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Longwood Gardens.  February, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.

Flogging Molly - "The Times They Are A-Changin'"

News and Opinion

Not a surprise to us but it might be a surprise to the most fervent supporters, and it will definitely be a big surprise for a lot of low information voters who voted for him.  I have had people tell me that he would never cut Social Security in a million years.  A number of fervent supporters are pretty much in hiding right now, probably anticipating this.   Will OFA help him on his quest to cut Social Security, possibly Medicare too?

Obama renews budget offer to cut social safety nets

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama raised anew the issue of cutting entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security as a way out of damaging budget cuts, a White House official said on Sunday, as both sides in Washington tried to limit a fiscal crisis that may soon hit millions of Americans.

Signaling he might be ready to explore a compromise to end automatic spending cuts that began late Friday, Obama mentioned reforming these entitlement programs in calls with lawmakers from both parties on Saturday afternoon.

"He's reaching out to Democrats who understand we have to make serious progress on long-term entitlement reform and Republicans who realize that if we had that type of entitlement reform, they'd be willing to have tax reform that raises revenues to lower the deficit," White House senior economic official Gene Sperling said on Sunday on the CNN program "State of the Union."

Oh, this is wonderful.  Yesterday, Bender Rodriguez posted a comment about now National Geographic has an article featuring Longwood Gardens.  I went to their site and found this gorgeous time lapse video of a night blooming water lily.  I've photographed these.  It's not easy.  To get so many good shots and turn it into time lapse video is very impressive.  And now I'm getting ideas about trying out time lapse photography. I imagine that you have to have the perfect subject and have to be very patient and diligent (or know how to work all the features on your camera!)  A camera on a deck near the ocean would be a good candidate.  Hmm.  Anyway, enjoy!  And thanks, Bender!
Night-Blooming Water Lily

The article from National Geographic on night gardens that features Longwood Gardens (in the print version).  I am fascinated by night gardens.  I've always loved it when a book that I've read described a big comfortable porch on a house, usually in the South, with descriptions of fragrances primarily, and sometimes the glowing sights from night blooming plants, like jasmine.  
Night Gardens
The sun vanishes. The pearl of a moon rises. Magic happens.

In the nocturnal narrative of a garden at night, the dramatis personae are wildly fragrant blooms that unfurl in darkness like jasmine, tuberose, gardenia; luna moths with wings the color of celadon; and scarab beetles iridescent as opals. The moon, which illuminates this stage, borrows its light from the sun. Its ashen light, the Greek philosophers knew, is reflected. A night garden invites reflection. Unlike the sun, the moon welcomes our gaze. We can wax poetic, wane with melancholy—howl, even—and admire the wonder of an obverse world where plants reach out, not to sunlight but to the faint glow flung to Earth by a diadem of stars.

Color is mostly irrelevant in a night garden. Because of how the eye sees, even the most incendiary reds and oranges turn into a monochrome of silver and grays under the waning moon. The retina, the sensitive lining of the eye’s interior, is layered with photoreceptive cells called rods and cones. Rods, which detect the intensity of light, can sense low levels of illumination. But cones, which distinguish color, require a threshold of light higher than provided by the fading moon. In the absence of that threshold, color washes away. (The long exposure and sensitivity of digital imaging do what the retina cannot, which is why we see color in these photographs.)

Paid shills.  They should have been registered as "foreign agents" and should have disclosed to the news outlets that they were paid by Malaysia for the articles. The articles have been removed from some or all of the sites with an editor's note. Pretty big $$ amounts involved. Huge story broken by... Buzzfeed.  Yes, Rosie Gray at Buzzfeed.  Trevino has been engaging with people on Twitter about it, fairly humbly.  He's been caught red handed.  Others  involved: Ben Domenech (remember him?), Rachel Ehrenfeld, Seth Mandel, Brad Jackson, Chuck DeVor (Trevino's co-worker, maybe his boss?)  This could get very interesting. Ten writers were involved in this case.  I wonder how many more situations like this exist with the countries.  
Covert Malaysian Campaign Touched A Wide Range Of American Media
Outlets from Huffington Post to National Review carried pieces financed by the Malaysian government. An international campaign against Anwar Ibrahim.

A range of mainstream American publications printed paid propaganda for the government of Malaysia, much of it focused on the campaign against a pro-democracy figure there.

The payments to conservative American opinion writers — whose work appeared in outlets from the Huffington Post and San Francisco Examiner to the Washington Times to National Review and RedState — emerged in a filing this week to the Department of Justice. The filing under the Foreign Agent Registration Act outlines a campaign spanning May 2008 to April 2011 and led by Joshua Trevino, a conservative pundit, who received $389,724.70 under the contract and paid smaller sums to a series of conservative writers.

Trevino lost his column at the Guardian last year after allegations that his relationship with Malaysian business interests wasn't being disclosed in columns dealing with Malaysia. Trevino told Politico in 2011 that "I was never on any 'Malaysian entity's payroll,' and I resent your assumption that I was."
The federal filing specified that Trevino was engaged through the lobbying firm APCO Worldwide and the David All Group, an American online consulting firm. The contract also involved a firm called FBC (short for Fact-Based Communications), whose involvement in covert propaganda prompted a related scandal and forced an executive at The Atlantic to resign from its board.

Suicide by Sequestration

Estimates of the job loss from sequestration range from 750,000 to 1 million. Not a single one of those will be from the individuals responsible for this debacle.
And this helps how?

It doesn’t. There is no controversy regarding the disastrous short-term effects. A Google search for sequestration and economic impact yields article after article offering estimates of the large scale cost along with how it will hit individuals like the elderly and children with disabilities. But what’s even worse is that there is no long-term payoff, either. The idea that we have a debt and deficit problem is patently false. The real issue is that there is insufficient demand for goods and services. The way to fix this is, not surprisingly, to increase demand. Throwing hundreds of thousands of government employees and private-sector contractors out of work is not going to help anyone’s sales.

Just for reference in case you need it today.
Sperling email

The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand barain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios — but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

Reuters: Great Betrayal Is In Play; Obama Puts Medicare and Soc Sec "Compromises" On Table

We Are Augustines - "Mama, You Been On My Mind" performance
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