Friday Reads: Rent seeking by Billionaire Lobbyists wrecks the World

jack21

Good Morning!

Those of you that have known me for some time know that I am a big fan of our nation’s National Parks. I spent a good deal of my childhood travelling all over the country with the major destinations being our National Parks. This is because my mother was taken on camping trips to our new National Park System when she was a girl. I followed in that traditional and took my oldest daughter and youngest–mostly with my parents but sometimes with my husband in tow if he would actually leave work–and headed off to many in the west.

Yellowstone, Dinosaur National Monument and then the Anasazi Indian sites were my favorites.  It was really dismaying for me to read this today because Chaco Canyon rates high in my all time favorite places.  The evil extraction businesses wants to frack in our National Parks and Chaco Canyon is on the list.  This is the kind of legislation the Koch Brothers love because they can wreck our national parks and earn billions by paying the U.S. government next to nothing to do so.  What they pay to Republicans in Congress is a completely different matter.

Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Four Corners region of the U.S., preserves one of the most important pre-Columbian historical areas in the country. The site hosts the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest and the area is considered sacred ancestral homelands by the Hopi and Pueblo people.

Both Chaco Canyon National Park and Otero Mesa in New Mexico, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, are being targeted for exploratory research for oil and gas extraction.

  • Click here to learn more about fracking.

  • Read Gloria Flora’s article ”Fracking the Commons.”

  • Read an essay on fighting oil and gas development in National Forests.

  • Take our partner’s call to action to ban fracking on federal lands.

This really rates up there with some of the absolute worst policy I’ve ever heard about.  Considering that a lot of this energy is being sold to places in China and India, there is really no reason to rape our public lands for the benefit of a few folks.images (29)

The Koch Brothers are intent on keeping this country addicted to fossil fuel. They obviously want to frack us into some post apocalyptic hell realm while they continue to live off their daddy’s wealth.  The Koch Brothers are pushing legislation all over the south to get rid of tax incentives for solar power conversion and to put taxes on it to make it more expensive.

As U.S. Solar electric capacity has expanded explosively - 418% - from  2326 megawatts in 2010 to 12,057 MW in February 2014, an increase of 9,731 MW reports the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Solar has moved rapidly from a niche market to 1.13% of total U.S. capacity.  To stop the rapid growth of solar, which is threatening to break Americans from the death grip of fossil fuels, the Koch Brothers are demanding to tax the sun.

U.S installed solar capacity shot up over 400% in the last 4 years.

The rapid decline in the cost of solar panels and state and federal incentives have spurred investment in solar power at all scales from individuals to small businesses to large utilities. Net metering, which allows users to reverse their power meter when they produce more power than they consume, has incentivized rooftop solar. Moreover, states from Hawaii to South Carolina have developed programs to make the installation costs affordable to average consumers. Forbes reported in July 2013 on how  Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Hawaii’s Democrats made solar accessible to renters. This is exactly the kind of legislation I advocated a decade earlier when I ran for a position on the board of Kauai’s electric power co-op. It’s great to see seeds planted finally coming up and bearing fruit.

Senate Bill 1087, which Gov. Abercrombie signed on June 27, makes solar photovoltaic systems, as well as solar thermal water heaters and big-ticket energy efficiency upgrades, available to all these underserved customers by eliminating the thorny issue of the upfront costs.On-bill financing enables residential or commercial property owners or renters to avoid the initial out-of-pocket expense to install energy improvements. Upgrades are instead financed with loans paid back via a line item on the customer’s monthly utility bill. If the property is sold or transferred, the loan stays with the meter and would be taken over by the new property owner or tenant.

But, this great progress in bringing clean energy to the individual threatens monopolists from the Koch brothers to electric utilities. The Koch’s AFP have conspired with utilities to write legislation to force individuals to pay a tax to the utility companies for accessing the grid. The Koch Brother’s AFP has demanded laws to tax the sun.

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This is what the billions of dollars of Sheldon Adelson support:  Genocide on indigenous Palestinians. 

There are so many lobbying groups in Washington DC these days that money and tax subsidies go to a continued, horrifying array of policies that are not good for any one but a few people and power brokers.  SOS John Kerry called the state of Israel a state of apartheid.  He is most certainly right. The current government–cobbled together from right wing extremists–promotes policies aimed at Palestinians that are straight out of the playbook of South Africa.  There is no way our government should be giving any government money and support when there are policies used to kill indigenous peoples.

 Still, the most thorough comparison of the Apartheid system of racial segregation with Israeli practices can only be made of the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians are ruled by Israel but kept stateless and without rights.

1.  South Africa created Bantustans as a way of denaturalizing Blacks, ensuring that they could not vote for the national government and were assigned citizenship only in their weak Bantustan.

Gaza and the West Bank function as Bantustans, as South African Blacks have no trouble recognizing.  Indeed, a former Italian prime minister maintains that former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon told him he thought the Bantustan system was the best way of dealing with the Palestinians.  The Palestinians living in these occupied territories have no citizenship in any real state.  They are stateless.  The West Bank has been segmented into 8 units.  Palestinians cannot travel between them without going through numerous checkpoints.  They cannot vote for the Israeli government, but they are ultimately controlled by the Israeli military.  When in 2006 they were allowed to hold elections for a toothless “parliament,” and they cheekily elected a party the Israelis find unacceptable, the election results were overturned by Israel.

2.  South Africa instituted a “pass” system to control the movement of Blacks.

Israel instituted a “permit” system to control the movement of Palestinians.  West Bank Palestinians cannot live outside the 8 designated areas without a permit.  Desmond Tutu, who knows a bit about Apartheid South Africa, remarked of seeing, on his visit to the Occupied West Bank, “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about”.

3.  In Apartheid South Africa, 80% of the land was set aside for white settlers.

Israel itself was ethnically cleansed of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948, and was designated “Jewish,” such that the expelled Palestinians (now millions strong) were denied the right to return to their homes.  Some 70% of the residents of the Gaza Strip are from southern Israel, and cannot return to their nearby homes in cities such as Sderot, where Israelis have settled Ethiopians and Thai guest workers.  In the Palestinian West Bank, some 600,000 Israeli squatters have usurped significant amounts of land from Palestinians, for which they paid nothing to the original owners, and their squatter settlements are off-limits to Palestinians, who cannot live in them.

