Monday, September 30, 2013

A pair of Marine Major Generals got fired.

Forced into retirement actually, and the first general officers to be sacked since Vietnam.
Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos asked Major General Charles Gurganus and Major General Gregg Sturdevant to retire, holding the two officers responsible for a September 2012 attack on a base in Helmand province that killed Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Raible and Sergeant Bradley Atwell and wounded eight others.

The moves marked the first time since the Vietnam War that a U.S. Marine, Army or Air Force general was forced out of a job for negligence during an enemy attack, according to a blog for Foreign Policy magazine, which cited Tom Ricks, author of “The Generals,” a military history.

The assault by about 15 insurgents on Camp Bastion, the main British base in Afghanistan located next to the Marines’ Camp Leatherneck, also destroyed a fleet of six Harrier AV-8B aircraft, marking the biggest loss of U.S. materiel in the 12-year conflict. In May, Amos ordered an investigation into the attack and today endorsed the probe’s findings.

Gurganus and Sturdevant “did not take adequate force protection measures within the range of responses proportionate to the threat,” Amos said in a statement released today. While both commanders faced challenges in pursuing the enemy even as the overall U.S. troop levels began to decline in Afghanistan, “my duty requires me to remain true to the timeless axioms relating to command responsibility and accountability.”
So is this how they are going to downsize the Corps?

I just love Austin City Limits

It lets musicians play enough of their music to know who they are. Like this 2010 session with Brandi Carlile.

00:00 - The Story
04:20 - Before it Breaks
09:15 - Oh Dear
12:30 - Pride and Joy
19:10 - Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash Cover)

He is a trained professional, do not try this at home.

Tom Tomorrow works for you to understand Teabagger logic because you have to flirt with the line to madness to decipher what is drooling through their brains.

As you sew so shall you reap.

From the New York Times:
The American textile and apparel industries, like manufacturing as a whole, are experiencing a nascent turnaround as apparel and textile companies demand higher quality, more reliable scheduling and fewer safety problems than they encounter overseas. Accidents like the factory collapse in Bangladesh earlier this year, which killed more than 1,000 workers, have reinforced the push for domestic production.

But because the industries were decimated over the last two decades — 77 percent of the American work force has been lost since 1990 as companies moved jobs abroad — manufacturers are now scrambling to find workers to fill the specialized jobs that have not been taken over by machines.

Government leak undermines counterterrist efforts.

Despite all the teeth gnashing, wailing and sack cloth & ashes about the Ed Snowden revelations, it appears that a traditional government leak to news agencies has cause the greatest disruption to US efforts to counter al-Qaeda.
Since news reports in early August revealed that the United States intercepted messages between Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as the head of Al Qaeda, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, discussing an imminent terrorist attack, analysts have detected a sharp drop in the terrorists’ use of a major communications channel that the authorities were monitoring. Since August, senior American officials have been scrambling to find new ways to surveil the electronic messages and conversations of Al Qaeda’s leaders and operatives.

“The switches weren’t turned off, but there has been a real decrease in quality” of communications, said one United States official, who like others quoted spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence programs.

The drop in message traffic after the communication intercepts contrasts with what analysts describe as a far more muted impact on counterterrorism efforts from the disclosures by Mr. Snowden of the broad capabilities of N.S.A. surveillance programs. Instead of terrorists moving away from electronic communications after those disclosures, analysts have detected terrorists mainly talking about the information that Mr. Snowden has disclosed....

McClatchy Newspapers first reported on the conversations between Mr. Zawahri and Mr. Wuhayshi on Aug. 4. Two days before that, The New York Times agreed to withhold the identities of the Qaeda leaders after senior American intelligence officials said the information could jeopardize their operations. After the government became aware of the McClatchy article, it dropped its objections to The Times’s publishing the same information, and the newspaper did so on Aug. 5.
The bad guys have known someone was listening for many years. After being spooked for awhile, they will return to the airways with some new tricks. Like a fisherman, the NSA has to be careful not to spook them again.

Fuck over a fishery to profit a few.

That is the question hanging over the potential approval of the Pebble Mine in Alaska.
In the vast, green, windswept tundra of Southwest Alaska, the planet’s greatest remaining stronghold of wild salmon, an open-pit mine of staggering proportions is being hatched.

Right now it’s just a cluster of buildings in a remote valley, where the silence is broken by the buzz of helicopters bringing workers to collect core samples. But the proposed Pebble Mine could become the largest open-pit mine on the continent, and the Environmental Protection Agency figures it could wipe out nearly 100 miles of streams and thousands of acres of wetlands.

The deposit of copper and gold is a potential $300 billion bonanza in a place where good jobs can be scarce. The mine’s promise of opportunity sits uneasily, though, in a region that produces half the world’s wild red salmon and sustains indigenous Alaska Native cultures that have been tied to the fish for at least 4,000 years.

“When the mine happens, it will destroy a culture,” said Jack Allen, the owner of Nushagak Cab in the Bristol Bay fishing community of Dillingham. “Fishing is not just about money here; it’s life.”

Mine opponents are pressing the EPA to shut down the project before it gets traction. Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals says its subsidiary, the Pebble Partnership, has almost finished drawing up the mine plan.

Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively hopes to start applying soon for the needed federal and state permits, possibly by the end of the year.

“For me, the biggest social and cultural aspects of that region are the salmon and what it means to people for subsistence,” said Shively, a former Alaska state official. “I am not about to bring a plan forward I think would destroy their subsistence opportunities.”

Most people in the Bristol Bay region are not convinced.

“All the mine is going to do is kill our fisheries,” said Nick Christiansen of Dillingham, smoking a cigarette on board the fishing vessel Sherry Sea. “There’s no way to do it safely; that’s been proven around the world.”
The dearth of good paying jobs is a strong lure for the locals to destroy the fish and their way of life. And with the money involved, they probably have no chance of stopping it anyway.

Will the Blame Game outdraw the World Series?

Dunno, but they are currently playing hard in DC and the Republican/Teabaggers have apparently thrown the rule book out the window.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, accused the Senate of trying to milk the shutdown clock – which tolls Monday at midnight - by not taking up the House measure until 2 p.m. on Monday. That would give both deliberative houses of Congress only 10 hours to avert a shutdown.

“If the Senate stalls until Monday afternoon instead of working today, it would be an act of breathtaking arrogance by the Senate Democratic leadership,” Boehner said in a statement. “They will be deliberately bringing the nation to the brink of a government shutdown for the sake of raising taxes on seniors’ pacemakers and children’s hearing aids and plowing ahead with train wreck that is the president’s health care law.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has spearheaded efforts to force a showdown over the health are law, blamed Reid for being stubborn and refusing to compromise.

“So far Majority Leader Harry Reid has essentially told the House of Representatives and the American people, go jump in a lake,” Cruz told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He said, ‘I’m not willing to compromise; I’m not willing to even talk.’ His position is 100 percent of Obamacare must be funded in all instances, and other than that, he’s going to shut the government down.”

About two dozen House members gathered on the steps outside a closed Senate chamber Sunday to draw attention to the Senate’s absence.

“The Senate not being here, Harry Reid is off on his own somewhere, is all the evidence you need to know they want to shut down the government,” said Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark. “I personally believe that Sen. Reid and the president, for political purposes, want to shut down the government.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., insisted Sunday that his party isn’t angling for a shutdown.

“Americans do not want a government shutdown and they do not want Obamacare,” McConnell said.
Nary a shred of truth in the whole thing but since the refs have swallowed their whistles, the game will go on until there is only one left.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Massachusetts has 9 official and unofficial state songs

Strangely this song "Massachusetts" by Anita O'Day & The Gene Krupa Orchestra is not one of them.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

Some judges are losing their patience with the Banks

As the cascade of foreclosures pours through the judicial system, poured in by banks desperate to maximize the numbers, accuracy be damned, more judges are developing a seriously negative attitude toward the banks.
“Maybe the judges are tired of the diet of baloney sandwiches the banks have been feeding them,” said April Charney, a foreclosure defense lawyer who for years represented troubled borrowers at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid in Florida. She is now in private practice.

Two recent rulings — one in New York involving Bank of America and one in Massachusetts involving Wells Fargo — serve as examples. In the Wells Fargo case, a ruling on Sept. 17 by Judge William G. Young of Federal District Court was especially stinging. In it, he required Wells Fargo to provide him with a corporate resolution signed by its president and a majority of its board stating that they stand behind the conduct of the bank’s lawyers in the case.

