Saturday, August 31, 2013

Joni Mitchell

Both Sides Now

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cat Power


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Jessie Ware

Wildest Moments

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Going away for a week

And I dread thinking about what will happen, but sometimes you just have to go. I left some goodies for you.

Emmy Rossum says this is for September

So I may jumping the gun playing this cut from her new album

Nullification was South Carolina's greatest achievement

Because we all know nothing else of any good has come from that pissant sinkhole. And now Missouri, The Let Us Show You What Assholes We Are State, is seeking to share in the Palmetto Bug State's glory.
Unless a handful of wavering Democrats change their minds, the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature is expected to enact a statute next month nullifying all federal gun laws in the state and making it a crime for federal agents to enforce them here. A Missourian arrested under federal firearm statutes would even be able to sue the arresting officer.

The law amounts to the most far-reaching states’ rights endeavor in the country, the far edge of a growing movement known as “nullification” in which a state defies federal power.

The Missouri Republican Party thinks linking guns to nullification works well, said Matt Wills, the party’s director of communications, thanks in part to the push by President Obama for tougher gun laws. “It’s probably one of the best states’ rights issues that the country’s got going right now,” he said.

The measure, which would seem certain to face a court challenge, was vetoed last month by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. But when the legislature gathers again on Sept. 11, it will seek to override his veto. Nearly every Republican and a dozen Democrats appear likely to vote for the override.

Richard G. Callahan, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, is concerned. He cited a recent joint operation of federal, state and local law enforcement officials that led to 159 arrests and the seizing of 267 weapons, and noted that the measure “would have outlawed such operations, and would have made criminals out of the law enforcement officers.”

In a letter explaining his veto, Mr. Nixon said the federal government’s supremacy over the states’ “is as logically sound as it is legally well established.” He said that another provision of the measure, which makes it a crime to publish the name of any gun owner, violates the First Amendment and could make a crime out of local newspapers’ traditional publication of “photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer.”

The National Rifle Association, which has praised Mr. Nixon in the past for signing pro-gun legislation, has been silent about the new bill.
Can we judge how bad an idea this is by the silence of the NRA? Considering the fact that the NRA has spoken in support of selling guns to felons and terrorists, I think we can safely say yes.

A lovely little war to distract them

Having driven the British economy into repeated recessions, Prime Minister David Cameron is hot to trot for a little shootup in Syria. What better way to distract the public from the total cock-up he has made of his time in office.
As debate intensified on Wednesday over a possible Western military strike in Syria, Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain would propose a resolution at the United Nations accusing the authorities in Damascus of responsibility for a chemical weapons attack and authorizing “all necessary measures” including force to protect civilians.

The move comes as United Nations inspectors in Syria began a second day of efforts on Wednesday to gather evidence about the attack week ago, a development that has pushed Western powers ever closer to retaliatory military action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said the inspectors would need four days altogether to complete their work. Speaking to reporters at The Hague, where he was on an official visit, Mr. Ban said the inspectors had already collected many samples and interviewed victims and witnesses.

Foreshadowing a continued stalemate at the United Nations, a senior Russian official was quoted as dismissing the British initiative while the inspectors were still gathering material. “It would be premature, at the least, to discuss any Security Council reaction until the U.N. inspectors working in Syria present their report,” the Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov as saying, according to Reuters.

In London, Mr. Cameron’s office said Britain had “drafted a resolution condemning the chemical weapons attack by Assad” and “authorizing necessary measures to protect civilians.”

“We’ve always said we want the U.N. Security Council to live up to its responsibilities on Syria,” a statement said. “Today we are giving its permanent members the opportunity to do that.”

Syria has denied using chemical weapons, blaming antigovernment rebels for the attack.
It is definitely a time for a vote of confidence in Parliament.

In another war with no moral high ground

There is no reason for us to wrap ourselves in a cloak of high morality just to bomb the shit out of one side or another.
The United States helped protect the last Middle Eastern tyrant thought to use chemical weapons.

That dictator was Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Because he was fighting Iran in the 1980s, the Reagan administration fed him secret intelligence. And because his country bought U.S. crops, farm-state politicians fought off sanctions.

Now, amid allegations of chemical weapons use by Syria, the Obama administration is preparing a case for military action. Moral assertions will be paramount, as in Secretary of State John Kerry’s declaration Monday that “our sense of basic humanity is offended.”

History, though, offers a harsher perspective. From Iraq and Syria, to Rwanda and Armenia, morality as a motive in U.S. foreign policy is more contingent than absolute.

“It’s quite selective. The government knew of the fact that Iraq was using chemical weapons, and did not deter them,” Joyce Battle, an analyst at the National Security Archive, a nonpartisan research center, said in an interview Tuesday. “But when it’s thought to be in U.S. interests, the government will adopt a moralistic stand when it wants to justify its policies.”

Put another way, foreign policy calculations are invariably cold-blooded, notwithstanding moral declarations. Stirring words can be worn like a new cloak during a campaign, then set aside for action.
Just another way to get people to support something that they know is wrong any way you look at it.

Once upon a time Statutory Rape was a serious crime

Now it has become little more than a misdemeanor even if the victim later kills herself. Of course the cruel rapist perp can plead that she was not acting her age to get relief from an understanding judge.
A former Billings Senior High School teacher who pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old student who later killed herself has been sentenced to 30 days in jail by a judge who said the victim was "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as the teacher.

A Montana judge who sentenced a former teacher to 30 days for raping a 14-year-old girl is standing by his comments that the girl was older than her "chronological age" when it came to sexual matters.

But District Judge G. Todd Baugh says that doesn't make 54-year-old Stacey Rambold's actions any less of a crime. The girl killed herself in February 2010 while the case was pending.

In handing down the sentence Monday, Baugh said the girl was "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as the teacher.

Baugh tells the Billings Gazette that a 14-year-old girl can't consent, but this situation was not a "forcible beat-up rape."

He says the girl's death also complicated the county attorney's case.

The girl's mother repeatedly screamed, "You people suck!" and stormed out of the courtroom Monday after the sentence was read.

Rambold, now 54, was charged in October 2008 with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent alleging that he had an ongoing sexual relationship with Cherice Morales, starting the previous year when she was 14.

Morales took her own life in February 2010 while the case was pending.
Despite his failure in a court ordered treatment program, the judge still took pity on the poor cruel rapist perp and all this while, his victim is still dead.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Lady with all the right reasons

Nellie Mckay - Won't U Please B Nice

Scary Quote of the Day

That is a hairy business. Our interest is in keeping the chemical weapons secured. You hit a bunker that holds chemical weapons and all of a sudden you have chemical weapons loose.
Unknown American official speaking about the planning of the Attack on Syria.

Those people facetiously called "Leaders"

In Europe and in this country, are bound and determined to have themselves another little war in Syria.
Europe moved closer overnight to military intervention in Syria.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called Parliament back today to debate the situation in Syria. According to news reports, commercial pilots near Cyprus say they have seen British C-130s and radar images of small formations of fighter jets heading to Britain’s Akrotiri airbase, which is only about 150 miles from Syria. The moves appear to be preparation for what is as yet an undefined military response to alleged chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian civil war.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke by phone with the defense ministers of France and the United Kingdom this morning. According to a Pentagon statement on the phone conversations, Hagel said the U.S. was ready "to respond to the outrageous chemical attacks" and that he "condemned the violence carried out by the Syrian regime and stated that the United States military is prepared for any contingency involving Syria."

A senior State Department official said a meeting scheduled in the Hague with a Russian delegation has been postponed because of consultations about "the appropriate response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria on August 21." But the official added: "As we’ve long made clear – and as the events of August 21 reinforce – it is imperative that we reach a comprehensive and durable political solution to the crisis in Syria. The United States remains fully invested in that process."

In Damascus Tuesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem said that if the U.S. attacked, his country would employ "all means available" to defend itself. He said the U.S. has "a history of lies" and likened its claims that Syria had used chemical weapons to the warnings a decade ago that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction as a presage to the invasion of Iraq.

Syrian rebels leaders have allegedly been told to expect a western strike against the Assad Regime “within days.”
Those who are so eager to jump into another country's civil war might do well to consider Britain's measured response to our own civil war. Despite actual injury to the British economy and a number of close calls in an age of poor communication, the Brits never seriously considered military action on behalf of one side or the other.

A Fair Warning

To the misogynistic base of the Republican/Teabagger Party

Monday, August 26, 2013

This woman has paid her dues

And the songs Mary Gauthier writes tell you all about the cost.

