Sunday, October 04, 2015

Another West Coast group

Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers "Little Too Late" from their eponymous album

Too real for satire

Andy Borowitz:
Americans Opposed to Being Shot Seek Representation in Washington
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – Americans who are opposed to being shot, a constituency that has historically failed to find representation in Washington, are making a new effort to make its controversial ideas heard in the nation’s capital.

“When you bring up the idea of not wanting to be shot with members of Congress, there’s always been pushback,” Carol Foyler, founder of the lobbying group Americans Opposed to Being Shot, said. “Their reaction has been, basically, ‘Not being shot: who’s going to support something like that?’”

Foyler, however, believes that the right to not be shot, much like women’s right to vote, the right to same-sex marriage, and other rights that were deemed controversial in their day, may be an idea whose time has finally come.

“For years, we’ve been talking about the right to not be shot and people have been looking at us like we’re out of our minds,” she said. “But recent polls show that a vast majority of Americans, in fact, do not want to be shot.”

While Foyler and other anti-being-shot activists believe that Washington may finally be receptive to their radical ideas, Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association, is doubtful. “People who don’t want to be shot are a very narrow interest group,” he said.

News from Space you may have missed

From the pen of Brian McFadden

Money can't buy you training

Not that the US hasn't spent money like a drunken sailor in its efforts to create fighting forces in our colonies. Trainers and equipment has flowed like water to those we hope will fight.
With alarming frequency in recent years, thousands of American-trained security forces in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia have collapsed, stalled or defected, calling into question the effectiveness of the tens of billions of dollars spent by the United States on foreign military training programs, as well as a central tenet of the Obama administration’s approach to combating insurgencies.

The setbacks have been most pronounced in three countries that present the administration with some of its biggest challenges. The Pentagon-trained army and police in Iraq’s Anbar Province, the heartland of the Islamic State militant group, have barely engaged its forces, while several thousand American-backed government forces and militiamen in Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province were forced to retreat last week when attacked by several hundred Taliban fighters. And in Syria, a $500 million Defense Department program to train local rebels to fight the Islamic State has produced only a handful of soldiers.

American-trained forces face different problems in each place, some of which are out of the United States’ control. But what many of them have in common, American military and counterterrorism officials say, is poor leadership, a lack of will and the need to function in the face of intractable political problems with little support. Without their American advisers, many local forces have repeatedly shown an inability to fight.

“Our track record at building security forces over the past 15 years is miserable,” said Karl W. Eikenberry, a former military commander and United States ambassador in Afghanistan.

The American military has trained soldiers in scores of countries for decades. But after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that mission jumped in ambition and scale, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the ultimate goal was to replace the large American armies deployed there.

The push to rebuild the Iraqi Army that the United States disbanded after the 2003 invasion had largely succeeded by the time American troops withdrew eight years later. But that $25 billion effort quickly crumbled after the Americans left, when the politicization of the army leadership under Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki eroded the military’s effectiveness at all levels, American officials said.
The basics steps like marksmanship and maneuver are fairly easy to teach. What our trainers can't do is instill a willingness to fight for a government that gives them no purpose or support. Being lead by people who get the job because of who they know and not what they know is not the least bit inspirational. But somehow we keep getting suckered into propping up the same sort of losers every time.

It's everywhere in modern day products

Palm oil, an ingredient in so many products from soap to noodles, is a third world product that requires lots of land. The government in Liberia has promised multinational companies land to grow the trees that palm oil is derived from. That land has been appropriated from local farmers who were promised jobs that never materialized. The result has been unrest among people who no longer have land to grow their crops on.
In Liberia, the unrest in Butaw is just the latest episode in a series of recent land disputes that have turned violent. The small West African nation does not have large deposits of minerals and it has been slow to exploit its oil reserves. Instead, it has land, which multinational companies have been eager to acquire. The government has promised at least 520,000 hectares of land — close to five percent of the country — to the top four palm oil companies in Liberia. These investments will bring development to the rural regions, the government says. GVL alone plans to invest $1.6 billion in the development of its palm oil plantations.

