Friday, May 31, 2013

Black Prairie

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bill Withers

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Helen O'Connell w/The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Corrs redux

Monday, May 27, 2013

Carrie Rodriguez

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ella Fitzgerald

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Victoria Williams & Dave Pirner

Nice cover of the Spitrit classic

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Temptations

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Two lost weekends

And a lost week in between. I'm going away until next month so enjoy your long weekend and stop by to see the bits I've left for each day.

The Vespers

Most people see the real scandal

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Obama to throw out a teaser about war without end

Either they are running out of targets or they have realized what the drones strikes were doing to those that remained alive. President Obama is expected to announce a reduction in use and a change in policy for drone strikes.
In his first major speech on counterterrorism of his second term, Mr. Obama hopes to refocus the epic conflict that has defined American priorities since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and even foresees an unspecified day when the so-called war on terror might all but end, according to people briefed on White House plans.

As part of the shift in approach, the administration on Wednesday formally acknowledged for the first time that it had killed four American citizens in drone strikes outside the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, arguing that its actions were justified by the danger to the United States. Mr. Obama approved providing new information to Congress and the public about the rules governing his attacks on Al Qaeda and its allies.

A new classified policy guidance signed by Mr. Obama will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The rules will impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists.

Lethal force will be used only against targets who pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and cannot feasibly be captured, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter to Congress, suggesting that threats to a partner like Afghanistan or Yemen alone would not be enough to justify being targeted.

The standard could signal an end to “signature strikes,” or attacks on groups of unknown men based only on their presumed status as members of Al Qaeda or some other enemy group — an approach that administration critics say has resulted in many civilian casualties. In effect, this appears to be a step away from the less restricted use of force allowed in war zones and toward the more limited use of force for self-defense allowed outside of armed conflict.
The new policy sound suspiciously like the one they told to us when the strikes began.

Jaime Dimon can continue to double dip

Thanks to a lot of hard work and probably some ass kissing, he was allowed by the shareholders to remain as Chairman and CEO of J P Morgan Chase. Now he has to rebuild his organization following the financial and personnel losses from the London Whale.
Now Mr. Dimon plans to marshal the momentum from the shareholder victory to try to strengthen the bank’s compliance and audit controls, according to several people with knowledge of the matter. That cleanup work was already under way, but the victory gives him more of a mandate to tackle it head on, these people say.

As part of that push, JPMorgan is beefing up the staff under Matt Zames, JPMorgan’s chief operating officer, according to several people close to the bank. Mr. Zames was initially chosen by Mr. Dimon to take over the chief investment office in the aftermath of the troubled bets. By the end of the year, JPMorgan is on track to hire as many as 1,000 employees charged with compliance and controls.

Top bank executives are increasing the frequency of their trips to meet with regulators in Washington, the people close to the bank said. Gordon A. Smith, who is chief executive of JPMorgan’s community and consumer banking, has taken about one trip to Washington each month.

Mending the frayed relationships with Washington will be difficult, however, as the bank continues to contend with a series of regulatory missteps.

In January, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency took an enforcement action against JPMorgan, faulting it for lapses in how the bank controls against the flow of tainted money. The Comptroller is also investigating whether JPMorgan failed to tell federal authorities of its suspicions about Bernard L. Madoff, subsequently convicted in the largest Ponzi scheme in history. The agency is now weighing a move against JPMorgan for using questionable documents to collect overdue credit card bills, according to officials with knowledge of the investigations.

“The regulators are not going away and JPMorgan still has a target on its back,” said Michael Mayo, a banking analyst for CLSA.

And despite the blessing of the bank’s shareholders, some regulators remain skeptical that Mr. Dimon and JPMorgan can truly overhaul a bank and a culture where requests from regulators were sometimes met with outright resistance.
Any regulatory & compliance changes will most likely be of a Potemkin-like nature. He can't afford to change the criminal culture of JPM if he wants to keep Wall St. happy.

Luxembourg to start show and tell

After years of being a preferred tax haven for the smart money, Luxembourg is set to open the books for other countries.
It was a blunt and unsettling message for a country whose opaque banks have sucked in hundreds of billions of euros from abroad and whose national motto — “We want to remain what we are” — is a credo of dogged resistance to change.

“Nothing is as it was before,” Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker told Parliament last month, explaining why, after years of resistance, Luxembourg had decided to start sharing information with foreign tax authorities about the money stashed in its banks. “Not everything has changed, but lots of things have changed. Other changes are necessary, or everything will change.”

The attention this week on the ability of Apple and other prominent American corporations to avoid corporate taxes through offshore tax arrangements obscures a perhaps more significant development, highlighted by Luxembourg’s abrupt retreat from banking secrecy: the relentless pressures being piled on opaque money centers around the world amid a sweeping global assault on tax evasion and the secrecy that enables it.

“Bank secrecy is a relic of the past,” said Algirdas Semeta, the European Union’s senior official responsible for tax issues. “Soon we will see the death of bank secrecy around the world.”
True, secrecy will be gone, but money talks and there will always be safe place for it, if only in the hearts of politicians everywhere.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Those Darlins


Lindi Ortega

The singing lady with the red boots.

Despite previous disasters & sequester

The necessary disaster aid to Oklahoma
is expected to flow smoothly to the affected areas.
The Oklahoma City area is already home to two of the costliest tornados in the last half a century, and Monday’s devastating twister that hit just south of the city is likely to stress federal emergency dollars already under pressure from the recent federal budget cuts.

Even so, officials in Oklahoma and Washington pledged quick and robust aid to the area that spent Tuesday beginning the massive task of cleaning up even as officials tried to get an accurate count of the dead.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday declared the storm area a disaster area, making federal funding available to people in five counties. That includes grants for housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover.

“As a nation, our full focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue, and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead,” Obama said, before stressing that “Oklahoma needs to get everything that it needs right away.”

“So the people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them as long as it takes,” he added.

The money will come through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, which is one of the departments that took a heavy hit in the recent budget sequester. According to a March Office of Management and Budget report, the sequester cut $928 million from FEMA’s remaining fiscal 2013 budget.
Later on as the end of the fiscal year approaches and more disasters, natural and otherwise, occur money will get tight as the GOPBaggers have slashed $Millions from the FEMA budget.

Weiner has thrown his hat in the ring

And announced he is running for the office of Mayor of New York City. While the job description does require the ability to be a prick, we hope his hat is the only piece of clothing he takes off on the campaign trail. From his e-mail:
I want you to be the first to know that today I am launching my campaign for mayor of New York City. In the video below, I talk about why I'm running and how I will fight for middle class families and those struggling to get into the middle class. Nothing is more important.

I've put together 64 new ideas to move our city forward. After you watch the video, I hope you'll take a moment to stay on my website ( and look them over. Then, I hope you'll let me know what you think.

Thanks for watching and I hope you will consider being a part of this campaign.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We did it before & we can do it again

From the pen of Jim Morin

It is easier to Blame Sally

Than to go digging for something else to post today.

Looks like they'll be growing more pot & poppies

Because when the foreign military funding, which currently provides 97% of the Afghan GNP, ends they will need a new source of government funding. The Mes Aynak mine in Logar province was supposed to make up a large portion of this, but there are problems.
The giant copper mine that the Afghan government has made the centerpiece of its plans for building an economy nearly from scratch is at least five years behind schedule and the state-owned Chinese company that won the bidding has missed key deadlines in its still-secret contract with the Afghan government and is trying to renegotiate the deal, according to several officials and observers inside and outside the Mining Ministry.

The Mes Aynak mine in Logar province, about 25 miles south of Kabul, was celebrated as the biggest investment in Afghan history when it was announced in 2007. China Metallurgical Group Corp., a Beijing-based conglomerate, signed a deal valued at about $3 billion for 30-year rights to mine the site, which is thought to contain the second-richest unexploited copper deposit in the world, an amount equal to more than one-third of the copper reserves in all of China...