A visit to the Parallel Earth

Wherein our unparalleled observer Tom Tomorrow shows us what they are up to.

Crying wolf, again.

From the pen of Ben Sargent

It's gonna be a helluva fight

And the various states and the Justice Dept are girding their legal loins as they get ready to fight discriminatory ALEC generated Voter ID laws.
A federal lawsuit filed Thursday against a Texas voter identification law seems certain to be followed by a similar suit against one in North Carolina. Other states, too, could face federal legal challenges over their actions in the wake of the high court’s decision.

Congress, if it’s up to the task, could also get messy trying to partially restore the guts of the landmark 1965 law.

The fights to come will span many fronts, including several of the 33 states that have passed voter identification laws. The separate conflicts, moreover, will inevitably cross-pollinate. One key lawmaker, tellingly, believes the federal action in Texas will “make it much more difficult” to get Voting Rights Act revisions through an already divided Congress.

And, as in any global conflict, strategic thinking could pay dividends.

“I’m sure the Department of Justice will pick its spots carefully,” election law expert Daniel P. Tokaji, a professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, said in an interview Friday. “These aren’t easy cases.”

Beyond the legal debate, however, the controversy has political ramifications, as well.

In the Justice Department’s 15-page lawsuit targeting the Texas voter ID law, signed by Houston-based Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel D. Hu, the department deployed arguments potentially applicable against other states, as well. The Texas law, Hu wrote, would “deny equal opportunities for Hispanic and African-American voters to participate in the political process, resulting in a denial of the right to vote.”

The Texas law requires voters to present a government-issued photo identification; student IDs, for instance, no longer count. Critics say this effectively shuts out many, particularly the poor and minorities, who may have to travel a great distance to the Texas state offices that issue the identification cards.
Racism may no longer be grounds to sue but preventing legal citizens from doing so is still a crime.

As we get ready for another bullshit war

Let us not forget the troops still fighting our last one out there in Shitholeistan. No doubt the corporate interests would be happy to forget them, but they still face incoming fire every day.
COMBAT OUTPOST WILDERNESS, Afghanistan — For weeks, the fierce duel playing out in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan between U.S. and insurgent artillery crews had been decidedly one-sided – deadly only for the Taliban.

With better training and high-tech equipment, the Americans were so fast and accurate with return fire that shooting a mortar or rocket at them from the mountainsides overlooking their camp was practically suicidal.

The U.S. artillery platoon at Camp Wilderness killed 27 enemy fighters in the weeks before Aug. 11, while suffering no casualties of its own.

But a seemingly endless supply of insurgents replaced those they killed. The incoming fire continued. Finally a Taliban rocket found its mark.

Combat Outpost Wilderness sits in Paktia province in the heart of what the American military has dubbed the K-G Pass. It’s a gap in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan that eases travel between Khost province and the Paktia capital, Gardez.

The area is home to several dozen U.S. soldiers of Gunfighter Company of the 1st Battalion of the 506th Regiment and a platoon of the 320th Field Artillery Regiment, all members of the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky.

The pass has a dark history for foreign troops.

It was one of the most frequent sites of mujahedeen attacks on Soviet convoys during the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s. One of the most famous fights of that conflict, the Battle for Hill 3234, took place just a few miles away from Wilderness. All but five of the 39 men in a Soviet airborne unit were killed or wounded, though they held off an estimated 200-plus attackers, reputedly including Pakistani troops.

The spot is dangerous in the current war for some of the same reasons it was for the Soviets. It’s so close to the border that the Taliban can easily send in replacement fighters from refuges in nearby Pakistani cities and villages, making for a seemingly endless supply of reinforcements.

During a re-enlistment and awards ceremony Aug. 10, battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Franklin Velez warned the company what such a drawn-out duel could mean.

“You have been lucky so far,” he said. “But remember, it only takes one lucky round.”


That’s what every soldier in Afghanistan thinks about while dashing for a bunker at the whistle of an incoming mortar round or the sizzle of a rocket.

Will my luck hold? What are my odds? Are the bad guys lucky this time?
"Lucky so far" is no way to fight a war but it will have to do until they are brought home. Until then everybody is concentrating on the sexier possibilities in Syria.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

From the Homeland of Ted Cruz

Comes someone who makes up for a lot of his shit, the Toronto Tornado, Lindi Ortega.

When you let the State Dept. be your guide.

From the pen of Brian McFadden

R.I.P. Julie Harris

The theater have lost a major star.

Catering to the poor

But not always with good intentions, pawn shops are moving into a financial niche that banks are readily leaving in their search for ever greater profits to please Wall St.
Linda Ballard, 61, uses the word “love” to describe her banking relationship, lauding the ease of cashing her bimonthly paycheck, the convenience of text alerts about her balance and the features on the platinum card that she was upgraded to in July.

But she is not getting all this from a bank. She is getting this array of services from a pawnshop — part of an industry that has long had a reputation of taking advantage of vulnerable customers handing over prized possessions in exchange for cash.

As banks zero in on more affluent customers who promise twice the revenue of their lower-income counterparts, close branches in poor areas and remain stingy with credit, pawnshops are revamping their image and stepping into the void to offer financial services.

“The way the banks have tightened up so much on making small loans and making equity loans, we’ve kind of evolved into, I like to call it the poor man’s bank,” said Robbie Whitten, chief executive of Money Mizer Pawn and Jewelry of Columbus, Ga.

There are, however, plenty of potential drawbacks, consumer advocates say.

Some loans from pawnshops can come with interest rates as high as 25 percent. And fringe financial operations, the consumer advocates say, can imperil lower-income customers’ ability to save for the future. Without a traditional checking or savings account, borrowers often pay more for basic financial transactions like cashing checks, paying bills and wiring money, financial counselors say. And because pawnshops do not seek or report matters affecting credit scores, pawnshop banking makes it hard for customers to build credit history.

“Consumers need to be aware that the products don’t always carry the same protections as those you would get from a bank,”
Hardly any protections at all but they serve the needs of the hand-to-mouth financial sector.

Crazy Uncle Jim DeMint On The Road Again

Having spent the last three years in the Senate trying to stop The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from taking effect, Crazy Uncle Jim DeMint is on the road trying to prop up failing Republican efforts to throw a monkey wrench into the works.
Jim DeMint is back in a familiar role – challenging other Republicans to put conservative principles over political costs, and not particularly caring how many friends or allies he offends along the way.

Three years after he helped lead the unsuccessful fight to defeat what he and other foes branded Obamacare, DeMint is returning to the fray.

Now, though, the South Carolinian is waging his battle not as a United States senator, but as head of the most influential conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

Joined by Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican whom DeMint helped get elected by funneling money from his Senate Conservatives Fund, DeMint is on a nationwide “Defund Obamacare Tour” to gin up support for a bid in Congress to withhold funding to implement the landmark health-insurance law.

DeMint and Cruz are demanding that other Republican lawmakers try to block funding to implement Obamacare by providing no money for it in appropriations bills for the 2014 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 and by withholding funding as a condition for agreeing to raise the federal debt ceiling later in the fall.

“No one I know wants to shut down the government,” DeMint told McClatchy on Saturday. "All we’re talking about is withholding money that would be spent on implementing Obamacare. The law is unaffordable, unworkable, unfair and unpopular.”
And, hey why not, everybody knows the best way to stop it is to pull a "Crazy Newt" and shut down the government. It worked so well last time.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

She left the potatoes of Idaho for the beans of Boston

But you have to believe that Eilen Jewell would have succeeded wherever she was.

Lord knows we must be protected....

From the pen of Jim Morin

Republican Wet Dream

And one that has spooged a few high profile, low intelligence Republican members of Congress is Impeachment.
While many members of Congress have used their August break to engage in conversations about immigration policy, the federal budget and the impending implementation of the Affordable Care Act, some Republicans have taken the opportunity to raise the specter of — if not quite the grounds for — presidential impeachment.

At least two other House Republicans told voters this month that the impeachment process could happen. And last week, Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who has called himself a friend of the president, told constituents that the nation was “perilously close” to an impeachment situation.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, lamented to one voter who asked about the prospect of impeachment that the Senate, controlled by Democrats, would probably not yield the needed votes for conviction. (This logic has not impeded Mr. Cruz from seeking to stop a short-term spending bill unless money is drained from the health care program.)

There is also a grass-roots movement in which citizens across the nation have been hanging signs on overpasses that call for impeachment.

The lawmakers have not laid out any specific charges of high crimes and misdemeanors against Mr. Obama, though the health care law and I.R.S. scrutiny of applications by conservative groups for nonprofit status seem to be among the motivating factors.

