It’s a Wonderful Life: Walmart Employees, Homeless People and Texas Women

$(KGrHqEOKiEE6UPng66wBOq1oPst7w~~60_35Good Afternoon

Huh?

Yeah…would you look at that.

3:00 pm has come and gone.

<————- And take a look at this. I found this picture on Pinterest, is it me…or does the left side of her jacket look like Texas? I don’t know, but when I look at that picture, I think of Wendy Davis running for Governor of Texas!  Wendy had some choice words for Republicans regarding the SCOTUS decision to give all of Texas Women the ol’ “fuck you!” More on this later…but, first…let’s get this “morning” post started.

Latest news on State Senator Creigh Deeds: Three hospitals with psychiatric units had room for Deeds’s son on Monday – The Washington Post

At least three hospitals near Bath County had available beds the day before the son of Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds apparently stabbed his father and then shot himself to death, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Deeds’s condition was upgraded to good at a Charlottesville hospital as investigators and mental-health officials continued to search for an explanation of what happened. Austin Deeds, who was 24, had undergone a psychiatric evaluation on Monday, but officials initially said he was not admitted to a hospital because no bed was available.

It remained unclear Wednesday which hospitals were called and why Austin Deeds was not taken to one of the available facilities.

Uh oh…

And over in Albuquerque, Voters Defeat Anti-Abortion Measure – NYTimes.com

Voters here on Tuesday defeated a ballot question that sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, delivering a critical setback to an anti-abortion movement that had sought to use this progressive city to recalibrate the national debate around women’s reproductive rights.

The referendum, the first of its kind in the country for a municipality, was marked by record turnout and aggressive tactics by volunteers on both sides, who sought to capitalize on the controversy and passion surrounding the issue to drive voters to the polls. For political strategists, it also offered a chance to test the way their message on abortion resonated among Hispanics, a key constituency that accounts for nearly half of the residents in Albuquerque and New Mexico, and is one of the fastest-growing populations in the country.

“This was a clear counterpunch to the Republicans and right-wingers who came from out of state to push their agenda on us,” Sam Bregman, chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party, which campaigned hard against the ban, said in an interview.

Give that piece a read, some interesting quotes from the local people in Albuquerque. The vote was 55 % to 45% btw…

You may remember the outcry from David Horsey, cartoonist at the LA Times, when there was a possibility the Koch Brothers would be buying the paper out? Think back and then read this: Tribune Co. Cutting 700 Newspaper Jobs Amid Dropping Advertising Revenues – Forbes

Tribune Co., the parent of several legendary newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, announced restructuring plans that include cutting 700 jobs, mainly from its newspaper unit.  Facing falling advertising revenues, Tribune has been engaged in aggressive cost-cutting which has helped the company remain profitable, its latest earnings show.

Staff reductions amount to about 6% of Tribune’s workforce, and will be focused on operations personnel at their publishing unit, rather than on editorial staff, chief executive Peter Liguori said, according to the LA Times.  At the same time, the company is looking consolidate advertising and circulation functions which were previously managed by each of the eight newspapers in their portfolio individually.

I wonder what Horsey will do with this nugget of news now. (He is really such a talented and ballsy cartoonist…)

Alright. Now that the newsy part of the post is over, here comes the meaty part.

Did you hear the news? Hollywood is making a sequel, but this in no ordinary sequel. It’s not Rocky 15 or Hobbitt III…this time Hollywood is going back to it’s roots…back to it’s heyday…it is going back to Bedford Falls.

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ Sequel in the Works: Jimmy Stewart Christmas Classic Gets a Follow-Up | Variety

Star Partners and Hummingbird Prods. are collaborating on production of a sequel to Frank Capra’s iconic 1946 movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which starred Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

The sequel, titled “It’s a Wonderful Life: The Rest of the Story,” is being financed by Allen J. Schwalb of Star Partners who will also produce along with Bob Farnsworth of Hummingbird. The duo are aiming to get the movie into theaters for the 2015 holiday season.

Karolyn Grimes, who played George Bailey’s daughter “Zuzu” in the original, will return for the “Wonderful Life” sequel as an angel who shows Bailey’s unlikeable grandson (also named George Bailey) how the world would be if he had he never been born.

I am negative by birth, being a Sicilian and all, but there are some things (whether they be books or film) that do not and should not be treated to “the sequel.”  It’s a Wonderful Life is not one of them.

I guess I am not the only one who feels this way, Mike Fleming Jr at Deadline had this to say: Beyond ‘Wonderful Life’, What Other Sacred Cows Should Be On The Sequel Menu?

Our sister publication Variety just bannered an exclusive that It's A Wonderful Life Sequelthere is a sequel in the works to the charming Frank Capra-directed Jimmy Stewart film It’s A Wonderful Life. Here, the actress who played Bailey daughter Zuzu (Karolyn Grimes) returns as an angel to advise George Bailey’s grandson (cleverly named George Bailey) because he has turned into a douchebag. While my first impulse is to label this a sign of the apocalypse, particularly after I see stories about Robert De Niro talking about a Taxi Driver sequel, maybe the Wonderful Life‘s backers at Star Partners are on to something. Even if something is considered a sacred cow, if that cow was run through the slaughterhouse, wouldn’t there be some tasty steaks for all? I need to stop judging.

No, please Mike..judge…judge!

You could take the progeny of a number of classic films and continue those beloved story lines. Why, maybe Rosebud didn’t completely burn up in the fire at the end of Citizen Kane. It got saved by Charles Foster Kane’s son or nephew, and their grandson finds it in the barn, pimps it out and uses Rosebud to conquer the downhill wooden sledding circuit, which for sequel purposes has been approved as an event in the next Winter Olympics. Any other classics that could be sequelized with the combination of ingenuity and public domain rights expiration?

After watching weeks of The Story of Film on TCM, I see just how crappy cinema has become here in the US. I knew it was shit for a long time now, but there is nothing like seeing some of those wonderful classic films through a film historian’s eyes to get a true feel for what we have lost. And I think what is more important, what we are losing in not moving forward towards innovation in film.

