Tag Archives: Village Voice

The King Hearings… A Small Sampling

Mark Memmott at NPR:

The House Committee on Homeland Security’s hearing on what Chairman Peter King (R-NY) says is the domestic threat from “Muslim radicalization” continues on Capitol Hill. We posted earlier on the emotional testimony from Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim member of Congress and on a father’s warning about the “extremist invaders” who he says programmed his son to kill.

King, as you can see in this video from The Associated Press, said he will not “back down … to political correctness.”

“There is nothing radical or un-American in holding these hearings,” King said

Chris Good at The Altantic:

In a move that’s stirred much criticism, New York Rep. Peter King on Thursday, at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, will hold a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee examining radicalization among American Muslims.

Not since the Bush administration has public debate erupted so sharply over whether a particular congressional hearing should even be held.

King says the hearing is “absolutely necessary.” Radicalization exists in the Muslim community in America, and it’s his job as committee chairman to fully investigate it, King has said.

“I have no choice. I have to hold these hearings. These hearings are absolutely essential. What I’m doing is taking the next logical step from what the administration has been saying. Eric Holder says he lies awake at night worrying about the growing radicalization of people in this country who are willing to take up arms against their government. I believe that the leadership, too many leaders in the Muslim community do not face up to that reality,” King recently told CNN’s Dana Bash.

“I never want to wake up the morning after another attack and say if only I had done what I should have done as homeland security chairman, this wouldn’t have happened,” said King, who represents a district on Long Island.

Others don’t see it that way: Many have raised questions about whether King is wrong to single out a particular religious group. Comparisons to McCarthyism have being raised.

Joe Coscarelli at The Village Voice:

Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, spoke this morning at the controversial hearings led by Long Island Republican congressman Peter King, and broke down in tears while telling the story of Mohammad Salman Hamdani, an American citizen from Pakistan, who died in the Septemper 11 attack on the World Trade Center. Ellison first warned of the dangers of “ascribing evil acts of a few individuals to an entire community,” before sobbing through the story of Hamdani, who was slandered when he went missing on 9/11, accused of being complicit in the attack. “His life should not be indentified as just a member of an ethnic group or just a member of a religion,” Ellison said, “but as an American who gave everything for his fellow Americans.”

King, meanwhile, announced today that he has had around-the-clock security since late last year, when he announced plans to hold hearings that examine recruitment for Al Qaeda and the threat of “radicalization.”

More important is Ellison’s moving plea. If this country has any sense, his impassioned testimony will be the lasting image from this detrimental sham masquerading as government action.

David Weigel:

Much of the liberal opposition to Rep. Peter King’s hearings on Muslim radicalism today has focused on King himself — his past support of the IRA, his treasure trove of heated comments about terrorism.

That came to the fore just now, after Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Homeland Security Committee’s ranking member, asked about the implications of a member of Congress saying there were “too many mosques.” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., took umbrage at that.

“I haven’t heard any member of our committee say there’s too many mosques,” he said. The implication was shameful.

King briefly took the microphone. It was him, he said: “I’d said there are too many mosques.”

Indeed, he sort of did. It’s complicated. In 2007, he said those exact words in a Politico interview, but immediately pointed out that they were taken out of context — he meant to say* that there are “too many mosques not cooperating with law enforcement.”

Rep. Peter King: There Are Too Many Mosques In The US

It was just one skirmish in the long-running war between King and CAIR et al.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

I’m of two minds about the hearings on domestic terrorism that Rep. Peter King is holding today. I’ve been a staunch defender of Muslims–of their patriotic record as American citizens, of their right to build houses of worship anywhere they want, including near Ground Zero. But let’s face it: there have been a skein of attacks over the past year–starting with the Fort Hood massacre and running through the aborted Times Square bombing–that have been attempted by U.S. citizens who happen to be Muslims. This is something new and, I think, it is a phenomenon that needs to be (a) acknowledged and (b) investigated as calmly and fairly as possible.

I’m not sure that King, an excitable bloviator, is the right person to conduct the hearings–but we need to know whether there is a pattern here, whether there are specific mosques that have been incubators, and how much an influence the American-born terrorist Anwar Awlaki, who is now living somewhere in Yemen, has been. We should do this with the assumption that American muslim terrorists are about as common as American Christian anti-abortion terrorists. We should do it as sensitively as possible, with the strong assertion that Islamophobia is unacceptable in America. But we should do it.

Rick Moran:

This is such a no-brainer issue that the only possible reason to oppose King’s hearings is to score political points. There is no earthly reason that Muslims should oppose rooting out radicals in their midst – especially since law enforcement says that either out of fear or anti-Americanism, many ordinary Muslims do not cooperate with the police or FBI.

