I slacked off on Friday…with Christmas and all…there was no Friday Nite Lite thread. Well, I will make-up for it now with a comic filled post. I’ll throw some links in that you might find interesting.
This next one is a local NC cartoon, but the same could be said for the GOP asswipes in any double red State: 12/29/2015 Cartoon by John Cole
In Louisiana and several other states: 30,000 Louisianans Scheduled to Lose Food Stamps | Al Jazeera America
Joanika Davis relies on the $194 per month she receives in food stamp benefits every month to help her get by as she searches for employment.
But on Jan. 1, Davis is set to lose that financial lifeline — one of approximately 31,000 Louisianians set to suffer as a result of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to reinstate the work requirement for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in his state.
SNAP rules typically allow full benefits to single able-bodied adults only if they have jobs or are enrolled in a job-training program. Otherwise, they may access food stamp benefits for no more than three months every three years. States with high unemployment can apply for a federal waiver, dropping that work requirement and allowing single adults to access full benefits regardless of their job status.
Since the beginning of the Great Recession, nearly every state in the country sought and was granted a federal waiver at some point. But recently, a number of states with Republican governors have allowed their waivers to expire, citing improved economic circumstances and a desire to get their food stamp recipients back to work. Jindal, a Republican, allowed Louisiana’s waiver to lapse on Oct. 1.
“We continue to seek opportunities for SNAP recipients to increase their self-sufficiency. Engaging in work activities is a key step in that transition,” said Suzy Sonnier, the head of Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services, in a Sept. 30 statement.
Starting in January, Davis, who told Al Jazeera that she is still hunting for a job, will have to find ways to make up a monthly shortfall of nearly $200. “Why should I have to fight for food right now?” she asked. “Why should I have to fight to drink water?”
And it is not only people in Louisiana who are losing out.
Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming have recently allowed the work requirement to be reimposed, leaving 28 states with their food stamp waivers intact in fiscal year 2016.
The people affected by the reinstatement of the work requirement tend to be among the poorest of the poor, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an economic think tank. In 2014 able-bodied, childless, unemployed adults on food stamps had an average of $2,200 in gross income, the center found.
It also found that states that reimpose the work requirement tend to see a sudden sharp drop in SNAP participants, suggesting that thousands of unemployed recipients are unable to find work and maintain their eligibility.
“The idea that anybody is choosing not to work because of $190 dollars a month in food stamps — that’s really kind of a stereotype,” said Steve Spires, a senior policy analyst for the Louisiana Budget Project. “The reality is a lot of people want to work. There simply aren’t jobs…”
On the latest Trump news: 25% of Donald Trump’s political spending goes to his own companies – Quartz
“It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Donald Trump told Fortune in 2000, during his first abortive run for president.
He was referring to a $1 million motivational speaking deal he got from Tony Robbins that he timed to coincide with his campaign stops. Then, he didn’t dominate the headlines—apparently the Clinton-Bush-Gore psychodrama was more compelling—and Trump’s greatest accomplishment was winning the Reform party nomination in California with a scant 15,311 votes. (His bon mots haven’t changed much—Fortune refers to “his usual critiques of Pat Buchanan (‘a Hitler lover’), Bill Bradley (‘a total disaster’), George W. Bush (‘no Einstein’), Fidel Castro (‘a bad guy’), North Korea (‘run by some very bad people’), and Russia (‘totally mixed up’).”)
This time around, as the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, he operates on a more rarified and lucrative plane: Trump’s companies have already earned $1.4 million from his campaign.
The billionaire builder often argues that his wealth guarantees his political independence, and describes his campaign as “self-funding.” That’s no longer true: While he was the main source of campaign funds during the early part of his run, the most recent financial disclosures through the end of September 2015, show Trump put less money into his campaign than his donors—and he stands to profit in particular from their backing.
Like the article says…”Follow the money.” And read the rest at the link.
The storms this Christmas have been terrible….The Mississippi River Is About to Have a Record Flood Completely Out of Season
The Mississippi River is flooding in a big way right now, at the wrong time of year, and is forecasted to match or break 22-year-old crest records over the next few days. Meteorologists are calling it “insane.”
Over the next three to four days, the Mississippi is predicted to reach a crest height of 49.7 feet at Chester, Illinois, one of several locations where the National Weather Service records data about the river. As of Tuesday afternoon, the river has already risen to 40.8 feet. According to Taylor Trogdon, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Memphis, that is an “absolutely remarkable” forecast.
The “great flood of 1993,” as it has come to be known, was “one of the most significant and damaging natural disasters ever to hit the United States,” according to a National Weather Service hydrologist, writing in 1996. “Damages totaled $15 billion, 50 people died, hundreds of levees failed, and thousands of people were evacuated, some for months.”
A few links regarding Cruz:
A woman spoke to C-SPAN at a recent Cruz rally in Mechanicsville, Virginia, where she explained that she intended to vote for the Texas Republican to drive President Barack Obama, who is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term, from office.
“I don’t like Obama no more,” the woman explained. “He’s ruined our country, ruined Christmas. He’s let the Muslims in. We can’t say that word, we’ve got to be ashamed of it — and we’re not ashamed people. We’re a proud people, and we’re gonna take our country back. So watch out, Obama! We’re coming.”
The reporter asked the woman to explain how Obama had ruined Christmas.
“He’s scared the little children,” she said. “They’re not allowed to have Santa Claus in the schools where, you know, it might offend the Muslims. But what about us?”
The woman’s loopy rant was reminiscent of remarks made earlier this month by Trump supporter Susan DeLemus, a New Hampshire state representative, during a CNN focus group.
“We’ve got people in positions of power who I know for a fact are liars. Liars!” DeLemus said. “I watch the TV — My president comes on the TV and he lies to me! I know he’s lying. He lies all the time.”
Cruz himself is a nut:
Via Conservative Tribune. com (I won’t quote the thing cause I don’t want any crazy Cruz troll nuts here making trouble…) you can look it up by the title of the article: Ted Cruz Issues Huge Statement on What the Bible Says About Killing Muslims… This Is Brutal
Sen. Ted Cruz said that he would not be violating his Christian faith if he followed through on his vow to “carpet bomb” Islamic State group militants — a statement that’s sure to upset liberals across the country.
