Lazy Saturday Reads

John Hurt as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

John Hurt as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Good Morning!!

We’ve lost another great actor. Famed British character actor John Hurt died yesterday at age 77. He had pancreatic cancer.

NBC News: Acting Legend John Hurt of ‘Midnight Express’ and ‘Elephant Man’ Dead at 77.

John Hurt, who appeared in “Midnight Express,” “The Elephant Man” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four” among many other films, has died at the age of 77, his publicist said….

With a career that stretches back more than 60 years, Hurt has long been a familiar face to moviegoers. In recent years, audiences recognized him as wandmaker Garrick Ollivander in the Harry Potter films, as the British dictator in “V for Vendetta” and as the disturbed Harold “Ox” Oxley in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

But Hurt is perhaps best known for his role that came some years ago. His role in “Midnight Express” earned him an Oscar nomination and his work as David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man” in 1980 and as the main character in “Nineteen Eighty-Four” provided him global name recognition.

In total Hurt was nominated for two Oscars and won four BAFTA Awards and a Golden Globe Award. In 2015, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II….

Hurt had a unique voice that provided him a rich voice acting career. From the animated films “Watership Down” and “The Lord of the Rings,” both made in 1978, to the popular BBC series “Merlin,” Hurt’s voice built entire worlds for audiences.

Hurt also held the dubious honor for the most onscreen deaths of any actor, according to a 2014 article by the Nerdist.

Orwell’s famous novel has been is selling like hotcakes on Amazon in the first week of the Trump presidency; perhaps the movie will do the same now.

John Hurt as Kane dies in "Alien."

John Hurt as Kane dies in “Alien.”

More on John Hurt from The New York Times:

Mr. Hurt was a rising stage actor in England in the 1960s but spent most of the remainder of his career compiling a long résumé in movies and on television. A chameleon of a performer, physically unimposing but with a rich, melodic voice, he played a number of leading roles, though he could never be described as a leading man. Critics often seemed challenged to explain the appeal of his presence.

In “The Naked Civil Servant” (1975), seen first on television in England, he was Quentin Crisp, a flame-haired raconteur and social butterfly whose forthright flamboyance as a gay man helped push the acceptance of homosexuality in Britain.

In a 1979 BBC mini-series, he was Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov, the brooding, conscience-stricken killer in “Crime and Punishment.” And in Michael Radford’s 1984 adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian classic “1984,” he was Winston Smith, the protagonist. Mr. Hurt’s pallor, fearful expression and prominent ears made him an especially feral and unromantic rebel.

“His countenance is fishy and bizarre,” Cintra Wilson wrote in Salon in 2004. “He has dark, verminous little eyes, a smirky little mouth full of nicotine-varnished teeth, and that British complexion that evokes a poached worm. Even in his early films, he has eye bags and looks like he put on a face that was at the very bottom of his laundry basket. His body, when it isn’t a little overindulged around the abdomen, is scrawny. He has never, in any role, looked particularly masculine. The characters he plays are generally weak, immoral, murderous, slimy or insane. Yet to gaze upon John Hurt, in almost any role, is to feel a drooly adoration; he is irresistible.”

I signed the petition demanding Donald Trump release his tax returns. If you haven’t signed it yet, I hope you will.


Huffington Post: Petition Demanding Donald Trump Release His Tax Returns Breaks White House Record.

A petition on the White House website asking President Donald Trump to release information about his tax returns has now received more signatures than any other petition in the system’s five-year history.

The petition demands that the federal government explain what it is doing to “immediately release Donald Trump’s full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance.” It garnered over 100,000 signatures within 24 hours of the president’s inauguration and has become the subject of a New York Times editorial.,

“The unprecedented economic conflicts of this administration need to be visible to the American people, including any pertinent documentation which can reveal the foreign influences and financial interests which may put Donald Trump in conflict with the emoluments clause of the Constitution,” states a brief description of the petition.

As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had over 368,000 signatures, surpassing the previous record of 367,180. The previous record-holder called for the United States government to “legally recognize the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.”

There are now more than 400,000 signatures.

The Daily Telegraph has an update on the Russian spy who was arrested and charged with treason in December: Mystery death of ex-KGB chief linked to MI6 spy’s dossier on Donald Trump.

An ex-KGB chief suspected of helping the former MI6 spy Christopher Steele to compile his dossier on Donald Trump may have been murdered by the Kremlin and his death covered up. it has been claimed.

Oleg Erovinkin, a former general in the KGB and its successor the FSB, was found dead in the back of his car in Moscow on Boxing Day in mysterious circumstances.


Oleg Erovinkin

Oleg Erovinkin

Erovinkin was a key aide to Igor Sechin, a former deputy prime minister and now head of Rosneft, the state-owned oil company, who is repeatedly named in the dossier.

Erovinkin has been described as a key liaison between Sechin and Russian president Vladimir Putin. Mr Steele writes in an intelligence report dated July 19, 2016, he has a source close to Sechin, who had disclosed alleged links between Mr Trump’s supporters and Moscow.

The death of Erovinkin has prompted speculation it is linked to Mr Steele’s explosive dossier, which was made public earlier this month….

The Russian state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Erovinkin’s body was “found in a black Lexus… [and] a large-scale investigation has been commenced in the area. Erovinkin’s body was sent to the FSB morgue”.

