Thursday, October 31, 2013

I always had a sneaking suspicion

That this song by Suzy Bogguss was about a guy who was telling her it was raining.

Bringing you the joys of Halloween

Crumpkin's Pumpkins

It's a cultural thing

From the pen of Jack Ohman

Shutdown is bringing Dems out of the woodwork

And by next November we should find out if the change in political winds was long term shift or just an errant breeze. Until then we will see Democrats stepping up to challenge Republicans in districts that were quietly safe before the shutdown.
Here and nationally, the Democratic Party is enjoying something of a boomlet in newly declared candidacies for the House. Since Oct. 1, five candidates have lined up to contest Republican-held seats, with at least four more in the wings, Democratic officials say. Almost all say they are driven to run — ostensibly, at least — by disgust over the shutdown, first espoused by Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, and embraced by Tea Party Republicans in the House and, eventually, most others as well.

Nonetheless, most of the Republicans viewed as most vulnerable are moderates, not those who pushed for the shutdown.

Mr. Festersen, 42, a business consultant, said he was driven to run by “the dysfunction, the widespread dissatisfaction with Congress’s inability to get anything done.”

In Arkansas, former Mayor Patrick Henry Hays of Little Rock announced his candidacy for the seat of Representative Tim Griffin, a Republican who is retiring, by denouncing the shutdown as a travesty. Last Thursday, Bill Hughes Jr., a former federal prosecutor, opened his challenge to a New Jersey incumbent, Representative Frank A. LoBiondo, by railing against what he called the Republicans’ “irresponsible brinksmanship” in closing down the government.

And on Wednesday, Alex Sink, Florida’s chief financial officer who narrowly lost a 2010 bid for governor, entered a special election race to fill the House seat of Representative C. W. Bill Young, a Republican who died at 82 on Oct. 18. He had announced his retirement the week before.

“I, like everybody else I know, is angry and mad about the logjam, about shutting down the government, about not understanding the impact it was going to have on small businesses and people,” she said in an interview with The Tampa Bay Times announcing her decision.

All but Mr. Crawford, of Lincoln, are viewed as credible contenders in next November’s election, said David Wasserman, a top analyst of House races for The Cook Political Report in Washington.

“The climate for candidates to jump into races has improved significantly,” he said in an interview. “Who knows whether they would have run had the shutdown not occurred? But the fact is, they’re running.”
All it took was a mere government shutdown and near destruction of the country's credit to get them moving. I hope there are more to come. There should be no such thing as a safe seat.

One of the state's rights is privacy

At least some of the states are trying to assert that in new legislation that is being passed in states as different as Oklahoma and California.
Over two dozen privacy laws have passed this year in more than 10 states, in places as different as Oklahoma and California. Many lawmakers say that news reports of widespread surveillance by the National Security Agency have led to more support for the bills among constituents. And in some cases, the state lawmakers say, they have felt compelled to act because of the stalemate in Washington on legislation to strengthen privacy laws.

“Congress is obviously not interested in updating those things or protecting privacy,” said Jonathan Stickland, a Republican state representative in Texas. “If they’re not going to do it, states have to do it.”

For Internet companies, the patchwork of rules across the country means keeping a close eye on evolving laws to avoid overstepping. Many companies have an internal team to deal with state legislation. And the flurry of legislation has led some companies, particularly technology companies, to exert their lobbying muscles — with some success — when proposed measures stand to harm their bottom lines.

“It can be counterproductive to have multiple states addressing the same issue, especially with online privacy, which can be national or an international issue,” said Michael D. Hintze, chief privacy counsel at Microsoft, who added that at times it can create “burdensome compliance.” For companies, it helps that state measures are limited in their scope by a federal law that prevents states from interfering with interstate commerce.

This year, Texas passed a bill introduced by Mr. Stickland that requires warrants for email searches, while Oklahoma enacted a law meant to protect the privacy of student data. At least three states proposed measures to regulate who inherits digital data, including Facebook passwords, when a user dies.
This can create some problems in cross border traffic but that might just stimulate a national policy.

Now that the horses have left the barn

The federal government is joining in with an ex-employee of one of the vetting contractors in suing the company for fraudulent services.
The Justice Department said on Wednesday that it has joined an ex-employee’s fraud suit against the same contractor that performed background checks on NSA leaker Edward Snowden and on Aaron Alexis, the gunman who killed 12 people at Washington’s Navy Yard on Sept. 16th.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Alabama by a former employee, alleges that the United States Investigations Service, LLC failed to perform quality control reviews in determining whether information gathering on the backgrounds of other applicants – not Snowden or Alexis -- was sufficiently thorough.

In numerous instances beginning in 2008, it alleges, the company sought to maximize profits by engaging in a practice called “dumping,” in which incomplete reviews were forwarded to the Office of Personnel Management for decisions on clearances.

USIS, based in Falls Church, Va., easily leads the industry, saying that its 6,500 employees conducted 700,000investigations for federal agencies in 2012, most of them presumably into the backgrounds of applicants for sensitive federal jobs.

OPM hasn’t pointed to any deficiencies in the files that the company submitted after separately examining Snowden’s and Alexis’ pasts, and stated that Alexis’ 2007 review was “complete and in compliance with all investigative standards.” But the fact that both men got clearances has set off multiple investigations and calls for an overhaul of the process.

“We will not tolerate shortcuts taken by companies that we have entrusted with vetting individuals to be given access to our country’s sensitive and secret information,” said Stuart Delery, chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, who signed off on the suit.
The feds may not know just where the defendant went wrong but having been burned twice by the same company, the are gonna get medieval on their asses. But there is no evidence, as yet, that they have cancelled the contract.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

You never doubt what her feelings are

When Lucinda Williams sings a song.

A good "Christian" attitude to some

From the pen of Nick Anderson

As the GOP continues to put the brakes on the economy

The Fed is still trying with its only remaining tool to stimulate the economy.
The Federal Reserve, still uncertain that the American economy can grow unaided, announced on Wednesday it would press ahead with its stimulus campaign of asset purchases and low interest rates.

The statement contained no surprises, and the stock market edged slightly lower. The Fed was widely expected to continue adding $85 billion a month to its portfolio of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities, particularly after the disruptive partial shutdown of the federal government in the first half of October.

The Fed maintained a relatively optimistic economic outlook in the statement, released after a scheduled two-day meeting of its policy-making committee. It said the economy continued to expand “at a moderate pace” and that the availability of jobs continued to improve.

But the Fed reiterated its blunt assessment that “fiscal policy is restraining economic growth,” referring to enacted cuts in federal spending and the unresolved, episodic standoff over the federal budget.
And as long as the Republican/Teabaggers persist with their anti-growth policies, the result of the Feds efforts will only pour more of the national treasure into the hands of the 1%. Is that a great incentive for the Republican/Teabaggers or what?

Free as in speech

A wonderful thing is happening in Portland, Maine. Portland has a ballot question to legalize use of marijuana and lots of advertisements supporting the use of marijuana because of it.
When televangelist Pat Robertson announced his support for legalizing marijuana last year, pot backers wasted no time in putting his picture on an electronic billboard in Colorado.

Marijuana billboards have popped up along busy freeways from Seattle to Florida. In September, one greeted fans going to Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver for the first NFL game of the season. In July, pot supporters tried to get a video ad on a jumbo screen outside a NASCAR event in Indianapolis, but objections forced them to pull it in the last minute.

In the latest twist, pro-pot billboards are emblazoned on city buses in Portland, Maine, aimed at winning votes for a Nov. 5 ballot measure that would make the city the first on the East Coast to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Critics fear that the increased advertising is a sign of things to come as support for legalization continues to grow, reflected by a Gallup poll released last week that found backing from a record high 58 percent of Americans. They see the stepped-up promotion as a dangerous trend that will lead to more drug abuse among children.

While the Greater Portland Transit District has banned tobacco ads, it accepted $2,500 to display the marijuana billboards on the exterior of four of its 32 city buses and in two bus shelters. The ads, which debuted early this month, are set to run until Election Day.

In one ad, a bespectacled woman says: “I prefer marijuana over alcohol because it’s less toxic, so there’s no hangover.” Another features a smiling young man who says he prefers pot over booze “because it doesn’t make me rowdy or reckless.”

Transit officials say the ads are constitutionally protected political speech since they also encourage a “yes” vote on a city ballot initiative.
Regardless of the outcome, you have to admit this does make the bus look a lot better.

A message from the Last Christian President

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

They met at a Catholic high school

And formed a friendship that grew into the musical duo Dala. If you don't love these two, you gotta be a Republican.

Not much happens by accident in DC

From the pen of Tom Toles

Our faithful allies

It seems that our staunch ally Karzai of the Afghans was seeking some new friends the other day, among the Pakistani Taliban.
A bungled attempt by the Afghan government to cultivate a shadowy alliance with Islamist militants escalated into the latest flash point in the troubled relationship between Afghanistan and the United States, according to new accounts by officials from both countries.

The disrupted plan involved Afghan intelligence trying to work with the Pakistan Taliban, allies of Al Qaeda, in order to find a trump card in a baroque regional power game that is likely to intensify after the American withdrawal next year, the officials said. And what started the hard feelings was that the Americans caught them red-handed.

Tipped off to the plan, United States Special Forces raided an Afghan convoy that was ushering a senior Pakistan Taliban militant, Latif Mehsud, to Kabul for secret talks last month, and now have Mr. Mehsud in custody.

Publicly, the Afghan government has described Mr. Mehsud as an insurgent peace emissary. But according to Afghan officials, the ultimate plan was to take revenge on the Pakistani military.
It is bad enough that we have paid out stonking big amounts of money to support these shits, but it boggles the mind to think we still want to stay there. I would ask what were we thinking, if there was any indication of thought to begin with.

Iowa gets a third Senator

Because there is no way that Sen. Ted Carnival Cruz will spend anywhere near as much time in Texas as he will in Iowa for the next two years. And that time will be spent giving Iowa voters more attention than he ever gave to the sheeple in Texas.
Though in office only since January, he visited Iowa last week for the third time to speak at one of the state party’s showcase dinners. Then he went pheasant hunting with local Republicans. Those are surefire ways to let the political world know you’re thinking of running for president, since the state’s caucus has in recent times been the nation’s first nominating test.

Cruz, 42, accomplished what he wanted here: He piqued interest among the Republicans who commit money and time to the party cause. Party Chairman A.J. Spiker put Cruz in the top tier of potential 2016 Republican hopefuls, grouping him with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Ted gives us a preview of what we can expect from him. Just drop your drawers and bend over.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A pick-me-up for Monday

With a little high energy grass, bluegrass that is.

Afghanistan by the numbers

Juan Cole has a list of the terrible, wasteful statistics of our 12 year sojourn in Afghanistan.
Number of US military personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001: 2,150

Number of US service members wounded in Afghanistan badly enough to go to hospital since 2001: 19,415

Current annual cost of keeping a US soldier in Afghanistan: $2.1 million

Number of US troops now in Afghanistan: roughly 51,000

Annual average unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans 2002-2012; 10% (average annual unemployment rate for vets of previous wars: 6.3%)

Afghan civilians killed in political violence or war 2006-2012: 14,728

Amount of money US has spent to rebuild Afghanistan: $100 billion

Proportion of the $100 billion wasted or misspent or stolen or given to militants or not received by intended recipient: 85%
There are more. And it makes you wonder what kind of an idiot wants to stay there.

Sex is spoiling Halloween

And that intrepid chronicler of American life, Tom Tomorrow, show us some of the ways it is sneaking into the day.

Faithful companion

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

We couldn't do it after 12 years

So somehow the idea that NATO will be able to oversee the proper distribution and use of $4Billion in aid money after most of the troops leave is almost beyond ridicule.
The shrinking ambitions for the postwar mission reflect fears that the United States Congress and European parliaments might cancel their financial commitments — amounting to more than $4 billion a year, the largest single military assistance program in the world — unless American and NATO troops are positioned at Afghan military and police headquarters to oversee how the money is spent in a country known for rampant corruption.

The reduced scope is also a result of conflicting interests among military and political leaders that have been on display throughout the 12-year war. Military commanders have advocated a postwar mission focused on training and advising Afghans, with a larger number of troops spread across the battlefield. Political leaders in Washington and other NATO capitals have opted for smaller numbers and assignments only at large Afghan headquarters.

Any enduring NATO military presence in Afghanistan “is tied directly to the $4.1 billion and our ability to oversee it and account for it,” a senior NATO diplomat said. “You need enough troops to responsibly administer, oversee and account for $4 billion a year of security assistance.”

The senior diplomat — who, like other military officials, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the alliance’s deliberations — described continued financing of Afghan security forces as vital to avoid political chaos and factional bloodshed after NATO’s combat role ends in December 2014. “It’s not just the shiny object, the number of troops,” he said. “Perhaps much more meaningful is, does the funding flow?”

NATO has endorsed an enduring presence of 8,000 to 12,000 troops, with two-thirds expected to be American. That is well below earlier recommendations by commanders, but senior alliance officials say larger numbers are unnecessary given the more limited goals now being set by political leaders.

The postwar plan depends on a security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan concerning the number, role and legal protection of American troops. But one lesson of the war in Iraq is that domestic politics in the war zone and in Washington can scuttle a security deal, resulting in zero American troops remaining. Afghanistan’s desire to assure the continued flow of billions of dollars in assistance is one reason American and NATO officials are expressing guarded optimism that an agreement will be reached.
So the only way we can continue to keep 6 to 9K Imperial US targets troops in Shitholeistan is to keep bribing Karzai of the Afghans and his family & friends. Yeah, that idea should have them on the roof of the embassy in a couple of years, no problem. And the Karzai clan will be long gone for the Emirates.

Why Obamacare is complex

As with most questions about problems with government it all comes back to the Republicans being a bunch of dicks. As Paul Krugman points out, the influence of Big Insurance protecting their obscene profits is clearly part of it. That influence was focused by the ideology of the current John Birch Society Republican Party.
And Republicans still dream of dismantling Medicare as we know it, instead giving seniors vouchers to buy private insurance. In effect, although they never say this, they want to convert Medicare into Obamacare.

Why would we want to do any of these things? You might say, to reduce the burden on taxpayers — but Medicare is cheaper than private insurance, so anything taxpayers might gain by hacking away at the program would be more than lost in higher premiums. And it’s not even clear that government spending would fall: the Congressional Budget Office recently concluded that raising the Medicare age would produce almost no federal savings.

No, the assault on Medicare is really about an ideology that is fundamentally hostile to the notion of the government helping people, and tries to make whatever help is given as limited and indirect as possible, restricting its scope and running it through private corporations. And this ideology, at a fundamental level — more fundamental, even, than vested interests — is why Obamacare ended up being a big kludge.
And so we once again see the Republican Party doing it's damnedest to keep Americans from having anything good. Or in their case, from sharing the toys.

Why Won't Republicans subsidize Amtrak like they subsidize Big Oil

You could say they are just a bunch of greedy dicks who won't help anyone who won't kick back big contributions. But that barely scratches the surface of the problem.
To critics, Amtrak’s long-distance trains don’t reflect the way Americans travel today. They carry the fewest passengers and lose the most money, funds that could be spent elsewhere, such as Amtrak’s heavily traveled Northeast Corridor.

In a May hearing, Rep. Jeff Denham, a California Republican and chairman of the railroads subcommittee in the House of Representatives, noted that Amtrak’s long-distance routes lost a combined $600 million in 2012.

“We simply cannot afford to continue these levels of subsidized losses year after year,” Denham said.

To supporters, the trains provide a lifeline to rural communities far from major airports and interstate highways. They help travelers bypass airport security and traffic jams. They’re more accessible to the elderly and disabled.

“People appreciate the range of travel alternatives an integrated national system can offer,” Amtrak president and CEO Joseph Boardman said in testimony at the May hearing.

One of those trains is the Southwest Chief, which clicks off 2,265 miles between Chicago and Los Angeles. With the exception of Kansas City, Mo., Topeka, Kan., and Albuquerque, N.M., the backdrop is mostly prairie, mountains and desert. But the train also serves dozens of small towns, including several in western Kansas.

“If you look at these small communities,” Boardman said in an October conference call with reporters, “they depend on Amtrak being accessible.”

The Southwest Chief calls in Hutchinson in the middle of the night, and the station ranks pretty far down the list in annual boardings. The city has highways and an airport. Still, Deardoff, the city manager, said, it’s a valued link.
Amtrak is a great way to travel in comfort without having worry about TSA fuckups or flying into a building. Why do Republicans hate it?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Leaving the weekend with Linda

What a way to go.

R.I.P. Lou Reed

Dead at 71

Not For Profit but ripe for embezzlement & other chicanery.

The WaPo has done some digging into not-for-profits and found out that the innocuous notation of a diversion “in excess of $250,000" on their disclosure forms can add up to some real big money.
A Washington Post analysis of filings from 2008 to 2012 found that Legacy is one of more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations that checked the box indicating that they had discovered a “significant diversion” of assets, disclosing losses attributed to theft, investment fraud, embezzlement and other unauthorized uses of funds.

The diversions drained hundreds of millions of dollars from institutions that are underwritten by public donations and government funds. Just 10 of the largest disclosures identified by The Post cited combined losses to nonprofit groups and their affiliates that potentially totaled more than a half-billion dollars.

While some of the diversions have come to public attention, many others — such as the one at the American Legacy Foundation — have not been reported in the news media. And The Post found that nonprofits routinely omitted important details from their public filings, leaving the public to guess what had happened — even though federal disclosure instructions direct nonprofit groups to explain the circumstances. About half the organizations did not disclose the total amount lost.

The findings are striking because organizations are required to report only diversions of more than $250,000 or those identified as having exceeded 5 percent of an organization’s annual gross receipts or total assets. Of those, filing instructions direct nonprofits to disclose “any unauthorized conversion or use of the organization’s assets other than for the organization’s authorized purposes, including but not limited to embezzlement or theft.”
Curious that the Not For Profit world has developed a Not Very Secure business model as well. Being in the business of giving away money does not mean you have to give up due diligence.

Someone's plan for success

It just doesn't sound like one that will work in the real world, especially if the real world is in Shitholeistan.
As coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan, U.S.-funded reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars in far-flung regions of the country will soon be impossible for American officials to safely visit and directly inspect.

The planned removal of more than 40,000 troops and the closure of dozens of bases over the next year will shrink the protective umbrella for U.S. officials to keep tabs on construction work, training programs and other initiatives in the corruption-plagued nation. Only about 20 percent of the country will be accessible to U.S. civilian oversight personnel in 2014, according to an analysis conducted by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction and obtained by The Washington Post.

Instead of curtailing those projects, the Pentagon, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development plan to rely on teams of private contractors to monitor the work of other private contractors on the taxpayer-funded projects. In a document soliciting firms to help with inspections, USAID said it also intends to use satellite photos and “crowdsourcing” experiments that will solicit feedback on progress from Afghans who are supposed to benefit from U.S.-financed work.

The inability of U.S. government personnel to inspect development projects is prompting worry among lawmakers and government inspectors that millions more dollars could be squandered in what has become the costliest reconstruction of a single country in American history.
Good luck getting any kind of oversight to work after the firepower has left. And doesn't it just make you smile to read about the concern of lawmakers for the loss of $millions after we have pissed away $Billions in that shit hole.

DC outdoes Hollywood for Horror this Halloween

From the pen of Brian McFadden

17 years since California legalized medical marijuana

And after all that time, as other states forge ahead with their legalizations, California has a few lessons learned that it can pass on.
Warnings voiced against partial legalization — of civic disorder, increased lawlessness and a drastic rise in other drug use — have proved unfounded.

Instead, research suggests both that marijuana has become an alcohol substitute for younger people here and in other states that have legalized medical marijuana, and that while driving under the influence of any intoxicant is dangerous, driving after smoking marijuana is less dangerous than after drinking alcohol.

Although marijuana is legal here only for medical use, it is widely available. There is no evidence that its use by teenagers has risen since the 1996 legalization, though it is an open question whether outright legalization would make the drug that much easier for young people to get, and thus contribute to increased use.

And though Los Angeles has struggled to regulate marijuana dispensaries, with neighborhoods upset at their sheer number, the threat of unsavory street traffic and the stigma of marijuana shops on the corner, communities that imposed early and strict regulations on their operations have not experienced such disruption.

Imposing a local tax on medical marijuana, as Oakland, San Jose and other communities have done, has not pushed consumers to drug dealers as some analysts expected. Presumably that is because it is so easy to get reliable and high-quality marijuana legally.

Finally, for consumers, the era of legalized medical marijuana has meant an expanded market and often cheaper prices. Buyers here gaze over showcases offering a rich assortment of marijuana, promising different potencies and different kinds of highs. Cannabis sativa produces a pronounced psychological high, a “head buzz,” while cannabis indica delivers a more relaxed, lethargic effect, a “body buzz.”

Advocates for marijuana legalization see the moves in Colorado and Washington as the start of a wave. A Gallup poll released last week found that 58 percent of Americans think the drug should be made legal.
Time for America to get its buzz on. If the 1% won't let us get rich anymore, we need to demand our mellow.

Inflation may be just the tonic

For the sagging balloon that is the US economy. And getting it will require a turnaround in years of Fed thinking and policy.
Inflation is widely reviled as a kind of tax on modern life, but as Federal Reserve policy makers prepare to meet this week, there is growing concern inside and outside the Fed that inflation is not rising fast enough.

Some economists say more inflation is just what the American economy needs to escape from a half-decade of sluggish growth and high unemployment.

The Fed has worked for decades to suppress inflation, but economists, including Janet Yellen, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Fed starting next year, have long argued that a little inflation is particularly valuable when the economy is weak. Rising prices help companies increase profits; rising wages help borrowers repay debts. Inflation also encourages people and businesses to borrow money and spend it more quickly.

The school board in Anchorage, Alaska, for example, is counting on inflation to keep a lid on teachers’ wages. Retailers including Costco and Walmart are hoping for higher inflation to increase profits. The federal government expects inflation to ease the burden of its debts. Yet by one measure, inflation rose at an annual pace of 1.2 percent in August, just above the lowest pace on record.

“Weighed against the political, social and economic risks of continued slow growth after a once-in-a-century financial crisis, a sustained burst of moderate inflation is not something to worry about,” Kenneth S. Rogoff, a Harvard economist, wrote recently. “It should be embraced.”
Japan is showing the world that this idea can work. The sticking point is the "rising wages" part. It will need a sharp, extended rise before business will be in a position that requires wage increases.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Something Wicked for this weekend

Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth

Did he say tents?

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Just arrived, a fresh can of worms.

First we were horrified by the NSA tapping into all our electronic communications. Then we were terrified to learn the NSA was giving out juicy bits to prosecutors to use in their investigations. And now the Department of Prosecutions has found a case they believe will allow, eventually, for SCOTUS to declare all this shit to be legal.
The Justice Department for the first time has notified a criminal defendant that evidence being used against him came from a warrantless wiretap, a move that is expected to set up a Supreme Court test of whether such eavesdropping is constitutional.

Prosecutors filed such a notice late Friday in the case of Jamshid Muhtorov, who was charged in Colorado in January 2012 with providing material support to the Islamic Jihad Union, a designated terrorist organization based in Uzbekistan.

Mr. Muhtorov is accused of planning to travel abroad to join the militants and has pleaded not guilty. A criminal complaint against him showed that much of the government’s case was based on e-mails and phone calls intercepted under a 2008 surveillance law.

The government’s notice allows Mr. Muhtorov’s lawyer to ask a court to suppress the evidence by arguing that it derived from unconstitutional surveillance, setting in motion judicial review of the eavesdropping.

The New York Times reported on Oct. 17 that the decision by prosecutors to notify a defendant about the wiretapping followed a legal policy debate inside the Justice Department.

The debate began in June when Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. discovered that the department’s National Security Division did not notify criminal defendants when eavesdropping without a warrant was an early link in an investigative chain that led to evidence used in court. As a result, none of the defendants knew that they had the right to challenge the warrantless wiretapping law.

The practice contradicted what Mr. Verrilli had told the Supreme Court last year in a case challenging the law, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Legalizing a form of the Bush administration’s program of warrantless surveillance, the law authorized the government to wiretap Americans’ e-mails and phone calls without an individual court order and on domestic soil so long as the surveillance is “targeted” at a foreigner abroad.

A group of plaintiffs led by Amnesty International had challenged the law as unconstitutional. But Mr. Verrilli last year urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the case because those plaintiffs could not prove that they had been wiretapped. In making that argument, he said a defendant who faced evidence derived from the law would have proper legal standing and would be notified, so dismissing the lawsuit by Amnesty International would not close the door to judicial review of the 2008 law. The court accepted that logic, voting 5-to-4 to dismiss the case.

In a statement, Patrick Toomey, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which had represented Amnesty International and the other plaintiffs, hailed the move but criticized the Justice Department’s prior practice.

“We welcome the government’s belated recognition that it must give notice to criminal defendants who it has monitored under the most sweeping surveillance law ever passed by Congress,” Mr. Toomey said. “By withholding notice, the government has avoided judicial review of its dragnet warrantless wiretapping program for five years.”
The eventual constitutionality of this is inevitable because there are way too many problems if it is not. Funthings like illegal activities by those who were involved and what to we do with 5 years of people convicted by the fruit of the poisoned tree? If it's all legal then no harm, no foul.

Nothing says Halloween like a House of Horrors

And leave it to our National House to be the greatest National House of Horrors.

h/t Politics with Jarred and Dave

When did the American dream become this pathway to indentured servitude

With indentured servitude, we are going back to the roots of this country when many arrived in the New World as indentured servants. In no way should this be taken as a good idea that needs to be revived.

Your Word For Today

Friday, October 25, 2013

Something you don't hear everyday.

And no, this is not Madeline Kahn, RIP, this is the original "Lily", Marlene Dietrich.

The insidious health menace

From the pen of John Cole

Try as hard as you like

But ultimately people will put up with war only so long. And the DMZ is the prime marker of a war that has been waiting 60 years for a resolution. And souvenir by souvenir, the Korean people seem to be making their own peace.
With the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union gone, tourists now flock to both sides of the DMZ, the world's most heavily armed border, established 60 years ago. But what they see is more likely to be tacky than terrifying.

On the south side, souvenir shops sell DMZ T-shirts, DMZ-branded chocolates, DMZ baseball caps and pieces of "authentic" DMZ barbed wire mounted on ceramic tiles. Others sell dusty bottles of North Korean alcohol and miniature combat uniforms.

"The middle-aged tourists that come here like buying the clothes for their kids," Cho Hyang Hwa, an ethnic Korean Chinese citizen working at the shop, told Reuters.

Not far from barbed wire fences and rifle-wielding soldiers, children scream in delight while riding in a huge ship that swings back and forth on a giant pendulum.

The ride is named, with no apparent sense of place, the Super Viking. It serves as the flagship of Peace Land, a small and surreal theme park that looks onto rolling North Korean mountain ranges.

The loud pop music that accompanies the Super Viking is drowned out only by the occasional U.S. military helicopter that buzzes overhead before disappearing behind the tree tops.

Nearby, workers were erecting a giant statue of a ginseng plant woven from hemp for a festival devoted to the popular root. The DMZ's soil is said to yield Korea's finest ginseng.

"I'm surprised to see how different the atmosphere is from what I expected," said Park Kyung-doo, a South Korean schoolgirl. "It's good for the tourists but, as a person who came to see and learn about North Korea, I don't really feel satisfied."

Tourism also exists on the DMZ's north side but is more muted. One attraction is Peace Village, a Potemkin-like place of empty buildings nicknamed Propaganda Village in the south.

Its major landmark is a 160-metre (175-yard) flagpole that deliberately tops the one in Freedom Village, a small town on the South Korean side of the zone.
Kim Jong Pudge may be slower than his southern colleagues in providing the necessary tourist tschotkes and the guns may be locked and loaded but the winds of change are blowing slowly among the garlic eaters.

What a long, strange trip it's been

And thanks to the continued and increasingly delusional economic pronouncements of people who know better but prefer pushing their agenda, the trip will continue. Paul Krugman ponders these delusions and wonders why they continue to be considered real.
Once upon a time, walking around shouting “The end is nigh” got you labeled a kook, someone not to be taken seriously. These days, however, all the best people go around warning of looming disaster. In fact, you more or less have to subscribe to fantasies of fiscal apocalypse to be considered respectable.

And I do mean fantasies. Washington has spent the past three-plus years in terror of a debt crisis that keeps not happening, and, in fact, can’t happen to a country like the United States, which has its own currency and borrows in that currency. Yet the scaremongers can’t bring themselves to let go.

Consider, for example, Stanley Druckenmiller, the billionaire investor, who has lately made a splash with warnings about the burden of our entitlement programs. (Gee, why hasn’t anyone else thought of making that point?) He could talk about the problems we may face a decade or two down the road. But, no. He seems to feel that he must warn about the looming threat of a financial crisis worse than 2008.

Or consider the deficit-scold organization Fix the Debt, led by the omnipresent Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. It was, I suppose, predictable that Fix the Debt would respond to the latest budget deal with a press release trying to shift the focus to its favorite subject. But the organization wasn’t content with declaring that America’s long-run budget issues remain unresolved, which is true. It had to warn that “continuing to delay confronting our debt is letting a fire burn that could get out of control at any moment.”

As I’ve already suggested, there are two remarkable things about this kind of doomsaying. One is that the doomsayers haven’t rethought their premises despite being wrong again and again — perhaps because the news media continue to treat them with immense respect. The other is that as far as I can tell nobody, and I mean nobody, in the looming-apocalypse camp has tried to explain exactly how the predicted disaster would actually work.
These are just a few of the very delusional Very Serious People whose every word is treated as a pearl of wisdom despite being proven false time and again. When will we ever learn?

Everybody has spies

The only real difference between countries is when one catches another's spy. Then you get to put on airs and posture about your moral superiority. Then the other country grabs one of your spies or just throws out some diplomats. Everybody's honor is satisfied. The only difference with the NSA revelations is the size and detail of what was done.
European anger at reports that the U.S. has conducted surveillance of allies’ telephone calls and e-mails glosses over a basic truth, former intelligence officials say: everyone does it.

“All governments collect information on nearly all governments,” said John McLaughlin, a former acting director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, said in a phone interview. “The posture of most governments is, ‘We want to collect as much info as we can, so we can be as fluent as we can when we make decisions.’ It’s just what governments do.”

President Barack Obama’s administration has been dogged this week by a series of disclosures detailing allegations of U.S. surveillance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s private mobile phone, of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s e-mail while in office, and of the collection of data on ordinary French citizens.

The leaks, all traced to documents stolen by fugitive security contractor Edward Snowden, led Obama to call Merkel yesterday to assure her the U.S. government “is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said at a briefing in Washington. The statement didn’t address whether Merkel’s mobile phone may have been monitored sometime in the past.
High dudgeon is a national leader's stock in trade at times like this. And when they have soothed their countrymen's fears, everything just slides back to the status quo ante, with maybe a few adjustments for better security of the PM's phone.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

From the Singing Grapefruit that sold Toyotas

Nataly Dawn has gone out on her own. So here she is singing a duet with Lauren O'Connell. A two woman band doing an old BeeGees song.

The shit stain on democracy

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

R.I.P. Noel Harrison

Say, weren't you the Windmill From Uncle?

Nothing like a little disaster grandstanding

Politicians know that it is worth $Millions to be able to look like you are the second coming when something bad happens on your watch. New Jersey's Gov. Doublewide Christie knows that better than most.
Hurricane Sandy turned Chris Christie into something akin to America’s governor, as the nation watched him express his state’s pain on the devastated shoreline the morning after the storm, then triumphantly cut the ribbons on reopened boardwalks on Memorial Day. “We’re stronger than the storm,” he proclaimed in television commercials that ran in other states all summer.

But in the affected parts of New Jersey, Governor Christie’s storm campaign has not sold as well. With at least 26,000 people still out of their homes a year later, he has become the focus of ire for many storm survivors who say that the recovery does not look as impressive to them as it does to the rest of the country.

Homeowners promised money from Mr. Christie’s rebuilding program say they have yet to see it; those who have been denied aid vent about the bureaucracy. Some criticize him for encouraging residents to build to new flood zone standards to speed recovery; homeowners now say they are being penalized, because anyone who started rebuilding is ineligible for a grant.

Storm victims argue that the governor, who pushed fellow Republicans in Congress to pass a federal aid package, should be exerting similar pressure on insurers and banks to settle claims and prevent harm to the credit ratings of victims. And they accuse him of using the storm for his own aggrandizement, particularly after he spent $4.7 million in federal money to hire a politically connected firm to produce the television ads, choosing it over an agency that bid less but did not plan to show the governor in its commercials.

At a legislative hearing on Monday in hard-hit Toms River, a crowd of about 200 residents bubbled with anger. “This is Republican country, and the governor won’t even come down here,” one man yelled. As a lawmaker promised that the governor would release money soon, another resident shouted, “Stop defending him!”
Put on a good show because no one will find out about your fuck ups until it is too late.

And today's Humor Tumor

Is awarded to Herman Cain. From the Raw Story:
Erstwhile Republican candidate for president Herman Cain claims that allegations of sexual harassment that torpedoed his campaign in 2012 were the work of Satan, who wanted to block Cain from the White House. Cain made the statements in an interview with RealClearReligion published on Wednesday.

The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO and ex-head of the National Restaurant Association told RealClearReligion that running a political campaign is like “drinking from a fire hose.” Taking the time to rebut the accusations by four women who accused Cain of sexual harassment, he said, “would have been a huge distraction.”

Besides, a greater force was trying to keep him from the Oval Office, he said.

The women who made accusations against him, Cain insists, are all “liars.” The media “failed to do their due diligence” on his accusers, he said.

“Then,” wrote RealClearReligion’s Nicholas G. Hahn III, “he speculated as to who may have orchestrated the allegations: the Devil.”

Cain said, “It made me realize that there was a force bigger than right.”
Bad Pizza? And speaking of which, where is poor Herman's Right Wing Welfare?

What you call a Win-Win Situation

Life can be good when you have created a nice big tub of butter to settle your ass into and enjoy it. That is what the defense industry has created for itself, at our expense. And it is there for them come rain or shine.
The biggest U.S. defense contractors, led by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Northrop (NOC) Grumman Corp., have endured federal budget cuts and a partial government shutdown with little harm so far to their profits.

Lockheed and Northrop were among the leading federal suppliers reporting third-quarter earnings that beat analysts’ estimates even as sales declined. The top five U.S. contractors’ shares have soared this year, with Northrop climbing 56 percent. Its shares rose 4 percent to $105.56 -- the biggest advance since September 2010 -- after the company raised its full-year profit forecast today.

The companies had been preparing for an era of declining defense spending with the end of the Iraq war and the continuing withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. They have continued to reduce costs, make their operations more efficient and, in some cases, cut their workforces.

“When everything’s going up, there hasn’t been an incentive for the defense industry to work as a regular business,” said Brian Ruttenbur, an analyst with CRT Capital Group LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. “Now that things are flattening out and going down, there’s an incentive for them to become more efficient.”

No. 1 contractor Lockheed, which furloughed 2,400 employees during the 16-day government shutdown this month, said yesterday that it cut 600 workers last week from its Mission Systems and Training unit. The segment’s sales fell 8.8 percent to $1.7 billion in the third quarter from a year earlier, the company said yesterday.
It takes a lot of work to lose money under a defense contract, no matter how badly they may fail.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nostalgia for the Hoveround crowd

From 15 yr old Kathy Young and the Innocents.

The dirty BIG secret about Obamacare

One of the major failures of the Affordable Care Act, covering people with too little income to receive tax credits is the handiwork of Republican/Teabagger governors who have chosen not to expand Medicaid. The Rude Pundit explains it in simple to understand terms.
Let us stop talking about the goddamned website for two seconds here. Yeah, yeah, it's a programming clusterfuck of Windows Vista proportions, although Republicans bear a great deal of blame here for trying to undermine it every step of the way because they're sore loser motherfuckers whose ideological narcissism would make them suck their own dicks if they could contort themselves enough. But, no, no, let's not talk about the website for a moment. That's easy to grapple with. It's a big problem with a small cause.

Instead, let's turn to the real Obamacare crisis caused by Republican governors around the nation. See, one of the underreported stories is that the main reason the Affordable Care Act will fail to cover millions of Americans is because states run by the aforementioned cocksuckers refuse to accept the 3 years of 100% funding for expanded Medicaid for people who are dirt poor, but not dirt poor enough for Medicaid in its current form and who can't afford insurance because they don't qualify for the tax credits that offset the price. For 25 states (it used to be 26, but Ohio got infected by sanity recently), this action alone will ensure that a large number of their uninsured citizens remain uninsured, thus potentially costing the states far, far more than accepting the funding, even in the long term, would have.

For instance, in the Rude Pundit's home state of Louisiana, 34% of the non-elderly uninsured adults in the state fall into the income crack the Medicaid expansion was supposed to spackle. That was until the Supreme Court said the mothefuckers could go ahead and fuck their mothers, and Bobby Jindal told his mom to lube up. That's 242,150 adults without health insurance in his state. By the way, since Louisiana funds Medicaid only for people making 24% or less of the poverty line annually (only Alabama is crueler at 16%), that leaves about 87% of non-elderly adults who live below the poverty line without health insurance. In the entire nation, and all of these figures are from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the coverage gap in these states is over 4.8 million people (subtracting Ohio from Kaiser's numbers), 27% of all non-elderly adults without insurance in the nation.
Thanks to the efforts of The Dread Chief Justice Roberts and his Scurvy Crew in allowing states to opt out of the expansion, Republican governors in 25 of our states have become the Death Panels that they warned us about.

One more worry for Halloween

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

Buying pharmaceuticals across the border,everybody's doing it

Maybe not everyone, but many Americans who have the opportunity to save thousands on needed prescriptions are doing it.
The high price of many prescription drugs in the United States has left millions of Americans telling white lies and committing fraud and other crimes to get their medicines. In response to a New York Times article about the costs, hundreds of readers shared their strategies, like having a physician prescribe twice the needed dose and cutting pills in half, or “borrowing” medicines from a friend or relative with better insurance coverage. But an increasingly popular — though generally illegal — route is buying the drugs from overseas.

The Canadian International Pharmacy Association, a 10-year-old group, said its members fill prescriptions for one million Americans each year. “It’s the Americans who are seeking us out,” said Tim Smith, the group’s general manager. “Clearly there’s a need.”

In surveys from 2011 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2 percent of adults and about 5 percent of the uninsured said they had bought prescription drugs from other countries. The figures most likely underestimated the practice because people may be reluctant to admit to doing something illegal, even though the law is rarely enforced in such cases.

The Food and Drug Administration says on its Web site that “in most circumstances it is illegal to import drugs into the U.S. for personal use” because the agency cannot guarantee they are safe and effective. The government also prohibits “reimportation” of drugs made in the United States because it cannot guarantee the medications were not tampered with or stored improperly.

The agency said it does not track the volume of such imports. However, it “typically does not object” to people buying imported medicine for personal use “under certain circumstances,” the agency said. Those include using the drug to treat a serious condition for which an effective alternative is unavailable in the United States and purchasing less than a three-month supply. But those ambiguous edicts have left patients wary.
Big Pharma has used Americans as their personal piggy bank for too long. Canada's pharmacies sell the same drugs as in the US at a fraction of the cost. And their oversight is probably better. Europe is similar and with other countries make sure you do your due diligence first.

They're afraid we won't go to war for them

John Kerry has his hands full trying to convince our staunchest "allies" in the Mid-East, Israel & Saudi Arabia, that we will continue to support them, we just won't go hell bent into combat for them.
Mr. Kerry is on the final leg of a three-day visit to European capitals themed around Middle East diplomacy, most notably American efforts to help start a peace conference on the Syrian conflict. But the trip has been punctuated by criticism directed at the United States from its main strategic allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and Mr. Kerry has been making an effort to assuage them both.

The Saudis, who are strong supporters of the Syrian insurgency, have been particularly upset over what they view as the Obama administration’s lack of resolve in pressuring the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, who is now in some ways stronger politically than he was a year ago. Last week the Saudis rejected taking a seat on the United Nations Security Council in part to express their displeasure.

They have also voiced alarm over the Obama administration’s steps toward rapprochement with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main rival in the Middle East, and are fearful that the United States could make compromises in negotiations for a deal over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

The Israelis are even more alarmed at the possibility that the United States might be too pliant in trying to pursue a compromise with Iran over the Iranian nuclear program, which Mr. Netanyahu has called a guise for weapons development and the most serious security threat facing his country.

Mr. Kerry’s public statements before his meeting with Mr. Netanyahu were largely focused on reassuring the Israelis.

“No deal is better than a bad deal,” Mr. Kerry said, a phrase that American officials have frequently used in recent weeks to try to reassure lawmakers in the United States as well as Israel and Persian Gulf states that the White House will not make risky concessions.

But Mr. Netanyahu listed a range of steps that Israel says Iran needs to take to demonstrate that it is not developing nuclear weapons, steps that appeared to go well beyond a compromise that the United States and other world powers are prepared to explore with Tehran. Iran insists its nuclear program is for civilian use only.
So the Saudis are pissed because we are not bombing the shit out of the Alawites and other heathen Shia in Syria. And Benny "Bugsy" Netanyahu is pissed because we are not bombing the shit out of Iran. And John Kerry should be telling them to go fuck themselves in the most polite and friendly way possible. Makes you wonder why he took the job.

Republican Jesus has a son

And according to Justin "Filthy Liberal Scum" Rosario he is a real piece of work, not quality work, mind you.
Tea Party Jesus is the dimwitted illegitimate child of Republican Jesus™ and a roll of tinfoil from Ayn Rand’s kitchen cabinet. He was midwifed by the Koch brothers and Alex Jones. The whole affair was quite sordid and I’ll leave the icky details to your disturbed imagination. Suffice to say, Tea Party Jesus is a deep embarrassment to Republican Jesus™...

When he was first born, Tea Party Jesus swore on Republican Jesus™’ Conservative Bible that he didn’t care about social issues, just economic ones. Issues like being Taxed Enough Already and the tyranny of Obamacare.

But the strange thing about this is that taxes were already at a decades long low. Even more bizarre, the original Tea Party that Tea Party Jesus named himself after wasn’t protesting taxes at all. They were protesting a tax cut for the East India Company, a multinational corporation (or the Colonial equivalent) which was undermining local businesses. Further, the original Tea Party was upset about being taxed without having a say in politics. “Taxation Without Representation!” was the slogan. Last time I looked, Tea Party Jesus had the best representation that billions in corporate money can buy.

It appeared that Tea Party Jesus wasn’t very well educated about American history. Big Daddy Republican Jesus™ didn’t seem to mind, though. Tea Party Jesus was super excited about voting against Obama and that’s all Republican Jesus™ really cared about at the time. And, oh boy, did Tea Party Jesus vote against Obama! Republican Jesus™ was so proud of his little boy.
Yessir! A real piece of work.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

This woman traveled 9000 miles to be heard

And Melody Pool probably wrote and practiced for every mile of that trip. Listen to her sing "Henry " and be glad Australia let her go.

Grayson Quote of the Day

Tea Party members have circulated countless altered pictures depicting President Obama and the First Lady as monkeys. Tea Party members also called my fellow Member of Congress, civil rights hero John Lewis, a ‘n***ger,’ and Rep. Barney Frank a ‘faggot'.

“One could go on and on, because there is overwhelming evidence that the Tea Party is the home of bigotry and discrimination in America today, just as the KKK was for an earlier generation. If the shoe fits, wear it.
Rep. Alan Grayson, responding to Republican/Teabagger whining about an earlier comparison.

English can be difficult for some to understand.

From the pen of Jim Morin

63% of Americans think Republicans suck

And close to 40% think they suck big time. The latest poll from the WaPo/ABC News looks even worse than earlier polls.
The survey highlights just how badly the GOP hard-liners and the leaders who went along with them misjudged the public mood. In the aftermath, eight in 10 Americans say they disapprove of the shutdown. Two in three Republicans or independents who lean Republican share a negative view of the impasse. And even a majority of those who support the tea party movement disapprove.

Overall, the shutdown produced widespread political fallout. Dissatisfaction with Congress, elected officials and the workings of the political system has increased. An overwhelming majority of Americans say the budget dispute damaged the U.S. economy and the nation’s image in the world. A sizable majority lacks confidence that another crisis can be averted when the current agreement runs out early next year.

Congressional Democrats also sustained damage to their image. More than six in 10 respondents disapprove of how they handled budget negotiations, and unfavorable ratings of the party have risen to a record high of 49 percent. Still, President Obama’s overall ratings have held steady. Almost half of all Americans approve of the way he has handled his job, and an almost identical number disapprove.

There was little in the findings for the GOP to feel good about. The party’s image has sunk to an all-time low in Post-ABC surveys, with 32 percent of the public saying they have a favorable opinion and 63 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. Almost four in 10 Americans have a strongly unfavorable view of the GOP.

The tea party fares just as badly. Barely a quarter of the public has a favorable image of the movement, the lowest rating in Post-ABC polling.

The shutdown occurred after Republicans tried to add the defunding of Obama’s health-care law to a short-term measure to keep the government running, then followed with other proposals that were rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate and the president. Only when facing a deadline over the government’s ability to borrow money to pay past bills was there an agreement to end the shutdown and allow borrowing until early next year.

Asked who they consider responsible for the impasse, 53 percent of poll respondents cite Republicans, 29 percent blame Obama and 15 percent fault both sides equally. Republicans who support the tea party movement overwhelmingly blame Obama for what happened, but among Republicans who do not back the tea party, almost as many cite congressional Republicans as name Obama or both.
Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch.

The TSA intends to become more annoying

Without becoming any more effective. That is no longer part of their mission. What has replaced it is a long ramble through other government databases to see if they can add to your misery at check in.
The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases that can include records like car registrations and employment information.

While the agency says that the goal is to streamline the security procedures for millions of passengers who pose no risk, the new measures give the government greater authority to use travelers’ data for domestic airport screenings. Previously that level of scrutiny applied only to individuals entering the United States.

The prescreening, some of which is already taking place, is described in documents the T.S.A. released to comply with government regulations about the collection and use of individuals’ data, but the details of the program have not been publicly announced.

It is unclear precisely what information the agency is relying upon to make these risk assessments, given the extensive range of records it can access, including tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information.

The measures go beyond the background check the government has conducted for years, called Secure Flight, in which a passenger’s name, gender and date of birth are compared with terrorist watch lists. Now, the search includes using a traveler’s passport number, which is already used to screen people at the border, and other identifiers to access a system of databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.
All of this looks good to the rubes, but in the end it fails because there is no defined purpose for it nor any qualified staff to know what they are looking at. In the end, they will still harass travelers at the airports but some of it will be planned in advance.

That is the point

In the Great State of Florida, when they aren't fighting tooth and nail to save the lives of fetuses, they are happily taking the lives of miscreants with their judicial system. Under Florida law, the state is constrained from taking the lives of the mentally disabled, which is determined to be anyone with an IQ under 70.
On Monday, the high court announced that it will hear Hall’s challenge to Florida’s rule that a convicted criminal must have a tested IQ of 69 or lower in order to be deemed intellectually disabled. This determination is a matter of life or death, as the Supreme Court has ruled previously that the intellectually disabled – formerly referred to as the mentally retarded – cannot face the death penalty.

“I’m very pleased they will be taking the case up,” Eric Pinkard, Hall’s Tampa-based appellate attorney, said in a telephone interview Monday. “The Florida definition leads to the possibility that the mentally retarded will be executed.”

Whitney Ray, the press secretary to Florida Attorney General Pamela Jo Bondi, said in a statement that Florida courts had found that Hall “is not intellectually disabled. We will urge the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Hall’s sentence.”

Pinkard argues that Florida’s explicit definition, which allows the execution of someone with a tested IQ of 70 or above, fails to account for standard measurement error. The Supreme Court itself, in the 2002 decision protecting the intellectually disabled from execution, declared that an IQ between 70 and 75 is typically considered the cutoff score.

The sixteenth of 17 children, Hall was “tortured by his mother and abused by his neighbors,” according to a 1993 dissenting opinion in the Florida Supreme Court. He had an IQ of 60 and was “functionally illiterate and has the short-term memory of a first-grader,” the dissenting opinion observed. In later years, though, Hall’s IQ was variously measured at 71 and 73.

“Unfortunately,” Pinkard wrote in his petition to the high court, “the human race has not developed a test for mental retardation that is like a blood pressure machine, hooked up to a defendant’s arm with a (gauge) that reads ‘R’ for retarded or ‘N’ for not retarded.”
In this case, the test involved had an error range of +/-5 and other tests on Hall have varied results. While the test result is presented as a concrete number, the process is notoriously inaccurate and hardly a solid base upon which to take anyone's life. His lawyers are arguing that by the standards of the test itself, Hall could just as easily have an IQ of 66, well under the Florida limit and it would be wrong to execute someone based on a test that on any given day might have reprieved him. Which way will the Supremes decide?

Monday, October 21, 2013

With all the stores lurching into Christmas

Before we have passed out the candy, this song by a classically trained guitarist and singer songwriter Helen Avakian won't seem too out of place.

The Insufferable Lightness Of Teabagger Logic

Once again Tom Tomorrow tries to make sense of the senseless as presented by the mindless.

A Lesson Learned

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

NJ's Governor Doublewide must need the votes

Why else would he drop his appeal of the court decision in favor of marriage equality? His original position was most appealing to the voters he will need in the 2016 primaries.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey announced on Monday that he would drop his legal challenge to same-sex marriage, hours after same-sex couples started exchanging vows in midnight ceremonies across the state.

Mr. Christie’s withdrawal of his appeal to the court decision that allowed the marriages came on the heels of a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court on Friday that rejected his attempt to block the marriages until the appeal was resolved. His decision effectively removed the last hurdle to making same-sex marriage legal in New Jersey.

“Although the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey Constitution and, therefore, same-sex marriage is the law,” a spokesman for Mr. Christie said in a note to reporters Monday morning. “The governor will do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court.”

At 12:01 a.m., New Jersey joined thirteen other states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay couples to marry.
There is only one safe way to insure marriage equality in New Jersey. Vote For Democrat Barbara Buono.

"A smarter version of the austerity"?

McClatchy doesn't think we need worry about any Grand Bargain in the upcoming budget negotiations, just some small adjustments.
Prospects for a longer-term budget deal in Congress that eases some of the pain from steep spending cuts are good. Prospects for a grand bargain that gets America’s fiscal house in order, well, that’s another story.

Given how far apart the two parties are, the budget bills already passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives have little chance of passage in the other chamber as written. But for the first time since 2009, the committee leaders from each chamber will launch formal negotiations to reconcile the two spending plans. They face a December deadline to frame an agreement, and a Jan. 15 deadline to pass legislation before parts of the government run out of money again.

There, too, there’s little hope for a compromise budget to be agreed on in eight weeks. But there’s optimism that the two sides at least may come up with a smarter version of the austerity that’s already the law of the land.

The across-the-board federal spending cuts made earlier this year, shorthanded as the budget sequester, are hitting a key constituent for both parties: defense contractors and suppliers. Experts think that’s likely to drive some sort of compromise.

“We really don’t have time at this point to do anything like the grand bargain that people are talking about,” said Joe Minarik, the director of research for the Committee for Economic Development, a free-market research center. “It’s not realistic to think that there is going to be any kind of major progress on the big budget problems between now and then.”

A former chief economist for the House Budget Committee, Minarik noted that big legislative achievements such as revamping the tax code or changing the funding structure for Social Security took years of negotiation. Even modest tweaks such as changing the way cost-of-living adjustments are determined for Social Security benefits are likely to remain too heavy a lift for the new budget negotiations.
And hopefully Bernie Sanders will stop any bullshit with Social Security. But any small adjustments are also potentially hazardous. For the last forty years the Republicans have een gnawing away at the framework of the government like a bunch of termites, one small adjustment at a time.

All that money and no where to go

Despite Paul Krugman having shown that the withdrawal of Chinese investment is not the disaster many Very Serious Chicken Littles believe it is, too many people have been exposed to their wailings and are afraid. Turns out that they have very little to fear from the Chinese.
Despite the end last week of the 16-day U.S. government shutdown and the extension of the debt ceiling until next year, there are few signs that the situation has reassured China, the largest holder of American debt.

With around $1.28 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds already in its portfolio, China has little choice but to continue to buy U.S. debt, economist say. Government bonds from Japan and Europe are a less attractive investment, and finding other avenues to diversify the country’s huge foreign currency reserves would require major economic reforms and could result in unwanted volatility.

Yet the partisan infighting that brought the U.S. government within hours of a default is increasing domestic pressure on Beijing to reduce its exposure to America.

“The challenge for China is if they don’t own U.S. Treasuries, what would they buy instead?” said William Adams, an international economist for PNC Financial Services Group. “There are not a lot more attractive options out there.”

China, with an economy still heavily dependent on exports, needs a robust American economy to continue to bolster its manufacturing sector and that makes it unlikely that China would stop buying America’s debt in the near future, said Arthur Kroeber, managing director of GaveKal Dragonomics, a global economic research firm in Beijing.
The hairball antics of the Republican/Teabaggers do shake their confidence in the stability, and sanity, of the US but so far there really is no other game in town.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pay no attention to the guy waving the stick

Notice that none of the musicians give him a second glance. His work is done in rehearsal and now it is time for the players to shine, made easier by playing one of Papa Brahms loveliest concertos.

First you can't afford a house, then you can't afford the rent

And all along you are working hard and being paid shit because it's not your work that makes the company a success but all the sweat and toil of that asshole in a suit in the executive suite.
“You’re trying to pay car insurance, rent, electric, cable and if you’re using public transit, putting money on your card, groceries,” said Freeland, who was accepted into a program that provides temporary housing, financial planning and job-placement counseling. “It’s hard to survive out here.”

For households with children, rising housing costs, elevated unemployment and stagnant earnings are increasingly placing rent beyond reach. The housing slump made matters worse as former homeowners turned into renters, increasing competition for available apartments.

“There is just a mismatch between what people earn and what it takes to pay for housing,” said Sheila Crowley, chief executive officer of the Washington-based National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Unemployment continues to be persistently high, and wage stagnation at the low end seems to go out as far as the eye can see.” ...

Nationally, the average hourly wage among renters is $14.32 this year compared with the $18.79 needed to afford an apartment at a fair-market rent, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, without spending more than 30 percent of income on housing, a National Low Income Housing Coalition report found in March. The $4.47 gap this year is wider than the $4.10 differential in 2012.
Not Affordable

The report found that extremely low-income households could afford to spend no more than $495 a month on an apartment this year, while the national two-bedroom fair-market rent was $977.

The number of full-time jobs at the prevailing state minimum wage that people in a household need in order to afford the average two-bedroom fair-market rent ranges from 1.4 jobs in Puerto Rico to 4.4 jobs in Hawaii, the report showed.

As incomes for the impoverished stagnate, rents rose 3.5 percent nationally through Aug. 31, from a year earlier, based on data from, a real-estate website.

“Units with more bedrooms are getting harder to find, and if you have kids, when you don’t have childcare, adequate employment is hard to find,” said Nan Roman, chief executive officer of the NAEH.
Needless to say, single mothers are getting slammed the worst, but in this Republican stifled economy everybody eligible is getting it.

Navy scandal about to break like a tsunami

Military spending
has been such a rich field that there has been a long history of frauds and other crimes based on illegally squeezing the government teat almost since the military was founded. The Navy has always been a prime service for such scandals. And now it is about to experience one of the largest yet found, including admirals and hookers and drugs, oh my!
The U.S. Navy is being rocked by a bribery scandal that federal investigators say has reached high into the officer corps and exposed a massive overbilling scheme run by an Asian defense contractor that provided prostitutes and other kickbacks.

Among those arrested on corruption charges are a senior agent for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and a Navy commander who escaped Cambodia’s “killing fields” as a child only to make a triumphant return to the country decades later as the skipper of a U.S. destroyer. The investigation has also ensnared a Navy captain who was relieved of his ship’s command this month in Japan.

The chief executive of the Singapore-based defense contractor, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, and another company official were arrested last month at a San Diego harborside hotel after federal investigators lured them to the United States by arranging a sham meeting with Navy officials, according to court records and people involved in the case.

The unfolding investigation is shaping up as the biggest fraud case in years for the Navy. Federal prosecutors allege that Glenn Defense Marine, which has serviced and supplied Navy ships and submarines at ports around the Pacific for a quarter-century, routinely overbilled for everything from tugboats to fuel to sewage disposal.

Investigators are still assessing the scope of the alleged fraud, but federal court records filed in San Diego cite a handful of episodes that alone exceeded $10 million. Since 2011, Glenn Defense Marine has been awarded Navy contracts worth more than $200 million. The company also services ships from several navies in Asia.

The U.S. military has never been immune from contracting scandals, but it is extremely rare for senior uniformed commanders to face corruption charges.
Maybe it is too much Republican influence or maybe the senior officers were better protected in the past but the legal shit is about to hit the fan and splatter some gold crusted dress whites along with the rest.

The fine print we didn't see

From the pen of Brian McFadden

Here come the ideologues

And they are charging the lines of the political Republicans with the intent to eliminate them or die trying. And as the Republican civil war takes off the holier than thou crowd has no expectations of taking prisoners.
Insurgent conservative groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, the Madison Project and the Club for Growth immediately announced their support for Mr. McDaniel, the chairman of the Mississippi State Senate’s Conservative Coalition and a former Christian-radio host, providing an early glimpse of what the next three years are likely to hold for the Republican Party.

