Thursday Reads: DADT Decision, Bachmann Surging, High-Profile Trials, and Mega-Wombats

Good Morning!! I think I have some interesting reads for you today, so let’s get right to it.

The biggest story of the day is that the Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals has ordered the Obama administration to quit stalling and get rid of DADT immediately.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a two-page order against the policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” in a case brought by the group Log Cabin Republicans.

In 2010, a federal judge in California, Virginia A. Phillips, ruled that the law was unconstitutional and ordered the government to stop enforcing it. That decision was appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which issued a stay allowing the government to continue enforcing the policy as it made its way through the courts.

Congress repealed the policy last year, but called for a lengthy process of preparation, training and certification, still under way, before ending it….

Judges Alex Kozinski, Kim McLane Wardlaw and Richard A. Paez stated in their order that “circumstances and balance of hardships had changed” since their initial ruling: the Obama administration had informed the court that repeal of the policy was “well under way,” and in a filing in another case on July 1, the Department of Justice took the position that discrimination based on sexual orientation should be subjected to tough scrutiny. The government, the judges wrote, “can no longer satisfy the demanding standard for issuance of a stay.”

And the credit goes to the Log Cabin Republicans, because Democrats are too weak and cowardly to do anything useful anymore.

As I predicted, Michele Bachmann is making gains on Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, according to the latest PPP Poll.

When PPP polled New Hampshire in April Michele Bachmann was stuck at 4%. She’s gained 14 points over the last three months and now finds herself within single digits of Mitt Romney. Romney continues to lead the way in the state with 25% to 18% for Bachmann, 11% for Sarah Palin, 9% for Ron Paul, 7% for Rick Perry and Herman Cain, 6% for Jon Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty, and 4% for Newt Gingrich.

Bachmann’s surge in New Hampshire is being built on the back of the Tea Party. Among voters identifying themselves as members of that movement she’s leading the way at 25% with Palin and Romney tying for second at 16%, and Cain also placing in double digits at 11%. Only 33% of Republican primary voters in the state identify themselves as Tea Partiers though and with the remaining folks Romney’s way ahead with 33% to 13% for Bachmann, and 10% for Huntsman and Paul.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The 14 men (and 5 boys whose names are being withheld because they are juveniles) who gang raped an 11-year-old Texas girl were due in court yesterday.

Four of the accused face charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child, while the majority of the men have been charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. All defendants are expected to appear in the Liberty, Texas courtroom today for status updates, according to the Associated Press.

Cleveland police began investigating the case in December of last year after cell phone video showing the alleged sex attack started circulating among students at Cleveland schools, according to court documents. The video shows the girl engaged in sexual acts with several men….Most of the men who face charges are free on bond. One of the accused men, Marcus Porchia, 26, has been implicated in another unrelated case for sexual assault.

The trial has been postponed until October because of delays in DNA testing.

“I’m going to pressure the state to pressure the DPS lab to get whatever analysis as quickly as possible,” state District Judge Mark Morefield said.

Morefield reset the 14 men’s cases for Oct. 3. Five juvenile boys also have been charged.

During the hearing, Warren told the judge his office was in tentative negotiations with at least one of the defendants, Jared McPherson. Warren did not say if he was referring to a possible plea agreement and he declined to comment after the hearing. McPherson’s attorney also declined to comment. A gag order is preventing those connected to the case from commenting.

Something tells me this trial won’t get as much publicity as the Casey Anthony trial. I hope I’m wrong, because this is a horrendous crime against a child, and these men need to be put away for a very long time.

Actually the next high profile trial I expect to follow is that of Amy Bishop, the professor who opened fire in a faculty meeting after failing to get tenure. So far the judge is planning to keep the trial open to the public. I hope it will be televised. Once Bishop finishes that trial, she’ll have to go to Massachusetts and face murder charges in the shooting of her brother in 1986.

There’s already a true crime book out about the Bishop case.

The Amy Bishop story inspires fear, confusion, and now 258 pages of true crime drama.

Attorney Mark McDaniel says the lawyers involved in the case will be hurrying to read the book.

McDaniel says, “I promise you the defense lawyers and the prosecutors are reading that, probably reading it today.”

And then there’s the Whitey Bulger trial. Bulger pled not guilty to 19 murders today.

The retired state police colonel who oversaw the unearthing of the remains of several of the people James “Whitey” Bulger is accused of killing from crude mass graves said he felt some personal satisfaction yesterday in seeing his notorious nemesis “a broken man” in chains before a judge.

But retired Col. Thomas J. Foley said that for the families to hear Bulger, 81, plead not guilty to 32 charges, including 19 murders, extortion, machine-gun possession and money laundering, “I’m sure had to be a difficult pill for the families to swallow.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly said that should the case go to a trial, he expects prosecutors will need at least a month to present evidence and up to 40 witnesses.

J.W. Carney Jr., Bulger’s public defender, would not say whether his client, who faces life imprisonment here and could face the death penalty in murder cases pending in Florida and Oklahoma, is interested in striking a plea deal.

Boston Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis is asking Whitey’s politically powerful brother Billy Bulger to get Whitey to talk.

William M. Bulger, former president of the state Senate and the University of Massachusetts, sits in the front row in a charcoal business suit, a look of implacable rectitude frozen on his pale face.

Around Billy in the courtroom are the wives, brothers, sons and daughters of some of the 19 people Whitey is accused of killing. Billy knows they are there, but never acknowledges them. Strange for a man who began his star-crossed career as a lawyer taking cases in South Boston District Court.

As this circus lumbers forward, it will become increasingly obvious that the only man who can clear a path to something called justice is Billy Bulger, the man some people still think of as “The Good Brother.”

