Sunday Reads: NY Underground Library and GOP Aboveground Dumbassery

“A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole  Found on undergroundnewyorkpubliclibrary.com

“A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole
Found on undergroundnewyorkpubliclibrary.com

Good Morning

Well, perhaps “dumbassery” is being a little forgiving, since dumbass is not what I would call the two GOP examples below…more like assholes, yeah that is it.

But I don’t think “assholery” would have passed as part of the title so, there it is.

This tweet from CPAC should set the mood…

Aaaaand it goes down from there…one person who should be in attendance at that minority seminar: Conservative leader caught on live mic: ‘The Jews are the problem’ | The Raw Story

The sun also risesLt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (retired), the executive vice president of the conservative Family Research Council, was caught on a “hot mic” on Thursday joking that “the Jews are the problem” to an Israeli reporter and pitching his theory about President Barack Obama using “subliminal messages” to signal support for al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, in audio posted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on Friday.

“If you understand anything about Islam, there are subliminal messages,” Boykin can be heard saying. “His message, really, I believe was, ‘I understand you, and I support you.’”

Boykin’s remarks were captured after an online broadcast of a panel at the National Security Action Summit. The SPLC reported that the event is held as a counter to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and features speakers who, like Boykin, have not been allowed to participate there.

(Emphasis mine.) Guess even CPAC has some kind of standards.

Though the panel’s video feed shut down, the audio continued broadcasting, enabling Boykin to be heard as he argued that, as a result of the “messages,” al-Qaeda and the Brotherhood saw that “that they have a president that identifies with them, that has been supportive of them inside the United States and is unwilling to go against them.”

Politics, by Aristotle

Politics, by Aristotle

According to the SPLC, Boykin was then approached by someone about doing an interview with Henry Schwartz, a reporter for Israel National News, described as a “right-wing” publication.

“The Jews are the problem,” Boykin can be heard saying. “The Jews are the cause of all the problems in the world.” An unidentified person responds, “I know, I know, that’s why we’re trying to fix everything.”

The event’s organizer, Frank Gaffney, has accused CPAC’s organizers, the American Conservative Union, of having ties to the Brotherhood.

I don’t know, this guy Boykin must be best friends with Mel Gibson?

Video at the link.

ae13b01b6e12ff25d414621f27d11012After something like that, we need to laugh. So take a look at this asshole, who gets the Aasif Mandvi treatment: ‘Fox Business’ Commentator Tells ‘Daily Show’ Correspondent, ‘If You’re Poor, Stop Being Poor’

After watching Aasif Mandvi’s segment on Thursday’s “Daily Show,” two things are clear: 1) America has the greatest healthcare system in the world (if 37th place is considered the greatest), and 2) some people shouldn’t do interviews with “Daily Show” correspondents.

Case in point, “Fox Business” commentator and NYSE Euronext Managing Director Todd Wilemon has a couple of jaw-dropping moments in this interview about “third world” healthcare conditions in Knoxville, Tennessee, not the least of which is his statement right at the end: “If you’re poor, stop being poor.”

Watch the clip above, and keep an eye out for one of the more awkward pauses in “Daily Show” history.

d6a9e3c9b62fb551c524a5ed16bf2c0fI wish I could embed the video, so please go and watch it in full. It is one of the best things Aasif has done on the show.

You can also see the video here: Third World Health Care – Knoxville, Tennessee Edition – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – 03/06/14 – Video Clip | Comedy Central

By the way, pictures for today are from the blog Underground New York Public Library…which is not affiliated by the New York Public Library.

The Underground New York Public Library is a visual library featuring the Reading-Riders of the NYC subways.

The photos come together as a visual library. This library freely lends out a reminder that we’re capable of traveling to great depths within ourselves and as a whole.

99e203208cf3f7fe5b77338200433041The blog work is done by Ourit Ben-Haim who says he:

…make the pictures and the posts. I’m fascinated by how we apply ourselves to stories and discourse. In so doing, we shape who we understand ourselves to be.

What a neat site to lose yourself in…enjoy it.

On Friday, Dak had a fabulous post about New Orleans…well, this next link is about the latest fashion “craze” is a perfect complement. In fact, I am sure those folks singing the traditional ‘shallow water, your mama,’ song were wearing the #normcore look and Dak must see the “mallclothes”  “’90s-era dads” “anonymous” style as these young urbanites look for kale in that “Chocolate City.” (Ugh…yeah, I could not help myself. 10 years ago, wow.)

4b28b9667fa6f80f8bca0343bad70d63What is #normcore and Why Has it Taken Over the Internet?

You may have noticed a new hashtag invading the internet this week: #normcore. It has everyone dusting off their stonewashed jeans and athletic socks and hopping on the bandwagon.

But just what is normcore exactly? In short: it’s a trend of young urbanites dressing like bland ’90s-era dads. Articles of clothing involved include athletic shorts, New Balance sneakers and fleece zip-ups. Basically, anything that will allow you to stand out by looking anonymous.

Nothing is more sexy than looking like a 90′s dad.

Why is normcore a thing? It seems to be a way for adherents to counteract stereotypes by dressing mundanely in order to stand out. Theories abound regarding why millennials are attracted to the trend, but the prevailing theory suggests that it’s a way for them to reject the idea of “buying in” to a particular style.

Basically, dressing like your parents did 20 years ago is cooler than shelling out money to assume another identity. Of course, it only works if you’re doing it on purpose.

Seriously, look at the tweets from this fashion twitter The Cut New York Magazine:

Here is the actual article: Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion – The Cut

K-HOLE describes normcore as a theory rather than a look; but in practice, the contemporary normcore styles I’ve seen have their clear aesthetic precedent in the nineties. The editorials in Hot and Cool look a lot like Corinne Day styling newcomer Kate Moss in Birkenstocks in 1990, or like Art Club 2000′s appropriation of madras from the Gap, like grunge-lite and Calvin Klein minimalism. But while (in their original incarnation) those styles reflected anxiety around “selling out,” today’s version is more ambivalent toward its market reality. Normcore isn’t about rebelling against or giving into the status quo; it’s about letting go of the need to look distinctive, to make time for something new.

The demographic leading the normcore trend is, by and large, Western Millennials and digital natives. Stylist-editors like Hot and Cool’s Alice Goddard and Garmento’s Jeremy Lewis are children of the nineties, teens of the aughts. The aesthetic return to styles they would’ve worn as kids reads like a reset button—going back to a time before adolescence, before we learned to differentiate identity through dress. The Internet and globalization have challenged the myth of individuality (we are all one in 7 billion), while making connecting with others easier than ever. Normcore is a blank slate and open mind—it’s a look designed to play well with others.

And what is more disgusting? Check out the price of these shorts…and t-shirt.

Dolce & Gabbana Regular-Fit Washed-Denim ShortsDolce & Gabbana – Regular-Fit Washed-Denim Shorts | MR PORTER

$455

Dolce & Gabbana nods to vintage summer style with these washed-denim shorts, treated for an aged appearance. This pair is constructed in Italy for a laid-back fit and broken-in feel.

Sunspel – Striped Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt | MR PORTER

$115Sunspel Striped Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt

The secret to Sunspel‘s superb T-shirts is in the cotton: fine, long-staple yarns are used to create a soft and durable jersey that will hold its shape after repeated wear and washing. This version, striped in blue, grey and white, is a reliable choice that will remain stylish for years to come. Add it to your weekend repertoire as a go-to for relaxed days off.

