Fresh Hell Friday Reads: The Plot Thickens

Image result for images sunlight paintings famous artists

The Sun, 1909 by Edvard Munch

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Before you do anything today follow the link on this Twitter from  Congressman Adam Schiff.  Then ask yourself, is Felonious Trump “self impeaching?”

Here Comes the Sun!

There’s nothing I cant think of more today than the bright rays of sunlight pouring into a den of thieves.

The Daily Beast calls these tweets “damning”.

Democratic committee chairmen released a stunning cache of text messages late Thursday night detailing exchanges among senior U.S. diplomats as they went to great lengths to play along with President Trump’s campaign to pressure a foreign government to launch an investigation into his political rival.

The texts laid bare, with great specificity, a coordinated effort among State Department officials and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to compel the new Ukrainian government of Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly commit to investigating a firm tied to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, thereby making foreign aid contingent on the Ukrainians helping Trump’s re-election efforts.

By September, that effort so alarmed the recently appointed chargé d’affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Bill Taylor, that he called it “crazy” and spiraling toward a “nightmare scenario.” Another Trump appointee, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, insisted Taylor was “incorrect” about Trump dangling a “quid pro quo” before Zelensky—the same quid pro quo that Sondland and his colleagues, from Trump on down, had spent months orchestrating.

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor said in a message dated Sept. 9, 2019, referring to the White House decision to mysteriously withhold nearly $400 million in military assistance that Ukraine needs to fight back against Russian forces waging war against the country in the east.

The Washington Post reported that Trump ordered the funds withheld nearly a week before his July 25 phone call with Zelensky, the contents of which were presented in a memo released last week by the White House.

With the Ukrainians alarmed over having their military aid from Washington suddenly frozen, Taylor grew urgent. “The message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key,” he texted Sondland. “With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. Hence my nightmare scenario.”

The letter, which included the text messages, was written jointly by the chairmen of the House committees on intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs, and was circulated publicly following a marathon deposition on Capitol Hill from one of the pressure campaign’s key participants, the Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker, whom Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed into resigning last week.

“These text messages reflect serious concerns raised by a State Department official about the detrimental effects of withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine, and the importance of setting up a meeting between President Trump and the Ukrainian president without further delay,” the chairmen wrote. “He also directly expressed concerns that this critical military assistance and the meeting between the two presidents were being withheld in order to place additional pressure on Ukraine to deliver on the president’s demand for Ukraine to launch politically motivated investigations.”

 

Image result for images sunlight paintings famous artists

Edward Hopper, People in the Sun, 1960, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 1969.47.61

As to the “self-impeaching” question,  here’s some thoughts on that from Susan Glasser at The New Yorker.  Today’s headlies are filled with takes on the calls from Trump on the White House Driveway for both Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens.  Glasser documents the Orange Snot Blob’s further descent into madness.   We need to get rid Felonious Trump and all his thugs.

In the ten days since the House of Representatives launched its impeachment inquiryPresident Trump has spoken and tweeted thousands of words in public. He has called the investigation a “coup” and the press “deranged.” He has demanded that his chief congressional antagonist, the California representative he demeans as “Liddle’ Adam Schiff,” be brought up on treason charges. He has attacked the “Do Nothing Democrats” for wasting “everyone’s time and energy on bullshit.”

There have been so many rationales coming from the President that it’s been hard to keep them straight. “How do you impeach a President who has created the greatest Economy in the history of our Country, entirely rebuilt our Military into the most powerful it has ever been, Cut Record Taxes & Regulations, fixed the VA & gotten Choice for our Vets (after 45 years), & so much more,” he complained via tweet last week, in a less-than-accurate recap of his Administration’s record. He called the charges against him a “hoax” and, quoting his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said that he was “framed by the Democrats.” He has blamed the “#Fakewhistleblower” and the “fake news” for the impeachment investigation, which has now replaced the Mueller investigation in Trump’s rhetoric as “the Greatest Witch Hunt in the history of our country.” Trump has also insisted, over and over again, that there was nothing at all wrong with his July 25th phone call with the President of Ukraine. The call—in which he asked for the “favor” of having Ukraine investigate his 2020 political rival, the former Vice-President Joe Biden, even as he was holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid—triggered the impeachment inquiry in the first place. But Trump says it was “perfect.”

On Thursday morning, Trump appeared to dispense with excuses altogether, no longer even bothering to contest the charge that he leaned on Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter. How do we know this? Because Trump did it again, live on camera, from the White House lawn. In a demand that is hard to interpret as anything other than a request to a foreign country to interfere in the U.S. election, Trump told reporters that Ukraine needs a “major investigation” into the Bidens. “I would certainly recommend that of Ukraine,” the President added, shouting over the noise of his helicopter, as he prepared to board Marine One en route to Florida. He also volunteered, without being asked, that China “should start an investigation into the Bidens,” too, given that Hunter Biden also had business dealings there while his father was in office. Trump, minutes after threatening an escalation in his trade war with China, suggested that he might even personally raise the matter of the Bidens with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping.

