Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Blessings on a pagan holiday

A blessed Beltane to all. May the fire bring the sun and your fields, real and virtual, be fertile and the Faeries be kind.

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The next Elizabeth Warren

I've never heard of her before today, but it sure looks like Susan Crawford is to telecom reform as Elizabeth Warren is to banksters. She was briefly part of the Obama administration but quit out of disgust with the Beltway kabuki. She's now taking on the telecom industry as a private citizen.

The telecoms loathe and fear her, with good reason. She's armed with dangerous facts. Like this:
Last year, Americans paid Comcast a monthly average of $153 for television, telephone, and Internet. According to a New America Foundation study, Parisians paid as little as $34.47 a month for the same bundled services, with Internet speeds five to 20 times faster than Comcast.
She even has an solution to break their monopoly.
Instead, she believes the answer is for local communities to build their own fiber networks, as more than 250 have done already. The largest is probably Chattanooga, where homes and businesses can obtain Internet that is 200 times faster than the national average and is cheaper than cable. Meanwhile, Google is building a fiber system in Kansas City and planning others in Austin and Provo. Such networks, Crawford says, will help the public see the benefits of real regulations, just as they once did with electricity. “Until Americans understood how useful [electricity] was and Americans understood it didn’t have to be a luxury, it didn’t change,” she says. The drawback to this strategy is that the industry will fight these grassroots efforts as fiercely as it does FCC reforms. So far, it has gotten 19 states to effectively ban local alternative networks.
My own North Carolina is one of those states. When I first moved to my little city they had big plans to have a free wifi downtown system. Then the Republicans took over the state government. The little city locals don't talk about it anymore.

"Four huge corporations dominate telecommunications much like a handful of companies once controlled the railroads and the electricity industry." Once we had public servants in government who had the political will to break their vile stranglehold. Now we're overrun with politicians who can be bought off for a few thousand bucks in campaign donations. We need less of those and many more Susan Crawfords and Elizabeth Warrens.

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Hardly working

There are millions of Americans who have been out of work for so long they stopped even looking for a job. There are millions more who are barely employed in jobs that don't pay a living wage. I've heard that there are fast food joints that now require a bachelor's degree to apply for a position as an assistant manager. Against that backdrop, this was the scene at a Joint Economic Committee in the Senate hearing on long term unemployment.



The hearing started with only one out of 20 members of the committee in attendance. Eventually three others managed to show up. Shortly thereafter, they passed a sequester fix to eliminate waiting times for airline flights by unanimous consent at lightning speed. Of course, they have a job. For now.

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Nuclear time bombs

The problems at Fukushima keep getting worse:
Two years after a triple meltdown that grew into the world’s second worst nuclear disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is faced with a new crisis: a flood of highly radioactive wastewater that workers are struggling to contain.

Groundwater is pouring into the plant’s ravaged reactor buildings at a rate of almost 75 gallons a minute. It becomes highly contaminated there, before being pumped out to keep from swamping a critical cooling system. A small army of workers has struggled to contain the continuous flow of radioactive wastewater, relying on hulking gray and silver storage tanks sprawling over 42 acres of parking lots and lawns. The tanks hold the equivalent of 112 Olympic-size pools.

... In a sign of the sheer size of the problem, the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, plans to chop down a small forest on its southern edge to make room for hundreds more tanks, a task that became more urgent when underground pits built to handle the overflow sprang leaks in recent weeks.
Don't think it couldn't happen here. Dr. Jaczko, now retired regulator says we should shut down every reactor in the US.
All 104 nuclear power reactors now in operation in the United States have a safety problem that cannot be fixed and they should be replaced with newer technology, the former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Monday. Shutting them all down at once is not practical, he said, but he supports phasing them out rather than trying to extend their lives.
Meanwhile the current regulatory commission is talking about extending their operating licenses for another 20-40 years beyond what was supposed to be the life of the plants.

Once you poison the earth with radioactive waste, it can't be unpoisoned. We've already saddled further generations well beyond our lifetimes with enough spent fuel rods to destroy every living thing. We should be shutting them down as fast as we can.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Make them laugh

Echoing some rumblings I've seen among our DC insider media on the twitter, Ezra declares Obama wasn't really joking at their celebrity bash.
Obama’s speech at the White House correspondents’ dinner was well received, and for good reason — it was very funny. But there were a lot of moments when Obama seemed to be subverting the rules of the evening in order to get away with telling harsh truths that he could later claim were just jokes.

“Some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress,” the president said. “‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask. Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?”

Everyone laughed. But do you detect an actual joke there? And lest you think I’m cutting the punchline, here’s Obama’s next sentence: “I’m sorry. I get frustrated sometimes.”
Screw that noise. It's supposed to be a roast. You can't hear it in a written transcript but in the instant, Obama's comedic timing was impeccable. Jay Leno can only dream of mastering the delivery of topical humor as well as Obama did. The jokes were funny because they were true.

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Cut the CODELs

Our useless Congresscreatures are busy slashing funding for vital social services for the poors and the olds because they claim government spending is out of control, but they don't have any problem spending millions on pleasure trips abroad under the thin aegis of CODELs. This one is especially egregious because she had to jet over to join only part of the trip.
The House Judiciary Committee reported Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, traveled around the world on an official trip in February that cost $23,646. The Feb. 16-22 trip on commercial flights was to Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Mary Landrieu organized this little jaunt to the far east that "included several members of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption" and for what, you ask?
The delegation was to meet with local community leaders, adoption officials, and other government officials, such as the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs.
Seriously. If they're so hot to find unneccesary spending they should start here. What's so damn important about these trips? Who the hell do they think they are, the freaking State Department? According to them, we can't afford to feed kids in America and they're jetting off for a week or so to discuss adoption with foreign bureaucrats? This is 2013. We have this thing called teleconferencing. Almost like being there in person.

These guys take these CODEL trips under the radar all the time. You don't hear about them unless they do something unusual like skinny-dipping in Sea of Gallilee.

In 2008, members of the House and Senate spent $13 million on codels abroad. They don't really need to go to any of these places, not even war zones. They should cancel all of them immediately until their deficit fever breaks.

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Austerity kills

Austerity doesn't just kill economies, austerity is literally killing people:
Detailing a decade of research, Oxford University political economist David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, an assistant professor of medicine and an epidemiologist at Stanford University, said their findings show austerity is seriously bad for health.

In a book to be published this week, the researchers say more than 10,000 suicides and up to a million cases of depression have been diagnosed during what they call the "Great Recession" and its accompanying austerity across Europe and North America.
The effects of forced austerity has reached practically genocidal proportions in Greece and if our homegrown austerity maniacs get their heart's desire we won't be far behind in the USA. They've been fraying the edges of the social safety net at the state level since GOPers took over the local legislatures and now with the stupid sequestration cuts, the federal safety net is in danger of falling apart altogether.

