Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Some people never have problems finding a date

Like Nicole Atkins in this video "Girl You Look Amazing" from her new album Slow Phaser.

Progress is our most important product

From the pen of Ben Sargent

Bloomie is gunning for the NRA

And I, for one, say it is about time someone went after America's premier supporter of armed terrorism.
Michael R. Bloomberg, making his first major political investment since leaving office, plans to spend $50 million this year building a nationwide grass-roots network to motivate voters who feel strongly about curbing gun violence, an organization he hopes can eventually outmuscle the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, said gun control advocates need to learn from the N.R.A. and punish those politicians who fail to support their agenda — even Democrats whose positions otherwise align with his own.

“They say, ‘We don’t care. We’re going to go after you,’ ” he said of the N.R.A. “ ‘If you don’t vote with us we’re going to go after your kids and your grandkids and your great-grandkids. And we’re never going to stop.’ ”

He added: “We’ve got to make them afraid of us.”

The considerable advantages that gun rights advocates enjoy — in intensity, organization and political clout — will not be easy to overcome. Indeed, Mr. Bloomberg has already spent millions of dollars trying to persuade members of Congress to support enhanced background check laws with virtually nothing to show for it.

Mr. Bloomberg’s blueprint reimagines the way gun control advocates have traditionally confronted the issue. Rather than relying so heavily on television ad campaigns, Mr. Bloomberg will put a large portion of his resources into the often-unseen field operations that have been effective for groups like the N.R.A. in driving single-issue, like-minded voters to the polls.

Women, and mothers in particular, will be the focus of the organizing and outreach, a path that he and his advisers have modeled after groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The plans call for a restructuring of the gun control groups he funds, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. They will be brought under one new umbrella group called Everytown for Gun Safety.
We are on his side and hope that one day soon America's streets and schools will be safe from the terror of the bloody handed gun peddlers.

Black people can be above the law, too

Just as long as they are capable of throwing the football in a way that makes white people lots and lots of money. The New York Times has printed the results of an investigation into the rape allegation against Florida State moneyball quarterback Jameis Winston that was far more thorough than the official rape investigation.
As she gave her account to the police, several bruises began to appear, indicating recent trauma. Tests would later find semen on her underwear.

For nearly a year, the events of that evening remained a well-kept secret until the woman’s allegations burst into the open, roiling the university and threatening a prized asset: Jameis Winston, one of the marquee names of college football.

Three weeks after Mr. Winston was publicly identified as the suspect, the storm had passed. The local prosecutor announced that he lacked the evidence to charge Mr. Winston with rape. The quarterback would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Florida State to the national championship.

After a Florida State student accused quarterback Jameis Winston of rape, the police did not interview him or obtain his DNA. Phil Sears/Associated Press

In his announcement, the prosecutor, William N. Meggs, acknowledged a number of shortcomings in the police investigation. In fact, an examination by The New York Times has found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.

The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter. After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA.

The detective handling the case waited two months to write his first report and then prematurely suspended his inquiry without informing the accuser. By the time the prosecutor got the case, important evidence had disappeared, including the video of the sexual act.

“They just missed all the basic fundamental stuff that you are supposed to do,” Mr. Meggs said in a recent interview. Even so, he cautioned, a better investigation might have yielded the same result.
Yes, the result may have been the same because evidence can be ignored in many way when people are asked to judge between one college coed and big time college sports money.

The International Principle of Guilt By Association

Fortunately this was validated in the latest reported drone strike in Yemen when an Australian and a New Zealander were killed in the company of 3 known al-Qaida operatives. Their respective governments were quick to say, "Hey we're cool with that".
New Zealand and Australia were drawn into the global debate on drone strikes Wednesday after confirming that a citizen from each country had been killed in U.S. strikes in Yemen.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the men were killed along with three known Al-Qaeda operatives during a drone strike in November. The New Zealander had attended a rebel training camp and was under surveillance by intelligence agencies, Key said.

He added that drone strikes by the United States were justified in some circumstances.

"I think they are legitimate, at certain times, where countries are trying to contend with very dangerous situations and they are trying to deal with those terrorists without putting their own people in harm's way," he said.

Key said he thought the November strike was such a justified occasion: "I suspect so, yes, given that three of the people killed were well-known Al-Qaeda operatives."...

The newspaper The Australian first reported the deaths. The newspaper said Wednesday the men were killed Nov. 19 during a Predator drone strike on rebels traveling in a convoy of cars in Yemen's eastern region of Hadramout. It said the men were part of Yemen's Al-Qaeda branch, also called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The newspaper identified the Australian as Christopher Harvard of Townsville.

