Category: Culture

Do-Nothing Republicans don’t care if the US is represented abroad

party of NO

As fighters affiliated with the self-declared Islamic State roll across the porous Turkish border into Syria, the United States has a problem: It has no ambassador to Turkey.

As the Ebola virus rages in Sierra Leone, the United States has no ambassador there. And as North Korea poses a nuclear threat, the United States has no ambassador in South Korea.

The same is true when Turkey demands an answer for US spying.

Nominations for the posts are among dozens languishing in the Senate, many for months. The would-be ambassador to Sierra Leone, for example, has been waiting more than 400 days for an up-or-down vote. Veteran diplomats say the Senate’s persistent gridlock over domestic matters is hurting the United States on the world stage.

The number of nominees awaiting confirmation now stands at 55 out of 226 positions, about one-fourth of all ambassador-ranked posts. For the vast majority of nominees who have been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and are awaiting a full vote in the Senate, the average wait has been more than seven months, according to State Department statistics…

Unlike years past, when political clashes have held up small groups of nominees for brief periods, the current stand-off is more widespread and long-lasting, preventing all but a trickle of nominees from getting a vote.

“It really makes a joke of us abroad,” said Charles A. Ray, a former ambassador to Cambodia and Zimbabwe who spent 30 years in the foreign service. “Having the Senate literally block ambassadorial positions really sends a negative signal to countries we have relationships with. It makes them think that relationship doesn’t matter to us much.”

Cripes. I think half the backwater Neo-Confederate Republicans in Congress don’t even care about a relationship with the rest of the United States. As long as NASCAR keeps trundling around in a circle and state courts are allowed to enforce 19th Century rules about women – they’re as happy as can be.

Just keep those contributions coming in from coal companies and military-industrial gun-thugs.

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Is red the new black?


Click to enlargeRex Features

Crimson tide: Is red the new black? The presence of at least 14 scarlet women at the Emmys last night would seem to suggest so. Finding a shade that flatters skintone but doesn’t clash or merge into the carpet is a styling challenge.

Used to be celebrities hated to be seen in public looking very much like another celebrity.

Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager named as Ron Paul’s bribery bagman


“Just make the check out to cash!”

The campaign manager for U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican locked in a tough re-election battle, resigned late Friday in fallout from a scandal stemming from his time with the 2012 Ron Paul presidential campaign.

McConnell is facing Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in a race Republicans view as important if they are to secure control of the Senate.

While denying any wrongdoing during his time working for Paul, Jesse Benton said blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Benton was the spokesman for the libertarian Paul’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign when, during the Republican primary season, a supporter of a rival candidate was secretly paid by a Paul staffer to publicly switch sides.

Former Iowa Republican state Senator Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty this week to concealing $73,000 he was paid to endorse Paul over U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann.

McConnell has dropped Benton like the hot potato he obviously is.

Maybe handling a smooth job of bribery was one of the qualities that appealed enough to McConnell to choose him as campaign manager. Lots of money floating around the political career of a bought-and-paid-for hack like Mitch McConnell.

Row over cow settled by DNA tests


The cow in question

A woman in the southern Indian state of Kerala is set to win a court battle to keep a cow after DNA tests proved it belongs to her, her lawyer says…The woman, TS Sashilekha, had been accused by her neighbour Geetha of stealing the animal.

The acrimonious dispute even saw the cow in question appear in court.

It is thought to be the first time an ownership battle over an animal has been decided by DNA tests in India, where Hindus consider cows to be holy.

The legal battle between the two women began last year when Geetha claimed that a cow in her herd was the mother of the disputed animal…But DNA tests ordered by the court did not match, meaning that Sashilekha will get to keep the cow.

…N Chandra Babu, lawyer for Sashilekha, told the BBC, “It is a rare case and possibly the first of its kind in history. Perhaps this is the first time a DNA test was held on a cow to find out its real owner.”

After the disputed cow was produced in court, Sashilekha was allowed to keep it in her possession – but only after paying 45,000 rupees in securities.

