New Year’s Eve Reads

First Night fireworks, Boston

First Night fireworks, Boston

Good Morning!!

Today is the last day of 2013. Tonight at midnight, we’ll bid adieu to another year. I can’t say I’m sorry to see this one go.

There will be lots of celebratory fireworks in cities around to world tonight; the revelry has already begun in New Zealand. USA Today:

New Zealand rang in the New Year with multicolored fireworks erupting from Auckland’s Sky Tower at midnight Tuesday as thousands of cheering revelers danced in the streets of the South Pacific island nation’s largest city.

Early pyrotechnic shows erupted over Sydney Harbor, dazzling hundreds of thousands viewers ahead of the main event in Australia and Dubai will later try to create the world’s largest fireworks show to ring in 2014.

Unfortunately we’ve also seen some scarier explosions in the past couple of days. Yesterday afternoon there was another accident in North Dakota involving the transport of crude oil. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: Cassleton, N.D. residents flee town after oil train explosion. So far the evacuations are still voluntary and only about 65% of the 2,400 residents of Cassleton have left their homes.

The explosion happened shortly after 2 p.m. Monday after a BNSF grain train derailed and crashed into a crude oil train near Casselton, which is 20 miles west of Fargo, causing tank cars to explode in towering mushroom-cloud flames. No one was injured in the crash….

In the initial hours after the explosion, authorities told residents to stay indoors to avoid the smoke. Later, when residents were urged to evacuate, some drove to Fargo, where a shelter had been set up for them.

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the train carrying grain derailed first, then knocked several cars of the oil train off adjoining tracks. BNSF said both trains had more than 100 cars each….

“It was black smoke and then there were probably four explosions in the next hour to hour and a half,” said Eva Fercho, a Casselton resident who saw the fiery aftermath.

The cars were still burning as darkness fell, and authorities said they would be allowed to burn out.

From the Brampton (Canada) Guardian:

The derailment happened amid heightened concerns about the United States’ increased reliance on rail to carry crude oil. Fears of catastrophic derailments were particularly stoked after last summer’s crash in Quebec of a train carrying crude from North Dakota’s Bakken oil patch. Forty-seven people died in the ensuing fire.

The explosions Monday afternoon sent flames and black smoke skyward outside of Casselton, about 40 kilometres west of Fargo. Investigators couldn’t get close to the blaze and official estimates of how many train cars caught fire varied….

Ryan Toop, who lives less than a kilometre away, said he heard explosions and drove as close as about two city blocks to the fire, which erupted on a day when temperatures were below zero.

“I rolled down the window, and you could literally keep your hands warm,” Toop said.

The tracks that the train was on pass through the middle of Casselton, and Cass County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tara Morris said it was “a blessing it didn’t happen within the city.”

No kidding. I’d say that’s a pretty big understatement. Here’s some raw video of the explosion.

In Russia, there are fears that two suicide bombings on Sunday and Monday signal “that a terrorist campaign may have begun that could stretch into the Winter Olympics.” AP via ABC News:

In the wake of Sunday’s bombing at the city’s main railway station and Monday’s blast on a trolleybus, police reinforcements and Interior Ministry troops have been sent into the city, regional police official Andrei Pilipchuk was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency. He said more than 5,200 security forces are deployed in the city of 1 million.

The Health Ministry said three more victims died on Tuesday, raising the toll to 34 — 18 from the station bombing and 16 from the bus. Officials said 65 other people were hospitalized with injuries.

Volgograd authorities have canceled mass events for New Year’s Eve, one of Russia’s most popular holidays, and asked residents not to set off fireworks. In Moscow, festivities were to go ahead but authorities said security would be increased.

There has been no claim of responsibility for either bombing, but they came only months after the leader of an Islamic insurgency in southern Russia threatened new attacks on civilian targets in the country, including on the Winter Games that are to begin Feb. 7 in Sochi.

After their enthusiastic defense of the racism, sexism, pedophilia, and homophobia of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Roberts, you’d think right-wingers would hesitate to attack a mild commentary involving race on MSNBC, but you’d be wrong.

MSNBC Panel Criticized For Segment About Romney’s Black Grandchild (VIDEO). From TPM:

MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and the panelists on her Sunday morning show drew criticism Monday for poking fun at a Romney family photo that included their adopted African-American grandson, Kieran Romney.

Harris-Perry had the panelists attempt to caption a Romney family photo, which included all of Mitt Romney’s grandchildren.

Harris-Perry joked that Kieran Romney would marry Kanye West’s daughter, North West.

“Could you imagine Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws?” she asked.

Panelist and comedian Dean Obeidallah said the photo “really sums up the diversity of the Republican party.” And actress Pia Glenn started singing “one of these things is not like the other.”

Steve Benen took a look back at the Sunday political talk shows to see what proportion of the guests were from the Democratic and Republican parties. We knew this already, but it’s stunning to see it in a graphic.

The Great 2013 Sunday Show Race

The general impression is rooted in fact: the Sunday shows love Republicans. “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation,” “This Week,” “State of the Union,” and “Fox News Sunday,” hoping to reflect and help shape the conventional wisdom for the political world, collectively favor GOP guests over Democratic guests every year, but who were the big winners in 2013?

The…chart shows every political figure who made 10 or more Sunday show appearances this year, with red columns representing Republicans and blue columns representing Democrats. For 2013, the race wasn’t especially close – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) easily came out on top, making 27 appearances this year. That works out to an average of one appearance every 1.9 weeks (or 2.25 Sunday show appearances a month, every month for a year).

sunday show guests

Incredible, isn’t it? Newt Gingrich doesn’t even hold any office and, as Benen points out, “hasn’t served in public office since resigning in disgrace 15 years ago” was in third place in front of Dick Durbin, the supposedly powerful Senate Majority Whip.

According to Mike Konczal of The New Republic, 2013 Was a Bad Year for Wall St. Lobbyists.

Last year, nobody thought that banks would face tougher holding requirements for capital, that regulations of the financial derivatives markets would advance, or that the final Volcker would be a pretty good start instead of an incoherent mess. Yet that is what appears to have happened in 2013. So what caused it? And how it might apply to future political goals?

The successes of 2013 were partially driven by the failures of Wall Street in 2012. The multi-billion dollar trading losses from JPMorgan Chase known as the “London Whale” changed the dynamics for financial reform in a way that took a year to realize. JPMorgan had been leading the charge against reform, arguing that the effort was over-harsh and destructive, and that Wall Street had already cleaned up its act on its own. Indeed, the big concern in 2012 was that Wall Street would convince enough moderate Democrats that Dodd-Frank had gone too far in certain respects, and that Congress would stop regulatory action before it was even completed. This fell apart right alongside the multi-billion dollar losses in JPMorgan’s position. Though various bills to remove parts of Dodd-Frank would pass the House by Republican votes, these efforts failed to generate moderate Democratic votes in the Senate after the Whale trade became public.

Read the rest at the link.

Hey did you know that dolphins like to get high? Read about it at The Independent: Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around.