I have a feeling this hearing is going to be an eye opener. And that might be why some Muslims are so opposed to having it.

Jennifer Rubin:

The notion that we should ignore the obvious in an attempt to curry favor with “moderate” Muslims here in the U.S. and to avoid offending those overseas is badly misguided. For starters, it assumes that those audiences are infantile in their inability to distinguish, as the rest of us do, the difference between radicalized, murderous Islamic fundamentalists and those who pose no threat whatsoever. In doing so, we only serve to undermine the efforts of those non-radicalized Muslims abroad who could use some assistance, even if it is only rhetorical in pushing back against extremists.

Moreover, it glosses over a real issue in the U.S.: a number of groups who offer themselves as “moderate” and with whom the administration consults are not helping matters, as evidence by the fit thrown over the prospect of examining how their fellow Muslims turn to murder and mayhem. Let’s take CAIR, for example. This ostensibly anti-discrimination group has refused to denounce Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups. As I wrote last year:

CAIR has created its own cottage industry by hassling airlines, intimidating government investigators, and generally spraying lawsuits and claims of “discrimination” at those who single out Muslims for additional scrutiny in efforts to defend ourselves in a war waged by Islamic fascists against our civilization. (CAIR figures also had their share of encounters with the law. See here and here.)

It’s not hard to figure out why public discussion of all this strikes fear in the hearts of those who would rather not see a public accounting of their actions. But even the administration has to acknowledge that failure to identify, understand and combat the role of Islamic fundamentalists’ recruitment of Americans is foolhardy in the extreme. And, so, lo and behold, we learn, “While the thrust of McDonough’s remarks seemed aimed at declaring common cause with the Muslim community, the White House official was also careful not to minimize the dangers posed by efforts to radicalize Muslims inside the United States. He also managed to announce, in advance of King’s hearings, that the administration will soon roll out a comprehensive plan aimed at combating the radicalization effort.” Well, I suppose CAIR won’t like that either.

If King’s hearings have spurred the administration to get off the stick and begin work on this issue, they are already a success. And if nothing else they have exposed just how unhelpful some Muslim American groups are in the war against Islamic jihadists.

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Filed under GWOT, Political Figures, Religion

The “Where’s The Beef?” Lady Is Probably Dead By Now

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic:

Taco Bell’s “seasoned beef” appears to be a clever mirage. That’s what an Alabama law firm is alleging when it slapped the chain with a “false advertising” suit for misleading customers about the actual content of its Taco fillings. Surprise! The “meat” is only 36 percent actual beef.

Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo:

Taco Bell “beef” pseudo-Mexican delicacies are really made of a gross mixture called “Taco Meat Filling” as shown on their big container’s labels, like the one pictured here. The list of ingredients is gruesome. Updated.

Beef, water, isolated oat product, salt, chili pepper, onion powder, tomato powder, oats (wheat), soy lecithin, sugar, spices, maltodextrin (a polysaccharide that is absorbed as glucose), soybean oil (anti-dusting agent), garlic powder, autolyzed yeast extract, citric acid, caramel color, cocoa powder, silicon dioxide (anti-caking agent), natural flavors, yeast, modified corn starch, natural smoke flavor, salt, sodium phosphate, less than 2% of beef broth, potassium phosphate, and potassium lactate.

It looks bad but passable… until you learn that—according to the Alabama law firm suing Taco Bell—only 36% of that is beef. Thirty-six percent. The other 64% is mostly tasteless fibers, various industrial additives and some flavoring and coloring. Everything is processed into a mass that actually looks like beef, and packed into big containers labeled as “taco meat filling.” These containers get shipped to Taco Bell’s outlets and cooked into something that looks like beef, is called beef and is advertised as beef by the fast food chain.

Can you call beef something that looks like ground beef but it’s 64% lots-of-other-stuff? Taco Bell thinks they can.

Jonathan Turley:

Taco Bell Corporation spokesman Rob Poetsch responded by saying that “Taco Bell prides itself on serving high quality Mexican inspired food with great value. We’re happy that the millions of customers we serve every week agree. We deny our advertising is misleading in any way and we intend to vigorously defend the suit.” That is an interesting statement. It does not appear to deny that it is serving marginal beef products but that the company never really promised anything more than it serves. Presumably, if the company issued a statement that it was in fact serving “beef” in response to this lawsuit, it could be cited as part of the alleged effort to deceive in advertising (assuming they are not serving “beef” as defined by federal law).

