30 June 2014

And This Decision is a Camel's Nose Under the Tent

In Harris v. Quinn, the Supreme Court ruled that home healthcare workers who are not members of a union do not have to pay dues for the services received.

It is better than could be expected, since they could have applied this to all public sector unions, effectively going right to work nationwide.

What I do think is that it is clear that this, along with an earlier decision, Knox v. SEIU, are an attempt to reverse the National Labor Relations Act via the death of 1000 cuts.

Eventually, assuming that the current 5-4 reactionary judge/real judge split remains in place on the Supreme Court, they will be making it  impossible for labor unions to function in the United States for the next decade.

This is partisanship masquerading as an impartial judiciary.

Yes, Hobby Lobby is Almost Dredd Scott* Bad

The basic decision is completely incoherent and contradictory.

The gist of the decision is that private corporations can ignore basic regulations if they are "sincerely held beliefs," whatever the f%$# means, which ignores decades of jurisprudence which slapped down various flavors of bigots, sexists, and nut-jobs who have attempted to use religion to avoid following civil law.

They say that this is so because to quote Mitt Rmoney, "corporations are people too."

They say that it only applies to "closely held" corporations, (fewer than 5 people holding over half of the equity in the firm) but provide no real explanation for why it should so be limited, and they do not explain why it does not, for example, apply to multibillion dollar corporations like Koch industries.

Furthermore, they say that it applies only to contraception, and not, for example, to the JW's objection to blood transfusion or vaccination, but again, they simply say this, and provide no real justification:
This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate andshould not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.
Basically, it only applies to contraception, because we care about what Catholics and right wing Evangelicals think, but not (Mercy!) Jehovah's Witnesses.

What's more, they redifine the definition of corporations to justify their opinion:
In other words, the Court has changed, definitionally, what it means to be a corporation under the state laws in question.

The existential condition of separateness is true even with closely held companies. The largest such companies – Cargill, Koch Industries, Dell, Bechtel, and Aramark, to name just a handful – have tens of thousands of employees and billions of dollars of revenue. (In 2008, Forbes reported that the 441 largest closely held companies employed more than 6 million people and enjoyed $1.8 trillion in revenue.) They are created under the same understanding of a wall existing between shareholders and the company. They could indeed not exist otherwise – the potential liability to individual investors would simply be too great.

So in evaluating whether Congress intended the word “person” in RFRA to cover corporations, the most reasonable assumption is that the states creating such entities intended such separateness and that corporations should not carry the rights of their shareholders. To assume otherwise flies in the face of decades, indeed centuries, of corporate law assumptions.

The Court makes a second corporate law mistake. In arguing that for-profit companies can have religious purposes, the Court makes hay from the fact that state incorporation statutes typically allow businesses to be chartered for any “lawful purpose or activity.” The Court uses this corporate law truth to argue, as a descriptive matter, that some corporations in fact engage in behavior that is in conformity with the religious views of their shareholders.


Indeed, I will not be surprised if we see, in the coming weeks, a host of closely held corporations – and a few publicly traded ones – asserting the right to discriminate against LGBT job applicants, employees, and customers notwithstanding various state laws to the contrary.
This is an unbelievably bad decision, and, unless the Congress revokes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (the justification for the ruling), we are in for decades of counter productive anti-American religious zealotry.

This is a horrible decision, and if it had been made at the federal court level, we would assume that it would have been overturned at the appellate level before the ink was dry.

*Dred Scott v. Sandford. If you need this link, read some f%$#ing history.
I dunno. Maybe they do want it apply to Koch industries.

The Bear who Swims Owns Some Mormon Missionaries

My brother and his daughter had a visit from Mormon Missionaries, and the missionaries got seriously schooled.

Seriously. My brother knew the bible better than they did.

Go read.

This is Going to Get Very Ugly

The bodies of the three kidnapped teens have been found in Israel:
Israel’s intense 18-day search for three abducted teenagers ended Monday when three bodies were found buried under a pile of rocks in an open field about 15 miles from where the youths were last seen in the occupied West Bank. A nation that had been enmeshed in hopeful prayer was instantly engulfed by a mix of grief and anger and vowed retaliation against the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which Israel says was behind the kidnapping.

