Sunday Reads: Little Big Men

0ebdc95ad82b06d8bea49b4849e78134Good Morning

This post is going to have a theme, can you guess what that is?

Our first “little” big man story, or should I say stories, of the morning…updates on the man from New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie. The little being in quotes because this dude’s future role in the GOP used to be about as big as his “big and tall” non-wrinkle pleated-front dress slacks. Now he is being booed, yeah…you read that right…booed, and you know for a man like Christie, that has to sting like hell.

Gov. Chris Christie Booed Twice in One Week at Super Bowl Events | Mediaite

3729011e942d087aae0a96f0bd8f00dbFor the second time this week, Governor Chris Christie was met with scattered boos when he took the stage for an event leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium. The first incident occurred on Monday night, when Christie appeared alongside New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in Jersey City.

As Al Sharpton, who aired video footage from the event on PoliticsNation Tuesday night said, “It was a dramatic contrast to what we saw three months ago” when he was reelected in a landslide.

No kidding, video at the link.

Well, a lot has happened since the first and second booing. That being the news that Christie knew what was going on with the bridge…as told by former BFF David Wildstein.John Gutmann, 1935

Okay, you know I am joking with the BFF thing right? The NY Times had the story here: Christie Linked to Knowledge of Shut Lanes

Read all the stuff there, I know Dak and Boston Boomer have covered it too.

Then we have the backlash from Christie himself.

Chris Christie attacks N.Y. Times, David Wildstein – Mike Allen and Maggie Haberman – POLITICO.com

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, after a low-key initial response to Friday’s explosive allegations about his involvement in a bridge-closing scandal, mounted an aggressive defense late Saturday afternoon, attacking The New York Times and a former political ally in an email to friends and allies obtained by POLITICO.

“Bottom line — David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein,” the email from the governor’s office says, referring to the former appointee who reignited the controversy.

30461ca47ed89bcf41c64db627d7fb0dI think the best part of this move from Christie is the title of this email his office sent out:

The subject line of the 700-word email from the governor’s office is: “5 Things You Should Know About The Bombshell That’s Not A Bombshell.” It offers a harshly negative portrayal of Wildstein’s character and judgment.

Sounds like one of those quickie news articles from USA Today.

Read the rest at that link to Politico, I have another link about the email here from TPM, I just wanted to use this picture: Christie Hits Back: Bridge Official Will ‘Say Anything To Save’ Himself

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The full email is below.

Christie Email

This email goes back to an incident in Wildstein’s past…when he was a 16-year-old kid for Christ’s sake.

Geezus….go look at the full email, it is priceless.

Worse Than I Realized by Josh Marshall at TPM:

It speaks for itself that Wildstein is out to save himself. He is not sitting on a reputation for integrity and truth-telling. So the wisdom of doing anything more than saying Wildstein is trying to save himself and lacks credibility is highly questionable. The end product here reads like it’s coming from a team or a person who is flailing and grasping at straws.

If I’m a Republican power player reading this to a get a read on what’s actually happening, what’s likely to happen next week or next month, I think I come away thinking things are considerably worse than I realized.

18f25a5ddcf4c15866f1d40653b3b49fOne more Christie link: Chris Christie should resign if bombshell proves true: Editorial | NJ.com

Forget about the White House in 2016. The question now is whether Gov. Chris Christie can survive as governor.

David Wildstein, the man who ordered the George Washington Bridge lane closures, is now pointing the finger directly at Gov. Chris Christie, saying the governor knew about the lane closures in September when they occurred.

That directly contradicts Christie account at his Jan. 13 press conference when he made this statement: “I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it… I first found out about it after it was over.”

If this charge proves true, then the governor must resign or be impeached. Because
that would leave him so drained of credibility that he could not possibly govern effectively. He would owe it to the people of New Jersey to stop the bleeding and quit. And if he should refuse, then the Legislature should open impeachment hearings.

Well, moving on…to another New Jersey little “big” man…Danny DeVito.  Esquire Interview -The Serene Beauty of the Five-Foot Fury of Asbury Park Guy just needed a job, and instead he became Danny DeVito. And the word big is in quotes for Danny because the man is just fucking awesome and bigger than anything you can possibly imagine.

His parents sent him to board at a prep school in the upper-crust suburb of Summit, New Jersey, fifty miles north and inland. He was the baby by more than a decade to two sisters, and as the only boy—the DeVitos had suffered the loss of two children, including a son, years before Danny came along—he was their prince. His father, Daniel Sr., preferred paying tuition to bail money.

“My father was a good man,” DeVito says. “He supported his family. He always worked hard. He had a candy store, a luncheonette kind of thing, when I was born. Then he had a pool hall. That didn’t really do very well. It was small—five tables—and couldn’t really compete. But he loved to play pool.”

One of the classic experiences I had with my father was we drove from Asbury to see a guy named Mr. Blatt. Mr. Blatt had pool tables—probably had other sports equipment, too. I don’t know. All I know is we drove up to New York, I think—November, December—in one of his Oldsmobiles. He always had an Oldsmobile. It was like paradise for a kid going into this place, and he ordered five slate-top four-and-a-half-by-nine tables, which fit—just fit—in the little store he rented. And he picked out the felt, he picked out the balls, the cue balls, the chalk, the counters for the straight pool counters, pill bottles for pill pool. Picked all this stuff out. I was twelve, maybe.”

That’s a big deal for a boy that age.

“Yeah, a real big deal. And on the way home, it started snowing. One of the biggest blizzards that we ever had. And we were stuck without chains, on the way back to the shore, in the middle of it. No cell phones—you’re at the mercy of humanity. And people stopped. Somebody stopped, and they had an extra set of chains and fixed my father up. He never was slow with the duke, my father”—an old-school nod to the timeless practice of greasing the right palm in return for a solid—”so it worked out good.”

Which is a wonderful story, don’t you think?  That made me think of this scene from Throw Momma From the Train:

Please go read the entire interview, it is a great long read. I’ve caught up on lots of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes I’ve missed over the years. That is one funny show.

e878a32e5e478ba5a419d16b238b0dc6In other news that seems fitting for something out of the circus, this article by Zach Beauchamp:  The Inside Story Of The Charlatan Who Duped The Nation’s Top Conservatives | ThinkProgress

On New Year’s Eve, I learned FEMA’s “Dirty Little Secret.”

It was the title of a fascinating email, one that had somehow dodged my spam filter. The message was suffused with breathless concern about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recent order of “420 million survival meals;” such provisions are apparently “the #1 most critical item in a crisis.” You see, “FEMA knows that if you control the food supply, then you control the people.”

Normally, such paranoid ramblings merit nothing more than a quick delete and a sad shake of the head. But the New Year’s note stood out because of the source. I was being alerted to FEMA’s nefarious plot by no less than National Review, the nation’s most important conservative magazine.

“Please find this special message from our sponsoring advertiser Food4Patriots,” the publication wrote. “This important support affords us the continuing means to provide you with National Review’s distinctly conservative and always exceptional news and commentary. We encourage you to patronize our sponsors.”

Since being added to National Review’s subscriber list, I had received four emails from the venerable publication selling me on Food4Patriots’ plan to “make darn sure your family won’t go hungry or get herded into a FEMA camp” by purchasing the dehydrated food they’re hawking. Indeed, Food4Patriots is deeply ensconced in the conservative movement, placing its ads in both more mainstream outlets (Fox News, Townhall.com) and fringier sites (Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, RedState, WorldNetDaily).

