Sunday Reads: Spring Ahead already?Posted: March 10, 2013 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Christianity, Comet Pan-STARRS, daylight saving time, Harriet Tubman, Islam, Mars, Sheldon Adelson, Sicily 19 Comments
Did you set your clocks ahead?
Oh, this time change always gets me. In fact, my head is killing me…so this is going to be a strictly link dump post.
Set clocks ahead for daylight saving time
Spring must be around the corner. It’s time to set the clocks forward for daylight saving time.
At 2 a.m. local time Sunday, daylight saving time arrives with the promise of many months ahead with an extra hour of evening light.
You lose an hour of sleep, but make sure to turn the clock ahead — spring forward — before heading to bed Saturday night to avoid the panic of a late rise.
It’s also a good time to put new batteries in warning devices such as smoke detectors and hazard warning radios.
Isn’t this whole clock thing happening earlier than usual?
Moving on, Harriet Tubman park to be on Maryland land she worked as a slave | Reuters
Abolitionist Harriet Tubman’s struggle to help roughly 70 slaves escape to freedom using the Underground Railroad was remembered on Saturday at the groundbreaking of a Maryland state park in her honor.
An escaped slave herself, Tubman toiled in bondage on the land that will soon be the 17-acre Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park on the eastern shore of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.
Construction of the park on open marshland and forests in Dorchester County marks the 100-year anniversary of the abolitionist leader’s death.
It also coincides with the opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a 125-mile drive with more than 30 historical stops related to Tubman’s early life and the Underground Railroad. Highlights include the Mason-Dixon Line, a one-room school, a historic village store with artifacts from the 1800s and, eventually, the new Harriet Tubman park itself.
“I think the byway is awesome, because we’re connecting the dots again. We’re telling the complete story,” said Patricia Ross-Hawkins, 51, a distant relative of Tubman who spoke to the crowd of more than 200 people at Saturday’s celebration. The morning’s events included singing by a local Baptist church choir, a theatrical speech by a Harriet Tubman re-enactor and remarks from Govenor Martin O’Malley.
“It’s been a long time coming but it’s here,” she said.
This next link is something I found earlier in the week. Did the Man who Tried to buy our Presidential Election Get rich by Bribing Communist China? (Engelberg) | Informed Comment
Stephen Engelberg writes at ProPublica
Last week’s admission by Sheldon Adelson’s casino company that it had “likely” violated provisions of the federal law barring U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials raises some intriguing questions. Chief among them: Which transactions by Las Vegas Sands and its far-flung subsidiaries are at issue?
Adelson, one of the world’s richest men, came to public prominence during the 2012 campaign, when he and his wife Miriam donated at least $98 million to various candidates and groups. Included was $30 million for the Restore Our Future super PAC that supported Mitt Romney and $20 million to Winning Our Future, a super PAC that backed Newt Gingrich. Late in the campaign, Adelson asserted that federal investigators had targeted his company because of his political activity.
I don’t know about you all, but I sure miss seeing Hillary’s name in the news.
Hillary Clinton Ate Hot Chili Peppers To Keep Her Going
Exactly how did the most traveled Secretary of State in history, Hillary Rodham Clinton, keep up with her strenuous schedule? According to biographer Kim Ghattas, it was hot chili peppers.
In an interview posted on Thursday, Ghattas discussed her upcoming book, “The Secretary,” with Politico, citing how Clinton “eats those hot chilis that make you sweat.”
“It wakes you up,” Ghattas said. “It flushes your system, maybe from whatever viruses are there.”
Clinton has been a hot pepper popper for years, starting back in 1992. She often talked up her heat habit in her 2008 presidential campaign.
Comets and asteroids have been in the news a lot lately…
Comet Pan-STARRS: Bright comet will be visible starting around March 8.
Northern Hemisphereans, alert! The kinda-sorta-maybe bright comet Pan-STARRS will soon be visible low in the west after sunset. The best dates to look will be Mar. 12 and 13, when the very thin crescent Moon will guide you. You’ll need binoculars to pick it out of the twilight sky, but comets this bright are rare, and you should give it a shot.
Comet C/2011 L4 (Pan-STARRS) was discovered in June 2011 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (hence the odd name). At discovery it was incredibly faint, just 19th magnitude—the faintest star you can see with your eye is still 150,000 times brighter than the comet was at the time!Animation showing the discovery
images of the comet taken by the
Click to encomanate.
Image credit: Henry Hsieh, PS1SC
The comet is non-periodic, a fancy way of saying this is the first time it’s dropped into the inner solar system. There is a reservoir of trillions of such iceballs far, far past Neptune, called the Oort cloud (named after Jan Oort, the Dutch astronomer who was one of the first to predict its existence). Pan-STARRS has been falling from this distant region for a long, long time, perhaps millions of years, and is now approaching the Sun on its incredibly outstretched orbit.
