Sunday Reads: Pink Congo…Black and White Cuba

Photo via Flickr, by Chris Blakeley

It is Sunday Morning, and today I will bring you some real interesting reads that I have found during the week.  So drink that cup of coffee and enjoy today’s morning reads.

This week Amnesty International celebrated its 50th birthday. So our first article will highlight the work of an organization that has fought for human rights and freedom of speech throughout the world.  Amnesty International marks 50 years of fighting for free speech | World news | The Observer

Wai Hnin Pwint Thon of Amnesty International

Wai Hnin Pwint Thon of Burma lights a candle during an event to mark 50 years since Amnesty International was formed. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

When she was young, Manya Benenson’s dad told her a story of two frogs that fall into a bucket of cream and swim around and around. The first one gives up and drowns, the second keeps going until he finds his struggles have churned the cream to butter, and he climbs out. As a fable, she said, it could sum up the movement that the late Peter Benenson began in the Observer 50 years ago this weekend.

In London, the…

…celebration was held at the same Trafalgar Square church where Benenson, a bowler-hatted barrister, slipped away from work in 1961 and sat alone to dream up what has become the world’s most renowned human rights organisation.

He had been enraged by reading a newspaper account of the arrest in Portugal of two students, whose crime had been to raise a toast to freedom. Benenson died in 2005 and yesterday his daughter Manya, 35, lit the Amnesty candle, symbolically ringed by barbed wire, in his memory, along with Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, a Burmese refugee whose father is serving a 65-year jail sentence for organising peaceful protests against the military junta in 2007.

Reading this article makes you think of just how much we need people like Benenson who come up with ideas and actually see them through.

To celebrate Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary, the Guardian and the Observer have started a new online series. Every month we will publish news of an ‘urgent action’; that is a current case of human rights abuse that Amnesty would like to draw wider attention to

So be sure to bookmark that link.

I am currently reading a book about war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo written by Jason Stearns. These next two links will give you a glimpse of the Congo like you never have seen it.

Congo: Across the spectrum – in pictures | Art and design | The Guardian

Soldiers’ uniforms turn purple, vegetation magenta … the infrared film used by photographer Richard Mosse forces us to see the conflicts of Congo in different ways

Mosse uses a discontinued infrared film developed by Kodak in the 1940’s to view camouflage in a spectrum that the human eye can’t see. So green grass and trees become various shades of pink…and the uniforms of soldiers turn purple.

Stearns has written an article for The Guardian, where he gives his thoughts about Mosse’s photographs.  Shocking pink | Art and design | The Guardian

Congo Mosse

La Vie En Rose. Photograph: Richard Mosse/Infra

Imagine 5.4 million deaths. It overloads the mind. There is no sliding scale of moral outrage, increasing in direct proportion to human suffering. The indignation we feel at 10 innocent deaths is not magnified 10 times if there are 100 such fatalities. Instead, our heartstrings are more likely to be tugged by a human face, a tragic story.

This has been the curse of the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s too complex to craft into a simple narrative. Over the past 15 years, more than 40 different armed groups have fought across a country the size of western Europe. There are no clear heroes and too many villains, no good-guy-v-bad-guy tale to spin. While the number of people who have died is on the same scale as the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, only around 300,000 were killed; the rest – disproportionately children – perished unsensationally due to disease and hunger caused by the fighting.

Look at that image above, seeing the bright pink of those rolling hills with the purple and lavender hues of the soldiers uniforms, whose machine guns are still a stark black color. A contrast of black metal against a rosy glow of pink.

Richard Mosse’s pictures of Congo draw from a different palette of colours, literally. Using recently discontinued Kodak infrared film, his photographs turn the vegetation of the eastern Congo into jarring magenta, while the soldiers’ uniforms go purple. It feels as if we have fallen down a rabbit hole, into a more surreal space. Congo always felt that way to me, as if the regular colour spectrum, the usual yardsticks we have, do not quite hack it.

Take a look at those photographs. They really are something to see.

This next link is quite extraordinary. It is about two little girls, twins, joined at the head. This condition is called craniopagus, and it is extremely rare. In fact only one in 2.5 million twins have fused skulls, and most do not survive. What is even more strange about these girls, it seems that the thalmus of one sister is connected to the thalmus of the other.  Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind? –

Krista reached for a cup with a straw in the corner of the crib. “I am drinking really, really, really, really fast,” she announced and started to power-slurp her juice, her face screwed up with the effort. Tatiana was, as always, sitting beside her but not looking at her, and suddenly her eyes went wide. She put her hand right below her sternum, and then she uttered one small word that suggested a world of possibility: “Whoa!”

