Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When your first recording is a huge success

Anything you follow up with will probably not impress the crowd. Throw in contract troubles with the music industry and it is a wonder that Eleanor McAvoy is still performing and writing. But she is and recorded "To Sweep Away A Fool" on her 2006 album Out There.

No misunderstanding here.

From the pen of Lee Judge

Another "Once Upon A Time" Tale

Once upon a time. Back in primitive times, when doctors relied on paper records for medical histories, sharing patient histories was a simple matter of making a paper copy and passing it on to another doctor, with the patients written permission. This was slow and required lots of file space. Nowadays, doctors use computerized records relying on whizbang software that moves at the speed of light around the globe, but only to doctors who use the same software.
As a practicing physician in Ahoskie, N.C., the ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Raghuvir B. Gelot says little has frustrated him more than the digital record system he installed a few years ago.

The problem: His system, made by one company, cannot share patient records with the local medical center, which uses a program made by another company.

The two companies are quick to deny responsibility, each blaming the other.

Regardless of who is at fault, doctors and hospital executives across the country say they are distressed that the pricey electronic health record systems they installed in the hopes of reducing costs and improving the coordination of patient care — a major goal of the Affordable Care Act — simply do not share information with competing systems.

The issue is especially critical now as many hospitals and physicians scramble to install the latest versions of their digital record systems to demonstrate to regulators starting Oct. 1 that they can share some patient data. Those who cannot will face reductions in Medicare reimbursements down the road.

On top of that, leading companies in the industry are preparing to bid on a Defense Department contract valued at an estimated $11 billion. A primary requirement is that the winning vendor must be able to share information, allowing the department to digitally track the medical care of 9.6 million active-duty military personnel around the globe.

The contract is the latest boon to an industry that has been heavily subsidized by taxpayers in recent years through more than $24 billion in incentive payments to help install electronic health records in hospitals and physicians’ offices.

While the vast majority of providers have installed some kind of electronic record system, two recent studies have found that fewer than half of the nation’s hospitals can transmit a patient care document, while only 14 percent of physicians can exchange patient data with outside hospitals or other providers.

“We’ve spent half a million dollars on an electronic health record system about three years ago, and I’m faxing all day long. I can’t send anything electronically over it,” said Dr. William L. Rich III, a member of a nine-person ophthalmology practice in Northern Virginia and medical director of health policy for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
The free hand of the marketplace has struck again and private enterprise has once again failed to do it better. Until some maker "Googles" the market and achieves total dominance, there will be no standard for universal communication.

The last man to die for a mistake

Is still waiting for his condemnation papers. Whoever the poor soul may be, we won't know for another 10 years, at least. The Colony of Shitholeistan and our Imperial envoy have signed the papers pushing that honor out to sometime in the future. Needless to say, high officials in the Imperial War Ministry are doing a happy dance for reasons that must be Top Secret because no public explanation makes any sense.
At a ceremony in the capital, Kabul, U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham and Afghanistan’s newly appointed national security adviser Mohmmad Hanif Atmar signed the document.

There are currently about 41,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 130,000 in 2012. Most will leave after the international military force formally ends its combat mission at the end of 2014.

Under the terms of the agreement, troops from Germany, Italy and other NATO members will join a remaining force of 9,800 U.S. soldiers, bringing numbers up to about 12,500. The foreign troops will be tasked with training and assisting Afghanistan's security forces maintain stability.

Observers express fears that, in the absence of stronger international forces, the Taliban will overpower Afghanistan’s new government. The group already claims responsibility for routine attacks and suicide bombings.

The timetable for the remaining soldiers’ full withdrawal remains unclear.
And anyone whi thinks there will be a full withdrawal probably still thinks Eisenhower will get us out of Korea.
Afghanistan, nicknamed the "graveyard of empires" for its history of resisting colonization, from Alexander the Great to the Soviet Union, has had U.S. troops on its soil since October 2001, in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Al-Qaeda had found refuge in the Taliban-ruled country. After U.S. and NATO forces managed to push Al-Qaeda's leadership into hiding or Pakistan, their job became one of battling back the Taliban, training Afghan troops and pouring money into the development of the country, one of the poorest in the world.
All of which failed miserably after 13 years of very expensive effort.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A little something from Haiti

A seductively catchy tune by Emeline Michel, "Moso Manman".

Whatever works to get it done

Necessity can give birth to some strange "inventions" as Tom Tomorrow points out.

It never really went away

From the pen of David Horsey

This would never happen to a Walton

Everyone knows you have to work hard to get ahead, if you weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Some people work extra hard, extremely hard to do so. Some even give their all and in the end never do get ahead.
Maybe she poured you a cup of hot coffee, right before you rushed off to catch your afternoon train. Maybe you noticed her huddled over an empty table in the station, dozing in the lonesome hours between one shift and another.

Her name was Maria Fernandes. She was 32 years old. And long before her face flashed across the evening news, she worked amid the throngs of passengers in the heart of Newark’s Pennsylvania Station, serving pumpkin lattes and toasted bagels, and dreaming of life somewhere else.

She dreamed of the bustling streets of Los Angeles and the leafy towns of Pennsylvania. She dreamed of working two jobs, not three. She dreamed of sleeping, really sleeping, for six or seven hours at a stretch.

But dreams rarely pay the rent. So Ms. Fernandes worked three jobs, at three Dunkin’ Donuts stores in northern New Jersey, shuttling from Newark to Linden to Harrison and back. She often slept in her car — two hours here, three hours there — and usually kept the engine running, ready in an instant to start all over again.

The last day of her life was no different. She got off work at 6 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 25, and climbed into her 2001 Kia Sportage, officials from the Elizabeth Police Department said. She was dreaming again, this time about taking a break to celebrate a milestone with friends. But first, she told her boyfriend, Mr. Carter, during a brief cellphone conversation, she was going to take a nap.

She pulled into the parking lot of a Wawa convenience store, reclined in the driver’s seat and closed her eyes. The store’s surveillance camera videotaped her arrival at 6:27 a.m.

Detectives would pore over those tapes after her body was found later that day. It was the last image that anyone would see of her alive.

“She liked her jobs; she never complained.” — Jessenia Barra, 28.
She reached a milestone but no one is celebrating.

Either way the gov't gets your data

But with the upcoming contract renewal for its routing services, the government that gets it may be in question.
An obscure federal contract for a company charged with routing millions of phone calls and text messages in the United States has prompted an unusual lobbying battle in which intelligence officials are arguing that the nation’s surveillance secrets could be at risk.

The contractor that wins the bid would essentially act as the air traffic controller for the nation’s phone system, which is run by private companies but is essentially overseen by the government.

And with a European-based company now favored for the job, some current and former intelligence officials — who normally stay out of the business of awarding federal contracts — say they are concerned that the government’s ability to trace reams of phone data used in terrorism and law enforcement investigations could be hindered...

The F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies said that while they had “no position” on who should get the contract, they did want to make sure that their professional needs were adequately addressed and that there would be no disruption in access to call-routing data “in real time or near real time.”

“Law enforcement cannot afford to have a lapse in this vital service,” the agencies told the F.C.C. in a letter.

The agencies expressed particular concern that a contractor with access to the phone system from outside the United States could mean “unwarranted, and potentially harmful” access to American surveillance methods and targets...

The phone-routing system grew out of a 1997 law that allowed cellphone and landline users to keep the same number even when they switched carriers. These so-called portability standards made things easier for consumers but created potential complications for intelligence and law enforcement officials in tracing phone calls and determining which numbers were tied to which carriers.

The routing network that was put in place, with Neustar as its administrator, was designed partly to allow the government nearly instant access to the data on where calls were being routed.
If a foreign company should take over this vital intelligence service, should we all learn another language to make it easier for them to listen?

Oh Dear! Whatever shall we do?

