Saturday, November 30, 2013
And the homily for today....
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Take an American jazz singer, and a Brazilian Samba Sung In French
And you have Stacey Kent doing the lovely "Samba Saravah" in the language of love.
The New Thanksgiving paradigm
Holy Quote of the Day
"Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape."Pope Francis, from his "apostolic exhortation" titled The Joy of the Gospel.
Oh goodie! Playing chicken with China
Just two days before we all eat turkey. We should all be thankful for something and no doubt this fills in the gaps for those who had nothing else to be thankful for.
Two long-range American bombers have conducted what Pentagon officials described Tuesday as a routine training mission through international air space recently claimed by China as its “air defense identification zone.”Ever since Chiang Kai-Shek absconded with the Chinese Treasury to Taiwan, there have been "Pissing Contests" for various pieces of real estate and territorial waters off the coast of China. Quemoy and Matsu anyone? Some form of modus vivendi will be worked out. In the meantime we all hope that some peabrain won't start trying to swing his dick and make a mistake.
The Chinese government said Saturday that it has the right to identify, monitor and possibly take military action against aircraft that enter the area, which includes sea and islands also claimed by Japan. The claim threatens to escalate an already tense dispute over some of the maritime territory.
American officials said the pair of B-52s carried out a mission that had been planned long in advance of the Chinese announcement this past weekend, and that the United States military would continue to assert its right to fly through what it regards as international air space.
Pentagon officials said the two bombers made a round-trip flight from Guam, passing through a zone that covers sea and islands that are the subject of a sovereignty dispute between Japan and China.
Officials said there had been no Chinese response to the bomber run.
All you want to know about Mexican narco families.
And they will send it to you for free thanks to the glory of the Internet. The younger set is quite adept at using social media and absolutely shameless about what they post.
The sons and daughters of Mexico’s most renowned outlaws just can’t refrain from posting photos of their lavish lifestyles online: Fat bundles of cash. Gold-plated assault rifles. Pet lions and tigers. Tricked-out dune buggies.Kids have to brag about everything and sooner or later get in enough trouble to keep their mouths shut. Until then the cops know where to look for tips on living the high life.
All is on display on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. It’s like peering at a gossip magazine for the underground rich and famous as they hide from the law...
Serafin Zambada Ortiz, 23, was detained Wednesday as he crossed on foot from Mexico to Nogales, Ariz. Zambada, the U.S.-born son of wanted Sinaloa leader Ismael Zambada, made the crossing despite his indictment in U.S. federal court on charges of trafficking methamphetamine and cocaine.
Going by his Twitter (@zambadaserafin) and Facebook posts, Zambada seemed eager to share with the world his decadent lifestyle, apparently feeling invulnerable.
On July 10, Zambada tweeted a photo of three gold- and silver-plated AK-47 assault rifles with the message, “partying and . . . taking care of ourselves.”
The next day, Zambada’s account had a photo of huge stacks of bundled 500 peso notes (each worth nearly $40), several feet high and so numerous that counting was inefficient. “Weighing the cash,” Zambada posted.
Other photos showed bags of marijuana, a pet cheetah, a tiger cub, a full-grown lion, a new Range Rover piled high with presents, and lots and lots of guns.
The tweeted photos seem, at best, indiscreet.
Florida GOP wants their cokehead to resign
The chair of the Republican Party of Florida Monday night urged Rep.Trey Radel to resign in the wake of his guilty plea last week on cocaine possession charges.I'll be damned! That reads exactly like something the Democrats would put out. In the meantime, Orange John Boehner is running interference to keep him in his seat. This being Florida, I guess he is afraid of what they might vote in next.
"The people of Florida's 19th Congressional District need a Congressman who is 100 percent focused on the needs of Southwest Florida," party chair Lenny Curry said in a statement. "Therefore, Congressman Radel should step down and focus his attention on rehabilitation and his family."
Curry's call was echoed by Florida's Lee and Collier county Republican executive committees.
The county Republican leaders said that Radel's arrest and guilty plea "have violated the trust of those whom he was elected to represent and fall short of the standards for an elected official; especially a member of the United States congress."
"His actions clearly disqualify the pursuit of another term and if he should run for re-election, he would not enjoy our support," the county Republican leaders said in their statements. "We feel it is in the best interests of all involved that he resign immediately."
Monday, November 25, 2013
Don't know why I missed this Tennessee treasure
But now I know better than to pass by Jonell Mosser.
One of the many dimensions exposed
When you play 11 Dimensional chess, most people have trouble following. Tom Tomorrow comes to our rescue with an explanation of one of those dimensions.
I guess they gave up eating brains
Krugman brags about a healthcare success story
Yes, he is making a joyful noise about the California Healthcare Exchange.
What would happen if we unveiled a program that looked like Obamacare, in a place that looked like America, but with competent project management that produced a working website?California shows that the program can work, only time will tell us how well it will be allowed to work.
Well, your wish is granted. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you California.
Now, California isn’t the only place where Obamacare is looking pretty good. A number of states that are running their own online health exchanges instead of relying on HealthCare.gov are doing well. Kentucky’s Kynect is a huge success; so is Access Health CT in Connecticut. New York is doing O.K. And we shouldn’t forget that Massachusetts has had an Obamacare-like program since 2006, put into effect by a guy named Mitt Romney.
California is, however, an especially useful test case. First of all, it’s huge: if a system can work for 38 million people, it can work for America as a whole. Also, it’s hard to argue that California has had any special advantages other than that of having a government that actually wants to help the uninsured. When Massachusetts put Romneycare into effect, it already had a relatively low number of uninsured residents. California, however, came into health reform with 22 percent of its nonelderly population uninsured, compared with a national average of 18 percent.
Finally, the California authorities have been especially forthcoming with data tracking the progress of enrollment. And the numbers are increasingly encouraging.
Rehab the hard way
Rehabilitation is still the alleged goal of the public not for profit penal system. This report from Al Jazeera shows one program that almost works the way it should.
Ideally those who get out of prison could then be employed as firefighters. Thanks to Republican/Teabagger budget cuts, firefighting may become a task performed mainly by convicts. Another chain gang with greater potentially deadly results.
Daron Ehling fought 19 wildfires this year — long hours of cutting firebreaks and felling trees in the sweltering heat of eastern Washington. In 2012 he went out on 16 fires. And the year before that?
"The only thing I knew about a chain saw was how much they'd give me at a pawn shop," he says.
Ehling is serving time at the Airway Heights Corrections Center, a prison near Spokane; he ended up there after getting caught breaking into houses in order to support a heroin addiction. He says the adrenaline rush of heading out to a fire reminds him a little of breaking into houses, but it's far more fulfilling: "I can still get that same kind of excitement doing something good, knowing there's a purpose behind it."
Ehling works on a 10-person crew, one of four run out of Airway Heights in collaboration with the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR). They work alongside the DNR's civilian engine crews on both initial attack (getting control of wildfires) and mop-up (the long and laborious process of making sure they're entirely out). Andrew Stenbeck, district manager for the DNR, says the inmates involvement is essential to keeping on top of all the fires.
That's become a common story in Western states. Inmates fight fires in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana; in Oregon more than 800 inmates worked on fires this summer. "We couldn’t afford to have paid firefighters doing the same work the inmate firefighters are doing," says Julie Hutchinson, a battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, better known as Cal Fire. At least two crews of inmates are dispatched to every fire in California — nearly 6,000 this year. Six hundred inmates battled this fall's Rim fire in the Yosemite and Stanislaus national forests.
Climate change is fueling longer, more-intense fire seasons, according to the National Climate Assessment; climate models indicate there will be more devastating fires to come. That means the cost of fighting fires is spiraling upward even as budgets are cut. (The federal spending cuts known as the sequester, for example, eliminated some 500 wildland firefighting jobs and money for 50 engines this year). The upshot is that the West may find itself depending even more on inmate labor to keep fires in check. It's a reality that raises complicated questions. With so much reliance on prisoners, how do you walk the line between rehabilitation and exploitation?
You know that overhaul of the secret spy community?
Well no, you wouldn't know about that. It is being cloaked in the same secrecy that the programs it is supposed to fix enjoy.
President Barack Obama has faced withering criticism around the globe for his secret spying programs. How has he responded? With more secrecy.It is nice to know we have a normal government, even if we don't like the normal.
Obama has been gradually tweaking his vast government surveillance policies. But he is not disclosing those changes to the public. Has he stopped spying on friendly world leaders? He won’t say. Has he stopped eavesdropping on the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund? He won’t say.
