Wednesday Reads: Photographs and more Cold

slide_282064_2129355_freeGood Morning

 

Well, what do ya know? Obama administration puts immigration protections on hold after order – LA Times

President Obama’s plans to protect millions of immigrants from deportation were frozen on Tuesday while his administration scrambled to appeal an order by a federal judge in Texas temporarily halting the program.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that the Obama administration has put off for now the first step in implementing the program, expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative that has granted a temporary reprieve from deportation for nearly 600,000 young people. The administration had been scheduled to begin accepting applications for the expansion Wednesday.

Johnson said the administration was also putting on hold plans for a much larger program, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which could apply to around 4 million adult immigrants.

“The Department of Justice will appeal that temporary injunction,” Johnson said in a statement, referring to the judge’s order. “In the meantime, we recognize we must comply with it. We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts, and we will be prepared to implement DAPA and expanded DACA once we do.”

 

slide_282064_2129311_freeI don’t know…I thought that the Federal Court could not overrule an Executive Order. I mean, seriously…isn’t it a Presidential Order?…Above Congress and stuff? (But you know, I am talking out my ass here. It just felt good to say what I first thought about when I’d heard about this “temporary injunction”….to be honest with y’all.  )

Really, my mind is not working very well the past few days. It sounds crazy, but the only thought I can seem to work on is trying to write out a metaphor for the Koch Brothers, and the lingering effect they will have on our country, as to their crappy Angel Soft toilet paper…and the fibery dingleberries the stuff leaves behind.

Oh sure, they make it out like the product (shit paper) their selling you is the best quality and hell…they say it is so fucking cheap to boot. But the truth of the matter is, you are being fucked in more ways than you realize.  Because they are charging you the same prices for way less than what you used to get, they’ve got a monopoly on the shit paper isle as it is anyway so what choices do you really have…and, as if they do it purposely, those bits of linty irritant only continue to remind you just what an annoying pain in the ass the Koch Brothers really are.  (Oh, and they are going to bring down the whole of civilization as we know it…you’ll see.) But that somehow connects to a reference to a backed up septic tank… due to the said nappy ass toilet paper in the first place, but then you see I am back where I started.

slide_282064_2129374_freeUgh, what the hell am I saying, here are your links for today:

Why Oklahoma Lawmakers Want to Ban AP US History — NYMag

This week in things we wish were just a Colbert Report sketch, an Oklahoma legislative committee overwhelmingly approved a bill that would cut funding for the teaching of Advanced Placement U.S. History. The 11 Republicans who approved the measure over the objections of four Democrats weren’t trying to win over Oklahoma’s lazy high school juniors. Tulsa Worldreports that Representative Dan Fisher, who introduced the bill, lamented during Monday’s hearing that the new AP U.S. History framework emphasizes “what is bad about America,” and doesn’t teach “American exceptionalism.” It’s a complaint that’s been spreading among mostly conservative state legislatures in recent months, and has some calling for a ban on all AP courses.

Earlier this month, the Georgia state Senate introduced a resolution that rejects a new version of the AP U.S. History course for presenting a “radically revisionist view of American history” and minimizing “discussion of America’s Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, [and] the religious influences on our nation’s history.” It says that if the College Board does not revise the test, Georgia will cut funding for the course. The exam has also sparked controversy in Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Colorado, where students in Jefferson County protested last fall when a school board member said the course should be modified to promote “patriotism,” and discourage “civil disorder, social strife, or disregard of the law.”

ugh…

I can’t bear to link to any more stories like that. Let’s all look at some cool pictures.

Photographer Captures 100 Female Artists In Their Homes And Studios

A great portrait is more than just a frozen reflection of the subject’s appearance. It’s a chance moment, blanketed in natural light, in which the subject’s authentic self is visible in her expression, her stance, her aura. A great portrait blurs the line between a subject and her surroundings, all contributing equally to the overall impression of a singular human being.

Photographer Barbara Yoshida captured not one great portrait, but 100. And to make it all the more glorious, her subjects are all female artists, groundbreaking in their own right.

Vivian Maier, The Mysterious Nanny Behind A Trove Of Brilliant Street Photography, Is Going To The Oscars

slide_282064_2129302_freeThe story of Vivian Maier is probably one of the art world’s most compelling mysteries. A nanny by profession, she was an alarmingly talented and vastly prolific photographer whose keen eye for the mundane produced some of the 20th century’s most intriguing works of street photography. At times she was a Mary Poppins, trekking across a city like Chicago with a gaggle of children passing like ducklings behind her. At other times, she was Weegee, tuned into the pulse of urban centers, her lens drawn to crowds of celebrity, crime and everything squished in between.

slide_282064_2129373_free

The juxtaposition of being a lifelong caretaker in one moment, chasing kids and bickering with parents, and a relentless documentarian on the other, churning out rolls of film a day, is enigmatic in itself. But the real kick is that Vivian Maier is a name no one truly knew until about 2007. It was then that a former real estate agent named John Maloof unknowingly purchased a box of her photographic negatives for $400. Fast forward through a heavy dose of research and detective work, and you have “Finding Vivian Maier,” the Oscar-nominated film that recounts the life of a woman the art world reveres, but no one actually seems to know.

slide_282064_2129387_freeHow One Artist Is Challenging The Harsh Reality Of Street Harassment In Mexico City

In 2012, Brooklyn-based artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh embarked upon a project titled “Stop Telling Women to Smile.” The series, comprised of portraits pasted on the sides of buildings, aimed to combat street harassment targeted at women by commanding offenders in public spaces to think before they speak.