What was that last sentence from The Cut?

Normcore is a blank slate and open mind…

Blank slate and blank mind. Well, all I got to say to that is, “Shallow water, Yo Mama”.

On the left shes reading "We the People: An Introduction to American Politics," by Benjamin Ginsberg, Theodore J. Lowi, and Margaret Weir. On the right shes reading "Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships," by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha.

On the left shes reading “We the People: An Introduction to American Politics,” by Benjamin Ginsberg, Theodore J. Lowi, and Margaret Weir. On the right shes reading “Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships,” by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha.

In addition to that ridiculous fashion trend of Normcore, did you see this sad story from Michigan? Woman’s car payments hid her death for 6 years, body found mummified in backseat of car

For years, the payments went out of the woman’s bank account.

Nobody batted an eyelid. Bills were paid and life went on as normal in the quiet neighborhood of Pontiac, Michigan.

Neighbors didn’t notice anything unusual.

The woman traveled a lot, they said, and kept to herself.

One of them mowed her grass to keep things looking tidy.

At some point, her bank account ran dry.

The bills stopped being paid.

And guess what happened then…

After its warnings went unanswered, the bank holding the mortgage foreclosed on the house, a common occurrence in a region hit hard by economic woes.

Still, nobody noticed what had happened inside the house.

Nobody wondered out loud what had become of the owner.

Not until this week, when a worker sent by the bank to repair a hole in the roof made a grisly discovery.

The woman’s mummified body was sitting in the backseat of her car, parked in the garage.

The key was halfway in the ignition.

Authorities say they believe the woman died at least six years ago.

They’re still trying to figure out what happened.

064fbd70bb03ff55a62748051b98d7adThere is so many things wrong with this…on so many levels. Fuck it is disturbing!!!

The woman, who authorities aren’t identifying until they’ve informed her family, paid her bills from her bank account through auto-pay, according to McCabe.

Neighbors said they didn’t know much about the dead woman, describing her as in her 40s and of German descent.

“She really kept to herself. We never really heard anything from her,” neighbor Caitlyn Talbot told CNN affiliate WXYZ.

Talbot said she wasn’t aware of anyone having seen the woman, who traveled a lot, in about six years.

“She was probably there for a couple of days, then she’d leave for a week, then she’d come back. Then she’d leave for a month and come back,” Talbot said.

McCabe says neighbors chalked up the woman’s absences to her returning to Germany for long periods of time.

4b5638cc3bf67e7bb627826b64785928Despite years without a living owner, the house was never broken into, he said.

Authorities told WXYZ that the house appears to have black mold inside it, and that detectives entered the building Thursday wearing hazardous material suits.

The mail never piled up, the cops came by the house once back in 2007 when one neighbor said she was not seen for a little while, but when they checked the front door, no sign of foul play so they left…and they never went back.

It seems completely unimaginable to me, how alone, for no one to miss her?

I am going to move on to something else. Prison. (talk about alone)

05e694781a80c8fab5fb6dc61c09c3a7Specifically Alcatraz.

A&M’s Alcatraz research continues to reveal underground forts, tunnels – Houston Chronicle

What started as repair of a tripping hazard at Alcatraz Island led to research that is revealing an old network of underground tunnels and fortifications.

Early results appear to indicate that a “caponier,” or part of an original fortified wall, still lies buried underground on the notorious island in San Francisco Bay.

More at the link…

And, another article on U.S. prisons seen through the eyes of ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’ | Reuters

The pages are brown, faded and stained, but the handwriting is meticulous and the words detail a 150-year history of the U.S. prison system through the eyes of one of its most famous inmates.

To Build a Fire and Other Stories, by Jack London

To Build a Fire and Other Stories, by Jack London

Robert Stroud, known as the Birdman of Alcatraz for his painstaking study of birds while in federal prison, wrote a four-part book about brutality, sex, bribery and what he saw as the monumental failure of prisons to rehabilitate inmates.

Part I “Looking Outward, A Voice from the Grave,” has recently been published in E-book form.

Stroud’s book about prison life, totaling more than 2,000 pages, languished in a basement long after his death in 1963, with publishers concerned about libel balking at a book that named brutal guards and supposedly on-the-take wardens.

“To sadistic-minded persons, helplessness is always an invitation to cruelty,” Stroud wrote.

The stacks of manuscripts stored at Stroud’s former lawyer’s house in Springfield, Missouri, have been converted into the book “Looking Outward: A History of the U.S. Prison System from Colonial Times to the Formation of the Bureau Prisons.”

That should be interesting…

One more story on prison life, but this is from a different vantage point…the camera lens: Family historians can now view Victorian criminal records online – Telegraph

Records of more than 67,000 Victorian criminals, detailing crimes ranging from petty theft and drunkenness to arson and murder, are published online for the first time today.
Records of more than 67,000 Victorian criminals, detailing crimes ranging from petty theft and drunkenness to arson and murder, are published online for the first time today.

Family history website Ancestry.co.uk said its collection also tells the stories of local peacemakers of the time, including jury candidates and members of the local militia.

The Dorset, England Prison Admission and Discharge Registers 1782-1901 and Dorset, England, Calendar of Prisoners 1854-1904 also includes mug shots of 19th century convicts.

The records include the criminal’s name, place and date of conviction, sentence, physical description and details of previous crimes.

The Places That Scare You A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

The Places That Scare You A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

Criminals listed include Samuel Baker, aged 73, who was sentenced to nine months hard labour after breaking into a house to steal two brushes, some vests, and a pair of stockings in 1893; Charles Wood, an unemployed local drunk who was sentenced to one month in prison for “refusing to quit the beer-house” in 1872, and 18-year-old George Pill, who stole a donkey from a neighbour in 1894, resulting in a punishment of six weeks hard labour.

Cool innit?

But crimes during the Victorian Age is not the only historical thing I’ve got for you this morning, oh yes, I am getting medieval on your asses today:  How to defraud your lord on the medieval manor

In the 1260s, Robert Carpenter, a freehold farmer and former bailiff living on the Isle of Wight, wrote up a formulary – a collection of form letters and legal texts that would be useful for local administration. In the middle of these texts, however, he added detailed instructions on six ways you could commit fraud.

1167a25937f70ac9cd9410242f64d818This work has been translated and analyzed by Martha Carlin in her article ‘Cheating the Boss: Robert Carpenter’s Embezzlement Instructions (1261×1268) and Employee Fraud in Medieval England’. Carpenter does not provide any introduction to these texts, nor does he give a hint on why he decided to include it in this work. Some scholars suggest he was bragging about his past exploits, others that he wrote it to warn his readers of ways they could be defrauded. Carlin adds another possibility – that it was “simply as a form of wry recollection or humour with which to entertain himself and his intimates.”

Give those “hints” a read through…I love it!

on the left he’s reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Last Straw, by Jeff Kinney. on the right he’s reading Warriors, by Erin Hunter.

on the left he’s reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Last Straw, by Jeff Kinney. on the right he’s reading Warriors, by Erin Hunter.

