Sunday Reads: Spring Ahead already?

b55b3da77169bac66e68b8fa992cc7e3Good Morning

Did you set your clocks ahead?

Oh, this time change always gets me. In fact, my head is killing me…so this is going to be a strictly link dump post.

Set clocks ahead for daylight saving time

Spring must be around the corner. It’s time to set the clocks forward for daylight saving time.

At 2 a.m. local time Sunday, daylight saving time arrives with the promise of many months ahead with an extra hour of evening light.

You lose an hour of sleep, but make sure to turn the clock ahead — spring forward — before heading to bed Saturday night to avoid the panic of a late rise.

It’s also a good time to put new batteries in warning devices such as smoke detectors and hazard warning radios.

Isn’t this whole clock thing happening earlier than usual?

Moving on, Harriet Tubman park to be on Maryland land she worked as a slave | Reuters

Abolitionist Harriet Tubman’s struggle to help roughly 70 slaves escape to freedom using the Underground Railroad was remembered on Saturday at the groundbreaking of a Maryland state park in her honor.

An escaped slave herself, Tubman toiled in bondage on the land that will soon be the 17-acre Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park on the eastern shore of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.

Construction of the park on open marshland and forests in Dorchester County marks the 100-year anniversary of the abolitionist leader’s death.

It also coincides with the opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a 125-mile drive with more than 30 historical stops related to Tubman’s early life and the Underground Railroad. Highlights include the Mason-Dixon Line, a one-room school, a historic village store with artifacts from the 1800s and, eventually, the new Harriet Tubman park itself.

“I think the byway is awesome, because we’re connecting the dots again. We’re telling the complete story,” said Patricia Ross-Hawkins, 51, a distant relative of Tubman who spoke to the crowd of more than 200 people at Saturday’s celebration. The morning’s events included singing by a local Baptist church choir, a theatrical speech by a Harriet Tubman re-enactor and remarks from Govenor Martin O’Malley.

“It’s been a long time coming but it’s here,” she said.

This next link is something I found earlier in the week.  Did the Man who Tried to buy our Presidential Election Get rich by Bribing Communist China? (Engelberg) | Informed Comment

Stephen Engelberg writes at ProPublica

Last week’s admission by Sheldon Adelson’s casino company that it had “likely” violated provisions of the federal law barring U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials raises some intriguing questions. Chief among them: Which transactions by Las Vegas Sands and its far-flung subsidiaries are at issue?

Adelson, one of the world’s richest men, came to public prominence during the 2012 campaign, when he and his wife Miriam donated at least $98 million to various candidates and groups. Included was $30 million for the Restore Our Future super PAC that supported Mitt Romney and $20 million to Winning Our Future, a super PAC that backed Newt Gingrich. Late in the campaign, Adelson asserted that federal investigators had targeted his company because of his political activity.

I don’t know about you all, but I sure miss seeing Hillary’s name in the news.

Hillary Clinton Ate Hot Chili Peppers To Keep Her Going

Exactly how did the most traveled Secretary of State in history, Hillary Rodham Clinton, keep up with her strenuous schedule? According to biographer Kim Ghattas, it was hot chili peppers.

In an interview posted on Thursday, Ghattas discussed her upcoming book, “The Secretary,” with Politico, citing how Clinton “eats those hot chilis that make you sweat.”

“It wakes you up,” Ghattas said. “It flushes your system, maybe from whatever viruses are there.”

Clinton has been a hot pepper popper for years, starting back in 1992. She often talked up her heat habit in her 2008 presidential campaign.

Comets and asteroids have been in the news a lot lately…

Comet Pan-STARRS: Bright comet will be visible starting around March 8.

Comet Pan-STARRS, photographed by Phil Hart

Comet Pan-STARRS on Mar. 3, 2013, from Victoria, Australia. This shot, by Phil Hart, is one of the best pictures I’ve seen of it.
Image credit: Phil Hart

Northern Hemisphereans, alert! The kinda-sorta-maybe bright comet Pan-STARRS will soon be visible low in the west after sunset. The best dates to look will be Mar. 12 and 13, when the very thin crescent Moon will guide you. You’ll need binoculars to pick it out of the twilight sky, but comets this bright are rare, and you should give it a shot.

Icy Ball

Comet C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS) was discovered in June 2011 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (hence the odd name). At discovery it was incredibly faint, just 19th magnitude—the faintest star you can see with your eye is still 150,000 times brighter than the comet was at the time!

