Thursday, April 30, 2015

It all makes sense in a twisted way

Nerina Pallot " Everybody's Gone To War" from her 2005 album Fires,

Even judges can be confused

From the pen of Jeff Danziger

R.I.P. Jack Ely

You only had one hit, but what a hit!

Funny how that works

That being the financial health of hospitals in states that accepted the new Medicaid eligibility of the ACA, also known as Obamacare. Reducing the number of uncompensated patients greatly reduces the burden on hospitals and actually allows them to provide better care.
In states that expanded eligibility for Medicaid, hospitals that handle large numbers of low-income patients are faring better under the Affordable Care Act than those in states that haven't, according to two new reports released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The findings suggest that the health law, in states where it's fully implemented, is helping hospitals cut their uncompensated care costs, see fewer uninsured patients and increase their revenue from Medicaid, the state/federal health plan for the poor.

One study looked at the experiences of Ascension Health, a non-profit Catholic health system with 131 hospitals in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

Kaiser researchers found that Ascension hospitals in Medicaid-expansion states saw a 32-percent decline in visits by uninsured patients compared to just a 4-percent decline at their hospitals in non-expansion states.

In addition, Ascension's charity care costs fell by 40 percent at their hospitals in expansion states compared to just a 6-percent decline at their facilities in non-expansion states.

More patients with Medicaid coverage appears to be the reason that Ascension's expansion-state facilities fared better.
But you know, Obama bad, must repeal. Amirite?

He's In It For Us

We must be in it for him. Join Us

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Even though she made her goal

Amy Black is another of those musicians who need to crowdfund their next album with their fans. Listen to her sing "Whiskey And Wine" and tell me why.

Seeing the big picture explains so much

From the pen of Matt Davies

About those new rules of engagement

Turns out that, to no ones surprise that they were largely for home consumption and not really meant to limit US military activity in Shitholeistan.
In justifying the continued presence of the American forces in Afghanistan, administration officials have insisted that the troops’ role is relegated to counterterrorism, defined as tracking down the remnants of Al Qaeda and other global terrorist groups, and training and advising the Afghan security forces who have assumed the bulk of the fight.

In public, officials have emphasized that the Taliban are not being targeted unless it is for “force protection” — where the insurgents were immediately threatening American forces.

But interviews with American and Western officials in Kabul and Washington offer a picture of a more aggressive range of military operations against the Taliban in recent months, as the insurgents have continued to make gains against struggling government forces.

Rather than ending the American war in Afghanistan, the military is using its wide latitude to instead transform it into a continuing campaign of airstrikes — mostly drone missions — and Special Operations raids that have in practice stretched or broken the parameters publicly described by the White House.

Western and military officials said that American and NATO forces conducted 52 airstrikes in March, months after the official end of the combat mission. Many of these air assaults, which totaled 128 in the first three months of this year, targeted low- to midlevel Taliban commanders in the most remote reaches of Afghanistan.

As early as January, when officials in Washington were hailing the end of the combat mission, about 40 American Special Operations troops were deployed to Kunar Province to advise Afghan forces that were engaged with the Taliban over a handful of villages along the border with Pakistan.

With the troops on the ground, the command for the American-led coalition called in airstrikes under the authority of force protection, according to two Western military officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details of the operation are not public.

“They are putting guys on the ground in places to justify the airstrikes,” one of the officials said. “It’s not force protection when they are going on the offensive.”

Commenting on the continuing military operations against the Taliban, the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, vehemently denied accusations that he was putting troops into harm’s way just to enable more airstrikes.
Considering the fact that the new rules were designed by the same pinchwits and sparrowfarts who could not win it the first 13 years around, all of this makes sense and should give us an idea of what to expect for the next 13 years. And I think the Pentagon should seriously give thought to moving the office to Egypt as all their best and brightest are usually up to their necks in denial.

When The Manhattan Project was top secret

Nobody could know
what was being done if you didn't have the requisite "need to know". Add to that the lack of knowledge about what they were working with and you have thousands of good people working diligently to win WW II and never knowing the deadly pollution they were planting across their own landscape. Even now seventy years after the fact, some of those sites are only becoming public knowledge.
Uranium ore used to make the atomic weapons used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was processed in downtown St. Louis, which hosted the country’s only uranium plant until 1951. In the decades following the end of WWII, hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive waste were haphazardly stored, shuffled around the region, illegally dumped, and sometimes left unaccounted for. As the metropolitan area expanded, suburban communities — such as the one Nickel’s parents moved their family to in 1973 — were built downwind or downstream from contaminated areas, government documents show.

After years of government reorganization, the contaminated sites in the St. Louis area have been targeted in cleanup campaigns lead by various government agencies, and officials have long maintained there is no immediate threat to human health. But many in the community disagree with that claim, pointing to a trail of rare cancers, autoimmune diseases, birth defects and infertility that span generations and are known to be linked to prolonged exposure to radiation — and some government agencies are starting to take notice...

For North St. Louis County residents of Nickel’s generation, Coldwater Creek was just a normal neighborhood creek — many didn’t even know its name. It was just “the creek” that kids would play in on hot summer days or cross on the way to school. It was the creek that would flood when it rained too much, turning neighborhood parks into giant puddles, dripping into basements and covering family vegetable gardens.

What many did not know was that they were living downstream from a 22-acre field acquired in 1946 by the long-gone Atomic Energy Commission. Hundreds of thousands of tons of waste — much of it radioactive — were dumped there, including some 60 tons of uranium-laced sand from Nazi Germany’s nuclear program that was captured by the United States en route to Japan near the end of WWII.

Soil samples taken by the Army Corps of Engineers in the late 1990s show that soils contaminated with forms of uranium, thorium and radium were found as deep as 20 feet in some places. The creek is near the westernmost boundary of the site and then flows nearly 20 miles through St. Louis County municipalities such as Florissant, Hazelwood and Black Jack .

Radioactive materials were carried into Coldwater Creek when it rained, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. In the late 1990s, the Corps found radioactive waste approximately five miles downstream from the storage site during a bridge renovation project.
The creek doesn't glow in the dark and neither do the victims, but years of constant low level exposure to deadly radioactive materiels has done the damage. And all those years of neglect have allowed the problem to spread far and wide among an unsuspecting population.

Do they interview potatoes?

It is too easy to say that the Senators are just being Republicans, because the practice has a long and dishonorable history. Maybe no one is to blame because no one knows what the process is. Whatever, if you are a woman practicing law in Idaho, do not bother to set you sights on a federal judgeship.
It seems that women need not apply to the federal district court bench in Idaho.

A secretive selection process that Idaho’s two senators have launched to find a replacement for U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge appears to be ignoring female candidates.

Idaho is the only state in the federal 9th Circuit that has never had a woman judge on the U.S. District Court bench. Lodge announced last September that he will take senior status on July 3.

“We are extremely concerned,” said Peg Dougherty, co-chair of the Judicial Recruitment Committee for Idaho Women Lawyers.

Multiple sources say Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have interviewed just four candidates — all men.

“Are the senators even aware that Idaho is the only state without a woman on the federal court bench at the district level?” Dougherty asked. “If they are aware, do they care?”

Neither Crapo nor Risch would comment.

“The judgeship application process is entirely confidential and remains ongoing,” said Risch’s press secretary, Suzanne Wrasse.

“The senators are working through their confidential process,” said Crapo’s press secretary, Lindsay Nothern. “That’s all I have.”

At least five prominent female Idaho attorneys, including one sitting judge and two high-ranking prosecutors, applied for the position, but have not been interviewed. They haven’t heard anything since their applications were submitted, they say.

“I submitted my judicial questionnaire in December, and was not contacted whatsoever at all, period,” said Boise attorney Terri Pickens Manweiler. “I heard through the grapevine that I was too progressive for the position, which is patently absurd. I’m about as middle-of-the-road as you can get, which is exactly what the position needs.”