It seems that the US military has something it is not willing to leave behind in Afghanistan, an unknown number of unidentified prisoners being held for unspecified reason.
The fate of a group of prisoners held in near-total secrecy by U.S. forces at a prison in Afghanistan is hanging in limbo, the facility's commander said, as Washington gropes for options after its legal right to hold them there expires in December.

The inmates - all foreign nationals captured on battlefields around the world - could be transferred to the U.S. court system or, as a last resort, to the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, Brigadier General Patrick J. Reinert told Reuters.

The quandary over what to do with the detainees held in a prison near Bagram airfield, north of Kabul, has rekindled the outrage over the U.S. policy of rendition in the early phases of the Afghan war.

In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, suspected militants were abducted and held in secret prisons worldwide without charge or evidence.

The United State abandoned that policy under President Barack Obama, but the detention of those being held near Bagram is a reminder that the issue has not been concluded.

"We've got to resolve their fate by either returning them to their home country or turning them over to the Afghans for prosecution or any other number of ways that the Department of Defense has to resolve," Reinert told Reuters.

Almost nothing is known of the detainees' identities. The United States has declined to disclose their nationalities, where they were captured and how many are still in its custody.

Their status is increasingly urgent because the United States will lose the right to hold prisoners in Afghanistan after the 2014 end of mission for the U.S.-led force there.

Most of the prisoners are Pakistani, according to the human rights group Justice Project Pakistan. Some are from Yemen, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The inmates remained in U.S. custody after the prison on the outskirts of the U.S. military's Bagram base handed its Afghan detainees over to Afghan control last year.
Gotta Love It! After neither prosecuting them nor keeping them in humane conditions, we won't release them to their home countries because we can't get assurances that they will not prosecuted at home or kept in humane conditions. That would seem to be a moot point at this time.

Just Asking

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Their summer single

Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers put out "Another Rolling Stone" as a single in July. And the "Official Video" of it was posted up earlier this month.

Denial flows like a river

From the pen of Brian McFadden

Why limit it to just one day

With a large population,
many working hours and in locations that make it difficult to get to a polling place on a Tuesday in November, early voting is being eagerly accepted by many voters.
In North Carolina, which has a pivotal U.S. Senate contest at the top of the ticket, voting began Sept. 5 when absentee ballots were mailed to voters. As of Friday about 15,000 voters — the majority of them Democrats — had requested ballots ahead of Nov. 4.

On Thursday, Iowans, who will choose between Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst in a competitive race for an open Senate seat, began to vote both in person and through early absentee ballots. Already, more than 145,000 voters have requested absentee ballots, with Democrats outpacing Republicans by about 38,000 requests, according to the Iowa secretary of state's office. In 2010, Democrats in the Hawkeye State cast 19,000 more early ballots than did Republicans.

In September, states including Georgia and Minnesota will allow voters to cast ballots early. California and Arizona offer similar voting options in early October.

From Maine and Florida to Wisconsin and Alaska, 35 states allow voters to fill out ballots at polling stations or mail them prior to election day.

"In reality, the days of an actual election 'day' are long gone," said Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida who specializes in elections and voter turnout. "It's a solid election month, if not more in some places, and will continue to expand."

Indeed, McDonald, who oversees the United States Elections Project, which closely tracks voting statistics, has found that ballots cast before election day increased from 4% in 1972 to 25% in 2010.

In Colorado, a new law instituting all-mail elections will receive its first major statewide test as Democratic Sen. Mark Udall looks to stave off a challenge from Republican Rep. Cory Gardner in a marquee race. The Colorado governor's race is also the focus of intense attention, as Democrat John Hickenlooper faces Republican Bob Beauprez. And the Denver suburbs feature a tight congressional race.
Anything that allows more people to cast their vote is healthy to our way of governing. And, as is traditional, the Democrats support these measures and the Republicans do all they can to halt them. If we can't have a nationable holiday to vote, then a month of election days will do just nicely.

Music City is tearing down Music Row

The part of town where so much great music was written and recorded is now being sold off and demolished to make way for condominiums.
Today, booming Nashville is trying to decide whether the tone is appropriate for the crusade that Mr. Kopp and others are waging to save Studio A, a recording room that is steeped in music history and that is scheduled for demolition to make way for a luxury condominium project.

The potential loss of the 49-year-old studio has sparked a broader conversation here about whether the city’s sizzling real estate market is squeezing the music business out of Music Row, even as country has overtaken Top 40 as the nation’s most popular radio format.

The cluster of streets southwest of downtown Nashville has long been the spiritual and commercial center of the nation’s country music business — a concentration of record companies, small-time showbiz strivers and studios that Christine Kreyling, a local writer, once called “the Vatican City of country music.”

“If we let certain musical touchstones go, these centerpieces of collaboration between artists and engineers, then what’s left that makes Nashville’s music scene unique?” said Mr. Kopp, a manager of Ben Folds, the rock musician who is the studio’s current lessee.

In recent years, Nashville has leveraged its diverse economy and honky-tonk mystique to become one of the nation’s fastest growing cities. The 10-county metropolitan region of 1.7 million people is expected to grow to three million by 2040, and in the last fiscal year, the city bested its record for the total value of building permits issued.

But the growth has generated an undertone of worry among some in the music industry, particularly those who work on Music Row. Larry Sheridan, a real estate agent who runs a small studio on the Row, has counted five other studios that have been torn down in the area in the last year or so.

Music Row denizens point out that Fireside, a studio once owned by Porter Wagoner, Ms. Parton’s frequent duet partner, was torn down recently to make room for the Artisan, a 153-unit apartment complex with a yoga studio. This year, a number of buildings on a prominent Music Row corner, including a well-known 1836 Queen Anne home, were torn down to make way for a planned luxury hotel.

The project will reportedly include a recording studio. But for now, it is an empty lot.
What better way to cherish the musical history at the heart of Nashville's tourist trade than to tear it down and replace it with overpriced housing.

Values Voters have selected their presidential candidate

A straw man selected in their straw poll

Saturday, September 27, 2014

On any given Saturday Night

There are lots of people like the ones Gail Davies sings about in her first hit, "Someone Is Looking For Someone Like You"

Obedience training

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

New rules to protect soldiers

After passage of a law seven years ago protecting the military from predatory lenders, the administration is now taking steps to protect the military from predatory lending products designed to take advantage of loopholes left in the law.
The Obama administration is proposing sweeping changes to a seven-year-old federal law that was intended to shield service members and their families from high-cost loans tied to their paychecks, a move that reflects the Defense Department’s growing recognition that lenders have exploited loopholes in the law.

Those loopholes in the Military Lending Act have left hundreds of thousands of service members across the country vulnerable to potentially predatory loans, including high-cost credit from retailers to buy electronics, payday-style loans and loans tied to car titles.

The proposed updates to the law would extend a 36 percent interest rate cap on short-term loans to cover a much broader swath of products — from installment loans to credit cards — that have proliferated since the law was passed by Congress...

The changes, which are being proposed by the Defense Department, would strengthen protections for military members by vastly expanding the kinds of credit covered by the law’s interest rate cap. The proposal also requires that creditors enhance their disclosures to military members, mandating that the lenders tell military members that they should first try to find alternatives to the costly forms of credit.

Creditors could also no longer require service members to agree to arbitration, a concession that would strip borrowers of their rights to fight in court.

The final rules, expected to go into effect by next year, represent an acknowledgment that lenders, intent on offering loans regardless of the federal restrictions, devised loan products that fell squarely outside the loan’s restrictions.
The predators will probably find new loopholes to continue leeching on a particularly attractive segment of America's low income population. It's how they get rich.