Even the report by the group Obama created to review and recommend changes to his surveillance programs has been kept secret.
Critics note that this comes after he famously promised the most open administration in history.
“They seem to have reverted to a much more traditional model of secrecy except when it’s politically advantageous,” said Steven Aftergood, who directs the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, and is an expert on – and prominent critic of – government secrecy. “That’s normal but not consistent with their pledge.”
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Multiculturalism can lead us to beautiful places
The child of a French father and a Moroccan mother, the French singer Hindi Zahra sings this song in English about an Argentine dance.
Anything you do can help
As many of us look forward to stuffing ourselves into a stupor on Thursday, The New York Times takes a moment to tell us about the New York City Food Bank.
There is virtually no more immediate way to affect the lives of the poor than to give to the agencies that help feed them, especially now when need has so greatly escalated. As a result of cuts to SNAP, the federal food stamp program, which went into effect on Nov. 1 (and precede further potential reductions of $4 billion to $40 billion), food pantries are already experiencing mounting burdens. One of the city’s largest, the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger in Brooklyn, has seen more than a one-third increase this month in the number of people coming in, compared with November of last year. Another, the New York Common Pantry in East Harlem, was seeing a 25 percent rise during the five months before the cuts.This is about New York City, but the problems are the same all across the country, only the scale is different. If you want to help and don't know how or where, FEEDING AMERICA.org can help you.
Even before the cuts went into effect, matching supply with demand presented wounding challenges. According to a study of emergency food program participation released by the Food Bank last month, there are 100,000 more New Yorkers relying on these services today than six years ago, while there are fewer pantries to serve them. In another sign of distress, the term “emergency” now seems misapplied.
When the Food Bank was created in 1983, its founders foresaw a life span of merely a decade or so, in which the organization would primarily serve homeless men. Instead it functions today largely to assist working families, Margarette Purvis, its president, said, and 60 percent of those surveyed for the Food Bank’s study reported that they had been coming to a particular soup kitchen or pantry for more than a year. This notion that hunger has come to exist as the status quo is reflected in a 2010 analysis conducted by the national organization Feeding America, which supplies food to local food banks. The study revealed that the majority of clients in the group’s network were visiting food pantries not for temporary assistance but for continuing sustenance.
And sustenance is broadly defined. If you visit the New York Common Pantry on a Wednesday morning, you are quite likely to find men lined up for haircuts, as pantries find themselves forced to evolve into purveyors of more than groceries and sandwiches. The poor have come to depend on pantries for diapers, shampoo, paper towels, toothpaste — the sorts of products that are costly, necessary and typically not covered by food stamps...
In this country at this time of year, many of us are called to the food drive, the ritual of delivering canned cranberries, or turkeys or breads to a designated location from which they must be transported to a warehouse and then sorted, edited and so on. This, too, isn’t quite as simple as it may seem, presenting the problem of what Ms. Purvis calls “high touch,” the involvement of too many hands driving up costs and reducing efficiency.
As it happens, there is little to surpass the efficiency of money. While it may feel more intimately virtuous, more morally instructive, to tell a small child that you’ll be packing up food for the needy and taking it to school, it may ultimately be more effective just to have that child sit and watch you write a check.
WalMart follows in McDonalds footsteps
And provides advice to 'associates' on living better the WalMart way.
From the pen of Brian McFadden
So Iran & a US led coalition has reached a deal
Finally. While this agreement is only an interim effort, it shows what can be achieved if you don't listen to the whiny little Jewish kid screaming for a war.
Iran and six world powers announced early Sunday that they had reached an interim agreement that would for the first time roll back portions of Iran’s nuclear program. In return, some economic sanctions against Iran would be eased.Needless to say the whiny little Jewish kid and his running dogs in Congress are wearing sackcloth and ashes and lamenting what they call a terrible deal.
President Barack Obama hailed the accord, calling it an important first step toward a comprehensive agreement to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
“For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back,” Obama said in a hastily arranged six-minute speech that he delivered from the White House after 10:30 p.m.
Among Iran’s concessions, according to U.S. officials:
-- Iran will halt construction of its nuclear reactor at Arak. The reactor had been of special concern because it would create plutonium, which can be used as fuel for an atomic bomb.
-- Iran has agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium and to destroy part of its stockpile of already enriched uranium. Under the terms of the deal, Iran would not enrich uranium beyond 5 percent and dismantle the equipment that allows enrichment beyond that point. It also agreed not to increase its stockpile of 3.5 percent enriched uranium for the next six months and to eliminate its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.
-- Iran will not install new, more sophisticated centrifuges – the devices used to turn raw uranium ore into purer forms of uranium that can be used in nuclear reactors and, when pure enough, to build a nuclear weapons.
The deal also would allow U.N. inspectors to visit Iran’s enrichment facilities at Fordow and Natanz every day, a scenario that would make it very difficult for Iran to cheat.
In return the West agreed not to impose new sanctions on Iran and will ease sanctions that have in large part crippled the Iranian economy in recent years. Among the steps the West will take is suspension of sanctions that limit Iran’s trade in gold and other precious metals, automobiles and petrochemcials. Those moves could provide Iran with an much as $1.5 billion in revenue over the next six month, according to a U.S. fact sheet on the agreement.
The West will also allow the transfer to Iran of about $4.2 billion in revenue from oil sales over the next six months.
Our Sunday Lesson For This Sunday
From America's Best Christian, Betty Bowers
How much more money does Karzai want?
Having properly bribed all the tribal elders and other leaders of the Loya Jirga to agree to the Imperial Outpost Agreement, Karzai of the Afghans is holding out on signing it saying that whoever is elected President in the spring elections should do so.
If Karzai is going to sign off on this surrender to Imperial demands, then he will want a lot more money than he is now getting. Will we pony up before the New Year?
An assembly of Afghan elders endorsed a crucial security deal Sunday to enable U.S. troops to operate in the country beyond next year, but President Hamid Karzai left the matter up in the air by refusing to say whether he would sign it into law.
The gathering, known as the Loya Jirga, had been convened by the president to debate the pact which outlines the legal terms of continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. It voted in favor and advised Karzai sign it promptly.
But Karzai, in his final remarks to the four-day meeting, said he would not sign it until after a presidential election due next April.
"If there is no peace, then this agreement will bring misfortune to Afghanistan," he said. "Peace is our precondition. America should bring us peace and then we will sign it."
The president did not elaborate, but has previously said a free and fair vote is needed to guarantee peace in the country and his spokesman later said Karzai had not changed his mind.
As the meeting ended, assembly chairman Sibghatullah Mojeddedi told Karzai: "If you don't sign it, we will be disappointed." Karzai responded "Fine!" and left the stage.
Failure to clinch the deal could mean a full U.S. pullout, leaving Afghanistan to fight the Taliban insurgency on its own. U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan since leading a drive to remove the Taliban in late 2001.
U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, said the deal must be signed by year-end to begin preparations for a post-2014 presence.
In his remarks, Karzai acknowledged there was little trust between him and U.S. leaders while saying signing the pact was broadly in Afghanistan's interests. Backing from the Jirga, handpicked by his administration, had been widely expected.
Most speakers were muted in their criticism of the thorniest issues in the document, including a U.S. request for immunity for its troops from Afghan law.
Critics say Karzai's recalcitrance on the date might reflect his desire to distance himself from any deal with the U.S. and avoid speculation that he has sold out to the West.
A former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald Neumann, said Karzai is known to use 11th hour demands to press for concessions from the U.S during negotiations.
"He has to be the one ... to sign off on this loss of Afghan sovereignty. He knows intellectually that this is in Afghanistan's interest, but at the same time it's distasteful to him," Neumann said.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Melt into his/her arms for tonight
Heather Masse is the singer. And the tune is Funky Little Sweet Thing (Slow Dance for Fast Times), written by Verna Gillis and Roswell Rudd. Players include Matthew Finck, John Medeski, Ira Coleman, and T Xiques.
The plan remains the same
US officials really, really want to stay in Afghanistan
But they really, really need a signed accord by years end to do so. And now, as the dealine approaches, Karzai of the Afghans is acting as if he doesn't want that.
For the second time in a week, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has picked a high-profile fight with his American allies, in the midst of a grand council that he convened to support a long-term security agreement with the United States.If sure would be nice if, just this one time, John Kerry were a man of his word.