For years, the Afghan government has touted the nation’s mineral wealth as the heart of its economic plans. U.S. officials have estimated the value of mineral deposits at perhaps $1 trillion, and the Afghan government has claimed they’re worth $3 trillion, but no one really knows. It’s clear, though, that the resources are significant, and include additional deposits of copper, as well as iron, gold, lithium, chromite and gems. There also are reserves of oil and gas.
We may have to keep fighting a few years longer to keep the Afghan government afloat without their having to tap their "reserves" in Dubai & Switzerland.

One way to save money on veterans benefits

Other than honorable discharges results in the loss of medical and other benefits for veterans. And in the years since 2009 there has been an increase of more than 25% in the number of misconduct discharges from the Army. While this covers a period of reduced standards for enlistment, many of these discharges are affecting wounded combat veterans and are based on chickenshit.
The newspaper reported Sunday that the investigation based on Army data found that annual misconduct discharges have increased more than 25 percent since 2009, mirroring the rise in wounded. Among combat troops, the increase is even sharper.

Total discharges at the eight Army posts that house most of the service’s combat units have increased 67 percent since 2009.

“I’ve been working on this since the ’70s, and I have never seen anything like this,” said Mark Waple, a retired Army officer who now tries military cases as a civilian lawyer near North Carolina’s Fort Bragg. “There seems to be a propensity to use minor misconduct for separation, even for service members who are decorated in combat and injured.”

The figures studied by The Gazette include soldiers who have served multiple tours and have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. Some troops were cut loose for minor offenses that the Army acknowledges can be symptoms of TBI and PTSD.

“I see it every day,” said Lenore Yarger, a veterans advocate near Fort Bragg. “We have gotten very efficient at getting people to fight wars but are not prepared to deal with the aftermath.”

The Gazette found that several soldiers who tested positive for drugs were deployed anyway because the Army needed combat troops. But when they returned, they were discharged for the offense.

In other cases, the soldiers were discharged after suffering severe brain injuries in combat.

Kash Alvaro, a wounded combat soldier at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs, suffered from regular seizures from a traumatic brain injury after a bomb blast in Afghanistan. He was discharged in January 2012 for a pattern of misconduct that included missing medical appointments and going AWOL for two weeks. But because his other-than-honorable discharge barred him from veterans benefits, he soon became homeless and relied on the local hospital emergency room for care.

“It was like my best friend betrayed me,” Alvaro said from a hospital bed. “I had given the Army everything, and they took everything away.”
These are long term savings and will, no doubt protect funding for important things like F-35's and Little Crappy Ships.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Corr, what a family!

They stopped playing together back in 2006 but put out some sweet stuff in their time. This one goes back to 1995.

Shining brass

From the pen of Pat Oliphant

R.I.P. Ray Manzarek

Well, you broke on through to the other side. Say hi to Jim.

A bedtime story with a moral

Brought to you by that modern day Aesop himself, Tom Tomorrow.

You don't miss your water until your well runs dry.

And for more than a few people sitting atop what was once the vast High Plains Aquifer, the well is running dry.
Forty-nine years ago, Ashley Yost’s grandfather sank a well deep into a half-mile square of rich Kansas farmland. He struck an artery of water so prodigious that he could pump 1,600 gallons to the surface every minute.

Last year, Mr. Yost was coaxing just 300 gallons from the earth, and pumping up sand in order to do it. By harvest time, the grit had robbed him of $20,000 worth of pumps and any hope of returning to the bumper harvests of years past.

“That’s prime land,” he said not long ago, gesturing from his pickup at the stubby remains of last year’s crop. “I’ve raised 294 bushels of corn an acre there before, with water and the Lord’s help.” Now, he said, “it’s over.”

The land, known as Section 35, sits atop the High Plains Aquifer, a waterlogged jumble of sand, clay and gravel that begins beneath Wyoming and South Dakota and stretches clear to the Texas Panhandle. The aquifer’s northern reaches still hold enough water in many places to last hundreds of years. But as one heads south, it is increasingly tapped out, drained by ever more intensive farming and, lately, by drought.

Vast stretches of Texas farmland lying over the aquifer no longer support irrigation. In west-central Kansas, up to a fifth of the irrigated farmland along a 100-mile swath of the aquifer has already gone dry. In many other places, there no longer is enough water to supply farmers’ peak needs during Kansas’ scorching summers.

And when the groundwater runs out, it is gone for good. Refilling the aquifer would require hundreds, if not thousands, of years of rains.

This is in many ways a slow-motion crisis — decades in the making, imminent for some, years or decades away for others, hitting one farm but leaving an adjacent one untouched. But across the rolling plains and tarmac-flat farmland near the Kansas-Colorado border, the effects of depletion are evident everywhere. Highway bridges span arid stream beds. Most of the creeks and rivers that once veined the land have dried up as 60 years of pumping have pulled groundwater levels down by scores and even hundreds of feet.
The changes in farming patterns are happening as the "salad days" of irrigated farming disappear but the future is now more dependent on weather patterns than ever before. Good thing climate change is just a fairy tale to scare 4-H'ers around the campfire.

They're back and doing it again

The Chinese hackers that work for the Chinese military. Apparently efforts to get rid of them have failed and they are up to their old tricks again.
The Obama administration had bet that “naming and shaming” the groups, first in industry reports and then in the Pentagon’s own detailed survey of Chinese military capabilities, might prompt China’s new leadership to crack down on the military’s highly organized team of hackers — or at least urge them to become more subtle.

But Unit 61398, whose well-guarded 12-story white headquarters on the edges of Shanghai became the symbol of Chinese cyberpower, is back in business, according to American officials and security companies.

It is not clear precisely who has been affected by the latest attacks. Mandiant, a private security company that helps companies and government agencies defend themselves from hackers, said the attacks had resumed but would not identify the targets, citing agreements with its clients. But it did say the victims were many of the same ones the unit had attacked before.

The hackers were behind scores of thefts of intellectual property and government documents over the past five years, according to a report by Mandiant in February that was confirmed by American officials. They have stolen product blueprints, manufacturing plans, clinical trial results, pricing documents, negotiation strategies and other proprietary information from more than 100 of Mandiant’s clients, predominantly in the United States.

According to security experts, the cyberunit was responsible for a 2009 attack on the Coca-Cola Company that coincided with its failed attempt to acquire the China Huiyuan Juice Group. In 2011, it attacked RSA, a maker of data security products used by American government agencies and defense contractors, and used the information it collected from that attack to break into the computer systems of Lockheed Martin, the aerospace contractor.

More recently, security experts said, the group took aim at companies with access to the nation’s power grid. Last September, it broke into the Canadian arm of Telvent, now Schneider Electric, which keeps detailed blueprints on more than half the oil and gas pipelines in North America.

Representatives of Coca-Cola and Schneider Electric did not return requests for comment on Sunday. A Lockheed Martin spokesman said the company declined to comment.

In interviews, Obama administration officials said they were not surprised by the resumption of the hacking activity. One senior official said Friday that “this is something we are going to have to come back at time and again with the Chinese leadership,” who, he said, “have to be convinced there is a real cost to this kind of activity.”
And so we wait until we can outhack them because there is not much else that will stop them. Or maybe we already can and they have nothing of value to hack? Oh well, at least the Chinese don't much care for our e-mails, unless you are calling Xi Jinping a big fat poopy face.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

An American singer who has gone ex-pat

Living across the pond with Brits and such.But Kristina Train can still sing. True, her sophomore effort, from which this tune comes from, may not have been produced to her best advantage, but she can still sing.

Todays Timely Church Sign

Based on today's report of President Obama's funding request.

A chance for PETA to do some good.

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

Does Pakistan Provide A Glimpse Of Our Future?

Once upon a time Pakistan was a developing country prospering in its energetic growth. This was followed by years of military rule which funded its own needs at the expense of the national infrastructure. Funding for programs for the people was reduced or eliminated. Infrastructure development halted and maintenance was slashed. Developing religious strife with the poor fringe elements of society also took its toll. Now Pakistan stands as a democracy on the verge of collapse.
“The railways are the true image of our country,” he said, sipping his tea in the heat. “If you want to see Pakistan, see its railways.”

For all the wonders offered by a train journey across Pakistan — a country of jaw-dropping landscapes, steeped in a rich history and filled with unexpected pleasures — it also presents some deeply troubling images.