In the meantime, here in America…Walmart employees are really living the “wonderful life.” If they aren’t in fear of being shot by the stupid idiots that shop at their stores: Gun in pants pocket fires in Walmart; owner keeps shopping

Police said a man whose gun accidentally fired in his pants pocket while at Walmart on Sunday kept on shopping, paying for his items and leaving as though nothing had happened.

Christopher William Strube, 50, was arrested Monday and charged with discharging a weapon within city limits.

Strube was shopping Sunday afternoon with his .45-caliber gun in his pocket, when a bottle he was carrying bumped into the gun and caused it to fire one round, police said. Strube told police that after the gun went off, he paid for his items and left the store.

Employees and customers said they heard a gunshot and smelled gun powder. Police later found a .45-caliber bullet inside a can of beans.

These Walmart employees are collecting cans for other Walmart employees who are too poor to feed themselves at Thanksgiving.

Is Walmart’s request of associates to help provide Thanksgiving dinner for co-workers proof of low wages? | cleveland.com

Walmart Holding Canned Food Drive For Its Own Underpaid Employees | ThinkProgress

Wal-Mart Asks its Low-Wage Workers to Donate Food to its Low-Wage Workers | The Poverty Line, What Matters Today | BillMoyers.com

Of those three articles, I say read the last one by Bill Moyers.

This is very disturbing and upsetting for me on a very personal level. You all know why…Walmart puts food on our table, and I was always told not to “shit where you eat.” Walmart should increase their employee pay…geez, WTF is wrong with them. The Simple Path to a Living Wage at Walmart

In the past week, both a senior editor at Fortune magazine and the liberal think tank Demos have made similar proposals for how Walmart could greatly increase worker wages without harming its business prospects. What is this mysterious financial magic?

The two proposals differ a bit in the details, but they use roughly the same mechanism to reach the same goal, so we’ll go with Demos’s proposal (described in full here) for ease of explanation. Basically, the argument is this: Walmart throws off enough cash in profits each year that it could easily raise the wages of its workers by about 50%, so that they all made about $25K per year, which is what activists are seeking. Currently, the company just uses that cash for other purposes. Like what? Well, Demos points out that Walmart spent $7.6 billion last year buying back its own stock shares, a maneuver designed to buoy the stock price and dividend payments.

[...]

Demos estimates that if Walmart had dedicated last year’s share repurchasing money to worker wages, it could have ensured that all employees working 32 hours or more per week made at least $25K per year. (Something that is not unknown in the retail world.)

The key to this plan is simply a realistic look at which stakeholders benefit from which economic decision. Buying back shares can be popular on Wall Street, but it doesn’t change Walmart’s actual business operations one whit. The money, then could either provide a living wage to close to a million workers who currently do not make enough to provide for their families, or it could be used to vastly increase he personal wealth of the richest and greediest family in America.

Greed. Happy Thanksgiving.

In another sad story about living a “wonderful life” this time in Hawaii, at the hands of a “democrat.” Oh, this is disgusting. Worst Person in the World: Vigilante State Rep. Smashes Shopping Carts Used by Homeless People | The Daily Banter

brower_homeless_smash

Contrary to popular myths and stereotypes, Hawaii, and especially Honolulu, has a serious problem with poverty and homelessness. It’s not hard to spot tent cities in parks and near industrial areas, where hula dancers, surf boards and mai tais are nowhere in sight. In fact, Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness in the nation, with a population of around 17,000.

So along comes State Rep. Tom Brower — and his sledgehammer. Brower, wearing an Armani hat, has taken it upon himself to destroy and confiscate shopping carts used by homeless people.

Video at the link if you can stand it.

Brower, a Democrat, was quoted by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser as saying, “If I see shopping carts that I can’t identify, I will destroy them so they can’t be pushed on the streets.” Later, on a local news station, Brower told a reporter, “I want to do something practical that will really clean up the streets.”

Yeah. He’s quite a hero, isn’t he? Destroying one of the only means by which homeless people can carry their few possessions — or, in some cases, earn some extra money by collecting recyclable cans and bottles. Specifically, Brower smashes the wheels off the carts, making them impossible to use. So instead of homeless people pushing shopping carts, Hawaii will have a homeless population dragging bashed up, wobble-wheeled carts now. Nice guy.

But it gets worse.

Yeah, is sure does. Go and read what this guy does the homeless people who sleep during the day in the streets of Honolulu. He must really want to keep Honolulu off of France’s “Watch Your Ass” US City Hot List: France to its citizens: Beware of downtown Atlanta after dark | www.ajc.com

The French don’t think Downtown Atlanta is such a safe tourist destination after hours.

Because of that, the city “too busy to hate” has found itself on a list of U.S. cities foreign countries warn their traveling citizens about.

The Washington Post recently named 16 American cities that governments from overseas suggest that people visiting the U.S. take precautions when touring.

Among those was Atlanta, whose downtown area the French Consulate suggested might not be the safest place to be after hours.

“Be vigilant in isolated areas of the city center (downtown) after the closure of the offices and to focus on the travel by taxi at night,” a translation from French of the warning about Atlanta.

Hmmm, maybe those homeless people know something about dangerous places after hours? Like it would be better and probably safer to stay awake at night? (Yeah, it is a stretch, I know…)

Moving on…to a “wonderful life” as a woman: ‘Economics Of Birth Control’ Infographic Is The Most Important Thing You’ll See Today

Birth control affects the global economy — on a much larger scale than you might think.

This infographic, created by Population Action International, shows just how much a lack of access to contraception impacts not just women and their children, but the amount countries spend on basic services for entire populations. Yet, sadly, only 22 percent of family-planning needs are being met worldwide.

According to Population Action, “For every $1 we invest in family planning, we save $4 in other areas like education, public health, and water and sanitation.” Check out the numbers below. They paint a pretty depressing picture — and one that needs to change ASAP.

