Friday Reads: “The Leader of the Free World Meets Donald Trump”

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

This is what happens when all the cracked eggs in the cartoon get to vote in gerrymandered elections that were the subject of Russian interference and laws specifically designed to suppress minority votes.

Yes. Please read that again because it’s a headline from Politico.   I think we can all agree that the current executive branch is a force for evil and chaos in the world so it’s taken less than 2 months for us to lose whatever standing we ever had left after the entire Iraq invasion debacle.   Angela Merkel is the leader of the Free World and Kremlin Caligula refused to shake hands with her.

The subhead line to this? “Angela Merkel, whether she wants the job or not, is the West’s last, best hope.”  Yes. She is because every day the news on the Russian entanglements become more and more evident.  We’ve basically had a bloodless coup.

The German chancellor is the only leader in Europe who even has a plausible claim to moral leadership. As a victim of Soviet communism, Merkel was always going to be listened to carefully on the question of morality. And given her longevity she was always going to be respected. But it was her unexpected decision to accept some 1 million refugees that established her moral credentials, especially since no other political leader has taken such a political risk.

The cruel irony of Trump’s election is that for many decades it was the United States that was seen as a moral leader. During the Cold War, Soviet dissidents looked to the United States. And after communism fell, it was the United States that led international actions to protect victims of repression or hardship. Whether it was the Kurds in northern Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, or the spending on medicine to treat millions suffering from HIV in Africa, the United States was the country expected to act.

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Yes, every day we find out more about that Russian interference. Rachel’s been on top of it probably more than any other mainstream TV media outlet.  WAPO has not let it go either. Writer and friend Tim Shorrock explains how privatization has played a role in helping Wikileaks hack our systems.  This is something of particular interest because if Trump and friends have their way, their billionaire friends and business interests will be the total overlords of a pay to play privatization scheme.  The Cheney buddies were the beneficiaries are the clarion call of handing over public trusts, money and interests to old employers.

When WikiLeaks released more than 8,000 files about the CIA’s global hacking programsthis month, it dropped a tantalizing clue: The leak came from private contractors. Federal investigators quickly confirmed this, calling contractors the likeliest sources. As a result of the breach, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange said, the CIA had “lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal.”

Intelligence insiders were dismayed. Agencies “take a chance with contractors” because “they may not have the same loyalty” as officers employed by the government, former CIA director Leon Panetta lamented to NBC.

But this is a liability built into our system that intelligence officials have long known about and done nothing to correct. As I first reported in 2007, some 70 cents of every intelligence dollar is allocated to the private sector. And the relentless pace of mergers and acquisitions in the spies-for-hire business has left five corporations in control of about 80 percent of the 45,000 contractors employed in U.S. intelligence. The threat from unreliable employees in this multibillion-dollar industry is only getting worse.

Tim is a superb investigator and researcher.  He’s been on this story for some time. Please go read it.

Trump has surrounded himself with “blow it up Billionaires”. His cabinet is filled with them.  A large number of them are either trust fund babies with maybe one generation of wealth behind them or folks that made money the new-fashioned way.  They gambled on Wall Street on items that are merely paper.  These are not the Carnegies that built a steel industry or even the Rockefellers and their oil empire.  These are folks that basically got wealthy via tax loopholes, get rich schemes, and betting against actual companies through the derivatives markets.  The Mercers are a shining example of this new model and their politics are poisonous.

Mercer is a youthful-looking 70. As a boy growing up in New Mexico, he carried around a notebook filled with computer programs he had written. “It’s very unlikely that any of them actually worked,” he has said. “I didn’t get to use a real computer until after high school.” Robert went on to work for decades at IBM, where he had a reputation as a brilliant computer scientist. He made his vast fortune in his 50s, after his work on predicting financial markets led to his becoming co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, one of the world’s most successful quantitative hedge funds. A longtime colleague, David Magerman, recalls that when Robert began working at Renaissance in 1993, he and his wife, Diana, were “grounded, sweet people.” (Magerman was suspended from Renaissance in February after making critical comments about Robert in The Wall Street Journal.) But “money changed all that,” he says. “Diana started jetting off to Europe and flying to their yacht on weekends. The girls were used to getting what they wanted.”

At Renaissance, Robert was an eccentric among eccentrics. The firm is legendary for shunning people with Wall Street or even conventional finance backgrounds, instead favoring scientists and original thinkers. Robert himself, by all accounts, is extremely introverted. Rarely seen in public, he likes to spend his free time with his wife and three daughters. When, in 2014, Robert accepted an award from the Association for Computational Linguistics, he recalled, in a soft voice and with quiet humor, his consternation at being informed that he was expected to give “an oration on some topic or another for an hour, which, by the way, is more than I typically talk in a month.” Sebastian Mallaby’s account of the hedge-fund elite, More Money Than God, describes him as an “icy cold” poker player who doesn’t remember having a nightmare. He likes model trains, having once purchased a set for $2.7 million, and has acquired one of the country’s largest collections of machine guns.

For years, Robert has embraced a supercharged libertarianism with idiosyncratic variations. He is reportedly pro-death penalty, pro-life and pro-gold standard. He has contributed to an ad campaign opposing the construction of the ground zero mosque; Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, a group that is associated with fringe scientific claims; and Black Americans for a Better Future—a vehicle, the Intercept discovered, for an African-American political consultant who has accused Barack Obama of “relentless pandering to homosexuals.” Magerman, Robert’s former colleague at Renaissance, recalls him saying, in front of coworkers, words to the effect that “your value as a human being is equivalent to what you are paid. … He said that, by definition, teachers are not worth much because they aren’t paid much.” His beliefs were well-known at the firm, according to Magerman. But since Robert was so averse to publicity, his ideology wasn’t seen as a cause for concern. “None of us ever thought he would get his views out, because he only talked to his cats,” Magerman told me.

