Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Been around since the turn of the century

Hem is a Brooklyn based band that won't fit the labels. Nevertheless they turn out some fine music, like "Not California" from their album Funnel Cloud.

R.I.P. Robert Hite

Last surviving member of those Doolittle Raiders captured by the Japanese dies at age 95. One tough bird.

Pence says the bill isn't broke

But he is working with the same bigots who passed it in the first place to fix it. Which means that he has to fix a badly flawed law while appeasing the bigots who want the flaws.
Forced on the defensive by a growing backlash over a "religious freedom" law deemed discriminatory, Indiana's Gov. Mike Pence demanded Tuesday that legislation be delivered to his desk by the end of the week to clarify that the act would not allow anti-gay discrimination.

Pence said Tuesday he has been meeting with lawmakers "around the clock" to address concerns that the law will allow businesses to deny services to gays and lesbians.

The governor acknowledged that Indiana has a "perception problem" over the law but added that it has been "grossly mischaracterized" and defended it as a vehicle to protect religious liberty. "I don't believe for a minute that it was the intent of the General Assembly to create a license to discriminate," he said. "It certainly wasn't my intent."

The law signed by Pence last week prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Although the legal language does not specifically mention gays and lesbians, critics say the law is designed to protect businesses and individuals who do not want to serve LGBT people. For example, it may allow florists or caterers to refuse to provide services for a same-sex couple planning a wedding.

Lawmakers in Indiana have come under increasing pressure over the law.
Mike Pence is learning the cost of letting the crazies have their way, but the damage has been done. All the fixing in the world will just remind the world of how wrong it was and still is.

Will Indiana Now Go All The Way?

The good old days were so much fun.

New Tourism Ad For Indiana

From Funny or Die

Monday, March 30, 2015

A little traveling music

Lisa Hannigan performing "Passenger" from the album of the same name.

Worst Case Scenario

In which the ever intrepid Tom Tomorrow lays out how it might be possible for Ted Cruz to be elected president.

Keeping it under control

From the pen of Signe Wilkinson

Just another way to milk the poor dry

People go to prison as punishment
, that is not in question, what is in question is the cruel punishments visited on their families who try to maintain contact with their loved ones. Talking to them should be one of the easiest ways but thanks to the spirit of "free enterprise" it has become for many the most expensive.
Until the 1990s, inmates could place and receive calls to lawyers and family members at rates similar to those outside prison walls. But the prison phone system is now a $1.2 billion-a-year industry dominated by a few private companies that manage phones in prisons and jails in all 50 states, setting rates and fees far in excess of those established by regular commercial providers. The business is so considerable — some 500 million prison and jail phone calls totaling more than six billion minutes in 2014 — that it has caught the eye of private equity firms.

Now, after years of complaints from prison-rights groups and families of the incarcerated, the Federal Communications Commission is investigating the financial intricacies of the industry, which has been largely unregulated.

At the core of the inquiry are the hundreds of millions of dollars in concession fees, known as commissions, paid by the phone companies to state and local prison systems in exchange for exclusive contracts. The fees help drive phone charges as high as $1.22 per minute, and the leading companies say they need to charge at least 20 cents per minute, compared with typical commercial rates of about 4 cents a minute.

In 2013, a total of $460 million in concession fees was paid to jails and prisons, and to state, county and local governments, according to the F.C.C. The fees are legal, and they cover a range of expenses within prisons as well as outside.

The agency is expected to rule this year on whether to ban the concession fees and limit the costs of prison phone calls.

An analysis released in 2013 by the F.C.C. said the fees “have caused inmates and their friends and families to subsidize everything from inmate welfare to salaries and benefits, states’ general revenue funds and personnel training.”

It added, “The companies compete not based on price or service quality, but on the size of the commission.”

The possibility of eliminating the fees has met fierce opposition from prisons and jails, sheriff’s departments and local officials. Some law enforcement groups have said changes could stoke inmate violence against prison guards because there might be less money for security.
Fierce opposition means they will fight to the death to protect their gravy trains. And it must be one heck of a train if private equity vultures are becoming interested. And all this on the backs of families that can ill afford this vicious gouging. If they could afford it they would have paid a good lawyer to keep their loved one out of jail.

Pity the poor mortgage bankers

After being forced by their management to crank out as many mortgages as possible, regardless of quality, and then have to foreclose on so many of them that the system became hopelessly clogged, now have the joy of watching homeowners keep their homes without further payments. It seems that mortgage foreclosures are subject to a statute of limitations in some of the worst hit states that require any foreclosure not presented within the time period since default to be dismissed.
There are tens of thousands of homeowners who have missed more than five years of mortgage payments, many of them clustered in states like Florida, New Jersey and New York, where lenders must get judges to sign off on foreclosures.

However, in a growing number of foreclosure cases filed when home prices collapsed during the financial crisis, lenders may never be able to seize the homes because the state statutes of limitations have been exceeded, according to interviews with housing lawyers and a review of state and federal court decisions.

“No one gets a free house,” Judge Michael B. Kaplan of the United States Bankruptcy Court in Trenton wrote in an opinion late last year, reflecting what he characterized as a longstanding “admonition” he and others made during the foreclosure crisis. But after effectively ending a New Jersey homeowner’s foreclosure case in November because the state’s six-year statute of limitations had expired, he wrote in his opinion, “With a proper measure of disquiet and chagrin, the court now must retreat from this position.”

It is difficult to know for sure how many foreclosure cases are still grinding through the court systems since the financial crisis. It is even harder to say how many of those borrowers are still living in their homes.

Bank of America, for example, has initiated the foreclosure process on roughly 20,000 mortgages that have not been paid in at least five years. The bank estimates that 90 percent of those homes are still occupied.

The courts are not the only source of delay. Over the years, the federal government has made 69 changes to its mortgage modification programs, forcing lenders repeatedly to scrap previous offers to homeowners and extend new terms.

Of course, the banks have also dragged out this reckoning through shoddy paperwork, botched modifications and general dysfunction as they struggled to cope with a flood of soured mortgages. Many cases were passed among lawyers like hot potatoes and lay dormant on court dockets.
The old adage 'You snooze, you lose', could and should come down heavy on the banksters who worked so diligently to steal the lives of millions of Americans for their profit.

Throwing gasoline on the fire

One group may be Shia and the other group may be Sunni but both are Yemeni and the battles between the Houthi and the government of Saleh/Hadi were essentially a power struggle between political groups. Now that the Saudis have gathered the Arab League to assist their brave Sunni brothers, it has become another part of the sectarian strife in the region.
Last September, the Houthis — a Zaidi Shia rebel group — took effective control of Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, riding on a wave of popular discontent over the transitional government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. That government had been installed under a U.N.-backed deal mediated by the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to end the Arab Spring-inspired uprising against the country’s longtime leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis quickly inked a deal with Hadi and other political factions, but tensions soon emerged. By the start of March, the government had resigned, while Hadi — after escaping house arrest by the Houthis in Sanaa — fled to Aden and declared it Yemen’s temporary capital. U.N.-mediated talks continued in search of a political settlement, while the Houthis moved to consolidate power. The power vacuum resulting from the steady collapse of Yemen’s political order had already proven a boon to extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and deepened an economic and humanitarian crisis that had already left half of the country’s population food-insecure.

Any hope of an early resolution to the crisis among Yemen’s rival factions has been quashed by the Saudi-led anti-Houthi military offensive — euphemistically named “Resolute Storm.” Five nights into the air barrage, a return to calm seems as far away as ever, while the outcome of the Saudi-led intervention remains uncertain.