“Street harassment is a serious issue that affects women worldwide,” the artist proclaims on her site. “This project takes women’s voices, and faces, and puts them in the street — creating a bold presence for women in an environment where they are so often made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”

The Veiled Feminism Of Moroccan-Born Photographer Lalla Essaydi

In his landmark book, Orientalism, the late scholar Edward Said wrote of “exteriority,” a disconnect between the traveler’s fantasies and reality. Reading the travelogues of French writers, Said once explained that he found “representations of the Orient had very little to do with what I knew about my own background in life.”

50 Unexplainable Black & White Photos

That is the least strange of the bunch.

Artists Liven Up A Children’s Hospital With Vibrant Murals, Thus Making Our Day

As you’re probably well aware, hospitals tend not to be the most visually enticing of spaces, especially for kids. Between the fluorescent lights, the sterile aesthetic and the deluge of achromatic hues somewhere between oatmeal and taupe, the spaces where so many humans experience their most physically and emotionally trying moments really aren’t helping much as far as ambiance goes.

That’s where the power of art comes in.

These Are The Ballerinas And Ballerinos Of Instagram

slide_282064_2129365_freeAmerican Ballet Theater icon Misty Copeland has over 402,000 followers on Instagram. To compare, athletes like Venus and Serena Williams have 89,500 and 992,000 followers, respectively. Michael Phelps has 462,000. Danica Patrick has 26,900.

Of course, ballet is easily the most photogenic of the sports. An art form that toes the line between performance and feats of athleticism, it’s filled with pirouettes and arabesques that when frozen in a frame appear like paintings or perfectly sculpted statues. Misty’s Instagram account is filled with shots both on and off a stage, flexing her muscles and practicing her craft. And she’s hardly the only ballerina — or ballerino — to grace the platform. One glimpse at the popular Ballerina Project account, followed by an impressive 641,000, and it’s easy to see why dance fans are quick to double click on the endless stream of posed portraits.

View this post on Instagram

Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place. @wolfordfashion @ballerinaproject_ #wolfordfashion #ballerinaproject #ballerina #rumi #quote #soul #nyc #brooklyn #promenade #water #sky #clouds #wolford

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This Is Forensic Sculpture, A Combination Of Art And Science That Aims To Solve Cold Cases

slide_282064_2129370_freeEach student at the Forensic Sculpture Workshop at the New York Academy of Art (NYAA) begins with a skull. More specifically, each begins with a plaster replica of a real human skull made by a medical examiner, a facsimile of an unidentified crime victim in New York City.

From this foundation, the students sculpt a face, using a block of clay and whatever information they can glean from the ongoing investigations — such as age, height, gender and race. They also included grimmer details, such as the locations of bullet holes or crushed bones.

The resulting sculptures, lifelike in their realistic portrayals, capture the likenesses of unknown citizens who faced cruel and untimely deaths from a variety of gruesome circumstances, in the hopes that someone walking by the university windows will see a face and recognize it.

From The Womb To The World, These Babies Were Photographed Just Seconds After Birth

In his series “Cesar,” the French artist captures babies in their first moments of life — specifically, between three and 18 seconds of existing outside the womb. As you may have ascertained from the project’s title, all of Berthelot’s subjects underwent (and survived) a Caesarean section — a procedure in which the baby is removed via an incision in the mother’s abdomen. Berthelot’s first child was born after a C-section, serving as the inspiration for this powerful project.

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Rare Photos Of What The Circus Looked Like Nearly A Century Ago

The circus has always been a space rife with visual splendor. Long before a certain FX anthology series brought “freak shows” into the pop culture conversation, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey made clowns and acrobats essential elements of entertainment when they merged in 1919. In fact, together, they amounted to “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

 

Witness the Death of the ’60s in Ken Light’s Era-Defining Photos | Mother Jones

Ken Light’s photos from 1969 to 1974 document the social landscape of America as it frayed at the seams, rife with turmoil. As a young photographer, Light captured the country at this pivotal moment, and his frontline protest photos in Ohio and political images from the 1972 Republican Convention in Miami show the opposite ends of the spectrum.

But the photos that make his new book, American Stories in the Age of Protest, so great are less-familiar ones: the everyday person out waving flags in support of Nixon, the garage band taking to a makeshift stage in support of McGovern, the kids hanging out in West Oakland. It’s photos like these, so common at the time, that gain importance with age. They give contour and meaning to historical projects such as this.

Thirteen Most by Luc Sante | The Gallery | The New York Review of Books

And more:

slide_282064_2129349_freeLight reveals new details of Paul Gauguin’s creative process — ScienceDaily

History News Network | The real inventor of Monopoly finally getting some credit

Exploring the teenage brain, and its drive for immediate reward — ScienceDaily

Raw Eggs and No Husband Since ’38 Keep Her Young at 115 – NYTimes.com

Meet the lamb that thinks it’s a sheep dog – CBBC Newsround

Sheep Forgets How To Sheep, Frolics With Dogs Instead

BBC News – The Seattle pig who thinks she is a dog

Think of this as an open thread, there is just one more thing…try and stay warm cause it is fucking cold out there.


Lazy Saturday Reads

Guernica, by Pablo Picasso

Guernica, by Pablo Picasso

 

“My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. In the picture I am painting — which I shall call Guernica — I am expressing my horror of the military caste which is now plundering Spain into an ocean of misery and death.”  — Pablo Picasso

 

Good Afternoon!!

