Monday Reads

Good Morning!

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So, I’m still a little bit out of the loop at the moment. I’m not really reading much in the way of news or even watching TV so I had to do some searching for something interesting to read this morning. This will be a bit of a link dump. I promise I will do better by midweek.

Will we ever be rid of Fat Tony and his blatant hypocrisy?

With his own claims to originalism fading fast, Scalia suggests liberal judicial activism, practiced by some of colleagues on the Court, is part of what brought about the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. The speech was an address to the Utah State Bar Association.

From the Aspen Times …

Scalia opened his talk with a reference to the Holocaust, which happened to occur in a society that was, at the time, “the most advanced country in the world.” One of the many mistakes that Germany made in the 1930s was that judges began to interpret the law in ways that reflected “the spirit of the age.” When judges accept this sort of moral authority, as Scalia claims they’re doing now in the U.S., they get themselves and society into trouble.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is something we teach a lot in economics.  You may remember the movie  “A Beautiful Mind” and the invention of game theory.  Well, there’s been an interesting test of the theory.

The “prisoner’s dilemma” is a familiar concept to just about anybody that took Econ 101.

The basic version goes like this. Two criminals are arrested, but police can’t convict either on the primary charge, so they plan to sentence them to a year in jail on a lesser charge. Each of the prisoners, who can’t communicate with each other, are given the option of testifying against their partner. If they testify, and their partner remains silent, the partner gets 3 years and they go free. If they both testify, both get two. If both remain silent, they each get one.

In game theory, betraying your partner, or “defecting” is always the dominant strategy as it always has a slightly higher payoff in a simultaneous game. It’s what’s known as a “Nash Equilibrium,” after Nobel Prize winning mathematician and A Beautiful Mind subject John Nash.

In sequential games, where players know each other’s previous behaviour and have the opportunity to punish each other, defection is the dominant strategy as well.

However, on a Pareto basis, the best outcome for both players is mutual cooperation.

Yet no one’s ever actually run the experiment on real prisoners before, until two University of Hamburg economists tried it out in a recent study comparing the behaviour of inmates and students.

Surprisingly, for the classic version of the game, prisoners were far more cooperative  than expected.

Menusch Khadjavi and Andreas Lange put the famous game to the test for the first time ever, putting a group of prisoners in Lower Saxony’s primary women’s prison, as well as students through both simultaneous and sequential versions of the game.The payoffs obviously weren’t years off sentences, but euros for students, and the equivalent value in coffee or cigarettes for prisoners.

They expected, building off of game theory and behavioural economic research that show humans are more cooperative than the purely rational model that economists traditionally use, that there would be a fair amount of first-mover cooperation, even in the simultaneous simulation where there’s no way to react to the other player’s decisions.

And even in the sequential game, where you get a higher payoff for betraying a cooperative first mover, a fair amount will still reciprocate.

As for the difference between student and prisoner behaviour, you’d expect that a prison population might be more jaded and distrustful, and therefore more likely to defect.

The results went exactly the other way for the simultaneous game, only 37% of students cooperate. Inmates cooperated 56% of the time.

On a pair basis, only 13% of student pairs managed to get the best mutual outcome and cooperate, whereas 30% of prisoners do.

Where do these modern day evangelicals get their whacked ideas about women and especially about abortion?

While America languishes in an economic depression, Republican officeholders are bending all their efforts… to ban abortion. In the last few weeks and months, we’ve seen a blizzard of anti-choice legislation in Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and many other places. These laws stall women seeking abortions with mandatory waiting periods, brutalize them with invasive and unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds, force doctors to read shaming scripts rife with falsehoods, and impose onerous regulatory requirements that are designed to be impossible to comply with so that family-planning clinics will be forced to close. At the federal level, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted for a bill banning all abortion after 20 weeks, without even putting up a pretense that this was constitutional.

One would think the drubbing taken by anti-choice zealots like Todd Akin in the last election would have given Republicans an incentive to step back and consider whether this is a winning strategy. Instead, it seems as if their losses have only inspired them to fight harder. For the right-wing Christian fundamentalists who dominate the Republican Party, banning abortion, or at least piling up pointless regulations to make it as burdensome and difficult to obtain as possible, has become an all-consuming obsession, akin to a religious crusade.

Given the amount of effort and political capital the religious right puts into trying to restrict abortion, you’d guess that opposition to women’s choice must take up a huge portion of the Bible. But the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.

The Bible says nothing whatsoever about abortion. It never mentions the subject, not once, neither in the Old Testament nor the New. This isn’t because abortion was unknown in the ancient world. Much to the contrary, the ancient Greeks and Romans were well-acquainted with the idea. Surviving writings from these cultures recommend the use of herbs like pennyroyal, silphium and hellebore to induce abortion; others advise vigorous physical activity to cause a miscarriage, and some even discuss surgical methods.

Here’s an intriguing investigation of secret US prisons being carried out by Poland. What exactly do we and other countries know about these black ops sites run by the CIA?

