Lazy Saturday Reads: Will Roger Goodell’s Handling of #DeflateGate Be the Final Straw for NFL Owners? And Other News . . .Posted: January 31, 2015
I’m so tired of being cold. The Boston area tends to get a lot of snow–especially late in winter–but we rarely experience the frigid temperatures we’ve had this year. We usually get a lot of sun and temperatures in the 20-30+ range in the winter months. This year we have had many gloomy days in the teens and nighttime temperature in the single numbers. My house isn’t particularly well-insulated, and my furnace isn’t powerful enough to keep the house at 70 degrees when it’s that cold. Fortunately we enter February tomorrow and spring is on the way, even though it doesn’t feel like it yet.
On mornings like this one, I wish I could drape myself over a radiator and sleep for 16 hours a day like a cat. Honestly, I have to admit I’ve been taking a lot of catnaps lately to deal with a cold that isn’t all that bad but just keeps hanging on. Between that and following the buildup to the Super Bowl, I’ve been kind of ignoring politics for the time being. The 2016 race will begin to heat up soon enough, and the antics of the GOP Congress are just too depressing for me to want to know the gory details.
I haven’t written anything yet about the recent attacks on my beloved New England Patriots, but since it’s the Saturday before the Super Bowl, I’m going to write a little about it today.
I understand that most people around the country hate the Pats for the same reasons everyone hated the Yankees when I was a kid. They always seemed to be winning, and we got so sick of having to watch them in the World Series. Not to mention that their fans were unbearably arrogant and obnoxious. Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, I learned to root for the underdog.
At the beginning of the football season this year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in hot water over the mild 2-game suspension he handed out to Ray Rice after the league learned that the Baltimore Ravens running back had punched his then-girlfriend Janay Palmer in the face in a Las Vegas elevator in February 2014, knocking her unconscious. Rice was arrested and charged with aggravated assault.
After video surfaced of the incident, Goodell turned around and suspended Rice indefinitely (this arbitrary decision was later overturned). After that the media began calling attention to other cases of domestic violence by NFL players, and many people called for Goodell to be fired. At the time, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was one of the few team owners to publicly support the commissioner. Goodell survived and the controversy died down temporarily.
Now Goodell has made an enemy of Kraft. Will a silly controversy about deflated footballs lead to Goodell’s final downfall? I’m not going to get into the details of “Deflate Gate,” but I’ve followed the story closely, and at this point I’m convinced that whole thing is ridiculous.
At first I was stunned by the accusations and then I began to believe that the Patriots must have done something wrong. But over time, I’ve concluded that the whole thing was a tempest in a teapot, and I’ve reached the point where I’m embracing the hatred and laughing about the whole thing.
I’m not a huge fan of the Super Bowl, but to me it seems stupid that this year’s game has been overshadowed by this ludicrous controversy. I think it’s time for Roger Goodell to go, and now that he has lost the support of one of the NFL’s most powerful owners–and one of Goodell’s bosses–it might actually happen. As former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue told CQ Magazine, Goodell doesn’t seem to understand the value of treating the players like adults and working for peace and understanding rather than enraging everyone.
Tagliabue also said that Goodell hasn’t spoken to him since the former commissioner vacated Goodell’s ridiculously over-the-top punishment of another winning team–the New Orleans Saints–for supposedly paying bounties to players for big hits during games in 2011. This practice was common around the league and none of the hits by Saints players had lead to serious injuries. Tagliabue felt that it was unfair to penalize one team so harshly for behavior that was widely tolerated around the league, and he overturned the punishment after Goodell asked him to review the case.
Why would the NFL commissioner want to tear down winning teams? It doesn’t make sense unless you understand that the NFL doesn’t like dynasties. Here’s a piece from the Bleacher Report from 2009 about another scandal involving the New England Patriots.
Excellence isn’t against NFL rules—at least not yet.
But, the league punishes success anyway.
They punish success to achieve parity among the teams. In theory, when more teams have a chance to win it all, the ratings are higher. That means more advertising dollars for the networks and bigger TV contracts for the league.
Twelve games into the season and your team has four wins and eight losses?
They still have a chance, just like the 2008 Chargers.
Current rules allow scenarios where nine win teams make the playoffs and go to Super Bowls, while 11 win teams miss the playoffs….
They don’t want dominant teams. They want mediocrity. They don’t want dynasties.
They want to spread the wealth.
So, the league punishes successful teams, hoping to weaken them, and rewards bad teams, hoping to strengthen them.
Read the rest of that article to learn why the Patriots were punished with a trumped-up scandal over something every other team was doing.
So far the strategy has worked with the Saints, but maybe they can still turn it around. I hope so. After “spygate,” the Patriots refused to lie down and die. They just kept winning, and Goodell and some other team owners and coaches resented it. I think Goodell’s ham-handed strategy for promoting parity is bullshit. There have to be other ways of doing it than ruining the NFL’s most important event–the Super Bowl–and humiliating players and coaches who have worked their asses off to achieve excellence.
Rhode Island sportswriter Tom E. Curran has followed the Patriots since the late 1990s. At the beginning of “deflategate,” he thought that the Pats had cheated, but he gradually learned that the NFL had zero evidence to show any wrongdoing by the team; and yesterday after Roger Goodell gave his “state of the NFL” speech, Curran wrote a scathing response.
Congrats, Roger. You successfully debased your marquee event.
You allowed one of your marquee franchises to be devalued.
You allowed the legacies of a Hall of Fame quarterback and coach to be battered.
You watched with disinterest as one of the league’s visionary owners and most influential proponents had his influence siphoned and his investment diminished.
Your NFL has bookended the 2014 season with two perfect embarrassments.
First, the wink, wink “investigation” into Ray Rice punching his fiancee into unconsciousness which exploded on the Monday morning after the season openers.
Now, a vindictive, self-important, spare-no-expense investigation into footballs being less than 12.5 PSI during the AFC Championship.
And there you were Friday, Roger, on a rainy morning in Phoenix – two days before the best two teams in the NFL will play a game that’s been terribly overshadowed – puffing out your chest.
Read about Curran’s evolution on the deflategate issue at the link.
Here’s his conclusion:
The NFL had to know it had no numbers written down before Monday dawned. But the leaks of leaky balls flowed. The NFL had a choice. Step up and say, “Look, this is standard stuff, we frequently do a review of procedures and we are not alleging any wrongdoing by anyone. We just have to make sure our footballs aren’t defective.” Or do nothing and let the whisper campaign turn into a full-throated, planetary roar that the Patriots are cheaters.
The NFL chose the latter.
And everybody’s paying for it.
The league itself. The players. The coaches. The fans.
The revenue streams keep cascading and because of that, Goodell’s 32 bosses can go to sleep every night knowing that, no matter how bad it gets, it will never slow to a trickle.
Still, he’s got to be congratulated for finding a way to let the Super Bowl be overshadowed. Seemed impossible.
The only thing that can save the week now will be the game itself. I think it will.
What will save the reputation of Roger Goodell? Nothing.
We’ll find out about the game tomorrow night. Goodell may stick around for a little while, but I think his goose is cooked.
I’ll end this diatribe with a hilarious video that finally dissolved all my resentment over what has happened over the past two weeks of deflate gate hype.
Now that I’ve bored you stiff with my obnoxious Boston fan routine, here are some other stories you may find interesting.
Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone: While Deflategate and Chaitgate Rage, America Quietly Robs Its Elderly.
Reihan Salam at Slate: The Upper Middle Class Is Ruining America. And I want it to stop.
Michael Moore on Facebook: The Day Clint Eastwood Said He Would “Kill” Me, 10 Years Ago This Week.
Michael Schiavo at Politico: Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’.
Talking Points Memo: Jeb Bush’s Former Classmates Say He Was A Hash-Smoking Bully.
Nina Burleigh at Newsweek: What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women.
Talking Points Memo: The Sounds of Solidarity: Remembering Pete Seeger at Selma.
From The New Yorker, April 10, 1965: Letter from Selma, by Renata Adler.
RedOrbit via Raw Story: ‘Horrific’ pre-historic shark makes a rare appearance in Australian waters.
Georg Gray: Rare Historic Photos You’ll Never Forget.
What else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread and have a fabulous Super Bowl weekend!
I absolutely cannot believe the hatred coming out of the Republican Party and its christianist grass roots these days. It’s downright embarrassing that my Governor is leading the charge. There are so many of these stories at the moment that they certainly need the light of day given that we’ve just recognized the 70th anniversary of NAZI concentration camps designed for the Jewish, the homosexual, the intellectual, and others considered outcasts of their society.
This first disturbing piece comes from Texas where Texas Muslims gathered peacefully to recognize democracy and to teach their children about how we do things in this country. Unfortunately, many haters gave them the wrong lesson.
They came out by the hundreds from Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, mostly women and children, girls with silver-bowed shoes and pink owl backpacks. They sang the national anthem and prayed.