In any other set of twins, the natural conclusion about the two events — Krista’s drinking, Tatiana’s reaction — would be that they were coincidental: a gulp, a twinge, random simultaneous happenstance. But Krista and Tatiana are not like most other sets of twins. They are connected at their heads, where their skulls merge under a mass of shaggy brown bangs. The girls run and play and go down their backyard slide, but whatever they do, they do together, their heads forever inclined toward each other’s, their neck muscles strong and sinuous from a never-ending workout.

So…when one little sister drinks, the other feels it.  Far out.

You may have heard of those small tunnels that snake their way through the Great Pyramid.  National Geographic did a show on the robots that are used to explore these tunnels which are too small for a human to fit through.  Well, it now looks like they have found red hieroglyphics inside the tunnels. Mysterious markings discovered at Great Pyramid of Giza –

A robot explorer has revealed ancient markings inside a secret chamber at Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza.

A close-up view of the red marks on the floor in the pyramid
A close-up view of the red marks on the floor in the pyramid

The markings, which have lain unseen for 4,500 years, were filmed using a bendy camera small enough to fit through a hole in a stone door at the end of a narrow tunnel.


“The big question is the purpose of these tunnels,” he added. “There are architectural explanations, symbolic explanations, religious explanations — even ones relating to the alignment of the stars — but the final word on them is yet to be written. The challenge is that no human can fit inside these channels so the only way to do this exploration is with robots.”

I wonder what these symbols mean? Could they be an ancient Egyptian form of graffiti?  Does it say Pharaoh Khufu was here?

This article reminds me of a real good movie…Bubba Ho-tep.

Based on the Bram Stoker Award nominee short story by cult author Joe R. Lansdale, Bubba Ho-tep tells the “true” story of what really did become of Elvis Presley. We find Elvis (Bruce Campbell) as an elderly resident in an East Texas rest home, who switched identities with an Elvis impersonator years before his “death”, then missed his chance to switch back. Elvis teams up with Jack (Ossie Davis), a fellow nursing home resident who thinks that he is actually President John F. Kennedy, and the two valiant old codgers sally forth to battle an evil Egyptian entity who has chosen their long-term care facility as his happy hunting grounds.

Bubba Ho-Tep Official Website

It is funny as hell, and damn Bruce Campbell does an awesome job of portraying Elvis…in fact one could say Campbell is Elvis.

One of the great lines in the movie is when Elvis gets testy with a nurse.  She laughs at him and we hear the voice over of Campbell aka Elvis say:

Get old, you can’t even cuss someone and have it bother ’em. Everything you do is either worthless or sadly amusing.

From Minx’s Missing Link File: This is just too dang amazing, check it out.  Electrical Implant Allows Paralyzed Man to Stand and Walk (video) | Singularity Hub

In 2006, Rob Summers was the victim of a hit-and-run. The accident left him completely paralyzed from the chest down–unable, even, to wiggle his toes. But just weeks after beginning a new cutting edge therapy in which researchers electrically stimulated his spinal cord Summers was able to stand on his own, move his hips, knees, ankles and toes, and make stepping motions on a treadmill.

After the training failed, researchers attempted a cutting edge procedure to surgically implant an epidural electrode array over the lumbosacral segments of Summers’ spinal cord. The training sessions resumed, this time while injecting direct electrical current.

It was a breakthrough in rehabilitation therapy.

In the first weeks after surgery Summers could stand on his own, providing the initial lift himself. He can remain standing up to four minutes at a time, and up to an hour with occasional help. After a few months he was able to move his hips, bend his knees, ankles and toes. Today, with the aid of a harness and an occasional helping hand, he can lift and move his feet to make stepping motions on a treadmill.


Easy like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  There are lots of cool things happening in LA this summer, and one of them is a new exhibition at the Getty Museum.  Getty Museum: Cuba in pictures at the Getty Museum – Los Angeles Times

‘A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now’ invites viewers to contemplate the country’s many contradictions through a wide array of photographs.

Geez, I wish I could see this exhibit…if any of our readers get a chance to visit the museum, please let us know!

Viewers are invited to contemplate whether the United States’ ferociously effective, decades-long economic embargo, the Cuban government’s misbegotten socialist policies, or some combination is to blame for turning the store, and countless others like it into a ghostly shell. Similar questions and Cuba’s many contradictions — physical beauty and stark impoverishment, political ideals and Cold War debacles, tragic failure and boundless potential — arise repeatedly in the exhibition, whose works span the early 1930s to the present.

“Part of what we wanted to do was to show people various sides of what Cuba is like now, because there is such a myth about not only its history but its current state of affairs,” says Judith Keller, the Getty’s senior curator of photographs.