The Texas Republican and presidential candidate told Newsmax Wednesday: ”Let’s be clear, the Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not murder,’ which is different from ‘Thou shalt not kill.’”
“Defending yourself is an obligation of any president. It is not murder,” Cruz added in the interview with Ed Berliner on “The Hard Line.”
What the fuck is that? Justified killing for “Jesus.” Sounds like what a religious zealot says after shooting and killing a bunch of innocent people at a Planned Parenthood Clinic.
But wait there is more:
Cruz pointed out that while America killed Nazis in World War II, it wasn’t murder.
“When you have the face of evil that has declared war … then it is the essence of duty to defend your nation, to defend the innocent,” he said. “When it comes to jihadists, they have declared war on us, and that’s what President Obama and Hillary Clinton refuse to acknowledge.”
The leader of the United States should fight radical Islam the same way President Ronald Reagan fought the Soviets when bringing an end to the Cold War, Cruz said. Reagan aimed his foreign policy around the notion of defeating communism — a strategy of “we win, they lose.”
Reagan “championed tax reform and regulatory reform,” Cruz said, which “unchained the American economy.” The economic growth that resulted from from his reform allowed the former president to rebuild the military and challenge Soviet communism “on every front, strategically we bankrupted the Soviet Union and won the Cold War.”
There is recorded sound from the interview at the conservative tribune link…if you must hear it. Five fucking minutes of this shit. Of course the CT (cuntservative tribune) is all hard for Cruz.
Speaking of Reagan…up next, a link sent to me from Boston Boomer: Behind the Ronald Reagan myth: “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed” – Salon.com
Reagan embarrassed himself in news conferences, Cabinet meetings. Recalling how GOP cringed at his lack of interest
I always thought Reagan was much further gone with Alzheimer’s than we’re all led on now to believe…if that makes any sense. (As I am probably in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s myself.)
I thought many of you would find this a good read: Sudan’s midwives take on Female Genital Mutilation
My Granny would throw a bucket of water out the back door, to wash away the bad luck from the last year…I don’t remember if it was dirty water or not. Actually…I think she would toss a big pot of water. (One of her big cooking pots full…) So it would not be “dirty” and maybe that is why it never worked? She always had terrible luck…
Twenty Indian students carrying valid student visas for colleges in California were denied entry in Chicago and put on planes back to India on Sunday, following other incidents of the U.S. turning away people from certain countries.
The U.S. is in a heightened state of vigilance since the terror attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California. One of the shooters in San Bernardino came in on a fiance visa, prompting concern that potential terrorists could find loopholes to enter the country on valid visas or through the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of friendly countries to visit the United States without visas.
Some foreigners have already been barred from entering the country without being told why. Last week, a British Muslim family planning a trip to Disneyland was told by United Kingdom border officials that they wouldn’t be allowed to board a plane to the United States. Another 20 British Muslim families were reportedly denied entry into the United States without explanation.
From Riese via AutoStraddle.com: Our Picks For 2015’s Best Longform By Women
Hey, so, maybe you’ve heard about this gender byline gap? Like how in print, men make up about 62% of bylines in the most widely circulated newspapers, and 58% of those at the top four online news sites, (according to the Women’s Media Center). Or how women head fewer major US newspapers today than they did 10 years ago and are underrepresented in op-eds, book reviews and photojournalism. Or maybe you read that article by Dayna Evans on Matter about the otherwise progressive Gawker Media’s treatment of women, which noted that if Jezebel was excluded from the company’s editorial statistics, its staff would be 28% female. (It’s 38% female with Jezebel included.) Perhaps you’re aware that racial diversity in media is even worse — people of color account for only 13.34% of journalists at daily newspapers.
I’ve been assembling weekly, and then bi-weekly, lists of the web’s best longform for Autostraddle for four years now, and because of all those reasons above (and because we love women around here), I wanted to do a year-end round-up of the best longform written by women. I qualified “longform” as containing 3,000 words or more, but there are ten or so articles I included despite falling under that word count. I wanted a racially diverse group of writers and I wanted to represent as many independent and women’s publications as possible — which was tougher than I’d hoped, as most mainstream women’s magazines and even some of the most hyped new media sites for women rarely publish articles over 2,000 words. Independent women’s publications, like ours, face serious budget constraints when it comes to commissioning longer pieces outside of personal essays. But even well-funded properties go light on women’s longform; it remains far easier to find longform by women in major men’s magazines like GQ and Esquire than their female counterparts, like Elle and Vogue. As Amanda Hess wrote in Slate following a controversy regarding a male-dominated Port Magazine feature about the future of print media, “I hope we can also take this opportunity to question why women’s writing is aligned so heavily with personal essays and service journalism — the forms that are the cheapest and ad-friendliest to produce.”
That being said, it wasn’t hard to find women writing amazing shit all over the internet. Longreadswas an incredible resource for me when putting this together, and if you don’t follow them, you really ought to. Specifically, Emily Perper does some incredible work over there. And although I remain bitter that Longform.org has yet to include our site on their app or website, I’m madly in love with their app and their website, and have been for years.
In some of the reporting pieces, men also were writers of the piece. I only selected a piece that had men involved if there were equal or more women involved.
In other news dealing with Women and GLBT’s Issues:
Hospital Refuses Pregnancy-Related Care Again Because of Religious Directives | American Civil Liberties Union Another Catholic Hospital..
Forty-three religious universities applied for waivers in 2015 that will allow them to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Department of Education approved twenty-two of those requests, and the rest remain pending,BuzzFeed reported.
The number of schools seeking these waivers has spiked in recent years, jumping from one school in 2012 to 43 this year, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign.
Another story not getting much notice: Manning: Healing Continues 125 Years After Wounded Knee Massacre – ICTMN.com
This year marks the 125thanniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre. On December 29, 1890, as many as 300 innocent and unarmed Lakota men, women, children, infants, and elders were gunned down by the United States 7thCavalry at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. After the bloodshed, Chief Big Foot (Spotted Elk) and his band lie dead in the snow where they remained frozen for three days, until all were buried in a mass grave.