That’s because while the Arab League countries waging the air campaign portray the Houthi rebellion as a product of Iranian meddling, Yemen’s conflict remains in essence a local struggle for political power. It was spurred by the deterioration of central government control in the run-up to Saleh’s exit and then exacerbated by his successor’s inability to consolidate power — all of which created a perfect opening for the Houthis, whose complaints about corruption and widespread pernicious foreign influence seemed to resonate with more Yemenis than ever. The Houthi campaign, until the middle of last year, was largely a turf war against tribal opponents in the highlands of northern Yemen — a conflict in which Hadi and the central government alternately played mediator and disinterested observer. More recently, however, as the Houthis grew stronger, they began directly challenging Hadi and his backers — with the support of their ally of convenience, former President Saleh. Houthis forged the partnership with Saleh more than a year ago, fueled by their mutual distaste for the Islah party, a Yemeni faction that includes the bulk of the country’s Muslim Brotherhood.

It's worth noting that Saleh’s support has put swathes of Sunni Yemeni soldiers and tribal fighters into the field on the side of the Shia Houthis, underscoring the fact that the roots of this conflict are not purely sectarian. Still, the conflict certainly has a sectarian tinge. The Houthi movement is rooted in the revival of Zaidism, a heterodox Shia sect found almost exclusively in the Yemeni highlands. And many of the Houthis’ Sunni opponents have framed their conflicts in religious terms.

The Saudi-led intervention has exacerbated the sectarian dimension. Politicians in the region have painted Yemen as a battleground between Sunni and Shia powers; western observers have cast it as a proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Regardless of their veracity, such framings risk becoming self-fulfilling prophesies: Since the start of military action, the profusion of charged language — most obviously the application to the Houthis of a laundry list of sectarian derogative terms for Shia — has been nearly impossible to ignore.
And now forces beyond the control of any on the ground are guaranteeing a long and bloody conflict that will not be settled until the entire region reaches the end point.

It's really very simple

Sunday, March 29, 2015

So far a 7" disc and some tour dates

Hopefully we will get a full album and more from Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O'Donovan. Their rendition of "Crossing Muddy Waters" leaves a hunger for more.

Keeping the currency current

From the pen of Brian McFadden

Bibi shitting bricks over Iran deal

While most people have no idea of the details, Israel, through its AIPAC coordinated spies has a very good idea what the deal may potentially be and judging from his reaction, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bugsy" Netanyahu is scared.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned on Sunday the framework Iranian nuclear agreement being sought by international negotiators, saying it was even worse than his country had feared.

Israel has mounted what it terms an "uphill battle" against an agreement that might ease sanctions on the Iranians while leaving them with a nuclear infrastructure with bomb-making potential. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

"This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that," Netanyahu told his cabinet in Jerusalem as the United States, five other world powers and Iran worked toward a March 31 deadline in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Noting advances made by Iranian-allied forces in Yemen and other Arab countries, Netanyahu accused the Islamic republic of trying to "conquer the entire Middle East" while moving toward nuclearization.

"The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is very dangerous to humanity, and must be stopped," he said.

Netanyahu's campaigning against the nuclear negotiations crested on March 3 with his speech to the U.S. Congress at the invitation of its Republican speaker, John Boehner, that angered President Barack Obama and many fellow Democrats.
So while we may not know yet, it appears there will be much that is positive for the US, Iran and the Middle East in the agreements being sought.

Happy FacePalm Sunday Indiana

Saturday, March 28, 2015

From 3 pc Harmony Band to 5 pc Indie Folk Rock band

But they kept the harmonies because that's what The Wild Reeds do best. "Let No Grief" from their 2014 album Blind And Brave.

The testing grounds

From the pen of Rob Rogers

Pentagon promises no more killers or war criminals

Which if upheld will probably greatly reduce the potential pool of professors at the National Defense University. Who else knows the finer points of what they are trying to teach their students?
The Pentagon rebuffed efforts to remove a Chilean professor accused of torturing and murdering political prisoners, keeping him on the payroll of a prestigious U.S. military school for almost three years after the State Department revoked his visa because of the alleged human rights violations.

Exploiting legal loopholes and inaction across several government agencies, the accused torturer was able to remain in the United States, renew his work contract twice and even travel widely despite his visa revocation, a McClatchy investigation reveals.

The Pentagon now promises changes to its vetting process for foreign nationals working throughout its National Defense University, with an emphasis on accusations of human rights violations.

Officials with the U.S. military school – the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies – knew by at least 2008 that Jaime Garcia Covarrubias had been accused of being part of Chile’s brutal secret police and stood accused of torture and murder.

Yet after the State Department revoked his Defense Department-sponsored visa on June 18, 2011, and a special U.S. human rights violator unit notified defense officials afterward, Garcia Covarrubias was paid sick leave and collected an annual salary in excess of $100,000 until February 2014.

The compensation was paid despite recommendations from the U.S. Embassy in Chile that Garcia Covarrubias face deportation proceedings and potential removal from the United States because of the allegations.
Some say that matters like this call into question the US commitment to human rights. Most people forget that commitment was glorified because of our fight against an opponent so repugnant that we would have accepted the devil himself as an ally. And since then we have pulled that hoary old cloak out of the closet whenever we assaulted the moral high ground, to be put back and ignored when it was over.

Well, if you really want to know....

Elizabeth Warren responds

To the threat from the heads of the 5 Wall St Mob Families Banks to withhold their contributions is she and other progressives weren't muzzled.

Wall Street isn’t happy with us

| By
In 2008, the financial sector collapsed and nearly brought down our whole economy. What were the ingredients behind that crash? Recklessness on Wall Street and a willingness in Washington to play along with whatever the big banks wanted.

Years have passed since the crisis and the bailout, but the big banks still swagger around town. And when Citigroup and the others don’t quite get their way or Washington doesn’t feel quite cozy enough, they quickly move to loud, public threats. Their latest move is a stunner. According to Reuters:
Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren's call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Citigroup has decided to withhold donations for now to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over concerns that Senate Democrats could give Warren and lawmakers who share her views more power, sources inside the bank told Reuters.

JPMorgan representatives have met Democratic Party officials to emphasize the connection between its annual contribution and the need for a friendlier attitude toward the banks, a source familiar with JPMorgan's donations said.
That’s right, the biggest banks on Wall Street have made it clear that they expect a return on their investment in Washington. Forget making the markets safer (where they can still make plenty of money) and forget the $700 billion taxpayer bailout that saved them and forget the need to build a strong economy for all Americans. Forget it all. The big banks want a Washington that works only for them and that puts their interests first – and they would like to get a little public fanny-kissing for their money too.

Well forget it. They can threaten or bully or say whatever they want, but we aren’t going to change our game plan. We do, however, need to respond.

According to this breaking news, our 2016 Democratic Senate candidates could lose at least $30,000 because of this decision. Can you help us raise $30,000 to match Wall Street’s money right now – and keep fighting for a Democratic Senate that will work for people instead of big banks?

Now let’s be clear: $30,000 is a drop in the bucket to JPMorgan and Citigroup. Heck, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon makes more than $30,000 in just a few hours.

The big banks have thrown around money for years, spending more than a $1 million a day to hold off Dodd-Frank and the consumer agency. But they are moving out of the shadows. They have reached a new level of brazenness, demanding that Senate Democrats grovel before them.

That kind of swagger is a warning shot. They want a showy way to tell Democrats across the country to be scared of speaking out, to be timid about standing up, and to stay away from fighting for what’s right.