Food4Patriots is a lucrative enterprise. Its parent company, Reboot Marketing, took in $11.8 million in 2012, an astonishing 1,428 percent increase over its 2009 revenue.

But the company’s skyrocketing revenues came on the back of some (arguably) really shady practices. In fact, when I wrote National Review’s editor and publisher to give them a heads up about what I learned about the company, they promptly suspended future Food4Patriots ads.

Oh it is good…fascinating stuff, and it is a long read so go refill that coffee.

843d34af3ec04fdeb8f6e9a6bc6362d8Another link for you, this is an update to something I don’t think we have mentioned on the blog before so first the back story. Sam Bee interviewed Peter Schiff, an asshole CEO. Who goes on to tell Daily Show viewers the ‘mentally retarded’ could work for $2: ‘You’re worth what you’re worth’ | The Raw Story

The investment broker and talk radio host told Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee that lifting the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, as President Barack Obama announced he would do by executive order for federal employees, could have devastating effects.

“There’s a law in economics, supply and demand, that you learn in Econ 101, and if you increase the price of something, you decrease the demand,” Schiff said. “The higher you make the minimum wage, the more jobs are going to be destroyed.

The CEO of Euro Pacific Capital argued that government programs, not low wages, were trapping Americans in poverty, and claimed that paying workers twice as much would double the cost of some goods – such as fast-food hamburgers.

“I do like to taste the tears of poverty in my milkshakes,” Bee said.

Schiff said those workers already earn enough.

“Did you ever go into a McDonald’s or Burger King?” he said. “I don’t really eat there, but they don’t seem desperate and hungry to me. They’re young kids, they seem to be enjoying themselves mostly.”

People don’t go hungry in a capitalist economy, Schiff claimed.

“It’s socialism that creates, you know, scarcity, that creates famine,” he said. “In a free market, there’s plenty of food for everybody – especially the poor.”

Schiff argued that eliminating the minimum wage law would allow more people entry to the workforce, and Bee asked him to identify someone whose work might be worth just $2 an hour.

“You know someone that might be? Maybe someone who is – what’s the politically correct word, you know, for mentally retarded,” Schiff said. “I believe in the principles this country was founded on.”

“I’m not going to say that we’re all created equal,” he said. “You’re worth what you’re worth.”

e006fb9d73724c77aad8e8710ad04350Well, the video is something you need to see, it is at the link. Go watch it.

Okay that was crazy, wasn’t it?

Now, check out what the dude is saying now: Investor Peter Schiff digs himself in deeper after ‘Daily Show’ remarks about the ‘retarded’ | The Raw Story

Radio commentator and investment adviser Peter Schiff , who was recently interviewed by The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee for a segment on the minimum wage, is very upset that he has been pilloried for using the not very politically-correct expression “mentally retarded” on air. During the episode, when prodded by Bee to explain who might be willing to work for $2 an hour, Schiff responded,  “You know someone that might be? Maybe someone who is – what’s the politically correct word, you know, for mentally retarded. I believe in the principles this country was founded on.”

Responding to public criticism about his star turn, Schiff has taken to his blog to express his displeasure with The Daily Show by pointing out that that Samantha Bee didn’t assist him with his answer and that he had delivered a four hour long disquisition on the free market and pay rates that somehow didn’t make it onto the half-hour long  satirical news program.

b26982af32a2d9f6a2c98435ffe5c297It is like some kind of canyon he is digging here.

Mr. Schiff  pointed out that  “Of the more than four hours of taped discussion I conducted, the producers chose to only use about 75 seconds of my comments. Of those, my use of the words ‘mentally retarded’ (when Samantha Bee asked me who might be willing to work for $2 per hour – a figure she suggested) has come to define the entire interview.” He then added,  “I just couldn’t remember the politically correct term currently in use (it is “intellectually disabled”). Assuming she knew it, Bee could have prompted me with the correct term, but she chose not to.”

Mr. Schiff then went on to further clarify that there were were two groups who would probably be happy to work for $2 an hour: the more appropriately named ” intellectually disabled”  and  “…unpaid interns who tend to value work experience and connections more than pay. ” He then pointed out that the Daily Show staffer who booked him for the show and attended the interview had  “… been thrilled to start there as an unpaid intern.”

Turning back to the “intellectually disabled”, Mr. Schiff added that if they “…can’t perform work that produces a minimum wage level of output, then no employer seeking to make a profit could afford to pay that person the official minimum wage. ” and that “Many of the jobs they perform may seem mundane to those of normal intelligence, but they are often the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. I pointed out that if the federal minimum wages were to apply to them, a great many of those opportunities would vanish. Others may disagree, but I believe a job for such a person at $2 per hour is better than no job at all.”

Some of his best friends are retards, oops… “intellectually disabled.” WTF is wrong with these people?

daab3814f86be30205d0781a9a71a933Just a few more links for you today, in dump fashion.

Postal Service Banking: How the USPS Can Save Itself and Help the Poor | New Republic by David Dayen

One of the key messages of tonight’s State of the Union address will be President Obama’s willingness to bypass Congress to create jobs and reduce inequality. As luck would have it, yesterday a new government report detailed an innovation that would preserve one of the largest job creators in the country, save billions of dollars specifically for the poor, and develop the very ladders of opportunity that Obama has championed as of late. What’s more, this could apparently be accomplished without Congressional action, but merely through existing executive prerogatives.

What’s the policy? Letting the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) offer basic banking services to customers, like savings accounts, debit cards and even simple loans. The idea has been kicked around policy circles for years, but now it has a crucial new adherent: the USPS Inspector General, who endorsed the initiative in a comprehensive white paper.

I have read this whole article and I don’t know what to think of it. Dak? Any thoughts?

This op/ed is only here because of the spelling topic of the thing…not the repeal Obamacare stuff…okay. Correct Spelling, Canceled by Phil Kerpen

As an American, I laugh at those archaic British spellings. Colour? Honour? Their inferiourity, if you will, is obvious. Centre? Theatre? Ridiculous. Most of these barbaric forms were corrected in America hundreds of years ago. Yet one galling Britishism is appearing on my computer screen all too frequently of late: “cancelled,” with a gratuitous extra l.

133581 600 Correct Spelling, Canceled cartoons
Randall Enos / Cagle Cartoons

Does something about Obamacare drive otherwise reasonable people to write about health plans being “cancelled” instead of “canceled”? Does the prospect of intrusive government involvement in health care cause us to regress? Is it subconscious deference to British and Canadian expertise at imposing socialized medicine? Whatever the cause, it needs to stop.

f734859e318878ec2ee90f8ac299fbccI don’t know, I usually have to go back and correct my spelling of flavour to flavor. Anyway,

Google’s Ngram feature searches the vast library of books Google has digitized. A search for “traveller” and “traveler” shows the British version remained dominant in America throughout the 19th century, but by 1915 the single l version overtook it and is now dominant. Merriam-Webster even touts “traveler” as an example of a Noah Webster triumph.

It took longer for “canceled” to triumph over “cancelled,” according to Google Ngram. The single l version didn’t take the lead until 1942, and they remained competitive for the next 40 years before “canceled” took the lead for good in 1983. As of 2000, the most recent year covered by the Google data, the now-standard American version was used over 73 percent of the time. The double l monstrosity appeared destined to finally disappear. In 2010, the Associated Press helpfully reminded the world that their style guide says “canceled” has one l.