But the over 70 percent of Liberians who depend on agriculture for their livelihood are less convinced. Reluctant to hand over their land for uncertain gain, many villages have descended into violence. In 2009, the United Nations Mission in Liberia identified land and property conflict as a serious threat to the country’s peace and development. The government has since encouraged concession holders to negotiate directly with villagers to expand their plantations. It has created a David and Goliath scenario, with high stakes for all parties.

Palm oil is a ubiquitous component of modern life. It can be found in candy bars and dish soap, lipstick and instant noodles. Most of the world’s supply comes from the red fruit of the stocky African oil palm tree, Elaeis guineensis. A healthy tree can produce a single yield of bright red, plum-sized fruit that together can weigh hundreds of pounds. A hectare of palm trees can produce as much as eight tons of oil.

While the African oil palm is native to West Africa, the largest producer of palm oil since 2007 has been Indonesia, with Malaysia coming a close second. According to the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture, 8 million hectares of oil palm trees are currently under cultivation in the country, twice as many as in 2000. Last year, the country was expected to produce 33.5 million tons of palm oil.

Oil palm trees need consistently high temperatures and humidity to bear fruit, making a rain forest climate ideal for their growth. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that from 1990 to 2010, about one-third of the land planted with oil palm was land that had been cleared of virgin rain forest. Palm oil is blamed with placing the orangutan on the endangered species list, evicting indigenous communities from their land and releasing enormous quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Standard procedure, exploit the resources, fuck the people then call in the police when their anger explodes. And what do we care so long as the products of our lives remain available without let or hindrance. Life goes on.

A Perpetual Reset Machine

Saturday, October 03, 2015

A new classic from an old classic

Melody Gardot does the Bill Wither's signature hit, "Ain't No Sunshine"

Why it will happen again

Can't kill them without the right drugs

And because a supplier had provided a different drug, Oklahoma has called off the execution of a probably innocent man. Damn!
Oklahoma’s top criminal court agreed Friday to stop all executions indefinitely after confusion over a lethal injection drug shipment led to a stay for an execution, although officials maintained their refusal to divulge the identity of the state’s lethal drug provider.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday issued a last-minute order delaying the execution of Richard Glossip, whose case has garnered international attention, after the state’s Corrections Department received potassium acetate instead of potassium chloride from a pharmaceutical provider. The shipment of the wrong drug arrived just hours beforehand.

The state’s Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday accepted Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s request for a stay of three executions set for the next two months while authorities investigate the matter. His office declined to identify the pharmaceutical company that sent the drug, saying that Oklahoma law protects the company’s identity for its safety.

State officials said the shipment of potassium acetate — instead of the potassium chloride mandated in Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol — was not a mistake, although they acknowledged that the drug was outside their protocol.

“I don’t think it was a mistake, because we were told potassium acetate is medically interchangeable with potassium chloride,” Corrections Department spokesman Alex Gerszewski told Al Jazeera.
They thought it would work but it was not in the rule book and would have opened them up to a big can of legal whoopass if something went wrong. Got to kill them by the rules.

Those Red Crosses make great aiming points.

The US Air Force showed how well they had mastered lessons passed on from the Israeli Air Force and spent 30 minutes bombing the shit out of an Afghan hospital in Kunduz.
A U.S. airstrike in the Afghan city of Kunduz hit a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Saturday, killing at least 16 people at the medical center, the medical charity said.

In a statement, MSF said the "sustained bombing" took place at 2:10 a.m. local time and continued for 30 minutes after staff raised the alarm to U.S. and Afghan military officials. Three children are believed to be among the dead.

Col. Brian Tribus, spokesman for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, acknowledged that a raid “may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility." He added: "This incident is under investigation." The head of U.S.-led forces in the country later phoned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to apologize, according to a statement from Ghani's office.

The United Nations slammed the incident as "inexcusable" and "possibly criminal."

Afghan forces backed by U.S. airstrikes have been fighting to dislodge Taliban insurgents who overran Kunduz earlier this week. Tribus said Saturday’s deadly raid was the 12th U.S. airstrike "in the Kunduz vicinity" since Tuesday.

Doctors Without Borders said its trauma center "was hit several times” during the attack and that the hospital was “very badly damaged."

One of the hospital’s walls collapsed as a result of the raid, scattering fragments of glass and wooden door frames, and three rooms were ablaze, said Saad Mukhtar, director of public health in Kunduz.