Read more at the link.

Yesterday, tRump signed a cruel executive order to prevent refugees from several majority Muslim countries from coming to the U.S. Countries like Saudia Arabia where tRump has business interests weren’t on the list, but Syria and Iraq were. Voice of America reports:

The executive order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” calls for suspension of visas and other immigration benefits to citizens of “countries of particular concern.”

Two United Nations agencies issued a joint statement Saturday just hours after Trump’s order, saying “The needs of refugees and migrants worldwide have never been greater, and the U.S. resettlement program is one of the most important in the world.”

The U.N. Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration said they hope the “U.S. will continue its strong leadership role and long tradition of protecting those who are fleeing conflict and persecution.” The agencies said they “strongly believe that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race.” ….

As a reason for the order, the document cites the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, which were carried out by 19 foreigners who obtained visas to enter the United States without difficulty. It refers to other terrorism-related crimes committed over the past 15 years by foreign nationals who entered the United States using either short-term visas — as visitors, students or temporary workers — or as refugees seeking resettlement in the U.S.

Of course everyone knows the majority of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. The order means that we will turn away Iraqis who helped us and are in danger in their own country.


The New York Times: Fears That Trump’s Visa Ban Betrays Friends and Bolsters Enemies.

CAIRO — Across the Muslim world, the refrain was resounding: President Trump’s freeze on refugee arrivals and visa requests from seven predominantly Muslim countries will have major diplomatic repercussions, worsen perceptions of Americans and offer a propaganda boost to the terrorist groups Mr. Trump says he is targeting.

Mr. Trump’s stance has been evident since the early days of his campaign, when he advocated a “complete and total shutdown” of all Muslims entering the United States.

President Trump has since softened his language, casting his order on Friday as a way to keep terrorists, not Muslims, out of the United States.

“We don’t want them here,” Mr. Trump said as he signed the order at the Pentagon. “We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas.”

But in interviews with dozens of officials, analysts and ordinary citizens across Muslim-majority countries, there was overwhelming agreement that the order issued Friday signaled a provocation: a sign that the American president sees Islam itself as the problem.

“I think this is going to alienate the whole Muslim world,” said Mouwafak al-Rubaie, a lawmaker and former Iraqi national security adviser in Iraq.

This heartless order by tRump will be challenged in the courts.

An Iraqi refugee family

An Iraqi refugee family

The New York Times: Refugees Detained at U.S. Airports, Prompting Legal Challenges to Trump’s Immigration Order.

President Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect Friday night. Refugees who were in the air on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports.

The detentions prompted legal challenges as lawyers representing two Iraqi refugees held at Kennedy Airport filed a writ of habeas corpus early Saturday in the Eastern District of New York seeking to have their clients released. At the same time, they filed a motion for class certification, in an effort to represent all refugees and immigrants who they said were being unlawfully detained at ports of entry.

Mr. Trump’s order, which suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, created a legal limbo for individuals on the way to the United States and panic for families who were awaiting their arrival.

Mr. Trump’s order also stops the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and it bars entry into the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

It was unclear how many refugees and immigrants were being held nationwide in the aftermath of the executive order. The complaints were filed by a prominent group including the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center, the National Immigration Law Center, Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization and the firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.

Just reading the words “President Trump” makes me physically ill.

On bright spot is that the tRump people have walked back a number of the ridiculous plans they’ve proposed. Rachel Maddow did a good report on this last night. If you didn’t see it, I hope you’ll go watch it. And while you’re there, please check out Lawrence O’Donnell’s open monologue about the abject humiliations tRump has suffered over the past two days. I know everyone is demoralized, and I am too. But we have to keep hope alive.

Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and do your best do enjoy the weekend.

Sunday Reads: Fires, Firebombs and Forced Migration

Good Morning…

It is the last Sunday in July, and only two days until the end of the world.  The time for the debt vote in the Senate has been delayed to 1 p.m. So be sure to check back with us, we’ll keep you up to date on the fiasco going on in the Capitol.

Boston Boomer sent me this link, Fire Destroys We Are Wisconsin PAC Offices in La Crosse; Recall Efforts Subdued The cause of the fire is still “unknown” but many of the people working with We Are Wisconsin, believe it to be arson.

Fire officials in La Crosse are continuing to investigate a Saturday blaze that destroyed the regional offices of We Are Wisconsin, a union political action committee (PAC) that has pumped millions of dollars into supporting Democratic candidates in the upcoming recall elections.

The La Crosse Tribune reports that the cause of the fire, which started at about 9:30 a.m., remains unknown. Firefighters thought they had the blaze under control in the afternoon, however, that wasn’t the case and it continued into the evening, the newspaper reported.

In other news, of course no main stream media has reported on…a Planned Parenthood in Texas was firebombed earlier this week.  I had not heard about it until Dakinikat put a link up in the comments. Planned Parenthood firebombed, right wing silent – War Room –

Someone firebombed a Planned Parenthood clinic in McKinney, Texas, late Tuesday night. Because it was so late, no one was hurt. The clinic doesn’t provide abortions, but there had been protesters there earlier that day anyway. You might’ve read about the news on Twitter or on a liberal blog. Probably not in a newspaper or on a cable new channel. Definitely not at any right-wing blogs. Which is a bit odd, actually, considering how much attention terrorist attacks generally get in this country.