Yet lately it seems everywhere I look there are American publications going British on this word. It’s baffling. If we are slouching towards a British-style health care system, we should at least spell the canceling of all those health plans in the correct American fashion.

3862148307_6d6daa3819This leads me to a little wordplay: World Wide Words Newsletter: 1 Feb 2014 Give the mitten

Q From Michael Thomas: I was recently working an acrostic puzzle and came upon the clue, “to break up with a loved one”. The answer, which I had never run across, was give the mitten. Could you explain the history of this phrase, please?

A It’s new to me, too, Mr Thomas, as it probably is to readers, since it is now extremely rare. The meaning has often been the one you give (in the American Civil War, a soldier who received a Dear John letter was said to have been given the mitten) but it could also often mean that a woman had rejected a unwelcome admirer out of hand. It occasionally meant that a student had been expelled from college or a workman had got the sack.

It’s known to be at least 170 years old. It has sometimes been taken to be North American, as the examples that were written down first — in the 1840s — are from works by Thomas Chandler Haliburton of Nova Scotia, who had a keen ear for the vocabulary of his times. However, as it is also recorded in Britain and Canada during much of the nineteenth century, it is probably an older British idiom that emigrants had carried abroad. In support of this, at the end of the century, the English Dialect Dictionary noted it as a British regional or dialect expression in the form to send one a mitten, to reject somebody or to cast them off.

Oh why didn’t we know this when Mitt was running for Prez…we could have used that as a slogan. Let’s send Mitt a mitten.  More at the link.

Back to the little big man theme: The Extreme Emotional Life of Völundr the Elf

An illustration of Völundr.Elves have been a fixture in the European mentality for a long time in fairytales and legends and, recently, in the most popular novels and films of our age. In this article, my aim is to determine the function of elves in Old Norse narratives from the thirteenth century by concentrating on the figure of Völundr, the protagonist of Völundarkviða, who to my mind is the most important Old Norse elf. The poem portrays his marriage to a southern swan-maiden who later leaves him. He then retires into solitude, hunting bears, and counting his rings until he is captured and enslaved by the avaricious King Níðuðr. The poem ends with Völundr’s gruesome revenge on the king and his family.

Völundarkviða is the tenth of twenty-nine poems in the Codex Regius ms of the Poetic Edda. Few Eddic poems have suffered less from scholarly neglect: a recent bibliography lists over 100 studies, not counting editions. There are grounds for this attention. To take one, Völundarkviða is usually classified as a heroic rather than mythological poem and shares common characteristics with some of the more ancient heroic poems in the Elder Edda, and yet it stands among the mythological Eddic poems in the manuscript between Þrymskviða and Alvíssmál.

Over the weekend I saw this man was buried with his Harley Davidson, did you see it?

American biker buried ‘riding’ Harley-Davidson in clear box – Americas – World – The Independent

An American biker has made his final journey on his beloved Harley-Davidson and been buried astride the motorbike in a clear box.

It was Bill Standley’s wish to share a grave with the 1967 bike, which took him travelling around 49 out of America’s 50 states.

His body was dressed in full riding gear and positioned on the Harley in a see-through box, which was driven to the cemetery on a trailer before being lowered into the extra-large plot.

Work on the unusual coffin started six years before Mr Standley’s death, aged 82.

He built the plastic casket that would hold him and his motorbike himself with his sons, and bought three burial plots next to his wife.

Damn, talk about taking it with you. There is a video report at the link, if you need to see it. The photo is enough for me.

And finally another twist on our title, but this features little big men and women…

Alrighty then.  Y’all have a wonderful day, and since it is Superbowl Sunday…I guess we’ll see you around the blog later on.  In the meantime, what are you reading about this morning?


It’s a Wonderful Life: Walmart Employees, Homeless People and Texas Women

$(KGrHqEOKiEE6UPng66wBOq1oPst7w~~60_35Good Afternoon

Huh?

Yeah…would you look at that.

3:00 pm has come and gone.

<————- And take a look at this. I found this picture on Pinterest, is it me…or does the left side of her jacket look like Texas? I don’t know, but when I look at that picture, I think of Wendy Davis running for Governor of Texas!  Wendy had some choice words for Republicans regarding the SCOTUS decision to give all of Texas Women the ol’ “fuck you!” More on this later…but, first…let’s get this “morning” post started.

Latest news on State Senator Creigh Deeds: Three hospitals with psychiatric units had room for Deeds’s son on Monday – The Washington Post

At least three hospitals near Bath County had available beds the day before the son of Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds apparently stabbed his father and then shot himself to death, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Deeds’s condition was upgraded to good at a Charlottesville hospital as investigators and mental-health officials continued to search for an explanation of what happened. Austin Deeds, who was 24, had undergone a psychiatric evaluation on Monday, but officials initially said he was not admitted to a hospital because no bed was available.

It remained unclear Wednesday which hospitals were called and why Austin Deeds was not taken to one of the available facilities.

Uh oh…

And over in Albuquerque, Voters Defeat Anti-Abortion Measure – NYTimes.com

Voters here on Tuesday defeated a ballot question that sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, delivering a critical setback to an anti-abortion movement that had sought to use this progressive city to recalibrate the national debate around women’s reproductive rights.

The referendum, the first of its kind in the country for a municipality, was marked by record turnout and aggressive tactics by volunteers on both sides, who sought to capitalize on the controversy and passion surrounding the issue to drive voters to the polls. For political strategists, it also offered a chance to test the way their message on abortion resonated among Hispanics, a key constituency that accounts for nearly half of the residents in Albuquerque and New Mexico, and is one of the fastest-growing populations in the country.

“This was a clear counterpunch to the Republicans and right-wingers who came from out of state to push their agenda on us,” Sam Bregman, chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party, which campaigned hard against the ban, said in an interview.

Give that piece a read, some interesting quotes from the local people in Albuquerque. The vote was 55 % to 45% btw…

You may remember the outcry from David Horsey, cartoonist at the LA Times, when there was a possibility the Koch Brothers would be buying the paper out? Think back and then read this: Tribune Co. Cutting 700 Newspaper Jobs Amid Dropping Advertising Revenues – Forbes

Tribune Co., the parent of several legendary newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, announced restructuring plans that include cutting 700 jobs, mainly from its newspaper unit.  Facing falling advertising revenues, Tribune has been engaged in aggressive cost-cutting which has helped the company remain profitable, its latest earnings show.

Staff reductions amount to about 6% of Tribune’s workforce, and will be focused on operations personnel at their publishing unit, rather than on editorial staff, chief executive Peter Liguori said, according to the LA Times.  At the same time, the company is looking consolidate advertising and circulation functions which were previously managed by each of the eight newspapers in their portfolio individually.

I wonder what Horsey will do with this nugget of news now. (He is really such a talented and ballsy cartoonist…)

Alright. Now that the newsy part of the post is over, here comes the meaty part.

Did you hear the news? Hollywood is making a sequel, but this in no ordinary sequel. It’s not Rocky 15 or Hobbitt III…this time Hollywood is going back to it’s roots…back to it’s heyday…it is going back to Bedford Falls.

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Sequel in the Works: Jimmy Stewart Christmas Classic Gets a Follow-Up | Variety

Star Partners and Hummingbird Prods. are collaborating on production of a sequel to Frank Capra’s iconic 1946 movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which starred Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

The sequel, titled “It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story,” is being financed by Allen J. Schwalb of Star Partners who will also produce along with Bob Farnsworth of Hummingbird. The duo are aiming to get the movie into theaters for the 2015 holiday season.

