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Saturday Art and Archaeology: Day of the Dead

By: Ruth Calvo Saturday November 1, 2014 4:28 am

Rabbit, Rabbit.  A good day to help Firedoglake continue offering you these diaries.

Today, November 1, is All Saints’ Day, or el Dia de los Muertes to many cultures.  Above pictures celebrate the holiday in Belize City, Belize, at the Archaeological Museum.  There are many celebrations in cemeteries, and many families create altars with favorite items and foods of those who’ve passed away recently.  While it may seem morbid to those unaccustomed to the tradition, to those who’ve always had this day of celebration, it’s honoring those whom they loved and lost.

I chanced on this custom once along the Texas/Mexico border, where the streets were lined with wreaths for sale, and I discovered that the people in the border towns go down to the cemeteries and spend the day picnicking and making music, spending a day with their departed family.

Day of the Dead is celebrated from Mexico to Patagonia and focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have died. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars decorated with favorite foods, beverages and possessions of the departed. But the celebration also represents much more, according to Leticia Bentley, the outreach director for the Multicultural Center.

“[Day of the Dead is] a celebration of the people’s lives, not just remembering the dead,” Bentley said. “It is a time when family and community gets together. It is an opportunity to make peace with death and see it as part of the circle of life.”

The celebration of those who’ve passed has a tradition that relates to many cultures.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festivaldedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world. In Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches.


In pre-Columbian times indigenous Andeans had a tradition of sharing a day with the bones of their ancestors on the third year after burial; however, only the skulls are used today. Traditionally, the skulls of family members are kept at home to watch over the family and protect them during the year. On November 9, the family crowns the skulls with fresh flowers, sometimes also dressing them in various garments, and making offerings of cigarettes, coca leaves, alcohol, and various other items in thanks for the year’s protection. The skulls are also sometimes taken to the central cemetery in La Paz for a special Mass and blessing.[17][18][19]

The Brazilian public holiday of Finados (Day of the Dead) is celebrated on November 2. Similar to other Day of the Dead celebrations, people go to cemeteries and churches with flowers and candles, and offer prayers. The celebration is intended to be positive to celebrate those who are deceased.

In the tradition, those who recently passed away are still part of your life.  We think sometimes of those who were part of our lives and we can no longer be in touch with, and this is a celebration of the lives they had, the qualities we miss.

However you honor the memories of those departed from this life, hopefully this is a day of remembrance rather than one of dread.

The Maya showed images of the dead and of the underworld often, memorializing them in their celebrations.   Among the temples of Copán was one that celebrated the underworld, and many death’s heads adorn the features there.

Death’s heads decorate the wall in Copán, Honduras.

Former decoration over entry to Underworld Temple, Copán, Honduras.



Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Sara Paretsky

By: dakine01 Saturday November 1, 2014 4:05 am

Please Note: When I began this series, it was to cover a lot of authors whom I have found personally influential, even though this may only be because I enjoyed the stories they have told in their books or short stories. I’m just fortunate enough and well read enough that many of the authors I have personally enjoyed have also been influential on a macro scale as well as micro. rrt


Sara Paretsky created the detective series V.I. Warshawski, set in Chicago. While there have been a number of female detectives and authors, Paretsky:

…is credited with transforming the role and image of women in the crime novel.[6] The Winter 2007 issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection is devoted to her work.[7] She is also considered the founding mother of Sisters in Crime, an organization that supports and promotes women in the mystery field.[8]

The intro for Paretsky has this on Paretsky and V. I. Warshawski:

The protagonist of all but two of Paretsky’s novels is V.I. Warshawski, a female private investigator. Warshawski’s eclectic personality defies easy categorization. She drinks Johnnie Walker Black Label, breaks into houses looking for clues, and can hold her own in a street fight, but also she pays attention to her clothes, sings opera along with the radio, and enjoys her sex life.

Paretsky is credited with transforming the role and image of women in the crime novel. The Winter 2007 issue of Clues: A Journal of Detection is devoted to her work.

While I have read a few of Paretsky’s V.I. Warhawski novels, I have probably read more of her short stories. The novels I have read include Deadlock, Killing Orders, and Guardian Angel. But I have read a bunch of anthologies where she has been a contributor. Women On the Case, A Woman’s Eye, Sisters In Crime #1 and #3, Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe, Women of Mystery #3,The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century, and Female Sleuths.

Paretsky only has two writing credits at IMDB. V.I. Warshawski is a movie starring Kathleen Turner and When Danger Follows You Home based on a short story from her.

