Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Making fine music in a modified motor home

That is one good way to display your musical chops. Honeyhoney did that at the 2012 SXSW when they Jammed in the Van with the song "Ohio".

Charlie Pierce calls a spade a spade

And a fucking barbarian a fucking barbarian in his comments on the total fail of execution last night in Oklahoma.
(Remember, the state Supreme Court wasn't opposed to the executions per se. It just wanted clarification on the means to that end.) Unfortunately, the state Supreme Court caved, reversing itself on the execution secrecy law, and allowing the things to proceed, and that's how Fallin, the fucking barbarian, and her enablers in the Oklahoma state legislature, the fucking barbarians, were able to commit the act of fucking barbarism that Bailey Elise McBride had to witness last night. And now Fallin, the fucking barbarian, wants an investigation into how, exactly, she committed an act of fucking barbarism. It is because you have maggots for a soul, you fucking barbarian.
Cuts right to the chase.

Now he has to go back to his wife

First we hear that V.Stiviano is not Don Sterling's hot girlfriend, no sirree, not at all! And now this.
Donald Sterling is not only banned for life from the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA, a Nevada brothel owner also wants nothing to do with him.

Dennis Hof has banned Sterling for life from ever entering the doors of the Bunny Ranch near Carson City, Nevada, and any of his six other brothels in the state.

"A lot of NBA players come here to party," Hof told The Huffington Post. "Out of respect to them, we have banned Sterling from coming here."

Hof says his sense of confidentiality prohibits him from confirming or denying if Sterling has ever visited his brothels.

"I can tell you this: Johnny Buss, one of the owners of the Los Angeles Lakers, and I have had a dual birthday party at the Bunny Ranch for the last 18 years, so a lot of NBA people have been here," he said.

Hof's stand against Sterling isn't only in support of the basketball players who've had to deal with the billionaire's alleged racism over the years.

"At any given time, 20 to 23 percent of the prostitutes here are African-American," Hof said. "And they're smoking hot. Some of them were crying this morning so we're doing this for them as well. We don't need racists or bigots at the Bunny Ranch."
How much more must this man suffer? A lot more, I hope.

Holy smoke!

From the pen of Tom Toles

You're fucked with Allstate

Not just the customers, though its been over 40 years since an attorney warned me about the failings of their claim service, failings that, if the complaints are to be believed, continue to this day. The insurance giant treats its employees the same way. Or I should say "former employees" since Allstate now pretends they are independent contractors.
But after building up their agencies for nearly a decade or more, the agents said they were called into meetings in late 1999 by Allstate managers. The agents could keep on selling Allstate policies, they were told, but they would no longer be entitled to health insurance, a retirement account or profit-sharing, and their pension benefits would no longer accrue. Instead, they would become independent contractors.

The company said the changes were the result of a “group reorganization.”

The men are among 6,200 agents who faced the same predicament: To continue to work with Allstate, the insurer required them to sign a release waiving their rights to sue. Most of them did sign, but a group of 31 agents sued Allstate anyway, for, among other claims, age discrimination and breach of contract.

Thirteen years later, the case is still winding through the courts. A judge ruled in February that a jury should decide whether the waiver the agents signed was valid, and it appeared, briefly, a trial date would be set for this spring. But last-minute complications have delayed the process again. More documents in the case — the plaintiffs are seeking class-action status — are expected to be filed in mid-May.

While the Allstate case is an extreme example, it illustrates the challenges employees face when they decide to sue an employer. Employee discrimination claims — which account for the majority of job-related lawsuits — are on the rise, but they remain notoriously hard to prove, legal experts said. (There were 21,396 age discrimination charges in 2013 filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or nearly 23 percent of all charges filed, up from 16,548 in 2006.)

“These cases are hard to win,” said Stewart J. Schwab, dean and professor at Cornell Law School, who studied the success rates of employment discrimination cases from 1979 to 2006. He and his co-author found that of the small fraction of cases that go to trial, plaintiffs win about 28 percent of the time, on average, compared with nearly 45 percent in other types of civil cases.

The Allstate case demonstrates the risks inherent in signing documents — as the agents did — agreeing not to sue. The latest ruling in the case hangs on that very point.

Before the agents can bring the discrimination and other claims, a jury must decide that the employees were coerced into signing the waivers. Allstate, on the other hand, contends they signed knowingly — a point the company must prove to prevail.

In a statement, Allstate said it continually improved the way it did business to help customers and agents, and the plaintiffs were offered “significant benefits to participate in such a change, including the ability to sell their agencies, which they could not have done as employees.”

But the agents, 90 percent of whom were over age 40, said the consequences of not signing the release were costly: They would be prohibited from working as insurance agents within one mile of their agencies for one to two years, even though the agents leased or bought their offices in their own name. They would not be allowed to keep their business phone numbers. And the agents said Allstate warned them that they could never solicit their old customers, which they later learned was not true.

“Whatever options they offered left me worse off than I was before,” Mr. Crease said.

Ultimately, he said, he had no choice but to sign, sentiments echoed by both Mr. Littlejohn and Mr. Harper. They all continued as independent contractors, at least for several more years.

“They were put between a rock and a hard place,” said Tom Osborne, a senior lawyer with AARP’s litigation arm, who is co-counsel representing the plaintiffs. “If they didn’t sign, they couldn’t make a living as an independent agent.”
Those good hands are good at taking, not so much at giving. But then there is no profit in giving.

R.I.P. Bob Hoskins

It took a tough man to save Toontown.

If you ask the special inspector general

The future of Shitholeistan is pretty bleak. Bribery, fraud, nepotism and outright theft are all to be expected despite a new president.
As Afghanistan prepares to hand over power to a new president and U.S. combat forces depart, the United States’ special inspector general for the war-torn country paints a bleak picture of its long-term prospects in a new report to Congress.

The report, of which McClatchy obtained an embargoed copy before its Wednesday release, said corruption is so widespread in Afghanistan that it threatens the U.S. long-term reconstruction effort.

“Corruption in Afghanistan includes everything from petty bribery for routine services, nepotism and tribal preference to contract fraud, large-scale theft of resources and subversion of the justice system,” the report concludes.

John F. Sopko, U.S. special investigator for Afghanistan reconstruction, criticized the Army for failing to do more to prevent American aid from ending up in the hands of Islamic jihadists fighting the Afghan government.

“The Army’s refusal to suspend or debar supporters of the insurgency from receiving government contracts because the information supporting these recommendations is classified is not only legally wrong, but contrary to sound policy and national security goals,” Sopko wrote Congress in a cover letter accompanying his report.

A separate internal report in February by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited by Sopko, said: “Corruption directly threatens the viability and legitimacy of the Afghan state.”
Surprise, surprise! After 12 years of war and $Billions of dollars, mostly unsupervised, it seems that the Afghans are running their country the same way they have done for 3000 years. And we are still planning to leave a few thousand soldiers behind so we can continue to throw away monies needed to rebuild our own country. Many countries have made fools of themselves, but has any country been as totally stupid as the US?

The power of words

They can make you think that black is white and up is down,

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Patty wrote the song

And some chicks from the south made it a hit. Still, is there any better way to hear "Truth #2" than from Patty Griffin's own self?

The company you keep

From the pen of Kevin Siers

The real pothole season

In New York State, pothole season runs from May 1 to Nov 15. During that time if you suffer damage from a pothole on a state maintained road you may claim damages. Outside of that period you are out of luck.
Until midnight Wednesday, if your car is dinged or even totaled because of a defect on a New York State road, you cannot legally claim reimbursement for damages from the state. After midnight Wednesday, call your lawyer. Section 58 of the State Highway Law explicitly exempts the state from liability for damages arising from defects in state highways at any time except between May 1 and Nov. 15.

The fossilized law defies modern technology and judicial logic. “I was very surprised,” said Ms. Vacarro, who was told by the state Transportation Department that she could not file a claim. “They have the law flip-flopped. They should cover potholes in the winter. In the summertime, I can see them and avoid them.”