The only sign of life at Szymany’s “international airport” are mosquitoes eager to suck blood out of a rare visitor. The gate is locked with a rusted chain and a padlock.

Evidence suggest that some of the last passengers at this site were CIA officers and their prisoners. That was in 2003. Soon after, the airport about 180 km north of Warsaw inside the picturesque Mazury forests went out of service.

Bounded by the Freedom of Information Act, Polish Airspace authorities have revealed that at least 11 CIA aircrafts landed at Szymany, and some of their passengers stayed on in Poland. The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) was not informed about those flights.

From Szymany the prisoners were driven to a nearby intelligence academy in Stare Kiejkuty, where the CIA had a separated facility. In 2006, a few months after Poland was first identified as having hosted a secret CIA prison, Polish ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski visited the CIA villa – only to see that its chambers have been freshly renovated.

Two other European countries with known but unconfirmed black sites are Romania and Lithuania; the rest were in Asia and North Africa.

Human rights groups believe about eight terror suspects were held in Poland, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Two other men currently detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have been granted “injured person” status in the ongoing investigation.

The first is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national alleged to have organised the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. He has claimed that he was often stripped naked, hooded, or shackled during seven months at Stare Kiejkuty, and subjected to mock execution with a gun and threats of sexual assault against his family members.

The second, a stateless Palestinian known as Abu Zubaydah, said he was subjected to extreme physical pain, psychological pressure and waterboarding – mock drowning.

Any Polish leaders who would have agreed to the U.S. programme would have been violating the constitution by giving a foreign power control over part of Polish territory, and allowing crimes to take place there.

Former prime minister Leszek Miller, now chairman of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance has been the prime target of criticism. There are demands he should face a special tribunal charged with trying state figures.

In March 2008, the Polish authorities opened a criminal investigation. “This indicates that Poland is a country with a rule of law,” Senator Jozef Pinior told IPS. “But the protraction is a reason for concern. The investigation has been moved to the third consecutive prosecutor’s office, in what looks like playing for time.”

Pinior, one of the leaders of the Solidarity opposition movement during the 1980s, and more recently a member of the European Parliament, has for long been lobbying for a full investigation into what the CIA was doing in Poland. Twice he was called in as witness in the investigation. He claims to have seen a document on a CIA prison with PM Miller’s signature.

“Poland is no banana republic, our security services do not do such things behind the back of the government.” — Polish Senator Jozef Pinior

“The Polish government, especially Leszek Miller, must have had knowledge that such sites existed on Polish territory without any legal basis,” Pinior said. “They must have known about the torture too. Poland is no banana republic, our security services do not do such things behind the back of the government.”

It is still not clear how much knowledge the Polish leaders had about the black site in Stare Kiejkuty. Some have vehemently denied the prison’s existence, but some admit it between the lines, though denying responsibility.

“Of course, everything took place with my knowledge,” said former president Aleksander Kwasniewski in an interview with leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

So, that’s a few odds and ends to get us started today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: Twisted Tales… Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!

Many kids will be missing out on tonight’s Trick or Treating…lots of towns within the path of Sandy have postponed their Halloween festivities.  I just want to put up a couple of links on the aftermath of Sandy then we will get to the juicy stuff.

The New York Times has this list of ways Sandy impacted each state…sort of painting the destruction by numbers if you will.

Tracking the Storm – Interactive Feature – NYTimes.com  I will give you a quick peak at a few:

NATION
8 Million+ Left without power.
18,000+ Flights canceled.
139 Miles per hour of top wind gust recorded (Mount Washington in New Hampshire).

And here are a some other links on Sandy as reported early this morning (I am writing this at 4 am):

‘Absolute Devastation’ Left by Storm in N.J., Christie Says – SFGate

Sandy’s force leaves millions across East Coast reeling Death, ruination in Eastern US and beyond– The Boston Globe

New York Subway System Faces Weeks to Recover From Storm – Businessweek

46 dead, millions without power, transit after Sandy – Weather | NBC News

Mayor estimates up to 25,000 stranded in Hoboken as flood conditions worsen – The Maddow Blog

Saw this tweet also on the Maddow Blog and thought it was great.

Okay, now let’s move on to some news that I am sure you all missed the past two days.  Do you remember that family that was murdered in the Alps this Summer? There is a wild bit of information being reported about the bank account of one of the victim’s family members. According to The Guardian: Saddam Hussein linked to Alps killings

The former Iraqi dictator deposited a huge sum of money in a Swiss bank account belonging to the father of murdered British engineer Saad al-Hilli, it has been claimed

When I first saw this story in the news, it seemed strange that such a connection is being made. Check it out.

Saddam Hussein deposited £840,000 in a Swiss bank account belonging to the father of the British engineer murdered with his wife and mother-in-law in the Alps, it has been claimed.

Saad al-Hilli, 50, has been linked to the former Iraqi dictator through his father Kadhim, who was once close to the tyrant’s Ba’ath party but fled his homeland for Britain in the 1970s. The money was reportedly deposited into an account in Geneva, an hour’s drive from where the massacre took place on 5 September at a remote spot near Lake Annecy in eastern France.