Robert’s middle daughter Rebekah shares similar political beliefs, but she is also very articulate and, therefore, able to act as her father’s mouthpiece. (Neither Rebekah nor Robert responded to detailed lists of questions for this article.) Under Rebekah’s leadership, the family foundation pouredsome $70 million into conservative causes between 2009 and 2014.[1]

Trump, the short fingered vulgarian, can find no solace among the truly wealthy of Manhattan.  He’s done what he has to do to feed his need for endless attention, power, and money.  He’s thrown in with International Thieves and local thugs.  There is nothing these folks love more than to suppress the votes of minorities along with promoting the xenophobia of the White Nationalists that serve this White House and the Tea Party.

Few people in the Republican Party have done more to limit voting rights than Hans von Spakovsky. He’s been instrumental in spreading the myth of widespread voter fraud and backing new restrictions to make it harder to vote.

But it appears that von Spakovsky had an admirer in Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, according to e-mails released to the Senate Judiciary Committee covering Gorsuch’s time working in the George W. Bush Administration.

When President Bush nominated von Spakovksy to the Federal Election Commission in late 2005, Gorsuch wrote, “Good for Hans!”

Read that article at The Nation.  These are not nice people by any traditional or untraditional sense of the word.  Here’s a nice little Georgia Cracker defending a bill designed to stop black people from voting at the same link.

Georgia’s voter-ID law was submitted to the Justice Department in 2005 under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required states like Georgia with a long history of voting discrimination to approve their voting changes with the federal government. The sponsor of the law, Republican Representative Sue Burmeister, told department lawyers, “If there are fewer black voters because of the bill, it will only be because there is less opportunity for fraud. She said when black voters in her precinct are not paid to vote, they do not go to the polls.”

Her racially inflammatory assertions set off alarm bells among the team reviewing the submission, indicating that the law may have been enacted with a discriminatory purpose. Department lawyers feared the bill would disenfranchise thousands of voters.

188920_600Here’s another dozy appointment for you. White House Advisor Sebastian Gorka supposedly held membership in a Nazi-Allied Far-Right Hungarian Group, Historical Vitézi Rend.   New York Congressman Jerry Nadler has opened a query.  Gorka is a Deputy Assistant to T-Rump and has been out spoken about the travel ban.    He’s among those in the government spreading blatant disinformation.  You can read more about the Travel Ban, etc. on BB’ post yesterday.

Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, falsely claimed Thursday that Trump’s travel ban was never linked to a particular religious group during the campaign.

In a press release from December 2015 titled “DONALD J. TRUMP STATEMENT ON PREVENTING MUSLIM IMMIGRATION,” Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

Nevertheless, Gorka told Breitbart News Daily radio, “There is not one instance on the campaign trail or after the President took office in which the travel suspension was mentioned without reference to national security — it was never mentioned, ‘we’re doing this because of a certain religious group.'”

“In every single instance, every campaign speech, every statement out of the White House after January 20th this measure was linked to the security of the United States,” Gorka continued. “National security is the prerogative of the commander in chief and immigration, including immigration standards and the issuance of visas is not a local, is not a federal, is not a judicial function. It is a function of the White House and the executive arm.”

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide halt on Trump’s revised travel ban order, citing statements Trump made during the presidential campaign about Muslims.

 So, the first thing that happened in the Trump-Merkel meeting today is that T-Rump did not shake hands with Germany’s Chancellor during a photo op.

 Trump sat next to Merkel in front of a fireplace for the brief photo-op.“Very good,” Trump said to assembled reporters when asked about what the two leaders discussed. “Lots of things.”

“Very good, thanks,” Merkel said in German.

But Trump hardly looked at Merkel and, when the photo op ended, didn’t move in for a handshake.

We’re in for an ongoing nightmare and series of national embarrassments for some time.  I’m just hoping the terrorists groups don’t have a chance to get their acts together before we get rid of him.  Every thing in the executive branch is extremely nonfunctional.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
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Sunday Reads: Sinatra Suite and Other Distractions

British ballerina Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes (1948).

British ballerina Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes (1948).

Good Morning

Two days left, and if you are sick of all the campaign commercials on TV…then I think you will agree, we all could use some distractions.

For me this is going into week three of hell, so I have been up to my ass in distractions=QatQi

But I won’t bitch about the TCM blackout again…

So let’s just start the post with a link that got the whole post going.

From HuffPo: A Brief But Stunning Visual History Of Ballet In The 20th Century

As holiday season approaches, visions of sugar-plum fairies inevitably begin dancing in our heads. ‘Tis the time of “The Nutcracker,” and other classic ballet performances that countdown to a whole new season of dance across the world. In honor of the possibilities of the 2014-2015 season, we dug into the photographic archives of Getty and the Associated Press to find the most iconic snapshots of ballerinas and prima donnas over the ages.

