Monday Reads

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Good Morning!!

Today is another slow news day, and that could be bad news for some folks in Norfolk, Nebraska. Dakinikat alerted us to the story yesterday, and now it’s in the process of going viral. So far the headlines on the story seem highly understated. From the Lincoln Journal-Star: Obama float at Norfolk parade sparks controversy.

It was the parade float that elicited the loudest cheers Friday at Norfolk’s Fourth of July parade. The crowd lining the streets clapped and laughed as the flatbed truck went by.

But one loud voice rose above the rest: “This is not OK,” Glory Kathurima said. “That’s not OK.”

She kept repeating herself as the float passed, she says. She started to raise her phone to take a picture of the blue truck with the outhouse on its flatbed, along with a dark figurine in overalls propped up by a metal walker.

And nailed to the sides of the wooden privy, two signs in all-black capital letters: “OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY.”

Kathurima’s daughter Malaika saw the disrespectful depiction of the President of the United States, and asked her mom, “Mommy, what does that mean? What’s so funny?”

Kathurima moved to Nebraska from Kenya when she was Malaika’s age and became a naturalized citizen a few years ago. She’s raised her daughter in Norfolk and has found ways to explain the meaning of skin color. She’s turned on the TV and pointed to President Obama, showing Malaika that there was someone that looked like her — half Kenyan, half American.

“I’m angry and I’m scared,” Kathurima said. “This float was not just political; this was absolutely a racial statement.”

If a 9-year-old can see the problem, you’d think the parade organizers in Norfolk would have at least foreseen what the reaction to the float would be from normal people across the country. But apparently they didn’t.

Obama float1

Parade committee member Rick Konopasek said the float wasn’t meant to be any more offensive than a political cartoon would be….

“We don’t feel its right to tell someone what they can and can’t express,” he said. “This was political satire. If we start saying no to certain floats, we might as well not have a parade at all.”

Konopasek and parade announcer Wally Sonnenschein said the outhouse float was the most popular one in the parade, and the three judges awarded it an honorable mention.

“It’s obvious the majority of the community liked it,” Konopasek said. “So should we deny the 95 percent of those that liked it their rights, just for the 5 percent of people who are upset?”

Konopasek and Sonnenschein actually claimed that the float demonstrated the freedom of speech and independence that the country celebrates on the Fourth of July, and that “the man who built the float has been a longstanding member of the community, and people shouldn’t be quick to judge him for expressing his opinions.” How odd then that the “man who built the float” didn’t put his name on his handiwork and he is still anonymous, according to Omaha.com.

A Fourth of July parade float that depicted a figure standing outside an outhouse labeled the “Obama Presidential Library” has created a stir on social media and is also receiving criticism in Norfolk, Nebraska.

The float, in Norfolk’s annual Independence Day parade, was on a flatbed trailer being pulled by a blue pickup truck. The figure was dressed in overalls and standing next to a walker outside of the outhouse. The hands and head of the figure were greenish and appeared to be zombielike; the hands were pressed against the sides of the figure’s head. Miniature American flags were atop the float and on the truck.

 Neither the float nor the pickup identified a sponsor; a sign in the windshield said it was entry No. 29.

Why isn’t “the man who built the float” expressing pride in his creation?

Actually the design of the float wasn’t original. I’ve seen this depiction of Obama before. From Huffington Post:

The presidential library outhouse comparison has become somewhat of a conservative meme in recent years. A similar structure was on display at Montana’s state Republican convention in 2012. And last fall, an outhouse with a “presidential library” sign drew criticism in a small New Mexico town.

It will be interesting to see how this story plays out in the next few days. Certainly if this is not racism per se (I think it is), it demonstrates a shocking lack of respect for the office of the Presidency. Will Norfolk parade officials continue to defend the float? Will “the man who built the float” come forward and defend what he did? Stay tuned.

In other news,

In his latest column, E.J. Dionne calls attention to “an article in draft” by Joseph Fishkin & William E. Forbath called “The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution” (PDF).  The article addresses the issue of economic inequality, and is the basis for a planned book by Fishkin.

Dionne writes that Tea Partiers and other “conservatives” constantly talk about the Constitution to justify their extreme views on multiple issues. Dionne argues that “progressives” should “think constitutionally” too, and “challenge conservative claims about what the Constitution really demands.”

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In the May issue of the Boston University Law Review, Joseph R. Fishkin and William E. Forbath of the University of Texas School of Law show that at key turning points in our history (the Jacksonian era, the Populist and Progressive moments and the New Deal), opponents of rising inequality made strong arguments “that we cannot keep our constitutional democracy — our republican form of government — without constitutional restraints against oligarchy and a political economy that maintains a broad middle class, accessible to everyone.”

Their article is called “The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution,” though Forbath told me that he and Fishkin may give the book they’re writing on the topic the more upbeat title “The Constitution of Opportunity.” Their view is that by empowering the wealthy in our political system, Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United directly contradict the Constitution’s central commitment to shared self-rule.

“Extreme concentrations of economic and political power undermine equal opportunity and equal citizenship,” they write. “In this way, oligarchy is incompatible with, and a threat to, the American constitutional scheme.” …. they make a similar critique of what they call an excessively “court-centered” approach to constitutionalism. “Constitutional politics during the 19th and early 20th centuries” was very different and the subject of democratic deliberation. In earlier eras, they say, the Constitution was seen as not simply permitting but actually requiring “affirmative legislation . . . to ensure a wide distribution of opportunity” and to address “the problem of oligarchy in a modern capitalist society.”

 The authors remind us of Franklin Roosevelt’s warning that “the inevitable consequence” of placing “economic and financial control in the hands of the few” would be “the destruction of the base of our form of government.” And writing during the Gilded Age, a time like ours in many ways, the journalist James F. Hudson argued that “imbedded” in the Constitution is “the principle” mandating “the widest distribution among the people, not only of political power, but of the advantages of wealth, education and social influence.”

The idea of a Constitution of Opportunity is both refreshing and relevant. For too long, progressives have allowed conservatives to monopolize claims of fealty to our unifying national document. In fact, those who would battle rising economic inequalities to create a robust middle class should insist that it’s they who are most loyal to the Constitution’s core purpose. Broadly shared well-being is essential to the framers’ promise that “We the people” will be the stewards of our government.

Fishkin’s proposed book sounds like a worthwhile companion to Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

A somewhat related article from Raw Story by Bill Moyers and Co., July 4th note to tea partiers: Your politics would baffle the Founding Fathers.

Editor’s note: These days, if you see a protester donning a tricorn hat and waving a Gadsden Flag, it’s a safe bet that he or she is a Republican activist who’s furious about “death panels” or the prospect of the government meddling in the Medicare program. But the tea party movement isn’t the first to claim itself to be the true defenders of the Constitution, or to enlist its Framers in a political cause. Throughout American history, activists across the ideological spectrum have insisted that the Framers would roll over in their graves upon encountering the perfidy of their political opponents.

The reality is that the Framers disagreed about almost everything, and produced a Constitution that was filled with expedient compromises. As Jill Lepore, a professor of American history at Harvard University, pointed out in her book, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History, “Beginning even before it was over, the Revolution has been put to wildly varying political purposes.” Between 1761, when the first signs of discontent with England became apparent in the Colonies, and 1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified, Lepore wrote that Americans debated an “ocean of ideas” from which “you can fish anything out.”

One of the few areas where the Framers approached a consensus was a belief that their Constitution shouldn’t be fetishized. According to Lepore, it was none other than Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human.” 

Read an excerpt on Constitutional originalism from Jill Lepore’s book at the Raw Story link.

Pope_Francis_2013

From NBC News: Pope Francis Meets Abuse Victims, Begs Forgiveness for Church.

The pontiff invited six victims of abuse from Ireland, Germany and Britain to attend an early-morning private Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the residence next to St. Peter’s Basilica where he lives.

 Francis called the abuse a “grave sin” decrying how it was hidden for “so much time” and “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.”