Hilli, his wife, Iqbal, and his mother-in-law were shot while his seven-year-old daughter, Zainab, was left badly injured and her four-year-old sister, Zeena, deeply traumatised. A French cyclist was also shot dead and the motive for the killings remains a mystery.

A French police source revealed that the money had been traced to Hussein by the German intelligence agency, the BND, according to Le Monde. Agents routinely monitored cash transactions with Baghdad as Germany did more business with the regime than any other country.

An intelligence source in Munich was quoted as saying: “They know the money trail, and they know how to follow it. They have spent decades monitoring money transactions between the west and Iraq. The BND is the first port of call in such circumstances.”

The Guardian states that…

The Le Monde story was published under the headline “The potential links between the al-Hillis and Saddam Hussein.”

It said: “According to a French police source, the German secret service informed the gendarmerie’s anti-terrorist branch that there were links between the al-Hilli family and Saddam Hussein’s fortune. The tensions began after Saad al-Hilli’s father [Kadhim] was struck off the list of beneficiaries of the former Iraqi dictator.”

When Kadhim died he left behind his considerable wealth in a will.

Le Monde identifies the money in the Swiss bank account – and not the inheritance – that may have been at the centre of the conflict. Swiss investigators discovered the secret account earlier this month, but according to Le Mondethey didn’t make the link to Iraq.

Interesting? Hmmmm, I’ve got another news story update with a twist, this one is about that plane crash many months ago that wiped out the entire Polish government. (Well, the president and his administration.)

Explosive traces ‘found on crashed Polish presidential jet’

Traces of explosives have been discovered on the wreck of the Polish presidential jet which crashed in Russia in 2010, killing then president Lech Kaczynski and 95 other people, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

“Tests have confirmed the presence of TNT and nitroglycerine on 30 seats. The substances were also found on the area linking the fuselage with the wing,” Poland’s leading Rzeczpospolita daily said.

The recent tests were conducted by “Polish prosecutors and experts” it said, but testing by Polish and Russian investigator immediately after the 2010 crash had ruled out explosives.

Seem far-fetched? I don’t know…

Rzeczpospolita raised the possibility the reported explosives might be traced to unexploded World War II bombs in Smolensk, an area of western Russia which saw heavy fighting.

“We must wait for prosecutors to draw their conclusions and establish the source of the substance before taking any measures,” government spokesman Pawel Gras told public TVP broadcaster.

[…]

…most of the blame for the April 2010 disaster — in which all 96 people on board died — lay with Poland, but also faulted Russia, where the plane went down in thick fog.

It had ruled out “extremist versions” of events, including sabotage and pressure from third parties on the crew to land despite bad weather.

The Russian investigation concluded that there was “psychological pressure” on the crew to land in dangerous weather conditions, prompting Warsaw to criticise their report as incomplete and riddled with errors.

Poland’s conservative Law and Justice party — led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president’s twin brother — has accused Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s centre-right government of failing to take Russia to task.

Sounds like a new Bond flick to me? Talk about Skyfall…Ooof!

A Law and Justice-run parliamentary commission that probed the crash blamed Russia, claiming it had forged the testimony of Smolensk’s air traffic controllers, who it alleged had misled the pilots.

The doomed presidential delegation had been bound for a memorial ceremony in Katyn, near Smolensk, for thousands of Polish army officers slain by the Soviet secret police in 1940, a massacre denied by the Kremlin until 1990.

See what I mean. It’s got everything, intrigue, assassination, KGB and a cover-up. The whole story could be pitched to the movie folks, and I am sure they would go for it. Hey, if Disney paid  George Lucus $4 Billllliooooon dollars for the rights to Star Wars…I am sure we can get Daniel Craig out there saving the world from the USSR. (Romney would definitely think it is a cool docudrama.)

One more strange story, and I believe this was something that Boston Boomer brought up months ago, about Paul Ryan and his brilliant scheme from the mind of Pinochet…Where Did Paul Ryan Find Inspiration for ‘Reforming’ Social Security? A Brutal Military Dictatorship, Naturally

The basis for Ryan’s big plan was hatched under the radical right-wing Chilean torture regime of 1973 military coup leader Augusto Pinochet.

While the Republican Party and its wealthy plutocrat backers have been accused of waging an elitist virtual war against the American majority, both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have financial and ideological ties to rich Latin American elites who have waged real wars against average citizens in their countries.

The anti-democratic ethos of today’s GOP, displayed in Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s  apparent contempt  for 47% of U.S. citizens, is reflected in the origins of Mitt Romney’s private equity firm Bain Capital, which was  founded with money from Central American financiers linked to government-backed death squads in El Salvador. Paul Ryan’s budgetary ideas have a similarly dark origin, in the paradigmatic case of what author Naomi Klein has dubbed  “The Shock Doctrine” .

