Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Stray Birds - "The Bells"

From their recent album Best Medicine

Now Rick Perry can get it

From the pen of Joe Heller

After years of careless and negligent waste management

The DuPont corporation, which profited mightily from the plant, closed its munitions plant in Pompton Lakes. For another 20 years it whines, complained, haggled and otherwise delayed any cleanup efforts. But now it has found a solution to its problem.
The manufacturing and waste management practices caused toxic seepage into the soil, air and groundwater of the nearly 600-acre site and its vicinity. More than two decades after the plant shut down, site cleanup efforts have started and stalled, and significant contamination remains in the town, home to about 11,000 people.

Marsh’s story is common among those who grew up in Pompton Lakes. Central nervous conditions and behavioral disorders affect her family members, from her parents to her great-nieces and -nephews. A New Jersey Department of Health study indicates abnormally high rates of numerous cancers in the borough, especially kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. An ongoing state health department survey with public data from 1979 to 2008 indicates that women in Pompton Lakes are hospitalized for tumorous cancers nearly 40 percent more frequently than those in neighboring communities and the borough’s men are hospitalized 23 percent more often than elsewhere in the state.

She lives with chronic insomnia and a host of other medical issues that she said have kept her unemployed for years. She said her doctor attributes her fragile health to the contamination.

“Pompton Lakes was a wonderful place to grow up in. Everybody knew everybody. It was so safe,” Marsh said. “But as time went on, problems like miscarriages and cancer started cropping up. Now you never know what’s around the corner.”

And DuPont’s latest move has borough residents especially unnerved. The corporation announced earlier this month that a new spinoff company would assume DuPont’s environmental liabilities for 190 contaminated sites throughout the country, including Pompton Lakes.

The new company, Chemours, will take on nearly $300 million in environmental remediation obligations held by DuPont. In its December SEC filing, the company said that figure could rise several times higher, as “considerable uncertainty exists with respect to these costs.” The estimated cleanup cost in Pompton Lakes is about $87 million, according to that SEC report.

Chemours assured stockholders that the transfer of environmental risk would not negatively affect company finances. Along with the environmental baggage, Chemours will own DuPont’s multibillion-dollar titanium and fluoroproducts units. DuPont leads in global profits for both industries, but the ventures are subject to market volatility and significant competition.

Some Pompton Lakes residents worry the spinoff could be DuPont’s strategy to shirk full responsibility for the pollution in their community. These fears are grounded somewhat in historical precedent: In 2005 the energy company Kerr-McGee spun off the subsidiary Tronox, unloading its environmental issues without allocating sufficient assets to the new company. The case ended with Tronox’s bankruptcy and the largest environmental cash settlement ever, with plaintiffs receiving $5.15 billion.

However, Walter Mugdan, who directs the Environmental Protection Agency’s remediation response division in New Jersey and New York, said that DuPont’s intentions appear authentic.

“If two years from now Chemours goes bankrupt, we would look back to this transaction now and see if it was done on the up and up,” he said. “I have no reason to believe that there is any fraud going on.”

In a company statement, DuPont representative Robin Ollis Stemple wrote that “Chemours and DuPont remain committed to fulfilling all remedial and redevelopment activities.” Those activities have thus far included cleaning soil contaminated with lead and mercury along the Acid Brook, a stream that runs through more than 100 homes’ backyards, as well as a pond where the company detonated blasting caps. At least two-thirds of the identified contaminated zones still require remediation; in one spot the lead level is reportedly at least 236 times higher than New Jersey’s cleanup standard.
Gotta love the way the spokesman uses the two company names together. Having unloaded the liabilities and an uncertain profit stream to pay for it (hopefully), DuPont does not ever expect to see its name in court or any other official files about this. Good luck to those hoping for a solution.

But will it be in good condition?

The Middle Class, our new political bullshit

Bill Maher expounds on several key points about the Middle Class. And also wonders, If Sarah Palin Had A Stroke, How Would We Know?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sings, dances and plays around

Kristin Andreassen has been a part of a number of bands as well as having a solo career and doing some music education along the way. This is "'Simmon" from her new album Gondolier coming out is February.

It's always about the Benjamins

From the pen of Tom Toles

Mittens sends his regrets

Having failed twice to win the avid support, first of his party and second of the American voters, needed to win the White House, Mitts Romney has called it a day.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, told a group of supporters on Friday that he would not seek his party’s nomination for president in 2016.

Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, shared his decision on a conference call with a small group of advisers.

In a second call to a larger group of supporters, Mr. Romney said, “After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.”

Mr. Romney said he believed he could win the nomination, but he expressed concern about harming the party’s chances to retake the White House. “I did not want to make it more difficult for someone else to emerge who may have a better chance of becoming the president,” he said.

He added that it was “unlikely” that he would change his mind.

Mr. Romney, who did not take questions and ended the call shortly after reading a prepared statement, said that his family had been gratified by the outpouring of support, but had decided that it was best for the Republican Party to step aside. Mr. Romney said he would have no leadership PAC and no exploratory committee.

By not pursuing a third White House bid, Mr. Romney frees up scores of donors and operatives who had been awaiting his decision, and creates space for other potential center-right candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Center-right? More like "not insanely reactionary right" which in Republican speak means he will open up the Treasury and other public assets, but only to a select group of friends and business partners. Which is why much of the big money will swim Jeb's way.

Washington, we have a problem

While it may appear that those in charge were perfectly willing to fire missiles at any convenient group and call the casualties terrorists afterwards, there really was some method to their targeting. And that method has been disrupted by the latest events in Yemen. The flow of intelligence from Yemen has been sharply reduced along with the identification of potential targets.
Gaps in on-the-ground intelligence could slow America's fight against a resurgent al Qaeda in Yemen and heighten the risk of errant strikes that kill the wrong people and stoke anti-U.S. sentiment, potentially making the militants even stronger in areas where al Qaeda is already growing.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels have taken up positions in and around several defense and intelligence installations whose teams had previously cooperated with Washington, cutting off key sources of information for drone-missile attacks, the officials told Reuters.

Turmoil in the wake of last week's collapse of a U.S.-backed Yemeni government after days of clashes in the capital Sanaa, has already forced the U.S. State Department to reduce staff and operations at the U.S. Embassy.

U.S. officials told Reuters last week that Washington has also halted some counter-terrorism operations, but described the measures as temporary.

The turmoil has also cast doubt over the future of a key partnership for Washington in the fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. Only last September President Barack Obama touted cooperation with Yemen as a model in counter-terrorism...

The crisis in the Arab world's poorest country threatens to create a power vacuum that could allow AQAP to expand, while pushing Yemen toward a broader conflict between majority Sunni Muslims and minority Shi'ite Houthis, who are hostile to both the United States and al Qaeda.

U.S. officials said training of Yemeni special forces had ground to a halt in the capital, though some joint activities were continuing in the Sunni-controlled south.

Many U.S. personnel remain in place with Yemeni government forces at the southern al-Anaad air base, an intelligence post for monitoring the Al Qaeda group.
What good fortune! We still have our Imperial outpost and it is only a matter of time before we can identify which new leader to reward and get things back to normal. Just a matter of time.

On the other hand

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Some roots rock from Woodstock way

Ollabelle, with Amy Helm on lead, singing "You're Gonna Miss Me"

If only they wouldn't share

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

16 Million Children

In what is supposed to be the richest country in the world, having 16 Million Children rely on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps, would be a horrible shame to normal people. But the Republican Party that now controls the purse strings of this country is not composed of normal people.
Republicans in Congress have sought to cut back on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or food stamp program as part of a larger plan to balance the budget.

Early last year lawmakers proposed $40 billion in cuts from the program over 10 years. The final farm bill signed into law trimmed $8.6 billion from the program, eliminating benefits for about 850,000 people, according to estimates by anti-hunger advocates.

