Daily Archive: 05/29/2013

May 29 2013

Where in the World Was John McCain?

This weekend the perennial war hawk of the Senate, John McCain (R-AZ), was conspicuously absent from his usual place on the Sunday talk shows. We now know why, he was in Syria meeting with the rebel opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogan had the exclusive story:

McCain, one of the fiercest critics of the Obama administration’s Syria policy, made the unannounced visit across the Turkey-Syria border with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army. He stayed in the country for several hours before returning to Turkey. Both in Syria and Turkey, McCain and Idris met with assembled leaders of Free Syrian Army units that traveled from around the country to see the U.S. senator. Inside those meetings, rebel leaders called on the United States to step up its support to the Syrian armed opposition and provide them with heavy weapons, a no-fly zone, and airstrikes on the Syrian regime and the forces of Hezbollah, which is increasingly active in Syria.

The visit comes in the midst of Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to get the warring parties to negotiations at an international conference in Geneva this June. The Senate has been pushing the White House to better arm the rebels, the administration has been more cautious. The White House said that they were aware of Sen. McCain’s trip and looking “forward to speaking with Senator McCain upon his return to learn more about the trip.”

While Sen McCain visited with Gen. Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, the meeting was arranged by an American nonprofit organization that works in support of the Syrian opposition, the Syrian Emergency Task Force whose founder has supported Al Qaeda. The organization was founded by a former Senate staffer, Moustafa Mouaz. According to Justin Raimondo ar Anti-War.com, the organization “doesn’t have to register as an agent of a foreign power – since the Foreign Agents Registration Act is only selectively enforced.”:

Mouaz is a former aide to Senator Blanche Lincoln and Rep. Vic Synder, both liberal to centrist Democrats. Here he is cheering on al-Nusra – the official al-Qaeda franchise in Syria – on Twitter. (See also here and here.) The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the “educational” branch of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, lists him on their web site as one of their trusted “experts”: he recently addressed a WINEP conference. [..]

(..) the same Moustafa Mouaz who is now serving as the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force formerly held the same position for – you guessed it! – the Libyan Emergency Task Force. And we know how well that worked out for us. [..]

Where does the money come from? Who is providing the media connections, the organizational heft, and the cold hard cash it takes to make a major push for US intervention in Syria?

Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to US involvement in Syria but there is little opposition in congress. Tea Party, sometimes Libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was one of the few voices that criticized the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for supporting Al Qaeda:

This is an important moment. You will be funding, today, the allies of al Qaeda. It’s an irony you cannot overcome.

Al Jazeera reported in April that the Al-Nusra Front vowed to “obey al-Qaeda.”

“The sons of Al-Nusra Front pledge allegiance to Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri,” the man who identified himself as Abu Mohammed al Julani said in an audio clip posted on YouTube that went public on Wednesday.

Zawahiri is known to be the chief commander of al-Qaeda.

Julani, who is recognised as the head of the group Jabat al Nusra, or Al-Nusra Front, said in the video that his fighters had declared from the start of the uprising that Islamic law needs to be enforced across Syria, but did not want to announce the group’s affiliation to al-Qaeda prematurely.

Fellow war hawk, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), upon learning of his cohort’s clandestine adventure, ironically tweeted:

Jason Raimando noted that these rebels are dangerous and not a joke:

Leave it to Sen. Graham, who has been agitating along with McCain for the US to send weapons to the rebels, to joke about the untrustworthiness of the very people he wants to arm. But the rebels’ savagery is no joke: we are, after all, talking about people who eat the lungs of their enemies.

The European Union has ended its arms embargo to the Syrian Rebels and the United Nations Human Rights Council has called for the end of fighting around the strategic town of Qusayr and condemned “the intervention of foreign combatants on the government’s side in the Syrian civil war.”. Russia denounced the resolution calling it “odious and one-sided,” and “untimely, counterproductive and likely to complicate the launch of the peace process in Syria.”

