Tuesday Reads: SOTU, Republican Crazies, LAPD Manhunt, and Other News

Matisse-Woman-Reading-with-Tea1

Good Morning!!

Tonight President Obama will give his first State of the Union Address since being elected to a second term. C-Span coverage begins at 8PM (Eastern) and the speech itself begins at 9PM. We’ll have a live blog, of course.

I have to admit, I’m already somewhat discouraged after yesterday’s announcements by Jay Carney and Dan Pfieffer that Obama is still enthusiastically offering Social Security benefit cuts and Medicare “changes” to tempt Republicans into a “grand bargain.” There has also been much talk of “spending cuts” and emphasis on the administration having a “spending problem.” If Obama had a mandate, it wasn’t for this.

There have been rumors that Obama would emphasize jobs in the SOTU, but it sounds like that may not be the case. We can only hope that once the President gets out among real people again, he’ll remember why he won the election–and it wasn’t because we were all hoping he’d drive the economy into a ditch. People need jobs, Mr. President, and they’d like to have some dignity, health care, and perhaps something to eat besides cat food when they get old and frail.

Unfortunately, thanks to insane Republican Rep. Steve Stockman, repulsive gun enthusiast Ted Nugent, who threatened President Obama last year, will be a guest at the State of the Union Address. TPM:

Outspoken rocker Ted Nugent will attend President Obama’s State of the Union Address Tuesday in order to take on the media and “counter the scams and lies of the left,” he explained to talk radio host Mike Broomhead “We know that the president will have the state of the union stacked and jammed with props, children, and victims of violent crime, ” Nugent said. “And my friends wanted me to attend to counter that the way that I do: with facts, statistics and common sense and logic and a celebration of self-evident truths. So I will be taking on the media orgy following the State of the Union Address.” Nugent said the media does not realize he is a “force to be reckoned with” and therefore he will “dominate them.”

You can listen to the radio interview at the TPM link if you’re so inclined. Can’t the Secret Service prevent this moron from turning the SOTU into a freak show? Would they allow this if Obama were a Republican?

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX)

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX)

But as Greg Sargent points out, “The problem runs a lot deeper than Ted Nugent.”

That’s bad, but if I were the GOP leadership, the prospect of further comments from Nugent after the speech would have me a bit worried. After all, there’s little doubt that reporters will seek him out, and there’s really no telling what Nugent will say. The GOP leadership has not commented on the news. But really, this episode is significant for reasons that go well beyond Nugent. The key actor here who matters is Steve Stockman. The problem lies in all the over-the-top stuff GOP lawmakers say regularly that isn’t quite crazy enough to earn widespread condemnation, as Nugent’s quotes have, but are still whacked out enough to encourage an atmosphere that helps keep millions of GOP base voters sealed off from reality. The problem is the perpetual winking and nodding to The Crazy that is deemed marginally acceptable – the hints about creeping socialism, the claim that modest Obama executive actions amount to tyranny, the suggestions that Obama’s values are vaguely un-American and that Obama is transforming the country and the economy into something no longer recognizably American, and so on — more so than the glaringly awful stuff that gets the media refs to throw their flags.

In other news,

Yesterday, Esquire published an interview with the “man who killed Osama bin Laden.” I haven’t read the whole thing, because frankly, I’m very turned off by the notion of assassinating criminals instead of capturing them and bringing them to trial. Every time I try to read anything about the raid on the bin Laden compound I start to feel sick. Anyone who did read the article, I’d be interested in your reaction to this piece at Stars and Stripes: Esquire article wrongly claims SEAL who killed bin Laden is denied healthcare.

Esquire magazine claims “The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden … Is Screwed.” The story details the life of the Navy SEAL after the successful raid to take out the No. 1 terrorist, and it asserts that once the SEAL got out of the military he was left to fend for himself. “…here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation: Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.” Except the claim about health care is wrong. And no servicemember who does less than 20 years gets a pension, unless he has to medically retire. Like every combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the former SEAL, who is identified in the story only as “the Shooter”, is automatically eligible for five years of free healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs. But the story doesn’t mention that.

