Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! I’ve got a mixed bag of reads for you this morning, so I hope there will be something her to interest you.

Did you see the piece in The New York Times on Obama’s “secret kill list?” Very creepy. The article makes it clear that President Obama is actively engaged in decisions about which “terrorists” to target with drone attacks.

Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.

“He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”

At Slate, William Saletan breaks down the problems with the Times story and explains why the supposedly strict rules for choosing which people to target are really pretty meaningless.

To understand the Times story, you have to go back to a speech given last month by John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser. Brennan argued that the administration was waging drone warfare scrupulously. He described a rigorous vetting process. The Times report, quoting some officials and paraphrasing others, largely matches Brennan’s account. But on two key points, it undermines his story. The first point is target selection. Brennan asserted:

The president expects us to address all of the tough questions. … Is this individual a significant threat to U.S. interests? … Our commitment to upholding the ethics and efficacy of this counterterrorism tool continues even after we decide to pursue a specific terrorist in this way. For example, we only authorize a particular operation against a specific individual if we have a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing. This is a very high bar. … Our intelligence community has multiple ways to determine, with a high degree of confidence, that the individual being targeted is indeed the al-Qaida terrorist we are seeking.

The rules sound strict. But reread the fourth sentence: “We only authorize a particular operation against a specific individual if we have a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing.” The phrase “against a specific individual” hides the loophole. Many drone strikes don’t target a specific individual. To these strikes, none of the vetting rules apply.

At Salon, Jefferson Morley explores the death of one little girl who was “collateral damage” in one of Obama’s drone strikes in Pakistan in 2010.

Around midnight on May 21, 2010, a girl named Fatima was killed when a succession of U.S.-made Hellfire missiles, each of them five-feet long and traveling at close to 1,000 miles per hour, smashed a compound of houses in a mountain village of Mohammed Khel in North Waziristan along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Wounded in the explosions, which killed a half dozen men, Fatima and two other children were taken to a nearby hospital, where they died a few hours later.

Behram Noor, a Pakistani journalist, went to the hospital and took a picture of Fatima shortly before her death. Then, he went back to the scene of the explosions looking for evidence that might show who was responsible for the attack. In the rubble, he found a mechanism from a U.S.-made Hellfire missile and gave it to Reprieve, a British organization opposed to capital punishment, which shared photographs of the material with Salon. Reprieve executive director Clive Stafford Smith alluded to the missile fragments in an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times last fall. They have also been displayed in England.

“Forensically, it is important to show how the crime of murder happened (which is what it is here),” said Stafford Smith in an email. “One almost always uses the murder weapon in a case. But perhaps more important, I think this physical proof — this missile killed this child — is important to have people take it seriously.”

Tuna that is contaminated with Fukushima radiation has shown up in California.

Bluefin tuna contaminated with radiation believed to be from Fukushima Daiichi turned up off the coast of California just five months after the Japanese nuclear plant suffered meltdown last March, US scientists said.

Tiny amounts of cesium-137 and cesium-134 were detected in 15 bluefin caught near San Diego in August last year, according to a study published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The levels were 10 times higher than those found in tuna in the same area in previous years but still well below those that the Japanese and US governments consider a risk to health. Japan recently introduced a new safety limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram in food.

The timing of the discovery suggests that the fish, a prized but dangerously overfished delicacy in Japan, had carried the radioactive materials across the Pacific Ocean faster than those conveyed by wind or water.

There’s a new smartphone for those in Japan who want to know if they are in a “radiation hotspot.”

Mobile phone operator Softbank Corp said on Tuesday it would soon begin selling smartphones with radiation detectors, tapping into concerns that atomic hotspots remain along Japan’s eastern coast more than a year after the Fukushima crisis….

The smartphone in the company’s “Pantone” series will come in eight bright colors and include customized IC chips made by Sharp Corp that measure radiation levels in microsieverts per hour.

The phone, which goes on sale this summer, can also keep track of each location a user tests for radiation levels.

And get this– NASA says that the earthquake and tsunami in Japan “disturbed the upper atmosphere.”

The massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Fukushima, Japan, last year wreaked havoc in the skies above as well, disturbing electrons in the upper atmosphere, NASA reported.

The waves of energy from the quake and tsunami that were so destructive on the ground reached into the ionosphere, a part of the upper atmosphere that stretches from about 50 to 500 miles (80 to 805 km) above Earth’s surface.

Greg Sargent discusses the surreal double-standard that Romney is using to compare his record in Massachusetts with Obama’s record as President.

You really couldn’t make this one up if you tried.

The Romney campaign is out with a new press release blasting Obama for presiding over a “net” loss in jobs. As I’ve been saying far too often, this metric is bogus, because it factors in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs the economy was hemorrhaging when Obama took office, before his policies took effect.

But this time, there’s an intriguing new twist in the Romney campaign’s argument.