Harvard's stepfather, Neil Dowrick, told the newspaper he received a government letter indicating his stepson had been buried in Yemen.
Apparently it took longer to identify the New Zealander because they had to use DNA samples from the bits left over. However they ultimately proved to be from someone that the Wellington government was happy to blow up.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mrs. Costello sounds way better than Tom Waits, any day

Which is why his songs should always be sung by someone else. Like this rendition of "The Heart of Saturday Night" by Diana Krall.

To those who say government is bad

I post this graphic of the benefits government has provided to Wal-Mart and the Walton family. Your taxes make up for what they do not pay.

Good night, John-Boy

The Pursuit of Happiness has no amendment.

From the pen of Jim Morin

Is this why Republicans cut IRS funding?

We all think it is because they want to eliminate audits of their big money owners so they can run their big scams and tax cheats. But the sad truth is that most Congresscritters are small minded men and women who, individually, can be bought quite cheaply. This kind of tax fraud is more on their scale.
Identity theft is America’s fastest-growing crime, and tax-return fraud has become one of its most dynamic subsets. Criminals are leaving street corners for living rooms, and trading drugs for laptops, lured by the promise of more money for less hustle. According to the IRS, indictments and sentencing for tax-return fraud doubled last year, and the agency has described identity theft as the number one tax scam of 2014.

Prospective tax thieves need just three things: your name, Social Security number and birth date. (Those personal records are cheaply available on the black market.) They can then electronically file thousands of false tax returns with made-up numbers for your income and deductions. Within a couple of weeks, your refund is in the swindler’s pocket -- possibly spent on cars and other luxury items, before you even file your taxes.

The IRS does not have third-party information to effectively verify your income when tax returns are processed. So when a thief gets a fraudulent refund, the burden is on the victims to prove to the IRS that they are the legitimate taxpayers.

To collect the stolen tax returns, thieves often use prepaid debit cards, which can be bought in regular corner stores, require no bank account and allow money to be laundered quickly and easily. That way, they don’t have to bother with banks or check-cashing stores that may become suspicious when one person brings in several tax-refund checks. Several detectives have reported pulling over drivers and finding stacks of prepaid cards, along with stolen identity data...

Identity theft is America’s fastest-growing crime, and tax-return fraud has become one of its most dynamic subsets. Criminals are leaving street corners for living rooms, and trading drugs for laptops, lured by the promise of more money for less hustle. According to the IRS, indictments and sentencing for tax-return fraud doubled last year, and the agency has described identity theft as the number one tax scam of 2014.

Prospective tax thieves need just three things: your name, Social Security number and birth date. (Those personal records are cheaply available on the black market.) They can then electronically file thousands of false tax returns with made-up numbers for your income and deductions. Within a couple of weeks, your refund is in the swindler’s pocket -- possibly spent on cars and other luxury items, before you even file your taxes.

The IRS does not have third-party information to effectively verify your income when tax returns are processed. So when a thief gets a fraudulent refund, the burden is on the victims to prove to the IRS that they are the legitimate taxpayers.

To collect the stolen tax returns, thieves often use prepaid debit cards, which can be bought in regular corner stores, require no bank account and allow money to be laundered quickly and easily. That way, they don’t have to bother with banks or check-cashing stores that may become suspicious when one person brings in several tax-refund checks. Several detectives have reported pulling over drivers and finding stacks of prepaid cards, along with stolen identity data.
All done by fairly small fish. Why help a Big Swinging Dick who will just push you around when you can help people like yourself. And the more money the Republicans can cut from the IRS, the easier it will be for their supporters to prosper.

Lewis Black has a rant

And in it he explains socialism and why he is one.

Congressfelon Darrell Issa - Witch Hunter or Narcissist

Certainly the blasts of buffoonery that he refers to as "investigations" have been called witch hunts, but when all is said and done, the focus of attention has always been Darrell Issa.
From the plush chairman’s seat on the dais in the cavernous hearing room of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Darrell Issa peered down at Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen and offered a rhetorical pat on the shoulder, followed shortly by a swift verbal kick in the pants.

“You were brought in to do a very hard job, and no doubt you ask yourself every day, ‘Why did I ever ask for and accept one of the hardest jobs anyone could ever have in Washington?’ ” Issa said in the opening at a hearing earlier this month on the IRS’s improper scrutiny of mostly conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. “Unfortunately, you’ve been more concerned with managing the political fallout than cooperating with Congress, or at least this committee.”

Issa’s probes into that IRS scandal, the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, the flawed Operation Fast and Furious gun-tracking program and other Obama administration controversies have thrust the San Diego-area member of the House of Representatives into the spotlight...