According to the LA Times, fugitive and alleged murderer Christopher Dorner may have escaped to Mexico with help from an “associate.”

In federal court records, authorities said there was “probable cause” Christopher Jordan Dorner fled to Mexico. Officials told The Times on Monday night that the court papers, filed late last week, reflected their thinking at the time, but they stressed that Dorner could be anywhere.

The search is ongoing in California as well as Mexico.

The possibility of Dorner receiving help by an associate was raised in the court records. In his affidavit, McClusky said investigators with the Marine Corps and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department were conducting a surveillance operation of an Arrow Bear property owned by a family member of the associate Thursday and discovered a burning vehicle nearby that matched the gray Nissan pickup truck used by Dorner.

Interesting…

From TMZ video

From TMZ video

In addition, TMZ learned yesterday that Dorner purchased scuba diving equipment just 48 hours before he allegedly shot the daughter of a retired LAPD officer and her fiance. From TMZ:

Dorner went to Sports Chalet in Torrance — a beachside community in the L.A. area — on February 1st. The video shows Dorner carrying in 2 small, yellow scuba tanks as he walks into the scuba section. Sources tell us … Dorner got the tanks refilled with oxygen. The video then shows Dorner leaving the scuba section with the 2 yellow tanks, along with another large, black scuba tank. Dorner then goes to the counter, and then has a friendly conversation with the cashier, at times laughing. Dorner — who was a member of a Naval undersea warfare unit — pays cash for the items and then leaves….What’s really interesting … Dorner reportedly tried stealing a boat in San Diego on February 6th … where scuba gear might come in handy. The plan was thwarted when the prop got tangled in a rope.

The Christian Science Monitor discusses the Dorner case in the light of the troubled relationship between the LAPD and the city’s black community: LAPD review of Christopher Dorner firing: why black community wants more.

Los Angeles’s African-American community is casting a skeptical eye on police chief Charlie Beck’s decision Saturday to reopen the investigation into the 2008 firing of alleged cop killer Christopher Dorner. Twenty years after the Rodney King riots deep distrust remains, with some community leaders saying the Los Angeles Police Department cannot be trusted to investigate itself – and that perhaps even the US Justice Department should be called in. Mr. Dorner’s firing from the LAPD is at the center of the online manifesto that outlines his motivations for revenge. Police say Dorner has already killed three people and has threatened several police officers and families by name. The massive manhunt for him began Thursday. In his manifesto, Dorner calls his firing “unjust,” and suggests that he was fired partly because he reported that a fellow cop kicked a suspect. The allegations of police abuse and prejudice within the LAPD strike a chord within the broader black community. Moreover, they come at a time when some black leaders worry that the LAPD is backsliding after making significant gains toward more inclusivenessxxxxx under the previous chief. “We don’t agree with Dorner’s tactics, but many of us sympathize with his allegations,” says Najee Ali, a black activist and executive director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E. in Los Angeles. “But we don’t think the LAPD can investigate itself and come up with a conclusion that will appease the black community. We think the US Justice Department needs to do it.”

North Korea conducted nuclear test for the third time yesterday. The Voice of America reports: S. Korea, Japan Move to Bolster Defenses After North’s Nuclear Test.

North Korean state media hail the nuclear test as a success, saying it “did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment.” A television announcer in Pyongyang says the country detonated a “miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force” than previous tests. Analysts say that indicates North Korea may have set off a plutonium-fueled bomb, suitable to be placed atop a missile…. Japan and the United States have deployed aircraft with special equipment to collect radioactive gases. An analysis of those gases could determine what type of nuclear material was used. South Korean officials say tremors recorded by seismographs around the world suggest the device has a yield of six to seven kilotons.

