Monday, March 31, 2014

They started out 3 years ago with 2 people

Maria singing and Josh on guitar. They soon found a drummer, bass and a keyboard player and hopefully Smooth Dialects will bust out of the Chattanooga music scene soon. The tune is "To The Beach"

Our secretly irrational world

Our intrepid reporter Tom Tomorrow shows us the thoughts that we dare not show the world, most of the time.

Quote of the Day

[A] third-rate grab bag of has-beens and dimwits.
Sheldon Adelson's summation of the Republican candidates who auditioned for him the weekend.

When you are not part of the equation

From the pen of Tom Toles.

R.I.P. Eddie Lawrence

I hope you are taking this philosophically.

Some people are getting fed up with police murders

And the good people of Albuquerque NM let their frustration boil over yesterday.
A protest over deadly police shootings in Albuquerque, N.M., turned from peaceful to “mayhem,” the city’s mayor said late Sunday, as officers in riot gear clashed with demonstrators.

Protesting what they say is an increasingly violent police force, hundreds of city residents marched through the streets of Albuquerque on Sunday, blocking traffic and shouting slogans. A social media campaign, which included an apparent hours-long takedown of the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) Web page by the activist group Anonymous, coincided with the offline events.

But the confrontation between police and protesters escalated, with reports of gas canisters being thrown and Albuquerque police and Bernalillo County sheriff's deputies charging at the crowds, which had mostly dispersed by late Sunday.

Richard Berry, the mayor of Albuquerque, said one police officer was injured. At one point, protesters trapped police in a vehicle and tried to break the windows, the Albuquerque Journal reported. Berry didn't know of any arrests, and multiple messages left for the police department weren't immediately returned. Video by KRQE-TV showed people being led away in restraints, but it was unclear if those people were arrested.

The protests came a little more than a week after a video posted to YouTube by local TV station KQRE showed city police officers fatally shooting James Boyd, a 38-year-old homeless man who they confronted for camping in an unauthorized section of the city’s foothills.

The video, which has drawn nearly 900,000 views, was taken by a lapel camera worn by an APD officer, and showed a defiant Boyd talking to police from a distance. At one point an officer throws a flashbang, or stun grenade, at Boyd, who then, according to police, pulled out a knife. Then, several shots are fired into Boyd’s back, and he falls to the ground.

Police Chief Gordon Eden added to the controversy when he said the shooting was “justified.”

The video and Eden's defense of the officers prompted harsh words from Albuquerque citizens, rights groups, and some city officials. On Friday, the FBI announced they were investigating the shooting, a move praised by Albuquerque’s mayor.

“I think it’s the right thing,” said Mayor Richard Berry. “We need answers as a community. I want answers as a mayor.”

But the shooting is only one of many incidents that show the APD is too quick to resort to violence, protesters said.

Days after the shooting of Boyd, and hours after a protest against APD, another Albuquerque resident was shot dead by police.
Seems the police need to be taught that policing is more than pulling out your gun and blasting away.

Leonard Pitts should be on the Supreme Court

His latest column, here reproduced in its entirety,makes a compelling argument about Hobby Lobby.
Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.

That bit of live and let live wisdom, usually attributed - some say misattributed - to Oliver Wendell Holmes, provides a useful framework for considering a high profile case argued before the Supreme Court last week. The Affordable Care Act requires businesses, if they provide health insurance for their employees, to include contraceptive care in that coverage.

Hobby Lobby, a chain of arts and crafts stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet maker, say doing so would require them to violate their religious beliefs. Both argue - erroneously, according to medical experts - that drugs and devices sanctioned by the FDA for contraception actually induce abortions.

This is only the latest of a series of incidents in recent years in which it has been argued that religious conscience ought to give people and businesses exemption from providing ordinary and customary services to the general public.

In 2005, pharmacists in a number of states refused to fill prescriptions for women seeking contraception. Some specifically declined to serve unmarried women; some confiscated the prescriptions and would not give them back. They cited religious conscience.

In 2007, Muslim cab drivers in Minneapolis-St. Paul fought for the right to reject passengers carrying alcohol or being assisted by seeing-eye dogs. They cited religious conscience.

This year, legislators in Arizona, Kansas and other states tried or are trying to pass laws allowing businesses to refuse service to gay men and lesbians. They cite religious conscience.

Now there is this. And the crazy part? The companies do not even have to offer their employees medical insurance. Under the ACA, they could opt out and allow workers to buy their own insurance from an exchange. Instead, they have gone before the top court, arguing religious conscience.

And court watchers say the justices - or at least the conservative wing - gave that argument a sympathetic hearing in last week's session. That is an ominous sign.

There is nothing wrong with religious conscience, with saying there are things that, as a matter of faith, you will not do. If a cabbie does not wish to drink alcohol or own a dog, that's his business. If some state legislator does not wish to be involved in a same-sex relationship, that's her prerogative. If a Hobby Lobby executive has no interest in contraceptive care, good for her.

But they do not get to make those decisions for everybody else.

One hopes the Supremes get that. Because slopes do not get much slipperier than this one. If we carve out an exemption for businesses claiming religious conscience to refuse services, where does it end? What happens when some corporation claims its religious scruples prevent it from hiring women or people of other faiths - or of no faith - or from paying for health care that includes vaccinations or blood transfusion?

There is something intrusive and even faintly Talibanesque about the idea of religious values shared by some of us being imposed on thousands of us because of where they happen to work. An employee owes an employer an honest day's work. She owes it to the company to represent it to the best of her ability. She does not owe it veto power over her most intimate medical decisions. A woman's contraceptive choices are none of her employer's business.

Moreover, the notion that the company should have a say in such matters is anathema to our ideals of individual liberty and, yes, religious freedom.

One hopes, albeit against hope, that the Supremes will recognize this and reign in these overreaching corporations. Tell them on behalf of us all:

Watch where you're swinging your fists.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Most of us remember our first James Bond movie

The franchise has been around for generations. And Dame Shirley Bassey was the voice singing the title song for three of them, including "Diamonds Are Forever", "Moonraker" and this one, "Goldfinger."

And yes, you can call her Shirley.

Who says Corporations have no conscience?

From the pen of Brian McFadden

Looks like their plan is working

The Taliban in Shitholeistan announced that they were going to disrupt the upcoming elections and it appears they may be well on their way to succeeding.
Usually, an Afghan election — a $100 million, Western-funded exercise — draws foreigners to Kabul like flies to honey, with incoming flights full of consultants, international monitors, diplomats and journalists.

Not this time. Now, it is the flights out that are full, and the incoming planes are half empty. With the possible exception of journalists, foreigners have been leaving Afghanistan like never before during an election period after a series of attacks on foreign targets and the commission running the vote.

An attack on the offices of the Independent Election Commission went on all Saturday afternoon, with staff members hiding in armored bunkers and safe rooms while five insurgents fired rockets and small arms at the commission’s compound, having sneaked into a building nearby disguised in burqas.

There were no reported casualties among the election staff, but flights to Kabul were diverted because the airport was shut down for most of the afternoon, said the airport’s director, Mohammad Yaqoub Rasooli.

Even before the attack on Saturday, many international election monitors had either drastically curtailed their activities or made plans to evacuate their foreign employees, potentially raising serious questions about the validity of the election.

The National Democratic Institute, a mainstay of previous Afghan elections, closed its Kabul office and sent its international monitors home after one was killed in a recent attack on the Serena Hotel, where the monitors were staying, said Kathy Gest, the institute’s spokeswoman.

The International Republican Institute, which has helped monitor previous Afghan elections, has not been involved in this one.

Ahmad Nader Nadery, chairman of the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, said that another major monitor, Democracy International, had decided to cease its activities altogether. But a Democracy International official said the group had merely reduced its presence because of security concerns.

“The report that we are pulling out our staff and are not observing the election is inaccurate,” said the official, Jed Ober, director of programs. “We currently have a core team of six experts managing a team of 12 long-term observers.”