Infographic at the link. But does it really matter, because according to Stuart Varney, Fox Business host: Maybe ‘something about the female brain’ makes women bad tech CEOs | The Raw Story

Fox Business host Stuart Varney on Monday addressed the lack of women executives in the technology industry by suggesting that there was “something about the female brain” that deterred companies from hiring them.

Early last month, filings for Twitter’s plan to publicly offer shares showed that the company was dominated by male executives.

“Should tech companies feel obligated to put women on the board or to make women top executives just to be politically correct,” Varney asked the Tea Party News Network’s Scottie Hughes on Monday.

“No business should ever be obligated to bring on a woman,” Hughes insisted. “They should want to, but you’re not seeing this in Silicon Valley for some reason.”

“But why is that?” Varney wondered. “It’s a very difficult question to ask because it’s politically incorrect. Is there something about the female brain that is a deterrent for getting on board with tech? Is there?”

Asshole.

At least we have Wendy Davis as a voice for women out there: Wendy Davis Slams Texas Republicans After Supreme Court Upholds State Abortion Restrictions

State Sen. Wendy Davis (D), Democrats’ popular candidate for governor of Texas, slammed Texas Republicans following the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the state to continue enforcing its strict anti-abortion law.

“This law is an abuse of power by politicians in Austin. Clinics will close and women’s health will be hurt,” Davis said in a statement to TPM on Tuesday. “I trust women to make their own decisions and will continue to work to make sure that women and mothers are safe and have access to adequate health care.”

Earlier in the year Davis gained national attention for waging a 13-hour filibuster of the law.

In a separate statement Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) praised the high court’s decision.

“This is good news both for the unborn and for the women of Texas, who are now better protected from shoddy abortion providers operating in dangerous conditions,” Perry said. “As always, Texas will continue doing everything we can to protect the culture of life in our state.”

Love her.

The next few links are not within the “wonderful life” theme, but I wanted to include them anyway:

Greg Abbott links Wendy Davis to ‘Satan’ after ‘illegal immigrant’ game is cancelled | The Raw Story

How Many of Your Memories Are Fake? – Erika Hayasaki – The Atlantic

“Great Surprise”—Native Americans Have West Eurasian Origins

Mummified Meals Studied – Archaeology Magazine

Mummy Animal FoodRichard Evershed of the University of Bristol and a team of researchers are investigating how meat products were preserved for provisioning ancient Egyptian tombs. “We’ve done quite a bit on human Egyptian mummies and even a fair bit on animal mummies. But the meat mummies…they’d been sort of left on their own,” he explained. For example, a calf and a goat leg he and his team examined with mass spectroscopy had been wrapped in bandages and smeared with animal fat. A few hundred years earlier, beef ribs prepared for Pharaoh Amenhotep III were treated with an expensive resin imported from the Mediterranean.

Look..it is a rack of Chili’s Baby Back Ribs!

And finally, with all the fuss over the new dictionary word “Selfie” I thought a couple of links regarding words would be neat…English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet – Megan Garber – The Atlantic


Skreened.com

Let’s start with the dull stuff, because pragmatism.

The word “because,” in standard English usage, is a subordinating conjunction, which means that it connects two parts of a sentence in which one (the subordinate) explains the other. In that capacity, “because” has two distinct forms. It can be followed either by a finite clause (I’m reading this because [I saw it on the web]) or by a prepositional phrase (I’m reading this because [of the web]). These two forms are, traditionally, the only ones to which “because” lends itself.

I mention all that … because language. Because evolution. Because there is another way to use “because.” Linguists are calling it the “prepositional-because.” Or the “because-noun.

You probably know it better, however, as explanation by way of Internet—explanation that maximizes efficiency and irony in equal measure. I’m late because YouTube. You’re reading this because procrastination. As the language writer Stan Carey delightfully sums it up: “‘Because’ has become a preposition, because grammar.”

Go and read the rest of that article, it is real interesting.

I guess you could say that Varney and his comment about women tech CEOs would be because misogyny.

What is the one word that’s the same in every language?

Huh?

Yup…

As anyone who has tried to blag a vocab test will know, words really don’t have any logic to them. You can’t just “work out” what the German word for “fridge” is. That’s because, of course, words are arbitrary. Cat (or katze or chat) only means “cat” because at some stage people came to agree that it did. Words may share roots and flit across language barriers, but because there’s such a vast number of sounds a human can make, it’s very unlikely that we’d all spontaneously come up with the same word for the same thing.

Except that, apparently, we have. That word is “huh”. According to a recent study it seems to be pretty universal. The scientists (in what sounds like an excellent idea for a research trip), recorded bits of informal language from 5 continents, and of the 31 dialects they compiled, all had this same word in common.

My first thought in reading their findings was “hmmm”. Is “huh” even a word? It seems more like an instinctive utterance – the kind of sound we make when confused. Noises of surprise or anger might be the same everywhere, but that’s because they are not really part of a language. They’re just noises.

But the researchers do a fairly good job of arguing that “huh” is, in fact, a word. It’s not involuntary, and it follows the rules of a given language: if questions are posed with rising intonation, “huh” rises too, and vice versa (it fell in two of the dialects). It is also possible for children and language learners to get “huh” wrong by using it out of context. You can’t get noises of astonishment wrong.

So why is “huh” everywhere? Here’s where the research gets interesting. “Huh”, the scientists suggest, is the only word that can do that particular job. This means you could, technically, work the word out in a vocab test. And if children were really thorough inventors of made up languages, they’d have to include “huh”.

Go figure?

There is more of course at the link. Check it out.

That is it.

Shit, almost 4:30…time does fly when it is a Wonderful Life.


Wednesday Reads: Forest for the trees

potagesmaggiGood Morning

My internet has been acting strange lately, so I am writing this post on the fly and comments will be at a minimum.