At every major stop on the long line from Peshawar, in the northwest, to the turbulent port city of Karachi, lie reminders of why the country is a worry to its people, and to the wider world: natural disasters and entrenched insurgencies, abject poverty and feudal kleptocrats, and an economy near meltdown.

The election last weekend was a hopeful moment for a struggling democracy, with the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif winning a huge mandate amid record voter turnout of nearly 60 percent. But the voting left undecided the larger battle against popular disillusionment. In a country forged on religion, Pakistanis are losing faith. People are desperate for change — for any improvement their proudly nuclear-armed government could make, yet has not.

Chronic electricity shortages, up to 18 hours per day, have crippled industry and stoked public anger. The education and health systems are inadequate and in stark disrepair. The state airline, Pakistan International Airlines, which lost $32 million last year, is listing badly. The police are underpaid and corrupt, and militancy is spreading. There is a disturbing sense of drift.

This failure is the legacy of decades of misadventure, misrule and misfortune under both civilian and military leaders, but its price is being paid by the country’s 180 million people.

To them, the dire headlines about Taliban attacks and sterile arguments about failed states mean little. Their preoccupations are mundane, yet vitally important. They want jobs and educations for their children. They want fair treatment from their justice system and electricity that does not flicker out.

And they want trains that run on time.
And how many more years of Republican/Teabagger misrule, mismanagement and defunding will it take before we are like Pakistan??

Why prayer in school is a bad idea.

Because Americans as a whole pray to many different sky and earth demons and American values demand that all should be allowed.

And having begun each day with the Lords Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance each day during my early education, I can say the daily repetition rendered both meaningless in my young mind.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

In 2000, 4 singer-songwriters got together

To play as a female-collaborative group. Over the years they have matured into a true band deserving respect for some fine music, like this one from their most recent studio album.

New Rules on Benghazi & a few slaps at Issa

Sometimes when a car alarm goes off there is an actual crime.

If a GOPBagger cries Scandal in the woods, does anyone hear it?

From the pen of Tom Toles

Koch Bros. Find A Use For Detroit

As a dumping ground for the petroleum coke left over from the Canadian tar sands refining process.
Assumption Park gives residents of this city lovely views of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit skyline. Lately they’ve been treated to another sight: a three-story pile of petroleum coke covering an entire city block on the other side of the Detroit River.

Detroit’s ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom.

And no one knows quite what to do about it, except Koch Carbon, which owns it.

The company is controlled by Charles and David Koch, wealthy industrialists who back a number of conservative and libertarian causes including activist groups that challenge the science behind climate change. The company sells the high-sulfur, high-carbon waste, usually overseas, where it is burned as fuel...

Coke, which is mainly carbon, is an essential ingredient in steelmaking as well as producing the electrical anodes used to make aluminum.

While there is high demand from both those industries, the small grains and high sulfur content of this petroleum coke make it largely unusable for those purposes, said Kerry Satterthwaite, a petroleum coke analyst at Roskill Information Services, a commodities analysis company based in London.

“It is worse than a byproduct,” Ms. Satterthwaite said.“It’s a waste byproduct that is costly and inconvenient to store, but effectively costs nothing to produce.”
So the Koch Bros. are just a pair of coke heads hoping to now bring this shit to the Gulf Coast. And shipping that stuff overseas makes any problems out of sight, out of mind.
And what about the leftover coke? The Environmental Protection Agency will no longer allow any new licenses permitting the burning of petroleum coke in the United States. But D. Mark Routt, a staff energy consultant at KBC Advanced Technologies in Houston, said that overseas companies saw it as a cheap alternative to low-grade coal. In China, it is used to generate electricity, adding to that country’s air-quality problems. There is also strong demand from India and Latin America for American petroleum coke, where it mainly fuels cement-making kilns.

“I’m not making a value statement, but it comes down to emission controls,” Mr. Routt said. “Other people don’t seem to have a problem, which is why it is going to Mexico, which is why it is going to China.”

“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” he said. One of the world’s largest dealers of petroleum coke is the Oxbow Corporation, which sells about 11 million tons of fuel-grade coke a year. It is owned by William I. Koch, a brother of David and Charles.
The family that does coke together....

Oh Goody! A Real Scandal A-Making in Virginia

And while it only involves one state, it is an important swing state and it does involve at least two rising Republican/Teabagger stars. And those two rising stars are the top Republican/Teabaggers in Virginia, Gov. Bob "Vaginal Wand" McDonnell and Attorney General Ken "The Cooch" Cuccinelli.
In the opening act, Virginians were introduced to Todd Schneider, the former personal chef to the governor and his family, who kept a stash of the first lady’s favorite crab-seasoned popcorn in the kitchen of the Executive Mansion.

Mr. Schneider, 52, told law enforcement agents last year that a $15,000 catering bill for the wedding of the McDonnells’ middle daughter, a menu that included bruschetta with local tomatoes and Virginia wines, was footed by a political donor.

Although state law requires elected officials to report gifts, Mr. McDonnell did not declare the $15,000, later explaining that it was exempt because it was a gift to his daughter.

Mr. Schneider, who calls himself a whistle-blower in court filings, showed investigators the catering contract signed by Mr. McDonnell, an invoice noting that he put down a deposit and a $15,000 check from the political patron who ultimately bought the food.

That donor, a serial entrepreneur named Jonnie R. Williams Sr., has given more than $120,000 to Mr. McDonnell’s campaigns, including nearly $80,000 in corporate jet travel, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, which tracks money in politics.

The McDonnells have returned the attention. Three days before the wedding of their daughter Cailin in June 2011, Maureen McDonnell, the first lady, flew to Florida on Mr. Williams’s plane to promote a dietary supplement sold by Mr. Williams. She “wowed” investors, one wrote, at a meeting to discuss the supplement, Anatabloc, which is said to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Later that summer, Ms. McDonnell gave a luncheon at the Executive Mansion, a stately Federalist home in pale yellow brick, to officially introduce Anatabloc the week it appeared in stores, speaking to a group of local health care providers.
If it walks like a quid pro quo and it quacks like a quid pro quo...
Another friend of Mr. Williams’s is Virginia’s attorney general, Mr. Cuccinelli. Mr. Cuccinelli has reported $18,000 in gifts from Mr. Williams, including regular vacations at a house on Smith Mountain Lake, near Roanoke, and a catered $1,500 Thanksgiving dinner. He also received a box of Anatabloc.

Mr. Cuccinelli, 44, bought stock in Star Scientific, which at one time was worth more than $20,000, although he failed to disclose his holding as required by law for nearly a year. Last October, he filed an updated statement of economic interest to include the stock, his only substantial investment.

The Cuccinelli campaign declined to answer questions about Mr. Williams and Star Scientific. Chris LaCivita, a strategist for the campaign, has said Mr. Cuccinelli did not realize his stock’s value had passed $10,000, the threshold for reporting. Once he did, he corrected the record. He has since sold all of his shares, his campaign has said, the last in mid-April.

While the two men were cementing their friendship after Mr. Cuccinelli’s election in 2009, Star Scientific sued Virginia over a $700,000 tax bill. Mr. Cuccinelli, whose office represents the state, resisted pressure from Democrats to recuse himself once the Star Scientific saga made it into the news. Last month, he agreed to appoint an outside counsel in what a spokesman called “an abundance of caution.”
An abundance of caution brought on by an abundance of scrutiny. The Richmond media is running with this story so it could get good.

Bill Maher dares call it treason

Bill defines Republican/Teabagger obstruction in one simple word.

Friday, May 17, 2013

She usually sounds like country, but not this time

Kim Richey comes up with a different sound on this cut from her latest album.

A DC wake up call.

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

Let the jewel thefts begin!

Now that all the celebrity flash and glitter has centered on Cannes for the annual film festival, it is time to begin the season of high dollar jewel thefts and we already have the first one.
Jewelry worth $1.4 million intended to adorn movie stars at the Cannes film festival was stolen from a hotel room in the French Riviera town, a police source said on Friday.

The jewels were in the safe of a room rented by an employee of luxury jeweler and Cannes sponsor Chopard, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The jeweler hasn't yet furnished details of what exactly was stolen," the source said.
The thieves, as yet uncaught, will not turn out to be as suave & debonair as David Niven or Roger Moore. They are just a bunch of thieves who are good at what they do.