Ok, they have taken their shot, but it will not work.

I’m not going to stop talking about the unprecedented grasp that Citigroup has on our government’s economic policymaking apparatus. I’m not going to stop talking about the settlement agreements that JPMorgan makes with our Justice Department that are so weak, the bank celebrates by giving their executives a raise. And I’m not going to pretend the work of financial reform is done, when the so-called “too big to fail” banks are even bigger now than they were in 2008.

The big banks have issued a threat, and it’s up to us to fight back. It’s up to us to fight back against a financial system that allows those who broke our economy to emerge from a crisis in record-setting shape while ordinary Americans continue to struggle. It’s up to us to fight back against a regulatory system that is so besieged by lobbyists – and their friends in Congress – that our regulators forget who they’re working for.

Let’s send the biggest banks on Wall Street our own message: We’re going to keep fighting, and your swagger and your threats won’t stop us. Help us match their $30,000 right now.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday is a good day for Linda & her friend Nelson

Linda Ronstadt singing "Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered" as arranged by Nelson Riddle.

One more worry about flying

From the pen of Jim Morin

The New GOP American Value

Unwavering support for Israel. With the unending slide into the depths of reactionary Teabagger birchism, the party faithful now demand full and complete support of Israeli Bibiism.
When former Secretary of State James A. Baker III accused Israel’s leader this week of undermining the chances of peace in the region, he said nothing more than the kinds of things he had said at times when he was in office a quarter-century ago.

But the instant backlash from fellow Republicans that prompted Jeb Bush, the son of Mr. Baker’s best friend, to distance himself underscored just how much their party has changed on the issue of Israel. Where past Republican leaders had their disagreements with Israel, today’s Republicans have made support for the Jewish state an inviolable litmus test for anyone aspiring to national office.

“If you’re a Republican and you hedge on your support on Israel, it’s viewed as having a flawed foreign policy,” said Ron Bonjean, a party strategist who has worked for Republican leaders in Congress. “It’s a requirement for Republicans these days to be very strong on Israel if they’re going to be taken seriously by primary voters.” Any deviation on that, he said, leads to inevitable questions: “If you’re not supporting Israel, then who are you supporting? Are you supporting Iran?”

The shift in the party’s attitude toward Israel stems from several factors, according to Republicans – a greater sense of solidarity in the fight against Islamic extremism since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, increased support for the Jewish state among evangelical Christians and the influence of wealthy donors like Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate. And the more Mr. Obama feuds with Mr. Netanyahu, the more Republicans feel motivated to come to the Israeli leader’s defense.

“It is remarkable,” said William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine and one of the leading voices promoting Israel’s cause in the United States. Mr. Netanyahu, who goes by the nickname Bibi, has become a rallying point for Republicans, he said. “Bibi would probably win the Republican nomination if it were legal,” he said.

Mr. Kristol, emailing from Israel where he was meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, described the shift as a result of broader underlying trends in American politics as the political left grows more “European” and the political right grows more “Reaganite.” He added that “the conservative belief in American exceptionalism is akin to Zionism.” And he said the contrast between Mr. Obama’s friction with Mr. Netanyahu and former President George W. Bush’s strong support for Israel “is pretty dramatic.”
So combine the money of a rich SOB like Adelson with the antipathy towards that black guy in the White House and add in a dollop of typical Republican Manichean fallacy and you end up support the fascist ruler of a rogue state over our own country. And we didn't even touch on the necessity of using Israel as a stepping stone to the Rapture.

About that estate tax

You know, the one that is supposed to be destroying all the family farms? Seems that anyone with half a brain can put paid to that lie. One who did was David Cay Johnston and he writes about it in Al-Jazeera.
Congress is voting this week on whether to repeal the estate tax. The step would be a huge boon to billionaires and others whose fortunes would forever escape taxation, creating an even larger dynastic class of inheritors who owe their riches to their skill at picking their parents.

But that’s not what was heard at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing last week. Instead the theme was how the tax was eviscerating American farmers.

This plan has no chance of becoming law while President Barack Obama is in office, but it has some Democrats running scared instead of standing on their principles. Some of them are talking about exempting farmers from the estate tax.

On the basis of the hearing, it’s hard to imagine why any people would want to farm or run their own business — that is, if you assume the hearing was grounded in reality.

The fact is that any claim that the estate tax is killing family farms is a lie...

I did finally manage to find two examples — not that they were particularly apt and not that we should make national policy on the basis of anecdotes.

One was a California vineyard, but the problems dated to 1981, before federal estate tax law was changed to allow a surviving spouse to inherit free of tax.

The other was a Colorado rancher whose family inherited little of what could have been a good-sized fortune. Their father had failed to file income taxes for years, did no estate planning and did not even write a will, resulting in the Internal Revenue Service’s auctioning off the land after he died to pay taxes, penalties and interest. Had he availed himself of the tax avoidance opportunities Congress allows, his family could have inherited all his land while paying little or no tax.

Two months after my piece about the myth of the family farm ran on the Sunday front page of The New York Times, I was astonished to learn that Bush told an Iowa audience he had just spoken to families whose farms were lost to the estate tax. My calls to the White House press secretary asking for details so I could run a corrective piece evoked promises to call me back. I never received a follow-up call.

That Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the tax writing Ways and Means Committee, could not find a single case of a farm lost to the estate tax for last week’s hearing illustrates his willingness to use lies to sell his policies.
Why do they hate the estate tax? What better time to pay taxes than when you are dead? And it really has no effect on 99% of the population and the the other 1%? Fuck them, they can afford it!

You would think their home grown trash was good enough

But the insatiable hunger for trash in South Carolina has them lawmakers looking for ways to attract more trash to the Palmetto Bug State.

Trash from out of state has been flooding into South Carolina, with allegations that it may be due in part to some state politicians accepting campaign money from private waste companies.

Residents fear new state legislation may bring in even more waste. Those who live near one landfill say the trash contains human feces and "smells very badly."

According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control's 2012 report, 628,684 tons of household garbage came into South Carolina from other states in fiscal year 2012. Lee County Landfill took in the largest amount of out-of-state garbage, weighing in at almost 225,000 tons, of which 215,000 tons came from New York.

The New York City Department of Sanitation pays about $112 for each ton of garbage disposed at the Lee County Landfill, according to South Carolina news channel WYFF News 4. In 2012 alone, the landfill received $24 million worth of trash from New York.

Groups such as 'Don't Dump on SC' have campaigned to keep the trash out, arguing that the abundance of out-of-state trash compromises the beauty of the state, hurts taxpayers, lowers property values, and damages the quality of the air and environment.

Lawmakers have already passed House Bill 3290, and are set to vote on Senate Bill 203 in 2014. These pieces of legislation would take away the power of counties to control their own flow of solid waste. The passage of Senate Bill 203 could potentially eliminate public garbage services and pave the way for private companies to maximize their profits by setting prices for and taking in more trash from out of state.
The nerve of those locals trying to stop their home state from looking like a dump. Don't they know that if the free market creates enough profit people just don't matter anymore.

Another whiny boy on Obamacare

The latest Republican coming out of the medical closet is that ignominious piece of Kansas shit Tim Huelskamp, the bull goose of the Teabagger caucus.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz isn’t the only ardent critic of Obamacare in Congress who is signing up for health coverage under a law he’s vowed to repeal.

Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, the chairman of the Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, admits he, too, has enrolled for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act, despite repeatedly voting to repeal it.

