Fat Tuesday Reads

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

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

Good Morning!!

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

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

From IB Times:

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

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

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

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

Rasberry pakzi

Rasberry pakzi

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

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

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

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

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

Paczki.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In winter weather news . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hardest hit areas, according to NBC today:

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

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

More news links

Judge Andrew S. Hanen

Judge Andrew S. Hanen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest at the link.

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

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

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

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

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


Lazy Saturday Reads: Will Roger Goodell’s Handling of #DeflateGate Be the Final Straw for NFL Owners? And Other News . . .

 cat on radiator1

Happy Saturday!!

I’m so tired of being cold. The Boston area tends to get a lot of snow–especially late in winter–but we rarely experience the frigid temperatures we’ve had this year. We usually get a lot of sun and temperatures in the 20-30+ range in the winter months. This year we have had many gloomy days in the teens and nighttime temperature in the single numbers. My house isn’t particularly well-insulated, and my furnace isn’t powerful enough to keep the house at 70 degrees when it’s that cold. Fortunately we enter February tomorrow and spring is on the way, even though it doesn’t feel like it yet.

On mornings like this one, I wish I could drape myself over a radiator and sleep for 16 hours a day like a cat. Honestly, I have to admit I’ve been taking a lot of catnaps lately to deal with a cold that isn’t all that bad but just keeps hanging on. Between that and following the buildup to the Super Bowl, I’ve been kind of ignoring politics for the time being. The 2016 race will begin to heat up soon enough, and the antics of the GOP Congress are just too depressing for me to want to know the gory details.

cute-kitten-sleeping-in-radiator

I haven’t written anything yet about the recent attacks on my beloved New England Patriots, but since it’s the Saturday before the Super Bowl, I’m going to write a little about it today.

I understand that most people around the country hate the Pats for the same reasons everyone hated the Yankees when I was a kid. They always seemed to be winning, and we got so sick of having to watch them in the World Series. Not to mention that their fans were unbearably arrogant and obnoxious. Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, I learned to root for the underdog.

At the beginning of the football season this year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in hot water over the mild 2-game suspension he handed out to Ray Rice after the league learned that the Baltimore Ravens running back had punched his then-girlfriend Janay Palmer in the face in a Las Vegas elevator in February 2014, knocking her unconscious. Rice was arrested and charged with aggravated assault.

After video surfaced of the incident, Goodell turned around and suspended Rice indefinitely (this arbitrary decision was later overturned). After that the media began calling attention to other cases of domestic violence by NFL players, and many people called for Goodell to be fired. At the time, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was one of the few team owners to publicly support the commissioner. Goodell survived and the controversy died down temporarily.

Now Goodell has made an enemy of Kraft. Will a silly controversy about deflated footballs lead to Goodell’s final downfall? I’m not going to get into the details of “Deflate Gate,” but I’ve followed the story closely, and at this point I’m convinced that whole thing is ridiculous.

At first I was stunned by the accusations and then I began to believe that the Patriots must have done something wrong. But over time, I’ve concluded that the whole thing was a tempest in a teapot, and I’ve reached the point where I’m embracing the hatred and laughing about the whole thing.

cat on radiator5

I’m not a huge fan of the Super Bowl, but to me it seems stupid that this year’s game has been overshadowed by this ludicrous controversy. I think it’s time for Roger Goodell to go, and now that he has lost the support of one of the NFL’s most powerful owners–and one of Goodell’s bosses–it might actually happen. As former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue told CQ Magazine, Goodell doesn’t seem to understand the value of treating the players like adults and working for peace and understanding rather than enraging everyone.

Tagliabue also said that Goodell hasn’t spoken to him since the former commissioner vacated Goodell’s ridiculously over-the-top punishment of another winning team–the New Orleans Saints–for supposedly paying bounties to players for big hits during games in 2011. This practice was common around the league and none of the hits by Saints players had lead to serious injuries. Tagliabue felt that it was unfair to penalize one team so harshly for behavior that was widely tolerated around the league, and he overturned the punishment after Goodell asked him to review the case.

Why would the NFL commissioner want to tear down winning teams? It doesn’t make sense unless you understand that the NFL doesn’t like dynasties. Here’s a piece from the Bleacher Report from 2009 about another scandal involving the New England Patriots.

Cat basking in the radiator

The Truth About Spygate: Punishing Success and Promoting Parity.

Excellence isn’t against NFL rules—at least not yet.

 But, the league punishes success anyway.

 They punish success to achieve parity among the teams. In theory, when more teams have a chance to win it all, the ratings are higher. That means more advertising dollars for the networks and bigger TV contracts for the league.

 Twelve games into the season and your team has four wins and eight losses?

 Keep watching.

 They still have a chance, just like the 2008 Chargers.

 Current rules allow scenarios where nine win teams make the playoffs and go to Super Bowls, while 11 win teams miss the playoffs….

They don’t want dominant teams. They want mediocrity. They don’t want dynasties.

They want to spread the wealth.

So, the league punishes successful teams, hoping to weaken them, and rewards bad teams, hoping to strengthen them.

Read the rest of that article to learn why the Patriots were punished with a trumped-up scandal over something every other team was doing.

cat on radiator8

So far the strategy has worked with the Saints, but maybe they can still turn it around. I hope so. After “spygate,” the Patriots refused to lie down and die. They just kept winning, and Goodell and some other team owners and coaches resented it. I think Goodell’s ham-handed strategy for promoting parity is bullshit. There have to be other ways of doing it than ruining the NFL’s most important event–the Super Bowl–and humiliating players and coaches who have worked their asses off to achieve excellence.

Rhode Island sportswriter Tom E. Curran has followed the Patriots since the late 1990s. At the beginning of “deflategate,” he thought that the Pats had cheated, but he gradually learned that the NFL had zero evidence to show any wrongdoing by the team;  and yesterday after Roger Goodell gave his “state of the NFL” speech, Curran wrote a scathing response.

Goodell Deflategate stance shows he’s a fraud.

Congrats, Roger. You successfully debased your marquee event.

You allowed one of your marquee franchises to be devalued.

You allowed the legacies of a Hall of Fame quarterback and coach to be battered.

You watched with disinterest as one of the league’s visionary owners and most influential proponents had his influence siphoned and his investment diminished.

Your NFL has bookended the 2014 season with two perfect embarrassments.

First, the wink, wink “investigation” into Ray Rice punching his fiancee into unconsciousness which exploded on the Monday morning after the season openers.

