Wednesday Reads: Leon sells cartoon balloons in town…

Intellicast – Current Radar in United States

Okay, so the storm is not called “Levon” but “Leon.”

It’s just that I had substituted the name Leon in that Elton John song as it “played” in my head, all day long yesterday…

Uh, Good morning!

Find the latest on the weather system the weather channel is calling Leon:

Winter Storm Leon Forecast: Major Snow, Ice From Gulf Coast to Georgia, Carolinas, Virginia – weather.com

Winter Storm Leon: 12 Inches of Snow?

Winter Storm Leon: Live Updates on Southern Snow, Ice Storm – weather.com

This storm is kicking the South’s ass…But this is no laughing matter: State troopers headed to schools where students, teachers are… | www.ajc.com

Shortly before midnight, about 50 students were still aboard Atlanta Public School buses, a spokeswoman for the district said. In DeKalb County, at least 20 vehicles were involved in a pileup on U.S. 78 eastbound, past Hugh Howell Road. All lanes were blocked around 1 a.m. Wednesday.

These kids are stuck in buses, some are stuck overnight in schools: State troopers to help with security at schools where stranded kids are spending the night | AccessNorthGa

Gov. Nathan Deal says state troopers are being sent to schools where students are stranded because they could not make it home on clogged roads caused by Tuesday’s snowstorm.

The governor spoke at a news conference at he State Capitol late Tuesday night.

Deal also said that state and local officials will try to rescue those stranded along highways that are at a standstill. Normal 30-minute commutes have turned into hourslong odysseys for thousands.

A winter storm that would probably be no big deal in the North all but paralyzed the Deep South, bringing snow, ice and teeth-chattering cold, with temperatures in the teens in some places.

Gridlock continues as unspeakably horrible commute home… | www.ajc.com

The winter storm has mostly moved into the Carolinas, but metro Atlanta traffic remained gridlocked at 4 a.m. Wednesday as Tuesday’s afternoon rush hour from hell stretched into hour 16.

Traffic was still bumper-to-bumper and barely moving on several Atlanta interstates, including on I-75 north of downtown, on I-20 west of downtown and on the top-end Perimeter.

Imagine those people stuck on the road without medicine…and running out of gas.

There were warnings…I don’t understand why the schools did not close or plan for a delayed opening. My kids almost did not make it home from the bus themselves, the snow hit so fast and hard. We could not believe how close the school board cut it this time. It really amazes me how many people got caught up in this mess.

In Atlanta, the gridlock was so bad, a baby girl was delivered alongside Interstate 285, said Capt. Steve Rose, a spokesman for Sandy Springs police in suburban north Atlanta. He said an officer made it to the mother and her husband in time to help with the delivery, which he described as “flawless.” There were no complications and the family was taken to a hospital.

That is something, eh?

Yesterday was the SOTU: Full text: State of the Union | Al Jazeera America

President Obama’s 2014 address was his fifth in office. Read the entire transcript here, all 6,777 words

What does it mean if I did not watch the speech live, nor did I watch a taped version, I haven’t read any commentary or summaries, and the thought of reading all those 6,777 words makes me want to throw up everything I ate this evening.  Even the possibility of nodding off during the speech was nothing to look forward to…

SOTU cheat sheet: Everything you missed

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits among the other justices during President Obama's address.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits among the other justices during President Obama’s address.  Win McNamee, Getty Images

• Did Justice Ginsberg fall asleep? Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80, was trending during Obama’s speech, with viewers speculating that she had fallen asleep, or at least was in full head-bob mode. We may never know for sure if it was a slump or a nap.

It would not be the first time she nodded off…But WTF is this all about?

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., left, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., share a sign as they take their seats for the president's speech.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., left, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., share a sign as they take their seats for the president’s speech.  Charles Dharapak, AP

You know, that is pretty close to the sign for vagina (when I took ASL in college…from what I remember) could it be code for an anti-woman PLUB agenda? Or is it some little “I heart pussy” thing? Perhaps they were making reference to this:

The State of the Uterus (video)

To whet your State of the Union pallate, I give you: “The State of the Uterus.”

state-of-the-uterus

The State of the Uterus is a fun new video – it literally just went live – about a serious issue, women’s rights in America.

Here’s a portion of their press release:

We all know the State of the Union is strong, but what about the State of the Uterus? On this most ceremonial of days in the nation’s capital, a uterus is taking up that question and will deliver a live address moments after President Obama’s Speech and the Republican Party responds.

“Madam Uterus” (UTOUS) for so she shall be addressed — will talk at length about the state of the uterus, and the vagina, in a country where state legislatures have variously deemed that women are pregnant before they are pregnant, have magical powers to deactivate rape sperm, and must be forced to carry stillborn babies to term.

“The state of our uterus is in the hands of so many,” Madam Uterus will say, according to the text of her prepared remarks. “As the old saying goes, behind every successful uterus is a man calling her a whore while cutting her pay.”

So here are a few links on the SOTU speech:

Dak, Boston Boomer and others live blogged it here…and here.

State of the Union by Political Cartoonist Bruce Plante

143671 600 State of the Union cartoons

SOTU POTPOURRI | Gin and Tacos

The best of the worst: Right-wing Twitter reacts to the State of the Union – Salon.com

We Got Your Back | BobCesca.com | News and Politics Blog and Podcast | We Cover the World

After the speech there was this: Rep. Grimm Threatens NY1 Reporter Following State of the Union – NY1

Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm physically threatened NY1 political reporter Michael Scotto at the conclusion of an interview in the Capitol Rotunda following Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.

