Zombies and Vultures and Pipelines, Oh My

The zombies seem to be winning the war against the living.  We have zombie banks, zombie politicians [think Rick Perry], zombie policy—free market fundamentalism preached as an untried economic theory.

And now zombie pipelines.

Just when you thought the Keystone XL controversy had been put to rest [at least temporarily], its zombie presence lunges forward, reanimated for all to see.  Although I suspect supporters of this very bad idea are hoping the American public is not watching or if they are watching they will buy the swill on the non-existent benefits of a 1700-mile tar sands pipeline.

What am I talking about?

I found a disturbing inquiry [hattip to OEN] by Representative Henry Waxman to a Deborah Hohlt, who received $50,500 from the Great State of Indiana [that would be paid in state taxpayer monies] to lobby in DC on behalf of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline.  Indiana’s Governor Mitch Daniels provided the rebuttal to the President’s SOTU address, in which he referred to the Administration’s decision to ‘postpone’ the pipeline’s construction as an ‘extremist’ policy.

As you might remember the Republican chorus on this subject has been jobs, jobs, jobs.  House Speaker Boehner has quoted 100,000 jobs at stake.  TransCanada has been all over the map with job estimates, the last, most creative quote coming in at 250,000 jobs.  Unfortunately, the numbers are at odds with the single independent analysis from Cornell Global Labor Institute, estimating the number at between 4000-6000 temporary jobs.  The steel for the pipeline?  Would be coming from India.  The cry that the pipeline would reduce our reliance on foreign oil?  The refined tar sands oil is contracted for export [80%] to South America and Europe.

The upsides are slim to none, considering the toxic, corrosive nature of tar sand oil, the sludge-like quality that requires pressure and heat to make a pipeline flow possible.  That also increases the risk of a leak and an environmental disaster.  Anyone who may question the heightened risk should check out the total mess in Michigan when over 800,000 gallons of tar sand oil spilled and contaminated 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River and surrounding properties.

And the reclamation?  These corporations should hang their heads in utter shame. If you want to be thoroughly disgusted check out the You Tube clip I provided in an earlier post.

But here’s the really curious thing.  The pipeline won’t be running through Indiana.  The pipeline will not be running close to Indiana’s borders. No Indiana facilitities will have access to the pipeline. In fact, it appears that Indiana does not stand to be impacted in anyway by the Keystone pipeline and yet Governor Daniels felt compelled to call President Obama an extremist for postponing the pipeline’s construction.  He was also willing to pay a $50,000+ [in state taxpayer money] to lobby for the Great State of Indiana in defense of the pipeline.

More curious still?  TransCanada has stated that the pipeline will ‘increase’ oil prices for Indiana and other Midwestern residents because the area is ‘oversupplied.’  Keystone’s successful construction [this is stated in TransCanada’s application] will ensure higher prices for Canadian crude.  By independent analysis costs will increase $6.55 per barrel in the Midwest and $3 per barrel everywhere else.   The Indiana Petroleum Council thinks this is a swell idea.

Which begs the question: Who does Governor Daniels work for?  His constituents or the oil companies?

So, it should not be any great surprise that a Senate group–laughably-called bi-partisan because it includes 1 Democrat, Joe Manchin from W. Va.–is reintroducing the Keystone proposal, pushing for immediate construction with or without the Administration’s approval.  The Senate committee is invoking the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which says Congress should have the power:

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.

I love it when the Republicans start waving the Constitution. It’s a clear signal they’re up to no good. Did I mention that Koch Industries stands to make a killing on this project?

While reading Representative Waxman’s letter, I recalled something I’d read in Greg Palast’s book Vultures’ Picnic and found an accompanying and equally disturbing text online here and here.  To quote Palast:

Reserves are the measure of oil recoverable at a certain price. Raise the price, raise the reserve. Cut the price and the amount of oil in the ground drops. In other words, it’s a fool’s errand to measure the “amount of oil we have left.” It depends on the price.

Specifically, oil companies and oil-related financiers are not interested in expanding oil supplies to the world, particularly cheap oil supplies [because the days of cheap oil are over]. They’re interested in feeding the hunger for oil and controlling the price around the world with an iron fist.  The higher, the better.  The environment—air, water, soil–is not the concern.  Our health or that of our children is not the concern.  The bottom line—profit and power—is all that matters.  If nations collapse?  The Vultures are waiting to feast on the bones.

Sound harsh?  It shouldn’t.  Zombies and vultures are kissing cousins.  They’re coming ‘round for a friendly visit.  Again.


Sunday Reads: 2012 is finally here!

Good Sunday Morning!

Oh wow, I am so freaking happy that 2011 is over! These last two weeks have been long and agonizing, since both kids have been home from school…but they go back tomorrow! Yeah!

Here’s to a better year, with some improvement all around…cause another year like last year and I will welcome the Mayan Doomsday.

As we enter the new year, the most important question on people’s mind is whether or not the world will officially end as we know it by next December. But let’s face it, if 2012 is really going to bring about end times (because we should clearly be basing our plans for the end on the Mayan calendar), it’s going to have a tough act to follow. Many people are writing up 2011 as the year of this or the year of that, but let’s keep things in perspective here: 2011 was the year that the world descended into random chaos.

Look, 2012, I know you think you’re so important because the Mayans said everything ends with you. But short of sharks rising from the seas, the sun mysteriously vanishing, or some other supernatural event taking place, you’re really not going to come close to just how insanely screwed up this year was.

No kidding! Follow that link for a summary of the kind of news stories and reports from 2011. If this year starts out like last year, with a huge number of birds falling dead out of the sky, then start to prepare yourself for the final outcome. It is already starting with a rumble…from Japan to Ohio.

 Magnitude 7.0 quake his Japan, no tsunami warning.

Officials: 4.0 magnitude quake in northeast Ohio related to wastewater injection well connected with the practice of Fracking.

I have lots of links for you today, I figured that everyone will wake up late and be in a lazy mood. So if this post is a bit much, just come back and finish it later.

Hopefully, those who partied hard last night…are recovering from their New Years hangovers. If you ever wondered why alcohol makes your head spin, take a look at this video.

There has been a rash of fires in Hollywood, hmmm…is this a protest against the crappy movies that Hollywood has put out this year?  (I don’t understand why Twilight isn’t on that list…but it made this list of 10 worst films of 2011.) Anyway, I guess everyone can be a critic…Luckily no one has been hurt, but the number of arson fires is up over 30 now. LA firefighters on New Year’s alert amid arson attacks.

At least 11 vehicles were burned on Saturday in the San Fernando Valley suburb of Los Angeles, police said. The city fire department reported vehicle or structure fires at other locations.

The early Saturday fires followed on 21 intentionally set fires involving vehicles or car ports in the Hollywood area late on Thursday and early Friday morning, according to the fire department.

Since I’ve touch on some end of year list articles, let’s stick with that for a bit.

We had the worst movies of 2011, here are the 10 Pop Monstrosities That Almost Destroyed Our Culture in 2011

Every year, things go down in pop culture that seem to signal the coming armageddon — like offensive and popular reality shows, for instance — and we wonder, could it possibly get worse? And every year, it does. We could list 2011 terrible things in American culture this year and not even come close to completing the list, so for brevity’s sake, here are the top 10 worst things that happened in pop culture this year. May 2012 have fewer of them.

For a more detailed look at the Top MuckReads of 2011: Domestic Surveillance, Shell Companies and College Sports Corruption.  This link takes you to a ProPublica article.

Here are some of this year’s top must-read stories from #MuckReads, ProPublica’s ongoing collection of the best watchdog journalism.

This past week I had a link up for Jezebel’s Woman of the Year, strange but I can’t find the results, maybe they are forthcoming. But while looking for who made Woman of the year, I found this link: Was 2011 A Joke?

Was 2011 a joke? Was everything that happened a complete and utter farce? All signs point to yes.

Our planet was a mess. The tsunami in Japan; the floods in the Philippines, the earthquake on the east coast; a deadly tornado in Missouri; wildfires in Arizona, Hurricane Irene; and meanwhile, the global population reached 7 BILLION. In the words of Seth and Amy: Really?!?

Instead of being completely apathetic or lazily complaining, people unhappy with corporate greed, the flailing economy and the 1% and huge bonuses going to Wall Street bandits took to the streets as part of the Occupy movement. And what happened when these citizens exercised their democratic right to protest? They got arrested or pepper sprayed in the face. What a joke. A joke that became a meme.

The Sandusky debacle lead to a lawsuit filed by a an alleged victim who claimed that the former Penn State football coach sexually abused the victim on more than 100 occasions — and has been abusing boys for more than 30 years. And no one said anything until now? You have to be kidding.

Wait, the State of Georgia killed Troy Davis, are you kidding? For real?

And yet: Zygotes are people, so you can’t kill them. Ba-dum-bum.

Charlie Sheen, who has a history of violence toward women, announced he had tiger blood and waved a machete and claimed to be “winning” and people cheered. That had to be a joke.

Ashton Kutcher simultaneously became the highest-paid TV star and pulled the ultimate prank when he told Demi Moore he’d be faithful. We all got punk’d.

And who could forget this one:

Oh, and Hilary Clinton was Photoshopped out of a Situation Room photo, are you fucking serious?

Meanwhile, Ann Coulter was talking about how her blacks are better than your blacks. Comic!

At the box office, Breaking Dawn blew right through the $500 million mark. Half a billion dollars, for a movie in which a vampire procreates and bites the demonic parasitic fetus out of his skeletal bride’s belly and then a man who can turn into a wolf falls in love with said newborn infant. Ludicrous.

You guys. Snooki wrote a book. A book that became a bestseller.