4.  In Apartheid South Africa, Blacks from the Bantustans could not attend universities designated for whites.

In the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli military governor has recognized a squatter university, Ariel, built on usurped Palestinian land.  Although Palestinian-Israelis can attend, stateless West Bank Palestinians cannot get on campus because they are barred from settlements by the Apartheid pass system, as Dahlia Scheindlin wrote at 972mag:

“Member of Knesset Zahava Galon, head of the Meretz party, scoffed at that. Ariel, she told me by phone, is off limits for Palestinians very simply because it is an Israeli-controlled settlement. Just as a West Bank Palestinian can’t go to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv easily, they are equally unwelcome in Ariel. For her, the move reeked of hypocrisy. “It’s a higher education committee approved by people in uniform, so what is the substantive meaning? It’s unbelievable.” She called it a sign of the government’s true program of “creeping annexation,” and remarked that it would legitimize the global movements calling for the academic boycott of Israel.”

5. South African Apartheid forbade marriages between people of different ethnicities.

Israelis of Jewish and Palestinian heritage cannot intermarry in Israel.  Two Israeli citizens of different ethnic heritage can marry abroad and return to Israel.  But Israeli-Palestinians who marry Palestinians from the Occupied West Bank are not allowed to bring their spouse to Israel.  The same problem is not faced by Israeli Jews who marry squatters on the Palestinian West Bank.

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Pink Floyd has joined the call to boycott Israel just as musicians boycotted South Africa when its government was destroying the civil rights, liberties, and lives of its indigenous peoples.

With the recent news that the Rolling Stones will be playing their first-ever concert in Israel, and at what is a critical time in the global struggle for Palestinian freedom and equal rights, we, the two surviving founders of Pink Floyd, have united in support of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a growing, nonviolent global human rights movement initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005 to end Israel’s occupation, racial discrimination and denial of basic Palestinian rights.

The BDS movement is modeled on the successful nonviolent movements that helped end Jim Crow in the American South and apartheid in South Africa. Indeed, key figures who led the South African freedom struggle, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mandela’s close associate, Ahmed Kathrada, have come out in support of BDS for Palestinian rights. BDS offers us all a way to nonviolently pressure the Israeli government to fully realize that its injustices against the Palestinian people are legally and morally unacceptable and unsustainable.

Adelson loves him some Bibi so much that he is buying up Israeli media much of which is highly critical to the PM’s policies.  This ensures that the ordinary Israeli hears even less of what’s really going on around them.

Israel’s news media are lively, but venues are not infinite, with four main national newspapers, three television news broadcasters and a handful of radio and news Web sites vying to inform and sway public opinion in a country known for its rough-and-tumble politics.

An investigative report by Channel 10 aired last year claimed that Adelson’s newspaper Israel Hayom was spinning the news to show Netanyahu in a more positive light. The newspaper’s editor, Amos Regev, dismissed the report, saying,  “This so-called evidence doesn’t prove anything other than the routine workings of a news organization.”

Adelson’s new ventures are seen as a good thing for Netanyahu. Israel’s media is often very critical of Netanyahu —  and loves engaging in what the Prime Minister calls “psychobabble” about his motives. Though he makes plenty of public pronouncements, Netanyahu rarely grants on-the-record interviews or does not host regular news conferences. Adelson’s purchase might also be a plus for Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, who regularly faces media scrutiny for what critics call her imperial lifestyle (she recently came under fire for yelling at a staffer for buying bags of milk instead of a proper carton).

Adelson has played a big role in GOP politics and is vocal about his support for Israel. In 2012, he spent millions backing the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, not only in a bid to beat President Obama but also to ensure strengthened support for Israel in domestic U.S. politics.

And, more recently, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) apologized to Adelson after referring to the West Bank as “occupied territories” in a speech at the spring leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, an event Adelson hosted at his Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

This reminds me of the same kind of treatment we’re getting at the hands of Australian Rupert Murdoch.  Fox continues to put right wing advocacy of its billionaire owner and Roger Ailes above all kinds of facts, science, data, and reality.

A Scientific American editor must have struck a nerve over at Fox News this week when hetweeted about having a “Fox & Friends” producer shoot down his idea to talk about the impacts of climate change on the show.

On Thursday morning, the hosts of “Fox & Friends” went off on editor Michael Moyer for tweeting about having an uncomfortable experience on the show. During the segment, they showed a photo of Moyer with text on the screen that labeled him a “‘Scientific’ Coward.”

Hosts Steve Doocy, Anna Kooiman and Brian Kilmeade agreed they had a “nice chat” with Moyer on set when he appeared Wednesday. But they said Moyer apparently didn’t feel the same way.

“Clearly he has a problem with Fox,” Doocy said. “So why did he come on? Clearly, it was just to promote himself, and maybe his magazine as well. But, you know, hashtag classy. We put him on, we have a nice conversation and then he stabs us in the back.”

“The bone that he had to pick with Fox, he said, was that he wanted to come on here and talk all about climate change,” Kooiman added. “Well, our producers decide what we air.”

“We talk about climate change all the time,” Doocy interjected.

Moyer was brought on to talk about future trends in technology. He later tweeted that when he suggested the number one future trend would be the impact of climate change, he was “told to pick something else.” The experience, he told TPM on Wednesday, made him decide against future appearances on the program.

“There are some things that in science and scientific discourse are not controversial at all,” Moyer told TPM. “I hope that we can all as a society agree to at least discuss them and come up with good solutions. Just because you don’t want something to be true doesn’t make it not true.”

Fox News later denied that a producer “specifically” told Moyer that he couldn’t discuss climate change. In response, Moyer told TPM that he had proof: a producer had sent him an email specifically asking, “can we replace the climate change with something else?”