Oh, sorry, how much attention possible Islamic terrorist attacks get.

Perhaps, some non-WWJD Christian Right Wing Extremist lobbed a Molotov cocktail at the clinic?  Must be the case because what else could explain the conservative media’s silence.

The National Review’s the Corner has run multiple posts on some pro-life “study” accusing Planned Parenthood of “systemic, organization-wide fraud and abuse” and even human trafficking “at this federally funded billion-dollar abortion business.” One of them said, “Where is the Media,” and bemoaned the fact that the mainstream press was supposedly “ignoring” the report, which got a major press conference with multiple members of Congress and coverage in Politico and the Hill.

But, weirdly, this Planned Parenthood news has not been mentioned at the National Review.

It is no surprise that right leaning media outlets would ignore something like this.

We obviously don’t know yet, but this attack seems more likely to be the work of a politically motivated person with conservative beliefs than a random act of vandalism. In other words, domestic terrorism. Someone threw a Molotov cocktail at a women’s health clinic. It’s insane that only a couple of Internet feminists actually seem to care.

This next article from MoJo discusses the Anti-Human Rights stance of the GOP candidates for the 2012 election.  Damn, this looks like it is going to be a monster of a season.

These PLUBs are truly Anti-Rights because it is obvious they are not just Anti-Choice.  I mean, they do not even want a woman to have access to birth control or health care.  Sounds to me like the PLUB agenda isn’t only pro-life-until-birth, it is anti-human rights…because women’s rights are human rights.  Which GOP Candidate is the Worst on Reproductive Rights? | Mother Jones

Which of the Republican presidential candidates vetoed legislation that would require doctors to provide emergency contraception to rape victims?

It was then Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. (The state legislature went on to pass it over his veto.)

Which 2012 GOP contender signed a similar measure into law? It was actually two of them—Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota in 2007 and Jon Hunstman in Utah in 2009.

These are among the facts in an assessment of the Republican presidential wannabes released by NARAL, the national pro-choice advocacy group. The organization examined the records of 12 candidates—some announced and some still teasing—and though a few have occasionally made moves slightly supportive of women’s reproductive rights, all of the candidates received a failing grade. This was no shocker.

“They’re all unacceptable for pro-choice voters,” said Ted Miller, NARAL’s communications director. He declined to rank them.

The article goes on to make a prediction about the 2012 campaign…

Abortion and other reproductive rights issues didn’t factor very prominently in the 2008 or 2010 elections, when the talk was mostly about jobs and the economy. But given the once-again raging battles across the country over abortion rights and the recent scuffle in Congress over family planning, NARAL expects that abortion as a campaign issue will be back, big time, in 2012. “I can’t imagine that women are going to forget that in the next year before elections,” said Elizabeth Shipp, political director at NARA. “And certainly I think it’s our job to make sure they don’t.”

On to another serious women’s issue, this time in West Central Africa.  AJE has a video report about the effects of rape on women victims in DR Congo.  Mass rape leaves scar on DR Congo village – Africa – Al Jazeera English

In Ruvungi, a small village in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a young disabled girl tells of being beaten and sexually assaulted by a policeman. If he tried to do it again, she says, she would kill him.

She is one of hundreds of women who have been assaulted or raped in Ruvungi, many of them during an attack by rebels in 2010 that lasted over several days. Some of them have found refuge at a women’s shelter in town run by the charity Heal Africa, but the effects remain: children born from rape and angry husbands struggling to deal with the crime.

Much of the rape is tied to competition for extremely lucrative mineral resources, such as gold and tin mines. The perpetrators are rarely brought to justice, despite a United Nations presence.

It is distressing to watch the report, but I thought it would be good to bring it to your attention.

This next article is about the forced migration of people and looking for ways to handle the governing issues that arise when enormous groups of people make a move into another country. Africa: Overhauling Migration Governance to Promote Human Rights And Justice

Stephen Oola writes about how a recent International Association for the Study of Forced Migration conference explored the links between transitional justice and forced migration.


The four day conference attracted over 300 local and international participants; including eminent scholars, practitioners, policy makers, donors, activists, forced migrants and organisational representatives concerned with issues relating to human rights, forced migration, transitional justice and good governance. The theme for this year’s conference was ‘governing migration’, with the objective of exploring key dimensions of the relationship between forms and tools of governance on the one hand and patterns and experiences of forced migration on the other, and their relationship with transitional justice.


According to Dr. Chaloka Beyani, the UN secretary general’s special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDP) and a keynote speaker at the conference, ‘in the era of globalisation, migration has become a global phenomenon spawned by the forces of globalisation’. He added that: ‘Interconnectedness, cohesion, and fragmentation, as virtues and vices resulting from globalisation are both a cause and consequence of forced migration, which means that governing migration may be as difficult as regulating the global forces that sometimes impact adversely on livelihoods, socio-economic and political systems leading to forced migration.’

This conference is especially timely, with all the movement of refugees from Libya and Syria, not to mention the possible large migration of people between Sudan and South Sudan.

Beyani argued that refugees should be conceived of as international citizens. He cited decisions by the European Commission on Human Rights (ECHR), the African Commission and Court on Human and People’s Rights, and Inter-American human rights systems as evidence of maturity in the migration governance regime being reinforced by human rights principles.

