Fat Tuesday Reads

Revelers toss confetti at float of Momus, patron god of Mardi Gras, in New Orleans in 1960.

Revelers toss confetti at float of Momus, patron god of Mardi Gras, in New Orleans in 1960.

Good Morning!!

Today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French, the last day to celebrate before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday fall on different days every year, depending on the date of Easter Sunday. It begins 46 days before Easter (Sundays aren’t counted). Lent in the Catholic Church was meant to be symbolic of the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus spent fasting in the desert while enduring temptations from the Devil. Traditionally Christians gave up meat during lent and spent time in prayer and meditation. As kids, we gave up candy or chose some activity to perform during the Lenten season.

So how is the date of Easter determined each year? You guessed it, it depends on the date of the Vernal Equinox–one more example of how Christians absorbed Pagan holidays into their calendar. Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is the culmination of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, beginning on The Epiphany, January 6–the day of the supposed arrival of Three Kings (or Wise Men) bearing gifts of frankincense and myrrh for the newborn child. This year Easter falls on April 5.

From IB Times:

The time between Epiphany and Mardi Gras is commonly referred to as Carnival, during which parades take place in Catholic strongholds like Brazil, Venice, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, and New Orleans.

Like many Catholic holidays, Mardi Gras bears resemblances to ancient pagan rituals, particularly Saturnalia and Lupercalia. The former honored the god Saturn, an agricultural deity, and was marked by gift-giving, revelry and gambling. The latter was conducted in mid-February to honor Faunus, the god of fertility, which involved feasting, drinking and debauched behavior.

When Rome was Christianized, the Catholic Church adapted popular pagan holidays into the new faith. Mardi Gras season became a time to celebrate before the 40 days of Lent marked by prayer, repentance and atonement. As Christianity spread throughout Europe and the New World, so did Mardi Gras traditions. The pre-Lenten festivals continue to be marked by drinking, dancing and feasting on fatty foods containing meat, eggs, milk and cheese – ingredients that are restricted during Lent.

Shrove Tuesday falls on the same day as Fat Tuesday. It is the day before Ash Wednesday when Christians are reminded they will soon enter a season of penance. “Shrove” comes from the word “shrive,” which means to confess. In the Middle Ages, Catholics began marking Shrove Tuesday as a time to confess their sins before Lent.

Rasberry pakzi

Rasberry pakzi

In places where many Polish immigrants settled in the U.S. Fat Tuesday is celebrated as “Pakzi Day.” From Michigan Live, Fat Tuesday means paczki: One generation prepares the next for the biggest day of the year at Davison Home Bakery.

DAVISON, MI — Lydia Herron is a bit nervous. And excited.

After about five months of working at Davison Home Bakery, she’s preparing for the biggest day of the year: Fat Tuesday.

“They tell me it’s going to be pretty insane,” she said, standing in the bakery the morning of Monday, Feb. 16, wearing a white baker’s apron.

Fat Tuesday is the day before the Christian tradition of Lent, when practitioners give up something for 40 days and 40 nights. Sweets are a common thing to give up, and for many, Fat Tuesday is one last chance to splurge. And the favorite way to splurge on Fat Tuesday?


Paczki are like doughnuts, if you’re the kind of person who thinks there just aren’t enough calories in cream- or jelly-filled doughnuts as it is.

Diane Henson, a baker at Davison Home Bakery, has been making paczki since 1972. The morning of Feb. 16, she and baker Mitch French had already made 200 dozen, having been there since 9 p.m. the night before. They plan on having 600 dozen baked by the time Fat Tuesday rolls around.

She said to make paczki,they use their doughnut batter but add more sugar, butter, and eggs.

Of course the biggest celebration of Mardi Gras is in New Orleans. Here’s a schedule of activities for today that includes links to watch video of the parade. I’m sure Dakinikat can also fill us in on what’s happening down there.

Time Magazine has an interesting article about how Mardi Gras was liberated from being a celebration only for the rich and influential people in New Orleans.

A float in the Krewe of Proteus passes down Napoleon Avenue during their Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015.

A float in the Krewe of Proteus passes down Napoleon Avenue during their Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015.

These days, Mardi Gras in New Orleans — which falls on Feb. 17 this year — is a party for all. But, not that long ago, Mardi Gras celebrations were more exclusive affairs.