In August 2012, Republican political consultant Roger Stone made the  accusation that the billionaire libertarian Koch Brothers had bought Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as a running mate, by offering to kick in $100 million more for “independent expenditures” in the 2012 presidential election.

While the charge may never be substantiated, Paul Ryan is  one of the few  elected officials allowed into the inner sanctum of the Koch brothers and their fellow libertarian big money donor circle.

We know the Koch brothers have always been up to no good.

It is also the case that Paul Ryan’s Social Security privatization ideas  closely track  Koch Brother schemes promoted from the Koch-funded libertarian Cato Institute since 1980, over three decades ago – before Ryan had even hit puberty. Cato’s website currently features the ringing  endorsement of Paul Ryan…

“Ryan is an articulate defender of free enterprise, and he consistently argues not just for the practical advantages of smaller government but also about the moral imperative to cut… if the next administration is Republican, and if it decides it wants to push major reforms, Paul Ryan is uniquely qualified to lead the charge.”

In 2005 Congressman Paul Ryan led a failed Republican legislative push for a Social Security privatization plan that also later popped up in Ryan’s 2010 “Roadmap For America’s Future”. This  centerpiece of Ryan’s budgetary vision traces back to a vicious war on the poor and middle class that was waged over three decades ago by a South American police state.

The conceptual basis of Ryan’s Social Security privatization approach was hatched as the  Piñera plan  that was  implemented under the radical right-wing Chilean torture regime of 1973 military coup leader Augusto Pinochet.

Give that article a read…very interesting indeed.

That is all I have for you this morning, but it should be a pretty good start, ay?


Tuesday Reads: Romney’s Gaffe-tastic European Tour, #NBCfail, the War on Women, and More

Good Morning!!

Mitt Romney is going to wrap up his gaffe-tastic European vacation today, but the gaffes may not be over yet. I read in JJ’s late night post last night that he’s going to make a speech in which he attacks Russia and Putin and criticize Obama for making efforts to cooperate with Russia on some issues like controlling nukes. Whatever happened to Romney’s promise that he wasn’t going to criticize current U.S. policies while overseas?

After all of Romney’s pandering during his visit to Israel, Ehud Barak spoke highly of President Obama in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer yesterday.

Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak said the Obama White House has been the most supportive administration throughout the two countries’ diplomatic relations on matters of Israeli security, in an interview to air Monday on “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”

Barak -also a former prime minister of Israel – said that though historically administrations from both political parties have supported the Jewish state President Obama’s support, security-wise, is unparalleled.

“I think that from my point of view as defense minister they are extremely good, extremely deep and profound. I can see long years, um, administrations of both sides of political aisle deeply supporting the state of Israeli and I believe that reflects a profound feeling among the American people,” said Barak. “But I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.”

I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Romney finds out about that.

As JJ also noted last night, NBC is not getting rave reviews on its delayed and edited coverage of the Olympic games. In just one of their #NBCfail updates the Independent reports that Bob Costas, whom I usually like, “made a series of jingoistic remarks, including a joke about Idi Amin when Uganda’s team appeared.” Of course the loudest complaints have been about NBC’s refusal to show any of the events live.

There was feverish anticipation for the debut of the USA men’s basketball “dream team”, who began their hugely hyped Olympic campaign yesterday afternoon. But you wouldn’t have known it by turning on a television in their home country.

While Kobe Bryant and other big names in US sport were completing a 98 to 71-point victory, viewers of American network NBC were forced to watch edited highlights of a women’s cycling race that had been completed several hours earlier.

It was the latest in a string of mistakes by the broadcaster, whose coverage is sparking ridicule from TV critics and outrage from the US public. For most of the weekend, the phrase “NBC Fail” was trending on Twitter.

Why would I bother to watch when the winners and losers have already been announce earlier in the day? I wouldn’t bother watching a delayed broadcast of a Red Sox game either, but sometimes I stay up till all hours watching them when they’re out on the West Coast.

In another update, The Independent reports that one of their reporters, Guy Adams, was suspended from Twitter after NBC complained of his many negative tweets about their coverage.

The NYT Media Decoder reports that another yuppie journalist has bitten the dust.

A publishing industry that is notoriously ill-equipped to root out fraud. A magazine whose famed fact-checking department is geared toward print, not the Web. And a lucrative lecture circuit that rewards snappy, semi-scientific pronouncements, smoothly delivered to a corporate audience.

All contributed to the rise of Jonah Lehrer, the 31-year-old author, speaker and staff writer for The New Yorker, who then executed one of the most bewildering recent journalistic frauds, one that on Monday cost him his prestigious post at the magazine and his status as one of the most promising, visible and well-paid writers in the business.

An article in Tablet magazine revealed that in his best-selling book, “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” Mr. Lehrer had fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan, one of the most closely studied musicians alive. Only last month, Mr. Lehrer had publicly apologized for taking some of his previous work from The Wall Street Journal, Wired and other publications and recycling it in blog posts for The New Yorker, acts of recycling that his editor called “a mistake.”