Juxtaposing migration governance and contemporary transitional justice processes, he said both refugees and IDPs were affected by the international criminal law regime governing the crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This was because population transfers and forcible displacement and persecution as a crime against humanity should concern refugees as internationally protected persons under international humanitarian law. He said: ‘Injustices against refugees and IDPs as internationally wronged victims have not been sufficiently explored. Although much of the intervention has been responsive to their plight, retrospective approaches are just as important. It is in this regard that a human rights and transitional justice perspective constitute a significant development.

Interesting isn’t it?

Minx’s Missing Link File:  Scientist have found the gene that causes epilepsy in a specific breed of dog.  It is a gene that is also found in humans, so the new discovery is opening the door to finding the cause of childhood epilepsy.   Gene discovery in truffle dogs sheds new light on mechanisms of childhood epilepsy

A new epilepsy gene, LGI2, has been found in the Lagotto Romagnolo dogs, known from their gift for truffle hunting. The gene discovery made by Professor Hannes Lohi and his research group at the University of Helsinki and the Folkhälsan Research Center offers a new candidate gene for human benign childhood epilepsies characterized by seizure remission.

The article is very detailed…so please take a look at the link…fascinating stuff.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  In India it was Couture Week, so your link today is to some pictures of beautiful women in beautiful dresses… Gallery | Delhi Couture Week |

A model strikes a pose as she shows the work of Indian designer Ashima-Leena.
A model strikes a pose as she shows the work of Indian designer Ashima-Leena.
A model shows the back detail on a gown while another makes her way down the runway, displaying fashions by Indian designers Shantanu and Nikhil.
A model shows the back detail on a gown while another makes her way down the runway, displaying fashions by Indian designers Shantanu and Nikhil.
Models gather on the runway to show Indian designer Anju Modi's work.
Models gather on the runway to show Indian designer Anju Modi’s work. AP

That is all I have for you this Sunday Morning.

So, lets see what happens today…my guess is Obama will cave and Boehner will cry…but that is only from past experience.

What are you thinking about today? Find any interesting links? Please…share them!

Monday Reads

Good Morning!

I’ve been following a few stories recently.  Of course, one is about my favorite blood sport: politics.  One interesting recent announcement is that the two Mormons contending for the Republican Presidential slot are skipping Iowa.  Most of the speculation has to do with the role of religionists in the Iowa Republican party.  Law professor Ann Althouse has some interesting observations on what appears to be the unwillingness of evangelical Christians to vote for Mormons.

It’s distressing to see this conflation of conservatism and prejudice. It’s one thing if Iowan Republicans tend to go for someone with a stronger message of social conservatism, quite another if they are hostile to Mormons. Plenty of Mormons are social conservatives, and it just happens that the 2 Mormons in the race are not social conservatives. Can we get some serious research on this point? It’s a dangerous thing to allow insinuations of religious bigotry to seep into the public consciousness. I can’t tell if the Times is really against bigotry or not. If you portray Iowan religious conservatives as anti-Mormon, in one way, it seems anti-bigotry. But it’s also inviting us to feel hostility toward the Iowan evangelicals.

Althouses’ comments are based on this NYT article which states that Iowa may have an ‘ebbing influence’ on national elections.

But there are signs that its influence on the nominating process could be ebbing and that the nature of the voters who tend to turn out for the Republican caucuses — a heavy concentration of evangelical Christians and ideological conservatives overlaid with parochial interests — is discouraging some candidates from competing there.

Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, announced Thursday that he would skip the state’s Republican straw poll this summer, saving his resources — and lowering expectations — for the state’s caucuses next year.

Earlier in the week, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former governor of Utah, conceded that he was likely to skip the Iowa caucuses altogether, noting that his opposition to ethanol subsidies makes him unpopular in a state where support for the corn-based fuel is all but demanded.

“I’m not competing in Iowa for a reason,” he told The Associated Press. In addition to his stand on ethanol, Mr. Huntsman, who served in the Obama administration as ambassador to China, says he believes in global warming and has not embraced the Tea Party movement like some of his rivals. And like Mr. Romney, Mr. Huntsman is a Mormon, a religion viewed with wariness by some conservative Christians.

Repercussions from the Arab Spring are continuing through Summer. Syria appears to be the latest country where members of the military are having second thoughts about cracking down on civil unrest in the general population.

The escalating military offensive in northwest Syria began after what corroborating accounts said was a shoot-out between members of the military secret police in Jisr al-Shughur, some of whom refused to open fire on unarmed protesters.

A growing number of first-hand testimonies from defected soldiers give a rare but dramatic insight into the cracks apparently emerging in Syria’s security forces as the unrelenting assault on unarmed protesters continues.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Turkey, having crossed the border on Friday night, an activist based in Jisr al-Shughur and trusted by experienced local reporters described how a funeral on June 4 for a man shot dead by plain-clothes security a day earlier grew into a large anti-government protest.

“As the demonstration passed the headquarters of the military secret police they opened fire right away and killed eight people,” the activist, who was among the crowd, said. “But some of the secret police refused to open fire and there were clashes between them. It was complete chaos.”

There continues to be a mounting human crisis as Syrians fleeing violence pour into nearby Turkey.

