Wednesday Reads: Farewell Goddess Chablis and Goddess Arquette

 

arquette_52007’s Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother. In an outtake posted to YouTube, Arquette declared “No one in my life or on the streets can say or do anything that’s going to persuade me from becoming … who I am.”

 

 

In fact, the only label she ever truly embraced was the one she gave herself – The Lady Chablis. theladychablis1“I just try to be who I am without all the labels people try to put on you,” she told the reporter at Savannah Magazine.

 

“The legacy that she wanted to leave was one of ‘believe in who you are and never let the world change who you are,'” [her sister Cynthia]Ponder said. “Love yourself first and respect yourself first and others will love and respect you.”

The leaves are starting to change their colors here in the mountains. That normal process that creates a marvelous paint of brilliant transformation has begun. Same trees…same hills…same mountains. Whatever nature has planned, that innate process that happens when the leaves change from green to vivid hues of crimson and gold, radiant orange and fire…colors that you could describe with names that sound more like MAC lipstick color hues…than the shade of leaves hanging from the trees. Which seems appropriate, because this post is a tribute to two ladies who gave glam to transgender before hashtags and tweets.

chablis

 

alexis-arquette-dies-600x1024

 

 

I think the best way to start the ball rolling is with this article from The Guardian.

Alexis Arquette and The Lady Chablis: deaths a reminder of barriers they broke | Film | The Guardian

The two transgender women were activists and entertainers who dared to be themselves – and set the tone for future generations

105115183In the last week, America lost two pioneering transgender women entertainers:Alexis Arquette and The Lady Chablis. Both died relatively young, Arquette at 47 and Chablis at 59. Then again, perhaps that’s actually rather old, given the world they were born into: although there’s no good data on life expectancies for trans and gender non-conforming people in the United States, the statistics we do havesuggest that they face greater health concerns with fewer resources than their cisgender counterparts, and that they are therefore more likely to die younger as well. Yet both Arquette and Chablis lived outsized lives despite their short durations, and along the way, they managed to break barriers for transgender artists everywhere.

In the 1990s, if you wanted to see a trans actor on the big screen, you had remarkably few options. Despite a plethora of films with large transgender roles, ranging from the deplorable (Ace Ventura Pet Detective), to the complicated (The Crying Game), to the tragic (Boys Don’t Cry), trans actors were almost entirely sidelined from major productions. Today, a small handful are gaining traction in mainstream film and television projects, such as Laverne Cox, Tom Phelan, Mya Taylor, Jamie Clayton and Trace Lysette. And if a cisgender actor does play a transgender character, there’s bound to be some uproar, as there was when it was recently announced that Michelle Rodriguez would play a transgender assassin in the new Walter Hill film, (Re)Assignment.

But that wasn’t even a conversation in the 90s, when Arquette and Chablis became two of the first trans actors to play trans roles in major mainstream films – Arquette as the gender non-conforming George (based on Boy George) in Adam Sandlers’s The Wedding Singer (1998), and Chablis as herself in the 1997 docu-thriller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

alexis_arquette_1200Both women had nuanced, complicated and shifting understandings of their own genders. Perhaps reflecting the time in which they grew up, over the course of their lives both used (or had applied to them) a wide variety of labels, from “drag queen” and “female impersonator”, to “transgendered” and “gender suspicious”. Yet no matter what words they used, both were always vocal advocates for trans people, rights and representation.

[…]

Arquette came to movie work early in her career, thanks in part to her famous family. mg-606The Lady Chablis, on the other hand, was a well-known performer in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, but it wasn’t until the publication of the true-crime book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (in 1994), that she gained wider notoriety. After spending over 200 weeks on the New York Times’s bestseller list, the book was made into a film starring Kevin Spacey and a young Jude Law. Chablis was shocked when they asked her to audition for the role of herself. In an interview with NPR, Chad Darnell, the film’s casting director, recalls that she informed him “there’s nobody else who can play me but me”. When he suggested Whitney Houston, she slapped him so hard she drew blood – and got the role.

Like the leaves on the trees, both The Lady and Arquette lived life being who they truly are…as nature intended. Here are some quotes from articles over the past few days that will be good to read.

socialfeed-savannah-icon-lady-chablis-has-diedThe Lady Chablis, Sassy Eccentric in ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,’ Dies at 59 – The New York Times

The Lady Chablis, the transgender performer featured in the 1994 best seller “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and in the film version, died on Thursday in Savannah, Ga. She was 59 and had been working until about a month ago.

The cause was pneumonia, said Cale Hall, a longtime friend and an owner of Club One, where she had performed for three decades.

Ms. Chablis was a standout character in the book, in which the author, John Berendt, introduced the world to Savannah and the sometimes eccentric people who live there.

“She was The Lady Chablis from morning to night,” Mr. Berendt said in an interview on Thursday. “She had a great repartee,” he said, “and she had a way with words. She was creative.”

They first met when Ms. Chablis, who had just received her biweekly estrogen shots, insinuated herself into Mr. Berendt’s car for a ride home.

ladychablis-660x330

“She had both hands on her hips and a sassy half-smile on her face as if she had been waiting for me,” he wrote.

tumblr_od7bt1z8uv1v6m5vmo1_500

She would become the book’s most popular character, Mr. Berendt said. She was also his favorite.

“It’s not as if she died without knowing,” he added. “She knew. And she also knew she was everybody’s favorite.”

After the book came out, Ms. Chablis appeared on “Good Morning America” and “Oprah.” Readers from around the country went to see her at Club One. She published an autobiography, “Hiding My Candy,” in 1996 and the next year played herself in Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of the Berendt book.

She was born Benjamin Edward Knox in Quincy, Fla., on March 11, 1957, and never finished high school. She took the name Chablis as a teenager. As she recalled in Mr. Berendt’s book, her mother, inspired by a wine bottle label, had intended the name for a younger sister but had had a miscarriage. Ms. Chablis immediately expressed interest in the name.

1“I said, ‘Ooooo, Chablis. That’s nice. I like that name,’ ” she was quoted as saying in the book. “And Mama said, ‘Then take it, baby. Just call yourself Chablis from now on.’ So ever since then, I’ve been Chablis.” She had her name legally changed to The Lady Chablis.

Lady Chablis, Star Of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, Passes Away At 59

Over twenty years ago, Chablis was written in as a character in John Berendt’s non-fiction narrative, Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil. The story centralizes around Jim Williams, a noted Savannah socialite and antiques dealer who was found guilty of murdering a local male prostitute named Danny Hansford. Berendt wrote Chablis into the book as one of the many eccentric true-life characters and he uses her to better paint the picture of queer nightlife in Savannah. In both the book and the film, Chablis acts as a light-hearted contrast to the more serious themes of the story, with memorable one-liners such as “two tears in a bucket, motherfuck it” and “yes, I am a bitch, and proud of it, honey”. Her performance both on the page and on screen established her as an icon within the drag world, however, Chablis has contributed more to the community than just her work with Kevin Spacey.

tumblr_llx6obsca51qafql9In 1996, a year before she graced Clint Eastwood’s rendition of Midnight, Chablis published an autobiography entitled Hiding My Candy: The Autobiography of the Grand Empress of Savannah. In her book, Chablis spills the T on her upbringings in drag, beginning with her introduction to Miss Tina Devore in a Tallahassee nightclub. Devore would go on to become Chablis’s drag mother and in Midnight, Chablis remarks that she got her drag name from Devore, saying “my mama got the name Chablis off a wine bottle. She didn’t think it up for me though. It was supposed to be for my sister”. While in Atlanta, Chablis began her transition towards becoming a transgender woman, taking hormones and legally changing her name to Brenda Dale Knox, all while still developing a budding drag career. In his book, Berendt remarks that he meet Chablis at a doctor’s office after a routine estrogen injection, writing that “her big eyes sparkled. Her skin glowed. A broken incisor tooth punctuated her smile and gave her a naughty look”. But it wasn’t just Berendt who was captivated by the queen because after the film’s release she went on to guest on Good Morning America and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Despite her growing fame, Chablis stuck true to her roots throughout the 2000s, headlining Savannah Pride and hosting the Miss Gay Pride Pageant. chablis-1In 2013, she made an appearance on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, reading the wives to filth before a live audience.

Many have commented on the drag icon’s passing, including the book’s author John Berendt. “She’ll be remembered for her outrageous profanity-laced spontaneity and for being one of the first up-front transsexual personalities to be accepted by a wide audience.” Today we see many transgender actors and actresses beloved by millions on the big screen, however, Chablis and her role in Midnight made her a legend and a role model for others who have followed in her footsteps. And while Chablis was loved by audiences for her role on screen as well as by those who had the chance to watch her perform, the road to stardom wasn’t easy for Chablis. In her autobiography, Chablis explains that performing in Atlanta taught her about the realities of prejudice and she was even arrested for falsification of identification. “They took my purse and my gowns and they took The Doll to jail, honey…”, Chablis writes and she shows readers that performing in drag and living as a pre-operative transgender female was not as accepted at the time as it is today.

9fb1bcb1f3a556415f013e7a835e5a42

Chablis continued to perform at Club One in Savannah up until she was hospitalized on August 6th 2016. On social media, Club One paid tribute to their resident queen, sharing that “just as The Book shined the spotlight on Savannah, so too did Chablis shine the spotlight on the gay scene, and especially on Club One. She was Club One’s very first entertainer, officiating our grand opening in 1988, and paving the way for female impersonation in Savannah. No one, however, could outshine the Grand Empress herself.” And while Chablis may no longer be performing on the main stage at Club One, her legacy as a drag performer and transgender pioneer will live on for many generations to come.

 

I’ve always been fascinated with The Doll…something about her way of expressing herself made me feel like she was an old friend.

As for Alexis….The Arquette family has issued this statement:

gettyimages-57578927Alexis Arquette, Transgender Actress, Dead at 47 – Rolling Stone

“Our brother Robert, who became our brother Alexis, who became our sister Alexis, who became our brother Alexis, passed this morning September 11, at 12:32 am,” Richmond wrote. “He was surrounded by all of his brothers and sisters, one of his nieces and several other loved ones. We were playing music for him and he passed during David Bowie’s Starman. As per his wishes, we cheered at the moment that he transitioned to another dimension.”

Alexis Arquette’s family release poignant statement: ‘She left before we were ready to let her go’ | The Independent

The Arquette family have paid tribute to their daughter Alexis Arquette and commended her fight for the “understanding and acceptance” of the transgender community.

[…]

The Arquette family have requested privacy and asked for donations be made to organisations which support the LGBTQ community in her honour.

alexis-arquette-sister

 

Her sibling’s statement in full:

“Our sister, Alexis Arquette, passed away this morning, September 11th, 2016.
“Alexis was a brilliant artist and painter, a singer, an entertainer and an actor. She starred in movies like ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’, ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Jumpin’ at the Boneyard’, ‘Of Mice and Men’, ‘The Wedding Singer’, and ‘The Bride of Chucky’. Her career was cut short, not by her passing, but by her decision to live her truth and her life as a transgender woman. Despite the fact that there are few parts for trans actors, she refused to play roles that were demeaning or stereotypical. She was a vanguard in the fight for understanding and acceptance for all trans people.
34225pcn_arquette“She fiercely lived her reality in a world where it is dangerous to be a trans person — a world largely unready to accept differences among human beings, and where there is still the ugliness of violence and hostility towards people that we may not understand.
“Alexis was born as Robert, our brother. We loved him the moment he arrived. But he came in as more than a sibling — he came as our great teacher. As Alexis transitioned into being a woman, she taught us tolerance and acceptance. As she moved through her process, she became our sister, teaching us what real love is.
“We learned what real bravery is through watching her journey of living as a trans woman. We came to discover the one truth — that love is everything.
“In the days leading to her death, she told us she was already visiting the other side, and that where she was going, there was only one gender. That on the other side, we are free from all of the things that separate us in this life, and that we are all one.
“She passed away surrounded by love. We held her and sang her David Bowie’s ‘Starman’ as she punched through the veil to the other side. We washed her body in rose petals and surrounded her with flowers.
“Alexis always had to do everything first. She left before we were ready to let her go. We are all heartbroken that she is no longer with us, but we are grateful for the grace and kindness we were all shown during this difficult time. We are comforted by the fact that Alexis came into our family and was our brother and then our sister, and that she gave us so much love. We will love you always, Alexis. We know we were the lucky ones.
“The family asks that in lieu of flowers or gifts, donations please be sent to organizations that support the LGBTQ community in honour of Alexis Arquette.
“Please respect our privacy during this time of grieving.”

