Friday Reads: It’s Carnival Time

Good  Morning

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

So, is this easier to read?

Welcome to the Carnival Season!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rights advocates, government watchdogs and supporters of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning say they’re becoming increasingly alarmed that the conditions under which the 22-year-old Army private is being held could amount to torture.

In the latest public pronouncements calling attention to Manning’s plight, the Psychologists for Social Responsibility this week sent an open letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying it is “deeply concerned” about Manning’s confinement conditions at a military prison at Quantico, Va.

“As an organization of psychologists and other mental health professionals, PsySR is aware that solitary confinement can have severely deleterious effects on the psychological well-being of those subjected to it,” the group said. “We therefore call for a revision in the conditions of PFC Manning’s incarceration while he awaits trial, based on the exhaustive documentation and research that have determined that solitary confinement is, at the very least, a form of cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment in violation of U.S. law.”

The letter deplores the “needless brutality” of Manning’s conditions and says they undermine his right to a fair trial.

Vanity Fare is providing a forum for all the good writers and topics these days.  Julian Assange is profiled in the current issue as “The Man Who Spilled the Secrets”. It’s a devastatingly good read about Sarah Ellison on behind-the-scenes deals between Julian Assange and the five publications that got the rights to the WikiLeaks’ State Department cables.  It also provides some background the arrangements for the War Crimes evidence leaked by Bradley Manning.  The story between Wikileaks and The Guardian, a paper I’ve read since the 11th grade, is just fascinating.

The partnership between The Guardian and WikiLeaks brought together two desperately ambitious organizations that happen to be diametric opposites in their approach to reporting the news. One of the oldest newspapers in the world, with strict and established journalistic standards, joined up with one of the newest in a breed of online muckrakers, with no standards at all except fealty to an ideal of “transparency”—that is, dumping raw material into the public square for people to pick over as they will. It is very likely that neither Alan Rusbridger nor Julian Assange fully understood the nature of the other’s organization when they joined forces. The Guardian, like other media outlets, would come to see Assange as someone to be handled with kid gloves, or perhaps latex ones—too alluring to ignore, too tainted to unequivocally embrace. Assange would come to see the mainstream media as a tool to be used and discarded, and at all times treated with suspicion. Whatever the differences, the results have been extraordinary. Given the range, depth, and accuracy of the leaks, the collaboration has produced by any standard one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years. While the leaks haven’t produced a single standout headline that rises above the rest—perhaps because the avalanche of headlines has simply been overwhelming—the texture, context, and detail of the WikiLeaks stories have changed the way people think about how the world is run. Many comparisons have been made between the leak of these documents and Daniel Ellsberg’s 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. By today’s standards, Ellsberg’s actions look quaint: one man handed files to one news organization. The WikiLeaks documents are as revealing as the Pentagon Papers, but their quantity and range are incomparably greater. And they speak even more powerfully to the issue of secrecy itself. The collaboration of newspaper and Web site was never a marriage—more an arrangement driven by expedience, and a rocky one at that—but it will forever change the relationship between whistle-blowers and the media on which they rely.

Assange is an interesting man who has undoubtedly made his mark on the world stage.  The United States here and now appears to have learned no lessons from the Nixon Years and the Pentagon Papers.  The one happy conclusion in the article is that with or without Assange, Wikileaks functions and will function.  I can sleep easier knowing that at least some of the madness of our foreign affairs has been brought to the light of day.  I doubt we’ve stopped the drumbeat towards a corporate fascist state, however, the moments when Democracy gleams through the cracks can still be quite blinding. I can only say that it would be just absolutely the icing on the cake if Bradley Manning and Julian Assange shared a Nobel Peace Prize.  Then, we can officially join the ranks of China and Myanmar with high profile dissidents in jail.

Charles Homans at FP has an interesting take on the situation after reading the vanity fare article.  It is also worth a read. We fully see and appreciate the egoist Assange through his analysis. Homans gives the profile a literary reference that is most interesting.

The person I thought of immediately was Larry Schiller, one of the central characters in Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song. Mailer’s nonfiction epic is ostensibly about the murderer Gary Gilmore and his quest to get himself executed. But it is equally about Schiller, a sort of freelance media ambulance chaser who wedged himself between Gilmore and the media, securing the rights to his story and selling the exclusive to the highest bidder — what Gilmore called his “wheeler dealer.” Journalists officially frown upon these fixers, in part because they make their jobs more expensive and unpredictable, but also because they are unapologetic about the basic moral ambiguity of the information business — something that journalists, particularly American ones, have spent decades trying to fence off with j-school ethics classes and high-minded talk of civic responsibility.

