Saturday, July 27, 2013

Obamacare lowering insurance rates

In a mad rush to beat the clock on reality, Republicans are still trying to figure out how to destroy Obummercare. It appears they're going to lose that race, as the good news on Obamacare keeps rolling in.
Health premiums in Maryland’s exchanges will be “among the lowest of the 12 states that have available proposed or approved rates for comparison,” the state’s exchange — Maryland Health Connection — announced Friday. The news comes just as New York,Oregon, Montana, California, and Louisiana are also reporting lower than expected premiums.
How did this happen, you ask? Well in Maryland:
Officials say they used their authority to deny rate increases to reduce the proposed premiums by “more than 50 percent.” Thirty other states have have similar authority.
Obamacare is destined to become a popular program once its provisions kick in and the inevitable kinks are ironed out. Which explains the crackpot cons mad rush to kill it and the sudden pushback among establishment Republicans (or what passes for such in these times) against their own crackpot caucus. Thinking the time will soon come when appeasing the GOP's shrinking base of angry old white men will do more damage to their election prospects than it's worth.

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Halliburton charged with criminal acts

But of course it's Halliburton, which is apparently above the law so, no real penalties will incur.
Under the plea agreement, which requires court approval, Houston-based Halliburton will also face three years' probation, pay the maximum fine of $200,000 and continue to cooperate in the Justice Department's criminal investigation of the April 2010 explosion and fire on the drilling platform, which killed 11 rig workers off Louisiana.

The Justice Department said it would not pursue further criminal charges against Halliburton or its subsidiaries. [...]

Halliburton's energy-services subsidiary designed and built the well for BP. In early May, the company began an internal investigation to determine whether the number of "centralizers" — metal collars that help keep the well pipe centered — played a role in the blowout. Halliburton recommends installing 21, but BP chose to use just six.
Their computer models said it was okay. But no one can find them. They've disappeared. Nor do we know who created said models. The creators remain unidentified. But Justice says Halliburton offered "significant and valuable cooperation during the course of its investigation" so all is forgiven. They pay the maximum fine of $200,000 and get three years probation, whatever that means, and we'll call it even. Because you know, a 200K fine is really going to sting a corporation that saw total revenue of $28.5 billion in 2012[pdf].

What a country. Too big to fail means too big to jail.

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Groundswell

Still having major internet issues. Limited computer time, so outsourcing to Anne Laurie. This appears to be the crackpot con's version of the famed librul  Journolist they were so fond of smearing back in the day.
Dubbed Groundswell, this coalition convenes weekly in the offices of Judicial Watch, the conservative legal watchdog group. During these hush-hush sessions and through a Google group, the members of Groundswell—including aides to congressional Republicans—cook up battle plans for their ongoing fights against the Obama administration, congressional Democrats, progressive outfits, and the Republican establishment and “clueless” GOP congressional leaders. [...]

One of the influential conservatives guiding the group is Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a columnist for the Daily Caller and a tea party consultant and lobbyist. Other Groundswell members include John Bolton, the former UN ambassador; Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy; Ken Blackwell and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council; Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch; Gayle Trotter, a fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum; Catherine Engelbrecht and Anita MonCrief of True the Vote; Allen West, the former GOP House member; Sue Myrick, also a former House GOPer; Diana Banister of the influential Shirley and Banister PR firm; and Max Pappas, a top aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)….

… Groundswellers constantly brainstorm via their Google group in search of a magic talking point, or a silver bullet of messaging. On April 24, Keli Carender, the national grassroots coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, posted a message to the Google group, writing, “We should have a unified name for the immigration bill so that as the other side is calling it ‘reform,’ we present a unified front against that notion. If we’re all calling it different things, their ‘reform’ message will win. We only combat the idea that it is reform if we hammer back with one different phrase/name.” She tossed out a few ideas: “Schumer-Rubio bill,” “anti-security bill,” and “amnesty bill.” Sheryl Kaufman, the communications director for Rep. Jim Bridenstine, chimed in that she was fond of a phrase derived by MonCreif: “‘OBAMAGRATION’—I love it!! Communicates the similarity with Obamacare.” …
You have to give the crackpots some credit. The one thing they are rather good at is inventing bumper sticker slogans. Much more at the link.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Plastic at the end of the world

By Capt. Fogg

It's impossible to sum up American culture these days.  It's a farrago of barbarian freak chic, phony Euro faddism,  retro-futurism and gross slob-snobbery. That's only a sample, of course.  There are more sub-cultures, cults of style and lack thereof than I care to or can enumerate, but when a plain old cup of plain old coffee becomes an "Americano" even in the heart of America -- when Wendy's serves "Tuscan" hamburgers, when anything from dogfood to doughnuts, not made entirely by robots is "Artisinal" (and perhaps Tuscan as well) I might have to stop using the word culture at all and substitute circus, but for the fact that the large number of retired circus people and side show freaks in Florida are generally nice people and not given to parading around in "look at me" mode, unless of course they're getting paid for it.

Who the hell are we trying to fool but ourselves?  The waitress at the diner or Dunkin' Donuts or the Waffle House isn't any more a Barrista than a μπάρμαν  yet we've accepted that peremptory commercial intrusion unquestioningly as though it retroactively had been painted into the Nighthawks where the patrons were doubtless drinking "venti's" or Frappuchinos with hand harvested Madagascar Cinnamon -- free range, artisinal and fair trade, of course. In Germany they call it Barkeeper, In Paris and Madrid it's a barman, but English isn't good enough here.  You'd never order squid or snails and if you want Dolphin caught off Vero Beach, Florida, you'd better ask for it in Hawaiian, you uncouth American you.

Does the near universal phoniness and inept pretense indicate that Americans, for all their boasting and bravado really feel inferior?  Do we suspect that our commercialized, mechanized, industrial culture leaves us with an inchoate longing for authenticity that this same commercially manufactured culture is willing to provide in a chrome plated, sanitized, injection-molded and fake "Euro inspired" form?  Is it our American insecurity motivating our fashionably unshaven McEpicurians, Bourgeois bohemians, Natural Food and alternative medicine alchemists to seek out erzatz  authenticity and attach exotic names to our pedestrian lives and quotidian pursuits?  Is the white teenager with the shoes and baggy pants and rasta hat and the Kia Soul with "rims" really seeking the "authenticity" of not being middle class and white?

Come on, half the studded leather Bad Boy Bikers at Daytona Bike Week are dentists and accountants, pretending to live a life that wouldn't allow them to keep their Lexi and Audi-Doodys and suburban houses or to sip those 15 dollar artisinal Tuscan Latte's on their lunch breaks. How many of those red Ferraris on South beach are rented by the day and saved up for all year?  How many of the sad losers in those smoke filled casinos feel like high rollers when they toss the keys to their ten year old Hyundai or their leased Lexus to the valet ( or is it carrista now)? only to be made fools of by a beeping and hooting machine that just ate their Social Security check.

Yes, we'll raise hell with you if  you hint that we're not "number one" but I suspect we hate being Americans far more than the rest of the world hates us for being Americans. 
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Too much monkey business

By Capt. Fogg


No need for me complainin' - my objection's overruled, ahh!
Too much monkey business. Too much monkey business.
Too much monkey business for me to be involved in!