 

gettyimages-106980631-0bf719a5-d47c-4f32-8ec6-1835cbe459ccAlexis Arquette Male Gender Pronouns: Why Did Brother And Ex-Boyfriend Use Him/He?

Actress and transgender activist Alexis Arquette transitioned to a woman in her late thirties, so why did her brother, Richard, and ex-boyfriend, Ryan Black, refer to her with male pronouns? It’s especially confusing for some, considering sister Patricia referred to Alexis with all female pronouns in the family’s press release about Alexis’ death Sunday.

GLAAD, formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, encourages the media to becautious of “pronoun confusion”: “Ideally a story will not use pronouns associated with a person’s birth sex when referring to the person’s life prior to transition. Try to write transgender people’s stories from the present day, instead of narrating them from some point in the past, thus avoiding confusion and potentially disrespectful use of incorrect pronouns.”

alexis-arquette-inline-f6b3d43d-9b24-43ce-a841-a6f691a45347The Associated Press Stylebook writes reporters should: “use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.”

So if Alexis transitioned to a female more than a decade ago, why is there confusion about her gender? Lesser known to the public, Alexis became more fluid about her gender later in life. In fact, she said she was “not transgender anymore” when Caitlyn Jenner came out last year.

“She was like, ‘Yeah, sometimes I’ll be a man, sometimes I’ll be a woman. I like to refer to myself as gender suspicious,’” her brother, David Arquette, said on “Kocktails with Khloé” in February.

David was confused. “I said, ‘You’re my sister and brother?’” he recalled asking. “[Alexis] said, ‘It depends on how I’m dressed.’”

Alexis believed there was only one gender after death. “In the days leading to her death, she told us she was already visiting the other side, and that where she was going, there was only one gender,” Patricia wrote in the family’s press release. “That on the other side, we are free from all of the things that separate us in this life, and that we are all one.”

23Final Days of Alexis Arquette: “A Tear in the Ocean” | Hollywood Reporter

Arquette remained fiercely private about her health struggles and obstinate about seeking treatments, ignoring her friends’ and family’s entreaties to take the life-saving AIDS drugs that were emerging every year. In recent weeks, the battle became a losing one: Arquette, 47, had developed an infection in her liver that spread throughout her body.

She was pronounced dead at 12:32 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11. The news was first shared in a Facebook post from her eldest brother, Richmond Arquette, 53, perhaps the least-known member of a powerhouse acting family that includes Rosanna, 57, Patricia, 48, and David, 45. “Our brother Robert, who became our brother Alexis, who became our sister Alexis, who became our brother Alexis [has] passed,” began his announcement.

comedycentralroastflavorflavarrivalspn3qb424otsxAlexis had left specific instructions for her death: David Bowie’s “Starman” was to play as her final moments approached. (Glam rock had always been her favorite genre of music, followed by new wave and punk.) And when the final breath passed her lips, she asked that everyone cheer “the moment that [s]he transitioned to another dimension.”

A few other links:

Alexis Arquette’s Death: How Do People Die from AIDS?

Alexis Arquette’s Vibrant Life and Transition, on Screen and off : People.com

Alexis Arquette’s Life as a Trans Star, LGBT Activist – Us Weekly

Alexis Arquette, transgender activist and actress, dies at 47 – LA Times

Alexis Arquette Has Died At 47

b309cd89fdd254d8d5e1158d2f071490Two Tears In A Bucket: Lady Chablis Dies At Age 59 – Joe.My.God.

RIP Lady Chablis: Performer, Author, and LGBTQIA Legend | The Mary Sue

Lady Chablis, transgender ‘Midnight’ star, dies in Savannah | The Charlotte Observer

Alexis Arquette, Lady Chablis, Trans Health, and the Tabloid Response to HIV | HIVPlusMag.com

Whether or not AIDS complications played a role in either woman’s death, they can still teach us a lot about the health inequality of transgender life.

[…]

This week has seen the death of two famous transgender women. First was Lady Chablis, the 59-year-old African-American performer made famous by the best-selling book and later Clint Eastwood film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Chablis spent much of her life as an elegant and attractive cabaret performer at nightclubs in Savannah, Ga., and Columbia, S.C. Her death from pneumonia did little to diminish her star power which had grown from her role in Midnight (she played herself) to appearances on The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Bizarre Foods America: Savannah. According to The Advocate’s Neal Broverman, she continued her club performances, wrote an autobiography, and “used her fame for good, raising money for diabetes and LGBT causes. She remained beloved in Savannah, even though she lived in South Carolina.”

Lady Chamblis (above) made Savannah a destination

In her obituary, pneumonia was listed as the cause of Chablis’s death. Pneumonia, literally an infection in one or both lungs, affects 1 million people a year in the U.S. and kills about 50,000. There’s a vaccine, but it’s usually only recommended for people over 65 or those with immune system issues like HIV.

Pneumonia, just like what Hilary Clinton has, is common and can be caused by bacteria or viruses from things like the flu, whooping cough, and chicken pox. People who have HIV are more susceptible, as are those who smoke, or have diabetes, asthma, or heart disease. When people in the HIV world hear someone died of pneumonia, and they are otherwise in decent health, we can’t help but wonder if it that pneumonia was a complication of their HIV.

Chablis died, at 59, just days before actress-turned-artist Alexis Arquette did so as well.

50732335Arquette, 47 at her death, was the second youngest of a Hollywood dynasty that began with her grandfather Cliff Arquette, a man who dressed as both Mrs. Butterworth (replete with falsetto and mustache) and a character, Charlie Weaver, that became so famous and ubiquitous he occupied the Hollywood Squares in character longer than most other stars of the time. (Cliff, in fact, was rarely seen in public without playing the Charlie Weaver character.)

The family bloodline traces back to Meriwether Lewis (half of for the the 1800s era Lewis and Clark Expedition) for whom Alexis’s own father was named. (He was on The Waltons.)

Arquette’s siblings — Rosanna, Richmond, Patricia, and David Arquette — were reportedly by her side at the end, and supportive throughout her tabloid-ridden life. But if People magazine, ex-boyfriend Robert DuPont, and “anonymous sources” are to be believed, Arquette died of complications from AIDS — an inoperable cancerous tumor and some sort of infection — at Cedars Sinai hospital, as her family played David Bowie’s “Starman.” These same “sources” reported that Arquette had been living in a West Hollywood, Calif. Actors Fund home for people with HIV, rather than with her wealthy siblings, out of a need for independence.

Here the thing about all this, and about the attendant reports debating over whether Arquette’s transition a decade ago was still relevant, whether she was misgendered by family members in death or whether she now identified as “gender suspicious” and thus open to pronouns of any sort — the thing here is that nothing about Arquette’s health or death has been confirmed by those closest to her, by her family or by her doctors, and until then we can’t say she had HIV at all. That won’t stop the tabloids though, which requires us, too, to comment.

The same can be said for Lady Chablis.

What we do know is that when we hear about transgender women dying in their 40s and 50s, and the cause isn’t violence, we know that complications from AIDS is a very real possibility. That’s because HIV disproportionately impacts transgender women, especially those, like Chablis, who are women of color. We know that the life expectancy for a a black trans woman it’s extremely low and often unlikely to be from old-age natural causes and far more likely to be violence or AIDS complications.

And, those of us in the world of HIV healthcare and activism know that for years, pneumonia and cancer have been code words for AIDS complications.

Go to the link to read the rest of that post…which also touches on the Hillary conspiracy.

This is an open thread. Please post links to whatever you like in the comments below. I just would like to end with this last bit from the very first article I discussed in this post. It phrases my thoughts and feelings:

Today, we are a little further down that road to equality thanks to pioneers like The Lady Chablis and Alexis Arquette, but our world is also a little dimmer without their light. The roles they won might seem small or stereotypical by today’s standards, but they were exceptional 20 years ago. Rest in power, Goddess Chablis and Goddess Arquette.

 

Rest in power is right…and may the glam be with you!


Lazy Saturday Reads

 animals reading1

Good Morning!!

Maybe it’s just me, but I think today must be the slowest news day yet in 2014. I’ve gathered a hodge-podge of reads for you, some that look back over the past year and some current news stories that I found interesting or humorous. So here goes . . .

Looking back, I think the biggest story of this year has been the many events that have revealed how racist the United States still is nearly a century-and-a-half after the end of the Civil War and more than a half century after the Civil Rights Movement.

In the news yesterday: Driver Destroys Mike Brown Memorial, Community Rebuilds By Morning. From Think Progress:

A memorial set up in the middle of Canfield Drive where teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in August was partially destroyed Christmas evening when a car drove through it. Neighbors and friends of Brown quickly came together to clean up the damage, rebuild the site, and call for support on social media….

Activists on the ground also reacted angrily to the Ferguson Police Department’s public relations officer, who told the Washington Post, “I don’t know that a crime has occurred,” and called Brown’s memorial “a pile of trash in the middle of the street.”

Since Brown’s death, the memorial has been a key gathering place for protests and prayers, and a receiving station for those that poured in from across the country to pay their respects and demonstrate against police brutality. Supporters also had to rebuild the memorial in September after it burned to the ground.

Also from Think Progress, photos of the some of the people who were killed by police in 2014.

silence-equals-violence-1

As you can see, most of them have black or brown skin.

Sadly, we know Brown and Garner were just one [sic] of many people who died at the hands of police this year. But a dearth of national data on fatalities caused by police makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact number of deaths. One site put the total at 1,039.

What we do know is that police-related deaths follow certain patterns. A 2012 study found that about half of those killed by the police each year are mentally ill, a problem that the Supreme Court will consider 2015. Young black men are also 21 times more likely to be killed by cops than young white men, according to one ProPublica analysis of the data we have. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also compiled data which shows that people of color are most likely to be killed by cops overall. In short, people who belong to marginalized communities are at a higher risk of being shot than those who are not.

Go to the link to see a table showing which groups are most likely to be shot by police.

Mother Jones has released its yearly list of top long reads of 2014. First on the list is The Science of Why Cops Shoot Young Black Men, by Chris Mooney. It’s about the unconscious prejudices that plague all of us. A brief excerpt:

On the one hand, overt expressions of prejudice have grown markedly less common than they were in the Archie Bunker era. We elected, and reelected, a black president. In many parts of the country, hardly anyone bats an eye at interracial relationships. Most people do not consider racial hostility acceptable. That’s why it was so shocking when Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught telling his girlfriend not to bring black people to games—and why those comments led the NBA to ban Sterling for life. And yet, the killings of Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin, and so many others remind us that we are far from a prejudice-free society.

