Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Warren Hood has another collection of Nashville musicians

And they are all good at what they do, but he really shouldn't keep Emily Gimble in the back next to the drums. She needs to be front and center.

Glenn Beck Proposes Memorials To Rush Limbaugh

Like this?

h/t Wonkette

Some people just won't stop

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

I doubt there were ever good intentions.

We all know the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but I do not believe there were ever any involved with this situation.
Mistakes like a bounced check or a small overdraft have effectively blacklisted more than a million low-income Americans from the mainstream financial system for as long as seven years as a result of little-known private databases that are used by the nation’s major banks.

The problem is contributing to the growth of the roughly 10 million households in the United States that lack a banking account, a basic requirement of modern economic life.

Unlike traditional credit reporting databases, which provide portraits of outstanding debt and payment histories, these are records of transgressions in banking products. Institutions like Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo say that tapping into the vast repositories of information helps them weed out risky customers and combat fraud — a mounting threat for banks.

But consumer advocates and state authorities say the use of the databases disproportionately affects lower-income Americans, who tend to live paycheck to paycheck, making them more likely to incur negative marks after relatively minor banking missteps like overdrawing accounts, amassing fees or bouncing checks.

When the databases were created more than 20 years ago, they were intended to help banks guard against serial fraud artists, like those accused of writing bogus checks. Since then, though, the databases have ensnared millions of low-income Americans, according to interviews with financial counselors, consumer lawyers and more than two dozen low-income people in California, Illinois, Florida, New York and Washington.
Banks are always looking for ways to weed out the marginal customers who are more trouble than they are worth and this has every earmark of such a program. And as usual, it has been carried beyond its original mandate.

Classification remains a serious government problem

Despite the declassification of the secret NSA order today, a dozen other things you should know are being classified under your very nose. And even Congress is getting into the act.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reportedly gave its approval last week to an Obama administration plan to provide weapons to moderate rebels in Syria, but how individual members of the committee stood on the subject remains unknown.

There was no public debate and no public vote when one of the most contentious topics in American foreign policy was decided – outside of the view of constituents, who oppose the president’s plan to aid the rebels by 54 percent to 37 percent, according to a Gallup Poll last month.

In fact, ask individual members of the committee, who represent 117 million people in 14 states, how they stood on the plan to use the CIA to funnel weapons to the rebels and they are likely to respond with the current equivalent of “none of your business:” It’s classified.

Those were, in fact, the words Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chair of the committee, used when asked a few days before the approval was granted to clarify her position for her constituents. She declined. It’s a difficult situation, she said. And, “It’s classified.”

She was not alone. In a string of interviews over days, members of both the Senate intelligence committee or its equivalent in the House were difficult to pin down on their view of providing arms to the rebels. The senators and representatives said they couldn’t give an opinion, or at least a detailed one, because the matter was classified.
I guess it makes them feel really important to know secrets that you don't. Very hush-hush, you know. And they can get away with all kinds of shit without having to listen to your whining.

If you wondered how they could do it

You will now get a chance to see the primary secret order that "allows" the NSA to rummage through all your communications, except posted mail.
The Obama administration plans to release previously secret court orders that set out the rules and rationale for the bulk collection of U.S. phone records as officials seek to quell growing unrest in Congress over the government's massive information dragnet.

According to a senior U.S. official, the government has declassified the order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that authorized the collection program, which began in 2007. Before that, the National Security Agency had been collecting telephone records without a court order since shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The now declassified order is expected to be made public Wednesday when Deputy Attorney General James Cole, NSA Deputy Director John Inglis and other officials are slated to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the program in June by giving the Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post a secondary order from the foreign intelligence court directed at one company, Verizon. The primary order has more details, the official said, including the rules about when the database of phone records may be queried.

Since Snowden's disclosures, administration officials have been engaged in intense internal debates over how much information about the program and the secret orders of the foreign intelligence court should be released to the public. National security officials have resisted many proposals to declassify information on the program, arguing that virtually any information about it could potentially be used by terrorist groups to evade U.S. surveillance. Other administration officials have argued that Congress could kill the entire program if the administration fails to reassure the public about how the information is gathered and what protections are in place for privacy.

In addition to the court order from 2007, administration officials are also planning to release two white papers on the telephone-data program that were provided to Congress in 2009 and 2011 before the House and Senate voted to reauthorize the law behind it, the senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted.
All this is being done to reassure you that the government has your best interests at heart and you don't have to worry your pretty little head about what they are doing. Just watch out for the flying pigs.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A group that needs to be well watered and cared for.

Luella and the Sun do "Ditch Rider"

Well isn;t this a surprise?

After ten years and $Billions of dollars and the best training by the best trainers the US military has, It turns out the Loyal Army of Karzai of the Afghans can't grab its butt with either hand.
Afghanistan’s security forces can’t go it alone after the planned departure of U.S. combat troops at the end of next year, the Pentagon said in its latest assessment of the war effort.

“Substantial training, advising and assistance, including financial support” will be needed to address “ongoing shortages,” including the inability of Afghan security forces to operate and sustain complex battlefield technologies, air operations and logistics, according to the report issued yesterday. It also cited a gap in fielding units to clear roadside bombs, the primary killer of Afghan forces.
Enlarge image Afghan Army Can’t Go It Alone After 2014, Pentagon Report Finds

The report bolsters calls by top U.S. commanders for some troops to remain in Afghanistan for years to come to train security forces and conduct special-forces operations against terrorists. President Barack Obama hasn’t decided how many Americans should stay after next year, and the administration hasn’t ruled out what’s called the “zero option,” removing all troops if a long-term agreement can’t be reached in sometimes acrimonious negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

“The insurgency remains a potent force,” although “significantly degraded” since 2011, according to the report.

Only 28 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, the least support recorded and less than backed the war in Iraq at its least popular point, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted July 18 to July 21. Results had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Everybody who couldn't see this coming please raise your hand. Hm-m, no one I see. So don't forget to send President a fax or an e-mail telling him not to leave anyone behind at the end of 2014.

They screw their own, as well.

They being the entire Congress who in their wisdom are screwing their entire staffs by requiring them to get their health insurance through their state's insurance exchange without providing any means for the federal government to pay their portion of the premiums.
Under a wrinkle that dates back to enactment of the law, members of Congress and thousands of their aides are required to get their coverage through new state-based markets known as insurance exchanges.

But the law does not provide any obvious way for the federal government to continue paying its share of the premiums for the comprehensive coverage.

If the government cannot do so, it could mean an additional expense of $5,000 a year for individuals and $11,000 for families under some of the most popular plans.

Not surprisingly, that idea is unpopular on Capitol Hill.
While this also affects Members of Congress, they are paid well enough to pay their own way. Their staffs who do all the work that makes them look like they are working are the ones getting the shaft. Once again the Law of Unintended Consequences is upheld.

The Big O offers up a bad deal

President Obama put forth a bad deal to try and tempt the Republican/Teabaggers in Congress to actually do something to stimulate new jobs.
President Obama, in a bid to break a stalemate with the Republican-controlled House, will revive on Tuesday his proposal to cut corporate tax rates in return for a commitment from Republicans to invest more in programs spurring middle-class jobs.

Using a cavernous Amazon distribution center in Chattanooga, Tenn., as his backdrop, Mr. Obama will describe a “grand bargain” on jobs that White House officials say will stimulate the economy, as well as give businesses the lower tax rates they have long sought. It would be the first new proposal of his economic offensive, setting the stage for the fall budget fights with Congressional Republicans. But the packaging is what is new, not the ideas.

The terms of Mr. Obama’s tax plan are those that Timothy F. Geithner, his former Treasury secretary, first proposed in early 2012, as the presidential campaign was getting under way: the corporate tax rate would be reduced to 28 percent, from 35 percent, with a lower rate of 25 percent for manufacturers.

At the time, Mr. Obama’s ultimate Republican rival, Mitt Romney, was proposing a 25 percent corporate rate, the same level that Republicans in Congress espouse now.

While the White House is advertising the move as a big concession, Republicans dismissed the proposal even before the president had spoken in Tennessee, based on advance news reports.