I know living in Jersey is expensive

But this is bordering on immoral. Bayonne Medical Center has the highest billing rates of any in the land. It has also risen up from backruptcy to making a handsome profit, without saying why a hospital should make a profit.
Based on the bills it submits to Medicare, the Bayonne Medical Center charged the highest amounts in the country for nearly one-quarter of the most common hospital treatments, according to a New York Times analysis of 2011 data, the most recent available. No other hospital was at the top of the price list more often.

Bayonne Medical typically charged $99,689 for treating each case of chronic lung disease, five times as much as other hospitals and 17 times as much as Medicare paid in reimbursement. The hospital also charged on average of $120,040 to treat transient ischemia, a type of small stroke that has no lasting effect. That was six times the national average and 24 times what Medicare paid.

For those prices, the quality of care at Bayonne Medical is no better — or worse — than that at most other New Jersey hospitals. In a 2011 state hospital quality report, Bayonne Medical scored only in the top 50 percent. But profits at the hospital, which was bankrupt in 2007, have soared in recent years, in part because it has found a way to turn some of those high billings into payments...

Under New Jersey law, patients treated in a hospital emergency room outside their provider’s network have to pay out of pocket only what they would have paid if the hospital was in the network. But an out-of-network hospital can bill the patient’s insurer at essentially whatever rate it cares to set. While the insurers can negotiate with the hospital, they generally end up paying more than they would have under a contractual agreement...

Until a recent ruling by the Internal Revenue Service, for instance, a hospital could use the higher prices when calculating the amount of charity care it was providing, said Gerard Anderson, director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at Johns Hopkins. “There is a method to the madness, though it is still madness,” Mr. Anderson said.
For profit medicine is a moral and ethical sinkhole that gives us high cost and low efficiency in health care. What the old folks used to call a waste of our money.

One more loser "hired" by right wing welfare agency

The one more commonly known as Fux Nooz
. Their latest "prize catch" is that towering intellect, Allen West.
Fox News announced on Thursday that it had hired former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) as a contributor to the conservative network.

“Representative West’s congressional and military experience along with his fearless approach to voicing key issues will provide a valuable point of view to the FOX News lineup,” Fox News Vice President Bill Shine said in a statement obtained by The Washington Post.

Earlier this year, the tea party star began hosting a show with the conservative online network Pajamas Media after his 2012 loss to Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL).

West is expected to fill an ideological hole at Fox News that was left after the network severed ties with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) earlier this year.
Damn! When you are hired to replace Snowflake Snooki, you know that you are a charity hire.

When the Gov't began direct student loans

And cut out the Banksters in the middle, this is why they all screamed bloody murder. Obama broke one damn big rice bowl.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Warm and sunny, all in all a hippie kind of day

So what better than some archetypical good time hippie music.

R.I.P. Dick Trickle

Sad to hear that you have run your last race but you always gave it your best.

Someone always has a better idea

From the pen of Tom Toles

Another 6 lives wasted

In our continuing efforts in Shitholeistan to do something until 2014, after which we will do something else.
A Toyota Corolla packed with explosives rammed a pair of American military vehicles in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Thursday, setting off a blast that killed at least 16 people, including 6 American military advisers, and shook the relative calm that has prevailed for months in the city, Afghan officials said.

The explosion was powerful enough to rattle windows across the city. It left bodies strewn along the street and one of the American vehicles — an armored Chevrolet Suburban that weighed nearly five tons — lying in ruins more than 30 feet from the blast site.

Hezb-i-Islami, a relatively small insurgent faction that often competes with the Taliban for influence, claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded more than three dozen Afghans. Haroon Zarghon, the group’s spokesman, reached by telephone in Pakistan, said the bombing was carried out by a 24-year-old man who had grown up south of Kabul.
At last check, we are supposed to believe this will stop when most of our troops will leave and the lucky 10,000 will sit around peacefully in their camps. And the flying pig will be the new Shitholeistan official bird.

It's all about the Free Market

Except, of course, when it hurts your campaign contributors, then Free Market be damned, we have to help these poor people. North Carolina is leading the way by making Tesla Motors direct sale model illegal.
Diarmuid O’Connell, Tesla’s vice president for corporate and business development, on Wednesday slammed legislation in North Carolina that would prevent the sale of his company’s all-electric cars.

“What’s happening here is the rules are being changed to protect the dealer model and exclude us from the market,” he said on CNBC. “North Carolina consumers are buying these vehicles, they are interested in these vehicles. It’s a great market, it’s an innovative market, it’s a technology-philic market.”

“We have a lot of uptake there,” O’Connell continued. “We want to service those consumers. Ultimately we want to set up a sales presence and when we do so, we want to do so as a fully licensed entity in that state. We simply do not want to see the rules changed mid-stream.”

Currently, Tesla Motors sells cars directly to consumers over the phone or Internet rather than through third-party dealerships. Legislation introduced by North Carolina state Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) would make such a business model illegal in the state. Apodaca said the bill would prevent unfair competition.
Ah yes the "unfair competition" whine. As they move to outlaw legitimate competition. It goes without saying that the Republican/Teabaggers are the driving force behind this ridiculous law.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Three famous folkies together should be a supergroup

But you probably have never heard of Red Horse even if you do know of Lucy Kaplansky, John Gorka & Eliza Gillkyson.

When you are on the hook to pay for it

You tend to look very carefully at something and make a sound, reasonable judgement of the situation. That is the case with insurance companies and climate change. And they believe that it is a serious problem that will cost them dearly in the near future and beyond if nothing is done.
If there were one American industry that would be particularly worried about climate change it would have to be insurance, right?

From Hurricane Sandy’s devastating blow to the Northeast to the protracted drought that hit the Midwest Corn Belt, natural catastrophes across the United States pounded insurers last year, generating $35 billion in privately insured property losses, $11 billion more than the average over the last decade.

And the industry expects the situation will get worse. “Numerous studies assume a rise in summer drought periods in North America in the future and an increasing probability of severe cyclones relatively far north along the U.S. East Coast in the long term,” said Peter Höppe, who heads Geo Risks Research at the reinsurance giant Munich Re. “The rise in sea level caused by climate change will further increase the risk of storm surge.” Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn’t happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming.

“Insurance is heavily dependent on scientific thought,” Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, told me last week. “It is not as amenable to politicized scientific thought.”
Surprisingly, the companies have yet to take any actions beyond localized efforts ant disaster mitigation. They apparently see the big picture but have also failed to act on the big picture. Insurance companies are nothing if not conservative, until the losses pile up.

R.I.P. Billie Sol Estes

You were slick but you never did explain how that fella shot hisself 5 times with a bolt action rifle, and a whole lot of other stuff.

You can't keep a good city down

Whether it is New York, Boston or New Orleans, these cities have paid their dues and they won't let trouble keep them down. The latest example comes from New Orleans following the shooting and wounding of 19 people dueing a "second line" parade.
The police have released no motive, but people here by and large figured that it was the same old story: a young man with gun and a complaint spotted a rival and attacked.

When shootings like this happened in the past — and they have, sometimes deadly but almost never as brazenly — they often prompted a debate about street culture and violence, about the rolling crowds that form on such occasions and how much they may be to blame for what goes on in their orbit.

Several years ago, prompted by one of those shootings, the New Orleans police raised security fees for marching clubs so high that it seemed the tradition of these parades, put on for more than a century by black working-class New Orleanians, might be seriously curtailed, or end for good.

This time seems as if it will be different. Since Sunday afternoon, the mayor and the police chief have repeatedly and emphatically divorced the shooting from the occasion that it ruined. They have called the parades a crucial part of the city’s culture and even a bulwark against its seemingly ceaseless violence, an argument marchers have been making for years.

“The layers of this thing are really important, and that’s to understand what the origin of the violence is, what it’s connected to and what it’s not connected to,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who has long made a case for what he calls the city’s cultural economy. “This didn’t have anything to do with second lines, and it didn’t have anything to do with the rich cultural heritage of New Orleans.”

