May the Fourth be with You!

Disney Storyboard Drawing of a Dinosaur from Fantasia (1940)

Good Morning!

I’ve always loved SF and fantasy but I’ve also loved delving into the mysterious past.  What kid doesn’t like stories about dinosaurs and spaceships?  One of all time favorite things to watch is Disney’s Fantasia. I love the animated Dinosaurs brought to life to the strains of Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’.  There’s some news dealing with the EPA, our planet, and our dependence on fossil fuels I’d like to share today.  Climate change is real.  The current administration only cares about enriching itself and its friends.  What does this mean for our fragile time on this planet?

 

From The Grist: Humans didn’t exist the last time there was this much CO2 in the air.

The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were this high, millions of years ago, the planet was very different. For one, humans didn’t exist.

On Wednesday, scientists at the University of California in San Diego confirmedthat April’s monthly average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration breached 410 parts per million for the first time in our history.

We know a lot about how to track these changes. The Earth’s carbon dioxide levels peak around this time every year for a pretty straightforward reason. There’s more landmass in the northern hemisphere, and plants grow in a seasonal cycle. During the summer, they suck down CO2, during the winter, they let it back out. The measurements were made at Mauna Loa, Hawaii — a site chosen for its pristine location far away from the polluting influence of a major city.

Increasingly though, pollution from the world’s cities is making its way to Mauna Loa — and everywhere else on Earth.

In little more than a century of frenzied fossil-fuel burning, we humans have altered our planet’s atmosphere at a rate dozens of times faster than natural climate change. Carbon dioxide is now more than 100 ppm higher than any direct measurements from Antarctic ice cores over the past 800,000 years, and probably significantly higher than anything the planet has experienced for at least 15 million years. That includes eras when Earth was largely ice-free.

Not only are carbon dioxide levels rising each year, they are accelerating. Carbon dioxide is climbing at twice the pace it was 50 years ago. Even the increases are increasing.

That’s happening for several reasons, most important of which is that we’re still burning a larger amount of fossil fuels each year. Last year, humanity emitted the highest level of greenhouse gas emissions in history — even after factoring in the expansion of renewable energy. At the same time, the world’s most important carbon sinks — our forests — are dying, and therefore losing their ability to pull carbon dioxide out of the air and store it safely in the soil. The combination of these effects means we are losing ground, and fast.

 

From the New York Times: ‘It was 122.4°F This Week in Pakistan, Probably a World Record for April’

Even in Pakistan, no stranger to blistering heat, the temperature on Monday stood out: 122.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

The reading came from Nawabshah, a city of 1.1 million people in southern Pakistan, and meteorologists say it is the highest temperature ever reliably recorded, anywhere in the world, in the month of April.

The World Meteorological Organization keeps global temperature records, but not by month, which means Monday in Nawabshah cannot be officially confirmed as the hottest April day. But experts on extreme temperatures say it probably is.

Christopher C. Burt, the author of “Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book” and a contributor to Weather Underground, said that 122.4 degrees, or 50.2 degrees Celsius, appeared to be the hottest reliably measured April temperature “in modern records for any location on Earth.” Only one reading might challenge it: 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit, or 51 degrees Celsius, recorded in Santa Rosa, Mexico, in April 2011. But Mr. Burt said that measurement was “questionable because the site was a regional observation site and not of first order.”

Fantasia “Rite of Spring” Concept Art (Walt Disney, 1940)

From Montana’s KRTV 3: ‘Clean-up plan being developed for oil spill on Fort Peck Indian Reservation’.

A oil spill occurred at an oil well operated by Anadarko Minerals Inc. near Lustre, which is located in the central region of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

According to a press release, the spill was reported to the Tribes’ Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) on Friday, April 27.

The spill was spotted by a rancher doing a flyover in the area. The exact date that the leak occurred has not yet been determined. The well had been shut-in in late December of 2017.

Wilfred Lambert of the Fort Peck Tribes OEP and officials from the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) initially estimated that 600 barrels of oil and 90,000 barrels of production water, also known as brine, were released from the well.

The oil and brine flowed approximately 200 yards downhill to a stock pond used by tribal entities for watering livestock.

The press release states that the extent of the stock pond’s contamination has not been determined. Early assessments indicate about three to six inches of oil sitting on top of the water.

I don’t think these three event require much explanation and cannot be viewed with too much consternation.  We’ve been warned about all of this by the scientists and Cassandras of earth science and climate science.  It’s all getting worse at a much faster and more disturbing rate than projected.

Meanwhile, Scott Pruitt is the swamp thing that administers our EPA.  You know, that agency that was the pride of the Nixon administration meant to clean up our messes and perpetual destruction of our environment.  He also frets his brow over the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Interior.   The BLM came about during the Truman years.  The Department of interior has been around since 1849 and has its roots as far back as Madison although it was established through the Polk administration on the eve of Zachary Taylor’s inauguration. It is the agency which took the main approach to Native Americans after a number of Secretaries of States argued that the land and indigenous people of America was not best served by their Departments. These agencies really are most responsible for our past and our future in numerous ways.

  Both the Department of Interior and the EPA are headed by knuckle dragging, corrupt fools. There also seems to be some internecine drama between their dueling ids. Both have taken the idea of using a Federal position for personal benefit and show boating to new heights.

As Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt faces a seemingly endless stream of scandal, his team is scrambling to divert the spotlight to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. And the White House isn’t happy about it.

In the last week, a member of Pruitt’s press team, Michael Abboud, has been shopping negative stories about Zinke to multiple outlets, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the efforts, as well as correspondence reviewed by The Atlantic.

“This did not happen, and it’s categorically false,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said.

The stories were shopped with the intention of “taking the heat off of Pruitt,” the sources said, in the aftermath of the EPA chief’s punishing congressional hearing last week. They both added, however, that most reporters felt the story was not solid enough to run. On Thursday, Patrick Howley of Big League Politics published a piece on the allegations; he did not respond to request for comment as to his sources.

Abboud alleged to reporters that an Interior staffer conspired with former EPA deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski to leak damaging information about the EPA, as part of a rivalry between Zinke and Pruitt. The collaboration, Abboud claimed, allowed the Interior staffer to prop up Zinke at the expense of Pruitt, and Chmielewski to “get back” at his former boss.

Abboud offered to connect reporters with Healy Baumgardner as a second source, according to a person with direct knowledge. Baumgardner, a former Trump campaign official, is a global energy lobbyist for the U.S.-China Exchange. She’s close to some EPA officials, the source, as well as an EPA official, confirmed. Baumgardner did not immediately return a request for comment.

According to the two sources, Interior staffers who fielded the reporters’ calls were able to ascertain that Abboud, who is a former Trump campaign official, was behind the stories. The Interior Department’s White House liaison then called the White House Presidential Personnel Office to complain about his conduct.

There is a stream of complaints about Pruitt’s conduct.  None of them garner the proper attention.

Scott Pruitt’s itinerary for a February trip to Israel was remarkable by any standard for an Environmental Protection Agency administrator: A stop at a controversial Jewish settlement in the West Bank. An appearance at Tel Aviv University. A hard-to-get audience with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

One force behind Pruitt’s eclectic agenda: casino magnate and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of Israel who arranged parts of Pruitt’s visit.

The Israel trip was canceled days before Pruitt’s planned departure, after The Washington Post revealed his penchant for first-class travel on the taxpayers’ dime. But federal documents obtained by The Post and interviews with individuals familiar with the trip reveal that it fit a pattern by Pruitt of planning foreign travel with significant help from outside interests, including lobbyists, Republican donors and conservative activists.

After taking office last year, Pruitt drew up a list of at least a dozen countries he hoped to visit and urged aides to help him find official reasons to travel, according to four people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal agency deliberations. Pruitt then enlisted well-connected friends and political allies to help make the trips happen.

Ongoing allegations of Pruitt’s attempts to the EPA into his person bank and travel agency are astounding.  They keep oozing out of his swamp.  From EWG: ‘Reports: Before Confirmed, Scott Pruitt Wanted EPA Office, Private Phone Booth in Okla.’

Congressional leaders are demanding information from Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt over allegations he wanted taxpayers to open an office in his hometown of Tulsa, Okla., before he was confirmed by the Senate.

Democrats on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee sent letters this week to Pruitt and the head of the Government Services Administration seeking all records that may show there was an attempt to find an office in Tulsa.

The letters say that in early 2017, Ryan Jackson – now Pruitt’s chief of staff but then a top congressional aide – wanted the GSA to look for office space in Tulsa, 250 miles from the EPA regional headquarters in Dallas. Jackson asked that the office include a private, secure phone booth, like the one Pruitt later spent $43,000 to install at EPA headquarters in Washington.

“It appears that even before he was confirmed, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had dreams of dismantling programs to protect air, water and kids from pollution from the comforts of an office in his hometown,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “What better place to have a secure phone booth to receive instructions from the energy lobby, and avoid the pesky expertise of agency scientists and lawyers?”

“Each day brings new evidence of Pruitt’s obsession to embellish the trappings of his office and adorn his days with pricey perquisites, taxpayers be damned. Historians will make note of Pruitt’s record of fleecing the public and attacking public health as signature ‘accomplishments’ of the Trump presidency.”

Trump appears unwilling to deal with Pruitt.  This is from VOX: ‘Why Trump would really, really rather not fire Scott Pruitt. The EPA administrator has given the White House most of the few policy wins it has to date.’  That’s rather disturbing.

Scott Pruitt’s tenure as head of the Environmental Protection Agency is now deeply tainted by a stunning number of alleged ethical and legal violations. There are at least 10 investigations into potential violations like his $43,000 phone booth, his 20-person security detail, and his housing deal with a lobbyist’s wife. And fallout, like the resignation and new congressional scrutiny of the head of his security team, Pasquale Perrotta (just reported by ABC News), continues.

To some Democrats in the House and Senate, environmental groups who’ve launched the Boot Pruitt campaign, and former top ethics officials, what should happen now is very clear: Pruitt should resign.

“I think your actions are an embarrassment to President Trump and distract from the EPA’s ability to effectively carry out the president’s mission,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) during one of two House hearings on Pruitt last week. (A whistleblower, by the way, is now saying Pruitt lied during the hearings.)

Yet in an administration afflicted with unprecedented turnover, Pruitt has remained startlingly resilient.

His subservience to Trump appears to be one reason why he has dodged the ax. “People are not people to [Trump], they are instruments of his ego,” Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter on Trump’s book The Art of the Deal, told the New York Times. “And when they serve his ego, they survive, and when they don’t, they pass into the night.”

Pruitt must be impeached if Trump refuses to deal with him. This from Forbes.

No self-respecting prosecutor would be proud of winning a shoplifting conviction for a suspected murderer. But that’s almost exactly what’s happening in the congressional investigation of Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt.

Last week, lawmakers grilled Pruitt for renting a ridiculously cheap luxury condo from the wife of a lobbyist trying to get EPA approval for a client’s project. They asked why he reassigned investigators of criminal violations of environmental laws to his personal security detail.

It was all about the “appearance” of corruption. But the truth is that these petty corruptions pale in comparison to Pruitt’s actual policy record at the EPA.

The EPA is a science agency. It’s supposed to consult closely with scientists and base its decisions on rigorous evidence. While adherence to this principle has never been perfect, under Pruitt’s leadership it’s been trashed beyond recognition.