“I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons,” the pope said in his homily. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse.” ….

Francis strongly praised the victims’ courage in speaking up and shedding “light on a terrible darkness,” telling the mass he is deeply aware of their deep and unrelenting pain.

“Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God,” he said, adding that the victims’ willingness to come to the Vatican “speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness.”

I guess it’s a start, but I agree with victims advocates who say it’s too little, too late. What concrete actions is the Church going to take to identify abusers and potential abusers before they act out? Child sexual abuse is a systemic problem that has continued for centuries. It’s difficult to see how it can be overcome with apologies and meetings with a few survivors.

I’ll end with a fascinating story from New Scientist, via Raw Story: Oldest case of Down’s syndrome from medieval France.

The oldest confirmed case of Down’s syndrome has been found: the skeleton of a child who died 1500 years ago in early medieval France. According to the archaeologists, the way the child was buried hints that Down’s syndrome was not necessarily stigmatised in the Middle Ages….

The new example comes from a 5th- and 6th-century necropolis near a church in Chalon-sur-Saône in eastern France. Excavations there have uncovered the remains of 94 people, including the skeleton of a young child with a short and broad skull, a flattened skull base and thin cranial bones. These features are common in people with Down’s syndrome, says Maïté Rivollat at the University of Bordeaux in France, who has studied the skeleton with her colleagues….

Oldest case of Down’s syndrome from medieval France – life – 04 July 2014 – New Scientist#.U7qdknlOXEd <!—->

Rivollat’s team has studied the way the child with Down’s syndrome was buried, which hasn’t been possible with other ancient cases of the condition. The child was placed on its back in the tomb, in an east-west orientation with the head at the westward end – in common with all of the dead at the necropolis.

According to Rivollat, this suggests the child was treated no differently in death from other members of the community. That in turn hints that they were not stigmatised while alive.

Another researcher of Down’s Syndrome in ancient history, John Starbuck of Indiana University, says drawing cultural conclusions from the method of burial is very difficult. Read more at the link.

What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comment thread.


Sunday Reads: March Lions and This is your brain on Barbie Dolls

28685d3f59c2ed69b7d5035d696075a6Good Morning

Well Banjoville is getting hit with another bad day weather wise…don’t get me wrong, I’ve become a mole…all content inside the house. No need to venture out, hermitage that would be considered a lonely spot, is heaven for me.

Most of the links today are from earlier in the month, I saved them and just haven’t found a use for them until now. The images are from pinterest, all pulp covers, and all of them have a little something in common. First up though, a run of news stories getting attention.

There was a mudslide in Washington state last night, via the LA Times: Sounds of life heard from Washington state mudslide debris

Rescuers searching a Washington state community devastated by a deadly mudslide said Saturday night that they had heard signs of life coming from the debris and would continue searching even as the danger of flooding rose.

“We’ll be here all night long doing what we can to rescue people,” Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary said.

Trenary, speaking at a televised news conference, did not specify what kinds of sounds had been detected. He said the search had been made difficult by the sheer devastation to the area about 40 miles north of Seattle. At least three people were killed and six homes destroyed.

“There’s nothing left in the area,” he said.

Let’s hope there are survivors…that link was about an hour old as of 4:30 am. In fact, the authorities are expecting more flooding.

Debris and mud let loose by the slide have created a dam on the Stillaguamish River, and water continues to collect behind it. Authorities called on people living downriver, from Oso to Arlington, to evacuate Saturday night.

“Although this is still a rescue operation, it’s a preparedness operation,” Pennington said. He urged people living near the river to seek shelter.

Pennington said that water had been rising behind the dam 10 to 12 inches every half hour, making flooding inevitable.

“That water is going to break loose,” he said.

1288d352d1bad11e451965d9a7a6e9d5Violence broke loose in Spain, BBC reports Spain austerity: Huge Madrid protest turns violent

Violence has broken out at the end of an anti-austerity protest attended by tens of thousands of people in the Spanish capital Madrid.

Dozens of youths threw projectiles at police, who responded by charging at them.

Demonstrators were protesting over issues including unemployment, poverty and official corruption.

They want the government not to pay its international debts and do more to improve health and education.

The BBC’s Guy Hedgecoe in Madrid says protesters travelled from all corners of Spain, many of them making the journey on foot, in order to voice their anger

They called their protest the march of dignity, our correspondent says, because they say that the government of Mariano Rajoy is stripping Spaniards of just that.

For many of them, the cutbacks that Mr Rajoy has implemented, in particular to health and education, are causing Spain irreparable damage.

It looks like the protest started peaceful enough, but then got violent later…video and pictures at the link.

aa611192396924bebfa0378a0b0f8c02Bloomberg has a story out about the New York Times, check it out:  New York Times Story on Pakistan Censored by Local Printer

A NewYork Times story saying Pakistan’s government protected Taliban forces was censored by the publisher’s printing partner in that country, resulting in a blank hole on the front page of its international edition.

The article, a 4,800-word excerpt from a forthcoming book by Times reporter Carlotta Gall to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt next month, appeared in the New York Times magazine in the U.S. and was intended as a front-page article of the International New York Times. While the story appears on most copies of the international edition, it doesn’t show up in papers distributed in Pakistan, about 9,000 copies, according to the publisher.

The Times’s Pakistan printer, part of the Express Tribune newspaper in that country, removed the article without its knowledge, according to Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy.

“We would never self-censor and this decision was made without our knowledge or agreement,” she said in an e-mail. “While we understand that our publishing partners are sometimes faced with local pressures, we regret any censorship of our journalism.”

It is unclear if the Times will continue its partnership with Express Tribune.

Mediaite has a picture of the paper here: Story on Bin Laden’s Pakistan Ties Disappears from International New York Times

View image on Twitter

And….in Vatican City: Pope names woman assaulted by priest, others to sex abuse commission – CBS News

Pope Francis named the initial members of a commission to advise him on sex abuse policy Saturday, signaling an openness to reach beyond church officials to plot the commission’s course and priorities: Half of the members are women, and one was assaulted by a priest as a child.

The eight members were announced after Francis came under fire from victims’ groups for a perceived lack of attention to the abuse scandal, which has seriously damaged the Catholic Church’s reputation around the world and cost dioceses and religious orders billions of dollars in legal fees and settlements.

918e57f5a3ef906256f79d1ac49bc148The Vatican in December announced that Francis would create the commission to advise the church on best policies to protect children, train church personnel and keep abusers out of the clergy. But no details had been released until Saturday and it remains unknown if the commission will deal with the critical issue of disciplining bishops who cover up for abusers.

In a statement, the Vatican hinted that it might, saying the commission would look into both “civil and canonical duties and responsibilities” for church personnel. Canon law does provide for sanctions if a bishop is negligent in carrying out his duties, but such punishments have never been imposed on a bishop for failing to report a pedophile priest to police.

It is a step in the right direction…

And hey, did you see this story from last week? ‘I have a bomb in my a**’: Man annoyed by slow security checks prompts airport evacuation

An airport passenger has been detained for five days after he told officers he had a bomb hidden in his rectum – because he was frustrated with the time it was taking to get through security.

He didn’t have a bomb, but the comments prompted a security alert and partial evacuation at Beijing’s international airport. The man was arrested at the scene.

In a hurry to make his flight, the unnamed man had made a number of vocal complaints about the slow progress of security checks, Beijing city government’s news website reported.

He had also shown signs of anxiety while queuing at the checkpoint, it said.

When he was asked to remove his shoes before passing through security screening, he told an officer: “Do I need to drop my pants as well? I have a bomb in my a**.”

a6960365fb048fc4c35c9e167b0e3da0The guard then asked him to repeat what he said, and he obliged, the report said.

After the area was cleared, the man was searched and taken to the local police station, where he has been held since the incident on Monday.

You know…there are some things that you obviously don’t say when you are getting a closer screening at an airport checkpoint. I have a bomb in my ass is one of those things.

I will tell you another obvious no no…you do not remake Hitchcock’s The Birds. No. You. Do. Not.