Mr. Nadery said: “Leaving the country at this critical moment causes two problems. A lot of the election bodies and monitors will be denied their expertise, and it will affect the credibility of the elections. With their not being on the ground, they cannot make observations or judgments about the credibility of the process.”
So they will have to rely on that legendary Afghan honesty to insure a fair election.

Well, lookie what the New York Times found.

Through diligent journalism they have discovered a "new" Republican/Teabagger effort to restrict voting in swing states and elsewhere.
Pivotal swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls.

The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote.

Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election.

Democrats in North Carolina are scrambling to fight back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. The measures, taken together, sharply reduce the number of early voting days and establish rules that make it more difficult for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a few cases, vote absentee.

In all, nine states have passed measures making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013. Most have to do with voter ID laws. Other states are considering mandating proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or a passport, after a federal court judge recently upheld such laws passed in Arizona and Kansas. Because many poor people do not have either and because documents can take time and money to obtain, Democrats say the ruling makes it far more difficult for people to register.
James Crow, the beloved racist icon that has been adopted by the Republican/Teabaggers to replace the Bald Eagle, is alive and well in these states. And that is what will continue to happen if you don't pay attention to off-year elections.

Did Christie screw the pooch while giving GOP donors a bj?

All the current Republican/Teabagger presidential hopefuls are down in Las Vegas shaking their booties at Republican money men including the Big Slug, Sheldon Adelson. As part of the talent contest, they all gave a speech proclaiming their undying love of Israel and pledged to do whatever the Israelis want. In doing so, New Jersey Governor Christie committed a dreadful error.
Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition event at Adelson's Venetian resort in Las Vegas, Christie used the controversial term to describe the West Bank and other areas where Israel has a military presence.

"I took a helicopter ride from the occupied territories across, and just felt personally how extraordinary that was, to understand the military risk that Israel faces every day," Christie said.

However, the Israeli government and many of its supporters do not consider those regions to be occupied, believing the country has legitimate claim to them. Instead, the term is seen by some Zionists as validating Palestine's opposition to Israeli presence in the region.
It's a sin to call the lands stolen from others as anything but Israel's god given right. The Big Slug may have said he is satified with Team Fatso's apology for the mistake, but he will be keeping a sharp eye on the Fat Man for any other signs of apostasy.

Calling All Cars! Your radios cost too damn much.

Not that old AM/FM in your car dash, but the two way communicators used by governmental agencies like fire and police. Somewhere along the way, various purchasing agencies started showing a decided bias for products from Motorola, despite prices as much as 10 times more than equally capable competitors.
A notice circulated by Alameda County to gauge vendors’ interest in the project said that the first $5.7 million phase must include a master controller made by Motorola Inc., and the equipment must connect with the county’s aged, proprietary Motorola SmartNet II system.

In other words, “it was already a done deal. . . . Nobody else could make their equipment compatible with soon-to-be-obsolete Motorola equipment” – nobody except Motorola, said Steve Overacker, who was Contra Costa County’s telecommunications manager at the time.

Any appearance that there would be a fair, competitive bidding process “was a ruse,” he said in a phone interview.

Chalk up another contract win for the Schaumburg, Ill.-based Goliath of the public safety communications industry, a company that for decades has ruled a market financed entirely by taxpayers and now totaling billions of dollars a year. For Motorola Solutions Inc., as it has been known since 2011, the value of this California contract would snowball toward $100 million.

Such outcomes have come to be expected for the company that has long led the way in two-way radio technology, even as the nation went on a post-9/11 spending binge on emergency communication. However, a seven-month McClatchy investigation found that, in one region after another, city, county and state officials also have favored Motorola, helping the firm secure an estimated 80 percent of all the emergency telecommunications business in America.

From the nation’s capital to the Pacific Coast, government officials have handed the company noncompetitive contracts, used modifications of years-old contracts to acquire new systems or crafted bid specifications to Motorola’s advantage. These officials, perhaps without recognizing their collective role, have helped stunt the very competition that’s needed to hold down prices and assure the most efficient use of government dollars.

The company’s contract wins have been clouded by irregularities or allegations of government favoritism in Chicago, Dallas, the San Francisco Bay Area and on statewide systems in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Washington, to name a few. Losing bidders often have been left chafing with the belief that they weren’t playing on a level field...

In a weakly policed but humongous patchwork of as many as 20,000 city, county, state and federal two-way radio networks, governments have paid as much as $7,500 apiece for Motorola models, when some competitors offered products meeting the same specifications for a fraction of its prices. In Europe, albeit with a lower-power network that requires more costly towers and infrastructure, police radios serving the same functions sell for $500 to $700.

“While our public safety people do an extraordinary job in protecting the public, I am not impressed with the choices they’ve made relative to technology,” said veteran Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, who represents part of Silicon Valley and has for years monitored Motorola’s dominance with chagrin.

In a phone interview, she called “ludicrous” radio prices of $5,000 and above.
Surprising that the McClatchy investigation hasn't uncovered any "grease" exchanging hands to smooth these contracts. In local fields like this, most of the locals are too unsophisticated to not ask for it. Or did they? Read the several articles posted on this matter to get the full story.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I love cross genre music

In this case, that country nightingale Suzy Bogguss singing a Duke Ellington classic, "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me"

Vote For Christie, Nice Bridge You Got There

You might have seen that New Jersey Governor Christie Chris has had himself exonerated of any wrongdoing for his closing of rush hour traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge. True, it cost the state $1 Million paid to a carefully selected law firm handpicked by the Governor himself, but they came through in the end.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appeared today at a Las Vegas meeting that included other presidential hopefuls, the day after saying the furor over calculated traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge won’t deter him from a possible White House bid.

The 51-year-old Republican yesterday faced reporters after a review he commissioned cleared him of responsibility for four days of punishing traffic last year on bridge approaches in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where the mayor didn’t endorse his re-election. The report instead blamed aides.

“It is always confidence-shaking and disappointing when people that you trust let you down,” Christie said today at the meeting in Nevada of the Republican Jewish Coalition, whose leaders include billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson. “As a leader of an organization, you’re ultimately responsible for that.”

Revelations that Christie aides and allies deliberately snarled traffic at the world’s busiest bridge -- turning 30-minute commutes into three-hour ordeals -- have become the biggest political crisis in his career. Christie’s popularity among U.S. adults fell to 32 percent this month from 50 percent last June, according to a Bloomberg National Poll. The governor placed fifth among major candidates for president in a George Washington University Battleground Poll released March 25...

While acknowledging the dip in his poll numbers, he said he has time to recover before he has to make a decision on seeking the presidency.

“There’s nothing permanent about that -- like the same where there was nothing permanent about my standing being extraordinarily high,” Christie said. “In terms of my decision-making, it’s simply not the way I would make a decision. The way I’ll make a decision about whether to seek any future office would be -- do I think it would be what’s best for me and my family? And secondly, do I think I have something unique and particular to offer.”
Sad to see that what might be best for the state or the country has no place in his decision making. Wouldn't want his judgement clouded by irrelevancies. Team Fatso can handle that for him.

The Old Texas Hangup

From the pen of Bill Day

Bill Maher tells Democrats to "Stand Your Ground"

Which is probably a gobsmacking idea to some but makes perfect sense to Americans.

The Little Drone That Could

As to what it could
, people are currently trying to find out and the FAA is desperately trying to stop them until it can control what happens in US airspace.
Drones are flying across the U.S. and being used by researchers, farmers, amateur photographers and others.

But if they’re used for commercial purposes, it’s illegal – at least in the view of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Technology has advanced quickly – much faster than the regulations that government officials say are needed to ensure safety.

So as Americans try out drones to deliver beer, photograph university campuses and scout out accident scenes, federal officials have ordered them to stop.

The FAA says it’s illegal to operate a drone for business or commercial purposes, no matter how seemingly benign.

“But that’s not stopping people,” said Ladd Sanger, a Dallas-based aviation lawyer and a managing partner with Slack & Davis. “We’re seeing a lot of people violating the FAA regulation.”

While many people agree there should be guidelines and a framework for commercial use, Sanger said, right now there’s no agreement about what authority the FAA has over drones.

