Thursday Reads: Empathic Elephants, Meaningful Lives, Hillary Harassment, and Miranda Decision

baby elephants

Good Morning!!

A fascinating new study found that Asian elephants comfort each other in times of stress by touching each other with their trunks and making consoling vocalizations. From National Geographic:

Asian elephants, like great apes, dogs, certain corvids (the bird group that includes ravens), and us, have now been shown to recognize when a herd mate is upset and to offer gentle caresses and chirps of sympathy, according to a study published February 18 in the online journal PeerJ.

Joshua Plotnik, a behavioral ecologist at Mahidol University in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, and primatologist Frans de Waal, director ofEmory University’s Living Links Center, have shown through a controlled study what those who work with elephants have always believed: The animals, in this case captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), offer something akin to humans’ sympathetic concern when observing distress in another, including their relatives and friends.

The scientists observed a group of 26 elephants in Thailand for a year. It was a naturalistic study–researchers waited until a stressful situation occurred and then noted the animals’ behavior toward each other. From The Christian Science Monitor:

A stress-inducing situation might be a dog walking by or a snake rustling the grass, or the roar or just the presence of a bull elephant. Sometimes the stressor was unknown. Regardless, scientists know elephant distress when they see it: erect tails and flared ears; vocalizations such as trumpeting, rumbling, or roaring; and sudden defecation and urination tell the story….the scientists witnessed bystander elephants—those not directly affected by a stressor—moving to and giving upset elephants physical caresses, mostly inside the mouth (which is kind of like a hug to elephants) and on the genitals. 

Bystanders also rumbled and chirped with vocal offerings that suggested reassurance. Sometimes the empathetic animals formed a protective circle around the distressed one.

There was also evidence of “emotional contagion,” when herd mates matched the behavior and emotional state of the upset individual. In other words, seeing a “friend” in distress was distressing to the observers. Those animals also consoled one another.

It makes you wonder if the elephant is really the appropriate symbol for the Republican Party. Read more about elephant empathy at The Christian Science Monitor and Wired.

what-can-money-buy

Here’s another interesting study at Scientific American–this time about humans: A Happy Life May not be a Meaningful Life. The results reminded me of all the super rich guys who are constantly complaining about how victimized they are by the rest of us peons.

Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl once wrote, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” For most people, feeling happy and finding life meaningful are both important and related goals. But do happiness and meaning always go together? It seems unlikely, given that many of the things that we regularly choose to do – from running marathons to raising children – are unlikely to increase our day-to-day happiness. Recent research suggests that while happiness and a sense of meaning often overlap, they also diverge in important and surprising ways.

Roy Baumeister and his colleagues recently published a study in the Journal of Positive Psychology that helps explain some of the key differences between a happy life and a meaningful one. They asked almost 400 American adults to fill out three surveys over a period of weeks. The surveys asked people to answer a series of questions their happiness levels, the degree to which they saw their lives as meaningful, and their general lifestyle and circumstances.

As one might expect, people’s happiness levels were positively correlated with whether they saw their lives as meaningful. However, the two measures were not identical – suggesting that what makes us happy may not always bring more meaning, and vice versa. To probe for differences between the two, the researchers examined the survey items that asked detailed questions about people’s feelings and moods, their relationships with others, and their day-to-day activities. Feeling happy was strongly correlated with seeing life as easy, pleasant, and free from difficult or troubling events. Happiness was also correlated with being in good health and generally feeling well most of the time. However, none of these things were correlated with a greater sense of meaning. Feeling good most of the time might help us feel happier, but it doesn’t necessarily bring a sense of purpose to our lives.

Interestingly, the researchers found that money can buy happiness, but it can’t guarantee a meaningful life. This is something I’ve come to believe through long and painful experience. I think a sense of meaning comes from working your way through problems and difficult times and coming out the other side stronger and wiser. Rich people are often able to shield themselves from life problems, but at the same time they miss out on opportunities for emotional growth.

Of course relationships are also important for both happiness and a sense of meaning.

In Baumeister’s study, feeling more connected to others improved both happiness and meaning. However, the role we adopt in our relationships makes an important difference. Participants in the study who were more likely to agree with the statement, “I am a giver,” reported less happiness than people who were more likely to agree with, “I am a taker.” However, the “givers” reported higher levels of meaning in their lives compared to the “takers.” In addition, spending more time with friends was related to greater happiness but not more meaning. In contrast, spending more time with people one loves was correlated with greater meaning but not with more happiness. The researchers suspect that spending time with loved ones is often more difficult, but ultimately more satisfying, than spending time with friends.

This is something else I can testify to. I spent about 18 years being a primary caregiver for my ex-mother-in-law. At times this was a thankless, frustrating task that certainly didn’t make me happy all the time–but in the end, I realized that the experience had been meaningful and I had grown a great deal from it.

Bill De Blasio Sworn In As New York City Mayor

It looks like Hillary is going to be in the news a great deal between now and the 2016 presidential primaries. We’ve seen the Republicans ramping up their campaign against her–so far by focusing on old gossip from the 1990s. Even the Vince Foster conspiracy theories are coming back to haunt us. Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter reported yesterday that Fox News was set to resurface not only Vince Foster myths, but also Kathleen Willey’s claims that Bill Clinton sexually harassed her.

One of the top shelf conspiracy theories about the Clintons had to do with the suicide of White House advisor Vince Foster, which topped a list of other suspected deaths at the hands of Bill and Hillary. Now, 13 years after the end of that administration and at the outset of the would-be presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton, everything from the ’90s appears to be back on the table.

We’ve already heard from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who was the first to invoke Monica Lewinsky. And now here comes Fox News Channel resurrecting the Vince Foster conspiracy theory.

On tonight’s The Kelly File, Megyn Kelly welcomes Kathleen Willey who famously accused President Clinton of sexual harassment. An independent counsel discredited the groping allegations. Nevertheless, Willey has gone on to accuse the Clintons of not only assassinating Vince Foster, but also of murdering her husband.

Sigh . . . I don’t know if anyone here watched that travesty–I wonder if Megyn explained why Hillary should be held responsible for things her husband did (or was accused of doing) decades ago.

As an antidote to that nonsense, here are a couple of very interesting polls:

Politico: Hillary Clinton sweeps GOP in Ohio

Hillary Clinton buries Gov. Chris Christie and other potential Republican presidential candidates in the crucial swing state of Ohio, according to a new poll on Thursday.

The former secretary of state, who led Christie 42 percent to 41 percent in November, now tops the New Jersey governor 49 percent to 36 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

Read the rest of the numbers at the link.

Now here’s a poll that will make Dakinikat smile: In a Stunning Turn Poll Shows Hillary Clinton Could Make Louisiana Blue in 2016 (Politicus USA)

A new Public Policy Polling survey of Louisana found that Hillary Clinton would be the strongest Democratic presidential candidate in the state since her husband Bill was on the ballot in the 1990s.

According to PPP, “All the Republican contenders for President lead Hillary Clinton in hypothetical contests, but the margins are closer than they’ve been in the state since her husband was on the ticket. Christie leads her by just a point at 44/43, Jindal’s up 2 at 47/45, Paul leads by 4 points at 47/43, Huckabee has a 5 point advantage at 49/44, and the strongest Republican with a 7 point edge at 50/43 is Jeb Bush.”

Hillary Clinton’s numbers represent the best showing for a Democratic presidential candidate in the state since her husband Bill Clinton won Louisiana by 5 points in 1992 and 12 points in 1996. George W. Bush won the state by 8 points in 2000, and 15 points in 2004. McCain beat Obama by 19 in 2008, and Mitt Romney defeated the president by a margin of 18 points in 2012.

