Monday, December 31, 2012

Dusty Springfield fom 1967

And you kids think fuck buddies are something new

The Year in Review Part 2

Brought to you by that inimitable correspondent Tom Tomorrow.

You make your profits where you can

And it that means you provide shitty care, unnecessary treatment and Medicare fraud, so be it. A recent study into Medicare fraud discovered that For-Profit nursing homes were guilty of this approximately 3 times as often as Not-For-Profits.
A report by federal health care inspectors in November said the U.S. nursing home industry overbills Medicare $1.5 billion a year for treatments patients don’t need or never receive.

Not disclosed was how much worse it is when providers have a profit motive. Thirty per cent of claims sampled from for- profit homes were deemed improper, compared to just 12 percent from non-profits, according to data Bloomberg News obtained from the inspector general’s office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services via a Freedom of Information Act request.

The figures add to the case -- advanced by health care researchers and Medicare overseers in at least six government and academic studies in the last three years -- that the rise of for-profit providers is fueling waste, fraud and patient harm in the $2.8 trillion U.S health care sector. At nursing homes, 78 percent of $105 billion in revenues went to for-profits in 2010, up from 72 percent in 2002, according to the latest available government breakdowns.

“Research shows for-profits are more likely to pursue money in all kinds of ways than non-profits are, even by pushing the legal envelope,”
"Pushing the legal envelope"? Hell, those For-Profits have trampled the legal envelope like a herd of hungry cattle into fresh pasture. Until some level of government starts throwing people into jail, we can't expect it to get any better.

Divide 10 by 14

And it will give you some idea of how cheaply the perpetrators of the greatest fraud this country has ever seen are getting off the hook.
Banking regulators are close to a $10 billion settlement with 14 banks that would end the government’s efforts to hold lenders responsible for foreclosure abuses like faulty paperwork and excessive fees that may have led to evictions, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

Under the settlement, a significant amount of the money, $3.75 billion, would go to people who have already lost their homes, making it potentially more generous to former homeowners than a broad-reaching pact in February between state attorneys general and five large banks. That set aside $1.5 billion in cash relief for Americans...

Housing advocates were largely unaware of the latest rounds of secret talks, which have been occurring for roughly a month. But some have criticized the government for not dealing more harshly with bankers in light of their lax standards for making loans and packaging them as investments, as well as their problems with modifying troubled loans and processing foreclosures.
The best part of this settlement scam is the independent reviews required by "experts" at $250 hr, with the average review taking 20 hrs. There are probably thousands of unemployed bankers who remember the old standards and could do the job in half the time at a tenth of the cost. And still no one is going to jail, even though every cut corner and flawed piece of paperwork was authorized at the highest levels.

Don't forget, Joe

Brazil promises to clean up its shit

Literally. In anticipation of the 2016 Olympics, Brazil is promising to make an effort to clean up the worst and most visible of its problems.
Near Rio’s future 2016 Olympic village the Marapendi lagoon emits a foul stench from waters that have been turned into a cesspool by unfiltered sewage from surrounding upscale condominiums.

Brazil has pledged the athletes will see a much different sight when they descend on the country for the Summer Games in four years.

The government pledged to clean-up the decades of pollution in its bid to host the Olympics, in a two-year project estimated to cost $300 million and slated to start early next year.

The municipality has also vowed to build four sewage treatment stations in local rivers at a cost of $68 million.

But it will be an uphill battle.

Waste from area lagoons could fill Rio’s iconic Maracana stadium seven times over, according to experts.

“The sewage dumped into the lagoon comes from the residences of the wealthy who do not provide proper treatment,” fumed biologist Mario Moscatelli during a dawn tour of the area.

Until five years ago, untreated sewage was dumped directly into the water system.
Like Hercules in the Augean Sstables said, "That's a lot of shit".

NRA jumps another shark

The first time the NRA jumped the shark was when Wayne LaPierre took over the executive suite. Since then their mission has been one of unstinting support of gun manufacturers regardless of the cost to gun owners. Accessories have always taken a back seat to the guns themselves. That is changing with the latest efforts from the LaPierre Lunatic Asylum.
By muffling the noise generated with every shot by sonic booms and gas release, a silencer would provide a new degree of intimacy for public mass murder, delaying by crucial seconds or minutes the moment when someone calls the police after overhearing strange bangs coming from Theater 4 or Classroom D. The same qualities that make silencers the accessory of choice for targeted assassination offer advantages to the armed psychopath set on indiscriminate mass murder.

It should surprise no one that the NRA has recently thrown its weight behind an industry campaign to deregulate and promote the use of silencers. Under the trade banner of the American Silencer Association, manufacturers have come together with the support of the NRA to rebrand the silencer as a safety device belonging in every all-American gun closet. To nurture this potentially large and untapped market, the ASA last April sponsored the first annual all-silencer gun shoot and trade show in Dallas. America’s silencer makers are each doing their part. SWR Suppressors is asking survivalists to send a picture of their “bugout bag” for a chance to win an assault rifle silencer. The firm Silencero — “We Dig Suppressors and What They Do” — has put together a helpful “ Silencers Are Legal” website and produced a series of would-be viral videos featuring this asshole.

This Silencer Awareness Campaign is today’s gun lobby in a bottle. The coordinated effort brings together the whole family: manufacturers, dealers, the gun press, rightwing lawmakers at every level of government, and the NRA. Each are doing their part to chip away at federal gun regulation in the name of profits and ideology. Together, they plan to strip the longstanding regulatory regime around silencers, and reintroduce them to the gun-buying public as wholesome, children-friendly accessories, as harmless as car mufflers.
Silencers have an unjustified mystique because of the movies and TV. The do not make ,44 Magnum go 'f-f-ft' when you fire. Like a flash suppressor they minimize the effect on the shooter, but you can still hear a gun shot.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

For all the Republican "negotiators"

Mitch might have been a tailor but Orange John was running a roadhouse.

Dogbert & The CEO

Scott Adams reveals a closely guarded real world corporate secret.

How to make $Millions in the pharmaceutical business

For one company it was simple, just buy the rights to an "orphan drug", jack up the price a hundredfold, then market it for uses that are marginal at best but increase the volume of sales. Such is the business history of Questcor.
For several years, Questcor, which is based in Anaheim, lost money on Acthar because the drug’s market was so small. In 2007, it raised the price overnight, to more than $23,000 a vial, from $1,650, bringing the cost of a typical course of treatment for infantile spasms to above $100,000. It said it needed the high price to keep the drug on the market.

“We have this drug at a very high price right now because, really, our principal market is infantile spasms,” Don M. Bailey, Questcor’s chief executive, told analysts in 2009. “And we only have about 800 patients a year. It’s a very, very small — tiny — market.”

Companies often charge stratospheric prices for drugs for rare diseases — known as orphan drugs — and Acthar’s price is not as high as some. Society generally tolerates those costs to encourage drug companies to develop crucial, possibly lifesaving drugs for these often neglected diseases.

But Questcor did almost no research or development to bring Acthar to market, merely buying the rights to the drug from its previous owner for $100,000 in 2001. And while the manufacturing of Acthar is complex, it accounts for only about 1 cent of every dollar that Questcor charges for the drug.

Moreover, the tiny “orphan” market soon became much bigger. Before long, Questcor began marketing the drug for multiple sclerosis, nephrotic syndrome and rheumatologic conditions, even though there is little evidence that Acthar is more effective for those other conditions than alternatives that are far cheaper. And the company did so without being required to prove that the drug actually works. That is because Acthar was approved for use in 1952, before the Food and Drug Administration required clinical trials to show a drug is effective for a particular disease. Acthar is essentially grandfathered in.

Today, only about 10 percent of the drug’s sales are for infantile spasms. The new uses, Mr. Bailey has told analysts, represent multibillion-dollar opportunities for Acthar and Questcor, its sole maker.