All indications are that the Syrian rebels are Islamic militants. This is a civil war as was Libya and we see how well that has turned out. What ever happened to the “war on terrorism” and destroying Al Qaeda? Apparently it goes to the back burner when it interferes with America’s regime changing foreign policy.

May 29 2013

Vesna Svyashchennaya

Perhaps better known as Le Sacre du Printemps or The Rite of Spring it celebrates it’s 100th anniversary today.

At the risk of spoilers, the story revolves around pagan celebrations of the coming of spring with the most memorable part being the choice of a sacrificial victim who dances herself to death.

Yeah, like opera there are no happy endings in ballet.

But what was really controversial was Stravinsky’s Avant Guarde music which has, ironically, turned out to be one of the most influential works of the 20th century as well as one of the most recorded (though I would hold Petrushka or Firebird as being a better introduction to Stravinsky’s work and much more accessible for the average listener).

On the evening of the 29 May the theatre was packed: Gustav Linor reported, “Never…has the hall been so full, or so resplendent; the stairways and the corridors were crowded with spectators eager to see and to hear”. The evening began with Les Sylphides, in which Nijinsky and Karsavina danced the main roles. The Rite followed; there is general agreement among eyewitnesses and commentators that the disturbances in the audience began during the Introduction, and grew into a crescendo when the curtain rose on the stamping dancers in “Augurs of Spring”. Marie Rambert, who was working as an assistant to Nijinsky, recalled later that it was soon impossible to hear the music on the stage. In his autobiography, Stravinsky writes that the derisive laughter that greeted the first bars of the Introduction disgusted him, and that he left the auditorium to watch the rest of the performance from the stage wings. The demonstrations, he says, grew into “a terrific uproar” which, along with the on-stage noises, drowned out the voice of Nijinsky who was shouting the step numbers to the dancers. The journalist and photographer Carl Van Vechten recorded that the person behind him got carried away with excitement, and “began to beat rhythmically on top of my head”, though Van Vechten failed to notice this at first, his own emotion being so great.

Monteux believed that the trouble began when the two factions in the audience began attacking each other, but their mutual anger was soon diverted towards the orchestra: “Everything available was tossed in our direction, but we continued to play on”. Around forty of the worst offenders were ejected-possibly with the intervention of the police, although this is uncorroborated. Through all the disturbances the performance continued without interruption. Things grew noticeably quieter during Part II, and by some accounts Maria Piltz’s rendering of the final “Sacrificial Dance” was watched in reasonable silence. At the end there were several curtain calls for the dancers, for Monteux and the orchestra, and for Stravinsky and Nijinsky before the evening’s programme continued.

This performance is by the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra and Ballet, Valery Gergiev – conductor.  Rodion Tolmachev is the featured bassoonist.

May 29 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is 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”.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

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Katrina vanden Heuvel; Protecting the command structure instead of the victims

‘Tis the season for scandals – real and manufactured – in Washington. But if our elected officials are searching for a real scandal, maybe they should start with the officer leading the Air Force’s anti-sexual assault initiative who was charged with sexual battery this month. Or the sergeant in Texas who allegedly forced a subordinate into prostitution. Or the 26,000 sexual assaults that happened in our military last year alone.

This epidemic has festered for far too long. At this moment, an American female soldier in a war zone is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. Under the current military justice system, victims must sometimes report a rape to their own rapist. Unmarried victims raped by married men can be charged with adultery, while the rapist goes free.

Heidi Moore: The New Farm Bill is an Economic Disaster

Just when you think Congress can’t get any dumber, it crafts a $1tn farm bill that harms the poor and promotes unhealthy food

The US Congress, its approval rating still near all-time lows, is reinforcing its own record of stupefyingly short-sighted lawmaking with what may be the most harmful piece of economic legislation in America in years: the $1tn 2013 farm bill.