In extraordinary scenes filmed for a new documentary, young dolphins were seen carefully manipulating a certain kind of puffer fish which, if provoked, releases a nerve toxin.

Though large doses of the toxin can be deadly, in small amounts it is known to produce a narcotic effect, and the dolphins appeared to have worked out how to make the fish release just the right amount.

Carefully chewing on the puffer and passing it between one another, the marine mammals then enter what seems to be a trance-like state.

The behaviour was captured on camera by the makers of Dolphins: Spy in the Pod, a series produced for BBC One by the award-winning wildlife documentary producer John Downer.

Hey, why is that surprising? Lots of animals probably enjoy altered states of consciousness. Have you ever seen a cat on catnip? What about a big cat?

Finally, I highly recommend these two posts on the NSF/Snowden story by NSFWCORP writers now publishing at Pando Daily, Mark Ames and Yasha Levine respectively.

Snowden’s biggest revelation: We don’t know what power is anymore, nor do we care

Rentacops on desktops: Edward Snowden’s dismissal of Surveillance Valley is wrong, and dangerous

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your recommended links in the comment thread.

I hope 2014 will be a great year for all of you!!


Thursday Reads: Human Evolution, Snowden Leaks, and Other News

cat-fetches-newspaper

Good Morning!!

I seem to have caught a little cold, nothing serious; but I’m a little slow this morning. Anyway, I have a few interesting stories for you, beginning with an amazing discovery that has stunned scientists and forced them to adjust their assumptions about human evolution. From the NYT: Baffling 400,000-Year-Old Clue to Human Origins.

In a paper in the journal Nature, scientists reported Wednesday that they had retrieved ancient human DNA from a fossil dating back about 400,000 years, shattering the previous record of 100,000 years.

The fossil, a thigh bone found in Spain, had previously seemed to many experts to belong to a forerunner of Neanderthals. But its DNA tells a very different story. It most closely resembles DNA from an enigmatic lineage of humans known as Denisovans. Until now, Denisovans were known only from DNA retrieved from 80,000-year-old remains in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of where the new DNA was found.

The mismatch between the anatomical and genetic evidence surprised the scientists, who are now rethinking human evolution over the past few hundred thousand years. It is possible, for example, that there are many extinct human populations that scientists have yet to discover. They might have interbred, swapping DNA. Scientists hope that further studies of extremely ancient human DNA will clarify the mystery.

Now the experts are going to have to find a way to incorporate these new discoveries into their understanding of human history. The story offers several different possibilities from different scientists.

Hints at new hidden complexities in the human story came from a 400,000-year-old femur found in a cave in Spain called Sima de los Huesos (“the pit of bones” in Spanish). The scientific team used new methods to extract the ancient DNA from the fossil….

Since the 1970s, Spanish scientists have brought out a wealth of fossils from the cave dating back hundreds of thousands of years. “The place is very special,” said Dr. Arsuaga, who has found 28 nearly complete skeletons of humans during three decades of excavations.

Based on the anatomy of the fossils, Dr. Arsuaga has argued that they belonged to ancestors of Neanderthals, which lived in western Asia and Europe from about 200,000 to 30,000 years ago.

But based on newly discovered methods for extracting DNA, researchers learned something very different. Read the rest of this fascination story at the NYT link above.

Yesterday the Washington Post published a new story by Barton Gellman, based on the data stolen from the NSA by Edward Snowden:  NSA tracking cellphone locations worldwide, Snowden documents show. Except if you read the whole story you’ll learn that this is being done only to collect foreign intelligence; it’s not being done in the U.S. Data from Americans who are overseas could get caught up in the data collection, but the point is to track the locations of suspected terrorists.

The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones “incidentally,” a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result.

One senior collection manager, speaking on the condition of anonymity but with permission from the NSA, said “we are getting vast volumes” of location data from around the world by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones. Additionally, data are often collected from the tens of millions of Americans who travel abroad with their cellphones every year.

In scale, scope and potential impact on privacy, the efforts to collect and analyze location data may be unsurpassed among the NSA surveillance programs that have been disclosed since June. Analysts can find cellphones anywhere in the world, retrace their movements and expose hidden relationships among the people using them.

Honestly, is anyone really surprised by this? I’m not saying it’s a wonderful thing, but, as I recall, tracing cell phone locations was the method used to catch Osama bin Laden. Not only that, but local police in the U.S. routinely use cell phone tracking to investigate crimes–and like the Feds, they have to get warrants to do so.

Anyone who didn’t know that you have no expectation of privacy when using a cell phone must have been living in a cave for a very long time. But if you really think the NSA is listening in on all of your personal phone calls and reading your text messages, you’re–quite frankly–nuts. The NSA would have to have millions of employees in order to sift through everyone’s data.

Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA, said “there is no element of the intelligence community that under any authority is intentionally collecting bulk cellphone location information about cellphones in the United States.”

The NSA has no reason to suspect that the movements of the overwhelming majority of cellphone users would be relevant to national security. Rather, it collects locations in bulk because its most powerful analytic tools — known collectively as CO-TRAVELER — allow it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.

As noted in the article, data collected from Americans overseas isn’t protected by the Fourth Amendment; and the Supreme Court decided long ago that telephone call data is owned by the phone companies and that Americans have no expectation of privacy when talking on the phone. If we want to increase privacy protections, it will have to be done through legislation–not by whining about the NSA doing it’s job, which is to collect foreign intelligence. (A side note: a short time ago, former NSA analyst John Schindler offered some suggestions for “Reforming NSA from the Top.”) I wish journalists would devote as much energy to investigating why millions of Americans can’t get jobs and why so many of the ones who do have jobs can’t get paid a living wage as they do to telling us things we already knew or strongly suspected about NSA data collection.

Meanwhile, there are some troubling questions and revelations about some of the journalists who have been involved in releasing the Snowden files. As everyone knows by now, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras now have control of all of the data that Snowden stole. This data includes the names of all British and American intelligence agents. Greenwald and Poitras are currently working on developing a new news website, a project backed by libertarian Ebay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Here’s an extensive profile of Omidyar by renegade investigative journalist MarkAmes.

Recently, Ames wrote another piece at Pando Daily questioning the ethics of Snowden’s cache of NSA data being controlled by two individuals who are beholden to one wealthy backer headlined Keeping Secrets: Pierre Omidyar, Glenn Greenwald and the privatization of Snowden’s leaks.

Who “owns” the NSA secrets leaked by Edward Snowden to reporters Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras?

Given that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar just invested a quarter of a billion dollars to
personally hire Greenwald and Poitras for his new for-profit media venture, it’s a question worth asking.

It’s especially worth asking since it became clear that Greenwald and Poitras are now the only two people with full access to the complete cache of NSA files, which are said to number anywhere from 50,000 to as many as 200,000 files. That’s right: Snowden doesn’t have the files any more, the Guardian doesn’t have them, the Washington Post doesn’t have them… just Glenn and Laura at the for-profit journalism company created by the founder of eBay.