Michael Bay’s Remake of The Birds Is Going to Suck Ass

In life, there are few things one can predict with accuracy, even after years of training. Just ask a financial analyst who works for 80 hours a week studying the intricacies of stock price movement only to finally manage a fund that consistently underperforms the market. Just ask a couple divorcing after 30 years of marriage. Just ask a NCAA tournament Cinderella team that makes it to the Final Four against all odds. But there is one thing, in this world of uncertainty, that can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy: a Michael Bay-produced remake of an Alfred Hitchcock movie is going to gargle goat balls.

Yes, it’s happening, according to Variety. The director most famous for the Transformers franchise is graduating from updated live-action versions of glorified toy commercials from the early 80’s to ruining treasured Hollywood cinematic achievements and pissing off Tippi Hedren. He won’t be directing; that honor will go to Dutch filmmaker Diederik Van Rooijen. But his production company — which is also behind such cinematic farts as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Amityville Horror, and Friday the 13th remakes — will be calling the shots.

If you think this is a joke, it is not.  Um…So Michael Bay Is Remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’: LAist

…Hedren thinks a remake of The Birds is a horrible idea. She spoke to MTV (via Cinema Blend) about this back in 2007 when there was talk about a remake:

“A couple of years ago, when they were first thinking about it, they called and asked what I thought about a remake of The Birds, and I thought ‘Why would you do that? Why?’ I mean, can’t we find new stories, new things to do?”

She added: “Must you be so insecure that you have to take a film that’s a classic, and I think a success and try to do it over? They tried to make Psycho over and it didn’t work.”

b924a39147d6a5757c765aa37145590eHedren, folks, just keeping it real.

Yeah, just more CG crap…CG birds, big fake explosions, running from big fake explosions and big fake tits everywhere…

Oh well, what about some of the old classic movies that never made it to the big screen? Via TCM’s blog moviemorlocks.com – Unfinished Films: Where Can I Buy My Ticket?

This month  JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (2013) will finally be leaving the festival circuit and getting a wider release on March 21st. Frank Pavich’s new documentary chronicles the long strange and turbulent development of what many consider to be one of greatest unrealized films in cinema history and allows us to imagine what Jodorowsky’s unfinished film might have looked like if it had been completed. Jodorowsky’s unruly vision was based on Frank Herbert’s science fiction opus and featured production design by the Swiss surrealist H. R. Giger and French cartoonist Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, a soundtrack by the psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd and a cast that included Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson, Mick Jagger, David Carradine, Salvador Dali and Amanda Lear. Pre-production on this big-budget film started in 1974 and millions of dollars were spent before the project eventually fell apart. Unfortunately, Jodorowsky’s story isn’t uncommon and there are thousands of forgotten unmade movies that we’ll never get the opportunity to see although they may not have had the same ambition or scope as the long lost DUNE. With this in mind I decided to compile a list of some particularly intriguing film projects that never made it to the big screen. These are the forgotten dreams of frustrated directors and writers but from time to time I find them unspooling in my head and my imagination has transformed them all into minor and, in some cases, major masterpieces.

Enjoy that blog post…

9840dc9ee54e8f00007a757819bfee57Now a bit on something that should never have been made into a play…especially a musical…Theater Review: Rocky — Vulture

Do you remember a while back I mentioned this play in a Sunday post? It was just beginning rehearsals.

The huge Winter Garden — lately home to the inane juggernaut Mamma Mia! — is not a theater in which you’d expect to find a sad and delicate romance. Yet one is playing out there. Amid gorgeous shadows and the monumental grimness of a city in decline, a scrappy small-time boxer, pursuing modest dreams of redemption in the ring and in love, hits apparent dead ends in both. At 29, he’s past his prime as a fighter; meanwhile Adrian, the girl he likes, is withdrawn to the point of hostility. They’re each other’s “flip side,” they slowly learn: The boxer convinced he’s all body, no brain, the abused Adrian just the opposite. That he’s not as dumb as he looks, nor she as plain as her cat’s-eye glasses indicate, is hardly a novel narrative notion, but it makes for a touching theatrical combo. Unfortunately, this two-character, black-and-white kitchen-sink drama, reminiscent of Paddy Chayefsky in his made-for-TV days, is trapped inside (and eventually strangled by) a garishly colorful bloated mess of an unmusical musical called Rocky.

This was inevitable. From its inception, Rocky the musical was a cynical endeavor, driven not by artistic necessity or even plausibility but financial opportunity. (The movie Rocky and its five sequels, all written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, have grossed more than $1.5 billion, adjusted for inflation.) The notion of characters who can barely talk, who are by definition stuck in place, being made to sing and dance — in Philadelphia, yet — was so patently misguided as to invite ridicule. Bringing aboard some of the most highly regarded talents in the field to get around the problem only made it worse. These artists, trying harder and succeeding more than you might expect, have only exaggerated by contrast the contours of their overall failure. This was a job, if ever there was one, for Frank Wildhorn.

I don’t know directors or other broadway stage folk…but I saw that preview video back last year and thought it was shit! I mean like really shitty.

Ahrens, scrambling for hooks that won’t sound musical theaterish and twee, has actually found some, but they come at the cost of a certain outlandishness, like Rocky’s introductory solo “My Nose Ain’t Broken.”

[…]

(The book, hewing close to the movie, including “Yo, Adrian” and the sides of beef, is credited to Thomas Meehan and Stallone himself.) It’s in this sphere — the whole insane hoopla of an overhyped sporting event — that the designers, especially Zinn, go crazy. To judge from the clichés passing for costumes, Creed and his synchronized-sass entourage, dressed largely in Pimp Purple, have arrived in Philadelphia from a Saturday Night Live sketch about Soul Train.

And then there’s the famous boxing ring, which, in a coup de théâtre twenty minutes before the end, slides forward past the orchestra pit over part of the audience. (The 111 people in the affected seats — center section, rows AA through F — have by this point been moved to bleachers onstage, producing something like the in-the-round orientation of an actual fight.) All the whizbang effects $16 million can buy now come out of the closet, as any residual pretense of sincerity is burned off in the blinding light. It is admittedly, astonishing stagecraft, but also astonishing vulgarity. (Nor can you really understand what’s going on.) It’s bad enough that this Las Vegasized championship fight sequence, complete with anachronistic-for-1975 computer graphics, underlines what was already trashy in the earlier material, especially the portrayal of all the women (except for Adrian) as gum-snapping, vowel-honking floozies. But it also undermines whatever was good. It turns out that the love story was bait for the spectacle instead of the other way around.

New things to do? As Hedren asked above…nope.

Alright…just a few more links.

I thought this was a fun thread: Paris Review – Small Wonder, Sadie Stein

short chic

“Bond always mistrusted short men. They grew up from childhood with an inferiority complex. All their lives they would strive to be big—bigger than the others who had teased them as a child. Napoleon had been short, and Hitler. It was the short men that caused all the trouble in the world.” ―Ian Fleming

Every class has one, or maybe two: a child so improbably small that this becomes his or her identity. There he is, on the end of your class picture year after year, forced to play a pawn in the fifth grade human-chess game (wearing a teacher’s old velour shirt as a tunic), any child role in a play, and later the deadweight in a freshman year trust exercise. He humbly takes this as his due. He does not need James Bond proto-Godwin-ing to make him feel the sting of his lowly position.

I have come across many treasures on the giveaway table of my building’s lobby, but my most recent acquisition is perhaps the greatest. Short Chic: The everything-you-need-to-know fashion guide for every woman under 5’4″ could have come from the apartments of literally half my neighbors, but now it is mine. The cover features a petite woman dressed in the height of 1981 style: slouchy heeled boots, what looks like a leather duffel coat, a large woolen scarf, and some kind of bulbous cap that (the helpful height chart next to her informs us) brings her to a towering 5’1″. The two authors, according to their back-flap bios, are, respectively, 5’3″ and 5’2″.36e5d2250442fcb7683ecb9a7032320f

Why, 5’3″ that is enormous! Especially for someone like me! (Who is 4’11” on a good day.) But damn, to think that James Bond did not like short people I mean men.  Go figure.