"Thick black smoke could be seen rising from some of the rooms," Mukhtar said after a visit to the hospital. "The fighting is still going on, so we had to leave."

MSF said all of its international staffers were alive and accounted for.

But many patients and staff remain missing after the attack which happened when almost 200 patients and employees were in the hospital, the only one in the region that can deal with major injuries.

"We are deeply shocked by the attack, the killing of our staff and patients and the heavy toll it has inflicted on healthcare in Kunduz," the aid group's operations director, Bart Janssens, said in a statement.

MSF said it gave the location of the hospital to both Afghan and U.S. sides several times in the past few months, as well as this week, to avoid being caught in crossfire.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said there were no militant fighters being treated at the hospital.
Who cares if there were any Taliban being treated there. It was a nice easy target to hit and probably made great camera footage for the boys back at base.

Interest in conflict reveals a conflict of interest

The US and Russia are in talks to lay out the ground rules for bombing the shit out of those they don't like in Syria. The definition of who they don't like, what some may call terrorists, has proved to be a problem.
While they confer about “de-conflicting” their bombing raids in Syria, U.S. and Russian military officials also might want to discuss what the word “terrorist” means.

That would be an easier discussion for the Russians, who began conducting airstrikes Wednesday, than the Americans, who’ve been bombing Syria for more than a year.

For Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals, the definition of “terrorist,” when it comes to the increasingly turbulent Syrian civil war, is simple: anyone who uses violence to try to topple President Bashar Assad.

Assad is a dictator, but he’s Moscow’s dictator. Just as the late Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein was Washington’s dictator, for decades, before President George W. Bush turned against him and launched an ill-fated March 2003 invasion whose consequences are still playing out more than a dozen years later across the Middle East, from Syria and Iraq to Libya and Iran.

For President Barack Obama and his top military aides, it’s becoming more complicated by the day to say just who is a terrorist in Syria.

Like Moscow, Washington views some of the anti-Assad forces as terrorists, starting with the Islamic State militants.

But the United States’ uneasy alliances with Turkey and the elusive “moderate opposition groups” in Syria, along with the reluctance of Obama and Congress to get drawn further into that nation’s bloody disaster, require American leaders to engage in verbal jujitsu when asked if the U.S.-led air campaign is also targeting the Nusra Front, Ahrar al Shram and other al Qaida-linked groups.
With the two countries working towards totally different end-games, the killing in Syria may come down to whoever is the last man standing. But he better duck and run because whichever country ends up on the losing side will probably drop a congratulatory 500 lb. bomb on him.

Supply Side Jesus

Bill Maher exposes the true Republican picture of Jesus

First, identify the problem

Friday, October 02, 2015

Like a bat out of Los Angeles

Kat Myers and The Buzzards bring you "PBLT" through the good offices of Jam In The Van.

Modern student life

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

Never embarrass the Man

Because when you do, he will make regret it even if you have nothing to do with it. The inmates at Dannemora were retaught this lesson after the escape of two murderers last spring.
Inmates at the Clinton Correctional Facility in northern New York said the guards who beat them in the days after a brazen escape in June wore no name badges and did not identify themselves.

But one guard, the inmates said, stood out. He had a large tattoo of the American flag down his left arm and was known around the prison as Captain America.

No officer has been publicly implicated in any wrongdoing since an investigation by The New York Times nearly two months ago found what appeared to be a campaign of retribution against dozens of Clinton inmates after the escape at the prison.

Now, through interviews with inmates, The Times has identified Captain America as Chad Stickney, a gang intelligence officer and onetime steward in the state corrections officers’ union.

The inmates’ willingness to come forward and be named speaks to their growing frustration with the pace of the investigation into their allegations. Amid worsening violence at the prison, some inmates said they had been subjected to further harassment after speaking out.

The escape from the Clinton prison by convicted killers David Sweat, left, and Richard W. Matt set off a nationwide manhunt that ended with Mr. Matt being killed and Mr. Sweat being captured. Credit New York State Police
In the frantic days after the prison break, inmates said in letters and interviews with The Times that guards handcuffed them, took them for questioning into areas of the prison with no cameras, punched them and slammed them against the wall. One inmate described having a plastic bag pulled over his head and being threatened with “waterboarding.”...