Wow! It’s still very early, but that is exciting news.

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You may recall that last August, Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was detained at Heathrow Airport in London and questioned about documents he was carrying–top secret documents that had been stolen by Edward Snowden from the U.S. and Great Britain. Miranda’s computers, flash drives and other electronic devices were also confiscated. Greenwald and Miranda sued, claiming that Great Britain charging him under their “anti-terrorism laws was unlawful and breached human rights.” Yesterday the court released its decision, saying that judges said it was a “proportionate measure in the circumstances” and in the interests of national security. From BBC News:

Steven Kovats QC, representing the UK home secretary, previously told the High Court that the secret material seized from Mr Miranda could have ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda.

But Mr Miranda’s lawyers argued the detention at Heathrow was illegal because it was carried out under the wrong law: Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

They said that in reality he was detained on the say-so of the security services so they could seize journalistic material.

Mr Miranda was carrying 58,000 highly classified Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) files, the judge said.

He added that Oliver Robbins, the UK’s deputy national security adviser at the Cabinet Office, had stated that “release or compromise of such data would be likely to cause very great damage to security interests and possible loss of life”.

But could Miranda be called a “journalist” just because he was carrying material that his partner had written about in a newspaper, The Guardian?

In his ruling, Lord Justice Laws said: “The claimant was not a journalist; the stolen GCHQ intelligence material he was carrying was not ‘journalistic material’, or if it was, only in the weakest sense.

“But he was acting in support of Mr Greenwald’s activities as a journalist. I accept that the Schedule 7 stop constituted an indirect interference with press freedom, though no such interference was asserted by the claimant at the time.

“In my judgement, however, it is shown by compelling evidence to have been justified.”

Here’s the full decision of the court. There is a subtle but emphatic slap-down of Glenn Greenwald’s arguments in points 54-56. The judged noted that Greenwald appeared to be lecturing the court when he discussed “responsible journalism,” and responded that the “evidence” Greenwald offered was “unhelpful,” because he took the position that British law enforcement officers deliberately acted in a way that they (officers) knew to be wrong; he ignored the fact that the material Miranda was carrying was stolen and could end up in the wrong hands; and that

Mr Greenwald’s account (paragraph 33) of the “many ingredients to the sensible reporting of very sensitive information” is insubstantial; or rather, mysterious – the reader is left in the dark as to how it is that “highly experienced journalists and
legal experts” (paragraph 33(1)) or “[e]xperienced editors and reporters” (33(2)) are able to know what may and what may not be published without endangering life or security.

Miranda and Greenwald hope to be granted the right to appeal the decision.

I’m just about out of space, so I’ll conclude with a quickie from Sochi: Olympian Films Wolf Stalking Her Hotel Hallway.

Olympian Kate Hansen tweeted out a video of what appears to be a wolf trotting down her hotel hallway with the message, “I’m pretty sure this is a wolf wandering my hall in Sochi.” via

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comment thread, and have a great day!


Wednesday Reads: Have a pizza and a smile…or Ex Libris and the Sea.

08d39c20af4c7b7c1da9eb22e1c5047eGood Morning

This should be interesting, I am sitting here trying to write today’s post with a pounding sinus headache, while North by Northwest is on the telly.

68cb62a8eb3ed84d979a189400a62961If my brain is not fully functional because of the sinus…my fingers and my thoughts may be will be forced to wander off into the film as Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint travel by train across the country towards the monument carve out on the mountain, you know the one…with those big ugly men’s faces on it.

The thread will feature plenty of ex libris artwork from various time periods and artist and countries as found on Pinterest…so enjoy them.

eb2ea87b8f543e0636a920e0e41fe361I will start with this first link, a story that I found from a couple of weeks ago, perhaps you have seen it already: Barbara Bowman Speaks About Bill Cosby Sexual Abuse Allegations

Last week, Newsweek interviewed Tamara Green, one of 13 women who accused Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them in a civil lawsuit brought by Andrea Constand in 2004, and settled under undisclosed terms in 2006. Now, a second woman is speaking out: Barbara Bowman, a 46-year-old artist who says Cosby took her under his wing in the late ‘80s, when she was a teenager — and repeatedly emotionally and physically abused her.

6ae1625fa92c719cd6f424aaeb95e6e9Both Bowman and Green joined the 2004 lawsuit as witnesses after hearing about it on television; neither had anything to gain financially, as the statute of limitations had expired for both of them.

Read the interview at the link, it is something else…then take a few minutes to peek at the comments. Oh they are all the usual shits you would expect, but I thought it was a very believable story.

Next up, some fun…I must tell you, a lot of today’s links are not “trending” news items.  Y’all remember that article about how you say the word youse, you, you all, you guys and what was the other one?  What We Mean When We Say Hello – Deborah Fallows – The Atlantic

The curious geography of American greetings

Last week I wrote about conversation starters that follow “Hello” and “How do you do.” Many dozens of you have 52daba947cfd5c658de9b432ae155f73written in and generously included your comments and interpretations of what you think people actually mean when they say something like “Where do you live?” or “Where are you from?”

Here is what you’ve said so far:

Check it out, I would love to see what this article’s author would think of places like Tampa, that has an influx of different people…from all over.

With all the cold weather, it can suck ass…but look at what beautiful things it can bring: Ice caves in northern Wisconsin are dazzling winter phenomena

Mother Nature has become a  Chihuly-like sculptress in sea caves along Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. Icicles hang by the thousands in caves at  Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. In warmer weather, the caves would be accessible only by water, but during this consistently cold winter, they are accessible by frozen lakeshore.
Explorers drawn to ice show
( Brian Peterson / Associated Press / February 2, 2014 )

Mother Nature has become a Chihuly-like sculptress in sea caves along Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin. Icicles hang by the thousands in caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. In warmer weather, the caves would be accessible only by water, but during this consistently cold winter, they are accessible by frozen lakeshore.

Lots more pictures at the link.

398dbc133effee7eb5c06975bd0dfc43More “neat” stuff to see: Geologists Glimpse a Heaven Below – NYTimes.com

Imagine the frustration faced for so many years by Eric W. Jordan and his colleagues. They could take a pretty good guess at what lay hundreds of feet beneath the macadam-sealed surface of New York City’s streets. They just had no way of knowing for sure.

But the last 10 years or so have been a boon to Mr. Jordan and his fellow geologists; mammoth subterranean excavations for the city’s Third Water Tunnel, the Second Avenue Subway and the Long Island Rail Road’s East Side Access Project have enabled them to see for themselves the rock formations and faults that they had only been able to imagine, undergirding Manhattan.

There is this amazing picture at that link, a massive space within one of the underground tunnels…shitfire! It does not look real but it is…

984408fec6f0fe9deece5270899f2f3aI’ve got another thing for you that is real, but seems surreal. Like a film that should have been directed by David Lynch, Inside the mind of a mass murderer, in drag – Amanpour – CNN.com Blogs

How do we know what is in the mind of a mass murderer? How about getting them to re-enact those crimes?

That is exactly what documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer did with several men who participated in mass killings in Indonesia decades ago.

d79ed463194db68bb51a2ff235427b76“It’s tempting to look at them through the lens of sort of fiction storytelling, where you have good guys and bad guys, good guys and then cackling villains,” Oppenheimer told CNN’s Hala Gorani, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, on Monday.

“When you’re a non-fiction filmmaker, you have to look at the real people you meet.”

Just look at this image from the movie:

To his surprise and horror, they were enthusiastic. They agreed to make a movie about how they killed and allowed him to film the process.