Billy should do what he refused to do 10 years ago before a grand jury and a congressional committee. He should have the courage to confront his brother and urge him to give some small semblance of peace to the families he’s wounded by coming clean. Billy should ask Whitey to take ownership of his sins.

I’ve got a few reactions to the verdict in the Casey Anthony case. James Wolcott says he didn’t follow the case closely, but based on what he did see he wasn’t surprised at the not guilty verdict.

I seemed to be one of the few whose world didn’t flip sideways–I wasn’t that surprised and if anything pleased that the jury made up its own collective mind in defiance of the lynch-mob clamor on the cable channels.

It can’t be said that the know-nothing know-it-alls on Fox News and Nancy Grace’s Sweeney Todd cooking school accepted the jury’s verdict with modesty and maturity. After expressing shock and taking turns to tell us how “stunned” they were, they accused the jury of suffering from Stockholm Syndrome (staring at Casey Anthony’s face somehow melting their reason and resolve), appearing to resent that fact that the defendant might be freed soon (since she might be granted time-served on the lesser charges, having already served years behind bars), and acting peevish that they didn’t get their way, having already convicted Casey Anthony on the airwaves for years now and treating the trial as an audiovisual demonstration of what to them was self-evident.

“Appearing to resent” and “peevish” are too mild, actually–many of the instant commentators on cable were visibly, audibly angry at the AUDACITY these acquittals.

Failed OJ prosecutor Marcia Clark thinks the verdict in the Anthony case is even worse than what happened with OJ.

…it was a circumstantial case. Most cases are. But the circumstances were compelling. Maybe not sufficient to prove premeditated murder—and I never believed the jury would approve the death penalty—but certainly enough to find Casey Anthony guilty of manslaughter at the very least.

Why didn’t they? My guess, since I’m writing this before the inevitable juror cameos, is that the jury didn’t necessarily believe Casey was innocent but weren’t convinced enough of her guilt to bring in a conviction. The thinking goes something like this: Sure, Casey’s behavior after her daughter’s death looks bad—dancing, partying, lying—but that doesn’t mean she killed the baby. Sure, that duct tape was weird, but that could’ve been done after the baby was already dead—no way to know who or when that tape was put on the baby’s face. Sure, the chloroform computer search seems damning, but that may not even have been done by Casey (her mom took the fall for that one).

And so, every bit of evidence presented by the prosecution could’ve been tinged with doubt. At the end of the day, the jury might have found that they just couldn’t convict her based on evidence that was reconcilable with an innocent explanation—even if the weight of logic favored the guilty one.

It’s a thoughtful article, highly recommended. Clark may be right about the jury, because at least one juror is already talking. She says she felt sick to her stomach at having to vote not guilty.

I wonder why she didn’t push for manslaughter then or at least child endangerment?

Jeralyn wrote a couple of good posts on the Anthony case yesterday: The Meaning of a Not Guilty Verdict and So Many Ignorant Reactions to Casey Anthony Acquittal. She had a few choice words for the HLN vampires.

HLN…proceeded to blast the defense team for holding a victory party and sharing a toast of champagne. Excuse me? This team didn’t work as hard as the prosecution? With fewer resources? The defense team saved a life today. That’s as close to G-ds work as it gets for criminal defense lawyers. Why shouldn’t they be proud? They held the state to its burden of proof and the state failed to meet it.


One viewer said the jury got it wrong because unlike everyone else, they weren’t privy to what was being said on Facebook and Twitter. The host agreed, saying the jury was in a vacuum in the courtroom. Hello? The jury was in the courtroom and heard and saw all the evidence. They were sequestered so they would be free from outside influences and prejudice. The jurors were the ones who received the judge’s instructions on how to apply the law. Did anyone bother to post or read all the instructions on Facebook and Twitter?


I wish the news media would stop saying no one will ever be held accountable for the little girl’s murder. It hasn’t be proven there was a murder. The defense argued it was an accident. The state took its best shot and came up short.

Congratulations to Jose Baez, Cheney Mason and everyone else on the defense team. They represented their client with pride and dedication, and with enormous sacrifices to their personal lives and law practices. They successfully battered the junk science, and prevailed in the long run — despite the unprofessional conduct of a prosecutor who smirked throughout their closing argument.

Modern day wombat

A fossilized “mega-wombat” has been dug up in Australia.

The fossil of a car sized mega-wombat has been unearthed in northern Australia, scientists said Wednesday — the most complete skeleton of its kind.

Weighing in at a whopping three tonnes, the herbivorous diprotodon was the largest marsupial to ever roam the earth and lived between two million and 50,000 years ago.

A relative of the modern-day wombat, the diprotodon skeleton was dug up in remote Queensland last week — the most northerly specimen ever discovered — and scientists believe it could shed valuable light on the species’ demise.


Along with Australia’s other megafauna, which included towering kangaroos and gigantic crocodiles, diprotodon became extinct around the same time that indigenous tribes first appeared and debate has raged about the role of humans.

Very cool.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?

Wednesday Reads II

Good morning, Sky Dancers!

Minkoff Minx is under the weather and needs to rest up, so I’m filling in for her on today’s roundup. Here’s hoping things ease up for her soon!

I’ll start us off with some historical trivia for today.