Below is a brief but beautiful visual history of the art form, ranging from 1911 to 1999. From Vaslav Nijinsky to Benjamin Millepied, Anna Pavlov to Sylvie Guillem, the collection of vintage portraits gives a mostly black-and-white glimpse into over a century’s worth of ballet greats. Much has changed in terms of representation and body image over the years, and while we can only hope to see more diversity, it certainly shows in these images. Take a look and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Vaslow Nijinsky

Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950) as the faun at the premiere of Ballet Russe’s production of “L’Apres-midi d’un Faune” at the Theatre du Chatelet Paris in May of 1912. (Photo by Edward Gooch/Edward Gooch/Getty Images)

 

It is brief, and they do miss out on a lot of artist…many from the 1970s, when there was a surge in professional dancers that really kicked some ass. So as you can see…I have added to the articles images throughout this thread. Enjoy the pictures of some of the best dancers evah! And be sure to watch the videos too, I bet you have never seen these performances. (Oh yeah, and keep a mental note of that picture of Nijinsky, because we will come back to it in a moment.)

Like this one, from 1984…it is Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite:

Originally broadcast in 1984 over New York’s WNET/Thirteen on “Great Performances,” as part of the “Dance in America” series Baryshnikov Dances Sinatra and More… film. Mikhail Baryshnikov, along with members of American Ballet Theatre, dance three works choreographed by Twyla Tharp: “The Little Ballet,” “Sinatra Suite,” and “Push Comes to Shove.”

 

 

Damn that man could dance…mmmm, and he was gorgeous too.

Another production from the same year that I think you will enjoy…I have a two clips featured  below but you can see the entire show here: Evening at the Met – 1984 – YouTube  100th anniversary celebration at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. This performance took place on May 13, 1984.

And that picture of Nijinsky, well…in this 100th anniversary performance, Lillian Gish introduces  Nijinsky’s “Le Spectre de la Rose” danced by Patrick Dupond.


The ballet was first presented in Monte Carlo on 19 April 1911. Nijinsky danced The Rose and Tamara Karsavina danced The Young Girl. It was a great success. Spectre became internationally famous for the leap (jump) Nijinsky made through a window at the ballet’s end.

That alone is something you need to see. (Click on Lillian Gish name above…)

Along with that Huffpo link, here is a Buzzfeed post that has some beautiful images: Gorgeous Vintage Photographs Of Ballet Dancers

 

Alexandra Danilova, 1925. Joan Craven/Evening Standard / Getty Images

Alexandra Danilova, 1925. Joan Craven/Evening Standard / Getty Images

Many more at link.

Video time:

First up, two performers that were amazing together:

Marcia Haydee and Richard Cragun

My favorite of the bunch has to be Taming of the Shrew…

This is the performance from the 1984  Met show:

 

Here is their version of Romeo and Juliet:

 

 

Next up,

Manon Act I Pas de Deux – Antoinette Sibley & David Wall

 

Giselle Act II Pas de Deux – Alicia Alonso & Jorge Esquivel

 

Paloma Herrera and Angel Corella – Grand Pas de Deux  ”Don Quixote”

 

Le Grand Pas de Quatre 1/2 – Les Ballets Trockadero

 

Dammit…now I have to post some news shit. Okay. But I am going to be quick about it.

10f5c7b51a78bd6683d2cfcbd2bd4b5bBoko Haram: Kidnapped Girls Have Been Married Off, Truce Never Happened

A man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said more than 200 girls kidnapped by the group six months ago had been “married off” to its fighters, contradicting Nigerian government claims they would soon be freed.

Nigeria’s military says it killed Shekau a year ago, and authorities said in September that they had also killed an imposter posting as him in videos. In the latest recording it is hard to see the man’s face as he his filmed from a distance.

But it is likely to raise grave doubts about whether talks between a Boko Haram faction and the government in neighboring Chad will secure the release of the girls, who were kidnapped from a secondary school in Chibok, northeast Nigeria, in April.

“We have have married them off and they are all in their husbands’ houses,” the man claiming to be Shekau says.

“The over 200 Chibok girls have converted to Islam, which they confess is the best religion. Either their parents accept this and convert too or they can die.”

The majority of the kidnapped girls were Christians.

Leslie Browne

Leslie Browne

Police seek driver in California hit and run that killed 3 trick-or-treaters | Reuters

Detectives continued their search on Saturday for the driver of an SUV who struck and killed three teenage girls trick-or-treating on Halloween in Southern California, and investigators were unsure who was behind the wheel of the vehicle, a police spokesman said.

The three girls, ranging in age from 13 to 15, were in costume and carrying candy bags when they were hit while crossing a street on Friday evening in Santa Ana, about 35 miles (55 km) south of Los Angeles.

Officers found the sports utility vehicle abandoned behind a nearby retailer, said Santa Ana police spokesman Corporal Anthony Bertagna.

Later on Friday night, police went to an address registered as the home of the vehicle’s owner, but the occupants of the house had no connection to the SUV, Bertagna said.

Detectives are unsure where the registered owner of the vehicle might be living, or whether the SUV had been stolen before the hit and run collision, he said.

I wonder if this was some sort of gang initiation thing…those kids were walking in the crosswalk when they were run over. Two of the kids were sisters, twins.

Marianna Tcherkassky. ABT

Marianna Tcherkassky. ABT

This caught my eye via Politics USA: Minority Voter Suppression In North Carolina Witnessed Firsthand

It is harder to vote in North Carolina these days. On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court, in Shelby v. Holder, gutted a landmark provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A majority of the justices struck down Article 5 of the Act, which had required federal preapproval of changes to voting practices in southern states. Eviscerating Article 5 effectively halted its protections and set the stage for sweeping efforts to disenfranchise minorities, women, the elderly and students. Six weeks later, emboldened by the Court’s ruling, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the nation’s most restrictive voting law all in the name of “preventing voter fraud.”