She filed a claim with her insurance company, but still paid about $1,000 in out-of-pocket car repairs.

Mr. Abinanti spent $700 on two new tires, a cost within the deductible on his insurance policy. He said he would not have filed a claim against the state anyway (“I’m an assemblyman; it wouldn’t be good publicity”), but added: “I don’t understand why the state exempts itself. It’s discriminatory. It’s a very unfair law.”

Robert F. Danzi, president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, said he was unaware of similar winter waivers of liability in other states.

The state budget just approved last month included an extra $40 million to help municipalities repair potholes after the particularly brutal winter.

But the state’s legal immunity for pothole claims during the peak winter pothole season helps to explain the chasmic disparity in damage claims disbursed by the state and by New York City. In 2013, the city paid out $5.5 million in pothole-related claims. That same year, for defects that caused damages only in the balmier months from May 1 to Nov. 15, the state reimbursed motorists $13,386.36.

Courts have since ruled that the state is still liable for out-and-out misfeasance or negligence, but the winter waiver has been on the books at least as far back as 1935, when Albany, faced with a tenfold increase in auto registrations over two decades, approved a major investment in new roads and relieved the state of liability for damages caused by snow and ice on its highways.
What a clever law. You can only sue for damages that occur from potholes during the season when potholes don't occur. Diabolical!

Scalia & Thomas will support Corps even if it kills them

And in the latest Supreme Court decision Tweedle Dumb And Tweedle Dumber were the only ones to oppose a decision in favor of clean air.
In a major environmental victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate the smog-causing pollution from coal-fired power plants that wafts across state lines from 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast.

The 6-to-2 ruling upholds a centerpiece of what has become a signature of President Obama’s environmental agenda: a series of new Clean Air Act regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants. Republicans and the coal industry have criticized the effort as a “war on coal.”

Legal experts said the decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, signaled that the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming could also withstand legal challenges. The E.P.A. is expected to unveil in June a sweeping new climate change regulation, using the authority of the Clean Air Act to rein in carbon pollution from coal plants.

The regulations covering cross-state air pollution, known as “good neighbor” rules, have pitted Rust Belt and Appalachian states like Ohio and Kentucky against East Coast states like New York and Connecticut...

In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, suggested that the regulation was Marxist and unwieldy.
Marxist! Now here is a legal principle that has not been heard much of recently. Will we be hearing more of it in the future?

The town that one-upped Georgia

And only by the grace of god and the shooters bad aim did not have a major tragedy because of their belief in the utter garbage spewed by the NRA.
A gunman opened fire Tuesday morning at a FedEx facility in Kennesaw, Georgia. Six were shot, with their injuries ranging from minor to two in critical condition. Authorities report that the gunman is dead.

The Georgia facility is located in Kennesaw, near Atlanta, a quiet suburb unique in the U.S. for mandating every household own at least one gun. The law is not enforced, so the Kennesaw gun ownership rate hovers around 50 percent, according to its police chief. That’s still higher than the average rate of gun ownership in the U.S., estimated to be about 34 percent. When the law was enacted in 1982, Kennesaw had only 5,000 residents. Today, it has a population of 30,000.

The incident comes just one week after Georgia enacted what may be the nation’s most expansive concealed carry law. The National Rifle Association-sponsored “Safe Protection Act” allows gun owners to bring firearms into most public spaces, including schools, bars, churches, airports, and government buildings, even though researchers have generally found that more people die from gun homicides in areas with higher rates of gun ownership.

“FedEx is aware of the situation,” the company told WSBTV. “Our primary concern is the safety and well being of our team members, first responders and others affected. FedEx is cooperating with authorities.” It isn’t the first time a facility has been the scene of a shooting; in 2011, a gunman shot himself in a FedEx warehouse in Illinois. The company is also one of at least 34 corporations that boost the NRA, offering discounted shipping to NRA members.
Everybody is supposed to own a gun, so where were the good guys with the guns?

Monday, April 28, 2014

She started singing professionally at age 5

Which means Tatiana Parra has been working for the last 22 years. And if "Abrindo a Porta" ('Opening the Door' in English) indicates anything, we can look forward to many fine years from this Brazilian talent.


Tom Tomorrow reports on the latest in scientific research.

Once upon a time, the Little Bank That Could....

Bank of America
was going to increase its piddly little dividend to make shareholders happy and do a share buyback to enrich its officers because its financial information was so good. Then, out of the blue, all this was suspended...because the bank couldn't do its accounting correctly.
Bank of America had planned to buy back $4 billion in stock and raise its quarterly dividend to 5 cents a share from 1 cent. It said it would resubmit a capital action plan but warned that it would most likely be less than the one it was just required to suspend, suggesting that investors could expect a smaller dividend increase or stock repurchase plan.

The news represents a blow for Bank of America, which had passed the stress test easily and was given authorization to increase its dividend for the first time since the financial crisis.

Particularly concerning for regulators and shareholders, the bank had been making the accounting error for more than four years, potentially inflating its true level of capital during that period. The mistake was unearthed during a routine accounting review in recent days. Internal Bank of America staff members discovered the error, not outside auditors, according to a person briefed on the situation.

The accounting mistake is also not small. Most recently, it caused Bank of America to inflate a crucial measure of capital by $4 billion. The bank’s earnings release for the first quarter said it had $134 billion of common equity Tier 1 capital, a closely monitored measurement of capital. After discovering the error, that number fell to $130 billion.

Banks with adequate capital are usually more likely to withstand losses and turbulence in the markets. Since the financial crisis of 2008, regulators have required banks to hold more capital.

The mistake took place within an arcane area of bank accounting that deals with a type of debt that banks issued, called structured notes. When Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch in 2009, it assumed a $60 billion portfolio of these notes. When Bank of America put the notes on its own balance sheet, it did so at a discount to the notes’ original value. Bank of America has since paid off many of the notes or bought them back from investors. When these payouts were higher than the value at which Bank of America assumed the notes, the bank booked a so-called realized loss. It did that because it was paying out more money than its balance sheet said the bank owed on the notes.

Bank of America’s capital should have been reduced by these realized losses. But instead, and in error, the bank did not do that, artificially lifting its capital over several years. In the corrected numbers released on Monday, the bank’s capital is now lower because it includes the realized losses. Bank of America had about $30 billion of the structured notes on its balance sheet at the end of 2013.
Heh! One of the country's biggest banks, crawling with accountants, under the watchful eyes of many more and nobody saw this for 4 years. And they want you to trust them to handle your finances. Seen any flying pigs lately?

Will they rename Brooklyn Little Florida?

Not because the geezers are flocking north but because it has become a hotbed of Medicare fraud. And the most lucrative field is in physical therapy.
A few miles from the Coney Island boardwalk in Brooklyn stands an outpost of what, on paper, is a giant of American medicine.

Nothing about the place hints at the money that is said to flow there. But in 2012, according to federal data, $4.1 million from Medicare coursed through the office in a modest white house on Ocean Avenue.

In all, the practice treated around 1,950 Medicare patients that year. On average, it was paid by Medicare for 94 separate procedures for each one. That works out to about 183,000 treatments a year, 500 a day, 21 an hour.

What makes those figures more remarkable, and raises eyebrows among medical experts, is that judging by Medicare billing records, one person did it all. His name is Wael Bakry, and he is not some A-list cardiologist, oncologist or internist. He is a physical therapist.

But physical therapy, it turns out, is a big recipient of national Medicare dollars — and physical therapy in Brooklyn is among the biggest of all. Of the 10 physical therapists nationwide who were paid the most by Medicare in 2012, half listed Brooklyn addresses, according to an analysis of Medicare billing data by The New York Times. Two others listed addresses on Long Island, one in Queens, and one each in California and Texas.

One thing is certain: Physical therapy has become a Medicare gold mine. Medicare paid physical therapists working in offices $1.8 billion in 2012 alone, the 10th-highest field among 74 specialties, according to the Times analysis. In Brooklyn, physical therapy was second only to internal medicine.

