04/22/2012 archive

Rant of the Week: George Carlin

Man was created because the Earth could not make plastic.

George Carlin – Saving the Planet

On This Day In History April 22

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

April 22 is the 112th day of the year (113th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 253 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1978, The Blues Brothers make their world premiere on Saturday Night Live.

It was Marshall Checker, of the legendary Checker brothers, who first discovered them in the gritty blues clubs of Chicago’s South Side in 1969 and handed them their big break nine years later with an introduction to music-industry heavyweight and host of television’s Rock Concert, Don Kirshner. Actually, none of that is true, but it’s the story that Saturday Night Live’s Paul Shaffer told on April 22, 1978 as he announced the worldwide television debut of that night’s musical guest, the Blues Brothers-the not-quite-real, not-quite-fake musical creation of SNL cast members Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.


The genesis of the Blues Brothers was a January 17, 1976, Saturday Night Live sketch. In it, “Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band” play the Slim Harpo song “I’m a King Bee”, with Belushi singing and Aykroyd playing harmonica, dressed in the bee costumes they wore for the “Killer Bees” sketch.

Following tapings of SNL, it was popular among cast members and the weekly hosts to attend Aykroyd’s Holland Tunnel Blues bar, which he had rented not long after joining the cast. Dan and John filled a jukebox with songs from many different artists such as Sam and Dave and punk band The Viletones. John bought an amplifier and they kept some musical instruments there for anyone who wanted to jam. It was here that Dan and Ron Gwynne wrote and developed the original story which Dan turned into the initial story draft of the Blues Brothers movie, better known as the “tome” because it contained so many pages.

It was also at the bar that Aykroyd introduced Belushi to the blues. An interest soon became a fascination and it was not long before the two began singing with local blues bands. Jokingly, SNL band leader Howard Shore suggested they call themselves “The Blues Brothers.” In an April 1988 interview in the Chicago Sun-Times, Aykroyd said the Blues Brothers act borrowed from Sam & Dave and others: “Well, obviously the duo thing and the dancing, but the hats came from John Lee Hooker. The suits came from the concept that when you were a jazz player in the 40’s, 50’s 60’s, to look straight, you had to wear a suit.”

The band was also modeled in part on Aykroyd’s experience with the Downchild Blues Band, one of the first professional blues bands in Canada, with whom Aykroyd continues to play on occasion. Aykroyd first encountered the band in the early 1970s, at or around the time of his attendance at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada and where his initial interest in the blues developed through attending and occasionally performing at Ottawa’s Le Hibou Coffee House.




Fiddleheads are a very ephemeral thing.  For 2 or 3 weeks in the spring the emerging shoots of several types of ferns are available for eating.

Now to me they resemble nothing so much as Asparagus in taste, but perhaps that’s because of my preferred method of preparation about which more shortly.  Others notice a hint of Almond, but you couldn’t prove it by me.  They’re extremely high in Vitamin A, less so in C, and otherwise have all the good nutritional characteristics you expect from a vegetable.

Personally I don’t recommend picking them wild.  I’m not Euell Gibbons and I stay away from toadstools and amateur fugu too.  Fortunately they’re available from some grocery stores in season (my local Stop & Shop carries them), you can get them over the internet (www.fiddle-heads.com), and also frozen and canned.

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Chris Hayes: Chris’ guests this Sunday are: Peter Beinart (@peterbeinart), senior writer at Newsweek/The Daily Beast; Sonali Kolhatkar (@sonalikolhatkar), co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission and author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords & the Propaganda of Silence; Rula Jebreal (@rulajebreal), Newsweek contributor; Eli Lake (@elilake), senior national security reporter for Newsweek/Daily Beast; Hooman Majd (@hmajd), author of The Ayatollah’s Democracy: An Iranian Challenge and The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran; and Dimi Reider (@dimireider), Israeli journalist and blogger.

The Melissa Harris-Perry Show: As per the web site, Melissa’s emphasis and guests will focus an Earth Day but at this time, there is no list of guests.

This Week with George Stephanopolis: Guests Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will give the distaff view of the Secret Service scandal.