Go ahead and read the rest, if you want…

However if you want to read something a bit more scientific: Scientists List Their Favorite Discoveries of 2011

Wait, there is more, here at this link about my favorite cosmologist: Scientist who rewrote the laws of survival

He is, perhaps, the world’s most unlikely superstar. Despite a lifetime of fighting disease and defying medical predictions, Professor Stephen Hawking has become the planet’s most celebrated cosmologist.

Divorced twice, with three children and a jet-set lifestyle transcending the confines of academia, he turns 70 next week.

A rare insight into the man will be given this week by his children and some of his closest friends when they pay tribute to him on Radio 4.

Diagnosed with motor neurone disease at 21, he was warned he might not live to see his 22nd birthday. Yet he has spent decades working on groundbreaking theories and the nature of the universe.

Hawking has turned his disability into a trademark and has become a cultural icon, with appearances on many TV series. His appeal extends to lads’ mags: Nuts voted him British Bloke of the Year in 2011 – beating Daniel Craig and David Beckham.

Cool huh, that is an interesting article about Hawking, give it a read through.

This next link isn’t about planets and the existence of God, but about climate change and how Human Pollution May Cause Tornadoes.

A new study has found that tornadoes seem to have an overwhelming preference toward forming in the middle of the week. This isn’t necessarily because the hyper-destructive funnel clouds are dedicated workers that live for the weekend, but rather because of the pollution created by humans commuting to work. Just another example of human beings sewing the seeds to their own destruction.

Looking at data set running from 1995 to 2009 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), study authors Daniel Rosenfeld from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Thomas L. Bell at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center found something odd. They found that tornadoes and hail storms were 20% more likely to form in the middle of the week. With results that slanted, it seemed clear that there is a preference toward storm formation during that time period.

Rosenfeld and Bell believe that this increase in storms is caused by a similar increase in aerosol pollutants that generally peak mid-week due to workers commuting to their job. Correlation is, obviously, not causation. However, the team has a pretty solid explanation as to what they think is happening.

Give the link a click to read more.

In other news, the Organic movement is fading…Questions About Organic Produce and Sustainability

Del Cabo Cooperative, a supplier here for Trader Joe’s and Fairway, is sending more than seven and a half tons of tomatoes and basil every day to the United States by truck and plane to sate the American demand for organic produce year-round.

But even as more Americans buy foods with the organic label, the products are increasingly removed from the traditional organic ideal: produce that is not only free of chemicals and pesticides but also grown locally on small farms in a way that protects the environment.

The explosive growth in the commercial cultivation of organic tomatoes here, for example, is putting stress on the water table. In some areas, wells have run dry this year, meaning that small subsistence farmers cannot grow crops. And the organic tomatoes end up in an energy-intensive global distribution chain that takes them as far as New York and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, producing significant emissions that contribute to global warming.

From now until spring, farms from Mexico to Chile to Argentina that grow organic food for the United States market are enjoying their busiest season.

“People are now buying from a global commodity market, and they have to be skeptical even when the label says ‘organic’ — that doesn’t tell people all they need to know,” said Frederick L. Kirschenmann, a distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. He said some large farms that have qualified as organic employed environmentally damaging practices, like planting only one crop, which is bad for soil health, or overtaxing local freshwater supplies.

The article points out that this organic agriculture has brought jobs to areas that desperately need them, however:

To carry the Agriculture Department’s organic label on their produce, farms in the United States and abroad must comply with a long list of standards that prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers, hormones and pesticides, for example. But the checklist makes few specific demands for what would broadly be called environmental sustainability, even though the 1990 law that created the standards was intended to promote ecological balance and biodiversity as well as soil and water health.

Experts agree that in general organic farms tend to be less damaging to the environment than conventional farms. In the past, however, “organic agriculture used to be sustainable agriculture, but now that is not always the case,” said Michael Bomford, a scientist at Kentucky State University who specializes in sustainable agriculture. He added that intense organic agriculture had also put stress on aquifers in California.

[…]

While the original organic ideal was to eat only local, seasonal produce, shoppers who buy their organics at supermarkets, from Whole Foods to Walmart, expect to find tomatoes in December and are very sensitive to price. Both factors stoke the demand for imports. Few areas in the United States can farm organic produce in the winter without resorting to energy-guzzling hothouses. In addition, American labor costs are high. Day laborers who come to pick tomatoes in this part of Baja make about $10 a day, nearly twice the local minimum wage. Tomato pickers in Florida may earn $80 a day in high season.

With so many states adopting these ridiculous Immigration laws, there is likely to be many more laborers looking for work in these organic farms…I wonder what that will do to the amount of money a laborer makes in Baja…compared to what they used to make in Georgia and Alabama…it makes you think just how many people are affected by some of these draconian immigration laws passed last year.  You can read more about the sustainability of the Organic Agriculture movement at the link up top. I’ve got a link further down the post that relates to the new laws going into effect today throughout the US…but first.

Yesterday marked  The 20th Anniversary of the End of the Soviet Union.

In addition to being the last day of the year, today is also the twentieth anniversary of the official end of the Soviet Union, when the last Soviet government institutions shut down. Today’s quasi-authoritarian Russia is far from admirable. But, despite Mikhail Gorbachev’s lame and self-serving claims to the contrary, it is still a vast improvement over the USSR. In addition to the benefits for Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union, the fall of the USSR also created important benefits for the rest of the world. I covered the many advantages of the end of the USSR in more detail in this post.

With the demise of the USSR, we were spared a regime that slaughtered millions both within and outside its borders, inflicted numerous other human rights violations, and created a threat of nuclear annihilation that hung over the entire world. Compared to that, the very real dangers of the post-Cold War world seem minor by comparison. I recognize, of course, that the USSR in the last years of Gorbachev’s reign was much less dangerous and oppressive than it had been previously. But had the regime survived, it is far from clear that Gorby’s reforms would not have been reversed. Previous episodes of Soviet liberalization in the 1920s and 1956–64 had been followed by waves of repression at home and expansionism abroad. Moreover, Gorbachev himself was not as much of a liberal democrat as he is often portrayed in the West. He used force to try to suppress the independence movement in the Baltics, and otherwise sought to preserve the Soviet regime, not end it. He was certainly much less ruthless and repressive than his predecessors. But that is judging him by a very low standard of comparison. Nonetheless, it is fortunate that Gorbachev’s efforts at limited liberalization spun out of his control and led to a beneficial outcome that he did not intend.

Lately, I have had Moscow on my mind, I’ve been reading a book about Catherine the Great on my new Kindle, and last night on TCM, they showed the movie Fail-Safe. It’s about a US military glitch that sent nukes to blow up Moscow. When the bomb hits the Russian city, the US president…played by Henry Fonda, gives the go ahead for a US Airforce bomber to hit NYC with the same nukes that were sent into Moscow. I liked Dr. Strangelove better…the plot is very similar, but it was fun to watch the actor who played Boss Hog, Sorel Brooks, act his part in Fail-Safe as a fat bald congressman.

Anyway, this next link is something I came across earlier in the week. Time Lapse Moscow

If you’re like me and have lived your entire life in the United States, odds are most of your impressions of Russia come from Cold War-era movies: A bleak sky with people huddling about while some kind of droning chant plays in the background, endless military parades in front of harsh leaders, general dreariness. This amazing little time lapse video from zweizwei completely shatters that image, showing a colorful and bustling metropolis of Moscow. Go on and take a watch if you think your view of Russia could use a bit of a refresher.

Let’s take a trip from Moscow to Ecuador: Hulk, en fuego!

Ricardo Bohorquez

How’s this for a New Year’s cleansing ritual? In Ecuador, residents build massive dummies called años viejos (old years) and then… burn them.

Goodbye 2011! And take your rage-filled Hulk-ified baggage with you!

Back in the States, here are 40,000 things that 2011 brought us, which we now will start to see enacted: 40,000 new laws to go into effect in 2012

About 40,000 state laws taking effect at the start of the new year will change rules about  getting abortions in New Hampshire, learning about gays and lesbians in California, getting jobs in Alabama and even driving golf carts in Georgia.

Several federal rules change with the new year, too, including a Social Security increase amounting to $450 a year for the average recipients and stiff fines up to $2,700 per offense for truckers and bus drivers caught using hand-held cellphones while driving.

NBC News, the National Conference of State Legislatures, The Associated Press, and other organizations tracked the changes and offered their views on the highlights.

Many laws reflect the nation’s concerns over immigration, the cost of government and the best way to protect and benefit young people, including regulations on sports concussions.

From Minx’s Missing Link File: Take this next series of links with a grain of salt…or should I say with a twang of a banjo string. In connection with the Mayan end of the world, I have this to offer you. Mayas in Georgia?  Yes, there is speculation that Mayans cultivated the land where I live today.  Ruins in Georgia mountains show evidence of Maya connection

This 3D virtual reality image was made from the Johannes Loubser site plan.  There may be many other hidden structures in the ancient site.

This 3D virtual reality image was made from the Johannes Loubser site plan. There may be many other hidden structures in the ancient site.

Credits:
VR Image by Richard Thornton

Archaeological zone 9UN367 at Track Rock Gap, near Georgia’s highest mountain, Brasstown Bald, is a half mile (800 m) square and rises 700 feet (213 m) in elevation up a steep mountainside.  Visible are at least 154 stone masonry walls for agricultural terraces, plus evidence of a sophisticated irrigation system and ruins of several other stone structures. Much more may be hidden underground.  It is possibly the site of the fabled city of Yupaha, which Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto failed to find in 1540, and certainly one of the most important archaeological discoveries in recent times.

Check it out:

In 1839, English architect, Frederick Catherwood, and writer, John Stephens “rediscovered’ the Maya civilization on a two-year journey through southern Mexico.  When their book on the journey was published in 1841, readers in Europe and North America were astounded that the indigenous peoples of the Americas could produce such an advanced culture.  Architects in both continents immediately recognized the strong similarity in the architectural forms and town plans between southern Mexico and the Southeastern United States. Most agronomists were convinced that corn, beans and tobacco came to the natives of the United States and Canada from Mexico.