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The refreshing thing is that most of these people are really old and we can just hope that  when we dance on their graves, this kind of crap will be all over.  There have been a number of books noting the decline in the number of people identifying as “Conservative Christian Evangelicals” which could eventually stop the influence of the millionaire preachers and their misogyny and homobigotry.  The end of dominionists would put an end to popular support of the kinds of things billionaires like Adelson and the Koch Brothers finance.

The common thread in these books is the contention that Christianity, especially conservative Christianity, is rapidly losing strength and cultural authority in a changing America. Charting Americans’ religious beliefs is notoriously tricky, as comparison between any two religion-related polls will attest. Nevertheless, these authors’ argument that conservative Christianity — both evangelical Protestantism and conservative Catholicism — is losing sway in America has become the consensus view of most experts who study American religiosity. In 2012, the Pew Research Center made headlines with a study showing that for the first time, the percentage of Americans claiming no religious affiliation (19.6 percent) surpassed the number of white evangelical Protestants (19 percent). Other surveys conducted in recent years (by Gallup, the General Social Survey, Baylor University, and other research organizations) show declines in the number of people who identify as Christian, believe in God, and attend church regularly. American Catholicism has undergone its own similar involution, with nearly half of all Catholics under age 40 now Hispanic and a majority of Catholics favoring same-sex marriage, according to Pew. Meanwhile, the number of Muslims in America has risen rapidly, more than doubling since 1990. In the most recent (2008) American Religious Identification Survey, Islam surpassed Mormonism as America’s fastest growing faith.

For conservative Christians, the turnabout has been disorienting. Just 10 years ago, conservative Christianity appeared ascendant, with a coalition of evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics twice electing a born-again Christian to the presidency and, in 2004, outlawing gay marriage in 11 states. Today, laws against same-sex marriage are being rolled back and conservatives have failed to budge debate over access to contraception in the new health law. The Tea Party, which pairs evangelicals in an uneasy alliance with an increasingly assertive libertarian movement, is now a dominant force in Republican politics, shouldering aside once-feared evangelical organizations such as the Christian Coalition. Key evangelicals, stung by polls showing younger Americans are turned off by strident conservatism, have begun pivoting politically, as have Catholic bishops in response to Pope Francis’s attempt to reorient his church toward evangelism and social justice. Last year, prominent evangelical leaders, including the political director of the Southern Baptist Convention, spurned the Tea Party and emerged as prominent backers of comprehensive immigration reform. Evangelical leaders told me they were responding to demographic change in America: both the rise of immigrants in their churches and the emergence of a younger, more politically progressive generation of Christians. Yet in a sign of Christians’ diminished political clout, so far evangelicals’ fervent activism on this issue has failed to garner congressional Republican support.

The broader cultural implications of this shift in American religiosity are immense and deserve careful study. The books considered in this essay don’t supply such study — but then, that’s not their aim. Change has come so quickly to American conservative Christianity that conservatives are still scrambling to understand the challenges they face, and to persuade one another that their problems are real, which is telling. Reading these books is like listening in on a board meeting as corporate executives struggle to come to terms with sudden massive economic decline. The errors and off notes in each book — and there are plenty, ranging from counterfactual history to weird persecution complexes — are as valuable as the books’ many passages of sound reportage and insightful critique. After decades in which conservative Christians went from strength to strength in America, growing in numbers and political clout, suddenly they are facing a moment of acute self-doubt. The contours of that doubt can help more neutral observers gain a fuller understanding of America’s changing religious present, and its future.

Nothing else would be better than to get rid of what seems an endless parade of millionaire/billionaire racists.  However, there are some that still exist and have managed to bundle up racism in a more subtle, “elegant” form.

Like Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling confirms our comfortable view of racists. Donald Sterling is a “bad person.” He’s mean to women. He carouses with prostitutes. He uses the word “nigger.” He fits our idea of what an actual racist must look like: snarling, villainous, immoral, ignorant, gauche.  The actual racism that Sterling long practiced, that this society has long practiced (and is still practicing) must attract significantly less note. That is because to see racism in all its elegance is to implicate not just its active practitioners, but to implicate ourselves.

How can it be that in a “black league,” as Charles Barkley calls the NBA, an on-the-record structural racist like Donald Sterling was allowed to thrive? Everyone now wants to speak to Elgin Baylor. Where were all these people before? Where was Kevin Johnson? Where was the Los Angeles NAACP? When Donald Sterling was driving black tenants out of his buildings, where was David Stern?

Far better to implicate Donald Sterling and be done with the whole business. Far better to banish Cliven Bundy and table the uncomfortable reality of our political system. A racism that invites the bipartisan condemnation of Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell must necessarily be minor. A racism that invites the condemnation of Sean Hannity can’t be much of a threat. But a racism, condemnable by all civilized people, must make itself manifest now and again so that we may celebrate how far we have come. Meanwhile racism, elegant, lovely, monstrous, carries on.

Money still gives these people an oversized role in policy,culture, and politics.  This is unacceptable in a democracy.  It is easy to see how power and money create worse living situations for people.  Most of the policies these cretons support are not supported by the majority of people.  We need to find a way to keep their influence down to the same size as every other single voter in the country. Freedom of speech is about government suppression of religion and spoken ideas.  It isn’t about giving people with oversized egos and wallets more say in everything than every one else.

It’s enough to make you miss the guillotine.  I know this has been a long one today, but as you can see, I had a lot to get off my chest.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 


Sunday: V-J Day, Goodbye Kisses, Working Women and Warning Signs

54178c4d97b3668cb079ff3c12ef35d8Good Morning

I think it will be safe to say that today’s post is retro, super retro. And I really do not have all the space I need to post all the historic pictures I would like to post…so there will be links to other pages/galleries, and you must spend some time looking through the fascinating images.

Like the one to the right ———–>

Look at the expression on that woman’s face, if she could slam that thermos up-side the guy’s stupid head she would…but she appears too damn tired of hearing the kind of shit he is saying to even bother replying to the asshole.

At least the tag line on the bottom of the poster got it right:

America’s Women Have Met the Test!