Our Generals are determined

Mostly to show what they didn't learn the first time and probably will refuse to learn again. When you call yourself the best military in the world, you can't let any bunch of towelheads beat you.
The nation’s top military commander refused Friday to back off his controversial stance in Senate testimony that he would recommend committing U.S. troops to combat in Iraq if he believed they were needed to help defeat Islamic State militants.

The steadfastness of Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, revealed a potential gap between President Barack Obama’s senior military and political advisers over whether there might once more be American “boots on the ground” in Iraq three years after the last American combat troops left.

In another sign of the expanding American mission in the region, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the first U.S. military personnel had arrived in Saudi Arabia to lay the groundwork for training 5,000 “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State.

Congress last week authorized the training mission but still must consider an administration request for $500 million for the program. The authorization came after Obama said he would expand the U.S. air campaign against the Islamic State from Iraq into Syria, a step that occurred this week with air assaults on 22 locations in Syria.

“In Syria, there has been no coordination, nor will there be, with the Assad regime,” Hagel said Friday. “Nothing has changed about our position, (nothing) that has shifted our approach to Assad and his regime, because this regime, President Assad, has lost all legitimacy to govern.”
So Bombs Away! And send in the troops with sneakers so we can truly say there are no boots on the ground, amirite?

All politics is a numbers game

Which numbers do you want to talk about.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Another great band from that hotbed of music, Brooklyn, NY

Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds play neo Funk/Soul with a driving horn section. Rocking the joint at the 2-12 SXSW with " Make It Rain"

Need a reason to vote for Senate Democrats?

How about the response of Sens. Warren of MA and Brown of OH to the revelations by former Fed bank examiner Carmen Segarra of the cozy relationships between the Fed and the banks they are supposed to regulate.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren called for a congressional investigation into allegations that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York had been too deferential to the institutions it regulated.

“Congress must hold oversight hearings on the disturbing issues raised by today’s whistle-blower report when it returns in November -- because it’s our job to make sure our financial regulators are doing their jobs,” Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and member of the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement today.

The radio program “This American Life” today released the transcript of a broadcast that includes excerpts of conversations it said were secretly recorded by Carmen Segarra, a former New York Fed bank examiner who was fired in 2012, with some of her colleagues and her supervisor.

In the transcript, Segarra described how she felt that her Fed colleagues were afraid of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and handled it with kid gloves.

“What I was sort of seeing and experiencing was this level of deference to the banks, this level of fear,” she said.

The New York Fed said it “categorically rejects” Segarra’s allegations.

“The New York Fed works diligently to execute its supervisory authority in a manner that is most effective in promoting the safety and soundness of the financial institutions it is charged with supervising,” it said in a statement posted on its website today.

Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat who’s also on the banking committee, backed Warren’s call for a probe.

“These allegations deserve a full and thorough investigation, and American taxpayers deserve regulators who will fight each day on their behalf,” he said in a statement.
And why vote Democratic you ask? Because if the Republican/Teabaggers win control of the Senate for their corporate masters, this issue will be buried so deep, some poor Chinese will wonder who dug a whole in their backyard.

The only time they are useful.

From the pen of  Nick Anderson

Good enough to fight for US

But when push comes to shove and they make a mistake, they are just another bunch of beaners to be sent "home".
Barajas and the veterans staying with him are establishing a new life in Tijuana — a life after deportation. Their stories are similar: Each was honorably discharged from the military, but was later charged with a deportable offense — for example, drug possession, discharge of a firearm or fraud. In some cases, the veterans say, their offenses were triggered by the post-traumatic stress they developed after serving in combat. Most have spent the vast majority of their lives in the United States and are now starting over in a country they barely know.

No agency tracks the number of deported vets, but some immigration advocates estimate there are hundreds, if not thousands. Barajas says he is aware of more than 300 in 19 countries, including Bosnia, Ghana and Ecuador. Most deported veterans were permanent residents (green-card holders) at the time they enlisted; according to Department of Defense spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, about 5,000 documented noncitizens sign up for the military every year.

A series of new laws and programs introduced after September 11, 2001, have relaxed the requirements and streamlined the process for service members wishing to become U.S. citizens. Today, most recruits can become citizens by the time they graduate from basic training.

But those who did not apply for and gain citizenship are subject to deportation if accused of certain offenses. While some deportable acts still allow a veteran to apply for citizenship and avoid deportation, a subset of those actions — called “aggravated felonies” — guarantees deportation and prevents the person from ever applying for citizenship.

Such actions have grown to a “laundry list of random offenses,” including misdemeanors that don’t require jail time, says Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney with Cascadia Cross-Border Law and retired lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve who has worked with deported veterans.

While a 2011 Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) memo requires the agency’s officers, agents and attorneys to give veterans special consideration in deportation hearings, in practice, the guidelines are applied inconsistently.
They were useful in their time, but now they are just another bunch of foreigners who ran afoul of the law, one way or another.

We have a new ally in the fight against Daesh

Now that the Prime Minister of England knows his Scottish behind is safe, he has rallied the Parliament to join in the coalition against Daesh.
British lawmakers voted on Friday to join the U.S.-led coalition of nations launching airstrikes on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq, committing warplanes to the struggle against the armed group.

Prime Minister David Cameron described the moves as critical to national security, arguing that facing down the Al-Qaeda splinter group has become a matter of urgency.

He made a passionate plea that spelled out the consequences of inaction in drastic terms — noting that the group had beheaded their victims, gouged out eyes and carried out crucifixions to promote goals from the "Dark Ages."

The vote was 524-43.

Earlier in the day, Belgium and Denmark also voted to join the coalition.
With all these friends, Daesh will be trampled, sooner or later.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Before the success of Lake Street Dive

Rachael Price had impressive efforts singing jazz and gospel music. Here she sings the old standard "You Go To My Head" from her 2008 album The Good Hours.

Definetly getting up on the wrong side of bed

From the pen of Kevin Siers

When laws collide

Alaska is a strange and unique place. Not only did the majority believe that the Wasilla Mauler, Snooki Palin was fit to be governor, something even she knew was wrong, but they believe there is a right to privacy sufficient to allow people to possess small amounts of pot.
In 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in Ravin v. State that the right to possess, cultivate and consume small amounts of marijuana in the home was protected under the state Constitution's right to privacy.

As you might imagine, that ruling has faced some opposition over the years, and has been placed into legal limbo from time to time due to various ballot and legislative challenges. But Alaska courts have repeatedly and consistently upheld the notion that Constitutional privacy protections cover the personal possession, cultivation and use of marijuana in Alaska.

"Alaskans can currently lawfully possess up to four ounces of marijuana in their homes for personal use [and cultivate up to 25 plants], but still risk prosecution under existing state and federal statutes," concludes University of Alaska law professor Jason Brandeis in an exhaustive history of Alaska marijuana law (which makes for a pretty interesting read if you're into such things). You could still technically be charged with marijuana possession if caught with less than four ounces in your home, but a court would essentially have to throw the charge out.

This puts Alaska in a unique position: in some respects its marijuana laws are more liberal than those in the Netherlands, which outlaw personal cultivation completely. While all eyes are on Colorado and Washington to see how those experiments with legal marijuana turn out, Alaska, with 39 years of (admittedly complicated) legalization history is largely overlooked: you'd think that forces on both sides of the national marijuana debate would be looking to Alaska for answers and arguments. Why aren't they?
A good question as the state presents a nice model for social advantages to the Holy Herb. Whatever gets you through the night up there.

If he is the epitome of evil

Why does he make so much sense when he speaks. Iran's President Rouhani spoke at the UN yesterday and he doesn't sound at all like the horrid monster that the Likud, AIPAC and their running dogs in this country paint him to be.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran delivered a searing indictment of Western and Arab states on Thursday in his annual speech to the United Nations, blaming them for sowing the seeds of extremism in the Middle East with “strategic blunders” that have given rise to the Islamic State and other violent jihadist groups.

“Certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hands of madmen, who now spare no one,” Mr. Rouhani said, adding that “all those who have played a role in founding and supporting these terror groups must acknowledge their errors” and apologize.

He also used the occasion to denounce the Western-led sanctions imposed on Iran’s nuclear program and reiterated his government’s desire to resolve Iran’s protracted dispute with the United States and other nations over the program.

He implied that the nuclear negotiations were linked to Iran’s cooperation in combating the Islamic State and its affiliates, saying that no security cooperation was possible until the sanctions were lifted. “The people of Iran, who have been subjected to pressures especially in the last three years as a result of continued sanctions, cannot place trust in any security cooperation between their government with those who have imposed sanctions and created obstacles in the way of satisfying even their primary needs, such as food and medicine,” he said.

Mr. Rouhani’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly, his second as Iran’s president, began by striking some of the same notes that his counterparts from the United States and Europe struck on Wednesday regarding the rise of the Islamic State, the militant group that now controls parts of Syria and Iraq. President Obama, in his speech on Wednesday, called on all nations to unite in a concerted effort to destroy the group, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Mr. Rouhani denied that Iran sought to control other nations in the region, calling that belief “delusional Iranophobia,” and reminded the world that Iran was among the first countries to assist Iraq in June, when Islamic State fighters invaded from neighboring Syria.

He said the extremist group and its affiliates, which have drawn recruits from around the world, do not represent the true teachings of Islam.

“I am struck that these murderous groups call themselves Islamic,” he said.
Time for a reassessment of Iran because Rouhani sounds like a better ally that Israel.

Forgiveness and a second chance

One of the better aspects of Christianity, sadly in the case of Father Augustus Cortez it led to the wrong kind of second chance.
New York priest who has been on probation for nearly six years for child sex abuse has disappeared after another family accused him of molesting a 6-year-old girl.

Father Augustus Cortez was previously convicted of groping a 12-year-old girl, but he had been allowed to continue serving as a priest for the Vincentian religious order in Brooklyn.

Police arrested the 50-year-old Cortez and questioned him in the latest case but allowed him to leave in his own car, and he hasn’t been seen since, reported Newsday.

A warrant was issued for his arrest on first-degree sexual abuse charges.

Family members said Cortez molested the girl in June during a high school graduation party for her older sister.

“I heard him jump up and get startled,” the girl’s mother told WLNY-TV. “He was very scared and afraid and when I walked around the other side he approached the window and in the reflection, I saw him I saw him pull up his zipper. That’s when I first knew that he was doing something wrong. I was very shocked.”

The victim contracted a sexually transmitted disease from the priest, relatives said.

Cortez pleaded guilty in 2008 to forcible touching after admitting to reaching inside a preteen girl’s shirt to feel her breast, the newspaper reported, and was sentenced to six years on probation.

The Rev. Michael Carroll, provincial of the Vincentian order, wrote a letter to the court insisting that Cortez would not be permitted to present himself as a priest but would instead be given a non-clerical role such as bookkeeper or gardener.

The church official said Cortez would be supervised and given no contact with children, but Newsday reported family photos show the clergyman with both daughters over a period of several years.

He also continued to say Mass, the family said, although the Vincentians said in a statement that Cortez was not authorized to engage in public ministry or to be alone with children.
So he got his second chance and failed that as well, and is on the lam because he knows with the current Pope, even Cardinal Timmy "The Bagman" Doyle won't try to save his ass. The question remaining is, where did he get the STD?

Don't punish us for your screwup

Thanks to an amazing failure to perform their jobs properly, the Secret Service is responding to last weeks intruder with suggestions for "expanding" the White House security perimeter. And the public response has been entirely negative.
Washingtonians are pushing back against suggestions that the U.S. Secret Service might make it harder for the public to get close to the White House.

Reports in recent days suggested the service might respond to a security breach at the White House by increasing the security perimeter around the White House.

But locals and tourists alike, including Washington’s nonvoting member of Congress and a prominent architecture critic, say the service charged with guarding the president shouldn’t punish the public for its own lapse.

“Under no circumstances should the Secret Service be allowed to encroach further on the public space of Washington,” wrote Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post’s art and architecture critic. “This is an institutional, organizational problem,” he wrote. “It does not require an architectural solution.”

Officials already have gone too far in pushing back the public in the name of security throughout the nation’s capital, he said. “Ill-considered, unnecessary and undemocratic security measures” already block the public from the west terrace at the U.S. Capitol and from the front doors of the Supreme Court, he said.

The service on Monday imposed what it called a “temporary buffer zone” along the public sidewalk on the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the White House. The waist-high barriers – like those used for crowd control at parades – prevent the public from getting close to the fence.

A spokesman for the Secret Service said Wednesday that the temporary closure would be in effect while the service conducted a “comprehensive review” of the fence-jumping incident last Friday, in which a man with a small knife climbed over the permanent fence, bolted across the lawn and made it into the White House before being detained.
The SS is so slow to respond that they must increase the distance to give themselves a fighting chance. So much for those steely eyed lightning responses they are supposedly trained for.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Linda, Emmylou & Dolly singing Randy

How can you find anything better. Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home" from Trio II

Namaste to the Martian people

On their first try at Mars, the Indian Space Agency has put a spacecraft into Mars orbit. And it did it at a cost far less than Hollywood would expend on a movie about the same thing.
An Indian spacecraft affectionately nicknamed MOM reached Mars orbit on Wednesday, beating India’s Asian rivals to the Red Planet and outdoing the Americans, the Soviets and the Europeans in doing so on a maiden voyage and a shoestring budget.

An ebullient Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on hand at the Indian Space Research Organization’s command center in Bangalore for the early-morning event and hailed it “as a shining symbol of what we are capable of as a nation.”

“The odds were stacked against us,” Mr. Modi, wearing a red Nehru vest, said in a televised news conference. “When you are trying to do something that has not been attempted before, it is a leap into the unknown. And space is indeed the biggest unknown out there.”

Children across India were asked to come to school by 6:45 a.m. Wednesday, well before the usual starting time, to watch the historic event on state television.

The Mars Orbiter Mission, or MOM, was intended mostly to prove that India could succeed in such a highly technical endeavor — and to beat China. As Mr. Modi and others have noted, India’s trip to Mars, at a price of $74 million, cost less than the Hollywood movie “Gravity.” NASA’s almost simultaneous — and far more complex — mission to Mars cost $671 million...

The Indian Space Research Organization has always had a small budget, and for years it largely worked in international isolation after many countries cut off technological sharing programs in the wake of Indian nuclear tests. It has launched more than 50 satellites since 1975, including five foreign satellites in one June launch. As other countries have rethought their pricey space programs, India’s low-budget affair has gained increasing attention and orders.

Its success has long been seen as a fulfillment of the kind of state-sponsored self-sufficiency that former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru cherished but that, in the main, left India impoverished.

More recently, India’s technological isolation in defense and other areas has been due in large part to the country’s restrictions on foreign investments, its poor infrastructure and its infamous bureaucracy. India is now the world’s largest importer of arms because of its inability to make its own equipment and its refusal to let foreign companies open plants owned entirely by them.
Congratulations are in order and I will refrain from making any jokes about opening up a whole new world for convenience stores and motels.

The Rules of Engagement are complex

From the pen of Tom Toles

Republican Governors Pay To Play Exposed

Information normally held in close secret about what corporations gave and what they got for it from the Republican Governors Association has been revealed by C.R.E.W.. Needless to say, the Republicans are howling mad at being exposed to public scrutiny.
In politics, it is sometimes better to be lucky than good. Republicans and Democrats, and groups sympathetic to both, spend millions on sophisticated technology to gain an advantage.

They do it to exploit vulnerabilities and to make their own information secure. But sometimes a simple coding mistake can lay bare documents and data that were supposed to be concealed from the prying eyes of the public.