Science offers an explanation for this paradox—albeit a very uncomfortable one. An impressive body of psychological research suggests that the men who killed Brown and Martin need not have been conscious, overt racists to do what they did (though they may have been). The same goes for the crowds that flock to support the shooter each time these tragedies become public, or the birthers whose racially tinged conspiracy theories paint President Obama as a usurper. These people who voice mind-boggling opinions while swearing they’re not racist at all—they make sense to science, because the paradigm for understanding prejudice has evolved. There “doesn’t need to be intent, doesn’t need to be desire; there could even be desire in the opposite direction,” explains University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek ….

We’re not born with racial prejudices. We may never even have been “taught” them. Rather, explains Nosek, prejudice draws on “many of the same tools that help our minds figure out what’s good and what’s bad.” In evolutionary terms, it’s efficient to quickly classify a grizzly bear as “dangerous.” The trouble comes when the brain uses similar processes to form negative views about groups of people.

But here’s the good news: Research suggests that once we understand the psychological pathways that lead to prejudice, we just might be able to train our brains to go in the opposite direction.

Read much more at the second link above. Go to the previous link to see the 13 other stories on MoJo’s list of the magazine’s best 2014 long reads.

science deniers1

Also from Mother Jones, a list of “the stupidest anti-science bullshit of 2014.” Check it out at the link.

Another “worst of” list from The Daily Beast: 2014: Revenge of the Creationists, by Carl W. Giberson.

Science denialism is alive in the United States and 2014 was yet another blockbuster year for preposterous claims from America’s flakerrati.  To celebrate the year, here are the top 10 anti-science salvos of 2014.

1) America’s leading science denialist is Ken Ham, head of the Answers in Genesis organization that built the infamous $30 million Creation Museum in Kentucky. He also put up a billboard in Times Square to raise funds for an even more ambitious Noah’s Ark Theme Park. Ham’s wacky ideas went primetime in February when he debated Bill Nye. An estimated three million viewers watched Ham claim that the earth is 10,000 years old, the Big Bang never happened, and Darwinian evolution is a hoax. His greatest howler, however—and my top anti-science salvo of 2014—would have to be his wholesale dismissal of the entire scientific enterprise as an atheistic missionary effort: “Science has been hijacked by secularists,” he claimed, who seek to indoctrinate us with “the religion of naturalism.”

2) Second only to Answers in Genesis, the Seattle based Discovery Institute continued its well-funded assault on science, most visibly through Stephen Meyer’s barnstorming tour promoting his book Darwin’s Doubt. I was a part of this tour, debating Meyer in Richmond, Virginia in April. Meyer’s bestselling book is yet another articulate repackaging of the venerable but discredited “god of the gaps” argument that goes like this: Here is something so cleverly designed that nature could not do on her own; but God could. So God must have designed this. Meyer insists, however, that his argument is not “god of the gaps” since he says only that the anonymous designer was “a designing intelligence—a conscious rational agency or a mind—of some kind” and not the familiar God of the monotheistic religious traditions. For his tireless assault on evolutionary biology and downsizing the deity to fit within science, I give Meyer second place.

Go over to TDB to read the rest of the list.

Donald Sterling and Ray Rice

Donald Sterling and Ray Rice

Also in this vein, Talking Points Memo offers a list of worst sports stories: From Donald Sterling To Ray Rice: 2014 Brought Out The Worst In Pro Sports.

The past year brought out the worst in professional sports players, owners, and fans alike, from domestic violence scandals in the NFL to the removal of racist team executives in the NBA.

Of course, shockingly bad behavior wasn’t limited to major league football and basketball alone. The most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, was just sentenced to probation for drunken driving. FIFA was enough of a mess to inspire a 13-minute Jon Oliver segment ahead of the World Cup this summer.

But even the most casual sports observer understands what’s at the center of the Washington Redskins naming controversy, or can form an opinion on whether Ray Rice should be allowed to play football again. The NFL frequently surfaced in the headlines this year for all the wrong reasons, and its domination on this list suggests the league needs to get its act together on a couple fronts.

Check out the list at the TPM link above.

gone-with-the-wind

Recently, I posted some links about the 75th anniversary of the movie Gone With The Wind and the racist attitudes it portrayed. Today Newsweek published a piece about the efforts to curtail the racism in the movie before it was filmed and released: Fixing Gone With The Wind’s ‘Negro Problem’

In the spring of 1938, Rabbi Robert Jacobs of Hoboken wrote to Rabbi Barnett Brickner, chairman of the Social Justice Commission of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, “Soon the David O. Selznick Studios of Hollywood will begin production of the play ‘Gone With The Wind.’ The book, a thrilling romance of the South, was shot through with an anti-Negro prejudice, and while it undoubtedly furnished almost half a million people in this country with many glowing hours of entertainment, it also in a measure aroused whatever anti-Negro antipathy was latent in them.”

Rabbi Brickner in turn wrote to Selznick. “In view of the situation,” he wrote, “I am taking the liberty of suggesting that you exercise the greatest care in the treatment of this theme in the production of the picture. Surely, at this time you would want to do nothing that might tend even in the slightest way to arouse anti-racial feeling. I feel confident that you will use extreme caution in the matter.”

Brickner wrote a similar letter to Walter White, Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. White also wrote to Selznick, suggesting Selznick “employ in an advisory capacity a person, preferably a Negro, who is qualified to check on possible errors of fact or interpretation.”

In his reply to White, Selznick wrote, “I hasten to assure you that as a member of a race that is suffering very keenly from persecution these days, I am most sensitive to the feelings of minority peoples.” He added, “It is definitely our intention to engage a Negro of high standing to watch the entire treatment of the Negroes, the casting of the actors for these roles, the dialect that they use, etcetera, throughout the picture.

Read the rest at the link.

At Daily Kos, David Akadjian offered a list of 21 Ayn Rand Christmas Cards–a satire, of course, but Akadjian learned that Rand actually did send out Christmas cards, despite her atheism. Here are some of her odes to a selfish Christmas.

ayn_rand_01

ayn_rand_10_zpsf17fcf50

ayn_rand_15_zps0998e992

I’ll wrap this post up with some current news stories:

USA Today: Thousands gather to honor slain officer in New York.

The Guardian: North Korea calls Obama a ‘monkey’ as it blames US for internet shutdown.

USA Today: North Korea suffers another Internet shutdown.

Seattle PI: Woman who bared breasts in Vatican square is freed.

Washington Post: Baby gorilla shunned by other gorillas to switch zoos.

Washington Post: Pakistani forces kill alleged organizer of school massacre.

The Telegraph: More than 160,000 evacuated in Malaysia’s worst ever floods.

Special for New Englanders from the Boston Globe: Will The Rest Of Winter Have Lower Than Average Snowfall?

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a stupendous Saturday!


Sunday Reads: Bridgmanite, how’s it hanging?

Let the Girl Down Gently -BAUMHOFER

Let the Girl Down Gently -BAUMHOFER

Good Morning

Don’t know about y’all but I am sick of the shitty news this past week. It is too depressing, and not in the usual way… This latest bout of “justice” has brought the feeling of hopelessness to the television screens in the form of anger, violence and disparity.

I want to say that this outrage over Ferguson is going to be the one event that will cause people to realize the real issues that this nation needs to address, that “Black Lives Matter” and that “Justice” should be blind to the color of skin…and that the “rule of law” applies to everyone, no matter “who” they are…

Remember the shitstorm after Newtown…and folks were saying, “Oh, this is the turning point…this is the massacre that will bring about change in the gun control laws.” I felt then the horrors we saw at Sandy Hook Elementary were not going to make a difference. And now, with another white man…a cop, getting away with murder of an unarmed black teen…we are seeing headlines in the news, protest on the streets, and I know that nothing is going to change.

I see the racism first hand every day. There are so many people who believe with all their “christian” souls that whites are the supreme race. Nothing will change this deeply held hatred and intolerance. Add to that the fact that it was a “law enforcement” officer who shot down and killed the (you can put the racist word of choice here) …hell, to these “good” people of the land, the police/sheriff/deputy are worshiped like heroes. (As long as they are white.)

These are the same people who put the GOP majority into Congress. They are the ones fucking with women’s rights. (You can read a summary about that here: Zandar Versus The Stupid: The War On Women, Post 2014 Midterms Edition) And they also are the voters who can sleep at night after giving power to some asshole that cuts food stamps for hungry families.(Ugh, more on that here: Less food stamps = more hunger. Duh! | Grist) What’s more, they actually agree with cuts to food stamps…cause in their moronic minds, who are the ones that receive and “abuse” food stamps? I will give you a hint, their skin is of the brown or black variety.

There is a post over at Salon that may explain the science behind the Republican mind: Why are these clowns winning? Secrets of the right-wing brain – Salon.com

But personally, I think it is because Republicans are racist. Most of the country is still very, very racist. Racist people are hateful people, and hateful people do not let up on anything….meaning they will vote for whoever is giving them the opportunity to distribute that hate on a wider audience. And nothing…I mean nothing, is going to change the way these people feel.

Now for today’s links in dump fashion…

The Earth’s most abundant mineral finally gets a name

“The discovery concludes a half century of efforts to find, identify, and characterize a natural specimen of this important mineral,” wrote the researchers, from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, CalTech and the University of Chicago, in the study.

 

bridgmanite_label.jpg__800x600_q85_crop

 

…named after Percy Bridgman, the “father of high-pressure experiments,” who won the 1946 Nobel Prize in Physics.

It will not allow me to quote from the article, so be sure to go and check it out.

In cop news, including Darren Wilson:

Darren Wilson resigns from Ferguson Police Department – NY Daily News

Photo: Police officer and young demonstrator share hug during Ferguson rally in Portland | OregonLive.com

Cops Who Shot Tamir Rice Didn’t Give First Aid — NYMag

WATCH: Denver Police Beat Man, Trip His Pregnant Girlfriend, Then Try to Delete the Evidence | Alternet

Addicting Info – Study Finds Police More Likely To Use Force Against Black Children When Officers Dehumanize Blacks

Hey, at least there was two cops on board this flight to restrain this nutcase: Masturbating Passenger Forces Emergency Landing on Virgin America Flight

I mean, we do need a police force. Just needs to be one that know what they are doing…before they do it.

But then, you all know that Here’s Proof Pigs Actually Do Fly (Almost) – ABC News

(And that article ain’t talking about cops!)

Okay, moving on…some op/eds”

In America, black children don’t get to be children – The Washington Post

Deep South justice in Ferguson – The Washington Post

This one is strange, maybe I am just off this morning: A deafening liberal silence on Ferguson | Al Jazeera America

it is by Chris Lehmann. Look at the part about Hillary at the end.

Now a few op/eds on other topics:

Where Katniss, Wonder Woman and Marvel’s new Thor come from – LA Times

Bill Cosby, UVA and Rape – NYTimes.com This one is by Nicholas Kristof, so just a heads up.

A Baby Coming Out of a Vagina Is a Vaginal Birth: There’s No Such Thing as ‘Natural’

Let’s stick with some articles on the subject of women:

Aspiring Politician Hopes Government Leaves Some Women’s Rights For Him To Gut One Day 

HullabalooDamn, she’s good…about the Notorious R.B.G. (Ruth Bader Ginsburg.)

HullabalooWhen geniuses had to be nuns

The Astonishing Rise of Angela Merkel– The New Yorker

Celebrating women’s rights heroes | Amnesty’s global human rights blog

A series of links about the First Daughters:

Republican staffer says Obama daughters are disrespectful and dress like bar sluts

Roger Ailes: Jesus Loves Me, Fuck You Hos

Congressional Aide Tells Sasha and Malia to Show a “Little Class”

And a bit of history for ya:

History of coffee: A London advertisement for coffee, chocolate, tea.