The results have been beyond even the company’s wildest dreams. Sales of Acthar, which accounts for essentially all of Questcor’s sales, totaled nearly $350 million in the first nine months this year, up 145 percent from the period a year earlier. In the same period, Questcor’s earnings per share nearly tripled, to $2.12. In the five years after the big Acthar price increase in August 2007, Questcor shares rose from around 60 cents to about $50, in one of the best performances of any stock in any industry.
Aetna has stopped payment for any use beyond its original one and Questcor's salad days may be over, but the damage has been done.

Make 'em pay

Lately there has been a surge of petitions on the White House website for all manner of appeals. Where they had been largely reasonable, the latest ones have bordered on being little more than a comments flame war. One of the new ones however is an idea we can all get behind. It reads as follows:
Restrict pay for all Senators and Congress to $75,000 for a period of 3 years to repay the National deficit.

Restrict pay for Senators and Congress to $75,000 for a period of 3 years to repay the National deficit. Report all Senators and members of Congress who do not support this so voters will know who supports the American people for re-election purposes.
It won't go anywhere but it is good to tell those mooks to fuck off once in a while.

Steubenville, OH - A Town Without Pity

Gene Pitney sang about a couple in love. He didn't even scratch the surface of how bad a town could get. Read it here.

Lindsey "Lightfoot" Graham declares war on the United States

Because Lindsey, cushioned for the rest of his life from all but the Armageddon of financial disasters, thinks that American seniors need to be stripped of all possibility of a secure retirement, even if they did pay for it.
Although official Washington is currently fixated on the so-called “Fiscal Cliff,” the biggest threat to American prosperity is the debt ceiling, which must be raised in February to prevent economic catastrophe. If Republicans refuse to reach a deal on the so-called cliff, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that they will spark a new recession in 2013. But if Republicans block action on the debt ceiling, they will make that potential recession look quaint. Without raising the debt ceiling, the United States will be forced to embrace austerity so severe it will lead to “a bigger GDP drop than that experienced during the Great Recession of 2008.”

But in an interview on Fox News Sunday this morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) threatened to oppose this must-pass bill unless Social Security benefits are taken away from millions of future retirees:

I’m not going to raise the debt ceiling unless we get serious about keeping the country from becoming Greece, saving Social Security and Medicare [sic]. So here’s what i would like: meaningful entitlement reform — not to turn Social Security into private accounts, not to take a voucher approach to Medicare — but, adjust the age for Social Security, CPI changes and means testing and look beyond the ten-year window. I cannot in good conscience raise the debt ceiling without addressing the long term debt problems of this country and I will not.
Lindsey Graham has never had a 'good conscience' and now no longer has even the remnants of a bad one.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rockabilly has been around for a long time

But it has faded from the national scene over the years. Still there are many bands keeping the flame burning. Ruby Ann is one of those hoping to follow in the footsteps of the greats of rockabilly.

The preliminary discussions

Was massive ignorance the cause of Countrywide's fraud?

Not likely, but in a legal deposition of Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozillo, he sought to escape responsibility for the fraud by claiming himself ignorant of one of the basic understandings of his business. Matt Taibbi has the risible details.
Another day, another corporate titan suffering from devastating amnesia. This time, the memory-loss patient is none other than Angelo Mozilo, the former CEO of Countrywide Financial.

Deposed in the landmark lawsuit between the monoline insurer MBIA and Countrywide/Bank of America, Mozilo professed not to know the difference between "verified" income and "stated" income. He also made some incredible remarks regarding his notorious "Friends of Angelo" lending program, in which, among others, political figures like North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad and Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd received Countrywide mortgages on highly advantageous terms just because they were tight with the CEO.

As chief of Countrywide, Mozilo headed the single most corrupt subprime mortgage lender in America during the period preceding the crisis. Charged with mass fraud and headed for trial in October of 2010, Mozilo and the SEC ultimately settled four days before opening arguments were set to begin in Los Angeles. Ultimately, Mozilo got away with no jail time, paying a $67.5 million settlement, $20 million of which was covered by Countrywide, which by then had been acquired by Bank of America, a major bailout recipient. Just in the years between 2000 and 2008, Mozilo made over half a billion dollars – $521.5 million, according to one corporate research firm.

If you were going to assign blame to any single person for the financial crisis, Angelo Mozilo would rank right up there with people like Lehman's idiot CEO Dick Fuld, deranged credit-default-swap peddler Joe Cassano of AIG's Financial Products unit, and deregulatory pioneers like Bob Rubin and Phil Gramm. Mozilo's role, however, was probably the single most shameful, as he represented the conscious decision of mortgage underwriters to abandon lending standards in order to claim ever-larger chunks of market share.
While it has long been obvious that the skills necessary to rise to the top of a large corporation are often divorced from those necessary to properly run it, Mozillo's remarks are mind-boggling.

All your earned benefits R belong to us

A pair of multi-millionaire Republican Senators from Tennessee have revealed in all its disgusting glory the true agenda of the Republican/Teabaggers.
Two Republican senators want to use the threat of an economic meltdown to raise the retirement age and cut Medicare. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced a plan today that would raise the federal debt limit by $1 trillion in exchange for $1 trillion in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security,
Aside from the usual chained CPI crap, they want to increase the availability of private plans despite the continued failure of existing Medicare Advantage plans to deliver the same service as Medicare without sizable subsidies. But they would make no effort to cap healthcare costs to enable the private insurers to continue to pillage the Treasury.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday jazz from our friends in the frozen North.

Molly Johnson sings a little bluesy number. Love that pianer.

Mitch The Chin visited family for Christmas.

From the pen of Pat Oliphant

New York subways are a very effective transportation system

And lately they have also become a dangerous way to travel.
A young woman pushed an unsuspecting man to his death under an oncoming subway train in Queens on Thursday night, the police said, the second time a commuter had been fatally thrown to the tracks in less than a month.

The attack on Thursday was around 8 p.m. at the 40th Street-Lowery Street station in Sunnyside, Queens, where witnesses said the young woman had been pacing the platform, mumbling to herself.

She stopped pacing and took a seat on a wooden bench at the end of the platform, witnesses told the police.

“When the train pulled into the station, the suspect rose from the bench and pushed the man, who was standing with his back to her, onto the tracks into the path of the train,” the police said in a statement. “The victim appeared not to notice her.”

The train was already barreling into the station and the man had little time to react and bystanders had no time to go to his aid, said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.

The victim was hit by the first car and his body was pinned under the second car before the 11-car train came to a stop.
What a lovely world we live in.

When on stupid Conservative idea runs into another

You get a situation like the one in Arizona where the Attorney General, in speaking out for one policy, pulls the rug out from underneath himself because of another.
Merging an environment of state budget cuts with calls for heavily arming schools, Arizona Attorney-General Tom Horne has suggested arming school principals or “another designee.”

On Friday, the National Rifle Association in a press conference called for there to be armed police officers in every school to prevent attacks along the lines of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT, rather than stricter gun control. With state budgets hurting, however, Horne noted that “school resource officers,” members of the police force specially trained to handle instances of juvenile law, emergency response, and student counseling, are on the decline in Arizona schools.

The solution then, to Horne, is to model schools after the post-2001 mandate that airline pilots be armed in plane cabins. In proposing that only principals be armed, Horne believes he is taking a moderate stance.
More accurately he is showing the hollowness of both ideas, Potemkin policies with no substance behind their facades.

Hobby Lobby to impose owners religious beliefs on employees

Hobby Lobby, the corporate Christianist outpost of religious intolerence, has declared they will ignore the mandate to provide birth control without a co-pay to their employees in their health care plan. Because their particular sky demon has commaded them to do so, they will impose their religious beliefs upon all their female employees in violation of their employees Constitutionally guaranteed Freedom From Religion.
Craft store chain Hobby Lobby announced on Friday that it will ignore the ruling of U.S. courts and refuse to provide copay-free birth control access to its employees. It will do so despite whatever costs it may incur, even if they are higher than the cost of birth control itself.

