Sunday Reads: All of you. They all looked alike, just one face. And it was very young.

Good Morning

February is one of the best months on TCM…the title of this post is a line from the movie Twelve O’Clock High (1949).

It is the first scene after the real footage of bombing raids shot by both the US allies and German combat film during the war. One of the administrators is drunk, and talking about all the letters he has written to the families of the airmen who have died. There have been so many of them….

Major Harvey Stovall: That is not why I am drunk tonight. I got drunk because I am confused. I was thinking, which is a thing a man should not do, and all at once I couldn’t remember what any of them looked like. I, I couldn’t see their faces, Bishop, Cobb, Wilson, Zimmy, all of them. All of you. They all looked alike, just one face. And it was very young. It confused me. I think I shall stay drunk until I’m not confused anymore.

“And it was very young.” That one sentence made me cry….78b85ed95ea84893a3e8ec6d7d08c150

Last night, this film from 1949 about World War II, something that I have seen so many times before…I even own the DVD.  For some reason that one line hit me more this viewing than all the other times I have seen this movie.  Why?

I don’t know…It is strange. Well, my grandfather was a mechanic on those planes during the war, so I guess that is why I always was fond of that movie. There was a connection to it.

You can see some more color pictures here: World War II in Color: American Bombers and Their Crews, 1942 | LIFE.com

As a jumping off point for countless bombing runs, including many in broad daylight, the United States Army Air Forces (the predecessor of the U.S. Air Force) set up bases in England during the war. In 1942, LIFE’s Margaret Bourke-White spent time with the Bomber Command — an assignment that LIFE shared with its readers in an October 1942 feature notable, although hardly surprising, all these years later for its triumphant tone:

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White with the U.S. Bomber Command in England, 1942.

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White with the U.S. Bomber Command in England, 1942.

The most potent U.S. force to hit the Nazis so far in this war is the Bomber Command, stationed in England. Operating Flying Fortresses, it is making attacks on German-occupied Europe as frequently as weather and operating conditions permit. To date, all the raids have been tremendously successful. From 25,000 feet, it has given a superb exhibition of precision bombing by hitting German factories, airfields, ships and oil refineries on the nose. In two months of operations, it has shot down more than 100 German fighters, lost less than six of its own bombers.

[NOTE: As the war dragged on, the bombers and their crews out of England would, inevitably, face steeper and more dramatic losses. On October 14, 1943, for example — “Black Thursday” — nearly 600 crew members and 60 Flying Fortresses were lost in a single raid against a ball-bearing factory in Schweinfurt, Germany.]

To photograph Bomber Command, LIFE sent photographer Margaret Bourke-White to the headquarters of Brigadier general Ira. C. Eaker, commander in chief of Bomber Command, and to one of the secret airfields from which the Flying Fortresses operate…. Miss Bourke-White’s pictures arrived in the U.S. just when the Bomber Command was making its biggest sorties.  Flying Fortresses roared out over the Channel and attacked German industries in the Lille region. Another group of six Fortresses a few days before dropped 600-lb. bombs directly on the German airfield at St. Omer, France. On the way home they were attached by 35 crack Nazi pursuits. When the brief fight was over, at least 13 Germans were plunging earthward and the six Fortresses were sailing on. Another time a Fortress came back to England with one motor shot away, one disabled, a third missing badly, and with 12 cannon holes and 2,000 machine-gun holes in the fuselage. Still other squadrons of Fortresses scored better than 70 percent hits in their first two weeks of bombing operations over Europe. “Fantastic accuracy,” said the British.

Bomber Command was ready. It was confident that although still small, it would grow and grow, and as it grew, the intensity and terribleness of the attack on Germany would grow with it, until the skies of Europe would be blacked and its earth furrowed with American bombs.

ae702404db74e34e7802d146375025f7 Fasten your seatbelts! by Walter BaumhoferAlright, now for this morning’s links:

Celebrity fight between rapper DMX, George Zimmerman called off | Reuters

The celebrity boxing match between rapper DMX and acquitted Florida killer George Zimmerman has been called off, its promoter said on Saturday after threats were made against him.

I figured it was more along those lines, and not the crap about “money not being everything.”

Looks like the US is not the only country getting hit by major snow storms: At least seven dead, 1,000 injured as heavy snow hits Japan

The heaviest snow in two decades has struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan, leaving at least seven people dead and more than 1,000 injured.

Up to 27 centimetres of snow was recorded in Tokyo by late Saturday, the heaviest fall in the capital for 45 years, according to meteorologists.

The storm hit Tokyo on the eve of its gubernatorial election. Observers say the heavy snowfall may affect voter turnout in the city of 13 million people.

tumblr_mjv6a44M6k1s4c1kfo2_r1_500On the new-earth front…check it out…Scientists find 800,000-year-old footprints in UK

They were a British family on a day out — almost a million years ago.

Archaeologists announced Friday that they have discovered human footprints in England that are between 800,000 and 1 million years old — the most ancient found outside Africa, and the earliest evidence of human life in northern Europe.

[…]

British Museum archaeologist Nick Ashton said the discovery — recounted in detail in the journal PLOS ONE — was “a tangible link to our earliest human relatives.”