Such an error by the Republican Governors Association recently resulted in the disclosure of exactly the kind of information that political committees given tax-exempt status normally keep secret, namely their corporate donors and the size of their checks. That set off something of an online search war between the association and a Washington watchdog group that spilled other documents, Democratic and Republican, into the open.

The documents, many of which the Republican officials have since removed from their website, showed that an A-to-Z of America’s most prominent companies, from Aetna to Walmart, had poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of Republican governors since 2008. One document listed 17 corporate “members” of the governors association’s secretive 501(c)(4), the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, which is allowed to shield its supporters from the public...

Among the R.G.A. documents is a 21-page schedule of the policy committee’s Carlsbad meeting last year that details which companies attended, who represented them and what they contributed. The most elite group, known as the Statesmen, whose members donated $250,000, included Aetna; Coca-Cola; Exxon Mobil; Evil Koch Companies Public Sector, the lobbying arm of the highly political Evil Koch Industries; Microsoft; Pfizer; UnitedHealth Group; and Walmart. The $100,000 Cabinet level included Aflac, BlueCross BlueShield, Comcast, Hewlett-Packard, Novartis, Shell Oil, Verizon Communications and Walgreen.

Other documents detail, in part, what they got in return.

For a $50,000 annual contribution or a one-time donation of $100,000, one 2009 document details the benefits of a Governors Board membership, which “offers the ability to bring their particular expertise to the political process while helping to support the Republican agenda.”

Board members received two tickets to “an exclusive breakfast with the Republican Governors and members of their staff”; three tickets to the Governors Forums Series, where “a group of 5-8 governors discuss the best policy practices from around the country on a particular topic”; and a D.C. Discussion Breakfast Series, among other events.

If they bump up to Cabinet Membership — $100,000 annually or a single payment of $200,000 — contributors also receive two invitations to “an exclusive Gubernatorial Dinner,” an “intimate gathering with the Republican Governors and special Republican V.I.P. guests” at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington.

Political finance experts say the practice apparently laid out in the documents is not illegal, and probably not unusual. In hundreds of pages posted on the web, the Republican governors group put it down in black and white.

“It’s not that you don’t suspect this, but here you see these companies paying the governors for access,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. “Americans all think it’s pay-to-play politics. This is what confirms it.”
It reveals all the worst that you can imagine, but you have one thing that no corporation has, a vote. And in the end it is the votes that are counted.

Like a good banker

The Federal government has found it is easier to settle lawsuits for patently obvious wrongdoing than to keep on fighting them. The latest settlement is with the Navajo Nation for mishandling Navajo funds and resources.
In the largest settlement with a single American Indian tribe, the Obama administration will pay the Navajo Nation $554 million to settle claims that the U.S. government has mismanaged funds and natural resources on the Navajo reservation for decades.

The settlement, to be signed in Window Rock, Ariz., on Friday, resolves a long-standing dispute between the Navajo Nation and the U.S. government, with some of the claims dating back more than 50 years.

The sprawling Navajo reservation, located in parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, is the largest and most populous Indian reservation, with 14 million acres of trust lands, which are leased for farming, grazing and oil, gas and other mineral extraction. The land is also leased for businesses, rights-of-way, easements and housing.

“This landmark resolution ends protracted and burdensome litigation,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement provided to The Washington Post on Wednesday. “This demonstrates the Justice Department’s firm commitment to strengthening our partnerships with tribal nations.”

Under the agreement, the Navajo Nation will dismiss its current lawsuit and forego further litigation against the U.S. government for its historic management and accounting of Navajo funds and resources held in trust by the government.

“The Navajo Nation has worked tirelessly for many years to bring this issue to a close,” said Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation. “After a long, hard-won process, I am pleased that we have finally come to a resolution on this matter to receive fair and just compensation for the Navajo Nation.” Shelly said the tribe will host town hall meetings across the Navajo Nation to decide on how the funds can be used or invested...

Along with the Navajo Nation, the administration has negotiated settlements resulting in a total of $2.61 billion paid to 80 tribes since 2010 for tribal trust accounting and trust management claims. The Interior Department manages almost 56 million acres of trust lands for federally recognized tribes and more than 100,000 leases on those lands. The department also manages about 2,500 tribal trust accounts for more than 250 tribes.
And now the Navajo and others can decide their own course and make their own mistakes, which is so much better than watching others do it for yoy.

Kids ask the damndest questions

Which is why you need to be ready with the right answer

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

From deep in the heart of Anaheim CA

Jennifer Warnes came to the world of music to write, arrange produce and sing all manner of songs. And she has done it well, including this tune she wrote "Lights Of Louisianne".

Respect the Authoritah!

From the pen of Ted Rall

R.I.P. Willard Lawson Radcliff

Where would the world be without the Slush Puppie.

We won't have Karzai of the Afghans to kick around anymore

And he gets to leave the country upright, in one piece and a very wealthy man and member of a very wealthy family. And how does he say thank you?
Afghanistan’s departing president, Hamid Karzai, used his final speech to his cabinet and senior staff members to make a bitter swipe at the United States and some of its Western allies on Tuesday, blaming them for many of the country’s ongoing problems.

“America did not want peace for Afghanistan, because it had its own agendas and goals here,” he said. “I have always said this: that if America and Pakistan want peace, it is possible to bring peace to Afghanistan.”...

Mr. Karzai went out of his way to thank countries like India, which has spent $1 billion in foreign aid here and scheduled another $1 billion, but not his Western allies of the past 13 years. The United States alone has spent more than $100 billion dollars on development aid to Afghanistan, not counting military aid, and many European countries have also donated huge amounts.

“I want to thank those countries who genuinely supported us. Western countries had their personal interest, the Western countries and the United States had their own personal goal,” Mr. Karzai said.

“I believe the stability of Afghanistan is directly related to United States and Pakistan,” Mr. Karzai said. “If the United States and Pakistan want, peace can be brought to Afghanistan because it is not our war and there is no fight among the Afghans. It is not a combat among the people living in this soil. This war is for the personal interest of foreign policies and this is fight of outsiders in which Afghans are sacrificed.”
He may be right, but he also had his share of flights to the banks of Dubai.

If you haven't done it yet

Today is a good day to register yourself to vote. If you have then please help a family member or friend to do so. And if your state requires voter ID, help someone to get that ID.

Bomb 1 from Country A & 2 from Country B

And don't complain if you want to bomb an hour later. Now that we have been dropping high explosives on Syria as well as Iraq, it is time for the legal beagles to hunt up a legitimization for the attacks.
Senior Obama administration officials said on Tuesday that the airstrikes against the Islamic State — carried out in Syria without seeking the permission of the Syrian government or the United Nations Security Council — were legal because they were done in defense of Iraq.

International law generally prohibits using force on the sovereign territory of another country without its permission or without authorization from the United Nations, except as a matter of self-defense. American intelligence agencies have concluded that the Islamic State poses no immediate threat to the United States, though they believe that another militant group targeted in the strikes, Khorasan, does pose a threat.

But the senior administration officials said on Tuesday that Iraq had a valid right of self-defense against the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — because the militant group was attacking Iraq from its havens in Syria, and the Syrian government had proved unable or unwilling to suppress that threat. Iraq asked the United States for assistance in defending itself, making the strikes legal, they said.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the United States has not yet submitted a formal letter to the United Nations explaining its actions. That letter was expected to be submitted later on Tuesday, and The New York Times obtained draft language that was circulating at the White House.

“The government of Iraq has asked that the United States lead international efforts to strike ISIL sites and military strongholds in Syria in order to end the continuing attacks on Iraq, to protect Iraqi citizens, and ultimately to enable and arm Iraqi forces to perform their task of regaining control of the Iraqi borders,” the draft letter says.