As Syrian security forces move in to the besieged town of Jisr al-Shughour, thousands of refugees are fleeing across the Turkish border.  More camps are being set up to house the new arrivals.  Many of the refugees are in desperate need of medical help.

The emergency ward at Antakya hospital is about to receive its latest casualty from Syria.  It is a young girl who has fallen sick and was brought to the Turkish border by her desperate mother, who is also pregnant. The ambulance driver says the violence in Syria means hospitals there are either full with the injured, or the journey is too hazardous.

The clashes in and around the northern Syrian town of Jisr al-Shughour have forced thousands to flee.  Many of them have recorded the horrifying scenes on cellphones and cameras. In the border village of Harabjoz, people have set up tents as they wait to cross into Turkey.  One refugee, who did not give his name, described the conditions they are facing. “There is no milk for the children,” he says.  “We bought some but we have run out.  They are targeting homes and yesterday gunmen targeted us.  All these people will not survive because they burned all their crops,” he says. “Now it’s become sectarian for sure,” he said.

A spokesman for the United Nations’ refugee agency, Metin Corabatir, has warned of a growing crisis.  “The latest figures UNHCR received from the border is 5051 who fled from Syria because of violence and persecution in this country,” he said.

Witnesses believe the true figure could be double that number – including those who have crossed undetected.

The Economist believes Obama is beatable in 2012 but seems dismayed at the Republican field of candidates.  This was my Saturday night bath read and I found it interesting so I thought I’d pass it along.  They biggest question is that how does a candidate that ran as a change agent and outsider run as ‘Goliath’ this time?

In 2008 Mr Obama represented change. This time he will have to fend off charges that he is to blame for the achingly slow recovery by arguing that it would have been worse without his actions, such as his $800 billion stimulus package and the takeover of GM and Chrysler. That may be true but it is not easy to sell a counterfactual on the stump (as the first President Bush learned). And there are other holes in Mr Obama’s record. What happened to his promises to do something about the environment or immigration or Guantánamo? Why should any businessman support a chief executive who has let his friends in the labour movement run amok and who let his health-care bill be written by Democrats in Congress? Above all, why has he never produced a credible plan to tackle the budget deficit, currently close to 10% of GDP?

Asking these questions will surely give any Republican a perch in this race. But to beat the president, the Republicans need both a credible candidate and credible policies.

I may have to change my opinion of Larry Summers a little bit.  In this FT Op-Ed, Summers tries to fight the austerity agenda and a US “lost decade”.  Wow.

Beyond the lack of jobs and incomes, an economy producing below its potential for a prolonged interval sacrifices its future. To an extent once unimaginable, new college graduates are moving back in with their parents. Strapped school districts across the country are cutting out advanced courses in maths and science. Reduced income and tax collections are the most critical cause of unacceptable budget deficits now and in the future.

You cannot prescribe for a malady unless you diagnose it accurately and understand its causes. That the problem in a period of high unemployment, as now, is a lack of business demand for employees not any lack of desire to work is all but self-evident, as shown by three points: the propensity of workers to quit jobs and the level of job openings are at near-record low; rises in non-employment have taken place among all demographic groups; rising rates of profit and falling rates of wage growth suggest employers, not workers, have the power in almost every market.

A sick economy constrained by demand works very differently from a normal one. Measures that usually promote growth and job creation can have little effect, or backfire. When demand is constraining an economy, there is little to be gained from increasing potential supply. In a recession, if more people seek to borrow less or save more there is reduced demand, hence fewer jobs. Training programmes or measures to increase work incentives for those with high and low incomes may affect who gets the jobs, but in a demand-constrained economy will not affect the total number of jobs. Measures that increase productivity and efficiency, if they do not also translate into increased demand, may actually reduce the number of people working as the level of total output remains demand-constrained.

I’m beginning to feel like part of a chorus these days.  Nearly all economists are telling whatever news source they can that this is your basic demand problem.  Now if the TV media would hire some one other than lawyers and political consultants we might get some traction here on getting a conversation about policy solutions.

I’ve got one more interesting link given to me by our resident psychologist, Bostonboomer. TNR has an interesting article up on why poor people can’t escape poverty easily.

In a paper in April 2010, Harvard behavioral economist Sendhil Mullainathan (for whom, full disclosure, I once worked) and MIT’s Abhijit Banerjee applied this same notion to decisions requiring self-control. If a doughnut costs twenty-five cents, they wrote, then that “$0.25 will be far more costly to someone living on $2 a day than to someone living on $30 a day. In other words, the same self-control problem is more consequential for the poor.” And so, in addition to all the structural barriers that prevent even determined poor people from escaping poverty, there may be another, deeper, and considerably more disturbing barrier: Poverty may reduce free will, making it even harder for the poor to escape their circumstances.

All of this suggests that we need to rethink our approaches to poverty reduction. Many of our current anti-poverty efforts focus on access to health, educational, agricultural, and financial services. Now, it seems, we need to start treating willpower as a scarce and important resource as well.

Okay, so what’s on your reading and blogging list this morning?

Wednesday Reads: Refugees, Whistleblowers and an Egyptian Princess


Al Jazeera journalist released from detention – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Dorothy Parvaz has been released. She is in Qatar and in good condition.

An Al Jazeera spokesman said: “I’m delighted to let you know that Dorothy Parvaz has been released and is safe and well and back with us in Doha. She has been in contact with her family, and we are with her now to find out more about her ordeal over the last nineteen days.”