“Issa’s propensity to overreach and sometimes exaggerate shifts the focus from the investigation to Issa,” said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar on politics and Congress at the center-right American Enterprise Institute. “The fact that he hasn’t gotten the goods at any point reflects poorly on the committee and its chairman.”...

Issa sought to increase the heat on the White House and IRS when he pushed a vote Thursday to hold Lois Lerner, who headed an IRS division that reviews tax exemption applications, in contempt of Congress after she invoked her Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination and refused to testify before the committee.

Committee Democrats, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, lashed out at Issa on the eve of the vote, accusing him of engaging in tactics that Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., used in the 1950s to smear Americans he suspected of communism.

Ahead of the vote, Cummings’ office released a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service that found 11 cases from the 1950s and ’60s in which witnesses were prosecuted for refusing to answer questions after invoking the Fifth Amendment.

The CRS study found that defendants in cases that dealt just with testimony were either found not guilty or eventually had their convictions overturned.

“Rep. Issa’s approach as chairman has been to accuse first and then launch massive investigations to seek evidence to back up his claims, which he has yet to find,” Cummings said.
But when all has been said and done, one thing remains clear. Darrell Issa, like Joseph McCarthy would still be unknown without his public antics so they must continue.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A time of much promise for this geezer

And Judy Collins was a bright spot in that time. "Turn, Turn, Turn"

Mitch Needs A Forever Home. Can You Help?

Lady Parts Justice has a new ad to help Mitch The Chin.

If CNN were realy concerned about news

Our intrepid reporter Tom Tomorrow gives us a look at what their coverage would have been. But this is only speculation and has no bearing in reality.

Out of the mouths of gimlet eyed granny starvers

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Global military spending has dropped

In part because of reduced US spending because of the winding down of the George W Bush Memorial Wars. In spite of increased military spending by other countries, the US is still #1 by a factor of 10. W00T!
Total global military spending declined for the second straight year in 2013 because of cuts in the United States and much of the West — but expenditures steadily rose in the rest of the world, especially Africa and the Middle East, international monitors said in a report released Sunday.

Military spending outside the West grew by 1.8 percent in 2013, putting the worldwide total at about $1.7 trillion, according the latest report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a nongovernmental organization that monitors conflicts around the world.

“The increase in military spending in emerging and developing countries continues unabated,” Sam Perlo-Freeman, one of the authors of the report, said in a news release.

In the U.S., the decline in military spending — down 7.8 percent in 2013 to $630 billion — came as costs dropped after skyrocketing during years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reductions came out of Overseas Contingency Operations, which funded those two conflicts, and from across-the-board cuts mandated by Congress and initiated last year.

But despite those cuts U.S. spending still dwarfs that of other countries — and though it is likely to decline further in 2014, it is still expected to exceed $500 billion.

The SIPRI data shows that total U.S. spending in 2013 was roughly equal to the next nine top global spenders combined, and accounted for 37 percent of all global aggregate military spending, compared to 11 percent for second-place China, and 5 percent for third-place Russia. And even as the United States cut military spending last year its top two rivals raised theirs, with China’s up 7.4 percent and Russia’s up 4.8 percent.

Military spending also rose in other areas outside the West, which the report defined as North America, Oceania, and Western and Central Europe.

The region with the largest increase was Africa, where spending increased 8.3 percent to $44.9 billion — almost a quarter of which was racked up by Algeria, which the report said has continued to steadily militarize because of a "desire for regional power status, the powerful role of the military, the threat of terrorism — including from armed Islamist groups in neighboring Mali — and the ready availability of oil funds."

Spending also jumped in the Middle East, by 4 percent to $150 billion —continuing a trend that saw a 56 percent increase between 2004 and 2013.
Anybody who thinks an empire comes cheap or can be made to pay for itself need only ask the British about that. The good side is that soon the 1% will need to make jobs for the serfs so they can be taxed to pay for this. God forbid the 1% pony up any extra change.

When your patent medicine isn't really good enough

Obviously the best way to get doctors to prescribe it in sufficient quantity is to pay your doctors. Unfortunately this practice is frowned upon in most countries. GlaxoSmithKline is discovering that, again.
Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has been accused of bribing doctors in Poland to prescribe its medicines, the latest if a string of corruption allegations to hit the company.

BBC current affairs program Panorama reported Monday that employees of GSK would give money to doctors for lectures that would never happen in a bid to boost certain products.

Jarek Wisniewski, a former GSK sales representative, told the BBC: “There is a simple equation: We pay doctors, they give us prescriptions.” He said. “We don’t pay doctors, we don’t see prescriptions for our drugs.”

“It’s a bribe,” Wisnieswki added. The allegations follow previous corruption probes into the company’s actions in China and Iraq.