The case involved a borrower named Joseph Henning who fell behind on his mortgage, which he received from Wachovia, an entity later absorbed by Wells Fargo. In a suit filed against Wells Fargo in May 2009, Mr. Henning contended that the loan was predatory.

Judge Young agreed with the bank’s argument that federal laws pre-empted the state-law remedies Mr. Henning was seeking. But he did so reluctantly, calling it a win based “on a technicality.”

Then he chastised the bank. “The disconnect between Wells Fargo’s publicly advertised face and its actual litigation conduct here could not be more extreme,” the judge wrote. “A quick visit to Wells Fargo’s Web site confirms that it vigorously promotes itself as consumer-friendly,” he continued, “a far cry from the hard-nosed win-at-any-cost stance it has adopted here.”

If Wells Fargo does not supply the corporate resolution within 30 days of the ruling, the case will go to a jury trial, the judge said.

Mary Eshet, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, called the judge’s remarks in the ruling “inflammatory and unsubstantiated,” and added: “We believe Judge Young should follow the law which he recognizes and finalize his own judgment in this case.” The bank is asking an appellate court to require the judge to enter his dismissal order without the corporate resolution.

Valeriano Diviacchi, the lawyer for the borrower, said he had never seen a ruling requiring a corporate resolution as Judge Young’s did. Mr. Diviacchi said that he didn’t know why the judge made the ruling but that the judge appeared to want the case to be heard by a jury of Mr. Henning’s peers, people who may have had their own experiences with questionable bank practices.

“Judge Young is one of the few judges who will refer matters to juries — even when a cause of action does not entitle a party to a jury right — because he believes in it as a foundation of the justice system and a democratic society,” Mr. Diviacchi said.

The second case arose after Edwin Ramos and Michelle Ava Stouber-Ramos filed for bankruptcy and had the first and second mortgage on their Tampa, Fla., condominium discharged by the court. That kind of discharge protects a borrower from any attempts to collect the debts as a personal liability.

Bank of America received notice of the discharge in September 2010. But in spring 2012, the bank began sending letters to the Ramoses, saying their $26,991 second mortgage was “seriously delinquent” and demanding that they pay the amount owed immediately. Otherwise, the bank said, it would proceed with “collection action.”

According to Michael H. Schwartz, a lawyer in White Plains who represented the borrowers, Mr. Ramos started getting three phone calls a day from the bank, demanding repayment. When Mr. Ramos advised the bank’s representatives that the debt had been expunged in a bankruptcy proceeding, he was told “too bad,” according to a court filing.

The phone calls and letters continued even after Mr. Schwartz went back to court to ask that Bank of America be sanctioned for illegal attempts to collect the debt. During this time, Bank of America sold the servicing rights on the first mortgage to another company, which soon began sending its own demand letters to the Ramoses.

This month, the matter came before Robert D. Drain, a federal bankruptcy judge in New York. Judge Drain found Bank of America in contempt of the debt discharge order protecting the Ramoses and required the bank to pay Mr. Schwartz’s legal bills in the case. The judge also ordered the bank to pay $10,000 a month in sanctions to the Ramoses until it stopped making the repayment demands.

Judge Drain acknowledged that it wasn’t a lot of money to Bank of America. But, he said, he hoped that its lawyers would get the message. “This is not just a stupid mistake” by the bank, the judge said. “This is a policy.”
And despite the high sounding words and promises from the banks, it is unlikely that the policy will change because the cost effectiveness of their criminal behavior still favors its continuation. Until somebody important gets time in the big house. But we know how likely that is.

Are you feeling safer?

Now that we know that our nuclear arsenal is no longer under the command of an admiral implicated in a scheme to counterfeit casino chips. WTF!
A vice admiral who is second in command at the United States Strategic Command, which oversees nuclear war-fighting forces for the military, has been suspended amid an investigation into his possible involvement in illegal gambling, officials said on Saturday.

The officer, Vice Adm. Timothy M. Giardina, is a highly decorated sailor with more than three decades in the Navy. The suspension occurred on Sept. 3, but was not announced publicly, said Capt. Pamela Kunze, the command’s spokeswoman.

Captain Kunze would not comment further on the circumstances surrounding the suspension, citing a continuing investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The Strategic Command was first alerted about the issue in mid-July. A month earlier, Admiral Giardina became the target of an inquiry being conducted by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation into possible use of counterfeit gambling chips at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, said David Dales, the head of the Southwest division of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Mr. Dales said the criminality in question involved poker at the casino, but said he could provide no further information. The agency’s investigation is still open and no state charges have been filed against Admiral Giardina, Mr. Dales said.
This follows hard on the removal of 17 launch control officers from duty. I don't know about you, but I want a higher degree of trustworthiness from the people who have their hands on the nukes.

Children and Guns

A look at what results from the only Amendment in the Bill of Rights that is 'sacred'.
The .45-caliber pistol that killed Lucas Heagren, 3, on Memorial Day last year at his Ohio home had been temporarily hidden under the couch by his father. But Lucas found it and shot himself through the right eye. “It’s bad,” his mother told the 911 dispatcher. “It’s really bad.”

A few days later in Georgia, Cassie Culpepper, 11, was riding in the back of a pickup with her 12-year-old brother and two other children. Her brother started playing with a pistol his father had lent him to scare coyotes. Believing he had removed all the bullets, he pointed the pistol at his sister and squeezed the trigger. It fired, and blood poured from Cassie’s mouth.

Just a few weeks earlier, in Houston, a group of youths found a Glock pistol in an apartment closet while searching for snack money. A 15-year-old boy was handling the gun when it went off. Alex Whitfield, who had just turned 11, was struck. A relative found the bullet in his ashes from the funeral home.

Cases like these are among the most gut-wrenching of gun deaths. Children shot accidentally — usually by other children — are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable.

They die in the households of police officers and drug dealers, in broken homes and close-knit families, on rural farms and in city apartments. Some adults whose guns were used had tried to store them safely; others were grossly negligent. Still others pulled the trigger themselves, accidentally fracturing their own families while cleaning a pistol or hunting.

And there are far more of these innocent victims than official records show.

A New York Times review of hundreds of child firearm deaths found that accidental shootings occurred roughly twice as often as the records indicate, because of idiosyncrasies in how such deaths are classified by the authorities. The killings of Lucas, Cassie and Alex, for instance, were not recorded as accidents. Nor were more than half of the 259 accidental firearm deaths of children under age 15 identified by The Times in eight states where records were available.

As a result, scores of accidental killings are not reflected in the official statistics that have framed the debate over how to protect children from guns.

Even with a proper count, intentional shooting deaths of children — including gang shootings and murder-suicides by family members — far exceed accidental gun deaths. But accidents, more than the other firearm-related deaths, come with endless hypotheticals about what could have been done differently.
And the NRA, in it's efforts to stimulate sales and protect gun manufacturers has made it impossible to get a clean count of how many children have died. But what the hell, they are only kids, right? We can always make more.

If Banks can't stand the heat

Why do they want to throw everybody else out of the kitchen? Competition is supposed to be good for business but it does make you work at what you do to stay ahead. Apparently the Banksters feel they are too good to face competition.
Credit unions have been snatching customers from banks amid consumer frustration over rising fees and outrage over Wall Street's role in the financial crisis.

Now banks are fighting back by trying to take away something vital to credit unions — their federal tax exemption.

With fast-growing credit unions posing more formidable competition to banks, industry trade groups are pressing the White House and Congress to end a tax break that dates to the Great Depression.

Bankers long have complained the tax break is an unfair advantage for large credit unions. Now they see an opportunity to get rid of it as lawmakers begin work on a major overhaul of the tax code that is aimed at eliminating many corporate exemptions and lowering the overall tax rate.

Credit unions said the effort to take away their tax exemption was simply an attempt to stifle competition and remove one of the only checks on bank fees for consumers.

And it comes as some in Congress are pushing to loosen regulations on credit unions so they can expand their business further, including legislation that would lift a cap on the amount of money they can lend to businesses.

The tax exemption is crucial to credit unions, which by law can't raise capital through public stock offerings the way that banks can, said Fred R. Becker Jr., president of the National Assn. of Federal Credit Unions, a trade group with about 3,800 federally chartered members.
A handful of Big Banksters control over 80% of all depositsand their fear of competition (and the thought of having to work for a living) scares them silly. On the other hand, loosening regulations on credit unions is also scary. Let things lie so the litle people have a safe way to say "Fuck you" to the Big Banksters.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Lon Gisland

Leslie Mendelson has moved her base into the City where she can further grow the talents already nicely developing.