In the decades since Catherwood’s and Stephens’ book, archaeologists have not identified any ruins in the United States which they considered to be built by a people who had originated in Mexico.  This was primarily due to their unfamiliarity with the descendants of the Southeastern mound-builders — tribes such as the Creeks, Alabamas, Natchez, Chitimachas and Choctaws.  In particular, the languages of the Creek Indians contain many Mesoamerican words.

Historians, architects and archaeologists have speculated for 170 years what happened to the Maya people.  Within a few decades, the population of the region declined by about 15 million. Archaeologists could not find any region of Mexico or Central America that evidenced a significant immigration of Mayas during this period, except in Tamaulipas, which is a Mexican state that borders Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. However, Maya influence there, seemed to be limited to a few coastal trading centers.  Where did the Maya refugees go?  By the early 21st century, archaeologists had concluded that they didn’t go anywhere.  They had died en masse.

The evidence was always there

In 1715 a Jewish lass named Liube, inscribed her name and the date on a boulder in Track Rock Gap. When Europeans first settled the Georgia Mountains in the early 1800s, they observed hundreds of fieldstone ruins, generally located either on mountaintops or the sides of mountains.  These ruins consisted of fort-like circular structures, walls, Indian mounds veneered in stone, walls, terrace retaining walls or just piles of stones.   Frontiersmen generally attributed these structures to the Indians, but the Cherokees, who briefly lived in the region in the late 1700s and early 1800s, at that time denied being their builders.

This connection to Mayan culture is more than just fieldstone ruins…

In 1999 archaeologist Mark Williams of the University of Georgia and Director of the LAMAR Institute, led an archaeological survey of the Kenimer Mound, which is on the southeast side of Brasstown Bald in the Nacoochee Valley. Residents in the nearby village of Sautee generally assume that the massive five-sided pyramidal mound is a large wooded hill.   Williams found that the mound had been partially sculpted out of an existing hill then sculpted into a final form with clay.  He estimated the construction date to be no later than 900 AD.  Williams was unable to determine who built the mound.

Williams is a highly respected specialist in Southeastern archaeology so there was a Maya connection that he did not know about.  The earliest maps show the name Itsate, for both a native village at Sautee and another five miles away at the location of the popular resort of Helen, GA. Itsate is what the Itza Mayas called themselves. Also, among all indigenous peoples of the Americas, only the Itza Mayas and the ancestors of the Creek Indians in Georgia built five-side earthen pyramids as their principal mounds. It was commonplace for the Itza Maya to sculpt a hill into a pentagonal mound. There are dozens of such structures in Central America.

The name of Brasstown Bald Mountain is itself, strong evidence of a Maya presence.  A Cherokee village near the mountain was named Itsa-ye, when Protestant missionaries arrived in the 1820s.  The missionaries mistranslated “Itsaye” to mean “brass.”  They added “town” and soon the village was known as Brasstown.  Itsa-ye, when translated into English, means “Place of the Itza (Maya).”

There is more of this article for you to read at the link, in fact, so much was made of this “discovery and theory” that another article was written here: Mayas in the USA controversy: You be the juror

The article presents evidence to support a position long held by the Creek, Cherokee and Chitimacha Indians; namely that sea-going merchants, illiterate farmers and escaped slaves fled Mesoamerica during a period of chronic wars, drought and volcanic eruptions, then settled in what is now the Southeast and Mississippi Basin.

Although already generating approximately 81,000 “Likes” on Facebook, the article has also generated considerable controversy. A group of archaeology professors in the Southeast have vigorously objected to the article and created a separate web site to organize opposition to it.  Numerous archaeologists from around North America, however, have also placed positive comments on the article.

Makes you think of the strange possibilities doesn’t it? It is all very interesting to read.

Your Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  This past year marked the end of Roger Ebert’s show, At the Movies. Yesterday he had a blog post which pulls at your heart-strings. It talks about two friends, one who passed recently, and another one who is very near death. It seems fitting to end 2011 with these final reflections from Mr. Ebert.   O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done – Roger Ebert’s Journal

Those who opened their eyes when I did are closing them now. Word reached me on New Year’s Eve of two friends, one who has died, another who has returned home from hospital for palliative care. The first memories that come into my mind is of them laughing. I believe anyone who knew them would say the same thing. In my exploring years, when I was young and healthy and life was still ahead, they were stars in my sky, who had always been alive and would always be alive, because that is how we must act if we are to live at all.

A new year is born in a series of photos around the world, let’s hope this year is better.

May all our readers have a wonderful first day of 2012…we have a wild ride coming up this year…an election year…let’s make the best of it and try to laugh at the political circus act. One thing is certain, I am looking forward to another year of blog post here at Sky Dancing!


Sunday Reads: The phrase “brain-eating” never makes a good headline…

French Chocolate Poster, 1898

Good Sunday Morning!

Ah, hope everyone is having a magnificent weekend.  Yesterday, Wonk the Vote served up two awesome posts…here and here, if you missed them. Also, Boston Boomer wrote a quick post about the Obama bullshit remark that 60 Minutes cut from their interview with, “the 4th best American president…evah.”

Well, here is my offering this morning, just one more week until the 25th of December, and like something out of a Dickens’ nightmare…the powers that be are once again sticking it to the poor.  Congress Cuts Winter Heating Aid For The Poor While Boosting The Defense Budget

Congress reached a deal Thursday to avert a shutdown that would have begun at midnight tonight, and in doing so, Republicans found another low-income program to target, cutting funding for subsidies that help the poor stay warm during the winter by nearly 25 percent. At the same time, however, the Pentagon’s budget is getting a 1 percent boost, as the Associated Press noted:

Highlights of the $1 trillion-plus 2012 spending legislation in Congress:

—$518 billion for the Pentagon’s core budget, a 1 percent boost, excluding military operations overseas. […]

—$3.5 billion for low-income heating and utility subsidies, a cut of about 25 percent.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has become increasingly vital for American families affected by the recession, and it is utilized more and more by military families. One of every five families using LIHEAP is a military family, a 156 percent increase from 2008. Congress, however, decided to cut that program to give a boost to a budget that already makes up 20 percent of the country’s total budget and has been spared in multiple spending agreements this year (the super committee trigger a notable exception).

Plenty of evidence exists that Congress should be focused on investing into programs that boost economic growth and job creation, rather than chasing fiscal austerity toward another recession. If it insists on cutting spending to deal with the deficit now, however, the least it could do is not take the knife to each and every program that helps the poor.

Can you hear these rich congress critters, telling people like Mr. Cratchit what a waistcoat and jacket are used for… “Garments, used for protection against cold.” It is really a sad situation, at least some folks are doing good this holiday season, good as in good deeds.  Saturday, at the Walmart where my husband works, someone came in and paid off some lay-aways, then they went just up the road to another Walmart in Ellijay and did the same, $5000 worth at the Ellijay store alone!

In Louisiana, another person has falling victim to a “Brain Eating” amoeba from using a Neti Pot.

Louisiana state health officials are warning patients about potential dangers of using tap water in the sinus-irrigating neti pot after two patients died of Naegleria fowleri infection.

N. fowleri is known as a “brain-eating” amoeba because it can enter a patient’s nose, infect the brain, and cause primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a brain-tissue destroying condition.

The first Louisiana patient died of neti pot-induced infection in June.

[…]

Patients that irrigate their noses with a neti pot should use distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water, Raoult Ratard, MD, a Louisiana state epidemiologist, said in the statement. He noted that tap water was safe to drink, but may not be safe for nasal cleansing.

Uh, safe to drink? Makes me wonder how safe it is period…the CDC is working with Louisiana officials on an investigation as to how these N.fowleri are getting into the municipal water supply.

In other US news, some may have missed this article from Mother Jones, No Country for Innocent Men:

“Dear Mr. Cole,” the letter began. “My name is Jerry Wayne Johnson. I’m presently a Texas prisoner. You may recall my name from your 1986 rape trial in Lubbock.”

Ruby Session was shaking as she read on. The year was 2007, and the letter was addressed to her son Timothy Cole. “I have been trying to locate you since 1995 to tell you I wish to confess I did in fact commit the rape Lubbock wrongly convicted you of.”

Ruby sat down, stood up. A picture of Tim in a tuxedo, taken at his junior prom, smiled from the mantle. Before his trial the prosecutor had offered him a deal to plead to lesser charges. “Mother,” Tim had said, “I am not pleading guilty to something I didn’t do.” He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Thirteen years later, he died behind bars.

All I can do is give you these first opening paragraphs, you need to read the entire article…words cannot express the sadness and injustice…Rick Perry must be an evil person to be able to sleep so soundly at night.

I’m going to turn to global news for a bit, the latest numbers of missing and dead from the typhoon that struck the Philippines is over 500.

The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) estimated 497 were killed in eight provinces in the southern Mindanao region, with more than 100 still missing.

“It’s difficult to be certain on those missing,” Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the PNRC, told Reuters. “The floods washed out whole houses and families inside. It’s possible entire families are dead and no one is reporting them missing.”

The latest report by the state disaster agency said 327 people had been killed and 274 were missing.

Stories of a wall of water washing away everything are now being reported. Philippines floods: victims tell of panic as wall of water hit cities

Devastating flash floods have drowned hundreds of people in their beds in two southern Philippine cities. Twelve hours of heavy rain from a tropical storm swelled rivers and sent walls of water crashing into homes in the Mindanao region late on Friday night, wiping out whole families, many of whom had been at Christmas parties.

I wanted to write about this next link which was published on Friday, but could not bring myself to do it.  It is still too disturbing, so I will just give you the title and the heading, you can read it if you want…or skip it until later.