While the nationwide employment outlook has improved somewhat in recent years, food banks around the country are reporting soaring levels of food insecurity and demand for emergency food assistance.

That is due in part to other recent cuts to food stamps, including a $5 billion across-the-board cut that took effect on Nov. 1, 2013. An additional $6 billion in automatic cuts are expected to occur over the next two years.
Reduce the number of children dependent on SNAP benefits by reducing the funding so they don't receive any. Then they can say they reduced the number of children who rely on SNAP. Oh, if only they were fetuses again!

When you have pulled off the largest Medicare fraud ever

The day to day corruptions of running a state like Florida must seem like small potatoes. Perhaps to Rick Scott, those small potatoes are just a way of keeping in shape for the next big one. After all, it's not like he needs the money.
Upon his election in 2010, Gov. Rick Scott’s transition team included a Florida Power & Light executive who pitched his company’s plan to build a major natural gas pipeline in North Florida to fuel a new generation of gas-fired power plants in places like Port Everglades.

“The proposed project will need state regulatory and governmental agencies to understand and support this project,” said the proposal submitted by FPL vice president Sam Forrest.

Scott understood. In May and June 2013, he signed into law two bills designed to speed up permitting for what came to be known as the Sabal Trail Transmission — a controversial, 474-mile natural gas pipeline that’s to run from Alabama and Georgia to a hub in Central Florida, south of Orlando.

Five months later, the Florida Public Service Commission, whose five members were appointed by Scott, unanimously approved construction of Sabal Trail as the state’s third major natural gas pipeline. More approvals are needed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which the governor oversees.

What wasn’t publicly known in 2013, however, was that the governor owned a stake in Spectra Energy, the Houston company chosen by Florida Power & Light that July to build and operate the $3 billion pipeline. Sabal Trail Transmission LLC is a joint venture of Spectra Energy and FPL’s parent, NextEra Energy.’s review of financial records made public last month by Scott show that as of Dec. 31, his portfolio included several million dollars invested in the securities of more than two dozen entities that produce and/or transport natural gas — including some, like Spectra, with substantial Florida operations.

His stake in Spectra Energy was reported as being worth $53,000 that day.

Florida’s ethics laws generally prohibit public officials like the governor from owning stock in businesses subject to their regulation, or that do business with state agencies. A similar prohibition exists on owning shares in companies that would “create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict” between an official’s private interests and the “full and faithful discharge” of his public duties.

Scott’s investments in companies that do business in Florida raise fresh concerns about the operation of Florida’s so-called “qualified blind trust” statute — a law that allows public officials to veil their investment activity while affording them immunity from prohibited conflicts of interest...

Blind trusts are supposed to eliminate conflicts of interest by “blinding” public officials and the public to the nature of their holdings. The law’s requirement that officials hand over control of an investment portfolio to a disinterested manager was intended to accomplish that.

But as reported in March, the governor’s blind trust was ineffective in keeping the governor’s assets secret. And Alan Bazaar, a trusted former employee of the governor’s private investment firm Richard L. Scott Investments, managed the blind trust.

“The Legislature makes it easy for officials to get away with conflicts of interest through loopholes in the ethics code,” said Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, the nonpartisan research institute and government watchdog group. “Corruption has been institutionalized in Florida with flawed policies like blind trusts and political appointees issuing advisory opinions on what’s ethical.”
I guess the criminal behavior is so ingrained in him that he just can't help himself.

The support for Cuba trade is bipartisan

But that will not stop a clump of old reactionary Mustache Petes from doing everything they can to prevent a sensible course of action.
There is longstanding congressional support, particularly among Republicans, for maintaining a tough stance against Cuba.

And the new Republican leadership is less than enthusiastic. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he disagreed with Obama’s decision to open relations with Cuba.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a recent interview with “60 Minutes” that he expects the embargo to stay in place, calling Obama’s move to normalize relations a “bad decision.”

With the odds stacked against them, GOP advocates of trade with Cuba decided to start with the less controversial travel bill, which will be filed Thursday by Flake. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas is a co-sponsor, along with fellow Republicans Mike Enzi of Wyoming and John Boozman of Arkansas, and Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Tom Udall of New Mexico.

It’s also simpler to change the laws in relation to travel than it is to lift the embargo, because the embargo was created by several overlapping laws, Moran said.

“While there’s no desire for a delay, there’s also a desire to do this right and do it in a way that allows us to have the broadest support from members of Congress,” he said.

Additional legislation to lift the embargo will follow the travel bill, Flake and Moran said in interviews. Both senators have long championed an end to the embargo. Flake flew to Havana for the recent release of contractor Alan Gross from a Cuban jail, a critical element in Obama’s decision to restore ties with the country.

Their bill would eliminate the restrictions on travel to Cuba that remain after the Obama administration expanded the leeway for travelers earlier this month. For now, general tourism still isn’t allowed.

Under new rules that took effect Jan. 16, U.S. travelers must fall into 12 categories of authorized travel, but they now can buy their tickets and make travel arrangements through any travel agency or airline that provides service to Cuba. Previously such providers needed to get a license from Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The reasons for traveling include professional research, religious activities, athletic competitions and humanitarian projects.

Flake said he expects his colleagues’ support for making it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba.

“The thought has been that there are just a couple of Republicans in favor. There are more than that,” Flake said of his travel bill’s chances of passing the Senate. “I feel good about that. . . . The country’s there.”

But the senator admits that lifting the embargo on trade will be “a tougher sell.”
The party of the "free market" will do everything it can to prevent free market trading with Cuba. If only their business owners would talk a little sense into them.

The real threat to 'Murica

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Still a teenager

Isabelle Davis shows a great potential as she sings her tune "Popular Girl"

My stand

Conservative means nothing will change

From the pen of David Horsey

Will they be forgotten?

No one disputes the tragedy of the Jews in the Holocaust, but they were not the only ones targeted by the Nazis for extermination. As the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz rolls by, one group seems to have been overlooked, the Roma. More commonly known as Gypsies, they have not been included in ceremonies and feel they are being pushed aside in the remembrances of Nazi genocide.
Presidents and prime ministers, movie moguls and elderly survivors of slaughter gathered on Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation in 1945 of Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi death camp where about 1.1 million people were killed. "The French Republic will never forget," French President François Hollande said to those gathered at the site in western Poland, including 300 Auschwitz survivors. Remembering what happened there, said British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is "of fundamental importance … for prevention of future genocides."

That commitment to remember is deeply felt in Europe, and yet there is a group of Europeans who suffered terribly at the hands of the Nazis but whose voices are all but absent from this week's ceremonies — the Roma, sometimes called Gypsies. Some Roma organizations sent representatives to Tuesday's gathering at Auschwitz, but they were not among the official speakers. Roma groups also asked to participate in this week’s Holocaust Remembrance events at United Nations headquarters in New York, but there is no Roma speaker on the program.

Many Roma say they fear being lost to the history of the Holocaust — a measure of their broader, ongoing struggle to be treated as full-fledged citizens of Europe. "Leaders speak about the victims of the Holocaust, and how cautious we have to be not to have it happen again," Marius Taba, monitoring officer for the Roma Education Fund, in Budapest, Hungary, told Al Jazeera. "So how can they ignore some people?"

Declared "racially inferior" by German authorities in the 1940s, much like the Jews, the Roma were victims of a determined campaign by the Nazis to herd them into ghettos and labor camps, and ultimately to kill them. By the war's end, the Roma were believed to have lost anywhere between 300,000 and 500,000 people across central and western Europe through starvation, disease, mass shootings and gassing. Of those, at least 19,000 died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
All the targets of Nazi extermination were treated the same. All the victims deserve to be remembered.

A simple truth from Bernie

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The graphic posted below references Wal-Mart & Sheryl Crow

Specifically the lyrics of this song, "Love Is A Good Thing" which so pissed off Wal-Mart they refused to sell it. But it is hard to refuse the idea of the song which is 19 years old and still fresh.