Even as he was about to face his congressional questioning, Pruitt announced a deceptive science “transparency” initiative. It’s a proposed rule stating that only scientific studies which are reproducible, and in which all underlying data are publicly available, can be used as the basis for regulation.

It sounds unobjectionable. But it would end up keeping a whole lot of public health data—on the impact of pollution, pesticides, or climate change, for example—out of the EPA’s hands.

For obvious ethical reasons, many public health studies can’t be repeated—not if they’d entail intentionally exposing people to toxins—and raw data on individuals’ health histories usually can’t be disclosed. Several hundred scientists pointed out these facts in a letter to Pruitt, but Pruitt doesn’t care what scientists think.

It gets really egregious when you look at what kind of data political appointees at the EPA want to exempt from the rule: proprietary corporate data, according to internal discussions obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The proposed rule provides wide discretion to the EPA administrator—and only the administrator—to grant exemptions to the transparency requirement on a case-by-case basis. And Pruitt seems far more inclined to grant those exceptions to polluting industries, not

So many policies and actions of modern Republicans basically are aimed at killing every one.  They are either extremely shorted sided or actually believe that they will some how escape the karma they’re bringing on to the planet and country.  It might be that they are simply a cult of mass destruction since so many of them are whack-a-do Dominionists and actively seek an ends times.

They are bringing on an end times or a dystopia or whatever it is that I used to watch and read about in those old books.  I’m not seeing a Star Trek future in any of this.  In any case, we must stop this administration before these things cannot be undone. Enough of what’s gone on recently appears irreversible as it is.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

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Tuesday Reads: White Privilege and Trump’s “Best People”

Good Morning!!

White privilege is a powerful thing, and here’s some proof.

WGN9 Chicago: Waffle House shooting suspect held on $2M bail.

A man accused of killing four people with an AR-15 rifle at a Tennessee Waffle House has been formally charged with four counts of criminal homicide and is being held on $2 million bail.

Court records say 29-year-old Travis Reinking was charged Monday. He is due in court Wednesday.

Police say Reinking was wearing a green jacket and nothing else Sunday when he stormed the restaurant in southeast Nashville and opened fire with the military assault-style rifle, first in the parking lot and then inside. Police credited a quick-thinking customer who wrestled the gun away from preventing more bloodshed.

Authorities say Reinking fled the scene after the scuffle with the restaurant patron. The suspect was captured Monday after an intense manhunt with local and federal police officers that lasted more than a day.

And yet, the judge gave him bail. Let’s hope his father (who reportedly returned the assault weapon to his son after the Secret Service took it away during an arrest at the White House) doesn’t raise the money to get him released.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, a golf club called the police on four black women members for allegedly playing too slowly. AP:

“I felt we were discriminated against,” one of the women, Myneca Ojo, told the York Daily Record. “It was a horrific experience.”

Sandra Thompson and four friends met up Saturday to play a round of golf at the Grandview Golf Club, where they are all members, she told the newspaper.

At the second hole, a white man whose son co-owns the club came up to them twice to complain that they weren’t keeping up with the pace of play. Thompson, an attorney and the head of the York chapter of the NAACP, told the newspaper it was untrue.

On the same hole, another member of the group, Sandra Harrison, said she spoke with a Grandview golf pro, who said they were fine since they were keeping pace with the group ahead of them.

Despite that, the women skipped the third hole to avoid any other issues, she said….

The five are part of a larger group of local women known as Sisters in the Fairway. The group has been around for at least a decade, and all of its members are experienced players who have golfed all over the county and world, Thompson said. They’re very familiar with golf etiquette, she said.

After the ninth hole, where it is customary to take a break before continuing on the next nine holes, three of the group decided to leave because they were so shaken up by the earlier treatment, the women told the paper.

Thompson said the man from the second hole, identified as former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister, his son, club co-owner Jordan Chronister and several other white, male employees approached the remaining two women and said they took too long of a break and they needed to leave the course.

Then the police arrived, but they took no action. Read more at the link.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly told his followers that he knew “the best people” and would hire the very best to work for his administration. That’s not working out so well.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt is still hanging in there, but for how much longer?

CNBC: Embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt faces public grilling this week as GOP support erodes.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reports to Capitol Hill on Thursday for a pair of hearings on his agency’s 2018 budget proposal, but the embattled Trump deputy is likely to face as many questions about his personal conduct as EPA’s spending priorities.

Since the hearings were announced, revelations about Pruitt’s rental of a Washington apartment linked to an energy lobbyist have sparked a near-daily trickle of reports detailing alleged ethics abuses and lavish spending that have put the EPA chief’s political future in peril.

In just the last few weeks, Pruitt has been accused of retaliating against EPA staff, arranging official trips to fulfill his personal travel whims and orchestrating pay raises for aides in defiance of the White House. The number of investigations into his conduct has expanded to five, and the government’s top watchdog determined last week that the agency violated the law by installing a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in Pruitt’s office.

The hearings could be a make-or-break moment for Pruitt, who has already sat through a combative Fox News interview that reportedly bruised his standing in the administration. Pruitt goes before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s subcommittee on Environment in the morning and the Committee on Appropriation’s subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies in the afternoon.

And, according to Bloomberg, the White House is telling Republicans not to defend Pruitt.

White House officials are cautioning Republican lawmakers and other conservative allies to temper their defense of Scott Pruitt, according to two people familiar with the discussions, in a sign that administration support for the embattled EPA chief may be waning.

The warnings come as several top GOP lawmakers have stepped forward to publicly criticize Pruitt in recent days, marking a dramatic turn of fortune for one of the most conservative members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet who has been heralded for dismantling Obama-era regulations.

Republicans are now sharpening their criticisms about Pruitt amid a revelation that he met at least once with the lobbyist whose wife rented him a bedroom on Capitol Hill.

Last night the news broke that White House physician Ronny Jackson, Trump’s pick to lead the VA, is in trouble.

The New York Times: Ronny Jackson, Trump’s V.A. Nominee, Faces Claims of Overprescription and Hostile Work Environment.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is examining allegations that President Trump’s nominee to lead the Veterans Affairs Department oversaw a hostile work environment as the White House physician and allowed the overprescribing of drugs, according to congressional officials briefed on the committee’s work.

They have also received claims that Dr. Ronny L. Jackson drank too much on the job.

The allegations, which have been under investigation since last week, forced the postponement of Dr. Jackson’s confirmation hearing, planned for this Wednesday as senators scrutinize the nominee’s time leading the White House medical staff. Officials familiar with the allegations against Dr. Jackson declined to offer precise details but said that they suggest a pattern of behavior, not just one or two isolated incidents.

How do you “drink too much on the job” at the White House? Shouldn’t any drinking on the job be forbidden?

Dr. Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy who serves as the White House physician, was already expected to face difficult questioning during his testimony before the committee. Last month, Mr. Trump fired his first Veterans Affairs secretary, David J. Shulkin, an experienced hospital administrator and veteran of the V.A. medical system, and then chose Dr. Jackson largely out of personal affinity.

The White House did little or no vetting of his background before announcing his nomination on Twitter. Before serving as a White House physician, Dr. Jackson had deployed as an emergency medicine physician to Taqaddum, Iraq, during the Iraq war.

The Senate only received paperwork from the Trump administration formalizing Dr. Jackson’s nomination last week.

Read more at the NYT. Do you suppose this job could have been a bribe to get Jackson to lie about Trump’s height and weight and the state of his health? Or did Trump knew about the drinking and use it as blackmail?

And then there’s Mike Pompeo, current Director of the CIA and nominee for Secretary of State. Frankly, I think this guy is terrifying; and, unfortunately, it looks like he’ll be confirmed. Here’s some background on Pompeo and his scary religious beliefs:

Michelle Golberg at Slate, January 2017: “This Evil Is All Around Us.” Trump’s pick for the CIA, Mike Pompeo, sees foreign policy as a vehicle for holy war.

In June 2015, Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Kansas congressman, headlined a “God and Country Rally” at Wichita’s Summit Church. “To worship our lord and celebrate our nation at the same place is not only our right, it is our duty,” he began. Pompeo’s speech was a mishmash of domestic culture war callouts and dark warnings about the danger of radical Islam. He cited an inflammatory prayer that a pastor named the Rev. Joe Wright once delivered before the Kansas State Legislature: “America had worshipped other Gods and called it multiculturalism. We’d endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.” He lamented government efforts to “rip faith from our schools” and then segued immediately into a discussion of the jihadi threat: “This evil is all around us.” Pompeo concluded by describing politics as “a never-ending struggle … until the rapture.” [….]

Like Trump, Pompeo has been a fierce critic of efforts to rein in the CIA’s torture program and a champion of keeping Guantanamo Bay open. While in Congress, he was a frequent guest on the radio show of famously paranoid Frank Gaffney, a man disinvited from the right-wing Conservative Political Action Conference after claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood had infiltrated its parent organization, the American Conservative Union. (In the Trump era, Gaffney has been brought in from the cold: After the election, the New York Times reported that he was informally advising Trump’s inner circle on national security hires.) Gaffney once called Pompeo “one of the most intelligent men I know in public life,” and the two see the world similarly. In February 2015, they spoke about President Obama’s use of the term “violent extremism” instead of “radical Islam,” a linguistic choice that some on the right see as a secret message of solidarity with jihad. Gaffney suggested that Obama might be conveying “an affinity” for ISIS’s cause, if not all its tactics: “the raising up of the Muslim Ummah, a grand rebalancing of America’s role in the world.” Pompeo relied, “Frank, every place you stare at the president’s policies and statements, you see what you just described … every policy of this administration has treated America as if we are the problem and not the solution.”

Like Gaffney, Pompeo believes that radical networks have wormed their way into every corner of the country. “There are organizations and networks here in the United States tied to radical Islam in deep and fundamental ways,” he said on Gaffney’s show. “They’re not just in places like Libya and Syria and Iraq, but in places like Coldwater, Kansas, and small towns all throughout America.”

From Vox, March 15, 2018: Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, talks about politics as a battle of good and evil.

That Pompeo is an evangelical Christian is, on its face, not particularly notable; 25 percentof Americans are. But Pompeo’s specific brand of evangelical Christianity, with its insistence on seeing Muslim-Christian relations as an apocalyptic holy war, makes him an unnerving choice for such a senior foreign policy position.

During his tenure as CIA director, and before that as a member of the House of Representatives, Pompeo has consistently used language that casts the war on terrorism as a cosmic divine battle of good and evil. He’s referred to Islamic terrorists as destined to“continue to press against us until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ is our savior is truly the only solution for our world.”

Pompeo clarified that only a small percentage of Muslims were, in fact, terrorists (although in a 2013 speech, he called them potentially complicit in terrorism). Still, his language echoes a wider point: that the war against terrorism can be fought, in part, with Christian faith.

In other speeches, he’s characterized American domestic politics as a similarly apocalyptic struggle between good and evil, in which other (non-Christian) faiths and political views were signs of cultural decay. He cited a sermon previously delivered by Pastor Joe Wright in front of the Kansas state legislature: “‘America had worshipped other Gods and called it multiculturalism. We’d endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.’” Sources inside the CIA told Foreign Policy that Pompeo’s speeches within the CIA are no less loaded with explicitly religious language.