This week’s roundtable weighs in on all the week’s politics, with Keith Olbermann, ABC News’ George Will, political strategist and ABC News contributor Donna Brazile, political strategist and ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan.

It looks like Keith is still in good graces with at least one Network. Could this be the ground work for a new gig?

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: More on the Secret Service “Hookergate” with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Rep. Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), all members of key committees involved in investigating the USSS scandal; also, Deputy Campaign Manager for President Obama’s campaign, Stephanie Cutter, and Senior Adviser to Gov. Romney’s campaign Eric Fehrnstrom with the latest on Campaign 2012; Tavis Smiley and Cornel West join Bob to discuss the changing face of poverty in America today; and the political panel with The Washington Post‘s Melinda Henneberger, National Journal‘s Major Garrett and CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell and John Dickerson.

The Chris Matthews Show: This week’s guests are Michael Duffy, TIME Magazine Michael Duffy TIME Magazine Assistant Managing Editor; Howard Fineman, The Huffington Post Senior Political Editor; Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent; Kasie Hunt, Associated Press Political Reporter.

Meet the Press with David Gregory: More poutrage over Secret Service “Hookergate” from Republicans with  Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) adding to the rhetoric; and President Obama’s chief re-election strategist David Axelrod babbling on the same.

The guests onthe roundtable are The Washington Post‘s E. J. Dionne, Jr.; The New York TimesDavid Brooks and Helene Cooper; and NBC’s Chuck Todd.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: David Axelrod joins Candy with more babbling; an exclusive interview with Florida’s Republican Senator Marco Rubio, nuch touted to be Romney’s running mate; Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) alol on “Hookergate” and CNN’s Senior Congressional Reporter Dana Bash and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Conservative nonprofit ALEC acts as stealth business lobbyist

 Membership includes nearly 2,000 state legislators – and corporations


Desperate for new revenue, Ohio lawmakers introduced legislation last year that would make it easier to recover money from businesses that defraud the state.

It was quickly flagged at the Washington headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a business-backed group that views such “false claims” laws as encouraging frivolous lawsuits. ALEC’s membership includes not only corporations, but nearly 2,000 state legislators across the country – including dozens who would vote on the Ohio bill.

Sunday’s Headlines:

Bahrain Grand Prix to go ahead despite protester’s death

A bad heart killed Neil Heywood. But whose?

Getting a real taste of living in the ‘Big Durian’ one smelly mouthful at a time

Libya says building case against Gaddafi son: ICC prosecutor

Globe to Globe: Maori Troilus and Cressida puts haka into Shakespeare

Formula One 2012: Bahrain

Well I’ve been covering the protests for 2 weeks now and it looks like they’re going to race anyway.

Here are the latest developments-

Bahrain analysis: how Formula One plan may have backfired for Gulf kingdom’s ruling family

By Rosamund De Sybel in Manama and Adrian Blomfield, The Telegraph

8:55PM BST 21 Apr 2012

(B)y persuading the sport’s governing authority to stage the race, cancelled last year, the ruling family sought to show that the recent upheaval was over. Officials came up with the slogan “UniF1ed” had hoped that Bahrain’s showcase event would deflate the Shia street protests that had campaigned so vocally for its cancellation.

Yet the opposite seems to have happened, with the questionable nature of the regime’s triumph exposed by the thousands of demonstrators who gathered on Friday and Saturday, the first two of three “days of rage”, to denounce the ruling family.

Protest leaders had feared that the roar of the racing cars’ engines would drown out their grievances. If anything, however, the race has rejuvenated their flagging campaign.

Friday’s protests were among the largest in recent months. Had the race been cancelled, the turnout may well have been far smaller.

Despite the regime’s efforts to ban non-sports journalists — reporters from Sky News, The Financial Times and Reuters, among others, were denied entry into Bahrain — the race has also refocused international attention on the Gulf Kingdom.

Bahrain’s Formula One Gala Not Going as Planned


Published: April 20, 2012

Instead, the opposite seems to be happening. While Bahraini officials vow that the Grand Prix will be held as planned on Sunday, Shiite opposition groups and rights organizations have denounced the race as a public relations stunt that has sought to mask what they call the monarchy’s failures to address causes of political discontent here.