By Monday, when the Tablet article was published online, both The New Yorker and Mr. Lehrer’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, made it clear that they had lost patience with him.

Fabricating quotes from Bob Dylan? How stupid can you get? This guy must have a fear of success.

The War on Women continues apace. In Arizona a judge (a Clinton appointee yet) has ruled that the state’s restrictive abortion law can take effect.

U.S. District Judge James Teilborg said the statute may prompt a few pregnant women who are considering abortion to make the decision earlier. But he said the law is constitutional because it doesn’t prohibit any women from making the decision to end their pregnancies.
The judge also wrote that the state provided “substantial and well-documented” evidence that an unborn child has the capacity to feel pain during an abortion by at least 20 weeks.
Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed the measure into law in April, making Arizona one of 10 states to enact types of 20-week bans.

Arizona’s ban, set to take effect Thursday, prohibits abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy except in medical emergencies. That is a change from the state’s current ban at viability, which is the ability to survive outside the womb and which generally is considered to be about 24 weeks. A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks.
The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and another group filed a notice that they would be appealing Teilborg’s decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The law will result in more babies being born even though they have no chance of survival.

Under a new Arizona abortion law that takes effect Thursday, more babies with fatal fetal defects are expected to be carried to term, even though they will die within minutes, hours or days. But more will also be done to help their families get through the trauma of losing a child.

House Bill 2036 forbids doctors from aborting most fetuses with a gestational age of 20 weeks or older, even in situations where the doctor discovers the fetus has a fatal defect. The law also defines gestational age as beginning on the first day of the woman’s last period, meaning abortions are actually banned starting at 18 weeks of pregnancy — typically about the same time a doctor would perform ultrasounds where most abnormalities are detected.

Eight other states also ban abortions after 20 weeks, but Arizona is the only one with a law that actually pushes the ban back to 18 weeks into the pregnancy.

At Salon Irin Carmon spells out the “insanity” that “prevails in Arizona.

The Clinton-appointed district court judge in Arizona just did something, well, unprecedented. He upheld Arizona’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks, claiming it didn’t actually “ban” abortions before viability, it just “regulates” them down to the most grueling emergencies.

Worse, Teilborg even regurgitated the suspect science of “fetal pain,” a first in the federal courts, though his decision was based on the contorted “regulation” versus “ban” finding. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the state can only ban abortions after viability, regardless of the rationale, but Teilborg found that Arizona’s H.B. 2036 “does not impose a substantial obstacle to previability abortions,” because a woman can still get an abortion after 20 weeks if she’s about to die or suffer major physical impairment.

“It’s such a game of semantics, to the point of Alice in Wonderland,” ACLU staff attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas told Salon. “When the Supreme Court said you cannot ban any abortions prior to viability, regardless of whether there are any exceptions to that ban, that’s exactly what they meant.”

And Virginia’s abortion clinics are still struggling to meet the ridiculous requirements they have been given by the state’s General Assembly.

Rosemary Codding has tried for months to scrape together enough to pay for a costly renovation to her Falls Church clinic, where women get checkups, Pap smears and abortions.

Codding is still short of the up to $1 million it would take to update the 50-year-old building — it needs wider hallways, new ventilation systems and additional patient rooms — after Virginia enacted some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on abortion clinics.

The General Assembly voted last year to require the guidelines, which were quickly adopted by the state’s Board of Health. In a surprise move, the panel later exempted the state’s existing clinics, including Codding’s on busy Lee Highway.

But Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) refused to sign off on the board’s decision, arguing that it lacked the legal authority to exclude the operating clinics.

Bill Clinton will play a “key role” at the Democratic Convention.

Former President Bill Clinton will have a marquee role in this summer’s Democratic National Convention, where he will make a forceful case for President Barack Obama’s re-election and his economic vision for the country, several Obama campaign and Democratic party officials said Sunday.

The move gives the Obama campaign an opportunity to take advantage of the former president’s immense popularity and remind voters that a Democrat was in the White House the last time the American economy was thriving.

Obama personally asked Clinton to speak at the convention and place Obama’s name in nomination, and Clinton enthusiastically accepted, officials said. Clinton speaks regularly to Obama and to campaign officials about strategy.

In contrast, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will not attend the Republican Convention. We still don’t know if Mitt the Twit will invite Sarah Palin.

Elizabeth Warren will also speak in prime time, but will not deliver the keynote speech.

Elizabeth Warren will not deliver the keynote speech at this year’s Democratic National Convention, but instead will speak immediately before former President Bill Clinton on what party officials hope will be an energetic penultimate night.

Warren and Clinton will speak in primetime on Wednesday, Sept. 5, and form a one-two punch aimed at crystallizing the choice between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in the general election, the Obama campaign said.

The Massachusetts Senate candidate will contrast the president’s economic plan with Romney’s, and outline the impact it will have on middle-class families across the country.