“For the record – I am on Obamacare – yee-hah!” Huelskamp recently confessed to constituents at a town hall meeting in north central Kansas, according to The Clay Center Dispatch. “My wife complains about it all the time.”

Cruz, Huelskamp and other far-right lawmakers are in an awkward political position: Do they use an Obamacare exchange to purchase insurance, and risk being charged with hypocrisy? Or do they stand on principle and decline coverage or resort to the private insurance market, thereby giving up thousands of federal dollars offered to government employees to help pay premiums?

They have a choice. Some are choosing Obamacare.

Cruz, a Republican senator who’s running for president, said this week that his family planned to go on Obamacare because they’d no longer be able to get health coverage through his wife’s employer. She’s taking unpaid leave from her job to join Cruz on the campaign trail.

Like Cruz, Huelskamp has railed for years against Obamacare – in speeches in Congress, on the stump during elections, in town hall meetings with voters, in emails to donors and in statements to the press and on television.
Despite his congressional wealth, Rep Huelskamp chose not to stand on his principles and pay full freight for his insurance. Instead he got on board with Obamacare for the financial incentives offered. None of this will stop him from whining about Obamacare or trying to repeal it because despite the advantages provided to him, it was still passed by that colored guy and it helps little people, which really chaps his ass.

Your values?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Blues For Herb

Played by the late jazz guitarist Emily Remler. Someone should really write a tune for Emily.

R.I.P. Gregory Walcott

Even though we saw you face a thousand times, it took Plan 9 for many to know your name.

About that freedom...

From Facebook

Why do we only have 1 Bernie?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A PR stunt or are C & W fans just a bunch of dicks?

Seems that a lot of radio listeners are bitching about Little Big Towns' "lesbian song". For what it's worth, "Girl Crush" is OK with the Opry and is #4 on iTunes. It is just the parents who seem to have a problem with it. What do you think?

Another way of life lost to modern technology

From the pen of David Horsey

It is still hard to do research

Because the Federal government still stupidly call Marijuana a Schedule 1 drug and federal rules, if not the money, govern most of the research in this country, the increasing islands of marijuana sanity that have arisen in this country have done nothing to help research about how it does what it does.
Despite the growing momentum for pot legalization, marijuana remains one of the most difficult substances to study in the United States.

Critics blame a labyrinthine federal approval process in which a handful of government agencies hobble gold-standard scientific research with red tape and intimidation and perpetuate a culture of fear and data illiteracy that delays reform.

“These are agencies in place to reflect a policy that marijuana is a prohibited Schedule I substance,” said Paul Armentano, the deputy director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), a pro-legalization advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. “They are in the business of funding and approving research to reinforce that policy.”

The criminalization of cannabis dates back to 1971, when Richard Nixon’s administration called for a war on drugs. One year before, Congress had passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no medical value and high abuse potential, right alongside Ecstasy and heroin.

Today a trio of federal agencies — the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration — regulate the federal marijuana research process, determining which research gets a government stamp of approval, along with research-grade cannabis.

At the federal level, researchers first need approval for their studies from the FDA and the Public Health Service, in an interdisciplinary review process. It isn’t unusual for agency review boards and applicants to engage in a back-and-forth revision process for their protocols. Critically, researchers also require a separate Schedule I license from the DEA. NIDA’s director has the final say on whether studies merit funding. Once studies are approved, the agency releases marijuana that it grows under contract with the University of Mississippi, the site of the nation’s only licensed pot farm and — until recently — the only institution with which it considered partnering.

Critics say the tightfisted multiagency approach bottlenecks marijuana research and invites poorer findings that opponents of reform then recycle into the public debate. The effect, they say, is quantity over quality...

“The federal government uses a very low scientific burden to assess harms associated with marijuana,” he said, adding that the agencies require that pot researchers use “the highest standards of scientific research — knowing that these regulatory and legal hurdles make doing this kind of research nearly impossible.”
Any moron can pass a law but you need to be Einstein to do any research, especially about marijuana.

Despite Ted comparing himself to Galileo

This still remains true.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Classic American Exceptionalism - Except you and you...

From the pen of Signe Wilkeson

Why Republicans can't govern

It is easy to say that their ideology is to oppose governing and there is a element of that but the real cause is the deep and up to now unbridgeable chasm between the two wings of the party, Dumb and Dumber. Neil Irwin in The Upshot takes a look at what this all means to us.
At its root is a divide between the Republican congressional leadership and a significant portion of its caucuses. The leaders believe they are best off projecting calm competence by governing without excess drama. They seek modest policy wins on trade and a handful of other issues, and would like to pass conservative bills that the president may veto but that are popular and so leave the Republicans in better shape heading into 2016 elections.

That strategy is a recognition of a simple constitutional fact: President Obama will be in office until January 2017, and it takes more votes to override a presidential veto than the Republicans have. So their best bet to enact a conservative agenda, in this line of thinking, is to maximize the odds that 2016 will be a Republican wave election on the order of what the Democrats experienced in 2008, with a Republican president paired with congressional majorities in both houses.

Everything before that, in this view, is a sideshow. Unfortunately, if you’re Mr. Boehner or Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the sideshows have been the main event in the first 90 days of the 114th Congress.

This puts them at odds with a vocal portion of their own caucuses, who favor a more maximalist approach, aiming to use whatever levers they have to try to extract major policy concessions from the president. It is the negotiating strategy that failed miserably, for example, when Republicans demanded a repeal of Mr. Obama’s signature health law in exchange for keeping the government funded and raising the federal debt ceiling in fall 2013, and most recently in the showdown over Homeland Security funding.

The White House, meanwhile, is largely staying above the fray, laying out to lawmakers its own priorities and deal-killers but leaving Republican leaders to work out among themselves a path to keep the machinery of government working.
Nuts are nits and loon are loons and never the twain shall meet, at this time. Now if they had earmarks to keep their members in line.

Municipal violations are not a funding source

And John Oliver has a few of his usual kind words for the system that has developed around this.

Not a very good track record

It is an unfortunate history that US support of a government in the Middle East by the US is essentially a kiss of death.
The recent evacuation of U.S. special operations forces in Yemen is a troubling trend for American involvement in the Middle East and North Africa, following the July 2014 evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, Libya. The U.S. government claims that these evacuations are temporary, but American personnel are unlikely to return any time soon.

Given the way things are going in the region, and the expansion and overflow of conflicts from one country to another, there is no way that the United States can return to solid footing in Yemen or Libya in the next few years. In fact, Yemen is likely to turn into its own version of the Syrian civil war, complete with sectarian dynamics and inter-militia rivalries.

For the United States, this is cause for serious soul-searching. U.S. foreign policies relative to the Middle East have resulted in declining U.S. influence, increased militarization throughout the region, and the precipitation of failing states since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. In Yemen, U.S. support for its long-time dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has been based on narrow counter-terrorism interests with no regard for how this support would affect Yemen’s economy, human rights record, or other aspects of development.

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2011 “Arab Spring,” every regime that the United States has supported in Iraq, Yemen and Libya — including Saleh’s — has resulted in a failed state, with no rule of law and a collapsed economy.

The reportedly hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of U.S. weapons, equipment and supplies falling into enemy hands in Iraq, Syria and now in Yemen are more than just signs of strategic failure. Rather, they’re part of a long list of recent embarrassments, including the poor performance of U.S.-trained Iraqi military personnel when Islamic State invaded Mosul last summer, and the Islamic militant army’s confiscation of U.S. military weapons and supplies in the Iraqi territories it has occupied.