Why Brooklyn? Federal authorities say the borough is a national hot spot for Medicare fraud, particularly fraud involving physical therapy. Unscrupulous practitioners bill Medicare for unnecessary treatments or procedures they never perform — something that is often easier to do in physical therapy than in fields like oncology or cardiology.
Physical therapy is a field open to unverifiable claims, even when they are doing good.

Violent, arrogant dumbass indicted

And if the title had you immediately thinking of Teabagger Congresscritter Michael Grimm, well more power to you. The ex-Marine who was kicked out of the FBI has been indicted on 20 federal counts including mail, wire and tax fraud.
Prosecutors charged Grimm with engaging in schemes to under-report wages for restaurant workers, including some who were in the country illegally. They also accused him of concealing more than $1 million in sales and wages.

Grimm once was an investor in a Manhattan health food restaurant called Healthalicious that has been accused in a lawsuit of cheating its workers and fined by the state for failing to carry workers' compensation. He has said he sold his interest in 2009.

Authorities said that when Grimm was deposed by an attorney representing former employees in the lawsuit, he lied under oath about his allegedly fraudulent business practices. The charges are the result of a two-year-long investigation.

The congressman was awaiting arraignment in Brooklyn federal court as of Monday morning.

Grimm, 44, a former Marine and FBI agent, represents parts of the New York City boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn.

"Rep. Grimm billed himself as a patriot and an American hero," said George Venizelos, head of the FBI's New York office. "... But Rep. Grimm was anything but an upstanding citizen. He cheated, evaded and then lied."
He is a Republican/Teabagger, how could anybody in their right mind imagine he was an upstanding citizen?

3 days after the law was signed

And 2+ months before it goes into effect, the denizens of a Georgia bar have tested the law to the limit and beyond.

Police have released a second statement about a shooting that left one man dead and three others injured at the Chevy Club earlier this morning.

According to the release by Floyd County police investigator Cpl. Rusty Williams:

The Floyd County Police are investigating a shooting incident in which three people were injured and one killed. The deceased victim has been identified as Justin Jamil Foster, 26, of 512 Wilson Ave., in Rome. The identity of the other victims in the incident are still being withheld pending family notification.

Foster was shot and killed earlier this morning during an incident that happened at 3:15 a.m. at the Chevy Club, 3365 Cave Spring Road, officials stated earlier. The Chevy Club was formerly known as the Cadillac Club.

Williams declined to release anymore information past the press statement this afternoon. Jones was not available for comment.
When you trade down from a Cadillac to a Chevy you have to expect problems.

Justice may be blind, but what about the judges?

When you go before a judge you may want the judge to have an interest in your side of the dispute and dread the opposite. For that reason, judges are supposed to recuse themselves if they do have any interest in either party. McClatchy has found that certain federal judges have trouble recognizing their interest.
Federal appellate judges from Raleigh to Miami to Fairbanks, Alaska have ruled on cases in which they had a financial stake, a Center for Public Integrity investigation has found.

Raleigh’s Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Allyson Duncan owned as much as $100,000 in Verizon stock when she sat on a 2011 panel that affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of Verizon South. A Verizon employee sued the company for “unlawful termination” after she was fired. It was one of two cases before her in which she ruled in Verizon’s favor.

On a third case in 2010, Duncan sat on a panel that affirmed a district court order dismissing a plaintiff’s federal civil rights lawsuit in which General Electric was named as a party. The judge’s 2010 financial disclosures found that she owned General Electric stock, as part of a trust valued at up to $5 million, the Center found.

Federal judges may not sit on cases in which they have a financial interest, according to federal law. Yet the Center found more than two dozen instances where judges have ruled on cases in which they have stock or other financial holdings.

“Considering the importance of judicial integrity and avoidance of conflict of interest, I don’t think it is asking too much of a judge to expect him or her to know what his or her holdings are,” said William G. Ross, a Samford University law professor told the Center.
Blind justice was not meant to apply to the judge's holdings.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wiki says her genre is Adult Alternative

Which is better than Childish Alternative. "Love, Save The Empty" is the title of Erin McCarley's first album and second single.

Radium One scrapes the shit off its shoe

From re/
According to sources, Gurbaksh Chahal has been fired by the board of RadiumOne, directly related to his conviction for battery and domestic violence.

As I reported earlier, the other directors of the advertising tech company had been mulling what to do about Chahal — who is board chairman — and the controversy sparked by his guilty plea to two misdemeanors related to an incident involving his girlfriend at his San Francisco apartment.

The directors, largely its venture investors, took action last night. The company will announce the dismissal later today, sources said.
His stake in the company makes him like goose shit, slippery and hard to get rid of.

Teabagger PACs - Not Just For Candidates Anymore

Indeed, it does appear that the clever people running them have discovered better things to do with their money than waste it on Teabagger candidates.
The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, which blew through nearly $2 million on expenses such as fundraising, polling and consultants in the first three months of this year, is not alone in its meager spending on candidates.

A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national tea party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed.

The practice is not unusual in the freewheeling world of big-money political groups, but it runs counter to the ethos of the tea party movement, which sprouted five years ago amid anger on the right over wasteful government spending. And it contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians.

Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates, according to the analysis, which was based on campaign finance data provided by the Sunlight Foundation.

The dearth of election spending has left many favored tea party candidates exposed before a series of pivotal GOP primaries next month in North Carolina, Nebraska, Idaho and Kentucky.

Roughly half of the money — nearly $18 million — has gone to pay for fundraising and direct mail, largely provided by Washington-area firms. Meanwhile, tea party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, while their groups have doled out large sums for airfare, a retirement plan and even interior decorating.

The lavish spending underscores how the protest movement has gone professional, with national groups transforming themselves into multimillion-dollar organizations run by activists collecting six-figure salaries.
And those poor Teabagger candidates are just sucker bait to raise money for the professional political leeches activists. Given that their entire agenda is about separating the suckers from their money, who can complain?

Alas, poor Internet! I knew him, Horatio...

From the pen of Brian McFadden

Question of the Day

Is this a religious ceremony or a homeowner who has been fracked?

Read about it here.

Just when you think you can kick back & light up a fatty

Another obstacle rises up to threaten your steady supply of legal marijuana. Once again it is the US government in an unanticipated role. With the western drought, water is becoming more precious every day and the US controls much of it.
Newly licensed marijuana growers in Washington state may find themselves without a key source of water just as spring planting gets under way.

Federal officials say they'll decide quickly whether the U.S. government can provide water for the growers or whether doing so would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act, which makes possession of the drug illegal.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which controls the water supply for two-thirds of Washington state’s irrigated land, is expected to make a decision by early May, and perhaps as soon as this week, said Dan DuBray, the agency’s chief spokesman.

The ruling will mark another key test for the Obama administration, which again will decide how far it will go in allowing the state to bypass federal law with its experimental plan to license growers and sell pot for recreational use.

The government's decision also will affect growers in Colorado _ the only other state to fully legalize marijuana _ but would likely have limited impact there because Colorado allows only indoor pot farms.

While the administration so far has done nothing to block either state, some local officials predict the Bureau of Reclamation is sure to rule that the water cannot be used on marijuana plants, since the drug has been banned by Congress.
Certainly this does not affect all growers but it does limit the options available.

Sullivan's Sunday Sermon

Saturday, April 26, 2014

New Orleans has had many musicians to be proud of

And in the singing category, the Boswell Sisters close harmony and dextrous use of tempos made them justifiably famous. As their rendition of "Shout Sister, Shout" makes clear. Of note, the band behind the Boswell Sisters is the Dorsey Brothers.

The difference between expert and celebrity

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

It looks like the guy we like is winning

Maybe not enough yet to avoid a run off, but someone who will lick some boots and "ask" us to stay so more US soldiers can get shot up for no good reason.
Abdullah Abdullah, a longtime opponent of President Hamid Karzai and an ardent supporter of the United States, emerged Saturday as the clear front-runner in Afghanistan’s presidential election and could become the first non-Pashtun to lead the country in more than three centuries.