Difficult to not to sound like a conspiracy nutcase, but you don't have to be a brain surgeon to figure out if you keep limiting access to food and health care assistance for the poors and olds and kick people into poverty and homelessness, they're going to die sooner. Which of course eliminates the need to spend money taking care of them, the better to give more tax breaks to the wealth holders. Reminds of this classic quote:
"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."
Not making any grand accusations, but as the world economy hinges more and more on a relative handful of people making money simply by moving around their money, the blue collar working class is becoming as obsolete at the buggy whip.

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Gay guys can jump

Don't really follow any sports except baseball and by follow baseball I mean, I check the standings regularly and cheer for my favorite teams. I don't know from stats and half the time I don't remember the players names. So I have no idea who this guy is or which team he plays for but the internets tell me Jason Collins did a brave thing:
I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay. — I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation.
I'm told he's the first major team sport player to admit it. My only reaction is, (and not to diminish his courage in any way), think it's rather sad that in 2013, this is still such a big deal.

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Your moment of Zen

Springtime in Central Park. [Inga Sarda-Sorenson photo]



[click this one to embiggen.]

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Why our health care costs so much

Ezra posts a fascinating long read today about an experimental health care program that saves money. It's based on a simple concept that doesn't require costly medical equipment. It basically consists of regular home visits to housebound elderly patients by registered nurses. It kept these patients who suffered from chronic but easily treatable conditions from ending up in hospitals. Apparently it worked too well.
But Health Quality Partners, with its emphasis on continuous nurse-to-patient contact, did work. Of the 15 programs, four improved patient outcomes without increasing costs. Only HQP improved patient outcomes while cutting costs. So Medicare extended it again and again — now it’s the only program still running under the demo. But Medicare has notified Coburn that it intends to end HQP’s funding in June.
Medicare mumbled something about the program not being scalable, which isn't really true. The real reason comes down to corporate control over our health care system.
But not all hospitals are run by the local Village Improvement Association. Many seek to turn a profit. That makes models like Health Quality Partners something of a threat. “If we scaled what Ken is doing,” Brenner says, “you would probably shut down a third of the hospitals in the country. It’s a disruptive innovation. It just guts the current business model.”
See also this:



And this:



The HQP program was only allowed to succeed because it was being sponsored by a group who weren't interested in profits. Meanwhile the industry trend is to ever greater consolidation under larger corporate umbrellas. They spend millions on lobbyists to ensure their business model endures in order to protect their bottom line. This is how we ended up with the Rube Goldberg reform bill we now call Obamacare even though an expansion of Medicare would have been much more cost efficient.

The clear lesson here is, for profit, corporate health care is neither about health or care. Not sure how it's possible considering the breadth and strength of the lobby that protects it but the only way to truly fix it is to take out the profiteering altogether.

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Consumer society

I started worrying about the ruination of our planet at an early age, long before they started calling us treehuggers. I was about 12 years old when I first heard the phrase planned obsolescence. I recall being indignant even at that young age at the calculated wastefulness of the corporate profit seekers.

I remember before that, when things were built to last using high quality materials and engineered so they were easily repairable when parts inevitably wore out. More importantly, the cost of parts and repair work were low enough to make it worth it to extend the life of the product. Seemed like every country road had a sign in someone's front yard where some retired handyman would fix your TV or replace the brushes in kitchen mixer and it work again for a many more years. That's rarely true anymore. Hell, at this point, people will replace perfectly functional items just for the status of owning the new shinier model. Apple has made a fortune on the mania to acquire the latest cool stuff.

Mindless consumerism has always bugged me, so I was happy to see this new trend emerging. They call it hackerspace but it's not about sabotaging your computer, it's crowdsourcing people in real life rooms to repair useable items from electronics to toasters. Great concept. Hope it catches on. [via Avedon]

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

The media is the message



Tonight is the so-called nerd prom, otherwise known as the White House Correspondents Dinner. Except most of these guys aren't nerds and this is not a prom. It's a spectacle. It's become a national embarrassment. If Poe was writing the story it would be called the Fall of the Fourth Estate.

WHCD isn't about journalism anymore. It's DC insider media in wannabe Hollywood mode. I mean, here's Karen Tumulty reporting the contents of a swag bag at one of the pre-dinner parties. You would get laughed out of Hollywood for the swag. The real story is in the related links:
Related: White House Correspondents’ Association dinner isn’t costly, but the parties are
White House Correspondents’ Association dinner complete coverage
WHCD photos, tweets, breaking news on “The Grid”
It's bigger than just this decadent weekend where their place in the pecking order is determined by which parties they're invited to. The self-absorption is invading the daily news cycle more and more every day. This tweet was from days ago.
Jake Tapper: "I wish the media covered the media more. We're so much more important than, like, wars and poverty and stuff."
Of course, this isn't new. Marshall McLuhan saw it coming decades ago. But back then, it was at least about shaping the news. Now it's about building a brand. Context has no value in the world of infotainment. Controversy trumps facts every time. As the twitter God said:
TheTweetOfGod: When CNN says they're "breaking news" they are, in a sense, right.
Referring of course, to CNN's dismal coverage of the Boston bombing. But here's the thing. Jeff Zucker welcomes your mockery. He praised his team for "doing a good job" because ratings only count the numbers, not the reasons you're there. Incentives are all screwed up. Sensational bad information drives more traffic than boring facts. The money is in being obnoxiously wrong. How do you fix that? [graphic via]

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Congress kicks old people, kids and cancer victims to the curb

So our compassionate Congress rescued the frequent fliers from the horrible trauma of waiting too long on the tarmac, (and I assume also saved the private little airports serving the Lear Jets of the wealthy), with the greatest of haste. The Village consensus is "a win for Republicans." Certainly they see it that way. The roar of GOPers gloating over beating Obummer conveniently drowns out the anguished cries of the millions of Americans who are suffering real pain as a result of the GOP's parliamentary trickery. I guess that's how they're able to sleep at night with the full knowledge of their cruelty.

Republicans could end this sequester as quickly as they saved their fellow frequent fliers if they wanted to, by simply abolishing the damnable thing altogether. They won't because those tenacious bastards still see political advantage in sabotaging our economy. Think Progress has 12 stupid spending cuts Republicans refuse to reverse. Starting with effectively eliminating emergency benefits for the long term unemployed. As if the country is just awash with jobs that pay a living wage.

Sadly that's not the most sadistic indiscriminate slashing of funds. Disabled vets and the 80 year old housebound elderly poors who can't cook much less get to a food bank and depend on Meals on Wheels? Tough luck. GOP rules that wasteful spending. And if you need housing vouchers to keep a roof over your head? What's so wrong with a tent in a homeless camp?

Cancer patients being turned away from health care providers? Too bad dying people. Can't afford to keep all of you alive. And independent medical research? Sorry but Big Pharma is not that into finding cures for disease.

