. attorney David Weinstein told the Associated Press, “I think people will say that because some of the language from the stand your ground statute gets embedded into the jury instructions, that stand your ground has an effect.”

I might go further. I might say that whether or not specific jurisdictions define self-defense to include a duty to retreat, and whether or not specific juries are charged to apply it, America is quickly becoming one big “stand your ground” state, as a matter of culture if not the letter of the law.

Please go read the whole thing. It’s frightening but important. Lithwick argues that the new laws are changing the culture itself–and not just in the states with “stand your ground” laws.

Now I’ve gone and written another single-subject post. I just have room for a few headlines before I turn the floor over to you.

Washington Post: Hillary Clinton makes case for ‘full participation’ and equality

Talking Points Memo: Hillary Clinton Defends Obamacare While Backing Changes

BBC News: Ukraine warns Russia against ‘aggression’ in Crimea

NPR: Crimea: 3 Things To Know About Ukraine’s Latest Hot Spot

The Daily Beast: The Spoiled Rotten Kids of the DC Elite

NYT: New F.D.A. Nutrition Labels Would Make ‘Serving Sizes’ Reflect Actual Servings

Dana Millbank: Republicans flip-flop on ‘judicial activism’

I hope Dak will weigh in on this one. Matthew O’Brien: How the Fed Let the World Blow Up in 2008

USA Today: NASA – 715 new planets found, 4 might support life

What stories have caught your interest today? Please share your links in the comment thread, and have a great day!


Wednesday Reads: Mambo Italiano Muthafukkerz…

1091f45df98358d48611af8ac49be2dbGood Morning

Well, another storm is hitting here in Banjoville. The weather people are saying we should get a total of 6 to 12 inches of snow when it is all said and done.

Down south things are a lot worse…if you have not seen the big headlines over at Huffington Post or Drudge, take a look at this:

Via Drudge

HISTORIC ICE STORM UNFOLDS IN SOUTH...
GEORGIA WARNED: 'CATASTROPHIC'...
SEEN FROM SPACE...
Hundreds of flights cancelled...
Roads deserted...
Panicked Shoppers Fight Over Food...
Nor'easter Could Be 'Biggest Of Season'...
'Snow Rage' Afflicts Storm-Weary Locals...

And HuffPo

SOUTH BRACES FOR 'CATASTROPHIC' STORM

Deadly ice and snow storm bears down on U.S. South | Reuters

The storm could be "a catastrophic event" of "historical proportions," the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, Georgia, said of the latest blast of wintry weather to hit the region.232ee103789d0f5b43c9f78b0272a458

Conditions were expected to worsen overnight, with up to an inch of ice predicted in parts of Georgia and central South Carolina.

Two to 6 inches of snow fell in north Georgia on Tuesday, with another 5 to 9 inches expected by Thursday morning, said National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Darbe.

But Darbe said ice was the bigger worry, with a quarter to three-quarters of an inch expected in the area that includes metropolitan Atlanta.

[...]

Officials were quick to make plans for dealing with the weather after being criticized for inadequate preparation before a storm two weeks ago. That storm paralyzed Atlanta area roads and forced more than 11,000 students in Alabama to spend the night at their schools.

Oh you bet your ass they were ready this time...

0211 Luckovich cartoon: Drift away | Mike Luckovich

021114-toon-luckovich-ed

In other news, House Approves Higher Debt Limit Without Condition - NYTimes.com

f827bc9e35771965e33b76c555d00cdcEnding three years of brinkmanship in which the threat of a devastating default on the nation’s debt was used to wring conservative concessions from President Obama, the House on Tuesday voted to raise the government’s borrowing limit until March 2015, without any conditions.

The vote — 221 to 201 — relied almost entirely on Democrats in the Republican-controlled House to carry the measure and represented the first debt ceiling increase since 2009 that was not attached to other legislation. Only 28 Republicans voted yes, and only two Democrats voted no.

I guess you could say hell froze over?

2440946b7e4be9ef6ce9a7a6cd0d3a66Simply by holding the vote, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio effectively ended a three-year Tea Party-inspired era of budget showdowns that had raised the threat of default and government shutdowns, rattled economic confidence and brought serious scrutiny from other nations questioning Washington’s ability to govern. In the process, though, Mr. Boehner also set off a series of reprisals from fellow Republican congressmen and outside groups that showcased the party’s deep internal divisions.

“He gave the president exactly what he wanted, which is exactly what the Republican Party said we did not want,” said a Republican representative, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who last year unsuccessfully tried to rally enough support to derail Mr. Boehner’s re-election as speaker. “It’s going to really demoralize the base.”

e6cca4e1507cba937018309733ea71a1The NYT article goes on to say it was a victory for the President and the Dems...but considering the shit we have dealt with the last few years, and those poor people who will be dealing with lower food stamp funds, how can that be a victory?

