Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shake Sugaree

Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops sings this on her new solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn

Nor iron bars a cage

Whatever you may think of Richard Lovelace's romantic nonsense, iron bars have been known to make pretty darn good cages. And in our modern world they also make pretty good profits.
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, which have profited heavily from contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to lock up undocumented immigrants - including mothers and children seeking asylum from Central American countries - are predicting more such contracts at the state and federal level in 2015.

In a recent conference call for shareholders and investors, GEO Group reported fourth quarter 2014 net income earnings of $38.1 million, up from $27.6 million in 2013, and while CCA's profits dropped, from $47.47 million last year to a reported $30.01 million in fourth quarter earnings this year, both companies are expecting increased profits in 2015 as for-profit immigrant jails expand across South Texas and nationally.

During the call, CCA officials noted that its new immigrant family jail in Dilley, Texas, has already generated more than $21 million in revenue in the last quarter of 2014. The jail is expected to officially become the nation's largest immigrant detention facility, as the population is anticipated to swell to fill its 2,400-bed capacity this spring - up from its current 480-bed capacity. As a result, in coming months, advocates expect detainees' access to legal counsel to become even more limited than it is currently.

GEO Group also reported, during the call, that its $36 million expansion of the immigrant family jail at Karnes County to a capacity of 1,158 beds would earn the company $21 million in 2015.
Mind you, these are your tax dollars being funneled into corporate profits. And a goodly portion of that profit comes from operating those detention centers at less than Bureau of Prison standards and with minimum wager help. Proud to be an American, yet?

The bravery of a small, small man

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Who corrects the corrections officer?

The New York Times
looks into the trial of three New York State Corrections Officers for the brutal beating of one of the inmates. The beating was worse than most and the witnesses abound, but what will the result be?
Mr. Williams had been transferred to Attica that January following an altercation with other inmates at a different facility. He had just four months to serve before he was to be released. He was doing his best to stay out of trouble. His plan was to go home to New Brunswick and try to find work as a barber. That evening, Mr. Williams remembers, he had been in his cell watching the rap stars Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy on television, and missed the shouting on the cellblock. The guards ordered him to strip for a search and then marched him down the hall to a darkened dayroom used for meetings and classes for what they told him would be a urine test.

Mr. Williams is 5-foot-8, and a solid 170 pounds. But corrections officers tend toward linebacker size, and the three officers towered over him. The smallest was Sgt. Sean Warner, 37, at 5-foot-11, 240 pounds. Beside him was Officer Keith Swack, 37, a burly 6-foot-3 and some 300 pounds. A third officer was standing behind the cell door. Mr. Williams thought it was Officer Matthew Rademacher, 29, who had followed his father into the job six years earlier. Officer Rademacher was six feet tall and weighed 260 pounds. All three men are white and had goatees at the time.

Mr. Williams was wondering why a sergeant would be doing the grunt work of conducting an impromptu drug test when, he said, a fist hammered him hard on the right side of his rib cage. He doubled up, collapsing to the floor. More blows rained down. Mr. Williams tried to curl up to protect himself from the pummeling of batons, fists and kicks. Someone jumped on his ankle. He screamed in pain. He opened his eyes to see a guard aiming a kick at his head, as though punting a football. I’m going to die here, he thought.

Inmates in cells across from the dayroom watched the attack, among them a convict named Charles Bisesi, 67, who saw Mr. Williams pitched face-first onto the floor. He saw guards kick Mr. Williams in the head and face, and strike him with their heavy wooden batons. Mr. Bisesi estimated that Mr. Williams had been kicked up to 50 times, and struck with a dozen more blows from nightsticks, thwacks delivered with such force that Mr. Bisesi could hear the thud as wood hit flesh. He also heard Mr. Williams begging for his life, cries loud enough that prisoners two floors below heard them as well.
Continue reading the main story

A couple of minutes after the beating began, one of the guards loudly rapped his baton on the floor. At the signal, more guards rushed upstairs and into the dayroom. Witnesses differed on the number. Some said that as many as 12 officers had plunged into the scrum. Others recalled seeing two or three. All agreed that when they were finished, Mr. Williams could not walk.

His ordeal is the subject of an unprecedented trial scheduled to open on Monday in western New York. Three guards — Sergeant Warner and Officers Rademacher and Swack — face charges stemming from the beating that night. All three have pleaded not guilty. An examination of this case and dozens of others offers a vivid lesson in the intractable culture of prison brutality, especially given the notoriety of Attica, which entered the cultural lexicon as a synonym for prison havoc after 43 men died there in 1971 as the state suppressed an uprising by inmates. This account is based on investigative reports and court filings, as well as interviews with people on both sides of the bars at Attica, state officials and prison reform advocates.
Beaten so badly he had to be transferred to an outside hospital. Beaten so badly that this time it reached the notice of those outside the prison administration and an investigation was begun. But will any trial convict a prison guard based on testimony from prisoners?

Time to review our priorities

Friday, February 27, 2015

Two Down Under Ladies

Singing together and living together but so far as I can tell, not yet recording together. This tune is "Numbers" by Jen Cloher & Courtney Barnett.

Bugsy Netanyahu, True American

From the pen of Kevin Siers

Despite all their whining about oppression of Christianity

The so-called Christian community in America continues to ignore the needs of fellow Christians in other lands who are facing real oppression and possibly genocide at the hands of DAESH if they can not fight back. One group of Christians has chosen to fight back and they are helping themselves to do so.
At a covert training camp just north of Mosul, ten miles from the front lines with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the first wave of Assyrian Christian volunteers for the Nineveh Protection Unit (NPU) have just completed boot camp. Funded in part by an Assyrian-American telethon campaign and trained by a handful of freelance U.S. military veterans, around 500 men are set to deploy next week as part of an unorthodox — and unproven — project.

But as ISIL pillages what’s left of their ancestral homeland, and Iraqi government forces prove incapable of stopping them, some among the region's dwindling Assyrian Christian minority have placed their hopes for self-preservation in the NPU, which plans to grow by the thousands in the coming months...

The idea for a professionalized Assyrian army was first conceived last summer, when ISIL mounted its infamous surge across northwestern Iraq’s Nineveh plains, slaughtering or enslaving hundreds of Assyrians and other religious minorities who stood in its path. Their supposed protectors, the U.S.-backed Iraqi army, wilted before the onslaught, with many soldiers reportedly abandoning their posts and stripping off their uniforms to avoid detection.

The lesson, said Kaldo Oghana, an Iraqi Assyrian official and NPU spokesman, was that “no one protected minorities then, and no one ever will.”

So in early December, political leaders for the 400,000-member Assyrian community in Iraq, working alongside an Assyrian-American political action group, the American Mesopotamian Organization (AMO), vetted and enlisted the first tranche of displaced volunteers from among 2,500 applicants to compose the NPU’s inaugural battalion. As part of the AMO's Restore Nineveh Now campaign, the goal is to build a force from the ground up that will earn the respect of the Iraqi government and perhaps the anti-ISIL coalition led by Washington. Ultimately, the NPU says, they hope to prove themselves worthy of Iraqi or Western arms.

Though it has not seen action yet, the NPU has already attracted considerable attention in the West, in part due to VanDyke’s involvement. Through a project he calls Sons of Liberty International, VanDyke has crowdfunded online and tapped $12,000 of his savings to train local Christian forces against ISIL — starting with the NPU. At the NPU camp last month, VanDyke recruited five U.S. combat veterans to run a training course — involving simulated battles and physical training — at an Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga facility.

"The world has been slow to act," against ISIL, said VanDyke, who spoke from the Kurdish city of Erbil. "We don't have to seek approval from Congress. We just step in and help."
Just for shits & giggles, does anybody think Pat Robertson would consider a small donation to the cause?

