Memorial Day Reads

first memorial day

Good Morning!!

A few days ago, I read an article about the “true meaning of Memorial Day.” I can’t find it now, but it was in the Chicago Tribune. The author wrote that Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day,” when Southern women decorated the graves of Confederate soldiers. I Googled some more and found other writers making the same claim. Here’s a piece by a Civil War historian from Purdue University Caroline Janney:

Many may not know the holiday weekend that marks the start of summer by paying respects to veterans and remembering loved ones began when white Southern women took a leadership role in honoring their Civil War veterans, says a Purdue University historian.

“After the Civil War, southern men would have appeared treasonous if they had organized memorials to honor their fallen, so women – perceived as apolitical – instead organized tributes and events that set the tone for how the country celebrates Memorial Day today,” says Caroline E. Janney, professor of historyand president-elect of the Society of Civil War Historians. “In 1866, the men were figuratively hiding behind the skirts of these women who worked together as part of Ladies’ Memorial Associations.”

The women organized dozens of memorials during the spring of 1866 and the following years, Janney says. Historically these memorials were scheduled throughout the spring as a sign of renewal and rebirth, and each community chose its own date to celebrate.

The date usually reflected a key date in the Civil War, such as the May 10 death of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, or a battle close to the association’s individual area. Memorial Day became more unified when larger associations, such as the United Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy, began organizing memorials in the 1890s. And memorial days also were observed in the North, but they were organized by Union veterans beginning in 1868, two years after the ex-Confederate women had established the practice.

I was surprised, because I had read years ago that the practice was begun by former slaves who wanted to honor Union soldiers. I found the above photo on Facebook–with the suggestion that it was taken on that first Decoration Day May 1, 1865; but I can’t be absolutely certain that’s accurate. Note that that dates is a year earlier than the one Janney writes about. It turns out that a number of places and people claim to have started the practice of decorating Union and Confederate Graves. Southerners designated “Confederate Memorial Days.” Kingston, Georgia claims to have held the first one.

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Yale historian David Blight wrote about the disputed origins of Memorial Day in the New York Times in 2011.

Officially, in the North, Memorial Day emerged in 1868 when the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization, called on communities to conduct grave-decorating ceremonies. On May 30, funereal events attracted thousands of people at hundreds of cemeteries in countless towns, cities and mere crossroads. By the 1870s, one could not live in an American town, North or South, and be unaware of the spring ritual.

But the practice of decorating graves — which gave rise to an alternative name, Decoration Day — didn’t start with the 1868 events, nor was it an exclusively Northern practice. In 1866 the Ladies’ Memorial Association of Columbus, Ga., chose April 26, the anniversary of Gen. Joseph Johnston’s final surrender to Gen. William T. Sherman, to commemorate fallen Confederate soldiers. Later, both May 10, the anniversary of Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s death, and June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, were designated Confederate Memorial Day in different states.

Soon the yearly practice became partisan:

In the South, Memorial Day was a means of confronting the Confederacy’s defeat but without repudiating its cause. Some Southern orators stressed Christian notions of noble sacrifice. Others, however, used the ritual for Confederate vindication and renewed assertions of white supremacy. Blacks had a place in this Confederate narrative, but only as time-warped loyal slaves who were supposed to remain frozen in the past.

The Lost Cause tradition thrived in Confederate Memorial Day rhetoric; the Southern dead were honored as the true “patriots,” defenders of their homeland, sovereign rights, a natural racial order and a “cause” that had been overwhelmed by “numbers and resources” but never defeated on battlefields.

Yankee Memorial Day orations often righteously claimed the high ground of blood sacrifice to save the Union and destroy slavery. It was not uncommon for a speaker to honor the fallen of both sides, but still lay the war guilt on the “rebel dead.”

But Blight discovered in a historical archive at Harvard University that the earliest celebration of “Decoration Day” was organized by freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865.

During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” ….

The procession was led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body.” Several hundred black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses. Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children’s choir sang “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner” and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible.

After the dedication the crowd dispersed into the infield and did what many of us do on Memorial Day: enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill. Among the full brigade of Union infantrymen participating were the famous 54th Massachusetts and the 34th and 104th United States Colored Troops, who performed a special double-columned march around the gravesite.

Nearly 150 years later, it’s apparently very difficult for some Americans to credit African Americans with the first Memorial Day (or with much of anything else for that matter). As Ta-Nehisi Coates showed in The Atlantic recently, it’s apparently difficult for Americans to remember much of anything about African American history–before or after the Civil War. Why would anyone feel comfortable mourning the “lost cause” of a society built on the enslavement of other human beings? I can understand mourning the dead Confederate soldiers, but shouldn’t there be recognition that they died for something shameful? We can look around us today and still see the aftereffects of the slavery and the war that ended it. Will we ever get over it? One more quote from Blight’s article:

The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. The war, they had boldly announced, had been about the triumph of their emancipation over a slaveholders’ republic. They were themselves the true patriots.

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On Memorial Day in 2014, we honor the dead of all wars, but we treat our living war veteran with disrespect. From CNN, ‘Thanks for your service’ not enough, by Sebastian Junger, Jim McDermott and Karl Marlantes.

According to current Veterans Administration estimates, 22 American veterans take their lives every single day.

High rates of unemployment, homelessness, alcoholism, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress are decimating our community of veterans. With the wars of the past 13 years in Iraq and Afghanistan coming to a close, we are seeing too many casualties among American soldiers in this transition to peace.

In light of this crisis, we need a new kind of Memorial Day.

Many veterans are desperate to talk about their experiences with fellow Americans who accept shared responsibility for what is done in war, particularly the killing. Yet these conversations rarely happen today. How can a veteran truly come home unless we acknowledge that our nation’s wars are something we all chose and paid for?

Returning Vietnam veterans were treated shamefully. That, thankfully, is behind America. We’ve moved from outright hostility to awkward, if well-meant, expressions of “thank you for your service” and the creation of a number of new veterans services organizations.

However, there remains an abiding sense of national indifference, or worse, a sense that somehow veterans are victims. This must change.

A great deal needs to change for the United States to be “one nation indivisible.”

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In the News

 

Isla Vista Mass Murder:

The horrible murders in Santa Barbara are still at the top of the Google News page today. A few links:

NBC News: What Do We Know About Elliot Rodger’s Rampage?

Little Green Footballs: Echoes of Montreal – Isla Vista shows us 25 years doesn’t change much.

NY Daily News: Social media strikes back with #YesAllWomen after deadly Isla Vista rampage.

Slate: The Pick-Up Artist Community’s Predictable, Horrible Response to a Mass Murder

CBS Los Angeles: Rodger’s Family Friend says Killer’s Parents Tried to Get Son Mental Help.

Village Voice: Rightbloggers: Santa Barbara Killer Elliot Rodger’s Sexist Rants Have Nothing To Do With Sexism (Or Guns).

Fox News: Sheriffs never saw menacing videos before California rampage.

NY Daily News: Santa Barbara killer’s parents raced to stop him after receiving disturbing emails

 

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Other News:

The Washington Post: White House mistakenly identifies CIA chief in Afghanistan.