In the same release attacking Obama over “net” job loss, the Romney camp also defends Romney’s jobs record as Governor of Massachusetts by pointing out … that Romney inherited a state economy that was losing jobs when he took office.


Check it out.

At Alternet, Steven Rosenfeld lists “five reasons the ‘Geezer Empire’ of Billionaire Republicans Are Showering Romney With Cash.” I’m can’t really excerpt this one. You need to go read the article for yourself.

The British supreme court found that Julian Assange must be extradited to Sweden, but in a surprise reversal, Assange has been given 14 days to “consider a challenge to the judgment.”

Julian Assange’s fight against extradition to Sweden may stagger on to a second round at the supreme court after he was granted permission to submit fresh arguments.

Despite losing by a majority of five to two, his lawyers have been given 14 days to consider whether to challenge a central point of the judgment on the correct interpretation of international treaties.

The highly unusual legal development came after the supreme court justices decided that a public prosecutor was a “judicial authority” and that therefore Assange’s arrest warrant had been lawfully issued.

Assange, who is wanted in connection with accusations of sexual assault and rape in Sweden, was not in court; there was no legal requirement for him to be present. According to his solicitor, Gareth Peirce, he was stuck in central London traffic and never made it to the court in Westminster. Assange denies the accusations.

At The Daily Beast, Malcolm Jones discusses how American culture has changed such that Bob Dylan has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Jones points out that very few folk or rock musicians have been so honored. Certainly, Dylan is a “game changer”:

You don’t have to like or admire Dylan to admit that he was a game changer. He made folk music hip. He made rock lyrics literate or, put another way, he made his audience pay attention to lyrics because he made them mean something. He blew a hole in the notion that radio hits have to clock in at less than three minutes. He proved that you can stand on a stage with just a guitar and not much of a voice and hold people’s attention for, oh, about five decades. By the way you can read affordable guitar reviews at if you want. He wrote songs in his 20s that he can still sing today without a trace of embarrassment.

Dylan was distinctly an outsider, and there he remained for quite a while. It’s juvenile fun watching old press conferences when reporters did finally come calling later in the decade. The questions are so dorky. But what you realize is that the national press at that time had almost no one in its ranks that we would recognize as music writers. Most of the reporters sent to interview Dylan were 40-somethings in suits who treated him like Chubby Checker, just another flash in the pan phenom to be indulged. Instead, they found a musician who was the smartest man in any room, and someone who was more than happy to make fun of them (“You walk into the room, with your pencil in your hand …”).

The point is, in the mid-60s there really was an establishment and an anti-establishment (to be upgraded to a counterculture in a couple of years), and no one doubted which side of the line Dylan stood on. Back then, there were bitter fights over high culture and low, insiders and outsiders, and who got to say who was who. In 1965, the Pulitzer board refused to give a prize to Duke Ellington.

Over the years, all of that has more or less collapsed in on itself. Pulp fiction writers are in the American canon. Brian Wilson is understood to be a great American artist and not merely a great pop songwriter. The times did change, and Dylan was in the thick of making it happen.

But perhaps most telling is that Dylan is an old man now; his age is the one thing he has in common with others who have received the medal, but Jones says:

It’s cheap and easy to say that Dylan is now a member of the establishment. It’s also wrong, because there is no longer an establishment as we once knew it. And Dylan and his music had everything to do with that.

Interesting. So I’ll end with this:

What are you reading and blogging about today?

Tuesday Reads: Osamarama

Good Morning!! Grab your coffee and pull up a chair. I’ve got some interesting links for you this morning. It’s mostly Osama-related with a few non-Osama links thrown in.

I guess we need to brace ourselves for 24/7 Osama bin Laden news until further notice. The White House is leaking information in dribs and drabs, the corporate media is in hysteria mode, and the conspiracy theories are already spreading like wildfire.

The biggest problem for the Obama administration is going to be the supposed “burial at sea.” Let’s hope they have extensive photo and video evidence that that actually took place. Some 9/11 relatives are very upset about this. They wanted to see the body.

Rosaleen Tallon kissed her three children good night and went to sleep feeling at peace. The terrorist responsible for the death of her brother, New York firefighter Sean Patrick Tallon, was dead. Her two boys and her little girl had been assured that the “bad man” behind the attacks that claimed their uncle was gone.

But when Tallon awoke Monday to the news that Osama bin Laden had been buried at sea, she was stunned. That was one corpse she would like to have seen for herself, Tallon said, her fiery words underscoring the change this suburban science teacher has undergone in the last decade.

“I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I was a little dismayed — a lot dismayed,” Tallon said as her 20-month-old son, Paddy, nestled in her arms while savoring a red lollipop. “I think that was too hasty. I would’ve liked the American people to say without a shadow of a doubt, ‘Yes, that’s him.’ “

Hey, why didn’t they put bin Laden’s body in the Capital rotunda and let people view it until they had their fill? But seriously, the “burial at sea” thing is really problematic. At Corrente, Lambert isn’t buying it.