More news headlines:

Will Dorner’s Case Bring A Return To Open Board Of Rights Hearings? (Neon Tommy)

Justice Ginsburg: The Senate Is ‘Destroying The United States’ Reputation… As A Beacon of Democracy’ (Think Progress)

Sen. Cantwell rips GOP over Violence Against Women Act: This is about life or death (Raw Story)

Sources: White House to issue cybersecurity order Wednesday (The Hill)

Robert Reich: Obama needs to batter GOP over the head for blocking jobs bill (Raw Story)

Chuck Hagel’s Confirmation Vote Is Set, No Matter What Lindsey Graham Says (Atlantic Wire)

Easy Ride Expected for Jack Lew at Confirmation Hearing (National Journal)

Braves reject “screaming Indian” logo (CNN)

He’s Back: Hitler Satire Tops Germany’s Best-Seller List (Time)

Those are my recommendations. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Tuesday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

I’m tired of Republican Party Dysfunction. Let’s switch to the Democratic Party Brand for awhile.  This year’s State of the Union address will be interesting.  Will it turn out to be the first major Obama campaign speech of 2102?

Mr. Obama plans, in part, to deliver a “vision” speech. He told campaign supporters over the weekend that he’ll use his speech to discuss “the central mission we have as a country, and my central focus as president.”

“And that’s rebuilding an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded – and an America where everybody gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules,” he said.

If that sound familiar, it’s a refrain of remarks Mr. Obama delivered December 6th in Osawatomie, Kansas. Both the president and aides characterize the State of the Union as a “bookend” to the Kansas speech. It was a delineation of the political philosophy Mr. Obama brings to the job and is willing to defend against whichever Republican ends up as his rival later in the year.

Economic programs and objectives will dominate his speech. “I’m going to lay out a blueprint for an American economy that’s built to last,” said the president in a video email Saturday to campaign supporters. And Mr. Obama will cite the “four pillars” on which his blueprint for America will rest: manufacturing, engineering, worker skills and American values.

  • MANUFACTURING: According to “talking points” sent by the White House to its political defenders and surrogates, the president will call for “a new era of American manufacturing with more good jobs and more products stamped Made in the USA.
  • ENERGY: He will propose “a new era” for energy in the US – “fueled by homegrown & alternative energy sources.
  • WORKER SKILLS: He’ll put forward “new ideas” for education and training to take on “jobs of today and tomorrow.”
  • AMERICAN VALUES: The president will call for “a return to American Values of fairness for all and responsibility from all.”

We’ll be live blogging the SOTU tonight.  I’m suggesting we pitch nerf balls at the TV for every Teddy Roosevelt reference and drink on references to Republican belligerence.  What say you?

Here’s some pretty good indications of why the economy has been so slow and pokey recently.   Check out The New Yorker and “The Obama Memos”. It’s getting more pundit play than Suskind’s “Confidence Men”.  Pay close attention to the whacked advice from Larry Summers who suggested Obama not go very big on the first stimulus because they could just do more later.  Let’s just hope a rumored World Bank Presidency stays just that.  Imagine this man turned on the developing world.  However, there’s a lot more tidbits in there worth chewing on.  Like this one.

Neera Tanden was the policy director for Clinton’s campaign. When Clinton lost the Democratic race, Tanden became the director of domestic policy for Obama’s general-election campaign, and then a senior official working on health care in his Administration. She is now the president of the liberal Center for American Progress, perhaps the most important institution in Democratic politics. “It was a character attack,” Tanden said recently, speaking about the Obama campaign against Clinton. “I went over to Obama, I’m a big supporter of the President, but their campaign was entirely a character attack on Hillary as a liar and untrustworthy. It wasn’t an ‘issue contrast,’ it was entirely personal.” And, of course, it worked.

But back to La La Summers.

There was an obvious tension between the warning about the extent of the financial crisis, which would require large-scale spending, and the warning about the looming federal budget deficits, which would require fiscal restraint. The tension reflected the competing concerns of two of Obama’s advisers. Christina Romer, the incoming chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, drafted the stimulus material. A Berkeley economist, she was new to government. She believed that she had persuaded Summers to raise the stimulus recommendation above the initial estimate, six hundred billion dollars, to something closer to eight hundred billion dollars, but she was frustrated that she wasn’t allowed to present an even larger option. When she had done so in earlier meetings, the incoming chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, asked her, “What are you smoking?” She was warned that her credibility as an adviser would be damaged if she pushed beyond the consensus recommendation.

