Sunday Roast: March 3, 2013 – Govern and be Governed, but do it right!

Good Morning, I hope you slept well (and long because I’m late again ;)  ).

Government: You’re doing it right:

The Swiss are governing today and how. One reason for my being late here is the coverage of the latest polls on tv. Three major propositions have been voted on today and a number of regional ones. One was to amend the constitution to protect families’ rights to reconcile having a job and raising kids. It is a draw, more or less. While big cities have voted for it in big numbers and the overall popular vote is for it, the cantons are divided and as it is a constitutional amendment, it needs a majority of both popular votes and cantons. The more rural areas are, predictably against it, kicking women in the teeth once again. (Sound familiar?)

Second vote is on getting land out of the building code, so the environment can be protected from uncontrolled and uncontrolleable building for profit. It got a majority. Easily, too.

The third and most internationally acclaimed vote is on the so-called “fat-cat” initiative. A whopping 68% of voters have voted for it. This after the initiative has been blocked and fought against for seven years.

Under the proposal, shareholders will be given the right to hold a binding vote on executive remuneration. Companies would also no longer be able to pay so-called “golden hellos” and “golden parachutes”, whereby senior managers receive a one-time cash lump sum, often running into millions of pounds, when joining or leaving a company. Polls show the majority of Swiss plan to vote “yes” in the referendum, despite businesses warning it will drive out companies from the country.(read more)

Add to that the cap on manager salaries imposed by the surrounding EU countries and you see things are moving in the right direction over here.

Government: You’re doing it wrong:

You think the Tea Party is  the most proficient government obstructionist of all times? They are not. They’re outright amateurs compared to the Italians: Our southern neighbors are blocking government right at the source. All Europe is frustratedly looking at what voters there did to their country. Outright distrust of government and politicians is in the Italian genetic code and not surprisingly so, given the corruption that is rampant in the country, but now they overreached.

IT IS hard now to recall that just three months ago the big threat Italy posed was of becoming boring. Its technocratic government, under Mario Monti, had regained the markets’ confidence. The spread of Italian government bonds over German ones was dwindling. The troublesome Silvio Berlusconi no longer led his fast-disintegrating party, and it seemed certain that the centre-left would win the next election. Mr Monti might then have become an economic super-minister—if he had not taken over the right with a mandate to make it more soberly European. (read more)

Let me add, Italy, unlike the US for instance has a fairly low constitutional threshold for new elections. They’ll be at it again in a few months, everybody agrees.

I wish you all a Happy and Relaxing (yes caps) Sunday. Enjoy some reading and our discussion. It is an Open Thread so join in.

 

R.I.P. Stéphane Hessel

Stéphane Hessel has passed away during the night. The Holocaust survivor, member of the French Résistance, diplomat and author inspired the “Occupy” movement with his pamphlet “Time for Outrage” in his later years. I saw numerous interviews with him and greatly admired his intelligence, sense of humor and humanity. May he rest in peace.

EV

Across the Pond – State of the Union – Press Roundup

Yesterday’s State of the Union Address has been aptly commented here on this very blog. But what do commentators this side of the pond say?

The Independent:

By turns pugnacious and inspirational, Barack Obama last night used his State of the Union address to table a laundry list of aspirations for his second term that ranged from achieving tax reform to increasing the minimum range and tackling issues from gun control to immigration and climate change.

[On Rubio:]

Speaking so fast his mouth dried to a crust, Mr Rubio accused Mr Obama of harbouring an “obsession with raising taxes”.  And he accused him of trying to demonise his party as the party of the rich. “I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbours,” Mr Rubio said.

(read more)

The Guardian:

As an agenda, it was impressive. Jobs, immigration reform, climate change, equal pay for women, the minimum wage, troop withdrawal, universal pre-school provision for the poor, gun control, voting reform – this was unapologetic in its liberalism and unstinting in its determination. (read more)

They graced Rubio with a transcript of his speech. Aaaand, they have a live blog with some really witty remarks as well.

The Economist:

“THERE is much progress to report,” Barack Obama stated with satisfaction at the beginning of his state-of-the-union address. He was referring to the improving health of the economy and the diminishing number of American soldiers in harm’s way abroad. But he might just as well have been speaking of his strategy for facing down Republican opposition in a time of divided government. (read more)

They mention Rubio, too, in that article.

I am still waiting if Der Spiegel will have an article on their English page, their take is basically that Obama took up the gauntlet I will link to it later, if I can (UPDATE: Here’s the link to the English page). Die Sueddeutsche is unimpressed by Marco Rubio who seems to have lost his glam as the Republican Saviour a bit.