For decades, the Wounded Knee massacre was masqueraded as a battle, and marked in many American history books as such. A few months following the massacre, the United States government awarded 20 troops of the U.S. 7thCavalry with the Medal of Honor, and to this day, those medals have yet to be rescinded.
Now some other links…Science, History and Art, oh…and a huge ass natural gas leak in California:
Gas is escaping through a ruptured pipe more than 8,000 feet underground, and it shows no signs of stopping,” as according to the California Air Resources Board, methane – a greenhouse gas 72 times more impactful in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide – has been escaping from the Aliso Canyon site with force equivalent “to a volcanic eruption” for about two months now.
New infrared footage exposes the massive leak…
Go to link to see that video…also looks like Erin Brockovich is working on this…
Infographic of leak (and potential solution)
As TheAntiMedia.org’s Claire Bernish details, methane gas continues spewing, unchecked, into the air over southern California from a fractured well to an underground storage site — at such an alarming rate that low-flying planes have necessarily been diverted by the FAA, lest internal combustion engines meet highly volatile gas and, well, blow the entire area to hell.
This is, indeed, the biggest environmental catastrophe since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010; and for now, there is no way to stop it.
This methane disaster is worse than can be sufficiently described in words, because while it’s estimated well over 100,000 pounds of methane spew into the atmosphere every hour, the leak can’t be halted, at least until spring. Even then, that stoppage depends entirely on the efficacy of a proposed fix — which remains a dubiously open question.
Yeah, I am ending it on that disturbing note. There is plenty more at the link…it is a very long read. (I will say it is via a website called intellihub.com. I am not familiar with that site, however…they do quote from reliable sources i.e. LATimes, CBS News, NY Daily News, court documents etc., which you can also verify by clicking those links within the article itself.) In fact I would also suggest you read the comments…it may lead you to research into more natural gas leaks you can look up on Google…some fun for ya on the crust of the shitty year “2015” as we head over the cusp of the new year “2016.”
That does it for this Wednesday’s post…y’all enjoy this last couple of days of 2015!
What is going on in your part of the world? This is an open thread…
The photos in today’s post are from a project by photographer Mark Makela to take pictures of children “learning to read by reading to homeless cats.”
Last February, photographer Mark Makela traveled to Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, to photograph a reading group where the participants were grade-school students and a group of cats. The idea for the group, known as Book Buddies, was hatched at the Animal Rescue League of Berks County when the program coordinator Kristi Rodriguez’s 10-year-old son was struggling with reading. Rodriguez decided to bring him into the shelter, where he could be in what she called a “nonevaluative” environment in order to feel more comfortable practicing his reading skills. It worked.
According to ARL’s website, studies at Tufts University found that the more relaxed, nonjudgmental audience of cats helps students to sustain their focus, maintain a higher state of awareness, and develop an improved attitude toward school. In August of last year, ARL officially started the Book Buddies program, inviting students in first through eighth grades to read to the cats. As an incentive to continue, once the students complete five books, they receive prizes. “It’s one of those opportunities that is unique and humorous and so endearing,” Makela said about the assignment to document the Book Buddies program.
See more marvelous photos at the Slate Magazine link above. Even more at Buzzfeed–including more girls.
Now to the news:
I’ve long suspected that Edward Snowden interacted with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and others in the hacker community before he made his final decision to steal a massive trove of data from NSA computers and then abscond to Hong Kong at the end of May last year.
We know that Snowden was in touch with Jacob Applebaum and Laura Poitras early on, because they published an interview with him in Der Spiegel that they had conducted by e-mail in Mid-May, before Snowden fled Hawaii. But Snowden could have actually met Applebaum in Hawaii in April 2013 when Applebaum vacationed there by his own admission. Did Snowden and Applebaum discuss Snowden’s plans to steal NSA files? Did Applebaum suggest which items Snowden should take? Note that Applebaum is deeply involved with Wikileaks and has been a long-time, passionate defender of Julian Assange.
Glenn Greenwald revealed in his new book “No Place to Hide” that Snowden had used the code name “Cincinnatus” in early communications between the two. Interestingly enough, a “cyber-party” had been held in Hawaii in December 2012, and the host was someone who called himself “Cincinnatus.” Once this news came out, people began speculating on Twitter that perhaps this wasn’t a coincidence. Suddenly, on May 17, the cyber-party announcement was deleted by someone with the Twitter handle @jskuda. Fortunately Twitter user @ShrillBrigade located it on the Wayback Machine. And check out the title of Cincinnatus’ talk: “Painlessly setting up your own fast exit.” (h/t @catfitz)
Then yesterday, former criminal hacker and technical adviser to Greenwald and Poitras’ Freedom of the Press Foundation Kevin Poulsen published a limited hangout at Wired: Snowden’s First Move Against the NSA Was a Party in Hawaii.
It was December 11, 2012, and in a small art space behind a furniture store in Honolulu, NSA contractor Edward Snowden was working to subvert the machinery of global surveillance.
Snowden was not yet famous. His blockbuster leaks were still six months away, but the man destined to confront world leaders on a global stage was addressing a much smaller audience that Sunday evening. He was leading a local “Crypto Party,” teaching less than two dozen Hawaii residents how to encrypt their hard drives and use the internet anonymously.
“He introduced himself as Ed,” says technologist and writer Runa Sandvik, who co-presented with Snowden at the event, and spoke about the experience for the first time with WIRED. “We talked for a bit before everything started. And I remember asking where he worked or what he did, and he didn’t really want to tell.”
Runa Sandvik is a hacker who works at the TOR project along with Jacob Applebaum. TOR is a site (ironically funded by the U.S. Department of Defense) that provides free encryption software to people who want to hide their on-line activities (including drug dealers and child porn purveyors).
The roots of Snowden’s crypto party were put down on November 18, 2012, when he sent an e-mail to Sandvik, a rising star in privacy circles, who was then a key developer on the anonymous web surfing software Tor.
Tor is free software that lets you go online anonymously. The software is used by a wide swath of people in need of extreme anonymity, including human rights groups, criminals, government agencies, and journalists. It works by accepting connections from the public internet, encrypting the traffic and bouncing it through a winding series of relays before dumping it back on the web through any of more than 1,000 exit nodes.