But how are we going to drag the body through the streets, if it’s floating in the Indian Ocean somewhere? Can’t anybody here play this game?

NOTE On the bright side, this does explain why the corpse wasn’t a festive centerpiece at the White House Correspondents Dinner. I’d been wondering about that.

Perhaps Lambert will be pleased to know that the folks over at Alex Jones’ Infowars agree with him. Here’s a sample of the posts going up over there.

Inside Sources: Bin Laden’s Corpse Has Been On Ice For Nearly a Decade

A multitude of different inside sources both publicly and privately, including one individual who personally worked with Bin Laden at one time, told us directly that Osama’s dead corpse has been on ice for nearly a decade and that his “death” would only be announced at the most politically expedient time.

That time has now come with a years-old fake picture being presented as the only evidence of his alleged killing yesterday, while Bin Laden’s body has been hastily dumped into the sea to prevent anyone from finding out when he actually died.

In April 2002, over nine years ago, Council on Foreign Relations member Steve R. Pieczenik, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under Henry Kissinger, Cyrus Vance, and James Baker, told the Alex Jones Show that Bin Laden had already been “dead for months”.

Pieczenik would be in a position to know such information, having worked directly with Bin Laden when the US was funding and arming the terror leader in an attempt to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the late 70′s and early 80′s (a documented historical fact that talking heads in the corporate media are actually denying today in light of developments).

“I found out through my sources that he had had kidney disease. And as a physician, I knew that he had to have two dialysis machines and he was dying,” Pieczenik told Jones during the April 24, 2002 interview.

Intel Chief: They Killed “Make Believe Osama”

Former Pakistani intelligence chief Hamid Gul went on the Alex Jones Show today and characterized the unverified assassination of Osama bin Laden as symbolic theater.

Gul said the event was a “make believe drama” designed to be used for Obama’s upcoming re-election campaign.

The supposed hit as described by the government and the corporate media is the “stuff of folk lore, for legend-making and the ballad,” Gull explained.

Hamid Gull went on to cite the late Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, who told David Frost in late 2007 that Osama bin Laden was murdered by Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is also one of the men convicted of kidnapping and killing journalist Daniel Pearl.

Apparently the right wing blogs are also claiming the Navy Seal secret operation was a complete fake, except they think Osama is still alive. Here’s a report at Think Progress: Meet The Deathers: Andrew Brietbart Website Pushing Conspiracy Theory That Osama Might Not Be Dead

Mere hours after President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden, supported by incontrovertible DNA evidence, the conspiracy theorists are hard at work. Andrew Breitbart, a prominent right-wing commentator with close ties to the Republican Party and the Tea Party, is pushing the theory on his website Big Peace.

On Breitbart’s website, J. Michael Waller, suggests Obama take a number of extraordinary steps so he can “make sure [Osama] is dead.” Pictures are apparently not enough. Walker asserts that he needs to be able to “walk right up to bin Laden’s corpse and view it.”

See? They needed to lay the corpse out in the Capital rotunda so that every American who wanted to feast his or her eyes on it. Hell, maybe Lambert’s right–they should have dragged it through the streets to satisfy the more bloodthirsty among us. {Sigh….} I have a feeling that pretty soon I’m going to get very tired of hearing about Osama bin Laden.

In case you believe that Osama was really killed by Navy Seals in the past few days, here is a fascinating article at Wired’s Danger Room blog on the advanced technology used by the folks who hunt terrorists. Apparently they carry around thumb and eye scanners to identify the culprits they are looking for. That’s in addition to taking DNA samples.

At the Wall Street Journal, Ralph Gardener asks, “Is fist-pumping the right reaction?” He never really answers the question, but I found myself disturbed by the reactions last night too. But hey, Americans are generally pretty tacky–just look at the TV shows they watch nowadays. Hoarders? American Idol? Geeze.

At CNN there is an article about the “spending spree” that followed the 9/11 attacks.

In the decade between Sept. 11, 2001, and the death of Osama bin Laden on Sunday, the U.S. government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars with the aim of making Americans safer.

Agencies were created, expanded or given new missions. The government hired thousands of new employees to analyze intelligence, track terror financing and support the nation’s rapidly expanding national security apparatus.

Gee, can I get a dispensation from paying for all that–like all the religious nuts who don’t want to pay for abortions or dispense birth control pills or provide medical care for women who get abortions?

I’ll end with a few non-Osama-related news stories. A former Chicago Bears player who committed suicide by shooting himself through the heart (to preserve his brain for study) has been found to have had severe brain damage.

On Monday, scientists at Boston University who examined Duerson’s brain tissue said he suffered from a “moderately advanced” case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head.