The New York Times: Pro-European Businessman Claims Victory in Ukraine Presidential Vote.

Reuters: French far right in ‘earthquake’ win as Europe votes.

Raw Story: It’s all in your head: Scientist now believes his pioneering work on gluten allergy was wrong.

Raw Story: SC pastor accused of turning Bible college into forced labor camp for foreign students.

The Hollywood Reporter: Walt Disney Family Feud: Inside His Grandkids’ Weird, Sad Battle Over a $400 Million Fortune.

Politico: The ‘Wary of Hillary’ Democrats

What else is happening? Please post your links in the comment thread, and enjoy the holiday!


Sunday Reads: A o.k. for oll korrect.

033Good Morning

Can you believe it is already May?  Whoosh, this year is going by fast!

I realize this post is a little late this morning, but I wanted to give Boston Boomer’s late night thread a while to “stew” since it seemed like big news…

Well…because it is Sunday, I have a mix of special interest links, historical long-reads and a dash of Etymology quickies for you to sink your teeth into.

For starters, here is an explanation of the post’s title.

What’s the Real Origin of “OK”? | Mental Floss

OK, here’s the story. On Saturday, March 23, 1839, the editor of the Boston Morning Post published a humorous article about a satirical organization called the “Anti-Bell Ringing Society ” in which he wrote:

The “Chairman of the Committee on Charity Lecture Bells,” is one of the deputation, and perhaps if he should return to Boston, via Providence, he of the Journal, and his train-band, would have his “contribution box,” et ceteras, o.k.—all correct—and cause the corks to fly, like sparks, upward.

It wasn’t as strange as it might seem for the author to coin OK as an abbreviation for “all correct.” There was a fashion then for playful abbreviations like i.s.b.d (it shall be done), r.t.b.s (remains to be seen), and s.p. (small potatoes). They were the early ancestors of OMG, LOL, and tl;dr. A twist on the trend was to base the abbreviations on alternate spellings or misspellings, so “no go” was k.g. (know go) and “all right” was o.w. (oll write). So it wasn’t so surprising for someone come up with o.k. for oll korrect. What is surprising is that it ended up sticking around for so long while the other abbreviations faded away.

Go figure? I don’t know why, but I always spell o.k. like “okay.”

Anyway, I thought that was a fun bit of trivial nonsense that might come in handy one day. You never know.

Okay…I saved a few links over the past week, you may have missed some of them…

From Bloomberg: Barack Obama, Gun Salesman of the Year

President Barack Obama is arguably the nation’s top gun salesman. The “Obama surge,” as the Wall Street Journal calls it (others call it the “Obama bubble“), appears to have increased gun sales in the U.S. by millions of units over his presidency.

The gun lobby/makers must be happy about that!

What the chart doesn’t provide is a reason for the increase. We can probably rule out a couple possibilities. A surge in hunting? Not likely. As Bloomberg News has reported, hunting has been in decline for years. Only about 13.7 million people hunted in 2011, a new low.

How about a crime wave? Nope. Violent crime began declining long before Obama took office and kept on declining through Obama’s first term, right into the teeth of the Great Recession. Preliminary numbers for the first half of 2012 do show a slight uptick of 1.2 percent, but it’s hardly the stuff of national panic. Even if the increase holds, crime in 2012 will be lower than it was in 2008.

So if hunting and crime are both declining, what is rising? Politics, for one.

Crazy talk has not been in short supply since Obama’s first presidential campaign took flight. Talk-radio jocks, the gun lobby and others who invest long in hysteria may preach to the choir, but the choir appears to be increasingly well-armed. Despite survey data indicating a steady decline in the number of households owning guns, the overall quantity of guns keeps rising. (Either a smaller number of people are buying a whole lot more guns, or a large number of gun owners are lying to pollsters, or both.)

There was a story in the New York Times last week that caught my eye: Trinity Church in Manhattan Is Split on How to Spend Its Wealth

There has never been any doubt that Trinity Church is wealthy. But the extent of its wealth has long been a mystery; guessed at by many, known by few.

Now, however, after a lawsuit filed by a disenchanted parishioner, the church has offered an estimate of the value of its assets: more than $2 billion.

The Episcopal parish, known as Trinity Wall Street, traces its holdings to a gift of 215 acres of prime Manhattan farmland donated in 1705 by Queen Anne of England. Since then, the church has parlayed that gift into a rich portfolio of office buildings, stock investments and, soon, mixed-use residential development.

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Over the years, the church has sold or given away much of the original 215 acres from Queen Anne, but it has 14 acres, including 5.5 million square feet of commercial real estate.

It reported $158 million in real estate revenue for 2011, the majority of which went toward maintaining and supporting its real estate operations, the financial statement indicates. Of the $38 million left for the church’s operating budget, some $4 million was spent on communications, $3 million on philanthropic grant spending and $2.5 million on the church’s music program, church officials said. Nearly $6 million went to maintain Trinity’s historic properties, including the main church building, which was built in 1846; St. Paul’s Chapel; and several cemeteries, where luminaries including Alexander Hamilton and Edward I. Koch are buried. The remainder went into the church’s equity investment portfolio.

Of course, with all that wealth comes infighting between the church members and leaders.

Differences over the parish’s mission and direction last year led nearly half the 22-member vestry — an august collection of corporate executives and philanthropists — to resign or be pushed out, after at least seven of them asked, unsuccessfully, that the rector himself step down.

It really is something to read about all the money involved, then to read the comments…when salaries are mention. Damn, these “one of the largest landowners in Manhattan” Episcopals are giving the “Red Prada Slippered” Catholics a run for their money.

Salon had this article last week as well: 6 ways Big Pharma manipulates consumers

The blockbuster pill profit party is over for Big Pharma. Bestselling pills like Lipitor, Seroquel, Zyprexa, Singular and Concerta have gone off patent and sites which their ads sustained are withering on the vine. WebMD, for example, the voice of Pharma on the Web, with a former Pfizer exec serving as CEO, announced it would cut 250 positions in December.

But don’t worry, Wall Street. Pharma isn’t going to deliver disappointing earnings just because it has little or no new drugs coming online and has failed at the very reason for its existence. Here are six new Pharma marketing initiatives that are guaranteed to keep investor expectations high along with our insurance premiums. The secret? Recycling old and discredited drugs and marketing diseases to sell the few new ones.

Read about the six ways at the link.

When I read this next story, I felt sad…but it also made me laugh in a sadistic kind of way….maybe because the whole thing was caught on tape?

‘World’s largest jigsaw’ collapses into 40,000 pieces days before it was due to go on show at Sandringham

A 40 thousand piece jigsaw commemorating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee crashed to the floor and broke leaving its assembler, who had spent more than 200 hours putting it together, heartbroken just days before it was due to go on display at Sandringham.

The jigsaw was put together by craftsman Dave Evans from Weymouth. He spent five weeks creating the 19.5ft by 8ft creation and believes it will enter the Guinness World records as the world’s largest jigsaw once it has been formally accredited.