 -Chuck Berry-


As though to deliberately illustrate what I've been saying, a horde of "impassioned" zealots in liberal clothing rallied in Miami Saturday to hear Bishop Victor Curry, a Baptist church official and South Florida president of the National Action Network tell them that the Zimmerman verdict was a "wake up call" which of course it was not, at least not any more than any case in which the accused was given the benefit of the doubt.  The argument that Zimmerman was a murderous racist looking to hunt black people is as disgusting as any of Al Sharpton's accusations, including his portrayal of Bernhard Goetz as a racist for shooting armed robbers.  The argument that the verdict was pursuant to the 'stand your ground' law is so earth shakingly false it would show up on a seismometer, so what is this all about?  The NAN is the creation of  Al Sharpton who makes  and has made his living by imaginatively accusing people of racism so egregiously, I'm sure Dr. king would be making speeches against him and his business were he alive today.

Bishop Curry has also staged protests in New York, Washington, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, and more than 90 other cities around the United States. This Zimmerman business is a business and a business that needs to foment race tension as much as the Mason Family did. 

Dragging Trayvon Martins head on a pike around the country is about politics, not justice and I sure as hell don't remember Nicole Simpson or Ron Goldman being used similarly.  It was far more a travesty of justice that OJ was described as the victim of racism and that science and fact and evidence were laughed at.  It's a business and as much as I loathe racism, I loathe the business of using it to sell product, to make money, to build careers on it, to accuse people of it to further a political purpose because it cheapens the real cause, detracts from the real cause and furnishes the real racists a defense they don't deserve.

The death of Trayvon Martin was not about racism, not about a new birth of Jim Crow. Zimmerman wouldn't be allowed into the Klan, nor does he represent some resurgence, some recrudescence of  an early 20th century southern white mentality.  The verdict was not the result of racism and most of all, neither the verdict, the defense, nor for that matter the facts had anything to do with the law that some people oppose so hysterically that they dishonor the memory of an unlucky kid and a grieving family as well as they dishonor truth, decency and the liberal causes of justice and freedom for all.

Zimmerman got off because the prosecution could not prove that Martin was not holding him down so that he couldn't run away. That is an argument based on the older law requiring the duty to retreat, not the Stand your Ground law which did not permit Zimmerman to pursue or confront Martin nor to threaten him.  Such actions would, as I read the law, nullify his claim to self defense and his right to draw a weapon.

 Are we willing to dispense with the presumption of innocence because of the presumption of racism?

That Zimmerman was wont to call 911 when seeing suspicious characters in his neighborhood shows only that he was doing what a neighborhood watch participant is supposed to do, and when a preponderance of  unidentified people and a preponderance of those engaging in vandalism are black those calls are evidence of racism only to racists.

I'm all for practical gun control.  I  passionately hate racism and racists and bigots of all kinds, and I hate it when bigotry, stereotyping, racism and outright lies are used by people getting rich pretending to fight it.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Offline

My little laptop finally died. Too complicated to explain why, but I'll probably be offline for a few days.
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Your moment of Zen

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Elizabeth Warren stands her ground

Go read Charlie Pierce for the elegant analogies on Elizabeth Warren's inspiring appearance on CNBC. All I'm going to add is: every time I see her do this stuff, I really wish she was our POTUS.

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Indulgences of the new millenium

There was a time these went for big bucks, but now you can get your forgiveness for nothing and your tweets for free.
In its latest attempt to keep up with the times the Vatican has married one of its oldest traditions to the world of social media by offering "indulgences" to followers of Pope Francis' tweets.

The church's granted indulgences reduce the time Catholics believe they will have to spend in purgatory after they have confessed and been absolved of their sins.
I'm not Catholic and I've never embraced the concept of the infalliable Holy See, but this new pope keeps winning me over. If all the popes were like Pope Francis I might have converted to their faith a long time ago as I do really love their saints.
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The trouble with Obamacare

From the GOP's perspective the biggest problem is Obamacare is working too well.
Individuals buying health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year in New York State as changes under the federal health care law take effect, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday.

State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.
This is just the latest report I've seen of plunging insurance rates coming from states that aren't deliberately trying to sabotage a successful implementation of the provisions. Meanwhile back in Boehner's House of Dysfunction, Republicans are still desperately trying to cripple the entire bill.
The House has scheduled votes later Wednesday to delay the law’s individual and employer mandates, the 38th time the GOP majority has tried to eliminate, defund or scale back the program since Republicans took control of the House in January 2011.
And that's not all that's troubling the GOP. Booman points out "an Obamacare pilot program successfully demonstrated that we can save money in Medicare."

Granted this behemoth bill is far from perfect for many reasons but when people start seeing their rates fall for the first time in many years and costs coming down, I suspect public opinion will warm up considerably. Which is of course, the GOP's worst nightmare.

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Your moment of Zen

A perfect day in upstate Vermont. [Ericka G. photo]

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Your moment of Zen

In search of sweet nectar. [Roy Hancliff photo]

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Monday, July 15, 2013

A McBudget for the working poor

"McDonalds has partnered with Visa to launch a website to help its low-wage workers making an average $8.25 an hour to budget." If this sample McBudget wasn't so cruel and insulting, it would be so absurd as to be funny.



Have to love that it starts by assuming their workers need two jobs to make ends meet. Of course that ignores the fact that few of their workers actually clear even as much as $1000 in a month, much less are offered schedules that allow them to get a second crappy minimum wage job with enough hours to make up the difference. And apparently they believe all their workers live in the tropics and thus need no money for heat.

In response to an email from Think Progress asking how they came up with this work of fantasy fiction, McDonald's had this to say.
The samples that are on this site are generic examples and are intended to help provide a general outline of what an individual budget may look like.”
I'd suggest their CEO try to live on that budget for a month or two and then get back to us on how well it worked. Measuring on the stupid or evil scale, this farce goes off the chart on both.

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Google Energy

A bit of good news from a corporate behemoth. Using their megabucks to make a commitment to healing the planet, Google has sunk over $1 billion into renewable energy. Analysts say Google is "the only company other than energy businesses and financial institutions that has taken large ownership stakes in major stand-alone power projects."
The Internet search giant's efforts to transform the world's use of power and fossil fuels have included a $200 million investment in a Texas wind farm and the purchase of a company that makes innovative flying wind turbines. It has invested $168 million in a solar project in California and is funding the development of an offshore grid to support wind turbines off the Atlantic coast.

In total, it has an ownership stake in more than 2 gigawatts of power generation capacity, the equivalent of Hoover Dam, said Rick Needham, Google's director of energy and sustainability.

Google even has a subsidiary, Google Energy, that's authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to sell wholesale electricity that it generates from its power assets.
Nice to see a corporation as big as Google making an investment in future technology instead of deliberately fomenting climate disruption in order to bleed every last cent in short term profits.

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Koch attacks the messenger

When you're a mega-billionaire you don't need Fox News to shill for you against bad press. Instead, like the Kochs, you make up your own facts and launch individualized smear campaigns against legitimate journalists. Like this guy who wrote about the XL Pipeline.
In a rebuttal posted on its Web site, KochFacts.com, the company asserted that Sassoon’s story “deceives readers” by suggesting that Koch Industries stood to benefit from construction of the Keystone XL pipeline — a denial Sassoon included in his story. KochFacts went on to dismiss Sassoon as a “professional eco-activist” and an “agenda-driven activist.”