Now, a vindictive, self-important, spare-no-expense investigation into footballs being less than 12.5 PSI during the AFC Championship.

And there you were Friday, Roger, on a rainy morning in Phoenix – two days before the best two teams in the NFL will play a game that’s been terribly overshadowed – puffing out your chest.

Read about Curran’s evolution on the deflategate issue at the link.

cat on radiator7

Here’s his conclusion:

The NFL had to know it had no numbers written down before Monday dawned. But the leaks of leaky balls flowed. The NFL had a choice. Step up and say, “Look, this is standard stuff, we frequently do a review of procedures and we are not alleging any wrongdoing by anyone. We just have to make sure our footballs aren’t defective.” Or do nothing and let the whisper campaign turn into a full-throated, planetary roar that the Patriots are cheaters.

The NFL chose the latter.

And everybody’s paying for it.

The league itself. The players. The coaches. The fans.

The revenue streams keep cascading and because of that, Goodell’s 32 bosses can go to sleep every night knowing that, no matter how bad it gets, it will never slow to a trickle.

Still, he’s got to be congratulated for finding a way to let the Super Bowl be overshadowed. Seemed impossible.

The only thing that can save the week now will be the game itself. I think it will.

What will save the reputation of Roger Goodell? Nothing.

We’ll find out about the game tomorrow night. Goodell may stick around for a little while, but I think his goose is cooked.

I’ll end this diatribe with a hilarious video that finally dissolved all my resentment over what has happened over the past two weeks of deflate gate hype.

Now that I’ve bored you stiff with my obnoxious Boston fan routine, here are some other stories you may find interesting.

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone: While Deflategate and Chaitgate Rage, America Quietly Robs Its Elderly.

NYT: Support Waning, Romney Decides Against 2016 Bid.

WaPo: Up to foot of snow possible for Midwest, Northeast.

OMG!! CNN: Mary Cheney: Why is drag ‘socially acceptable’ and blackface isn’t?

Raw Story: Drag queens respond to Mary Cheney’s question of why drag is acceptable if blackface isn’t

Reihan Salam at Slate: The Upper Middle Class Is Ruining America. And I want it to stop.

cat on radiator10

Michael Moore on Facebook: The Day Clint Eastwood Said He Would “Kill” Me, 10 Years Ago This Week.

Michael Schiavo at Politico: Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’.

Talking Points Memo: Jeb Bush’s Former Classmates Say He Was A Hash-Smoking Bully.

Nina Burleigh at Newsweek: What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women.

Talking Points Memo: The Sounds of Solidarity: Remembering Pete Seeger at Selma.

From The New Yorker, April 10, 1965: Letter from Selma, by Renata Adler.

RedOrbit via Raw Story: ‘Horrific’ pre-historic shark makes a rare appearance in Australian waters.

Georg Gray: Rare Historic Photos You’ll Never Forget.

What else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread and have a fabulous Super Bowl weekend!

 


Thursday Reads

painting by Vladimir Tokarev

painting by Vladimir Tokarev

Good Morning!!

I’m getting a slow start today. I guess it must be because I’m so cold. I’ve been up since 6AM, but I’ve been dawdling around reading the news, sipping hot tea, and writing nothing. It’s still only 66 degrees in my house even though I have the thermostat turned up pretty high. My furnace isn’t build to handle below zero temperatures, and at 9AM it is still -3 degrees where I live.

The local NPR weather reporter warned that frostbite can happen in minutes when the temperatures are this low and the wind chill factor is much lower. Schools around here are closed, as are many schools around the country. I need to go out sometime today, so I’m hoping the temperatures will get into the teens by this afternoon. The good news is, there isn’t any snow out there.

According to Dave Collins of the AP, via the Charlotte Observer things are going to get worse before they get better.

Another Alberta clipper barreling down from Canada is bringing more bad winter weather to the Dakotas.

The National Weather Service has posted a variety of blizzard and winter weather advisories, watches and warnings for the Dakotas through Thursday. Not a lot of snow is expected, but winds gusting to 50 mph will blow around the snow that’s on the ground.

In Minnesota, forecasters expect blizzard conditions to develop in a portion of the River Valley. Weather officials say wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph combined with fresh snow will significantly reduce visibility, especially in open, rural areas. A blizzard warning was posted in an area from Granite Falls southeast to Mankato and Albert Lea.

Thank goodness I live in temperate New England, and not the upper Midwest!

Besides the weather, the big story in the news today is the shooting rampage at Charlie Habdo magazine in Paris yesterday.

Vigil in Paris for the Charlie Hebdo victims (NPR)

Vigil in Paris for the Charlie Hebdo victims (NPR)

 

Some background from BBC News:

Charlie Hebdo: Gun attack on French magazine kills 12.

Four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor, were among those killed, as well as two police officers….

The masked attackers opened fire with assault rifles in the office and exchanged shots with police in the street outside before escaping by car. They later abandoned the car in Rue de Meaux, northern Paris, where they hijacked a second car….

Witnesses said they heard the gunmen shouting “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great” in Arabic (“Allahu Akbar”)….

Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, 47, had received death threats in the past and was living under police protection.

French media have named the three other cartoonists killed in the attack as Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski, as well as Charlie Hebdo contributor and French economist Bernard Maris….

The satirical weekly has courted controversy in the past with its irreverent take on news and current affairs. It was firebombed in November 2011 a day after it carried a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.

The latest tweet on Charlie Hebdo’s account was a cartoon of the Islamic State militant group leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Solidaire avec charlie hepdo by herve pinel

Cartoonists responded to the killings by posting cartoons on twitter. You can see some of them at the links below.

From Euro News, The power of the pen: Cartoonists worldwide react to the Charlie Hebdo attack.

From Buzzfeed, 23 Heartbreaking Cartoons From Artists Responding To The Charlie Hebdo Shooting.

One of the gunmen is in custody, but two are still free, NPR reported yesterday.

French police have taken Hamyd Mourad, 18, into custody after he surrendered to authorities, according to multiple French news outlets. Mourad had been sought in relation to a murderous attack on a satirical magazine’s Paris office Wednesday, but it’s not certain whether he was involved. An ID card belonging to Mourad was reportedly found in the gunmen’s car.

The two central suspects in the attack remain at large; regional police issued a new plea for help in finding two French-born brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, both in their 30s.

They’re believed to be the gunmen who used powerful assault rifles to kill journalists and police officers at the office of the weekly Charlie Hebdo around midday Wednesday.