Please go read the rest.

Now, what else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads: It just keeps getting worse

Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

Hi Sky Dancers!

I really am tired of reading the most depressing news I’ve seen since the Nixon years but it seems that we’re stuck with that for awhile. Why is it that each Republican administration since Eisenhower is comprised of exponentially worse policies and people?  It’s called Public Service you dimwits!  Not Public Grifting!

I’ll try not to dwell on it but there are some really awful things happening of which you must be aware.  The Russian Junta in the White House is killing off the EPA and much of the Interior Department.  Science continues to be under attack and replaced by raping and pillaging. The EPA has dismissed half of its Scientific Advisers. The Interior Department has suspended more than 200 advisory panels.

Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department are overhauling a slew of outside advisory boards that inform how their agencies assess the science underpinning policies, the first step in a broader effort by Republicans to change the way the federal government evaluates the scientific basis for its regulations.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to replace half of the members on one of its key scientific review boards, while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is “reviewing the charter and charge” of more than 200 advisory boards, committees, and other entities both within and outside of his department. EPA and Interior officials began informing current members of the move on Friday, and notifications continued over the weekend.

Pruitt’s move could significantly change the makeup of the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, which advises EPA’s prime scientific arm on whether the research it does has sufficient rigor and integrity. All of the individuals being dismissed were at the end of serving at least one three-year term, although these terms are often renewed instead of terminated.

EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said in an email that “no one has been fired or terminated” and that Pruitt had simply decided to bring in fresh advisers. The agency informed the outside academics on Friday that their terms would not be renewed.

Glacier National Park, Montana

This basically puts industry in charge of the nation’s natural resources. Of course, you know what that means.  Get ready for massive amounts of pollution, depletion of forests and wetlands, and your basic toxic treatment of living things.  One thing about living in Louisiana that I’ve learned is how detrimental it is to everything when you let extraction corporations do what they want.  Then, there’s the chemical companies.  They don’t call that section of the state Cancer Alley for nothing.  We’re sinking into the Gulf because of the Oil Industry.  Our wildlife–including those we depend on for food and industry–is dying off and there are some nasty looking growths on people, animals and plants alike the closer you are to the companies’ operations.

“Today I was Trumped,” Robert Richardson, an environmental economist at Michigan State University, tweeted, after learning of his dismissal.

Richardson says he and the other board members were expecting to serve another term — as their predecessors had. “I’ve never heard of any circumstance where someone didn’t serve two consecutive terms,” he told the Washington Post. It “just came out of nowhere,” he told Science.

The Board of Scientific Counselors is an 18-member board whose mission is to “evaluate science and engineering research, programs and plans, laboratories, and research-management practices of ORD [EPA’s office of research and development] and recommend actions to improve their quality and or strengthen their relevance to EPA’s mission.” (It’s not clear why six members of the board were allowed to stay.)
 When asked by reporters to explain the dismissal, EPA spokesperson J.P. Freire said the EPA wanted to make “a clean break with the last administration’s approach” and “expand the pool of applicants.” These advisers “were appointed for three-year terms,” he toldGreenwire. “They’re not guaranteed a second three-year term.”

By expanding the applicant pool, Freire likely means opening up the advisory board to more members of industry (it’s mostly been filled with people from academia).

 If this sounds familiar, it’s because in March, Republicans in Congress were calling to “reform” another EPA scientific board — the EPA Science Advisory Board.

That board is a larger, 47-person committee that provides analysis on EPA research programs and plans. The Board of Scientific Counselors, whose members were dismissed over the weekend, evaluates the rigors of the research conducted at the EPA. (Yes, there is overlap in the missions.)

Bison bison: Bison walking slowly through snow. Yellowstone National Park, WY.

A list of judicial nominees was dropped on the unsuspecting US population today.  I can only hope that Senators will pocket a good deal of them and they will never see the light of day let alone the inside of a courtroom.

Two of the nominees who will be unveiled Monday were on the list of Trump’s potential Supreme Court justices and will likely come under scrutiny by Democrats because of that inclusion: Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who will be nominated to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Justice David Stras, who sits on the Minnesota Supreme Court and is Trump’s pick to sit on the 8th Circuit.

Trump will name three other nominees to the appellate courts: Amy Coney Barrett to the 7th Circuit, John Bush to the Sixth Circuit and Kevin Newsom to the 11th Circuit. The president also plans to name four federal District Court nominees: Dabney Friedrich in the District of Columbia, Terry Moorer in Alabama, David Nye in Idaho and Scott Palk in Oklahoma, as well as Damien Schiff to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

The list of judicial nominees was first reported by the New York Times, and confirmed to POLITICO by a Trump adviser.

Conservative allies of the Trump administration say White House officials have worked diligently since Trump’s inauguration in January to comb through suggested nominees, vet them and prepare them for nomination.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

You can read the NYT coverage by Adam Liptak here.

But liberal groups expressed alarm at the prospect of a federal bench filled with Mr. Trump’s appointees. “The Trump administration has made clear its intention to benefit from Republican obstructionism and to pack the federal courts with ultraconservatives given a stamp of approval by the Federalist Society,” said Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, referring to the conservative legal group. “We’ll be scrutinizing the records of these nominees very carefully.”

Sally Yates is testifying today before a Senate committee which could be a good thing.

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is expected to deliver long-awaited testimony Monday afternoon before a Senate subcommittee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Yates was thrust into the national spotlight after she broke with President Donald Trump over the enforcement of his travel ban, an action which led to her firing in January. But since then, her profile has only risen following revelations that she said she forcefully warned the administration about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s communications with a Russian diplomat weeks before Flynn was fired.

Just hours before Yates was scheduled to testify, former Obama officials confirmed to CNN that then-President Barack Obama warned Trump about hiring Flynn as his national security adviser in their Oval Office meeting November 10. The news was first reported by NBC.

And CNN also reported Monday morning that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page told Senate investigators that he had “brief interactions” several years ago with a Russian official he said was a “junior attaché,” even though US officials had suspected the official of spying on behalf of the Kremlin.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

So, here’s the disturbing thing about this.  Trump is tweeting actual threats against Yates.  This is really quite horrifying given he commands a white nationalist army of crackpots and malcontents that basically hate women.

President Donald Trump has drawn a lot of criticism for his decision to lash out at former acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday, just hours before she was scheduled to testify about former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Appearing on CNN to talk about the president’s tweet — in which he said that someone should “ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council (sic)” — legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that Trump’s behavior crosses the line of what we consider to be normal behavior for a politician in the United States.

“It just shows how much the norms of behavior have changed,” Toobin said. “The idea of the President of the United States essentially threatening a witness, he’s basically accusing her of leaking, we have never had that before. We’ve never had presidents who did this kind of thing. The idea that the president — the guy who’s in charge of the Justice Department — is threatening a witness is really kind of disturbing.”

Yates was fired from her role as acting attorney general earlier this year after she refused to enforce the administration’s proposed travel ban. She will reportedly testify on Monday afternoon that she gave the Trump administration warnings about Flynn possibly being compromised by the Russian government.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Senator John McCain has taken the case for Human Rights to the NYT’s editorial page.  He actually attacks SOS Tillerson in the op ed.

Sen. John McCain slammed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a New York Times op-ed published Monday morning, accusing the nation’s chief diplomat of adopting a foreign policy that abandons both U.S. values and victims of oppression around the world.

McCain’s op-ed came in response to remarks Tillerson delivered last week to State Department employees, in which he said that “in some circumstances if you condition our national security efforts on someone adopting our values, we probably can’t achieve our national security goals.” Tillerson’s boss, President Donald Trump, has made a habit of offering warm words for dictators and political strongmen from around the world, including Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

“With those words, Secretary Tillerson sent a message to oppressed people everywhere: Don’t look to the United States for hope. Our values make us sympathetic to your plight, and, when it’s convenient, we might officially express that sympathy,” McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote. “But we make policy to serve our interests, which are not related to our values. So, if you happen to be in the way of our forging relationships with your oppressors that could serve our security and economic interests, good luck to you. You’re on your own.”

McCain needs to do more than write Op Eds and do the gamut of Sunday Talk Shows.  He needs to actually stop some of this shit from getting into law and some of the bigger shit piles do not need to be approved to be Cabinet Members or part of the Federal Government.

Well, hopefully, the pictures of our pristine National Parks from around the Country has put you in the mood to both visit them and defend them.  Just remember, the first shot in the Resistance was fired by a Friend of Smokey The Bear!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads

17022314_10154505890203512_1051292543946394533_nGood Afternoon!

Our Federal Government continues to morph into something hostile, xenophobic,and corrupt as we look at yet another weekend where taxpayer money will be filtered into a private resort owned by Kremlin Caligula.  The Cabinet is now filled with corrupt and unqualified people. Entire Departments are being defunded and destroyed.  First among them is the State Department.  This all appears to part of Bannon’s crusade to “deconstruct the administrative state”.

This week began with reports that President Donald Trump’s budget proposal will drastically slash the State Department’s funding, and last week ended with White House adviser and former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon telling the attendees of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that what he and the new president were after was a “deconstruction of the administrative state.” At the State Department, which employs nearly 70,000 people around the world, that deconstruction is already well underway.

In the last week, I’ve spoken with a dozen current and recently departed State Department employees, all of whom asked for anonymity either because they were not authorized to speak to the press and feared retribution by an administration on the prowl for leakers, or did not want to burn their former colleagues. None of these sources were political appointees. Rather, they were career foreign service officers or career civil servants, most of whom have served both Republican and Democratic administrations—and many of whom do not know each other. They painted a picture of a State Department adrift and listless.

Sometimes, the deconstruction of the administrative state is quite literal. After about two dozen career staff on the seventh floor—the State Department’s equivalent of a C suite—were told to find other jobs, some with just 12 hours’ notice, construction teams came in over Presidents’ Day weekend and began rebuilding the office space for a new team and a new concept of how State’s nerve center would function. (This concept hasn’t been shared with most of the people who are still there.) The space on Mahogany Row, the line of wood-paneled offices including that of the secretary of state, is now a mysterious construction zone behind blue tarp.

c59rpxrvuaa0eisUnder Trumps Slash and Burn Budget, everything loses but the military.  The EPA will be decimated.

A wide slew of Environmental Protection Agency programs could be under the knife to meet President Donald Trump’s budget proposal requirements, a source told CNN Wednesday night.

The source spelled out details of an Office of Management and Budget proposal that would cut the EPA’s budget by 24% and reduce its staffing by 20%. Some of the EPA’s most longstanding and best-known programs are facing potential elimination — including initiatives aimed at improving water and air quality as well as a number of regulations tasked with reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Other programs include the Environmental Justice program, which is meant to help local communities grapple with environmental concerns, and Global Change Research, a program funded by several agencies, including the EPA, which reports humans’ impact on the planet.

The Clean Power Plan, which could also be recommended for cuts, was an initiative by former President Barack Obama meant to reduce carbon emissions from each state. Fourteen separate EPA partnership programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could also be on the chopping block.

Also among the programs up for elimination are multi-purpose grants to states and tribes, Energy Star grants, Science to Achieve Results (STAR) graduate fellowships, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act and initiatives aimed at environmental protections along the US-Mexico border.

Some of the grants recommended for elimination could be matching grants for local projects around the country, the source added.