Upon learning that Obamacare required employers and insurance companies to provide birth control with no cost to employees, Hobby Lobby sued, saying that, despite the secular nature of the business, the company’s owner’s religious objections should be taken into consideration. When a court denied that line of reasoning, Hobby Lobby took its grievances to the Supreme Court and asked for an injunction. The highest court in the land denied that request, telling Hobby Lobby that it must allow its employees access to birth control as it seeks further litigation.

But Hobby Lobby is saying no.
So in a brilliant business move, they will pay whatever penalty may be assessed, in addition to increased legal expense rather than allow their employees freedom from the cruel dictates of the owners particular sky demon.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Now that Christmas is over

Time to roll out music for the next big holiday, Valentine's Day. And since it is in winter, let's have the ultra cool Miles Davis play it.

The Republican Worm of Anarchy

Charlie Pierce
has said what needs to be said, the core mission of the Republican/Teabagger Party is anarchy. And like some parasitic worm it has been working it way through the body politic to the point today where the body can no longer function.
The problem with a system of government designed the way ours is designed is that, for it to work that way it should, all its component parts have to share a basic committment that government should, you know, govern. Now, after carefully nurturing for 40 years the notion that government is bad, the Republican party has developed within it a legislative core that believes that, if government is bad, then governing is worse, that holds as an article of faith that the only legitimate function of government is to do nothing -- loudly, if possible. For years, we have been confronted in our elections with the conundrum of people who run for high political office because they are "not politicians." For years, we have elected -- and re-elected -- people to the national Congress in Washington because they are "not Washington insiders." What you see now in the House is a generation of elected officials raised in the fundamental absurdity of that kind of thinking, members of Congress who believe that the best way to keep faith with the people who elected them is to not do the job the people back home elected them to do. "That government is best which governs least," is a bromide that these people have turned into an iron syllogism. If that government is best which governs least, then the best possible government is that which governs not at all, and that, in the government's innermost parts, the best representatives are those that do as little as possible. And here we are. A House Of Representatives that declines to participate in governing the country, that would prefer not to, under the leadership of the gentleman from Ohio, Bartleby The Speaker.
The Worm has spent 40 years delivering its poison, will we need another 40 years to purge the body?

Once again Drug Industry not selling enough pills

So they have resorted to the simple expedient of repurposing the ones that aren't moving that well. For a long time the medical profession has warned against the use of antidepressants for the bereaved. Not any more.
When, though, should the bereaved be medicated? For years, the official handbook of psychiatry, issued by the American Psychiatric Association, advised against diagnosing major depression when the distress is “better accounted for by bereavement.” Such grief, experts said, was better left to nature.

But that may be changing.

In what some prominent critics have called a bonanza for the drug companies, the American Psychiatric Association this month voted to drop the old warning against diagnosing depression in the bereaved, opening the way for more of them to be diagnosed with major depression — and thus, treated with antidepressants.

The change in the handbook, which could have significant financial implications for the $10 billion U.S. antidepressant market, was developed in large part by people affiliated with the pharmaceutical industry, an examination of financial disclosures shows.

The association itself depends in part on industry funding, and the majority of experts on the committee that drafted the new diagnostic guideline have either received research grants from the drug companies, held stock in them, or served them as speakers or consultants.

Drug companies have shown an interest in treating patients who have recently lost a loved one, having sponsored and published the results of at least three trials in which the bereaved were treated with antidepressants, including the Wellbutrin study.

The financial ties between the creators of the APA handbook and the industry far exceed limits recommended in 2009 by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences.
Sure, the drug companies had to buy their favorable rulings but if it fattens up the bottom line, it will be money well spent.

This is the way workers should protest.

Tea workers in the Indian state of Assam
had some serious disputes with their boss. The boss thought he could fire a few workers and throw them out of corporate housing. The workers decided to do something about it.
Around 1,000 workers at the privately-owned M.K.B. Tea Estate attacked the plantation owner’s bungalow on Wednesday and set it on fire in violence blamed on festering labour unrest in the tea-growing region, police said.

Mridul Bhattacharya and his wife Rita were burned to death as workers armed with home-made weapons prevented police from rescuing them, they said.

“The body of the planter was charred beyond recognition and reduced to ashes while the body of the wife was found lying in the kitchen,” local police officer A. Das told AFP by telephone.

The grisly attack occurred in Assam’s tea-growing Tinsukia district, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of the state’s main city of Guwahati.

The Indian Express newspaper said the violence was sparked by orders served by Bhattacharya on 10 estate workers to vacate their quarters and the detention of three employees by police over unspecified disputes.

Plantation workers were seen on local television channels admitting to having carried out an attack.

“We all came and attacked the bungalow and set it on fire. They deserved to be killed as the planter has exploited us for a long time and tortured us for petty things,” a tea estate female worker said on News Live local TV channel.
There are probably lots of workers in this country who would love to do the same.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Now That Your Christmas Dreams Are Done

Try a Dream in Blue from Los Lobos.

They are polishing up the obits

Because it looks like old George H W Bush is getting ready to check out.

Want to raise healthy animals without antibiotics?

Just reach for the spice shelf. Well, maybe a little more than that but the buzz in the organic food industry is that oregano, that staple of Italian cooking is an effective substitute for antibiotics.
The smell of oregano wafting from Scott Sechler’s office is so strong that anyone visiting Bell & Evans these days could be forgiven for wondering whether Mr. Sechler has forsaken the production of chicken and gone into pizza.

Oregano lies loose in trays and tied into bunches on tabletops and counters, and a big, blue drum that held oregano oil stands in the corner. “Have you ever tried oregano tea?” Mr. Sechler asked, mashing leaves between his broad fingers.

Off and on over the last three years or so, his chickens have been eating a specially milled diet laced with oregano oil and a touch of cinnamon. Mr. Sechler swears by the concoction as a way to fight off bacterial diseases that plague meat and poultry producers without resorting to antibiotics, which some experts say can be detrimental to the humans who eat the meat. Products at Bell & Evans, based in this town about 30 miles east of Harrisburg, have long been free of antibiotics, contributing to the company’s financial success as consumers have demanded purer foods.

But Mr. Sechler said that nothing he had used as a substitute in the past worked as well as oregano oil.

“I have worried a bit about how I’m going to sound talking about this,” he said. “But I really do think we’re on to something here.”
There is something going on here and the other necessary steps should not be overlooked.
Mr. Ruth and Mr. Sechler warned that using oregano oil to control bacterial infection also requires maintaining high standards of sanitation in barns where animals are sheltered, as well as good ventilation and light, and a good nutrition program.

After a chicken flock leaves a barn at Bell & Evans for slaughter, for instance, the facility is hosed down, its water lines are cleaned out and everything is disinfected. It sits empty for two to three weeks to allow bacteria to die off and to ensure that the rodents that carry salmonella and campylobacter are eliminated.

“You can’t just replace antibiotics with oregano oil and expect it to work,” Mr. Sechler said.
Sadly, we found from some previous food borne disease outbreaks, there are owners not willing to pay for these necessary sanitation.

Because they can do it and we can't anymore.

China has opened the longest high speed rail line, linking the capitol with Guangzhou.
China began service Wednesday morning on the world’s longest high-speed rail line, covering a distance in eight hours that is about equal to that from New York to Key West, Florida, or from London across Europe to Belgrade.

Bullet trains traveling 300 kilometers an hour, or 186 miles an hour, began regular service between Beijing and Guangzhou, the main metropolis in southeastern China. Older trains still in service on a parallel rail line take 21 hours; Amtrak trains from New York to Miami, a shorter distance, still take nearly 30 hours.