In preliminary results released Saturday, Mr. Abdullah, an ethnic Tajik from the north, won 45 percent of the vote, not enough to avoid a runoff with the leading Pashtun candidate, Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank economist and Karzai adviser, who won 32 percent. But Afghan government officials say Mr. Abdullah is on the verge of forging alliances with at least two of the Pashtun runners-up to gain their support, and possibly the presidency, in the next round.

Either of the top two candidates would represent a significant break with the years of deteriorating relations the United States has had with Afghanistan under Mr. Karzai, and a shift toward greater bilateral cooperation. Each candidate has said, for instance, that he would sign a security agreement with the United States allowing American forces to remain in the country past 2014, which Mr. Karzai negotiated but refused to sign.

But the apparent advantage for Mr. Abdullah, with his long record of advocating closer relations with the United States and a more militant stance against the Taliban, was likely to be encouraging news for the United States and its NATO allies, although they have been careful to refrain from expressing support for any candidate in the race.
We started with Karzai of the Afghans as our man in Kabul until he got tired of counting all the money we gave him. Now we will probably get the guy who was named twice. How long before he gets tired of us?

How do they win?

Bill Maher looks at the many ways that Republicans fool and cheat the public at election time.

Haters gonna hate no matter what

But if, along the way, you can peel away some people who think haters are on the right side of history you have done well. One such person is Professor Mohammed Dajani who has taken a group of Palestinian students on a field trip to Auschwitz. And has received more than his share of abuse for doing so.
In online posts and comments, Palestinian critics denounced the visit as treason. Acquaintances counseled the professor to keep a low profile, stay away from his university campus and consider taking a vacation abroad, he recalled.

“People said we were giving support to Zionism and promoting its propaganda, as if we were giving up on our rights,” Dajani said in an interview in East Jerusalem, the city’s Arab side, which Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state.

He’s no stranger to controversy. The director of the American studies program at Al Quds University, Dajani heads an organization called Wasatia, whose declared aim is to promote a culture of moderation and reconciliation among Palestinians _ values that often seem in short supply in the festering conflict with Israel...

“In my community you see a lot of ignorance of the Holocaust, denial of the Holocaust. People don’t want to recognize the suffering of the other,” Dajani said. “I felt that I did not want to be a bystander, and wanted to bring more awareness and consciousness among Palestinians of this issue.”

Because of its crucial role in the creation of Israel, the Holocaust is freighted with political overtones in Palestinian society, where many think that their people have paid the price for the persecution of the Jews in Europe. Palestinians consider their mass displacement and expulsion in the war that followed the establishment of Israel a “catastrophe” of similar magnitude, and they recall it in annual commemorations just as Jews will mark Holocaust Remembrance Day this year beginning at sundown Sunday.

“The Holocaust is not taught in Palestinian schools and universities,” Dajani said. “It is a history ignored, mentioned as part of a plot to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, or as Zionist propaganda with exaggerated figures.”

Dajani has advocated publicly for Holocaust education among Palestinians and has devoted part of his own classes to the subject. The trip to Auschwitz was arranged as part of a reconciliation research project sponsored by the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany, which also included a visit by Israeli students to Deheishe, a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank.
They will probably never be enough to end the madness that is Israeli/Palestinian policy but every one of them should be one less for the haters to use.

A Reminder For Our Republican Friends

If he had been trying to wave his little penis

This Georgia man would have been in serious trouble
. Instead he was flaunting his store bought metal penis as if he were a real man now.
Parents at a Forysth County park abruptly stopped a children's baseball game after growing suspicions of the behavior of a man carrying a gun in a waist holster Tuesday night.

"He's just walking around [saying] 'See my gun? Look, I got a gun and there's nothing you can do about it.' He knew he was frightening people. He knew exactly what he was doing," said parent Karen Rabb.

Rabb told Channel 2’s Tom Regan the parents grew so alarmed that they brought the game to a halt when the man declined a request that he leave a parking lot overlooking the baseball field.

“He scared people to the point where we stopped the game, took the kids out of the dugout and behind the dugout, and kind of hunkered down,” Rabb said.

Park users flooded 911 with 22 calls about the man. Forysth County deputies questioned the man, and found that he had a permit for the handgun. Authorities said since the man made no verbal threats or gestures, they could neither arrest him nor ask him to leave the park.

Another parent questioned what point the man was trying to prove.

"Why would anyone be walking around a public park, with a lot of children and parents and people here playing baseball, and he's walking around with a gun? I don't think the parents would have been nervous had he just had the gun in his holster and was just watching the game," said parent Paris Horton.
A small man trying to flash some purchased bigness, which only made him look smaller.

Friday, April 25, 2014

We hope she is the future of Country Music

But as long as she keeps singing we will be happy. Caitlin Rose singing "Pink Champagne" from her 2013 album The Stand-In.


From the pen of Tom Toles

Rand Paul sucking up to rich people

At least to those dumb enough to believe that he shares their Libertarian "ideals". Surprisingly, there are people with too much money and not enough sense to see he is a self serving, double sealing twit.
Frayda Levin, a New Jersey libertarian activist and former small-business owner, is a woman of many passions: promoting liberty, ending marijuana prohibition and opposing her state’s recent minimum-wage increase. But Ms. Levin has added another cause as well. At gala benefits for free-market research institutes and at fund-raisers for antitax groups, she has urged like-minded donors to help send Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, to the White House.

“I consider that one of my main goals,” said Ms. Levin, who has met with Mr. Paul several times and in February introduced him at a private conference in Florida hosted by the Club for Growth, a conservative advocacy group. “I tell people he’s the Republican of the future. He’s got both the intellectual heft and the emotional understanding.”

As he has risen in prominence as a Republican presidential contender, Mr. Paul is avidly courting a small but influential cluster of wealthy libertarians. His pursuit offers an intriguing window into an eclectic network of potential donors who have made fortunes in Silicon Valley start-ups and Wall Street hedge funds, a group that could form a vital donor base if he makes a bid for the Republican nomination. A tight-knit tribe of philanthropists and entrepreneurs, they have exerted enormous intellectual influence on conservative policy. But they have historically spent more on nonprofit groups and endowing college economics departments than they have on backing candidates.
Curious that they are interest in a man who has the potential to be one of the great Takers of our times. But nobody really believes you have to be smart to be rich.

NRA efforts to aid terrorists continue

And their ultimate goal is to insure that every white child is born with a silver concealed carry permit in his/her hand. And a lifetime supply of scary black person targets to practice on.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has been castigated on the eve of its annual meeting over a renewed push to get conceal-carry permits accepted across state lines, with billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg’s newly formed anti-gun group slamming the move as a push towards the “lowest common denominator.”

Concealed weapon permits are already legal in all 50 states, and the NRA's focus is less about enacting additional state protections than on making sure the permits already issued still apply when the gun owners cross the country. But opponents fear the measure would allow more lenient gun regulations to trump stricter ones when permit holders travel across state lines.

"The standards for who can carry in one state versus another vary greatly — as they should given that carrying in Utah is a very different thing than carrying in a densely populated city," Lizzie Ulmer, a spokeswoman for former New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety group, told Al Jazeera. "We believe that each state should set its own standards and that this legislation would undermine those laws."

But the NRA, which officially opens its meeting of about 70,000 people Friday in Indianapolis, wants Congress to require that concealed weapons permits issued in one state be recognized everywhere, even when the local requirements differ.

"Like the vast majority of gun owners, we know that respecting Second Amendment rights goes hand in hand with reasonable gun laws — and this... just doesn't make any sense," Ulmer said.

"It's a race to the bottom," said Brian Malte, senior national policy director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It's taking the lowest standards."

An Associated Press-GfK poll in December found 52 percent of Americans favored stricter gun laws, 31 percent wanted them left as they are and 15 percent said they should be loosened.
The NRA and their congressional running dogs must be secure in their hold on Congress if they are willing to allow a national standard for gun law. No matter how flimsy it is, even the Dread Chief Justice Roberts would admit that it is a precedent.