The class action alleges the company is serving what is referred to as “taco meat filling, which is comprised mainly of “extenders” and other non-meat substances, including wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch and sodium phosphate as well as beef and seasonings. Of course, the company could claim that it is the anti-dusting agents and maltrodrexin that gives it that “high quality Mexican inspired food” taste but it would not actually have most Americans “running to the border.”

MB Quirk at The Consumerist:

Hey, at least they’re making the distinction of “Mexican inspired food,” although that might be stretching it, too.

Robert Sietsema at The Village Voice:

Five Reasons You Should Hate Taco Bell, Besides the Lack of Real Meat

1. Meat, schmeat – are you ever certain of the meat supply at any fast food outlet? A few years ago, there was a website that claimed the average McDonald’s hamburger had been lodged in permafrost for around three years before it was thawed and served at an outlet. The rancid meat explains the odd smell you associate with stepping into a McDonalds.

2. When you order something made with ground meat (we used to call it “mystery meat” in school), you get exactly what you deserve. I’m much more annoyed by the other ingredients at Taco Bell – the gummy flour tortillas that turn into glue in your mouth, or the weird micro-“cheese” curls that seem to be poking out of every orifice: The white ones look exactly like pinworms.

3. The astonishing lack of spice in nearly everything you get at TB (that’s Taco Bell, not tuberculosis – though maybe you’ll get that, too, if you linger long enough). And the little plastic packets containing what tastes like Tabasco — when there are zillions of authentic Mexican hot sauces available — don’t help at all.

4. What Taco Bell has done to Mexican food, which – with its dependence on minimally refined corn products, beans, and fresh vegetables – must be one of the healthiest cuisines on earth, is criminal! The chiles, cumin, oregano, scallions, and other herbs and spices seem to be entirely missing, and in their place, bad mayo.

5. Have you ever seen a Mexican eating in Taco Bell?

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Filed under Economics, Food

This Story You Will Be Talking About Tomorrow

Mark Joyella at Mediaite:

Sources tell Mediaite Keith Olbermann and MSNBC were headed for a breakup long before Comcast’s rise to power, but clearly something set the divorce into motion quickly today, with network promos set to run touting Olbermann’s role in MSNBC’s coverage of next week’s State of the Union address–and, notably, a Keith Olbermann promo running on MSNBC in the hour after the host signed off and left the network.

MSNBC executives have long planned for the day the network’s star might be sent packing, and the rise of Rachel Maddow at MSNBC–along with the grooming of Lawrence O’Donnell as a potential replacement for Olbermann–appears to have hastened the host’s departure.

While Olbermann and his iconic Countdown have been immensely important in the resurgence of MSNBC, Olbermann’s friction with management has been a sticking point. At many points–including the recent suspension over political contributions–tensions rose so high as to lead to serious discussions inside MSNBC about firing their star.

With Maddow enjoying both immense popularity inside MSNBC and very strong ratings for her Rachel Maddow Show, Olbermann’s invincibility as the heart and soul of MSNBC’s brand became softer. In recent weeks, sources tell Mediaite there have been meetings on the topic of Keith Olbermann and his future at the network. Did Comcast–as many Countdown viewers seem to suspect–order Olbermann out? It appears that the end of the Olbermann era at MSNBC was not “ordered” by Comcast, nor was it a move to tone down the network’s politics. Instead, sources inside the network say it came down to the more mundane world of office politics–Olbermann was a difficult employee, who clashed with bosses, colleagues and underlings alike, and with the Comcast-related departure of Jeff Zucker, and the rise of Maddow and O’Donnell, the landscape shifted, making an Olbermann exit suddenly seem well-timed.

Howard Kurtz at Daily Beast:

Whatever his excesses, he led third-place MSNBC out of the cable wilderness to the point where it overtook CNN in prime time, boosted not only by his numbers but by those of his protégé, Rachel Maddow.

Without question, he was a polarizing presence, and several NBC veterans, including Tom Brokaw, complained to network management that he was damaging MSNBC’s reputation for independence.

At a meeting with Olbermann’s representatives last September, NBC Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and NBC News President Steve Capus said that some of their client’s behavior was unacceptable and had to stop. Griffin said that Olbermann’s personal problems were affecting his work and he looked angrier on the air, eclipsing the smart and ironic anchor they had once loved.

In November, when Griffin suspended Olbermann indefinitely over the political donations, the two sides engaged in blistering negotiations over how long it would last. Olbermann’s manager, Price, warned Griffin that if the matter wasn’t resolved quickly, Olbermann would take his complaints public by accepting invitations from Good Morning America, David Letterman, and Larry King.