And may Gawd bless my trust fund

From the pen of Joel Pett

First they screwed people out of their houses

And when people had to live in their cars, they decided to screw people out of their cars. And they get to use the same fraudulent tricks they used on the homes.
The loans were for used Dodges, Nissans and Chevrolets, many with tens of thousands of miles on the odometer, some more than a decade old.

They were also one of the hottest investments around.

So many asset managers clamored for a piece of a September bond deal made up of these loans that the size of the offering was increased 35 percent, to $1.35 billion. Even then, Santander Consumer USA received more than $1 billion in investor demand that it could not accommodate.

Across the country, there is a booming business in lending to the working poor — those Americans with impaired credit who need cars to get to work. But this market is as much about Wall Street’s perpetual demand for high returns as it is about used cars. An influx of investor money is making more loans possible, but all that money may also be enabling excessive risk-taking that could have repercussions throughout the financial system, analysts and regulators caution.

In a kind of alchemy that Wall Street has previously performed with mortgages, thousands of subprime auto loans are bundled together and sold as securities to investors, including mutual funds, insurance companies and hedge funds. By slicing and dicing the securities, any losses if borrowers default can be contained, in theory.

Led by companies like Santander Consumer; GM Financial, General Motors’ lending unit; and Exeter Finance, an arm of the Blackstone Group, such securitizations have grown 302 percent, to $20.2 billion since 2010, according to Thomson Reuters IFR Markets. And even as rising delinquencies and other signs of stress in the market emerged last year, subprime securitizations increased 28 percent from 2013.

The returns are substantial in a time of low interest rates. In the case of the Santander Consumer bond offering in September, which is backed by loans on more than 84,000 vehicles, some of the highest-rated notes yield more than twice as much as certain Treasury securities, but are just as safe, according to ratings firms.
Standard & Poor just paid a multi million dollar fine because the shit they rated as triple A wasn't anywhere close to it. And now we have them doing the same thing with something that sheds value faster that a Republican sheds rwsponsibility. And the shit peddlers want us to believe their crap is safer than Treasuries? Be much better off buying yourself a bridge.

Can't buy a snow day

If you are one of the low wage service personnel that most people don't even notice as they go about their daily lives, chances are you have to go to work when the snow flies, you can't afford not to.
As the snow piled up on Hillside Avenue, Navarrete thought about her imminent commute. She works nights, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., as a hotel maid on Long Island, about 25 miles east. She drives 60 minutes each way — much longer in the snow — for just $8.50 per hour, 25 cents below the state minimum wage.

“I have to go to work,” Navarrete said, reassured that Blanco, a landscaper, could stay with the baby overnight. “My boss is making me work tonight and tomorrow night. If I didn’t go in, I would lose my job.”

In the region affected by the storm, over 577,000 workers labor at or below the minimum wage (PDF). They are overrepresented in the service sector and thus unlikely to get a paid snow day — maids, nannies, home health aides, taxi drivers, fast-food cooks, grocery store stockers and janitors, to name a few. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these employees rarely enjoy flexibility on the job. Nationally, only 20 percent of low-wage workers (in the bottom tenth of private-sector earners) enjoy paid sick leave. And only 39 percent have paid vacation, let alone personal days.

A massive disruption like a blizzard hits low-wage employees hardest, said Amy Traub, senior policy analyst at liberal think tank Demos. “There is no working from home if you’re a sales associate or if you’re a cashier. If they can’t get to work because of weather, you miss a paycheck. If the store closes early or works with a skeleton staff, you miss a paycheck.”

Some states and municipalities battling the storm — Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York City and Jersey City, N.J. — require employers to provide paid time off. But laws typically do not apply to very small businesses; nor do they cover missed work due to lack of child care or a shutdown in public transit. “There’s no recourse if [the boss] says, ‘Come here or you’re fired,’ unless you have a union contract,” Traub said.
This article was about New York area workers, who dodged a bullet when the storm veered away from the City. The workers in the Boston-Providence region aren't so lucky.

It's a two edged problem

On the one hand, federal offices and agencies supposed to enforce laws against child abuse are failing quite badly. On the other hand, the full extent of the failure isn't known because of confidentiality laws set up to protect the children, although they now protect the failures.
The federal government's failure to enforce the nation's child protection laws is a "national disgrace" that leaves abused children vulnerable to future harm, according to a three-year study by two child advocacy groups.

The 110-page report released Tuesday identified some of the same failures reported in December by The Associated Press after an eight-month investigation into the cases of hundreds of children who died of abuse or neglect in plain view of child protection authorities.

"Our laws are weak. We don't invest in solutions. Federal laws aren't enforced. And courts are turning their backs. This creates a trifecta of inertia and neglect," said Amy Harfeld, policy director at the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, which wrote the report with the nonprofit group First Star.

AP's investigation, published Dec. 18, also revealed a system in crisis, hobbled by weak federal oversight, budget constraints, worker shortages and a voluntary data collection system so flawed that nobody can say with accuracy how many children die from abuse or neglect each year.

The AP found that at least 786 children died of abuse and neglect over a six-year span — many of them beaten, starved or left alone to drown — while agencies had good reason to know they were in danger. That figure represents the most comprehensive statistics publicly available, but the actual number who died even as authorities were investigating their families or providing some form of protective services is likely much higher because antiquated confidentiality laws allow many states to withhold vital information, shrouding their failures.

The federal government estimates an average of about 1,650 children have died annually from abuse or neglect in recent years, whether or not they were known to the child welfare system, but many experts believe the actual number is twice as high. And many more suffer from near-fatal abuse and neglect every year.

"Almost everything that happens to these children is cloaked in endemic secrecy, and most efforts by the media and advocates to provide the public with much needed transparency — which leads to accountability — are thwarted by the very governmental entities and officials who have turned their backs on their official duties to children," the groups said.
Anyway you look at it, the children lose.

No profit in that old Crow

Monday, January 26, 2015

If she breaks your heart she can fix it too

Folk singer songwriter Suzie Brown has an excellent day job if needed, she is a cardiologist. While she waits for your heart to break you can listen to her sing "Heartstrings" from her album of the same name.

PS SuZie Brown is not to be confused with the more commercial SuSie Brown.

Science and the Republican

Tom Tomorrow shows us how the Republicans are protecting us from a tsunami of scientific research with a wall of obtuse totally ungrounded in reality.

The Republican Jobs Plan

If only they could find a reliable sky demon.

Law designed to help now turned to abuse

Once upon a time they passed a law designed to protect people unable to manage their own affairs because of age, injury or illness. The law gives nursing homes a right to sue for guardianship of patients. Originally designed to help those who no longer had anyone to protect their interests, nursing homes are now turning it into a means of debt collection regardless of family wishes.
Guardianship transfers a person’s legal rights to make some or all decisions to someone appointed by the court — usually a lawyer paid with the ward’s money. It is aimed at protecting people unable to manage their affairs because of incapacity, and who lack effective help without court action. Legally, it can supplant a power of attorney and a health care proxy.

Although it is a drastic measure, nursing home lawyers argue that using guardianship to secure payment for care is better than suing an incapacitated resident who cannot respond...

A court evaluator eventually reported that Mr. Palermo was the appropriate guardian, and questioned why the petition had been filed. But the matter still dragged on, and Mr. Palermo, who had promised to pay any arrears once Medicaid completed a recalculation of the bill, grew distraught as his expenses fighting the case reached $10,000.

In the end, Medicaid’s recalculation put his wife’s monthly copay at $4,558.54, almost $600 less than the nursing home had claimed, but still far more than the $2,642 Mr. Palermo had been paying under an earlier Medicaid calculation. As soon as the nursing home cashed his check for the outstanding balance, it withdrew the guardianship petition.

