Thursday, April 26, 2012

Remembering My Sister, Alice Eugenia Newman Shannon

 Alice and I at our parent's grave site in Norris, September, 2011.

Dear friends and readers of this blog,

My sister died peacefully this morning around 12:30 AM at the Alive Hospice residential center in Nashville. We had moved her there yesterday afternoon around 5:00 PM from Centennial Hospital. At 8:30 PM her breathing became very shallow and labored. She was then given a shot of Dilaudid to help with her comfort and breathing.

My sister spent her life in service to others. On November 3, 1944 (21 days before I was born) her first grade teacher, Mrs. Irene Plumlee, wrote on Alice’s report card:
Alice is a very good and energetic student in the schoolroom and on the playground. She is very good in number work, art, drawing, and has shown a great improvement in manuscript writing. She is full of initiative and is a natural born leader. She is very good at sharing her property with others.
Mrs. Plumlee’s early assessment of Alice was extremely accurate. My sister remained throughout her life a very thoughtful, caring and compassionate human being. She was an excellent student, always near or at the top of her class. She was the president of the Student Council her senior year at Norris High School. She graduated from George Peabody College as an honor student with three degrees.

Her senior year at Peabody she won the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award that is given annually “to recognize individuals whose ‘nobility of character’ and dedication to service has sets them apart as examples for others.” The award is highly prized, and over the years has been bestowed on many outstanding people, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Fred Rogers.

In the early 1960s my sister was chosen by Dr. Nicholas Hobbs to be one of the first Re-Ed Teacher-Counselors at Cumberland House School. Project Re-Ed at the time was a new approach to working with children and youth who had been diagnosed with emotional disturbance, behavior disorders, and/or a mental illness.

Re-Ed was based on educational, psychological and ecological principles. It sought "to help children and their families in near to natural settings as possible, strengthening support systems, reducing discord and helping children learn to make use of normal sources of affection, instruction and discipline."

Within ten years my sister had become the Director and Principle of Cumberland House School. She continued to lead the program for another 10 years, helping to establish it as an internationally recognized program for working with "troubled and troubling" children and their families.

As Mrs. Plumlee said my sister was full of initiative and a natural born leader who was very good at sharing her gifts with others. In short, she was a very good person who led an inspiring life of integrity and service to her family, her friends and her community.

Carolyn, Jeff, Alice and Dee  Norris Lake September, 2011

Alice at overlook above Norris Dam


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

From indiegogo

Celebration time!!!!!

They made their goal and then some . . .
 


Friday, April 20, 2012

From NUVO Indianapolis

Remembering Paul Cobb (Slideshow)
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Remembering Paul Cobb (Slideshow)
Celebrating a musician whose life was cut tragically short.

 
The people who loved Paul Julian Cobb sometimes still speak in the present tense as they describe the various sides of his personality.

His parents remember the quiet kid who could spend hours alone, from the time he was a toddler, drawing in notebooks or fiddling with musical instruments. His bandmates speak of his prodigious musical skill and an irrepressible sense of adventure that entertained and inspired them.

"Paul was such a free spirit, in the truest sense of the phrase," says singer-songwriter Ben Bernthal, who drafted Cobb for his band Accordions. "He never did anything he didn't want to do, and if he wanted to do something, any effort to talk him out of it was in vain."

All agree that Cobb, best known as bassist and contributing songwriter for local psych-pop combo Amo Joy, was an artist deserving broader attention, though they had trouble convincing him of that fact.

"Paul was very quiet about his talent," says his mother, Jill Lindner of Nashville, Tenn. "He wasn't shy, but he wouldn't brag on himself."

Their hopes were dashed the night of Oct. 1-2, 2011, when Cobb evidently tried to hop a train and — in the words of one friend — "it took him further than he expected." The next morning, a CSX engineer reported seeing his body on the tracks off East St. Clair Street, not far from the Dorman Street pub. He was 24.

The loss had a nuclear impact on his family and friends.