First up, sad story from India, according to BBC News: School meal kills 22 in India’s Bihar state

At least 22 children have died and dozens more have fallen ill after eating lunch at a school in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

The poisoning occurred in the village of Dharmasati Gandaman, 80km (50 miles) north of the state capital, Patna.

The free Mid-Day Meal Scheme aims to tackle hunger and boost attendance in schools, but suffers from poor hygiene.

Angry parents joined protests against the deaths, setting at least four police vehicles on fire.

An inquiry has begun and 200,000 rupees ($3,370) in compensation offered to the families of each of the dead.

Twenty-eight sick children were taken to hospitals in the nearby town of Chhapra after the incident and later were moved to Patna.

A total of 47 students of the primary school fell sick on Tuesday after eating the free lunch.

More deaths are possible as many of the kids are under the age of 12 and still in critical condition.

The state education minister, PK Shahi, told the BBC a preliminary investigation indicated that the food was contaminated with traces of phosphorous.

“The doctors who have attended are of the tentative opinion that the smell coming out of the bodies of the children suggests that the food contained organo-phosphorus, which is a poisonous substance,” he said.

“Now the investigators have to find out whether organo-phosphorus was accidental or there was some deliberate mischief.”

Earlier, doctors treating the patients had said “food poisoning” was the cause of the deaths.

“We suspect it to be poisoning caused by insecticides in vegetable or rice,” Amarjeet Sinha, a senior education official, told the BBC.

A doctor treating the children at a hospital in Patna said contaminated vegetable oil could have led to the poisoning.

Patna-based journalist Amarnath Tewary says villagers told local reporters that similar cases of food poisoning after having Mid-Day Meals had taken place in the area previously.

The horror of this story will only be more disturbing if it does turn out to be deliberate. I will keep you all up to date on the details as the day goes on.

Meanwhile, the Zimmerman Jury’s shitstorm has begun B37’s fellow jurors in Trayvon Martin trial bash her for leading country to believe spoke for them – NY Daily News

Four jurors in Trayvon Martin trial have issued a statement Tuesday night bashing B37 for going on TV and leading the country to believe she spoke for all of them.

Just moments after CNN aired part two of its interview with the juror known as B37, four of her fellow members on the six-woman jury issued a joint statement.

“We also wish to point out that the opinions of Juror B37, expressed on the Anderson Cooper show were her own, and not in any way representative of the jurors listed below.”

The jurors added, “We ask you to remember that we are not public officials and we did not invite this type of attention into our lives.”

More from LA Times: Zimmerman trial: 4 jurors say Juror B37 does not speak for them

The other four jurors also cited Florida law. “Serving on this jury has been a highly emotional and physically draining experience for each of us,” the statement signed by Jurors B51, B76, E6 and E40 said. “The death of a teenager weighed heavily on our hearts, but in the end we did what the law required us to do.”

It still makes me cringe to think Zimmerman got away with killing Martin, and not one charge was brought against him…aside from manslaughter…assault…battery…geez, stalking?  I guess I am rambling but it still seems inconceivable to me that there are no criminal consequences for Zimmerman’s actions, which did result in the death of an unarmed young man.

Alright, here are some links from yesterday that you should check out.

Op/ed by Katrina vanden Heuvel: Congress’s appalling Republicans – The Washington Post

There really isn’t any other word. Congressional Republicans are simply appalling. They have absolute control of the House. They set the agenda. They decide what comes to the floor. They decide what passes on to the Senate.

They know that extreme legislation isn’t going to be enacted into law. The Democratic majority in the Senate and the Democratic president stand in the way. So the legislation they choose to pass is a statement of their own values. It is simply designed to proclaim, “This is where we stand.” And for the vast majority of Americans, what they proudly proclaim is simply beyond the pale.

New blog post by Kurt Eichenwald: My Family, Our Cancer, and the Murderous Cruelty of Conservatives | Vanity Fair

My wife has breast cancer.

I write this, with her permission, while sitting in the hospital waiting room as she undergoes surgery. Afterward, there will be another surgery, radiation, and probably chemo, but what else might be in the offing is guesswork at this point. I’ll know more this afternoon, when the operation is over.

A comparison over at Juan Cole’s blog: Israel’s District 9: Its Biggest Ethnic Cleansing since 1948 | Informed Comment

30,000 Palestinian-Israelis of Bedouin heritage are are being forcibly transferred by the Israeli government, and thousands of acres of their land is being stolen from them.

The 972 article compares it to Apartheid South Africa’s District 6, the inspiration for the film, “District 9″

The Palestinian-Israelis are mounting big protests today.

Tales from the Walmart inner circle: Four Angry Wal-Mart Workers, and Four Happy Ones

Last week, we brought you some true stories from Wal-Mart workers— stories that alarmed Wal-Mart so much that they (unsuccessfully) begged their employees to send us positive stories to balance them out. Since then, we’ve received many more, both good and bad. Here are some.

Note: Wal-Mart specifically solicited its employees to send us positive stories (and furthermore, one employee tells us, “Walmart does have an official policy on employees posting on social media and yes we *can* be fired for posting content the company doesn’t like”). Despite this, we’ve received a far greater number of negative than positive stories. Today, however, we’re posting an equal number of positive and negative stories. Take them as you will. They’re all revealing in their own way.

An interesting look at Latin America, considering the recent events surrounding Snowden and the “courtship” of his “affections“:

Why Latin America Is Becoming Less Democratic – Kurt Weyland – The Atlantic

democracytop.jpg

Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stage a protest over a drawing of a gagged face during a march to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of the return of democracy after the 1958 coup in Caracas January 23, 2011. (Jorge Silvas/Reuters)

Around the turn of the millennium, prominent Latin America special­ist Scott Mainwaring highlighted the surprising endurance of democracy in that region after the transition wave of the late 1970s and 1980s.Dur­ing that interval, no democracy had permanently succumbed to a mili­tary coup or slid back into authoritarian rule. After decades marked by instability in numerous countries, especially Argentina, Bolivia, and Ec­uador, this newfound democratic resilience came as a welcome surprise.