Tens of thousands of children abused in Dutch Catholic institutions, report says

Eight hundred Catholic clergy and church employees were guilty of abusing children over 40 years, a commission reports

An 1,100-page report from a commission led by a former education minister and Christian Democrat leader said it could identify 800 Catholic clergy and other church employees guilty of sexually abusing children in the 40 years from 1945 and that more than 100 perpetrators were still alive.

Okay, here are a couple of links about the mistreatment of women…no surprises here:

 

Female prisoners around the world are being subjected to body cavity searches, beatings and force-feeding, are held in padded cells, shackled during childbirth, and made to work in chain gangs. Some of the worst conditions are in developing countries, but there are also serious abuses and overcrowding in Europe and North America. These are the major findings of a survey by The Independent on Sunday to mark the first anniversary of United Nations rules governing the treatment of women in prison.

 

In a scene that could have been lifted from Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s, a public bus was halted in Israel on Friday when an ultra-Orthodox man boarded and demanded that Tanya Rosenblit, commuting to Jerusalem for work, get up and move to the rear.

She refused, at which point the offending man told the bus driver that “it was his right to have her sit in the back and that he had paid to be able to do so.” He then pried open the doors, refusing to allow the bus to continue, at which point the driver called police.

When an officer arrived and approached Rosenblit, his first words weren’t empathic notes of comfort, nor were they chagrined articulations of an apology. Instead, the officer asked if she might, you know, respect the man’s wishes and move to the back.

In a Facebook post chronicling the ordeal, Rosenblit responded unequivocally:

I answered that I respected them enough by wearing modest cloths, because I knew I was going to an Orthodox neighborhood, but I wouldn’t be humiliated by those who can’t even respect their own mothers and wives.

Love that comment about respect, or lack thereof, for the wives and mothers.
This past week academia and women everywhere lost a powerful voice for women’s equality within the Jewish faith, Paula E. Hyman, Who Sought Rights for Women in Judaism, Dies at 65

Paula E. Hyman, a social historian who pioneered the study of women in Jewish life and became an influential advocate for women’s equality in Jewish religious practice, including their ordination as rabbis, died on Thursday at her home in New Haven. She was 65.

Michael Marsland/Yale University

Paula E. Hyman was an author and a social historian at Yale.

The cause was breast cancer, said her husband, Dr. Stanley Rosenbaum.

Dr. Hyman, a professor of modern Jewish history at Yale University, wrote 10 books about the Jewish experience in Europe and the United States, many of them focused on women’s roles in various communities before and after the immense Jewish migrations of the 19th and 20th centuries.

She spotlighted the special stresses confronting married Jewish women from Eastern Europe when they arrived in the United States, for instance: although they were used to working outside the home, even as primary breadwinners in some ultrareligious families, they were initially housebound in America, where custom placed married women in the home.

In her books Dr. Hyman chronicled how married Jewish women from Eastern and Western Europe overcame such customs to become full partners in family businesses, a major part of the New York garment work force and leaders of successful community protests like the Lower East Side kosher meat boycott of 1902 and the New York rent strike of 1907.

Her works are considered seminal in creating a new field of historical study — part women’s history, part Jewish history, part history of immigration in America.

I thought the story about Tanya Rosenblit connected in some sad way to the death of Paula E. Hyman, in that the conflicted cultural/religious standards which Rosenblit experienced by refusing to sit in the back of the bus are the same kind of conservative customs Hyman wrote about and studied…women having to overcome this “exclusion” of women in the Orthodox and Conservative branches of the Jewish denominations.

Influenced by the feminist movement of the 1960s, Dr. Hyman sought to apply “consciousness raising” principles to Jewish traditions that, in her view, made women second-class members of their own cultural communities, said Martha Ackelsberg, a fellow Columbia graduate student and now a professor of government at Smith College. Dr. Hyman organized discussion groups that evolved into the organization Ezrat Nashim (“Women’s Help”), which conceived and presented the “Call for Change.”

We all remember the images of Hillary Clinton that had been wiped out by an Orthodox Jewish newspaper published in NYC…the struggle is ongoing, and it seems like whether it is Jewish, Christian or Muslim…there are many religions out there that treat women as second class citizens.

I just mention the three big ones…but it goes without saying there are many, many religions that demean, degrade and disparage the status of women. And no matter what advances we make in this world, I don’t see these insulting “exclusions” of women fading at all. It may sound disheartening, but I feel that we will never get the true respect and admiration women deserve, there will always be an underlying thread of sexism masked in religious and cultural beliefs.

All right, now I’m going to move on to some lighter “stuff.”

From Minx’s Missing Link File:  You may have heard that Roger Ebert’s show is no longer being produced. However, he is very active in his blog for the Chicago Sun-Times and this post, from December 15th  is his list of The Best Films of 2011.

Making lists is not my favorite occupation. They inevitably inspire only reader complaints. Not once have I ever heard from a reader that my list was just fine, and they liked it. Yet an annual Best Ten list is apparently a statutory obligation for movie critics.

My best guess is that between six and ten of these movies won’t be familiar. Those are the most useful titles for you, instead of an ordering of movies you already know all about.

One recent year I committed the outrage of listing 20 movies in alphabetical order. What an uproar! Here are my top 20 films, in order of approximate preference.

Take a look at his obligating list of favorite 2011 flicks…I’ll be honest, I haven’t even seen many of them.  (In fact the only one I sat through was the Harry Potter, and that was because I took the kids to see it.) We don’t really get these other kind of films shown here in Banjoville…but I am looking forward to seeing Hugo and The Artist at some point.

And now for your Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  With such a downer of a post, I have to bring it up and end it with something funny.   On The Fourth Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me: The Twelve Days Of Conservative Movement Christmas

There is a video at the link but I prefer reading the lyrics to this time honored classic Christmas song:

On the first day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
A Kenyan in the Presidency.

On the second day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Two squawking Bachmanns.
And a Muslim in the Presidency.

On the third day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Three Fox News Hosts,
Two squawking Bachmanns ,
And a racist in the Presidency

On the Fourth Day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Fox News Hosts,
Two Sausage Munchers,
And a liberal in the Presidency.

On the fifth day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Five Tea Parties,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Fox Nudes,
Twenty Three Bachmann kids,
And the most radical president in our history.

On the sixth day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Six Newts a Laying,
Five Golden Boehners,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Fox Nuts,
Two more years of Bachmann,
And a gangster in the Presidency.

On the seventh Day of Christmas those dummies gave to me
Seven puppets thinking,
Six Cains a Laying,
Five prayers for Rain,
Four Egyptian caliphates,
Three Fox Frauds,
Two Doctor Pauls,
And a Hussein in the presidency.

On the eighth day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Eight Malkins clucking,
Seven Puppets writing,
Six Newts a laying,
Five Death Panels ,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Fox & Friends,
Two Suckers Koch,
And a secular socialist presidency.

On the ninth day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight Coulters Braying,
Seven Puppets Marching,
Six Newts a lying,
Five Santorum smears,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Chicken Littles,
Two squawking Bachmanns,
And an elite in the presidency.

On the tenth day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Ten Becks a weeping,
Nine Sarah’s Tweeting,
Eight Breiberts Baaaing,
Seven Palins drowning,
Six Newts a lobbying,
Five Months No Rain,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Fox Freakouts,
Two squawking Bachmanns,
And a liberation theologist ushering in the secular socialist agenda presidency.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Eleven Government takeovers,
Ten Becks turrets,
Nine Palin coining,
Eight Cows a Mooin’,
Seven puppet staring,
Six Newts a laughing,
Five Nuts on Stage,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three Dummy Hosts,
Two Squawking Bachmanns,
And a Kind of a dick in the Presidency.

On the twelfth day of Christmas the dummies gave to me
Twelve dummies dumbing down down down down down down down down the electorate.
Eleven Pipelines piping,
Ten Becks a Weeping,
Nine Rogues a goin’,
Eight Armageddons,
Seven wasteful spending,
Six Newts advising,
One Donald Trump,
Four Blackboard Truths,
Three f**ing dolts,
Two squawking Bachmanns,
And a Freedom hater who will take your guns and put you in FEMA camps (unless you buy gold right now) in the Presidency.

Have a wonderful day, and please let us know what things you are reading and thinking about today.


Wednesday Reads: Criminals, Whistleblowers, Journalists and Artists…

Good Morning!

Wednesday is upon us again, and today we have some interesting reads for you…as the title teases, we cover just about everyone.

At least the European parliament hasn’t forgotten the Wikileak Whistleblower who has been held captive in a US military jail. The MEP’s are asking questions about Bradley Manning, and want to send a UN special reporter on torture to visit Manning and check on his condition. So here are a couple of links about this request.  Bradley Manning treatment in custody concerns MEPs

More than 50 members of the European parliament have signed an open letter to the US government raising concerns about the treatment of Bradley Manning, the US soldier in military detention for allegedly leaking classified US documents to the whistleblowing site WikiLeaks.

The call on the US government comes before a pre-trial hearing – Manning’s first appearance in court – which begins on 16 December.

The MEPs said internal investigations into Manning’s treatment in custody, which included solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day, inspections by officers every five minutes from 5am onwards and removal of his clothes, had been marred by “clear conflicts of interest”.

They call for US authorities to grant Juan Méndez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, access to Manning.

Mendez has made repeated requests for access to the military base where Manning is held, all of which have been refused by US authorities.

That the US authorities are refusing to allow Mendez visitation, it makes one think, “What are they trying to hide?”

The open letter from European parliamentarians, which follows another signed by several hundred US legal scholars, questioned the charges against Manning and warned that his pre-trial treatment may harm the UN’s work elsewhere, “particularly its mandate to investigate allegations of torture and human rights abuses”.