 Grimm’s threats came at the end of a brief interview in which he discussed the president’s speech, calling the address “divisive.”

Scotto then tried to ask the congressman about the ongoing federal investigation into his 2010 campaign fundraising:

Grimm told the reporter:

Grimm: “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this f—–g balcony.”

Scotto: “Why? I just wanted to ask you…”

[[cross talk]]

Grimm: “If you ever do that to me again…”

Scotto: “Why? Why? It’s a valid question.”

[[cross talk]]

Grimm: “No, no, you’re not man enough, you’re not man enough. I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”

Hmmm…taking some pointers from Christie? Or did he watch that movie A Few Good Men? Or perhaps he was listening Divine on his iPod during the speech:  You Think You’re A Man Lyrics – Divine

You will notice in the video…there are a lot of boys being tossed over balconies.

Digby had this nugget of news at her site: Hullabaloo

Iceland’s big problem: bringing 4% unemployment down to 2%

by digby

At one time there was a big debate about whether or not Iceland came out on top during our current depression, largely due to it’s hard core treatment of its banks. It was always pretty obvious that they made the smarter decision.  It looks even more obvious today:
Iceland let its banks fail in 2008 because they proved too big to save.

Now, the island is finding crisis-management decisions made half a decade ago have put it on a trajectory that’s turned 2 percent unemployment into a realistic goal.

While the euro area grapples with record joblessness, led by more than 25 percent in Greece and Spain, only about 4 percent of Iceland’s labor force is without work. Prime MinisterSigmundur D. Gunnlaugsson says even that’s too high.

“Politicians always have something to worry about,” the 38-year-old said in an interview last week. “We’d like to see unemployment going from where it’s now — around 4 percent — to under 2 percent, which may sound strange to most other western countries, but Icelanders aren’t accustomed to unemployment.”

It doesn’t sound strange to me, it sounds fucking awesome!

The island’s sudden economic meltdown in October 2008 made international headlines as a debt-fueled banking boom ended in a matter of weeks when funding markets froze. Policy makers overseeing the $14 billion economy refused to back the banks, which subsequently defaulted on $85 billion. The government’s decision to protect state finances left it with the means to continue social support programs that shielded Icelanders from penury during the worst financial crisis in six decades.

We, on the other hand are making nearly 7% official unemployment (along with many millions not even being counted) the new normal. And we’re slashing our meager safety net, even food assistance. But our megabanks are doing very well which is what matters.

Geez, I really want to move to Iceland…to hell with this country’s right-wing assholes who have taken over everything. I mean, how can we even be at the point where the dicks are actually debating this shit…

Texas GOP Lt. Gov. Candidates Agree: More Religion Needed in Science Class – Little Green Footballs

Submitted without comment other than to notice how several of the candidates refer to evolution in schools as being part of a “politically correct” conspiracy.
From left: Sen. Dan Patrick, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson
Texas GOP Lt. Gov. Candidates Agree: More Religion Needed in Science Class

Oh…can someone get me outta here? I can’t take it anymore!

This is all I can bring myself to write, y’all go ahead and give it up in the comments below.

Oh yeah…

Enjoy your day…


Lagniappe for All!

cartoon marco rubio vp gopThere was something for every one in the State of the Union Speech tonight.  Even the Republicans clapped and stood up for the idea of comprehensive immigration reform. But, what about raising the minimum wage or climate change or universal preschool?  Will they go for that?

We’ll find out shortly when Rubio and Paul rebut SOTU. It’s a Republican Grudge Match!!!

Republicans will offer not one, but two responses to the president’s speech. The first will come from Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who will aim to offer an alternative vision to Obama’s agenda. The second will come from tea party-favorite Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who will offer an alternative to the alternative. Confused? Welcome to the GOP.

Rubio, of course, is on the unofficial short list of presidential candidates for 2016. (Time magazine last week dubbed him the savior of his party.) The affable 41-year-old will represent what is presumably the mainstream wing of the fragmented GOP, which, as no shortage of pundits have pointed out, is suffering from a serious public-relations crisis. Rubio — young, charismatic, well-spoken — will aim to change America’s perception of the party on Tuesday evening, taking advantage of his time on the national stage. He will respond to the president’s stance on jobs, the federal debt, immigration and gun control, and his overall demeanor will depend largely on the type of ammunition given to him by Obama himself.

Obama Care!!  Climate Change!! Gun Control OH MY!!!!!!

“Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy. The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs. And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security. So Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”


Live Blogging SOTU

Tonight’s State of the Union address is Obama’s first of his second and last term in office.  Speculation is rampant about the focus and tone of theimages speech given the changes apparent in the inauguration address to the nation.  We’ve already seen that many of the invited guests tonight will victims of gun violence.  Another guest of FLOTUS will be the 102 year old woman who represents voting rights in America.   Ensuring the right to vote may be central a central them in tonight’s address to the nation.

President Barack Obama will announce a bipartisan presidential voting commission to focus on improving the Election Day experience, The Huffington Post has learned from two sources outside the White House with knowledge of the plans.

The commission is one of a number of efforts the Obama administration is making to address the problems that plagued voting on Election Day 2012. The commission, which will focus specifically on Election Day issues and not broader voting reform, will likely be co-chaired by one Republican and one Democratic lawyer, according to one of the sources.