The United States and its Western allies have yet to appreciate the logic that militarization, airstrikes and drone attacks are not quick-fix elixirs to the complex problems in the Middle East. The United States lacks cohesive, comprehensive, long-term strategies for the entire region, and also for individual countries. Islamic State, by comparison, has a long-term strategy that is “light years ahead of its enemies,” according to BBC News.

The United States has unmatched military prowess for invasions and interventions, but fails miserably in post-campaign policies and strategies. It continues to have faith in supposed “allies” in the region, who usually end up undermining the very national interests that the United States is pursuing. This is because the United States fails to take into account that each state and non-state actor in the region — from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to Iran and even Shi’ite militias operating in Iraq — has its own interests and agendas that frequently do not align with the United States. Western powers cannot keep up with these growing complexities, especially in Yemen.
When all other cultures are viewed through the coke bottle glasses of American exceptionalism, they become very hard to understand. When every political hustler in those countries understands this weakness, it is hard to resist their lies. And in the end it is very easy to do wrong, over and over again.

Speaking to his base

Monday, March 23, 2015

Even when she tries to be gentle

There is always an edge to Lucinda Williams. But when she sings "Gentle On My Mind" it makes it a better song.

How a Cuban "patriot" treats the American flag

Liberty University Monday March 23, 2015

Nothing to worry about Citizen. Everything is under control.

From the pen of Ted Rall

The First Amendment is slowly being eaten by corporations

Who then turn around and shit on you
. This process has been accruing over the years as bit by bit, like termites in your house the Conservative judiciary has applied a libertarian bent to rulings that now provide precedent for commercial application as our expense.
These days, a provocative new study says, there has been a “corporate takeover of the First Amendment.” The assertion is backed by data, and it comes from an unlikely source: John C. Coates IV, who teaches business law at Harvard and used to be a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, the prominent corporate law firm.

“Corporations have begun to displace individuals as the direct beneficiaries of the First Amendment,” Professor Coates wrote. The trend, he added, is “recent but accelerating.”

Professor Coates’s study was only partly concerned with the Supreme Court’s recent decisions amplifying the role of money in politics.

“It’s not just Citizens United,” he said in an interview, referring to the 2010 decision that allowed unlimited independent spending by corporations in elections. His study, he said, analyzed First Amendment challenges from businesses to an array of economic regulations.

“Once the patron saint of protesters and the disenfranchised, the First Amendment has become the darling of economic libertarians and corporate lawyers who have recognized its power to immunize private enterprise from legal restraint,” Professor Wu wrote.

“Madison’s Music,” a new book by Burt Neuborne, a law professor at New York University, gives a detailed history of the transformation of First Amendment law. In his account, “the American right discovered the First Amendment” in the early 1970s.

“An expansive conception of free speech became attractive to Republican justices,” he wrote, “both because robust free-speech protections fit neatly into the right’s skeptical, deregulatory approach to government generally, and because it energized vigorous transmission by powerful speakers of the right’s newly energized collection of ideas.”

Those conservative justices, Professor Neuborne wrote, found willing allies in liberal justices long committed to free speech.

In the next two decades, the Supreme Court continued to protect dissent, twice voting to strike down laws banning flag burning. But now, Professor Neuborne wrote, broad coalitions of justices also voted to protect the powerful.

In 1976 alone, he wrote, the court shielded both unrestricted election spending by rich people, “giving the 1 percent a tangible reason to celebrate a muscular First Amendment,” and commercial advertising, “giving corporate management a strong stake in the First Amendment.”

By the time the left woke up and realized it had made “a Faustian bargain,” Professor Neuborne wrote, “the bipartisan coalition had generated an enormously powerful body of precedent establishing an imperial free speech clause.”

The case on commercial speech, Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, was a turning point, Professor Coates found in his study. After that ruling, the average number of First Amendment cases in the Supreme Court involving businesses started to rise to 2.2 a year from 1.5, and the number involving individuals started to fall, to 3.6 from 4.3.

More striking, the success rates for both groups increased, but far more for businesses. Individuals won 55 percent of the time, up from 41 percent. Businesses also won 55 percent of the time, up from 20 percent.
So let's add them up. The 4th Amendment has disappeared, the 2nd has been perverted beyond belief, the 1st is disappearing in a carefully controlled campaign, the 5th, 6th and 8th have been cheerfully ignored time and again, the 9th and 10th are only invoked when convenient and otherwise ignored. It appears the 3rd Amendment is the only one left that is still respected by all.

We might have to bomb them back to the Stone Age again

The Japanese, through their Okinawan subsidiary are making trouble for our military, again.First they don't like an airbase in the middle of a populated area, which they built up after we blasted them into the Stone Age seventy years ago. So we agree to move and they don't like that either.
A clash between Japan's central government and Okinawa, host to the bulk of U.S. troops in Japan, deepened on Monday when the southern island's governor ordered a halt to underwater work at the site of a planned relocation of a U.S. Marine base.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government and Okinawa have been on a collision course since anti-base conservative Takeshi Onaga was elected governor last November and ruling party candidates were trounced in a December general election.

Onaga told a news conference that he was ordering local defense ministry officials to halt the underwater survey work, which the prefecture fears is harming local coral reefs, a prefecture official said.

If those activities are not stopped within a week, Onaga may rescind approval for drilling operations given by his predecessor in December 2012, he said...

The United States and Japan agreed in 1996 to close the Futenma Marines air base, located in a populous part of the island. But plans for a replacement stalled in the face of opposition from residents, many of whom associate the bases with noise, pollution and crime and resent bearing what they see as an unfair burden for the U.S.-Japan security alliance.

Okinawa, which was not returned to Japanese sovereignty until 27 years after Tokyo's defeat in World War Two, still hosts nearly 75 percent of the U.S. military presence in Japan, accounting for 18 percent of its land area.
You would almost think they don't want to be part of our Exceptional Empire.

It's Only Fair

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sing a song called Novacaine

And not a single picture of a dentist, just some creepy soul eater. Nevertheless sisters from Down Under, Barb and Victoria Baillie performing as Baylou are a good listen.

Conservatives need one important government function

From the pen of Brian McFadden

Jebbie doesn't want to lose Florida

No matter how well he does elsewhere, he knows he will be judged a failure if he can't snow the geezers and swamp people in Florida one more time. With that in mind, he is being extra diligent in his home state.
The plan, code-named “Homeland Security,” seeks to try to neutralize two potentially grave but homegrown threats to Mr. Bush’s long-anticipated run for president: the likely challenge from a charismatic young Republican senator from Miami, Marco Rubio, who is expected to seek the Republican nomination himself, and a demographic drift within Florida that could doom Mr. Bush there in a fall campaign against a Democrat.

The Bush effort in Florida, where Barack Obama prevailed in the last two elections, will pour enormous resources and energy over the next year into a state that many thought Mr. Bush, its governor from 1999 to 2007, would be able to count on as a bedrock of support.

“Without Florida,” said Bob Martinez, a longtime Bush friend and a former governor of Florida himself, “he knows it would be hard to make the numbers work.”

In what advisers said could amount to a $50 million undertaking by Election Day, Mr. Bush and his team are rushing to lock up Florida’s best-known political operatives, elected officials and campaign donors — offering them contracts, face time and blandishments, according to those who know of the tactics.

