Sunday, March 01, 2015

From her new album Love Stuff

Elle King does "Kocaine Karolina"

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Some might say we have to look off planet for intelligence because we have none here, but jokes aside do we really want to know? Might we not meet Klingons or similar meanies instead of good ones? And then there is the time lag of any communication. Any communication would be subject to the length of time it takes for even lightspeed radiation to reach them and return. Nevertheless the optimists are taking the very long term approach and want to actively call out to space instead of just listening. Just in case.

Bill-O at Nacho Grande?

From the pen of Brian McFadden

Forget the sentence, you are marked for life

In theory when convicted of a crime
, your sentence will have an end point and you will then have paid your debt to society. In modern America, this no longer applies. With the largest prison population in the world, both in numbers and percentage of population, the US also leads the world in marginalizing those convicted with life long restrictions that ultimately prevent any useful re-entry into civil society after prison.
The share of American men with criminal records — particularly black men — grew rapidly in recent decades as the government pursued aggressive law enforcement strategies, especially against drug crimes. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, those men are having particular trouble finding work. Men with criminal records account for about 34 percent of all nonworking men ages 25 to 54, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

The reluctance of employers to hire people with criminal records, combined with laws that place broad categories of jobs off-limits, is not just a frustration for men like Mr. Mirsky; it is also taking a toll on the broader economy. It is preventing millions of American men from becoming, in that old phrase, productive members of society.

“Prior to the prison boom, when convictions were restricted to a smaller fraction of the population, it wasn’t great for their rehab potential but it wasn’t having a huge impact,” said Devah Pager, a Harvard professor of sociology. “Now such a large fraction of the population is affected that it has really significant implications, not just for those people, but for the labor market as a whole.”

Employers, of course, have always taken an interest in the histories of prospective employees. Banks do not want to hire embezzlers; trucking companies do not want drunken drivers. Schools and security companies don’t want to hire criminals of any kind. But the easy availability of online databases lets employers investigate everyone — indeed, it makes hard to justify not looking. Surveys show roughly nine in 10 United States employers check databases of criminal records when hiring for at least some positions. Some focus solely on felony convictions; others also consider misdemeanors or arrests.
Whatever your particular crime was, it will follow you for life and few people will want to bother finding out if you are a better person since then.

Eliminating a deadly disease ain't easy

Regardless of the size and effectiveness of the efforts to stop it, Ebola is showing an unwanted resilience to its elimination. The example of Sierra Leone shows just one of the variables that can't be controlled.
It seemed as if the Ebola crisis was abating.

New cases were plummeting. The president lifted travel restrictions, and schools were to reopen. A local politician announced on the radio that two 21-day incubation cycles had passed with no new infections in his Freetown neighborhood. The country, many health officials said, was “on the road to zero.”

Then Ebola washed in from the sea.

Sick fishermen came ashore in early February to the packed wharf-side slums that surround the country’s fanciest hotels, which were filled with public health workers. Volunteers fanned out to contain the outbreak, but the virus jumped quarantine lines and cascaded into the countryside, bringing dozens of new infections and deaths...

In Sierra Leone, the hardest hit of the countries, the decline leveled off in late January, and the country has reported 60 to 80 new cases weekly since then. Guinea has experienced months of lower-level spread. Even in Liberia, where only a handful of treatment beds remain occupied, responders lament that a health care worker who recently became ill might have exposed dozens of colleagues and patients, and that a knife fight had exposed gang members to the blood of a man who tested positive for Ebola.

“I doubt it will stop just suddenly,” said Dr. Pierre Rollin, an infectious disease expert with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s always bumpy, and the bigger the outbreak, the more chance you have a bumpy thing.”

As large epidemics taper off, it is common to find new complications in the effort to reach zero cases. “Oftentimes we find surprises when we get to a low level that were hidden by the epidemic itself early on,” said Dr. William Foege, a former director of the C.D.C. and a leading figure in the eradication of smallpox.

For example, health officials managed to reduce measles drastically in the United States in the 1970s, but it took some time before experts realized that a few travelers per week arriving from other countries were developing the illness, continuing its spread. Importation of measles is again a problem today, and it is suspected as a factor in the current outbreak linked to Disneyland.

Then there is polio, which experts had resolved to eliminate globally by 2000, before wars and unexpected resistance disrupted the plan.

“I don’t think we ever foresaw a time when people would shoot and kill polio vaccinators,” Dr. Foege said, referring to incidents in Pakistan and Nigeria that interrupted inoculation campaigns.
Continue reading the main story

Eliminating smallpox about 35 years ago required a deep understanding of the communities in which it hid. During its last stand, in Somalia, people obscured cases, partly out of embarrassment.