Oh, and I think my mom had a copy of that book…somehow that cover looks very familiar to me.

I don’t know about shortness causing men to go all Hitler and Napoleon and such…shit, most of the men in my family are short as hell but they aren’t evil murdering bastards. Hey, but if you want murdering batass crazy nut cases then take a look: This is your brain on murder: What the mind of a psychopath looks like – Salon.com

Burly, bearded James Fallon tells people he has the brain of a psychopathic killer. And he has some brain scans he thinks back up his claim.

The PET scans behind his surprising claim—and which have provided entertaining material for his lectures—were taken where he works. He’s Professor Emeritus of Anatomy & Neurobiology and Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). There he studies higher brain functions at the Human Brain Imaging Lab. Fallon describes his interests as “the neural circuitry and genetics of creativity, artistic talent, psychopathology, criminal behavior, and levels of consciousness.”

5511e9ac00394af80c54d79fe018db0bA neuroscientist with a forty-year-long, successful career, Fallon, now sixty-six, arranged to have his own brain scanned. He made the decision after his mother, Jenny, recalled some interesting family history during a family barbeque. She knew her son, the scientist, lectured about his research on violent offenders. His lectures covered what he saw in the brains of murderers and what the images revealed to him about the causes of violent behavior. That led Jenny, as she said on NPR, to challenge her son: “Jim, why don’t you find out about your father’s relatives? I think there were some cuckoos back there.”

She was right. There turned out to be numerous—and murderous— cuckoos back there, including Lizzy Borden and seven other alleged killers. They were all on his father’s side, to his mother’s amusement. Borden, the most infamous, was acquitted—quite controversially—of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in 1882. One of Fallon’s male ancestors, Thomas Cornell, wasn’t so lucky. He didn’t beat the rap for the crime he was accused of committing: the murder of his mother. He hung for it in 1667.

You should find that article interesting for a Sunday morning.

6086d9634965aaa571ced1136d830fa0Now, one to get you pissed. School Officials Take Over Student Paper After Rape Culture Article

After a student newspaper published a feature on rape culture, district officials in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin have set new rules governing the subject matter that appears in the publication.

Through Fon de Lac High School Prinicpal Jon Wiltzius the district will now determine what stories and issues the students can write about. The issue began over an article published in Cardinal Columns, the school’s student-run newspaper. The article by Tanvi Kumar was titled “The Rape Joke: Surviving Rape in a Culture That Won’t Let You,” and featured a discussion on rape culture. You can see the story here (it’s quite powerful and well worth a read). Here’s what the article entailed, according to Raw Story:

The story begins with an account of an anonymous student, “Sarah,” who stayed silent about her rape because she “didn’t know it was rape because there weren’t and drugs, and we weren’t at a party.” Despite having told her attacker “no” numerous times, her friends convinced her that sex had been consensual.

It recounts similar stories from other students — including one about a girl who had been molested by an uncle who is will be released from prison shortly — that demonstrate the way in which rape culture causes victims of rape and sexual abuse to blame themselves for the actions of their attackers.

The school district apparently balked at the idea of this kind of subject matter being in a high school paper and stepped in with the new rules for publication.

Read more about that decision at the link. It made me think of this picture I saw on Facebook the other day.

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That is some fucked up shit!

Which brings me to the last link for today’s post…Study: Barbie May Be Hazardous to Your Daughter’s Career Aspirations – Pacific Standard: The Science of Society

Supportive parents tell their daughters they can grow up to do just about anything. But this message of empowerment may be undercut by one of their girls’ favorite playthings: Barbie dolls.

In a newly published study, four- to seven-year-old girls who briefly played with a Barbie picked a more limited set of potential career options than those who had played with a Mrs. Potato Head doll. Surprisingly, this effect occurred no matter if Barbie was dressed as a model or as a physician.0e779d33fdac11d07f7733e08831ead5

“Playing with either type of Barbie reduced the number of careers that girls saw as possibilities for themselves, compared to the number they perceived as possible for boys,” write psychologists Aurora Sherman of Oregon State University and Eileen Zurbriggen of the University of California-Santa Cruz. Their study is published in the journal Sex Roles.

I bet you know where this is going.

Participants were 37 girls growing up in a mid-sized Oregon city. Fifty-nine percent of them owned at least one Barbie; 57 percent owned two or more of the famously big-busted, slim-wasted dolls.

The experiment began with a five-minute play session, in which each girl was invited to play with one of three dolls: Mrs. Potato Head, who came with a purse and hat, but lacked glamor or sex appeal; “Fashion Barbie,” who wore a “short-sleeved pink dress with black lace overlay and pink high-heeled shoes;” or “Doctor Barbie,” who wore a white lab coat over her “scrubs-style V-neck shirt” and “tight fitting blue jeans.”

Afterwards, each girl was shown 10 pictures of workplaces representing specific occupations. For example, she would be shown a photo of a diner, told “this is a restaurant, where a food server works.” After looking at each, she was asked two questions: “Could you do this job when you grow up?” and “Could a boy do this job when he grows up?”

Aside from the restaurant, which was considered gender-neutral, the girls were asked about five occupations usually associated with women (including teacher and librarian) and five usually associated with men (including pilot, doctor, and police officer).

54aea9a86474ad3913e5bca3b18d3306The good news: “Girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head reported nearly as many occupations as possibilities for themselves as they reported were possibilities for boys,” the researchers report.

However, it was a different story for those who played with either Barbie. They “reported fewer careers as future possibilities for themselves than they reported were possible for boys.” In other words, those who played with a Barbie doll “saw fewer future opportunities for themselves.”

“This was true whether the Barbie was dressed as either a fashion model or as a doctor,” Sherman and Zurbriggen add. “It appears that the doll itself trumps the role suggested by the costuming.”

The researchers noted that:

…“adding a doctor coat and a stethoscope” may not have been sufficient “to override the sexualized clues embedded in the outfit.” A Doctor Barbie in plain medical scrubs may have had a different effect. So, presumably, might the realistically proportioned Barbie-like doll which, coincidentally, has just been unveiled by its inventor.

It is a small study of course but it does make you think…hmmm.

Well, I hope you have enough there to chew on this morning. Give us some thoughts in the comments below and have a wonderful day.


Friday Reads

orangesGood Morning!

Well, House Republicans did in fact vote to cut SNAP by $40 Billion.   They seem to think that it’s easy to find a job in country with a persistent unemployment rate about 7.5%.

Right now, there are roughly 47.7 million Americans on food stamps — a number that swelled during the recession and has only recently started to decline.

The House GOP bill would kick about 3.8 million people off the food-stamp rolls over the course of the upcoming fiscal year that begins in October. That includes 1.7 million unemployed, childless adults aged 18-50. It also includes another 2.1 million families and seniors who have incomes just slightly above the federal food-stamp limits. (In recent years, states have been able to extend food-stamp aid to these households.)

Thereafter, the House GOP bill would reduce the rolls by about 2.8 million people each year compared with current law.

Check the graphic at Wonk Blog for the details on how they intend to get folks out of SNAP eligibility keeping in mind that about 1/2 of the folks on SNAP are children and an additional good portion are elderly on limited incomes that were already impacted by cuts in meals on wheels.pears

I’m not Catholic so the actual things that Popes say has no impact on my personal faith.  I also wasn’t raised Catholic so I have no nostalgia or lingering scars or good memories from the growing up Catholic experience that I hear about from so many friends.   I really don’t have many kind things to say about Popes in general since most of them recently have made life very difficult for women and gays and have been shown to enable some pretty bad stuff in their priesthood.  Will this new Pope usher in a new opinion from me and others?  Will he be able to reach out to folks that feel an attachment to the church but a searing disappointment in some of its recent actions and policies?