Edward Snowden has popularly been compared to major whistleblowers such as Daniel Ellsberg,Chelsea Manning and Jeffrey Wigand. However, there is an important difference in the Snowden files that has so far gone largely unnoticed. Whistleblowing has traditionally served the public interest. In this case, it is about to serve the interests of a billionaire starting a for-profit media business venture. This is truly unprecedented. Never before has such a vast trove of public secrets been sold wholesale to a single billionaire as the foundation of a for-profit company.

I didn’t realize this until yesterday, but apparently Greenwald did not have the data on British intelligence originally; but he somehow forced the Guardian to turn it over to him before he resign from the newspaper. This may be the data that Greenwald’s husband David Miranda was caught with at Heathrow airport when he was detained there awhile back. The British Parliament is currently investigating the behavior of the Guardian and its editor Alan Rusberger. From the blog of BBC journalist Louise Mensch: Rusbridger admits shipping agents’ names – what now?

MPs today got Alan Rusbridger to admit a number of things he, and his paper had previously denied.

Firstly, that he shipped the names of GCHQ agents abroad to newspapers and bloggers. Mr. Rusbridger was reminded that this was a criminal offence, and said he had a public interest defence. He also, however, kept arguing that he hadn’t published any names, which rather blows up his public interest defence – it’s self-evident that you don’t need the names of intelligence agents to report on GCHQ spying, so why not redact them?

The fact is, Rusbridger did acknowledge that it put GCHQ agents at risk when he first shipped files to ProPublica. He redacted the names of GCHQ agents from those files, and he promised the government he had done so….

In Parliament today when asked why he didn’t redact the names he said there were 58,000 documents – essentially, he could be bothered to go through the <100 files he FedExed to ProPublica, but could not be bothered to go through the entire batch he sent to the NYT.

Really? He couldn’t take a week, and black out agents’ names? There were copies of the docs in the Guardian offices in New York, so time was not an issue for Rusbridger – instead, he exposed the names.

Perhaps worst of all, Rusbridger confirmed my very worst suspicions, which were that he hadn’t even read through the top secret files before shipping them. He redacted no names; he redacted no operational details; he didn’t even read them. And by “he” I mean any employee of the Guardian. Nobody at that paper read the 58,000 documents through, not even once, before sharing them in bulk.

Mensch updated that post with more information yesterday: HAS Rusbridger exposed thousands of GCHQ personnel? A commenter on the original post explained that in revealing the names of intelligence personnel to multiple people, Rusberger and the Guardian essentially destroyed their careers and seriously damaged British intelligence efforts. Here’s the comment:

A comment was left on that last blog that I have to reproduce. It shows that every agent exposed by Rusbridger has had their career ruined for the duration of it; none of them can ever work in the field again. Furthermore, the writer makes the compelling case that the NSA-GCHQ wiki, which the New York Times published extracts from, and the directories of staff interests like gay and lesbian clubs, ghost hunting clubs etc, mean that Rusbridger has actually sent abroad not just a handful of names, as he claimed to Parliament “there were names on power points” but actually thousands of GCHQ names.

Read the whole explanation at the link. I apologize for writing this before I nail down every detail, but I think this is important and it’s highly unlikely the corporate media will look into it since they could also culpable.

I’m afraid I rambled on too long on the NSA story, so I’ll just add a few more links that you might like to check out.

Raw Story: Debbie Wasserman Schultz schools Newt Gingrich over ‘war on women’ crack about Joe Biden

Bloomberg: That’s Gonna Hurt: Bankers Brace for the Volcker Rule

AP via Business Insider: A Period Of Bitterly Cold Temperatures Not Seen In A Decade Is About To Hit Parts Of The US

JM Ashby at The Daily Banter: Their Kind of Individual Mandate

Politicus USA: CNN Throws In the Towel as it Schedules Hour-Long Glenn Beck Interview

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on this morning? Please share your links in the comment thread.


Wednesday: Cassini, Depression, Age, and Outrage

Painting by Elena Drobychevskaja Found on Pinterest...

Painting by Elena Drobychevskaja
Found on Pinterest…

Good morning.

I want to start this post off with a note of warning. It is being written by a woman with a migraine, so excuse any mistakes or typos…or lack of coherent commentary.  Honestly, my mind feels like a light bulb that is not getting the full required amount of juice to keep it lit at full brightness…right now it is kind of sparking in and out.

Sometimes it makes a connection, other times it just becomes a dull pathetic glow or ember of unfocused ideas and thoughts.

Or like a dirty spark plug that just won’t fire an engine…well, you know what I mean. No need to go on with these overused literary metaphors, that is what they are right? Uh, I’ll just refer you back to that dim light bulb.

So as I wander through this morning’s post, bear with me…

I don’t know if you have seen this horrible case of abuse that happened here in Georgia.  A little girl was abused by her father and step-mother for all of her life, they killed her in a slow and painful way, and now the DA is looking into possible Death Penalty prosecution. But what is even more disgusting, is that this girl was repeatedly seen by DFCS all of her 10 years of life, from the first year until 3 months before her death.  Here are two local news station reports:

Death penalty may be sought against parents of Emani Moss | www.wsbtv.com

>Emani Moss

We’re learning more about the death of Emani Moss, a 10-year-old Gwinnett girl, who police said was abused by her father and stepmother.

The parents accused of starving their 10-year-old daughter to death, then trying to burn her body may face the death penalty.

Danny Porter said in 20 years as the district attorney, he’s only asked for the death penalty 10 times, but he said as he looks at the evidence in this case, he may be asking for it twice in a matter of weeks.

“In 30 years of doing this, this is probably the worst case I’ve seen,” Porter said.

As he goes through the mounting evidence, Porter said the cases against Emani Moss’ parents appear eligible for the death penalty.

“I think once we learn more about the mechanism of starvation and the suffering that is involved, it may qualify as torture,” Porter said.

Investigators said the girl’s father Eman, and stepmother Tiffany, starved the 10-year-old. In late October, they allegedly left her in bed for a week, convulsing and otherwise unable to move. Police said her dad confessed to trying to burn her body in a trash can after she died.

This next link has more info about the DFCS case reports: DFCS summary of the life and death of Emani Moss | 11alive.com

When DFCS case workers were called to the scene of a gruesome crime at a Gwinnett County apartment complex last Saturday, it was not the first time they’d been sent to check on the welfare of 10-year-old Emani Moss.When they arrived, police told them the child’s partially burned body had been found in a trash can, three days after they believe she probably starved to death.

VIDEO | The life and death of Emani Moss

A case summary of her DFCS file, obtained by 11Alive Thursday under Georgia’s Open Records Act, shows DFCS checked out allegations of abuse on at least six occasions in her life, but only felt it was true on one occasion.