Animation showing the discovery images of the comet.

Animation showing the discovery
images of the comet taken by the
Pan-STARRS observatory.
Click to encomanate.
Image credit: Henry Hsieh, PS1SC

The comet is non-periodic, a fancy way of saying this is the first time it’s dropped into the inner solar system. There is a reservoir of trillions of such iceballs far, far past Neptune, called the Oort cloud (named after Jan Oort, the Dutch astronomer who was one of the first to predict its existence). Pan-STARRS has been falling from this distant region for a long, long time, perhaps millions of years, and is now approaching the Sun on its incredibly outstretched orbit.

It reaches perihelion (the closest point in its orbit to the Sun) on Mar. 10, and then begins the long climb back out again. It has brightened considerably over the past couple of years as it’s neared both the Sun and Earth, and by Mar. 12 should be at least as bright as 2nd magnitude, about as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper. It could get even brighter.

In other space news:  Slight Chance Comet Could Hit Mars in 2014, NASA Says |

Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will come within about 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) of Mars in October 2014, according to the latest estimate from the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

The trajectory of 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is still not known well enough to rule out a dramatic comet collision with Mars, though that could change.

“At present, Mars lies within the range of possible paths for the comet and the possibility of an impact cannot be excluded,” JPL officials wrote in an update today (March 5). “However, since the impact probability is currently less than one in 600, future observations are expected to provide data that will completely rule out a Mars impact.”

And I will end this post with a little history lesson…

From Islam to Christianity: the Case of Sicily

Introduction: The history of high medieval Sicily bears all the hallmarks of a regional crossroads which, between the 9th and 11th centuries, exchanged hands between three major civilizations. The island’s political upheavals, military confrontations, social change and cultural transformations read like an index page to central Mediterranean history. The fall of Muslim Palermo to the Norman conquerors in 1072 was a landmark in the high medieval wave of Latin Christian expansion across the Mediterranean world. The defeat of the island’s Muslim rulers was completed within twenty years of the fall of the capital city, but the last Muslims of Sicily left the island one hundred and eighty years later, towards the end of Frederick II’s reign. Beyond the formal political chronology, three, more or less equal, yet distinct epochs, mark the transition from Muslim to Latin Christian Sicily: 1072 to 1130, during which period the Norman conquest of the island, launched in 1060, became first a feasible reality, then a political fact consolidated with the establishment of the Regno; 1130 to 1190, when the relationship between the island’s Christian rulers and inhabitants and the subject Muslim populations was gradually entrenched in terms of feudal bondage; and 1190 to 1250, which was marked by Muslim armed resistance, the setting up of a rebel polity under the last Muslim leader of Sicily, and Frederick II’s ‘extermination’ of Islam.

You can click here to read this article from Cliohres.

Franklin Graham Just Doesn’t Buy President Obama’s Claim to be a Christian

Franklin Graham, son of Nixon pal and fellow anti-Semite Billy Graham was invited on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show today to opine on the religious beliefs of the various candidates for President of the United States. Why anyone gives a sh&t about whether these guys are “christians” or not is a mystery to me, but it seems it’s all we hear about since Rick “The Dick” Santorum became the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

Graham had no trouble saying that Santorum and Newt Gingrich are “christians.” But he was very wishy washy about Obama, and in the end left the impression that he believes Obama to be a Muslim. As for Mitt Romney, Graham “likes him,” but Mormons aren’t “christians.” Here are some of the relevant quotes from the interview, via Politico:

ON OBAMA: “You have to ask him. I cannot answer that question for anybody. All I know is I’m a sinner, and God has forgiven me of my sins… You have to ask every person. He has said he’s a Christian, so I just have to assume that he is.”

Graham told the interviewers that he had talked to Obama personally about his beliefs and that Obama told him he only started going to church because he was told it would help him as a community organizer.

“If he says he’s a Christian, I can accept that. All I know is what Jesus Christ has done in my heart and how he changed my life,” said Graham.

ON SANTORUM: “Do you believe Rick Santorum is a Christian?” asked Geist. “I think so,” responded Graham.
“How do you know, if the standard is: only the person knows what’s in him when you apply it to the president, why is it different for Rick Santorum?” replied Geist.

“Well, because his values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it. I just appreciate the moral stances he takes on things. He comes from a Catholic faith… I think he’s a man of faith,” said Graham.