The White House announced Tuesday that 102-year-old Miami resident Desiline Victor will be a guest of first lady Michelle Obama during the president’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night, during which Obama is expected to discuss voting reforms. Victor is a naturalized U.S. citizen who stood in line for three hours at a local library on the first Sunday of early voting until workers told her to come back later that evening. A crowd of thousands of people erupted in applause when she emerged with an “I Voted” sticker, the White House said.

The FLOTUS guest list may hint at other themes. It includes many women including soliders, pay discrimination activists, and teachers. It also includes scientists.

  • Dr. Jill Biden
  • Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President
  • Sergeant Sheena Adams (Vista, CA) – Team Advisor & Lead Instructor, Female Engagement Team
  • Alan Aleman (Las Vegas, NV) – DREAM Student
  • Jack Andraka (Crownsville, MD) – Winner of the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
  • Susan Bumgarner (Norman, OK) – Early Childhood Educator
  • Deb Carey (New Glarus, WI) – Small Business Owner, New Glarus Brewing Company
  • Sergeant Carlos Evans, USMC (Cameron, NC) – Wounded Warrior
  • Tim Cook (Cupertino, CA) – CEO of Apple
  • Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel A. Pendleton Sr. (Chicago, IL)
  • Menchu de Luna Sanchez (Secaucus, NJ) – Registered Nurse, NYU Langone Medical Center
  • Bobak Ferdowsi (Pasadena, CA) – Flight Director, Mars Curiosity Rover
  • Bradley Henning (Louisville, KY) – Machinist, Atlas Machine and Supply
  • Tracey Hepner (Arlington, VA) – Co-Founder, Military Partners and Families Coalition
  • Peter Hudson (Evergreen, CO) – Co-Founder and CEO, iTriage
  • Governor John Kitzhaber (D-OR)
  • Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers (Avondale, AZ)
  • Amanda E. McMillan (Jackson, MS) – Pay Discrimination Victim
  • Lee Maxwell (Wilton, IA) – Graduate, Kirkwood Community College Wind Technician Program
  • Lieutenant Brian Murphy (Oak Creek, WI)
  • Lisa Richards (Arlington, VA) – #My2K Participant
  • Kaitlin Roig (Greenwich, CT) – 1st Grade Teacher, Sandy Hook Elementary School
  • Abby Schanfield (Minneapolis, MN) – ACA Beneficiary
  • Haile Thomas (Tucson, AZ) – Let’s Move! Champion
  • Desiline Victor (Miami, FL)

nugent bubbleDraft dodger and confessed pedophile gun nut Ted Nugent is coming as a guest of nutty Texas Rep Steve Stockman.  The Nuge is well known for threatening the president and calling women leaders misogynistic slurs.

NUGENT: I was in Chicago last week. I was in Chicago and said, “Hey, Obama you might want to suck on one of these you punk.” Obama, he’s a piece of shit, and I told him to suck on my machine gun. Let’s hear it for him. And then I was in New York. I said, “Hey, Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch. Since I’m in California, how about [Senator] Barbara Boxer [D-CA], she might want to suck on my machine gun. And [Senator] Dianne Feinstein [D-CA], ride one of these you worthless whore. Any questions? [Ted Nugent via LiveLeak.com, accessed 10/1/12]

Our hope is that some one will come to their senses and disinvite him.  You’ll probably see him surrounded by the Capitol Police and the Secret Service.  Here’s hoping he’s ignored by the press.

An enhanced version of the SOTU is available from the White House and will include stats and charts.  The channel is on now with a lot of interesting historical background on the address, on previous presidents, and on the event itself.  There’s also a chance to get on a mail list plus an after speech chat with a group of white house policy experts.  You should look at it just because it’s really interesting and has some interesting background on the speech writing process too.

So, the speech starts tonight and can also be watched at the C-SPAN site.

Tonight, C-SPAN brings you President Obama’s fourth State of the Union address before a Joint Session of Congress. Our coverage begins at 8pm ET with comments from Frank Newport of Gallup and reporters from National Review and Huffington Post.

At 9pm ET, C-SPAN & C-SPAN Radio broadcast President Obama’s address and the GOP response from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). (Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at 10pm, C-SPAN.org). Then, viewer reactions via calls, Twitter & Facebook.

This post kicks off the first part of our live blogging sessions.  Please join us through out the night!


Evening News Reads 020612: Black and Unwanted and Prop 8 Ruling

Vintage clothing ad

Good Evening…

So many newsy links for you today, I don’t know where to begin. I guess we will start with the news out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

BREAKING: Ninth Circuit Prop 8 Ruling on Tuesday — A Guide to Understanding What’s Happening – Poliglot

The long anticipated appeals court ruling is expected to address three issues: (1) whether former U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker should have recused himself from hearing the case because he is gay and had a long-time partner with whom he was not married; (2) whether the proponents of Proposition 8 have the right to appeal Walker’s decision striking down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional when none of the state defendants chose to do so; and (3) whether, if Walker did not need to recuse himself and the proponents do have the right to appeal, Walker was correct that Proposition 8 violates Californians’ due process and equal protection rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

You can read the background at that link above. Here is a bit of information on what will happen when the decision is published.

On Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit is expected to rule on the questions of Walker’s recusal and the proponents’ standing. The court, if it holds that recusal was not necessary and that the proponents do have standing, will address the constitutionality of Proposition 8. As the public information office is not the court’s judges, its words are not law, but today’s notice does gloss over the standing question, which would make it appear that the court is likely to find that the proponents do have standing — which was to be expected in light of the California Supreme Court’s decision on that matter.

