Tuesday Reads: Russia and Ukraine, Obama the Weak Dictator, and Fat Tuesday

How Europeans picture an American breakfast

How Europeans picture an American breakfast

Good Morning!!

I saw this photo on Twitter yesterday, and I couldn’t resist sharing it. The comments were pretty funny too. Several people noted that the gun goes on the left; others said the gun should be turned over for quicker access if needed. Others said the bacon was just right but there should be a couple more eggs and some doughnuts.

I feel like I’m writing for an exclusive group this morning; we seem to have lost a lot of our regular commenters over the past week or so. I hope it wasn’t something I said.

Maybe it’s just that we’ve reached the dregs of a very long and exhausting winter. I must admit that yesterday I was selfishly relieved to see a nasty storm coming across the country that didn’t involve the Boston area. Nevertheless, I know it did affect places where we have readers, and I am well aware of how very depressing and tiring it can feel when the snow, ice, and cold just won’t quit.

The political news isn’t exactly cheery either–It’s mostly endless civil wars in the Middle East accompanied by the one here at home in the Republican Party; constant attacks on President Obama for being either too wimpy and weak or a vicious, drone dropping, privacy-invading dictator; and the press digging up old Clinton smears in preparation for Hillary running for President in 2016.

Right now, the main focus is on the events in Ukraine–Syria and Egypt are all but forgotten by “journalists” who seem unable to focus on more than one story at a time. Somehow, they never fail to find a way to blame everything on Obama though, no matter what crisis they are reporting.

Even Dana Millbank, who often judges Obama harshly has noticed: Obama, the feckless tyrant.

President Obama is such a weak strongman. What’s more, he is a feeble dictator and a timid tyrant.

That, at any rate, is Republicans’ critique of him. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Obama’s critics pivoted seamlessly from complaining about his overreach to fretting that he is being too cautious. Call it Operation Oxymoron.

Last Wednesday, I sat in a House hearing and listened to Republicans describe Obama exercising “unparalleled use of executive power” and operating an “uber-presidency.” They accused him of acting like a “king” and a “monarch,” of making the United States like a “dictatorship” or a “totalitarian government” by exercising “imperial” and “magisterial power.”

But after events in Ukraine, this very tyrant was said to be so weak that it’s “shocking.”

“We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) proclaimed Sunday on CNN.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told the annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday that Obama has “a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.”

US President Barack Obama talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone

For once Millbank, the ultimate Villager, hit the nail on the head. On Twitter over the last few days, I’ve even seen people complaining about the White House photo of Obama in shirtsleeves talking on the phone to Putin, because it supposedly shows how weak and unprofessional Obama is.

Michael Cohen at the Guardian has it right, IMO : Don’t listen to Obama’s Ukraine critics: he’s not ‘losing’ – and it’s not his fight.

In the days since Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into the Crimea, it has been amateur hour back in Washington.

I don’t mean Barack Obama. He’s doing pretty much everything he can, with what are a very limited set of policy options at his disposal. No, I’m talking about the people who won’t stop weighing in on Obama’s lack of “action” in the Ukraine. Indeed, the sea of foreign policy punditry – already shark-infested – has reached new lows in fear-mongering, exaggerated doom-saying and a stunning inability to place global events in any rational historical context.

This would be a useful moment for Americans to have informed reporters, scholars and leaders explaining a crisis rapidly unfolding half a world away. Instead, we’ve already got all the usual suspect arguments.

Cohen offers a number of examples:

Personality-driven Analysis

Let’s start here with Julia Ioffe of the New Republic, a popular former reporter in Moscow who now tells us that Putin has sent troops into Crimea “because he can. That’s it, that’s all you need to know”. It’s as if things like regional interests, spheres of influence, geopolitics, coercive diplomacy and the potential loss of a key ally in Kiev (as well as miscalculation) are alien concepts for Russian leaders.

Overstated Rhetoric Shorn of Political Context

David Kramer, president of Freedom House, hit the ball out of the park on this front when he hyperbolically declared that Obama’s response to Putin’s actions “will define his two terms in office” and “the future of U.S. standing in the world”.

Honorable mention goes to Ian Bremmer of Eurasia Group for calling this crisis “the most seismic geopolitical events since 9/11”. Putting aside the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Arab Spring, Syria’s civil war and tensions in the South China Sea, Bremmer might have a point.