Sand Creek – Lawyers, Guns & Money  This link points out a book called Violence Over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West.”

And this link via HNN is an article written by the man who wrote the book…Remember the Sand Creek Massacre – NYTimes.com

 

What were you thankful for this Thanksgiving holiday? This Is What America Was Most Thankful for This Year, State by State

gffsmt5tyozqszbl59jj

Click picture to see larger image.

 

Funny how those folks from the south are thankful for god’s word…salvation and forgiveness. Those are the same racist intolerant hateful people I was talking about up top.

Well, it took me longer than I thought to write this post out…have a “blessed day” you muddafuddas!


Sunday Reads: Blackout, Bomb Cyclone and Arctic Blast

5182571535f63fd9c45ce4d920207a6dGood Morning

There is a huge storm in the Bering Sea, this thing has had made itself over more than Madonna…Seriously!

The storm started out as a tropical cyclone, a typhoon named Nuri.

From there it transformed and became a northern bomb cyclone when it made its way into the cold Bering Sea…and this week, it is going to drag it’s big ass down across the Country…evolving into one hell of an arctic blast.

So y’all get ready, we are going to be in for some more images like the ones you see accompanying this post today.

(Most are from the polar vortex of last winter, but they were found on Pinterest.)

 

Polar Vortex winds...

Polar Vortex winds…

 

Yeah, this storm is kicking some ass up Alaska way. Amazing Images of Storm Heading to Alaska – ABC News

 

PHOTO: The storm temperature structure within the eye wall structure region of Typhoon Nuri is seen in this image.

The storm, remnants of Nuri, which was previously categorized as a typhoon, is currently packing hurricane-force winds that reached 180 miles per hour at its peak while barreling through the Bering Sea, and parts of the islands have already sustained winds of 40 miles per hour.

The storm is expected to be far stronger than Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of the Northeast in 2012.

 

Day 310: I'm just a little fascinated by the #storm system that's moving into the Bering Sea. #weather #windmap #akwx #alaska #365 #photoaday

A photo posted by Kerynn Fisher (@kerynn) on

 

This is no ordinary storm…Alaska storm becomes strongest in Bering Sea history

 

A massive storm in the Bering Sea, off the western Alaska coast and to the east of Russia, strengthened enough to be considered the strongest storm that the turbulent region has ever seen. It may not be an official record, however, as the minimum central pressure of 924 millibars (mb) was estimated by meteorologists, since the storm is over the open ocean off the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Thermalir

The previous record-lowest sea level pressure in a Bering Sea storm was 925 mb, set in October 1977 in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. This storm also likely sets a record for the strongest storm observed in the North Pacific Ocean, although the relatively sparse data for that region makes it possible that there were some stronger systems that were missed by ships or surface observing stations.

In general, the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.

Since 5:57am ET *update* Fortunately Weather service: No damage reported in Bering Sea storm | Alaska Dispatch

 

 

f4423608dd480db03f9e37546b11dcd4And it is going to cause problems all over the US: Arctic storm: How bomb cyclone will morph into polar bomb (+video) – CSMonitor.com

The tatters of Super Typhoon Nuri battered the Bering Sea and its Aleutian Islands Saturday with historic winds and rains, as the rest of the US braced for the moment when the so-called bomb cyclone transmogrifies into something more like a polar bomb.

Snow could start falling in Montana and the Great Lakes as early as Wednesday, and New York could easily face temperatures 15 degrees below normal by next weekend as Nuri, now downgraded to a mid-latitude storm, forces a heavy wedge of Arctic air deep into the middle of the country and then across the South and East next week.

c8335c947083d17b74d9c30e2c34ccaf“This strong low pressure system will cause the jet stream to buckle, creating a ridge in the western United States and solidifying a deep trough in the Eastern US,” writes McCall Vrydaghs, a meteorologist for WHIO TV in Dayton, Ohio, predicting highs rising only into the low 30s for many parts of the country. “Keep in mind, if this same weather pattern were to set-up during the heart of winter, we would be looking at temperatures far lower.”

I think you will find this interesting…

ee5d0f968ba091dadc2f37517013817bThe Farmer’s Almanac has called for an early and cold winter for large parts of the country, but research into another early and thick Siberian snowpack suggests that the winter may hang on, as well, deep into next year.

“There’s a theory that the amount of snow covering Eurasia in October is an indication of how much icy air will sweep down from the Arctic in December and January, pouring over parts of North America, Europe and East Asia,” writes Bloomberg’s Brian Sullivan. “Last year, the snow level across Eurasia was the fourth highest for the month in records going back to 1967. In January, frigid temperatures dubbed ‘the polar vortex’ slid out of the Arctic to freeze large portions of the U.S.”

The storm that remained from Typhoon Nuri on Friday had a central pressure of 924 millibars, according to the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center, making it the most intense storm ever in the wind-whipped Bering Sea.

8aca9c18f251be31dbcbc96670f32fdaIn 1977, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, recorded the previous low pressure of 925 millibars during another real howler.

A “bomb” as a meteorological term is a drop in a storm’s central pressure of more than 24 millibars in 24 hours. What remains of Nuri is expected to drop as much as 50 millibars in 24 hours – arguably a “double bomb.” It’s that intense low pressure that’s going to buckle the jet stream as ex-Nuri bulldozes across the Bering Sea.

Let’s move on from Cold Arctic Blast to a new Cold War.

Can you believe it has been 25 years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall?

Seems like yesterday doesn’t it?

50 Things Only ’80s Kids Can Understand

40. The excitement in the air the day the Berlin Wall came down.

e3da676f87dc06eddf2e086f761fb2bb

Fuck! I think this deserves higher than number 40….but the fact that it was even included in this list from Buzzfeed (compared to some of the other items, like say #’s 1 and 7.)

Postcard from Berlin. A woman hiding her Deutsch Marks at Checkpoint Charlie on July 11, 1948.

Postcard from Berlin. A woman hiding her Deutsch Marks at Checkpoint Charlie on July 11, 1948.

Just that the Fall of the Berlin Wall is part of my ’80’s kid culture and history makes me so damn proud.It was a time when we could breathe easier…y’all know what I am talking about.

I do think it was something good that came out of the Reagan era. (I have to admit, I did like Gorbachev better than Reagan. But that was because even back when I was 10 years old during the 1980 Presidential campaign,  I knew Reagan would screwed Carter with that shitty display/take credit for the agreement/whatever to release the Iran Hostages.)

But anyway….back to the issue at hand. The Wall!

Remembering the Berlin Wall – Photos – The Big Picture – Boston.com

1961, Conrad Schumann became one of the most famous defectors from East Germany. Schumann was a 19 year old soldier on duty guarding the construction of the Berlin Wall.

1961, Conrad Schumann became one of the most famous defectors from East Germany. Schumann was a 19 year old soldier on duty guarding the construction of the Berlin Wall.

In 1961, East Germany erected a wall — initially barbed wire, eventually concrete — in the middle of Berlin to prevent its citizens from fleeing the communist country to West Germany during the height of the Cold War.

It has been reported that 136 people died while trying to escape, but the total number is unknown.

The wall finally came down at the beginning of November in 1989, part of the reunification of East and West Germany.

Here are images from this past weekend’s recognition of the construction of the wall 50 years ago, as well as historic images.

 

 

There are 30 photos at that link…

More images here:

The Berlin Wall – Don McCullin’s Lost Negatives – LightBox

Most people can still remember scenes from the wild days and nights of November 1989, when after decades of division, jubilant Germans tore down the Berlin Wall. But fewer can recall how the city looked in the weeks when the wall went up. The bleak undertaking began 50 years ago this month, on Aug. 13, 1961.

In the 12 years before the wall was built, some 2.5 million people fled East Germany to the West, most of them through the divided city of Berlin. The concrete-and-barbed-wire barrier, which eventually stretched 27 miles, separated the Soviet-controlled eastern half of the city from the western sectors administered by Britain, France and the U.S. At least 136 people were killed while trying to cross the border illegally.

One of the people who were there during the grim construction was British photojournalist Don McCullin

89abc9831c6c5707d1f49e44476ee95d

“It could almost have been as if I had wandered into Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin. I met up with the correspondent but we didn’t work together. In the evenings we’d meet and I’d tell him what I’d photographed. I went straight down to Friedrichstrasse and started working with my Rolleicord of course, I was sitting on the biggest story in the world. I saw the East Germans drilling the foundations and building the Wall breeze block by breeze block.

The Americans were facing the East Germans across Friedrichstrasse and there was enormous tension. In places, Berlin looked like the war had finished just the day before. It was turning into the Berlin that John Le Carré was to describe. I watched the international photographers pass through. I was in awe of these professionals. I was like a little camera-club person from north London working with the camera my mother had retrieved from a pawnshop. But fate was waving some magic wand, directing me. It was so exciting. I felt I was in the right place at the right time, I had an almost magnetic emotional sense of direction pulling me to extraordinary places.”

These never before published photographs, made from negatives that were lost for decades, are a powerful record of the disbelieving Germans, witnesses to a wound being opened in world affairs that would take almost 30 years to close.

 

More images…The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall – Photo Essays – TIME

 

Now, as you look at these pictures, read this article from 2009…then continue on to the articles about the “new cold war.”

From June 30, 2009:  Almost 20% of eastern Germans wish the Berlin Wall never fell and preferred living under Communism | Daily Mail Online

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, nearly one out of five eastern Germans wish it had never come down and preferred living under a communist regime.

According to a poll by the Institute for Market Research in Leipzig, 17 per cent of people in the ex-Communist east agreed with the statement: ‘It would have been better if the Wall had never fallen.’

‘In hindsight, the GDR with its socialism was a better state,’ the respondents also said, referring to the former communist regime.

East German guards look on as people from both sides begin hammering away at the Berlin Wall in 1989

Celebrations: East German guards look on as people from both sides begin hammering away at the Berlin Wall in 1989. A poll found that one in five eastern Germans wish it had never fallen

In addition, over half of easterners (52 per cent) said they felt like ‘second-class German citizens’ compared to 41 per cent who felt they were treated equally.

Despite this, 72 per cent of people said they were ‘happy to live in the reunified Germany with its social market economy despite all problems there have been rebuilding the east’.

The poll surveyed 1,001 people in the former East Germany as well as in East Berlin.

East German border guards look through a hole in the Berlin Wall after demonstrators pulled down the segment at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Slice of history: East German border guards look through a hole in the Berlin Wall after demonstrators pulled down the segment at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

a7755d14c25f509000b89d2b03a3caf5On the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Gorbachev says world is on brink of new Cold War | Reuters

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned in a speech in Berlin on Saturday that East-West tensions over the Ukraine crisis were threatening to push the world into a new Cold War, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Gorbachev, who is credited with forging a rapprochement with the West that led to the demise of communist regimes across Eastern Europe, accused the West, and the United States in particular, of not fulfilling their promises after 1989.

“The world is on the brink of a new Cold War. Some say that it has already begun,” said Gorbachev, who is feted in Germany for his pivotal role in helping create the conditions for the Berlin Wall’s peaceful opening on Nov. 9, 1989, heralding the end of the Cold War.7fadf0ffb943814e4c0f6bd73d36e01b

“And yet, while the situation is dramatic, we do not see the main international body, the U.N. Security Council, playing any role or taking any concrete action.”