[UPDATE @ 5:30P: As the Ninth Circuit previously had issued a stay of the trial court's judgment pending appeal, there is no reason to think that the court's opinion -- should it affirm the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8 -- will take effect immediately. The judges almost certainly will issue a stay of their decision to allow the proponents to decide whether they will appeal such a decision.]

It is a rather long piece so give it a look.

I am going to stick with Federal Appellate Court rulings for a moment. Specifically the recent decision regarding sonograms prior to abortion in the state of Texas. Judge lets songram law take effect – Houston Chronicle

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks declined to stop a new sonogram law from taking effect in a ruling Monday that indicates his hands were tied by an appellate court.

“There can be little doubt that (the law) is an attempt by the Texas Legislature to discourage women from exercising their constitutional rights by making it more difficult for caring and competent physicians to perform abortions,” Sparks wrote in his decision.
“It appears the (three judge appellate court panel) has effectively eviscerated the protections of the First Amendment in the abortion context,” and “in no other medical context does the government go so far in telling doctors what they must, and must not, do,” Sparks said in the ruling.
Sparks granted a temporary restraining order last fall, which kept the law from taking effect, but three judges from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last month overturned Sparks, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit last summer…

“It is a terrible injustice that Judge Sparks could not rule in favor of protecting the constitutional rights of Texas doctors because of the Fifth Circuit panel’s decision,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We urge the full Fifth Circuit to consider Judge Sparks’ sound legal analysis when reviewing our request for a new hearing.”

Aside from the utter ridiculous nature of these laws and legislation against women, the frightening thing is that courts are upholding them. WTF?

Then you have crap like this: House GOP Memo: “Abortion Is the Leading Cause of Death in the Black Community” | Mother Jones

You may remember the billboards in ATL last year…

black and unwanted
Anti-abortion billboards in Atlanta sparked a nationwide controversy last year as Georgia tried to pass a law outlawing abortion on the basis of race.

Well check out the latest GOP memo…

A House GOP memo obtained by Mother Jones argues for a controversial “prenatal discrimination bill” by referring to “black abortions” as distinct from abortions in general and claiming that “abortion is the leading cause of death in the black community.” The memo (PDF) was circulated by Republicans on the House judiciary committee on Monday in advance of Tuesday’s markup of Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-Ariz.) Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act.

Franks’ bill, which is also known as H.R. 3514, didn’t make it out of committee when it was introduced in the last Congress. But the fact that it’s now receiving a markup—a key step on the way to a floor vote—and that 78 cosponsors have signed on suggests that it could proceed to a vote of the full House before November’s elections. In addition to banning abortions based on the race or gender of the fetus, H.R. 3514 would give a woman’s family members the ability to sue abortion providers if they believed an abortion was obtained based on race or sex. Critics warn that it would be next to impossible to prove that an abortion was obtained on the basis of race or gender and fear the provision could lead to nuisance suits against abortion providers by family members who are opposed to abortion on principle.

In Georgia, they tried to pass a bill that made abortion a crime due to race…fortunately, it ran into problems.

Stephanie Mencimer reported:

The campaign started with controversial billboards, which began popping up in the state after President Obama was elected. They featured a photo of a beautiful, sad black baby boy and the line: “Black children are an endangered species.” Anti-abortion activists claimed to be out to save the black community from genocide at the hands of Planned Parenthood.

“The most pernicious part was, they’re trying to hijack the civil rights legacy in the service of conservative causes, trying to appropriate the mantle of the civil rights movement in a really despicable way,” says Loretta Ross, the national coordinator of SisterSong, a reproductive justice organization for women of color in Atlanta. She says the effort even featured white people singing “We Shall Overcome” at black women as part of a pro-life “freedom ride” bus tour that stopped at Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Jr. Center.

The MoJo article has an update, as follows:

Adam Serwer notes that the essay the Republican memo cites as evidence that “a thorough review of the American family planning movement reveals a history of targeting African-Americans for ‘population control'” is actually a thorough debunking of arguments like those in the memo that argues the opposite point. Here’s a choice excerpt:

Activists are exploiting and distorting the facts to serve their antiabortion agenda. They ignore the fundamental reason women have abortions and the underlying problem of racial and ethnic disparities across an array of health indicators. The truth is that behind virtually every abortion is an unintended pregnancy. This applies to all women—black, white, Hispanic, Asian and Native American alike. Not surprisingly, the variation in abortion rates across racial and ethnic groups relates directly to the variation in the unintended pregnancy rates across those same groups.

Also, it’s worth noting, as Jill Lepore did in her excellent New Yorker essay on Planned Parenthood in November, that prominent black Americans such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. were supportive of birth control and family planning, and the history of race and abortion in America is more complicated than the GOP memo would lead you to believe.

Go to the link to read the memo in its entirety, sigh…

From Valerie Jarrett: Securing Equal Pay? There (Should Be) an App for That!

Last week, the Obama Administration launched the Equal Pay App Challenge. We’re inviting software developers to help women ensure that they’re being paid fairly — which in turn will help restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.

Right now, if you’re a woman in the workforce, it can be surprisingly difficult to answer basic questions about equal pay: what’s the typical salary for someone in your position? Should you be asking for more at the negotiating table? What are your fundamental legal rights?

Blah Blah Blah, sorry but until Hillary Clinton starts her full-time advocacy for women…this is all talk, and nothing else.