Sunday’s event was a so-called second line parade, the “second line” referring to all those who join in along the route and follow behind the band, making more of a rolling party than the kind of parade one simply watches. They take place nearly every Sunday between September and May, in the poor and working-class back streets of the city.
No, one mook with an NRA approved manhood isn't going to stop people from trying to bring some good into their lives.

This is a shitty subject

But it involves one of the only remedies for a deadly bacterial infection that the all to universal use of antibiotics has created.
The Food and Drug Administration has ordered clinicians to stop transplanting healthy fecal matter from one patient to another until the agency has had a chance to review and test the procedure.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, the therapy is used to fight the antibiotic-resistant bug Clostridium difficile, or C. diff.

In FMT therapy, a small amount of healthy stool is introduced to the gut of a patient suffering from C. diff, a multidrug resistant germ that can take hold in a person’s digestive tract when they are prescribed antibiotics, for instance. C. diff is notoriously hard to cure and manifests in the form of persistant, sometimes bloody diarrhea. Left unchecked, it can cause serious dehydration, damage to the colon and even death.

When stool containing healthy bacteria is introduced into the system, many patients are finally getting relief from chronic C. diff infections, which physicians point to as reason enough to continue the procedure.
With initial studies showing a 94% success rate against C.diff for transplants against only 24% for the remaining effective antibiotics, the halt in FMT transplants will probably kill people and certainly cause unneeded misery. The halt will probably continue until Big Pharma finds away to patent someone's shit for their profit.

Just because he has a carry permit

Doesn't mean he is smart enough to carry it safely. From the Raw Story:
Police say that a Florida man who shot himself at a bowling alley in Jupiter will not be charged with a crime.

Jupiter Police told WPBF that the man was bowling with a gun in the pocket of his shorts at Jupiter Lanes at around 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday when the incident occurred.

“The guy just stepped up to bowl,” Jim Miller recalled. “I think he hit his leg on his back swing.”

“The ball hit him in the leg, which triggered the revolver,” Mike Martin, who also witnessed the shooting, added.

Witness said the man held his leg as his limped back to his seat. Police did not identify the man, but his injuries were not thought to be life threatening.
I am guessing the police didn't charge him because he shot the guy who was a threat.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jessie Ware Comes From England

And while her style may not be wowing the recording execs, I really like what she does.

The latest Monsanto pest control

In order to control the crop devastation of an surprising growth in the population of catbirds, Monsanto has devoted its genetic wizardry to the development of the ultimate control,

The Birddog,

R.I.P. Joyce Brothers

You brought curb stone dianosis to the world of television and now we are stuck with Dr. Phil.

The latest episode of Spy vs Spy

Something about American policy is bugging the Russians so they took the time honored method of expressing their displeasure, they arrested a spy.
Russia’s Federal Security Service announced Tuesday that it had detained a Central Intelligence Agency officer during an attempt to recruit a Russian agent, saying the American had brought a large sum of cash, technical devices and “appearance disguising means.”

The F.S.B., the successor to the Soviet-era K.G.B., identified the officer as Ryan Christopher Fogle and said he had been “working under the guise of” third secretary in the political department of the United States Embassy in Moscow. It said that Mr. Fogle was detained on Monday night and that he was carrying written instructions for a Russian recruit.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has summoned United States Ambassador Michael A. McFaul to appear on Wednesday to respond to the accusation.

Photographs that appeared on Russian news sites on Tuesday afternoon showed a man in a blond wig, a blue checked shirt and a baseball cap being pinned to the ground, evidently by a Russian officer, and later sitting at a desk in an F.S.B. office, grim-faced. Further images showed a number of items evidently confiscated from him: brown and blond wigs, several pairs of dark glasses, several stacks of 500-euro notes, a compass, a map of Moscow and an embassy ID card identifying him as Ryan C. Fogle.

Russian news sources also featured the text of a letter, allegedly addressed to a recruit, that instructs the recipient to create a Gmail account that will be used for covert contacts. The letter, signed “your friends,” offers $100,000 “to discuss your experience, expertise and cooperation,” with much greater rewards for answering “specific questions.” It goes on to say that “we can offer up to $1 million a year for long-term cooperation, with extra bonuses if we receive some helpful information.” Communications were to be addressed to an enigmatic e-mail address,
While it is not clear why the arrest was made, we look forward to the traditional response and wonder what they want in return.

How do you know when US hedge funds are too fucking big?

When they seek to break up foreign companies for their own benefit.
An American hedge fund billionaire known for starting big fights has called for a breakup of the entertainment and electronics colossus Sony, according to people briefed on the matter, possibly setting off a battle that could roil Japan’s famously staid corporate culture.

The call, which came on Tuesday, will most likely be viewed by government officials and corporate leaders in Tokyo as a shot across the bow from Wall Street, just as Western investors begin piling into Japanese stocks.

The hedge fund manager, Daniel S. Loeb, is pressing Sony to spin off part of its entertainment arm, which includes one of the biggest film studios in Hollywood and one of the largest music labels in the world, responsible for movies like “Skyfall” and artists like Taylor Swift.

Mr. Loeb — known for ousting Yahoo’s former chief executive and luring Marissa Mayer away from Google to run the company — also signaled that he would accept a seat on Sony’s board.

His hedge fund has quietly amassed a stake of about 6.5 percent in Sony, making it one of the biggest shareholders. The holding, made up of stock and derivatives, is valued at about $1.1 billion.

Still, even big Japanese investors have often faced resistance in seeking changes at companies, a hurdle that may be significantly higher for a foreign hedge fund manager.

A spokesman for Sony, Shiro Kambe, said in a statement that the company welcomes investments. “We are focused on creating shareholder value by executing on our plan to revitalize and grow the electronics business, while further strengthening the stable business foundations of the entertainment and financial services businesses,” he said.

But Mr. Kambe also pointed to repeated assertions by Sony’s chief executive, Kazuo Hirai, that Sony Entertainment contributes significantly to the overall company and is not for sale. “We look forward to continuing constructive dialogue with our shareholders as we pursue our strategy,” he said.
And the very polite "Fuck you" from the company spokesman.

IRS scrutiny was over little guys

As is natural in Washington, the big money groups escaped an serious oversight, even in the face of outside complaints about their activities.
During the same period, the agency singled out dozens of Tea Party-inspired groups that had applied for I.R.S. recognition, officials acknowledged on Friday, subjecting them to rounds of detailed questioning about their political activities. None of those groups were big spenders on political advertising; most were local Tea Party organizations with shoestring budgets.

For the I.R.S.’s bipartisan legion of critics, the agency’s record has underscored its contradictory and seemingly confused response to the fastest-growing corner in the world of unlimited political spending: tax-exempt groups that have paid for at least half a billion dollars in campaign ads during the last two election cycles.

The I.R.S. has done little to regulate a flood of political spending by larger groups — like Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, co-founded by Mr. Rove, and Priorities USA, with close ties to President Obama — as well as Republican leaders in Congress and other elected officials. And an agency that is supposed to stay as far away from partisan politics as possible has been left in charge — almost by accident — of regulating a huge amount of election spending.

“We’ve complained about a few big fish and we’ve heard nothing from the I.R.S.,” said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, which filed many of the complaints with the agency. “We would far rather see scrutiny of these big fish — the groups that spent hundreds of millions of dollars to influence elections — than to see the resources spent on hundreds of small groups that appeared to spend very little on elections.”

Almost all of the groups in question are organized under 501(c)(4) of the tax code, which regulates nonprofit groups engaged in promoting “social welfare.” At least 16 such organizations spent a million dollars or more on campaign advertising in the 2012 elections. (Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA also run “super PACs” with similar names that spent millions more.)
I suppose if the IRS ever tried to go after the big fish, Weepy John's House caucus would try to totally defund the IRS faster than you can say "repeal Obamacare".

Monday, May 13, 2013

Maybe its the way she dresses

You would think that having played with everyone from Jeff Beck to Meat Loaf this Irish neo-rockabilly belter would be a bigger sensation.

The Latest Adventures of Thomas Friedman, Private Eye

Tom Tomorrow brings us the latest on the intrepid future detective and it ain't yogurt.

What's on the GOPBagger menu?