Marcia Haydée (born 18 April 1937) and Richard Cragun (5 October 1944 – 6 August 2012)  Stuttgart ballet, 28 November 1976. Photo by Serge Lido.

Marcia Haydée (born 18 April 1937) and Richard Cragun (5 October 1944 – 6 August 2012) Stuttgart ballet, 28 November 1976. Photo by Serge Lido.

Lawsuits challenging the law have been filed by various organizations including the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. The ACLU and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice sought to have certain provisions of the law stayed until the trial scheduled for summer of 2015. The request for a stay was denied at the district court level, but the district court’s decision was reversed by a three judge panel at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. On October 8, 2014, the Supreme Court struck down the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that had stayed many of the 2013 North Carolina’s laws restrictions thus instituting widespread voter suppression.

Read the rest…if you can.

Corina Dumitrescu b. 1970 Bucharest National Opera

Corina Dumitrescu b. 1970 Bucharest National Opera

In connection to the link above… Jim Crow returns | Al Jazeera America

Election officials in 27 states, most of them Republicans, have launched a program that threatens a massive purge of voters from the rolls. Millions, especially black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters, are at risk. Already, tens of thousands have been removed in at least one battleground state, and the numbers are expected to climb, according to a six-month-long, nationwide investigation by Al Jazeera America.

Gelsey Kirkland, Don Quixote

Gelsey Kirkland, Don Quixote

At the heart of this voter-roll scrub is the Interstate Crosscheck program, which has generated a master list of nearly 7 million names. Officials say that these names represent legions of fraudsters who are not only registered but have actually voted in two or more states in the same election — a felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison.

Until now, state elections officials have refused to turn over their Crosscheck lists, some on grounds that these voters are subject to criminal investigation. Now, for the first time, three states — Georgia, Virginia and Washington — have released their lists to Al Jazeera America, providing a total of just over 2 million names.

Gelsey again...

Gelsey again…

Ya got that? 2 miiiiiiiillllllliiiioooon names.

The Crosscheck list of suspected double voters has been compiled by matching names from roughly 110 million voter records from participating states. Interstate Crosscheck is the pet project of Kansas’ controversial Republican secretary of state, Kris Kobach, known for his crusade against voter fraud.

Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey

The three states’ lists are heavily weighted with names such as Jackson, Garcia, Patel and Kim — ones common among minorities, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Indeed, fully 1 in 7 African-Americans in those 27 states, plus the state of Washington (which enrolled in Crosscheck but has decided not to utilize the results), are listed as under suspicion of having voted twice. This also applies to 1 in 8 Asian-Americans and 1 in 8 Hispanic voters. White voters too — 1 in 11 — are at risk of having their names scrubbed from the voter rolls, though not as vulnerable as minorities.

If even a fraction of those names are blocked from voting or purged from voter rolls, it could alter the outcome of next week’s electoral battle for control of the U.S. Senate — and perhaps prove decisive in the 2016 presidential vote count.

Antoinette Sibley as Manon and Anthony Dowell as Des Grieux in Manon Photo by Leslie E. Spatt

Antoinette Sibley as Manon and Anthony Dowell as Des Grieux in Manon Photo by Leslie E. Spatt

“It’s Jim Crow all over again,” says the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who cofounded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King, Jr. Lowery, now 93, says he recognizes in the list of threatened voters a sophisticated new form of an old and tired tactic. “I think [the Republicans] would use anything they can find. Their desperation is rising.”

You know what that reminds me of, what this redneck says in this scene from Mississippi Burning:

 

 

Pertinent part starts around 0:35 min but the whole damn clip is good.

Juliet Doherty (photo by Joe Toreno for Dance Spirit)

Juliet Doherty (photo by Joe Toreno for Dance Spirit)

One more on race: Spike Lee: Idea that America is a post-racial society under Obama is ‘bullsh*t’

n an interview with Fusion TV, director Spike Lee dismissed the notion that America has become a post-racial society under a black president, calling the belief ‘bullsh*t.”

Speaking with Fusion host Jorge Ramos about race in America, Lee touched upon multiple subjects including the police chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City and the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Asked by Ramos what he tells his children about race in America, Lee replied “I don’t care who you are, if you’re African-American in this country, you know know what the deal is.”

Prompted to elaborate by Ramos, Lee continued.

Chris Farley. Look at that turnout!

Chris Farley. Look at that turnout!

“That you’re black. It just means that you’re black. And the people who get in trouble are the people who forget they’re black,” Lee explained. “You can’t just think I’m so successful that I’ve reached another realm. And I’m in a so-called post …” at which point Lee asked the audience for help remembering the term ‘post-racial’. “Yeah, that bullsh*t, where now that we have a black, African-American president that race no longer matters. And there are times, even today, it’s hard for me to catch a cab sometimes. In New York City.”

Asked by Ramos why, in 2014, incidents like the deaths of Garner and Brown by police officers still happening, Lee said, “There’s a big division for the police departments, I think, in this country, versus people of color.”

Addressing the death of Garner, Lee noted that the chokehold was banned over twenty years ago.