Too bad that opinion did not last when the boys came back home.

cab40a4e5ea83e324782208ec2734216I often wonder what would have happened if the Republican push to get women and their views on politics back in the kitchen was not as successful as it was during the 5o’s…can you imagine?

Anyway, this may seem a little familiar to my post from Wednesday, but there is a reason for this opening thought:

You must have heard that the sailor in one of the most iconic pictures of World War II died last week…V-J Day, 1945: A Nation Lets Loose | LIFE.com

Glenn McDuffie, a Navy veteran who long claimed to be the sailor photographed kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J day — and whose claim was reportedly backed up by a police forensic artist — has died. He was 86 years old. (LIFE magazine — in which the now-iconic Alfred Eisenstaedt photo first appeared — never officially identified either the sailor or the nurse.)

01_00141661Made almost 70 years ago, it remains one of the most famous photographs — perhaps the most famous photograph — of the 20th century: a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day in August 1945.

That simple, straightforward description of the scene, however, hardly begins to capture not only the spontaneity, energy and sheer exuberance shining from Alfred Eisentaedt’s photograph, but the significance of the picture as a kind of cultural — indeed a totemic — artifact.

15_05531421“V-J Day in Times Square” is not merely the one image that captures what it felt like in America when it was finally announced, after a half-decade of global conflict, that Japan had surrendered and that the War in the Pacific — and thus the Second World War itself — was effectively ended. Instead, for countless people, Eisentaedt’s photograph captures at least part of what the people of a nation at war experience when war, any war, is over.

Glenn Edward McDuffie, who long claimed to be sailor in iconic Times Square  ‘kiss’ photo at end of WWII, dies  – NY Daily News

McDuffie, who passed away Sunday in Texas, had said he was motivated to randomly kiss the pretty nurse on the day Japan surrendered because it meant his brother would be getting released from a Japanese prison campTimes Square V-J Day Kiss

The Texas man who made headlines for his repeated claims to being the sailor who randomly kissed a woman in Times Square, leading to one of the most iconic photographic images of World War II, has died.

Glenn Edward McDuffie passed away at age 86 on Sunday in Texas after suffering a heart attack at a casino earlier in the day, his daughter told the Daily News.

McDuffie claimed for years he was the strapping sailor who planted one on the lips of the swooning woman on August 14, 1945. He said it was a spontaneous act of unbridled euphoria sparked by the announcement of Japan’s surrender.

The Life magazine photographer who took the famed shot, Alfred Eisenstaedt, did not record the names of the subjects, and many people have claimed to be the mysterious sailor. In 2007 noted forensic artist Lois Gibson, who works for the Houston Police Department, said she positively identified McDuffie as the sailor. Her technique was to take numerous pictures of the older McDuffie and overlay them over the original. By doing so she said she compared the sailor’s muscles, ears and other features to McDuffie’s, and found them to be a match.

Take a look at the rest of that NY Daily News piece, it has later pictures of McDuffie along with some photos of him when he was young…and other older interview quotes as well.

But back to the Life Magazine link for a little more:

…two small but significant pieces of information related to Eisenstaedt’s rightfully famous “Kiss in Times Square” might come — especially when taken together — as a real surprise to fans of both photography and of LIFE magazine in general.

First, contrary to what countless people have long believed, the photo of the sailor kissing the nurse did not appear on the cover of LIFE. It did warrant a full page of its own inside the magazine (page 27 of the August 27, 1945, issue, to be exact) but was part of a larger, multi-page feature titled, simply, “Victory Celebrations.”

Closely tied to that first point is the fact that while the conclusion of the Second World War might be something LIFE magazine, of all publications, could be expected to feature on its cover for weeks on end, the magazine’s editors clearly had other ideas. post_1267972In fact, not only did Eisensteadt’s Times Square photo not make the cover of the August 27th issue; no image related to the war, or the peace, graced the cover. Instead the magazine carried a striking photograph of a ballet dancer.

An underwater ballet dancer.

War is over! that cover seems to say.

After years of brutal, global slaughter, our lives — in all their frivolous, mysterious beauty — can finally begin again.

Amen to that.

Some of the pictures in that Life Magazine’s gallery are beautiful, they have published pictures that were not published in the original 1945 piece. Like this one below, of the V-J Day reaction in Hollywood:

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I love that woman’s shoes! This article also is connected to another WWII era gallery at Life, Fighting Words: World War II Battlefield Signs | LIFE.com

00600729.JPGThe universe is made of stories, not of atoms,” the American poet Muriel Rukeyser once wrote, and more and more, as time goes by, that sounds about right.

But what if paying strict heed to every written word that one saw every single day meant the difference between survival and annihilation? What if the misreading of a sign on an unfamiliar road, for example, meant not the inconvenience of a missed turn, but a sudden, violent death?

Take your Atabrine, an anti-malaria drug. Sign was put up at the 363rd station hospital in Papua, New Guinea during WWII

Take your Atabrine, an anti-malaria drug. Sign was put up at the 363rd station hospital in Papua, New Guinea during WWII

Here, LIFE.com takes a look at some of the countless signs that troops encountered during the course of World War II, from the islands of the Pacific to the deserts of North Africa to the ruined cities of Europe. Official warnings; adamant instructions; wry, handwritten inside jokes — all of them silent reminders of a conflict that, until the very end, dished out one paramount, universal command: Pay attention!

So again, check that link out along with the following:

d5eb019a959d5f074b8a7121137129eeWWII Signs on Pinterest

Women in WWII on Pinterest

Alfred Eisenstaedt Life Photographer on Pinterest

WWII on Pinterest

On the Job in WWII – Rosie and Friends. on Pinterest

This last board has some posters from WWI as well:

Vintage Ads, Billboards, Signs, Posters on Pinterest

Here are your newsy links for today, after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Monday Reads

audrey breakfast at Tiffany

Good Morning!

