Countdown to Shutdown (live blog)

la-na-tt-ted-cruz-shutdown-20130912-002Well, it seems a shut down is eminent!

There are 233 Republicans in the House. Insiders estimate that three-quarters of them, or about 175 GOP lawmakers, are willing, and perhaps even eager, to vote for a continuing resolution that funds the government without pressing the Republican goal of defunding or delaying Obamacare.

On the other side, insiders estimate about 30 House Republicans believe strongly that Obamacare is such a far-reaching and harmful law that the GOP should do everything it can — everything — to stop it or slow it down. That includes precipitating a standoff leading to a government shutdown. “This isn’t just another bill,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., one of the most vocal of the 30, told me. “This isn’t load limits on turnip trucks that we’re talking about. This is … an extremely consequential bill that will impact every American, and that’s why you have such passionate opinions.”

Another 20 to 30 GOP members sympathize with that position but might be willing to compromise, except for the fact that they fear a primary challenge from the Right.

In the continuing resolution fight, it is the 30 most committed members, along with their 20-30 allies in the next-most-committed group, who are setting the House Republican agenda. The ones pushing for a fight over Obamacare, even if it leads to a shutdown, are controlling what the House does.

Which has led to the question: How can 30 Republicans beat 200 Republicans? How does that work?

The one thing that Cruz and his cronies kept saying were that the American people are with them.  Come again?

Polls consistently show that Americans aren’t happy with Obamacare. They think the law will make health care more expensive, and decrease its quality. But a new survey of 1,976 registered votersfinds that only 33 percent believe that the health law should be repealed, delayed, or defunded. 29 percent believe that “Congress should make changes to improve the law,” 26 percent believe that “Congress should let the law take effect” and see what happens, and 12 percent believe that the law should be expanded. The bottom line? Voters are skeptical that Obamacare will live up to Democrats’ hype. But they also believe that it should be given a chance to succeed.

The new poll was conducted by the Morning Consult, a healthcare media company founded by Michael Ramlet. Ramlet, in evaluating the results of his survey, finds that voters are “unmoved by three months of the defund argument,” and that a majority would “blame congressional Republicans a lot for a government shutdown.”

How’s that working for Speaker Boehner?  He really has to choose between  his country and his tea party caucus.  Many Republicans aren’t with him either.  Does he really think he can keep his speakership either way?

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK): Asked on MSNBC on Monday if a shutdown was “going to hurt the Republicans,” Cole said, “I do, but more importantly I think it’s going to hurt the American people.”

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA): “I’m prepared to vote for a clean resolution tomorrow… It’s time to govern. I don’t intend to support a fool’s errand at this point.”

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ): “Obamacare is definitely not ready for prime time. But I do not want the government to shut down. I think after voting against it some 40 times, we have represented our constituents and made our point.”

Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY): “From my perspective, the desired end state remains the same — a delay of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare and a temporary lifting of the sequester — both to January 2015… However, we need a successful strategy to get that implemented, and this approach will not do it.”

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY): “The circus created the past few days isn’t reflective of mainstream Republicans — it projects an image of not being reasonable. The vast majority of Republicans are pretty level-headed and are here to govern.”

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY): “[A]s a lifelong and consistent supporter of women’s rights and health care, I do not support addressing divisive social issues such as access to birth control on a last-minute continuing resolution.’’

Rep. Peter King (R-NY): “We should not be closing down the government under any circumstances… That doesn’t work, it’s wrong, and, you know, Obamacare passed. We have to try to defund it, we have to try to find ways to repeal it. But the fact is, we shouldn’t be using it as a threat to shut down the government.”

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA): “We’re pretty much out of options at this point. They’re all giddy about it. You know who benefits the most here from a shutdown? The Democrats benefit and they know that.”

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL): “The shutdown doesn’t do anything to help our reputation as an incompetent Congress,.. People hire us not to get to this point in the first place.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI): “We have to stay on the right side of public opinion…Shutting down the government puts us on the wrong side. The fight is on the debt limit.”

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA): Wolf warned that his party will be blamed in the case of a shutdown. “That’s the battle that’s going on in my party. There are some that are saying, ‘shut it down! … If we shut the government down, who’s going to fund the [Veteran Affairs] Hospital? Who’s going to fund the veteran who doesn’t have a leg? Who’s going to fund the FBI who’s working on a counter-terrorism case? Who’s going to fund cancer research?”

Exactly who is behind this push besides Cruz’s ego and a few maniacs like Bachmann?

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are trading blame ahead of Tuesday’s government shutdown, but there’s another culprit in DC’s latest dysfunction whose offices are not to be found in the gilded suites of the Capitol, but in a drab, fluorescent-lit office five blocks away. There, a team of organizers, lobbyists and 20-something social media specialists are harnessing the power of the Tea Party to drive a wrench into Congress’ gears. Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the once esteemed Heritage Foundation, has been working day and night for years to bring about just the crisis now gripping DC.

Since its founding in 2010, Heritage Action has worked aggressively to influence lawmakers on issues from immigration to agriculture to the budget. It uses a three-pronged strategy to twist arms on Capitol Hill: lobbying members on hot-button issues, ranking them publicly on how they vote, and getting word out far and wide when lawmakers buck the conservative line. That combination—unparalleled in either party—has given Heritage the ammo to take on the leadership of its own party, widening the gap between the conservative grassroots and their leaders in Congress. As Heritage’s clout accumulates, the group’s divisive style offers a window into the new way of doing business in Washington, where, thanks to redistricting, lawmakers are more worried about primary challengers than the opposition

I guess this is the revenge of outcasts like Demint and Grover Norquist who seem like prime candidates for the sociopath of the month club.

How long do you think this will last?

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Monday Reads

1-Antique_American_Game_of_Troublesome_Pigs__01Good Morning!

Most of the news today is about the looming shutdown of the Federal Government.  Our government is truly dysfunctional.  The states have gerrymandered us into a Congress that doesn’t care about the country at all.  They just take care of their base and their personal pork.  We’ve also got a krewe of congress critterz that’s about as dumb as they come.   Why are some of them gleeful over the idea of a shutdown?  What do they think they have to gain and why would they hurt so many people?

Why have House Republicans pursued their effort to defund, and now to delay, Obamacare so relentlessly, even though they have almost zero chance of success in the face of a rapidly-approaching deadline for shutting down the government? And why have they done so when many in their party have warned that a shutdown would be suicidal for the GOP?

I talked with one of the most vocal of the defund/delay advocates, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, on Friday night, as she waited to hear what path the House Republican leadership would take. It’s safe to say her views reflected those of many of her conservative colleagues, and her reasoning was this: One, Obamacare as a policy is so far-reaching, so consequential, and so damaging that members of Congress should do everything they can — everything — to stop it before it fully goes into effect. Two, lesser measures to fight Obamacare — repealing the medical device tax or making Congress purchase coverage through the exchanges without special subsidies — are just not big enough to address the problem. And three, there have been government shutdowns in the past over far less urgent reasons that did not result in doom for Republicans.

“There is a very large group of us who believe that this is it, this isn’t just another year, this isn’t just another CR fight,” Bachmann told me. “This is historic, and it’s a historic shift that’s about to happen, and if we’re going to fight, we need to fight now.”

“This isn’t just another bill,” Bachmann continued. “This isn’t load limits on turnip trucks that we’re talking about. This is consequential. And I think the reason why you’ve come to this flash point is that this is an extremely consequential bill that will impact every American, and that’s why you have such passionate opinions. And we’re not giving up and we’re not caving in that easily.”

For Bachmann and many of her colleagues, the enormity of the issue serves to highlight the problem with less extensive anti-Obamacare measures. “The Vitter Amendment isn’t going to help real people,” Bachmann told me. “It’s going to be a political move, but it’s not going to help real people. Obamacare will continue to destroy the economy. Now, repealing the medical device tax does help the economy. Here in the Beltway, we get the medical device tax issue. And in my state of Minnesota, we get the medical device tax issue. That’s our industry. And I’m all for [repealing] it, but for most Americans, that is not something that they see that they want to get.”

piglets

It’s really strange to see the apoplexy shown by Republicans when they call the American Heritage’s Dole/Chaffey Care alternative to Hillarycare some kind of socialist plot. What happens under the law if implementation is slowed down even one year? Many states, businesses, insurance companies and health care providers have already started their transition.