Some were also sketchy on the details of how exactly to proceed with a course that Republicans also pursued against the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. But the movement, somewhat like the one questioning Mr. Obama’s birth certificate, appears to be a lighted match. (There is a new instruction manual, “Impeachable Offenses: The Case for Removing Barack Obama from Office” by the WABC radio host Aaron Klein and the blogger Brenda J. Elliott, that the authors plan to distribute to lawmakers.)

Mr. Obama’s supporters seem something short of terrified. “I think there are a lot of challenges ahead,” said David Axelrod, a longtime adviser to Mr. Obama. “But impeachment is not one of them.” He added: “The bottom line is that it would be enormously self-destructive for the Republicans to waste time on what is a plainly empty expression of primal, partisan rage.”
The reactionary regressive Birchers trying to run the GOP are overreaching again and it is time to cut off that arm. This political bukake has to stop.

The GOPBaggers have found the motherlode of Stupidity

And they are generously sharing it with all their members. How else can you explain constant newly mined stupidities spewing forth from Regressive Republicans every time they speak. Ohio Shitweasel Republican Dave Joyce is the latest.
Add to the many reasons people can’t find jobs — a weak economy, offshoring, technology disruption, employer uncertainty — this rationale, from Republican Rep. Dave Joyce: too many of us are just too drunk or high to get a job.

Joyce (R-OH), spoke with the Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce this week about the economy and Congress. He told them that there are millions of jobs going unfilled in America “because they either can’t find people to come to work sober, daily, drug-free and want to learn the necessary skills going forward to be able to do those jobs.”

It is a given that millions of jobs will be unfilled at least temporarily in the natural churn of the economy during good times and bad, according to Department of Labor data, but Joyce chalked up his assertion that the unemployed were simply people who were drunk or drug users to anecdotal feedback from business owners, the Huffington Post reported.

“3.9 million jobs go unfilled in this country each month,” Joyce’s spokeswoman Christyn Keyes said to the Huffington Post. “Rep. Joyce sees that as an enormous problem and to fix a problem, you must accurately diagnose it. Rep. Joyce has made it a top priority to meet with small business owners and job creators and a concern that comes up time and time again is substance abuse among the workforce and adequate workforce training. …Rep. Joyce came to Washington to be a fact-based problem solver and during this 20-second clip of a 15-minute speech,” she added, “he was simply sharing the concerns of small-business owners with other local business leaders.”
And, somehow, the failure of his party to allow any efforts to improve the economy has nothing to do with it. Why they tried 40 times to repeal Obamacare and really open up the job market.

For your enjoyment, a collection of GOP Nuggets of Stupidity.

I know they prepare for any contingency

But taking the next step and presenting the plans to the guy who can say yes or no is a bad sign.
The Pentagon is reportedly preparing for a possible order to strike Syrian targets with cruise missiles, as evidence mounts of the use of chemical weapons emerges from an attack on a Damascus suburb earlier this week, CBS News reported Friday.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is expected to present options Saturday for a punitive cruise missile strike against military assets of the government of Bashar al-Assad, reported David Martin, CBS’s Pentagon correspondent.

A strike will depend on decisions yet to be made by President Barack Obama. In an interview with CNN Friday, Obama described the attack in Damascus leaving hundreds dead as a “big event of grave concern,” but stopped short of definitively declaring it a chemical weapons attack and said that the evidence must be clear and must be able to be presented to the United Nations to justify a punitive missile strike.

“We have to think through strategically what’s going to be in our long term national interests,” Obama said to CNN.
It would be nice to know where we expect to go after a strike, or even before. The trouble is that when the generals get ready to blow up something is like when the cops get all done up in their riot gear. The only thing to do is start a riot.

Sgt Robert Bales gets life without parole

And all he did was murder 16 Afghans in their homes one night on his own initiative. As he had already pleaded guilty, the only question was what his sentence would be.
An Army jury Friday handed Staff Sgt. Robert Bales the harshest sentence it could give for the massacre he committed in Afghanistan last year. But knowing he’d spend the rest of his life in jail did not satisfy victims who traveled 7,000 miles to Joint Base Lewis-McChord for his trial.

“We wanted this murderer to be executed, but we did not get our wish,” said Haji Mohammed Wazir, who lost six children, his wife and mother to Bales’ killing spree in Kandahar province. “We came all the way to the United States to get justice, but we did not get that.”

Bales, 40, faced a mandatory minimum life sentence for his slaughter of 16 civilians on March 11, 2012. He avoided the death penalty in June by pleading guilty, and he was seeking a chance for parole at this week’s sentencing trial at the base.

His sentence ended a dramatic four days in which an Afghan villager cursed him on the witness stand and Bales gave his first public apology for the killings he committed on his fourth combat tour with his Lewis-McChord Stryker brigade...

Bales’ sentence is among the most severe for any American war crime coming out of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Former Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs of another Lewis-McChord Stryker brigade in 2011 received a life sentence with a chance for parole following his court-martial for the murders of three Afghan civilians the previous year. Former Pfc. Steven Green received life without parole for raping and killing an Iraqi girl and murdering her family in 2006.
In the meantime, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is expected to get the death sentence for his murder of 13 US soldiers on their home base one day on his own initiative.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Putting some jump in an old folk favorite

Tara O'Grady makes over "I'll Tell Me Ma"

The Last Supper?

From the pen of Pat Oliphant

Deadly religion

If you are battling another group and your religious differences are prominent between you, where is the best place to attack lots of the other guys in one place? Why, where they worship, of course. And we are seeing the spread in the Middle East of a favorite tactic of those with no restraint, attacking the mosque. The latest location is in Lebanon.
Car bombs exploded with catastrophic force outside two Sunni mosques in this northern Lebanon city on Friday as many worshipers were leaving prayers, killing dozens of people and wounding hundreds in a major escalation of sectarian violence in a country deeply unsettled by the conflict in neighboring Syria...

The blasts hit the Taqwa and Al-Salam mosques, which are on opposite sides of the city, at around 1:38 p.m. The Lebanese Red Cross said at least 29 people were killed and more than 500 wounded. Reuters said at least 42 people were killed.

The first car bomb hit about 50 yards from the gates of the Taqwa mosque, setting dozens of cars and a nearby building alight and shattering the windows of surrounding buildings. The blast snapped the trunks of palm trees and left a crater in the street that punctured a water main, flooding the street. On the roof of the mosque’s entryways sat the carcass of blown up car that people nearby at the time said was the bomb car, hurtled into the air by the blast.

The second blast near the al-Salam mosque blasted a six-foot-deep hole in the asphalt and shattered the windows of apartments towers down the block.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the blasts, but the Taqwa mosque was where Sheik Salem al-Rafei, an outspoken Sunni preacher, had inveighed against Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group that supports Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. The preacher also had exhorted worshipers to support the Sunni insurgency trying to topple Mr. Assad.
And Lebanon still can not get out from under the shadow of Syria.

Feeling kinda poor, lately?

It might just be because you and thousands of other working Americans are making less than before the Great Bush Depression.
The tough economy has pushed the average U.S. household income down even further than it was when the Great Recession ended, according to a recent report.

American households are earning 4.4 percent less, when adjusted for inflation, than they were when the economic recovery began four years ago, according to a report by Sentier Research.

In June, the median income clocked in at $52,098, down from the $54,478 earned in June 2009. That drop is even more drastic when compared against the average income of $55,480 that households earned in December 2007, when the recession began.

"Almost every group is worse off than it was four years ago," said Gordon Green of Sentier Research. Demographic groups such as the middle-aged, part-time workers and women with children have suffered even worse than the average.
If you are feeling miserable you have plenty of company.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

She has been up and she has been down

But currently life is looking good for singer Beth Hart. This is the title track of her latest album but she is planning a live album tour of Europe with some guitar player named Joe Bonamassa.


When just about anything will have to do

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

DoJ sues Texas again

This time it is suing to have the Texas Voter ID law declared unconstitutional.
The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that it will challenge Texas’s Voter ID law, saying it violates the Voting Rights Act, as well as the Constitution’s 14th and 15th Amendments.

In a separate case, the Justice Department will also join in a challenge to the state’s GOP-drawn redistricting plans.

The decisions come just weeks after the Supreme Court struck down part of the act that determines which jurisdictions require the Justice Department to approve any electoral changes before they become law. Texas had previously been subject to the so-called “preclearance.”

Justice Department officials have made clear that, despite the court’s decision, it will use other legal avenues to ensure that Voter ID laws and other legislation don’t infringe on the voting rights of minorities.

“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights.”

The department’s complain alleges that the Texas Voter ID law “was adopted with the purpose, and will have the result, of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.” It asks that the law be halted altogether.
Nice to see Holder finally getting off his ass on this stuff. Hopefully the law was written with traditional Republican/Teabagger incompetence.

Dash cameras didn't do it

But if the experience of one California town holds true, putting a camera on each cop improves the quality of police work.
“You’re being videotaped.”

It is a warning that is transforming many encounters between residents and police in this sunbaked Southern California city: “You’re being videotaped.”

Rialto has become the poster city for this high-tech measure intended to police the police since a federal judge last week applauded its officer camera program in the ruling that declared New York’s stop-and-frisk program unconstitutional. Rialto is one of the few places where the impact of the cameras has been studied systematically.

In the first year after the cameras were introduced here in February 2012, the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent compared with the previous 12 months. Use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent over the same period.

And while Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg railed against the federal court, which ordered New York to arm some of its own police officers with cameras, the Rialto Police Department believes it stands as an example of how effective the cameras can be. Starting Sept. 1, all 66 uniformed officers here will be wearing a camera during every shift.

William A. Farrar, the Rialto police chief, believes the cameras may offer more benefits than merely reduced complaints against his force: the department is now trying to determine whether having video evidence in court has also led to more convictions.

But even without additional data, Chief Farrar has invested in cameras for the whole force.

“When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better,” Chief Farrar said. “And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.”
Everybody behaves better when you remove the bullshit factor.

Republican/Teabaggers find another way to do harm

Having fought tooth and nail to prevent the establishment of the agency and then filibustering to keep it without a head, the Republican/Teabaggers are using the latest NSA screwup/scandal to attack the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Amid the debate about whether national security operations have intruded on Americans’ privacy, the collection of personal data by a federal consumer protection agency has prompted questions about whether its efforts have gone too far.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has spent more than $20 million “collecting and tracking spending habits of more than 10 million Americans,” Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said in a letter last month to the agency seeking information about its work.

As a result, the Government Accountability Office has begun an investigation of the scope of the data collection and privacy protections at the 2-year-old agency. It was created as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank banking reform law to ensure that consumers are protected from predatory credit agencies and mortgage lenders.

“Many Americans are understandably unsettled by news reports about the National Security Agency’s widespread monitoring of telephone and Internet traffic,” Diane Katz, a research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, wrote on the think tank’s website. “Attracting far less attention is the rampant snooping of a more personalized nature carried out daily” by the consumer protection bureau.

Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director, has been defending the data collection methods even before the GAO investigation began in mid-July.

“The bureau makes every effort to be a data-driven agency,” he said in a letter to Crapo. “As illustrated by events leading to the recent financial crisis, financial regulators must have timely and accurate information about the markets they regulate.”

The bureau, a target of Republican lawmakers and other critics since its beginnings, collects four types of data, officials have said: commercially available, publicly available, voluntarily reported, and so-called supervisory data, which is information it can collect under its regulatory power.

The agency’s analysis of such data has led to investigations of major credit card companies, uncovering unfair marketing and billing practices. This week, it sued the Nevada-based legal services firm of Morgan Drexen Inc. “for charging illegal upfront fees and deceiving consumers.”
With the agency attacking the very core of Republican existance, financial institutions that unjustly enrich themselves, it is no wonder that the Republican/Teabaggers ar continuing their attacks. We wish them complete failure in their efforts.

Obama in the thrall of Narco-Industrial Complex

And to date he has no plans to break their rice bowl by changing the Federal approach to marijuana in any way.
President Barack Obama doesn’t support changing federal laws to legalize marijuana, though a prominent physician he once was said to want as his surgeon general says the drug has "very legitimate medical applications."

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that although Obama thinks that “targeting individual marijuana users . . . is not the best allocation for federal law enforcement resources,” he doesn’t “at this point advocate a change in the law.”

Under federal law, all pot sales are illegal, with marijuana classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, in the same category as heroin and LSD. The administration’s stance on legalization is being viewed closely by advocacy groups and in the states of Washington and Colorado, each of which voted last November to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana. Pot advocates say it will be impossible for the states to tax and sell the drug next year if the U.S. government doesn’t give them a pass on violating federal laws.

Earnest’s remarks came as reporters asked him about a reversal by CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, who once was considered a candidate for surgeon general. Gupta wrote on CNN’s website two weeks ago that he’s "come to the realization that it is irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community, care that could involve marijuana."
Given the trouble he made over the Plan B contraceptive, it is highly unlikely that President Obama will change anything during his reign.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Posted a cover of this last week

But the original still stands on its own these days. Concrete Blonde, vocals by Johnette Napolitano

He got this one right.

From the pen of Nick Anderson

R.I.P. Marian McPartland

You brought many people to understand and appreciate jazz. Thank you.

Got to keep an eye on this one

From the Raw Story:
The Internal Revenue Service was unable to suppress a lawsuit over its failure to audit thousand of churches that allegedly violated federal tax law by engaging in partisan advocacy.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman of the Western District of Wisconsin on Monday denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation against the IRS.

“If it is true that the IRS has a policy of not enforcing the prohibition on campaigning against religious organizations, then the IRS is conferring a benefit on religious organizations (the ability to participate in political campaigns) that it denies to all other 501(c)(3) organizations, including the Foundation,” Adelman wrote.

The Internal Revenue Code prohibits tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches, from intervening or participating in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate.

But many churches have openly defied the ban without consequences. In an annual event called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” pastors from more than 1,000 churches have challenged the regulation by preaching about political topics. Some pastors even record their overtly partisan sermons and send them to the IRS.

The FFRF, which is also a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, said allowing churches to engage in politicking but not other nonprofits was unfair. The group alleged the IRS had a “policy of non-enforcement of the electioneering restrictions” when it came to churches and religious organizations.
Just what the democracy ordered.

When a hard ass like Merkel is worried

You have to wonder what kind of threat the extreme right is in Europe.
Angela Merkel became the first German chancellor to visit the World War II Nazi death camp Dachau on Tuesday, as part of her campaign to warn about the threat posed by the extreme right in Europe.

She placed a wreath at the camp's memorial before visiting its museum and meeting with survivors.

"This is a significant moment for me," Merkel said. "The memory of these events fill me with deep sadness and shame."

She was accompanied by 93-year-old Max Mannheimer, a survivor of Dachau and president of the committee of former prisoners who had invited her to tour the site located about 10 miles from the southern city of Munich.

Merkel's visit to Dachau comes as she campaigns for a third term in office ahead of Sept. 22 elections.

The German leader earlier said that Europe must remain ever vigilant to the threat posed by the extreme right and urged people to show more courage in the fight against neo-Nazi movements.

"It is and remains incomprehensible what happened at the concentration camps," said Merkel, the country's first chancellor born after World War II, ahead of the visit. "We must never allow such ideas to have a place in our democratic Europe."
Amen to that. If only we could say the same in this country.

Spending more and being meaner than the GOP

Is not enough to convince Republican/Teabaggers that President Obama is really doing something about border security. But let's get real. PBO could recreate the Berlin Wall along the entire border and those regressive reactionaries wouldn't be happy.
By most, if not all, measures, President Barack Obama has surpassed his predecessors in ramping up security along the nearly 2,000-mile southern border of the United States.

There’s more money being spent, an increase in border agents and more fencing. The number of people being deported is up and the number of people apprehended trying to enter the United States is down. The flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico has slowed.

Yet if Obama thought that tough action on the border would help persuade reluctant Republicans to support a rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws, he was wrong.

Some dispute Obama’s measurements, saying the government does not know the number of people that sneak across the border undetected. And while even most of Obama’s fiercest critics acknowledge that more is being done than ever before, they say it’s still not enough.

“There’s a tendency to look at what you’re doing by money you’re spending,” said Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, a group pushing to cut legal and illegal immigration. “Money can be important, but it needs to be effective.”

Border agents intercepted only 61 percent of those who tried to cross illegally into the country from Mexico, according to a Government Accountability Office report for an 18-month period ending in December 2012. An estimated 123,000 turned back to Mexico. Another 86,000 successfully entered the United States.
Perhaps the only way to prove border security would be to deport every motherfucking Republican/Teabagger and see how many can get back in the country.

Somethings worth not fighting over.

In a region where an innocent word or gesture of one person can be a deadly insult to another, there are still some things that will bring people together. The friendly football match between Afghanistan and Pakistan was one.
A sniper team peered down from one corner of the bleachers, another perched atop the roof of the VIP area, trucks with machineguns were parked at the stadium gates and hundreds of shield-toting riot police stood between the stands and the field.

Even the blimp floating nearby was NATO’s, not Goodyear’s, its job to warn of incoming missiles and mortar shells rather than to sell tires.

The trappings for Afghanistan’s first home match against its arch-frenemy Pakistan in more than 35 years were what you would expect for a high-profile soccer game in a city that is a frequent target for terrorists.

Adding to the game’s baggage were the facts that Afghans believe Pakistan controls those terrorists, Pakistanis blame Afghanistan for violence in their nation, and the two countries only months ago were shooting at each other in the latest of years of border skirmishes.

In the end, though, it was a just a game, a faint whiff of normalcy in a city where not so long ago the Taliban used another soccer field for public executions.

For many in the sellout crowd of 6,000 wildly enthusiastic soccer fans, it was a particularly special break from the stress of living in such a place. And a chance to savor a dominating 3-0 victory over a longstanding rival, and to mark Kabul’s return to hosting international soccer matches for the first time in a decade.

Other than national pride, little was at stake in the match, which was the kind known in the soccer world as a friendly. The organizers played on that, dubbing it the “Friendship Match” and promoting the game as soccer diplomacy.
And so they had a peaceful match. Good thing they weren't playing the Brits.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is a female Australian guitar picker a real Southern Woman?

Or is she simply someone you want to hear play and sing. Like Anne McCue from Queensland.

Another government zombie reanimates.

For some reason, it is almost impossible to kill a bad idea that has traction in government. One of those undead ideas that looks to be re-animated is the idea of sacrificing more US troops to prop up uber-criminal Karzai of the Afghans after the end of 2014.
Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, has lined up a high-profile negotiating team to thrash out a critical long-term security deal with the US, raising hopes that talks suspended in June might restart soon.

The national security adviser, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, and former finance minister Dr Ashraf Ghani will represent the Afghan government in negotiations on the bilateral security agreement whenever they start again, said Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Karzai.

In a further glimmer of hope for diplomats, Faizi said that while Karzai had not yet decided to restart talks, a national convention to approve a final draft could be held within two months, suggesting he is considering authorising a new round of negotiations.

The bilateral security agreement will provide a framework for American soldiers to stay on in Afghanistan after the Nato combat mission ends next year.

The troops will not be fighting on the ground but they are expected to train Afghan forces and provide vital support in areas where the national army is weak, from intelligence to air power. Without them the Afghan army and police will probably struggle to hold off the Taliban.

If there is no deal, billions of dollars of promised aid to pay salaries for the large Afghan security forces and develop the fragile economy are also unlikely to be paid to Kabul.
Can't fund SNAP, Head Start, build US schools and roads but we can piss away $Billions on the most corrupt regime we have ever been involved with. This is one zombie that needs to be dismembered and burned before it can get on its feet.

Bad dog! Bad, bad!!

From the pen of Ben Sargent

The President wants faster action on bank regulations

A perfectly reasonable request
since the banks are still running hog wild since they crashed the world economy back in 2008.
President Obama urged the nation’s top financial regulators on Monday to move faster on new rules for Wall Street, telling them in a private White House meeting that they must work to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

Aides said Mr. Obama also told the regulators that the United States needed a more simplified and certain system of financing housing. The president recently endorsed proposals to reduce the government’s role in providing mortgages.

Administration officials and some lawmakers have expressed frustration that critical parts of Mr. Obama’s overhaul of the financial system, which was voted into law three years ago and is known as the Dodd-Frank act, remain unenforced as an alphabet soup of federal agencies wrangle over how to adopt it.

In particular, top presidential aides have highlighted the failure in putting the Volcker Rule into effect. It would prohibit banks from risking institutional money in certain speculative investments. Last month, Jacob Lew, the Treasury secretary, complained in a speech that the regulators were moving too slowly to confront the dangers of banks that are so large that governments cannot allow them to fail for fear of bringing down the economy.

“If we get to the end of this year, and cannot, with an honest straight face, say that we’ve ended ‘too big to fail,’ we’re going to have to look at other options because the policy of Dodd-Frank and the policy of the administration is to end ‘too big to fail,’ ” Mr. Lew said.
It might help if he could restrain some of his bankster buddies in their efforts to stop the regulations. But then he would have to suffer an impoverished retirement.

R.I.P. Elmore Leonard

You were a damn good read, sir. We will miss you.

Stunt their thinking while they are young

And their intellectual capacity will never recover as they grow older. The latest reports indicate that the Republican/Teabagger efforts to do this are beginning to work.
Last year about 1 million of the nation's poorest children got a leg up on school through Head Start, the federal program that helps prepare children up to age five for school. This fall, about 57,000 children will be denied a place in Head Start and Early Head Start as fallout from sequestration.

New estimates about the automatic budget cuts were released Monday by the federal government. The cuts have slashed more than $400 million from the federal program's $8 billion budget.

Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association, said sequestration represented the largest hit to Head Start funding in terms of dollars since the program began in 1965.

"The cut has been very painful throughout the country," Vinci said. Nationwide, about 1,600 grantees, which include nonprofits and local government agencies, receive federal Head Start funding.

The Obama administration had previously estimated that slots for up to 70,000 children would be eliminated as a result of the sequester. According to the latest figures, slots for 51,000 preschoolers were eliminated along with child care slots for 6,000 babies. Children will lose 1.3 million days of service at Head Start centers and more than 18,000 employees will be laid off or see their pay reduced.

Head Start provides preschool services to 3- to 5-year-olds from low-income households and offers their families education, health, nutrition and social services. Early Head Start supports the families of infants and pregnant women.

The $8 billion Head Start budget is equivalent to how much Americans spent on Halloween last year.
Happy Halloween.

Can't live with them, can win without them

Them being the Takfiri fighters of the Syrian presence of Al-Qaeda, The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. They bring with them a cadre of battle hardened fighters infested with the ideas of Wahabi Islam.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as the local al Qaida affiliate is known, has fast been expanding its influence across virtually all rebel-held areas in northern Syria. It’s fighting alongside its ideological ally, the Nusra Front.

And it’s brought to the fight brutal tactics that marked the insurgency against U.S.-led forces in Iraq. That’s left aid workers, Western patrons of the revolution and others jumpy about such an alliance. The jihadists’ role has at times also pitted rebel against rebel in the already chaotic and shifting battlefield in the Syrian civil war.

Both the al Qaida and Nusra groups are led by veterans of the Iraqi insurgency, and both have flirted with the tactics that ultimately alienated them among Sunnis in that country who ultimately turned against them.

Still, mainstream rebel factions have been reluctant to denounce the fierce Islamist militants they now find siding with them against the Damascus regime. That may be partly a factor of success.

When rebels early this month made the critical seizure of an airbase in Idlib province, they dealt the Syrian regime a serious blow and opened up critical supply lines for their cause. They also scored the bloody victory with the help of the al Qaida group.
But these foreign fighters with their reactionary religulous ideas exact a price from those they fight with.
“While other battalions might like to claim credit, the fact is that ISIS” – the acronym attached to the al Qaida group – “banner is flying over the main tower at the airbase,” said Aymenn Tamimi, an analyst specializing in Iraqi and Syrian jihadist groups at Oxford University. “(The Islamists are) more successful in terms of control of territory and influence than their counterparts in Iraq could ever hope to have achieved.”

That influence took on a fractious tone last week. The al Qaida fighters grew frustrated that their ostensible rebel allies were too timid in efforts to seize the provincial capital of Raqqa. The al Qaida group dispatched a series of car bombs – not to attack regime forces, but against rebel headquarters. That was followed by ground assaults and the execution of 18 rebel fighters by the Islamists, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“They killed our commanders and took control of Raqqa, which they say will be the seat of a new Islamic state in Syria,” said one rebel commander who had fled Raqqa for the rebel-held city of Deir Azour. “These maniacs are more dangerous than the regime to me at this point.”

That commander refused to be identified even by a pseudonym because “they already want to kill me and they read all the articles about themselves in the Western press.”
The Sunnis are fighting for national control of Syria while the Takfiris have other plans and if their side wins, one group will have to kill the other if they want to live in peace.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What happens when you perform bluegrass too young.

Jessica Lea Mayfield began with a family band at age 8 and now look what she is doing.



The intrepid Tom Tomorrow illustrates why we can trust the Independent Outside Review Board's review of the NSA's domestic spying programs.