Most of those relays are run by volunteers, and the pre-leak Edward Snowden, it turns out, was one of them.
How about that? Snowden was already deeply involved with TOR in December 2012–and Jacob Applebaum of TOR just happened to travel to Hawaii a few months later in April! Coincidence? I don’t think so.
In his e-mail, Snowden wrote that he personally ran one of the “major tor exits”–a 2 gbps server named “TheSignal”–and was trying to persuade some unnamed coworkers at his office to set up additional servers. He didn’t say where he worked. But he wanted to know if Sandvik could send him a stack of official Tor stickers. (In some post-leak photos of Snowden you can see the Tor sticker on the back of his laptop, next to the EFF sticker).
Well, well, well. Now we know how Snowden got his TOR sticker. Did Runa give him the EFF sticker too? Read the rest of the Wired piece for more details.
Phew! I hope that made sense. This stuff is difficult to write about.
Also yesterday, well-known and respected journalist and New Yorker writer George Packer published a no-holds-barred review of Glenn Greenwald’s new book in the UK Prospect: The errors of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald. Among other things, Packer accuses Greenwald of “a pervasive absence of intellectual integrity,” and provides numerous examples. He characterizes Snowden as someone who lives on the internet, detached from the realities of the real world. Here are a few excerpts, but please read the whole thing.
Snowden’s leaks can be seen, in part, as a determined effort to restore the web to its original purity—a project of technology rather than law. “Let us speak no more of faith in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of cryptography,” wrote Snowden, in an early message to his collaborators. In March of this year, appearing remotely from Russia on a robotised screen onstage at a TED talk in Vancouver, Snowden said that the single best solution to the NSA’s abuses is stronger encryption: “The internet that we’ve enjoyed in the past has been exactly what we, as not just a nation but as a people around the world, need.” In taking nearly two million highly classified documents from the US, he was grabbing back the key to heaven.
As I’ve written previously, Snowden’s solution to the problem of government interference with its citizens is impenetrable universal encryption–never mind the fact that this would allow vast numbers of vicious criminals to hide their actions from law enforcement.
As I suspected, Packer writes that Greenwald’s book “contains no major scoops.” He does, however, praise Greenwald’s argument for the primacy of privacy as central to a “free society.”
Greenwald also makes a powerful case—all the more so for being uncompromising and absolute—for the central role of privacy in a free society, and against the utilitarian argument that, since the phone companies’ metadata on Americans hasn’t been seriously abused by government officials (not yet, anyway), none of us should be too worried. In a chapter called “The Harm of Surveillance,” he cites Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous opinion on the basic “right to be let alone,” and writes: “The desire for privacy is shared by us all as an essential, not ancillary, part of what it means to be human. We all instinctively understand that the private realm is where we can act, think, speak, write, experiment, and choose how to be, away from the judgemental eyes of others. Privacy is a core condition of being a free person.”
I would argue that these considerations are of vital importance to people like Greenwald who are financially secure. Those Americans who must deal with racial and gender discrimination, long-term unemployment, and especially grinding poverty have other, more urgent concerns. Can one be a “free person” under those conditions?
Along similar lines, Packer writes:
If Greenwald and others were actually being persecuted for their political beliefs, they would instinctively understand that the rule of law has to protect people regardless of politics. The NSA disclosures are disturbing and even shocking; so is the Obama administration’s hyper-aggressive pursuit of leaks; so is the fact that, for several years, Poitras couldn’t leave or re-enter the US without being questioned at airports. These are abuses, but they don’t quite reach the level of the Stasi. They don’t portend a totalitarian state “beyond the dreams of even the greatest tyrants of the past,” as Greenwald believes is possible. A friend from Iran who was jailed and tortured for having the wrong political beliefs, and who is now an American citizen, observed drily, “I prefer to be spied on by NSA.” The sense of oppression among Greenwald, Poitras, and other American dissenters is only possible to those who have lived their entire lives under the rule of law and have come to take it for granted.
In the year since the first NSA disclosures, Snowden has drifted a long way from the Thoreauvian ideal of the majority of one. He has become an international celebrity, far more championed than reviled. He has praised Russia and Venezuela’s devotion to human rights. His more recent disclosures have nothing to do with the constitutional rights of US citizens. Many of them deal with surveillance of foreign governments, including Germany and Brazil, but also Iran, Russia, and China. These are activities that, wise or unwise, fall well within the NSA’s mandate and the normal ways of espionage. Snowden has attached himself to Wikileaks and to Assange, who has become a tool of Russian foreign policy and has no interest in reforming American democracy—his goal is to embarrass it. Assange and Snowden are not the first radical individualists to end up in thrall to strongmen.
Snowden looked to the internet for liberation, but it turns out that there is no such thing as an entirely free individual. Cryptography can never offer the absolute privacy and liberty that Snowden seeks online. The internet will always be a space controlled by corporations and governments, and the freedom it provides is of a limited, even stunting, kind. No one lives outside the fact of coercion—there is always a state to protect or pursue you, whether it’s Obama’s America or Putin’s Russia.
I’ve barely touched the surface of Packer’s scathing critique of Greenwald’s “journalism”; I enourage you to go to Prospect link to read more.
I have a few more stories for you that I’ll list link-dump style:
It appears that the prosecution in the Boston Bombing case decided to leak some previously secret information–most likely to counter the defense’s argument that Dzhohar Tsarnaev was illegally questioned by the FBI when he was in the hospital with terrible injuries.
Boston Globe: Christmas Lights Used in Boston Marathon Bombs.
This is encouraging from the Boston Globe: Oakland Examining Pension of FBI Agent who Shot Todashev
The Economic Times of India: Google wants to show ads through your thermostat and car. (You though the NSA was bad?)
Information Week: Google Outlines Advertising Vision. (How would you like targeted Google ads appearing on your refrigerator or watch?)
The Atlantic: It Wasn’t Household Debt That Caused the Great Recession; It was how that debt was disproportionately distributed to America’s most economically fragile communities.