Peter Orszag, the incoming budget director, was a relentless advocate of fiscal restraint. He was well known in Washington policy circles as a deficit hawk. Orszag insisted that there were mechanical limits to how much money the government could spend effectively in two years. In the Summers memo, he contributed sections about historic deficits and the need to scale back campaign promises. The Romer-Orszag divide was the start of a rift inside the Administration that continued for the next two years.

Since 2009, some economists have insisted that the stimulus was too small. White House defenders have responded that a larger stimulus would not have moved through Congress. But the Summers memo barely mentioned Congress, noting only that his recommendation of a stimulus above six hundred billion dollars was “an economic judgment that would need to be combined with political judgments about what is feasible.”

He offered the President four illustrative stimulus plans: $550 billion, $665 billion, $810 billion, and $890 billion. Obama was never offered the option of a stimulus package commensurate with the size of the hole in the economy––known by economists as the “output gap”––which was estimated at two trillion dollars during 2009 and 2010. Summers advised the President that a larger stimulus could actually make things worse. “An excessive recovery package could spook markets or the public and be counterproductive,” he wrote, and added that none of his recommendations “returns the unemployment rate to its normal, pre-recession level. To accomplish a more significant reduction in the output gap would require stimulus of well over $1 trillion based on purely mechanical assumptions—which would likely not accomplish the goal because of the impact it would have on markets.”

Paul Krugman, a Times columnist and a Nobel Prize-winning economist who persistently supported a larger stimulus, told me that Summers’s assertion about market fears was a “bang my head on the table” argument. “He’s invoking the invisible bond vigilantes, basically saying that investors would be scared and drive up interest rates. That’s a major economic misjudgment.” Since the beginning of the crisis, the U.S. has borrowed more than five trillion dollars, and the interest rate on the ten-year Treasury bills is under two per cent. The markets that Summers warned Obama about have been calm.

I know this is an add source for me, but the AEI has “Eleven stunning revelations from Larry Summers” has a list of quotes from the actual memo.  That’s what I’m going to use here. First, stimulus projects were not picked based on their impact on the economy but on their ability to fulfill campaign promises.

The short-run economic imperative was to identify as many campaign promises or high priority items that would spend out quickly and be inherently temporary. …  The stimulus package is a key tool for advancing clean energy goals and fulfilling a number of campaign commitments.

Another stunner was this quote which blames banking regulators.  I suppose Wall Street was an innocent in all of this?

A significant cause of the current crisis lies in the failure of regulators to exercise vigorously the authority they already have.

Krugman had this to say about the memo in a post called “Larry and the Invisibles”.

The key thing I took away from the memo is that it does not read at all like the current story the administration gives for the inadequate size of the stimulus, which is that they knew it should be larger but had to face political reality.

Instead, the memo argues that a bigger stimulus would be counterproductive in economic terms, because of the “market reaction”. That is, Summers et al were afraid of the invisible bond vigilantes.

And to the extent that there is a political judgment, it’s all in the opposite direction: if the stimulus is too big, we’ll have trouble scaling it back, but if it’s too small, we can always go back to Congress for more. That was deeply naive — and I said so in real time.

Now, you can still argue that politics made a bigger stimulus impossible. But that’s not at all the argument being made internally within the administration at the time.

At this point, the shrill one goes all mushy and says that Obama has “toughened” up since then.  I guess we’ll see.

Right now, I’d say the country is between a Barrack and a hard right place.  What’s a voter to do with such a Hobson’s choice?

So, that’s what I’ve got to offer this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


The Way Back Machine and the SOTU

So, there’s this NYT article up today called  ‘Obama to Press Centrist Agenda in His Address’. Here’s the President’s own words on how the State of the Union address is shaping up.

“My No. 1 focus,” he said, “is going to be making sure that we are competitive, and we are creating jobs not just now but well into the future.”

“These are big challenges that are in front of us,” Mr. Obama also said in the video, sent to members of Organizing for America, his network of supporters from the 2008 campaign. “But we’re up to it, as long as we come together as a people — Republicans, Democrats, independents — as long as we focus on what binds us together as a people, as long as we’re willing to find common ground even as we’re having some very vigorous debates.”