Six months into his papacy, Pope Francis sent shock waves through the Roman Catholic church on Thursday with the publication of his remarks that the church had grown “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he had chosen not to talk about those issues despite recriminations from critics.

His surprising comments came in a lengthy interview in which he criticized the church for putting dogma before love, and for prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized. He articulated his vision of an inclusive church, a “home for all” — which is a striking contrast with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, the doctrinal defender who envisioned a smaller, purer church.

Francis told the interviewer, a fellow Jesuit: “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

The pope’s interview did not change church doctrine or policies, but it instantly changed its tone. His words evoked gratitude and hope from many liberal Catholics who had felt left out in the cold during the papacies of Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, which together lasted 35 years. Some lapsed Catholics suggested on social media a return to the church, and leaders of gay rights and gay Catholic groups called on bishops to abandon their fight against gay marriage.

But it left conservative and traditionalist Catholics, and those who have devoted themselves to the struggles against abortion, gay marriage and artificial contraception, on the defensive, though some cast it as nothing new.

That part of the Pope’s interview was the most newsworthy. However, the part about the Pope’s personal faith was perhaps the most interesting to me.  It’s actually been a long time since I’ve heard a church leader actually sound like he’s gotten in touch with the Jesus I remember reading about in the Bible as a kid. This Pope appears to actually like women for a change.  The analysis is by Andrew Sullivan of The Dish.

This is the core message of the Second Vatican Council that John Paul II and Benedict XVI did their utmost to turn back in favor of papal authority. The hierarchy is not the whole church, just a part of it, in community with all the faithful. And he uses the example of the Blessed Virgin to buttress his point:

This is how it is with Mary: If you want to know who she is, you ask theologians; if you want to know how to love her, you have to ask the people. In turn, Mary loved Jesus with the heart of the people, as we read in the Magnificat. We should not even think, therefore, that ‘thinking with the church’ means only thinking with the hierarchy of the church.

And how we live is the only true expression of what we believe. Here is the rebuke to the theocons and their project:

If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.

And where is real faith?

I see the holiness in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity. I often associate sanctity with patience: not only patience as hypomoné [the New Testament Greek word], taking charge of the events and circumstances of life, but also as a constancy in going forward, day by day. This is the sanctity of the militant church also mentioned by St. Ignatius. This was the sanctity of my parents: my dad, my mom, my grandmother Rosa who loved ​​me so much. In my breviary I have the last will of my grandmother Rosa, and I read it often. For me it is like a prayer. She is a saint who has suffered so much, also spiritually, and yet always went forward with courage.

Botanical-Flore-des-Seres-et-Des-Jardins-de-LEurope-Tomato-Solanum-sp. vintage printableWhile many journalists appear to be disappointed by the lack of yet another US intervention in the Middle East, most Americans are relieved.  What does this new diplomatic effort between the US and Russia on Syrian Chemical Weapons mean for similar efforts in the future?

It is important not so much for what it could mean on the ground – which remains to be seen as inspectors begin to flow into Syria and, we hope, chemical-weapons stockpiles begin to be destroyed. Rather, the agreement’s main significance consists in the fact that it was struck at all: US Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Geneva, that most traditional of diplomatic venues, and cut a deal on an issue of intense mutual interest.

In the days, weeks, and months ahead, the arrangements to remove chemical weapons from Syria will, one hopes, begin a new era in which the US and Russia work together on other pressing global issues as well. A cooperative US-Russia relationship is essential if the international system, now almost dysfunctional, is to work properly in the future.

The agreement on Syria could accomplish something else: Americans might recognize that, lo and behold, there are other ways to solve problems than by dropping bombs. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s clumsy foray into the American debate infuriated many Americans (including me), but it was certainly a teachable moment. Many outside the US thought it was high time that someone offered America a taste of its own paternalism – and even better that that someone was Putin, a politician who has, to put it gently, his own set of foibles.

So Americans might want to tone down their anti-Putin rhetoric. As a practical matter, Putin certainly does not seem to be suffering any adverse domestic political consequences from his bashing in the US. More broadly, America’s supply of moralistic – and even churlish – advice to the rest of the world has greatly exceeded international demand for it. And its willingness to engage militarily as an early step, rather than as a last resort, has alienated many around the world. No amount of “Muslim outreach” and other public diplomacy alone will change that.

Support for insurgencies is a case in point. Many countries – Syria qualifies as a poster child in this regard – suffer under miserable, brutal governments. But backing an armed rebellion is a major step, especially when the rebels whom one is backing have, as in Syria, started something that they may not be able to finish.

This is not to say that the US should never support insurgencies against established governments; but doing so is almost always a lonely affair, without any realistic expectation of enlisting many partners in the process. Such policy choices should be made rarely, and with a clear understanding that support for the violent overthrow of a government is not very popular around the world.

We are learning more and more about Neanderthals and how they may have been a lot more sophisticated than previously thought.  It was thought they may not have been smart enough to figure out how to fish. However, recent research shows they had fish in their diets.

It has been thought that the varied diet of modern humans may have contributed to an evolutionary advantage over Neanderthals, who were thought to have survived on eating large, herbivorous mammals. But an international team of scientists has been working together at a cave in the Caucasus Mountains, where they have foundevidence that suggests Neanderthals ate fish. To rule out the possibility that the large salmon in the cave had been eaten by the cave bears and cave lions that were also found there, the bones of the large predators were analyzed. The results show that the cave bears were vegetarian, and that the cave lions ate land-dwelling herbivores. “This study provides indirect support to the idea that Middle Palaeolithic Hominins, probably Neanderthals, were able to consume fish when it was available, and that therefore, the prey choice of Neanderthals and modern humans was not fundamentally different,” explained Hervé Bocherens of the University of Tübingen.

It seems that the more that Homo Sapiens try to make themselves exceptional, the more we find out that we are not.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Pope’s Open to Homosexual Priests…But Hell Bent Against Women Clergy: It’s an open thread

7f9fe9822578e05057b7f2b73b58bf22Good Evening

Two interesting things came out of the mouth of Pope Francis today, which made me take a moment and laugh to myself.

First he makes a statement regarding “gay priest” that was not in line with the usual Church’s stance on the subject: On Gay Priests, Pope Francis Asks, ‘Who Am I to Judge?’

Striking a breathtakingly conciliatory approach to a hot-button issue that has divided Catholics, Pope Francis on Monday said that he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis said, according to media reports.

Reporters on the plane said that the pope had been candid and high-spirited and did not dodge a single question, even thanking the person who asked about reports of a “gay lobby” inside the Vatican, and about Italian press reports that one of the advisers he had appointed to look into the Vatican Bank had been accused of having gay trysts.

Francis said he had investigated the reports and found them groundless. He added that while such a lobby would be an issue, he did not have anything against gays and that their sins should be forgiven, media reports said. He said that while homosexuals should be treated with dignity, using sexual orientation for blackmail or pressure was a different matter. However, nothing in what he said suggested acceptance of anyone, priest or otherwise, engaging in homosexual acts.

Pope Francis: remarks on gay people are being seen as much less judgemental…

…than his predecessor’s position on the issue.

Pope Benedict XVI signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.

But Pope Francis said gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” Pope Francis said in a wide-ranging 80-minute long interview with Vatican journalists.

“It says they should not be marginalised because of this but that they must be integrated into society.”

But he condemned what he described as lobbying by gay people.

“The problem is not having this orientation,” he said. “We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies. This is the worse problem.”

During the same flight Francis also discussed women in the priesthood:  Pope says Catholic ban on women priests ‘definitive’

Pope Francis said the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on women priests is “definitive” although he would like them to have more leadership roles in its administration and pastoral activities.

The pope, speaking to reporters on Sunday night aboard the plane taking him home from a week-long visit to Brazil, said …

“But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says no… That door is closed.”

I found it amusing…homosexuals deserve to be treated with dignity…he feels they should not be marginalized but should be integrated in society…however when it comes to women being integrated within the clergy….that door is closed.