“In order to uphold the rights guaranteed to Bradley Manning under international human rights law and the US constitution, it is imperative that the United Nations special rapporteur be allowed to properly investigate evidence of rights abuses. PFC Manning has a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. People accused of crimes must not be subjected to any form of punishment before being brought to trial,” they wrote.

“We certainly do not understand why an alleged whistleblower is being threatened with the death penalty, or the possibility of life in prison. We also question whether Bradley Manning’s right to due process has been upheld, as he has now spent over 17 months in pre-trial confinement.”

You can read the entire letter for yourself here:  Bradley Manning: MEPs’ open letter to the US government

Manning will attend an Article 32 hearing, the US military equivalent of a pre-trial hearing, on 16 December. This is expected to last five days. Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, has indicated he wishes to call 50 witnesses at the hearing, but military authorities are considered unlikely to grant such a request.

The Article 32 hearing then makes a recommendation to a general as to whether to proceed to a full trial.

Now, compare this to recent news from China…Ai Weiwei’s wife detained by police. 

 The wife of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei was detained by police yesterday, the latest move in what has been seen as a concerted campaign to silence one of the government’s most vocal critics.

Speaking to The Independent, the artist, whose works include the Sunflower Seeds exhibition at London’s Tate Modern last year, described his wife Lu Qing’s three-hours of questioning as “ridiculous. They accused her of being a criminal suspect. When she asked them what crimes, they said it was a secret.”

Four policemen took Ms Lu, also a high-profile artist, from the couple’s Beijing studio to a local police station where she was questioned about a design company that manages Ai’s art, which is currently the focus of a £1.5m tax-evasion case.

“She is quite hurt. She’s very innocent; she doesn’t know anything about politics.” Mr Ai said.

Her cameraman and assistant has also been detained for questioning, in regards to one of Lu’s photographs that is now being labeled by the police as “pornography.”

What can you say, it does not seem to be much difference between China and the US.

In fact, this next link from the ACLU has information on the process of detaining US Citizens using the ICE’s Secure Communities.  Detain First, Investigate Later: How U.S. Citizens Are Unlawfully Detained Under S-Comm

Detain first, investigate later — that is Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) mantra when it comes to its Secure Communities (“S-Comm”) program, a program designed to immediately ensnare any immigrant in the deportation pipeline the moment they come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Under S-Comm, the fingerprints of every person arrested by the police are shared with ICE at the moment they are booked into police custody. Without investigating the person’s immigration status, ICE immediately sends an “immigration detainer” or a request back to the police if they want the person to continue to be detained for immigration purposes. Detain first, investigate later.

See a problem with this? Not only does it violate the Fourth Amendment’s basic prohibition against detaining a person without probable cause to do so, but it commonly ensnares the wrong people, including people who are not even immigrants, but United States citizens, causing them to be unlawfully detained.

The post goes on to describe personal experiences with the policy of Detain First, Investigate Later.

ICE, quite clearly, has no business arresting and detaining American citizens. But as described in a recent report by the Warren Institute at University of California — Berkeley, they do so over and over again through the fundamentally-flawed S-Comm program. (ICE’s own data in the first year of S-Comm activation revealed that five percent of persons identified by S-Comm were in fact U.S. citizens.) And they do so by enlisting the unwitting participation of local jail authorities in these unconstitutional practices.

The costs and consequences of S-Comm’s detain first, investigate later are borne out every day in the jails and police stations across the country where non-deportable citizens and noncitizens suffer needless detention, while they beg for ICE to finally investigate their cases so that they may be released from jail.

Which makes me think of the recent Immigration Law passed in Alabama. Via Atrios:  But The Law Was Only Supposed To Apply To Brown People

…many foreign manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Honda, have set up there. Its business-friendly reputation took a serious blow with the arrest in Tuscaloosa of a visiting Mercedes manager who was caught driving without his license and taken to jail as a potential illegal immigrant.

You see, you aren’t business friendly when you’re locking up the people who run the business, only when you’re locking up the people who work for it.

I know it isn’t funny, but the fact that they treated this Mercedes executive like an illegal immigrant made me laugh out loud.

Now here are some links involving Journalism and Journalists…which according to one link, calling some of the media’s reports “journalism” is rather a large leap.

First, this report about Lynsey Addario, New York Times Journalist, Strip Searched By Israeli Soldiers.

Israel’s Defense Ministry apologized Monday for the treatment of a pregnant American news photographer who said she was strip searched and humiliated by Israeli soldiers during a security check.

Lynsey Addario, who was on assignment for the New York Times, had requested that she not be forced to go through an X-ray machine as she entered Israel from the Gaza Strip because of concerns for her unborn baby.

Instead, she wrote in a letter to the ministry, she was forced through the machine three times as soldiers “watched and laughed from above.” She said she was then taken into a room where she was ordered by a female worker to strip down to her underwear.

Wait, they forced her to take the x-ray three times and then made her strip?

In the Oct. 25 letter sent by the newspaper said Addario, a Pulitzer Prize winner who is based in India and has worked in more than 60 countries, had never been treated with “such blatant cruelty.”

The ministry said an investigation found that the search followed procedures but noted that Addario’s request to avoid the X-ray machine had not been properly relayed.

Addario said she made the request not to go through the X-ray machine before arriving at the crossing.

“We would like to apologize for this particular mishap in coordination and any trouble it may subsequently have caused to those involved,” the statement said.

Hopefully, the x-ray screening did not harm her fetus…

Here in the US, CBS and CNN is getting flack for its recent “Exclusive Interviews” that are not real interviews, but video of a reporter knocking on the door and being told to f-off. Laurie Fine Interview On CNN

On Nov. 15, CBS touted an exclusive interview with Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary, the man who allegedly saw and reported Jerry Sandusky abusing a boy in the locker room shower. The interview with Armen Keteyian lasted a whopping 24 seconds and its only legacy was a brief “shaken like a snowglobe” Internet meme. To say it was roundly mocked by anyone watching would be an understatement.

On Monday, CNN — with far less lead-up fanfare — touted an exclusive interview with Laurie Fine, wife of former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, who is accused of molesting team ball boys. This interview lasted 18 seconds, and consisted of AC 360‘s Gary Tuchman knocking on the door of the Fine house, and swatting down “no comments” from Laurie Fine by asking more questions. He eventually got the door shut in his face as a dog barked at him.

The Mediate post goes on to breakdown these “interviews” and honestly it is a laugh.

Keteyian’s interview consisted of 68 words, 29 of which were McQueary’s. Tuchman’s was 70 words, 21 of which were Fine’s…And we never see Laurie Fine’s face. Just a voice from inside the house, caught on a microphone that Tuchman had on him.

Video at the link above.

I’m giving you another link to Mediaite, this time highlighting a segment on Colbert: Stephen Colbert On CNN iReporters: ‘This Bold Move Will Help You Get Rid Of Your Remaining Viewers’

On Monday night’s The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert deftly tore into CNN for laying off dozens of its employees and choosing instead to rely more heavily on free (and, as one might be inclined to point out, often irrelevant) viewer-produced “iReports.”

“Why buy the cow,” Colbert mused, “when you can have it shakily videotape its own milk for free?”

Perhaps if CNN used an iReporter for the Fine interview, it would have been better than the professional one Tuchman taped?/snark

Colbert also noted that readers are reimbursed for their efforts with badges, which, he assumes, can probably be used to pay for food and rent. So far, readers have submitted personal vacation footage, a little girl’s weather report, and footage of some rambling man who calls himself “Blitz” or some such.

[…]

“Bravo CNN,” added Colbert, “for getting rid of all those pesky professionals. Hopefully this bold move will help you get rid of your remaining viewers.”

Too damn funny!

Okay, now this next journalism link is serious…and very interesting. h/t Susie Madrak: Tehelka – India’s Independent Weekly News Magazine

‘Journalism, not truth, is the first casualty of war’

WAR IS a well-produced reality show. Embedded journalism is the star cast. Yes, there are innocents dying, but why let that interfere with what the boss wants reported? Award-winning documentary filmmaker-journalist John Pilger is like the Censor Board in reverse. He hunts down secret footage and uses it as damning evidence, countering what war mongers want you to believe. His 2010 documentary The War You Don’t See had its Indian premiere in Delhi recently. Its footage of a US chopper firing on unarmed Baghdad residents and injured children being ignored as collateral damage raises questions about the media’s engage ment with war. Ironically, the journalists were conspicuous by their absence. For someone who has covered every major war of our times, even Pilger, 72, underneath his composed exterior, seemed disappointed. He tells Karuna John that journalists owe their loyalty to telling the truth. Period.

The link takes you to a Q & A with John Pilger, and after reading the “crap” being called “journalism” at CNN…it is refreshing to read about the real thing.

Just a few more links for you this morning. I find it curious that in Georgia, Herman and Newt’s extra-marital affairs are actually illegal. Map: Is Adultery Illegal? Why is the religious right so silent? Hasn’t both of these presidential candidates broken a few of those laws written on stone that folks like Pat Robertson are so passionate about?

Times are tough, the economy sucks ass and it doesn’t look like any help will be on the way soon.

Hard Times Generation: Families living in cars  This is a video link to a segment from this week’s 60 Minutes.

More than 16 million children are now living in poverty and, for many of them, a proper home is elusive. Some cash-strapped families stay with relatives; others move into motels or homeless shelters. But, as Scott Pelley reports, sometimes those options run out, leaving an even more desperate choice: living in their cars. 60 Minutes returns to Florida, home to one third of America’s homeless families, to find out what life is like for the epidemic’s youngest survivors.

Add to this an article from the New York Times that highlights the loss of jobs within the black community.  As Public Sector Sheds Jobs, Black Americans Are Hit Hard

Though the recession and continuing economic downturn have been devastating to the American middle class as a whole, the two and a half years since the declared end of the recession have been singularly harmful to middle-class blacks in terms of layoffs and unemployment, according to economists and recent government data. About one in five black workers have public-sector jobs, and African-American workers are one-third more likely than white ones to be employed in the public sector.