As TIME reported in the Feb. 9, 1948, issue, balls and “krewes” were for the city’s elites only, and that situation lasted for decades after the first Mardi Gras parade was held in the 1850s. In the 20th century, however, the celebration expanded:

For half a century, New Orleans’ fantastic Mardi Gras balls were strictly for the upper crust. Nobody without money, blue blood, or both gained membership in the secret men’s clubs or “krewes” which staged them. Before 1900 there were only five clubs: Comus, Momus, Twelfth Night, Rex and Proteus. They culled guest lists with pernickety care, asked only the fairest of debutantes to serve as carnival queens. But times changed. The socially ambitious began forming their own krewes.

In 1928 New Orleans had 16 Mardi Gras balls. In 1946 there were 36. This year, a record-breaking total of 49 are being held. Last week, with Carnival Day (Shrove Tuesday) fast approaching, New Orleans’ social whirl had assumed the proportions of a maelstrom.

By the 1940s, there were krewe options galore. “Italian krewes, Irish krewes, German krewes… krewes for college men, businessmen, professional men,” TIME wrote. “To the horror of New Orleans’ old guard, there are even krewes for women.”

But that didn’t mean Mardi Gras was an all-inclusive celebration. The krewes may have multiplied, but they were still separated along racial and gender lines.

As recently as 1991, the relative exclusivity of the Mardi Gras krewes was a source of controversy in New Orleans. That December, the city council voted to require the krewes to integrate by 1994, or else lose the right to hold parades. (The krewes are private clubs, but the city controls the streets.)

Read more history at the link. The photo at the top of this post is from Time in 1960.

In winter weather news . . .

The latest winter storm hit the South hard yesterday. NBC News reportsIce Storm Coats South from Oklahoma to Carolinas, Heads to Northeast.

A band of snow and ice sliced across the South on Monday from Oklahoma to the Carolinas, cutting off power for more than a quarter of a million customers and threatening to paralyze major cities on its way to the Northeast.

For once, Boston wasn’t the center of the winter weather. Instead, New England-like snow fell on parts of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia: 17 inches near Coleman, Kentucky; 15 inches in Logan, West Virginia; 14½ inches near Oceana, West Virginia; and 12 inches in Dickenson County, Virginia.

 At 3:45 a.m. ET, The Weather Channel reported that 26 million Americans were under winter storm warnings — with three million in Tennessee and South Carolina under an ice storm warning.

Ice coated power lines in Georgia where 174,000 customers were without power early Tuesday.

I sure hope JJ, RalphB, and Mouse are doing OK. Beata too–my sister reports that southern Indiana has been hit hard for the past couple of days.

At least 55,000 customers were without power in Tennessee, the state Emergency Management Agency said late Monday. It also declared a state of emergency late Monday.

Trees and power lines came down in Arkansas, where Entergy Corp. said about 17,000 customers were without power, and in Mississippi, where the state Emergency Operations Center said 10,000 customers were in the dark.

Power failures were affecting nearly 62,000 early Tuesday in South Carolina and an additional 19,000 in North Carolina.

The hardest hit areas, according to NBC today:

About 22 million people across parts of the South and the Mid-Atlantic are under winter storm warnings as a band of ice and snow continues its assault. More than 330,000 people across 13 states and Washington, D.C., are without power, according to The Weather Channel. Parts of Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia got the brunt of the snow Monday, including more than a foot in several areas. Now, as the system starts to pull away, forecasters say D.C. could see about 8 inches of snow, New York could get 3 inches and parts of New Jersey, 7 inches.

Take care, Janicen, Delphyne and Joanelle. For once, it wasn’t Boston in the eye of the storm. A man came to my door last night and offered to shovel my car out and clear off my sidewalk for $40, and I took him up on it. I don’t know if I can actually get out. He didn’t shovel down to the pavement, but at least I don’t have to deal with that wall the plows left at the end of my driveway. I’ll go out and look at it later on.

More news links

Judge Andrew S. Hanen

Judge Andrew S. Hanen

NYT, Obama Immigration Policy Halted by Federal Judge in Texas.  Sigh . . .

The White House responded with a statement explaining why the policy is constitutional.

The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws—which is exactly what the President did when he announced commonsense policies to help fix our broken immigration system. Those policies are consistent with the laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws.