Preserved in layers of silt and sand for hundreds of millennia before being exposed by the tide last year, the prints give a vivid glimpse of some of our most ancient ancestors. They were left by a group, including at least two children and one adult male. They could have been be a family foraging on the banks of a river scientists think may be the ancient Thames, beside grasslands where bison, mammoth, hippos and rhinoceros roamed.

Lots more at the link. Pictures here: 800,000-Year-Old Human Footprints Found In England, Extinct Hominid Species Was ‘Fully Bipedal’ [PHOTO]

prints

tumblr_mntl580kDP1s4c1kfo2_r1_500In Tampa Florida, specifically West Tampa, a little scheme is being put together. The mayor is working to rid the area of the “projects” and “relocate” the residents….I don’t know, when I saw this in the news it made me laugh in a sarcastic way. Tampa officials unveil draft plan to redevelop area west of Hillsborough River | Tampa Bay Times

“This is big,” Buckhorn said of the transformation envisioned for 120 acres west of the river and north of Interstate 275. “This is bodacious. This is exciting. This will be a game-changer.”

The proposed “West River” plan would start with demolishing the World War II-era public housing at North Boulevard Homes. The imposing concrete-block apartments would be replaced by a more traditional neighborhood with walkable streets.

A total of 820 apartments would be bulldozed, making way for more than 1,600 new townhomes and apartments. The new housing would include both subsidized housing and units that sell or rent for market rates. With more working- and middle-class residents, businesses on Main Street should see more customers, officials say.

e32714ccc0cf5dbc79bfd7d3b7c66e23“Market rates?”  The thing that gets me is that there is very little outrage over this proposed “bodacious” project.  Not that new homes is something way overdue, but the idea that the people living there are going to be kicked out…with no real guarantee of a place to live, that is worrisome.

But all this is too premature. There is no “funding” yet, so no big deal right now…

The rest of the links in quick fashion:

Charlie Chaplin’s only novel to be released

A virtually unknown novel by Charlie Chaplin — the only book the silent film comic ever wrote — is being made public for the first time.

“Footlights”, which will be unveiled in London later Tuesday, was written by Chaplin in 1948 and later transformed into his film “Limelight”, in which a washed-out clown saves a dancer from suicide.

The book is being published in English by the Cineteca di Bologna, an Italian film restoration institute which has been working with Chaplin biographer David Robinson on reconstructing drafts found in the Chaplin archives.

[…]

a79a5ec49845f4080726eee2d6391aedAccording to Robinson, the relationship between drunken clown and desperate ballerina in the much later “Footlights” was likely inspired by his meeting with legendary Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky in 1916.

The Cinetaca describes Chaplin’s “vivid, idiosyncratic” writing style which, “unadulterated by editors, moves freely from the baldly colloquial to moments of rich imagery and Dickensian description.

“For a setting, he looked back to London and the music halls of his first professional years, an enchanted period in which he had broken out of the deprivations of his childhood to discover, progressively, his unique gifts as entertainer and communicator,” the institute said in a statement.

“But this retrospect also recalled the painful insecurity of an uneducated, uncultured boy launched into the world of success”, and the clown’s expressions of despair at losing the world’s respect and admiration likely reflected Chaplin’s own feelings as his popularity dwindled.

283384f73086b642a1b508ccaef39ed5The book can be found here: Libri, DVD & Gadgets – Cinestore

The New York Times says the book will also be available at amazon.com.

Did y’all see the Pussy Riot interview with Colbert? Pussy Riot Gives the Funniest, Best Colbert Report Interview Ever | Mediaite

It really was a great interview, and funny that after it got so much press this happened:  Pussy Riot members announce split with freed duo

Members of Pussy Riot’s collective published a letter Wednesday in which they distanced themselves from Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova and Maria “Masha” Alekhina and said “they are no longer Pussy Riot.”

“It is no secret that Masha and Nadia are no longer members of the group,” six anonymous members of the group wrote on their blog, “and they will no longer take part in radical actionism.”

They said they said they were “very pleased” with Tolokonnikova’s and Alekhina’s release from prison, and proud of their resistance against the ordeals they suffered, but said the collective could not support the inclusion of “institutionalized defenders of prisoners’ rights.”

7f9fe9822578e05057b7f2b73b58bf22Yup, the two women who were imprisoned for the band, got kicked out of the band.

“Yes, we have lost two friends, two ideological teammates, but the world has acquired two brave human rights defenders — fighters for the rights of Russian prisoners.”

Wow. That was a shitty way to tell the two to go chase themselves…personally I think Masha and Nadia should have told the group “Let’s blouse!” a lot earlier. 59 Quick Slang Phrases From The 1920s We Should Start Using Again | Thought Catalog

“Go chase yourself!”: “Get out of here!”

“Let’s blouse!”: “Let’s blow this popsicle stand!”

And now a few geeky links:

Scientists create bone-like material that is lighter than water but as strong as steel

Here’s How Many LEGO Bricks It Would Take to Build 17 Famous Movie Houses

4e25d0e368cd0247624b2d93f4685864Norse Rune code cracked

A scholar of the University of Oslo has cracked one of the rune codes used by the Vikings, revealing they were sending each other messages such as ‘Kiss me’.