“It’s the opposite of a concession,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio.
And its a bad deal because it cuts taxes for grossly under taxed corporations while geNosedrool Brigade.tting nothing that won't be cut to shreds by the Teabagger. It would be so much better if he put forth a massive detailed package of taxes and programs so he could go to any part of the country and say, 'See this is what the Republicans don't want you to have'. But that takes political courage, sadly lacking in the White House.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Perfect Thing for a Summer Monday

A Romance for Violin and Orchestra from Anton Dvorak with Tanja Sonc on the violin.

Winning the vote

Tom Tomorrow looks at the ineffable campaign stylings of Virginia Attorney General Ken "The Cooch" Cuccinelli.

It is a sad occurence

But the situation of the first child of U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler could turn out well because of the state of modern medicine.
Abigail Rose Beutler was born prematurely on July 15, Herrera Beutler announced Monday. Doctors had diagnosed a serious problem during the pregnancy called Potter Syndrome, in which impaired kidney function leads to low amniotic fluid. It is typically fatal because it prevents the unborn child's lungs from developing.

Abigail has no kidneys and had no amniotic fluid in the womb. During the pregnancy, doctors injected saline solution into the womb in the place of amniotic fluid.

At birth, Abigail had fully developed lungs and she is breathing on her own, suggesting that the relatively uncommon treatment had worked. Abigail still requires ongoing dialysis and will eventually need a kidney transplant.
And because she has an excellent health insurance.

One week before Congress runs away for a month

And the opposition to NSA spying is growing among members of Congress.
The movement to crack down on government surveillance started with an odd couple from Michigan, Representatives Justin Amash, a young libertarian Republican known even to his friends as “chief wing nut,” and John Conyers Jr., an elder of the liberal left in his 25th House term.

But what began on the political fringes only a week ago has built a momentum that even critics say may be unstoppable, drawing support from Republican and Democratic leaders, attracting moderates in both parties and pulling in some of the most respected voices on national security in the House.

The rapidly shifting politics were reflected clearly in the House on Wednesday, when a plan to defund the National Security Agency’s telephone data collection program fell just seven votes short of passage. Now, after initially signaling that they were comfortable with the scope of the N.S.A.’s collection of Americans’ phone and Internet activities, but not their content, revealed last month by Edward J. Snowden, lawmakers are showing an increasing willingness to use legislation to curb those actions.

Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, and Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, have begun work on legislation in the House Judiciary Committee to significantly rein in N.S.A. telephone surveillance. Mr. Sensenbrenner said on Friday that he would have a bill ready when Congress returned from its August recess that would restrict phone surveillance to only those named as targets of a federal terrorism investigation, make significant changes to the secret court that oversees such programs and give businesses like Microsoft and Google permission to reveal their dealings before that court.

“There is a growing sense that things have really gone a-kilter here,” Ms. Lofgren said.
No shit, Ms. Sherlock and it is our responsibility to keep pestering and, if possible, hammering our congressmoops about this. They will be coming home to us.

It was National Car Bomb Weekend in Iraq

And the freedom loving Iraqis celebrated with an exuberance no doubt passed onto them by US troops.
The surge of violence in Iraq continued Monday when 15 car bombs killed at least 50 people and injured more than 100, according to security officials.

Ten of the bombings were in Baghdad, mainly in Shiite neighborhoods. The targets included a hospital, a restaurant and markets. At least 34 people were killed and more than 100 wounded, the authorities said.

Officials in the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki, fearing that even more devices could be detonated, tightened security in Baghdad. There were long lines at vehicle checkpoints as the security services searched cars for explosives.

Since the start of Ramadan on July 10, coordinated bombings and other attacks have intensified. That has revived fears that Iraq could return to the levels of sectarian violence seen over the last decade, after the American-led invasion in 2003.

While the violence is below the levels of the peak of the insurgency in 2006 and 2007, when the country moved to the brink of civil war, bombings remain common, and as many as 700 people are believed to have been killed this month.
Talk about going back to the good old days. And many were set off by the Blow Up A Shiite For Lunch Bunch, always a fun loving crew.

No one expects ....the Guantanamo Naval medical corps!

It once was the Spanish Inquisition, but that is pretty well dated by now. So now we don't expect the those who administer the forced feedings at America's Own Concentration Camp. We don't expect those who daily administer our latest torture program (waterboarding eat your heart out).
As of Friday, the military said, 68 captives were on hunger strike, down from a high of 106 amid apparently easing tensions for Ramadan, Islam’s holy month. Of the 68, 44 were designated for tube feedings of the type that the hip-hop recording artist who now goes by Yasiin Bey tried to portray in London last month in a demonstration organized by a British legal defense group.

Detention center troops interviewed this week expressed opinions ranging from resentment to indifference to the rapper’s stunt that put a spotlight on the forced-feedings that the world’s not allowed to see. Reporters have requested to observe tube feedings throughout the hunger strike but permission has not been granted.

So the question is: where does the truth lie? Is it the depiction in the viral video and the lawyers’ claim that their clients are being tortured? Or is it the insistence of the U.S. military that forced-feedings are intended to preserve life, not inflict pain.

Several guards in Branson’s military police unit got nasogastric feedings out of curiosity since deploying here two months ago, the sergeant said, “and took it like a champ.”

“It’s a life-saving tool if you ask me,” said Branson, whose troops deployed from Fort Bliss, Texas. “We see it every day and we know it’s not as bad as they make it out to be.”...

10 members of the Navy medical corps who do the feedings said in a series of interviews that they are proud of their service and pained by the portrayal that they are doing something inhumane. Detainees who don’t want the tube, they said, have the option to eat. But, as U.S. military medical forces, they are determined not to let them starve.
Even though those who worked for Torquemada were willing to let people starve, I am sure they were proud of their work as well.

A joke to start the week

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Australian Soul - Think about that for a minute

While you listen to Clairy Brown & The Banging Rackettes. Good music

If you look down, you can just make them out

From the pen of Brian McFadden

Time for Union comeback?

On their own, low wage workers are staging one day walk-outs to pubicize their low and stagnant wages as the CEO's are handing themselves huge wage increases.
Their anger has been stoked by what they see as a glaring disconnect: their wages have flatlined, while median pay for chief executives at the nation’s top corporations jumped 16 percent last year, averaging a princely $15.1 million, according to Equilar, an executive compensation analysis firm.

In recent weeks, workers from McDonald’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants — many of them part-time employees — have staged one-day walkouts in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Seattle to protest their earnings, typically just $150 to $350 a week, often too little to support themselves and their families. More walkouts are expected at fast-food restaurants in seven cities on Monday. Earlier this month hundreds of low-wage employees working for federal contractors in Washington walked out and picketed along Pennsylvania Avenue to urge President Obama to press their employers to raise wages.

Ana Salvador, who earns $10 an hour after 10 years working at the McDonald’s inside the National Air and Space Museum, wrote Mr. Obama to say that she did not earn enough to support her four children, adding that her family relied on food stamps and Medicaid. Another striker, Karla Quezada, who has worked at the Subway inside the Ronald Reagan Building for 11 years, said that while her employer made “lots of money off of my work, I still only make $9.50 an hour.” This is higher than the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage as well as the District of Columbia’s $8.25 minimum — many states have minimums above the federal level — but it isn’t much after more than a decade on the job. In a speech in Galesburg, Ill., last Wednesday aimed at bolstering the middle class, Mr. Obama called for raising the minimum wage.

Many low-paid workers feel their employers have put an invisible ceiling on their wages, with little prospect of ever making more than $10 or $11 an hour, as corporations have focused on keeping wages competitive and maximizing profits to benefit shareholders. The richest Americans have benefited mightily
Businesss has adopted a two leged stool model with management and shareholders being the two legs and the former third leg, the workers just a disposable cheap commodity. Unions made workers the third leg in the past, it would be a good time for them to do it again.