But less than 20 feet from where the group of Texas Muslims gathered on the steps of the state Capitol in Austin, a small handful of protesters told them exactly how they felt about their visit.
“We don’t want you here!” shouted one. Others yelled, “Go home,” “ISIS will gladly take you” and “remember 9/11.”
“You don’t have to dress that way! Take it off!” came from a woman holding an Israeli flag. “Islam is the war on women!”
Earlier in the morning, Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, commented on the gathering.
“I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office,” she wrote on Facebook.
Thursday marked the seventh annual Texas Muslim Capitol Day in Austin, when hundreds of adherents of Islam visit the Capitol to meet with lawmakers and learn about the democratic process. This year, however, is the first that’s been marked by virulent anti-Islam protests, said Ruth Nasrullah, a prominent Muslim blogger from Houston who also hosted the event.
Christine Weick, who said she was originally from Michigan but now is “on the road,” at one point stormed the succession of speakers, grabbing the microphone and yelling, “Islam will not dominate the United States, and by the grace of God, it will not dominate Texas.”
She was carted back to her spot with the other 12 to 15 protesters holding vigil behind a wall of law enforcement officers. “Muhammad is dead!” she and other chanted, referring to the Muslim prophet.
As the group of Muslims continued the event by singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the interruptions persisted, with the protesters yelling, “Islam is a lie!” and “No Sharia here!”
Mustafaa Carroll, the executive director of the Houston chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, called the behavior “very frustrating.” Carroll said this was the first year protesters showed up since Muslim Capitol Day began.
“I’m more concerned with state leaders and what they say than I am about anybody else because they are the lawmakers,” he said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus asking whether White had violated ethics rules by instructing her staff to ask Muslim visitors to her office to declare their allegiance to the United States.
“Our ethics question is: Has Rep. White violated any House rules in creating such an internal office policy that is selectively being enforced to discriminate against certain religious minorities trying to meet with her or her staff?” the letter asks. “Are House members prohibited from making constituents take oaths before meeting with their elected representatives or House staff?”
In a statement, Straus said: “Legislators have a responsibility to treat all visitors just as we expect to be treated — with dignity and respect. Anything else reflects poorly on the entire body and distracts from the very important work in front of us.” His statement did not address the ethics complaint.
As of mid-morning, the Israeli flag was still on the desk in White’s office. By noon, she had released a follow-up Facebook post that added: “I do not apologize for my comments. … If you love America, obey our laws and condemn Islamic terrorism, then I embrace you as a fellow American. If not, then I do not.”
But at 3 p.m., White released a new statement saying she welcomed “all of my constituents who would like to come and visit our office in the Texas State Capitol.”
“As law-abiding American citizens, we all have the privilege and the right to freedom of speech granted to us by the First Amendment,” she wrote. “… As a proud Texan and American I fully denounce all terrorist groups or organizations who’s [sic] intent is to hurt and destroy the great state of Texas and our nation.”
This was not the first time White has aired her concerns about Muslims on Facebook.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s bigotry has been over the top recently. He called for “cultural assimilation” suggesting that if every one acted white, everything would be just fine. However, he fails to look around the country to find there are many examples of non-Muslim people of faith who are not assimilated to the culturally white WASP majority. Peter Weber-writing for the Week–suggested Jindal take a look at Brooklyn where there are ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews that live and dress as their European ancestors have for many years.
“There is a way of thinking by many on the Left in America, which disturbs me greatly,” Jindal says: “The notion that assimilation is not necessary or even preferable.” Liberals, he adds, “think it is unenlightened, discriminatory, and even racist to expect immigrants to endorse and assimilate into the culture in their new country. This is complete rubbish.”
Jindal says he believes that religious and ethnic groups make America stronger when they come to embrace America’s culture and values. But not every group qualifies:
Are they coming to be set apart, are they unwilling to assimilate, do they have their own laws they want to establish, do they fundamentally disagree with your political culture? Therein lies the difference between immigration and invasion….
To be clear — I am not suggesting for one second that people should be shy or embarrassed about their ethnic heritage. But I am explicitly saying that it is completely reasonable for nations to discriminate between allowing people into their country who want to embrace their culture, or allowing people into their country who want to destroy their culture, or establish a separate culture within. [Jindal]
Well, off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of groups in the United States that have established “a separate culture within” America, probably “fundamentally disagree” with America’s “political culture,” and are still an integral part of America’s rich cultural and religious tapestry.
The Amish communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio, for example, don’t drive cars, use smartphones, or allow their members to wear synthetic fabrics. Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves a global movement and don’t serve in the U.S. armed forces or salute or pledge allegiance to the American flag; they also don’t accept blood transfusions, or celebrate Christmas or birthdays. And is Jindal really going to tell the Cajun and Creole communities in his home state to stop speaking Louisiana French?
If Jindal is serious about his idea, though, I have a challenge for him: Go to Brooklyn.
In Williamsburg, in Crown Heights, in Borough Park, there are sizable and growing insular communities, or “courts,” of ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews. They have their own customs, language (Yiddish), 19th-century style of dress, political and religious leaders, and, in some instances, laws. Women typically don’t have the same rights as men. The Hasidic communities of Brooklyn and elsewhere in New York and New Jersey have not assimilated to American culture.
Peter Beinart writes that Jindal “wants Christians to stand apart from secular society, but condemns Muslims who do the same.”
In London, Jindal said “non-assimilationist Muslims” threaten the West not merely because they support acts of violence, and not merely because they adhere to Islamic rather than national law. Most fundamentally, they pose a threat because they refuse to embrace the cultures of the countries to which they immigrate. Denouncing the left’s claim that “it is unenlightened, discriminatory, and even racist to expect immigrants to endorse and assimilate into the culture in their new country,” Jindal insisted that “it is completely reasonable for nations to discriminate between allowing people into their country who want to embrace their culture, or allowing people into their country who want to destroy their culture, or establish a separate culture within.”
In his London speech, Jindal made little effort to define American or European culture except to associate it with “freedom.” So it’s hard to know exactly which aspects of it he believes Muslims refuse to embrace. But in his speeches last year on religion, Jindal discussed American culture at greater length. And his verdict was surprisingly harsh. “American culture,” he told students at Liberty University, “has in many ways become a secular culture.” Many churches, he declared, now espouse “views on sin [that] are in direct conflict with the culture.” In case students hadn’t gotten the message, Jindal repeated himself: “our culture has taken a secular turn.”
Then he asked a rhetorical question: “What do we do about it?” His answer: resist. People of faith, he argued, must recognize that they are fighting a “silent war” against the secular, liberal elite. And they must keep waging that war no matter how much of a cultural minority they become. “Our religious liberty,” he insisted, “must in no way ever be linked to the ever-changing opinions of the public.
So let’s imagine a scenario. A devout Christian emigrates from Nigeria to a progressive American college town, where she takes up work as a pharmacist. She quickly finds herself at odds with the dominant culture around her. Co-workers mock her modest dress and her insistence on interrupting work to pray. When she calls homosexuality a sin, they denounce her as a bigot. Ultimately, her employer fires her for refusing to dispense contraception.
Based on his speeches at Liberty University and the Reagan Library, Jindal’s advice to this woman would be clear: Wage “silent war” against the culture that oppresses you, even if you’re a minority of one. If necessary, “establish a separate culture within” the dominant one so you can raise children who fear and obey God.
Now imagine that our devout Nigerian is a Muslim. Suddenly her resistance to the dominant culture makes her not a hero but a menace. Jindal supporters might resist the analogy. Christians, they might argue, don’t kill cartoonists or establish their own separate legal systems. But Jindal’s point in London was that the problems with Muslim immigrants go beyond issues of violence and law. The core danger, he insisted, is their refusal to assimilate into the culture of the countries to which they immigrate. And since Jindal has already declared that American (let alone European) culture is secular, any immigrant who refuses to assimilate into it is, by his definition, a threat. Our Nigerian pharmacist should never been given a visa.
Why point out the contradiction between Jindal’s heroic portrayal of Christian non-assimilators and his demonization of Muslim ones? Because it exposes his lofty talk about culture and identity to be an elaborate ruse. The only principle he’s really defending is anti-Muslim bigotry.
It’s amazing to me that 70 years after the scapegoating of European Jews led to the “ultimate solution” we could still be living with this kind of hatred propagated by elected officials. It is odd that the same people waving flags of Israel understand so little about the history that led to the demand for a Jewish state. Of course, they are only thinking that the fruition of their end times dreams comes only with building of a temple on what is now a holy Islamic site.
I only hope that people of good will speak out against this bigotry.
What is on your reading and blogging list today?