A police bulletin sought the public's help in finding two suspects in the deadly attack on a satirical magazine's Paris offices Wednesday. Pictured are brothers Cherif (left) and Said Kouachi.

A police bulletin sought the public’s help in finding two suspects in the deadly attack on a satirical magazine’s Paris offices Wednesday. Pictured are brothers Cherif (left) and Said Kouachi.

La prefecture de Police

The Kouachi brothers are said to be French citizens.

This morning, news broke that a policewoman had been killed in Paris, but it was not yet clear that the perpetrators of the magazine attack were involved.

A policewoman was killed in a shootout in southern Paris, but police sources could not immediately confirm a link with Wednesday’s killings at the Charlie Hebdo weekly newspaper that marked the worst attack on French soil for decades.

National leaders and allied states described the assault on Charlie Hebdo, known for its lampooning of Islam and other religions as well as politicians, as an assault on democracy. The bells of Notre-Dame cathedral rang out during a minute’s silence observed across France and beyond….

Montrouge Mayor Jean-Loup Metton said the policewoman and a colleague were attending a reported traffic accident when Thursday’s shooting occurred. Witnesses said the assailant fled in a Renault Clio and police sources said he wore a bullet-proof vest and had a handgun and assault rifle.

But one police officer at the scene told Reuters he did not appear to resemble the Charlie Hebdo shooters.

The Guardian is covering this story heavily, with  live updates on the manhunt.

I am Charlie

A recent story from The Guardian: Police place security cordon around Paris in hunt for Charlie Hebdo killers.

The French president, François Hollande, has led a minute’s silence for the victims of Wednesday’s attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, as police placed a tight security cordon around Paris amid an atmosphere of heightened tension and confusion.

With the search for the gunmen in its second day, there were unconfirmed reports that the suspects had been seen in the Aisne region of north-east France.

In a briefing on Thursday morning, Bernard Cazeneuve, France’s interior minister, said that seven arrests were made overnight, but the two main suspects, brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, were still at large.

There was a heavy police presence at each of the “portes” – the main roads leading into the city – amid unconfirmed reports that the suspects were heading back towards the French capital “at high speed” in a grey Renault Clio.

The two men were reportedly seen in the Aisne region, but the reports were confused. Some French media suggested they had been picked up by cameras at a péage (road toll) stop. Others said they had been identified by the owner of a petrol station near Villers-Cotterêts and a number of reports went even further, suggesting the two men had robbed the petrol station and made off with fuel and food.

The reports suggested that heavy weapons including, allegedly, a Kalashnikov and a rocket launcher, could be seen in the rear of the vehicle.

However, apart from images of areas of Paris, like the north-western suburb of Levallois, completely sealed off and heavily armed police and armoured vehicles at the portes of the city, the reports were unconfirmed and there was no indication that police had located the vehicle.

 

Oh no

 

Two reactions to the Paris killings:

Juan Cole, Sharpening Contradictions: Why al-Qaeda attacked Satirists in Paris.

The horrific murder of the editor, cartoonists and other staff of the irreverent satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, along with two policemen, by terrorists in Paris was in my view a strategic strike, aiming at polarizing the French and European public.

The problem for a terrorist group like al-Qaeda is that its recruitment pool is Muslims, but most Muslims are not interested in terrorism. Most Muslims are not even interested in politics, much less political Islam. France is a country of 66 million, of which about 5 million is of Muslim heritage. But in polling, only a third, less than 2 million, say that they are interested in religion. French Muslims may be the most secular Muslim-heritage population in the world (ex-Soviet ethnic Muslims often also have low rates of belief and observance). Many Muslim immigrants in the post-war period to France came as laborers and were not literate people, and their grandchildren are rather distant from Middle Eastern fundamentalism, pursuing urban cosmopolitan culture such as rap and rai. In Paris, where Muslims tend to be better educated and more religious, the vast majority reject violence and say they are loyal to France.

Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination.

This tactic is similar to the one used by Stalinists in the early 20th century. Decades ago I read an account by the philosopher Karl Popper of how he flirted with Marxism for about 6 months in 1919 when he was auditing classes at the University of Vienna. He left the group in disgust when he discovered that they were attempting to use false flag operations to provoke militant confrontations. In one of them police killed 8 socialist youth at Hörlgasse on 15 June 1919. For the unscrupulous among Bolsheviks–who would later be Stalinists– the fact that most students and workers don’t want to overthrow the business class is inconvenient, and so it seemed desirable to some of them to “sharpen the contradictions” between labor and capital.

More at the link.

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George Packer at The New Yorker, The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders.

The murders today in Paris are not a result of France’s failure to assimilate two generations of Muslim immigrants from its former colonies. They’re not about French military action against the Islamic State in the Middle East, or the American invasion of Iraq before that. They’re not part of some general wave of nihilistic violence in the economically depressed, socially atomized, morally hollow West—the Paris version of Newtown or Oslo. Least of all should they be “understood” as reactions to disrespect for religion on the part of irresponsible cartoonists.

They are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades. It’s the same ideology that sent Salman Rushdie into hiding for a decade under a death sentence for writing a novel, then killed his Japanese translator and tried to kill his Italian translator and Norwegian publisher. The ideology that murdered three thousand people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The one that butchered Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam, in 2004, for making a film. The one that has brought mass rape and slaughter to the cities and deserts of Syria and Iraq. That massacred a hundred and thirty-two children and thirteen adults in a school in Peshawar last month. That regularly kills so many Nigerians, especially young ones, that hardly anyone pays attention.

Because the ideology is the product of a major world religion, a lot of painstaking pretzel logic goes into trying to explain what the violence does, or doesn’t, have to do with Islam. Some well-meaning people tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at most, the violence represents a “distortion” of a great religion. (After suicide bombings in Baghdad, I grew used to hearing Iraqis say, “No Muslim would do this.”) Others want to lay the blame entirely on the theological content of Islam, as if other religions are more inherently peaceful—a notion belied by history as well as scripture.

A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique.

Click on the link to read the rest.

What else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread and have a great day!


Friday Reads

morning-coffee

Good Morning!!

 

I’m going to begin with some good news today.

It looks like the coming winter will be on the mild side. From Discovery News: Winter Forecast for US Nothing to Shiver About.

Don’t expect the polar vortex to pummel the eastern United States this winter, government scientists said today (Oct. 16).

Overall, forecasters expect mild winter conditions across much of the United States, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said as they issued their annual winter weather outlook.