From the pen of Stuart Carlson:

Supreme Court Rules For Monsanto

They now officially own the all the food we eat.
“Our holding today is limited — addressing the situation before us, rather than every one involving a self-replicating product,” she wrote. “We recognize that such inventions are becoming ever more prevalent, complex, and diverse. In another case, the article’s self-replication might occur outside the purchaser’s control. Or it might be a necessary but incidental step in using the item for another purpose.”

But Justice Kagan had little difficulty ruling that an Indiana farmer’s conduct in the case before the court, Bowman v. Monsanto Company, No. 11-796, had run afoul of the patent law.

Farmers who buy Monsanto’s patented seeds must generally sign a contract promising not to save seeds from the resulting crop, which means they must buy new seeds every year. The seeds are valuable because they are resistant to the herbicide Roundup, itself a Monsanto product.

But the Indiana farmer, Vernon Hugh Bowman, who had signed such contracts for his main crop, said he had discovered a loophole for a second, riskier crop later in the growing season.

For that second crop, he bought seeds from a grain elevator filled with a mix of seeds in the reasonable hope that many of them contained Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready gene.

Seeds from grain elevators are typically sold for animal feed, food processing or industrial uses. But Mr. Bowman planted them and sprayed them with Roundup. Many of the plants survived, and he saved seeds for further plantings.

Monsanto sued, and a federal judge in Indiana ordered Mr. Bowman to pay the company more than $84,000. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which specializes in patent cases, upheld that decision, saying that by planting the seeds Mr. Bowman had infringed Monsanto’s patents.

Justice Kagan agreed, suggesting that Mr. Bowman’s gambit had been too clever by half.

Mr. Bowman’s main argument was that a doctrine called patent exhaustion allowed him to do what he liked with products he had obtained legally. But Justice Kagan said it did not apply to the way he had used the seeds.

“Under the patent exhaustion doctrine, Bowman could resell the patented soybeans he purchased from the grain elevator; so too he could consume the beans himself or feed them to his animals,” she wrote.

“But the exhaustion doctrine does not enable Bowman to make additional patented soybeans without Monsanto’s permission,” she continued, “and that is precisely what Bowman did.”

Justice Kagan said that allowing Mr. Bowman’s tactic would destroy the value of Monsanto’s patent. “The exhaustion doctrine is limited to the ‘particular item’ sold,” she wrote, “to avoid just such a mismatch between invention and reward.”
What a pity that Justice Kagan did not see the value of destroying Monsanto's patent.

The Chinese know what they need

And they know where to get it, which is why they are setting up shop in Detroit to tap into American automobile workers and know how.
Chinese-owned companies are investing in American businesses and new vehicle technology, selling everything from seat belts to shock absorbers in retail stores, and hiring experienced engineers and designers in an effort to soak up the talent and expertise of domestic automakers and their suppliers.

While starting with batteries and auto parts, the spread of Chinese business is expected to result eventually in the sale of Chinese cars in the United States.

“The Chinese are well behind the Japanese when they hit our shores 30 years ago,” said David E. Cole, a founder of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. “They lack the know-how, and they’re coming here to get it.”

As businesses sprout up with little fanfare, Chinese companies seem to be trying to avoid the type of public opposition experienced by the Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda in the 1980s, when the sudden influx of foreign cars competing head-on with cars from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler was perceived as a threat to American jobs.

In contrast to the Japanese, Chinese auto companies are assiduously avoiding the spotlight. Last year, the biggest carmaker in China, Shanghai Automotive Industries, opened new offices in suburban Detroit without any publicity, which is almost unheard-of in an industry that thrives on media coverage.

But China’s growth in the American auto industry is drawing notice in Washington. Last year, the Obama administration filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization that China’s government was unfairly subsidizing the production of some parts shipped to America. And the country’s inroads into American-made batteries and electric vehicles have drawn scrutiny because that sector of the industry has been heavily subsidized by the United States government.
Pretty sneaky of them to hire American engineers who have been laid off by US companies to make way for cheaper foreign engineers.

Florida Dept of Transportation Gives Good Advice

From the Raw Story:

Stay In School And Learn To Spell.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

About this time of day

You know if you have what Miss Etta was singing about.

Pay your bills if you want a job

Because, in a world where HR people can make up reasons to not hire you, they will eagerly grasp any reason you give them, and bad credit is one of their favorites.
PEOPLE tend to think of banks and other lenders as the main users of credit reports. But over the last several decades, credit reporting bureaus have been selling their services to a much wider range of buyers.

“Credit reports are really seeping into the soil,” said Sarah Ludwig, co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project, a New York-based nonprofit. “It’s taken an outsized role in employment, housing and insurance.”

For those seeking a job, it can lead to what Chi Chi Wu, a staff lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center in Boston, calls “a bizarre, Kafkaesque experience.”

“Someone loses their job,” Ms. Wu said, “so they can’t pay their bills — and now they can’t get a job because they couldn’t pay their bills because they lost a job? It’s this Catch-22 that makes no sense.” It can also be a kind of backdoor job discrimination, Ms. Wu contends, given the numerous studies that demonstrate that those black, Latino or simply poor are more likely to have lower credit scores than those who are white and have means.

Experian, one of the big three credit reporting bureaus, states in its marketing materials, “Credit information provides insight into an applicant’s integrity and responsibility toward his or her financial obligations.”

But to Ms. Wu and others, a credit report says more about a person’s economic circumstances than his or her moral character. “Some people can go to daddy and say, ‘I can’t pay my bills, will you bail me out?’ ” Ms. Wu said. “And others can’t.”

Nearly half — 47 percent — of employers use credit checks when making a hiring decision, according to a 2012 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Most businesses use credit checks only to screen for certain positions, but one in eight, the survey found, does a credit check before every hire. “We’ve heard from dozens of people over the past several years who say they’re being denied jobs specifically because of a credit check,” Ms. Ludwig said. The people contacting her group, she said, are “mostly lower-wage workers,” especially those applying to big retail chains.
True this is a misuse of information that may well be wrong to begin with, but you can't complain because you aren't important enough to be listened to.

Comparing corruption on a state level

In the wake of the recently revealed wire work by a number of New York State legislators, Gail Collins takes a look at the corruption levels in the various states to see who had more crooked pols.
Also, is New York’s State Legislature the most corrupt in the country? At last count we had 32 state officials get into deep trouble over the last few years, including four former Senate majority or minority leaders. The offenses ranged from taking bribes to throwing coffee in the face of a staff member. The last was not actually a corruption matter, but it was definitely behavior we wish to discourage.

It’s quite a record, but there are still other states in contention.

“We have three people in the State Legislature facing trial. Four of the last seven governors have gone to jail,” said Andy Shaw of Illinois’ Better Government Association. “And we’re a fiscal train wreck.”...

And then there was the Alabama bingo debacle and the Arizona Fiesta Bowl scandal. Louisiana showed up at the top of a study of political corruption that calculated the number of convictions per capita. Georgia came out as worst on a corruption risk report from the State Integrity Investigation, which measured factors like accountability, transparency and ethics enforcement.

New Jersey got the best grade.

“There was an audible gasp across the entire state,” said Debbie Walsh of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers.
Gail does suggest that New Jersey is in the rebound phase from major corruption and merely looks clean until the next eruption of the legislative "urges". New York, on the other hand, has institutionalized its behavior, in a bi-partisan fashion.

You are what you pay for

And this graphic gives a good example, based on which public employees are paid the most state by state, gives us a good idea of what we value most. Let the games begin!

Remember to tell her you love her

While she is still here to hear it.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

With cold air coming down from Canada

Warm yourself up with a 3 pack from Madison Violet, another import from Canada.

Rand Paul thinks we are too mean to offshore tax evaders

Rand Paul, spawn of noted opportunity Libertarian Ron Paul, is continuing his fight on behalf of Americans who use offshore banks to carry on their tax evasion schemes.
Late Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a bill that would repeal part of a law aimed at fighting offshore tax evasion.

The law, called the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, was passed in 2010 and is supposed to go into effect on January 1, 2014. It requires foreign financial institutions to report information about Americans with accounts worth more than $50,000 to the IRS. Firms that don't comply will be fined.