Here is something that should be criminal: Group warns almost 500 products contain chemical found in yoga mats – CBS News

Subway made news earlier in February when the sandwich chain announced it was removing a chemical called azodicarbonamide (ADA), which is used to make yoga mats, from North American formulations of bread. But now, a consumer advocacy group is warning people that almost 500 more food items on the market have this same compound.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a list Thursday of all the foods that have listed ADA as an ingredient. Large companies like Ball Park, Country Hearth, Jimmy Dean, Kroger, Little Debbie, Marie Callendar’s, Pillsbury, White Castle and Wonder are just a fraction of the 130 brands that used the chemical in their products. Most of the items are bread, croutons, pre-made sandwiches and snacks.

Nothing is more appetizing than yoga mats.

ADA is used to bleach flour and help make dough stronger and more rubbery. The Food and Drug Administration currently approved the use of the chemical as long as it is used in quantities less than 0.0045 percent of the weight of the flour used.

The Price of Motherhood Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued, by Ann Crittenden

The Price of Motherhood Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued, by Ann Crittenden

But, the World Health Organization raised concerns about the compound. Case reports have shown that some workers who come in contact with the product on a regular basis have developed asthma, respiratory symptoms and skin problems. Very few studies have been done on ADA, but animal research has shown that if the compound is inhaled or consumed it tends to not be absorbed and is easily eliminated with the body’s waste.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest pointed out that ADA forms semicarbazide and urethane when baked, and both have been linked to cancers in mice. They have called for the FDA to ban the chemical since many other breads do not use the compound.

More info at the link…along with a link to the list of products that use ADA.

Last link for you is from Wisconsin Public Radio and includes a story on Weaving, in Afghanistan:

Image:maiaibing2000 Via:Flickr Creative CommonsNot every story about Afghanistan involves guns and soldiers.  We see the country through art, poetry and games – from the ancient sport of Buzkashi to Afghanistan’s famous hand-woven carpets. Also, Charles Yu on living safely in a science fictional universe.

“Buzkashi Boys” – Sam French

The film “Buzkashi Boys” is a coming of age story set in Afghanistan’s national sport, Buzkashi. It’s a game of horse polo played with a dead goat instead of a ball. Plus, a coda from novelist Khaled Hosseini.

Afghan Carpets – Anna Badkhen

Los Hijos Del Tiempo, by Ana Colchero

Los Hijos Del Tiempo, by Ana Colchero

Anna Badkhen spent a year in the remote Afghan village of Oqa. She got to know the master weavers, who make some of the world’s most beautiful carpets.

Landay Poetry – Eliza Griswold

Eliza Griswold went to the Pashtun region of Afghanistan to gather landay poems – a tradition of secret poems spoken by Pashtun women.

Sonic Sidebar: Khaled Hosseini’s “Mountains”

Afghan-born writer Khaled Hosseini, author of “The Kite Runner,” reads from his latest novel, “And the Mountains Echoed.”

8f3b98e8a2daa98ece7b0daef27df59cBookMark: Hanan Al-Shaykh

Hanan Al-Shaykh bookmarks “Season of Migration to the North” by Tayeb Salih.

On Our Minds: Science Fictional Universe

Charles Yu on quantum parenting, time travel and other science fictional paradoxes. Yu is the author of the acclaimed novel “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.”

“The Stranger Beside Me,” by Ann Rule via UNYPL

“The Stranger Beside Me,” by Ann Rule via UNYPL

So, I hope you enjoyed those links. Sorry that there are no “newsy” news updates for you today. Please use the comment section below to add anything you find newsworthy…Have a wonderful day.


Tuesday Reads: Military Scandals, Hollywood Problems and Perversions, and Other News

Hedgehog newspaper

Good Morning!!

Winter weather continues to dominate my world. I was all ready to go out for groceries yesterday when I looked outside and saw snow coming down. Sigh . . .

We’ve got a couple of inches on the ground now–not a big deal except that there are two more storms on the way. We get one day’s respite, and then a big storm on Wednesday (5-9 in.) and a nor’easter coming on Saturday.

The storm we’re getting tomorrow is already impacting the plains states of Oklahoma and Kansas and the Midwest. If you’re in its path, you’d best stay inside and find some indoor activities to keep you occupied–like reading a good book or surfing the internet. Speaking of which, let’s see what’s in the news today.

Here’s some good news from Talking Points Memo: Obama Persuades Dems To Back Off Iran Sanctions, Give Peace A Chance.

Senate Democrats came close to blowing up President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran by toying with a new sanctions bill that negotiators cautioned would poison talks.

But in recent days it has become clear that they’re going to hold off, after aggressive lobbying from the White House, as diplomatic negotiators’ attempt to turn an interim six-month deal struck last November into something more permanent. The goal is to get Iran to surrender its nuclear weapons capabilities in exchange for relief from a swath of economically devastating sanctions….

Legislation to beef up sanctions on Iran, authored by Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ), has a whopping 58 additional sponsors, 15 of which are Democrats. Criticism of the interim deal from Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, boosted the bill. But in the last three weeks, numerous Democrats have backed away and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he’ll wait to see how negotiations play out before considering the sanctions bill.

Obama, Kerry and their top aides pulled Democrats back from the brink by making their opposition to any sort of new sanctions bill clear in a series of public remarks and private face-to-face meetings with top senators. They’ve warned that bringing up a sanctions bill amid talks would empower the hard-liners in Iran, making it politically untenable for President Hassan Rouhani to cut a long-term deal. They’ve conveyed their strong belief that pushing sanctions legislation at this pivotal moment would only increase the chances of a war, according to sources familiar with the matter.

It’s too bad that Obama has to deal not only with Republicans trying to undermine his initiatives, but also with Democrats who seem to be more concerned with what Israel wants then what is best for the U.S.

Recently the Navy has been caught up in a scandal involving “nuclear force officers” caught cheating on proficiency tests. According to Fox News:

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Thursday the number of nuclear force officers implicated in a proficiency test cheating scandal has grown to 92 out of a force of 500.

James spoke to reporters after touring nuclear bases around the country, which The Associated Press has revealed suffers from such low morale and burnout that they have committed serious security lapses other breakdowns.

James, who is new to the job, said the nuclear force is beset by “undue stress and fear,” and said the nuclear force suffers “systemic problems.”

Today we’re learning of a serious fraud scandal in the Army. The Washington Post reports: Army probes allegations of fraud by recruiters and others in enlistment referral program.

Army criminal investigators are probing the actions of more than 1,200 individuals who collected suspect payouts totaling more than $29 million, according to officials who were briefed on the preliminary findings of the investigation and would discuss them only on the condition of anonymity. More than 200 officers are suspected of involvement, including two generals and dozens of colonels.

The alleged fraud drew in recruiters, soldiers and civilians with ties to the military who submitted, or profited from, false referrals registered on a Web site run by a marketing firm the Army hired to run the program. Suspects often obtained the names of people who had enlisted from recruiters, claimed them as their referrals, and then kicked back some of the bonus money to the recruiters.

The abuse is feared to be so widespread that Army investigators do not expect to conclude all audits and investigations before the fall of 2016.

But there are even more scandals. At the National Journal, Sara Sorcher and Jordain Carney offer A Pocket Guide to the Military’s Many Scandals to help us keep score.

Hoffman

Quite a bit more has come out about the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. The New York Daily News is now reporting that 70 bags of heroin and numerous prescription drugs were found in the Greenwich Village apartment he was living in had been living in.