Although the payments were recorded as “educational services,” he said the doctors understood that meant they were to educate patients on why they should take GSK drugs and increase prescriptions.

A different representative confirmed to BBC that doctors were paid to increase prescriptions of certain medicines by selling patients on their benefits.

The statements will air on Monday night’s episode of “Panorama.”

Polish prosecutors said Monday that they have evidence to support the claims of corrupt payments in 13 different health centers.
GSK got caught doing the same in China and Iraq. They definitely need to tune up their sales pitch.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Born in Georgia, raised in New York & Yurp by hippie parents

I'm guessing if Madeleine Peyroux wants to sing about the things she has seen, she has seen enough to make a good song or two. "The Things I've Seen Today"

It is said that those who can't do it, teach it.

Which explains the impetus behind the latest strip from Brian McFadden.

The game is on in the Ukraine

From the Washington Post:
The conflict between pro-Russian gunmen and Ukrainian authorities turned bloody Sunday, with one security serviceman killed and reports of people wounded on both sides, escalating the struggle for the country’s east one week after separatists began occupying a series of government buildings.

The gun battle — the first reported between Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian separatists — was set off as Ukraine’s top policeman declared an “anti-terrorist” operation Sunday against a burgeoning revolt that enveloped several small towns over the weekend. The systematic takeovers of police stations and other government buildings in the Donetsk region, close to the Russian border, led officials in Kiev to accuse Moscow of directing a coordinated campaign of aggression against Ukraine.

One member of Urkaine’s security service was shot to death Sunday in the fight for Slavyansk, 90 miles from the Russian border. Reports were contradictory about whether the officer died inside the city, where the police station had been occupied Saturday, or as a Ukrainian convoy approached the city. Five officers were reported wounded, along with four local residents.

Ukraine lost its Crimean peninsula to Russia last month in circumstances that looked highly similar to the events of the past week in eastern Ukraine, where men in unmarked uniforms began appearing and declaring themselves as local self-defense forces. In Crimea, many of them actually were Russian troops who surrounded Ukrainians in their bases and paved the way for a quickly held referendum that resulted in Russia annexing Crimea.
And now we wait and see how far it will go.

Everything designed and built by man has flaws

And in the world of software there exists a subset of people who examine every line of code written for whatever flaws may exist. Some have good intentions, some have bad intentions and some are just wiseass punks looking for trouble. And then there is the NSA which has the taxpayer funded size and means to find and exploit all those flaws first. And now our President has decided how the NSA will use that ability.
Stepping into a heated debate within the nation’s intelligence agencies, President Obama has decided that when the National Security Agency discovers major flaws in Internet security, it should — in most circumstances — reveal them to assure that they will be fixed, rather than keep mum so that the flaws can be used in espionage or cyberattacks, senior administration officials said Saturday.

But Mr. Obama carved a broad exception for “a clear national security or law enforcement need,” the officials said, a loophole that is likely to allow the N.S.A. to continue to exploit security flaws both to crack encryption on the Internet and to design cyberweapons.

The White House has never publicly detailed Mr. Obama’s decision, which he made in January as he began a three-month review of recommendations by a presidential advisory committee on what to do in response to recent disclosures about the National Security Agency.

But elements of the decision became evident on Friday, when the White House denied that it had any prior knowledge of the Heartbleed bug, a newly known hole in Internet security that sent Americans scrambling last week to change their online passwords. The White House statement said that when such flaws are discovered, there is now a “bias” in the government to share that knowledge with computer and software manufacturers so a remedy can be created and distributed to industry and consumers.

Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the review of the recommendations was now complete, and it had resulted in a “reinvigorated” process to weigh the value of disclosure when a security flaw is discovered, against the value of keeping the discovery secret for later use by the intelligence community.

“This process is biased toward responsibly disclosing such vulnerabilities,” she said.
The national security exception to disclosure is understandable. It is the law enforcement exception that is scary. Every LEO worth his or her paycheck will tell you their "need" reaches that level of necessity. What will be missing is any attempt to gain a court order or warrant to exploit that flaw, a prima facie violation of the 4th Amendment. Or it would be a violation if the 4th Amendment still existed. As the President and the NSA have made clear, that amendment to the Constitution is now moot.

Early results coming in from Afghanistan

And with a mere 10% of the vote counted the current leader is a man whose parents named him twice, Abdullah Abdullah.
Initial election results put Afghan opposition figure Abdullah Abdullah in the lead on Sunday, but with less than 10 percent of votes counted and widespread allegations of fraud, there was no clear indication of who would succeed Hamid Karzai.