It reaches perihelion (the closest point in its orbit to the Sun) on Mar. 10, and then begins the long climb back out again. It has brightened considerably over the past couple of years as it’s neared both the Sun and Earth, and by Mar. 12 should be at least as bright as 2nd magnitude, about as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper. It could get even brighter.
In other space news: Slight Chance Comet Could Hit Mars in 2014, NASA Says | Space.com
Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will come within about 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) of Mars in October 2014, according to the latest estimate from the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.
The trajectory of 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is still not known well enough to rule out a dramatic comet collision with Mars, though that could change.
“At present, Mars lies within the range of possible paths for the comet and the possibility of an impact cannot be excluded,” JPL officials wrote in an update today (March 5). “However, since the impact probability is currently less than one in 600, future observations are expected to provide data that will completely rule out a Mars impact.”
And I will end this post with a little history lesson…
From Islam to Christianity: the Case of Sicily
Introduction: The history of high medieval Sicily bears all the hallmarks of a regional crossroads which, between the 9th and 11th centuries, exchanged hands between three major civilizations. The island’s political upheavals, military confrontations, social change and cultural transformations read like an index page to central Mediterranean history. The fall of Muslim Palermo to the Norman conquerors in 1072 was a landmark in the high medieval wave of Latin Christian expansion across the Mediterranean world. The defeat of the island’s Muslim rulers was completed within twenty years of the fall of the capital city, but the last Muslims of Sicily left the island one hundred and eighty years later, towards the end of Frederick II’s reign. Beyond the formal political chronology, three, more or less equal, yet distinct epochs, mark the transition from Muslim to Latin Christian Sicily: 1072 to 1130, during which period the Norman conquest of the island, launched in 1060, became first a feasible reality, then a political fact consolidated with the establishment of the Regno; 1130 to 1190, when the relationship between the island’s Christian rulers and inhabitants and the subject Muslim populations was gradually entrenched in terms of feudal bondage; and 1190 to 1250, which was marked by Muslim armed resistance, the setting up of a rebel polity under the last Muslim leader of Sicily, and Frederick II’s ‘extermination’ of Islam.
Monday ReadsPosted: September 24, 2012 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: put out rich, rich persecution complex, Romney resentment, Sheldon Adelson 62 Comments
I still can’t get over Mitten’s 47% comment. Neither can Simon Johnson who is a former chief economist of the IMF and a professor at MIT Sloan. He wrote an article for Project Syndicate that is just filled with wonky goodness called “Mitt and the Moochers”.
Romney is apparently taken with the idea that many Americans, the so-called 47%, do not pay federal income tax. He believes that they view themselves as “victims” and have become “dependent” on the government.But this misses two obvious points. First, most of the 47% pay a great deal of tax on their earnings, property, and goods purchased. They also work hard to make a living in a country where median household income has declined to a level last seen in the mid-1990’s.
Second, the really big subsidies in modern America flow to a part of its financial elite – the privileged few who are in charge of the biggest firms on Wall Street.
Seen in broad historical perspective, this is not such an unusual situation. In their recent bestselling economic history, Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson cite many past and current cases in which powerful individuals attain control over the state and use this power to enrich themselves.
This is representative the new whine of the newly rich. They all appear to be caught in the throes of a Charlie Brown Syndrome. Where on earth did they get they idea that they are the victims in this society? Why are they so quick to say they are ‘self-made’ and put upon? Are their lives this dull that they have to invent problems?
Why do the mega rich in the United States feel so put upon? Their incomes are rising, after all, and the taxes they pay have never been lower since the 1920s.
In fact, even if lawmakers in Congress passed 100 percent of President Obama’s tax plan, America’s rich would still be paying taxes at less than half the top rate that America’s richest faced back in the 1950s.
America’s wealthiest, given this ever so friendly political lay of the land, ought to be kicking back and living care-free. But that’s not happening. This election cycle appears to have America’s super rich in a feverish frenzy. They’re pouring money into the 2012 elections at all-time record rates.
What’s behind this deluge of campaign cash? A few frenzied super-rich political donors have apparently gulped the Kool-Aid of America’s delusional right wing. President Obama, these crazed deep pockets almost seem to believe, has tumbrils waiting to cart them off to the guillotines once he wins a second term.
Even David Frum finds it unnerving. Well, to use his words, he finds it “sinister”.
The background to so much of the politics of the past four years is the mood of apocalyptic terror that has gripped so much of the American upper class.
Hucksters of all kinds have battened on this terror. They tell them that free enterprise is under attack; that Obama is a socialist, a Marxist, a fascist, an anti-colonialist. Only by donating to my think tank, buying my book, watching my network, going to my movie, can you – can we – stop him before he seizes everything to give to his base of “bums,” as Charles Murray memorably called them.