"When I think about it, I'm shocked all over again," says Amo Joy guitarist-frontman Adam Gross, who cofounded the band with Cobb several years earlier. "I'd been all across the country with Paul and spent so many intimate personal and musical moments with him. We were like brothers. We were all so close. And then he was gone, so immediately and dramatically."
Gross had a hard time sleeping after hearing the news, but when he did, he awoke thinking of his friend and the trove of solo recordings and drawings he left behind.

"The first thing I thought was, ‘Oh my God, he's been recording for the past six years, and nobody's ever heard it. We've got to put it out,'" Gross recalls. "I think it was like a defense mechanism. I needed something to do."

Thus was born a multimedia memorial project, spearheaded by the members of Amo Joy and Accordions, who met at Butler University and have often toured and recorded together. Along with another friend or two, they are collaborating on an album of Cobb's unreleased songs, which they hope to have available in time for an eight-man summer tour. They're determined to release the music on vinyl as well as digital download, in part so they can include reproductions of his drawings.

"The album artwork is basically going to be a collage of artworks by Paul," Gross says. "He was a really amazing artist, and just like his music, he talked about doing stuff with it and never followed through."

The project is dubbed Hammer Screwdriver, a phrase Cobb used as an email address. His friends didn't learn its origin until after his death, when they gathered with his family in Nashville and heard the story from his brother, Adrian, who was 4 when Paul was born.
Lindner remembers the original exchange from two decades past: "We were asking (Adrian) for input on some names for the baby," she says. "He said, ‘If it's a boy, we should name him Hammer Screwdriver.'"

The members of Hammer Screwdriver face a challenge in the studio. They intend to add instruments, backing vocals and a sense of completion to lo-fi tracks that Cobb himself considered unfinished sketches.

"The plan is to not put on any new lead vocals," Gross says. "We want it to be very much so that Paul is leading the songs and Paul is talking, but it's going to be tough."

How tough? Some of the recordings are pulled from a four-track machine, others from a looping effects pedal, and still others from tapes made on Cobb's beloved Fisher-Price cassette recorder.

"That was Paul's go-to format for everything," Gross says. "He loved cassettes."
Fortunately, one of their collaborators is Paul's dad, Donald Cobb, who happens to be a mastering engineer in Music City with access to professional equipment.

"We can take noises out and some of the hiss out," Don Cobb says. "With the Fisher-Price stuff, there's a lot of distortion, and that's really hard to get out, but we're trying."

Needless to say, he doesn't mind making the effort.

"The sad part for us is, well, there are many things to be sad about, but it seemed like he was just coming into his own and starting to feel comfortable about sharing his music with people," Don says.

To fund the album and tour, the group has established a presence on indiegogo.com, a website that helps independent artists raise capital. As of last weekend, Hammer Screwdriver was nearly halfway to its $10,000 goal. Contributions are being accepted through next Wednesday, April 25. The site also features a compelling three-minute video in which the participants talk about their friend and their effort to preserve his memory.

The raw material is already available for listening and free download on bandcamp.com. The Anthology, as it is called, comprises 52 titles, ranging from electronic experiments to slightly more conventional tunes with guitar, organ and vocals. Some have an old-time music hall vibe, while others evoke the unhinged charm and poignancy of Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett's solo work. The Hammer Screwdriver participants picked 30 pieces for further work and potential inclusion on the album.

As for the tour, they envision a showcase for Cobb's songs as well as those of the two bands left reeling by his departure.

Though initially he was just an occasional contributor to Accordions, he joined the orchestral-folk group in earnest a year or two ago, adding an electric punch to its live sound with his melodic, McCartney-esque bass lines. He took part in a short European tour last spring, and he was a prominent contributor to Accordions' impressive second album, The Moon at Half-Mast, which they completed just before his death. Cobb's passing took the wind out of their plans to promote the record.

Likewise with Amo Joy, which began recording its fifth album last summer. Dissatisfied with his original bass tracks, Cobb was in the process of redoing them when he died.

