Tuesday Reads: Trump Infects the U.S. Military with His Political Corruption

Good Morning!!

Today fallout continues from Trump’s pardons of accused and/or convicted war criminals. Yesterday Dakinikat wrote about the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over an internal review board investigation of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy Seal who was convicted of posing for a trophy photo of a dead ISIS fighter. Gallagher was also accused of stabbing to death the teenager in the photo was acquitted.

In today’s New York Times, two former Navy secretaries Richard J. Danzig and write: Trump and the Military Do Not Share the Same Values.

“Get back to business!” With this tweet, President Trump directed his secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, to stop the naval officers charged with oversight of the SEALs from disciplining one of their own. That order was confirmed on Monday by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and over the weekend, Mr. Spencer was fired.

Richard Spencer

There are three problems with Mr. Trump’s action. The first is that it is very much the Navy’s business — and every military’s business — to maintain, as the military so often recites and Mr. Spencer put it in his final letter to the president, “good order and discipline.” In conducting their “business,” our military services are not and must not be commanded in support of political ends, as Mr. Trump was apparently doing here.

How the president chooses to value order and discipline in his White House, and if at all, is of real concern to all Americans. But the military is not an extension of his White House. Some may argue that all actions by a president may have some political component, yet instead of constraining that component, this action by this president celebrates and encourages it.

The second problem intensifies the first. Contamination from the president’s approach is amplified when his judgment is largely shaped by television commentators and his decision announced by tweet. The military has well-established procedures for assuring good order and discipline. They begin by eliciting a judgment by peers. No one is as well positioned to balance the exigencies of combat and the demands of law and ethics as a panel of fellow sailors, Marines, airmen or soldiers….

Mark Esper

Finally, there is the judgment itself. An American service member shared a photograph of himself with a corpse along with the message: “I have got a cool story for you when I get back. I have got my knife skills on.” Our president’s endorsement of the perpetrator will be taken as a representation of our values. Our own troops, many of them teenagers, will be misled by the president’s sense, or lack of sense, of honor.

Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: How Richard Spencer’s firing illustrates some of Trump’s most corrupt impulses.

One key reason Donald Trump’s presidency has been so damaging is that he has a way of corrupting all the people and institutions he comes in contact with, infecting them with his virus. No one remains untouched.

As the sudden firing of Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer shows, that includes the military. Spencer’s story also bears a remarkable resemblance to the Ukraine scandal, in the way people with their own agendas played on Trump’s most repugnant impulses to manipulate him.

Spencer’s firing has its roots in the case of Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who became a Fox News hero. Gallagher’s long and complicated case began when members of his own unit accused him of a series of war crimes, including firing on civilians and murdering a wounded teenage Islamic State fighter receiving medical treatment from his unit.

Gallagher allegedly stabbed the wounded fighter multiple times, then took a picture with his corpse and texted it to friends, with the caption “Got him with my hunting knife.” He was also charged with covering up his crime by threatening to kill members of his platoon if they reported it. They did anyway….

Eddie Gallagher

Trump pardoned him, along with two other service members who had also been accused of war crimes.

Those pardons generated enormous controversy both inside and outside the military, but they were not surprising. From the time he began running for president, Trump has shown nothing but contempt for ideas like military order and discipline, respect for human rights and standards of wartime conduct. He has advocated torturing detainees, suggested that a way to fight terrorism would be to murder the families of suspected terrorists and mused about committing genocide. Accused war criminals are his kind of people.

There’s much more at the link. I hope you’ll go read the rest.

CBS News: Ousted Navy Secretary Richard Spencer defends handling of Navy SEAL case.

Spencer stepped down at the request of Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday amid an ongoing controversy over Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, whose case attracted President Trump’s attention.

Esper told reporters Monday that he fired Spencer after “losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candor.” He accused Spencer of secretly proposing a deal to the White House that would allow Gallagher to retire and retain his Trident pin, which denotes his status as a SEAL, a move Esper said was “completely contrary” to what the two had discussed.

In an interview Monday, Spencer told CBS News he spoke with White House counsel Pat Cipollone on November 15 and proposed an arrangement in which Gallagher would be allowed to retire as a SEAL if the president agreed not to intervene in the case and “let the Navy do its administrative work.” Spencer said Cipollone called back the same day to decline the offer, saying the president would be involved.