“If you go on GMA, I will fire Keith,” Griffin shot back.

The suspension wound up lasting just two days, and Olbermann said he was sorry for the “unnecessary drama” and “for having mistakenly violated an inconsistently applied rule” in making the $7,200 in contributions. But after years of internal warfare, Olbermann had no major allies left at 30 Rock.

There were similar backstage struggles in 2008 and 2009 when top executives tried to get Olbermann and O’Reilly to tone down their personal attacks. O’Reilly, who never mentions Olbermann by name, was assailing NBC’s parent company, General Electric, while Olbermann once imagined the fate of “a poor kid” born to a transgendered man who became pregnant, adding: “Kind of like life at home for Bill’s kids.”

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

I was just on in the opening segment of Olbermann tonight. And I get home and get this press release from NBC saying this was the last episode of Countdown. At first I figured it had to be a spoof email because, jeez, I was on and I didn’t have any sense that any other than a regular Friday evening show was on. But sure enough I pulled up the recording and now I’m watching his final sign off.

I doubt I would have had any heads up or known anything was happening if Olbermann was going to go off the air. But I was a bit more stunned than I might otherwise have been because I was just over there. And I did not have any sense that there was anything any different than normal going on. Everything seemed calm and pretty sedate. I didn’t sense anything different in Keith’s manner or affect (though it’s not like we’re tight and I would have been the person to notice.) There were a few more people than I’m used to seeing in the studio — maybe two or three, seated, who seemed to be there to watch. (Something I don’t remember seeing before.) But nothing that made me think twice that anything odd was going on.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing soon enough what on earth happened here. But color me stunned. And really disappointed.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

Keith Olbermann and I started from the same place, the same school, the same English teacher–Arthur Naething–who changed our lives. I’ve always had a soft spot for Keith as a result, even when he called me one of the worst people in the world (based on a wildly inaccurate interpretation of something I’d written). I’ve criticized him, too, for his melodramatically over-the-top effusions. I’m not so sure what this dispute with MSNBC is all about, but I’m sad that Keith won’t be around (at least, for a while). If there is a place for the nonsense-spew of Fox News, there has to be a place on my cable dial for Olbermann (who, while occasionally obnoxious, operates from a base of reality–unlike some people we know [see below]). Keith is a brilliant writer, and presenter; I always enjoy watching him, even when he’s occasionally wrong. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do so again soon. In the meantime, I hope he’ll heed the words of the master and “Go forth, and spread beauty and light.”

On another decidedly hilarious front, Glenn Beck has found yet another enemy of the people in a 78-year-old Columbia University professor named Frances Fox Piven. I’ve always thought that Piven’s work was foolish and inhumane. There was a brief, disastrous time in the 1960s when her desire to flood the welfare system with new recipients was the tacit policy of the city of New York, which produced absolutely terrible results–as Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted–in the 1970s and 1980s. I also remember Piven railing against a brilliantly successful welfare-to-work program called “America Works” because it was for-profit, even though the company only was paid by the government if the recipient remained on the job for six months (and even though the ability to do honorable work gave the women involved new-found confidence, according to study after study of the results). But the notion that Piven’s ideas had any widespread influence, or are even worth commenting on 45 years later, is beyond absurd; it is another case of Beck’s show-paranoid perversity. It seems academic and sophisticated, to those who don’t know any better: Glenn’s soooo erudite, he’s found a secret part of The Plan to turn America into a socialist gulag, hatched by a college professor. The reality is that he’s focused onto an obscure form of left-liberalism that was found wanting a long time ago, as the sociological results of Aid to Families with Dependent Children became known, and better ways to help the poor were developed.

Beck’s essential sin is a matter of proportionality. He has, as ever, latched onto an obscurity, blown it out of proportion–as he did with Van Jones’ stupid but essentially harmless comments about communism–and turned it into a lie. He is an extraordinary liar, on matters large and small, as I’ve learned from personal experience with the man. That Beck remains on the air and Keith Olbermann–unpleasant and extreme at times, but no fantasist–isn’t anymore is a travesty.

What of Olbermann’s legacy? There’s a great deal of crowing on the right about Olbermann’s apparent ouster. But let’s be clear on what he accomplished: He helped clear a huge space on the airwaves for “unapologetic liberalism,” as Steve Benen puts it, when it remained anything but certain that such a space could be created with any measure of success.