Their forceful message to the state’s top campaign minds: “Keep your schedules clear,” said Dan Dawson, a Republican operative in Jacksonville who specializes in digital strategy and may work with Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush’s muscular outreach in Florida — where actions like a tribute to an aide at his deathbed and staff reunions at Disney World have won the admiration of Republican leaders — is relying on a highly personal touch and the tug of loyalty to a man who ushered in what has been a 17-year stretch of Republican state government.
He put them on the gravy train, that train had better stop at his station.

When will they ever learn

The polished brass golems in the Defense establishment, that is. According to latest reports, they are working hard to slow down troop withdrawals from Shitholeistan because there is a new guy in charge and he needs a chance to prove he can fail just like Karzai of the Afghans. In the meantime, Afghans of all types are doing what they have to for their own protection.
Even by Afghanistan's standards of often-shifting alliances, a recent meeting between ethnic Hazara elders and local commanders of the Taliban insurgents who have persecuted them for years was extraordinary.

The Hazaras – a largely Shi'ite minority killed in the thousands during the Taliban's hard-line Sunni Islamist rule of the 1990s – came to their old enemies seeking protection against what they deemed an even greater threat: masked men operating in the area calling themselves "Daish", a term for Islamic State in the region.

In a sign of changing times, the Taliban commanders agreed to help, said Abdul Khaliq Yaqubi, one of the elders at the meeting held in the eastern province of Ghazni.

The unusual pact is a window into deepening anxiety in Afghanistan over reports of Islamic State (IS) radicals gaining a foothold in a country already weary of more than a decade of war with the Taliban.

Back-to-back kidnappings within a month of two groups of Hazara travelers – by men widely rumored, though far from proven, to claim fealty to IS - have many spooked.

The current threat IS poses in Afghanistan, observers say, is less about real military might than the opportunity for disparate insurgent groups, including defectors from an increasingly fractured Taliban, to band together under this global "brand" that controls swathes of Iraq and Syria.

The fear is especially keen among religious minorities like the Hazaras, who worry the influence of the fiercely anti-Shi'ite IS could introduce a new dimension of sectarian strife to the war.

"Whether Daish exists or not, the psychological impact of it is very dangerous in Ghazni, which is home to all ethnicities," Ghazni's deputy governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told Reuters.

"This could easily stir up tensions."
And the sooner we get out of the Middle East the sooner they will work out their own problems, without killing our soldiers and wasting our tax dollars. The Pentagon though will have a major sad.

In a move to insure his failure

Ted Cruz, the all encompassing Senator from Texas/Canada/Cuba will at Liberty University, that hotbed of mythology and fantasy, to announce his run for the Presidency on Monday.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, will announce the launch of his presidential campaign in a speech Monday at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., according to one of his advisers.

Cruz’s speech at the private Christian university was already fueling media speculation about his presidential plans and the confirmation to McClatchy that he will begin his campaign instead of forming an exploratory committee signals the beginning of the GOP primary season.

Cruz’s plan to announce his campaign Monday was first reported by the Houston Chronicle.

The brash move to start his campaign in March makes Cruz the first of the leading GOP contenders to formally announce for president. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, in December started a political action committee to explore a presidential bid. And Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. has scheduled an event April 7 in Louisville where he is expected to announce he’s running.

Cruz, 44, was elected to the Senate in 2012, his first run at elective office in a bruising campaign against then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. But Cruz, an attorney with a persuasive speaking style, caught fire with the tea party and beat Dewhurst in the GOP primary and easily won the general election in red Texas.

He has been a controversial figure in the Senate, helping force a partial government shut-down in 2013 and alienating members from both sides of the aisle.
And this should be almost as lucrative as his crazy old man's preaching.

Now you know the rest of the story

Saturday, March 21, 2015

6 months from now you may be more into the original piece

But Barbara Dennerlein's Jazz Improv on JS Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D-minor is much more fun at this time of the year.

This is part of an 18 minute duet with a pipe organist in a Munich church. I looked but could not find the full 18 min. video. The web address given in the video is no longer up.

Always seek expert advice

From the pen of Adam Zyglis

Ashamed of his roots

It is never a good sign when a presidential candidate seeks to erase his roots. Whether it is to cover up where the bodies are buried or just change his speaking ways, it tells the people back home that they are an embarrassment to some newly important little shit. The Evil Koch Owned Homunculus Scott Walker is just such a little shit.
Out on the presidential campaign trail, Gov. Scott Walker has left “Wiscahnsin” back home in Wisconsin. He now wants to strengthen the economy, not the “ecahnahmy.” And while he once had the “ahnor” of meeting fellow Republicans, he told one group here this week that he simply enjoyed “talkin’ with y’all.”

The classic Upper Midwest accent — nasal and full of flat a’s — is one of several Walker trademarks to have fallen away this month after an intense period of strategizing and coaching designed to help Mr. Walker capitalize on his popularity in early polls and show that he is not some provincial politician out of his depth.

He is tailoring his pitch to his audiences — wearing pullover sweaters in earth-tone colors in one early primary state, New Hampshire, and discussing the power of prayer in another, here in South Carolina. He has reined in his rambling speeches, at least compared with his recorded remarks over the years. He is trying to listen more and opine less, associates say, and he is easygoing with voters — a contrast with his pugilistic reputation from his successful battle against Wisconsin labor unions, which made him a hero to many conservatives.

Alabama, he started rattling off Alabama players on the Green Bay Packers,” said Rod Benfield, a South Carolina Republican who came away from a state party fund-raising event on Thursday “very impressed” with Mr. Walker. “We talked football for five minutes. Politics never came up.”

No other Republican considering a run for the presidency is under more pressure to show that he can vault from statewide popularity to top-tier contention than Mr. Walker, given his relative inexperience on the national stage and low name recognition in many states — no matter how much fervor he inspires in conservative circles.

Is he a durable candidate with wide appeal? Or is he a flavor of the month — as former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Herman Cain were during the Republican nominating contests in 2012 — or a firebrand peaking too early, as Howard Dean did before the 2004 Democratic primaries?
Flavor Of The Month conjures up images of billionaires lining up to take a lick of Little Scotty to see if they like him. But with the Homunculus' determination, if they don't like this month's, he will twist, flip flop and weasel himself into something else next month. But underneath it all he will be the same old little shit.

Hey, we'll stick a carrot up your ass!

Bill Maher takes his shots at the college frat system

Never say the Republicans gave you nothing.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Going into the weekend on the first day of Spring

I suspect there are more than a few women who have men who should follow Cole Porter's advice as presented by Irene Bordoni, "Let's Misbehave"

Jeb says, Getting laid is worth a mass, as for the rest....

From the pen of Ted Rall

How to bring out the WATB

If you want to stimulate the ones that hang on the oil & gas industries, all you have to do is put out new fracking rules that overturn many of the useless ones put in place by that Big Dick Cheney.
The new rules will apply only to oil and gas wells drilled on public lands, even though the vast majority of fracking in the United States is done on private land. The rules will cover about 100,000 wells, according to the Interior Department.
Connecting hoses between a pipeline and water tanks at a Hess fracking site last year near Williston, North Dakota. Credit Andrew Cullen/Reuters

“Current federal well-drilling regulations are more than 30 years old, and they simply have not kept pace with the technical complexities of today’s hydraulic fracturing operations,” said the interior secretary, Sally Jewell.

The regulations, which are to take effect in 90 days, will allow government workers to inspect and validate the safety and integrity of the cement barriers that line fracking wells. They will require companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in the fracturing process within 30 days of completing fracking operations.

The rules will also set safety standards for how companies can store used fracking chemicals around well sites, and will require companies to submit detailed information on well geology to the Bureau of Land Management, a part of the Interior Department.
If they howl over this, imagine what they would do if they had to pay their fair share of fees and taxes?