His brain showed pronounced changes in the frontal cortex amygdala and the hippocampus, which control judgment, inhibition, impulse, mood control and memory, said Dr. Ann McKee, a co-director of the Center for Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at the Boston University School of Medicine and director of the Bedford VA CSTE Brain Bank.

“When you look at it microscopically, it’s undisputable,” said McKee, who has detected CTE in approximately 40 of the 50 brains she has examined, a pool that includes athletes and military veterans.

Known for his aggressive and hard-hitting defense, Duerson is the 14th of 15 former NFL players studied at the brain bank to be diagnosed with CTE. Overall, the condition has been found in more than two dozen deceased professional football players.

Football should really be banned, at least for kids. It will never happen though.

Astronomers create 3D map of 3-Billion-Year-Old Universe

Using light from 14,000 distant yet powerful cosmic beacons, astronomers have pieced together the largest and most detailed 3-D map of the ancient universe.

Previous versions plotted the locations of galaxies within 7 billion light-years of Earth. The new version, however, charts clouds of hydrogen in a swath between 10 billion and 12 billion light-years away — farther in distance and deeper in time than any 3-D map before it.

The hydrogen clouds could help answer some of astronomers’ more profound questions about the universe, including the nature of dark energy.

“We’re looking for a bump in the data that may tell us how fast universe is expanding,” said cosmologist Anže Slosar of Brookhaven National Laboratory, one of the researchers who presented the map May 1 at the American Physical Society meeting in Anaheim, California. “We don’t have enough data to see the bump yet, but we expect to get there in a few years.”

Julian Assange says that Facebook is an “appalling spying machine.”

Asked about his thoughts on the role that social media has played in shaping the recent revolutions in the Middle East, the WikiLeaks founder went in another direction. “Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented,” he said. “Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. intelligence. Facebook, Google, Yahoo — all these major U.S. organizations have built-in interfaces for U.S. intelligence. It’s not a matter of serving a subpoena. They have an interface that they have developed for U.S. intelligence to use.”

He continued, still not answering the question: “Now, is it the case that Facebook is actually run by U.S. intelligence? No, it’s not like that. It’s simply that U.S. intelligence is able to bring to bear legal and political pressure on them. And it’s costly for them to hand out records one by one, so they have automated the process. Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies in building this database for them.”

If you like to look at the night sky, there will be a nice show this month when Venus and Jupiter appear very close to each other. May 11 is the day to check them out, I guess.

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

Gotta Love those Wikileaks

I’m still waiting for the BOA Wikileaks data drop but the idea of a Swiss Banker from offshore banking haven, The Cayman Islands, dropping a dime on a few of those tax evading customers is almost as sweet.  I can sense the thickness of air hanging in private clubs all over the world from my little corner of the ninth ward.

Rudolf M. Elmer, the former head of the Cayman Islands office of the prominent Swiss bank Julius Baer, refused to identify any of the individuals or companies, but told reporters at a press conference that about 40 politicians and “pillars of society” worldwide are among them.

He told The Observer newspaper over the weekend that those named in the documents come from “the U.S., Britain, Germany, Austria and Asia — from all over,” and include “business people, politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates — from both sides of the Atlantic.”

Mr. Assange said that WikiLeaks would verify and release the information, including the names, in as little as two weeks. He suggested possible partnerships with financial news organizations and said he would consider turning the information over to Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, a government agency that investigates financial corruption.

That’s a wow story!   But then, there’s been a series of them coming from Assange’s organization and the entire thing is just too great for words.  Any one that really doesn’t see that Wikileaks is becoming THE way for little guys to undermine the power elites of the world is basically a tool of oppressors and autocrats.  Just as Bradley Manning witnessed tapes that revealed the incredibly war crimes and inhumanity of a few American soldiers, Rudolf Elmer has witnessed pilfering that probably includes profiteering from crimes against humanity.  However, like every one else, I want NAMES.

Check out the CIA’s list of the RICHEST countries in the world in per capita terms. I always love to quiz my students on which ones shake out at the top and they nearly always get it wrong.   The top ten countries–with the exceptions of oil rich Kuwait and Norway–are all havens of offshore banking, tax evasion, and gambling.  The USA has dropped to number 11 on the richest country list.  Undoubtedly, it still holds that position because of its Investment Bankers.  As I mentioned in the Friday Reads, it’s not because we reward our brain surgeons, 4 star generals, or great minds. I’m appalled that this might be the century that proves Karl Marx right on how ‘capitalism’ eventually falls.  I’m only afraid that it will not be replaced with any kind of utopia; worker or otherwise.

What was Rudolf Elmer’s motivation?

