Sunday Reads Part Two: Condescending and BS Statements… and Ninja FernsPosted: May 20, 2012
Ah, and now for part two of today’s Sunday Reads, get ready for lots of links…
Let’s start with a couple of big news stories, and then work our way through the rest.
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing above Scotland which killed 270 people, has died at his home in Libya.
Megrahi, 60, was convicted by a special court in the Netherlands in 2001.
He was freed from Scottish jail in 2009 on compassionate grounds because of cancer, stirring controversy when he outlived doctors’ expectations.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said it was a day to remember the 270 victims of “an appalling terrorist act”.
Mr Cameron, who is in Chicago for a Nato summit, said Megrahi should never have been freed, Reuters news agency reports.
No kidding…Well, at least the victims families can have some sense of closure. Although, I cannot see how his death, free and at home, would give those families a feeling of relief.
Boehner is talking crap again, this time on the TV show “This Week,” U.S. banking laws unable to stop JPMorgan loss: Republican Boehner –
U.S. banking reforms could not have prevented JPMorgan Chase & Co‘s trading losses, and those involved in the activities that went awry should be held accountable, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said in an interview aired on Sunday.
“I don’t believe there’s anything in Dodd-Frank (financial reform law) that would’ve prevented this activity at JPMorgan,” said Boehner, the top Republican U.S. officeholder. He made the comments Friday in an interview for ABC’s “This Week.”
Last week JPMorgan disclosed that it has suffered at least $2 billion in losses due to trades that went bad. The losses from derivatives trading could widen and have placed pressure on the bank to explain what happened as lawmakers and regulators tussle over rules for Dodd-Frank enacted two years ago.
“There’s no law against stupidity. No law against stupid trades,” said Boehner.
“And as long as depositors’ money wasn’t at risk and as long as there’s no risk of a taxpayer bailout, they should be held accountable by the market and their shareholders,” he said.
This hedge may have been considered an exemption according to Dodd-Frank, but with the amounts of the loss increasing daily, I wonder if there is something more sinister going on.
While on the subject of the GOP…this little post from Atlanta Journal Constitution caught my eye. You may remember that my state of Georgia was last in the nation when it came to laws that prevent or punish ethics infractions within the State’s government. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston had some words about ethics reform, and I think it illustrates the kind of partisan problems we are seeing these days. No, Speaker Ralston. Ethics reform is not a partisan issue | Jay Bookman
If you believe House Speaker David Ralston, ethics reform is a liberal cause backed by liberal groups and the liberal media, and conservatives who join the campaign for ethics reform are being played for suckers in an attempt to divide the Republican Party.
“In times of great majorities like we enjoy now, we must remember that there are those around us who seek nothing less than to divide us. There are those who would sow the seeds of dissension and discord in order to advance a self-absorbed agenda that’s not consistent with the best interests of our party.
Let me be very clear. Regardless of the course that others may take, as for me and the people’s House of this state, we are going to stand united, working hard, standing Republican shoulder to Republican shoulder, to make Georgia a better state — and not align ourselves with media elites and liberal special interest groups. …”
That statement — uttered by Ralston at the state GOP convention in Columbus Friday — is the biggest load of baloney I have seen from a Georgia politician not named Newt Gingrich. It is also a two-fold insult to the base of his party, suggesting that ethics reform is not a conservative value and that Republican voters and activists who support such reform are being duped.
Democratic candidates and strategists would no doubt be pleased by Ralston’s confession that ethics reform is a liberal cause, and they are no doubt eager to campaign on that idea. The only problem is, it isn’t true.
Liberal Americans and conservative Americans don’t agree about a lot of things. But they do agree about the impropriety of elected public officials taking $17,000 family vacations to Europe on a lobbyist’s dollar, as Ralston has done. They do agree that lobbyists shouldn’t be plying public officials of either party with $250 rounds of golf and $300 dinners and $500-a-night resort hotel rooms. There is no partisan divide among the citizens of Georgia on that question, and Ralston knows it.
The statement is in response to a GOP committee meeting this weekend.
