Lazy Saturday Reads

cat computer sleeping

Good Morning!!

Southern California has been hit with a “5.1 magnitude earthquake” and “more than 100 aftershocks,” causing “relatively minor damage” according to the LA Times:

Most of the aftershocks have been small, but some were strong enough to be felt in the areas around the epicenter in northwestern Orange County…. Fullerton police said early Saturday that as many as 50 people had been displaced by the quake. Several buildings are being investigated for possible structural damage, including some apartment buildings. The quake, centered near La Habra, caused furniture to tumble, pictures to fall off walls and glass to break. Merchandise fell off store shelves, and there were reports of shattered plate glass windows. Residents across Orange and Los Angeles counties and the Inland Empire reported swinging chandeliers, fireplaces dislodging from walls and lots of rattled nerves.

The quake also caused a rock slide that damaged a car as well as numerous water main breaks.

Third-grade teacher Barbara Castillo and her 7-year-old son had just calmed their nerves after an earlier 3.6 temblor and sat down in their La Habra home when their dogs started barking and the second, larger quake struck, causing cabinet doors to swing open, objects to fall off shelves and lights to flicker. “It just would not stop, it was like an eternity,” said Castillo, an 18-year La Habra resident.

The search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 continues,

with various objects being reported by searchers, but this latest report from CNN is just nuts, Malaysia official: Maybe, just maybe, they’re alive.

Earlier this week, loved ones of those aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 heard this: “All lives are lost.”

But Saturday, a Malaysian official met with relatives and then told reporters he had not closed the door on the possibility that survivors may exist among the 239 people aboard the Boeing 777-200 ER that went missing March 8.

“Even hoping against hope, no matter how remote, of course we are praying and we will continue our search for the possible survivors,” said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s acting transportation minister.

“More than that, I told the families I cannot give them false hope. The best we can do is pray and that we must be sensitive to them that, as long as there is even a remote chance of a survivor, we will pray and do whatever it takes.”

How cruel can you get? In China relatives were alleging some kind of conspiracy.

“They’re all still alive, my son and everyone on board!” yelled Wen Wancheng, 63, whose only son was among the passengers. “The plane is still there too! They’re hiding it.”

He held aloft a banner that read: “Son, mom and dad’s hearts are torn to pieces. Come home soon!”

I can’t even begin to imagine the torture those people are going through. To give them false hope is incredibly irresponsible.

Please don’t skip over this brief but must-read piece on the ongoing scandal involving the US nuclear arsenal.

The Daily Beast: Cleaning House at Nuke Command Raises Bigger Issues.

Nine Air Force officers were fired Thursday and dozens more disciplined for their roles in a cheating scandal involving airmen in charge of the nuclear weapons arsenal. But one source familiar with the Air Force program told The Daily Beast that the punishments handed out were more show than substance, and that problems in the nuclear program go far deeper than what has been addressed so far. According to a retired senior Air Force officer familiar with the Global Strike Command (the headquarters responsible for the Air Force nuclear arsenal), who spoke with The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity, the punishments issued yesterday at the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana were a good show, but wouldn’t affect much substantive reform. “This issue needs leadership,” he said. “You’ve had two stars and three stars [general officers] running the reorganized nuclear enterprise of the U.S. Air Force who have been unable to raise morale, transform the culture and forestall this very type of thing.”

Read the rest at the link. I can’t understand why this scandal isn’t getting more attention. We’re talking about the people who are responsible for our nuclear weapons!

I have several articles on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Russian troops massing near Ukraine border

Russian troops massing near Ukraine border

There have been reports in the past few days that Russian troops are gathering on the Ukraine border and medical and food stations are being set up. From The Wall Street Journal: Russian Buildup Stokes Worries; Pentagon Alarmed as Troops Mass Near Ukraine Border.

Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, U.S. officials said. Such an incursion could take place without warning because Russia has already deployed the array of military forces needed for such an operation, say officials briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence. (Follow the latest developments on the crisis in Ukraine.) The rapid speed of the Russian military buildup and efforts to camouflage the forces and equipment have stoked U.S. fears, in part because American intelligence agencies have struggled to assess Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s specific intentions. The troop movements and the concealment—involving covering up equipment along the border—suggest Mr. Putin is positioning forces in the event he decides to quickly expand his takeover of the Crimea peninsula by seizing more Ukrainian territory, despite Western threats of tighter sanctions.

On the other hand, Russian officials are publicly denying any plans to invade Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama yesterday, supposedly to discuss diplomatic options. But can Putin be trusted? What would an invasion of Ukraine look like? Although, he suspects it won’t happen, Mark Galeotti at Business Insider provides an answer to that question.

In brief, the aim would be a blitzkrieg that, before Ukraine has the chance properly to muster its forces and, perhaps more to the point, the West can meaningfully react, allows the Russians to draw a new front line and assert their own ground truth, much as happened in Crimea (though this would be much more bloody and contested). This would not be a bid to conquer the whole country (the real question is whether they’d seek to push as far as Odessa, taking more risks and extending their supply lines, but also essentially depriving Ukraine of a coastline) but instead quickly to take those areas where there are potentially supportive local political elites and Russophone populations, and consequently pretexts (however flimsy) to portray invasion as ‘liberation.’

He goes on to explain in further detail, and it’s well worth reading. Here a few longer think pieces on Obama’s and Putin’s goals in the Ukraine crisis. Check them out if you have the time and inclination. Fareed Zakaria: Obama’s 21st-century power politics Mosaic: It’s Not Just Ukraine The Guardian: How Vladimir Putin’s actions in Crimea changed the world

In domestic political news . . .

Gallup reports some good news for Democrats: Young Americans’ Affinity for Democratic Party Has Grown. stmc_lm6lus16wuy9y-jyq

From 1993 to 2003, 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds, on average, identified as Democrats or said they were independents but leaned to the Democratic Party, while 42% were Republicans or Republican leaners. That time span included two years in which young adults tilted Republican, 1994 and 1995, when Republicans won control of Congress. Since 2006, the average gap in favor of the Democratic Party among young adults has been 18 percentage points, 54% to 36%. This Democratic movement among the young has come at a time when senior citizens have become more Republican. The broader U.S. population has shown more variability in its party preferences in recent years, shifting Democratic from 2005 to 2008, moving back toward the Republican Party from 2009 to 2011, and showing modest Democratic preferences in the last two years. A major reason young adults are increasingly likely to prefer the Democratic Party is that today’s young adults are more racially and ethnically diverse than young adults of the past. U.S. political preferences are sharply divided by race, with nonwhite Americans of all ages overwhelmingly identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic.

In Texas, Greg Abbot is still acting like a complete idiot. From Think Progress: Sidestepping Equal Pay Attacks, Greg Abbott Tries To Accuse Wendy Davis Of Gender Discrimination. Huh?

Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis

Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis

Texas gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) faces continued tough scrutiny over his campaign’s position against equal pay for women. His campaign has twice justified the gender wage gap and implied he would veto an equal pay bill that makes it easier for women to sue. Instead of addressing the criticism directly, Abbott has chosen to fire back accusations that Wendy Davis, his opponent in the gubernatorial race, is “defending gender discrimination.” Over the last week, the Abbott campaign has posted Facebook ads that call Davis a hypocrite on the gender wage gap, linking to a petition on his site that describes a client Davis once reportedly defended:

Sen. Wendy Davis continues to launch attacks over equal pay while shielding her own record of defending gender discrimination. And while on the Fort Worth City Council, Sen. Davis approved funds to defend a former city employee with a “legs and lipstick” policy.

Here, Abbott is referring to a routine vote Davis cast as a city council member that granted legal counsel funds to a Fort Worth employer sued for harassment and discrimination.

Why on earth would anyone vote for this man? The media has been taking note of the sexist attacks on Chris Christie’s former aide Bridget Kelley. Amy Davidson has a summary at The New Yorker: Chris Christie, Surrounded by Emotional Liars? Check it out if you can. This might be a good sign for better reporting in the New York Times Magazine. Jake Silverstein editor-in-chief of Texas Monthly has been hired to revamp the stagnant NYT Sunday magazine.

Under Mr. Silverstein, Texas Monthly has been nominated for 12 National Magazine Awards and won four, including the general excellence prize.

In an interview on his new role at The Times Magazine, Mr. Silverstein said, “I think this is a remarkable moment for the magazine to commit to the kind of long-form impactful journalism that has made the magazine one of the most influential publications throughout its history.”

Mr. Silverstein, 38, holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin and became editor of Texas Monthly in 2008. He is only the fourth editor of that magazine, which published its first issue in February 1973.