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

For all you did with your life, you were always a Vulcan.

T'Ish hokni'es kwi'shoret

Fair dealing this time?

Many years ago I read a historical account of early white explorers describing the local natives smoking ritual which involved burning dried leaves and inhaling deeply and holding it in and after exhaling the smoker passed out. The white explorers were told that tobacco was source of the leaves, the seeds of which they took with them and began a worldwide industry. Personally I always thought those dudes were the first white men burned in a dope deal. Whatever the truth, modern Indians are exploring the benefits of supplying the real stuff to modern white dudes and anyone else interested.
After making hundreds of billions of dollars running casinos, American Indian tribes are getting a good whiff of another potential moneymaker: marijuana.

The first Tribal Marijuana Conference is set for Friday on the Tulalip Indian Reservation in Washington state as Indian Country gets ready to capitalize on the nation’s expanding pot industry.

Organizers said representatives from more than 50 tribes in at least 20 states have registered, with total attendance expected to surpass 300.

The gathering comes after the Obama administration announced late last year that it would not interfere with any federally recognized tribes that want to grow and sell pot on reservation lands – if they do a good job policing themselves.

The tribes would join the District of Columbia and four states – Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska – where voters already have approved marijuana for recreational use.

Robert Odawi Porter, one of the conference organizers and the former president of the Seneca Nation of Indians in New York, said tribes have “a tremendous economic diversification opportunity to consider” with marijuana commerce. He said the event would bring together “trailblazers” in the industry who will help tribal leaders understand the complex issues involved.

While it’s unknown how many tribes ultimately will seek to take advantage of the change, one analyst warned that any tribe expecting to hit the jackpot might be in for a surprise, particularly as the supply of legal pot in the U.S. increases.

“People keep forgetting it’s a competitive market,” said Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who served as Washington state’s top pot consultant. “And it’s cheap to grow.”

In Washington state, where retail pot stores opened in July, Kleiman said pot growers who sold their product for $21 a gram only a few months ago are now getting $4 a gram.

“The price of marijuana is the price of illegality,” he said.
The economics of weed may allow the white man to return the favor on this dope deal or it may provide a period of prosperity to the reservations until the rest of the country comes to its senses.

Know which way the shit flows

Thursday, February 26, 2015

When you go looking for an '80s cover band

Forming one around yourself and your friends is the best way to get what you want. Misterwives doing "Lullaby" from their EP Reflections.

Every "elephant" has its "mouse"

From the pen of David Horsey

Where are they when you need them

Despite an increasing avalanche of bullshit about "poor little oppressed Christians", when instances of actual attacks on Christians arise the Right Wing so-called Christians are remarkably silent.
Suspected Israeli nationalists set fire to a Christian seminary in Jerusalem and vandalized an elementary school in Nablus on Thursday, officials said. The attacks, which came a day after a similar group burned a mosque near Bethlehem, have been characterized as hate crimes by Israeli officials and "terrorism" by Palestinians.

According to local media reports, the assailants poured flammable liquid into a bathroom window of the Greek Orthodox seminary and ignited it. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said "anti-Christian" slogans were scribbled in Hebrew on the seminary's walls — including “Jesus is a son of a whore” and “the redemption of Zion.”...

Shortly after the arson attack, Israeli settlers reportedly vandalized an elementary school in the West Bank village of Urif, south of Nablus. According to Ma'an News, the settlers, who hail from the nearby Yizhar settlement, scrawled a Star of David along with the words “Death to Arabs” on the building’s entrance.

The latest spate of provocations by Israeli nationalists against Palestinians appeared to have started Wednesday, when settlers vandalized and set fire to a mosque in the village of Al-Jaba’ah. The attackers reportedly broke the windows of the sanctuary and threw burning objects inside, after spray-painting the words “Revenge for the Land of Zion” and “Price Tag” on its exterior.

Mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases have been targeted by vandals in recent years in so-called "price tag" attacks. The phrase is used by Israeli nationalists to protest what they perceive as the Israeli government's pro-Palestinian policies.
An obvious case of Israeli thugs attempting to oppress Christians in the Holy Land. Where are all those brave American Defenders of the Faith when we need them?

It's worse in Syria thanks to DAESH.

The Mexican government is pissed off

And rightly so. When you have had a peaceful relationship with your neighbor for over 100 years, you don't expect your citizens to be in hazard of their lives when they are in the other country. Unfortunately, the Mexican administration has been counting the number of its citizens being killed by IS LEO's and decided that enough is enough!
For the second time in barely two weeks, Mexico has reacted angrily to the killing of an unarmed Mexican immigrant by municipal police officers in the United States.

Mexico’s Foreign Secretariat issued a statement Wednesday condemning the Grapevine, Texas, police department for the fatal shooting of a Mexican national, Rubén García Villalpando, 31, on Friday and complaining that the police department had waited four days before notifying the Mexican consulate in Dallas of his death.

The statement called the delay a “notorious violation” of a global 1963 treaty that orders nations to notify other states promptly when one of its citizens is slain.

García’s death at the hands of Grapevine police occurred 10 days after police in Pasco, Wash., fatally shot another Mexican immigrant, Antonio Zambrano Montes, sparking street protests and fears of another “Ferguson moment” over alleged police abuse of minorities.

Neither Garcia nor Zambrano was armed.

Mexico is growing increasingly vehement in its protests of what it calls “disproportionate use of force” by law enforcement officers in the United States against immigrants.

At the request of McClatchy Newspapers, a Foreign Secretariat spokesman, Salvador Musalem Santiago, issued a tally that said 75 Mexicans have been slain by law enforcement in the United States since Jan. 1, 2006.

He said agents of the U.S. Border Patrol had killed 26 Mexicans. The rest were slain by local or state police or highway patrol officers, or other law enforcement agencies, he noted.

In only nine cases have Mexican relatives been offered compensation for the fatal shootings, Musalem said.
75 in nine years is a lot, even if they come from a hot bed of criminality like Israel or Russia. About the only positive from this is that the majority of the victims were actually in the United States at the time they were shot.

Just A Reminder

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A couple of Brooklyn cowgirls

The Sweetback Sisters sing "I Got Lucky"

What he doesn't know won't hurt him

Because the Evil Koch Owned Homunculus Scott Walker has adopted a stand of never letting anyone push him from his carefully crafted positions. The result is a "Sgt. Schultz" response to questions outside his comfort zone.
Mr. Walker has won three statewide elections by framing positions on his own terms, and rarely allowing himself to be pushed off his talking points.

“He’s deeply suspicious of a press trying to pull him into an area where he doesn’t want to go,” said John Sharpless, a former Republican congressional candidate in Wisconsin.

The question now as Mr. Walker has vaulted to the top tier of the Republican Party’s potential presidential candidates is whether his consistency is a form of message discipline, or an inflexibility that hides an awkwardness when forced to react under pressure and on his feet.

A presidential campaign is a nonstop barrage of questioning from reporters, debate moderators and voters. Perceived slip-ups are magnified and distorted. When Mr. Walker visited London recently and said he would “punt” when asked if he believed in evolution, it was international news. After he refused to condemn Rudolph W. Giuliani’s claim that the president does not love America, made at a dinner Mr. Walker attended, the flap metastasized and followed Mr. Walker for days.

“In the scheme of things, these are all misdemeanors in media management,” said Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review. “If he stumbles on more important stuff, the cut has been created where the media can open more of a wound and say there’s a narrative here, the guy’s not ready for prime time.”

So far the attention, and the impression among conservatives that Mr. Walker is being hounded by the mainstream media, has only played to his benefit. His support jumped to 25 percent in a Quinnipiac University poll of likely Iowa caucusgoers released Wednesday, more than twice as high as his closest rival.