Alicia Alonso, Prima Ballerina

Alicia Alonso, Prima Ballerina

Lee said that, after seeing the video of Garner being held and choked to death by police officers,  he couldn’t help but notice the similarities to the chokehold that killed the character Radio Raheem (see video below), in his landmark 1989 film, Do The Right Thing.

In the film, the death of Raheem set off rioting and the destruction of the neighborhood.

Video at the link.

More right-wing shit: Arizona School Board Votes To Get Rid Of Textbook Pages That Discuss Abortion

An Arizona school district is making sure that students are not educated about abortion in biology class.

Boris Lipnitzki, Brigitte Bardot in Ballet Class, Paris, 1946

Boris Lipnitzki, Brigitte Bardot in Ballet Class, Paris, 1946

This week, Gilbert Public Schools’ governing board voted to remove pages from an honors biology textbook because the pages talk about mifepristone, a pill that can induce an abortion, reports local outlet 12 News. Members of the board contended that the pages violate a state statute, which prevents school districts from providing instruction that “that does not give preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion,” says the outlet.

The specific section in question is titled “Contraception can prevent unwanted pregnancy.” It says that “complete abstinence (avoiding intercourse) is the only totally effective method of birth control, but other methods are effective to varying degrees.” The passage, from the seventh edition of Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections, goes on to describe the morning-after pill and mifepristone.

Why can’t these bible thumpers keep it to themselves.

Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly behind the scenes of “An American in Paris”

Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly behind the scenes of “An American in Paris”

The issue was first brought to the board’s attention after the conservative Christian organization, Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote a letter to the district’s superintendent in August, saying that the textbook violates state regulations, reports the outlet. The board voted 3-2 to redact the pages in question, although it is unclear whether the district will remove the specific pages or blacken unwanted passages, says local outlet KTVK-3TV.

Notably, the Arizona Department of Education previously reviewed the textbook and said it was not violating the state statute. An attorney for the district said the same, reports local outlet the East Valley Tribune. As a result, one of the board members who voted against changing the textbook, Lily Tram, called the move an example of censorship.

George Balanchine created Ballo della Regina on the famous ballerina Merrill Ashley. She is known for her speed, clarity of technique and attack in performing this joyous work.

George Balanchine created Ballo della Regina on the famous ballerina Merrill Ashley. She is known for her speed, clarity of technique and attack in performing this joyous work.

And how about this for thumping: FL Supreme Court removes judge for running Christian ministry business from her courtroom

What is it with these people?

There was almost a major accident in NYC: ‘Human Error’ Caused Drill to Hit Train — NYMag

On Thursday, a ten-inch construction drill bit pierced the ceiling of a subway tunnel near 21st Street–Queensbridge station, almost impaling a crowded F train. Luckily, the conductor hit the brakes when he felt the drill touch the train, and no one was hurt. How did this close call occur? According to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz, someone screwed up.

Cynthia Gregory

Cynthia Gregory

“At this point in the investigation, the incident appears to have been caused by human error and doesn’t involve equipment malfunction,” Ortiz told the New York Daily News. That human is employed by Griffin Dewatering New England Inc., a contractor working on the East Side Access Project, which will eventually connect the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central. Ortiz also said that “officials have determined further drilling for the project isn’t needed,” which should be of some comfort to F train riders, who have been forced to put up with a lot lately.

Suzanne Farrell (in Don Quixote with George Balanchine, mid-60s)

Suzanne Farrell (in Don Quixote with George Balanchine, mid-60s)

And in world news:  Argentina asks Spain to arrest 20 Franco-era officials

An Argentine judge has asked Spain to arrest and extradite 20 former officials accused of abuses during the military rule of General Franco.

They cannot be tried in Spain because of an amnesty law but the officials could be prosecuted in Argentina.

Judith Jamison, 1970s, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

Judith Jamison, 1970s, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

The families of alleged victims asked Argentina for help because it has an extradition treaty with Spain.

In April, Spain’s high court refused to extradite to Argentina a former policemen accused of torture.

Judge Maria Servini de Cubria issued the arrest and extradition warrants for two former ministers of General Franco’s regime, and 18 other officials, invoking “universal jurisdiction” – a legal doctrine that authorises judges to try serious rights abused committed in other countries.

Cyd Charisse

Cyd Charisse

Using the doctrine, Spain briefly detained Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998.

The two most prominent suspects in Judge Servini’s investigation are Rodolfo Martin Villa, 79, who was Franco’s interior minister, and Jose Uteri Molina, 86, who was housing minister.

Give that a read, it is interesting…I wonder how it will all turn out.

Some of you may have gotten a chance to see this flick on TCM, Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows : moviemorlocks.com – Elevator to the Eyes of Jeanne Moreau

Here is a look at ” The study of mimicry shows a close relationship between scientific psychology and the theatre, says Tiffany Watt-Smith.”   :BBC News – The human copying machine

And our last link…Tower of London poppies: Why they make a fitting memorial – The Independent

Tube closures and warnings of a crush of visitors couldn’t keep half-term crowds from Paul Cummins’ ceramic poppies on Saturday.

Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan

It is easy to visualise each poppy as a death.

…shocking splashes of colour in the poppies installation – the bloody wave over the walls, the crimson stream flowing from a window, the narrow ribbon of red in the moat. But nothing prepared early spectators for what followed. In box after box, they arrived, ceramic flowers and stalks, assembled at random heights by volunteers, many too young to have known a relative involved in the First World War.

Every evening, when the Last Post was sounded and the names of the dead were read at dusk, the installation looked complete. And then came another vivid tide, and another, and another, relentless.