Hey, I’m glad he is coming around and showing some tolerance towards homosexuality, but still a hell of a way to go for the women’s rights issues and…of course, it goes without saying, he still needs to address all the sexual abuse and Vatican cover-ups too!

Here is Joyce Arnold’s take on it: Queer Talk: Pope Francis Won’t Judge Gay Priests, But No Policy Change

Every step toward equality, toward simply being recognized and affirmed as human, is important. This one by Pope Francis comes with no policy changes, but it can still help open eyes and hearts and minds. That’s assuming, of course, people are willing to let that happen.

Joyce also gives a quick review of a few other media responses to the Pope’s statements… give her link a click to check those out as well.

This next link is something I have to share because it has Demons associated with it, and it also deals with someone’s career falling apart due to the fact of literally falling on their ass.  DEMONS DESTROYING DONNY & MARIE – The National Enquirer

IT’s all over for Donny and Marie!

After more than 35 years of showbiz stardom, the legend­ary brother-sister act may be finished for good.

Sources say a shocking medical crisis and bitter feuding are ripping the Osmond duo apart – and The ENQUIRER has all the stunning details.

The two began fighting like cats and dogs after Marie flipped out over the cancellation of her Hall­mark Channel talk show, insiders say. Now Donny faces a grueling six-month recovery from surgery to repair muscle damage. He suf­fered the agonizing injury when he landed hard on his behind during their Las Vegas act, and family in­siders fear he’ll never be able to sing and dance like he did before hurting himself.

“Marie tried to put a funny spin on her brother’s injury, joking, ‘I’ve always known Donny’s a butt, but now he’s proven it,’” a source told The ENQUIRER.

“But Donny’s injury was very serious, and it may spell the end for the Donny and Marie show in Las Vegas.”

Donny, 55, tore his gluteus maximus muscle while making a running leap onto a piano during their Sin City show at the Flamingo.

Heh…heh….heh…I don’t know exactly where the “Demons” come in…but:

Donny is said to be in no rush to get back to work with his famous sibling.

“Since Marie lost her talk show, she’s been taking her frustrations out on everyone around her, especially Don­ny,” said the source.

“He just couldn’t take it anymore and told a friend, ‘With the way Marie’s been acting, I’m certainly in no hurry to get back on stage with her.’

“But Marie’s desperate to hang on to the Flamingo show. She knows that audiences want to see the Donny and Marie magic – not just Marie, or Marie with a different Osmond brother.

“She’s terrified this could be the end of Donny and Marie!”

Oh, horrors!  Quick, light a candle to the Mormon…big sparkling teeth gods and pray that Donnie’s ass gets back in shape before Marie completely loses her mind!

I want to end with this cartoon, Re-TARDIS – Political Cartoon by Dennis Draughon, Freelance – 07/29/2013

Cartoon by Dennis Draughon - Re-TARDIS

Have a great evening.

This is an open thread.


Surprise Surprise. New Pope Made Little Effort To Stop Pedophile Priests in Argentina

130313160112-03-pope-franicis-balcony-0313-story-top

 

The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff reports that Pope Francis was “often quiet on Argentine sex abuse cases” when he was Archbishop.

Miroff focuses the article mostly on a charismatic priest named Julio Cesar Grassi, who formed a foundation ironically called Felices los Niños, “Happy Children,” as well as raising money “schools, orphanages and job training programs for poor and abandoned youths, winning praise from Argentine politicians and his superior, Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio.” But in 2009 Grassi was convicted

Today, Grassi is a convicted sex offender who remains free on a conditional release after being sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2009 for molesting a prepubescent boy in his care.

Yet in the years after Grassi’s conviction, Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — has declined to meet with the victim of the priest’s crimes or the victims of other predations by clergy under his leadership. He did not offer personal apologies or financial restitution, even in cases in which the crimes were denounced by other members of the church and the offending priests were sent to jail.

Julio Cesar Grassi

Julio Cesar Grassi

Grassi was reportedly very close to Archbishop Bergoglio; that is troubling to Argentinian child advocates because Grassi is still a priest and has managed to stay out of prison with the help of the Archdiocese.

…[C]hurch officials led by Bergoglio commissioned a lengthy private report arguing that Grassi was innocent.

The report was submitted as part of the priest’s legal appeal, which is pending, and prosecutors say the document has helped Grassi avoid jail time so far. A court has granted him a provisional release that allows him to continue residing across the street from the classroom and dormitories of Happy Children.

The school/orphanage is now closed and in a state of disrepair.

“He gave with one hand, but he took away with the other,” said neighbor Sabina Vilagra, whose husband worked as a janitor at the foundation and was called to testify in the trial.

“He had his favorites — always boys,” said her daughter, Florencia Vilagra, who also worked at Happy Children at the time.

“He would give them bicycles or toys and would designate one as his special ‘secretary,’ ” she said.

There were three accusers in the trial — given the names “Ezequiel,” “Gabriel” and “Luis” to protect their identities — who ranged from ages 9 to 13 at the time of the abuse, according to prosecutor Juan Pablo Gallego.

Child abuse experts say that Bergoglio “evolved” over the years, and he doesn’t appear to have been involved in any cover-ups; in fact he may have been the one to tell a Grassi accuser to contact the police. But the same experts say that other cases slipped through the cracks, including that of Mario Napoleon Sasso, who after being accused of abusing children in the “early 1990s,” was

sent to a private rehabilitation center for wayward clergy, La Domus Mariae (the House of Mary), north of Buenos Aires. He lived for two years at the center and was then reassigned to work in a soup kitchen for poor children in a town outside the capital. There, he went on to sexually abuse girls as young as 3.

“His bedroom was adjacent to the cafeteria, and it had the only bathroom in the chapel,” said Moreau, the attorney for the victims’ families.

Moreau said that in 2003 he accompanied two nuns and a priest who had denounced Sasso, along with the victims’ families, to a meeting with the Vatican emissary in Buenos Aires. He said the families were told to be “patient” and were offered gifts of rosaries “blessed by the pope.”

Sasso was finally convicted in 2007.

Sadly, I can’t say I’m surprised to learn that the new Pope–like his predecessors–is implicated in the Catholic Church’s endless child abuse scandals.


Monday Morning Reads: Systems that Benefit the Privileged Elite

educationcorporateschoolGood Morning!

I’m going to start the day’s reads off with two really good articles on modern capitalism.  Both actually have titles that ask questions.  I’ll start with the first one written by Richard Wolfe at The Guardian as reprinted by RS.  ” What’s efficiency got do do with capitalism?”   The answer is absolutely nothing.

What’s efficiency got to do with capitalism? The short answer is little or nothing. Economic and social collapses in Detroit, Cleveland and many other US cities did not happen because production was inefficient there. Efficiency problems did not cause the longer-term economic declines troubling the US and western Europe.

Capitalist corporations decided to relocate production: first, away from such cities, and now, away from those regions. It has done so to serve the priorities of their major shareholders and boards of directors. Higher profits, business growth, and market share drive those decisions. As I say, efficiency has little or nothing to do with it.

This is what we call a “positive” economic discussion on policy in that that the data leads one to the conclusion and values don’t play a role in the argument until the end of the article when the author makes a case for democratization of the economy.  This is called making a “normative” case.  For a “normative” economic discussion from the get-go, turn to this article in WAPO by Steven Perlstein.  “Is capitalism moral?”

Note the Gordon Gekko-like logic here: Because pursuit of self-interest is the essential ingredient in a market system, it somehow follows that individuals and firms are free to act as greedily and selfishly as they can within the law, absolved from any moral obligations. And it’s not just in the movies. The same amorality was on display at those Senate hearings in 2010 where Fabrice “Fabulous Fab” Tourre and the team from Goldman Sachs tried to explain to incredulous lawmakers why it was perfectly reasonable to peddle securities to clients that they had deliberately constructed to default.

Free-market advocates have a stronger moral case against government “confiscating” the money earned by one person to give it to another.