So what does this “compromise” actually look like? For a party that has centered their platform around reducing spending and the deficit, it’s surprisingly bad economics.

First of all, repealing the medical device tax would actually add $30 billion to the deficit. That provision, which imposes a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices, is one of the funding sources for Obamacare’s coverage expansions. Proponents say that the tax will be balanced out by the influx of new Americans entering the insurance market. But getting rid of it now without finding another way to finance health reform would simply increase health reform’s price tag.

Furthermore, delaying Obamacare’s individual mandate — a central tenet of the health law that requires everyone to purchase insurance — would have catastrophic effects. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects it would end up forcing Americans to pay higher premiums for their health coverage. Healthier people would be discouraged from buying insurance, resulting in an older and sicker pool of people in the individual market and encouraging insurers to submit higher rates. The delay would ultimately hike premiums by an estimated 15 to 20 percent.

And according to the CBO, a one-year delay would leave about 11 million Americans uninsured, ultimately reducing the expected coverage gains under the health reform law by nearly 85 percent. As those uninsured Americans end up seeking care in hospitals, the cost of providing that uncompensated care will offset any costs that are achieved by delaying Obamacare’s coverage expansion. Ultimately, delaying the mandate doesn’t actually save the government any money.

As Wonkblog reports, delaying the individual mandate would have a “ripple effect” throughout the health insurance industry. That sector has been preparing for impending changes under Obamacare, and a last-minute decision to delay the law would be a huge drain on the companies that have already spent millions of dollars on advertising and outreach campaigns. “It’s just too late,” Joe Antos, a health policy researcher at the American Enterprise Institute,told Wonkblog. “Everybody who is involved, insurance companies and hospitals and any other big entity, they’re ready to go. They really can’t make any changes.”

When the Affordable Care Act was winding its way through the court system last summer, a conservative federal judge made the point that suddenly striking down health reform would create “economic chaos.” And at this point, as many of Obamacare’s consumer protections have already taken effect, the individual mandate is inextricably linked to making the health reform law work in practice. A new paper from the Urban Institute notes that delaying the individual mandate would “seriously disrupt overall implementation” of health reform.

Most folks believe that the GOP will get the blame for the shutdown.

The federal government swerved toward a shutdown on Saturday when House Republicans demanded to hold a vote to delay Obamacare by one year instead of cooperating with the Senate to pass a “clean” spending bill. It’s now practically assured that parts of the government will go dark on Tuesday for the first time in 17 years.

From a Republican point of view, there are three possible happy endings to the looming catastrophe.

Happy Ending #1: The president blinks. He’s blinked before after all—notably when he agreed to sequestration in 2011—and who knows? He might blink again.

Problem with Happy Ending #1: This time, though, “blinking” means blowing up the president’s most important legacy: his health-care plan. That’s more than a blink. He might as well hand in his resignation after that.

Happy Ending #2: The country blames the Democrats for the shutdown. After all, the GOP is only asking for the president to negotiate. It’s the president who refuses to yield.

Problem with Happy Ending #2: Republicans actually shut down the government in 1995. They took the country to the brink of debt default in 2011. Their caucus is reacting to this shutdown with enthusiasm, not regret. It’s going to be hard to sell the claim that it’s the Democrats who brought about this latest outcome when Republicans come out of caucus looking so happy about it.

Happy Ending #3: Even if the president does not blink, and even if Democrats don’t get blamed, perhaps Republican activists will be so motivated and mobilized by the shutdown that their excitement will loft the party to big wins in the 2014 races.
Problem with Happy Ending #3: Because Happy Endings 1 and 2 look so unlikely, the shutdown is likely to end in a Republican retreat. Party activists will be demotivated—and may waste their energy recriminating against their own leadership rather than organizing to fight Democrats.

pig gamesThere is also the usual Republican slap to women included in the budget.

Typical of the privileged, entitled spoiled brats that they collectively are, the House Republicans threw everything but the kitchen sink into their government funding bill. The bill, which purportedly was to stave off a government shutdown, was instead a big, fat sloppy kiss to all of the special interests that want to curtail average Americans’ lives while enriching the top one percent even further.

Telling, perhaps, that they were unable to do it without drinking heavily enough to be noticeable from the gallery. Putzes.

The “funding” bill included a clause that for the puritanical and/or science ignorant Republicans, may be the king of unintended consequences: delaying funding for contraceptive care under ACA:

House Republicans included a so-called “conscience clause” in the government funding billin a plan they approved early Sunday.

The House voted 231-192 on a bill that would delay much of the 2010 health care overhaul for a year. It would also repeal a tax on medical devices that helps finance the health care law. The measure would allow employers and insurers to opt out of providing health care services that they find morally or religiously objectionable. The addition reignites the debate over a portion of the health care reform law that requires most insurers to cover women’s preventative health care, including contraception.

It’s enough to make me want to nut punch a Republican member of Congress. Need I remind them once again that in addition to preventing unwanted pregnancies, contraceptives are used therapeutically as well for a host of women’s health issues? Those “family-friendly” idiots will not be satisfied until Americans see an increase of abortions (oh, wait…), an increase in people applying for federal assistance due to the forced births (oh, wait…) or a bunch of motherless children,

However, the Exchanges set up by the Affordable Healthcare Act are being set up.  It’s interesting that the Republican plan to shut down the Government isn’t really shutting down Obamacare.

Many pieces of the health care law, the Affordable Care Act, aren’t tied to the annual spending bills. Much of the health law is mandatory spending — a kind of fiscal autopilot that’s not part of the annual appropriations battle that has Congress tied in knots. The mandatory components of the health law include the subsidies to help people buy private health plans as well as the expansion of Medicaid in many states. Both of those functions will be handled through the new health insurance markets or exchanges.

Because those programs are mandatory, the Department of Health and Human Services has a lot of leeway to say whether Obamacare activities can continue — and HHS officials have made clear they’re going to use it.

On Friday, the HHS quietly posted its shutdown contingency plan. The bottom line is clear: Obamacare would continue, including the health exchanges and their coordination with Medicaid. It also said Medicare coverage “will continue largely without disruption.” True, lots of HHS workers would be furloughed — but those who would be told to stay home are concentrated in agencies that are not driving the launch of the health law.

HHS says its plan is consistent with legal advice that allows activities that “do not rely on annual appropriations, and activities that involve the safety of human life and protection of property” to keep running even if much of the government shuts down. And that means the staff that carry out mandatory programs like those in the health law can keep working — even if their positions are funded through the annual spending bills

I’ll let you know how the process is going to work down here in one of the states that’s fighting the law every way it can.  I was told Friday that the adjunct health care plan that I’ve had for the past few years doesn’t meet the minimum standards for the Act and won’t be offered.  I am going to head to the exchange next week and find out what my options are going to be.  I’m glad to be out of my subpar health insurance plan, but wondering if the federal exchange is going to have many choices here in a state with a hostile governor.

So, I know this was a little oriented to the one topic of the day, but I thought we needed to spend some time on it.  Feel free to share your thoughts on this or any other links on any other subjects that made your reading and blogging list today!!!


Sunday Reads: Someone throw me a lifeboat?

12a1bf95197ac350395e31d539a1c17dGood Morning

Well, I don’t know where that title came from, well actually I do. I am watching Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Lifeboat. (Damn, what an opening for a film…Lifeboat (1944) — (Movie Clip) Those Nazi Buzzards)

Such a good film.

I have plenty of links for you this morning, here they go, in link dump fashion.

Let’s start with the GOP…

The title of this first link by Lawyers, Guns and Money says it all: House GOP: Never Waste A Crisis By Neglecting to Punish Women!

Another predictable demand has been added to the GOP’s ransom note:

House Republicans have added a measure aimed at limiting contraceptive coverage to the spending bill coming up for a vote Saturday night, a spokesman for Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, told CNN.