I’ve not been in a very good mood the last few days.  I’m trying to get my manuscript camera ready and have found that the adjustments to the font size and smaller margins have just about done me in.  It’s really messed up the pagination and my seemingly endless tables of statistics.  I am about ready to chew off all my nails and pull out quit a bit of hair.  It’s very nerve wracking.

Here’s a few links to get you start this morning.  I’ve been trying to read some interesting things in the hopes of finding some inner calm.

The best news of the weekend came when Larry Summers withdrew his name from consideration for FED chair.  The last thing we needed was yet another financial market sycophant in position that matters as much as that one.  The Fed has been one of the few functional institutions and thankfully, it looks like even congress respected the need for its independence.

The decision marks a disappointing turn of events for the renowned economist, who had operated at the highest levels of academia and government. But he has been dogged by controversies. Summers has come under fire for his support for deregulating parts of the banking sector while he was Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton. While president of Harvard University in 2005, he also sparked controversy for his comments on women’s aptitude in math and science.

People close to the White House said Summers faced not only a rebellion among liberal Democrats but also other challenges, including a debate over whether to launch a military strike against Syria that stretched out the Fed process and gave more time for opposition to build.

The major opposition for Summers came from Democratic Senators. 

Summers was a top initial candidate for the Fed job among senior current and former White House officials. Obama was also inclined to appoint Summers to the post, people close to the White House said. But the longer time dragged on without a nomination, the more liberal groups and some Democratic senators were able to organize to oppose Summers, who many on the left viewed as too close to Wall Street and not strong enough on financial regulation.

Opposition to Summers among Senate Democrats has been obvious for weeks but it escalated on Friday when Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) announced he would vote against Obama’s former economic adviser if he was nominated.

At least three other Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee were expected to oppose Summers — Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) – raising the politically uncomfortably scenario of Obama needing to rely on Republican votes just to get his choice for a Fed chief out of committee.

Obama has said the other candidates for the job are Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen and former Fed Vice Chair Donald Kohn. But Summers was said to be the president’s first choice and it’s unclear if he will fall back on one of these two candidates or look elsewhere.

There are some interesting studies on obesity and the way different people process food.  I found this article while reading my copy of The Economist.  Links to corn-flakes-1915the studies are provided in the article.  A lot of the differences may have to do with bacteria found in your digestive tract.

Even more intriguing is the notion that the same diet may be treated differently by different people. Four recent papers explored this theme. In one, published in Science in July, Joseph Majzoub, also of Boston Children’s Hospital, deleted in mice a gene called Mrap2. Dr Majzoub and his colleagues showed that this helps to control appetite. Surprisingly, however, even when the mutant critters ate the same as normal mice, they still gained more weight. Why that is remains unclear, but it may be through Mrap2’s effect on another gene, called Mc4r, which is known to be involved in weight gain.

The second and third papers, published as a pair in Nature in August, looked at another way that different bodies metabolise the same diet. Both studies were overseen by Dusko Ehrlich of the National Institute of Agricultural Research in France. One examined bacteria in nearly 300 Danish participants and found those with more diverse microbiota in their gut showed fewer signs of metabolic syndrome, including obesity and insulin resistance. The other study put 49 overweight participants on a high-fibre diet. Those who began with fewer bacterial species saw an increase in bacterial diversity and an improvement in metabolic indicators. This was not the case for those who already had a diverse microbiome, even when fed the same diet.

Jeffrey Gordon, of Washington University in St Louis, says these two studies point to the importance of what he calls “job vacancies” in the microbiota of the obese. Fed the proper diet, a person with more vacancies may see the jobs filled by helpful bacteria. In the fourth paper, by Dr Gordon and recently published in Science, he explores this in mice. To control for the effects of genetics, Dr Gordon found four pairs of human twins, with one twin obese and the other lean. He collected their stool, then transferred the twins’ bacteria to sets of mice. Fed an identical diet, the mice with bacteria from an obese twin became obese, whereas mice with bacteria from a thin twin remained lean.

So,BB found this great article on a discovery of a Mayan mass grave site.

Archaeologist Nicolaus Seefield found the gravesite in an “artificial cave,” which he explains to LiveScience had likely functioned as a water reservoir before the burial “since the cave’s floor was perfectly clean.”

The skeletons found there were not “in their original anatomical articulation,” he says. “The observed hatchet marks on the cervical vertebra are a clear indication of decapitation”; most had their lower jaw detached, and the “spatial pattern” of the bones is consistent with dismemberment.

The archaeologists believe the dead were either prisoners of war or Uxul nobles; they hope upcoming isotope analysis will reveal whether they were from Uxul — which is near what is now the Guatemala border — or elsewhere. Neat fact from LiveScience: “Uxul” means “at the end.”

It wasn’t the only Mayan discovery of the summer: A “lost” Maya city was discovered in June.

happybreakfastThere are many things that depress me about how eager Republicans are to punish poor people for whatever their perverse reasons.  What really gets me is how they continue to ensure that poor children will have no chance.  Early childhood education has usually be the one program that every one agrees on because it’s efficacy is amazing.   The sequestration has led to a large number of children being tossed out of Head Start.   I find this beyond troubling.  Early childhood education has been shown to be one very effective way to fight inequality.  Here’s yet another article on how this country has started to do things all wrong.

In many ways, we do education backwards in this country. We skimp and shortchange the poor children who need education the most, while at the same we lavish public moneys on those who need it least. Take, for instance,this article about the outrageous practice of taxpayer subsidies for the legacy admits of rich alumni of elite colleges.

In this context, advocacy for educational programs that alleviate, rather than exacerbate, inequality is particularly welcome. That’s why I especially appreciated today’s New York Times’ Opinionator blog, in which economist James Heckman writes a great op-ed about the dramatic impact of early childhood education in the lives of poor children. Heckman, as you may know, is a Nobel Prize winning economist from the University of Chicago. He’s a typical University of Chicago economist in that yes, he’s a free market true believer type. But he’s been studying pre-K programs for poor kids for years, and he supports them for conservative reasons: because they are economically rational. Early childhood education for at-risk kids is one of those (relatively) rare government programs that the free market types like because it produces not just equity, but also efficiency.