The United States is also citing a Sept. 20 letter from Iraq’s minister of foreign affairs, Ibrahim al-Jafari, to the United Nations complaining that the Islamic State was attacking Iraq from its havens and explaining that it had requested the United States’ assistance in defending itself.

Iraq has “requested the United States of America to lead international efforts to strike ISIL sites and military strongholds, with our express consent,” the Iraqi letter said. “The aim of such strikes is to end the constant threat to Iraq, protect Iraq’s citizens and, ultimately, arm Iraqi forces and enable them to regain control of Iraq’s borders.”
It is all so simple, Iraq has asked us to bomb IS for it. IS controlled territory includes what was formerly Syria, but as Syria has lost control of that territory, it is kosher to bomb it in defense of Iraq. Got it? Don't think too hard about it, just remember that we are the US of A. We can bomb any damn country we choose, as long as they don't have nukes.

Waste money on poor single teen mothers?

According to the Detroit Commissar appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to pillage the public assets of that sad city for the benefit of his friends, no fucking way. So when the school cuts were imposed, one of the most successful schools in the city was closed.

Catherine Ferguson's mission was to provide a good public school education to both parents and their kids, and it did so for close to three decades. Unlike a traditional high school, Catherine Ferguson offered on-site day care and early elementary education. In return, it had a daily attendance rate of 97 percent. Ninety percent of students graduated.

"When I was hired in here, it was made very clear to me that we offered the full high school curriculum," said Nicole Conaway, who taught at the school for six years. "The line here was your brain didn't change when you got pregnant."

But in 2011, the Detroit Public Schools' emergency manager slated a number of schools for closure as a cost-saving measure, including Catherine Ferguson. At the time, DPS defended the move, saying the school's students could enroll in the city's traditional high schools, which educated other teen moms. But facing protests and sit-ins by angry students and teachers, the district drew up a compromise: it would re-open Catherine Ferguson as a private, for-profit charter school. Students and teachers rejoiced that the school had been saved.
Catherine Ferguson

School management was handed over to the charter network Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy, which runs several alternative, disciplinary academies in Detroit geared towards students who had behaviorial issues in mainstream schools. It instituted a new, non-traditional curriculum focused on independent projects and work-oriented skills.

According to Joyce Schon, a Detroit attorney who helped file the lawsuit against the school, the new set-up was "a disaster."

"They ended up telling teachers not to teach. They renamed the teachers advisors," she said. "[The students] were told to find their own externships… Who wants a high school student running around their office? And they were supposed to be doing that two days a week, and they had to have transportation to get their kids to the school for child care, and then find their own transportation to the non-existent externship, and back to the school to pick up their kids at the end of the school day."

Under the new rules, Conaway said she was only allowed to teach two days a week.

Like many of her peers, Beaty dropped out. And within two years, the school's enrollment plummeted from nearly 300 students to less than 100. Citing shifting demographics, the school board declared in a statement that the wilting student body made it "fiscally impossible to continue to operate." In June, the once-model school was shut down.

"Look, all these resources sitting in this boarded-up building," said Conaway, peering through the window into her old classroom. "It's wrong, it's just wrong."

A group of students and parents have filed a federal lawsuit against the school, alleging that teachers were not allowed to teach the state-mandated curriculum and failed to employ certified teachers in key subjects. They say that as a charter school, Catherine Ferguson violated the federal civil rights law Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education, including discrimination against students who are pregnant or parenting.
Jeez! These foolish blahs, and most of the students were blah, think school money was for their education. Have they no concept of "charter schools" and the need for them overpay their management and profit for their owners?

Monday, September 22, 2014

I guess it is a rite of passage for Canadian singers

To do a cover of a Leonard Cohen song. That's a good thing because Leonard writes good songs but sounds like shit when he tries to sing. Jenn Grant covers his "Lover, Lover, Lover"

War isn't easy to start

First you need to prepare the ground and then build the foundation carefully, bullshit block by bullshit block. And only then can you start blowing the shit out of everybody who gets in your way. Tom Tomorrow has the details.

Name Your Poison

From the pen of Tom Toles

Jockeying for position

Usually jockeys are small,
but when trying to get your case chosen by SCOTUS to rule on an important point of law such as equal marriage, the really big swinging dicks come out to play.
The jockeying among the titans of the Supreme Court bar for a place at the lectern when the justices hear the next same-sex marriage case is as understated as it is unmistakable.

In a half-dozen briefs filed in recent weeks, some of the best lawyers in the nation spent many pages arguing that their case was the right one in which to establish a nationwide right to same-sex marriage. They pointed out the attractive features of their own cases and the shortcomings of others.

In legal jargon, streamlined cases without procedural pitfalls are said to be good vehicles. That made the fancy lawyers sound a little like car salesmen.

The case from Virginia, one brief said, is “an excellent vehicle.” The one from Wisconsin, said another, is “an ideal vehicle.” The one from Utah, perhaps the leading candidate, was said to be, with the swagger of understatement, “an appropriate vehicle.”...

Evan Wolfson, the president of Freedom to Marry and one of the architects of the political and legal push for same-sex marriage, said there would be plenty of glory to go around should his side prevail. A victory, after all, he said, would be the culmination of a joint effort that was decades in the making.

“Every attorney in the world, it seems, is now eager to be the one that stands before the court in the freedom to marry case, but what really counts is the compelling collective presentation we will all make, no matter which case it is,” Mr. Wolfson said.

The lawyers challenging the same-sex marriage bans are confident they will win in the Supreme Court, which is why they have all urged the justices to hear their cases even though they had won in the lower courts.

The justices will consider whether to hear one or more of the cases at their first private conference of the new term, on Sept. 29, and they may announce their choice or choices in the following weeks. If they do, they could hear arguments this winter and announce a decision by June.
And if your case is chosen, your hourly rate will rise accordingly.

While you were sleeping

The Afghans did two amazing feats. First, they actually agreed on who was to be the new president. And secondly they signed a much sought after agreement to allow a uselessly small residual force of US Imperial troops to remain in Shitholeistan.
Their campaign workers traded blows over ballot boxes during an election widely seen as fraudulent. Some of the warlords backing them have muttered about starting a parallel government, a potential recipe for civil war in Afghanistan. And they’ve just come out of a vote so discredited that some officials don’t want the final tallies announced.

Now Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s new president-elect, and his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, have joined together in a national unity government in which they will share power.

After eight months of enmity over the protracted presidential election, with two rounds of voting, an international audit and power-sharing negotiations finally behind them, they will have to confront the challenges of jointly governing a country that in many ways is far worse off than it was before the campaign began last February...

The agreement forming the new government, brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry, who led an intense diplomatic effort over the past month, makes Mr. Abdullah or his nominee the chief executive of the government, with the sort of powers a prime minister normally has. While reporting to the president, the chief executive will handle the daily running of the government. At the same time, Mr. Ghani keeps all the powers granted to the president by the Afghan Constitution.

Already, supporters for each side have debated whether Mr. Ghani will have more power, or whether Mr. Abdullah will be an equal partner.

That does not bode well. Neither did the brief ceremony Sunday afternoon during which the two men signed the power-sharing agreement in front of President Karzai and their top supporters.

They hugged one another stiffly afterward, to decidedly tepid applause, and the entire event lasted less than a quarter-hour. They failed to show up for a planned joint news conference on Sunday, sending spokesmen instead...

They both say they plan to sign the bilateral security agreement with the United States the moment they take office. Delayed a year because Mr. Karzai refused to sign it, the agreement is necessary if American troops are to remain in Afghanistan after the end of the current combat mission this year.

With 30,000 Americans and 17,000 other coalition troops still here, planning a sudden withdrawal by the end of the year would have been a challenge, but neither leader wants to renegotiate the agreement. Only a handful of Afghan military and police units are rated as completely self-sufficient without coalition support, which would potentially make a total pullout a disaster that neither leader wants.