“It’s definitely backfired on them,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at Human Rights Watch in New York, said in a telephone interview. “It seems like their main focus is managing this as a P.R. exercise, but it’s impossible to repress the reality, which is that there is a great simmering discontent.”

In a more aggressive punctuation of the point, the activist group Anonymous hacked the official Formula One Web site for a few hours on Friday. Visitors to the site encountered a message castigating Bahrain’s government and the racing organization and urging people to oppose the race. “The Formula One racing authority was well aware of the Human Rights situation in Bahrain and still chose to contribute to the regime’s oppression of civilians and will be punished,” the message read.

Formula 1 Racers, and Protestors, Get Ready for Bahrain’s Big Day

By Aryn Baker, Time Magazine

April 21, 2012

As the protests escalate, and the crackdown becomes more violent, there have been several calls for a last minute cancelation of the event. That would set a terrible, and possibly terrifying, precedent for the upcoming Olympics in London. The reality is, the F1 should never have been allowed to return to Bahrain in the first place. Never mind the fact that race organizers, and the Bahrain government, seem to have underplayed the level of violence in the country-after all, protests have been going on almost every night for the past year-but does Bahrain actually deserve to host the F1?

Last November the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, a government funded but independent investigative body, released its findings on the February 2011 uprising and the subsequent crackdown. The report cited a litany of graphic human-rights violations, including systematic torture, unlawful detention, excessive and indiscriminate use of force, night raids designed to “create fear,” workplace purges of protest participants, sexual abuse, the threat of rape along with beatings and the administration of electric shocks to elicit confessions, and the destruction of religious sites that “give the impression of collective punishment.”

A Formula One race too far as sport and politics collide in Bahrain

Paul Weaver, The Guardian

Saturday 21 April 2012 18.00 EDT

I feel a pebble under my foot, but when I look it is a small, black rubber bullet. Ominously, there are also larger bullets, the size of broad beans, at the demo site. According to my guide, the police come in, even after peaceful protests, and shoot tear gas and rubber bullets to remind everyone in this troubled Gulf state who is really in charge.

There are a few hundred protesters in this demo and, as things get nasty, we are hurried to a rooftop before the police break it up. More tear gas. More rubber bullets. I feel more like a war correspondent than a sportswriter, but since only the latter have visas I am in the thick of it.

Bahrain protester found dead on eve of grand prix

Jo Adetunji, Peter Beaumont and agencies, The Guardian

Saturday 21 April 2012 10.30 EDT

Bahraini authorities confirmed on Saturday that the dead man was Salah Abbas Habib. It said in a statement that the 36-year-old had suffered a wound to his left side and the case was being treated as a homicide.

The opposition group al-Wefaq said Habib’s body was found on the roof of a building after he and other protesters were beaten by riot police who suppressed a demonstration in the village of Shakhura late on Friday night. They released a photograph of Habib’s blood-covered body on a corrugated iron roof. He was apparently found wearing a teargas mask. Reports suggested he had been shot.

Deadly protests mar Bahrain Grand Prix

By Al Jazeera Staff

Sat, 2012-04-21 13:20.

It’s still unclear whether he died in the clashes that broke up that demonstration, or whether he was killed in the night of village skirmishes that followed.

There is an even more sinister rumour circulating: that he was snatched by police, died in their custody, and his body was dumped on the roof in the hours of darkness.

But regardless of how Salah died, the claim of many Shia protesters that Formula One is racing on their blood becomes harder to argue against.

Further protests from Bahrain’s restive Shia population are planned this weekend, including one near the Sakhir race track on Sunday.

Violence will almost certainly accompany them. Bernie Ecclestone, F1’s ruling king, has insisted from the get-go that Bahrain is a safe country to race in.

If Salah could still speak, he would probably tell you it’s not such a safe country to live in.

Protests, clashes, death cast pall over Bahrain Grand Prix

By Alan Baldwin, Reuters

Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:49pm EDT

A funeral march for Habib will probably take place on Sunday, once his body has been released to his family, setting the stage for riots during the big race itself.

Activists say his death takes the total dead since the uprising began on Feb. 14, 2011 to 81, including police killed last year, a figure the government disputes.