The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts, and the district court in Washington, D.C. have determined that the President’s actions are well within his legal authority. Top law enforcement officials, along with state and local leaders across the country, have emphasized that these policies will also benefit the economy and help keep communities safe. The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision.

IB Times, via Raw Story, Who is the Texas judge obstructing Obama’s immigration plan?

CNN, Poll: Most disapprove of Obama handling of ISIS.

Frankly, I doubt that “most” Americans have the slightest idea of what is going on with “ISIS” or a clue about how Obama his “handling” the “threat.”

Karoli at Crooks and Liars, The Islamophobia Fear Factory And The Billionaires Who Pay For It.

NBC News, The Chapel Hill shooter, Craig Hicks, has been indicted for murder.

Outspoken atheists Penn Gillette, Neill Degrasse Tyson,  Bill Maher,  Lawrence Krauss, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins,    Ricky Gervais, Aayan Hirsi Ali

Outspoken atheists Penn Gillette, Neill Degrasse Tyson, Bill Maher, Lawrence Krauss, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Ricky Gervais, Aayan Hirsi Ali

And speaking of Islamophobia, what’s with the supposedly intellectual “movement atheists” who are so obsessed with Islam? Amanda Marcotte, an atheist herself, writes: Time for atheists to take a hard look at ourselves.

One of the reasons that I was attracted to movement atheism was I believed that, by rejecting the gods-and-masters idea, it was inoculated against that knee-jerk tribalism that characterizes so many religions. Without a supernatural cover story for why we’re the chosen people/the righteous/the holy ones, I thought, we would have to rationally accept that we are nothing special. I thought it was protection against the special pleading you often see from people who are wed to conservative movements and institutions and identities. That hope of mine is being sorely tested in the light of Craig Hicks shooting, execution-style, his three Muslim neighbors that witnesses say he had an ongoing bug up his ass about. Hicks was an outspoken and aggressive New Atheist sort, but that’s all we really know about him, alongside his apparent gun-loving tendencies.

Yes, yes, I know we don’t know if it was over religion or a parking space, but it’s clear as hell that many in the atheist world are hoping—dare I say praying—that there’s some kind of exonerating evidence to show that he barely even noticed the headscarfs on the heads of two of his victims. To which I say, why? If we are, as we purport to be, rational people who are above the knee-jerk tribalism of our religious brethren, then we should be open, without any defensiveness, to an open and honest discussion about how the rhetoric of some of the big names in atheism—Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher—treads past the ordinary criticisms of faith and turns into ugly and demonstrably silly arguments about how Islam is somehow uniquely poisonous as a religion. While claiming to oppose Christianity, these men have allowed themselves to be useful idiots for the cause of the Christian right, giving them an “even the atheists agree!” cover for their desire to stoke religious animosity and drumming up support for even more unnecessary wars in the Middle East.

Read the rest at the link.

Furthermore, what about the misogyny among these (mostly) male atheist obsessives? Here’s an earlier post by Marcotte: Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?

At first blush, it would seem that an atheist movement would be exactly the sort of thing that would attract many women. After all, much of the oppression of women—from forced veiling to restricting abortion rights—is a direct result of religion. Unsurprisingly, then, feminism has a long tradition of outspoken atheists and religious skeptics within its ranks.Suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton preferred “rational ideas based on scientific facts” to “religious superstition.” Major feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir argued that belief in God exists in part to “repress any impulse toward revolt in the downtrodden female.” Modern feminist writer Katha Pollitt received the “Emperor Has No Clothes” award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2001, where she said that religion is dangerous because “it connects with very terrible social energies that have lain in civilization for a very long time.”

But despite the natural and cozy fit of atheism and feminism, the much-ballyhooed “New Atheism” that was supposed to be a more aggressive, political form of atheism has instead been surprisingly male-dominated. The reason has, in recent years, become quite apparent: Many of the most prominent leaders of the New Atheism are quick to express deeply sexist ideas. Despite their supposed love of science and rationality, many of them are nearly as quick as their religious counterparts to abandon reason in order to justify regressive views about women.

Atheism needs some new spokespeople. These guys are nearly as ugly and nasty as their fundamentalist christian counterparts. I nominate Dakinikat.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share your links and storm updates in the comment thread, and have a great Fat Tuesday!!

Lundi Gras Lazy Reads

balcony decorationsBonjour!  C’est Lundi Gras ici!