So, we’re hearing themes of jobs, bipartisanship and coming together to focus on the future which probably includes spending cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.   Here’s another link for you from the Examiner.com with the headline of ‘Obama’s State of the Union: emphasis on job creation, immigration reform on limbo’.

President Barack Obama delivered his first State of the Union speech which ran for seventy-five minutes emphasizing in job creation, offering very few specifics, and listing a number of ‘accomplishments,’ such as cutting of taxes and preventing a ‘second depression’.

Obama talked Wednesday night about spending freezes as part of the solution to revamp the economy and to repay for the $1 trillion that it took to rescue the economy last year.

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but is the State of the Union address just going to be a mulligan for last year’s SOTU except this time he’ll be even more Republican friendly and business friendly while he delivers the same message?   One of the criticisms of Obama’s vision thang has been that he continually offers up the same things but just tinkers with the buzzwords because he sees that it’s not the message that’s the problem but  it’s the selling methodology that’s faulty.

Take for example his first stimulus which was about 40% business friendly tax cuts that really didn’t accomplish much in the way of job creation.  His latest tax cuts are still business friendly and probably won’t accomplish much in the way of job creation either.   This time around, however, he’s not going around giving speeches about ‘fat cat’ businessmen and Wall Street bankers.   Most of the Treasury Department is filled with left over Goldman Sachs folks.  Now, we have the West Wing filled less with politicians and more with fat cats.  Other than a few more musical chairs or a few less hostile names in the spirit of pre-election financing needs, how is this any different than what we’ve seen before?

Can he just basically recycle last year’s speech–sans the swipe at the Supreme Court–and still be seen as some change agent or some transitional figure?   I’m going to have to watch, but this lead up is sounding a lot like “Can you hear me now?” more than anything else.

And, what does it say that two years later, we’re still getting State of the Union addresses that need to focus on jobs?  How about that the stuff they’ve been trying really isn’t working?   Will using the buzz word “competitiveness”  just be the new frame from last year’s talk on “doubling U.S. exports over the next five years”?  Is this just a remarketing of the same five year plan with a few words meant to give Republican Congressmen hard-ons for hope?

The NYT is calling this “political rebranding”.  They’re hinting that he’s even going to talk on reforming the corporate tax code.  So, that means we get less of everything, they get more and it sounds like the same trickle down economics from the same set of tax cuts that continues to destroy the budget and brings on calls for decreases in “entitlements”.  I’m not seeing any real change here.  So, it took me a bit to get to the part of the article that raised questions with answers I’d personally like to hear.

While most midterm presidents use the State of the Union to take credit for their achievements to date, Mr. Obama is constrained by the facts that unemployment remains above 9 percent, that his signature domestic achievement — the expansion of health insurance coverage — remains unpopular with nearly half the country, and that prospects for withdrawing many troops from Afghanistan later this year remain uncertain at best.

So, I’m making my list of things I’d like addressed on Tuesday when we watch the SOTU and live blog it here.  The first is about this miserable surge in Afghanistan and the 6 month time line for the end.  The second is why are corporate profits setting records and the financial markets recovering if we’re so damned uncompetitive now and we have such a screwed up corporate tax policy?  How the heck are we going to export more stuff when we really don’t make anything to export?  How many copies of old Arnold movies can the developing world order?   Why do businesses and insurance companies want to keep HCR so much?   Finally, why do you think that more tax cuts are going to create jobs when they haven’t done so to date?

So, that’s my list.  What’s on yours?

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to prove they live in an alternate universe with no use for science,math or economic theory.

The Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said on Sunday that his party will vigorously oppose the spending initiatives President Obama plans to include in his State of the Union address on Tuesday because “it’s not a time to be looking at pumping up government spending.”

I’m thinking we might as well change the party names right now.  The usual republican suspects are now the leadership of the democratic party.  They get to become the Republicrat party. Republicans just may as well change their name to the National Right to Life and John Birch Society Party.  Where’s an old style Democratic voter to go?


Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

The Big Sombrero

When I hear those words above, I think of those big monster truck rallies held in the big sombrero…or what was the old Tampa Stadium. We lived near the stadium and I remember feeling the ground move on those Sunday night extravaganzas. Growing up near the stadium was super cool. When the Rolling Stones performed at the stadium, you could hear the concert by just sitting outside on the porch. Don’t know why I thought of this just now, maybe it is because the big game is coming up…or maybe I was just thinking about fond memories and cheap thrills…who knows. Anyway, on with this Sunday’s Reads.

Where to start? Hmm, how about here: President Obama previews State of the Union job pitch – Glenn Thrush – POLITICO.com So it looks like an email was sent out to O-fans ahead of the SOTU, it included a video of “Golden Boy,” like some sort of crappy movie trailer, the kind when you see it you immediately say to yourself…”Oh yeah, that is one to miss.” So, this little tidbit below should give y’all the feel of the production, I mean speech:

“Today, we’re in a different place. An economy that was shrinking is now growing again. But across the country, millions are struggling every day — to find work, to pay their bills, to provide for their families. It is clear that the moment we now face demands a vision for how we as a people will win the future,” reads the introduction to the video, sent to members of Organizing for America, the vestigial campaign apparatus from his 2008 campaign.

“And that vision — that agenda — will be the topic of my State of the Union address.”

Oh great, this reminds me of the same old Hope and Change.  Let me refer to a time when big hair was a fashion statement and there was another fine actor in the White House…barf me with a spoon! You want more? State of the Union: Address is a ‘fundamental moment’ for President Obama – latimes.com On second thought, I will just paraphrase it for you. Obama is moving more and more to the center. He is going to use the SOTU to highlight his move from the left, as a way to appeal to Independent voters. (And these people get paid to write this stuff?)

So I will move on to this link: The Barack Obama 2011 State of the Union Drinking Game. I am pretty sure that here on Sky Dancing we will be having a live blogging session during the State of the Union Address. So, my thought is to make it interesting. We can play this drinking game, and see just how crazy and convoluted the comment section gets.

RULES OF THE GAME:

Every time Barack H Obama mentions bipartisanship, everybody has to drink 2 shots of beer. If he talks about the lessons of Tucson, the last person to throw their arms in the air, fall to their knees and shout “Hallelujah!” has to drink 1 entire beer.

Everybody has to drink 2 shots of beer whenever John Boehner appears to cry. 1 shot of bourbon if he breaks down sobbing and disappears entirely from view.

Every time Barack H Obama says “Democratic leadership,” the first person to stop laughing is exempt from drinking 2 shots of beer.

[…]

If the Chief Executive winks at or points at Michelle, all 4 players swordfight with hot dogs. Whoever is left with an intact weenie does not have to eat an entire shot glass full of that weird green relish.

If the president mentions the Chinese President by name, the last person to ask “Hu Dat?” has to drink 2 shots of beer.

EXTRAS:

Optional: Have all players drink with left hand. Unless left- handed. If they are caught drinking with dominant hand, they must watch the entire Republican response and no drinking allowed.

Okay, you know I am joking, right? However, I think that any sort of mind numbing/altering substance would be extremely useful for anyone watching. I will have my bag of popcorn and a package of Nabisco’s Mallomars to get through the evening. Oh, who are we kidding, two packages of Mallomars…ya know they have fewer of these delicious morsels in their boxes of cookies now. Oops, I have wandered a bit, must be those damn fond childhood memories again.