…At the urging of the GOP rank and file, the party’s executive committee has voted unanimously to put an advisory question on the GOP primary ballot this July, asking primary voters whether they support a $100 limit on gifts from lobbyists to legislators.
The people who supported that measure are not liberals and they are not liberal dupes, as Ralston seems to suggest. The same is true of Republican primary voters who will vote overwhelming in favor of that measure come July.
Ralston’s attempt to make this a test of party loyalty is ludicrous. He has clearly decided that preserving the privileges and entitlements that he and his fellow elected officials enjoy is more important than honoring the opinions of his party membership and the people of Georgia.
The divide, in other words, is not between Republican and Democrat or liberal and conservative. The divide is between the people of this state and those who believe that the title of senator or representative is an entitlement to the spoils of power
What Ralston is doing is perfectly in line with the hypocritical behavior of politicians as a whole…
As the AJC’s Jim Galloway reports, a group calling itself the Capitol Coalition of Conservative Government has responded to Ralston’s statement, and they have put their case well:
“We strongly condemn the comments made by Speaker Ralston regarding ethics reform. Strong ethics and accountability are not a matter of right versus left. They are a matter of right versus wrong.
His comments imply that voters and activists should hide our eyes from the realities of ethics violations and the need for reform, and stand by everyone no matter what they do, simply because they have an “R” behind their name.
Rather than open his heart to the cries from citizens that we have the right to call for accountability, his comments reflect those of someone who seeks to divide our party by falsely accusing those who stand for our values of being divisive. His comments were arrogant and pompous and show an attitude that is anything but a humble public servant.”
It is also amusing to see Ralston once again trying to perform an exquisite ethical two-step. On the one hand, he argues that as speaker he “represent(s) a caucus that are basically good people doing good jobs,” and he feigns surprise that Republican voters and activists might question their ethical purity.
He then turns around and warns that if gifts over $100 are outlawed, those very same “good people” would begin to accept those gifts under the table, in violation of the law. He seems to believe that members of his own caucus would rather break the law than give up their goodies, and he seems to believe that members of his own party have become dupes of “media elites and liberal special interest groups” because they dare demand clean government.
Anyway, I just thought that was a good article and made a good point about the partisan politics that are bringing the government to a stand still.
GOP need to be focused of fixing the economy, not turning to austerity measures to effectively put a death strangle on our country…we have talked about this over and over again. It all is just too damn frustrating to see this crap going on. Sigh…
There is some excitement in the world of horse racing, I’ll Have Another catches Bodemeister again –
Two weeks ago, J. Paul Reddam’s I’ll Have Another ran down pacesetter Bodemeister to take the Kentucky Derby under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. On Saturday, I’ll Have Another took on that pacesetting rival in the 137th running of the Preakness Stakes and gutted out a neck victory to take the second jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico.
I am not really into the sport of horse racing, but my brother-in-law is a professor at Cornell and works in the lab that test the horses for drugs.
“We wanted to be a little bit closer to Bodemeister this time because normally that horse runs a huge race,” Gutierrez said. “My horse has a tremendous kick in the end. He has been proving that in the last three races. He didn’t disappoint again today. He has proven a lot of people wrong. I just have to prepare because I want to be at the same level as him. He’s an amazing horse.”
The exciting rematch was witnessed by a record crowd of 121,309 at Pimlico, edging the 2005 Preakness when 121,263 packed Old Hilltop. The 13-race Thoroughbred card generated an all-sources handle of $80,463,005. The handle ranked as the sixth highest for Pimlico’s signature day.
“The numbers say it all. We had a tremendous event,” Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas stated.
It’s now on to the Belmont Stakes in New York for the Doug O’Neill-trained I’ll Have Another, who cost just $35,000 when purchased by O’Neill’s brother Dennis at the 2011 OBS Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training. The colt will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed swept all three races in 1978.
Now lets move on to another link that is making people talk, this time it is an op/ed in the New York Times. First we will look at the op/ed, written by Campbell Brown and then a post from Think Progress that comments on it.