6dd3f610bd5544c30e212a10a6365444How do you remember 888,246 lives? We cannot take in the numbers, though we have seen enough news bulletins to know about mass deaths. To single out one soldier’s story helps us focus, but overlooks the rest. Live footage, fictional re-creations, cannot help us with the scale of loss. But it is easy to visualise each poppy at the Tower as a death, for we have grown up associating the flower with remembrance. We do not need to see a single face or coffin to feel a lump in the throat: we know how to love and grieve.

A solemn ending I know…but it is the beginning of November. The weather is dreary and cold and damp, we even had snow in Banjoville this weekend. And as for the Fall Foilage? There was none this year.   The leaves just turned to brown. Very depressing and such a let down. I hope it is not a premonition of things to come this Tuesday. We will be here to live blog the Election Day event, so please stop by  the blog. Otherwise, if you are around today, leave a comment or thought…and have a pleasant day.

Below are all the pictures in this post, plus a few I could not fit so give them a look if you like…


Killing Democracy Harshly

It isn’t just coincidence that Republicans in swing states are scrambling to disenfranchise voters.  This is the first punch in a one-two punch that could dismantle our democratic process.  The second punch will come in October when billionaires and their SuperPacs drop ads that the Romney campaign will not be able to afford.  The longest lasting legacy of republican desperation to keep the electorate white male will definitely be their voter suppression efforts.  You need to be aware of the tactics and how this could impact your right to vote.

The nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law says that since the start of 2011, 16 states — which account for 214 electoral votes—have passedrestrictive voting laws. Each law is different: some curb voter registration drives; others require new and costly forms of identification; and still others insist that voters produce government-issued photo IDs at the polls. The Brennan Center also points out that:

“[T]he scope of the suppression movement and its potential impact are staggering … as many as 11 percent of eligible voters — roughly 21 million Americans—lack current, unexpired government-issued photo IDs. The percentages are even higher among seniors, African Americans and other minorities, the working poor, the disabled and students — constituencies that traditionally skew Democratic and whose disenfranchisement could prove decisive in any close election.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups have been trying to gain injunctions against laws passed by Republican-dominated state legislatures, but with mixed success.

The Republicans argue they are preventing voter fraud. But is there a significant amount of voter fraud? Or is this a partisan effort to find a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist? The Bush administration spent five years (2002 to 2007) searching for voter fraud and found only 86 cases. The Brennan Center for Justice, as well as the ACLU, have also found infinitesimal instances of voter fraud.

The sudden need for unexpired passports, the demand for government-issued photo identification, is simply a flagrant way of suppressing the votes of those who are more likely to vote Obama. The new identification requirements make it difficult, if not impossible, for some citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote. In some states poll hours have been expanded for likely Republican voters and decreased for probable Democratic voters. Many elderly people no longer have their birth certificates. Many minorities and young people don’t own cars and therefore don’t have driving licenses. Young people often don’t have access to any of these records when they live far away from their parents. But those who vote by absentee ballot — suburban voters who tend to be independents or Republicans — are not required to have photo IDs. Ironically, this from a country that has consistently — in the name of liberty and freedom — refused to force its citizens to carry identifications cards.

What few critics seem to realize is that women — who constitute at least half of all these targeted groups and who vote more often than men — will be even more disenfranchised. Ever since 1980, African American women have been decisive in creating a gender gap that has helped elect Democratic presidents. And in 2012, these women — in addition to single and elderly women — may be prevented from protecting Obama’s signature health care program, women’s reproductive rights, the right to abortion, funds for Planned Parenthood, and Social Security and Medicare — the very safety net that the Romney/Ryan Republican ticket has campaigned to eliminate or change in fundamental ways.

Maddow covered the attempts in Iowa to declare a ‘state’ emergency so that voter rolls there could be purged.  She also pointed to a lawyer that appears to be travelling around the country helping with the effort.

Maddow interviewed the lawyer who has written what sounds like a fascinating book on Voting Wars.

Rick Hasen, professor of Law and Political Science at UC Irvine, and author of “The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown,” talks with Rachel Maddow about Republican tactics to make voting more difficult, particularly in the few states who will most likely determine the outcome of the presidential election.

Five of the nine states targeted by Romney have Republican Secretaries of State who are purging voting rolls, cutting hours of voting, and stopping most forms of flexible voting.

Here’s some information from Iowa on the sudden urge to purge.

The revelation this week of Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s move to drop ineligible names from the state’s voter rolls and change the process for voter-fraud investigations ushers Iowa into a national debate over ballot security and voter suppression.

The rules enacted by Schultz, a Republican, lay out a process for his office to compare the names of Iowa’s 2.1 million registered voters to state and federal lists of foreign nationals who live in Iowa, with the goal of singling out those ineligible to vote. They also add procedures for filing voter fraud complaints that critics say remove a requirement in Iowa law that the person complaining must file a sworn statement.

In a statement, Schultz said the new rules would strengthen ballot integrity in Iowa and improve due process for voters suspected of being ineligible.

Still, his actions move Iowa into the latest battle of what election law expert Richard L. Hasen calls the “Voting Wars.” Republicans and Democrats have been fighting for the last several years over changes to election law requiring more scrutiny on registration and more stringent proof of identity at the ballot box.

“This fits into a broader struggle that has accelerated since the contested 2000 election, where the rules for our elections are … up for grabs and being implemented along party lines,” said Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California-Irvine.