“In order to preserve the resiliency of the naval institution, I had to step up and do something when it came to the Gallagher case,” Spencer said.

Spencer acknowledged not telling Esper about the proposal.

Navy Seals on the front lines in Afghanistan

“I will take the bad on me, for not letting him know I did that,” Spencer said. “But as far as I was concerned, at that point, the president understood the deal. Arguably, he doesn’t have to deal with anyone. He said, ‘I’m going to be involved.’ He sent a signed letter to me, an order with his signature on it, saying, ‘Promote Edward Gallagher to E7,'” the rank of chief petty officer.

Esper acknowledged Monday that when confronted about his secret negotiations with the White House, Spencer “was completely forthright in admitting what had been going on.”

Read more at the link.

The Independent spoke to veterans about the situation: US veterans say Trump views military ‘as tool for massacres’ after reinstating accused war criminal to Navy.

Numerous veterans spoke out about the move to The Independent after Secretary of Defence Mark Esper confirmed he was ordered by the president to retain Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s status in the elite service, as well as his Trident pin, a prestigious special warfare insignia.

“Ever since Donald Trump became president he’s been tearing the military apart, putting troops in the difficult position of needing to choose between obedience to his unhinged orders, and staying true to our code of honour,” said Alexander McCoy, a former Marine and political director of the veteran group Common Defence. “By pardoning war criminals because Fox News told him to, Trump showed he sees our military as a tool for massacres, not as the professional, honourable force we aspire to be.” [….]

The president’s demands could cause “significant long-term damage to the Naval Special Warfare community,” according to James Waters, a former Navy SEAL platoon commander and White House staff member in the Bush administration, who told The Independent: “The only people who weigh in on whether a Navy SEAL deserves to keep his Trident are people who have their Trident.”

James Waters, former Navy Seal and GW Bush WH staffer

“Every SEAL knows he must ‘earn your Trident every day’ – even after officially qualifying – and the same standard should apply here,” Mr Waters said. “Unless you’ve been through Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training and served in the Teams and know the specific facts related to a person’s performance, you’re not qualified to weigh in.” [….]

“There’s a reason we have the Geneva Convention. There’s a reason we have the Universal Code of Military Justice. There’s a reason we have the morale and ethics that we learn in training,” said Josh Manning, a former Army intelligence officer. “For Trump to just step in and undermine centuries worth of morale and discipline undercuts the very military that he’s trying to command.” [….]

Charlotte Clymer, an Army Veteran and press secretary at the Human Rights Campaign, said Mr Trump appeared to be “hell-bent on exploiting” the military justice system for his own purposes.

“My colleagues and I, those still serving and not, are openly horrified by the way this coward has explicitly condoned war crimes, seemingly to pander to people who don’t understand how this undermines our moral authority,” she told The Independent. “I’ve talked to other service members and veterans, and none of us are sure how this could get worse.”

They’re suggesting that Trump wants to take us back to Vietnam years when we had shameful incidents like the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

In a final outrage, Trump now says he wants to use the pardoned war criminals in his 2020 campaign. Daily Beast: Trump Tells Allies He Wants Absolved War Criminals to Campaign for Him.

If Donald Trump gets his wish, he’ll soon take the three convicted or accused war criminals he spared from consequence on the road as special guests in his re-election campaign, according to two sources who have heard Trump discuss their potential roles for the 2020 effort.

Despite military and international backlash to Trump’s Nov. 15 clemency—fallout from which cost Navy Secretary Richard Spencer his job on Sunday—Trump believes he has rectified major injustices. Two people tell The Daily Beast they’ve heard Trump talk about how he’d like to have the now-cleared Clint Lorance, Matthew Golsteyn, or Edward Gallagher show up at his 2020 rallies, or even have a moment on stage at his renomination convention in Charlotte next year. Right-wing media have portrayed all three as martyrs brought down by “political correctness” within the military.

“He briefly discussed making it a big deal at the convention,” said one of these sources, who requested anonymity to talk about private conversations. “The president made a reference to the 2016 [convention] and where they brought on-stage heroes” like former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who refused to execute detained civilians ahead of a devastating Taliban attack.

So next year he wants to celebrate men who chose to execute civilians and detainees?

What stories are you following today?


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…


Monday Reads

Owl reading

Good Morning!!

There’s not a lot of good news to report this morning except that the Miami Heat lost the NBA championship last night, cementing LeBron James’ reputation as a choker. He couldn’t win in Cleveland, and he can’t lead in Miami. He’s just all about LeBron.

The situation in Iraq is getting more dire. I’m sure you heard about the reported mass executions of Iraqi troops by ISIS militants yesterday. From The New York Times:

BAGHDAD — Wielding the threat of sectarian slaughter, Sunni Islamist militants claimed on Sunday that they had massacred hundreds of captive Shiite members of Iraq’s security forces, posting grisly pictures of a mass execution in Tikrit as evidence and warning of more killing to come.

The possible mass killing came as militants cemented control of the city of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, after two days of fierce clashes with Iraqi troops, residents and senior security officials said. The city came under mortar attack, sending residents fleeing toward Sinjar in the north, which is under control of Kurdish pesh merga troops. Residents said the militants freed dozens of prisoners.

BAGHDAD — Wielding the threat of sectarian slaughter, Sunni Islamist militants claimed on Sunday that they had massacred hundreds of captive Shiite members of Iraq’s security forces, posting grisly pictures of a mass execution in Tikrit as evidence and warning of more killing to come.

The possible mass killing came as militants cemented control of the city of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, after two days of fierce clashes with Iraqi troops, residents and senior security officials said. The city came under mortar attack, sending residents fleeing toward Sinjar in the north, which is under control of Kurdish pesh merga troops. Residents said the militants freed dozens of prisoners.

Lovely. “War Crimes” hardly seems strong enough to characterize such horrendous acts.

In an atmosphere where there were already fears that the militants’ sudden advance near the capital would prompt Shiite reprisal attacks against Sunni Arab civilians, the claims by ISIS were potentially explosive. And that is exactly the group’s stated intent: to stoke a return to all-out sectarian warfare that would bolster its attempts to carve out a Sunni Islamist caliphate that crosses borders through the region.

The sectarian element of the killings may put more pressure on the Obama administration to aid Iraq militarily. In fact, the militants seemed to be counting on it. A pronouncement on Sunday by the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had a clear message for the United States: “Soon we will face you, and we are waiting for this day.”

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CNN reports that some U.S. embassy staff in Iraq have been moved to another location.

The Iraqi air force struck back at the militant group ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, killing more than 200 militants, Iraqi state TV reported Monday morning. The air raids took place in Saqlawiyah, northwest of Fallujah, according to a graphic run by state TV.

ISIS has been ruthlessly fighting to take control of Iraq and has apparently posted chilling photos on jihadi Internet forums seeming to show the executions of Iraqi security forces.

ISIS, an al Qaeda splinter group, wants to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, that would stretch from Iraq into northern Syria. The group has had substantial success in Syria battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces.

According to The Washington Post, the insurgents have captured American equipment and may be in possession of “advanced radios” that would make them much more effective.

Iraq’s security forces, propped up by American equipment and weapons, have been routed by a contingent of insurgents bent on extending their territory from strongholds in Syria deep into Iraq. As Mosul and other cities fell, the West saw a host of images of once-American Humvees and helicopters firmly in the hands of its enemies.

Outrage followed shock, as years of effort in Iraq by the U.S. military seemed to unravel in a coup-de-grace that played out over the Internet. Analysts speculated that the newly seized weapons and vehicles could turn fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria into an even stauncher foe.

Yet, among the towed Black Hawk helicopters, Howitzer cannons and Humvees plastered all over social media lies an unseen weapon that could make the ISIS fighters exponentially more lethal if employed properly: advanced radio equipment.

Read more at the link.

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Iran is sending in troops to aid the insurgents, according to CNN.

What’s happening in Iraq now has all the makings of a civil war — and a full-blown foreign policy crisis. The United States is mulling direct talks with Iran while it boosts security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad with military personnel.

Why Iran? In recent days, Iran has sent hundreds of troops to fight alongside Iraqi government security forces in Diyala province, a senior security official in Baghdad told CNN.

The article summarizes the latest events on the ground as of early this morning. Finally, an editorial in The Independent UK states bluntly that

The outside world, starting with the United States, cannot hope to reverse the course of events in Iraq by intervening on the ground, and President Barack Obama was right to rule out US troops going back there.

However, that doesn’t mean taking up an observer’s seat as the region descends into ever greater chaos. Washington should encourage the tentative rapprochement between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, both of which are starting to see just how dangerous the Sunni-Shia power struggle is becoming to each of them. We should do our utmost to shore up the defences of vulnerable but still stable states in the region, such as Jordan.

Western countries could also afford to be more generous in helping to address the humanitarian aspect of the latest crisis. Britain has so far offered an extra £3m to help tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the advance of Isis, most of whom are now camping in Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Iraq. It goes without saying that they do not have access to things like the best survival backpack or basic nutrition, it hardly seems an adequate gesture.

With any luck, the Sunnis in Syria and Iraq will at some point turn against their self-styled deliverers in Isis. In that case, it is vital that the Shia-dominated regime in Baghdad comes under pressure to keep the door open to talks about some kind of federal option for the Sunnis, and for the Kurds. It is late in the day for Iraq even to try to play with the federalisation option, but just possibly some kind of gossamer-thin state can be salvaged from the current mess. Right now, none of the options looks good, but despair is not the answer.

In other news,

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Chelsea Manning has broken her silence with an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times in which she harshly criticizes the methods used by the military to control press coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and–presumably–the U.S. media’s acquiescence to that control. For example,

If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat anecdotes and photographs of Iraqi women proudly displaying their ink-stained fingers. The subtext was that United States military operations had succeeded in creating a stable and democratic Iraq.

Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality.

Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed.

Read much more at the link.

Speaking of media co-option, the NYT has an interesting op-ed by long-time reporter David Carr about the media’s failure to anticipate Eric Cantor’s stunning defeat in Virginia’s primary last week.

It’s now clear why the primary defeat of the House majority leader,Eric Cantor, came so completely out of the blue last week: Beltway blindness that put a focus on fund-raising, power-brokering and partisan back-and-forth created a reality distortion field that obscured the will of the people.

But that affliction was not Mr. Cantor’s alone; it is shared by the political press. Reporters and commentators might want to pause and wipe the egg off their faces before they go on camera to cluck-cluck about how Mr. Cantor, Republican of Virginia, missed signs of the insurgency that took him out. There was a lot of that going around, and the big miss by much of the political news media demonstrates that news organizations are no less a prisoner of Washington’s tunnel vision than the people who run for office.

All politics is local, which may explain why The Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Chesterfield Observer both took David Brat’s Tea Party challenge to Mr. Cantor seriously, but few of the publications inside the District that follow the majority leader’s every wiggle and wobble sensed that he was leaving the home fires dangerously unattended….

The same forces that keep politicians penned up within a few blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue work on journalists as well. No one wants to stray from the white-hot center of power for fear of being stuck in some forsaken locale when something big happens in Washington — which is why it has become one of the most overcovered places on earth.

This problem is compounded by the “diminution” of regional newspapers. Read more at the link.

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I haven’t had time to work through the whole thing yet, but Alec MacGillis has a long profile of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that seems worth a read: The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker: A journey through the poisonous, racially divided world that produced a Republican star.

I’ll end with some exciting science news from The Boston Globe: Boston-Led Team Developing ‘Bionic Pancreas’ for Diabetics.

Scientists have made big progress on a ‘‘bionic pancreas’’ to free some people with diabetes from the daily ordeal of managing their disease. A wearable, experimental device passed a real-world test, constantly monitoring blood sugar and automatically giving insulin or a sugar-boosting drug as needed, doctors said Sunday.

The device improved blood-sugar control more than standard monitors and insulin pumps did when tested for five days on 20 adults and 32 teens. Unlike other artificial pancreases in development that just correct high blood sugar, this one also can fix too-low sugar, mimicking what a natural pancreas does.

The device was developed at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University. Results were featured Sunday at an American Diabetes Association conference in San Francisco and were published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

More from NPR: Father Devises A ‘Bionic Pancreas’ To Help Son With Diabetes. Very interesting!

I have a few more links that I’ll post in comments.

So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

This week’s New Yorker has a fascinating article by Jill Lepore about guns in America that I think everyone should read: Battleground America: One nation, under the gun. It’s long, but well worth reading. Here’s just a tiny excerpt:

The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more. According to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Policy Opinion Center at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of gun ownership has declined steadily in the past few decades. In 1973, there were guns in roughly one in two households in the United States; in 2010, one in three. In 1980, nearly one in three Americans owned a gun; in 2010, that figure had dropped to one in five.

Men are far more likely to own guns than women are, but the rate of gun ownership among men fell from one in two in 1980 to one in three in 2010, while, in that same stretch of time, the rate among women remained one in ten. What may have held that rate steady in an age of decline was the aggressive marketing of handguns to women for self-defense, which is how a great many guns are marketed. Gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, higher in the country than in the city, and higher among older people than among younger people. One reason that gun ownership is declining, nationwide, might be that high-school shooting clubs and rifle ranges at summer camps are no longer common.

Although rates of gun ownership, like rates of violent crime, are falling, the power of the gun lobby is not. Since 1980, forty-four states have passed some form of law that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons outside their homes for personal protection. (Five additional states had these laws before 1980. Illinois is the sole holdout.) A federal ban on the possession, transfer, or manufacture of semiautomatic assault weapons, passed in 1994, was allowed to expire in 2004. In 2005, Florida passed the Stand Your Ground law, an extension of the so-called castle doctrine, exonerating from prosecution citizens who use deadly force when confronted by an assailant, even if they could have retreated safely; Stand Your Ground laws expand that protection outside the home to any place that an individual “has a right to be.” Twenty-four states have passed similar laws.

I hadn’t realized that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin just one day before the school shootings at Chardon High School near Cleveland, Ohio. Isn’t it amazing that we heard all about that shooting right away and it was old news by the time the corporate media began reporting on Trayvon’s death?

Tuesday was the fifth anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, and it seems America has changed very little, probably largely because of NRA lobbying as well as ALEC’s “model legislation” writing services.

Of course no one could help hearing about the crude and tasteless behavior on display at the NRA convention last weekend. Executive VP Wayne LaPierre even had the gall to complain about media coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting. At HuffPo, Dean Obeidallah asks why.

Did Mr. LaPierre offer any sympathy to Trayvon Martin’s family? No.

Instead, he chose to denounce the media for their coverage of the case, alleging that the media’s: “… dishonesty, duplicity, and moral irresponsibility is directly contributing to the collapse of American freedom in our country.”

What makes Mr. La Pierre’s comments especially callous is that they were made at the annual NRA convention which was being held this weekend in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis has the unenviable distinction of being the city with the second highest rate in the country for youth being killed by guns. Indeed, the gunshot murder rate for 10 to 19 years old in St. Louis is more than three times the average for larger cities according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yesterday the LA Times published photos of American troops in Afghanistan posing with body parts of dead suicide bombers.

Two photos of incidents from a 2010 deployment were published Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times. In one, the hand of a corpse is propped on the shoulder of a paratrooper. In another, the disembodied legs of a suicide bomber are displayed by grinning soldiers and Afghan police.

These are the “hero” troops that we are constantly told we have to support and be grateful to. Have these young people been warped by America’s immoral wars? Or are they products of America’s vicious gun culture? I don’t know the answer, just asking.

American officials weren’t happy with the LA Times for publishing the photos and tried to stop them from doing it. Although the Obama administration and military leaders fell over themselves condemning the actions of these troops,

At the same time, Pentagon and White House officials expressed disappointment that the photos had been made public. The Pentagon had asked The Times not to publish the photos, citing fears that they would trigger a backlash against U.S. forces.

Speaking to reporters during a meeting of NATO allies in Brussels, Panetta said:

“This is war. And I know that war is ugly and violent. And I know that young people sometimes caught up in the moment make some very foolish decisions. I am not excusing that behavior. But neither do I want these images to bring further injury to our people or to our relationship with the Afghan people.”

Tough shit. Haven’t we seen enough war crimes by now? This war and the war in Iraq are just plain evil. Get these kids out of Afghanistan, and let’s hope we can prevent a majority of them from acting out violently or joining the growing number of military suicides when they get back home.

Mother Jones reports that ALEC is begging right wing bloggers to rescue them from mean old Common Cause, Color of Change, and other liberal groups who have been convincing ALEC’s donors to withdraw their support.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, the once-obscure organization that pairs corporations with state lawmakers to draft pro-business and often anti-union legislation for the state level, is in damage control mode. Corporate members such as McDonald’s, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Mars, Inc. have cut ties with ALEC after taking heat from a coalition of progressive groups angry over ALEC’s “discriminatory” voter ID bills and controversial “Stand Your Ground” self-defense legislation that figures into the Trayvon Martin shooting in central Florida.

To push back, ALEC has turned to the conservative blogosphere for help. As PR Watch reported, Caitlyn Korb, ALEC’s director of external relations, told attendees at a Heritage Foundation “Bloggers Briefing” on Tuesday that the campaign against ALEC was “part of a wider effort to shut all of us down.” She asked the bloggers for “any and all institutional support” in ALEC’s fight against progressive groups, especially when it came to social media. “We’re getting absolutely killed in social media venues—Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest,” she said. “Any and all new media support you guys can provide would be so helpful, not just to us but to average people who don’t know much about this fight but are seeing us really get heavily attacked with very little opposition.”

Korb educated the bloggers with a handout listing ALEC’s positions on a range of issues. PR Watch, one of ALEC’s loudest critics, described the handout as “riddled with errors.”

Check out the list at the above link.

Joshua Holland has an excellent piece at Alternet: Freedom from a Dead-End Life: True Liberty Means Defeating the Right-Wing’s Nightmare Vision for America.

Last week, Mitt Romney summed up the Right’s rhetorical fluff as well as anyone when he told the National Rifle Association that “freedom is the victim of unbounded government appetite.” It was an unremarkable comment, so accustomed are we to hearing the Right – a movement that historically opposed women’s sufferage and black civil rights and still seeks to quash workers’ right to organize and gay and lesbian Americans’ right to marry– claim to be defenders of our liberties….

Dig a little deeper, and it becomes clear that “freedom” for the Right offers most of us anything but. It’s the freedom for companies to screw their workers, pollute, and otherwise operate free of any meaningful regulations to protect the public interest. It’s about the wealthiest among us being free from the burden of paying a fair share of the taxes that help finance a smoothly functioning society.

The flip side is that programs that assure working Americans a decent existence are painted as a form of tyranny approaching fascism. The reality is that they impinge only on our God-given right to live without a secure social safety net. It’s the freedom to go bankrupt if you can’t afford to treat an illness; the liberty to spend your golden years eating cat food if you couldn’t sock away enough for a decent retirement.

It’s another long read, but well worth the time.

At FDL, Kevin Gosztola writes about yesterday’s unanimous SCOTUS that multinational corporations can’t be sued for torturing and/or killing people.

The US Supreme Court unanimously decided that foreign political organizations and multinational corporations cannot be sued for the torture or extrajudicial killing of persons abroad under an anti-torture law passed in 1992. The law only gives people the right to sue “an individual,” “who acted under the authority of a foreign nation,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The decision came in a lawsuit filed by the family of a US citizen, Azzam Rahim, who was tortured and killed in the Palestinian Territory by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) intelligence officers. It was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who President Barack Obama appointed to the Supreme Court, that spoke for the decision. She explained the text of the Torture Victims Protection Act of 1991 “convinces us that Congress did not extend liability to organizations, sovereign or not. There are no doubt valid arguments for such an extension. But Congress has seen fit to proceed in more modest steps in the Act, and it is not the province of this branch to do otherwise.”

Apparently, corporations are only “people” for purposes of corrupting electoral politics, but when they commit crimes they are no longer considered “individuals.” Gosztola also calls attention to the fact that Chief Justice Roberts actually laughed at the arguments of the Rahim family’s attorney Jeffrey Fisher.

Mr. Fisher did what he could with what the justices seemed to think was an exceptionally weak hand.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. summarized Mr. Fisher’s position: “You are saying, ‘Well, we want a term that is going to include individual persons and organizations but not state organizations.’ And the only term that fits perfectly is ‘individual.’ ”

“Exactly,” Mr. Fisher said. “That’s our argument.”

Chief Justice Roberts was incredulous. “Really?” he asked, to laughter in the courtroom, which the chief justice joined.

Finally, Dakinikat sent me this from The New York Times: Vatican orders crackdown on American nuns

The Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America’s 55,000 Catholic nuns, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women’s ordination.

Rome also chided the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) for sponsoring conferences that featured “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

Those are my recommendations for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


It’s Saturday!

Happy Saturday Sky Dancers!! It’s a beautiful fall day here in Indiana, but I’m looking forward to getting back to Boston. I’ll be taking off in a couple of days and I hope to be home by Tuesday or Wednesday. My mom is going along for the ride so she can hang out with her youngest grandsons for awhile. It will be fun, because she’ll be there over Halloween. But enough about my boring life–let’s get to the news.

This story is a couple of days old, but still worth reading. Via BDBlue at Corrente, Which GOP candidate do you think has raised the most money from Wall Street?

Barack Obama!

Despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate, according to new fundraising data.

Obama’s key advantage over the GOP field is the ability to collect bigger checks because he raises money for both his own campaign committee and for the Democratic National Committee, which will aid in his reelection effort.

As a result, Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all of the GOP candidates combined, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. The numbers show that Obama retains a persistent reservoir of support among Democratic financiers who have backed him since he was an underdog presidential candidate four years ago.

And get this–Obama has raised nearly twice as much as Romney from the Mittster’s old firm, Bain Capital! So don’t believe all those stories in the media about the Wall Street titans switching to Mitt.

Here’s another “breaking news” story from Forbes: US Businesses Not Being Strangled By Regulation And Taxation, World Bank Says. Gee, no kidding? But the Republicans say that’s the main cause of our economic problems, don’t they?

The World Bank uses indicators such as time spent to set up a business to getting credit, among other things, in benchmarking the 183 countries it ranks in “Doing Business”. The report measures and tracks changes in the regulations applied to domestic companies in 11 areas in their life cycle–such as investors rights, taxation, cross border transactions, legality and enforcement of contracts and bankruptcy law. A fundamental premise of doing business is that economic activity requires good rules that are transparent and accessible to all, not just big business. Such regulations should be efficient, the World Bank states, striking a balance between safeguarding some important aspects of the business environment and avoiding distortions that impose unreasonable costs on businesses. “Where business regulation is burdensome and competition limited, success depends more on whom you know than on what you can do. But where regulations are relatively easy to comply with and accessible to all who need to use them, anyone with talent and a good idea should be able to start and grow a business (legally),” the World Bank said.

Where does the supposed regulation and taxation crippled U.S. stand in the rankings? It is number four, trailing behind New Zealand (3), Hong Kong (2) and Singapore (1).

What it looks like from the research desks at one of the most powerful and elite multilateral institutions on the planet is a U.S. that does not have the government in its way, but a U.S. whose government is more out of the way than it is in every other major economy on earth, including mainland China.

Wow, I wonder if Congressman Paul Ryan reads Forbes? Naaaah… probably too far left for him. And speaking of Ryan, he appeared at a town hall meeting in Muskego, WI yesterday and made a complete ass of himself as usual. From Think Progress:

During a town hall today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) was asked by Matthew Lowe, a student, why the GOP wants to cut Pell Grants. Ryan responded by saying that the program is “unsustainable,” before telling Lowe that he should be working three jobs and taking out student loans to pay for college, instead of using Pell Grants:

LOWE: I come from a very middle-class family and under President Obama, I get $5,500 per year to pay for school, which doesn’t come close to covering all of the funding, but it helps ease the burden. Under your plan, you cut it by 15 percent. I was just curious why you would cut a grant that goes directly to the middle- and lower-class people that need it the most.

RYAN: ‘Cause Pell Grants have become unsustainable. It’s all borrowed money…Look, I worked three jobs to pay off my student loans after college. I didn’t get grants, I got loans, and we need to have a system of viable student loans to be able to do this.

That’s funny. I read that Ryan used his father’s Social Security survivor benefits to put himself through college. I’d like to see some documentation on those three jobs he claims he worked while attending classes, writing papers, and studying for exams. Besides, I’ll bet the unemployment rate for college-age kids wasn’t at depression levels back then.

And speaking of paying for college, here’s an interesting piece at Truthout by Ellen Brown: Can the Fed Prevent the Next Crisis by Eliminating Interest on Student Loan Debt?

Among the demands of the Wall Street protesters is student debt forgiveness – a debt “jubilee.” Occupy Philly has a “Student Loan Jubilee Working Group,” and other groups are studying the issue. Commentators say debt forgiveness is impossible. Who would foot the bill? But there is one deep pocket that could pull it off – the Federal Reserve. In its first quantitative easing program (QE1), the Fed removed $1.3 trillion in toxic assets from the books of Wall Street banks. For QE4, it could remove $1 trillion in toxic debt from the backs of millions of students.

The economy would only be the better for it, as was shown by the GI Bill, which provided virtually free higher education for returning veterans, along with low-interest loans for housing and business. The GI Bill had a sevenfold return. It was one of the best investments Congress ever made.

There are arguments against a complete student debt write-off, including that it would reward private universities that are already charging too much and it would unfairly exclude other forms of debt from relief. But the point here is that it could be done and it (or some similar form of consumer “jubilee”) would represent a significant stimulus to the economy.

According to Brown, student loan debt is “the next Black Swan.”

Here’s another stupid Republican story for you. Eric Cantor was scheduled to give a speech yesterday at the elite Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Cantor was to speak on what Republicans plan to do about income inequality. The school was so excited that they opened the talk to the public. In addition, there was to be a protest by several groups, including Occupy Philly.

Guess what Cantor did? He wimped out and cancelled. ROFLOL! From the LA Times:

Cantor was scheduled to speak on income inequity at a lecture hosted by the Wharton business school. The Virginia Republican’s office said he called off the speech after learning that protesters planned to rally outside and attendance would not be limited to students and others affiliated with the school.

Ron Ozio, director of media relations at University of Pennsylvania, said the business school “deeply regrets” that the event was canceled.

“The university community was looking forward to hearing Majority Leader Cantor’s comments on important public issues, and we hope there will be another opportunity for him to speak on campus,” Ozio said in a statement. “The Wharton speaker series is typically open to the general public, and that is how the event with Majority Leader Cantor was billed. We very much regret if there was any misunderstanding with the Majority Leader’s office on the staging of his presentation.”

This is pretty disgusting: Libyans line up to see Gaddafi’s body on display; groups call for probe into death

International human rights groups called Friday for an investigation into the death of former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi as gory new videos showed him being spat at and punched by revolutionaries and as skepticism mounted about official claims that he was shot in crossfire after being captured.

The new cellphone videos cast a shadow over the revolutionaries even as they were celebrating the end of their eight-month struggle to wrest control of the country. NATO had backed the rebels in the name of shielding pro-democracy civilians from Gaddafi’s brutality.

“The government version certainly does not fit with the reality we have seen on the ground,” said Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, who has been investigating the capture of Gaddafi in his home town of Sirte. Amnesty International warned that the killing could be a war crime.

Why do I suspect the U.S. Government gave the go-ahead for Gaddafi to be executed, just like Osama bin Laden? You might want to read Joseph Cannon’s take on this one.

Finally, late last night the Volker Rule was number 1 in Google’s top stories. From the NYT:

When Paul Volcker called for new rules in 2009 to curb risk-taking by banks, and thus avoid making taxpayers liable in the future for the kind of reckless speculation that caused the financial crisis and resulting bailout, he outlined his proposal in a three-page letter to the president.

Last year, when the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act went to Congress, the Volcker Rule that it contained took up 10 pages.

Last week, when the proposed regulations for the Volcker Rule finally emerged for public comment, the text had swelled to 298 pages and was accompanied by more than 1,300 questions about 400 topics.

Wall Street firms have spent countless millions of dollars trying to water down the original Volcker proposal and have succeeded in inserting numerous exemptions. Now they’re claiming it’s too complex to understand and too costly to adopt.

Gee, what a surprise. I wonder how many of those millions were taxpayer dollars?

So…what are you reading and blogging about today?