"We kind of shelved it for five months and just last month started working again," Gross said, noting that they're almost done mixing the album. "That's great, but we have no idea what we're going to do with it."

That sense of uncertainty is also felt by Cobb's parents, who have considered forming an advocacy group to warn about the dangers of train hopping. Parents have many worries, they say, but this one hadn't occurred to them.

"You never think, when they leave the house, to say, ‘Don't go hopping trains,'" Don Cobb says.
Nonetheless, the Hammer Screwdriver project is a comfort to Paul's family, who have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of interest and financial support.

"These young people who are doing this project are just amazing," Lindner says. "We're so impressed with them as musicians and as human beings."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It Was As She Imagined

Submitted to NPR's 3-Minute Fiction

by Jack Reeves

She closed the book, put it on the table, and finally decided to walk through the door at 10 PM, the determined time. The book was chosen for its title: "To the Lighthouse." The lighthouse was her destination and destiny.

She rehearsed the walk--approximately a quarter of a mile, 650 steps. The stones were selected for size and weight and piled together at the rock jetty at the lighthouse.

Date, time and tide were factored: a moon for light, 10 o'clock for high tide.

Calculated time from walking through the door: 14 minutes.

She meditated for weeks on the required resoluteness. Every action, every thought had to be impervious.

As she walked she focused on the lighthouse and its repetitive light--six seconds of six beams followed by six of dark. She counted steps for further focus. At 600 she knew three minutes remained.

She came to the stones in the path and without hesitation put them in the pockets of her overcoat. She sensed their critical weight. She walked immediately to the water's edge and strode into rushing waves and the descending ocean floor.

As the water enveloped her head, she was seized by agony and horror. Inhalation was inevitable.

It was as she imagined.

The Buffett Rule

Monday, April 9, 2012

From the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin


Low-Effort Thought Promotes Political Conservatism

Abstract

The authors test the hypothesis that low-effort thought promotes political conservatism. In Study 1, alcohol intoxication was measured among bar patrons; as blood alcohol level increased, so did political conservatism (controlling for sex, education, and political identification). In Study 2, participants under cognitive load reported more conservative attitudes than their no-load counterparts. In Study 3, time pressure increased participants’ endorsement of conservative terms. In Study 4, participants considering political terms in a cursory manner endorsed conservative terms more than those asked to cogitate; an indicator of effortful thought (recognition memory) partially mediated the relationship between processing effort and conservatism. Together these data suggest that political conservatism may be a process consequence of low-effort thought; when effortful, deliberate thought is disengaged, endorsement of conservative ideology increases.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

John Derbyshire Fired by National Review

Last week the controversial columnist for the National Review, John Derbyshire, wrote an essay for TAKI'S MAGAZINE entitled The Talk: Non-Black Version.

Yesterday, Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review, succumbed to the national outraged and announced that Derbyshire had been fired:
Anyone who has read Derb in our pages knows he’s a deeply literate, funny, and incisive writer. I direct anyone who doubts his talents to his delightful first novel, “Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream,” or any one of his “Straggler” columns in the books section of NR. Derb is also maddening, outrageous, cranky, and provocative. His latest provocation, in a webzine, lurches from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. We never would have published it, but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer. Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways. Derb has long danced around the line on these issues, but this column is so outlandish it constitutes a kind of letter of resignation. It’s a free country, and Derb can write whatever he wants, wherever he wants. Just not in the pages of NR or NRO, or as someone associated with NR any longer.

The following is the essay that John Derbyshire wrote for TAKI'S MAGAZINE:


The Talk: Non-Black Version

by John Derbyshire

There is much talk about “the talk.”

“Sean O’Reilly was 16 when his mother gave him the talk that most black parents give their teenage sons,” Denisa R. Superville of the Hackensack (NJ) Record tells us. Meanwhile, down in Atlanta: “Her sons were 12 and 8 when Marlyn Tillman realized it was time for her to have the talk,” Gracie Bonds Staples writes in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Leonard Greene talks about the talk in the New York Post. Someone bylined as KJ Dell’Antonia talks about the talk in The New York Times. Darryl Owens talks about the talk in the Orlando Sentinel.