“The reliance on these jobs has provided African-Americans a path upward,” said Robert H. Zieger, emeritus professor of history at the University of Florida, and the author of a book on race and labor. “But it is also a vulnerability.”

A study by the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California this spring concluded, “Any analysis of the impact to society of additional layoffs in the public sector as a strategy to address the fiscal crisis should take into account the disproportionate impact the reductions in government employment have on the black community.”

Jobless rates among blacks have consistently been about double those of whites. In October, the black unemployment rate was 15.1 percent, compared with 8 percent for whites. Last summer, the black unemployment rate hit 16.7 percent, its highest level since 1984.

Economists say there are probably a variety of reasons for the racial gap, including generally lower educational levels for African-Americans, continuing discrimination and the fact that many live in areas that have been slow to recover economically.

Hmmm…maybe Obama’s lack of attention to African-Americans high unemployment also is not helping matters…please give the entire article you time. The story is a sad one, and many of us are familiar with the stresses a family will go through when jobs are lost and people are in survival mode. The holidays make it even more difficult.

This next link discusses how the Recession hits families hard as half of Americans fear they won’t be able to do their holiday shopping . The article points out that one in five American families do not have disposable income.

Worried: Financial troubles are dampening people's expectations this season

Worried: Financial troubles are dampening people’s expectations this season.

While the deals in stores and online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are meant to encourage shoppers, many people’s bank statements are having the opposite effect.

As a result of the difficult financial times and the diminishing disposable cash in many American households, half of the country is concerned that they will not be able to buy the gifts they want for family and friends this holiday season.

A CBS poll reports that 33 per cent of those polled will not have enough money for holiday shopping.

Okay, very depressing news…and very depressing numbers. Let’s end this post with some geeky news about True Random Numbers Created by Firing Lasers at Diamonds

True random numbers are very hard to come by, as this article from Geeosystem points out:

Computers have an especially hard time creating random numbers since they operate by algorithm. Sure, you can get a pseudo-random number by using a “randomly” selected seed and running a whole bunch of operations on it, but that’s still not random. For that matter, neither is rolling dice. Granted, we generally don’t have enough information to predict the outcome, so rolls are effectively random, but not actually random. Now, Ottowa physicist Ben Sussman has come up with a way to create large quantities of true random numbers, with science!

The process works a little something like this. Sussman takes a big old beam of science a laser, and fires a several-trillosecond burst through a diamond. In the process of going through the diamond, the laser fundamentally changes in completely random ways, providing those true random numbers everyone craves. That’s right. Ben Sussman makes random numbers by shooting lasers at diamonds, for science. This is exactly the kind of experiment I imagined scientists doing when I was about 6 years old. The only way this could be cooler is if it were all going down in space.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “So what’s so random about this? After all, if dice rolls aren’t random because we theoretically could predict them, what makes this laser-diamond stuff any different?” Well, we theoretically can’t predict these numbers. It’s not that we don’t know how the light changes inside the diamond. It’s that we can’t know. It is unknowable. To know would defy the very laws of physics.

As you can probably guess, quantum physics is to blame for this one. While traveling through the diamond, the laser experiences a quantum fluctuation, and according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, it is literally impossible to figure out what happened in there; all we can do is take a look at what’s coming out the other side. Basically, when you shoot a laser through a diamond, quantum physics does a whole bunch of stuff that is literally impossible to know, ever. Are you getting this?! This is science, baby!

Yeah Baby!

What are you all reading about this morning!


SDB Evening News Reads for 071411: Manatees from Hell and EPA Blues

Good evening y’all, I got some good stuff for you today…with all the debt ceiling talk going on…I am going to highlight some news you may have missed.

Okay, first things first…check out this narrative of a college student and the problems she is having now that Planned Parenthood in her state has been defunded.  The State War On Planned Parenthood Heats Up

Planned Parenthood
When 21-year old Christina Martel would renew her birth control prescription at Planned Parenthood, it was usually a relatively simple affair. But this summer, getting her prescription became significantly more difficult.

Martel, who is uninsured and makes less than $1000 a month at her part-time job, said she can’t afford to go to a regular gynecologist to get her prescription adjusted, so she asked her new Indianapolis Planned Parenthood clinic about their sliding-pay scale for low-income patients this past June.

The clinic told Martel she would have to pay full price to meet with a physician because they had just been defunded by the state government, so she decided to wait until she returned to her home-state New Hampshire last week to have a doctor’s appointment. Not only had Planned Parenthood been defunded there as well, she found out, but their license to dispense birth control and antibiotics had also been taken away.

“I was shocked to learn that they were no longer able to dispense medication on-site, and enraged when I realized this meant that I would have to pay triple the cost to get it filled at a pharmacy,” she told HuffPost in an email.

Martel had paid $12 for a month’s worth of birth control pills at Planned Parenthood. She now has to pay $33 a month at the regular pharmacy, which she said really starts to add up.

Hey, going from 12 bucks to 33 bucks a month can be a difficult thing to deal with, especially if you are living on Raman noodles and peanut butter.

We all know who is making this war on women…but here is a good quote from a Connecticut Democrat Representative Rosa DeLauro.

GOP lawmakers in four states so far — Indiana, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Kansas — have defunded Planned Parenthood in their 2011 legislative sessions because some of the organization’s clinics provide abortions. A council of five men in New Hampshire voted to stop the flow of Title X family planning funds to Planned Parenthood and cancel a state contract that allowed it to dispense low-cost birth control and antibiotics on site. Texas passed a bill that puts Planned Parenthood at the bottom of the priority list for state funds, and an Ohio lawmaker floated a “Dear Colleague” letter on Wednesday announcing his intention to defund the health provider.

“The real purpose here, as I’ve come to view it, is to impose a traditional view of a women’s role,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) told HuffPost. “Republicans don’t really care what the benefits of Title X funding are in terms of women’s health, so women’s health is held hostage. Planned Parenthood can prevent 4,000 women a year from dying of cervical cancer with screenings and vaccines, but that is not of interest to them because of a personal and philosophical agenda.”

Damn straight!  Now on to crimes against humanity.  Attacks in Sudan Could Amount to War Crimes, U.N. Report Says – NYTimes.com

An unpublished report from the United Nations peacekeeping force in southern Sudan gives details of violence that has erupted in an important border state, including widespread aerial bombardments that kill civilians, executions, possible mass graves and attacks on churches.

The report emerged as the newly minted Republic of South Sudan, which officially seceded from the northern part of the country on July 9, was admitted to the United Nations on Thursday. Its designated ambassador, Ezekiel Gatkuoth, broke out a few jubilant dance moves as the new country’s striped flag, with its distinctive yellow star, rose alongside those of the other 192 member states.

What is upsetting here is that it appears certain ethnic/religious groups of people are being targeted.

Yet the United Nations report suggests that in its effort to stamp out any lingering rebellion in the state, South Kordofan, which borders South Sudan but will remain entirely in the territory of Sudan, the northern government based in Khartoum has carried out widespread human rights violations that could amount to war crimes.

Much of the violence is focused on the Nuba people, a mostly Christian minority that fought alongside the south during many of the decades of its 50-year independence struggle.

I am still working my way through the book Dancing in the Glory of Monsters, by Jason K. Stearns, and I have to say that targeting a group of people because of their ethnic or religious background seems to be a common practice in Africa.  (Actually all over the world, but you all know that already.)  The thing about this kind of violent discrimination is that it is supported and enforced by the military…who train young children soldiers (ages 11 or 12 and up) to kill and rape these people as if it was second nature.  The book continues to show in interviews how natural and matter of fact many of these former soldiers from Rwanda and Congo discuss the violence they committed.

The latest on the News Corp hacking…FBI Launches Investigation Into News Corp. 9/11 Hacking Allegations | Reuters

The Federal Bureau of Investigation opened a preliminary investigation Thursday regarding allegations that News Corp. journalists attempted to hack the phones of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are reporting.

The decision comes a day after Rep. Peter T. King, a Republican from New York, sent a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller insisting the bureau open such an investigation. The FBI told TheWrap its policy is to neither confirm nor deny reports of investigations.

I think the shit is really hitting the fan for Murdock over in Great Britain…

Just two more links for you this evening.

First the EPA got kicked in the ass today…Steve Fleischli: House Votes to Roll Back Clean Water Act

In a 239 to 184 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives voted today to roll back key provisions of the federal Clean Water Act by passing H.R. 2018, formally known as the “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011.” We call it the “Dirty Water Act.”

As my colleagues and I have pointed out (here, here and here), this bill creates disastrous consequences for water quality across the country. “Shortsighted” and “reckless” are words that immediately come to mind. As EPA has warned, H.R. 2018 “overturn[s] almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality.”

The bill stems from its sponsors’ distaste for EPA’s recent important efforts to protect water quality in West Virginia and Florida.

In essence, the bill takes the “federal” out of the federal Clean Water Act by allowing states to veto EPA water quality decisions even when a waterway is severely polluted. The bill also limits EPA’s ability to effectively make improvements to state water quality standards to deal with modern pollution challenges (like toxic pollutants). By hamstringing EPA in these ways, H.R. 2018 removes a national safety net that guarantees everyone in this country a minimum level of water quality protection no matter where you live.

So, all you folks that live in places where the EPA has found high concentrations of toxic crap in your water, take notice.  Honestly, these GOP politicians want to do the population in.  Can you guess who is usually more affected by polluted toxic chemicals in water?  Children are always more susceptible because as they grow they covert these toxins in a different and more dangerous way then grown adults.  But kids are worthless to these people.