Wendy Olson, U.S. attorney for Idaho, said she, too, completed the questionnaire that Risch and Crapo made available to interested applicants via email. “I did that in January,” she said. “And that is the last I have heard. I got a reply email saying they received my application, but other than that, I’ve not been contacted, not heard anything from the senators.”
Not even the courtesy of a reply. What a bunch of fucking potatoheads!

More Wisdom from Betty Bowers

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Not to be confused with a pestiferous American godbotherer

Beth Moore is a singer/songwriter from Canada, which no doubt put a good head on her shoulders and a good guitar in her hands. This is "OK OK" from her latest album Five Out Of Ten.

The creativity of Police explanations

From the pen of Jen Sorensen

The NSA will spy on us, no matter what

But it is possible that Congress may actually make them be a little more discrete when they do so. One of the more offensive parts of the "Patriot" Act will sunset on July 1 and Congress has to decide if they will renew or modify it or let it die the death it deserves.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers plans to introduce a bill aimed at blocking the National Security Agency from collecting the phone records of millions of Americans. The effort was described by its sponsors as a balanced approach that would ensure the NSA maintains an ability to obtain the data it needs to detect terrorist plots without infringing on Americans’ right to privacy.

Congress failed to advance similar legislation last year, and some officials believe the agency should not face new constraints at a time of deep concern over the threat from terrorist groups such as the Islamic State.

But given the politics on the Hill, in which liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans have made common cause, leaders on both sides of the Capitol appear to recognize that maintaining the NSA’s current authorities might not be tenable.

The government’s underlying authority to conduct bulk collection expires on July 1, with the “sunsetting” of Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.

The act was passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to give law enforcement and intelligence officials more tools to thwart terrorist threats. But it was also to secretly authorize a sweeping collection of Americans’ phone records. The disclosure of the program in June 2013 prompted a backlash and led President Obama to call for changes that would end the NSA’s collection while at the same time preserving its access to the records of terrorist suspects.

“If enacted, our bill will be the most significant reform to government surveillance authorities since the USA Patriot Act was passed nearly 14 years ago,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “Our bill will definitively end the NSA’s bulk collection under Section 215. The USA Freedom Act is a path forward that has the support of the administration, privacy groups, the technology industry — and most importantly, the American people.”

Leahy, along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), are co-sponsors of the USA Freedom Act, the legislation that is set to be introduced Tuesday. In addition to ending bulk surveillance, the bill would require the nation’s secretive surveillance court to provide a public summary or redacted version of significant opinions.

It would also grant technology companies more leeway to report on the scale of national security requests for data they receive, and it would provide for an advocate for the public’s privacy rights at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which generally hears only the government’s side of an argument.
In a perfect world, the entire Patriot Act would be repealed but this small change would be an improvement. Mind you, the NSA won't really stop their internal spying, they will just have to keep it secret from the government as well.

If you work for the Border Patrol

You can now stand within the boundaries of the United States and shoot Mexican citizens across the border within Mexico with impunity. So rules the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Curcuit.
A Border Patrol agent who shot and killed an unarmed Mexican teenager across a border fence in 2010 cannot be sued in United States by the teen’s family, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

Reversing a previous three-judge panel ruling by the same court, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously ruled Friday that family members of a Juarez, Mexico, teen did not have a right to sue Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa, who took the fatal shot across the border wall in 2010.

Mesa shot then-15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca in the face when he “poked his head out behind a pillar of a train trestle,” USA Today reported last year when a three-judge panel of the court ruled that the family of someone killed in Mexico had a right to sue in the U.S.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the federal appeals court ruled that “a 4th Amendment claim cannot be asserted by a Mexican citizen on Mexican soil with no significant connection to the United States … While there were differing rationales expressed in concurring opinions on whether Mesa violated Hernandez’s 5th Amendment rights, the court was unanimous in concluding that such rights could not have been clear to the agent. ‘No case law in 2010, when this episode occurred, reasonably warned Agent Mesa that his conduct violated the Fifth Amendment,’ the unsigned majority opinion said.”
Apparently it is a problem of standing, as in the victim was standing on the wrong side of the border. The Court's decision was also buttressed by the ancient legal principle of Lentus Stercore.

An exceptional country

Monday, April 27, 2015

Must be fun to play this with your husband

Like Christina Martin And Dale Murray as they perform "Sleeping With A Stranger".

Maybe someday

In the future an explanation may be forthcoming if the situation supports it. And Tom Tomorrow's friend Droney will let us know if it might happen.

Mayor Daley was a truth teller.

From the pen of Jeff Danziger

When you are big enough

You can make people tell you anything you need to know. This is quite useful when you are a major restaurant chain seeking to know if the products you buy are GMO or not. And when they find out, Chipotle has decided to say no to GMO products in the food they serve.
In a first for a major restaurant chain, Chipotle Mexican Grill on Monday will begin serving only food that is free of genetically engineered ingredients.

“This is another step toward the visions we have of changing the way people think about and eat fast food,” said Steve Ells, founder and co-chief executive of Chipotle. “Just because food is served fast doesn’t mean it has to be made with cheap raw ingredients, highly processed with preservatives and fillers and stabilizers and artificial colors and flavors.”

In 2013, Chipotle was the first restaurant chain to indicate which items contained genetically modified organisms, and a small but growing number of restaurants, largely in fine dining, also now label their menus.

Grocers, too, are moving to offer consumers more products free of genetically altered ingredients. The shelves and cases in Whole Foods stores are to be free of products containing such ingredients by 2018, and Walmart is vastly expanding its selection of organic foods, which are free of genetic alteration by law.

Even big food companies are moving to take genetically modified ingredients, or G.M.O.s, out of their products or to label products so that consumers know which are free of them.

Whether other major restaurant chains will follow Chipotle’s lead is uncertain. The increased demand for such products has made them more expensive and difficult to obtain in the amounts that big businesses need.
The food growers will tell a large corporation if their product has GMO, but labeling for little people like us is bad and can't be allowed.

The bastards put termites to shame

When it comes to constantly nibbling away and never giving up in their quest to fuck up us-Iran policy on behalf of their butthole buddy Bibi, the Republicans in Congress are more enduring than termites could ever imagine.
A bill to give Congress a voice in the nuclear deal with Iran is now endangered by Republican amendments that would peel away bipartisan support for a measure begrudgingly accepted by the White House this month.

Amendments filed by lawmakers last week include one that would require Iran to recognize Israel and another that would give any final nuclear deal the status of a treaty, which would require ratification by two-thirds of the Senate. Another proposal would require the release of American citizens detained in Iran as part of an agreement.

For Republican sponsors of the Iran measure, these amendments threaten to break the rare bipartisan spirit that pushed the bill unanimously out of the Foreign Relations Committee and even overcame White House objections. The bill’s unraveling would undermine the approach of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and upset its many supporters.

“It’s important that this stay bipartisan,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “We should not intermingle emotional amendments with this bill. I’m appealing to people, ‘Don’t throw this bill in a ditch.’ ”

The interim agreement reached between Iran and six world powers would dismantle much of Tehran’s nuclear program, dispose of most of the nuclear material that could be used to make an atomic weapon, strictly limit Iran’s enrichment of uranium and set up an international inspection regime in exchange for a lifting of economic sanctions. Negotiators have until the end of June to turn that agreement into a formal accord. If and when they do, Congress will want to review the agreement — and freeze the president’s ability to lift any sanctions while that review is continuing.

The handling of the Iran measure, which is expected to come up for a vote this week in the Senate, is a major test for Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
And so we are relying on wingnut Republicans and their zealous constancy to kill this truly stupid bill.