Seventy glassine baggies of heroin packed for individual sale — at least 50 of them unopened — were discovered in the $10,000-a-month rental where the Oscar-winning actor was found dead Sunday with a needle stuck in his left arm, sources said.

Some of the envelopes had the words “Ace of Spades” written on them, and others were stamped with the name “Ace of Hearts.” Both are brands of heroin that are often cut with a powerful pain reliever called fentanyl, and have become a plague in Pennsylvania, where they were used in 22 overdose deaths.

Police are now trying to learn where Hoffman got the drugs.

Apparently Hoffman had gotten sober when he was 22 years old. He told 60 minutes interviewer Steve Kroft in 2006 that he stopped drinking and drugging because he was “panicked for my life,” and that there were “things I wanted to do” and he wouldn’t be able to do them if he kept on the way he was going. Reportedly Hoffman stayed clean and sober for 23 years, until he began using again in 2013. He checked himself into a brief rehab program last May, but he had been struggling to stay straight since then.

As a recovering alcoholic and addict who has been sober more than 30 years, it’s very difficult for me to read about this. When I went into treatment at age 33, I met people who had been sober for more than 20 years and then drank again. It’s hard to believe, but the disease never goes away no matter how many years go by. And they say if you use again, the results will be much worse than when you quit. It sounds like once Hoffman went back to the drugs, he simply couldn’t stop. Although I am one of the fortunate people who have never had a desire to drink again after I quit, I know it still could happen to me. No recovering person is immune.

Last link on Hoffman: CNN pieced together a timeline of his last couple of days. Some friends said he seemed fine, but his ex-partner told police he seemed high the day before he died. Read more details at the link.

Mia Farrow and Woody Allen with adopted children Satchel and Dylan

Mia Farrow and Woody Allen with adopted children Satchel and Dylan

There’s been quite a bit of talk lately about Woody Allen’s creepy interest in young girls, after his adopted daughter Dylan wrote an open letter to The New York Times about her childhood experiences with the famous actor and director. Frankly, I believe her, but as usual many powerful people like Barbara Walters are defending Allen and suggesting that Dylan is either lying or reporting false memories. Of course, these people must ignore the facts that when 7-year-old Dylan first spoke up, Allen had been in therapy for two years for his inappropriate behavior toward her and that the prosecutor in the case found probable cause to charge Allen but felt that Dylan was too fragile to handle a trial. Read the decision in Allen v. Farrow here.

For anyone interested in this case, I recommend reading two long Vanity Fair articles by Maureen Orth–From 1992, Mia’s Story and a follow-up from 2013, Mama Mia! I also want to point to some circumstantial evidence. Of course we all know that Allan began having sex with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn when she was barely out of high school; but I didn’t realized until yesterday that Allen’s movie Manhattan was based on a sexual relationship he had with a high school girl when she was 17 and he was in his 40s.  Predictably, the girl, Stacey Nelkin is defending Woody Allen today.

From CNN: Former girlfriend Stacey Nelkin defends Woody Allen, refutes accusations of child abuse and seductive tendencies.

…on Monday evening “Piers Morgan Live” welcomed Stacey Nelkin for an exclusive, primetime interview.

Having dated Allen as a teenager, when she was 35 years his junior, Nelkin remains skeptical of the statements penned by Dylan Farrow, who is alleging to have been molested by her adoptive father as a seven-year-old. To Monday’s guest, the latest claims are simply an extension of the ugly separation between Allen, and Dylan’s adoptive mother, Mia Farrow:

“These accusations came on the heels of a horrible custody battle, Mia being extremely upset, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and she was hell-bent and determined to destroy something that he loved,” said Nelkin, who insisted her own relationship with Allen was entirely consensual and not corrupt in the least. “Woody loved Dylan. We were in contact at the time, and he would talk about her a lot. He loved the kids that they had adopted together, and she took Dylan away by creating this whole scenario.”

Maybe Nelkin is hoping Allen will finally acknowledge her and give her a part. She had a small role in Annie Hall, but here performance was left on the cutting room floor. How would Nelkin know what is true–I wonder if she knows that Woody was having sex with Soon-Yi while he was adopting his two children with Mia Farrow?

One more bit of circumstantial evidence from a 1976 People article about Woody Allen’s neuroses:

Woody will admit now only to “dating around” and living with girls for stretches ranging from “two days to two weeks—if you call that living together.” Could he possibly have mellowed from the days when his movies rated horniness as a human malaise second only to bubonic plague? “I try to have sex only with women I like a lot,” Woody explains solemnly. “Otherwise I find it fairly mechanical.” (He has little interest in family life: “It’s no accomplishment to have or raise kids. Any fool can do it.”)

He goes on: “I’m open-minded about sex. I’m not above reproach; if anything, I’m below reproach. I mean, if I was caught in a love nest with 15 12-year-old girls tomorrow, people would think, yeah, I always knew that about him.” Allen pauses. “Nothing I could come up with would surprise anyone,” he ventures helplessly. “I admit to it all.”

Okay, enough about the problems and perversions of movie stars. Did you hear about the man who claims he survived being adrift in a boat for more than a year? BBC News:

“I want to get back to Mexico,” Jose Salvador Albarengo reportedly said as he was taken to the islands’ capital, Majuro, for a medical examination.

Mr Albarengo said he left Mexico with a friend for a trip in a fibre-glass boat in December 2012.

He was found by people living on the island of Ebon Atoll on Thursday.

He had initially identified himself to authorities as Jose Ivan.

The castaway told the local deputy US ambassador Norman Barth, who was acting as an interpreter for Marshall Islands authorities, that he was originally from El Salvador, but had been living in Mexico for 15 years before his epic voyage.

From ABC News:

Alvarenga, who said he got lost after a shark fishing trip off the coast of Mexico in December 2012, said he survived 13 months drifting in the Pacific Ocean by eating fish, birds and turtles, a representative at the  Washington D.C. Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands told ABCNews.com.

The man also scooped up little fish that swam alongside his drifting boat and ate them raw, while also drinking bird blood to quench his thirst, Thomas Armbruster, U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, told the Associated Press.

Alvarenga told officials he is  from El Salvador but had been living and working in Mexico as a fisherman for 15 years before his ordeal.

In December 2012, Alvarenga said he left Mexico in a 23-foot fiber glass boat with a teenage companion named Ezekiel for what was supposed to be a day trip of fishing, the ambassador said.

A storm blew their boat off course, Armbruster said, and caused them to become disoriented and adrift. He said the castaway told him Ezekiel died a month later.

Who knows if it’s true?

Now it’s your turn. What stories have captured your interest today? Please post your links in the comment thread.


Sunday Reads: Let them drink tap water…

Good Morning

76c7d10c3f207359ba1ad1a52277554f

I used to think of Twitter as a stream of consciousness thing, where

you type out a thought that comes to you…abstract, free-form and unassuming.

It just floated out there in the mass twit universe.

Facebook was more like a personal thought because it was “friends” or “family” that would see the shit you typed out into your little space on the wall.

More like a statement made out-loud…right?

I make statements out-loud at home all the time. Hell, don’t we all. I mean, sometimes I do it when no one is listening. (And lots of those times they include the words asshole and shithead preceded of course by the key adverb “fucking”) But when someone is listening in my home…they usually know what my thought process is and can complete the fragment of a statement I make even if I don’t state my case in a full and intelligent manner.