Yes, talk about the talk is all over.

There is a talk that nonblack Americans have with their kids, too. My own kids, now 19 and 16, have had it in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen. If I were to assemble it into a single talk, it would look something like the following.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

(1) Among your fellow citizens are forty million who identify as black, and whom I shall refer to as black. The cumbersome (and MLK-noncompliant) term “African-American” seems to be in decline, thank goodness. “Colored” and “Negro” are archaisms. What you must call “the ‘N’ word” is used freely among blacks but is taboo to nonblacks.

(2) American blacks are descended from West African populations, with some white and aboriginal-American admixture. The overall average of non-African admixture is 20-25 percent. The admixture distribution is nonlinear, though: “It seems that around 10 percent of the African American population is more than half European in ancestry.” (Same link.)

(3) Your own ancestry is mixed north-European and northeast-Asian, but blacks will take you to be white.

(4) The default principle in everyday personal encounters is, that as a fellow citizen, with the same rights and obligations as yourself, any individual black is entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to a nonblack citizen. That is basic good manners and good citizenship. In some unusual circumstances, however—e.g., paragraph (10h) below—this default principle should be overridden by considerations of personal safety.

(5) As with any population of such a size, there is great variation among blacks in every human trait (except, obviously, the trait of identifying oneself as black). They come fat, thin, tall, short, dumb, smart, introverted, extroverted, honest, crooked, athletic, sedentary, fastidious, sloppy, amiable, and obnoxious. There are black geniuses and black morons. There are black saints and black psychopaths. In a population of forty million, you will find almost any human type. Only at the far, far extremes of certain traits are there absences. There are, for example, no black Fields Medal winners. While this is civilizationally consequential, it will not likely ever be important to you personally. Most people live and die without ever meeting (or wishing to meet) a Fields Medal winner.

(6) As you go through life, however, you will experience an ever larger number of encounters with black Americans. Assuming your encounters are random—for example, not restricted only to black convicted murderers or to black investment bankers—the Law of Large Numbers will inevitably kick in. You will observe that the means—the averages—of many traits are very different for black and white Americans, as has been confirmed by methodical inquiries in the human sciences.

(7) Of most importance to your personal safety are the very different means for antisocial behavior, which you will see reflected in, for instance, school disciplinary measures, political corruption, and criminal convictions.

(8) These differences are magnified by the hostility many blacks feel toward whites. Thus, while black-on-black behavior is more antisocial in the average than is white-on-white behavior, average black-on-white behavior is a degree more antisocial yet.

(9) A small cohort of blacks—in my experience, around five percent—is ferociously hostile to whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us. A much larger cohort of blacks—around half—will go along passively if the five percent take leadership in some event. They will do this out of racial solidarity, the natural willingness of most human beings to be led, and a vague feeling that whites have it coming.

(10) Thus, while always attentive to the particular qualities of individuals, on the many occasions where you have nothing to guide you but knowledge of those mean differences, use statistical common sense:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.

(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.

(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.

(11) The mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites. The least intelligent ten percent of whites have IQs below 81; forty percent of blacks have IQs that low. Only one black in six is more intelligent than the average white; five whites out of six are more intelligent than the average black. These differences show in every test of general cognitive ability that anyone, of any race or nationality, has yet been able to devise. They are reflected in countless everyday situations. “Life is an IQ test.”

(12) There is a magnifying effect here, too, caused by affirmative action. In a pure meritocracy there would be very low proportions of blacks in cognitively demanding jobs. Because of affirmative action, the proportions are higher. In government work, they are very high. Thus, in those encounters with strangers that involve cognitive engagement, ceteris paribus the black stranger will be less intelligent than the white. In such encounters, therefore—for example, at a government office—you will, on average, be dealt with more competently by a white than by a black. If that hostility-based magnifying effect (paragraph 8) is also in play, you will be dealt with more politely, too. “The DMV lady“ is a statistical truth, not a myth.