Assange is, in a sense, an inverse of Schiller — he’s less mercantile, but far more interested in becoming a public figure in his own right. Technology cuts both ways in his relationship with the media: It gives him the ability to work around them, but it also gives his coveted role as information broker a built-in obsolescence. One of the most interesting scenes in Ellison’s story (which, it must be said, seems to be informed almost entirely by sources who have fallen out with Assange) occurs when the Guardian, its relationship with Assange strained, threatens to go ahead and publish the State Department cables without his go-ahead. Assange flips his lid.

Both WAPO and the NYT have stories about cuts in Pentagon spending and troop levels.  This quote is from the WAPO article.

The Pentagon will have to cut spending by $78 billion over the next five years, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday, forcing the Army and Marine Corps to shrink the number of troops on active duty and eventually imposing the first freeze on military spending since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The surprise announcement from Gates was a reminder for the military establishment – which has benefited from a gusher of new money over the past decade – that it will not remain exempt from painful austerity measures that federal lawmakers say will be necessary to control the soaring national debt.

In a news conference to announce what he described as efficiency measures, Gates said he hopes that “what had been a culture of endless money . . . will become a culture of savings and restraint” at the Defense Department.

Well, that’s an interesting development!

So, another Mardi Gras Season, another reason to eat King Cake.  That hot link links to a recipe that looks pretty time consuming.  You can mail order them from here if you want to try one.  I’ve always been fond of the European style with almond paste and a flakier crust.  The thick layer of powder sugar icing and sprinkles on the cakess they make down here just is way over the top for me.  Still, it’s got cinnamon.  I especially like the cream-filled cakes.  I usually wind up with the baby too.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

62 Comments on “Friday Reads: It’s Carnival Time”

  1. CinSC says:

    Laissez les bon temps roules! I like the page breaks in the new format… much easier to read! I have a friend who sends me a king cake every year… they are delicious. There are commercial mixes for sale (cake in a box) that are easy to make.

    It’s interesting that they are talking cutting troop levels the same day it’s announced we’re shipping another 1400 of them over to Afghanistan.

  2. Delphyne says:

    LOVE the new look!! Will get coffee and sit down to read in just a bit.

  3. cwaltz says:

    One of my besties when I was in Portsmouth(pharmacy c school is located there) was from Nawlins. Her mom sent us some delicious cake, I’ll bet it was King cake. Someday I hope to get down that way and experience Mardi Gras first hand.

    I like the new format. Then again, I was good with the old though.

    I think we’re gonna need popcorn for these budget fights. It appears so far they’ve managed to cut the budget for the House’s water and perhaps it’s paperclips and pencil supply but are faring poorly finding the means to reach 100 billion elsewhere. It’s actually quite amusing to watch them squirm. They know that cuts are gonna hurt their constituents and they know the tea party will lop off their heads if they don’t cut. the proverbial rock and hard place they were in prior to handing the house over in 2006. As Nelson from Simpsons would say “Haha”

  4. janicen says:

    I like the new look, but I really didn’t mind the old look. I come for the content. As long as I can read it without my glasses, I’m fine!

    • Pat Johnson says:

      I’m with you! The content is the attraction overall but this “new look” is fine by me.

    • Riverbird says:

      I agree. I come here for the content, but the new look is cheerier and easier to read than the old one.

  5. cwaltz says:

    Uh oh, AIG got downgraded.

    • dakinikat says:

      I don’t know why any one even trusts ANY of the raters any more. I suppose it’s because so many ‘safe’ investments are based on those A requirements.

  6. Woman Voter says:

    Well, thanks to whom ever complained (I was too shy) and yes it is so much easier to read. It looks great too. Thanks DAK! 🙂

  7. Woman Voter says:

    Oh, and yes, picked one up last night in the big city South of me and the older gals are off to the senior center to share their big King Cake today.

  8. Woman Voter says:

    The Pentagon will have to cut spending by $78 billion over the next five years…

    OK, but I still would like to know where the $2.3 Trillion disappeared to, that they couldn’t find on 9.10.01 and why they haven’t made an effort to find it.

  9. I liked the old look – it was unique. The little bubble icon for the comments was cool – except that I wished it was at the bottom. Now it is, but the bubble is gone! And what others said: I’m here to read content – so this format works fine for me!

    • Inky says:

      Like everyone else here, I’m here for the content so I’m ultimately fine with whatever format you decide on so long as it’s readable. But I will join with TOTK in voicing a minority preference for the old format. I found the old font to be more readable than the two I’ve seen today. Also, while it was a bit of a problem figuring out who was responding to whom in the old format because the embedded indenting was so subtle, the indenting now is is too extreme–any back-and-forth exchanges are quickly going to be chased into the right margin.