When torture is top secret, how do you describe it?

If you are in open court and the government has actually allowed you to testify, you do so very carefully. One false step and they get you for revealing "secrets".
The Saudi prisoner awaiting death-penalty trial for the USS Cole bombing was tortured physically, mentally and sexually, an expert in treating torture victims testified Thursday at the war court.

Dr. Sondra Crosby offered the diagnosis in open court during carefully choreographed testimony that never once mentioned that the accused al-Qaida terrorist, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 49, got to Guantánamo from four years of CIA captivity during which he was interrogated with waterboarding, a revving power drill and threats to his mother.

“I believe that Mr. al Nashiri has suffered torture — physical, psychological and sexual torture,” Crosby said...

Crosby chose her words carefully in court because, in order to make her diagnosis, she was allowed to review Top Secret records and discuss with Nashiri what happened to him. So while she was not allowed to say in open court what she saw in a medical exam of him or what he told her, she was allowed to refer to unclassified government records to support her diagnosis.

“He suffers from chronic pain. He suffers from anal-rectal complaints,” she said. Also, “difficulty defecating, hemorrhoids, pain in sitting for a long time,” which she said are typical of “survivors of sexual assault.”

Nashiri has scars on his wrists, legs, ankles “consistent with the allegations and history that he gave me.” And he suffers from wide mood swings — from “irritability, anger, extreme emotional intensity to silence” — that are “red flags” of trauma and torture.

But, she said, military medical staff treating him had failed to ask the right questions, if any.

“There was no trauma history in the records I read,” said Crosby who was provided access to the medical history since Nashiri got to Guantánamo by judicial order. “They treated the symptoms without treating the cause.”
No one at Guantanamo is interested in helping him learn to live with his torture. But they do want to keep him physically healthy in case they want to torture him again.

A Manichean Party

Even though the Republican/Teabaggers are totally lacking in goodness.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A tender ballad from Down Under

With lyrics so you can follow. Clairy Brown & The Bangin' Rackettes singing "Walk Of Shame"

Texas is open for bidness

From the pen of Ben Sargent

The man can pivot on a dime

And Rand "Aqua Buddha" Paul has done just that after hearing the latest racist bullshit from deadbeat cowpuncher Cliven Bundy.
Senator Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican and potential 2016 presidential candidate, joined a line of Republican and Democratic leaders on Thursday in denouncing Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher at the center of a standoff with the federal government over land use, for suggesting that blacks might have been better off in slavery.

“His remarks on race are offensive, and I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Mr. Paul said in a statement.

The senator’s remarks came after he had offered support for Mr. Bundy’s case as the rancher resisted the federal Bureau of Land Management when it sought to confiscate his cattle because he was not paying fees for their grazing on public land. The government backed off after federal authorities encountered hundreds of Bundy supporters, many carrying guns, who had flocked to his ranch in Bunkerville, Nev., as the dispute intensified.

With his remarks, Mr. Paul joined other Republican leaders — among them, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada — in assailing Mr. Bundy for comments published online by The New York Times on Wednesday evening after they had previously expressed support for the rancher.

Mr. Bundy, in the course of 55 minutes of remarks to supporters last Saturday, talked about seeing blacks gathered outside public housing projects in North Las Vegas.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?”

A spokesman for Mr. Heller, who had also expressed support for Mr. Bundy’s supporters, said the senator “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.”

Mr. Bundy has been championed by some Fox News commentators, though there were signs that they were distancing themselves after his remarks were published.
Just don't call it flip-flopping. They should have known what this man had inside him.

Straight from the Horse's Mouth

And no pun was intended despite Louis Allstadt having formerly working for Mobil Oil. That occupation gave him the contacts needed to study fracking after his retirement and what he found is not good.
"Making fracking safe is simply not possible, not with the current technology, or with the inadequate regulations being proposed," Louis Allstadt, former executive vice president of Mobil Oil, said during a news conference in Albany called by the anti-fracking group Elected Officials to Protect New York.

Up until his retirement in 2000, Allstadt spent 31 years at Mobil, running its marketing and refining division in Japan and managing Mobil's worldwide supply, trading and transportation operations. After retiring to Cooperstown, NY, Allstadt said he began studying fracking after friends asked him if he thought it would be safe to have gas wells drilled by nearby Lake Otsego, where Allstadt has a home. Since that time, he's become a vocal opponent of the shale oil and gas drilling technique.

"Now the industry will tell you that fracking has been around a long time. While that is true, the magnitude of the modern technique is very new," Allstadt said, adding that a fracked well can require 50 to 100 times the water and chemicals compared to non-fracked wells.

He also noted that methane, up to 30 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, is found to be leaking from fracked wells "at far greater rates than were previously estimated."
Now it is up to us to stop this menace.

No wonder Rick Scott is Governor of Florida

According to McClatchy,
Miami is the capitol of Medicare fraud. This would give him a sizable base that few would contest him for.
If there ever was any question that Miami is the champ when it comes to health care fraud, a peek inside Medicare’s list of banned providers should settle it.

Of all the people and businesses in the federal government’s “exclusions database,” Miami tops the list – and does so by a long shot, according to a McClatchy analysis.

Of the medical providers in the database, 1,491 list Miami addresses. Second place: Los Angeles, with a relatively meager 522 names. They’re followed by Phoenix; Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Houston in the top five.

“Despite our measurable successes in combating fraud, South Florida continues to be a hot spot of health care fraud and Miami is considered ‘ground zero,’ ” Brian Martens, a federal health care fraud investigator responsible for combating Medicare crimes in Florida, recently told a Senate panel.

To help root out further fraud and abuse, the federal government maintains a “list of excluded individuals/entities,” aiming to provide information to the health care industry, patients and the public about people or businesses currently excluded from participating in Medicare, Medicaid and all other federal health care programs.

As of April, there were more than 57,000 entries on the list.

And more join each year. In fiscal 2013, a total of 3,214 names were added to the database, according to the annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general. Of those, 1,132 were added because they’d been convicted of crimes related to Medicare or Medicaid, a higher level than at any time in the past 17 years for which records were available.

“A lot of this has to do with greater enforcement, but part also could be an increase in fraud itself,” said Louis Saccoccio, the chief executive officer of the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association. “In some places, you’ve seen an explosion in health care fraud: in Miami, Houston, Detroit, Southern California. And there is more aggressive law enforcement there. They’re getting convictions, and they’re getting exclusions.”

In Florida, for example, one of the fraud exclusions took place on Feb. 20, 2013, representing one of the final steps in prosecuting a South Florida man who helped run a series of clinics that trafficked in oxycodone and oxymorphone, the powerful pain medications.

Juan De Dios Gomez owned and operated clinics in Hialeah, Miami and Plantation. Federal prosecutors say Gomez and his co-conspirators began their operation as early as November 2007. Physicians who worked at the clinics would prescribe the painkillers for people who didn’t need the drugs but did qualify for Medicare or other health insurance plans.
Having been a pill mill operator himself, Gov Scott probably moves easily within these circles. And like the Hispanic population, this group is also growing rapidly. But will it be enough to re-elect him?

Greetings from your new master.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Family groups are common in the bluegrass world

And the Bankester family from Illinois does the genre proud. This is their first video "Carolina Rain"

White is the key word here

From the pen of Horsey

You remember that old farm image

The one with the fresh young milkmaid sitting on her stool, squeezing Elsie's teats to send a steady stream of fresh milk into the bucket? It hasn't been around for a long time. Nowadays when Elsie is milked she is probably untouched by human hands. And she does when she want to.
Something strange is happening at farms in upstate New York. The cows are milking themselves.

Desperate for reliable labor and buoyed by soaring prices, dairy operations across the state are charging into a brave new world of udder care: robotic milkers, which feed and milk cow after cow without the help of a single farmhand.

Scores of the machines have popped up across New York’s dairy belt and in other states in recent years, changing age-old patterns of daily farm life and reinvigorating the allure of agriculture for a younger, tech-savvy — and manure-averse — generation.