It didn’t stop there. The company took out ads on Facebook and via Google featuring a photo of Sassoon with the headline, “David Sassoon’s Deceptions.” The ad’s copy read, “Activist/owner of InsideClimate News misleads readers and asserts outright falsehoods about Koch. Get the full facts on KochFacts.com.”
Not going to link to it but the website is impressive. It's a combination of presenting the material from every wingnut meme that gets passed around in viral emails by your crazy uncle but couched in the language of the well-educated and a collection of articles by their friendly fluffers in BigMedia. For instance this feel-good bit from the WSJ.
As part of their effort to position themselves as a credible alternative to Warren Buffett, the Koch brothers make two promises: We won’t string you along, and we won’t go hostile.

“We get a fair amount of calls,” Dave Robertson, president and chief operating officer of Koch Industries, said in a recent interview at Koch headquarters, an anonymous-looking compound surrounded by farmland on the fringes of Wichita, Kan. “We’d like to get more — and not just from Wall Street. There may be business owners out there who have need for capital for certain things and they’re not connected with the Wall Street bunch. We’d be happy to field those calls…. We feel we have the ability to assess the opportunity and respond very quickly.”
Desperate business owners and Koch's unlimited cash reserves. What could possibly go wrong?

I've always wondered how otherwise seemingly intelligent people could get suckered in by the crackpot con propaganda. Suddenly it becomes clearer...

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Your moment of Zen

Austin, Texas. {Sam S. photo]

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

A license to kill

I expected this verdict but nonetheless it still rankled when I woke up to find George Zimmerman was acquitted. And no, despite the old saw, Zimmerman was not found innocent. Neither was he exonerated of the crime. The fact that he killed an unarmed teenager with a gun was never in dispute. He was acquitted on the charge of murder. There's a difference.

Neither can it be said that the court delivered justice for Trayvon. That would have required a guilty verdict, which just wasn't going to happen under Florida laws. Our legal system is imperfect. The guilty often go free while the innocent are sometimes convicted. And yes, the outcomes are often based on class status and race. It's not been unnoticed that a black woman in the same state, under the same laws, was given a 20 year sentence for merely shooting a gun into the air.

This is what happens when a "jury of peers" are the judges and the judge merely conducts the proceedings. It also happens when a single justice decides a case. It's a myth they don't bring their own prejudices into the courtroom. But it's useful to remember at such times, when the anger at injustice boils the blood, that judges and juries are constrained by laws written by politicians. The system is imperfect because is it an invention of humans who are also imperfect beings.

Much will be said today and in the days to follow about this case. Many will try to make sense of the outcome where none can be made. In the end all we can do is accept that sometimes the system really sucks and do our best to write better laws that deliver justice more perfectly. Probably an impossible task when politicians have the final say.

As for the instant case, the best summation I've seen is this: "The real danger of this acquittal is not riots in the streets. It's more George Zimmermans." A subject Charlie Pierce covered so eloquently already that there's nothing left to say.

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Your moment of Zen

Mytoi Gardens on Martha's Vineyard. [Alex Johnson photo]

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tragically jaded journalists

Under the heading, "What's wrong with everything," this was posted by the political editor of Buzzfeed as a "reminder" to his fellow journos.


Click over to read the responses. It's a case study in bored Beltway insiderism. The journos are all yeah, covering the effects of policy is such a loser. Which may well be true, but that's because these too cool to care journos are reporting the politics instead of the policy. The cruel effects of the GOP's massacre of food assistance are going to affect 47 million people, most of whom are likely still blissfully unaware it's happening because these guys can't be bothered to inform the public. Not enough clicks in it.

Meanwhile, Max Fisher posts the best response.

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When liberals legislate abortion

When Democrats are in charge of statehouses they pass laws to protect women's health which both sides of the aisle support. As SteveM put it:
What do you get in a situation like this in a state where Democrats control the governor's mansion and both houses of the legislature? You get a reasonable set of regulations intended to address the real problems. What do you get in states with Republican governors and legislatures? You get legislation intended -- solely intended -- to make liberals furious and women seeking abortions miserable, while making right-wingers pump their fists and do a victory dance.
The difference couldn't be more stark. Liberal Democrats only legislate women's health services to improve safety. Liberal Democrats don't abridge women's freedom of choice.

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Texas tramples women's rights

Well, it was an epic fight but sadly, despite the largest demonstrations in Austin ever, the Big Daddy Theocrats won this battle. Texas Senate legislated against women's health and free choice today. But there's no need to accept defeat. We do have options for the future.
"If you are angry about what happened in Texas tonight -- and what's happening in other states all around the country -- there is something you can do about it," spokeswoman Dawn Laguens said. "Register to vote, and vote for candidates who will protect women's access to health care."
And by candidates, we mean Democrats who fight for women's rights.
Democrats offered 20 amendments, ranging from proposals to add exceptions to the bill's 20-week abortion ban for victims of rape and incest to requiring annual inspections of abortion facilities and allowing teen mothers to be excluded from a state law requiring parental consent for family planning services. All were rejected on party-line votes in a debate that lasted until nearly midnight on Friday.
And not vagina obsessed cretins like this:
"It's about taking the life of an innocent baby," said Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston. "What choice does the baby have? Who speaks for the baby?"
Wouldn't be half as irritating to listen to this self-righteous crapola if these same panty sniffing vagina police cared one whit about that poor innocent baby once it's born. Especially if the unfortunate child has been born poor. These same people are the first to demand cuts in all social assistance that would give a child born into poverty a chance for a decent, dignified life.

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Your moment of Zen

Playa Piñatas (Playa del Carmen, Mexico). [photo via]

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Calling out the crackpots

Lazy posting today because, real life is exhausting. So, outsourcing to Charlie Pierce for the definitive take on Boehner's House of Dysfunction.
Earlier this week, Boehner pretended he was leading the House when Steve King and the flying-monkey caucus pretty much killed off the possibility of immigration reform for the balance of the president's second term. Republican senators wanted a bill. Republican power brokers wanted a bill. Hell, Boehner wanted a bill. But the House is not being led by John Boehner at the moment. He is no more the actual Speaker Of The House than Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is vice-president of the United States. The House Of Representatives is being led by the vicious and demented Id of one of the two major political parties that we have allowed ourselves to have in this country. The House Of Representatives speaks with the savage vocabulary of ancient and durable prejudice. The House Of Representatives speaks with the twisted syntax of frustrated white supremacy. The House Of Representatives speaks with the cruel and singular voice of unreasoning prejudice and inhumanity. There is no Speaker Of this House. The Id speaks, and it speaks for them all.
More at the link and always worth reading in full.

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GOP's grand plan: Feed the rich, starve the poor

The willingness to call out GOP perfidy continues today with a Dana Millbank column on farm bill finagling in John Boehner's House of Dysfunction. The Republican crackpot conservative caucus identified the unnecessary spending.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), a committee chairman and the man who led House Republicans to their majority in 2010, was explaining why he and his colleagues decided to drop the food stamp program from the farm bill.

“What we have carefully done is exclude some extraneous pieces,” he said.
Got that? The 47 million Americans, about half of which were newly impoverished by the Great Recession, are an extraneous expense to be "carefully excluded." So, sorry you 23 million hungry children. If you want to eat maybe you can get jobs as a janitor at your elementary school. Or something.