Completion of the Beijing-Guangzhou route is the latest sign that China has resumed rapid construction on one of the world’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure projects, a network of four north-south routes and four east-west routes that span the country.
Nd thanks to our Republican/Teabaggers, we are too broke to afford anything nice anymore except lots and lots of shiny goodies for the Pentagon.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Joyful Christmas Experience

Mirabile dictu

Healthy food on sale at 7-11 Stores.
The chain that is home of the Slurpee, Big Gulp and self-serve nachos with chili and cheese is betting that consumers will stop in for yogurt parfaits, crudité and lean turkey on whole wheat bread.

7-Eleven, the convenience store chain, is restocking its shelves with an eye toward health. Over the last year, the retailer has introduced a line of fresh foods for the calorie conscious and trimmed down its more indulgent fare by creating portion-size items.

The change is as much about consumers’ expanding waistlines as the company’s bottom line. By 2015, the retailer aims to have 20 percent of sales come from fresh foods in its American and Canadian stores, up from about 10 percent currently, according to a company spokesman.

“We’re aspiring to be more of a food and beverage company, and that aligns with what the consumer now wants, which is more tasty, healthy, fresh food choices,” said Joseph M. DePinto, the chief executive of 7-Eleven, a subsidiary of the Japanese company, Seven & i Holdings.
Is this the end of the Slurpee? And will the Japanese owners put in sushi bars next? Only time will tell.

R.I.P. Charles Durning

No argument, you were one of the best governors Texas ever had.

Awake and rejoice

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Divine Miss Jackson

Mahalia Jackson can lift anyone's spirit.

R.I.P. Jack Klugman

Oscar, I never thought you were messy, just casual.

Christmas Time in the Big Easy

As done by Satchmo.

A Review Of That Wacky Year 2012

Brought to you as only Tom Tomorrow can, Part 1.

Just like some fucking sports team

One of the biggest obstacles to effective regulation of guns is the manufacturers themselves. And one of their most effective tactics is identical to that used by sports teams to scam the public into building their arenas for them.
One after another, they testified that the technology, called microstamping, was flawed and would increase the cost of guns.

But the witness who commanded the most attention in Hartford that day in 2009 was a representative of one of Connecticut’s major employers: the Colt Manufacturing Company, the gun maker.

The Colt executive, Carlton S. Chen, said the company would seriously consider leaving the state if the bill became law. “You would think that the Connecticut government would be in support of our industry,” Mr. Chen said.

Soon, Connecticut lawmakers shelved the bill; they have declined to take it up since. Now, in the aftermath of the school massacre in Newtown, the lawmakers are formulating new gun-control measures, saying the state must serve as a national model.

But the failed effort to enact the microstamping measure shows how difficult the climate has been for gun control in state capitals. The firearm companies have played an important role in defeating these measures by repeatedly warning that they will close factories and move jobs if new state regulations are approved.

The companies have issued such threats in several states, especially in the Northeast, where gun control is more popular.
One more reason why any regulation needs to be national.

Lenin is still dead

And has been all these years. But now his mausoleum is in need of major repairs, just as he is on an annual basis. This has raised a serious discussion as to whether the state should continue his costly preservation or just plant him six feet under like everyone else.
Debates on whether to remove the body from the mausoleum constructed in 1924, when Lenin died at age 53, started after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Though the mausoleum is a tourist attraction, increasing numbers of Russians are calling for Lenin to be buried. Russia’s Communist party vehemently opposes the idea.

In the latest big debate on the issue last year, the ruling party United Russia launched a campaign for Lenin’s burial, however the discussion was quickly shelved.

At that time, 56 percent of Russians said it would be better to bury Lenin, while 31 percent said his body should be left alone, a Levada poll said.

President Vladimir Putin earlier this month said the body reflects Russian tradition, even controversially comparing it to the ancient Orthodox relics of saints displayed in famous monasteries in Russia, Ukraine, and Greece.
Book your flight soon if you want to see him. No telling how long he will last.

Rocking out with the Best Koreans

They are good and deserve a better audience than the bunch of party stiffs they are playing for. Raw Story has the details.

On this last shopping day

Here is some help from Eddie Izzard's Guide to Last Minute Christmas Shopping. In 2 hours for 50 pounds and wrapped too.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Two more days

And your last chance to petition the Big Guy, as Eartha Kitt does here.

Wayne's (Demented) World

From the pen of Nick Anderson

Once upon a time, they were the gold standard

If you wanted the best in forensic lab work, you went to the FBI lab. And because of their reputation, they trained many local officials in their methods. Now it is looking like those methods weren't all they were cracked up to be and a lot of convictions have been brought into question.
Thousands of criminal cases at the state and local level may have relied on exaggerated testimony or false forensic evidence to convict defendants of murder, rape and other felonies.

The forensic experts in these cases were trained by the same elite FBI team whose members gave misleading court testimony about hair matches and later taught the local examiners to follow the same suspect practices, according to interviews and documents.

In July, the Justice Department announced a nationwide review of all cases handled by the FBI Laboratory’s hair and fibers unit before 2000 — at least 21,000 cases — to determine whether improper lab reports or testimony might have contributed to wrongful convictions.

But about three dozen FBI agents trained 600 to 1,000 state and local examiners to apply the same standards that have proved problematic.

None of the local cases is included in the federal review. As a result, legal experts say, although the federal inquiry is laudable, the number of flawed cases at the state and local levels could be even higher, and those are going uncorrected.
The FBI was always 50% PR and without J.Edgar and his files to protect the organization, increased oversight is making that all to clear.

A look at various gun control ideas.

From the pen of Brian McFadden

They come seeking a seat at the table

No, not the Republicans but the Taliban.
After years of deriding Afghanistan’s government and army as corrupt tools of Western occupiers, the Taliban have begun publicly airing a softer vision for the country’s future, with senior insurgent leaders saying the militants are willing to govern alongside other Afghan factions and even to adopt the current American-financed army as their own.

That message was delivered over the past few days by Taliban envoys during private meetings with Afghan officials and opposition politicians near Paris, according to officials close to the talks, and the softer approach has been echoed in recent interviews with Taliban figures loyal to the group’s nominal leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar. Together, it is the furthest that the Taliban’s senior leadership has gone to express in some official way that the group would be willing to operate as a mainstream Afghan political faction rather than aiming to return as conquering rulers after the end of the NATO combat mission in 2014.

But with the Taliban there are always questions.

The group is increasingly divided by power struggles, according to some Western officials and Afghans close to the Taliban, and there has sometimes seemed to be a disconnect between conciliatory statements from the top and the aggression of field commanders. As well, Afghan and American officials trying to open peace talks with the Taliban have long struggled with whether any offer of compromise could be seen as legitimate or just tactical maneuvering to gain public support.

Still, the new statements offer the tantalizing prospect of a Taliban leadership that is ready to talk, even if many of its aims are out of line with the Afghan government and its Western allies.
So somebody is looking ahead but the effect of any power struggles in the organization are yet to be known.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

We are all like Members of Congress

Waiting for the bag man to see what kind of boodle we get. Black Prairie puts a nice spin on it.

Jack booted thugs in Texas arrest Santa

For the heinous crime of giving chalk to kids so they could write their wishes for a better world on the sidewalk. Took at least six of them to get the beast under control.

Teachers enjoy a change of status

Hemust have taken all he needs

In a speech broadcast to all his adoring people, Karzai of the Afghans revealed an awful truth to the world.
Afghanistan's president accused on Saturday the countries that fund his government and military with enabling the widespread corruption that undermines his efforts to establish rule of law in the war-wracked country...

"Corruption in Afghanistan is a reality, a bitter reality," Karzai said in a nationally televised speech. "The part of this corruption that is in our offices is a small part: that is bribes. The other part of corruption, the large part, is hundreds of millions dollars that are not ours. We shouldn't blame ourselves for that. That part is from others and imposed on us."

Karzai argued that foreign donors give contracts to high-ranking Afghan officials or to their relatives in an effort to gain influence over the government, thereby sowing the seeds for corruption.