“At the president’s side, Elizabeth Warren helped level the playing field for all Americans and put in place safeguards to ensure that everyone, from Wall Street to Main Street, play by the same set of rules,” said Stephanie Cutter, a deputy Obama campaign manager.

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


Evening Reads: Playing the game, and playing it right…

Vintage poster

Good Evening

Oh boy, are you all sick of the Olympics yet?

Is that a loaded question?

I don’t know, one thing I get annoyed with is all the drama.  I won’t tell you all what I think of the Jordyn Weiber catastrophe, because I probably will disagree with some of you. (Here is a hint, she has no reason to cry…she is the team Captain, she should be supportive of her team mates. Besides…she is 17, she is young, there are competitors aged 24 and 27 out there...well, you get my drift.)

Then you have the China doping thing, gods forbid a woman can swim faster than a man! I got one thing to say, at least until the drug testing results come in…

Of course, this song is about Billie Jean King, and we know what she did.

There is also Twitter drama associated with NBC and a reporter from The Independent. Time delays? Don’t like ’em one bit. And like Boston Boomer mentioned earlier, the coverage of women’s sports is bothersome.  (I agree about all these criticisms of NBC completely btw.)

Perhaps I should just go on with the post, aye?

We’ve mentioned the GOP dude down in Florida,  Jim Greer, who is talking about the real game behind the Voter ID laws.   Here is a round-up and update on this story from The Grio:

Jim Greer, ex- Florida GOP chair, says party officials discussed black voter suppression | theGrio

Jim Greer, the former chair of the Florida Republican Party, has accused the GOP of engaging in voter suppression, in statements given under sworn testimony in a deposition surrounding a lawsuit he filed over an unpaid severance. Greer claims he became uncomfortable with leading the party when an official began to openly discuss voter suppression tactics that would keep blacks from participating in the electoral process.

While you are catching up on this at The Grio, you can check the latest news revolving around the Zimmerman case: George Zimmerman supporter Frank Taaffe arrested for DUI | theGrio

Frank Taaffe, the Sanford, Florida neighbor who has been one of George Zimmerman’s staunchest supporters as he fights second degree murder charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin, now has his own case to argue.

Taaffe was arrested Friday night in Lake Mary, the town neighboring Sanford, and was released on $500 bond on Saturday. He was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). WFTV reporter Daralene Jones tweeted about the arrest, and Taaffe told her he mixed alcohol with prescription anxiety medication, which intensified the effects of alcohol.

[…]

He faced misdemeanor battery and domestic violence charges in 1997 and 1999, respectively,  in incidents involving his ex-wife, Susan. Both cases were ultimately dismissed. Taaffe told theGrio the incidents stemmed from his divorce.

More recently, Taaffe faced two separate requests for protective orders, in cases of “repeat violence.” Both were filed in Orange County court in 2008. One of the cases involved Joseph Andrew Amon, who Taaffe said was an acquaintance with whom he got into a “verbal altercation” while “out.” He would not specify where the incident took place, or the details of the encounter. In the second, Taaffe said he got into a verbal altercation “on the phone” with a co-worker, Wesley A. Marsh, who he said then filed a request for a protective order.

I did not know that he has a past similar to Zimmerman…by that I mean his protective orders and past “repeat violence” charges.  Just makes you think a bit, huh?

On the Romney front:  Just Wow | TPM Editors Blog

In his speech overlooking the Old City, Romney did in fact refer to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but in a pretty careful and calibrated fashion that didn’t really go much further than previous presidential candidates before him.

But in his comments at a fundraiser Sunday evening with well-heeled donors (chief among them current GOP mega-moneyman Shelden Adelson) Romney promptly disabused anyone of the notion that he either fully appreciates, or is terribly concerned with the punishing realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a salute to Israel’s economic growth, Romney compared the GDP of his hosts to that of the Palestinian territories as though they were just any old neighboring countries. “As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,” he said.

Romney (who actually grossly overestimated Palestinian GDP) made no mention of the Israeli occupation, and its restrictions over Palestinian life as being perhaps somewhat determinative in the economic disparity he lauded as a sign of Israel’s success.

Benjy Sarlin has our report.

And while in Poland: Mitt Romney to rekindle cold war spirit with speech in Poland attacking Russia | World news | guardian.co.uk

Mitt Romney and Lech Walesa

Mitt Romney, right, with Lech Walesa, the former Polish president and founder of Solidarity. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

Mitt Romney is to round off his campaign to boost his presidential foreign policy credentials by returning to a cold war symbol of anti-Soviet triumph and western-backed liberty in Poland.

Following a gaffe-strewn visit to Britain, where he queried the Olympic host’s fitness to stage the Games, and after stirring controversy in Israel by calling Jerusalem the Israeli capital and seeming to back unilateral Israeli strikes against Iran, the Republican White House contender arrived on Monday in Poland, where he is to deliver a setpiece speech on democracy and freedom.

The speech on the “values of liberty” at Warsaw University on Tuesday is expected to seek to rekindle the flames of US cold war righteousness by featuring a strong attack on Russia and President Vladimir Putin’s rollback of democratic gains, while also criticising the US president, Barack Obama, for allegedly sacrificing the interests and security of central European democracy in favour of realpolitik with the Kremlin.