Probably sooner the way we operate

The UN is predicting a 40% shortfall in needed water supplies around the world by 2030.
Many underground water reserves are already running low, while rainfall patterns are predicted to become more erratic with climate change. As the world's population grows to an expected 9 billion by 2050, more groundwater will be needed for farming, industry and personal consumption.

With "business as usual" the world is facing a "collapse in our global socioeconomic system," Richard Connor, lead author of the report, told Reuters.

The report predicts global water demand will increase 55 percent by 2050, while reserves dwindle. If current usage trends don't change, the world will have only 60 percent of the water it needs in 2030, it said.

Having less available water risks catastrophe on many fronts: crops could fail, ecosystems could break down, industries could collapse, disease and poverty could worsen, and violent conflicts over access to water could become more frequent.

"Unless the balance between demand and finite supplies is restored, the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit," the annual World Water Development Report said, noting that more efficient use could guarantee enough supply in the future.

By 2050 two thirds of the world's population will be living in cities, and demand for water is expected to grow related to urbanization in developing countries. Urbanization means that access to safe water and adequate sanitation, although typically higher in cities, has decreased in the fastest growing urban areas.

One example is sub-Saharan Africa, where urbanization — often unplanned — is happening most rapidly. Here the proportion of people who have piped water on their premises has fallen to 34 percent from 42 percent since 1990.

"The spontaneous urbanization, which creates slums, makes it very difficult because of the layout of the slums to provide water," Joan Clos, executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT), told Reuters.
If Nestle Coke & Pepsi have their way, that date may come much sooner. But if you have the bucks, you will be able to buy the necessary clean water from them.

Much needed Friday Bernie

Thursday, March 19, 2015

No trouble with her singing

Jazz and blues singer and political activist, Barbara Dane had the chops to impress Louie Armstrong among other. Here she shows what she can do with "Trouble In Mind"

If the day ever comes when Republicans are honest with us.

From the pen of Lee Judge

Republicans everywhere felt a cold hand clutch their heart

And all it took was a few simple words from President Obama suggesting a change in how we do voting in this country.
They say the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes. President Barack Obama wants to add one more: voting.

Obama floated the idea of mandatory voting in the U.S. while speaking to a civic group in Cleveland on Wednesday. Asked about the corrosive influence of money in U.S. elections, Obama digressed into the related topic of voting rights and said the U.S. should be making it easier — not harder— for people to vote.

Just ask Australia, where citizens have no choice but to vote, the president said.

"If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country," Obama said, calling it potentially transformative. Not only that, Obama said, but universal voting would "counteract money more than anything."

Disproportionately, Americans who skip the polls on Election Day are younger, lower-income and more likely to be immigrants or minorities, Obama said. "There's a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls," he said in a veiled reference to efforts in a number of Republican-led states to make it harder for people to vote.

Statistically speaking, Obama is correct. Less than 37 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2014 midterms, according to the United States Election Project. And a Pew Research Center study found that those avoiding the polls in 2014 tended to be younger, poorer, less educated and more racially diverse.

At least two dozen countries have some form of compulsory voting, including Belgium, Brazil and Argentina. In many systems, absconders must provide a valid excuse or face a fine, although a few countries have laws on the books that allow for potential imprisonment.

At issue, Obama said, is the outsize influence that those with money can have on U.S. elections, where low overall turnout often gives an advantage to the party best able to turn out its base. Obama has opposed Citizens United and other court rulings that cleared the way for super PACs and unlimited campaign spending, but embraced such groups in his 2012 re-election campaign out of fear he'd be outspent.
Such a move would shatter all the Republican efforts to keep undesirables from voting against them and lead to electoral disaster, for them. For the US it makes perfect sense. If you pay taxes so should you vote, you know, that taxation with representation stuff. It means more than just having our own Congress, it also means you take part in deciding who is in it.

Now that we have a new "friendly Afghan" president

We can't really bring home the troops yet. We still have to shower the new guy with untold riches in hopes that a policy that has failed for the last 13 years may yet succeed. Sounds like a plan.
The U.S. military bases in Kandahar and Jalalabad are likely to remain open beyond the end of 2015, a senior U.S. official said, as Washington considers slowing its military pullout from Afghanistan to help the new government fight the Taliban, reported Reuters on Wednesday.

The anticipated policy reversal reflects the U.S. embrace of Afghanistan's new and more cooperative president, Ashraf Ghani, and a desire to avoid the kind of collapse of local security forces that occurred in Iraq after the U.S. pullout there.

It coincides with new efforts backed by Pakistan and China for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Washington has welcomed greater engagement by China, which has helped create a diplomatic opening for reconciliation.

The U.S. official said conditions had changed since May when President Barack Obama declared that by the end of 2015 the U.S. force would be roughly halved from the current total of about 10,000 and would operate only from bases in Kabul and Bagram.

The White House had no immediate comment on the possibility of maintaining the Kandahar and Jalalabad bases into next year.

Obama is expected to decide in the next few days whether to slow the pace of the U.S. troop withdrawal, possibly by next week when Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah travel to Washington.

U.S. officials hope the visit will garner American public support for a longer military mission and display a contrast to their prickly dealings with former president Hamid Karzai.
I am willing to like the new Afghan president as much as the next person, but why do we have to continue supporting a failed policy at great expense? As part of The Great American Empire, Afghanistan is the hemorrhoids on the asshole. And when your hemorrhoids are bad you have them removed, you don't hang on to them. Everybody from the Macedonians to the Russians has learned that lesson, why can't we.

Beware of Germans "borrowing" money

When they are doing it while their armies have conquered your country chances are good they will never consider repaying the "loan". No matter how valid the claim of the coerced lender. But Greece, which made loans to the Third Reich with a gun to its head during the war is now demanding Germany repay that loan so Greece can get the austerians of their back.
Germany has never repaid money that Germany forced Greece to lend it during World War II, says the Greek government. Now the Greeks would like it back, to help repay the $330 billion the country owes – $67 billion to Germany.

The German government of Chancellor Angela Merkel bristles at the suggestion. It insists that any German debt from World War II was eliminated with the so-called Two-plus-Four Treaty that made possible the reunification of Germany in 1990.

“Greece will not be able to cover their debts by constructing German responsibilities dating back to World War II,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said recently. “Greece suffers not because of Berlin, or Brussels, but because its own elites have failed for decades.”

“This has all been settled, there can be no more claims,” said Volker Kauder, a member of the German parliament.

But the view is not unanimous. Norman Paech, a retired law professor at Hamburg University and one of Germany’s leading experts on war reparations, has been making a case for more than a decade that the Greeks have a case.

“The Greek claims with regard to the loan and German war crimes are legitimate from a political, legal and even more so from a moral point of view,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Paech argues that German officials are fighting against this obligation for a simple reason: There are other claims.

He said the legal problem is that the 1953 London Treaty officially put all claims against Germany on hold until a lasting peace treaty could be reached. The 1990 treaty that unified Germany is that document, but it was signed only by the two Germanys and the United States, Great Britain, France and Russia. That means claims from any other countries are now active – for example, from Greece.

And gaps are appearing among Germany politicians, too. Can Germans really claim anything from a nation they occupied and looted only 70 years ago?
The German government is expected to fight this tooth and nail, if only because Greece is not the only country with legitimate claims. They are just the first one the Germans have pushed too far in the current economic crisis.