“I think it’s the contradiction of the great potential you see in the people,” continues Keller, who visited Cuba last year with the exhibition’s co-curator, Brett Abbott, curator of photography at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. “There literally is music on every block and people being very productive and trying to patch up their housing. But at the same time the place is crumbling, and there is no food in the shops.”

Looks like a lot of events are going on in connection with the show.

The Getty’s show, which runs through Oct. 2, is one of L.A.’s opening salvos in a months-long cultural salute to the island nation that’s taking place on both U.S. coasts this year. Upcoming happenings include a display of Cuban film posters at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, performances by the Ballet Nacional de Cuba in Costa Mesa and Los Angeles, a spotlight on contemporary Cuban cinema at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and an Aug. 24 Hollywood Bowl concert headlined by the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club.

Here is a direct link to the museum:

A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Evans to Now (Getty Center Exhibitions)

Cuba’s attempt to forge an independent state has been a project under development for more than 100 years and a source of fascination for nations, intellectuals, and artists alike.

A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now looks at three critical periods in the nation’s history as witnessed by photographers before, during, and after the country’s 1959 Revolution. The exhibition juxtaposes Walker Evans’s 1933 images from the end of the Machado dictatorship with views by contemporary foreign photographers Virginia Beahan, Alex Harris, and Alexey Titarenko, who have explored Cuba since the withdrawal of Soviet support in the 1990s.

A third section bridging these two eras presents pictures by Cuban photographers who participated in the 1959 Revolution, including Alberto Korda, Perfecto Romero, and Osvaldo Salas.

There is a PDF file that has small images of the exhibition that you can download here.

For a schedule of events: A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Evans to Now / Events (Getty Center Exhibitions)

Hope you have a relaxing day… my mom, my daughter and her friend and I will be having a “coochie” day.  This is what my daughter would call all female outings when she was in pre-school. (She would say, no “dingies” allowed…  Cute huh?)  We are going to the mall. It is an all day event for us, the mall is over 95 miles away from Banjoville.

So, post some links in the comments…what you reading and thinking about today?

Late Late Night: Belated Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan

It’s a little late, but since it’s so dead around here this weekend, I thought I’d post a tribute to the great Bob Dylan who turned 70 on Tuesday. I began listening to his music when I was in high school. Dylan helped me survive my teen years. I’ll never forget the first time I heard “Like a Rolling Stone” in 1965. It was amazing. It was the first time I ever heard such a long song played on the radio–6 minutes! And it was Dylan singing rock ‘n’ roll! Of course purist folk fans were outraged when he switched to electric, but he always went his own way.

Here’s a little history from Wikipedia:

“Like a Rolling Stone” is a 1965 song by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. Its confrontational lyrics originate in an extended piece of verse Dylan wrote in June 1965, when he returned exhausted from a grueling tour of England. After the lyrics were heavily edited, “Like a Rolling Stone” was recorded a few weeks later as part of the sessions for the forthcoming album Highway 61 Revisited. During a difficult two-day pre-production, Dylan struggled to find the essence of the song, which was demoed without success in 3/4 time. A breakthrough was made when it was tried in a rock music format, and rookie session musician Al Kooper improvised the organ riff for which the track is known. However, Columbia Records was unhappy with both the song’s length at over six minutes and its heavy electric sound, and was hesitant to release it. It was only when a month later a copy was leaked to a new popular music club and heard by influential DJs that the song was put out as a single. Although radio stations were reluctant to play such a long track, “Like a Rolling Stone” reached number two in the US charts and became a worldwide hit.

The track has been described as revolutionary in its combination of different musical elements, the youthful, cynical sound of Dylan’s voice, and the directness of the question in the chorus: “How does it feel?”. “Like a Rolling Stone” transformed Dylan’s career and is today considered one of the most influential compositions in post-war popular music and has since its release been both a music industry and popular culture milestone which elevated Dylan’s image to iconic.





Happy Birthday, Bob! At his age, we get to celebrate a birthday for more than one day. Feel free to post your favorite Dylan tunes, covers are okay too!


Late Night Outrage: War on Women’s Health

We’ve been watching state after state wage a coordinated war against women.  Here’s a summary of this year’s assault on women’s health by NYT’s Emily Bazelon. Women better wake up and smell the threat to their right to self-determination.

Ever since Republicans took control of half the country’s statehouses this year, the anti-abortion movement has won one victory after another. At least 64 new anti-abortion laws have passed, with more than 30 of them in April alone. The campaign is the largest in history and also the most creative. Virginia started regulating abortion clinics as if they were hospitals. Utah, Nebraska and several other states have stopped private health insurers from covering abortions, with rare exceptions. South Dakota will soon tell women that before they go to an abortion clinic, they must first visit a crisis pregnancy center whose mission is to talk them out of it.