It should be called the 2012 farm bill – or, officially, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 – because the habitually sluggish group of lawmakers in Washington were too busy in 2012 to pass it. Campaigning for office and ginning up the fake fiscal cliff crisis occupied a lot of time, so lawmakers passed an extension of the $650bn 2008 farm bill for another year. That set an expiration date of September 30 this year. The delayed timing, however, is the least of the problems with it.

Naureen Shah: Rhetoric or Reality on Drones?

President Obama’s recent speech on national security fell short when it came to addressing drones.

Obama sounded like the president his supporters had hoped for: the constitutional law scholar, the solemn decision-maker and the former community activist who, at heart, would always be more interested in connecting with the world’s hopes than its fears. It is unclear whether the reality of America’s drone wars will catch up with the best of Obama’s rhetoric, and if tighter legal constraints will lead to fewer drone strikes against a shorter list of enemies.

On the secrecy count, however, it is all too apparent that the Administration is not prepared to go far enough in the direction of reform. Though the President has repeatedly pledged transparency, in his speech he failed to signal that basic facts – including how many people have been killed by drone strikes and who they are – will become public. Nor did the President commit to independent investigations of the dozens of credible reports of civilian deaths from past drone strikes.

Moira Herbst: The Bank Bailout Cost US Taxpayers Nothing? Think Again

Don’t buy the line that the 2008 bailout gamble paid off. The banks have politicians and taxpayers firmly in their pockets

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report (pdf) with what seemed like good news: the bailout of 2008 – which fronted $700bn in taxpayer funds to prop up the financial institutions that brought the economy to the brink – ended up cheaper than expected. The price tag was revised down to $21bn from $24bn.

The picture was even rosier once you looked past how much it cost to bailout General Motors and insurance giant AIG. The cost of the bank bailout alone is, in fact, projected to be “almost nothing”, as Politico’s Morning Money blog put it. So insignificant was the harm done to taxpayers that Politico put “bailout” in quotation marks. [..]

This is the line the banks and the US Treasury would like us to swallow. It is, of course, totally false. The bailout cost us plenty, and continues to do so. Sadly, it is the gift that keeps on giving to the very banks that drove our economy over a cliff – and took trillions in housing wealth, retirement funds and millions of jobs with it.

Sheila Bapat: Student Debt Is a Women’s Issue

Because student debt affects a large swath of Americans who struggle to build wealth over the course of their careers, it is primarily discussed as a class and an economic stimulus issue. But student debt is also an issue of particular importance for women. According to earnings statistics, women get far less bang for their buck out of higher education. Recent proposals to reduce student debt could benefit women over the course of their lives-but they may not go far enough.

Women make up the majority of higher education students, yet they earn far less than men with the same degrees. For the past several years women have outnumbered men in undergraduate and master’s programs, and as of 2010 women outnumber men in PhD programs as well. With respect to the two most expensive degrees, law and medicine, in 2009-10 women comprised 45 percent of law school classes, and as of 2011 they made up 48 percent of medical school graduates. This NPR piece from 2010 discusses how even though women are earning more engineering, math, and science PhDs than they were in previous years, women still experience wage disparities in these fields after graduation. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) found in a study last year that the student loan repayment burden is higher for women than for men for a variety of reasons, including the gender pay gap, which begins right after college graduation.

Rachel Smolker: Genetically Engineered Trees and Glowing Synthetic Plants? No Thanks

his week in Asheville, N.C., the IUFRO “Tree Biotechnology” conference will meet. And the attendees will be met: by protests. Public opinion is unequivocally opposed to genetically engineered trees. When the South Carolina-based tree engineering company, ArborGen recently applied for deregulation of their freeze tolerant eucalyptus, APHIS responded by filing a “notice of intent” to conduct an environmental impact statement, and opened up for public comments on ArborGen’s petition. The comments the received were overwhelmingly negative by a vast majority.