Tillie Brackenridge on the porch of Mrs. William Vance's residence at Navarro and Travis Streets in San Antonio, where she was employed, c. 1900—Tillie formerly was a slave in James Vance's elegant home on East Nueva Street and told of seeing Robert E. Lee, a frequent visitor to the house. (from

On December 29th, 1845, Texas enters the Union and becomes the 28th state (link goes to the History Channel site):

The citizens of the independent Republic of Texas elected Sam Houston president but also endorsed the entrance of Texas into the Union. The likelihood of Texas joining the Union as a slave state delayed any formal action by the U.S. Congress for more than a decade. In 1844, Congress finally agreed to annex the territory of Texas. On December 29, 1845, Texas entered the United States as a slave state, broadening the irrepressible differences in the United States over the issue of slavery and setting off the Mexican-American War.

Reminds me of this indelible photo of Juneteenth (Emancipation Day), taken in the year 1900, at what I believe used to be called Wheeler’s Grove in Austin (today it is known as Eastwoods Park). Here’s another poignant photo of the first official Juneteenth Committee, from the same place and same day as the first photo.

While I was digging around for decent links to these two iconic images, I stumbled across this post back in June 2009 about the holiday, from the Smithsonian’s “Around the Mall” blog — it’s fairly brief and there’s a neat and concise Q&A at the end if you have the time.

Just a little Juneteenth in December from your Texan on the frontpage.

Also a reminder of the countless unsung and ordinary heroes and heroines throughout the course of human history who have played a role in that most painstaking and arduous of endeavors–fighting the good fight to secure, maintain, protect, and strengthen all human and civil rights.

Texas became a state on December 29, 1845, but it did not become a free state until two decades later on June 18/19, 1865.

I’m just waiting for us to turn into a blue state again…I like picturing my mayor Annise Parker leading the way to defeat Guv Goodhair one of these days. Hey, a lefty wonk-gal in Texas can dream!

Speaking of human rights, I recommend checking out Clifford Levy’s piece yesterday from the NYT‘s Above the Lawseries. It’s calledAn Accuser Becomes the Accused.” That’s the video version, but there’s also a text article in case that’s more convenient — “In Russia, an Advocate Is Killed, and an Accuser Tried.”

From the text:

MOSCOW — In a small courtroom in Moscow, friends of Natalya K. Estemirova crowded onto wooden benches, clasping photographs of her. It was 16 months after the murder of Ms. Estemirova, a renowned human rights advocate in the tumultuous region of Chechnya, and now the legal system was taking action.

A defendant was on trial, and his interrogators were demanding answers about special operations and assassination plots.

But the defendant was not Ms. Estemirova’s suspected killer. It was her colleague Oleg P. Orlov, chairman of Memorial, one of Russia’s foremost human rights organizations.

The authorities had charged Mr. Orlov with defamation because he had publicly pointed the finger at the man he believed was responsible for the murder: the Kremlin-installed leader of Chechnya. If convicted, Mr. Orlov could face as many as three years in prison.

The shooting of Ms. Estemirova, 51, in July 2009 has so far produced only an incomplete investigation, and no charges have been filed against anyone involved. Her case has instead turned into an example of what often happens in Russia when high-ranking officials fall under scrutiny. Retaliation follows, and the accuser becomes the accused.

Be it Wikileaks or the shooting of Estemirova, distracting far away from the original story under investigation seems to be the name of the game.

Now I’m not saying the Wikileaks circumstance is equal in nature or degree to the situation surrounding Estemirova’s murder. Justice is clearly being denied in the latter, whereas the former is far more complex. But either way, the detours from the initial topic of investigation do nothing but breed more suspicion and doubt at a time when trust in public and private institutions is on the decline.

Speaking of distractions, file this next one under Obama Derangement. From TPM — Latest Right-Wing Freak-Out: Obama Wants To Give Manhattan Back To Native Americans“:
Read the rest of this entry »

Monday Reads

Good Morning!!

There was a terrible oil pipeline explosion in San Martin Texmelucan, Mexico.

A massive oil pipeline explosion lay waste to parts of a central Mexican city Sunday, incinerating people, cars, houses and trees as gushing crude turned streets into flaming rivers. At least 28 people were killed, 13 of them children, in a disaster authorities blamed on oil thieves.

The blast in San Martin Texmelucan, initally estimated to have affected 5,000 residents in a three-mile (five-kilometer) radius, scorched homes and cars and left metal and pavement twisted and in some cases burned to ash in the intense heat.

Relatives sobbed as firefighters pulled charred bodies from the incinerated homes, some of the remains barely more than piles of ashes and bones.

The disastrous accident is being blamed on thieves who were attempting to steal crude oil.

Investigators found a hole in the pipeline and equipment for extracting crude, said Laura Gurza, chief of the federal Civil Protection emergency response agency.

“They lost control because of the high pressure with which the fuel exits the pipeline,” he said.

The oil flowed more than half a mile (one kilometer) down a city street before diverting into a river. At some point a spark of unknown origin caused both to erupt in flames.

I found that story on Fox News. I’m not sure how much attention it will get in the U.S. Cudos to Fox for covering it.

The National Journal has a preview of what we’re in store for in 2012 if we can’t dump Obama and find a qualified, electable liberal to replace him. According to the author, Ronald Brownstein, there are two types of Republicans who might run for president: “managers” like Mitt Romney and “populists” like Sarah Palin.

The most prominent populists are former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The leading manager is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, although he could face competition from such current governors as Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, and, conceivably, New Jersey’s Chris Christie. Onetime House Speaker Newt Gingrich straddles both camps but leans toward the populist side. Outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a self-described “Sam’s Club” Republican with an equable manner, also straddles the line but probably tilts toward the manager camp, as would Sen. John Thune of South Dakota if he ran. Conversely, if Texas Gov. Rick Perry reverses his decision and joins the race, he would enter as a full-throated populist.

