Wednesday Reads: Thoughts on DC

Me and my son, daughter and husband at the Capitol…

Hello, after spending ten days in our nation’s capital, it is nice to finally get back home. One thing is certain, living in Manhattan has spoiled me when it comes to public transport…the DC Metro line is awful, very few stops and when there is a station nearby, the cars and the stations all look the same. No character, no charm…and as for the passengers, everyone with their eyes down on the e-pad of choice, Apple of course.

Another observation, there were absolutely no places to drink water…or even buy a bottle of water. We were there during severe heat advisories and no water to be found. The drinking fountains were not working save for one that was on the outskirts of The Mall near the Commerce Department. The place is not people friendly, especially on a hot day.

I’ve got one more thing to gripe about before I get to the good stuff. When you go into the museums, everyone with a bag must have it inspected. Most of those with bags were women…and we had to open the bags and let the guards fiddle with our stuff for security reasons. Meanwhile, men like my husband and son with huge stuffed cargo short pockets were allowed to walk right in…no inspection required. At the Natural History museum there was a metal detector we all had to walk through, but it did not even go off when someone with keys stepped across. I asked one of the guards why don’t they look inside the big bulging pockets on the guy’s pants and he said… “I only do what I am told.”

Perhaps I am a bit too sensitive, but dude after dude walked into those museums with pockets stuffed to the gills…while practically all the women had to stop, wait in a long line and let a guard look through their bags…no matter how small the bag was. It just seemed strange to me that the security system in place ignored these cargo pockets…I mean these pockets are huge! I kept thinking about the scene in Seinfeld with Kramer running down the street, his cargo pant pockets full of change.  Imagine what these guys can stuff into those things.

(Okay, enough of the bitching…let’s get on with the show.)

We had a wonderful time. I have to tell you, DC is an exhausting experience, you feel overwhelmed with all the exhibits and things to see…so I will just mention a few things that stood out. First, the Shuttle Discovery at the Udvar-Hazy Hanger was something to see. It is huge, just imagine just what it must look like riding piggy-back on a big ass jet. We could see the burn marks from the heat shield tiles and places where the bigger white sections of the shuttle’s skin had been replaced.

Shuttle Discovery, with replacement tiles visible…what a sight to see.

Another impressive piece of history in this part of the Air and Space Museum was this nuclear warhead rocket called the Redstone Missile.

Redstone Missile at the Udvar-Hazy Center

The first U.S. large-scale, liquid-fuel missile to become operational, the Redstone was one of the most historically important developments in U.S. rocket technology.
Image Number: 2004-51785
Credit: Photo by Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

This is the Redstone, one of the most historically important developments in U.S. rocket technology. It was the U.S.’s first large-scale operational liquid-propellant missile and was modified as the Jupiter-C that placed the U.S.’s first artificial satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit in 1958. In 1961 the Mercury-Redstone rocket launched the first American into space, Alan B. Shepard.

As a missile, the Redstone had a range of 200-250 miles and carried either a conventional or nuclear warhead. The Redstone made its first successful flight in 1953 and became operational in 1958. It was replaced by the all-solid-fuel Pershing missile in 1964. This missile was donated to the Smithsonian in 1978 by the U.S. Army.

On day two we saw the Natural History Museum, and the exhibit that I thought was the most interesting was this one, called Written In Bone. It is a look at forensic archaeology.

Written in Bone examines history through 17th-century bone biographies, including those of colonists teetering on the edge of survival at Jamestown, Virginia, and those living in the wealthy and well-established settlement of St. Mary’s City, Maryland.

The forensic investigation of human skeletons provides intriguing information on people and events of America’s past. No other inanimate objects make us feel the same passionate curiosity as the remains of once-living, breathing individuals like us. And nothing else can answer our questions in quite the same ways.

At no other time in our history have we had the technological
capability or opportunity now available to help us tell this tale.
Explore the history and science behind the investigation as we learn
for the first time the intimate stories of America’s early colonists.

This exhibit discusses a cemetery section of the Chesapeake Bay settlement that was recently discovered. I’ve put a few links below for you to check out when you have the time.

Four centuries ago, a band of English adventurers built a fort on the James River near the Chesapeake Bay. In the decades after 1607, shipload after shipload of colonists sought new lives in North America. They began moving inland, settling along the coastal rivers of Virginia and Maryland.

These early immigrants left us dramatic evidence of their lives — in the traces of the structures they built, the foods they ate, and the objects they used. The most vivid evidence waits in their unmarked graves and skeletons.