The result is a mind-bending movie within a documentary, by turns emotionally revolting, beautiful, and bizarre – one of the mass killers appears, as often as not, in drag. It is rarely entirely clear what is ‘acting’ and what is genuine.

Alright. Moving on.

19866f965bbdf137de654d938edb63e0While on the subject of film, here is a reminder. Watch Pygmalion (1939) – staring Leslie Howard on Sunday, February 23rd at 12:15 am EST. It is fantastic!

Decades before the 1964 musical My Fair Lady swept the Academy Awards®, the author of Pygmalion, the play on which it was based, became a most unlikely Oscar® winner for the original’s 1938 screen adaptation. Possibly the most intelligent person to win the award (he might have claimed to be the only intelligent man to do so), Shaw holds the distinction of being the only individual to win both an Academy Award® and the Nobel Prize for Literature. Given his disdain for the movies, particularly those adapted from his own plays, it’s a minor miracle the film even got made and turned out to be a brilliant adaptation.

[...]

e7e6ea1caa0095cc4bb164461a1e5e9d by Jan Battermann for Eugene StrensThe story of a phonetics professor (modeled on real-life phonetician Henry Sweet) who turns a Cockney flower girl into a lady by teaching her to speak properly touched a chord with audiences, who viewed it as one of the writer’s most romantic plays. It had already been filmed twice, in Germany in 1935 and in the Netherlands in 1937. Shaw had disliked those versions so much that when producer Gabriel Pascal first approached him about filming an English version, the writer turned him down. Only when Pascal promised not to change a word and agreed to cast Wendy Hiller, whom Shaw had admired in stage productions of Pygmalion and St. Joan, did the great writer accede. Although she had already made one film, the low-budget 1937 comedy Lancashire Luck, Pascal gave her introductory billing in Pygmalion at Shaw’s request.

b78f9c96d1c0710899e2152527f8cb4d leboroniThe author did not get his way in casting the male lead, however. His first choice for Henry Higgins was Charles Laughton, but Pascal convinced him that Leslie Howard would make the film more marketable in the U.S. That choice may not have been based solely on the stars’ box-office appeal. In the mid-’30s, Laughton was riding high on a series of popular films, including Ruggles of Red Gap and Mutiny on the Bounty (both 1935). Rather, Pascal may have been appealing to the popular notion that the leading characters eventually married. Shaw had resisted the notion and even wrote a 1916 essay describing Eliza’s life after parting ways with Higgins and decrying the more sentimental interpretations as “lazy dependence on the ready-mades and reach-me-downs of the ragshop in which Romance keeps its stock of ‘happy endings’ to misfit all stories.” With the more romantic Howard cast as Higgins, however, Pascal may have hoped to weight the story towards a more romantic interpretation that would have sold more tickets.

fb24533f0fb9e9c151887ddd327e787fOne way Pascal got around Shaw’s insistence on a word-for-word filming of the play was by hiring him to write the screenplay. That gave the author a chance to incorporate scenes cut from most stage productions because they would have added too many sets (Shaw even had said such scenes were best suited to a film version). The writer also got to expand the scene at the Embassy Ball, where Higgins wins his bet to pass Eliza off as a lady. As a result, Shaw agreed to cut some of the play’s more philosophical speeches, including several of the longer speeches delivered by Eliza’s father. He also grudgingly agreed to include a final scene in which Eliza returns to Higgins, who, unable to express his love for her, demands “Where the devil are my slippers, Eliza?” Shaw would later disavow this ending, insisting that Eliza instead married her high society admirer, Freddie Eynsford-Hill.

Bottom line is Shaw loved this film version.

7fa59304b52c6ef4b87a2992aa906494 Rudolf Koch (1902-1985) Ex Libris Ursula Laut (1940)At year’s end, it was nominated for four Academy Awards® — including Best Picture, Best Actor (Howard) and Best Actress (Hiller) — years before foreign films were regularly honored at the Oscars®. It won for Shaw’s screenplay, but the author was hardly grateful. Instead, he announced, “It’s an insult for them to offer me any honor, as if they had never heard of me — and it’s very likely they never have. They might as well send an honor to George for being King of England.” His private views may have been more appreciative. Mary Pickford would later report that when she visited Shaw the award was prominently displayed on his mantelpiece.

When novelist Lloyd C. Douglas announced Pygmalion had won Best Screenplay, he quipped, “Mr. Shaw’s story now is as original as it was three 40def3de76e3f32652389ba1e75c3e83 Pavel Šimon Ex-libris Kniha Elisky Pihrtovéthousand years ago.” But though Shaw had, indeed, been inspired by the Greek myth about a sculptor who falls in love with his female statue, his version of the story became as much a part of popular culture as the original legend.

Please stay up and watch it, you will not be disappointed.

Okay, now a quick link to some eye-candy: Anna Sui Fall 2014 Collection | Tom & Lorenzo Fabulous & Opinionated

A sad farewell to actor Christopher Malcolm, Rocky Horror’s Brad, dies aged 67

Tributes are being paid to actor and theatre producer Christopher Malcolm, whose roles included the original Brad Majors in the Rocky Horror Show and Saffy’s gay dad in Absolutely Fabulous.

Christopher Malcolm
Christopher Malcolm starred in 1979 drama The Great Riviera Bank Robbery alongside Ian McShane

His death, aged 67, was confirmed by his daughter Morgan Lloyd Malcolm on Twitter, who wrote: “Today the world lost a beautiful, brilliant man.”

868ee92a6c3e45818072c2bbe5817c37She added he “left peacefully and with dignity. He will always be my hero.”

His starred in films such as The Empire Strikes Back, Labyrinth and Highlander.

Having played Brad Majors in the original production of The Rocky Horror Show in 1974 and co-produced the 1990 West End revival, he then took charge of producing all productions of Richard O’Brien’s much-loved musical around the world.

Since I have been sick, and totally out of the loop, I missed this nugget of news: President Obama Apologizes for Dissing Art History Degrees | Mediaite

1cc23b1ad1f95fb03bcd4632b7b7fb5aIf you got a degree in art history, your eye might have twitched a bit when President Obama said a few weeks ago that Americans would be more well off in the manufacturing industry as opposed to, say, having an art history degree. Well, there is literally nothing these days that doesn’t warrant an apology, and now Obama has apologized for that remark.

Well at least he has made an apology. I guess.

e821cd587ddb9da9bbe88ae9c293f546Then you have the other extreme, a president of a country who is completely off base. I am speaking of Putin of course, and his position on gays. Did y’all see this? Members of Pussy Riot released in Sochi – CNN.com (I thought that Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were no longer “band members.”)

Two members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot were detained briefly Tuesday in central Sochi, after apparently being considered suspects in a theft at their hotel, and then released.

3036fb590140298455a7ab5b6debbf6e“A survey in connection with the theft at the Hotel Adler is completed, there is no claim against those questioned,” police said in a prepared statement.

Earlier in the day, band members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were meeting with journalists when police detained them, according to Tolokonnikova’s husband, Petr Verzilov. Russian media corroborated the report.

“They were put to the floor and beaten and physical force was used to them when they refused to be questioned without the presence of their lawyer, who was on his way to the police department,” Verzilov told reporters.

44c53b4794e42536b91768eff9a5fda7The stories I have read about arrest out of Sochi are scary, what a disgusting display to the world.

Olympic police today re-arrested former Italian member of parliament Vladimir Luxuria for wearing an outfit that was deemed a bit too “gay” for the Sochi Olympics.

Luxuria was wearing rainbow-colored clothing, and a rainbow wig.  She was arrested while walking to her seat at an Olympic hockey game.