A senior House leadership aide confirmed that development.

The so-called “conscience clause” would allow employers and insurers to opt out of preventative care for women which they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds. That prominently includes birth control, which most insurers are required to provide for free under current Obamacare rules.

Yeah, that is just another twist of the screw.  Not that any of this will pass, which brings me to this next article from Business Insider: How A Government Shutdown Will Hurt The Economy

After you take a look at that overview, you can read a refresher of Idiot America, including an excerpt of a FDL interview with Charlie Pierce when the book first was published: The Three Great Premises of Idiot America Take Center Stage

These are good times for those who practice wingnuttery and those who observe them. With the release of the latest IPCC report on global climate change and the ever-more-likely crash and burn that is the Congress of the United States and its handling of the budget and its apparent willingness to refuse to pay the bills that they have incurred under past appropriations, the wingnuts have a feast spread before them to dine upon, as demonstrated by the speechifying of Ted Cruz on the floor of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.

Sadly, we can’t simply enjoy our popcorn as we watch: wingnuttery exacts a cost, either in the idiotic policies and practices they foist upon society (see almost anything enacted at the urging of the NRA), or in the time and energy that must be wasted to beat back these idiocies (see Krugman, Paul “the Shrill One”). No, popcorn is not an option.

It’s no surprise, then, that my thoughts have been turning to Charles Pierce.

Four years ago, the inestimable Mr. Pierce put forward The Three Great Premises of Idiot America:

1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is measured by how fervently they believe it.

Every Sunday morning, The Three Great Premises of Idiot America are trotted out on the Sunday morning talk shows, and this weekend should be an excellent proof of Pierce’s wisdom. Again, see “Cruz, Ted.”

Some of you may remember this quote from Pierce:

At the FDL Book Salon chat with Charlie when the book first came out, watertiger asked a question that has only become more urgent over the last four years: “How do we extract ourselves from this ‘perception is reality’ paradigm? Is there a way out?” Charlie’s answer, likewise, has become ever more urgent as well:

WT, I’ve given that a lot of thought and the best answer I can give is that we, as citizens, simply have to do better at self-government. We have to distinguish between entertainment and information. Our powers of discernment have to be sharpened. And, it should be said that, at many of its highest levels, my business has fallen green-room-over-teakettle on this very question. Any journalist who accepts “perception is reality” as axiomatic is committing professional malpractice. Our job is to hammer the reality home until the perception conforms to it.

If only…

But here is an idiot for you, from No More Mister Nice Blog: CONGRESSMAN CULBERSON’S ANALOGY: OUTRAGEOUS, BUT NOT COMPLETELY INACCURATE

Yes, this is appalling:
During a meeting of the House Republican Caucus, Congressman John Culberson (R-TX) compared the relentless Republican effort to defund Obamacare to the heroic efforts of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 who overpowered terrorists who had gained control of the plane.

https://twitter.com/BenjySarlin/statuses/383999610865602560

I don’t agree with the rest of this post, about the tweet being not “completely inaccurate.”

But the analogy isn’t entirely off base.

Remember what happened on the “Let’s roll” flight, United Flight 93? A lot of ordinary people died, and a target in D.C. was spared. The target was apparently the U.S Capitol, where Congress works.

As a result of what the Republican are doing now, a lot of innocent ordinary citizens will be harmed. You know who probably won’t be harmed? Members of Congress. They’ll still be paid. And most of them probably won’t lose their seats — only three House Republicans lost seats in 1996, after the last shutdown.

Ordinary citizens suffering while members of Congress are spared? Yes, there are some similarities between then and now, even if they’re not the ones the congressman had in mind.

That is a stretch to me. Because the assholes in Congress are acting like terrorist holding the US economy hostage…as this cartoon from Luckovich so perfectly illustrates: 9/29 Luckovich cartoon: Kindred souls | Mike Luckovich

092913-toon-luckovich-ed

While we are on the topic of terrorist, did you see the cover of this weeks Newsweek? Newsweek Cover About Female Suicide Bombers Features Tampon Dynamite

ku-bigpic

Newsweek Pakistan’s latest cover story is on the rise in female suicide bombers. And, so, naturally, this week’s cover features the words LADY PARTS emblazoned over the image of tampons with lit fuses where the removal string would normally be. That’s some TIME-level trolling, Newsweek. Kudos, I guess.

The good news is that Newsweek’s bombpons cover allows you to tick off several squares on Deliberately Provocative Magazine Cover Bingo. The bad news is that everyone on staff cringed when we saw it.

Alright, now for the links associated with women…

Study: Everyone hates environmentalists and feminists – Salon.com

Why don’t people behave in more environmentally friendly ways? New research presents one uncomfortable answer: They don’t want to be associated with environmentalists.

That’s the conclusion of troubling new research from Canada, which similarly finds support for feminist goals is hampered by a dislike of feminists.

Participants held strongly negative stereotypes about such activists, and those feelings reduced their willingness “to adopt the behaviors that these activities promoted,” reports a research team led by University of Toronto psychologist Nadia Bashir. This surprisingly cruel caricaturing, the researchers conclude, plays “a key role in creating resistance to social change.”

Writing in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Bashir and her colleagues describe a series of studies documenting this dynamic. They began with three pilot studies, which found people hold stereotyped views of environmentalists and feminists.

In one, the participants—228 Americans recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk—described both varieties of activists in “overwhelmingly negative” terms. The most frequently mentioned traits describing “typical feminists” included “man-hating” and “unhygienic;” for “typical environmentalists,” they included “tree-hugger” and “hippie.”

Another study, featuring 17 male and 45 female undergraduates, confirmed the pervasiveness of those stereotypes. It further found participants were less interested in befriending activists who participated in stereotypical behavior (such as staging protest rallies), but could easily envision hanging out with those who use “nonabrasive and mainstream methods” such as raising money or organizing social events.

Go to the link and read the summary of some of the results…it really is interesting. Especially when you consider the recent poll using the Obamacare vs. Affordable Care Act.

This by Scott Lemieux at LG&M: Why David Gilmour’s Sexism Matters (And Criticizing it is Valuable Free Speech)

Some good news out of Florida: Retrying the “warning shot” case – Anderson Cooper 360 – CNN.com Blogs

Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. She tried to use the “stand your ground” law in her trial. But a judge just ordered a new trial. The panel debates what role the controversial law may play in the retrial.

For a smooth move to the science part of the post…there is this story about women dancing ballet: The ballerina brain could hold a key to treating chronic dizziness

Years of training cause structural changes in a ballerina’s brain that help her stay balanced in the pirouette, said a report Friday that may aid the treatment of chronic dizziness.

Brain scans of professional ballerinas revealed differences from other people in two parts of the brain: one that processes input from the balancing organs in the inner ear, and another responsible for the perception of dizziness.

Most people, after turning around rapidly, feel dizzy for a period thereafter.

This is because of the fluid-filled chambers of the ear’s balance organs, which sense the rotation of the head through tiny hairs that perceive the fluid swishing about. The fluid continues to move for a while after the spin — which creates the perception that one is moving when still — hence the dizziness.

Ballet dancers can perform multiple pirouettes with little or no feeling of dizziness — a feat that has long puzzled researchers.

The pirouette sees a dancer execute one or more full-body turns on the toe or ball of one foot.

“Ballet dancers seem to be able to train themselves not to get dizzy, so we wondered whether we could use the same principles to help our patients,” Barry Seemungal from Imperial College London’s medicine department said in a statement on the study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

For the study, Seemungal and a team spun 29 ballerinas around in a rotating chair in a dark room, and did the same with 20 female rowers of similar age and fitness levels.

The women were asked to turn a lever on a small wheel attached to their chair in rhythm with the spinning sensation they experienced after the chair was brought to a halt.

For the dancers, the perception of spinning lasted for a”significantly” shorter period, said the study.

The researchers also looked at the women’s brains with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans.

They found that the part of the cerebellum which processes the signal from the balancing organs, was smaller in the dancers. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that governs body movement.

“It’s not useful for a ballet dancer to feel dizzy or off balance,” said Seemungal. “Their brains adapt over years of training to suppress that input” — allowing them to continue dancing after spinning around in a pirouette and complete a performance without losing their balance.