“I think Ebola will turn out to be the same thing,” Dr. Foege said. “The surprises will not be so much scientific as cultural: the ability to hide cases; the desire not to be identified as having Ebola or being in contact with Ebola. Those are the things we have to find out how to overcome.”
Ebola and other diseases may yet see their end, but there are many unexpected roadblocks ahead.

A Short History Lesson

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shake Sugaree

Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops sings this on her new solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn

Nor iron bars a cage

Whatever you may think of Richard Lovelace's romantic nonsense, iron bars have been known to make pretty darn good cages. And in our modern world they also make pretty good profits.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, which have profited heavily from contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to lock up undocumented immigrants - including mothers and children seeking asylum from Central American countries - are predicting more such contracts at the state and federal level in 2015.

In a recent conference call for shareholders and investors, GEO Group reported fourth quarter 2014 net income earnings of $38.1 million, up from $27.6 million in 2013, and while CCA's profits dropped, from $47.47 million last year to a reported $30.01 million in fourth quarter earnings this year, both companies are expecting increased profits in 2015 as for-profit immigrant jails expand across South Texas and nationally.

During the call, CCA officials noted that its new immigrant family jail in Dilley, Texas, has already generated more than $21 million in revenue in the last quarter of 2014. The jail is expected to officially become the nation's largest immigrant detention facility, as the population is anticipated to swell to fill its 2,400-bed capacity this spring - up from its current 480-bed capacity. As a result, in coming months, advocates expect detainees' access to legal counsel to become even more limited than it is currently.

GEO Group also reported, during the call, that its $36 million expansion of the immigrant family jail at Karnes County to a capacity of 1,158 beds would earn the company $21 million in 2015.
Mind you, these are your tax dollars being funneled into corporate profits. And a goodly portion of that profit comes from operating those detention centers at less than Bureau of Prison standards and with minimum wager help. Proud to be an American, yet?

The bravery of a small, small man

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Who corrects the corrections officer?

The New York Times
looks into the trial of three New York State Corrections Officers for the brutal beating of one of the inmates. The beating was worse than most and the witnesses abound, but what will the result be?
Mr. Williams had been transferred to Attica that January following an altercation with other inmates at a different facility. He had just four months to serve before he was to be released. He was doing his best to stay out of trouble. His plan was to go home to New Brunswick and try to find work as a barber. That evening, Mr. Williams remembers, he had been in his cell watching the rap stars Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy on television, and missed the shouting on the cellblock. The guards ordered him to strip for a search and then marched him down the hall to a darkened dayroom used for meetings and classes for what they told him would be a urine test.

Mr. Williams is 5-foot-8, and a solid 170 pounds. But corrections officers tend toward linebacker size, and the three officers towered over him. The smallest was Sgt. Sean Warner, 37, at 5-foot-11, 240 pounds. Beside him was Officer Keith Swack, 37, a burly 6-foot-3 and some 300 pounds. A third officer was standing behind the cell door. Mr. Williams thought it was Officer Matthew Rademacher, 29, who had followed his father into the job six years earlier. Officer Rademacher was six feet tall and weighed 260 pounds. All three men are white and had goatees at the time.

Mr. Williams was wondering why a sergeant would be doing the grunt work of conducting an impromptu drug test when, he said, a fist hammered him hard on the right side of his rib cage. He doubled up, collapsing to the floor. More blows rained down. Mr. Williams tried to curl up to protect himself from the pummeling of batons, fists and kicks. Someone jumped on his ankle. He screamed in pain. He opened his eyes to see a guard aiming a kick at his head, as though punting a football. I’m going to die here, he thought.

Inmates in cells across from the dayroom watched the attack, among them a convict named Charles Bisesi, 67, who saw Mr. Williams pitched face-first onto the floor. He saw guards kick Mr. Williams in the head and face, and strike him with their heavy wooden batons. Mr. Bisesi estimated that Mr. Williams had been kicked up to 50 times, and struck with a dozen more blows from nightsticks, thwacks delivered with such force that Mr. Bisesi could hear the thud as wood hit flesh. He also heard Mr. Williams begging for his life, cries loud enough that prisoners two floors below heard them as well.
Continue reading the main story

A couple of minutes after the beating began, one of the guards loudly rapped his baton on the floor. At the signal, more guards rushed upstairs and into the dayroom. Witnesses differed on the number. Some said that as many as 12 officers had plunged into the scrum. Others recalled seeing two or three. All agreed that when they were finished, Mr. Williams could not walk.