Graham wasn’t quite so enthused about Gingrich’s beliefs and he was definite that Romney is a mormon, and while mormons may believe in Jesus, they believe in a lot of other funny things too so they can’t be christians.

But that’s not all. There’s more that isn’t in the Youtube video above. From the WaPo On Faith column, Graham also told the stunned Morning Joe panel:

Graham: “Under Islamic law, under Sharia law, Islam sees him as a son of Islam because his father was a Muslim, his grandfather was a Muslim, his great-grandfather was a Muslim. So under Islamic law the Muslim world sees Barack Obama as a Muslim, as a son of Islam. That’s just the way it works. That’s the way they see it. But of course he says he didn’t grow up that way, he doesn’t believe in that, he believes in Jesus Christ so I accept that. But I’m just saying that the Muslim world, Islam, they see him as a son of Islam.

Morning Joe: But you do not think he’s a Muslim.

Graham: No.

Morning Joe: Categorically not a Muslim.

Graham: Well, I can’t say categorically because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama and we see the Arab Spring and coming out of the Arab Spring the Islamists are taking control of the Middle East. People like Mubarak, who was a dictator, but he kept the peace with Israel. The Christian minorities in Egypt were protected. Now those Christian minorities throughout the entire Arab world are under attack. Newsweek magazine last week, cover story, was the massacre of Christians in the Islamic world from Europe all the way through the Middle East, Africa, into Asia and Oceania. Muslims are killing Christians. And we need to be forcing, demanding, that if these countries do not protect their minorities, no more foreign aid from the United States. They are not protecting the minorities.”

MSNBC checked with an expert to see if what Graham said about the Muslim religion being automatically passed down from father to son is true.

According to Edina Lekovic, director of policy at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, being born in a Muslim family doesn’t make one a Muslim. A person has to make an active choice to become a Muslim, Lekovic said.

As everyone knows by now–even if we never wanted to–Rick Santorum thinks that Obama believes in “some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology,”

I’m beginning to get the feeling that some kind of poison has been released into the body politic–a poison that has driven a large percentage of our politicians and corporate media mavens insane. Why are we talking about this? Why should I care who is a christian and who isn’t? Most of all, why should I care what Franklin Graham thinks about anyone’s “moral values?

But of course, I have to care about this poison that’s been injected into the body politic because I don’t want crazy people like Franklin Graham and Rick Santorum to actually take over and run the government.

I read an interesting post by Ed Kilgore this morning before I heard about the Morning Joe ruckus. It’s called What It Really Means When Santorum Attacks Obama’s “Theology” Kilgore heard from former Beliefnet editor Steve Waldman about a 2008 interview Waldman had done with Santorum in which Santorum said

Obama’s efforts to talk about the importance of faith in his life is “phoney–absolutely disingenuous. I think he’s a complete phoney.”
Obama, Santorum argued, chose Trinity Church in Chcago because it was politically advantageous — “faith was an avenue for power.”
(At the end of the attack, he added that of course it would be inappropriate for him to judge the authenticity of Obama’s faith, as only God could do that.)


After he’d accused Obama and other Democrats of religoius fraudulance for a few minutes, journalist Terry Mattingly of asked whether it’s possible that rather than being fake, perhaps, Obama was sincerely reflecting a form of liberal Christianity in the tradition of Reinhold Neibuhr. Santorum surprised me by answering that yes, “I could buy that.”

However, he questioned whether liberal christianity was really, well, Christian. “You’re a liberal something, but your not a Christian.” He continued, “When you take a salvation story and turn it into a liberation story you’ve abandoned Christiandom and I don’t think you have a right to claim it.”
In other words, Obama’s faith is fraudulant in part because liberal Christinaity is.

I’ve come across this sentiment before. To a degree rarely discussed, many conservative Christians truly doubt both the theological truth and the spiritual authenticity of liberal Christians

So in other words, in order to be a “christian,” you have to be a conservative. Religion is somehow wrapped up with politics. Talk about twisted!

Here’s just one more perspective from a professor at Georgetown University:

“He [Santorum] has this internal tic, of wanting to get into what I call theological disputation. And theological disputation is a loser,” said Jacques Berlinerblau, a professor at Georgetown University who has studied the use of religion in U.S. politics. He meant that Santorum seeks to tell others how to behave and even what to believe, using his own specific beliefs as an unshakable guide.