Today is the day all good locals in New Orleans rest up for the big Mardi Gras Festivities tomorrow!  I’ve been laying low and have to work tomorrow afternoon so I’m just enjoying watching every one else have fun. There was a spontaneous parade in front of my house about an hour ago.  It was some nice people from Austin dressed like Bees with the bat symbol on their capes.  Austin folks are generally the only Texans that behave around here so I’m always glad to see them.  Oh, If you can explain the costumes, you’re doing better than me.

My sister and brother-in-law came for their first Mardi Gras and went back to Seattle today.  He rode on a Bacchus float which is a first class and very expensive way to do your first Mardi Gras! His picture is down towards the middle of the post.  My sister took it yesterday.   I’ve picked up these pictures from my local friends.  The first ones here on top come from Muriel’s NOLA’s instagram.  The food at this French Quarter restaurant is wonderful and the family business is run by the nicest people.  Thanks for the great photos Denise Bellknap Gratia! The last few pictures are from my friend Farrar Doc Hudkins who is a UNO student and one of my favorite WWNO radio station announcers. That’s the UNO NPR station here.   I can’t claim ownership over any of the pictures!  Only complete awe of some talented fingers and eyes!!!

I’ve actually been reading a lot about my friends uptown and all the grief they’ve been getting this year.  There was a double shooting/murder one night.  One of my friends got punched in the eye over a t-shirt.  Another has had random people just walk into her house to use her bathroom and take food and beer.  Where on earth did all this rudeness and such come from ? I tend to stay in my own little freaky corner of New Orleans where it used to be mostly working class locals but not much any more.  Still, who can imagine being so drunk and obnoxious that you’ve got to punch a 47 year old woman in the eye over a t shirt?  And this was a drunken local Garden District Lady!  It’s not like it was some out of town drunk frat kid!

I think we are beginning to see the frustration play out of living in modern America where it’s difficult to get ahead, worse to try to get any kind of satisfaction from a job or even an experience as a customer, and the realization that we’re not as entitled and special as we’ve been told we are.  I don’t remember have to struggle so much for so little prior to the the Dubya Bush years’ fruition in a full blown series of endless wars and financial crises where huge corporations got bailed out but so many people were and still are left to suffer. Then there’s the Grover Norquist and Koch Brother’s agenda played out in every state with a Republican Governor.  The shameless raping of public assets for the rich is just over the top. Then, there’s a lot of sadness in the news recently showing how intolerant of others people are becoming. Here are two such examples.

French Quarter House

First, up is a rather local and sad example of the way we treat religious minorities here in this country.  This is from Houston where some one deliberately set fire to a mosque and a fire fighter tried to block the hydrant and shouted “let it burn to the ground”.   There are so many hate crimes these days that it’s hard to see much else.

Arson police at the scene now say an accelerant was used in a fire that broke out at an Islamic community and education center in southeast Houston early Friday morning, and now a group is calling for an investigation into whether the fire was the result of a possible hate crime.

Houston fire officials say the fire at the Quba Islamic Institute started around 5am. The cause of the fire is under investigation, but we’ve learned HFD says the accelerant was used, which usually points to a purposeful act. Those same investigators met with leaders at another Islamic center just miles away, letting them know that this was an act of arson and to be on alert.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling on state and federal authorities to investigate the fire as a possible hate crime.

That call comes as Ahsan Zahid, assistant Imam at the institute, says he spoke with the Houston arson investigator about their preliminary results.

Zahid said, “They said their dog went through and he hit on some substances inside the place, and he said, ‘From what I see right now at this point, I have to say it was an incendiary fire which means that it was started on purpose.’ That’s all we can go on at this point. I don’t want to speculate.”

Though we don’t know officially if the cause was accidental or deliberate, the FBI is now monitoring the situation.

You can see the hateful tweet from a then–but no longer–volunteer firefighter here at the orange place.

There are signs that anti-antisemitism is making a horrible come back in Europe.  This is a story from France where a French Jewish cemetary was desecrated with swastikas. Grady Ace of Spades for Bacchus 2015

France’s interior minister said Sunday several hundred tombs had been defaced at a Jewish cemetery in the east of the country, in what he called “a despicable act.”

“The country will not tolerate this new injury which goes against the values that all French people share,” said Bernard Cazeneuve without giving further details of the incident in the town of Sarre-Union.