In Wisconsin, opponents have learned through unhappy experience not to underestimate Mr. Walker’s ability to respond to unwelcome questions by pivoting back to his core issues of limited government, personal freedom and the harm of unions, all of which have resonated with voters.
As slippery as goose shit, as dishonest as Karl Rove and very well financed. Scott Walker is the turd that floats to the top if we let him.

With all his other books

From the pen of Lee Judge.

Sweep it under the rug

The Republican Party
having made torture part of the Great American Exceptionalism, is using their control of the US Senate to cover up and maintain the secrets of their abomination.
When the Senate Intelligence Committee released the much anticipated executive summary of the full report on the CIA’s torture program on Dec. 9, details of techniques like extreme sleep deprivation and anal rehydration gripped the country.

Now the committee’s new Republican chairman is trying to make sure that disclosure is its last.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., took over as the committee’s chairman in January, after the GOP midterm landslide gave control of the Senate to the Republicans. An intelligence hawk, he has quickly moved to keep documents related to the CIA’s interrogation program out of the public eye and the Intelligence Committee under tight control.

That has angered many critics who say that GOP control of the vital committee is a blow to transparency and will lead to greater secrecy around such controversial government policies...

On Dec. 10, then–Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein sent a copy of the full torture report, which is still classified, to President Barack Obama and to seven other top executive branch officials involved with national security. “The full report should be made available within the CIA and other components of the executive branch for use as broadly as appropriate to help make sure that this experience is never repeated,” she said in her cover letter to Obama, which asked him to use the full report in future CIA training programs.

Burr disagreed. Shortly after he took over as committee chairman, he sent an unusual letter to Obama asking him to return all copies of the full report. Burr referred Feinstein to the Senate parliamentarian for allegedly violating Intelligence Committee rules when she sent the full report to the executive branch. The parliamentarian cleared Feinstein of wrongdoing, but Burr was undeterred. “We’ll proceed to whatever the next step is gonna’ be,” he recently told The Huffington Post. “I think there will be a next step, but it probably won’t be a public one.”

A representative for Feinstein directed Al Jazeera to a press release in which she said, “I strongly disagree that the administration should relinquish copies of the full committee study, which contains far more detailed records than the public executive summary.”
And let us not think this is a mere partisan battle in Congress.Those familiar with the full extent of the CIA torture do not mince their words.
“The people who were involved in the program, who were its architects and implementers, have an understandable desire to minimize all of this — to seek to prevent a full discussion and perhaps a full awareness of the report,” said Alberto Mora, a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights, who argued against harsh interrogation tactics as general counsel for the Navy from 2001 to 2006.

“Most of us were staggered by the degree of brutality [in the summary] and the precision with which it was depicted,” he said. “That’s why I say it strips away the façade of the interrogation not being torture, which was the claim by the apologists for that particular practice.”
But the Republican Party, which has adopted electoral and legislative techniques of the Bolsheviks of a hundred years ago, want us to fully embrace our inner Dzerzhinsky as well. It works so well when you know what you want to get.

A Legend In His Own Mind

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

They should be Homer Simpson's favorite band

For the name only. The Dø (pronounced doh) in their video of "Despair, Hangover & Ecstasy" from their third album Shake Shook Shaken.

Rudi can measure his love

From the pen of Jim Morin

In only three days

The new lieutenant managed to so alienate his platoon that they testified against him at his trial for the murder of Afghan citizens. That is one fucked up officer.
As he tells it, First Lt. Clint Lorance, the platoon leader, ordered his men to fire just seconds before the motorcycle bore down on them that July day in 2012. But the Afghans were unarmed, and two died. The next year, Lieutenant Lorance was found guilty at a court-martial of second-degree murder, one of the few times an American soldier has been convicted of a crime for actions in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. He is serving a 19-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

But the case is far from over. Mr. Lorance, who was dismissed from the Army, has become a cause célèbre for conservative commentators, including Sean Hannity of Fox News, who say the Obama administration punished a soldier for trying to defend his troops. Three Republican representatives — Duncan Hunter of California, Matt Salmon of Arizona and Ryan Zinke of Montana — have asked the secretary of the Army to review the case. And more than 124,000 people have signed a petition to the White House demanding a pardon.

“The warfighter doesn’t always have the benefit of time, given lives are always at risk in a war zone,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter, sent in January, saying the case “deserves a high level of attention and scrutiny.”

That chorus of supporters, however, is notable for what it lacks: members of the platoon itself.

Though many members of the platoon have never publicly expressed their views of the case, nine came forward to testify against Mr. Lorance at his trial, and in interviews several of those soldiers have contradicted Mr. Lorance’s account of a split-second decision to protect his troops. The picture those soldiers paint is of a young lieutenant who, during just three days in command, ordered soldiers to fire repeatedly on unarmed Afghans, tried to falsify reports in order to cover up his actions and so alienated and outraged his troops that they refused to follow orders and turned him in.

“War is hard, there is collateral damage. I get that — I’ve got my own stories,” Staff Sgt. Daniel Williams said in an interview. But Sergeant Williams, who was on his third tour in Afghanistan and was a squad leader in the platoon, added, “That’s not what this was; this was straight murder.”
Who you gonna believe?

Love your gun? Like to shoot bad guys?

Well then there just might be a place for you in the Peshmerga. While the press has gone on about the attraction of DAESH to Muslim youth and others, little has been said about the same attraction of the Pesh. While it is true the Pesh has not utilized the social media to the extent that DAESH has, people who want to fight for what they believe is right have found their way to northern Iraq.
The so-called Islamic State has recruited copious cannon fodder from around the world, along with quite a few ferocious fighters. But its toughest opponents on the ground, the Kurds of Iraq and Syria, are attracting Western ex-soldiers for their ranks who are determined to see the self-proclaimed “caliphate” not only “degraded,” as Washington puts it, but destroyed.

At a Kurdish Peshmerga base on the fluid battle lines outside the ethnically and religiously mixed Iraqi city of Kirkuk, three American fighters sat down with The Daily Beast. We were less than half a mile from the black flags of ISIS, as the would-be Islamic State is widely known, and the soldiers asked that I not give too many details about their identities. They worry that their families could become special targets for a fanatical fighting force whose battlefields, like its targets, seem limitless.

Dressed in a Peshmerga uniform, Jeremy is a compact, affable 28-year-old-guy from Mississippi who fought with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. He’s been fighting alongside the Pesh for the last six months.

Leo is a tall and direct 38-year-old Texan who worked security for private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mel’s background also is in military security contracting and he says he served for a while with an army from a European country, but he won’t specify which. Mel’s a little eccentric. At 41, the Colorado native sports a pair of carefully pointed canine teeth—fangs, in fact— and a goatee that gives off a strong goth-metal vibe.

For two months Leo and Mel have been with the Peshmerga, the erstwhile guerrilla army that now makes up the autonomous armed forces of Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government, and both are dressed in the gray flannel shirts and cargo pants often associated with private security contractors, but they and Jeremy all claim to be volunteers who are not receiving any kind of salary...

The three men say their main assignments are guarding high-ranking Kurdish military officials and transporting jihadist prisoners in Peshmerga custody. It’s work Mel and Leo became well accustomed to when hired as contractors in earlier American wars. Here, Mel says he’s transported ISIS prisoners that come from Chechnya, Ireland, France, Germany, the UK, The U.S. and Canada, but maintains he is barred from speaking with them and has no idea what happens once they are handed over to Kurdish guards.