Four months after two convicted murderers, Richard W. Matt and David Sweat, escaped through the tunnels under the prison in Dannemora, N.Y., Clinton remains a tense place. There have been at least three major brawls among inmates, with officers using tear gas and, in one case, live ammunition to bring the prison under control, according to the corrections department.

The state’s inspector general is expected in the coming months to release a report detailing security lapses that led to the escape. And the corrections agency has promised to investigate inmates’ claims of abuse.

Asked at a recent news conference whether there was a problem with brutality by guards in the state prison system, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that while there might be a few isolated incidents, officers were doing a “good job.”
Most of them really do perform well. The problem is that whan they go bad, they really go bad. And they have a captive audience to work with.

How it works

The old school Republican's best hope, Jeb!, has a SuperPAC that is busy doing the grunt work to prepare him for the hard fights ahead. Just recently, the NYTimes caught up with some of the SuperPAC operatives beavering away in the archives of John Kasich.
As its favored candidate strains to improve languishing poll numbers, the “super PAC” supporting Jeb Bush is keeping busy.

The group appears to be targeting two of Mr. Bush’s rivals who have gained a measure of traction with establishment Republicans: Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

The super PAC, Right to Rise, dispatched representatives to Ohio to scour documents related to Mr. Kasich at a public library in Westerville. “Jeb’s oppo team’s in OH now rifling thru my archives,” Mr. Kasich posted on Twitter on Thursday night.

And in Iowa on Thursday, the group sent a tracker to gather footage at an event for Mr. Rubio. The tracker was asked to leave, according to Politico, which reported the move.

A spokesman for Right to Rise, Paul Lindsay, said the group was “collecting routine, issue-based research on all the candidates in the race.”

“Iowa and central Ohio are also wonderful places to visit this time of year,” he added, calling the breakfast at a Fairfield Inn in Westerville “fantastic.”
Business as usual off the campaign trail.

NY Daily News gets it

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Born in Boston, Based in Brooklyn

I guess that what you need to make Lake Street Dive take "Bad Self Portraits"

It's a learning process

From the pen of Jim Morin

Makes sense in a Killer State

Oklahoma, which was on the verge of killing a man whose case is riddled with reasonable doubts, suspended the official murder for a month pending a review of one of the drugs involved.
The executive order signed by Fallin postpones Glossip's execution date until Nov. 6. The order states that the delay will give the state's Department of Corrections time to determine whether potassium acetate, one of three drugs to be used in the lethal injection, "is compliant with the execution protocol." If the drug is found not to be compliant, then the state says it will obtain potassium chloride as a substitute before the Nov. 6 deadline.

If Glossip is killed, it will be the first execution in Oklahoma since the nation's highest court upheld the state's three-drug lethal injection formula.

Glossip, 52, was charged in the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese, his employer at an Oklahoma City motel. With a dearth of physical evidence, Glossip was convicted primarily on testimony given by Justin Sneed, 38, who was given a life sentence in exchange for his confession that Glossip hired him to beat Van Treese to death. Glossip has maintained his innocence.

An argument filed to an Oklahoma appeals court included a signed affidavit from a convict in Sneed’s prison claiming that Sneed had been “bragging about how Glossip took the fall” for Van Treese’s murder, Sister Helen Prejean, Glossip’s spiritual adviser, told Al Jazeera before his original execution date.

But in a 3-2 decision earlier this week, the same court denied Glossip's request for an evidentiary hearing and emergency stay of execution, paving the way for his execution to proceed. The majority wrote that the new evidence simply expands on theories raised in his original appeals.

On Tuesday, Glossip's attorneys made a last-ditch request to both the U.S. Supreme Court and Fallin to issue a stay of execution.

“Recently discovered evidence demonstrates substantial doubt about Sneed's credibility,” his attorneys wrote in a petition to the Supreme Court.

Fallin has repeatedly denied Glossip's request for a 60-day stay and said in a statement Tuesday she had no plans to commute his sentence.
The original prosecutor must have a lot of powerful friends because Oklahoma is going to a lot of trouble to help him bury his original mistake.