“Every effort will be made to identify, question and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for this ignominious act,” he added.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, writing on Twitter, also condemned the desecration, calling it “an anti-Semitic and ignoble act.”

It is not the first time that a Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union has been targeted.

In 1988, around 60 Jewish steles, stone or wooden slabs often used for commemorative purposes, were knocked over while in 2001, 54 tombs were wrecked.

News of the latest incident comes just over a month after an Islamist gunman shot dead four Jews in a supermarket siege in Paris.

A lot of people have been enjoying the 40th anniversary special of SNL.  I especially liked the part where Jane Curtain did the news with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.  Her funny line was how that she used to be thekrewe de vieux float 21015 only blonde reading fake news on TV at that time and now there’s an entire News channel dedicated to it.  No kidding!  I still maintain that that Fox News and the rise of Rush have a lot to do with the rise of the Asshole class.  It’s like they give permission for people to hate on other people and take revenge for perceived damages to their exceptionalism.   Here’s a link to a thought provoking essay on why most political satire comes from the left and never the right.  Is it the differences in personalities that let one side laugh at irregularities in thinking while the other side takes offense?  The Atlantic‘s article is titled “Why There’s No Conservative Jon Stewart”  and it’s worth the read.

One explanation is simply that proportionately fewer people with broadly conservative sensibilities choose to become comedians. Just as liberals dominate academia, journalism, and other writing professions, there are nearly three times as many liberal- as conservative-minded people in the creative arts according to a recent study. Alison Dagnes, a professor of political science at Shippensburg University, argues that the same personality traits that shape political preferences also guide the choice of professions. These tendencies just get more pronounced in the case of comedy, which usually requires years of irregular income, late hours, and travel, as well as a certain tolerance for crudeness and heckling.

There are, of course, high-profile conservative comedians in America, such as the members of the Blue  Collar Comedy Tour. But these performers, who include Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy, tend carefully to avoid politicized topics, mocking so-called “rednecks” in the same spirit as Borscht Belt acts mocked Jewish culture.

When it comes to actual political satire, one of the most well-known figures nationally is Dennis Miller, a former Saturday Night Live cast member who now has a weekly segment on Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor. On a recent show, O’Reilly brought up the Democrats’ election losses, and Miller took the bait. “I think liberalism is like a nude beach,” Miller said. “It’s better off in your mind than actually going there.” His jokes are sometimes amusing, but they tend to be grounded in vague ideologies, not the attentive criticism to the news of the day that has given liberal satires plenty of fodder five days a week. The real problem, Frank Rich wrote about Miller, “is that his tone has become preachy. He too often seems a pundit first and a comic second.”

king cake babyIt’s weird to me that conservative entertainers like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly take to the air in preachy, mean, screaming tones while The Daley Show folks tend to be poke holes in things with humor based in facts and logic and pointing out inconsistencies in thinking.

So, here’s another one of those hate things where the hater says “Huhn? I’m a nice guy”.  This guy is an elected official too and of course, a Republican saying racist things isn’t uncommon at all these days.  Why do people feel the need to express such hateful feelings and then act surprised when some one calls them out on it?

State Rep. Gene Alday, R-Walls, who came under fire after his racist comments appeared in a Clarion-Ledger article Sunday about public education, said today his remarks were out of context and that he’s a nice guy.

“I’m not a bad person, and that makes me look like an evil person,” Alday said Monday. “I didn’t do anything wrong. The guy made me look like a fool.”

The comments in question refer to African-Americans in his hometown of Walls, a small community in Desoto County. Alday, 57, said that he comes “from a town where all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call ‘welfare crazy checks.’ They don’t work.”

He also said that when he went to the emergency room one time, “I liked to died. I laid in there for hours because they (blacks) were in there being treated for gunshots.”

Since then, people around the state have condemned the remarks with some calling for his resignation.

“Rep. Alday is solely responsible for his remarks,” said Gov. Phil Bryant. “I strongly reject his comments condemning any Mississippian because of their race. Those day are long past.”

But the former mayor, former police chief and current first-term legislator said he had no idea his remarks would appear in a story and, if he had, he wouldn’t have made them.

“It was late at night and he called me,” Alday said of his earlier interview with Clarion-Ledger investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell. “He asked me a question back to when I was in law enforcement … I have a way of talking and saying, ‘take this off the record.'”

Instead, Alday said, Mitchell used his casual, off-the-cuff comments as an official statement without providing the full context of his feelings on the matter.