While there’s always a chance that the polar jet stream will again funnel frigid Arctic air south toward the United States, nothing in the new forecast indicates a rerun of the persistent patterns responsible for the “polar vortex.” “We do not expect to see a repeat of last winter,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Developing El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean will influence this year’s winter weather, with wet conditions forecast from Southern California to South Carolina, and dry conditions expected across the North. Temperatures will be warmer than average in the West and in New England, but colder in the South from Texas east to Florida, according to the forecast.

I hope they’re right!

Now for the latest Ebola news . . .

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Why can’t Dallas hospital workers just stay home until they’re cleared? From The Washington Post: Texas hospital worker quarantined on cruise ship in Caribbean.

A Texas health-care worker who “may have” handled lab specimens from Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan has been isolated on board a Carnival cruise ship in the Caribbean. The worker has shown no symptoms of the disease, according to Carnival, which said it is in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control. A Carnival spokeswoman said the guest, who was not named, will remain on board in voluntary isolation until the ship returns to its home port of Galveston on Sunday.

The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital employee and a partner boarded the ship Oct. 12 in Galveston, Tex., before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the requirement for active monitoring, the State Department said in a statement. Although the worker is healthy, the U.S. government is working with the cruise line to get the ship back to America “out of an abundance of caution.”

The employee, who has not been named, did not come into direct contact with Duncan, the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. However, he or she may have been exposed to his clinical specimens, the State Department said.

“It has been 19 days since the passenger may have processed” Duncan’s fluid samples, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement early Friday morning. “The cruise line has actively supported CDC’s efforts to speak with the individual, whom the cruise ship’s medical doctor has monitored and confirmed was in good health. Following this examination, the hospital employee and traveling partner have voluntarily remained isolated in a cabin.”

Belize refused to allow the woman (gender identified by news release) to be leave the ship so she could be evacuated by the U.S.

In its own statement Thursday, the the Belize government said it “was contacted today by officers of the U.S. Government and made aware of a cruise ship passenger considered of very low risk for Ebola….Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, the Government of Belize decided not to facilitate a U.S. request for assistance in evacuating the passenger through the Phillip Goldson International Airport.”

Now that the horses are out of the barn, so to speak, officials in Texas have decided to close the barn doors. From USA Today: Travel Ban for Texas health care workers in Ebola case.

Texas health officials have ordered any person who entered the room of the first Ebola patient at a Dallas hospital not to travel by public transport, including planes ship, buses or trains, or visit groceries, restaurants or theaters for 21 days, until the danger of developing Ebola has passed.

The instructions, issued by the Texas Department of State Health Service late Thursday, cover more than 70 health workers involved in providing care for Thomas Duncan, the Liberian national who became the first patient to test positive for Ebola in the United States.

Duncan died Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

The hospital workers were ordered to undergo monitoring twice a day, including one face-to-face encounter.

The health department said anyone failing to adhere to the rules “may be subject to a communicable disease control order.” The health workers were asked to sign a written acknowledgement of the directions when they appear for monitoring.

Amber Vinson

Amber Vinson

According to The Hill, the CDC has now decided it needs to talk to passengers who were on Amber Vinson’s flight from Dallas to Cleveland. Vinson is the second nurse to come down with Ebola after caring for Thomas Duncan, who died of the disease last week.

After reports that she may have shown symptoms on her flight back to Dallas, the CDC asked those passengers to contact the agency. But in a release Thursday night, the CDC expanded that notification to include passengers on Vinson’s flight to Cleveland. The agency said that it wants to interview passengers and that “individuals who are determined to be at any potential risk will be actively monitored.”

Ebola is contagious once an infected person starts exhibiting symptoms, so the CDC wants to keep tabs on anyone that could have come into contact with Vinson when those symptoms began. She traveled to Cleveland on Oct. 10 and returned on Oct. 13, the day before she reported her symptoms to the CDC.

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives decided to get involved in the Ebola crisis, and it wasn’t pretty. BloombergPolitics compiled The Five Worst Questions from the House Ebola Hearing. According to the article, Democrats are wrong to claim that lack of funding made the situation worse. Republicans obsessed over banning travel into the U.S. and “securing the borders.” But the most ludicrous question came from Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA).

Representative Morgan Griffith wanted to know if humans can catch Ebola from dogs, and Frieden said there were no known incidents. But still, the Virginia Republican wanted to know if we could stem the flow of West African dogs traveling into America.

“Don’t you think we ought to at least restrict travel of dogs?” he asked.

“Um,” Frieden replied. “We’ll follow up in terms of what’s possible.”

In addition, President Obama held an “emergency meeting” at the White House yesterday.

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama said he was considering appointing an Ebola “czar” to coordinate the fight against the virus in the United States, but he remained opposed to a ban on travel from West Africa.

Obama’s administration is facing sharp criticism from lawmakers over its efforts to contain the disease at home. Obama authorized calling up military reservists for the U.S. fight against Ebola in West Africa on Thursday….

“It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person” to oversee efforts to contain Ebola, Obama told reporters, adding that experts have told him “a flat-out travel ban is not the way to go” because current screening measures at airports are working.

He said he had no philosophical objection to a travel ban but that some travelers might attempt to enter the United States by avoiding screening measures, which could lead to more Ebola cases, not fewer.

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A final dose of stupid came from Sen. Rand Paul, who told an audience of college students that you could catch Ebola by standing three feet from someone who is infected.

His comments directly conflict with statements from world health authorities who have dealt with Ebola outbreaks since 1976.

Paul…made his comments during a stop at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire Wednesday. In his remarks, he called Ebola “incredibly contagious” and suggested it could spread at a cocktail party attended by someone who is symptomatic, according to CNN video footage….

“You’re not going to get AIDS at a cocktail party. No one’s going to cough on you and you’re going to get AIDS. Everybody knows that. That’s what they make it sound exactly like,” Paul, a doctor and potential presidential contender, said Thursday at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. “But then you listen to them closely, they say you have to have direct contact. But you know how they define direct contact? Being within three feet of someone.”

World health authorities have been clear that Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, and that blood, vomit and feces carry the most virus. Health workers are at particular risk because in the course of caring for patients, they draw blood and clean up diarrhea when the patients are most infectious. Likewise in the epidemic zone in West Africa, people involved with burials of highly infectious bodies are at high risk.

In other news . . .

Bill Clinton is heading down to Louisiana on Monday to stump for Mary Landrieu, according to Politico.

Former President Bill Clinton will campaign in Louisiana Monday with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, joining the endangered incumbent in the state capital of Baton Rouge.