I realized the other day that I do the same exact thing here…in the comments. And it is funny because the same people who pick up on my cues here…are the ones who pick up on the shit I type out on my Facebook wall.

The was a little item in the news over the weekend, Rep. Steve King was talking out of his ass again…and of course it pissed me off. I mentioned it here and on my Facebook page. I think I called King a fucking asshole and posted a link to his comment:

Susan Wood, a George Washington University professor and former FDA official, told the all-male judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution that HR7 – which would make the Hyde Amendment permanentban federal subsidies for private insurance plans that cover abortion and would permanently block the District of Columbia from spending local tax money on abortion services – could “virtually eliminate abortion coverage from the private insurance market” and would especially hurt low-income women, threatening to push them “deeper into poverty.”

“While it may not seem like a big expense to a Member of Congress, in these tough financial times, for many people, abortion care costs more than their monthly rent, putting it out of reach for their family’s pocketbook,” Wood said.

When it came time to ask questions, Rep. King mocked Wood’s comparison of the cost of abortion to a month’s rent, wondering, “I wonder how many abortions a month does she need to keep up with the monthly rent check.”

Antikamnia calendar 1897 ebayMy mind was working on his comical statement, considering his PLUBic stance on providing that woman and her fetus with funding for food stamps and other “welfare” assistance once that fetus pops out of the incubation hole and becomes a living breathing tax burden.

That is what I was thinking..but I didn’t write it all down. Do you all do that? I don’t know. Is it cause I am lazy. Or cause I just tend to write stuff here like you are my family and this is my way of talking to you all? It is a ridiculous observation…but there it is.

BTW, images are from The Antikamnia Chemical Company via BibliOdyssey:

After beginning his working life as a printer’s apprentice, Louis Crucius (or Crusius) completed the necessary requirements to graduate as a pharmacist in 1882 and a doctor in 1890 in St Louis, Missouri. While he was studying he worked in a pharmacy and made humorous sketches that were placed in the window of the store. A collection of these drawings was published in 1893 (‘Funny Bones’). He lectured in histology and anatomy and eventually came to be a Professor of Anatomy but died in 1898 from kidney tumours.

3f74509875adde36355821a9b9bf19a5Although he gave most of his drawings away, Crucius sold a number of them to the Antikamnia (‘opposed to pain’) Chemical Company which had been established in St Louis in 1890. They produced antikamnia medicines containing the coal tar derivative, acetanilid, an anti-fever drug with pain relieving properties somewhat related to paracetamol, but which would be later shown to be a toxic compound not to mention addictive. Antikamnia was mixed with substances like codeine and quinine to enhance the pain relieving effects.

30 of the Crucius ‘dance of death’-inspired drawings were used to make 5 years worth of Antikamnia Chemical Company calendars – between 1897 and 1901. They had a fairly aggressive marketing campaign in which the calendars (aimed at the medical fraternity) as well as postcards and sample packs were distributed to doctors in the United States and overseas.

Now for the morning’s reads, starting with a series of links on the chemical spill in West Virginia.

Antikamnia calendar 1900 jan.feb francaisThe Wait Continues for Safe Tap Water in West Virginia – NYTimes.com

As hundreds of thousands of residents faced a third day without water because of a chemical spill in a local river, a water company executive said on Saturday that it could be days before it was safe for them to drink tap water again.

Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water, said that officials had set up four labs to test the amount of chemical in the water, but that it might take days to provide enough samples to determine whether the water was safe.

A state official also said that thousands of gallons more of the chemical had leaked into the river than was initially believed.

b3207cde6c4bbfd534d17a42ef2990d6Not only that…but it turns out the company was not the one who notified authorities of the leak. It was the EPA. The amount of chemicals spilled was under-reported at first, and it sounds like the company Freedom Industries…fucking ironic isn’t it, is starting to cooperate a little more.

About 7,500 gallons of chemical was spilled into the river, about 2,500 more than previously estimated, said Mr. Dorsey, the state environmental official.

After local officials complained of problems communicating with Freedom Industries, Mr. Dorsey said on Saturday that the company had been more cooperative. “It’s in everyone’s best interest to communicate well,” he said.

State officials said the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM, used in coal processing, seeped from the ruptured storage tank on Thursday into the Elk River, just upstream from the intake pipes for the regional water company. Exposure to the chemical, which smells like licorice, can cause headaches, eye and skin irritation and difficulty breathing, according to the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.

This story is only going to get more disturbing as the investigation starts to delve deeper into the spill and the companies involved. For that I turn to the local newspaper, The Charleston Gazzette. Check these articles out, they are excellent and you need to read them in full:

b90be3d5b21e135e560f746f18366d72This one details the discovery of the leak…Freedom Industries cited for Elk chemical spill  by Ken Ward-  The Charleston Gazette

When West Virginia inspectors arrived at Freedom Industries late Thursday morning, they discovered that the company had taken “no spill containment measures” to combat the chemical spill that has put drinking water supplies off-limits for hundreds of thousands of residents.

The state Department of Environmental Protection said Freedom Industries violated the West Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Act and the Water Pollution Control Act by allowing the chemical “Crude MCHM,” consisting mostly of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, to escape from its facility, just upstream from West Virginia American Water’s regional intake in the Elk River.

[...]

“It’s a bad situation,” said Mike Dorsey, chief of the DEP’s homeland security and emergency response division.

Dorsey said the tank contained about 30,000 gallons of material at the time of the leak, and that the company had pumped the rest of the material out and shipped it to another of its operations.

Dorsey has said DEP officials began an investigation after receiving odor complaints from nearby residents starting at about 8:15 a.m. The DEP and Kanawha County emergency officials traced the odors to Freedom Industries, which had not self-reported any sort of leak or accident, officials said.

48f2b6c2785da61fb771d518cfd47cd4So the company did not notify EPA…it was residents in the area that started to smell this shit who called the local DEP…and they were the ones who contacted Freedom Industries and told them they had a spill on company property. WTF? This is where you want to pay attention to the matter:

In an air-quality enforcement order, the DEP said air-quality officials who arrived at the site at 11:10 a.m. “discovered that no spill containment measures had been initiated and that an accumulating MCHM leak pool was seeping thru a dike wall adjacent to the Elk River and a downstream oil sheen was observed.”

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said more information needs to be gathered, but that it seems possible the spill into the river might not have been as bad if Freedom Industries had acted more quickly.

“Depending on when they knew [about the leak], had they put containment measures in place the instant they knew, it’s logical to deduce that there wouldn’t have been as much product in the stream,” Huffman said.

e40bafcc09badbd0d8276c631335e864Oh yeah and you want more ridiculous ways Freedom Industries handled the situation?

Smells from the spill were reported early Thursday morning, but Freedom mostly stonewalled media inquiries — releasing only a bland news release through a public relations firm — until a 10-minute news conference Friday evening.

At the news conference, Freedom Industries President Gary Southern gave few details about the company, made several statements seemingly in conflict with what government officials have said, and was whisked away by a public relations handler with reporters still shouting questions.

Prior to the news conference, the most extensive public statement from anyone connected with the company came Friday afternoon from Kathy Stover-Kennedy, the girlfriend of Freedom Industries executive Dennis P. Farrell.

Stover-Kennedy stressed that the spill was an accident and said that Farrell has received threatening and frightening messages from people around the world.