The three say, without specifics, they have received U.S. assurances they won’t be prosecuted when returning home, but that to be sure requires dealing with a lot of government clearances and maintaining a low profile. According to Jeremy, a lot of his ex-Army buddies are itching to get to Iraq and join the anti-ISIS fight, but he says many have been blocked because they make those plans public on social media.

The three say they have no interest in internal Kurdish politics and that even their sympathies for the Kurdish national struggle are secondary to their goal of contributing to the defeat of ISIS. They doubt the capabilities or commitment of the Iraqi Army and see the Kurds as the first defense against the spread of an American enemy.
With no salary the whole thing is tax free. And don't worry if you have no military experience. Enlist in the US Army now and learn the trade, they will still be fighting when your enlistment is up. You can join them then, just be quiet about it.

How to guarantee failure

At least, the failure of the legitimate purpose of detention centers. If you believe, as the corporations running them do, that the people in detention centers are there solely for the maximum profits of those in charge then it may not be a failure, until the policies create a riot.
At least 300 inmates were transferred from a Texas prison on Monday after a riot broke out in the facility — which holds mostly immigrants detained for crossing into the United States illegally — leaving it "uninhabitable," according to authorities.

The prisoners were protesting inadequate medical services, which — along with cruel treatment and sexual abuse — has been a common complaint in private prisons housing undocumented immigrants, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other rights groups.

Icy conditions caused delays with the transfer of more than 2,000 others from the federal prison, local media reported.

The uprising, or “unrest” as prison officials called it, began early Friday at the Willacy County Correctional Center — operated by private prison company Management & Training Corp (MTC) on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Privately-held MTC's 10-year contract with the federal government is worth about half a billion dollars.

The facility is located about 40 miles from the Mexico border in Raymondville, Texas, and has been nicknamed Ritmo, or Raymondville's Guantanamo, for its "crammed and squalid" conditions.

Two-hundred inmates are packed into each Kevlar dome, the tent-like structures that serve as housing, with no privacy between beds or in the bathrooms where toilets and showers are open without partitions, the ACLU said in a 2014 report entitled "Warehoused and Forgotten."

Insects and spiders crawl through holes in the tents and bite detainees. Toilets frequently overflow, and the water was shut off for days in 2012 after it started to look yellowish-green, according to the report. Authorities gave inmates bottled water two days later.

Prisoners refused to come to breakfast or report for work on Friday in protest of what they said was inadequate medical service at the prison. Inmates broke out of housing structures and converged in the recreation yard, setting fire to several Kevlar domes.
The policies may have failed but the taxpayers will foot the bill for the necessary LEO's to end the trouble and there will be no worries about the contract being cancelled. The corporations involved have too many friends for that to happen.

You make me look bad, I will crush you

And when the one looking bad, regardless of how stupid, incompetent or bad intentioned the cause, is the US government you can consider your self officially and royally screwed. Everybody, including the government, makes mistakes, but the government is too big to take correction willingly.
Thomas Drake became a symbol of the dangers whistleblowers face when they help journalists and Congress investigate wrongdoing at intelligence agencies. He claims he was subjected to a decade of retaliation by the National Security Agency that culminated in his being charged with espionage.

But when the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office opened an inquiry into the former senior NSA official’s allegations of retaliation in 2012, it looked at only two of the 10 years detailed in his account, according to a recently released Pentagon summary of the probe, before finding no evidence of retaliation. That finding ended Drake’s four-year effort to return to government service.

Whistleblower advocates say Drake’s experience, spelled out in a document McClatchy obtained this month through the Freedom of Information Act, underscores the problem that intelligence and defense workers face in bringing malfeasance to the surface. The agencies that are supposed to crack down on retaliation are not up to the task, especially when the alleged wrongdoing involves classified information, they charge.

“This report epitomizes the utter lack of protection for national security whistleblowers,” said Jesselyn Radack, Drake’s attorney. “This is a pathetic, anemic excuse for an investigation.”

Although investigators appear to have rejected Drake’s claims almost a year ago, the Pentagon Inspector General’s Office did not publicly disclose its findings and hadn’t shared them even with Drake’s attorneys. McClatchy gave the attorneys a copy of the report.

The news of the rejection comes as McClatchy has learned that the same officials who are supposed to be helping whistleblowers such as Drake claim that they themselves have been forced to blow the whistle on their own office.
The government has become too big for the caliber of people put in charge of them and when their mistakes are exposed someone (else) is going to pay for them. And any real attempt to change this would resultr in a government agency as big as and as prone to mistakes as any currently existing. Just going to have to grin and bear it.

The politics of misdirection

Monday, February 23, 2015

Having toiled so many years as a songwriter

It is no wonder that Carole King had no bad songs on her albums."Jazzman" has long been one of my favorites although it was not on the Tapestry album, the cover of which you see on the screen.

B.I.H. John C. Willke

The nasty old sparrowfart who didn't like abortions and decided to make every woman obey his beliefs. Lived 89 years because even God didn't want him.

Oh, Snap Judgement

Tom Tomorrow

Education is the vaccine

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

Quote of the Day

I feel sorry for Rudy that he can't love this country the way it is. I love America even with assholes like him living in it. In fact, I'm immensely proud of our assholes; I think America has the best assholes in the world. I defy the Belgians or the Japanese to produce something like a Donald Trump. If that makes me an exceptionalist, I plead guilty.
Matt Taibbi, writing about Rudi Giuliani

The latest state right

Of all the "states rights" alleged to be guaranteed by the Constitution, the latest one to appear is also the most venal and corrupt. As more and more states fall under the evil umbra of Republican/Teabagger administrations, cities and towns find they no longer have any rights if they offend the corporate "citizens" who bought and paid for their state government.
His salvo caught Texas cities by surprise. But pre-empting the power of local governments is becoming a standard part of the legislative playbook in many states where Republicans who control statehouses are looking to block or overturn the actions of leaders, and even voters, in municipalities that are often more liberal.

So-called pre-emption laws, passed in states across the country, have banned cities from regulating landlords, building municipal broadband systems and raising the minimum wage. In the last two years, eight Republican-dominated states, most recently Alabama and Oklahoma, have prevented cities from enacting paid sick leave for workers. Already this year, bills introduced in six more states, including Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina, seek to do the same. At least five states have pre-empted local regulation of e-cigarettes. And in New Mexico, the restaurant industry supports a modest increase to the minimum wage only if the state stops cities from mandating higher minimums.

Often these efforts are driven by industry, which finds it easier to wield influence in 50 capitols than in thousands of city halls, said Mark Pertschuk, the director of Grassroots Change, which opposes the pre-emption of public health measures.

The strategy was pioneered by tobacco companies 30 years ago to override local smoking bans. It was perfected by the National Rifle Association, which has succeeded in preventing local gun regulations in almost every state.

More recently, the restaurant industry is leading the fight to block municipalities from increasing the minimum wage or enacting paid sick leave ordinances in more than a dozen states, including Florida, Oklahoma and Louisiana. “Businesses are operating in an already challenging regulatory environment,” said Scott DeFife, the head of government affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “The state legislature is the best place to determine wage and hour law. This is not the kind of policy that should be determined jurisdiction by jurisdiction.”
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

This year, a combination of big money in state politics and a large number of first-time state legislators presents an opportunity for industries interested in getting favorable laws on the books, Mr. Pertschuk said. Increasingly, he said, disparate industries are banding together to back the same laws, either through the business-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, or by way of shared lobbyists. “There is going to be a feeding frenzy all year long in the state legislatures,” he said.
The corporations now have the whip hand as their bought and paid for stooges fall over themselves in an attempt to please their masters. And the damage will be so great it will take years of grown up legislation to repair the damage, if the voters give the grownups a chance.

With friends like these...