Mr. Elmer said he had turned to WikiLeaks to educate society about what he considers an unfair system designed to serve the rich and aid money launderers after his offers to provide the data to universities and governments were spurned and, in his opinion, the Swiss media failed to cover the substance of his allegations. “The man in the street needs to know how this system works,” he said, referring to the offshore trusts that many “high net worth individuals” across the world use to evade taxes.

This, is the beauty of the Wikileaks.  (I’m going to take some time here to wave to our junior G-guys and G-gals!)  It gives a voice to those of us that work in the trenches holding up a system that rewards our work with pink slips, loss of insurance, and raises that don’t keep up with the cost of living don’t have much power.  The information we sit on frequently has a lot of power.  Once released to the public domain, it has even more power.  These leaks expose corruption and thievery; pure and simple.

Read the rest of this entry »

Monday Reads

Good Morning!! Today is the official Martin Luther King birthday holiday. I hope everyone has the day off. I think I have a few interesting reads for you this morning.

I’ll start with this in depth report by Naomi Klein on scientific studies of the impact of the BP oil gusher on the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico. While the government reassures Americans that everything down in the gulf is safe safe safe, scientists are finding plenty of evidence that that’s not the case. According to

Ian MacDonald, a celebrated oceanographer at Florida State University. “The gulf is not all better now. We don’t know what we’ve done to it.”

MacDonald is arguably the scientist most responsible for pressuring the government to dramatically increase its estimates of how much oil was coming out of BP’s well. He points to the massive quantity of toxins that gushed into these waters in a span of three months (by current estimates, at least 4.1 million barrels of oil and 1.8 million gallons of dispersants). It takes time for the ocean to break down that amount of poison, and before that could happen, those toxins came into direct contact with all kinds of life-forms. Most of the larger animals—adult fish, dolphins, whales—appear to have survived the encounter relatively unharmed. But there is mounting evidence that many smaller creatures—bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton, multiple species of larvae, as well as larger bottom dwellers—were not so lucky. These organisms form the base of the ocean’s food chain, providing sustenance for the larger animals, and some grow up to be the commercial fishing stocks of tomorrow. One thing is certain: if there is trouble at the base, it won’t stay there for long.

There is evidence of permanent changes in organisms likely caused by the oil and dispersants, and those changes may be passed on to future generations as mutations. In addition, the damage to creatures at the lower end of the food chain is so extensive that it may lead to collapses and even extinctions in larger species. While it will be difficult to directly pin all the damage on BP, there really isn’t much doubt that the oil and dispersants are at the root of the problems. It’s very bad, folks.

Ms Magazine has gotten involved in a protest against the New Yorker.

Last week, Anne Hays put her latest copy of the New Yorker back in the mail, with a note explaining that the august publication owed her a refund for putting out the second issue in a row featuring almost no pieces by women. In a December issue of the New Yorker content by women made up only three pages of the magazine’s 150; one January issue contained only two items by women, a poem and a brief “Shouts and Murmers” item.

“I am baffled, outraged, saddened, and a bit depressed that, though some would claim our country’s sexism problem ended in the late ’60s, the most prominent and respected literary magazine in the country can’t find space in its pages for women’s voices in the year 2011,” wrote Hays in the letter, promising to send back every issue containing fewer than five female bylines. “You tend to publish 13 to 15 writers in each issue; five women shouldn’t be that hard,” she concluded.

Her letter, posted to Facebook and widely circulated last week, has prompted Ms. magazine to start an online petition reminding the magazine’s editors that there are in fact lots of women in the world and that many of them write feature articles, reviews and poems, and that the premier literary/current events magazine in the country should reflect that fact.

According to the article, the New Yorker is not alone in ignoring women writers. Read it and weep.

Read the rest of this entry »

Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I want to open with a letter from the First Lady to American Parents on the White House Blog. You could tell that FLOTUS was obviously moved by the murder of a young girl so like her own children at the memorial service night before last. I have to say, Michelle has a heart that embraces children. She has turned this into a teaching moment. I haven’t found many inspiring words out there concerning the Tuscon tragedy.  These are inspiring words.

We can teach our children that here in America, we embrace each other, and support each other, in times of crisis.  And we can help them do that in their own small way – whether it’s by sending a letter, or saying a prayer, or just keeping the victims and their families in their thoughts.

We can teach them the value of tolerance – the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us.  We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree.

We can also teach our children about the tremendous sacrifices made by the men and women who serve our country and by their families.  We can explain to them that although we might not always agree with those who represent us, anyone who enters public life does so because they love their country and want to serve it.

It’s just really too bad that we all can’t grow up up in families like the Huxtables, and the Nelsons, and the Lopez family on TV.  There probably would be fewer Manson families as a result. We also don’t have frames for families with surnames like Wu or Ahmadi or Gupta or lots of others.   A lot of families are not in places where effective communication is possible.  It’s easy to want to embrace those neighbors that look like the Huxtables, the Nelsons and the Lopez family.  However, are those the families that really need our help and concern?