“I’m not asking for anyone’s sympathy but a little empathy wouldn’t hurt. And just so you know, the boys at the plant made and drank coffee this morning! I showered and brushed my teeth this morning and I am just fine!” Stover-Kennedy wrote on her personal Facebook page.

5dacfaf261a33961e3624575c89a56cdYeah…Let them drink tap water!!!!!

“There has been criticism from many about how Freedom Industries is handling this,” she continued. “Denny is not a spokesperson and has no desire to be. His expertise was much needed elsewhere. If he had taken the time to talk to the numerous media networks, giving statements, he would not have been able to react to the situation and perform his job accordingly. It wasn’t his decision to hire a spokesperson and it isn’t his job to be one.”

Well, if you look at these links I am giving you here, it seems Denny did not do much…in the way of working his expertise. The Charleston Gazette is examining this leak, and the company, Freedom Industries, rather well…I wish there were reporters like these out there doing the same in other towns where industrial environmental disasters have devastated more than the water supply. (But then perhaps there is a reason for the silence too…)  (And really, I could go further and add political governmental disasters as well but that would get me off on another tangent.)

Anyway, take a look at this…regarding the leak and what actions took place after it was discovered…and prior to? Why wasn’t there a plan?  Key players knew of potential for Elk River spill By Ken Ward Jr. – The Charleston Gazette

7fab6c1c0717cc9b7b640f1ec3c9abeaA few specific points:

Freedom Industries filed its “Tier 2″ form under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act. State emergency response officials got a copy. So did emergency planners and responders from Kanawha County.

Under the law, government officials are supposed to use chemical inventory information on Tier 2 forms, like Freedom Industries’, to prepare for potential accidents.

Armed with the forms, they know what facilities could explode, where large quantities of dangerous substances are stockpiled, and what industries could pose threats to things such as drinking water supplies. They can plan how to evacuate residents, fight fires or contain toxic leaks.

Sounds like that diagram from the movie Office Space, “Planning to Plan”

Those same agencies and public officials, though, have said they know little about the chemical involved. They’re all acting a bit surprised that this mystery substance was being stockpiled so close to a crucial water intake, and shocked that something like this could have happened.Water company officials are equally puzzled. For example, West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre told reporters on Friday that his company didn’t know much about the chemical’s possible dangers, wasn’t aware of an effective treatment process, and wasn’t even sure exactly how much 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol is too much.

“We’re still trying to work through the [material safety data sheet] to try to understand the risk assessment of this product,” McIntyre said during a Friday-morning news conference. “We don’t know that the water is not safe. But I can’t say that it is safe.”

8f42e52c3854bfd3029ca566071b45a3It only gets better. /snark

McIntyre said his company hadn’t at that point had any contact directly with Freedom Industries, and he wasn’t able to identify any previous efforts by the two firms to work together on emergency response planning.

“I can’t answer that question,” McIntyre said when asked about such planning. “I don’t have that information.”

Fred Millar, a longtime chemical industry watchdog in Washington, D.C., said the lack of better planning was an example of how the landmark emergency response law hasn’t been properly enforced around the country.

“Obviously, the whole idea of the chemical inventory reports is to properly inform local emergency officials about the sorts of materials they might have to deal with,” Millar said Friday. “It’s just head-in-the-sand to be ignoring this type of threat.”

No shit.

7611aeb45bd1056859790bac0e8ec809But this next article is one that starts to peel at the toxic layer of protections “corporations” can muster when it comes to being people…Freedom Industries execs are longtime colleagues- by Dave Gutman   The Charleston Gazette

Freedom Industries, the company whose chemical spill is responsible for the contamination of much of the Kanawha Valley’s water, has existed in its current form for less than two weeks.

On the last day of 2013, Freedom Industries, which distributes chemicals used in coal mining, merged with three other companies: Etowah River Terminal, Poca Blending and Crete Technologies, a Delaware company.

Poca Blending, in Nitro, and Etowah River Terminal, in Charleston, now comprise the two branches of Freedom Industries.

The company’s website says the Charleston branch, which spilled the chemical, “can process large volumes of chemical rapidly, and cost effectively.”

They can leak the shit rapidly too.040b20741beeaa72604faa1e72bb5f52

And what exactly is ‘Crude MCHM’? Few know  – by Ken Ward Jr – The Charleston Gazette

That should really get you all up to speed on the spill in West Virginia. The rest of the links will be quick, in dump format after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: Updates and Comebacks

DCF 1.0Good Morning

Can you believe it is December 1st? Honestly, I can’t.

What an exhausting year this has been, to think it is almost over.

Anyway, here are your reads for this morning, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians protest plan to relocate Bedouins.

Thousands of Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank demonstrated Saturday against an Israeli government plan that in some cases would relocate Bedouins from traditional lands in the Negev desert to urban communities.

Some of the gatherings turned violent, with 28 protesters arrested and at least 15 police officers injured, one of them stabbed. Police fired stun grenades, tear gas and skunk water to disperse demonstrators.

The “Day of Rage” was called as the Israeli parliament was preparing to give final approval to what has become known as the Prawer Plan, named after an Israeli government official who wrote it.

Israeli officials say the plan was reached after extensive consultation with Bedouin leaders. It would provide recognition and previously denied services for some Bedouin communities that have been viewed by the Israelis as squatters on state land and relocate others while providing some compensation.

The controversial plan faces strong opposition from many Bedouins, who say it would in effect expropriate 200,000 acres of Arab land and forcibly relocate more than 40,000 Bedouins.

The protest have even spread to the UK: Day of Rage Rocks Israel, Spreads to UK.

Meanwhile, U.S. airlines complying with China’s new airspace demands.

U.S. airline officials say they are complying with new State Department guidance urging carriers to alert China before any flights pass through that country’s new self-declared air-defense zone.

Airline officials said Saturday that compliance would not disrupt travel to Asia, since they already communicate with any government when crossing through or over foreign territory.

In US politics: N. Georgia key battleground in Senate GOP primary

At the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains sits one of the most Republican congressional districts in the country that is home to Georgia’s governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House.

The 9th Congressional District and the nearby 14th district are considered the heart of the GOP in Georgia and will be key battlegrounds in a fiercely contested Republican primary next year for an open U.S. Senate seat, a race that will be watched nationally as Democrats look to thwart efforts by Republicans to take control of the Senate.

While not as populous or packed with deep-pocket donors as metro Atlanta, the two districts in north Georgia offer a strong and reliable base of fiscal and social conservatives and are largely up for grabs considering no major candidate has a direct link to the area.

Yeah this is my district, the Saxby Chambliss district….according to that article, 20 percent of the state’s Republican voters are in these districts.

All the top candidates have already made trips and are expected to keep visiting ahead of the May 20 primary. The voters are used to seeing their elected officials and are known for asking tough questions.

“They are a lot like Iowa caucus voters. They expect to see their candidates in the flesh,” said Lake, who recently left the Senate campaign of Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta, citing differences in opinion, and is no longer aligned with a candidate in the race.

A number of voters who attended a recent congressional hearing in the 9th district said they remain undecided. Besides Gingrey, the other major candidates are tea party favorite Rep. Paul Broun of Athens; Karen Handel, who has a statewide grassroots organization from her previous campaigns; fundraising leader Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah; and David Perdue, cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue and past CEO of Dollar General and Reebok.