“If we can target that same brain area or monitor it in patients with chronic dizziness, we can begin to understand how to treat them better.”

And light sabers: Scientists ‘bind light together’ to create new state of matter resembling lightsabers

The physicists were exploring the properties of photons – an elementary particle that is the most basic constituent of light and all other types of electromagnetic radiation – when they managed to create molecules formed from photons bound together.

The discovery is startling as it goes against what scientists have previously believed to be the signature quality of photons: that they are massless particles that do not interact with each other. The capacity to create molecules out of photons has been described by the physicists involved as “pushing the frontiers of science”.

“Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless, and that they do not interact with each other,” said Harvard Professor of Physics Mikhail Lukin in a press release published at phys.org.

“What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules.”

“It’s not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabers,” Lukin added. “When these photons interact with each other, they’re pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”

And a segue to history…artsy stuff: Landmark study explores Hispanic Baroque while reinventing digital humanities research

Inspiring everything from Las Vegas to Lady Gaga, Hispanic Baroque is every bit an influence on modern day trends as is hip-hop and hipsters. And yet, tracing the cultural complexity that Hispanic Baroque has spawned for centuries has proven an unenviable task. Until now.

A landmark study by The Cultureplex Lab at Western University has explored Hispanic Baroque like no previous research project of its kind. By combining traditional research tools of the humanities with complex data analysis from the sciences, Cultureplex Lab principal investigator Juan-Luis Suárez and his team have developed new methodologies which have ignited research capabilities of this ever-influential cultural phenomena (and all other research for that matter), figuratively – not literally – transporting the game-changing study through space and time.

A stitch in time– via Medievalist.net

…the local mayor of Mayenne was well aware of another, less obnoxious Norman tradition: their fondness for strip cartoons. He commissioned a bande desinée to tell the story in pictures of Mayenne and our spectacular discoveries. The result was entertaining and educational propaganda: Mayenne was placed at the centre of French history, yet demonstrated itself as a model of European co-operation Those who lived in Mayenne could be proud of their town; those who did not should pay it a visit. The grand-daddy of all strip-cartoons, the Bayeux Tapestry, was made over 900 years earlier. It is a remarkable survival, that was recorded in 1476 in the Inventory of Notre Dame Cathedral in Bayeux as: ‘a very long and very narrow strip of linen, embroidered with figures and inscriptions representing the Conquest of England, which is hung round the nave of the church on the Feast of Relias’.

The Tapestry (or, more accurately, embroidery) has been subject to scholarly scrutiny for a couple of hundred years, so one might be excused for believing that the last word had been uttered and that we know all about it. Not so – Bayeux Tapestry scholars seem to reinvent the object of their desire almost every decade. But the answers to their questions remain elusive. Who commissioned the tapestry? Who made it, where and when? Where was the Tapestry first displayed? Was the message of the Tapestry outright Norman propaganda or a more evenhanded attempt at Anglo-Norman reconciliation? Even that great English myth, supposedly familiar to all schoolchildren, King Harold’s arrow in the eye, remains a matter of debate.

Click here to read this article from Minerva

Another article from Medievalist.net: From Flax to Linen: Experiments with flax at Ribe Viking Centre

The archaeological record shows that linen was an important part of Viking Age clothing. Linen cloth developed gradually from being virtually nonexistent in Scandinavia at the start of the first millennium AD, to being an important part of fashion during the Viking Age a thousand years later.

The importance of linen is also very visible among the many re-enactors of the period, and every self-respecting ”leisure Viking” will own at least a shirt or a skirt of linen. Re-enactment is also done professionally, as part of the tourist related activities in Visitor centres and museums across the country. Ribe Viking Centre is such an open-air visitor centre, recreating authentic milieus from Ribe and its nearest surrounds during the Viking Age. The centre also works as a teaching institution, where young people, for which the normal school system is not currently a viable option, can get a different kind of schooling experience, and therefore be helped further on in the educational system. Both staff and pupils on Ribe Viking Centre are therefore dressed as “Vikings” during the tourist season, where they work with different crafts across the site, recreating a living experience of the Viking age, at least in aspects. In this they make a valuable regional contribution to the tourism industry as well as playing an important role in social and educational aspects of contemporary society. From the University side, we have gained much respect for the professionalism and success with which both tasks are handled on an everyday basis at the Viking Centre.

The main parts of the garments worn at Ribe Viking Centre are made from linen. Visitors to the Centre will therefore be met with a vision of the Viking Age, where linen is a very dominant part of the fashion during the period. But it this true? Or possibly one should better ask: What kind of effort would such an extensive use of linen represent? One thing that we did notice during our work at the Centre was that while visitors could readily appreciate the effort behind the buildings and the crafts shown at the centre, the clothing was a more invisible factor, even though the making of clothes must have been an important part of life in the Viking Age. The work presented in the following helped illustrate just how important it must have been.

Click here to read this article from the Ribe Viking Centre

Tonight is the season finale of Breaking Bad, two sweet links for you:

From Cult Series To Game-Changer: ‘Breaking Bad’ Goes Out On A High via Deadline.com

‘Breaking Bad’ Predictions: What Do You Think Will Happen In The Series Finale?

Those are both long articles, as for the one about the predictions, my own prediction follows that of :

Anthony Breznican, Entertainment Weekly

The great thing about “Breaking Bad” is that creator Vince Gilligan and his team of subversive, demented scribes have always managed to give fans exactly what they want, while also surprising them. (I knew, for example, that Gus Fring’s number was up, but I did not see THAT particular moment coming.) So in trying to predict what the final episode will bring, it’s hard to divorce it from what I hope it will bring. There’s a big machine-gun in play. Someone is going to get mowed down while saying hello to Walter White’s “little friend,” and the most likely victims will be Big Head Todd and the Monsters, a.k.a. the neo-Nazis who executed Hank, enslaved Jesse, and slaughtered his would-be girlfriend Andrea. But their reign of terror is not over yet. Before Walt gets to them, they will exact a little more agony on his existence.

Finally, we have the specter of Gray Matter, raised in the last episode after lying dormant for many seasons. Will Walt finally right the injustice of his lack of credit for the creation of this tech giant? Who cares! Nobody — except Walt, and that’s all that counts in his world. I could see his old partners going down in a hail of gunfire as he starts his final kamikaze mission.

Last week, we saw jittery Lydia (seriously, does she drink only decaf tea?) urging Todd to tidy up the Skyler situation with extreme prejudice. This is a big, big “Breaking Bad” no-no. When you slaughter innocents, that’s awful enough (and one could argue about whether Skyler is really a bystander anymore). But the even bigger sin is hypocrisy. Remember when Walt ran down the drug dealers who were targeting kids? It was one of his bravest, most self-sacrificial moments. But then the very next season, Walt was slipping poison to little Brock as a means of manipulating Jesse. This is when he crossed over into straight-up evil-doer territory, and that — truly — is when he began earning all the horror that has fallen down around him. Lydia once begged Mike (now enjoying his retirement in Belize) to spare her life while her daughter played in a nearby room. He spared her, and now she is pointing Todd’s gun at another woman, another mother, and telling him to pull the trigger. I expect her to die horribly, but not by the ricin capsule. That would be too fast, and too easy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her karmic payback come at the end of Walt’s smoking M60, probably while she begs for her life. Gilligan emphasizes violence in the abstract. Count on seeing one very bloody pair of Louboutins.

Todd will go down trying to protect her. This psycho’s puppydog crush gives him a kind of misguided honor he lacks in almost every other circumstance. After casually offing the innocent (there’s that word again) dirtbiking kid Drew Sharp, and blowing Andrea’s brains out last episode, we — I — need to see this guy suffer. He’s too shallow a human being to suffer as mightily as a Walt or Jesse, so I think his comeuppance will come in the form of futility. He’ll do some grand, selfless gesture of gallantry to protect Lydia and will be unceremoniously wiped from the Earth. Or, she might sell him out, push him in front of a bullet meant for her. Whatever the case, his death will bring a moment of comic relief to the finale. At least, I hope so.