Unhelpful Policy Recommendations

Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Commander of Nato, deserves a shout-out for calling on Nato to send maritime forces into the Black Sea, among other inflammatory steps. No danger of miscalculation or unnecessary provocation there. No, none at all.

Much more panicky heavy breathing at the link. Does anyone in Washington recall what happened when George W. Bush was president and Russia attacked Georgia?

Here’s a great example of Obama-blaming at Politico. Their top “morning brief” is DoD suspends military relationship with Russia

The Pentagon is putting on hold its military-to-military relationship with Russia over its incursion into Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, according to Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby. “We have, in light of recent events in Ukraine, put on hold all military-to-military engagements between the United States and Russia,” Kirby said in a statement last night. “This includes exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences.”

Kirby also said there’s been “no change” in U.S. military posture in Europe or the Mediterranean, despite speculation in the news media about possible ship movements. “Navy units continue to conduct routine, previously planned operations and exercises with allies and partners in the region,” he said.

But apparently the Politico gang doesn’t see how that new could relate to President Obama, the Commander In Chief of our armed forces. Here’s what they say about Obama in the same “morning brief.”

AT THE WHITE HOUSE, the big question is whether President Barack Obama has what it takes to unite Europe behind a package of sanctions that would, in his words, “isolate Russia.”

Because Obama has no balls, get it?

Sigh . . .

At Time Magazine, Simon Shuster notes that Putin is also being judged harshly at home, despite the efforts of the Kremlin-controlled media: 4 Reasons Putin Is Already Losing in Ukraine.

At home, this intervention looks to be one of the most unpopular decisions Putin has ever made. The Kremlin’s own pollster released a survey on Monday that showed 73% of Russians reject it. In phrasing its question posed in early February to 1,600 respondents across the country, the state-funded sociologists at WCIOM were clearly trying to get as much support for the intervention as possible: “Should Russia react to the overthrow of the legally elected authorities in Ukraine?” they asked. Only 15% said yes — hardly a national consensus.

That seems astounding in light of all the brainwashing Russians have faced on the issue of Ukraine. For weeks, the Kremlin’s effective monopoly on television news has been sounding the alarm over Ukraine. Its revolution, they claimed, is the result of an American alliance with Nazis intended to weaken Russia. And still, nearly three-quarters of the population oppose a Russian “reaction” of any kind, let alone a Russian military occupation like they are now watching unfold in Crimea. The 2008 invasion of Georgia had much broader support, because Georgia is not Ukraine. Ukraine is a nation of Slavs with deep cultural and historical ties to Russia. Most Russians have at least some family or friends living in Ukraine, and the idea of a fratricidal war between the two largest Slavic nations in the world evokes a kind of horror that no Kremlin whitewash can calm.

Indeed, Monday’s survey suggests that the influence of Putin’s television channels is breaking down. The blatant misinformation and demagoguery on Russian television coverage of Ukraine seems to have pushed Russians to go online for their information. And as for those who still have no Internet connection, they could simply have picked up the phone and called their panicked friends and relatives in Ukraine.

And at Quartz: The markets are punishing Russia more swiftly than diplomats ever could.

Strongly worded statements, threats of travel restrictions, and summit no-shows. So far, these are the relatively mild diplomatic implications for Russia of itsincursion into Ukraine, as few in the West can stomach an open military confrontation with Moscow over its apparent occupation of Crimea.

But the markets are punishing Russia much more swiftly than the diplomats. A wide range of Russian assets—stocks, bonds, and the ruble—plunged in value today. To shore up the ruble, which is plumbing record depths, Russia’s central bank unexpectedly hiked interest rates today. It ratcheted up the benchmark one-week rate from 5.5% to 7%, and traders report that the central bank has also been spending billions of dollars in currency markets to stem the fall in the value of the ruble.
The two main Moscow stock markets, the Micex and the RTS, have fallen by more than 10% at the time of writing, in a broad-based selloff. Big Russian companies like Gazprom and Sberbank saw their share prices plunge as traders dumped their shares.
King Cake

King Cake

Is there any other political news? Not much to speak of, so I’m just about to wrap this up. But first, today is Fat Tuesday and, despite the bad weather Mardi Gras is going forward in New Orleans. From ABC News: Cold, Gray Morning Won’t Stop Mardi Gras Revelers.