“They chose to use a strong-arm method, asking for somebody to be appointed to take over her funds, hoping for a rubber stamp to do their wishes,” said Elliott Polland, Mr. Palermo’s lawyer.

Many judges go along with such petitions, according to lawyers and others involved in the process. One judge who has not is Alexander W. Hunter Jr., a longtime State Supreme Court justice in the Bronx and Manhattan. In guardianship cases in 2006 and 2007, Justice Hunter ordered the nursing homes to bear the legal costs, ruling they had brought the petitions solely for the purpose of being paid and stating that this was not the Legislature’s intent when it enacted the statute, known as Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law...

New York’s guardianship statute was part of a national movement to limit guardianships to the least restrictive alternatives necessary to prevent harm. A petition is supposed to be brought only by someone with the person’s welfare at heart, and guardianship is to be tailored to individual needs, taking into account the person’s wishes.
Continue reading the main story

Instead, Ms. Callahan said, “it has become a system that’s very focused on finances.”
Getting old is Hell and there is always some son of a bitch somewhere trying to make it worse.

Boner parrots Bibi

It's not every day that you hear the Speaker of the House, next in line after the Vice President, parroting the dreadfully stale talking points of a rogue state leader in defense of an indefensible invitation to that rogue leader, but that is exactly what John Boehner did on Sunday night.
House Speaker John Boehner Sunday defended his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress in March, saying that President Barack Obama is ignoring threats posed by Iran and terrorists.

In a joint interview with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on CBS’ ‘60 Minutes,’ Boehner accused Obama of barely discussing terrorism in his State of the Union speech last Tuesday.

‘The president didn’t spend but a few seconds talking about the threat, the terrorist threat that we as Americans face,’ Boehner, R-Ohio, said. ‘This problem is growing all over the world. And you know, the president is trying to act like it’s not there. But it is there.’

Boehner said he wants Netanyahu to speak to Congress because ‘there’s nobody in the world who can talk about the threat of radical terrorism, nobody (who) can talk about the threat that the Iranians pose, not just to the Middle East and to Israel…but to the entire world, but Bibi Netanyahu.’

Boehner announced his Netanyahu invite after Obama, in his State of the Union speech, repeated his call for Congress not to impose new sanctions against Iran as negotiators continue talks on its nuclear program. Lawmakers are teeing up measures to impose new sanctions on Iran or require congressional approval for any nuclear deal struck with the Tehran government.

‘Under the proposal we’re considering those enhanced sanctions would only occur if a deal is not reached,’ McConnell said. ‘In other words, it further incentivizes the Iranians to reach an agreement because they know things could get considerably worse if they do not.’
There is a certain demented symmetry in one of the greatest threats to the integrity of the United States inviting one of the greatest threats to the Middle East to Capital Hill for tea and biscuits. Unfortunately their end is to get more American servicemen killed for their warped power dreams.

Today's lesson in Economics

Sunday, January 25, 2015

She was no one hit wonder

But few people know Dorothy Moore for anything other than her 1976 hit "Misty Blue"

Deflation - It's Not Just For Money Anymore

From the pen of Brian McFadden

R.I.P. Joe Franklin

Another New York landmark gone.
On television, Mr. Franklin did not like to rehearse, and he never used cue cards or prompters. The opening monologue and the questions were all in his head.

“I was the only guy who never had a preproduction meeting,” Mr. Franklin said in 2002. “You don’t rehearse your dinner conversation. I’m not saying I was right, but I lasted 43 years.”
Well Done!

Not all Republicans are butt-stupid

Try as they might to keep feeding red meat to a mindless howling mob moving at the direction of its wealthy shepherds, sometimes they have to actually do what is right. A few of the Republican governors are facing the reality that they can only impose so much failure on their states and now must increase taxes to maintain a functioning state.
Republican governors across the nation are proposing tax increases — and backing off pledges to cut taxes — as they strike a decidedly un-Republican pose in the face of budget shortfalls and pent-up demands from constituents after years of budget cuts.

“My jaw dropped,” Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a conservative Republican in Nevada, said after hearing Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, propose a $1.1 billion tax increase for education this month. “Whether we kill it by five votes or 15 votes or 25 votes, we are going to kill it.”

At least eight Republican governors have ventured into this once forbidden territory: There are proposals for raising the sales tax in Michigan, a tax on e-cigarettes in Utah, and gas taxes in South Carolina and South Dakota, to name a few. In Arizona, the new Republican governor has put off, in the face of a $1 billion budget shortfall, a campaign promise to eliminate the unpopular income tax there.

“It’s not based on partisanship; it’s based on common sense and good government,” said Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, a Republican who has urged voters to support a ballot measure that would raise $1.9 billion by increasing the sales tax and gas tax. “We’ve been underinvesting in Michigan for some time, so I view it as a way to, long term, save us resources.”
True that many of the tax increases are regressive and add further abuse to those least able to carry it, some few of the Republican overlords do see the hazard of the anarchy that will follow total defunding of government. And they are doing so at the beginning of their terms, counting on that paragon of short attention span, the voter, to forget by the next election.

They go where we send them

Maybe we need to reconsider a few basic principles.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Norwegian Band on a Dutch radio show

And singing in English, Katzenjammer less one this day sings "Old de Spain" from their new album Rockland

Snowflake Snooki Palin Eat Your Heart Out

From the pen of David Horsey

How's that Hispanic outreach going?

Two years after that verminous RNC Chairman Rinse Prewash declared that the Republicans needed to rebrand to be attractive to Hispanics, the GOP has reverted to its exclusionary ways. And this may lead to their losing a most important Hispanic news anchor, Jorge Ramos.
For years, Mr. Ramos largely aimed his ire at President Obama for breaking his 2008 campaign promise — made directly to Mr. Ramos — that he would propose an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system in his first year in office, and for deporting two million people since. Even after Mr. Obama announced late last year that nearly half of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants could apply to work without fear of deportation, Mr. Ramos confronted him during a Nashville forum for having “destroyed many families” by not acting sooner.

But Mr. Ramos’s focus has changed, he said in an interview here: “Now is the turn of Republicans.”

This weekend, the Spanish-language Univision, and Fusion, its English-language venture with ABC News, will cover the first gathering of 2016 Republican presidential aspirants, at a conservative forum in Des Moines on Saturday organized by Representative Steve King of Iowa. Mr. King, an immigration hard-liner, is well known to Latinos for remarks like one claiming that most young border-crossers have “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana.”

That coverage follows Mr. Ramos’s in-depth reporting last week of House Republicans’ vote to block Mr. Obama’s immigration orders and deport up to four million people, mainly so-called Dreamers brought to the United States as children and the parents of American citizens. Given Republicans’ immigration stance, Mr. Ramos expects to cover more such stories through 2016.

And that has some Republicans worried.

“Remember what L.B.J. said, ‘When you lose Walter Cronkite, you’ve lost the war’?” said Matthew Dowd, a campaign adviser to George W. Bush, recalling the oft-cited if disputed story that President Lyndon B. Johnson said he lost “middle America” when Cronkite turned against the Vietnam War. Among Latino voters, Mr. Ramos has the sort of influence and audience that Cronkite had more broadly among Americans in his day.

Mr. Ramos is “not only a journalist, he’s become the voice of the Latino constituency,” Mr. Dowd said. “And that’s where Republicans have to worry — you don’t want to lose Jorge Ramos.”