So what’s up with our Plutocratic overlords today? Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday Reads

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)


Yesterday was a trying day for many people…the reports of US Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords assassination attempt and the deaths of innocent people was very distressing. So I am just going to jump in with the latest on this horrible shooting.

Cops Hunt Second Man Believed to Be Involved in Congresswoman Giffords Shooting

“We are not convinced that [the gunman in custody] acted alone, there is some reason to believe he came to this location with another individual, and that individual is involved,” Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said.

Police said a suspect was taken into custody, and Dupnik described the alleged shooter as mentally unstable. Though the sheriff did not name the suspect, he was identified by multiple law enforcement sources as Jared Lee Loughner, 22.

Dupnik declined to provide more information on the second individual who he would only describe as “white” and “in his 50s.” Authorities have photographs of the person of interest and are “actively pursuing him,” the sheriff said.

There is so much information coming in on this shooting, that I am just going to post a list of  links and a few selected quotes below.

From the New York Times:  Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics

While the exact motivations of the suspect in the shootings remained unclear, an Internet site tied to the man, Jared Lee Loughner, contained antigovernment ramblings. And regardless of what led to the episode, it quickly focused attention on the degree to which inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence have become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture.

Clarence W. Dupnik, the Pima County sheriff, seemed to capture the mood of the day at an evening news conference when he said it was time for the country to “do a little soul-searching.”

“It’s not unusual for all public officials to get threats constantly, myself included,” Sheriff Dupnik said. “That’s the sad thing about what’s going on in America: pretty soon we’re not going to be able to find reasonable, decent people willing to subject themselves to serve in public office.”


“It is fair to say — in today’s political climate, and given today’s political rhetoric — that many have contributed to the building levels of vitriol in our political discourse that have surely contributed to the atmosphere in which this event transpired,” said a statement issued by the leaders of the National Jewish Democratic Council. Ms. Giffords is the first Jewish woman elected to the House from her state.

On Crooks and Liars, there is this video: FOX News cuts away from ‘Giffords vigil’ when Sarah Palin’s name is mentioned.

Fox News started covering a vigil that was happening at the steps of the capitol in Arizona in honor of Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot earlier today. As soon as a young man mentioned Sarah Palin’s name, FOX News abruptly cut to commercial. It’s sickening. FOX News will do anything to protect the investment they have made in Sarah Palin, even at the expense of Rep. Giffords.

Newsweek: Disturbing Signs About the Gunman Alleged assailant said to have struggled with mental issues, had a troubled past.

CNN’s Political Ticker:  Giffords had history with Palin, Tea Party

The Hill’s Blog: House postpones healthcare vote after attack on Giffords

C-Span: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in Critical Condition After Shooting Gunman killed six others, including Federal Judge John Roll

AP via Fox News: Sheriff: Suspicious package at Giffords HQ

Open Channel MSNBC: Few assassins fit the ‘profile.’ Most had no mental health treatment, made no threats

On Suburban Guerrilla, is this heart-wrenching post:

Christina Taylor Greene, dead in a political drive-by shooting at the age of nine. Dear God, what has all this hate done to our country?

In a final heartbreaking irony, Christina was featured in a book called “Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11.”

This is a tragedy, the loss of this little girl is so upsetting.  If you have children, whether they are adult children or young,  mine are 12 and 13, to hear about something as sad as this is especially hard. We can’t help to think of this killing with respect to our own children. The thought of this happening to my own kids, I cannot even begin to imagine what Christina’s family is going through now.

More about Christina Taylor Greene is posted over at FDL, Jane Hamsher writes:

Officials have released the name of the 9 year-old girl killed in the shooting of Gabby Giffords and 18 others in Tucson today. Her name is Christina Taylor Green, and a neighbor had brought her along to the Safeway to meet Rep. Giffords because she thought she would enjoy it.

Christina has recently been elected to serve on her school’s student council, and was active in baseball and ballet. And according to the NBC DC affiliate and the Sydney Morning Herald, she was born on 9/11 and was included in the book “Faces of Hope, Babies Born on 9/11.”

I’ve tried to hold back from commenting much today on events, trying to figure out what went on and how the pieces fit together before drawing conclusions. But it is just incredibly tragic that a young girl whose birth was supposed to symbolize hope and rebirth for America in the wake of 9/11 met her demise as she was shot in the chest in the midst of an undeniable culture of violence that continues to hold us all in its grip.

I am sure we will be getting more information on this later on, be sure to check Sky Dancing Blog for further updates.

Because of the shooting yesterday, many might have missed this post by our own Boston Boomer. She has done some amazing detective work, fleshing out the criminal past of Darrell Issa (R-CA), the new Chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

When Issa first ran for the House in 1998, the San Francisco Chronicle dug up some embarrassing information from his past. The paper revealed that Issa had either deliberately lied or greatly exaggerated his military record. [Link]

Please give this post a read…not surprisingly BB has more to come, it is very interesting and shocking and maddening.