Gorbachev warns of new cold war threat as Berlin marks fall of wall | World news | The Guardian

As Berliners watch 8,000 balloons being released into the night sky this evening, old divisions between east and west will symbolically vanish into thin air with them. Yet the runup to the festivities has already served up plenty of reminders that, 25 years after the fall of the wall that divided the city for three decades, the scars of history are hurting more than ever.

0e6b64302a4fc3d47258f093dc8a85b5Speaking at a symposium near the Brandenburg Gate yesterday morning, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev warned that the world was “on the brink of a new cold war” and strongly criticised the west for having sown the seeds of the current crisis by mishandling the fallout from the collapse of the iron curtain.

“Instead of building new mechanisms and institutions of European security and pursuing a major demilitarisation of European politics … the west, and particularly the United States, declared victory in the cold war,” said the man behind the Soviet Union’s glasnost and perestroika reforms.

“Euphoria and triumphalism went to the heads of western leaders. Taking advantage of Russia’s weakening and the lack of a counterweight, they claimed monopoly leadership and domination in the world.”

The enlargement of Nato, Kosovo, missile defence plans and wars in the Middle East had led to a “collapse of trust”, said Gorbachev, now 83. “To put it metaphorically, a blister has now turned into a bloody, festering wound.”

712784f82e99c13c970f13624ea2a06aAnd even though Gorbachev has been outspoken against Putin before…

… Gorbachev backed the current Russian president’s stance over Ukraine, urging western leaders to “consider carefully” Putin’s recent remarks at the Valdai forum : “Despite the harshness of his criticism of the west, and of the United States in particular, I see in his speech a desire to find a way to lower tensions and ultimately to build a new basis for partnership.”

Such strong words of criticism, voiced by the man still affectionately known as “Gorbi” to many in Germany, came at the end of a week which has seen the value of the rouble tumbling dramatically as a result of western sanctions.

“Gorbi” gave an interview to CNN: Gorbachev: World leaders must work together – CNN.com

49bac25a3987cd19d51b8d9170de8d28Speaking to CNN in Berlin, where he is attending anniversary celebrations, Gorbachev called for efforts to rebuild trust between East and West and for leaders to again work together for the common good.

“A lot depends on America, Europe, Russia — they have to work together more productively,” he said.

“We have to reestablish the cooperation and the trust that has been destroyed. We must start by dialogue — we must meet and not just talk past each other.”

Well, another group of people who are refusing to come together…have a dialogue and work something out…are the chief assholes at Dish Network and the folks at Turner.

Check this latest shitfest out…Turner (CNN) /Dish Network dispute heats up | Radio and TV Talk

CNN for decades has been considered a “must carry” network on cable and satellite carriers since the 1980s.

60efe72c856dfb7ed3785d4bf5366b3eTo Dish Network, that isn’t the case anymore. For the past two weeks, its 14 million subscribers (13 percent of CNN’s audience) hasn’t been able to watch the network, including Election night, when CNN usually pulls in big numbers. Seven other Turner networks, including Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and TruTV, are cut off as well because the two sides have not agreed to a deal. (Turner’s more popular TNT and TBS channels are part of a separate deal.)

“When we take something down, we’re prepared to leave it down forever,” Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen said during an earnings call yesterday using unusually sharp words. “Things like CNN are not quite the product they used to be.”

He then mocked their Malaysian plane coverage; “Twenty years ago, CNN was a must-have channel, but it’s not a top 10 network anymore … unless they find the plane, the Malaysian plane,” Ergen added.

339981dbe72880fcafb35992cd35f623Typically, a cable or satellite provider pays certain fees to air cable networks. There are also issues now related to airing those networks in the digital space.

 

Okay, I will not take any points with the criticisms on CNN, y’all know my beef is with the blackout of TCM. But the thing that gets me is this little nugget of info, emphasis mine:

Turner responded: “We are disappointed in the aggressive nature of comments from the Dish Network, particularly given the fact that Dish agreed to our rates and carriage proposal weeks ago….While there were clearly deal points to get done, they were not the type you would usually go dark over. So it is still unclear to us exactly what this dispute is about.

 

a885529065303f691cdd8d82dc55ca1dExcuse me? WTF? The bastards at Dish agreed to the terms already? But then poof, pffft….something happened and Dish fucks their customers by blacking out channels that those customers are STILL PAYING FOR!

Sorry, I am pissed and I can’t help the yelling.

What’s more: Dish and Turner Get Heated in Earnings Calls | Media – Advertising Age

Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen was vocal about the satellite giant’s on-going carriage dispute with Turner Broadcasting during the company’s earnings call on Tuesday, saying he is prepared to keep the channels off the service permanently and slamming the performance of channels like CNN.

“When we do take something down, as a company, we’re prepared to leave it down forever,” he said.

Ergen…are you threatening me?

Cause that is what that sounds like…you are talking about the only reason I have your shitty ass service to begin with!

95923850acb18418ff5f487bd3576138Turner Broadcasting fires back at Dish Network – LA Times

Dish’s removal of the Turner channels was perplexing, Martin said. Dish had all but agreed several weeks ago on a new deal — including fee increases — to carry the Turner channels, he said.

Martin said his company, during negotiations, had been agreeable to allowing Dish to package Turner channels in an Internet streaming service that Dish plans to launch by year’s end.

Now, however, such an arrangement is in doubt.

While there were some loose ends with the contract, Turner executives were under the impression the unresolved issues were not major sticking points.

“To us, it is unclear exactly what the dispute with Dish is,” Martin said.

30e9c9d824814c109ac029321e90ceb9Other major pay-TV companies had agreed to the same contract terms that Dish walked away from last month, Martin said.

Turner executives were particularly bewildered, Martin said, because Dish executives told them the channels were removed because Turner wouldn’t agree to extend the deadline for negotiations on a second contract.

That contract, which expires at the end of the year, covers the carriage of Turner’s largest channels TNT and TBS.

The dispute is not inconsequential.  Dish has more than 14 million subscribers, making it one of the largest pay-TV providers in the country.

Wall Street analysts expressed concern the two sides may not be able to resolve their dispute.

Time Warner executives sought to calm investors.

“We still expect we’ll reach a deal,” Howard M. Averill, the company’s chief financial officer said. “We don’t expect this [dispute] is going to impact our long-term guidance.”

Investors? Again I ask, what about the CUSTOMERS!

de98712b372be1f29d90b8d64d7ffe21Variety did note however, regarding those responses by Turner Broadcasting: Turner CEO Calls Dish’s Charlie Ergen ‘Antagonistic and Aggressive’ | Variety

Martin’s comments came after parent company Time Warner reported higher than projected third quarter earnings.

Deadline has the full comments made by the Asshole in Charge, Chairman Charlie Ergen here: Dish Network’s Charlie Ergen Calls Loss Of CNN And Turner Nets A “Non-Event” | Deadline

One more insight about this: Dish Chairman Talks Turner Split, Blasts Comcast-Time Warner Merger – TheWrap

Ergen also took aim at the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner, saying that he’s “openly against” the two companies combining.

[…]

Even so, noting that Turner was an early partner with Dish, Ergen added, “I would bend over backwards for Turner, because they helped us get into” the business.

Discussing the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger, Ergen struck a far less conciliatory tone, saying that the merger would create an unhealthy amount of control in the hands of a single entity.

“You just don’t want one company to have that kind of power over the internet,” Ergen said. “That’s certainly something that would keep us up at night.”

1d7a4c7690f5f261c0b06c0a40dcfe32I don’t know…but perhaps this blackout is all about a temper tantrum over the merger? Fuck you Ergen, you know what should be keeping you up at night? The big screw over you are giving your paying customers!

For those of you who are new to the blog, and came here looking for information about the Dish Network/Turner Classic Movies blackout…you can find more links about the dispute here:

 

DISH Threatens to Blackout TCM + Turner Networks “Forever” | cinematically insane

Ergen’s “one channel is interchangeable with another” worldview was demonstrated within hours of the blackout when DISH began swapping out Turner networks for replacements with similar programming. TCM with replaced with FXM, formerly the Fox Movie Channel, an advertiser-supported network that programs recent film releases during half its programing day. Not long after I wrote an article condemning DISH for this bait-and-switch, the satcaster began simulcasting MGM HD in TCM’s stead. MGM, which also carries ads, may be a more appropriate substitute than FXM, but it still pales in comparison to TCM’s 24 hours per-day of commercial-free classics.

slide_331920_3300262_freeOh yeah, you got that right Willie!

With an average subscriber fee of $1.33 (second only to ESPN), the loss of TNT alone from 14.1 million homes would have a impact on Turner’s bottom line, both in affiliate fees and ad revenue. When you add TBS and the other Turner networks, the stakes increase. To put the current dispute in perspective, all eight of the currently blacked-out channels on DISH (excluding TNT and TBS) cost subscribers on average $1.57 per month combined, which equates to only pennies per month, per subscriber for TCM. Think about that the next time you pay a gigantic cable bill strictly because you want to keep watching TCM.

Lost in the gamesmanship and focus on the bottom line is the importance TCM plays in the lives of many of its viewers – this one included. Ergen may dismiss it as “easy to take down” and replaceable with other channels, but reader feedback I’ve received tells a very different story.

a98847_BdY-KIGIUAAG8-KGo and check out Will McKinley’s blog to read the comments. Y’all know what my state of depression has gotten down too…without TCM I am lost.

Update: Dish CEO’s “Antagonistic” Comments Damage Negotiations with Turner | cinematically insane

 

And for other links on this story…hitting MSM:

Time Warner Executives Say It Is “Unclear” What Dish Dispute Is About-Hollywood Reporter

a98847_BdUo7XXCMAAOTkA2CNN Parent Company Not Pleased With Dish’s Veiled Threats To Permanently Pull Channels – Consumerist

Time Warner Strikes Back at Dish as Channels Stay Dark – Bloomberg

Dish Pulls CNN, Doesn’t Think Customers Still Paying For It Are Missing Much | Techdirt

But hey…if you think your other channels are safe, think again…Cause according to this: Dish far apart on contract as deadline nears-source | Reuters CBS is next on the chopping block.

CBS Corp and Dish Network Corp are far apart on talks for a new distribution deal, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations, setting up the possibility that the satellite provider’s subscribers could lose access to the most-watched U.S. TV network next month.

a98847_tHOo4gOThe current agreement, signed on January 5, 2012, is set to expire in late November, according to the person. The two sides continue to talk.

CBS and Dish are at odds over the monthly price per subscriber the satellite operator, which has 14 million subscribers, would pay to carry CBS.

According to media consultant SNL Kagan, CBS’s TV stations were averaging 54 cents per subscriber from TV distributors when the Dish deal was signed in 2012. CBS currently averages 89 cents but recent deals have been richer, according to SNL senior research analyst Justin Nielson.

The standoff comes as cable, satellite and telecom video distributors increasingly are playing hard ball with program providers, resisting demands for steep price increases at a time when viewers are being drawn to Netflix and other forms of entertainment.

It is enough to make me want to put up a wall around the TCM headquarters/archives and set up a little commune for all of the Dish’s TCM refugees….

We could turn it into our own little classic movie city…

Who is ready to join me?

Y’all keep up with the weather conditions in your area this coming week!

 


Sunday Reads: A Morbidity Play for the Masses

belle4Good Morning

Oh, isn’t it spectacular that my internet is working? In fact, it has been functioning long enough for me to work on uploading some photos for a thread I have been planning since Robin Williams committed suicide.