Her fiancé Todd Barker, posted on Facebook: “She is safe in Doha and will be coming to Vancouver BC soon. We can’t wait to see her.”


Good morning, allergies are hitting me hard today…so keep that in mind as you read this post. If it tends to wander or seems unmotivated, blame it on my extremely stuffed up head.

An estimated 25,000 refugees leaving Libya have come to one little island in the Mediterranean.  The situation is one of desperation. Last week, over 800 people died when a refugee boat sank just off shore.  Michelle Chen: On Italian Island, Refugees Wait at Intersection of Europe’s Hope and Fear

On the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, perched between North Africa and southern Europe, exhausted young men pile onto the shore from rickety boats. Those who arrived before them wait in makeshift encampments under the anxious eyes of local townspeople. No one knows when they’ll be allowed to leave, or who will accept them.

This is not what democracy looks like.

Imagine the feelings and emotions these people are experiencing. They leave the violence of Libya and Tunisia only to find themselves stuck in limbo.

The unrest in Tunisia and Libya have turned Lampedusa into a makeshift Ellis Island. Several thousand have already arrived from Tunisia, and there is a growing wave of migrants from Libya. The latest rush includes many migrants from elsewhere in Africa or Asia, who were working in Libya when war broke out.

Berlusconi has asked for help in dealing with this “human tsunami,” but Europe is not keen on taking the refugees in.

A generation ago, Europe was leading the way toward a saner approach to national boundaries…The Schengen Agreement, which covers many countries including Spain, Italy, and France, moved Western Europe toward a so-called “border-free zone” to help manage migration into and across the continent.

Now French and Italian officials are seeking to roll back Schengen and temporarily tighten borders. Denmark has joined the rising anti-migrant backlash by seeking to resurrect its border controls. And while Germany criticized Denmark’s border tightening as unprincipled, last year, it was Chancellor Angela Merkel who fanned the flames of xenophobia by declaring that multiculturalism had “failed” in Germany.

Sad to see this reaction from some of the same countries that pushed for intervention in Libya.

Here is an update on Dorothy Parvaz:  Iran Says Missing Al Jazeera Reporter Committed Offenses –

Iran said Tuesday that it was pursuing information about a missing Al Jazeera reporter sent to Tehran by the Syrian government in early May, saying she had committed “several offenses,” including traveling without a valid passport.

The disclosure, by a Foreign Ministry spokesman at a Tehran news conference, was the first public indication from the Iranian authorities of their intentions toward the reporter, Dorothy Parvaz, who has apparently been in Iran for more than two weeks and is possibly in Iranian custody.

I hope she is being treated well.  The article mentions that Iran has 34 journalist (possibly more) in custody, which is more than China.

****Breaking News****

Updated: Al-Jazeera journalist who went missing in Syria is released | Media |

Moving on to Torture & the Art of the Gratuitous Lie: Dissecting Rumsfeld & Thiessen’s Wild Whoppers | MyFDL

As if we already didn’t know the media is full of lies and stupidity, two new examples have surfaced in recent days, with former administration officials and their media mouthpieces vying for who can pronounce the most incredible lies about the torture policies of the U.S. government. What’s even more amazing is that one ostensibly progressive website and its members have taken at least one of these lies as good coin, a lie so blatant that it only takes a moment’s reflection to realize it’s total BS.

It is a great post by Jeff Kaye, so check it out.

Over at MoJo Kevin Drum has this to say:  Chart of the Day: Unemployment Falls Off the Radar | Mother Jones

National Journal’s Clifford Marks goes looking for evidence that the chattering classes are chattering a lot more about the deficit these days, and he finds it: mentions of the deficit are way up in the country’s five biggest newspapers. The explanation is pretty simple: “The broadening gap demonstrates just how effective conservatives have been at changing the narrative of economic policy from one dominated by talk of fiscal stimulus to one now in lockstep with notions of fiscal austerity.”

Drum goes on to point out that of the five largest newspapers, unemployment gets mentioned only two times a week. With numbers like what Dakinikat discussed last week, it makes you wonder what the media is doing with their time…Oh wait, we know.

Here is a new insult from Scott Walker, this time his target is same sex couples.  Walker does not think that gay couples should have the simplest of rights, like being able to visit your partner in the hospital.  Gov. Scott Walker Doesn’t Want Gay Couples to Have Visitation Rights

Republican Governor Scott Walker has done a lot of things under the guise of cutting spending — taking away union bargaining power, fighting high speed rail, eliminating birth control and STI programs for teens and low income adults and fighting against mandatory paid sick leave laws.

But now the governor has picked a new battle: ending the state’s defense of its domestic partnership registry, a means for same sex couples to obtain a few of the rights married couples have, such as hospital visitation.  The governor calls the registry unconstitutional and states that it is a waste of taxpayer money to defend it.

I wonder what big money donor has this new Walker agenda written in the memo section of their campaign contribution check.

This article by Jane Mayer is one you must read.  Charges Against the N.S.A.’s Thomas Drake : The New Yorker

Glenn Greenwald was very enthusiastic about it and discusses some of Mayer’s key points here: Jane Mayer on the Obama war on whistle-blowers – Glenn Greenwald –

…the Obama administration’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers generally, and its persecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake in particular (Drake exposed massive waste, excess and perhaps illegality in numerous NSA programs).  Mayer’s article is what I’d describe as the must-read magazine article of the month, and I encourage everyone to read it in its entirety.