His ordeal is the subject of an unprecedented trial scheduled to open on Monday in western New York. Three guards — Sergeant Warner and Officers Rademacher and Swack — face charges stemming from the beating that night. All three have pleaded not guilty. An examination of this case and dozens of others offers a vivid lesson in the intractable culture of prison brutality, especially given the notoriety of Attica, which entered the cultural lexicon as a synonym for prison havoc after 43 men died there in 1971 as the state suppressed an uprising by inmates. This account is based on investigative reports and court filings, as well as interviews with people on both sides of the bars at Attica, state officials and prison reform advocates.
Beaten so badly he had to be transferred to an outside hospital. Beaten so badly that this time it reached the notice of those outside the prison administration and an investigation was begun. But will any trial convict a prison guard based on testimony from prisoners?

Time to review our priorities

Friday, February 27, 2015

Two Down Under Ladies

Singing together and living together but so far as I can tell, not yet recording together. This tune is "Numbers" by Jen Cloher & Courtney Barnett.

Bugsy Netanyahu, True American

From the pen of Kevin Siers

Despite all their whining about oppression of Christianity

The so-called Christian community in America continues to ignore the needs of fellow Christians in other lands who are facing real oppression and possibly genocide at the hands of DAESH if they can not fight back. One group of Christians has chosen to fight back and they are helping themselves to do so.
At a covert training camp just north of Mosul, ten miles from the front lines with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the first wave of Assyrian Christian volunteers for the Nineveh Protection Unit (NPU) have just completed boot camp. Funded in part by an Assyrian-American telethon campaign and trained by a handful of freelance U.S. military veterans, around 500 men are set to deploy next week as part of an unorthodox — and unproven — project.

But as ISIL pillages what’s left of their ancestral homeland, and Iraqi government forces prove incapable of stopping them, some among the region's dwindling Assyrian Christian minority have placed their hopes for self-preservation in the NPU, which plans to grow by the thousands in the coming months...

The idea for a professionalized Assyrian army was first conceived last summer, when ISIL mounted its infamous surge across northwestern Iraq’s Nineveh plains, slaughtering or enslaving hundreds of Assyrians and other religious minorities who stood in its path. Their supposed protectors, the U.S.-backed Iraqi army, wilted before the onslaught, with many soldiers reportedly abandoning their posts and stripping off their uniforms to avoid detection.

The lesson, said Kaldo Oghana, an Iraqi Assyrian official and NPU spokesman, was that “no one protected minorities then, and no one ever will.”

So in early December, political leaders for the 400,000-member Assyrian community in Iraq, working alongside an Assyrian-American political action group, the American Mesopotamian Organization (AMO), vetted and enlisted the first tranche of displaced volunteers from among 2,500 applicants to compose the NPU’s inaugural battalion. As part of the AMO's Restore Nineveh Now campaign, the goal is to build a force from the ground up that will earn the respect of the Iraqi government and perhaps the anti-ISIL coalition led by Washington. Ultimately, the NPU says, they hope to prove themselves worthy of Iraqi or Western arms.

Though it has not seen action yet, the NPU has already attracted considerable attention in the West, in part due to VanDyke’s involvement. Through a project he calls Sons of Liberty International, VanDyke has crowdfunded online and tapped $12,000 of his savings to train local Christian forces against ISIL — starting with the NPU. At the NPU camp last month, VanDyke recruited five U.S. combat veterans to run a training course — involving simulated battles and physical training — at an Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga facility.

"The world has been slow to act," against ISIL, said VanDyke, who spoke from the Kurdish city of Erbil. "We don't have to seek approval from Congress. We just step in and help."
Just for shits & giggles, does anybody think Pat Robertson would consider a small donation to the cause?

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

For all you did with your life, you were always a Vulcan.

T'Ish hokni'es kwi'shoret

Fair dealing this time?

Many years ago I read a historical account of early white explorers describing the local natives smoking ritual which involved burning dried leaves and inhaling deeply and holding it in and after exhaling the smoker passed out. The white explorers were told that tobacco was source of the leaves, the seeds of which they took with them and began a worldwide industry. Personally I always thought those dudes were the first white men burned in a dope deal. Whatever the truth, modern Indians are exploring the benefits of supplying the real stuff to modern white dudes and anyone else interested.
After making hundreds of billions of dollars running casinos, American Indian tribes are getting a good whiff of another potential moneymaker: marijuana.

The first Tribal Marijuana Conference is set for Friday on the Tulalip Indian Reservation in Washington state as Indian Country gets ready to capitalize on the nation’s expanding pot industry.

Organizers said representatives from more than 50 tribes in at least 20 states have registered, with total attendance expected to surpass 300.

The gathering comes after the Obama administration announced late last year that it would not interfere with any federally recognized tribes that want to grow and sell pot on reservation lands – if they do a good job policing themselves.

The tribes would join the District of Columbia and four states – Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska – where voters already have approved marijuana for recreational use.