A little Monday wisdom

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A member of the Resistance in her teens

And arrested by the Nazis, Juliette Greco found a postwar life as a singer very much safer and secure. Still, one might doubt those words from her expressions at the beginning as she sings "Sous Le Ciel de Paris"

I'd move fast with this too

From the pen of Brain McFadden

Too many people in DC think they are cool

And as long as a good portion of those people are the ones with power in our fairy dust capital, the CIA can keep on droning whoever they want, where ever they want.
About once a month, staff members of the congressional intelligence committees drive across the Potomac River to C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va., and watch videos of people being blown up.

As part of the macabre ritual the staff members look at the footage of drone strikes in Pakistan and other countries and a sampling of the intelligence buttressing each strike, but not the internal C.I.A. cables discussing the attacks and their aftermath. The screenings have provided a veneer of congressional oversight and have led lawmakers to claim that the targeted killing program is subject to rigorous review, to defend it vigorously in public and to authorize its sizable budget each year.

That unwavering support from Capitol Hill is but one reason the C.I.A.’s killing missions are embedded in American warfare and unlikely to change significantly despite President Obama’s announcement on Thursday that a drone strike accidentally killed two innocent hostages, an American and an Italian. The program is under fire like never before, but the White House continues to champion it, and C.I.A. officers who built the program more than a decade ago — some of whom also led the C.I.A. detention program that used torture in secret prisons — have ascended to the agency’s powerful senior ranks.

Although lawmakers insist that there is great accountability to the program, interviews with administration and congressional officials show that Congress holds the program to less careful scrutiny than many members assert. Top C.I.A. officials, who learned the importance of cultivating Congress after the resistance they ran into on the detention program, have dug in to protect the agency’s drone operations, frustrating a pledge by Mr. Obama two years ago to overhaul the program and pull it from the shadows.
Holding the CIA to any real accountability would end the access to all those great videos. And let's face it, when it comes to blowing up people and shredding bodies all over the place, the CIA has it all over Spielberg and the rest of those Hollywood fakers.

Trying to keep it real, Mississippi Deltastyle

By going out into the world to see what real looks like. One of the real being sought is the heart and home of the real blues in the Mississippi Delta. And the state of Mississippi, having failed all these years to improve the lives of the people, largely black, in this area has hit upon a great idea to exploit them, tourism.
The Mississippi Blues Commission, working with national grant money and funding from local communities, has nearly completed the Blues Trail. It consists of 215 signs marking significant locations in blues history, with a website and phone app to guide tourists. Several new blues museums have opened in the last decade, including the $15 million B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, and the number of blues festivals has increased from a handful to more than 50.

When the state legislature authorized the Blues Trail in 2008, economic development was stated as the primary goal. Mississippi is the poorest state in America, and the great hope is that blues tourism will stimulate economic activity, especially in the impoverished and largely African-American communities where the music originated. That hasn’t happened yet in Bentonia. The town is so small and broke that it has almost nothing to sell to visitors. There’s no motel and only one restaurant, open on Friday and Saturday nights during crawfish season. Holmes can arrange for food at the Blue Front Café, but only if visitors call a few days in advance. Otherwise, he just serves just beer and soda.

Holmes has increased his income slightly by selling T-shirts and CDs, by renting out the venue to outside musicians, who are thrilled to play in a real Mississippi juke joint, and by performing himself, for tips. He’s the last one left who plays the uniquely haunting, hypnotic style of blues that developed in Bentonia. Its most famous exponent was Skip James, who recorded in the 1930s and again during the blues revival of the 1960s. Holmes mastered the Bentonia style as a young man, but he didn’t record any albums or play any live shows until he was in his 60s. Now he plays summer blues festivals in Europe, Israel and all over the United States.

“People around here have zero interest in the blues,” he says. “They want music they can dance to. The audience for my type of music is all from other places now and mostly white.”...

When tourists started showing up here, I couldn’t figure out what they saw in the place,” says Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, a 67-year-old blues musician and owner of the Blue Front Café. It’s a scruffy little drinking spot and informal music venue — a juke joint. The floor is weathered concrete. The barstools are hammered together from raw lumber and painted blue. Heat comes from a piece of oil-field pipe converted into a wood-burning stove.

“My parents started the Blue Front in 1948, and it ain’t been nothing but a juke joint ever since,” says Holmes, a slow-moving medium-built man with a rich, grainy speaking voice. He is sipping a late morning beer and smoking a long menthol cigarette. “It ain’t nothing fancy, but it’s authentic and original, and that’s what the tourists like, I’ve come to understand. They don’t have anything authentic in their regular lives, so they feel drawn to it.
And soon the last of the real will be varnished and protected, perhaps even restored to its original realness.

Today's bible lesson

Saturday, April 25, 2015

On the veteran returning home

Gretchen Peters sings "When All You Got Is A Hammer" from her latest Blackbirds album.

Once seen it can not be unseen

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

Their last can of Who Hash

If left to their own devices peasants will last forever. But all to often in this world those who have all and more than they need feel the urge to go "Full Grinch" on some quaint group of peasants somewhere and take the last thing of value they have. This may entail commodities or food stuffs. A fine recent example of this is the grain quinoa, left for the peasants to eat because the Haves did not want it, until some trend setter made it the next coming of Vegetable Christ. And now the Central & South American peasants who lived comfortably on cheap and plentiful quinoa are having trouble being able to afford it. And now the peasants of Ethiopia are being targeted with the opportunity to share their manna with the otherwise overfed asses of the trendy world.
Outside Ethiopian diaspora communities — and Ethiopian restaurants — teff remained largely anonymous for decades. But growing appetites for traditional crops and nutritious foods mean customers ranging from families to hipsters in New York and London are now seeking their fix too. The crop is now grown in about 25 U.S. states, but Ethiopians claim you can’t beat teff grown in its homeland for flavor and quality.

Previously heralded so-called superfoods, however, such as Andean quinoa, have illustrated hidden consequences for locals when their indigenous staples find eager customers in more affluent countries. Even before the growth in international demand, poor Ethiopians were struggling to afford increasingly expensive teff.

“A piece of injera used to cost about 50 santeem ($0.02), but now it’s nearly four Ethiopian birr ($0.19),” said Nathaniel, the manager of a hotel in the eastern Ethiopian town of Dire Dawa. It’s estimated that 29 percent of Ethiopia’s population lives on less than $2 a day.

Nathaniel said that the tables on the hotel terrace lacked lunch patrons because people can’t afford to eat out and that many locals, faced with low incomes and high food prices, skip breakfast each day and eat only a midmorning snack followed by an injera-based meal later in the afternoon.

Teff, primarily ground into flour to make injera, is the backbone of Ethiopia’s food. But throughout millennia of farming, most Ethiopians remained unaware of the nutritional gem in their midst.

Though teff is tiny — about 100 grains match a kernel of wheat — it is a nutritional heavyweight. It has a mild, nutty flavor, and it’s high in calcium, iron and protein, with an excellent balance of amino acids. Plus it’s naturally gluten-free. In flour form, it can be used to make foods ranging from bread and pasta to tortillas, piecrusts and cookies, with a far larger potential market than just diaspora Ethiopians needing a taste of home.

"People are dreaming of teff nowadays. After thousands of years, it has become the trendy thing over here," said Sophie Sirak-Kebede, a British-Ethiopian co-owner of London-based Tobia Teff, which sells teff flour, teff bread, breakfast cereals such as teff flakes and teff porridge and, of course, injera.
And the new front in Gastronomic Imperialism will not make it easier for those who have gone before. The pressures will remain as the lesser trendies take up that cause.