Government By Television.

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Having all that information, they have to use it.

There was never any real possibility that they would just tuck it away in storage for use later, if they needed it.
Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.

The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.

The policy shift was intended to help the agency “discover and track” connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States, according to an N.S.A. memorandum from January 2011. The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said. Because of concerns about infringing on the privacy of American citizens, the computer analysis of such data had previously been permitted only for foreigners.

The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents. They do not indicate any restrictions on the use of such “enrichment” data, and several former senior Obama administration officials said the agency drew on it for both Americans and foreigners.
That agency that still by law can not spy on Americans inside the US, it using every bit of information about you to create a social map that may or may not be accurate, but it does have all your details. It is too late to be afraid, WAATF!

Some Senators still trying to destroy the Post Office.

And it is no surprise that the Senate's Own Dr. No, Tom Coburn is one of them. Sadly, a Democrat, Tom Carper of Delaware is another. They have co-sponsored a bill that pretends to reform the Post Office while, in fact damaging it even more.
“Dr. Coburn and I believe that our bipartisan bill provides a road map to enable the Postal Service to return to profitability, not just in the near term, but to remain there in the long term,” Carper said. “If that happens, the rate request will go away. If it doesn’t happen, the rate request is there staring us and the Postal Service in the face.”

Among other things, the legislation would save the Postal Service money by modifying health care benefits and pensions for postal workers. It also would change postal delivery options, including the eventual discontinuation of Saturday delivery. Other measures would require centralized or curbside delivery for new addresses and the option for existing addresses to convert from door delivery to centralized or curbside delivery.
The real culprit for the USPS losses has been the outrageous and deliberately destructive pension funding requirements imposed by the Republicans in 2006.
Rolando and John F. Hegarty, the president of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, instead attributed the Postal Service’s financial difficulties to a 2006 congressional mandate that changed the way the service funded its pensions. The change required the Postal Service to fund future retirees’ health benefits for the next 75 years within 10 years.
But will Dr. No and his Blue Dog buddy repeal that outrageous requirement and return the USPS to normal requirements followed by business? Fat chance!
For fiscal 2013, the mandate requires the Postal Service to pay $5.5 billion, which it lacks the money to do. The legislation that Carper and Coburn proposed would decrease the size of the annual payments by extending the 10-year time frame to 40 years.

“The payment schedule was put into place for a noble purpose about seven years ago,” Carper said.
Noble purposes my ass! If the USPS had ever reached that impossible goal, the Republican/Teabagger rats bastards would have begun working to allow their Wall St. owners to loot the funds as they are doing with every other available pension plan.

Probably one of the few presidents who deserves one

Our first president and the one who established many of the ways government still functions within the Constitution, has finally gotten a library.
George Washington’s majestic estate overlooking the Potomac River now has an added attraction: a state-of-the-art presidential library.

The grand opening Friday of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington celebrated the father of our country with a festive crowd that included both U.S. senators from Virginia, the governor, performances by country singers – and couple – Vince Gill and Amy Grant, and a keynote by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough.

The library was designed to add a scholarly element to the understanding of the first president, who had written in a letter to a friend in 1797 that he wanted a building on his property to house his papers.

“If there’s anybody who deserves a presidential library, it’s Washington,” said historian Stephen Knott, professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I., who has studied the Founding Fathers. “He was our greatest president. This is 220 years overdue.”

The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, a private group that has owned and operated the estate since 1858, raised $106 million in private funds for the library over the last three years. Philanthropist Fred W. Smith, chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, was a leader of the effort. The foundation contributed $38 million for the library in 2010.

“This new library will help us to maintain and advance George Washington’s timeless relevance in our fast-changing world,” said Ann Bookout, regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.
I am sure that Fred W Smith was instrumental in the building of the library, but I think a plaque in the entrance hall would have been sufficient.

Bill Maher looks into the future

And what he sees is very good.

Friday, September 27, 2013

She is not singing about Washington DC

But Martha Berner's song "Town Called Happiness" is from her 2005 release "This Side Of Yesterday"

The Biggest Swinging Dick on Wall St Goes To Washington

The purpose of Jaime Dimon's visit to the Dept. of Justice is to negotiate a price for the past and present criminal behavior of J P Morgan Chase.
Even the "King of Wall Street" has to show his ID to security at the Justice Department.

Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co., was photographed flashing his New York driver's license Thursday morning on his way to meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss possibly settling of a bunch of government investigations.

The nation's largest bank could pay anywhere from $3 billion to $11 billion to settle a range of federal and state probes, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The negotiations were fluid and the headline settlement amount could easily change if an agreement is reached, this person noted.

The investigations reportedly involve mortgage-backed securities, many of them stemming from troubled banks Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, which JPMorgan acquired during the financial crisis.
The price seems high until you remember that JPM lost more than that with the London Whale and only suffered minor damage with some small shakeups.

What excellent timing

Immediately following on the heels of Matt Tibbi's article on the theft of public employees pensions, we have another example of the Class War on Workers. Senators Tom "Blue Dog" Carper and Dr. No himself, Tom Coburn have introduced a bill, allegedly to "help" the Post Office.
Congress is considering legislation that would revamp the Postal Service’s operations; if it passes, the proposed rate increase might be dropped. The chairman and the ranking member of the committee, Sens. Thomas Carper, D-Del., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., introduced the Postal Reform Act of 2013 in August.

“Dr. Coburn and I believe that our bipartisan bill provides a road map to enable the Postal Service to return to profitability, not just in the near term, but to remain there in the long term,” Carper said. “If that happens, the rate request will go away. If it doesn’t happen, the rate request is there staring us and the Postal Service in the face.”

Among other things, the legislation would save the Postal Service money by modifying health care benefits and pensions for postal workers. It also would change postal delivery options, including the eventual discontinuation of Saturday delivery. Other measures would require centralized or curbside delivery for new addresses and the option for existing addresses to convert from door delivery to centralized or curbside delivery.
All of which is unnecessary. The postal service is prefunded for years into the future, why modify (read reduce) benefits when removal of the prefunding requirement and returning to normal business procedure would solve the problem. And restoring a portion of the prefunded amounts would eliminate the necessity of the other "solutions". But none of that would help to destroy the union, so theyare non-starters.

Matt Taibbi makes sense of what we have all seen

The Great Class War Against Public Employees. And why are the Richers warring on public employees whose services they need, like all the rest of us? Because they still have real pensions, contracted with public employee unions over the years. And Matt explains why they are threatened.
In the final months of 2011, almost two years before the city of Detroit would shock America by declaring bankruptcy in the face of what it claimed were insurmountable pension costs, the state of Rhode Island took bold action to avert what it called its own looming pension crisis. Led by its newly elected treasurer, Gina Raimondo – an ostentatiously ambitious 42-year-old Rhodes scholar and former venture capitalist – the state declared war on public pensions, ramming through an ingenious new law slashing benefits of state employees with a speed and ferocity seldom before seen by any local government.

Called the Rhode Island Retirement Security Act of 2011, her plan would later be hailed as the most comprehensive pension reform ever implemented. The rap was so convincing at first that the overwhelmed local burghers of her little petri-dish state didn't even know how to react. "She's Yale, Harvard, Oxford – she worked on Wall Street," says Paul Doughty, the current president of the Providence firefighters union. "Nobody wanted to be the first to raise his hand and admit he didn't know what the fuck she was talking about."

Soon she was being talked about as a probable candidate for Rhode Island's 2014 gubernatorial race. By 2013, Raimondo had raised more than $2 million, a staggering sum for a still-undeclared candidate in a thimble-size state. Donors from Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs, Bain Capital and JPMorgan Chase showered her with money, with more than $247,000 coming from New York contributors alone. A shadowy organization called EngageRI, a public-advocacy group of the 501(c)4 type whose donors were shielded from public scrutiny by the infamous Citizens United decision, spent $740,000 promoting Raimondo's ideas. Within Rhode Island, there began to be whispers that Raimondo had her sights on the presidency. Even former Obama right hand and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed to Rhode Island as an example to be followed in curing pension woes.

What few people knew at the time was that Raimondo's "tool kit" wasn't just meant for local consumption. The dynamic young Rhodes scholar was allowing her state to be used as a test case for the rest of the country, at the behest of powerful out-of-state financiers with dreams of pushing pension reform down the throats of taxpayers and public workers from coast to coast. One of her key supporters was billionaire former Enron executive John Arnold – a dickishly ubiquitous young right-wing kingmaker with clear designs on becoming the next generation's Koch brothers, and who for years had been funding a nationwide campaign to slash benefits for public workers.

Nor did anyone know that part of Raimondo's strategy for saving money involved handing more than $1 billion – 14 percent of the state fund – to hedge funds, including a trio of well-known New York-based funds: Dan Loeb's Third Point Capital was given $66 million, Ken Garschina's Mason Capital got $64 million and $70 million went to Paul Singer's Elliott Management. The funds now stood collectively to be paid tens of millions in fees every single year by the already overburdened taxpayers of her ostensibly flat-broke state. Felicitously, Loeb, Garschina and Singer serve on the board of the Manhattan Institute, a prominent conservative think tank with a history of supporting benefit-slashing reforms. The institute named Raimondo its 2011 "Urban Innovator" of the year.

The state's workers, in other words, were being forced to subsidize their own political disenfranchisement, coughing up at least $200 million to members of a group that had supported anti-labor laws. Later, when Edward Siedle, a former SEC lawyer, asked Raimondo in a column for how much the state was paying in fees to these hedge funds, she first claimed she didn't know. Raimondo later told the Providence Journal she was contractually obliged to defer to hedge funds on the release of "proprietary" information, which immediately prompted a letter in protest from a series of freaked-out interest groups. Under pressure, the state later released some fee information, but the information was originally kept hidden, even from the workers themselves. "When I asked, I was basically hammered," says Marcia Reback, a former sixth-grade schoolteacher and retired Providence Teachers Union president who serves as the lone union rep on Rhode Island's nine-member State Investment Commission. "I couldn't get any information about the actual costs."

This is the third act in an improbable triple-fucking of ordinary people that Wall Street is seeking to pull off as a shocker epilogue to the crisis era. Five years ago this fall, an epidemic of fraud and thievery in the financial-services industry triggered the collapse of our economy. The resultant loss of tax revenue plunged states everywhere into spiraling fiscal crises, and local governments suffered huge losses in their retirement portfolios – remember, these public pension funds were some of the most frequently targeted suckers upon whom Wall Street dumped its fraud-riddled mortgage-backed securities in the pre-crash years.
The Richers do this because they know a big fat bundle of money when they see it. And no contract is truly valid if it is made with lesser people. So they zeroing in on the last big pile left before they have to start eating each other.

Why President Obama won't compromise

Thursday, September 26, 2013

If you thought AG Holder was the only drone in the DoJ

Your count is off by an as yet undisclosed number.
The FBI has been using drones to support its law enforcement operations since 2006 and has spent more than $3 million on the unmanned aircraft, the Justice Department's internal watchdog said Thursday.

The disclosure came in a new report by the Justice Department's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, who revealed that the department also has awarded $1.26 million to at least seven local police departments and nonprofit organization for drones.

In addition, the IG said another Justice Department component, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, plans to use drones to support future operations. To date, the ATF has spent almost $600,000, the IG report stated.

From 2004 to May 2013, the Justice Department spent almost $5 million on the unmanned aircraft.
These are not yet the size and lethality of the Predator and other military drones. Still, one has to ask what Eastern Kentucky University and the Center for Rural Development in Kentucky needed them for?

It's hard to do a classic standard

Everybody already has their favorite version. It does show you well if you have the chops to do it, like Doreen Taylor here doing "Summertime".

Quote of the Day

This month, the pope made some sensible remarks about sex, and the president of Iran made some reasonable comments about nuclear weapons. Also, the Russians proved to be extremely helpful during an international crisis. Meanwhile, on the home front, our Congress appears too crazed by internal conflict to keep the lights on.
Our elected officials are loonier than Iran. Than the pope on sex. Less useful than Vladimir Putin.
Oh, dear.
Gail Collins.

The NRA now does foreign policy.

The US has signed a treaty to restrict the international arms trade. Apparently, according to the NRA, the 2nd Amendment applies worldwide.
The United States on Wednesday signed a treaty that seeks to regulate the international trade in conventional arms, but ratification in the Senate remains uncertain because of the strong resistance of gun rights advocates.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry signed the Arms Trade Treaty in a ceremony at the United Nations, insisting that it would have no effect on Americans' ability to buy weapons and little effect on overseas sales because of U.S. export controls that are already in place.

"We are talking about the kind of export controls that for decades have not diminished one iota our ability in the United States as Americans to exercise our rights under the Constitution," he said.

Despite such arguments, conservatives consider the law a threat to the Second Amendment...

The National Rifle Association issued a statement describing the law's provisions as "blatant attacks on the constitutional rights and liberties of every law-abiding American."
It is every American's right to sell as many guns to furriners, wogs and other people as they want.

So who do you think should pay for the roads?

One way or the other we all do
. And after not raising the federal highway gas tax for 20 years, the monies raised are inadequate to the point of disappearing.
The federal highway trust fund will run out of money by 2015, which will have a “devastating impact” in states that rely heavily on federal funds for their road maintenance and construction needs, transportation officials told lawmakers Wednesday.

To preserve the fund, road builders and engineers, state transportation officials and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are pleading with Congress to raise the federal gasoline tax for the first time in 20 years.

Transportation funding had brought Democrats and Republicans together in the past, but the parties are now deeply divided over fiscal policy, including increases to taxes that fund infrastructure.

If Congress doesn’t act, some warned, states will feel the pain.

“We have to act,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The country is counting on us.”

The fund typically supports about $40 billion a year in spending on highway and transit programs nationwide. But the Congressional Budget Office projects that in 2015, the tank will be empty.

“We are facing an epic crisis,” Greg Cohen, president and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance, told the Senate committee.
But it involves raising a tax and the Norquist Anarchists have gotten every imbecile Republican to sign a no new tax pledge that they believe absolves them from doing what they were elected to do. As if it would make any difference. Previous shortfalls in tax collections have been made up from general revenues so we all pay one way or the other.

From the time of Abraham

The God of the Bible
has called for human sacrifices. To this day there are people calling themselves Christian who rather than suffering the children to come unto Jesus, inflict suffering and death upon their children because their god calls for it.
In 2008, Hana Williams was adopted from an orphanage in Ethiopia and brought to the United States where she died at the hands of her Bible-believing American parents. Their notion of Christian discipline required breaking her will, a remarkably common belief among conservative Evangelicals. To that end, they frequently beat her, shut her in a closet, and denied her meals. Ultimately, she was left outside where she died of hypothermia exacerbated by malnutrition. They were convicted of manslaughter this month.

In carrying out their obsession with child obedience, Hana’s adoptive parents drew tips from Tennessee preacher Michael Pearl, whose spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child book, To Train Up a Child, has been found now in three homes of Christian parents who killed their adopted children. The title comes from a stanza in the book of Proverbs: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it...

Mercifully, secular courts don’t agree that inflicting physical wounds is an acceptable part of parenting. Hana’s parents have been convicted for her death at their hands and will be sentenced in October. Their seven biological children and adopted son—they had also adopted a boy from Ethiopia ironically named Immanuel, meaning “God is with us”— are now safe from their abuse. It is noteworthy, though, that American children are being made safer by secular institutions, not adherence to ancient texts and traditions.

Child protections have become established in most countries, and conversations about child-friendly religion are gaining ground. Even so, many children are subject to patriarchal groups that take parenting priorities from the Iron Age. Evangelical Christians, fearing that their religion is losing ground, have ramped up recruiting activities targeting high school and college students but also young children. Their tool bag includes afternoon club programs and enticing camps. Some churches, like that of TV’s Duggar family, promote a high birth rate, adding young sheep to the fold the old fashioned way. Many churches encourage members—even those who already have numerous children—to adopt.
And Jesus remains invisible to these "righteous men".

Good Hair Perry is off and running for president

And as he has done in the past, he is using the public funds to finance his initial efforts.
Television and radio audiences in Maryland have been bombarded in the past couple of weeks with ads featuring Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) telling them how terrible their state is and encouraging them to relocate their businesses to his. But while his office boasts that “no state tax dollars” are going to the $500,000 ad buy and his associated travel to the Free State — and similar campaigns in other states with Democratic governors — Texas taxpayers are fronting much of the costs through their taxes.

Perry, who was an unsuccessful candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, announced in July that instead of seeking another term as governor, he will “pray, reflect and work to determine [his] own future path.” He has indicated that that path could include another campaign in 2016...

In each state, the “Texas: Wide Open For Business” ads are paid for by TexasOne, a public-private partnership that markets the state nationally and abroad. While TexasOne was launched by Perry in 2003, his spokeswoman told ThinkProgress that it receives no money from the state government. “The state does not pay for any of [the campaign's costs] – travel, ad buy, or the ad production,” she explained. The money for TexasOne and the ads come from a mixture of private funding and local governments.

A ThinkProgress review of the current members of TexasOne reveals annual funding of more than $465,000 from local governments and sales-tax-funded local economic development councils. These include direct payments from the Cities of Sugarland ($25,000), Cedar Park ($5,000) and Haslet ($5,000). They also include $50,000 from the Brownsville Economic Development Council and $25,000 contributions from the economic development councils for Allen, Amarillo, Greater Conroe, Greater San Marcos, DeSoto, Frisco, Lubbock, McKinney, Midland, Pflungerville, and Schertz — each of which is funded by a local sales tax or other public money.

The ads, which look and sound like campaign ads, allow him to highlight the state’s pro-corporate policies, while making no mention of the state’s high child poverty rate, high greenhouse gas emissions, and high percentage of residents without any health insurance.
Good Hair has done so well in Texas, it is not hard to see why he considers the state to be his piggy bank. Piggy however remains the operative word.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Just wanted to hear some Hammond tonight

And Barbara Dennerlein is just what the doctor ordered.

Once thought to be physically impossible

From the pen of Jim Morin

R.I.P. Luciano Vincenzoni

Thank you for giving us Blondie, Angel Eyes and Tuco.

The stuff of dreams

And who hasn't had a grand dream or two. And when you get a couple of hideously rich people to share a common dream, you get the funds to research its possibility.
The quest is for a new kind of nuclear reactor that would be fueled by today’s nuclear waste, supply all the electricity in the United States for the next 800 years and, possibly, cut the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation around the world.

The people developing the reactor work for a start-up, TerraPower, led by Mr. Gates and a fellow Microsoft billionaire, Nathan Myhrvold. So far, it has raised tens of millions of dollars for the project, but building a prototype reactor could cost $5 billion — a reason Mr. Gates is looking for a home for the demonstration plant in rich and energy-hungry China....

Perhaps one of the most intriguing arguments supporters make about Mr. Gates’s reactor is that it could eliminate several routes to weapons proliferation. Iran, for example, says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but it is enriching far more uranium than it needs for power generation. The United States has long said that Iran’s enrichment could lead to a nuclear bomb.

Today’s nuclear reactors run on concentrations of 3 to 5 percent uranium 235, an enriched fuel that leaves behind a pure, mostly natural waste, uranium 238. (A uranium bomb runs on more than 90 percent uranium 235.) In today’s reactors, some uranium 238 is converted to plutonium that is used as a small, supplemental fuel, but most of the plutonium is left behind as waste.

In contrast, the TerraPower reactor makes more plutonium from the uranium 238 for use as fuel, and so would run almost entirely on uranium 238. It would need only a small amount of uranium 235, which would function like lighter fluid getting a charcoal barbecue started.

The result, TerraPower’s supporters hope, is that countries would not need to enrich uranium in the quantities they do now, undercutting arguments that they have to have vast stores on hand for a civilian program. TerraPower’s concept would also blunt the logic behind a second route to a bomb: recovering plutonium from spent reactor fuel, which is how most nuclear weapons are built. Since so much uranium 238 is available, there would be no reason to use that plutonium, TerraPower says.
A very tempting idea.

The Cruz spoke and having spoken, moves on

The Raphael "Ted" Cruz Telethon To Raise Money for Clueless Canadians From Texas has ended after 21 hours and the Senate has moved on to a vote on the House approved Continuing Resolution.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s 21-hour, 19-minute verbal assault on President Obama’s signature health care law ended Wednesday when the Senate voted 100-0 to break off debate and move to consider House legislation that Democrats plan to use to keep the government open next week.

Mr. Cruz’s marathon session — which began Tuesday afternoon, went straight through the night and ended at a pre-determined noon deadline — did not win over senators from either party, and in fact Mr. Cruz even voted to open debate. After the vote, Senate Mike Lee, Republican of Utah and a Cruz ally, said the Texan never intended to oppose the motion to take up the bill, a position contradicted by his words and procedural motions for days before the tally.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, greeted the conclusion of Mr. Cruz’s performance by declaring it “a big waste of time.”

The vote ended debate and the Senate will formally take up a bill the House passed that keeps the government open through Dec. 15 and guts the president’s Affordable Care Act.
So the Senate's newest attention whore ended up voting to debate the CR that he had so earnestly spoken against just minutes before. And then he rushed off to speak to Party Leader Limbaugh.

On Oct 1 The government will shut down....sort of.

If a new budget or continuing resolution is not passed by Congress. Despite the term 'shutdown', many aspects of the government considered necessary for the safety and well being of the country will continue.
Agents would still patrol the nation’s borders. Prisoners would still be held in federal custody. Mail carriers would still deliver mail. And soldiers would still remain at their posts, though they might not get paid for their service right away.

In any government shutdown, the government does not stop functioning completely. But if Congress and the White House fail to agree on a deal to pay the nation’s bills after Monday, the government would partially shut down Tuesday.

What does that mean?

Social Security payments and passport and visa applications could be delayed. The National Institutes of Health could stop accepting patients for research. National parks, museums and monuments could close...

The Obama administration told federal agencies last week to begin planning for a partial shutdown. “Prudent management requires that agencies be prepared for the possibility of a lapse,” Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell wrote in a memo to agencies.

Managers are tasked with deciding which employees are essential and would be required to come to work and which are nonessential and would be sent home.

The president and his political appointees would still report to work. Lawmakers would do the same, but would decide who on their staffs was essential...

The law requires agencies to be staffed with unsalaried employees if they deal with national security, administer benefit payments or protect life and property, according to the OMB. And government operations not directly paid for by the Treasury would continue.

That means disaster aid to the Colorado flood victims would proceed but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would stop monitoring diseases. Mail delivery would continue but loan programs to small businesses, farmers and homeowners would cease. Inspectors would still regulate food and drugs but research programs would be halted. Taxes would be collected but judges would have to go home when the courts run out of funds.

Even the health care law that is the focus of the dispute between Republicans and Democrats would continue to be implemented because much of its funding comes from other sources, including new taxes and fees and cuts to other programs.
For most Americans there will be no immediate impact. The longer the situation continues however, more points of impact will creep into our lives. And the only cure is the elimination of all Teabaggers and their Republican running dogs.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Four sisters from a musical family

And somehow they all play and sing together as The Parkington Sisters.

I guess it is the first thing that comes to mind

Among the ruling elites.
When they try to do something good for the people for their own profit and the result is a riot, this seems to come naturally to mind.
A judge has suggested a novel use for one of the new stadiums that organizers of soccer’s World Cup in Brazil are most concerned about: as a prisoner processing center.

Judge Sabino Marques, in the city of Manaus, the capital of the Amazonas region, said the $275 million, 44,000-seat Amazonia Arena could be used to ease the burden on the overcrowded public jail. The stadium is one of 12 Brazil is building or refurbishing at a cost of at least 7 billion reais ($3.2 billion).

The future use of the Manaus stadium has come under scrutiny from politicians and the public. The city has no soccer team in Brazil’s first or second divisions, or a tradition for the sport. During June’s Confederations Cup, a test event for next year’s World Cup, Brazilians took to the streets in record numbers to protest against government spending, and specifically targeted the World Cup.

“I see no other better place, even temporarily, to receive detainees in Manaus,” Marques, president of the watchdog group tasked with monitoring the prison system in the Amazon region, told reporters. He also suggested prisoners be processed at a venue used to celebrate the annual carnival. “Until the state can solve the problem by building new prisons then these two empty spaces should be used,” he said, in remarks confirmed by court officials.
Maybe they should hire a private prison company, they seem to have no problem filling the cells.

But who's keeping score?

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Will the GOP screw federal workers again?

Well, they do look for every opportunity to screw every worker that they can. And it would be out of character to pass up a chance to screw more than 800,000 workers at one shot.
A government shutdown next week would jeopardize the paychecks of more than 800,000 federal workers who could be told to stay home. More than 2 million other employees who are deemed essential by the government — including the active military — would be entitled to their salaries but might not get paid on time.