Well, Li'l Georgie did need all the cover he could get

Even some from the Italian government. All he had to do for that deal was throw some CIA little people under the bus, a price the Bushoviks were always willing to pay.
Confirming for the first time that she worked undercover for the CIA in Milan when the operation took place, Sabrina De Sousa provided new details about the “extraordinary rendition” that led to the only criminal prosecution stemming from the secret Bush administration rendition and detention program launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The cleric, Osama Mustapha Hassan Nasr, was snatched from a Milan street by a team of CIA operatives and flown to Egypt, where he was held for the better part of four years without charges and allegedly tortured. An Egyptian court in 2007 ruled that his imprisonment was “unfounded” and ordered him released.

Among the allegations made by De Sousa in a series of interviews with McClatchy:

– The former CIA station chief in Rome, Jeffrey Castelli, whom she called the mastermind of the operation, exaggerated Nasr’s terrorist threat to win approval for the rendition and misled his superiors that Italian military intelligence had agreed to the operation.

– Senior CIA officials, including then-CIA Director George Tenet, approved the operation even though Nasr wasn’t wanted in Egypt and wasn’t on the U.S. list of top al Qaida terrorists.

– Condoleezza Rice, then the White House national security adviser, also had concerns about the case, especially what Italy would do if the CIA were caught, but she eventually agreed to it and recommended that Bush approve the abduction...

De Sousa accused Italian leaders of colluding with the United States to shield Bush, Rice, Tenet and senior CIA aides by declining to prosecute them or even demanding that Washington publicly admit to staging the abduction.

Calling the operation unjustified and illegal, De Sousa said Italy and the United States cooperated in “scape-goating a bunch of people . . . while the ones who approved this stupid rendition are all free.”

The Senate and House intelligence committees enabled the coverup, De Sousa added, by failing to treat her as a whistleblower after she told them of the lack of prosecutable evidence against Nasr and what she called her own mistreatment by the CIA that compelled her to resign in 2009.

“Despite that, no one’s been held accountable,” she said.

De Sousa, 57, a naturalized U.S. citizen from India’s state of Goa, was one of 23 Americans convicted in absentia in 2009 by a Milan court for Nasr’s abduction. She received a five-year sentence. An appeals court in 2011 added two more years, and Italy’s Supreme Court upheld the sentence. Nineteen of the Americans, De Sousa said, “don’t exist,” because they were aliases used by the CIA snatch team.
Just like in Mission Impossible, the government gets to disavow the team. But in real life it involves making a deal at the expense of those who trusted their government.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The band is from New Orleans

But the singer was a runaway from the Bronx before creating this country/folk band that is now, after 7 years getting some attention for their work.

We are at war with someone

You will pay for it with your taxes and if you qualify, you can enlist in the military to fight the evildoers. Just don't ask who they are because that is classified information.
In a major national security speech this spring, President Obama said again and again that the U.S. is at war with “Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces.”

So who exactly are those associated forces? It’s a secret.

At a hearing in May, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of Al Qaeda affiliates.

The Pentagon responded – but Levin’s office told ProPublica they aren’t allowed to share it. Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for Levin, would say only that the department’s “answer included the information requested.”

A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that revealing such a list could cause “serious damage to national security.”
Hellfire! Even Big Brother always told the proles who they were at war with. They just had to remember that they had always been at war with whoever it was that day. Now we can't even know that, we just have to pay for it. and if necessary, you can be dropped down the memory hole.

Now that everybody is onto the scam

JP Morgan Chase has decided to bail out of the physical commodities business. Well before any new regulations make them do so.
New York-based JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank, said yesterday that it’s “pursuing strategic alternatives,” including the sale or spinoff of its commodities business, after an internal review. The statement came three days after a congressional hearing investigated whether deposit-taking banks should be allowed to trade raw materials such as oil and industrial metals.

JPMorgan owns and trades financial and physical commodities including crude oil, natural gas and power, and describes itself as “one of the world’s leading energy market makers.” The bank may be the first to exit physical commodities, though others may follow if regulations are changed, as suggested by Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat whose subcommittee of the Senate Banking Committee held the July 23 hearing.

“It looks like they want to get ahead of what appears to be a new wave of regulation that will limit the activities of the banks in the commodities sphere,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York hedge fund that focuses on energy.

Regulators need to take a “long, hard look at the practice of banks holding physical commodities,” Brown said in a statement before the hearing. JPMorgan’s decision to consider selling or spinning off its commodities business is “good news for consumers and taxpayers,” he said in an e-mail yesterday.
This is a start, but we are still waiting for the big pirates, Goldmine Sachs and Morgan Stanley to get out or give up taking federally insured deposits. Then commodities can won't be so exciting and expensive.

America has a monkey on its back

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

R.I.P John Weldon Cale

As JJ Cale you wrote some mighty fine music, even if you did let some shitty people record it.

Why are utility companies afraid of solar power

Maybe because they have no control over the source of the power that they are required to deliver.
The struggle over the California incentives is only the most recent and visible dust-up as many utilities cling to their established business, and its centralized distribution of energy, until they can figure out a new way to make money. It is a question the Obama administration is grappling with as well as it promotes the integration of more renewable energy into the grid.

Utility executives have watched disruptive technologies cause businesses in other industries to founder — just as cellphones upended the traditional land-based telephone business, producing many a management shake-up — and they want to stay ahead of a fundamental shift in the way electricity is bought, sold and delivered.

“I see an opportunity for us to recreate ourselves, just like the telecommunications industry did,” Michael W. Yackira, chief executive of NV Energy, a Nevada utility, and chairman of the industry group the Edison Electric Institute, said at the group’s convention.

The fight in California has become increasingly public, with the two sides releasing reports and counter-reports. A group of fast-growing young companies that install rooftop systems, including SolarCity, Sungevity, Sunrun and Verengo, recently formed their own lobbying group, the Alliance for Solar Choice, to battle efforts to weaken the subsidies and credit systems.

They have good reason. In California, as intended, net metering has proved a strong draw for customers. From 2010 to 2012, the amount of solar installed each year has increased by 160 percent, almost doubling the amount of electricity that rooftop systems can make, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. With federal tax credits and a rebate program for installation costs under the California Solar Initiative phasing out, determining how much to pay customers has become even more critical.

“Net metering right now is the only way for customers to get value for their rooftop solar systems,” said Adam Browning, executive director of the advocacy group Vote Solar.

Mr. Browning and other proponents say that solar customers deserve fair payment not only for the electricity they transmit but for the value that smaller, more dispersed power generators give to utilities. Making more power closer to where it is used, advocates say, can reduce stress on the grid and make it more reliable, as well as save utilities from having to build and maintain more infrastructure and large, centralized generators.

But utility executives say that when solar customers no longer pay for electricity, they also stop paying for the grid, shifting those costs to other customers. Utilities generally make their profits by making investments in infrastructure and designing customer rates to earn that money back with a guaranteed return, set on average at about 10 percent.
So somewhere here is a looming battle over a new rate structure that su[ports the various generators and the distributors. It promises to be a long and mean one.

R.I.P. Lindy Boggs

You were from a forgotten era in Louisiana when people were intelligent.

Kim Jong Pudge has a parade

This week we marked the anniversary of the truce signed at Panmunjom that ended the fighting in Korea, but not the war. In North Korea, Kim Jong Pudge had a mighty parade staged to show off his mighty army.
The North Korean military has traditionally used large parades to swear its loyalty to the Kim family. But the spectacles have also been closely monitored by regional analysts and policy makers for clues about the state of the Kim dynasty’s arsenal.

Mr. Kim appeared to be eager to feed that hunger and display his country’s latest military hardware just months after a serious flare in tensions on the divided peninsula that included threats to stage nuclear attacks. As with other celebrations in the police state, this one was highly choreographed, and North Korea invited some international journalists to cover the events.

Mobile launchers rumbled before Mr. Kim and a crowd of journalists and other foreign visitors carrying the KN-08, widely believed to have been designed as the North’s first intercontinental ballistic missile. Some analysts suspect that the KN-08, first unveiled during a military parade in Pyongyang in April of last year, is still in a developmental stage and the missiles displayed might be mock-ups.

The North would need such missiles to be able to deliver nuclear weapons to the United States, but it also remains unclear if the country has been able to miniaturize bombs so they could fit on a long-range missile. The North says its missiles are a deterrent against American hostilities.