Speaking to local press about the puzzle’s completion prior to its collapse from the wall of his studio, Mr Evans said: “I’m literally over the moon that I’ve finally reached the last piece. My fingers are sore, my eyes are tired but my heart is full of pride and I honestly couldn’t have done this without the backing of a superb team. I feel like I’ve reached my own moon landing and the eagle has landed.”

He is putting it all back together again. If it collapses a second time…I think someone is trying to tell the man something.

This next link is more recent, from yesterday via the Guardian Hollywood conservative unmasked as notorious Holocaust revisionist

To those who knew him, or thought they knew him, he was a cerebral, fun-loving gadfly who hosted boozy gatherings for Hollywood’s political conservatives. David Stein brought right-wing congressmen, celebrities, writers and entertainment industry figures together for shindigs, closed to outsiders, where they could scorn liberals and proclaim their true beliefs.

Over the past five years Stein’s organisation, Republican Party Animals, drew hundreds to regular events in and around Los Angeles, making him a darling of conservative blogs and talkshows. That he made respected documentaries on the Holocaust added intellectual cachet and Jewish support to Stein’s cocktail of politics, irreverence and rock and roll.

There was just one problem. Stein was not who he claimed. His real name can be revealed for the first time publicly – a close circle of confidants only found out the truth recently – as David Cole. And under that name he was once a reviled Holocaust revisionist who questioned the existence of Nazi gas chambers. He changed identities in January 1998.

Cole’s brazen reinvention as a social networker and political pundit deceived a roll-call of conservative politicians, filmmakers, journalists and broadcasters who had no clue about his past. A falling out with a friend led to his unmasking in his social circle two weeks ago, when a group of former supporters was shown YouTube clips of Cole’s incendiary – and until then forgotten – television appearances in the early 1990s.

As a combative twentysomething with tousled black hair, he was a vilified guest on chat shows hosted by Phil Donahue, Montel Williams and Morton Downey, among others, and was depicted as a neo-Nazi on news shows such as 60 Minutes and 48 Hours.

Read the rest of the exclusive interview at that link above…more stories after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Round-Up

coffee birdGood Morning

My daughter is still sick with the flu, but she is getting better…unfortunately I think she has passed it on to me. I am just hoping that my flu shot kicks in and the symptoms don’t get any worse.

Here’s the latest news out of Newtown. (And there is really nothing “new” in the way of information…and Philo Vance, I mean Paul Vance has been conspicuously absent, is his microphone packed away for good?)

From the Hartford Courant, we have our only bit of new information on the investigation.  Sandy Hook Shooter’s Pause May Have Aided Students’ Escape

As many as a half-dozen first graders may have survived Adam Lanza‘s deadly shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School because he stopped firing briefly, perhaps either to reload his rifle or because it jammed, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the events.

A source said that the Bushmaster rifle that Lanza used in the shootings is at the state police forensic laboratory undergoing several tests, including tests to determine whether it was jammed.

The children escaped from the first-grade classroom of teacher Victoria Soto, one of the six educators Lanza killed in Newtown after shooting his way through a glass door with the .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle on the morning of Dec. 14.

On Friday, detectives obtained and began examining records related to psychiatric care Lanza had received in an attempt to determine a motive. Several friends of his mother have said that he suffered from Asperger’s syndrome but authorities have not confirmed that or indicated it had anything to do with the shootings.

Finally, some sort of words about Lanza and medical records. Damn, it has been like Adam Lanza just dropped out of nowhere, no records or “social networking” footprints have been found. (I still think it is all too strange, the silence…and the attitude of the various “authorities.” Something still feels fishy to me!)

Anyway, you can watch the Newtown police chief interview here, it is a quick few minutes at the start of the CBS Evening News: 12/22: Newtown police chief shares his story- CBS News Video

The chief also shares his opinion on armed patrol officers guarding schools. That should be  enough of a tease for you to watch it.

Another thing to give a few minutes to is this report from All Things Considered: Near-Replica Of Sandy Hook Made Nearby For Students : NPR

I’d love to hear from Dr. Boomer about the new school being made into a “near-replica” of a place so many of these children survivors associate with unbelievable violence and horrible death.

On the subject of this carnage in the classroom, Roland Martin has this op/ed on CNN America should see the Newtown carnage

“One of these mothers from Connecticut should do an Emmett Till moment; show the picture of their child dead in the classroom.”

That’s a text I received earlier this week from my TV One show producer. When I got it, a chill immediately went through my body just thinking about the possibility of seeing the carnage in such a photo.

When taping this week’s edition of my show, “Washington Watch,” Sirius/XM Radio host Joe Madison somberly said the same thing. Joe remarked that Emmett’s mother, Mamie, insisted on an open casket for her son so the world could see what was done to him by racists in Mississippi.

Many Americans may not even remember Emmett Till, a precocious 14-year-old black teenager from Chicago who went to visit his family in Mississippi. He allegedly flirted with a white woman in a store, and the woman’s husband and his brother later went to the home where Till was staying, pulled him out of his bed, took him somewhere and beat him to a pulp, gouged out his eye, blew the back of his head away with a gun, attached a cotton gin with barbed wire around his neck and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River.

I think Martin may have a point. Look at the images from the Civil War, and how they shaped the mindset of the population. It brought the bloody war home to the people in a way that stories in the newspapers could not.

When Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender newspaper published his battered face on their covers, it sent shock waves throughout America, and especially in the black community. The brutality of lynchings were talked about and covered, yet for the world to witness with its own eyes the end result of vicious bigotry, it forced the nation to examine its conscience.

“There was just no way I could describe what was in that box,” Mamie said. “No way. And I just wanted the world to see.”

In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting, we have seen numerous photos of the beautiful, smiling faces of the 20 children and six adults slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The images we have become accustomed to include them singing at a piano, sporting the gear of a favorite sports team and others. When we think of them being memorialized it’s in the context of teddy bears, candles and flowers.

Americans want to remember them as vibrant and fun-loving children, but will that actually shake the conscience of America to do something about how they were gunned down in the classroom?

Please go read the rest, and let me know what you think about viewing the crime scene photos, and if that can make the horror more real to those people who seem bent on keeping gun control/legislation as is…and actually put more guns and assault weapons in the hands of the regular public, who don’t need these kind of semi-automatic military rifles to shoot a deer.

Speaking of those pro-gun lobbyist, take a look at this: Newtown’s firearms tradition clashes with gun control push

When the wind blows a certain way across the tree-topped hills, Gary Bennett can stand in his yard and hear echoes of gunfire from his hunting club five miles away. The sound comforts him.

“It’s a huge tradition here,” said Bennett, a retired electrician and former president of the club, which helped defeat a proposal to tighten Newtown, Conn.’s gun ordinances in September. “I’d rather see more gun clubs come to town, training people with the use of firearms so that everyone’s doing it safely.”

Anguished families are still burying the 20 children and six women who were shot to death by a lone gunman Dec. 14 just after the morning Pledge of Allegiance at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But a surprising local undercurrent has emerged: Many gun owners here say the slaughter has sharpened their view that guns alone aren’t the problem.