Skyler … Skyler, Skyler. She, Walt Jr. (now going exclusively by Flynn, I’m guessing) are not going to have an A-1 day. I think Gilligan will spare the toddler Holly. This is a ruthless show, but he has broken the audience’s heart so often, especially in this last run of shows, I have to believe he will cut us some slack on the baby. Flynn, however … He took a bold stand against his narcissistic old man. He’s one of the few, unadulterated good-guys on this show. That makes him ripe for death. The death of their eldest, honest, and somewhat naïve son will be the ultimate punishment for the Whites. I’m guessing he will die sacrificing himself to save his mom and sister — a noble death, one that means something. The opposite of Todd, in another words. He will face it boldly and unafraid (the exact opposite of his old man.)

If Skyler survives, she will go forward in pieces. Walt …? Death isn’t a punishment for Walt, it’s a release. I’m not sure there is a punishment great enough for him. It’s far too late for him to be redeemed, but I do think Gilligan and Co. will find a way to at least make him penitent. We have not seen Walt be truly sorry. I’m not even sure what that would look like in a mind as twisted as his. He thinks of himself as a king, and kings liked to be buried with all their belongings. Walt’s belongings, apart from the money he lost to the neo-Nazis, are his family. He has always considered himself above them, their keeper, and it would not surprise me to see him engineer a reunion with them (if, say, Walt Jr. survives). That ricin tablet? I can envision a scenario where he seeks to bury himself alongside his family, taking all of them with him. Don’t drink or eat anything he “cooks” for you, White family!

There is a chance Jesse will be spared this reckoning and escape with his life – such as it is. But probably not. One thing we haven’t seen in this show is a large meth explosion. Since he is being forced to cook for the Nazis, engineering that kind of blast – even if it kills him, too – might be one way of cleansing the earth of these motherf*ckers.

Oh, and as October is just around the bend: Haunted October 13 Film Guide (TCM, 10/1-10/19) – Bright Lights After Dark

October is the best month in the world: you can wear your cool jacket and sweater combo, but you’re not freezing cold yet, there’s no ‘family’ holiday looming at the end of it to undo what sanity you’ve managed to accrue over the last 11 months, there is only the looming darkness of Halloween and Daylight Savings, the merciful twin blanket set of disguise and darkness.

And of course, there’s the horror movies. The speeding darkness and chill draws ghosts and candelabras, witches, demons, and monsters to our cinematic desires like a magnet. And TCM is there.  As are we at the Bright Lights After Dark, where we turn those bright lights way, way, way down, all the better to scare you.

But Halloween isn’t the time for just any kind of horror movie, not the time for giant bugs, Godzilla, radio active waste, torture porn, serial killer procedurals, etc., but the horror of the past… of the unconscious, the Freudian Gothic, of long dead relatives rising from their tombs to drink the blood (and, if they’re played by Paul Naschy, fondle the breasts) of the living. It is the time of murderous devolved cannibals in the basement fed by Lon Chaney, or Lovecraftian mutants fed by Boris Karloff who doesn’t really need that wheelchair because he’s grown his own ghost legs. It is the time for Vincent Price, 70s ESP pre-slasher cycle variants, and for old school Universal Lugosi films, and 60s Hammer Chris Lee films. And TCM has them.

Rather than just list them all, blah blah, I decided to pick out the best, rarest, most worthy dozen and just present the date / time of their showing/s, and a link or few words of descr. attached to a movie poster (unless the poster is weak)…. I skipped all the ‘essentials’ casual fans are familiar with already, such as Bride of Frankenstein, Night of the Living Dead, and The Wasp Woman. I want to point out the late night/early morning rarities, the ones worth recording.

All times listed Eastern Standard…. the best Standard in the world.

You go and check that list out!

Ending with Hitch, have y’all ever seen this sculpture over in London?

Hitchcock's Head. A statue of Alfred Hitchcock's head at the Gainsborough Studiosapartments. http://www.concretecentre.com/main.asp?page=513

It is located where Hitchcock filmed most of his movies in England: Gainsborough Studios.

Now there are condos/flats built that surround this Buddha like statue of Hitchcock’s head, check out this one listed for almost one million dollars: 2 bedroom apartment for sale in Gainsborough Studios London, N1, N1

84061_TM115_IMG_11_0002_max_620x414

Isn’t he wonderful!

Damn, if I won the lottery I think I’d have to buy one of these condos, sight unseen…

Y’all have a great day, and post some links and thoughts in the comments.

(BTW, you want to see a cool review of Lifeboat? Take a look at Tired Old Queen below.)


Saturday: Gladiators and Safety Nets

20130928-102144.jpgGood afternoon, newsjunkies. I can’t seem to find my laptop charger, which is probably hiding underneath something as usual. So I’m drafting most all of this post from my iPhone. If the formatting is off, please forgive. This will be an exercise in trial by error–if I can pull this off decently I may be able to start posting a little more often during the week. I keep meaning to try my hand at the WordPress app on my phone, and this forces me to do just that, so maybe losing my charger is a good thing. Although by the looks of it, I just ramble even more blogging by phone 😉

Also, thanks to Bostonboomer for putting up the morning reads last week and today. It’s been one thing after another…waking up sick, losing power during storms, losing my charger. I have a lot of links saved up myself from not being able to post, so settle in for a bit of a ride!

First up, an interesting infographic I came across this morning — perhaps you have already seen it: Everything Wrong with America in One Simple Image. I like how the blogger points out the link between sports coaches being the highest paid public employees and the Steubenville rape.

From the link:

Bread and Circuses brought Rome to its knees. Will our epitaph be “Football and Junk Food?”

A bit of a cheap shot but not that far off the mark. Everything we consume–be it our education or our news–has morphed into a junk food version for mass consumption. And, the gladiators at our football and basketball coliseums have women and children as the spoils of their wars and the sacrificial lambs of their spectator sports.

The more civilization develops, the more it seems to devolve right back to the same place.

Speaking of which…am I the only one who finds Chris “Birdman” Andersen’s supposed clearing of his name really convoluted and dubious? Maybe I’m too jaded, but it just doesn’t pass the smell test. Doesn’t this seem like some kind of Manti Te’o redux? I don’t want to waste time on the details of the Birdman situation because they make no sense IMHO, but overall the story seems further evidence to me of a society that gives credence to the bizarre rationalizations of the gladiators to do whatever the hell they well please and sell it as more entertainment for the spectators.

Anyhow, shifting gears a bit… From the National Women’s Law Center Analysis of 2012 Census Poverty Data: Women’s Poverty Rate Remains Historically High . Specifically, more than 1 in 7 American women–17.8 million–lived in poverty last year. Take a look at the summary of stats at the link. Women of color and women-run households suffer the most as usual.

While I’m on the issue of the increased pressures we face as women, here’s a list from Huffpo on 23 Things Women “Should” Stop Doing. I put ‘should’ in quotes because telling ourselves we should or should not do this or that is a symptom itself of the crazy expectations placed upon women in society. The list at the link is more a list of guidelines and checkpoints, and it’s actually a decent, solid set of self-care/nurture goals so click over, Sky Dancers, and give it some thought. If you find some of these in particular to be trouble spots for you, try to evaluate where these attitudes and expectations come from–from your inner self or what society dictates? And, maybe think of alternatives that better nurture you and your womanhood and the womanhood of your sisters around you.

Alright, I’m trying my best to narrow down the various links I have gathered over the last few weeks to the few that are the most relevant or interesting still, so bear with me as I wander all over the place. Oddly enough, I even have a link to a SciAm blog piece that talks about the potential merits of being a scatterbrain — Mind Wandering: A New Personal Intelligence Perspective. Lol!

Moving along to the top of my political girl junkie perspective– if you haven’t heard already, Wendy Davis has all but officially announced for Governor of Texas! An official announcement is due from Wendy on October 3rd. Eeeeee! I can’t wait.