No matter which type we get stuck with, it’s going to be a nightmare.

The two groups disagree on some issues (trade, aid to banks), but the most important differences between them are cultural and stylistic, not ideological. The populists thunder; the managers reassure. The populists stress their social values; the managers tout their economic competence. The populists rage at the elite; the managers mingle easily with them.

To their supporters, the populists represent a cultural statement: Who they are is more important than what they will do. For the managers, that equation is reversed: Their biggest selling point is their agenda, not their identity.

Of course, Obama might be able to get some of his base back now that Congress has suddenly handed him DADT repeal. IMHO, Obama didn’t really want it, but he’ll take the resulting bump it will probably give him. It’s not clear yet what results the tax cuts will have on Obama’s popularity. I guess we’ll have to wait and see about that.

Also at the National Journal, there’s an interesting piece by Michael Hirsch: Obama Tried to Placate Liberal Economists

At a White House news conference on December 7 in which he announced a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts, Barack Obama chastised his liberal base for sticking unrealistically to their “purist” positions.

What the president didn’t say was that a few hours earlier he had met with and tried to assauge some his most vociferous liberal critics — economists Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, Alan Blinder, and Robert Reich, the former Labor secretary.

Excuse me? Why the hell did it take so long for this story to get out?

“He didn’t really respond,” said one of the participants. “He said it was hard to change the narrative after 30 years” of small-government rhetoric and policies dating back to Ronald Reagan. “He seemed to be looking for a way to reassure the base. Or maybe it was just to reassure himself.”

Um…presidentin’ is hard. Part of the job is influencing “the narrative.” Maybe if Obama had actually tried, he could have accomplished something. But why try? Might as well just relax, play basketball, and vacation in Martha’s Vineyard wine tours, enjoying Hawaii, and let the other Reaganites control “the narrative.” The article even harks back to Obama’s praise of Reagan during the primaries.

We just have to dump this loser!

There’s a great post on Washington’s Blog arguing for a causal connection between income inequality and the crashes of 1929 and 2008.

…recent studies by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty are waking up more and more economists to the possibility that there may be a connection.

Specifically, economics professors Saez (UC Berkeley) and Piketty (Paris School of Economics) show that the percentage of wealth held by the richest 1% of Americans peaked in 1928 and 2007 – right before each crash…

Please go read the whole thing.

Raw Story reports that a new study supports the hypothesis that the “Supreme Court is becoming a tool of corporate interests.”

A study has found that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has undergone a fundamental shift in its outlook, ruling in favor of businesses much more often than previous courts.

According to the Northwestern University study, commissioned for the New York Times, the Roberts court has sided with business interests in 61 percent of relevant cases, compared to 46 percent in the last five years of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who passed away in 2005….

Meanwhile, a second study, from the Constitutional Accountability Center, has charted the growing influence of the US Chamber of Commerce on the courts. The chamber started filing amicus briefs with the top court three decades ago in an effort to prompt more business-friendly rulings.

According to the study, the Roberts Supreme Court has sided with the Chamber 68 percent of the time, up from 56 percent under the Rehnquist court, and noticeably higher than the 43 percent during the relevant part of Chief Justice Warren Burger’s court, which ended in 1986.

Fox News reports the results of another study, one that finds that “Prime Time TV ‘Objectifies and Fetishizes’ Underage Girls”

According to a new study conducted by the Parents Television Council (PTC), Hollywood is shockingly obsessed with sexualizing teen girls, to the point where underage female characters are shown participating in an even higher percentage of sexual situations than their adult counterparts: 47 percent to 29 percent respectively.

PTC’s report, entitled “New Target: A Study of Teen Female Sexualization on Primetime TV” is based on a content analysis drawn from the 25 most popular shows in the 12-17 demographic throughout the 2009-2010 television season.

“The results from this report show Tinseltown’s eagerness to not only objectify and fetishize young girls, but to sexualize them in such a way that real teens are led to believe their sole value comes from their sexuality,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “This report is less about the shocking numbers that detail the sickness of early sexualization in our entertainment culture and more about the generation of young girls who are being told how society expects them to behave.”

“Storylines on the most popular shows among teens are sending the message to our daughters that being sexualized isn’t just acceptable, it should be sought after,” Winter said.

I have to say, this study reflect what I’ve noticed in the small sample of TV I expose myself to. Prime time is sure different than when I was a teenager.

At the Washington Post, there’s a story about (surprise!) hypocrisy in the Senate.

The Senate Armed Services Committee prohibits its staff and presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation from owning stocks or bonds in 48,096 companies that have Defense Department contracts. But the senators who sit on the influential panel are allowed to own any assets they want.

And they have owned millions in interests in these firms.

The committee’s prohibition is designed to prevent high-ranking Pentagon officials from using inside information to enrich themselves or members of their immediate family.

But panel members have access to much of the same inside information, because they receive classified briefings from high-ranking defense officials about policy, contracts and plans for combat strategies and weapons systems.

Of course it’s not just hypocrisy. It’s a wide open invitation to corruption.

Since I’m a psychologist, I’m going to throw in a story about psychological research. The author, Tyler Burge, is a professor of philosophy at UCLA. He discusses one of my pet peeves–the way brain imaging research is glorified in the media, even though it’s really just based on correlations between brain activity and specific behaviors. While the results of these studies can be interesting, they aren’t sufficient to actually explain human behavior.

Burge writes:

Imagine that reports of the mid-20th-century breakthroughs in biology had focused entirely on quantum mechanical interactions among elementary particles. Imagine that the reports neglected to discuss the structure or functions of DNA. Inheritance would not have been understood. The level of explanation would have been wrong. Quantum mechanics lacks a notion of function, and its relation to biology is too complex to replace biological understanding. To understand biology, one must think in biological terms.