You have to go to that 11alive link and read the number of times this girl could have been saved…if only someone from DFCS either gave a damn or (if it turns out that it was due to lack of funding) had enough personnel to keep better track of the situation and not continue to return this girl to her abusers. She even tried to run away, only to be brought back…it is heartbreaking…tragic and fucking unacceptable…especially considering this shit, in the same city, Atlanta. A baseball team is leaving a fully paid for, perfectly good stadium for a new, taxpayer one a few miles away:

Turner Field to be torn down when Braves leave

It was the Olympics’ gift to Atlanta, a stadium free and clear of debt. The taxpayers did not pay a dime for it, neither did the Atlanta Braves. The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games built an 85,000-seat stadium for the 1996 Olympics with private money and gifted it to the city.

Perhaps that is why Turner Field seems so disposable. It was free.

Mayor Kasim Reed announced Tuesday that in the wake of the news the Braves will move to Cobb County following the 2016 season, the city will tear down the 50,000-seat ballpark, which will be just 20 years old in 2017. He declared in the press conference that there would be no vacant, rotting structure on the south side of the town, but rather a vibrant middle class neighborhood.

It was not what William J. Moss envisioned. Moss supervised the $550 million in construction of venues for the Olympics and told the Orlando Sentinel in 1991, “The idea is not to have any white elephants and for each of these things to have a use after the Olympics is over.”

It is ridiculous. And don’t tell me that Mayor Reed had no idea this shit wasn’t in the works…you know he just won re-election last week.

Have Fun Paying Off that $450 Million – Lawyers, Guns & Money

Turner Field is 17 years old:

The Atlanta Braves announced Monday they will leave Turner Field for a new 42,000-seat, $672 million stadium about 10 miles from downtown Atlanta in 2017. It’s not clear how much the proposed ballpark will cost taxpayers.

Braves executives John Schuerholz, Mike Plant and Derek Schiller said the team decided not to seek another lease at 17-year-old Turner Field and began talks with the Cobb Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority in July.

Looks like $450 million in public funds:

(Although Schiller initially declined to say how much the county would be paying, this story says that Cobb County will be on the hook for $450 million, with the Braves paying roughly $200 million.)

In case you’re wondering, Cobb County falls mostly in Newt Gingrich’s old district, which consists of people who hate big government except when it transfers extraordinary amounts of money to incredibly wealthy people. I wonder how they’ll manage to shift the burden from the county to the state and federal government; I don’t doubt that the effort will involve some altogether ingenious accounting, combined with a concerted effort to screw over the poor.

Forgive me for copying that in full, but it is the truth…and then you have this blog post written by Will Bunch from the Philadelphia Daily News that I agree with completely: Atlanta’s Turner Field is dying — and American sanity is dying with it

I’m know I’m going to sound like an old man again, but I can remember 1997 like it was yesterday. I can almost taste it, smell it — the time when a couple of Yankee kids named Jeter and Rivera ruled the baseball world, when Hillary Clinton was strolling the corridors of the White House, and when the Dow hit the Olympian heights of 8,000. It seemed like those times would never end, but now it’s 16 long years later (that’s not a typo…1-6!) and time continues to march inexorably forward.

I felt a pang of nostalgia when I read today that another relic of that bygone era is biting the dust, that the Atlanta Braves are finally (finally!) saying goodbye to historic Turner Field, ending its more than decade-and-a-half run and heading for the greener pastures of suburban Cobb County. Goodbye to the ballpark where the ghosts of John Rocker and David Justice still lurk, its old-timey giant “Eat Mor Chickin'” Chick-fil-A cow, the “Tomahawk Chop” (yes, people weren’t as advanced on matters of race back then, unfortunately), and the quaint aroma of jalapeno nachos in the sultry Georgia air.

When I saw the news — on Twitter, which didn’t even exist way back in 1997! — this morning that the Braves will be saying good-bye to Turner Field in 2017, after the expiration of their original 20-year lease, I really only had one reaction.

What the hell, Atlanta Braves? Or maybe it was, what the hell, Atlanta…(and Cobb County.) OK, I guess it was actually, what the hell. America?

Yup, Turner Field is the same age as my son Jake, but this is where the man gets to the point:

The news that the Braves plan to abandon it is simply stunning. What happened? The Braves say they want to be closer to their real fan base in the affluent northern suburbs, and hey, that’s capitalism, I guess. Except here’s the thing….it’s not capitalism. The Braves say it would have cost $200 million to “fix” Turner Field (apparently for things like new seats and new lights…hard to believe that the old ones only lasted 16 years and that it costs that much to fix them, but that’s what they claim.) In Cobb County, they’re spending the same amount for a whole new stadium — because the taxpayers of Cobb County are promising to pay the rest, a whopping $450 million. They’ve promised the money to the Braves even though there’s been no public hearings and no vote. I have no idea how that even works.

So this is not real capitalism at all — it’s corrupted crony capitalism. Now it seems that Cobb County is one of the 100th wealthiest counties in America, and the 12th most educated. So $450 million must be chump change — it’s not like they’re Philadelphia, slashing public school teachers in the face of massive budget cuts. Oh wait…actually they are sort of like that:

Cobb County’s school board approved a 2013-14 budget Thursday night that will result in five furlough days for all employees, the loss of 182 teachers through attrition and a slimmer central administration staff.

The cuts are the result of reduced state aid and lower property tax revenues — although apparently the lower property tax revenues that are low enough to mean fewer teachers aren’t so low that they can’t BUILD A NEW BASEBALL STADIUM! For a team that already has what you and I might, sanely, consider a pretty new baseball stadium.

There’s so much else that it’s hard to know where to begin . There’s the fact that the Braves are leaving a ballpark served by mass transit for one that would be located at one of the most traffic-congested intersections (I-75 and I-285) in America, pumping tons of unnecessary carbon pollution into the air….

Had to break that paragraph to insert this cartoon: 10/12 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Take me out to the crowd | Mike Luckovich

luckovich-cartoon-for-111213

Now back to that  Will Bunch post already in progress…

…The fact that this is just slightly less egregious than what’s happening with Atlanta’s also pretty new, also fully functional football stadium the Georgia Done (which opened way back in…wait for it, 1992) that’s being replaced with a $1.2 billion palace with a retractable roof, because…??? And there’s the “white flight” of the Braves leaving the majority black city where Aaron heroically endured death threats to break Babe Ruth’s record.

Which maybe wouldn’t be so terrible…if they weren’t doing it with other people’s money. But here’s the thing that really galls me — that this is happening in Georgia, the hotbed of the Tea Party, the state that gave us Cobb County’s own Newt Gingrich and now sends right-wing crackpots like Rep. Paul Broun to Washington so that they can rail against “the moochers,” “the takers,” who don’t think twice about slashing food stamps and who won’t — on principle…principle! — take Washington’s Medicaid money so that their own working-poor constituents can get good health coverage. And now they’re writing the (corporate) welfare check of a lifetime, to one of the most historically lucrative sports franchises in American history, and their only question is how many zeroes there are in $450 million. How dare they?!

Yeah, they also are building a new stadium for their NFL Falcons too…fucking Georgia assholes.