Clinton, unlike President Barack Obama, can be an effective surrogate in the red Southern states where the Democratic majority hangs in the balance.

The visit, Clinton’s second for Landrieu this election cycle, comes a day before the start of early voting, which runs from October 21-28.

Bill Clinton stumps for Coakley

I’ve been hoping Bill would find time to come to Massachusetts to campaign for Martha Coakley for Governor, and what do you know? He blew through here yesterday! He spoke at Clark University in Worcester.

WORCESTER — Former President Bill Clinton told a capacity crowd at Clark University today that elections are just one big job interview.

Speaking in Worcester in support of Martha Coakley’s run for governor, Mr. Clinton said Ms. Coakley’s actions and advocacy as attorney general indicate how well she will perform once she completes that job interview.

“All you’ve got to do,” he told more than 800 people who waited in a line the length of the Main South campus in monsoon-like conditions to get into Atwood Hall, “is increase the number of employers who make the hiring decision.”

Ms. Coakley, a Democrat, and her running mate, Steve Kerrigan of Lancaster, are in a tight race with Republican Charlie Baker and his running mate, Karyn Polito of Shrewsbury. Mr. Clinton tried to convince the crowd they had the potential to make it a landslide.

“I don’t care what the polls say, she can win this race handily if you want it bad enough,” Mr. Clinton said.

Now we just need Hillary to show up.

How about a little economics news? It seems people in Europe are getting fed up with Angela Merkel’s austerity obsession, according to the NYT. I can’t excerpt from the piece, but here’s a report from The Local in Italy:

Italy and France on Thursday reacted to turmoil in global stock markets by stepping up their calls for the European Union to switch course to focus on growth, not on balancing budgets.

But their calls were once again batted away by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who insisted the way out of the crisis was for all eurozone states to stick to agreed rules on the size of their deficits.

In the latest salvos in a simmering row that is set to come to head at a summit of EU leaders next week, Rome and Paris went on the offensive on the sidelines of the ASEM meeting in Milan.

“We in a very delicate moment in terms of the international economic and financial situation,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said.

“Which is all the more reason for Europe to show itself capable of producing an economic response based on investment in growth and not only on rigour and austerity,” Renzi said.

He also said a “focus on growth” was recommended by the IMF – “and they don’t seem to be dangerous communists to me”.

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According to UK Reuters, the U.S. has warned Europe about the possibility of deflation.

The United States on Wednesday renewed a warning that Europe risks falling into a downward spiral of falling wages and prices, saying recent actions by the European Central Bank may not be enough to ward off deflation.

In a semiannual report to Congress, the U.S. Treasury Department also said Berlin could do more to help Europe, namely by boosting demand in the German economy, Europe’s largest.

“Europe faces the risk of a prolonged period of substantially below-target inflation or outright deflation,” the Treasury said.

The Guardian today published a summary of Europe’s “five years of economic crisis.”

Finally, Janet Yellen has expressed concern over growing economic inequality in the U.S. Reuters reports:

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday the growth of economic inequality in the United States “greatly” concerned her, and suggested in a detailed speech on the politically charged issue that Americans should ask whether it was compatible with their values.

With global financial markets rebounding from days of frenzied selling, Yellen did not comment on the volatility or on monetary policy. Instead she focused on the gulf between rich and poor that has only grown wider over the last several decades and, she said, through the U.S. economic recovery.

“The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me,” Yellen told a conference on inequality at the Boston branch of the central bank.

“It is no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority,” she told economists, professors and community workers.

“I think it is appropriate to ask whether this trend is compatible with values rooted in our nation’s history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.”

Good for Yellen. Now let’s see some action beyond the words.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a fabulous Friday!!

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Tuesday Reads: More Snow, Mystery Plane, Joe McGinniss, Ed Snowden, and Ukraine Crisis

A Snowy Harvard Square in 1969

A Snowy Harvard Square in 1969

Good Morning!!

I’ve had a scary couple of days. I woke up on Sunday morning to find my house very cold. I soon realized there was something wrong with my furnace. It was still running and there was hot air coming out of the vents, but it wasn’t pushing out enough heat to warm up the house. It turned out the blower motor had died.

Why is it these things always seem to happen on a weekend or holiday? Luckily it hasn’t been terribly cold so I’ve managed to stay relatively comfortable by wearing lots of layers and using a portable electric heater. I was able to find someone to come and fix it yesterday. I got so relaxed that I overslept this morning, and so this post is going to be late.

So now I’m completely broke but warm, and I’m prepared for the upcoming snowstorm. Yes, the Weather Channel is predicting another one and has given it one of those annoying names. You can check out the predicted impact on your area in this summary article, Winter Storm Vulcan Forecast: Long Swath of Snow Across Rockies, Midwest, Northeast. I can only hope this one turns out to be a bust like the last one. Otherwise, I’ll be shoveling snow again on Friday.

The story of the missing Malaysion plane continues. Here are the latest reports:

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Reuters (via Nipawin Journal): Malaysia military tracked missing plane to west coast: Source

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s military believes a jetliner missing for almost four days turned and flew hundreds of kilometres to the west after it last made contact with civilian air traffic control off the country’s east coast, a senior officer told Reuters on Tuesday.

In one of the most baffling mysteries in recent aviation history, a massive search operation for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER has so far found no trace of the aircraft or the 239 passengers and crew.

Malaysian authorities have previously said flight MH370 disappeared about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for the Chinese capital Beijing.

“It changed course after Kota Bharu and took a lower altitude. It made it into the Malacca Strait,” the senior military officer, who has been briefed on investigations, told Reuters.

That would appear to rule out sudden catastrophic mechanical failure, as it would mean the plane flew around 500 km (350 miles) at least after its last contact with air traffic control, although its transponder and other tracking systems were off.

A non-military source familiar with the investigations said the report was one of several theories and was being checked.

Authorities are pretty sure there was no terrorism involved. At least one of the men with stolen passports was an asylum-seeker from Iran.

CBS News: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 search widens; men carrying stolen passports ID’d as young Iranians

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — At least one of the two men traveling on a missing Malaysian Airlines jetliner was an Iranian asylum seeker, officials said Tuesday, as baffled authorities expanded their search for the Boeing 777 on the opposite side of the country from where it disappeared nearly four days ago with 239 people on board.

