Wow, I completely forgot it was my turn up at bat. This morning’s post will be mainly links that I have saved up over the last few days. Being sick does have its advantages, you get to bypass all the horrible news stories…and only read about them if you want to catch up. Let’s just say, I didn’t want to catch up and leave it at that.
So here we go…
No kidding? What do you think brought about this reflective change of feelings from the former Justice? I wonder if it was all that press Dubya got recently from the grand opening of his Presidential Library and Museum to Idiotic Decisions. Anyway, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, O’Connor had this to say about Bush v. Gore:
Looking back, O’Connor said, she isn’t sure the high court should have taken the case.
“It took the case and decided it at a time when it was still a big election issue,” O’Connor said during a talk with the Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board on Friday. “Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye.’ “
The case, she said, “stirred up the public” and “gave the court a less than perfect reputation.”
“Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision,” she said. “It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.”
Ya don’t say? Too little, too late if you ask me.
Well, from one load of shit to another load of shit. However, this load of shit was dumped by a Sandy…not a Sandra. Hurricane Sandy dumped 11 billion gallons of raw sewage into East Coast waterways
Hurricane Sandy dumped about 11bn gallons of raw and untreated sewage into waterways from Washington DC to Connecticut, the science journalism group Climate Central said on Tuesday. That’s or enough human waste to cover New York’s Central Park in 41ft of sewage, or fill 17,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, scientists told a conference call with reporters.
Damn, that is a whole lotta crap.
Hmmm, speaking of which: Rocky Musical Trailer | Geekosystem
…draw a Venn diagram between fans of Broadway musicals and fans of the Rocky franchise, I would just draw two circles that were very far away from each other. Sylvester Stallone and Stage Entertainment USA seem to disagree with my assessment, and they’re betting there’s enough of an overlap for their new musical Rocky to be a success. Whether you think a musical version of Rocky is a great idea or a terrible one, the new trailer for the production will probably confirm your opinion. There’s not enough in the video to really indicate whether this will be a good musical version of Rocky or a bad musical version of Rocky, but it sure shows that there’s a musical version of Rocky happening.
Uhhhh…..were you even able to get through that trailer? ( I couldn’t. ) It seems to me that this production of Rocky is what Bialystock and Bloom should have produced as a sure fire flop…instead of Springtime for Hitler.
Damn that is crap.
Alright, sorry there. That is awful. Looks like Gitmo is not the only place where America is practicing torture these days.
Did you see the campaign donor “mess” in Virgina?/snark. I like the title of this Atlantic article, it is a take on a real damn good Helen Mirren movie: The Governor, His Wife, Their Cook, and the FBI – Philip Bump – The Atlantic Wire
The FBI is now investigating whether or not Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell violated any laws when he allowed a campaign donor to pay for catering at his daughter’s wedding. That is perhaps the least weird part of the story.
The crux of the issue is whether or not McDonnell violated the law by allowing Star Scientific, a company run by Jonnie Williams, to pick up the $15,000 food and floral tab for Cailin McDonnell’s wedding in 2011. The governor explains his failure to report the spending on his finance reports by insisting that the donation was a gift to his daughter. Under Virginia law, only gifts received by officeholders need to be reported. Earlier this month, the Washington Post walked through the evidence for and against that claim. The daughter paid for other parts of the wedding, for example, like the rehearsal dinner and the honeymoon. But McDonnell’s guidance is literally written all over the agreement between the caterer and the family, which the governor signed.
Read more about the twist and turns at the Atlantic link above or here at this Washington Post link: AP sources: FBI looks into relationship between Va. governor, campaign donor – The Washington Post
All these sordid stories lately, a sleaze-ball porn king backs a sleaze-ball former governor currently running for the US senate, innocent Elvis impersonators, and ricin laced dojos of mensa wannabe martial arts instructors. Not to mention…My Son, the Terrorist.
Then you have Congress, or as Jon Stewart calls them:
“Do-Nothing F@#ktards who couldn’t solve a problem if it was eating them alive anus first.”
Video at the link!
Wow…that is something innit?
But there have been some extraordinary news items that you may have missed.
**Post updated @8:00am below!**
A US army veteran has been found living in a remote Vietnam village 44 years since his plane was shot down and presumed dead, a new documentary suggests.
Unclaimed, a documentary by Canadian filmmaker Michael Jorgenson, claims that a frail, elderly man, found in a remote south Vietnam village unable to remember the English language, his date of birth or even the names of his wife and two children, may be Sgt John Hartley Robertson – a former Green Beret shot down in 1968.
Sgt Robertson was working on a special operation over the South East Asian country of Laos when his helicopter was shot down. Despite his body never being found, he was presumed dead for nearly half a century; his name etched on Vietnam memorials and army records listing him as “killed in action”.