The article interviews folks who feel that there should be armed people at these schools.  “Somebody…” to take out the shooter. But all I can say is go back and watch that interview with the Newtown Police Chief, who does not think that armed patrol is the answer.

I’ve got one story here about Walmart, funny in a way: Walmart Sells Assault Weapons But Bans Music With Swear Words

Yup, no sale of music that contains the words, “fuck you” but they will gladly sell assault weapons that are only good for “fucking someone up…” killing them and making the surviving family’s life a living hell.

The rest of the links are slightly connected…I mentioned photographs of the disfigured and bloated dead Civil War soldiers above, well this past week was the anniversary of one of the most deadliest series of battles fought. From the New York Times: ‘The Day the Stars Wept’

The majority of fighting at Fredericksburg had ground to a halt as the sun slipped below the horizon on Dec. 13, 1862. Ghastly piles of dead men and horses were scattered in the fields, and the woods were littered with abandoned equipment and debris. Sporadic gunfire continued as exhausted survivors on both sides ventured out into the war-blasted landscape to rescue wounded comrades.

In one sector of the battlefield, the men of the Fourth Vermont Infantry had endured a day of intense enemy artillery and infantry fire. The regiment suffered more than 50 casualties, including 18 killed and wounded when a spray of lead balls from single Confederate canister shot tore into one company.

Whether it is images of this American Civil War or photos of the other civil war, the war for civil rights, fought one hundred years later…or the war in Europe…being able to look at images of the dead, or smell the shoes of thousands of holocaust victims, can we learn from the violence. It is the only way to stay connected with the past, and make sure we do not forget it.

Illustrator Alfred R. Waud’s sketch of pickets near Fredericksburg, circa December 1862
Library of Congress Illustrator Alfred R. Waud’s sketch of pickets near Fredericksburg, circa December 1862

The Vermonters occupied a skirmish line in the twilight. George Washington Quimby, the 27-year-old acting major of the regiment, stood conspicuously among the men. A peacetime high school principal, he cautioned his boys to “keep low to avoid danger” while random shots whizzed through the air. They obeyed the command and sat or lay down.

On the Confederate side, a soldier leveled his musket and squeezed the trigger. Hammer struck percussion cap and caused a spark that ignited gunpowder and propelled a conical shaped Minié bullet down the muzzle.

Quimby never saw it coming.

Read the rest of that NYT story at the link up top, and you can see images of the dead and read more about the battle here:

Battle of Fredericksburg – December 1862 Civil War Battle at Fredericksburg, Virginia

http://0.tqn.com/d/history1800s/1/0/Z/-/-/-/Antietam-roadside-fence-Gardner.jpg

Photo via the Library of congress.

In other news, the White House has changed its “opinion” of those frankenfish… I mean, genetically engineered fish. White House Reverses Itself, Lifts Political Block on FDA Approval of GM Salmon

The Food and Drug Administration today released an electronic version of its Environmental Assessment for a genetically modified (GM) salmon developed by AquaBounty Technologies of Massachusetts—effectively giving its preliminary seal of approval on the first transgenic animal to be considered for federal approval.

According to sources within FDA, the EA had been approved by the all the relevant agencies on April 19, 2012, but had been blocked for release on orders from inside the executive branch—which has raised both legal and ethical issues of political interference with science and the independent work of federal agencies.

The decision by the White House to rescind its order to block the FDA from releasing the EA came Wednesday within hours after the publication of an investigative report by the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) last Wednesday documenting that the executive branch had been hold the EA for political reasons.

Well fuuuuuuuck…..that!  And of course, this change of heart comes during a media filled frenzy of Fiscal Cliffs, dead children, Santa and Gun Control. Humph!

I’ve got another fish story for you, Megapiranha put T. rex’s bite to shame, says study

You ready for this?

Tyrannosaurus rex and megalodon, a gigantic shark that preceded the great white, have nothing on the black piranha and the extinct megapiranha when it comes to chomping power. Researchers at George Washington University report that, relative to its size, the megapiranha bite was more powerful than T. Rex and history’s largest shark. According to the study published in Scientific Reports, the black piranha was determined to have a biting force behind its powerful teeth of up to 320 Newtons.

“Comparisons of body size-scaled bite forces to other apex predators reveal S. rhombeus and M. paranensis have among the most powerful bites estimated in carnivorous vertebrates. Our results functionally demonstrate the extraordinary bite of serrasalmid piranhas and provide a mechanistic rationale for their predatory dominance among past and present Amazonian ichthyofaunas,” the authors write in their study.

Holy Ceviche! That is some powerful jaws…

…the piranhas’ aggressive nature, small body size and easy-to-access populations make them a great group of predatory vertebrates in which to examine the evolution of powerful chomping capabilities. Researchers believe that piranhas will attack and rip chunks of fins and flesh from prey regardless of size. Prior to this study, however, no data on the piranhas biting powers was available for researchers to use.

Researchers gathered the first bite-force measurements from wild specimens of the black piranha. Using these measurements, they were able to better understand the fundamental functional morphology of the jaws that gives the black piranha the ability to chomp down on its prey with a force that is more than 30 times greater than its weight. Researchers contend that this powerful biting force comes from the large muscle mass of the black piranha’s jaw and the deft transmission of its big contractile force through a modified jaw-closing lever.

Researchers believe that the ancient megapiranha shared a common trait with black piranhas: An extremely powerful bite. They reconstructed the bite force of the megapiranha and found that, despite its small body size, the chomping power of this extinct piranha was more powerful than that of megalodon.

Lots more at the link.

And finally, let’s end this post with a pretty picture, cold…sharp and clean:  Frost Flowers…Suddenly There’s A Meadow In The Ocean With ‘Flowers’ Everywhere

…little protrusions of ice, delicate, like snowflakes. They began growing in the dry, cold air “like a meadow spreading off in all directions. Every available surface was covered with them.” What are they?

“Frost flowers,” he was told. “I’d never heard of them,” Jeff says, “but they were everywhere.”

Frost flowers in the central Arctic Ocean.

Stay warm and enjoy the last Sunday before Christmas…see you later in the comment section!


Sunday Reads: Memorial Days and One Hot Summer Ahead

Memorial Day 1909, click image to see more vintage postcards.

Morning all!

This is a long weekend for many of you, and I hope that you all are enjoying it! Take care because it is during these weekends that bring about travel and water related fatalities.

Earlier this week, Boston Boomer mentioned something in a comment about the origin of Memorial Day. So I thought this link from the New York Times was interesting… Many Claim to Be Memorial Day Birthplace

James Rajotte for The New York Times

WATERLOO, N.Y.: OFFICIAL RECOGNITION Col. Lars Braun, who had just returned from 14 months in Iraq, in a Memorial Day parade in 2008 with his daughter, Rachel. In 1966, a presidential proclamation designated the town, in the Finger Lakes area, the official birthplace of Memorial Day.

Right on either side of Alabama, there are two places with the same name.

Like the one over in Mississippi, this Columbus was founded in the 1820s and sits just a few minutes from countryside in almost any way you drive.

Residents say it was here, in the years after the Civil War, that Memorial Day was born.

They say that in the other Columbus, too.