Pull Up a Chair on The Day of the Dead

By: Elliott Saturday November 1, 2014 3:11 am

Rabbit, Rabbit.
Well here’s me making the pancakes, ¿what are bringing to our Day of the Dead fiesta?

autumnal calavera

Panqueques de los Muertos

Party In The Spirit

By: Elliott Friday October 31, 2014 6:37 pm

I love Halloween, fun for all ages and everybody – unless you take it too seriously, in which case, more candy for the rest of us!! YAY!1!

I saw the Mystics Knights of the Oingo Boingo ten years prior to this concert. Great fun, came in from the back of the theater, brass blaring – and the red hair, that I vividly remember.

Oingo Boingo – Dead Man’s Party – 4/25/1987 – Ritz
via @__digitalnative

Here’s the Friday 1987 Halloween party concert:

Oingo Boingo live Friday Halloween ’87 show (full show)

1. Dead Man’s Party, 2. Home Again, 3. Dead Or Alive, 4. Who Do You Want To Be , 5. Private Life, 6. Help Me, 7. We Close Our Eyes, 8. My Life, 9. Sweat, 10. Grey Matter, 11. Gratitude, 12. Stay, 13. Winning Side, 14. It Only Makes Me Laugh, 15. Pain, 16. No One Lives Forever, 17. Just Another Day, 18. New Generation, 19. Not My Slave, 20. Insects, 21. Elevator Man, 22. Wild Sex, 23. Capitalism, 24. Nothing To Fear, 25. On The Outside, 26. Goodbye, Goodbye

Happy Hallowe’en!


Big Media Companies, “What are they afraid of?”

By: spocko Friday October 31, 2014 4:14 pm

For Halloween I’m reminded of a book reading I attended in San Francisco where I asked Matt Taibbi what companies like Goldman Sachs were afraid of. His answer was, “Not journalists!” then he laughed. Next he said, “They are worried about a few left over SEC regulations that they haven’t bought off yet.”

Yesterday I read that Matt Taibbi has left First Look Media before the launch of the Racket, the digital magazine he was hired to create seven months ago. The Intercept did a story about what they say happened.  Of course I’m waiting for the Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz to comment on this so I can hear from the disgraced other side. I’ll bet “the truth lies somewhere in the middle” and he will “leave it there.”

As I read the Intercept story I wondered if people at various companies that were to be the subject of the Racket are breathing a sigh of relief. Are they laughing? It appears that Taibbi leaving was a combination of a personality misfit with “the corporate form” and the need of Silicon Valley folks to always be thinking about ROI.

The damage control people at these companies might want to hold off on the champagne popping. Taibbi will find an outlet to write for and the Racket isn’t dead, but it has serious labor pains.  These things happen. Remember the News Corp iPad Online venture The Daily?  Murdoch dropped $60 million on it and it was shuttered after two years. 

If ROI is in Omid’s Silicon Valley start-up DNA he should have thought outside the box (or law) like Rupert Murdoch. He could have used his knowledge of the upcoming stories on companies to short their stock before the story dropped. Hmmm, would that be illegal? Not if he told his congressperson about it and he makes a trade on the info. It’s good to have happy congress people as your allies.

If only Omid understood that to mold national attitudes, topple dynasties and pressure politicians you have to lose lots of money for a long, long time. If you want to have your parent corporate entity make money, use other sub-entities known to create revenue like cartoon shows, test prep companies or a businesses that sells stuff on-line. But Murdoch’s goals aren’t the goals of everyone who gets into the media business.

The Public Interest, RIP

Expecting the media to “serve the public interest, convenience and necessity” is out. The marketplace rules are in.  The TV and radio spectrum, as well as the Internet we created, aren’t considered under the trusteeship model anymore because the lobbyists argued a broadcaster’s commercial success would be indicative of the public’s satisfaction with what they are delivering. 

Under that model First Look Media should be using their news reporting and constitutionally granted 1st Amendment power to generate revenue for shareholders, just like Roone Arledge taught ABC and the rest of the networks to do. Suddenly news divisions weren’t a cost center anymore, but a profit center. Everyone loves profit generators, and by everyone I mean Wall Street and corp execs whose bonuses are tied to revenue or stock price.

If you look at what the big media companies are afraid of it hasn’t been getting busted for failing to serve the public interest for decades. They know they aren’t going to lose an FCC license. They might get a fine, but it’s just a Cost of Doing Business in the short term and something the lobbyists will fix in the long term. FTC problems might cramp their style when it comes to ad revenue, so they pay attention to that.  SEC regs could be a problem, if anyone at the SEC actually started prosecuting people. It’s hard to believe that the SEC would go after someone who buys their pixels by the barrel and hires lawyers by the trainload, but maybe someone at the SEC will notice some problems they need to be addressed.