As an example, he brought up his half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, who was seen as the main power broker in southern Kandahar province before he was assassinated by insurgents in 2011. Karzai recalled a conversation with former U.S. commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal in which McChrystal told Karzai to rein in his brother because he was corrupt. Karzai said he pointed out that it was the U.S. government, not the Afghan government, that was awarding contracts to Ahmed Wali Karzai.
Poor Ahmed Wali, an honest man until he met a contract he couldn't refuse. And yet he may be correct in one sense. When you give a child too much candy, who is responsible for the results?

Old but not time honored

From the pen of Tom Toles

The Mayans were more right than they knew

And Gail Collins makes that point in a frightening way.
The world didn’t implode when their calendar stopped on Dec. 21. But the National Rifle Association did call for putting guns in every American school in a press conference that had a sort of civilization-hits-a-dead-end feel to it.

And we learned that negotiations on averting a major economic crisis had come to a screeching halt because Speaker John Boehner lost the support of the far-right contingent of his already-pretty-damned-conservative caucus. We have seen the future, and everything involves negotiating with loony people.
That is a very scary prospect.

For those of you who didn't know the GOP is crazy

This interesting statistic was unearthed by Harper's Magazine.
Starting with the number of people who believe in climate change, we can note that Canadians are pretty on-the-ball when it comes to this: 98% of them accept the overwhelming evidence. The percentage of Americans who do is 70, while only 48% of Republicans attach any weight to the problem. On the other hand, Republicans accept demonic possession at a rate of 68%. Apparently evidence means nothing to some people.
What was once called demonic possession is now universally recognized as mental illness. Just don't call the Republicans in Congress lunatics.

The real purpose of the 2nd Amendment

The NRA and their howling noise machine are constantly telling us that the sole purpose of the Second Amendment is to allow anybody, without restrictions, to own more guns than a loco drug lord. And those guns are to be used for self protection, up to and including protection against the jack booted thugs of the government. This is utter codswallop, also known as pure bullshit. And examination of the creation of that amendment will easily see that it was designed to provide a militia force available to a strong government.
The reality was that the Framers wrote the Constitution and added the Second Amendment with the goal of creating a strong central government with a citizens-based military force capable of putting down insurrections, not to enable or encourage uprisings. The key Framers, after all, were mostly men of means with a huge stake in an orderly society, the likes of George Washington and James Madison.

President George Washington, as Commander-in-Chief, leading a combined force of state militias against the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.

The men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 weren’t precursors to France’s Robespierre or Russia’s Leon Trotsky, believers in perpetual revolutions. In fact, their work on the Constitution was influenced by the experience of Shays’ Rebellion in western Massachusetts in 1786, a populist uprising that the weak federal government, under the Articles of Confederation, lacked an army to defeat.
Rather than protect us against the government, the 2nd Amendment was designed to protect us from wild eyed whackdoodles rising against the government and the common good. Wild eyed whackdoodles like the NRA leadership.

Friday, December 21, 2012

While the weather has been conspiring against this

We hope that this Christmas promise from Kristen Chenoweth comes true for everybody

One thing Santa won't be bringing this Christmas

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Finally the NRA speaks

And after waiting a week following one of their best massacres yet, with the public expecting some mighty pronouncement, Wayne LaPierre, the group’s executive vice president and lead terrorist delivered himself of a mousy little squeak.
The National Rifle Association on Friday called for schools to be protected by armed guards as the best way to protect children from gun violence.
Just like Columbine and Ft Hood. The sad part is too many responsible and caring gun owners believe this bloodthirsty bastard has their best interests at heart. Maybe, if they sell guns in volume.

When you are at the top of your profession

You have worked hard to get there and usually start expecting the rewards for that work. As Matt Taibbi reveals, one of those perks seems to be charging top dollar for your time while giving no effort. Matt looks at the expert testimony given by Glenn Hubbard, Dean Of Columbia School of Business. For $1200 an hour, Glenn swore that Countrywide did no wrong in its mortgage selection
So how did Hubbard manage to analyze Countrywide and conclude that mass fraud in its underwriting procedures wasn't problematic? Easy: He didn't look at the underwriting! All Hubbard did was take a group of Countrywide loans and compare them to a group of other loans from the same time period.

When that comparison revealed that Countrywide's loans failed at about the same rate as the non-Countrywide loans, he smartly concluded that fraud wasn't the problem and that macroeconomic factors must have been the cause.

Except for one thing: He left out the fact that about half of the loans in the "non-Countrywide" pool he selected for his analysis were originated by companies that were also being sued for underwriting fraud and other irregularities. What Hubbard did is compare a bunch of bad loans to a bunch of bad loans...

Hubbard must be a very inquisitive thinker. He took $1200 an hour specifically to not learn how subprime loans were created. Moreover, he did this non-learning for Countrywide years after the financial collapse, long after the truth about that company had already become common knowledge pretty much everywhere in the world outside Hubbard's office, long after Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo had been charged by the SEC with deliberately misleading investors (and insider trading, to boot), and long after the Attorney General of California had concluded that Countrywide was essentially a giant scheme to use mass fraud to dump pools of bad loans on unsuspecting marks on the secondary market.

Given the great masses of information that was out there about Countrywide, Hubbard in other words had to perform a labor of Hercules to avoid letting the truth about the company slip through a crack in his skull. Naturally, this awesome ability to non-absorb information makes him qualified to be one of America's leading academics. Way to go, American learning!
What really pisses me off is that I could have done the same thing and only charged them $600 an hour. What a waste!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Less than a week before Christmas

Big one, little one just make sure it's a Merry one.

Alan Grayson details the chains of the chained CPI

Dear montag:

Let me get right to the point. I'm against the proposed "chained CPI" cut in Social Security because it substantially undermines the protection against inflation that Social Security recipients enjoy under current law. The existing cost of living adjustment ("COLA") already understates actual increases in the "cost of living"; the chained CPI would exacerbate the problem.

I understand that the vast majority of Americans -- including, quite possibly, most people reading this - have no burning desire to learn anything about the chained CPI. It has, however, become a major part of the "fiscal cliff" negotiations, and so it has become one of those things that people have to learn about, for their own protection.

Where we are now in the fiscal cliff negotiations is that Speaker Boehner is talking about reducing the federal deficit in the exact same way that Governor Romney did - Boehner says that he wants to, but he won't tell us how. President Obama, boxed in by the poll-driven sense that he must-must-must propose something "balanced," is "balancing" the reduction of tax breaks for the rich against the reduction of the protection that seniors have against inflation. On the merits, however, reducing that protection is undeserved, unwise and unfair.

Social Security benefits are automatically adjusted each year to reflect increases in the cost of living, as determined by the consumer price index (CPI). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the CPI each month.

Here is how the "chained CPI" would change things: Let's say that the cost of gasoline tripled, from $3.33 per gallon to $10 per gallon. Most people would call that a 200% increase in the price of gas. That's how it would be calculated under the CPI today. Under the chained CPI, however, it would be calculated at less than 200%, because some people couldn't afford to pay $10 a gallon. They would drive less. They might have to take the bus to work. They might take a "staycation" instead of a vacation.

Because a tripling in the price of gas basically makes everyone poorer, and thus less able to buy gas, the chained CPI doesn't count that as a 200% increase. It reduces the percentage increase in proportion to the amount of gas that people can no longer afford to buy.

In fact, the bigger the price increase (and the poorer people get), the bigger the gap between the actual price increase and the chained CPI adjustment. This effect starts off small, and barely noticeable, but then as time goes by, it swells like a blister. In fact, it swells from $1.4 billion in the first year to $22 billion in the tenth year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. So the chained CPI is inflation protection that, by design, inflation itself erodes. Ain't that just grand?