A cold, gray day greeted revelers gathering Tuesday along parade routes as the Carnival season in New Orleans headed to a crest with the unabashed celebration of Mardi Gras.

The first street marching groups — including clarinetist Pete Fountain’s Half-Fast Walking Club — were to begin their marches along oak-lined St. Charles Avenue and into the business district. Later, the floats of the Zulu and Rex parades and hundreds of truck trailers decorated by family and social groups would wind down St. Charles Avenue.

Light rain began to fall early in the morning, but revelers were still expected to gather by the tens of thousands in the French Quarter, where the bawdy side of Mardi Gras was expected to be on full display.

Mark Nelson of St. Louis said he would be in the mix even in a downpour. It’s his first Mardi Gras.

“That’s why God made washing machines,” said Nelson, who was sipping on a daiquiri as he enjoyed the sounds of trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers, who performed at the Lundi Gras festivities Monday along the Mississippi River.

For those of us who can’t get down to NOLA, the LA Times offers Mardi Gras: Celebrate with king cake and 16 additional recipes!

So . . . what’s on your mind today? Please let us know in the comments. We want to hear from you!

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Lundi Gras Reads

355311-Mardi_Gras Yes!  It’s that time of year again!  I was awakened by the familiar beat of drums and a brass band and the noises of a lot of people promptly at 7:30 am on Sunday.  It was the Krewe of Eris which is a totally unauthorized and completely fun parade around the neighborhood and there were literally hundreds of people in costumes and bicycles.   Eris is a krewe of young artists, actors, and performers here in the neighborhood and has been known to be bothered by the NOPD.  It’s a bit of a circus parade.  Literally.  Many of the participants are puppeteers and performers of all kinds and sorts.  Anyway, there are many parades and events that happen off the main streets and tourist areas.  There are the Baby Dolls, the Skeletons, the Mardi Gras Indians, and many many other fine black street traditions too.  I usually hang out in the neighborhood celebrations these days.  They’re hard to miss unless you stay in  your house.  Check out NOLA DEFENDER for some great stories and pictures that you won’t see just anywhere.

So, here’s a few reads to keep you busy this morning while we get ready for the big day on Fat Tuesday.~Wikstrom - Proteus Costume 1907

Here’s a great read by Bill Keller on the “Conscience of a Corporation” about all those folks who claim religiousity as an excuse to deny women access to complete health care.

The Obama administration, in an unrequited search for compromise, has also proposed to excuse nonprofit organizations such as hospitals and universities if they are affiliated with religions that preach the evil of contraception. You might ask why a clerk at Notre Dame or an orderly at a Catholic hospital should be denied the same birth control coverage provided to employees of secular institutions. You might ask why institutions that insist they are like everyone else when it comes to applying for federal grants get away with being special when it comes to federal health law. Good questions. You will find the unsatisfying answers in the Obama handbook of political expediency.

But these concessions are not enough to satisfy the religious lobbies. Evangelicals and Catholics, cheered on by anti-abortion groups and conservative Obamacare-haters, now want the First Amendment freedom of religion to be stretched to cover an array of for-profit commercial ventures, Hobby Lobby being the largest litigant. They are suing to be exempted on the grounds that corporations sometimes embody the faith of the individuals who own them.

“The legal case” for the religious freedom of corporations “does not start with, ‘Does the corporation pray?’ or ‘Does the corporation go to heaven?’ ” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby. “It starts with the owner.” For owners who have woven religious practice into their operations, he told me, “an exercise of religion in the context of a business” is still an exercise of religion, and thus constitutionally protected.

The issue is almost certain to end up in the Supreme Court, where the betting is made a little more interesting by a couple of factors: six of the nine justices are Catholic, and this court has already ruled, in the Citizens United case, that corporations are protected by the First Amendment, at least when it comes to freedom of speech. Also, we know that at least four members of the court don’t think much of Obamacare.

In lower courts, advocates of the corporate religious exemption have won a few and lost a few. (Hobby Lobby has lost so far, and could eventually face fines of more than $1 million a day for defying the law. The company’s case is now before the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.)

Meanwhile, it’s been determined that Cardinal Mahony will steal the pennies from your eyes to pay for his stable of pedophile priests.