I understand why the court would ask the eventual victor to provide security presumably covering the value of the cow. Hopefully, returned without charges. Another good reason why she is suing the accuser for costs and compensation.

Pic of the Day


Click to enlargeAP Photo/Alberto Saiz

A man lays in a puddle of squashed tomatoes, during the annual “tomatina” tomato fight fiesta in the village of Bunol, 50 kilometers outside Valencia, Spain…

The streets of an eastern Spanish town are awash with red pulp as thousands of people pelt each other with tomatoes in the annual “Tomatina” battle that has become a major tourist attraction. At the annual fiesta in Bunol on Wednesday, trucks dumped 125 tons of ripe tomatoes for some 22,000 participants, many from abroad to throw during the hour-long morning festivities.

Phew! First look seemed like an outtake from the evening war news.

Married couples who smoke pot have less domestic violence

Hip American Gothic

Looking at couples over the first nine years of marriage, the study found:

• More frequent marijuana use by husbands and wives (two-to-three times per month or more often) predicted less frequent intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration by husbands.

• Husbands’ marijuana use also predicted less frequent IPV perpetration by wives.

Couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently reported the least frequent IPV perpetration.

• The relationship between marijuana use and reduced partner violence was most evident among women who did not have histories of prior antisocial behavior.

The study’s lead author is Philip H. Smith, PhD, a recent doctoral graduate of the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions and now associate research scientist in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University.

It is based on research data collected by lead investigator Kenneth Leonard, PhD, director of the UB Research Institute on Addictions. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to Leonard and a grant to Smith from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Exactly the sort of scientific research that can benefit society and law. Guaranteed to be ignored by the overwhelming majority of our lawmakers – and the idjits who vote for them.

Still, the important part is that scientists are unrelenting in their curiosity, the quest for knowledge regardless of opposition from Philistines.

University allows master to keep his Bassett on campus as a “very large cat”

The master of a Cambridge University college that banned dogs from accommodation has been allowed to keep his canine companion after persuading officials it was “a very large cat”.

YoYo the bassett hound lives at Selwyn College with Roger Mosey…Mr Mosey said cats were allowed but dogs were “technically” banned.

However, after a past master set a “dog-owning precedent” decades ago, the college “tongue-in-cheek agreed YoYo could stay as a large cat”, he said…

“Many former masters have kept cats but the greatest master, Professor Owen Chadwick, did keep dogs during the 1950s, 60s and 70s,” he said.

Permission was granted by the council, and duly noted in the minutes: “i. College Animal – Noting precedent under the mastership of Professor Chadwick, Council approved the Master’s request to adopt a Very Large Cat in the Master’s Lodge.”

YoYo, a rescue dog, has now featured in publicity material for a veterinary course and other college material…”Students call her ‘the college dog’ and I very much want her to become part of life at Selwyn,” Mr Mosey said.

A particularly collegiate and British solution to a conflict between reality and the rules.

Grain piles up – as trains are dedicated to North Dakota oil

The furious pace of energy exploration in North Dakota is creating a crisis for farmers whose grain shipments have been held up by a vast new movement of oil by rail, leading to millions of dollars in agricultural losses and slower production for breakfast cereal giants like General Mills.

The backlog is only going to get worse, farmers said, as they prepared this week for what is expected to be a record crop of wheat and soybeans…

Although the energy boom in North Dakota has led to a 2.8 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in the nation, the downside has been harder times for farmers who have long been mainstays of the state’s economy. Agriculture was North Dakota’s No. 1 industry for decades, representing a quarter of its economic base, but recent statistics show that oil and gas have become the biggest contributors to the state’s gross domestic product.

Railroads have long been the backbone of North Dakota’s transportation system and the most dependable way for farmers to move crops — to ports in Portland, Ore., Seattle and Vancouver, from which the bulk of the grain is shipped across the Pacific to Asia; and to East Coast ports like Albany, from which it is shipped to Europe.