Discussing psychology in neural terms makes a similar mistake. Explanations of neural phenomena are not themselves explanations of psychological phenomena. Some expect the neural level to replace the psychological level. This expectation is as naive as expecting a single cure for cancer. Science is almost never so simple.

Correlations between localized neural activity and specific psychological phenomena are important facts. But they merely set the stage for explanation. Being purely descriptive, they explain nothing. Some correlations do aid psychological explanation. For example, identifying neural events underlying vision constrains explanations of timing in psychological processes and has helped predict psychological effects. We will understand both the correlations and the psychology, however, only through psychological explanation.

Unfortunately, Burge wants to replace the evidence from brain imaging research with perceptual research. Okay, but perception doesn’t fully explain human behavior either.

I could make the same argument for other psychological fields. For example, what about child development? One problem with research on brain structures is that every child’s brain develops differently, depending on the experiences the child has with his or her environment. The brain is so flexible that each human brain is truly unique–even though there are obviously many similarities across individuals.

Anyway, it’s an interesting article. Check it out if you’re interested in psychology.

Soooooo… what are you reading this morning? Please share!

Sunday Reads, Crocodile Tears and Rainbow Smiles

To achieve any greatness in life, one must confer their crocodile deliverances with the utmost skill and try to fool the rest of us. The ability to effectualize sympathy and understanding in the man standing next to you, whether you care if he breathes air or not, is a quality most treasured by those who want to lead. Become an expert in this and you will go far. For there is nothing like genuine indifference to get ahead in life, to demand a following, that of prestige and service.

Minx here with your Sunday Reads. The paragraph above is something I wrote and is a thought that I have worked on for a little while. With the recent events that have gone on in DC lately, and all the crocodile tears being shed by our politicians, I just wanted to touch on this a bit. So here is my opinion of the following politicians and their ability to shed those crocodile tears.

Obama: He does not even try to identify with “the little people,” so your won’t see any crocodile tears from him. I think he has such a disconnect with the population. His elitist and narcissistic attitude does not allow him to relate to the experiences and situation that so many of us are dealing with now. Not that he really gives a damn anyway.

Boehner: This guy is overdoing it! His tears are way too easily accessible for him to be healthy. I tend to think that perhaps this ability to cry at almost anything is connected to his alcohol intake.

Gore: Now, if you want to see a professional crocodile tear deliverer in action, this is the guy to watch. He has just the right amount of pseudo genuine concern, yet still has the ability to relate to people. (Especially if they are certified massage therapist…sorry I could not resist. ) **No offense to those who are fond of Gore. 😉

Palin: She is also a pro at delivering the tears when they are needed, and is a powerhouse when it comes to connecting with people, but they have to be her “kind” of people. Put her in a room full of women making the decision to abort a pregnancy because they cannot afford to have another child, or are victims of rape, or have health issues, or have a severely deformed or disabled fetus…you see where I am going with this…and there is no amount of crocodile tears that would connect her to these women.

Clinton: Hillary does not need to produce fake tears to connect her to the people. She is always genuine and sincere. She is not indifferent to the concerns and hardships that many of us are facing now.  I know I put her on a pedestal, but there is no one like her.


So on with the links…Shep Smith Asks How Senators Sleep at Night After Filibustering 9-11 First Responders Bill | Video Cafe

Okay, I will admit it…I like Shepard Smith. (So let the harassing and teasing begin.) I have been posting links about the wonderful job that Jon Stewart has been doing reporting this story.

Looks like at least one person over at Fox News watched Jon Stewart’s segment with 9-11 first respondersreacting to the Senate filibuster and decided to let everyone know how they felt about it.

Via Mediaite:

A wonderful moment of pure outrage–and classic television–from Shepard Smith on Fox News Friday afternoon as he and Chris Wallace waited for President Obama’s tax cut signing ceremony.

Discussing the amount of money on “tax cuts for billionaires who don’t need them,” Smith railed against the very same lawmakers who somehow couldn’t get relief passed for 9/11 first responders.

How do they sleep at night after this vote on Ground Zero first responders from 9/11? Are they going to get that done, or are we going to leave these American heroes out there to twist in the wind? […]

Who’s going to hold these people’s feet to the fire? We’re able to put a 52 story building so far down there at Ground Zero, we’re able to pay for tax cuts for billionaires who don’t need them and it’s not going to stimulate the economy. But we can’t give health care to Ground Zero first responders who ran right into the fire? Went down there to save people? Do people know what this city was like that day? People were walking over bridges they were covered in ash they were running for their lives they were crying their family members were dead. And these people ran to Ground Zero to save people’s lives. And we’re not going to even give them medicine for the illnesses they got down there? It’s disgusting, it’s a national disgrace, it’s a shame and everybody who voted against should have to stand up and account for himself or herself.

I’m glad Smith pointed out what an outrage this is, but like his cohort Peter Johnson Jr., Smith didn’t bother to let the viewers know that it’s the Republicans blocking the bill.

I am glad that Heather pointed that obvious neglected admission of who exactly is blocking the bill, i.e. Republicans. I think that it is ridiculous to leave this part out…but I have come to expect this crap from Faux News. At least the issue is getting air time. I hope that these idiots get some sort of heart and stop the filibuster.