And by the way, what about “those people” you know the “ones” I am talking about: Cobb GOP chairman concerned about (those) people coming to… | Jay Bookman | www.ajc.com

I just got back from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s press conference on the Braves’ move to a transportation-challenged site in Cobb County, and will have a lot more to say on that later. But I can’t let this pass without notice:

Joe Dendy, chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party, says that he has two conditions for supporting the Braves’ proposed move (h/t Jim Galloway):

1.) That Cobb County citizens won’t have to pay higher taxes as a result, and

2.) “It is absolutely necessary the (transportation) solution is all about moving cars in and around Cobb and surrounding counties from our north and east where most Braves fans travel from, and not moving people into Cobb by rail from Atlanta.”

Again, that’s from the chairman of the Republican Party in the state’s wealthiest, most sophisticated GOP stronghold. If you want to know why the Atlanta region has trouble acting and thinking like a region, why we have abandoned mass transit options that every other major urban area in the country is pursuing, and why we have forfeited the economic dynamism that once made this city/region the envy of much of the nation, there you have it.

Not to mention what it says about the “inclusive” attitude of a certain number of Georgia Republicans.

Yeah, they don’t want any Braves fans from South Atlanta, that need to travel via MARTA…or, because as Axel Foley would say…

Oh, wait a moment, that quote from Joe Dendy isn’t racist at all…my guess is that Richard Cohen would feel at home going to a Braves game in Cobb County.

Fucking Georgia Republicans.

All this going on while kids like Emani Moss are being ignored by DFCS, starved to death and then burned like rubbish inside a trash can by their parents. Once again the PLUB mentality is overwhelmingly disgusting. Too bad Emani did not show a knack for throwing a football or baseball. (Okay that may be pushing it too far, but I am so angry about this. And with my headache, I can’t find a good/better argument.)

More disgusting shit? here you go:

40 Gunmen Armed with Assault Rifles Terrorize Gun Control Group at a Texas Restaurant | BobCesca.com | Liberal Politics Blog and Podcast | We Cover the World 

That is a story about three women being harassed by a shitload of gun totting gun nuts.

Here is a cartoon to go with it:

OnlyInSomalia

Artist – David Horsey

Then you have this tweet about pro-life nuts…

Another case of disease brought on by anti-vaccine nuts:

Another Victim of (Jenny) McCarthyism  : Lawyers, Guns & Money

A cartoon to go with that post.  Anti vaccine Reunion Tour by Political Cartoonist Pat Bagley

140051 600 Anti vaccine Reunion Tour cartoons

Oooo, check it out. A map of depression: A stunning map of depression rates around the world

(Max Fisher/Washington Post)

Update on shooting death of woman in Detroit: Autopsy reveals Michigan shooting victim McBride shot in face | Al Jazeera America

A dog in Washington State brings home a human leg, and the 93-year-old old man who owns the dog…well, just look at this link: Deputies find more human remains after dog brings home leg | Local & Regional | Seattle News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News | KOMO News

Reason why we hate the dentist: Scared of the dentist? This is why, say neuroscientists | The Raw Story

From the “no shit” department: BBC News – Depression ‘makes us biologically older’

(Yup, no wonder people with down syndrome never age.)

A link to a book about women in the early church: Mothers Of The Church « The Dish

And did you see these pictures from Cassini?

The Day the Earth Smiled (NASA Cassini Saturn Mission Images)

On July 19, 2013, in an event celebrated the world over, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn’s shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings — and, in the background, our home planet, Earth.

With the sun’s powerful and potentially damaging rays eclipsed by Saturn itself, Cassini’s onboard cameras were able to take advantage of this unique viewing geometry. They acquired a panoramic mosaic of the Saturn system that allows scientists to see details in the rings and throughout the system as they are backlit by the sun. This mosaic is special as it marks the third time our home planet was imaged from the outer solar system; the second time it was imaged by Cassini from Saturn’s orbit; and the first time ever that inhabitants of Earth were made aware in advance that their photo would be taken from such a great distance.

The Day the Earth Smiled (NASA Cassini Saturn Mission Images) big, big, big ass picture…

Catalog Page for PIA17172- gives information on picture

Cassini Solstice Mission: The Day the Earth Smiled (with planets annotated) shows where the planets are located…and gives information on mission

PIA17172_fig2.jpg (JPEG Image, 9000 × 3500 pixels) – Scaled (15%) with planets only

PIA17172_fig3.jpg (JPEG Image, 4500 × 1750 pixels) – Scaled (30%) with rings and moons noted

I will end with a picture of a baby sloth sticking her tongue out. It is something I found while helping Bebe with her science project this weekend.

Sloth got your tongue? – PhotoBlog

Eight months old baby sloth Camillo yawns at the zoo in Halle, eastern Germany, on Thursday, May 17. In the wild, sloths live mainly in tropical rainforests of Central and South America.

Y’all have a good day, if you can…stop and comment.


Thursday Reads: Animal Psychology, Republican Race-Baiting, Obama’s Drone War, and More

Good Morning!!

Before I get to political news, here’s an interesting story that has nothing to do with the upcoming 2012 elections: Suicidal dogs and bipolar wolves. It’s an interview with Laurel Braitman, a PhD candidate at MIT and the author of an upcoming book, Animal Madness. As someone who strongly believes that animals have personalities and strong emotions, I’m looking forward to check out her book. Here’s just a bit of the interview, conducted by Malcolm Harris of New Inquiry Magazine.

MH: How did you get involved in writing about mental illness in other animals in particular?

LB: I was doing something completely different but I had gone to graduate school for history of science at MIT. I had originally gone there to do research on the aquarium fishery in the Amazon basin. But I had a dog at the time, my partner and I had adopted a Burnese Mountain Dog. And he was fine for the first six months and then he went spectacularly crazy. He developed a debilitating case of separation anxiety. If we left him alone he would destroy himself, the house, anything in the way. He nearly killed himself at least once. So I had to take him to the vet hospital after he jumped out of our 4th floor apartment, and they said I had to take him to a veterinary behaviorist who would give him a prescription for Prozac and Valium. I was stopped in my tracks. I had heard there were some animals taking these drugs, but I never thought of myself as the kind of person who would put an animal on Prozac. But I found myself in a desperate situation with a 120 pound dog and I tried all these things and they didn’t work, so I became that person that puts her dog on antidepressants. Prozac didn’t work for him really, but the Valium did, at least in the short term. And I began to get curious about how these drugs got into vet clinics in the first place and if there was something to this. Was my dog responding to these drugs in the some of the same ways that people do?

I ended up switching what I was studying because I couldn’t find anything written about the history of this. My PhD research is now the story of what the last 150 years have to tell us about mental illness in other animals. Can they be crazy? Who says they’re crazy? How did the industry around animal mental health come to be? And how do we make other animals feel better? That’s the question that interests me most. Once you notice that another animal is disturbed or anxious– what do we do then? I’ve spent the last few years traveling all over the world to talk to people who are making it their life’s work to help these animals – whether they are elephants or dogs or birds.

What a brilliant idea!

And now, once again we move from the sublime to the ridiculous–and offensive. The Romney campaign is up to it’s old dirty tricks, sending their meanest surrogates out to race bait again. First up, Newt Gingrich says Obama is “not a real president.”