Robert Odawi Porter, one of the conference organizers and the former president of the Seneca Nation of Indians in New York, said tribes have “a tremendous economic diversification opportunity to consider” with marijuana commerce. He said the event would bring together “trailblazers” in the industry who will help tribal leaders understand the complex issues involved.

While it’s unknown how many tribes ultimately will seek to take advantage of the change, one analyst warned that any tribe expecting to hit the jackpot might be in for a surprise, particularly as the supply of legal pot in the U.S. increases.

“People keep forgetting it’s a competitive market,” said Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who served as Washington state’s top pot consultant. “And it’s cheap to grow.”

In Washington state, where retail pot stores opened in July, Kleiman said pot growers who sold their product for $21 a gram only a few months ago are now getting $4 a gram.

“The price of marijuana is the price of illegality,” he said.
The economics of weed may allow the white man to return the favor on this dope deal or it may provide a period of prosperity to the reservations until the rest of the country comes to its senses.

Know which way the shit flows

Thursday, February 26, 2015

When you go looking for an '80s cover band

Forming one around yourself and your friends is the best way to get what you want. Misterwives doing "Lullaby" from their EP Reflections.

Every "elephant" has its "mouse"

From the pen of David Horsey

Where are they when you need them

Despite an increasing avalanche of bullshit about "poor little oppressed Christians", when instances of actual attacks on Christians arise the Right Wing so-called Christians are remarkably silent.
Suspected Israeli nationalists set fire to a Christian seminary in Jerusalem and vandalized an elementary school in Nablus on Thursday, officials said. The attacks, which came a day after a similar group burned a mosque near Bethlehem, have been characterized as hate crimes by Israeli officials and "terrorism" by Palestinians.

According to local media reports, the assailants poured flammable liquid into a bathroom window of the Greek Orthodox seminary and ignited it. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said "anti-Christian" slogans were scribbled in Hebrew on the seminary's walls — including “Jesus is a son of a whore” and “the redemption of Zion.”...

Shortly after the arson attack, Israeli settlers reportedly vandalized an elementary school in the West Bank village of Urif, south of Nablus. According to Ma'an News, the settlers, who hail from the nearby Yizhar settlement, scrawled a Star of David along with the words “Death to Arabs” on the building’s entrance.

The latest spate of provocations by Israeli nationalists against Palestinians appeared to have started Wednesday, when settlers vandalized and set fire to a mosque in the village of Al-Jaba’ah. The attackers reportedly broke the windows of the sanctuary and threw burning objects inside, after spray-painting the words “Revenge for the Land of Zion” and “Price Tag” on its exterior.

Mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases have been targeted by vandals in recent years in so-called "price tag" attacks. The phrase is used by Israeli nationalists to protest what they perceive as the Israeli government's pro-Palestinian policies.
An obvious case of Israeli thugs attempting to oppress Christians in the Holy Land. Where are all those brave American Defenders of the Faith when we need them?

It's worse in Syria thanks to DAESH.

The Mexican government is pissed off

And rightly so. When you have had a peaceful relationship with your neighbor for over 100 years, you don't expect your citizens to be in hazard of their lives when they are in the other country. Unfortunately, the Mexican administration has been counting the number of its citizens being killed by IS LEO's and decided that enough is enough!
For the second time in barely two weeks, Mexico has reacted angrily to the killing of an unarmed Mexican immigrant by municipal police officers in the United States.

Mexico’s Foreign Secretariat issued a statement Wednesday condemning the Grapevine, Texas, police department for the fatal shooting of a Mexican national, Rubén García Villalpando, 31, on Friday and complaining that the police department had waited four days before notifying the Mexican consulate in Dallas of his death.

The statement called the delay a “notorious violation” of a global 1963 treaty that orders nations to notify other states promptly when one of its citizens is slain.

García’s death at the hands of Grapevine police occurred 10 days after police in Pasco, Wash., fatally shot another Mexican immigrant, Antonio Zambrano Montes, sparking street protests and fears of another “Ferguson moment” over alleged police abuse of minorities.

Neither Garcia nor Zambrano was armed.

Mexico is growing increasingly vehement in its protests of what it calls “disproportionate use of force” by law enforcement officers in the United States against immigrants.

At the request of McClatchy Newspapers, a Foreign Secretariat spokesman, Salvador Musalem Santiago, issued a tally that said 75 Mexicans have been slain by law enforcement in the United States since Jan. 1, 2006.

He said agents of the U.S. Border Patrol had killed 26 Mexicans. The rest were slain by local or state police or highway patrol officers, or other law enforcement agencies, he noted.