It does not take much for the historically curious in either town — like Richard Gardiner, a professor of teacher education at Columbus State University here — to explain why theirs is the true originator of a revered American holiday and why the other is well-meaning but simply misguided.

“I’m going to blame Memphis to some degree,” Professor Gardiner said, about which more later.

Oh boy, there is nothing like a good old-fashioned squabble about something that dates back to the Civil War.

The custom of strewing flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers has innumerable founders, going back perhaps beyond the horizon of recorded history, perhaps as far as war itself. But there is the ancient practice and there is Memorial Day, the specific holiday, arising from an order for the annual decoration of graves that was delivered in 1868 by Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, the commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a group made up of Union veterans of the Civil War.

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, roughly two dozen places claim to be the primary source of the holiday, an assertion found on plaques, on Web sites and in the dogged avowals of local historians across the country.

Yet each town seems to have different criteria: whether its ceremony was in fact the earliest to honor Civil War dead, or the first one that General Logan heard about, or the first one that conceived of a national, recurring day.

The article mentions several of the towns that claim being the first, but it focuses on two specific towns.

the claims of the two Columbuses, eyeing each other across Alabama, are among the more nuanced and possibly the most intertwined.

[…]

Columbus, Miss., was a hospital town, and in many cases a burial site, for both Union and Confederate casualties of Shiloh, brought in by the trainload. And it was in that Columbus where, at the initiation of four women who met in a 12-gabled house on North Fourth Street, a solemn procession was made to Friendship Cemetery on April 25, 1866.

As the story goes, one of the women spontaneously suggested that they decorate the graves of the Union as well as the Confederate dead, as each grave contained someone’s father, brother or son. A lawyer in Ithaca, N.Y., named Francis Miles Finch read about this reconciliatory gesture and wrote a poem about the ceremony in Columbus, “The Blue and the Gray,” which The Atlantic Monthly published in 1867.

“My view is it’s really the poem that inspired the nation,” said Rufus Ward, a retired district attorney, sitting in his basement and sipping a mint julep (his grandmother’s recipe, he said, the one she shared with Eudora Welty).

The Georgians dispute little of this. But they argue that the procession in the other Columbus was actually inspired by the events in their Columbus.

And what about Georgia’s Columbus?

…Professor Gardiner points to a local woman named Mary Ann Williams, who in the spring of 1866 wrote an open letter suggesting “a day be set apart annually” and become a “custom of the country” to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers.

That day, described as a national day, was chosen to be April 26, the anniversary of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender in North Carolina to Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army. The letter, or a summary of it, ran in newspapers all over the South, and as far west as St. Louis and as far north as New Hampshire, leading to widespread ceremonies on that day.

It also ran in the The Memphis Daily Avalanche on March 27, 1866. But the paper had the wrong date — April 25.

“This misprint right here is the difference between what you’ll hear in Columbus, Mississippi, and here,” Professor Gardiner said, concluding that the Memphis misprint traveled to the other Columbus. The Mississippi commemoration did take place a day earlier, he admitted, but they go too far in claiming they came up with it independently. “I just can’t — I don’t buy it.”

But this day set by Mary Ann Williams was only for the Confederate dead. And still to this day the south celebrates Confederate Day, our Banjoville courthouse is closed on that day.

However, according to Professor of History David W. Blight, Yale University…the event that brought about Memorial Day is…

…a mostly forgotten — or possibly suppressed — event in Charleston, S.C., in 1865 at a racetrack turned war prison. Black workmen properly reburied the Union dead that were found there, and on May 1, a cemetery dedication was held, attended by thousands of freed blacks who marched in procession around the track.

He has called that the first Memorial Day, as it predated most of the other contenders, though he said he has no evidence that it led to General Logan’s call for a national holiday.

“I’m much more interested in the meaning that’s being conveyed in that incredible ritual than who’s first,” he said.

I agree with Blight’s assessment too. The meaning of the day is what is most important.

So with that in mind, please take a moment today and remember all the soldiers who have died in the service of their country.

More news links after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: A Little Calf Wobbles, Women and Livestock

Next thing you know, men will have us corseted up and dressed head to toe...in a much more ladylike fashion.

Good Sunday Morning…

The past few days have been a mixed blessing. Our internet has been very fickle, the tech says it is something to do with parcels of packets. What ever that means…the connection gets so slow, and it is sporadic. And the “high tech” guys aren’t too good at getting back to us and letting us know the status of our repair ticket.

Personally, I think they aren’t going to do a thing. We have some new high-speed thing, your stimulus dollars at work, that they are working on now here in Banjoville. Maybe that is why it is so messed up now.

Anyway, due to this slow internet my post will be on the thin side. (As far as links are concerned.)

As I was saying, not being online has been a treat. I know that all that will end on Monday, when the GOP get back to their ridiculous assaults on women’s rights. It is also the day when the newsy people will be discussing Puerto Rico and Missouri’s primary/caucus results. It seems like every time there are primary votes being cast in this race, it is always make or break for the candidates. I am so sick of hearing Wolf Blitzer’s voice drone on about this is the night folks…we got your results here…the stakes are high…and then it turns out, meh.

Yesterday, I saw a new baby calf take some of his first steps in the pasture that is next door to our house. It was so wonderful to see that new little guy, so happy to be out in the grass. Falling over and trembling when he did get to standing. The other calves, a bit older, would come by and frolic around the baby. Not for long though, cause Mama was very protective…she would knock the rowdy bunch out-of-the-way of her little prince. It certainly was more relaxing and enjoyable to watch those beautiful livestock (they are top-notch Black Angus, breeding stock) than it is to read about Georgia GOP idiots refer to women as cattle and chickens and goats.

Another thing I did this weekend, was to pop in some of my Ken Burns’s The Civil War DVDs in and watch a bit of that amazing program. I could listen to Shelby Foote talk and talk. It made me think about some things…when this series came out in the 80’s, there was a lot of shows during that time about the history of the Civil War. Denzel Washington and Mathew Broderick did a film about the black soldiers who fought for the North. Oprah had her Beloved…there was that epic produced by Ted Turner about Gettysburg…and I do believe even a movie with Patrick Swayze. It sort of spilled into the early nighties as well, remember the TV mini-series Queen?

But it wasn’t just those hoop-skirt, Gray and Blue cultural media and films that trended at that time, there were also a lot of films about the Civil Rights era too. Love Field, Michelle Pfeiffer traveling cross-country with a black man to attend Kennedy’s funeral…Films about Malcom X, and Jim Crow and the tensions of race relations in the south like Driving Miss Daisy and The Color Purple and Mississippi Burning, such a good movie…my point with all this wandering is that during those times, there was an awareness.

Maybe it is because of my interest in history, but it seemed like people where more knowledgeable about things. Now you take a trip to Kennesaw Battlefield or Chickamauga and people are playing football and Frisbee in fields where so many lost their lives.