[...]

The recent suffocation of political pluralism in a whole group of countries is with­out precedent. For the first time in decades, democracy in Latin America is facing a sustained, coordinated threat. The regional trend toward de­mocracy, which had prevailed since the late 1970s, has suffered a partial reversal. Unexpectedly, democracy is now on the defensive in parts of the region.

That is just a couple of paragraphs, go read the whole article…

There was a freaky story that you may have missed a couple of weeks ago, Mystery of Nazi Swastikas in the Forests – SPIEGEL ONLINE

Over 20 years ago, a landscaper in eastern Germany discovered a formation of trees in a forest in the shape of a swastika. Since then, a number of other forest swastikas have been found in Germany and beyond, but the mystery of their origins persist.

Blame it on the larches. Brandenburg native Günter Reschke was the first one to notice their unique formation, according to a 2002 article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. To be more precise, however, it was the new intern at Reschke’s landscaping company, Ökoland Dederow, who discovered the trees in 1992 as he was completing a typically thankless intern task: searching aerial photographs for irrigation lines.

For decade, this swastika of larch trees stood undiscovered in the middle of...

Instead, he found a small group of 140 larches standing in the middle of dense forest, surrounded by hundreds of other trees. But there was a crucial difference: all the others were pine trees. The larches, unlike the pines, changed color in the fall, first to yellow, then brown. And when they were seen from a certain height, it wasn’t difficult to recognize the pattern they formed. It was quite striking, in fact.

As he was dutifully accomplishing the task he had been given, the intern suddenly stopped and stared, dumbfounded, at the picture in his hand. It was an aerial view of Kutzerower Heath at Zernikow — photo number 106/88. He showed it to Reschke: “Do you see what this is?” But the 60-by-60 meter (200-by-200 foot) design that stood out sharply from the forest was obvious to all: a swastika.

Reschke is actually a fan of his native Uckermark region of northeastern Germany, extolling its gently rolling hills, lakes and woods, as the “Tuscany of the north.” But what the two men discovered in 1992 in that aerial photograph thrust this natural idyll into the center of a scandal.

This is one hell of a story, and at that Spiegel link there is a gallery of images that you need to see: Photo Gallery: Swastikas in the Woods – SPIEGEL ONLINE – International

The planting of swastika formations, like this one near the town of Asterode in...

The planting of swastika formations, like this one near the town of Asterode in the western state of Hesse, was popular among foresters throughout various regions of Nazi Germany. There were many swastikas in the forests surrounding Berlin until they were removed under Soviet occupation.

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In this same wooded area of Asterode in Hesse, the numbers "1933," the year...

In this same wooded area of Asterode in Hesse, the numbers “1933,” the year Hitler came to power, were spelled out in larch trees across a backdrop of pine forest, bursting into color in autumn. The eyesores remained for a long time, until the early 1960s, when American occupying forces discovered the trees during an aerial reconnaissance flight and complained to the local government.

But it was not just trees in the forest that took the shape of Nazi symbolism, towns..buildings and other land formations that remained hidden until discovered by views from above…seriously, go and check that article out.

One more link in connection with this story above, Misreading ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ – NYTimes.com

The movie “Hannah Arendt,” which opened in New York in May, has unleashed emotional commentary that mirrors the fierce debate Arendt herself ignited over half a century ago, when she covered the trial of the notorious war criminal Adolf Eichmann. One of the pre-eminent political thinkers of the 20th century, Arendt, who died in 1975 at the age of 69, was a Jew arrested by the German police in 1933, forced into exile and later imprisoned in an internment camp. She escaped and fled to the United States in 1941, where she wrote the seminal books “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and “The Human Condition.”

It is easy to cite the ‘banality of evil.’ It is much more difficult to make sense of what Arendt actually meant.

When Arendt heard that Eichmann was to be put on trial, she knew she had to attend. It would be, she wrote, her last opportunity to see a major Nazi “in the flesh.” Writing in The New Yorker, she expressed shock that Eichmann was not a monster, but “terribly and terrifyingly normal.” Her reports for the magazine were compiled into a book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,” published in 1963.

The poet Robert Lowell proclaimed Arendt’s portrayal of Eichmann a “masterpiece,” a “terrifying expressionist invention applied with a force no imitator could rival.” Others excoriated Arendt as a self-hating Jew. Lionel Abel charged that Eichmann “comes off so much better in her book than do his victims.” Nearly every major literary and philosophical figure in New York chose sides in what the writer Irving Howe called a “civil war” among New York intellectuals — a war, he later predicted, that might “die down, simmer,” but will perennially “erupt again.” So it has.

The op/ed continues to explore reviews of the film, and how Arendt’s work is still causing controversy so many years since it was first published.

Lastly, big news in Atlanta this week, LUN LUN THE GIANT PANDA GIVES BIRTH TO TWINS!

Lun Lun, a 15-year-old giant panda, gave birth to twins on July 15, 2013. The first of the tiny duo arrived at 6:21 p.m., and its twin followed at 6:23 p.m. The cubs are the first giant pandas to be born in the U.S. in 2013 and the first twins to be born in the U.S. since 1987.

The babies are doing great and according to a news release today…are healthy and fine.   Zoo Atlanta has a Panda Cam up and running, so I wanted to give you that link:

Zoo Atlanta Panda Cam

Panda Updates

Tuesday, July 16
The panda team is tired and a little stressed, but happy! So far, both cubs are doing well. We are fortunate that both were born a healthy weight and strong. Sometimes one twin is very small. As you all know, Lun Lun is a fantastic mom, and she’s even more impressive this time. The cubs are being alternated with her, which is a technique first developed by our colleagues in Chengdu and used successfully for many cubs. Lun Lun is such a good mom, though, that she is reluctant to give up whichever cub she has. So, we have not been able to swap the cubs as frequently as we would like. Because of that, both have been supplemented with some formula. Both are doing well with this. Their condition and Lun Lun’s behavior will continue to guide our actions. The next few days are especially critical. So, please continue to keep us in your thoughts. We can use the good vibes!
Rebecca Snyder, PhD, 
Curator of Mammals

There is so much information at that link to the Zoo Atlanta website, but I just want to add one more graphic which illustrates how amazing this little baby’s growth timeline really is:

Panda Developmental Timeline

Isn’t it wonderful?

