Sunday Reads

The Natchez Trace National Park, Mississippi

Good Morning!!

After the discussion of detective stories on the morning thread yesterday, I was inspired to read another book by Nevada Barr. Barr is a former National Park ranger who writes novels about Anna Pigeon, a park ranger who works in law enforcement. The books take place in different national parks, as Anna is transferred from place to place during her career. The one I’m reading right now is called Hunting Season. It is the second book Barr has written that takes pace in the Natchez Trace in Mississippi.  I like Barr’s books, because she describes beautiful outdoor settings and the animals and people who populate our national parks.

Another book I really enjoyed recently was The Girl on the Stairs. I think most of you know by now that I am interested in the Kennedy Assassination. I really liked this book because it was written in the form of a memoir.

The author, Barry Ernest became involved in research about the assassination as a young man. Early on he read in the Warren Report about a young woman named Victoria Adams who had witnessed the assassination from the fourth floor of the Texas book depository–two floors below where Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly shot at the president from a sixth floor window. Over the years Ernest interviewed almost every important witness of the events in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and worked with several early assassination researchers. He didn’t find Victoria Adams until many years later. I found the story of his journey of discovery fascinating and moving.

In the news, there’s a new theory about the purpose of Stonehenge–offered by a team of archaeologists who have been investigating the site for the past ten years.

Dismissing all previous theories, scientists working on the Stonehenge Riverside Project (SRP) believe the enigmatic stone circle was built as a grand act of union after a long period of conflict between east and west Britain.

Coming from southern England and from west Wales, the stones may have been used to represent the ancestors of some of Britain’s earliest farming communities.

According study leader Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield, Britain’s Neolithic people became increasingly unified during the monument’s main construction around 3000 B.C. to 2500 B.C.

“There was a growing island-wide culture — the same styles of houses, pottery and other material forms were used from Orkney to the south coast,” Parker Pearson said.

“Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labour of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them. Just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification,” Parker Pearson said.

Tropical Storm Debby is moving towards the Gulf of Mexico. I hope she won’t cause too much trouble for those of who who live down in Texas and Louisiana. Of course, as Dak pointed out to me last night, Debby might just head up toward New England after she’s finished with the Gulf coast. Yikes!

Tropical Storm Debby crawled slowly closer to the northern rim of the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, its exact track still uncertain as forecasters warned the system could begin strengthening and produce near hurricane force winds in coming days.

Amid an ongoing threat of torrential downpours from Debby, authorities warned of the possibility of flooding and strong winds from Texas to Florida. At least one tornado linked to the storm touched down Saturday in southwest Florida, but no injuries were reported. Heavy squalls pounded parts of that state.

At 5 a.m. EDT Sunday, Debby was about 165 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Debby was moving toward the north at 3 mph and was expected to strengthen as it gradually takes a more westward direction in coming hours.

In politics, there are two big secret meetings of superrich Republicans going on this weekend.

It’s going to be a big weekend in the world of big conservative money: Both Mitt Romney and billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch are holding hush-hush events with wealthy donors designed to keep the dollars coming in.

Romney’s three-day retreat, which is being held at the Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, is an opportunity for about 700 Romney’s biggest fundraisers to get some face time with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. (Many of them are “bundlers” – wealthy and well-connected individuals who call on their family, friends and associates to max out their contributions to Romney and the GOP – who have raised in the area of $250,000 for Romney.) Some of the biggest names in the Republican Party, and many of the top contenders to be Romney’s running mate, are also coming to Park City: CBS News has confirmed that attendees will include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Republican strategist Karl Rove, former Reagan chief of staff James Baker, Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker.

And there’s also the Koch brothers’ “confab.”

While Romney and his Republican allies are busy cultivating donors in Utah, the Koch brothers will be in San Diego holding a convention designed to help them generate hundreds of millions of dollars to advance conservative causes. At least we think they will: The event is shrouded in secrecy, and neither representatives for Koch Industries nor a number of expected attendees contacted by CBS News would even confirm that it is taking place.

Word got out last week that it was indeed happening, when Minnesota television station owner Stanley Hubbard confirmed its existence – and San Diego location – to Politico. In an apparent attempt to head off protesters and potential infiltrators, organizers and attendees will not say exactly where the convention will be held; a San Diego alternative newspaper is holding a “Find the Koch Brothers Confab” contest in order to figure it out. (CBS News’ attempts to confirm the venue have thus far been fruitless, though we have our suspicions.) Liberals have their own version of the Koch brothers’ confab called The Democracy Alliance, where security is similarly strict; both events are awash in security personnel looking to escort uninvited guests (such as reporters) off the premises.

The Boston Globe has an article about Mitt Romney’s history with Michael Milken, “the junk bond king.”

It was at the height of the 1980s buyout boom when Mitt Romney went in search of $300 million to finance one of the most lucrative deals he would ever manage. The man who would help provide the money was none other than the famed junk-bond king Michael Milken.

What transpired would become not just one of the most profitable leveraged buyouts of the era, but also one of the most revealing stories of Romney’s Bain Capital career. It showed how he pivoted from being a relatively cautious investor to risking his reputation for a big payoff. It is one that Romney has rarely, if ever, mentioned in his two bids for the presidency, perhaps because the Houston-based department store chain that Bain assembled later went into bankruptcy.

But what distinguishes this deal from the nearly 100 others that Romney did over a 15-year period was his close work with Milken’s firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. At the time of the deal, it was widely known that Milken and his company were under federal investigation, yet Romney decided to go ahead with the deal because Drexel had a unique ability to sell high-risk, high-yield debt instruments, known as “junk bonds.”