(13) In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized blacks. (I’ll use IWSB as an ad hoc abbreviation.) You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSBs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice.

(14) Be aware, however, that there is an issue of supply and demand here. Demand comes from organizations and businesses keen to display racial propriety by employing IWSBs, especially in positions at the interface with the general public—corporate sales reps, TV news presenters, press officers for government agencies, etc.—with corresponding depletion in less visible positions. There is also strong private demand from middle- and upper-class whites for personal bonds with IWSBs, for reasons given in the previous paragraph and also (next paragraph) as status markers.

(15) Unfortunately the demand is greater than the supply, so IWSBs are something of a luxury good, like antique furniture or corporate jets: boasted of by upper-class whites and wealthy organizations, coveted by the less prosperous. To be an IWSB in present-day US society is a height of felicity rarely before attained by any group of human beings in history. Try to curb your envy: it will be taken as prejudice (see paragraph 13).

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

You don’t have to follow my version of the talk point for point; but if you are white or Asian and have kids, you owe it to them to give them some version of the talk. It will save them a lot of time and trouble spent figuring things out for themselves. It may save their lives.


________________________


From Dee:
Derbyshire is a racist. And, proud of it. The National Review has known it for years.

In a 2003 interview with Kevin Holtsberry about his book, Prime Obsession: Bernhard Rieman and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics, Derbyshire flatout declared that he was a racist and a homophobe:
I am a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one, and those things are going to be illegal pretty soon, the way we are going. Of course, people will still be that way in their hearts, but they will be afraid to admit it, and will be punished if they do admit it.
The sad truth is – he's right. Too many of us are racist homophobes. Though we may be too ashamed to admit it, many of us bleeding-heart liberals who hide behind our outrage of our conservative brethren are as well.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

From Jim Hightower

The "ROBS Act"

Monday, April 2, 2012
 
Posted by Jim Hightower

Hallelujah, Washington has finally heard the people's cries for jobs! In an urgent bipartisan push, Democrats and Republicans have passed the J.O.B.S. Act. At last, jobs for all, right?
Well… not right away. Certainly not for all. Maybe none.

You see, the new law itself doesn't create a single job for the tens-of-millions of unemployed and underemployed workers in our land of the rich. In fact, the accent on the J.O.B.S. acronym should be on "B.S." Will it surprise you to learn that the word "jobs" isn't even included in the title? Instead, J.O.B.S. stands for "Jump-start Our Business Start-ups."

Yes, while it was rushed to passage without any public hearings in the name of hard-hit American workers, all of the benefits go to corporate and financial hucksters who begged Congress to roll back financial disclosure and anti-fraud rules that were designed to protect investors, consumers, and taxpayers. It's just another "tinkle-down" economic scam written by and for Wall Street fraudsters. The law makes it easier for them to raise cash for their new business schemes by deceiving investors about the risk of loses, the true financial condition of the enterprise, and the amount of capital being raked off by executives.

"Free us from those pesky old regulations," say the hucksters," and we'll attract speculators for corporate start-ups that (if they succeed and don't set-up operations offshore) could possibly, someday, create a few low-wage American jobs. But don't hold us to that job thing."

Sure enough, Washington's Wall Street-hugging politicos did not. Instead, they merrily passed a bill upping the likelihood of more financial swindles without even getting a promise from the swindlers that America will get some good jobs in return. The JOBS act should be called the ROBS Act.

"Senate Approves Bill to Aid Start-Ups," The New York Times, March 23, 2012.
"Kill the JOBS Act!" www.slate.com, March 19, 2012.
"Fiscal Affairs: CFA Institute Against the "JOBS" Bill," www.huffingtonpost.com, March 20, 2012.
"The "JOBS" bill today," www.angrybearblog.com, March 22, 2012.
"JOBS Act clears hurdle, faces others," www.politico.com, March 21, 2012.
"Senate to Add Protections to "Jobs' Bill," www.wsj.com, March 22, 2012.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Celebrating the Life of Paul Cobb


An Update:

22 days left! If you haven't as yet contributed to the Paul Cobb memorial musical creations project click here.