Despite this, Sgt Robertson’s family believed it was possible he survived the crash and claimed to have documents proving he had been held in a Vietnamese prison for some time.
Read the rest of this story from the Independent at the link, you can see a trailer for the documentary here:
Can you imagine?
Well, I guess this story was too good to be true….from the Independent:
It is claimed that the man tacked down and ‘identified’ for a new documentary is in fact a fraudster who the US
government performed DNA tests on 20 years ago and whose story had been fully
Had it been true, it would have been one of
the most gripping war stories of all time.
But sadly it looks as if the man found living in the Vietnam jungle, who a new documentary claims is ‘long dead’ US army veteran Sgt John Hartley Robertson, is likely to be a fraud.
Meanwhile, after some back and forth…Mariela Castro to get gay rights award in Philly
The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro will be allowed to travel to Philadelphia to accept an award for her gay rights advocacy, officials said Tuesday, reversing a previous decision to reject her visa request.
Mariela Castro will attend the Equality Forum’s annual conference on civil rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people, according to Malcolm Lazin, the advocacy group’s executive director.
Lazin, who had blasted the State Department’s travel denial last week, said organizers are “delighted” at the change of heart.
“She is unquestionably the leader for progressive change for the LGBT community in Cuba,” Lazin said Tuesday. “Her accomplishments are nothing short of remarkable.”
Castro, a married mother of three, is the niece of retired Cuban strongman Fidel Castro. She is also the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, part of Cuba’s public health ministry, and is the country’s most prominent gay rights activist.
Castro has instituted awareness campaigns, trained police on relations with the LGBT community and lobbied lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions. She was elected as a deputy in Cuba’s parliament in February.
On Saturday in Philadelphia, she will speak about her experiences and receive an award from the Equality Forum.
I am glad she is able to come and get this award. It is an important step no matter what anyone says.
Now check this out, Groundbreaking Surgery for Girl Born Without Windpipe
Using plastic fibers and human cells, doctors have built and implanted a windpipe in a 2 ½-year-old girl — the youngest person ever to receive a bioengineered organ.
The surgery, which took place on April 9 here at Children’s Hospital of Illinois and will be formally announced Tuesday, is only the sixth of its kind and the first to be performed in the United States. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration under rules that allow experimental procedures when otherwise the patient has little hope of survival.
Hannah was born without a windpipe, or trachea — an extremely rare condition that is eventually fatal in 99 percent of cases — and had lived since birth in a newborn intensive care unit in a Korean hospital, breathing through a tube inserted in her mouth. Because of other developmental problems, she cannot eat normally and cannot speak.
Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, a specialist in the field of regenerative medicine who developed the windpipe and led the complex nine-hour operation, said the treatment of the Korean-Canadian toddler, Hannah Warren, made him realize that this approach to building organs may work best with children, by harnessing their natural ability to grow and heal.
Isn’t that wonderful?
I think it is good to end on that happy note, and let you all take it from there.
How are things going for y’all today?
I thought I’d start this morning’s post with something beautiful before I get to the news of the day. I came across these amazing photos of birds yesterday–a nice reminder that the natural world can nourish us emotionally and provide respite from startling events and frustrating news that surrounds us in the supposedly “civilized” world of humans.
Now some news…
The fertilizer plant disaster in West, Texas is still under-reported. From what I can tell from following the story on twitter though, people are hurting down there and really need help. Here are a couple of updates I found this morning.
From CBS in Dallas: West Fertilizer Plant Explosion Cause Could Take Several Weeks to Determine
The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is investigating the blast along with the Texas State Fire Marshal.
State records reportedly show the West Fertilizer plant had a yearly capacity of 2,400 tons of potentially explosive ammonium nitrate.
So far, according to the ATF the only possible contributory cause that has been eliminated from consideration is the weather.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers arrived on scene Monday to assist investigators in assessing the 93 by 10 foot crater.
On Monday, the U.S. Homeland Security Department said The West Fertilizer Co. facility isn’t currently regulated under a department program that’s designed to reduce the risk of terrorism at certain high-risk chemical facilities.
CBS-11 has learned Homeland Security is now looking into whether the facility should have submitted paperwork about the chemicals stored at the plant to determine if it should be regulated.
The Christian Science Monitor says, Smoking gun in West, Texas, fertilizer blast: lack of government oversight
Although the cause of the blast is still undetermined, what is clear is that the West Fertilizer Company stored large quantities of highly reactive products, including anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate, in the middle of a small town with very little oversight from state or federal agencies. Ammonium nitrate was used by the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in 1995, killing 168 people. The West, Texas, explosion killed 14, and injured nearly 200.