American officials reacted with anger and exasperation on Saturday after Mr. Karzai publicly accused American Special Forces troops of killing civilians in a raid on an Afghan home; American officials said it was an Afghan-led raid that killed only insurgents.
And Mr. Karzai’s aides continued to drive home the message that even if the council, or loya jirga, ratifies the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, Mr. Karzai will not sign it until next year, after a presidential election to choose his successor, but before he leaves office.
It left many people wondering why Mr. Karzai had convened a loya jirga, bringing to Kabul 2,500 Afghan notables from around the country, dismissing most employees from work for six days and locking down a capital city of five million so thoroughly that all roads to it were blocked from Wednesday through Monday.
Mr. Karzai continued to insist that he would not sign, even after another long telephone call from Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday night, warning the Afghan leader that if the agreement was not signed within a month, there would be no agreement to sign.
Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, bluntly said Saturday that Mr. Karzai felt that Mr. Kerry, in a conversation Mr. Faizi described as “tense,” was threatening him. “When the U.S. secretary of state says if there is no agreement there will be no security, we can say there is pressure, there is threats,” Mr. Faizi said.
American officials have insisted that without an agreement this year, they would not have time to prepare an American force for its mission after 2014, which the security agreement calls for.
The Afghans dismiss that. “We don’t believe there’s any zero option,” Mr. Faizi said. “We believe if they have waited until now, they can wait five more months.”
“There is no deadline for us,” he added. “We have said that in the past.”
When both sides harbor people who want to stop you
Then your negotiations, which otherwise would have less urgency, require a quick completion before the evil doers can blow it all up. And that is why John Kerry is spending another weekend in Geneva.
As Secretary of State John Kerry and top diplomats from five other world powers swept into Geneva this weekend for the second time in two weeks, they struggled to complete a groundbreaking agreement with Iran that would temporarily freeze Tehran’s nuclear program and lay the foundation for a more comprehensive accord.Like the heroes looking for a way out as the monsters bash on the ever weakening barricade. Unfortunately this is real life.
Even as the diplomats’ arrival raised expectations that a deal was in the offing, Western officials stressed Saturday that there was still important bargaining ahead and that the completion of the interim accord this weekend was by no means assured.
“We’re not here because things are necessarily finished,” William Hague, the British foreign secretary, told reporters. “We’re here because they’re difficult, and they remain difficult.”
A failure this weekend would not prevent negotiators from resuming their work later, but it could seriously damage whatever momentum they had. With lawmakers in Washington vowing to propose tougher sanctions next month if the Iranian program is not halted, and hard-liners in Tehran insisting that Iran never capitulate on its nuclear “rights,” the negotiators were effectively locked in a race against time.
For some reason they think it's their country
And when the kindly, good-hearted US once again slings Hellfire from the skies, the Pakistanis get upset.
What we have here is a failure to communicate. The Pakis just need to learn their place in the Greater New World Order.
Thousands of people protesting U.S. drone strikes on Saturday blocked a road in northwest Pakistan that is used to move NATO troop supplies and equipment in and out of Afghanistan, the latest sign of rising tension brought on by the U.S. strikes. The U.S. drone program is deeply unpopular in Pakistan and condemned by Islamabad as counter-productive and a violation of sovereignty, although previous governments have given their tacit support to the strikes.
The protest, led by Pakistani politician and former cricket star Imran Khan, had more symbolic value than practical impact as there is normally little NATO supply traffic on the road on Saturdays. The blocked route in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province leads to one of two border crossings used to send supplies overland from Pakistan to neighboring Afghanistan.
Khan, whose Tehreek-e-Insaf party runs the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, called on federal officials to take a firmer stance to force the U.S. to end drone attacks and block NATO supplies across the country.
"We will put pressure on America, and our protest will continue if drone attacks are not stopped," Khan told the protesters.
The demonstrators dispersed after Khan's speech, but his party put out a statement saying they will begin stopping trucks from carrying NATO supplies through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa indefinitely beginning Sunday night, a move that could spark a clash with the federal government. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad declined to comment. The U.S. leads the coalition of NATO troops battling the Taliban in Afghanistan.
How do you define Cool
Bill Maher compares Kennedy and Reagan
Friday, November 22, 2013
She didn't want to die in Florida
But she is willing to meet Robert Plant in Ohio. That Patty Griffin is a weird one.
Which side are you on?
Why "entitlement reformers" must die
Actually it is very simple, because they want to cut Social Security and steal the funds in the trust. And Paul Krugman explains it all in simple terms for the simple minded.
Before I get there, however, let me briefly take on two bad arguments for cutting Social Security that you still hear a lot.See, it's simple. The only way to get what you paid for is to eliminate those who would take it from you.
One is that we should raise the retirement age — currently 66, and scheduled to rise to 67 — because people are living longer. This sounds plausible until you look at exactly who is living longer. The rise in life expectancy, it turns out, is overwhelmingly a story about affluent, well-educated Americans. Those with lower incomes and less education have, at best, seen hardly any rise in life expectancy at age 65; in fact, those with less education have seen their life expectancy decline.
So this common argument amounts, in effect, to the notion that we can’t let janitors retire because lawyers are living longer. And lower-income Americans, in case you haven’t noticed, are the people who need Social Security most.
The other argument is that seniors are doing just fine. Hey, their poverty rate is only 9 percent.
There are two big problems here. First, there are well-known flaws with the official poverty measure, and these flaws almost surely lead to serious understatement of elderly poverty. In an attempt to provide a more realistic picture, the Census Bureau now regularly releases a supplemental measure that most experts consider superior — and this measure puts senior poverty at 14.8 percent, close to the rate for younger adults.
Furthermore, the elderly poverty rate is highly likely to rise sharply in the future, as the failure of America’s private pension system takes its toll...
Today, however, workers who have any retirement plan at all generally have defined-contribution plans — basically, 401(k)’s — in which employers put money into a tax-sheltered account that’s supposed to end up big enough to retire on. The trouble is that at this point it’s clear that the shift to 401(k)’s was a gigantic failure. Employers took advantage of the switch to surreptitiously cut benefits; investment returns have been far lower than workers were told to expect; and, to be fair, many people haven’t managed their money wisely.
As a result, we’re looking at a looming retirement crisis, with tens of millions of Americans facing a sharp decline in living standards at the end of their working lives. For many, the only thing protecting them from abject penury will be Social Security. Aren’t you glad we didn’t privatize the program?
Pending a New Years Eve bust
The first recreational marijuana retail outlets are set to open in Colorado on or after Jan 1, 2014.
It won't happen in time for shoppers to fill their Christmas stockings, but it's sure to provide a little holiday buzz nevertheless: The nation's first retail marijuana stores --- more than 100 of them --- are expected to open in Colorado on Jan. 1.This does assume that Attorney Corporal Holder won't send his jackbooted thugs to raid the stores sometime between now and then.
So far, the star of the show is Annie’s, currently a medical marijuana outlet in Central City and the recipient of the first local recreational license on Thursday.
That means Annie's will be allowed to expand its pot sales to all adults 21 and older, not just medical patients.
The official openings will come more than a year after state voters approved a plan to begin taxing and selling marijuana, much like alcohol. And many of the new pot stores will be medical dispensaries that will now have a much larger clientele.
"For the first time in history, those who sell marijuana are receiving licenses from the state instead of rap sheets," said Mason Tvert, who co-directed the campaign to legalize in Colorado last year.
Happy Birthday to The Doctor
What doctor? Doctor who?
Rand Paul should ask for a complete audit of the Department of Defense
Because according to this report from McClatchy, the DoD runs its most effective defense against those who want to know where the money went.
The Pentagon’s central payroll and accounting office, which pays out tens of billions of dollars a year to U.S. service members and defense contractors worldwide, likes to boast of a decade worth of clean audits by outside firms hired to check its books.Jeezus! Even Dick Cheney couldn't contain the beast. But Chuck Grassley should know that any effort to contain spending has to begin with the people he works with in Congress. If they didn't push for useless spending because some would fall in their states/districts a lot of waste could be eliminated.
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service was created in 1991 by Dick Cheney, then the secretary of defense, to help the government’s biggest agency get on top of its spending after President Ronald Reagan had overseen a massive military buildup the previous decade to counter the Soviet Union. Cheney also sought to prevent repeats of the $435 hammers, $37 screws and other embarrassing disclosures of excessive spending.
But more than two decades later – after another big military buildup, this time in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks – a McClatchy investigation has found troubling signs that the system set up to strengthen accountability for Pentagon spending is broken.