The good news in my world is that a very nice man who lives across the street from me volunteered to shovel my car out yesterday. I had managed to clear my front porch steps and sidewalk, but I never could have finished the driveway by myself. I would have had to keep shoveling today. The bad news is that more snow is expected tonight and there’s a possibility of another big storm on Monday. But for today, I’m happy that I don’t have to shovel and I can get to the store and stock up on supplies before the next onslaught.
I’m a little bit punch drunk from the Blizzard of 2015 (which definitely wasn’t a “bust” in Massachusetts), so I hope you’ll forgive me for beginning with some lightweight stories today.
Did you hear about the Boston Yeti? As the blizzard ramped up on Tuesday night, the Associated Press reported sightings of a strange creature wandering around town, enjoying the snow.
BOSTON (AP) — The monster storm in Boston has brought with it another monster – a yeti.
The white, furry phantom has been getting laughs by walking through the blizzard in a sasquatch suit.
One was spotted in downtown Copley Square. Another was sighted trying to hail a cab in suburban Somerville.
New England Cable News reporter Tony Sabato tweeted a photo of the not-so-elusive creature. Above a snapshot of the yeti looking rather pensive, he wrote, “Found the yeti in the blizzard at Copley Square in Boston.”
From The Boston Globe: Boston Yeti on the loose during storm.
While the identity of the Boston Yeti remains unknown, the user behind this Twitter account appears to have created it on Monday ahead of the storm, amassing more than 4,700 followers by Tuesday evening. The hashtag#BostonYeti2015 took on a social life of its own as Twitter users reacted to Boston’s surprise monster of the storm.
With all of the city’s instructions to stay off the roads, the Boston Yeti didn’t appear to listen, at least in Somerville during the start of Juno. But this abominable snowman did seem to want fellow Bostonians to be careful, telling folks on Twitter that “BostonYeti2015 loves the snow, but wants everyone to be safe.”
Here’s one sighting of the Boston Yeti:
Where were you hiding before it started to snow?
Here and there. The woods, mainly.
What have you done in Boston since emerging?
Waving to kids, bustling through the snow showers. Trying to make as many people smile as possible….
Have you eaten anyone’s cat? We know you need nourishment.
I’m a vegan.
Have you shoveled at all for anyone?
Yes, two separate families that needed an extra claw…I mean, hand. They promised not to take my photo if I shoveled. I was more than happy to help….
What do you say to the people who think you’re nothing but a guy in a costume walking around? You know, the non-believers.
People will believe whatever they want. I know my existence has been debated for decades. In some ways it’s fun to think some don’t believe. All I can say is that I’m very real and love everyone—even those non-believers.
Okay, it’s a corny story, but anything that can make people laugh during a giant storm is a good thing in my mind. Those of us living inland need to keep in mind that for people along the coast this storm was no joke. Here’s just one scene of coastal flooding in the South Shore town of Scituate.
Now another strange but heartwarming story from Tampa, Florida: the tale of a zombie cat. CNN reports: ‘Zombie cat’ presumed dead found alive five days after burial.
Bart, or “zombie cat” as the feline is now being referred to on social media, was discovered “unresponsive” by his owner last week lying in a pool of blood. His body was cold and his face was severely disfigured.
“If we’d seen that cat on the road, we’d assumed he was dead,” Nash McCuthchen with the Humane Society told CNN.
Bart’s owner, Ellis Hutson, along with the help of a neighbor, buried his beloved pet in his yard.
Five days later, a different neighbor found Bart walking in her yard, after he seemingly clawed his way out of the grave.
The neighbor returned the cat to Hutson, who called the Humane Society for help.
Bart was in bad shape, McCutchen said, with maggots covering open wounds on his body, and he had difficulty walking. The cat was dehydrated, his left eye ruined.
But remarkably, McCutchen said, the kitty had no internal injuries, making the Humane Society able to treat him. Bart had surgery Wednesday to remove his left eye and wire his jaw shut.
Amazingly, Bart is expected to fully recover from his injuries, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“He’s doing well,” said Sherry Silk, executive director of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, which is caring for the cat after a nearly two-hour operation Tuesday.
Nash McCutchen, the organization’s marketing coordinator, said Bart will recover with rest following a blood transfusion Wednesday afternoon.
“He’s been through a lot,” said McCutchen, who said a shelter cat will be donating the blood to get Bart back up to speed.
See some video of Bart at the link.
In other, more serious, news . . .
The battle between Democrats and House Speaker John Boehner over a scheduled speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been ramping up over the past week. The New York Times reports that the White House has signaled its “outrage” over the unauthorized invitation issued by Republican House leaders by harshly criticizing Israel’s Ambassador, Ron Dermer, for helping to arrange the invitation.
Today Reuters reports: Pelosi says Netanyahu speech to Congress could hurt Iran talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to the U.S. Congress in March could damage the Obama administration’s attempts to broker a deal with Iranon nuclear weapons development, the senior U.S. House of Representatives Democrat said on Wednesday.
“Such a presentation could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi during a news conference on the sidelines of an annual retreat for Democratic lawmakers.
But Pelosi stopped short of saying that the invitation to Netanyahu should be withdrawn by House Speaker John Boehner.
Earlier this month Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of the House and Senate and the speech is scheduled for March 3, just two weeks before the Israeli leader stands for re-election on March 17.
Boehner, who did not consult with the White House before extending the invitation, has defended his surprise invitation.
A spokesman for Pelosi said she spoke by telephone on Wednesday with Netanyahu, but he did not provide further details.
Here’s some commentary on the controversy by Jonathan Chait: Why Benjamin Netanyahu Lost His Mind.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in one of his trademark gestures of narcissistic venality, decided to set up an address to the United States Congress without notifying the executive branch of the American government. The maneuver is so unusual that Netanyahu’s former ally and ambassador to the U.S. called on him to reverse course. Even Fox Newshas questioned him. Jeffrey Goldberg attempts to understand what Netanyahu might have been thinking. “Why doesn’t Netanyahu understand that alienating Democrats is not in the best interest of his country?” he asks. “From what I can tell, he doubts that Democrats are — or will be shortly — a natural constituency for Israel, and he clearly believes that Obama is a genuine adversary.”
Netanyahu’s behavior might be best understood as the expression of a kind of apocalypticism that has always colored right-wing Zionist thought, but which has gained force over the last dozen years or so. Right-wing Zionists have grown increasingly convinced of a series of interconnected propositions: that Israel (or the Jewish people) faces an existential threat; that opposition to Israel is a pure function of anti-Semitism and therefore cannot be mollified; and that liberal Zionists are at best useless as allies and at worst detrimental to the cause of preserving Israel from the onslaught.
One obvious cause of the Zionist right’s deepening millennialism is Iran’s quest to obtain a nuclear weapon. In comparison with other military threats to Israel, right-wing and liberal Zionists think of this development in strikingly different terms. Moderates and liberals consider a nuclearized Iran a serious strategic problem. But they also consider military options useless to stop it, and further believe that a nuclear Iran can be deterred. (Kenneth Pollack, a former Clinton aide most famous as an Iraq hawk, has made the case for the possibility of deterring Iran.) In this view, Iran’s nuclear ambitions represent a threat to be avoided, if at all possible, with sanctions and covert sabotage. Conservative Zionists see the matter much more starkly. The Iranian nuclear program is an existential threat best understood in the context of the Holocaust denialism of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Read the rest at the link.
At The Hill, Brett Budowsky sees the Netanyahu invitation as just part of “The great GOP overreach.”
While Republicans bask in the glory of their victories in 2014 and continue their hyperpartisan onslaught in the new Congress, some early numbers should keep GOP strategists awake at night.
According to a recent ABC/Washington Post poll, Hillary Clinton would defeat Jeb Bush in 2016 by 13 percentage points. She would defeat Chris Christie by 13 points, Rand Paul by 13 and Mitt Romney by 15.
According to the summary of polling from Real Clear Politics, approval of the Republican Congress is barely 15 percent. Disapproval remains near 72 percent. Control of Congress means ownership of the vast unpopularity of Congress.
Meanwhile, President Obama’s popularity has risen significantly since November. The stage is set for Clinton to begin a 2016 campaign with a significant lead over GOP opponents and run against a highly unpopular Republican Congress.
Voters see Republicans overreaching and underachieving. They see the GOP repeating ritual attacks against Obama and Clinton as though the 2014 campaign never ended. They see Republicans moving to pass political bills they know will never be enacted, such as old attacks against ObamaCare, and opposing important bills voters do want enacted, such as immigration reform. They see the GOP stage phony hearings on Benghazi that are nothing more than taxpayer-financed attacks against Hillary Clinton.
There is a GOP distemper in Washington, an overreaching of aggressive tactics against Democrats and an underachievement of success in governing. The result? Obama rises in favorability, Clinton rises against Republicans.
Head over to The Hill to read the rest.
Two stories of injustices overturned.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Marissa Alexander walked away from the Duval County courthouse Tuesday after a judge ruled she will not serve any additional jail time.