Karolyn Grimes, who played George Bailey’s daughter “Zuzu” in the original, will return for the “Wonderful Life” sequel as an angel who shows Bailey’s unlikeable grandson (also named George Bailey) how the world would be if he had he never been born.

I am negative by birth, being a Sicilian and all, but there are some things (whether they be books or film) that do not and should not be treated to “the sequel.”  It’s a Wonderful Life is not one of them.

I guess I am not the only one who feels this way, Mike Fleming Jr at Deadline had this to say: Beyond ‘Wonderful Life’, What Other Sacred Cows Should Be On The Sequel Menu?

Our sister publication Variety just bannered an exclusive that It's A Wonderful Life Sequelthere is a sequel in the works to the charming Frank Capra-directed Jimmy Stewart film It’s A Wonderful Life. Here, the actress who played Bailey daughter Zuzu (Karolyn Grimes) returns as an angel to advise George Bailey’s grandson (cleverly named George Bailey) because he has turned into a douchebag. While my first impulse is to label this a sign of the apocalypse, particularly after I see stories about Robert De Niro talking about a Taxi Driver sequel, maybe the Wonderful Life‘s backers at Star Partners are on to something. Even if something is considered a sacred cow, if that cow was run through the slaughterhouse, wouldn’t there be some tasty steaks for all? I need to stop judging.

No, please Mike..judge…judge!

You could take the progeny of a number of classic films and continue those beloved story lines. Why, maybe Rosebud didn’t completely burn up in the fire at the end of Citizen Kane. It got saved by Charles Foster Kane’s son or nephew, and their grandson finds it in the barn, pimps it out and uses Rosebud to conquer the downhill wooden sledding circuit, which for sequel purposes has been approved as an event in the next Winter Olympics. Any other classics that could be sequelized with the combination of ingenuity and public domain rights expiration?

After watching weeks of The Story of Film on TCM, I see just how crappy cinema has become here in the US. I knew it was shit for a long time now, but there is nothing like seeing some of those wonderful classic films through a film historian’s eyes to get a true feel for what we have lost. And I think what is more important, what we are losing in not moving forward towards innovation in film.

In the meantime, here in America…Walmart employees are really living the “wonderful life.” If they aren’t in fear of being shot by the stupid idiots that shop at their stores: Gun in pants pocket fires in Walmart; owner keeps shopping

Police said a man whose gun accidentally fired in his pants pocket while at Walmart on Sunday kept on shopping, paying for his items and leaving as though nothing had happened.

Christopher William Strube, 50, was arrested Monday and charged with discharging a weapon within city limits.

Strube was shopping Sunday afternoon with his .45-caliber gun in his pocket, when a bottle he was carrying bumped into the gun and caused it to fire one round, police said. Strube told police that after the gun went off, he paid for his items and left the store.

Employees and customers said they heard a gunshot and smelled gun powder. Police later found a .45-caliber bullet inside a can of beans.

These Walmart employees are collecting cans for other Walmart employees who are too poor to feed themselves at Thanksgiving.

Is Walmart’s request of associates to help provide Thanksgiving dinner for co-workers proof of low wages? | cleveland.com

Walmart Holding Canned Food Drive For Its Own Underpaid Employees | ThinkProgress

Wal-Mart Asks its Low-Wage Workers to Donate Food to its Low-Wage Workers | The Poverty Line, What Matters Today | BillMoyers.com

Of those three articles, I say read the last one by Bill Moyers.

This is very disturbing and upsetting for me on a very personal level. You all know why…Walmart puts food on our table, and I was always told not to “shit where you eat.” Walmart should increase their employee pay…geez, WTF is wrong with them. The Simple Path to a Living Wage at Walmart

In the past week, both a senior editor at Fortune magazine and the liberal think tank Demos have made similar proposals for how Walmart could greatly increase worker wages without harming its business prospects. What is this mysterious financial magic?

The two proposals differ a bit in the details, but they use roughly the same mechanism to reach the same goal, so we’ll go with Demos’s proposal (described in full here) for ease of explanation. Basically, the argument is this: Walmart throws off enough cash in profits each year that it could easily raise the wages of its workers by about 50%, so that they all made about $25K per year, which is what activists are seeking. Currently, the company just uses that cash for other purposes. Like what? Well, Demos points out that Walmart spent $7.6 billion last year buying back its own stock shares, a maneuver designed to buoy the stock price and dividend payments.

[...]

Demos estimates that if Walmart had dedicated last year’s share repurchasing money to worker wages, it could have ensured that all employees working 32 hours or more per week made at least $25K per year. (Something that is not unknown in the retail world.)

The key to this plan is simply a realistic look at which stakeholders benefit from which economic decision. Buying back shares can be popular on Wall Street, but it doesn’t change Walmart’s actual business operations one whit. The money, then could either provide a living wage to close to a million workers who currently do not make enough to provide for their families, or it could be used to vastly increase he personal wealth of the richest and greediest family in America.

Greed. Happy Thanksgiving.

In another sad story about living a “wonderful life” this time in Hawaii, at the hands of a “democrat.” Oh, this is disgusting. Worst Person in the World: Vigilante State Rep. Smashes Shopping Carts Used by Homeless People | The Daily Banter

brower_homeless_smash

Contrary to popular myths and stereotypes, Hawaii, and especially Honolulu, has a serious problem with poverty and homelessness. It’s not hard to spot tent cities in parks and near industrial areas, where hula dancers, surf boards and mai tais are nowhere in sight. In fact, Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness in the nation, with a population of around 17,000.

So along comes State Rep. Tom Brower — and his sledgehammer. Brower, wearing an Armani hat, has taken it upon himself to destroy and confiscate shopping carts used by homeless people.

Video at the link if you can stand it.

Brower, a Democrat, was quoted by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser as saying, “If I see shopping carts that I can’t identify, I will destroy them so they can’t be pushed on the streets.” Later, on a local news station, Brower told a reporter, “I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets.”

Yeah. He’s quite a hero, isn’t he? Destroying one of the only means by which homeless people can carry their few possessions — or, in some cases, earn some extra money by collecting recyclable cans and bottles. Specifically, Brower smashes the wheels off the carts, making them impossible to use. So instead of homeless people pushing shopping carts, Hawaii will have a homeless population dragging bashed up, wobble-wheeled carts now. Nice guy.

But it gets worse.

Yeah, is sure does. Go and read what this guy does the homeless people who sleep during the day in the streets of Honolulu. He must really want to keep Honolulu off of France’s “Watch Your Ass” US City Hot List: France to its citizens: Beware of downtown Atlanta after dark | www.ajc.com

The French don’t think Downtown Atlanta is such a safe tourist destination after hours.

Because of that, the city “too busy to hate” has found itself on a list of U.S. cities foreign countries warn their traveling citizens about.

The Washington Post recently named 16 American cities that governments from overseas suggest that people visiting the U.S. take precautions when touring.

Among those was Atlanta, whose downtown area the French Consulate suggested might not be the safest place to be after hours.

“Be vigilant in isolated areas of the city center (downtown) after the closure of the offices and to focus on the travel by taxi at night,” a translation from French of the warning about Atlanta.

Hmmm, maybe those homeless people know something about dangerous places after hours? Like it would be better and probably safer to stay awake at night? (Yeah, it is a stretch, I know…)

Moving on…to a “wonderful life” as a woman: ‘Economics Of Birth Control’ Infographic Is The Most Important Thing You’ll See Today

Birth control affects the global economy — on a much larger scale than you might think.