For those of you who liked Breaking Bad: Starz Green-Lights Gritty Ballet Drama — Vulture

Starz has officially green-lighted its gritty ballet drama Flesh and Bone, the network announced today. The show, created by Breaking Bad‘s Moira Walley-Beckett, follows Claire, a gifted young ballet dancer with a dark, self-destructive past who is a new member of a rigorous New York ballet company.

This caught my eye, you should get a kick out of it: 12 Ridiculous Anti-Woman Myths From The Dark Ages That Conservatives STILL Believe

Have you ever been reading or watching a report about a conservative man who said something so incredibly backwards  that you swore he was living in the Dark Ages? Well, you’re not so very far from wrong. 5f7c886b5e09136b8546194c0a9e74deThe Dark Ages were dark partly because education was discouraged and science was suspect, leading to some astoundingly silly things being taken for fact. Like, for example, that the heart was the seat of intelligence. Or that frogs spontaneously generated from mud. As fun as those sort of ideas are to explore, this article will be dealing with beliefs about that strange and inscrutable being: Woman.

Finally, if you are into the Schadenfreude, you can get a few thrills tonight during the figure skating events on the Olympics.  Or…you can just take a look here a few falls…watch them go sailing right out there: The 9 Most Epic Olympic Figure Skating Wipeouts Ever

Y’all have a good day, and share what you are reading about today.


Saturday Reads

matisse_woman_reading

Good Morning!!

The heatwave continues here, but I hope this will be the last day of extreme weather for the time being. It’s already 83 degrees outside my house at 7:30AM. I’m hoping and praying for a thunderstorm later on. Despite the heat, I’m doing fine–just not getting that much accomplished.

Several people are tweeting about a bomb being detonated by a passenger getting off a plane at Beijing International Airport, but I haven’t seen any news stories about it yet. Apparently the passenger was in a wheelchair and detonated a bomb after yelling something. There don’t appear to be a lot of casualties. Photo of alleged bomber holding up something and screaming. Picture of the smoky aftermath.

According to Jim Sciutto, an American living in China, the bomber is still alive and on the way to the hospital. A letter from him says that a beating by police in 2005 left him paralyzed.

The Aurora Colorado theater shooting was one year ago today, and survivors are still dealing with the aftermath. CBS News reports:

Caleb Medley was shot in the head and spent two months in a coma. Teenager Kaylan Bailey struggled in vain to save a six-year-old girl with CPR. Marcus Weaver was hit in the shoulder with shotgun pellets while his friend died in the seat next to him.

One year after the Aurora, Colo. theater massacre, survivors are struggling to cope with the physical and emotional wounds left by James Holmes, an enigmatic figure who opened fire at the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The rampage killed 12 people, injured 70 and altered the lives of the more than 400 men, women and children who were in the auditorium on July 20, 2012. Survivors still carry the trauma of that night but have found strength in everything from religion to cheerleading to taking up the issue of gun control.

Read examples at the link. NBC News has photos and remembrances of the Aurora victims.

Yesterday, President Obama spoke publicly about the Travon Martin case. CNN:

In unscheduled and unusually personal remarks, President Barack Obama tried Friday to explain why African-Americans were upset about last week’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin while lowering expectations for federal charges in the case.

“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama told White House reporters in a surprise appearance at the daily briefing….

Speaking without a teleprompter, Obama noted a history of racial disparity in law as well as more nuanced social prejudice that contribute to “a lot of pain” in the African-American community over the verdict.

“There are very few African-American men in this country who have not had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. That includes me,” the president said.

“There are probably very few African-American men who have not had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator,” he continued.

“There are very few African-Americans who have not had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had the chance to get off. That happens often,” he said.

Saying he didn’t intend to exaggerate those experiences, Obama added that they “inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.”

CNN also collected reactions to Obama’s remarks from Twitter. At Salon, Alex Seitz-Wald writes about “the time Obama was mistaken for a waiter.” Seitz-Wald surveys the negative reactions to Obama’s remarks from right wingers:

The immediate reaction from the right was scorn, and a belittling of the notion that Barack Obama, with his elite education at Punahou and Columbia and Harvard, his meteoric success, and his half whiteness, could possibly have been profiled. Or that Obama was overreacting – everyone locks their doors and it has nothing to do with race. Martin, after all, has been vilified as a thug in some circles on the right.

“I’m not saying profiling never happens, but where is the evidence?” one Fox News guest protested. “So Obama ‘could have been’ Trayvon 35 yrs ago? I had no idea Obama sucker-punched a watch volunteer & then bashed his head in. Who knew?” talk radio host Tammy Bruce tweeted. “There’s no reason to believe that Martin could have been Obama 35 years ago,” the conservative Powerline blog commented. On Twitter, some guessed Obama had “never set foot in a department store, unless you count Barney’s.”

As usual, the sneering right wingers were wrong.

…a stunning little blog post by the Wall Street Journal’s Katherine Rosman from 2008 that resurfaced this afternoon tells a remarkable story about Obama the year before his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that would make him a household name. Rosman was at a book party at the Manhattan home of a Daily Beast editor with a guest list “that can fairly be described as representative of the media elite,” when she encountered an unknown Illinois state senator “looking as awkward and out-of-place as I felt.” It was Barack Obama, of course, and they chatted at length.