Tax policy watch dogs say the FATCA is essential to rooting out tax cheats. "The increased bilateral exchange of taxpayer information that...[is] crucial to cleaning up the worldwide shadow financial system," Heather Lowe, director of government affairs for the advocacy organization Global Financial Integrity told Accounting Today earlier this month. "[F]oreign financial institutions should not harbor the illicit assets of U.S. tax evaders."

But Paul's bill to weaken the law was immediately hailed as "heroic" by the biggest independent financial advisory firm in the world. In an email press release from the deVere group, chief executive Nigel Green said, "Senator Paul’s heroic stance against this toxic, economy-damaging tax act is a landmark moment in the mission to have it repealed. He has taken a courageous stand against FATCA, [a law that] will impose unnecessary costs and burdens on foreign financial institutions."

Paul, generally a die-hard anti-taxer, says the intent of his bill "is not to disrupt legitimate tax enforcement."
No, not at all. It is just being fair to legitimate tax evaders who might be found to have done something illegal if the law goes into effect. Sometimes it is hard to believe he was the product of the fastest sperm.

It has been a bad week.

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

Living beyond your means gives you away

When you have just made the big score and probably got away with it, flashing the cash & Rolexes and such is not a very bright idea.
Three worked as bus drivers for special-needs children, two worked at Kmart and another delivered pizza for Domino’s.

A majority had gone to high school together, and for the most part they seemed like just another group of men who did little to stand out in their working-class neighborhood in Yonkers.

But around Christmas, something changed. They flaunted Rolex watches, drove new luxury cars and took off on trips to Miami, where they went on more shopping sprees.

The eight young men, according to law enforcement officials, had just pulled off the first of two thefts that would ultimately rank among the biggest in New York City history, successful beyond their wildest hopes.

In all, they are accused of stealing $2.8 million. But, the authorities charge, they were just a small piece of a global ring that executed one of the most far-reaching and best-coordinated crimes of the Internet age, looting $45 million from automated teller machines around the globe, using data stolen from prepaid debit card accounts, all in a matter of hours.

Despite the sophistication of the crime, the men from Yonkers seemed genuinely awe-struck by their good fortune, according to a law enforcement official involved in the investigation, and their eagerness to flash their profits helped lead to their arrests.
And it got one of them killed, by his in-laws no less.

The difference between a mosquito and a hedge fund manager

Bill Maher explains it for us.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Four sisters make a good group

All the more so when they come from a musical family. Here is the latest offering from the Parkington Sisters or just the Parkingtons, recorded and videoed last February.

Tomorrow, May 11 Is Stamp Out Hunger Day

To help your local food bank, the carriers of the US Post Office will be collecting any and all canned goods and non-perishable food items left at your mail box tomorrow. Help them make this years drive the best yet because it is so needed.

If you miss it, send some cash to your local Food Bank or volunteer some time. They always need those items.

Almost as good as the Belgian Diamond Heist

The Great ATM Scam made off with $45 Million in two days worth of work.
The indictment outlined how the criminals were able to steal data from banks, relay that information to a far-flung network of so-called cashing crews, and then have the stolen money laundered in purchases of luxury items like Rolex watches and expensive cars.

In the first operation, hackers infiltrated the system of an unnamed Indian credit-card processing company that handles Visa and MasterCard prepaid debit cards. Such companies are attractive to cybercriminals because they are considered less secure than financial institutions, computer security experts say.

The hackers, who are not named in the indictment, then raised the withdrawal limits on prepaid MasterCard debit accounts issued by the National Bank of Ras Al-Khaimah, also known as RakBank, which is in United Arab Emirates.

Once the withdrawal limits have been eliminated, “even a few compromised bank account numbers can result in tremendous financial loss to the victim financial institution,” the indictment states. And by using prepaid cards, the thieves were able to take money without draining the bank accounts of individuals, which might have set off alarms more quickly.

With five account numbers in hand, the hackers distributed the information to individuals in 20 countries who then encoded the information on magnetic-stripe cards. On Dec. 21, the cashing crews made 4,500 A.T.M. transactions worldwide, stealing $5 million, according to the indictment.

While the street crews were taking money out of bank machines, the computer experts were watching the financial transactions from afar, ensuring that they would not be shortchanged on their cut, according to court documents.
So far many of the street crews have been busted but the brains behind it are still at large.

Florida Orange Juice, It may not be for breakfast any more

That is if the current plague upon the citrus growers continues without a remedy.
Florida’s citrus industry is grappling with the most serious threat in its history: a bacterial disease with no cure that has infected all 32 of the state’s citrus-growing counties.

Although the disease, citrus greening, was first spotted in Florida in 2005, this year’s losses from it are by far the most extensive. While the bacteria, which causes fruit to turn bitter and drop from the trees when still unripe, affects all citrus fruits, it has been most devastating to oranges, the largest crop. So many have been affected that the United States Department of Agriculture has downgraded its crop estimates five months in a row, an extraordinary move, analysts said.

With the harvest not yet over, orange production has already decreased 10 percent from the initial estimate, a major swing, they said.
Hopefully there is enough science left in this country to combat this menace.

A fine example of those good old Texas smarts

When you take one fertilizer plant that fails to comply with the very few regulations that apply to it and blow it up along with 15 citizens and a major part of the town, you still won't find many people asking for more regulations.
Five days after an explosion at a fertilizer plant leveled a wide swath of this town, Gov. Rick Perry tried to woo Illinois business officials by trumpeting his state’s low taxes and limited regulations. Asked about the disaster, Mr. Perry responded that more government intervention and increased spending on safety inspections would not have prevented what has become one of the nation’s worst industrial accidents in decades.

“Through their elected officials,” he said, Texans “clearly send the message of their comfort with the amount of oversight.”...

Texas has always prided itself on its free-market posture. It is the only state that does not require companies to contribute to workers’ compensation coverage. It boasts the largest city in the country, Houston, with no zoning laws. It does not have a state fire code, and it prohibits smaller counties from having such codes. Some Texas counties even cite the lack of local fire codes as a reason for companies to move there.

But Texas has also had the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities — more than 400 annually — for much of the past decade. Fires and explosions at Texas’ more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012. Compared with Illinois, which has the nation’s second-largest number of high-risk sites, more than 950, but tighter fire and safety rules, Texas had more than three times the number of accidents, four times the number of injuries and deaths, and 300 times the property damage costs.
In fairness to those who oppose regulations, there are already too many damned Texans so anything that thins the herd should be welcome. Trouble is you can't guarantee the right ones will get themselves killed.

Teaching your son the joys of hunting

From the New Yorker.

Totally Amazing

After 17 days a woman was rescued
from the basement of the collapsed building that caused the death of over 1000 of her fellow Bangladeshis.
In a startling development, a woman trapped for 17 days beneath the rubble of a collapsed building on the outskirts of Dhaka was discovered alive on Friday and then rushed to a nearby military hospital after rescuers pulled her free.

The woman, whose name is Reshma, had apparently been in the basement of the building, possibly in a Muslim prayer room. Rescuers, speaking live on national television from the wreckage site in Savar, said they were clearing debris on Friday afternoon when they saw a pipe moving. It turned out to be Reshma, shaking the pipe from below, trying to gain attention.

“Save me!” rescuers say they heard her shouting.

The stunning discovery transformed what had been an especially gloomy day in the recovery effort, as the death toll pushed past 1,000 victims. More than 3,000 people were believed to be working at five clothing factories in the building, Rana Plaza, when it collapsed on the morning of April 24 in what is now considered the worst disaster in the history of the garment industry.

Reshma’s rescue was broadcast on television across Bangladesh. She was wearing a purple and red salwar kameez as she was removed from the rubble. One of the rescuers, a soldier with the Bangladeshi Army, told television crews that Reshma had discovered food and water that had lasted until two days ago

Another rescuer, Lieutenant Colonel Moazzem, told Bangladesh’s state news agency that he and another soldier discovered Reshma after cutting a hole to the basement.