To make things worse about the chained CPI, there is no evidence that the existing CPI is somehow overpaying seniors. On the contrary, as John Williams has pointed out at , if the Government simply calculated the CPI today in the same manner as it did through 1990, then every year, the CPI increase would be approximately 3% higher. If the Government calculated the CPI today in the same manner that it did before 1980, then every year, the CPI increase would be approximately 7% higher. That's the sort of thing that happens when you pretend (as the CPI now does) that a computer with a CPU that is twice as fast is the same as a computer that costs half as much.

And let's be honest: you know plenty of Social Security recipients. Have you seen any of them driving a brand-new Lexus, thanks to a COLA increase?

The political proponents of the chained CPI are hoping that you don't understand it. Because when you do understand it, you won't support it. We should be doing more to protect seniors against inflation, not less.

The chained CPI calls to mind something that W.C. Fields once said: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with . . . " With the chained CPI.


Alan Grayson

"And time goes by, so slowly,
And time can do so much.
Are you still mine?"

- The Righteous Brothers, "Unchained Melody" (1965).

Criticism or CYA?

The Judge in the HSBC money laundering cas
e has made a request of the parties before he rules on it.
HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) and U.S. prosecutors were asked by a judge to submit a brief giving reasons he should approve the bank’s $1.9 billion settlement of money-laundering charges over drug cartel-related transfers.

“My suggestion is you present to the court a document that demonstrates why I should accept the agreement,” U.S. District Judge John Gleeson said today at a court hearing in Brooklyn, New York. “There’s been some publicized criticism of this. I think you should feel free to address it.”
Is the judge asking them to cover his ass? Or will he helpfully point out the flaws in their reasoning? We wait to see what happens.

This pretty much explains it all

From Gail Collins:
Attempts to avert the infamous “fiscal cliff” are like a super-high-stakes card game. But you have to imagine a game in which one player needs to go into a back room before he makes his bet and get the approval of a herd of rabid ferrets.

That would be Speaker John Boehner. Across from him at the card table sits the president. When Barack Obama won his big Senate race in 2004, his pals in the Illinois Legislature celebrated with one last evening of poker, in which they took the senator-elect for every dollar in his wallet.

So perhaps it was not surprising that in the negotiations, the president gave up quite a bit. You will remember that Obama had campaigned on keeping the Bush-era tax cuts only for the American middle class: families making $250,000 a year or less. O.K., possibly not all truly middle-class. Still, that was his line in the sand. There were long stretches this fall when tax-hike-for-over-$250,000 seemed to be his only specific plan for the next four years. But, this week, he let Boehner move the line. Pushed it up to $400,000. Plus, Obama gave way on entitlements by agreeing to change the cost-of-living adjustments on Social Security. Then, all eyes turned to the House speaker. And the rabid ferrets.
When will it all end.

Even the worst of us have some good somewhere.

Except the Phelps clan, perhaps.

Crazier than a shit house rat

That is not only how you can describe David Barton, but a sad condemnation of the state of mental health care in our country. Instead of a nice soft room with no sharp edges, David Barton is given a public forum to say this.
David Barton argues that the Second Amendment is supposed to be a deterrent against our own government, which opens up a whole world of possibilities for gun-loving, government-hating, Bible-thumping, aberrochristian Tea Partiers.

I had this conversation with my son’s nurse yesterday, when she was talking about the gun debate online. Though she is a Fox & Friends viewer and I’m an MSNBC guy, we agreed that citizens don’t have to own every type of weapon made. To make my point, I mentioned rocket launchers as what I thought was a fairly far-out example. And sure, it might be fun to fire a .50 caliber sniper rifle, but how many applications does it have outside the military?

But David Barton made my point for me. According to Barton, any weapon the government possesses must be available to citizens. So yes, put that TOW anti-tank missile and that M134 Minigun on your Yule list right away. Why shouldn’t you be able to blow up tanks and armored cars, or your neighbor’s minivan when they park on your property, or hose down a bunch of atheistic liberal or icky brown scum when their partying gets too loud?
Who wouldn't feel safer with an M1A2 parked next to the Lexus?

A Curious Proposal

Certainly it is within the world of the Barack Obama that has emerged recently, so eager to please the Village with his bi-partisanship and willingness to be beaten up by the opposition.
There has been a lot of talk about another special election in Massachusetts where Scott Brown may make a come back. I think President Obama could snuff that out in a bi-partisan way by extending an olive branch to Scott Brown.

With the appointment of John Kerry as Sec. of State a great possibility, there is a lot of chatter about Scott Brown throwing his hat into another special election for his Senate seat. This is a seat that Scott Brown may win based on his 2010 special election success and low voter turnout.

The background is simple. The Republicans are pushing John Kerry to be Secretary of State so that they can possible win a seat in the Senate. This is a completely obvious political move. The Democrats have not countered this political chess game, but I think an Obama appointment of Scott Brown would be checkmate.

I believe Scott Brown should be appointed to a post in the next Obama administration, perhaps in the wheel house of the veterans affairs or department of defense. Brown, who was a JAG in the Army and has military committee background experience, would be a great pick for a post.
Better yet, appoint him Special Plenipotentiary to Begin Relations with North Korea and send him to Pyongyang with a suitcase full of anti Kim propaganda. When the NK's throw him in prison, Obama can simply say, Scott who? Such stuff as dreams are made of.

Quote of the Day

"Here is a sentence you won’t hear politicians or policy wonks saying in the next few weeks: 'We should pay Social Security beneficiaries less in the future and push a lot of people into higher tax brackets.' Here is a sentence you almost certainly will hear: “Let’s adopt chained CPI.”
Ezra Klein, explaining with precision what a chained CPI will do.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Good King Wenceslas wasn't a Republican.

And probably not much of an Obama Democrat either.

When it comes to achieving their mission

I would guess that the NRA executives wish there were a school shooting every few weeks.
With President Barack Obama endorsing sweeping gun restrictions in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, prices for handgun magazines are surging on EBay (EBAY) and semi-automatic rifles are sold out at many Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) locations.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, said yesterday that it would continue to sell guns, including rifles like the one used at Newtown, where 26 people, most of them children, were killed on Dec. 14. By contrast, Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. (DKS) suspended sales of similar guns at its more than 500 stores.
But lest you think ill of WalMart,
“We remain dedicated to the safe and responsible sale of firearms in areas of the country where they are sold,” David Tovar, a spokesman for Wal-Mart, said yesterday.
That last quote was added for a touch of comic relief.

What they are counting on

From the pen of Pat Oliphant

In the wake of the HSBC farce

Another banking giant, after getting caught in a many years long criminal conspiracy, is getting off with a small fine from good old Uncle Chump.
UBS, the Swiss banking giant, announced a record settlement with global authorities on Wednesday, agreeing to a combined $1.5 billion in fines for its role in a multiyear scheme to manipulate interest rates.

In a sign that officials are increasingly taking a hard line against financial wrongdoing, the Justice Department also filed criminal charges against two former UBS traders and secured a guilty plea from the bank’s Japanese subsidiary, sending a warning shot to other big banks suspected of rate rigging. The UBS subsidiary, which agreed to plead to a single count of felony wire fraud, is the first unit of a big bank to agree to criminal charges in more than a decade.

The cash penalties represented the largest fines to date related to the rate-rigging inquiry. The fine is also one of the biggest sanctions that American and British authorities have ever levied against a financial institution, falling just short of the $1.9 billion payout that HSBC made last week over money laundering accusations.

The severity of the UBS penalties, authorities said, reflected the extent of the problems. The government complaints laid bare a scheme that spanned from 2005 to 2010, describing how the bank reported false rates to squeeze out extra profits and deflect concerns about its health during the financial crisis. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the American regulator leading the case, cited more than 2,000 instances of illegal acts involving dozens of UBS employees.
A single count of felony wire fraud. So which executive is going to jail? After all, corporations are people my friend. And since they were not the only bank involved, where is the RICO indictment? Where is the sheriff?

Since both can be deadly

How about we do this?

Who'd a thunk it?