Oh and any Democrat who wants to enter a dissent to this inhumane maneuver to the Congressional record, well can't have that because, Louis Gohmert insists you STFU. (Not for nothing did Charlie Pierce dub Gohmert Emperor for Life of the Crazy People.)

So what did the Republicans find worthy of funding, you ask? Well, instead of direct payments which have become too obvious a handout to huge corporate mono-farms and wealthy urbanites who don't even have a farm, they invented a smoke and mirrors revenue based insurance program that saves money on paper but looks likely to balloon spending once it's put into practice. This placates the Northern farmers. And for the southern plantation owners?
Southern commodity farmers, meanwhile, are pleased that target price-based supports are kept and prices are updated in a way that will likely increase payments in the future.
Because, these are real Murkins. It's only a "culture of dependency" that needs to be broken if poor people (of improper pigmentation) get assistance.

Addendum: To add to the GOP hypocrisy, House Republicans are spending more than Obama wants to spend on the farm subsidies.

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For any reason

By Capt. Fogg

Lyin' Bill.  He earns his title every day. What's he lyin' about now you might ask?  Why, he's telling us that a Texas women can get an abortion at any time -- simply because of a sprained hand for instance.

“You can just kill the baby, or the fetus, however you want to describe it, any time you want for any reason, you know, women’s health, that’s any reason at all.”

Sure, we all know that women are hypochondriacs, prone to hysteria and likely to be faking things like they fake orgasms and I'm sure Bill has experience there. God makes sure women don't die in childbirth anyway, just like he makes sure they don't get pregnant when they get raped. So if a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy, we can be sure it's because she doesn't want to cancel a hair dresser appointment or something equally as important. Why we ever let them vote, I don't know.

In one of those bilious exchanges that Fox is famous for, O'Reilly and Kirsten Powers went back and forth ratcheting up the lies:

Lyin' Bill:  “In New York here, there’s a proposal, ‘I don’t want any limitations on anything!' It’s crazy.”
Powers: “The current status quo in Texas that these people are fighting for, who are fighting the bill, is to be able to abort your baby up until the third trimester.”
Lyin' Bill:  “Yeah! For any reason! Women’s health! ‘Hey! Look I sprained my hand!"
Powers: “Yeah.  For any reason. For any reason. Yeah.”
Of course no one of integrity, no one who gives a rancid shit about the truth or human rights or anything but his stinking faith believes this garbage. Very, very few late term abortions are ever performed and even fewer of that "partial birth" procedure they'd love to tell you happens all the time.  Such things are done with dead fetuses,  fetuses with no brain and the like, but Fox has never stumbled over a fact so far.  Nor, for all their ranting, whooping and hollering, all their pusillanimous persiflage about how Liberals are trashing the constitution have they ever really seen the law as anything but a nuisance and impediment to "freedom" and something that can be and should be ignored by any state with or without public support. 

No, there should be no regulation of anything but women and if God didn't bother to ban abortion, well then the Great State a' Texas is gonna take care of it for him, now all y'all have a nice day, y'hear?

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Your moment of Zen

Stopping the world. [photo via]

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

DC to Walmart: Screw you

Nice to see some good news from a local government for a change. Walmart threatened to cancel their ambitious building projects in DC if the local council didn't kill legislation they disapproved of but the DC Council passed a living wage law anyway.
D.C. lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to a bill requiring some large retailers to pay their employees a 50 percent premium over the city’s minimum wage, a day after Wal-Mart warned that the law would jeopardize its plans in the city.

Should the bill be signed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and pass a congressional review period, retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger would be required to pay employees no less than $12.50 an hour. The city’s minimum wage is $8.25, a dollar higher than the federal minimum wage.
Good for DC for recognizing wages need to be pinned to the actual cost of living. Every city should pass a law that requires these mega-retailers to pay their employees enough so they don't need government assistance to survive. And certainly well past time for someone to stand up to Walmart's intimidation tactics. Let them take their greedy business model of wringing out their profits by shifting the social costs of underpaying their workers onto the taxpayers and shove it.

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Reid threatens to go nuclear

Yes I know we've heard this all before, but this time Harry Reid sounds serious on filibuster reform.
After a tense exchange on the floor with his Republican counterpart, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, planned to recommend to his fellow Democrats at a private lunch meeting that they should vote to take the exceptional step of barring the minority party from filibustering presidential appointees.

The step that Mr. Reid will endorse, which drew strong objections from Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, would not affect filibusters of legislation or judicial nominees. But it would prevent Republicans from being able to require a supermajority of 60 votes for the confirmation of people the president appoints to cabinet level posts or other executive-branch positions.
Greg Sargent has the details on the nuclear trigger:
“We’re going to file cloture on a bunch of nominations, and those votes will occur next week when we schedule them,” Reid said, adding later that if no movement occurred on them, “we know what’s going to happen.”

According to a senior Senate Democratic aide, this means that Reid will file cloture on the following nominations today: Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Gina McCarthy as head of the Environmental Protection Agency; Obama’s picks to the National Labor Relations Board; and possibly Thomas Perez as Labor Secretary.
These are the appointments the GOPers most want to block in order to subvert the will of the majority. So a real test of the laughable "gentlemen's agreement" Reid and McConnell made at the beginning of the session. Remains to be seen if any of the old geezers have the guts to see it through. As the NYT reports, "Senators in both parties also say they fear it could irrevocably change the nature of the Senate."

One could argue we're long overdue for an irrevocable change in that moribund body.

Predictably, Reid's threat left McConnell spitting out his own threats of revenge on the floor, should the tables be turned in the future. (Warning HuffPo link.) As if that's not exactly what Republicans would do anyway if they ever regain the majority, regardless of whether Reid screws up the courage to make a bold move now while there's still time to pass some useful legislation.

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Your moment of Zen

Reflections on water. [photo via]

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The tyranny of light bulbs

Who says Boehner's House of Dysfunction can't get anything done? Why just today Republicans rescued America from freedom robbing energy efficiency.
The House on Wednesday voted to block the enforcement of light bulb standards that many say would effectively force people to buy more expensive compact fluorescent bulbs.

Just like last year, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) proposed the language as an addition to the energy and water spending bill. His language prohibits the use of any funds at the Department of Energy to implement the standards.
Of course, the law doesn't actually force anyone to buy any particular light bulb. There will be incandescent bulbs available that meet the standards. In fact, the industry has spent significant sums of money retooling their manufacturing plants to produce a variety of bulbs that meet the standards.

By abolishing the funding for the enforcement of the standards, Republicans have effectively given Chinese rip-off artists a license to undercut American manufacturers. But the freedom to waste our declining energy resources is a God-given right that can not be abridged. Or something. As long as it pisses off liberals and those gotdam tree huggers, it will please the crackpot base. Nothing else matters. Ever.

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The Koch plan for prosperity

Charles Koch studies the problem of poor Americans. He's figured out what's keeping the poor folk down and has come up with what he thinks is a brilliant solution. Eliminating the minimum wage.