In only nine cases have Mexican relatives been offered compensation for the fatal shootings, Musalem said.
75 in nine years is a lot, even if they come from a hot bed of criminality like Israel or Russia. About the only positive from this is that the majority of the victims were actually in the United States at the time they were shot.

Just A Reminder

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A couple of Brooklyn cowgirls

The Sweetback Sisters sing "I Got Lucky"

What he doesn't know won't hurt him

Because the Evil Koch Owned Homunculus Scott Walker has adopted a stand of never letting anyone push him from his carefully crafted positions. The result is a "Sgt. Schultz" response to questions outside his comfort zone.
Mr. Walker has won three statewide elections by framing positions on his own terms, and rarely allowing himself to be pushed off his talking points.

“He’s deeply suspicious of a press trying to pull him into an area where he doesn’t want to go,” said John Sharpless, a former Republican congressional candidate in Wisconsin.

The question now as Mr. Walker has vaulted to the top tier of the Republican Party’s potential presidential candidates is whether his consistency is a form of message discipline, or an inflexibility that hides an awkwardness when forced to react under pressure and on his feet.

A presidential campaign is a nonstop barrage of questioning from reporters, debate moderators and voters. Perceived slip-ups are magnified and distorted. When Mr. Walker visited London recently and said he would “punt” when asked if he believed in evolution, it was international news. After he refused to condemn Rudolph W. Giuliani’s claim that the president does not love America, made at a dinner Mr. Walker attended, the flap metastasized and followed Mr. Walker for days.

“In the scheme of things, these are all misdemeanors in media management,” said Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review. “If he stumbles on more important stuff, the cut has been created where the media can open more of a wound and say there’s a narrative here, the guy’s not ready for prime time.”

So far the attention, and the impression among conservatives that Mr. Walker is being hounded by the mainstream media, has only played to his benefit. His support jumped to 25 percent in a Quinnipiac University poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers released Wednesday, more than twice as high as his closest rival.

In Wisconsin, opponents have learned through unhappy experience not to underestimate Mr. Walker’s ability to respond to unwelcome questions by pivoting back to his core issues of limited government, personal freedom and the harm of unions, all of which have resonated with voters.
As slippery as goose shit, as dishonest as Karl Rove and very well financed. Scott Walker is the turd that floats to the top if we let him.

With all his other books

From the pen of Lee Judge.

Sweep it under the rug

The Republican Party
having made torture part of the Great American Exceptionalism, is using their control of the US Senate to cover up and maintain the secrets of their abomination.
When the Senate Intelligence Committee released the much anticipated executive summary of the full report on the CIA’s torture program on Dec. 9, details of techniques like extreme sleep deprivation and anal rehydration gripped the country.

Now the committee’s new Republican chairman is trying to make sure that disclosure is its last.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., took over as the committee’s chairman in January, after the GOP midterm landslide gave control of the Senate to the Republicans. An intelligence hawk, he has quickly moved to keep documents related to the CIA’s interrogation program out of the public eye and the Intelligence Committee under tight control.

That has angered many critics who say that GOP control of the vital committee is a blow to transparency and will lead to greater secrecy around such controversial government policies...

On Dec. 10, then–Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein sent a copy of the full torture report, which is still classified, to President Barack Obama and to seven other top executive branch officials involved with national security. “The full report should be made available within the CIA and other components of the executive branch for use as broadly as appropriate to help make sure that this experience is never repeated,” she said in her cover letter to Obama, which asked him to use the full report in future CIA training programs.

Burr disagreed. Shortly after he took over as committee chairman, he sent an unusual letter to Obama asking him to return all copies of the full report. Burr referred Feinstein to the Senate parliamentarian for allegedly violating Intelligence Committee rules when she sent the full report to the executive branch. The parliamentarian cleared Feinstein of wrongdoing, but Burr was undeterred. “We’ll proceed to whatever the next step is gonna’ be,” he recently told The Huffington Post. “I think there will be a next step, but it probably won’t be a public one.”

A representative for Feinstein directed Al Jazeera to a press release in which she said, “I strongly disagree that the administration should relinquish copies of the full committee study, which contains far more detailed records than the public executive summary.”
And let us not think this is a mere partisan battle in Congress.Those familiar with the full extent of the CIA torture do not mince their words.
“The people who were involved in the program, who were its architects and implementers, have an understandable desire to minimize all of this — to seek to prevent a full discussion and perhaps a full awareness of the report,” said Alberto Mora, a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights, who argued against harsh interrogation tactics as general counsel for the Navy from 2001 to 2006.

“Most of us were staggered by the degree of brutality [in the summary] and the precision with which it was depicted,” he said. “That’s why I say it strips away the façade of the interrogation not being torture, which was the claim by the apologists for that particular practice.”
But the Republican Party, which has adopted electoral and legislative techniques of the Bolsheviks of a hundred years ago, want us to fully embrace our inner Dzerzhinsky as well. It works so well when you know what you want to get.