In the Boston bombing trial . . .

Accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys have requested records of any FBI contacts with Dzhokhar’s older brother Tamerlan and any FISA court ordered surveillance of the Tsarnaev brothers. From the Boston Globe: FBI pushed elder Tsarnaev to be informer, lawyers assert.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asserted Friday that his older brother and alleged accomplice had been encouraged by the FBI to be an informant and to report on the Chechen and Muslim community, according to court records. “We seek this information based on our belief that these contacts were among the precipitating events for Tamerlan’s actions during the week of April 15, 2013, and thus material to the defense case in mitigation,” the lawyers said in their court filing. “We base this on information from our client’s family and other sources that the FBI made more than one visit to talk with Anzor [his father], Zubeidat [his mother] and Tamerlan, questioned Tamerlan about his Internet searches, and asked him to be an informant, reporting on the Chechen and Muslim community

“We do not suggest that these contacts are to be blamed and have no evidence to suggest that they were improper, but rather view them as an important part of the story of Tamerlan’s decline. Since Tamerlan is dead, the government is the source of corroboration that these visits did in fact occur and of what was said during them.”The lawyers suggested that Tamerlan Tsarnaev could have misinterpreted his interactions with the FBI as pressure from the agency, and that they could have “increased his paranoia and distress.” The defense wants to investigate those factors as it seeks to portray Tamerlan as a dominating family figure who may have pushed the younger Dzhokhar to take part in the April 15 bombings last year. Tamerlan was killed days after the bombings in a confrontation with police in Watertown. Good luck with prying anything loose from the FBI.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your recommended links in the comment thread, and have a terrific weekend!


Sunday Reads: Little Big Men

0ebdc95ad82b06d8bea49b4849e78134Good Morning

This post is going to have a theme, can you guess what that is?

Our first “little” big man story, or should I say stories, of the morning…updates on the man from New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie. The little being in quotes because this dude’s future role in the GOP used to be about as big as his “big and tall” non-wrinkle pleated-front dress slacks. Now he is being booed, yeah…you read that right…booed, and you know for a man like Christie, that has to sting like hell.

Gov. Chris Christie Booed Twice in One Week at Super Bowl Events | Mediaite

3729011e942d087aae0a96f0bd8f00dbFor the second time this week, Governor Chris Christie was met with scattered boos when he took the stage for an event leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium. The first incident occurred on Monday night, when Christie appeared alongside New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in Jersey City.

As Al Sharpton, who aired video footage from the event on PoliticsNation Tuesday night said, “It was a dramatic contrast to what we saw three months ago” when he was reelected in a landslide.

No kidding, video at the link.

Well, a lot has happened since the first and second booing. That being the news that Christie knew what was going on with the bridge…as told by former BFF David Wildstein.John Gutmann, 1935

Okay, you know I am joking with the BFF thing right? The NY Times had the story here: Christie Linked to Knowledge of Shut Lanes

Read all the stuff there, I know Dak and Boston Boomer have covered it too.

Then we have the backlash from Christie himself.

Chris Christie attacks N.Y. Times, David Wildstein – Mike Allen and Maggie Haberman – POLITICO.com

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, after a low-key initial response to Friday’s explosive allegations about his involvement in a bridge-closing scandal, mounted an aggressive defense late Saturday afternoon, attacking The New York Times and a former political ally in an email to friends and allies obtained by POLITICO.

“Bottom line — David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein,” the email from the governor’s office says, referring to the former appointee who reignited the controversy.

30461ca47ed89bcf41c64db627d7fb0dI think the best part of this move from Christie is the title of this email his office sent out:

The subject line of the 700-word email from the governor’s office is: “5 Things You Should Know About The Bombshell That’s Not A Bombshell.” It offers a harshly negative portrayal of Wildstein’s character and judgment.

Sounds like one of those quickie news articles from USA Today.

Read the rest at that link to Politico, I have another link about the email here from TPM, I just wanted to use this picture: Christie Hits Back: Bridge Official Will ‘Say Anything To Save’ Himself

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The full email is below.

Christie Email

This email goes back to an incident in Wildstein’s past…when he was a 16-year-old kid for Christ’s sake.

Geezus….go look at the full email, it is priceless.

Worse Than I Realized by Josh Marshall at TPM:

It speaks for itself that Wildstein is out to save himself. He is not sitting on a reputation for integrity and truth-telling. So the wisdom of doing anything more than saying Wildstein is trying to save himself and lacks credibility is highly questionable. The end product here reads like it’s coming from a team or a person who is flailing and grasping at straws.

If I’m a Republican power player reading this to a get a read on what’s actually happening, what’s likely to happen next week or next month, I think I come away thinking things are considerably worse than I realized.

18f25a5ddcf4c15866f1d40653b3b49fOne more Christie link: Chris Christie should resign if bombshell proves true: Editorial | NJ.com

Forget about the White House in 2016. The question now is whether Gov. Chris Christie can survive as governor.

David Wildstein, the man who ordered the George Washington Bridge lane closures, is now pointing the finger directly at Gov. Chris Christie, saying the governor knew about the lane closures in September when they occurred.

That directly contradicts Christie account at his Jan. 13 press conference when he made this statement: “I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it… I first found out about it after it was over.”

If this charge proves true, then the governor must resign or be impeached. Because
that would leave him so drained of credibility that he could not possibly govern effectively. He would owe it to the people of New Jersey to stop the bleeding and quit. And if he should refuse, then the Legislature should open impeachment hearings.

Well, moving on…to another New Jersey little “big” man…Danny DeVito.  Esquire Interview -The Serene Beauty of the Five-Foot Fury of Asbury Park Guy just needed a job, and instead he became Danny DeVito. And the word big is in quotes for Danny because the man is just fucking awesome and bigger than anything you can possibly imagine.

His parents sent him to board at a prep school in the upper-crust suburb of Summit, New Jersey, fifty miles north and inland. He was the baby by more than a decade to two sisters, and as the only boy—the DeVitos had suffered the loss of two children, including a son, years before Danny came along—he was their prince. His father, Daniel Sr., preferred paying tuition to bail money.

“My father was a good man,” DeVito says. “He supported his family. He always worked hard. He had a candy store, a luncheonette kind of thing, when I was born. Then he had a pool hall. That didn’t really do very well. It was small—five tables—and couldn’t really compete. But he loved to play pool.”

One of the classic experiences I had with my father was we drove from Asbury to see a guy named Mr. Blatt. Mr. Blatt had pool tables—probably had other sports equipment, too. I don’t know. All I know is we drove up to New York, I think—November, December—in one of his Oldsmobiles. He always had an Oldsmobile. It was like paradise for a kid going into this place, and he ordered five slate-top four-and-a-half-by-nine tables, which fit—just fit—in the little store he rented. And he picked out the felt, he picked out the balls, the cue balls, the chalk, the counters for the straight pool counters, pill bottles for pill pool. Picked all this stuff out. I was twelve, maybe.”

That’s a big deal for a boy that age.

“Yeah, a real big deal. And on the way home, it started snowing. One of the biggest blizzards that we ever had. And we were stuck without chains, on the way back to the shore, in the middle of it. No cell phones—you’re at the mercy of humanity. And people stopped. Somebody stopped, and they had an extra set of chains and fixed my father up. He never was slow with the duke, my father”—an old-school nod to the timeless practice of greasing the right palm in return for a solid—”so it worked out good.”

Which is a wonderful story, don’t you think?  That made me think of this scene from Throw Momma From the Train:

Please go read the entire interview, it is a great long read. I’ve caught up on lots of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes I’ve missed over the years. That is one funny show.

e878a32e5e478ba5a419d16b238b0dc6In other news that seems fitting for something out of the circus, this article by Zach Beauchamp:  The Inside Story Of The Charlatan Who Duped The Nation’s Top Conservatives | ThinkProgress

On New Year’s Eve, I learned FEMA’s “Dirty Little Secret.”

It was the title of a fascinating email, one that had somehow dodged my spam filter. The message was suffused with breathless concern about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recent order of “420 million survival meals;” such provisions are apparently “the #1 most critical item in a crisis.” You see, “FEMA knows that if you control the food supply, then you control the people.”

Normally, such paranoid ramblings merit nothing more than a quick delete and a sad shake of the head. But the New Year’s note stood out because of the source. I was being alerted to FEMA’s nefarious plot by no less than National Review, the nation’s most important conservative magazine.

“Please find this special message from our sponsoring advertiser Food4Patriots,” the publication wrote. “This important support affords us the continuing means to provide you with National Review’s distinctly conservative and always exceptional news and commentary. We encourage you to patronize our sponsors.”