But how to convince the working poor that this odious requirement they be paid at least $7.25 a hour is a bad thing? That the real problem is a "culture of dependency" on government mandated fair wages because, as the Buddhists say -- money is suffering? Well, he launched a $200,000 ad campaign for that. Thus says the man with a personal worth of $43 billion:
The Kansas ad does not specifically mention the minimum wage, but it does claim that Americans earning $34,000 a year should count themselves as lucky, because that puts them in the top 1 percent of the world. “That is the power of economic freedom,” the ad concluded.
Said world including billions of people who work for pennies a day in countries where there is no minimum wage.

I imagine the next ad will explain why a living wage is holding our economic growth down because giving the working class more money to spend is never going to increase buyer demand in a consumer based economy.

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When Republicans refuse to govern

It's not exactly news to anyone who has been paying attention that Republicans have embraced full out obstruction of any meaningful legislation at all since the day Obama took office. What is news is that the Beltway BigMedia is finally acknowledging it. Today Jon Chait remarks on how obstruction has become the guiding principle of the GOP to the detriment of our country. At least for as long as that "blah" man holds the Oval Office.
A rational legislative strategy would consider the relative benefits of a law to maintaining the status quo, and weigh the possibilities of a better bill emerging over time. But tea-party logic simply regards the existence of compromise as disqualifying. The moral purity of opposition has become untethered from any political or policy objective, and appears to have sprouted into an actual freestanding principle.

It’s not such a strongly held principle that it would survive if and when Republicans regain control of government. Lowry, Kristol, and the entire tea party will surely forget their hatred of side deals when they are needed to pass the next tax cuts. But the hatred for legislating has gained a strong enough hold over the conservative mind as to render them unable to consider the merits of any bill at all.
Even more significant, yesterday, Chuck Todd practically accused Republicans of criminal negligence for sabotaging our entire process of governance. Worth reading Greg's excerpts in full. It's that astonishing to see language like this on First Read.
And this all raises the question: What’s the line between fighting for your ideology and ensuring that the government that pays your salaries actually works — or even attempts to work? At some point, governing has to take place, but when does that begin? We know what opponents will say in response to this: These are bad laws, and we have to do whatever it takes to stop them. But at what point does an election have a governing consequence?
Strong words coming from one of the Beltway's most realiable fluffers of establishment politics and biggest promoters of insidery access journalism.

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Your moment of Zen

Ambience Rose. [photographer unknown]

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Their own private armies



In Wisconsin, when someone asks -- "Who was that masked man, anyway? -- they aren't talking about the Lone Ranger.
Here’s a fascinating little story. There’s been a battle royale up in Wisconsin over an effort to establish a big iron mining operation near Lake Superior, to be owned and operated by a company called Gogebic Taconite. The Republican legislature approved the mine in March over environmentalists’ objections. Some protests have been staged since the operation got started. But people started to get freaked out over the weekend when the company brought in what the Wisconsin State Journal calls “masked security guards who are toting semi-automatic rifles and wearing camouflaged uniforms.”
This is no one-off fluke. These mask wearing, camo clad, paramilitary "security guards" come from a thriving company created to serve large corporations who want to use third world tactics inside America under the pretense of protecting their property.
Indeed, as the site notes, “BPS has at its disposal the latest cache of specialized equipment for border security operations, not typically found in the private sector. As example, BPS owns heavily armored Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV’s), Tactical All Terrain Vehicles (T-ATV’s), FLIR (mobile thermal systems), mast equipment (eye in the sky), and many other state-of-the-art assets … The presence of BPS will prevent criminal organizations from posing a threat to your personnel or your mission.”

If your needs are different, Bulletproof can also provide “a QRF (quick reaction force) tactical unit to secure a manufacturing plant during a heated worker strike.”
Seriously. This is the real threat to our way of life. I mean, how different does this sound than say, paramilitary intimidation in Colombia? This is our future under the control of the "free market" multinational mega-corporations.

And as always, our favorite past resident of "Koch Industries' midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin," Charlie Pierce, has more to say that's worth reading.

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Hope I die before I get old


We go through this every ten years, olds blaming the youth for what's wrong with everything. The new gen blame the olds for fucking everything up. They want to change the world. The olds are threatened by change and yearn for the good old days when everything was predictable and made sense. To them. So it has been and so it shall be probably for as long as humans inhabit this planet.

Apparently, while I've been busy with real life endeavors, there's been a spate of hit pieces against the Millenials on the intertoobz. So graphic artist Matt Bors, (who turns out to be much younger than I thought), posts a great take on the latest interation of intergenerational warfare rendered in his own inimitable style.

Via Atrios who rightly reminds the crackpot cranks, "And, no, olds, you would not be able to work yourself through college without help or debt today. Public university used to be free or cheap, it no longer is."

Seriously. This new generation has been so screwed by the olds, don't see how anyone can blame the kids for anything. They have every right to be pissed off.

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Ink Blots

By Capt. Fogg

Who needs ink blots?  Life itself is a Rorschach test. What you see as a pattern, a 'gestalt' if you prefer in something random or arbitrary is a window into your mind.  Likewise what you find to condemn in others may often illustrate what you feel - or fear to find - in yourself.  It's been my experience that people who feel guilty about all their lies are quick to see others as liars, for instance and when I hear certain TV personalities telling us how, as Rush once snickered, Michael J. Fox is faking his Parkinson's to get sympathy or the Republican hyenas who insisted that Hillary Clinton's cerebral blood clot was only an excuse to get out of testifying at the Benghazi witch hunt,  and when I heard Glenn Beck snickering yesterday that Theresa Heinz-Kerry, wife of our Secretary of State, hospitalized and in critical condition was faking it, what I heard was a faker, a phoney, a con man, a liar and a sociopath telling us his own story.

Am I wrong or is this a pattern?  Do the most vocal apologists for the wackadoodle Right routinely deny inconvenient reality and slander their opponents because they think everybody is like them?  Takers, leeches, liars, fakes and idiots?    Hey, the ink blots don't lie.

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Your moment of Zen

Bristol, Tennessee. [Andrew Hunt photo]

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Monday, July 08, 2013

Why Americans are so ill informed



A new Gallup survey tells us television is still America's primary news source for current events (55%), leading the Internet, at 21%. Even worse, Fox News and CNN are the market leaders both in viewers and click-bait sensationalism. Accuracy in reporting has never been part of the Fox business model and at this point it's little more than a quaint relic of the past at CNN.

On a related note, MoJo runs the numbers to find just how large a goldmine Citizens United spending has been for BigMedia. Which is leading to new rounds of consolidation.
And it's not just CBS that's riding high thanks to political ad spending. TV stations in battleground states are magnets for ad spending, and they're driving a new wave of consolidation in the broadcast industry, leaving a handful of big media companies well-positioned to reap hundreds of millions during the 2014 midterm elections and, especially, the 2016 presidential race. Just in the past month, the Gannett company bought 20 TV stations for $1.5 billion, and the Tribune Company inked a $2.7 billion deal for 19 stations. Those deals included stations in battleground states.
Meanwhile, SuperPACs ads keep getting slicker and less easy to distinguish from the programming, especially since the disclosure requirements are so dismally inadequate. There are no incentives to get the information right. The big money is in misinformation. This is a problem.

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Fish out of water

No idea if this photo of Paul Ryan is real or shopped but it clearly needs to be archived for posterity.