And yet, here we are…twenty-five years later, and what are the big social issues we are up against? Women’s Rights, Birth Control, Reproductive Healthcare etc. are being aggressively attacked by men (and several women mind you) who believe that any progress we have made in regards to women’s rights is the cause of satan himself. Yes, the devil has made women into sluts and whores and welfare queens…

These same hateful people believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs were on the ark and that global warming is from the book of Genesis. These are the idiots who pass laws that force creationism on public school students, take funding away from programs that care for women’s health and prevent life threatening illness. They talk of homosexuals as dogs and beast…they slap a Jesus here and a Satan there and sound so righteous about how close they are to the Lord…and the importance of the sanctity of marriage, while at the same time they are on their third marriage…or pay prostitutes to dress them up in diapers.

None of this rant is really anything new…but what makes me mad is that these assholes also don’t see what they are doing is discrimination. Plain and true.

Perhaps we need a cultural trend about the women’s rights movement…and the Suffragettes, and the women who endured hell to get us those few rights we see ticking away at the hands of Christian extremist.

Since I do not have access to the internet…and have linked to items I have saved away, I want to end this post with an email that our reader Connie sent to Boston Boomer earlier this week. She forwarded it to a few of the Front Pagers and I think you will appreciate it.  I’ve copied the e-mail into this post along with photos.

A TRUE STORY EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW

This is the story of our mothers and grandmothers who lived only 90 years ago.

Remember it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House carrying signs asking for the vote.

And by the end of the night they were barely alive.  Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing, went on a rampage against the thirty-three women wrongly convicted of “obstructing sidewalk traffic.”

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head, and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed, and knocked her out cold.  Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis had suffered a heart attack and was dead.  Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the “night of terror” on November 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered the guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote.  For weeks, the women’s only water came from an open pail. Their food–all of it colorless slop–was infested with worms.

Alice Paul

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

Pauline Adams

HBO’s movie ‘Iron Jawed Angels’ is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that we could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have our say.

Mrs. Lawrence Lewis, Mrs. Abby Scott Baker, Anita Pollitzer, Alice Paul, Florence Boeckel, Mabel Vernon (standing)

(Conferring over ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution at National Woman’s Party headquarters, Jackson Place, Washington , D.C.)

Watching the movie, it is jarring to see Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn’t make her crazy. The doctor admonished the men: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.’

Read again what these women went through for us! We can’t let their suffering be for nothing. Women must vote!

So I will end it with that…if my internet is working up to speed, I will try to post some news links in the comments. If not..can you help me out? What are you reading about and what is going on in the world today?


Friday Late Night News Reads: “I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this…”

Good late evening!

Today we saw the reversal of a Komen decision…well, possibly. I’ll get to that in a minute. Just think of all those people out there who got a pink ribbon tattoo in memory or as a tribute to someone they love…I get the feeling that pink ribbon will never mean the same again.

On C&L there is some interesting speculation about if the Komen foundation has really walked back the decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. It seems that the religious right anti-women members of SGK are speaking out about the move to grant funding for Planned Parenthood.

Was Komen’s Nancy Brinker Lying Yesterday Or Is She Lying Today? | Crooks and Liars

On Thursday, this is what Nancy Brinker, Komen’s CEO, told Andrea Mitchell.

BRINKER: In 2010, we set about creating excellence in our grants, not just in our community grants, but in our science grants, putting metrics, outcomes and measures to them. [...] Part of that includes taking these grants into communities and being excellent grant givers. Many of the grants we were doing with Planned Parenthood do not meet new standards of criteria for how we can measure our results and effectiveness in communities.

As I said yesterday, it is all bullshit…

But here’s part of the statement she released Friday.

Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.

Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.

So, what happened to those “measures” and “metrics” and “outcomes” Brinker was babbling about on Thursday?

Meanwhile, wingnuts are circulating this piece, which claims a Komen board member says they’ve haven’t reversed themselves at all.

Following a new statement Komen for the Cure released making many observers believe the breast cancer charity reversed position on whether it would fund grants to Planned Parenthood, one Komen board member says it hasn’t caved.

Komen board member John Raffaelli talked with the Washington Post after the statement was released and said the new announcement doesn’t necessarily mean there is any reversal until and unless Planned Parenthood receives additional funding beyond what was already planned before Komen’s December decision.

Here is the WaPo article mentioned above: Komen caved. Or did it? – The Plum Line – The Washington Post

I just got off the phone with a Komen board member, and he confirmed that the announcement does not mean that Planned Parenthood is guaranteed future grants — a demand he said would be “unfair” to impose on Komen. He also said the job of the group’s controversial director, Nancy Brinker, is safe, as far as the board is concerned.

As some were quick to point out, the statementput out by Komen doesn’t really clarify whether Planned Parenthood will actually continue to get money from the group. The original rationale for barring Planned Parenthood was that it was under investigation (a witch-hunt probe undertaken by GOP Rep Cliff Stearns). Komen said today that the group would “amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political.”

Does that mean Planned Parenthood will get Komen grants in the future?

I asked Komen board member John Raffaelli to respond to those who are now saying that the announcement doesn’t necessarily constitute a reversal until Planned Parenthood actually sees more funding. He insisted it would be unfair to expect the group to commit to future grants.

“It would be highly unfair to ask us to commit to any organization that doesn’t go through a grant process that shows that the money we raise is used to carry out our mission,” Raffaelli told me. “We’re a humanitarian organization. We have a mission. Tell me you can help carry out our mission and we will sit down at the table.”

Pushed on whether this means the new announcement wasn’t really a reversal, Raffaelli pushed back, arguing that Komen, in response to all the criticism, had removed politics from the grant-making process. “Is it really unclear that we’re changing the policy to address criticism?” he said.

Oh these guys are full of it!

Raffaelli says that the board has “unequivocally” stood behind Brinker, and that she is not going anywhere.

One more link for you on this: Susan G. Komen Foundation Says It Is Not Connected To Pink ‘Hope’ Handgun [UPDATE]

The Susan G. Komen Foundation has responded to reports Friday that it is affiliated with a handgun manufacturer selling a pink gun designed to promote breast cancer awareness, saying that it does not have a partnership with the manufacturer and has not received donations from it.

Business Insider first reported Thursday that Discount Gun Sales was selling a ‘Hope Edition’ handgun and donating a portion of the proceeds to Komen, the largest breast cancer charity in the nation.

[…]

“We do not have partnerships with any firearms manufacturer. Nor does our Seattle Affiliate receive donations from this manufacturer,” said Andrea Rader, who works in the public relations department at Komen. “As you noted, they even got the name of our organization wrong.”

A spokesman for Komen’s Seattle chapter, meanwhile, told The Huffington Post that his group was completely unaware of Discount Gun Sales’ “Hope” gun and hadn’t received any donations from the company.

“This fundraising scheme is not sanctioned by us; we had no knowledge of it. We have not received a single penny from this gun seller. It is a rogue scheme,” said Jim Clune, communications manager for the Puget Sound Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. “We have forwarded this issue to the National Komen office, requesting they contact Discount Gun Sales with a cease and desist order.”

The webpage promoting the gun was pulled down Friday afternoon. An archive of that page can be seen here.

Well, perhaps we should treat this gun business like crazy loudmouth Rush, Hannity and Savage treat any reports or experts that discount what they yell into their microphones…ignore the “alleged” truth and just yell louder about the audacity of Komen’s pink guns!