Public Safety

Friday, April 24, 2015

Too much talent

Nellie McKay, American singer, songwriter, actress, comedienne has a habit of making her music for herself. Which makes it very hard for the music business to turn her into the next Lady Gaga or Beyonce, but she is kool with that. From her latest album, My Weekly Reader, we see she is content covering a Country Joe McDonald tune "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine"

When you have only one big idea

From the pen of Jim Morin

So we get a few extras now and then

We are still having good hunting when we go droning in Waziristan, and that is what we are aiming for.
While the C.I.A. drone strike that killed two Western hostages has led to intense criticism of the drone program and potentially a reassessment of it, the American successes over the years in targeting and killing senior Qaeda operatives in their home base has left the militant group’s leadership diminished and facing difficult choices, counterterrorism officials and analysts say.

That process of attrition has been accelerated by the emergence of the Islamic State, whose arresting brutality and superior propaganda have sucked up funding and recruits. In the tribal belt, a Pakistani military drive that started last summer has forced Qaeda commanders into ever more remote areas like the Shawal Valley, where two of them were killed alongside the American hostage Warren Weinstein and an Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto, on Jan. 15.

Even the death of Mr. Weinstein, a prized hostage whom Al Qaeda had long sought to exchange for prisoners or money, is emblematic of the state of siege. Whereas in Syria, the Islamic State has turned hostage execution into a macabre propaganda spectacle, Al Qaeda has seen any dividend from its captives snatched away, albeit inadvertently, by its American foes.

“Core Al Qaeda is a rump of its former self,” said an American counterterrorism official, in an assessment echoed by several European and Pakistani officials.

The Pakistanis estimate that Al Qaeda has lost 40 loyalists, of all ranks, to American drone strikes in the past six months – a higher toll than other sources have tracked but indicative of a broader trend. Now, they say, Qaeda commanders are moving back to the relative safety, and isolation, of locations they once fled, like the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, and Sudan.

Yet militancy experts caution that it is too early to sound the death knell for Al Qaeda’s leaders, for whom patience and adaptability are hallmarks, and who, despite the adversity, remain the principal jihadist militants focused on attacking the West.
Is it our fault we don't get bonus points for the extras?

Will "Pro-Life" Nebraska kill the death penalty.

One of the enduring hypocrisies of the "Pro Life" crowd has been their usually unwavering support for the death penalty. On the face of it, the contradiction is glaring but t hat is only if you think the "Pro Life" crowd was in any way based on a positive life affirming belief. Taken as the ultimate big government intrusion into your life, it fits in perfectly. Now the legislature of Nebraska wants to end that.
State lawmakers approved Legislative Bill 268 late last week, which would replace the death penalty with life without parole, in a lopsided 30-13 vote, enough to overcome Ricketts’ promised veto if support holds. Backers of the bill, including several Republican advocates, are now trying to wrangle additional supporters to overcome the remaining legislative hurdles. Two more rounds of voting must take place under the rules of Nebraska’s unicameral legislature — the only one of its kind in the nation — and 33 state senators may be needed to break debate at the next stage.

“I’m actually very optimistic that we can get the votes we need for cloture to end the filibuster,” said Stacy Anderson, the executive director of Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, an advocacy group that has been lobbying legislators on the issue. “There are senators in the body who don’t support the repeal, but they support this being given an up-or-down vote. They believe a vote should be taken.”

The rejection of the death penalty in Nebraska shows that more Republican lawmakers at the state level feel free to express their qualms about capital punishment and champion abolishment efforts. Similar legislation has been introduced in Kansas and Arkansas, but in those states, the bills have not made it out of committee.

“It makes sense for Republicans to support repeal. It’s antithetical to life,” said Marc Hyden, the director of the national group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. “What’s happening in Nebraska is what we’re seeing nationwide — more and more people are seeing the death penalty as a broken system that doesn’t line up with their values.”

If the proposal succeeds in Nebraska, it will be the first solidly red state to abolish capital punishment in decades. (Blue states Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland repealed the death penalty in 2011, 2012 and 2013, respectively.) In 32 states, however, executions are still legal, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

“There’s strong conservative leadership in the body to actually get the repeal bill passed,” Anderson said. “We’re in a race with several states to be the first red state repeal, so I think it’s just a matter of time before we see that happening.”
Everything about the death penalty is getting pretty iffy. If this passes, they won't have that headache anymore.

A classic performance from Cuban Ted Cruz

In the matter of Loretta Lynch and the Senate confirmation of her appointment, Ted Cruz carried on in the manner to which we should become accustomed to until we can safely deport him to Cuba. First he made a series of loud and most obvious noises unto his lizard brained base and then when the vote came, he was off fundraising.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, lectured his colleagues in a floor speech Thursday about how unsuitable Loretta Lynch was for U.S. attorney general, only to skip the vote on her confirmation and catch a plane to Dallas for a meeting and a fundraiser for his presidential campaign.

Cruz, who has been one of Lynch’s chief antagonists, was the only senator who missed the vote, which made the New York federal prosecutor the nation’s newest chief law enforcement officer by vote of 56-43.

Cruz’s absence was noteworthy and set political networks buzzing, because just a few hours earlier on the Senate floor he chided Republicans for failing to band together against her nomination.

It was a signature move for the first-term senator from the Lone Star State, who revels in tweaking and undercutting his own party colleagues in the chamber as much he does the Democrats.

Asked why he missed the confirmation vote, Cruz campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said that the senator “had a commitment in Texas.”
We must set the priorities.

What the GOP has on offer

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fourteen years of teaching songwriting

At the Berklee School of Music makes it difficult for Susan Cattaneo to pick a bad song for her sets. Funny about how she does so well at C & W having grown up a Jersey girl. Here she sings "Lorelei" from her Haunted Heart album.

Preparing for the future

From the pen of  Jeff Stahler

The joys of stealing big

If you put no limit on how much you can and will steal, the authorities will have a hard time grasping the extent of your grasping and any penalty when you are caught will in no way match the size of your gain. Deutsche Bank is the latest to benefit from this anomaly as it will pay a piddly $2.5B in fines for manipulating rates on the shit it sells.
Deutsche Bank will pay a $2.5 billion penalty to United States and British authorities to settle accusations that it helped manipulate the benchmarks used to set interest rates on trillions of dollars in mortgages, student loans, credit cards and other debt, officials said on Thursday.

The penalty is by far the largest in a yearslong investigation into whether large banks conspired to set the price of debt in ways that would be profitable for them. Until Thursday, the largest fine was the $1.5 billion the Swiss bank UBS agreed to pay in 2012 — one of several global banks linked to the gaming of interest rates.

The size of the fine reflected Deutsche Bank’s large share of the market for derivatives and other financial instruments tied to the rates. The authorities denounced the bank, Germany’s biggest financial institution and one of the last European banks with a major Wall Street presence, for what they said was lax oversight of traders and employees involved in setting rates, as well as a failure to respond to warning signs of misconduct. They also said the bank also misled investigators and dragged its feet in providing information.

Excerpts from electronic messages showed traders from Deutsche Bank and other investment banks addressing each other as “dude,” “mate” and “amigo” as they colluded to help their own trading positions at the expense of millions of borrowers.

The fixing of interest rates by Deutsche Bank employees in London, Frankfurt, New York and Tokyo from 2005 to 2011 was deliberate, and the employees were aware that it was wrong, the authorities said.

“One division at Deutsche Bank had a culture of generating profits without proper regard to the integrity of the market,” Georgina Philippou, acting director of enforcement and market oversight at the Financial Conduct Authority in Britain, said in a statement. “This wasn’t limited to a few individuals but, on certain desks, it appeared deeply ingrained.”

As part of the settlement, one of Deutsche Bank’s British subsidiaries will plead guilty to fraud, and the company will install an independent monitor who will ensure that the bank complies with New York laws.