Judge James Daniel denied the State’s request for an additional two years of probation and ruled that Alexander will serve two years of house arrest while wearing an ankle monitor, an agreement reached in an November 2014 plea deal.
Alexander claims she fired a gun at her estranged husband, Rico Gray, in self-defense.
I thought she fired into the ceiling . . .
“Four and a half years have passed since the events of August 1, 2010, but today after the sentence imposed the Judge Daniel, my family and I will be able to move forward with out lives,” Alexander said during a meeting with the media in front of the courthouse.
“Although the journey has been long, and there have been many difficult moments, I could not have arrived here where I am today without the many thoughts and prayers of so many people who have voiced their support and encouragement,” Alexander said as she read from a prepared statement.
According to the terms of the plea, Alexander was ordered to serve three years in jail after pleading guilty to all three counts against her. Alexander will get credit for the 1,030 days she’s already spent in jail. However, the second count against Alexander is considered an ‘open plea,’ she could have been sentenced to five years in jail at the hearing.
More than a half-century after they were arrested and sentenced to hard labor for sitting at a whites-only lunch counter in South Carolina, a group of African-American student protesters known as the “Friendship Nine” had their convictions overturned and sentences vacated Wednesday.
The moment was met with applause and a standing ovation in the court room.
Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III made the ruling. “We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history,” the judge said. He then signed the order, and the prosecutor apologized to the men. Hayes is the nephew of the judge who sentenced the “Friendship Nine” to jail in 1961.
All eight surviving members of the “Friendship Nine” attended the morning hearing in a municipal courtroom in Rock Hill, South Carolina. They were represented in the hearing by Ernest A. Finney Jr., the same man who defended their case 54 years ago. He went on to become the first black chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court since Reconstruction.
The actions of the Friendship Nine established a strategy “breathed new life into the Civil Rights Movement,” according to the article.
These reversals are too little too late, but I guess we have to be grateful for any progress in these Republican-controlled times.
I have more links, but I’ll put them in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?
If you want to kill some time today, check out these images of Lego greatness:
Over a thousand pictures here: Lego Art on Pinterest
There is even a Klimt in this one: Lego mania on Pinterest
And more artsy fartsy stuff here: Lego Creations on Pinterest
Why do I bring all this up? Because today’s post is going to center around popular culture and nothing represents that more than Legos…used as an artistic representation in historic museums.
As a history major, and a geeky one at that…you know being a wonky sort of history geek, specifically Medieval, I don’t know how to feel about this.
I am so enthralled with these works of Lego art, the detail, the delight it brings…but there is also a part of me that thinks…Lego? Used in a legitimate archaeological/historical sense? Then I slap myself and say, don’t be such a pompous ass JJ…get over your fucking self. These things are not your typical play toy Lego “houses” just look at the scale models the artist create.
The latest made its debut in Sydney this past month. LEGO Pompeii Excites New Audiences – Archaeology Magazine
Professional LEGO builder Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught has crafted a model of Pompeii at the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum, according to The Conversation. The project, which took more than 500 hours to complete and used more than 190,000 blocks, is one of the largest LEGO historical models ever built. The display shows three phases of the ancient city: as it looked in A.D. 79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted; as it appeared when it was rediscovered in the eighteenth century; and as the ruins stand today. Over the past two years, McNaught created a scale model of the Colosseum out of the colorful bricks, and the LEGO Acropolis, now on display at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.
This thing is amazing!
From the link to the University of Sydney’s Nicholson Museum above: Lego Pompeii creates less pomp and more yay in the museum
Lego Pompeii was painstakingly recreated from more than 190,000 individual blocks across 470 hours for Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum – it’s the largest model of the ancient city ever constructed out of Lego blocks. There is a mix of ancient and modern elements within the model’s narrative; displaying Pompeii as it was at the moment of destruction by the volcano Vesuvius in 79AD, as it was when rediscovered in the 1700s, and as it is today.
The historical model is the exhibition centrepiece in an archaeological museum where, until recently, displays of Lego would have been unthinkable.
The Nicholson Museum, with collections of artefacts from the Mediterranean region, Egypt and the Middle East, is a place where visitors can expect to see Greek vases, Egyptian sculpture and ceramic sherds from Jericho.
Yet since 2012, the museum has commissioned professional Lego builder Ryan “The Brickman” McNaught to recreate three ancient sites made from Lego. Together these models represent an interesting experiment; attracting a new audience to the museum space and demonstrating the importance of fun in a museum context.
This is not the first rodeo for The Brickman…
The first Nicholson Lego scale model was a replica of the Colosseum in Rome.
The joy of the model was its ability to contrast the old with the new. Half the model featured the amphitheatre in antiquity; the other half featured the building in ruins with Lego modern tourists.
The model proved such a success it subsequently toured several regional NSW galleries and museums. It is currently displayed at the Albury Regional Art Gallery along with Roman artefacts from the Nicholson Museum’s collection.
Go to the Nicholson Museum link to read the rest of the story, and how The Brickman studied and designed his Lego city of Pompeii.
Brickman is one of Lego’s Certified Professionals, these people have amazing jobs…check out some of the artist work at that link. (Mini Bios at that link too.) It seems that most of these LCP’s are men…but I have not researched enough of the culture to be sure of this…that is just my observation as I look through the websites and images. And, the one woman that is a Certified Professional is associated with education, autism, special needs and using Lego as a teaching tool. But I will just say this is only my thoughts on the matter. Let’s just go on with the post.
Alright then, how about that Blizzard? Here’s some pictures for you:
City dwellers in New York hoping to wake up to mountains of snow will have to content themselves with trawling Instagram pictures from New England. The blizzard of 2015—or really the #blizzardof2015 if we’re doing this right—brought less snow than expected to New York City and a number of points south. But to the east on Long Island and north throughout New England, the storm has lived up to, and in some ways exceeded, expectations with heavy snow and coastal flooding.
Snow totals are still being updated but as of Tuesday morning, a National Weather Service weather spotter has reported the highest total from the storm so far, with 30 inches in Framingham, Mass. Other central Massachusetts and South Shore locations have also piled up more than 2 feet of snow.
The second-highest snow total comes 28.5 inches measured in Orient, N.Y., on the far eastern tip of Long Island. In both places, wind gusts are piling up drifts and sending snow cresting over the eaves of houses.
But there has been some complaining. For a look at the technical side of forecast, Cliff Mass Weather Blog: Forecast Lessons from the Northeast Snowstorm
The complaints swelled quickly this morning, both in the social media and the press:
National Weather Service forecasters had predicted two to three feet over New York City and adjacent suburbs for Tuesday and only about 8-10 inches showed up.
The city had been shut down overnight–travel banned on major roadways, mass transportation systems (e.g., subways) closed, schools and businesses closed–and all for a minor snow event! A few samples from the press illustrates some of the commentary:
And then a National Weather Service forecaster even apologized for a “blown forecast”, something that doesn’t happen very often.
And you had to expect that some global warming critic would use the forecast troublex to cast doubt on global warming predictions.
So what is the truth about this forecast event? As I will describe below, although the forecast “bust” was not as bad as it might appear, it did reveal some significant weaknesses in how my profession makes and communicates forecasts, weaknesses that National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini says he recognizes and will attempt to fix.
The general forecast situation was well understood and skillfully forecast starting on Saturday. A low center (a midlatitude cyclone) would develop off the SE U.S. and then move northward up the East Coast–a storm commonly called a Nor’easter. Here is a surface weather map at 4 AM PST this morning, when the storm was near its height. In such a location, the storm can pull cold air off the continent while swirling in moisture from off the ocean. The result is moderate to heavy snow to the west and north of the low center, as well as strong winds over the same areas. Thirty years ago we could not forecast these storms with any skill. That has changed.
Go and read how it has changed at the link.
In other science-ish news, y’all know that big ass rock that flew by us Monday?
A video still of asteroid 2004 BL86 and its newly discovered moon from Goldstone Solar System Radar. Image via Slooh.com.
Check this shit out:
Radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86 confirm the primary asteroid is 1,100 feet (325 meters) across with a small moon 230 feet (70 meters) across.
Wow! Scientists working with NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California have released the first radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86, which flew closer to Earth on Monday than any asteroid this large will again until the year 2027. Closest approach was 1619 UTC (11:19 a.m. EST) on January 26, 2015. Nearest distance was about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers, or 3.1 times the distance from Earth to the moon). The radar images confirm what other astronomers first discovered this past weekend, that asteroid 2004 BL86 has its own small moon!
Let us move from science to environment, but still on a pop culture connection…cause what else would you expect from something like this? Chinese Methanol Plant in Louisiana ‘Cancer Alley’ | Al Jazeera America
Uh, okay… I will just give you a quick overview of the area and the situation. This plant is poisoning people. These people are poor. They are people of color. Nuff Said!