Since being added to National Review’s subscriber list, I had received four emails from the venerable publication selling me on Food4Patriots’ plan to “make darn sure your family won’t go hungry or get herded into a FEMA camp” by purchasing the dehydrated food they’re hawking. Indeed, Food4Patriots is deeply ensconced in the conservative movement, placing its ads in both more mainstream outlets (Fox News, Townhall.com) and fringier sites (Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, RedState, WorldNetDaily).

Food4Patriots is a lucrative enterprise. Its parent company, Reboot Marketing, took in $11.8 million in 2012, an astonishing 1,428 percent increase over its 2009 revenue.

But the company’s skyrocketing revenues came on the back of some (arguably) really shady practices. In fact, when I wrote National Review’s editor and publisher to give them a heads up about what I learned about the company, they promptly suspended future Food4Patriots ads.

Oh it is good…fascinating stuff, and it is a long read so go refill that coffee.

843d34af3ec04fdeb8f6e9a6bc6362d8Another link for you, this is an update to something I don’t think we have mentioned on the blog before so first the back story. Sam Bee interviewed Peter Schiff, an asshole CEO. Who goes on to tell Daily Show viewers the ‘mentally retarded’ could work for $2: ‘You’re worth what you’re worth’ | The Raw Story

The investment broker and talk radio host told Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee that lifting the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, as President Barack Obama announced he would do by executive order for federal employees, could have devastating effects.

“There’s a law in economics, supply and demand, that you learn in Econ 101, and if you increase the price of something, you decrease the demand,” Schiff said. “The higher you make the minimum wage, the more jobs are going to be destroyed.

The CEO of Euro Pacific Capital argued that government programs, not low wages, were trapping Americans in poverty, and claimed that paying workers twice as much would double the cost of some goods – such as fast-food hamburgers.

“I do like to taste the tears of poverty in my milkshakes,” Bee said.

Schiff said those workers already earn enough.

“Did you ever go into a McDonald’s or Burger King?” he said. “I don’t really eat there, but they don’t seem desperate and hungry to me. They’re young kids, they seem to be enjoying themselves mostly.”

People don’t go hungry in a capitalist economy, Schiff claimed.

“It’s socialism that creates, you know, scarcity, that creates famine,” he said. “In a free market, there’s plenty of food for everybody – especially the poor.”

Schiff argued that eliminating the minimum wage law would allow more people entry to the workforce, and Bee asked him to identify someone whose work might be worth just $2 an hour.

“You know someone that might be? Maybe someone who is – what’s the politically correct word, you know, for mentally retarded,” Schiff said. “I believe in the principles this country was founded on.”

“I’m not going to say that we’re all created equal,” he said. “You’re worth what you’re worth.”

e006fb9d73724c77aad8e8710ad04350Well, the video is something you need to see, it is at the link. Go watch it.

Okay that was crazy, wasn’t it?

Now, check out what the dude is saying now: Investor Peter Schiff digs himself in deeper after ‘Daily Show’ remarks about the ‘retarded’ | The Raw Story

Radio commentator and investment adviser Peter Schiff , who was recently interviewed by The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee for a segment on the minimum wage, is very upset that he has been pilloried for using the not very politically-correct expression “mentally retarded” on air. During the episode, when prodded by Bee to explain who might be willing to work for $2 an hour, Schiff responded,  “You know someone that might be? Maybe someone who is – what’s the politically correct word, you know, for mentally retarded. I believe in the principles this country was founded on.”

Responding to public criticism about his star turn, Schiff has taken to his blog to express his displeasure with The Daily Show by pointing out that that Samantha Bee didn’t assist him with his answer and that he had delivered a four hour long disquisition on the free market and pay rates that somehow didn’t make it onto the half-hour long  satirical news program.

b26982af32a2d9f6a2c98435ffe5c297It is like some kind of canyon he is digging here.

Mr. Schiff  pointed out that  “Of the more than four hours of taped discussion I conducted, the producers chose to only use about 75 seconds of my comments. Of those, my use of the words ‘mentally retarded’ (when Samantha Bee asked me who might be willing to work for $2 per hour – a figure she suggested) has come to define the entire interview.” He then added,  “I just couldn’t remember the politically correct term currently in use (it is “intellectually disabled”). Assuming she knew it, Bee could have prompted me with the correct term, but she chose not to.”

Mr. Schiff then went on to further clarify that there were were two groups who would probably be happy to work for $2 an hour: the more appropriately named ” intellectually disabled”  and  “…unpaid interns who tend to value work experience and connections more than pay. ” He then pointed out that the Daily Show staffer who booked him for the show and attended the interview had  “… been thrilled to start there as an unpaid intern.”

Turning back to the “intellectually disabled”, Mr. Schiff added that if they “…can’t perform work that produces a minimum wage level of output, then no employer seeking to make a profit could afford to pay that person the official minimum wage. ” and that “Many of the jobs they perform may seem mundane to those of normal intelligence, but they are often the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. I pointed out that if the federal minimum wages were to apply to them, a great many of those opportunities would vanish. Others may disagree, but I believe a job for such a person at $2 per hour is better than no job at all.”

Some of his best friends are retards, oops… “intellectually disabled.” WTF is wrong with these people?

daab3814f86be30205d0781a9a71a933Just a few more links for you today, in dump fashion.

Postal Service Banking: How the USPS Can Save Itself and Help the Poor | New Republic by David Dayen

One of the key messages of tonight’s State of the Union address will be President Obama’s willingness to bypass Congress to create jobs and reduce inequality. As luck would have it, yesterday a new government report detailed an innovation that would preserve one of the largest job creators in the country, save billions of dollars specifically for the poor, and develop the very ladders of opportunity that Obama has championed as of late. What’s more, this could apparently be accomplished without Congressional action, but merely through existing executive prerogatives.

What’s the policy? Letting the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) offer basic banking services to customers, like savings accounts, debit cards and even simple loans. The idea has been kicked around policy circles for years, but now it has a crucial new adherent: the USPS Inspector General, who endorsed the initiative in a comprehensive white paper.

I have read this whole article and I don’t know what to think of it. Dak? Any thoughts?

This op/ed is only here because of the spelling topic of the thing…not the repeal Obamacare stuff…okay. Correct Spelling, Canceled by Phil Kerpen

As an American, I laugh at those archaic British spellings. Colour? Honour? Their inferiourity, if you will, is obvious. Centre? Theatre? Ridiculous. Most of these barbaric forms were corrected in America hundreds of years ago. Yet one galling Britishism is appearing on my computer screen all too frequently of late: “cancelled,” with a gratuitous extra l.

133581 600 Correct Spelling, Canceled cartoons
Randall Enos / Cagle Cartoons

Does something about Obamacare drive otherwise reasonable people to write about health plans being “cancelled” instead of “canceled”? Does the prospect of intrusive government involvement in health care cause us to regress? Is it subconscious deference to British and Canadian expertise at imposing socialized medicine? Whatever the cause, it needs to stop.

f734859e318878ec2ee90f8ac299fbccI don’t know, I usually have to go back and correct my spelling of flavour to flavor. Anyway,

Google’s Ngram feature searches the vast library of books Google has digitized. A search for “traveller” and “traveler” shows the British version remained dominant in America throughout the 19th century, but by 1915 the single l version overtook it and is now dominant. Merriam-Webster even touts “traveler” as an example of a Noah Webster triumph.

It took longer for “canceled” to triumph over “cancelled,” according to Google Ngram. The single l version didn’t take the lead until 1942, and they remained competitive for the next 40 years before “canceled” took the lead for good in 1983. As of 2000, the most recent year covered by the Google data, the now-standard American version was used over 73 percent of the time. The double l monstrosity appeared destined to finally disappear. In 2010, the Associated Press helpfully reminded the world that their style guide says “canceled” has one l.

Yet lately it seems everywhere I look there are American publications going British on this word. It’s baffling. If we are slouching towards a British-style health care system, we should at least spell the canceling of all those health plans in the correct American fashion.

3862148307_6d6daa3819This leads me to a little wordplay: World Wide Words Newsletter: 1 Feb 2014 Give the mitten

Q From Michael Thomas: I was recently working an acrostic puzzle and came upon the clue, “to break up with a loved one”. The answer, which I had never run across, was give the mitten. Could you explain the history of this phrase, please?