The authorities also ordered the bank to fire seven managers suspected of involvement in the wrongdoing, all but one of whom are in London. They were among 29 employees believed to have taken part, most of whom have already left the bank.
Actually getting an admission of guilt must be the Brits fault, the US never seems to be able to accomplish that. The same with the firing of seven small to medium sized fish.

Well, it's $4.75 higher than Republicans think is necessary

So it's not as much as most would like and and it comes later as well, but a $12 Minimum Wage by 2020 is the new Democratic tool to bedevil the Republicans.
Democrats in Congress are uniting around a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour.

Within the next several days, Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate committee that deals with labor issues, plans to introduce a bill to increase the minimum wage, in steps, from its current level of $7.25 to $12 by 2020.

The measure has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled Congress in the near future, but it is the latest indication of Democrats’ rising ambitions for lifting the wage floor, an issue with considerable popular support in an era of increasing income inequality. The party is determined to elevate the issue in next year’s congressional and presidential elections.

Senator Murray’s forthcoming bill, and a companion measure by Representative Robert C. Scott in the House, have considerable support within the party, according to congressional aides. Among the 15 to 20 Democrats who already back the effort in the Senate are Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, and Charles E. Schumer of New York, his chosen successor.

“The politics, substance and morality coincide to make it a winner issue for us in 2016,” Senator Schumer said. “It appeals not just to the people who would benefit,” he added. “Polling data shows it appeals to middle-class people, people of high income.”
By 2020 it will still be less than necessary. And if we are still fighting for it by 2020 we will be in deep shit.

For those who haven't read it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

While in Blighty on her world tour

Caitlin Rose recorded this version of her tune "Own Side" from her album of the same name.

Master Debater or World Class Wanker

The New York Times
has look at the undergraduate debating career of Ted Cruz and it shows how he has honed his strengths and weaknesses during those heady days.
To many former teammates and opponents who recounted his Princeton debating career, Mr. Cruz, the Texas senator who has emerged as a formidable Republican presidential candidate, stood out as a remarkable orator in a college circuit brimming with Type A strivers.

But in the upper echelon of a rollicking debating world that exalted extemporaneous thinking, where topics ranged from the concrete to the absurd, and where facts and moral assessments took a back seat to quick thinking and wit, Mr. Cruz had a different reputation.

Regarded as a powerful speaker who depended on overly prepared, or “canned,” cases, Mr. Cruz could be foiled with humor. His emotional zeal, no matter which side he was arguing, rubbed more experienced judges the wrong way. So did his stilted speaking style and standoffishness on the debate world’s vibrant social scene, where kegs flowed at Friday night parties. His raw ambition sometimes soured the student judges, as well as the audiences who voted in championship rounds, on him.

A lawyer who came to prominence arguing before the Supreme Court, Mr. Cruz has leveraged his intellectual bandwidth and ability to articulate a defiant brand of conservatism into a political career that has taken him to where he always expected to be. As a presidential candidate, he is now calibrating his arguments to win over evangelical Christians, Tea Party voters and moneyed donors.

Mr. Cruz honed those skills as a college debater, an experience that served as a beta version for his national campaign. It was a time when his strengths, weaknesses and occasional self-defeating ploys were all on display.
An interesting glimpse of the man who sees himself as El Guapo. So lets close with one of the first efforts to stop this golden child from thinking too much of himself.
Mr. Cruz did not get along with his first roommate, a liberal who put Super Glue on Mr. Cruz’s alarm clock snooze button.

Earth Day Greetings from a Republican

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

Good news and bad news

The good news is that green energy employment is climbing faster than coal employment is declining. This would mean that the lost jobs are being replaced, if the job openings were in coal country, but they are not.
Far more jobs have been created in wind and solar in recent years than lost in the collapse of the coal industry, and renewable energy is poised for record growth in the United States this year.

“I started this company in 2009 and I have seen tremendous growth since then,” said John Billingsley, CEO of Tri-Global Energy in Dallas.

Billingsley built his business on wind energy, which generated more than 10 percent of the electricity in Texas last year. He said he is hiring more workers to expand into solar power as well.

Researchers at Duke University, using data from renewable energy trade associations, estimate in a new study published in the journal Energy Policy that more than 79,000 direct and spinoff jobs were created from wind and solar electricity generation between 2008 and 2012.

That compares with an estimate of about 49,530 coal industry job losses, according to the study. While natural gas was the biggest winner in creating jobs for electricity generation, with almost 95,000 jobs created in that time, it’s clear renewable energy has been on the rise in the United States.

“The capacity growth in wind was amazing, and the growth in solar has been absolutely phenomenal,” said Lincoln Pratson, professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Wind power created 9,000 jobs in Texas in 2014, according to the American Wind Energy Association, and there are 7,500 megawatts of wind projects under construction in Texas, more than all other states combined.

California is the solar king and is expected to account for more than half the solar construction this year.

But the region hardest hit by the decline of the coal industry, Appalachia, is seeing few green jobs created.

“In West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, where a lot of the job losses have occurred, it is very rugged terrain, these are not easy places to set up wind and solar facilities, they are heavily forested,” Pratson said.

State laws also helped drive the growth outside of Appalachia. Pratson said. Twenty-nine states specify a percentage of renewable electricity that utilities should meet, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Kentucky and West Virginia are not among them.

“States with incentives have more growth,” said Drew Hearer, a Duke University research analyst who co-authored the study. “The Southeast is incentive-free, and there is almost no development of green energy there compared to other regions.”
So once again the people of Appalachia are getting screwed, as usual by the people they made wealthy. People too damned unchristian to share and increase that wealth.

One man knows more than 19 Republicans

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Heart of the Hudson River Americana Revival

Spuyten Duyvil is a band that loves the old time music so much they went back to the Dutch for their name. This is "Hell Or High Water" from their recent Extended Play Session.

They are all small, he should buy them all

From the pen of Mike Lukovich

The Two Faces Of Eric Holder

It has long been known that during his time as Attorney General, Eric Holder has been a man who talks a great game and delivers less, much less. And as his time is coming to an end, the NYTimes gives us a look and one of his skeevier duplicities.
Teresa Sheehan was alone in her apartment at a mental health center, clutching what her lawyers said was a small bread knife and demanding to be left alone. San Francisco police officers, responding to a call from a social worker, forced open the door, blinded her with pepper spray and shot her.

It was the kind of violent police confrontation that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has frequently criticized in Cleveland, Albuquerque, Ferguson, Mo., and beyond. But last month, when Ms. Sheehan’s civil rights lawsuit reached the Supreme Court, the Justice Department backed the police, saying that a lower court should have given more weight to the risks that the officers faced.

At the Supreme Court, where the limits of police power are established, Mr. Holder’s Justice Department has supported police officers every time an excessive-force case has made its way to arguments. Even as it has opened more than 20 civil rights investigations into local law enforcement practices, the Justice Department has staked out positions that make it harder for people to sue the police and that give officers more discretion about when to fire their guns.

Police groups see Mr. Holder as an ally in that regard, and that pattern has rankled civil rights lawyers, who say the government can have a far greater effect on policing by interpreting law at the Supreme Court than through investigations of individual departments.

“There is an inherent conflict between people at the Justice Department trying to stop police abuses and other people at the Justice Department convincing the Supreme Court that police abuses should be excused,” said Ronald L. Kuby, a Manhattan civil rights lawyer.

To some extent, conflict is built into the system. The Justice Department’s core mission is law enforcement. It oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, among others. In every administration, it is in the government’s interest for federal agents to have as much leeway, and as little liability, as possible.

“It’s natural that the instinctive reaction of the department is to support law enforcement interests, even when a particular case may have compelling facts for the individual defendant,” said Neal K. Katyal, a former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration. He said the Justice Department had a duty to tell the court what effect a ruling could have for federal law enforcement agencies.