Science Recorder: ‘Aliens of the sea’ could lead to breakthroughs in regenerative medicine.
What stories are you following today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.
I have quite a few articles to share this morning, a real Saturday potpourri! So let’s get started. First up, on Thursday Attorney General Eric Holder gave a wide-ranging interview to Ari Melber of MSNBC, and quite a bit of breaking news came out of it. Here are some of the resulting headlines: NY Daily News: Eric Holder: Could talk deal with NSA-leaker Edward Snowden, but no clemency
Holder told MSNBC that the Obama Administration “would engage in a conversation” about a resolution in the case, but said it would require Snowden acknowledge wrongdoing…. At a University of Virginia forum, where Holder was asked about Snowden, he elaborated on his position, saying, “If Mr. Snowden wanted to come back to the United States and enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers. We would do the same with any defendant who wanted to enter a plea of guilty, so that is the context to what I said.” But he stressed that the NSA leaker would not walk. “We’ve always indicated that the notion of clemency isn’t something that we were willing to consider.”
Seattle PI: Holder: Marijuana banking regulations on the way
Attorney General Eric Holder says the Obama administration is planning to roll out regulations soon that would allow banks to do business with legal marijuana sellers. During an appearance Thursday at the University of Virginia, Holder said it is important from a law enforcement perspective to enable places that sell marijuana to have access to the banking system so they don’t have large amounts of cash lying around. Currently, processing money from marijuana sales puts federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges. Because of the threat of criminal prosecution, financial institutions often refuse to let marijuana-related businesses open accounts.
There’s a good piece about this at Forbes, but they won’t even let you copy their headlines anymore. Mediaite: Eric Holder: Voter ID Used to ‘Depress the Vote’ of People Who Don’t Support GOP
Attorney General Eric Holder sharply criticized state-level voter identification policies and said that he believes those policies are a “remedy in search of a problem.” He added that, while some may be arguing for voter ID in good faith, he believes that most are advocating for this policy in order to “depress the vote” of those who do not support the “party that is advancing” voter ID measures. “I think many are using it for partisan advantage,” Holder said of voter ID. “People have to understand that we are not opposed to photo identification in a vacuum,” he continued. “But when it is used in — certain ways to disenfranchise particular groups of people, whether by racial designation, ethnic origin, or for partisan reasons, that from my perspective is problematic.” He added that “all the studies” show that in-person voter fraud “simply does not exist” at a level that requires a legislative solution.
Attorney General Eric Holder waded into the controversy over former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s new book Thursday, calling it “a mistake” for Gates to have published his recollections before President Barack Obama left the White House. “It’s my view that it’s just not a good thing thing to write a book about a president that you served while that president is still in office,” Holder said during an appearance at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. “From my perspective I think the world of Bob Gates, but I think that the publication of that book — at least at this time — was a mistake.” [….] In the course of offering his critique of the timing of Gates’s book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Holder twice praised the former defense secretary for his leadership. “I like Bob Gates a great deal. He was a good secretary of defense,” the attorney general said.
“I think people just need to be a little patient,” Holder said, according to a transcript of an interview with MSNBC to air at noon Pacific time Friday. “I know it’s been a while. But we have other things that are in the pipeline.” [….] Holder has taken heat for telling a Senate hearing last year that some financial institutions were “so large that it becomes difficult to prosecute them” because criminal charges could hurt the U.S. and even world economies. Since then Holder has tried to emphasize that the Justice Department is not intimidated by the size of a financial institution and would bring any charges it believed it could prove.
As I said, quite a bit of news out of one interview. Good job by Ari Melber.
In other news . . .
The Economist has a brief article that provides some background on the situation in Ukraine: On the march in Kiev –The protests turn nasty and violent, but the president is not giving ground.
JANUARY 22nd was meant to mark Ukraine’s unity day, a celebration of its short-lived pre-Soviet independence. Instead, it was a day of civil unrest and perhaps the biggest test of Ukraine’s post-Soviet integrity. After two months of largely peaceful encampment on the Maidan in Kiev, the protests turned violent. Five people were reported killed and hundreds were injured. An armoured personnel carrier pushed through the streets. Clouds of black smoke and flames mottled the snow-covered ground. Never in its history as an independent state has Ukraine witnessed such violence. It was triggered by the passage of a series of repressive laws imposing tight controls on the media and criminalising the protests of the past two months. One law copied almost verbatim a Russian example, including stigmatising charities and human-rights groups financed from abroad as “foreign agents”. If Russian human-rights activists denounce their parliament as a “crazy printer” churning out repressive legislation, says Oleksandra Matviichuk of the Centre for Civil Liberties in Kiev, Ukraine has a “crazy photocopier”. The clashes show vividly the refusal of the protesters to heed such laws.
Brian Glyn Williams, the U. Mass Dartmouth professor who interacted with Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and recommended some sources of information on Chechnya for a report Tsarnaev was writing, has a post up at HuffPo on how the history of Chechya and Dagestan is coming back to haunt the Winter Olympics in Russia: The Dark Secret Behind the Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Efforts to Hide a Tsarist-Era Genocide. Here’s the conclusion:
The twin bombings in Volgograd in late December 2013 and an earlier one in October are clearly meant to show the Russians that the Chechen-Dagestani terrorists have reignited their terror jihad. They are also meant to remind the world of the tragedy that befell the Circassians of the Caucasus’s Black Sea shore exactly 150 years ago this winter. This is the dark secret that Russia’s authoritarian leader, Putin, does not want the world to know. Putin has thus far been very successful in conflating Russia’s neo-colonial war against Chechen separatists with America’s war on nihilist Al Qaeda Arab terrorists. Any attempt to remind the world of Imperial Russia/Post-Soviet Russia’s war crimes in the Caucasus is a threat to Putin’s pet project, the whitewashed Sochi Olympics. This of course not to excuse the brutal terroristic acts of the Caucasian Emirate or the Chechen rebels, but it certainly provides the one thing that Putin does not want the world to see as he constructs his “Potemkin village” in Sochi, and that is an honest account of the events that have made this the most terrorist fraught Olympic games since the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
Remember Erik Prince, the Michigan millionaire who founded Blackwater? Guess what he’s doing these days? The WSJ has the scoop: Erik Prince: Out of Blackwater and Into China. Erik Prince —ex-Navy SEAL, ex-CIA spy, ex-CEO of private-security firm Blackwater —calls himself an “accidental tourist” whose modest business boomed after 9/11, expanded into Iraq and Afghanistan, and then was “blowtorched by politics.” To critics and conspiracy theorists, he is a mercenary war-profiteer. To admirers, he’s a patriot who has repeatedly answered America’s call with bravery and creativity.