In the meantime, chew on this press release from her Texas senate office: Davis Cites New Law as Key to Cracking Down on Sexual Predators (note: link opens as a short PDF):

DALLAS – A law passed by Senator Wendy Davis (SD10 – Fort Worth) will help assure that dangerous sexual predators are identified, caught and prosecuted. Senator Davis detailed the new statute earlier today while speaking to the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council (DFWHC).

Key provisions of the bill require that nearly all hospitals with emergency room services have trained medical personnel on hand to properly collect DNA and other important evidence from sexual assault victims. Prior to the law, many local hospitals lacked trained staff, forcing victims to endure traveling to other facilities, sometimes hours away. This new law allows investigators to work with hospitals to help ensure that evidence from these sexual assaults are obtained during the critical period immediately after a crime is committed.

“This is about identifying, tracking down, prosecuting and imprisoning sexual predators through smart law enforcement work,” said Sen. Davis. “Assisting the effort to bring sexual predators to justice is just common sense.”

The measure is just one of the initiatives successfully passed by Davis during the session to make sure violent criminals are taken off the streets and that the survivors of sexual assault get help and see that justice is served. Davis also worked in a bipartisan effort to secure nearly $11 million in funding for the Department of Public Safety to help eliminate a backlog of more than 23,000 rape kits currently sitting on evidence room shelves across Texas.

“Each of these untested kits may represent a predator who has not yet been brought to justice for his crime and may still be targeting our neighborhoods,” said Davis. “I want this backlogged evidence off the shelves and in courtrooms.”

Another law enforcement measure passed by Senator Davis provides survivors the ability to be updated on the status of the investigation into their case so that they can help assure appropriate attention is provided to resolve their case.

Senator Davis spoke at DFWHC’s event, “Rape Kit Responsibility: The impact of Senate Bill 1191,” to inform clinical personnel about the new law, which became effective on September 1. For 43 years, DFWHC has brought together health care providers and industry leaders in North Texas in the interest of promoting patient safety and cost effective, quality healthcare.

I thought this was worth quoting in its entirety. Wendy’s work , from her epic filibuster to this legislation, is such a contrast to the appalling display put on by Ted Cruz and his 22 hour railing against Obamacare.

I do have some Hillary 2016 stuff saved up of course, but I think I’m going to do a separate roundup for them later this week.

Next up…via Upworthy…another infographic worth clicking over to view, on social security; this quote via Upworthy’s FB page sums it up:

“Entitlements,” aka “what we spend our lives paying into so we don’t have to eat cat food.” – Brandon Weber

I’m going to wrap this up for now, but here’s a handy guide from Jezebel before I go, since we’re coming up on the October 1st enrollment date for the Affordable Care Act: Answers to All Your Questions About Obamacare’s Birth Control Mandate.

Alright, Sky Dancers, you know what to do in the comments. Have a wonderful day and weekend!


Saturday Reads: Obama Talks to Rouhani, Pakistan and Kenyan Disasters, Republican Terrorism, and More

Harvard-Square-Out-of-Town-News

Good Morning!!

It’s a beautiful Fall day in New England, the Red Sox have taken the American League East with the best record in baseball after winning 97 games with one game left to play. On top of that, the Yankees are pitiful. The playoffs start next Friday. It just doesn’t get better than this.

There is quite a bit of news for a Saturday. First up, President Obama spoke on the telephone to Iranian President President Hassan Rouhani yesterday–the first time leaders of the U.S. and Iran have spoken directly since 1979. The AP reports:

The United States and Iran took a historic step toward ending more than three decades of estrangement on Friday when President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by phone and agreed to work on resolving global suspicions that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

The 15-minute call capped a week of seismic shifts in the relationship that revolved around Rouhani’s participation in the annual U.N. meeting of world leaders. The night before the two leaders spoke, U.S. and European diplomats hailed a “very significant shift” in Iran’s attitude and tone in the first talks on the nuclear standoff since April.

The diplomatic warming began shortly after Rouhani’s election in June. But it is rooted in both presidents’ stated campaign desires — Obama in 2008 and Rouhani this year — to break through 34-year-old barriers and move toward diplomacy.

Iran is also seeking quick relief from blistering economic sanctions that the U.S. and its Western allies have imposed on Tehran to punish it for refusing to scale back its nuclear activities. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but years of stonewalling inspections and secrecy about its activities have fueled fears it is seeking to build warheads.

Rouhani and Obama spoke while the Iranian president was in his car and headed to the airport to fly back to Tehran, with Obama at his desk in the Oval Office. Rouhani’s aides initially reached out to arrange the conversation, and the White House placed the call.

I’m not sure what it means to “work on resolving global suspicions that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon,”–do they want to calm suspicions or tamp down the nuclear efforts? But at least it’s a step in the right direction. The New York Times has more:

“Resolving this issue, obviously, could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect,” Mr. Obama, referring to Tehran’s nuclear program, told reporters at the White House after the 15-minute phone call. “It would also help facilitate a better relationship between Iran and the international community, as well as others in the region.”

A Twitter account in Mr. Rouhani’s name later stated, “In regards to nuclear issue, with political will, there is a way to rapidly solve the matter.” The account added that Mr. Rouhani had told Mr. Obama, “We’re hopeful about what we will see from” the United States and other major powers “in coming weeks and months.”

More detail about the call itself:

Mr. Obama placed the call from the Oval Office around 2:30 p.m., joined by aides and a translator.

He opened by congratulating Mr. Rouhani on his election in June and noted the history of mistrust between the two nations, but also what he called the constructive statements Mr. Rouhani had made during his stay in New York, according to the official. The bulk of the call focused on the nuclear dispute, and Mr. Obama repeated that he respected Iran’s right to develop civilian nuclear energy, but insisted on concessions to prevent development of weapons.

Mr. Obama also raised the cases of three Americans in Iran, one missing and two others detained. In a lighter moment, he apologized for New York traffic.

The call ended on a polite note, according to the official and Mr. Rouhani’s Twitter account.

“Have a nice day,” Mr. Rouhani said in English.

“Thank you,” Mr. Obama replied, and then tried a Persian farewell. “Khodahafez.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that: U.S. Says Iran Hacked Navy Computers.

U.S. officials said Iran hacked unclassified Navy computers in recent weeks in an escalation of Iranian cyberintrusions targeting the U.S. military.

The allegations, coming as the Obama administration ramps up talks with Iran over its nuclear program, show the depth and complexity of long-standing tensions between Washington and Tehran.

The U.S. officials said the attacks were carried out by hackers working for Iran’s government or by a group acting with the approval of Iranian leaders.

The most recent incident came in the week starting Sept. 15, before a security upgrade, the officials said. Iranian officials didn’t respond to requests to comment.

The allegations would mark one of the most serious infiltrations of U.S. government computer systems by Iran. Previously, Iranian-backed infiltration and surveillance efforts have targeted U.S. banks and computer networks running energy companies, current and former U.S. officials have said.

I’m sure Glenn Greenwald will have a highly disapproving story about this in the Guardian today. Oh wait, he’s probably more outraged that the NSA was able to discover the Iranian spying . . . Never mind.

When Rouhani got home, he was “met by hardline protesters chanting ‘Death to America,'” according to BBC News.

Hundreds of people gathered at Tehran airport, with supporters hailing the trip and opponents throwing shoes.

An Agence France-Presse journalist said some 200-300 supporters gathered outside the airport to thank Mr Rouhani for his efforts.

But opposite them were about 60 people shouting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.

Mr Rouhani raised his hand to the crowds as he was driven off.

A New York Times reporter described the scene as chaotic, with dozens of hardliners hurling eggs and shoes at the president’s convoy.

There was another powerful earthquake today in Pakistan, according to CNN.

The 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck in Balochistan province Saturday about 96 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Awaran, the United States Geological Survey said.

Rasheed Baloch, the Deputy Commissioner Awaran told CNN seven people died when a house collapsed in Mashkay Tehsil as result of new earthquake on Saturday.

Just Tuesday, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck the same area of Pakistan. The death toll in that quake has risen to 366 people and another 765 are injured….

Baloch said a rescue operation was under way in Awaran district to retrieve the dead bodies and shift the injured to hospitals.

The remoteness of the affected area and damaged communications networks are hindering the rescue operation, officials said.