The traditional liberal defense of redistribution, of course, is that a lot of what passes for economic success derives not only from hard work or ingenuity but also from good fortune — the good fortune to be born with the right genes and to the right parents, to grow up in the right community, to attend the right schools, to meet and be helped by the right people, or simply to be at the right place at the right time. A market system should reward virtue, they argue, not dumb luck.

The problem is that we don’t really have anything resembling textbook market capitalism because all markets don’t exhibit characteristics that make them amenable to an unrestrained market.  Also, we have a political class that is easy to capture via donations and lobbying who set up laws that allow already dominant industries to become more monopolistic and less ‘free’ through preferential legal treatment and taxation.  The worst of the folks that scream about the virtues of ‘capitalism’ are the ones that really know nothing about Adam Smith or the origins of the system and its simple agriculture and industrial roots.  For a real life example of the failures of unchecked capitalism, check out BB’s post last night outlining what’s going on in Cyprus.  The overall mismanagement of lending and under-evaluation of risk by British, American and German banks has cost the citizen’s of many countries a lot of wealth.  The Cyprus situation is unprecedented and sets an especially dangerous precedent.  You can see how the powerful can co-opt the system in this play that takes savings from depositors. Markets all over the world are responding.  Asian markets were the first to tank.

I spent a lot of time yesterday in an absolute rage over the rape apologia rampant in coverage by two of CNN’s women journalists who seemed more concerned with the lasting impact the verdict of the trial would have on the convicted rapists than the victim and possibly more victims of their out-of-control male libidos.   There was also more discussion of the role of teen alcohol abuse in the incident that the attitudes and privileged treatment of the male athletic stars by the media.  It was totally disgusting!! I posted  some of this down thread in the Sunday Reads but feel strong that it needs to frontpaged and repeated.  The judge got the verdict right  while CNN turned into a rape apologia factory.

CNN’s Candy Crowley began her breaking news report by showing Lipps handing down the sentence and telling CNN reporter Poppy Harlow that she “cannot imagine” how emotional the sentencing must have been.

Harlow explained that it had been “incredibly difficult” to watch “as these two young men — who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students — literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.”

“One of the young men, Ma’lik Richmond, as that sentence came down, he collapsed,” the CNN reporter recalled, adding that the convicted rapist told his attorney that “my life is over, no one is going to want me now.”

At that point, CNN played video of Richmond crying and hugging his lawyer in the courtroom.

“I was sitting about three feet from Ma’lik when he gave that statement,” Harlow said. “It was very difficult to watch.”

Candy then asked CNN legal contributor Paul Callan what the verdict meant for “a 16 year old, sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like 16 year olds.”

“What’s the lasting effect though on two young men being found guilty juvenile court of rape essentially?” Crowley wondered.

“There’s always that moment of just — lives are destroyed,” Callan remarked. “But in terms of what happens now, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law.”

“That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

The purpose of a justice system is to make sure those guilty of heinous crimes pay for their crimes.  I’m still livid about this and so are most of the folks on my twitter stream. You can look down stream on Sunday’s thread for videos and links.   I found  Dan Wetzel’s post particularly compelling as it describes the entitlements given to male athletes in Steubenville and elseville.

The Big Red players were disorganized crime. No secrets. No code words. No shame. They neither grasped the depth of the crime nor the unrelenting pressure of true authority – not their compliant parents or ball coach, but a legal system that didn’t care a whit about Steubenville High football.

Steubenville’s football program has long been a source of pride in the community. (Reuters)For all the rumors and speculation around town of cover-ups and favoritism being played, the authorities did their job. There is zero indication the Steubenville police did anything but aggressively and swiftly investigate the charges.

When understandable conflicts of interest – only 18,000 people live in the city and everyone knows everyone – arose in the local prosecutors office, the case was handed over to the state’s attorney general out of Columbus. A judge was brought in from across the state, near Cincinnati. And it was Judge Lipps, not anyone around Steubenville, who granted immunity to the witnesses.

Meanwhile, attorney general Mike DeWine called on Sunday for a grand jury to continue an investigation into the case.

“This community desperately needs to have this behind them,” DeWine said. “But this community also desperately needs to know justice was done and that no stone was left unturned.”

It’s still hard to say if Mays and Richmond ever grasped the trouble they were in until Sunday.

Mays knew enough to grow concerned. The girl was never sure whether to press charges, but once her parents found out, there would be no doubt. They culled social media for clues and walked into the Steubenville Police Department with a flash drive of evidence.

Just prior to that, Mays became panicked and texted the girl.

“I’m about to get kicked off my football team,” Mays wrote.

“The more you bring up football, the more pissed I get,” the girl wrote back. “Because that’s like all you care about.”

They had no idea about the severity of what they had done which means there’s an awful lot of parents, teachers, and clergy that need to sit down with some girls and boys and define sexual assault.  They also need to make sure that everyone knows that the laws apply to every one.

I know there are many ‘recovering’  Catholics that read this blog so I thought I’d link to this article in Salon by Andrew O’Hehir entitled “Is Pope Francis a Fraud?”  He makes some valid points about looking at each parish or archdiocese as distinct. He focuses on the recent purge by the Jesuits of their liberal coherts and the position of the new Pope in a church in turmoil.

But the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio emerges from a Jesuit order that has been largely purged of its independent-minded or left-leaning intellectuals, and his reputation at home in Latin America is decidedly mixed. While Francis seems to be an appealing personality in some ways — albeit one with a shadowy relationship with the former military dictatorship in Argentina, along with a record on gay rights that borders on hate speech — it’s difficult to imagine that he can or will do anything to arrest the church’s long slide into cultural irrelevance and neo-medieval isolation. His papacy, I suspect, comes near the end of a thousand-year history of the Vatican’s global rise to power, ambiguous flourishing and rapid decline. It also comes after 40 years of internal counterrevolution under the previous two popes, during which a group of hardcore right-wing cardinals have consolidated power in the Curia and stamped out nearly all traces of the 1960s liberal reform agenda of  Pope John XXIII and Vatican II.A handful of intellectuals, both inside and outside the church, quietly believe that means Pope Francis isn’t a legitimate pope at all.

I can’t speak to any of those being a WASP turned WASB, but I thought I’d share it all the same since I read the article knowing the role of Popes and the church in history.

President Obama is set to nominate Tom Perez for Labor Secretary today.

Perez, 51, is the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division. If confirmed by the Senate, he would replace Hilda Solis, who resigned in January.

The White House portrayed Perez as someone in line with Obama’s sense of social justice. An official lauded Perez for settling the nation’s three largest fair lending housing cases, boosting enforcement of human trafficking laws and protecting rights of veterans and students. He also led the Justice Department in challenging voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina.“Tom is a dedicated public servant who has spent his career fighting to keep the American dream within reach for hardworking middle class families and those striving to get into the middle class,” the White House official said.

I’d say that’s enough of me writing things.  Now, it’s your turn.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Going Green and Non-Prada Pope Footwear

spdGood Morning and

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Hope everyone enjoys their day, I am also hopeful that today we see justice prevail. A verdict is expected in the Steubenville Rape Trial . We will let you know if and when the verdict does come down…

I will start this post off with some political news, CPAC is over, the conservative party has tried to rebrand their image…they sure haven’t changed one bit. Not that I expected anything different, but the conservative nut cases definitely made some people feel unwelcome to the party.

The CPAC Hits Keep on Comin’: Black Man Tossed Out After Wingnut Screams at Him, ‘Race Doesn’t Matter’

Another graphic example of the right wing’s “minority outreach:” CPAC: Black Man Tossed Out After Breitbart Hack Screams at Him ‘Race Doesn’t Matter’.

In this video from CPAC, a black man seems like he sincerely interested in helping find a way for conservatives to appeal to other African Americans, but then he suddenly gets screamed on by a white guy who insists that “race doesn’t matter.” Which in short, summarizes why the Republicans continually lose the vote of any group that doesn’t have white skin.