Well isn't that special!

Not since WW II have the US and Russians bombed the same country. Unlike that time, just about everybody is having difficulty figuring out who we are bombing.
For the first time in 70 years, U.S. and Russian bombers are flying in the same skies, but it remains to be seen whether they are on the same side as they were in World War II.

While Moscow’s allies have flown Russian-made planes in more recent conflicts, from Vietnam to Iraq and Iran, the direct entry of the Kremlin’s air force into the messy Syrian civil war marks a new chapter in U.S.-Russian relations.

That chapter is starting with the two countries cooperating to de-conflict their airstrikes, but the rest of the story could go sour quickly given Moscow’s support for a repressive Syrian government that America says must go.

At a Pentagon briefing hours after the Russian bombing raids began, Defense Secretary Ash Carter was like a traffic cop whistling for cars to stop while motioning them forward.

“Russia states an intent to fight ISIL on the one hand, and to support the Bashar Assad regime on the other,” Carter said, using the U.S. acronym for the Islamic State.

“Fighting ISIL without pursuing a parallel political transition only risks escalating the civil war in Syria – and with it, the very extremism and instability that Moscow claims to be concerned about and aspire to fighting,” Carter said.

Claiming that there was “a logical contradiction in the Russian position,” Carter said it makes no sense for Moscow to go after the Islamic State while backing a regime that has killed tens of thousands of people, and one which large numbers of Syrians hate.

Two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin evoked the World War II Allied forces by urging “an anti-Hitler” coalition against the Islamic State, there were contradictory if not confusing behavior and statements from his countrymen in Moscow and Syria.

Maj. Gen. Igor Koneshenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, said his country’s first raids in Syria were aimed at Islamic State militants.

“Today Russian aircraft carried out precise strikes against eight ISIL terror group targets on the territory of Syria,” he said. “About 20 sorties were flown.”

The Islamic State gives Washington and Moscow a common foe in Syria, but their interests diverge over President Bashar Assad.

Responding to the Islamic State’s social media prowess, the Defense Ministry even posted a video purporting to show bombs exploding in Syria. It said the raids had hit Islamic State command posts, communications centers, fuel depots and ammunition armories in what it described as “surgical strikes.”

But the view on the ground in Syria was peculiarly at odds with the Russian claims.
At least their PR and ours claim the same victims though the actual victims might beg to differ, if they could.

Your future is your choice

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Jimmy Dean died this day in 1955

Lindi Ortega sings "Jimmy Dean" from her album Little Red Boots

Parasites come in many forms

From the pen of Matt Bors

If she's going to lie she might as well cheat too

Carly Failorina, erstwhile Destroyer of Corporations, is a boldly dishonest woman. Having initially made her mark on the public attention with a whopping big lie about Planned Parenthood, she backed it up with some more lies when everyone pointed out she was lying. And taking that attitude one step further, she actively and openly coordinates her campaign with her SuperPAC.
The Federal Election Commission forbids direct coordination between campaigns and super PACs, lest candidates effectively rely almost entirely on the huge, unlimited donations of a small number of billionaires. But in 2016, the groups are aggressively exploiting gray areas and loopholes in the rules, few of which the commission – deadlocked with its three Republican and three Democratic members – has hastened to close.

One of the most important openings is the simplest: Candidates and super PACs are free to coordinate their plans if the information is shared in public view.

That exception has taken on extraordinary power in the post-Internet, post-Citizens United campaign world, where candidates can give super PACs B-roll for campaign ads by posting video on YouTube, and campaign managers can signal a preference for positive advertising by alerting their Twitter followers.

Mrs. Fiorina and other candidates, who have depended the most on unlimited money raised by allied super PACs, have taken it a step further: making available advance travel schedules, then letting the outside groups arrange and finance the events.

Under the rules, Mrs. Fiorina’s super PAC, whose name makes it sound anything but independent – Carly for America – could not even call her campaign staff members to see where and when she is headed next. But Mrs. Fiorina has cleverly sidestepped that prohibition: Her campaign has created a public Google calendar, which it updates weeks into the future, showing the events she has planned.