Now, sitting in a boardroom above Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, he explains his newest title, acquired this month: chairman of Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China’s largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. Beijing has titanic ambitions to tap Africa’s resources—including $1 trillion in planned spending on roads, railways and airports by 2025—and Mr. Prince wants in…. “I would rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next,” says the crew-cut 44-year-old. Having launched Blackwater in 1997 as a rural North Carolina training facility for U.S. soldiers and police, Mr. Prince says he “kept saying ‘yes’ as the demand curve called—Columbine, the USS Cole and then 9/11.” In 100,000 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says, Blackwater contractors never lost a U.S. official under their protection. But the company gained a trigger-happy reputation, especially after a September 2007 shootout that left 17 civilians dead in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. At that point, charges Mr. Prince, Blackwater was “completely thrown under the bus by a fickle customer”—the U.S. government, and especially the State Department. He says Washington opted to “churn up the entire federal bureaucracy” and sic it on Blackwater “like a bunch of rabid dogs.” According to Mr. Prince, IRS auditors told his colleagues that they had “never been under so much pressure to get someone as to get Erik Prince,” and congressional staffers promised, “We’re going to ride you till you’re out of business.”
Awwwwww…..Poor little rich boy. Where’s my tiny violin?
Speaking of entrepreneurs, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ plans for his latest acquisition–The Washington Post–are becoming clearer, as he hires more right wing libertarians for the op-ed page. Now Pando Daily reveals what Don Graham is up to now that he’s dumped the family business: The company formerly known as WaPo moves into tech apps.
Today, the company formerly known as WaPo — now called Graham Holdings – has announced a new business endeavor in journalism. Surprisingly, said endeavor doesn’t have much to do with actual journalism at all — it falls squarely in the tech camp. It’s a content discovery app called Trove. Trove fits in the now-torrential trend of such applications. Companies like Flipboard,Prismatic, Rockmelt, and N3twork have all tread this ground long before Trove. They’re all convinced that places like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS readers are not good enough for finding the best stories…. The two men behind Trove have rich and storied histories. Vijay Ravindran, the CEO of Trove, served as The Washington Post’s Chief Digital Officer before the sale, and ran ordering at Amazon for seven years before that. Reuters oped columnist Jack Shafer even divpredicted (incorrectly) that Ravindran would be named the new WaPo publisher after the sale. The other Trove heavyweight is product lead Rob Malda, who is also the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Slashdot — the predecessor of every user-focused news aggregator since, from Digg to Reddit to Hacker News.
Read all about it at the above link.
A few short takes:
In other tech news, CSM’s Security Watch reports that Booz Allen, Snowden’s old firm, looking to help US government with ‘insider threats’. Author Dan Murphy asks, “Are defense and intelligence contractors the best choice to manage a threat they’ve contributed to?” Read it and weep.
According to Fox News, gun manufacturers Smith & Wesson and Ruger will no longer do business in California because they don’t want to comply with a new CA law that allows law enforcement to trace bullets to the individual gun they came from. After all, why would gun companies want to help police catch murderers? Unbelievable!
Did you know that this month is the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant satire, Dr. Strangelove? IMHO, it is one of the funniest movies of all time. Well, Eric Schlosser has a not-so-funny article about it at The New Yorker: ALMOST EVERYTHING IN “DR. STRANGELOVE” WAS TRUE. Don’t miss this one; it’s a must read!
Apparently the latest food craze to emerge from San Francisco is “artisanal toast.” How did toast become the latest artisanal food craze? Ask a trivial question, get a profound, heartbreaking answer. John Gravois writes about it at Pacific Standard: The Science of Society. Weird.
A silly test to take at Buzzfeed: Which Pop Diva Are You? I got Pink. I know nothing about her…but she looks kinda cool.
Finally, I posted this link in the comments recently, but I don’t know if anyone looked at it. I’m posting it again, because I think it’s absolutely adorable. It’s some glamour shots of elderly people having fun dressing up and posing as various movie heroes and heroines. Here’s just one example:
I hope you found something to tickle your fancy in this potpourri of articles. Now it’s your turn. Please post your recommended links in the comment thread, and have a wonderful weekend!
I’m all in for Germanic fertility goddesses carrying eggs and surrounded by hares these days. Why remove all the fun from a really good pagan holiday? The more I read about all these old pagan holidays, the more I want to dump the modern versions. It’s Eostre’s time of year, so go out and celebrate the weekend like a German Fertility Goddess! BTW, my oldest daughter was born on the spring equinox 30 years ago so I have a special love for the season!
The name “Easter” originated with the names of an ancient Goddess and God. The Venerable Bede, (672-735 CE.) a Christian scholar, first asserted in his book De Ratione Temporum that Easter was named after Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre). She was the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. Similarly, the “Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility [was] known variously as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron and Ausos.” 1 Her name was derived from the ancient word for spring: “eastre.”
I know my way back peeps were down with Eostre! Well, until the Romans headed north and ruined the world for every one!!!
There’s a lot of nastiness still coming from that northward drift of Rome. However, we’re making some improvements and hopefully, we can see a day in American when we are lot more focused on enfranchisement and appreciating differences. Jonathan Chait has a great article up at NYM on “The Slow Death of the Anti-Gay Marriage Movement”. It’s about the rise and fall of one of the bigots who looked to stop the marriage equality movement.
Now the movement is in a state of total collapse, with every day seeming to bring new converts to the gay-marriage cause and the opposition losing all of its courage. There is no more telling sign of the opposition’s surrender than the public demoralization of Maggie Gallagher, the leading anti-gay-marriage activist and writer.