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Impressions Sunrise, Claude Monet circa 1872

Even the NYT editorial board considers his actions to be self-impeaching.  Trump seems to think if he admits it enough in broad daylight that we’ll become immune to the idea that it’s illegal.  Or perhaps he thinks–like Nixon–it’s not illegal when the President does it.

Federal law expressly states that it is illegal for “a person to solicit, accept, or receive” anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a United States election.

Yet there stood President Trump outside the White House on Thursday, openly soliciting help from a foreign government for his re-election prospects by declaring to the assembled press that “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.” This, of course, after Mr. Trump has already become subject to an impeachment inquiry after implicating himself in a scheme to seek foreign help for his campaign in a conversation with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

This might seem self-defeating — “self-impeaching,” even. A United States president urging a foreign government to investigate his political rival would seem to be flagrantly violating the law, along with American notions of fair play and decency.

But this president is a master at what Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called defining deviancy down. One baldfaced presidential lie, once exposed, is an outrage; a thousand such lies is a statistic.

Piet Mondrian – Windmill in Sunlight 1908

Today, horrible legislation signed by  the Democratic Louisiana Governor will be heard by a Supreme Court that may go directly for Roe. V. Wade.  This is from Robert Barnes of WAPO.

The Supreme Court will review a restrictive Louisiana law that gives the justices the chance to reconsider a recent ruling protecting abortion rights.

The court said Friday it would consider whether the 2014 law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals unduly burdens women’s access to abortion. Clinic owners said the effect of the law would be to close most of the state’s abortion clinics and leave the state with only one doctor eligible to perform the procedure.

The law is almost identical to a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. But in that case, now retired justice Anthony M. Kennedy joined the court’s four liberals to form a majority. Since then, President Trump has added two new justices who were enthusiastically supported by antiabortion groups.

The court could uphold or overturn that 2016 precedent or distinguish it in a way that a restriction deemed unconstitutional in one state is allowed in another.

It was not a surprise the court accepted the case. Last February, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the court’s liberals entered a stay that kept the law from going into effect.

The court’s 2016 decision in the Texas case said the admitting-privileges requirement “provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”

Hospitalization after an abortion is rare, all sides agree, and the lack of admitting privileges by the doctor who performed the procedure is not a bar to the woman getting needed medical care. Roberts was one of the dissenters in the 5 to 3 decision.

bright sun over a featureless sea

After the Deluge (also known as The Forty-First Day) George Frederic Watts, first exhibited as The Sun in an incomplete form in 1886 and completed in 1891

Mark Joseph Stern–writing for Slate– believes that the 2020 court will take a hard right to “launch a conservative revolution.”  I’m not surprised the American Women will be its first victims as white men start asserting their property rights over every one that’s not them.

After Brett Kavanaugh joined the Supreme Court in October 2018, most of the justices seemed eager to do whatever they could to keep SCOTUS out of the limelight. Less than two weeks earlier, Christine Blasey Ford had declared on live TV that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her as a teenager; Kavanaugh, in response, accused Democrats of orchestrating a “grotesque character assassination” driven by “pent-up anger about President Trump” and “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”

The Supreme Court’s legitimacy rests in large part on the perception it is a nonpartisan institution, but Kavanaugh joined the bench engulfed in a toxic cloud of political rancor. In the year after the ugly confirmation hearing, the justices mostly kept their heads down, ducking many controversial cases for no apparent reason. They decided only two bona fide blockbusters, throwing partisan gerrymandering claims out of federal court and blocking the census citizenship question. Meanwhile, they dodged cases about Dreamers, abortion, religious freedom, and discrimination, effectively deciding not to decide.

But the Supreme Court has amassed far too much power to avoid any contentious issue for long. As Congress remains deadlocked and the White House melts down, SCOTUS has become the only fully functioning branch of the federal government. It has taken on the role of policymaker, obligated to resolve many of the battles that engulf the political branches. Republicans understand this fact, and it is a key reason why they fought so hard for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. With lawmakers paralyzed, momentous disputes wind up at the Supreme Court. And now, thanks to Kavanaugh’s vote, many of these battles will be decided by a 5–4 conservative majority.

A slew of potentially earthshaking cases has already piled up on the court’s docket for the upcoming term. Multiple transformative decisions will come down in June, thrusting the court into the middle of the 2020 presidential campaign. And the full impact of Kavanaugh’s appointment will become clear as the court is dragged further to the right. This jurisprudential bloodbath will heighten the stakes of the 2020 race, amplifying the power of the president and the role of the judiciary in the most explosive political fights of the day.

I just need to remind you that three of these judges do not belong on the court.  There’s not enough sunlight in the world that will change that.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  I am assuming more stuff is out there and will be out there.  Post what you find down thread!  Thanks

Impeach Felonious Trump!

 

 


Supreme Monday Reads

It’s Monday!!

So, the good news is that the rumors of Justice Kennedy’s looming retirement are just rumors. But, the Supremes are taking up a few worrisome cases including the Malignant Mango Mussolini’s travel ban on Muslims.  They’re also reviewing a few of those cases where people hide behind religion to prop up their bigotry.