Texas does not have an occupational safety and health program that meets federal requirements. The federalOccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is therefore responsible for ensuring the safety of potentially dangerous workplaces like the West facility.
OSHA has inspected the West plant exactly once in the company’s 51-year history. That 1985 inspection detected multiple “serious” violations of federal safety requirements for which the company paid a grand total of $30 in fines. OSHA’s 1992 process-safety-management standard for highly hazardous chemicals is supposed to protect against disasters like the West explosion, but it wasn’t in place for that inspection.
Regardless, OSHA lacks the resources to undertake the kind of comprehensive inspection needed to ensure compliance with the process safety standard at small facilities like West Fertilizer Company. OSHA’s tiny staff of around 2,400 inspectors is spread so thin that it would take more than 90 years to conduct even cursory inspections of all eligible workplaces in Texas.
That’s pretty horrifying. I have to wonder how many other fertilizer plants like this one are out there like ticking time bombs.
Common Dreams calls attention to another horror story that affects all of us. “You and Your Family Are Guinea Pigs for the Chemical Corporations: How Americans Became Exposed to Biohazards in the Greatest Uncontrolled Experiment Ever Launched”
A hidden epidemic is poisoning America. The toxins are in the air we breathe and the water we drink, in the walls of our homes and the furniture within them. We can’t escape it in our cars. It’s in cities and suburbs. It afflicts rich and poor, young and old. And there’s a reason why you’ve never read about it in the newspaper or seen a report on the nightly news: it has no name — and no antidote.
The culprit behind this silent killer is lead. And vinyl. And formaldehyde. And asbestos. And Bisphenol A. And polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). And thousands more innovations brought to us by the industries that once promised “better living through chemistry,” but instead produced a toxic stew that has made every American a guinea pig and has turned the United States into one grand unnatural experiment.
Today, we are all unwitting subjects in the largest set of drug trials ever. Without our knowledge or consent, we are testing thousands of suspected toxic chemicals and compounds, as well as new substances whose safety is largely unproven and whose effects on human beings are all but unknown. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) itself has begun monitoring our bodies for 151 potentially dangerous chemicals, detailing the variety of pollutants we store in our bones, muscle, blood, and fat. None of the companies introducing these new chemicals has even bothered to tell us we’re part of their experiment. None of them has asked us to sign consent forms or explained that they have little idea what the long-term side effects of the chemicals they’ve put in our environment — and so our bodies — could be. Nor do they have any clue as to what the synergistic effects of combining so many novel chemicals inside a human body in unknown quantities might produce.
Read it and weep.
Down in South Carolina, Elizabeth Colbert Busch and disgraced former Governor Mark Sanford met in a debate in the race for the district one congressional seat, and Busch got personal.
Thursday Reads: Banks Reopen in Cyprus; An End to “Too Big to Fail” Banks (?); Vagina-Phobia; and Much MorePosted: March 28, 2013
The banks have opened in Cyprus with controls on how much depositors can withdraw.
Joe Weisenthal posted updates at his Business Insider blog:
At 6:00 AM ET, banks in Cyprus reopened their doors for the first time since March 16.
However, the crowds have been orderly.
Everyone is wondering whether there will be a huge run on the banks.
So far? Not yet.
This is likely due to a set of capital controls that have been imposed on the banks. Specifically, Cypriot depositors cannot withdraw more than 300 euros per day from any one bank. Also, checks cannot be cashed.
These controls will be in place for seven days.
See more Twitter updates and photos at the link. International Business Times has some details about the capital controls that are supposed to prevent bank runs. In addition to the withdrawal limit, depositors can’t cash checks unless they come from another country.
In the meantime, non-cash payments or money transfers are banned unless they are related to a number of conditions.
These conditions include commercial transactions, payroll, living expenses and tuition fees.
If commercials transactions are less than €5,000, there are no restrictions, but payments above this amount and up to €200,000 will be subject to a 24-hour decision making process, in order to determine whether the liquidity of the bank would be able to incur such a withdrawal.
Transfers for paying employees will also still be allowed but relevant documents would have to be presented in order to prove the money is being used to pay staff.
Transactions on credit or debit cards are also capped at €5,000 euros per month.
According to the Wall Street Journal, some large depositors seemingly had advance knowledge of what was going to happen in Cyprus and moved their money out of the country weeks before the crisis.
The chairman of the Committee for Institutions in the Cypriot Parliament, Deputy Dimitris Syllouris, said he had submitted a letter to the Central Bank of Cyprus demanding an investigation into account holders who moved large sums of cash out of the country in the weeks ahead of Cyprus’s chaotic bailout talks…
He said he had received information about individuals and businesses moving money out of Cyprus weeks ahead of the bailout deal—a move that wouldn’t be illegal but could imply that some depositors had warning that negotiations for a bailout could, for the first time in the financial crisis that has rattled the euro zone, take a cut out of regular bank deposits.