The Kurds have never been friends with the Iraqis despite the propinquity of their lives in the northern part of that country. Still, they are willing to work with the Iraq Army to fight the DAESH, if there is really an Iraqi Army.
Major Deliar Shouki, the commander of a string of Kurdish fire bases less than 20 miles from Mosul, admitted he was skeptical when he’d heard the news last week that a U.S. official had told Pentagon reporters that 25,000 Iraqi troops would attack the Islamic State-held city perhaps as soon as April.

“There really is no Iraqi army, so I don’t know where they get the idea that they can train 25,000 soldiers in two months to fight house to house in Mosul,” he said on Friday as he gave a visiting journalist a tour of his men’s positions on the outskirts of the tiny hamlet of Sultan Abdullah, which lies about midway between Mosul and the Kurdish capital of Irbil...

“It just seems to me like the Iraqi [Arabs] lack a certain morale to be soldiers, and I don’t want to directly accuse them of anything, but every time they fight Daash, they lose ground and equipment that ends up being used against us,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “It’s very suspicious and I don’t think they want to fight them.”...

Over a hot lunch of chicken and eggplant brought to the base by a local family as a thank you to the troops, the commanders of this section of the front line dismissed the notion that any major operation led by the central government in Baghdad to recapture Mosul is imminent.

“The Arabs can’t take Tikrit and Bayji,” laughed one, referring to two much smaller cities held by the Islamic State. “There is no Iraqi army, just Shiite militias.”
The politics of the region require us to minimize our support of what is probably the only force that can succeed against DAESH. And maximize our support for the force that will require endless support.

Another childhood myth shattered

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I was rummaging through some files

And found some Leftover Cuties who were Jammin' In The Van. They were doing "Should Have Left You" from their album of the same name.

Some extremists the DHS report missed

From the pen of Brian McFadden

R.I.P. Clark Terry

Behind the mumbles was a joyful practitioner of jazz trumpet.

They were buying and he was selling

And how difficult can it be to put a scientific imprimatur on junk science most likely dictated by your employer? The full extent of the employment of Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, by the fossil fuel industry to sow doubt and confusion about climate change is just coming to light.
One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

Though Dr. Soon did not respond to questions about the documents, he has long stated that his corporate funding has not influenced his scientific findings.

The documents were obtained by Greenpeace, the environmental group, under the Freedom of Information Act. Greenpeace and an allied group, the Climate Investigations Center, shared them with several news organizations last week.

The documents shed light on the role of scientists like Dr. Soon in fostering public debate over whether human activity is causing global warming. The vast majority of experts have concluded that it is and that greenhouse emissions pose long-term risks to civilization.

Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.

Fossil-fuel interests have followed this approach for years, but the mechanics of their activities remained largely hidden.

“The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University and the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a book about such campaigns. “Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater.”
And he didn't even have to be right when he delivered, just create enough confusion to say that all the other science might be wrong. Still, he does seem to have sold himself rather cheaply considering the resources backing him.

Texas thinks it is public information

The railroads shipping crude oil on the tracks through your town believe that the shipping information is private and confidential. Others, including many people like fire fighters believe that they should know so they can be prepared. On Thursday the Texas Attorney General agreed with the public.
In a four-page letter dated Thursday, the attorney general’s office dismissed those arguments and said the state “must release the submitted information.”

A spokeswoman for Kansas City Southern Railway, which had sought to block the release of the information, could not immediately be reached for comment.

McClatchy requested information about crude oil trains from more than 20 states, including Texas, last year in an effort to track the potential dangers from oil shipments, which have skyrocketed from fewer than 10,000 trains in 2008 to more than 500,000 last year as U.S. production of crude oil from fracking boomed.

Railroads initially asked state officials to keep the information confidential and limit its disclosure to local emergency responders, but most of the states ultimately agreed to make the documents public. One notable exception is West Virginia, where a crude oil train derailed and exploded on Monday.

In October, the Federal Railroad Administration issued guidance that the reports, which show the estimated number of trains per week and their routes, was not sensitive to either commercial interests or security. In its letter, the Texas Attorney General’s office agreed that the companies had offered no evidence to support their claims that releasing the information would hurt their business.

“Under review,” Texas assistant attorney general Cristian Rosas-Grillet wrote, “we find (Kansas City Southern) has failed to demonstrate the release of any of its information would result in substantial harm to its competitive position.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation began requiring railroads to report large shipments of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to other states last May, following the derailment of a CSX train in Lynchburg, Va., that resulted in a spill, fire and evacuation. The derailment this week near Mount Carbon, W.Va., also on a CSX rail line, resulted in a fire that burned for four days and kept more than 100 residents out of their homes. All but a few were allowed to return Friday.
Now you too can know when you hear that train whistle blow, grab your bag and get ready to go.

Is He your Savior?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Talented, young and prolific

The Söderberg sisters, Johanna & Klara, singing and playing as First Aid Kit should keep us entertained for a long time. This is "Wolf" from their 2012 album The Lions Roar.

We must endeavor to perservere

From the pen of Adam Zyglis

Work'em til they drop, they're expendable

Workers at the bottom of the food chain are fairly easy to replace so while they are still alive, many employers are doing all they can to "maximize their productivity".
Employees are literally losing sleep as restaurants, retailers and many other businesses shrink the intervals between shifts and rely on smaller, leaner staffs to shave costs. These scheduling practices can take a toll on employees who have to squeeze commuting, family duties and sleep into fewer hours between shifts. The growing practice of the same workers closing the doors at night and returning to open them in the morning even has its own name: “clopening.”

“It’s very difficult for people to work these schedules, especially if they have other responsibilities,” said Susan J. Lambert, an expert on work-life issues and a professor of organizational theory at the University of Chicago. “This particular form of scheduling — not enough rest time between shifts — is particularly harmful.”

The United States decades ago moved away from the standard 9-to-5 job as the manufacturing economy gave way to one dominated by the service sector. And as businesses strive to serve consumers better by staying open late or round the clock, they are demanding more flexibility from employees in scheduling their hours, often assigning them to ever-changing shifts.

Workers and labor advocates are increasingly protesting these scheduling practices, which often include giving workers as little as two days’ advance notice for their weekly work schedule. These concerns have gained traction and translated into legislative proposals in several states, with proponents enviously pointing to the standard adopted for workers in the 28-nation European Union. It establishes “a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours per 24-hour period.”

Britain, Germany and several other countries interpret that to require that workers be given at least 11 hours between shifts, although waivers are permitted. “If a retail shop closes at midnight, the night-shift employees are not allowed to start before 11 o’clock the next morning,” said Gerhard Bosch, a sociology professor and expert on labor practices at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

In the United States, no such national or state labor law or regulation governs the intervals between shifts, except for some particular jobs like airline pilots, although some unions have negotiated a minimum time for workers to be off, sometimes eight, 10 or 12 hours.
Imagine how much fun flying would be if pilots were treated like your local taco slinger?

This should please every one

It just matters which new source you consider when you seek enlightenment. On the Raw Story news site the headline was,
New US Defense Secretary considering quicker withdrawal from Afghanistan
And if you were to cruise over to Al-Jazeera you would find this headline.
US considering slowing exit from Afghanistan
Supposedly we will remove all the troops by 2016, we will simply be changing their scheduled withdrawal dates to accommodate the new government. Faster or slower really means very little because come the end time in 2016, there will be a new argument to drag out heels. We aren't ready to give up the Empire just yet.

UPDATE: The consensus among "reliable" news sources like the WaPo & the NYT is that we will slow down the withdrawal. The new Afghan government is no more capable of defending itself than the old one. Not really surprising.

Let's End The Hy-Pot-Crisy

Bill Maher says its time for rational thought about marijuana.