“You have a NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) law judge who says effectively there are no rules,” Sanger said of an administrative law judge who ruled the FAA doesn’t have authority to enforce regulations that don’t exist.

The FAA has appealed. It argues that it has authority to regulate all aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, including the commercial use of a hobby-size unmanned airplane...

The agency does allow the recreational use of airspace by hobbyists with small, radio-controlled, model airplanes for personal use. It generally limits operations to below 400 feet above the ground and away from airports and air traffic.

The FAA is working on operating rules that will apply to a wider variety of users, it said.
The FAA does have good reason to worry about what flies where but the March of Progress isn't about to wait on a government agency.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Nova Scotia is one of those hotbeds of Canadian musicians

And one of the newer ones in Mo Kenney. This song, "Sucker" from her eponymous album was the 2013 winner of the SOCAN Songwriting Prize for the best song by an independent Canadian musician.

From the Burned Over District Dictionary

Today we have the definition of Republican patriotism

Living by Hobby Lobby rules

From the pen of Ben Sargent

R.I.P. Jeremiah Denton

Unlike some privileged Admiral's boy, you didn't crack under torture.

If Jesus still cried for Americans

He would have long ago run out of tears
, for the cruelty of Americans to their fellow citizens in this century alone is astonishing if you think we are a civilized nation. Consider the fate of those who are homeless.
In 2013, homeless Americans experienced a 23 percent increase in violence compared with the year before, according to preliminary figures by the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). The U.S. homeless population declined over the same period, with 610,000 people going without shelter on any given day in 2013 — 20,000 fewer than in 2012.

The homeless “are targeted solely because of their circumstances,” coalition director Jerry Jones told Al Jazeera. “People who are in shelters and marginalized are often preyed upon.”

Because the NCH bases its research on reported crimes covered in news media, the actual number of violent attacks targeting the homeless may be much higher, since many go unreported.

Jones said he is unable to determine whether the reported increase in violence is due to more attacks targeting the homeless or more reporting of crimes.

While Florida has long led the nation in violent crimes against the homeless, California took the lead in 2013. The Golden State has the largest homeless population in the United States, with more than 130,000 people living on the streets, according to an estimate by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Nationwide, both civilians and authorities have perpetrated violence against the homeless.
When the authorities are as big a threat to the homeless as private citizens, we are truly descending into depravity. Tbogg has a related post.

From a Congress that won't pay for their food stamps.

There have been veterans in our capitol as long as there has been a military but this week they are gathering for mission that could mean life or death for many if their brothers and sisters.
Former Marine Cpl. Tyler Tannahill left his home in Overland Park, Kan., to spend this week lobbying lawmakers in Washington to honor four fellow Marines who served alongside him in Iraq and Afghanistan but who took their own lives.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Jeff Hensley, a jet fighter pilot in Iraq, joined the “Storm the Hill” mission to help the suicidal vets who seek treatment at the equine therapy center he runs in Frisco, Texas.

The two men accompanied dozens of other veterans from the nation’s two post-9/11 wars for a push to get Congress and President Barack Obama to take more aggressive steps to counter a historically high suicide rate in their ranks.

“Veterans’ suicide rate has been increasing at an alarming pace over the course of the more than 12 years of these wars,” Hensley told McClatchy. “We feel like it’s time to do something about it.”

With 22 veterans a day taking their lives, according to projections by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the former Iraq and Afghanistan troops met with more than 100 lawmakers on Capitol Hill, attended sessions with senior officials at the Pentagon, the White House and the VA and participated in mental health panels.

In the unseasonal cold of an early spring morning Thursday, with patches of snow still dotting the grass, the group planted more than 1,800 miniature flags on the National Mall, between the Capitol and the White House, to symbolize the number of veterans believed to have taken their own lives this year alone.

While not all of the suicide victims fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, veterans of those conflicts say that the nature of the two wars, the multiple deployments required by a volunteer force and the rough transitions to a still-uncertain civilian economy have made such tragedies more frequent.

“There are no real defined battlelines,” Tannahill said, describing the kind of battlefield that many veterans experienced. “There’s no front. There are no World War II-type enemies in front of us (or who) hold the ground behind us. So there are constant threats all around you. It’s a high-stress environment throughout the entire theater. And the longer you’re exposed to those high stresses, the more deployments you go on, the greater the odds that you’re going to have difficult personal issues.”

The problems have been exacerbated by the end of the U.S. combat role in Iraq and the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, which have sent large numbers of mainly young vets back home in a shorter period of time, putting extreme pressure on the VA’s health care system.
But they have come to face a Congress tightly in the grip of a group whose motto seems to be "Millions For Defense Contractors, Not A Penny For Veterans". To the Republican/Teabaggers, veterans have served their purpose and can now be thrown away.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

When you start with an Englishman & 2 Australians

A name like The Greencards is easy to understand. Where their interest in bluegrass came from may be harder to grok. But why bother when you can listen to them perform "Time".

The Diocese of Hobby Lobby

From the pen of Tom Toles.

The new mortgage scam comes to fruition.

Everybody has seen the ads of famous geezers, including a notorious ex-Senator, peddling the latest bad idea to other geezers as a way to stay in their homes. Reverse mortgages are supposed to give you the money you need and not come due until you die. There are some other rules , but these are not always being honored by the latest gang of dishonest banksters.
Similar scenes are being played out throughout an aging America, where the children of elderly borrowers are learning that their parents’ reverse mortgages are now threatening their own inheritances. Reverse mortgages, which allow homeowners 62 and older to borrow money against the value of their homes that need not be paid back until they move out or die, have long posed pitfalls for older borrowers.

Now many like Ms. Santos are discovering that reverse mortgages can also come up with a harsh sting for their heirs.

Under federal rules, survivors are supposed to be offered the option to settle the loan for a percentage of the full amount. Instead, reverse mortgage companies are increasingly threatening to foreclose unless heirs pay the mortgages in full, according to interviews with more than four dozen housing counselors, state regulators and 25 families whose elderly parents took out reverse mortgages.

Some lenders are moving to foreclose just weeks after the borrower dies, many families say. The complaints are echoed by borrowers across the country, according to a review of federal and state court lawsuits against reverse mortgage lenders.

Others say that they don’t get that far. Soon after their parents die, the heirs say they are plunged into a bureaucratic maze as they try to get lenders to provide them with details about how to keep their family homes.
Reverse mortgages do have a place, for a very small number of retirees, but if you want to make money, you need a lot more than that. After all, the prize is a home probably worth more than the mortgage and heirs who have no clue. And if that geezer ex-Senator wasn't clue enough, he was touting a company that was sanctioned and prohibited from doing business in several states for their sleazy practices. But The Fonze and Robert Wagner are so good looking, how could anything go wrong.

Will the ugly slug be getting his moneys worth?

Sheldon Adelson
has been using the $Billions from his casinos to buy as many members of Congress as he can. His aim is to eliminate online gambling so his casinos are the only game in town. Now he is making a push to see if he has bought enough influence.
A push by the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson to outlaw online gambling has ignited a bitter civil war in the gambling industry, dividing one of Washington’s most powerful interest groups and posing a major test of the Republican megadonor’s political clout.

Mr. Adelson’s effort officially kicked off on Wednesday, when lawmakers, including a senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has accepted tens of thousands of dollars from the businessman and his family, introduced legislation originally drafted with Mr. Adelson’s lobbyist.

The bill would close a three-year-old loophole in federal law, banning online gambling — a growing industry that Mr. Adelson argues is bad for casinos and gamblers — and shutting down online gambling in a handful states that recently legalized it.

The dispute has already largely sidelined the industry’s powerful trade group, the American Gaming Association, after Mr. Aldelson threatened to withdraw from the organization if it continued to back expanded online gambling, according to several industry executives.

Mr. Adelson’s political prominence will be on display today in Las Vegas at the start of the four-day Republican Jewish Committee meeting — an event that has attracted several 2016 presidential prospects, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.

Mr. Adelson, whose $38 billion fortune makes him among the richest men in the world, poured roughly $100 million into Republican campaigns in 2012, and he is known for pushing ideological fights in Washington. The battle over online gambling shows how he also lobbies for his business.