Berlinerblau said the danger, even among other Catholics, was that Santorum would seem gratingly familiar. “They know Rick Santorums. They’ve met Rick Santorums their whole life,” he said. “It’s just, ‘Well, I know what that guy’s about, and I don’t want anything to do with it.’ ”

I can definitely agree with that sentiment. There something very wrong with people like Franklin Graham and Rick Santorum, and I sure don’t want anything to do with it. I don’t even want to hear about it anymore.

Monday Reads

Good Morning!! Yesterday was an exciting day for the Libyan rebels, who have taken over the capital city, Tripoli. From the NYT:

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s grip on power dissolved with astonishing speed on Monday as rebels marched into the capital and arrested two of his sons, while residents raucously celebrated the prospective end of his four-decade-old rule.

In the city’s central Green Square, the site of many manufactured rallies in support of Colonel Qaddafi, jubilant Libyans tore down green flags and posters of Colonel Qaddafi and stomped on them. The leadership announced that the elite presidential guard protecting the Libyan leader had surrendered and that they controlled many parts of the city, but not Colonel Qaddafi’s leadership compound.

The National Transitional Council, the rebel governing body, issued a mass text message saying, “We congratulate the Libyan people for the fall of Muammar Qaddafi and call on the Libyan people to go into the street to protect the public property. Long live free Libya.”

Officials loyal to Colonel Qaddafi insisted that the fight was not over, and there were clashes between rebels and government troops early on Monday morning. But NATO and American officials said that the Qaddafi government’s control of Tripoli, which had been its final stronghold, was now in doubt.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens next. I hope it will mean the U.S. pulling out of there, but that’s probably a vain hope. After all, Libya has oil and gold.

Business Insider: AFTER QADDAFI: Oil Prices Will Tank, Stock Prices Will Soar

Watch what happens to oil prices if and when the Qaddafis lose and leave.

In short order, Libyan oil production will ramp up. As it does, oil prices in world markets will fall and oil futures markets will reflect the expected increase in production of oil from Libya. The key prices to watch are those trading in Europe, like Brent. US oil prices (WTI) are no longer the leading indicator of world prices intersecting with world supply/demand. Excess inventory at Cushing, OK is complicating the pricing structure.

We expect oil prices to fall when highly desirable, sweet Libyan crude production is fully resumed and enters the pipeline. Maybe, they are going to fall by a lot. This will come as a much-needed boost to the US economy and to others in the world.

Remember: the oil price acts like a sales tax on consumption. To clarify this relationship we convert crude oil prices to gasoline prices and then estimate what a change in gas price will mean for the American consumer. Roughly, a penny drop in the gas price per gallon gives Americans 1.4 billion more dollars a year to spend on other than gasoline. That is a huge stimulant to the economy. The ratio is different in Europe because the gas taxes are so much higher there. Nevertheless, it is still significant.

In other news, President Obama is still on vacation, and unemployment is still soaring. From the SF Chronicle: Obama keeps full vacation day after Libya briefing

In between briefings on Libya, President Barack Obama packed golf, beach time, a stop at a seafood restaurant and a visit to a wealthy friend’s seaside compound into his Martha’s Vineyard vacation Sunday….

Then Obama and his family headed to dinner at the house where White House adviser Valerie Jarrett is staying.

Earlier, Obama spent about an hour at the home of Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts after playing golf with some buddies. The golf foursome included Obama’s Chicago pal Eric Whitaker, UBS America executive Robert Wolf and a White House aide. Obama spent the morning at the beach with his wife, Michelle, and daughters Sasha and Malia.

From the LA Times: Congresswomen hear economic, unemployment woes at Inglewood event

…hundreds of people from Los Angeles-area communities…gathered Saturday to share their stories of hardship and to urge local members of Congress to push corporations to help fix the economy and devise ways to put people back to work. Three Democratic U.S. representatives attended the event: Maxine Waters and Karen Bass of Los Angeles and Laura Richardson of Long Beach….
The recession has slammed Los Angeles County, where 1 in 4 workers are jobless or underemployed, according to Good Jobs LA. This summer, L.A. businesses announced 5,700 layoffs, the jobs advocacy group said.

At the same time, corporations are hoarding almost $2 trillion in cash but failing to invest in jobs, the advocacy group said. The group also cited skyrocketing bonuses for many chief executives and big tax breaks for some of the nation’s largest companies.

Warren Buffet recently asked President Obama to raise taxes on the rich for the good of all. Another multi-billionaire, David Koch, disagrees with Buffet that rich Americans should sacrifice anything for their country.