In the absence of any sign that the plane was in trouble before it vanished, speculation has ranged widely, including pilot error, plane malfunction, hijacking and terrorism, the last because two passengers were traveling on stolen passports. The terrorism theory weakened after Malaysian authorities determined that one of the two men was an Iranian asylum seeker.

Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said at a news conference Tuesday that the international police agency had identified two Iranian men, Pouri Nour Mohammadi, 18, and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, 29. Noble said based on investigations carried out into the men to date, they were “probably not terrorists.” The chief of police in Kuala Lumpur said earlier in the day that Mohamadi was apparently trying to fly to Europe as an asylum seeker.

The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, on the western coast of Malaysia, early Saturday en route to Beijing. It flew overland across Malaysia and crossed the eastern coast into the Gulf of Thailand at 35,000 feet. There it disappeared from radar screens. The airline says the pilots didn’t send any distress signals, suggesting a sudden and possibly catastrophic incident.

hotshot_selling-of-the-president-1968

I was surprised and saddened last night to learn that Joe McGinniss has died at 71 of complications from inoperable prostate cancer. McGinniss was only 26 when his first book The Selling of the President 1968 hit the bestseller lists. I bought the book and read it way back then. I couldn’t put it down. Same thing with his pathbreaking true crime book on the Jeffrey MacDonald case, Fatal Vision. From the AP obituary (via First Post World),  ‘Fatal Vision’ author Joe McGinniss passes away at 71.

McGinniss was a columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1968 when an advertising man told him he was joining Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign. Intrigued that candidates had advertising teams, McGinniss was inspired to write a book and tried to get access to Humphrey. The Democrat turned him down, but, according to McGinniss, Nixon aide Leonard Garment allowed him in, one of the last times the ever-suspicious Nixon would permit a journalist so much time around him. Garment and other Nixon aides were apparently unaware, or unconcerned, that McGinniss’ heart was very much with the anti-war agitators the candidate so despised.

The Republican’s victory that fall capped a once-unthinkable comeback for the former vice president, who had declared six years earlier that he was through with politics. Having lost the 1960 election in part because of his pale, sweaty appearance during his first debate with John F. Kennedy and aware of his reputation as a partisan willing to play dirty, Nixon had restricted his public outings and presented himself as a new and more mature candidate.

McGinniss was far from the only writer to notice Nixon’s reinvention, but few offered such raw and unflattering details. “The Selling of the President” was a sneering rebuttal to Theodore H. White’s stately “Making of the President” campaign books. It revealed Nixon aides, including future Fox News chief Roger Ailes, disparaging vice presidential candidate Spiro Agnew, drafting memos on how to fix Nixon’s “cold” image and debating which black man — only one would be permitted — was right for participating in a televised panel discussion.

Historian David Greenberg wrote in “Nixon’s Shadow,” published in 2003, that McGinniss “sneaked in under the radar screen, presenting himself to Nixon’s men as such an insignificant fly on the wall that they never thought to swat him away.”

McGinnis was criticized for getting too close to Jeffrey McDonald and somehow betraying him, but I think McGinnis got it right. His contract stated that he would have full independence. He started out thinking McDonald could be innocent of the murders of his wife and two daughters, and he had an inside track on the defense; but in the end McGinnis concluded that MacDonald was guilty and wrote about his change of heart in the book.

Colette, Kimberly, and Kristin MacDonald

Colette, Kimberly, and Kristin MacDonald

From Reuters:

His 1983 book “Fatal Vision” became a classic of the true crime genre and was based on unlimited access he gained to former Green Beret Jeffrey MacDonald and his attorneys during MacDonald’s 1979 murder trial in the deaths of his pregnant wife and two young daughters in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

MacDonald, who at the time of the 1970 killings was an Army doctor, was found guilty and is serving three life sentences.

He has maintained the murders were committed by drug-crazed intruders. McGinniss had begun by expressing support for MacDonald but ended by concluding in his book that he was guilty of killing his family.

“I kept trying to find any reason I could to believe that he was not guilty,” McGinniss testified at a 2012 court hearing where MacDonald sought to be granted a new trial.

New Yorker magazine writer Janet Malcolm, in a 1989 article, accused McGinnis of displaying the underside of journalism by deceiving MacDonald with a show of support and then betraying his confidence, an argument McGinnis vehemently denied.

A terrific writer has left us far too soon.

Edward Snowden has been making more virtual appearances than a best-selling author on a publicity tour. Yesterday he was at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin Texas. I’m sure everyone here knows I’m not a fan of the pale and nerdy defector, so I’ll spare you my editorial comments and just give you a couple few links.

From Politico’s Josh Gerstein: Snowden Inc.

First, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden popped up in Hong Kong. Then, Russia. By Monday, the fugitive from justice, a man regularly accused of treason, was in Austin, Texas, hitting the nation’s hottest tech festival — via the Web, of course.

“They’re setting fire to the future of the Internet,” Snowden warned darkly, in jerky video relayed through a series of proxies from an undisclosed location in Russia. With an image of the U.S. Constitution projected behind him, he urged the tech-savvy SXSW attendees to ride to the rescue against rampant surveillance by the NSA and others. “The people who are in this room, now, you guys are all the firefighters, and we need you to help fight this,” he said, sounding every bit the geek as he described various encryption applications he believes should get wider use.

Snowden was painstaking in how he assembled a huge trove of top-secret documents while working as a tech contractor at an NSA facility in Hawaii. And he’s been equally deliberate in the way he and the team around him have crafted and cultivated his public image — controlling and carefully managing how he’s been perceived by the public in the months since he burst into the spotlight. It’s an endeavor that’s involved everything from coordinated efforts to beat back Obama administration attacks to the careful parceling out of tantalizing tidbits about his everyday life.

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Snowden is campaigning for clemency; but frankly, I hope he ends up stuck in Russia for life. Ooops! Sorry, that’s my last nasty comment. A couple more links:

The Verge: Edward Snowden: ‘Would I do it again? Absolutely yes’

The Washington Post: ‘They’re setting fire to the future of the Internet’

I’ll wrap this up with some interesting articles on the crisis in Ukraine.

Putin biographer Masha Gessen at the LA Times, Is Vladimir Putin insane? Hardly. He is merely acting the way he always has, like a playground bully.

Politico, Bill Clinton no fan of ‘crazy’ moves on Ukraine

Financial Times, Ukraine is a test case for American power: If the Chinese leadership were ever to ‘do a Putin’, how could the US and allies react?

Robert Shrum at The Daily Beast, Obama’s All Eisenhower On Russia: Like Ike before him, Obama’s non-moves against Russia are the right moves.