When she left the party, an unnamed “established author” admitted to Rosman that he had mistaken Obama, one of the only black people at the party, for a waiter and asked him to fetch a drink.

That was when he was a state senator and Harvard Law grad, and just a few years from national fame, followed by his election to the Senate, and then the White House. And it was in New York City at a gathering of presumably liberal intellectuals.

African American leaders praised Obama’s speech, according to CBS News.

“I think the president did exactly what was needed, and he did it in only a way he can,” Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, told CBS News. “I believe he started a conversation today that must continue.”

Politically, using the shooting of 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman to talk about race was a risky move, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told CBSNews.com. Yet as a statesman, it was important for Mr. Obama “to lay out a vision of how best to move forward,” he said. “It should be an important starting point for a conversation on race in America and how we can become a better society.”

However, another Salon writer, African American author Rich Benjamin denounced Obama’s speech as “safe, overrated, and airy.” Benjamin compared Obama’s words unfavorably to recent remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder and asked whether Holder is acting as Obama “inner n****r.”

Finally the president has spoken about George Zimmerman’s acquittal. Even as the country waited for his singular response – the nation’s leader and a law professor who once looked like Trayvon Martin – the president danced around the issues. And what a dramatic anti-climax, listening to the president refuse to say anything insightful or profound about the acquittal. In signature professorial style, the president gave us the “context” to the episode and to black people’s “pain.” But he didn’t offer a meaningful opinion on the episode’s hot molten core: racial profiling, vigilantism, and “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered trenchant thoughts on the acquittal, demanding action. Before an audience of supporters, Holder recently called for a full investigation of Martin’s death after Zimmerman’s acquittal. Holder vowed that the Justice Department will act “in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law. We will not be afraid.”

“We must stand our ground,” he told supporters.

Some of us have an Inner Child. Others have an Inner Nigger. Is Holder the president’s conscience? Or his Inner Nigger?

Is Holder the president’s aggressive internal mind and voice — willing to speak truth to power, but unbothered with appearing like an angry black man?

Read it and see what you think. I must admit, I was a little shocked.

Meanwhile, in a House hearing on the IRS non-scandal, good ol’ Darrell Issa referred to African American Congressman Elijah Cummings as “a little boy.”

The testy exchange came after Cummings, a 62-year-old African-American congressman from Baltimore, challenged past insinuations by Republicans that the White House was behind the IRS targeting. Cummings was picking up on testimony from two IRS witnesses who both said they knew of no evidence of political motivations in the enhanced scrutiny, which also included some progressive groups.

But Issa took issue with Cummings, denying that he had implied the orders came from the highest office in the land and insisting that he only said the targeting came from Washington.

Issa interrupted at the start of another member’s remarks to express his “shock” at Cummings.

“I’m always shocked when the ranking member seems to want to say, like a little boy whose hand has been caught in a cookie jar, ‘What hand? What cookie?’ I’ve never said it leads to the White House,” Issa said.

In fact, he has pointed to the Obama administration and went so far as to call President Barack Obama’s top spokesman, Jay Carney, a “paid liar.”

Nice.

Ex-CIA head Michael Hayden, who supported and defended warrantless wiretapping under the Bush administration has published an op-ed at CNN in which he says that  Edward Snowden “will likely prove to be the most costly leaker of American secrets in the history of the Republic,” and that writer and inveterate Snowden defender Glenn Greenwald is “far more deserving of the Justice Department’s characterization of a co-conspirator than Fox’s James Rosen ever was.” He says Snowden has hurt U.S. intelligence and foreign policy in three ways:

First, there is the undeniable operational effect of informing adversaries of American intelligence’s tactics, techniques and procedures. Snowden’s disclosures go beyond the “what” of a particular secret or source. He is busily revealing the “how” of American collection….

As former director of CIA, I would claim that the top 20% of American intelligence — that exquisite insight into an enemy’s intentions — is generally provided by human sources. But as a former director of NSA, I would also suggest that the base 50% to 60% of American intelligence day in and day out is provided by signals intelligence, the kinds of intercepted communications that Snowden has so blithely put at risk.

But there is other damage, such as the undeniable economic punishment that will be inflicted on American businesses for simply complying with American law….

The third great harm of Snowden’s efforts to date is the erosion of confidence in the ability of the United States to do anything discreetly or keep anything secret.

Manning’s torrent of disclosures certainly caused great harm, but there was at least the plausible defense that this was a one-off phenomenon, a regrettable error we’re aggressively correcting.

Snowden shows that we have fallen short and that the issue may be more systemic rather than isolated. At least that’s what I would fear if I were a foreign intelligence chief approached by the Americans to do anything of import.

Well, that third point is really the government’s fault, not Snowden’s.

Greenwald reacted by tweeting that Hayden “belongs in prison for implementing illegal warrantless eavesdropping at Americans.” FAIR defended Greenwald, calling Hayden’s characterization of Greenwald as “co-conspirator” a “smear.”

There’s nothing new on the Snowden front, except that Russia’s treatment of its own whistleblowers is beginning to get some coverage. From CNN: “Putin, a hypocrite on Snowden, Navalny.”