The title and that first paragraph should give you all a hint, this post will center on suicide…not entirely, but as you read through it you will see photographs of classic movie stars who committed suicide. Click on the picture to open a link to their Wikipedia biography page for more information on their life..and death. Some are truly fascinating and terrible sad to read about.

Take Alan Ladd for instance, Where Danger Lives: Just Shy of Respect: The Hollywood Life and Death of Alan Ladd

Most people believe Alan Ladd committed suicide, but the details surrounding his death are so convoluted no one can be sure what really happened. History is often guilty of erring on the side of sensationalism — but in Ladd’s case suicide is the logical assumption.

Alan Ladd, Blue Dahlia

Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, Blue Dahlia

In 1962 he was found lying half-dead in a pool of blood with a bullet lodged in his chest. The newspapers bought into the story of an accident, but everyone who knew him believed it was a botched suicide attempt. It really doesn’t matter whether his January 1964 death was intentional or not; Ladd’s life had been in a downward spiral for years — some could say from the moment he broke into the movie business — and it was apparent that he was hell-bent on digging an early grave.

This is a very good article so be sure to read the whole thing…but for now I will skip to the end of Ladd.

On January 29, 1964, eight weeks prior to the release of The Carpetbaggers, Ladd’s butler discovered his body in his Palm Springs bedroom. Having mixed liquor and sleeping pills one time too many, his body finally failed. It’s easy to believe he killed himself, but whether he chose to end his life that night or not, the more important truth is that some people are simply not blessed with happiness, despite fame and fortune, and try as they might their pain is such that it eventually overwhelms them. Nobody in Hollywood was surprised to learn that Alan Ladd was dead.

Everett Sloane

Everett Sloane

You can read many more names of actors and actresses who took their lives here:

Category:  Male actors who committed suicide – Wikipedia

Category:  Actresses who committed suicide – Wikipedia

First up, a new study on suicide.

WHO report maps global suicide problem for the first time

One person takes their own life every 40 seconds, equating to 803,900 deaths across the world every year, according to the first World Health Organization report on suicide prevention released today. “Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative” calls for co-ordinated action to reduce suicide worldwide.

Charles Boyer

Charles Boyer

Diego De Leo, director of the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University, who was involved in the preparation of the report, said there had not been any previous reports because suicide was an example of negative behaviour rather than a disease, so it did not fall within the jurisdiction of an international entity.

“But this is a fundamental step before we can begin on worldwide suicide prevention,” he said.

It is good that a base report of this magnitude has finally been done, read the rest of this story at the link because it has a lot of information and graphs…it is just too much to quote.

paul hurst

paul hurst

Alright now, back to things less depressing. How about a couple of links on classic film, be sure to check out Fridays on TCM: Friday Night Spotlight – Classic Pre-Code

Pre-Code Hollywood is generally considered to be the era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound in the late 1920s and the strict enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code beginning in the mid-1930s. Films of this period included unflinching portrayals of such subject matter as sexuality, prostitution, illegal drug use, abortion and extreme violence. Without the interference of censors, law-breakers in the movies were often allowed to profit from their schemes, and fallen women became the heroines of many films. Gangster films were popular, and their protagonists were viewed with some sympathy despite their law-breaking ways.

paul-hurst-411295lIn a continuation of its popular “Friday Night Spotlight” franchise, TCM shines a light on this free-wheeling cinematic period, presenting a weekly 24-hour festival of pre-Code movies. Each Friday in September, Alec Baldwin and TCM host Robert Osborne will introduce the films airing in primetime. The collection, which includes a total of 67 movies, covers a wide range of genres and represents the output of all the major Hollywood studios of the era.

Some very good flicks are coming up in the next few weeks. Don’t miss them.

A few you should see are discussed in this blog post from Movie Morelocks: moviemorlocks.com – Navigating the Moral Waters of the Crime Film

Ever rooted for the bad guy?  Of course you have, we all have.  Many times the bad guy is more interesting, more exciting, and much more charismatic.  To take two obvious examples, Batman is brooding and Superman is upstanding but neither is terribly interesting while their nemeses, the Joker and

Elizabeth Hartman

Elizabeth Hartman

Lex Luthor, are a hoot and despite their clearly psychotic natures,  fun to watch.   The movies picked up on this long before comic books even came into existence and once the sound era began, making criminals the star of the show became even more apparent.  In the course of a little over a year, moviegoers were treated to Little Caesar, Public Enemy, and Scarface, all putting the bad guys front and center as the stars of the movie.  And all tried their damnedest to convince moviegoers that while they were the stars, their actions were wrong.  As time went on, and the production code waned, the movies could be a little more honest about why they were making crime movies:  Because they’re exciting and fun even if we know they present a romanticized view calibrated precisely for our enjoyment.

Barbara Bates

Barbara Bates

If we weren’t enjoying those wiseguys and goodfellas, maybe we were taking note of the puppies? How the films you’ve seen influence your choice of dog

Did watching 101 Dalmatians instill you with a burning desire to fill your home with dozens of monochrome puppies? A new study suggests that may often be the case. The research suggests that all those great canine characters in films have been a prominent influence on the popularity of a breed among dog owners.

The impact of 29 films released in the United States was examined, each featuring a different dog breed. Classics such as The Wizard of Oz (1939), Lady and the Tramp (1955), The Fox and the Hound (1981) and Beethoven (1992) were all judged to have influenced people’s choice of dogs. The study traces the popularity of the featured breeds for up to ten years after the film’s release.

Ona Munson (1939)

Ona Munson (1939)

The authors used the records of the American Kennel Club, which has been recording the numbers of registration for each dog breed since 1927, and keeps the largest such dog registry in the world. Looking at the effect of films released between 1927 and 2005, the study shows that the number of registrations of a particular breed rose significantly following the release of a film in which the breed had been featured.

[…]

The films analysed covered quite a spread of breeds. Other factors you might assume come into play when choosing a dog, such as temperament or health, seemed not to affect the scale of these trends. Alberto Acerbi, one of the authors of the study and Newton Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol, said: “It seems to be pure fashion.”

Luigi Pistilli

Luigi Pistilli

A connection between the number of film views in the first weekend after its release and the rise in the popularity of the dog breed featured was observed. The study shows that earlier films generally created more widespread trends than the more recent films. The authors conjecture that this could be linked to the rise of home video, as well as the increase in the number of films released featuring dogs each year.

More at the link, including a big infographic.

Ah, enough of movies, how about life in the real world?

ca. 1960s --- Actress Capucine --- Image by © John Springer

ca. 1960s — Actress Capucine — Image by © John Springer

Over in Europe, the Premier League stars to wear rainbow laces in anti-homophobia campaign

More than 100,000 pairs of coloured laces distributed as part of Stonewall campaign to raise awareness of discrimination

The QPR midfielder Joey Barton, Arsenal captain Mikel Arteta, and the newly capped England midfielder Fabian Delph will join other Premier League players in wearing laces in the rainbow colours of the gay pride flag this weekend in a bid to stamp out homophobia in football.

Celebrities and former professionals, including former England striker Michael Owen, and the ex-Germany and Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger – who announced he was gay after retiring from playing last year – will also wear rainbow laces for the anti-discrimination campaign by the pressure group Stonewall.

[…]

James Taylor from Stonewall said: “This weekend football players and clubs up and down the country are lacing up to show their support for kicking homophobia out of football.

David Rappaport

David Rappaport

“We’re delighted to have the support of Arsenal, Manchester City, the backing of the Premier League, the FA and many others this weekend to help raise awareness of homophobia in football and the need to tackle it.”

Good for them!

The post is getting long and it is getting way to late (3:15am) for me. So the rest of today’s links will be in dump format.

Jean Seberg

Jean Seberg

This is one story I think is getting lost in the shuffle: Despite Obama’s Pledge to Curb It, NSA Mass Surveillance Wins Rubber Stamp – NationalJournal.com

A further look at the horrible sex abuse in Rotherham, England:  ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES: The Rotherham Report On Child Sexual Exploitation. My Analysis.

Jay Fox at Salon asks: Can corporations go to hell? An existential quandary for the Supreme Court – Salon.com

Last week, Jaws actor from Bond films Richard Kiel dies at 74 – Latest News – JamaicaObserver.com

In this October, 2007 file photo, actor Roger Moore (right) who played the part of James Bond 007 in seven films, poses with actor Richard Kiel who played the role of Jaws in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ during a ceremony honouring Moore with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (Photo:AP)

FRESNO, California (AP) — Richard Kiel, the towering actor best known for portraying steel-toothed villain Jaws in a pair of James Bond films, has died. He was 74.

Herve Villechaize

Herve Villechaize

Kelley Sanchez, director of communications at Saint Agnes Medical Centre, confirmed Wednesday that Kiel was a patient at the hospital and died. Kiel’s agent, Steven Stevens, also confirmed his death. Both declined to provide further details.

The 7-foot-2-inch performer famously played the cable-chomping henchman who tussled with Roger Moore’s Bond in 1977’s ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ and 1979’s ‘Moonraker’. Bond quipped of the silent baddie: “His name’s Jaws. He kills people.”

When we were kids my brother used to call “Jaws” … “Teeth”… and would laugh at my braces and say that I looked like him.

Most birds can’t taste sugar – here’s why the hummingbird can

Chickens are not fussy eaters. Any object resembling food is worth an exploratory peck. But give a chicken the choice between sugary sweets and seeds, and they will pick the grains every time. This is odd. Many animals, including our own sugar-mad species, salivate for sugar because it is the flavour of foods rich in energy. New research suggests

Clara Blandick (June 4, 1880 – April 15, 1962) was an American stage and screen actress, best known for her role as Aunt Em, the wife of Uncle Henry, in MGM's The Wizard of Oz.

Clara Blandick (June 4, 1880 – April 15, 1962) was an American stage and screen actress, best known for her role as Aunt Em, the wife of Uncle Henry, in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz.

that many birds’ lack of interest in sugar is down to genes inherited from their dinosaur ancestors.

Most vertebrates experience because they possess a family of genes called T1Rs. The pairing of T1R1 and T1R3 detects amino acids and gives rise to the savoury “umami” taste, and the T1R2-T1R3 pair detects sugars and gives us our sweet tooth.

Maude Baldwin, a postgraduate student at Harvard University, searched the genomes of ten species of birds from chickens to flycatchers. She found that insectivorous and grain-eating birds possess the gene pair that detects the amino acids present in insects and seeds, but none had the T1R2 gene responsible for the ability to taste sugar. These modern birds evolved from carnivorous theropod dinosaurs whose diets were rich in proteins and amino acids, but lacked sugar. So Baldwin reasoned that without a need to detect sweetness, ancient birds lost their T1R2 gene.

Bing Crosby lost two of his sons to suicide...Dennis and Lindsay. Photo from the television program I've Got a Secret. From left: Garry Moore, Lindsay Crosby, Betsy Palmer, Phillip Crosby, Dennis Crosby.

Bing Crosby lost two of his sons to suicide…Dennis and Lindsay. Photo from the television program I’ve Got a Secret. From left: Garry Moore, Lindsay Crosby, Betsy Palmer, Phillip Crosby, Dennis Crosby.

Hummingbirds appear to have bucked the trend. Every day they consume more than their own body weight in nectar. They can taste the difference between water and a sugar solution within a quarter of a second. And they also like the flavour of non-sugary artificial sweeteners like erythritol and sorbitol. How is this possible if they have no gene for sweet taste?

Go to the link to get the answer to the question. I don’t know about the sweet taste, but down in Florida there were these insects, nasty little fuckers (literally) called Love Bugs. They are black with red eyes and spend all their lives flying around  mating. The birds don’t eat them because, as my Nano used to say…they taste bad. I don’t remember frogs or lizards eating them either.