The rainbow is now legally suspect in Russia since the passage last year of a draconian anti-gay law that bans what the Russians call “gay propaganda.” In reality, the law bans anything – speech, clothing or actions – that might give the impression that being gay is okay.616078707e29af21c89b13e6bef47d49

For example, the flag of Russia’s autonomous Jewish region came under scrutiny from Moscow because it contains a rainbow. And a newspaper editor was recently fined three-month’s pay for quoting a gay person in a news story in which the gay person defended themselves for having been fired based on their sexual orientation. And under similar legislation in St. Petersburg, a man was arrested for wearing rainbow suspenders.

af88f7c8f87bd263e7800cfcd9597f1bDamn…better not be caught eating Skittles or Lucky Charms in Sochi eh?

This post is getting long so real quick like:

U.S. regulator on India visit calls for greater drug safety collaboration | Reuters

3 peace activists sentenced for breaking into nuclear site – The Washington Post

Official who raised safety concerns at Hanford nuclear site is fired – latimes.com

d2b7119e87dfa6dfc568111803737bbdAP sources: DOE to OK $6.5B for Georgia nuke plant | AccessNorthGa -That is for a new nuke plant south of Augusta, it was approved in 2010 under Obama’s watch. Doesn’t make me too happy considering there was an 4.1 earthquake not far from there just a few days ago.

A trunk to cry on? Elephants console distressed pals, study says – For such a smart and sympathetic animal to have as a “symbol” of the GOP party? Oh the irony.

The 5 most egregious antiabortion proposals of 2014 (so far) – Salon.com

ad9879804284d3406c8cb5c61c113102CHARLOTTE: After comment to Gov. McCrory, food store cook fired in Charlotte | State Politics | NewsObserver.com

One observation, isn’t the Gov a public servant and does he not work for the people aka the food clerk whom he got fired?

Unbelievable: Chevron apologizes for fracking well explosion with coupons for free pizza – Salon.com

Here’s a photo of the letter and coupon obtained by No Fracking Way. Unlike the long-term health and environment effects of fracking, this special offer expires soon:

All that shit makes this real estate look good, remember that Sky Dancing commune?

Medieval Castle and Hamlet for Sale in Italy: Castello Izzalini

Medieval Castle and Hamlet for Sale in Italy

This medieval hamlet for sale in Umbria, Italy, dates back to the 12th century, as witnessed by the Todi’s Liber Focolarium, da4752fd2eedb621c9525e353c3bf0a1that is the book of the local families. It was then inhabited by 32 families, more or less 150 people.

Somebody get me the phone!

Placed on a hilltop overlooking the Tiber River valley, Izzalini is surrounded by a large proprietary 16,000 sqm forest. You can find there ancient trees, witnessing the history of the place, olive groves, whose fruits’ nectar is the renowned exquisite Umbrian Extra Virgin Oil, pasture for herds, whose milk is used to make the delicious Umbrian cheeses on site and woodland, suitable for different purposes: activities, garden, cultivation (e.g.: vineyard, olives, truffles), etc.

Castle for Sale

Oh you got to go and check the place out. More at the link and since it is a history blog link, it will have plenty of historical background to go with it.  Yeah, history majors kick ass!

Finally, this is real cool: SEE IT: California scuba divers interact with octopus who tries to take camera  – NY Daily News

Innit nature wonderful!

f5dcf14f060722d82b14bb4c2f38e19f Alexandra Von Hellberg

That is all I’ve got today, share your thoughts and links below.


Tuesday Reads: Winter Weather, No Hillary Alternatives, New Snowden Leaks, and More

Cassidy, Arlene - Lazy afternoon

Good Morning!!

I’m awaiting what I hope is the last snowstorm to hit the Boston area for a week or so. This one won’t be a big deal compared to what we’ve been hit by over the past few weeks. It will snow most of the day and we’ll end up with another five inches of snow on top of the giant pile of white stuff that is already on the ground.

The good news is that beginning tomorrow and going through the weekend, we are expecting temperatures in the 40s and 50s, along with rain. That should help wash some of the snow away. The Weather Channel has live updates on how this storm is affecting other parts of the country.

While I was perusing the Weather Channel page this morning, I came across this article–with amazing photos–of the coldest city in the world.

Think we’re having a brutal winter? Winter temperatures in Oymyakon, Russia, average minus 50 C (minus 58 F). The remote village is generally considered the coldest inhabited area on Earth. Oymyakon is a two-day drive from Yakutsk, the regional capital which has the lowest winter temperatures of any city in the world.

How do the locals deal with the cold? “Russki chai, literally Russian tea, which is their word for vodka,” photographer Amos Chapple told weather.com after his visit to the coldest city.

Oymyakon ironically means “unfrozen water.” This is due to the thermal spring located nearby. Originally the location was used by reindeer herders who would water their flock in the warm springs.

Oymyakon’s lowest recorded temperature was a frigid minus 71.2  C (minus 96.16 F) back in 1924. According to The Independent, wearing glasses outdoors can cause them to stick to the wearer’s face. This is just one of the more menial problems of the extremely cold weather

After reading that, I suddenly felt very comfy in my cozy house with the temperature outside a mild 18 degrees F.

Hillary_Clinton_Twitter.JPEG-0e86c-6747

Whether we like it or not–and I absolutely hate it–the 2016 presidential race has already begun, and along with it the endless Hillary-bashing that we’ll have to put up with not only from Republicans but also from a subset of Democrats. Republicans will need to be reminded that Hillary is running, not “the Clintons”; and Democrats will have to learn that if they don’t want Jeb Bush as president, Hillary is the best alternative.

It’s a little unnerving that Bob Shrum agrees with me, since he’s rarely backed a winner; but honestly in this case he’s right. From The Daily Beast: Yes, Pundits, Hillary Has the 2016 Nomination in the Bag.

Handicappers in the presidential race abhor the opposite of a vacuum—a campaign two years out where one candidate seems to blot out the entire field. Thus a mini-chorus now rises, and may swell, questioning Hillary Clinton’s apparent lock on the 2016 Democratic nomination. It’s a predictable reflex, but in cold, hard reality, logic suggests that the lock is authentic, not just apparent. And in modern history, or virtually all American history, Hillary’s inevitability is unprecedented for a non-incumbent.

Yes, there are pundits like Matt Bai and Krystal Ball who claim that Hillary is vulnerable to a “grass roots” challenge, but they’re in fantasy land. In response to Ball’s suggestion that Elizabeth Warren should be the candidate, because she is “clearly passionate, living and breathing and feeling … the plight of the worker, the middle class,” Shrum writes:

Hillary, Ball asserts, can’t do that because she was once on the board of Walmart and recently accepted speaking fees from Goldman Sachs. That attack, if an opponent advanced it, could and would be swiftly confounded by the Hillary who, in the penultimate primaries of 2008, in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio, emerged as a powerful, persuasive tribune of blue-collar and middle-class Americans.

Of course, there is another slight problem with the Warren option: She’s joined all the other Democratic women senators in signing a letter urging Hillary to run.Warren will probably be out there all right—stumping for Hillary, not against her.

There’s much more at the link about other possible candidates like Andrew Cuomo and Martin O’Malley.

Let me add, btw, for Warren fans who claim that Hillary is “too old,” Warren will be 67 in 2016–just two years younger than Clinton. That’s leaving aside the fact that she has far less political experience than Barack Obama did in 2008 and zero foreign policy experience.

Over at that bastion of Hillary-hatred, DailyKos, Markos broke the news to his followers yesterday: The real primary fight of 2016 (and it’s not an alternative to Hillary.”