I thought I would post this link, being that my family’s livelihood depends on Walmart…which in itself is something I thought I would never hear myself say. Is it time to rethink my opinion of Wal-Mart? – Eco-nomics – Stories from the Mother Nature Network – Forbes Yes, it is true that Walmart has teamed with FLOTUS to change some of its products and focus more on healthy eating. Also, each area Walmart store donates tons of money and food to local food banks.  I wonder if Walmart will also be placing warning labels on their healthier can goods.  Along the lines of,  Caution: “Let’s Move” exercise like  the ones that Michelle Obama suggest, may be hazardous to your health.  Warning: Walking across the street  and eating a can of peaches can cause serious injury, including death. That could be the next big push for the likes of Limbaugh and Malkin, after they tackle that “abortion problem.” However,  I do have another story to share about Walmart. We live in a very rural country banjo bible belt area, the new Walmart has saved a lot of families in my town.  Just yesterday, we needed to get new tires for the car and wanted to spend our money locally. But the few local business that sell tires were closed, we had no choice but to go to the TLE (tire lube express) at Wallyworld. Perhaps they were closed to mourn the passing of Roe v. Wade 38 years ago?

If you missed Wonk’s most excellent post yesterday, be sure you check it out: Saturday: Roe turns 38! « Sky Dancing She has some wonderful links and real information that every woman should read, so if you have any woman you care about…send her the link. While I am at it, I will post links to two other post from yesterday on Sky Dancing: Gaslighting America « Sky Dancing and Seymour Hersh Comments Evoke Media Overreactions « Sky Dancing It was just a great day for blog post yesterday, and that is all I will say about that!

It looks like talks with Iran have broken down. Iran Nuclear Talks Break Down | FDL News Desk and Iran nuclear talks end at impasse – Laura Rozen – POLITICO.com What I find interesting is when you read the Iran’s side of the nuclear talks. Check out Google News from Tehran. Everyone has their own way of reporting news…right? It is up to you and me to digest and dig into what is reported today. That is just being responsible readers and listeners. I think that most of us do this already, that is what makes reading and watching the news fun…to use constructive and cognitive brain processes to get at what really is being said.

*Update below* Duvalier is not being allowed to leave Haiti, according to BBC:

Mr Duvalier is barred from leaving the country pending the outcome of an investigation into his alleged crimes…

[…]

One theory offered by analysts and lawyers to explain Mr Duvalier’s return is that he was trying to stave off attempts by Switzerland to donate to Haiti nearly $6m (£3.7) frozen in Swiss bank accounts.

Under a new Swiss law that comes into force on 1 February, the funds can be released even if Haiti has not made a legal move to get them.

Mr Duvalier wrongly predicted that he might be able to avoid prosecution, observers say.

“If Duvalier goes back to Haiti and is not prosecuted, then he could say ‘I was available for prosecution, and you didn’t prosecute me: Give me my money back,'” said Reed Brody, a lawyer at Human Rights Watch. [BBC]

I thought this was interesting and tried to find more information about the new law, Baby Doc assets may soon be returned from Switzerland to Haiti under new law. – swissinfo Seems that this law was made specifically for this situation and has something to do with statute of limitations.

In February 2010 the Swiss government issued an emergency decree to keep the money blocked until a new dictator-assets law could be published. The government decree was a reaction to the country’s top court ruling in January 2010 that the money must be returned to Duvalier’s family because the statute of limitations had expired.

The new law on returning illicit dictator funds, backed by the House of Representatives and the Senate, is due to enter into force on February 1, 2011.

Under the law, the cabinet can block contentious assets and will have up to ten years to launch action to confiscate the assets once they have been blocked. The confiscation of assets must be declared by the Federal Administrative Court.

“It would be unfortunate if there is a problem with the return of the Duvalier funds as this law was tailor-made for such a case,” Olivier Longchamp, a legal expert at the Swiss non-governmental organisation, Berne Declaration, told swissinfo.ch.

Just think, all that money going back to the Duvalier family…makes you shiver doesn’t it? The “Duvalier Law” is supposed to stop this from happening:

…analysts say that the former dictator returned to Haiti to make a claim on the money he does have left—some $6 million frozen in a Swiss bank account. Last year, a Swiss court ruled that $4.6 million of the money could be released to the Duvaliers (the ruling was handed down only hours before the earthquake hit) but public anger prompted officials to do a 180, passing the so-called “Duvalier law” to keep dictators from using Switzerland as a safe haven for ill-begotten cash. With that law set to go into effect on Feb. 1, analysts tell the NYT that Baby Doc’s homecoming was probably an attempt to sneak in and out of the country—thus proving that Haiti had no interest in prosecuting him—in order to make a case for the money. (Duvalier laywer Gervais Charles maintains that his client only wanted to donate the money to the Red Cross.)