Jarrett continues:

President Obama envisions an America where his daughters are never limited by their gender. That vision is not yet a reality, and we still have a long way to go. But if we work together — and we invite America’s most creative innovators to join us in tackling this challenge — then I am confident that we will get there.

Yeah…right!

You honestly believe we will “get there” when all the crappy anti-women legislation is getting passed or upheld. Get real!

Since there are so many links for you tonight, I will just give you a list…

The use of drone warfare is becoming more and more popular, and with that, comes the use of drones in civilian situations. Civilian drones to fill the skies after law shake-up – tech – 03 February 2012 – New Scientist

The FAA is planning to unveil a new set of rules this summer regarding these UAVs.

Speaking of the FAA: Senate sends FAA bill to Obama’s desk – The Hill’s Transportation Report The House previously approved the bill…

There is a disturbing story about a teenager’s journal entry after she murdered a young neighbor: Missouri teen describes killing girl, 9, as ‘enjoyable’ experience _ before heading to church – The Washington Post

A Missouri teenager who admitted stabbing, strangling and slitting the throat of a young neighbor girl wrote in her journal on the night of the killing that it was an “ahmazing” and “pretty enjoyable” experience — then headed off to church with a laugh.

In world news:

U.S. Closes Embassy in Syria as Mayhem Escalates – NYTimes.com

The United States closed its embassy in Syria on Monday and withdrew its staff in the face of escalating mayhem for which American officials blamed the Syrian government’s unbridled repression of an 11-month-old uprising.

Obama orders Iranian Central Bank freeze in new wave of sanctions | World news | guardian.co.uk

Barack Obama has ordered the freezing of Iranian government assets in the US, including transactions by the Iranian Central Bank, in tightened sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The White House said the executive order by the president “re-emphasises this administration’s message to the government of Iran – it will face ever-increasing economic and diplomatic pressure until it addresses the international community’s well-founded and well-documented concerns regarding the nature of its nuclear programme”.

The new sanctions, which also include the threat of prosecution for foreign financial institutions if they do certain kinds of business directly with Iran, also appeared timed to fit in with measures introduced in other countries, including Britain which has already moved against Iran’s banking system by cutting it off from London’s financial sector.

This next link is fascinating: BBC News – Transplant jaw made by 3D printer claimed as first

A 3D printer-created lower jaw has been fitted to an 83-year-old woman’s face in what doctors say is the first operation of its kind.

The transplant was carried out in June in the Netherlands, but is only now being publicised.

The implant was made out of titanium powder – heated and fused together by a laser, one layer at a time.

Technicians say the operation’s success paves the way for the use of more 3D-printed patient-specific parts.

One more “science” link for you: Mating call of an extinct bush-cricket rings out again after 165m years | Science | The Guardian

A love song that carried on the wind through the ancient forests of the late Jurassic has been reconstructed by scientists in Britain.

Researchers pieced together the staccato mating call of the long-gone creature, a distant relative of the modern bush-cricket, from fossilised remains unearthed in Mongolia.

The audio file is there at that link…cool isn’t it?

And finally: Spaghetti western reveals differences between human and monkey brains | Mo Costandi | Neurophilosophy blog | Science | guardian.co.uk

Monkeys are closely related to us and their brains have long served as an indispensable model for understanding how our own brain works. But we’re separated from each other by millions of years of evolution, so there are some major differences between their brains and ours. On the one hand, we can’t assume that the results from experiments on their brains can be generalized to humans. But on the other, a better understanding of our differences can provide important clues about the evolutionary forces that shaped the human brain.

A new method may help to overcome some of the difficulties in comparing the human and monkey brains. To test the method, researchers scanned the brains of humans and macaque monkeys while they watched Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Their results, published in the journal Nature Methods, reveal a number of surprising differences between the functional architecture of the human and macaque brains.

Oh, I think those PLUBs that are pushing all the anti-woman crap down our throats need to read this article.

In a 2004 study, Uri Hasson and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance to scan the brains of five participants as they watched a 30 minute clip from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. They found that the film activated widespread regions of the cerebral cortex, especially in the visual and auditory parts of the brain, and that the activation patterns were remarkably similar in all of them. This high degree of synchronicity led the researchers to the conclusion that films can make their viewers’ brains tick collectively; it also led to a new field called “neurocinematics,” which aims to assess the similarities in participants’ brain responses during film watching.

Based on these earlier findings, Hasson and his colleagues therefore hypothesized that this might hold true not only for comparisons between humans, but also across species. The new method – called interspecies activity correlation – therefore builds on these earlier findings, and extends the approach to examine the extent to which the brain activation patterns observed in humans correspond to those of monkeys.

They recruited 24 human participants, and used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan their brains as they watched the same film clip. This confirmed that the film clip evoked the same pattern of brain activity in all the participants, as in the 2004 study. They then did the same with four macaque monkeys, each of which was shown the same clip six times, and found that all four animals also exhibited the same activity patterns as each other across multiple viewings. Next, the researchers compared the activity patterns they observed in the human participants with those of the monkeys, focusing on 34 distinct regions the visual cortex.

In both species, visual information is processed in a hierarchical manner. The earliest stages of visual processing take place in the primary and secondary visual cortical areas, often referred to simply as V1 and V2, which contain cells that respond to the simplest features of a scene, such as contrast between adjacent areas of the visual scene and the orientation of edges. Each successive stage of processing encodes increasingly complex features, with higher order visual regions encoding complex features such as object categories.

The article is way to detailed for me to break it down..so just go and read it.