The Saturday parade also featured truckloads of baleful-looking soldiers hugging packs with radioactive warning symbols. With such a display, North Korea appeared to suggest that it may have created radioactive “dirty bombs,” said Shin In-kyun, a military expert who runs Korea Defense Network, a civic group specializing in military affairs.

“North Korea is exaggerating and showing off its nuclear and missile threats,” Mr. Shin said.
Is it all real or not? We don't know and really, why should we care. We should bring home all our military from Korea and leave a phone number where Pudge can reach us if he wants to sign a peace treaty. The South Koreans can handle his army and the Chinese can deal with their favorite bad boy.

Liberty and the Social Contract

Agree or disagree, at least we are talking about it.

Friday, July 26, 2013

We all need a soft place

And Kathleen Edwards makes it sound so comforting

Res Ipsa Loquitur

From the pen of Wiley Miller

Life in the real world.

From the pen of Ben Sargent

New rules make sense so far

The FDA has proposed a series of rules that essentially require imported foods to meet US standards.
The Obama administration on Friday released long-awaited proposals aimed at ensuring that the growing amount of imported foods, which now account for about 15 percent of the nation’s food supply, meet U.S. safety standards.

The new rules, drafted by the Food and Drug Administration, were mandated by far-reaching legislation passed by Congress in late 2010. They represent one piece in a broader effort to overhaul the nation’s approach to food safety for the first time in generations by preventing contamination and illness rather than simply reacting to outbreaks.

“This is a huge paradigm shift,” Michael R. Taylor, the Food and Drug Administration’s top food-safety official, said in an interview. “It’s a very big step that we’re taking in building the food-safety system of the future. . . . We think it’s important for public health, but we also think it’s important for public confidence.”

Under the regulations proposed Friday, domestic importers for the first time would have to vouch for the food-safety practices of their overseas suppliers. The new rules also aim to improve the consistency and transparency of foreign food-safety audits, which many companies rely on to ensure the quality of their international supply chains.

The proposals come at a time when the global food system has grown more complex and interconnected than ever, and when the volume of food pouring into the United States from every corner of the world increases each year.

According to the FDA, U.S. imports come from about 150 different countries. Roughly 80 percent of the seafood, half the fresh fruits and 20 percent of the vegetables consumed in the United States come from overseas. Beef, poultry and some egg products are overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Given the Republican/Teabagger efforts to defund food inspection, these rules may be moot before they begin. And they may adversely affect some products that are sought after because they don't meet the standards. But you have to start somewhere.

Now this is an offer he can't refuse

Not that we have the slightest shred of sympathy for him and do believe he deserves every minute of his sentence, but even the toughest Mafia Godfather would love this sentence.
The Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive in his home for a decade entered a guilty plea on Friday in order to avoid the death penalty.

The defendant, Ariel Castro, 53, pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including rape and kidnapping, in a plea agreement with prosecutors. Under the deal, he would spend life in prison without parole and receive 1,000 additional years.

“I will plead guilty because of the plea deal,” Mr. Castro said in court.

In a hearing on Friday morning, Judge Michael Russo of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court reviewed the charges with Mr. Castro and asked him whether he understood that he would not leave prison before he died. Mr. Castro said that he understood the agreement. The judge must decide whether to accept the deal. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 1.
And after the judge makes up his mind, the next choice is general population or solitary. Either way he is fucked, but one way will still let him shit normally.

Now That's Mighty White Of Eric Holder.

Our earnest and hard working Attorney General Holder has assured the Russians that we won't kill or torture Snowden if they send him back to us.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter sent to the Russian minister of justice this week that the United States would not seek the death penalty against Edward J. Snowden, and would issue him a passport immediately so he could travel back to the United States.

The letter also offered reassurances that the United States would not torture Mr. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who faces criminal charges of disclosing classified information and has been hiding in an airport in Moscow in order to evade the American authorities.

“We believe these assurances eliminate these asserted grounds for Mr. Snowden’s claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum, temporary or otherwise,” Mr. Holder said in the letter, which was sent to Justice Minister Aleksandr V. Konovalov.

A copy of the letter was provided to The New York Times on Friday by a Justice Department official, in response to questions about communications between the United States and Russian governments about Mr. Snowden’s fate.

The charges Mr. Snowden faces in the United States do not carry the death penalty, the letter said, adding that the United States would not seek the death penalty “even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional death penalty-eligible crimes.”
Rather like the dialogue in Lewis Carroll's The Walrus & The Carpenter. And the result would be the same for poor little Snowden, even if he had a choice.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Could country music exist without heartache?

Even if Claire Lynch is smiling as she sings about it.

R.I.P. Virginia Johnson

You and Dr. Masters
helped create a body of knowledge about sex that all too many people still refuse to accept over their snake given fairy tales.

Attorney General Eric Holder: He's Alive!!

In a move that surprised most people inside and outside the Beltway who thought he was safely cocooned in a pleasant haze from all that bud his people were confiscating, Attorney General Eric Holder has sicced the Dept. of Justice on Texas efforts to keep "undesirable" from voting.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced on Thursday that the Justice Department would ask a court to require Texas to get permission from the federal government before making voting changes in that state for the next decade. The move opens a new chapter in the political struggle over election rules after the Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act last month.

In a speech before the National Urban League in Philadelphia, Mr. Holder also indicated that the court motion — expected to be filed later on Thursday — was most likely just an opening salvo in a new Obama administration strategy to try to reimpose “preclearance” requirements in parts of the country that have a history of discriminating against minority voters.

His statements come as states across the South, from Texas to North Carolina, have been rushing to enforce or enact new restrictions on voting eligibility after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which removed that safeguard.

“This is the department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last,” Mr. Holder said. “Even as Congress considers updates to the Voting Rights Act in light of the court’s ruling, we plan, in the meantime, to fully utilize the law’s remaining sections to subject states to preclearance as necessary. My colleagues and I are determined to use every tool at our disposal to stand against such discrimination wherever it is found.”

The move relies on a part of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court left untouched. In the Shelby County case, the court struck down the coverage formula in Section 4 of the law, which had subjected Texas and eight other mostly Southern states to federal oversight based on 40-year-old data. The court suggested that Congress remained free to enact a new coverage formula based on contemporary data, but most analysts say that is unlikely.

Striking down the law’s coverage formula effectively guts Section 5 of the law, which requires permission from federal authorities before covered jurisdictions may change voting procedures.

The move by the Justice Department on Thursday relies on Section 3, which allows the federal government to get to the same place by a different route, called “bail in.” If the department can show that given jurisdictions have committed constitutional violations, federal courts may impose federal oversight on those places in piecemeal fashion.
Boy Howdy! The Dread Chief Justice Roberts is going to catch a lot of flak for not eliminating the law in its entirety.

The majority of Americans want to end Gov't snooping

And that has been a fairly constant result in various polls taken on the subject of NSA domestic spying and other government intrusions.
Americans are fed up with the federal government collecting information on their phone calls, emails and Internet use, and they want curbs on what can be monitored, majorities say in a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

The July 15-18 survey also found widespread opposition to the Insider Threat Program revealed in a recent McClatchy story, a sweeping, unprecedented Obama administration initiative that has federal employees and contractors watching for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers.

“Privacy still counts, and federal employees snooping on each other, that’s out of bounds,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in New York, which conducted the poll.

The poll’s findings come as the House of Representatives considers defunding National Security Agency programs that collect telephone and other data. An unusual coalition of liberals and conservatives, concerned about the reach of an ever-intrusive government, is behind the effort.
Naturally this means that when Congress got a chance to do something about it, their answer was NO.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday tried mightily but fell short in its bid to send a tough, pointed message to the Obama administration: Put limits on the National Security Agency’s ability to collect personal data.

The 217-205 vote rejected an effort to require the government to only gather material on people under investigation. Wednesday’s action marked the first time Congress has extensively debated and voted on the programs since they were publicly revealed last month.

The effort drew an unusual coalition of liberals and conservatives concerned about privacy. But it couldn’t overcome fierce opposition led by the White House and congressional leaders.

“Passing this amendment takes us back to Sept. 10,” warned House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich.