A It’s new to me, too, Mr Thomas, as it probably is to readers, since it is now extremely rare. The meaning has often been the one you give (in the American Civil War, a soldier who received a Dear John letter was said to have been given the mitten) but it could also often mean that a woman had rejected a unwelcome admirer out of hand. It occasionally meant that a student had been expelled from college or a workman had got the sack.

It’s known to be at least 170 years old. It has sometimes been taken to be North American, as the examples that were written down first — in the 1840s — are from works by Thomas Chandler Haliburton of Nova Scotia, who had a keen ear for the vocabulary of his times. However, as it is also recorded in Britain and Canada during much of the nineteenth century, it is probably an older British idiom that emigrants had carried abroad. In support of this, at the end of the century, the English Dialect Dictionary noted it as a British regional or dialect expression in the form to send one a mitten, to reject somebody or to cast them off.

Oh why didn’t we know this when Mitt was running for Prez…we could have used that as a slogan. Let’s send Mitt a mitten.  More at the link.

Back to the little big man theme: The Extreme Emotional Life of Völundr the Elf

An illustration of Völundr.Elves have been a fixture in the European mentality for a long time in fairytales and legends and, recently, in the most popular novels and films of our age. In this article, my aim is to determine the function of elves in Old Norse narratives from the thirteenth century by concentrating on the figure of Völundr, the protagonist of Völundarkviða, who to my mind is the most important Old Norse elf. The poem portrays his marriage to a southern swan-maiden who later leaves him. He then retires into solitude, hunting bears, and counting his rings until he is captured and enslaved by the avaricious King Níðuðr. The poem ends with Völundr’s gruesome revenge on the king and his family.

Völundarkviða is the tenth of twenty-nine poems in the Codex Regius ms of the Poetic Edda. Few Eddic poems have suffered less from scholarly neglect: a recent bibliography lists over 100 studies, not counting editions. There are grounds for this attention. To take one, Völundarkviða is usually classified as a heroic rather than mythological poem and shares common characteristics with some of the more ancient heroic poems in the Elder Edda, and yet it stands among the mythological Eddic poems in the manuscript between Þrymskviða and Alvíssmál.

Over the weekend I saw this man was buried with his Harley Davidson, did you see it?

American biker buried ‘riding’ Harley-Davidson in clear box – Americas – World – The Independent

An American biker has made his final journey on his beloved Harley-Davidson and been buried astride the motorbike in a clear box.

It was Bill Standley’s wish to share a grave with the 1967 bike, which took him travelling around 49 out of America’s 50 states.

His body was dressed in full riding gear and positioned on the Harley in a see-through box, which was driven to the cemetery on a trailer before being lowered into the extra-large plot.

Work on the unusual coffin started six years before Mr Standley’s death, aged 82.

He built the plastic casket that would hold him and his motorbike himself with his sons, and bought three burial plots next to his wife.

Damn, talk about taking it with you. There is a video report at the link, if you need to see it. The photo is enough for me.

And finally another twist on our title, but this features little big men and women…

Alrighty then.  Y’all have a wonderful day, and since it is Superbowl Sunday…I guess we’ll see you around the blog later on.  In the meantime, what are you reading about this morning?


Monday Reads: Nice Bridge, it would be a shame if sumpin’ would happen to it

George Washington Bridge Under ConstructionGood Morning!

Just when you think  Governor CrankyPants of New Jersey couldn’t be that corrupt, more stuff starts leaking out about him.

Hey, that’s a nice bridge you have there.  It would be a shame if anything happened to it.

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer confirmed Sunday that she spent several hours privately with federal investigators, a day after leveling stunning accusations that Gov. Chris Christie’s administration held out Hurricane Sandy relief funds until she would sign off on a private development project, according to media reports.

Zimmer gave the U.S. Attorney’s office her journal and other documents, she said to NBC.

“As they pursue this investigation, I will provide any requested information and testify under oath about the facts of what happened when the Lieutenant Governor [Kim Guadagno] came to Hoboken and told me that Sandy aid would be contingent on moving forward with a private development project,” she said.

Asked by Candy Crowley on CNN why she had waited until now, with the scandal swirling around the Christie administration’s purported payback move to close the George Washington Bridge after the mayor of Fort Lee refused an endorsement, Zimmer said “I really didn’t think anyone would believe me and quite frankly, if I came forward, no one believes me, then I’m going to put Hoboken in an even worse position and my number one priority as a mayor of Hoboken is to fight to make sure that we can get as many Sandy funds as possible.”

Then, some Dem who did endorse Christie fessed up.

Long Branch, N.J. Mayor Adam Schneider (D) on Saturday said he got “enhanced” access to state officials after he endorsed Gov. GW-Bridge-Opening-DayChris Christie (R) during his re-election campaign.

Schneider told the Washington Post that a few months after he endorsed the governor, he contacted his office about an issue he couldn’t get resolved by the state utility board

“I’m not talking to any more underlings, and I’m not being delegated to,” Schneider told Christie’s aides, a strategy that proved successful. “I got what I needed.”

The Long Branch mayor believes the help from Christie’s office can be attributed to the endorsement, even though the governor never promised him anything.

Governor CrankyPants has decided that it’s all MSNBC’s fault.

Here’s the full statement from Reed (emphasis added):

MSNBC is a partisan network that has been openly hostile to Governor Christie and almost gleeful in their efforts attacking him, even taking the unprecedented step of producing and airing a nearly three-minute attack ad against him this week. Governor Christie and his entire administration have been helping Hoboken get the help they need after Sandy, with the city already having been approved for nearly $70 million dollars in federal aid and is targeted to get even more when the Obama Administration approves the next rounds of funding. The Governor and Mayor Zimmer have had a productive relationship, with Mayor Zimmer even recently saying she’s ‘very glad’ he’s been our Governor. It’s very clear partisan politics are at play here as Democratic mayors with a political axe to grind come out of the woodwork and try to get their faces on television.”

“Our journalism speaks for itself,” MSNBC spokesperson Lauren Skowronski told Business Insider in response to Christie’s office.

Christie’s deep pockets said he thought the Governer’s team was really at fault so Christie should reevaluate his hiring choices.  

The billionaire Kenneth G. Langone, Mr. Christie’s most devoted fund-raiser and loudest cheerleader, got in touch with him in recent days. Mr. Langone said he told the governor that he must be smarter about those who surround him.

“I conveyed the importance of the decisions he makes about the people around him and their qualification and their competence, including common sense,” said Mr. Langone, who called the politically motivated closure of lanes onto the George Washington Bridge “beyond the pale.”

“It upset the hell out of me,” he said.

Mr. Christie has told friends and contributors that he can weather the slings and scrutiny, even as he complains about what he sees as “piling on” by his enemies and a once-admiring news media, according to people told of his thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be associated with comments that could upset the governor or his aides. Mr. Christie has leaned hard on his wife and brother for advice, in long, searching conversations. (The governor could not bring himself to watch the traffic jam-themed parody of “Born to Run” sung by his idol, Bruce Springsteen, on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” though he was told by his college-age son, Andrew, that it was funny.)

Inside Mr. Christie’s inner circle, advisers are disputing public opinion polls, which show a noticeable drop in his popularity and job approval rating, saying that his previous sky-high numbers were inflated by election-year advertising.

Several Republican governors said they were heartened by Mr. Christie’s efforts to address the controversy head-on. So long as he is telling the truth and was not personally involved in the shutdown in Fort Lee, they said, Mr. Christie will remain a major force within the party.

You just gotta love the entire party and how it just continually strives to be out of touch with reality, doncha? Just so you know, Langone is basically the guy that founded Home Depot.  It’s one of the stores on my boycott list. 

Is it a law of evolution that the fatter the wallet, the thinner the skin? The wallet of Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot, is so fat he he must sit on it funny, yet there he was the other day, crabbing to CNBC about Pope Francis’ missive to the effect that the rich are indifferent to the poor.

Langone was careful to attribute his complaints to an unnamed fellow plutocrat, who being a rich person ostensibly took the Pope’s remarks as an insult. Langone claimed his friend was so upset by the Pope’s remarks that he was reconsidering a donation for the renovation of New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

If Langone sounds a little like the guy with an embarrassing condition opening his medical consultation with the words, “Doc, I’ve got this friend…,” so be it. Langone told CNBC he advised Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York that the pope should cool it with the finger-pointing at the rich. (“You get more with honey than with vinegar,” he said.) Dolan promised to explain to the reluctant donor that he was “misunderstanding” the pope’s words and suggested he would explicate the pope’s words in a more emollient way. “And then,” Dolan said hopefully, “he’s going to say, ‘OK, if that’s the case, count me in for St. Patrick’s Cathedral.’”