Did you all see the SNL opening skit? If you missed it check this out:SNL – Democrats Dream of Better Headlines in 2011 | Obama | Mediaite

Frosty the Snowman turned up on Saturday Night Live last night to reflect on the passing year and inspire hope for the new one. Democrats, he noted, are hoping the hardest, after a year of political losses. So he peered into the souls of some of Washington’s most prominent Dems to find out what headlines they’d like to see in 2011…

Hillary Clinton was dreaming of the Oval Office as well, envisioning the headline, “Obama To Hillary: Let’s Switch Jobs.”

Oh, if only Obama told Hillary that! There is a link to the video clip on that Mediate link above. The Jeff Bridges and Cookie Monster duet was great too.

Dakinikat had an awesome posts about this earlier this week. If you did not see them please check them out. This week saw the passing of the Obama-McConnell Tax Cut Bill. Ugh, what a mess. Well, I just wanted to bring David Dayen’s recent article to you all…US Wage Stagnation Leads to Rampant Inequality | FDL News Desk

Alan Blinder has a great story in the Wall Street Journal Friday about the US economy and how impossibly tilted it is toward the rich:

Those of us who live near the top of the income pyramid are doing very nicely, thank you. Yet our government keeps showering us with Christmas presents. Meanwhile, economic life is pretty miserable for those near the bottom and is getting worse for those in the middle. Does this strike you as fair?

The main story line of the U.S. economy over the last third of a century evokes Charles Dickens’s classic “A Christmas Carol.” Starting in the late 1970s, the labor market turned ferociously against those with less education and in favor of those with more. This was not Ronald Reagan’s fault, nor George Bush’s (either one), nor Mitch McConnell’s. It just happened. And except for a brief shining moment during the Clinton boom, the Great Disequalization has continued unabated to this day […]

When it comes to wages, the basic story of recent decades is redolent of Scrooge.Real average hourly earnings (excluding fringe benefits) now stand roughly at 1974 levels. Yes, that’s right, no real increase in over 35 years. That is an astounding, dismaying and profoundly ahistorical development. The American story for two centuries was one of real wages advancing more or less in line with productivity. But not lately. Since 1978, productivity in the nonfarm business sector is up 86%, but real compensation per hour (which includes fringe benefits) is up just 37%. Does that seem fair?

I’m focusing on wages, though the inequality throughout the rest of the economy is crucial as well. But basically, you have working people producing for their employers and not coming close to sharing in the benefit. You have stagnant incomes for the last 35 years, which is absolutely incredible.

And this leads necessarily to income inequality. This chart of inequality in New York City approaching that of a banana republic tells the tale. Income has become concentrated in the hands of a few. They set the political agenda, they use the commons to an expansive degree, and they don’t pay their freight on that use. Government policies for 30 years have bestowed gifts on the rich at the expense of the poor, something we just saw a few minutes ago with the signing of a tax cut bill which will effectively increase taxes on those making under $20,000 a year, and reduce them on the top 2%.

And yet the loudest voices among those who haven’t had to commit a fair share to the functioning of this country continually scream about the budget deficit, not the structural revenue gap. Blinder has a word for them too.

But here’s a stunning coincidence. The entire Bowles-Simpson plan would reduce federal borrowing by $3.9 trillion over 10 years, including interest savings. That’s a lot of money. In fact, it’s almost enough to cover the cost of extending all the Bush tax cuts for 10 years.

So here’s a choice: We can achieve nearly $4 trillion in budgetary savings by accepting everything on the Bowles-Simpson list—spinach, broccoli and all. Or we can get a bit more than $4 trillion simply by letting all the Bush tax cuts expire in 2012. Of course, ending those tax cuts would mean returning to the tax rates of the Clinton years—when, as I’m sure you recall, high tax rates killed incentives and left our economy dead in the water.

It’s only slightly related, but you have to read Moe Tkacik on Peter Orszag. The words “corporate oligarchy” come to mind.

I am sure Dak will chime in on this one.

And I will just add one more link…this one is about the repeal of DADT: Clinton hails repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ as ‘historic step forward’ | Madam Secretary

Secretary Clinton hailed the Senate’s repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military as a “historic step forward for all Americans, a step toward a more perfect union and a more perfect reflection of our core values.” She made the remarks in a statement issued today in which she also said, “we are committed to universal standards abroad and here at home. Our progress on equality here strengthens our advocacy for human dignity everywhere.”

I was very excited that this passed.

From Minx’s Missing Link File:

This week was the 66 year anniversary of the beginning of one of the most decisive battles in the European Theater during WWII. On December 16, 1944, Hitler began his Operation Autumn Fog. According to The History Place – Defeat of Hitler: Battle of the Bulge:

At 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, December 16, 1944, it all began. The offensive, which Hitler code named Operation Autumn Fog, erupted with an hour-long artillery barrage along an eighty-five mile front in the Ardennes which was thinly defended by six American divisions. Three of the divisions were new and had no battle experience while the remainder were experienced but tired-out men sent to recuperate in what had been the quietest sector of the Western Front. Now they watched in amazement, peering through the morning mist as 2,500 tanks and self-propelled guns, accompanied by 18 infantry divisions, rumbled toward them over ground lightly covered with new-fallen snow.

Battle of the Bulge – Wikipedia

The Battle of the Bulge (also known as the Ardennes Offensive and the Von Rundstedt Offensive) (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was a major German offensive (die Ardennenoffensive), launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes Mountains regionof Wallonia in Belgium, hence its French name (Bataille des Ardennes), and France and Luxembourg on the Western Front. The Wehrmacht‘s code name for the offensive was Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (“Operation Watch on the Rhine“), after the German patriotic hymn Die Wacht am Rhein. This German offensive was officially named the Ardennes-Alsace campaign[3] by the U.S. Army,[16] but it is known to the English-speaking general public simply as the Battle of the Bulge, the “bulge” being the initial incursion the Germans put into the Allies’ line of advance, as seen in maps presented in contemporary newspapers.