Similarly, when ArborGen filed for permission to field test their frankeneucalyptus back in 2010, more than 17,500 comments opposing the tests were submitted, while only 39 were favorable. In spite of the abysmal approval ratings, USDA granted permission to field test the trees and then again granted permission to allow some plots to go to flower. A lawsuit was filed against USDA by a coalition of groups (Global Justice Ecology Project, Dogwood Alliance, Center for Food Safety, Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity). In an article published in Biomass Magazine, spokesperson for the Biotechnology Industry Organization credited the suit as “… a hindrance to biomass development, as they discourage investment… It is creating a huge barrier.”

May 29 2013

On This Day In History May 29

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.

May 29 is the 149th day of the year (150th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 216 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1913, Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps makes its infamous world premiere

Some of those in attendance to see the Ballets Russes at the Théâtre des Champs-élysées on May 29, 1913, would already have been familiar with the young Russian composer Igor Stravinsky through his 1910 ballet L’Oiseau de feu (The Firebird). But if they expected his newest work to proceed in the same familiar and pleasing vein as his first, they were in for a surprise. From the moment the premiere performance of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps (Rite of Spring) began on this night in 1913, it was clear that even an audience of sophisticated Parisians was totally unprepared for something so avant-garde.

Premiere

After undergoing revisions almost up until the very day of its first performance, it was premiered on Thursday, May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and was conducted by Pierre Monteux under the Ballets Russes.

The premiere involved one of the most famous classical music riots in history. The intensely rhythmic score and primitive scenario shocked audiences more accustomed to the demure conventions of classical ballet. Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography was a radical departure from classical ballet. Stravinsky would later write in his autobiography of the process of working with Nijinsky on the choreography, stating that “the poor boy knew nothing of music” and that Nijinsky “had been saddled with a task beyond his capacity.” While Stravinsky praised Nijinsky’s amazing dance talent, he was frustrated working with him on choreography.

This frustration was reciprocated by Nijinsky with regard to Stravinsky’s patronizing attitude: “…so much time is wasted as Stravinsky thinks he is the only one who knows anything about music. In working with me he explains the value of the black notes, the white notes, of quavers and semiquavers, as though I had never studied music at all… I wish he would talk more about his music for Sacre, and not give a lecture on the beginning theory of music.”

The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd. At the start, the audience began to boo loudly. There were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance. Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the premiére allegedly infuriated over the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet’s opening bars (though Stravinsky later said “I do not know who invented the story that he was present at, but soon walked out of, the premiere.”) .

Stravinsky ran backstage, where Diaghilev was turning the lights on and off in an attempt to try to calm the audience. Nijinsky stood on a chair, leaned out (far enough that Stravinsky had to grab his coat-tail), and shouted counts to the dancers, who were unable to hear the orchestra (this was challenging because Russian numbers above ten are polysyllabic, such as eighteen: vosemnadsat vs. seventeen: semnadsat).

After the premiere, Diaghilev is reported to have commented to Nijinsky and Stravinsky at dinner that the scandal was “exactly what I wanted.”

May 29 2013

The Case for Investing in the Infrastructure

Journalist David Cay Johnston, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and MSNBC host Ed Schultz all agree that now is the time, and in some cases past time, to invest in the collapsing and crumbling bridges, road, rails and public buildings.

Pay to Fix America’s Crumbling Infrastructure Now, or Pay More Later

by David Cay Johnston

The I-5 disaster in Seattle reflects the dire state of our bridges and highways. But it may never be cheaper to replace these aging arteries than it is now.

“We cannot hope to have an A+ economy with a C-level infrastructure,” said James Chae, president of the (American Society of Civil) engineering society’s Seattle section. [..]

State and local governments spent $156 billion on highways in 2010, roughly a penny out of each dollar of America’s gross domestic product.

Right now, governments can borrow at the lowest interest rates in 700 years. Roughly 25 million people are involuntarily forced into part-time work, are looking for work, or have given up because they cannot find a job.