I’m experiencing some kind of paralysis today, so I don’t know what this post is going to consist of. I’m just going to take it moment to moment. First thing this morning, I read List of X’s long comment on Dakinikat’s Friday reads.  I hope everyone will go read it. I think that could lead to our having a serious, productive discussion on Israel/Palestine. For now, I’m just going to put up the latest stories I can find on the conflict.

NPR: Gaza Update: Fate Of Israeli Soldier Unknown; Death Toll Surpasses 2009 Level, by Bill Chappell.

A day after they were to begin a cease-fire, Israel and Hamas are still firing at one another, in a conflict that has killed at least 1,650 Gazans, 63 Israeli soldiers and 3 Israeli civilians, according to tallies from the respective sides.

Those numbers surpass the estimated fatalities from the last major Gaza conflict, which raged for around three weeks from 2008-2009.

Hamas, which has been condemned for breaking a temporary peace and capturing an Israeli soldier, said Saturday that it has lost contact with the group that conducted the ambush that killed two soldiers and resulted in Lt. Hadar Goldin’s capture.

The military wing of Hamas released a statement today, NPR’s Emily Harris reports, in which it said that after an Israeli bombardment, “the Hamas fighters are believed to be dead and if there was a soldier with them, he probably is too.”

At the link, read a brief synopsis of events in the conflict as of this morning. Other headlines:

Haaretz: Israel seeks to end Gaza operation unilaterally,  by Barak Ravid.

Israel’s security cabinet decided after a five-hour meeting Friday night that Israel will no longer seek a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip via negotiations with Hamas, senior Israeli officials said. Therefore, Israel does not intend to send a delegation to the Cairo truce talks as previously agreed in the course of the last cease-fire, before it was violated by Hamas.

The senior officials said that ministers were unanimous in the cabinet meeting in their position that there is no point in pursuing cease-fire negotiations after Hamas violated the previous one by capturing an IDF soldier on Friday. According to the officials, the ministers also agreed that the captured soldier will not change Israel’s overall strategy. In other words, the IDF will continue its operations to destroy the tunnels and the ground operation will not be significantly expanded at this stage.

The cabinet also decided that instead of efforts to reach a cease-fire through negotiations, Israel will focus on restoring Israel’s deterrence against Hamas. The senior officials said that in light of the failed cease-fire efforts, Israel will consider ending the operation and unilaterally leaving Gaza, relying on deterrence.

“We think there is still enough international legitimacy for an operation in Gaza,” said a senior Israeli official. “In the coming days the destruction of the tunnels will be complete, and then a decision will be made as to how to continue from there.” The official added that “if we feel that deterrence has been restored, we will leave the [Gaza] Strip on the basis of the ‘quiet for quiet’ principle. If we feel deterrence has not yet been achieved, we will continue the operation inside the Gaza Strip or exit and continue with the aerial bombardment.”

The Washington Post: A view of Gaza from the sea: How Israel’s navy patrols the coast, by Ruth Eglash.

For the war-weary group of international journalists struggling to find their sea legs, the patrol offered a rare insight into Israel’s navy, which over the past four weeks has acted as a strategic support to Israel’s ongoing military operation against Hamas in Gaza and served as a deterrent against militants attempting to infiltrate Israel via the sea.

“We were not surprised by Hamas’s attempt to infiltrate into Israel from the sea. They have used many different measures to attack us,” said Cmdr. Z, one of the Keshet’s two commanders who spoke on the condition of anonymity in accord with standard Israeli military protocol.

He was referring to an incident on July 8 when members of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, attempted to attack an Israeli military base that sits on the coast just north of the Gaza Strip.Israeli surveillance cameras picked up on the infiltration early, and five Hamas militants were subsequently killed in the attack. Hamas later revealed that it had been training a naval commando unit for sea-related combat.

The Christian Science Monitor: What could be done to break the Israeli-Palestinian revenge cycle?, by Kristen Chick, correspondent, and Christa Case Bryant, staff writer.

In the battered Gazaneighborhood of Shejaiya, Ataf Ettish surveys what was once her home. An Israeli bomb ripped off the outside of the three-story building, exposing the blue and pink inner walls of her daughter’s bedroom.

The building next door is gone, replaced by a crater, the 80-year-old owner buried beneath the rubble. Ms. Ettish now lives in a United Nations shelter, sharing a single toilet with 1,000 people. 

“This is not a war – this is destruction of humanity,” she says. “I’ve lived through two previous wars here, but this is the worst.”

In the Israeli kibbutz of Kfar Aza, just across the border but a world away, Mark Joffe agrees it’s getting worse.

“Each time it happens … the rockets are bigger, the threats are bigger,” says Mr. Joffe, who says residents fear Hamas will infiltrate the border community (“Aza” is the Hebrew word for “Gaza”). “If we’d done the right thing five to six years ago, it would have been a lot less costly.”

Now many Israelis’ belief that an extended, harsh crackdown on Hamas will bring lasting peace is being put to the test. On Friday, a conflict that has cost 1,600 Palestinian lives and seen a quarter of Gaza’s population displaced from their homes looked set to enter a dangerous new phase after an apparent Hamas capture of an Israeli soldier.

Read the rest at the link.

Would this work?

 

Solution1

As if.

U.S. News

Back in Washington DC, another intractable conflict continues in Congress between crazy ultra-right-wing Republicans and semi-sane right wing Republicans. Here are the latest stories about that.

Reuters: U.S. House passes border-security funding bill to speed deportations, by David Lawder and Richard Cowan.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday to crack down on Central American migrants, including unaccompanied children, who are flooding to the U.S. border with Mexico, as lawmakers passed a $694 million border security bill.

 

The 223-189 vote came one day after conservative Republicans balked at an earlier version of the measure, exposing a deep rift between Tea Party activists and more mainstream Republicans.