How Republicans are perceived among Latinos mattered little in the midterm elections last year, when the party won control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in Mr. Obama’s presidency. Turnout of Latinos and other minority voters was, as usual, much lower than for presidential elections, and most close contests were in places with few Latinos.
Continue reading the main story

But in 2016, the Republican record will matter. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who said during the campaign that undocumented residents should “self-deport” — a position he defended in an interview last November on Univision — got only 27 percent of Latinos’ votes. Republican strategists say their 2016 nominee must get more than 40 percent to win. The last Republican candidate to do so was Mr. Bush, who had supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Early signs in both the Republican-run Congress and the presidential nomination race suggest how far Republicans have veered from the immigration course recommended two years ago when the party, at Mr. Priebus’s direction, produced an autopsy of Republicans’ 2012 losses that concluded that they must do more to engage Latino voters and propose “positive solutions on immigration.”
The Teabagger wing of the Republican Party can't help themselves. For all that they may rationally understand the need for Hispanic voters, they are driven by their hates and will pull down the rest of the party rather than let go of their reason for being.

With the best of intentions

Another of the roads to Hell has been paved, this time with mosquito nets. In ares of Africa where malaria is a major problem, well intentioned foreign donors have sent mosquito nets to protect people while they sleep at night. Unfortunately these same people view hunger as a greater threat to their lives than malaria. And now they have these beautifully made nets that sweep up everything.
Out here on the endless swamps, a harsh truth has been passed down from generation to generation: There is no fear but the fear of hunger.

With that always weighing on his mind, Mwewa Ndefi gets up at dawn, just as the first orange rays of sun are beginning to spear through the papyrus reeds, and starts to unclump a mosquito net.

Nets like his are widely considered a magic bullet against malaria — one of the cheapest and most effective ways to stop a disease that kills at least half a million Africans each year. But Mr. Ndefi and countless others are not using their mosquito nets as global health experts have intended.

Nobody in his hut, including his seven children, sleeps under a net at night. Instead, Mr. Ndefi has taken his family’s supply of anti-malaria nets and sewn them together into a gigantic sieve that he uses to drag the bottom of the swamp ponds, sweeping up all sorts of life: baby catfish, banded tilapia, tiny mouthbrooders, orange fish eggs, water bugs and the occasional green frog.

“I know it’s not right,” Mr. Ndefi said, “but without these nets, we wouldn’t eat.”

Across Africa, from the mud flats of Nigeria to the coral reefs off Mozambique, mosquito-net fishing is a growing problem, an unintended consequence of one of the biggest and most celebrated public health campaigns in recent years.

The nets have helped save millions of lives, but scientists worry about the collateral damage: Africa’s fish.
The fine mesh netting leaves nothing behind, no food, no babys not even their eggs, unlike a proper fishing net. And when everything is fished out, they will still suffer from malaria and add starvation to their problems. All thanks to the best of intentions.

R.I.P. Ernie Banks

The Pride of the Cubs and optimistic to the end.

Billionaire Buyers Guide to 2016

Bill Maher gives us a rundown all the current GOP candidates.

Wisdom from the Notorious R.B.G.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Another one of those Canadian singers

The ones they keep hidden lest they be stolen away. Jenn Grant singing "Trailer Park" from her new album Compostela

Oklahoma said he was OK

From the pen of Tom Toles

About that Veterans Suicide Bill

Now that Old Dr.No, Tom Coburn is no longer in the Senate, there appears to be no one who will block the passage of this bill to prevent veteran suicides. This does not mean that the Republican/Teabaggers won't find a way to render the bill worthless. When needed they can always fall back on their tried and true standby, not funding the bill.
A bill to reduce suicides among veterans stalled in the Senate last month despite its heartrending cause and strong bipartisan support. Now it’s on the verge of final passage thanks to the departure of its main critic.

Veterans were infuriated in December when retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., used parliamentary tactics to single-handedly block a vote on the legislation, citing cost concerns. Projected to cost $22 million over five years, the bill includes language that explicitly prohibits the authorization of any additional funds to carry out its provisions.

Still, supporters of the legislation – among them Republican Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Roy Blunt of Missouri – say extra funds aren’t necessary to consolidate and improve the Department of Veterans Affairs’ suicide prevention programs. They expect the bill to get another shot at final passage in the Senate in the coming days. This time, they say, it will pass easily.

Blunt says it shouldn’t be hard for VA to shift resources around and find the necessary savings within its existing budget to pay for the bill.

“Twenty-two million over five years means $4.4 million over every year,” Blunt said Wednesday in a press call with Missouri reporters. “The department has a lot of money. They proved last year that they were not spending that money wisely.”

One of the pilot programs would repay the student loans of psychiatrists who commit to at least two years of service with VA, while the other would create partnerships between VA medical centers and nonprofit community groups to establish support networks for veterans.

Another provision of the bill would extend the eligibility of combat veterans who were discharged between 2009 and 2011, enabling them to qualify for VA medical services and nursing home care even if they haven’t proven that their illnesses are linked to their military service.
Wasting $Billions on the F-35 and the Little Crappy Ships but cheaping out on $22Million for veterans. The heart and soul of the Republican/Teabaggers.

Is Ben Carson the Black Joni Ernst?

Or does his seniority make Joni Ernst the White Ben Carson

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cowboy Punk

Lydia Loveless has moved from the country she grew up playing and found the raw edge of her style in "Really Want To See You Again" from her latest album Somewhere Else.

Perhaps when they grow up

From the pen of Tom Toles

Canadian pipeline profits vs American Family Farms

The Keystone XL pipeline struggle can be boiled down to those two simple points in the headline. And if one looks carefully, it is not hard to see that the "All-'Murican" Republican Party has fallen on the side of Canadian profits, a portion of which will flow to some of said Republicans. On the other hand those farmers in the affected ares are banding together to do what they can to save their family farms.
The pipeline project has become a cause célèbre, and not just among conservatives, who cite its potential to create jobs, or among environmentalists, who lament the risks they say it poses to groundwater. Several farmers like the Harringtons are also in a personal battle to protect land that in many cases has been passed down through generations.

This week TransCanada, the company proposing the pipeline, began eminent domain proceedings in Nebraska county courts, seeking to gain access to almost 90 properties where the owners have not agreed to terms. Many of those landowners have said they have no intention of allowing construction.

“Imagining all those big earthmovers coming in and digging this big scar down our heritage just feels wrong,” said Terri Harrington, the sister who owns a plot where the pipeline would run. She worries that a leak — like one that sent 50,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana last week, contaminating drinking water — could endanger the land she loves.

The Harrington farm, divided among the sisters years ago but still in many ways managed as a single unit, sits amid the quiet, flat farmland of southeast Nebraska, miles from the nearest town. Corn and soybeans are the main crops here, and they grow in abundance largely because of the Ogallala Aquifer, the underground water source farmers depend on for irrigation.

As children, the Harringtons rose early to do their chores, and as teens, some of them caught a tan while driving the tractor wearing a swimsuit. Terri Harrington moved to Denver after college and became a lawyer, but the other sisters stayed in Nebraska and made their careers in agriculture...

Jenni Harrington said she had not been a political activist before the Keystone XL proposal, but after watching a video of oil sands extraction in Alberta, where the 1,179-mile Keystone XL route would start, she began speaking out.

“Having to be forced to have that run through our property just seemed like a really wrong thing, and we couldn’t stay quiet,” said Ms. Harrington, who has testified about the issue at local government meetings and has written postcards to President Obama expressing her opposition.

Though the vast majority of Nebraska landowners along the route have agreed to terms with TransCanada, the well-organized 12 percent who have not signed on make this state the emotional heart of anti-pipeline activism.
And now they are facing new state laws that make it easier for a foreign company to take American farms by eminent domain for their private profit. A gross misuse of a legal principle supposed to support the common good. And about what you can expect any time you elect Republicans.

But it's so easy

Measuring success in any conflict can be very difficult, even years after the shooting has stopped. However, as we live in an age that demands everything instantly, body counts are often provided by the military as markers of progress to an all to often undelineated success. The US, at the urging of The Big Bean Counter Robert McNamara, relied on body counts during the Vietnam War, and successfully proved that they were meaningless as a measure. Nowadays, the US military swears on a stack of M-4s that they don't use it, but don't believe them.
Since the Vietnam War, with its gruesome and inflated U.S. tallies of enemy dead, the Pentagon has denied keeping body counts. But, in fact, the military does add up the number of enemy fighters it believes it has killed — and proudly boasts of the totals in official documents that it never intends for public circulation.