Al Jazeera to offer an unusual product - Real News

Those of us who are old enough to qualify for AARP can remember when that was standard fare in newspapers, radio and that new fangled TV box. And over the years we have seen that fade away to a pale simulacrum of what was. Now that Al Jazeera is planning to establish itself in American media, they are promising a return to those days of old.
Fourteen hours of straight news every day. Hard-hitting documentaries. Correspondents in oft-overlooked corners of the country. And fewer commercials than any other news channel.

It sounds like something a journalism professor would imagine. In actuality, it is Al Jazeera America, the culmination of a long-held dream among the leaders of Qatar, the Middle Eastern emirate that already reaches most of the rest of the world with its Arabic- and English-language news channels. The new channel, created specifically for consumers in the United States, will join cable and satellite lineups on Tuesday afternoon.

Al Jazeera America is the most ambitious American television news venture since Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes started the Fox News Channel in 1996. It faces some of the same obstacles that Fox eventually glided over — including blanket skepticism about whether distributors, advertisers and viewers will give it a chance. But that is where the parallels to other channels end, because Al Jazeera America is going against the grain of seemingly every trend in television news.

“Viewers will see a news channel unlike the others, as our programming proves Al Jazeera America will air fact-based, unbiased and in-depth news,” said Ehab Al Shihabi, the channel’s acting chief executive, on a news conference call last week. He was explicit about what will be different, saying, “There will be less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings.”

Mr. Al Shihabi and other Al Jazeera representatives say proprietary research supports their assertions that American viewers want a PBS-like news channel 24 hours a day. Originally the new channel was going to have an international bent; now its overseers emphasize how much American news it will cover and how many domestic bureaus it will have
We will always have the Little Four for our shouting and celebrity sightings.

Do Republicans have any understanding of reality?

Not really, according to Paul Krugman. And as proof of that contention he uses the Republican/Teabaggers continued assault on the law of the land, the Affordable Care Act.
Recent political reporting suggests that Republican leaders are in a state of high anxiety, trapped between an angry base that still views Obamacare as the moral equivalent of slavery and the reality that health reform is the law of the land and is going to happen.

But those leaders don’t deserve any sympathy. For one thing, that irrational base is a Frankenstein monster of their own creation. Beyond that, everything I’ve seen indicates that members of the Republican elite still don’t get the basics of health reform — and that this lack of understanding is in the process of turning into a major political liability.

On the unstoppability of Obamacare: We have this system in which Congress passes laws, the president signs them, and then they go into effect. The Affordable Care Act went through this process, and there is no legitimate way for Republicans to stop it.

Is there an illegitimate way? Well, the G.O.P. can try blackmail, either by threatening to shut down the government or, an even more extreme tactic, threatening not to raise the debt limit, which would force the United States government into default and risk financial chaos. And Republicans did somewhat successfully blackmail President Obama back in 2011.

However, that was then. They faced a president on the ropes after a stinging defeat in the midterm election, not a president triumphantly re-elected. Furthermore, even in 2011 Mr. Obama wouldn’t give ground on the essentials of health care reform, the signature achievement of his presidency. There’s no way he would undermine the reform at this late date.

Republican leaders seem to get this, even if the base doesn’t. What they don’t seem to get, however, is the integral nature of the reform. So let me help out by explaining, one more time, why Obamacare looks the way it does.
Some children get it right away and some need multiple explanations. How many will the Republican/Teabaggers need?

Good thing Texans don't need water

Because the number of towns running out of clean water is on the rise thanks to the frackers drilling for gas.
More than 30 towns in West Texas will soon be out of water as a direct result of diverting their underground water supplies for use in hydraulic fracking. Largely unregulated fracking, it should be said. Largely unregulated fracking that is definitely putting arsenic into the ground it happens to be drying out. Before you start acting horrified, though, consider: this is exactly what Texas’ mental-midget teabillies voted for...

Despite the vast consensus of climate scientists, the highly publicized destructive effects of fracking on water supplies, fracking’s seismic impact, and the evidence of their own senses, the mentally deficient residents of Texas keep electing politicians who believe climate change is a myth, and who think the best course of action to address Texas’ crippling drought is several days of organized prayer. Really.

Maybe Rick Perry and the idiots that voted him back into office will be able to pray in some new drinking water while the non-stupid people of Texas pray for a governor with a triple-digit IQ.
This raises an interesting question. If Texas dries up, will Lone Star beer still be Lone Star beer if it is made with imported water?

Here's something you don't see everyday

An industry that wants to pay taxes to the feds. Indeed they are almost begging to do so. While the numbers provided by the marijuana industry are probably on the high end(no pun intended),
They estimate that a $50-per-ounce tax could raise up to $20 billion a year. By comparison, the alcoholic beverage industry pays $7.9 billion in federal excise taxes each year, while excise taxes on tobacco totaled $15 billion last year, according to the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Those totals don’t include state and local taxes.
they would be the first business in years to take that position.
As Congress wrestles with big budget cuts, one budding industry wants to help out the federal government with a novel message: Tax us, please.

Marijuana businesses and their backers say legalizing the drug and taxing it like alcohol would add billions to the federal treasury.

Some analysts dismiss a pot tax bonanza as far-fetched, neither likely nor lucrative. But the idea is stirring newly serious debate on Capitol Hill.

The Senate Finance Committee, for instance, included marijuana taxes in an “options paper” listing fresh possible sources of revenue.

In the House of Representatives, legislation is pending on two tracks. The first would legalize marijuana, tax it and regulate it on a national scale. Even advocates don’t expect that to pass anytime soon. A less ambitious bill called the Small Business Tax Equity Act would allow the Internal Revenue Service to provide immediate breaks on federal income taxes for marijuana businesses.

As Congress sorts through the proposals, members must confront a central irony: As pot is growing in popularity – and is given a legal OK in some states – that puts marijuana businesses in a stronger position to argue for tax breaks for selling a drug that’s still outlawed nationally.

Some warn that if Congress doesn’t treat pot sellers like other businesses, state plans to tax and regulate marijuana for recreational use in Washington state and Colorado are doomed to fail when they start next year.

“How can you run a business if you’re not receiving the same tax breaks?” asked Democratic Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, one of 13 House members who are promoting the bill that would authorize the deductions for marijuana businesses.
It's high time this was addressed properly. Congress should suck it up and act like adults for once. If not they should be stoned like lepers once were and not like pot heads are now.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Truly a magnificent instrument

Is the voice of Mary Black. She could sing my shopping list and make it sound beautiful.

So you think you're gonna vote?

From the pen of Brian McFadden

A Defense Dept project more useful than an F-35

While that description might apply to just about any project other than the Little Crappy Ships, it is good to see the DoD exploring alternative energy projects because they know that "drill baby, drill" does not help national security.
big drawbacks have prevented the wholesale adoption of trash-to-gas technology in the United States: incineration is polluting, and the capital costs of new plants are enormous. Gasification systems can expend a tremendous amount of energy to produce a tiny amount of electricity. Up to this point, it hasn’t seemed worth the trouble.

Mike Hart thinks that he has solved those problems. In a former Air Force hangar outside Sacramento, his company, Sierra Energy, has spent the last several years testing a waste-to-energy system called the FastOx Pathfinder. The centerpiece, a waste gasifier that’s about the size of a shower stall, is essentially a modified blast furnace. A chemical reaction inside the gasifier heats any kind of trash — whether banana peels, used syringes, old iPods, even raw sewage — to extreme temperatures without combustion. The output includes hydrogen and synthetic natural gas that can be burned to generate electricity or made into ethanol or diesel fuel. The FastOx is now being prepared for delivery to Sierra Energy’s first customer: the United States Army.
And just how does this miracle process work?
Kaiser used blast furnaces to make steel, and Mr. Claflin and a colleague, John Jasbinsek, were tasked with finding “a way to make the blast furnace more efficient and less polluting,” said Mr. Jasbinsek, who is now 86.

Like all blast furnaces, Kaiser’s emitted a flue gas out of the top. It occurred to Mr. Clafin and Mr. Jasbinsek that this gas might have value. The two came up with the idea of injecting oxygen, instead of the atmospheric air that steel makers had always used, to create the chemical reaction that heats the inside of the furnace. This would cut pollution while raising the energy content of the flue gas — in essence, giving the steel maker a second product. But pure oxygen made the system too hot, so they added steam. This gave the furnace a third product: hydrogen, which can be used to produce electricity in fuel cells.