Sometimes the obvious IS the reality

Friday, February 20, 2015

A roots band from Dublin

I Draw Slow has a sound that makes you wonder which roots. Singing "Valentine" from their most recent album White Wave Chapel. And yes, that is Littlefinger in the video.

Is this why you can't trust a Bush?

From the pen of Nick Anderson

Are North Koreans the new Blacks?

With nothing else of any value in that poor benighted country, Glorious Massa Kim Jong Pudge has taken to renting out his citizens for his fun and profit.
For decades, North Korea has been accused of sending workers abroad and of confiscating most of their wages. But in the years since Kim Jong-un took over as leader, human rights researchers say, the program has expanded rapidly as international sanctions have squeezed the country’s other sources of foreign currency, like illicit trading in missile parts.

A 2012 study by the North Korea Strategy Center, a group in Seoul that works with North Korean defectors, and the private Korea Policy Research Center estimated that 60,000 to 65,000 North Koreans were working in more than 40 countries, providing the state with $150 million to $230 million a year. That number has since grown to 100,000, human rights researchers said.

“North Korea is exploiting their labor and salaries to fatten the private coffers of Kim Jong-un,” said Ahn Myeong-chul, head of NK Watch, a human rights group in Seoul. “We suspect that Kim is using some of the money to buy luxury goods for his elite followers and finance the recent building boom in Pyongyang that he has launched to show off his leadership.”

In a report published late last year, the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies said that the revenue from overseas workers helped the North Korean government bypass international sanctions, which have been tightened in recent years.

“Earnings are not sent back as remittances, but appropriated by the state and transferred back to the country in the form of bulk cash,” it said, noting that sanctions ban the transfer of bulk cash to the Pyongyang government. “Returning workers also act as mules to carry hard currency earnings back to North Korea.”

NK Watch has collected the testimony of 13 former North Korean workers now living in South Korea, in support of a petition to the United Nations asking for an investigation into what it calls “state-sponsored slavery.” The petition, to be filed next month to the United Nations’ special rapporteur on contemporary slavery, said the migrants worked a minimum of 12 hours a day, were given a few days off a year, and commonly received only 10 percent of their promised pay, or none at all.
Why are they complaining? They are getting 3 hots and a cot in return for the joy of supporting Glorious Leader and his glorious new hair cut. That is so much more than they get at home.

Johnny Boom-Boom giving public lands to foreign corps

The Not Really Honorable Senator from Arizona
has quietly arranged for a land swap of public park lands for other lands owned by a massive foreign owned mining conglomerate. It is a bad deal for everyone, including Apaches for whom some of the land is sacred. Everyone that is except Resolution Copper, a joint venture owned by Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.
On the nearby San Carlos Apache reservation, many consider Oak Flat to be sacred, ancestral land – the home of one of their gods and the site of traditional Apache ceremonies.

But Oak Flat also sits on top of one of the world’s largest deposits of copper ore. Resolution Copper Mining, a subsidiary of British-Australian mining conglomerate Rio Tinto, has sought ownership of the land for a decade, lobbying Congress to enact special legislation on its behalf more than a dozen times since 2005.

Year after year the bills failed to pass. But in December, the legislation was was quietly passed into law as part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has long championed the deal, said the land exchange would “maintain the strength of the most technologically advanced military in the world” since copper is the second-most-utilized mineral by the Department of Defense.

As part of the deal, Resolution Copper will swap roughly 7.8 square miles of land scattered across Arizona for roughly 3.8 square miles of Tonto National Forest, which includes Oak Flat. The new legislation will open up Oak Flat for copper mining.

But critics say the move allows the company to privatize the land and make an end run around critical environmental and cultural protections. What’s more Resolution Copper can’t promise that any of the copper produced by the mine will remain in the United States – which raises the question: How does this help national defense?...

Under the terms of the land swap legislation, the company is required to work with the U.S. Forest Service to do an environmental impact study under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, but it is also guaranteed to get the land, no matter what the study shows.

Once the land is in private ownership, NEPA obligations no longer apply. The legislation specifies that the Resolution Copper will get the land within 60 days of the publication the environmental study, before the full NEPA process is completed, limiting the Forest Service’s ability to modify the company’s mining plans in the public interest.

“NEPA is a look-before-you-leap document. It’s an information-gathering law. So if you’ve already made the decision to give the land, then what’s the point?” said Roger Featherstone, director of the environmental group Arizona Mining Reform. “The whole study becomes meaningless.”

One of the most controversial components of Resolution Copper’s project centers on how the company plans to extract the copper. Eschewing a more traditional method of mining as too expensive, the company announced it will use a cheaper method called block cave mining, which will result in a crater two miles wide and up to 1,000 feet deep, destroying the surface of the land. Block cave mining will also generate nearly a cubic mile of mine waste, which the company proposes to leave on a parcel of Forest Service land, just outside the town of Superior.
Pillaging the land for fun and profit and when the damage is done, so long and thanks for all the fish.

The difficulties of a good government lie

One example of the difficulty of playing a big lie was recently shown in the exposure of a recent Russian government lie.
A heroic young ethnic Russian nurse, working the front lines of the war between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia separatists, was captured by the Ukrainians. After dragging her back to their camp and abusing her (in such a vile manner that the description is no more specific, though it is noted that “they recorded their fun on video”), one of the Ukrainian soldiers grabbed an ax and decapitated her.

The name of the heroic nurse is given on the “Aid for Donbas” page as Sasha Serova, and while they don’t give her age, they do run a photo showing a beautiful dark-haired woman, with surprisingly come-hither eyes.

Or not so surprising. The actual surprise was to Sasha Grey (in Russian, that would be Serova), the woman in the photo. Sasha Grey, though, is the adult-film star name for Marina Ann Hantzis. She lives in California, has made at least 171 porn films and her porn awards include Best Group Sex Scene in 2007 (with 19 others), Best Oral Sex scene in 2008 and Best Anal Sex scene in 2010. The German newspaper Die Welt headlined an article about her “The Dirtiest Girl in the World.” The article, in 2013, noted that she was retiring from the porn game at 25. She turns 27 next month.

When Grey saw the postings, and realized that she was the tragically murdered nurse, she noted on her Twitter account: “I love my Russian fans, but this propaganda takes it too far.”

While she once starred in a porno film called “Nurses,” which runs 197 minutes, she is still very much alive and intact. She’s even got a book out these days.
While she may be the sort of nurse you want when sick or injured, social media quickly exposed the lie. Nevertheless, the story will probably not die because there is a large segment of society these days that only sees what it wants to see.

What you pay for

Thursday, February 19, 2015

From the school known for basketball & Dick Nixon

Duke redeems itself by having given us Delta Rae. Perfoming "Bottom of the River"


From the pen of Stuart Carlson

Is all biotech bad?

Consider the latest plan to combat dengue fever and chikungunya in Florida. Using genetic modification, a British biotech company plans to release male mosquitos with a killer gene that will cause any larvae they spawn to self destruct. On the face of it a perfectly reasonable idea. Male mosquitos suck flowers so they could release a Billion of them without adding a single mosquito bite to the human population. And if the larvae are designed to die it eliminates a large segment of the next generation.So why would people afflicted by the mosquitos and the diseases they carry object?
Reports and statements by Oxitec and its academic and governmental collaborators say trials have reduced mosquitoes in targeted areas by an average of 90 percent. Individual results vary. In two Brazilian villages, reductions were 60 percent to 70 percent, said Danilo Carvalho, a biologist at the University of São Paulo.

But critics say Keys residents are being used as guinea pigs even though the area does not have a dengue problem now. They say questions persist despite numerous meetings with mosquito officials and scientists.