There are strong indications, too, that the Taliban have taken advantage of the power vacuum caused by the long election imbroglio to step up their campaign, carrying out 700 ground offensives in the first six months of the current Afghan year, which began March 21, and killing 1,368 policemen and 800 soldiers, more than in any similar period.
Let's face it, the agreement serves only two purposes. One it allows the Taliban to keep potting away at their favorite targets, now weakened by the removal of full support. And the left-behinds serve as an Imperial trigger to let us re-enter Shitholeistan if the Taliban should ever behead anyone worth noticing. If anyone in the Pentagon still believes we can win there, they need to be retired ASAP.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Timeless Joni Mitchell

"Cactus Tree"

How private enterprise saved outer space

From the pen of Brian McFadden

Selling a cold fish to the suckers

All of those dollars being poured into that Jackass Mitch McConnell's coffers by our 1% Overlords are not just to buy his loyalty to their wants, much of it is being spent to sell an unlikable turd to the suckers.
Mitch McConnell is hardly a lovable guy. The Republican leader in the U.S. Senate has a dour public persona and many of his constituents don't view him as a "real Kentuckian," according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll that underscores what his election campaign already knows - McConnell has an image problem...

If McConnell and fellow Republicans succeed in seizing control of the Senate from Democrats on Nov. 4, he would become Senate majority leader, a powerful position from which he could derail what remains of Obama's second-term legislative agenda.

"He doesn't have a deep reservoir of public regard that can keep getting him re-elected. He has to go out and fight to get re-elected," said Al Cross, a University of Kentucky journalism professor who spent 16 years as a political writer for Louisville's Courier-Journal newspaper.

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found more than half of the state's voters view McConnell unfavorably, one-third describe him as an arrogant Washington insider and only 11 percent chose the words "real Kentuckian" to describe him.

McConnell, born in Alabama, has spent most of his life living in Kentucky. He attended high school there and graduated from the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky’s law school. But many Kentucky voters think "'he's no longer one of us, he's one of the DC bubble types,'" said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark....

Corporations and millionaires around the country have poured millions into a race against Grimes that eventually could rank as one of the most expensive ever.

By the end of June, McConnell had more than doubled the amount raised by Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, nearly $24 million to $11 million, and outside groups had spent another $14 million, split roughly evenly between the two, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

A list of corporate donors to McConnell and his allied committees reads like the Fortune 500, from Citigroup to Raytheon. Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a group set up by McConnell allies, touts large contributions from real estate tycoon Donald Trump, venture capitalist Lawrence DeGeorge of Florida and oil executive Curtis Mewbourne of Texas.
Add all that money to the Kentucky penchant for voting against their own interests and a formless piece of shit like Mitch McConnell still has a chance to win.

And not just in South Pakistan

Slavery is a current word in the English language and a thriving institution in too many countries around the world. One of those countries is Pakistan. And in Pakistan there is also a colony of ex-slaves, known as Azad Nagar.
It may sound like something from the pages of a history book, but slavery is still prevalent today. The most common type is bonded labor, a debt-based form of slavery in which a person’s labor is the means of repaying a loan. In several countries in South Asia, including Pakistan, whole families are enslaved in bonded labor, and children can be born into slavery when their parents are indebted. Unlike in some other countries where it is foreigners who are exploited, in Pakistan, bonded laborers are usually citizens, and the practice is caste- or debt-based and culturally tolerated.

According to the 2013 Global Slavery Index, Pakistan has more than 2 million enslaved people, the third most in the modern world, after India and China. These laborers generally work in brickmaking, fisheries, agriculture and the mining industry...

Despite the heat of the day, a large crowd of women has turned out to hear Kohli speak. They’re dressed in brightly colored ghagra cholis, traditional long skirts paired with blouses, their heads covered with long dupattas, or scarves, and hands encircled with plastic white bangles. They stand out in humble Azad Nagar, with an old and dilapidated school building shrouded in dust, few trees to provide shade and ordinary mud houses.

But this modest colony is leaps and bounds better than the circumstances of bonded labor. The cultural sanction of slavery in South Asia — across the border, India fared even worse in the GSI report — means that feudal landlords get away with just about anything, despite a 1992 act abolishing bonded labor in Pakistan. (It doesn’t hurt that the main political party in Sindh — PPP, the party of the late Benazir Bhutto and ex-Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari — is dominated by the feudal elite.)

Gull Bano, one of the residents of Azad Nagar, belongs to a clan of 84 former slaves who were all drugged and kept hostage by a Sindhi feudal lord until five years ago. Her shack is squeaky clean and adorned with handmade quilts; locally made steel utensils are scattered here and there.

“I was pregnant at the farm one day,” she says as she blinks back tears, and “the guard appointed by the zameendar did not let me stay back to give birth. So I took a break from harvesting the wheat crop and gave birth under a tree with my mother-in-law’s help.”
And not only are they working to pay off debt, but that debt is often falsely magnified to insure the bondage. An ancient and dishonorable system that still thrives in Pakistan.

They had a March in New York today

And from the looks of things lots of people showed up.

Good for them. I hope someone is watching and listening.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Making music for 22 years, 16 albums

Nerissa & Katryna Nields must love what they do because they never really achieved that brass ring. And after 20 years they gave a concert for their fans including this song, "Easy People". They still play some but stick to the Northeast for the most part.

Mo knows fatwas

Jesus & Mo

R.I.P. Polly Bergen

Actress, singer, businesswoman.

The United States of Pantsshitters

Bill Maher separates the real threats from the hysteria.

The Weakest Link

Nations protect their secrets
and have intelligence agencies to protect those secrets and winkle out the secrets of others. When you are trying to pry out another's secrets behind their defenses, you go for the weakest link. In this country the weakest link is also the most expensive, defense contractors.
The Chinese government has frequently hacked into the computer systems of defense contractors for the U.S. Transportation Command, the Pentagon agency responsible for deploying American troops and military equipment worldwide.

A bipartisan Senate investigation found that in one year, from June 1, 2012, through May 31, 2013, the Chinese government had gained access to sensitive U.S. defense logistics information at least 20 times, but that the Transportation Command, known as TRANSCOM in military circles, was aware of only two of the security breaches.

“These peacetime intrusions into the networks of key defense contractors are more evidence of China’s aggressive actions in cyberspace,” said Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, which conducted the probe.

“Our findings are a warning that we must do much more to protect strategically significant systems from attack and to share information about intrusions when they do occur,” Levin said.

Richard Bejtlich, chief security strategist for FireEye, a cybersecurity firm based in Milpitas, Calif., said his company tracks three dozen hacking groups that it traces to Chinese military, intelligence or other government agencies.

“They’re the worst in terms of scope,” Bejtlich told McClatchy. “They’re hitting the most number of targets, and they are the most aggressive. When you kick them off a system, they’ll try to get back on the next day.”

The Senate investigation found that the FBI knew of about half of the 20 cyberattacks on the defense contractors but had not informed the contractors or TRANSCOM of most of them.

“Cyber-intrusions into operationally critical contractors pose a threat to defense operations,” the Senate report said. “It is essential that potentially affected commands such as TRANSCOM be aware of such intrusions so that they can take steps to mitigate the threat.”

Among the examples provided, the probe found that between 2008 and 2010, one TRANSCOM contractor “was compromised by the Chinese military, who stole emails, documents, user accounts, passwords and even source code.”
Profit is a powerful motive to turn good security into merely good enough as long as it keeps expenses down.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

From Bloomberg
Pabst Brewing Co., the closely held 170-year-old American brewer, agreed to be acquired by the Russian company Oasis Beverages in a deal a person familiar with the matter pegged at $700 million to $750 million.