In passing the retooled bill, the Republican-led House ignored a veto threat from the White House. But with the Senate already on a five-week summer recess, this measure will advance no further at least until September.

Isn’t that just ducky? And this will lead to suffering for real people, not that most people in DC really give a sh*t.

House Democrats complained that the legislation would too speedily return children to dangerous conditions in their home countries. President Barack Obama called the Republican bill “extreme” and “unworkable.”

Later on Friday, the House also passed a separate bill reversing Obama’s 2012 policy suspending deportations of some undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as children years ago by their parents.

The measure also would bar Obama from expanding this policy, possibly to parents of children who already qualify.

The tougher language in the twin bills would make it easier to deport migrant children and add money to deploy National Guard troops at the border with Mexico.

Dana Milbank opines: An upending of reason in the House.

After conservatives on Thursday brought down House Speaker John Boehner’s bill to address the border crisis, the new House Republican leadership team issued a joint statement declaring that President Obama should fix the problem himself.

“There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action,” the leadership quartet proclaimed, “to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.” ….

Just the day before, House Republicans had voted to sue Obama for using his executive authority. They called him lawless, a usurper, a monarch, a tyrant — all for postponing deadlines in the implementation of Obamacare. Now they were begging him to take executive action to compensate for their own inability to act — even though, in this case, accelerating the deportation of thousands of unaccompanied children coming from Central America would likely require Obama to ignore a 2008 law.

This was not a momentary lapse but a wholesale upending of reason.

Read the rest at the Washington Post.

ABC News: Pelosi Chases Republican Tom Marino Across House Chamber

(Ed. note: after he rudely insults her.)

In an unusual breach of decorum, even for the divided Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi chased Rep. Tom Marino across the House floor, taking offense at comments by the Pennsylvania Republican during debate on the border funding bill Friday night.

“We don’t have law and order,” Marino began as he wrapped up his comments on the border supplemental. “My colleagues on the other side don’t want to do anything about it.”

“You know something that I find quite interesting about the other side? Under the leadership of the former Speaker [Pelosi], and under the leadership of their former leader [Rep. Steny Hoyer], when in 2009 and 2010, they had the House, the Senate and the White House, and they knew this problem existed,” he continued. “They didn’t have the strength to go after it back then. But now are trying to make a political issue out of it now.”

Off-mic, Pelosi then approached Marino, crossing the aisle in view of cameras, and apparently challenged Marino’s assertion that Democrats did not do anything about the issue when they had majority control.

“Yes it is true,” Marino replied directly to Pelosi, who was House speaker in those years. “I did the research on it. You might want to try it. You might want to try it, Madam Leader. Do the research on it. Do the research. I did it. That’s one thing that you don’t do.”

John Parkinson of ABC apparently had no issues with what Marino said, just shock that Pelosi responded.

After Marino concluded his remarks and as many Republicans applauded their colleague, Pelosi crossed the chamber again in view of cameras, enraged, pointing and sticking her finger at Marino.

She then followed Marino up a Republican aisle, gesturing and arguing with him. Lawmakers on the GOP side gathered in dismay as one spoke out to tell the chair that the House was not in order, in an effort to halt the bickering.

H/T to Fannie for this video:

What sane person could blame her? But sanity is at a premium in U.S. politics and journalism today.

 

Other News Stories of Possible Interest

No one else her probably cares except Pat, but the last-place Red Sox completely blew up the team and then they beat the Yankees last night.

Boston Globe: New-look Red Sox drop Yankees.

U.S. News: Last-place Red Sox trade 5 veterans 9 months after winning World Series.

SF Gate: In shocking trade, A’s deal Cespedes for Red Sox’s Lester.

More Headlines:

HuffPo: Eric Garner’s Death By Police Chokehold Ruled A Homicide.

NYT: Explosion Kills Dozens at Eastern China Plant.

Christian Science Monitor: Why 400,000 people in Ohio can’t drink the water.

Reuters: New Libyan parliament meets far from city battlegrounds.

Reuters: American aid worker stricken with Ebola en route to U.S.

NPR: Big Data Firm Says It Can Link Snowden Data To Changed Terrorist Behavior.

LA Times: Russia keeps fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden in legal limbo.

Raw Story: Conservative KY judge says black defendant in Obama t-shirt ‘lucky to get out of here alive.’

LA Times: 911 calls about Facebook outage angers L.A. County sheriff’s officials.

Technicolor Guernca, by Loui Jouver

Technicolor Guernca, by Loui Jouver

I hope you’ll share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Sunday Reads: Potpourri

194Good Morning

Today’s post is bringing you a mixture of different links, a potpourri if you will…

But before we get to the bowl of fragrant, colorful, natural, synthetic, faded, smelly, moldy, dried, limp, withered reads, let us touch on something that I find hilariously ironic.

Look at this headline:

5 People Shot At 3 Different Gun Shows On Gun Appreciation Day

I don’t think there is anything else to say about that. Except maybe add this nugget of news from TPM:

Yep, Big Liars

It seems that the Obama kids are not protected by armed guards at the Sidwell Friends School.

I would not go so far as to say that the NRA are big liars, cough, but you decide.

Another headline for you:

Obama’s Plan May Put More Guns in Schools

Personally, I think that there should be mandatory full-time armed police person inside schools…and that they should be paid from a tax on ammunition. But I feel strongly, and passionately, that these armed individuals should not be volunteers, teachers, janitors and/or any vigilante obsessed gun-toting “concerned” citizens.