Okay, one at a time now.  Kennedy is most likely staying put on the bench.

Look, I love legal gossip as much as — actually, way more than — the next guy. I entered the world of legal media through the back door of judicial gossip, writing a blog called Underneath Their Robes under the pseudonym of “Article III Groupie” (because gossiping about judges by night while appearing before them by day, as a federal prosecutor, is not a good look).

But to be a good gossip, you can’t just spread random rumors. You need to exercise discretion and discernment in what you disseminate — which brings me to the rampant rumors about Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s supposedly imminent retirement, to be announced possibly as early as tomorrow.

I won’t bury the lede, so here it is: based on reports I’ve received from former AMK clerks who attended his law clerk reunion dinner last night, it is highly unlikely that Justice Kennedy will announce his retirement tomorrow.

The Travel Ban is getting a bit of life. Some of it can go into effect. It will officially be reviewed come fall.

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to allow a limited version of President Trump’s ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect and will consider in the fall the president’s broad powers in immigration matters in a case that raises fundamental issues of national security and religious discrimination.

The court made an important exception: nt.It said the ban “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

In the unsigned opinion, the court said that a foreign national who wants to visit or live with a family member would have such a relationship, and so would students from the designated countries — Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — who were admitted to a U.S. university.

So, what about the case of the baker that refused to bake a cake for gay grooms? Is it religious freedom from the conservative side to  enable bigots?

The Supreme Court on Monday said it will consider next term whether a Denver baker unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to sell them a wedding cake.

Lower courts had ruled that Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, had violated Colorado’s public accommodations law, which prohibits refusing service to customers based on factors such as race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation.

There are similar lawsuits from florists, calligraphers and others who say their religious beliefs won’t allow them to provide services for same-sex weddings. But they have found little success in the courts, which have ruled that public businesses must comply with state anti-discrimination laws.

The court granted the case after weeks of considering it. In 2014, the justices declined to revisit a New Mexico Supreme Court decision that found that a photographer violated a state civil rights law when she declined to photograph a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony.

Since then, the high court has found that marriage is a fundamental right that states may not prohibit to gay couples.

The justices also reversed the Arkansas Supreme Court and said the state must list same-sex parents on birth certificates in the state. To refuse, the court said, is to deny married same-sex couples the full “constellation of benefits” that government has linked to marriage.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined Justice Neil M. Gorsuch’s dissent, which said the law regarding such issues is not yet settled and stable.

However, there was also this:

They rejected a challenge to a California Gun regulation about carrying guns.  The usual suspects clutched pearls while dissenting.

The Supreme Court declined to review a case about the right to carry firearms outside the home, but two justices publicly dissented from their colleagues’ decision not to take up the issue.

The high court said Monday it would not hear a National Rifle Association-supported legal challenge by California resident Edward Peruta, who challenged a state law limiting gun-carrying permits to those showing “good cause” and a San Diego County policy that says concern about personal safety is not sufficient to fulfill the requirement.

Gun rights advocates say the limits violate the constitutional right to bear arms.

However, the case could not muster the votes of four justices, which is the threshold to add it to the court’s docket.

The most notable aspect of the action announced Monday was that President Donald Trump’s newest appointee to the court — Justice Neil Gorsuch — joined conservative stalwart Justice Clarence Thomas in lamenting the court’s decision to dodge the issue for now. Gorsuch’s views on gun-rights issues were not well established by his writing or his earlier decisions as a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

However, on Monday, Gorsuch joined Thomas’s opinion calling “indefensible” the 9th Circuit’s rationale in ruling against Peruta.

“The Second Amendment’s core purpose further supports the conclusion that the right to bear arms extends to public carry,” Thomas wrote. “Even if other Members of the Court do not agree that the Second Amendment likely protects a right to public carry, the time has come for the Court to answer this important question definitively. ”

“For those of us who work in marbled halls, guarded constantly by a vigilant and dedicated police force, the guarantees of the Second Amendment might seem antiquated and superfluous. But the Framers made a clear choice: They reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense. I do not think we should stand by idly while a State denies its citizens that right, particularly when their very lives may depend on it,” Thomas added.

This one was disappointing.

Well, busybody christofascists are thrilled.  Yeah!  We get to fund religious indoctrination!

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the state of Missouri cannot deny public funds to a church simply because it is a religious organization.

Seven justices affirmed the judgment in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, albeit with some disagreement about the reasoning behind it. The major church-state case could potentially expand the legal understanding of the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is also the first time the Supreme Court has ruled that governments must provide money directly to a house of worship, which could have implications for future policy fights—including funding for private, religious charter schools.

Trinity Lutheran is a big case that hinges on mundane facts. In 2012, when Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri applied for a state grant to resurface its playground, it was ranked as a strong potential candidate for the program. Ultimately, though, Missouri denied the funding under a state constitutional provision that prohibits public money from going to religious organizations and houses of worship. “There is no question that Trinity Lutheran was denied a grant simply because of what it is,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in his decision for the majority. “A church.”