On Thursday in Moscow, where former NSA contractor Edward Snowden awaits his asylum papers, a Russian court removed a major critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin’s list of worries, sentencing the charismatic opposition leader Alexei Navalny to five years in jail on theft charges. Amid intense anger at the verdict and fears that it would raise Navalny’s profile, the court agreed on Friday to release him pending appeal.

The trial and the predictable verdict, as the European Union foreign affairs chief said, “raises serious questions as to the state of the rule of law in Russia.” That’s putting it mildly. Navatny is the most prominent, but just one in a long series of politically-motivated prosecutions in a country where the courts seldom make a move that displeases Putin.

Navalny was particularly worrisome to the Russian president. He had gained an enormous following by speaking out against corruption and cronyism, labeling Putin’s United Russia “a party of swindlers and thieves” and using social media to help mobilize the president’s critics. He had just announced he would run for mayor of Moscow. But, like other Putin opponents with any possible chance to loosen the president’s complete hold on power, he will likely go to prison instead. Now that he’s released, Navalny is considering whether to stay or withdraw from the race for mayor.

According to Voice of America, Navalny still plans to run for Mayor of Moscow.

Then there’s the case of Sergei Magnitsky. The government auditor was sent to investigate the investment firm Heritage Capital, which was charged with tax evasion. When Magnitsky concluded the tax fraud was actually coming from the government side and became a whistleblower, naming a network of corrupt officials, he was accused of working for Heritage and thrown in jail, where he became ill, was denied medical treatment and died in 2009, when he was just 37. The United States responded with the Magnitsky Law, imposing sanctions on those involved in his death.

Death didn’t save Magnitsky from Russia’s courts, which found him guilty of tax fraud just last week.

Many others, including the performance group Pussy Riot, have seen even small scale political activism land them in jail.

I’ll end there and open the floor to you. What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comments, and have a stupendous Saturday!!


Memorial Day Reads

Flag-Flower-Vintage-Post-CardGood Morning Every One!

I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday weekend!

Bob Dole is an interesting man and definitely a war hero.  He was also a Republican who served at a point in time when Republicans were interested in solving problems–not creating them–and had a fairly consistent view of things.  Although I will never, for the life of me, understand how exactly a party that wants to be the party of small government seems to be so interested in what goes on in people’s beds and bodies.

I just remember him now being wheeled to the Senate to pass a really important piece of legislation that the party shot down because of some weird conspiracy theories.  They walked right by a man in a wheel chair that has given a lot to this country and ignored his pleas to recognize his right to have access to life.  He spoke out yesterday and the comments were doozies.

Asked on “Fox News Sunday” if the Senate was broken, Dole responded that “it is bent pretty badly.”

“It seems almost unreal that we can’t get together on a budget, or legislation,” said Dole, who served in the Senate from 1969 to 1996. “We weren’t perfect by a long shot, but at least we got our work done.”

Dole came back to the Senate last December to support a United Nations treaty to bar discrimination against people with disabilities, which failed after a vast majority of Republicans declined to support it.

Dole said in his Fox News interview that he isn’t sure there would be a place for him and other big-time Republicans of his generation, like Presidents Reagan and Nixon, in the current GOP.

“Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly, Nixon couldn’t have made it, because he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it,” said Dole, who called himself a “mainstream conservative Republican.”

“I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says closed for repairs, until New Year’s Day next year, and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas,” Dole said about the current state of his party.

I thought the comment about Nixon was particularly interesting. He was a man of ideas.  Those ideas also included attracting the Southern Confederates into the party that now are the big problem.  That sure is a bold idea.  Attract a bunch of folks with a history of insurgencies. So, the sorry state of the nation has a lot to do with Nixon’s big ideas and Reagan’s big ideas and we basically have Obama throwing together Dolecare which was a big idea in its time too.  I think we need fewer big ideas and more solutions.

Because people are hurting.9158220-handpainted-vintage-postcard-for-memorial-day-1909-with-text

 The Census Bureau has reported that one out of six Americans lives in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity.

1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009

Analysis of  Economic Policy Institute data shows that Mitt Romney’s famous  47 percent, the alleged ‘takers,’ have taken nothing. Their debt exceeded their assets in 2009.

2. It’s Even Worse 3 Years Later

Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An  OECD report states that “inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve,” with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year  decline in wages has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobs have  replaced formerly secure middle-income positions.

3. Over half of Americans are now IN poverty.

According to IRS data, the average household in the bottom 50% brings in about  $18,000 per year. That’s less than the  poverty line for a family of three ($19,000) or a family of four ($23,000).

4. 75% of Americans are NEAR poverty.

The average household in the bottom 75% earns about  $31,000 per year. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to  130% of the federal poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four.

Incredibly, Congress is trying to  cut food assistance. Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee referred to food stamps as “stealing.” He added a Biblical quote: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” A recent  jobs hearing in Washington was attended by  one Congressman.

5. Putting it in Perspective

Inequality is at its ugliest for the hungriest people. While food support was being targeted for cuts, just  20 rich Americans made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire  2012 SNAP (food assistance) budget, which serves 47 million people.

card00411_frWe’re abusing all of our resources.  Here’s research that shows how quickly we’re draining our aquifers.  They are a key source of fresh water.