“[Obama] really is like the substitute [National Football League] referees in the sense that he’s not a real president,” Gingrich told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Tuesday night. “He doesn’t do anything that presidents do, he doesn’t worry about any of the things the presidents do, but he has the White House, he has enormous power, and he’ll go down in history as the president, and I suspect that he’s pretty contemptuous of the rest of us.”

Unbelievable! And there’s more:



“This is a man who in an age of false celebrity-hood is sort of the perfect president, because he’s a false president,” he said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t do the president’s job.”

 ….

“You have to wonder what he’s doing,” Gingrich continued. “I’m assuming that there’s some rhythm to Barack Obama that the rest of us don’t understand. Whether he needs large amounts of rest, whether he needs to go play basketball for a while or watch ESPN, I mean, I don’t quite know what his rhythm is, but this is a guy that is a brilliant performer as an orator, who may very well get reelected at the present date, and who, frankly, he happens to be a partial, part-time president.”

It kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it? Next up, John Sununu: Obama Is “Absolutely Lazy And Detached From His Job”

“Look, let me tell you what the big problem with this president is in my opinion. He is absolutely lazy and detached from his job. When he doesn’t go and attended 60% of the detailed presidential daily briefings that come from the CIA and thinks he can just skim it, skim the summary paper on his iPad instead of sitting down and engaging in what — I was in the White House with George Herbert Walker Bush. He took that brief everyday. George W. Bush took it everyday and I believe that Bill Clinton took it everyday. This president thinks he’s smarter than those guys and he doesn’t have to engage in the discussion. That’s the most important half-hour of the day for a president who has to protect the security of the United States,” Romney surrogate John Sununu said on Hannity.

Watch the video at the link, if you can stand it. Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads: The Southern Strategy on Steroids

Good Morning!!

Over the past few days, Mitt Romney has stepped up his race-baiting with patently false ads focusing on welfare. On Tuesday in a speech in Chillicothe, Ohio, Romney projected his own rage at having his own policies and those of his designated VP criticized onto his critics by lashing out at President Obama with the most vile personal attacks I can ever recall from a candidate for President–normally the attack dog role is reserved for the VP or surrogates. Here are some samples from Romney’s speech:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday delivered a harsh indictment of President Barack Obama’s re-election strategy, accusing the president of running a “campaign of division and anger and hate.”

“His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then cobble together 51 percent of the pieces. If an American president wins that way, we all lose,” Romney told a crowd of thousands standing outside the Ross County Court House in southern Ohio.

Romney referred to Vice President Joe Biden’s remark to a heavily black audience in Virginia that the Republican ticket wanted to put people “back in chains” by repealing Wall Street regulations. Although he didn’t cite other examples to support his harsh rhetoric, his campaign pointed to the controversial ad that linked Romney to a steelworker’s wife’s death from cancer and an Obama spokeswoman’s suggestion that Romney might have committed a felony if he didn’t tell the truth in federal filings about his activities with his former company.

….

“His campaign and his surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency,” Romney said. “This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like.”

Romney really needs to learn to quit whining and act like an adult. He’s a typical bully–he can dish it out, but he can’t take it. He doesn’t like being reminded that when Bain Capital loaded up companies with debt and drove them into bankruptcy, real people suffered. Well, boo hoo hoo. When you run for President on being a “successful businessman, you shouldn’t be shocked when your opponents examine your business record.

NBC news has more whining from the speech:

“This is an election in which we should be talking about the path ahead, but you don’t hear any answers coming from President Obama’s re-election campaign,” Romney said. “That’s because he’s intellectually exhausted, out of ideas, and out of energy. And so his campaign has resorted to diversions and distractions, to demagoguing and defaming others. It’s an old game in politics; what’s different this year is that the president is taking things to a new low.”

“This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like,” Romney said. “President Obama knows better, promised better and America deserves better.”
“Over the last four years, this president has pushed Republicans and Democrats about as far apart as they can go,” Romney continued. “And now he and his allies are pushing us all even further apart by dividing us into groups. He demonizes some. He panders to others. His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then try to cobble together 51 percent of the pieces.”

This from the man who wants to make 95% of Americans pay more in taxes so he can cut the taxes of the top 5%. This from the man who repeatedly called Obama’s ideas “foreign” and whose surrogate John Sununu said Obama needed to “learn to be an American.”

During the primaries when Newt Gingrich complained about the barrage of negative ads run by Romney’s campaign and Romney supporting superpacs, Romney dismissively lecture Gingrich with the old saying “Politics ain’t beanbag.” (h/t Buzzfeed) The relevant quote comes at about the 2:40 mark.

On another occasion, Romney said “there’s no whining in politics.” (h/t Buzzfeed)

Mitt Romney is running on an updated Southern strategy in which the race and culture baiting is directed not just at African Americans, but also at Muslims, Hispanics, Palestinians, and pretty much anyone who isn’t Caucasian.

Let’s face it, Romney’s false claims that Obama has “gutted welfare reform” are deliberate efforts to appeal to racial bigotry–by emphasizing that Obama is {gasp!} black and to play on the false beliefs of many ignorant people about the racial composition of welfare recipients. Greg Mitchell articulated this pretty well at The Nation:

Just on a factual level, the new charges (which seemed to originate with the right-wing Heritage Foundation) —Obama trying to undermine the work ethic by granting waivers to certain states—fell apart quickly. The White House quickly denounced the meme as “dishonest” and pointed out that two of the five governors who requested the very limited waivers were Republicans. Also (surprise): Romney had backed such waivers as governor.

And this morning, PolitiFact delivered the harshest of its judgements on the ad and campaign statements —”pants on fire,” or one-big-lie. But its conclusion also, if a bit coyly, referred to what may be the most significant, and enduring, aspect of the new Romney focus: “The ad’s claim is not accurate, and it inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance.”

What they are obliguely referring to, of course, is the old, long-lasting, portrayal of welfare by conservatives, Southern Democrats and many in the media as (1) mainly for lazy folks who won’t work and (2) mainly a program for black Americans (and other minorities). Facts never got in the way but it was a way to flame racial and class resentments. Nixon put his welfare recipients in Cadillacs and Reagan famously denounced “welfare queens.”

You still heard a lot today about “Reagan Democrats” and the battle between Obama and Reagan for their souls, but few point out that the origin of this subgroup can be traced back at least partly to Reagan’s race-tinged welfare bashing.

Anyone who can’t see what is going on here is either utterly ignorant of American history, is simply being deliberately obtuse, or is OK with this kind of ugly bigotry.

OK, I’ve said my piece. Now I’ll refer you to a few pieces on this topic by other people who expressed these points better than I can.

First, a brief but pithy piece from the Auburn Journal: Romney Revives the Southern Strategy. Referring to the Sununu and Romney statements implying that Obama isn’t “American”:

This kind of language acts as a dog whistle for bigots. It is a more subtle version of birtherism, and reflects the kind of exclusionary definition of American national identity embraced by far too many on the right. It is the exact opposite of Barack Obama’s conception of our national identity, one that emphasizes national unity as well as inclusion, and seeks to strengthen ties among Americans across lines of race, culture, and religion.