A Legend In His Own Mind

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

They should be Homer Simpson's favorite band

For the name only. The Dø (pronounced doh) in their video of "Despair, Hangover & Ecstasy" from their third album Shake Shook Shaken.

Rudi can measure his love

From the pen of Jim Morin

In only three days

The new lieutenant managed to so alienate his platoon that they testified against him at his trial for the murder of Afghan citizens. That is one fucked up officer.
As he tells it, First Lt. Clint Lorance, the platoon leader, ordered his men to fire just seconds before the motorcycle bore down on them that July day in 2012. But the Afghans were unarmed, and two died. The next year, Lieutenant Lorance was found guilty at a court-martial of second-degree murder, one of the few times an American soldier has been convicted of a crime for actions in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. He is serving a 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

But the case is far from over. Mr. Lorance, who was dismissed from the Army, has become a cause célèbre for conservative commentators, including Sean Hannity of Fox News, who say the Obama administration punished a soldier for trying to defend his troops. Three Republican representatives — Duncan Hunter of California, Matt Salmon of Arizona and Ryan Zinke of Montana — have asked the secretary of the Army to review the case. And more than 124,000 people have signed a petition to the White House demanding a pardon.

“The warfighter doesn’t always have the benefit of time, given lives are always at risk in a war zone,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, sent in January, saying the case “deserves a high level of attention and scrutiny.”

That chorus of supporters, however, is notable for what it lacks: members of the platoon itself.

Though many members of the platoon have never publicly expressed their views of the case, nine came forward to testify against Mr. Lorance at his trial, and in interviews several of those soldiers have contradicted Mr. Lorance’s account of a split-second decision to protect his troops. The picture those soldiers paint is of a young lieutenant who, during just three days in command, ordered soldiers to fire repeatedly on unarmed Afghans, tried to falsify reports in order to cover up his actions and so alienated and outraged his troops that they refused to follow orders and turned him in.

“War is hard, there is collateral damage. I get that — I’ve got my own stories,” Staff Sgt. Daniel Williams said in an interview. But Sergeant Williams, who was on his third tour in Afghanistan and was a squad leader in the platoon, added, “That’s not what this was; this was straight murder.”
Who you gonna believe?

Love your gun? Like to shoot bad guys?

Well then there just might be a place for you in the Peshmerga. While the press has gone on about the attraction of DAESH to Muslim youth and others, little has been said about the same attraction of the Pesh. While it is true the Pesh has not utilized the social media to the extent that DAESH has, people who want to fight for what they believe is right have found their way to northern Iraq.
The so-called Islamic State has recruited copious cannon fodder from around the world, along with quite a few ferocious fighters. But its toughest opponents on the ground, the Kurds of Iraq and Syria, are attracting Western ex-soldiers for their ranks who are determined to see the self-proclaimed “caliphate” not only “degraded,” as Washington puts it, but destroyed.

At a Kurdish Peshmerga base on the fluid battle lines outside the ethnically and religiously mixed Iraqi city of Kirkuk, three American fighters sat down with The Daily Beast. We were less than half a mile from the black flags of ISIS, as the would-be Islamic State is widely known, and the soldiers asked that I not give too many details about their identities. They worry that their families could become special targets for a fanatical fighting force whose battlefields, like its targets, seem limitless.

Dressed in a Peshmerga uniform, Jeremy is a compact, affable 28-year-old-guy from Mississippi who fought with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. He’s been fighting alongside the Pesh for the last six months.

Leo is a tall and direct 38-year-old Texan who worked security for private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mel’s background also is in military security contracting and he says he served for a while with an army from a European country, but he won’t specify which. Mel’s a little eccentric. At 41, the Colorado native sports a pair of carefully pointed canine teeth—fangs, in fact— and a goatee that gives off a strong goth-metal vibe.

For two months Leo and Mel have been with the Peshmerga, the erstwhile guerrilla army that now makes up the autonomous armed forces of Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government, and both are dressed in the gray flannel shirts and cargo pants often associated with private security contractors, but they and Jeremy all claim to be volunteers who are not receiving any kind of salary...

The three men say their main assignments are guarding high-ranking Kurdish military officials and transporting jihadist prisoners in Peshmerga custody. It’s work Mel and Leo became well accustomed to when hired as contractors in earlier American wars. Here, Mel says he’s transported ISIS prisoners that come from Chechnya, Ireland, France, Germany, the UK, The U.S. and Canada, but maintains he is barred from speaking with them and has no idea what happens once they are handed over to Kurdish guards.