The disconnect over wartime body counts reflects a yawning gap between the military’s public face and its private culture.

As early as the 19th century, Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz warned that counting enemy dead was a misleading measure of an army’s effectiveness, to say nothing of a war’s soundness. “Casualty reports,” Clausewitz wrote,“… are never accurate.”

A body count is “no accurate measure of the loss of morale,” the celebrated military theorist emphasized. “The abandonment of the fight remains the only authentic proof of victory.”

In other words, no one really knows how many of your enemy you need to kill to compel the remaining forces to surrender...

Eleven years after Fallujah, the Pentagon has again suppressed any officer’s impulse to publicly mention an official body count. Hence Kirby’s insistence on Jan. 6 that adding up the dead is “not the goal.”

In reality, the body counts have merely gone underground, so to speak. Spokespersons deny tallying the dead. But the official annual histories of various military commands continue to trumpet high body counts.
They are easy, require no explanation and warm the hearts of bean counters everywhere. How can you not use the only metric that everybody understands?

Bibi, our shadow Secretary of State

We may elect a President and let him choose a Secretary of State, with the consent of our elected Senators, but the real hand on our Middle East foreign policy would appear to be Benjamin "Bugsy" Netayahu Prime Minister of Israel and unindicted war criminal.

“I know what America is,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli settlers in 2002 in a hot-mic moment captured on video by Israel’s Channel 10. “America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction.”

That’s a proposition House Speaker John Boehner plans to test on March 3, when he presents the Israeli leader to a joint session of the House and Senate in the expectation that Netanyahu will give full-throated support to a congressional effort to overrule the Obama administration’s Iran policy.

Boehner may be counting on Netanyahu’s popularity across the partisan divide to help Republicans attract enough support for new sanctions on Iran to override the veto promised by President Barack Obama. And there are certainly a number of Democrats pushing for new sanctions despite the administration’s warning that such a move would torpedo prospects for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.

The decision to bring in a foreign leader to weigh in against the president on what Obama has defined as an issue of war and peace was taken by a Republican leadership and an Israeli head of state. The Republicans were looking to use a new congressional majority to challenge the lame-duck president, and the Israeli leader wanted to continue his own, relentless battle against nuclear compromise with Tehran. Neither party, according to Haaretz, bothered to tell the White House as they forged the plan.

“The typical protocol would suggest that the leader of a country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Wednesday. “This particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol.”

It would hardly be the first time Netanyahu has tried to change U.S. policy by going around the White House and appealing directly to Congress to take a harder line on Iran. He did the same to President Bill Clinton when Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House in 1996, and to Obama in May 2011.

Netanyahu has consistently played the spoiler in nuclear negotiations with Iran, even though his hard line position on diplomacy with Iran has drawn frequent rebukes from Israel’s security chiefs over the years. Indeed, Bloomberg reported late Wednesday that Israel’s Mossad intelligence service had broken ranks with Netanyahu’s effort to press for further sanctions, and was warning U.S. officials and lawmakers that such a move would destroy efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Iran standoff. (Update: The Mossad on Thursday, via a statement released by Netanyahu's office, denied it had opposed new sanctions on Iran.)
It might be that Bugsy is overplaying his hand in this one. The President can still deport unwanted aliens.

A new rising GOP star

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Mississippi Blues Woman and her Piano

Eden Brent singing the title song from her 2014 album "Jigsaw Heart"

A holy tabernacle for his god

From the pen of Jim Morin

From the Dept. of No-Shit Sherlock

Despite the continuing use of torture for the pleasure and enjoyment of W, Dickwahd and the other Busheviks, the CIA has known for some time that the value of any intelligence gained by torture if grossly overblown.
The internal report, more than 1,000 pages in length, came to be known as the Panetta Review after Leon E. Panetta, who, as the C.I.A.’s director, ordered that it be done in 2009. At least one of its authors won an agency award for her work, according to a recent briefing that the agency’s inspector general gave to staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The contents of the Panetta Review, which remain classified, are now central to simmering battles over the Intelligence Committee’s conclusions about the efficacy of torture and the C.I.A.’s allegations that committee staffers improperly took the review from an agency facility. The C.I.A. has publicly distanced itself from the report’s findings, saying that it was an incomplete and cursory review of documents, and has blocked its release under the Freedom of Information Act...

The internal C.I.A. review ordered by Mr. Panetta was an attempt by the agency to better understand millions of documents that the C.I.A. was handing over to the committee as it began its investigation into the Bush-era detention program.

The result of the internal review, led by Peter Clement, who at the time was the agency’s deputy director of intelligence for analytic programs, was a series of memos on what the documents revealed about the internal workings of the program.

One of the report’s findings, according to people who have seen the document, was that the C.I.A. repeatedly claimed that important intelligence to thwart terror plots and track down Qaeda operatives had come from the interrogation sessions of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed when, in fact, the intelligence had other origins.

The C.I.A. has long maintained that the interrogation of Mr. Mohammed, a chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, was central to disrupting a number of terror plots, including Qaeda plans to attack the West Coast. Mr. Mohammed was one of the C.I.A. detainees subjected to the most brutal interrogation methods, including waterboarding.
Sadly, with the Republicans in control of Congress, we can expect a renewal of torture by the CIA. Torture having been accepted as a new Republican core value, any hint of its lack of effectiveness is to be expunged along with any mention of official criminality.

Now we know what to expect

As the allies of the Keystone pipeline continues to push for approval of their meal ticket, the people who will be exposed to whatever happens to the pipeline can get a foretaste of what to expect when it bursts. And it will burst and spill multiple times during its lifetime.
When an oil pipeline burst in July 2011 and poured 63,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River 200 miles upstream from Dena Hoff’s farm of wheat, beans and corn on the Great Plains in Glendive, she felt disgusted.

When it happened again Saturday, she felt terror. This pipeline breach was underneath the Yellowstone River, just a few feet from her sheep pasture. The new spill poured out some 50,000 gallons of crude oil. Leaders of this small riverside farming and ranching community in northeastern Montana warned residents not to drink their tap water, because benzene, a carcinogen, was found in the municipal water system. Oil slicked the river for dozens of miles, almost to the border with North Dakota. Hoff’s property smelled sickeningly like diesel.

“People need to understand this is a very serious thing,” she said. “It impacts everything and everybody downstream.”

Certainly the disaster is far more than just a local issue. As more than 100 emergency workers hacked at thick river ice in a frantic attempt to find and contain the spilled oil, the U.S. Senate in Washington made good on what its new Republican leaders promised would be their first order of business: approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would also cross the Yellowstone River in Glendive.

“The State Department has affirmed the safety of Keystone XL pipeline,” said freshman Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, who was joined in his support by senior Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana. “It’s important that this job-creating project is approved.”
Safety is a relative thing with a pipeline. Certainly spilling 50-60,000 gallons of crude each year does not make it unsafe to its owners. If it is your back yard or water supply that is affected, you have a whole 'nother perspective. But if you can't buy your own Congressman, you don't count.

The Sin of Wages

In the most exceptional United States.

Little Crappy Ships fail another mission.

In addition to previous problems with corrosion and structural integrity, the imagined interchangeable mission modules don't seem quite up to the mission. In fact the minesweeeping module has been declared a failure.
Mine-detection equipment for the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, including an underwater drone, remains unreliable, the Pentagon’s test office has found.

“Mission modules” to find and clear mines for the initial 32 vessels have “not yet demonstrated sufficient performance to achieve the Navy’s minimal” requirements, Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational testing, said in his annual report to Congress on major weapons systems. It was obtained in advance of its scheduled public release this week.

Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), based in Bethesda, Maryland, and Henderson, Australia-based Austal Ltd. (ASB) make different versions of the Littoral Combat Ship. Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC), based in Falls Church, Virginia, is responsible for its mine-clearing capabilities.

Gilmore’s report may add to the congressional scrutiny of a vessel that some lawmakers are already criticizing. Amid questions about whether the ship could survive in combat, departing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last month approved a Navy proposal to buy 20 modified ships after 2019 with improved armor, sensors and weapons following the first 32, which will cost an estimated $23 billion.

The Littoral Combat Ship, designed for shallow coastal waters, is supposed to be outfitted with modules that can be swapped out for missions from mine-clearing to submarine-hunting and surface warfare.
So we have 32 of the Model A Little Crappy Ships in the Navy and 20 of the Model B on order and the Defense Department’s director of operational testing has said that neither model can expect to survive any high intensity combat. Little Crappy (Suicide) Ships.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Good music from The Good Lovelies

"Best I Know" from their 2012 live performance recording Live At Revolution.

So easy a child could solve it

From the pen of Tom Toles

The Evil Koch Bros. Debutante Ball

Even though most of the "debutantes" have come out in previous seasons, the Evil Koch Brothers held another one to see who can put the highest shine on their shoes with his tongue.
Perhaps no organization commands more deference in Republican politics nowadays than the sprawling operation established by the Koch brothers. And this week, the intense competition among Republicans for their embrace and attention will break out into the open. An invitation-only group of 2016 hopefuls will travel to a resort near Palm Springs, Calif., for the Koch brothers’ annual winter seminar, kicking off the so-called Koch primary.

“What they’ve built is incredibly impressive,” said Phil Cox, who has worked for the Koch-affiliated group Americans for Prosperity and recently served as executive director of the Republican Governors Association under Mr. Christie as chairman. “The invitation to the seminar is a big deal. It’s important entree to those donors and potential donors, and having Charles or David or other leaders in the network say good things about any particularly candidate at one of these seminars is a big deal.”

Mr. Cruz, Mr. Paul and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida have all received invitations to the event and are expected to attend. Other invited Republicans include Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, who is not expected to make it because of a scheduling conflict.

Unlike groups on the left like the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the Kochs do not hand out traditional endorsements. But their network spans roughly 300 donors, many of whom are wealthy business owners and entrepreneurs, and allows candidates to tap individuals who are conservative but not part of the traditional Republican donor establishment. In 2012, Americans for Prosperity spent more than $120 million in an effort to defeat President Obama and congressional Democrats.

Of course, the Koch network is hardly unified behind a single candidate, with donors preferring a wide range of personalities and issues. “It would be a mistake to view our donors as monolithic,” said Marc Short, president of Freedom Partners, an umbrella organization for donors allied with the Kochs. “They come from different geographic regions, but they are all committed to free markets and advancing a free society.”
That last line should read, "markets and society we can loot and pillage free from pesky government interference". After all, what are the 99% if not a herd to be raised at their own expense for the 1%'s profit? And how better to show your fealty to this system than by dancing at the Evil Koch Brothers Ball?

Building a better cow

Improving the quality and quantity
of meat producing animals for America's tables can be pretty damn hard on the animals themselves.
At a remote research center on the Nebraska plains, scientists are using surgery and breeding techniques to re-engineer the farm animal to fit the needs of the 21st-century meat industry. The potential benefits are huge: animals that produce more offspring, yield more meat and cost less to raise.

There are, however, some complications.

Pigs are having many more piglets — up to 14, instead of the usual eight — but hundreds of those newborns, too frail or crowded to move, are being crushed each year when their mothers roll over. Cows, which normally bear one calf at a time, have been retooled to have twins and triplets, which often emerge weakened or deformed, dying in such numbers that even meat producers have been repulsed.

Then there are the lambs. In an effort to develop “easy care” sheep that can survive without costly shelters or shepherds, ewes are giving birth, unaided, in open fields where newborns are killed by predators, harsh weather and starvation.

Last Mother’s Day, at the height of the birthing season, two veterinarians struggled to sort through the weekend’s toll: 25 rag-doll bodies. Five, abandoned by overtaxed mothers, had empty stomachs. Six had signs of pneumonia. Five had been savaged by coyotes.

“It’s horrible,” one veterinarian said, tossing the remains into a barrel to be dumped in a vast excavation called the dead pit.

These experiments are not the work of a meat processor or rogue operation. They are conducted by a taxpayer-financed federal institution called the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, a complex of laboratories and pastures that sprawls over 55 square miles in Clay Center, Neb. Little known outside the world of big agriculture, the center has one overarching mission: helping producers of beef, pork and lamb turn a higher profit as diets shift toward poultry, fish and produce.
Profits don't come easy, but cruelty does nothing to improve the flavor. And too much of the effort of the research center seems to require cruelty for no gain.

Where we need tax reform

There goes Hucka Boo-Boo

John Stewart takes apart the Huckster

The Daily Show
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Monday, January 19, 2015

It's International Monday

And in the interest of international comity, here is the Colombian group Monsieur Perine performing "La Ciudad"

Maybe a fart joke will get their attention?

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Now Handy Andy calls for an increase in minimum wage

And proposes two different rates for the two different parts of his state, the City and Upstate.
Flanked by a collection of liberal groups and labor leaders, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday announced a raft of proposals on social issues, among them a plan that would raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour in New York City and $10.50 an hour in the rest of the state.

If approved by the State Legislature, the proposal would make New York’s minimum wage among the highest in the country. But traditional Republican opposition in the State Senate, where that party holds a majority, makes the passage of such legislation far from assured.

Still, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, seemed cautiously optimistic that an improving economy, including robust recent gains on Wall Street and the stock market, would make it easier to cut a deal.

“The world has changed,” said Mr. Cuomo, when asked about past Republican opposition, adding: “The market is strong and I believe the market, this market, at this rate of strength, can deal with this.”

The state last increased the minimum wage in 2013, approving a three-year rollout that pushed the hourly rate to $8.75 from $7.25. That wage will rise to $9 an hour by 2016. But on Sunday, Mr. Cuomo suggested that the rate of increase was too slow, saying “the wage gap has continued to increase.” Under his proposal, the wage would increase to $11.50 and $10.50 at the end of 2016.
Two interesting points, first he is now in favor of two different rates, which he was not when he was blasting Mayor Bill DeBlasio. And second, he now has the state senate firmly in the grasp of the Republicans so he can fail whenever it is convenient for him.

Texas oil patch has a back up plan

To be more accurate, a lot of people in the oil patch have a back up plan if they can. With the price of oil dropping, something many have seen before, they are trying to get ready for the crunch.
“We all have backup plans,” Mr. Allred said with laugh. “You can be sure oil will go up and down, the only question is when.”

Indeed, to residents here in the heart of the oil patch, booms and busts go with the territory.

“This is Midland and it’s just a way of life,” said David Cristiani, owner of a downtown jewelry store, who keeps a graph charting oil prices since the late 1990s on his desk to remind him that the good times don’t last forever. “We are always prepared for slowdowns. We just hunker down. They wrote off the Permian Basin in 1984, but the oil will always be here.”

It’s at times like these that Midland residents recall the wild swings of the 1980s, a decade that began with parties where people drank Dom Pérignon out of their cowboy boots. Rolls-Royce opened a dealership, and the local airport had trouble finding space to park all the private jets. By the end of the decade, the Rolls-Royce dealership was shut and replaced by a tortilla factory, and three banks had failed.

There has been nothing like that kind of excess over the past five years, despite the frenzy of drilling across the Permian Basin, the granddaddy of American oil fields. Set in a forsaken desert where tumbleweed drifts through long-forgotten towns, the region has undergone a renaissance in the last four years, with horizontal drilling and fracking reaching through multiple layers of shales stacked one over the other like a birthday cake.