This infographic, created by Population Action International, shows just how much a lack of access to contraception impacts not just women and their children, but the amount countries spend on basic services for entire populations. Yet, sadly, only 22 percent of family-planning needs are being met worldwide.

According to Population Action, “For every $1 we invest in family planning, we save $4 in other areas like education, public health, and water and sanitation.” Check out the numbers below. They paint a pretty depressing picture — and one that needs to change ASAP.

Infographic at the link. But does it really matter, because according to Stuart Varney, Fox Business host: Maybe ‘something about the female brain’ makes women bad tech CEOs | The Raw Story

Fox Business host Stuart Varney on Monday addressed the lack of women executives in the technology industry by suggesting that there was “something about the female brain” that deterred companies from hiring them.

Early last month, filings for Twitter’s plan to publicly offer shares showed that the company was dominated by male executives.

“Should tech companies feel obligated to put women on the board or to make women top executives just to be politically correct,” Varney asked the Tea Party News Network’s Scottie Hughes on Monday.

“No business should ever be obligated to bring on a woman,” Hughes insisted. “They should want to, but you’re not seeing this in Silicon Valley for some reason.”

“But why is that?” Varney wondered. “It’s a very difficult question to ask because it’s politically incorrect. Is there something about the female brain that is a deterrent for getting on board with tech? Is there?”

Asshole.

At least we have Wendy Davis as a voice for women out there: Wendy Davis Slams Texas Republicans After Supreme Court Upholds State Abortion Restrictions

State Sen. Wendy Davis (D), Democrats’ popular candidate for governor of Texas, slammed Texas Republicans following the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the state to continue enforcing its strict anti-abortion law.

“This law is an abuse of power by politicians in Austin. Clinics will close and women’s health will be hurt,” Davis said in a statement to TPM on Tuesday. “I trust women to make their own decisions and will continue to work to make sure that women and mothers are safe and have access to adequate health care.”

Earlier in the year Davis gained national attention for waging a 13-hour filibuster of the law.

In a separate statement Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) praised the high court’s decision.

“This is good news both for the unborn and for the women of Texas, who are now better protected from shoddy abortion providers operating in dangerous conditions,” Perry said. “As always, Texas will continue doing everything we can to protect the culture of life in our state.”

Love her.

The next few links are not within the “wonderful life” theme, but I wanted to include them anyway:

Greg Abbott links Wendy Davis to ‘Satan’ after ‘illegal immigrant’ game is cancelled | The Raw Story

How Many of Your Memories Are Fake? – Erika Hayasaki – The Atlantic

“Great Surprise”—Native Americans Have West Eurasian Origins

Mummified Meals Studied – Archaeology Magazine

Mummy Animal FoodRichard Evershed of the University of Bristol and a team of researchers are investigating how meat products were preserved for provisioning ancient Egyptian tombs. “We’ve done quite a bit on human Egyptian mummies and even a fair bit on animal mummies. But the meat mummies…they’d been sort of left on their own,” he explained. For example, a calf and a goat leg he and his team examined with mass spectroscopy had been wrapped in bandages and smeared with animal fat. A few hundred years earlier, beef ribs prepared for Pharaoh Amenhotep III were treated with an expensive resin imported from the Mediterranean.

Look..it is a rack of Chili’s Baby Back Ribs!

And finally, with all the fuss over the new dictionary word “Selfie” I thought a couple of links regarding words would be neat…English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet – Megan Garber – The Atlantic


Skreened.com

Let’s start with the dull stuff, because pragmatism.

The word “because,” in standard English usage, is a subordinating conjunction, which means that it connects two parts of a sentence in which one (the subordinate) explains the other. In that capacity, “because” has two distinct forms. It can be followed either by a finite clause (I’m reading this because [I saw it on the web]) or by a prepositional phrase (I’m reading this because [of the web]). These two forms are, traditionally, the only ones to which “because” lends itself.

I mention all that … because language. Because evolution. Because there is another way to use “because.” Linguists are calling it the “prepositional-because.” Or the “because-noun.

You probably know it better, however, as explanation by way of Internet—explanation that maximizes efficiency and irony in equal measure. I’m late because YouTube. You’re reading this because procrastination. As the language writer Stan Carey delightfully sums it up: “‘Because’ has become a preposition, because grammar.”

Go and read the rest of that article, it is real interesting.

I guess you could say that Varney and his comment about women tech CEOs would be because misogyny.

What is the one word that’s the same in every language?

Huh?

Yup…

As anyone who has tried to blag a vocab test will know, words really don’t have any logic to them. You can’t just “work out” what the German word for “fridge” is. That’s because, of course, words are arbitrary. Cat (or katze or chat) only means “cat” because at some stage people came to agree that it did. Words may share roots and flit across language barriers, but because there’s such a vast number of sounds a human can make, it’s very unlikely that we’d all spontaneously come up with the same word for the same thing.

Except that, apparently, we have. That word is “huh”. According to a recent study it seems to be pretty universal. The scientists (in what sounds like an excellent idea for a research trip), recorded bits of informal language from 5 continents, and of the 31 dialects they compiled, all had this same word in common.

My first thought in reading their findings was “hmmm”. Is “huh” even a word? It seems more like an instinctive utterance – the kind of sound we make when confused. Noises of surprise or anger might be the same everywhere, but that’s because they are not really part of a language. They’re just noises.

But the researchers do a fairly good job of arguing that “huh” is, in fact, a word. It’s not involuntary, and it follows the rules of a given language: if questions are posed with rising intonation, “huh” rises too, and vice versa (it fell in two of the dialects). It is also possible for children and language learners to get “huh” wrong by using it out of context. You can’t get noises of astonishment wrong.

So why is “huh” everywhere? Here’s where the research gets interesting. “Huh”, the scientists suggest, is the only word that can do that particular job. This means you could, technically, work the word out in a vocab test. And if children were really thorough inventors of made up languages, they’d have to include “huh”.

Go figure?

There is more of course at the link. Check it out.

That is it.

Shit, almost 4:30…time does fly when it is a Wonderful Life.


Wednesday Reads: Apples, Rands and 3D Printed Food

6791622240_8b616a368d_oGood Morning

Storms are building up right over Banjoville as I type up this post, so I will be very brief with the commentary.

(I am also very sleepy, so yeah…brief it will be.)

The Immigration reform panel was somewhat productive yesterday: Senate panel passes immigration bill; Obama praises move | Reuters

A Senate panel on Tuesday approved legislation to give millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, setting up a spirited debate next month in the full Senate over the biggest changes in immigration policy in a generation.

President Barack Obama, who has made enactment of an immigration bill one of his top priorities for this year, praised the Senate Judiciary Committee’s action, saying the bill was consistent with the goals he has expressed.

Hmmm….really?

By a vote of 13-5, the Senate panel approved the bill that would put 11 million illegal residents on a 13-year path to citizenship while further strengthening security along the southwestern border with Mexico, long a sieve for illegal crossings into the United States.

The vote followed the committee’s decision to embrace a Republican move to ease restrictions on high-tech U.S. companies that want to hire more skilled workers from countries like India and China.

In a dramatic move before the vote, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, withdrew an amendment to give people the right to sponsor same-sex partners who are foreigners for permanent legal status.