Remember, this is all about a $180-million project to renovate the big cathedral on Fifth Avenue, which suggests that the priorities of the New York diocese may not leave so much room for “misunderstanding” the pope’s message.

That message, in part, was that “while the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few…. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.”

Langone hates Obama needless to say. He was active against the President as he sought reelection and was pandering to Christie prior to Romney’s nomination.

Langone is a prodigious donor, having given millions to New York University and New York City charities, including the Harlem Children’s Zone. He’s also given hundreds of thousands to conservative groups, like the Republican National Committee, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super-PAC, and the American Action Network, the dark-money outfit run by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman. Langone strongly backed his friend Ross Perot for president in 1992 and was a bundler for Giuliani in 2008.

Last summer, after the White House and Congress (whose members Langone compared to “sex fiends” when around money) clashed over lifting the federal government’s debt ceiling,Langone branded Obama “petulant” and “unpresidential” on CNBC. He even ripped the president for entering the Oval Office without a suit jacket on—something, Langone insisted, Ronald Reagan never would have done. (PolitiFact rated this claim “mostly false”; Reagan sometimes wore track jackets in the Oval Office on weekends.) Obama is “not bringing us together,” Langone said. “Divide us and we all lose. This has got to stop.”

He’s just another one of those billionaires that thinks he knows what’s best for the rest of us and that mostly means fattening his wallet.

Meanwhile, the news about the chemical leak from West Virginia is awful.  The Ohio River is tainted and Cinncinatti closed its intake valves to prevent the chemical from entering the tri-state water supply.

The chemical leaked from a tank along the Elk River in West Virginia last week. The Elk feeds into the Ohio. Traces of the chemical were found at the Meldahl Dam around 9 p.m. Tuesday and were detected at a GCWW intake around 7 a.m.

“Right at the intakes,” Jerry Schulte, a manager with ORSANCO said. “The intakes have been shut down so that’s not a concern.”

GCWW stored water and alternate sources to supply customers until the chemical plume passed Wednesday night or Thursday.

The Northern Kentucky Water District said that it has also shut down its Ohio River intakes as a precautionary measure while the remnants of the spill passes.

Water treatment experts said the water could have been treated with activated charcoal and made safe for customers to use, but 01074u.previewDeborah Metz, a superintendent of water quality and treatment with GCWW, said, “We figure the least risky scenario is for us to just let it go on by.”

The environmental impact will be tracked by comparing fish counts and even bug populations from this spring to last spring.

“We won’t be able to detect the material it will be long gone from the system but if it had an impact on the systems we might be able to see it,” Schulte said.

Freedom Industries has filed for bankruptcy in order to avoid lawsuits and fines.  This should not be possible under US Law but you know how this country is about the so-called job makers. What would be doing right now if this was Al Quaida that poisoned that many people?

 Freedom Industries, the company that fouled thousands of West Virginians’ water with a chemical leak into the Elk River last week, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday.

Freedom owes $3.6 million to its top 20 unsecured creditors, according to bankruptcy documents. The company also owes more than $2.4 million in unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, and the IRS has placed at least three liens on Freedom’s property, demanding payment.

The unpaid taxes date back to at least 2000, according to a lien filed in 2010.

Under the bankruptcy code, Chapter 11 permits a company to reorganize and continue operating.

The filing also puts a hold on all of the lawsuits filed against Freedom Industries. Since the leak last week, about a mile and a half upriver from West Virginia Water American’s plant in Charleston, about 25 lawsuits have been filed against Freedom in Kanawha Circuit Court. The company also faces a federal lawsuit.

The company’s assets and liabilities are each listed as between $1 million and $10 million in the bankruptcy filing. Chemstream Holdings Inc. is the sole owner of Freedom Industries, according to the filing. Gary Southern, who is identified as Freedom’s president, signed all of the bankruptcy documents.

On Thursday, a source close to Freedom Industries, who asked to remain anonymous because of pending lawsuits, told The Charleston Gazette that Chemstream Holdings is owned by J. Clifford Forrest of Kittanning, Pa.

coal-minerSo, here’s the bottom line on that move.

A bankruptcy filing halts most litigation, forcing plaintiffs to vie with other creditors for a share of a company’s assets. More than two dozen lawsuits have been filed since the accident, which led President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency for the affected counties. The state attorney general is investigating the spill.

Shorter bottom line:  This pits bankers and investors against people damaged by the company.  It protects the company’s assets.

Here’s a really good rant from one of those people who will have to fight the bankers and investors for damage done.

 I drove south to the point where I-79 South ends, and you pick up I-64 West to head into the interstate exchanges on the freeway that runs the length of downtown.  And there, about a mile and a half out, I smelled it, smelled the odor of the MCHM coming in through the car vents.

I keep hearing the odor described as “licorice.”  That’s not quite right, at least to me.  But I can see how you’d make that association.  The smell was both sweet and sharp, and strangely light, at least in comparison to the smells I associated with chemical leaks growing up.  But it was there, suddenly, like someone had flipped a switch.  It wasn’t there, and then the next second, there it was.

I-64 West into Charleston, coming from southbound, unrolls in a big left-hand curve just after you come into the city.  I’ve driven this route hundreds, maybe thousands of times.  I grew up here.  I recognize every building from the freeway—the banks, the hospitals, the hotels and apartment complexes, all of it.  In the deepest part of that big left-hand curve, down off the freeway and to my left, there was West Virginia-American Water Company, and the smell suddenly became very, very strong.

On my way in, the rain had let up.  Now there was low-lying fog, white-and-gray tufts and tendrils of vapor rising up from the street level all around the small wood-frame houses and gas stations and grocery stores.  The sky was dark, and the fog was in the streets, and the smell was everywhere.  I looked at the water company, and I smelled the air, and suddenly I was filled—I mean filled—with a rage that was quite sudden, very unexpected, and utterly comprehensive.

We can never predict what moments are going to affect us this way.  I’m no dewy-eyed innocent about chemical leaks.  They were regular occurrences when I was a kid.  On the merits, this doesn’t seem right now to be the worst industrial threat West Virginia has ever endured.  Hell, it isn’t the most immediately threatening one my family has endured personally; that would be the bromine leak in my very own hometown of Malden in the 1980s, the one that forced a complete evacuation of the entire town until the leak could be contained.

But something about this confluence, the way I had to bring potable water to my family from two hours north, the strange look of the landscape wreathed in rain and mist, the stench of a chemical that was housed directly upstream from the water company—something about all of that made me absolutely buoyant in my rage.  This was not the rational anger one encounters in response to a specific wrong, nor even the righteous anger that comes from an articulate reaction to years of systematic mistreatment.  This was blind animal rage, and it filled my body to the limits of my skin.

And this is what I thought:

To hell with you. 

Do go read the entire thing.  It’s worth it.

So, at least today is a Holiday and we are celebrating the life of some one who fought for social justice.  Today we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.03-martin-king-010909_14075_600x450

It took 32 years to get this holiday into law when it was signed by Ronald Reagan in 1983.  It took until 2000 to get all 50 states to recognize the holiday.

The House took up the bill in 1983 and it passed by 53 votes. Democrats O’Neill and Jim Wright, along with Republicans Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich, gave speeches supporting the King holiday.

But getting the bill passed in the Senate would be contentious. Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina openly opposed it. At first, Helms introduced a filibuster, and then he presented a 400-page file that accused Dr. King of being a communist.

Senator Ted Kennedy criticized Helms and Senator Daniel Moynihan called the document “filth” and threw it on the Senate floor.

Despite Helms, the bill passed the Senate by 12 votes–even South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond voted in favor of the King holiday.

President Ronald Reagan signed the bill in November 1983. The first federal King holiday was celebrated in 1986.

It took longer for the 50 states to adopt the holiday. By 1986, 17 states had already adopted it. But there was strong resistance in Arizona to passing a state holiday.

The fight between state legislators came to a head when the King holiday was put up for an Arizona voter referendum in November 1990.

At that point, entertainers had started boycotting the state in protest, and the National Football League threatened to move the 1993 Super Bowl from Tempe if the holiday was defeated at the polls.

The King holiday lost in a two-part voter referendum and the NFL made good on its threat, taking the Super Bowl to Southern California and costing the state an estimated $500 million in revenue.

Arizona voters approved the King holiday two years later.

There was also a fight in South Carolina over the holiday. It was one of the last states to approve a paid King holiday for state employees in 2000.

The state’s governor had tried to link the holiday to a commitment to allow the state house to fly the Confederate battle flag. Instead, he signed a bill that approved the King holiday along with a Confederate Memorial Day celebrated in May.