Oh and disaster survivors, we gotta cut back on this federal aid thing (unless of course, it's an industrial explosion in Texas). Figure the rest of y'all can do with a billion less.

These big cuts to public safety programs filter down to millions of individual citizens. NYT editorial at the link said it well:
The voiceless people who are the most affected by these cuts can’t afford high-priced lobbyists to get them an exception to the sequester, the way that the agriculture lobby was able to fend off a furlough to meat inspectors, which might have disrupted beef and poultry operations. And what was cut in order to keep those inspectors on the job? About $25 million from a program to provide free school breakfasts.
The sequester also cut Head Start funding. Because it's so much easier for a child born into poverty to lift themselves out of the ghetto when they start life homeless and hungry. [photo via]

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Sequester fix flies through Congress

The same Congress that requires six months of heavy negotiations before it bring any single bill of import to the floor for another few weeks or months of stalling and grandstanding before they can finally block an simple majority vote managed to pass the "Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013" through both houses in mere hours. It passed through the Senate late yesterday by unanimous consent and by mid-afternoon today, John Boehner's normally non-functional House passed it with a few dissenters. It's presently on Obama's desk awaiting signature. He will surely sign it despite threatening to veto any piecemeal fixes.

Nothing motivates our Congresscreatures like their own inconvenience. So huzzah for the frequent fliers which of course includes that august body on Captiol Hill. No more hanging around the airport bars for an extra hour or getting stuck on the tarmac for more than 15 minutes waiting for takeoff. And if you were expecting the media to call them out on this gross display of self-interest -- don't be holding the breath lest you asphyxiate.

This tweet tells you everything you need to know about where our media watchdogs lie:



They're frequent fliers too.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

To have and to have-not



I'm late to this but let's never forget for whom the economic recovery tolls:
The U.S. economy has recovered for households with net worth of $500,000 or more, a new study shows. The recession continues for almost everyone else. Wealthy households boosted their net worth by 21.2 percent in the aftermath of the recession, according to the study released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. The rest of America lost 4.9 percent of household wealth from 2009 to 2011.

Pew attributed the disparity to gains during that period in the stock and bond markets, benefiting affluent households, while the housing market's decline hit others harder. The report underscores the nation's growing income inequality, with the top 13 percent of households recovering their losses from the 18- month recession that ended in June 2009, and the rest of the country continuing to hemorrhage wealth.
Meanwhile our Congress, with astonishing haste, is addressing the very important problem of frequent flyers being forced to wait an extra hour or two in airport bars. I'm hearing they're ready to throw $357 million to the FAA to fix it. No questions asked. Too bad about you poor olds who won't get Meals on Wheels. Wheel your ownself over to the food bank and cook your own damn food. And so sorry hungry poor kids who need free food at school. There's no free rides. Maybe they'll let you six year olds sweep floors and clean bathrooms to earn a cafeteria ticket.

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Fun at the George W Bush library opening

Trick title. These pro-forma ceremonious occasions are never really fun. Though I'll admit, Barbara Bush's remarks in this pre-opening interview were amusing. Even she's had enough of political dynasties. She thinks her Jebby is the best man for the job but should opt out of 2016 anyway. And of course, there's the usual media concern trolling on what it all means to Obama's agenda.

Read that stuff if you're interested. All I have left to say is in pictures. This one is my very favorite of the lot I've seen. That's Daddy Bush in the pink socks. Finding it oddly endearing.


[Charles Dharapak photo via twitter]

This one truly speaks a thousand words that will never be spoken aloud in public.


[Charles Dharapak photo via twitter]

I leave it to you to guess what Babs is thinking at that moment.

Addendum: Charlie's take is always worth reading. Especially this point.
The coverage of the opening of this vast temple to prevarication and ruin is not about bricks and mortar. It's about an attempt by the courtier press to absolve itself of a dereliction of duty that rivaled even that of the president in question... (That dereliction of duty, it should be noted, now and forever, began with the coverage of the 2000 presidential campaign, and the disgraceful performance of the elite political press corps towards Al Gore.)
In some way, this library is more a standing testament to the greatest media fail in history than it is to W's eight year reign of error.

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Life's little mysteries

Apparently I have a Sulia page which I only discovered because someone I don't follow and who doesn't follow me posted it to the twitter. The page that comes up at the link looks like Facebook. Not sure how that happened. I'm certain I didn't sign up for it myself. I still haven't figured out what the point is with Sulia and I can't keep up with the social nets I'm already active on. I haven't even joined Tumblr or Pinterest, which I'm told is mandatory these days.

Not complaining. Often stumble across various sites that post my work. They don't steal it outright, just a blurb and a link. Rarely seems to generate much traffic but always happy to see my message get wider exposure. But still, I am truly mystified.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Long way from the Appalachian Trail



This is so sad I almost feel sorry for the guy. Now abandoned by the national party and with his opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch effectively ignoring him, Mark Sanford is reduced to debating a cardboard photo of Nancy Pelosi. Why is he debating Pelosi instead of a cardboard Colbert Busch? Hell if I know. It's true, Pelosi is an all-purpose villian, especially reviled by cons, but she's not running for Congress in South Carolina.

TPM has a short video clip of the sorry spectacle at the link. Has to be seen to be believed. [photo via]

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Long time GOP intern caught in creepy cyber-stalking scandal



This kid, who apparently aspires to be a professional political intern, has worked with a lot of big name Republicans, including most recently Mitt Romney. It seems when he wasn't busy fetching coffee and pizza for his boss, Adam Savader, 21, was attempting to extort nude photos from random women he mostly knows from school.
Savader is a political science student at SUNY Farmingdale who’s interned for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan as well as Romney. He’s charged with illegally obtaining nude pictures of 15 women and threatening to make them public unless the women sent him more naked pictures of themselves.
Clearly he's a better hacker than he is an extortionist. He somehow retrieved the photos from the victim's personal email accounts and then launched his blackmail scheme. But he wasn't looking for money, just some forced virtual sexytime with the women of his dreams.

His other hobby was having his photo taken with celebrities "which he often posted online."
His Facebook page is filled with photos of him with several prominent politicos and actors, including Ryan, former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, Georgia Rep. Tom Price, Michelle Duggar from the TV show "19 Kids and Counting," tax lobbyist Grover Norquist, actor Allen Covert, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
And he "often bragged about about dressing up as 'Ellis the Elephant.'" In fact he was in the suit at the big annual ConCon, CPAC. So if you were a woman at CPAC and ever in proximity to Ellis the Elephant, chances are creepy intern stealthily took upshots of your undies if you were following the dress code and wearing a tasteful skirt with sensible pumps. And especially if you ignored the dress code and showed up in a miniskirt and cowboy boots.

The FBI press release has more of the icky details. The good old family values party. They never fail to amuse in their failures.