When police abuse cases make it to the Supreme Court, even if they have nothing to do with federal agents, the Justice Department often weighs in. Last year, the department sided with police officers in West Memphis, Ark., who shot a driver and passenger 15 times, killing them at the end of a chase.

John F. Bash, a Justice Department lawyer in that case, told the justices that “there is some level of reckless driving in response to a police pursuit that authorizes the use of deadly force.” What was certain, he added, was that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity, which shields them from civil rights lawsuits. The Supreme Court unanimously agreed.

Every such victory makes it harder for citizens to prevail when they believe they have been mistreated by police officers. It also adds obstacles for the Justice Department’s own civil rights investigators when alleging police misconduct. That has led to some tense debates inside the department, current and former officials say, as the government’s civil rights and appellate lawyers discussed when the department should weigh in, and on which side. Those debates have led the Justice Department to take more nuanced positions than government lawyers might have otherwise, the officials said.
The concept of protecting your own is not hard to understand, despite the tenuous connection, but the failure to set and enforce the standards that the police should operate under is appalling. And the failure of Eric Holder to follow up his strong talk on civil rights with any meaningful action ranks up there with his treatment of the Wall St. Frauds & Banksters as one of his greatest failures.

Children are part of the takeover.

Idaho, Home of the Best Potatoes in the Land. And every one of those spuds is smarter than the average Idahoan, which puts them lightyears ahead of the folks elected to the legislature.
It took five years for negotiators to work out the details of a multinational treaty on child support that would make it easier to track delinquent parents around the world. It took only a couple of minutes for a committee of the Idaho Legislature to endanger America’s participation.

In a 9-to-8 vote in the closing hours of the legislative session, the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee killed a bill that state and federal officials had said was crucial to the finely crafted choreography of the child support treaty reached at The Hague. All 50 states must approve the mechanics of the treaty for American ratification to proceed, and 19 have signed off thus far.

A major factor seems to be Idaho’s ornery streak, the part of the state’s identity that does not like the federal government — or, worse still, foreign governments — telling it what to do.

In Boise, the state capital, members of the committee — which is dominated by Republicans, as is the Legislature as a whole — raised concerns about foreign tribunals, perhaps ones based on Shariah, the Islamic legal code, potentially making decisions under the treaty that Idaho might not like. At least 32 countries, along with the European Union, have ratified the agreement.

“I’m concerned about women’s rights in some of these countries,” Representative Heather Scott, a Republican member of the committee, said during a hearing on the bill. “I’m seeing a problem,” added Ms. Scott, who ultimately voted along with eight other Republicans to table the bill without sending it to the full House for a vote.

The stakes are potentially immense, both for child support recipients across the nation, who risk losing the benefits that the treaty protects, and for parents and children in Idaho — particularly poor ones — who will lose various federal subsidies unless legislators change their minds.

Federal officials said that $16 million in funding for Idaho’s child welfare system would be cut within 60 days, effectively dismantling the state’s child support enforcement arm, which can take steps like garnishing a parent’s pay. Another $30 million in block grants could dry up too, including federal money for Head Start, the preschool program for low-income children.

“People are realizing the dimensions, and it’s blowing wide open,” said Taryn Thompson, 35, a divorced mother in Kootenai County who depends on child support.
Who knew the Republican Party was the party of deadbeat parents?

Bernie meets Teddy

Monday, April 20, 2015

Diana Krall does Route 66 in Montreal

With one hell of an intro from her guitar player Russell Malone. Don't miss a lick.

Have you ever wondered why?

Tom Tomorrow reveals the secret. No it didn't die on the Trollenberg.

Many cycles of life

And most of them serve a necessary function in life. On the other hand, some are a vicious and insidious corruption of good intentions. Take for example child support. A way to insure people take responsibility for what they do in life, until it is used to take away their opportunity for life.
Walter Scott’s death has focused attention not just on police violence, but also on the use of jail to pressure parents to pay child support, a policy employed by many states today. Though the threat of jail is considered an effective incentive for people who are able but unwilling to pay, many critics assert that punitive policies are trapping poor men in a cycle of debt, unemployment and imprisonment.

The problem begins with child support orders that, at the outset, can exceed parents’ ability to pay. When parents fall short, the authorities escalate collection efforts, withholding up to 65 percent of a paycheck, seizing bank deposits and tax refunds, suspending driver’s licenses and professional licenses, and then imposing jail time.

“Parents who are truly destitute go to jail over and over again for child support debt simply because they’re poor,” said Sarah Geraghty, a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights, which filed a class-action lawsuit in Georgia on behalf of parents incarcerated without legal representation for failure to pay. “We see many cases in which the person is released, they’re given three months to pay a large amount of money, and then if they can’t do that they’re tossed right back in the county jail.”

There is no national count of how many parents are incarcerated for failure to pay child support, and enforcement tactics vary from state to state, as do policies such as whether parents facing jail are given court-appointed lawyers. But in 2009, a survey in South Carolina found that one in eight inmates had been jailed for failure to pay child support. In Georgia, 3,500 parents were jailed in 2010. The Record of Hackensack, N.J., reported last year that 1,800 parents had been jailed or given ankle monitors in two New Jersey counties in 2013. (The majority of noncustodial parents nationwide are men.)

Unpaid child support became a big concern in the 1980s and ’90s as public hostility grew toward the archetypal “deadbeat dad” who lived comfortably while his children suffered. Child support collections were so spotty that in the late 1990s, new enforcement tools such as automatic paycheck deductions were used. As a result, child support collections increased significantly, and some parents rely heavily on aggressive enforcement by the authorities.
Continue reading the main story

But experts said problems could arise when such tactics were used against people who had little money, and the vast majority of unpaid child support is owed by the very poor. A 2007 Urban Institute study of child support debt in nine large states found that 70 percent of the arrears were owed by people who reported less than $10,000 a year in income. They were expected to pay, on average, 83 percent of their income in child support — a percentage that declined precipitously in higher income brackets.

In many jurisdictions, support orders are based not on the parent’s actual income but on “imputed income” — what they would be expected to earn if they had a full-time, minimum wage or median wage job. In South Carolina, the unemployment rate for black men is 12 percent.
If you have the money to pay, you can afford to keep out of jail. If you don't have the money, you will go to jail and never again have the opportunity to have any money.

Be happy they let you out of jail

And any money that your family sent you or that you may have earned in one of those fifty cents an hour prison jobs? Half of that will be going to the issuer of your debit card for various charges and fees every time you even look at it.
“There were fees for transferring the money to a bank and closing the account. There was even an inactivity fee if you didn't use the card for 90 days. I left prison with $120. Because of the fees I was only able to use about $70 of it.”

Correctional facilities across the country are increasingly sending former inmates home with their funds returned on pre-paid debit cards, known in the industry as release cards. In addition to adoption by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 17 state prison agencies reported using them in a 2014 survey commissioned by the New Jersey Department of Corrections. Prison reform advocates like Peter Wagner of the Prison Policy Initiative say that their use is even more widespread among the nation’s nearly 3,300 jails. With almost 12 million people admitted to county and city jails each year, these local facilities provide a steady source of cardholders subject to high fees. “The money is in the recidivism not rehabilitation,” said Cavaluzzi.

The use of these cards is expanding into jobs programs for current inmates. In 2014 the Alabama DOC began using debit cards with high ATM fees to pay inmates at a small number of its work-release facilities and plans to roll out the program statewide by July.

Unlike consumer debit cards, prison-issued cards are completely unregulated when it comes to the fees that can be charged. The result is high transaction and maintenance fees that bear little relation to the actual costs of the services provided.