The Archdiocese of L.A. took $115 million from its cemeteries’ maintenance fund in 2007, nearly depleting it. The move seems legal, but it was not announced, and relatives of the dead were not told.

float-design-mistick-krewe-of-comus-parade-1912-japan-embassy-louisiana-research-collectionMinnesota Congressman Keith Ellison pointed out Republican lies and hypocrisy on the so-called sequester agreement on Sunday.

When Cole tried to pin the cuts on Obama, Ellison reminded him that Cole himself voted for the Budget Control Act that created the sequester:

COLE: I think it is inevitable.  This was a presidential suggestion back in 2011, an idea. And yet the president himself hasn’t put out any alternatives. Republicans twice in the House have passed legislation to deal with it, once as early as last May and again after the election in December. Senate never picked up either of those bills, never offered their own thing. Now we’re three weeks out, and folks are worried. They ought to be worried. On the other hand, these cuts are going to occur. […]

ELLISON: Well, Tom,  the problem with saying this is the president’s idea is that you voted for the Budget Control Act. I voted against it. We wouldn’t have ever been talking about the Budget Control Act but for your party refused to negotiate on the debt ceiling something that has been routinely increased as the country needed it. You used that occasion in 2011 August to basically say we are going to default on the country’s obligations or you’re going to give us dramatic spending cuts. That’s how we got to the Budget Control Act.

Ellison also pointed out that the new GOP kinder and gentler message is simply another shade of lipstick on the same old pig.

This morning on “This Week,” Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., dismissed recent gestures by prominent members of  the GOP suggesting a softening of Republican positions as simply “lipstick on a pig.”

“I think all of this stuff is just surface stuff. It’s like lipstick on a pig, ” Ellison said. “I mean, the bottom line is, the Republicans have a core values problem, not a ‘who knows who Tupac Shakur is’ problem.”

Ellison was responding to ABC News political analyst and contributor Nicolle Wallace, who praised Marco Rubio on the roundtable. The Florida senator is seen as a rising star in the GOP and a member of the party that could help Republicans win more Latino support. Rubio recently endorsed a bipartisan senate proposal aimed at reforming America’s immigration system.

Rubio also gave an interview to BuzzFeed this week where he spoke at length about the late hip hop star Tupac’s lyrics.

“He’s everything we need and more. He’s modern. He knows who Tupac is. He is on social media,” Wallace said. “I mean, he’s got the policy.  He’s in touch with, I think, the lives of ordinary people.  And he’s a very accessible guy.  He talks about being a working dad and juggling his own priorities.”

How stupid do Republicans think we are?  There’s so many demographics moving against their ideas that they really seem clueless.

It is no secret that young voters tilt left on social issues like immigration and gay rights. But these students, and dozens of other young people interviewed here last week, give voice to a trend that is surprising pollsters and jangling the nerves of Republicans. On a central philosophical question of the day — the size and scope of the federal government — a clear majority of young people embraces President Obama’s notion that it can be a constructive force, a point he intends to make in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

“Young people absolutely believe that there’s a role for government,” said Matt Singer, a founder of Forward Montana, a left-leaning though officially nonpartisan group that seeks to engage young people in politics. “At the same time, this is not a generation of socialists. They are highly entrepreneurial, and know that some of what it takes to create an environment where they can do their own exciting, creative things is having basic systems that work.”

Here in Montana, a state that backed John McCain in 2008 and Mr. Romney last year, voters under 30 have helped elect two blogpic3Democratic senators and a new Democratic governor. Nationally, young voters have since 2004 been casting their ballots for Democrats by far wider margins than previous young generations — a shift that could reshape American politics for decades.

China’s economy continues to eclipse that of the US.  It will shortly have the largest annual GDP.  As of now, it’s the largest Trading Country in the world.

China surpassed the U.S. to become the world’s biggest trading nation last year as measured by the sum of exports and imports of goods, official figures from both countries show.

U.S. exports and imports of goods last year totaled $3.82 trillion, the U.S. Commerce Department said last week. China’s customs administration reported last month that the country’s trade in goods in 2012 amounted to $3.87 trillion.

China’s growing influence in global commerce threatens to disrupt regional trading blocs as it becomes the most important commercial partner for some countries. Germany may export twice as much to China by the end of the decade as it does to France, estimated Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Jim O’Neill.