What makes the parent companies nervous is if the people working in the news divisions start thinking they have to actually follow left over rules and regulations. Or that they are journalists who have to ‘serve the public interest’ vs. make money on their specific programming.  Murdoch can explain to the media entities parts of the bigger companies that a parent company loosing 100′s of millions on something like the New York Post is a smart business move because of his big picture. Because of that, they don’t worry about generating standalone revenue.

They are also afraid that the big investors might think the parent company doesn’t have their journalists and news divisions under control.  If the parent company gets a whiff that someone in the media group is trying to dig too hard or isn’t playing ball, they will get a Arthur Jensen to Howard Beale call where it is explained how the world really works.  

For example, if your biggest sponsor makes cars, you really shouldn’t be doing stories that make them look bad, even if the cars kill people. But sometimes you can’t ignore the truth, so you wait for an excuse like a settlement lawsuit where someone else makes the case. “Hey I wasn’t the one calling them “killer cars” I’m just reading the court transcript!” 

Luckily during that period of reporting the hard truth, before the pull back into the quest for profit, some sunlight can shine through the cracks. There are still good people in the media who believe in a better “Big Picture” than Murdoch’s. It takes courage and support from others who also see the problems and want to help. Other times journalists “embedded” in the MSM need an excuse to do a good job in the face of the howls for quarterly profits or fear of offending advertisers.

After talking to Taibbi I started asking a similar question of people who have been covering corporate corruption and personal mendacious acts that hurt Americans. “What are they afraid of, and how can we make those fears come true?”

I’m sorry for these media labor pains, but I look forward to future sunlight from Taibbi, First Look Media and the Racket, because we all know what sunlight does to vampire(squid)s.

Happy Halloween!

Boston Bombing News: How Far Do You Trust the Justice System?

By: lauraw Friday October 31, 2014 1:56 pm

A recent Tsarnaev status conference featured a protest which included Ibragim Todashev’s mother-in-law Elena Teyer and Muslim Observer blogger Karin Friedemann. Metro talked to the protesters, and also interviewed a bystander who believes in the American justice system:

Grad student Sean Hughes, who debated with Tsarnaev’s supporters outside Moakley Courthouse, believes massive support either for or against the Tsarnaevs is premature. “It’s really easy to fall into conspiracy theories…We have… a ton of evidence that only privileged eyes have seen. There are certainly going to be inconsistencies that seem ‘suspicious.’ Despite all the evidence they claimed they had, I walked away from the courthouse today with one question unanswered: if the evidence was so damning, why isn’t his defense team using it?”

Well, Sean, perhaps because the trial hasn’t started yet. Or, perhaps because the defense has witnesses to protect, and needs to tread delicately at this point?

Most people don’t want to know about the FBI’s well-documented history of dirty tricks. So, they write off those who dare to question the veracity of alphabet agencies as “conspiracy theorists.”

Conspiracy theorists are usually very, very sure about their theories. I’m not that sure about anything. But, like leftcoast, I am troubled that no “so-called investigative reporters are willing to look beyond the official narrative by digging deeper or channelling their inner Bernstein or Woodward to rule out the many questions…” Since most journalists won’t do this, someone has to!

In addition to hints of the FBI’s creative attitude toward the truth, the BMB case highlights several other disturbing facts about our current justice system.

Unfair treatment of Muslims and other minorities. Karin Friedemann told Metro she “believes the Tsarnaevs are being persecuted because they are Muslim .. .there are hundreds of Muslim prisoners in jail and most of their trials are based on innuendo and bigotry with the absence of any tangible evidence.” A quick browse of her blogsite turned up one example; I’m sure she has documented others.

Bangladeshi-American Shifa Sadequee liked to chat on the Internet about everything from Islam to Freemasonry. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, he researched ways to help the Afghan people, and found himself accused of joining the Taliban. He “was held for three years in solitary confinement without trial, during which time he was pressured to testify against his friends in exchange for a plea bargain. He refused.