The case focused on whether this decision conflicts with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and specifically issouri was violating the free-exercise clause by preventing Trinity Lutheran from participating in a secular, neutral aid program. On Monday, the court overwhelmingly agreed that the answer was “yes.”

No good news on the environmental side of things.  This is a weird case that hinged more on state  v state fighting.

The Supreme Court will not hear arguments in a legal dispute between two states stemming from the 2015 Gold King Mine waste spill, the court announced on Monday.

New Mexico had sued Colorado for its role in the mine spill, which released 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into the Animas River. That river feeds into the San Juan River, which flows through New Mexico.

The state was seeking unspecified damages in its lawsuit, which went directly to the Supreme Court, as is typical for legal disputes between states. In May, the federal government urged the court to dismiss the suit.

The court declined Monday to hear arguments in the case and did not issue an opinion explaining the decision, though Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said they would let the suit move forward.

The August 2015 Gold King Mine spill kicked off a flurry of lawsuits over environmental damage and government incompetence.

In New Mexico’s lawsuit against Colorado, New Mexico officials alleged Colorado was “reckless” leading up to the spill, calling it “the coup de grâce of two decades of disastrous environmental decision-making by Colorado, for which New Mexico and its citizens are now paying the price.”

Well, I think that’s about enough for the moment. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Breaking News: SCOTUS Upholds Affordable Care Act…Details Coming

My intuition was correct.   I think Judge Roberts made his choice.   His own reputation and that of the Supreme Court was more important to him than his conservative ideology.

The bottom line is that the majority has voted to uphold the ACA.  The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who joined the more liberal justices.   I will add details and links as I get them.  Please post anything you hear in comments.

The New York Times says the law has has been basically upheld.  Their live updates are here.

But I’m hearing on MSNBC that the Court said the states can opt out of the program. That could be a serious problem for the law if it affects the size of the population pool. The mandate is “technically unconstitutional,” but the government can penalize people who don’t buy insurance–through the government’s power to tax. However the law doesn’t actually include a penalty.

It sounds like the issue the states can opt out on is the Medicaid expansion. That could be a big problem.

News Links

ABC News: The Mandate Can Stay, Supreme Court Says in Health Care Ruling

Washington Post: Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Law, Mandate

LA Times: Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Law as Tax Measure

CNN International: Where in the world can you get universal health care?

CNN: Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare 5-4

I’ll continue to update in the comments.


Thursday Evening News Wrapup

Afternoon Tea, by Mary Cassat

Good Evening! I’ll start off with some good news. Minkoff Minx has arrived home from the hospital and is doing well. She’ll be resting for I a few days, but she should be back to posting regularly sometime next week. I sure do miss her cheery evening reads! I’m doing my best to fill in again tonight.

It’s been a slow news day, but there are a few things happening even though most of Washington, DC–including Congress and many pundits are on a two-week Easter vacay. Why do they get such long vacations anyway? They only work about three days a week and they accomplish very little.

President Obama has waked up to the reality of women’s electoral power. Today we learned that he thinks it’s high time that Augusta Golf Club, which hosts the Masters Tournament, should start accepting women members.

Not to be outdone, and because he obviously has no original thoughts, Mitt Romney announced that he, too, And he discussed the issue in his usual stuffy manner.

When asked if women should be admitted, the Republican presidential frontrunner responded: “Of course.”

“I am not a member of Augusta. I don’t know if I would qualify. My golf game is not that good,” Romney told reporters after an energy-themed event in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. “Certainly if I were a member, if I could run Augusta, which isn’t likely to happen, of course I’d have women into Augusta.”

Newt Gingrich thinks his wife Callista would be “great member,” and Callista herself tweeted that she “wants in.” No word on how he-man woman-hater Rick Santorum feels about the issue.

Afternoon Tea, by Cezanne

It’s looking like Romney has the Republican nomination all sewn up–he’s even leading in Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania now. But at the Daily Beast, Michelle Goldberg explains why conservatives still want Santorum to stay in the race.

Conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace isn’t convinced. “In the minds of social conservatives, it’s not even close to over,” he says. “The real question is how committed someone like Rick Santorum is to fighting this out all the way to the end. If he’s committed to doing this on a personal level, there’s plenty of social conservatives that will ride him to the finish line.”

Indeed, despite the best efforts of the Republican establishment, many on the religious right are far from ready to accept Romney’s inevitability, or to coalesce behind him. They remain distrustful of his record on abortion, and unsure they can believe his campaign promises. And the harder party elites push Romney on them, the more alienated they become. “The biggest story that everyone in the media has missed this cycle is how frustrated and fed up the Republican Party base is with the Republican Party,” says Deace. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

Goldberg quotes a number of conservative sources who just won’t accept a Romney candidacy and think Santorum to fight to the bitter end at the convention. They sound a lot like Hillary supporters who in 2008 wanted her to take the fight to the convention. Hillary is a loyal Democrat and so she ended up going with the flow, but Santorum is more of a renegade with a lot less to lose than Hillary. In any case, it seems as if the bases of both corporate parties are disgusted with their party elites.