Tonight at 8PM EST, TCM is showing a great Alfred Hitchcock film called, Foreign Correspondent…from 1940. Foreign Correspondent (1940) – Overview – TCM.com

If you can, watch it…cause it is one damn good movie!

Catch y’all later…


Wednesday Reads: Pelosi, SOTU, and a Bucket of KFF

Good Morning!

I completely forgot that today was my day to write the morning reads. So this post is being written on the fly…

We had a live blog on Obama’s SOTU last night. Twitter was very busy. It was the first speech I have seen discussed on the Twitterverse and I had a good time reading these quick jabs throughout the night. It reminded me of being in my college history class…and some of us would make funny comments about Janet Leigh’s pointy viking brassiere as we watched The Viking or quoting from Monty Python’s Holy Grail while Charlton Heston defended his castle in The Warlord.

Charles Krauthammer had this to say about Obama’s speech:

Following the State Of The Union address, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer commended President Obama for delivering a speech “that struck the right tone.” “It was less partisan than I would have expected,” Krauthammer observed.

“There were a couple of illusions to Republican obstruction, but I think he struck the right tone for the State of the Union address and didn’t open up to attacks,” Krauthammer — who is often thought of as President Obama’s chief critic — continued.

“The one area where he spoke forcibly and I think dramatically was on raising the taxes on the rich,” Krauthammer added. “That was sort of the only strong aspect of the speech but in other respects, but that’s just a repeat of the decade of debate over the Bush tax cuts. Other than that, it’s hard to say what exactly does he want for the country in the next year and in the next term and that I think he hasn’t answered. He’ll do that when he starts his swing around the swing states tomorrow.”

I thought Obama spoke a bit different last night…like he has had some help with his delivery. I liked it a lot better than when he channels MLK, the King cadence and way of speaking just does not seem to fit him.

I also thought starting with Osama and ending with Osama was smart…reminding all those GOP folks that he did what Bush couldn’t. He may have pulled the troops out of Iraq on Bush’s terms, but he sure as hell iced Osama on his own watch.

For other articles on the speech:

A re-election speech in State of the Union clothing – Political Hotsheet – CBS New

Focus group suggests State of the Union speech was well-received – latimes.com

Obama State of the Union Address Makes Pitch for Economic Fairness – NYTimes.com

I will post more reactions to the speech in the comments below….

Last night Nancy Pelosi once again threw out another threat…Newt will never be president. You may remember her comment about this late last year. Well, she said it again…Pelosi On A Gingrich Presidency: “That Will Never Happen”

John King, CNN: “You make your case there passionately for President Obama. But also understand that this is a tough reelection climate for any president, Democrat or Republican in this economy. Because of your history with Speaker Gingrich, what goes through your mind when you think of the possibility, which is more real today than it was a week or a month ago, that he would be the Republican nominee and that you could come back here next January or next February with a President Gingrich?”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi: “Let me just say this. That will never happen.”

King: “Why?”

Pelosi: “He’s not going to be President of the United States. That’s not going to happen. Let me just make my prediction and stand by it, it isn’t going to happen.”

King: “Why are you so sure?”

Pelosi: “There is something I know. The Republicans, if they choose to nominate him that’s their prerogative. I don’t even think that’s going to happen.”

Hmmm, you would think that Pelosi would want Gingrich as the GOP candidate, since he would be an easier defeat than Romney. I wonder, what could she possibly know that would hurt Gingrich with his mad batshit crazy supporters? If open marriage and lies about lobbying and ethics charges didn’t do it…what will?

It can’t have anything to do with men’s rooms in major US airports…that’s been done before. Could it be some sort of diaper fetish with hookers? Oh…nope, ditto on that one too.  Was Newt formally Newtina? That would be a new one on the GOP hypocrites…But seriously, it must be some pretty bad shit if all the other crap Gingrich has done hasn’t frazzled the Christian Right wingnuts.

(Sorry for the language. I think these GOP candidates bring out the “juicy” words in me.) PAD Political Affected Disorder, has that affect…

Continuing with Newt for a moment longer. Got Medieval, one of my favorite blogs, wrote a post on Gingrich. Newt Gingrich: History’s Greatest Team — Got Medieval

You’ve got to admire the Romney folks for putting out that memo listing the various historical figures that Newt Gingrich has compared himself to over the years. It’s a pretty nifty dig at an opponent, even if it didn’t net Mitt a win in South Carolina.

Now, I know Newt and I have had words before about his historical comparisons, but I’m prepared to let bygones be bygones. Both he and I are Georgians, after all, and when I was but a wee lad I even lived in his district, so you could say we go way back. I’m prepared to take him at his word that these really are the people he sees himself in.

Well, to say I’m “prepared” is sort of revisionist history on my part.* I have to admit, I originally planned this post as a point-by-point analysis of Newt’s self-declared historical analogues, but where would that get us?  Who knows what Newt thinks these people are famous for, much less what he thinks he shares with them? I surely don’t. Here’s a guy who thinks Braveheart planted a flag in the ground and yelled “Charge!”, rather than “Steady. Hold. Hold! HOLD! NOOOOW!!”–what Mel Gibson says when I play my DVD.** If Newt buys his history books at the same place that sells these special Reverse Director’s Cuts,*** his Henry Clay may turn out to be the inventor of calculus and his Pericles the first discoverer of America.

Check out those footnotes, they are awesome, but they sure as hell don’t beat the photo of Newt in full regalia.