It’s amazing to me that after 8 years of Republican focus on the war on Terror, their focus turns towards turning the clock back decades for American women.  What is behind these reactionaries?  What is fueling the fantancism?  Why have they suddenly switched strategies?

Instead, lawyers representing their side have been challenging the laws that hurt women most — which are also the ones most likely to sway public opinion back to their side. Can it really be good politics for a state to tell private health insurers what kind of coverage for women’s health they can and can’t provide? Or to take away the money that allows Planned Parenthood to prescribe birth control and treat S.T.D.’s? Quinnipiac and CNN polls from earlier this year both found majority support for continuing government financing of Planned Parenthood. There’s also a clear argument against laws like the ones that permit Virginia to regulate abortion clinics like hospitals or that allow Louisiana to immediately close an abortion clinic for any technical rule violation. In making early abortions more burdensome and costly, these laws take aim at the ordinary version of the procedure that women experience and for which support is greatest. In a 2007 poll, Gallup found that twice as many people favor making late-term abortion illegal than favor overturning Roe (72 percent versus 35 percent).

Abortion rights advocates are also trying to prevent South Dakota from mandating that women wait a full 72 hours for an abortion. This comes on the heels of a lawsuit that challenges the requirement that mandatory counseling include the claim that abortion is linked to an increased risk of suicide (there is no reliable evidence to support this). In Casey, the Supreme Court allowed states to impose only a 24-hour waiting period and to require counseling that accurately explained the stages of fetal development. The South Dakota law is far out enough that when I asked Yoest about it, she said only, “That’s not one of our pieces of legislation.” If the battle reaches the Supreme Court, there’s presumably little chance that Justice Kennedy would sign off on requiring doctors to read a script of made-up data posing as facts.

These are precisely the kinds of cases that lawyers in support of reproductive rights should pursue, because they portray abortion foes as radical. The South Dakota fight shows that in the name of protecting women, abortion opponents are willing to demean them — by forcing them to visit a crisis pregnancy center and listen to unsupported medical claims. (According to a 2006 Congressional investigation, most of these centers give out inaccurate information about abortion’s health effects.)

At this point, there seems to be no organized women’s movement to get us off the defensive and put us back on the offensive.  Religious activists have worked hard to ensure that nearly all Republican candidates are not pro-choice.  The entire Republican contingent in the U.S. House of Representatives from a solid anti-choice block.  It’s time for those of us that support a women’s right to make a decision regarding her own body to go on the offensive.  We need to recruit and support more pro-choice candidates.

This is Truly the Age of Mediocrity

For most of my voting life, the choices of presidential candidates have not been particularly inspiring. But has it ever been as bad as this? We have a President who claims to be a Democrat but whose policies are those of a fairly conservative Republican. It doesn’t look like there will be any primary challenger to drag Obama to the left, so it looks like the presidential race in 2012 is shaping up to be a battle between a conservative Republican and a far right wing lunatic. Even James Carville, who for a time tried to be supportive of Obama, agrees with me. He’s saying Obama can’t be distinguished from the Republicans who ran in 2008.

In 1992, Bill Clinton famously proclaimed himself to be an Eisenhower Republican. By that measure, I’d say President Obama is a pre-2008 John McCain Republican.

But this much is sure: The policies of the eventual Republican nominee, that is, anybody left running for it by the time of the vote, will be right in line with those of Sarah Palin. It’s pretty remarkable that the next election is going to boil down to a competition between the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and his vice presidential nominee.

It’s not that Obama is a socialist born somewhere other than Hawaii, or that he possesses a Kenyan anti-colonial mentality — but that some Republican needs to stand up and say, with some legitimacy, that Obama is taking all of the GOP’s ideas.

Well, Obama did say back during the 2008 primaries that the Republican party was the “party of ideas for the last 10-15 years.” Remember this?

Too bad so few people took him seriously. It’s almost as if Obama had been specifically chosen to destroy the Democratic Party and push the Republicans even further right. A number of potential Republican candidates have dropped out–Trump, Huckabee, Barbour, and Daniels are gone, thank goodness. So whom will we see competing in the 2012 Republican primaries? From what I can tell, those Republican debates are going to look and sound like bizzaro world.

Right now, the putative “front-runner” is dull-as-dishwater Mitt Romney. This weekend, Romney finally took the plunge and left New Hampshire to visit Iowa. Apparently it hasn’t gone well so far. He’s getting less than inspiring headlines like Mitt Romney: Underwhelming in Iowa and Mitt Romney finally shows up in Iowa. From the LA Times:

Fairfax, Iowa— Mitt Romney made a belated 2012 campaign debut in Iowa on Friday, dipping a brown-loafered toe into the state that casts the first votes in the presidential contest.