The three say, without specifics, they have received U.S. assurances they won’t be prosecuted when returning home, but that to be sure requires dealing with a lot of government clearances and maintaining a low profile. According to Jeremy, a lot of his ex-Army buddies are itching to get to Iraq and join the anti-ISIS fight, but he says many have been blocked because they make those plans public on social media.

The three say they have no interest in internal Kurdish politics and that even their sympathies for the Kurdish national struggle are secondary to their goal of contributing to the defeat of ISIS. They doubt the capabilities or commitment of the Iraqi Army and see the Kurds as the first defense against the spread of an American enemy.
With no salary the whole thing is tax free. And don't worry if you have no military experience. Enlist in the US Army now and learn the trade, they will still be fighting when your enlistment is up. You can join them then, just be quiet about it.

How to guarantee failure

At least, the failure of the legitimate purpose of detention centers. If you believe, as the corporations running them do, that the people in detention centers are there solely for the maximum profits of those in charge then it may not be a failure, until the policies create a riot.
At least 300 inmates were transferred from a Texas prison on Monday after a riot broke out in the facility — which holds mostly immigrants detained for crossing into the United States illegally — leaving it "uninhabitable," according to authorities.

The prisoners were protesting inadequate medical services, which — along with cruel treatment and sexual abuse — has been a common complaint in private prisons housing undocumented immigrants, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other rights groups.

Icy conditions caused delays with the transfer of more than 2,000 others from the federal prison, local media reported.

The uprising, or “unrest” as prison officials called it, began early Friday at the Willacy County Correctional Center — operated by private prison company Management & Training Corp (MTC) on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Privately-held MTC's 10-year contract with the federal government is worth about half a billion dollars.

The facility is located about 40 miles from the Mexico border in Raymondville, Texas, and has been nicknamed Ritmo, or Raymondville's Guantanamo, for its "crammed and squalid" conditions.

Two-hundred inmates are packed into each Kevlar dome, the tent-like structures that serve as housing, with no privacy between beds or in the bathrooms where toilets and showers are open without partitions, the ACLU said in a 2014 report entitled "Warehoused and Forgotten."

Insects and spiders crawl through holes in the tents and bite detainees. Toilets frequently overflow, and the water was shut off for days in 2012 after it started to look yellowish-green, according to the report. Authorities gave inmates bottled water two days later.

Prisoners refused to come to breakfast or report for work on Friday in protest of what they said was inadequate medical service at the prison. Inmates broke out of housing structures and converged in the recreation yard, setting fire to several Kevlar domes.
The policies may have failed but the taxpayers will foot the bill for the necessary LEO's to end the trouble and there will be no worries about the contract being cancelled. The corporations involved have too many friends for that to happen.

You make me look bad, I will crush you

And when the one looking bad, regardless of how stupid, incompetent or bad intentioned the cause, is the US government you can consider your self officially and royally screwed. Everybody, including the government, makes mistakes, but the government is too big to take correction willingly.
Thomas Drake became a symbol of the dangers whistleblowers face when they help journalists and Congress investigate wrongdoing at intelligence agencies. He claims he was subjected to a decade of retaliation by the National Security Agency that culminated in his being charged with espionage.

But when the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office opened an inquiry into the former senior NSA official’s allegations of retaliation in 2012, it looked at only two of the 10 years detailed in his account, according to a recently released Pentagon summary of the probe, before finding no evidence of retaliation. That finding ended Drake’s four-year effort to return to government service.

Whistleblower advocates say Drake’s experience, spelled out in a document McClatchy obtained this month through the Freedom of Information Act, underscores the problem that intelligence and defense workers face in bringing malfeasance to the surface. The agencies that are supposed to crack down on retaliation are not up to the task, especially when the alleged wrongdoing involves classified information, they charge.

“This report epitomizes the utter lack of protection for national security whistleblowers,” said Jesselyn Radack, Drake’s attorney. “This is a pathetic, anemic excuse for an investigation.”

Although investigators appear to have rejected Drake’s claims almost a year ago, the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office did not publicly disclose its findings and hadn’t shared them even with Drake’s attorneys. McClatchy gave the attorneys a copy of the report.

The news of the rejection comes as McClatchy has learned that the same officials who are supposed to be helping whistleblowers such as Drake claim that they themselves have been forced to blow the whistle on their own office.
The government has become too big for the caliber of people put in charge of them and when their mistakes are exposed someone (else) is going to pay for them. And any real attempt to change this would resultr in a government agency as big as and as prone to mistakes as any currently existing. Just going to have to grin and bear it.

The politics of misdirection

Monday, February 23, 2015

Having toiled so many years as a songwriter

It is no wonder that Carole King had no bad songs on her albums."Jazzman" has long been one of my favorites although it was not on the Tapestry album, the cover of which you see on the screen.