Have a great day!  What’s on your reading and blogging list?


Caturday Reads

Cat_Surfing_The_Web

Good Morning!!

It’s another three day weekend, and it’s really quiet around here. I never thought about MLK Day being a big vacation weekend, but I was out in the car yesterday and the streets were dead. Where do these people go–the ones with enough money to get out of town? Florida? New Hampshire? I don’t know, but it’s nice when they aren’t clogging up the streets with their cars.

I expect it will be a slow news weekend too, except for the football games tomorrow. Let’s see what I can find out there in cyberspace.

Of course there’s the speech President Obama gave yesterday on NSA reforms. To be honest, I didn’t watch it. I’d rather just wait and see what happens. Here are a few reactions to Obama’s proposals.

Of course Glenn Greenwald hated it, as he wrote in an op-ed for the Guardian: Obama’s NSA ‘reforms’ are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public. I tried to slog my way through it, but I couldn’t. He’s such a terrible writer–always nearly hysterical with rage and with absolutely no sense of humor to take the edge of his sarcasm and bile. He did end with a not-so-subtle threat to keep releasing U.S. intelligence secrets until America finally gives up spying altogether and accedes to Greenwald’s demands.

Today’s speech should be seen as the first step, not the last, on the road to restoring privacy. The causes that drove Obama to give this speech need to be, and will be, stoked and nurtured further until it becomes clear to official Washington that, this time around, cosmetic gestures are plainly inadequate.

After all, according to Glenn, there’s really no danger from terrorists or hostile countries like China and Russia. The entire goal of the national security apparatus and of signals intelligence is the instill fear in the populace.

A few more reasoned reactions:

Adam Martin at New York Magazine collects reactions from a number of people: So What Did People Think of Obama’s NSA Speech?

NPR’s Carrie Johnson offers: 5 Takeaways From The President’s NSA Speech.

Doyle McManus at the LA Times, who has been critical of both Snowden and NSA: A new day at the NSA – President Obama takes a step back from unfettered surveillance.

Individually, the concrete steps President Obama announced Friday toward reforming the National Security Agency‘s surveillance programs were modest. Taken together, though, they signal the end of an era of unfettered escalation in U.S. intelligence-gathering.

Since its establishment in 1952, the NSA’s history has been one of almost nonstop expansion. But for most of that time, the agency still faced limits on what kind of information it could gather and in the legal strictures that governed its programs.

That changed after the terrorist attacks of 2001, which prompted then-President George W. Bush to demand an all-out effort to collect every scrap of information available.

His order came at a time when the Internet, email, instant messaging and low-cost voice communications were pouring an unprecedented amount of private information into a global electronic network, available for sophisticated eavesdroppers to tap.

Bush brushed aside legal constraints and ordered the NSA to collect domestic telephone and email communications without court warrants. Later, Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court legalized much of that program retroactively, including the NSA’s collection of domestic telephone call records, known as metadata. The principle driving intelligence-gathering had become collect first, ask questions later.

Obama’s proposals are step back from that rule.

Read the rest at the link. I have no idea what will happen, but at least Obama is open to talking about it, unlike Bush/Cheney.

bob_cat

I thought this article at Mediaite was pretty funny: Robert Gates Wanted to Recruit Bob Woodward for the CIA.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates shared an interesting detail during a conversation with POLITICO’s Mike Allen about his new book: he wanted to recruit iconic Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward for the Central Intelligence Agency. Yes, that’s right, Gates wanted one of the men who broke Watergate wide open to move to the government side because of his “extraordinary ability” to pry details out of people.

Gates admitted he wasn’t exactly happy with Woodward’s assessment of his book, but beyond that he said he has great respect for Woodward, and admitted he would have liked to bring Woodward into the CIA because he has a gift that not everyone has.

“He has an extraordinary ability to get otherwise responsible adults to spill his guts to him, on background, nothing there for the historians, but his ability to get people to talk about stuff they shouldn’t be talked about is just extraordinary and maybe unique.”

Seriously, does Gates not know that Woodward began his career in naval intelligence “where he was a part of a group which briefed top intelligence officials; at one time he was close to Admiral Robert O. Welander, being communications officer on the USS Fox under Welander’s command.” Woodward even briefed Al Haig during the Nixon administration.

Woodward knew nothing about journalism until the Washington Post installed him at a small newspaper in the DC suburbs for a year so he could get some on-the-job experience before moving up to the big time? Before that, Woodward was involved in briefing Bernstein was the writer on the Watergate story and Woodward had the CIA/government connections.

Gates should know that once you’re in the “intelligence community,” you never really leave. Please forgive me for this, but I’m going to link to a post by Larry Johnson from 2005: Blowing the Whistle on Bob Woodward.

Woodward has been the consumate insider while cultivating the image of the hard charging investigative reporter. He is anything but, and it is time to blow the whistle on his incestuous relationship with certain government officials. The fact that the Washington Post is still covering for this joker says volumes about the decline of the Post.

When he appears on Larry King Live Tonight maybe he will answer a longstanding question, “When did he resign from Naval Intelligence?”

Johnson then reproduces a letter to the editor of the Tampa Tribune by Len Colodny. Colodny is coauthor of a book about Watergate called Silent Coup: The Removal of a President. Check it out.

cat computer bed

This is interesting. Greg Sargent thinks President Obama might decide to encourage an increase in  the minimum wage with an executive order.

Here’s some welcome news. At his meeting with Democratic Senators last night, President Obama indicated that he is giving serious consideration to executive action designed to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors, according to one Senator who was present.

Proponents want to see this executive action happen on the merits — theybelieve it could impact as many as two million employees of federal contractors, and would help the economy. But they also believe such action could give a boost of momentum to the push for a minimum wage hike for all American workers, which obviously would require Congressional approval, but is currently facing Republican opposition.

Senator Bernie Sanders told me in an interview that the president took the idea very seriously when asked about it last night.

Surely some Democrats could applaud Obama if he did that. Of course the Greenwald cult followers will ignore it, because it would only improve the lives of working class people and do nothing for the “privacy” of upper middle class white males.

NRA cat

These days it seems we’re getting shootings in public places on an almost daily basis. I posted about a grocery store shooting in Elkhart, Indiana a couple of days ago. The victims and the shooter have now been identified.

What happened, police say, is 22-year-old Shawn Bair walked into the store Wednesday at about 9:30 p.m. Surveillance video shows him making phone calls and texting people….

Police say Bair pulled out a .44 caliber semi-automatic handgun, and shot and killed 20-year-old Krystal Dikes. Police say she had just started working at the store stocking the shelves. Friends say she was a caring, compassionate person.

“I don’t know what his goal was, I don’t know what his aim was, mad at the world. There’s definitely a family grieving for her. Definitely. And lots of friends,” said Dikes’ boyfriend Kyle Barnett.

Also murdered was 44-year-old Rachelle Godfread who was shopping. Bair then held the manager of the store at gunpoint until police arrived.

Police still aren’t sure why Bair, who police have been in contact with before, decided to go on this rampage but his Facebook page is filled with violent images and posts. In one post he says he knows he’s going hell. One from 2010 says he realized everybody should die, no matter what race or religion.

According to the Chicago Tribune,

Rachelle Godfread, 44, had recently moved from southern Indiana to Elkhart, where she was closer to her son who played basketball at the South Bend campus of Indiana University. Now that college student has lost his mom.

Yesterday there was a shooting in a school gymnasium in Philadelphia. CNN reports:

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a juvenile suspect in a shooting that wounded two students at a Philadelphia school Friday, police said Saturday.

The shooting occurred at Delaware Valley Charter High School.

The suspect is not in custody, but police expect him, accompanied by an attorney, to turn himself in Saturday morning.

The shooter was in the school gym with seven other students, city police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said.

Some were playing basketball and others standing in a corner when he pulled a gun and fired.

The victims, a boy and a girl, both age 15, were hit in the arm. They were taken to a local hospital, police said, and their wounds are not life-threatening.

The Friday afternoon incident was at least the second shooting at or near a school this week in the Olney neighborhood.

And then there are the plain old street shootings. Again from the Chicago Tribune: Shootings leave 2 dead, 7 injured since Friday afternoon.

Two men have been killed and seven people injured in shootings on the South and West sides since Friday afternoon, according to police.

The violent start to the weekend, which came as downtown temperatures hovered in the teens, included a shooting that injured three people on a Dan Ryan Expressway ramp and another that left a 15-year-old girl hospitalized.

Police were called to the first of Friday’s homicides about 5:20 p.m., after gunfire rang out in 4900 block of West Huron Street in the Austin neighborhood.