Romney, who will formally enter the Republican race next week, has largely shunned Iowa since falling short here in the 2008 caucuses. He spent much of the day bobbing and weaving around questions about his commitment to Iowa.

“My guess is you’ll have plenty of opportunity to see me. I care about Iowa,” he told a midday audience in Des Moines, after refusing to say whether he’d compete in a nonbinding straw vote this summer or go all-out in the caucuses next winter.

Mitt is pathetic, like most current and former Massachusetts Governors. I don’t think he’ll ever be President. But just look at the other possibilities!

Tim Pawlenty is trying to make himself a bit more exciting by going negative and insulting other candidates.

Following up on the cattiest tweet in the Presidential campaign so far (“sorry to interrupt the European pub crawl, but what was your Medicare plan?”), Pawlenty visited CNN’s American Morning to elaborate on his campaign issues and react to his current poll numbers. He appeared happy that, despite the fact that “half the nation’s Republicans don’t know who I am,” he was still a viable candidate in the running, as early polls are “name ID more than anything.” If the polls were reliable, he joked, “Rudy Giuliani and Howard Dean would be presidents.”

With that in mind, asked if Palin’s weekend bus tour was worrisome to him, he seemed militantly unfazed: “This country isn’t going to be about rallies or you know bus tours or anything else,” Pawlenty said. “This is going to be about a country that is sinking in debt and deficit. We want to have a leader who has actually tackled those issues and doesn’t just talk about it.” He also noted that, while the current “exploratory” phases of other campaigns that may pop up are necessary, “soon we have to have a debate on the issues.”

Regarding the current resident of the the White House, Pawlenty had this to say:

“Any doofus can go to Washington and maintain the status quo and that’s what we’ve got in the White House and in Congress in terms of their attitude about their willingness to tackle these issues,” Pawlenty said. “If we’re not going to have leaders who are going to say that and do it and tell the American people, look them in the eye … then we’re all wasting our time.”

I’m not sure that calling a sitting President a “doofus” is the best strategy for beginning a campaign, and I really dread the “debate on the issues.” The only issues this year’s Republicans seem to be interested in are about sticking it to the poor, the elderly, and women.

Pawlenty’s fellow Minnesotan Michelle Bachmann appears to be running also. {shudder} Get this, she “feels a calling” to run for President.

Bachmann, during the taping of a program for Iowa Public Television, said she “had this calling and tugging on [her] heart that this is the right thing to do.”

Bachmann’s statement comes on the heels of announcement Thursday night that she will be holding a June event to make her presidential intentions clear. The Minnesota Republican has been openly weighing a bid for the GOP nomination for months and been traveling to and staffing up in early-primary states.

“We already have hired staff in South Carolina, in New Hampshire, in Iowa,” Bachmann told reporters on a telephone news conference Thursday night. “We have people on the ground. We’re doing every aspect that we need to be doing in this effort because our main goal is make sure we can turn the country around.”

I’m really uncomfortable with people who think their gods are talking to them. I’m even more uncomfortable with the idea of someone who hears voices running the country. This woman is truly frightening, and her “first man” would be a guy who tries to “cure” homosexuals, including, perhaps, himself.

Also showing signs of jumping in the race is Sarah Palin. She is embarking on a “high-profile bus tour” on Sunday, beginning in Washington, DC.

The tour has an obvious — and presumably intentional — resemblance to a campaign jaunt. But many people on both sides of the political divide remain skeptical that she will run, or that she has a viable path to the Republican presidential nomination if she does so.

Ugh! Why can’t Quiterella (h/t Dakinikat) just go away somewhere and never be heard from again? In 2008, we had a woman candidate who was truly qualified–brilliant, knowledgeable, a policy wonk. She put 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, and now one of these two horribly stupid and unqualified women might finally crash through? We’ve really gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Finally, have you heard that Rick Perry is now thinking about throwing his hat into the ring? According to The Daily Beast, Republicans really want him to run because he’s such a macho man.

One of the photographs that Texas Gov. Rick Perry keeps on his BlackBerry is a portrait of Aurora P. (“Rory”) Perry, the family’s black Labrador Retriever, who last year acquired a key role in local Perry legend. The governor and the dog were out for an early morning jog when a coyote suddenly appeared, growling at Rory. Perry, who carries a Ruger .380 handgun in his belt when he jogs, pulled the weapon and shot the coyote dead. When some Austin locals protested that Perry’s reaction was excessive, and dangerous, he shrugged it off. “Don’t attack my dog,” he said, “or you might get shot.”

Never mind that Perry is rumored to be gay. The Republicans don’t seem to mind that–as long as you stay in the closet.