Addendum: Dave Weigel has lots more photos.

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Your moment of Zen

Chasing rainbows. National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Don't let the door hit you in the Baucus on the way out

The tears being shed over that miserable excuse for a Democrat, Max Baucus, announcing his long overdue retirement wouldn't fill a shot glass. Me, I'm suppressing the urge to dance on the table out of long ingrained imperative to be polite.

Everybody seems to be excited by the idea of replacing him with this guy I don't really remember. But if a Senator Schweitzer makes Charlie Pierce this happy, I'm all in for a string-tie Democrat.

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GOP terror scarers out in force

The same crowd who demanded we not mention 20 murdered schoolchildren in the debate over gun safety reform immediately leapt to making a couple of crazy kids in Boston the new existential threat to national security. Led by Lindsey "Huckleberry Dunderhead" Graham and John "Grumpy Gramps" McCain, a gaggle of GOPers are clamoring to designate the Boston bombers as enemy combatants.

It's not that they don't know their demands are stupid and illegal under the rule of law. They just don't want an exploitable domestic terror event to go to waste. A good dose of fearmongering and pandering to Islamophobia never hurt a Republican, especially with reelection campaigns coming up and a crackpot voter base who threaten to kick them out every time they catch the barest whiff of co-operation with a single Democrat.

I don't think it's wrong to call this domestic terrorism. Every mass murder, successful or not and every bombing no matter how few the deaths is rightly termed as such. Every avoidable industrial accident such as the explosion in West, Texas, could rightly be called the same. The real problem is we only use that designation when the perps are non-white Americans of foreign origin. Thus the media paints Timothy McVeigh as a lone wolf, the Newtown killer as a troubled kid and so on, yet these two kids with foreign names are to be deemed existential threats when they killed less people and clearly were bumbling amateurs.

Indeed, the rush to portray the Boston bombers as larger than life villians is more dangerous to our security than the crimes they committed precisely because it breeds the sort of unreasonable panic which ultimately leads to further degradation of our traditional civil rights. The best take I've seen on this point so far, is this warning against misplaced paranoia. Definitely read the whole thing, but this is key graf.
It is a surreal and difficult-to-explain dynamic. Americans seemingly place an inordinate fear on violence that is random and unexplainable and can be blamed on "others" – jihadists, terrorists, evil-doers etc. But the lurking dangers all around us – the guns, our unhealthy diets, the workplaces that kill 14 Americans every single day – these are just accepted as part of life, the price of freedom, if you will. And so the violence goes, with more Americans dying preventable deaths. But hey, look on the bright side – we got those sons of bitches who blew up the marathon.
The ordinary threats to the public safety surround us but the daily death toll is as unnoticed as the scenery on our daily commutes. If we actually want to find the real existential threats to our way of life, we should be looking in the board rooms of multi-national corporations instead of pinning the blame on a misguided, hapless teenager.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Congresswoman Colbert from South Carolina

Yes I know I keep breaking my ignore the damnable polls rule, but the latest results showing Elizabeth Colbert Busch leading Mark Sanford by 9 points evokes visions of a liberal Democratic Congresscreature from South Carolina in my head. There's something I find deliciously weird and amusing about that.

Sure it's early and anything could change, but the other breakout numbers here that are worth noticing are these:
Although Sanford's unpopularity is clearly the main reason Democrats have a chance to win in this district, it's interesting to note that there is some backlash against Republicans over last week's vote on background checks. 86% of voters in the district say they support them to only 12% opposed, and 45% of voters say the GOP's opposition to them makes it less likely they'll support the party in the next election compared to only 21% who consider it a positive. That anger over the gun vote comes despite Barack Obama having only a 41% approval rating in the district with 51% of voters disapproving of him.
When they've lost the gun loving deluded rubes over gun safety reform, maybe that pathetic display of general cowardice and GOP obstruction on background checks will turn out to be the seminal moment that broke the Republicans' stranglehold on the House.

[Big thanks for the kind link at Mike's Blog Roundup and if you're not reading John Perr's other blog, well, you're missing some of the smartest analysis on the internets.]

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Your moment of Zen

Heart of the matter. [source unknown]

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Drudge baiting UK style

The Daily Mirror, one of many UK tabloids, has apparently mastered the art of netting a Drudge siren having baited the hook with a sensational claim that ZOMG, Boston bombers were part of sleeper cell of scary foreign terrorists. They breathlessly "inform" us:
More than 1,000 FBI operatives were last night working to track down the cell and arrested a man and two women 60 miles from Boston in the hours before Dzhokhar’s dramatic capture after a bloody shootout on Friday.

A source close to the investigation said: “We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices used to detonate the two bombs were highly sophisticated and not the kind of thing people learn from Google.
Which of course would explain why they botched their getaway so thoroughly. Maybe they didn't stay in terrorist school long enough to get to the part of the lesson where the other cell members drive the getaway car. Preferably out of town.

If you bother to read the post, which I don't recommend, you would find it's basically a rehash of the US coverage of the last five days. Not only does it verge on plagiarism, they didn't even copy it well. Many errors of fact. None of which stopped the outrage patrol of the far right wingers from adopting it as pure truth. What the hell. It totally validates their world view. They all linked to it, which of course was the point. Web traffic.

If you look at the front page of the Mirror online you'll find many interesting stories, if by interesting you mean, three posts about One Direction (it's a band the kids like), one of which exposes girlfriend boob envy among the band members. You'll also learn the Bieber is mean to his grandfather and see the tragic story of a four year old child addicted to the iPad.

And then there's the author of this huge scoop, Chris Bucktin, appointed assistant editor of the Mirror's US operations in January 2013. In the UK Mr. Bucktin was "head of content" which appears to mean person in charge of making shit up to fill the white space. He rose to that high position from his former perch as showbiz editor.

Certainly requires no stretch of credibility to imagine how he so easily cultivated inside sources at the FBI who would be passing on confidential information that could jeopardize the investigation in just three months.

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What really happened in Watertown

Everybody's an armchair tactician. One of major sources of contention on the internets in the last 24 hours has been over how law enforcement handled the search for the Boston bombers. Early on it was all about whether they should have crowdsourced the photos. That sequed into the wisdom, or lack thereof, of shutting down the city. I'm not judging anybody's take. I'm as guilty as the next guy of second guessing the primary tactics in any given major event.

Tom Watson made the best case for why shutting down Boston was unwise. I'm sympathetic to the argument that it sets a bad precedent for overblown LEO responses to less than super extraordinary events. It discomfited me to see tanks on the streets of Watertown, MA to take down a 19 year old kid. I'm concerned when I see citizens ordered to stay in their homes while SWAT teams conduct house to house searches. This is not the America I grew up in.

Thing is, the America I grew up in has changed many times over the years. There are millions of more people in it. Lots of them are crazy. And violent. Society changed. It's greedier. More restless. Easily bored. The demand for instant amusement is constant and insatiable.