I read the Greenwald piece before reading Mayer’s article. You may want to do the same.

A recent study of ancient Egyptian mummies may interest anyone who has first hand experience with Coronary Artery Disease.  Ancient Egyptian princess now known to be first person in human history with diagnosed coronary artery disease

The Egyptian princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon, who lived in Thebes (Luxor) between 1580 and 1550 BC and who is now known to be first person in human history with diagnosed coronary artery disease, lived on a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and a limited amount of meat from domesticated (but not fattened) animals. Wheat and barley were grown along the banks of the Nile, making bread and beer the dietary staples of this period of ancient Egypt. Tobacco and trans-fats were unknown, and lifestyle was likely to have been active.


“Overall, it was striking how much atherosclerosis we found,” said Dr Thomas. “We think of atherosclerosis as a disease of modern lifestyle, but it’s clear that it also existed 3500 years ago. Our findings certainly call into question the perception of atherosclerosis as a modern disease.”

So, a healthy diet and an active lifestyle did not keep Ahmose-Meryet-Amon from needing bypass surgery…makes you wonder doesn’t it.

I will end this post with something else for you to think about.  Stephen Hawking gave an interview recently and had this to say.  Heaven is a fairy tale, says physicist Hawking | Reuters

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first,” he told the Guardian newspaper.

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

When asked how we should live he said: “We should seek the greatest value of our action.”

That last quote sounds like something Lincoln would say…it is so expressive and to the point. I love it…

What are you reading and blogging about this morning?

SDB Evening News Reads for 050911

Vintage Evening Newspaper from Westminster, England.

Good Evening….Minx here and today I will start a new regular weekday post that will bring you up to date on the news reports that happened during the day.  Sort of like when people would tune into the Network’s Evening News when they got home after work…only the SDB’s Evening News Reads will have our own Sky Dancer Spin on it.  I’ll cut through the crap and get everyone caught up on the days events. So be sure to check it out Weekday’s between 5 and 6pm EST. (That gives me a bit of leeway with the post…just a little more room as far as writing is concerned.)

Here is what’s been happening today.

U.S. News

With Mississippi River on Rise, Memphis Residents Told to Go –

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Workers used cranes to remove some of the Bonnet Carre Spillway’s wooden barriers, which serve as a dam against the high water in Norco, La., approximately 30 miles upriver from New Orleans, on Monday.

MEMPHIS — The Mississippi River is expected to crest near Memphis on Monday evening, and emergency officials spent several hours in the morning going door-to-door to warn residents in low-lying areas to evacuate.

The Mississippi, which has already caused some flooding in Memphis during the last several days, will top out at 48 feet on Monday at about 7 p.m., said Tracy Howieson, a National Weather Service hydrologist. It is expected to stay at that level for at least 48 hours before slowly receding.

“It will be a prolonged crest at Memphis and in parts downstream,” Ms. Howieson said.

The river had not been expected to crest until later this week, but it has taken on a surge of water in recent days from some of its tributaries, officials said.

Dak mentioned some of the concerns this flooding will cause in her backyard.  Will keep you posted on this as the water heads down river.

Paul Krugman has a new post up, and all I can say about it is …no shit.

The Unwisdom of Elites –

The past three years have been a disaster for most Western economies. The United States has mass long-term unemployment for the first time since the 1930s. Meanwhile, Europe’s single currency is coming apart at the seams. How did it all go so wrong?

Well, what I’ve been hearing with growing frequency from members of the policy elite — self-appointed wise men, officials, and pundits in good standing — is the claim that it’s mostly the public’s fault. The idea is that we got into this mess because voters wanted something for nothing, and weak-minded politicians catered to the electorate’s foolishness.

So this seems like a good time to point out that this blame-the-public view isn’t just self-serving, it’s dead wrong.

The fact is that what we’re experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren’t responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people — in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.

Read the rest of Krugman…he discusses what happened in the US and then in Europe. It is pretty much a review of what brought on this economic mess.

Here is a recent court decision that was interesting to may also find it interesting as well:  North Carolina Appellate Decision Raises New Chain of Title Issue « naked capitalism

A potentially important North Carolina appeals court case, In re Gilbert, has not gotten the attention it warrants.

In very short form, the borrowers, who were unable to obtain a loan modification, tried to halt a foreclosure by arguing that the lenders had failed to make required disclosures under the Truth in Lending Act (which they hoped would allow for recission of the loan, and that the party seeking to foreclose had not proved that it was the holder of the Note with the right to foreclose under the instrument. The judges nixed the TILA argument, affirming lower court decisions, but reversed the superior court on the question of the standing of the petitioner.

What is interesting is the logic of the decision, which blows a hole in one of the pet arguments of the American Securitization Forum, that possession of a note will suffice. We have argued that the contracts that govern the securitization, the pooling and servicing agreement, sets the requirements for conveyance as is contemplated in the Uniform Commercial Code (its Article 1 allows for parties to make their own arrangements as long as certain conditions are met). But if the parties to a case do not argue that the PSA trumps the UCC (and many do not), most judges will reason from the UCC, and securitization attorneys have blithely assumed this will get them out of trouble.