The unexpected popularity of Olbermann’s show early on cleared the way for MSNBC to stack its nighttime lineup with pugnacious lefty hosts. Indeed, it was Olbermann who invited Rachel Maddow on repeatedly as a guest, raising her profile to the point where she got her own show. Olbermann, followed by Maddow, proved in the face of enormous skepticism that there’s a huge audience out there for real liberal talk-show hosts to adopt the sort of take-no-prisoners approach once monopolized by the right. Only they accomplished this without descending into the crackpot conspiracy mongering and all-around ugliness of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

Indeed, there’s already talk that CNN might be interested in picking up Olbermann. While that seems unlikely, given CNN’s more staid air, the mere fact that it’s being discussed at all shows how much he helped change the landscape.

Olbermann may be gone, but the space he did so much to help create is here to stay.

Joe Coscarelli at Village Voice:

Though it’s as of yet impossible to answer the question “Why?” in regards to Olbermann’s dismissal, what is on the record is how trying he was to manage. Back in October, there was Gabriel Sherman’s account in New York of the cable news wars with tidbits like this:

But Olbermann can take his eccentricities to extremes. There’s a story that he told his producers to communicate with him by leaving notes in a small box positioned outside his office. Last spring, after David Shuster tweeted that he was guest-hosting Countdown while Olbermann was out sick, Olbermann erupted when a blog mentioned Shuster’s tweet and he fired off an e-mail to him saying, “Don’t ever talk about me and medical issues again.” Olbermann’s executive producer later told Shuster that there’s a rule against mentioning Olbermann on Twitter.

And more of the same in the Times today:

Mr. Olbermann was within one move of being fired in November after he was suspended for making donations to Democratic Congressional candidates. He threatened to make an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to protest the suspension; Mr. Zucker was prepared to fire him on the spot if he did, according to a senior NBC Universal executive who declined to be identified in discussing confidential deliberations.

Many questions remains, but if he’s not in the mood for a vacation, Olbermann does have options, namely radio or the internet. So he should join us and he needn’t worry — here, everyone is an asshole.

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Yes, We Know That Hammer And Slammer Rhyme

John Hudson at The Atlantic with the round-up:

In a long fall from grace, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison for “conspiring to direct laundered corporate money” to seven state house candidates in 2002. In his prime, DeLay was one of the most powerful men in Congress, holding the second highest spot in the House of Representatives. “What we feel is that justice was served,” said lead prosecutor Gary Cobb in the aftermath of the ruling. Meanwhile, DeLay firmly maintained his innocence. “I can’t be remorseful for something I don’t think I did,” he said. He promised to appeal the ruling. Did the former House majority leader get off easy?

Jen Doll at The Village Voice:

DeLay was taken into custody, but will be released on a $10,000 bond pending appeal after he’s processed, which means he could remain free for months or years as his appeal goes through.

National Review:

The man who should be on trial in Texas is Ronnie Earle, the unethical Travis County prosecutor who went after DeLay as part of a political vendetta fueled by his bizarre belief that business owners’ political activities are “every bit as insidious as terrorism.” (Tell that to the almost 3,000 Americans who were murdered on 9/11.) How do we know Earle believes that? Because he had a documentary film crew follow him around as he pursued the indictment of DeLay, producing a film called The Big Buy that Earle used to try to win higher office in Texas. He used the same unprofessional and unethical tactics to prosecute Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (her case was thrown out by a judge) and former Texas attorney general Jim Mattox, who was acquitted and won reelection.

This was a phony prosecution from the very beginning. It took Earle three separate attempts before he could get a case that a grand jury or a judge would not throw out. Then he got DeLay indicted for behavior that was perfectly legitimate under campaign-finance laws, identical to the kind of fundraising done by practically every campaign committee and candidate in the country.

DeLay solicited $155,000 in contributions for a political-action committee he headed and contributed $190,000 to the Republican National State Election Committee (RNSEC); the RNSEC then contributed $877,000 to 42 state and local candidates in Texas in the final two months of the 2002 campaign, including seven recommended by DeLay. For this routine act of campaign financing, DeLay was charged with and convicted of criminal money laundering, a crime defined by knowingly using the proceeds of criminal activity. Since these contributions were all legal, the most basic element of this supposed crime could not be met; nonetheless, Earle drove the case forward in one of the most outrageous prosecutorial abuses of criminal law that we have seen in decades. Meanwhile Earle indicted a number of companies, including Sears, that had made perfectly legal contributions to DeLay’s PAC, and then sold those companies dismissals in exchange for donations to one of his favorite charities.

Government prosecutors have a duty and an obligation to enforce the law judiciously and fairly. The power they are given by society is immense, and so is the damage they can do when they abuse that power. Ronnie Earle has showed in case after case that he is a self-serving ideologue, a crass opportunist who uses his power as a prosecutor to pursue his own political and ideological agenda.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

I bet he comes out of this advocating prison reform. It’s a cause that badly needs more high-profile conservative advocates.