Results based on 10 percent of votes from 26 out of 34 provinces showed Abdullah with 41.9 percent and Western-leaning academic Ashraf Ghani second with 37.6 percent. A third candidate, Zalmay Rassoul, backed by two of Karzai's brothers, trailed far behind with 9.8 percent.

"I want to make clear that the results could change in future, as we announce the results with additional percentages of the vote, and this is not the final result," said Independent Election Commission (IEC) chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani.

Afghanistan's allies praised the April 5 vote as a success because of a high turnout estimated at 60 percent of 12 million eligible voters and the failure of the Taliban to stage high-profile attacks.

But widespread fraud could undermine the legitimacy of an election meant to usher in Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power, as Karzai steps down after more than 12 years in power and as Western forces prepare to leave.

If no candidate secures more than 50 percent of valid ballots, the top two will go into a run-off.
Still so many more to count and they are fighting every step of the way.

Quote of the Day

I could certainly polish myself up and get on those programs, but you’ve got to be able to contribute something to what they’re looking for.

“And really, what they’re looking for is not a thoughtful, nuanced approach to things. They’re looking for the extremes.
Rep Brian Higgins D-NY explaining why he avoids TV gasbag shows.

It is really no fun being Chinese these days

First you can't swim in the river because of all the dead pigs floating by. Then you really don't want to breath the air because the pollution is thick enough to chew. Now you can't even wash the crap out of your mouth because of an oil pipeline leak.
A crude oil leak from a pipeline owned by a unit of China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) is to blame for water contamination that has affected more than 2.4 million people in the Chinese city of Lanzhou, in the the landlocked northwest part of the country, according to Chinese media reports Saturday.

The leak poisoned the water source for a water plant, introducing hazardous levels of benzene into the city's water, according to China's official news agency Xinhua.

Residents scrambled to buy bottled water after authorities warned against using taps, in scenes reminiscent of a municipal water ban in the United States, following a coal-processing chemical spill that affected 300,000 West Virginians in January.

Xinhau cited Yan Zijiang, Lanzhou's environmental protection chief, as saying that a leak in a pipeline owned by Lanzhou Petrochemical Co., a unit of CNPC, was to blame for the water contamination.

The spill comes amid a push by Beijing to reign in pollution in China, which has seen environmental degradation come along with fast economic growth. Last week, a government review of 25,000 companies found 2,000 failed to meet pollution standards.

Lanzhou, a heavily industrialized city of 3.6 million people in the northwestern province of Gansu, ranks among China's most polluted centers.

Lanzhou Petrochemical is a major refinery with a total refining capacity of 280,000 barrels per day (bpd). The company plans to process 195,000 bpd of crude this year, industry sources have said.

Levels of benzene, a cancer-inducing chemical, in Lanzhou's tapwater on Friday rose 20 times above national safety levels, Lanzhou authorities said in a press release.

Lanzhou city authorities said Friday that they found 200 micrograms of benzene per liter of water. The national safety standard is 10 micrograms.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency sets its maximum limit for benzene at 5 micrograms per liter of water, but says zero is the ideal amount.

The high benzene levels forced the city to turn off the water supply in one district and city officials warned citizens not to drink tap water for the next 24 hours.
And the saddest part is that China is probably setting the standards for the future of our planet.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A big voice from a little state

Sarah Potenza moved from Rhode Island to Chicago where she honed her chops with the Tall Boys. She has since left them and moved to Nashville for her husbands career. I suspect the move will help her career as well. Listen to "The Mess You Made Of Me" and see if you agree.

It's executive pay season

And once again the senior executives of America's largest corporations have managed have skillfully surmounted obstacles, avoided minefields and valiantly fought their way through to copious increases in their compensation. As always, these increases should not be considered signs of any accompanying ability. That was eliminated a long time ago.
But putting aside whether those particular metrics for aligning pay with performance make sense (or, rather, turning over that discussion to Gretchen Morgenson in her Fair Game column), the elegant machine itself would seem to have a dark side. Some say, in fact, that it is the main engine of inequality in America today.

The current system of executive compensation, with its emphasis on performance, can theoretically constrain pay, but in practice it has not stopped companies from paying their top executives more and more. The median compensation of a chief executive in 2013 was $13.9 million, up 9 percent from 2012, according the Equilar 100 C.E.O. Pay Study, conducted for The New York Times. The 100 C.E.O.s in the survey took home a combined $1.5 billion last year, a slight rise from 2012. And the pay-for-performance metrics — particularly the idea of paying executives with stock to align their interests with shareholders — may even have amplified that trend. In some ways, the corporate meritocrat has become a new class of aristocrat.

Economists have long known that high executive pay has contributed to the widening gap between the very rich and everyone else. But the role of executive compensation may be far larger than previously realized.