And, on to another worthless creature.  I love this picture, he looks like my English Bulldog…and what a sceptical expression in those little eyes. The Maddow Blog – Manatee mayhem: This aggression will not stand!

Just look at him. Roaming OUR waters like he owns the place. Twelve hundred  pounds of soft, smug entitlement. Manatees. Face it, it’s us …or them.

Luckily, some tea partiers in Florida are making a stand against these freeloading punks. Reports the St. Petersburg Times:

“A Citrus County tea party group has announced that it’s fighting new restrictions on boating and other human activities in Kings Bay that have been proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Fumed Edna Mattos, 63, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, “We cannot elevate nature above people, That’s against the Bible and the Bill of Rights.”

Hell yeah, these manatees are coming right for us, we got to protect ourselves against these ferocious monsters.

And before any bleeding hearts start whining, oh, but manatees are endangered, here are five solid reasons to shut down this sea cow scurge, stat!

  1. Technically manatees are illegals living off the grid. Just wait, they’ll want to vote soon.
  2. They’re totally nude. Get a caftan, dude, that’s half a ton of wrinkly wrong right there.
  3. As for their swimming, you say slow, I say passive aggressive. They can swim 50 miles an hour…if they WANTED to. Tick tock, tick tock!!
  4. Thomas Jefferson had a speedboat, and trust me, manatees back then got the hell out of HIS way.
  5. Manatees have no natural enemies. News flash, genius, you’ve got some now!

That’s it for me, y’all have a good evening.


Japanese Officials Admit They Are Making No Progress

Chernobyl disaster: will it happen again?

The Guardian reports that radiation levels are rising in the ocean near the Fukushima nuclear plant, and Japanese officials admit they basically have no real solution for the apparent meltdown and/or meltdowns of the four damaged nuclear reactors.

The country’s nuclear and industrial safety agency, Nisa, said radioactive iodine-131 at 3,355 times the legal limit had been identified in the sea about 300 yards south of the plant, although officials have yet to determine how it got there.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a Nisa spokesman, said fishing had stopped in the area, adding that the contamination posed no immediate threat to humans. “We will find out how it happened and do our utmost to prevent it from rising,” he said.

Good luck with that. The battle to control the reactors could go on for years.

The battle to control the slow-motion meldowns could take years, according to this Reuters article.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. has conceded it faces a protracted and uncertain operation to contain overheating fuel rods and avert a meltdown.

“Regrettably, we don’t have a concrete schedule at the moment to enable us to say in how many months or years (the crisis will be over),” TEPCO vice-president Sakae Muto said in the latest of round-the-clock briefings the company holds.

Back to the Guardian piece:

Robert Peter Gale, a US medical researcher who was brought in by Soviet authorities after the Chernobyl disaster, said recent higher readings of radioactive iodine-131 and caesium-137 should be of greater concern than reports earlier this week of tiny quantities of plutonium found in soil samples.

But he added: “It’s obviously alarming when you talk about radiation, but if you have radiation in non-gas form I would say dump it in the ocean.”

Wonderful. The Japanese eat a lot of fish, don’t they?

From ABC News

Radiation measured at a village 40 kilometres from the Fukushima nuclear plant now exceeds a criterion for evacuation, the UN nuclear watchdog said.

And a Japanese nuclear expert has warned crews may have to keep pouring cooling water onto the stricken reactors for years.

Years. That is what multiple sources are now saying. It could take years. So how does it end? We hope for new discoveries that will solve the problem, while the reactors continue to melt down and release radioactive elements into the groundwater and the ocean? Or there is a catastrophic explosion?

Yes, I know the “experts” say that won’t happen, but if workers are going to be struggling with these plants for years, there is inevitably going to be human error. Besides, the “experts” have tried to minimize the dangers all along. Only now is the real truth beginning to come out.

From the Union of Concerned Scientists All Things Nuclear blog:

Today the IAEA has finally confirmed what some analysts have suspected for days: that the concentration per area of long-lived cesium-137 (Cs-137) is extremely high as far as tens of kilometers from the release site at Fukushima Dai-Ichi, and in fact would trigger compulsory evacuation under IAEA guidelines.

The IAEA is reporting that measured soil concentrations of Cs-137 as far away as Iitate Village, 40 kilometers northwest of Fukushima-Dai-Ichi, correspond to deposition levels of up to 3.7 megabecquerels per square meter (MBq/sq. m). This is far higher than previous IAEA reports of values of Cs-137 deposition, and comparable to the total beta-gamma measurements reported previously by IAEA and mentioned on this blog.

This should be compared with the deposition level that triggered compulsory relocation in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident: the level set in 1990 by the Soviet Union was 1.48 MBq/sq. m.

Thus, it is now abundantly clear that Japanese authorities were negligent in restricting the emergency evacuation zone to only 20 kilometers from the release site.

This is bad, folks. Here is a summary of the health effects of cesium-137:

Like all radionuclides, exposure to radiation from cesium-137 results in increased risk of cancer.

Everyone is exposed to very small amounts of cesium-137 in soil and water as a result of atmospheric fallout. Exposure to waste materials, from contaminated sites, or from nuclear accidents can result in cancer risks much higher than typical environmental exposures.

If exposures are very high, serious burns, and even death, can result. Instances of such exposure are very rare. One example of a high-exposure situation would be the mishandling a strong industrial cesium-137 source. The magnitude of the health risk depends on exposure conditions. These include such factors as strength of the source, length of exposure, distance from the source, and whether there was shielding between you and the source (such as metal plating).

Please note that cesium-137, like plutonium doesn’t occur naturally in the environment. When officials and “experts” talk about “background” radiation, they are talking about elements that have been introduced through nuclear tests and nuclear reactor accidents and bi-products. This “background” radiation wasn’t around before the nuclear age, and I personally don’t believe that it has no effect on us.

From NPR: More radioactive material has been found in foods in Japan.

Yesterday, I asked in a comment what is being done with all the contaminated water that is being removed from the Fukushima reactors. Scarecrow addressed this question today at FDL.

They’ve got hundreds of tons of contaminated water preventing workers from getting close enough to pumps, valves, monitors needed to stabilize conditions. So they have to pump this water out and put it somewhere, but where? There are tanks at/near some units that can hold some of it, but not all, and external temporary storage may allow exposure to the atmosphere. Meanwhile, they must keep pumping more fresh water into the reactors and spent fuel storage pools, while more leaks out.

There are large pools of dangerously contaminated water in the turbine buildings adjacent to each reactor buidling, with more leaking in from somewhere, and few places to put it. Just outside the turbine buildings, there are long, deep trenches nearer the ocean and likely filled with water from the tsunami. But they’re now contaminated with radiation and water leaks from the turbine building.

Where can they put all this water? And given varying degrees of contamination, which water should they put where? For example, should they just pump out the least radioactive water in the trenches/pools and dump it in the ocean?

Believe it or not, some people are suggesting putting the water in large ships and letting them float around in the ocean. And what happens if there is a huge storm and the ships are damaged? Honestly, this gets scarier and scarier every day.

Even worse, today smoke was seen at another nuclear plant owned by Tepco!

The company said smoke was detected in the turbine building of reactor No. 1 at the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant around 6 p.m. (5 a.m. ET).

Smoke could no longer be seen by around 7 p.m. (6 a.m. ET), a company spokesman told reporters.

The Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where workers have been scrambling to stave off a meltdown since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems there….

After the dual disasters, Japanese authorities also detected cooling-system problems at the Fukushima Daini plant, and those living within a 10-kilometer radius (6 miles) of Fukushima Daini were ordered to evacuate as a precaution.

What next? Something tells me whatever happens next won’t be good.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’m teaching a Psychology of Personality course this semester, and yesterday I started lecturing about Freud and psychoanalytic theory. I was explaining Freud’s notion of the three parts of the personality–the id, the ego, and the superego. You’re probably familiar with those terms, but basically the id is there when we are born–it is completely self-centered, doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality, all it cares about is pleasure. It wants what it wants when it wants it. Sometime during infancy, we develop an ego that gets the id under some control, and around age 4-6 we develop a superego–basically like a conscience, that tells us which behaviors are right or wrong or socially acceptable.

Anyway, after class I was thinking about Muammar Gaddafi and his bizarre behavior–the way he has insisted for weeks that there is no opposition and that he isn’t attacking Libyan citizens. No, he would never do that. It occurred to me that Gaddafi is pretty much acting from his id all the time. Of course his ego keeps him somewhat connected to reality so he can function in the world, but mostly he just cares about his own needs.

I wonder if that is what happens to all leaders who gain absolute control. Does the quote “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” really mean that power causes people to regress to an earlier stage of development?

It sounds peculiar, but think about how powerful people get so many of their needs met by others. Obama doesn’t have to worry about paying for things, getting food or clothing, even getting information. It is all provided by other people. In many ways, it’s a kind of childlike, dependent state. So if the leader doesn’t have a strong character (ego), he can end up behaving in a narcissistic, childlike way.

OK, well that’s my not-very-deep thought for today.

So what’s happening in the news? As has often been the case in recent weeks, much of the big news is coming from outside the U.S.

On Libya, there has been more criticism of the UN resolution and how it is being carried out. I posted quite a few examples of the criticism in my post last night. Most of the objections are based on the fact that Libya is not at all important to the U.S. strategically.