Ken Cook, the head of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy and research organization, told CNN in a statement: “The Trump administration has decided fence-line communities across the country, whose residents already bear an outsized burden from pollution, are on their own to take on big polluters.”

Daryl Cagle / darylcagle.com

Daryl Cagle / darylcagle.com

The American Heritage Foundation has been out for the EPA for a long time.  Its even had a plan that may be part of the Adminstration’s vision for letting go of any kind environmental controls and regulation.

Right now, the Trump administration is crafting a budget proposal that envisions steep cuts to a number of federal agencies — including, reportedly, a 24 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency that would eliminate one-fifth of its 15,000 jobs.

There aren’t yet any final decisions on exactly which environmental and energy programs will be targeted for elimination; the White House is still discussing with the relevant agencies. But one place to look for clues is this budget “blueprint” put out by the Heritage Foundation, a major conservative think tank. According to multiple reports, Donald Trump’s team has been using Heritage’s blueprint as a rough guide in its search for $54 billion in domestic spending cuts for fiscal year 2018.

The Heritage budget explains how to get cuts of that magnitude — spreading them out across every agency. And it goes particularly hard after energy and environmental programs. The EPA’s climate-change programs? Gone. Federal research into wind, solar, electric vehicles, nuclear, and other clean tech? Gone. Environmental justice programs? Gone. There are cuts to pollution enforcement and EPA programs that deal with surface water cleanup to diesel truck emissions. Plus cuts in aid to poor countries that help deal with ozone depletion and global warming. Taken together, the blueprint’s cuts would amount to a stark change in US environmental policy.

These cuts won’t all necessarily fly with Congress — a few Republicans are already balking at some of the numbers Trump’s team is tossing about. But it’s a useful read as an aspirational document, a look at the programs that some influential conservatives with Trump’s ear would like to see rooted out of the federal government (and why)

11darcy-carson1jpg-c9d65932f15d4e86It isn’t clear at all that the Pentagon needs that much money or wants it for that matter.  It traditionally gets pretty much what it wants already.  The nation has been on a war time footing since 9/11 so it isn’t even clear that there’s been any kind of “depletion” of anything.

Defense spending accounts for almost the same proportion of the federal budget as all non-discretionary domestic spending, meaning that the Trump administration’s proposal will result in a roughly 10 percent across-the-board cut in all other federal spending programs.

Budgets for most federal agencies would be reduced substantially, said an OMB official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity on a call with reporters to discuss the proposal.

The announcement marks the beginning of a process in which the OMB will coordinate with agencies to flesh out the plan.

Trump said his budget, which will be submitted to Congress next month, will propose “historic” increases in spending to bolster the country’s “depleted military,” and he said it will support law enforcement in an effort to reduce crime.

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I really don’t think that any one in the administration has a clue what they’re doing in any kind of conventional sense since nearly all of them have no experience in governance at any level. Bannon’s slash and burn the state ideology appears to be driving much of this.  The cabinet appointees will have difficulty doing much of anything at this rate because staff is fleeing already.

The career executives who staff and run the approximately 250 federal departments and agencies not only formulate and implement executive orders, they also make choices every day that influence large swaths of public policy — from immigration to law enforcement to education to the environment. They use their legal authority to do what all executives do: interpret the power given them by their board of directors (in this case, Congress), set organizational priorities in formal guidance or memorandums and make decisions about where to allocate people and dollars.

The recent enforcement actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) illustrate how agency choices about what to prioritize and how to enforce the law can produce a dramatic policy change.

Trump’s success as president depends in part on his ability to get agencies to behave like ICE and choose to use their power in the ways he would prefer.

trump-cabinet-1170x864A number of agencies have already gone literally rogue on him with employees undermining him every chance they get.  This is even true of some of the agencies that are to be used to purge the country of whatever it is Trump fears.  Bannon has even indicated that the Cabinet picks were part of the Deconstruction plan.

President Trump’s critics have noted that at least some of his Cabinet picks seem uniquely unsuited to their roles. Scott Pruitt, recently confirmed as head of the EPA, had previously challenged its regulations in more than a dozen suits. Trump’s initial pick for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, operated a company that depended on low wages and faced allegations of labor abuse. Puzder’s nomination was scuttled by the discovery that he had employed at least one undocumented immigrant.

Trump’s FCC chairman and energy secretary have also been critics of the very agencies they’re now tasked with managing. Rick Perry, Trump’s pick for energy secretary, famously called to eliminate the department while running for President in 2011.

Putting anti-regulation chairs at the top of regulatory bodies is nothing new for conservative administrations—George W. Bush’s EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, for instance, pushed back against staff recommendations and slackened enforcement. As the saying goes, elections have consequences, and lightening the regulatory load on businesses is a pillar of modern Republican doctrine.

What’s remarkable here, though, is Bannon’s framing of these moves as more anti-state than pro-business. The CPAC comments about ‘deconstruction’ are a toned-down version of startling statements made last August to the Daily Beast. Bannon impishly declared himself a “Leninist,” saying that the Soviet leader “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

It’s not a stretch to see Bannon’s comments reflected not only in Trump’s cabinet picks, but in his slow progress in filling hundreds of lower-level cabinet positions. Until they’re filled, those positions are staffed by temporary administrators with reduced power, leaving enforcement and other matters in limbo.

December 18, 2016

This is perhaps though why Paul Ryan–on top of Putin–find the Trump minions to be “useful fools”.  Ryan is known as the nation’s premier granny starver and all this chaos and cutting is pretty much right up his ally.  This is analysis by Jonathan Chait.

What is the substance of the supposed schism between Trump and the regular GOP? The Times depicts the president and the House Speaker as split over whether to cut “Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” But, while Ryan has made it known that he would like to cut Social Security (a position that has won him immense inside-the-Beltway Establishment credibility), he has not persuaded his party to go along. The “Better Way” plan crafted by Ryan and endorsed by House Republicans makes no mention of Social Security at all. It does propose privatizing Medicare, but only for workers who are not retired or are near retirement — which means, despite its long-term significance, it has no impact on the budget over the next decade. And both Trump and Ryan are planning deep cuts to Medicaid.

The similarities continue. Both favor increases in defense spending and dramatically weaker enforcement of labor, environmental, and financial regulation. Both favor deep cuts to anti-poverty spending. Trump is more enthusiastic than the regular GOP about infrastructure spending, but he has decided to postpone that issue until next year and use it as an election messaging vehicle rather than a real legislative priority. Most important, both agree that large, upper-income tax cuts are the party’s highest priority. Trump has even endorsed Ryan’s legislative strategy of sequencing Obamacare repeal first in order to grease the skids for bigger tax cuts. (“Statutorily and for budget purposes, as you know, we have to do health care before we do the tax cut,” he said this week.)

It is true, as conservatives say, that Trump’s budget numbers do not really add up. But he is relying on the same voodoo economics assumptions that are de rigeur in his party. “The money is going to come from a revved-up economy,” Trump said on Fox & Friends. “I mean, you look at the kind of numbers we’re doing, we were probably GDP of a little more than 1 percent. And if I can get that up to 3, maybe more, we have a whole different ballgame.” Remember that ultra-Establishment Republican Jeb Bush promised tax cuts and deregulation would produce 4 percent growth, so Trump’s 3 percent growth promise is actually moderate and realistic by Republican fiscal standards.

The illusion that Trump has radically altered his party’s agenda is convenient for all sides.

Democrats have already sent out a battle cry as have a few Republicans.  Lindsey Graham is having none of  the cuts to State.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that President Trump’s first budget was “dead on arrival” and wouldn’t make it through Congress.

“It’s not going to happen,” said Graham, according to NBC News. “It would be a disaster.”

Graham, a frequent Trump critic, expressed concerns with Trump’s proposed cuts to the State Department budget, especially the targeting of foreign aid.

These are trying times.  Let’s just hope we have enough leaders in the District with other patriotism or deep seated interests in some of these agencies or our country will never look the same again.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: What shall we hang…the holly or each other?

**Post updated below**

Irish actor Peter O'Toole studying for his role in Lawrence of Arabia.

Irish actor Peter O’Toole studying for his role in Lawrence of Arabia.

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“I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony.”

Actor Peter O’Toole, who died last week at 81, in a note to himself as a young man.

tumblr_lxv6cupJ6V1qhx8k5o1_500“God, he was beautiful.”

So says a minor character toward the end of 2006’s “Venus,” looking at an obituary photo of an elderly actor named Maurice. The actor is played by Peter O’Toole, and God, he was.

Good Morning…

fc613e4495e5519970062aa71f531f37Funny, that quote above about the scene from Venus…its from the Boston Globe, but the thing is that is what I was going to use for the opening of this post. It is the only line I remember from that movie, the one line that stuck with me…that I made a mental note for, remember that one JJ, it is a good one.

f75cf8324d4009fc4f726611f6e6f1bcWhat can I say about Peter O’Toole that hasn’t been said in obituaries and blog post or commentaries posted online the last week since his death. Hell, you will be able to read a bunch of them in a minute, I’ve got plenty of links for you below.

z_otoolePeter O’Toole was more than a magnificent screen presence to me.  I don’t think there has been another actor who had such a profound effect on my life, and I know that sound sappy…but you all know how important film is to me.  I always felt his role as Henry II in both Beckett and The Lion in Winter is one of the reasons I decided to major in Medieval History. (I should say specialize in Medieval History.)

3e8d51ae2c7aaea4a5c57090828a7157Then again, my adoration of O’Toole goes back before college. Way back, to 1981 when he starred in a mini-series called Masada.

At that time girls my age had pictures of the Fonz and Scott Baio on their walls. Me? My walls had photos of Peter O’Toole, Jonathan Frid and Rod Stewart. (What can I say, I was a strange kid.)

My favorite movies star Peter O’Toole…Lawrence of Arabia, My Favorite Year, The Lion In Winter, these films are the kind of movies that I can see over and over again, they are fucking awesome. peter_otoole(Check out some clips down at the end of the thread.)

Other films of O’Toole are outstanding as well, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Stuntman, Creator, hell…the list goes on. But for now we will get to the various links for Peter…starting with his home country of Ireland:

Farewell to hellraiser O’Toole – Independent.ie

16 December 2013

Tributes were paid last night to actor and hellraiser Peter O’Toole, who died at the age of 81.

The Connemara-born actor, who rose to fame in the 1962 Oscar-winning epic ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ (left), died in London on Saturday.

Actors Peter O'Toole and Helen Mirren attend the  Miramax Films pre-Oscar party celebrating  Oscar nominees in Los Angeles...  REUTERS/Fred Prouser   (UNITED STATES)...E

Actors Peter O’Toole and Helen Mirren attend the Miramax Films pre-Oscar party celebrating Oscar nominees in Los Angeles…REUTERS/Fred Prouser

showbiz-peter-o-toole-feeds-baby-daughter-kate-1960Although he received eight Academy Award nominations for best actor, O’Toole never won the ultimate accolade. In 2003 he was given a special Oscar from his peers for his contribution to film.

He is survived by his family, including his daughters Pat and Kate, his son Lorcan, and former wife, actress Sian Phillips.

Peter O’Toole and the saucy Dublin nuns – Independent.ie

61dc2db155765cc6a475348ad78e3c24So farewell then, Peter O’Toole, the man who was either born in Connemara or Leeds, depending on who you believe.