“…The religious debates of teenagers were taken out of context to paint them as terrorists and to preemptively prosecute them. Yet the actual chats remained classified as ‘secret evidence’ and were not presented to the jury.” Shifa was eventually convicted and sentenced to 17 years; a massive mail campaign helped to reduce this sentence from a possible 60 years. His brother said: “When ethnocentrism guides in the making and application of the law, jurors and courts/judges will always find certain groups ‘guilty.’ ”

“Legal” Witness Tampering. Thank you omramzey for the link to Harvey Silverman’s commentary on Aza and Robel:

…delaying the sentencing of a guilty party until after he testifies against an alleged co-conspirator or other individual has become common practice in criminal trials, especially in the federal courts. Comparing this practice to witness bribery … is actually to underestimate the tactic. It is closer to the crime of extortion … The practice of rewarding witnesses for favorable prosecution testimony (or, conversely, punishing witnesses who will not go along) has … become “business as usual” … This practice should be stopped. It would after all, constitute a crime if engaged in by anyone other than a prosecutor.”

BTW, I believe that testimony which Aza or Robel might provide about their friend’s “demeanor after the bombing” is a meaningless red herring. Yes, Dzhokhar socialized, as he normally did, and probably used drugs and/or alcohol (also normal). He also did an unusual amount of sleeping, and a mechanic who saw him on Tuesday said he seemed nervous. (Well, he had just survived being very close to a large explosion.) So… “Nervous? Must be guilty. Normal? Guilty and callous.” Every smile a smirk. What, exactly, was he supposed to be doing?

Coerced, False Confessions. Thank you Jane for the link to this article, which quotes one of the Phillipos jurors as saying that Robel’s confession “was very powerful proof for her and the other 11 jurors.”

Ignorance is bliss. Back in April 2013, I too assumed that if Dzhokhar confessed, he must be guilty. I’ve learned a few pertinent facts since then.

The Innocence Project has documented 321 people who were convicted, sometimes sentenced to death, only to be later exonerated with DNA testing. (The overwhelming majority of these cases involved African American suspects.) IP states: “False confessions and incriminating statements lead to wrongful convictions in approximately 27% of cases. Looking only at the homicide cases, false confessions are the leading contributor to wrongful convictions, contributing to 64 (62%) of the 104 homicide wrongful convictions that were overturned by DNA evidence.”

Police Chief Magazine says that false, coerced confessions are “rare,” but one of their sources estimated up to 840 per year. (Isn’t that too many?) They note that juveniles and people with mental limitations are especially vulnerable.

Conditions which can produce a false confession include: duress, coercion, intoxication, diminished capacity, sleep deprivation, manipulation, threats, denial of counsel, and failure to read Miranda rights.

Dzhokhar was interrogated by a team which uses military, not civilian, criteria. His requests for a lawyer were denied. He was sleep deprived, handcuffed, and dosed with Fentanyl, a narcotic 40 times more powerful than heroin. He wrote (sometimes incoherent) answers to questions. Those questions have not been provided for the defense counsel or jury’s inspection.

Robel was interrogated numerous times without a lawyer. A “good agent” offered to protect him from the “bad agents” waiting outside the door to hurt him. At the trial, one of the interrogating agents actually admitted his job is to “get confessions,” er, that is, “get at the truth.”

Missie Baker of TBMB writes “…the scenario most likely to lead to a false confession… occurs when the interrogator is convinced the individual is guilty.” Also: “The police may feed the suspect bits of information which (can then be) incorporated into a confession.”

This TBMB article also contains the tale of an innocent Muslim who made a false confession in the wake of 9/11. Among the reasons for his confession were threats to the safety of his family, which one cannot rule out in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (Isn’t it odd that his interrogators led him to believe that his brother was still alive?)

IP, PCM and TBMB agree that ALL interrogations should be electronically recorded. The police magazine states that universal recording “is not only feasible, but may have an overall benefit to the criminal justice system.”

I’m sure that most police and most attorneys are honest and committed to justice. But our legal system can be abused, and often is … especially when the suspects are not rich, and not members of “favored” groups. And, most especially when the suspects are accused of terrorism.

SBA Spokesman Terry Sutherland’s Halloween Costume Is The Invisible Man

By: Lloyd Chapman Friday October 31, 2014 11:35 am

SBA Press Office Director Terry Sutherland has become invisible to the press in one of the biggest whirlwinds of fraud and controversy the SBA has faced in quite some time.

Over the last few months the SBA has been hit with one bad story after another and yet Terry Sutherland who admitted he was “assigned” to take over the SBA Press Office is nowhere to be found. As one of the Pentagon’s top public relations executives for over two decades, Sutherland was likely selected to do damage control on the widely reported diversion of billions of dollars in federal small business contras to Fortune 500 firms and hundreds of the largest corporations in the world.

Sutherland did not accompany SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet in a congressional hearing where members of the House Small Business Committee lambasted her for including billions in federal small business contracts to Fortune 500 defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Chevron.