The news for Bradley Manning doesn’t look good…no surprise really, Bradley Manning: US general orders court martial for WikiLeaks suspect | World news | guardian.co.uk

Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning is to stand trial for allegedly giving more than 700,000 secret US documents to WikiLeaks for publication. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

A US army officer has ordered a court martial for Bradley Manning, the soldier charged in the biggest leak of classified information in American history.

Military district of Washington commander Major General Michael Linnington referred all charges against Manning to a general court martial on Friday, the army said in a statement.

The referral means Manning, 24, will stand trial for allegedly giving more than 700,000 secret US documents and a classified combat video to WikiLeaks for publication. He faces 22 counts, including aiding the enemy, and could be imprisoned for life if convicted of that charge.

A judge yet to be appointed will set the trial date.

Some of you may have missed the obituary notice regarding Ben Gazzara.

Ben Gazzara, Actor of Stage and Screen, Dies at 81 – NYTimes.com

Ben Gazzara, an intense actor whose long career included playing Brick in the original “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” on Broadway, roles in influential films by John Cassavetes and work with several generations of top Hollywood directors, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 81.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, his lawyer, Jay Julien, said. Mr. Gazzara lived in Manhattan.

Mr. Gazzara studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in Manhattan, where the careers of stars like Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger were shaped, and like them he had a visceral presence. It earned him regular work across half a century, not only onstage — his last Broadway appearance was in the revival of “Awake and Sing!” in 2006 — but in dozens of movies and all sorts of television shows, including the starring role in the 1960s series “Run for Your Life.”

If Mr. Gazzara never achieved Brando’s stature, that was partly because of a certain laissez-faire approach to his career: an early suspicion of film, a reluctance to go after desirable roles.

One more link for you tonight…The slave who spoke from beyond the grave – Americas – World – The Independent

An extraordinary letter written by an emancipated slave to his former owner ridiculing his request for him to return to work on a Tennessee plantation after the Civil War has become an internet sensation.

I would have never heard about this letter, with all the other Pink stuff going on, you tend to miss out on interesting tidbits like this.

More than two million people have already read the missive by Jourdon Anderson to “my old master” Colonel Patrick Hennessy Anderson since it appeared on the cult website LettersOfNote.com five days ago and became endlessly repeated on Twitter and Facebook.

It was written in 1865 with the help of a lawyer in Dayton, Ohio. In it, the illiterate former slave suggests he might consider returning south from his new home where he was being paid $25 a month should the Colonel – who twice tried to shoot him – consider reimbursing him and his wife for the three decades they toiled in the fields unpaid.

He points out: “In Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows” and suggests suitable recompense of $11,680 plus interest.

Shaun Usher, who has published historical correspondence on his website since 2009, said the letter had generated record traffic after being picked up by Yahoo to coincide with US Black History Month. He was satisfied the letter was genuine despite its sarcastic tone – it was published in newspapers and books and evidence of both men appears in American census documents.

There is a copy of the letter at that Independent link above, please give it a read.

Think of this as an open thread, and I will see you all later in the comments.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Well, we dodged a bullet yesterday when Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour announced that he won’t be running for president in 2012. Whew! I really didn’t want a president who would decorate the Oval Office with Confederate Civil War memorabilia, did you? Newsweek, January 2010:

The Republican governor of Mississippi keeps a large portrait of the University Greys, the Confederate rifle company that suffered 100 percent casualties at Gettysburg, on a wall not far from a Stars and Bars Confederate flag signed by Jefferson Davis.

Not to mention a guy who praised the segregationist Southern “citizens councils” in an interview with the Weekly Standard. And the fact that Barbour talks like he has a mouthful of marbles doesn’t help either.

We won't have him to kick around anymore

Politico has an analysis of why Barbour “pulled the plug,” which basically boils down to he really didn’t want to go through the aggravation. The story ends this way:

There were also nagging concerns among GOP insiders about the prospect of nominating a deep-South governor with an accent matching his Delta roots to take on the country’s first black president.

Barry Wynn, a former South Carolina Republican chairman, put it politely after hearing Barbour speak in the state earlier this month: “There’s a perception that he might be more of a regional candidate.”

Gee, no kidding. Like I said, we dodged a bullet. But there are plenty of other creepy Republicans out there to take his place. In fact Ron Paul is getting ready to announce another campaign for president.

Speaking of creepy Republicans, Donald Trump claimed today that President Obama’s birth certificate is “missing.”

When asked from whom he received the information, Trump said he didn’t want to say and that he feels bad about the situation.

“I’d love for him to produce his birth certificate so that you can fight one-on-one,” Trump said in an interview set to air Monday. “If you look at what he’s doing to fuel prices, you can do a great fight one-on-one, you don’t need this issue.”

CNN’s Gary Tuchman also interviewed the former director of the Hawaii Department of Health, who said she has seen the original birth certificate in the vault at the Department of Health.

Trump supporter Franklin Graham, son of Billy, is also on the birther bandwagon.

{sigh….}

Meanwhile, multiple media outlets are talking about Trump’s generous campaign contributions–to Democrats. In fact, Trump recently donated $50,000 to Rahm Emanuel’s campaign for Chicago Mayor. From CNN:

Shortly before announcing interest in pursuing the GOP presidential bid, Republican Donald Trump gave $50,000, his largest campaign contribution in Illinois, to Democrat Rahm Emanuel, who was running for mayor, in December 2010….

Rahm’s brother Ari, who is co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, represents a majority of Hollywood’s celebrity elite, including Trump….

Records from the Illinois State Board of Elections show that Trump has made various sizable donations to Democratic causes in Illinois.

From Salon’s War Room:

When [Ed] Rendell entered Pennsylvania’s 2002 gubernatorial race, Trump committed himself to the former Democratic National Committee chairman’s cause. Between December 2001 and Election Day ’02, Trump personally gave $27,000 to Ed Rendell’s gubernatorial campaign. He also chipped in $5,000 more at the end of 2003, when Rendell was finishing up his first year in office.

Mind you, Rendell’s victory in 2002 was by no means a foregone conclusion. He faced a serious threat in the May Democratic primary from Robert Casey, then the state’s treasurer and the son of a former governor. The sharpest ideological difference between the two men may have been on abortion: Rendell was pro-choice, while Casey was pro-life (like his father, who was denied a speaking slot at the 1992 Democratic convention in part because of it). During the primary campaign, Trump provided Rendell with $6,000. Rendell ended up beating Casey by 13 points.

Trump is supposedly the one of the biggest contributors to Charlie Rangel ever, yet he is supposedly running as a Republican.

And then we have our current president, who is a Republican who ran as a Democrat in 2008. I posted this in comments on the morning thread yesterday, but I can resist doing it again. It’s so funny to see former Obama supporter (why?) Eric Alterman comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter.