Looks like the gears are turning in the Wikileaks Twitter Subpoenaes. From the Globe and Mail:

Mr. Assange said the U.S. move amounted to harassment, and he pledged to fight it.

“If the Iranian government was to attempt to coercively obtain this information from journalists and activists of foreign nations, human rights groups around the world would speak out,” he told The Associated Press in an e-mail.

Legal experts have said one possible avenue for federal prosecutors would be to establish a conspiracy to steal classified information.


“They are trying to show that Pfc. Manning was more than a source of the information to a reporter and rather that Mr. Assange and Pfc. Manning were trying to jointly steal information from the U.S. government,” said Mark Rasch, a former prosecutor on computer crime and espionage cases in the Justice Department.


“How do they prosecute?” asked Mr. Rasch. “The answer is by establishing a unity of interest between Pfc. Manning and Mr. Assange. Make it a theft case and not just a journalist publishing information case.”

Mark Conner, from AFP and Reuters has this to say:

Icelandic politicians have blasted US demands for Twitter to hand over a member of parliament’s account details. Birgitta Jonsdottir faces investigation as one of several people connected to the website WikiLeaks.

Politicians in Iceland have hit out at a US request for Twitter to hand over details of a member of the country’s parliament because of her connections with WikiLeaks.


The subpoena obtained by the US Department of Justice in mid-December was made public on Friday after San Franciso-based Twitter won a legal battle requesting a right to inform the individuals involved. Among the information sought are online connection records, session times, IP addresses used to access Twitter, emails and residential addresses as well as bank and credit card account details.

I really see this as a step towards getting Assange a lovely windowless room next door to Manning, who is being held in solitary confinement in a maximum-security military brig at Quantico, Va.

The south is having another deep freeze the next few days. I have heard forecast that warn there will be 10 inches of snow in Atlanta. That means up in banjo land, we are really in for it. I’ll post some pictures, I wonder if we will have enough snow for a snowman like one of these:

Minx’s Missing Link File: From Harper’s Magazine this past week, In Texas, 41 Exonerations from DNA Evidence in 9 Years, I believe that Dak mentioned something about this last week.

In a Dallas courtroom yesterday Cornelius Dupree, who had spent thirty years in prison on a conviction for rape, robbery, and abduction, was told that he had been exonerated. DNA evidence had shown unequivocally that he was not the man who had committed the crime in question. The judgment came too late for Dupree, who had already served his full sentence; the court was merely terminating his parole status.


To its credit, the Texas legislature, taking note of the 41 exonerations produced by modern evidence since 2001, passed an act to compensate those who had been wrongfully imprisoned. Dupree will be eligible to receive $80,000 for each year he was imprisoned, plus an annuity, with a tax-free cash value of about $2.4 million.

The string of exonerations in Dallas are possible because of the personal commitment of Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins, who announced after he was elected in 2007 that he would take a serious look at DNA evidence in cases in which prosecutors had achieved convictions. Watkins’s decision has not been popular with prosecutors, but it’s a simple fact that even conscientious prosecutors make errors in the rush to secure convictions, particularly for heinous crimes. And many prosecutors are more interested in building a career than in doing justice. Watkins can stand as a model for prosecutors across the country, and particularly in the Department of Justice in Washington.

Let me repeat that bit one more time: 41 exonerations produced by modern evidence since 2001. This is bothersome to say the least, just imagine the number of those wrongly imprisoned that have been executed…Texas leads nation in the number of executions since death penalty was reinstated in 1976. For some more info on capital punishment in Texas, give this link a click.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link: This week TCM showed a fantastic movie staring Peter Sellers, called I’m All Right Jack. You may have missed it, but hopefully TCM will have it scheduled again soon. They have some clips about the film on their website. It is one of the few movies where Peter Sellers plays the “straight” man. By that I mean that he is not the one cracking the jokes.

I’m All Right Jack (1960)

Producer: Roy Boulting, Director: John Boulting, Screenplay: John Boulting, Alan Hackney, Frank Harvey, Cinematography: Mutz Greenbaum, Film Editing: Anthony Harvey, Art Direction: William C. Andrews, Music: Ken Hare, Cast: Ian Carmichael (Stanley Windrush), Terry-Thomas (Major Hitchcock), Peter Sellers (Fred Kite/Sir John Kennaway), Richard Attenborough (Sidney De Vere Cox), Dennis Price (Bertram Tracepurcel), Margaret Rutherford (Aunt Dolly).