This article is the second installment of a three-part series on China’s role in redeveloping southern Louisiana called China’s Louisiana Purchase. The first part investigated links between Chinese government officials, Chinese gas giant Shandong Yuhuang and Gov. Bobby Jindal.
ST. JAMES PARISH, La. — No one asked Lawrence “Palo” Ambrose if he wanted a Chinese company with a controversial environmental record to build a methanol plant in his neighborhood. But if they had, the 74-year-old Vietnam War vet would have said no.
A town hall meeting about it in July at St. James High School, which is close to the site of the plant, in a sparsely populated area with mobile homes and a few farms, took place only after the St. James Parish Council approved the project.
“We never had a town hall meeting pretending to get our opinion prior to them doing it,” said Ambrose, a coordinator at St. James Catholic Church. “They didn’t make us part of the discussion.”
The St. James Parish Council did not respond to interview requests at time of publication.
Edwin Octave, 92, who lives with his family in the area, agreed with Ambrose. “I don’t think the way they went about getting the plant was right. They bought the property before they tell people it’s going to happen.”
The area has gotten the nickname Cancer Alley. I don’t know the state of Louisiana is becoming more and more like the poster child for all that is bad and could be bad when fuckwads get elected and have shit everything up. “Literally.”
There is a term being used, it is called Environmental Racism.
St. James Parish gas station owner Kenny Winchester said he hopes U.S. environmental standards will be enough to prevent any abuses too detrimental to the health of his community. “There shouldn’t be a problem if they follow the rules,” he said. “If they take shortcuts, we’ll have a problem.”
But Malek-Wiley said that hope isn’t realistic. “It’s not feasible to just hope they will abide by regulations. Most of the industry environmental reporting requirements are done by companies without a secondary check with the Department of Environmental Quality or EPA,” he said. “In effect, if a company was doing wrong, it would have to write itself a ticket. I know every time I’m going down the interstate too fast and there’s no cop, I pull over and write myself a ticket … No, it doesn’t happen that way.”
The only way to tell if a company breaches regulations, he said, is “after the plant’s built, unfortunately.” An environmentalist nonprofit focused on opposing petrochemical pollution in the region, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, could “teach folks how to take air samples in their community,” he said, and that tactic has led to “a number of companies to be fined for air pollution, but that’s after the fact.”
After successfully organizing legal bids around black communities not consulted on energy projects, Malek-Wiley believes that “with St. James Parish, they could have brought up concerns about environmental racism.”
How could this plant have been allowed to contaminate the groundwater for 40 years? How could the explosives have been left at the site in the first place? How is it that there doesn’t seem to be the money or the will to more safely remove them? Can we imagine anyone, with a straight face, proposing to openly burn millions of pounds of explosives near Manhattan or Seattle?
This is the kind of scenario that some might place under the umbrella of “environmental racism,” in which disproportionately low-income and minority communities are either targeted or disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous materials and waste facilities.
There is a long history in this country of exposing vulnerable populations to toxicity.
Fifteen years ago, Robert D. Bullard published Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality. In it, he pointed out that nearly 60 percent of the nation’s hazardous-waste landfill capacity was in “five Southern states (i.e., Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas),” and that “four landfills in minority ZIP codes areas represented 63 percent of the South’s total hazardous-waste capacity” although “blacks make up only about 20 percent of the South’s total population.”
More recently, in 2012, a study by researchers at Yale found that “The greater the concentration of Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans or poor residents in an area, the more likely that potentially dangerous compounds such as vanadium, nitrates and zinc are in the mix of fine particles they breathe.”
Among the injustices perpetrated on poor and minority populations, this may in fact be the most pernicious and least humane: the threat of poisoning the very air that you breathe.
I have skin in this game. My family would fall in the shadow of the plume. But everyone should be outraged about this practice. Of all the measures of equality we deserve, the right to feel assured and safe when you draw a breath should be paramount.
BTW, Bullard’s website with lots of links can be found here: Environmental Justice / Environmental Racism
I just get so damn sick about all this.
But if you want some more sick shit to read, the Koch Brothers.
And again…going back to the pop culture of the day…that link will take you to an article and then a video with a discussion from Cenk Unger and Ben Mankiewicz .
In other news, something that is really becoming too frequent a headline. Yet another college athlete is accused of raping a woman…this time it is a swimmer. Fancy that? Former Stanford swimmer accused of raping unconscious woman on campus – LA Times
…former Stanford University swimmer will face several felony charges after prosecutors say he raped a woman as she lay unconscious on campus grounds.
Brock Allen Turner, 19, is expected to be formally charged Wednesday with five felony counts, including rape of an unconscious woman, rape of an intoxicated woman and two counts of sexual assault with a foreign object, the Santa Clara County district attorney’s office told The Times.
Early on the morning on Jan. 18, prosecutors say, two men riding bikes on campus spotted a man later identified as Turner on top of an unconscious woman. Turner ran away, but the pair tackled him. A third person called police.
Turner was arrested, booked into the Santa Clara County Jail and released after posting $150,000 bail, prosecutors said. He’s scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 2.
It is a good thing those two bike dudes went after the asshole.
Just a few more pops on the pop links: Gabrielle Union Says Smart Things About Ferguson, the NFL, Hollywood
On the events in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, Yahoo points out that she generally tries to stay positive in her public comments and Union acknowledges that she makes an effort to be responsible about what she says publicly:
There’s a bit of a gap between what I really want to say and what I know is responsible to say. The general lack of compassion for your fellow man is really frustrating. I think what the protesters are saying, or at least some of them, is it’s not just about police brutality. It’s about a widespread systematic crippling of some people in this country by birthright, and no one’s acknowledging it. There may be a power shakeup if you’re really going to do something about it. A lot of people aren’t interested in that. They say, “It’s not that bad. We have Barack Obama. We’re good.” Or, “You’re not getting lynched.” They’re not acknowledging the institutional racism that impacts daily lives.
You should read the other things Unions says, it is nice to see a smart woman being quoted…too bad it probably won’t get much attention outside of Yahoo Entertainment and Jezebel.
Also, in History News, Seventy Years After Auschwitz, One Survivor Has Her Revenge – Truthdig
Eva Slonim was a child when she was taken to Auschwitz, where she was tortured and experimented on by Dr. Josef Mengele.
The camps that made up the Auschwitz complex were liberated 70 years ago by Soviet troops. But not before the Nazis killed 1.1 million prisoners there.
Slonim was held with her twin sister in a special section of the camp, which had to do with Mengele’s fascination with twins.
She tells the Australian Broadcasting Corp. she is still haunted by the trauma: “I have this madness about locking the bedroom door every night, and I have a light under the door so I can see if there are any boots there.”
But, Eva Slonim says, she got her revenge in the end, by producing a large family to take the place of the one she lost. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, and has 27 grandchildren.
Have you seen this?
Finally, let’s get a little Medieval on ya: Erik Kwakkel • A horse on wheels, what’s not to love? Great…
A horse on wheels, what’s not to love? Great post.
Medieval Connections to ‘Classical Roots’
This manuscript (British Library, Royal MS 20 D I) of the Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César (‘Ancient history up to Caesar’) is the earliest surviving manuscript of the second redaction of this work. This redaction, like this manuscript, was produced in Naples around 1330-1340. It focuses on the story of Troy, which is no longer taken from Dares, a supposed eyewitness of the fall of Troy, but from the prose version of Benoît de Sainte-Maure’s Roman de Troie. As a result, it is much more extensive.
The goal of these types of histories was to join the classical past and the medieval present. The author, therefore, did not always keep historical accuracy in mind if it did not fit his purpose. This allowed nobles to bind themselves and their families to classical founders.
I love that the horse is supposed to represent the wooden horse, and the scribe/artist drew the thing with wood-like knots and tree rings as the pattern of the horse itself.
But I wonder if a large wooden badger would not have been more appropriate?
Have a wonderful day and for Gawds sake…watch out for the Knights who say Ni!
As of late last night we didn’t have much snow where I live, but this morning there’s at least a foot out there if not more. The town hasn’t even plowed my street yet, so it looks like a sea of white and you can’t tell there’s a road there at all. The snow is piled up against the storm door, so I’ll either have to dig out gradually while pushing the door outward or try to get out through the garage. We are still expecting at least another foot today before the storm passes.
I can’t really complain so far. I’m warm and dry and I have electricity. I feel for the people along the coast and on the islands. Here in Massachusetts, Nantucket and parts of Cape Cod have lost power. Nantucket had 78 mph winds last night. In Scituate, which is on the South Shore, “officials cut power to homes along ocean,”
SCITUATE, Mass. (WHDH) –Town officials in Scituate cut power to several coastal roads because they fear, if an electrical fire sparks inside a home it could easily spread to several homes and fire crews wouldn’t be able to access it during high tide.