Ugh. More disgust at the link, with no possible chance of getting a decent representative in Washington D.C.

Another link on an asshole of another kind: Seattle Asshole Demands Employee Firing Over Bar’s Google Glass Policy

The most absolute awful thing about the story of Nick Starr is not that he exists, but that there are surely more people like him: the Seattle IT drone threw a Facebook fit when he was asked to take off his face-camera at a cafe. “I would love an explanation, apology, clarification…or her termination.”

Read the rant at the link above.

Here’s the logic: the ability to covertly take pictures of people and perhaps post them to Twitter—as Starr has done in the past—shall not be infringed upon. Any attempts to subvert this divine right will be attacked in kind. This is an ostensibly carbon-based life form arguing for garnished wages or a lost job because he couldn’t wear a face computer into a watering hole.

Those Google Glass things are over the top and cross the line…and that this asshole has taken pictures of people in the bathroom and put them online…geez what a dickhead.

Okay, two links about JFK:

PBS show on JFK assassination ‘rigged’ and ‘biased,’ author says

In Wednesday’s Nova special on the JFK assassination, private investigator Josiah Thompson is an avuncular presence, repeatedly explaining what happened on Nov. 22, 50 years ago in Dallas.

But Thursday the author of Six Seconds in Dallas said he was “outraged,” calling the program “rigged.”

He wasn’t accusing “Cold Case: JFK” of faking or staging any tests, but said the program failed to fully examine acoustic evidence that suggests four shots were fired that day, because doing so might have derailed the show’s conclusion, that Lee Harvey Oswald was probably the only gunman.

Another View: Seven reasons to reject the Warren Report – California Forum – The Sacramento Bee

Jack Ohman suggested “we see what we want to see” regarding the JFK assassination (“Kennedy slaying answers elude us”; Forum, Nov. 17). Marcos Breton blamed our skepticism on advancing age: “It’s the ultimate baby boomer fetish,” he scoffed (“Count me out of the JFK club”; Our Region, Nov. 17).

If you still think the Warren Report is an example of a trustworthy, paternal federal government here to help you, listen up.

Remember the auction of Classic Movie Memorabilia? If you are curious as to how much some of those items ended up going for, check it out here: Classic Movie Memorabilia

ICONIC MALTESE FALCON LEAD STATUETTE FROM THE 1941 FILM  Sold for $4,085,000  At the TCM / Bonham's Auction Nov 23,2013

ICONIC MALTESE FALCON LEAD STATUETTE FROM THE 1941 FILM Sold for $4,085,000 At the TCM / Bonham’s Auction Nov 23,2013

Angela Lansbury is making a comeback. No, she is not dead. Hold Up–Angela Lansbury Is Returning To The Stage

Hold Up--Angela Lansbury Is Returning To The Stage

In breaking entertainment news that is sure to get me 500 billion clicks today alone, Angela Lansbury is set to make her triumphant, beautiful return to the stage. After a more than 40 year absence from the London stage, Jessica Fletcher Lansbury will star in a West End revival of Noel Coward’s play Blithe Spirit.

TCM has been showing some crappy movies lately, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? Please. Hopefully they get back to the good stuff soon.

Anyway, this next article is interesting too, from BBC News – A visit to a hidden coca plantation

The Peruvian government says it is committed to eradicating the coca leaf, from which cocaine is made – but a walk in the jungle suggests that for cash-strapped farmers, it is not an easy choice.

I should probably have listened just a little more carefully when the farmer answered my question.

I had asked if she would show me where her hidden coca plantation was – and what she said was: “Yes, of course, but it will mean a bit of walking.”

Now, I like walking, I walk for pleasure. But what a Peruvian farmer means by a “bit of walking” turned out to be rather different from what I mean.

We were in the region known as the High Amazon. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Green, lush hillsides and steep wooded valleys, where the foothills of the Andes meet the Amazon jungle. Traditionally it has been one of the main production centres for Peruvian cocaine.

And from coke production to art history: Vermeer’s Secret Tool: Testing Whether The Artist Used Mirrors and Lenses to Create His Realistic Images | Vanity Fair

David Hockney and others have speculated—controversially—that a camera obscura could have helped the Dutch painter Vermeer achieve his photo-realistic effects in the 1600s. But no one understood exactly how such a device might actually have been used to paint masterpieces. An inventor in Texas—the subject of a new documentary by the magicians Penn & Teller—may have solved the riddle.

In the history of art, Johannes Vermeer is almost as mysterious and unfathomable as Shakespeare in literature, like a character in a novel. Accepted into his local Dutch painters’ guild in 1653, at age 21, with no recorded training as an apprentice, he promptly begins painting masterful, singular, uncannily realistic pictures of light-filled rooms and ethereal young women. After his death, at 43, he and his minuscule oeuvre slip into obscurity for two centuries. Then, just as photography is making highly realistic painting seem pointless, the photorealistic “Sphinx of Delft” is rediscovered and his pictures are suddenly deemed valuable. By the time of the first big American show of Vermeer paintings—at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 1909—their value has increased another hundred times, by the 1920s ten times that.

Despite occasional speculation over the years that an optical device somehow enabled Vermeer to paint his pictures, the art-history establishment has remained adamant in its romantic conviction: maybe he was inspired somehow by lens-projected images, but his only exceptional tool for making art was his astounding eye, his otherworldly genius.

That is a long read…complete with videos.

Have a good day, and think of this as an open thread.


Monday Reads

Morning_News,_by_Ellen_Day_Hale

Good Morning!!

Don’t blame Dakinikat for the lateness of this post. I volunteered to fill in for her today and then I ended up oversleeping.

I stayed up too late watching the New England Patriots come from behind to beat the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football. I had pretty much given up on the Pats at halftime when they were down 24-0. But once again Patriots quarterback Tom Brady rallied his team and once again showed Peyton Manning who’s boss. 

Cindy Boren sums up what happened at The Washington Post:

For most of the country, Sunday night was cold. It’s the gateway to a big holiday week and, with the Denver Broncos blowing out the hapless New England Patriots on Sunday night, why not just turn in early?

Suckers.

Here’s the abbreviated version of what happened while you were sleeping: Trailing 24-0 at halftime, Tom Brady and the Patriots scored 31 points in the second half, the Broncos scored to tie it and, with Bill Belichick making another of his unusual coaching decisions, the Patriots won 34-31 on a field goal that came off a turnover on a muffed punt with time running out in overtime. But it was a decision by Belichick that set up the Patriots. After winning the OT coin toss, he chose to take the wind — a stiff, brutally cutting wind — in a move that even his captains questioned.

There was a fierce wind blowing in the Boston area all day yesterday. It was coach Bill Belichick’s decision to give the ball to the Broncos, forcing Manning to either throw into the wind or and the ball off. It worked, and the Pats ended up winning on a field goal. It was incredible–only the fifth time in history a team has come back from 24 down at the half to win a game.

So, that’s my excuse for being late with the morning post. I know you’re probably not impressed . . .

Of course the weather here in New England is just a minor annoyance compared to much of the rest of the country. CNN reports: Nasty weather wallops much of U.S. just before Thanksgiving.

The wicked wintry weather that pummeled the West Coast is now barreling across the country, threatening to wreck millions of holiday travel plans just before Thanksgiving.

The storm has already contributed to at least 10 traffic fatalities.