So I can see what the LEOs were thinking. The intertubz were exploding like busting pipes in an aging water system. It was flooding false leads into the media that were about to drown out any semblance of reliable information. The public was being assaulted with conflicting reports. Panic and hysteria ensued. Innocent people were being hounded. From their point of view it must have been a choice between chaos and controling the search zone.

Tom Watson lives in NYC. He's seen bigger stuff. So have I in my worldly travels. But Boston is not New York. Watertown is not downtown Boston. People live quiet lives in their houses with flowers along the front walk and maybe a boat parked in the back yard that they put in the water on weekends. Nothing ever happens in Watertown. Until it did.

Easy to dictate what's best in the big picture when it's not your neighborhood hosting major gunfights on a street where shots haven't been heard since the Revolutionary War. In the end I look to the people who live there to judge the wisdom of the tactics. I think this pretty much tells that story:
Dan Adams: Incredible scene at #WatertownPD HQ. Grateful, tearful residents arriving every minute w home cooked meals, pizza, flowers, cards.
And then read Charlie Pierce's eyewitness account of the bomber's capture. In fact read Charlies blog for the last few days. It's a whole different picture than the manufactured media hysteria on the TV.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Boston, you're our home

Feel good video of the day is Big Papi at the Red Sox game today.



In case you can't view it, he said, "This is our fuckin' city." Right on the TV set where the whole world could hear. Everybody loved it. Last I heard, the FCC is giving him a "heat of the moment" pass on it.

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State of confusion

Public obsession number one is still Boston today. The internets tells me the TV newsers are down to interviewing the cousin of the brother-in-law who's a friend of a friend who knows somebody who once worked in the very same store where the bomber was once seen buying a bag of Doritos. Meanwhile there's a murmuration of post analysis on the print side. Wear your safety glasses if you wade into that one so you're not blinded by the sparks from all the grinding of axes.

Most useful post I've seen all day was this interview with the Watertown police chief. It clears up one point of interest that most of the media doesn't seem to have picked up on. How the older brother died.
The fight ended when Tamerlan Tsarnaev, after leaving cover to close in on the officers while firing his weapon just “five to ten feet” away, ran out of ammunition. He was tackled by multiple officers and handcuffed. ...

In the confusion, Dzokhar Tsarnaev returned to the stolen car and made his escape — apparently fatally wounding his sibling in the process.
In other words he drove over his own brother to get away. More details at the link.

The other thing that strikes me in the cacophony of coverage is no one is asking about the guns they had. The focus is on the IEDs but five days later and I still don't know what kind of guns they used. I'd rather like to know what they were and where they got them.

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C is for clueless

I make it point to avoid the right wing crackpots as much as possible so I'm not exactly sure what the genesis of this particular bit of cluelessness is about. I gather it has something to do with the general pants wetting that went on among the crowd that sees evil Mooslim terrorists in every shadow. When they heard the Boston bomb kids were born in Chechnya, they apparently started calling for immediate retribution against the evel furriners. The problem being they were confusing Chechnya with the Czech Republic, or more probably the now defunct Czechoslovakia. Which led the Czech embassy to release this statement:
As more information on the origin of the alleged perpetrators is coming to light, I am concerned to note in the social media a most unfortunate misunderstanding in this respect. The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities - the Czech Republic is a Central European country; Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation.
This of course launched a snark contest on the twitters. The winner being:
Atrios: time to invade chechnyaslovakia
So much of the fear of the far right extremists is based on pure ignorance, fostered and reinforced by the grifters who profit from manufactured terror. Helluva cruel way to make money.

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EtTu MSNBC?

By Capt. Fogg

I had MSNBC on most of yesterday.  I can't stand the sight of Wolf the Weasel and what other choice is possible?

I'm disappointed. When the evening network news came on I began to learn facts the cable guys never mentioned, That the FBI had investigated these boys, for instance and they managed to give us the facts without the constant theme of "you can see that it's been worth it to give up our privacy."  Cowards!  Is this what it means to be a Liberal today?  Sacrificing freedom for some imagined and miniscule increase in safety? 

Needless to say, I don't think so.  I don't think this gruesome incident is anywhere near the calamity it's being made out to be. It's no worse than a good part of the world has to put up with all the time and that it's being made out to be something on the order of WW III it's only because giving up our privacy is only a taste of what some would have us give up.  The Right, predictably, is growling about Miranda rights because we can't go around thinking that this crime is a crime and a US citizen is entitled to civil rights if he's motivated by some sick religious doctrine that isn't Christian. Is this pathetic teenage loser an "enemy combatant" while Tim McVeigh, David Koresh and Jim Jones weren't?

It has to be a WAR because then all's fair therein including making a mockery of our Bill of Rights. It has to be a war so that they can find yet another reason to attack Obama as a weakling, or perhaps a clandestine Muslim for trying to fulfill his oath to preserve and defend the same Constitution the Republicans have seen as a stumbling block for years.

Of course the NBC reporter who told us last night that we'd just witnessed "the greatest manhunt in American history" needs to go back to school if indeed he's ever attended or at least read up on Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Jesse James and of course John Wilkes Booth, but such idiocy is all part of the effort to make everything seem like a catastrophe and every crime an apocalypse. 

I have to be impressed however with Boston and Massachusetts law enforcement, both for their efficiency and their restraint. Supporters of the "government can't do anything right"  battle cry should take this opportunity to shut the hell up.


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Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston right now

There's too much hysteria to say much about what's going on in Boston today. Seems pointless to obsess about every thinly sourced rumor or repeat what little actual information is on every media news outlet in America. For the moment, this photo, which is surely destined to one of the iconic images of this event, seems to say it all.

Fenmore Square. Been here many times in my life. I've never seen this street so completely empty.



[via Buzzfeed]

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Chrysler Imperial rose from my friend Maeve's garden.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Exploding the myth of over-regulated industry



By now you've heard about the horrible explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas. We don't know what caused it yet, but deliberate sabotage is rarely the cause of these things. It's a pretty safe guess it had to do with shoddy plant maintenance and/or cheating on safety practices. Not that the company will ever admit to it. In fact, they assured the people of West, this couldn't possibly happen.
The fertilizer plant that exploded Wednesday night in West, Texas, reported to the Environmental Protection Agency and local public safety officials that it presented no risk of fire or explosion, documents show. [...]

[T]he report, reviewed Wednesday night by The Dallas Morning News, stated “no” under fire or explosive risks. The worst possible scenario, the report said, would be a 10-minute release of ammonia gas that would kill or injure no one.