It was a precaution based of a similar storm in 2010 that destroyed two houses.
“We’re doing it for this storm, because experience has told us, the power company needs lots of advance notice to power down an area, we expect significant flooding in this area,” Scituate Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi said.
“There are no mandatory evacuations permitted in MA, that’s why can only ask people to voluntarily leave,” Vinchesi said.
I feel for those people. The temperature where I live was in the single numbers last night and it’s only in the teens right now.
You can watch the storm track live at NBCNews.com. Here’s the latest on the storm, according to NBC.
Coastal New England was battered Tuesday by a blizzard of blinding snow, ferocious waves and winds that topped hurricane speed, and city streets in Boston were empty of all but snowplows.
New York City, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut lifted travel bans, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said subways and buses in the nation’s largest city would roll again later in the morning. But major airports in the Northeast were still deserted after more than 7,700 flights were canceled.
In Massachusetts, the blizzard was living up to its historic billing. The city of Worcester, about 60 miles west of Boston, had 25 inches of snow on the ground and was closing in on its record of 32.1 as a band of extremely heavy snow settled in for the morning.
In Boston proper:
Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston said it could still be Tuesday night or Wednesday before mass transit starts rolling again there. In the meantime, police were ferrying doctors and nurses to their hospital shifts.
“We’ve had a pretty good night, but the main bulk of the storm is hitting us right now,” Walsh of Boston said on NBC’s TODAY. “We’re asking people just to stay in their homes today and just ride this one out.”
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island were all under states of emergency as of early this morning. Apparently the storm was somewhat of a bust in NYC, with only about 6 inches in Central Park and not much more predicted.
From USA Today: Mighty storm hammers Northeast; NYC ‘dodges bullet.’
A mighty storm marched resolutely across the deserted streets of the Northeast early Tuesday, showing mercy on New York City and Philadelphia but relentlessly pounding Boston and many coastal areas with heavy snow, high winds and flooding.
More than 50 million people were hunkered down in the angry storm’s path. More than 7,000 flights were canceled, road travel was banned in several states and schools were closed for millions of kids.
The storm was forecast to continue roaring through much of the region into Wednesday, although forecasters were downgrading the potential impact in some areas. The National Weather Service said the storm tracked 50 to 75 miles further east than expected.
“It’s a case of haves and have nots,” AccuWeather meteorologist Tyler Roys told USA TODAY on Tuesday. “The worst of it is in the coastal areas. Other places have been relatively spared.”
Philadelphia, which on Monday morning appeared to be vulnerable to huge snow totals, had about an inch downtown early Tuesday. A blizzard warning was canceled for New York City and New Jersey.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio opened city streets to traffic Tuesday morning, and the subway system was being brought up to speed. The city had feared a blast of 20 inches of snow or more; Central Park had almost 8 inches Tuesday morning.
“This is a better-safe-than-sorry scenario,” de Blasio said on CNN Tuesday morning. “It is still very bad on the streets … but we dodged a bullet.”
Here’s another NBC News page with live updates on transportation delays and road closings.
For the real weather geeks, here’s an article from The Boston Globe on How and Why Nor’easters Form.
One question you might ask during this major storm is how and why did this form? If you saw a forecast as recently as Friday, meteorologists thought this storm would stay mostly out to sea, obviously that isn’t the case. Let me explain why the storm formed and then why it’s hitting and moving so slowly.
It’s important to keep this in mind when thinking about a storm. It’s all about nature’s attempt to bring balance to the atmosphere. Storms try to blend cold and warm air together to make them even. Once this happens, a storm will weaken and die. As the storm is forming the contrast in air masses is at it’s most intense. We are seeing nature’s attempt to bring warm air north and cold air south, the result is an intense coastal storm, we call a nor’easter.
You have likely heard of the jet stream. This is the band of winds at 30,000 feet that moves storms and air masses across the middle latitudes of the planet where we live. This jet stream doesn’t blow in a straight line. Instead it has curves and loops and these change the way the air flows within this stream of air. Basic meteorology tells us that if the air up at 30,000 feet is spreading out and speeding up it in turn aids in pulling the air upward off the surface of the planet. We call these concepts diffluence and divergence and they are two major components to why winter storms form. That upward motion or lift brings the air from the ground higher and higher until it cools and forms clouds and eventually precipitation. The more lift you have, the bigger the storm.
When storms are formed and becoming more intense all the levels of the atmosphere work in tandem to help build the storm.
Read much more wonky stuff about weather at the link.
So that’s the winter weather situation as of this morning. If you are in one of the affected states, please let us know how you’re doing.
In other news,
I’m going stick with headlines this morning, because I’m still fighting a cold and I didn’t sleep that well last night. Here’s what’s happening:
Washington Post, Koch-backed network aims to spend nearly $1 billion on 2016 elections.
Politico, The Kochs put a price on 2016: $889 million.
Via Cannonfire, an interview with Max Blumenthal at The Read News about the lies in the movie American Sniper, American Sniper: Honoring a Fallen Hero or Whitewashing a Murderous Occupation?
Something very creepy out of Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence’s state-run news outlet will compete with media. “Gov. Mike Pence is starting a state-run taxpayer-funded news outlet that will make pre-written news stories available to Indiana media, as well as sometimes break news about his administration, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.” Yikes!
Interesting developments in Greece.
The New Yorker, Greece’s Warning to the Rest of Europe.
Washington Post, Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling convicted in leak case.
Talking Points Memo, Jon Stewart Has Field Day With Incomprehensible Palin Speech (VIDEO).
What else is happening? Please share your links in the comment thread and enjoy your Tuesday!
The crazy was out in droves this weekend in Iowa, Louisiana, and the District. It’s hard to know where to start, but when Tiger Beat on the Potomac starts calling the Republican Presidential hopeful slate the Clown Car, you have to know it’s just really bad. They are also criticizing Boehner’s disturbing trampling of the Constitution by trying to usurp foreign policy away from the executive branch. The Republicans have gone rogue and there’s no way you can trust them to participate in a democracy–or a republic–any more.
But the sequence of events does capture how much the normal courtesies between this White House and Congress have deteriorated — even in front of guests from another country.
“There appear to be no rules anymore. If you can do it, do it,” said Patrick Griffin, who recalls nothing quite like this even in the tempestuous times Griffin served as White House liaison between President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), herself a former speaker who oversaw similar joint meetings for foreign guests, said the management of the invitation was “inappropriate” and Boehner risks squandering his power in a fit of “hubris.”
Boehner has overstepped protocol and his constitutional role as Speaker and member of the Legislative Branch.
Boehner’s office said the idea of inviting Netanyahu originated with the speaker — not the Israeli side. But the announcement capped “weeks” of talks, often through Netanyahu’s close advisor, Ron Dermer, who became Israel’s ambassador to Washington in 2013 and enjoys close ties with Republicans.
“The well-established protocol is that the leader of a foreign country would be in touch with the leader of this country about a possible visit. That didn’t occur,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “We did learn of this invitation shortly before it was announced. We were informed of the invitation by the Speaker’s office. So it was not the Israeli government that had contacted the administration.”
All this is happening at a time when Obama is at a crucial stage in what have been tense negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Boehner is said to be immensely frustrated with what he sees as the White House’s failure to keep him more apprised of its thinking. And by inviting Netanyahu, he has turned over the microphone to a prominent critic of the administration’s foreign policy in the Mideast.
To try to soften the edges, Netanyahu’s visit — first announced by Boehner for February 11 — has been pushed back to March 3. This moves it closer to the March 17 elections in Israel and at the beginning of a two-week period when free air time is allotted to the parties. It also allows the prime minister to say he is responding to what has been a long-standing invite from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the heavily Jewish, pro-Israel lobby which will be holding its annual meeting in Washington then as well.
The Boehner criticism is nothing compared to this Tiger Beat on the Potomac Headline: GOP clown car runs into ditch. Most GOP presidential hopefuls were in Iowa this weekend for a so-called Freedom Forum. It was a wonderful bowl of granola just filled with nuts and flakes.
The Republican Party’s clown car has become a clown van.
With nearly two dozen possible presidential candidates, the GOP is having a seriousness deficit. There can’t possibly be that many people who are real candidates.
But they can ride in the clown car from event to event, and nobody can stop them.
At the Freedom Summit here Saturday, two dozen speakers ground through 10 hours of speeches in front of more than 1,000 far-right Republicans.
As it turned out, clown car candidates are not necessarily funny. Since they have nothing to lose, they can attack their fellow Republicans with abandon.
Usually they attack from the right, which can force the eventual nominee farther to the right than the nominee wants to go. This risks losing moderate voters in the general election.
This was not a concern at the Freedom Summit, however. The farther to the right, the better.
It was a classic cattle call, with speaker after speaker pandering to the crowd. Sometimes, however, pandering was not enough.