B.I.H. John C. Willke

The nasty old sparrowfart who didn't like abortions and decided to make every woman obey his beliefs. Lived 89 years because even God didn't want him.

Oh, Snap Judgement

Tom Tomorrow

Education is the vaccine

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

Quote of the Day

I feel sorry for Rudy that he can't love this country the way it is. I love America even with assholes like him living in it. In fact, I'm immensely proud of our assholes; I think America has the best assholes in the world. I defy the Belgians or the Japanese to produce something like a Donald Trump. If that makes me an exceptionalist, I plead guilty.
Matt Taibbi, writing about Rudi Giuliani

The latest state right

Of all the "states rights" alleged to be guaranteed by the Constitution, the latest one to appear is also the most venal and corrupt. As more and more states fall under the evil umbra of Republican/Teabagger administrations, cities and towns find they no longer have any rights if they offend the corporate "citizens" who bought and paid for their state government.
His salvo caught Texas cities by surprise. But pre-empting the power of local governments is becoming a standard part of the legislative playbook in many states where Republicans who control statehouses are looking to block or overturn the actions of leaders, and even voters, in municipalities that are often more liberal.

So-called pre-emption laws, passed in states across the country, have banned cities from regulating landlords, building municipal broadband systems and raising the minimum wage. In the last two years, eight Republican-dominated states, most recently Alabama and Oklahoma, have prevented cities from enacting paid sick leave for workers. Already this year, bills introduced in six more states, including Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina, seek to do the same. At least five states have pre-empted local regulation of e-cigarettes. And in New Mexico, the restaurant industry supports a modest increase to the minimum wage only if the state stops cities from mandating higher minimums.

Often these efforts are driven by industry, which finds it easier to wield influence in 50 capitols than in thousands of city halls, said Mark Pertschuk, the director of Grassroots Change, which opposes the pre-emption of public health measures.

The strategy was pioneered by tobacco companies 30 years ago to override local smoking bans. It was perfected by the National Rifle Association, which has succeeded in preventing local gun regulations in almost every state.

More recently, the restaurant industry is leading the fight to block municipalities from increasing the minimum wage or enacting paid sick leave ordinances in more than a dozen states, including Florida, Oklahoma and Louisiana. “Businesses are operating in an already challenging regulatory environment,” said Scott DeFife, the head of government affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “The state legislature is the best place to determine wage and hour law. This is not the kind of policy that should be determined jurisdiction by jurisdiction.”
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

This year, a combination of big money in state politics and a large number of first-time state legislators presents an opportunity for industries interested in getting favorable laws on the books, Mr. Pertschuk said. Increasingly, he said, disparate industries are banding together to back the same laws, either through the business-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, or by way of shared lobbyists. “There is going to be a feeding frenzy all year long in the state legislatures,” he said.
The corporations now have the whip hand as their bought and paid for stooges fall over themselves in an attempt to please their masters. And the damage will be so great it will take years of grown up legislation to repair the damage, if the voters give the grownups a chance.

With friends like these...

The Kurds have never been friends with the Iraqis despite the propinquity of their lives in the northern part of that country. Still, they are willing to work with the Iraq Army to fight the DAESH, if there is really an Iraqi Army.
Major Deliar Shouki, the commander of a string of Kurdish fire bases less than 20 miles from Mosul, admitted he was skeptical when he’d heard the news last week that a U.S. official had told Pentagon reporters that 25,000 Iraqi troops would attack the Islamic State-held city perhaps as soon as April.

“There really is no Iraqi army, so I don’t know where they get the idea that they can train 25,000 soldiers in two months to fight house to house in Mosul,” he said on Friday as he gave a visiting journalist a tour of his men’s positions on the outskirts of the tiny hamlet of Sultan Abdullah, which lies about midway between Mosul and the Kurdish capital of Irbil...

“It just seems to me like the Iraqi [Arabs] lack a certain morale to be soldiers, and I don’t want to directly accuse them of anything, but every time they fight Daash, they lose ground and equipment that ends up being used against us,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “It’s very suspicious and I don’t think they want to fight them.”...

Over a hot lunch of chicken and eggplant brought to the base by a local family as a thank you to the troops, the commanders of this section of the front line dismissed the notion that any major operation led by the central government in Baghdad to recapture Mosul is imminent.

“The Arabs can’t take Tikrit and Bayji,” laughed one, referring to two much smaller cities held by the Islamic State. “There is no Iraqi army, just Shiite militias.”
The politics of the region require us to minimize our support of what is probably the only force that can succeed against DAESH. And maximize our support for the force that will require endless support.

Another childhood myth shattered

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