What a sorry bunch of losers! Could it get any worse? Well, the LA Times suggests we might still hear from Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. I am not looking forward to 2012. What about you?


Grayslady pointed out that I neglected to mention Ron Paul, probably because I don’t think he has any chance of getting the nomination. I left out Rudy Giuliani, too. Some people think he may run. As far as I’m concerned those two are just as nutty as the rest of the Republican field. We’re stuck with horrible and less horrible. I may not bother going to the polls.

Saturday: Beyonce, Bridesmaids, and Big Business

Morning, news junkies…hope you are off to a nice, relaxing Memorial Day weekend. I’m going to keep my two cents brief this Saturday, so grab a cup of whatever and let’s go!

Is Beyonce’s New Video Feminist?

I saw this item on AlterNet the other day and found the discussion in the comments interesting. I have to say, the author of the article itself didn’t put forward very compelling arguments for her stiletto feminism (and I love my purple suede stilettos), but her piece did alert me to NineteenPercent’s response to Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls),” which I recommend checking out.

What ‘Bridesmaids’ Can Tell Us about Small Businesses and the Recession

New Deal 2.0’s Mike Konczal uses Kristin Wiig’s storyline–her character loses a bakery she started during the recession–as a teachable moment on Keynesian economics, complete with nifty graphs. He concludes that “Full employment is the friend of new business owners. It would be great if either of our political parties would emphasize that in a time of 9% unemployment.” Amen to that. (I did get to see Bridesmaids last weekend, btw. It lived up to the hype!)

Why the Rich Love High Unemployment

Mark Provost’s guest post at George Washington’s blog, outlining precisely why neither of our political parties is emphasizing full employment. (See also lambert at corrente… DISemployment: Letting the Rattner out of the bag.)

Judge strikes down corporate donations ban

The oligarchy racks up another win, just in time for 2012. As ThinkProgress noted yesterday:

Today’s decision extends beyond the egregious Citizen United decision because Citizens United only permits corporations to run their own ads supporting a candidate or otherwise act independently of a candidate’s campaign. Cacheris’ opinion would also allow the Chamber of Commerce and Koch Industries, for instance, to contribute directly to political campaigns.

Chernobyl Times Ten: Fukushima and the Radioactive Sea

Via Counterpunch. Highly depressing but important read from Harvey Wasserman:

“When it comes to the oceans, says Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceonographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, “the impact of Fukushima exceeds Chernobyl.”

The greatest living surrealist has left the planet“…RIP Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)

I enjoyed this brief but thoughtful blog post on Leonora Carrington’s passing, and the LA Times blog posted two neat photos–one of a bronze sculpture by Carrington exhibited along Mexico City’s Avenue Reforma in 2008, and another of Carrington celebrating her ninety-fourth birthday earlier this year. Also from an essay last year by art historian Alan Foljambe:

Rather than rebelling in a violent way against those who would control her, Carrington creates a parallel reality in her paintings in which, represented by animals and female deities, she is in a position of strength where she is not in danger of being used as a vehicle for the schemes or motives of someone else. Rather than confronting reality and attempting to overcome it, Carrington retreats from the struggle and creates another reality in which she feels more at home.

The gendered expressions of mental illness and violence

This is a topic that I think relates back to much of the dynamics underlying gender politics. Teaser from Historiann’s commentary:

There are of course seriously mentally ill women who suffer from similar paranoid delusions and fixate on individuals the way the Tucson gunman did. For example, a story in this week’s The New Yorker by Rachel Aviv (sorry–subscription wall) offers a nuanced, tragic description of the progress of mental illness in a woman whose disease sounds quite similar to Loughner’s. Yet, she didn’t pick up guns and kill a crowd of people. Instead, she retreated into a New Hampshire farmhouse and slowly starved to death.

James Carville: Obama is looking like a 2008 Republican

In 1992, Bill Clinton famously proclaimed himself to be an Eisenhower Republican. By that measure, I’d say President Obama is a pre-2008 John McCain Republican.

But this much is sure: The policies of the eventual Republican nominee, that is, anybody left running for it by the time of the vote, will be right in line with those of Sarah Palin. It’s pretty remarkable that the next election is going to boil down to a competition between the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and his vice presidential nominee.

It’s not that Obama is a socialist born somewhere other than Hawaii, or that he possesses a Kenyan anti-colonial mentality — but that some Republican needs to stand up and say, with some legitimacy, that Obama is taking all of the GOP’s ideas.

Well, there you have it. NOTA 2012.

How Cornel West Did the Obamites a Favor

BAR’s Glen Ford hits it out of the park once again. Excellent analysis of the situation. I myself have always preferred to focus more on Obama-the-politician and leave Obama-the-man for his family and friends to concern themselves with.