Today, scientists are recovering these buried clues and investigating these most personal physical records. We are meeting the Chesapeake’s earliest European and African settlers in entirely new ways. Their stories are written in their bones.

There were two skeletons in the exhibit that really made me wonder and think about what life was like, first this one boy, a homicide victim that was found in the cellar buried under a bunch of trash and garbage. Written in Bone – The Body in the Basement

Leavy Neck skeleton

Leavy Neck skeleton.
Image courtesy of Chip Clark

Circumstantial Evidence

A 1661 Virginia law forbade private burial of servants. It ordered public burials, so that any foul play or mistreatment would be noticed. Maryland considered a similar law in 1663 but did not pass it. Clearly the colonists recognized that while the lives of indentured servants were always difficult, for some their situation was dangerous.

This burial, with its nontraditional placement of the body, contrasts markedly with other 17th-century burials. It was not in a cemetery but in the cellar of an occupied house. The unevenly dug pit was too short and narrow for the body, which was bent at the hips and knees. A large piece of a milk pan left on the chest clearly did not belong to the deceased but was used to dig the shallow grave and force the corpse into the pit. Such lack of concern for the deceased implies his lack of connection to the household. But, did the skeletal evidence also support the hunch that this was an unnamed servant?

The other skeletal remains which I found fascinating was this one, of a woman who died during childbirth…Written in Bone – Difficult Births

Field photo, close-up of the pelvic bones with a late-term fetus

Female, age 26 to 32, with an unborn, late-term fetus in utero. Image courtesy: Smithsonian Institution

Buried with Her Unborn Child

Bone does not usually show conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth — but the skeleton of this young immigrant held the remains of a late-term fetus. The mother’s pelvic bones show no abnormalities that would have prevented a normal birth. Nevertheless, it is quite likely that her death was related to pregnancy or complications during childbirth.

So please give those links a look-see… At the National Gallery, the George Bellows exhibit was my favorite.

When George Bellows died at the age of forty-two in 1925, he was hailed as one of the greatest artists America had yet produced. In 2012, the National Gallery of Art will present the first comprehensive exhibition of Bellows’ career in more than three decades. George Bellows will include some 130 paintings, drawings, and lithographs. Bellows is arguably the most important figure in the generation of artists who negotiated the transition from the Victorian to the modern era in American culture. This exhibition will provide the most complete account of his achievements to date and will introduce Bellows to new generations. The accompanying catalogue will document and define Bellows’ unique place in the history of American art and in the annals of modernism.

You can see some of the artwork here: George Bellows

He did some very cool lithographs of a traveling preacher named Billy Sunday during the early 1900’s in New York City…Terra Foundation for American Art: Collections. You can view a larger image of this artwork by clicking on this link here: Billy Sunday

I want to bring one part of the following passage to your attention, emphasis mine.

George Bellows’s lithograph Billy Sundayis a compelling picture of the famous evangelical preacher on stage, energetically straddling the surfaces of the tables at which his supporters sit as he verbally assaults his docile audience. Bellows celebrates the forceful physical presence of a charismatic individual, embodied in his emphatic lunge as he thrusts his pointing finger toward a crowd of potential converts to underscore the power of his words. Strong tonal contrasts underscore the dominant presence of this figure against the dim expanse of the revival tent, its forest of upright supports illuminated by the diffused glow of scattered lights.For almost forty years, Billy Sunday toured the nation, preaching to huge, spellbound audiences. A former baseball player, he was renowned for the energetic style of his preaching and the lunging poses he struck as his fervor reached its highest pitch. In January 1915, Bellows and Communist activist and reporter John Reed attended a Sunday revival meeting in Philadelphia on assignment for New York’s Metropolitan Magazine. The experience inspired Bellows to make a painting of the scene in 1916 and six years later this lithograph, which is closely based on one of the drawings he made to illustrate Reed’s article. Repelled by Sunday’s spell-binding zealotry, Bellows commented in 1917 that Sunday was “the worst thing that ever happened to America…. He is death to imagination, to spirituality, to art” (Bellows quoted in Myers and Ayres, 1988, p.53). Bellows’s powerful image is one of 193 lithographs he made between 1916 and his sudden death nine years later. It was one of several lithographs made between 1916 and 1923 in which he explored the pervasive influence of religious dogma in American life.