And what makes it all both so heart-rending and so outrageous is that all this is occurring at a time when economically disadvantaged Americans have never been so demoralized and passive, never exerted less political clout. No Coxey’s army is marching on Washington, no sit-down strikes are paralyzing factories, no squatters are moving onto farmer’s fields. Occupy Wall Street immediately fizzled, there is no protest party of the political left.
The only radical mass movement in this country is the Tea Party, a movement to defend the interests of elderly incumbent beneficiaries of the existing welfare state. Against that movement is a government of liberal technocrats dependent on campaign donations from a different faction of the American super-rich than that which backs Mitt Romney himself.
That last paragraph should be read carefully. Huhn?
But, back to the topic, WTF makes the Romneys act so resentful? Why the persecution complex? Is it some hangover from the Mormon history of being run out of places after you and your followers try to assassinate the local political leaders? (See Ohio, See Missouri, See Iowa, See Illinois , oh, you get the picture …)
“My question is, why don’t you stick up for yourself?” a man who had paid fifty thousand dollars to attend a dinner with Mitt Romney asked. “To me, you should be so proud that you’re wealthy.” That remark was recorded in a video of the dinner, at a hedge-fund manager’s home in Boca Raton, which was released by Mother Jones. In it, Romney complains that just under half of all Americans had come to see themselves as “victims,” when they were actually, as he sees it, entitled and demanding dependents. But there is a character who he and everyone else in the room seem to agree most certainly is a true victim: Mitt Romney, martyr to the envy of the masses.
Romney has been running a campaign centered on resentment, in many forms: the resentment directed at the “successful” that he imagines is driving his critics; the resentment he is trying to fan in his base voters; and, increasingly and most strangely, his own. Romney’s resentment has become a matter of temperament, of policy, and of politics. He and his wife, Ann, have made it clear that they take offense when his good will is questioned. Fixated on what he sees as the jealous motives of his critics, he misses the important truths about our economy and the reality of people’s lives that might have informed his agenda. He also reveals a great deal about himself.
This is not a new theme for Romney. In January, after winning the New Hampshire primary, he spoke in his victory speech about “the bitter politics of envy…. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success.” The next morning, he spoke to Matt Lauer
Lauer: I’m curious about the word ‘envy.’ Did you suggest that anyone who questions the policies and practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country, is envious? Is it about jealousy, or fairness?
Romney: You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare.
Somehow, asking whether our economy might ever have victims is itself an act of victimizing Mitt. Resentment based in a sense of under-appreciation can be unattractive.
They seem to be in complete denial about why we find them unattractive. So, I guess I’ll leave the analysis to BB. I’ll just say that I”m not the only one that’s noticed this because look at the links I dug up with the google.
Speaking of rich, Mike Allen of politico has written an article on Sheldon Adelson. He’s the very rich man behind any one that promises to go to war with Iran and has a series of really nasty casinos and other related sin businesses in Macao.
So why does he do it? For the first time, Adelson talked in detail about his top five reasons:
1) Self-defense: Adelson said that a second Obama term would bring government “vilification of people that were against him.” He thinks he would be at the top of that list, and contends that he already has been targeted for his political activity.
Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. is being scrutinized by federal investigators looking into possible money-laundering in Vegas, and possible violation of bribery laws by the company’s ventures in China, including four casinos in the gambling mecca of Macau. (Amazingly, 90 percent of the corporation’s revenue is now from Asia, including properties in Macau and Singapore.)
The country’s leading mega-donor is irritated by the leaks.“When I see what’s happening to me and this company, about accusations that are unfounded, that kind of behavior … has to stop,” he said.
Adelson gave the interview in part to signal that he intends to fight back in increasingly visible ways. Articles about the investigations appeared last month on the front pages of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He maintains that after his family became heavily involved in the election, the government began leaking information about federal inquiries that involve old events, and with which the company has been cooperating.
The aim of the leaks, he argued, is “making me toxic so that they can make the argument to the Republicans, ‘This guy is toxic. Don’t do business with him. Don’t take his money.’ Not all government employees are leakers, but most of the leakers are government employees.”
Asked to respond to Adelson’s comments, the Justice Department said it does not comment on, or confirm, investigations.
Oh, sheesh, try to change the subject and what do I find? Another rich dude with a persecution complex. (sigh)
A treat for you : Linda Rondstadt Sings Poor Poor Pitful Me for President and First Lady Clinton in 1996. I’m suggesting this for Mitt’s New Campaign Song. I think Ann could do it justice.