Hope you have a fabulous day today, and try to stay cool out there. See you down in the comments, what are you reading and thinking about today?


Thursday Reads

coffee-and-morning-news-tim-nyberg

Good Morning!!

Unfortunately there is quite a bit of bad news breaking right now.

I’ll start with the collapse of the factory in Bangladesh.

From the Independent UK: Rescuers battle on as toll rises to 175 at collapsed Dhaka factory block that supplied Primark

Rescuers in Bangladesh are battling to save those trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building that contained garment factories as the death toll soared to at least 175. Many more hundreds of people were injured.

Hundreds of members of rescue teams, assisted by members of the military, frantically tried to clear rubble and debris amid fears that the death toll could rise yet higher.

The eight-storey building containing the factories which produced garments for several Western brands including Primark and Walmart, had been inspected on Tuesday and was found to have cracks.

But officials said the owners of the building assured the 2,000-odd employees that there was no danger and told them to carry on with their work….

The cracks were discovered on Tuesday and were so big that the local television news channel made a report about them. Staff from a bank that is housed in the same building were evacuated. However, the garment factories kept their staff working

Bangladesh factory collapse

Bangladesh factory collapse

CTV News: Collapsed Bangladesh factories ignored evacuation, officials say

With deep cracks visible in the walls, police had ordered a Bangladesh garment building evacuated the day before its deadly collapse, but the factories flouted the order and kept more than 2,000 people working, officials said Thursday. More than 200 people died when a huge section of the eight-story building splintered into a pile of concrete.

The disaster in the Dhaka suburb of Savar came less than five months after a blaze killed 112 people in a garment factory and underscored the unsafe conditions faced by Bangladesh’s garment workers, who produce clothes for brands worn around the world. Some of the companies in the building that fell say their customers include retail giants such as Wal-Mart.

Hundreds of rescuers, some crawling through the maze of rubble in search of survivors and corpses, worked through the night and into Thursday amid the cries of the trapped and the wails of workers’ relatives gathered outside the building, called Rana Plaza, which housed numerous garment factories and a handful of other companies.

An AP photographer ventured into the rubble and talked to one man who was

pinned face down in the darkness between concrete slabs and next to two corpses. Mohammad Altab pleaded for help, but they were unable to free him.

“Save us, brother. I beg you, brother. I want to live,” moaned Altab, a garment worker. “It’s so painful here … I have two little children.”

Another survivor, whose voice could be heard from deep in the rubble, wept as he called for help.
“We want to live brother; it’s hard to remain alive here. It would have been better to die than enduring such pain to live on. We want to live. Please save us,” the man cried.

I linked to this Matthew Yglesias post in a comment last night, but I’m going to include it here again because it is just so disgusting: Different Places Have Different Safety Rules and That’s OK

It’s very plausible that one reason American workplaces have gotten safer over the decades is that we now tend to outsource a lot of factory-explosion-risk to places like Bangladesh where 87 people just died in a building collapse.* This kind of consideration leads Erik Loomis to the conclusion that we need a unified global standard for safety, by which he does not mean that Bangladeshi levels of workplace safety should be implemented in the United States.

I think that’s wrong. Bangladesh may or may not need tougher workplace safety rules, but it’s entirely appropriate for Bangladesh to have different—and, indeed, lower—workplace safety standards than the United States.

The reason is that while having a safe job is good, money is also good. Jobs that are unusually dangerous—in the contemporary United States that’s primarily fishing, logging, and trucking—pay a premium over other working-class occupations precisely because people are reluctant to risk death or maiming at work. And in a free society it’s good that different people are able to make different choices on the risk–reward spectrum.

Um . . . No, it’s not okay. Read more at the link if you can stomach it.

Back in the USA, there have now been seven explosions on fuel barges in Alabama.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: Going Green and Non-Prada Pope Footwear

spdGood Morning and

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Hope everyone enjoys their day, I am also hopeful that today we see justice prevail. A verdict is expected in the Steubenville Rape Trial . We will let you know if and when the verdict does come down…

I will start this post off with some political news, CPAC is over, the conservative party has tried to rebrand their image…they sure haven’t changed one bit. Not that I expected anything different, but the conservative nut cases definitely made some people feel unwelcome to the party.

The CPAC Hits Keep on Comin': Black Man Tossed Out After Wingnut Screams at Him, ‘Race Doesn’t Matter’

Another graphic example of the right wing’s “minority outreach:” CPAC: Black Man Tossed Out After Breitbart Hack Screams at Him ‘Race Doesn’t Matter’.

In this video from CPAC, a black man seems like he sincerely interested in helping find a way for conservatives to appeal to other African Americans, but then he suddenly gets screamed on by a white guy who insists that “race doesn’t matter.” Which in short, summarizes why the Republicans continually lose the vote of any group that doesn’t have white skin.

And the whole scene was caught on tape:

And if you think this was the only disgusting racist outburst at CPAC you would be mistaken…When The GOP Told Whitey I Aint Gonna Take It No More

Yesterday, a CPAC breakout session on reaching out to black voters broke down in shouting and acrimony as a handful of ‘disenfranchised whites’ attacked the premise of the session (along with black complaints about slaveholders), got into a verbal fight with a black female attendee and with all that managed to unite the crowd against the black woman as the one who somehow spoiled all the fun.

TPM’s Benjy Sarlin was there right as it was all happening and wrote this eye-popping account in more or less real time.