So I’m not quite prepared to take him at his word, more just resigned to it. In lieu of my fisking out historical ripostes, please accept this, my artist’s rendering of Newt’s professed self-image:****

All hail our next president, the Viking Duke Dr. President Prime Minister Rabbi Speaker Ronald Woodrow Abraham Margaret William Wilbur Henry Moses Pericles Orville Wallace Thatcher Clay Wellington Wilson Wright Reagan Lincoln de Gaulle, PhD. Long may they reign.

Gotta love the Bonzo reference.  Hey Newt, what ya got under that kilt? Ugh…did I just say that?

And as far as Mittens goes, Mitt Romney’s tax information sits uneasily with Florida voters

‘Get a real job,’ suggests one voter after learning of the candidate’s high income. Others are bothered that he equivocated before releasing the information.

Do you all remember that comment about being unemployed while he was in the Tampa Bay area last year?

I think some of those Florida long-term unemployed take exception to Romney’s wealth.

Even before Tuesday, Mitt Romney was struggling to connect to average voters, suffering from impromptu remarks — proffering a $10,000 wager in a debate, suggesting $375,000 in speaking fees was small change — that gave off a whiff of privilege.

Then came Romney’s release of tax returns showing that in 2010 he claimed $21.6 million in income, with an effective tax rate of less than 14%, far less than many middle-class families pay. He also estimated $20.9 million in income for 2011, with a rate of just over 15%.

Jeanne Johnson, a political independent and owner of the Lake Alfred Barber Shop, said that when she heard the news of Romney’s taxes on TV, “I thought I was going to throw up.”

And this isn’t going to help things either: Romney, sinking in polls, says ‘banks aren’t bad people’

Before a crowd of several hundred curious onlookers, drawn to the event by local TV news coverage on an unseasonably hot January afternoon, the former Massachusetts governor tried to draw attention to the housing sector’s continuing drag on the country’s struggle to bounce back from the worst recession since the 1930s.

Romney did not offer any specific prescriptions of his own. Instead, he fingered Obama for blame, along with new regulations designed to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial collapse.

He said the Dodd-Frank legislation package had smothered banks with regulations that made it harder for them to help struggling homeowners dig out from mortgages that in many case are larger than the value of their homes.

“Now, the banks aren’t bad people. They’re just overwhelmed right now,” Romney said. “They’re overwhelmed with a lot of things. One is a lot of homes coming in, that are in foreclosure or in trouble, and the other is with a massive new pile of regulations.”

What was it that barber said up top? I think I’m going to throw up…

Which brings me to this link from Wall Street Journal: Stephens: The GOP Deserves to Lose

Let’s just say right now what voters will be saying in November, once Barack Obama has been re-elected: Republicans deserve to lose.

It doesn’t matter that Mr. Obama can’t get the economy out of second gear. It doesn’t matter that he cynically betrayed his core promise as a candidate to be a unifying president. It doesn’t matter that he keeps blaming Bush. It doesn’t matter that he thinks ATMs are weapons of employment destruction. It doesn’t matter that Tim Geithner remains secretary of Treasury. It doesn’t matter that the result of his “reset” with Russia is Moscow selling fighter jets to Damascus. It doesn’t matter that the Obama name is synonymous with the most unpopular law in memory. It doesn’t matter that his wife thinks America doesn’t deserve him. It doesn’t matter that the Evel Knievel theory of fiscal stimulus isn’t going to make it over the Snake River Canyon of debt.

Above all, it doesn’t matter that Americans are generally eager to send Mr. Obama packing. All they need is to be reasonably sure that the alternative won’t be another fiasco. But they can’t be reasonably sure, so it’s going to be four more years of the disappointment you already know.

As for the current GOP field, it’s like confronting a terminal diagnosis. There may be an apparent range of treatments: conventional (Romney), experimental (Gingrich), homeopathic (Paul) or prayerful (Santorum). But none will avail you in the end. Just try to exit laughing.

Read the rest of Bret Stephens post at the link…and remember this dude is writing from a Republican point of view.

What should readers who despair of a second Obama term make of all this? Hope ObamaCare is repealed by the High Court, the Iranian bomb is repealed by the Israeli Air Force, and the Senate switches hands, giving America a healthy spell of Hippocratic government.

All perfectly plausible. And the U.S. will surely survive four more years. Who knows? By then maybe Republicans will have figured out that if they don’t want to lose, they shouldn’t run with losers.

Alright, that is enough of the GOP primary crap.

For those of you who are depressed, and the first part of this post did not help matters…rejoice! Magic mushroom trips point to new depression drugs

The brains of people tripping on magic mushrooms have given the best picture yet of how psychedelic drugs work and British scientists say the findings suggest such drugs could be used to treat depression.

Two separate studies into the effects of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, showed that contrary to scientists’ expectations, it does not increase but rather suppresses activity in areas of the brain that are also dampened with other anti-depressant treatments.

Sign me up for the test trials…I want a magic mushroom.

There are a group of people in the US that may need large doses of depressants, and I am sure they are stocking up. Subculture of Americans prepares for civilization’s collapse

When Patty Tegeler looks out the window of her home overlooking the Appalachian Mountains in southwestern Virginia, she sees trouble on the horizon.

“In an instant, anything can happen,” she told Reuters. “And I firmly believe that you have to be prepared.”

Tegeler is among a growing subculture of Americans who refer to themselves informally as “preppers.” Some are driven by a fear of imminent societal collapse, others are worried about terrorism, and many have a vague concern that an escalating series of natural disasters is leading to some type of environmental cataclysm.