Maybe it should be your turn! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Swift Yachting DemocracyPosted: August 4, 2012 Filed under: 2012 elections, Citizen's United & Super Pacs, U.S. Politics, We are so F'd | Tags: citzen's united, plutocracy, Sheldon Adelson 28 Comments
While Tea Bagging Republicans are trying to convince every one that elections are being stolen by imaginary illegal voters, a finger bowl full of billionaires are buying up air time via Super Pacs to up the negative ad volume to 11. Here are some shocking facts from MoJo.
The 2012 elections are on track to be the nastiest in recent memory. By the tail end of primary season, in May, 70 percent of all presidential campaign ads were negative, up from a mere 9 percent at the same point in 2008. The culprits for this spike in attack ads were super-PACs and shadowy nonprofits, which together dominate the growing universe of outside political groups poised to spend billions of dollars this election season.
Now a new report from the liberal think tank Demos and the nonpartisan US Public Interest Research Group has revealed how what has been called a “tsunami of slime” is funded by a tiny cadre of wealthy donors.
Just 1,082 donors—a group small enough to fit inside a single high school gymnasium—accounted for 94 percent of all individual donations to super-PACs from January 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. Those 1,082 donors amount to just 0.00035 percent of the US population.
I’ll just pause a second here while you mull those last two sentences over …
So, Romney is looking more and more like the loser these days so you ask, what will all this money do when it’s basically betting on another Romney that can’t even deliver a bronze? Well, how about this thought from Digby?
Romney may very well lose and everyone will say this shows that they failed, despite all their money. But these PACs and 501cs are not just about the presidential race. They are spreading this money around from the top of the ticket all the way to local races and their themes and talking points are all coordinated. I doubt they ever really believed this election was a shoo-in (or even really wanted to rock the boat — it’s not as if they haven’t been doing very, very well under Obama.) But they are setting up a system for the future:
During sessions of the “Weaver Terrace Group,” representatives of the embryonic Crossroads organization gathered with counterparts from groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Tax Reform, and Americans for Prosperity, the funding vehicle affiliated with the billionaires David and Charles Koch. Crossroads served as referee, says CEO Law. “Conservative activists tend to act like six-year-olds on soccer teams,” he explains, “with everyone grouping around the ball and getting in each other’s way. Karl’s idea was that all of these organizations should share information, coordinate polling, reduce redundancy.”
Together with a follow-on ruling by the federal appeals court in Washington, Citizens United knocked several crucial holes in McCain-Feingold. Corporate and union money, for example, could now be used without restriction for “electioneering communications,” meaning radio and TV ads that mention a candidate’s name within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election.
More important than the incremental increase in campaign-law porosity, though, was the passionately phrased celebration by Justice Anthony Kennedy of political spending in its manifold forms. Kennedy’s majority opinion declared that “the appearance of influence or access … will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.” Kennedy continued: “The fact that a corporation, or any other speaker, is willing to spend money to try to persuade voters presupposes that the people have the ultimate influence over elected officials.”
In Kennedy’s syllogism, democracy benefits from more speech. Political money is speech. Therefore democracy benefits from more political money.That’s so true. I certainly feel a new found faith in democracy knowing that this handful of billionaires are finally allowed to have the same influence over our government that I do.
Who is the 300 pound gorilla in this pen? Head back to the MoJo article for this tidbit.
The dominant presence among super-PAC donors is Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who’ve given $36.3 million so far. That’s chump change for the Adelsons—in fact, $36.3 million is a mere 0.15 percent of their total wealth. It would take 321,000 American families giving up 0.15 percent of their wealth to match the Adelsons’ super-PAC giving.
So, is ANYONE doing ANYTHING about this?
Representative John Dingell (D-MI), the longest-sitting member of Congress, introduced a bill Thursday designed to force the Supreme Court to reconsider its Citizens United decision. Along with at least ten co-sponsors, Dingell’s Restoring Confidence in Our Democracy Act, would ban corporations and unions from making independent political expenditures. It would also subject Super PACs to the same contribution limits that exist with other PACs. Dingell intends the bill to provide “the factual record which details the negative effects of increased spending in our elections.” That factual record, he hopes, will get the Court to reverse itself, and restore Congress’ power to limit a form of spending that Dingell (rightly) believes has eroded even further America’s “confidence” in “our democracy.”
Dingell’s bill, however, is effectively two bills– one that would require the Court to reverse itself, if indeed the new law were upheld, and the other that would not require the Court to reverse itself but would instead give the Court a chance to address a kind of corruption that so far the Supreme Court has ignored. It is unlikely (in the extreme) that the Court is going to reverse itself. But if framed properly, Dingell’s bill could well map a way for Congress to staunch the corrupting influence of Super PAC spending without forcing the Court to eat its Citizens United words.
Let’s hope John and Bernie can get this thing on to the agenda of their respective bodies. Let’s also just say that I’m not holding my breath until it happens.