Romney has previously described Russia as America’s “No 1 geopolitical foe”, in contrast with Obama, who has sought to press “the reset button” in relations with Moscow.

Well, he is keeping his press pool held back…like they are animal members of a petting zoo. Greta Van Susteren: No Press Access To Romney In Poland, ‘Like A Modified Petting Zoo’ | Mediaite

Greta Van Susteren is part of the press pool following Mitt Romney on his overseas trip. But earlier today, she wrote on her blog that press access to the candidate since they arrived in Poland, comparing the situation to a “modified petting zoo” because, as Susteren explained, the press pool is “trapped in a bus while Polish citizens take pictures of us.”

I know it is not Friday night but:

Cagle Post » Romney Foreign Policy

Romney Foreign Policy © Wolverton,Cagle Cartoons,Romney, Mitt, Mitt Romney, London, England, Olympics, Israel, Gaffs

Here is an update on a story I mentioned yesterday:

Southern Baptist Groups Ask Mississippi Church to Reconsider Racist Practices – Doris Nhan – NationalJournal.com

Southern Baptist groups are asking churchgoers of First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs, Miss., to reject racism, saying that the church’s decision not to marry Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson because of their race is wrong.

While Baptists share common beliefs, individual churches do not have necessarily have consistent practices amongst each other. The leaders of the Mississippi Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention have asked the First Baptist Church to reconsider their practices, the Associated Press reports.

And someone needs to tell this scientist, he’s got to play the game the right way…the Koch way:  Koch-funded climate scientist: I was wrong, humans are to blame | The Raw Story

The founder and director of a climate change study project funded heavily by the Koch brothers, who last year reversed course and said he believed global warming was real, has gone one step further, writing in a weekend op-ed in the New York Times that he is now convinced the phenomenon is caused by humans.

In a piece titled, “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic,” Richard A. Muller, a University of California, Berkley physicist who founded the Berkley Earth Surface Temperature study (BEST) wrote that his, “total turnaround, in such a short time,” was driven by a new report from the group that concluded for the first time that global warming is a man-made problem. That revelation brings Muller essentially full circle from his stance a few years ago, when he criticized other global warming studies as flawed and questioned whether the Earth was even warming abnormally, dangerously fast at all.

“Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted,” Muller wrote. “I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes.”

Guess they will need to change those little graphs at the Koch exhibit at the Smithsonian.

The BEST study, he wrote, found that the Earth had warmed by about two and a half degrees over the past 250 years, with the bulk of that spike occurring in the past 50 years. Moreover, he found that, “essentially all of this increase” was likely due to greenhouse gas emissions, a point climate change believers have accepted as fact for years.

To arrive at that conclusion, the group mapped the past two and a half centuries of global temperatures against various events, like solar flares and volcanic eruptions, and found that the temperature swings most closely corresponded to levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide whose historical levels could be measured in arctic ice. Further, they also examined possible methodological problems skeptics cite about past studies, such as questions about the scope and selectivity of data, ultimately determining that those questions did not impact their finding.

“These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does,” Muller wrote.

And lastly, and finally…if anyone knows how to play the game, it is the one…the only…Samuel L. Jackson.

Samuel L. Jackson’s Olympic tweets are golden | theGrio

I love this guy!

Are you following the legendary Samuel L. Jackson on Twitter?  If so you’ve been treated to some one-of-a-kind tweets from one of the most distinctive movie stars on the planet. Jackson’s observations on the Olympic Games in London have become a viral sensation. Entertainment Weekly reports:

Hypothesis: Samuel L. Jackson is amazing.

Evidence: In addition to his movies, and other lists EW has compiled, we’re impressed by his recent tweeting of the Olympics, where the actor has been giving his off-the-cuff reactions to the events along with — of course — some signature color commentary.

Some examples: “OK! Getting that MOLYMPICPHUKKEN Fevah! GO TEAM USA!!!!!” and “Now, for that Field Hockey Gold….how we feelin’? Speak up MUFEXPERTFUKKUHZ!”

Click here to read more.

And on that note I am PHUKKEN outta here!

This is a MUTHAFUKKENOPINZ thread…


Late Night Open Thread: A collection of missing links….

Evening everyone, I just wanted to post a quick Late Night thread, and thought it would be neat to focus on some links that I have saved, intending to use them in my Sunday Reads post.

There was a story a little while back about looking into the mind of a Neanderthal.

What would have made them laugh? Or cry? Did they love home more than we do? Meet the real Neanderthals…

A new study released by Kristin O’Brien, a biologist at University of Alaska Fairbanks, has found the family of fishes, called icefishes that live only in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica have a strange biological trait in common.