The Atlantic has a good article following up on “Tragic and Heroic Stories from Survivors of the Kenyan Mall Attack.”

Witness accounts and survivor stories from the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi continue to emerge, telling a freighting [sic] story of violence and terror. Yet, as the investigation continues, there are still some disturbing questions about the attack that have yet to be fully explained.

Now that more access has been granted to the ruined mall, images confirm that three floors of the building collapsed, presumably because of a large explosion. The Associated Press reported today that the collapse was actually caused by the Kenyan military, supporting a claim made by the terrorists themselves. It’s still not clear how or why they managed to set off the explosion, but it may have killed some (perhaps most?) of the hostages still inside the building.

The official death toll is still listed at 67, but it’s likely that unrecovered bodies will be found in the rubble. As many as 60 people are still missing.

CNN is also reporting today that the terrorists did not just plant weapons inside the mall in the days before the attack, as had been previously reported, but that members of al-Shabab had rented out a storeand were actually running it as functional business for nearly a year.

While investigators, including the FBI, continue their work, we’re learning more about what happened inside the mall during the attack, and what those who lived through it endured.

Check out some of the survivor stories at The Atlantic link.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a shocking report yesterday, according to BBC News. IPCC climate report: humans ‘dominant cause’ of warming.

A landmark report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s.

The report by the UN’s climate panel details the physical evidence behind climate change.

On the ground, in the air, in the oceans, global warming is “unequivocal”, it explained.

It adds that a pause in warming over the past 15 years is too short to reflect long-term trends.

The panel warns that continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all aspects of the climate system.

To contain these changes will require “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”.

Too bad no humans in powerful positions are likely to do anything about it.

Back in the USA . . . 

Congress is still battling over whether or not to crash the global economy because Republicans don’t want ordinary Americans to have health care, Ted Cruz is still getting headlines for making an ass of himself, and the media is still trying to blame Democrats and Republicans equally for the mess we’re in.

From the Washington Post: Obama chides Republicans as shutdown looms.

With Washington barreling toward a government shutdown, a deadlocked Congress entered the final weekend of the fiscal year with no clear ideas of how to avoid furloughs for more than 800,000 federal workers. Millions more could be left without paychecks.

The Senate on Friday approved a stopgap government funding bill and promptly departed, leaving all of the pressure to find a solution on House Republican leaders.

President Obama weighed in, sternly lecturing GOP leaders that the easiest path forward would be to approve the Senate’s bill, which includes money for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s prized legislation achievement, which he signed into law in 2010. But a far-right bloc of House and Senate Republicans banded together to leave House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) virtually powerless to act.

“My message to Congress is this: Do not shut down the government. Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time,” Obama said in the White House press briefing room.

Boehner’s leadership team offered no public comment and remained out of sight most of Friday, hunkering down for another weekend on the brink. For Boehner, this is the latest in a series of unstable moments that have become the hallmark of his three-year run as speaker.

Al Gore uncharacteristically joined the fray, according to The Hill. Gore to GOP: ‘How dare you?’

Former Vice President Al Gore accused Republicans Friday of engaging in “political terrorism” by using a government shutdown as leverage to defund ObamaCare.

“The only phrase that describes it is political terrorism,” Gore said at the Brookings Institution, according to ABC News. “Why does partisanship have anything to do with such a despicable and dishonorable threat to the integrity of the United States of America?”

The former vice president also criticized Republicans for threats to link defunding ObamaCare to the debt ceiling, which is set to expire Oct. 17.

“Now you want to threaten to not only shut down our government but to blow up the world economy unless we go back and undo what we did according to the processes of this democracy?” Gore said. “How dare you?”

But the media is still pushing their “both sides do it” narrative. At The Atlantic, James Fallows offers Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead. Here’s just a taste:

As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement,represents a failure of journalism*** and an inability to see or describe what is going on. For instance: the “dig in their heels” headline you see below, which is from a proprietary newsletter I read this morning, and about which I am leaving off the identifying details.

This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.

Now please click the link and go over to The Atlantic–it’s a must read.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll go with a link dump on Ted Cruz–if you have the stomach for the details you can go to the sources.

Huffington Post: Student Cited By Ted Cruz As Proof Of Obama’s Failure Is Actually Grateful For Obamacare

John Dickerson at Slate: Why Senate Republicans Hate Ted Cruz

Jonathan Chait: Ted Cruz Now Ruining John Boehner’s Life, Too

Politico: Ted Cruz again refuses to back John Cornyn

Those are my recommendations for today. What are you reading and blogging about? See you in the comment thread!


Friday Nite Lite: Green Ham, Green Eggs, Green Money and Greed, Greed

It's a good life TZGood Evening

Oh…what a crappy week it has been.

I constantly feel like I have woken up in a Twilight Zone episode, half expecting Ted Cruz will wish all the poor people in America to the cornfield.

You know what? I bet he would do it if he could!

Seriously, I feel like those people being held hostage by the little monster child who will do anything to get what he wants.

That is exactly what the actions of Cruz and the rest of the nutcases are doing…and I lump all the assholes in that pile by the way, Boehner, Reid and Obama too.

All these GOP nitwits complaining about Cruz and the rest of the tea party batshit crazies have nothing to bitch about really. They are the ones who allowed their party to become the circus it has become, and as far as I can tell, why couldn’t Obama take care of this budget crisis when he had both houses backing him up. Instead he had to push through a healthcare plan that is shit. Oh wait, let me call it what it is…GOP/Heritage/big insurance company approved shit. (Am I wrong? These days I don’t know if I’m going or coming…but please tell me if I am remember that right or not.) Ugh. I am so sick of all of them. Why can’t we just send the Tea Party, GOP and stale-ass, do-nothing Democrats to the cornfield and put Hillary in the White House already!  (With Samuel L Jackson there as VP to help her kick some muthafukken ass!)

Well, here are the cartoons for this Friday night…enjoy them!

I’ll start with my favorite of the bunch, probably because Horton Hears a Who! is my favorite Dr. Seuss book.

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 09/27/2013

Cartoon by Rob Rogers -

Only thing bout that…what “Moderate” GOP?

Here’s another good one: Clay Bennett editorial cartoon – Political Cartoon by Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press – 09/27/2013

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune – 09/26/2013

Cartoon by Pat Bagley -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 09/26/2013

Cartoon by David Horsey -

Wealth tilt – Political Cartoon by Steve Greenberg, Freelance, Los Angeles – 09/23/2013

Cartoon by Steve Greenberg - Wealth tilt

Repeal Obamacare or else… – Political Cartoon by David G. Brown, Los Angeles Sentinel – 09/23/2013

Cartoon by David G. Brown - Repeal Obamacare or else...

Gun O Rama by Political Cartoonist Steve Benson

137894 600 Gun O Rama cartoons

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Chan Lowe, Sun-Sentinel – 09/27/2013

Cartoon by Chan Lowe -

Enemies List – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 09/24/2013

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Enemies List

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News – 09/25/2013

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Chan Lowe, Sun-Sentinel – 09/21/2013

Cartoon by Chan Lowe -

Sen. Ted Cruz runs with scissors – Political Cartoon by Kate Palmer, @katespalmer – 09/21/2013

Cartoon by Kate Palmer - Sen. Ted Cruz runs with scissors

Work Incentive by Political Cartoonist Steve Sack

137789 600 Work Incentive cartoons

Cruddy Cruisin’ – Truthdig

Governing Bad – Truthdig

Okay, I love that one…with a nod to Breaking Bad.

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon – Political Cartoon by Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press – 09/26/2013

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Chan Lowe, Sun-Sentinel – 09/26/2013

Cartoon by Chan Lowe -

FOOD STAMPS by Political Cartoonist Bill Day

137967 600 FOOD STAMPS cartoons

Cruz and Dr Seuss by Political Cartoonist John Cole

137965 600 Cruz and Dr Seuss cartoons

Ted I Am by Political Cartoonist John Darkow

138030 600 Ted I Am cartoons

Nose on Mans Forehead by Political Cartoonist Jeff Koterba

138046 600 Nose on Mans Forehead cartoons

Ted Cruz and Food Stamps by Political Cartoonist Jeff Darcy

138027 600 Ted Cruz and Food Stamps cartoons

Red Sox ready by Political Cartoonist Dave Granlund

138074 600 Red Sox ready cartoons

This is an open thread. Y’all have a good and pleasant night.