After Kaiser decided to close the Fontana plant in 1983, workers were told to toss all demolition debris into the blast furnace. It was then that Mr. Jasbinsek and Mr. Claflin realized that the furnace could take garbage, too. “No matter what they put in, the furnace melted and gasified it,” Mr. Kasten said. This meant a potential fourth revenue stream — from taking municipal waste that would otherwise go to landfills...

Kaiser used blast furnaces to make steel, and Mr. Claflin and a colleague, John Jasbinsek, were tasked with finding “a way to make the blast furnace more efficient and less polluting,” said Mr. Jasbinsek, who is now 86.

Like all blast furnaces, Kaiser’s emitted a flue gas out of the top. It occurred to Mr. Clafin and Mr. Jasbinsek that this gas might have value. The two came up with the idea of injecting oxygen, instead of the atmospheric air that steel makers had always used, to create the chemical reaction that heats the inside of the furnace. This would cut pollution while raising the energy content of the flue gas — in essence, giving the steel maker a second product. But pure oxygen made the system too hot, so they added steam. This gave the furnace a third product: hydrogen, which can be used to produce electricity in fuel cells.

After Kaiser decided to close the Fontana plant in 1983, workers were told to toss all demolition debris into the blast furnace. It was then that Mr. Jasbinsek and Mr. Claflin realized that the furnace could take garbage, too. “No matter what they put in, the furnace melted and gasified it,” Mr. Kasten said. This meant a potential fourth revenue stream — from taking municipal waste that would otherwise go to landfills.
Will it scale up? That is still being worked out but the promise for an energy secure national future is there and sucks on you, Exxon.

They just wanted to get an edge in the Chinese market

And being one of the leading banksters on Wall St. only took them so far. So now the federal government is looking into whether or not JP Morgan Chase followed the ancient Chinese method of bribing high officials.
Federal authorities have opened a bribery investigation into whether JPMorgan Chase hired the children of powerful Chinese officials to help the bank win lucrative business in the booming nation, according to a confidential United States government document.

In one instance, the bank hired the son of a former Chinese banking regulator who is now the chairman of the China Everbright Group, a state-controlled financial conglomerate, according to the document, which was reviewed by The New York Times, as well as public records. After the chairman’s son came on board, JPMorgan secured multiple coveted assignments from the Chinese conglomerate, including advising a subsidiary of the company on a stock offering, records show.

The Hong Kong office of JPMorgan also hired the daughter of a Chinese railway official. That official was later detained on accusations of doling out government contracts in exchange for cash bribes, the government document and public records show.

The former official’s daughter came to JPMorgan at an opportune time for the New York-based bank: The China Railway Group, a state-controlled construction company that builds railways for the Chinese government, was in the process of selecting JPMorgan to advise on its plans to become a public company, a common move in China for businesses affiliated with the government. With JPMorgan’s help, China Railway raised more than $5 billion when it went public in 2007.

The focus of the civil investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission’s anti-bribery unit has not been previously reported. JPMorgan — which has had a number of run-ins lately with regulators, including one over a multibillion-dollar trading loss last year — made an oblique reference to the inquiry in its quarterly filing this month. The filing stated that the S.E.C. had sought information about JPMorgan’s “employment of certain former employees in Hong Kong and its business relationships with certain clients.”

In May, according to a copy of the confidential government document, the S.E.C.’s anti-bribery unit requested from JPMorgan a battery of records about Tang Xiaoning. He is the son of Tang Shuangning, who since 2007 has been chairman of the China Everbright Group. Before that, the elder Mr. Tang was the vice chairman of China’s top banking regulator.

The agency also inquired about JPMorgan’s hiring of Zhang Xixi, the daughter of the railway official. Among other information, the S.E.C. sought “documents sufficient to identify all persons involved in the decision to hire” her.
Now it could be just coinky-dink that the hirings occurred at the same time as the favorable business decisions were made. And it could be that JP Morgan Chase is too big to manage. But a business decision like this would definitely have been made at the very top.

Now the Roosians have gone too far.

From the Raw Story:
Russian authorities in Moscow broke up a march of Pastafarians on Saturday with some help from anti-gay Russian Orthodox religious activists.

Moscow police told RIA Novosti that eight Pastafarians were detained for “attempting to hold an unsanctioned rally” in the city.

Followers of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster planned to hold a “pasta procession” in Moscow and St. Petersburg to honor the birthday of Robert De Niro, who once played a character named Noodle in the movie Once Upon A Time in America.

The “pasta procession” in Moscow was disrupted by the Orthodox activist group Bozhaya Volya, or God’s Will, who sprayed ketchup on a march participants. The Orthodox group has held demonstrations against homosexuality, the punk rock group Pussy Riot, and the Darwin natural history museum.

Moscow police dispersed the marchers, claiming the procession was not sanctioned by authorities.

“We were detained for simply walking,” one Pastafarian wrote on a social networking website. “In particular, I was taken in for a sieve on my head.”
Is there no end to the Slavic perfidy?

Oh, the Joys of Discovery

As in discovering that your favorite school voucher program for religious schools would be available to all religious schools, from your favorite "dinos romping with Jeebus" schools to , dare I say it, Muslim schools.
Louisiana's Kenneth the Page governor had pushed pretty hard for the vouchers program, fast tracking it through the legislature early in the state's legislative session. But, according to the Livingston Parish News, as the measure was brought up for a vote before the full house, a Muslim school applied for the voucher program.

Whoa! Record scratch sound! Dishes breaking! Islam is a religion protected by the constitution, too? No one told Valarie Hodges anything about religions being equal under the law! She can't support any sort of anything that could learn to families using taxpayer money to educate their kids in Islamic schools. She added Bachmannesquely,

We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.

A thousand. A thousand Muslim schools in Louisiana. Maybe that's why first-time jobless claims are decreasing there; all those Muslim school jobs at the thousand new Muslim schools that Valarie Hodges knows are out there just waiting to suck off the tax teat.
Poor Ms. Hodges. I imagine the only thing worse for the poor dear would be a religious Muslim flight school.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

She writes and sings her own music so well

So why am I posting her doing a cover of geezer folk? Because I am that old and I love the way she does it.

The problems Al-Jazeera faces in the US

From the pen of Joel Pett

From the Dept. of It's About Fucking Time!

From Bloomberg News:
Merck & Co. (MRK) will suspend sales of its livestock-feed supplement Zilmax in the U.S. and Canada after cattle taking it had trouble walking or standing.

The sales halt is temporary while the company plans a study of the drug, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck said today in a statement. The drugmaker, which sells veterinary and farm products in more than 140 countries, generated $3.4 billion last year from its animal health business.

Merck is taking the action after Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN), the Springdale, Arkansas-based beef, poultry and pork producer, said on Aug. 8 that it was halting its use of Zilmax because of lame livestock found at its factories.
If the animals can't walk after eating that shit, what about the rest of us? Or will they just use that to fatten us up at the Soylent factory?

The power of computers

To screw up our lives when they fail is limitless. The latest example comes to us from the Agriculture Dept. meat inspection system.
A troubled new computer system for the nation’s 6,500 meatpacking and processing plants shut down for two days this month, putting at risk millions of pounds of beef, poultry, pork and lamb that had left the plants before workers could collect samples to check for E. coli bacteria and other contaminants.

Inspectors say that they were forced to use old paper forms to complete some of their work, but that in many cases it was too late. “Management sent out a memo saying to reschedule the sampling of meat,” said Stan Painter, a federal inspector in Crossville, Ala., who leads the inspectors’ union. “But in most cases that meat is now gone. We can’t inspect product that went out the door when the system was down.”

Agriculture Department officials, who acknowledge that the system failed nationwide on Aug. 8, played down the threat to public safety and insisted that the breakdown of the $20 million computer system had not compromised the nation’s meat supply. Neither the Agriculture Department nor the meat inspectors could point to any examples of contaminated beef or poultry getting into the hands of consumers.
No harm, no foul. Go ahead eat that burger, if you dare.

Did you know?

Instructing people
in ways and methods to defeat a polygraph is an illegal activity, in a roundabout way.
The undercover stings are being cited as the latest examples of the Obama administration’s emphasis on rooting out “insider threats,” a catchall phrase meant to describe employees who might become spies, leak to the news media, commit crimes or become corrupted in some way.

The federal government previously treated such instructors only as nuisances, partly because the polygraph-beating techniques are unproven. Instructors have openly advertised and discussed their techniques online, in books and on national television. As many as 30 people or businesses across the country claim in Web advertisements that they can teach someone how to beat a polygraph test, according to U.S. government estimates.