F1 teams to race while rage boils on Bahrain streets

By Alan Baldwin, Reuters

Sun Apr 22, 2012 2:10am EDT

Black smoke from burning tyres wafted over Budaiya on Sunday morning, before the final race. Budaiya, outside the capital of Manama, was the scene of mass protests on Friday.

The death of 36-year-old protester Salah Abbas Habib – found sprawled on a rooftop on Saturday after overnight clashes – provides more fuel for outrage among a Shi’ite Muslim majority that complains of being marginalized by ruling Sunnis.

(N)ightly TV images of streets ablaze with clouds of smoke and teargas are an embarrassment for Formula One and the global brands that lavish it with sponsorship. Thomson Reuters, parent company of Reuters, is a sponsor of the Williams Formula One team.

Jean Todt, president of Formula One’s governing body, the International Automobile Federation, broke a media silence on Saturday to say he was sorry “about what has been reported”.

“I am not sure that all that has been reported corresponds to the reality of what is happening in this country,” he added.

Bahrain Grand Prix to go ahead despite protester’s death

Paul Weaver and Peter Beaumont, The Guardian

With dozens of armoured personnel carriers guarding the main route to the circuit, the decision by F1 and the Sunni minority royal family to push ahead with the event – partly to help convince the world of Bahrain’s return to normality – appeared to be degenerating into a human rights and PR catastrophe.

Despite claims by F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone and regime officials that the race was safe and the threat of violence “hyped”, the buildup to the contest has been marked by increasingly large anti-government demonstrations that have been put down with teargas, birdshot and stun grenades.

Wefaq official Sayed Hadi al-Mousawi said it was not clear what caused Habib’s death. “We haven’t got the body because the official investigators have surrounded the area, but we understand he was beaten severely. His colleagues with him last night were beaten with batons and the butts of rifles used to shoot teargas and birdshot.” Bahrain’s interior ministry described Habib as having suffered “a wound to his left side”.

The decision to go ahead with the race was defended by Jean Todt, president of the FIA, the sport’s governing body, who echoed Ecclestone’s comments late last week criticising the reporting of the situation in Bahrain. “I came here after the Indian Grand Prix to assess the situation and to understand better the situation. I had discussions with the British ambassador, the French ambassador, the Italian ambassador, the German ambassador – and the authorities,” he said. “Everybody was very comfortable with the situation and about the implementation of new solutions for the country.”

Bahrain Race Is Not First Controversy for Formula One

By JOHN F. BURNS, The New York Times

April 21, 2012, 8:16 pm

Formula One, in the guise of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the sport’s governing body, made its own on-the-spot assessment in Bahrain during the winter, led by Jean Todt, a Frenchman who is the organization’s president and former head of the Ferrari grand prix team during Schumacher’s glory years. Satisfied with what it found, the organization ruled in favor of resuming the race. In the background, strong pressure in favor of racing came from Bernie Ecclestone, the Englishman who is Formula One’s ringmaster, and the man who negotiated a $40-million fee from the Bahrain government.

The teams and drivers, discreetly, were much less keen, with some of the sport’s marquee names acknowledging the human rights arguments, but agreeing, in the end, to follow the lead of Mr. Todt and Mr. Ecclestone. In this, financial considerations played their part. The larger racing teams like Ferrari operate with budgets that can exceed $300 million a year. While few drivers can match the $50 million to $100 million a year that Schumacher is said to have made in his heyday, contracts that pay $15-million and more are the standard at the front end of the starting grid. A racing driver’s career can be short – tragically short, if they are unlucky – and there are few cases, if any, of a driver defying his team and refusing to race for reasons of conscience.

The move was of a piece with a broader pattern shaped by Mr. Ecclestone, the sport’s principal entrepreneur, who has moved progressively over the past decade to move races to countries like China, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi with little or no motor racing history, and scant support for Formula One that manifests itself in anemic crowds. To make way for these fixtures, Formula One has abandoned the races in some countries – notably, France – where the sport has a long history but less willingness on the part of their motorsport bodies and track owners to raise the fees that governments in the new venues are prepared to pay for the veneer of respectability that comes with staging a grand prix that will be watched by perhaps 100 million television viewers.