[…]

the bigger thing coming out of this raucous event isn’t what the one or two people said — though that was probably enough to be the takeaway for many for the entire conference — as the fact that the whole imbroglio ended with denunciations of the black woman who was the one person to go into freak out mode — pretty understandably — on hearing the merits of chattel slavery being argued in the 21st century at a panel on racial tolerance and outreach.

From the Benjy Sarlin link…Tea Party Event On Racial Tolerance Turns To Chaos As ‘Disenfranchised’ Arrive

A CPAC session sponsored by Tea Party Patriots and billed as a primer on teaching activists how to court black voters devolved into a shouting match as some attendees demanded justice for white voters and others shouted down a black woman who reacted in horror.

The session, entitled “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” was led by K. Carl Smith, a black conservative who mostly urged attendees to deflect racism charges by calling themselves “Frederick Douglass Republicans.”

Disruptions began when he started accusing Democrats of still being the party of the Confederacy — a common talking point on the right.

“I don’t care how much the KKK improved,” he said. “I’m not going to join the KKK. The Democratic Party founded the KKK.”

Lines like that drew shouts of praise from some attendees and murmurs of disapproval from one non-conservative black attendee, Kim Brown, a radio host and producer with Voice of Russia, a broadcasting service of the Russian government.

But then questions and answers began. And things went off the rails.

Heh…heh, sorry for the laugh, but what the hell would you expect with a discussion entitled “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?”

Scott Terry of North Carolina, accompanied by a Confederate-flag-clad attendee, Matthew Heimbach, rose to say he took offense to the event’s take on slavery. (Heimbach founded the White Students Union at Towson University and is described as a “white nationalist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

“It seems to be that you’re reaching out to voters at the expense of young white Southern males,” Terry said, adding he “came to love my people and culture” who were “being systematically disenfranchised.”

Smith responded that Douglass forgave his slavemaster.

“For giving him shelter? And food?” Terry said.

At this point the event devolved into a mess of shouting. Organizers calmed things down by asking everyone to “take the debate outside after the presentation.”

I have to quote a bit more of this TPM post because it is just too fantastic…

Brown, who took offense at the suggestion modern Democrats were descendants of the KKK, tried to ask a question later once things finally calmed down. She was booed and screamed at by audience members.

“Let someone else speak!” one attendee in Revolutionary War garb shouted.

“You’re not welcome!” a white-haired older woman yelled.

Eventually she asked a question. It was about whether Republicans should call out racist ads.

Attendees interviewed by TPM afterwards expressed outrage at the way the event turned out. Not at Terry and Heimbach — they were mad at Brown.

Chad Chapman, 21, one of the few black attendees, said overall he enjoyed the event — except “there were lots of interruptions, mainly because of the woman.”

I asked whether he was concerned about the question from Terry and Heimbach.

“No they were just telling the truth,” he said. You mean you agree blacks are systematically disenfranchising whites, I asked?

“I listen to anybody’s point of view, it doesn’t really matter,” he said.

A media scrum formed around Terry immediately after the close of the event. A woman wearing a Tea Party Patriots CPAC credential who had shouted down Brown earlier urged him not to give his name to the press.

She wouldn’t give her name either, but I asked her what she thought.

“Look, you know there’s no doubt the white males are getting really beat up right now, it’s unfair,” she said. “I agree with that. My husband’s one of them. But I don’t think there’s a clear understanding about what really is going on. He needs to read Frederick Douglass and I think that question should be asked to everyone in this room who is debating.”

Alright, just go to the link and read the rest…including a statement from K. Carl  Smith, the man who led the session…wow.

Ralph Nader is the author of this next link: Walmart Bosses and the Minimum Wage

Last weekend on a bright, sunny day a dozen of us demonstrated at shopping malls where Walmart has three of its giant stores, supplied heavily by products from China and other serf-wage countries. But outsourcing the jobs of its American suppliers to China was not the focus last Saturday. We were drawing attention to the plight of one million Walmart workers who are making far less than what Walmart workers made in 1968 when the minimum wage was the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $10.50 an hour today.

In 1968 Walmart was run by its founder, the legendary Sam Walton, who started with one store in Bentonville, Arkansas. Sam had to pay his workers wages that were worth much more than wages today because the law required him to do so.

The clenched-jawed CEO opposition to catching the minimum wage up with 1968 for their workers continues to manifest itself today. CEOs seem to have little concern for the budget-squeezed daily lives of their employees.

These days, however, Walmart is feeling some heat with the rising demand for increasing the stagnant federal minimum wage finally coming from Washington, backed by over 70 percent of the people in polls. A Walmart rival, the successful Costco, has a CEO who already endorsed a federal minimum wage over $10.00 an hour. Costco starts its entry-level workers at $11.50 per hour plus benefits that Walmart workers do not receive. As blogger Alan DiCara said, “Walmart’s benefits department is the U.S. taxpayer.”

Yup, and read the rest of Nader’s post. I’d comment more on the sad situation with Walmart employees….but you all are well aware of the difficulties that come with working for minimum wage.

One thing I find funny is this latest image of the new pope…or should I say…the poor man’s pope.

Francis Emerges

Pope Francis Holds An Audience With Journalists And The Media

Hey, look at that…no designer ruby slippers for Pope Francis. You can read Andrew Sullivan’s take on the new pope here.

Meanwhile, here in the states…North Dakota Passes Ban on Abortions After 6 Weeks of Pregnancy

The North Dakota legislature approved the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States on Friday, cutting off abortion access as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill, HB 1456, makes it illegal for doctors to perform an abortion if a heartbeat is detectable in the fetus—something that can happen as little as six weeks after conception. It passed the Senate by a vote of 26 to 17, and will now head to the desk of Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

North Dakota lawmakers have been considering a variety of anti-abortion bills. While this wasn’t their most extreme option—another bill would have outlawed all abortions, period—it does mean that North Dakota now has the most restrictive abortion law in the country. This comes just over a week after Arkansas claimed the crown for most restrictive abortion laws, passing a twelve-week ban.

This new law will more than likely be challenged in court, but damn…six weeks? That is ridiculous.