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Unintended consequences

Who could have predicted insurers wouldn't want to issue policies for schools that allow any local yahoo with a gun to wander around the building?
The EMC Insurance Cos. insures 85 percent to 90 percent of all Kansas school districts and has refused to renew coverage for schools that permit teachers and custodians to carry concealed firearms on their campuses under the new law, which took effect July 1. It's not a political decision, but a financial one based on the riskier climate it estimates would be created, the insurer said.

"We've been writing school business for almost 40 years, and one of the underwriting guidelines we follow for schools is that any on-site armed security should be provided by uniformed, qualified law enforcement officers," said Mick Lovell, EMC's vice president for business development. "Our guidelines have not recently changed."
Hearing this is not sitting well with the gun absolutists because they don't see a problem. I mean, they're just protecting the children. What could go wrong?

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Objections on monitor may be closer than they appear

I get really pissed off at the Big Daddy Theocrats for their vagina control obsession on the one hand.


[Nick Anderson cartoon]

On the other hand I want to believe their overreach is going to generate a backlash among women voters of every ideology come 2014 that will surprise all the pundits. So there's that...

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Your moment of Zen

Papagoite Quartz. [photo via]

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Sunday, July 07, 2013

Considering the source on Snowden

Honestly, I'm rather tired of the Edward Snowden story but another slow news cycle and the main source of entertainment today seems to be arguing about him. Given that the Snowden saga has dragged on for so long, I suppose it was inevitable that his motives would come into question.

On that point I agree with Nate Silver's tweet from a few days ago:
@fivethrityeight: Journalists shouldn't care about whether sources are good people, but about whether the source's account is reliable and accurate.
That being said, I did find this hit piece on Snowden mildly interesting. He does of course have a history on the internets and was once an active poster on the Ars Technica site. The consensus there is Snowden was pretty much a collosal dick. There are a lot of quotes at the link, including one exchange where he suggests we should let all the olds die rather than suck up our limited resources but this bit struck me as even more significant.
“Fuck old people”? An objectivist view if ever there was one. The other issue is the Second Amendment:

User: the restrictions were made to appease the conservatives to get another bill passed. fucking cons.

SNOWDEN: See, that’s why I’m goddamned glad for the second amendment. Me and all my lunatic, gun-toting NRA compatriots would be on the steps of Congress before the C-Span feed finished.
Not sure what to make of that but it's not shouting thoughtful concerned citizen to me.

In any event, whatever his motives are, while I remain grateful Snowden resurrected the objections to the surveillance state, if his goal really was to curtail it, and not simple attention seeking, he's utterly failed in that mission. All he appears to have accomplished at this point is to further polarize the debate.

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New adventures in GOP hostage taking

Over at John Boehner's House of Dysfunction the Republicans have a problem. They want to use the next debt ceiling reauthorization to extract policy concessions from the Democratic party. The old strategy of issuing an all or nothing demand was a loser. It was a PR disaster.They couldn't find a way to blame the outcome, (or lack thereof), on the White House. Any sort of compromise is impossible. Boehner's crackpot caucus not only won't entertain discussion on the subject, they threaten to take Boehner's gavel for even bringing it up.

So the genius tacticians of the GOP have come up with what I'm certain they think is a brilliant plan. Instead of a single ultimatum, Republicans are offering a menu of hostage demands with various levels of rewards.
Option A: Enact Paul Ryan's voucherizing of Medicare scam. Agree to throw Medicare recipients to the private insurance industry vultures and Republicans will raise the debt limit through the end of Obama's presidency.

Option B: Mercilessly slash SNAP food assistance to the poor, eviscerate Medicaid with block-granting and implement chained CPI to calculate benefits. In return Republicans will raise the debt limit for an unspecified amount of time, one would assume said time frame being dependent on how big the concessions are.

Option C: Agree to means-test Social Security and/or slash some agricultural subsidies, (which I assume still means slashing SNAP and not insurance subsidies for corporate farms) and Republicans will raise the debt limit on pro-rated basis, which criteria appears to be one month of funding increase for every month by which the White House agrees to raise the retirement age for Social Security benefits.
Apparently the Republicans believe by breaking down their hostage demands incrementally and offering false choices, they'll look like the reasonable ones and be able to avoid taking responsibility for acheiving their lifelong dream of destroying the social safety net.

It might even work if Obama is still naive enough to negotiate with them. One can only hope our POTUS has learned his lesson on that score. As Booman said, "If the House wants to spend the rest of the year demanding that Obama privatize Medicare, block-grant Medicaid, raise the Social Security retirement age, and starve poor children, I don't think the Democrats will object. 'Please proceed, congressmen.'"

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Your moment of Zen

Rainbow carrots at the Tuesday Farmers Market behind Thornes in lovely downtown Noho. [Sky Sutton photo]

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Saturday, July 06, 2013

Adventures in responsible gun ownership

Ye gods. Adam Kokesh is a bonafide crackpot:
The libertarian activist Adam Kokesh who called for and then canceled an armed march on Washington uploaded a YouTube video on July 4 that shows him loading a shotgun in the center of Freedom Plaza, Washington, D.C, near the White House. In the video, Kokesh cryptically warns, “We will not allow our government to destroy our humanity. We are the final American revolution. See you next Independence Day.”
You have to watch the video clip to appreciate the full scope of his insanity. This guy just exudes teh crazy.


This of course is wildly illegal in DC. The good news is he doesn't seem to have a huge following. One might assume the real reason he cancelled his giant armed march of freedom was because he didn't think he would get a good showing. Evidence being how sparsely attended his alternate July 4th protests were after he issued his call to arms.

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Cult of irrationality

Dear "serious" news channel: This is not helping:
On Friday, CNBC anchor Joe Kernen described climate science as a “bona fide cult” of “enviro socialists” in an interview with the former CEO of Shell Oil.
The two of them yukked it up over this "foolishness." The CEO laments we're "not dealing with the real problems." I assume by that he means, his profit margin is simply not obscenely high enough yet. He'll never get that gargantuan bonus without it.

It's not surprising CNBC would be in the pocket of BigBusiness but ye gods, they're working against their own self-interest when they promote denialism like this. It's irrational.
CNBC has long-misrepresented climate change to its viewers, including Larry Kudlow and Rick Santelli. In fact, a study from Media Matters found that over half of CNBC’s climate coverage miscasts the science.
Meanwhile, that "cult" of climate scientists may not have all the solutions, but 97% of them sure as hell have identified the problems. So what do these short-sighted idiots on CNBC expect to do with all the money they make on fomenting denialism? By the time they extract every last penny of value from ravaging the enviroment, the planet won't be habitable anymore. They'll have nowhere to spend it.

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Your moment of Zen

Janis Joplin on display at Martin Macks gastro Pub on 1568 Haight St in San Francisco. [Original art by Mark Bode]

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Friday, July 05, 2013

You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here

Echoing the catch phrase of bartenders everywhere, it's last call for Snowden in Russia.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia had received no request for political asylum from Snowden and he had to solve his problems himself after 11 days in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

President Vladimir Putin has refused to extradite the American and Russian officials have delighted in his success in staying out of the United States' clutches since revealing details of secret U.S. government surveillance programs.

But Moscow also has made clear that Snowden is an increasingly unwelcome guest because the longer he stays, the greater the risk of the diplomatic standoff causing lasting damage to relations with Washington.