Mitchell said he contacted Alday about education funding last week and that the legislator steered the discussion toward race. The comments appeared as they were given and within the context of the discussion, Mitchell said.

But Alday said the reporter failed to write about the numerous times Alday has helped people of all races in his community, whether that meant giving them rides to the doctor or providing credit on merchandise at the store run by his family.

“Yes, it’s true that most of the blacks in my hometown are on welfare,” Alday said. “But they’re good people. I don’t have anything against anybody. I’m a straight-up guy. In my little town they had little civil rights walks and I was with them. I’m with everybody.”

paradeThe weird thing about these comments is that the data shows that the it’s WHITE people that consistently use the most food stamps.

In spite of the prevailing stereotypes and assumptions about who uses SNAP Food Stamp benefits the most in the United States, the highest usage is not in Compton, Queens, nor the South Side of Chicago. Instead, a city that is 99.22% white and 95% Republican comes in the lead. Owsley County, Kentucky is a community of about 5,000, residents earning the lowest median household income in the country outside of Puerto Rico, according to the U.S. Census.

The decline in the profits from coal, tobacco and lumber industries led to a harsh toll being taken on the community.

Cale Turner, county executive of Owsley County told ABC back in 2010 that economic hardships have led to a high incidence of drug addiction.

“Those with drug addictions end up in prison without effective treatment. And it happens over and over in this community. The drug problem continues to get worse every year.”

Strangely enough, the residents of Owsley County are almost entirely Republican, in spite of the traditional opposition to the Food Stamp program by the GOP. In fact, just last November, residents of Owsley saw their SNAP benefits reduced drastically as a result of Republican opposition to funding the program.

This might rank among the greatest of ironies in history: the Food Stamp Capital of the U.S. is almost entirely white and Republican.

Look at this story and this guy was a judge!!10924139_10101620505296648_675699655439751768_o

Nine months after a Madison County Justice Court judge was accused of striking and yelling a racial slur at a mentally challenged young man, a grand jury served an indictment for simple assault on a vulnerable adult.

Justice Court Judge Bill Weisenberger turned himself in to the Madison County sheriff Thursday, according to a spokeswoman with the Attorney General’s office. He was released on $10,000 bond.

According to witnesses, Weisenberger struck 20-year-old Eric Rivers, an African American, and yelled “Run, n—–, run” at the Canton Flea Market on May 8 of last year.

If convicted, the charge of simple assault against a vulnerable adult carries a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 5 years imprisonment, or both. The charge against him is a felony.

“From the beginning of this matter, Judge Weisenberger, has cooperated with each law enforcement and investigatory agency that wanted to know what actually occurred at the Canton Flea Market last spring,” an emailed statement from Weisenberger’s lawyer, Bill Kirksey, said. “Judge Weisenberger has denied and continues to deny any wrong doing or the commission of any crime against any person.”

Kirksey, along with Madison County officials, has taken issue with the slowness of the process. The incident in Canton occurred on May 8 of last year.

Kirksey said the AG’s office allowed four grand juries to come and go before presenting the case.

Madison County Supervisor Karl Banks said last month the slowness was costing taxpayers as Weisenberger is still being paid his annual salary of $45,700, though he voluntarily stepped down from the bench.

A judge may only be forced to step down if he or she has been convicted of a felony or if the Supreme Court removes the judge.

Those last two stories were from Mississippi where things still appear to be burning despite modernity and civil rights laws.  It’s scary to think that we’re talking elected officials acting like it’s still Jim Crow days and they don’t appear to have a thought about how absolutely hateful their words and actions truly are.

So, how have so many people lost their “polite” and “nice” filter? Is it because we can troll people on the internet and hide behind monikers allowing us to be anonymous then forget we’re not in real life?  Is it because work and life is beating us down so much we’re all angry?  Is it because anger is the new right wing entertainment mode and it allows a lot of them to think they’re entitled to shit on any one that gets in their way?  What do you think?

I’d just like to add a thanks to BB for what she did for me on Saturday and for my friends who helped.  I was doing my taxes and year end look see on Friday and was completely shocked by what I found.  I’ve just had so many expenses recently that my meager salary isn’t covering them all at all.    I guess I’m really not alone in that any more.  I’ve just got to try to figure out what I can do about it.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?



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!


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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »