January 7, 2013

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


 The British and their bizarre view of Americans : We lap up their culture, adopt their economics and are obsessed with the "special relationship". So why do British people have such a confused - even negative - view of Americans (Will Self, 1/07/13, BBC Magazine)

I think, at root, the problem is one of mirroring.

They say "aluminum", we say "aluminium", but both can be shiny and reflective surfaces. So, no matter how intently we examine the US, we cannot help but see our own features staring back at us. This phenomenon simply doesn't occur when we look at the French, the Vietnamese or the South Africans - all remain properly other.

Only America and the Americans have this ability to derange us with their capacity to reflect our own image. Not that they do this intentionally, really, it's something we do to ourselves. And it follows that what we also do to ourselves is to relentlessly equate America with Americans, and the US government with its electorate - conflations we wouldn't dream of making in the case of the German or Greek peoples.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


Yes, We Have A (Defense) Spending Problem (DAVID CALLAHAN JANUARY 7, 2013, American Prospect)

Last year, in 2012, the U.S. government spent about $841 billion on security--a figure that includes defense, intelligence, war appropriations, and foreign aid. At the same time, the government collected about $1.1 trillion in individual income taxes. (And about $2.4 trillion in revenues overall if you include payroll, corporate, estate, and excise taxes.) 

In other words, about 80 cents of every dollar collected in traditional federal income taxes went for security.  [...]

While the Simpson-Bowles Commission advocated over a trillion dollars in defense cuts, President Obama's budget would only reduce spending modestly, and even that's a hard sell on Capitol Hill. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


Jailed Barghouti calls for Palestinian 'spring' (KHALED ABU TOAMEH, 01/06/2013, Jerusalem Post)

Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti on Sunday called for a Palestinian "spring" to force Fatah and Hamas to end their dispute and achieve unity. [...]

 "I call on the Palestinian people and youth to take the initiative to impose unity," Barghouti said.

"I call on them to take to the streets in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the diaspora and protest in front of the offices of the Palestinian factions and leaderships until the end of the division."

Barghouti said that Palestinians should not wait for Egypt or any other country to achieve reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. "We need reconciliation now and without delay," he stressed.
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Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM


Fake mission to Mars leaves astronauts spaced out (Ian Sample, 1/07/13, The Guardian)

The drudge of interplanetary travel has emerged from research on six men who joined the longest simulated space mission ever: a 17-month round trip to the red planet in a pretend spaceship housed at a Moscow industrial estate.

Though chosen for the job as the best of the best, the would-be spacefarers spent more and more time under their duvets and sitting around idle as the mission wore on. The crew's activity levels plummeted in the first three months, and continued to fall for the next year.

On the return leg, the men spent nearly 700 hours longer in bed than on the outward journey, and only perked up in the last 20 days before they clambered from their capsule in November 2011. Four crew members suffered from sleep or psychological issues.

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 PM


Just 8% Now Say They Are Tea Party Members (Rasmussen Reports, January 07, 2013

Views of the Tea Party movement are at their lowest point ever, with voters for the first time evenly divided when asked to match the views of the average Tea Party member against those of the average member of Congress.  Only eight percent (8%) now say they are members of the Tea Party, down from a high of 24% in April 2010 just after passage of the national health care law. 

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 30% of Likely U.S. Voters now have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party. Half (49%) of voters have an unfavorable view of the movement. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


The real fiscal cliff winner? Bush (Michael M. Rosen, JANUARY 7, 2013, Reuters)

"Tax relief is an achievement for families struggling to enter the middle class," the president trumpeted, shortly after Congress, by sweeping bipartisan margins and after a bruising battle, had lowered taxes for almost all Americans.  "For hard-working lower income families, we have cut the bottom rate of federal income tax from 15 percent to 10 percent. We doubled the per-child tax credit to $1,000 and made it refundable. Tax relief is compassionate, and it is now on the way."

Despite a furious counterattack from the opposition, the president had scored a major victory by securing lower tax rates for everyone in the middle class on down.

President Barack Obama last week after narrowly averting the fiscal cliff?  Nope, President George W. Bush in June 2001, signing the first set of his much-sought-after tax cuts. Perhaps the "compassionate" was a giveaway.

Now that the vast majority of those cuts -- to income taxes, and to much of the estate levy and capital gains and dividend rates --have been made permanent, with a bipartisan Washington consensus hardening around the benefits of tax relief, Bush must surely be smiling in Texas -- and for good reason.

Republicans have now succumbed to navel-gazing, infighting and worse. But they should instead focus on how their larger principles have prevailed.

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 PM


Muddy Waters and Friends on the Blues and Gospel Train, 1964 (Open Culture,  January 7th, 2013)

One of the most unique and intimate concerts from the British blues revival of the 1960s was the "Blues and Gospel Train," filmed May 7, 1964 in a suburb of Manchester, England. In 2011 we posted an excerpt featuring Muddy Waters singing "You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had." Today we're pleased to bring the whole show-or at least most of it.

The "Blues and Gospel Train" was staged on May 7, 1964 by Granada TV. Fans who were lucky enough to get tickets-some 200 of them-were instructed to meet at Manchester's Central Station at 7:30 that evening for a short train ride to the abandoned Wilbraham Road Station in Whalley Range.

When the train pulled in at Wilbraham Road, the audience poured out and found seats on one platform, making their way past Muddy Waters, who was singing "Blow Wind Blow." The opposite platform, decorated to look like an old railway station in the American South, served as a stage for a lineup of now-legendary blues artists including Waters, Sister Rosetta Sharpe, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Cousin Joe, Otis Spann and Reverand Gary Davis.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 PM


Obama's Cheney? "Assassination Czar" John Brennan Brings Legacy of Drone War and Torture to CIA Nod (Democracy Now, 1/07/13)

Dubbed the "assassination czar," presumptive CIA nominee John Brennan has played a key role backing some of the nation's most controversial post-9/11 policies, from the secret drone war to wireless surveillance. Brennan was a rumored pick for the job when Obama was first elected in 2008 but was forced to withdraw from consideration amid protests over his role at the CIA under George W. Bush and his public support for the CIA's policies of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" and extraordinary rendition.

Obama is, of course, Obana's Cheney.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 AM


In GOP, All Eyes on Jeb Bush (NEIL KING JR., 1/06/12, WSJ)

On the one hand, few can rival his name recognition, his stature within the party, his résumé as governor, or his clout within GOP money circles. Among Democrats, only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might enter the race with similar muscle.

But conservatives worry about leaning on the Bush name yet again at a time when the GOP is trying to reintroduce itself to voters and can draw on plenty of new talents, including Florida senator and Bush protégé Marco Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. No Republican not named Bush has won the White House since 1984, an eternity in politics.

Murmurings about a possible Bush run have already provoked groans in some quarters. It is time for conservatives "to move beyond picking the next elder white guy in line," said Matt Kibbe, a prominent tea-party activist and president of FreedomWorks, a conservative campaign group.

And yet, the GOP loss in the latest presidential election has led many other conservative leaders to see Mr. Bush as the ideal person to widen the party's message while expanding its reach, above all among the country's fast-growing Hispanic population.

A Spanish speaker whose wife is Mexican-American, Mr. Bush, 59 years old, has long advocated a comprehensive fix to the country's immigration problems. As governor, he was a pioneer in pushing for school choice and tougher teacher standards, and he now runs a high-profile education think tank. He trimmed taxes in Florida while leaving the state in the black and with the jobless rate below the national average.

"Some argue after 60 years of Nixon, Reagan and Bushes, the party should move on," said Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which advocates for social conservatism and limited government. "But if the goal is principled conservative leadership that overperforms among Hispanics and women, no one has been more effective than Jeb."

Given that the entirety of the GOP's recent ills are a function of the degree to which the Beltway has drifted away from W's ideas, Jeb is the best way to ameliorate the damage.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 AM


Jesus was a dirty, dirty God (Johnnie Moore, 1/05/13, CNN)

[D]espite the Christian belief that Jesus was both fully God and fully man, Jesus was a rather dirty God.

He was the "earthly" son of a carpenter, and life in the first-century was both more lurid and unfinished than our collective religious memory seems to recall.

To that end, I suggested recently to several astounded colleagues of mine that Jesus actually had to go to the bathroom, perhaps even on the side of the road between Capernaum and Jerusalem.

CNN's Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

What tipped them over the edge was when I insinuated that Jesus, like almost every other human being living in the rural world in that time, might have even had dysentery on an occasion or two.

Someone said, "You mean that Jesus might have had severe diarrhea?"

"Yep," I replied, "That's exactly what I mean."

It seems like an obvious statement if you believe that Jesus was "fully God" and "fully man" (as most evangelicals believe and call the Incarnation), but to some of us it seems in the least, inappropriate, and at the most, sacrilege, to imagine Jesus in this way. 

Which is why Piss Christ and Fire in My Belly always seemed rather unexceptionable.