Good thing they aren't Christians

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Oz rock band in a subdued moment

The Preatures, from Sydney, usually play with more rocking energy, but this acoustic take of "Pale Rider" is quite appropriate.

GOP Policy is simplicity itself

From the pen of David Horsey

Are the Tennessee state legislators really human?

Sometimes you really have to ask that question when treated to another Giant Dollop of Derp from the good old boys in Nashville. Tennessee is not as poor as it could be, but if you are not musical or descended from one of their Confederate or football heroes, you are probably just getting by. And the folks in Nashville would be very happy if you stayed that way.
Tennessee Republican state Sen. Bo Watson warned on Tuesday that a plan to bring 200,000 jobs to his state was a “magnet for unionized labor, intentionally.”

According to Chattanooga Times Free Press, Watson told the state Senate Commerce Committee that approving $165.8 million in tax incentives for Volkswagen was dangerous because unions could change the “culture” of Tennessee.

“I hope the committee will take some time to fully vet this incentive offer,” Watson advised. “At the end of the day, we can have no buyer’s remorse.”

“The incentive, no doubt, will create about 200,000 jobs directly, and countless more indirectly,” he admitted. “It will give southeast Tennessee a big foothold in the automotive industry, particularly in research and development. And it will allow the development of a new line of Volkswagen vehicles, particularly the SUV.”

But Watson asserted that the threat of organized labor unions might not be worth the benefits that Volkswagen would bring to the state.

“VW is a magnet for organized labor, intentionally,” he opined. “I believe this committee should know and understand what Volkswagen’s position is on this issue, both here and in Germany.”

The Chattanooga Republican turned to several Volkswagen officials and demanded that they explain why the vice chairman of VW’s European and Global Group Works Council had pledged to spread the United Auto Workers “far beyond Tennessee.”

David Geanacopoulos, the CEO of Volkswagen Group of America’s Chattanooga operations, explained to Watson that VW Works Council was an elected organization that was mandated by German law and that it was independent from company management.

“We believe it is a question for our employees to decide,” Geanacopoulos said. “We have actually established a new policy in the company that allows us to have conversations with any labor organization that has support from our workforce. Not about collective bargaining. It’s not about union representation.”
What Derp Master Watson doesn't understand is the German business model does not automatically put management and workers in an adversarial relationship. And if he got even a glimmer of that, it would probably fry his braincell. Which would be a good start for Tennessee.

If the media won't inform us

We will have to do it ourselves.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On St Patrick's Day the entertainment should be Irish

And what better Irish than those two Dublin nightingales, the Black sisters Mary and Francis singing "Hó Ró M'Iníon Donn Bhóidheach"

A wonder they haven't done it yet

From the pen of Ted Rall

Our friends the Banks show their love of veterans

A love most blatantly on display in their efforts to overturn or sidestep laws put in place to protect servicemen while they are on duty. Because the call of duty can be financially disruptive to service families, Congress has since the Civil War passed various laws to protect servicemen and their families at times when they can't protect themselves. As they have taken over more and more of our government, the Banksters have been tireless in their efforts to reverse these laws.
Over the years, Congress has given service members a number of protections — some dating to the Civil War — from repossessions and foreclosures.

Efforts to maintain that special status for service members has run into resistance from the financial industry, including many of the same banks that promote the work they do for veterans. While using mandatory arbitration, some companies repeatedly violate the federal protections, leaving troops and their families vulnerable to predatory lending, the military lawyers and government officials say.

“Mandatory arbitration threatens to take these laws and basically tear them up,” said Col. John S. Odom Jr., a retired Air Force lawyer now in private practice in Shreveport, La. High-ranking Defense Department officials agree, telling Congress that “service members should maintain full legal recourse.”

Last year, a bipartisan bill that would have allowed service members to opt out of arbitration and file a lawsuit met with opposition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Wall Street’s major trade group, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, or Sifma.

“While we remain very supportive of the troops, we see no empirical or other evidence that service members are being harmed by or require relief from arbitration clauses,” Kevin Carroll, a managing director and associate general counsel at Sifma, said in a statement.

The trade groups’ members include a roster of financial companies that have trumpeted their hiring of veterans and their initiatives for troops returning home from war. They include JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank, and USAA, which caters almost exclusively to service members and their families.

Many banks contend — as do companies in other industries — that arbitration is a more efficient and less costly way to handle disputes. A spokesman for USAA said that the company supported the bill because it would have been “good public policy for the entire industry.” Still, USAA uses mandatory arbitration clauses in many of its financial service contracts with service members.
Continue reading the main story

The clauses clamp down on frivolous litigation, including class-action lawsuits, and the cost savings allow companies to provide more affordable products to consumers, the trade organizations say.

In lobbying against the bill, several financial industry groups and a large phone company visited with the staff of Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who sponsored the legislation along with Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat.

The trade groups told Mr. Graham’s office that they were already working to make their arbitration procedure more accommodating to service members, according to a person briefed on those discussions who would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

“The message was, ‘Let us fix this internally,’ ” the person said. “Don’t upset the apple cart with a new law.
Right, don't upset the apple cart. We'll find a way to continue screwing the veterans in a less obvious manner. And oh by the way, how much do you need for your next election campaign?

Your tax dollars have been followed

And there are a few surprises in where the poor misguided dollars end up. Thanks to a nonprofit research organization, Good Jobs First, there is a database of many of the subsidies and other giveaways our faithful government gives to our corporate overlords.
The federal government has quietly doled out $68 billion through 137 government giveaway programs since 2000, according to a new database built by a nonprofit research organization, Good Jobs First. It identified more than 164,000 gifts of taxpayer money to companies. You can look up company names, subsidy programs and other freebies at the Subsidy Tracker 3.0 website.

A report the organization released today, “Uncle Sam’s Favorite Corporations,” shows that big businesses raked in two-thirds of the welfare.

The most surprising and tantalizing finding is the identity of the biggest known recipient of federal welfare. That dubious honor belongs to Iberdrola, a Spanish energy company with a reputation for awful service and admissions of incompetence. It collected $2.1 billion of welfare on a $5.4 billion investment in U.S. wind farms from coast to coast.

In fact, 10 of the 50 biggest recipients of federal welfare are foreign-owned firms. Try to imagine Congress debating a bill giving welfare payments to poor Canadians, Mexicans and Europeans and you’ll see the absurdity of U.S. taxpayers providing welfare to the owners of foreign corporations.

Phil Mattera, Good Jobs’ research director, created a software tool that matches subsidiaries to parent companies, enabling him to identify the 1,800 parent companies that received welfare. Its database does not cover many known subsidies, such as Agriculture Department payments to corporate farms, and instead focuses on stealth subsidies on which little or no data have been available without digging through mountains of paperwork.

But for Mattera, who would have known that the $1.8 million of federal cash given to the Union Tank Car Co. actually benefits Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which owns a controlling interest in the firm? In all, Buffett companies collected welfare from 11 programs totaling $179 million.

Because of Mattera’s efforts, we now know that 726 companies that collected $838 million in federal welfare were subsidiaries of General Electric, which also pocketed $533 million in state and local welfare.

That two of the most profitable firms in America dine at a taxpayer-financed buffet should alarm those who feel they are too heavily taxed or who believe in personal responsibility. After all, if Buffet’s company, with pretax profits of $28 billion last year, and GE, with $17 billion of pretax profits, cannot get by without welfare, who can?
But the writer overlooks the obvious determinant, the recipients of all this welfare are deserving corporations not those underserving poors and people of the various colored persuasions. Any right thinking American can see that. Amirite?

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