Afternoon Tea Party, by Mary Cassatt

Also at the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky writes that the Supreme Court is “on the ropes.” Back in the ’80s, Conservative starting pushing for “judicial restraint.” But now that the shoe is on the other foot and there is a Conservative majority on the court, suddenly they love the notion of “judicial activism” that they once reviled (just like they now despise the Heritage Foundaton health care plan now that Democrats have written it into law).

John Roberts has to know and see all this. He has to know that Fifth Circuit Judge Jerry Smith, who asked federal prosecutors for a homework assignment in the wake of Obama’s remarks—a brief stating the Justice Department’s position on judicial review, that had to be at least three pages, single-spaced!—is making conservatives look silly and cheapening the bench. And he has to know that the court’s reputation will suffer an immense blow if it overturns the mandate. It will be seen by a large majority—even a lot of people who weren’t crazy about the law—as completely political. Remember, they didn’t have to take the case in an election year in the first place. They could have put it off. But the court said it must do this now. If it then overturns the ACA, it will look and smell like a political hit job to many Americans. And the court would be saying to America, “We know what you think, and we don’t give a damn.”

What would happen to the court then? Slowly—no; probably quickly—it will come to be seen by most Americans as just another cesspool of political mud wrestling; just another arena where the rich get what they want while everyone else gets screwed (Citizens United); just one more ideological whorehouse full of patrons pretending to be just the piano player.

Despite what we’re all brought up to believe, nothing about the court is sacrosanct. Lifetime appointments can be changed to fixed-year terms. It’d take some doing, but it can be done. And there’s nothing anywhere that says it has to be nine justices. That’s just tradition, but it’s nowhere in the Constitution. It just needs to be an odd number; could be three or 23. For that matter, Congress could disregard Marbury v. Madison. Yep. It could. Tom DeLay used to speak of this from time to time, back in the dear old Terri Schiavo days. He never specifically invoked M v. M, but, referring to judges who would have let Schiavo die, he said things like they had “thumbed their noses at Congress and the president” and would someday pay. He meant a campaign against judicial review. He never got around to it, having been indicted and convicted and all, but that’s what he meant. There’s nothing to prevent liberals from mounting a similar campaign. So far they’ve has held back by their respect for the institution. But that may soon be gone.

There is a heartbreaking story out of Greece: Pensioner’s Suicide Continues to Shake Greece.

Dimitris Christoulas, a divorced and retired pharmacist, took his life on Wednesday in Syntagma Square, a focal point for frequent public demonstrations and protests, as hundreds of commuters passed nearby at a metro station and as lawmakers in Parliament debated last-minute budget amendments before elections, expected on May 6.

In a handwritten note found near the scene, the pensioner said he could not face the prospect “of scavenging through garbage bins for food and becoming a burden to my child,” blaming the government’s austerity policies for his decision.

The incident has prompted a public outpouring, with passers-by pinning notes of sympathy and protest to trees in the square, as well as comment from politicians across the spectrum. A solidarity rally on Wednesday night turned violent when the police clashed with hooded demonstrators in scuffles that left at least three people injured.

I guess we can look forward to similar tragedies here in the U.S. if Congress succeeds in gutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. And I don’t exempt the Democrats from my cynicism about support for the social safety net among the Villagers.

Speaking of the rich, powerful, and selfish, Jamie Dimon is once again on the top of the heap in terms of CEO compensation. Richard Escrow writes:

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is still the poster child for today’s morally degraded, self-entitled banker mentality. I don’t know why he keeps talking, but he’s the gift that keeps on giving.

At every major junction in the post-crisis debate about banking, Dimon has stepped in with a perfectly tactless remark that illustrates both the vacuity and the moral corruption of his industry. This week was no exception.

Excrow provides a number of specific examples of Dimon’s and Chase’s lack of ethics. And yet, Dimon is still whining about “excessive” government regulation.

Dimon just complained that regulators “made the recovery worse than it otherwise would have been” — which is not only wrong, but avoids addressing the issue of the recovery’s cause, which was banks like Dimon’s. Dimon added that the government forced banks to de-leverage “”at precisely the wrong time” — which is precisely wrong. The government’s real error was in not breaking up too-big-to-fail banks like Dimon’s.

“Complexity and confusion should have been alleviated, not compounded,” complains Dimon.

So Dimon and his cronies have formed a superpac to intimidate liberal Congresspeople. Please go read the whole article. It’s really frightening.

The domestic terrorist who tried unsuccessfully to blow up a Planned Parenthood office in Wisconsin has explained his motivation.

Francis Grady, 50, spoke to reporters who were covering his first appearance in federal court since the Sunday night attack. The Green Bay Press-Gazette posted video of him walking through the courthouse followed by a short clip of him speaking to reporters outside.

“There was no bomb,” Grady said. “It was gasoline.”

A reporter asked why Grady attacked the clinic.

“Because they’re killing babies there,” he responded.

The newspaper also got more from inside the federal courtroom, where Grady reportedly interrupted the judge to ask, ““Do you even care at all about the 1,000 babies that died screaming?”

“Screaming?” Fetuses that are aborted in the first trimester aren’t “babies,” and they don’t have nervous systems to feel pain or the ability to scream. The ignorance of these people is beyond belief.

Lizzie Borden

Finally, some new evidence has been found in the Lizzie Borden murder case–journals kept by her attorney.

Borden was acquitted in 1892, and much of the evidence in the case ended up with Andrew Jackson Jennings, Borden’s attorney. The two journals, which Jennings stored in a Victorian bathtub along with other evidence from the case, including the infamous “handless hatchet,” were left to the Fall River Historical Society by Jennings’ grandson, who died last year.

The society received the fragile journals about a month ago but won’t be exhibited until they are properly preserved, curator Michael Martins said.

Each journal is about 100 pages. One contains a series of newspaper clippings, indexed using a lettering and number system that Jennings devised. The second contains personal notes that Jennings assembled from interviews he conducted. Some of the individuals interviewed are people mentioned in the newspaper clippings Jennings retained.

“A number of the people Jennings spoke to were people he knew intimately, on a social or business level, so many of them were perhaps more candid with him than they would have been otherwise,” Martins said. “But it’s also evident that there are a number of new individuals he spoke to who had previously not been connected with the case.”

I hope at least some of those links will pique your interest. What stories have you been following this afternoon and evening?


Sunday Reads: Themes and Variations…

Vintage Advertisement Good Morning!

Well, we all knew that the Newt Master was going to take South Carolina. So if its alright with you, I’d like to avoid all that Primary fodder and spend today’s morning reads on items associated with film. Real Film. The kind that has gone the way of 8–Tracks and buggy whips.

The past few weeks we have seen companies file bankruptcy left and right.  (Personally, I cannot understand how the company that gave us the Twinkie and Wonder Bread failed so miserably. I mean, in this land of milk and Hohos…or if you prefer, Ding Dongs, how can Hostess not succeed?)

However, there was one company who filed for Chapter 11, that should have seen the writing on the wall.

In his 1973 hit song Kodachrome, Paul Simon warned everyone who had a Nikon camera and loved to take a photograph that everything looks worse in black and white.

You can colour him prophetic. Eastman Kodak, maker of the Kodachrome colour slide film immortalized by Simon, filed for bankruptcy protection and was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.

Here’s some history for you:

Between its humble beginnings as a two-man partner-ship formed 132 years ago and now the most humbling of denouements, the Kodak brand enjoyed immense popularity, exercised social influence and wielded corporate power. In 1930, Kodak joined the stable of blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average listings. At Kodak’s peak of market dominance in the mid-1970s, 90 per cent of the film and 85 per cent of the cameras sold in the United States were theirs. The user-friendly, low-tech, point-and-shoot Kodak Instamatic, its top-of-the-line version complete with flashcubes, was omnipresent in Canada too through the 1960s and ’70s, and it acted as something of a democratizing social force. Rich or poor, everyone could be a shutterbug, and people of all ages were forever churning through Kodacolor 126 film cartridges.

At the same time, Kodachrome saturated the 35mm market and all those Nikon cameras were capturing the nice bright colours, preserving the greens of summer, making people think all the world was a sunny day, oh yeah – just like the song said.

By 1983, the little company that George Eastman and Henry Strong founded in Rochester, N.Y., about a century earlier had 60,400 people on its payroll and was the quintessential portrait of an American success story.

It has been reported that Kodak got too fat and sassy at that point, its management too complacent at the top of the photography industry to keep innovating in order to fend off rivals like Japan’s Fuji Corp., many of them leaner and hungrier and more than capable of stealing market share. Fuji became the official camera and film of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics – setting up shop in Kodak’s back yard as it were – and the foothold gained in the U.S. market through that one strategic partnership was incredibly valuable.

Strangely, Kodak was slow to read the writing on the wall and as the rest of the industry wholeheartedly embraced the advent of digital technology, too much of Kodak’s identity, inventory and infrastructure was still tied up in film, a throwback commodity that was becoming obsolete. They believed in its staying power, as this statement from Kodak corporate literature suggests.

“While electronic or digital technologies will continue to provide many enhancements for home and commercial use, film will remain the highest quality medium for image capture well into the 21st century.”

Yes, film is the quintessential medium to capture an image, but unfortunately the public has become a digital technology consumer. Film, records, videos, books…the list goes on. Everything is there at your fingertips. Literally. Just swipe your index finger along a touch screen and voila…you can watch, listen or read anything that tickles your fancy. So as the article concludes:

So it was not Mama who took our Kodachrome away, as Simon feared all those years ago, it was digital technology.

Now that Kodak has bankruptcy protection, the company has a year to reorganize. Bankruptcy protection: Kodak gets a year to reorganize – CSMonitor.com

Girded by a $950 million financing deal with Citigroup Inc., the photography pioneer aims to keep operating normally during bankruptcy while it peddles a trove of digital-imaging patents.