Nearly 400 flights have been canceled in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — not exactly a bastion for snowstorms. Sleet and freezing rain will keep blanketing parts of the Southern Plains and Southern Rockies on Monday.

New Mexico may be hit with 8 inches of snow!

And it’s headed our way next:

And after the storm deluges parts of the South with rain Monday evening, it’ll start zeroing in on the Northeast, the National Weather Service said. And that could spell more travel nightmares….

An Arctic air mass will probably keep temperatures 15 to 20 degrees below normal along the East Coast through Thursday. But even if the system fails to deliver heavy snow, fierce winds could still hamper air travel, forecasters said….

Heavy rain is expected to fall from Texas to Georgia on Monday and over the Carolinas on Monday night, with some sleet and snow mixed in for northern parts of that swath. The heaviest rain is expected across parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

So be careful out there–especially you Sky Dancers in the southern half of the country.

In political news, the big story is the deal that the Obama administration has struck with Iran. Israel doesn’t like it one bit, and that means there will be objections in Congress. From Bloomberg via the SF Chronicle:

Israel’s rejection of the accord reached in Geneva by Iran and six leading nations over the weekend was swift. The agreement is a “historic mistake” that leaves the world “a much more dangerous place, because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon,” Netanyahu said.

The first accord since the Iranian nuclear program came under international scrutiny in 2003 eases sanctions on Iran in return for concessions on its atomic work. Its six-month timetable is meant to give negotiators time to seek a comprehensive deal to halt Iranian nuclear work that they, like Israel, think is a cover to build weapons.

Israel will now focus on influencing the final deal as much as they possibly can.

“What Israel can do during this period is push the international community toward making the final deal as tough as it can, though it should do so far more quietly than it has in the past,” said Eilam, a retired brigadier-general.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS News in Geneva that the agreement doesn’t take the threat of force off the table and rejected Israel’s position, articulated yesterday by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, that the U.S. capitulated to Iranian deceit.

The agreement is “not based on trust. It’s based on verification,” with mechanisms in place to confirm whether Iran is in compliance, he said.

Kerry actually used many Congresspeople’s opposition to loosening sanctions on Iran to push the Iranians to make a deal. From Bloomberg Businessweek:

When Secretary of State John Kerry joined the nuclear negotiations at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva last Saturday, he employed the oldest negotiating trick in the book, evoking Congress as the bad cop to the Obama administration’s good cop. Kerry told Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that if they failed to reach an agreement that day, the Obama administration would be unable to prevent Congress from passing additional sanctions against Iran. Less than 24 hours later, Kerry and Zarif walked into the hotel lobby to announce that they had struck a deal to temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear program.

In the face of criticism from members of Congress and the U.S.’s allies in the Middle East, Administration officials have insisted that the Geneva agreement is just the first step toward a more far-reaching disarmament deal. But such a deal will require that the Obama administration promise not just to forestall the imposition of new sanctions, but to dramatically reduce the sanctions already in place. And that depends on the cooperation of a Congress that has been singularly uninterested in assuming the role of good cop in the showdown with Iran.

The White House has some discretion to rescind the Iran sanctions without Congress’s approval. The method for removing any given set of sanctions depends on how those sanctions were passed in the first place. If they’re the product of an executive order, as many of the existing sanctions against Iran are, removing them requires only that the White House decide to stop enforcing them. That’s exactly how Obama will be making good on its promise to Iran, as part of last week’s interim agreement, to restore access to $7 billion held in foreign bank accounts….Removing sanctions that have been passed into law by Congress, however, is a much more difficult challenge. Despite the partisan gridlock in gridlock in Washington over the last several years, bipartisan majorities have managed to cooperate on three separate rounds of sanctions since 2010, including measures targeting Iran’s central bank, which Iran will undoubtedly want rescinded. Removing those laws from the books will force the White House to go through Congress all over again. That will require overcoming the partisanship and procedural hurdles that have consumed Congress in recent years.

I have to say, Obama is once again showing he has guts. If only he would use some of that to stand firm on domestic policies. The BBC reports that the Obama administration has been working toward this agreement for months through secret negotiations that SOS John Kerry was involved in while he was still chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

I’m really curious to know what role Hillary Clinton played in these negotiations and whether she supports the deal, but I can’t find any information about that so far. Meanwhile, here’s a positive review from Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for strategic studies (IISS): The surprisingly good Geneva deal.

The deal reached in the early hours of the morning in Geneva on 24 November was better than I had expected, and better than would have been the case without France’s last-day intervention at the previous round two weeks earlier. I spent much of Sunday making the rounds of TV studios and fielding print-media interviews, explaining why opponents in Israel, the Gulf and US Congress should overcome their scepticism. The more I studied the deal, the more apparent it became to me that those who knock it probably did not want any agreement at all – at least not any deal that was within the realm of possibility.

The Geneva agreement is a good deal because Iran’s capabilities in every part of the nuclear programme of concern are capped, with strong verification measures. The terms require that for the next six months, no more centrifuges can be added, none of the advanced models that were previously installed can be turned on, the stockpiles of enriched uranium cannot increase, and work cannot progress on the research reactor at Arak, which is of concern because of the weapons-grade plutonium that would be produced there. Going well beyond normal verification rules, inspectors will be able to visit the key facilities on a daily basis and even have access to centrifuge production and assembly sites.

Moreover, the most worrisome part of the programme is being rolled back. Iran is suspending 20% enrichment, which is on the cusp of being weapons-usable, and neutralising the existing stockpile of 20% product, half through conversion to oxide form and half through blending down. Although the P5+1 had earlier asked for the stockpile to be exported, these measures will virtually accomplish the same purpose by eliminating the stockpile. Reversing these measures would take time.

Time is the essential variable of this deal. The net effect of the limits Iran has accepted is to double the time it would take for it to make a dash to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Without a deal, the break-out time might instead soon be halved.

Read the rest at the link.

Paul Krugman has a column up about some positives on the rollout of Obamacare and California as a “test case” for the program.

Now, California isn’t the only place where Obamacare is looking pretty good. A number of states that are running their own online health exchanges instead of relying on HealthCare.gov are doing well. Kentucky’s Kynect is a huge success; so is Access Health CT in Connecticut. New York is doing O.K. And we shouldn’t forget that Massachusetts has had an Obamacare-like program since 2006, put into effect by a guy named Mitt Romney.

California is, however, an especially useful test case. First of all, it’s huge: if a system can work for 38 million people, it can work for America as a whole. Also, it’s hard to argue that California has had any special advantages other than that of having a government that actually wants to help the uninsured. When Massachusetts put Romneycare into effect, it already had a relatively low number of uninsured residents. California, however, came into health reform with 22 percent of its nonelderly population uninsured, compared with a national average of 18 percent.

Finally, the California authorities have been especially forthcoming with data tracking the progress of enrollment. And the numbers are increasingly encouraging.

Krugman says that about 10,000 people are signing up per day, and the enrollment numbers show a balance between younger, healthier enrollees and those who are older and more likely to need health care.

So . . . it’s a somewhat slow news day as we head into the holiday season, but the Iran deal will give us something to talk about while the folks in Washington take their extra long vacations. I don’t even want to think about what will happen when they get back and start clashing over the debt ceiling again.

What interesting stories are you finding out there today? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a good day despite the weather!