“For so many countries around the world, China is becoming rapidly the most important bilateral trade partner,” O’Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs’s asset management division and the economist who bound Brazil to Russia, India and China to form the BRIC investing strategy, said in a telephone interview. “At this kind of pace by the end of the decade many European countries will be doing more individual trade with China than with bilateral partners in Europe.”

One of my absolute favorite groups one big in the grammies last night.  Here’s one of the great songs from the BLACK KEYS!!! The lead singer also brought some in for Dr. John so we’re all happy for the Keys tonight!   (And no, the dude in the video is not one of the band!)

This is the band:

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads

JeanGood Morning!

Minx is stuck in the snow and holed up in a hotel so I’ve got your reads this morning!

I was one of those earth mother types to Doctor Daughter and I tried to do the same with youngest daughter although the cancer thing got in the way and the grandparents had to step in for me.   I still am an earth goddess wannabe. I admit, I’m a hippie at heart.   I breast fed Doctor Daughter until she took her first step on her first birthday and  weaned herself on the same day.  I had to wean my second one to soy formula at 5 months because of the chemotherapy.  Well, that and the shock of the stage 4 diagnosis just dried me up.

I was never away from Doctor Daughter’s side for well over a year.  I actually joined the La Leche League because I wanted to be around other nursing mothers and bought their cookbook.  I love to cook and so we made everything from the garden when possible and always by hand.  The cookbook had a kid’s snack section and we used to make everything together. Making healthy food was part of our together time.

My daughter had really healthy snacks.  I decided to turn to teaching at the college level rather than return to corporate life when she turned 18 months.  She went to Montessori preschool while I taught in the morning. Her dad stayed with her for my one evening class.  Montessori insisted on healthy snacks. It wasn’t until we moved from our condo to a newly built, two story house in a neighborhood with lots of stay-at-home moms that I had folks calling me up about her weird predilections. Did I know my daughter had no idea that kids ate Spaghettios and that pasta could come from a can? How come she’s never seen candy before? Well, she had, it was just my Dad’s homemade fudge that didn’t come in wrappers.  How come she always asked for Apple Juice when offered Koolaid or Cola?  My daughter didn’t eat or drink anything she hadn’t seen before and I guess they were shocked!

I always laughed a lot at this because I worked as a full time college instructor teaching finance and economics so I juggled all kinds of roles. But both my daughters had fresh, soft clean cotton diapers and home made meals. Both were introduced to junk food by stay-at-home moms who should’ve had time to find their inner earth goddesses too.  I later  learned that her friends spent more time in the local spa/salon’s childcare than she spent at Montessori with her pink tower, her sandpaper letters, and her healthy snacks. Maybe that explains why I’m the only one with the doctor, but hey, I really shouldn’t be judgmental, should I?

It wasn’t me that introduced Doctor Daughter to junk food.  It was the local stay-at-home suburban moms who needed me to tell my daughter that what they wanted to feed her wasn’t weird and she should stop giving it the evil eye.  I mean, wouldn’t you shriek if some one tried to serve you Spaghettios?

Youngest daughter went on a jag as a toddler–like toddlers frequently do–and became a vegan for about a year.  She would only eat salads, vegetables, and carbs. It totally freaked my dad out but she loved tossed salads with blue cheese dressing better than anything and I never could figure out why wieners and mac were some how more filling and hence,better.  She was two years old.  That’s why I have no idea why eating healthy is controversial or considered an impossible dream for kids.  My kids never missed this kind of crap and were, well, really wierded out when their friends moms tried to feed them anything we hadn’t prepared ourselves.  They also couldn’t understand why only their Montessori friends didn’t leave their playroom a mess, but that’s another story.  Believe me, kids will eat healthy food if that’s the only thing they are offered from day one.  One of the things Doctor Daughter complains about in her ob/gyn practice these days is the number of moms who are so overweight and have diabetes that many of them are classified as high risk in their prime child bearing years.  Unfortunately, these are also the moms that are on medicare and are least likely to get help.

The Obama administration proposed regulations Friday that would prohibit U.S. schools from selling unhealthy snacks.

The 160-page regulation from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) would enact nutrition standards for “competitive” foods not included in the official school meal.

In practice, the proposed rules would replace traditional potato chips with baked versions and candy with granola. Regular soda is out, though high-schoolers may have access to diet versions.