Officers found 21-year-old Timothy Travis on the ground, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head, authorities said.

Travis, who lived in the 4900 block of West Quincy Street, was pronounced dead on the scene at 5:34 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Of course the “experts” are “weighing in”: Experts: N. Mexico suspect, other young shooters show preteens’ impulse actions.

(CNN) – The New Mexico middle school shooting allegedly by a 12-year-old boy highlights how such gunfire is now occurring in America’s earlier grades, raising disturbing issues on whether such youngsters know the devastating consequences of such violence and on how they should then be adjudicated, experts say.

“It’s becoming more and more common, especially in the middle-school age, for these kids to be committing these violent acts,” said Sheela Raja, clinical psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago….

That tally includes last October’s shooting in Sparks, Nevada, by a 12-year-old boy who killed himself after fatally shooting a teacher; a 2010 shooting in a Madison, Alabama, by a ninth-grader who fatally shot a boy, 14, in the head; a 2000 shooting in Mount Morris Township, Michigan, in which a 6-year-old boy killed another 6-year-old; and the 1999 shooting in Deming, New Mexico, in which a 12-year-old boy killed a classmate, 13.

Raja explains that children at these ages do not have the cognitive development to restrain strong impulses or to understand the full implications of their actions.

“People should remember that a 12-year-old is barely past the age of believing in Santa Claus,” said Wendy Walsh, a behavior expert and psychologist.

“While there is great variance in cognitive development, plenty of kids this age are unable to fully comprehend that death is permanent,” Walsh said. “Add to that the impact of violent video games where ‘downed’ characters get up again, and there is good reason to assume this child does not think like an adult.”

Wouldn’t it make sense to keep guns out the hands of young kids then? I know, stupid question.

From the NYT: In Age of School Shootings, Lockdown Is the New Fire Drill.

For students across the country, lockdowns have become a fixture of the school day, the duck-and-cover drills for a generation growing up in the shadow of Columbine High School in Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Kindergartners learn to hide quietly behind bookshelves. Teachers warn high school students that the glow of their cellphones could make them targets. And parents get regular text messages from school officials alerting them to lockdowns.

School administrators across the country have worked with police departments in recent years to create detailed plans to secure their schools, an effort that was redoubled after the December 2012 shootings in Newtown, Conn. At the whiff of a threat, teachers are now instructed to snap off the lights, lock their doors and usher their students into corners and closets. School officials call the police. Students huddle in their classrooms for minutes or hours, texting one another, playing cards and board games, or just waiting until they get the all clear.

Why should kids have to go through this at school–a place where they are supposed to be safe and protected? I guess because the NRA wants more and more guns everywhere and Congress doesn’t have the guts to do anything about it.

Another “expert” told Jake Tapper that mass shootings are on the rise. Isn’t it great that we have “experts” to explain that to us? /snark

kitten computer

OK, enough depressing news about death and destruction. What’s the latest on Chris Christie? Steve Kornaki has dug up some good stuff: Christie camp held Sandy relief money hostage, mayor alleges.

Two senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned a New Jersey mayor earlier this year that her town would be starved of hurricane relief money unless she approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor, according to the mayor and emails and personal notes she shared with msnbc.

The mayor, Dawn Zimmer, hasn’t approved the project, but she did request $127 million in hurricane relief for her city of Hoboken – 80% of which was underwater after Sandy hit in October 2012. What she got was $142,000 to defray the cost of a single back-up generator plus an additional $200,000 in recovery grants.

In an exclusive interview, Zimmer broke her silence and named Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, as the two officials who delivered messages on behalf of a governor she had long supported.

Something tells me we have a lot more Christie corruption news to look forward to.

Now what stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comments and have a great long weekend!


Monday Reads: Rabid, Rich Dogs Bite People across the country

Good Morning!

One of the biggest problems that I have with folks who wear the smug mantle of libertarian is that they make hay over abuses of power at the Federal level while shrugging off what goes on at the state level unless it has something  to do with dismantling public schools or taxing the rich.  I’ve always thought that abuse of power and destruction of civil liberties shouldn’t happen at any level.  However, if you go from state to state, you’re going to see how serious money has serious sway over the actions of politicians.  Some states and locales just ooze plutocracy. It’s a lot easier to be a thug at the state level. It’s getting to the point where reality is unfolding like a TV plot.

second lineI’ve dived into the fray at the local level again here in New Orleans where our culture of second lines, Mardi Gras Indians, and live local  music is under siege.

On one hand, I’ve decided to volunteer for the Mary and Mitch Landrieus’ re-elections despite serious reservations about both, because I don’t want to live in a state ruled by one party intent on driving the trains straight off the reality track.

I’m also headed to a huge demonstration on Friday, because some freaking rich lawyer has time and money to continually harass the causes of street sounds and music near his property in the French Quarter. His pet peeves will impact all of us.  Before he moved into the quarter, you would find musicians out about the street at nights.  I would see them on the way home from my gigs all the time when I lived in the quarter myself.  They now have to be out of sight and ear by 8:30. He’s been on a tear since then with a few rich neighbors.  Problem is, they have money and time and they just don’t give up.  Now, they want a “sound ordinance” that has an outlandishly low standard for what he deems ‘noise”. I literally will not be able to play my piano in my back parlor without risking a violation. That means also that Alan Toussaint would not have been able to play it in the taping of Hurricane on the Bayou.  And, a few months back, you would not have been able to hear Robert Plant from my front porch.  And, you will likely never hear live music in and around my neighborhood bars. This, to me, is unthinkable!

So, I am going  to the city council on Friday and I’m going to sign in to testify. I’ve already written letters.  This is bad for my friends who own small restaurants and bars.  It’s also bad for musicians and those who enjoy live music. The only beneficiaries are these few rich landowners that are all over the city council right now although they try to give the impression they have mass support.   The other beneficiaries are the downtown hotels and casinos and other big money interests that would rather have all the musicians held hostage in their bars. I’m doing something of a weird thing by supporting the status quo but yet fighting the powers that want to buy themselves a pristine, billionaire friendly New Orleans. Go figure.  I do wonder why people would buy property when they know they are surrounded by bars and music venues.  This is a bit like the other stuff that’s gong in my current neighborhood where I suddenly have neighbors who are all about having manicured grass in the back and side yards.  All hell is breaking loose, however, around this ordinance.

All hell seems to be breaking loose from New Orleans citizens who are up in arms regarding the underhanded way that the mardi gras indiansVCPORA attempted to slip in a noise ordinance that would have a severe impact on the city’s music scene.

Understandably, the peeps at VCPORA are tired of getting no action from the City Council regarding what seems to be Mr. Smith’s Number One priority (other than bashing oil companies, from whom he’s won bazillions of dollars in class action lawsuits. (From his firm’s web page: “In a 2001 Stuart Smith and Michael Stag jointly prosecuted the widely publicized Grefer case. A jury returned a verdict of $1.056 billion dollars against Exxon/ Mobil Corporation, the world’s largest oil company, in favor of the firm’s client after a six-week trial. The landmark verdict was listed in Lawyers Weekly, USA as the second largest verdict in the United States for 2001.”)

To recap from last week’s post, attorney Smith bankrolls the VCPORA and is successfully using its purported agenda of “preservation” to achieve his goals of eliminating “noise” in the French Quarter.

Since last week’s post, I’ve attended a MaCCNO (Music and Culture Coalition) meeting on Friday, and have been subjected to several emails from Stuart Smith, by way of the Brylski Company, which bills its emails as “Krewe of truth.”

Stuart Smith. From the VCPORA website: “For years, VCPORA has been able to count on a man who’s led innumerable legal battles on our behalf, and on behalf of the Quarter – and done all of it pro bono. That man is Stuart H. Smith – our neighbor, our benefactor, and a man of courage and capability who’s been a passionate advocate on behalf of the Vieux Carré.”I’d call it more the “Krewe of Propaganda.”

Here are a few points in the email [First of all, it’s entitled “Hearing Beyond The Misinformation: TRUE SOUND FACTS [in BIG FAT BOLD letters] about the ‘Seven Essentials’ and the Sound Amendments.”