Anyhow, I do think the job of SOTU rebuttal is somehow jinxed. A bit like the “Defense Against The Dark Arts” job in Hogwarts.

Breaking: The Pope Resigns

Pope Benedict XVI resigns. I, personally, have the greatest respect for his decision. The Catholic Church was in a deadlock well before John Paul II died, not least because the latter, sick, invalid and  stubborn, refused to do what Benedict XVI has done now. To go, when you know you are not adding any value requires guts.

I have my own wishes for the future of catholicism, raising their voices against poverty and catholicism run amuck would be one. Any pope who did that for earnest, imho, would seriously injure his health and lifespan.

The Watering Hole, Monday, February 11th, 2013: Fugitive From and/or For Justice?

On Sunday, February 3rd, Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence were found shot to death in a parking garage in Irvine, California. Thus began the now nationally-covered, still-ongoing saga of former LAPD officer Christopher Jordan Dorner vs the LAPD. The Los Angeles Times provides a timeline of this saga through last night, February 10th.

Christoper Jordan Dorner with Chief William Bratton (formerly NYC Police Chief)

Christoper Jordan Dorner with Chief William Bratton (formerly NYC Police Chief)


In the course of the LAPD’s “manhunt”, they have now shot or injured two white women and one white man, purportedly because they drove vehicles which “matched the description of” Dorner’s pickup truck. From the LA Times on the two women:
“As the vehicle approached the house [“of a high-ranking Los Angeles police official, which was being guarded by a group of LAPD officers”], officers opened fire, unloading a barrage of bullets into the back of the truck. When the shooting stopped, they quickly realized their mistake. The truck was not a Nissan Titan, but a Toyota Tacoma. The color wasn’t gray, but aqua blue. And it wasn’t Dorner inside the truck, but a woman and her mother delivering copies of the Los Angeles Times.”

Regarding the man who was “mistakenly” injured, the LAT says:

“David Perdue was on his way to sneak in some surfing before work Thursday morning when police flagged him down. They asked who he was and where he was headed, then sent him on his way. Seconds later, Perdue’s attorney said, a Torrance police cruiser slammed into his pickup and officers opened fire; none of the bullets struck Perdue.

His pickup, police later explained, matched the description of the one belonging to Christopher Jordan Dorner — the ex-cop who has evaded authorities after allegedly killing three and wounding two more. But the pickups were different makes and colors. And Perdue looks nothing like Dorner: He’s several inches shorter and about a hundred pounds lighter. And Perdue is white; Dorner is black.”

These stories alone make one wonder about LAPD’s “finest.” But, Christopher Jordan Dorner’s story tells a lot more.

On February 7th, Dorner published a lengthy “manifesto”, recounting several incidents where he, as an LAPD Officer, tried to report unethical behavior by other LAPD officers. In it, Dorner named names, cited BOR (Board of Review) results in which the named officers were officially “cleared”, and provided additional information regarding LAPD personnel, lawyers, etc., who he believes are involved in the cover-up and whose actions eventually led to Dorner’s termination.

Amidst Dorner’s accusations and subsequent threats against the lives of the named officers and their families, Dorner describes himself, his career, and his own personal ethics. And while the murderous tactics which he is now employing to bring attention to the corruption within the LAPD are deplorable and inexcusable, his words depict a formerly ethical patriot who, at the end of his rope, believes he has been forced to take these tactics. Here are a few excerpts:

“I’m not an aspiring rapper, I’m not a gang member, I’m not a dope dealer, I don’t have multiple babies momma’s. I am an American by choice, I am a son, I am a brother, I am a military service member, I am a man who has lost complete faith in the system, when the system betrayed, slandered, and libeled me. I lived a good life and though not a religious man I always stuck to my own personal code of ethics, ethos and always stuck to my shoreline and true North. I didn’t need the US Navy to instill Honor, Courage, and Commitment in me but I thank them for re-enforcing it. It’s in my DNA.”

“From 2/05 to 1/09 I saw some of the most vile things humans can inflict on others as a police officer in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the streets of LA. It was in the confounds of LAPD police stations and shops (cruisers). The enemy combatants in LA are not the citizens and suspects, it’s the police officers.”

“People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. How ironic that you utilize a fixed glass structure as your command HQ. You use as a luminous building to symbolize that you are transparent, have nothing to hide, or suppress when in essence, concealing, omitting, and obscuring is your forte.”