What Bellows said about Billy Sunday is still relevant today…it gives me chills to read that quote.

This painting by John Singer Sargent was also eye-catching…Street in Venice

John Singer Sargent
Street in Venice, 1882
Gift of the Avalon Foundation

Street in Venice, created during the second of Sargent’s numerous visits to that city, was done on the spot. Mediterranean sunshine penetrates the narrow confines of the Calle Larga dei Proverbi, a back alley near the Grand Canal.

The emptiness of the silent street implies that Sargent depicted siesta, the time when many Italians rest for three hours at midday. One of two men conversing in the shadows is distracted by a girl strolling alone. Her skirt’s rustling hem and shawl’s flowing fringe are rendered with indistinct strokes that suggest her rapid pace will soon carry her beyond his lingering gaze.

The US Holocaust Museum was something that I wish we had more time to spend looking and reading over the Permanent Exhibit.

The Museum’s Permanent Exhibition The Holocaust spans three floors of the Museum building. It presents a narrative history using more than 900 artifacts, 70 video monitors, and four theaters that include historic film footage and eyewitness testimonies. The exhibition is divided into three parts: “Nazi Assault,” “Final Solution,” and “Last Chapter.” The narrative begins with images of death and destruction as witnessed by American soldiers during the liberation of Nazi concentration camps in 1945. Most first-time visitors spend an average of two to three hours in this self-guided exhibition. Recommended for visitors 11 years of age and older.

The display of shoes from victims confiscated from Majdanek prisoners that still smell to this day…something I will never forget. And after reading the book In the Garden of Beasts, this exhibit hit home…big time.

Here are a few other links you may find interesting:

State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda reveals how the Nazi Party used modern techniques as well as new technologies and carefully crafted messages to sway millions with its vision for a new Germany.

“If ever a piece of writing could produce mass hatred, it is this one. . . . This book is about lies and slander.”
—Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is the most notorious and widely distributed antisemitic publication of modern times. Its lies about Jews, which have been repeatedly discredited, continue to circulate today, especially on the Internet. The individuals and groups who have used the Protocols are all linked by a common purpose: to spread hatred of Jews.

Gain an insider’s view of history, access Museum resources, and contemplate the connections to today’s world by visiting the new Wexner Center. Explore “The Nuremberg Trials: What is Justice?”; view the Committee on Conscience display “Who will survive today? Genocide Emergency: Darfur, Sudan”; and visit the Survivors Registry.

We also saw many of the city’s monuments and memorials. I’ve got a few pictures we took on the trip that I’d like to share…from the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, Tomb of the Unknowns, and Arlington National Cemetery…so take a look at these if you like, I’ve written some descriptions and thoughts under each.

You can catch them in this slide show below…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Well, that is my post this morning. It is great to be back, and I’ve got to say I missed the blog, but it was nice to have a break. Thank you to Kat, BB, Wonk and Connie who covered for me during the trip.  So much to catch up on…I have no idea what has gone on this past week and a half, so please post links to things you are reading and blogging about today. See you in the comments!

SDB Early Evening News Reads for 100311: Koch, Votes, Christie and Special Skills

Good afternoon, the evening reads are a bit early today, so lets dig in…

I cannot believe the Main Stream Media silence on the investigative article from Bloomberg that alleges Koch Industries are involved in corporate bribery in six different countries and made money off of chemical sales to Iran.

Dakinikat covered it in her morning post, but I thought this from David Dayen was a great post about the:  Noted Liberal Rag Bloomberg Levels Serious Charges at Koch Industries | FDL News Desk

Bloomberg, the news organization for patchouli-burning, Birkenstock-wearing hippies everywhere, has a long story alleging that Koch Industries traded with Iran, paid bribes to win contracts, stole oil, and engaged in “violations of criminal law,” according to the company’s own internal documents.

You’d need only add some story about Charles or David Koch personally tying down a damsel in distress to train tracks to come up with a more damning portrait of what amounts to a super-villain.

Because this story appears in such a commie broadsheet like Bloomberg, it will surely be dismissed. OK, tongue out of cheek. This is an extremely serious piece of journalism, detailing numerous crimes from a corporate actor that has gotten wildly rich in spite of – because of – the crimes. There are details in here of Koch Industries negligence in a pipeline gas explosion that killed two teenagers. There are details of Koch employees told by superiors to falsify data on cancer-causing benzene. There are details of trading with Iran and illicit payments to get contracts and all sorts of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. There are details of a number of different indictments and settlements and court orders and plea agreements. The portrait painted is frankly of a criminal enterprise.