Now what stories are you following today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread, and have a terrific Tuesday!

Sunday Reads: All of you. They all looked alike, just one face. And it was very young.

Good Morning

February is one of the best months on TCM…the title of this post is a line from the movie Twelve O’Clock High (1949).

It is the first scene after the real footage of bombing raids shot by both the US allies and German combat film during the war. One of the administrators is drunk, and talking about all the letters he has written to the families of the airmen who have died. There have been so many of them….

Major Harvey Stovall: That is not why I am drunk tonight. I got drunk because I am confused. I was thinking, which is a thing a man should not do, and all at once I couldn’t remember what any of them looked like. I, I couldn’t see their faces, Bishop, Cobb, Wilson, Zimmy, all of them. All of you. They all looked alike, just one face. And it was very young. It confused me. I think I shall stay drunk until I’m not confused anymore.

“And it was very young.” That one sentence made me cry….78b85ed95ea84893a3e8ec6d7d08c150

Last night, this film from 1949 about World War II, something that I have seen so many times before…I even own the DVD.  For some reason that one line hit me more this viewing than all the other times I have seen this movie.  Why?

I don’t know…It is strange. Well, my grandfather was a mechanic on those planes during the war, so I guess that is why I always was fond of that movie. There was a connection to it.

You can see some more color pictures here: World War II in Color: American Bombers and Their Crews, 1942 | LIFE.com

As a jumping off point for countless bombing runs, including many in broad daylight, the United States Army Air Forces (the predecessor of the U.S. Air Force) set up bases in England during the war. In 1942, LIFE’s Margaret Bourke-White spent time with the Bomber Command — an assignment that LIFE shared with its readers in an October 1942 feature notable, although hardly surprising, all these years later for its triumphant tone:

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White with the U.S. Bomber Command in England, 1942.

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White with the U.S. Bomber Command in England, 1942.

The most potent U.S. force to hit the Nazis so far in this war is the Bomber Command, stationed in England. Operating Flying Fortresses, it is making attacks on German-occupied Europe as frequently as weather and operating conditions permit. To date, all the raids have been tremendously successful. From 25,000 feet, it has given a superb exhibition of precision bombing by hitting German factories, airfields, ships and oil refineries on the nose. In two months of operations, it has shot down more than 100 German fighters, lost less than six of its own bombers.

[NOTE: As the war dragged on, the bombers and their crews out of England would, inevitably, face steeper and more dramatic losses. On October 14, 1943, for example — “Black Thursday” — nearly 600 crew members and 60 Flying Fortresses were lost in a single raid against a ball-bearing factory in Schweinfurt, Germany.]

To photograph Bomber Command, LIFE sent photographer Margaret Bourke-White to the headquarters of Brigadier general Ira. C. Eaker, commander in chief of Bomber Command, and to one of the secret airfields from which the Flying Fortresses operate…. Miss Bourke-White’s pictures arrived in the U.S. just when the Bomber Command was making its biggest sorties.  Flying Fortresses roared out over the Channel and attacked German industries in the Lille region. Another group of six Fortresses a few days before dropped 600-lb. bombs directly on the German airfield at St. Omer, France. On the way home they were attached by 35 crack Nazi pursuits. When the brief fight was over, at least 13 Germans were plunging earthward and the six Fortresses were sailing on. Another time a Fortress came back to England with one motor shot away, one disabled, a third missing badly, and with 12 cannon holes and 2,000 machine-gun holes in the fuselage. Still other squadrons of Fortresses scored better than 70 percent hits in their first two weeks of bombing operations over Europe. “Fantastic accuracy,” said the British.

Bomber Command was ready. It was confident that although still small, it would grow and grow, and as it grew, the intensity and terribleness of the attack on Germany would grow with it, until the skies of Europe would be blacked and its earth furrowed with American bombs.

ae702404db74e34e7802d146375025f7 Fasten your seatbelts! by Walter BaumhoferAlright, now for this morning’s links:

Celebrity fight between rapper DMX, George Zimmerman called off | Reuters

The celebrity boxing match between rapper DMX and acquitted Florida killer George Zimmerman has been called off, its promoter said on Saturday after threats were made against him.

I figured it was more along those lines, and not the crap about “money not being everything.”

Looks like the US is not the only country getting hit by major snow storms: At least seven dead, 1,000 injured as heavy snow hits Japan

The heaviest snow in two decades has struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan, leaving at least seven people dead and more than 1,000 injured.

Up to 27 centimetres of snow was recorded in Tokyo by late Saturday, the heaviest fall in the capital for 45 years, according to meteorologists.

The storm hit Tokyo on the eve of its gubernatorial election. Observers say the heavy snowfall may affect voter turnout in the city of 13 million people.

tumblr_mjv6a44M6k1s4c1kfo2_r1_500On the new-earth front…check it out…Scientists find 800,000-year-old footprints in UK

They were a British family on a day out — almost a million years ago.

Archaeologists announced Friday that they have discovered human footprints in England that are between 800,000 and 1 million years old — the most ancient found outside Africa, and the earliest evidence of human life in northern Europe.

[…]

British Museum archaeologist Nick Ashton said the discovery — recounted in detail in the journal PLOS ONE — was “a tangible link to our earliest human relatives.”

Preserved in layers of silt and sand for hundreds of millennia before being exposed by the tide last year, the prints give a vivid glimpse of some of our most ancient ancestors. They were left by a group, including at least two children and one adult male. They could have been be a family foraging on the banks of a river scientists think may be the ancient Thames, beside grasslands where bison, mammoth, hippos and rhinoceros roamed.

Lots more at the link. Pictures here: 800,000-Year-Old Human Footprints Found In England, Extinct Hominid Species Was ‘Fully Bipedal’ [PHOTO]

prints

tumblr_mntl580kDP1s4c1kfo2_r1_500In Tampa Florida, specifically West Tampa, a little scheme is being put together. The mayor is working to rid the area of the “projects” and “relocate” the residents….I don’t know, when I saw this in the news it made me laugh in a sarcastic way. Tampa officials unveil draft plan to redevelop area west of Hillsborough River | Tampa Bay Times

“This is big,” Buckhorn said of the transformation envisioned for 120 acres west of the river and north of Interstate 275. “This is bodacious. This is exciting. This will be a game-changer.”

The proposed “West River” plan would start with demolishing the World War II-era public housing at North Boulevard Homes. The imposing concrete-block apartments would be replaced by a more traditional neighborhood with walkable streets.