Meanwhile in West Virginia, another spill is causing the citizens grief: 'Significant' slurry spill blackens Kanawha creek

More than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry poured into an eastern Kanawha County stream Tuesday in what officials were calling a "significant spill" from a Patriot Coal processing facility.

Emergency officials and environmental inspectors said roughly six miles of Fields Creek had been blackened and that a smaller amount of the slurry made it into the Kanawha River near Chesapeake.

83a0b790e2e248e98e6d1edde44bf60a"This has had significant, adverse environmental impact to Fields Creek and an unknown amount of impact to the Kanawha River," said Secretary Randy Huffman of the state Department of Environmental Protection. "This is a big deal, this is a significant slurry spill."

"When this much coal slurry goes into the stream, it wipes the stream out."

That is disgusting. I don't think the people of West Virginia will ever be able to drink the water again.

For a little laugh, here is my favorite actor of today...I know the reason for the video is not funny, it is disgusting, but of all the other "black actors doing commercials" it is good to see Sammy call the asshole out:

Samuel Jackson goes nuclear on reporter for confusing him with Laurence Fishburne - Salon.com

Local TV stations have a reputation for goofy unprofessionalism and quirky hiccups.  This segment at KTLA in Los Angeles is something so much worse. Veteran entertainment reporter Sam Rubin begins his interview by asking about Jackson’s Super Bowl commercial, and things get real ugly real quick.

Samuel Jackson goes nuclear on reporter for confusing him with Laurence Fishburne

“What Super Bowl commercial?” responds a flabbergasted Jackson.  ”See, you’re as crazy as the people on Twitter. I’m not Laurence Fishburne!” (Fishburne reprised his role as Morpheus in “The Matrix” for a Kia spot.) “We don’t all look alike!”

He then goes on to list other black actors in commercials, who he is not.

8c717a1dd36b6aae4951ef50a11320b6Of course, the news reporter is not the only one who was tacky as hell, as you can "hear" from the video at the link:

Just as uncomfortable as Rubin’s attempts to brush off the blunder by saying, “Really my big mistake … let’t talk about ‘Robocop,’” are the hoots and howls coming from Rubin’s peers who clearly don’t get how terribly offensive this “mistake” is.  Rubin later apologized and claimed he was referring to a commercial for Jackson’s upcoming “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”  Regardless, the incident (and Jackson’s blunt response) is a reminder of Hollywood’s serious race problem that was starkly evident at the Golden Globes.

You can see the look on Jackson's face at the end, it really does show how tired he is of all the shit.

I noticed yesterday y'all were talking in the comments about books you were reading, I just started to read this one about cuss words as discussed in this link here:  Here's the first recorded instance of the F-word in Englishec888f05da4ae0857ec3302f256c8421

And it's a monk expressing his displeasure at an abbot. In the margins of a guide to moral conduct. Because of course.

Technically, "fuck" appeared two times before this. In 1500, it was used in a satirical poem to describe some friars. In that case, nothing like "fuck" was actually written out. Instead, the word was hidden in a code. And in 1513, it appeared in a Scottish poem as "fukkit."

Here's the first recorded instance of the F-word in English

But for English's first use, we've got a dissatisfied 1528 monk. He's written "O D fuckin abbot." Melissa Mohr, author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, says this "fuck" could be either literal or metaphorical:

a35537fa19bb5c218d174c664d71b9a6It is difficult to know whether the annotator intended "fucking" to mean "having sex," as in "that guy is doing too much fucking for someone who is supposed to be celibate," or whether he used it as an intensifier, to convey his extreme dismay; if the latter, it anticipates the first recorded use by more than three hundred years. Either is possible, really—John Burton, the abbot in question, was a man of questionable monastic morals.

So, either this monk was recording his abbot's sex life or he was the first person to be so angry that only "fuck" could convey it's scope.

Did you all see the big joint news out of New York and Italy?  I've got a few articles on this mass arrest from both Italian and US sources:

'1cdfa6e0951abf54ce7b61e71e1a944dNdrangheta 'snatching U.S. Cosa Nostra drug trade' - GazzettaDelSud

Calabria's 'Ndrangheta mafia, once a poor relation of the Sicilian Mafia, has grown in heft and reach thanks to its dominance of the European cocaine trade and is even muscling in on the drug operations of one of Cosa Nostra's historic five families in New York, investigators said after a major Italian-FBI bust Tuesday. "This was an important operation because we proved that the power of the 'Ndrangheta now far surpasses that of Cosa Nostra", Reggio Calabria prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told ANSA from New York after 26 arrests in a probe into a new drug route from Guyana to Europe via the 'Ndrangheta-infiltrated Calabrian port of Gioia Tauro.

According to the Gazzetta Del Sud, this 'Ndrangheta Mafia even used Mexican cartels in a joint venture in their set-up to traffic cocaine.