In “Capital in the 21st Century,” (Belknap Press), a new best seller that is the talk of economics circles, Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics makes a staggering observation. His numbers show that two-thirds of the increase in American income inequality over the last four decades can be attributed to a steep rise in wages among the highest earners in society. This, of course, means people like the C.E.O.s in the Equilar survey, but also includes a broader class of highly paid executives. Mr. Piketty calls them “supermanagers” earning “supersalaries.”

“The system is pretty much out of control in many ways,” he said in an interview.
It's easy to kick one thru the uprights when you set the goal posts and your friends on the board will move the field spot for you.

There are laws to protect them

But those who would steal the pensions of workers have figured out how to get around them and threaten what should be the most secure pensions, multi-employer pools.
The pensions belong to people in multiemployer plans — big pooled investment funds with many sponsoring companies and a union. Multiemployer pensions are not only backed by federal insurance, but they also were thought to be even more secure than single-company pensions because when one company in a multiemployer pool failed, the others were required to pick up its “orphaned” retirees.

Today, however, the aging of the work force, the decline of unions, deregulation and two big stock crashes have taken a grievous toll on multiemployer pensions, which cover 10 million Americans. Dozens of multiemployer plans have already failed, and some giant ones are teetering — including, notably, the Teamsters’ Central States pension plan, with more than 400,000 members.

In February, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal multiemployer insurer would run out of money in seven years, which would leave retirees in failed plans with nothing.

“Unless Congress acts — and acts very soon — many plans will fail, more than one million people will lose their pensions, and thousands of small businesses will be handed bills they can’t pay,” said Joshua Gotbaum, executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federal insurer that pays benefits to people whose company pension plans fail.

“If Congress allows the P.B.G.C. to get the money and the authority it needs to do its job, then these plans can be preserved,” he added. “If not, the P.B.G.C. will run out of money, too, and multiemployer pensioners will get virtually nothing. This is not something that can wait a few years. If people kick the can down the road, they’ll find it went off a cliff.”

So far, efforts to keep multiemployer plans from toppling, and taking the federal insurance program down with them, are giving rise to something that was supposed to have been outlawed 40 years ago: cuts in benefits that workers have already earned.
Simple wage theft years after you earned it.
In the multiemployer world, the anticutback rule was amended in 2006, permitting the weakest plans to stop paying certain benefits to people who had not yet retired, including disability stipends, lump-sum distributions, recent pension increases, death benefits and early retirement benefits. The goal was to help those plans conserve their money while they try to rehabilitate themselves. Experts say the measures have helped, but some multiemployer plans may still fail if they cannot cut payments to retirees as well.
And so the only vast pool of wealth that remains untouched and unthreatened is that of thw 1% and every day it grows by whatever amount they can squeeze from you.

Congress has a strange way of looking at the law

“If someone distributed any part of this classified report, they broke the law and should be prosecuted,”
In the 10 years or so since President Cheney authorized and deep cover North Korean agent John Yoo justified torture, no one in a position to initiate a prosecution has said this about those involved with torture. But if you leak anything beyond what Senator Di-Fi has authorized you to and she will be all over you like flies on shit, threatening all manner of terrible retribution.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has opened an investigation into how McClatchy obtained the classified conclusions of a report into the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, the panel’s chairwoman said Friday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she was also referring the case to the Justice Department for investigation.

“If someone distributed any part of this classified report, they broke the law and should be prosecuted,” Feinstein said in a prepared statement. “The committee is investigating this unauthorized disclosure and I intend to refer the matter to the Department of Justice.”

Feinstein issued her statement a day after McClatchy reported on the 20 major conclusions of the committee’s four-year, $40 million investigation into the top-secret detention and interrogation program that the CIA operated under the Bush administration.

“We are disappointed that Sen. Feinstein plans to seek a Justice Department investigation of our journalism,” said James Asher, McClatchy’s Washington bureau chief. “We believe that Americans need to know what the CIA might have done to detainees and who is responsible for any questionable practices, which is why we have vigorously covered this story.”

One key conclusion of the Senate report said that the CIA “repeatedly provided inaccurate information” about the program to the Justice Department, thereby “impeding a proper legal analysis.”

That conclusion challenges the main defense of the program by the CIA and the Bush administration, which relied on Justice Department legal opinions in asserting that the harsh interrogation methods used on suspected detainees didn’t violate U.S. law against torture.

The committee voted last week to send the report, including a 480-page executive summary, the findings and conclusions, to the executive branch for a declassification review. Once any redactions are completed, the committee is expected to release the executive summary, findings and conclusions, but not the 6,600-page report itself.
The full 6600 page report should be released, every other country in the world has read it by now and we paid for it. By the time the CIA finishes making their shit smell like roses, the 480 page summary will amount to about 48 words.