Here’s an interesting piece on the connections between the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party.  It seems the Kochs just have their nasty little fingers in every thing that is unraveling our democracy.

Politico.com, the Washington insider website, has the money-in-politics scoop of the year: It has unmasked a previously unknown political money laundering operation, set up by the energy billionaires and libertarian Koch brothers, that raised $256 million and secretly spent almost all of it last year against Democrats.

The “Koch brothers’ secret bank,” which is what the website calls the Virginia-based group, whose formal name is Freedom Partners, is the glue that has been holding together the right-wing pantheon of pro-corporate, anti-regulatory, anti-Obama, anti-labor front groups that are against everything from healthcare reform to labor unions to financial market reform to progressive taxation.

“The group has about 200 donors, each paying at least $100,000 in annual dues,” Politico reported, saying Freedom Partners would soon be filing papers with the IRS disclosing its existence. “It raised $256 million in the year after its creation in November 2011, the [IRS] document shows. And it made grants of $236 million—meaning a totally unknown group was the largest sugar daddy for conservative groups in the last election, second in total spending only to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which together spent about $300 million.”

The fact that secretive right-wingers could amass and spend a quarter-billion dollars in a presidential election cycle and go undetected under federal campaign finance law is an astounding indictment of the American electoral system, revealing that all the laws intending to inform the public about who is slinging political mud are meaningless. The mockery goes even further when considering the section of the federal tax code the group is operating under: 501(c)6. That designation is for trade associations, which lets the group conceal its donors.

Trade asociations, like trade unions, were created to represent single industries or crafts. Freedom Partners’ “trade” is the business of political assassination. What follows is Politico’s list of the groups, causes and amounts received from the Kochs’ cartel. The group’s members are drawn from the energy barons’ semiannual political conferences, which feature speeches by Congress’ Republican leadership.

So, that’s a little this and that from me this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads

tumblr_m67aobjzkN1rxkmgxo1_500Good Morning!

I’m still really tired and quite removed from the total weirdness of the current Beltway antics.  From my groggy eyes, it seems like some odd, abstract dance done to music with an oft-repeated, dissonant theme. I’m very much lost in a world of books and games right now and catching up with things around the house.  Oh, and sleep.  I just can’t seem to get enough of that.  Who invited all these tacky people and why hasn’t some one taught them how to behave properly at a national cotillion?

So, the journalistic dance theatrics orchestrated by the right wing appear to be spinning out there in a place that no one cares much about.  However, it should be noted that while no one real seems to care, the press is still tap dancing to the jingoism.  Have the little republican boyz cried wolf so many times that only the villagers listen and no one else? Cue the polls and the pols,

President Barack Obama comes out of what was arguably the worst week of his presidency with his approval rating holding steady, according to a new national poll. But a CNN/ORC International survey released Sunday morning also indicates that congressional Republicans are not overplaying their hand when it comes to their reaction to the three controversies that have consumed the nation’s capital over the past week and a half. And the poll finds that a majority of Americans take all three issues seriously.

“That two-point difference is well within the poll’s sampling error, so it is a mistake to characterize it as a gain for the president,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Nonetheless, an approval rating that has not dropped and remains over 50% will probably be taken as good news by Democrats after the events of the last week.”

The CNN poll is in-line with Gallup, which also indicated a very slight rise in Obama’s approval rating over the same time period. And Gallup’s daily tracking poll also indicated a slight upward movement of Obama’s approval rating over the past week. But as with the CNN poll, it was within that survey’s sampling error.

More than seven in 10 in the CNN poll say that the targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of tea party and other conservative groups that were applying for tax exempt status was unacceptable. While the White House and both parties in Congress are criticizing the IRS actions, congressional Republicans are depicting the controversy as a case of the federal government gone wild.

But more than six in 10 say that the president’s statements about the IRS scandal are completely or mostly true, with 35% not agreeing with Obama’s characterizations. And 55% say that IRS acted on its own, with 37% saying that White House ordered the IRS to target tea party and other conservative groups.

It’s nice to see that a lot of real folks are not taking all these conspiracy theories very seriously.  How can any one take them seriously with idiots like Senator  Aqua Buddha pushing them?  Why does any one give this whackadoodle air time? Not every US senator deserves national face time.  This one should be placed in a carnival sideshow in a Scheherazade costume. However, this crackpot may try to take on Hillary Clinton for the presidency next time out so it’s a way for the press to rattle the Clinton cage. Rand Paul’s trying to spin his little tail and tale into something credible.  Good luck with that!! It all come off as fundraising theatrics to me. A little snake oil music from the maestro please!!!

Sen. Rand Paul continued with his charges from earlier this week that former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton had “her fingerprints all over these talking points” on the Benghazi attack and claims that she never “really accepted culpability” because she failed to resign shortly after the tragedy. When CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Paul if he was worried about appearing to politicize the controversy by making his remarks in Iowa and other presidential battleground states, Paul dismissed the notion that his remarks were based on politics.

It’s laughable that anyone expects us to believe that Republicans care one iota about this trumped up Benghazi story for any other reason than to muddy up Hillary Clinton, because they all assume she’s going to be the front-runner for the next presidential election.

And I’d say it’s safe to assume Rand Paul is going to take up his father’s mantle and make a career out of perpetually running for president as a fundraising scheme. It worked out pretty well for his dad and the press is already propping him up because of it — with this being the latest example — so why not?

Meanwhile, the choreography of the supposed liberal bias in the press came apart when ABC’s Jonathan Karl was caught telling right wing narcissewhoppers and had to apologize.   Actually, he kinda sorta, sashayed towards an apology. Here’s his anti-mea culpa. Oh, and you gotta laugh about exactly who got to read it on air yesterday!!!

Jonathan Karl, chief White House correspondent for ABC News, addressed criticism of his reporting on the Benghazi talking points controversy, saying in a statement to CNN that he regrets the inaccuracy of his report.