The goal is $10,000. They are at $3,975.

The following video is of Paul singing "These Days":


Hammer Screwdriver from London Daily Press on Vimeo.

From The Daily Show

Tucson's Mexican-American Studies Ban 

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Vespers Sing "Lordy"

From The New York Times

Op-Ed Columnist
Pink Slime Economics

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Published: April 1, 2012 

The big bad event of last week was, of course, the Supreme Court hearing on health reform. In the course of that hearing it became clear that several of the justices, and possibly a majority, are political creatures pure and simple, willing to embrace any argument, no matter how absurd, that serves the interests of Team Republican.

But we should not allow events in the court to completely overshadow another, almost equally disturbing spectacle. For on Thursday Republicans in the House of Representatives passed what was surely the most fraudulent budget in American history.

And when I say fraudulent, I mean just that. The trouble with the budget devised by Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, isn’t just its almost inconceivably cruel priorities, the way it slashes taxes for corporations and the rich while drastically cutting food and medical aid to the needy. Even aside from all that, the Ryan budget purports to reduce the deficit — but the alleged deficit reduction depends on the completely unsupported assertion that trillions of dollars in revenue can be found by closing tax loopholes.

And we’re talking about a lot of loophole-closing. As Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center points out, to make his numbers work Mr. Ryan would, by 2022, have to close enough loopholes to yield an extra $700 billion in revenue every year. That’s a lot of money, even in an economy as big as ours. So which specific loopholes has Mr. Ryan, who issued a 98-page manifesto on behalf of his budget, said he would close?

None. Not one. He has, however, categorically ruled out any move to close the major loophole that benefits the rich, namely the ultra-low tax rates on income from capital. (That’s the loophole that lets Mitt Romney pay only 14 percent of his income in taxes, a lower tax rate than that faced by many middle-class families.)

So what are we to make of this proposal? Mr. Gleckman calls it a “mystery meat budget,” but he’s being unfair to mystery meat. The truth is that the filler modern food manufacturers add to their products may be disgusting — think pink slime — but it nonetheless has nutritional value. Mr. Ryan’s empty promises don’t. You should think of those promises, instead, as a kind of throwback to the 19th century, when unregulated corporations bulked out their bread with plaster of paris and flavored their beer with sulfuric acid.

Come to think of it, that’s precisely the policy era Mr. Ryan and his colleagues are trying to bring back.

So the Ryan budget is a fraud; Mr. Ryan talks loudly about the evils of debt and deficits, but his plan would actually make the deficit bigger even as it inflicted huge pain in the name of deficit reduction. But is his budget really the most fraudulent in American history? Yes, it is.

To be sure, we’ve had irresponsible and/or deceptive budgets in the past. Ronald Reagan’s budgets relied on voodoo, on the claim that cutting taxes on the rich would somehow lead to an explosion of economic growth. George W. Bush’s budget officials liked to play bait and switch, low-balling the cost of tax cuts by pretending that they were only temporary, then demanding that they be made permanent. But has any major political figure ever premised his entire fiscal platform not just on totally implausible spending projections but on claims that he has a secret plan to raise trillions of dollars in revenue, a plan that he refuses to share with the public?

What’s going on here? The answer, presumably, is that this is what happens when extremists gain complete control of a party’s discourse: all the rules get thrown out the window. Indeed, the hard right’s grip on the G.O.P. is now so strong that the party is sticking with Mr. Ryan even though it’s paying a significant political price for his assault on Medicare.

Now, the House Republican budget isn’t about to become law as long as President Obama is sitting in the White House. But it has been endorsed by Mr. Romney. And even if Mr. Obama is reelected, the fraudulence of this budget has important implications for future political negotiations.