Okay then, moving right along, the links today are going to be in link dump fashion, since my head is killing me and this computer screen is burning my eyes.

The first couple of links I have for you are chilling and extremely disturbing. Be sure to read them in full.

Is PTSD Contagious? It’s rampant among returning vets—and now their spouses and kids are starting to show the same symptoms. Mac McClelland | Mother Jones

After reading Mac’s article, I think it is fair to say…yes, PTSD is contagious.

Coupled with these infographics that tell a sad story: Charts: Suicide, PTSD and the Psychological Toll on America’s Vets | Mother Jones

Another post that is related to traumatic experiences: Can Eye Movements Treat Trauma?: Scientific American

Studies are showing that moving your eyes back and forth like a ping-pong ball can help deal with PTSD. The technique is called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

This next article discusses Afghanistan: The 13-Year War- As we draw closer to the withdrawal in Afghanistan promised at the close of 2014, a look back at America’s longest war.

Emptywheel takes a look at the connection between Adam Swartz and the government’s investigation into Wikileaks. The Fishing Expedition into WikiLeaks

Here is an update on the ongoing hunt for pythons in Florida’s Everglades: Florida’s python update: 21 caught so far in Everglades hunt

And another update on the story we’ve followed about those possible Spitfires in Burma: No ‘lost Spitfires’ buried in Burma-Dig near Rangoon International Airport proves fruitless but Lincolnshire farmer insists search will continue elsewhere in the country

Want to see a list of Representatives who did not vote for Sandy aid? MAP: In These 22 States, Every House Republican Voted Against Sandy Aid

Take a look at this photo, it is still a messy situation.

Almost three months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, the GOP-controlled House approved a bill that provides $50.7 billion in disaster relief for the storm’s victims. While passage of the bill is being hailed as a bipartisan success by some (the vote was 241-180), a closer look at how the parties voted by state lines indicates otherwise. GOPers overwhelmingly voted against funding—unless, of course, their state was hard hit.

In 22 states, every last Republican representative voted against HR 152 or abstained on the bill, which includes $17 billion for immediate repair and an amendment introduced by a Republican, New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, that tacks on another $33.7 billion for long-term recovery and prevention. These included Maryland and the Carolinas (remember Hugo and Floyd?), states that are vulnerable to seasonal hurricanes but were largely spared by Sandy.

And…in the plastic yuk department: Plastics Suck Up Other Toxins: Double Whammy for Marine Life, Gross for Seafood

Combine that with the yuk from Coke’s sugary drinks: Coke: Wait, People Thought Vitaminwater Was Good for You?

Makes you think, what the hell are we doing to ourselves?

If it doesn’t make you question our self-destructive actions, this next link will…Labiaplasty: An investigation of the most popular trend in the field of ‘vaginal rejuvenation’ surgery.

Kirsten O’Regan: Labiaplasty, Part I – Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics

Kirsten O’Regan: Labiaplasty, Part II – Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics

You may need some eye bleach and a break from reading after that article. Ooof!

Why would any woman do that to herself? I mean, that is just fucked-up.

Couldn’t they just “think” about it and get the same benefit, if you could call it that. Check this out: AsapSCIENCE Demonstrates The Power Of Imagination- Thinking About Doing Something Is Pretty Much The Same As Doing It [Video] | Geekosystem

Ready for a strange and uncomfortable fact to start your Friday morning? Sure you are, and here it is, courtesy of the fine cartoonists and deep thinkers over at AsapSCIENCE: when you think deeply about a thing — seeing the letter ‘B,’ for example, or fixing a sandwich — the same parts of your brain involved in performing that action light up. Some studies even suggest that you can improve your piano skills just by thinking diligently about playing while not actually touching a piano. Check out AsapSCIENCE’s latest video below and learn more about how your brain is just weird sometimes.

Well, I guess all of us procrastinators will appreciate that video. (I won’t even begin to try and fix the f’d up grammar in that sentence.)

I’ve got another video for you:   The deer that thinks it’s a sheep | Earth | EarthSky

Photo courtesy the National Trust, UK

You will love this video. The deer attached himself to the sheep in early December 2012. He shows no sign of leaving.

Have you all seen this bit of twisted news in the world of ballet?

Bolshoi artistic director Sergei Filin ‘blinded’ by acid attack that left him with chemical burns- The former ballet star had acid thrown in his face by a man – it is thought the attack is linked to his position

Bolshoi ballet director Sergei Filin severely injured in acid attack -Doctors fighting to save eyesight of former dancer after assailant threw acid in his face outside central Moscow home

Wow, this post is getting long, and I am very late in getting it posted. Quickly…here are the rest of the links I have saved to share with you today.

Today it is the 100th birthday of Danny Kaye. From MovieMorlocks.com – Happy 100th, Danny!

Also from Movie Morlocks, some wonderful photography:  William Edward Cronenweth: A Legacy in Photos

More science links:

Scientists shed light on the ‘dark matter’ of DNA

Innovative approach results in improved writing skills at primary school

And finally, a travel piece: Swept away by a Sicilian symphony

Have a great day…and enjoy those links!


Saturday Morning Reads

Good Morning!!

Yesterday was a pretty busy news day for a Friday. So if you’ve had your sugar bombs and coffee, let me fill you in on the latest before you head outside to enjoy a beautiful June day. The weather folks are saying this will be a nice weekend around the country.

Yesterday the President announced an executive order telling the Department of Homeland Security not to deport children who were brought to the U.S. illegally and have grown up here and gone to school here. These are the young people who would be eligible to stay here and have a path to citizenship under the “Dream Act” if Republicans in Congress would stop blocking the legislation.