      I’m even ambivalent about the new banner graphics. It’s definitely prettier than what you had before, but the old art seemed to fit this blog’s motto, “a place to discuss real issues,” better.

      Whine, whine, whine, that’s all I’m good for!

      I’ll get over it, I promise.

  10. Boo Radly says:

    Cool new look – didddit have a problem with the other as it’s content that matters to me.

    Bake my own King Cake every year for decades – we worth the effort.

    Back to reading what Dak has given us.

    Minx – we are border buddies – getting hit again with the snow and ice -hope
    you all don’t have an ice storm.

    • dakinikat says:

      Do you have a better King Cake recipe? Would you mind sharing? I always want to try because I’d rather use Cream Cheese frosting than just slather it up with powdered sugar. Since I nearly ALWAYS get the baby, I’m always having to bring the next cake. I used to live in the quarter near Croissant D’Or and would always go for the European cake with the almond paste. It’s not a cinnamon roll like cake, it’s more of a pastry.

      • Boo Radly says:

        Dak – mine is a cinnamon roll like cake – I love to slather on the pure butter. I shall look for a more pastry like for you. I still have not unearthed my Deidre Stanton recipe book – it has recipes from all the famous restaurants of New Orleans which I have been to. Boy, I need to proof read – we = well. The site looks amazing!

        • dakinikat says:

          I like the cinnamon roll cake, I think I’d change up the frosting from what the traditionalists down here use, however. Something with some nice butter and cream cheese is my kinda frosting.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      Yup, it was snowing earlier.

      The site is really coming together. There are some other stuff in the works, and soon you can get to the Sky Dancing Blog on its own url, so just y’all wait and see.

  11. Sima says:

    BBC reports that more than 4,700 German farms, apparently some producing eggs, have been shut down temporarily because of a dioxin scare. Dioxin got into the animal feed when oils intended for use in bio-fuels got put into chicken feed and the like instead.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12133361

    Luckily the German government is just requiring that they stop shipping, not that they kill every animal they own (which is something I bet our government would do).

    I’m up early for a few minutes because I just saw my puppy and my partner off to my Dad’s. Jaska is being dropped off to spend the weekend with the parents while me and the partner head out for the weekend. I felt like a mother sending her kid off on the first day of school. I reckon she and Dad are going to have a blast though, which’ll be good.

  12. paper doll says:

    Great round up!

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

    This is like when hunters and tree huggers ( I count myself with the latter) get together as well to fight off corporate types…In “normal” times these two might be seen as strange bed fellows .But it’s just that now,so much money is being taken away, groups who usually fight over it, now have to fight together…But at least someone is fighting. I think the GOP shock troops have been sent it…this bunch will do the impossible: Make Obama look like a liberal. The 2012 reinstall campaign has begun

  13. joanelle says:

    I love it! and the header is really snazzy!

    Indeed, what brought here and keeps me coming back is the content but it is easier on the old peepers!

  14. dakinikat says:

    — Economy added 103,000 jobs in December, below the 150,000 expected. Jobless rate falls from 9.8% to 9.4%.

  15. Branjor says:

    Very nice. I had no trouble with the old design but this one is much more easily readable and visually attractive.

  16. dakinikat says:

    markknoller: At window manufacturing plant in Landover, MD., Pres. Obama officially names Gene Sperling to head his National Economic Council at the WH.

    People who know him says he’s a liberal, but it worries me that he’s basically a lawyer and not an economist.

    He keeps appointing exClinton people but they don’t seem to represent the Democratic Party I remember … he seems obsessed with pleasing the corporate crowd.

  17. dakinikat says:

    Oh, another sort’ve semi announcement. I just nabbed a domain for the blog. It’s skydancingblog.com so you can start using that too besides the dakiniland.wordpress.com

  18. Teresa says:

    What a surprise to see the new design. Makes me feel HAPPY when I come here. Thank you!

  19. dakinikat says:

    Here’s an interesting bit of gossip on the Obama West Wing Dosey-Do

    wondered yesterday whether Robert Gibbs jumped or was pushed and noted that President Barack Obama’s words indicated that it was “not an entirely voluntary departure”.

    It’s being reported by John King on CNN right now that Gibbs wanted to be a presidential counsellor – something he’s been putting about for quite a while – but William Daley, the new chief of staff, nixed this because he believed that too many cooks would spoil the presidential broth. So that’s why Gibbs is out.