Leahy’s colleagues on the committee – Republicans and Democrats – warned that the amendment would kill the legislation in Congress. Democrats generally favor providing equal treatment for heterosexual and homosexual couples, while many Republicans oppose doing so.

Well, like I said at the beginning of the post, I wasn’t going to comment much….but yeah, I will say Obama is getting what he wants. Definitely.

Immigration Reform Amendment For Gay Couples Withdrawn

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had to make what the New York senator called an “excruciating” decision on Tuesday to come out against including LGBT couple provisions in their immigration reform bill, citing the need to keep the fragile balance in the “gang of eight.”

Sounding disappointed, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) withdrew the amendment after debate during a markup on the bill.

“I take the Republican sponsors of this important legislation at their word that they will abandon their own efforts if discrimination is removed from our immigration system,” Leahy said. “So, with a heavy heart, and as a result of my conclusion that Republicans will kill this vital legislation if this anti-discrimination amendment is added, I will withhold calling for a vote on it. But I will continue to fight for equality.”

Leahy brought up his amendments on same-sex couples during a markup of the immigration bill after some uncertainty that he would force discussion on it at all. Under current law and the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples cannot petition for legal status for the foreign-born partner, even if they’re legally married in their state. That means that thousands are forced to live separately for months or years, or even leave the United States to be with their partners.

Even with all the steps forward lately, in the form of so many states passing marriage equality laws…this immigration bill puts LGBT rights several steps backwards…again.

Oh, and just note by the way, 2 More Antigay Attacks Are Reported in Manhattan

Just hours after hundreds of people held a rally in Greenwich Village to protest the killing of a gay man last week, two men were violently assaulted in separate attacks in downtown Manhattan because of their sexual orientation, New York City officials said on Tuesday.

The attacks added to a troubling increase in reported antigay crimes in the city.

“It is a shame that we have to get together to talk about some things that should never occur, that we always thought, you know, we’d gotten beyond that,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.

If you missed news about that hate crime in the Village, read about it here: Killing in Greenwich Village Looks Like Hate Crime, Police Say  and here Charges Filed in Greenwich Village Killing.

In other news from yesterday, Apple was in the Senate’s spotlight, here are a series of links on that story:

In Disarming Testimony, Apple Chief Eases Tax Tensions – NYTimes.com

Senators accuse Apple of ‘highly questionable’ billion-dollar tax avoidance scheme

Reuters TV | Reuters Breakingviews: Apple feels global tax heat

Apple Added More To Its Offshore Holdings Than Any Other U.S. Company Last Year: Study

In 2012, Apple added more to its offshore profit holdings than any other company, according to a March report by Citizens for Tax Justice.

The company’s method of holding profits overseas isn’t new — and it’s not necessarily illegal — but it was the focus of a Senate hearing on Tuesday in which Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the company’s tax strategies, which allowed Apple to pay a 2 percent tax on $74 billion in profits.

Apple of course isn’t the only company doing this. The tech giant, along with some of America’s largest companies, held at least $1.9 trillion in assets abroad, according to Bloomberg. General Electric, which held $108 billion overseas in 2012, topped Bloomberg’s list of U.S. companies with the most cash held offshore.

Apple chief calls on US government to slash US corporate tax

Apple has called for US corporate tax rates to be slashed after it admitted sheltering at least $30bn (£20bn) of international profits in Irish subsidiaries that pay no tax at all.

In a dramatic display of how threats from multinational corporations are driving down taxes across the world, chief executive Tim Cook warned Congress that he would refuse to repatriate a total of $100bn stashed offshore unless it acted to slash the 35% US rate.

Cook said the tax rate for repatriated money should be set “in single digits” to persuade companies to bring it back. Standard tax for US profits should be, he said, in the “mid 20s”.

He also revealed that Apple had struck a secret deal with the Irish government in 1980 to limit its domestic taxes there to 2%.

Three subsidiaries based in Ireland are also used to shelter profits made in the rest of Europe and Asia but are not classed as resident in any country for tax purposes – a tactic dubbed the “iCompany” by critics.

Cook’s testimony to a Senate sub-committee investigating multinational tax practices largely confirmed its findings that Apple had taken tax avoidance to a new extreme by structuring these companies so they did not incur tax liabilities anywhere.

Then you have Rand and his demand for an apology to Apple, Rand Paul: Senate should apologize to Apple for ‘spectacle’ hearing on taxes

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blasted his colleagues on Tuesday for holding a hearing to examine Apple’s methods for avoiding taxes.

“I frankly think the committee should apologize to Apple,” Paul said during a hearing of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

Paul said he was offended by the “tone and tenor of the hearing.”

“I’m offended by the spectacle of dragging in executives from an American company that is not doing anything illegal,” Paul said.

The subcommittee released a report on Monday that found that Apple has avoided billions of dollars in taxes in recent years through a network of offshore shell companies.

What a Randian asshole that Rand Paul is…And, I still don’t get all this 3-D printer stuff…but here is another new way to use one of those special printers.

NASA asks: Could 3-D-printed food fuel a mission to Mars? – The Washington Post

NASA can send robots to Mars, no problem. But if it’s ever going to put humans on the red planet it has to figure out how to feed them over the course of a years-long mission.So the space agency has funded research for what could be the ultimate nerd solution: a 3-D printer that creates entrees or desserts at the touch of a button.

The audacious plan to end hunger with 3-D printed food – Quartz

Anjan Contractor’s 3D food printer might evoke visions of the “replicator” popularized in Star Trek, from which Captain Picard was constantly interrupting himself to order tea. And indeed Contractor’s company, Systems & Materials Research Corporation, just got a six month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a prototype of his universal food synthesizer.

But Contractor, a mechanical engineer with a background in 3D printing, envisions a much more mundane—and ultimately more important—use for the technology. He sees a day when every kitchen has a 3D printer, and the earth’s 12 billion people feed themselves customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store. Contractor’s vision would mean the end of food waste, because the powder his system will use is shelf-stable for up to 30 years, so that each cartridge, whether it contains sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein or some other basic building block, would be fully exhausted before being returned to the store.

Ubiquitous food synthesizers would also create new ways of producing the basic calories on which we all rely. Since a powder is a powder, the inputs could be anything that contain the right organic molecules. We already know that eating meat is environmentally unsustainable, so why not get all our protein from insects?

If eating something spat out by the same kind of 3D printers that are currently being used to make everything from jet engine parts to fine art doesn’t sound too appetizing, that’s only because you can currently afford the good stuff, says Contractor. That might not be the case once the world’s population reaches its peak size, probably sometime near the end of this century.

“I think, and many economists think, that current food systems can’t supply 12 billion people sufficiently,” says Contractor. “So we eventually have to change our perception of what we see as food.”

Okay, is this like a step towards Solent Green?

I guess my mind, a comical combination of medicine induced haze, epilepsy impaired brain cells, crazy depressed emotional waves, medievalist mind at heart, twisted dark thought-provoking, sleepy, overweight, short, forty-plus woman can’t seem to grasp the concept behind these printers. Can someone explain to me, in the simplest of terms…what exactly are 3-D printers and how the fuck do these 3-D printer things work?

That is my question to you this morning. Y’all have a good day…hopefully things will be quiet and peaceful.


West, TX Fertilizer Plant Had Only $1 Million Liability Insurance

The instant of the West, TX explosion captured in a video posted on YouTube on April 17, 2013.

The instant of the West, TX explosion captured in a video posted on YouTube on April 17, 2013.