It is ridiculous…there are only a handful of news outlets mentioning the Koch Brothers criminal activities this Bloomberg article investigated. I noticed MSNBC has a story on it, but all I see on CNN, Reuters, Google News are things about Perry and the N*ggerhead Camp, Amanda Knox, Michael Jackson’s Doctor and speculation on Chris Christie.

Like this possible announcement from Christie scheduled for Thursday:  Christie-Watch: Big Announcement Coming Thursday (Maybe) | Election 2012

In a piece titled, “Top Christie Donors Told To Head To Trenton,” The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis has this:

“Big potential donors to Christie have been told to prepare to go to Trenton this Thursday to stand on stage with him for the announcement if he decides to run. He has not decided yet.”

Lewis concludes, “Regardless of his decision, this announcement will be big news…”

So, what is one to read into that? Presumably it would be a bit strange for Christie call donors to “stand on stage” while announcing that he’s not going to run.

In other election news, check out the latest findings from a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice:  Restrictions Could Keep Five Million Traditionally Democratic Voters From The Polls In 2012 | TPMMuckraker

Restrictive voting laws in states across the country could affect up to five million voters from traditionally Democratic demographics in 2012, according to a new report by the Brennan Center. That’s a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.

The new restrictions, the study found, “fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election.”

Over at Maddow, they have a map that illustrates the states with new voter laws: The Maddow Blog – Map: Making voting harder

Click for the Brennan Center for Justice report.

Since Republicans gained control of so many state legislatures in 2010, they’ve been working to pass laws that make voting harder. We’ve been asking on the show whether they’ve made voting hard enough, in enough places, to change the landscape in 2012.

Now, from the Brennan Center for Justice, comes the beginning of an answer:

The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

In those states, minority, student and poor voters are most likely to feel the pinch from the new rules. As many as one in four African-Americans don’t have the kind of photo ID needed to vote. In Maine, after finding almost no evidence of voter fraud, the Secretary of State sent college students a letter saying they might be in violation of the law. And in Wisconsin, you can get a free photo ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles — if you know to ask for it.

Back to the TPM link for a minute:

The study found that:

  • These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
  • The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
  • Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, five have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

The total number, according to the Brennan Center, is the sum of the 3.2 million voters they estimate will be affected by new photo ID laws, “the 240,000 citizens and potential voters who could be affected by new proof of citizenship laws, 202,000 voters registered in 2008 through voter registration drives that have now been made extremely difficult or impossible under new laws, 60,000 voters registered in 2008 through Election Day voter registration where it has now been repealed, one to two million voters who voted in 2008 on days eliminated under new laws rolling back early voting and at least 100,000 disenfranchised citizens who might have regained voting rights by 2012.”

What can you say, Dak is getting ready to defend her dissertation and take those necessary steps towards moving on to better and greener pastures…possibly outside of the US.  I wish her the best, because this country is really going down the toilet.

On the LGBT  front, this news out of Bentonville, Arkansas should make a big statement to the GOP candidates against LGBT rights…A Trans-Walmart Moment | Pam’s House Blend

A Trans-Walmart Moment has come without much notice, but the moment should be considered significant: Walmart has recently changed their corporate nondiscrimination policy to add gender identity.

From The Advocate‘s article Wal-Mart Adds Trans Protections for Employees:

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart has added gender identity to their list of protected categories for employees.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, already has protections for LGB employees. The additional transgender protections were praised by the Human Rights Campaign…

Thumbnail link to HRC press release: Human Rights Campaign Applauds Walmart for Adding Gender Identity Non-Discrimination ProtectionsFrom the HRC’s press release entitled Human Rights Campaign Applauds Walmart for Adding Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Protections; Nation’s largest private employer sets standard with protections for transgender workers:

The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – today praised Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, for adding gender identity and expression to its employment non-discrimination policy. The company’s nondiscrimination policy already included sexual orientation.

“What matters in the workplace is how you do your job, not your gender identity or sexual orientation,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As the nation’s largest private employer, Walmart shows that doing the right thing is also good for business. We urge them to continue to move forward by ensuring all of their LGBT employees receive equal benefits.”