Blood on the left is from a red-blooded Antarctic fish. Blood on the right is from a white-blooded Antarctic icefish. Image Credit: Kristin O’Brien

An icefish off the coast of Antarctica. Its body and blood is translucent. This image has been identified as one of the best pictures on Wikipedia. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

They are unique because they are the only vertebrates in the world that lack the oxygen-binding protein hemoglobin, which is the protein that transports oxygen throughout the body and gives blood its red color. In other words, the blood of an icefish isn’t red. Instead, its blood runs a cloudy white. “I think these animals are among the most fascinating creatures on Earth,” Dr. O’Brien said.

In Treblinka, a Nazi death camp in Poland, a large number of hidden graves have been revealed using new technology.

When the Nazis left Treblinka in 1943 they thought they had destroyed it. They had knocked down the buildings and levelled the earth. They had built a farmhouse and installed a Ukrainian “farmer”. They had planted trees, and – contemporary reports suggest – lupins.

But if they thought they had removed all evidence of their crime, they hadn’t. For a forensic archaeologist, there is a vast amount to study.

The destruction of buildings rarely results in the complete removal of all traces of them. And even on the surface there are still artefacts and other subtle clues that point to the real purpose of the site.

An study by archaeologist Caroline Sturdy Colls in 2010 has revealed some of those graves and hidden clues that lie quietly underneath the earth.

The existence of mass graves was known about from witness testimony, but the failure to provide persuasive physical evidence led some to question whether it could really be true that hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed here.

Although they lasted only a few days, those post-war investigations remained the most complete studies of the camp until I began my work at Treblinka in 2010.

This revealed the existence of a number of pits across the site.

Th

Map of Treblinka shown by investigations of Caroline Sturdy CollsAbout 800,000 Jews – almost one in six victims of the Holocaust – were slaughtered at Treblinka between spring 1942 and August 1943

Here is the above map overlayed on an aerial photograph from late 1943.


Photo of Treblinka taken 30 November, 1943 (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park)Victims arrived at a fake railway station, and were made to undress and walk naked to the gas chambers along the “Road to Heaven”

In Africa, there are real pink elephants on parade…what is believed to be an albino African elephant was photographed in a herd of elephants in Botswanna. These animals are extremely rare in Africa, and many do not live long because of the harsh sun and extreme conditions the delicate albino skin is exposed to in most of Africa.

Pink baby elephant in Botswana (Mike Holding)

The little pink calf was spotted in amongst an 80-strong elephant herd

…there might be a ray of hope for the pink calf as it already seemed to be learning to adapt to its condition.

Dr Chase explained: “Because this elephant calf was sighted in the Okavango Delta, he may have a greater chance of survival. He can seek refuge under the large trees and cake himself in a thick mud, which will protect him from the Sun.

“Already the two-to-three-month-old calf seems to be walking in the shade of its mother.

“This behaviour suggests it is aware of its susceptibility to the harsh African sun, and adapted a unique behaviour to improve its chances of survival.”

He added: “I have learned that elephants are highly adaptable, intelligent and masters of survival.”

This next link was one I picked and saved specifically for Dakinikat…I thought she would appreciate the use of Hollywood technology to unlock the secret’s of pianist’s sounds.

University of Southampton academics are pioneering a new way of using motion capture technology to examine the way pianists play the piano.

By using a unique kinematic measurement technique, known as HAWK (Hand And Wrist Kinematics), researchers will be able to look at individual pianists’ playing technique — giving an insight into the posture of their hands on the keys and the movements they use — hopefully showing how this translates into the unique sound they create.
The research will also provide new information on musicians’ hand health, to combat wrist injury (for example, repetitive strain injury — a common problem for pianists).

Have any of you seen the movie Zoolander?

This next link proves that the collection called Derelicte designed by Mugatu is really not that far fetched.

The bold and the beautiful: most daring fashion design ever…

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Who is Patrick Mohr designing this for - circus freaks?!

Who is Patrick Mohr designing this for – circus freaks?!

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
... while Nida Mahmood goes for a more, er, boxy look.

… while Nida Mahmood goes for a more, er, boxy look.

<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Animal balloons or haute couture? With Japanese designers Ayumi Mitsukane and Rie Hosokai's creations, you don't have to decide!

Animal balloons or haute couture? With Japanese designers Ayumi Mitsukane and Rie Hosokai’s creations, you don’t have to decide!

That is just a sample of the 111 photos at that link.

And lastly,  something from the literary field…Adonis: a life in writing ‘There is a tendency for poets and painters in the Arab world to be politically engaged’

Adonis, the greatest living poet of the Arab world, ushers me down a labyrinthine corridor in a stately building in Paris, near the Champs Elysées. The plush offices belong to a benefactor, a Syrian-born businessman funding the poet’s latest venture – a cultural journal in Arabic, which he edits. Fetching a bulky manuscript of the imminent third issue of the Other, Adonis hefts it excitedly on to a coffee table, listing the contributors “from west and east”, many of them of his grandchildren’s generation. He turned 82 this month. His eyes spark: “We want new talents with new ideas.”

That is just the first paragraph…enjoy.

This is an open thread…