In this fight, dueling branches of the casino industry are now entering the fray, employing a half-dozen former elected officials and an a clutch of lobbyists and public relations strategists through a pair of strange-bedfellows coalitions.

A new group bankrolled by Mr. Adelson, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, is wooing socially conservative lawmakers opposed to gambling along with some Democrats who are worried about possible online gambling by minors. But it also features the former New York governor, George E. Pataki, who presided over a sweeping expansion of gambling in that state, including online bets on horse racing.

Rival casinos and online poker companies are counterattacking through the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection. The group has signed up a former Republican congressman, Michael G. Oxley, who a decade ago led efforts to outlaw online betting and accused companies selling such games of “gobbling up victims in the United States,” and the former congresswoman Mary Bono. Mr. Oxley, who retired from Congress in 2007 and now works as a lobbyist, said in an interview that he believed state-regulated online gambling was now the best hope of countering the rapid expansion of illegal online gambling.

“The world has changed dramatically in the last 10 years,” Mr. Oxley said. “I have come to the conclusion you can’t try to control the Internet and the like.”
So that ugly slug Adelson has bought Miss Lindsey and is auditioning (making offers for) others this weekend. Both sides include some strange bedfellows so we will have to wait and see whose money has the sweetest voice.

You think it's easy growing good weed?

To get anything worth smoking takes more than sticking some seeds into soil. And when you become a legitimate business, the job just becomes more difficult. McClatchy gives us a look at some of those difficulties.
Starting up any business is a challenge. Many fail. Now add the heavy regulations imposed on Colorado’s medical and recreational marijuana sellers and Washington’s new recreational industry.

“I think some of the people who initially had businesses, they didn’t (pass a background check) or they couldn’t put the money together or they couldn’t prove where the money was coming from,” said Michael Elliott, the executive director of a marijuana trade association in Colorado, the Marijuana Industry Group.

Take just one category of expense, video surveillance. It’s mandatory in both states. A typical Colorado grower and seller probably invested $20,000 to $30,000 in the startup costs of camera systems, Elliott said, with some spending 10 times that amount over the long term.

Add in secure entrances, occupational licensing, tracking the plants from birth to sale, he said. The point of all of it is to prevent the drug from leaking out to the illegal market. But all of it has costs, Elliott said. And then there’s the question of where to keep the money.

None of that has scared off hundreds of entrepreneurs from trying to strike gold...

In Colorado, workers in the industry must pass background checks to receive an occupational medical-marijuana license from the state, something Washington requires only for people running and financing the businesses. Colorado now has more than 6,500 active licenses.
In time the whole process will streamline and unify to reduce the burden and even the money problem will work itself out. And when all is said and done, it is still easier than prospecting in the hills with a pan and a mules worth of supplies.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Born to Love

This is from an eTown webisode and not on any of Laura Marling's previously released albums. It has a delicate quality seldom seen in her earlier work.

Now we know why the GOP chose the elephant

But women don't forget, either.

Mitch The Chin McConnell surges ahead

In the release of embarrassing campaign videos that go viral. The latest involved the dishonoring of favorite basketball team U of Kentucky by using pictures of Duke, from North Carolina.
Senator Mitch McConnell’s re-election team is getting very good at making campaign videos that go viral — but for all the wrong reasons.

On Tuesday, the campaign for the Kentucky Republican released what at first seemed to be a standard spot featuring rapid-fire images of American flags, guns, trains, farmers, horses galloping — and, for an eye blink, footage of a college basketball team in white and blue uniforms reveling in victory.

But, oops, it wasn’t the University of Kentucky Wildcats. It was Duke.

Mr. McConnell’s opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, quickly seized on the error. “KY, as your next senator, I promise to never glorify a Duke championship in a campaign ad,” she said in one tweet. “Turns out @Team_Mitch has been in DC for so long he can’t tell the difference between UK & Duke basketball,” said another.

The campaign blamed the vendor that produced the video for the error.
Continue reading the main story

Scrambling, the campaign pulled the ad (not fast enough) and replaced the Duke footage with a clip of a Kentucky player. But, oops again, that version prompted the University of Kentucky to demand that the image be taken down because the McConnell campaign did not have permission to use it.
True, an important Senator should have more on his mind than basketball. However, as Mitch and his team have chosen to forsake any effort at governance, is it really too much to get the correct team in your political ad? We can only wonder what Mitch The Chin's next stumble will be.

She should be too ashamed to be seen in public.

Now I am fully aware that your average Republican/Teabagger when in full hypocrite mode is a stranger to shame, but this one should have brought the two together. Sadly reading the story of Wisconsin Republican/Teabagger Rep. Mary Czaja also has a way of chilling compassion in the reader.
Wouldn’t we all like some compassion when confronted with a life-threatening illness? Wisconsin state representative Mary Czaja, R-Irma, just found some — for herself.

Czaja opposed a healthcare bill that would require insurance companies to cover chemotherapy pills, just as they cover the intravenous treatment. Then she had a conversion experience. She was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in January and faces a 16-week course of chemotherapy to deal with it.

Ten years ago, the representative underwent a double mastectomy. Pre-cancerous cells were found in the milk-ducts of her left breast. The surgery was a preventative measure, meant to keep cancer from developing. But a stabbing pain in her shoulder in January was diagnosed as metastasized breast cancer.
Representative Czaja thought she was safe from cancer.

Czaja said that after the double mastectomy, she thought she was safe. She described the new pain as excruciating but said, “I never in a million years thought I had cancer.” A conversation with her doctor brought about some new thinking. She reversed her position on insurance and chemotherapy. She explained, “It’s not just the affordability factor; it’s about helping people get back to normal and get back to work.”

It’s certainly about all those things: affordability, a healthy life, getting back to normal, getting back to work. And it’s wonderful that the bill has now passed in the Wisconsin Assembly. The Assembly amended a Senate version to add some co-pays, with a cap of $100 a month. So the bill isn’t exactly overflowing with generosity. Still, it passed, 75-18. And wonder of wonders, Governor Walker has promised to sign it.

But wouldn’t it be nice if Rep. Czaja were just as enthusiastic about other women’s health issues as she is about her own particular one? According to We Are Wisconsin, she is an insurance industry insider who has a history of lobbying against affordable health care for Wisconsinites. As for the governor, Tanya Atkinson, executive director of Wisconsin’s Planned Parenthood, recently wrote about him in Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel. She specifically took aim at his positions on women’s health:

Since 2011, Walker has authorized 11 policies that take away basic health care access from women, including unprecedented cuts for women and families in need of essential preventative and diagnostic health care such as birth control and cancer screenings.
If she did everything right, how did this happen?

But Czaja had nothing to say about that history as she opined that:

I did everything right, but still the cancer was somehow able to sneak back in. We as women can be such caretakers that we don’t take time to care for ourselves.
Yeah, Representative … people who do everything right get cancer, just like people who don’t. But everyone deserves adequate healthcare without judgement. Apparently, Czaja believes only a certain class of people deserve coverage, especially those who need to ‘get back to work’. So, good for all those people who need the same coverage Czaja does and will soon have it; too bad for those with other healthcare needs.
So she learned an important healthcare lesson, but did it stir any humanity in her coal dark soul? It is not recommended that anyone hold their breath, self-awareness is not a Republican/Teabagger virtue.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

If you go down that road

You have to go all the way.

Is Alternative Country the same as Honky Punk?

Or it could be Punky Tonk. Lydia Loveless sings "Can't Change Me"

Maybe too late for this.

From the pen of Nick Anderson

Obama calls for an end to NSA bulk collection

On the face of it, the President is making the right moves to restrain the NSA behemoth.
The Obama administration is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal for a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone records program in a way that — if approved by Congress — would end the aspect that has most alarmed privacy advocates since its existence was leaked last year, according to senior administration officials.

Under the proposal, they said, the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order.

In a speech in January, President Obama said he wanted to get the N.S.A. out of the business of collecting call records in bulk while preserving the program’s abilities. He acknowledged, however, that there was no easy way to do so, and had instructed Justice Department and intelligence officials to come up with a plan by March 28 — Friday — when the current court order authorizing the program expires.