WHEN I listen to President Obama speak to and about women, he sometimes sounds too paternalistic for my taste. In numerous appearances over the years — most recently at the Barnard graduation — he has made reference to how women are smarter than men. It’s all so tired, the kind of fake praise showered upon those one views as easy to impress. As I listen, I am always bracing for the old go-to cliché: “Behind every great man is a great woman.”Some women are smarter than men and some aren’t. But to suggest to women that they deserve dominance instead of equality is at best a cheap applause line.
In today’s New York Times, former cable news anchor Campbell Brown attacks President Obama for “condescending” to women with a “paternalistic,” “fake,” and “grating” attitude. In the 10th paragraph, she discloses that her husband Dan Senor is a top advisor to Mitt Romney.
Brown launches her assault based on Obama’s commencement address at Barnard College — the women’s college at Columbia University — and suggests that though “it’s a tough economy,” he shouldn’t have encouraged the young women there that they are “tougher” and that “things will get better” in the nation’s job market.
Brown’s primary contention is that Obama is ignoring economic issues related to women to focus on things like abortion rights and affordable access to contraception. To justify her attack, Brown cites a handful of stories from personal friends and relatives, then cites polling data:
The struggling women in my life all laughed when I asked them if contraception or abortion rights would be a major factor in their decision about this election. For them, and for most other women, the economy overwhelms everything else….
Another recent Pew Research Center survey found that voters, when thinking about whom to vote for in the fall, are most concerned about the economy (86 percent) and jobs (84 percent). Near the bottom of the list were some of the hot-button social issues.
She’s right: the economy and jobs are at the top of voters’ lists of issues. But it’s not at the expense of all other issues. Indeed, the same Pew poll Brown cites shows that more than a third of voters ranked “abortion” and “birth control” — 39 and 34 percent, respectively — as “very important” issues. And, according to the report, “Birth control is significantly more important to women (40% very important) than men (27%).”
Four pages past Brown’s essay in the Times’s Sunday Review, the Times editorial board takes Republicans to task and outlines their continuing assault on women’s issues. The problem with Romney — elided by Brown — is that he shares many of these extreme views. Brown writes:
Most women don’t want to be patted on the head or treated as wards of the state. They simply want to be given a chance to succeed based on their talent and skills. To borrow a phrase from our president’s favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, they want “an open field and a fair chance.”
When asked why Romney has repeatedly dodged the question about his “support” the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the Romney campaign had this to say.
The campaign quickly covered itself with the hedge that Romney “supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law.” Republicans in Congress opposed the law when it was debated. Only two GOP senators — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who side with the President against their party on women’s issues — voted for it.
I have more world news after the jump…
This next article is from The Guardian, it describes the immigration “problems” over in Great Britain. Child asylum seekers ‘still being imprisoned’
A report by the Refugee Council to be published this week accuses the immigration service of continuing to detain child asylum seekers by wrongly classifying them as adults.
The report, Not a Minor Offence, has been welcomed by other groups working with refugees and asylum seekers who are growing increasingly concerned by the numbers of age dispute cases. Last year one child spent almost three months locked up before it was finally accepted that he was not an adult.
Evidence that children were being psychologically damaged by their experiences in the asylum system led the government to announce an end to the controversial practice of keeping under-18s in detention centres two years ago this weekend. Yet the practice is continuing and no one knows how many children have been illegally deported as adults.
Guessing someone’s age is controversial, but the Refugee Council believes officials are not erring on the side of caution. In many cases agencies find out about a child whose age is disputed only when another detainee inside a centre reports their concerns about an unaccompanied child being locked up.
Give that link a full read when you can…
In the global twitter world, Pakistan bans Twitter, citing blasphemous content
The offending tweets, according to Pakistani officials, involved a contest to draw cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims consider any depiction of the prophet to be blasphemy.
Pakistan’s newly-appointed Minister for Information Technology, Raja Pervez Ashraf, issued a blanket ban on the site inside the country, upping the pressure on Twitter as negotiations continue.
Censorship is nothing new in Pakistan, but often it surrounds matters tied to the country’s powerful security establishment. In this case, activists suspect the democratically-elected civilian government is using the sensitive topic of blasphemy as cover for constricting the space for political debate ahead of national elections.