Among the signs of dysfunction, according to interviews with key players, internal emails, memos and other documents obtained by McClatchy, are:
– Outside audits by a certified public accounting firm of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service’s books turned out to be shoddy, according to the Pentagon’s own accountants, although that same CPA firm had endorsed the agency’s previous fiscal records for years.
– In reaction to the skeptical evaluations, Pentagon officials pressured their accountants to suppress their findings, then backdated documents in what appears to have been an effort to conceal the critiques.
– The Defense Department’s Office of the Inspector General, which was brought in to watchdog the audit, not only helped squelch the critical work but also allowed the outside firm to be paid despite the serious questions about the quality of its work.
“The unchecked and wasteful spending at the Pentagon has been well-documented, starting when I uncovered $700 toilet seats,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has chronicled profligate Pentagon spending for years. “Attempts to steer the ship in the right direction is a massive undertaking that can only be done with a competent inspector general willing to be a junkyard dog and not afraid to knock some heads.”
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Fine song with an artsy fartsy video
From the latest by the Greencards, "Black, Black Water".
Quote of the Day
Occupation is not defined by how many occupiers are policing someplace. If you reduce the amount of occupation forces but keep them there forever, then the occupation continues and the war on people's everyday lives is not actually over — no matter what the US government or mainstream media tells us.Kimber Heinz of the War Resisters League referring to the US-Afghan Imperial Outpost Retention Agreement.
The thought of his misery is a comfort.
Moving beyond 47 votes to repeal
The Republican/Teabaggers have put together a game plan of attacks, lies and misinformation for their continued assault on Obamacare, the slightly improved version of Romneycare which was devised by the Heritage Foundation.
The memo distributed to House Republicans this week was concise and blunt, listing talking points and marching orders: “Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance.” “Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs.” “The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk.” “Continue Collecting Constituent Stories.”If only the ACA had been passed by a white president. Now we have to see if anyone can put forth an effective counterstrategy knowing what is coming.
The document, the product of a series of closed-door strategy sessions that began in mid-October, is part of an increasingly organized Republican attack on the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature legislative initiative. Republican strategists say that over the next several months, they intend to keep Democrats on their heels through a multilayered, sequenced assault.
The idea is to gather stories of people affected by the health care law — through social media, letters from constituents, or meetings during visits back home — and use them to open a line of attack, keep it going until it enters the public discourse and forces a response, then quickly pivot to the next topic.
For a House more used to disarray than methodical game plans, the success so far has been something of a surprise, even to the campaign’s organizers.
“Yeah, there is a method being followed here,” said Representative Michael C. Burgess, a Texas Republican involved in the effort, “but, really, these stories are creating themselves.”
First it was the malfunctioning website, HealthCare.gov, then millions of insurance policy cancellation notices sent to individuals with plans that did not meet the requirements of the health law. Earlier this week, the House aired allegations that personal data is insecure on the Internet-based insurance exchanges.
At a congressional field hearing set for Friday in Gastonia, N.C., the line of attack will shift to rate shocks expected to jolt the insurance markets in the next two years. Coming soon: a push to highlight people losing access to their longtime physicians and changes in Medicare Advantage programs for older people.
Sure Karzai wants a 15K foreign bodyguard.
All the more so when they continue to drop off sacks of real money in his office every week. But he still has to pretend he is a loyal and devoted Afghan as well. To this end he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth depending on which audience he is in front of.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged tribal elders Thursday to back a vital security pact with the U.S. that would see thousands of foreign troops remain in his war-ravaged country after 2014, though he acknowledged a breakdown in trust between the two nations.No doubt he has passed around a great deal of baksheesh and promise of jobs to the many influential members of the loya jirga. It remains to be seen if he handed out enough to overcome their dislike of "extrality" for US troops.
Speaking in Kabul at the start of a four-day gathering of the loya jirga, or grand council, Karzai told delegates: "My trust with America is not good. I don't trust them, and they don't trust me."
He pledged his own support for the bilateral security agreement with Washington, under which he said up to 15,000 foreign troops could stay in Afghanistan following next year's planned military drawdown. But in a potential blow for U.S. dealmakers, the Afghan leader said he would defer any signing of the accord until after the country's April 5 elections.
In a last-minute bid to bolster support, President Barack Obama sent a letter promising that the U.S. will continue to respect "Afghan sovereignty" and vowed that the U.S. military will not conduct raids on Afghan homes except under "extraordinary circumstances," involving urgent risks to U.S. nationals. The statement referred to compromises made in the draft text of the agreement.
Obama also said "we look forward to concluding this agreement promptly" in the letter.
Washington has indicated that it wants the agreement in place as soon as possible to enable the U.S. and NATO to start planning for a post-2014 presence.
Under the plan being presented, the United States would maintain several bases in Afghanistan after the bulk of its forces pull out next year. But in a move that is likely to be opposed by many attending the loya jirga, American soldiers will be given immunity from Afghan prosecution.
NSA data suckage nothing new.
While everybody eagerly blames W or PBO for the outrageous assault on civil liberties being committed daily by the NSA, it appears that the real source of their authority is a Ronald Reagan Executive Order signed back in his early Alzheimers days.
The National Security Agency’s collection of information on Americans’ cellphone and Internet usage reaches far beyond the two programs that have received public attention in recent months, to a presidential order that is older than the Internet itself.It seems certain that abuses as culturally embedded and on such a large scale as the NSA has been committing need a long lead time. Longer even than that allotted to the evil crew of W's.
Approved by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, Executive Order 12333 (referred to as “twelve-triple-three”) still governs most of what the NSA does. It is a sweeping mandate that outlines the duties and foreign intelligence collection for the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies. It is not governed by Congress, and critics say it has little privacy protection and many loopholes. What changes have been made to it have come through guidelines set by the attorney general or other documents.
The result is a web of intelligence law so complicated that it stymies even those tasked with interpreting it. As one former executive official said, “It’s complicated stuff.”
Confusing though it may be, the order remains the primary authority under which the country’s intelligence agencies conduct the majority of their operations.
Neither the office of Attorney General Eric Holder nor that of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper would comment about 12333.
Under its provisions, agencies have the ability to function outside the confines of a warrant or court order, if approved by the attorney general. Its Section 2.5 effectively gives the attorney general the right to authorize intelligence agencies to operate outside the confines of judicial or congressional oversight, so long as it’s in pursuit of foreign intelligence – including collecting information of Americans.
“The Attorney General hereby is delegated the power to approve the use for intelligence purposes, within the United States or against a United States person abroad, of any technique for which a warrant would be required,” 12333 reads.
Monitoring the actual content of Americans’ communications still requires a warrant under 12333, but metadata – the hidden information about a communication that tells where a person is, who he’s communicating with, even the number of credit cards used in a transaction – can be swept up without congressional or court approval.
Harry went and did it
After displaying a degree of patience that would make a saint green with envy, Harry Reid has called bullshit on Mitch the Chin and changed the Senate rules to allow a simple majority for judges and executive branch nominees.
Frustrated by what he considers Republican obstruction, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday implemented the so-called "nuclear option" to alter chamber rules to restrict the filibuster of judicial and executive branch nominees. Reid's vote was the 51st, passing a change to procedures.Mitch the Chin vowed that Nevada Harry would be swimming with the fishes soon.
"It's time to change the Senate before this institution become obsolete," Reid said on the Senate floor as senators sat at their desks listening attentively.
Reid, D-Nev., said a string of blocked presidential and judicial nominations highlighted the need to change the Senate's long-standing rules on nominations from a 60-vote threshold to a majority-rules system.
In recent weeks, Senate Democrats have been unable to overcome filibusters on the nominations of Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency - the first time a sitting member of Congress was blocked since 1843 - and three nominees to the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Reid railed against Republican filibusters against the nominations of former Rep. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., for defense secretary. Hagel was eventually confirmed.
"It's a troubling trend that Republicans are willing to block executive branch nominations even when they have no objection to the qualification of the nominee," Reid said. "Instead they block qualified executive branch nominees to circumvent the legislative process."
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
It's all in good fun
Or is it? The Forester Sisters sing their last hit from the 90's.
R.I.P. Jane Fitzpatrick
A hard woman who parlayed homemade curtains and an old firetrap hotel into a cultural success.
How Is Hamid Karzai Still Standing?
The New York Times Sunday Magazine will attempt to answer that question this week. It is easy to say that shit floats but they will more likely go for a more nuanced answer. Whatever, the price the US has paid in blood and treasure to keep him in the Afghan punchbowl has been too much for what we got.