David Frum at FrumForum:

I won’t pretend to any expertise on this question but … Doesn’t Citizens United raise at least some question about the campaign finance laws on which Tom DeLay was convicted? Seems an obvious challenge on appeal and at the Supreme Court. What do readers think?

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

He spoke to the court prior to sentencing, saying “I fought the fight. I ran the race. I kept the faith.” Former Speaker Denny Hastert also testified as a character witness on behalf of DeLay. Prosecutors showed a tape in court of DeLay’s comments after conviction, when he said, “Maybe we can get it before people who understand the law.”

I’d expect an appeal, so whether or not DeLay sees jail time right away depends on the judge’s decision to allow his release on bond.

Brian Doherty at Reason:

Undoubtedly DeLay as a former leading congressman is a criminal. Whether this particular interpretation of a law blocking free support and expression in politics is a proper bludgeon, I’d say no.

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Filed under Crime, Political Figures

Where Is Alfred Hitchcock When We Need Him?

Nick Neely at Audubon:

On New Year’s Eve, sometime after 11 p.m., several thousand red-winged blackbirds dropped lifelessly from the darkness onto suburban lawns, roofs, and roads in the small town of Beebe, Arkansas. “I thought the mayor was messing with me when he called me,” Milton McCullar, Beebe Street Dept. Supervisor, said to the local TV station the next day with a (nervous?) grin. “He got me up at four o’clock in the morning and told me we had birds falling out of the sky.” “When you first get the call, you think it’s a New Year’s joke,” said the mayor, Mike Robertson, himself. “But it wasn’t a joke.” News outlets quickly picked up the story, and today, it has twittered about. There are no conclusions yet as to why the birds perished—a hailstorm, perhaps, or even stress from nearby fireworks—and no one seems to have much to say about the incident, but for, look here, at this strange, ominous (and yes, Hitchcockian) thing.

Michael Marshall at The New Scientist:

Most such rains of animals are probably caused by waterspouts: tornadoes that move over water. Waterspouts can suck up soil and small animals in large quantities, and dump them many miles away after they dissipate. This explains why the animals most commonly reported as falling are fish and frogs, which of course live in and around water.

The blackbirds aren’t the only mystery animals in Arkansas. 100,000 fish have died in a river 125 miles from Beebe. It’s not clear what killed them but disease may be to blame. There’s nothing to suggest the two events are linked.

Besides animals, other peculiar things have fallen from the sky over the years. Scientists have long struggled to understand the “red rain” that fell in Kerala, India, in 2001. The colour has been attributed to algae, but a few researchers think the microbes in question came from space.

Joe Coscarelli at The Village Voice:

When thousands of red-winged blackbirds fell from the sky on New Year’s Eve in Beebe, Arkansas, it seemed like God was angry at the Natural State, especially considering the additional 100,000 dead fish in a nearby river. “I’m not drunk and I’m not on drugs,” said one local when he called the police department. “She said, ‘Oh, you’re calling about the birds.'” A handful of the fallen creatures were taken in for testing, but officials are now saying that loud noises, probably from fireworks, scared the birds, causing them to slam into trees or houses and that the weather had nothing to do with it. Extraterrestrials are still suspected.Via the Wall Street Journal:

A witness reported that the birds, which roost in the area in large numbers and don’t see well at night, were scared by the noise and slammed into houses and trees, said Arkansas State Veterinarian George Badley. A study of several carcasses showed the birds died of internal bleeding.”We’re still checking for germs and poisons, but we believe it was just trauma,” said Dr. Badley.

The total dead is somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000, but that’s not counting the 500 red-winged blackbirds found in Louisiana, in what CNN calls a “seemingly separate incident.”

Clay Dillow at Popular Science:

Later yesterday, other sources were reporting that loud noise could have been behind the Arkansas incident. Necropsies performed yesterday showed the Arkansas birds suffered internal injuries that formed blood clots that went to their brains. It’s conceivable that loud noise (NYE fireworks?) could have startled a flock, causing them to rapidly change course and plunge headlong into buildings or tall trees, sustaining blunt traumas that led to their collective death.

Of course, none of this accounts for the 500 freshly dead birds in Louisiana. Those, of course, could be completely unrelated to the Arkansas birds (don’t be fooled by randomness, people). But we like a good conspiracy theory better. Besides, what about all those dead drum? Something smells fishy indeed, but who could possibly benefit from knocking off a bunch of birds in the American south? NASA? BP? Aliens? Our money is on Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who was never really afforded an opportunity to even the score with his avian nemeses.