The second worst possibility projected was a leak from a broken hose used to transfer the product, again causing no injuries.
The company claims to have "implemented proper safety rules," but who know if that's true. The plant hasn't been inspected in the last five years. And chances are if it hadn't blown up, it might never be inspected for decades:
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is chronically understaffed, which means that a given plant like West Fertilizer can only expect to get a state inspection once every 67 years on average.
And of course, under the sequester cuts OSHA's funding will be slashed further. OSHA is one of the cons favorite punching bags. They love to talk about the stupid safety rules that interfere with the free market and corporate profits. We should just trust Big Business to police itself, because we can't afford to keep spending tax dollars to make sure they're not cutting corners on safety measures that might result in killing people. Besides, they need that money to pay off the politicians --er, I mean to create jobs -- you know.

Useful to remember when Republicans tell you they want to shrink government, they mean they are going to sell you out to the highest private bidder. [photo via Mother Jones]

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It's only just begun

Our broken Senate managed to prevent any reform of gun safety regulations yesterday. In a way it's almost a good thing because there were more amendments than just the watered down expansion of background checks that failed to break the perpetual filibuster requirement of 60 votes. In fact, the GOP's Cornyn amendment to further weaken interstate gun safety laws got more votes than Manchin-Toomey, though it also failed to reach the magic number.

While many were angered and disappointed by this complete failure of good governance, few have more reason to be angry than Gabby Giffords whose op-ed ran in the NYT last night. A powerful piece but these passages get to the heart of her remarks:
Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious. I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep your children safe. We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on. [...]

They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.

They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony.
As Gabby and the parents of the Newtown dead and so many others have vowed, this is not over. If anything this blazing display of political cowardice has only hardened the determination to change the status quo. And as Gabby said in the op-ed, if we can't reform the laws with this Congress, then we'll change the Congress members. In the end, anger may bring more change than hope ever could.

Meanwhile, while the vote was going on, many victims of gun violence were in the gallery. One of them was Patricia Maisch who shouted, “Shame on you!”

You may remember her from when Gabby Giffords was shot on that horrible day in 2011. "Maisch was hailed as a hero for disarming Tucson shooter Jared Loughner by preventing him from reloading a fresh magazine." As she was leaving the gallery, she was detained by security. They held her for two hours, which is "approximately 115 minutes longer than a background check at a federal gun dealer," in order to run a criminal background check because she dared to briefly disrupt the proceedings -- with three words. The irony is lost on no one.

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Happy hibiscus. [source unknown]

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

GOP dances on the graves of the dead children of Sandy Hook

By now you've heard Senate Republicans killed the gun safety bill by filibuster today. Within minutes of the vote, even as the victims of gun violence were weeping in the gallery, Mitch McConnell posted this gloat on his facebook page:



The 90% of America who wanted better protection against allowing lethal weapons to fall into the hands of homicidal maniacs responded:



I'm too disgusted to say anything tonight and really I can't put it better than this:
"Today, the U.S. Senate decided to do the unthinkable about gun violence --- nothing at all," - Gabby Giffords
And to add insult to injury, on the same day our broken Senate refused to pass gun safety reform to protect 300million+ living Americans, they unanimously passed a resolution to pardon one man, Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champ. He deserves the pardon, but he died over 50 years ago.

These are the priorities of the so-called greatest deliberative body in the world.

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FBI to media: STFU you idiots

The New York Post made a mockery of the concept of responsible journalism on Monday, splashing one inaccurate report after another on their front page. Today CNN led the media fail of the century, erroneously reporting a suspect in the Boston bombing had been IDed and arrested. The FBI is not amused:
Contrary to widespread reporting, no arrest has been made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack. Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate. Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting.
Most of the media, old and new, rushed to report CNN's erroneous "scoop" in a hot race for ratings. This mad horde reporting is not only stupid and useless, it's damaging to the investigation. If a suspect really had been IDed, prematurely reporting some vaguely sourced leak could tip him off. He could escape because of it and do it again somewhere else.

The sort of perps who commit these mass murders generally are acting out because they feel invisible in society. They seek this sort of massive media attention. The more they get, the more incentive they have to continue killing. No doubt the perp is seeing this media scrum in front of the courthouse and feeling pretty damn important right now.


[LaurenWBZ photo]

I'm told there's over 1,000 reporters covering the bombing. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the world's greatest deliberative body is killing gun safety reform by filibuster and last I heard Wolf Blizter was carrying a pressure cooker pot around the set, just in case you don't know an empty one looks like. I swear, media malpractice is going to kill us sooner than any terrorists will.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Counting our blessings after the Boston bombing

Every time there's a major attack of some kind in America, whether it be 9/11, or Newtown, or yesterday's bombing in Boston, we as a nation are instantly traumatized. We personalize it, as if it had happened to us no matter how remote our connection. Not to minimize the tragedy of the these events, but these are small horrors in the greater world.

In the Middle East this sort of violence is part of their "normal" lives. I mean, while we were all glued to the media yesterday, watching in disbelief, this was happening in Iraq:
Officials said more than 30 bombings and a shooting hit 12 different areas of Iraq, leaving 50 people dead and nearly 300 injured, making Monday the country's deadliest day since March 19.

The deadliest attacks were in Baghdad, where eight bombings struck in seven neighbourhoods across the capital despite tougher checkpoint searches and heightened security.

Among them was a car bomb in a parking area used by vehicles making their way to Baghdad's heavily guarded airport, a rare bombing on the road famously known as "Route Irish".

In Tuz Khurmatu, 175 kilometres north of Baghdad, six people were killed and 67 wounded by three near-simultaneous car bombs, and in Kirkuk, five people were killed and 44 wounded by six more car bombs.

Attacks elsewhere killed nine people and wounded 92 others.

A total of 14 election hopefuls have already been murdered and just 12 of the country's 18 provinces will be taking part in this weekend's vote.
The worst part is, for Iraqis, this is an improvement over the years of terror they suffered during the war when the stench of death was never absent from the streets, not for a single day. These horrors happen to innocent men, women and children regularly, all over the world. So while we obsess over our own trauma about the senseless violence in Copley Square, we might also take a moment to remember how lucky we are that it doesn't happen more often.

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Sacred spiral created by Kim Harwood Stonework

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Marathon bombing: One runner's story

I have to step away from the horror. I can't deal anymore but one last link from Charlie's place to Jon Marcus who was there when the bombs exploded in Boston. It's a somber but inspiring story.

It turns out the race was already won long before the bombs exploded. But it's a big race. The rest of the runners would be coming in for a long time yet. Boston Marathon isn't about winning. As Jon Marcus tells us:
For runners from around the world, the marathon is a life goal. They train not for months, but years, to meet the daunting qualifying times. Crossing that small strip of pavement is an accomplishment that’s as hard to explain as the attack that bloodied it is impossible to understand.

This time, some of the last runners to cross kept going, to the hospitals to give blood. Doctors and nurses among them volunteered to help.