I wanted to bring you this link especially, Forever tied to strangers in arms | Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/16/2010 It is an article written by a WWII veteran who was one of the soldiers that experienced this battle first hand.

Forever tied to strangers in arms

By Seymour I. “Spence” Toll

During some part of my daily life for the past 66 years, I have relived the night of Dec. 16, 1944.

World War II’s Battle of the Bulge began at dawn that day, when a German force of 200,000 attacked 75,000 American troops defending an 80-mile front in the Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg. On the befogged and bitterly freezing first night of the Wehrmacht’s assault, as an unremarkable 19-year-old American infantryman, I was wounded in a German rocket mortar (or “screaming meemie”) attack.

Please read the entire article, it makes you think. These were young men who were drafted into this war and they seemed to perform superhuman feats…they accomplished so much and their success here in the Ardennes Mountains was instrumental in finally defeating Hitler and coming to grips with the horrible atrocities that he enacted.

Easy like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:
Book Review – Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 –

Sam intended to give us an unblushing autobiography on the order of Casanova’s or Rousseau’s “Confessions” or Samuel Pepys’s diary, which Sam heartily admired, with its matter-of-fact inventories of parties attended and meals enjoyed and the skirts of chambermaids raised, but he knew that frankness comes with a price — “None of us likes to be hated, none of us likes to be shunned,” he said. “The man has yet to be born who could write the truth about himself”

I think Garrison Keillor, who wrote the review was not impressed by the autobiography.  He writes:

Here is a powerful argument for writers’ burning their papers — you’d like to be remembered for “The Innocents Abroad” and “Life on the Mississippi” and the first two-thirds of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and not for excruciating passages of hero worship of General Grant and his son Fred and accounts of your proximity to the general and your business dealings as the publisher of his memoirs, which only reminds the reader that the general wrote a classic autobiography, and you tried to and could not.

Think twice about donating your papers to an institution of higher learning, Famous Writer: someday they may be used against you.

I have this book and it is one of the most interesting insights to how Mark Twain worked and wrote. I am enjoying it, even if it takes a while to get to the meat of the autobiography. The first half of the book is discussing the work of putting the autobiography together, and I must admit that part is kind of dry. But, it is fascinating to see copies of his handwritten drafts, and I still would recommend it.

Okay, that is what I have to say this morning. So what are you reading, or thinking about today?

Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!

By now, you probably have heard that diplomat Richard Holbrooke has died at the age of 69 from an aorta tear.  His obits are chock-full of some amazing accomplishments.  Here’s one example from CNN.

Holbrooke was best known for being “the chief architect of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement” that ended the Bosnian war — the deadly ethnic conflict in the 1990s that erupted during the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Serving President Bill Clinton as assistant secretary of state for Europe from 1994 to 1996, Americans got a taste of Holbrooke’s drive and intellect, as typified in this remark from “To End a War” — his memoir of the Dayton negotiations.

“The negotiations were simultaneously cerebral and physical, abstract and personal, something like a combination of chess and mountain climbing,” he wrote.

After President Obama took office in 2008, Holbrooke took one of the toughest diplomatic assignments — U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the region Obama regards as center of the war on terrorism.

He rated a great one at the Grey Lady.

More recently, Mr. Holbrooke wrestled with the stunning complexity of Afghanistan and Pakistan: how to bring stability to the region while fighting a resurgent Taliban and coping with corrupt governments, rigged elections, fragile economies, a rampant narcotics trade, nuclear weapons in Pakistan and the presence of Al Qaeda, and presumably Osama bin Laden, in the wild tribal borderlands.

One of his main tasks was to press President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to take responsibility for security in his country and to confront the corruption that imperils the American mission there. At times, Mr. Karzai refused to see him, but Mr. Holbrooke was undeterred.

“He’s an enormously tough customer,” Mr. Holbrooke said during one of the periodic breakfasts he had with reporters who covered his diplomatic exploits. “As you’ve heard,” he added with a smile, “so am I.”

He helped his boss, Mrs. Clinton, whom he had supported in her presidential bid, to persuade Mr. Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan, while pressing for more aid and development projects to improve the United States’ image there. But he died before anyone knew if the experiment would succeed.

A brilliant, sometimes abrasive infighter, he used a formidable arsenal of facts, bluffs, whispers, implied threats and, when necessary, pyrotechnic fits of anger to press his positions. President Obama, who praised Mr. Holbrooke on Monday afternoon at the State Department as “simply one of the giants of American foreign policy,” was sometimes driven to distraction by his lectures.

As we posted yesterday, a huge Senate Majority voted to advance the Obama-McConnell Tax deal.  Only 15 senators voted to stop Cloture. The up or down vote will be scheduled for either today or tomorrow. Stay tuned. We’ll follow the details here.

Fifteen lawmakers voted against it, including five Republicans: Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), John Ensign (Nev.) and George Voinovich (Ohio).

Nine Democrats and one independent voted against the bill: Sens. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Russ Feingold (Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Pat Leahy (Vt.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Mark Udall (Colo.) and Sanders.

“It makes no sense to me to provide huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires while we drive up the national debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay,” Sanders said in a statement after the vote.

Obama applauded the Senate’s action to move his tax cut compromise with Republicans and urged the House to do the same quickly.

In a statement in the White House briefing room, Obama hailed the Senate’s “strong bipartisan support” for the package and declared “this proves that both parties can in fact work together.”