Roz Zurko at The Examiner:

Many people are looking to the bible for verses conveying the warnings of the apocalypse with dead birds, but according to the website God Discussion, this does not seem to be mentioned. There are bible writings that are close, but not that convey the end of the world or harm coming to mankind affliated with dead birds.

2012 Prophecies have some people concerned after the dead birds fell from the sky, according to one commentator on Fox News live. According to the God Discussion website, the first searches for this story consisted mainly of the search words “dead birds.” Later, as the day went on, the search words turned to “dead birds” and “bible.”  These dead birds have many people wondering today – what is the spiritual meaning in masses of dead birds falling from he sky?

One Connecticut housewife L. Kelly, admitted she did the same Internet search that many others did today, “dead birds” and “bible.” “It is just an eerie thing to happen, not something you ever hear about Kelly said.”  She too fell on many confusing claims, but nothing that states the bible has a quote about dead birds and the end of the world is coming.

Christopher Rosen at Moveline:

Point of truth: Here at Movieline HQ, we’re busy stocking up on batteries and canned goods in the wake of the mass bird and fish deaths that happened in Arkansas over the weekend. (Not to mention the flooding in Australia.) That said, not everyone has worked themselves up into a full blown lather of panic. Just ask born-again Christian Kirk Cameron: “I think it’s really kind of silly to kind of equate birds falling out of the sky with some kind of an end-times theory.” Wait, even Cameron is making sense? Maybe this really is the end of times.

Laura Conaway at MaddowBlog:

But take heart: Though this story seems strange and even apocalyptic, it’s not necessarily so. The Baton Rouge paper cites an official from the U.S. Geological Survey as saying that a thousand or more blackbirds have turned up dead some 16 times in the past 30 years.

 

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It’s A Bird… It’s A Plane… It’s A Tweet From Cory Booker!

Cory Booker’s twitter feed

Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair:

Newark mayor Cory Booker is now taking requests from snowed-in constituents. Since the East Coast blizzard hit on Sunday, residents of Newark have been tweeting appeals for Booker to dispatch snowplows and rescue vehicles to specific streets and neighborhoods. “I need street names and patience,” he told one cold and concerned tweeter. We simply cannot wait for the graphic-novelization (and subsequent Zack Snyder movie!) of Booker’s post-blizzard Twitter feed. (@CoryBooker, can you make this happen?) Let’s review his 10 most heroic moments thus far.

10. “will get someone to your mom’s street, tell her to stay put RT @sexylp40 my mom stuck on 9th ave and 12th that whole block wasn’t plowed”

9. “Can u DM me his phone #?RT @NewNewark: @corybooker rec this text Tell mayor, Mr Lou Jones 224 Richileu ter. He’s disabled needs help.”

8. “I seriously had that fantasy today RT @papistorz: wouldn’t it b easier 2 get a flame thrower n melt the snow?”

7. “God Bless the 5 guys who just stopped to help me dig a van out. I am so grateful for all of Newark’s heroes today.”

6. “I’m coming on the scene now RT @Cutiepie27: come on orange st. and help this truck get out the snow he been stuck for like 30 minutes now”

5. “Sending team immediately back there 2 ensure hospital is clear RT @Babihead: still has yet to clean my street & I live across from hospital!”

4. “I just doug out ur car. All the best RT @MsXmasBaby: Is there NE city volunteers 2 dig some1 out? I’m going 2 have medical procedure done”

3. “Just doug a car out on Springfield Ave and broke the cardinal rule: ‘Lift with your Knees!!’ I think I left part of my back back there”

2. “Just freed a med transport van here at Cottage Place in Central Ward. Private contractor needs 2 be arrested 4 leaving these folks stranded”

1. “Thanks 4 asking, back killing me: Breakfast: Advil and diet coke RT @itsmywayRob Hows ur back from lifting car last night? I hope u’re OK”

Jen Doll at The Village Voice:

A hero has emerged from all the snowflake rubble and ice, and that hero is Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Yesterday Myles (who’s out shoveling as we speak!) mentioned that Booker had been delivering diapers to babies, patroling the streets with his trusty shovel, and even helping kids understand the strength-in-numbers beauty of a snowflake, all the while Tweeting his aid to those who need it

Sam Gustin at Wired:

But Booker’s Twitter clinic wasn’t the only innovative use of social and web-based media during the Snowmageddon of December 2010.

By Tuesday morning, tech-savvy citizens were using Ushahidi, a crowdsourced mapping tool, to collect reports of various problems around New York.