“Essentially, it inoculates a case of coordination by making it public,” explained Kenneth A. Gross, a lawyer who specializes in campaign finance. “As long as it’s not hidden in a ‘Where’s Waldo’ game and meets a reasonable definition of being public, it is a way to avoid running afoul of the coordination rules.”

Mrs. Fiorina, whose calendar already shows she plans to be in Iowa on Halloween, is not the only candidate to hit on this workaround. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky also have public calendars detailing their travels. A super PAC could pay for costly polling, then publish it where the campaign could review it free of charge, so long as anyone else could, too.
Failorina, Huckabooboo and Paul all use this trick. It seems like an easy way to finance candidates who can't rely on donations from their supporters because they have none. And it fits so well into their characters.

When you have to make your numbers

You will do what seems necessary to achieve those numbers. If you are ICE, the US immigration agency with an acronym that sounds like a bad '60s movie villain, that may include the use of fake documents to get the deportee out of the country toot sweet.
In a report released today, “Smuggled into Exile,” the New York-based advocacy group Families for Freedom raises concerns about other cases in which ICE officials deported people based on falsified identity documents. The group identified at least four individuals who were removed from the United States from 2012 to 2015 with travel papers of dubious validity or without any papers at all. It says the actual number may be much higher.

Abraham Paulos, executive director of Families for Freedom and the report’s editor, says this practice is not the only example of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, bending international norms and its own rules in order to expedite deportations. Meanwhile, the consequences for people who are removed without valid laissez-passers or other paperwork can be significant. People who arrive in their country of origin without proper identity documents may have difficulty working or accessing local services and can even be subject to arrest.

“To us, the travel document is much more than a piece of paper,” Paulos said. “It is the weight that hangs in the balance of our freedom or imprisonment.”...

Formed after the Sept. 11 attacks, ICE is responsible for enforcing immigration laws and deporting people deemed to be removable — those who lack legal status and have exhausted all immigration proceedings available to them. To ensure that individuals are deported to countries where they have recognized status, and that they have proof of citizenship upon arrival, deportation officers must obtain travel documents from the receiving country before removing anyone. Typically, the officers provide officials at the consulate or embassy of the destination country with information that attests to the deportee’s identity. The consular official uses that information to corroborate the deportee’s citizenship status, for example by checking against a national identity database. One form of temporary travel document issued for deportees to West Africa who lack passports is the laissez-passer like the one produced for Talbot.

According to investigations by The Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times, acquiring travel documents for deportees is a challenge. Governments with poorly functioning or underfunded consular services are often unable to respond to ICE requests. A 2007 report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, or OIG, found that due to problems securing travel documents, nearly half of African deportees remained in detention for more than 90 days after being issued a final order of removal, the highest of any region. People who have been issued a final order of removal, but have no travel documents, are generally supposed to be released from detention after 180 days.

Schram, who handled deportations to Cameroon, often had trouble getting travel documents for the country, according to testimony she gave in 2014 when Talbot was charged with resisting deportation. In the 2.5 years she had been working for ICE, Schram said, she had requested about 150 travel documents and received about 20. When Talbot’s case file came across her desk, she testified, she did not mail the usual package of documents to the embassy. Instead, she sent the papers to the ICE field office in Houston, whose employees then approached an honorary consul for Cameroon who lived in the area.
Honorary consuls have little, if any, consular authority but what the hell. If they can fake something to get rid of your problem they are just the people you need. Sometimes it does appear that ICE really is a bad '60s movie villain.

While the GOP jockey for leadership positions

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

When you let the sister folk sing

They will probably sing Sister Folk like the T Sisters do with "Sticks & Stones"

The morans never could spell

Having taken the cream off the mortgage fraud

The banks are now handing off the failing mortgages to the second tier thugs to keep them happy. Hedge funds are now buying up all the mortgages they can get at discount because there is still a lot of gold left in the old fraud.
Private equity and hedge fund firms have bought more than 100,000 troubled mortgages at a discount from banks and federal housing agencies, emerging as aggressive liquidators for the remains of the mortgage crisis that erupted nearly a decade ago.

As the housing market nationwide recovers, this is a dark corner from which banks, stung by hefty penalties for bungling mortgage modifications and foreclosures, have retreated. Federal housing officials, for the most part, have welcomed the new financial players as being more nimble and creative than banks with terms for delinquent borrowers.