As part of the proposal, the administration has decided to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew the program as it exists for at least one more 90-day cycle, senior administration officials said. But under the plan the administration has developed and now advocates, the officials said, it would later undergo major changes.

The new type of surveillance court orders envisioned by the administration would require phone companies to swiftly provide records in a technologically compatible data format, including making available, on a continuing basis, data about any new calls placed or received after the order is received, the officials said.
It all sounds good, but kicking it into Congress allows our wise Solons to de-fang any proposal and stuff it so full of loopholes that it will end up with business as usual, except for a prohibition on listening to Congress.

Mudslide toll will grow

So far they have found only 14 bodies, but the number of missing people reports has grown.
The search for survivors at the site of a massive landslide continued Tuesday with the growing fear that rescue workers will find more bodies beneath the several stories of mud with the consistency of freshly poured concrete.

Officials in Snohomish County say they now have had 176 reports of people unaccounted for — up from 108 on Monday — since a wall of mud came cascading down a mountain slope Saturday onto the tiny community of Oso. At least 14 people have been killed.

“We’re expecting that number to go up throughout the day,” Travis Hots, a local fire official, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Mr. Hots also said the rain expected to start falling later in the day and continue throughout the week would make the search “more challenging.” The work, he said, will probably take weeks, but added that even a meticulous search was “no guarantee that we’re going to get everybody.”

Emergency management officials have cautioned that the number of people unaccounted for was likely to go down because some of the reports of missing people are duplicates or vague, with little more than a first name to go on. But the sense of an expanding disaster — one that will touch more lives — was unavoidable as the slide’s grim dimensions emerged. Emergency officials said the new list included not just residents but also home repair contractors, visitors and people who may have been driving on a state road when the slide began.
The slide hit on a Saturday morning, a time when many people would have been home. Our hearts go out to all those affected.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Revelation Road

Shelby Lynne from her 2011 album of the same name.

Finding the silver lining

Because even if it is made by the hand of man, there is always something good in it. And Tom Tomorrow takes the time to show us the good that can come from NSA snooping.

The Bishop Of Bling - Act II

First it was the Bishop of Newark who was diverting large amounts of diocesan money to build a mansion worthy of his pretensions. Now we find that the Archbishop of Atlanta has done him one better.

An archdiocese in the suburbs of Atlanta has sparked debate amongst its parishioners over the purchase of two residences valued at $2.2 million each, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Cathedral of Christ the King in Buckhead recently acquired a rectory for its parish priests which it hopes to renovate next month. That residence once housed Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who has moved into a new, 6,196-square-foot mansion nearby. A $15 million bequest from Joseph Mitchell, the nephew of “Gone With the Wind” author and Pulitzer Prize winner Margaret Mitchell, was used to finance both homes.

According to the Journal-Constitution, some parishioners think the archdiocese should have followed the example of Pope Francis, who has urged priests to avoid an extravagant lifestyle. They say Mitchell's wealth would have been better spent on schools and the poor.

But Archbishop Gregory and Rev. Monsignor Frank McNamee, the rector, explained that the expenditures were necessary for their living arrangements. Gregory believes the new $2.2 million mansion will allow him to “smell like the flock,” as he put it, and provide a space where he can host church goers.

Beth Maguire, a Christ the King parishioner, however, called the purchase the definition of “an excessive lifestyle," according to the Journal-Constitution.
I don't know who the Archbishop ministers but I suspect few of his flock smell as sweet as himself.

A fine idea

President Obama's Organizing For Action is giving away free bumper stickers. Wouldn't this look fine on your vehicle?

The brutality of military justice

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Hire some lawyers, pay them $1 Million

And at the end of their inquiry, they had better find that you did nothing illegal, if they ever want to practice in New Jersey again.
With his office suddenly engulfed in scandal over lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey two months ago summoned a pair of top defense lawyers from an elite law firm to the State House and asked them to undertake an extensive review of what had gone wrong.

Now, after 70 interviews and at least $1 million in legal fees to be paid by state taxpayers, that review is set to be released, and according to people with firsthand knowledge of the inquiry, it has uncovered no evidence that the governor was involved in the plotting or directing of the lane closings.

The review is the first of multiple inquiries into a scandal that has jeopardized Mr. Christie’s political future. It will be viewed with intense skepticism, not only because it was commissioned by the governor but also because the firm conducting it, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, has close ties to the Christie administration and the firm’s lawyers were unable to interview three principal players in the shutdowns, including Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff.

But lawyers from the team who led the inquiry are prepared to vigorously defend their work, which they described as an unfettered look into the inner workings of an administration known to prize loyalty and privacy.

Randy M. Mastro, the lawyer leading the internal investigation, said that the level of cooperation from Mr. Christie’s office and the volume of records reviewed had allowed investigators to resolve the most pressing questions to arise from the scandal. The governor himself handed over his iPhone and telephone records and allowed the lawyers to search his government and private email accounts.

Questioned about the credibility of an internal inquiry, Mr. Mastro said there was no incentive to sugarcoat the findings. Any shortcomings of the investigation are likely to be exposed by parallel investigations now underway, by the State Legislature and the United States attorney in New Jersey, Paul J. Fishman.

“At the end of the day, we will be judged by whether we got this right,” said Mr. Mastro, who called the review “comprehensive and exhaustive.”
In the meantime they have been paid and people are focusing on Team Fatso anyway. Who looks at lawyers?

Give Me That Old Time Infrastructure

NOT! Nothing put into the ground can expect to last forever, not the least iron piping. But that is what so much of our underground utilities travel through. And as ConEd is regularly finding out, when pipes are older than 50 years, the likelihood of a leak is great, as is the likelihood of a catastrophe.
To replace all of the old mains in its network right now would cost as much as $10 billion, Con Edison estimates. Much of that expense would fall on the residents and businesses that use the gas for heating and cooking.

Despite the high cost and logistical hurdles, alarmed regulators at the state’s Public Service Commission have ordered the company to significantly step up its replacement schedule, from 50 miles of pipe a year to 70 by 2016, in the city and in Westchester. Even at that rate, it would still take nearly three decades for the utility to finish swapping out what regulators have identified as the most leak-prone pipes.

As a result, infrastructure experts say there could easily be more explosions like the one this month in East Harlem.

After the blast, federal investigators identified a leak in the gas main, but they are still not certain what caused it or if it was the source of the gas that exploded.

Federal records show the New York City utilities have been able to cut into their leak numbers as they have replaced mains. National Grid, in particular, has made improvements. Its rate of leaks per 100 miles of gas mains still ranks among the highest in the country, but it is significantly better than Con Edison’s.

Con Edison has made progress, too. But last year, when regulators were considering whether to let Con Edison raise its rates, the commission’s staff voiced concerns about the company’s attitude toward safety.

The staff testified that Con Edison had 695 violations of the state’s gas pipeline safety regulations over the previous three years. Not all of those violations were classified as “high risk,” but the regulatory staff said any failure to follow the rules was “a serious issue that could either directly or indirectly lead to an incident causing serious public harm.”

A spokesman for Con Edison, Michael Clendenin, responded by saying the company “takes compliance with the commission’s regulations very seriously.” He added that the complexity of New York City’s infrastructure probably accounts for the utility’s high rate of leaks, but added, “We attend to hazardous leaks immediately.”

In order to ignite, gas has to pool in a confined space until it makes up at least 5 percent of the air. Then, any flame or spark — even the flipping of a light switch — can set it off.

In the last decade, The Times identified from federal records 22 significant gas ignitions in the city; a dozen of these were categorized in federal records as full-fledged explosions.

Not counting the blast in East Harlem, gas-related episodes have killed three people in the city in the last decade and injured 22 others, according to a tally by The Times.

The East Harlem gas explosion, which also injured dozens, was the first fatal one in the city in nearly five years.
The new generation of plastic gas piping may last longer, but only if it is put inplace before the next leak.