In a move that seemed to be aimed at Hispanics whose enthusiasm for voting in the November 6 election could be crucial to Obama’s re-election chances, the president acted to potentially protect 800,000 people from deportation proceedings for at least two years.

Obama, who previously was reluctant to impose such an order even as Republicans in Congress blocked immigration reform bills he supported, called his action “the right thing to do.”

His announcement was on the 30th anniversary of a Supreme Court decision that said children of illegal-immigrant parents were entitled to public education in the United States.

Right wingers–including Mitt Romney–are of course calling the move “political,” but so what? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Politicians make political decisions. Duh! But if they’re doing the right thing, I don’t care what their motivation is. The LA Times published some basic information for people who want to know what this change means to them.

During the President’s announcement of the policy change at a press availability in the Rose Garden, a wingnut blogger from The Daily Caller, rudely broke into Obama’s speech with an offensive question. David Graham at the Atlantic:

An extremely unusual occurrence happened today as President Obama spoke at the White House. The president was offering a statement on his executive order suspending deportations for certain illegal immigrants brought here as children….when a reporter started heckling him and shouting questions.

The reporter has been identified as Neil Munro of the Daily Caller, a conservative online news outlet run by Tucker Carlson….

Interrupting the president mid-speech is considered a serious breach of etiquette, and Obama’s reaction shows how peeved (and probably taken aback) he was. Munro, and the Daily Caller, have immediately come in for harsh criticism by a wide range of journalists, including conservative ones. The problem isn’t that Munro was asking tough questions; it’s that he interrupted the commander-in-chief to ask them and in doing so guaranteed that none of the assembled press would be able to ask any serious questions — since it’s fairly clear that Munro’s query was intended as provocation.

I have video of the confrontation, but youtube seems to be down at the moment. I’ll put it up again later if I can. Munro yelled “Why do you favor foreigners over Americans?” Then when Obama responded, he proceed to argue and then yell while Obama was speaking. Pretty unprofessional for a so-called “journalist.”

Even Bill O’Reilly condemned the wingnut hack’s behavior, along with Fox News talkers Shep Smith and Chris Wallace.

At CNN, Dean Obeidallah says this type of behavior by wingnuts is part of an overall effort to “delegitimize” Obama’s presidency.

A reporter from a right-wing media outlet heckled President Obama — not once, but twice — on Friday as he was unveiling a new immigration policy. If this shocks you, you haven’t been paying attention. This is simply the latest page from the right’s playbook to delegitimize Barack Obama’s presidency.

Some may dismiss it as an isolated incident, but it’s not. It goes much deeper. Believe me, I know hecklers — I’m a stand-up comedian. If someone heckles me once, it can be a mistake: too many drinks, overcome by emotion, etc. But when you heckle twice, you have an agenda.

BTW, Munro is an Irish immigrant. So what is his problem?

A quick perusal of Munro’s Twitter feed reveals he does not hide his contempt for President Obama. His tweets range from claims that Obama is using NASCAR and country music to attract “white non-college voters,” to slams of Michelle Obama, to allegations that Obama is racially discriminating against blacks in his White House hiring practices.

But this is all not about Munro — he is just a small cog in the right’s campaign to diminish the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency. I’m not talking about people disagreeing with policies. I mean specifically the campaign to paint Barack Obama as less than American — as an “other”–as someone whose presidency is not entitled to the same respect as that of the presidents who came before him.

OK, maybe I’m spending too much time on this, but I guess I’m a bit old fashioned. I believe in respecting the office of the President. I think it’s very important for the White House press corps to behave respectfully, while at the same time asking tough questions. In this case, Munro’s behavior led to the press conference being cut off before more responsible reporters could ask questions.

I have some other news for you, and I’ll give it to you quickly so you can get out an enjoy your day.

The send-off for Mitt Romney’s bus tour of “small-town America” was overshadowed by Obama’s announcement.

After weeks of gaining momentum amid a spate of bad economic news that has shaken Obama’s reelection campaign, Romney was faced with a classic demonstration of how the White House can use its power to reset the agenda.

For hours, Romney tried to ignore the news. Finally, after a rally here with a ragtime band playing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” in a town-square gazebo, Romney made a statement that struck a radically different tone from the hard-line approach he took on illegal immigration during the Republican primaries.

“I believe the status of young people who come here through no fault of their own is an important matter to be considered and should be solved on a long-term basis so they know what their future would be in this country,” he told reporters outside of his campaign bus.

“I think the action that the president took today makes it more difficult to reach that long-term solution, because an executive order is of course just a short-term matter. It could be reversed by subsequent presidents. I’d like to see legislation that deals with this issue.”

But he made no commitment to supporting any particular option.

Of course not. Just more meaningless huffing and puffing from an old stuffed suit.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg expects “sharp disagreement” in the Supreme Court over the Affordable Care Act.

The LA Times reports: Egypt revolution losing steam as military asserts power

Germany could be in trouble if Greece opts out of the Euro.

Why can’t the Euro nations agree on a plan? In Germany, the situation is being compared to Titanic, one of the greatest disasters in history.

Since Euro Zone is like the Titanic heading for an iceberg called Greece, there’s plenty of concern on the first-class deck called Germany. If Greece goes down, it can take even Europe’s biggest economy with it.

“I believe Europe is right in a crossroads right now,” Gerhard Hofmann, director of the German Cooperative Bank Group, told CBS News.

How the shock waves will hit the U.S. if it happens.

The NYT says Obama is “looking to Merkel” for aid and comfort.