The House did approve, by a vote of 409-12, a provision that did little more than reinforce current restrictions on data gathering. Critics of the spying programs agreed with Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who dismissed it as a “fig leaf.”
Hey! At least we got a fig leaf out of it.

Republicans are right for the wrong reasons

A GOPBagger sponsored amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill limiting US military involvement in Syria and Egypt has passed the House.
With little argument, the House of Representatives approved measures Wednesday that would prevent the Obama administration from spending money on U.S. military operations in Syria without consulting Congress and would forbid funding U.S. military or paramilitary operations in Egypt.

The measures, part of the House’s $598 billion defense bill, were supposed to be contentious issues exposing bipartisan rifts between interventionists who want to give Obama a free hand in dealing with the civil war in Syria and unrest in Egypt and war-weary lawmakers concerned that U.S. troops will be dragged into more military actions.

But both amendments were approved on voice votes with only scant dissent.

On Syria, lawmakers passed an amendment by Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., that would forbid any military action in Syria if it violates the War Powers Resolution – which requires the president to consult Congress before committing U.S. forces to battle or placing them in situations where hostilities are imminent.

The Radel amendment does not address the contentious issue of providing weapons to the Syrian rebels, whose campaign to topple President Bashar Assad is made up of as many as 1,200 largely independent groups, including some that are openly affiliated with al Qaida. Congressional intelligence committees recently signed off on an Obama administration proposal to have the CIA funnel unspecified arms and training to rebels aligned with the moderate Supreme Military Council, led by a defected Syrian general, Salim Idriss.

But the wording of the amendment would apply to setting up a no-fly zone or using U.S. ships to launch attacks on sites in Syria, and the debate showed that deeper military involvement in Syria is opposed by an unusual House coalition of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.

“I believe without a shadow of a doubt this is one of the most insane policies that borders on madness – the United States to give funding, training and arms most likely to al Qaida in Syria doesn’t make any sense,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. “This is absolute madness.”

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., agreed, calling the situation in Syria “chaotic.”

“Distinguishing between the good rebels and the bad rebels is impossible,” Welch said on the House floor. “The notion that we can have a micromanaged approach and pick the good guys, and arm them, and not have any reasonable . . . expectation that the arms will get into bad hands I think is naive.”

Welch added that Congress has the responsibility to weigh in before U.S. troops are sent into harm’s way.

“We have a job to do under the Constitution,” he said.
EVen The Mad Woman of Minnesota understands that US involvement would be a disaster. True, she thinks anything that President Obama does is a disaster, but this time she found the acorn, as did a majority of the House.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I guess the artist knows what the video is supposed to be about

I just know I like this song from Antje Duvekot's most recent album.

And for the latest on the Navy's Little Crappy Ships

The GAO has recommended that purchases of the Little Crappy Ships be slowed down pending testing and investigation into whether or not the Little Crappy Ships have any useful military purpose.
The GAO, Congress’s nonpartisan investigative arm, said in a draft report earlier this year that the Navy is risking as much as $40 billion by purchasing the ships faster than it can demonstrate their “militarily useful capability.” The final report is set for release tomorrow at a U.S. House hearing.

The LCS program has generated a growing list of questions about its designs, firepower, defenses and survivability at a time when the Pentagon faces as much as $500 billion in additional budget cuts over the next nine years.

“We realize that these may be some rough waters,” Rear Admiral Thomas Rowden, the surface warfare director, said during a July 23 conference call with reporters. “I’m confident we’ll be able to address these issues and get this significant capability to the fleet.”

The GAO’s draft report said “a pause is needed” in construction of the Navy’s newest combat vessels until additional testing can answer “fundamental questions about whether the program, as envisioned, will meet the Navy’s needs.”

Virginia Republican Representative Randy Forbes, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee, called the GAO’s report “very concerning” and said in an earlier interview that “it is something we will be monitoring very, very carefully.”
Somebody better stop the Navy befor e they purchase again.
The Navy will be under contract for at least 24 of the planned 52 ships before it completes tests in 2019 to see whether mission modules can meet minimum performance requirements, the GAO report said.
Can't afford monies for SNAP, education, infrastructure repair and replacement but the god damn Navy can buy 24 ships that may be useless for any possible task for at least $40 Billion.

It's all a matter of perspective

From the pen of Jack Ohman

Emile Griffith joins Benny "Kid" Paret

Benny has been waiting a long time for a re-match.

Are the going rogue?

And actual agency of the Louisiana government is suing the various oil & gas companies from the big to the small have contributed mightily to the destruction of Louisiana wetlands.
Louisiana officials will file a lawsuit on Wednesday against dozens of energy companies, hoping that the courts will force them to pay for decades of damage to fragile coastal wetlands that help buffer the effects of hurricanes on the region.

“This protective buffer took 6,000 years to form,” the state board that oversees flood-protection efforts for much of the New Orleans area argued in court filings, adding that “it has been brought to the brink of destruction over the course of a single human lifetime.”

The lawsuit, to be filed in civil district court in New Orleans by the board of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, argues that the energy companies, including BP and Exxon Mobil, should be held responsible for fixing damage caused by cutting a network of thousands of miles of oil and gas access and pipeline canals through the wetlands. The suit alleges that the network functioned “as a mercilessly efficient, continuously expanding system of ecological destruction,” killing vegetation, eroding soil and allowing salt water to intrude into freshwater areas.

“What remains of these coastal lands is so seriously diseased that if nothing is done, it will slip into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of this century, if not sooner,” the filing stated.

A spokeswoman for BP said that the company would have no comment. A spokesman for Exxon Mobil said the company had no comment at this time.

Gladstone N. Jones III, a lawyer for the flood protection authority board, said the plaintiffs were seeking damages equal to “many billions of dollars. Many, many billions of dollars.”

Mr. Jones acknowledges that the government, which has strong protection against lawsuits, might bear some responsibility for loss of wetlands. But, he noted, Washington had spent billions on repairs and strengthening hurricane defenses since the system built by the Army Corps of Engineers failed after Hurricane Katrina. By taking the oil and gas companies to court, he said, “we want them to come and pay their fair share.
It sure looks good in the headlines but considering that ExxonMobil still hasn't paid $Billions of its Alaska judgements we don't expect Louisiana to collect much more than their legal expenses. Let's not forget that ExxonMobil and BP and their ilk own more of the Louisiana government than they do in Alaska.

After all he has done to them

Mob Boss Mitch The Chin McConnell expects to get enough women voters to regain his seat as Capo di Tutti Capi in the Senate. Somehow The Chin thinks that the various Republican/Teabagger positions he has pushed are attractive to them.
As Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a 71-year-old Republican fixture in Washington, prepares to try to fend off a challenge by Alison Lundergan Grimes, a 34-year-old Democratic political newcomer, his team says he will address and even embrace the gender and generational differences between them.

Given recent struggles that Republican Senate contenders have had with women’s issues, Mr. McConnell’s advisers say they intend to confront head-on the criticism Democrats have already begun leveling against him on issues they view as particularly important to female voters.

“The long and short of it is, we’re going to be very aggressive in making sure people don’t mischaracterize what his record is, especially when it comes to women and women’s issues,” said Josh Holmes, Mr. McConnell’s chief of staff for Kentucky operations. “Not only are we not afraid of it, we’re very proud of it.”

Mr. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, has faced a female opponent only once during his nearly 30 years in the Senate. He and his team seem eager to try to head off a campaign in 2014 that could become a referendum on how female voters feel about the Republican Party’s recent record.

Several times he has explained his vote this year against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and his office — normally averse to stories about staff — has willingly offered up for interviews the “strong women” with whom they say Mr. McConnell has always surrounded himself. His wife, Elaine Chao, served as labor secretary during President George W. Bush’s entire time in office.
He is making every effort to paper over his efforts to "keep the bitches in their place". And perhaps there will be enough women suffering from Stockholm Syndrome to help him win. We hope not and encourage support for his challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes.

As part of the Republican Rush To Anarchy

The House Teabagger claque is making it clear they will not pay for anything that they can stop.
Congressional Republicans are moving to gut many of President Obama’s top priorities with the sharpest spending cuts in a generation and a new push to hold government financing hostage unless the president’s signature health care law is stripped of money this fall.