Perhaps, in the end, grand prix racing’s image problem – and the reason it has seemed to many so out-of-touch in its decision to race in Bahrain – is that it is, by its nature, an elite sport, and carefully nurtured to remain so. In an earlier age, many of the drivers were aristocrats – Siamese princes, German barons, Belgian counts, American department store heirs, English aristocrats – who raced with ascots and bow ties, and who disported themselves with the devil-may-care attitudes of a privileged class. These were men who drove cars up the staircases of luxury hotels, quaffed magnum bottles of champagne, smoked the best Cuban cigars, and cast each other off hotel balconies into swimming pools – until, inevitably, many of them died on the track.

Today’s drivers are of a different class, many of them like Schumacher and the current world champion, the German Sebastian Vettel, the sons of modestly placed fathers who got them early into go-kart racing, and guided them as they rose the ladder to Formula One. But they, too, are cocooned by privilege, above all by the kind of wealth that runs to private jets and yachts, and by the care that the race officials, including the F.I.A., take to ensure that the media coverage is concentrated among people who do it full-time, who themselves become part of the closed Formula One circus – eager to discourse on the merits of this aerodynamic innovation or that computerized engine management system, but disinclined, in most cases, to look beyond the confines of the tracks where they spend their working lives and take the measure of the societies beyond.

Formula One lives in a Bahrain bubble

By Alan Baldwin, Reuters

Sat Apr 21, 2012 3:55pm EDT

On Saturday, the body of a demonstrator was discovered on a rooftop after a battle at which witnesses said police fired birdshot at crowds. His funeral could be held on Sunday, setting the stage for riots on the day of the race itself.

(F)or those within the sport’s entourage who have not ventured out to see a different reality, talk of petrol bombs, death and torture might as well be from another planet.

Red Bull’s world champion Sebastian Vettel said shortly after arrival on Thursday that he thought much of what was being reported was hype.

He looked forward to getting in the car and dealing with the “stuff that really matters – tyre temperatures, cars.”

Bahrain Grand Prix: Defiant Force India feel wrath of Formula One

Paul Weaver, The Observer

Saturday 21 April 2012

Force India have been punished by Formula One by being blanked from the television screens after missing a practice session because of concerns over their safety. BBC and Sky viewers bombarded the channels with calls, emails and tweets after Saturday’s’s qualifying session for the Bahrain Grand Prix, asking why the cameras did not feature the Force India cars of Paul Di Resta and Nico Hülkenberg, even though Di Resta was a top-10 finisher.

Both TV channels have their own teams at races, but their pictures come from the feed controlled by Formula One Management. Bernie Ecclestone, the sport’s commercial rights holder, denied the charge on Saturday when he said: “I was busy and didn’t notice Force India were not on. I will look into it. It could be technical, but I suspect it was more to do with the Bahrain laws on no alcohol advertising. They have a whisky company prominently on the car. They should have taken it off. TV could not show that.”

However, Force India, who number Whyte & Mackay among their sponsors, appear to have been singled out for punishment because all teams submit their livery for approval when they race in countries with restrictions, such as Bahrain. Pictures were broadcast of the team in practise without sanction. Force India refused to comment last night, but a team insider who declined to be named said: “Everyone knows what happened. Bernie is giving Force India a slap on the wrist for missing Friday’s second practice session.”

Meanwhile, the FIA president, Jean Todt, said his conscience was clear despite a disastrous week for Formula One. “I am sorry about what has been reported,” he said “I am not sure all that has been reported corresponds to the reality of what is happening in this country. But I feel F1 is very strong. It is a very strong brand, and all the people among the teams to whom I have been speaking are very happy.”

Bernie Ecclestone has followed the money and turned Formula One into a pariah sport

Richard Williams, The Guardian

Saturday 21 April 2012 12.01 EDT

News of the death of a protester in Bahrain, reported just before 24 Formula One cars set off for their qualifying session for grand prix, drowned the noise of engines everywhere except inside the paddock at the Sakhir circuit, where the drivers and engineers maintained their concentration on settling the order of the starting grid. In the view of Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion, they were getting back to what really mattered. Much of the outside world, however, had long since lost interest in listening to commentators discussing tyre temperatures and drag-reduction.