Private-equity firm TSG Consumer Partners LLC will acquire a minority stake in Pabst as part of the transaction, the companies said in a statement on Sept. 18. The person with knowledge of the transaction size asked not to be identified because the terms weren’t publicly released.

The deal puts the iconic Pabst Blue Ribbon brand in the hands of a Russian company amid a tense time for U.S. relations with the country. The U.S. and Europe have imposed economic sanctions against Russia because of its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in March and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has struck back with his own sanctions, and the political standoff has affected American companies like McDonald’s Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp.

The Pabst deal, however, likely won’t meet resistance from a Russian government that’s eager to show the world it is open for business, said Gene Grabowski, senior strategist at Levick Strategic Communications in Washington.
Photographer: Jim Heimann Collection/Getty Images

“Putin has every incentive to make sure there are no roadblocks to the deal,” Grabowski said. “On a global stage, it looks like business remains robust in Russia and you can do business there.”

Metropoulos & Co. is selling Pabst, which also brews Schlitz and Old Style beers, four years after acquiring the brand for about $250 million. Metropoulos is also part owner of Hostess Brands, the maker of Twinkies snack cakes.
I knew nothing good would come of the sale to Metropoulos. The first thing he did was give it over to his kid who moved the HQ from Milwaukee to La-La Land.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Some music videos just don't make sense

Which is a shame when you have a group like Black Prairie singing "Let It Out" from their newest album. It is still good to listen to.

A Potemkin strategy

From the pen of Horsey

Now he sees it.

Derek Willis proves that even the slowest witted writer can earn a place on the New York Times as a political correspondent. In a piece that is many years late, he reveals that the Sunday Talking Head shows are ideologically tilted to the right.
Conservative members of the current Congress have appeared more often on the network talk shows than their liberal counterparts. Senators and representatives from the conservative end of the ideological spectrum have made 57 percent of the appearances, compared with 42 percent for liberals, according to an Upshot analysis of data collected by American University.

This slightly lopsided distribution is primarily the result of three Republican senators’ frequent visits to the network shows: John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell. Because of the Republican Party’s control of the House during the past three years, its leaders and committee chairmen are presented with more opportunities to discuss the latest political news.

Participants in the 2008 and 2012 presidential nominating contests also helped boost conservative representation: Paul D. Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who was the G.O.P.‘s 2012 vice-presidential nominee, made 46 appearances between early January 2009 and Aug. 3, 2014.

We matched the list of frequent guests to ideological scores generated by Crowdpac, a website that makes detailed ideological comparisons between political candidates. They extend along a line from “10 Liberal” to “10 Conservative.” The analysis excludes former members of Congress who have contractual agreements to appear on one of the five shows: “Fox News Sunday,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” ABC’s “This Week” and CNN’s “State of the Union.” The appearances were compiled from data collected by the Women in Politics Institute at American University.

When the Sunday shows have turned to former members of Congress, the same ideological pattern emerges: Conservatives have made 56 percent of the appearances, compared with 41 percent for liberals. As a group, the former conservative lawmakers were slightly more liberal than their current counterparts.
In a display of lack of curiosity, he notes the Republican control of the House as a reason for more GOP House members, but he fails to note that Democratic control of the Senate does not provide any boost to the number of Democratic Senators showing up. Indeed, without Johnny Boom-Boom McCain and Miss Lindsey Graham, the shows would have few Senatorial appearances. And those would probably be Republican.

One small offensive shows the hazard of the Middle East

The international world is all abuzz about friends, enemies and frenemies in the Middle East. We all know that IS is bad and Iraq is good, Turkey is our hesitant friend and the Kurds deserve our support. Or do they.
The villages are near the town of Kobani, known in Arabic as Ayn al Arab, one of the last major crossing points to Turkey not in Islamic State hands. The Islamists have been trying to seize the town for months and are now attacking from three directions, with tanks, machine-gun mounted Humvees and Grad rockets against nearby villages, said Idris Nassan, who holds the title of deputy foreign minister for the Kobani canton, the administrative district that includes not just the town but the villages that surround it.

Kobani’s Kurdish defenders had been expecting the assault after intercepting Islamic State radio communications. They evacuated at least 15 villages of all but their military-age male inhabitants before the offensive began Wednesday, he said.

Many of those villages are now under Islamic State control, he said.

Nassan, however, said that the Kurdish fighters, members of the People’s Protection Unit, which is known by the Kurdish initials YPG, may be setting a trap for the Islamic State militants. “Their morale is high,” he said of the YPG. “They have a new strategy. I think in the coming days, they will do something.”

Of all the battlefronts in Syria, the fight for Kobani may be politically the most complex. Both the Islamic State attackers and the defenders from the YPG, an offshoot for the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, are listed as terrorist organizations by the United States and other nations.

Nassan appealed for international military support, but that seems unlikely. Turkey does not want international aid to go to a force that in the past has mounted major guerrilla operations against Turkish military and civilian targets, and it reportedly has warned American officials not to take actions in Syria that would strengthen the YPG.

At the same time, Turkey, the United States and other countries have suspected that the YPG is working hand-in-glove with the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces abandoned the region in the summer of 2012.

For their part, the Kurds say Turkey is working with the Islamic State, something Turkish officials have denied repeatedly. Nassan repeated the charge Thursday, accusing Turkey of providing logistical support to the extremists.

Whatever label is currently applied to the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, it has become at most a relatively minor threat to Turkey. Since March 2013, the two sides have been engaged in a peace process to end the 3-decade-long guerrilla war.
So, who do we support or bomb? Who do we arm? Maybe we should give unlimited arms to all and our hand to the last one standing.

Colbert on Boots

Watch as Stephan speaks the Language of Leather.

The Colbert Report
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

From her eponymous second album

Heather Maloney sings "Flutter" with the able backing of Ken Maiuri on bass and J.J. O’Connell on drums.

The best of a bad situation?

From the pen of Jack Ohman

Making his bones for 2016

Chris Christie is not a stupid man. But he knows that the people he needs to vote for him if he wants to be President are stupid. And they demand that anyone they support be as stupid as they are.
As Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey explores a 2016 presidential campaign, he is under growing pressure from his State Legislature to rejoin a regional cap-and-trade program that would limit New Jersey’s carbon emissions — and likely hurt his chances for the Republican nomination.

Mr. Christie, who withdrew from the program in 2011 as he first considered running for president in 2012, remains adamant that New Jersey not participate in the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, even though the majority of state legislators say it would be in New Jersey’s economic and legal interests. Business groups remain divided on the plan.

“No, I would not think of rejoining it,” Mr. Christie told reporters during a recent trip to Mexico. “I think it’s a completely useless plan.”

The New Jersey Superior Court ruled this year that Mr. Christie failed to follow proper legal procedure when he withdrew his state from the program because his administration did not hold public hearings on the move. To comply with the law, Mr. Christie’s administration held a public hearing last month, but has made it clear that the governor still has no plans to rejoin program. The New Jersey Legislature has voted twice to rejoin the program, but Mr. Christie vetoed both bills.

Critics of Mr. Christie say his motive in staying out of the plan is to placate powerful conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, which are highly influential in Republican primaries and consider cap-and-trade programs energy taxes that hurt business and eliminate jobs. Mr. Christie will be the main speaker at an Americans for Prosperity donor meeting in New York on Friday.

“This is one of those issues where Christie decided he’s going to take a firm position that resonates with the G.O.P. and stick with it,” said Patrick Murray, a professor of political science at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, N.J. “It doesn’t matter what the Legislature wants, it doesn’t matter what New Jersey voters want, cap-and-trade is anathema to the base of the Republican Party.”
Screw the Jersey voters, they won't put him into the White House. He has to kiss Koch ass for those big Koch bucks if he hopes to stand a chance with the the Great Republican Stupid out there.

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