We must either update our infrastructure or face a future that is both more dangerous and poorer, as more bridges collapse, pipelines leak and explode, and the movement of goods and people becomes less efficient. We could increase our spending and reap big dividends in jobs and the taxes they generate, improved safety, and a more efficient economy.

Why put off until tomorrow what is cheaper to do today?

MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, host of “The Ed Show,” discussed the problem of cutting spending on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure with Sen. Brown.

May 29 2013

Around the Blogosphere

 photo Winter_solstice.gifThe main purpose our blogging is to communicate our ideas, opinions, and stories both fact and fiction. The best part about the the blogs is information that we might not find in our local news, even if we read it online. Sharing that information is important, especially if it educates, sparks conversation and new ideas. We have all found places that are our favorites that we read everyday, not everyone’s are the same. The Internet is a vast place. Unlike Punting the Pundits which focuses on opinion pieces mostly from the mainstream media and the larger news web sites, “Around the Blogosphere” will focus more on the medium to smaller blogs and articles written by some of the anonymous and not so anonymous writers and links to some of the smaller pieces that don’t make it to “Pundits” by Krugman, Baker, etc.

We encourage you to share your finds with us. It is important that we all stay as well informed as we can.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

This is an Open Thread.

From our good friend Robyn at Voices on the Square:

and from Cassiodorus:

From that “big meanie” Paul Krugman, at his blog Conscious of a Liberal:

and some good advice about getting a thicker skin:

and even though his eyes are brown:

At Corrente, lambert continues the tales of the ObamaCare Clusterfuck  and the continued occupation of Cooper Union the formerly tuition free college in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

Economist Dean Baker has returned from vacation to give up there gems at Beat the Press:

From Electronic Frontier Foundation, Parker Higgins how to protect yourself on Twitter:

You’ll love this. At emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler contrasts AG Eric Holder to Torquemada:

and Jim White:

Alexandra, at Feministing, brings us some good news about protecting women’s rights to health care:

The Indiana government really, really wants to defund Planned Parenthood, but the U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear its appeal of a lower court’s ruling that the state really, really can’t do that.

That’s good news, indeed.

From her blog Echidne of the Snakes, Echidne asks Are Religions Inherently Sexist?.

Over at Esquire’s Politics Blog, Charles P. Pierce chooses to be “uncivil”, calling Texas Gov. Rick Perry a frickin’ moron. Since when is being factual “uncivil?”

Stating the obvious, Atrios says: Priorities:

Not what they should be.

No, they are not.

May 29 2013

Chronic Tonic-Tired

originally published at VOTS

I’m tired. Another rough night with Dan. Last night it was around 2 am. when he came to me crying. I don’t know what he was upset about, I couldn’t get that out of him, (kids on the spectrum are not all that chatty) but he assured me that things would never be okay again.

When these things happen, and they do-up to a couple of times a week, I walk him back to his bed and lay down with him and we start to talk. I tell him that he’s okay and that things will be okay, that nothing will hurt him tonight. He’s afraid, so I stay and begin to talk about how soon school will be done, and what a great summer we will have, and I can feel him start to calm.

He asks when it will be sunny, and I tell him that it should be by the end of the week. I ask him if he thinks he could dream about that, but he’s not calm enough yet. We start the slow calming breaths that I taught him, and his eyelids begin to flutter before popping back open. He asks me to hold him. Sometimes he needs to feel all enclosed, no problem, but this could get awkward when you get a bit older, Dan.

He says he wants a rainbow slushie when it gets sunny, and I tell him that it would all mix and be dark, but I could make a sno-ball and do a rainbow on that. This pleases him, he tells me he could dream about that. He is relaxing, I can feel it. I tell him that he’s going to be fine now, dreaming about the sunny days and our pool and how we’ll make rainbow sno-balls and eat them in the sun. He tells me I can go now, he’s okay, and I know he is.

I go back to my room and within five minutes he’sleep. I am not so lucky. So, today I am tired~