  • Dipnote: Welcome to Shelbyville (Welcome to Shelbyville airs this week on PBS; check your local listings. It’s also being streamed for free through May 31st on PBS’s website.)

Just a quick geek link before I wrap up…NYT: Evidence of Water Beneath Moon’s Stony Face

…throwing a wrench into the Giant Impact hypothesis.

This Day in History (May 28)

Pioneering woman scholar Abby Leach was born in 1855:

In the 1870s, there were many more opportunities for women in education than there had been a decade earlier–Vassar, Mt. Holyoke, Smith, and Wellesley had been all been founded by 1878. Still, the major men’s colleges of the day entertained no thoughts of educating women. Harvard held annual entrance examinations for women in New York City, but they only told the women who took them whether they would have gotten into Harvard were they men. Abigail Leach changed all that, however, when she arrived on the doorstep of three Harvard professors—William W. Goodwin, James B. Greenough, and Francis J. Child—in 1878 and asked them to instruct her in Latin and Greek. The men were so impressed by her courage and persistence that they agreed. Soon they would be impressed by her intellect as well.

Also see Abby Leach vs. Grace Harriet Macurdy.

What’s on your blogging list today?

[originally posted at Let Them Listen; crossposted at Taylor Marsh and Liberal Rapture]

Late Night Speculation and Outrage

There’s another interesting WikiLeak that’s come to light about high gas prices. It seems that President Bush asked the Saudis to pump extra oil to help relieve market pressure on prices in 2007 and 2008.  The Saudis suggested that Bush tackle the problem by reigning in Wall Street speculation.

When oil prices hit a record $147 a barrel in July 2008, the Bush administration leaned on Saudi Arabia to pump more crude in hopes that a flood of new crude would drive the price down. The Saudis complied, but not before warning that oil already was plentiful and that Wall Street speculation, not a shortage of oil, was driving up prices.

Saudi Oil Minister Ali al Naimi even told U.S. Ambassador Ford Fraker that the kingdom would have difficulty finding customers for the additional crude, according to an account laid out in a confidential State Department cable dated Sept. 28, 2008,

“Saudi Arabia can’t just put crude out on the market,” the cable quotes Naimi as saying. Instead, Naimi suggested, “speculators bore significant responsibility for the sharp increase in oil prices in the last few years,” according to the cable.

What role Wall Street investors play in the high cost of oil is a hotly debated topic in Washington. Despite weak demand, the price of a barrel of crude oil surged more than 25 percent in the past year, reaching a peak of $113 May 2 before falling back to a range of $95 to $100 a barrel.

The Obama administration, the Bush administration before it and Congress have been slow to take steps to rein in speculators. On Tuesday, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a U.S. regulatory agency, charged a group of financial firms with manipulating the price of oil in 2008. But the commission hasn’t enacted a proposal to limit the percentage of oil contracts a financial company can hold, while Congress remains focused primarily on big oil companies, threatening in hearings last week to eliminate their tax breaks because of the $38 billion in first-quarter profits the top six U.S. companies earned.

The Saudis, however, have struck a steady theme for years that something should be done to curb the influence of banks and hedge funds that are speculating on the price of oil, according to diplomatic cables made available to McClatchy by the WikiLeaks website.

The Saudis evidently repeatedly warned both the Bush and Obama administration about the roll of Wall Street speculators in the price of oil.

Matt Taibi has also written some about the WikiLeaks information.

The Wiki documents show that the Saudis had long ago concluded that this increased investor flow was a threat to disrupt the markets. An embassy cable from 2007 recounted a meeting U.S. officials had with Yasser Mufti, an Aramco planner. “The Saudi analysts indicated a link between higher oil prices and the influx of investor funds into the oil markets,” it read.

The cables also show that the Saudis urged the Americans to enact reforms to rein in Wall Street, calling for speculative limits and other changes. It also showed that some Saudi officials believed that speculation added as much as $40 to the oil price during the height of the bubble.

All of this is significant because both the Bush administration and the Obama administration have denied this narrative to various degrees. The CFTC only recently admitted that speculation played a role in the 2008 mess, having originally (and stubbornly) blamed supply and demand issues. Subsequent analyses have shown that the Saudi position, that worldwide demand for oil never increased nearly enough to account for the gigantic 2008 price spike, was almost certainly correct.

You have to wonder if the current situation also reflects the lack of will by the last two administrations to reign in Wall Street excess.  Hopefully, this information will get some play in the MSM but I’m not holding my breath.

SDB Evening News Reads for 052711

Minx Midget Fancy...remember that phrase...

Good evening, Its Friday!

I guess you can tell that I have a fondness for midgets.  As the picture to the left shows, I often collect images or stories that strike me as funny and I know, totally unpolitically correct…wait, is that a word?  Hey,  if it isn’t it should be…if Palin can do it…why can’t I?

Anyway, this midget fancy, it is not something new, I have always been fascinated with anything connected to Little People.  So if you ever come across anything (pictures or articles) funny or campy that involves a midget, be sure to send it to me… using my special email address:

Ah, it is Friday, so today’s reads will be on the easy side. (My little midget rant might have given you a heads up to my  selection of links I have for you today.)

Actually, I have one link that is very disturbing…I will just sandwich it in between the fluff.

Hey, Obama signed that PARTRIOT Act bill with an electric pen.  Somehow I find this ironic…using this kind of technology to sign the extension of a law to spy on American Citizens.  It has a James Bond kind of flare about it.  Or if not James Bond, perhaps Boris and Natasha would be a better description?  That link goes to an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle: Goof Gas Attack where…

Boris and Natasha plan a goof gas attack on Washington to take it over.

They took a few days to get there by cab and went to the visitor section of US Congress and they then discovered the US was run by politicians arguing and debating the issues and giving speeches. What the politicians say makes no logical sense and seems to be goofy and so Natasha turns to Boris and asks “Boris is what he said, you think he already have some goof gas?” and Boris says “Natasha what he said, that is goof gas!” – How a Bill Becomes a Law with an Autopen – Friday, May 27, 2011

Pete Souza/The White House

President Obama’s signature on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which he (physically) signed in 2009.

Last night, with President Obama faraway in France and provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire at midnight, the commander-in-chief awakened at 5:45 a.m. and called on his “autopen” to immediately sign the bill into law. The device replicated Obama’s signature and, as a result, the government’s post-9/11 roving wiretap privileges were secured. “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” said Obama, after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. So what is this device and how is it legal when constitutionally, the president presumably must sign a bill before it becomes law? Schoolhouse Rock did not cover this.

Jay Wexler, a Boston University law professor who literally wrote a book on the autopen, told ABC News the constitutionality of the autopen was settled in a 2005 Office of Legal Counsel opinion [PDF]

Emptywheel joked about this “robosigning” and offered his own new lyric for Schoolhouse Rock:

“Robo-signing” the PATRIOT Act | Emptywheel

As I joked last night, they’re going to have to add a couple of lines to Schoolhouse Rock to explain to children the magic of the President’s autopen:

I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill, thanks to the President using his auto-quill.

I’m off to the White House to wait in a line for the President’s autosign.

As a side note, look at the signature of Obama’s more closely.  There must be some hidden meaning in the way he puts the O so large…it almost encompasses his bama.  I wonder what handwriting experts think of it.

Alright everyone. Take a breath. Here is the disturbing link…we’ll just let it speak for itself.   I decided not to include the image. If you want to see what the Iran Human Rights group is worried about, then click the link to see the picture.

Iran Executions | Iran Hangings | Iran Young Boy Executioner | Mediaite

Reports have been coming in that 11 people were hung in Iran yesterday with five people hung to death in public. However, the group Iran Human Rights has an incredibly disturbing report about the executions. They claim to have a picture that shows a young boy of indeterminate age being used to actually perform one of the public executions.

The picture purports to show the death of Mehdi Faraji, a man convicted of murdering five women. However, in the picture, you can see what appears to be a young boy literally pulling a stool out from underneath Faraji’s feet, sending the man down to his death. An older man seems to be guiding the boys hands.

It seems inappropriate to put this link in a Funny Friday post, but when I saw it in my Google Reader, I had to use it.  I don’t know if this boy is somehow related to one of the five women this man killed…it is definitely an image that stays with you… I will just say take another breath and read on.

Okay…speaking of Moose and Squirrel:

Mooseferatu –

John Cole has been collecting suggested titles for the Sarah Palin movie. Other entries:

From Within Sight of Russia With Love
John McCain’s a Series of Unfortunate Events

Check it out. That title Krugman uses for his post is hilarious. I also like this one:

Lost in Translation II

Another funny observation from Kevin Drum:  It’s Gonna Be a Long Primary Season | Mother Jones

A recent tweet from Tim Pawlenty:

Seriously? This is the kind of childishness it takes to compete for the tea party vote these days? “Aren’t there any grown-ups left in the GOP?” asks Mark Kleiman.

Well, when your base is glued to the TV watching wrestling and Pawn Stars, what do you expect.

(No offense to those fans of wrestling and Pawn Stars.)

Well, have a fun Friday Evening…and remember my Minx Midget Fancy email…its easy, think of it as a little people version of Cat Fancy or Dog Fancy. (Wink and a smile.)