“Clearly, I regret the email was quoted incorrectly and I regret that it’s become a distraction from the story, which still entirely stands. I should have been clearer about the attribution. We updated our story immediately,” he said in the statement to Howard Kurtz, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

Earlier this month, Karl reported that he obtained emails by White House staff that indicated they had a dramatic role in altering the talking points that were later used by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Sunday morning talk shows to explain the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

From those talking points, she said the attack spurred from a spontaneous demonstration outside the compound, while the Obama administration later stated the violence came from a premeditated terror attack.

Questions soon arose over how the error took place, as reports showed that initial drafts of those talking points included references to extremists but were later changed to attribute the incident to protests over an anti-Islam film.

Karl reported on May 10 that, based on summaries of the emails, the White House had a leading role in the editing process and had scrubbed vital information from the talking points.

But CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s “The Lead,” reported days later that the actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told a different story.

Yea.  Right. He regrets he got caught spreading propaganda more like it.  Karl’s done it before.  He has done it a lot actually.

Karl’s high profile at ABC demonstrates that conservative messages can find a comfortable home inside the so-called “liberal” media. Karl channeled former ABC corporate cheerleader John Stossel with a segment (3/5/11) complaining that regulation of the egg and poultry industries was “almost embarrassing,” since different government agencies regulate different aspects of the industries. “Got that?” Karl asked. “Fifteen separate agencies have responsibility for food safety.”

During the rollout of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Karl (1/26/11) gushed that the Republican media darling was “a little like the guy in the movie Dave, the accidental president who sets out to fix the budget, line by line.” And while Democrats were saying Ryan “is a villain,” Karl was clear about which side he was on: “Ryan knows what he sees…. Paul Ryan is on a mission, determined to do the seemingly impossible: Actually balance the federal budget.” (Actually, even with its draconian spending cuts and absurdly optimistic economic assumptions, the Ryan plan still foresees a cumulative deficit of $62 trillion over the next half century—Congressional Budget Office, 1/27/10.)

On a This Week roundtable (2/20/11), Karl declared that state budget debates were “the Tea Party’s moment” and “also the Chris Christie phenomenon. Will politicians be rewarded for making tough choices—again, something I don’t think we’ve ever seen happen?” Of course, it’s hard not to conclude that the “tough choices” made by Christie and other Republicans are the ones that ought to be rewarded.

And in one World News segment (2/14/11), Karl likened the federal budget to stacks of pennies in order to demonstrate that deeper spending cuts would be necessary in order to balance the budget. Karl concluded that “the bottom line, Diane, is unless you’re willing to talk about cutting entitlements or defense or both, really, there’s no way you can even think about balancing the budget.” This is not actually true—one could raise revenues by increasing taxes on the wealthy—but it is how Republicans want to frame the budget debate.

costume-design-for-scheherazade-1910Just think of how horrible things are going to get when the Koch Brothers take over media outlets.  Eric Alterman–writing for The Nation–things that they could make Rupert Murdoch look good.   May the wisdom beings protect us all!!  Talk about your odd dance partners!!  Could Murdoch actually step in to take over the Trib and could that make us all actually breathe easier?  Well, not really.

But chill out for a minute and consider the following: should they enter the newspaper publishing business, the Koch brothers would be King Midas in reverse. Their commitment to producing disinformation designed to defame liberals, moderates and, indeed, all manner of sane individuals would result in the destruction of the professional purpose of their purchase. A Los Angeles Times or a Chicago Tribune answerable to Koch ownership would soon lose most of its serious journalists and all of its credibility with readers. This would vaporize the value of their investment and leave them with extremely expensive propaganda sheets to publish and loads of legacy costs to assume. Other publications would jump in to fill the vacuum, though it’s unlikely that any of them would be able even to approach the scope and reach of what will be lost. Ideally, the Koch brothers will soon recognize the folly of their ambitions and withdraw.

The scenario that should truly alarm and depress the rest of us is the one that many have posed as the salvation of these papers: a Tribune Company takeover by Rupert Murdoch. While one group of Los Angeles businessmen is interested in buying the LA Times, they have no interest in the package of eight. That leaves Murdoch. And while resistance to a Koch purchase among editors and reporters is strong enough to convince the new owners that they might be buying an empty shell, the attitude toward a Murdoch takeover is quite the opposite. When, during a meeting of the entire staff, LA Times columnist Steve Lopez asked those assembled to “raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by Rupert Murdoch,” only a handful reportedly did so (compared with about half of the staff when the Koch purchase was proposed). Similarly, one member of the Baltimore Sun staff wrote Jim Romenesko that “Murdoch, at least, is a newsman,” a view that was echoed nearly word for word by a Chicago Tribune journalist: “Murdoch, for all his flaws, is a newspaper man.”

True, but by the same logic, Jack the Ripper was a lover of the ladies. Murdoch may be a “newspaper man,” but he is surely not a man who respects honest journalism or even the laws of society as they apply to it (or much else, for that matter). Just in the past few weeks, Murdoch has been making news in the following ways:

He paid out $139 million to settle a class-action suit by News Corp. shareholders, who accused the board of directors of putting the Murdoch family’s interests above those of the company with regard to both the British phone-hacking episode—one of the most egregious criminal scandals in the history of journalism—and News Corp.’s sweetheart acquisition of his daughter Elizabeth’s television production company. The lawsuit alleged that the board “disregarded its fiduciary duties” and allowed Murdoch to run News Corp. as his “own personal fiefdom.”

tumblr_lno8ojSw711qlyv3fo1_400

So, want the worst example?  Guess who was on MTP yesterday?  Dancing Dave managed to embarrass the entire journalistic bordello in one short hour.

GREGORY: And we’re back. For our remaining moments, joining me now, author of the new book Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, the Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mister Secretary, welcome back. You have such an interesting distinction here because I remember President Bush who I covered called you a matinee idol and now you’re soon to be a great grandfather. That’s a pretty good combination.

MR. DONALD RUMSFELD (Former Secretary of Defense/Author, Rumsfeld’s Rules): Think of that. It’s exciting.