Quote of the Day

This has gotten out of hand. It isn’t ‘faith and freedom’ when reproductive autonomy isn’t extended by the Catholic Church to women. Now we have other Christian religions seeing what the bishops are doing and saying we will do likewise. It isn’t freedom when a woman can be held hostage by the owner of a business.
The head of NCAN, Sister Donna Quinn, speaking out in favor of the contraceptive mandate in health insurance coverage.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Oh Mama"

It's about time I featured Aoife O'Donovan. This is from her Fossils album.

Annual Report from Corporate Headquarters

From the pen of Jack Ohman

No wonder Popes are always so happy

From the Washington Post:
German customs officials intercepted a shipment of cocaine destined for the Vatican in January, weekly Bild am Sonntag reported Sunday.

Officers at Leipzig airport found 340 grams (12 ounces) of the drug packed into 14 condoms inside a shipment of cushions coming from South America, the paper, reported citing a German customs report. It said the package was simply addressed to the Vatican postal office, meaning any of the Catholic mini-state’s 800 residents could have picked it up.

The paper reported that a subsequent sting operation arranged with Vatican police failed to nab the intended recipient. No one claimed the package, indicating that he or she was tipped off about the plan. The drugs would have a street value of several tens of thousands of euros.
And does this have anything to do with Ratso's retirement?

Pink Bows - From Cinderella to The Hunger Games

There have been changes in what little girls hope to become and the desire to be like Katniss Everdeen is just part of it.
Heroines for young girls are rapidly changing, and the toy industry — long adept at capitalizing on gender stereotypes — is scrambling to catch up.

Toy makers have begun marketing a more aggressive line of playthings and weaponry for girls — inspired by a succession of female warrior heroes like Katniss, the Black Widow of “The Avengers,” Merida of “Brave” and now, Tris of the book and new movie “Divergent” — even as the industry still clings to every shade of pink.

The result is a selection of toys that, oddly, both challenges antiquated notions and plays to them deeply.

The Rebelle line, introduced last year, comes in a swirl of pink, purple, white and gold plastic, and the weapons have names — like the Heartbreaker and the Pink Crush — that are enough to make an enlightened 21st-century mother groan. But around a dozen new toys in the line are coming out this year.

Zing’s Air Huntress bows and sling shots (Slogan: Ready. Aim. Girl Power!) account for more than a quarter of the company’s sales in a little over a year on the market. A pump-action “cheetah shooter” from the Marshmallow Fun Company is bathed in pale pink with darker spots and fires mini-marshmallows.

Barbie, ever pretty in pink, has naturally gotten into the act with a Katniss doll that slings a bow and arrow in authentic brown. The action figure shelves at toy stores now display a Black Widow figure (modeled after Scarlett Johansson) alongside the new Captain America.

Activision’s latest Skylanders game, Swap Force, includes Stealth Elf, Roller Brawl and Smolderdash, all of whom are on an equal footing with their male counterparts. And Stella, a female Angry Bird, will soon get her own mobile app and accessories, so she can be dressed up and launched into the air to destroy pig fortresses.
An admirable equality all wrapped in pink.

25 years later Exxon says everything is just fine

But the government and the people living on Prince William Sound beg to differ.
“The sound is thriving environmentally and we’ve had a very solid, complete recovery,” said Richard Keil, senior media relations adviser with Exxon Mobil.

Government scientists have a different view.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, a state-federal group set up to oversee restoration of Prince William Sound, considers the pink and sockeye salmon to be recovered, as well as the bald eagles and harbor seals. Several other species are listed as recovering but not recovered.

Sea otters have had a rough time. Thousands died in the months following the spill, and the population has struggled to recover in the 25 years since. The U.S. Geological Survey reported earlier this month that the sea otters of the area had finally returned to their pre-spill numbers.

Listed as still not recovering are the herring, a group of killer whales and the pigeon guillemots, a North Pacific seabird.

Rick Steiner, an oceans activist and former professor at the University of Alaska, said the “spill is not over. The damage persists in quite remarkable ways.”

Wills, who fished salmon as well as herring, said the spill left a huge mark on those who made a living from Prince William Sound.

Exxon compensation checks were too late and too little, he said.

“A lot of people got real hurt. I know a lot of guys committed suicide and all that stuff. I got divorced, had an ulcer. It was rough,” said Wills, who now runs a bookshop and cafe in Homer, Alaska.

Among the scientific puzzles of the spill, the fate of the herring is a particular mystery. It’s a vital species for the ecosystem, giving protein to whales, salmon, birds and others.

Prince William Sound was home to a lucrative spring herring fishery that supported fishermen badly in need of cash coming off the long winter in between fishing seasons.

Researchers found lesions and larval abnormalities in herring exposed to the oil. Then, four years after the spill, the herring population crashed dramatically. The reasons are a subject of intense debate, with suggestions that the effects of the spill could have made the herring vulnerable to disease.

“No other stock in Alaska crashed in 1993, so that’s indirect evidence it is spill-related,” said Jeep Rice, who studied the spill for more than two decades as a federal scientist. “That’s kind of weak, and yet it is about as good as we can get in terms of explaining why it happened in that year.”

The herring never really recovered, and the current population is too low to overcome predators. Herring fishing, with a brief exception, has been closed for more than 20 years.

The killer whales of Prince William Sound also have suffered. Two groups were hit especially hard. Scientists saw killer whales from one of the groups swimming through heavy sheens of oil. A Los Angeles Times photo showed whales from the other group swimming near the tanker as it gushed oil. Populations dropped dramatically in the year after the spill.

“The evidence is pretty compelling that it was a spill-related effect on those two groups of killer whales,” said federal marine biologist Shigenaka.

One of the groups continues its slow recovery. The other numbered 22 killer whales at the time of the spill and is down to just seven. Scientists now expect it to go extinct, the end of a genetic line that researchers say has hunted in the area for thousands of years, maybe since the last Ice Age.

The federal and state governments are still weighing the science of the spill’s effects and deciding whether to seek more money from Exxon Mobil for cleaning up remaining oil.

If there is evidence the spill is causing unexpected, continuing damage, the company could be forced to pay up to $100 million on top of the $900 million civil settlement that Exxon paid in 1991. The case lives on in the courts.
The oil can still be found hidden away in sheltered places and the court battle continues.By now Exxon has paid as much for legal fees as they would have paid if they accepted their damage. So who has thrived in the last 25 years? Besides the lawyers, that is.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Back then you could say this

Without getting accused of all manner of dreadful social crimes. Whatever, Jo Stafford does a wonderful early cover of "You Belong To Me"

The hardware has been ready since 2006

But the necessary software to properly fly the F-35 is apparently being written by the writers of Duke Nukem. At this time the earliest expected date for 1.0 is mid 2015 for one version. The others have later dates.
“Persistent software problems” have slowed testing to demonstrate the aircraft’s combat, navigation, targeting and reconnaissance systems, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said.

The Marine Corps F-35 version, designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, has a key milestone next year. While the Marines want the plane to be deemed ready for warfare in mid-2015, tests on some of its software might not be completed on time, and may be as much as 13 months late.

“Delays of this magnitude would mean that the Marine Corps will not likely have all of the capabilities it expects in July 2015,” according to a draft of a GAO report obtained by Bloomberg News. “The effects of these delays compound as they also put the timely delivery of Air Force and Navy initial operating capabilities at risk.”

The Air Force’s F-35 version is supposed to meet a similar deadline in 2016, and the Navy model in 2018...

“Software continues to remain our No. 1 technical risk on the program and we have instituted disciplined systems engineering processes to address the complexity of writing, testing and integrating software,” he said in an e-mail statement. “We are confident about delivering the F-35’s initial war-fighting capability to the U.S. Marine Corps in 2015.”

Since the program completed a major reorganization in March 2012, “acquisition cost and schedule estimates have remained relatively stable, and progress has been made in key areas,” the GAO said.

Lockheed Martin is improving its production processes and reduced problems with its pilot helmet, the Navy F-35’s tailhook, which enables the plane to land on aircraft carriers, and an automatic diagnostic system.

The company and the Pentagon program office also made progress in 2013 toward reducing the cost of the Navy and Air Force models, though not the Marine Corps version, the GAO said.

As of January, the military planned to have verified basic functions for 27 percent of the software intended to operate the Marine Corps version. Instead, it got to 13 percent, leaving a “significant amount of work to be done by October,” when testing was to be complete, the GAO said.
A more realistic expectation would be the rollout of a fully functioning example in time for the 100th Anniversary of the US Air Force.

We treat the Chinese no better than the Germans

But unlike with the Germans, we make no pretense of being BFFs with the Chinese.
American officials have long considered Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, a security threat, blocking it from business deals in the United States for fear that the company would create “back doors” in its equipment that could allow the Chinese military or Beijing-backed hackers to steal corporate and government secrets.

But even as the United States made a public case about the dangers of buying from Huawei, classified documents show that the National Security Agency was creating its own back doors — directly into Huawei’s networks.

The agency pried its way into the servers in Huawei’s sealed headquarters in Shenzhen, China’s industrial heart, according to N.S.A. documents provided by the former contractor Edward J. Snowden. It obtained information about the workings of the giant routers and complex digital switches that Huawei boasts connect a third of the world’s population, and monitored communications of the company’s top executives.

One of the goals of the operation, code-named “Shotgiant,” was to find any links between Huawai and the People’s Liberation Army, one 2010 document made clear. But the plans went further: to exploit Huawai’s technology so that when the company sold equipment to other countries — including both allies and nations that avoid buying American products — the N.S.A. could roam through their computer and telephone networks to conduct surveillance and, if ordered by the president, offensive cyberoperations.

“Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products,” the N.S.A. document said. “We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products,” it added, to “gain access to networks of interest” around the world.

They just want to get rid of the foreign soldiers

And their overpaid stooge Karzai of the Afghans. If they get that people in Afghanistan actually hope the Taliban will go back to their homes and families.

Thirteen years of indecisive war in Afghanistan failed to stamp out the Taliban insurgency in what turned into a Sisyphean task as the U.S. prepares to leave the country for good by year’s end. U.S. firepower pushed the Taliban back into their remote strongholds in the vast Afghan countryside, but the ragtag fighters of the Islamist insurgency have proved resilient — perhaps, analysts say, because of help from neighboring Pakistan.

Not so, say the fighters featured in an upcoming Al Jazeera Fault Lines episode, “On the Front Lines With the Taliban.”

“If we see any Pakistani forces we’ll fight them too,” said one Taliban fighter, a man from Logar province, in eastern Afghanistan. “Whoever tries to conquer our country — Pakistanis or other foreigners — we’ll fight them until the end. Until there is not even one foreign soldier here, we will never make peace.”

Yet those fighting words belie a counterintuitive moment of hope for war-weary Afghans: If the Taliban are to be taken at their word, the imminent withdrawal of U.S. forces could diminish the insurgency’s raison d’être. The Taliban narrative of resistance loses steam once there are no foreign troops left to fight in Afghanistan. And with the country’s first democratic transfer of power just around the corner, many Afghans hope the group’s leadership-in-exile might be more receptive to the idea of peace talks with whoever takes over from outgoing President Hamid Karzai, who despite a recent chill with Washington is widely viewed as an American puppet.

The Taliban are ripe for talks and compromise,” said Ahmed Rashid, the Pakistani author of several books on Afghanistan and the Taliban, in a phone interview from his home in Lahore. The Taliban have sustained heavy casualties, and the leadership is ready to return home to Afghanistan, Rashid said.

“There is a peace lobby in the Taliban who will want to resume broken negotiations once the U.S. leaves,” he said. “But the Taliban will have to make an internal political decision after next month's elections. Everything is on hold until then.”

In reality, the withdrawal is expected to have a negligible impact on the balance of power between Afghan and Taliban forces — security responsibilities have long since been transferred to the Afghan National Army and its constituent forces. But it could not have come at a more pivotal moment for the fragile Afghan state.

In April, Afghanistan will hold elections, and while hopes are high for the democratic transfer of power, there are well-founded fears that the election results will be widely disputed, as they were in 2009.

If the elections are perceived as free and fair and the results are widely respected across Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic tapestry, democracy may resonate even in the most remote corners of the country still under Taliban control. Another disputed result, however, and the country’s fragile political framework could come crashing down as U.S. forces beeline for the exit.
And since we have no control over Afghan corruption, other than paying for it, we can probably expect some kind of collapse. At least it will be their collapse.

Will Lake of the Woods become Hardpan of the Woods?

If the current drought in California continues its course the answer is yes. At this time, the residents are already under severe water restrictions.
Lake of the Woods is running out of water. Caught in a statewide water emergency in the third year of what is fast becoming a historic drought, it is one of seven small areas in California with a dubious distinction — it could run out of potable water by summer. That has made living here difficult, and coping with a dire shortage has forced residents to make difficult choices, which a much larger swath of California could also face if the drought worsens.

The district relies on groundwater pumped by wells, but the levels are getting so low that new sources have to be found.

Things have been bad since last summer, and winter has brought no relief. Only three of five wells are pumping water at a rate of 100 gallons per minute. Residents who were asked to limit outdoor washing and watering to every other day now face a total ban.

“Last summer, we drilled three test holes and came up with nothing,” said Bob Stowell, president of the water district (an unpaid position) and head of his own construction company. “We have enough right now to maintain levels that we need at this time.”

But that might change. Prospects of a protracted drought as summer nears have residents scrambling for new sources of water. The only good to come out of this emergency is that it has brought state funds to the community: two grants totaling $750,000. The cash infusion was quickly put to work. “We hired an engineer who in turn hired a geologist to do mapping and studies,” Stowell said.

But nothing is simple in a time of drought here. In a community that sits along the San Andreas Fault, drilling and where to drill is a delicate task because of the risk of creating fractures that could trigger an earthquake. The studies identified three areas suitable for drilling. “We’re waiting on permits,” said Stowell, who hopes drilling can start within a month. “There’s got to be water down there, but nobody can say for sure. We just have to go deeper, but the deeper you go, the higher the risk of water with fluoride and uranium that may not be acceptable.”

So other desperate measures have had to be taken. Lake of the Woods spent $10,000 a month to truck in water from neighboring Frazier Park, but that source dried up when Frazier Park began to worry about its own supply.
The downside is a dry land is getting drier. The upside is that Hollywood may have all kinds of new ghost towns to film in.

Border Patrol or Jackbooted Thugs

The answer depends on which side of the border you are on. The confusion arises from the inability of the Border Patrol to recognize the border when they reach out and kill someone.
Sixteen-year-old Jose Antonio Elena got the kind of punishment that those who toss rocks at Border Patrol agents receive with startling frequency: He was shot with a .40-caliber round from an agent’s service weapon.

The bullet hit Elena in the back of the head. He slumped mortally wounded to a sidewalk on the Mexican side, a few paces from the border fence. At least two agents, perched on the U.S. side about 20 feet above the street and shielded by the fence’s closely spaced iron bars, continued to fire, witnesses said. In all, 10 bullets struck Elena, spattering a wall behind him with blood.

Yet Jose Antonio Elena may not have tossed any rocks at all. He may have been just walking on a sidewalk on Mexican soil, an innocent passerby.

The Border Patrol has a video of the events that night, Oct. 10, 2012. The video likely shows whether U.S. agents killed an innocent Mexican or shot a member of a marijuana smuggling ring. But the U.S.’s largest law enforcement agency refuses to make the video public. The agents remain on the job, neither publicly identified nor receiving any disciplinary action.

Elena’s killing is one in a string of what critics say are unnecessary killings by Border Patrol agents along the U.S. border with Mexico. At least 21 people have died in confrontations with Border Patrol agents, often out of sight of witnesses or fellow agents, in the past four years.

Those cases include 10 people who’ve been killed for throwing rocks, according to the Border Patrol’s own statistics, and there have been 43 cases since 2010 when agents have opened fire on rock throwers. But there are no known cases where an agent has been disciplined for improperly using force.
The United States of America stops at the border but our bullets don't. And when they get their hands on drones with Hellfires, whoo-wee!