But the firms are now drawing fire. Housing advocates and lawyers for borrowers contend that the private equity firms and hedge funds are too quick to push homes into foreclosure and are even less helpful than the banks had been in negotiating loan modifications with borrowers. Federal and state lawmakers are taking up the issue, questioning why federal agencies are selling loans at a discount of as much as 30 percent to such firms...

Private equity and hedge fund firms have bought more than 100,000 troubled mortgages at a discount from banks and federal housing agencies, emerging as aggressive liquidators for the remains of the mortgage crisis that erupted nearly a decade ago.

As the housing market nationwide recovers, this is a dark corner from which banks, stung by hefty penalties for bungling mortgage modifications and foreclosures, have retreated. Federal housing officials, for the most part, have welcomed the new financial players as being more nimble and creative than banks with terms for delinquent borrowers.

But the firms are now drawing fire. Housing advocates and lawyers for borrowers contend that the private equity firms and hedge funds are too quick to push homes into foreclosure and are even less helpful than the banks had been in negotiating loan modifications with borrowers. Federal and state lawmakers are taking up the issue, questioning why federal agencies are selling loans at a discount of as much as 30 percent to such firms...

Private equity and hedge fund firms have bought more than 100,000 troubled mortgages at a discount from banks and federal housing agencies, emerging as aggressive liquidators for the remains of the mortgage crisis that erupted nearly a decade ago.

As the housing market nationwide recovers, this is a dark corner from which banks, stung by hefty penalties for bungling mortgage modifications and foreclosures, have retreated. Federal housing officials, for the most part, have welcomed the new financial players as being more nimble and creative than banks with terms for delinquent borrowers.

But the firms are now drawing fire. Housing advocates and lawyers for borrowers contend that the private equity firms and hedge funds are too quick to push homes into foreclosure and are even less helpful than the banks had been in negotiating loan modifications with borrowers. Federal and state lawmakers are taking up the issue, questioning why federal agencies are selling loans at a discount of as much as 30 percent to such firms.
At least this time they are upfront about the expectation of failure of the mortgages, even if they have to force them into foreclosure.

Interested in a life of crime?

The the career for you is that of a diplomat. The concept of diplomatic immunity, originally devised to protect diplomats when conflicts arose, has all to often allowed criminals to return to their home country safely after committing crimes up to and including murder.
The tradition of diplomatic immunity stretches back to ancient Rome. In the 12th century, during the Crusades, Saladin, the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, and Richard Coeur de Lion, the King of England, could dispatch emissaries borne with messages for the enemy without fear that they would be harmed. In 1790, the U.S. passed a law that gave absolute immunity to diplomats, families, servants and lower ranking officials at foreign missions.

In 1978 a new law, the Diplomatic Relations Act, which accepted the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations, replaced it. There are two main conventions, one pertaining to diplomats and the other to consular officials. Diplomats cannot be arrested or made subject to the jurisdiction of the courts and other authorities, for both their official duties and personal activities. The convention on consular officials only covers their official activities.

Schona Jolly, a London-based international human rights lawyer, said of the case of the Saudi diplomat who fled India recently, “It is difficult to see how rape, forced servitude or other serious crimes contribute to the efficient and official performance of a diplomatic mission. The provisions are plainly antiquated and not fit for purpose in a modern era.”

The second convention has been the subject of two of the most dramatic diplomatic incidents in recent years, pitting the U.S. against India and Pakistan. In December, 2013, Devyani Khobragade was working at the Indian consulate in New York when she was arrested for employing a maid at below minimum wage, and in January2011, Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, shot dead two men in Lahore he said were trying to rob him.

The Khobragade arrest came after her maid reported her to local authorities. Preet Bharara, the high-profile U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, pursued the case, charging her with visa fraud and making false statements. The Indian government, prodded on by a vocal local media and political opposition supportive of Khobragade, was locked in a month-long standoff against U.S. authorities. Bharara, who was born in India, was accused of betraying his origins, while communication between Delhi and Washington was put on pause.