While there is no law requiring that nonessential employees be compensated if they are ordered off the job, Congress has in the past voted to reimburse their losses once shutdowns ended.

But this go-round could be different. The bitterly divided Congress includes many lawmakers who are unsympathetic to the plight of federal workers and could be loath to help them recoup their money.

“It’s a very different time and a very different Congress,” said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 federal workers. “I’m concerned when employees who were here remember that last time employees were paid and think it will happen again, because it’s not a given at all.”

After the past two shutdowns in the 1990s — when federal workers were furloughed for five days in November 1995 and 21 days from December of that year into January — Congress passed a bill awarding them back pay.
It would definitely be a flawed judgement to call Members of Congress "essential workers" but it is hard to imagine any scenario where they would withhold their own meager pay.

Nobody does it better

Than private enterprise, if you listen to conservative "free market" types. And then when their failures come to light it becomes obvious that the above idea is utter codswallop.
Federal contractors who conducted a background check on Aaron Alexis when he enlisted in the military knew that he falsely reported that he had never been arrested or charged with any firearms offenses but he nevertheless was granted a security clearance, Navy officials disclosed Monday.

The contractors who conducted the check when Alexis applied to join the Navy in 2007 discovered that he had been arrested in Seattle three years earlier. But in a report to the Navy, the investigators minimized the incident and left out the most alarming allegation — that Alexis had been charged with shooting out someone’s car tires after an argument, according to documents released by the Navy.

The disclosure is further evidence of how Alexis’s violent and erratic behavior was overlooked or dismissed over several years, a period that culminated Sept. 16, when he erupted in a rampage at the Navy Yard, killing 12 people.

Alexis’s security clearance background check was performed by USIS, a Falls Church government contractor, on behalf of the federal Office of Personnel Management. Last week, OPM said in a statement that the check was performed properly, “in compliance with all investigative standards.”
Leave out the bad stuff and everything will look good, as long as nothing goes wrong.

When JPMo bought WaMu

Jaime Dimon thought he was getting a bargain for pennies on the dollar. And for some reason he thought he could escape the consequences of buying one of the largest producers of fraudulent mortgages in the country.
In the mortgage cases, though, the bank is continuing to fight. That decision stems in part from a belief at JPMorgan, the people close to the bank said, that the government is punishing it for practices that did not occur under its watch.

The bank, for example, faces investigations into the mortgage business it inherited from Washington Mutual, a troubled lender it purchased amid the crisis.

And Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, sued JPMorgan last October, accusing Bear Stearns and its lending unit, EMC Mortgage, of defrauding investors who purchased mortgage securities packaged by the companies from 2005 through 2007. JPMorgan, through a deal backstopped by the government, took over Bear Stearns in 2008.

Shortly after Mr. Schneiderman filed the lawsuit, Mr. Dimon called the action “unfair” during a talk at an event in Washington for the Council on Foreign Relations. JPMorgan, the bank chief said, was being penalized for purchasing Bear Stearns in 2008 as “a favor” to the Federal Reserve.

The $22 billion settlement pitched by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and summarily rejected by JPMorgan, would have settled both the Washington Mutual investigations and the New York case, the people briefed on the matter said. It is unclear whether it would have put to rest the mortgage investigation by prosecutors in California.
The actions may not have been on JPMo's watch, but they bought into the problem when they bought WaMu. Time for Dimon to shut up and pay up before some one finds out "he still beats his wife".

Why no one can have anything good anymore

Because when someone tries to improve things, some son of a bitch comes along and blows it up. From McClatchy:
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called off plans for unconditional peace talks with militant insurgents after a series of deadly terrorist attacks that culminated in Sunday’s suicide bombing of a church, which killed 83 people.

“We had proposed peace talks with the Taliban in good faith but . . . because of this attack, the government is unable to move forward with what it planned and envisaged,” a visibly upset Sharif said late Sunday on a flight to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

Peace talks with militants from Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the formal name for the Pakistani Taliban, were a key part of Sharif’s platform in the campaign ahead of May’s parliamentary elections, which his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party won. The Taliban seemed to favor his proposal, excluding from their pre-election terror campaign candidates from Sharif’s party and another party that had favored peace talks, the Movement for Justice Party.

But since Sharif won approval for the talks in September from leaders of the country’s political parties, the Taliban have stepped up attacks, apparently seeing the idea of talks as a sign of weakness within Sharif’s government and of division with Pakistan’s powerful military, which opposed negotiations from the beginning.
Some people just insist on My Way Or Death.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A jazz standard by a fine singer

Karrin Allyson does Bobby Timmon's classic "Moanin"

Well yeah, this makes sense

The ever intrepid and insightful Tom Tomorrow explains with a functioning brain how video games could be responsible for the Navy Yard Killings

Another arab who isn't is attacked by ignorant fuck-all asswpies.

Last week we had the disgusting spectacle of an American citizen of Indian heritage being attacked in social media as an Arab by a bunch of fuck-all ignorant asswipes. And now we have an incident of a Sikh professor, also from India, being physically attacked by a bunch of fuck-all ignorant asswipes who thought he was an Arab.
Prabhjot Singh, an assistant professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia who recently wrote about hate crimes in the New York Times, was attacked by a group of teens shouting anti-Muslim sentiments over the weekend. Singh — who is a Sikh, not a Muslim — told NBC 4 that “I heard ‘Get Osama’ and then ‘terrorists,’ and then the next thing I felt was someone moving past me, ripping at my beard and then hitting me in the chin.”

He tried to escape his attackers, but they surrounded him and forced him to the ground, where they continued to kick and punch him.

He was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital, where surgery was performed on his fractured jaw.

“There’s no doubt in my mind it was a bias-related event,” he told NBC 4.

Amardeep Singh, no relation, a professor of English at Lehigh University, talked to Raw Story about the precarious position of Sikhs in American culture. He also spoke about the problem with most reporting on stories like this one, which often implicitly take the position that the attack would have been justified had the target actually been Muslim.
God damn Republicans have ruined this country.

Of the Rich, By the Rich and For the Rich.

Not exactly the stirring words that Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, but a fair approximation of the oligarchy that the richers and their running dogs on the Supreme Court want to impose upon the United States.
In the first major case of its new term, the court could give those donors even more clout with lawmakers and their parties. The issue is whether federal limits, not on contributions to individual races but on how much a donor can give to all candidates for Congress or party committees in a particular election cycle, violate the right of free speech.

Three years ago, the current court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in the Citizens United case that "independent" spending on election races was protected free speech and struck down long-standing bans on such spending by corporations and unions.

But until now, the court's conservatives have not joined together to strike down the Watergate-era limits on how much donors can give directly to candidates or party committees.

That has left the law in an odd posture. Wealthy people who want to influence campaign races can give millions of dollars to "super PACs" and other groups that pay for "independent" election ads, but they are barred by law from giving more than $48,600 in total to all members of Congress or more than $74,600 to the various party committees.

That may be about to change. On Oct. 8, the Supreme Court will take up an appeal from the Republican National Committee, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon, who say contributions should be treated as "core political speech." If they win, a wealthy Republican or Democrat could give as much as $3.6 million in total by giving the maximum amount to all of its party committees and candidates. This money could be funneled by party leaders into a close race or races, tipping the balance of power in Congress.
It is quite appropriate that the old unindicted reprobate, Mitch The Chin McConnell would be pressing this suit. And it is unlikely that the Dread Chief Justice Roberts and His Scurvy Crew will put any limits on their beloved plutocracy.

And I was bummed, and you gave me a toke

For the states that have legalized marijuana use, the latest bugbear of the opposition is the children. How do we keep the young'uns from copping a joint from mom & dad's stash?
With polls showing support for legalizing marijuana on the rise, questions about how it would affect children remain.

The debate has intensified as momentum for legalization builds and as research shows increased marijuana use among youngsters. More teens are now smoking pot than tobacco, believing that it is safer.

Legalization backers say they’re just as eager to protect kids as opponents. And they say the public has no reason to worry if the drug is sold openly in stores instead of on the streets.

“Forcing marijuana sales into the underground market is the worst possible policy when it comes to protecting our young people,” said Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group. “It is odd that those who wish to keep marijuana out of the hands of kids are fighting to keep it as uncontrolled as possible.”...

In 2012, 23 percent of high school seniors reported using marijuana in the past month, while 17 percent of the seniors said they had smoked tobacco. As recently as 2008, high school seniors were more likely to smoke cigarettes than marijuana.