LAPD Headquarters

LAPD Headquarters

Chief Beck, this is when you need to have that come to Jesus talk with Sgt. Teresa Evans and everyone else who was involved in the conspiracy to have me terminated for doing the right thing. you also need to speak with her attorney, Rico, and his conversation with the BOR members and her confession of guilt in kicking Mr. Gettler. I’ll be waiting for a PUBLIC response at a press conference. When the truth comes out, the killing stops.

At one point, Dorner admits to severe depression, but describes it as a means for future scientific study:

“If possible, I want my brain preserved for science/research to study the effects of severe depression on an individual’s brain. Since 6/26/08 when I was relieved of duty and 1/2/09 when I was terminated I have been afflicted with severe depression. I’ve had two CT scans during my lifetime that are in my medical record at Kaiser Permanente. Both are from concussions resulting from playing football…These two CT scans should give a good baseline for my brain activity before severe depression began in late 2008.”

Dorner also has a lot to say about gun control:

“If you had a well regulated AWB [Assault Weapons Ban], this would not happen. The time is now to reinstitute a ban that will save lives. Why does any sportsman need a 30 round magazine for hunting? Why does anyone need a suppressor? Why does anyone need a AR15 rifle? This is the same small arms weapons system utilized in eradicating Al Qaeda, Taliban, and every enemy combatant since the Vietnam war. Don’t give me that crap that its not a select fire or full auto rifle like the DoD uses. That’s bullshit because troops who carry the M-4/M-16 weapon system for combat ops outside the wire rarely utilize the select fire function when in contact with enemy combatants. The use of select fire probably isn’t even 1% in combat. So in essence, the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle is the same as the M-4/M-16.”

“I can buy any firearm I want, but should I be able to purchase these class III weapons (SBR’s, and suppressors) without a background check and just a $10 notary signature on a quicken will maker program? The answer is NO. I’m not even a resident of the state i purchased them in. Lock n Load just wanted money so they allow you to purchase class III weapons with just a notarized trust, military ID. Shame on you, Lock n Load. NFA and ATF need new laws and policies that do not allow loopholes such as this. In the end, I hope that you will realize that the small arms I utilize should not be accessed with the ease that I obtained them. Who in there right mind needs a fucking silencer!!! who needs a freaking SBR AR15? No one. No more Virginia Tech, Columbine HS, Wisconsin temple, Aurora theatre, Portland malls, Tucson rally, Newtown Sandy Hook. Whether by executive order or thru a bi-partisan congress an assault weapons ban needs to be re-instituted. Period!!! Mia Farrow said it best. “Gun control is no longer debatable, it’s not a conversation, its a moral mandate.”

Personally, I cannot disagree with that. In addition, I cannot disagree with most of Dorner’s political likes and dislikes. After berating the LAPD’s lack of respect and outright racism towards President Obama, Dorner states the following (some of which has since been redacted in many media venues):

“Wayne LaPierre, President of the NRA, you’re a vile and inhumane piece of shit. You never even showed 30 seconds of empathy for the children, teachers, and families of Sandy Hook. You deflected any type of blame/responsibility and directed it toward the influence of movies and the media. You are a failure of a human being. May all of your immediate and distant family die horrific deaths in front of you.

Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough, Pat Harvey, Brian Williams, Soledad Obrien, Wolf Blitzer, Meredith Viera, Tavis Smiley, and Anderson Cooper, keep up the great work and follow Cronkite’s lead. I hold many of you in the same regard as Tom Brokaw and the late Peter Jennings. Cooper, stop nagging and berating your guest, they’re your (guest).”

“Ellen Degeneres, continue your excellent contribution to entertaining America and bringing the human factor to entertainment. You changed the perception of your gay community and how we as Americans view the LGBT community. I congratulate you on your success and opening my eyes as a young adult, and my generation to the fact that you are know different from us other than who you choose to love. Oh, and you Prop 8 supporters, why the fuck do you care who your neighbor marries. Hypocritical pieces of shit.

Westboro Baptist Church, may you all burn slowly in a fire, not from smoke inhalation, but from the flames and only the flames.”

While any civilized person deplores Dorner’s decision to take the law into his own hands and use cold-blooded murder to make his point, I personally believe that he DOES have a point. It would be nice to think that he may surrender to authorities without further bloodshed, but I fear that those authorities would not hesitate to kill him on sight; not to mention that Dorner himself, throughout his “manifesto”, not only promises more killings, but also admits many times that he will likely not live through this ordeal.

One line in particular in Dorner’s writing struck a chord with me, that should reverberate throughout this rotting country:

“Sometimes humans feel a need to prove they are the dominant race of a species and they inadvertently take kindness for weakness from another individual. You chose wrong.”