Delhi first insisted that Khobragade was a diplomat and should be treated as such, but her status as an employee in the New York consulate, rather than the embassy, meant that only her official duties were covered. The same applied to Davis, who was listed as a member of the technical staff at the U.S. consulate in Lahore. “Killing people or not paying your maid doesn’t count as official activities,” a former ambassador to the U.S. said on condition of anonymity.

In both cases, there were unsuccessful attempts to retroactively grant diplomatic immunity. Pakistani authorities were notified only the day after Davis’ arrest. Controversially, President Barack Obama publicly claimed that Davis was “our diplomat.” Later, it emerged that he was neither a diplomat, nor covered by diplomatic immunity. He was charged with double homicide and possession of a firearm and tried in a Pakistani court, where he apologized to the victims’ families. The charges were dropped after a Pakistani businessman paid $2.3 million to the families to settle the dispute, U.S. and Pakistani officials said on condition of anonymity.

Ultimately, Khobragade and Davis were expelled from the countries where they were stationed. Diplomats can only serve abroad at the sufferance of the host government. Where diplomatic immunity applies, expulsion is one of the few levers at the disposal of the country’s ministry of foreign affairs. The only way to try a diplomat alleged to have broken the law is to ask their home country to waive diplomatic immunity — something that has occasionally happened where egregious crimes were committed. In 2002, two Colombian diplomats in London had their immunity waived to face charges related to a murder outside a supermarket.

When Khobragade returned to India, she was hailed as a national hero. Davis had no warm welcome, and, a few months later, was arrested in Denver for assault. He had been working as a “firearms instructor.” John Kerry, then a senator who mediated the deal with the Pakistanis, had promised that Davis would be subject to a criminal inquiry in the U.S. for killing the two men in Lahore, but he was never charged.
The one drawback is that in times of upheaval, the host country may not be able to honor diplomatic immunity.

Small comfort

Monday, September 28, 2015

A new anthem for us?

Diane Jones sings "Poverty" at a songwriters jam in Britain.

We have nothing to fear but

Whatever crap is coming out of the Vast Right Wing Noise Machine this week. Tom Tomorrow identifies what you should pee your pants about and what is safe.

This never turns out well

From the pen of Tom Toles

Perhaps better training methods are needed

Or a better choice of allies to train. Whichever is at fault, the Afghan Army has again shown itself incapable of perfoming the mission required of them.
Taliban insurgents seized control of key facilities across a major city in northern Afghanistan on Monday, driving back stunned security forces in a multi-pronged attack that also sent Afghan officials and U.N. personnel fleeing for safety.

The fall of Kunduz would be a huge blow to the Western-backed government in Kabul and give Taliban insurgents a critical base of operations beyond their traditional strongholds in Afghanistan’s south.

For the moment, much of the city was in Taliban hands, and Afghan authorities were left struggling over how to turn the tide.

Kunduz had “collapsed” into Taliban control, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told The Associated Press.

Afghan security officials said government forces had withdrawn in attempts to avoid civilian casualties and planned a counteroffensive seeking to regain Kunduz — a city that has already been the target of Taliban attacks twice this year.

“We are prepared and measures have been taken to recapture the city,” the deputy interior minister, Ayoub Salangi, told reporters.

Both Afghan government leaders and the U.S.-led coalition view the defense of Kunduz as a key test of whether security forces could prevent the Taliban from expanding its reach in the country.

One Afghan official said Taliban fighters had control of all major government buildings in the city and security forces had retrenched to try to defend the airport of the provincial capital, about 150 miles north of Kabul in a region that was once relatively stable.

“The defense line for government is now near the airport” on the outskirts of Kunduz, said Amruddin Wali, a member of the provincial council. “The Taliban have taken key government buildings such as the police and intelligence headquarters and burned down some of them.”

The assault appears to be the first time during the 14-year Taliban insurgency that large groups of fighters had managed to penetrate deep into a major Afghan city with significant ground forces rather than isolated strikes and suicide bombings.
It seems we have failed to teach the Afghans that it is easier to defend what you have than to retake what you have lost.

She loves "Days of Our Lives"

John Oliver examines the refugee crisis in Europe and finds a 16 year old girl who speaks better English than many Americans. Maybe we can set up a swap program.

When a 1 trick pony tries to do another trick

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