32d48f11ed5ab3975b8c39d2b2614db6As for the US side of the take down: Arrests in New York and Italy Thwart Mob Drug Scheme, Authorities Say - NYTimes.com

“They put a hundred grams, two hundred grams in each fish” and “it takes a day to defrost and then it takes a day to take out,” Franco Lupoi said, according to prosecutors who say the conversation was recorded by investigators.

On Tuesday, federal authorities announced the arrests of Mr. Lupoi, the owner of a Brooklyn bakery, and six other people in New York on charges that included narcotics trafficking and money laundering and that were the culmination of a two-year undercover F.B.I. investigation. In Italy, the police announced the arrests of 17 people in connection with the investigation.

8e67a16549cf6808c98b6d9a565c7a8bWhat made the case remarkable were not the charges but the defendants’ links to the ’Ndrangheta, the organized crime group based in Calabria that is notorious for kidnappings and for its success importing cocaine into Europe.

More from the LA Times: Italian-U.S. Mafia drug trafficking ring busted, FBI and police say

The FBI and Italian police said they had broken up a global heroin and cocaine trafficking ring Tuesday after stumbling upon a fledgling alliance between a Calabrian Mafia group and associates of New York's notorious

Twenty-four arrests were made in Italy and the United States after a two-year operation that relied on both wiretaps and an American undercover agent named by investigators as "Jimmy," who is said to have infiltrated the Gambinos and fooled Italians into believing he was a heroin dealer. Seventeen of the arrests were made in Italy and seven in the United States.

8c0b6ff431fc394939ef5694f77cf6c4Those arrested in the U.S. were arraigned before a federal magistrate in Brooklyn. The men, some of them suspected of being members of the Gambino and Bonanno "families," were listed as using various street aliases such as "Lello," "Freddy," and "Charlie Pepsi."

I am sure more information will be coming forward, but...

The coordinated sting halted the planned shipment of more than a ton of cocaine from Latin America to Italy in liquid form, smuggled with help from Mexican cartels in coconut and pineapple cans, law enforcement officials said. They put the street value at $1 billion.

One more link...on the additional discovery of 'Ndrangheta connections with the Far East heroin trade: Gambino, Bonanno family members held in joint US-Italy anti-mafia raid - CNN.com

Raffaele Grassi, head of the Criminal Unit of the Italian State Police, told reporters that the operation demonstrated 8729a9e910772d09d68639720e66b252that the "'Ndrangheta is one of the strongest organizations in the world in illegal drug trade."

He cited its sophisticated network of contacts and its ability to adapt and find new markets, including "expanding beyond Italian borders."

Grassi said that historically, the Gambino family had had ties with the Sicilian Mafia, Cosa Nostra. But their involvement in the illegal traffic of heroin, known as the "Pizza Connection," was dismantled or severely curtailed in the 1980s, he said, and they are now trading mainly cocaine.

36ffef735f803acdb7b518b6a6be3800The latest operation, according to Grassi and FBI officials, shows that the mafia families of the "new continent" are still seeking and relying on "old country" connections -- which is why investigators dubbed the operation "New Bridge."

According to Grassi, the Italian-American mafia families "need this new bridge to connect and support the traffic of cocaine."

While the existence of a connection between the Calabrian mafia and U.S. mafia families has been well known, Tuesday's operation shows its great strength and reach, investigators said.

One of the more alarming discoveries to emerge from the operation was evidence that 'Ndrangheta has also reached out to the Far East in the heroin trade, another investigator said.

While on the subject of the Mafia, 10 Real-Life Inspirations For Characters In The Godfather - Listverse

It’s one of the immutable laws of nature: You’re channel surfing, and there, between some cooking show and an infomercial, you come upon The Godfather. Even though you own the deluxe Blu-Ray DVD box set with three weeks’ worth of special features, you are glued to that station until the credits roll. And if it’s the first in a Godfather marathon, your day is shot. f3f4d36dad5c94c3549ef3e8bd4f06b6You’re not moving, except to warm up some frozen lasagna between Godfather 2 and Godfather 3.

The Godfather is a classic of American cinema, and Godfather Part 2 is considered by some an even better movie. This story of the patriarch of a New York crime family, and his son who takes over the “family business,” is largely based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, with director Francis Ford Coppola and Puzo producing new material for the films.

Puzo based many of the characters on the real underworld players he heard about growing up and working in New York City.

That thing about getting stuck watching the trilogy on TV, it is so true...it just happened to my mom and me last week, and it was on one of those channels with the commercials.e75c78c0ba7781f147ec6225ad95e9cb (So you know how annoying that can be, and how "glued" we were to stick it out for the three full movies.)

In wrapping this post up, I will end with this tune...a perfect finale to a mob focused post. I know that I have used this song before, but what can I say...

If you gonna be a square
You ain't a gonna go nowhere
Hey mambo! mambo italiano!
Hey mambo! mambo italiano!

Rosemary Clooney - Mambo Italiano Lyrics

Have a wonderful day, and if you are in the storm's wake, please stay safe and warm.

And be sure to share with us, what is on your reading list today?