As Mr. Obama prepares to deliver a major economic address on Wednesday in Illinois, Republicans in Washington are delivering blow after blow to programs he will promote as vital to a more robust economic recovery and a firmer economic future — from spending on infrastructure and health care to beefing up regulatory agencies. While Mr. Obama would like to keep the economic conversation lofty, his adversaries in Congress are already fighting in the trenches.

On Tuesday, a House Appropriations subcommittee formally drafted legislation that would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 34 percent and eliminate his newly announced greenhouse gas regulations. The bill cuts financing for the national endowments for the arts and the humanities in half and the Fish and Wildlife Service by 27 percent.

For the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, Mr. Obama requested nearly $3 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs — a mainstay of his economic agenda since he was first elected. The House approved $826 million. Senate Democrats want to give $380 million to ARPA-E, an advanced research program for energy. The House allocated $70 million.

A House bill to finance labor and health programs, expected to be unveiled Wednesday, makes good on Republican threats to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The labor and health measure — for years the most contentious spending bill — will protect some of the White House’s priorities, like Head Start, special education and the National Institutes of Health, but to do so education grants for poor students will be cut by 16 percent and the Labor Department by 13 percent, according to House Republican aides.

“These are tough bills,” acknowledged Representative Harold Rogers, the Kentucky Republican who leads the House Appropriations Committee. “His priorities are going nowhere.”
They can not govern, they will not govern but they will impose their minority views on the majority of Americans.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

From an album called Two Jews Blues

Another of the albums that showcase Mike Bloomfield's guitar playing without his name because he was under contract to a different label. Here he plays with blues organist Barry Goldberg.

R.I.P. Page Morton Black

You now can drink all the heavenly coffee you want. And you can drink it with Rockefellers like the original jingle said.

So what are our choices?

That pesky chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, that John McCain doesn't like very much, has provided a list of options to Congress about what can be done in Syria. He has also included the expected costs of the various choices.
The Pentagon has provided Congress with its first detailed list of military options to stem the bloody civil war in Syria, suggesting that a campaign to tilt the balance from President Bashar al-Assad to the opposition would be a vast undertaking, costing billions of dollars, and could backfire on the United States.

The list of options — laid out in a letter from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin of Michigan — was the first time the military has explicitly described what it sees as the formidable challenge of intervening in the war.

It came as the White House, which has limited its military involvement to supplying the rebels with small arms and other weaponry, has begun implicitly acknowledging that Mr. Assad may not be forced out of power anytime soon.

The options, which range from training opposition troops to conducting airstrikes and enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria, are not new. But General Dempsey provided details about the logistics and the costs of each. He noted that long-range strikes on the Syrian government’s military targets would require “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines and other enablers,” and cost “in the billions.”

General Dempsey, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, provided the unclassified, three-page letter at the request of Mr. Levin, a Democrat, after testifying last week that he believed it was likely that Mr. Assad would be in power a year from now.

On that day, the White House began publicly hedging its bets about Mr. Assad. After saying for nearly two years that Mr. Assad’s days were numbered, the press secretary, Jay Carney, said, “While there are shifts in momentum on the battlefield, Bashar al-Assad, in our view, will never rule all of Syria again.”
So maybe we can put Assad back in control and maybe not. Regardless of what we can do, we still don't have enough money for the SNAP program. If they want to eat, let them join the military.

When Mom told you to eat your breakfast

She was far wiser than you could have imagined, grasshopper. Turns out that first meal of the day serves a real purpose in your health cycle.
In an article released Monday in the journal Circulation, researchers found that men who skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease than men who ate their morning meal - though we imagine that big daily plates of bacon and pancakes with syrup are not the ideal.

The researchers also found, using a large ongoing study of mostly white men, that those who ate late at night had a 55 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease. They didn't find an association with the number of times a day a person ate.

Those associations were true - if somewhat less so - when other habits and conditions that would cause coronary heart disease were factored in, said the researchers, from Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Snacking and skipping breakfast are common among Americans, the researchers noted. And such habits have been associated with weight gain, high blood pressure and diabetes, they wrote.

So they looked at the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, an ongoing look at 51,529 men who are questioned every two years about their health and habits.

The men who did not eat breakfast were younger, more often single and more likely to smoke and less active than the other men. The late-night snackers were also more likely to smoke and to have hypertension and sleep less than seven hours a night, the researchers wrote.
Still, when all is said and done, the best recipe is to eat moderate amounts of good foods at least twice a day.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Uncle Earl has had a fluid membership over the years

And sadly, Abigail Washburn, singing and banjo on this tune, has said her last goodbye with the group.

The Effects of Republican/Teabagger Anarchy*

From the pen of Tom Toles

* quod vide

Beware The Zimmerman Drones

Tom Tomorrow warns us of another menace to the people of Florida. As if the George Zimmerman and the Florida GOP wasn't bad enough.

It was 60 years ago

That a truce was signed ending the shooting part of the Korean War. And for 60 years since, we have been sitting around, shitting and flinging it at each other. It is time for American forces to come home. The South Koreans can defend themselves and when ever Kim Jong Pudge want to sign a peace treaty, he can give us a call.

Location, location, location

The secret to increasing your income whether you are a business or an individual, it applies equally.
This geography appears to play a major role in making Atlanta one of the metropolitan areas where it is most difficult for lower-income households to rise into the middle class and beyond, according to a new study that other researchers are calling the most detailed portrait yet of income mobility in the United States.

The study — based on millions of anonymous earnings records and being released this week by a team of top academic economists — is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide some of the most powerful evidence so far about the factors that seem to drive people’s chances of rising beyond the station of their birth, including education, family structure and the economic layout of metropolitan areas.

Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data shows, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota.

“Where you grow up matters,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the study’s authors. “There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.”

That variation does not stem simply from the fact that some areas have higher average incomes: upward mobility rates, Mr. Hendren added, often differ sharply in areas where average income is similar, like Atlanta and Seattle.
And the areas with the worst possibilities lies within the Republican belt of the Deep South.

If some rancher says it's meat, who are you to argue?

So far no one has argued about that claim, but some ranchers are getting all pissy about labeling their steers by country of origin. Their feeling is you don't need to know and they can't be bothered to separate foreign cattle from good old "Merikan beef.
McCan, now the president-elect of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, is among a group of cattle producers and meat companies that has sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture for moving ahead in late May with new country-of-origin labeling rules.

In a lawsuit filed July 8 in U.S. District Court in Washington, the groups claim the labels will hurt beef exports and are unconstitutional as “compelled speech” that doesn’t advance a government interest.

Backers of the new rules, who say labeling can be done at a minimal cost, are braced for another battle with cattle producers.

“They’re totally wrong – consumers have the right to know where products are from,” said Joel Joseph, chairman of the Los Angeles-based Made in the USA Foundation, a group that promotes labeling and products manufactured in the United States. “It’s not forced speech. It’s just consumer information, the same kind of information that’s on a label of a new car that says where an engine’s from.”

He offered some advice for McCan: “If he doesn’t want to segregate his cattle, then he shouldn’t get cattle from Mexico.”

McCan said labeling is a marketing issue that should be left to the private sector.

“We’re not anti-labeling at all,” he said. “We just kind of feel like the government doesn’t really need to be in our marketing system. It doesn’t have to be dictated to us.”

Cattle producers aren’t the only unhappy ones.

The new labeling rules also could ignite a trade war with Canada, which is threatening to retaliate. Last month, the Canadian government called the new rules a “protectionist policy” that discriminated against foreign competition. Ottawa said it might respond by imposing tariffs on a long list of products, including pork, fruits and vegetables, pasta, chocolate, cheese, office furniture and many more. The Canadian government fears that its beef exports to the United States would decline under the new rules, with U.S. retailers more likely to reject foreign meat.
I got to say that if both ranchers and Canucks don't like the regulations, they must be good.

You have to wonder what they are hiding

All the pharmaceutical companies have to do extensive research on the drugs they want to sell. After approval however, they only release the really good parts of the research and keep the rest under cover.
Drugs companies publish only a fraction of their results and keep much of the information to themselves, but regulators want to ban the practice. If companies published all of their clinical trials data, independent scientists could reanalyse their results and check companies’ claims about the safety and efficacy of drugs.