O’Toole once said that as a boy he was terrified by “the horrible sexlessness” of nuns.

He later said this phenomenon had changed dramatically.

“They’re sipping gin and tonic in the Dublin pubs now, and a couple of them flashed their pretty ankles at me just the other day.”

Saucy nuns? It is quite possible that the notoriously bibulous O’Toole had a touch too much of the gargle, and was imagining things.

Peter the Great – Independent.ie

PETER_O'TOOLE

Asked once what being Irish meant to him, the legendary actor, Peter O’Toole deliberated slowly, before replying: “It’s almost the centre of my being.”

The occasion was an interview with US talk show host Charlie Rose to mark the release of the first part of his autobiography, Loitering with Intent in 1992.

Peter O’Toole and his eldest daughter, Kate

“Everything I think of is coloured by its history, by its literature, by its people, by its geography,” he continued.

O’Toole went on to recount how a return trip to Ireland in 1946 after the end of the Second World War, affirmed his sense of Irishness.

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“I was a bit of a misfit, a bit of an odd man out, but when I went to Kerry with my friend, Father Leo Walsh, and it all clicked. I wasn’t different at all,” he said.

This particular obit has some good stories, so be sure to read that one in full. This tidbit about an interview with Letterman is something that I remember seeing when it first aired:

131214-peter-o-toole-dead-vert-1387135132He was a chat show host’s dream guest and the theatrical format with its live audience appealed to the actor who knew exactly how to play to the crowd.

He appeared on The Letterman Show in London in 1995, cigarette in hand, astride a camel. As if that wasn’t suitably outrageous, he proceeded to open a can of beer and feed it to the animal.

Asked once by Lettermen [sic] had he thought about a message on his gravestone, he told the story of an old leather jacket he once had, stained “with Guinness and blood”, that his wife had sent to the dry cleaners.

imagesIt came back with a note pinned to it saying, ‘It distresses us to return work which is not perfect’.

“I am having that on my tombstone. That’s my epitaph,” he said.

Which is why I was smiling when I saw this tribute Peter O’Toole obit by Political Cartoonist Milt Priggee

141944 600 OToole obit cartoons

If any of you get to see the dvd commentary that goes with the film My Favorite Year, you will hear some great stories about Peter O’Toole. He sounded like one of those actors you would love to work with.  One of the interesting things Richard Benjamin said was, O’Toole had not done a comedy, and because of that…

131215170623-13-peter-otoole-horizontal-galleryPeter O’Toole was originally hesitant about doing the film. However, in the script, the date of Swann’s death was, in fact, the date of O’Toole’s birthday. O’Toole phoned Richard Benjamin to find out if they did that with all of the actors they had offered the part to. The director replied that the script had not been given to anybody else, at which O’Toole agreed to do the film.

Anyway, back to the links:

Culture Shock: Peter O’Toole – a great actor undazzled by his own star – | The Irish Times – Sat, Dec 21, 2013

mqdefaultMuch of the British commentary on O’Toole since his death has painted him as a rather anachronistic actor, a 19th-century heroic performer in an age of method psychological realism. It is certainly true that, with his fellow so-called Celts Richard Burton and Richard Harris, he was a rebel against the new method orthodoxy. What is not true is the general depiction of the trio as Romantic, emotional, hot-blooded Celts at odds with the realism that was in the ascendant from the 1950s onwards.

ca87a30b632c83f88073ab7df71aa4b9Quite the contrary: O’Toole’s acting, like Burton’s, was sceptical, cool, intellectual. Far from being a fruity thesp, he was, at his best, almost a meta-actor. His best screen performances all comment on the nature of performance.

[…]

393b56d58076e854b37cffdb36e9f6a3Of O’Toole’s other best roles, two (in My Favourite Year and in Venus) are satiric portrayals of washed-up actors and one, in The Stunt Man, is a satiric portrayal of an insane film director. O’Toole’s best performances have quotation marks around them.

But what of the role that created the star in the first place? It too is a “performance”. O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia is so uncannily beautiful, so eerily mesmerising that you almost don’t notice that he’s just another actor: a strange Englishman, dressed in foreign clothes, pretending to be an Arab. O’Toole’s brilliance is to create a man who is utterly convinced by the role he is playing. But he himself was never so convinced: what made him great was the keen, appraising intelligence with which he seems to stand outside himself, undazzled by his own star.

It looks like O’Toole had two films in production, one Katherine of Alexandria is in post-production according to iMDB.

‘Lawrence of Arabia’s’ Peter O’Toole Dead at 81

380564f9fd66f691fe98833cbd768c14O’Toole announced in July 2012 that he was retiring from acting. “The heart for it has gone out of me: it won’t come back,” he said. He did, however, return with announced parts in Katherine of Alexandria and Mary, two films yet to be released.

Peter-OToole-9430474-1-402During a career that spanned nearly six decades, the son of an Irish father and Scottish mother also received Oscar noms for his turns in Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982) and Venus (2006). No one else has ever earned as many acting noms without a win.

‘Lawrence of Arabia’ star Peter O’Toole dead at 81 | AccessNorthGa

GTY_peter_otoole_jtm_131215_16x9_992He was fearsomely handsome, with burning blue eyes and a penchant for hard living which long outlived his decision to give up alcohol. Broadcaster Michael Parkinson told Sky News television it was hard to be too sad about his passing.

“Peter didn’t leave much of life unlived, did he?” he said.

peter-otoole-2-300

A reformed – but unrepentant – hell-raiser, O’Toole long suffered from ill health. Always thin, he had grown wraithlike in later years, his famously handsome face eroded by years of outrageous drinking.

But nothing diminished his flamboyant manner and candor.

peterotoole

“If you can’t do something willingly and joyfully, then don’t do it,” he once said. “If you give up drinking, don’t go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do. As. Thou. Wilt.”

[…]

Lawrence-of-Arabia

His sensitive portrayal of Lawrence’s complex character garnered O’Toole his first Oscar nomination, and the spectacularly photographed desert epic remains his best known role. O’Toole was tall, fair and strikingly handsome, and the image of his bright blue eyes peering out of an Arab headdress in Lean’s film was unforgettable.

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Playwright Noel Coward once said that if O’Toole had been any prettier, they would have had to call the movie “Florence of Arabia.”

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That is another good Obituary…give it some of your attention too.

I remember another story O’Toole told, about the filming of Lawrence of Arabia. The scene where he walks down the stairs after telling the general about taking Aqaba was shot a year apart. So when he starts walking down the stairs, he is one year younger than the age he is when he reaches the bottom step.

Peter O’Toole’s Most Iconic Movie Roles, From ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ To ‘Ratatouille’

peter-o-toole-1968

O’Toole’s last years were quiet, but that doesn’t detract from his stalwart presence throughout much of the 20th century. Here’s a look back at a handful of his most iconic roles.

Peter O’Toole: Tales of the late film icon – People – News – The Independent

peter-o-toole-with-katherine-hepburn-november-1967

Peter O’Toole, who has died aged 81, possessed a prodigious acting talent, heart-stopping good looks, and an enormous capacity for booze. Here, he is remembered by those who knew him

TFCAF00Z

Michael Caine, who had been his understudy for the 1959 play ‘The Long and the Short and the Tall’ at the Royal Court Theatre went out to dinner with O’Toole and woke up in a strange flat days later.

“There was a wild weekend that I don’t remember… ‘What time is it?’ I asked. ‘Never mind what time it is,’ said O’Toole. ‘What fucking day is it?’

I love it!

peter_o_toole_walk_of_fame_daughter_son_2011_19asil4-19asilf

Peter O’Toole with daughter Kate and son Lorcan

More pictures of Peter here: Peter O’Toole’s Life and Career in Pictures Gallery – The Hollywood Reporter

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Postscript: Peter O’Toole : The New Yorker

6c686796580e4124226c399dc8731337

The deaths, over the weekend, of Peter O’Toole and Joan Fontaine reminded us, once again, what a strange principality movie stardom is. Think of it as a kind of Monaco: few are born there, but many arrive, some to disport themselves at the watering holes and gaming tables, others to cultivate that notorious anonymity that is the last redoubt of fame. The church mouse may be the neighbor of the libertine. Costs of living (not merely financial) can be exorbitant, and personal loyalties prone to decay; expulsions are cruel and common, and you dare not appeal against them, for they are ordained not by a court of the land but by the judgment of the world beyond. On the other hand, re-admittance to stardom, after exile, is not unknown; in the case of O’Toole, he would drift away, out of sight but never quite out of mind, and then, just as we—and, by all accounts, he himself—started to ask if he were technically alive, he would stroll back into the light.

Now don’t forget, TCM is going to have a tribute to Peter O’Toole on Sunday, December 29th: TCM Remembers Peter O’Toole (1932 – 2013)

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BTW, we lost quite a few people this year…you can find a gallery of pictures here: Hollywood’s Notable Deaths of 2013 Gallery – The Hollywood Reporter

Anyway, enjoy the videos below, some are clips but…the last two are full interviews. One, the Charlie Rose interview. The other is the hour-long interview with Robert Osborne. It is fantastic!

TCM Remembers…

The Lion in Winter:

My Favorite Year:

Lawrence of Arabia:

Interview with Charlie Rose:

Interview with Robert Osborn, at TCM Film Festival April 2011:

The special wraps with O’Toole providing his personal definition of acting: “In the beginning was the word and the word was made flesh. That is, to me, is what acting is. You make the words flesh.” Which is exactly what the man did…

Think of this as an open thread.

(Just a note, it is now 4:45 am and I am finally finished with this post. The formatting was a bitch! So I probably won’t be seeing you any time soon…have a great day!)

**Updated post with added links**

Since it is a very slow day, I’ve decided to just update this post with a few newsy links…in a dump-a-roo fashion.

Starting of with a bit of sad news, Claire Davis, the shooting victim from Colorado, has died:

Family of Arapahoe High School shooting victim Claire Davis issues statement – San Jose Mercury News

Photo of Claire Davis. Provided by  Arapahoe County Sheriff
Photo of Claire Davis. Provided by Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office. (Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office)

A statement from the Davis family

It is with unspeakable sadness that we write and say that Claire has passed away from the gunshot wound she received at Arapahoe High School on December 13, 2013. Although we have lost our precious daughter, we will always be grateful for the indelible journey she took us on over the last 17 years—we were truly blessed to be Claire’s parents. The grace, laughter and light she brought to this world will not be extinguished by her death; to the contrary, it will only get stronger.

Last week was truly a paradox in that we lost our daughter, yet we witnessed the wonderful love that exists in the world through the tremendous outpouring of support we received. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the first responders, the school resource officer, security guard and vice principal at Arapahoe High School, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s office, and the physicians, nurses and staff at Littleton Adventist Hospital. Each played a significant role in giving Claire a chance to live, and demonstrated extreme amounts of professionalism, courage and love. Please know that we will never forget the extraordinary work you did on Claire’s behalf.

We ask that you give us time to grieve the death of our daughter by respecting our wishes for privacy.

With much loving-kindness,

The Davis Family

I don’t know what you can say about that. It is so painfully sad.