The Washington Post:

McALLEN, Texas — The Texas fertilizer plant that exploded last month, killing 14 people, injuring more than 200 others and causing tens of millions of dollars in damage to the surrounding area had only $1 million in liability coverage, lawyers said Saturday.

Tyler lawyer Randy C. Roberts said he and other attorneys who have filed lawsuits against West Fertilizer’s owners were told Thursday that the plant carried only $1 million in liability insurance. Brook Laskey, an attorney hired by the plant’s insurer to represent West Fertilizer Co., confirmed the amount Saturday in an email to The Associated Press, after the Dallas Morning News first reported it.

“The bottom line is, this lack of insurance coverage is just consistent with the overall lack of responsibility we’ve seen from the fertilizer plant, starting from the fact that from day one they have yet to acknowledge responsibility,” Roberts said.

Apparently, Texas’ lax regulations are implicated in this latest outrage.

“It’s rare for Texas to require insurance for any kind of hazardous activity,” [Roberts] said. “We have very little oversight of hazardous activities and even less regulation.”

That’s disgusting. The news was first reported by The Dallas Morning News:

“A million dollars is a pathetic amount for this type of dangerous activity,” lawyer Randy C. Roberts said.

“If you want to drive a truck down the interstate, you’ve got to have $750,000 in coverage, even if you’re just carrying eggs,” Roberts said. “But if you want to put this ammonium nitrate into this town next to that school and that nursing home and those houses, you’re not required to carry insurance.” [....]

Property damage alone in West could reach $100 million, according to the Insurance Council of Texas, an industry association. The April 17 explosion destroyed an apartment complex and seriously damaged a nursing home and a school. Several hundred homes also sustained damage, with some leveled to the foundation.

An attorney for United States Fire Insurance Co. of Morristown, N.J., confirmed Friday that West Fertilizer had $1 million in liability coverage “with no excess or umbrella coverage.”
Fertilizer facilities like the one in West are not required to have liability insurance that would compensate for damage they might cause, state insurance officials say, even if hazardous material is on hand.

West Fertilizer had reported having 270 tons of ammonium nitrate on site as of the end of last year. Outside experts have said it appears the chemical exploded during a fire on company property.

Donald and Wanda Adair, owners of the West, TX Fertilizer Co.

Donald and Wanda Adair, owners of the West, TX Fertilizer Co.

In other disturbing news, the West plant has been broken into by thieves “at least” 11 times “over the past 12 years.”

The Texas fertilizer plant that exploded two weeks ago, killing 14 people and injuring about 200, was a repeat target of theft by intruders who tampered with tanks and caused the release of toxic chemicals, police records reviewed by Reuters show.

Police responded to at least 11 reports of burglaries and five separate ammonia leaks at West Fertilizer Co over the past 12 years, according to 911 dispatch logs and criminal offense reports Reuters obtained from the McLennan County Sheriff’s office in Waco, Texas through an Open Records Request.

Some of the leaks, including one reported in October 2012, were linked to theft or interference with tank valves.

According to one 2002 crime report, a plant manager told police that intruders were stealing four to five gallons of anhydrous ammonia every three days. The liquid gas can be used to cook methamphetamine, the addictive and illicit stimulant.

In rural areas across the United States, the thriving meth trade has turned storage facilities like West Fertilizer Co and even unattended tanks in farm fields into frequent targets of theft, according to several government and fertilizer industry reports issued over the past 13 years.

Unbelievable.

More from Bloomberg:

“It’s hard to say what measures they were taking, but clearly the number of reported instances of burglary is alarming,” Sam Mannan, who teaches chemical engineering at Texas A&M University in College Station, said in an interview. “Probably their measures were not up to snuff.”‘ [....]

The facility was often open after hours, as farmers frequently need access to fertilizer and would pick up loads informally, said Ken Kubala, a former West city secretary. That attracted not only ammonia thieves but vandals and petty burglars, including one who watched pornography on an office computer and another who stole a box of Oreo cookies, according to the sheriff’s incident report.
Deputies found a leaking tank of anhydrous ammonia at the plant as recently as Oct. 15, after a resident reported an ammonia smell “so strong it can burn your eyes.” The plant manager turned off the tank and told deputies a valve had been tampered with, according to a police call log….

The reports of break-ins underscore the need for greater government oversight, said Tom Smith, the head of the Texas office of Public Citizen, a Washington-based nonprofit group that advocates for more regulation of hazardous industries.
This “adds a whole new level of complexity,” Smith said in an interview, referring to the news of the burglaries. At the state level, “nobody is sitting down and trying to safeguard these toxins or explosives.”

The current owners of the plant are Donald and Wanda Adair. The article says they did make an effort to stop the break-ins by putting in security cameras.

Honestly, this story just keeps getting worse. I don’t even know what to say, except that I feel for the people in West who have been affected and hope they will get some financial help from donations. Here are some suggestions of how to help from NBC News.


Thursday Reads

tea on books

Good Morning!!

President Obama isn’t looking so “progressive” this morning (what else is new?). Yesterday, his “Justice” department announced they will ignore science as well as the health needs of women and girls by fighting a judge’s order to make Plan B emergency contraception available over-the-counter without age limits. NYT:

The appeal reaffirms an election-year decision by Mr. Obama’s administration to block the drug’s maker from selling it without a prescription or consideration of age, and puts the White House back into the politically charged issue of access to emergency contraception.

The Justice Department’s decision to appeal is in line with the views of dozens of conservative, anti-abortion groups who do not want contraceptives made available to young girls. But the decision was criticized by advocates for women’s reproductive health and abortion rights who cite years of scientific research saying the drug is safe and effective for all ages.

“Age barriers to emergency contraception are not supported by science, and they should be eliminated,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement on Wednesday.

In December 2011 the secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, blocked the sale of the drug to young girls without a prescription, saying there was not enough data to prove it would be safe. In doing so, Ms. Sebelius took the unprecedented step of overruling the Food and Drug Administration, which had moved, based on scientific research, to lift all age restrictions.

I could use some profane language here, but I’ll spare you for the moment. You may be mumbling to yourself too, after you read about Obama’s latest picks for the FCC and Commerce Department.

First the FCC. The New York Times reports: Telecom Investor Named to Be F.C.C. Chairman.

Tom Wheeler, President Obama’s pick to be the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, knows all about the most advanced telecommunications systems — of the 19th century.

In his 2008 book “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War,” Mr. Wheeler, an investor in start-up technology and communications companies, documents how Lincoln was an “early adopter” of what has been called “the Victorian Internet.”

Lincoln’s championing and advancement of popular uses of the telegraph are not unlike the challenges Mr. Wheeler is likely to face as chairman of the F.C.C., which is waging an intense battle to keep Internet service free of commercial roadblocks and widely available in its most affordable, up-to-date capabilities.

Mr. Wheeler’s qualifications for “one of the toughest jobs in Washington,” Mr. Obama said, include a long history “at the forefront of some of the very dramatic changes that we’ve seen in the way we communicate and how we live our lives.”

“He was one of the leaders of a company that helped create thousands of good, high-tech jobs,” Mr. Obama said, referring to Core Capital Partners, the Washington investment firm where Mr. Wheeler is a managing director. “He’s in charge of the group that advises the F.C.C. on the latest technology issues,” adding that “he’s helped give American consumers more choices and better products.”

They look happy, don't they?

They look happy, don’t they?