After years of mammoth cost-cutting and turnaround efforts, Kodak ran short of cash and sought protection from its creditors Thursday. It is required under its bankruptcy financing terms to produce a reorganization plan by Feb. 15, 2013.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper in New York gave Kodak permission to borrow an initial $650 million from Citigroup.

He also set a June 30 deadline for Kodak to seek his approval of bidding procedures for the sale of 1,100 patents that analysts estimate could fetch at least $2 billion. No buyers have emerged since Kodak started shopping them around in July.

Through negotiations and lawsuits, Kodak has already collected $1.9 billion in patent licensing fees and royalties since 2008. Last week, it intensified efforts to defend its intellectual property by filing patent-infringement lawsuits against Apple Inc., HTC Corp., Samsung Electronics and Fujifilm Corp.

Kodak is also involved another high figure dispute at the US International Trade Commission, with Apple and Blackberry’s maker Research in Motion, Ltd. regarding image preview technology.

Kodak is hoping to see a billion dollar settlement from the trade disputes, however the decision has been put off until September.

The Independent had this to say about Kodak and Chapter 11: The moment it all went wrong for Kodak

When companies go bust, we, the customers, rarely pay much heed. It’s all about judges, restructuring and then, if they are lucky, their re-emerging in some shrunken form to carry on as if nothing had happened. Not so in the case of Kodak, which is now taking the walk of ignominy to the bankruptcy courts.

For this is a company we care about – at least if we were born before 1986 or so, when Kodak was at the peak of its commercial powers. A hundred years earlier George Eastman, the company’s founder, had invented roll film, which replaced photographic plates and allowed photography to become a hobby of the masses. Kodak did not quite own the 20th century, but it did become the curator of our memories.

“One of the interesting parts of this bankruptcy story is everyone’s saddened by it,” notes Robert Burley, professor of photography at Ryerson University in Toronto. “There’s a kind of emotional connection to Kodak for many people. You could find that name inside every American household and, in the last five years, it’s disappeared.”

I think that is a fair assessment, it is a sad thing to read about Kodak filling for bankruptcy because so much of our lives can be connected to a Kodak Moment…My family has boxes and boxes of Kodak Moments. Those cherished photos tucked away will remain, eventually fading into a yellowed memory that can be touched and held in your fingertips. Only to be replaced by a memory stick and a glossy printout, very sad indeed.

Here are a few links for you that honor the thing we call film…Kodachrome…A fond farewell to Kodak.

Eastman Kodak film negatives

Eastman Kodak black and white film, negatives, film development reels and black and white prints. Photograph: Gary Cameron/Reuters

I’ve wanted to write something about the imminent demise of Kodak since rumours about their bankruptcy started circulating a couple of months ago. But it wasn’t until I caught a repeat of British fashion photographer Rankin’s TV programme about Time magazine’s veteran photojournalists that something really caught my eye, taking me back to my early experience of being a photographer. It brought home what Kodak meant to me.

The documentary includes a clip of an old BBC Omnibus film about the great war photographer and Life staffer Larry Burrows, who returned time and again to Vietnam to document the war, and eventually died there. Here he was, I guess early in the morning, getting ready to go out for the day, sitting and talking about his experiences to the film crew while opening box after box of Kodak film. He was taking out those lovely, tiny, dome-topped tin canisters and chucking the boxes at his feet until it formed a veritable pile of discarded cardboard.

That was the thing about shooting on film and printing on paper: every time, it felt fresh. Fresh film, chilled from a fridge. Box fresh, beautifully packaged by Kodak in cute yellow boxes that opened with one thumb, perforated in exactly the right place. It was photographic paper that seemed somehow less greasy than the Ilford equivalent when it slipped through your fingers in the developing tray. It was printing paper packed in stylishly thin and flat boxes, in the same yellow Kodak livery. Was it really more contrasty than the competition? Were the blacks deeper, or did it just feel better when soaked through?

When Kodak stopped making their Kodachrome film in 2010, the company issued this press release and tribute. Take some time to look at the images, some of them like the one below will obviously be recognized as photographs which defined a mood, a moment, a war, a life…

Kodak: A Thousand Words – A Tribute to KODACHROME: A Photography Icon

They say all good things in life come to an end. Today we announced that Kodak will retire KODACHROME Film, concluding its 74-year run.

It was a difficult decision, given its rich history. At the end of the day, photographers have told us and showed us they’ve moved on to newer other Kodak films and/or digital. KODACHROME Film currently represents a fraction of one percent of our film sales. We at Kodak want to celebrate with you the rich history of this storied film. Feel free to share with us your fondest memories of Kodachrome.


© Steve McCurry
Sharbat Gula, Afghan Girl, at Nasir Bagh refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984.

I’ve had the profound privilege of working with the world’s greatest photographers in my role here at Kodak. I serve as the company’s liaison with the pro community, and I’ve gotten to know the best of the best.  Each one has their Kodachrome story.

Please read those stories…and,

View our slideshow of great KODACHROME moments.

Another farewell to Kodachrome, this time from CBS Sunday Morning:

They are fast becoming a memory of Christmas past – photographs taken the old way, with film. And the most famous film of all — Kodachrome — is itself about to become a memory, as CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

Professional photographer Kent Miller is up before sunrise making sure everything’s perfect for his photo shoot. He wants to capture a triathlete named Carlos Lema at the foot of the George Washington Bridge just across the river from Manhattan in just the right light at dawn.

His film of choice, as it has been for millions of others, is Kodachrome.

“Kodachrome is probably the first professional film I ever really shot,” Miller said.

A professional photographer for more than 20 years, Miller shoots mostly digital now. But this is a job for film, and not just any film – Kodachrome.

“It just reproduces colors in a way that most other films never did, and it lasts forever,” Miller said. “It’s something that is difficult to do with just shooting digital until you bring it in to Photoshop and resaturate and do all your work in there. But just straight out the camera it doesn’t have that density and dynamic ranges as the Kodachrome does just naturally.”

[…]

Todd Gustavson is the curator of technology at the Eastman House – Kodak’s museum in Rochester, N.Y.

“It’s a baby boom product,” he said. “After World War II – availability of new automobiles, national parks were open – and people were able to have some time to travel and of course now there is a this new color film which you could use to document your family vacations and then of course come back and show your friends and neighbors your slides on your carousel or Kodak slide projector.”

Back in 2010, when this story was reported, the last place on earth who could develop the Kodachrome film was on its last week of production.

Kodachrome isn’t a do-it-yourself kind of film. Those long-lasting brilliant colors are the result of a unique developing process involving special chemicals only Kodak makes – or made to be more precise.

It isn’t something you can develop in your basement darkroom.

“The real difference between Kodachrome and all the other color films is that the dyes that make up the image you see in the film, in Kodachrome, don’t get incorporated into the film until it is actually developed,” explained Grant Steinle, who now runs the business his father started .

They’re sad at Dwayne’s, but not at all surprised. They’ve been watching their Kodachrome business shrink, even as other labs stopped processing Kodachrome and Dwayne’s became the only place people from around the world could send their film to be developed.

They’re still doing 700 rolls a day, but that’s not nearly enough demand to convince Kodak to make more chemicals. They’ve got just enough for another week.

“It’s going to be really sad day, it was an important part of our business and Kodachrome was an important part of the history of all of photography,” Grant Steinle said. “To know it was the first consumer color film that was available. Lots of really iconic images of the 20th century were captured on Kodachrome.”

Here are some wonderful images, captured on Kodachrome by one of the photographers for Vanity Fair. The Last Roll of Kodachrome—Frame by Frame! | Culture | Vanity Fair

Two years ago, photographer Steve McCurry heard the whispers. Due to the digital-photography revolution, Kodak was considering discontinuing one of the most legendary film stocks of all time: Kodachrome, a film which was to color slides what the saxophone was to jazz. McCurry spoke with Kodak’s worldwide-marketing wizard Audrey Jonckheer, hoping to persuade Kodak to bequeath him the very last roll that came off the assembly line in Rochester, New York. They readily agreed. And recently, McCurry—most famous for his National Geographic cover of an Afghan girl in a refugee camp, shot on Kodachrome—loaded his Nikon F6 with the 36-exposure spool and headed east, intending to concentrate on visual artists like himself, relying on his typical mix of portraiture, photojournalism, and street photography.

Herewith, presented for the first time in their entirety, are the frames from that historic final roll, which accompanied McCurry from the manufacturing plant in Rochester to his home in Manhattan (where he is a member of the prestigious photo agency Magnum), to Bombay, Rajasthan, Bombay, Istanbul, London, and back to New York. (The camera was X-rayed twice at airports along the way.) McCurry’s final stop, on July 12, 2010: Dwayne’s Photo, in Parsons, Kansas—the only lab on Earth that still developed Kodachrome—which halted all such processing in late December.

Now, these next links are not Kodachrome specific, but nevertheless, photos taken with film.

For some images of the The Iran Hostage Crisis, 31 Years Later — PICTURES – – NationalJournal.com

Jan. 20 marks the 31-year anniversary of the release of hostages from Iran. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days in the American Embassy in Tehran, in one of the most significant flash points in the long, tumultuous relationship between the two countries.

Gin and Tacos has some links to photo galleries in one of the blog’s latest post: ginandtacos.com » Blog Archive » NPF: TORCH-PASSING

NASA’s newly released, true color, hi-res scans of the photographs from the Gemini missions (pre-Apollo).

[…]

If space isn’t interesting to you, take a look through one of my other favorites, the Prokudin-Gorsky color photographs taken in Russia between 1900 and 1910. Or learn more about the pioneer of color photography here. It’s pretty difficult to convince your brain that this photo was taken in 1905, isn’t it?

Of course I  must link to one of my favorite sites: Shorpy Historical Photo Archive | Vintage Fine Art Prints

More after the jump.

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