Bear in mind that the Obama administration spent much of 2011 trying to negotiate a so-called Grand Bargain with Republicans, a bipartisan plan for deficit reduction over the long term. Those negotiations ended up breaking down, and a minor journalistic industry has emerged as reporters try to figure out how the breakdown occurred and who was responsible.

But what we learn from the latest Republican budget is that the whole pursuit of a Grand Bargain was a waste of time and political capital. For a lasting budget deal can only work if both parties can be counted on to be both responsible and honest — and House Republicans have just demonstrated, as clearly as anyone could wish, that they are neither.

From The New York Times

‘Officers, Why Do You Have Your Guns Out?’ 

By MICHAEL POWELL / Published: March 5, 2012

The niece stood in the darkened stairwell of the Winbrook Houses, listening, as 20 feet away five police officers yelled at her uncle, who had locked himself in his apartment.

It was 5:25 on a chill November morning. The officers banged loud and hard, demanding that her 68-year-old uncle open his door.

“He was begging them to leave him alone,” she recalls. “He sounded scared.” She pulls her shawl about her shoulders and her voice cracks; she is speaking for the first time about what she saw. “I heard my uncle yelling, ‘Officers, officers, why do you have your guns out?’ ”

The string of events that night sounds prosaic, a who-cares accumulation of little mistakes and misapprehensions. Cumulatively, though, it is like tumbling down the stairs. Somehow the uncle, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a former Marine who had heart problems and wheezed if he walked more than 40 feet, triggered his medical alert system pendant. The system operator came on the loudspeaker in his one-bedroom apartment, asking: “Mr. Chamberlain, are you O.K.?” All of this is recorded.

Mr. Chamberlain didn’t respond. So the operator signaled for an ambulance. Police patrol cars fell in behind — standard operating procedure in towns across America. Except an hour later, even as Mr. Chamberlain insisted he was in good health, the police had snapped the locks on the apartment door.

They fired electric charges from Tasers, and beanbags from shotguns. Then they said they saw Mr. Chamberlain grab a knife, and an officer fired his handgun.

Boom! Boom! Mr. Chamberlain’s niece Tonyia Greenhill, who lives upstairs, recalls the echoes ricocheting about the hall. She pushed out a back door and ran into the darkness beneath overarching oaks. He lay on the floor near his kitchen, two bullet holes in his chest, blood pooling thick, dying.

It makes sense to be humble in the presence of conflicting accounts. The White Plains public safety commissioner declared this a “warranted use of deadly force”; the shooter was later put on modified assignment. Mr. Chamberlain, in the commissioner’s telling, had withstood electric charges, grabbed a butcher knife and charged the officers.

The alert system phone in Mr. Chamberlain’s apartment recorded most of the standoff, as did a security camera in the hall. And the officers’ Tasers carried video recorders.

Last month, the Westchester County district attorney played these for the dead man’s son, Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., who teaches martial arts for a local nonprofit organization and intends to file a lawsuit. He is lithe, with a shaved head, and takes pride in a reasoned manner. “My family, we’re not into histrionics,” he says. “We don’t run down the street inciting riot.”

His voice cracks, though, as he describes the tapes. “I heard fear,” he says. “In my 45 years on this earth, I never heard my father sound like that.”

The district attorney will present the case to a grand jury and has not released transcripts. But the family’s recollection matches that of neighbors who listened through closed doors.

They say officers taunted Mr. Chamberlain. He shouted: “Semper fi,” the Marine Corps motto. The police answered with loud shouts of “Hoo-rah!” Another officer, the niece says, said he wanted to pee in Mr. Chamberlain’s bathroom.

Someone, the niece and neighbors say, yelled a racial epithet at the door. Black and white officers were present.

Kenny Randolph listened from his apartment across the hall. “They put fear in his heart,” he says. “It wasn’t a crime scene until they made it one.”

The police say Mr. Chamberlain was “known” to them, although it appears he had not been convicted of a crime. There are intimations that he wrestled with emotional issues. Sometimes, neighbors say, he talked to himself. Who’s to say? As often, life’s default position is set to “complicated.”