What happens if a person is bitten by a stray female mosquito (Oxitec said a tiny percentage get mixed in the release batch)? Nothing, Oxitec scientists say. What happens to the environment once the mosquitoes are introduced? Nothing, Oxitec scientists say. Who will be liable if something goes wrong with the mosquitoes? Oxitec, if caused by its actions or inaction, a company spokeswoman said.

“Based on the trials conducted, we’re confident that our mosquito is safe for humans, and would do no harm to the environment, as were the regulators who approved its use,” said Chris Creese, Oxitec’s communications director.

In other words, the DNA dies with the mosquito, said Derric Nimmo, Oxitec’s project development manager. “It is very species specific,” Mr. Nimmo added.

Residents say it is difficult to believe information from the company seeking to profit from the project, and their collaborators.

Phil Lounibos, a University of Florida professor of ecology and behavior, said the risks, in general, were “very, very low.” But, he added, “we don’t know all the answers, and Oxitec could do a better job of explaining it.”

Others agree that the danger is minimal. “If there were mosquito genes coming into humans, we would know about it now because there are millions of mosquitoes biting humans every single day,” said Anthony James, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of California, Irvine.

Still, residents say, a trial is an experiment.

“This is not the way to protect our community with an unproven and unprecedented experiment in the Florida Keys,” said Meagan Hull, a Key West resident. “The genie will be out of the bottle, and you can’t stuff it back in.”
Some skepticism of science is always necessary, but the deep mistrust displayed in Florida is almost as unhealthy as dengue and chikungunya.

Bernie won't settle for the same old, same old

And that is what separates Bernie Sanders from useless political hacks like Lyin' Paul Ryan. And in truth when has repeating the same tactics that failed before ever worked? From that simple truth Sen. Bernie Sanders goes forth to fight to change the economic future of the United States.
Sanders has used his position as a ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee to expound on his own vision for a political program. Last month, he put out a report advocating for a federal budget that would help “rebuild the disappearing middle class.”

Most of the policy initiatives suggested in that report — such as raising the minimum wage and boosting infrastructure spending — have been proposed before by Sanders and members of the Democratic Party. But the report also included a novel way of thinking about the federal deficit: Although Sanders said debt reduction is a worthy goal, he put far greater emphasis on reducing what he called the “other deficits in our society,” such as unemployment and income inequality.

That shift of emphasis — from an abstract, intangible economic indicator like the federal deficit to more concrete issues such as infrastructure and household income — appears to have been influenced in part by a heterodox strain of economics known as modern money theory (MMT). That school of economics has long been ignored by denizens of Capitol Hill, but it has plenty of adherents on the progressive left who are cheering Sanders's recent public statements...

MMT economists view money as something that is spent into existence by the state. The more money the government spends, the more money the private sector accumulates. When the government taxes in order to recoup some of that money, it does so not in order to generate revenue for itself, but to limit the supply of money and give it some stable value.

“If the government were spending $100 and recovering $90 of it by taxation, that’s leaving $10 somewhere in the economy,” Kelton told Al Jazeera. “And the question is, is that too much or too little? The way I would think about it is, the danger of putting too much into the economy and taxing out too little would result in inflationary pressures."

That’s not a danger that Kelton sees looming anytime soon. There is, she says, “a lot of slack in the economy,” which could be ameliorated through stimulative government spending on things like infrastructure and a more robust social safety net.
Needless to say, the Republican/Teabaggers don't think this way because it does include taxing their owners and does not provide the necessary quota of suffering for the poors. So for now, Bernie is just tilting at oil wells. But he is laying down markers for the future.

Bernie on Disability

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

That was then, this is now

Aimee Mann has come a long way from Til Tuesday and she is still singing and writing, lately with Ted Leo as The Both. This is "Labrador" from her most recent solo effort, Charmer.

Well trained little bitch

From the pen of Jeff Danziger

Who comes up with this Derp?

The latest fantasy of the gunhumpers is to allow guns on college campuses to deter rape. The concept, if you can call it that, does require the intended rapee to be willing and able to get the drop on the raper, something that is usually lacking in the real world. Then again, reality has never been a part of the gunhumpers world.
Support for so-called campus-carry laws had been hard to muster despite efforts by proponents to argue that armed students and faculty members could prevent mass shootings like the one at Virginia Tech in 2007. The carrying of concealed firearms on college campuses is banned in 41 states by law or by university policy. Carrying guns openly is generally not permitted.

But this year, lawmakers in 10 states who are pushing bills that would permit the carrying of firearms on campus are hoping that the national spotlight on sexual assault will help them win passage of their measures.

“If you’ve got a person that’s raped because you wouldn’t let them carry a firearm to defend themselves, I think you’re responsible,” State Representative Dennis K. Baxley of Florida said during debate in a House subcommittee last month. The bill passed.

The sponsor of a bill in Nevada, Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, said in a telephone interview: “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.”

In addition to those in Florida and Nevada, bills that would allow guns on campus have been introduced in Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.

Opponents contend that university campuses should remain havens from the gun-related risks that exist elsewhere, and that college students, with high rates of binge drinking and other recklessness, would be particularly prone to gun accidents.

Some experts in sexual assault said that college women were typically assaulted by someone they knew, sometimes a friend, so even if they had access to their gun, they would rarely be tempted to use it.

“It reflects a misunderstanding of sexual assaults in general,” said John D. Foubert, an Oklahoma State University professor and national president of One in Four, which provides educational programs on sexual assault to college campuses. “If you have a rape situation, usually it starts with some sort of consensual behavior, and by the time it switches to nonconsensual, it would be nearly impossible to run for a gun. Maybe if it’s someone who raped you before and is coming back, it theoretically could help them feel more secure.”
The idea does give comfort to those who cuddle with their guns but the reality is no one will let you go for your gun when they want to rape you. Rape is a dominance play and disarming you physically as well as psychologically is what its all about.

What makes a moderate rebel?

In the troubles in Syria, no one has any idea what a moderate rebel looks like.Part of the problem is that those in rebellion will work with anyone who can help them achieve their goal. And a former US envoy to Syria now says there is no such beast as a reliable moderate rebel.
Robert Ford was always one of the Syrian rebels’ loudest cheerleaders in Washington, agitating from within a reluctant administration to arm vetted moderates to fight Bashar Assad’s brutal regime.

In recent weeks, however, Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria who made news when he left government service a year ago with an angry critique of Obama administration policy, has dropped his call to provide weapons to the rebels. Instead, he’s become increasingly critical of them as disjointed and untrustworthy because they collaborate with jihadists.

The about-face, which is drawing murmurs among foreign policy analysts and Syrian opposition figures in Washington, is another sign that the so-called moderate rebel option is gone and the choices in Syria have narrowed to regime vs. extremists in a war that’s killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions.

On the heels of meetings with rebel leaders in Turkey, Ford explained in an interview this week why his position has evolved: Without a strong central command or even agreement among regional players that al Qaida’s Nusra Front is an enemy, he said, the moderates stand little chance of becoming a viable force, whether against Assad or the extremists. He estimated that the remnants of the moderate rebels now number fewer than 20,000. They’re unable to attack and at this point are “very much fighting defensive battles.”

In short: It makes no sense to keep sending help to a losing side.

“We have to deal with reality as it is,” said Ford, who’s now with the Middle East Institute in Washington. “The people we have backed have not been strong enough to hold their ground against the Nusra Front.”
Supporting a losing side is something we do well, I really don't see why he changed his mind.

The Science of the Munchies

Everyone who has ever smoked marijuana has experienced the munchies, the hunger that occurs even if you have recently stuffed your face. Now researchers at Yale University have done the science and know why that is.
Horvath's group studies brain circuits that control hunger and satiety. In 2011, German researcher Marco Koch joined the lab to study how marijuana interferes with the body's ability to feel satiated.