Stylistically speaking, Barack Obama could hardly be further from Jimmy Carter if he really had been born in Kenya. Carter was a born-again Baptist who was raised on his father’s peanut plantation and supported George Wallace on the road to the Georgia state house. Barack Obama—well, you know the story. But the two men have a great deal in common in their approach to the presidency, and not one of these similarities is good news for the Democrats or even for America. Both men rule without regard to the concerns of the base of their party. Both held themselves to be above politics when it came to making tough decisions. Both were possessed with superhuman self-confidence when it came to their own political judgment mixed with contempt for what they understood to be the petty concerns of pundits and party leaders. And worst of all, one fears, neither one appeared willing to change course no matter how many storm clouds loomed on the horizon.

Ask yourself if the following story does not sound like another president we could name The gregarious Massachusetts pol, House Speaker Tip O’Neill, could hardly have been more eager to work with a Democratic president after eight years of Nixon and Ford. But when they first met, and O’Neill attempted to advise Carter about which members of Congress might need some special pleading, or even the assorted political favor or two with regard to certain issues, to O’Neill’s open-jawed amazement, Carter replied, “No, I’ll describe the problem in a rational way to the American people. I’m sure they’ll realize I’m right.” The red-nosed Irishman later said he “could have slugged” Carter over this lethal combination of arrogance and naivety, but it would soon become Carter’s calling card.

In some bad news for the radical right, the Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to Obamacare before it wends its way through the federal courts.

And in some good news for football fans, a district court has decided that

The NFL’s lockout is harming players and fans and is not in the public interest, District Judge Susan Nelson said in a ruling on Monday that granted the players’ request for an injunction to halt the work stoppage.

Nelson’s order to end the six-week lockout, imposed last month after a breakdown in talks over a new collective deal, is to be appealed by the NFL.

In an 89-page statement, the judge also accepted that the players dissolution of their union was valid and allowed them to act as individuals rather than be constricted by labor bargaining rules.

The Minnesota judge said in the absence of a collective bargaining process, which ended on March 11, antitrust policies come to the fore.

The plaintiffs in the case, led quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, argued they were suffering harm as a result of a lockout that stops them from reporting to work.

Here’s some more analysis of the decision at USA Today. I realize that I’m one of the few sports fans here at Sky Dancing, so I won’t burden you unduly. But I just want to say that the Red Sox have won five games in a row and are now only one game under .500–after starting the season with a string of pathetic losses. I know at least Pat Johnson will join me in cheering that news.

Daknikat wrote yesterday about the terrible flooding that was expected in Missouri. Well, it’s happening.

Gov. Jay Nixon activated the Missouri National Guard on Monday in response to the flooding of the Black River near Poplar Bluff, Mo. The executive order came just three days after the governor declared a state of emergency from the tornado that tore through St. Louis last Friday.

“Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner has mobilized 200 citizen soldiers and airmen to report initially to the Poplar Bluff area to assist with flood relief there,” said Maj. Tammy Spicer, public affairs officer for the Missouri National Guard.

More from the Houston Chronicle: Residents flee as river overflows Missouri levee.

Thunder roared and tornado warning sirens blared, and all emergency workers in the southeast Missouri town of Poplar Bluff could do Monday was hope the saturated levee holding back the Black River would survive yet another downpour.

Murky water flowed over the levee at more than three dozen spots and crept toward homes in the flood plain. Some had already flooded. If the levee broke — and forecasters said it was in imminent danger of doing so — some 7,000 residents in and around Poplar Bluff would be displaced.

One thousand homes were evacuated earlier in the day. Sandbagging wasn’t an option, Police Chief Danny Whitely said. There were too many trouble spots, and it was too dangerous to put people on the levee. Police went door-to-door encouraging people to get out. Some scurried to collect belongings, others chose to stay. Two men had to be rescued by boat.

“Basically all we can do now is wait, just wait,” Whitely said.

A Roosevelt would probably have created jobs by having people repair the nation’s rotting infrastructure. But, instead we got Barack “Hoover” Obama and the levees keep on failing.

Things are getting worse and worse in Syria, where there has been a brutal crackdown on protesters over the past several days. From CNN: Deadly attack on protesters raises questions about Syria’s stability

With reports emerging Monday that at least one high-ranking Syrian military commander refused to participate in a bloody, predawn raid that left dozens dead in the southern border city of Daraa — the heart of Syria’s weekslong civil unrest, questions are being raised about possible cracks in President Bashar al-Assad’s hold over the military.

The crackdown on anti-government protesters by Syrian forces escalated in recent days as demonstrators, emboldened by weeks of protests, called for the ouster of al-Assad. The crackdown culminated with the raid in Daraa where thousands of troops reportedly stormed the city and opened fire on demonstrators. It was an attack reminiscent of the brutal rule of al-Assad’s father, who once ordered the military to crush a revolt that resulted in the deaths of thousands.

“I think he’s clearly going toward the security solution, which is where he could be following in the steps of his father,” said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

I’ve been hearing all day that Yemen’s president Saleh was renigging on his promise to step down soon, but Al Jazeera reports that there is an agreement between the government and opposition forces.

Yemen’s opposition has agreed to take part in a transitional government under a Gulf-negotiated peace plan for embattled leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to step aside in a month in exchange for immunity for him and his family.

A spokesman for an opposition coalition said on Monday that his group had received assurances in order to accept the deal.

“We have given our final accord to the [Gulf] initiative after having received assurances from our brothers and American and European friends on our objections to certain clauses in the plan,” Mohammed Qahtan said.

But not all protesters are going along.

many pro-democracy protesters, who are not members of the coalition that agreed to the peace talks, appear to be unconvinced by the Gulf-proposed deal and have called for fresh demonstrations, as security forces continued their crackdown.

In Libya, the fighting continues to be centered in the city of Misurata.

The battle for Misurata, which has claimed hundreds of lives in the past two months, has become the focal point of the armed rebellion against Gaddafi since fighting elsewhere is deadlocked.

Images of civilians being killed and wounded by Gaddafi’s heavy weapons, have spurred calls for more forceful international intervention to stop the bloodshed.

NATO’s mandate from the UN is to try to protect civilians in Libya, split into a rebel-run east and a western area that remains largely under Gaddafi’s control.

While the international coalition’s air attacks have delivered heavy blows to his army, they have not halted attacks on Misurata, Libya’s third largest city, with a population of 300,000.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by insects. I loved to read books about ants, spiders, and other such creepy-crawly critters. Truthfully, I still find them interesting. Here’s a story about fire ants and how they cooperate to protect the group in an emergency.

When flood waters threaten their underground nests, fire ants order an immediate evacuation. They make their way to the surface and grab hold of one another, making a living raft that can sail for months.

The extraordinary survival tactic, which can involve entire colonies of more than a hundred thousand ants, has been captured on film by US engineers who used the footage to help unravel how the insects co-operate to overcome nature’s dangers.

Time-lapse film of the ants in action reveals that pockets of air get trapped between them and around their bodies, helping them breathe if the raft is pushed under the water.

In normal circumstances the ants lock legs, and sometimes mandibles, to form a floating mat that sits on top of the water through a combination of surface tension and buoyancy.

“Even the ones at the bottom remain dry and able to breath because they are not actually under the water,” said Nathan Mlot, a PhD student at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

If only we humans would get together and cooperate like that!


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