The unusual thing about the campaign to ban gay marriage is that it was dying from the moment it was born. Even at its peak, at the very outset, the portents of doom were visible on the horizon — polls showed that young voters strongly supported gay marriage. The best case for Gallagher and her allies appeared to be holding on for years, or even decades, but eventually gay-marriage opponents would age out of the electorate.
Gallagher understood from the beginning that she had to fight that sense of eventual inevitability. Here she is writing a column for National Review in December 2004 whose thesis is captured in its headline, “Not Inevitable.” In the face of clear evidence, Gallagher seized on whatever tiny glimmers of demographic hope she could find. One poll found that while young adults favored gay marriage, teens did not. Was this a statistical blip because of a tiny sample size? Not to Gallagher, who saw it as evidence that “most likely, as more adults voice firm objections to gay marriage, they appear to be having an impact on their children’s attitudes and values.”
Five years later, Gallagher continued to rage against the dying of the light, but less forcefully. A 2009 column phrased her stance as a question rather than an answer (“Is Gay Marriage Inevitable?”). Gallagher was no longer insisting that the youngest voters opposed gay marriage, but was merely hoping that the generation of voters younger than them one day would in a fit of rebellion. “Right now, it’s ‘cool’ to be pro-gay marriage. In ten years, it will be what the old folks think,” she offered hopefully.
Today, the movement has advanced far more rapidly than expected, and it is hard to find much hope at all in Gallagher. She increasingly casts those on her own side as victims. Gallagher insists, in an interview with National Review — she has given up her column — the cause is about “the core civil rights of 7 million Californians to vote on the marriage question.” The rights of a gay couple to marry cannot be allowed to trample on the rights of heterosexuals to vote to ban them from getting married.
The surest sign of resignation is that Gallagher has redirected her focus from stopping gay marriage to preserving the dignity of her reputation and those of her fellow believers. She now presents her cause as a kind of civil rights movement to protect her fellow believers from the stigma of advocating bigotry and discrimination. “I worry when I get an email from a woman who’s a nurse in a hospital,” she told NPR, “who wrote a letter to the editor opposing gay marriage, and finds that she fears her job is in jeopardy.”
This is the second article I’ve seen recently that states that the most put down group in America is the Evangelical Christian and not the “homosexual”. It looks like White, Republicans and Southern Evangelicals are the most likely group to claim discrimination these days. WTF?
Perceptions of reverse discrimination – so-called because it involves bias against whites, rather than against minorities – are not new, and have been building among American whites for decades. However, the phenomenon is little-studied, in part because some assume such claims by white Americans have little merit.
“We talk about whites who claim reverse discrimination a lot, but we don’t often study them systematically, ” said Stanford sociology Professor Aliya Saperstein. “The issue of reporting racial discrimination is such a loaded one. So, we were curious about who the white people were who would say out loud to a survey interviewer that they had been treated unfairly because of their race. What makes them different?”
Using data from a 2006 survey of American racial and religious diversity, Saperstein, along with fellow sociologist Damon Mayrl, found that the answer varies depending on where you are. In the South, the most likely discrimination reporters are evangelical Christians. Elsewhere, it’s Republicans.
The reasons for this aren’t ideological – the specifics of people’s religious or political beliefs seem to make no difference. Instead, the researchers suggest, Southern evangelical churches and the GOP are acting as regional communities for racially disaffected whites.
The findings show that common stereotypes of white people concerned with “reverse racism” – the stereotype of the “angry white male,” for instance – are not the whole story. While the study shows whites who report racial discrimination are more likely to be recently unemployed and pessimistic about their future, they are also more likely to say they have daily contact with non-whites, and count at least one non-white person among their eight closest friends.
“You have to look beyond the simple view of who’s claiming racial discrimination,” said Mayrl, a professor at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and first author on the study. “There is no singular profile of the white discrimination reporter.”
The paper is currently available online ahead of publication in Social Science Research.
Here’s an example for your shock and awe viewing pleasure.
In the media’s narrative, you would think that homosexuals are the poor souls who have been banished by society like ugly stepchildren and are now rising to overcome incredible odds.
But what about today? Let’s be honest: If you are a conservative evangelical who believes in the biblical definition of traditional marriage then guess what? You are one of the following: An outcast, a bigot, narrow-minded, a “hater” or all of the above. It’s a different type of ridicule but it’s still ridicule.
The tables have been turned. Evangelicals are now the ugly stepchild. In our American culture today, you can easily make the argument that it is harder to stand for biblical truth than it is to be a supporter of gay marriage in today’s society.
Yes, folks that’s why Jesus always hung out with the kewl kids and money lenders at the table and the Beatitudes were all about how blessed the sanctimonious and rich are!!!
One of the other things that really gets my goat these days is the lack of awareness of just how unequal wealth and incomes are in the US. This definitely creates an America that can’t reach its full potential.
1. $2.13 per hour vs. $3,000,000.00 per hour
Each of the Koch brothers saw his investments grow by $6 billion in one year, which is three million dollars per hour based on a 40-hour ‘work’ week. They used some of the money to try to kill renewable energystandards around the country.
Their income portrays them, in a society measured by economic status, as a million times more valuable than the restaurant server who cheers up our lunch hours while hoping to make enough in tips to pay the bills.
A comparison of top and bottom salaries within large corporations is much less severe, but a lot more common. For CEOs and minimum-wage workers, the difference is $5,000.00 per hour vs. $7.25 per hour.
2. A single top income could buy housing for every homeless person in the U.S.
On a winter day in 2012 over 633,000 people were homeless in the United States. Based on an annual single room occupancy (SRO) cost of $558 per month, any ONE of the ten richest Americans would have enough with his 2012 income to pay for a room for every homeless person in the U.S. for the entire year. These ten rich men together made more than our entire housing budget.
So, BB showed me this great story about another great king of England dug up in an obscure location. This time it is the grave of Alfred the Great.