In the circus, the worse thing clowns lob is confetti. In the political circus, the clowns lob grenades. Verbal, to be sure, but they still can be deadly.
Sarah Palin delivers ‘bizarro’ speech to Iowa Freedom Summit and Twitter users react hilariously.
Entering to the strains of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off,’ Palin pushed back against the litany of attacks against her recently; including allowing her son to use the Palin dog, Jill Hadassah, as a footstool and the more recent controversy over her holding up a sign reading “Fuc_ You Michael Moore,” with gun sights drawn inside of the o’s in Moore.
Along the way, Palin made references to President Obama eating dog as a child in Indonesia and accused the administration of not saving Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi.
In one memorable passage, Palin exhorted conservatives to take on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, claiming the Republicans “have a deep bench.”
“It is good that we have a deep bench and its primary competition that will surface the candidate who’s up to the task and unify and this person has to because knowing what the media will do throughout all of 2016 to all of us it’s going to take more than a village to beat Hillary,” she said.
She’s obviously without handlers and speechwriters these days but has expressed interest in running for the nomination. She must need more cash. Meanwhile, down here in Lousyana, Bobby Jindal is proving to the world he’s extreme and extremely stupid. He spent the weekend out doing ISIS for the most religiously obnoxiously zealot on the planet.
Louisiana Governor and potential 2016 candidateBobby Jindal spoke to George Stephanopoulosone day after holding a prayer rally instead of attending the Iowa Freedom Summit with his Republican comrades.
Jindal said we needed politicians to “tell the truth” to the American people, obliquely citing hisremarks last week about the discredited idea of Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe as an example.
Strangely Stephanopoulos did not follow up on that, instead focusing on Jindal’s line at the rally in which he stated that “our god wins.”
Jindal’s plan for Amerika is to ensure all women follow his religious views on contraception and abortion and that the GBLT should be stopped from marriage with a Constitutional Amendment. So much for religious liberty. He’s even offering up a Constitutional Amendment to ban marriage for GLBT. It’s hard to see this getting any traction but I doubt he cares about the issue. He only wants the zealots to adore him.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Sunday said that he would support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
The Supreme Court will weigh whether gay couples have the constitutional right to marriage this term, which has prompted conservatives to develop contingency plans.
ABC’s “This Week’ host George Stephanopoulos asked Jindal if he backed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R) remark that states should just ignore a Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage.
“I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. My faith teaches me that, my Christian faith teaches me that,” Jindal responded. “If the Supreme Court were to throw out our law, our constitutional amendment — I hope they wouldn’t do that — if they were to do that, I certainly will support Ted Cruz and others that are talking about making an amendment in the congress and D.C., a constitutional amendment to allow states to continue to define marriage.”
The audience made it clear how they felt about Bush when New Hampshire state Rep. William O’Brien asked them why they would vote for a guy who backs Common Core and has an overly familiar last name. “Are we going to do that again?” O’Brien asked.
The audience responded with a loud: “Noooooo!”
And Trump, a Manhattan-based real estate developer and reality TV star, lobbed radioactive bombs at both Bush and Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee. “Mitt ran and failed. He failed. So you can’t have Romney,” he said, as the audience cheered robustly.
Bush, a former Florida governor, has stepped up his efforts lately to woo Iowa influencers, although from locations outside Iowa. Romney has been talking privately with Iowa confidantes about another presidential bid since an Iowa trip in late October. But both made the much-talked-about decision not to come Saturday.
“I like Romney a lot. I do,” Altoona Republican Floyd Allen told The Des Moines Register in an interview in the lobby of Hoyt Sherman Place. “But he had his opportunity, and he blew it.”
Republican David Heath, a sales manager from Ankeny, said he thought Bush should’ve been there Saturday. “This group needs to hear his positions, his rationales,” he said.
But Heath said he was most interested in Walker, Christie and Santorum anyway.
One of the speakers, Tennessee U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, told the Register that Romney and Bush “will meet and work it out, but by and large I think the American people are looking for fresh faces and new perspective.” And that’s not Romney, she said.
Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, took swings at the establishment candidates without naming names, telling Iowans that every candidate would tell them “they’re the most conservative guy that ever lived.”
“You know what? Talk is cheap,” said Cruz, who made more religious references than any other speaker. “The Lord tells you, you shall know them by their fruits.”
Cruz said Iowans should demand the candidates show them examples of when they stood up and fought against abortion, same-sex marriage, Common Core — and against “career politicians” of both parties.
The Dropkick Murphys–a Celtic Band–was more than irritated that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker used one of their songs to enter the shindig of hate. They basically told him to knock it off because they “literally hate him.”
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker may have scored a standing ovation at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Saturday, but not everyone was happy with his appearance.
As Walker entered the auditorium in Des Moines and waved to the crowd, the Dropkick Murphys’ hit “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” which was featured in the film The Departed, played in the background. (You can hear it clearly during the first 15 seconds of this video from C-SPAN.)
The musical choice didn’t slip by the band unnoticed, and on Saturday night, Ken Casey, the lead singer for the Massachusetts-based band tweeted about the song’s placement.
It’s hard to say what exactly the future of our country is going to be like when we rely on a two party system for governance and one of the two parties is so far off the rails of reality to be in a different reality. The party’s coalition of religious nuts, gun nuts, neoconfederate nuts, and economic and science illiterates seem intent on insurrection rather than governance. I’m hoping people are paying attention to these kinds of shindigs because the entire party needs a complete rework. All you have to do is look at the states where they’ve taken over to see the results. They’ve all got bad economies, extreme spending deficits, and problems with schools and their environments. That doesn’t even begin to cover their treatment of women’s health and safety.
I saw some one post a poll the other day on twitter asking which Republican that folks wanted to run for President. I saw several people answer Theodore Roosevelt.
That just about sums it up.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Morning, Afternoon, Evening…ugh.
(That this post is getting published, finally, is something in itself. I don’t know why, lack of motivation or enthusiasm…)
The images for today are hands used in political posters. I’ve gotten them from board on Pinterest: Affiche/Main – Poster/Hand on Pinterest | 1352 Pins
For a discussion on the use and symbolism of the fist in propaganda, take a look at this article from Lincoln Cushing:
A persistent symbol of resistance and unity, the clenched fist (or raised fist) is part of the broader genre of “hand” symbols that include the peace “V,” the forward-thrust-fist, and the clasped hands. The clenched fist usually appears in full frontal display showing all fingers and is occasionally integrated with other images such as a peace symbol or tool.
The human hand has been used in art from the very beginnings, starting with stunning examples in Neolithic cave paintings. Early examples of the fist in graphic art can be found at least as far back as 1917 , with another example from Mexico in 1948 . Fist images, in some form, were used in numerous political graphic genres, including the French and Soviet revolutions, the United States Communist Party, and the Black Panther Party for Self-defense. However, these all followed an iconographic convention. The fist was always part of something – holding a tool or other symbol, part of an arm or human figure, or shown in action (smashing, etc.).
Then there are a few other articles to look at here:
The fist of protest has its roots in the deep traditions of revolutionary imagery of 1848 and French Romantic painting. It became a staple of banners and logos of unions and political parties. Raised out of the crowd, the fist clenched in strength, anger and determination could serve groups of almost any ideological stripe.
If some of you have access to JSTOR: JSTOR: Journal of Design History, Vol. 13, No. 4 (2000), pp. 319-339
This article focuses on the use of graphic signs in the political struggle between the National Socialist German Workers’ Party and the German Communist Party during the 1920s. It first examines the Nazi swastika’s relationships to a new ‘abstract and primitive’ style of trademark design that emerged in Germany during the First World War and to a discussion during 1919-20 about the Weimar Republic’s new emblem.
As the NSDAP’s sign grew more prominent in public discourse, John Heartfield, who was trained as a graphic designer, sought to counter it through satire and emblems that he designed for the KPD. The most powerful of the latter were a series of images in 1928 based on photographs of workers’ hands, which drew both on past emblems of worker solidarity and recent Surrealist photography. The clenched fist soon stood opposite the swastika as signs of the violent political struggle between left and right that marked the last years of the Weimar Republic. The article explores how practices of commercial graphic design became instruments of mass politics during the 1920s.
To see more posters:
I’ll connect the hand gestures to a situation that is getting heated in Egypt today.
Astute observers of recent pro-Morsi protests in Egypt will note a new symbol cropping up in photos of the protesting crowds: Demonstrators are now holding four fingers in the air. Many carry yellow posters emblazoned with the same gesture.
This new hand sign refers to the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, the site of a violent confrontation between Morsi’s followers and the Egyptian army. Reported deaths from the clash range from hundreds to thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. In Arabic, “Rabba” means “four” or “the fourth;” hence the new Rabaa symbol.
The new hand sign is important because it signals both a conscious shift in the Muslim Brotherhood’s focus from a global audience to an Arabic one and a rejection of the ideals of the Arab Spring.