Republicans — who are generally driving the changes — say they’re all about ensuring integrity and battling fraud. Democrats, meanwhile, contend the efforts are intended to curtail access and suppress turnout among groups more likely to vote for Democrats.

The debate has long played out in state legislative debates over photo-identification requirements for voting. Thirty states in recent years have added ID requirements in one form or another, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. (Iowa isn’t among them, although the Republican-controlled House approved a voter-ID bill in 2011, and Schultz proposed another earlier this year.

Any one that lives in any of these states should be come very aware of how this could impact your right to vote.  This should especially concern you if you have elderly relatives.

Here’s one new story from Colorado which is another key state.

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R) has decided not to pursue a voter purge he initiated by sending letters asking almost 4,000 voters to prove their citizenship. After 482 people responded with proof and almost 90 percent of the suspected non-citizens were verified through a federal database, Gessler planned to challenge 141 names still in question, but does not have enough time to handle the hearings before Election Day. Instead, he is handing over the names to county clerks who may challenge them at the polls or when they receive absentee ballots. So far, one person has voluntarily come forward as a non-citizen in Larimer County.

Be prepared to be challenged if you live in a highly republican area of a swing state.


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

The Twitterati were all aTwit about the Romney’s really really rough “struggle” in life yesterday.  It was a pretty funny hashtag thread in response to Ann Romney trying to list the Romney “struggles”.   You know, it must’ve been tough waiting for that fourth draft deferment for Vietnam while Mitt lived in a palace in France. Then, you know, we all have that problem of having to dip into the stock portfolio our parents gave us while trying to go to Harvard. So, it goes with out saying, life is just one struggle to keep up with the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and the P-Diddys.

Ann Romney pushed back Sunday against detractors whom she said have called her husband “heartless,” emphasizing that she and Mitt Romney have struggled, even if not financially.

“Mitt and I do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives,” Ann Romney said in an interview with Mitt Romney that aired on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “But I want people to believe in their hearts that we know what it is like to struggle. And our struggles have not been financial, but they’ve been with health and with difficulties in different things in life.”

President Obama leads Mitt Romney in the polls when it comes to which candidate has more empathy for people struggling in the economy. At the Republican convention last month, the campaign tried to combat that narrative. Ann Romney tried to humanize Mitt Romney in her address, calling their life together a “real marriage” that began by eating “a lot of pasta and tuna fish.” The campaign also enlisted several of Romney’s friends from his congregation in Massachusetts to paint the candidate as compassionate.

All of us “you people” just don’t understand.  That would include the Fact Checkers at The Atlantic.

Ann Romney 2012:  “I saw the long hours that started with that first job. I was there when he and a small group of friends talked about starting a new company. I was there when they struggled and wondered if the whole idea just wasn’t going to work. Mitt’s reaction was to work harder and press on.”

The Real Romney, by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman: At Bain & Company, founder Bill Bain treated Romney “as a kind of prince regent at the firm, a favored son.” He selected Romney to start  and run Bain Capital. “It would be Romney’s first chance to run his own firm and, potentially, to make a killing,” they write. “It was an offer few young men in a hurry could refuse. Yet Romney stunned his boss by doing just that.” They continue:

“He explained to Bain that he didn’t want to risk his position, earnings, and reputation on an experiment. He found the offer appealing but didn’t want to make the decision in a “light or flippant manner.” So Bain sweetened the pot. He guaranteed that if the experiment failed Romney would get his old job and salary back, plus any raises he would have earned during his absence. Still, Romney worried about the impact on his reputation if he proved unable to do the job. Again the pot was sweetened. Bain promised that, if necessary, he would craft a cover story saying that Romney’s return to Bain & Company was needed due to his value as a consultant. “So,” Bain explained, “there was no professional or financial risk.” This time Romney said yes.”

Yeah.  All of us should be blessed by THESE kinds of struggles.

Okay, it’s time for another kat’s adventure in historical grave stuff item.  This time it’s on the search for the grave for Richard III in the UK.

An archaeological dig searching for the grave of Richard III has uncovered evidence of a lost garden, organisers said.

Experts from the University of Leicester who are leading the search discovered paving stones which they believe belong to the garden of Robert Herrick where, historically, it is recorded there was a memorial to Richard III.

Work by the “time tomb team”, as they have become known, has so far involved the digging of two trenches at a Leicester city centre car park – and this week a third was excavated – thought to cover the site of a Franciscan friar where the former king is believed to have been buried in 1485.

Working alongside members of the Richard III Society, archaeologists also confirmed they had found the church of the Grey Friars.

Research at the site, which is owned by Leicester City Council, began on August 24 with archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar equipment to mark out the trenches.

Philippa Langley, of the Richard III Society, said: “This is an astonishing discovery and a huge step forward in the search for King Richard’s grave.

“Herrick is incredibly important in the story of Richard’s grave and in potentially helping us get that little bit closer to locating it.”

In the early 1600s, Alderman Robert Herrick, a mayor of Leicester, bought the land of the Grey Friars and built a large mansion house with a garden on the site.

In 1612, Christopher Wren, father of the famous architect, was visiting Herrick and recorded seeing a handsome three foot stone pillar in Herrick’s garden.

Inscribed on the pillar was: “Here lies the body of Richard III sometime King of England.”

No mention of Richard III would be complete without a h/t to Shakespeare

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

Since I’m waxing poetic, philosophical, and political, here’s a quick music break.

