Friday Reads: It’s Carnival TimePosted: January 7, 2011
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.