“We’re used to computers and stuff, and it’s more in line with that,” said Mike Borden, 29, a seventh-generation dairyman, whose farm upgraded to robots, as others did, when disco-era milking parlors — the big, mechanized turntables that farmers use to milk many cows at once — started showing their age.

“And,” Mr. Borden added, “it’s a lot more fun than doing manual labor.”

The view is improved as well. “Most milking parlors, you see, you really only see the back end of the cow,” Mr. Borden’s father, Tom, said. “I don’t see that as building up much of a relationship.”

The cows seem to like it, too.

Robots allow the cows to set their own hours, lining up for automated milking five or six times a day — turning the predawn and late-afternoon sessions around which dairy farmers long built their lives into a thing of the past.
The cows are more contented now, just like the new generation of farmers.

The Great Mortgage Fraud Continues

And it is continuing to hurt homeowners despite all the mild settlements and false promises from the banks who have continued their criminal ways.
All of these examples, from actual court cases resolved over the last two months, rendered rare judgments in favor of homeowners over banks and mortgage lenders. But despite the fact that the nation’s courtrooms remain active crime scenes, with backdated, forged and fabricated documents still sloshing around them, state and federal regulators have not filed new charges of misconduct against Bank of New York, Deutsche Bank, U.S. Bank or any other mortgage industry participant, since the round of national settlements over foreclosure fraud effectively closed the issue.

Many focus on how the failure to prosecute financial crimes, by Attorney General Eric Holder and colleagues, create a lack of deterrent for the perpetrators, who will surely sin again. But there’s something else that happens when these crimes go unpunished; the root problem, the legacy of fraud, never gets fixed. In this instance, the underlying ownership on potentially millions of loans has been permanently confused, and the resulting disarray will cause chaos for decades into the future, harming homeowners, investors and the broader economy. Holder’s corrupt bargain, to let Wall Street walk, comes at the cost of permanent damage to the largest market in the world, the U.S. residential housing market.

By now we know the details: During the run-up to the housing bubble, banks bought up millions of mortgages, packaged them into securities and sold them around the world. Amid the frenzy, lenders failed to follow basic property laws, which ensure legitimate transfers of mortgages from one legal owner to another. When mass foreclosures resulted from the bubble’s collapse, banks who could not demonstrate they owned the loans got caught trying to cover up the irregularities with false documents. Federal authorities made the offenders pay fines, much of which banks paid with other people’s money. But the settlements put a Band-Aid over the misconduct. Nobody went in, loan by loan, to try to equitably confirm who owns what.

Now, the lid banks and the government tried to place on the situation has begun to boil over. For example, Bank of America really wants to exit the mortgage servicing business, because it now finds it unprofitable. The bank entered into a deal to sell off all the servicing for loans backed by the Government National Mortgage Association (often known as Ginnie Mae). But Ginnie Mae refused the sale, because the loans Bank of America serviced are missing critical documents, including the recorded mortgages themselves.

If you’re a mortgage servicer, and you don’t possess the recorded mortgage, you probably aren’t able to foreclose on that loan without fabricating the document. And Ginnie Mae made it clear that the problem could go beyond Bank of America. “I don’t mean to sound like we’re picking on BofA,” Ginnie Mae president Ted Tozer told trade publication National Mortgage News. “I can’t say if it’s just BofA or not.” Incredibly, this would represent the first time a government agency has actually examined loan files under its control to search for missing documents, seven years after the collapse of the housing bubble and four years after the recognition of mass document fabrication.

Any effort to fix the system would start by reforming MERS, the electronic database banks use to track mortgage trades (and avoid fees they would incur from county clerks with every transfer). MERS was part of a broad settlement in 2011 with federal regulators, and they promised to improve the quality control over their database to avoid errors and fraudulent assignments. Three years later, the fixes haven’t happened, and four senior officers brought in to comply with the settlement have left. MERS then tried to hire a consultant to manage the settlement terms whom U.S. regulators found unqualified for the job.

The database still tracks roughly half of all U.S. home loans, and banks fear that without changes, they might have to – horrors – actually go back to recording mortgages individually with the county clerks! You know, the property law system that the nation somehow survived under for more than 200 years.
All the forged or missing documents are just symptoms of the fraud but the heart of it is MERS. Without it most of the criminal activity could not have occurred. It still amazes me that county clerks and registrars across the country haven't sued en masse for all the unpaid transfer fees and taxes, though few of the perps could actually pay the full amount they have evaded.

They aren't good enough for the job

But even as the railroad industry acknowledges this failing of the tank cars used to transport Bakken crude oil, they continue to use them because they are all they have until new rules and new cars come along.
None of the tank cars currently in service carrying Bakken crude oil is adequate for carrying that product, a rail industry representative testified Tuesday, but until new federal regulations are completed, the use of inadequate cars will continue.

That includes tank cars built to higher standards adopted by the industry since 2011. Such cars have failed in at least two recent derailments. Yet in the absence of the new rules, crude oil shippers and refiners continue to rely on them to meet the demands of North America’s energy resurgence.

In testimony opening a two-day hearing at the National Transportation Safety Board, rail companies and rail car makers agreed that crude-by-rail shipments would continue to grow.

“We don’t see crude oil transportation slowing down or stopping anytime soon,” testified Robert Fronczak, assistant vice president for environment and hazardous materials at the Association of American Railroads, an industry group.

The NTSB long ago recommended improvements to the industry’s workhorse DOT-111 model tank car, which have proved vulnerable to punctures and ruptures in numerous accidents over the years involving hazardous materials.

Expert witnesses testified that the industry knew it needed better cars before a deadly accident last summer in Quebec.
Leaking tanks and disastrous derailments serve no one and the industry has made efforts at improvement, but the March of Commerce waits for no man or industry and all those old tank cars will just have to soldier on until whenever.

Quote of the Day

“In politics, it’s OK to be a pussy, as long as you’ve got a dick.”
Jon Stewart on sexism in politics and the media.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A nice Irish girl from New York City

Tara O'Grady sings with an elegant retro sound whether singing an oldie or one of her own like "Think of Me"

Today is Earth Day, plant something

Even if it is only an idea,

From the pen of Patrick McDonnell

Understanding what we say

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

This surely does qualify as a stupid idea

The New York Times,
ponderously pontificating in its role as a former great newspaper, has raised the question of whether Hilary Clinton could run with another female candidate in the VP slot.
Few doubt that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s nomination for president would be good for women. But her candidacy would also likely block the paths for other women running for the White House, and, notably, for those who would like to be vice president.

Never has there been so much rising female talent in the Democratic Party, with a record 20 women in the Senate, 16 of them Democrats. They include Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the liberal fund-raising powerhouse and author of a new book, “A Fighting Chance”; Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the former prosecutor with made-for-state-fair charms; the issue-grabber Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York; and others, like Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. Any one of them would be potential candidates for the bottom of a 2016 ticket, or possibly even have a shot at the top.

Ms. Warren emphatically discouraged the idea that she was even considering a White House bid. “I’m not running for president,” she told ABC News on Tuesday.

Yet even in an America that has elected a black president, unraveled same-sex marriage bans across several states and cottoned to a woman at the head of General Motors, having two women on a 2016 ticket may be a leap of electoral faith.

“It’s certainly possible to have two women,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. “I am not sure it’s wise. You want a ticket that represents men and women.”
But for over 200 years, women have been represented by pairings of two men and nobody questioned if they were represented, did they? The NYT does briefly allow that there may be merit to the idea but quickly pivots to a litany of conventinal do's & don'ts for political campaigns. Perhaps if someday the NYT looked beyond the facile surface elements, they might actually find something of value.

So now it's maybe 5,000

That is the new number of unwanted soldiers that the Pentagon hopes to leave behind in Afghanistan. At that number the question very easily becomes why leave any?
The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan may drop well below 10,000 - the minimum demanded by the U.S. military to train Afghan forces - as the longest war in American history winds down, Obama administration officials briefed on the matter say.