Nothing like a vacation in the country
And the cities of Colorado have found the perfect place out on the plains to cure its homeless problem.
Darrell Valdez, Cindy Davis, John Ferentchak and Devonie Williams know what it’s like to live on the streets, to be addicted to alcohol and drugs, to struggle with hopelessness.Ft Lyons is a good location, having long experience with the detritus of our society.
Now they’re living far from the city, with about 60 other homeless Coloradans on a sprawling campus of historic buildings near the Arkansas River. In previous incarnations, Fort Lyon was an Army fort, a tuberculosis sanatorium, a veterans’ hospital and a minimum-security prison.
In this latest chapter, these residents — along with state lawmakers, homeless advocates and Bent County officials — hope to put their lives on a different path.
The idea of moving homeless folks from city streets to an isolated rural stretch of the Great Plains some 200 miles southeast of Denver drew skepticism in the halls of the state Capitol earlier this year, narrowly escaping rejection in the state Legislature.
So boredom isn't really boring?
From the Dept. of Too Much Time On Their Hands comes a study that defines the various types of boredom, including a previously unstudied type.
A new study of students in Germany reveals that there are five distinct types of boredom. That's one more than researchers had expected.Yawn.
What's more, the newly discovered category - which they labeled "apathetic boredom" - was quite common among high school students, according to the study, published this week in the journal Motivation and Emotion...
By gathering empirical data about real-life situations, Goetz's team hoped to validate psychological models that divided boredom into four distinct categories:
- Indifferent boredom, a relaxing and slightly positive type of boredom that "reflected a general indifference to, and withdrawal from, the external world";
- Calibrating boredom, the slightly unpleasant state of having wandering thoughts and "a general openness to behaviors aimed at changing the situation";
- Searching boredom, the kind that makes you feel restless and leaves you "actively seeking out specific ways of minimizing feelings of boredom"; and
- Reactant boredom, which is so bad that it prompts sufferers "to leave the boredom-inducing situation and avoid those responsible for this situation (e.g., teachers)."
What they found is that the life of a German student can be very boring indeed...
The big surprise in the data was the emergence of the fifth type of boredom. Apathetic boredom accounted for 10 percent of all boredom among the college students and 36 percent of all boredom among the high-schoolers.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Legends always start with real people
Like Tammy Wynette singing her first and biggest hit.
Elizabeth Warren on expanding Social Security
Why do people like her come one at a time and the shits come by the dozens?
So that's what's cooking
Now who could have seen this coming?
The US is actually trying to reach an agreement and this has the Israeli government in a fury of indignation. How dare the US do something we don't want?
To the Israeli government, the preliminary deal with Iran that the Obama administration is trying to seal this week is a giveaway to a government that has spent two decades building a vast nuclear program. It enshrines the status quo — at a time when the Iranians are within reach of the technical capability to build a bomb — and rewards some unproven leaders with cash and sanctions relief.Israel's status as the only rogue nuclear nation in the Middle East is in serious jeopardy here.
President Obama and his top aides see the same draft deal in sharply different terms. To them, it is a first effort to freeze the Iranian program, to buy some time to negotiate a more ambitious deal, and to stop two separate methods of developing a bomb, one involving uranium, the other plutonium. In return, the Iranians get modest relief from sanctions, but not what they desperately desire, the ability to again sell oil around the world. That would come only later as part of a final agreement that would require the Iranians to dismantle much of their nuclear infrastructure.
Those two divergent views have deeply politicized the question of whether the accord that the United States and its European allies are considering should be termed a good deal or a bad one. It is a fundamental disagreement that has left in tatters whatever halfhearted efforts Mr. Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel have made over the past five years to argue that they are on the same page when it comes to Iran.
Every time Mr. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, ask for a little time and space to test the new Iranian leadership’s claims that it is ready for a new approach, and for compromise, Mr. Netanyahu responds that the proposed agreement is “a very bad deal,” “extremely dangerous,” “a mistake of historic proportions” or, as he said in an interview with CNN on Sunday, “an exceedingly bad deal.” And he has often raised the specter of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities even if a deal is signed, something the Obama administration believes would split apart the global coalition it has built to squeeze Iran.
Yet the disagreement is about far more than negotiating tactics. In interviews, both American and Israeli officials conceded that the terms of the preliminary accord reflect a difference in fundamental goals. Mr. Obama speaks often of his determination to prevent Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon; Mr. Netanyahu sets a far higher bar of preventing Iran from gaining, or keeping, the capability to ever build one.
Mr. Netanyahu “will be satisfied with nothing less than the dismantlement of every scrap of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure,” one administration strategist said the other day. “We’d love that, too — but there’s no way that’s going to happen at this point in the negotiation. And for us, the goal is to make sure that we are putting limits and constraints on the program, and ensuring that if the Iranians decided to race for a bomb, we would know in time to react.”
Ever since we beat the crap out of Germany
Our military has had an unquenchable desire to leave armed contingents in every country that we have entered. So far only a few countries such as France, VietNam and Iraq have been able to throw US military out of their homelands. Sadly it looks like we will add one more country to the list of those our troops can call home, Afghanistan.
Afghan officials said that a long impasse over the issue had been overcome during a phone call by Secretary of State John Kerry to President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday. As part of the agreement, President Obama would be expected to acknowledge past “mistakes” by United States military forces, and to promise such mistakes would not be repeated, according to Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi.Some weasel words and a worthless apology and we get to keep troops in the Shithole and still kick down a door or two. Just to stay in shape, don't you know. And John Kerry still doesn't get to tell someone he will be the last man to die for a mistake.
A spokesman for the American Embassy, Robert Hilton, would not comment on details of the negotiations.
Just days ago, Afghan officials said that the raids issue was holding up an overall deal on the so-called bilateral security agreement, which would establish a framework for the continued presence of American troops in Afghanistan after the current 2014 deadline for Western troop withdrawal.
But even if both sides agree on a final wording, the Afghans have made their approval contingent on a vote this week by a loya jirga — a grand council of Afghan elders. And for weeks, analysts have said it was unlikely that the jirga would accept any American raids.
Those missions have long been an irritant in relations between the two countries. American commanders insist that they are critical to the fight against Taliban insurgents and other militants hiding in Afghanistan. But the raids are deeply offensive to the Afghan public, and President Karzai has long insisted that only Afghan forces be allowed to conduct them.
The compromise negotiated on Tuesday would allow American troops to conduct raids and searches of Afghan homes but only in “extraordinary circumstances” in order to save American soldiers’ lives, Mr. Faizi said.
That caveat had been offered as an earlier compromise by American negotiators, according to United States officials. But one new factor was introduced on Tuesday during the phone call between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Karzai, Mr. Faizi said: Mr. Kerry proposed that he write a letter acknowledging Afghan suffering from past mistakes of American troops, and promising that such mistakes would not be repeated.
The spokesman said that Mr. Karzai then said he would accept that if the letter was signed by President Obama, and Secretary of State Kerry agreed to that requirement.
Now that there is a full NLRB
They can move forward on the many, many labor violations that have been encouraged by Republican/Teabagger policies and agendas. The first big target is Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart is preparing to defend its right to abuse its help.
The NLRB said it found that Wal-Mart unlawfully threatened employees with retaliation — including termination and surveillance — for participating in demonstrations at stores in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington.Great opportunities, such as the chance to contribute to a food drive for fellow employees who make even less than you. Is this a great company or what?
In California, Florida, Missouri and Texas, employees faced pressure, discipline or termination "in anticipation of or in response to employees' other protected concerted activities," an NLRB statement said.
The NLRB also said it found Wal-Mart stores in Illinois and Texas did not interfere with employees' right to strike by ordering them off Wal-Mart property. And counter to employee accusations, the board said that California and Washington stores "did not unlawfully change work schedules, disparately apply their policies or otherwise coerce employees in retaliation for their exercise of statutory rights."
Wal-Mart faces legal action if it cannot settle with employees in cases in which the NLRB's investigation sided with the employees, King said.
He said the board "has authorized complaints that will be issued if a settlement (between Wal-Mart and employees) can't be reached within the next week or so."
"My understanding is that Wal-Mart's counsel has been informed of the (NLRB's) decision. They asked for an opportunity to speak to their client," King said. "We are anticipating that certainly within a week or two, there will be settlement discussions or we will file a complaint."
If Wal-Mart does not settle in the next two weeks, it faces not only legal action by the NLRB but also financial ramifications related to wrongful terminations.