“Although nutrition standards for foods sold at school alone may not be a determining factor in children’s overall diets, they are critical to providing children with healthy food options throughout the entire school day,” the proposed rule states.

“Thus, these standards will help to ensure that the school nutrition environment does all that it can to promote healthy choice, and help to prevent diet-related health problems.”

The rules are a product of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which also overhauled the nutritional make-up of regular school meals. They would apply to any school, public or private, that participates in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.

Those rules saw a backlash from conservative lawmakers who said students were going hungry as a result of calorie limits. A GOP House member famously compared the rules to “The Hunger Games.” The USDA eventually relaxed some guidelines in response.

Believe me, kids that don’t eat junk food aren’t going hungry.  They’re just not getting addicted to stuff that’s not good for them.  My dad was always yelling at me to “give that kid some real food” when she was a few months old and only on breast milk. I dunno.  That’s Dr. Daughter up there as a toddler with Arlo Guthrie Mousehound.  Does she look like she was a neglected and starved child to you? Oh, and she got those glasses because she couldn’t read the music when I was teaching her to play piano.  I caught her early on that too. I have no idea why so many adults underestimate kids but they do.  I tried to get my children interested in everything when they were little.  The deal was to let them find their thing and see what stuck.  Both of them still play piano.  Both of them still eat healthy.  It wasn’t “The Hunger Games” at our house.  Both my girls were off the normal growth charts so, I guess, congress thinks I’m a miserable excuse for a mother but really, I am glad they ate sushi in the high chair and never discovered the golden arches until some one turned the TV away from Sesame Street.  Believe me, it wasn’t me.

I have many friends from Bangladesh including my primary professor. It’s one of the reasons that I watch its economy and my heart breaks when I read how so many young women are dying in its clothing factories.  Factory fires in Bangladesh and Pakistan have killed more than 400 people. These factories
primarily make clothing for WalMart, Sears and other U.S. retailers.   A lot of these deaths might be due to the governments who don’t seem to care about the safety of the factories, but don’t these companies bear some responsibility too?  Economist Mark Thoma debates colleague Jagdish Bhagwati who argues that its the fault of the local governments.

I agree that the Bangladeshi government should “step up to the plate to establish proper regulations and monitoring,” but companies have a role to play too (they may, for example, have political power that can be used to block or encourage regulation and monitoring, and there is the moral obligation to protect workers as well). If we assume the companies can’t do much, and don’t hold them accountable — if we brush it off as an inevitable response to market pressures in an environment with few constraints on this type of behavior — they’ll have no incentive to change.

I continue to despair on what I consider a rise in a neoconfederacy and insurrectionist movement in the country.  Why is the so?  Chris Hedges writes that “as Southern whites sink into economic despair, more and more are retreating into a fictional past”.   Where does this leave our country as a nation divided that cannot not stand?  Why do some people glorify the likes of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to this day?

Forrest, who is buried in Forrest Park under a statue of himself in his Confederate general’s uniform and mounted on a horse, is one of the most odious figures in American history. A moody, barely literate, violent man—he was not averse to shooting his own troops if he deemed them to be cowards—he became a millionaire before the war as a slave trader. As a Confederate general he was noted for moronic aphorisms such as “War means fighting and fighting means killing.” He was, even by the accounts of those who served under him, a butcher. He led a  massacre at Fort Pillow in Henning, Tenn., of some 300 black Union troops—who had surrendered and put down their weapons—as well as women and children who had sheltered in the fort. Forrest was, after the war, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He used his skills as a former cavalry commander to lead armed night raids to terrorize blacks.Forrest, like many other white racists of the antebellum South, is enjoying a disquieting renaissance. The Sons of Confederate Veterans and the West Tennessee Historical Commission last summer put up a 1,000-pound granite marker at the entrance to the park that read “Forrest Park.” The city, saying the groups had not obtained a permit, removed it with a crane. A dispute over the park name, now raging in the Memphis City Council, exposes the deep divide in Memphis and throughout much of the South between those who laud the Confederacy and those who detest it, a split that runs like a wide fault down racial lines.

Another thing that worries me is the current use of drones in our nation’s “war” against terrorist.  Is Obama the “Drone Ranger” as Bill Moyers and guests suggest?  Will any one criticize our policy at John Brennan’s confirmation hearing as proposed CIA director?