Today;s Republicans aren't built to govern.

But Bill Maher does tell us what they are good for.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jesse Winchester Bonnie Raitt Emmylou Harris Acapella 1977

Good Night,Jesse.

R.I.P. Jesse Winchester

Dead today
at the age of 69. From his debut album, "Biloxi".

Hey! It worked for Peter Pan

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

If you owe Uncle Sam any money

It is no longer over with after 10 years
. Someone who refuses to claim credit for their brave deed, ended the 10 year limit and the government has gone to work collecting old debts.
Across the nation, hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who are expecting refunds this month are instead getting letters like the one Grice got, informing them that because of a debt they never knew about — often a debt incurred by their parents — the government has confiscated their check.

The Treasury Department has intercepted $1.9 billion in tax refunds already this year — $75 million of that on debts delinquent for more than 10 years, said Jeffrey Schramek, assistant commissioner of the department’s debt management service. The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam.

No one seems eager to take credit for reopening all these long-closed cases. A Social Security spokeswoman says the agency didn’t seek the change; ask Treasury. Treasury says it wasn’t us; try Congress. Congressional staffers say the request probably came from the bureaucracy.

The only explanation the government provides for suddenly going after decades-old debts comes from Social Security spokeswoman Dorothy Clark: “We have an obligation to current and future Social Security beneficiaries to attempt to recoup money that people received when it was not due.”

Since the drive to collect on very old debts began in 2011, the Treasury Department has collected $424 million in debts that were more than 10 years old. Those debts were owed to many federal agencies, but the one that has many Americans howling this tax season is the Social Security Administration, which has found 400,000 taxpayers who collectively owe $714 million on debts more than 10 years old. The agency expects to have begun proceedings against all of those people by this summer.

“It was a shock,” said Grice, 58. “What incenses me is the way they went about this. They gave me no notice, they can’t prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus.”

Grice filed suit against the Social Security Administration in federal court in Greenbelt this week, alleging that the government violated her right to due process by holding her responsible for a $2,996 debt supposedly incurred under her father’s Social Security number.

Social Security officials told Grice that six people — Grice, her four siblings and her father’s first wife, whom she never knew — had received benefits under her father’s account. The government doesn’t look into exactly who got the overpayment; the policy is to seek compensation from the oldest sibling and work down through the family until the debt is paid.
Gotta love that tactic, we don't know who did it so we start with you. Just like your average secret police retaliation technique or Bankster foreclosure tactic.

R.I.P. Wayne Henderson

Music has lost a driving force.

Evil Koch Brothers Shopping Early

And just like their trophy wives on 5th Avenue, they are spending lots of money. Lots of money to you and me, pocket change to them.
Democrats in races that will help determine control of the Senate are rapidly burning through their campaign cash, whittling away their financial advantage over Republican opponents as they fend off attacks from conservative groups, according to figures released through Friday.

The spending on both sides underscores the critical role that outside conservative groups are playing as Republicans try to retake the Senate. In state after state, organizations like Americans for Prosperity, the nonprofit linked to David and Charles Koch, have kept Democrats on the defensive with a barrage of negative ads while establishment-backed Republican candidates raise money and navigate their way through primaries.

In Alaska, the Democratic incumbent, Senator Mark Begich, spent about as much money as he raised during the first three months of the year, while Dan Sullivan, a Republican candidate and former state attorney general, increased his fund-raising and substantially narrowed Mr. Begich’s advantage in cash on hand. In Montana, Senator John Walsh, a Democrat, spent almost three-quarters of the money he raised since January, ending with about $700,000. Representative Bruce Braley of Iowa, the likely Democratic nominee for Senate, spent over 60 percent of the cash he raised.

Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, spent only about a third of what she collected through the end of March. But Ms. Landrieu reserved $2.7 million of advertising in March, according to strategists tracking both parties’ television spending, which will cut deeply into the $7.5 million she reported at the beginning of April.

“The spending totals so far show that a lot of Democratic candidates find themselves on the run,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Democratic strategists say their candidates have faced a historic early onslaught of outside spending — about $33 million in all, most of it from Koch-linked groups — without squandering their coffers and while staying, for the most part, ahead of or even with their Republican rivals in the polls.
The cash flow is hard to maintain but it is encouraging that there are far more sources on the Democratic side, sources that vote, that on the Evil Koch Bros. side. Still, almost unlimited funds and no constraints of honesty or fairness will make it a tough fight.