But since the Permian Basin rig count peaked at around 570 last September, it has fallen to below 490 and local oil executives say the count will probably go down to as low as 300 by April unless prices rebound. The last time the rig count declined as rapidly was in late 2008 and early 2009, when the price of oil fell from over $140 to under $40 a barrel because of the financial crisis.

Unlike traditional oil wells, which cannot be turned on and off so easily, shale production can be cut back quickly, and so the field’s output should slow considerably by the end of the year.

The Dallas Federal Reserve recently estimated that the falling oil prices and other factors will reduce job growth in Texas overall from 3.6 percent in 2014 to as low as 2 percent this year, or a reduction of about 149,000 in jobs created.
And so Rick Perry hands off to Greg Abbott.

Recipe for National Success

R.I.P. Robert Kinoshita

Danger! Danger! The mechanical designer of Robby the Robot and Family has gone to meet his designer.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

When she isn't singing with the Jennies

Heather Masse has a solo career that includes singing the jazz that she trained for in school. Here she sings "Since I Fell For You" from her album Lock My Heart on The Prairie Home Companion.

When politics imitates bad movie sequels

From the pen of Brian McFadden

As President Obama proposes a progressive reform of taxes

The Republicans already have their response being catapulted to the masses. They will never increase taxes on their owners and besides it is against their policy to fund the US government in any way beyond the military industrial junk cabal.
President Obama will use his State of the Union address to call on Congress to raise taxes and fees on the wealthiest taxpayers and the largest financial firms to finance an array of tax cuts for the middle class, pressing to reshape the tax code to help working families, administration officials said on Saturday.

The proposal faces long odds in the Republican-controlled Congress, led by lawmakers who have long opposed raising taxes and who argue that doing so would hamper economic growth at a time the country cannot afford it. And it was quickly dismissed by leading Republicans as a nonstarter.

But the decision to present the plan during Tuesday’s speech marks the start of a debate over taxes and the economy that will shape both Mr. Obama’s legacy and the 2016 presidential campaign.

It is also the latest indication that the president, untethered from political constraints after Democratic losses in the midterm elections, is moving aggressively to set the terms of that discussion, even as he pushes audacious moves in other areas, like immigration and relations with Cuba.

The president’s plan would raise $320 billion over the next decade, while adding new provisions cutting taxes by $175 billion over the same period. The revenue generated would also cover an initiative Mr. Obama announced this month, offering some students two years of tuition-free community college, which the White House has said would cost $60 billion over 10 years.

The centerpiece of the plan, described by administration officials on the condition of anonymity ahead of the president’s speech, would eliminate what Mr. Obama’s advisers call the “trust-fund loophole,” a provision governing inherited assets that shields hundreds of billions of dollars from taxation each year. The plan would also increase the top capital-gains tax rate, to 28 percent from 23.8 percent, for couples with incomes above $500,000 annually.

Those changes and a new fee on banks with assets over $50 billion would be used to finance a set of tax breaks for middle-income earners, including a $500 credit for families in which both spouses work; increased child care and education credits; and incentives to save for retirement.
Imagine! People with over a half a million in capital gains having to pay 28%! How will they ever survive in such a cruel climate? The very thought sends tremors through the Hamptons.

He carries the stink of fear

The fear that the scales will fall from the eyes of the world and Israel's brutal and murderous oppression of the Palestinians will be shown to the world for exactly what it is. That is why Israeli Prime Minister Benny "Bugsy" Netanyahu is protesting loudly, much too loudly, about the decision of the International Criminal Court to open a preliminary investigation of Israel's actions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday lashed out at a decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to launch an initial investigation into alleged war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu called the move by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda “preposterous.”

The court announced Bensouda’s decision on Friday and said the “preliminary examination” was intended to determine if there were grounds for a full-scale war crimes investigation. The probe into “the situation in Palestine” could cover alleged violations of the laws of war by Israel and the militant Islamist group Hamas during last summer’s conflict in the Gaza Strip, and could also examine Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The ICC said that “no timelines” had been set for the examination, which it described as standard practice after a state joins the court, a step the Palestinians took earlier this month.

The foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority, Riyad Malki, welcomed the ICC probe, calling it “historic,” and a spokesman for Hamas in Gaza said it was an “important step” toward bringing Israelis before the international tribunal.

Netanyahu, who has vowed to defend Israeli soldiers against possible war crimes charges abroad, said that Israel “categorically rejects” the prosecutor’s move.
The evidence is pretty much out in the open. Bugsy is scared that any serious investigation will destroy the vast 'smoke & mirrors' that pretends it is something else. Without that, Israeli has no defense of its criminal activities.

The case for tax reform

Saturday, January 17, 2015

If you like roots in your music

Kendl Winter and Palmer Lee as The Lowest Pair dig into the roots of American music to find their material, like "Magpie"

Political Oscar Season

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Where there is a boss, there is a way to steal

Usually from the workers who may only be getting the minimum wage of paper. Sometimes it is a loophole and sometimes it needs workers who aren't aware of what they should be getting. Whichever it may be, the boss will find a way to steal.

Across the U.S., millions of workers in 20 states started the New Year with a raise. In nine states, the law required the minimum wage to keep up with inflation, while 11 others passed new legislation to hike up the wage floor. But not everyone entitled to a raise will actually get one.

According to a recent survey from the National Employment Law Project, one in four low-wage workers has suffered some kind of wage theft, with employers taking advantage of a series of loopholes to avoid complying with federal and state labor laws.

In New York, employers are required to pay workers a minimum of $8.75 an hour, up from $8 in 2014. But labor campaigners say the increase won’t matter if the law isn’t actually enforced.

“A lot of times people think of sweatshops in third-world countries,” said JoAnn Lum, executive director of the Coalition for a Real Minimum Wage, a New York advocacy group. “But right here in the United States, all kinds of workers are being sweated. And one aspect of being sweated is being robbed of your wages.”
Being labeled an independent contractor is one of the most abused ways to steal what is due to workers and despite the recognition of the problems, the laws have yet to be changed.

Mittens still trying to find an attractive image

After all, if the voters don't like who you are and can't stand what you promise, any run for the White House would be a waste of money.
It was Romney’s first public appearance since he signaled a week ago he’s looking into a 2016 bid. He not say whether he will run, but did acknowledge he is looking at jumping into what could be a crowded field competing for the Republican nomination.

“The last few days, the most frequently asked question I get is what does Ann think about all this,” he said. “She believes people get better with experience. And heaven knows I have experience running for president. ... I’m giving some serious consideration to the future.”

He sought the nomination and lost in 2008, won the nomination and lost the general election in 2012 to President Barack Obama...

While the party brass applauded their former nominee Friday, conservatives have been harshly criticizing him. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Romney represented the “mushy middle,” and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said another Romney run is “the definition of insanity.”

RNC members offered similar doubts. “It will be a challenge to get another bite of the apple,” said Henry Barbour, Mississippi national committeeman. “There’s a natural tendency to look at the next generation of leaders.”

Romney backers are quietly talking him up with this logic: He got 47 percent of the popular vote in 2012. He now tops President Barack Obama in most polls, and his path to the nomination is smoother than most.

The backers explain that Romney retains a strong base of support in Iowa, the nation’s first caucus state, where he’s competed twice. He won New Hampshire’s primary last time and that support, they say, hasn’t eroded.

The Romney camp adds that he’s well positioned for what could be as many as 20 primaries and caucuses on March 1, since he can raise a lot of money and has plenty of his own to contribute.

The problem with that explanation is that the donor community is unsure where to turn, and it’s unclear if loyal 2012 voters want another Romney run.
Four years later and he doesn't look any better than the last time. Yup, that should work.

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