The Obama campaign has criticized the deal as showing Romney’s eagerness to make a “profit at any cost,” because workers lost jobs, and challenged Romney’s assertion that his business background best prepares him for the presidency. Romney, meanwhile, once referred to the deal as emanating from “the glorious days of Drexel Burnham,” saying, “it was fun while it lasted,” in a little-noticed interview with American Banker magazine.

At the New Yorker, John Cassidy asks whether Hispanics can “save Obama.”

I’ve decided to post some in-depth interviews with campaign officials, politicians, policy wonks, and others with something worthwhile to say. The first one, which you can read in full below, is with Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for Economic Progress and at the Century Foundation.
An expert on demography and polling data, Teixeira co-authored a very influential 2002 book titled “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” which argued that the Republican era that started in the late nineteen-sixties was coming to an end.

Many of the things that Teixeira and his co-author John Judis identified ten years ago—the rising number of Hispanic voters, an emerging gender gap between the two parties, and a shift to the Democrats among urban professionals—played into Obama’s victory in 2008. Despite Republican gains in the 2010 midterms and Mitt Romney’s recent rise in the polls, Teixeira believes that Obama is still well placed on the basis of demography and geography. “All the trends we identified that helped lead to Obama’s 2008 victory have continued apace,” he told me.

The rapidly growing Hispanic vote is particularly important, Teixeira insists. In Nevada, for example, it is now approaching twenty per cent, and the overall minority-vote share is close to forty per cent. And Mitt Romney, after taking a hard line against illegal immigration during the primaries, has no credible way to reach Hispanics. “I think they’re stuck, and I think they know they are stuck,” Teixeira said.

What’s happening in your neck of the woods today?

14 Comments on “Sunday Reads”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    Love the picture of the Natchez National Park! So soothing imagining myself walking through the forest and leaving the world behind.

    For years the idea of Stonehenge has always intrigued me. Think about it, this was erected thousands of years ago without the benefit of technology and how they were able to get those huge stones to sit on the pillars is fascinating. It must have taken decades of work to move those boulders from place to place and taken thousands of workers to accomplish it.

    PBS did a program on Stonehenge a few years back and attempted to recreate how it was done. Mind boggling!

    It only proves that our ancestors were very, very smart when it comes to engineering long before they were even aware of the word.

    Stonehenge may always remain a mystery but it certainly provides much speculation which has yet to diminish the interest in the who and why it came to be.

    Great round up, bb!

  2. ecocatwoman says:

    I just finished reading Mark Ames’ piece on Alternet: What Happens If We Wake Up With a Mormon in the White House: While there are funny parts, it’s more than a bit scary.

    I posted a link to a video of a loggerhead turtle laying her eggs on Pensacola Beach last weekend. Well, her nest & the eggs may be destroyed by the high surf due to Debby. Here’s the latest from Barrier Island Girl’s blog:

    Interesting, diverse roundup, bb. Thanks.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks for the link to the the Mark Ames piece! I really like him. I’m so sorry to hear that the loggerhead turtle’s nest is in danger.

    • dakinikat says:

      The Mormon cult is creepy. No doubt about it.

      • northwestrain says:

        My grandfather, if he were still alive, would agree. He escaped from the cult — he was third generation LDS. His grandfathers were there at the beginning days of this cult, and they were in Illinois when Joseph Smith was killed. Both trekked to Utah, with their growing families to help populate the area.

        I’ve done quite a bit of research on this side of my genealogy. In the process I’ve tried to understand how the on artist Joseph Smith continues to influence his cult from the grave.

        Mittens is one of the true believers — he is living in an alternative universe. He has absolutely no concept of how the real world lives. To him we are like ants — which is how he made his money — stepping on no name insects like us.

        It is really hard to figure out how Mormons consider themselves Christians — since they fundamentally believe in a different after life than the majority of Christians.

        One of their strangest dogmas is that Native Americans are from the lost tribe of Israel. There is absolutely no modern scientific data to support that mythology handed down by Joseph Smith.

        Basically the current evidence puts humans in the Americas much earlier then the existence of the tribes of Israel. DNA doesn’t support the LDS mythology, neither does linguistics research.

        • dakinikat says:

          I’ve had two very close friends that were excommunicated from the LDS church. One was excommunicated for marrying a Catholic woman who wouldn’t convert. We used to travel on business a lot and his wife was a business partner of mine so we were pretty close friends. We’d go have a drink after doing our consulting work and I’d hear the stories of his childhood and a lot about those secret ‘rites’ in the temple where women aren’t allowed to tread. Truly frightening.

  3. dakinikat says:

    Debby appears to be headed my direction. Guess I’ll have to go stock up on food tomorrow morning and hope the electricity holds. At least it looks like I’ll be on the dry side now.

  4. northwestrain says:

    Here’s an article that pulls together bits and pieces I’ve been reading questioning 0bama’s real support for his health care law.

    Did he knowingly pass a law that would be tossed out by the Supreme Court? Thus giving him something huge to use as a campaign club against the GOP.

    What we all know is that single payer and the elimination of all the “middlemen” is the real path toward universal health care. Single payer is want the majority of American want according to the polls.

  5. ecocatwoman says:

    More pictures on the water intrusion in Santa Rosa Florida: I don’t think the nest she’s referring to is the loggerhead’s she videoed last weekend. Regardless, it looks like many Panhandle turtle nests will be destroyed.

  6. ecocatwoman says:

    Court Lewis of American Variety Radio (which is where I first heard of the group that is now mounting the search for Amelia Earhart’s plane) is interviewing Angela Sun on this week’s show. She’s made a documentary about the Pacific Garbage Patch (aka Pacific Gyre). Here’s a link to her movie Plastic Paradise; Hopefully a podcast of the interview will be posted soon: