Friday Morning Reads

Good Morning!

So, I’m going to start out with a story about “The Great New England Vampire Panic” and some bizarre graveyard behavior that happened as a result.  Yes, I know it’s pass Samhain but I’m just trying to forget that National Crass Consumerism Season is upon us.  BB found this for me so I have to thank her for the distraction and feeding my curiosity about the way humans create bizarre rituals around graves and the dead.

Children playing near a hillside gravel mine found the first graves. One ran home to tell his mother, who was skeptical at first—until the boy produced a skull.

Because this was Griswold, Connecticut, in 1990, police initially thought the burials might be the work of a local serial killer named Michael Ross, and they taped off the area as a crime scene. But the brown, decaying bones turned out to be more than a century old. The Connecticut state archaeologist, Nick Bellantoni, soon determined that the hillside contained a colonial-era farm cemetery. New England is full of such unmarked family plots, and the 29 burials were typical of the 1700s and early 1800s: The dead, many of them children, were laid to rest in thrifty Yankee style, in simple wood coffins, without jewelry or even much clothing, their arms resting by their sides or crossed over their chests.

Except, that is, for Burial Number 4.

Scraping away soil with flat-edged shovels, and then brushes and bamboo picks, the archaeologist and his team worked through several feet of earth before reaching the top of the crypt. When Bellantoni lifted the first of the large, flat rocks that formed the roof, he uncovered the remains of a red-painted coffin and a pair of skeletal feet. They lay, he remembers, “in perfect anatomical position.” But when he raised the next stone, Bellantoni saw that the rest of the individual “had been com­pletely…rearranged.” The skeleton had been beheaded; skull and thighbones rested atop the ribs and vertebrae. “It looked like a skull-and-crossbones motif, a Jolly Roger. I’d never seen anything like it,” Bellantoni recalls.

You can read about the mysterious grave sites at The Smithsonian website link above.

Here’s another one of those pro-life, family values, Republican white Congress critters that turns out to be a total hypocrite.  Yup, it’s another crazy Tea Bagger with a messed up life as well as a messed up political philosophy.

A decade before calling himself “a consistent supporter of pro-life values,” Tennessee physician and Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais supported his ex-wife’s decision to get two abortions before their marriage, according to the congressman’s sworn testimony during his divorce trial.

Obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the couple’s 2001 trial transcript also confirms DesJarlais had sexual relationships with at least two patients, three coworkers and a drug representative while he was chief of staff at Grandview Medical Center in Jasper, Tenn. During one affair with a female patient, DesJarlais prescribed her drugs, gave her an $875 watch and bought her a plane ticket to Las Vegas, records show.

Wow.  You just have to wonder how these guys think that their karma and conduct is not going to catch up with them eventually.

Things are not going well in Gaza and Israel.   I saw this horrifying photo of a dead little girl in Gaza juxtaposed with this essay at TDB by Emily Hauzer called “For Israel–with Love and Squalor”.

The sudden roar of violence in Gaza and southern Israel divides the world in many ways, not least between those who are willing (sometimes quite eager) to criticize Israel, and those for whom love of Israel means a rejection of any and all criticism, ever. Death rains from the sky and the rhetorical fury resumes even as walls shatter and blood spills, and no one listens to anyone.

Or so it can seem. But is that really the only choice? Is it really impossible to both love a place deeply, and criticize it honestly?

Hauzer, an Israeli-American writer, describes the horrors that are unfolding as innocents on both sides get caught in the fight between leaders of Hamas and Israel and their struggle for power and control.

And so yes, when Israel decides that now’s the time to assassinate the head of Hamas’s military wing (a man who, until this weekend, served as something of a “subcontractor, in charge of maintaining Israel’s security in Gaza,” according to Israeli journalist Aluf Benn)—Israel is also responsible. When the IDF’s “surgical strikes” kill not only their targets but also civilians, including a 19 year old pregnant woman, a 7 year old girl, and an 11 month old baby, it’s also responsible. If the husband or the brothers and sisters are filled with rage and want to strike a blow for their people and their grief—can we not understand? Can we not say that we would feel the same? That we do feel the same? And would we really care who had started “the latest round”?

The single biggest difference between the two sides of the current Israeli-Gazan hostilities comes down to one word: Power.

Gazan militants (not all of them Hamas—indeed, most of them not) launch rockets from within a tiny strip of land that is physically penned in on all sides by Israel (save for one small crossing with Egypt)—when Israel retaliates, 1.7 million Gazans literally cannot even run away. On the other hand, Israel is a military super power, with battleships off the coast of Gaza, jet fighters in her airspace, and the unstinting support of the world’s most powerful nation.

I watched Democracy Now on Wednesday night and saw Noam Chomsky interviewed on Gaza.

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s kind of amazing and inspiring to see people managing somehow to survive in—as essentially caged animals and subject to constant, random, sadistic punishment only to humiliate them, no pretext. They’re—Israel and the United States keep them alive, basically. They don’t want them to starve to death. But the life is set up so that you can’t have a dignified, decent life. In fact, one of the words you hear most often is “dignity.” They would like to have dignified lives. And the standard Israeli position is they shouldn’t raise their heads. And it’s a pressure cooker, could blow up. You know, people can’t live like that forever.

AMY GOODMAN: You described it in a piece you wrote as an “open-air prison.”

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s an open-air prison. As soon as you—you know, we’ve all been in jail for civil disobedience and so on. The overwhelming feeling everyone gets is somebody else is in total control of you. There’s an arbitrary authority who can control anything you do. Stand up, sit down, you know, find something to eat, go to the bathroom—whatever it may be, they all determine it; you can’t do anything. Now that’s basically what it’s like living there. And, you know, there’s—people find ways to adapt, but it’s just a constant—it’s constant subjugation to an external force, which has no purpose except to humiliate you. Of course, they have pretexts—everybody has pretexts—but they don’t make any sense.

Those of us that value peace wonder why these situations just recur with no attempt at resolution other than more bombs.  Here’s one more personal story of a journalist in Gaza whose 11 month old son was killed by the bombing.  The story also comes with this heart wrenching photo.  I looked for the story after reading Hauzer’s essay.

The front page photo on Thursday’s Washington Post tells, in a single frame, a very personal story from Wednesday’s Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. Jihad Misharawi, a BBC Arabic journalist who lives in Gaza, carries the body of his 11-month old son, Omar, through al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

An Israeli round hit Misharawi’s four-room home in Gaza Wednesday, killing his son, according to BBC Middle East bureau chief Paul Danahar, who arrived in Gaza earlier Thursday. Misharawi’s sister-in-law was also killed, and his brother wounded. Misharawi told Danahar that, when the round landed, there was no fighting in his residential neighborhood.

“We’re all one team in Gaza,” Danahar told me, saying that Misharawi is a BBC video and photo editor. After spending a “few hours” with his grieving colleague, he wrote on Twitter, ”Questioned asked here is: if Israel can kill a man riding on a moving motorbike (as they did last month) how did Jihad’s son get killed.”

Hamas rockets are now targeting Tel Aviv. Three Israelis have died so far.  An Israeli ground assault is now expected.

Palestinian militants targeted densely populated Tel Aviv in Israel’s heartland with rockets for the first time Thursday, part of an unprecedented barrage that threatened to provoke an Israeli ground assault on Gaza. Three Israelis were killed.Air raid sirens wailed and panicked residents ran for cover in Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial and cultural capital. Israel responded by moving troops and heavy weapons toward Gaza and authorizing the call-up of tens of thousands of reservists.

There was no word on where the two rockets aimed at Tel Aviv landed, raising the possibility they fell into the Mediterranean. A third rocket landed in an open area on the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv.

The fighting, the heaviest in four years, came after Israel launched a ferocious air assault Wednesday to stop repeated rocket fire from Gaza. The powerful Hamas military chief was killed in that strike, and another 18 Palestinians have died over two days, including five children. Some 100 Palestinians have been wounded.

Israeli warplanes struck dozens of Hamas-linked targets in Gaza on Thursday, sending loud booms echoing across the narrow Mediterranean coastal strip at regular intervals, followed by gray columns of smoke. After nightfall, several explosions shook Gaza City several minutes apart, a sign the strikes were not letting up, and the military said the targets were about 70 underground rocket-launching sites.

It’s just really hard to understand how these constant back and forth of rockets and missiles will solve anything.  I’ve gotten to the point where I think that solving things isn’t actually the point.  It just ruins a lot of lives on all sides of the hostilities.   You wonder if it will ever end. You also have to wonder how many people will die until the joint desire for peace is greater than the joint desire for power and control.

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?

28 Comments on “Friday Morning Reads”

  1. You also have to wonder how many people will die until the joint desire for peace is greater than the joint desire for power and control.

    Kat, your last sentence to this post is really something to think about, in a simple but profound way.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Dems gain another House seat: Ami Berra defeats Dan Lungren in CA

    • RalphB says:

      That’s good news. Glad he’s gone!

    • roofingbird says:

      Geez, yes….but I wouldn’t be surprised if he pops up in some other county.

    • RalphB says:

      Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray on Friday conceded to Democratic challenger Scott Peters in California’s 52nd Congressional District. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Bilbray called Peters to offer congratulations. via TPM.

      Another one down for the count.

    • RalphB says:

      Not sure if this has been posted before or not but the State of Florida has officially certified the election of Patrick Murphy to Congress. Allen West has flat refused to accept reality (which is consistent with his teahadist politics) but once the election is certified, there’s not a whole hell of a lot the courts can do I don’t believe.

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    How does one side have more creditbility than the other when rockets are aimed at civilians in crowded areas inhabited by innocent victims? The excuse that “he did it first” is wearing thin when pictures of dead children in the arms of grieving parents are broadcast throughout the globe and not come to the realization that there is no defense involved for either side.

    The problem seems to be that few want to consider what Noam Chomsky has pointed out. That this is simply not a “one sided” argument but rather a way of life that many are forced to live with like it or not.

    The only conclusion is what dak has suggested: the need for power and control is far more important than human decency.

  4. ANonOMouse says:

    Very good post Dak. TY

  5. RalphB says:

    This senseless killing is going to go on until the majority of the people on both sides pick leaders who want peace more than power. Or until the old men who actually are causing the death and destruction have to fight themselves instead of sending their young to do it for them.

    • dakinikat says:

      The political situation in Israel is such that no one party every gets control. Even though the more reasonable party gets the most votes, the right wing parties coalesce and then we see Bibi and more bombs. It must be very frustrating to continue to vote for a different way and then find you get the same with each election.

      • RalphB says:

        Seems to me the only electoral solution is for people to strategically vote against the Likudnik right wing parties by coalescing around Labor or a peace party. How you convince the people to do that is a huge challenge.

      • madamab says:

        I’ve often thought the situation in Israel is similar to our own, even though they have proportional representation. Somehow the right-wingers always seem to be in control, despite the fact that they are in the minority.

        As for Gaza, we know who’s in charge there, and it’s effectively a one-party system. Also not good.

  6. NW Luna says:

    Sen. Patty Murray seeks to become the chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee. The Washington Democrat is likely to get the nod, which would put her even closer to the center of debate about the nation’s fiscal future. “The Budget Committee gives me a tremendous opportunity to really help shape the policies for our country moving forward,” Murray said.

    Murray said compromise is possible, but not until Republicans drop their “insistence that they’re going to protect the wealthiest Americans from being part of the solution to the budget challenge.”
    Murray plans to give up chairmanship of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in exchange.

    Murray has few rivals in Congress on tax and spending issues. She is the No. 4 Senate Democratic leader, and a key liberal voice in urging the president to stand firm on renewing income-tax cuts only for the middle- and lower-income families.

    • RalphB says:

      Talk about a great trade, replacing nominal Democrat Kent Conrad with Patty Murray is super. That “mom in tennis shoes” has been a good senator since day one, or so it seems to me.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      I really like Patty Murray. I believe she was the very first person to put forth the idea of holding strong against the GOP tax blackmail by going over the fiscal cliff/slope instead of allowing a compromise that extends tax cuts to the rich. She’s an extremely smart person and I feel her commitment is to the working class.

  7. RalphB says:

    Paul Krugman weighs in as shrill as ever and typically correct.

    Life, Death and Deficits

    America’s political landscape is infested with many zombie ideas — beliefs about policy that have been repeatedly refuted with evidence and analysis but refuse to die. The most prominent zombie is the insistence that low taxes on rich people are the key to prosperity. But there are others.

    And right now the most dangerous zombie is probably the claim that rising life expectancy justifies a rise in both the Social Security retirement age and the age of eligibility for Medicare. Even some Democrats — including, according to reports, the president — have seemed susceptible to this argument. But it’s a cruel, foolish idea — cruel in the case of Social Security, foolish in the case of Medicare — and we shouldn’t let it eat our brains.
    The bottom line is that raising the age of eligibility for either Social Security benefits or Medicare would be destructive, making Americans’ lives worse without contributing in any significant way to deficit reduction. Democrats, in particular, who even consider either alternative need to ask themselves what on earth they think they’re doing.

    But what, ask the deficit scolds, do people like me propose doing about rising spending? The answer is to do what every other advanced country does, and make a serious effort to rein in health care costs. Give Medicare the ability to bargain over drug prices. Let the Independent Payment Advisory Board, created as part of Obamacare to help Medicare control costs, do its job instead of crying “death panels.” (And isn’t it odd that the same people who demagogue attempts to help Medicare save money are eager to throw millions of people out of the program altogether?) We know that we have a health care system with skewed incentives and bloated costs, so why don’t we try to fix it?

    What we know for sure is that there is no good case for denying older Americans access to the programs they count on. This should be a red line in any budget negotiations, and we can only hope that Mr. Obama doesn’t betray his supporters by crossing it.

  8. dakinikat says:

    From Grand Isle, here we go again:

    2 dead, 2 missing, 4 airlifted after platform explosion in Gulf of Mexico

    The rig wasn’t in production but they still don’t know if it’s actually leaking anything.

  9. RalphB says:

    For this I am profoundly grateful as I would like so-called “entitlements” to remain intact.

    Slate: It’s Elizabeth Warren’s Senate, Not Bob Kerrey’s

    Molly Ball’s fun story about the leftward shift in the Senate reminds us of a fact forgotten five minutes into election night. Bob Kerrey, the two-term Nebraska senator, lost his comeback bid. While Ohio’s Sherrod Brown was promising to hike taxes on the rich and save entitlements from the “grand bargain” guillotine, Kerrey was being endorsed by Bowles-Simpson. Literally, those two guys endorsed him.

  10. dakinikat says:

    Dispatch from Japan: 20 months after nuclear disaster, Japanese town struggles to rebound

  11. RalphB says:

    John Sides with an interesting analysis of the Democrats challenge to retake the House.

    MonkeyCage: Not Gerrymandering, but Districting: More Evidence on How Democrats Won the Popular Vote but Lost the Congress

  12. Linda C says:

    The continued strife between Israel and the Palestinians has been about power. But not who has control over who. It is about internal power. When the Likud party feels threatened within Israel, they poke the Palestinians until violence erupt. The ultra conservatives in Israel tells the Israelis “see how they are”. “We need to be in control of the government to protect Israel”. When there is internal power struggle in the Palestinian Lands. Someone starts shooting rockets into Israel. Hamas says “Israel is the real enemy and only Hamas can be your protector”. The whole affair is smoke and mirrors by the controlling parties on all sides just to continue to be in power. There is no room for peace or even a logical discourse. The Palestinian people get further locked into a box where another country controls their water, food, medicine and all other necessities of life.