More news about the mafia in Italy…Bomb left outside school in Italy kills girl and injures seven
A bomb that killed a teenage girl outside a school in Brindisi on Saturday has been blamed on the mafia by local politicians and condemned as one of Italy‘s most barbaric acts of violence.
Three gas cylinders connected to a detonator left on a low wall outside the school exploded at 7.50am, killing the 16-year-old and injuring up to 10 others, one seriously, as they arrived for lessons. The blast, which experts said was designed to kill, shattered windows in surrounding buildings and was heard across the southern Italian city.
Mainly attended by girls, the school is named after Francesca Morvillo Falcone, wife of anti-mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone. Both were killed by a mafia bomb in Sicily on 23 May 1992, almost exactly 20 years ago, leading many to suspect a mafia role in the bombing, for which no one has yet claimed responsibility. An anti-mafia march was due to be held in Brindisi.
“You can understand the symbolism of this,” said Cosimo Consales, the mayor of the Puglian port town. “This was an attack by organised criminals.”
They will never be able to put an end to the mafia in Italy, that is one thing I am certain of…I am not saying this is support of the mafia, I am just stating a fact.
The next link is from a couple of weeks ago, but the story is fascinating: Paralyzed, Moving a Robot With Their Minds
Two people who are virtually paralyzed from the neck down have learned to manipulate a robotic arm with just their thoughts, using it to reach out and grab objects. One of them, a woman, was able to retrieve a bottle containing coffee and drink it from a straw — the first time she had served herself since her stroke 15 years earlier, scientists reported on Wednesday.“She had a smile on her face that I and the research team will never forget,” said Dr. Leigh R. Hochberg of the Department of Veterans Affairs, an author of a study reporting the achievement.
The project was a partnership by Brown University and the Department of Veteran Affairs, Rhode Island, and the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston.
In 2006 in a previous Nature paper, the team showed that the same neural interface system could be used by a paralysed patient to control a cursor on a computer screen.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was able to drink coffee without help. I was ecstatic. I had feelings of hope and a great sense of independence”
Cathy Hutchinson Study patient
The key is a tiny sensor implanted on to the surface of the motor cortex.
Thinking about moving an arm or hand activates neurons in this part of the brain and the electrical activity is sent via a cable to a computer, which translates them into commands.
Also, last week the literary world lost an important novelist: Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes dies at 83
Carlos Fuentes, one of Latin America’s best-known authors and a sharp critic of governments in Mexico and the United States, died on Tuesday after a literary career spanning more than five decades. He was 83.
Fuentes wrote more than 20 novels and several collections of short stories. His most famous novels include “The Death of Artemio Cruz,” “The Old Gringo” and “The Crystal Frontier.”
“The Old Gringo” was the first U.S. bestseller by a Mexican author and was made into a 1989 movie starring Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda.
The Old Gringo is based on the mysterious last years of Ambrose Bierce,
Dividing his time mainly between Mexico City and London, Fuentes dovetailed literature and social and political commentary. He remained active and energetic to the end, and was working on a new book.
Along with compatriot Octavio Paz, Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa, Fuentes brought Latin American literature to a global audience in the second half of the 20th century. His work was translated into two dozen languages.
“He left an enormous body of work which is an eloquent testimony to all of the big political problems and cultural realities of our time,” Vargas Llosa said of Fuentes in a message posted on his daughter’s Twitter account.
And here is your last link: Ferns, Secret Ninja Ferns, and their Alluring Asexual Bits | The Artful Amoeba, Scientific American Blog Network
A fern may seem a simple thing. It’s a leaf; it sprouts from the forest floor. But it’s much more than that. Ferns were one of the first plant forms to evolve, and they retain features that show it.
For instance, unlike mosses and their wacky buddies the liverworts, ferns possess true stems (which usually run along or under the ground as stolons or rhizomes), roots, and leaves (you may think mosses have leaves, but they don’t – not “true” ones that share a common origin with most other leaves). But unlike conifers and flowering plants, ferns do not make seeds or fruit.
This is just an interesting article to read through. Check it out.
Well that should keep y’all busy for a while…enjoy your Sunday!