Under proposals being thrashed out in Europe, drugs companies would be compelled to release all of their data, including results that show drugs do not work or cause dangerous side-effects.

While some companies have agreed to share data more freely, the industry has broadly resisted the moves. The latest strategy shows how patient groups – many of which receive some or all of their funding from drugs companies – have been brought into the battle.

The strategy was drawn up by two large trade groups, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), and outlined in a memo to senior industry figures this month, according to an email seen by the Guardian.

The memo, from Richard Bergström, director general of EFPIA, went to directors and legal counsel at Roche, Merck, Pfizer, GSK, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Novartis and many smaller companies. It was leaked by a drugs company employee.

The email describes a four-pronged campaign that starts with “mobilising patient groups to express concern about the risk to public health by non-scientific re-use of data”. Translated, that means patient groups go into bat for the industry by raising fears that if full results from drug trials are published, the information might be misinterpreted and cause a health scare.

The lobbying is targeted at Europe where the European Medicines Agency (EMA) wants to publish all of the clinical study reports that companies have filed, and where negotiations around the clinical trials directive could force drug companies to publish all clinical trial results in a public database.

“Some who oppose full disclosure of data fear that publishing the information could reveal trade secrets, put patient privacy at risk, and be distorted by scientists’ own conflicts of interest. While many of the concerns are valid, critics say they can be addressed, and that openness is far more important for patient safety.”
They left out the part where someone might discover that big pharmas research isn't all that they say it is. And wouldn't that be embarrassing.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Love isn't always that wonderful thing we dream of

But the poetry of Jess Klein makes even the hard stuff easier to deal with.

Once upon a time...

National sovereignty
included the airspace above your country. That appears to be going by the board now that we have all those unmanned drones that need to be used.
Since November 2011, the U.S. Air Force has been flying unarmed drones from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey in an attempt to suppress a long-simmering regional conflict. The camera-equipped Predators hover above the rugged border with Iraq and beam high-resolution imagery to the Turkish armed forces, helping them pursue PKK rebels as they slip back and forth across the mountains.

As the Obama administration dials back the number of drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, the U.S. military is shifting its huge fleet of unmanned aircraft to other hot spots around the world. This next phase of drone warfare is focused more on spying than killing and will extend the Pentagon’s robust surveillance networks far beyond traditional, declared combat zones.

Over the past decade, the Pentagon has amassed more than 400 Predators, Reapers, Hunters, Gray Eagles and other high-altitude drones that have revolutionized counterterrorism operations. Some of the unmanned aircraft will return home with U.S. troops when they leave Afghanistan. But many of the drones will redeploy to fresh frontiers, where they will spy on a melange of armed groups, drug runners, pirates and other targets that worry U.S. officials.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the U.S. Air Force has drone hubs in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to conduct reconnaissance over the Persian Gulf. Twice since November, Iran has scrambled fighter jets to approach or fire on U.S. Predator drones that edged close to Iranian airspace.

In Africa, the U.S. Air Force began flying unarmed drones over the Sahara five months ago to track al-Qaeda fighters and rebels in northern Mali. The Pentagon has also set up drone bases in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Seychelles. Even so, the commander of U.S. forces in Africa told Congress in February that he needed a 15-fold increase in surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering on the continent.

In an April speech, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said the Pentagon is planning for the first time to send Reaper drones — a bigger, faster version of the Predator — to parts of Asia other than Afghanistan. He did not give details. A Defense Department spokeswoman said the military “hasn’t made any final decisions yet” but is “committed to increasing” its surveillance in Asia and the Pacific.
All your airspace R belong to us. But don't even think about overflying us.

Mickey D's Budget Advice - Updated

From the pen of Brian McFadden

How our tax dollars end up costing us more every day

First we had to bail out the banks because their frauds almost destroyed them along with the economy. The we had to loosen up various regulations that stood in the way of their using the vast sums of tax dollars available to them which they chose not to lend, The result is a gravy train for the banksters that we pay into every day, in every way they can imagine.
The story of how this works begins in 27 industrial warehouses in the Detroit area where a Goldman subsidiary stores customers’ aluminum. Each day, a fleet of trucks shuffles 1,500-pound bars of the metal among the warehouses. Two or three times a day, sometimes more, the drivers make the same circuits. They load in one warehouse. They unload in another. And then they do it again.

This industrial dance has been choreographed by Goldman to exploit pricing regulations set up by an overseas commodities exchange, an investigation by The New York Times has found. The back-and-forth lengthens the storage time. And that adds many millions a year to the coffers of Goldman, which owns the warehouses and charges rent to store the metal. It also increases prices paid by manufacturers and consumers across the country.

Tyler Clay, a forklift driver who worked at the Goldman warehouses until early this year, called the process “a merry-go-round of metal.”

Only a tenth of a cent or so of an aluminum can’s purchase price can be traced back to the strategy. But multiply that amount by the 90 billion aluminum cans consumed in the United States each year — and add the tons of aluminum used in things like cars, electronics and house siding — and the efforts by Goldman and other financial players has cost American consumers more than $5 billion over the last three years, say former industry executives, analysts and consultants.

The inflated aluminum pricing is just one way that Wall Street is flexing its financial muscle and capitalizing on loosened federal regulations to sway a variety of commodities markets, according to financial records, regulatory documents and interviews with people involved in the activities.

The maneuvering in markets for oil, wheat, cotton, coffee and more have brought billions in profits to investment banks like Goldman, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, while forcing consumers to pay more every time they fill up a gas tank, flick on a light switch, open a beer or buy a cellphone. In the last year, federal authorities have accused three banks, including JPMorgan, of rigging electricity prices, and last week JPMorgan was trying to reach a settlement that could cost it $500 million.

Using special exemptions granted by the Federal Reserve Bank and relaxed regulations approved by Congress, the banks have bought huge swaths of infrastructure used to store commodities and deliver them to consumers — from pipelines and refineries in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas; to fleets of more than 100 double-hulled oil tankers at sea around the globe; to companies that control operations at major ports like Oakland, Calif., and Seattle.
All the little tricks used are within the law and, in the best tradition of Al Capone, provide the banksters with a piece of the action for "help" in keeping the system moving smoothly.

For a moment we almost had a new war with The Great Barrier Reef

But fortunately diplomatic efforts were able to soothe the wounds caused by the latest US bombing attack.
Two U.S. two AV-8B Harrier jets accidentally bombed Australia’s Great Barrier Reef during a training exercise on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

The jets launched from USS Bonhomme Richard and accidentally released an inert bomb and an unarmed explosive bomb from 164 feet above the water, according to a statement released from U.S. 7th Fleet on Saturday. Neither of the bombs exploded and they possibly caused minimal damage to the reef.
Got to watch that reef carefully, it looks like they found a way to keep our bombs from exploding. Next thing you know they will be creeping up to our shores.

It's all about the pensions

The city of Detroit
is trying to declare bankruptcy. Despite the pious mothings, the Republicans currently driving Michigan into the ground, could not care less if Detroit faded back to the fur trading outpost of its beginnings. The municipality and other governmental organizations are the last bastion of defined benefit pensions for workers. What the REpuiblican stooges of the Oligarchs want is to end their pension obligations and get their hands on the vast pools of money stored in them for their members retirements.
The Detroit battle comes after a number of governors have gone to war with unions to limit public employees' collective bargaining rights or to require government workers to pay more for healthcare and pensions to ease state fiscal woes.

In fiscal 2010, the gap nationwide between states' assets and their obligations for public-sector retirement benefits was $1.38 trillion, up nearly 9 percent from 2009, according to the most recent figures available from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Of that, $757 billion was for pension promises, and $627 billion was for retiree health care.

In Detroit the underfunded pension liability has been estimated to be $3.5 billion.

Experts say the Detroit battle could ultimately reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Detroit could be a step in destroying public pensions, though the law says you can't cut benefits," said John Logan, director of the labor studies program at San Francisco State University. "If they a find a way around that, it opens Pandora's box, and the battle on whether to dump bank loans or dump pensions may go all the way to the Supreme Court."