Sutherland has also had no response for journalists after SBA Inspector General uncovered that the SBA significantly inflated their small business goal statistics by including billions of dollars’ worth of contracts to ineligible firms.

Terry Sutherland had no comment on a story published by the Washington Post titled, “How 8,500 large companies will become small businesses overnight.”

In August, the SBA was forced to release over 2000 of Sutherlands emails after they were requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the American Small Business League (ASBL). Sutherland’s emails seem to indicate he actually works out of his home and not SBA headquarters and is still closely associated to the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. The ASBL intends to intensify their FOIA campaign to uncover more information on Terry Sutherland, the SBA Press Office and other SBA executives. We expect to uncover evidenced the SBA Press Office is working to discourage journalists from reporting on the rampant fraud that has been uncovered at the Pentagon in a wide variety of SBA managed programs.

I am confident once we receive all of Sutherland’s emails and phone records we will likely prove the SBA Press Office has also launched a major campaign in conjunction with one or more of the largest public relations firms in Washington to keep journalists from reporting on the ASBL’s successful campaign to expose fraud and abuse in federal small business programs primarily at the Pentagon and do everything possible to keep me off national television.

I have heard first hand accounts from journalists how the SBA Press Office will use a wide variety in tactics such as conference calls to intimidate and threaten journalists and their tactics to kill stories on the rampant fraud that has been uncovered by the SBA’s own Inspector General, the GAO and virtually every television news channel such as NBCCBSABCRTTVCNNMSNBCCNBC and Fox News.

Several journalists has published stories agreeing with me that there is a definite plan to quietly close the SBA by combining it with the Department or Commerce or by raising small business size standards to such a high level that federal small business programs will essentially be dismantled and legitimate small businesses will be driven from the federal market place.

My goal is to get enough information on the SBA under the Freedom of Information Act to get the FBI and the General Accounting Office to conduct a thorough investigation of the SBA to find the specific individuals that have been responsible for cheating American small businesses out of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal small business contracts for over 15 years.

Thousands of people in Washington like Terry Sutherland think of they are automatically American heroes just because they were in the military. My goal is to educate all the flag waving Pentagon types that cheating the American people out of the trillions of dollars in federal contracts they should be receiving by law is anything but patriotic.

Stories about fraud, waste and missing trillions at the Pentagon have become common. Like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on September 10, 2001, when he described how America’s real enemies are not outside our borders, “The adversary’s closer to home. It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy. Not the people, but the processes. Not the civilians, but the systems. Not the men and women in uniform, but the uniformity of thought and action that we too often impose on them.”

My guess is even after Halloween is over Terry Sutherland is going to try and stay invisible. I’m going to continue to use the Freedom of Information Act to make sure Terry and everything at the SBA and the Pentagon are as transparent as possible.

Louisiana health officials deserve a Darwin Award for catastrophic stupidity

By: Masoninblue Friday October 31, 2014 11:28 am

Cross posted from the Frederick Leatherman Law Blog

Friday, October 31, 2014

Good morning:

I nominate Louisiana health officials for a Darwin Award. In what has to be one of the most insanely stupid, anti-science and fear driven decisions ever made, Louisiana health officials have decided to sabotage the world’s best hope for the discovery of a cure for Ebola and other hemorrhagic and tropical diseases as well as the development and implementation of practical and effective policies for dealing with outbreaks of those diseases.

Yes, I kid you not. The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is scheduled to have its annual conference at the Sheraton New Orleans this weekend, but the researchers who have spent time in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone studying the outbreak recently will not be attending the conference because, if they do, the Louisiana health officials are going to quarantine them in their rooms for 21 days.

NPR reports,

Dr. Piero Olliaro had big plans for the conference.

“This is the place to be,” says Olliaro, a researcher at Oxford University who specializes in setting up clinical trials to test drugs in the developing world. “It’s once a year. This is where you get to meet all the others.”

Olliaro was going to present several papers on his recent work involving treatments for malaria and river blindness. But two weeks ago he was in Guinea for the World Health Organization scouting a site to test an experimental Ebola medication.

Yesterday Olliaro got a letter from the Louisiana health department saying that anyone who’d been in Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea in the past 21 days would be quarantined.

The letter goes on to say, “We see no utility in you traveling to New Orleans simply to be confined to your room.”

Fear is the mind killer.

We will never know, but the inspiration for a cure to Ebola that might have come from the cross-fertilization of ideas that occurs at meetings like this one will not happen for another year.

Meanwhile, the catastrophic suffering and loss of life will continue to increase exponentially.