And the whole scene was caught on tape:

And if you think this was the only disgusting racist outburst at CPAC you would be mistaken…When The GOP Told Whitey I Aint Gonna Take It No More

Yesterday, a CPAC breakout session on reaching out to black voters broke down in shouting and acrimony as a handful of ‘disenfranchised whites’ attacked the premise of the session (along with black complaints about slaveholders), got into a verbal fight with a black female attendee and with all that managed to unite the crowd against the black woman as the one who somehow spoiled all the fun.

TPM’s Benjy Sarlin was there right as it was all happening and wrote this eye-popping account in more or less real time.

[…]

the bigger thing coming out of this raucous event isn’t what the one or two people said — though that was probably enough to be the takeaway for many for the entire conference — as the fact that the whole imbroglio ended with denunciations of the black woman who was the one person to go into freak out mode — pretty understandably — on hearing the merits of chattel slavery being argued in the 21st century at a panel on racial tolerance and outreach.

From the Benjy Sarlin link…Tea Party Event On Racial Tolerance Turns To Chaos As ‘Disenfranchised’ Arrive

A CPAC session sponsored by Tea Party Patriots and billed as a primer on teaching activists how to court black voters devolved into a shouting match as some attendees demanded justice for white voters and others shouted down a black woman who reacted in horror.

The session, entitled “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?” was led by K. Carl Smith, a black conservative who mostly urged attendees to deflect racism charges by calling themselves “Frederick Douglass Republicans.”

Disruptions began when he started accusing Democrats of still being the party of the Confederacy — a common talking point on the right.

“I don’t care how much the KKK improved,” he said. “I’m not going to join the KKK. The Democratic Party founded the KKK.”

Lines like that drew shouts of praise from some attendees and murmurs of disapproval from one non-conservative black attendee, Kim Brown, a radio host and producer with Voice of Russia, a broadcasting service of the Russian government.

But then questions and answers began. And things went off the rails.

Heh…heh, sorry for the laugh, but what the hell would you expect with a discussion entitled “Trump The Race Card: Are You Sick And Tired Of Being Called A Racist When You Know You’re Not One?”

Scott Terry of North Carolina, accompanied by a Confederate-flag-clad attendee, Matthew Heimbach, rose to say he took offense to the event’s take on slavery. (Heimbach founded the White Students Union at Towson University and is described as a “white nationalist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

“It seems to be that you’re reaching out to voters at the expense of young white Southern males,” Terry said, adding he “came to love my people and culture” who were “being systematically disenfranchised.”

Smith responded that Douglass forgave his slavemaster.

“For giving him shelter? And food?” Terry said.

At this point the event devolved into a mess of shouting. Organizers calmed things down by asking everyone to “take the debate outside after the presentation.”

I have to quote a bit more of this TPM post because it is just too fantastic…

Brown, who took offense at the suggestion modern Democrats were descendants of the KKK, tried to ask a question later once things finally calmed down. She was booed and screamed at by audience members.

“Let someone else speak!” one attendee in Revolutionary War garb shouted.

“You’re not welcome!” a white-haired older woman yelled.

Eventually she asked a question. It was about whether Republicans should call out racist ads.

Attendees interviewed by TPM afterwards expressed outrage at the way the event turned out. Not at Terry and Heimbach — they were mad at Brown.

Chad Chapman, 21, one of the few black attendees, said overall he enjoyed the event — except “there were lots of interruptions, mainly because of the woman.”

I asked whether he was concerned about the question from Terry and Heimbach.

“No they were just telling the truth,” he said. You mean you agree blacks are systematically disenfranchising whites, I asked?

“I listen to anybody’s point of view, it doesn’t really matter,” he said.

A media scrum formed around Terry immediately after the close of the event. A woman wearing a Tea Party Patriots CPAC credential who had shouted down Brown earlier urged him not to give his name to the press.

She wouldn’t give her name either, but I asked her what she thought.

“Look, you know there’s no doubt the white males are getting really beat up right now, it’s unfair,” she said. “I agree with that. My husband’s one of them. But I don’t think there’s a clear understanding about what really is going on. He needs to read Frederick Douglass and I think that question should be asked to everyone in this room who is debating.”

Alright, just go to the link and read the rest…including a statement from K. Carl  Smith, the man who led the session…wow.

Ralph Nader is the author of this next link: Walmart Bosses and the Minimum Wage

Last weekend on a bright, sunny day a dozen of us demonstrated at shopping malls where Walmart has three of its giant stores, supplied heavily by products from China and other serf-wage countries. But outsourcing the jobs of its American suppliers to China was not the focus last Saturday. We were drawing attention to the plight of one million Walmart workers who are making far less than what Walmart workers made in 1968 when the minimum wage was the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $10.50 an hour today.

In 1968 Walmart was run by its founder, the legendary Sam Walton, who started with one store in Bentonville, Arkansas. Sam had to pay his workers wages that were worth much more than wages today because the law required him to do so.

The clenched-jawed CEO opposition to catching the minimum wage up with 1968 for their workers continues to manifest itself today. CEOs seem to have little concern for the budget-squeezed daily lives of their employees.

These days, however, Walmart is feeling some heat with the rising demand for increasing the stagnant federal minimum wage finally coming from Washington, backed by over 70 percent of the people in polls. A Walmart rival, the successful Costco, has a CEO who already endorsed a federal minimum wage over $10.00 an hour. Costco starts its entry-level workers at $11.50 per hour plus benefits that Walmart workers do not receive. As blogger Alan DiCara said, “Walmart’s benefits department is the U.S. taxpayer.”

Yup, and read the rest of Nader’s post. I’d comment more on the sad situation with Walmart employees….but you all are well aware of the difficulties that come with working for minimum wage.

One thing I find funny is this latest image of the new pope…or should I say…the poor man’s pope.

Francis Emerges

Pope Francis Holds An Audience With Journalists And The Media

Hey, look at that…no designer ruby slippers for Pope Francis. You can read Andrew Sullivan’s take on the new pope here.

Meanwhile, here in the states…North Dakota Passes Ban on Abortions After 6 Weeks of Pregnancy

The North Dakota legislature approved the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States on Friday, cutting off abortion access as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The bill, HB 1456, makes it illegal for doctors to perform an abortion if a heartbeat is detectable in the fetus—something that can happen as little as six weeks after conception. It passed the Senate by a vote of 26 to 17, and will now head to the desk of Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

North Dakota lawmakers have been considering a variety of anti-abortion bills. While this wasn’t their most extreme option—another bill would have outlawed all abortions, period—it does mean that North Dakota now has the most restrictive abortion law in the country. This comes just over a week after Arkansas claimed the crown for most restrictive abortion laws, passing a twelve-week ban.

This new law will more than likely be challenged in court, but damn…six weeks? That is ridiculous.

Now for some real interesting stories…in link dump fashion.

Remains of Teutonic Knights Identified

Polish archaeologists have identified the remains of three grand masters of the Teutonic Knights, a medieval religious and military order that ruled much of the Baltic coast in the late Middle Ages.

Take a look at this post and you may find something new to read…New Books on the Middle Ages: March | Medieval News

There is a beautiful gallery here about Science as art: Photography competition brings the two disciplines together

Albert Einstein’s claim that “The greatest scientists are artists as well,” is illustrated by some of the contenders for a photography competition at Cambridge University on Tuesday.

And since it is St. Patrick’s Day, we will end with something green…Globe glows green: It’s St Patrick’s Day fever

 

Sláinte is the traditional greeting today, and the normal toast is made with a pint of a certain black stout. More extreme fans of St Patrick’s Day – as found among those of Irish descent in the US – will be dressing in as much green as they can lay their hands on, painting their faces and even dyeing their hair.

This year, in celebration of the Celtic saint’s day, more than 40 international landmarks are being lit in green. From the pyramids and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to the Sydney Opera House and South Africa’s Table Mountain: some of the most recognised man-made and geographical attractions will join a host of British landmarks to “go green”.

Be sure to check out those go green images at the link.

So what are you doing today? Share your thoughts with us…