A collapse of the euro could derail America’s fragile recovery and doom Mr. Obama’s re-election hopes. So the president finds himself in the strange position of having forged a relationship with Ms. Merkel that is perhaps the best he has with any foreign leader, but that has not yet resulted in the chancellor’s agreeing to what Mr. Obama thinks must be done in Europe: an American-style bailout and fiscal stimulus.

Mr. Obama and Ms. Merkel will meet again Monday at a Group of 20 summit meeting in Mexico, with the stakes for Europe even higher than they were last month. With Greece holding elections on Sunday that could precipitate its exit from the European currency union — the nightmare feared by the financial markets — Mr. Obama may be running out of time to make his case.

And there is no indication Ms. Merkel is any more inclined to heed his advice. In a speech to the German Parliament on Thursday, she said the world should not expect Berlin to be Europe’s savior, rejecting calls to create euro bonds to share the debt burden of the Mediterranean countries.

Boy is she ever stubborn. And she seems determined to bring the entire world economy crashing down. Mitt Romney must love her.

A new study suggests that Gay Men Have Evolutionary Benefit For Their Families.

Henry Hill with Goodfellas star Ray Liotta

Finally, Henry Hill has died. He was the “wise guy” who was the inspiration for Martin Scorcese’s “Goodfellas.” Hill was only 69, and died from health problems related to smoking.

Henry Hill, the infamous mob informant whose life of crime was chronicled in the film classic “GoodFellas,” was the first to admit that he did “a lot of bad things back then.”

“I shot at people. I busted a lot of heads, and I buried a lot of bodies,” he told the London-based Daily Telegraph in 2010. “You can try to justify it by saying they deserved it, that they had it coming, but some just got whacked for absolutely no reason at all.”

….

Henry Hill, the infamous mob informant whose life of crime was chronicled in the film classic “GoodFellas,” was the first to admit that he did “a lot of bad things back then.”

“I shot at people. I busted a lot of heads, and I buried a lot of bodies,” he told the London-based Daily Telegraph in 2010. “You can try to justify it by saying they deserved it, that they had it coming, but some just got whacked for absolutely no reason at all.”

RIP, Henry.

Have a fabulous Saturday, and if you’re reading anything interesting today, please share!


Doublespeak, the Devil’s Advocate and Diogenes’ Endless Quest

Just when you think current events and various public utterances cannot get any more ridiculous, they do.  Often, much of what we hear and are expected to take seriously is wrapped in doublespeak, deliberately vague, obscure language to hide the speaker/writer’s true intent.

We’ve had examples galore as the 2012 election looms over DC, political candidates twisting themselves into pretzels to find the right combination of words to seduce voters.  Newt Gingrich, for instance, referred to his lobbying involvement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac [for which he was paid handsomely] as providing advice as an ‘historian.’  John Boehner has taken a page out of Frank Luntz’s cannon, repeating the phrase ‘job creators’ as if it were a magical incantation.  Democrats are certainly not immune to this form of prevarication.  Every time I recall Nancy Pelosi’s infamous statement about the Healthcare Reform Bill, I wince: We have to pass the bill before we know what’s in it.

That being said, there’s a special spot in Doublespeak Heaven or Hell for John Yoo, who often writes for the American Enterprise Institute.

John Yoo.  Name sound familiar?  Mr. Yoo, the infamous legal advisor to the Bush Administration’s inner circle, recently jumped up, expressing considerable distaste for and worry over President Obama’s overreaching his authority, abusing and doing considerable damage to the US Constitution.  A reasonable person might conclude this is in reference to the recent indefinite detention clause in the National Defense Authorization Act, the one POTUS claimed he would not sign.  But then did.

But we’re not talking reasonable.  We’re talking John Yoo, deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel [OLC], Department of Justice from 2001-2003.

John Yoo helped strangle the English language, managing to transform the word torture into ‘enhanced interrogation,’ a smoke screen phrase that former Vice President Cheney is still defending, so he and his buddies can sleep at night.

Let’s recall the past.

John Yoo spun out legal arguments for wiretapping, warrantless surveillance on all communication coming in or out of the country as well as warrentless surveillance against American citizens; defended the use of torture [excuse me, enhanced interrogation], authoring the infamous ‘torture memo,’ in which he cited permissible techniques, including assault, maiming and drugging on orders of the President as long as they do not result in death, organ failure or impairment of bodily functions.  He also advised the suspension of the Geneva Convention, War Crimes Act, indicating that the US is no longer restrained by International Law in our endless War on Terror; declared that the President is empowered to make war without Congressional permission and, in fact, has the power to order military strikes inside the US.  He defended the President’s right to order rendition without Congressional approval, etc., etc., etc.

That John Yoo.  He was a very busy man while he held tenure as the Devil’s Advocate.

Mr. Yoo now says President Obama has exceeded his powers by his recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  As you may recall this is the nefarious agency, the wicked brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, to protect American consumers from the labyrinth of confusing language offered in loan and credit agreements.  For example, credit card agreements and home loans.

According to Mr. Yoo, who wrote a piece for the National Review Online, President Obama is making a sweeping claim in the very definition of ‘recess.’

But President Obama is making a far more sweeping claim. Here, as I understand it, the Senate is not officially in adjournment (they have held “pro forma” meetings, where little to no business occurs, to prevent Obama from making exactly such appointments). So there is no question whether the adjournment has become a constitutional “recess.”

And,

This, in my view, is not up to the president, but the Senate. It is up to the Senate to decide when it is in session or not, and whether it feels like conducting any real business or just having senators sitting around on the floor reading the papers. The president cannot decide the legitimacy of the activities of the Senate any more than he could for the other branches, and vice versa.