Since 1900, the U.S. has pulled enough water from underground aquifers to fill two Lake Eries. And in just the first decade of the 21st century, we’ve extracted underground water sufficient to raise global sea level by more than 2 percent. We suck up 25 cubic kilometers of buried water per year.

That’s the message from the U.S. Geological Survey’s evaluation of how the U.S. is managing its aquifers. Or mismanaging. For example: water levels in the aquifer that underlies the nation’s bread basket have dropped in some places by as much as 160 feet.

So, I have an update on the newly found grave of England’s King Richard III.

Researchers from the University of Leicester have revealed in the journal Antiquity that the remains of King Richard III had been buried in an untidy grave, “without any pomp or solemn funeral,” as the medieval historian Polydore Vergil had written. There were no signs of a coffin or a shroud, and the lozenge-shaped grave was too short for his body, which had been placed on one side of the hole. Additional evidence suggests that the defeated king’s hands may have been tied. Other medieval graves in the town had been carefully dug to the correct length and with vertical sides.

So, the world is atwitter with a possible sunrise in Japan.  There’s even a name for it “Abenomics”.  I will try to tackle the whole thing some time this week but I thought I’d mention that Japanese women will still be left out no matter what the outcome.

The World Economic Forum ranks Japan a dismal 101st in gender equality out 135 countries — behind Azerbaijan, Indonesia and China. Not a single Nikkei 225 company is run by a woman. Female participation in politics is negligible, and the male-female wage gap is double the average in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

One number explains why Japan must pull women into the job market and help them achieve leadership roles: 15 percent. That’s how much of a boost that gross domestic product would receive if female employment matched men’s (about 80 percent), says Kathy Matsui, the chief Japan equity strategist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

“Japan is lagging because it’s running a marathon with one leg,” says Matsui, who has been churning out “Womenomics” reports regularly since 1999. “It must start tapping its most underutilized resource.”

Abe is acting from fiscal necessity, not from a sense of social justice. Japan’s workforce is shrinking as the population ages and the birthrate declines. That might be manageable if not for a public debt more than twice the size of the $5.9 trillion economy. Politically, increasing the number of women workers is an easier sell than opening up Japan to immigrant labor.

The deal is that some of the Abenomics suggestions to correct some of these issues for women are strikingly patriarchal.

The government is considering circulating “Women’s Notebooks” to warn of the evils of postponing marriage and motherhood. Yes, career-oriented women are selfish. When Abe calls on companies to provide three years of maternity leave, he uses a Japanese expression that a child should be held by its mother until the age of 3. In other words, kids are women’s work. (In fact, knowing that a three-year absence could derail their careers, many women are likely to further delay childbirth.)

Abe’s government should begin by actually enforcing the 1986 Equal Employment Opportunity Law. Japan should promote diversity and offer tax incentives to companies that do, as well. More-flexible work hours would draw women into the workforce. So would offering subsidized or free day care so more families can afford it.

At least Japan is trying to have a discussion.  All we get here are cuts to early child education and care and less access to reproductive health care and family planning.

Pussy Riot band member Maria Alyokhina ha announced a prison hunger strike

A parole hearing in the Russian town of Berezniki has been adjourned until May 23 after a jailed member of the all-female opposition group Pussy Riot refused to continue taking part via video-link.

At the hearing on May 22, the court rejected Maria Alyokhina’s requests to be physically present and to have the judge and the prosecutor replaced.

Alyokhina, who spoke to the Berezniki court from her prison in the Perm region, announced that she was starting a hunger strike.

Her lawyer, Irina Khrunova, told journalists that there were many procedural violations in the parole hearing.

“Masha [Alyokhina] and I agreed [before the parole hearing] that if the court did not allow her to be brought to the courtroom, then she would refuse to participate in the hearings,” she said.

Khrunova indicated that Alyokhina would also not participate in the hearing on May 23.

“She very much wanted to appear in court; she wanted to tell the court about her situation and why she thought she deserved to be released on parole, but since the court refused to hear her personally, she thought she didn’t need to continue [participation],” he said.

Alyokhina and another Pussy Riot member, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, are serving two-year prison sentences after being convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”

Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova, and a third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, were arrested in February 2012 after staging a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

Samutsevich also received a two-year prison sentence but was later released on probation.

Tolokonnikova’s parole request was denied last month by a court in the Russian republic of Mordovia, where she is serving her prison sentence.

Hard to get justice anywhere in the world these days.

No Justice No Peace.

What’s on you reading and blogging list this holiday?


Why Pussy Riot Matters


St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
Drive away! Drive away Putin!

It is interesting to watch the growing amount of support for Pussy Riot.  The women have been sentenced to two years in jail for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for using an orthodox cathedral to do a performance piece in protest of the powerful Vladimir Putin. Vlad the Pussy Jailer’s heavy hand was seen in the recently delivered verdict. Outcry over the harsh sentence is coming from all over the world.

Russia on Saturday faced a storm of international criticism after sentencing three members of the Pussy Riot punk band to two years in prison for a political protest in an Orthodox cathedral.