There is another heart-wrenching story out there, remember Jaycee Dugard? Jaycee Dugard’s new “terror”: Her father – Salon.com

The road back home hasn’t been easy for Jaycee Dugard. She was only 11 years old in June of 1991 when she was abducted from a California street in full sight of her stepfather, Carl Probyn. Last August, when she and the two young daughters she bore while in captivity were rescued, Probyn described their return as “a miracle.” But while her captors, Phillip and Nancy Garrido,  are behind bars and Dugard is quietly rebuilding her life with her mother and children, she now faces a new “terror”: her biological father.

Kenneth Slayton, who has had no prior relationship with the young woman, has been speaking out lately about the child he never knew, and his wish “to be united with my daughter ASAP.” To that end, he’s retained the services of scandal magnet Gloria Allred,  has filed a court petition to definitively prove his paternity of Dugard, and held a press conference last week to plead for an establishment of family ties. Slayton claims that “The first time I knew there was a possibility that I had a daughter was when the FBI told me that she had been kidnapped.”

Dugard’s family, however, tells a different story. In a statement issued last week, they claim that Dugard’s mother, Terry Probyn, “told Mr. Slayton when she learned she was pregnant that he was the father and again when Jaycee was born. He showed no interest. The police advised him when Jaycee was kidnapped and again he showed no interest … At no point did Mr. Slayton offer any assistance beyond what was requested of him while Jaycee was missing. It is now Jaycee Dugard’s turn to express her feelings and she has no interest.”

Read more about this asshole at the link, and then think of the real motivation behind his lawsuit…and how much it must weigh on Dugard’s emotions.

Okay, did you all catch this other news story? Like I said, I’ve been awol from the blog so I don’t know if it has been mentioned.

Climate change expert’s fraud was ‘crime of massive proportion,’ say feds – Investigations

The EPA’s highest-paid employee and a leading expert on climate change deserves to go to prison for at least 30 months for lying to his bosses and saying he was a CIA spy working in Pakistan so he could avoid doing his real job, say federal prosecutors.

John C. Beale, who pled guilty in September to bilking the government out of nearly $1 million in salary and other benefits  over a decade, will be sentenced in a Washington, D.C., federal court on Wednesday. In a newly filed sentencing memo, prosecutors said that his lies were a “crime of massive proportion” and “offensive” to those who actually do dangerous work for the CIA.

Beale’s lawyer, while acknowledging his guilt, has asked for leniency and offered a psychological explanation for the climate expert’s bizarre tales.

If you want a good report of these “tales” check out the video of Jon Stewart here: Jon Stewart Goes Off on Perhaps the Best Political Scandal of All Time | Mediaite

There are scandals, and there are SCANDALS. And the story of an EPA official who cheated the agency out of a million dollars with an incredibly elaborate hoax might very well be, in Jon Stewart‘s opinion, one of the most amazing and unbelievable political scandals of all time. But despite the sexiness of this story, Stewart said, “this man is a liar and boring as f*ck!” John Beale even lied to get a handicapped parking space, which wasn’t even necessary, because “he could have gotten a handicapped parking space for a legitimate medical reason: his gigantic balls.”

But hey, not all of us can lead exciting lives: Hullabaloo

by digby

Oh boy. Howie has the latest on the Duck Dynasty flap:

Do you know what a fluffer is? The clinical Wikipedia definition: “A fluffer is a person employed to keep a male adult film star aroused on the set. These duties, which do not necessarily involve touching the actors, are considered part of the makeup department. After setting up the desired angle, the director asks the actors to hold position and calls for the fluffer to ‘fluff’ the actors for the shot. Fluffing could also entail sexual acts such as fellatio or non-penetrative sex.” …

Fluffer is also the name of a 2001 gay porn film that got a buzz because Blondie (Debbie Harry) was in it. But it will have a whole new life now because so was Scott Gurney, the creator of Duck Dynasty.

Howie’s got clips at the link. They’re actually quite tasteful, all things considered. Mr Gurney played one of the leads by the name of Johnny Rebel. He’s quite attractive.

Read more about Johnny Rebel at the link…

Since we touch on the subject of right-wing shitstorms…Keep Fox News out of the classroom! Rupert Murdoch, Common Core and the dangerous rise of for-profit public education – Salon.com

Take a look at that, but it isn’t only right wing…a big portion of the for-profit group is Bill Gates and friends.

Following the rich people connection: These 2 Cities Are Now Exclusively For Rich People

Few cities in the U.S. embody the growing divide between rich and poor quite like New York and San Francisco. In just the past 20 years, both have changed from economically diverse melting pots to exclusive playgrounds for the rich.

The change is clear in striking new visualizations from the U.S. Census Bureau, crunching data from its latest American Community Survey of population and income.

In each of the pictures below, the image to the left represents median household incomes in 1990 (“before”), and the image on the right is 2012 (“after”). Darker shades correlate with higher income, and brighter shades represent lower incomes. Use the slider tool (the button in the middle) to go back and forth in time between 1990 and 2012.

That is a fun interactive map, but to be honest…San Francisco hasn’t changed all that much.

Meanwhile: Prosecutors were ready to charge Va. Gov. McDonnell, but final decision delayed by Justice officials – The Washington Post

‘Hobbit’ Star Makes Truly Awful Joke About ‘Rape, or Whatever’

Women’s rights sold out again: McAuliffe’s betrayal – Salon.com

That story about McAuliffe is disgusting and it pisses me off…although it doesn’t surprise me.

Two links on the Boston Bombing brothers:

The fall of the house of Tsarnaev —Tamerlan’s dreams in shards, the voices inside grew louder – The Boston Globe

The fall of the house of Tsarnaev —Dzhokhar, the youngest, was drawn to risk and spiraled into infamy – The Boston Globe

Some history articles for you:

Women in the public life in late medieval England: A study through contemporary sources in the 1400s

Here Be Monsters by Marina Warner | The New York Review of Books

Parallels With The Era That Led To The First World War – Business Insider

And a couple of Christmas stories:

Why It Takes 8,500 Pairs Of Pointe Shoes To Put On ‘The Nutcracker’

pointe shoes

The pointe shoe room

I look at that picture and I know what those new pointe shoes smell like.

But What If Elf Was Remade Entirely With Pugs Though [VIDEO] | Geekosystem

And finally, tomorrow is Festivus!


Wednesday Reads: Booklist, Playgrounds and Lawsuits

Magic Circle, Stonehenge Librarian via Pinterest

Magic Circle, Stonehenge Librarian via Pinterest

Good  Morning

Running a little late this morning, so thanks for bearing with me…

I want to start this post off with a few links to end of year book list.

First, the New York Times Sunday Book Review: 100 Notable Books of 2013 – NYTimes.com

The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.

It is a staple read for me…and it goes without saying, that I must include the kids list of books too:

Notable Children’s Books of 2013 – NYTimes.com

Then we have this interesting grouping from The New Statesman: Books of the Year 2013

Each year we ask regular contributors to the Critics pages of the New Statesman, together with other friends of the magazine, to write about their favourite books of year. There are no constraints on what kinds of books they are able to choose, so the results are often intriguing.

John Gray  ❦  Ali Smith  ❦  Ed Balls
Stephen King   ❦   Rachel Reeves  ❦  Sarah Sands
William Boyd  ❦  Alan Rusbridger  ❦  Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Simon Heffer  ❦  Andrew Adonis  ❦  Craig Raine
Felix Martin  ❦  Frances Wilson  ❦  John Burnside
Jesse Norman  ❦  Alexander McCall Smith  ❦  Richard Overy
Jason Cowley  ❦  Mark Damazer  ❦  Lionel Shriver
Jemima Khan  ❦  Geoff Dyer  ❦  Laurie Penny
Vince Cable  ❦  Alan Johnson  ❦  Leo Robson
Jane Shilling  ❦  John Bew  ❦  Ed Smith  ❦  Richard J Evans
David Baddiel  ❦  Michael Rosen  ❦  John Banville
David Shrigley  ❦  Chris Hadfield  ❦  Tim Farron
Toby Litt  ❦  David Marquand  ❦  Robert Harris
Michael Prodger  ❦  Michael Symmons Roberts  ❦  Sarah Churchwell

One book that was picked by a few of the folks up top:

Andrew Adonis

The trials and tribulations of modern France yielded my two best books. Robert Harris’s An Officer and a Spy (Hutchinson, £18.99) breathes deep pathos into the Dreyfus affair, electrifying the bitter divisions of Third Republic France, which led ultimately to its disintegration in 1940.

I looked into it, and it is not being publish on Kindle or here in the US until January 2014. It sounds really good.

Anyway, check those list out and let us know what tickles you, or what books you would suggest.

One of the books in that New Statesman link connects to another article I have for you this morning. Look here:

David Shrigley

My favourite art book of the year is Inside the Rainbow: Russian Children’sLiterature 1920-35 (Redstone Press, £35). It juxtaposes beautiful illustrations with texts from writers such as Daniil Kharms and missives from the Soviet state. The artworks are photographed: they retain the flat, matt, paper quality of the originals. It’s a lovely book and there’s nothing in it that is too familiar. I love the subheading, too: Beautiful Books, Terrible Times.

And since the Holidays are about the little ones…both young and old alike, here are some awesome kick ass playgrounds around the world: The Most Amazing Playgrounds in the World (PHOTOS) – weather.com

Playgrounds have certainly come a long way from the ubiquitous swing sets and monkey bars – just visit your neighborhood fast food joint. But lately, we’ve noticed some amazing play spaces popping up all over the world that ditch the plastic ball pit in favor of truly imaginative designs.

Hakone Open Air Museum, 'Woods of Net'

From the whimsical and fantastical to the just plain cool, these amazing constructions are setting a pretty high bar for your local schoolyard. Whether it’s integrating seamlessly with the natural landscape, creating living storybooks or recycling trash into treasure, these playgrounds make brilliant kid-friendly design look like child’s play.

Seriously, take a look at some of these fun grounds.  The ones from Denmark, like that photo above, are really surreal. Then there is a playground in St. Louis that looks like the one from the movie The Wiz.

Okay, just one more “book” link for you. Fifty Years Later, Why Does ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ Remain Contentious? 

Each week in Bookends, two writers take on pressing and provocative questions about the world of books. This week, Adam Kirsch and Rivka Galchen on why Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem” remains contentious fifty years after it was first published.

I don’t know why, even though that New York Times Review of Books article is new…there is something Déjà vu about it.

And sticking with history a bit longer: Slave artifacts found at Georgia highway project site

In a spring 2013 photo provided by New South Associates Inc., archaeologists Brad Botwick, left, Cory Green, and Nicole Isenbarger, right, excavate, sift soil, and map part of a former plantation site in Savannah, Ga. The site, which is being excavated prior to construction of a highway project, yielded thousands of artifacts that archaeologists believe belonged to slaves.

Photo by Rita Elliot, AP Photo/New South Associates Inc.

In a spring 2013 photo provided by New South Associates Inc., archaeologists Brad Botwick, left, Cory Green, and Nicole Isenbarger, right, excavate, sift soil, and map part of a former plantation site in Savannah, Ga. The site, which is being excavated prior to construction of a highway project, yielded thousands of artifacts that archaeologists believe belonged to slaves.

A Mexican coin punctured with a small hole, nails from long-decayed wooden dwellings, and broken bits of plates and bottles are among thousands of artifacts unearthed from what archaeologists suspect were once slave quarters at the site of a planned highway project in Savannah.