The budget fight that led to the first government shutdown in 17 years did not just set off a round of recriminations among Republicans over who was to blame for the politically disastrous standoff. It also heralded a very public escalation of a far more consequential battle for control of the Republican Party, a confrontation between Tea Party conservatives and establishment Republicans that will play out in the coming Congressional and presidential primaries in 2014 and 2016 but has been simmering since President George W. Bush’s administration, if not before.

In dozens of interviews, elected officials, strategists and donors from both wings of the party were unusually blunt in drawing the intraparty battle lines, suggesting that the time for an open feud over the Republican future had arrived.

“It’s civil war in the G.O.P.,” said Richard Viguerie, a veteran conservative warrior who helped invent the political direct mail business.

The moment draws comparisons to some of the biggest fights of recent Republican Party history — the 1976 clash between the insurgent faction of activists who supported Ronald Reagan for president that year and the moderate party leaders who stuck by President Gerald R. Ford, and the split between the conservative Goldwater and moderate Rockefeller factions in 1964.
And many say that the 70's battles set the stage for St. Ronnie Reagan and the current conservatives. But they forget that back then the whackdoodles were used by Ronnie and not running the show.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Gaddabouts carried some hefty talent

With Edie Brickell, Steve Gadd, Anthony Fairweather Low and Pino Palladino.

They fought the good fight

From the pen of Gary Varvel

When it comes to pure Dickishness

The Republican/Teabagger effort to foil the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is one of the turds floating on top. And now that they have failed at the federal level, despite what some of the scum suckers say, we now get to watch their state level efforts unfold.
“This has been one of those trench warfare kind of efforts for a year now, and I think it is one of those hidden stories of the whole fight against Obamacare,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity. “It’s not flashy; it’s just in a whole bunch of state capitals and in the districts of a whole lot of state legislators, but it’s such a crucial aspect of the overall long-term effort to roll back Obamacare.”

The state-by-state strategy represents a split from the course pursued by Heritage Action for America and its sister organization, Heritage Foundation, which drove the “defunding Obamacare” movement that led to the recent government shutdown. In an opinion article published Friday by The Wall Street Journal, Jim DeMint, the foundation president, made no apologies. “Obamacare will now be the issue for the next few years,” he wrote.

Expanding Medicaid, a joint federal-state program for the poor, is critical to the law’s goal of covering the nation’s 48 million uninsured. Hospitals and insurers were also counting on more Medicaid patients to make the economics of the law work. For states, the terms seemed attractive: The federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of new enrollees for the first three years, 90 percent after that.

But in June 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of Medicaid expansion. The ruling opened the door for conservative opponents of the law. Americans for Prosperity, with paid staff members in 34 states, walked through it. So did another group, Tea Party Patriots, which recently gave $20,000 to organizers of a referendum drive to put the question of Medicaid expansion on the Arizona ballot.

Americans for Prosperity has spent millions in states around the country, including Arkansas, Florida, Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, to run the kind of aggressive campaign that it is now waging here in Virginia, where much will depend on the governor’s race. The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, who leads in the polls, favors expansion. The Republican candidate, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, is opposed.
One has to wonder how many beatings when they were children it took to turn the Koch Brothers and their minions into such a bunch of craven heartless bastards?

Total Texas Crazy

It's big like Texas toast, smelly and messy like Texas Tea and about as useless as tits on a Texas steer. But it is the heart and soul of Republican/Teabagger politics in a state that once upon a time gave us the likes of Molly Ivins and Nanci Griffiths. Gail Collins gives us a taste.
These days, when you say “Texas” in the context of heavy-breathing Republican extremism, everybody immediately thinks of Senator Ted Cruz. Which is really unfair when there are so many other members of the state delegation trying to do their part.

I am thinking, for instance, of Representative Randy Neugebauer, who harangued an innocent park ranger about a shutdown-shuttered war memorial, insisting that the ranger and her colleagues should be “ashamed of themselves.”

Or Representative Louie Gohmert, who created a mild diversion when he charged that John McCain, an opponent of the shutdown, “supported Al Qaeda” in Syria. (McCain said that he did not take offense because “if someone has no intelligence, I don’t view it as being a malicious statement.”)

Or Representative Steve Stockman, who accused the president and House Democrats of “curb-stomping veterans.”

Or Representative John Culberson, who cried “Let’s roll!” in an apparent belief that shutting down the government was equivalent to resisting 9/11 terrorists.

Or Representative Pete Sessions, who summed things up rather neatly with: “We’re not French. We don’t surrender.”

See? Share the credit.
I'm not sure that credit is the word to use in this case.

Much Ado About Nothing

It seems that Dickwahd el-Cheney had his defibrillator modified to defend against terrist attacks while waiting for a suitable strong young subject to volunteer to rip his heart out for the good of the el-Cheneys.
Dick Cheney, former president George W. Bush’s right-hand man in the “war on terror,” has revealed that his heart implant was altered to prevent terrorists from hacking into it.

The former vice president, who has had a long history of heart troubles, called his current health a “miracle” in excerpts of an interview with CBS television’s “60 Minutes” program released Friday.

Prior to his heart transplant nearly two years ago, Cheney underwent a series of life-saving procedures, including an implanted defibrillator.

But his doctor, cardiologist Jonathan Reiner with whom Cheney wrote his new book “Heart,” had the device’s wireless function disabled when it was replaced in 2007 so that terrorists could not trigger a fatal shock to his heart.

“I was aware of the danger… that existed… I found it credible,” Cheney said.

“I know from the experience we had and the necessity for adjusting my own device, that it was an accurate portrayal of what was possible.”
So much work for a man who never had a heart to begin with.

13 months to wonder if he shot himself in the foot

Jeff Denham is a freshman Teabagger Congressmoop from Northern California. From a district that wnet for Obama over Romney. And Rep. Jeff voted against reopening the government.
Denham voted against the bill Wednesday that reopened the government and avoided a default. He also represents a potentially competitive district, whose residents backed President Barack Obama over Republican challenger Mitt Romney by a 50-47 percent margin in 2012.

Now, amid national polling that shows Republicans suffered as a result of the 16-day shutdown, Denham has the next 13 months to make his case in his hometown that he did the right thing.

“I’ve got an opportunity to vote my conscience and vote my district,” Denham said, “and that’s what I did.”...

In Denham’s district, Democrat Michael Eggman, an almond farmer, beekeeper and political novice, is seeking the nomination to unseat the incumbent. He blasted Denham for putting “ideology before our economy [and] politics before the people of this valley.”

Denham, while acknowledging that “I don’t think there’s any winner in this,” insisted the real test will be “over the next two months” as House and Senate negotiators seek a comprehensive budget deal. The bill approved Wednesday sets up the framework for the kind of formal budget negotiations that have not taken place in recent years. Though many are skeptical about the prospects, Denham said a lasting deal will be remembered more than the Wednesday vote.
And a lasting deal is something that the Teabaggers don't want to give Obama. Will his colleagues sink him? Time will tell.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Any video with "Double Dutch" is good enough for me

And having the Good Lovelies singing "I Want" makes it a real pipperoo.

Getting drilled North Dakota style

In the north country they are finding that oil and wheat don't necessarily co-exist very well, even without a pipeline break.
A private company is trying to install a landfill to dispose of solid drilling waste on a golden 160-acre wheat field across the road from Mike and Kim Sorenson’s farmhouse. Although the engineers and regulators behind the project insist that it is safe for the environment, the Sorensons have voiced concern that salt from the drilling waste could seep onto their land, which would render the soil infertile and could contaminate their water, causing their property value to drop.

“I’m concerned not if it leaks, it’s when it’s going to leak over there,” Ms. Sorenson, 42, said.

Oil companies in North Dakota disposed of more than a million tons of drilling waste last year, 15 times the amount in 2006, according to Steven J. Tillotson, the assistant director of the Division of Waste Management for the state’s Health Department. Seven drilling waste landfills operate in the state, with 16 more under construction or seeking state approval.

Landowners who lease their acreage see a reward, while neighboring farmers often protest the potential harm to their pastures. Farmers here complain that state officials promote policies that help the energy sector grow rapidly with little regard for the effect on their livelihoods.
And yet Sorenson has benefited from the oil industry. So where do they draw the line for the good of all?

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