Banking giant JPMorgan Chase is the exclusive release-card vendor in federal prisons. At state and local facilities these cards are provided by a handful of smaller vendors like JPay, Keefe Group, Numi Financial and Rapid Financial Solutions. A review of bids and contracts in several states and counties found ATM withdrawal fees of nearly $3 per transaction. A simple balance inquiry typically incurs a charge of $1.50. Account maintenance fees, deducted even if no transactions are made, can be as much as $2.50 per week. Cardholders who opt to transfer their balances to a bank account can be charged closing fees of $30. These cards are designed to generate income for the private vendors that furnish them.

That income is crucial because it allows vendors to offer the debit card service at no charge to correctional facilities while eliminating those facilities’ cash management expenses. The cost of issuing and managing the cards is paid for solely by the exorbitant fees former inmates must pay, fees that quickly deplete their already meager balances.
Not all thieves go to jail, some merely profit from them, with the blessing of The Man.

Embarrassed by the clowns

Now that the current clown car full of presidential candidates is obviously impressing no one, the second line is considering stepping up to fill in the yawning gap. Various governors are making the necessary rumblings prior to throwing their hats in the ring.
Think the Republican field is already crowded? Better find more room, because the roster of potential candidates for the GOP presidential nomination may grow even more.

New Hampshire Republicans heard from 18 people who are or may be running this weekend. Two others didn’t attend.

It probably didn’t matter, because when the marathon ended, no one could claim momentum. And no one could reliably say what the primary ballot will look like.

Prominent party figures barely known outside their home states are weighing bids. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich are thinking about it. Snyder loyalists have set up a fund that so he can travel and boast about his battered state’s economic comeback. Ehrlich, who won the governorship in heavily Democratic Maryland, has made several visits to New Hampshire in recent months.

Others are being mentioned in insider circles. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s prospects sank during the recent flap over Indiana’s religious liberty law, but he still has fans among conservatives. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, who’s won two terms in a state that’s been trending Democratic, has also been mentioned, though more as a potential vice presidential pick.

This muddled, still-emerging field is the result of an unusual convergence of political influences. Republicans for years have given their nomination to the next in line, often a runner-up in the previous cycle or a vice president. This time, “there’s no heir apparent,” said Steve Duprey, the state’s Republican national committeeman.

There is a widespread feeling that Republicans have a good shot at winning the White House. Only once since World War II has the same party won the presidency more than twice in a row – Republicans in 1980, 1984 and 1988.

So GOP activists have two broad standards for picking a candidate: They want someone reliably conservative. And, “I want a winner,” said Tanja Owen, an Amherst marketing director. It’s a sentiment echoed repeatedly.
Having run their states into the ground, they have the necessary party cred, but do they have the approval of their particular invisible sky demon? Rumor says that is what Ohio's John Kasich is waiting for.

Happy 420 Day!

The Late Freddie Gray - 3 broken vertebrae and damage to his thorax

And the law says he was in possession of an illegal knife. Once upon a time he was in possession of his life as well.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

She is still playing smaller venues

So if she is in you neighborhood, stop by and give Caroline Rose a listen. You won't regret it. "This Is What Livin' Feels Like" from her America Religious album.

Gov Brownback helps those on welfare

From the pen of Brian McFadden

The grid doesn't care which way the power flows

But the owners of the electrical grid, still working of the centralized generation model, cares very much about it. And at this time they are struggling very hard to to maintain that business model in the face of growing decentralized generation.
Other states and countries, including California, Arizona, Japan and Germany, are struggling to adapt to the growing popularity of making electricity at home, which puts new pressures on old infrastructure like circuits and power lines and cuts into electric company revenue.

As a result, many utilities are trying desperately to stem the rise of solar, either by reducing incentives, adding steep fees or effectively pushing home solar companies out of the market. In response, those solar companies are fighting back through regulators, lawmakers and the courts.

The shift in the electric business is no less profound than those that upended the telecommunications and cable industries in recent decades. It is already remaking the relationship between power companies and the public while raising questions about how to pay for maintaining and operating the nation’s grid.

The issue is not merely academic, electrical engineers say.

In solar-rich areas of California and Arizona, as well as in Hawaii, all that solar-generated electricity flowing out of houses and into a power grid designed to carry it in the other direction has caused unanticipated voltage fluctuations that can overload circuits, burn lines and lead to brownouts or blackouts...

The economic threat also has electric companies on edge. Over all, demand for electricity is softening while home solar is rapidly spreading across the country. There are now about 600,000 installed systems, and the number is expected to reach 3.3 million by 2020, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The Edison Electric Institute, the main utility trade group, has been warning its members of the economic perils of high levels of rooftop solar since at least 2012, and the companies are responding. In February, the Salt River Project, a large utility in Arizona, approved charges that could add about $50 to a typical monthly bill for new solar customers, while last year in Wisconsin, where rooftop solar is still relatively rare, regulators approved fees that would add $182 a year for the average solar customer.

In Hawaii, the current battle began in 2013, when Hawaiian Electric started barring installations of residential solar systems in certain areas. It was an abrupt move — a panicked one, critics say — made after the utility became alarmed by the technical and financial challenges of all those homes suddenly making their own electricity.

The utility wants to cut roughly in half the amount it pays customers for solar electricity they send back to the grid. But after a study showed that with some upgrades the system could handle much more solar than the company had assumed, the state’s public utilities commission ordered the utility to begin installations or prove why it could not.

It was but one sign of the agency’s growing impatience with what it considers the utility’s failure to adapt its business model to the changing market.
There will always be imbalances in the system that requires a grid to redistribute it and the need for a reliable base supply to fill in gaps in supply. These needs won't be nearly as great as in the past but it does require a business model more like a toll road highway system than a one way street.

They still have their AK-47's

But when they want something bigger to blow the shit out of whatever or whoever is out there, they turn to the most reliable supplier of heavy weapons in the world, the US.
As the Middle East descends into proxy wars, sectarian conflicts and battles against terrorist networks, countries in the region that have stockpiled American military hardware are now actually using it and wanting more. The result is a boom for American defense contractors looking for foreign business in an era of shrinking Pentagon budgets — but also the prospect of a dangerous new arms race in a region where the map of alliances has been sharply redrawn.

Last week, defense industry officials told Congress that they were expecting within days a request from Arab allies fighting the Islamic State — Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt — to buy thousands of American-made missiles, bombs and other weapons, replenishing an arsenal that has been depleted over the past year...

Saudi Arabia spent more than $80 billion on weaponry last year — the most ever, and more than either France or Britain — and has become the world’s fourth-largest defense market, according to figures released last week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks global military spending. The Emirates spent nearly $23 billion last year, more than three times what they spent in 2006.

Qatar, another gulf country with bulging coffers and a desire to assert its influence around the Middle East, is on a shopping spree. Last year, Qatar signed an $11 billion deal with the Pentagon to purchase Apache attack helicopters and Patriot and Javelin air-defense systems. Now the tiny nation is hoping to make a large purchase of Boeing F-15 fighters to replace its aging fleet of French Mirage jets. Qatari officials are expected to present the Obama administration with a wish list of advanced weapons before they come to Washington next month for meetings with other gulf nations.

American defense firms are following the money. Boeing opened an office in Doha, Qatar, in 2011, and Lockheed Martin set up an office there this year. Lockheed created a division in 2013 devoted solely to foreign military sales, and the company’s chief executive, Marillyn Hewson, has said that Lockheed needs to increase foreign business — with a goal of global arms sales’ becoming 25 percent to 30 percent of its revenue — in part to offset the shrinking of the Pentagon budget after the post-Sept. 11 boom.