A total of 820 apartments would be bulldozed, making way for more than 1,600 new townhomes and apartments. The new housing would include both subsidized housing and units that sell or rent for market rates. With more working- and middle-class residents, businesses on Main Street should see more customers, officials say.

e32714ccc0cf5dbc79bfd7d3b7c66e23“Market rates?”  The thing that gets me is that there is very little outrage over this proposed “bodacious” project.  Not that new homes is something way overdue, but the idea that the people living there are going to be kicked out…with no real guarantee of a place to live, that is worrisome.

But all this is too premature. There is no “funding” yet, so no big deal right now…

The rest of the links in quick fashion:

Charlie Chaplin’s only novel to be released

A virtually unknown novel by Charlie Chaplin — the only book the silent film comic ever wrote — is being made public for the first time.

“Footlights”, which will be unveiled in London later Tuesday, was written by Chaplin in 1948 and later transformed into his film “Limelight”, in which a washed-out clown saves a dancer from suicide.

The book is being published in English by the Cineteca di Bologna, an Italian film restoration institute which has been working with Chaplin biographer David Robinson on reconstructing drafts found in the Chaplin archives.

[…]

a79a5ec49845f4080726eee2d6391aedAccording to Robinson, the relationship between drunken clown and desperate ballerina in the much later “Footlights” was likely inspired by his meeting with legendary Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky in 1916.

The Cinetaca describes Chaplin’s “vivid, idiosyncratic” writing style which, “unadulterated by editors, moves freely from the baldly colloquial to moments of rich imagery and Dickensian description.

“For a setting, he looked back to London and the music halls of his first professional years, an enchanted period in which he had broken out of the deprivations of his childhood to discover, progressively, his unique gifts as entertainer and communicator,” the institute said in a statement.

“But this retrospect also recalled the painful insecurity of an uneducated, uncultured boy launched into the world of success”, and the clown’s expressions of despair at losing the world’s respect and admiration likely reflected Chaplin’s own feelings as his popularity dwindled.

283384f73086b642a1b508ccaef39ed5The book can be found here: Libri, DVD & Gadgets – Cinestore

The New York Times says the book will also be available at amazon.com.

Did y’all see the Pussy Riot interview with Colbert? Pussy Riot Gives the Funniest, Best Colbert Report Interview Ever | Mediaite

It really was a great interview, and funny that after it got so much press this happened:  Pussy Riot members announce split with freed duo

Members of Pussy Riot’s collective published a letter Wednesday in which they distanced themselves from Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova and Maria “Masha” Alekhina and said “they are no longer Pussy Riot.”

“It is no secret that Masha and Nadia are no longer members of the group,” six anonymous members of the group wrote on their blog, “and they will no longer take part in radical actionism.”

They said they said they were “very pleased” with Tolokonnikova’s and Alekhina’s release from prison, and proud of their resistance against the ordeals they suffered, but said the collective could not support the inclusion of “institutionalized defenders of prisoners’ rights.”

7f9fe9822578e05057b7f2b73b58bf22Yup, the two women who were imprisoned for the band, got kicked out of the band.

“Yes, we have lost two friends, two ideological teammates, but the world has acquired two brave human rights defenders — fighters for the rights of Russian prisoners.”

Wow. That was a shitty way to tell the two to go chase themselves…personally I think Masha and Nadia should have told the group “Let’s blouse!” a lot earlier. 59 Quick Slang Phrases From The 1920s We Should Start Using Again | Thought Catalog

“Go chase yourself!”: “Get out of here!”

“Let’s blouse!”: “Let’s blow this popsicle stand!”

And now a few geeky links:

Scientists create bone-like material that is lighter than water but as strong as steel

Here’s How Many LEGO Bricks It Would Take to Build 17 Famous Movie Houses

4e25d0e368cd0247624b2d93f4685864Norse Rune code cracked

A scholar of the University of Oslo has cracked one of the rune codes used by the Vikings, revealing they were sending each other messages such as ‘Kiss me’.

For those of you who liked Breaking Bad: Starz Green-Lights Gritty Ballet Drama — Vulture

Starz has officially green-lighted its gritty ballet drama Flesh and Bone, the network announced today. The show, created by Breaking Bad‘s Moira Walley-Beckett, follows Claire, a gifted young ballet dancer with a dark, self-destructive past who is a new member of a rigorous New York ballet company.

This caught my eye, you should get a kick out of it: 12 Ridiculous Anti-Woman Myths From The Dark Ages That Conservatives STILL Believe

Have you ever been reading or watching a report about a conservative man who said something so incredibly backwards  that you swore he was living in the Dark Ages? Well, you’re not so very far from wrong. 5f7c886b5e09136b8546194c0a9e74deThe Dark Ages were dark partly because education was discouraged and science was suspect, leading to some astoundingly silly things being taken for fact. Like, for example, that the heart was the seat of intelligence. Or that frogs spontaneously generated from mud. As fun as those sort of ideas are to explore, this article will be dealing with beliefs about that strange and inscrutable being: Woman.

Finally, if you are into the Schadenfreude, you can get a few thrills tonight during the figure skating events on the Olympics.  Or…you can just take a look here a few falls…watch them go sailing right out there: The 9 Most Epic Olympic Figure Skating Wipeouts Ever

Y’all have a good day, and share what you are reading about today.


Saturday Morning Open Thread

winterevolving

It was one degree here when I woke up and it’s gone all the way up to seven degrees now. For most of the 46 winters I’ve lived here in the Boston area, the temperatures have rarely gotten into the teens, let alone single numbers or below zero. It looks like it’s going to be a looooooong winter. What’s it doing where you are?

Anyway, I’m getting a slow start today. I will have a longer post up a little later on. Use the comment thread to discuss weather, politics, or anything else that’s on your mind, and please check back later for a longer post. Here are a few links to get you started:

WaPo: Al-Qaeda-linked force captures Fallujah amid rise in violence in Iraq

Aljazeera: Iraq government loses control of Fallujah

NYRB: How Your Data Are Being Deeply Mined (and not just by NSA)

ABC online: Vladimir Putin lifts blanket ban on political protests at Sochi Winter Olympics

LA Times: Dogs align with magnetic fields while pooping, study says

Live Science: The 10 Best Science Stories of 2013

NOLA.com: Louisiana’s young people are asking, ‘Should I stay or should I go?’: Robert Mann

LA Times: Phil Everly dies at 74; half of vocal duo the Everly Brothers