Change food stamps to Christ coupons

Bill Maher's New Rules explains how Democrats can beat the Republicans like a rented mule.

Friday, March 21, 2014

She died 44 years ago

And there ain't nobody yet can take her place. Janis Joplin "Ball and Chain"

Don't you just love surprises?

From the pen of Nick Anderson

Americans for (Koch Brothers) Prosperity

And following the old adage that you have to spend money to make money, this astroturf group of the Radical Right's favorite evil Billionaires has been spending money like a drunken Republican.
Americans for Prosperity — the group backed by David H. and Charles G. Koch that has been pouring millions of dollars into competitive Senate races to the rising alarm of Democrats — was also among the politically active groups on the ground in this month’s special House election on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

But its agenda had little to do with the fate of David Jolly, the Republican candidate who won that race. The group’s ground troops — including those who knocked on doors, ran phone banks and reached out through social media to gauge ways to motivate voters — were part of a much greater project, with a prize much larger than a congressional seat.

Americans for Prosperity turned the Florida contest into its personal electoral laboratory to fine-tune get-out-the-vote tools and messaging for future elections as it pursues its overarching goal of convincing Americans that big government is bad government.

As the group emerges as a dominant force in the 2014 midterm elections, spending up to 10 times as much as any major outside Democratic group so far, officials of the organization say their effort is not confined to hammering away at President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They are also trying to present the law as a case study in government ineptitude to change the way voters think about the role of government for years to come.
That other old adage is "Money Talks". And when it keeps repeating the same Big Lies over and over again, it does manage to fool some of the people all of the time.

And in our Middle Eastern proteges

Iraq is showing itself adept at the use of suicide bombers which has caused the populace to develop an admirable stoicism in the face of multiple murders.
A series of attacks north and west of Baghdad on Friday, including two suicide bombings, left at least 38 people dead, many of whom were members of security forces. Dozens more were wounded, Iraqi officials said.

In the first of the attacks, a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden truck into a police brigade headquarters in the village of Injan, about 75 miles north of Baghdad, police officials said.

The explosion set off a firefight between other attackers and policemen. After it was over, nine police officers were dead, the officials said.

Hours later, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt among mourners attending a funeral for Nasir al-Alawani, a leader in the anti-al-Qaeda Sunni militia known also as Sahwa, who was killed a day earlier.

Some 10 mourners were killed and 27 were wounded in the attack in the city of Ramadi, 70 miles west of the Iraqi capital.

The Sahwa militia became prominent when its members joined U.S. troops in the fight against Al-Qaeda at the height of Iraq's bloodletting. Since then, it has been a target for Sunni insurgents who consider them traitors.

Since late December, Iraq's western cities have seen fierce clashes pitting government security forces and their tribal Sunni militia allies against Al-Qaeda-linked militants and other insurgent groups. The insurgents hold the city of Fallujah and parts of Anbar's provincial capital, Ramadi.

In other violence, police said gunmen sprayed an army checkpoint near the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, killing four soldiers. They also abducted nine soldiers before leaving the area, police said.

And back-to-back car bombings killed nine people and wounded 25 in Dibis, a town located near Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad.

Also, police said a roadside bomb hit a military convoy in the town of Beiji, north of Baghdad, killing five people and injuring seven.
Just change al-Qaeda to NRA and it is just like any schoolday in America. The Iraqis learned well from us.

And in our loyal client Shitholeistan, the Taliban has executed another attack on foreigners in their attempts to disrupt the up coming elections in that god-forsaken dump.
Four gunmen were swift as they entered the Serena Hotel, a luxury lodging in Kabul, although it took them a few minutes to find the restaurant that was their target. Afghan officials pieced together the details of a Thursday attack that left nine people dead, including four foreigners and two children who were shot in the head.

The Afghan capital has been hit by several attacks, but authorities appeared stunned that the fighters had managed to get through tight security at the Serena Hotel — considered one of the safest places to stay in Kabul.

Among the dead was Sardar Ahmad, 40, an Afghan journalist for Agence France-Presse, killed along with his wife and two of his children, the French news agency confirmed. It said the family's youngest son was undergoing emergency treatment after being badly wounded in the attack.

Ahmad also ran the Kabul Pressistan media company and joined AFP in 2003 to become the agency's senior reporter in Kabul. He covered all aspects of life, war and politics in his native Afghanistan, according to a statement tweeted by the agency.

The shooting spree is the latest in a series of high-profile attacks as the Taliban and allied fighters step up a campaign of violence before national elections on April 5.

It comes on the heels of an uptick in bombings and shootings targeting foreigners in Kabul, something that had been relatively rare. Earlier this month, a Swedish journalist was shot on the street execution-style, and a Lebanese restaurant popular with foreigners was attacked by a suicide bomber and gunmen in January.

The attacks show the Taliban are following through on their threat to use violence to disrupt next month's elections. The presidential vote will be the first democratic transfer of power since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Islamic militant movement. President Hamid Karzai is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.
Obviously they need to learn a few more lessons as Voter ID's are much more effective at keeping voters from the polls and they disturb the public much less.

In the old days you found some woods and dumped your shit

And that is essentially what Ford did with the toxic leftovers from automobile production at it's plant in Mahwah, New Jersey. And if that land belongs to the local First Immigrant tribe so much the better. What can they do? Go on the warpath?
Ford produced more than 6 million cars at its plant in nearby Mahwah, N.J., from 1955 to 1980. Automobile paint containing lead, arsenic, benzene, chromium and other chemicals was sprayed on the cars rolling off Ford’s assembly line. But with large-scale production came large-scale pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Ford dumped millions of gallons of paint sludge in the woods surrounding Mahwah. More than 40 years later, some of the paint sludge is still there.

Among the largest dump sites were two abandoned iron mines and a landfill in Ringwood, N.J. The paint sludge is still visible in hardened lavalike pools on the forest floor, stuck between rocks and cascading down hills. Break off a chunk of the dried paint sludge and the smell of acetone is almost as potent as ever, Stead said. The paint was dumped into 55-gallon drums and then carted to places like Ringwood and Hillburn, N.Y. Some of the rusted-out drums are still visible in the woods.

“You would get $100 to make six drums disappear off of the back of the dock. Sometimes they would dump the paint directly into a trench and fill it in. That’s what I saw when I was a kid trapping up here,” Stead said.

Contamination from the paint sludge has made him and many other people here sick, he said, and no one has been harder hit than the Ramapough Indians, who have called this land home for centuries.
Clan mother
Ramapough clan mother Vivian Milligan embraces her sister-in-law, Janet Van Dunk, who passed away from cancer just a month after speaking with Al Jazeera America. Al Jazeera

Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry said the approximately 3,500 tribal members who live in the area have higher rates of cancer, birth defects and other health problems from decades of contaminated water and soil. The tribe, which is recognized by the states of New York and New Jersey but not by the federal government, uses the old Dutch spelling of its name.

Like many adults here, Ramapough clan mother Vivian Milligan remembers playing in the paint sludge as a child. Some children even chewed the sweet lead-containing substance like gum because the community didn’t know it was dangerous, she said. “We used to jump around on it, and it was so enjoyable, jumping around on that pretty, colored hard stuff. And did we know it was going to affect us? No,” she said.

Milligan is one of many Ramapough who have pushed for a full cleanup of the Ford dump sites. But it has been an uphill battle.

She fears time is running out for the Ramapough as they fight for cleanup of the contamination and for acknowledgment of and compensation for their health problems.

Milligan has researched the tribe's genealogy and life expectancy, and she said the tribe once had members live well into old age. Now, she said, the tribe is struggling to preserve its culture as its members appear to be dying younger.

“I try to write down everything — the traditions, the home remedies — before this little brain stops remembering,” she said. “But it’s very difficult when you can’t go to an elder.”
Get rid of the shit and the people it poisons. An industrial two-fer.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Blind Winter

Australian singer-songwriter Missy Higgins composition is not about the weather.

Happy Vernal Equinox

Some of us still can't put away the trusty snow shovel, yet.

Storyboard for a Koch Brothers Obamacare ad.

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

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