It seems that the extremism in Texas education policies does not sit well with its neighbors. Despite the efforts of Bubba Jindal to emulate if, the Orleans parish school district has refused to accept anything that follow the Texas Whackdoodle educational guidelines.
A Louisiana school district voted on Wednesday to ban from its schools any textbooks and school curricula that follows the guidelines of Texas’ extreme, ideological standards.

Texas approved a hard-right curriculum in 2010 that allowed teachers to convey inaccurate information to their students. But Orleans Parish (which covers New Orleans) schools were so worried about the spread of misinformation that it approved explicit rules requiring teachers to teach accurate historical and scientific information omitted by the Texas rules:

“No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the State of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories…No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class,” it reads. “No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.”
This will piss off a lot of good old boys in Baton Rouge.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Italian culture is more than Dolce & Gabbana

Mina was a staple of Italian pop music and TV through the sixties and into the seventies.

A rude look at American sanity

The Rude Pundit gives us a rundown of the insane shape of our outlook on guns and security. He pretty much nails it with this passage.
Say you go to a farm store, or, hell, even a reasonably large Home Depot garden center. Say you buy a "large quantity of pesticides, combustibles, or fertilizers containing ammonium nitrate out of season or with cash." Or perhaps you fail to state a "legitimate agricultural use for product" you are buying. As far as the FBI and local terrorism task forces are concerned, you are suspicious. As a 2011 FBI memo to such stores said, "Some of the activities, taken individually, could be innocent and must be examined by law enforcement professionals in a larger context to determine whether there is a basis to investigate."

You got that? The FBI or DHS might pay you a visit if you quietly buy too much of a certain kind of fortified shit. If you are a child in a wheelchair, chosen at random at an airport, and you have fortified shit residue on your hands because you touched the wheels of your chair, you will be held until the truth about the fortified shit residue is ascertained.

But if you are on the terrorist watch list, you can buy all the goddamn guns you want, as long as you're not disqualified for other reasons (like not being a citizen, because legal immigrants don't need to be safe). When Republican Peter King, generally a bastard, tried to get a bill to close this loophole, it was killed in committee, mostly because the NRA opposed it because freedom and tyranny.
Kind of difficult to deny the inmates are running the asylum.

A Question of Balance

From the pen of Stuart Carlson.

WalMart, the Home to Simple Solutions

Got a problem, simple, just pay the right person the right amout of money and get what you want right away. The New York Times gives us a close look at how WalMart does it in Mexico.
Wal-Mart longed to build in Elda Pineda’s alfalfa field. It was an ideal location, just off this town’s bustling main entrance and barely a mile from its ancient pyramids, which draw tourists from around the world. With its usual precision, Wal-Mart calculated it would attract 250 customers an hour if only it could put a store in Mrs. Pineda’s field.

One major obstacle stood in Wal-Mart’s way.

After years of study, the town’s elected leaders had just approved a new zoning map. The leaders wanted to limit growth near the pyramids, and they considered the town’s main entrance too congested already. As a result, the 2003 zoning map prohibited commercial development on Mrs. Pineda’s field, seemingly dooming Wal-Mart’s hopes.

But 30 miles away in Mexico City, at the headquarters of Wal-Mart de Mexico, executives were not about to be thwarted by an unfavorable zoning decision. Instead, records and interviews show, they decided to undo the damage with one well-placed $52,000 bribe.

The plan was simple. The zoning map would not become law until it was published in a government newspaper. So Wal-Mart de Mexico arranged to bribe an official to change the map before it was sent to the newspaper, records and interviews show. Sure enough, when the map was published, the zoning for Mrs. Pineda’s field was redrawn to allow Wal-Mart’s store.

Problem solved...

The Times’s examination reveals that Wal-Mart de Mexico was not the reluctant victim of a corrupt culture that insisted on bribes as the cost of doing business. Nor did it pay bribes merely to speed up routine approvals. Rather, Wal-Mart de Mexico was an aggressive and creative corrupter, offering large payoffs to get what the law otherwise prohibited. It used bribes to subvert democratic governance — public votes, open debates, transparent procedures. It used bribes to circumvent regulatory safeguards that protect Mexican citizens from unsafe construction. It used bribes to outflank rivals.
The support for these bribes went all the way to the top. Somewhere in the US legal code there are laws that make this illegal. As we found out with HSBC, the possibility of the laws being applied are 0 to none because WalMart is big, too big to be guilty of mere laws.

Chained CPI should result in whipped lawmakers

And I mean literally tied to a post and lashed brutally across their backs. Give the bastards a taste of the lash so they can see what they want to impose on the least wealthy elements of our society. And if you don't know what the chained CPI is, the WaPo has a short explanation.
It’s an arcane detail in the ongoing budget debate, but the chained CPI is appealing to budget experts and some Republicans and Democrats, because it only slightly tweaks the inflation formula, while building significant savings over time, perhaps more than $100 billion over a decade.

Making such a change also means paying out less in Social Security benefits over time — something liberal Democrats can’t stomach. Imagine, for example, a person born in 1935 who retired to full benefits at age 65 in 2000. People in that position had an average initial monthly benefit of $1,435, or $17,220 a year, according to the Social Security Administration. Under the cost-of-living-adjustment formula and 2012 inflation, that benefit would be up to $1,986 a month in 2013, or $23,832 a year. But if payouts were adjusted using chained CPI, the sum would be around $1,880 a month, or $22,560 a year — a cut of more than 5 percent and more as the years go by.

As for taxes, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has calculated that most Americans would pay a little more than $100 more per year. Families making between $30,000 and $40,000 a year would see the biggest increases — almost six times that faced by millionaires — but that’s because upper-income Americans are already in the top bracket and not being pushed into higher marginal rates because of changing bracket thresholds.

All told, chained CPI would lead to a larger across-the-board cut in Social Security benefits and a 0.19 percent income surtax, according to experts. Those changes could make the proposal politically unpalatable for some, which is why some budget watchdog groups have argued that the only fair way to implement such a change would be to couple it with an increase in Social Security benefits and to exempt Supplemental Security Income, which provides support for impoverished elderly, disabled and blind people.
Sounds so innocent but in reality it is so cruel. And note the expressed gesture to exempt those hardest hit, until a later date when no one is looking.

According to the latest reports

We know which one TPTB in DC consider in need of public assistance.

How can any religion allow association with this turd?

In the deplorable tradition of those two flame breathing assholes, Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer, another heartless god botherer has stepped up to blame Newtown on his god.
Yesterday, we heard from Bryan Fischer and Mike Huckabee, two of the most despicable men on earth, certainly. But not far behind comes Focus on the Family and Family Research Council founder James Dobson, who spoke up yesterday on his radio program, Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson, telling listeners that the Sandy Hook school massacre was the result of God punishing us for turning our backs on him.

Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I’m not talking politically, I’m not talking about the result of the November sixth election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.

I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on

In truth, if you want to look for evidence of moral rot, you have only to look as far as the Religious RIght, with their pseudo-Christianity based on idolatry of wealth. They have turned their back on Jesus by embracing the rich rather than condemning them, as the man from Galilee did time and again. They have thrown Jesus’ message of love under the bus and embraced a cherry-picked reading of Old Testament fire and brimstone and put it in Jesus’ place. As a religion, it is neither Judaism nor Christianity but some monstrous offspring of their hate and bigotry.

People like James Dobson, Bryan Fischer, and Mike Huckabee, are the purveyors of this false, anti-Jesus gospel.
Should the definition of a religion be whether or not it will embrace these slimeballs as their own?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hey Guys! Losing your manhood?

We got just the thing for you.

It got lost somewhere

Simon & Garfunkel - America

Martin Bashir rips that Asshole a New Huckabee

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

R.I.P. Daniel Inouye

You served your country honorably and well from 1943 until today.