Wal-Mart appeared poised to take on the NLRB.
"We're going to defend our company. We believe our actions did not violate the law," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan told Al Jazeera. "This is just a procedural step, and we will continue to pursue our options to defend the company because we believe our actions were legal and justified."
"The fact is we provide good jobs and unparalleled opportunities for our associates," she said, using the company's term for Wal-Mart staff.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Coming back east to Brooklyn
For everybody's favorite Brooklyn band, Lake Street Dive, even if they are touring Europe until the year end.
Irritating stock hustler moving to Fux Bidness
Yessir! The CNBC Money Honey and notorious Citibank senior exec honeypot if leaving the home of bad investment advice. Her new home will be Fux Bidness, your source for absolutely nothing of value.
Bartiromo’s contract with her longtime employer, owned by Comcast Corp. (CMCSA), expires Nov. 24, the company said today in an e-mailed statement. The Drudge Report said Bartiromo, 46, will join rival Fox Business Network. Caley Cronin, a Fox Business spokeswoman, had no immediate comment.The politics are a fit and at Fux she doesn't have to worry about accuracy, as if she ever did.
Bartiromo’s star power could help 21st Century Fox Inc. (FOXA)’s Fox Business catch up to CNBC in the ratings. Fox Business averaged 46,000 viewers over the past 12 months, compared with an average audience of 135,000 for CNBC for the same period, according to Nielsen data supplied by Brad Adgate, researcher for Horizon Media Inc.
“Her contributions to CNBC are too numerous to list but we thank her for all of her hard work over the years and wish her the best,” Brian Steel, a spokesman for CNBC, said in the statement.
If you wonder about the Republican alternatives to ACA
Tom Tomorrow has done the legwork and brings you the list of options to Obamacare.
Good thing it wasn't loaded
Because we have had ample evidence of what an armed drone can do. And now we have evidence that they are capable of turning on those they are supposed to serve.
Officials are trying to determine why a drone being used as part of a Navy training exercise malfunctioned off the Ventura County coast Saturday.Maybe the "pilot" was just trying to buzz the ship and the "pilot" misjudged? If so, and a drone can't miss a ship in the middle of the ocean, perhaps they are not ready for general use in US air space.
Two sailors suffered minor burns in the incident, the Navy said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Third Fleet told the Associated Press that it is unclear what went wrong.
The ship sustained some damage and is returning to its home port of San Diego, the Navy said.
The sailors aboard the guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville were using the drone to test the ship's radar-tracking system, something done on a regular basis. The drone, a 13-foot-long aircraft with a wingspan of nearly 6 feet, was being controlled from Point Mugu.
Around 1:25 p.m., the drone slammed into the port side of the ship, which has a crew of about 300.
It's good enough for Dr Bronner
It must be good for the rest of us. Industrial hemp is the non-intoxicating relative of marijuana that has been banned since the 30's, with a break during WWII when the military needed rope and fine lubricating oils. With the success of medicinal marijuana legislation, American users of imported hemp products are pushing for legal growing in the United States.
Authorities arrested David Bronner last year when he locked himself in a steel cage in front of the White House and began using a hand-powered press to extract fresh oil from 12 large hemp plants, which he planned to put on French bread and serve to passers-by.Naturally McClatchy rolled out some expert drug idiot who blew some smoke about hiding marijuana in a field of hemp. This ignores the facts that hemp is sown closely like corn while marijuana plants are spaced apart like an orchard. And most marijuana growers would have a stroke at the thought of wild hemp pollen getting on their precious hybrids. But those who keep industrial hemp as a Schedule 1 drug are not known for the value of their thoughts.
Bronner, a California executive, says there's no good reason that hemp --- the non-intoxicating sister plant of marijuana --- is still illegal under U.S. law. On Monday, he came back to Washington, joining a group of 50 citizen-lobbyists who urged Congress to lift the federal ban on growing hemp to allow more of it to be used in food, clothing, body-care products, construction materials, even auto parts.
"It's time to grow hemp," Bronner said. "I mean, it's been a long and ridiculous situation."...
Hemp growers say their cause is helped by the growing popularity of the movement to legalize marijuana. A majority of Americans now say they want criminal penalties removed for possession, polls indicate. And two states, Washington and Colorado, last year voted to approve marijuana for recreational use for adults age 21 and older beginning in 2014.
Bronner said that "the most ridiculous part of the drug war" has been banning hemp because it can't be used to produce a high. And he said it should not be classified with marijuana as a controlled substance.
Attempt to establish Imperial outpost may fail.
Talks between the US and Karzai of the Afghans to work out a Status of Forces agreement may have reached a fatal deadlock. The sticking point is that favorite American activity, kicking down doors and "tossing" people's homes.
Despite recent optimism about talks over a future American military presence here, two senior Afghan officials said on Sunday that the negotiations were at a profound impasse, days before an Afghan grand council is scheduled to meet to seek popular support for a deal.If they manage to reach an agreement, we won't really leave Afghanistan, we just won't make a big deal of it.
The officials said both sides had refused to budge on American negotiators’ insistence that United States troops retain the right, at least in some form, to enter Afghan homes — something President Hamid Karzai has openly opposed for years.
A senior American official in Washington said he “would not characterize remaining differences as an impasse.” He emphasized that the talks were continuing and that it was normal for such negotiations to run until the last moment. “Not only Karzai but a broad section of Afghanistan’s political leadership want to reach an agreement,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss delicate negotiations.
Just a day earlier, on Saturday, Mr. Karzai said at a news conference that the two sides had agreed on the wording of an accord. He added, though, that until the day of the grand council meeting, or loya jirga, this week, “we will still continue our negotiations.”
Offstage, however, American raids continued to be a point of deadlock, according to the Afghan officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations were continuing. In recent days, the talks have been led on the Afghan side by Mr. Karzai, and on the American side by Ambassador James B. Cunningham and the military coalition commander, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.
The Afghan officials said Mr. Karzai would not change his position before Thursday’s loya jirga, to which 3,000 officials, elders and notables from around the country have been invited to ratify or reject the security agreement.
American officials want a force to stay in Afghanistan after the current combat mission ends on Dec. 31, 2014, mostly to train and provide logistical assistance to Afghan forces. But they also want the right to keep a small number of special operations forces there in order to pursue remnants of Al Qaeda, and they feel that without the ability to conduct raids, particularly night raids, on Afghan homes, those forces could not carry out their mission.Let us all fervently wish for the failure of these talks so the troops can really come home.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
When you take a California woman to Paris
She will sing a song from her new album on a Paris street in the summer. And Alela Diane makes it seem like the natural thing to do.
Too old to remember
Can't hire you if you don't have a job
I’ve also been told point-blank to my face, ‘We don’t hire the unemployed.’The unemployed would seem to be a reasonable pool of candidates for someone looking to hire people, but you would be wrong to think so. In the current labor market only a criminal record is more damning.
Long-term joblessness — the kind that Ms. Barrington-Ward and about four million others are experiencing — is now one of the defining realities of the American work force.The loss of experience and institutional knowledge in favor of cheap, and as they will discover, disposable hires is an under-appreciated damage being done to our economy in the aftermath of the Bush Depression. But it has allowed the 1% to suck the assets out of a large portion of the middle class.
The unemployment rate has fallen to 7.3 percent, down from 10 percent four years ago. Private businesses have added about 7.6 million positions over the same period. But while recent numbers show that there are about as many people unemployed for short periods as in 2007 — before the crisis hit — they also show that long-term joblessness is up 213 percent.
In part, that’s because people don’t return to work in an orderly, first-fired, first-hired fashion. In any given month, a newly jobless worker has about a 20 to 30 percent chance of finding a new job. By the time he or she has been out of work for six months, though, the chance drops to one in 10, according to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Facing those kinds of odds, some of the long-term jobless have simply given up and dropped out of the labor force. So while official figures show that the number of long-term jobless has fallen steeply from its recessionary high of 6.7 million, many researchers fear that this number could mean as much bad news as good. Workers over 50 may be biding their time until they can start receiving Social Security. Younger workers may be going to school to avoid a tough job market. Others may be going on disability, helping to explain that program’s surging rolls.
R.I.P. Doris Lessing
Writer extraordinaire and Nobel Prize winner.
Perteckin' Uhmerkinism one county at a time.
Who knew that individual counties in Alabama has the power to interpret state laws according to their own wishes and desires?