What has happened on the oil-rich island in the Persian Gulf is a direct result of the way Ecclestone has run the sport since taking control 30 years ago. His willingness to tear up its traditional roots and follow the money into new territories opened the way for an eventual collision between a spectacle whose audience is still largely European and countries with non-democratic systems of government. Bahrain is the wrong time and the wrong place in which to maintain the pretence that sport is sport and politics is politics, and that the two have no interdependence. The country’s royal family destroyed that fiction when they had posters put up around their Sakhir circuit featuring the slogan “UniF1ed – One Nation in Celebration”, an explicit use of Formula One to bolster their claim to have taken steps to improve conditions for their people since the first demonstrations in March 2011, part of the “Arab spring”, caused the cancellation of last year’s grand prix.

Amnesty International’s most recent report on the situation in Bahrain calmly but remorselessly dismantled those claims. Most of the action taken by the rulers, it suggested, has been in the area of public relations. Little of any substantive nature has been done to address the discontent felt by the Shia majority at the discrimination exercised by the Sunni royal family and their governing elite. Official investigations have gone slowly, and no senior figure has been charged with liability for the violence – including allegations of torture – meted out to some of last year’s protesters and to medical personnel who went to their aid.

But protesters, Ecclestone told me last year, tend to be “people who’ve got nothing to do on a Sunday”. They are certainly not, by and large, people likely to contribute to his enrichment, who are the only type of people in whom he is really interested.

The Bahrain affair also exposes the conflicts of interest that flow through Formula One. The crown prince of Bahrain sanctioned the building of the Sakhir circuit and the payment of the annual $40m to Ecclestone; both are members of the FIA’s powerful World Motor Sports Council. The investment arm of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat Holdings, owns 40% of the McLaren team, which is perhaps one reason why Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton have been economical with their opinions this weekend. The crown prince also shares the ownership of a team in the GP2 championship, F1’s supporting attraction, with the son of Jean Todt, the president of the FIA, who was in a position to order the cancellation of this weekend’s race but declined to do so.

Ecclestone’s habit of taking the money and asking no questions ensured that one day he would place the Formula One teams and their personnel in the position they now find themselves: nervous of their personal safety and uncertain how to respond to the question of whether they should be there at all. Thanks to him, a sport whose conscience was once troubled only by its environmental impact now looks like a pariah.

You may well ask if I am re-evaluating my support for McLaren after learning that Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund is a 40% owner.

The answer is yes.

On the competition front-  Pole position keeps jumping around, I can’t recall if we’ve had a repeat or not.  This time it’s Vettel’s turn again, even so it remains to be seen if he can use the early advantage to get clear of the pack enough to put the race out of reach.

Because the big deal is going to be tires.  On full fuel the Softs are only lasting about 5 or 6 laps at all, with just one good one in the middle there somewhere.  They’ve been having to warm them up slowly to keep them from twisting right off.  The Mediums are not much better with only about 11 laps of life in them.

Teams were parking early trying to save their Mediums because considering you only get 3 sets of each and the race is 57 laps a little simple math will show you that they’re going to use up every bit of them and then some.  Personally I think this is madness and compromises safety, but if you’re going to race in a war zone anyway I guess safety is not the first thing on your mind.  The back markers were even chatting up how it was better to start 11th and have fresh tires than to start on Pole.  I guess you have to have some hope for the fans.

Pastor Maldonado had a Kinetic Energy Recovery System problem that required a gearbox change and caused a 5 Grid penalty.

GP2 starts at 6 am on Speed with a repeat Sunday the 28th at 2:30 am.  The main event kicks off with your half hour of hype at 7:30 am with a repeat today at 1:30 pm.

Pretty tables below.

The French Presidential Election 2012: Up Date

Up Date: Socialist Party candidate François Hollande garnered 28.4% of the vote beating Nicholas Sarkozy who came in second with 25.5%. The surprise was the third place showing by the far right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen with 20%. The second round will be om May 6 with the run off election between Sarkozy and Hollande. Hollande is favored in the polls but nothing is certain, especially with the far right’s strong showing. The pollsters were wrong about the strength of leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and voter turn out which topped 80%; they could be very wrong about Sarkozy’s chances, too.