Today I want to recommend a couple of articles that explain why the intervention in Libya, while troubling in many ways, was probably the right thing to do–even for U.S. interests. The first is by Mark Lynch at the Foreign Policy blog. Lynch uses the name “abuardvark” on twitter. His post is headlined Libya in its Arab Context Although Lynch has misgivings about the intervention and has written about them, he still thinks what the U.S. is doing is the right thing–both for the Arab world and for advancing our interests. Here’s his basic argument:

Libya matters to the United States not for its oil or intrinsic importance, but because it has been a key part of the rapidly evolving transformation of the Arab world. For Arab protestors and regimes alike, Gaddafi’s bloody response to the emerging Libyan protest movement had become a litmus test for the future of the Arab revolution. If Gaddafi succeeded in snuffing out the challenge by force without a meaningful response from the United States, Europe and the international community then that would have been interpreted as a green light for all other leaders to employ similar tactics. The strong international response, first with the tough targeted sanctions package brokered by the United States at the United Nations and now with the military intervention, has the potential to restrain those regimes from unleashing the hounds of war and to encourage the energized citizenry of the region to redouble their efforts to bring about change. This regional context may not be enough to justify the Libya intervention, but I believe it is essential for understanding the logic and stakes of the intervention by the U.S. and its allies.

Libya’s degeneration from protest movement into civil war has been at the center of the Arab public sphere for the last month. It is not an invention of the Obama administration, David Cameron or Nicholas Sarkozy. Al-Jazeera has been covering events in Libya extremely closely, even before it tragically lost one of its veteran cameramen to Qaddafi’s forces, and has placed it at the center of the evolving narrative of Arab uprisings. Over the last month I have heard personally or read comments from an enormous number of Arab activists and protest organizers and intellectuals from across the region that events in Libya would directly affect their own willingness to challenge their regimes. The centrality of Libya to the Arab transformation undermines arguments that Libya is not particularly important to the U.S. (it is, because it affects the entire region) or that Libya doesn’t matter more than, say, Cote D’Ivoire (which is also horrible but lacks the broader regional impact).

Lynch is still worried about what could go wrong:

I continue to have many, many reservations about the military intervention, especially about the risk that it will degenerate into an extended civil war which will require troops regardless of promises made today. But as I noted on Twitter over the weekend, for all those reservations I keep remembering how I felt at the world’s and America’s failure in Bosnia and Rwanda. And I can’t ignore the powerful place which Libya occupies in the emerging Arab transformations, and how the outcome there could shape the region’s future. Failure to act would have damned Obama in the eyes of the emerging empowered Arab public, would have emboldened brutality across the region, and would have left Qaddafi in place to wreak great harm. I would have preferred a non-military response — as, I am quite sure, the Obama administration would have preferred. But Qaddafi’s military advances and the failure of the sanctions to split his regime left Obama and his allies with few choices. The intervention did not come out of nowhere. It came out of an intense international focus on the Arab transformations and a conviction that what happens now could shape the region for decades.

At CNN, Peter Bergen tries to explain Why Libya 2011 is not Iraq 2003 I recommend checking it out.

Another article worth reading is by Robert Fisk at The Independent: Right across the Arab world, freedom is now a prospect

In the Middle East, Yemen may be close to ousting President Ali Abdullah Saleh. From the Guardian:

A military showdown is looming in Yemen after the defence minister announced that the army would defend the president against any “coup against democracy”. His statement came hours after 12 military commanders, including a senior general, defected from the regime and promised to protect anti-government protesters in the capital, Sana’a.

[….]

Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, suffered a significant blow when General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, his longtime confidant and head of the Yemeni army in the north-west, announced that he would support “the peaceful revolution” by sending soldiers under his command to protect the thousands gathered in the capital to demand that Saleh step down.

“According to what I’m feeling, and according to the feelings of my partner commanders and soldiers … I announce our support and our peaceful backing to the youth revolution,” Ali Mohsen said.

Minutes after his defection, tanks belonging to the republican guards, an elite force led by Ahmed Ali, the president’s son, rolled into the streets of Sana’a, setting the stage for a confrontation between defectors and loyalists.

At Bloomberg: U.S. Faces Loss of Key Ally Against Al-Qaeda in Yemen

…Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh appears unlikely to weather a popular uprising and defections among his ruling elite, former U.S. officials said.

“It’s clear at this point that Saleh will have to step down,” Barbara Bodine, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, said in an interview yesterday. With the “mounting numbers of senior people in his administration resigning, we know it’s over. The terms of his departure, I think, are still being negotiated.”

The March 18 killing of at least 46 protesters allegedly by police and pro-regime gunmen — which drew condemnation from Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and prompted the defection of key military, tribal and government officials — may well be the tipping point.

Protests are continuing to escalate in Syria as well.

In Deraa, hundreds of black-uniformed security forces wielding AK-47 assault rifles lined the streets but did not confront thousands of mourners who marched at the funeral of 23-year-old Raed al-Kerad, a protester killed in Deraa.

“God, Syria, freedom. The people want the overthrow of corruption,” they chanted. The slogan is a play on the words “the people want the overthrow of the regime,” the rallying cry of revolutions that overthrew the veteran rulers of Tunisia and Egypt.

Security forces opened fire last Friday on civilians taking part in a peaceful protest in Deraa to demand the release of 15 children detained for writing protest graffiti.

Authorities released the children on Monday in a sign they were hoping to defuse tension in the border town, which witnessed more protests after Friday’s crackdown.

And there is a lot happening in Bahrain too. This article is worth a read: Libya burns but Bahrain can shake the world

While the world attention remains glued to the fires in Libya potential stakes in Bahrain are actually a hundred times higher. Safaniya Oil Field, the largest oil field in the world, is less than 200 miles from Manama. The Strait of Hormuz, through which passes 20 percent of world oil shipments and 40 percent of the world’s sea-borne oil shipments, is within a 400-mile radius.

More importantly, United States Fifth Fleet, with a forward deployed Carrier Strike Group, Combat Command force, Anti-Terrorism force, Sea Stallion helicopters, Amphibious Force and Patrol and Reconnaissance Force, is headquartered at Naval Support Activity Bahrain (or NSA Bahrain). In essence, Bahrain is home to America’s military might that reigns over the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and the Arabian Sea-all put together.

On March 14, around 2,000 soldiers of the Saudi-led, US-backed Peninsula Shield Force, in their armored carriers and tanks, invaded Bahrain. The stated purpose of the invasion is: to crush an unarmed civilian uprising.

On March 15, King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa of Mamlakat al Bahrayn declared martial law under which the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF), numbering around 10,000 personnel, was “empowered to take whatever actions it deems appropriate in dealing with the predominately Shiite-driven unrest.”

I recommend clicking on the link and reading the rest to learn how Iran could get involved in the Bahrain conflict. Yikes!

In Japan workers are still trying to get the Fukushima nuclear plant under control. We keep hearing that things are improving, but it’s kind of hard for me to trust what I hear from governments and corporations these days. After Iraq, Katrina, the BP oil spill, and on and on, I honestly believe just about everyone in government and private business lies their asses off. The biggest fear at the moment is the radiation that is turning up in food and water. Of course the authorities claim that’s nothing to worry about, but why should we believe them?

Away from the plant, mounting evidence of radiation in vegetables, water and milk stirred concerns among Japanese and abroad despite assurances from Japanese officials that the levels were not dangerous.

TEPCO said radiation was found in the Pacific ocean nearby , not surprising given rain and the hosing of reactors with seawater. Some experts said it was unclear where the used seawater was ultimately being disposed.

Radioactive iodine in the sea samples was 126.7 times the allowed limit, while cesium was 24.8 times over, Kyodo said. That still posed no immediate danger, TEPCO said.

“It would have to be drunk for a whole year in order to accumulate to one millisievert,” a TEPCO official said, referring to the standard radiation measurement unit. People are generally exposed to about 1 to 10 millisieverts each year from background radiation caused by substances in the air and soil.

Whatever. I wouldn’t want to drink from the tap or swim in the radioactive ocean water.

Back in the USA, Wisconsin Asks Appeals Court to Block Order Halting Union Bargaining Law

Wisconsin’s attorney general asked an appeals court to block a state judge’s order that temporarily halted a law curbing government employee unions’ collective- bargaining power.

State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen today also asked the Wisconsin Court of Appeals for permission to file an appeal seeking to overturn the ruling by Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi.

“Contrary to established case law, the trial court injected itself into the legislative process and enjoined a legislative act,” Van Hollen said in court papers filed today in Madison. “There is absolutely no authority for the broad, overreaching step taken.”

Sumi on March 18 granted a temporary restraining order blocking publication of the measure signed into law by Governor Scott Walker on March 11, after a hearing in Madison, the state’s capital city. Publication gives the law full force and effect.

I’ll end on a lighter note. If you’re as old as I am, you might remember a guy named Owsley “Bear” Stanley: “the Sixties hero who ‘turned on’ a generation.” Stanley died a few days ago in a car crash at the age of 76.

Stanley, who died in a car crash in Australia on Sunday, fuelled the “flower power” counter-culture that took root in California in the mid-1960s, supplying it with acid that he manufactured after stumbling across a recipe in a chemistry journal.

He also worked with the psychedelic rock band Grateful Dead, who wrote their song “Alice D Millionaire” about him after a newspaper described him as an “LSD millionaire”. One batch of his drugs reputedly inspired Jimi Hendrix’s song “Purple Haze”, and he provided LSD for the notorious “Acid Test” parties hosted by the American writer Ken Kesey, which featured in books by Tom Wolfe and Hunter S Thompson.

News of Stanley’s death – his car swerved off a road and slammed into a tree near his home in north Queensland – elicited tributes, but also surprise. Despite a youth so misspent that his name became slang for good acid, Stanley had made it to the age of 76. He was even a great-grandfather. In a statement yesterday, his family mourned him as “our beloved patriarch”.

Supposedly, a batch of Owsley’s acid inspired Jimi Hendrix’s first big hit, Purple Haze. Rest in peace, Owsley. I am one “casualty” of the ’60s who did learn something significant from my experiences with LSD. One thing I eventually learned is that I don’t need drugs to “get high.”

I guess that’s another not-so-deep thought, but hey, I’m OK with that. What are you reading and blogging about today?