Since Afghanistan's general election on April 5, White House, State Department and Pentagon officials have resumed discussions on how many American troops should remain after the current U.S.-led coalition ends its mission this year.

The decision to consider a small force, possibly less than 5,000 U.S. troops, reflects a belief among White House officials that Afghan security forces have evolved into a robust enough force to contain a still-potent Taliban-led insurgency. The small U.S. force that would remain could focus on counter-terrorism or training operations.

That belief, the officials say, is based partly on Afghanistan's surprisingly smooth election, which has won international praise for its high turnout, estimated at 60 percent of 12 million eligible votes, and the failure of Taliban militants to stage high-profile attacks that day.

The Obama administration has been looking at options for a possible residual U.S. force for months.

"The discussion is very much alive," said one U.S. official who asked not to be identified. "They're looking for additional options under 10,000" troops.
And with less than 10K they will be spread too thin to protect themselves when the Afghan army they "work" with breaks down. And if you keep them together they will merely provide a convenient target that none of the Afghans want in their country. None is still the best number for a residual force.

There may not be a legal imperative

But you have to wonder about the morals of any employee of the federal government who withholds evidence of child abuse discovered during security clearance investigations from the law enforcement agencies. McClatchy has found that this is a routine practice within various national security agencies.
The nation’s spy satellite agency failed to notify authorities when some employees and contractors confessed during lie detector tests to crimes such as child molestation, an intelligence inspector general has concluded.

In other cases, the National Reconnaissance Office delayed reporting criminal admissions obtained during security clearance polygraphs, possibly jeopardizing evidence in investigations or even the safety of children, according to the inspector general report released Tuesday , almost two years after McClatchy’s reporting raised similar concerns.

In one instance, one of the agency’s top lawyers told colleagues not to bother reporting confessions by a government contractor of child molestation, viewing child pornography and sexting with a minor, the inquiry by the inspector general for the intelligence community revealed.

“Doubt we have enough to interest the FBI,” the agency’s then -assistant general counsel told another official in an email, adding, “the alleged victim is fourteen years old and fully capable of calling the police herself.” Neither party in the email was identified by name.

After the other official insisted on reporting it, the confession was eventually investigated and it turned out that the girl was still in contact with the contractor who’d confessed to the crimes. It took almost five weeks for the Department of Justice to be informed.

When confronted with the lapses by the inspector general’s investigators, the National Reconnaissance Office’s then-top lawyers said they “were not legally obligated . . . to report child sexual abuse to DOJ or law enforcement organizations because child abuse is a state crime, not a federal crime,” the report said.

“Therefore they generally chose not to report those crimes unless the admissions also involved federal crimes such as possession of child pornography.”

The conclusions confirm an investigation by McClatchy in July 2012 that found law enforcement officials were not being told of some criminal confessions obtained during the National Reconnaissance Office’s security clearance polygraphs.
It used to be that the presence of grounds for blackmail would prevent you from getting a security clearance. Sadly there is no evidence that the security agencies were using the evidence to enforce compliance with security regulations. They were just ignoring it. National security does not stretch far enough to cover individual citizens.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Scottish singer who named her band Texas

And has a sizable lesbian fan base despite being heterosexual. Sharleen Spiteri sings "Many Rivers To Cross" from the French TV show Taratata.

Passport to FREEEEDUMB!

Tom Tomorrow chronicles the visit to New York City by Deadbeat Rancher Bundy and two of his girlfriends.

Oracles always have two meanings.

From the pen of Nick Anderson

Does Not Apply To Authorized Leakers

Director of National Security and all around national disgrace
James Clapper has issued a new directive designed to keep secret all that the nation's secret agencies do.
Employees of U.S. intelligence agencies have been barred from discussing any intelligence-related matter - even if it isn’t classified - with journalists, under a new directive issued by Director of National Security James Clapper.

Intelligence agency employees who violate the policy could suffer career-ending losses of their security clearances or out-right termination, and those who disclose classified information could face criminal prosecution, according to the directive signed by Clapper on March 20.

Under the order, only the director or deputy head of an intelligence agency, public affairs officials and those authorized by a public affairs official may have contact with journalists on intelligence-related matters.

The order, which was made public on Monday by Steven Aftergood, who runs the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, is sweeping in its definition of intelligence-related matters.

“The directive is limited to contact with the media about intelligence related-information, including intelligence sources, methods, activities and judgments,” says the order, which doesn’t distinguish between classified and unclassified matters.

It also includes a sweeping definition of who is a journalist, which it asserts is “any person . . . engaged in the collection, production, or dissemination to the public of information in any form related to topics of national security.”

The order represents the latest move by the Obama administration to stifle leaks. It bolsters another administration initiative, called the Insider Threat Program, which requires federal employees to report co-workers who show any of a broad variety of “high risk” behaviors that could indicate that they could be sources of unauthorized releases of classified or unclassified material.
Needless to say this will not stop those authorized to leak certified "correct information" to those the government likes. Nor will it prevent spies and other of that trade from plying their trade. If someone is courageous enough, it won't even stop whistleblowers. It's sole purpose is to prevent American citizens from knowing the extent to which their government commits horrid deeds, illegal activities or just plain fails at the cost of Millions of taxpayer dollars. What you don't know won't hurt us seems to be their motto.

NBC wanted to see if David Gregory was nuts.

So the beloved network that replaced the beloved hack Tim Russert with everybody's favorite box of rocks David Gregory, commissioned a psychological study of the Gregory lad to see why his ratings on the beloved Sunday gasbag show Meet The Press are in the crapper.
The Sunday shows — which comprise what Schieffer calls “the smartest morning on TV” — are more than just prestige projects for the networks; the relatively large and affluent audiences they attract make them magnets for corporate image advertisers that pay premium prices for airtime. Russert’s dominating position helped NBC earn a reported $60 million from “Meet the Press” in 2007.

Thus, “MTP’s” meltdown has sounded alarm bells inside NBC News and attracted the attention of its new president, Deborah Turness, who arrived from Britain’s ITV News in August. Gregory’s job does not appear to be in any immediate jeopardy, but there are plenty of signs of concern.

Last year, the network undertook an unusual assessment of the 43-year-old journalist, commissioning a psychological consultant to interview his friends and even his wife. The idea, according to a network spokeswoman, Meghan Pianta, was “to get perspective and insight from people who know him best.” But the research project struck some at NBC as odd, given that Gregory has been employed there for nearly 20 years.

Around the same time, the network appointed a new executive producer at “MTP,” Rob Yarin, a veteran media consultant. Yarin, who had worked with Gregory on an MSNBC show, “Race for the White House,” during the 2008 campaign, succeeded Betsy Fischer Martin, who reigned over “MTP” for 11 years. Fischer Martin had helped Russert soar to glory, but had disagreed with Gregory over matters of style and substance (she was promoted to oversee all of NBC’s political coverage).

In interviews, Yarin and Gregory say they are tinkering with the show to keep it abreast of a changing media environment. They’ve made the program’s pacing faster, with shorter interview segments. The range of topics and interview subjects has been opened up, too. Last month, for example, Gregory interviewed NCAA President Mark Emmert about proposals to unionize student-athletes — stealing a little thunder, he notes, from CBS, which was televising the NCAA basketball tournament at the time.

The overall effect is that the program now bears only a vague resemblance to the one over which Russert presided. Whereas Russert would spend multiple segments grilling a single newsmaker, Gregory now barely goes more than six or seven minutes on any interview or topic.

The changes were readily apparent on Sunday’s program, recorded at NBC’s studios in Northwest Washington. After opening with Gregory’s taped interview with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the host moved swiftly to live dual-screen chats with Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). Then it was on to the journalists’ roundtable discussion, followed by an interview with Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) about health care and the midterm elections.

Then, still more segments: A new recorded feature called “Meeting America” in which reporter Kevin Tibbles looks at something happening outside Washington (in this case, a debate in Kentucky over the building of a Biblical theme park using tax subsidies); more roundtable discussion; and a photos-of-the-week feature called “Images to Remember.” The program closed with a short interview with New York Times reporter Jo Becker about her new book about gay marriage, “Forcing the Spring.”