    Additionally, King reports that Valerie Jarrett, whose sole qualification to being a senior counsellor seems to be that she’s a long-time Chicago buddy of Barack and Michelle Obama, will have her wings clipped. Daley, not Jarrett, will be the person speaking to the business community.

  20. RalphB says:

    OMG, what happened to the font? Great blog and I’ll read it so long as I can see it. 😉

  21. Teresa says:

    It appears that the unemployment rate has edged down today….that is until you read the fine

    About halfway down the linked article, you see this:

    But other factors can affect the unemployment rate, at least temporarily. One key reason for the drop was that the government no longer counts people as unemployed when they stop looking for work.

    That should have been a headline, along with a factual assessment of what the employment numbers WOULD have been before the reporting. I guess good news is the most important thing, even if it’s a lie.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2013642799_apuseconomy.html

  22. mjames says:

    I checked in this a.m. and good read the format just fine. But now I can’t. It’s too small. It shrunk in the space of a three hours! Can you make it larger?

  23. mjames says:

    I meant “could” read, not “good” read. I can’t even see what I’m typing.

  24. fiscalliberal says:

    The military cuts are still rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. We will know they are serious when they start cutting back on off shore defence bases, Chalmers Johnson discussed this extencively in his books, They were about 500 when he wrote the books. I think they are up to 800 now. So much of or off shore military and State Dept is still post cold war and does not reflect that we can not afford this and some of it is none of our business. Andrew Bacevitch, retired military currently at Boston U calls for constitutional defense of our shores and not foreign bases. His books also have cogent arguments for reallignment, reduction and modernization of the approach to the threat.

    For example – the base committment to Japan, Korea, Germany and Englend needs to seriously be reevaluated and reduced. Maybe some of this troop strength reduction might help in that. Let these little foreign skirminshes play out for a while give them a chance to resove their differences by themselves.

    • dakinikat says:

      Also, it does no good to talk about troop levels unless we actually look at the folks that are from companies like Halliburton that don’t count in the numbers. Totally, agree with you.

  25. dakinikat says:

    Okay, it’s 12:31 cst … I’ve got a fairly bold and large font up …

    Can you read me now?

  26. zaladonis says:

    This reminds me of the apartment my girlfriend and I shared in college – every time I returned from class she’d rearranged the furniture!

    PS – it’s fun and looks better every time!

    • dakinikat says:

      yeah, I’m beginning to feel like i’m pushing things two inches to the right and left!!

    • dakinikat says:

      and I think I like the headers now and the font looks good to me … I’m a real fan of san serif fonts. This one appears to a fairly classy one and it’s legible so I’m going to see what feedback I get right now. There’s other one’s around too.

  27. mablue2 says:

    Wow!
    It looks like the “designing team” is just going berserk.
    The high salaries we pay them are now totally justified.

    • dakinikat says:

      Yup. You can tell I’m one of those well-bonused executives, can’t you? Now,I just need to go buy that beachfront mansion in Costa Rico.

  28. Inky says:

    I too like the new font much better. Only have a teensy weensy issue with it now. That being , I like to keep the font size small, and you’ll see, if you hit “Ctrl” and “-“, that this font gets fuzzy if you take the size down a notch, more so than the boring but reliable Arial font.

    But it’s not so bad. I’ll just shut up now.

    Sincerely yours, Gripey McWhinesky

  29. Fannie says:

    Super Site, only wish I had some Louisiana Community coffee to go with.

  30. Boo Radly says:

    Dak – this promises “pastry like” and with a cream cheese filling. It seems fairly easy to make.

    http://www.ourbestbites.com/2010/02/king-cake-happy-mardi-gras.html

    This one is French. I made croissants one time in my life – labor and time intense. I thought never again. No cream cheese though.

    http://www.easy-french-food.com/king-cake-recipe.html

    I guess one could use the new frozen puff pastry now available. I love the colors purple, yellow and green icing with matching colored sugars. It represents Spring not to far off and the most pleasant memories of Nola.

    • dakinikat says:

      Thanks! Yes Croissants are the most time and labor intensive thing in the word. I used to live around the corner from the best French pâtissier in the country too! Croissant D’Or makes these wonderful flaky french king cakes with almond paste too.

  31. foxyladi14 says:

    love the new header..and the font,s are fine.can I take my cheeters of now
    😆

  32. RalphB says:

    Ah, this font is nice. 😉

  33. Sleepless in NJ says:

    Hope you don’t mind getting feedback from a lurker. (I’m usually way behind in my reading so I don’t normally comment.) I love the new design — the old one was nice but dark. One oddity, however, is that the font size of block quotes is at least twice as big as for the regular text, at least in my browser (Safari).