They are following in the footsteps of hippies in the 1960s who set up communes to separate themselves from what they saw as a materialistic society, and the survivalists in the 1990s who were hoping to escape the dictates of what they perceived as an increasingly secular and oppressive government.

Preppers, though are, worried about no government.

Tegeler, 57, has turned her home in rural Virginia into a “survival center,” complete with a large generator, portable heaters, water tanks, and a two-year supply of freeze-dried food that her sister recently gave her as a birthday present. She says that in case of emergency, she could survive indefinitely in her home. And she thinks that emergency could come soon.

My best friend in the world is one of these Preppers. She lives out in Iowa, among the corn fields and republicans…I worry about her a lot. She is a huge Glenn Beck fan, and at times I think the nature of being a Beck follower causes people to forget what and who they are.

Conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck seems to preach preppers’ message when he tells listeners: “It’s never too late to prepare for the end of the world as we know it.”

“Unfortunately, given the increasing complexity and fragility of our modern technological society, the chances of a societal collapse are increasing year after year,” said author James Wesley Rawles, whose Survival Blog is considered the guiding light of the prepper movement.

A former Army intelligence officer, Rawles has written fiction and non-fiction books on end-of-civilization topics, including “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It,” which is also known as the preppers’ Bible.

“We could see a cascade of higher interest rates, margin calls, stock market collapses, bank runs, currency revaluations, mass street protests, and riots,” he told Reuters. “The worst-case end result would be a Third World War, mass inflation, currency collapses, and long term power grid failures.”

Those of you who are reading or have read Charles P Pierce’s book Idiot America will find this next bit intriguing.

Many of today’s preppers receive inspiration from the Internet, devouring information posted on websites like that run by attorney Michael T. Snider, who writes The Economic Collapse blog out of his home in northern Idaho.

“Modern preppers are much different from the survivalists of the old days,” he said. “You could be living next door to a prepper and never even know it. Many suburbanites are turning spare rooms into food pantries and are going for survival training on the weekends.”

Like other preppers, Snider is worried about the end of a functioning U.S. economy. He points out that tens of millions of Americans are on food stamps and that many U.S. children are living in poverty.

“Most people have a gut feeling that something has gone terribly wrong, but that doesn’t mean that they understand what is happening,” he said. “A lot of Americans sense that a massive economic storm is coming and they want to be prepared for it.”

Yeah, the Gut…as Pierce writes:

In the place of expertise, we have elevated the Gut, and the Gut is a moron, as anyone who has ever tossed a golf club, punched a wall, or kicked an errant lawn mower knows. We occasionally dress up the Gut by calling it “common sense.” The president’s former advisor on medical ethics regularly refers to the “yuck factor.” The Gut is common. It is democratic. It is the roiling repository of dark and ancient fears. Worst of all, the Gut is faith-based.

It’s a dishonest phrase for a dishonest time, “faith-based,” a cheap huckster’s phony term of art. It sounds like an additive, an artificial flavoring to make crude biases taste of bread and wine. It’s a word for people without the courage to say they are religious, and it is beloved not only by politicians too cowardly to debate something as substantial as faith but also by Idiot America, which is too lazy to do it.

After all, faith is about the heart and soul and about transcendence. Anything calling itself faith-based is admitting that it is secular and profane. In the way that it relies on the Gut to determine its science, its politics, and even the way it sends its people to war, Idiot America is not a country of faith; it’s a faith-based country, fashioning itself in the world, which is not the place where faith is best fashioned.

Hofstadter saw this one coming. “Intellect is pitted against feeling,” he wrote, “on the ground that it is somehow inconsistent with warm emotion. It is pitted against character, because it is widely believed that intellect stands for mere cleverness, which transmutes easily into the sly or the diabolical.”

The Gut is the basis for the Great Premises of Idiot America. We hold these truths to be self-evident:
1) Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
2) Anything can be true if somebody says it on television.
3) Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

Throwing up and the Gut…Where the hell are we going to? Lean forward, push back…it all just makes me confused and unhappy.

Hey, let’s end with something a little funny?

The Most Badass Excerpt From Barney Frank’s Interview With The NY Times

Interviewer: You’ve long argued for the decriminalization of marijuana. Do you smoke weed?

Barney Frank: No.

Interviewer: Why not?

Barney Frank: Why do you ask a question, then act surprised when I give an answer? Do you think I lie to people?

Interviewer: I thought you might explain why you support decriminalizing it but don’t smoke it.

Barney Frank: Do you think I’ve ever had an abortion?

Hey…that must be it! That is the big secret Pelosi is referring to…Newt has had an abortion!

Oh, heaven preserve us! He has had an abortion and satisfied his gluttony for food as well. Perhaps it would be the only thing the PLUB GOP could find offensive enough?

A Republican state senator from Oklahoma City introduced a bill Tuesday that would ban the use of aborted human fetuses in food, despite conceding that he’s unaware of any company using such a practice.

Freshman Sen. Ralph Shortey said his own Internet research led him to believe such a ban is necessary and prompted him to offer the bill aimed at raising “public awareness” and giving an “ultimatum to companies” that might consider such a policy.

Somebody get that Shortey dude some magic mushrooms! Oh wait, it looks like he has been on them for an extended period of time.

What are you all reading and writing about…I’ll be seeing you in the comments after I get finished with this KFF (Kentucky Fried Fetus) bucket of fetuses made with seven herbs and spices. Mmmmm, I just love that Original Recipe!