But reports the railroads filed with the federal government show that for the week that ended Aug. 22, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway — North Dakota’s largest railroad…had a backlog of 1,336 rail cars waiting to ship grain and other products. Another railroad, Canadian Pacific, had a backlog of nearly 1,000 cars.

For farmers, the delays often mean canceled orders from food giants that cannot wait weeks or months for the grain they need to make cereal, bread and an array of other products. “They need to get this problem fixed,” Mr. Hejl said. “I’m losing money, and my customers are turning to other sources as a result. I don’t know how much longer we can survive like this.”

This month, federal Agriculture Department officials said they were particularly concerned that Canadian Pacific would not be able to fulfill nearly 30,000 requests from farmers and others for rail cars before October. As a result, North Dakota’s congressional delegation and lawmakers in Minnesota and South Dakota have called on the Surface Transportation Board, which oversees the nation’s railroads, to step up pressure on the companies.

Farmers and agriculture groups say rail operators are clearly favoring the more lucrative transport of oil. Rail shipments of crude oil in North Dakota have surged since 2008, and the state now produces about a million barrels a day. About 60 percent of that oil travels by train from the Bakken oil fields in the western part of the state to faraway oil refiners…

RTFA. Ain’t anything there likely to surprise you.

Railroad officials beat their double-breasted Brooks Brother suits and claim they show no favoritism. That they are planning an additional investment of $400 million for more track and tank cars has nothing to do with which commodity is most profitable for them.

Obviously not Christians for they certainly don’t worry about being struck by lightning as liars, eh?

Thanks, Mike

Republicans continue to trip over the Gender Gap — and more

GOP women

When it comes to the Republican Party’s path to a Senate majority, so much of the focus has been on the red states. But the difference between the GOP pursuing a lasting majority and one that is temporary — or even elusive — is how it performs in purple and blue states like Colorado and Michigan. And our brand-new NBC/Marist polls of Colorado and Michigan show Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) leading Cory Gardner (R) by seven points among registered voters…in Colorado’s key Senate race. They find Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) ahead of GOP challenger Bob Beauprez by six points… They have Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) up over Republican Terri Lynn Land by six…in Michigan’s Senate contest. And they show Gov. Rick Snyder (R) leading Democratic challenger Mark Schauer by two points… So why are Udall, Peters, and Snyder all ahead in their contests?

Here’s an explanation: mind the gaps — the gender gap, the Latino gap, and the independent gap. In Colorado, Udall is up by 12 points among female voters…as Democratic groups like Senate Majority PAC are up with TV ads…on abortion and contraception. Indeed, 70% of Colorado voters in the NBC/Marist poll said they were less likely to vote for a candidate who supports restrictions on the use of contraception. And in Michigan, Peters is ahead by 13 points with women…

But the gender gap isn’t the only notable gap in our new polls — also look at the Latino gap. Our NBC/Marist poll shows that Latinos make up 16% of registered voters in Colorado, and Udall is winning them by 31 points…

And then there’s the independent gap. In Colorado, both Udall (by 50%-34%) and Hickenlooper (by 52%-35%) have the advantage with independent voters. By contrast, in Michigan, Gov. Snyder holds a 14-point edge among independents — which explains his narrow lead in this Democratic-leaning state. Remember: It’s often easier to win independent voters as a Republican governor or gubernatorial candidate in a blue state, rather than as a GOP Senate candidate…And Snyder won his 2010 GOP primary and then general election due to independent voters…

Kind of a catch-all article. Hardly any poll analysis is as tidy as Pew or fivethirtyeight.com. Still, the groupings examined in this portion of the NBC/Marist poll would have it appear that under-represented portions of the American population are pissed-off enough to vote in their own interest.

Time for a cute fix


AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Panda cub Bao Bao hangs from a tree in her habitat at the National Zoo in Washington, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. Saturday marked her first birthday and the the zoo held an event with a traditional ‘Zhuazhou’ ceremony, a Chinese birthday tradition symbolizing long life to mark the event.

Haven’t posted a Panda in a while.