The French go to the polls today in the first round of voting for president, with a second round run-off, if necessary, being held on 6 May. The incumbent president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is running for a second successive and, under the terms of the Constitution of France, final term in the election. Unlike the United States, the president of France is elected directly by the citizens and must receive a majority of the vote (50% +1). Elections are always held on Sunday and this is the only office that is being considered by the voters today. Other offices for the Parliament and local elections each have their own designated election days.

The campaigns end at midnight the Friday before the election, then, on election Sunday, by law, no polls can be published, no electoral publication and broadcasts can be made. The voting stations open at 8 am and close at 6 pm in small towns or at 8 pm in cities, depending on prefectoral decisions. By law, publication of results or estimates is prohibited prior to that time; such results are however often available from the media of Belgium and Switzerland, or from foreign Internet sites, prior to that time. The first estimate of the results are thus known at Sunday, 8pm, Paris time; one consequence is that voters in e.g. French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe knew the probable results of elections whereas they had not finished voting, which allegedly discouraged them from voting. For this reason, since the 2000s, elections in French possessions in the Americas, as well as embassies and consulates there, are held on Saturdays as a special exemption. (I voted Saturday at the French Consulate in NYC.)

France does not have a full-fledged two-party system, that is, a system where, though many political parties exist, only two parties have a chance of getting elected to major positions. One of the reasons that there are so many candidates is that it only takes 500 signatures of support from about 47,000 elected representatives throughout France to stand for president. Plus, as Sophie Meunier at Huffington Post explains “it’s cheap”:

By law, campaign expenses are subjected to a maximum ceiling, and spending in excess of that is illegal. The state also subsidizes candidates. It gives about eight million euros, half of the maximum amount of expenses allowed in the first round, to those who obtain more than 5% of the votes in the first round and about 800,000 euros to those who do not make the 5% cut. In 2007, Sarkozy spent 21 million euros to win the presidential contest, while his main opponent, the socialist Ségolène Royal, spent 20 million euros. French politicians are, therefore, not enslaved to special interests or Super-PACs as they are in the U.S.

Televised political ads are banned — only a small number of “statements” by each candidate, following strict rules on time and editing, can be broadcast on television and only during the five-week period of the “official” campaign as defined by law.

France enforces its mantra of “equality” all the way to the finish line of the presidential campaign. For five weeks before the second round of the election, the law mandates that all candidates are given (truly) equal time on television and radio. If an anchor, whether on a public or private channel, interviews Sarkozy or Hollande on prime time, for example, she has to interview the New Anti-Capitalist Party candidate Philippe Poutou and the “Debout la République” candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (both currently polling at 1 percent) on prime time for the same length of time over the next few days. Airwave time and exposure is monitored and enforced by the state’s Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (High Council for Audiovisual).

The positive consequence of these rules is that a candidate can spend almost no money and still be granted equal access and time on all the major television and radio outlets. This enables the emergence of small candidates and can rejuvenate democracy

In the first round, as today’s election, M. Sarkozy has several challengers from different political parties. His primary challenger is François Hollande, the candidate of the Socialist Party, who has topped the opinion polls throughout the campaign. Besides M. Sarkozy and M. Holland, there are 8 other candidates and if no candidate wins 50% of the votes, there will be a second run-off round. the other candidates are:

The Greens: Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and former magistrate, Eva Joly;

National Front: Party President and MEP Marine Le Pen;

Left Front: Mep Jean-Luc Mélenchon;

New Anticapitalist Party: Philippe Poutou;

Workers’ Struggle: Nathalie Arthaud;

Solidarité et progrès: Jacques Cheminade;

Democratic Movement: Member of Parliament (MP) François Bayrou;

and Mayor and MP Nicolas Dupont-Aignan.

M. Holland is expected to win even if a run off is necessary, since M. Sarkozy’s political policies and style are widely unpopular with the French. Both have promised to balance the budget, although Hollande has favored growth over the sort of austerity measures that Sarkozy has promoted for the eurozone along with German chancellor Angela Merkel. The policy alignment of the two European leaders have led some critics to coin the term, “Merkozy” and publicly wonder if “Merkozy” was running for president. Chancellor Merkel’s unprecedented vocal support of M. Sarkozy, has added to his fall in popularity.