But all of that extraordinary generosity couldn’t reverse time. ...
Even if you're feeling as overwhelmed by the horror as I am, this is worth reading in full. I found oddly comforting.

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Bombing at the Boston Marathon - Updated


[CBS News photo]

Breaking news so not going to say much as it will be well covered and there's always so much misinformation in the initial confusion. What's clear is two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon a little while ago. Hearing one of them was at Mile Marker 26 which had been dedicated to the Newtown victims. Trying not to jump to conclusions about the symbolism in that.

Clearly going to be a lot injuries. Local TV reporter reported to be sobbing at the scene. And this tweet seems legit, so some serious injuries.
@JackieBrunoNECN: I saw people's legs blown off. Horrific. Two explosions. Runners were coming in and saw unspeakable horror.
Also this photo showing some serious blood on the sidewalk. Hearing reports there may still be unexploded devices in the area. Just horrible. A curse on the soulless perps who would ruin this tradition and hurt innocent people.

Update: Boston.com has a live blog going. Probably as reliable a source as you're going to get in the instant confusion. Reports just keep getting worse. Too horrible for words.

Update two: Been glued to the interwebs all afternoon. Only good news is, everyone I know personally who was likely to be there has checked in and is safe.

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Fruit salad.



Possibly the most beautiful fruit salad I've ever seen, which immediately made me think of this:

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ground control to Major Tom

Wanted to end the day with something cheery. Maybe I'm the last one to see this, but it was new to me and it's a really great two minute time lapse video of Earth from Orbit.

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Tennessee restores Yeager's gun carry permit

You'll recall some months ago that hot-heated CEO James Yeager of the dicey gun training camp Tactical Response had his carry permit revoked because of his video "'threatening to start killing people' if President Obama took executive action on guns." This week, Yeager got his gun carry permit restored.

Here's his personal video statement. Man, he still looks totally crazy to me.



Actually, the most frightening thing I learned in the video is they took away his carry permit, but they never took away his guns. Tennesee law doesn't require that even if they take your permit to carry. He still has that huge warehouse of artillery. Apparently no psyche eval is required either, even after you've publicly threatened to kill a bunch of people with your personal giant arsenal of weapons. [More from TPM at the link.]

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Family values Republicans

Something light for a Sunday afternoon. Marcus Hook, PA, Mayor James “Jay” Schiliro (R-Crazy Drunk) won't be seeking re-election after all:
Authorities allege that late on the evening of Feb. 21, Schiliro contacted the young man by text message and had a Marcus Hook police officer deliver him to his borough home. There, with Schiliro’s 13-year-old daughter sleeping upstairs, the mayor allegedly gave the young man alcohol and produced three firearms, one of which was fired into papers inside the house.

During the encounter, the mayor repeatedly asked the young man if he could give him oral sex, according to court documents. Schiliro is not charged with any sex-related offenses.
However Mayor Schiliro does intend to serve out the remainder of his term because, he needs "to see it through." [via Taegan Goddard][photo via]

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We are not alone

By Capt Fogg




We're going to have to get used to drones.  They're available everywhere and getting better and cheaper as electronic toys do. HD TV cameras can be added that are now tiny and lightweight and cheap and can even see in the dark


I hope we don't have to get used to the constant surveillance they make possible and it's not just the invasion of our private spaces by government agencies I'm alarmed about.  Various people and groups of people with all kinds of ideas about what you're doing, aren't doing and should be doing are now able to watch and record from hundreds of feet above wherever you are.



PETA, one of those well-intentioned groups whose sentimentally extremist views about things like the personhood and civil rights of insects isn't the kind of  organization I want watching me if I'm out in the woods or down at the dock fishing, seeing as for them, fish are sensitive and loving and self aware creatures and catching them is murder. But hunters are evil too, as are those with leather shoes or eating sushi, and PETA intends to   "monitor those who are out in the woods with death on their minds," according to a press release.  Those feral hogs we have down here need to be protected against my violating their civil rights as well, and what about the local butcher shops!  Death on their minds! But according to the FAA, as long as you fly your Hammacher Schlemmer drone below 400 feet, there's no problem with areal reconnaissance. For extremists, kooks, voyeurs and fanatics, it's a whole new day.


"The average person has no worries" is the kind of  'reassurance' one expects from advocates of random and warrantless stops and searches.  Steve Hindi, president of yet another animal rights group called Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, assures us we have nothing to fear from him unless you have death on your mind.  He likes to watch bird hunters and post video on line and sending links to law enforcement. Perhaps the average hunter has no worries but what looks like one thing may look like another thing from a TV camera from 40 stories in the air and after all, Steve doesn't want you hunting in the first place you evil carnivore Bambi murderer you.


Of course flying your drone a few hundred feet above people with shotguns has it's hazards. Drones have suffered mysterious failures and there's a lot of giggling going on in the bird shooting community.  Might be some mirth in my back yard as well should there be an unidentified flying object hovering over my swimming pool, but I'm not sure the future doesn't hold endless drones over our heads and perhaps under our feet making sure we don't have aces up our sleeves or that we're not walking on the grass or filling out our golf score cards improperly or actually are playing cards with the guys like we said.  But let he who is without sin not worry, right?


Drones are the future.  Insurance companies are already 'offering' gadgets that record how fast you drive -- to save you money of course, but also to deny claims because you might have been observed at 5 over the limit.  Red light cameras don't seem to reduce collisions at intersections and may actually be causing more, but hey, you have nothing to fear in our brave new world where you have so many big brothers watching our for you.

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Blissful tiger via Noman Shabbir.



[Definitely click to embiggen]

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Who is Progress KY

Serious question. While it's entirely possible they're just the world's most inept wannabe lefty anarchists, Progress KY feels more like a GOP front group every passing day. I mean, first the lame attack ads on the wife and then the lamebrain secret taping which they immediately bragged about pulling off. They're like Jimmy O'Keefe on whiskey and quaaludes.

Odd how everything they've done so far has been such a big help to Mitch.
The leak seems to have backfired, helping to strengthen McConnell in the state. Most of the focus has been on the FBI investigation into who bugged McConnell's office, and on Conway's comments about his discussions with Progress Kentucky's leaders.

The story has also given McConnell's allies a chance to tie the fringe group to Democrats in and outside of the state.
Moreover, they have no apparent talent for raising money, yet they managed to pay for the racist ads in the beginning and high powered legal counsel now. The investigation is likely to last until the 2014 election. The gift that keeps on giving -- to McConnell. Funny how that works.

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Making guns mandatory in Missouri



Crackpot cons have such a bizarre definition of freedom. It's not enough for these guys to demand the right to wave their firearms in your face at every turn, this Missouri Republican lawmaker introduces stealth legislation to make it mandatory for every business owner to allow guns into their establishments. The bill provides:
1. Any private business that displays signage which prohibits public invitees, business visitors, and employees from carrying a concealed weapon on the premises owned or occupied by such private business shall be liable for any injury or damages incurred by such public invitees, business visitors, and employees as a result of such prohibition if such public invitee, business visitor, or employee establishes by a preponderance of evidence that having access to a firearm may have prevented his or her injury or damage.