In California, CalPERS contends that its retirement system is "an arm of the state ... different than other creditors." Still, CalPERS chief counsel Peter Mixon expressed concern in a recent interview that municipalities could "seize on a 'bankruptcy solution' if they felt like the state laws ... could be avoided."
This pension hunting by the 1% is doubly evil because many groups of workers covered by a public pension did so by forgoing their rights to SOcial Security and Medicare. And if any of the legal wrangling reaches the Supreme Court, we know they will rule in favor of the big swinging dicks and their corporations that want to loot the public pension funds as they did to the private funds.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

In Canada they call their Grammys Juno Awards

And because their music industry is so much smaller, some are given to actual talented people, like The Good Lovelies.

One last grift from the Karzai Mob?

As if they haven't pocketed enough US aid, as well as direct bag drops in Karzai's office, the Afghan power structure is looking to make one last suck on the US tit before we go.
Under a deal signed nearly a decade ago, goods shipped into Afghanistan by the American-led coalition are not subject to taxes or customs duties. But, Afghan officials said, each container brought in must be accompanied by paperwork to claim the exemption, and most of the forms were never filed.

The customs issues “have been lingering for many years now with no serious intention or effort” by the coalition to resolve them, Mr. Zakhilwal said.

Now that the coalition is trying to take out its equipment, the Afghan government is demanding each container either come with its paperwork — or a $1,000 fine. Najeebullah Manali, a Finance Ministry official, put the number of trucks at roughly 70,000. That would mean a fine of $70 million.

If anything, Mr. Zakhilwal said, the Afghan government was giving the coalition a break. “The duties owed to us run into hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “The truth is that quite a bit of these goods (mostly fuel) have been smuggled into the market with consequences not only for our revenue but also distorting our market and damaging competition.”

To force the issue, Afghanistan closed its border crossings with Pakistan to coalition shipments moving both ways on July 11. The crossings, through which most supplies move, were reopened on Wednesday after the Finance Ministry gave the coalition another month to settle the matter.
The US answer to this diplays the brilliance of US thinking on Afghanistan from the beginning.
American officials have balked at paying the fines, portraying the Afghan border closing as a shakedown by a government that is short of cash and unwilling to tax its own business class, which has grown wealthy off American supply contracts.

Instead, the coalition has turned to air shipments. It has flown out more than two-thirds of the material it moved in the past month, American officials said. In previous months, more than two-thirds had been shipped by land.

Air shipments are a far more expensive solution than simply paying the fines demanded by the Afghan government. If continued, the air shipments could result in the withdrawal of forces reaching or exceeding $7 billion, the upper end of its estimated cost.
To avoid fines totaling $Millions we will fly it out at an added cost of $Billions. Brilliant!

Do you want fries with that?

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Can't get into that trendy restaurant

You may be the lucky one. In addition to grossly overpriced food, onr of the top eateries grossly underpays and abuses its workers.
One of the country’s most renowned sushi restaurants, Urasawa, sits in a small alcove above Rodeo Drive here. A typical bill for two people easily tops $1,000. Over an evening that can stretch to three hours, diners are served dishes dotted with caviar and 24-karat gold flakes (for the iron, the chef notes).

But workers in the back kitchen are routinely denied overtime pay and forbidden from taking breaks, according to former employees and a California Labor Department investigation. Now, the chef and owner, Hiroyuki Urasawa, is battling state and civil claims that he withheld tens of thousands of dollars in wages and overtime from workers. One former employee who left the restaurant last year said he resorted to urinating in the sink meant for cleaning mops after being told the men’s restroom was for customers only during business hours.

Each night, Mr. Urasawa stands behind a pristine sushi bar serving more than a dozen dishes, each with an elaborate description of the provenance of the ingredients, mostly imported from Japan. With an affable smile, he happily accepts sake from diners, who can spend hundreds of dollars on a bottle.

“It was always about the customers, making sure that they were happy,” said Heriberto Zamora, 26, who worked at the restaurant for more than five years and has filed a civil suit for back pay. “None of the employees were treated very well. We knew people were paying a lot to eat there, but for us it was no different.”

After immigrating from Oaxaca, Mexico, as a teenager, Mr. Zamora found a job at Urasawa through a friend. He worked his way up, starting as a dishwasher and eventually cleaning and preparing the fish and arranging precisely cut vegetables. After a promotion, while he was earning about $9 an hour, Mr. Urasawa forced him to buy his own $700 set of knives — each meant to touch only certain ingredients, Mr. Zamora said. Eventually, he was working nearly 60 hours a week for $11.50 an hour.

One day last June, nine hours into his shift, Mr. Zamora was coughing and asked to go home, complaining of a fever, he said. Mr. Urasawa fired him on the spot, he said.
Working in a restaurant will always be hard work, but there is no good reason to make it any harder when it involves the health and workers pay.

R.I.P. Helen Thomas

Most of the modern "reporters" aren't fit to lick you shoes.

When your pension fund is sound today

And in the red for big bucks tomorrow
, you might want to look at how the actuaries did their calculations (this assumes you might have a pension). There is a struggle going on within the actuarial profession as to the validity of their calculations which may violate GAAP even when they are GAAP.
For several years, little noticed in the rest of the world, their staid profession has been fighting over how to calculate the value, in today’s dollars, of pensions that will be paid in the future.

It may sound arcane, but the stakes for the country run into the trillions of dollars. Depending on which side ultimately wins the argument, every state, city, county and school district may find out that, like Detroit, it has promised more to its retirees than it ever intended or disclosed. That does not mean all those places will declare bankruptcy, but many have more than likely promised their workers more than they can reasonably expect to deliver.

The problem has nothing to do with the usual padding and pay-to-play scandals that can plague pension funds. Rather, it is the possibility that a fundamental error has for decades been ingrained into actuarial standards of practice so that certain calculations are always done incorrectly. Over time, this mistake, if that is what it is, has worked its way into generally accepted accounting principles, been overlooked by outside auditors and even affected state and municipal credit ratings, although the ratings firms have lately been trying to correct for it.

Since the 1990s, the error has been making pensions look cheaper than they truly are, so if a city really has gone beyond its means, no one can see it.

“When the taxpayers find out, they’re going to be absolutely furious,” said Jeremy Gold, an actuary and economist who for years has called on his profession to correct what he calls “the biases embedded in present actuarial principles.” In 2000, well before the current flurry of pension-related municipal bankruptcies, he wrote his doctoral dissertation on how and why conventional pension calculations run afoul of modern economic principles.

Mr. Gold made his prediction about taxpayer fury in an interview a number of years ago in which he also explained why he had chosen his topic. He said he hoped to help put a stop to the errors he saw his colleagues making before pension problems that were already starting to brew then boiled over and a furious public heaped blame, scorn and legal liability on the profession.

When a lender calculates the value of a mortgage, or a trader sets the price of a bond, each looks at the payments scheduled in the future and translates them into today’s dollars, using a commonplace calculation called discounting. By extension, it might seem that an actuary calculating a city’s pension obligations would look at the scheduled future payments to retirees and discount them to today’s dollars.

But that is not what happens. To calculate a city’s pension liabilities, an actuary instead projects all the contributions the city will probably have to make to the pension fund over time. Many assumptions go into this projection, including an assumption that returns on the investments made by the pension fund will cover most of the plan’s costs. The greater the average annual investment returns, the less the city will presumably have to contribute. Pension plan trustees set the rate of return, usually between 7 percent and 8 percent.

In addition, actuaries “smooth” the numbers, to keep big swings in the financial markets from making the pension contributions gyrate year to year. These methods, actuarial watchdogs say, build a strong bias into the numbers. Not only can they make unsustainable pension plans look fine, they say, but they distort the all-important instructions actuaries give their clients every year on how much money to set aside to pay all benefits in the future.

If the critics are right about that, it means even the cities that diligently follow their actuaries’ instructions, contributing the required amounts each year, are falling behind, and they don’t even know it.
All this makes those funding the pensions more likely to break the promises that so many people worked a lifetime for in lieu of Social Security. Soup for all who can stand in line.

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