The study reported similar findings in past-month use for students in younger grades. Seventeen percent of the 10th-graders had used marijuana, compared with 11 percent who had smoked cigarettes. Among eighth-graders, 6.5 percent had smoked pot, compared with 5 percent who had smoked tobacco.

“We are increasingly concerned that regular or daily use of marijuana is robbing many young people of their potential to achieve and excel in school or other aspects of life,” Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute For Drug Abuse, said when the study was released.
With the Teabaggers and Kochheads working hard to destroy the public education system, one has to wonder why they aren't promoting recreational use everywhere without age limit.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

It's sort of a family band

Behind alt-country singer Lydia Loveless. She's married to the bass player and her father plays drums.

New ideas to distract the NRA with

From the pen of Brian McFadden

GOP prepares huge campaign of lies

Not, as usual, to elect one of their wingnut whackdoodles, but to prevent Americans from taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act to get health insurance coverage.
Starting this week, the White House will kick off a six-month campaign to persuade millions of uninsured Americans to sign up for health coverage as part of insurance marketplaces that open for business on Oct. 1. If too few people enroll, the centerpiece of the president’s Affordable Care Act could collapse.

But instead of offering the kind of grudging cooperation that normally follows even the most bitter of legislative battles, Mr. Obama’s foes have intensified their opposition, trying to deepen the nation’s anger about the health insurance program, which both sides often call Obamacare.

Across the country, Republicans are eager to prevent people from enrolling, fearing that once people begin receiving the benefit they will be loath to give it up. And in Washington, lawmakers have cast the law as the evil villain in a legislative melodrama about the budget that is barreling toward another government shutdown.

One group called Generation Opportunity distributed a Web video last week showing a creepy-looking Uncle Sam peering between a woman’s legs at a gynecologist’s office.

“Don’t let government play doctor,” the video says at the end. “Opt out of Obamacare.”

In the face of the intense opposition, the White House is pushing ahead with a vigorous public relations effort that will begin accelerating Monday, according to top White House aides in charge of the program.

Officials said the rollout would include a presidential event this week in New York with former President Bill Clinton and a health care speech by Mr. Obama on Thursday in Maryland. Michelle Obama will urge mothers and veterans to enroll their families. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will host a nationwide conference call with nurses to enlist them in the effort to spread the word. Members of the president’s cabinet will fan out across the country, lobbying constituent groups to prod their members into action.
The Republican/Teabaggers are scared shitless by the Affordable Care Act. It will succeed in making them look like a bunch of vile inhuman shits to all but the most dedicated John Birchers and Teabaggers. And that will lose them a lot of elections.

Sounds like the Missile Gap of the '60s

For all the money being thrown at the military, it seems there is one area where they are crucially behind in expensive technology, robotic ground vehicles, soon to be known as RGVs.
The armed forces have lagged on deploying their own versions of unmanned road vehicles, despite goals to create new machines that could be used in place of “boots on the ground” in conflicts. Restrictions on government spending and technological challenges have left the military with virtually no chance of meeting the goal set by Congress to have a third of the military’s combat fleet consist of unmanned vehicles by 2015, military experts said.

The military’s failure to lead the way in self-driving ground vehicles is ironic, given that today’s commercial advances have their roots in research originally sponsored by Darpa, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s advanced technology organization. A decade ago, Darpa offered a series of “grand challenges” to private researchers, which helped push the technology forward.

Now General Motors and Nissan said last month they would offer self-driving cars to customers before the end of the decade. Early next year BMW and several other carmakers plan to offer more limited systems that will drive automatically in freeway traffic at low speeds. And Google already has a small fleet of vehicles with more than a half-million miles of automatic driving on California’s freeways.

“Now the automation of vehicles is taking off on the civilian side,” said Peter W. Singer, a Brookings Institution researcher and author of “Wired for War,” about the development of robot weapons. Mr. Singer predicts that civilian advances will ultimately trickle down to the military, a radical turnaround.
Anyone around in the sixties will remember that the missile gap was a fake used to justify the purchase of lots of new missiles and their delivery systems, like submarines. Reading the rest of the article exposes all the cool toys they want funded.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

It was her 1st Top 10 hit

And one of her most recognizable tunes. A dynamic singer capable of many styles, she died far too young of a drug overdose at the age of 39.

Dinah Washington quote: "I'm a Democrat plain and simple, always have been. I'd never vote for a Republican because in my opinion they don't have what it takes to run any kind of private or public office. That's all."

How crazy will the next Rep. be?

That is a question the people, voters and lunatics of the Alabama First Congressional District will get to answer in their primary election on Tuesday.
How does one get rid of Obamacare? How badly does a broken immigration policy hurt the district? What is the best way to roll back federal spending and intrusion into state issues? As for President Obama, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria received more kind words.

But while the Republicans running to represent Alabama’s First Congressional District are in agreement on the core message, their styles vary, in some ways jarringly. And the outcome of Tuesday’s primary, though likely to be a function of turnout here, may provide some hints on how much further the Republican shift to the right might go.

There was a time when this primary would be automatic. The district, which surrounds Mobile Bay, was one of several in Alabama to vote Republican in 1964 when Barry Goldwater ran for president and Alabama was still a solidly Democratic state. For the nearly five decades since, it was represented by just three Republican congressmen, the first two publicly designating their successors and all three inclined to effective deal-making rather than fiery rhetoric.

“The thing that makes a congressman effective in the South is constituent services,” said Sonny Callahan, who represented the district in Congress from 1985 to 2003.

Such a candidate in the past may have been Bradley Byrne, 58, a former state senator and the current front-runner, or perhaps Chad A. Fincher, 39, a two-term state legislator from Mobile’s conservative western suburbs. But with no heir apparent for the first time in 50 years, the full spectrum of conservatism is on display: from Mr. Byrne, who speaks sunnily of the country’s ability to overcome any of its current challenges, to Dean Young, a real estate developer and Tea Party favorite who describes the stakes of the election in far less optimistic terms.

“We are witnessing the end of a Western Christian empire,” Mr. Young, 49, said at the forum.
So it's "the end of a Western Christian empire", is it? Perhaps if Mr. Young gets elected and is allowed to eat away at the foundations of civilization in this country.

Some people forget their manners

And it takes a dog to teach them.

God is dead

If this guy is one of his representatives on Earth and in any way speaks for Him.
Christian pastor and radio host Kevin Swanson this week pointed to abortion, marijuana legalization and “decadent homosexual activity” as the possible cause of recent historic flooding in Colorado.

On his Generations With Vision radio show, Swanson reminded listeners that state House Speaker Mark Ferrandino had been photographed by the Denver Post kissing his gay partner.

“Is it a coincidence that this was the worst year politically in the history of Colorado, at least if you use God’s law as a means of determining human ethics?” he asked. “Our legislators committed homosexual acts on the front page of the Denver Post, do you remember that?”

He continued: “So here we have the very worst year in Colorado’s year in terms of let’s kill as many babies as possible, let’s make sure we encourage as much decadent homosexual activity as possible, let’s break God’s law with impudence at every single level, at every single level let’s make sure that we offend whoever wrote the Bible, so we have the worst year possible politically in the state of Colorado and it happens to be the worst year ever in terms of flood and fire damage in Colorado’s history.”

Co-host Dave Buehner paraphrased a Bible verse, saying that “this last year we walked in lewdness, lust, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties.”

“Marijuana,” Swanson added.
So that old asshat from the Old Testament rises up again and smites vast swaths of countryside, saint and sinner alike. Great Goodly-Moodlies, where is the nearest church I sure do want to worship a God like that.

Bill Maher faces up the Twitter trolls

GOPBaggers trying to quietly let Immigration Reform die

And the latest slide step is the exiting of two Texas Teabaggers from the "Gang of Eight" that was working on the House proposal.
The bipartisan group in the House of Representatives that’s working on comprehensive immigration restructuring is on the verge of collapse after two more Republican members left the so-called Gang of Eight. Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is now the group’s sole Republican.

Texas Reps. John Carter and Sam Johnson announced that they were leaving because they don’t trust President Barack Obama to enforce any legislation they produce. Republican Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho left in June over concerns about how health care benefits would be paid.

Carter and Johnson cited Obama’s handling of his health care law, accusing the president of changing provisions “with the stroke of a pen.” They also said he was cherry-picking parts of current immigration law to enforce. The practice, they said, has “irrevocably damaged our efforts of fixing our broken immigration system.”