A key player in our government’s current drone program is John Brennan, who during the Bush presidency was a senior official at the Central Intelligence Agency and head of the National Counterterrorism Center. Reportedly, Barack Obama considered offering him the top job at the CIA in 2008, but public opposition — in reaction to the charges that the Bush White House had approved torture — caused Brennan to withdraw his name from consideration. Nonetheless, Obama kept him on as an adviser, and now, despite Brennan’s past notoriety, Obama officially has chosen him to head the CIA. This time, there’s been little criticism of the decision.

We hope Brennan’s upcoming confirmation hearings on February 7 will offer Congressional critics the chance to press him on drone attacks and whether the Obama administration in its fight against terror is functioning within the rule of law — or abusing presidential power when there has been no formal declaration of war.

Alright, so what would an electric post of mine be without a reference to my graves and graveyard interests?  One of these days, I will find a place M_Id_352404_old_tombwhere I can plant a tent and dust off the remains of people past whose lives were lived in quiet desperation too.

A 1,300-year-old unidentified cluster of 102 tombs, 40 per cent of which were made for infants, have been unearthed in China’s restive westernmost province.

The tombs, found on the Pamirs Plateau in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, contain wooden caskets with desiccated corpses, as well as stoneware, pottery and copper ware believed to have been buried as sacrificial items, said Ai Tao from the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute.

“The cluster covers an area of 1,500 square meters on a 20-meter-high cliff, an unusual location for tombs,” Ai told state-run Xinhua news agency.

He added that his team was also very surprised to find such a large number of infant corpses.

But further research is needed to determine why so many people from that tribe died young.

Archaeologists said they have also unearthed a large number of well-preserved utensils made from gourds, some of which were placed inside the caskets.

“The burial custom is the first of its kind to be found in Xinjiang,” said Ai.

It is believed that the cluster dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

At that time, economic and cultural exchanges between China and the West flourished via the ancient Silk Road.

“The shape of the felt-covered caskets show that sinic culture had a great influence on the lives of local people’s some 1,300 years ago,” said Yu Zhiyong, head of the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute.

I’m going to close with a quote from Glenn Beck that I propose is the MOST lunatic thing he’s ever said.  I know, that’s a BIG statement, but judge for yourself.  Brace yourself for unisex bathrooms and mothers dying in combat!  Oh, wait, we already have that, yes?

“This is the dumbest idea I ever heard. Women now fight on the front lines? Democrats are hailing the move as another giant leap forward for equality. Progress, you know. Forward! And on the outside looking in it’s one of those feel good stories—oh great, women are great soldiers too, they deserve an equal chance, oh that’s great.

War is the act of killing each other. And to win, you have to kill people faster than the other team. That’s what war is all about. The enemy’s not going to cower in defeat because we have a female Eskimo Hispanic dwarf cross-dresser and some handicapable, transgendered breast cancer survivor as a soldier on the front line, ready to unleash an attack of unparalleled diversity.”

I dunno, I would find a female Eskimo Hispanic dwarf cross-dresser and some handicapable, transgendered breast cancer survivor on my team, woudn’t you?

APTOPIX-Super-Bowl-Football-New-OrleansHave a great Sunday!  Oh, and I will be waving to you when those blimps cross my front porch today.  All the Dakinis!!! Please save my city from these crazy celebrities and billionaires!!  Here’s a primer on this gross interruption to Mardi Gras.  Don’t forget to take a gander at the photo over there because my tax dollars paid for that giant multicolor egg just waiting to be fertilized by a black helicopter sperm.

Q: What is the Super Bowl?
A: It’s a football game! It’s the last one that gets played in the NFL until next season, meaning the winners get to be Best Football Guys for a year, and the losers are only Second Best Football Guys, which is way worse. It’s also a big event where famous musicians play and fireworks shoot off and so on.

Q: Fun! But what’s football?
A: Football is this game where one team tries to move a ball up a field by carrying it or throwing it and the other team tries to stop them by hitting them. Every time the guy carrying the ball falls down or the ball hits the ground play stops for a bit, then the players reorganize themselves and play starts up again. If one team doesn’t do a very good job moving the ball up the field, they give the ball to the other team. This goes on for three hours. The teams also kick the ball through a big yellow Y sometimes.