American intelligence agencies believe that the proxy wars in the Middle East could last for years, which will make countries in the region even more eager for the F-35 fighter jet, considered to be the jewel of America’s future arsenal of weapons. The plane, the world’s most expensive weapons project, has stealth capabilities and has been marketed heavily to European and Asian allies. It has not yet been peddled to Arab allies because of concerns about preserving Israel’s military edge.
If the Pentagon really wants to keep the edge with Israel, they should sell as many F-35's as possible to the Arabs. That flying turd is a golden ticket to a second rate air force.

They attacked us and are still doing it

From Leonard Pitts:

On Sunday, it will be 20 years since the morning a bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and took 168 human lives. Nineteen of those lives belonged to children.

Maybe it take you by surprise that it has been so long. Maybe you wonder where the time went. And maybe you remember...

...the ghastly pictures of that building, the front of it sheared away.

...the firefighter emerging from the rubble, tenderly cradling that dying baby.

...the bloody and lacerated people wandering dazedly from the wreckage.

...the breathless speculation that surely the culprits had to be Muslims.

And maybe you remember, too, that sense of vertiginous shock some people felt when we got our first look at the man who planted the bomb and discovered him to be, not a swarthy Muslim with a heavy beard and hard-to-pronounce name, but a clean-cut, apple pie-faced young white man named Timothy McVeigh. People could not have been more nonplussed if Richie Cunningham had shot up a shopping mall.

But the tragedy was to contain one last surprise. It came when we learned why McVeigh committed his atrocity. It seems he hated the government.

That revelation was our introduction to a world whose very existence most of us had never suspected. Meaning the so-called patriot movement, the armed, radical right-wing extremists who refuse to recognize the authority of the nation’s duly constituted and elected government.

Maybe you remember the news reports of how they spent nights and weekends drilling in the woods, playing soldier in anticipation of the day ZOG — the Zionist Occupied Government — ceded the country to the United Nations and soldiers of the New World Order came rappelling down from black helicopters to seize everybody’s guns. Maybe you remember how crazy it all sounded.

But that was then. Twenty years ago, the idea of anti-government resistance seemed confined to a lunatic fringe operating in the shadows beyond the mainstream.

Twenty years later, it is the mainstream, the beating heart of the Republican Party. And while certainly no responsible figure on the right advocates or condones what he did, it is just as certain that McVeigh’s violent antipathy toward Washington, his conviction that America’s government is America’s enemy, has bound itself to the very DNA of modern conservatism.

It lives in Grover Norquist’s pledge to shrink government down until “we can drown it in the bathtub,” in Chuck Norris’ musing about the need for “a second American revolution,” in Michele Bachmann’s fear that the census is an evil conspiracy. It lives in dozens of right-wing terror plots documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center since the 1995 bombing, including last year’s murder of two police officers and a Walmart shopper by two anti-government activists in Las Vegas. It lives in Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff with federal officials.

These days, it is an article of faith on the political right that “government” is a faceless, amorphous Other. But this government brought itself into being with three words — “We the people” — and they are neither incidental nor insignificant.

Our government may be good, may be bad, may be something in between, but as long as we are a free society, the one thing it always is, is us. Meaning: a manifestation of our common will, a decision a majority of us made. We are allowed to be furious at it, but even in fury, we always have peaceful tools for its overthrow. So there is never a reason to do what McVeigh did.

We all know that, of course. But 20 years after the day they brought babies out of the rubble in pieces would be an excellent time to pause and remind ourselves, just the same.

God has your back

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sarah Jarosz - "Book of Right-On"

From Sarah's most recent album Build Me Up From Bones. This tune qualifies for the bare bones but done so well.

It’s who they’re sucking more than ever.

Bill Maher on the Zombie Lies of Climate Denial

Sequels usually suck

From the pen of David Horsey

Texas House strikes blow against freedom

At the behest of their corporate masters, and in Texas that would be Big Oil, the Texas House of Representatives has voted to rip the rights of Texans to govern themselves from their still living hands, rights hard won by Texans in places like The Alamo and San Jacinto.
The Texas House of Representatives House voted Friday to bar cities from banning fracking and enacting a wide variety of other oil and gas-related ordinances.

Backers rejected arguments that the bill would overturn ordinances that have long been in place in some cities. Municipalities would still be able to adopt ordinances that help mitigate traffic, noise and some setbacks, they said. The bill won approval from the House 122-18.

"This strikes a fine balance," said Republican Rep. Drew Darby. "We tried to use a rifle shot to accommodate the needs of this growing state and the needs to develop the oil and gas resources, and yet protect the citizens of this great state."

Some Democrats argued that municipalities need to have the say to protect public health and safety. The bill could also lead to more litigation between cities and the oil and gas industry, opponents said.

"As it is currently written, it would be a gold mine for lawyers," said Democratic Rep. Sylvester Turner. The "commercially reasonable" standards for oil and gas ordinances would be a "legal haven" for lawyers to challenge, he said.
How nice of them to throw a bone to their legal beagles.

When will we stand with Bernie?

Friday, April 17, 2015

The season for this is almost over

Thanks to the improving weather. Katzenjammer, on the other hand is an all season band, even when they sing "Tea With Cinnamon" from their album Le Pop.

Don't forget Doug Hughes mission.

From the pen of Tom Tole

From the pen of Nick Anderson

So who was first?

Over a hundred years after the fact
, people in Connecticut, North Carolina and Ohio are gearing up for a major fight over who was the first to achieve powered flight. History says it was the Wright Brothers in 1903 but recently IHS Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft published an article stating that Gustav Whitehead of Bridgeport CT achieved that feat in 1901.
In 2013, a well-regarded aviation publication surprised historians by declaring that Mr. Whitehead, a Bridgeport resident, had flown two years before Orville and Wilbur Wright skimmed the dunes of Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina in 1903.

“Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied,” read the headline in the publication, IHS Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft. “Whitehead has been shabbily treated by history,” the publication said.

Mr. Whitehead, a German immigrant, flew his own aircraft above Bridgeport and nearby Fairfield on Aug. 14, 1901, climbing 50 feet into the air and traveling more than a mile, according to the article, which was written by Paul Jackson, the editor of Jane’s.

Connecticut jumped at the chance to claim first-in-flight status, to the consternation of Ohio and North Carolina. The two states had long squabbled over which could claim the Wright brothers, who lived in Dayton but made their historic flight near Kitty Hawk...

Mr. Whitehead has long had his supporters, as have others who claimed to precede the Wrights, and researchers have studied the Whitehead claim since at least the 1930s. In the mid-1980s, Connecticut officials asked the Smithsonian Institution, which owns the Wright brothers’ plane, to hold a public hearing on the matter. No hearing was held.

Determined to prove that Mr. Whitehead’s plane could fly, a group led by a Connecticut teacher, Andy Kosch, built a replica and successfully flew it at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford in 1986, prompting a “60 Minutes” segment titled “Wright Is Wrong?”
We do know his design could have flown and despite a collection of photos of his handicrafts on the ground there is no picture of it in the air. Nor was there any significant publicity of such an event. In that regard the Wright Brothers were more capable and on such skills rests your place in history.

Lucky New Hampshire

With all but the farthest right candidates aware that Iowa is a place where you can spend a shit-ton of resources to try to appeal to a handful of hard core loonies who don't think you are crazy enough, most are looking ahead to the second event, New Hampshire. New Hampshire does have its share of loonies, but it does resemble the standard electoral process.
With every major Republican presidential hopeful descending on New Hampshire this weekend for the state’s first candidate forum, attention will turn for the moment from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s entry into the campaign to the fluid Republican race.

Few of New Hampshire’s influential Republican activists will commit to a candidate based solely on what they see at the two-day gathering in Nashua. But the audition there offers a chance for one of the 19 prospects expected to attend to break out of the pack in a state where there is no clear favorite.
This will be the first chance the candidates will have to present a shred of sanity along with the standard boilerplate crazy. Keep an eye on which clown get shotgun when the car leaves.

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