In the last year, authorities have launched stings targeting Doug Williams, a former Oklahoma City police polygrapher, and Chad Dixon, an Indiana man who’s said to have been inspired by Williams’ book on the techniques, people who are familiar with the investigation told McClatchy. Dixon has pleaded guilty to federal charges of obstructing an agency proceeding and wire fraud. Prosecutors have indicated that they plan to ask a federal judge to sentence Dixon to two years in prison. Williams declined to comment other than to say he’s done nothing wrong.

While legal experts agree that authorities could pursue the prosecution, some accused the government of overreaching in the name of national security.

The federal government polygraphs about 70,000 people a year for security clearances and jobs, but most courts won’t allow polygraph results to be submitted as evidence, citing the machines’ unreliability. Scientists question whether polygraphers can identify liars by interpreting measurements of blood pressure, sweat activity and respiration. Researchers say the polygraph-beating techniques can’t be detected with certainty, either.

Citing the scientific skepticism, one attorney compared the prosecution of polygraph instructors to indicting someone for practicing voodoo.
Voodoo justice would get along very well with the voodoo economics we have endured these last 30 years.

DiFi switches from overseer to apologist for national snoops

Because DiFi is a very important and very serious person in the government. So much so that she can not be expected to stand up for the people she allegedly represents.
Some secrets don’t faze Sen. Dianne Feinstein. She keeps plenty, after all, as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But the 15-member panel that the California Democrat has led since 2009 is scrambling to catch up with the latest public revelations about government spying.

It’s a potentially awkward position for the 80-year-old lawmaker, who has regularly defended secret surveillance programs that others have knocked, and who now must defend the quality of congressional oversight as well.

On Friday Feinstein faced news reports that a National Security Agency audit had found thousands of violations of privacy rules or legal guidelines designed to protect communications by Americans and others that originated in the United States.

“The committee has been notified, and has held briefings and hearings, in cases where there have been significant . . . compliance issues,” Feinstein said in a statement Friday. “In all such cases, the incidents have been addressed by ending or adapting the activity.”
We fixed all the past problems just like we will do with all the new ones that will occur like dandelions in the spring.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Some light hearted music from Canuckistan

From the western half of that musical land come Little Miss Higgins with a tune from her 2010 album " Across the Plains"

Between a rock and a hard place

Can be very painful for those in Florida who suffer debilitating diseases that require heavy duty pain medicine like Oxycontin. Thanks to a crackdown on the freewheeling pill pushers who would dispense pills by the bushel to anyone walking through the door, it is now very difficult to get the medicine they need.
The 35-year-old mother of three from Florida suffers with lupus, an inflammatory disease that causes bone loss and joint problems. She has a ruined knee that will soon need replacing, and herniated discs in her back. Until last year, Diaz, a nurse living on disability benefits, had no trouble getting the painkillers and anti-anxiety medicines -- OxyContin, roxycodone and Xanax -- her doctors regularly prescribe.

That’s now changed after regulators clamped down on Florida’s lax prescription controls to halt an epidemic of painkiller abuse that kills more people nationwide than heroin and cocaine combined. Drug distributors and pharmacies hemmed in by new regulations are limiting the pain medicines they keep on hand and who gets them, making Diaz and hundreds of other patients like her collateral damage...

While the Florida crackdown has been successful in fighting abuse, patients with everyday pain say it has also had a chilling effect on their ability to fill prescriptions that are legally obtained, appropriate and necessary.

In some cases, they say, pharmacies carry limited supplies that often run out, and some businesses only want to deal with long-known patients. New faces, particularly those from outside their immediate neighborhoods, are often not welcome, said Colleen Sullivan, a 29-year-old muscular dystrophy patient.

That’s a particular problem for people who, like Sullivan, live in isolated areas. Sullivan’s home is in Marathon, a town in the Florida Keys with few pharmacies, she said. When they run out, Sullivan often finds herself traveling miles to find the drugs since pharmacies will no longer tell her over the telephone if they have a supply on hand, she said.

Paul Doering, a professor emeritus at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy in Gainesville, has worked with regulators on how best to control prescription use. Legitimate patients are in an awkward spot with drug sales now drawing strict monitoring, he said.

Distributors such as Cardinal Health Inc. (CAH), the second-largest by revenue, are delivering fewer drugs because of both lower demand and concerns they may be blamed for any oversupply going forward, said Doering. At the same time, pharmacies that faced tough questions about outsized sales in the past now often refuse to provide the drugs unless they they know a patient’s background, he said.
Until the state and the distributors work out a better system, those in need will continue to suffer.

New Republican values.

From the pen of Ben Sargent

OK, that explains it.

The secret FISA court given responsibility for overseeing US spy activities apparently relies on those said same spies to know what they are doing.
The leader of the secret court that is supposed to provide critical oversight of the government’s vast spying programs said that its ability to do so is limited and that it must trust the government to report when it improperly spies on Americans.

The chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said the court lacks the tools to independently verify how often the government’s surveillance breaks the court’s rules that aim to protect Americans’ privacy. Without taking drastic steps, it also cannot check the veracity of the government’s assertions that the violations its staff members report are unintentional mistakes.

“The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court,” its chief, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, said in a written statement to The Washington Post. “The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders.”

Walton’s comments came in response to internal government records obtained by The Post showing that National Security Agency staff members in Washington overstepped their authority on spy programs thousands of times per year. The records also show that the number of violations has been on the rise.
Just imagine if Al Capone had to report on how many speakeasies he ran, how much beer he made and how many muggs he had shot. Noe imagine what he would have reported. But not to worry, they are on our side.

R.I.P. Kepler Space Telescope

Or maybe just Orbit Vobiscum. Anyway, thanks for finding Tatooine

Well, sure there were rules on how the NSA could operate

And like all rules, they were made to be broken, as an audit of the agency has revealed. Sometimes it was accidental and sometimes it was deliberate but, all told, it occurred thousands of times.
The National Security Agency violated privacy rules protecting the communications of Americans and others on domestic soil 2,776 times over a one-year period, according to an internal audit leaked by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden and made public on Thursday night.

The violations, according to the May 2012 audit, stemmed largely from operator and system errors like “inadequate or insufficient research” when selecting wiretap targets.

The largest number of episodes — 1,904 — appeared to be “roamers,” in which a foreigner whose cellphone was being wiretapped without a warrant came to the United States, where individual warrants are required. A spike in such problems in a single quarter, the report said, could be because of Chinese citizens visiting friends and family for the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday.

“Roamer incidents are largely unpreventable, even with good target awareness and traffic review, since target travel activities are often unannounced and not easily predicted,” the report says.

The report and several other documents leaked by Mr. Snowden were published by The Washington Post. They shed new light on the intrusions into Americans’ privacy that N.S.A. surveillance can entail, and how the agency handles violations of its rules.
But they were mostly furriners so there is nothing for anyone to worry about, except maybe you [name deleted] of [address deleted]. We have our eye on you.

The Triumph of Truthiness

Or why Joe Six-Pack doesn't know shit about his government. Paul Krugman takes a look at the lack of accurate political information sources in this country.
I wondered on my blog what a similar survey would show today, with the deficit falling even faster than it did in the 1990s. Ask and ye shall receive: Hal Varian, the chief economist of Google, offered to run a Google Consumer Survey — a service the company normally sells to market researchers — on the question. So we asked whether the deficit has gone up or down since January 2010. And the results were even worse than in 1996: A majority of those who replied said the deficit has gone up, with more than 40 percent saying that it has gone up a lot. Only 12 percent answered correctly that it has gone down a lot.

Am I saying that voters are stupid? Not at all. People have lives, jobs, children to raise. They’re not going to sit down with Congressional Budget Office reports. Instead, they rely on what they hear from authority figures. The problem is that much of what they hear is misleading if not outright false.

The outright falsehoods, you won’t be surprised to learn, tend to be politically motivated. In those 1996 data, Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to hold false views about the deficit, and the same must surely be true today. After all, Republicans made a lot of political hay over a supposedly runaway deficit early in the Obama administration, and they have maintained the same rhetoric even as the deficit has plunged. Thus Eric Cantor, the third-ranking Republican in the House, declared on Fox News that we have a “growing deficit,” while Senator Rand Paul told Bloomberg Businessweek that we’re running “a trillion-dollar deficit every year.”

Do people like Mr. Cantor or Mr. Paul know that what they’re saying isn’t true? Do they care? Probably not. In Stephen Colbert’s famous formulation, claims about runaway deficits may not be true, but they have truthiness, and that’s all that matters.
And don't count on anybody else calling bullshit on the bullshit. If you want it done you have to do it yourself.

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