Some people have to come to terms. And I’m looking at you, people desperate to find an alternative to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

If Hillary runs, she’s the nominee. I know it’s in vogue to talk about how “inevitable” Hillary was in 2008. But it was a different world. I remember it because I was in the midst of that battle. People wanted an alternative, and alternatives existed. At her best, Hillary’s poll numbers were in the 40s with Obama in the strong 20s. Look for yourself. Yes, she was the frontrunner, but there was a strong primary field within striking distance.

There is no alternative to Hillary this cycle. The last time anyone polled the Democratic primary field, Clinton had 73 percent of the vote, Biden 11, and Elizabeth Warren nine. That tells us a couple of things. One, 73 percent is A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE. She is the consensus nominee, and if you disagree, you are objectively in the deep minority. Second of all, there is no one to provide even nominal challenge. Clinton (again, assuming she runs) will have some “challengers”, but it’ll be a bunch of people auditioning for her VP slot.

To reiterate, leads like 45-25 in 2007 didn’t make Hillary “inevitable”. Numbers like 73-11 in 2014 absolutely do. And you know what? Those are not irrational numbers. Hillary will be a great president.

Elizabeth Warren isn’t running. I get why people persist with this fantasy, but it’s nothing more than a fantasy. Warren had to be dragged in kicking and screaming into the Massachusetts Senate race, a geographically small state in which she could sleep in her own bed every night. If you barely have the fire to run for Senate, then you absolutely don’t have the fire to mount a brutal presidential campaign. And even if she did, all she’d have to do is look at the polling (73-9!) to realize she’d have a million better things to do with her time and her donors’ money. SHE. AIN’T. RUNNING.

So, I guess we’ll have to wait and see if some Democrats are willing to try to sabotage the party’s chances of continuing to control the White House and very likely Congress as well. It could end up being similar to what the Republicans did to Mitt Romney in 2012. But this time, there won’t be real competition on the Republican side. Who are they going to run? Mitt Romney again? Paul Ryan? My guess is Jeb Bush would be afraid to run against Hillary.

NSA at night

There’s a new article up at Glenn Greenwald’s new site, The Intercept: Snowden Documents Reveal Covert Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Supporters. I haven’t had time to read the whole thing yet, because I want to get this post up soon. I’ll read it carefully once I’ve done that. But here’s the introduction:

Top-secret documents from the National Security Agency and its British counterpart reveal for the first time how the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom targeted WikiLeaks and other activist groups with tactics ranging from covert surveillance to prosecution.

The efforts – detailed in documents provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – included a broad campaign of international pressure aimed not only at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but at what the U.S. government calls “the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” The documents also contain internal discussions about targeting the file-sharing site Pirate Bay and hacktivist collectives such as Anonymous.

One classified document from Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s top spy agency, shows that GCHQ used its surveillance system to secretly monitor visitors to a WikiLeaks site. By exploiting its ability to tap into the fiber-optic cables that make up the backbone of the Internet, the agency confided to allies in 2012, it was able to collect the IP addresses of visitors in real time, as well as the search terms that visitors used to reach the site from search engines like Google.

Another classified document from the U.S. intelligence community, dated August 2010, recounts how the Obama administration urged foreign allies to file criminal charges against Assange over the group’s publication of the Afghanistan war logs.

A third document, from July 2011, contains a summary of an internal discussion in which officials from two NSA offices – including the agency’s general counsel and an arm of its Threat Operations Center – considered designating WikiLeaks as “a ‘malicious foreign actor’ for the purpose of targeting.” Such a designation would have allowed the group to be targeted with extensive electronic surveillance – without the need to exclude U.S. persons from the surveillance searches.

My immediate reaction is that if NSA were not monitoring Wikileaks, they would not be doing their job. As for the claims that individual visitors to the website were actually targeted, I’ll have to reserve judgment until I read the whole piece and it has been fact-checked by people who understand the technology involved better than the authors. I’ve learned from months of experience that Glenn Greenwald’s articles tend to be filled with errors as well as over-the-top melodrama.

In other NSA news, James Clapper admitted in an interview with Eli Lake of The Daily Beast that “We Should’ve Told You We Track Your Calls.”

Ya think? Here’s an excerpt:

Clapper said the problems facing the U.S. intelligence community over its collection of phone records could have been avoided. “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11—which is the genesis of the 215 program—and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards… We wouldn’t have had the problem we had,” Clapper said.

“What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation,” he said, referring to the first disclosures from Snowden. If the program had been publicly introduced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, most Americans would probably have supported it. “I don’t think it would be of any greater concern to most Americans than fingerprints. Well people kind of accept that because they know about it. But had we been transparent about it and say here’s one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing.”

Since the first Snowden revelations in June, Clapper has declassified reams of material relating to the 215 program, including opinions and warrants signed by the top secret court that approves domestic snooping. But he has not publicly acknowledged until now his thoughts that the initial secrecy surrounding the program was ill-considered.

No shit Sherlock! Americans most likely would have supported the program if the Bush administration had been up front about it. Of course, then Congress would have regulated it more–as is happening under Obama–and that wouldn’t have pleased President Cheney. Even now, if Obama and NSA officials would come out and explain exactly what the program is, the fear-mongering by Greenwald and the gang would be far less effective.

Basically, the “metadata” that is collected is just the same information that we used to get on our phone bills: time call was initiated, how long it lasted, and the number that was called. The phone company kept all this “metadata” on file, and law enforcement could access the phone records of a suspect by getting a warrant from a judge–which is the same thing the NSA does. I have way fewer problems with this kind of data collection than what corporations are doing on a daily basis with my internet browsing and purchases.

I’ll end with a couple of fun items.

First, I hope you’ll check out these awesome photos of Russians with their cats at Buzzfeed.

Kerouac map

Second, from The Guardian: Kerouac’s On the Road followed on the road via Google Maps:

“The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream,” wrote Jack Kerouac, famously, in On the Road. “Head northwest on W 47th St toward 7th Ave. Take the 1st left onto 7th Ave. Turn right onto W 39th St,” writes Gregor Weichbrodt, less poetically but more accurately, in On the Road for 17527 Miles, a new book tracing the Beat writer’s famous journey across America – with the aid of Google Maps.

Going through On the Road with a fine-toothed comb, Weichbrodt took the “exact and approximate” spots to which the author – via his alter ego Sal Paradise – travelled, and entered them into Google’s Direction Service. “The result is a huge direction instruction of 55 pages,” says the German student. “All in all, as Google shows, the journey takes 272.26 hours (for 17,527 miles).”

Weichbrodt’s chapters match those of Kerouac’s original. He has now self-published the book, which is also part of the current exhibition Poetry Will Be Made By All! in Zurich, and has, he says, sold six copies so far.

You can read the book at at Open Culture. The site has also published a photo of Jack Kerouac’s Hand-Drawn Map of the Hitchhiking Trip Narrated in On the Road. Very cool.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a tremendous Tuesday!


Monday Reads: People are strange

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Well, Good Morning!

I’ve been doing this thing on my facebook every day this year where I thought I could select just one Republican Asshat of the Day.  I figured it might be a bit of a stretch to come up with just one.  It turned out that I’ve found multiples of them every single day. This has put me in a strange frame of mind.  I’ve been sitting here questioning the nature of mind again; mine AND theirs. So, here’s a weirdish set of morning reads for you.

First up, the death of a snake handler that at one point had his own reality show.  Yea.  A snake bit and killed him.  Are any of us really surprised? Oh, he’s from Kentucky and not to be confused with my governor as folks are want to do these days.