"He needs to choose a place to go," Ryabkov told Reuters.
Of course, Snowden's problem is nobody wants to take him. I imagine this is not the scenario he had in his head when he decided to go public. It seems he didn't calculate the geopolitical complications in seeking asylum. Kind of surprising. You might think a guy smart enough to hack closely guarded NSA data would have anticipated this in advance.

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What climate disruption?

I know these things aren't unprecedented but extreme weather events do seem to be more severe and happen more frequently as our climate changes.


SANTA ROSA, N.M. -- A massive thunderstorm turned a summer day into a winter wonderland in Santa Rosa, New Mexico on Wednesday by dropping more than a foot of hail around town.

The hail, some of which was golf-ball and paint-ball sized, according to a report from the Guadalupe County Communicator, damaged some roofs and skylights as it fell non-stop for 20 minutes.

"I have lived here all my life and I have never seen this," Guadalupe County Manager George Dodge told The Communicator as he drove around the city surveying the damage.
They had to use snow plows to clear the streets. In July.

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Your moment of Zen

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Lighten up Francis

Well, it is the holiday and by now you're all probably about drinking all the beers and eating all the barbecue, so here's a mild amusement to lighten the mood. . Ted Cruz sings Amazing Grace to the tune of Gilligans's Island. Surprisingly the lyrics really do fit.

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Sweet land of liberty



Not every day you see a claim for Third Amendment violations in a police misconduct suit. Well deserved in this case against the City of Henderson, Nevada's finest. You have to read it all to appreciate the full scope of this intentional breach of civil rights but here's some highlights:
The complaint continues: "Defendant Officer David Cawthorn outlined the defendants' plan in his official report: 'It was determined to move to 367 Evening Side and attempt to contact Mitchell. If Mitchell answered the door he would be asked to leave. If he refused to leave he would be arrested for Obstructing a Police Officer. If Mitchell refused to answer the door, force entry would be made and Mitchell would be arrested.'"

At a few minutes before noon, at least five defendant officers "arrayed themselves in front of plaintiff Anthony Mitchell's house and prepared to execute their plan," the complaint states. [...]

"Seconds later, officers, including Officer Rockwell, smashed open plaintiff Anthony Mitchell's front door with a metal ram as plaintiff stood in his living room.

As plaintiff Anthony Mitchell stood in shock, the officers aimed their weapons at Anthony Mitchell and shouted obscenities at him and ordered him to lie down on the floor.
This happened because the Mitchell refused their "request" to use his home a lookout point in response to a domestic violence report about his next door neighbor. These local cops then proceeded to subject Mitchell's elderly parents, who also live nearby to much the same abuse. They also shot his terrified dog, who was cowering in a corner, with pepperballs. Eventually the whole family was arrested on several trumped up charges. And the punch line:
None of the officers were ever subjected to official discipline or even inquiry, the complaint states.
Thanks to the militarization of local law enforcement, this sort of police misconduct is becoming all too common in our country. Good to see people daring to fight back. Wishing the Mitchells every success in their lawsuit. [photo via]

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Land of the free

If by free you mean, not allowed to have any fun in a public park.



Just discussing with a friend this morning how weird it is to be celebrating Independence Day when we have never been less free in this country.

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Rupert Murdoch revealed in secret tape

The holiday weekend has begun so here's some light amusement for the curious. Haven't watched it myself yet but someone made a secret tape of Rupert Murdoch.
A recording from March earlier this year, obtained by investigative website Exaro, shows the 82-year-old as we've never seen him before - raging against the police and claiming that the inquiry into corrupt payments to public officials has been blown out of proportion.
Happy Independence Day weekend...
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Your moment of Zen

A fairy tea party. [photo via]

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Lying, cheating, SOBs GOP



Apparently having seen what happened when the Big Daddy theocrats tried to ram through a vagina control bill in Texas, our homegrown crackpot conservatives in Raleigh figured they would sneak through a similar anti-choice bill in North Carolina on the eve of a long holiday weekend.
The Senate met for much of the day, handling a variety of bills in other committees and on the floor. Just before 5:20 p.m., Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, announced a recess and said the Judiciary 1 Committee would meet at 5:30 p.m.

Until then, the committee's calendar listed only House Bill 695, which prohibits the recognition of foreign law, such as Islamic Sharia law, in family courts. That measure was controversial when it cleared the House in May, with opponents fearing it could interfere with recognition of U.S. law in foreign courts.

However, when the committee convened at 5:30 p.m., it quickly took up an amendment to revise the bill to include the regulations on abortion.
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary 1 Committee, Buck Newton (R-BigFatLiar) claimed this was pushed through so suddenly because they reached a surprising consensus just at that hot minute. Which totally explains why:
Lobbyists with nonprofits that have religious or moral purposes, including the Family Policy Council, Christian Action League and North Carolina Values Coalition, were in the room for the committee debate and the subsequent Senate floor debate. Senators noted that those lobbyists were given notice of the bill and its contents ahead of time.
Yet shockingly no one thought to alert the opponents of the odious amendments which will effectively shut down all the low cost women's health clinics that provide many more services than just abortions.

Their devious ploy didn't work as intended. Thanks to the NC media, a sizable group of women's rights supporters were alerted in time to attend today's hearing on the bill. And in a stunning display of the Republican's version of democratic governance, they were told to STFU.
"The gallery is to remain silent. The senators on the floor are the only voices that matter."

-- North Carolina Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R), quoted on Facebook, to women in the Senate gallery protesting surprise abortion legislation passed last night.
These guys need to be reminded who they work for and 2014 isn't that far off. One hopes the voters will reward them appropriately at the ballot box by voting these arrogant SOBs out.

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Mr Postman, look and see

As I've said before, the government has been spying on us our whole lives and then some. That includes monitoring our snail mail.
Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: A handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home.

“Show all mail to supv” — supervisor — “for copying prior to going out on the street,” read the card.
Pickering was obstensibly targeted because he was formerly connected to ELF, the enviromental activists who specialize in vandalism of large scale commericial projects. The mail covers program used in this instance is over 100 years old. However, that's not the only mail capture at the disposal of our government.
The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was created after the anthrax attacks in late 2001 that killed five people, including two postal workers. Highly secret, it seeped into public view last month when the F.B.I. cited it in its investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. It enables the Postal Service to retroactively track mail correspondence at the request of law enforcement. No one disputes that it is sweeping.
Theoretically they still need a warrant to actually open your mail but it's useful to remember Bush issued a signing statement on this program alleging the President could decide to open mail without a warrant in emergency situations for national security reasons. No indication where President Obama stands on that point.

That aside, this program is no big secret and the courts have rejected all challenges to it so far, ruling there is no expectation of privacy for the outside of your mail. And so the surveillance state grows...

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Your moment of Zen

Fly Geyser in Nevada. [photo via]

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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Standing with Texas women

Bless the women of Texas who continue to pour into the Statehouse to keep the people's filibuster going and the men who stand with them. Maybe Gov Goodhair was hoping they would lose interest. It was a fool's hope. Tweet of the day suggests the motto of this movement is "Never Surrender."

@mcbyrne: List is 1900 hundred long to speak. #StandWithTXWomen
Kind of wish I could go down there and personally thank every one of them individually.