Snowmageddon Clean-Up: New York had more than 100 reports by midday Tuesday, detailing such issues as: “Multiple elders on this block as well as a disabled young adult. Should an emergency arise, the City will have a lawsuit on their hands.” And: “Entire apartment complex snowed in. We cant get out. running out of food…” (That one’s from Highlands, New Jersey, but you get the, uh, drift.)

David Freedlander at The New York Observer:

At Mayor Bloomberg’s Bronx news conference today, The Politicker asked Hizzoner if he had been peering over the river to check out his friend Cory Booker’s efforts to deal with the snow clean-up. Bloomberg after all has been swamped by criticism for suggesting that New Yorkers take advantage of being unable to get out of their homes the Snow Day by checking out Broadway shows.

Booker, on the other hand, earned the nickname “Mayor Plow” for delivering diapers to a housebound mother, digging out snowbound seniors, and for responding to residents’ pleas for snowplows personally via Twitter.

In response to our question, the mayor replied, “I think Cory Booker is a great mayor. And what’s appropriate for Newark and for his people, I am certainly going to take a look and see what he is doing. I am going to call him this afternoon and say, ‘Hey, you know, what are you doing?'”

When pressed by another reporter if Booker was being lauded for presenting an image of working hard to help his constituents deal with the blizzard, Bloomberg said, “I’d like to think that we have that image as well. I can’t work much harder.”

Now Booker has weighed in (via Twitter, of course) writing, “People far 2 rough on @mikebloomberg – still fighting 2 clear snow in NWK & we are 1/29th size of NYC.”

Doug Mataconis:

Nonetheless, Booker’s hands-on approach to digging his city out of the snow has garnered international attention. It’s not a gimmick either. Since becoming Mayor, Booker has been active in turning Newark around after decades of being governed by mostly corrupt Mayors, and he’s allied himself with Governor Christie on issues like education reform even though the two of them come from different political parties. And on that note, there has already been talk among New Jersey Democrats of nominating Booker for Governor in 2013, although nobody seems to know if he’s actually interested in running for that office. If he does run, though, Booker may find that just as snowstorms have been the downfall of politicians like New York Mayor John Lindsey,Chicago Mayor Michael Blandic and D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, Cory Booker could be proof that actively responding to constituents and helping them through a crisis works to a politicians benefits.

Credit for The Simpsons reference must go to Jake Tapper. But everyone would have thought if it eventually.

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And He Was Installing The Alarm System, Too…

Melissa Bell at WaPo:

One oft-told tale of Pablo Picasso is that when presented with a bill at a bar, he’d whip off a sketch on a napkin, sign and date it, and the bill would be considered paid. The artist produced some 20,000 pieces of work in his long life, the Metropolitan Museum of Art told the Associated Press. And 271 of those pieces have just been discovered in a trunk at a retired French electrician’s home.

Jeff Neumann at Gawker:

A retired French electrician, Pierre Le Guennecsays he has “hundreds” of Picasso paintings, notebooks, lithographs and a watercolor believed to be worth around 60 million euros, which he claims Picasso gave him as a gift. Picasso’s son disagrees.

Tyler Cowen

Kate Deimling at Art Info:

Including lithographs, paintings, drawings, and a Blue Period watercolor — none of which appears in the inventory of Picasso’s estate — the trove is valued at €60 million ($79 million), according to French paper Libération, which broke the story. Experts estimate the nine Cubist collages alone to be worth €40 million ($53 million). The 71-year-old electrician managed to have the works authenticated by the artist’s estate in September, but the estate subsequently sued for possession of stolen goods and the works were seized last month by the Office Central de Lutte contre le Trafic de Biens Culturels, the French art-trafficking squad.

Jonathan Turley:

The very notion of 271 new Picasso paintings is amazing. The man worked for Picasso in the 1970s and this could create a fascinating contest over credibility if has no written record. The absence of any prior disclosure certainly makes the claim somewhat suspicious. Such cases can become the ultimate jury question — with members looking at the practices of the artist. It is quite common for many artists to give away their works, even as payment for services. This number of paintings, however, would represent a lot of work or a lot of friendship. It is also striking that the paintings were not previously known to be missing.

Picasso died a few years later and was already an international superstar in the art field. This was not some starving painter trading paintings for baguettes. Moreover, it is hard to see how much of a friendship could have developed over the course of the installation of a security system. Of course, there is always the possibility that Picasso was simply eccentric and a bit daffy in his final years. Anyway it goes, it should make for an interesting tort or criminal case or both.

Jen Doll at Village Voice:

Aspiring screenwriters, take note. This is a plot goldmine.

Let the art ownership battle begin.

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