World News

In World News, 600 people are feared dead:  BBC News – Libya: Hundreds feared dead as migrant boat capsizes

Several hundred people are feared to have drowned off Libya, after a boat carrying some 600 refugees trying to reach Europe broke up at sea on Friday.

The UN’s refugee agency said 16 bodies, including two babies, had been found.

UNCHR has said all ships using the Mediterranean should be ready to assist such vessels, as thousands continue to flee North Africa in inadequate boats.

Nato has denied claims that its naval units left dozens of migrants to die aboard another boat in distress.

It said it was unaware of the plight of the boat, which reportedly was adrift for more than two weeks.

The Guardian newspaper said 61 of the 72 people on board the boat died of hunger or thirst, despite being spotted by a military helicopter and Nato ship.

UNHCR’s said migrants arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa had reported seeing the boat carrying some 600 people foundering shortly after leaving the port at Tripoli on Friday.

If confirmed, this would be one of the largest accidents so far involving the thousands of often unseaworthy boats trying to reach Europe following unrest in North Africa.

News From Pakistan rejects complicity in bin Laden case – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English

Pakistan has denied allegations of complicity or incompetence in the Osama bin Laden case.

Yousuf Raza Gilani, the country’s prime minister, said that it was “disingenuous” for anyone to accuse either the Pakistani state or its various institutions, including its intelligence agencies, of “being in cahoots” with al-Qaeda.

Addressing parliament on Monday, Gilani said it was Pakistan’s spy agency that had given “key leads” that ultimately led to the US raid on the compound in Pakistan’s Abbottabad where bin Laden lived.

He said that his country attached high importance to its relations with the United States, but warned that “unilateral actions” such as the raid on bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad ran the risk of serious consequences.

This is a great follow up to the AJE article above:  On Bin Laden: I ask myself ‘Why?’ | Informed Comment

I ask myself why. Some Pakistanis are complaining about the violation of their country’s sovereignty during the Navy SEALs’ raid at Abbottabad.

But why aren’t they complaining about Usama Bin Laden’s violation of Pakistani sovereignty? He and his family entered their country illegally, and then re-formed a paramilitary organization that killed Pakistanis and raided from Pakistan over into Afghanistan. Foreigners behaving that way for years on Pakistani soil with no pretense of legality seems to me a bigger violation of Pakistani sovereignty than a 40-minute raid that captured one fugitive who had killed 3000 Americans.

I ask myself why. Some observers are calling the SEALs’ operation against Bin Laden illegal.

But the United Nations Charter firmly recognizes the right of a state to defend itself from attack. Bin Laden had demonstrated that he could and would attack the United States. He was also having US troops in Afghanistan, who are there with UNO sanction, attacked. He was doing this every day. Why wouldn’t the US have the same right to defend itself as everyone else? Pakistani troops in the late 1990s routinely went into Afghanistan for purposes less urgent than self-defense.

Please read the rest of Juan Cole’s article…he also has a few other recent quick posts up that you may want to check out as well.

Looking forward for this report from Amnesty International Unveils Global Report On Human Rights; Issue Experts Available For Analysis – PR Newswire –

Amnesty International (AI) will launch its annual assessment of human rights worldwide on Friday, May 13, and the U.S. section of the world’s largest human rights organization is urging the U.S. Congress to support reform efforts across the Middle East and North Africa by investing in development and advancing cyber-activists and internet freedom.

In November or December Dakinikat wrote an article about Big Pharma…here is a piece from Reuters that discusses the same things Dak brought up:  Special report: Big Pharma’s global guinea pigs | Reuters

The Polish port city of Gdansk is famous for its shipyards. Hungary’s fifth largest city, Pecs, is known for its ancient architecture and brewery. Neither is particularly renowned for medicine. Yet when AstraZeneca Plc tested its big new drug hope Brilinta on heart attack patients in a major clinical study, it was hospitals in these places that enrolled some of the highest number of patients anywhere in the world.

In fact, Poland and Hungary together accounted for 21 percent of all subjects studied in the pivotal 18,000-patient trial — more than double the United States and Canada combined.

A few years ago that would have been unthinkable. Major drug companies, with an eye on the commercial promise of the world’s largest and most profitable market, would have run half their tests on a major cardiovascular medicine like this in U.S. hospitals under the supervision of U.S. doctors.

And I will end with this laugh: ThinkProgress » Trump: ‘I Am The Least Racist Person There Is’ Because A Black Guy Won The Apprentice Six Years Ago

Potential presidential candidate Donald Trump has often found himself in hot water for making racially-tinged comments — saying in the span of a single press conference, for example, that President Obama should “get off his basketball court” and that a black reporter must be a “big Obama fan.” Yet, Trump insists he has a “great relationship with the blacks.” Responding to accusations of racism this morning on Fox & Friends, Trump said he is the “least racist person there is,” citing the fact that an African-American man won The Apprentice once as proof:

TRUMP: Well, you know, when it comes to racism and racists, I am the least racist person there is. And I think most people who know me would tell you that. I am the least racist, I’ve had great relationships. In fact, Randal Pinkett won, as you know, on The Apprentice a little while ago, a couple of years ago. And Randall’s been outstanding in every way. So I am the least racist person.

So that is your evening update…catch y’all later!