They went beyond the limits

Now who could have imagined that? Certainly no one in the Cheney administration who approved of the torture in contravention of US laws and treaties. The latest reports say the CIA received their approval to torture within limits and then went beyond those limits in practice.
A still-secret Senate Intelligence Committee report calls into question the legal foundation of the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, a finding that challenges the key defense on which the agency and the Bush administration relied in arguing that the methods didn’t constitute torture.

The report also found that the spy agency failed to keep an accurate account of the number of individuals it held, and that it issued erroneous claims about how many it detained and subjected to the controversial interrogation methods. The CIA has said that about 30 detainees underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

The CIA’s claim “is BS,” said a former U.S. official familiar with evidence underpinning the report, who asked not to be identified because the matter is still classified. “They are trying to minimize the damage. They are trying to say it was a very targeted program, but that’s not the case.”

The findings are among the report’s 20 main conclusions. Taken together, they paint a picture of an intelligence agency that seemed intent on evading or misleading nearly all of its oversight mechanisms throughout the program, which was launched under the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and ran until 2006.

Some of the report’s other conclusions, which were obtained by McClatchy, include:

_ The CIA used interrogation methods that weren’t approved by the Justice Department or CIA headquarters.

_ The agency impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making regarding the program.

_ The CIA actively evaded or impeded congressional oversight of the program.

_ The agency hindered oversight of the program by its own Inspector General’s Office.
And the videos of the torture sessions must have kept Cheney rock hard for weeks in his "undisclosed location". But all of it from beginning to end was illegal. What are we going to do?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Immigration has been a problem for a very long time

Even if you are not an immigrant, something our Teabagger friends often forget. From West Side Story, "America".

The fastest way to right a wrong.

From the pen of Bill Day

The hardest job in America

Rebuilding your life and finding a new job when you are over 50.

Alan, 53, is a natural entertainer. Fourteen years ago, he won a radio contest pretending to be a baseball announcer. The head of Chicago station WJJG 150 saw him on TV, and turned Scott Vanderstuyf, a painting business owner in Bartlett, Ill., into Scott Alan, a local radio star.

His morning show attracted between 50,000 and 100,000 listeners a day, he said, putting him in the same league as much bigger stations. With a little hustle on the side, Alan was solidly middle class. He took his wife, a part-time dietitian, and his two kids on a vacation every year, to places like Florida and the Bahamas. He saved up enough to pay for his oldest daughter’s first year of college.

Plus, his face was on a billboard. Chevrolet, one of his sponsors, would lend him cars to try out. His family once got an all-expenses-paid trip to a resort in Indiana, and a stretch limousine picked them up at their door. People asked him for his autograph.

“The salary I made on the radio wasn’t top-notch, but it was decent,” Alan said. “But the perks I got were incredible. I ate at restaurants that right now, if I walked in, I would have to be the dishwasher.”

The work was also fulfilling. He interviewed Robert Redford, the late Paul Newman and then–state Sen. Barack Obama. And Alan’s shtick was blue-collar: anti-corporate, pro-little-guy. He gave weekly spots to local struggling musicians. He helped an ex-con listener get a job. His audience peaked during the worst of the recession.

Then, in October 2011, a new manager came in, more of a “bean counter,” Alan said. After 12 years on the air, he was replaced with a nationally syndicated host’s show. He said it was clearly a money-saving move.

“It devastated me,” Alan said. “… And that’s where my depression came in. You know, I’ve been battling depression since then.”...

This year, Scott Alan was the Easter Bunny. He’s been a rodeo clown and Santa Claus. Once, when he was dressed in a giant “A+” suit, a group of college students threw a milkshake at his head. Recently, he was close to suicide.

The country’s unemployment rate has been slowly creeping downward, but those official statistics don’t say what kinds of new jobs people are getting.

“The average mascot age is between 22 and 26,” Alan told “America Tonight.” “I was in my early 50s, still wearing a costume in 100-degree weather, in 20-degree weather, still performing, trying to survive and make a living.”
When they take away what you can do, you do what you can.

At last! Official state recognition.

Maybe this means that Warsaw will become the Pastafarian Vatican.
A Polish court overturned a previous ruling Tuesday and will allow the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to register as an official religion.

A court in Warsaw rejected a ruling by the Regional Administrative Court because it had not granted Pastafarians the required two-month extension for submitting outstanding documents.

The church parodies orthodox religion and opposes the teaching of anti-scientific beliefs such as creationism in schools.

The group’s website insists it’s a genuine religion, and public officials and citizens have read invocations or been sworn in as Pastafarians.

Church members celebrated the Polish ruling by shouting “pasta” outside the court.
May be touch us all with his noodly goodness.

Fiscal responsibility is more than words.

Read about it here.

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