Many police departments have trained corps of officers expert in talking with the emotionally upset. Their rule of thumb: talk quietly and de-escalate. That night in White Plains, no one appeared to have de-escalated anything.

Mr. Chamberlain sounded spooked. His son recalls hearing his father say on tape: “This is my sworn testimony. White Plains officers are coming in here to kill me.” A few minutes later, a bullet tore through his rib and heart. The ambulance took him to White Plains Hospital, where he soon died.

His son lives five minutes away. He says he could have talked his father down. Standing in the office of his lawyer Randolph M. McLaughlin, he mimes knocking on his dad’s door. “Dad, it’s me, Ken, I’m here.” His eyes are bloodshot and brimming. “I always said, ‘I’m the protector now.’ But I wasn’t there when he needed me.”

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Below is an email from Kenneth Chamberlain Jr., whose father, a 68-year-old veteran of the U.S. Marines, was killed in his home by the police in White Plains, NY, on November 19, 2011. Kenneth created his petition on SignOn.org, a new site that allows anyone to start their own online petitions. You can read more about his father's death here.

We demand justice for Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a 68-year-old veteran killed in his home by police.

Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., was killed in his home by police.


Sign the petition
Dear MoveOn member,
On November 19, 2011, my father, 68-year-old Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., was shot and killed in his home in White Plains, New York.
My father was a 20-year veteran of the Westchester County Department of Corrections and proudly served the United States of America as a Marine. He stood about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and he suffered from a heart condition.
The events that led to his killing began around 5 a.m., when his medical alert device was accidentally set off, sending a call to the City of White Plains Department of Public Safety. Everything that happened after that was recorded by an audio device installed in my father's home as part of his medical alert system.
When the police arrived at my father's home, he and the staff for his medical alert service told them that there was no medical emergency and asked them to leave. And yet they insisted that my father let them into his home, banging loudly on my father's door for over an hour. On the recording, the police can be heard calling my father a "nigger."
Ultimately they broke through his apartment door and first shot him with a Taser. He was wearing nothing but boxer shorts when the police began their assault against him. Shortly after that, he was shot with two 40-caliber rounds and killed.
My family is asking the Westchester County District Attorney to bring a criminal indictment, and we call on the United States Department of Justice or the New York State Attorney General to prosecute this as a hate crime.
Will you sign our petition? Click here to sign and please share with your friends: 
The petition says:
This petition is regarding the upcoming grand jury hearing in the case of Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., an unarmed elderly black citizen who was shot to death by the White Plains Police Department. 
This case not only brings into question the policies and practices of this department; but it is an open question whether it was inevitable, particularly in light of the audio tapes and video tapes witnessed by Mr. Chamberlain's family members and attorneys where racial slurs and expletives were used before ultimately shooting him twice in the chest and killing him. 
It is imperative that those tapes be made available to the grand jury, and that all other evidence be presented as well. I am concerned that secrecy so far—for example, the names of officers involved have not been released—bodes badly for transparency in this case as it moves forward. Nor am I aware of any public statements about the case from elected officials calling for openness. 
Members of Mr. Chamberlain's family and community—and a much wider circle of people who need to know there is fairness in the criminal justice system—seek reassurance that, no matter what the verdict, the process has been open, honest, and just. 
We, the undersigned, implore Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore to no longer allow police misconduct, brutality, or criminality to happen in this community and ask that these officers be indicted and charged with murder and civil rights violations.
 
Will you sign the petition? Click here to add your name, and then pass it along to your friends:
Thanks!
–Kenneth Chamberlain Jr.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi Wins a Seat in Paliament


Despite allegations of "rampant irregularities", it looks as though that the 66-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been kept imprisoned in her lakeside home for nearly two decades, has won a parliamentary seat in Myanmars’s landmark election.

The results, however, must be confirmed by the government’s official electoral commission, which may not make an official declaration for days. Stay tuned.

Amazing! Troop of Gorillas visit a camp!