A team hired to survey the site by the Georgia Department of Transportation spent three months excavating 20 acres of undeveloped woods tucked between a convenience store and apartments off busy Abercorn Extension on Savannah’s suburban south side. Archaeologist Rita Elliott said the project yielded a staggering 33,858 artifacts believed to date from about 1750 until after the Civil War.

Historical records show that a wealthy Savannah attorney named William Miller owned a large plantation at the site and at one time had 87 slaves, Elliott said. Archaeologists didn’t find the main plantation house but believe many of the artifacts they found are consistent with slave dwellings.

“These people are pretty anonymous in the historical records,” Elliott said. “The archaeology may not tell us much about their names, but it will tell us about their lives.”

As for the sheer volume of items recovered at the site, Elliott said, “It’s not unheard of. But this is a lot of artifacts.”

Take a look at the rest of that piece…what a story.

Of course I will use that tale of slavery, forced labor and submission to segue into this next article: Forced into a C-section: The latest violation of pregnant women’s rights

In a surreal case that’s lawyers are calling “unprecedented,” an Italian woman who was visiting the U.K. last year for work while pregnant with her third child says she wound up undergoing a forced caesarean and had her baby taken away from her. She is currently waging a legal battle to have her returned.

The story, which broke Sunday in the Telegraph, is a harrowing one. The woman, whose family says she is bipolar and needs medication, had “something of a panic attack” in her hotel room, and called the police. After telling her they were taking her to the hospital to “make sure that the baby was OK,” she says she was shocked to find herself instead in a psychiatric facility, where she was restrained for several weeks. Eventually, after being told one morning she couldn’t have breakfast, she was forcibly sedated and woke up several hours to the news that her baby daughter had been removed by social services. Soon after, she was sent home without her child.

Back home and back on her medication, the woman embarked on a quest to have her baby daughter returned to her. But the Italian court said that “Since she had not protested at the time, she had accepted that the British courts had jurisdiction – even though she had not known what was to be done to her.” And a British judge declared that “He could not risk a failure to maintain her medication in the future.” The woman’s American ex-husband and father of her eldest daughter even tried to plead for the baby to be sent to his sister in Los Angeles, but because the baby isn’t a blood relation to her, the court struck that down too.

The woman’s lawyer, Brendan Fleming, told the Telegraph, “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job. I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.” And Liberal Democrat M.P. John Hemming, added, “I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme. It involves the Court of Protection authorizing a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed.”

It seems crazy to me…but things are unreal in this world. (I will say for the record, women who refuse c-sections that eventually cause the death of their child…that is another matter. I do have problems with the women who do that. When cesareans become a necessary procedure, and the woman is determined to have a vaginal delivery at any cost, she is taking that “fucked up” ideology just as far as those fetus fanatics do…to the point beyond reason.)

Case in point: ACLU sues US bishops over Catholic hospital ethics

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a sweeping federal lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over its ethical guidelines for Roman Catholic hospitals, arguing the directives were to blame for negligent care of a pregnant woman who went into early labor and whose baby died within hours.

The ACLU alleges the bishops were negligent because their religious directives prevented Tamesha Means from being told that continuing her pregnancy posed grave risks to her health and her child was not likely to survive. She was treated at Mercy Health Muskegon, a Catholic hospital in Michigan.

“It’s not just about one woman,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the Michigan ACLU. “It’s about a nationwide policy created by nonmedical professionals putting patients in harms’ way.”

The lawsuit comes amid a wave of mergers between Catholic and secular hospital systems throughout the United States, raising questions about how much religious identity the hospitals will retain and whether they will provide medical services that conflict with church teaching. Advocates for abortion rights and others fear the mergers will limit access to a full range of medical care for women. About 13 percent of U.S. hospitals are Catholic.

It is a familiar story, we all know too well from personal experience what this woman went through…

According to the lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Michigan, Means was 18 weeks pregnant in 2010 when her water broke and she went to the nearest hospital in Muskegon. The ACLU said that over several emergency visits, Means was never told that “the safest treatment option was to induce labor and terminate the pregnancy” because the hospital was following the conference’s ethical directives. She eventually delivered the baby, which died after less than three hours. The ACLU says the pathology report found that Means had infections that can result in infertility and other damage.

Under the conference’s “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” abortion is barred, along with other procedures that go against Catholic doctrine, such as specific infertility treatments or sterilization. However, each bishop has the authority to interpret the directives within his diocese and it is common to find some variation in how the guidelines are applied among dioceses or according to individual cases.

For example, the directives allow for treatments to cure a grave illness in a pregnant woman even if they result in the death of the child. That issue drew national attention in 2010 with the case of a nun and administrator at a Phoenix hospital who, in her role on the hospital ethics committee, approved an abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman. Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted said the decision meant automatic excommunication for the nun and the hospital could no longer identify itself as Catholic.

Robin Fretwell Wilson, a University of Illinois professor who specializes in family and health law, said a negligence claim would hinge in part on whether the ACLU can establish that the conference has some direct control in this case or in hospitals in general. The bishops have moral authority over local Catholic hospitals but are not involved in the day-to-day business of administration.

“It’s so many layers removed,” Fretwell Wilson said, that she has “a difficult time buying” that the bishops’ conference is legally responsible in this case.

Sigh, well…I guess we just have to wait and see.

All this talk about the Pope and his new focus on the poor is great, but I still can’t fully get on board with Francis and his shitty attitude towards women. Then there is this crap too: Vatican refuses to share sex abuse investigations with U.N. panel | Reuters

The Vatican refused to provide a United Nations rights panel with information on the Church’s internal investigations into the sexual abuse of children by clergy, saying on Tuesday that its policy was to keep such cases confidential.

In response to a series of tough questions posed by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Holy See said it would not release information on its internal investigations into abuse cases unless required to do so by a request from a state or government to cooperate in legal proceedings.

The response of the Holy See, which will be directly questioned by the panel in January 2014, will be closely watched as it tries to draw a line under financial scandals and abuse by priests that have damaged the standing of the Roman Catholic Church around the world.

Since becoming the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years, Pope Francis has largely succeeded in changing the subject after the resignation of Benedict XVI in February.

You bet your ass he has changed the subject!

The questions from the panel aimed to assess the Church’s adherence to the 1990 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty guaranteeing a full range of human rights for children which the Holy See has signed.

In its response the Vatican said internal disciplinary proceedings “are not open to the public” in order to protect “witnesses, the accused and the integrity of the Church process”, but said this should not discourage victims from reporting crimes to state authorities.

However, it said state laws, including the obligation to report crimes, must be respected.

The Holy See noted it was “deeply saddened by the scourge of sexual abuse” and emphasized that it had changed the requirements for admitting candidates for priesthood, updated canon law, and asked bishops’ conferences to draw up guidelines to combat abuse.

But it indicated the Vatican could not be held responsible for the behavior of institutions or individual Catholics around the world and said local bishops had the responsibility of ensuring children were protected.

“The Holy See does not exercise effective control over the local activities of Catholic institutions around the world,” the response read, indicating the Catholic Church’s central administration could only be held accountable for events within the Vatican City State.

That makes me think of one thing:

Honestly. Maybe all this brouhaha over the Popes comments is nothing but smoke and mirrors? Get everyone distracted and flustered about one thing over here and they forget about priest molesting little boys over there.

Another news item that could use that Naked Gun clip as an afterthought, Radioactive Japanese Wave Nears U.S. : Discovery News

In the wake of the deadly tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 and severely damaged a nuclear reactor, Japanese officials say the levels of radiation are safe for everyone outside the reactor area itself. But as radioactive water from the plant nears the West Coast of North America — the water is expected to hit in 2014 — can we be sure it’s safe?

The nuclear reactor continues to leak radioactive water due to poor management, while Japanese subcontractors at the plant have admitted they intentionally under-reported radiation and that dozens of farms around Fukushima that were initially deemed safe by the government actually had unsafe levels of radioactive cesium.

Fukushima locals also claim they’re seeing cancer at higher rates and the Japanese government is covering up the scale of the problem.

I really don’t think we are getting all the story from Japan either.  The US EPA monitors Radiation levels around the US, you can see near real-time results here: RadNet | US EPA

The nationwide RadNet system monitors the nation’s air, drinking water, precipitation, and pasteurized milk to determine levels of radiation in the environment. RadNet sample analyses and monitoring results provide baseline data on background levels of radiation in the environment and can detect increased radiation from radiological incidents.

EPA’s RadNet Data | RadNet | US EPA

EPA’s nationwide radiation monitoring system, RadNet, consists of two components. First, stationary and deployable air monitors measure radiation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The map below provides monitoring results as graphs that are updated several times daily. You can also search the RadNet database in EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) to find monitoring data. Second, EPA samples precipitation, drinking water, and milk on a routine schedule and tests them for radiation in a laboratory. The latest RadNet sampling results are available in Envirofacts.

RadNet Data

Give that some of your time today, it is interesting indeed.

Y’all probably saw this crap yesterday: Zucker plans massive change at CNN | Capital New York

After almost a year of tinkering, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has concluded that a news channel cannot subsist on news alone.

So he is planning much broader changes for the network—including a prime-time shakeup that’s likely to make CNN traditionalists cringe.

Once, CNN’s vanilla coverage was a point of pride. Now, the boss boasts about the ratings for his unscripted series, and documentaries like the Sea World-slamming film Blackfish. Zucker, in his first one-on-one interview since taking control of CNN last January, told Capital he wants news coverage “that is just not being so obvious.”

Instead, he wants more of “an attitude and a take”:

“We’re all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, ‘You know what? That was interesting. I hadn’t thought of that,’” Zucker said. “The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts.”

Can you see where this is going?

Zucker—“rhymes with hooker,” he likes to say—also expanded on comments he has made about breaking CNN out of a mindset created by historic rivalries with MSNBC and Fox. He wants the network to attract “viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E.”

Hmmm, up next on CNN…

Moving on. Two quick links:

Photo-shopped picture falsely portrays Obama as child molester

Asshole actually tries to pass this shit off, and even the idiots who follow him on facebook call him out on it.

And check out The Very Best of ‘Right-Wing Art’ | Mediaite  

Oh, there are no words…

Did you see what happened in Iceland yesterday?

BBC News – Rare Iceland armed police operation leaves man dead

Icelandic police have shot dead a man who was firing a shotgun in his apartment in the early hours of Monday.

It is the first time someone has been killed in an armed police operation in Iceland, officials say.

Wow, the first time?

I don’t know, but with all the shit going on around here, Iceland is looking pretty good.

That is all for me this morning, except for this last story…BBC News – Chess boxing catching on in India

Chess boxing
There are 300-odd chess boxers in India

Chess boxing, a hybrid sport combining the mental workout of chess with the physical challenge of boxing, is catching on in India, reports Shamik Bag.

Wearing boxing wraps around their palms and seated on a bench inside a gym in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta, two players match moves while huddled over a chessboard.

Caught between the mind and muscle, the recently-introduced game of chess boxing is seeing an early surge of interest in India. The game involves alternate rounds of chess and boxing.

Now, that takes the whole hybrid sport thing to a new level doesn’t it? Forget kick-boxing, mixed-martial arts, wrestling stuff they do in world extreme cage fighting. This chess boxing takes brains! However, I don’t see it catching on here in the States. So don’t expect a reality show on chess boxing competitors to show up on CNN any time soon.  I bet we could come up with a catchy title though…”Left Rook and Check Mat.” (Maybe not.)