GREGORY: I want to ask you first about a very disturbing subject within the military that of course you’ve worked over for so long and that is sexual assaults in the military. Some of the reported cases going back to when you were Defense Secretary and reported and then the estimates is that much larger number and the alarming rise between 2010 and 2012. And the issue at hand here is what should the military do about it? Does it have to change the way these crimes are reported at the chain of command and go outside of that to a special prosecutor? What would you do?

MR. RUMSFELD: Well, I don’t know that a special prosecutor is the answer, but there is an argument that can be made for handling them in a way different than they’re being handled because they’re serious. And– and I would suspect that an awful lot of them don’t even get reported.

GREGORY: Mm-Hm.

MR. RUMSFELD: And– and that’s probably true in the public sector, in private citizens as well as in the military.

GREGORY: Right.

MR. RUMSFELD: But– but it’s a terrible thing. There has to be zero tolerance. And it– it appears that– that something different is going to have to be done and I wish I knew what the answer was. I don’t. But– but it had– people have simply got to not tolerate it.

GREGORY: What about the culture in the military? Is that a part of what’s contributing to this? Is it a major part of what’s contributing to it?

MR. RUMSFELD: Well, people talk about that. The military– they talk about athletic teams and– and male environments. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think– there’s certainly nothing about the military that would contribute to it in terms of– of the purpose of the armed forces. The– but I don’t know the answer. I– and I think they better– they better really land all over people that are engaged in any kind of abuse of that nature.

GREGORY: There’s so much happening in Washington and you are a veteran of so much controversy as even in your most recent incarnation as defense secretary in the Bush administration. You write this from the book, Rumsfeld’s Rules, “If you foul up, tell the boss and correct it fast. Mistakes can usually be corrected if the adminis– the organization’s leaders are made aware of them and they are caught up early enough and faced honestly. Bad news doesn’t get better with time. If you have fouled something up, it’s best to tell the boss first.”

MR. RUMSFELD: That’s true.

GREGORY: Accountability. Whether it’s IRS or the questions about Benghazi, who is accountable? How do you assess that in these cases?

MR. RUMSFELD: Well, in these cases, I don’t think they know yet. Clearly, the president and in the case of Benghazi, the Secretary of State. That’s the way life works. But what bothers me about it is that two things really concern me. One, you think of a manager, a leader. When something like that happens, you call people in, you sit them down and you let them know that you intend to find ground truth fast. And he seems not to have done that. The other thing that’s worrisome is, as they say, truth leaves on horseback and returns on foot. What’s happening to the president is incrementally trust is being eroded because of the different messages coming out. You know, it’s important that you avoid the early reports because they’re often wrong, and you have to get people in, find ground truth, and then communicate that as fast as you can to the extent information goes out that’s– proves not to be accurate. Presidents and leaders lead by persuasion and for persuasion to work, they don’t lead by command. You have to be trusted. And to the extent trust is eroded, as it is when stories get changed and something more is learned and– and it kind of incrementally destroys your credibility, I think that clearly is a problem. I was worried, for example, I came back from being ambassador of NATO when President Nixon had resigned and President Ford was in office. And the reservoir of trust had just been drained during the– that– that experience that we went through.

Yes. I saved the best for last.  Dancing Dave asked Donald Rumsfeld about how to hold the federal government accountable for made up scandals.  Hasn’t this man been put in jail for crimes against humanity yet?  And, aren’t you glad I didn’t quote the rest of the damn panel?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Koch Brothers and The One Dollar Bet? Open Thread

Good Evening…

Cartoon by David Horsey -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 04/30/2013

I wonder if the Koch Brothers have a bet going on between them about their proposed deal to buy up some big circulation newspapers like the LA Times and Chicago Tribune.

I tried to find a clip of this little bit of dialogue,  but no such luck:

Randolph Duke: Money isn’t everything, Mortimer.

Mortimer Duke: Oh, grow up.

Randolph Duke: Mother always said you were greedy.

Mortimer Duke: She meant it as a compliment.

There are grumblings behind the scenes, check it out:

Guild Calls on Tribune Sellers to Protect Papers’ Integrity | The Newspaper Guild

Recently you’ve seen many petitions asking that the Koch brothers not be allowed to buy the Tribune Company’s newspapers. We understand why the Kochs breed this distrust. They are active political proponents of harsh right-wing positions. We’re also not certain that Tribune will listen to anything but money when the final decision is made.

What we do know is that great papers publish credible, trusted journalism online and on the printed page. Whoever comes to own these mastheads needs to understand that protecting newsrooms from ideological taint is no small thing. The future of American journalism depends on the ability to print truth, not opinion.

We call on Tribune to make a pledge that they’ll only sell to a buyer that will protect the objectivity of the news product by making a public commitment to doing so. The Newspaper Guild-CWA and the Communications Workers of America seek your support in this goal.

The Newspaper Guild
Communications Workers of America
AFL-CIO, CLC and IFJ

And then there is this…it is a long article, so please go read it in full…it is just to much to parse down into a few quotes. I will just give you this bit to chew on.  Kathleen Miles: If Koch Brothers Buy LA Times, Half of Staff May Quit

So if the agenda at the Times changes, the agenda at the other LA news outlets will change — unless those news outlets are watching carefully. LA has to worry more about the stories that the Times stops covering than stories that are covered with a bias.

An example of how bias can take the form of lack of coverage is Fox News’ scant coverage of the national gun control debate. When President Barack Obama gave his moving speech chastising Congress for failing to pass background checks, Fox cut away to a panel discussion on the liberal media bias before the president had even finished his first sentence.

It seems the rationale is that the more silence there is on gun control, the greater the likelihood that status quo will continue. So the silence is what we have to listen for.

All LA journalists, including those at the Times, will need to research the friends and interests of the paper’s new owners and make sure they don’t get special treatment. If Times reporters hit a wall, will other LA journalists step up to report on those topics?

As I said, go read the entire article.

I kind of always felt the LA Times was right leaning anyway…but not the the extent of what it could be under a Koch ownership.

By the way, that cartoon up top is by David Horsey..cartoonist for the LA Times.

This is an open thread.