But does all that qualify Wheeler to protect consumers at the FCC? From Ars Technica:

Uh-oh: AT&T and Comcast are ecstatic about the FCC’s new chairman: AT&T calls new chairman an “inspired pick,” seeks end to “outdated” regulations.

President Barack Obama today announced his choice to run the Federal Communications Commission. As reported yesterday, the nominee is Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist who was formerly a lobbyist at the top of the cable and wireless industries, leading the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA).

The nomination continues the parade of lobbyists becoming government officials and vice versa, a trend that has favored moneyed interests over the average American citizen and consumer time and again. One can take solace in the fact that Wheeler will be tasked with implementing the communications policies of President Obama, who says he is eager to fight on behalf of consumers and to maintain thriving and open Internet and wireless marketplaces.

But the same President who said “I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over” when he was running for office has given the FCC’s top job to a former lobbyist. Wheeler donated $38,500 to Obama’s election efforts and helped raise additional money for Obama by becoming a “bundler,” arranging for large contributions from other donors after hitting legal limits on personal contributions.

Not surprisingly, the cable and telecom companies that Wheeler springs from are ecstatic about the nomination.

Gotta get rid of those nasty regulations that protect Americans from price gauging, internet censorship, and all that bad stuff.

Penny Pritzker

Penny Pritzker

Next up, behold Obama’s nomination for Commerce Secretary, old pal Penny Pritzker.

Making official what many Democrats have expected for weeks, President Obama plans to nominate Chicago business executive Penny Pritzker, a longtime political supporter and heavyweight fundraiser, as his new Commerce secretary on Thursday morning.

Pritzker’s nomination could prove controversial. She is on the board of Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her family and has had rocky relations with labor unions, and she could face questions about the failure of a bank partly owned by her family.

With a personal fortune estimated at $1.85 billion, Pritzker is listed by Forbes magazine among the 300 wealthiest Americans. She is the founder, chair and CEO of PSP Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and its affiliated real estate investment firm, Pritzker Realty Group. She played an influential role in Obama’s rise from Illinois state senator to the nation’s 44th president, serving as Obama’s national finance chair in his first campaign for the White House and co-chair of his reelection campaign.

The president is expected to make the announcement at 10 a.m. at the White House.

If confirmed by the Senate, Pritzker would take charge of the administration’s efforts to build relations with business leaders who were often on the sharp end of the president’s first-term rhetoric.

Sigh . . .

This next story is guaranteed to make your blood boil. Bloomberg reports:

It’s been almost three years since Congress directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to require public companies to disclose the ratio of their chief executive officers’ compensation to the median of the rest of their employees’. The agency has yet to produce a rule.

So Bloomberg decided not to wait around any longer and figured out the ratios for us. See the chart at the above link. More:

Ron Johnson

CEO Pay 1,795-to-1 Multiple of Wages Skirts U.S. Law

Former fashion jewelry saleswoman Rebecca Gonzales and former Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson have one thing in common: J.C. Penney Co. (JCP) no longer employs either.

The similarity ends there. Johnson, 54, got a compensation package worth 1,795 times the average wage and benefits of a U.S. department store worker when he was hired in November 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gonzales’s hourly wage was $8.30 that year.

Across the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of companies, theaverage multiple of CEO compensation to that of rank-and-file workers is 204, up 20 percent since 2009, the data show. The numbers are based on industry-specific estimates for worker compensation.

Almost three years after Congress ordered public companies to reveal actual CEO-to-worker pay ratios under the Dodd-Frank law, the numbers remain unknown. As theOccupy Wall Street movement and 2012 election made income inequality a social flashpoint, mandatory disclosure of the ratios remained bottled up at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which hasn’t yet drawn up the rules to implement it. Some of America’s biggest companies are lobbying against the requirement.

“It’s a simple piece of information shareholders ought to have,” said Phil Angelides, who led the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which investigated the economic collapse of 2008. “The fact that corporate executives wouldn’t want to display the number speaks volumes.” The lobbying is part of “a street-by-street, block-by-block fight waged by large corporations and their Wall Street colleagues” to obstruct the Dodd-Frank law, he said.

Are you angry yet? These greedheads are going to keep pushing the envelope until Americans wake up and take to the streets with pitchforks and dust off the guillotines.

My birthplace, North Dakota is changing rapidly–and maybe not in a good way. It turns out the state’s oil is even more plentiful than anyone has realized up till now.

The sea of oil and natural gas underneath North Dakota is far larger than first thought.

There are 7.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the western part of the state and extending into Montana, according to the latest estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey.

That’s more than twice the oil the USGS estimated could be recovered five years ago. What’s more, the USGS has nearly tripled its estimate of the natural gas available in the area.

The revised totals could make the North Dakota field the greatest oil and gas find ever in the continental United States, topping the fabled East Texas field that made Texas synonymous with oil wealth. And it would put North Dakota second to Prudhoe Bay as the largest oil producer in U.S. history.

And even this estimate may have to be “revised upward”:

“We think it’s even a little bit conservative,’’ said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

The new estimate will give fresh momentum to an economic boom within the state that has made it the fastest growing in the nation in both population and incomes. Per capita income has risen to $52,000 a year, sixth-highest in the nation, and once quiet farm towns have been overwhelmed by oil field workers, creating shortages of housing and services.

The USGS said the drilling of 4,000 wells since 2008 in what is known as the Bakken formation has given geologists a better idea of the riches underground. The new analysis also highlights the rapid ascent of North American oil and gas production driven by the advent of the technique known as hydraulic fracturing.

I guess I’m happy about the new jobs and population growth, but it will be sad if North Dakota no longer has clean air and vast open spaces.

Four shallow chop marks on the top of the girl’s skull, evidence of cannibalism during the “starving time” over the winter of 1609-1610. (Smithsonian Institution / Don Hurlbert)

Four shallow chop marks on the top of the girl’s skull, evidence of cannibalism during the “starving time” over the winter of 1609-1610. (Smithsonian Institution / Don Hurlbert)

You may have heard about this fascinating story–it was up toward the top of Google News much of yesterday. Archaeologists have found strong evidence that Starving Settlers in [the] Jamestown Colony Resorted to Cannibalism. From Smithsonian Magazine:

The harsh winter of 1609 in Virginia’s Jamestown Colony forced residents to do the unthinkable. A recent excavation at the historic site discovered the carcasses of dogs, cats and horses consumed during the season commonly called the “Starving Time.” But a few other newly discovered bones in particular, though, tell a far more gruesome story: the dismemberment and cannibalization of a 14-year-old English girl.

“The chops to the forehead are very tentative, very incomplete,” says Douglas Owsley, the Smithsonian forensic anthropologist who analyzed the bones after they were found by archaeologists from Preservation Virginia. “Then, the body was turned over, and there were four strikes to the back of the head, one of which was the strongest and split the skull in half. A penetrating wound was then made to the left temple, probably by a single-sided knife, which was used to pry open the head and remove the brain.”

Much is still unknown about the circumstances of this grisly meal: Who exactly the girl researchers are calling “Jane” was, whether she was murdered or died of natural causes, whether multiple people participated in the butchering or it was a solo act. But as Owsley revealed along with lead archaeologist William Kelso today at a press conference at the National Museum of Natural History, we now have the first direct evidence of cannibalism at Jamestown, the oldest permanent English colony in the Americas. “Historians have gone back and forth on whether this sort of thing really happened there,” Owsley says. “Given these bones in a trash pit, all cut and chopped up, it’s clear that this body was dismembered for consumption.”

There’s much more at the link.

Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a great day!