Q: That sounds terrible and boring. Why do people play this game?
A: Because they love it! Hahahahaha! No, actually many of the men playing in the Super Bowl get paid millions of dollars to do football.

Q: Whoooooaaaa! How did that happen?
A: Well, it turns out that people really, really like watching men play football on television. So many people watch football that companies pay the television folks a lot of money to show their commercials during the games, and that money trickles down to the NFL’s owners and then their players.

Yeah, and something tells me that we probably could’ve made more money off of not disturbing Mardi Gras had our Mayor not wanted to be on National TV so very much.  What’s on your reading and blogging list this morning?


Friday Reads: It’s Carnival Time

Good  Morning

You probably think you’re at the wrong blog!!  I’ve had a few folks say the gray print and the gray background were hard to read and dreary.  So, I spiffed up the front page a bit.

So, is this easier to read?

Welcome to the Carnival Season!

New Orleans has said so long to the holidays and used the Twelfth Night observance to kick off the Carnival season, which will be extra long this year.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, accompanied by New Orleans clarinetist Pete Fountain, on Thursday served up slices of king cake at historic Gallier Hall, where the mayor greets parading royalty on Mardi Gras Day.Between Thursday and when Carnival celebrations wrap up March 8, about 100 parades will roll through area streets or float down waterways.

The Phunny Phorty Phellows rolled Thursday Night.  They’re the first official parade of Mardi Gras.  They  rent one of the St. Charles Avenue street cars then ride and drink their way up and down St Charles Avenue to usher in the season!  They’re a really old krewe that was resurrected in the 1980s.  It’s one of the most fun and least commercial of the krewes and parades.  You can see some pictures of them from last year if you follow the link.

Well, they’re off and dragging their knuckles through the Halls of Congress!  Yes, Republicans are bringing greedy back.  It’s so bad that the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce are  joining up to fight them off. Yes, you read that right.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO — two powerful players that are often at each other’s throats — are considering teaming up for a campaign against the House GOP’s planned cuts to infrastructure spending, spokespeople for both groups tell me.

The two groups rarely agree on anything, and frequently target each other in the harshest of terms, but one thing they agree on is that they don’t want the House GOP to make good on its threat to subject highway and mass-transit programs to budget cuts. GOP leaders announced earlier this week that such cuts could not be taken off the table in the quest to slice up to $100 billion in spending.

The prospect of deep infrastructure cuts may now lead to the unlikely sight of the Chamber and the huge labor federation, both of which boast powerful and well-funded political operations, teaming up to campaign against the House GOP’s plans. The Chamber — a staunch ally of House Republicans that spent millions in the 2010 elections — has already been pushing back against cuts to highway spending because it could lead to more job losses in the construction industry.

MSNBC reports that protests are growing over the treatment of whistle blower Bradley Manning.

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It’s Mardi Gras: You know, the Party before Penitence?

dscn0382I’m sitting here watching the kids get their costumes together for the big day of celebration called Fat Tuesday.  That’s the day when you pull out all the stops because you know lean days (no meat, no alcohol, no fun) starts tomorrow.  I guess I must be in hyper-metaphorical mode because it’s really striking me this year as a good fable.  Tonight at midnight, the Krewe of Klean will take to the streets of the French Quarter to shovel all the leftovers into the dump trucks. The police will ride their horses down Bourbon street and announce that the Party’s over.  They arrest anyone who want the party to continue at that point.  You can either spend Ash Wednesday doing penitence in your bed or the Parish Prison.

When I first got out of graduate school I went to work at a small bank.  I was soon lured to the biggest Savings and Loan in the middle of the country.   I’d been working on loan pricing models and arranging bank income statements into an exercise called spread management and asset-liability matching.   Big time company working for a big time CEO!

I have to admit, the only person that I really knew that was a CEO was my dad and he was great.  His employees loved him.  He gave them wonderful benefits and when they had sick children or they were gravely ill,  he gave them time off with pay.  His office manager was openly gay.  His mechanics and body technicians were a diverse group for small town Iowa.  Most of them worked for my dad the entire 30 years and loved him as much as I did. From the time he bought it when I was one, until he retired when I was in my 30s, the entire employee base was my extended family.  So, I entered the business world thinking this was the model for management and boy, was I wrong.

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