Have a great day!


Wednesday Reads: Have it God’s way…

Coffee served, the way God intended…

Good Wednesday Morning

I have a variety of links for you today, no shared theme or clever connections this morning…let’s just say that my energy level and lack of ambition is at an all time low. (I don’t even think ambition is the correct word. It is like my mind has forgotten how to think.)

Anyway, first a few articles on the new FDA’s approved list of pharmaceuticals…and banned list of plastics.

Plastics. (I bet a few of you will key in on that word…I know I did.) So, I’ve got one word for you…Plastics.

F.D.A. Bans BPA From Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that baby bottles and children’s drinking cups could no longer contain bisphenol A, or BPA, an estrogen-mimicking industrial chemical used in some plastic bottles and food packaging.

Manufacturers have already stopped using the chemical in baby bottles and sippy cups, and the F.D.A. said that its decision was a response to a request by the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s main trade association, that rules allowing BPA in those products be phased out, in part to boost consumer confidence.

But the new prohibition does not apply more broadly to the use of BPA in other containers, said an F.D.A. spokesman, Steven Immergut. He said the decision did not amount to a reversal of the agency’s position on the chemical. The F.D.A. declared BPA safe in 2008, but began expressing concerns about possible health risks in 2010.

Did you know there was a way to tell if the plastic bottle you are using has BPA?

BPA has been used since the 1960s to make hard plastic bottles, cups for toddlers and the linings of food and beverage cans, including those that hold infant formula and soda. Until recently, it was used in baby bottles, but major manufacturers are now making bottles without it. Plastic items containing BPA are generally marked with a 7 on the bottom for recycling purposes.

Fancy that…well, it is a move in the right direction, but there is still no ban on BPA use in baby formula containers.

Next on our list is the anticipated approval of a new diet drug.  FDA Approves Diet Drug Qsymia

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the diet drug Qsymia, the agency’s latest move to give doctors and their patients more tools to fight excessive weight gain as obesity rates continue to bulge in the U.S. and around the world.

An advisory panel voted 20 to two to approve the drug in February, the first time the FDA voted to approve a weight-loss drug in more than a decade. Originally known as Qnexa, the FDA required Vivus, the manufacturer of the drug, to change its name in order to prevent its confusion with other drugs with similar-sounding names. Data presented by the company showed that it helped patients lose about 10 percent of their body weight.

How the hell do you pronounce that name? Qsymia…sounds like a deaf hunchback or something you get after eating a whole box of Ho Ho’s and Ding Dong’s. That queasy, nausea sort of feeling.

Well, what do you know, FDA approves first pill to help prevent HIV

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first drug shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection, a milestone in the 30-year battle against the virus that causes AIDS.

The agency approved Gilead Sciences’ pill Truvada as a preventive measure for people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV through sexual activity, such as those who have HIV-infected partners.

Public health advocates say the approval could help slow the spread of HIV, which has held steady at about 50,000 new infections per year for the last 15 years. An estimated 1.2 million Americans have HIV, which develops into AIDS unless treated with antiviral drugs. With an estimated 240,000 HIV carriers unaware of their status, doctors and patients say new methods are needed to fight the spread of the virus.

Finally, maybe this new prevention method is signalling the beginning of the end of AIDS.

There was some new information on a drug for Alzheimer patients: Trial Hints Baxter’s Gammagard Can Slow Alzheimer’s

A drug already on the market that treats immune disorders may help stabilize patients with Alzheimer’s disease for up to three years, according to the results of a tiny study presented at a conference on Tuesday.

All four patients who received the optimal dose of the drug, Gammagard from Baxter International, had no decline in several measures of cognition and daily function for three years, researchers said.

Dr. Norman Relkin of Weill Cornell Medical College, the lead investigator of the study, said the results were “remarkable” because patients with Alzheimer’s disease typically worsen within 12 months.

“If we have a patient who goes 18 months without changing we begin to doubt they have Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Relkin said in a news conference at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the results were presented.

The doctors warned that it was an extremely small trial, but they are encouraged by their findings.

Whether the results are a fluke or not could be known by the first half of next year, when the results of a Phase 3 trial are expected.

The results presented Tuesday were from an extension of a 24-patient trial begun a few years ago. In the first six months of the study, those who received the drug did better than those who received a placebo. After that, patients could continue on the study, with all of them receiving the drug.

Sixteen patients completed three years of treatment. Five of those who originally received a placebo declined less rapidly once they shifted to the drug. Of the 11 who received the drug for the entire 36 months, those who got the optimal dose — which was a high dose — for the whole time fared the best.

That evidence “really suggests this is a drug effect and not just an accident,” said Bill Thies, chief medical and scientific officer of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Of course, the Baxter stock rose with the news…almost a whole dollar to $55.68 a share.

I guess I was wrong about this post not having a theme or connection.

In my home state of Georgia,  announces switch to single-drug method for executions even as a death penalty case looms  

(Your may remember that the death penalty drug of choice was no longer available, and they had to use the same drug veterinarians use on animals to carry out the sentence. )

Georgia announced Tuesday that it is switching immediately to single-drug executions from a three-drug combination, following the lead of several other states even as a death row case loomed.

The Georgia Department of Corrections said it will begin using a single dose of the sedative pentobarbital to carry out court-ordered death sentences. It had been using pentobarbital to sedate inmates before injecting pancuronium bromide to paralyze them and then potassium chloride to stop their hearts.

They announced this change the day before a man was sentenced to die…can you believe it?

Georgia inmate Warren Lee Hill had been set to be executed Wednesday evening, but authorities said that execution has now been rescheduled for Monday.

Hill’s attorney, Brian Kammer, expressed concern about the switch to a single-drug procedure even as he waged legal efforts to spare the inmate. “I think it is troubling to be confronted with a significant change in the execution protocol a day before the scheduled execution of my client,” Kammer said in an email.

[…]

Georgia began using pentobarbital as part of its three-drug combination last year after another drug, sodium thiopental, became unavailable when its European supplier bowed to pressure from death penalty opponents and stopped making it. But pentobarbital is now in short supply after its manufacturer said it would try to prevent its use in executions.

The article gives some statistics on how many people have been put to death using the pentobarbital alone. You can read the rest if you like…but the parts that I have quoted above give you the main part of the story I wanted to share with you this morning.

I have three more articles that are full of numbers…and since my mind is a bit off lately, we will just post quick links and no commentary.

Brent slips below $104 as Bernanke offers no signal on stimulus | Reuters

Brent crude slipped below $104 a barrel on Wednesday, snapping five days of gains as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered no signs of further monetary stimulus to boost growth in the world’s top oil consumer.

Oil also slipped as a 16 percent increase in prices from the the lows for the year touched last month prompted some investors to book profits. Broader markets, from Asian shares to the euro, edged higher as Bernanke in his testimony to the Senate Banking Committee left the door open for more stimulus.

Brent crude slipped 67 cents to $103.33 a barrel by 0258 GMT, after settling 63 cents higher. U.S. oil slipped 40 cents to $88.82 a barrel after ending 79 cents higher.

“Bernanke’s comments were in line with the last set of minutes – examining ways of doing more should that be necessary,” said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. “Oil has recovered from its June lows pretty close to its medium-term equilibrium and that is why we are seeing a bit of softening. There is some profit-taking.”

HARP Refi Numbers Not as Strong as Advertised | FDL News Desk

The Federal Housing Finance Agency engaged in a little back-patting yesterday for improved HARP figures, which they say are a direct result of their changes to the system to allow for more underwater borrowers to take advantage of low refinancing rates. The truth is a little murkier.

Be sure you read this FDL article by David Dayen. There are some links to charts and statements that even in my diminished capacity, I can understand.

This next link is something Dakinikat and MABlue may find interesting. Chart of the Day: Germany in breach of Maastricht Treaty in 8 of 10 years since 2002 | Credit Writedowns

A recent story in German magazine Der Spiegel highlights the efforts in 2005 of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to relax the penalties for deficits in breach of the euro zone’s stability and growth pact. It is a good review of the contemporaneous actions of the German government within a wider EU political context. However, I feel there is a lot missing to the article in giving the German context to the present European sovereign debt crisis. Therefore, I am giving you a few tidbits here.

And finally, just one quick observation. With the RNC being held in Tampa, FL…the place I was born and raised, this next link made me laugh…why? Because the restaurants that are mentioned are the big expensive places that your average person would not be able to afford.  Ha, go figure.  Locals Dish About Tampa’s Secret Eats | Heard on the Hill

The Republican National Convention has offered up its version of the culinary frontrunners it’s supporting during next month’s nominating soiree. But Tampa food scribes assure HOH there are certain off-menu specials conventioneers won’t want to miss.

Tampa Tribune food writer Jeff Houck eats his way around the local dining scene like it’s his job (it is) for “The Stew” blog. Which makes it all the more impressive that, come quitting time, he’s still inclined to darken Pelagia Trattoria’s door.

“My favorite thing is to go to Pelagia Trattoria and ask the chef to make whatever he wants. That place is amazing,” Houck tells HOH, adding that he demanded just such a spontaneous tasting menu for an anniversary celebration.

And this is considered “gossip” according to The Hill website…

The open-ended invitations have spawned all manner of gustatory whimsy, including Kumato tomatoes showered with goat cheese “snow” (frozen and hand grated), tripe fritters partnered with pizzaiola sauce, juniper-marinated squab escorted by pickled white cherries and sweet corn polenta and a “coffee and cigars” closer featuring espresso panna cotta and chocolate tuiles inundated with Bailey’s Irish Cream.

“Tasting Tampa” food blogger Todd Sturtz offered up two under-the-radar gems surreptitiously served at the award-winning Bern’s Steak House: the house-made steak sandwich and burger.

According to Bern’s chef de cuisine, Habteab Hamde, the sandwich weaves together 4.5 ounces of chargrilled tenderloin served plain, fully loaded (cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, apple-smoked bacon, sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions) or anywhere in between, all on a whole-wheat bun. He described the burger as an 8-ounce patty forged from freshly ground 80/20 USDA Prime flap meat, which is then cooked to order and dressed accordingly.

Hamde confirmed that neither item appears on any menu, while noting that bar patrons have been savoring both for years.

Houck certainly has.

“The Bern’s sandwich tastes like God intended beef to taste,” he raves. “And in a setting where you don’t expect to get a burger, which always makes it fun.”

Ah, so this is what Romney probably is used to when it comes to that all American burger? No pink slime for you people…they leave that crap for the serfs.

You know, there are many good, no strike that, fabulous restaurants in Tampa that aren’t reserved for the rich and GOP millionaire class.  And I can bet the owners of these “dives” are part of that group of people who would appreciate some business thrown their way.

Yeah…I know that Romney and the rest of them are rich, but it is attitudes like this link above that makes their obvious lack of understanding even more apparent when it comes to us real folks out there.  Wish I could afford beef the way “God” intended it to taste, unfortunately I am one of the little people who don’t get to experience life the way “God” intended it to be…by that I mean the way these 1%ers do.  Anyone up for a 99 cent Whopper, made the way you like it? I’ll have my the way God likes it…all the way, with everything!