Another science link: A big chunk of the Sierra Nevada caught fracturing on video | Ars Technica

One more rocky story…New study reconstructs mega-earthquakes timeline in Indian Ocean

George Sanders

George Sanders

How about a spooky story, Are you brave enough to look into Timothy Clark Smiths grave with a window?

Or a kick ass medical science one: Baltimore girl with Type 1 diabetes tests bionic pancreas at camp – baltimoresun.com

Boston Boomer had a couple of links this week, one about swimming dinosaurs and the other about the culture of women in video game development. I will end this post with my own contribution to those same topics.

First, this big…and I am talking big, discovery: Newly discovered dinosaur, Dreadnoughtus, takes title of largest terrestrial animal – The Washington Post

Walter Slezak

Walter Slezak

Scientists have discovered the fossilized remains of a new long-necked, long-tailed dinosaur that has taken the crown for largest terrestrial animal with a body mass that can be accurately determined.

Measurements of bones from its hind leg and foreleg revealed that the animal was 65 tons, and still growing when it died in the Patagonian hills of Argentina about 77 million years ago.

“To put this in perspective, an African elephant is about five tons, T. rex is eight tons, Diplodocus is 18 tons, and a Boeing 737 is around 50 tons,” said study author and paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara at Drexel University. “And then you have Dreadnoughtus at 65 tons.”

Press-Size-ComparisonTons-1024x962

Dreadnoughtus, meaning “fears nothing,” is named after the impervious early 20th century battleships. Although it was a plant-eater, a healthy Dreadnoughtus likely had no real issues with predators due to its intimidating size and muscular, weaponized tail.

Damn, the ass on that thing is almost as big as mine!

Lupe Vélez and Gary Cooper in The Wolf Song (1929)

Lupe Vélez and Gary Cooper in The Wolf Song (1929)

As for the gaming women in a mans world, you are going to love this: Teens Invent ‘Tampon Run’ Game to De-Stigmatize Periods

“The taboo that surrounds [periods] teaches women that a normal and natural bodily function is embarrassing and crude.” That’s the message two teenagers want to send with their new video game, Tampon Run.

As seen on Fast Co. Exist, the video game invented by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser grew out of their involvement with a Girls Who Code summer program. The gameplay is simple enough, according to the instructions:

“Hit all the enemies with your tampons. Don’t let them pass you. They’ll confiscate your tampons [like the Texas State Troopers during a reproductive rights demonstration]. Collect tampon boxes for more tampons. Don’t run out of tampons or it’s GAME OVER.”

But the message behind the game is a little more complex. The two young developers wanted to find a way to make having your period seem less humiliating and more normalized

ygovewcsglgxs1aodmjr

t0ao1fwghcflezb4xbm8

Check out more at the link and play the game here: TamponRun.com

That’s all folks…I will be gone all day, on a mall trip to Atlanta. Yay! So hopefully there will be no problems with the formatting on the post. Have a happy day, and post some thoughts in the comments below.

Here is a gallery of all the pictures, some of them I did not post in the thread above…just too many!


Thursday Reads

War, Pablo Picasso

War, Pablo Picasso

Good Morning!!

Here are are on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the never-ending war in the Middle East continues onward. Last night President Obama promised not to send ground troops back to Iraq or into Syria, but it’s very difficult to trust that promise, even though I do think Obama is sincere in his wish to keep the battle against the Islamic State extremists circumscribed.

 

Reactions to Obama’s speech

From The Washington Post, Countering Islamic State will be hard in Iraq and harder in Syria, officials say.

President Obama’s strategy to beat back Islamic State militants spread across Iraq and Syria will depend on far more than U.S. bombs and missiles hitting their intended targets.

In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years. Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces.

“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.

But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.

All that “makes Iraq seem easy,” the general said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share views on policy. “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

The Wall Street Journal, Obama Pushes U.S. Deeper Into Middle East to Fight Islamic State.

In asking Americans to support another military incursion in the Middle East, Mr. Obama said his strategy to combat Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, would be bolstered by a coalition of Arab and European nations. His plan builds on his authorization in August of airstrikes in Iraq to protect American personnel threatened by Islamic State and to provide humanitarian assistance to besieged Iraqis.

Mr. Obama said the U.S. goal now is to help Iraqis reclaim large swaths of territory the group has rapidly overtaken in recent months since spilling over from its stronghold in neighboring Syria. His speech paves the way for the first U.S. strikes at the group’s bases and havens in Syria.

“America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Mr. Obama said in remarks from the White House. “I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

The president gave no timetable for the new, U.S.-led fight against what he described as “a terrorist organization” with members “unique in their brutality.”

In addition to launching airstrikes against the militants in Syria, Mr. Obama pledged a new dose of support for moderate Syrian fighters also battling the extremist group. Taken together, the steps draw the U.S. closer toward the volatile Syrian civil war and open a new front for American efforts in the region.

Saudi Arabia has offered to host a U.S.-run training facility for moderate Syrian rebels, U.S. and Arab officials said. The facility is expected to be able to handle as many as 10,000 fighters, but details are still being worked out, the officials said.

According to the article, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are on board with the plan. That gives me the creeps, frankly.

Guernica 2: Hommage to Picasso's Guernica, Jose Garcia y Mas

Guernica 2: Hommage to Picasso’s Guernica, Jose Garcia y Mas

Geoff Dyer at The Financial Times, Obama’s bold ambition at odds with strategic caution.

Faced with the rapid advances of Isis in both Iraq and Syria, the approach described by Mr Obama attempts to meet the political realities that the president faces, both in the Middle East and at home.

In spite of the technological superiority of US forces, Mr Obama believes a durable military victory against Isis can only be achieved by soldiers from the region, especially Sunni forces from the areas to which Isis is laying claim. Otherwise a similar group could reappear once the US has left.

At the same time, it gives him some political protection at home. Recent polls have shown that Americans are alarmed about Isis after the filmed beheadings of two US citizens, but that does not mean they will support another long ground war that leads to hundreds more US casualties.

Yet the problem with Mr Obama’s latest strategy is that it risks being a series of half-measures that establish incredibly ambitious goals while lacking the means to achieve them.

 

It’s an interesting article. It spells out my fear that this campaign against ISIL is going to expand more and more–just like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

A couple more interesting stories to check out:

Imran Kahn at Aljazira, Iraq and the Obama plan: Officials and experts broadly welcome US president’s plan to destroy the Islamic State group, but with crucial caveats.

Ian Black at The Guardian, Obama puts Isis firmly in US sights but peace in Syria looks harder than before.

 

Violence Against Women News

From Picasso's War, a commentary on race hatred

From Picasso’s War, a commentary on race hatred

I haven’t followed the trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa, but from what I know about the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, I was surprised to see the headlines this morning saying that he has been found not guilty of murder. Here’s the latest from The Washington Post, Judge: Oscar Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder, but ‘it is clear his conduct was negligent’.

The prosecution has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Oscar Pistorius committed premeditated murder, Judge Thokozile Masipa said this morning. However, the judge added that it “is clear that his conduct was negligent.”

Pistorius’s negligence pertains to a lesser charge the athlete faces, “culpable homicide,” or manslaughter.  The judge applied “the test of a reasonable man” to this charge.

In other words, the judge examined whether it was reasonable for Pistorius to fire four shots through his bathroom door at what he believed was an intruder. In her judgement, Pistorius did not pass this test.

“All the accused had to do was pick up phone and ring security,” Masipa said of Pistorius’s reaction. She added that Pistorius could have also “run to balcony and call for help.” Masipa added that she was “not persuaded that a reasonable person with the accused disabilities,” she said, “would have fired four shots” into the home’s bathroom.

She said that while she thought Pistorius was an “evasive” witness, that does not make him guilty. She said the prosecution has not demonstrated that he “reasonably could have foreseen” that his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was behind the bathroom door into which he fired four shots, killing her.

On the Ray Rice story, yesterday the AP reported that law enforcement sources in NJ told them that the NFL had received a copy of the tape of Rice knocking out Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February. Following that unsurprising revelation, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went deeper into damage control mode, asking former FBI director Robert Mueller to head an independent investigation into the NFL’s handling of the case. The Washington Post reports, AP story prompts NFL to investigate its handling of the Ray Rice case.

The NFL appointed an independent investigator to look into its handling of the Ray Rice case Wednesday night, hours after a new report contradicted the league’s insistence no one in the league office saw video until Monday that depicted Rice striking his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel.

That report by the Associated Press came as several people familiar with the inner workings of the league said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no plans to heed the calls for him to resign over his handling of the case.

The league announced Wednesday night that Robert S. Mueller III, former director of the FBI, will “conduct an independent investigation into the NFL’s pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.”

Owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers are to oversee the investigation, according to the league.

The final report resulting from the investigation will be released to the public, the NFL said.

Brooding Woman, Pablo Picasso

Brooding Woman, Pablo Picasso

I found a couple more disturbing reports about what actually happened at the casino that night in February. Security officers from the casino said that Rice spat in Palmer’s face twice and claimed that she was unconscious from drinking too much.

ESPN reports, Sources: Ray Rice spat at fiancee.

Three current or former security staffers, who spoke with “Outside the Lines” this week on the condition of anonymity, described additional details of the ugly scene captured on video. Two of the men were on duty the night of the assault, while a third had full access to the security video, which he said he has watched dozens of times. TMZSports.com released a video this week that showed Rice punching Palmer in the face, appearing to knock her unconscious. Revel security workers watched the incident from the operations room through a security camera of the elevator.

One former staffer said Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back, spat in his then-fiancée’s face twice, “once outside the elevator and once inside,” prompting her to retaliate with movements that were ultimately countered with a knockout punch. According to the men, as Rice punched Palmer, the elevator the couple rode was rapidly approaching the hotel lobby just two floors above the casino floor. A security staffer, dispatched from his lobby post, saw Rice starting to drag his fiancée, who appeared to still be unconscious, out of the elevator.

“Get him away from her! Get him away from her!” the first responder was told by another security officer over a radio, one former security staffer told “Outside the Lines.” The staffer had full access to the security footage.

The security staffers said they did not see any sign of injury on Palmer’s face or head but added that her hair was covering much of her face, making it hard to determine her condition. They also said they didn’t see any blood in the elevator or on the hip-level railing that Palmer’s head appeared to strike as she fell to the elevator floor.

“The first thing he [Rice] said is, ‘She’s intoxicated. She drank too much. I’m just trying to get her to the room,'” one staffer said.

“When she regained consciousness she said, ‘How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid,'” that same staffer told “Outside the Lines.”

There’s much more at the link, and it only makes the entire sorry episode and the NFL’s failure to deal adequately with it more sickening.

A few more links:

NBC Sports, Did Ray Rice Lie to Roger Goodell?

SB Nation, Ray Rice speaks out for the first time since his release.

CBS Sports, Ray Rice’s wife: How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid.

NYT, In Ray Rice cast, NFL sees only what it wants to see.

 

Cat with bird, Pablo Picasso

Cat with bird, Pablo Picasso

Other News, Links Only

AP, USIS, the contractor that handled Edward Snowden’s security clearance loses federal contract.

BBC News, Michael Brown death: Ferguson highway protest blocked.

The Guardian, Ferguson reform to courts system could leave residents paying more.

The Washington Post, Richard Kiel, who played lovable giant ‘Jaws’ in ‘James Bond’ films, is dead at 74.

ABC News, Five things that may happen if Scotland votes for independence.