America’s current tax system forces people making $50,000 a year to pay a higher rate than hedge fund managers making $2.4 million an hour. Warren Buffett penned an op-ed last week declaring that America’s super-rich have been “coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.” Lamenting the numerous tax loopholes and special breaks afforded to billionaire investors, Buffett noted that in his entire career, even when capital gains rates were as high as 39.9 percent, he never saw anyone “shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain.”

Charles Koch, head of the massive petrochemical, manufacturing, and commodity speculating Koch Industries corporation, has responded to Warren’s call for shared sacrifice: “No Thanks.” In a statement to right-wing media, Koch states:

Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good; this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending. I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.

Yeah, like supporting wingnuts like Scott Walker and Paul Ryan is good for our country. I’d like to see Koch’s fortune confiscated. Maybe we need to bring back the guillotine?

Romney's home in La Jolla, CA

Speaking of rich A$$holes, Mitt Romney has decided that his $12 million mansion in La Jolla must be enlarged–he wants the already huge house to be four times as big.

LA JOLLA — GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, scheduled to attend a series of fundraisers this weekend in San Diego, is also working on plans to nearly quadruple the size of his $12 million oceanfront manse in La Jolla.

Romney has filed an application with the city to bulldoze his 3,009-square-foot, single-story home at 311 Dunemere Dr. and replace it with a two-story, 11,062-square-foot structure. No date has been set to consider the proposed coastal development and site development permits, which must be approved by the city.

The former governor of Massachusetts purchased the home three years ago. According to a description from the listing agent, the Spanish-style residence at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac is sophisticated and understated in its décor, “offering complete privacy and unsurpassed elegance.”

Tentative plans call for new retaining walls and a relocated driveway, but would retain the existing lap pool and spa.

Just how many homes does this man own anyway? Slate Magazine says “just” two. He had a huge house in Massachusetts, not too far from where I live, but he sold it in 2009 for $3.5 million.

I guess after he used (screwed) our state to set up his run for President, he decided to clear out and move his con man act to California. He also sold a “$5.25 million, 9,500-square-foot ski villa in Deer Valley, Utah,” according to Slate. Time calls that “the new frugality.” He’s hanging onto a home in New Hampshire apparently. Where’s that guillotine?

In science news, from Clive Cookson at the Financial Times: Life on earth came from space

The existence of amino acids in space has already been proved by the analysis of meteorites that have struck earth, and comet samples collected in space during Nasa’s Stardust mission. It has been harder to prove that traces of nucleobases found in meteorites were not the result of contamination after they arrived – but the new study seems to do so, while showing that nucleobases reach earth from space in greater diversity and quantity than scientists had thought.

The Nasa team analysed samples of 12 carbon-rich meteorites, including nine found in Antarctica (a rich collecting ground), and detected guanine and adenine, two of the four nucleobases that make up DNA. They also found three related molecules known as nucleobase analogues, a discovery which provides confirmation that the organic compounds in meteorites come from space.

“You would not expect to see these nucleobase analogues if contamination from terrestrial life was the source, because they’re not used in biology,” says Michael Callahan, lead author of the study, which appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “However, if asteroids are cranking out prebiotic material, you would expect them to produce many variants of nucleobases, not just the biological ones, because of the wide variety of ingredients and conditions in each asteroid.”

Further confirmation came from an analysis of Antarctic ice, taken from near where the meteorites were collected, which showed no trace of the compounds.

Wait…. you mean life didn’t originate in the Garden of Eden?

In related news, a court has ruled that a teacher who made fun of creationism and Christianity cannot be sued for expressing her opinions.

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that a California teacher could not be sued for criticizing Christianity and Creationism during a college-level European history course.

“This was a really important ruling for academic freedom,” University of California constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, who took on the case pro bono, told The Orange County Register. “There has never been a precedent set for something like this before. Teachers should be able to criticize religion just like they can criticize government, business and similar groups without the fear of being sued.”

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a lower court’s decision, which held that teacher James Corbett violated a student’s First Amendment rights by making comments during class that were hostile to religion in general, and to Christianity in particular….

Corbett said during his class that serfs opposed social, political and economic [sic] that were in their best interest because of religion, compared Creationism to “magic,” and made twenty other comments that then-sophomore Chad Farnan alleged were disparaging to Christians.

Oh, did I mention this was a college course? Good grief!!

That’s all I have for today. What are you reading and blogging about?