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John Boehner's House of Dysfunction



Steve Benen catches the latest stats on the current session of Congress. Last year's 112th Congress is in grave danger of losing its status as the most unproductive session in modern history because:
Mark Murray noted yesterday that the current, 113th Congress is on track to be even worse.

When it comes to productivity, only 15 legislative items have become law under the current Congress. That's fewer than the 23 items that became law at this same point in the 112th Congress, which passed a historically low number of bills that were signed into law. These numbers might not be surprising given the legislative stalemates so far this year -- on the sequester, the farm bill, and student loans. Even the biggest legislative triumph so far of the 113th Congress, the Senate passing immigration reform by a 68-32 vote, appears to have hit a brick wall in the House of Representatives for now.
They have a majority. They should be able to pass bills but Republicans can't even agree among themselves anymore. The only thing they can accomplish as a united caucus are "message votes" to soothe the rubes back home. They believe that will be enough to keep them in office so they don't need no stinkin' governance to screw up their reelection campaigns.

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No where to run to, no where to hide

Well it seems our self-imagined international spy, Edward Snowden, is running out of options.
Snowden has prepared asylum requests in countries including India, China, Brazil, Ireland, Austria, Bolivia, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela, WikiLeaks has said.
Unfortunately for our intrepid leaker, after Snowden released a rather bizarre statement, only Venezuela has publicly indicated any real support for asylum but didn't actual offer to take him in. Several others have essentially said not going to happen and Russia has had quite enough of hosting their hapless house guest and would very much appreciate it if he could find new accommodations.

Meanwhile, Hendrick Hertzberg gets it exactly right on the traitor or hero question. The answer is neither. In the end, Snowden is just a kid who broke the law and is going to have to suffer for it in ways that he didn't properly anticipate before he decided to step into the klieg lights.

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If it was Monday

Then there must have been a citizen's action at the Raleigh Statehouse. The Moral Monday protests are still going strong. Twitter reported last night the crowd was the biggest yet despite the rain. [photo via]

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Evil overlords

Of all the uber-wealthy crackpots who bought out our government, two stand out from the rest. It couldn't be clearer. The Koch brothers rule our world and their apparent mission is to destroy our planet, and civil society, for their personal profit.
The House of Representatives voted to slash the EPA budget by 27 percent, one of the biggest cuts since President Richard Nixon and the Congress created the agency in 1970. The Senate subsequently modified the severity of these cuts, and the budget was ultimately cut by nearly 16 percent. What is less known is that more than 100 House members - all Republicans, many tea party members - signed a little-known "pledge" (similar to the Grover Norquist no tax increase pledge) backed by the Koch brothers promising to not spend any federal money to fight climate change without an equal amount of tax cuts. Most of the pledge signers received campaign contributions from Charles or David Koch or Koch Industries. The Workshop has tracked the signing of the pledge by 411 current state and federal politicians nationwide (all Republicans except four Democrats and two Independents at the state level). Among them are such prominent state officials as Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, the Republican nominee for governor in Virginia. The first person to sign the Koch-backed pledge was Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, where Koch Industries is headquartered. Of the 85 conservative Republicans first elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, 76 signed the pledge and, of those, 57 received money from Koch Industries' political action committee. The members of Congress who signed the pledge have also introduced several bills aimed at limiting EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and limiting regulation of the nation's biggest polluters.
Of course you already know the Kochs and their various industries are among the leading polluters of the planet. Nor is this the only way in which they are corrupting the public commons. They're deep into education, medicine and finance as well. It's all part of their master plan to keep the masses sick, poor and stupid. They are not good people and neither are the politicians who sell out to them for criminally paltry sums.

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Your moment of Zen

Ocean sand magnified. [photo via]

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Monday, July 01, 2013

Ditching Mitch McConnell

Let's face it. We're talking about Kentucky. Electing a Democrat to the Senate won't be easy but Grimes looks up to the challenge.
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced Monday she will challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), giving Democrats their favored candidate and turning the race into one of the 2014 cycle's marquee contests.
She has a good pitch. Echoing the GOP's intention to use ageism as a weapon against Hillary, well, it could work both ways.
Lundergan Grimes stressed that she was Kentucky's "only female constitutional officer" and "the youngest secretary of state across the nation that is a female."

"Kentucky is tired of a senior senator who has lost touch with Kentucky issues, voters and their values," she said.
It's certainly not hopeless. The man is not popular.
"The Kentucky Senate race is now a toss up. Mitch McConnell is the most unpopular incumbent in the entire country. He is a relic of the past and a symbol of everything that is wrong with Washington. Kentuckians want a change," Cecil said, citing polling done for the committee that showed more than 60 percent of Kentucky voters disapprove of the senator's job performance.
All McConnell's got going for him is Obama Derangement Syndrome. He's going to play this as a vote against a rubber stamp for Obama. That could work for him but Grimes looks like a fighter and she has plenty of ammo. If she plays it right, she could capture the women's vote. Might be enough to swing a win. Stranger things have happened.

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Penis parity



Not the first time I've seen this happen, but would love it see become a larger trend. All these old guys obsessed with legislating our lady parts could use a good dose of their own medicine. So now comes a Cleveland Democrat with Senate Bill 307.
COLUMBUS [OHIO] -- Before getting a prescription for Viagra or other erectile dysfunction drugs, men would have to see a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test and get a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming impotency, if state Sen. Nina Turner has her way.
Via Steve M. who correctly notes the only problem with this bill is that it's not invasive enough. It should at least also come with a lecture from a doctor on the benefits of celibacy versus chemical interventions and perhaps a counseling session from the local priest on how impotence is a manifestion of God's will. And waiting periods. There definitely be waiting periods before they get the prescription.

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Deep in the heart of Texas

The Texas legislature opened its second special session this morning and as the song goes, women rights supporters have a message for the crackpots trying to ramrod their theocratic wet dream through -- you ain't seen nothing yet.

Last week we saw hundreds of protesters. Today, an estimated 5000 are demonstrating for women's rights in Austin.



They're jamming the grounds.



Of course the Big Daddy theocrats pretend it's about protecting children, but this is all about controlling women and punishing them for having sex. Which is not only none of their damn business but also codifying their personal morality increases government spending and raises deficits. They're talking federal programs here, but the effects are the same on the state level.
In general, attacking women’s health choices costs taxpayers. Family planning programs save the federal government $3.74 for every dollar spent by providing women with access to contraception and avoiding unplanned births. Providing women who seek an abortion with the services they need doesn’t just avert government spending on unwanted births. A recent study found that women who were unable to obtain an abortion were three times more likely to fall into poverty in the subsequent two years than those who succeeded. That likely means more women who need to access federal programs.
Yet these same Big Daddy theocrats who insist every pregnancy must be brought to term -- because, Jesus -- are the first in line with the machetes to slash assistance for children born into poverty as a result of these damn nanny state moralists and their anti-choice laws. Bless every single person standing out there in the Texas sun trying to stop them. They stood them down once. Here's hoping they can do it again. [Livestream of the speakers outside the statehouse here.]

Addendum: One more photo of the crowd that gives a better sense of just how many people are massed outside the Statehouse. This makes me so happy I could weep with joy.

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Your moment of Zen

Blue starfish. [photo via]

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