Public Policy Polling finds that Obama leads in Ohio by 5 points.  Ohio is an important swing state.

PPP’s first post-conventions poll in Ohio finds Barack Obama with a 5 point lead over Mitt Romney, 50-45. This is the largest lead PPP has found for Obama in an Ohio poll since early May. Last month Obama led 48-45.

Both candidates have seen their images improve with Ohio voters in the wake of the conventions. Obama now breaks even in his approval rating at 48%, after being under water with 46% of voters approving and 51% disapproving of him a month ago. Romney’s numbers are up from a 41/52 favorability rating a month ago as well, but he still remains unpopular. Only 44% see him favorably to 49% with a negative opinion.

Romney actually leads 46-44 with independents but Obama has the overall advantage thanks to a more unified party base. He leads 86/11 with Democrats, compared to Romney’s 83/13 advantage with Republicans. Obama’s 75 point lead within his own party is up from 70 points a month ago, suggesting that his party has coalesced around him a little bit more in the wake of a successful convention. By a 47/35 margin Ohio voters say they think the Democrats had a better convention than the Republicans.

ETHAN BRONNER writes about how the legal battles on voting may prove critical to the election in November for the NYT.

In the last few weeks, nearly a dozen decisions in federal and state courts on early voting, provisional ballots and voter identification requirements have driven the rules in conflicting directions, some favoring Republicans demanding that voters show more identification to guard against fraud and others backing Democrats who want to make voting as easy as possible.

The most closely watched cases — in the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania — will see court arguments again this week, with the Ohio dispute possibly headed for a request for emergency review by the Supreme Court.

In Wisconsin, the home state of the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, the attorney general has just appealed to the State Supreme Court on an emergency basis to review two rulings barring its voter ID law. But even if all such cases are settled before Nov. 6 — there are others in Florida, Iowa and South Carolina — any truly tight race will most likely generate post-election litigation that could delay the final result.

“In any of these states there is the potential for disaster,” said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. “You have close elections and the real possibility that people will say their votes were not counted when they should have been. That’s the nightmare scenario for the day after the election.”

In the 2000 presidential election, a deadlock over ballot design and tallying in parts of Florida led the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, to stop a recount of ballots, which led to George W. Bush defeating Al Gore. Since then, both parties have focused on voting procedures.

The Obama campaign, for example, brought suit in Ohio over its reduction of early voting weekends used more by blacks than other groups.

Denying people their constitutional rights appears to be the Republican Party priority these days.

So, Chicago’s Teachers are on strike.  It’s been awhile since we’ve seen anything quite this big.  Guess Rahmbo likes his schools chartered instead of completely public.

Why are these 29,000 teachers and school workers going on strike in the nation’s third-largest public school district?

Because they want what all workers want: fair pay and decent working conditions. They also want what all teachers want — to serve their students to their best of their abilities.

Here’s a few things you need to know about the strike, and why the CTU is right and Mayor Rahm Emanuel — who has failed to fairly bargain with the union — is wrong:

  • Powerful Outside Interests Worked With Rahm To Cripple CTU’s Ability To Strike (They Failed): Last year, outside groups education privatization groups like Stand for Children worked with the city council and mayor to raise the strike threshold limit to 75 percent — meaning that 3/4 of teachers had to vote to strike. Jonah Edelman, who works for the group, bragged during the Aspen Ideas Festival that they had essentially eliminated teachers’ ability to strike. But in June, nearly 90 percent of CTU members voted to authorize a strike, easily surpassing the barrier that the city and education privatization groups had placed on them. But outside groups haven’t stopped taking aim at union rights. They’ve even paid protesters to demonstrate against CTU.
  • Rahm Refuses To Pay Teachers What They Were Promised: Being a teacher takes hard work, and it’s one of the most most poorly-paid professions relative to the work load. The leadership of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) had agreed to offer teachers a four percent raise last year, but Mayor Emanuel canceled this agreement. The district has refused to address this raise in negotiations. While gutting teachers’ pay increases, CPS is calling for longer school days. Would you want to work more hours without being fairly compensated for it?
  • The City Won’t Agree To Limit The Number Of Kids In Classrooms: Over-crowded classrooms are bad for students, teachers, and parents. That’s why 32 states have limits on classroom size. Illinois does not. CTU wants to see limits on class sizes in its contract, but the city refuses to discuss it.
  • Rahm Is Intent On Shifting Funds To Untested And Unproven Charter Schools: Rahm has been laying the groundwork for a rapid expansion of charter schools, and wants to create nearly 250 more within five to ten years (this would amount to half the system). This massive diversion of funds from the public system is not based on the facts of what actually works for students. The most comprehensive study of charter schools in the United States found that most deliver results similar to those of public schools. Not surprisingly, Chicago’s charter schools are largely devoid of unions and the benefits they provide for students and teachers alike. Charter school teachers tend to earn 8 percent less than normal public school teachers — which makes them an attractive tool for austerity-prone conservatives. CTU wants a more fair distribution of funds.

I can’t honestly say that I’d want to teach there for $42,000 a year.  I could make more money than that tending bar in the French Quarter and live much
more cheaply.

Anyway, I’ve had another lost week trying to catch up from Isaac.  I’ve been visited by FEMA and my insurance agent and I seem to have myself situated into a start up media production company on its way to challenging a well-known cable TV channel.  I shall be interviewed this week–actually about this blog–and will send you the link later.  Life is always interesting down here in the Big Easy, that’s for sure.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?