When John Sununu said that President Obama was not an American – and make no mistake, that’s what he said – he wasn’t saying anything his boss hadn’t said before. Mitt Romney has made the same kind of remark on too many occasions to be able to deny that his campaign has made a clear decision to do what John McCain refused to do, and what any politician with a sense of honor and patriotism would refuse to do.

Mitt Romney is running on hate.

Salon’s Joan Walsh has a new book coming out called What’s the Matter with White People. Here’s a review of the book by Andrew O’Hehir: Joan Walsh: GOP has “doubled down on whiteness”

Joan Walsh’s family, as she writes in her new book “What’s the Matter With White People? Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was,” participated in two of the great migrations of 20th-century American history. Joan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but mostly grew up in suburbia (first on Long Island and later in Wisconsin). As that happened she watched many of her Irish-American family members morph from bedrock New Deal-JFK Democrats into Nixon-Reagan Republicans. In her book, Joan tries to wrestle with this legacy as honestly and forthrightly as she can, without betraying either her family’s complicated lived experience or her own passionate commitment to social, racial and economic justice.

“What’s the Matter With White People?” is sure to provoke much discussion during the fall campaign, with its personal and historical approach to one of the most toxic issues in American politics: How and why the white working class became the Republican base, in defiance of its own economic interests, and whether the Democrats can ever win it back.

And Joan Walsh herself writes: Joe Biden Was Right.

By now everyone knows that the vice president told a Virginia audience Tuesday that once Mitt Romney “unchains” Wall Street from Dodd-Frank reforms, “They’re going to put you all back in chains.” Since his audience was mainly but not exclusively African-American, the pearl-clutchers in the GOP and media claimed Biden was accusing Romney of wanting to reinstate slavery, denounced him. “The press pounded Palin when she talked about ‘blood libel,’” Ari Fleischer wrote on Twitter. “What will they do about Biden’s ‘chains’ remark?” The Romney campaign likewise tweeted its outrage.

Romney himself attacked the Obama-Biden campaign in multiple interviews. “The president’s campaign is all about division and attack and hatred,” he told CBS, adding, “And the comments yesterday by the vice president I think just diminish the White House that much more.” Even some nominal liberals joined the Biden-bashing. “Of course the GOP has done nasty racial stuff this campaign (esp newt). But Biden’s ‘chains’ statement was still absurd,” Peter Beinart tweeted Wednesday morning. There were widespread demands that the vice president apologize.

But he didn’t. Biden clarified his remarks, noting the frequency with which Republicans use “unchain” and “unshackle” metaphors to describe the way they’d “liberate” Wall Street from Obama-era regulation and reform.

The whole post is well worth reading.

New York Daily News: Who’s playing racial politics in this campaign? It’s Mitt Romney. The article focuses on the first of the Romney welfare ads:

Romney accuses Obama of gutting welfare reform by granting waivers to state governments in how they choose to implement the law. It’s a charge that is completely without merit; spun from whole cloth; an invented attack line. But again, lying on the campaign trail about President Obama’s record is the rule, not the exception, for Mitt Romney.

Among the accusations made by Romney is that under Obama’s non-existent, made-up welfare plan, “you wouldn’t have to work,” “you wouldn’t have to train for a job” because “they just send you a welfare check.”

What’s most striking about the ad are the visuals – workers wiping their brow; working class Americans toiling away at manufacturing jobs. And coincidentally all the people in the ad … are white. This might not mean much, except for the fact that, as anyone who has followed American politics for the past 45 years knows, criticisms of the welfare system from the campaign trail have habitually always been used as racial code in attacks on Democrats for coddling blacks. It is the symbol of wasteful government spending, rewarding poor Americans for not working and creating a culture of dependency.

Since the 1960s, Republican politicians – along with the occasional Democrat – have used assaults on the welfare system to stir up white resentment toward blacks, poor Americans and other minorities for allegedly lazily living off the largesse of hard-working tax-payers, like those visually portrayed in Romney’s ad. That the current President happens to be African-American (and is also visually featured in the ad) is again just another of those odd coincidences.

Indeed, this ad and in fact this whole line of attack is one of the most blatant uses of racial coding in a presidential campaign since the Willie Horton ad of 1988.

It’s nice to see that the corporate media is beginning to call Romney out on his race baiting.

Here’s another example from U.S. News and World Report: Romney’s the angry one, not Obama.
Referring to Romney’s Tuesday speech in Ohio:

Obviously Romney has forgotten who his buddies are, and who are pulling his strings: the Republicans who are bending over for the Tea Party and Grover Norquist and for their rich financial campaign backers.

Has Romney forgotten the “diversions and distractions” of those who were questioning the president’s citizenship and place of birth long after he was elected? Has Romney forgotten the “defaming others” like what was done when House Speaker John Boehner said the president hadn’t worked a day in his life?!

….

I must say I was most shocked, although not surprised, by Romney’s accusation of the president “dividing us all in groups.” Isn’t wanting a baby born here of an undocumented immigrant not receiving citizenship divisive? Isn’t not wanting healthcare for the poor divisive? Isn’t wanting to cut programs that benefit middle- and lower-income women and families divisive? Hmm…sounds like Romney and his camp to me more than Obama. And with the addition of Rep. Paul Ryan as Romney’s vice presidential candidate, the race has become more polarized, more—dare I say—divisive?

I’ve focused on Romney/Ryan’s race-baiting strategy in this post, but I know there are lots of other stories I should I read today. I look forward to your suggestions.


Late Night Reads and Open Thread: That’s all folks!

If you could see me right now, I would be in a similar pose as this painting that sold for 119.9 Miiiiiilllllllion Dollars:  Sotheby’s sale of Edward Munch’s ‘The Scream’ brings $119.9 million

Edvard Munch's 1895 pastel 'The Scream'

Sotheby’s sells Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ for $119.9 million on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 (Carl Court / AFP /Getty Images / April 29, 2012 / May 2, 2012)

Wow, those guys look like a couple of bouncers!

Today, Newt finally said goodbye. Here is Shep Smith take on this and politics in general: Shep Smith: “Politics is Weird. And Creepy.”

After a rambling and nearly-incoherent speech, Newt Gingrich finally dropped his bid for the Republican nomination and Mitt Romney’s campaign issued a predictably benign and “hugs all around” statement about it, saying:

“Newt Gingrich has brought creativity and intellectual vitality to American political life. During the course of this campaign, Newt demonstrated both eloquence and fearlessness in advancing conservative ideas. Although he long ago created an enduring place for himself in American history, I am confident that he will continue to make important contributions to our party and to the life of the nation. Ann and I are proud to call Newt and Callista friends and we look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead as we fight to restore America’s promise.”

This would not be news except that Shepard Smith’s reaction to that statement was just classic and delicious. I think he should not be working for a channel who is almost always “weird and creepy,” but since he is, I’ve got to say that this should go down in the annals of classic news anchor reactions:

Politics is weird. And creepy. And now, I know, lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality.