 Snake-handling preacher Jamie Coots, who never backed away from his beliefs despite derision, criminal charges and excruciating bites, died Saturday night after being bitten by a rattlesnake during a church service.

Family members of Coots, 42, refused medical treatment for him. He was pronounced dead about two hours after the rattler sank its fangs into his right hand.

His son think he died some time before that, however.

“It was the quickest snakebite (death) I ever seen in my life,” Cody Coots said Sunday.

Jamie Coots’ death appears to be the first from a snakebite in a Kentucky church service since November 2006, when a woman died after being bitten while worshipping at a Laurel County church.

Coots, a third-generation snake handler, was the pastor of a small church in Middlesboro, Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name.

He had long been prominent among the small, close-knit circle of snake-handling Pentecostal churches in Appalachia, but he gained wider notice last fall though a National Geographic Channel program called Snake Salvation, which profiled him and other snake handlers. The show was not renewed for a second season.

Coots and 35 to 40 others were at a service at his church between 8 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday when a 21/2-foot-long timber rattler snake bit him near the base of his right thumb.

Cody Coots said his father was handling three rattlesnakes at the time.31425177814ff230231a0c37b9b90ba4

Some of us are waiting for the verdict of the latest angry white man enabled by Florida Law to shoot and murder an unarmed teenage because he was  very very scared.  The jury appears to be hung up on the murder charge because of the weirdness of the laws in Florida .  So,  here’s a little bit on the poor frightened white man who is trodding in George Zimmerman’s psychopathic footsteps via a neighbor who knows him well. This little item was found by Susie Madrak.  This appears to be another dude just out there looking for a confrontation where he can shoot and kills some one.

Charles Hendrix, Michael Dunn’s former next-door neighbor, describes violent behavior, lies, insurance fraud, cocaine use, bragging about putting a hit out on someone, and a first wife who said he’d held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. He says Dunn bragged that he was smarter than everyone else and could outthink them.

vint dog odd2Watch the video interview.  I’ve lived next to a violent, angry, white man before.  Thankfully, he moved to Florida last year.  I’m just waiting for him to be the subject of the next stand your ground trial but I believe he will shoot a woman. However, it could possibly be his wife so they will probably ignore the whole thing and call it just simple destruction of unwanted property there.

Russian children will no longer be placed for adoption in countries that recognize same sex marriage.  Perhaps Russia thinks Uganda is a hunky dory place to live and the UK is a hell hole?

Citizens of the countries that permit same-sex marriages are no longer able to adopt orphans from Russia. A decree to that effect was signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The Russian government has changed the rules for the transfer of orphans for adoption, having introduced an additional ban on foreign adoptions by same-sex couples. The decree published today on the government website contains a paragraph, according to which children can be adopted by adult citizens of both sexes, except for “persons of the same sex in alliance recognized and registered as marriage in accordance with the laws of the State in which such marriage is allowed, as well as persons who are not married, but are citizens of such state.”

Thus, the prohibition applies not only to adoption by same-sex couples (a law to that effect was signed by President Vladimir Putin in July 2013), but also to all citizens of the countries that recognize such marriages. “Implementation of this decree will ensure more streamlined arrangements for transfer of children without parental care to families of citizens of the Russian Federation and foreign citizens and will protect the rights and interests of these children,” believes the government.files-3

Paul Ryan appears to be serious about trying to impeach President Obama over Executive Orders. Since when are executive orders a “high crime or misdemeanor”?

During an interview on CNN, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) laid the groundwork for impeaching President Obama by claiming that the president is abusing his powers and violating the Constitution with executive orders.

Ryan said,

There’s a difference between effectively using the bully pulpit to encourage good things in America and doing an end run around Congress. Look, everytime a president or a member of congress is sworn in, they swear an oath to protect and uphold the Consitution.

It sounds like to me the president looks like he is willing to circumvent the Constitution. The presidents do not write laws. That’s what Congress does. That’s Congress’ job, and if presidents try to circumvent congress by writing their own laws, then he is circumventing the Constitution. That is not our form of government.

I thought I’d give you some perspective on this.  Executive Orders have been used by Presidents since George Washington who used them 8 times.  Ronald Reagan used them a total of 381 times. Dubya Bush used them 291 times.  Obama has used them 168 times.

Okay, back to the latest about my nutter governor who has managed to run the state’s Elderly Care fund into the ground.files-1

Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s administration is on its way to completely draining a trust fund for elderly care that lawmakers had expected to last for decades.

Louisiana’s Legislative Fiscal Office reportsthat the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly, once flush with more than $800 million in cash, will be “almost entirely depleted” if Jindal’s budget for the next fiscal year goes through as proposed. By the middle of 2015, it will be completely wiped out, according to the analysis.

The governor, with approval from the Legislature, has been drawing money out of the fund for years to backstop health care budget gaps. Critics says the elderly trust fund was not initially created to be used in that way, though the Jindal administration and lawmakers are allowed to withdraw as much money as they need.

The $800 million was essentially supposed to stay intact, with only the interest and investment revenue being withdrawn every year to pay for state services. The idea was that the $800 million principal would continue to provide a steady stream of funding for the state government through its interest and investment earnings each year.

Yet during the next budget cycle, the Jindal administration has proposed effectively to take what’s left of the fund’s money, around $232 million, and use it to pay for nursing home payments for Medicaid patients.

The Department of Health and Hospitals said it needs the funding to make sure critical services aren’t interrupted for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. The federal government recently passed a Medicaid reduction that slashed the program’s funding in Louisiana to its lowest rate in 25 years, according to the agency.

“Ultimately, the trust fund has helped to prevent steep reductions in provider reimbursement rates that would have impacted access to care,” said Jerry Phillips, undersecretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals.

This may leave the next governor and future Legislatures in a financial pickle, according the Legislative Fiscal Office’s report, particularly if the voters approve a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that ensures nursing home payments cannot be cut.

Jindal has been balancing the budget on the backs of higher education and public health for some time now.

I got a really weird phone call the other day from a pollster whose questions were so loaded that I could hardly answer them.  I think this explains it all. I was being tested to see if these Koch ads had any impact on me as well as ads by outstate republican congressmen who may run against Landrieu.  I basically told them I was an independent with a brain and they were barking up the wrong tree.

A new political attack ad from the Koch brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity calls on Louisianans to tell Sen. Mary Landrieu that Obamacare is hurting their families.

The ad shows a number of people, who appear to be Louisianans, opening their mail to find a letter stating that their health care policy has been cancelled because of the Affordable Care Act.

“Due to the Affordable Care Act, your monthly premium has increased,” a voice-over says in the ad as a man in a rural neighborhood opens a cancellation letter and looks at his young daughter standing next to him. “No longer covered, due to the Affordable Care Act.”

But the people in the emotion-evoking ad are not Louisianans at all; they are paid actors

Landrieu’s support for the Affordable Care Act is a major sticking point in what promises to be a tough reelection campaign for the three-term senator. And her campaign is taking issue with the ad, characterizing its use of actors as “misleading” and “low.”

“Hiring professional actors to impersonate Louisiana families is low even for the billionaire Koch brothers,” Friends of Mary Landrieu Campaign Manager Adam Sullivan told ABC News. “If the Koch brothers had even a shred of credibility before launching their latest misleading ad campaign against Sen. Landrieu, they’ve surely lost it now.”

Americans for Prosperity is not backing down from the ad, with spokesman Levi Russell telling ABC News that it’s no secret that the people in the ad are actors.

“I think the viewing public is savvy enough to distinguish between someone giving a personal story and something that is emblematic,” Russell said when reached on the phone. “And we make it very clear when someone is giving a personal testimonial.”