It is unclear when the practice started, but for years certain counties in Alabama have been refusing to provide undocumented immigrants with marriage licenses. Since the early 2000s, attorneys general and federal judges across the U.S. have stated that denying an undocumented immigrant a marriage license violates a couple’s “fundamental right to marry” as outlined in the U.S. Constitution.I guess those rednecks just got nullification in their blood.
Samuel Brooke, a staff attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) who works on the center's Immigrant Justice Project, said the purpose of asking for identification is “to make sure that the person being married, that their name and identification, that their legal name is being recorded correctly, and that is the only real purpose.”
In 2011, when Brooke first heard that some Alabama counties were requiring “proof of lawful immigration status” in order to issue marriage licenses, he was shocked. It was the same year that Alabama passed House Bill 56, one of the toughest anti-immigration laws in the nation.
“This law had everything in it,” Brooke said. “But the one thing this law said was, don't touch marriage licenses. We recognize that marriage is a fundamental right for all people; we recognize anyone should be able to get married. It doesn't matter their immigration status or their history, they should be able to get married as long as they provide their legal name.”
In fact, for more than a decade, attorneys general across the country, including in Alabama, have made a focused effort to be clear on the issue of what is required to apply for a marriage license. In 2008, then-Alabama Attorney General Troy King said applicants should not have to provide photo ID or a Social Security number. Instead, those without a Social Security number could present a signed affidavit that they had never been issued one.
There really is no end to those pricks.
The opposition to the chained CPI could be unanimous among every living person in the US except Congress and those miserable sons of bitches would still try to pass it.
With congressional budget negotiations moving behind closed doors, one item apparently on the table is changing the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated for seniors, veterans and other recipients of government benefits.If only we could test the efficacy of the chained CPI by applying it to CEO salaries and bonuses first.
President Barack Obama earlier this year proposed a less generous formula called a “chained” consumer price index, in hopes of saving the government $230 billion over 10 years.
In April, Obama’s proposal was viewed as an olive branch to Republicans that was largely rejected. With budget bills passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate now in a conference committee to narrow differences and a mid-January deadline approaching, the issue is back on the table.
The chairman of the congressional talks, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., identified the issue as an area ripe for compromise.
That’s why groups representing seniors and veterans were out in front of the White House Thursday afternoon, demanding that the president and Congress back off of the changes.
“It’s a benefit cut, a significant benefit cut, $340 billion out of the pockets of current and near retirees, veterans and the disabled over the next 10 years alone,” Joyce Rogers, senior vice president of the powerful AARP lobby for seniors, told the gathered elderly protesters.
In front of the White House fence, the president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Max Richtman, went after Obama.
“We’re here because the elephant in the room is a donkey,” Richtman said in a play on words with political party symbols. “The chained CPI is in the president’s budget.”
Under the president’s April budget proposal, future benefits for retirees, government workers and veterans would be subjected to the less generous measure of inflation. The “chained” index assumes that consumers don’t always pay higher prices but rather substitute with cheaper alternatives.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
Her daddy sold dynamite in the Rockies
Which has nothing to do with her first instrument being the drums. Sera Cahoone, now playing guitar, is a singer songwriter based in Seattle these days.
A grape lesson for wine drinkers
Now that the President blinked
The insurance companies that really don't want the curbs placed on them by the ACA are making noises that the solutions presented so far won't work.
A day after they were caught off guard by President Obama’s proposal to prevent cancellation of insurance policies for millions of Americans, top executives of some of the biggest insurance companies emerged from a meeting at the White House on Friday, expressing mixed feelings about whether the idea could work in every state.If PBO had said they can gouge more than 20% of the premiums they would be falling over themselves to push whatever plan he wanted.
The hastily called meeting was an attempt by the White House to address the growing frustration of the nation’s insurers over the administration’s fumbling of the health care law. It came just a day after the president announced on television that insurers could now continue coverage for people whose policies were being canceled because they did not meet the new law’s standards.
The cancellations had left the president vulnerable to assertions that he had gone back on an often-repeated promise that consumers could keep their current plans if they were happy with them.
Mr. Obama met with chief executives from more than a dozen of the nation’s largest companies in the Roosevelt Room for more than an hour in a session that insurers said was wide-ranging. Other issues discussed included a suggestion being floated by some in the insurance industry that they be allowed to enroll people directly, rather than through HealthCare.gov, the government’s troubled website. But the insurers said the president had agreed that fixing the site’s remaining problems was a critical priority.
The insurers, many of whom expressed anger that the president had not consulted them before Thursday’s announcement, said they had come away from the meeting willing to work with the White House on the cancellation issue and still protect the financial viability of the new insurance marketplaces. They did not discuss in detail how the president’s goal might be achieved.
The participants included executives of WellPoint, Aetna, Cigna, Humana and Kaiser Permanente, as well as several nonprofit Blue Cross plans.
After the meeting, Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group, said only that it had been “very productive.”
Francis & Sarah have a twitter war
From Real Time:
Flex Fuel is only possible in third world countries
Our Captains Courageous in Washington have responded to the pissing and moaning of Big Oil and Detroit and cut back the amount of ethanol to be blended in gasoline. Apparently Detroit, indeed all the automakers can't make an engine that can handle it.
The Obama administration Friday proposed the first-ever reduction in the amount of ethanol in the gasoline supply, signaling retreat from the Renewable Fuel Standard passed by Congress in 2007.Of course, if you believe that "blend wall" crap you probably think Brazilian cars run on fairy dust. According to Wikipedia,
The Environmental Protection Agency wants 15.21 billion gallons of renewable fuels blended into gasoline and diesel next year, down from 16.55 billion gallons this year. Most of it is corn-based ethanol.
The EPA’s proposed biofuel reduction follows concerns from oil companies and some automobile advocates that more than 10 percent ethanol in motor fuel could cause engine damage, a potential issue that’s known as the blend wall.
The EPA said adding more ethanol, at a time that fuel economy is improving, would push the percentage past 10 percent. Nearly all gasoline sold in the United States now has up to 10 percent ethanol, the agency said.
“For the first time, EPA has acknowledged that the blend wall is a dangerous reality and that breaching it would have serious impacts on America’s fuel supply and would be harmful for American consumers,” said Jack Gerard, who leads the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s main trade group.
There are no longer any light vehicles in Brazil running on pure gasoline. Since 1976 the government made it mandatory to blend anhydrous ethanol with gasoline, fluctuating between 10% to 22%. and requiring just a minor adjustment on regular gasoline engines. In 1993 the mandatory blend was fixed by law at 22% anhydrous ethanol (E22) by volume in the entire country, but with leeway to the Executive to set different percentages of ethanol within pre-established boundaries. In 2003 these limits were set at a minimum of 20% and a maximum of 25%. Since July 1, 2007 the mandatory blend is 25% of anhydrous ethanol and 75% gasoline or E25 blend. The lower limit was reduced to 18% in April 2011 due to recurring ethanol supply shortages and high prices that take place between harvest seasons.And of those manufacturers, only the French do not build or import to the US. With the World Cup and the Olympics coming to Brazil in the years ahead, perhaps Americans will realize what a load of crap they have been fed.
The Brazilian car manufacturing industry developed flexible-fuel vehicles that can run on any proportion of gasoline (E20-E25 blend) and hydrous ethanol (E100). Introduced in the market in 2003, flex vehicles became a commercial success, reaching a record 92.3% share of all new cars and light vehicle sales for 2009. By December 2009 they represented 39% of Brazil's registered Otto cycle light motor vehicle fleet, and the cumulative production of flex-fuel cars and light commercial vehicles reached the milestone of 10 million vehicles in March 2010, and 15.3 million units by March 2012. By mid-2010 there were 70 flex models available in the market manufactured from 11 major carmakers....
After reaching more than 4 million cars and light trucks running on pure ethanol by the late 1980s, representing one third of the country's motor vehicle fleet, ethanol production and sales of ethanol-only cars tumbled due to several factors. First, gasoline prices fell sharply as a result of lower gasoline prices, but mainly because of a shortage of ethanol fuel supply in the local market left thousands of vehicles in line at gas stations or out of fuel in their garages by mid-1989. As supply could not keep pace with the increasing demand required by the now significant ethanol-only fleet, the Brazilian government began importing ethanol in 1991.
The 2003 Brazilian VW Gol 1.6 Total Flex was the first flexible-fuel car capable of running on any blend of gasoline and ethanol.