An Army veteran has some thoughts on gun control

Markos Moulitsas, in addition to serving as the Great Orange Stan, is a veteran of three years service in the US Army. As such he looks at some of the attitudes an arguments of the "lock & load before you leave the house" crowd. And the fallacies all swirl down to some simple truths.
So yeah, if I were the benevolent dictator of this country, I'd simply outlaw guns with magazines. That would leave plenty of guns for people to hunt with and defend their homes. As for government tyranny, good luck fighting off government drones with your assault rifle. It hasn't gone so well for Al Qaida, I hear. Might as well stick to the ballot box. I'd also spend a crap-ton of cash on mental health services. But you'll never get rid of dangerously crazy people. You can get rid of ways they can inflict the most harm.

Of course, you have a conservative movement and its NRA friends who think that 20 dead kindergarteners is an acceptable price to pay for their "freedom" to own weapons better suited for highly trained security forces. You have have a conservative movement that would fight to its last breath for those 20 when they were fetuses, but can't bring itself to get outraged once they were born. You have a conservative movement that will now scream about liberals "politicizing a tragedy" to take away their guns—validating every Obama conspiracy theory they've held since Day One of his presidency. As if we'd give a shit about their stupid guns if innocents weren't regularly dying because of them.
We have to end this horribly insane corner we have painted ourselves into.

It happens so often there is a form cartoon

Yup, Tom Tomorrow has created a generic gun massacre cartoon fot hose cartoonists who can't keep up with the never ending stream of American massacres. Just fill in the details.

The stupidity rises like puke in a drunk

And once again that Stupidity takes the form of concessions to the Republican/Teabaggers on Social Security.
Amid news reports that President Obama is considering a proposal from House Speaker John Boehner to slow the growth of Social Security payments over time as part of a broader budget deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, senior Democratic congressional aides are portraying the idea as a more palatable alternative to other benefit cuts Republicans have sought.

As part of a deal that would include higher taxes on top earners and an increase in the debt limit, Republicans are pushing a plan to index Social Security benefits and perhaps tax brackets to a slower-growing measure of inflation called chained CPI.

The plan would reduce Social Security spending by over $100 billion over 10 years by reducing cost of living adjustments, and potentially increase tax revenues by hastening taxpayers into higher tax brackets.

Though progressive advocates staunchly oppose the move to chained CPI, aides note that there is a broader consensus in the center-left and conservative policy communities for re-indexing Social Security benefits, particularly by comparison to raising the Medicare eligibility age — the GOP’s other, more controversial benefit cut proposal. For instance, the liberal leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has conditionally endorsed the chained CPI proposal.
The Great Orange Boehner can give President Obama and the Democrats nothing that they won't get at the end of the year. Cutting Social Security Insurance in any form is theft from the working people of the United States by the wealthy who have no need to steal more from us. But they won't stop trying.

And today in Shitholeistan

Somewhere in eastern Afghanistan
they experienced their own version of the Newtown Massacre. In their case it was not the willful act of a crazy person, but the detritus of a previous conflict.
In a separate episode, 10 girls were killed in a rural district of eastern Afghanistan on Monday when a roadside bomb exploded while they were collecting firewood, the Afghan police said. The office of the governor of Nangarhar Province said the girls were all between 9 and 11 years old. The Ministry of Education said some were as young as 6...

In the blast in eastern Afghanistan, Hazarat Hussain Masharaqiwal, a spokesman for the police chief of Nangarhar Province, said that the children discovered the unexploded bomb near their village, and that it went off when they hit it with an ax. The explosion also injured a boy who was with them.

The local police said the bomb probably dated from the civil war or even the Soviet occupation of the country.
Will President Obama's efforts to leave troops behind in Afghanistan include mine disposal personnel?

Joe Manchin loses A rating from NRA

In the wake of the Newtown Massacre
, notorious Blue Dog Democrat Joe Manchin has stepped up and called for restrictions on guns.
“I don’t know anybody in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle,” Mr. Manchin said, speaking on the MSNBC program “Morning Joe.”

“I don’t know anybody who needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about,” he added.

While Mr. Manchin stopped short of saying what, if any, changes to gun laws he would support, his words amounted to one of the strongest signals yet that in the aftermath of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., longtime gun rights supporters are taking a more measured approach to Second Amendment issues.
While there is a lot of waffle in his words, it is a big step from his previous reactions. Other Democrats are also speaking out where they haven't before, but we should never underestimate the power of the Senate to stall anything good idea to death.

Mike Huckleberry doubles down on his stupid

Poor Mike, nobody really wants him around so he needs to occasionally rip a fart in church so he won't be forgotten. Having let one loose a real stinker the other day in declaring the lack of god in the classroom was the cause of the Newtown Massacre, he has faced up to a tidal wave of contempt by ratcheting up his stupid and letting loose a truly awful stinker.
Fox News Host and former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) doubled down on his claim that the murder spree in Connecticut was caused by removing God from schools, linking the shootings to “tax-funded abortion pills” and society calling “sinful” acts “normal.” Speaking on Fox News on Saturday, Huckabee suggested we should not be surprised “that a culture without [God] reflects what it has become:”
What Mike Huckabee knows about god you could fit into a collection plate, $10s & $20s please,

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I guess as long as people have been able to think

They have been asking for this.

The Ghoul of Christmas Present

In just two days

The White House petition calling for
The goal of this petition is to force the Obama Administration to produce legislation that limits access to guns. While a national dialogue is critical, laws are the only means in which we can reduce the number of people murdered in gun related deaths.

Powerful lobbying groups allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution's intended purpose of the right to bear arms. Therefore, Congress must act on what is stated law, and face the reality that access to firearms reaches beyond what the Second Amendment intends to achieve.

The signatures on this petition represent a collective demand for a bipartisan discussion resulting in a set of laws that regulates how a citizen obtains a gun.
has over 125,000 signatures.

Add your signature.

R.I.P. Doctor House

No, not that one, the one who made it possible for Rush Limbaugh to hear again after drugs destroyed his hearing.

Handy survival tips for the Mayan Apocalypse

From the pen of Brian McFadden

And today in Shitholeistan

The Afghans with money are preparing themselves for the withdrawal of of NATO forces in the near future. The first exodus from the country is the gold.
The gold is fully declared and legal to fly. Some, if not most, is legitimately being sent by gold dealers seeking to have old and damaged jewelry refashioned into new pieces by skilled craftsmen in the Persian Gulf, said Afghan officials and gold dealers.

But gold dealers in Kabul and current and former Kabul airport officials say there has been a surge in shipments since early summer. The talk of a growing exodus of gold from Afghanistan has been spreading among the business community here, and in recent weeks has caught the attention of Afghan and American officials. The officials are now puzzling over the origin of the gold — very little is mined in Afghanistan, although larger mines are planned — and why so much appears to be heading for Dubai...

There is reason to be suspicious: the gold shipments track with the far larger problem of cash smuggling. For years, flights have left Kabul almost every day carrying thick wads of bank notes — dollars, euros, Norwegian kroner, Saudi Arabian riyals and other currencies — stuffed into suitcases, packed into boxes and shrink-wrapped onto pallets. At one point, cash was even being hidden in food trays aboard now-defunct Pamir Airways flights to Dubai.

Last year alone, Afghanistan’s central bank says, roughly $4.5 billion in cash was spirited out through the airport. Efforts to stanch the flow have had limited impact, and concerns about money laundering persist, according to a report released last week by the United States Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The unimpeded “bulk cash flows raise the risk of money laundering and bulk cash smuggling — tools often used to finance terrorist, narcotics and other illicit operations,” the report said. The cash, and now the gold, is most often taken to Dubai, where officials are known for asking few questions. Many wealthy Afghans park their money and families in the emirate, and gold dealers say more middle-class Afghans are sending money and gold — seen as a safeguard against economic ruin — to Dubai as talk of a postwar economic collapse grows louder.
No word on how much of this comes from the Karzai family, but we can expect Karzai of the Afghans to follow the money as soon as NATO leaves.

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