“I told her, ‘Mother, don’t be afraid, we are here to rescue you,’ ” said Colonel Moazzem, according to the agency. “Would you like a drink of water?” He told reporters that Reshma was given saline and biscuits before rescuers removed her from the wreckage.
Such a fortunate woman.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

A singer from Tennessee where the music isn't crazy

Unlike the politicians. Jill Andrews began in a folk/country band called The Everybodyfields before going out on a solo career (and taking most of the band with her).

One of the great love stories of our time.

From the pen of Tom Toles

It looks like we may have paid him enough

After receiving all those uncounted millions in cash from the CIA, as well as untold millions in contracts to family members, it is looking like we have paid the Karzai family and their untainted leader Karzai of the Afghans enough money to let us keep Imperial outposts in Shitholeistan after we stop shooting at the various Afghanis.
Afghanistan is ready to let the United States and its allies keep military bases here after the end of the NATO combat mission next year, President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday, offering a concrete public signal that foreign troops would remain welcome in the coming years.

The United States and Afghanistan are negotiating a security agreement that would allow American forces to stay here beyond the end of 2014, and Mr. Karzai said the Obama administration has asked for nine bases spread across the country.

“We agree to give them these bases,” Mr. Karzai told students during a speech at Kabul University. “We consider our relations with the United States beyond 2014 to be positive for Afghanistan.”

The American reaction, though, was far less positive than what one would expect. Officials characterized Mr. Karzai’s comments as premature, at best, and said they appeared to reflect the Afghan government’s desire for a larger force than the United States is likely willing to commit.
Even the Russians were not stupid enough to leave anyone behind when they left. And just because we say that combat is at an end, why do we think the Afghanis won't be shooting at us with the same vigor they show now?

Good news for poor countries

The makers of vaccines for cervical cancer
have lowered the prices of their vaccines to make them widely available in all countries.
The two companies that make vaccines against cervical cancer announced Thursday that they would cut their prices to the world’s poorest countries below $5 per dose, eventually making it possible for millions of girls to be protected against a major cancer killer.

Thanks to Pap tests, fatal cervical cancers are almost unknown today in rich countries. But the disease kills an estimated 275,000 women a year in poor countries where Pap tests are impractical and the vaccine is far too expensive for the average woman to afford, so the price cut could lead to a significant advance in women’s health.

The World Health Organization, which has been pressing for faster progress in maternal health, greeted the news as “a great step forward for women and girls.”

When the new price was described, Dr. Paul D. Blumenthal, a professor of gynecology at the Stanford University School of Medicine who has pioneered cervical cancer prevention techniques in poor countries, said, “Mazel tov!” As long as there is enough affordable vaccine for the ever-growing populations of poor countries, he said, “this is good news for girls, women and their families.”

The lower prices — $4.50 for Merck’s Gardasil vaccine and $4.60 for GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix — were negotiated through the GAVI Alliance, which was created in 1999 with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to deliver more vaccines to the world’s poor.

The low price will initially apply to a few million doses for demonstration projects in Kenya, Ghana, Laos, Madagascar and elsewhere, but Dr. Seth Berkley, the alliance’s chief executive officer, said he hoped that by 2020, 30 million girls in 40 countries would get the vaccine at that price or less.

The vaccines must be kept refrigerated, and the three doses are normally given over six months — requirements that add to the difficulty of deploying them in poor countries.

The vaccines cost about $130 a dose in the United States, and each girl needs three doses. The lowest price that any other agency or government has negotiated, Dr. Berkley said, is the $13 paid by the Pan American Health Organization, which negotiates a bulk price for Latin American countries.
Refrigeration and the time factor are still problems, but they are problems that can be overcome.

When your base is a bunch of cement heads

Do you really need to do anything to solidify them? Whatever you answer, FreedomWorks is still planning on making such an effort.
FreedomWorks is trying to organize a protest of Comcast on May 15 because, “The news programs at NBC and MSNBC, run by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, reflect total agreement with the Obama agenda. These “news” organizations even adopted the Obama re-election campaigns “Forward” slogan. Is this what Comcast subscribers and American voters need?”

Here is the kicker. FreedomWorks is also demanding a press that is free of personal and government influence, “The American people deserve a fair press that is free of personal or government influence. Pushing propaganda is misleading and unfair to voters and consumers. It’s one thing to be supportive of the President. It’s another thing to parade propaganda as objective news. In a free market, companies are allowed to pursue what they think is in their best interest – but their consumers are also allowed to disagree!”

What FreedomWorks doesn’t mention is that their idea of not pushing propaganda involves paying Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. FreedomWorks spends millions of dollars each year on “embedded advertising” on Beck and Limbaugh’s shows. The embedded advertising is clever, because it is advertising disguised as a regular part of the program. The hosts don’t disclose that they are being paid lots of money to say nice things about FreedomWorks. In other words, it is a form of paid propaganda. FreedomWorks also pays money to Beck and Limbaugh to raise money for their organization, because nothing screams a free and fair press quite like secretly paying the media to push your agenda.
This may just be a cover for the Roberts family, who own Comcast and run it in a way that makes the Rigas family look honest, to clean out the liberal elements that so annoy their billionaire friends like the Koch Brothers.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

I like artists who put together their own videos

You get a nice clean sound the way they want to show themselves, like this one with Brigitte DeMeyer.

About those nuclear missiles

Even though we "won" the Cold War, we still keep a world destroying number of land based missiles in their underground silos, the lieutenants and captains in command awaiting word to blow up all that we know. Now we find out that some of those junior officers weren't up to the task.
The tip-off to trouble was a March inspection of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., which earned the equivalent of a “D’’ grade when tested on its mastery of Minuteman III missile launch operations. In other areas, the officers tested much better, but the group’s overall fitness was deemed so tenuous that senior officers at Minot decided, after probing further, that an immediate crackdown was called for.

The Air Force publicly called the inspection a “success.”

But in April it quietly removed 17 officers at Minot from the highly sensitive duty of standing 24-hour watch over the Air Force’s most powerful nuclear missiles, the intercontinental ballistic missiles that can strike targets across the globe. Inside each underground launch control capsule, two officers stand “alert” at all times, ready to launch an ICBM upon presidential order.

“You will be a bench warmer for at least 60 days,” Folds wrote.

The 17 cases mark the Air Force’s most extensive sidelining ever of launch crew members, according to Lt. Col. Angie Blair, a spokeswoman for Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the missile units as well as nuclear-capable bombers. The wing has 150 officers assigned to missile launch control duty.

Appearing with Donley at Wednesday’s Senate hearing, the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, said Folds and other senior commanders at Minot removed the 17 launch crew members after determining that they had “more of an attitude problem than a proficiency problem.” He said he endorsed their handling of the problem.
“More of an attitude problem"??? Really what we want, kids with their fingers on the launch controls and an attitude problem.

R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen

You made our Gods and Monsters before the digital age and did a mighty fine job of it, too.

Kill them all, let god sort them out

That appears to be the motto adopted by the Nigerian military in its fight against Boko Haram, a murderous Takfiri group in the northern part of Nigeria.
A fresh load of battered corpses arrived, 29 of them in a routine delivery by the Nigerian military to the hospital morgue here.

Unexpectedly, three bodies started moving.

“They were not properly shot,” recalled a security official here. “I had to call the J.T.F.” — the military’s joint task force — “and they gunned them down.”

It was a rare oversight. Large numbers of bodies, sometimes more than 60 in a day, are being brought by the Nigerian military to the state hospital, according to government, health and security officials, hospital workers and human rights groups — the product of the military’s brutal war against radical Islamists rooted in this northern city.

The corpses were those of young men arrested in neighborhood sweeps by the military and taken to a barracks nearby. Accused, often on flimsy or no evidence, of being members or supporters of Boko Haram — the Islamist militant group waging a bloody insurgency against the Nigerian state — the detainees are beaten, starved, shot and even suffocated to death, say the officials, employees and witnesses.

Then, soldiers bring the bodies to the hospital and dump them at the morgue, officials and workers say. The flood is so consistent that the small morgue at the edge of the hospital grounds often has no room, with corpses flung by the military in the sand around it. Residents say they sometimes have to flee the neighborhood because of the fierce smell of rotting flesh.
It remains to be seen it the military will create more Boko's than they kill.

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