Confidence on ethanol-powered vehicles was restored only with the introduction in the Brazilian market of flexible-fuel vehicles. In March 2003 Volkswagen launched in the Brazilian market the Gol 1.6 Total Flex, the first commercial flexible fuel vehicle capable of running on any blend of gasoline and ethanol. By 2010 manufacturers that build flexible fuel vehicles include Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Peugeot, Renault, Volkswagen, Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Citroën, Nissan, and Kia Motors.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Sometimes talent does skip a generation
Holly Williams is the daughter of Bocephus and the granddaughter of Hank Williams. She writes some good stuff.
But are they covered?
How to fail as a terrist.
One major way would to have been unaware of what was published in the New York Times today. Most of the world knew or suspected this.
The Central Intelligence Agency is secretly collecting bulk records of international money transfers handled by companies like Western Union — including transactions into and out of the United States — under the same law that the National Security Agency uses for its huge database of Americans’ phone records, according to current and former government officials.They have been following the money for years, this is just detail.
The C.I.A. financial records program, which the officials said was authorized by provisions in the Patriot Act and overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, offers evidence that the extent of government data collection programs is not fully known and that the national debate over privacy and security may be incomplete.
Some details of the C.I.A. program were not clear. But it was confirmed by several current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is classified.
The data does not include purely domestic transfers or bank-to-bank transactions, several officials said. Another, while not acknowledging the program, suggested that the surveillance court had imposed rules withholding the identities of any Americans from the data the C.I.A. sees, requiring a tie to a terrorist organization before a search may be run, and mandating that the data be discarded after a certain number of years. The court has imposed several similar rules on the N.S.A. call logs program.
Several officials also said more than one other bulk collection program has yet to come to light.
“The intelligence community collects bulk data in a number of different ways under multiple authorities,” one intelligence official said.
You can't just shoot people in the face on your porch
Unless perhaps you are the Vice President, in which case anyone nearby is fair game. In Dearborn Heights, MI it is called 2nd degree murder.
A suburban Detroit homeowner on Friday was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Renisha Marie McBride, a 19-year-old woman who was shot in the face with a shotgun as she stood on the man’s porch in the middle of the night nearly two weeks ago.Let's hope the prosecution doesn't screw this one up.
The shooting in Dearborn Heights has stirred racial tensions both in Detroit, a mostly black city, and in its whiter suburbs, including Dearborn Heights, which sits just across the city line.
Much remains unclear about what happened in the early morning hours of Nov. 2, when Ms. McBride, who was black, crashed her car and hours later ended up on the doorstep of the defendant, who was identified as Theodore Wafer, 54, who neighbors say appears to be white.
Though the case has been compared to the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager killed last year in Florida, the Wayne County prosecutor, Kym L. Worthy, said at a news conference Friday morning that “race is not relevant.”
Ms. Worthy said Ms. McBride knocked on the exterior screen door of Mr. Wafer’s Dearborn Heights home around 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 2. Ms. McBride had been in a car accident about three hours earlier, and tests have subsequently shown that she was legally intoxicated. Witnesses said that after the car accident, Ms. McBride appeared to be disoriented and walked off into the darkness before returning, then walking away again.
The prosecutor said that there was no sign that Ms. McBride had sought to gain entry to Mr. Wafer’s house, but that he had opened the front door and fired a shot through a locked screen door that struck Ms. McBride in the face.
“We do not believe he acted in lawful self-defense,” said Ms. Worthy, adding that prosecutors had decided to charge Mr. Wafer “based on the facts and the evidence.”
A good congressman does what he is paid to do
Hellfire, that's what their corporate masters buy them for and the little boogers aren't about to voluntarily jump off that gravy train.
Coal state lawmakers are attempting to block the Obama administration from limiting the planet-warming emissions of power plants.Paying to clean up their act would be a real black eye for them on Wall St. as well as cut into their bonuses. So instead of spending money on cleanup, it all goes into congressional pockets and lobbying firms and lawyers when they have to sue. And in the end it costs twice as much to get to the same place.
Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin are pushing a measure that would require congressional approval of President Barack Obama’s signature move to combat climate change.
Whitfield charged at a Thursday hearing that the Environmental Protection Agency is pursuing a “one-two punch to eliminate coal as a source of electricity.”
The EPA recently put out the first-ever limits on greenhouse gases from future power plants. The impact of those regulations is blunted by the fact that they don’t apply to existing plants. Not many new coal-fired plants are being built anymore in the United States.
But a bigger fight will come next year, when the EPA puts out greenhouse gas standards for existing plants. Coal still makes up 37 percent of U.S. electricity generation. In Kentucky, it’s more than 90 percent.
Whitfield and Manchin’s plan would forbid the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from existing plants unless Congress passes a law agreeing to when the limits would start. Their proposal also would put conditions on the rules for future plants.
Janet McCabe, the EPA’s top air pollution regulator, said at Thursday’s hearing that her agency has serious issues with the lawmakers’ draft legislation. It would hurt the fight against climate change, she said.
“Power plants are clearly the largest source of carbon in the country,” said McCabe.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
The NSA may be the spying collosus
But the Brits still have the edge on panache when it comes to cloak and dagger work. Nevertheless the police aren't too good at covering up the wet work.
The bizarre death of a British intelligence analyst whose body was discovered inside a sports bag in a bathtub was called a probable accident by the London police on Wednesday, an inconclusive ending to one of the most puzzling investigations in recent years.The biggest question is how they believe anybody would believe this conclusion.
Gareth Williams, 31, a Welsh-born mathematician involved in code-breaking work, was found dead on Aug. 23, 2010, by police officers who entered his London apartment. His naked body was curled in a fetal position inside a sports bag in an otherwise empty bathtub. In a twist worthy of a spy movie, the bag was padlocked, but the keys to the lock were inside the bag, beneath the decomposing body.
Mr. Williams had evidently led a private existence, with few close friends. But with its tantalizing glimpse into the secretive world of espionage, the “spy in a bag” case drew intense interest from the news media, which speculated that Mr. Williams might have been killed, or might have died as an accidental consequence of an interest in escapology or bondage.
A post-mortem examination failed to identify a cause of death. A coroner’s inquest in 2012 found that someone else was probably involved in the death. However, the police now say they believe that Mr. Williams was most likely alone and locked himself in the bag, though they cannot rule out the possibility that someone else was present.
“From the inquest, we set up our investigation in a different way, and this has led to greater clarity on some aspects of the case,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, who oversaw the police investigation, said in a statement. “Now, at the end of our investigation, based on the evidence, or where we have been unable to find positive evidence, we believe that it is a more probable conclusion that there was no other person present when Gareth died.”
After three years of investigation, Mr. Hewitt said, “many questions remain unanswered.”
She has half the song writing credit for this
So Libby Titus has a true feeling for her version of this song, even if you think someone else may have done it better.
Out of his league
Why Senate rules should be changed
Consider this from Gail Collins:
When we’re choosing a leader for the nation’s central banking system, one of the important things to consider is whether Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has heard enough testimony about the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya.Or this.
This is an excellent opportunity to recall the time that then-Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky held up the confirmation of a nominee to be deputy trade representative because he was irked about Canada’s ban on candy-flavored cigarettes.If we can't elect better people than this, we need better rules to keep them in line.
Just as they become possible to build
Wouldn't you know it, the law that bans their production is about to expire. And with the rise of 3-D printers, plastic guns will be available to anyone with the relatively cheap equipment and software.
With a law banning undetectable firearms about to expire, federal agents are focusing attention on the latest twist in high-tech weaponry: guns made entirely out of plastic on 3-D industrial printers.One can almost hear Bloody Wayne LaPierre and the NRA executives oozing with joy over this.
The printers, commonly used to create plastic models and prototypes, can now make guns that cannot be picked up by metal detectors.
The longtime ban on undetectable firearms is scheduled to run out Dec. 9, and two Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer of New York and Bill Nelson of Florida, have called for a ban on plastic guns. Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., has also introduced legislation on the issue.
"The expiration of this law, combined with advances in 3-D printing, make what was once a hypothetical threat into a terrifying reality," Schumer said. "We are actively exploring all options to pass legislation that will eliminate the problem."
In a meeting with reporters Wednesday, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said plastic guns present a special challenge for law enforcement.
The agents said that in order to comply with current law, a person manufacturing a gun must use a certain amount of metal in the finished product so that the firearm is detectable by scanners at airports, federal buildings, sporting events — anywhere security screening is in place. If the law expires, someone could legally make and sell firearms that are undetectable.
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