This is our Open Thread. Your thoughts?

Across the Pond: January 20th, 2013 – Sunday Round Up

Right. Well, I’m up anyway, so let’s check the webs.

The Hostage Crisis in Algeria seems to be over. But it ended in a bloodbath. The situation is still not quite resolved while I am typing this, but one thing is clear: All attackers and the hostages remaining in the hands of their captors are dead.

The Algerian government seems to not have thought twice about getting this done, never mind the cost. It reminds me of the Beslan massacre where a hostage taking by Chechen rebels in a school was ended by the Russian forces without any consideration of the hostages’ fate.

“The terrorists were prepared to commit a collective suicide; the army’s intervention led to their neutralisation. Unfortunately, the hostages were executed,”

said El Watan a local newspaper. Well, the public will hear the truth about this at some point.

There is, of course, the war in Mali headlining over here in Europe. You can find a very useful summary of the players involved on the BBC News website. The French are involved in a situation, which, in my humble opinion, may land them in their own version of Afghanistan. Germans are discussing what kind of contribution they can make but there’s the fact that this is a super election year which will be kicked off today in Lower Saxonia. Chancellor Merkel will, obviously, not be getting into any military adventures this year if she can help it at all. President Obama does not show any inclination to get the US involved either. 

Neu ist, dass die USA nicht instinktiv zu einer Führungsrolle innerhalb einer solchen «Koalition der Willigen» drängen. Bereits im Libyen-Krieg hatten sie nach aussen hin den Franzosen den Vorrang gelassen. Die Amerikaner übernahmen damals aber, ohne dies an die grosse Glocke zu hängen, einen beträchtlichen Teil der Lufteinsätze und halfen den Europäern aus, als diesen die Munition ausging. Obama nannte dies «Führung von hinten», was ihm einigen Spott eintrug – aber um einen Führungsanspruch handelte es sich gleichwohl. Davon kann in Mali keine Rede mehr sein.

(It is new, that the US does not instinctively claim a leading role in such a “coalition of the willing”. In the Libya war they had already let the French have the leading role, at least outwardly. The Americans, however, have at that time without making any fuss about it taken over a considerable number of airstrikes and helped out when the Europeans were running out of ammunition. Obama called this “leading from behind” which caused some ridicule, but – nevertheless – included the will to lead. In Mali there is no mention of it. Translation by yours truly

When it comes to foreign politics, looking at it from our side of the pond, New Obama, is naturally a topic of interest. The sudden change in his handling of the Republican opposition does not go unnoticed:

After being widely criticised in his first four years for a lack of savvy during negotiations with the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Obama has suddenly taken a much harder line. In debates over the so-called “fiscal cliff” of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of last year, Obama’s team secured a deal widely seen as a victory. That tougher stance has also been matched by Obama staking out a strong position on forthcoming talks with the Republicans in Congress over raising the debt ceiling. Indeed, only days after Obama gave a speech on the issue marked by stern language the Republicans last week appeared to cave in and moved to extend the ceiling for another three months. (read the whole post here)

About time, I’d say.

Have you finished your coffee? Not yet? Well, there’s more for reading found in the old world:

Oil and the interests of Canada’s First Nations

Catholic Hospitals refuse Aid to Rape Victim (Germany has its own bible belt, methinks)

Boeing’s Dreamliner is grounded

and

The Swiss are fretting over what will happen to their banks.

I hope you’ll enjoy your Sunday Morning reading.

This is an Open Thread! Join in. What is important to you today?

Brave Little Rodent – UPDATED

First of all, I have great respect for any species that can live and survive in the desert environment.  It must be a tough existence.

Here’s a link to a story about a mouse that lives in the desert, eats scorpions, and then howls at the moon.  Be sure to click on the link to the audio track that is embedded in the story.

Scientists are interested in this mouse.  It seems that there is a genetic component that prevents this mouse from experiencing pain.

In humans, Rowe says, mutations in Nav1.7 cause a syndrome called erythromelalgia. In this disease, a characteristic burning pain in the feet and hands crops up spontaneously. The researchers are now attempting to figure out exactly how the mouse’s mutation in Nav1.8 blocks pain signals, to see if it could help design a new kind of pain killer.

Our pain receptors are a means by which our body tells us that something is dangerous.  In some cases, it’s best not to feel the pain because it is “phantom pain” and it serves no purpose other than to annoy us.

UPDATED:  I found a video about this mouse.  We can hear it “howl at the moon”.