Russell said the ad, in contrast to a “personal testimonial ad” that would use the story of a real voter, is “cinematic” and meant to be a “representative of Americans from all walks of life.”

My premiums have increased slightly but I am on a significantly better plan as a result of the Affordable Health Care Act.  That’s just for the record from this Louisianan.

Old-creepy-photo-4But, I’m still not a person from Kansas or Mississippi.   Kansas still gives Texas a run for the money on outrageously horrible things to do to people.  Maybe we should offer the people there up to Russia and turn the entire place into a Buffalo wildlife preserve.

 The state’s wealthy governor, a moderate Republican, was hobnobbing with the attorneys at a prestigious Kansas City law firm one day in 1998; the mood was one of pleasant professional joviality, till one person worked up her nerve and chastised the governor to his face. Who among them dared? A secretary at the law firm, who faulted this celebrated Republican for insufficient conservatism.

What I found was that the descendents of the Populists were in rebellion; they were furious at “elites” and their social betters; it’s just that the politics of the situation had been inverted. (“Like a French Revolution in reverse — one in which the sans-culottes pour down the streets demanding more power for the aristocracy,” I wrote.) This was the dark secret of the whole nasty business: The right had developed an entire ersatz proletarian movement, a full-blown astrology of class discontent in which the hard-working average citizen was invited to feel himself imposed upon by upper-class liberals. Class animus was — is — central to who they are and how they think about the world. And it has caught on. In a place like Wichita, Kansas, you encounter it on every street corner. Hating “elites,” hating Hollywood, hating government, hating scientists — these are all part of everyday life. Yes, the reasoning behind this philosophy may be faulty; its origins may be suspicious; but it is powerful stuff, and in lots of heartland locales these days, it is just about the only form of social grievance being offered.

I say “secret,” but in truth the thing was obvious. It is everywhere — bestseller lists, cable news, AM radio, the floor of Congress. Polls have steadily tracked the migration of the white working-class vote to the GOP, and the disastrous results of this shift are plain to anyone with access to a Web browser. It is “secret” only because looking deeply into this situation was and is something that few are really interested in doing.

Why not? Well, for conservatives, the whole thing is mentally off-limits thanks to the blatant contradictions between their populist rhetoric and their rich-enriching policy deeds. They may talk proletarian righteousness constantly, but always in an evasive, sentimental way, more Norman Rockwell than John L. Lewis. If you want something more than rhetoric from them — something more solid than anger-stirring culture-war clichés — you basically have to be the Koch Brothers.

I should mention something in passing about that prestigious law firm and my cousins’ presence.  Don’t disown me.  I’m considered the strange one in my family.

Since I ripped off the song title today, I thought I’d share the actual song.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Serving up Links Today

441a484b939f2e917158efa1f07eb190Good Morning

I can barely breathe, and my thoughts aren’t so coherent either.

Sinus infections.

Suck.

So today’s post will be links only, here they go:

New Jersey Democratic Group Files Complaint Against GOP Political Arm Over Fake Websites

Little Spain makes a comeback in NYC | Al Jazeera America

This next link is very disturbing, How Russian neo-Nazi anti-gay kidnappers use Facebook, Instagram, VK

What Great Artists Need: Solitude – Joe Fassler – The Atlantic

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators – Megan McArdle – The Atlantic

This is 45: The Eye of Life’s Storm | Emily Mendell

Catholic dominance over hospitals endangers women | Al Jazeera America

Cecco D’Ascoli and Church Discipline of Natural Philosophers in the Middle Ages

Legal Centralization and the Birth of the Secular State

Saracen Archers in Southern Italy

Marriage in Early Ireland

Poetry: Maxine Kumin, ‘The Nuns of Childhood: Two Views’ – Maxine Kumin – The Atlantic

O where are they now, your harridan nuns
who thumped on young heads with a metal thimble
and punished with rulers your upturned palms:

three smacks for failing in long division,
one more to instill the meaning of humble.
As the twig is bent, said your harridan nuns.

More of the poem at the link.

Did you all see this? Woody Allen Is Not a Monster. He Is a Person. Like My Father.

1,000 Bodies Found On University Of Mississippi Land Thought To Be From Old ‘Lunatic Asylum’

13 Things Not To Say To Someone With A Migraine

BBC News – Olympic snowboarding commentary draws complaints

Colbert Sending Scott Thompson’s Buddy Cole to Sochi Olympics | Mediaite

Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese get a film retrospective in N.Y. | Inside Movies | EW.com – ‘Wolf of Wall Street’s Thelma Schoonmaker on her historic partnership with Martin Scorsese

moviemorlocks.com – Caught on Film: Hollywood Romances That Ignited On Set

Oldest Sea Monster Babies Found; Fossil Shows Reptiles Had Live Birth

A photo and an illustration of a fossil.

Fossil of Chaohusaurus reveals a baby inside its mother (orange) and another stuck in her pelvis (yellow).

PHOTOGRAPH AND ILLUSTRATION BY RYOSUKE MOTANI, UC DAVIS

Let’s end this with something y’all can appreciate, 10-Year-Old Steals Parents’ Car, Crashes It, Tells Cops He’s a Dwarf.

This is an open thread.


Saturday Reads: Snow Rage!

sick of winter smack a snowman

Good Morning!!

A few days ago, I posted a link to an article about a phenomenon brought on by the horrible winter of 2013-14–“Snow Rage.” I’m going to post the story again here, because this shocking behavior seems to be spreading. People who are disgusted and overwhelmed by endless snowstorms followed by shoveling have begun taking their anger out on snowplow drivers.

CBS Pittsburgh: ‘Snow Rage’ Pits Storm-Weary Residents Against Plow Drivers Just Trying To Do Jobs.

Eric Ramirez, a snow plow driver on Long Island, said an irate man went so far as to rack a shotgun Sunday and threaten to shoot him because he was piling snow in front of the man’s Manorhaven home.

“I see the guy is coming across the street; is coming to me. I say, ‘Hi.’ He talked to me,” Ramirez said, adding the man responded by saying he was coming to shoot him.

Raymond Hounigringer, 48, was charged with menacing in the incident.

In another example, “in Norwalk, Conn., Tony Thompson, also 48, was charged with assault for allegedly attacking a plow driver with a shovel.”

“They yell. They curse at you. They do all kind of stupidness,” said driver Zaheer Hussain. “They make snowballs and throw them at you.” ….

“It started with snowballs, and worked its way to branches; lids, anything they can find and now it’s to weaponry,” said Aero Snow Removal supervisor Sergio Vasquez.

Snowdrifts in North Dakota

Snowdrifts in North Dakota

CBS Pittsburgh also reported on a snow rage incident in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania: Man Puts Gun To Snow Plow Driver’s Head Over Snow Removal Dispute. According to the police report, Richard Eckert, 64, was arrested after he threatened a snowplow driver with two guns.

Police say Eckert became angry when the self-employed driver, John Abraham, accidentally pushed some snow into his yard while cleaning a neighbor’s driveway.

“I went like this to put it in park and there was a gun right here in my face,” Abraham said.

Eckert is then accused of taking a .22-calibur pistol out of his coat, and pressing it against Abraham’s cheek, telling him to remove the snow.

“He said, ‘what the (expletive) are you doing?’” said Abraham. “And I said, ‘what do you mean?’ He said, ‘you’re going to get a shovel and you’re shoveling that snow out of my yard and putting it back in the street.’”

Abraham says Eckert grabbed his arm and tried to pull him out of his truck when he says Eckert put the gun in his face when he refused to get out.