Exploding like a case of shook-up canned champagne, the British satire I’m All Right Jack (1959) is what happens when you tamp down a nation’s populace with centuries of emotional repression and monarchal injustice, years of seriously homefront-sacrificial war, and a decade-plus of cheery subsequent postwar commercialization and Americanization. The movie is a geyser of social frustration, all assembled and executed with the brightest of classic comedy grins, disassembling first the fading aristocracy’s seizures of rage and lostness in the postwar culture, then the new union class’s second-hand-Marxist absurdities, and then the new breed of Yankee-ized, anything-for-profit business owner.


The film’s plot – based on a short story by Alan Hackney – hinges on the absolute and almost cosmic guileless stupidity of one Stanley Windrush (Ian Carmichael), a Candide-like scion of old-money gentry who simply thinks he might like to go “into business”; given his gormlessness, he is encouraged to “work his way up” to a management position, and so Stanley interviews for various working-class factory jobs and gets none, and eventually lands a job at his uncles’ munitions factory, running forklifts and such. Of course, the family see Stanley as their toehold and spy amid the unionized workers, but Stanley is oblivious, just as he is oblivious to everything else, including the principles of union labor and rules. On Stanley’s one hand, we have Peter Sellers as Mr. Kite, an uneducated laborer-turned-Marxist ideologue and shop steward, sporting a Hitler mustache and a glowering suspicion of every management move. On the other, we have Terry-Thomas as Major Hitchcock, the front-line manager who must try to manipulate the union to increase profits. Real trouble begins when the guileless Stanley shows off his new forklift prowess to an undercover “time and motion” manager, unintentionally quadrupling the job-efficiency requirements for the entire factory.


But why has it been more or less forgotten? In some ways, I’m All Right Jack may be too intensely British in social context – in short order, U.S. audiences became ignorant of the particulars of the postwar British industrial scene, which was for awhile one of the most heavily unionized in the world and which was effectively deunionized, disastrously, by the Thatcher administration in the 1980s. But therein lies another glitch in the movie’s arsenal: can a satire take aim at *both* labor unions and corporate ownership? What is I’m All Right Jack actually saying, except that the extremes in both directions are absurd? Is mocking Socialist cant and labor solidarity – which were employed, however ineffectively, for the purposes of treating workers fairly and humanely – the same as making sport of exploitative greed? How can you satirize two opposing ideals at the same time?[Link]

Well, the film does give both sides of the debate between unions and corporate big wigs. It is a laugh riot, and I would say a precursor to many films depicting the epic battle of the workers and corporate management. If you ever see it scheduled be sure to give it a look see…it is fantastic.

If your bookmarks or RSS feeds are acting a little strange, remember we have a new URL for the blog. You can read about that here.

So what is on your reading list today? Be sure to share lots of links, and always put your 2 cents about them in the comments.

Friday Reads: It’s Carnival Time

Good  Morning

You probably think you’re at the wrong blog!!  I’ve had a few folks say the gray print and the gray background were hard to read and dreary.  So, I spiffed up the front page a bit.

So, is this easier to read?

Welcome to the Carnival Season!

New Orleans has said so long to the holidays and used the Twelfth Night observance to kick off the Carnival season, which will be extra long this year.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, accompanied by New Orleans clarinetist Pete Fountain, on Thursday served up slices of king cake at historic Gallier Hall, where the mayor greets parading royalty on Mardi Gras Day.Between Thursday and when Carnival celebrations wrap up March 8, about 100 parades will roll through area streets or float down waterways.

The Phunny Phorty Phellows rolled Thursday Night.  They’re the first official parade of Mardi Gras.  They  rent one of the St. Charles Avenue street cars then ride and drink their way up and down St Charles Avenue to usher in the season!  They’re a really old krewe that was resurrected in the 1980s.  It’s one of the most fun and least commercial of the krewes and parades.  You can see some pictures of them from last year if you follow the link.

Well, they’re off and dragging their knuckles through the Halls of Congress!  Yes, Republicans are bringing greedy back.  It’s so bad that the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce are  joining up to fight them off. Yes, you read that right.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO — two powerful players that are often at each other’s throats — are considering teaming up for a campaign against the House GOP’s planned cuts to infrastructure spending, spokespeople for both groups tell me.

The two groups rarely agree on anything, and frequently target each other in the harshest of terms, but one thing they agree on is that they don’t want the House GOP to make good on its threat to subject highway and mass-transit programs to budget cuts. GOP leaders announced earlier this week that such cuts could not be taken off the table in the quest to slice up to $100 billion in spending.

The prospect of deep infrastructure cuts may now lead to the unlikely sight of the Chamber and the huge labor federation, both of which boast powerful and well-funded political operations, teaming up to campaign against the House GOP’s plans. The Chamber — a staunch ally of House Republicans that spent millions in the 2010 elections — has already been pushing back against cuts to highway spending because it could lead to more job losses in the construction industry.

MSNBC reports that protests are growing over the treatment of whistle blower Bradley Manning.

Read the rest of this entry »