Friday Reads: There’s a lot of village idiots these days and a lot serve in Congress

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Good Morning!!!

A good deal of the disgust I feel with politics has to do with the people who put the idiots in office and don’t bother to separate the lies from the truth.  How’s this for a groaner?

In CNBC’s third-quarter All-America Economic Survey, we asked half of the 812 poll respondents if they support Obamacare and the other half if they support the Affordable Care Act.
First thing: 30 percent of the public don’t know what ACA is, vs. only 12 percent when we asked about Obamacare. More on that later.

Now for the difference: 29 percent of the public supports Obamacare compared with 22 percent who support ACA. Forty-six percent oppose Obamacare and 37 percent oppose ACA. So putting Obama in the name raises the positives and the negatives. Gender and partisanship are responsible for the differences. Men, independents and Republicans are more negative on Obamacare than ACA. Young people, Democrats, nonwhites and women are more positive on Obamacare.

By way of context, a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll asked if respondents believe the new health care law is a good or bad idea. Their results: 31 percent think it’s a good idea and 44 percent say bad idea—roughly in line with the Obamacare response. A quarter of respondents said they didn’t know enough to have an opinion, equal to the share in the CNBC poll who don’t know or are neutral on Obamacare.

The numbers about support for Obamacare vs. Affordable Care might seem at odds with the results CNBC released earlier this week showing Americans oppose defunding the new health care by a 44 percent to 38 percent margin and strongly opposed defunding it if it means shutting down the government.

Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who conducts the survey for CNBC along with Democratic pollster Peter Hart, says Americans could be saying, whether they support it or not, “It’s the law of the land. Let’s give it a try.”

Speaking of idots, guess who just got pulled over for a third time this year?

Zimmerman was stopped by Florida Highway Patrol troopers in Brevard County on August 19 just after 11am.

He received a written warning for having an improper tag display on his Honda truck and was told the window’s excessive tint needed to be corrected.

He told the trooper he installed it after he was acquitted because he had been receiving death threats.

FHP’s dash camera video, obtained by Local 6, was also rolling during Zimmerman’s traffic stop on southbound Interstate 95. He did not get out of the vehicle.

Since being acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin in July, Zimmerman has been pulled over twice prior to this for speeding – once in Texas and once in Lake Mary.

He was let off with a warning in the Texas incident and fined $256 in the latter.

Guess he figures he’s way above the laws the rest of us have to follow these days.322htm

Looks like the kids being raised with privatization, vouchers, creationism, and all those tests for “No Child Left Behind” aren’t doing so well with the SATs.

Of the 1.66 million high school students in the class of 2013 who took the SAT, only 43 percent were academically prepared for college-level work, according to this year’s SAT Report on College & Career Readiness. For the fifth year in a row, fewer than half of SAT-takers received scores that qualified them as “college-ready.”

The College Board considers a score of 1550 to be the “College and Career Readiness Benchmark.” Students who meet the benchmark are more likely to enroll in a four-year college, more likely to earn a GPA of a B- or higher their freshman year, and more likely to complete their degree.

“While some might see stagnant scores as no news, the College Board considers them a call to action. These scores can and must change — and the College Board feels a sense of responsibility to help make that happen,” the report said.

The report also offered insights into why some students graduated high school prepared for college and others didn’t. Students in the class of 2013 who met or exceeded the benchmark were more likely to have completed a core curriculum, to have taken honors or AP courses, and to have taken higher-level mathematics courses, like precalculus, calculus, and trigonometry.

Ouch.

Matt Taibi has an amazing expose on how Wall Street is grabbing the pensions of state workers for their gambling and fee churning selves.

This is the third act in an improbable triple-fucking of ordinary people that Wall Street is seeking to pull off as a shocker epilogue to the crisis era. Five years ago this fall, an epidemic of fraud and thievery in the financial-services industry triggered the collapse of our economy. The resultant loss of tax revenue plunged states everywhere into spiraling fiscal crises, and local governments suffered huge losses in their retirement portfolios – remember, these public pension funds were some of the most frequently targeted suckers upon whom Wall Street dumped its fraud-riddled mortgage-backed securities in the pre-crash years.

Today, the same Wall Street crowd that caused the crash is not merely rolling in money again but aggressively counterattacking on the public-relations front. The battle increasingly centers around public funds like state and municipal pensions. This war isn’t just about money. Crucially, in ways invisible to most Americans, it’s also about blame. In state after state, politicians are following the Rhode Island playbook, using scare tactics and lavishly funded PR campaigns to cast teachers, firefighters and cops – not bankers – as the budget-devouring boogeymen responsible for the mounting fiscal problems of America’s states and cities.

Not only did these middle-class workers already lose huge chunks of retirement money to huckster financiers in the crash, and not only are they old-political-advertisement-6now being asked to take the long-term hit for those years of greed and speculative excess, but in many cases they’re also being forced to sit by and watch helplessly as Gordon Gekko wanna-be’s like Loeb or scorched-earth takeover artists like Bain Capital are put in charge of their retirement savings.

It’s a scam of almost unmatchable balls and cruelty, accomplished with the aid of some singularly spineless politicians. And it hasn’t happened overnight. This has been in the works for decades, and the fighting has been dirty all the way.

It seems state politicians are doing some unbelievable things to worker’s pensions.  These are the same tricks that many politicians want to play with our social security. Its a stunning read.

BostonBoomer has covered this topic before, but many Evangelical households are brutalizing their children under the “spare the rod” Biblical adage.

M. Dolon Hickmon is the author of an upcoming novel called 13:24 that includes religiously motivated abuse. Hickmon was raised by parents who subscribed to this kind of discipline, and he knows first-hand about deep and long-lasting scars from Bible-based childrearing. Hickmon  left his 6,000 member megachurch after a pastor seized on Father’s Day as a prime occasion to teach the congregation how to shape and sand wooden spanking paddles. For Hickmon, the sermon triggered memories of the beatings he had suffered as a child—administered by Christian parents and justified by biblical teachings.

While struggling to hold together his faith, Hickmon sent a letter soliciting advice from an online ministry run by the authors of a popular Evangelical parenting manual. He wrote as if he were a father experiencing marital conflict because his wife interfered when he hit their terrified, screaming six-year-old. In reality, Hickmon was describing his own childhood experience. (You can read his letter, which is full of intentional red flags,  here.) The response: Your wife is at fault in coming to your son’s defense. Your son uses her. Either she stays out of the way, or you will have to stop being a real Dad.

Mercifully, secular courts don’t agree that inflicting physical wounds is an acceptable part of parenting. Hana’s parents have been convicted for her death at their hands and will be sentenced in October. Their seven biological children and adopted son—they had also adopted a boy from Ethiopia ironically named Immanuel, meaning “God is with us”— are now safe from their abuse. It is noteworthy, though, that American children are being made safer by secular institutions, not adherence to ancient texts and traditions.

Child protections have become established in most countries, and conversations about  child-friendly religion are gaining ground. Even so, many children are subject to  patriarchalgroups that take parenting priorities from the Iron Age. Evangelical Christians, fearing that their religion is losing ground, have ramped up recruiting activities targeting high school and college students but also young children. Their tool bag includes afternoon club programs and enticing camps. Some churches, like that of TV’s Duggar family, promote a high birth rate, adding young sheep to the fold the old fashioned way. Many churches  encourage members—even those who already have numerous children—to adopt.

Kathryn Joyce’s book,  The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption exposes Evangelical ministries that have resorted to even lies and bribes to pursue their mission of getting children into good Christian homes. A more common criticism is that Evangelical adoption priorities fuel construction of aid-dependent orphanages rather than addressing the underlying systemic issues that cause maternal destitution and death, leaving children parentless.

So, it seems there are more than a few villages that have sent their idiots to Congress and their state Legislatures.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?