“We want to be clear,” they said in a joint statement. “The problem is politics.”
Yes the problem is politics. But for these two douchebags who are party to a Bolshevik like extortion in support of an extreme minority position to say they don't trust President Obama is ludicrous. They have yet to show one instance where a Teabagger can be trusted, even with the money for the pizza run.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff began singing in 1939

With the Les Brown Band under the name Doris Day. Together they had one of the best remembered hits of WW II.

Quote of the Day

Wherein Wonkette succintly explains what Raphael "Ted" Cruz is doing.
A Canadian ass-monkey riling up the tin-foil-hat wing of the Republican Party about defunding [The Affordable Care Act] and trying to get the House GOP to do the heavy lifting is NOT abuse.

Will Obama act rationally with Iran

In anticipation of the visit next week by Iranian President Rouhani, the Iranians have been vigorously pressing a conciliatory line regarding the stupid disagreements between the US and Iran.
The Iranian leadership was encouraged by what was described as Mr. Obama’s offer to conduct face-to-face talks, which they prefer to the more bureaucratic and lengthy negotiating process with a group of five major world powers, Mr. Mohebbian said.

The one-and-a-half-page letter, which the Iranian president answered with a letter of similar length, has kindled hopes that the international charm offensive Iran began after Mr. Rouhani’s election in June may produce a genuine diplomatic breakthrough. But the differing interpretations of Mr. Obama’s letter in Tehran and Washington are a reminder of the political hurdles and the legacy of mistrust that both sides will have to overcome in negotiating a deal.

The American official said Mr. Obama had congratulated Mr. Rouhani on his election, and characterized the vote as an opportunity for change. But on sanctions, the official said, the Iranians were inferring relief from the president’s more general pledge to resolve issues and move forward. And while Mr. Obama is open to direct talks, the official said, they will not necessarily be leader to leader.

The Iranian reaction to the letter provides critical insight into a decisive and unexpected shift in strategy by the moderate new president as Iran struggles to restore vitality to its economy and undo years of hostile relations with most of the world under the former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The overtures to the United States are part of a flurry of steps altering the trajectory of the Iranian state, including domestic liberalizations and returning the politically powerful military to the barracks — for now. Those actions, along with the changed diplomatic tone, have convinced some experts that the changes are more than cosmetic.

Mr. Rouhani will present Iran’s new face to world next week with an address to the United Nations General Assembly, an evening speech to the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society, and a television interviews with Charlie Rose and CNN.
The Iranians are not stupid. If they can begin something here they will have achieved a diplomatic triumph. On the other hand, if the US clings to the position dictated by Benny "Bugsy" Netanyahu, then another precious opportunity will slip away.

With friends like these

As this McClatchy report shows, the civil war in Syria has become a three way fight between the Alawites & Shia, normal Sunnis and the Takfiri. With many if not most of the Takfiri composed of veteran foreign fighters from other countries, the normal Sunnis seem to have their nuts in a salad shooter.
What happened in Raqqa, the first provincial capital to be taken over by the rebels, is now being played out across northern and eastern Syria after an al Qaida affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (Sham is the general area that includes Syria), declared war on the Free Syrian Army.

On Wednesday, extremists captured the north Syrian town of Azaz, killing eight Free Syrian Army troops and support personnel and effectively blocking a primary supply route from the nearby Turkish border to Free Syrian Army forces in Aleppo. Turkey closed the border crossing Thursday, while Free Syrian Army forces battled to regain control.

Fierce fighting also was reported in Deir el Zour, close to the Iraqi border, where extremists reportedly captured a number of Free Syrian Army fighters.

The confrontation had been growing all summer between the Islamists, who took control of large parts of eastern Syria early this year, and the Free Syrian Army, which has been begging the U.S. for arms so it can seize territory from the Assad regime and displace the radicals.

The three Islamist groups that run Raqqa – Ahrar al Sham, Jabhat al Nusra, which is also known as the Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham – claim that the Free Syrian Army leadership here received funds from France to fight the militants. Free Syrian Army supporters say that what really happened is that Abu Tayf and his colleagues persuaded the “prince” in charge of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, which has many foreign volunteers, to join the Nusra Front, a group that Syrians claim, despite its al Qaida loyalties, has less foreign influence. That angered Islamic State leaders, who then kidnapped Abu Tayf, they theorize.

The distrust runs both ways. Two Free Syrian Army commanders insisted to McClatchy that the Islamists aren’t fighting the Syrian regime but working with it, a charge that sounds somewhat implausible but for which they offer circumstantial evidence. Why else, they say, would Raqqa, which once had a population of 220,000, have fallen to jihadists without much of a fight? And why haven’t the jihadis attacked a Syrian army base that’s just outside the city?
Looks like a free for all cage fight and a good thing to steer very clear of.

Al least they were consistent.

From McClatchy:
The government contractor that screened Edward Snowden also was responsible for a background check that granted "secret" security clearance to Aaron Alexis, the alleged Navy Yard shooter.

USIS, a private company based in Falls Church, Va., said on Thursday that it had vetted Alexis in 2007.The security clearance he subsequently received in 2008 was good for ten years, until 2018.

A USIS spokesman declined to say what Alexis' background check revealed, although government officials have said it turned up a 2004 arrest in Seattle for malicious mischief.

"We are contractually prohibited from retaining case information gathered as part of the background checks we conduct for (the federal Office of Personnel Management) and therefore are unable to comment further on the nature or scope of this or any other background check," USIS spokesman Ray Howell said in a statement.

USIS recently came under scrutiny for performing a five-year “periodic reinvestigation” for Snowden’s security clearance in February 2011. The 30-year-old systems administrator for Booz Allen Hamilton later leaked documents to the media, revealing massive secret surveillance by the National Security Administration.
No doubt about it, privatizing government functions shows off the advantages of private enterprise.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The English are still wuthering their heights

If this video from Laura Marlings latest album is any evidence. "Devil's Resting Place"

A timely response

From the pen of Jim Morin

Toxic Tommy DeLay conviction overturned

With a little help from his friends the Texas 3rd Appeals Court.
A Texas appeals court tossed the criminal conviction of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Thursday, saying there was insufficient evidence for a jury in 2010 to have found him guilty of illegally funneling money to Republican candidates.

DeLay was found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering for helping illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but his sentence was on hold while his case made its way through the appellate process.

The Texas 3rd Court of Appeals said the evidence was "legally insufficient," and in a 2-1 ruling decided to "reverse the judgments of the trial court and render judgments of acquittal."

DeLay's attorney, Brian Wice, told The Associated Press that DeLay felt validated by Thursday's ruling.

"He's ecstatic. He's gratified. He's just a little bit numb," Wice said. "I'm hoping with today's victory, he will be able to resume his life as he once knew it."

Wice said the state could appeal to the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals, the state's highest criminal court. Wice said he was confident DeLay would win again if necessary.

A jury in Austin had determined that DeLay conspired with two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to use his Texas-based political action committee to send a check for $190,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee. The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates. Under state law, corporate money cannot be given directly to political campaigns.

Prosecutors said the money helped the GOP take control of the Texas House, enabling them to push through a DeLay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Republicans to Congress in 2004, strengthening his political power.
The dirty little Bug Man is guilty, but will the prosecutors appeal?

Is America crazy?

Is the question Leonard Pitts asks in his latest column about the latest gun massacre.
Indeed, for all our historical courage, we are in many ways a terrified people. Scared of the face at the window, the rattle at the door, the Other who wants to take our stuff. Scared of the overthrow of one of the most stable governments on Earth.

So we arm ourselves to the tune of a reported 300 million guns in a nation of 316 million souls — no other country has more guns per capita. Americans, you see, don’t just like and use guns. We worship guns, mythologize guns, fetishize guns, cannot conceive of ourselves without guns.

Thus, the idea of restricting access to them threatens something fundamental. Apparently, we’d rather endure these tragedies that repeat themselves that repeat themselves that repeat themselves as if on some diabolical loop, than explore reasonable solutions.

Is that a quantifiable malady, a treatable disorder?

Is America crazy?

Last week, the Des Moines Register reported that the state of Iowa issues gun carry permits to blind people. And people began debating this on grounds of constitutionality and equal access as if the very idea were not absurd on its face.

Is America crazy?

Look at those people fleeing the Navy Yard, look at the Senate on lockdown, look at the blind man packing. Ask yourself:

Does that look like sanity to you?
I'm thinking no. And the answer to his first question is yes.

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