BostonBoomer brought this my attention so I thought I’d post it.  Is there a Real-Life Da Vinci code in the Mona Lisa?  Cue the Twilight Zone Music.

Intrigue is usually focused on her enigmatic smile.

But the Mona Lisa was at the centre of a new mystery yesterday after art detectives took a fresh look at the masterpiece – and noticed something in her eyes.

Hidden in the dark paint of her pupils are tiny letters and numbers, placed there by the artist Leonardo da Vinci and revealed only now thanks to high-­magnification techniques.

Speaking of secrets, I’ve been looking into the status of Credit Derivatives since Frank-Dodd passed and the NY Times had an article up on Sunday on secret meetings of  a secret Derivatives Dealers Club of 9 on Sunday.  FiscalLiberal and I have been trying to figure out if all the news actually actually reveals anything.    The Financial Times did an update on the area that is an interesting read but doesn’t really say anything’s been solved or changed.

Yet like one of those teenaged vampires on television, the CDS market keeps coming back to life. For example, activity in sovereign CDS is up by a third this year, as speculators and hedgers bet they know more than their counterparties about the probability or timing of Greek or Irish defaults. And no, the sovereign CDS tail is not wagging the sovereign bond dog. For example, there are about $25bn of outstanding CDS on Italy, compared with some $2,000bn of actual Italian bonds.The essential point to remember is that credit derivatives don’t matter very much in determining the state of the real world. The industry, worldwide, almost certainly doesn’t employ more than 10,000 people. It is intended to be a zero-sum business.

The original, modest, purpose of CDS was to provide a low-transaction-cost means of distributing illiquid credit risks around European banks, so as to reduce their risk concentration. Then, the justification became the ease and low cost of hedging credit by buying protection through CDS, rather than going through the expense and uncertainty of maintaining short positions in bonds.

We would all be better off if there were laws to make the majority of these things exchange-traded but  it won’t happen unless governments write the laws.  BostonBoomer knew I’ve been trying to write about this and pointed me to the KO show last night and an interview with Matt Taibbi.  You may want to watch the video at the link.  They talk about the nine dealers from the NY Times link above.  These guys have been blocking the formation of exchanges and lobby hard to keep these things opaque.  You may have read me talk about how information asymmetry relieve messes up a market.  This is a prime example. This KO-Taibbi conversation is easily understood.  I was pretty impressed by what it covered.   KO also throws a gratuitous slam at Obama and Orzag so you might want to watch that just to see how the worm has turned.  Hopefully, I’ll figure out a way to explain this thing simply and have the complete post later.  I’m still trying to get more details.  In my doctoral program, every one saves their one C for the Derivatives Theory course.  Pricing is based on a really complex mathematical model and the language of the deal is written by lawyers. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of!  The math proofs even makes the guys with masters in physics quake. It’s not an easy thing to explain, teach, study or figure out.  I think they like it that way. Like I said, information asymmetry.  Also, KO brings up some nasty stuff about Senator Scott Brown and donations too. Go check it out.

Speaking of nasty stuff, here’s a blast from the past from Slate and Christopher Hitchens. The title alone titillates: ‘How Can Anyone Defend Kissinger Now?  The Nixon tapes remind us what a vile creature Henry Kissinger is’.

Chatting eagerly with his famously racist and foul-mouthed boss in March 1973, following an appeal from Golda Meir to press Moscow to allow the emigration of Soviet Jewry, Kissinger is heard on the tapes to say:

The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.

(One has to love that uneasy afterthought …)

In the past, Kissinger has defended his role as enabler to Nixon’s psychopathic bigotry, saying that he acted as a restraining influence on his boss by playing along and making soothing remarks. This can now go straight into the lavatory pan, along with his other hysterical lies. Obsessed as he was with the Jews, Nixon never came close to saying that he’d be indifferent to a replay of Auschwitz. For this, Kissinger deserves sole recognition.

It’s hard to know how to classify this observation in the taxonomy of obscenity. Should it be counted as tactical Holocaust pre-denial? That would be too mild. It’s actually a bit more like advance permission for another Holocaust. Which is why I wonder how long the official spokesmen of American Jewry are going to keep so quiet. Nothing remotely as revolting as this was ever uttered by Jesse Jackson or even Mel Gibson, to name only two famous targets of the wrath of the Anti-Defamation League. Where is the outrage? Is Kissinger—normally beseeched for comments on subjects about which he knows little or nothing—going to be able to sit out requests from the media that he clarify this statement? Does he get to keep his op-ed perch in reputable newspapers with nothing said? Will the publishers of his mendacious and purloined memoirs continue to give him expensive lunches as if nothing has happened?

Just a suggestion from me.  Drink your coffee before you go read that one. You may feel the need to spit at the screen.

One last depressing thing from the Wonk Room for advocates of GLBT rights.

This afternoon, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs refused to say that President Obama would call on the Senate to stay in session until it brought up the stand-alone measure to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. In a series of passive replies to the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson and the Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld, Gibbs didn’t directly urge the Senate to consider the measure, but said, “our hope is that the Senate will take this up again and we’ll see this done by the time the year ends.” “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DREAM, along with government funding, are all in a basket of issues that are likely to come after” START, he argued earlier in the press briefing.

Asked by Eleveld why Obama has pledged to stay in DC until the Senate passed START but not DADT, Gibbs replied that the President would wait for the Senate to adjourn before leaving. Gibbs also refused to say if the administration was considering alternatives to legislative repeal …

Guess there’s more important things to do, like say, pass the Paris Hilton Inheritance Windfall Tax Breaks.

So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?