Asked whether his suspicions focused on one specific group of depositors, he said “politicians, all sorts of people, and bankers themselves are no better.”
Outflows from Cyprus were increasing from moderate levels from January until March 15, the officials said. Last week—especially after March 19, when the Cypriot Parliament rejected the first bailout deal that would have imposed a one-time levy on large deposits—the outflows under the central bank’s exemptions went up significantly, they said.
Several hundred million euros, but less than a billion euros, left the country despite the bank closures, according to one official.
At Bloomberg, Clive Crook says Cyprus’ Plan B is Still a Disaster.
The new deal has removed the craziest part of the agreement reached March 16 — the plan to default on deposit insurance. Let’s not dwell any further on that insanity. But the new plan still has features that, seen in any other context, would surely arouse surprise.
For instance, the so-called troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund wanted to be sure that the new debt Cyprus is about to take on will be sustainable — meaning, presumably, that Cyprus will be able to repay it. Yet, by writing down high- value deposits, the revised plan will also cause a sudden contraction of the Cypriot banking system, and thus of the whole Cypriot economy, which depends on banking to an unusual degree.
He concludes that,
Bailout fatigue says: “The Cypriots got themselves into this mess, and they should get themselves out. We’ll lend them a bit more, but only if we’re sure they’ll pay us back.” Cyprus didn’t get itself into this mess. It joined the euro system in 2008 with low public debt and a clean bill of health from EU governments (back then, not a word was said about shady Russians). Its banks are in trouble not because they accepted too many overseas deposits but because they bought too many Greek bonds — an investment sanctified by international banking rules (which called such investments riskless) that was destroyed by the EU’s ham-fisted resolution of Greece’s threatened default.
Europe’s sense of “we’re all in this together” seems to have evaporated entirely. Now one has to ask not merely what the euro is for, but what the EU itself is for.
Back in the U.S.A.,
Simon Johnson has an interesting post at the NYT’ “Explaining the Science of Everyday Life” blog: The Debate on Bank Size Is Over.
While bank lobbyists and some commentators are suddenly taken with the idea that an active debate is under way about whether to limit bank size in the United States, they are wrong. The debate is over; the decision to cap the size of the largest banks has been made. All that remains is to work out the details.
To grasp the new reality, think about the Cyprus debacle this month, the Senate budget resolution last week and Ben Bernanke’s revelation that — on too big to fail — “I agree with Elizabeth Warren 100 percent that it’s a real problem.”
Policy is rarely changed by ideas alone and, in isolation, even stunning events can sometimes have surprisingly little effect. What really moves the needle in terms of consensus among policy makers and the broader public opinion is when events combine with a new understanding of how the world works. Thanks to Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio; Senator Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, and many other people who have worked hard over the last four years, we are ready to understand what finally defeated the argument that bank size does not matter: Cyprus.
I can’t briefly summarize the gist of Johnson’s piece, so if you’re following this story, please read the whole thing. Could he really be right about limits on “to big to fail or prosecute banks.” I sure hope so!
In other news,
SCOTUS Justices Hinting They Will Avoid Issuing a Broad Ruling Legalizing or Banning Same-Sex MarriagePosted: March 26, 2013
This morning the Supreme Court held oral arguments on the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage. At Business Insider, Eric Fuchs writes:
The first of two huge Supreme Court cases on gay marriage may be heading for a partial victory for supporters of the movement.
“SCOTUS won’t uphold or strike down Prop 8,” SCOTUSblog’s Tom Goldstein predicted over twitter after the Tuesday hearing was over.
So what does that mean, and why would that be a partial victory for gay marriage advocates?
The hearing involved California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8, which was struck down by a federal judge and an appeals court. When California declined to defend the law, it was backed by a coalition of anti-gay marriage advocates and elevated to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court could decline to issue a ruling at all, however, by finding the anti-gay marriage advocates don’t have legal “standing” to defend the law.
If that happens, then the appeals court ruling would stand and gays could continue to get married in California.
You can listen to the oral arguments and/or read the transcript at The Washington Post.
I can’t say I’d be surprised if the justices punt this one. I know that the Scalia clique would love to ban same-sex marriage, but they probably couldn’t get the votes; and even if they did, they have to realize that the blowback from the public would be horrendous.
Things are still very hazy for me, so just a quick post tonight.
Here are your cartoons:
I love this last one: Horses Have a Beef by Political Cartoonist Pat Bagley
This is an open thread.