*Updated: Opinion: Now We Know — Former Dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier Just Wants to ‘Help’ Haiti

Friday, when he finally found a place to hold a press conference, at a rented guest house, the ex-dictator said he returned to “participate … in this collaboration for the national reconstruction.” Which make sense, since that’s why everyone’s in Haiti. Though Duvalier’s team doesn’t have T-shirts yet. Or a slogan.

[…]

Friday, we also discovered that Duvalier is now represented by an American legal team — “we’re not his lawyers” — from Snellville, Ga.: Mike Puglise, Ed Marger, and former U.S. congressman Bob Barr.

And they “helped” us better understand Duvalier, too.Marger, on the dictator’s human rights record: “Regardless of what many people say or do or think about what happened during the Duvalier regimes, at least there was stability in the country, and the people, in great measure, were progressing.”

At least? Yes. Except for the tens of thousands dead, tortured or “disappeared.”

He has a team of US lawyers? Which includes a former US Congressman, Bob Barr…WTH?

* ‘Baby Doc’ wants to use Swiss money ‘to help Haiti’

Duvalier ”is very interested in trying to get those funds freed up, not for himself, but so they can be used to help the situation in Haiti,” said Mr Barr, who went with Duvalier to Port-au-Prince.

On Saturday Duvalier, 59, also known as ”Baby Doc”, apologised to victims of abuses during his government, vowed to help the quake-ravaged nation rebuild and said he expected to face ”persecution” upon his return.

He declared himself ”impressed by the welcome I have received, especially from the crowd of young people who don’t know me”.

But their attendance at the villa in the upmarket Montagne Noire neighbourhood was engineered. ”We were paid 10 gourdes ($A25¢) to show up,” said one.

So the people were paid to show their “support” for Duvalier? Some things never change.

From Minx’s Missing Link File: I thought many would find this entertaining: Speak the speech … Shakespeare’s plays to be performed in 38 languages | Culture | The Guardian

Anyone who struggles with Shakespeare in English will next year be able to see if it is any easier in Lithuanian. Or Portuguese, Italian or Spanish, perhaps. And if all that fails – Troilus and Cressida in Maori?

In fact, there will be 38 different ways to experience it, as Shakespeare’s Globe presents all of the Bard’s plays, each in a different language, as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

It is, perhaps, the most ambitious multilingual Shakespeare project ever attempted and the Globe’s artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole, said today it was “a terrifically clear and simple and slightly bananas idea”, but one, he hoped, that would show how Shakespeare has become an international language.

This is something so cool! The process of staging these plays must be extremely time consuming and requires some patience to get it all put together correctly. “Slightly bananas?” Yes, but wonderfully creative!

Easy like Sunday Morning Link: Another story about one of those writers that influenced a generation: Saving Hemingway’s home in Cuba – CNN.com

Ernest Hemingway hasn’t lived here in over 50 years but Finca Vigia is still his home.

In the garden there’s his boat “the Pilar” used to hunt marlin and then Nazi subs off Cuba during World War II. Scrawled on a bathroom wall next to a scale are the daily records of what the writer weighed.

Lizards and frogs he caught rest in jars filled with formaldehyde. Antelopes and buffalo heads taken as trophies from African safaris decorate the walls. Yellowing Time and The Field magazines are still on the shelves.

Now a museum, a visitor to Finca Vigia or “lookout farm,” could be mistaken for thinking Hemingway might walk in the door at any second.

“Our philosophy was to recover the environment and surroundings,” said Ada Rosa Alfonso Rosales, the museum’s curator. “This was not just a mere house, this was his home.”

Hemingway lived in the home on a hilltop on the outskirts of Havana from 1939 to 1960. The years were pivotal ones for the famed American writer and for his adopted home of Cuba.

There is a video at this link, watch it when you have a chance. My kids are named for a Hemingway book, The Sun Also Rises, so it is a special article to read.

What are you all reading today? Give it up!