I find this argument particularly startling coming from Yoo, considering his defense of all things related to the expansion of presidential authority.

But there’s more,

Even with my broad view of executive power, I’ve always thought that each branch has control over its own functions and has the right — if not the duty — to exclude the others as best it can from its own decisions.

Broad view is an understatement because John Yoo is on record, as early as March 1996, declaring that the President has the right to declare war, not Congress.  During his tenure with OLC, he asserted that a President can suspend First Amendment Freedoms in wartime and that the power of the Executive is virtually unlimited in times of war.

You can’t have it both ways.  We’re still engaged in Afghanistan, involved in a seemingly perpetual state of war.

Yoo further states that in view of President Obama’s gross overreach:

Most importantly, private parties outside government can refuse to obey any regulation issued by the new agency. They will be able to defend themselves in court by claiming that the head of the agency is an unconstitutional officer . . .

Now to be clear, I am not a lawyer. I cannot comment on the legalistic merits of the argument.  Others have done that.  But I do think I have a fairly good eye for hypocrisy.  And then there’s this, in reviewing Mr. Yoo’s past declarations, summaries of his memos and advice on matters of war, torture and the suspension of civil rights, this recent charge against President Obama seems out of proportion.

And duplicitous.

It’s okay when neo-cons play with the boundaries and definitions of the Constitution but not when our presumably Democratic President does the same thing.  That’s not to say I agree with either political class redefining, remaking and declaring right and true what is and what is not permissible under the Constitution for very distinct political purposes, merely extending a particular agenda.  But once this questionable threshold is crossed?  The results are what they are.

What neither side refuses to speak to is the considerable danger there is in not accounting for what the next elected Executive is likely to do with ‘expanded’ powers, the establishment of a unitary president. This falls under the heading: Short-Term Goals. It should be noted that redefining the scope of the Executive Office was all the rage during the Bush years, something that Obama vowed to change.

But he did not.

Recalling Mr. Yoo’s penchant for reinterpreting the US Constitution during 2001-2003 [not a pleasant journey], I felt as if I’d literally entered a parallel Universe, one in which language is weaponized.  In this strange, ever-evolving cosmos, white is black, up is down, evil is good and ultimate power [with no accountability] is the Law.

George Orwell is screaming from the Heavens to be named a true prophet.

As for the US Constitution?  It can mean anything you want it to mean. It depends on which side of the political divide you’re standing on.

John Yoo is not a person I would ever turn to for legal advice.  Not for the world I wish to inhabit or wish available to my children and future grandbabies.  In fact, I would think after all the damage Mr. Yoo  [admittedly, he was not alone] did during the early years of the Bush Administration, he’d be reluctant to level charges against anyone ever again.

And yet, a quick check through the archives found that Yoo had weighed in on President Obama’s proposed Executive Order on Federal contractor disclosure.  This proposal would require contractors to provide their political-giving history, any gift over $5000.   The proposal, it is argued, will make the Federal contract system more transparent and accountable to the public.

How radical!

Yet Mr. Yoo suggests the proposal makes some of Richard Nixon’s ‘dirty tricks’ look quaint by comparison.  As an example, he conjures up the humiliating fate of anyone tempted by Presidential overreach, undoing the time-honored, Constitutional right of anonymous political speech [conveniently avoiding the issue of money-giving, as in, swamping our elections in massive amounts of payola].  Namely, the consequence of these sins leads to impeachment.

I’m falling down a rabbit hole.  A really dark rabbit hole.

A case in point, Mr. Yoo ties his concern for poor, vulnerable corporations to MoveOn’s boycott of the retail operation, Target, in Minnesota.  The boycott and subsequent bad press disclosed that Target had made a contribution to a conservative group supporting a gubernatorial candidate opposed to gay marriage.  Yet Target had repeatedly proclaimed itself a gay-friendly corporation.

Ian Millhiser at Think Progress summarizes Yoo’s analysis this way:

In other words, Target misled the public by calling itself a gay-friendly corporation, when it actually was secretly funding an anti-gay effort. Yet, because of disclosure, it was no longer able to maintain this charade and forced to end its two-faced practices. In Yoo’s twisted understanding of the world, this is a great tragedy and not a compelling argument for why disclosure laws are necessary.

I would like to think there’s a place in the Universe where bad actors are rehabilitated, where they reconsider bad decisions, damaging policies that serve only to injure the weak and/or take advantage of human vulnerabilities. Yet reviewing the twisted logic of John Yoo has given me real pause.  If fact, all these political players give me great pause.

This is particularly true with a primary season trudging along, Republican candidates making whacko statements and mean-spirited declarations. We’ve witnessed:

Michelle Bachmann’s delusions, the Eye of the Newt’s vindictive nature, Romney’s spinning positions, Santorum’s woman and gay problem, Perry’s aphasia, Jon Huntsman’s [sadly] invisible campaign and the cuddly libertarian Ron Paul, who yearns to return to the good ole days of 1900. We have not had the benefit of listening to the likes of Buddy Roemer, a voice that should be heard. But now add John Yoo to the brigade of howling voices, then mix a large measure of contradiction, deception and slick language games.

President Obama [who certainly has employed doublespeak with flair, spun numerous fantastic tales of his own] begins to look grounded, normal.

Which means, of course, I’ve definitely entered an alternate Universe.  Maybe this one:

The crazy season just goes on and on and on.  Which makes me think of Diogenes, wandering ancient Greece with lantern in hand, searching for that one honest man.

That was nearly 2500 years ago.  We haven’t learned much.