Speculation mounted that the women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, could have their sentences cut on appeal after the damaging global reaction, with the Russian public also questioning the sentence.

Judge Marina Syrova said the three young protesters had shown a “clear disrespect toward society” by staging a “Punk Prayer” calling on the Virgin Mary to drive out Vladimir Putin just weeks ahead of his election in March to a third presidential term.

The United States called the sentences “disproportionate”, while Britain, France and the European Union also said the punishment was excessive and questioned Russia’s rights record.

Prominent supporters of the women spoke out to criticise the sentence.

International pressure “may not have secured the outcome many people wanted to see. But we need to keep up the fight,” wrote British member of parliament Kerry McCarthy, who attended the trial, on blog site LabourList.

Newspaper owner Alexander Lebedev, who co-owns Russia’s Novaya Gazeta daily and owns Britain’s Independent daily, called the women “prisoners of conscience” on Twitter.

Yoko Ono, the avant-garde artist and widow of John Lennon, posted a message of support to Samutsevich on Twitter on Saturday, saying: “You have won for all of us women in the world.”

It’s an important reminder of what happens when freedom of expression is not protected. It also puts Russia and Vlad the Pussy Jailer in very bad light.

But international opinion can often have a negative impact in Russia. How the trial and its outcome have affected Russian public opinion may play a much bigger role in coming months, as the anti-Putin protest

movement returns to the streets after a summer hiatusand the political season begins anew.

Public opinion has remained rather staunchly anti-Pussy Riot since the women were arrested in March. The latest poll, released last week by the independent Levada Center in Moscow, shows little change.

According to the survey, 55 percent of Russians did not have their views of the judicial system altered by the trial; 9 percent said it diminished their trust in courts while 5 percent said it increased it, and 12 percent said they have no faith in the courts to begin with. About 36 percent thought the verdict would be based on the facts of the case; 18 percent thought the verdict would be dictated “from the top.” Interestingly, when asked what they thought the punk band’s goal was in staging the protest, about 30 percent of respondents said it was “against the church and its role in politics”; 13 percent thought it was “against Putin” and 36 percent said they could not discern the purpose.

More worrisome, from the Kremlin‘s point of view, is the effect the trial has had on Russia’s more educated and influential social strata. Of course the usual suspects – opposition leaders, artists, liberal intellectuals – have popped up to protest the treatment of the women, who were kept almost six months in pretrial detention and now face more than a year in the harsh conditions of a Russian penal colony.

But unease over a prosecution that carries such obvious political and religious overtones appears to be spreading far beyond Russia’s small liberal and opposition circles.

The fact that we’re seeing this play out in the press suggests some very big changes have been made in the former Soviet Union state since the fall of the Berlin Wall.  However, it is also a reminder that the country has not let go of its totalitarian roots.  This it what will do the real damage. It will impact Foreign Direct Investment because it shows the Russia Courts can be gamed for political purposes.  It will also hurt Russia’s ability to show itself in diplomacy circles as a modern nation.  However, I suggest that the lesson is somewhat deeper than that.  

The 10 witnesses—security guards, a candle-keeper, and a sacristan—said they suffered “moral damage” and are thus considered victims of the prayer, under the Russian Criminal Code.   The lawyers who represent one of the security guards, Vladimir Potan’kin, said that their client was so mentally injured that he now has sleeping problems. Furthermore, in a twist not even worthy of a third-rate paperback, they stated that the Pussy Rioters are connected at the highest level to Satan himself.

The nature of the debate about freedom of speech, religious freedom, and political expression is one that is often misconstrued when that speech is profoundly offensive, crude, vulgar, or even malicious. “Nice” speech seldom requires defense.  It is that which causes offense, whether or not it is intended, which must be protected if a society is to remain free. Deny freedom of expression to one and you effectively deny it to all.  In those rare instances where restrictions on speech are permissible, they must be relevant, necessary, and pursuant to legitimate democratic aims—usually based on time, place, and manner, not on content. Had the Pussy Riot band interrupted a religious ceremony or had they been making loud noises at 4 a.m. in a neighborhood, there would be grounds for restricting their actions. However, the prosecution of Pussy Riot meets none of these conditions. Parody, irony, and humor are some of the most powerful weapons against established authority, especially the despotic kind. It is why Socrates was sentenced to death; it is why Voltaire’s criticism of the French absolutist monarchy was so disruptive that he was exiled from Paris; it is why Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa, who hypocritically just granted asylum to Julian Assange, sued a journalist and newspaper for $42 million for a column that made fun of him as a tyrant; it is why Hugo Chavez in Venezuela extended the contempt laws to make it a crime to disrespect him, leading to investigations of cartoonists; it is why Manal Al- Sharif fears for her life in Saudi Arabia for driving a car and challenging the ban on female drivers; it is why Ai Weiwei is hit with trumped up tax-evasion charges after mocking China’s dictatorship, and why Aung San Suu Kyi was held under house arrest by the Burmese military junta until just recently.  The despotic mind is utterly undone and downright defenseless in the face of creative dissent.

The church, public opinion, and Vlad the Pussy Jailor seem to follow the form of that last line written by Thor Halvorssen for Forbes although now the church’s priests have said they’ve ‘forgiven’ the women.  Here’s an article from Truth Out containing the gist of what the church has said about the protest which I find highly disturbing.