As I’m sure you know, Boston is a very old city with many neighborhood that predate cars. People who live in the older parts of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, for example, have to park their cars on the street–there are no driveways or garages. Where I live now, everyone has driveways, but when I lived in Somerville in the 1970s and ’80s, parking spots were hard to come by after a snowstorm. It’s still that way today. Once people dig out a spot, they are understandably very protective of it. They leave old folding chairs, trash cans, and other large objects in the space to let people know not to park there; and if you dare to take the spot anyway, you’re likely to get a tire slashed or worse.

I had friend back then who was living in East Cambridge. One day she moved someone’s chairs out of a shoveled parking spot and proceeded to leave her car there for several days. I warned her when she first park there that she was asking for trouble, but she didn’t believe me. Even after the “owner” of the space left a not on her windshield telling her to move her car, she did nothing. When she finally wanted to drive her car, she found it with four slashed tires. She had to hire a flatbed truck to haul it away. I guess people do the same thing in other places.

Snowdrift in Minnesota

Snowdrift in Minnesota

From the Lehigh Valley News: Tires slashed in Allentown snow rage incident.

Following the recent surge of wintry weather, some Allentown residents have started using household items, like trashcans and chairs, to reserve parking spots they shoveled clean. An Allentown woman, who lives in the 400 block of North 10th Street, said she parked in one of those spots this week.

“I parked right next to the chair, I moved it and placed it on the sidewalk and parked there and went inside the home,” she said.

Really bad idea.

When she returned to her car the following day, she learned someone had taken it too far. “I jump in my car and start driving. Within four blocks from my house I feel that my car is driving funny,” she said. Her tires had been slashed. She said it was revenge for parking in a spot that she believes was fair game.

Sorry, lady. Shovel your own spot. Just read the comments on that story. That’s Snow Rage. There’s even a #SnowRage hashtag on Twitter now, and at the Boston Globe there is a Snow Rage Gauge to measure your level of anger.

At the Christian Science Monitor, Patrick Jonsson wrote about the #SnowRage phenomenon and attempted to explain why this winter has been so awful: While Atlanta adjusts to snow, Northerners shake fists at another winter storm.

At issue is a systematic barrage of so-called long-wave weather systems sweeping more deeply into the South than usual, creating a seemingly interminable run of weather across massive swaths of the land to the east of the Mississippi.

If Southerners – at least Southern schoolchildren – are growing used to this strange thing called snow, many Northerners are fed up. “Snow rage” is beginning to appear in tabloid headlines, amid news of shotguns being pulled on snowplow drivers. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio complained after shoveling three times during last week’s storm that “the snow is getting really obnoxious.” ….

“Another week, another major winter storm. Literally that’s been the case in 2014, a year that is exactly six weeks old,” writes WPIX-TV reporter James Ford in New York. “The storm offers a chance to challenge some long established winter weather records. That’s small solace, however, for a metro area that’s grown weary of getting battered again and again by weather that’s severe, even for this season that’s supposed to be cold and snowy.” ….

The core engine of this storm pattern is a constant pumping of “long wave” weather systems pouring down out of Alaska every three to five days, pushing along cloudy low-pressure systems.

The trouble in particular has been a once-in-a-decade “statistical improbability” of cold and wet air that’s common in the snowy Midwest pressing more deeply than usual into the South, says National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Leary in Peachtree City, Ga.

As those storms move up and berate the North, the cycle continues. Rinse and repeat.

“These long waves are about three days apart, just a little more, and when that long wave moves down, there’s a pretty good jet of winds associated with it that push it along, and that’s when you get the weather,” Mr. Leary says.

Polar vortex of 2014

Polar vortex of 2014

The article also notes that many cities and states are running out of money to pay for snow removal. In addition, supplies of road salt are running out in a number of places.

That every three days thing is definitely happening here in Massachusetts. We had a huge storm on Thurs. Feb. 6, and another big on on on Thurs. Feb. 13. In between we’ve had smaller snowfalls every couple of days that are still enough that you have to shovel. Another storm is scheduled for this afternoon and overnight, and another is predicted for Tuesday. I don’t know how much more I can take.

It really hit me yesterday, because I had paid some guys $50 to shovel me out the night before. When they finished, I asked them to pile up the snow a bit more at the end of the driveway because I knew the snowplow would be coming during the night and would push a big pile of snow that blocked my car from getting out. This guy argued with me about it and they wouldn’t finish the job. I just didn’t have the strength to stand up to them.

Sure enough, I woke up yesterday morning and there was a foot of wet, packed snow at the end of my driveway. Not only that, more snow was coming down! I actually started to cry. I’m never hiring those guys again. I really hate being bullied; I’d rather shovel the damn snow myself.

Snowdrift in Antarctica

Snowdrift in Antarctica

I felt really down all day yesterday, and that’s when I started thinking about Snow Rage. It’s a real thing, and I’m going to have to deal with. I worked out some of my anger by shoveling most of the pile at the end of the drive way–enough so I can back over it. But I really need to be aware that this kind of weather creates a lot of stress. If you’re aware of it, you can work on your self-talk and counteract the depression and overwhelmed feelings.

Of course Snow Rage is not new. I found a Canadian article from 2008 that described incidents similar to those we are seeing this year.

Quebec City police say they received more than a dozen calls this winter from warring neighbors upset that snow was being shoveled onto their driveway or sidewalk by the folks next door.

The city was buried this winter in a record 460 centimeters (183 inches) of snow, and is running out of places to put the fluffy white powder until spring arrives and it melts.

In nearby Montreal, where residents are recovering from a ninth major snowstorm this season, a man was charged this week with threatening a fellow motorist with a toy gun over a rare parking spot on a snow-clogged street.

And in likely the worst case, an elderly Quebec City man pulled a 12-gauge shotgun on a female snowplow operator on Sunday for blowing snow onto his property, after warning her.

Even a psychologist weighed in:

“I’m seeing so much white that I’m seeing red,” echoed psychologist Luc Tremblay. “At some point, people feel overwhelmed, crushed. It’s playing on their morale and their nerves,” he told the Globe and Mail.

Yup, that’s the feeling: “overwhelmed, crushed,” and beaten down.

That’s all the news I have for you this morning, folks; snow has taken over my world. I’m depending you you to let me know if anything else is happening out there. Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread; and if there’s snow in your future I hope you stay safe and warm.


Friday Nite Lite: Seven, Eight, Nine….Its Amoxicillin Time!

ae83521500595bf4bf4300532a0994c2Good Evening

Hope everyone had a good Valentine’s Day. I spent most of the day at the Walmart clinic, waiting to be seen and then waiting for my prescription of amoxicillin to be filled…and then waiting for the drugs to start working. Which is the point I am at now, waiting for this stuff to work.

I hate sinus infections.

So the cartoons tonight are just a few and they are probably lame. Sorry bout that.

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Gustavo Rodriguez, El Nuevo Herald – 02/10/2014

Cartoon by Gustavo Rodriguez -

Job Killer – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 02/09/2014

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Job Killer

Obamacare costs jobs? – Political Cartoon by Bruce Plante, Tulsa World – 02/11/2014

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Obamacare costs jobs?

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon – Political Cartoon by Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press – 02/11/2014

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer – 02/12/2014

Cartoon by Kevin Siers -

NFL Showers – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 02/13/2014

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - NFL Showers

Sid Caesar obit by Political Cartoonist Milt Priggee

144324 600 Sid Caesar obit cartoons

RIP SID – Political Cartoon by Deb Milbrath, Cartoon Movement – 02/13/2014

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - RIP SID

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

This is an open thread…