The facial expressions are as wonderful as the words.

Video at the link…

Of course, comedians all over will be sighing big tonight…because they will be bidding fair well to the wealth of jokes that Newt is capable of inspiring. 5/3 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Newt Gingrich exits | Mike Luckovich

This is an open thread….


Wednesday Evening Reads: Great Tits and Newt Gingrich

Oh boy…just a warning, tonight’s post is going to be infantile.

Good Evening!

Did you hear the news today? Newt is out! (And yes, that title is a bit tongue in cheek. The Great Tits I am talking about are song birds, more on that later. And yes, that title is in reference to T & A meaning Newt is the ass.)

Okay, on with the show:

The big story tonight is from the Supreme Court…and the apparent favoring of Arizona’s argument regarding Immigration. I know that Dakinikat has a post up about this, but I wanted to cite a couple quotes from the NYT article she linked to:

Considering Arizona Immigration Law, Justices Are Again in Political Storm –

Justices across the ideological spectrum appeared inclined to uphold a controversial part of Arizona’s aggressive 2010 immigration law, based on their questions on Wednesday at a Supreme Court argument.

“You can see it’s not selling very well,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a member of the court’s liberal wing and its first Hispanic justice, told Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., referring to a central part of his argument.

Mr. Verrilli, representing the federal government, had urged the court to strike down part of the law requiring state law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop if the officials have reason to believe that the person might be an illegal immigrant.

“Why don’t you try to come up with something else?” Justice Sotomayor asked Mr. Verrilli.

Damn, that is not a good sign for those of us who believe this Arizona Immigration law takes things way to far into the danger zone. However,

Should the court uphold any part of the law, immigration groups are likely to challenge it based on an argument not before that court on Wednesday — that the law discriminates on the basis of race and ethnic background.

Indeed, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made clear that the case, like last month’s arguments over President Obama’s health care law, was about the allocation of state and federal power.

“No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling, does it?” the chief justice asked Mr. Verrilli, who agreed.

Should the court uphold most or all of the Arizona law or strike down the heart of the health care law, it would represent a political blow to President Obama in the final stretch of the campaign season. The health care decision is also expected by June.

Wednesday’s argument, the last of the term, was a rematch between the main lawyers in last month’s case. Paul D. Clement, who argued for the 26 states challenging the health care law, represented Arizona. Mr. Verrilli again represented the federal government. In an unusual move, Chief Justice Roberts allowed the argument to go 20 minutes longer than the usual hour.

But one thing is certain, Verrilli, who is the same lawyer that argued the Health Care case…and we saw what a blunder that performance was, Verrilli seems to have stumbled again today.

Mr. Verrilli, whose performance in the health care case was sometimes rocky, seemed on Wednesday occasionally to frustrate justices who might have seemed likely allies.

At one point Justice Sotomayor, addressing Mr. Verrilli by his title, said: “General, I’m terribly confused by your answer. O.K.? And I don’t know that you’re focusing in on what I believe my colleagues are trying to get to.”

Wow. You know, a lawyer arguing before the SCOTUS…that is like the top achievement of a career. You got to prepare for this sort of thing. That this  lawyer came unprepared or ill-equipped to handle such a demanding hearing, twice, makes me wonder…WTF?

Anyway, the “remarks” are something to read, some of them sound very annoyed, check it out.

Reuters has an article discussing some background on Zimmerman: George Zimmerman: Prelude to a shooting

A pit bull named Big Boi began menacing George and Shellie Zimmerman in the fall of 2009.

The first time the dog ran free and cornered Shellie in their gated community in Sanford, Florida, George called the owner to complain. The second time, Big Boi frightened his mother-in-law’s dog. Zimmerman called Seminole County Animal Services and bought pepper spray. The third time he saw the dog on the loose, he called again. An officer came to the house, county records show.

“Don’t use pepper spray,” he told the Zimmermans, according to a friend. “It’ll take two or three seconds to take effect, but a quarter second for the dog to jump you,” he said.

“Get a gun.”

I urge you to read this article, just a couple more teaser paragraphs:

During the time Zimmerman was in hiding, his detractors defined him as a vigilante who had decided Martin was suspicious merely because he was black. After Zimmerman was finally arrested on a charge of second-degree murder more than six weeks after the shooting, prosecutors portrayed him as a violent and angry man who disregarded authority by pursuing the 17-year-old.

But a more nuanced portrait of Zimmerman has emerged from a Reuters investigation into Zimmerman’s past and a series of incidents in the community in the months preceding the Martin shooting.

Based on extensive interviews with relatives, friends, neighbors, schoolmates and co-workers of Zimmerman in two states, law enforcement officials, and reviews of court documents and police reports, the story sheds new light on the man at the center of one of the most controversial homicide cases in America.

This next link made me think of Ralph, one of our regular readers and commenters. He has followed the countdown of Atrios “Wanker of the Decade.” This is a summary plus, you might say, of the winner of this Wanker award:  10 of Thomas Friedman’s Dumbest “Big Ideas” | Media | AlterNet

In conferring the honor of “Wanker of the Decade” on New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman, blogger Duncan Black observed that “truly great wankers possess a kind of glib narcissism, the belief that everything is about them while simultaneously disavowing any responsibility for anything.” The sorry “state of the world is what it is,” Black continued, “in large part because people in positions of great power think this absurd buffoon of man is a Very Serious Person.”

Wow, some of the stuff Friedman has said is f’d up! I mean, I knew the guy was “wanker” extraordinaire, but some of his articles from the early and middle 90’s are way out there. Read that link to see what I mean.

Now a couple cartoons to pass the time before the Great Tit article.

4/26 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Gingrich bows out | Mike Luckovich

Yes both from Luckovich…

4/25 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Global warming | Mike Luckovich

Now, it is with great pleasure that I present to you the headline that made me spit my green coffee this morning… Great tits join mobs with neighbours they know

Oh, it gets better…

Great tits in nestbox (c) Chris Perrins Great tits with familiar neighbours successfully raise more chicks
Like many birds, great tits are protective parents, often putting themselves at risk to mob predators that threaten their chicks.

A study has now shown that they will join anti-predator mobs if they hear alarm calls from birds they know well.

Scientists found that the birds would “join in” defensive mobs that were instigated by neighbouring birds they were familiar with.

The findings are published in the journal Biology Letters.

“Joint mobbing” – birds ganging up to fend off predators – has been seen in many bird species.

But the researchers were particularly interested in the phenomenon in great tits because, in their previous work, they noticed that the birds’ lives were affected by the birds they lived next door to.

Oh, there is nothing like joint mobbing from a group of great tits…believe me, when great tits feel the things they care about are in danger…they get protective and form anti-PLUB mobs….oops, I mean anti-predator mobs. And when these Great Tits gang up and help their neighbors to fight against the predator GOP politician, oops I did it again…I mean perceived dangerous predator…watch out!

Well, think of this as an open thread/evening reads…and post whatever you want!