Now for some real interesting stories…in link dump fashion.

Remains of Teutonic Knights Identified

Polish archaeologists have identified the remains of three grand masters of the Teutonic Knights, a medieval religious and military order that ruled much of the Baltic coast in the late Middle Ages.

Take a look at this post and you may find something new to read…New Books on the Middle Ages: March | Medieval News

There is a beautiful gallery here about Science as art: Photography competition brings the two disciplines together

Albert Einstein’s claim that “The greatest scientists are artists as well,” is illustrated by some of the contenders for a photography competition at Cambridge University on Tuesday.

And since it is St. Patrick’s Day, we will end with something green…Globe glows green: It’s St Patrick’s Day fever

 

Sláinte is the traditional greeting today, and the normal toast is made with a pint of a certain black stout. More extreme fans of St Patrick’s Day – as found among those of Irish descent in the US – will be dressing in as much green as they can lay their hands on, painting their faces and even dyeing their hair.

This year, in celebration of the Celtic saint’s day, more than 40 international landmarks are being lit in green. From the pyramids and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to the Sydney Opera House and South Africa’s Table Mountain: some of the most recognised man-made and geographical attractions will join a host of British landmarks to “go green”.

Be sure to check out those go green images at the link.

So what are you doing today? Share your thoughts with us…


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?


Sunday Round-Up

coffee birdGood Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quimby never saw it coming.

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

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

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

Photo via the Library of congress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You ready for this?

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

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

Holy Ceviche! That is some powerful jaws…

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

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

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

Lots more at the link.

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

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

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

Frost flowers in the central Arctic Ocean.

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


Sunday Reads: Other Things

lion

Good Morning

Just some links to get us started this morning, I am sure that there will be more information about the mass murders in Newtown, Connecticut. Check the comment section below for updates.

I have to share these two links with you however, first is this one…from Susie Madrak…thank you for posting this link Susie! We need to talk about mental illness. 

‘I am Adam Lanza’s mother’ | Suburban Guerrilla

This is also very sad. And infuriating. Hey, let’s cut some more mental health funding!

Friday’s horrific national tragedy—the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New Town, Connecticut—has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

[...]

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

Please read that post and share it!

Then there is this shit: Westboro Baptist Church Members Say They Will Protest In Sandy Hook

It is 3:33am, and I lay in bed…unable to breathe. I thought if I added these two stories to my post I could somehow fall asleep. I am sick with all this, it is horrifying…. Please…make it stop.

Now for some stories that caught my eye this past week.

Glenn Greenwald looks at HSBC, too big to jail, is the new poster child for US two-tiered justice system

The US is the world’s largest prison state, imprisoning more of its citizens than any nation on earth, both in absolute numbers and proportionally. It imprisons people for longer periods of time, more mercilessly, and for more trivial transgressions than any nation in the west. This sprawling penal state has been constructed over decades, by both political parties, and it punishes the poor and racial minorities at overwhelmingly disproportionate rates.

Lanny Breuer, HSBC

Assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer said taking away HSBC’s US banking licence could have cost thousands of jobs. Photograph: Richard Drew/AP

But not everyone is subjected to that system of penal harshness. It all changes radically when the nation’s most powerful actors are caught breaking the law. With few exceptions, they are gifted not merely with leniency, but full-scale immunity from criminal punishment. Thus have the most egregious crimes of the last decade been fully shielded from prosecution when committed by those with the greatest political and economic power: the construction of a worldwide torture regime, spying on Americans’ communications without the warrants required by criminal law by government agencies and the telecom industry, an aggressive war launched on false pretenses, and massive, systemic financial fraud in the banking and credit industry that triggered the 2008 financial crisis.

This is ridiculous, more at the link, in fact Greenwald has updated the post since it originally was published on 12/12/12.

From ProPublica, a report on the US water supply.  Poisoning the Well: How the Feds Let Industry Pollute the Nation’s Underground Water Supply

Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation’s drinking water.

In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.

EPA records show that portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers have been written off because exemptions have allowed them to be used as dumping grounds.

“You are sacrificing these aquifers,” said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado and a member of a National Science Foundation team studying the effects of energy development on the environment. “By definition, you are putting pollution into them. … If you are looking 50 to 100 years down the road, this is not a good way to go.”

As part of an investigation into the threat to water supplies from underground injection of waste, ProPublica set out to identify which aquifers have been polluted.

That is just the beginning, go read the rest when you have time.

Okay, we’ve had links to outrages regarding the Fed and DoJ, and the EPA. Now on to the latest news about Obamacare…and Walmart.  Walmart Workers At Risk In States Rejecting Obamacare Medicaid Expansion

If state governors follow through on plans to oppose the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, one substantial group of low-wage workers appears vulnerable to going without medical coverage: people who work at Walmart.

The world’s largest retailer recently outlined a new policy that will exclude from health coverage newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week, as The Huffington Post reported this month. Experts described that move as an attempt by Walmart to shift the burden of providing health coverage to the government — specifically, to Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor.

Isn’t it wonderful? /snark.

I’ve got another article to share with you, this time it is on various Federal District Courts: Help Wanted On The Federal Bench – The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Beast

Robert Kuttner points out that there “are now more than 100 vacancies on the federal bench, out of some 856 federal district and appellate judges, far more than on the day Obama took office”

Y’all know what this means. Why are there so many vacancies left open by the Obama Administration?

The rest of today’s links are listed below…

Tattoos Illustrate Art of Saving Lives- Voice of America

Prince is still king, say Hot Chip | Music | The Guardian

Democratic Congressman Delivers Lengthy Apology For Using The Word ‘Midget’ On House Floor | Mediaite ( I include this link for obvious reasons.)

Finally, later in the week, TCM will be showing one of the best movies of film noir, Double Indemnity staring Babara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, and directed by Billy Wilder. So in connection to this film, check out the two videos below. From the Carol Burnette Show:

Double Calamity

See you all in the comments later on today.