The Rabaa replaced a more recognizable sign in the Arab world: the two-fingered “V for Victory” salute, a gesture that transcends language and nationality. Many Americans know of the V as the peace sign after its widespread use by the anti-war and counterculture movements of the late 1960s and 1970s. Invented by the BBC in World War II as a pan-Allied propaganda campaign — think a cigar-smoking, pinstripe-wearing Winston Churchill flashing the V and a grin — the sign came to the Arab world when Yasser Arafat popularized it in 1969. To this day, Palestinians have exhibited a two-fingered V upon their release from Israeli jails, and the sign is well represented at rallies in Gaza.
Now to the links for this Sunday:
A mess in Egypt as the anniversary of the revolution comes around:
On the eve of the 4th anniversary of the Egypt’s 2011 uprising, which was part of the Arab Spring, and which ultimately forced the overthrow of long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak, a female protester and reported journalist was shot by police near Tahir Square in Cairo.
Shaima Sabbagh was shot with birdshot as she was marching in remembrance of the Arab Spring and of the people killed during the revolution. She was shot at close range. Several people caught images of al-Sabbagh both before and after the shooting. Beware, they’re heartbreaking. After Shaima was shot – her husband was arrested and their four-year-old son is without parents.
The AP is reporting 15 killed:
However that number has risen according to Al-Jam:
Thousands of Egyptian protesters chanted “down with the military and the regime” and “Interior Ministry are thugs” at a funeral on Sunday for a young mother and activist who was shot dead by security forces during a peaceful protest marking the fourth anniversary of Egypt’s Arab Spring revolution, according to local media reports.
Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, 32, was one of at least 20 people killed during protests over the weekend across Egypt, mainly in Cairo and Alexandria, commemorating the Jan. 25, 2011 ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak from office, according to the Ministry of Health.
The funeral took place in Alexandria, Sabbagh’s hometown, where activists remembered the slain protester as an advocate for labor rights and children, independent daily Al-Shorouk reported.
Sabbagh was among dozens of protesters marching on Saturday to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the revolution, to place wreaths of flowers there to commemorate more than 800 people killed during the 18 days of turmoil that sought to usher in a new era of democracy in Egypt.
Some disturbing images at those links.
This next link about the reaction to Boehner’s outright “fuck you” to the President and protocol: Addicting Info – Fox News Actually Expresses Shock And Outrage Over Boehner And Netanyahu Undermining President Obama (VIDEO)
On Friday, the world watched in disbelief as Fox News actually defended the honor and office of President Obama in the wake of Speaker Boehner violating US protocol by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to Congress. In other news, pigs are flying.
During a segment on Fox, host Shepard Smith discussed the scandal with fellow host Chris Wallace, and both men were absolutely shocked and outraged by the actions of the top Republican in the House of Representatives.
On Wednesday, Boehner announced that he invited Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress. The problem is that Boehner did this without clearing the invitation with the White House, which is protocol.
“The protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there. This particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol,” said press secretary Josh Earnest.
Furthermore, Netanyahu is specifically going to speak to Congress in an effort to trash Obama’s foreign policy in a deliberate attempt to wreck US nuclear negotiations with Iran, negotiations which a majority of Americans support.
You see, President Obama wants to use diplomacy to ease tensions between Iran, Israel, and the United States. That means securing an agreement that prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon while allowing them to use nuclear power as another source of energy in the Middle Eastern nation. But Republicans are literally trying to sabotage these efforts by seeking more harsh sanctions against Iran, which would be seen an act of American aggression at a time when the State Department and White House are seeking mutual peace.
Well, I would not go so far as to call this completely shocking, as it was Shep who called Boehner out. Y’all know he is the Black Sheep of the network.
For more on Israel, not just the Boehner invite.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended on Sunday a planned speech to the U.S. Congress about Iran, saying he had a moral obligation to speak out on an issue that poses a mortal threat to Israel.
His visit to Washington in March has opened up a rift with the White House and has drawn accusations in Israel that Netanyahu is undermining the country’s core foreign alliance in an effort to win an election due two weeks after the trip.
Briefing his cabinet on the March 3 speech to a joint meeting of Congress, Netanyahu said his priority was to urge the United States and other powers not to negotiate an Iranian nuclear deal that might endanger Israel.
Suzie Madrak makes a huge point here:
Gee, when people offered to send slaves back to Africa, we called that racist.
And flowing into this news:
Leaders of Jewish communities and Holocaust memorial groups in Britain and the Netherlands have reacted with rage and despair at the arrival in Rotterdam of the world’s biggest ship, the Pieter Schelte, named after a Dutch officer in the Waffen-SS.
The vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, said: “Naming such a ship after an SS officer who was convicted of war crimes is an insult to the millions who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis. We urge the ship’s owners to reconsider and rename the ship after someone more appropriate.”
Esther Voet, director of the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel (Cidi), based in The Hague, said that the timing of the ship’s arrival, shortly before Jews were targeted and killed in Paris and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, was “a coincidence, I’m sure, but a sign of the times. We lost our battle to have the ship’s name changed, and we are left eating dust.”
Survivors of the Holocaust in Britain also spoke out. Ruth Barnett, a tireless campaigner who arrived from Nazi Germany as part of the Kindertransport, said: “I am outraged by the intensity and extent of denial and indifference that fails to challenge things like this ship, and allows the impunity for perpetrators to think they can get away with it.”
The London-based Lloyd’s Register dug in to defend its role in the ship’s building and development, while the shipbuilder said it had been named in honour of the owner’s father for his “great achievements in the offshore oil and gas industry”.
Read the rest of that story at the link, especially the bullet points… it is obvious that the ship’s name is something that could be seen as a slight. (To say the least.)
There is an op/ed over at the New York Times that should give you all pause…When Calculus of Loss Doesn’t Add Up – NYTimes.com
Joseph Kahn, The Times’s top-ranking editor for international news, told me that the Paris and Nigeria stories aren’t comparable. “These were totally different challenges,” he said, with the former happening in a major Western capital where The Times has a substantial staff.
He, and others, spoke of the difficulty of covering the Boko Haram story because of its remote location, the problems of verification, and the questions hanging over early reports. While Amnesty International was reporting as many as 2,000 dead, he told me, some trusted experts were cautioning against using the number. The Times needed to verify what had happened, something best done on the ground. But getting there is both difficult and time-consuming.
In retrospect, Mr. Kahn said, a story about the controversy over the numbers would have been one way to provide early and meaningful coverage — informing readers without falling prey to overstating what had happened. Such a story, especially if it had been prominently displayed and published quickly, would have been a valuable way to be transparent with readers about what The Times knew and what it didn’t know.
Mr. Kahn also said that while the Paris attack had an intense and short news arc, the Boko Haram story would continue and that The Times would keep covering it with commitment. The editor on the International Desk who handles Africa coverage, Greg Winter, told me last week that Mr. Nossiter (who has also been a leading reporter on the Ebola story) was in Nigeria again working on a major Boko Haram piece.
“I understand readers’ concerns about covering Nigeria, and I share them, which is why our correspondent has risked his life for years to cover the country and the turmoil in the north,” Mr. Winter said.
I asked Mr. Kahn how, in general, the numbers of violent deaths figure into editorial decisions. “We don’t cover everything equally,” he said. “It goes to gut news judgment, as we ask: ‘Is this a big deal? Are we going to deploy someone?’ ” Among the factors: “The circumstances, how unusual it is, the location, the relevance to American interests.”
And, he said, The Times has to be careful not to overreport violent death.
“Not every incident of carnage is a major story for The New York Times. You have to put it in context, and not fill the news report with unlimited doses of terrible violent news from around the world.”
I agree. I have no objection to the extent of the Paris coverage. But whatever the calculus of news judgments, these lost Nigerian lives surely were worthy of The Times’s immediate, as well as its continuing, attention.
Overreport violent death?
And on that note:
Notice, not from the NYT…
And now back to the US:
The following links are dealing with the GOP…and the usual shit.
And while on the subject of coochies:
Police in Florida and officials at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach have agreed not to charge a teenager they caught posing as a doctor.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports police were called Tuesday after a patient alerted staff at the medical center’s OB/GYN office that a juvenile dressed in a lab coat was inside an exam room. The patient said the lab coat had St. Mary’s logo and “anesthesiology” stitched on the front.
A security guard told police he’d seen the teen around the hospital for a month. Another said the teen entered secured areas of the hospital this week.
The teen’s mother told police he’s under the care of a doctor and is not taking his medicine.
On to the Arts…Movies…etc.
And something that will probably make a film one of these days, have you seen this story out of Argentina:
Gosh, what a lot of links for you today, and I’ve got a couple more:
And end with two stories on women, journalism and internet threats.
That’s all folks….
BTW, here is a gallery of images, some of which were not put up in the post here.