(PHGCOM, Public Domain)
WINCHESTER, ENGLAND—Human remains thought to be those of Alfred the Great, who died in A.D. 899, have been exhumed from an unmarked grave at St. Bartholomew’s Church. Alfred, the first “king of the English,” had been buried near Winchester Cathedral, but his body was moved to Hyde Abbey in 1110, which was later destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII. Some think his bones were transferred to St. Bartholomew’s in the eighteenth century. Church officials decided to empty the grave in order to protect the bones from curiosity seekers. Nick Edmonds, a church spokesperson, said that no applications have been made to study the bones at this time. “Of course, that would only be granted if the court were satisfied with everything proposed, both legally and ethically. Whatever happens, the remains will stay in the care and protection of the church and the consistory court until they are reinterred,” he added.
I’m still exciting about the Richard III find.
Okay, one more interesting thing for those of you that find the old ways and the old days interesting. The statue on the right is of Ix Chel, the Maya Moon Goddess. She is also called “Lady Rainbow”.
Ix Chel is the Maya Goddess of the Moon, Water, Weaving and Childbirth. She is shown here in three of Her many aspects. Left to right: Chak Chel, the Old Moon Goddess, called the Midwife of Creation; Ix Chel in Her main form as Mother Goddess and Weaver who set the Universe in motion; and the Young Moon Goddess, shown with Her totem animal the rabbit.
Ix Chel (sometimes spelled Ixchel), the moon goddess, is one of the most important ancient Maya deities, connected to fertility, and procreation. Her name has been translated as “Lady Rainbow”, or as “She of the Pale Face”, alluding to the moon’s surface.
Although not directly mentioned in colonial sources, in the codices Ix Chel appears in both old and young variations, to whom Maya religion specialists attribute respectively the names of Goddess O and Goddess I. As an aged woman, Ix Chel is usually portrayed with a serpent headdress, a skirt adorned with crossed bones, and jaguar claws instead of hands. It has been proposed that the two variants correspond to different aspects of the moon: the old Ix Chel is connected with the full moon, and its waning aspect, and the young Ix Chel is connected with the crescent moon. This interpretation is partially supported by some Classic period depictions of the young goddess sitting on a crescent moon, holding a rabbit.
So, that’s a little this and that from me today. What’s on you reading and blogging list today?
Good Late Nite!
This has been such an exhausting week. I was so tired when I got home from the football game last night I could not even lift a finger to turn the laptop on. So this Friday night post is something I have waited for. Tonight I have a bunch of different topics, so let’s get on with it.
First, I wanted to bring this news item to your attention. Not sure if you have seen this incident from earlier in the week, but since I have a brother with Downs, this news story was particularly upsetting. American Airlines boots family with Down child from flight
A California family that was not allowed to board a cross-country flight says they believe they were discriminated against because their son has Down syndrome.
Robert Vanderhorst, his wife Joan and 16-year-old son Bede, who is disabled, were booked to fly on an American Airlines flight from Newark to Los Angeles on Sunday when the boy and his parents were not allowed on the plane.
The family from Porterville had upgraded to first class tickets at an airport kiosk, and asked the airline to seat the boy and one of his parents together – a request the airline granted – Vanderhorst said Tuesday.
When the family was ready to board, they were stopped by airline personnel, told their son was a “security risk” and would not be allowed on the flight, he said. The parents protested, and later were rebooked to fly coach with another airline.
American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said the disabled boy was agitated and running around the gate area prior to boarding, which his parents dispute. The airplane’s pilot observed the boy, Miller said, and made the call based on his behavior.
“He was not ready to fly, that was our perspective,” Miller said. “We rebooked the family out of concern for the young man’s safety and that of other passengers as well.”
But Vanderhorst said his son did not run at any time, did not make any loud noises and didn’t display any other offensive behaviors. The boy walked around with him or sat quietly in the gate area, Vanderhorst said.
A cell phone video captured by the boy’s mother shows Bede sitting and quietly playing with a baseball cap.
Oh, but they will put him in coach…Teen denied boarding on American Airlines flight because he has Down syndrome, family says
At one point, Port Authority police were even called on the confused family.
“Nothing like this has ever happened to us before. That’s what’s so shocking. He’s usually our good luck charm. Good things usually happen when Bede is with us,” Vanderhorst said.
The airline said Bede couldn’t board because he was ‘agitated’ in the waiting area, but a video the family made shows Bede, above, quietly playing with his hat. The Vanderhorsts said the pilot and crew never spoke with them or their son and they believe the airline didn’t want a person with Down syndrome in first class.
Bede and his parents had been in Jackson, N.J., visiting family and were eager to make the long return flight home. On a “lark” they had even upgraded their seats to first class, shelling out an extra $625 dollars.
“My wife said, ‘oh Bede’s never flown first class,’ he’ll be so excited.”
Vanderhorst said Bede, a freshman in high school, has flown “at least 30 times” through his life and has never caused any trouble.
Nothing was different before Sunday’s flight, he said. Bede was sticking close to his parents and was not acting unruly, nor was he upset.
But as the family waited to board, an American Airlines official pulled them aside and said the pilot had observed Bede and didn’t feel safe allowing him on the plane.
Joan Vanderhorst quickly snapped on her video camera and can be heard sobbing. “We are being singled out,” she said. Robert Vanderhorst, an attorney, calmly pleads with the airline official. “He’s behaving. He’s demonstrating he’s not a problem.”
The agitated American Airlines employee instead called Port Authority police to escort the family away from the gate.
This incident pissed me off, and I hope the family sues and gets some kind of relief from American Airlines. Fly the friendly skies, as long has you don’t have Downs Syndrome.
Alright, now for the cartoons…
Some of the cartoons I saw made the valid point about the RNC’s lack of bringing on past presidents.
You may need to click on that link to see the image full size.
And then we have more about Big Dawg…
This one took me a few moments to get it…that Clinton is holding a branding iron, like I said, it was an exhausting week.
And then there were the ones about Obama. This first one is from a foreign cartoonist, and I thought it was very clever:
And this next cartoon really illustrates the Tea Party at home:
That woman has curly hair just like my aunt, you know the one who thinks Obama is a communist, specifically a black communist.
Okay, just a couple more political ones…
Keeping with the football theme:
And finally this last one, and just in time, cause I have to get ready to head over to the high school and support my Banjoville panthers…
This is an open thread!