Koch hypothesized that the active ingredients in pot turn off a set of neurons in the hypothalamus that play a central role in inhibiting hunger. Those neurons are known as POMCs.

Koch was surprised to find that instead of the POMCs being turned off in the mice, the neurons appeared to be turned on even more.

"It made no sense," Horvath said.

At first Horvath wasn't sure Koch had collected the data correctly, but after further analysis he concluded that the initial findings were right.

"And then we started to get excited," he said.

To see what was going on, the researchers used a technique that allowed them to artificially turn off the POMCs in the brains of the mice. When they gave the mice the chemical marijuana after turning off the POMCs, the mice ate less.

Next they artificially boosted the action of the POMCs, and the mice ate much more.

"The question became, how can it be that the same neuron that promotes satiety starts to promote hunger when it is exposed to cannibinoids?" Horvath said.

Further study revealed that cannibinoids, the active agent in marijuana, can change what kind of chemical the POMC neurons release. When a mouse is drug-free, its POMCs release MSH, a chemical that suppresses appetite. But when you give the same mouse marijuana, its POMCs start to release the opioid beta-endorphin, which promotes hunger.

"The whole circuitry turns upside down," Horvath said.
Marijuana will do that to you. I am surprised that they resorted to using mice. I would have thought there were more than enough stoners on campus for all the marijuana research they could imagine.

Where your tax dollars go

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It must be fun coming up with a name for your group

But Emily Kate Boyd & Faye Petree seem to have fun making the music too. As Billie In The Woods they perform "Kitchen Conversation"

It worked once, why not try again

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

Deserving poors vs Undeserving poors

The history of public assistance
for those in need in this country has had its ups and downs through the years, but one point has remained constant. Any public assistance should only go to those who were deserving according to criteria that has shifted over time.
Assistance to needy Americans has grown at a gallop since the mid-1980s, giving a hand up to the disabled, the working poor and married couples with children. At the same time, though, government aid directed at the nation’s poorest individuals has shrunk.

“Most observers would think that the government should support those who have the lowest incomes the most, and provide less help to those with higher incomes,” Robert A. Moffitt, an economist at Johns Hopkins University, writes in a forthcoming article in the journal Demography. “But that is not the case.”

Mr. Moffitt found that government assistance for families whose incomes flutter just above the poverty line nearly doubled from 1983 to 2004 after taking inflation into account. The numbers look very different for those scraping along at the bottom, generally unemployed single mothers with children. Their benefits declined in real terms by about one-third.

During the Great Recession, assistance to the poorest briefly expanded but has since fallen back, he said, and there is no indication that the long-run trend is shifting.

“There’s been this emphasis on rewarding workers and people like the elderly or disabled who are considered ‘the deserving poor,’ ” said Mr. Moffitt, referring to a revival in recent decades of age-old attitudes toward those at the bottom of the economic ladder. “If you’re not working, the interpretation is that you’re not trying.”...

Experts emphasize that they do not want to pit one needy group against another. “The working poor deserve some help; there’s no way I want to cut any of that,” Mr. Moffitt of Johns Hopkins said. “But there’s a group here that’s being left out.”

Distinguishing between people who deserve public generosity and those who don’t dates to colonial times, but the idea has found powerful champions on both sides of the political divide, including Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the influential new Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The move away from giving more aid to those in abject poverty can be traced, in part, to the campaign to “end welfare as we know it,” promoted by President Bill Clinton during his 1992 presidential run and accomplished in 1996 when the system was overhauled.

The program he created, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, imposes time limits and work rules on recipients. And when a state’s allotted budget runs out, poor families are turned away.

“It got rid of welfare cheaters,” Sheldon Danziger, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, said of the Clinton-era changes. “But we forgot about people who want to work but can’t find anybody to hire them.”
Curiously, the concept of weeding out the undeserving originated with religious leaders who based their positions on moral grounds. Moral grounds that their Jesus would have condemned. It was the transfer of the burden to the wealthy of the community that made work a requirement. Work that was often impossible to find because of the actions of the wealthy. But by applying even the meanest of means testing to eliminate some of the burden, the wealthy or the state could wrap itself in sanctimonious self righteousness and sleep well at night.

A Marked Preference for self immolation

Republican/Teabaggers in Congress have been given an opportunity to re-do the Homeland Security funding bill without the contentious amendment on the President's executive order. A gold plated chance to save their asses and let the courts stop the President. And they responded with a hearty Hell No!
Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Federal District Court in Brownsville, Texas, ordered a halt to Mr. Obama’s executive actions late Monday, ruling that a coalition of 26 states had the legal grounds to challenge programs that would provide work permits to as many as five million people and protect them from deportation.

Republican lawmakers could argue that the federal courts will end up doing what the party is trying to do with its showdown over Homeland Security funding, potentially freeing Congress to fund the department without restrictions. But in a series of coordinated statements on Tuesday, Republican leaders in Congress and officials at conservative organizations showed no sign of relenting.

They said they would continue to hold up the money unless the Homeland Security funding bill included language that would stop the immigration programs. Republicans called on Senate Democrats to end a filibuster of that legislation.

”This ruling underscores what the president has already acknowledged publicly 22 times: He doesn’t have the authority to take the kinds of actions he once referred to as ‘ignoring the law’ and ‘unwise and unfair,’” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said in a statement. “Senate Democrats — especially those who’ve voiced opposition to the president’s executive overreach — should end their partisan filibuster of Department of Homeland Security funding.”
And so it is likely that the reactionary asshole wing of the Republican/Teabaggers will prevent the funding of the DHS at the same time said RA wing of the party is howling for the services of the DHS to be increased. And since the latest polls show that a majority of Americans know full well that the Republicans are to blame for this, all we can say is "Flame On" GOP, "Flame On"!

Boil that frog

R.I.P. Leslie Gore

1946 - 2015

Monday, February 16, 2015

From Beautiful Downtown Minnesota

Sarah Krueger sings "Better When You Are Around".

Digby gets it

And her post about the murder of a mother teaching her daughter to drive by some road raging asshole should really wake up the somnolent majority of this country.
There is no ability in this country to curb the kind of random violence that occurs every day among our own people for the most mundane of reasons, even when people are mowed down in movie theatres and armed lunatics shoot 1st graders by the dozens.

And yet I hear ridiculous crapola like this all day long on cable news networks, the worst of which on Fox and CNN are basically running snuff porn as often as possible and pimping the most hysterical ideas possible. Yesterday terrorism expert Bob Baer said on CNN that ISIS was "the worst pandemic of violence ever" and that it was inevitable that American lone wolves inspired by ISIS would attack us here: "I can see them coming."

Apparently if you are killed by a lone wolf ISIS misfit the death is worse than if you are killed by a miscreant with a gun who gets upset over a fender bender or a parking place. I don't know why that should be, especially since the latter is far more likely than the former.

I certainly understand why the Europeans are freaking out. They aren't used to random gun violence. And needless to say, the fact that Jews are being specifically targeted is extremely horrifying. Terrorism carries a special brand of fear due to its political motivation.

But the "lone wolf" threat in the US? Considering the threat we live with from our fellow "lone wolf" citizens every day, even from political violence, it ridiculously hysterical. Nobody bats an eye at abortion clinics being targeted for years on end. A couple of right wing lunatics gunned down police officers in Las Vegas with a political beef a few months back and we didn't launch a national crusade against it. We can't even sustain any alarm at kids shooting up kids in schools for longer than a couple of days. We hardly even report it anymore it's so old hat. If there's one nation on earth that knows how to keep calm and carry on in the face of random armed misfits gunning down strangers it's us.
We have been taught so long that the threat is Others that we are blind to the threat within ourselves.

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