But while the case has allowed critics of Mr. Putin to portray his government as squelching free speech and presiding over a rigged judicial system, it has also given the government an opportunity to portray its political opponents as obscene, disrespectful rabble-rousers, liberal urbanites backed by the West in a conspiracy against the Russian state and the Russian church.

The extent of the culture clash was evident this month when Madonna paused during a concert in Moscow to urge the release of the women, who have been jailed since March, and performed in a black bra with “Pussy Riot” stenciled in bold letters on her back. The next day, Dmitry Rogozin, a deputy prime minister, posted a Twitter message calling Madonna a “whore.”

On Friday, the Russian Orthodox Church issued a statement that referred to Nazi aggression and the militant atheism of the Soviet era, and said, “What happened is blasphemy and sacrilege, the conscious and deliberate insult to the sanctuary and a manifestation of hostility to millions of people.”

The fact a church is claiming persecution while using Vlad the Jailor to enforce its own patriarchal agenda is appalling.  Free speech does not stop at the steps of a church or the feelings of its believers.  This issue,however, is bigger than Russia which brings me to the heavy handed treatment of the Occupy Protestors in the US and to the FBI infiltration of left wing activists with causes like providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians. Exactly how many degrees of separation are they–and we–from the feminist punk rockers? I would argue that we are closer than we’d like to think.


Friday Nite Lite: Monster Mash

Its Friday, let’s get the party started…

I think we will start with the latest whine fest over at the Romney camp:

8/19 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Election 2012 | Mike Luckovich

mike081912

Which is kind of ridiculous when you consider the way the GOP is reacting to the latest Biden gaffe.

GOP attacks Biden – Political Cartoon by Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News – 08/17/2012

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - GOP attacks Biden

Race Baiting – Political Cartoon by Phil Hands, Wisconsin State Journal – 08/17/2012

Cartoon by Phil Hands - Race Baiting

Or, you can make a claim that both parties are a nightmare:

Cagle Post » Attack Ads

Attack Ads © Pat Bagley,Salt Lake Tribune,Attack Ads, Presidential, Obama, Romney, Negative Ads, Advertising, Negative Advertising, Jason, Diogenes, Freddy Krueger

It has been a week since Romney announced Ryan as his choice for VP, so there are a lot of cartoons on Ryan, and his budget:

Cagle Post » Pauls Plan

Pauls Plan © Tim Eagan,Deep Cover,tax,cuts,romney,ryan,rich,poor,romney-ryan

Cagle Post » Make Them Bite

Make Them Bite © Bruce Plante,Tulsa World,ryan,budget,catch,fish,plan,ryan-medicare

Cagle Post » Romney Figurehead

Romney Figurehead © John Darkow,Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri,Mitt Romney, Ryan, Budget, Sail, Complete, Figure Head, Pirate, Ship, Ocean, Medicare, Cuts

Atlas – Political Cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 08/17/2012

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Atlas

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Paul Fell, Artizans Syndicate – 08/13/2012

Cartoon by Paul Fell -

Don’t Romney and Ryan look like a couple of horror movie monsters in that one above?

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Ted Rall, Universal Press Syndicate – 08/17/2012

Cartoon by Ted Rall -

Cagle Post » Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan © Bob Englehart,The Hartford Courant,Paul Ryan,Mitt Romney,poor,middle class,romney ryan

Chris Britt on Creators.com – A Syndicate Of Talent

Steve Sack on Creators.com – A Syndicate Of Talent

AAEC – Political Cartoon by David Horsey, Los Angeles Times – 08/14/2012

Cartoon by David Horsey -

The next batch of cartoons is on Voter ID Laws:

Cagle Post » Voter ID Laws

Voter ID Laws © Adam Zyglis,The Buffalo News,gop, platform, voter id laws, vote, voting rights, pennsylvania, ohio, state, ballot box, fraud, election, corruption, presidential, race, 2012

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News – 08/17/2012

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

And now a few that touch on subjects we have been talking about lately.

Cagle Post » Putin Riot

Putin Riot © Oliver Schopf,Der Standard, Austria,putin,riot,sword,violence

You may have read that the judge gave Pussy Riot two years in prison for their 40 seconds of protest…

Cagle Post » PUSSY RIOT

PUSSY RIOT © Randy Bish,Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,RUSSIA, HOOLAGINISM, PUSSY RIOT

Cagle Post » Drought Relief

Drought Relief © Joe Heller,Green Bay Press-Gazette,Drought Relief, farm bill, food stamps

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson, Philadelphia Daily News – 08/13/2012

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

Connie will like this one coming up:

AAEC – Political Cartoon by Joel Pett, Lexington Herald-Leader – 08/17/2012

Cartoon by Joel Pett -

Cagle Post » The BIG Picture

The BIG Picture © Bill Day,Cagle Cartoons,GOP,extremism,woolly mammoth

And finally, in celebration of Julia Child:

Cagle Post » Julia Child centennial

Julia Child centennial © Dave Granlund,Politicalcartoons.com,Julia Child, cooking, legend, TV, 100, centennial, bon appetit

Have a lovely Friday evening…this is an open thread.