An article by the BBC News, gives an analysis of why he is blatantly disliked that has played a major part in this election. At AMERICAblog, Deputy Editor Chris Ryan, gives his take on Sarkozy’s unpopularity:

My own two cents is that France is a fairly conservative (with a small “c”) country and he thrives on being flashy, which people strongly dislike. His behavior was perhaps acceptable in his suburban neighborhood of Neuilly-sur-Seine where flashiness is more of the norm. [..]

What was previously viewed (by some) as action was eventually regarded (by many more) as little more than hyperactivity without direction. There was always talk of change but in the end, there wasn’t a great deal of actual change. One could also argue that France, like many countries, never really wanted change in the first place.What was previously viewed (by some) as action was eventually regarded (by many more) as little more than hyperactivity without direction. There was always talk of change but in the end, there wasn’t a great deal of actual change. One could also argue that France, like many countries, never really wanted change in the first place.

There has also been a close watch on third place with the rise of far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has polled between 12 to 15% of the vote, competing with the far-right’s Le Pen for that spot. Melenchon has built an alliance of Communists, Trotskyites and anti-capitalists, drawing huge crowds at his rallies. Experts feel if Melenchon wins third place in Sunday’s vote, it would encourage Hollande to veer further to the left ahead of the May 6 knock-out round.

Under current rules, French media are barred from publishing the surveys or even partial results until 8 PM Paris time, 2 PM EDT. Results will be posted here as they come available.

Earth Day 2012: The Meaning of Green

Today is the 42nd Earth Day and, as noted by Chris Hayes Saturday morning on his MSNBC show Up with Chris, coverage has by broadcast media has fallen off sharply, as Media Matters reports:

Time Devoted To Climate Change Has Fallen Sharply Since 2009

Despite Ongoing Climate News, Broadcast Coverage Has Dropped Significantly. Since 2009, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a climate bill and a major climate conference took place in Copenhagen, the amount of climate coverage on both the Sunday shows (Fox News Sunday, NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’ Face the Nation, and ABC’s This Week) and the nightly news (NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, and ABC World News) has declined tremendously. This drop comes despite a series of newsworthy stories related to climate change in 2010 and 2011, including a debate over comprehensive climate and energy legislation in the U.S. Senate, a series of record-breaking extreme weather events, notable developments in climate science, the rise of so-called “climate skeptics” in the House of Representatives, and a deal struck at the most recent UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa.


Click on image to enlarge

Chris and his guests, Christine Todd Whitman, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency; Sam Seder (@samseder), host of the Majority Report podcast; Victoria DeFrancesco Soto (@drvmds, director of communications for Latino Decisions; Bob Herbert (@bobherbert), senior fellow at Demos; Antonia Juhasz (@antoniajuhasz), oil & energy analyst & activist and author of The Tyranny of Oil; and Paul Douglas (@pdouglasweather), meteorologist and founder of weathernation tv, try to rectify the lack of coverage with a comprehensive discussion of the environment and climate.

Christine Todd Whitman, former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during President George W. Bush‘s administration, will join us. And we’ll look at recent environmental and financial conditions in the Gulf of Mexico on the two year anniversary of the BP oil spill with The Nation‘s Antonia Juhasz, who unearthed the “hidden health costs” in the aftermath of the spill. Plus, we’ll discuss the impact of a newly proposed Keystone Pipeline route, and Paul Douglas, a meteorologist who lamented the following, will join us:

   I’m going to tell you something that my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud: climate change is real. I’m a moderate Republican, fiscally conservative; a fan of small government, accountability, self-empowerment and sound science. I am not a climate scientist. I’m a Penn State meteorologist, and the weather maps I’m staring at are making me very uncomfortable. No, you’re not imagining it: we’ve clicked into a new and almost foreign weather pattern.

Story of the Week: The meaning of green

Collective action on climate change

BP oil spill an ‘ongoing travesty’

Join in the discussion to celebrate and protect the Earth, our home.