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation tracks corporate workplace policies and rates companies on their treatment of LGBT employees through the Corporate Equality Index (CEI). The CEI has helped lead a sea-change in the workplaces practices of corporate America by assessing more than 30 specific policies and practices covering nearly every aspect of employment for LGBT workers from non-discrimination protections and the training surrounding those policies to domestic partnership and legal dependent benefits to gender transition guidelines and LGBT employee resource groups. Visit our website at for a complete look at the survey. Last year a record 844 American companies and law firms were rated in the CEI.

“Congress needs to follow their lead and make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act the law of the land,” added Solmonese.

My Forever and ever, Amen comment on nondiscrimination protections based on gender identity and gender expression is now going to be “If it’s good enough for Walmart, it should be good enough for you.”

Yup, and I would add one thing to Pam’s Forever and ever, Amen comment… “So get over it!”

On August 31st of this year we lost a woman who made history in Aviation.  Betty Skelton: Aviatrix and test driver who broke records on land and in the air.

Betty Skelton was an air-and-land daredevil in an era of male-dominated sports.

Breaking the gender barriers and setting records, she notched up three women’s international aerobatics titles and 17 aviation and race-car world records during the 1940s and 1950s. According to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Skelton held more combined aircraft and automotive records than anyone in history. In his 1994 biography, Betty Skelton: The First Lady of Firsts, Henry Holden wrote, “In an era when heroes were race pilots, jet jocks and movie stars, Betty Skelton was an aviation sweetheart, an international celebrity and a flying sensation.”

Skelton was an audacious aviatrix; her signature trick, in her Pitts Special biplane S-1C, Little Stinker, was the “inverted ribbon cut,” a breathtaking manoeuvre in which a pilot flies upside down at about 150mph and about 12 feet from the ground to slice a ribbon strung between two poles with the propeller. She also set two world light-plane altitude records, reaching 26,000ft in 1949 and 29,050ft (just higher than Everest) in a Piper Cub in 1951. Used to flying barefoot and with an outside temperature of -53, she recalled, “My feet darn near froze to death.”

In 1954, the diminutive Skelton became the automobile industry’s first female test driver, setting a world land-speed record, in 1956, of 145mph in a souped-up Corvette at Daytona Beach – the men’s record at the time was 3mph faster. In 1965 she set the women’s world land-speed record, hitting 315.72mph at Bonneville Salt Flats.

Skelton was the first woman to be inducted into the International Aerobatic Hall of Fame and the Nascar International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

I love the cover of that Look Magazine, isn’t it great? Skelton was a role model for girls, at a time when a woman’s place was in the home…and not at an altitude of 29,050 feet! She passed away from cancer at her home in Florida. She was 85.

And lets end with a bit of Appalachian History » You’d have that feeling then of being way far back

From 1935-1943, President Franklin Roosevelt looked to the U.S. Farm Security Administration, under the direction of Roy Stryker, to photograph people in need across the country in order to help sell his New Deal programs to the public.

Ben Shahn was one of the first photographers Styker hired. Shahn worked for a part of the project called Special Skills, and also helped create posters and other graphic arts.

“It was a really tough time,” remembered Shahn years later, “and when this thing came along and this idea that I must wander around the country a bit for three months. . . I just nearly jumped out of my skin with joy. And not only that, they were going to give me a salary too! I just couldn’t believe it.”

In October 1935 Shahn and his wife Bernarda started out on the first trip in a Model A Ford. Heading for West Virginia, he took photographs in Monongalia County before arriving in Logan County. The couple spent a Sunday and Monday in Omar and also visited Freeze Fork before moving on through Williamson to Kentucky and Tennessee, and then into the deep South.

“I did a series of photographs on a Saturday afternoon in a small town in Tennessee, I believe, of a medicine man. He had a little dummy, ventriloquist dummy, and he had a Negro to help him and so on. It was Saturday. I don’t think there were ten cars in the square, they were all mule drawn carts that had come there. This was 1935; it was incredible you see. The same was true of a lot of areas we covered. You’d have that feeling then of being way far back; but tragically enough, just about a month ago we took a train from Washington to Cincinnati. As I went throughout West Virginia, it hadn’t changed. It just made me sick to see the same darn thing.

A transcript from this 1965–68 interview can be found here: Oral history interview with Ben Shahn, 1964 Apr. 14 – Oral Histories | Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

A few photos from this trip can be seen here: Omar Project:Photos

This is one that particularly touched me, maybe because the kid looks like a little hoodlum in the making…

Now, that is one tough looking little dirty bastard…(wink and a smile) 😉

That is it for me today, I’ll catch up with y’all later in the comments!