Wall Street Journal, EU agrees to implement more sanctions against Russia Friday.

Time Magazine, Ozone layer shows signs of recovery, study finds.

HNGN, Baboons With Closer Friends Have Longer Lives Than Loners.

Forbes, Scientists find gene that may delay aging of whole body.

That’s all I’ve got. What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have terrific Thursday.

 

Peace, Pablo Picasso

Peace, Pablo Picasso

 

 


Thursday Reads

Childe Hassam - Two Women Reading

Childe Hassam – Two Women Reading

Good Morning!!

 

Wolf Blitzer must be celebrating this morning, because the mystery plane is back in the headlines.

Associated Press reports (via CTV):

SYDNEY, Australia — Investigators looking into the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane are confident it was on autopilot when it crashed in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean, Australian officials said Thursday as they announced the latest shift in the search for the jet.

After analyzing data exchanged between the plane and a satellite, officials believe Flight 370 was on autopilot the entire time it was flying across a vast expanse of the southern Indian Ocean, based on the straight path it took, Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Martin Dolan said.

“Certainly for its path across the Indian Ocean, we are confident that the aircraft was operating on autopilot until it ran out of fuel,” Dolan told reporters in Canberra, the nation’s capital.

Asked whether the autopilot would have to be manually switched on, or whether it could have been activated automatically under a default setting, Dolan replied, “The basic assumption would be that if the autopilot is operational it’s because it’s been switched on.”

But exactly why the autopilot would have been set on a flight path so far off course from the jet’s destination of Beijing, and exactly when it was switched on remains unknown.

The New York Times explains what likely happened:

Wolf plane

A report issued by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, outlining how the new search zone had been chosen, said that the most likely scenario as the aircraft headed south across the Indian Ocean on March 8 was that the crew was suffering from hypoxia or was otherwise unresponsive.

Hypoxia occurs when a plane loses air pressure and the pilots, lacking adequate oxygen, become confused and incapable of performing even basic manual tasks.

Pilots are trained to put on oxygen masks immediately if an aircraft suffers depressurization; their masks have an hour’s air supply, compared with only a few minutes for the passengers. The plane, which left Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, bound for Beijing, with 239 people aboard, made its turn south toward the Indian Ocean about an hour after it stopped responding to air-traffic controllers….

Evidence for an unresponsive crew as the plane flew south includes the loss of radio communications, a long period with no maneuvering of the aircraft, a steadily maintained cruise altitude and eventual fuel exhaustion and descent, the report said.

“Given these observations, the final stages of the unresponsive crew/hypoxia event type appeared to best fit the available evidence for the final period of MH370’s flight when it was heading in a generally southerly direction,” the document said.

Based on the report, a new search zone has been designated, according to the LA Times:

Experts from Boeing and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board were among the specialists who helped define the zone, based on satellite data and analysis of previous similar incidents.

The new zone, about 1,100 miles west of Perth, Australia, is farther south than where previous intensive search efforts were carried out this spring after the plane vanished March 8 with 239 people aboard. The flight was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it went missing….

Australia Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the search was continuing with a mapping of the ocean floor in the newly defined area, to be followed by a comprehensive seafloor search.

The seafloor search, he said, should start around August and be completed within one year. The area is 58 miles wide and 400 miles long, covering an area as big as Lake Huron, the second-largest of the U.S. Great Lakes. By comparison, the area searched with a robotic, sonar-equipped submarine in May was about 330 square miles.

First gay marriage license issued in Indiana

First gay marriage license issued in Indiana

There was exciting news yesterday in the struggle to legalize same-sex marriage state by state.

From NPR: Federal Judges Reverse Gay-Marriage Bans In Utah, Indiana.

Utah and Indiana are the latest states to see their bans on same-sex marriage struck down by a federal court, following rulings in both states Wednesday that found the prohibition unconstitutional.

In Utah, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower court ruling striking down the state’s gay-marriage ban. And in Indiana,U.S. District Judge Richard Young made a similar ruling.

“It is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of love and commitment of same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples,” the three-judge panel in the Utah case said. The panel immediately put the ruling on hold pending its appeal, either to the entire 10th Circuit or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to The Associated Press.

In Indiana, Young wrote: “Same-sex couples, who would otherwise qualify to marry in Indiana, have the right to marry in Indiana. … These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”

Both decisions are significant in that they may influence decisions in other states.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, writes NPR in an email that the Utah decision “is very significant, as [it is] the first appellate court to address the marriage equality issue.

“The 4th Circuit [in Virginia] may well apply the reasoning of the 10th Circuit opinion, as will numerous district courts that have yet to rule,” he says.

“The Indiana ruling invalidating its ban today also used similar reasoning,” Tobias says. “All courts are finding that the bans violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment.”

In another breakthrough, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine has announced that she supports same-sex marriage. From The Washington Post: 

“A number of states, including my home state of Maine, have now legalized same-sex marriage, and I agree with that decision,” Collins said in a statement, adding later: “I have long opposed efforts to impose a federal ban on same-sex marriage. In both 2004 and 2006, I voted against amendments to the United States Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriages by preempting state laws.”

Collins joins three other Republican senators who publicly support gay marriage: Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Mark Kirk (Ill.).

Today at noon Eastern, the U.S. plays Germany in the World Cup.

world cup

CBS News reports, Team USA: “Everything’s on the line” for Germany match.

 

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the American team so far in the World Cup. The team that, on paper, many pundits didn’t expect to advance, now has a real shot at moving on to the second round. And as CBS News’ Elaine Quijano reports, that fate is hinged on beating or at least coming up even against one of the cup favorites, Germany.

Team USA was greeted with cheers from American fans Wednesday as they arrived in the Brazilian city of Recife.

Players spent the three days between matches recovering and regrouping after a physical first game against Ghana and an emotional tie against Portugal.

“This is the biggest game of a lot of our lives, so any fatigue in our legs will be erased,” said American midfielder Kyle Beckerman. “We’ve got to give everything we’ve got and more.”

Team USA began their World Cup run in the so-called “group of death,” but their aggression, attacks and overall stamina on the pitch have defied pundits who originally dismissed their chances of advancing.

“I think some people might be a little bit surprised at our results so far,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Wednesday. “We are by no means any underdog here in this tournament, but we know it’s the biggest hurdle we have to take now with Germany.”

Klinsman suggested that U.S. fans should take a day off work to watch the game, and wrote a letter to bosses asking them to excuse their employee’s absences, reports Reuters.

In the style of a ‘doctor’s note’, Klinsmann addresses employers and asks them to forgive their staff for their absence.

The letter was distributed on social networks by the U.S. Soccer.

“I understand that this absence may reduce the productivity of your workplace, but I can assure you that it is for an important cause,” wrote Klinsmann.

“The #USMNT (U.S. Men’s National Team) has a critical World Cup game vs Germany and we will need the full support of the nation if we are to advance to the next round.

“By the way, you should act like a good leader and take the day off as well. Go USA! Signed Jurgen Klinsmann, Head Coach, U.S. National team”.

And from Jake Simpson at the Atlantic: The Surprisingly High Stakes of the U.S.-Germany World Cup Game.

In the wake of the U.S. team’s heartbreaking come-from-ahead draw against Portugal in the World Cup on Sunday, soccer analysts and Twitter users scrambled to figure out the many ways the U.S. can still get to the next round. With a three-point lead over Portugal and Ghana in Group G, the Americans can advance even if they lose their match against Germany at noon Eastern today, depending on the outcome of the Portugal-Ghana game played at the same time. Deadspin has one of the better graphical breakdowns of every potential scenario for the U.S., including the dreaded drawing of lots.

All the focus on permutations and goal-differential scenarios has undercut the importance of today’s game for American soccer. There’s not as much at stake, goes the implication, because we can move ahead even if we lose to Germany. But this is about more than getting to the next round. This is an opportunity for the U.S. to face one of soccer’s elite teams on the biggest stage and prove it can hang with—even beat—any country in this World Cup.

Before the tournament, most people thought it would be an unlikely success for the U.S. just to get out of the so-called Group of Death and to the Round of 16. Now, after beating Ghana and dominating much of the game against Portugal, the U.S. can dream bigger. Beat Germany, and America wins its group for the second straight World Cup, a result nearly unthinkable when the draw was announced in December. Beat Germany, and the U.S. secures a favorable Round of 16 match most likely against Algeria or Russia, rather than a trickier faceoff with sneaky-good Belgium.

Just as important, a win would mean that the Americans have defeated one of soccer’s oligarchs at a World Cup, with both sides trying their best for a victory. That by itself would be a precedent-setting result.

People in Oklahoma are beginning to ask questions

about why their state has been having so many earthquakes all of a sudden, according to the Globe-Gazzette.com.

Barbara Brown poses for a photo on the front step of her home that now sits about one foot off the surface of her lawn, Saturday, June 21, 2014, in Reno, Texas.

Barbara Brown poses for a photo on the front step of her home that now sits about one foot off the surface of her lawn, Saturday, June 21, 2014, in Reno, Texas.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma residents whose homes and nerves have been shaken by an upsurge in earthquakes want to know what’s causing the temblors — and what can be done to stop them.

Hundreds of people are expected to turn out in Edmond, Oklahoma, on Thursday night for a town hall meeting on the issue.

Earthquakes used to be almost unheard of on the vast stretches of prairie that unfold across Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, but they’ve become common in recent years.

Oklahoma recorded nearly 150 between January and the start of May. Though most have been too weak to cause serious damage or endanger lives, they’ve raised suspicions that the shaking might be connected to the oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, especially the wells in which the industry disposes of its wastewater.

Now after years of being harangued by anxious residents, governments in all three states are confronting the issue, reviewing scientific data, holding public discussions and considering new regulations. Thursday’s meeting in Oklahoma will include the state agency that regulates oil and gas drilling and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

Gee, do you suppose it could have anything to do with fracking? And what about all that wastewater that has to be disposed of in the fracking process? From Techsonia: Fracking Fluid Spills release Colloids that Pollute Groundwater.

According to a new research, wastewater contains substances that bind to pollutants and their release in soil leads to the ground water contamination as they get along with the water when it is soaked by earth.

In this study, flowback fluid from hydraulic fracturing was analyzed. Colloids are the charged particles and larger than molecules and have the potency to bind to sand grains. With the wastewater, colloids get released in to the ground water.

This study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and was conducted by the researchers at the Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

This study was done to determine the remaining colloids amounts in groundwater when the above soil got exposed to flowback fliud in a hydrofracking spills.

Ugh.

One last story . . .

Scientists have unearthed interesting facts about Oldest human faeces show Neanderthals ate vegetables.

Found at a dig in Spain, the ancient excrement showed chemical traces of both meat and plant digestion.

An earlier view of these early humans as purely meat-eating has already been partially discredited by plant remains found in their caves and teeth.

The new paper, in the journal PLOS One, claims to offer the best support to date for an omnivorous diet.

Poo is “the perfect evidence,” said Ms Ainara Sistiaga, a PhD student at the University of La Laguna on the Canary Islands, and the study’s first author, “because you’re sure it was consumed”.

Ms Sistiaga and her colleagues collected a number of samples from the remnants of a 50,000-year-old campfire in the El Salt dig site, a known Neanderthal habitation near Alicante on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.

So if you bought into the “cave man diet” AKA “Paleolithic diet” recommendations, you were scammed. These early Neanderthals even cooked vegetables and may have used plants for medicinal purposes. Read the whole article at the link. It’s fascinating.

Now . . . what stories are you following today? Are you going to watch the U.S.-Germany game? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.