Gregory says the new look “delivers on the core of what ‘Meet the Press’ is” but “widens the aperture . . . I’m dedicated to building something that says we’re not just thinking about politics. We’re thinking about who the real influencers are in this country.”
And the end result is that MTP is, under David Gregory, as shallow as a puddle of piss. The questions usually follow whatever talking points the management likes this week and whatever journalistic skill Gregory ever had are now dead and buried. And they wonder why the ratings are dropping like bird shit.

Happy Dyngus Day

The party is over so mark your calendar for next year, the Monday after Easter.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Yes, I know it's not Thanksgiving

But, in addition to Easter and 4-20 Day which she will enjoy, today is Alice May Brock's birthday and I almost forgot. So I am posting this as this is how most people know of her, not that she likes it very much. Today she must be , oh, somewhere near 39 or so. So dear friends, light up a joint, pour yourself some Southern Comfort and and wish her a  
Happy Birthday Alice.

It has been going on so long

That even Dr. Seuss drew about it, in 1942.

Happy Easter

As you celebrate this day of Resurerection consider the meaning of it all

Happy 4-20

Burn on, my friends.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I think she found her "Only One"

Because after May Eilan Jewell is taking a long hiatus from the road to attend to the birth of her first child. We wish her all the best and hope some day she will return.

Bill Maher was off this week

So we will post a New Rule for him.

Dead and Buried It's Not.

From the pen of Kevin Siers

Beef is expensive, pork supplies are tight

And Big Chicken wants to eliminate necessary inspections to increase profits, along with the filth that will avoid the inspectors.
As Mother Jones magazine explained last year, “Currently, each factory-scale slaughterhouse has four USDA inspectors overseeing kill lines churning out up to 140 birds every minute. Under the USDA’s new plan, a single federal inspector would oversee lines killing as many as 175 birds per minute.”

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack defends the proposal under the guise of modernization (an industry code word for deregulation) and claims the new standard would actually reduce bacterial contamination. However, Food and Water Watch found numerous food safety problems with the USDA’s pilot project owing to company inspectors missing defects such as “feathers, lungs, oil glands, trachea and bile still on the carcass.”

The rule is especially terrible for workers, who already suffer unsafe conditions, resulting in serious injuries and even lifelong disabilities. Last year the Southern Poverty Law Center released a disturbing account of worker injuries and health problems in Alabama poultry slaughterhouses due to what it called “punishing” line speeds. Workers were made to “endure debilitating pain in their hands, gnarled fingers, chemical burns and respiratory problems.” Also, for many immigrant workers, as the law center put it, “Threats of deportation and firing are frequently used to keep them silent,” making the USDA’s attempt to spin the recent NIOSH data particularly disturbing.

Federal agencies appear to be ganging up on the USDA — and rightly so. The Government Accountability Office published a report last year criticizing the USDA’s plan on the basis of inadequate and faulty safety data. Of course, the chicken industry loves the proposal. In fact, the National Chicken Council would prefer not having any limits on line speeds at all...

The meat industry is so powerful because over the decades, production has consolidated into the hands of a few players. As a result, small farmers and ranchers have either been squeezed out or made to operate under challenging conditions; with so little competition, the major players call the shots. That’s why as a presidential candidate (and in his “Blueprint for Change”) Barack Obama touted the importance of meat industry economic reform. Specifically, he promised to “strengthen anti-monopoly laws and strengthen producer protections to ensure independent farmers have fair access to markets, control over their production decisions, and fair prices for their goods.” The USDA did try to enforce antitrust law and promulgate new regulations to protect farmers and ranchers from unfair business practices. But after much internal debate at the USDA (and with the White House) that resulted in key agency staffers resigning in disgust, the final rule was all but gutted.

The Obama administration ultimately caved to industry pressure, which took the form, in part, of an information campaign that portrayed the proposal to protect small producers “as the first step toward economic ruin of the meat business,” according to Leonard. This sky-is-falling scaremongering is a typical industry tactic to maintain the status quo.
Big Chicken, instead of feeding us, believes they have a right give us any old crap so long as we pay their price. And if you don't grow your own chickens, you have little choice in the matter.

Atomic tourism

People will trek around the globe to visit sites that have historical or other significance. The latest stops on touring agendas are a number of nuclear test sites in the Nevada desert, the Trinity site topping the list.
Standing a few yards from the spot where the world's first atomic bomb detonated with a blast so powerful that it turned the desert sand to glass and shattered windows more than 100 miles away, tourist Chris Cashel explained what drew him here.

"You don't get to go to very many places that changed the entire world in a single moment," said Cashel as he glanced around the windswept, desolate Trinity Site in the New Mexico desert packed with tourists. "The world was never going to be the same after that."

The military veteran was among thousands of visitors who piled into cars and buses to drive out to the secluded site about 35 miles southeast of Socorro, where Manhattan Project scientists split the atom shortly before dawn on July 16, 1945, ushering in the atomic age. The successful test of the nuclear "gadget" unleashed a blast equivalent to 19 kilotons of high explosive, and led to the devastation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki weeks later.

The sagebrush-ringed spot lies on the White Sands Missile Range and is the most famous of a number of U.S. atomic weapon-related tourist attractions, as the nuclear age approaches its 70th anniversary next year. The popular, informal trail includes tours to the former Cold War bomb proving grounds in Nevada that are routinely booked up months ahead, as well as popular tours of an inter-continental ballistic missile silo hidden deep beneath the Arizona desert.

Legislation, meanwhile, to create a Manhattan Project National Historical Park to preserve sites in New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington state related to the project led by physicist Robert Oppenheimer is currently being considered by Congress.

The Trinity Site "open house" earlier this month drew about 4,000 visitors from as far afield as Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom, who beat a trail out to the spot where the explosion created heat so intense it felt "like opening an oven door, even at ten miles," according to one eyewitness account.

Visitors milled around ground zero and scoured the ground for fragments of green "Trinitite" — a glass-like substance forged from superheated sand sucked up into the world's first nuclear fireball — and posed for photographs by a stone obelisk marking the blast's hypocenter. "There are all kinds of reasons for coming," said Jim Eckles, a docent at the site explaining its powerful allure. "There are kids here for their science class. There are World War Two vets here because they'll tell you it saved their life. They didn't have to go to the Pacific to fight the Japanese, island to island to island."
Rumor has it that the Trinity site is considered an excellent place for coastal dwellers along the Pacific to get away from Fukushima radiations.

How many tombstones will this safety feature require?

Airplane safety experts have long acknowledged that new safety features and regulations for airplanes never occur without enough deaths to stimulate interest. But what about less spectacular, more prosaic dangers like road hazards? How many need die for safety to step forward?
Hundreds of interstate highway fatalities have been prevented in multiple states by relatively inexpensive safety devices that were not in place at the site of a fiery bus-truck collision last week in California that killed 10 people.

While interstates are statistically the country’s safest roadways, they’re also vulnerable to one of the deadliest kinds of crashes, where one vehicle crosses the median at a high speed and strikes another traveling the opposite direction.

At a time when states are pinching their transportation pennies, the installation of steel cable median barriers has helped states improve highway safety without a lot of investment.

“It’s very effective at capturing the vehicle,” said John Miller, a traffic safety engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation. “We’ve seen a lot of great benefit from it.”

More than 300 fatal cross-median crashes happened on interstate highways in 2012, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Despite improved highway safety in states that have installed barriers along rural interstates in recent years, the federal government doesn’t require them in the medians of divided highways. Missouri and North Carolina, which have installed the barriers on parts or all of their interstate highways, have seen cross-median fatalities cut by as much as 90 percent. Others, such as Kentucky, are in the process of installing more.
The recent tragic truck/bus accident in California was on a strip that didn't have median barriers. According to CALTrans, the location "crash site didn’t meet its requirements for installing median barriers, which include frequency of cross-median crashes, the width of the median and the daily average traffic count." A few more accidents and it should make the grade.

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