2. Any private business that does not prohibit public invitees, business visitors, and employees from carrying a concealed weapon on the premises owned or occupied by such private business shall be immune from any liability arising from its decision to permit concealed weapons to be carried on business premises.
See what he did here? If you prohibit guns in your place of business and some wacko comes in and shoots the joint up, any litigation happy wahoo can sue you for preventing them from carrying a gun inside to shoot back because, for sure they would have been a hero. But if you allow guns into the establishment and some wacko shoots the place up, business owner is legally off the hook because, well, you should have been carrying your own damn gun so you could be the hero and stop the wacko from committing mass murder.

Here's hoping this bill dies on the Statehouse floor before it unleashes mass mayhem in Missouri. [graphic via]

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Women caught in conservative TRAP in Virginia

Conservative Virginia lawmakers vote for stealth rules to shut down women's access to reproductive health services.
The vote stems from legislation that cleared the legislature two years ago and has been slowly making its way through implementation.

The General Assembly voted in 2011 to impose stricter building codes on clinics, calling for costly physical renovations, such as wider hallways and doorways, expanded parking and entrance awnings. Supporters said the ­changes ensure the safety of women undergoing abortions at the clinics. Opponents said the measure was a veiled attempt to shutter them.
Actually, you don't have to be an opponent to see the agenda here. Couldn't be more obvious. Besides it's no secret. The theocrats have publicized their plan to the boss of all our lady parts.
The regulations — part of a nationwide anti-choice campaign to adopt so-called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP, laws...

Friday’s vote represents the latest skirmish in an ongoing conservative war on abortion clinics. In the past three months, states have proposed an astonishing 694 provisions restricting or rolling back women’s reproductive rights. Efforts to shutter local abortion clinics disproportionately impact low-income women and significantly increase the incidence unintended pregnancies.
The theocrats assure us they only have the best of intentions:
“We need to be assured that a Kermit Gosnell-type practitioner is not operating in Virginia,” said Janet Robey, state director of Concerned Women for America.
Which of course has it ass-backwards. It's exactly this kind of restriction on responsible health care providers that leads to "Gosnell-type practitioners" who are more than willing to prey on low income and otherwise desperate women.

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Your moment of Zen

Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area, China. [photo via Old Moss Woman]

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Social cons and the new back alley abortions

If the story wasn't so impossibly horrible, it would be amusing to see the half the internet claim Kermit Gosnell's illegal abortion mill is being ignored in the media. Even more bizarre is the accusations are coming from social cons who see some dark cover-up by the "right to choose" lefties. What makes this especially stupid is the trial is being widely covered locally. Moreover, the anti-choice cons didn't say a word when right to choose feminists were reporting on this story in 2011 when it first broke.

Not seeing why the anti-choicers think is a winner for them. Sure the gory details about brutal late term abortions, like near term babies being killed with scissors are appalling, as are the accounts of women left to die in filthy operating rooms. But it's an indictment on social cons insistence that responsible women's health care providers like Planned Parenthood be defunded and abortion be banned again. Gosnell's illegal abortion mill is where poor and desperate women seek treatment for unintended pregnancies they can't afford when there are no other options. Just as they did before Roe v. Wade. Maybe Gosnell didn't actually use coathangers, but this is future if the social cons dearest wish to repeal Roe is granted.

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Religious right rebels against GOP rebrand

It may be true there's a fool born every minute, but the big time grifters of the religous right are smartening up. They're telling their flocks, time to stop being useful fools.
The president [Tony Perkins] of the Family Research Council, a top religious political group, said Thursday night that conservative activists should withhold their political donations to Republicans until the party decides where it will stand on social issues.
Of course, Mr. Perkins would encourage the faithful to continue contributing to worthy candidates and trusted family value organizations, say, such as his own.

Their political power may be waning as society evolves without them, but the fundies are still an important part of the GOP's shrinking base. They're the ones who send money and do the ground work on turning out the church vote. They've been working for decades without much in return except comforting rhetoric, which hasn't translated into much policy success in establishing the Christian theocracy of their fevered dreams.

Not going to be easy for the Republicans to rebrand into the new, all inclusive, oh so tolerant of the others party when these folks are demanding they adhere to the crackpot conservative platform established at the GOP convention. Their hostage demands appear to be working, at least when it comes "teh ghey."

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Blue bird of happiness. [source unknown]

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Senate does something about gun safety reform

It's not much so far. Really it's kind of pathetic that a simple cloture vote to allow debate is such big news.
The procedural vote followed a breakthrough by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, who reached a compromise on broadening background checks to include private purchases at gun shows and on the Internet.

Because of the bipartisan deal, Senate Democrats backing the legislation received support from enough Republicans to approve the cloture motion, 68-31, setting up debate on the proposals and amendments expected to last for two weeks.
Only two Democrats defected and 16 Republicans voted for cloture. One of them surprisingly being my own generally useless Richard Burr. While I'm certain he'll vote against any actual reform bill, just voting to allow it to come to the floor brought out the gun loving crackpot hordes in protest. The general drift of the commentary was how dare he give OWEbama a political victory. They will never forgive this grave betrayal of their constitutional rights and they're going to kick his RINO ass out of office. Of course they'll forget all that when he votes against the final bill.

Some milquetoast bill may yet get passed out of the Senate. Then John Boehner's House gets to further eviscerate the reforms. Unlikely to solve the problems. But DC media and the Beltway junkies have something to talk about for the next few weeks. So there's that...

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Whinge along with Mitch

Haven't been following the great Mitch McConnell secret tapes scandal closely. I'm not shocked to learn GOPers gather together to plot dirty tricks. Hell, it's one of the few things that both sides really do. And now that Progress KY have been outed as the perps, Mitch will be dining out on this horrible (worse than Watergate!) infringement of his privacy by evil librul fascist commie DemocRATS forever. Rubes at home love that talk. Think it's going to hurt the Democratic side more than it helps. Much like their previous attack on Mitch's Chinese wife.

Only thing that might salvage this disaster and actually hurt McTurtle is if McConnell staffers conducted oppo on government time.
The DC-based watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and Washington has asked the FBI to investigate.

CREW officials said the audio recording obtained by Mother Jones magazine raises questions "whether Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), violated federal law and Senate rules by misusing Senate staff or resources to conduct opposition research on potential campaign opponents."
Not going to get much help from the media on that one. CNN is wondering did the guy say "thank them three times" or "thank them for their free time." Reminds me of old comedy routines. Only I don't feel like laughing.

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Your moment of Zen

Koga's resting place. Koga was a parrot. She lived for 22 years. [Jennie Bolton photo]

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