“WILL THESE AMENDMENTS ‘KILL’ NEW ORLEANS’ MUSIC SCENE?
NO! Of course not! No elected official in New Orleans would sign onto an ordinance that would kill, or even hurt, our invaluable New Orleans music scene [Not unless a VCPORA member like Nathan Chapman sneaked it into Stacy Head’s office to be presented to the council at the last minute pre-2013 Christmas holiday. Chapman is past president of VCPORA and, how shall I say this?: Stuart Smith’s “minion.”] “Music is an invaluable part of our culture and our economy. The reason all seven council members signed on was because, after four years of detailed study and hearing, these amendments are actually very limited in scope and provide common sense improvements. [Untrue, these are not common sense improvements to anyone other than those who want to keep music at the level or a normal conversation. Oh, one had better NOT say that they want to kill New Orleans music! Ask Mr. Smith how much he enjoys the jazz at the Gazebo. Smith bought a property at 516 St. Philip Street in 1997, just a half block from the Gazebo and tried to get the zoning changed at a bar that had had music for many years, well before Stuart took up residence. Oh yeah, he loves music all right. But he moved right next to it and did try to kill it.]

Groovesect-wFred-Wesley-@-The-Maple-Leaf-Bar_2424942004_o1Smith appears to have done some really creative things in terms of showing he has support. And, he’s convinced the City Council that what he  is doing isn’t a big deal at all but very responsible and reasonable.

When they use these unrealistically low sound levels to justify lawsuits and to try to get police shut-downs, the well-funded noise factories of Bourbon Street will come out okay. They can either pay the fine, pacify the enforcers, or hire effective attorneys to back the process into a corner with constitutional challenges which the local court can’t handle and the Supremes won’t be bothered with, so the cases sit in limbo like Bleak House.

But smaller, newer venues, events and street bands, where some new music might emerge – they won’t be able to come close to affording it. The gentrifiers’ suppression will take hold. Venues will have to either shut down the music, or get driven out of business. Perhaps it is the city establishment’s strategy: to leave us with just tourist music and a few big names in big sites, with no sense that they are strangling the future. And for what? Increasing the radius of the comfort zone for a few property owners claiming special privilege.

So, those of you that follow me on FaceBook or Twitter or here, will continue to hear me talk about this because I’ve just about had it with people trying to change my city into some blase suburb.

BTW, the HBO series Treme ended this season.  There’s a great interview with a resident of that neighborhood on what the series has meant.  I still haven’t watched it but I swear there’s not an episode that doesn’t have a friend or neighbor in it.  I bought the DVDs some time ago but I still can’t bring myself to watch it.  I lived the entire thing and just can’t get into the idea of doing it again. I think the biggest curse of Katrina has turned into  two things for me.  One is the number of transplants that seem to want a pristine version of what they think New Orleans should be and what seems like the forced diaspora of the black middle class from the area which brought a red Louisiana and the evil Governor Jindal.  We could handle the Hurricane but I don’t know how much damage from those last two we can take.

RO: I think the show’s tapestry—dare I say gumbo?—of characters and struggles plays a big part in what makes Treme so authentically New Orleans. So it’s kinda hard for me to isolate a character or storyline—they all resonated with me at some level. But if I had to chose? I guess LaDonna running her bar; Nelson Hidalgo for his newcomer’s perspective, learning the byzantine ways of the city; Janette Desautel and her restaurant. Those would be the closest to my personal experience in post-Katrina New Orleans: I ran a bar right after the storm; I was a newcomer, in town just three months when the levees broke. Also, my first wife was a chef and we opened a summer restaurant in the Hamptons together, so Kim Dickens’ character’s professional struggles were very familiar to me.

This is one newcomer who seems to want to adjust to the way of life down here instead of having the way of life adjust to him.  But then, he doesn’t have billions of dollars to spend and the attention of politicians needing donors. I think this sound ordinance protest is the beginning of the pushback.  I’m not sure how much more folks are going to put up with gentrification at all costs.  I just hope the city council gets it. All of the music culture of New Orleans shown in Treme will only occur in hotel bars, the city’s sole casino, and a few Bourbon joints if the ordinance passes.

The_sopranos_right_at_favourite_place-1024x768 There are a lot of times when the larger-than-TV-Life culture of a state seems to be brought to life. It’s just not my state where the government seems to be pushing the agendas of the plutocracy at the cost of the people who call the place home. New Jersey government seems to be the new Goodfellas under Chris Christie.

The Christie Bridge Scandal seems to just pop off the screen and right into your face So far, there are more questions than answers.  However, this is not going away since the New Jersey Assembly has reissued subpoenas.  If there was an attempt to ride out the legislative year, it didn’t work.  Key establishment republicans are trying to buff this turd.

During a panel segment on Fox News Sunday, host John Roberts pointed out that many Republicans were praising Christie for firing one of his top aides after a newspaper exposed his administration’s role in closing part of the busiest bridge in the world as part of political retribution plot, but President Barack Obama had not fired anyone over the health care reform law.

“I think he did himself a lot of good,” Rove said of Christie’s reaction to the scandal. “I think he did himself some good by contrasting with the normal, routine way of handing these things, which is to be evasive, to sort of trim on the edges.”

“You’ll notice we haven’t been hearing a lot from the Clinton camp about this,” he added. “Contrast both with Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton’s handling of Benghazi.”

Later in the segment, Roberts asked the panel: “Where was this media coverage on Benghazi, the NSA or the IRS?”

Columnist George Will admitted that “this was not a phony scandal” because Christie’s administration had used the machinery of government to “screw our enemies.”

“There are reasons why conservatives had disagreements with Chris Christie, I don’t think that the tea party is going to seize upon Fort Lee and the George Washington Bridge as their defining difference with Christie,” Rove opined. “In fact, I think his handling of this, being straightforward, taking action — saying, ‘I’m responsible’ — firing the people probably gives him some street cred with some tea party Republicans, who say that’s what we want in a leader, somebody who steps up and takes responsibility.”

I’m sorry, but there’s something distinctly different about handling people who have abused the public trust, committed crimes, and caused public safety issues and managing people who had oversight of  a bad roll out of product.  Here’s more information about those subpoenas because it looks more and more like something very criminal happened in Trenton.

At least six New Jersey residents have filed suit against Christie, the state of New Jersey, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, among others for the traffic jams and resulting problems.

The traffic jam caused by the lane closures delayed emergency services and left commuters and school children stranded on the bridge during periods of heavy traffic, according to local officials.

ABC News also obtained a letter from Fort Lee EMS coordinator Paul Favia that documents four medical situations in which emergency responders were delayed because of the traffic gridlock. In one case, a 91-year-old woman later died at a hospital of cardiac arrest.

Although Favia doesn’t directly tie her death to the delays, he noted that “paramedics were delayed due to heavy traffic on Fort Lee Road and had to meet the ambulance en route to the hospital instead of on the scene.”

Documents now show that the aides were told that this would hurt people and cause safety issues.  Christie originally mocked the stories by talking about laying the cones down. How is this leadership?  I don’t recall Obama ever making a joke about the people who were struggling with the original problems of the site and he told the people in charge to go back and fix it.  Which model of leadership seems ethical to you?

gunsmoke

No special interest groups appear to have larger sway over the country than the NRA and the various groups–like ALEC–that are funded by Pete Peterson and the Koch Brothers.  They’ve convinced many Republican controlled states that even providing the most basic services is evil in the face of putting taxes on the wealthy. Well, the modern day Matt Dillons are going to have a rough time controlling gunslingers in Kansas. 

Reasoning that more guns mean greater safety, Kansas lawmakers voted last year to require cities and counties to make public buildings accessible to people legally carrying concealed weapons.

But for communities that remained wary of such open access to city halls, libraries, museums and courthouses, the Legislature provided an exemption: Guns can be banned as long as local governments pay for protections like metal detectors and security guards, ensuring the safety of those they have disarmed.

It turns out that in Wichita, the state’s most populous city, and in some other towns, the cost of opting out before the Jan. 1 deadline was just too high.

“It was essentially being foisted upon us,” said Janet Miller, a City Council member in Wichita. The city applied over the summer for a six-month exemption but voted last month not to extend it after the police estimated that it would cost $14 million a year to restrict guns in all 107 city-owned buildings.

While Republican-majority legislatures across the country are easing restrictions on gun owners, few states are putting more pressure on municipalities right now than Kansas. The new law has forced some local leaders to weigh policy conviction against fiscal pragmatism in a choice that critics say was flawed from the start: Open vulnerable locations to concealed side arms or stretch meager budgets to cover the extra security measures.

I guess it will be open season on criminal justice employees in courtrooms in Kansas.

Anyway, these are just three different parts of the country where it seems that local politicians are doing a disservice to the people who elected them.  They are more moved by special interests than their constituents.  So, what’s a voter to do?  As for me, I’m taking to the streets on Friday.   I’m just relying on the Greater Ethos that  I’ll be in my own bed on Friday Night.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?