“They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by beasts,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said at the start of an emergency cabinet meeting Monday night. “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay.”

Just after midnight, witnesses in the West Bank city of Hebron said the retaliation had begun as Israeli forces used explosives to demolish the homes of Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Aisha, the Hamas men who have been missing as long as the teenagers and are Israel’s prime suspects.
We are going to see dozens, if not hundreds, of casualties following this, and there is a real possibility that hostilities between Hamas and Fatah resuming as well.

I do not know how many people will die because of this, but my guess is that 90% of them will be Palestinian.  (Particularly since that ratf%$# Natanyahu clearly does not view Palestinians as full human beings)

What the hell were the perps thinking?  I could (kind of) understand if they had demanded a prisoner swap, or if the targeted people were troops, but this is just destructive for its own sake.

The only think that I can figure out is that, to quote Alfred Pennyworth, "Some men just want to watch the world burn."

The Stupid, It Burns Us!

This is epically stupid:

Lock Up Your Guns!

Insert your favorite firearms related pun here.

Another Example of the US Failure in Iraq

In response to the advance of ISIS, the Iraqi military has taken an emergency deliveries of Su-25 ground attack fighters:
A video uploaded by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence and a subsequent announcement shed light on Iraq's first success in acquiring a combat capable platform to stop the advance of the Islamic State. The latter has made great progress in capturing large areas of Iraq and is now slowly advancing to Iraq's capital Baghdad.
''The Ministry of Defence announced the arrival of the first out of five Russian combat aircraft Su-25 into Iraqi territory under a contract with the Russian ministry, which will contribute to increasing the combat capability of the Air Force and the other branches of the armed forces to eliminate terrorism.''
The Iraqi Army and Air Force have proved anything but capable to halt the Islamic State's advance and have been desperately looking for other ways to fill the caps currently posed in Iraqi's Armed Forces. With the United States reluctant to provide close air support or speeding up the delivery of Iraq's F-16s, Iraq has been increasingly looking to countries in Eastern Europe to strengthen the Iraqi Air Force (IQAF). It is now clear a batch of five ex-Russian Su-25s are the first to have arrived.

The first Su-25, still in Russian Air Force (RuAF) camouflage and with a hastily applied Iraqi flag, arrived onboard a Russian An-124-100 cargo plane together with ground support equipment on the 28th of June. The Su-25s are believed to have been stored at the Aircraft Repair Plant 121 (ARZ 121) in Kubinka before being flown to Iraq. The contract also included new engines for the aircraft, which were installed just before the delivery flight.
The Iraqis have been waiting for the delivery of F-16s, but they got these surplus Su-25s in a matter of a few weeks.

It also of note that the Iraq AF operated this under Saddam, and the Iranians operate them today, so there is operational experience that can be tapped.

Additionally, under the current tactical situation, it's a better weapon system than the F-16, because what is needed is a dedicated close air support (CAS) and strike aircraft with low operational costs.

What's more the aircraft's agility at low speed and low altitude allows it to maximize the effect of unguided munitions, which comprise the bulk of Iraqi munitions.

Additionally, it constitutes a major change in Iraqi policy. It shows that they are moving away from Western weapon systems, and the US defense contractors. (Yet another goal of Bush/Cheney that has turned into a fail)

So, the failure of the Neocon's Iraq adventure continues to damage the interests of the United States.

29 June 2014

The Sound You Hear is Another Bubble Collapsing

Remember those stories about all those investors paying cash to acquire rental properties?

Remember how they were going into single family rentals?

Well, it looks like the rush for the door has begun:
A year ago, buying foreclosed homes to rent out was the sure-thing trade for investment firms backed by money from private equity companies, hedge funds and pension systems. But with the supply of cheap foreclosed homes dwindling, some early investors are looking to cash out a bit by flipping homes to competitors.

The Waypoint Real Estate Group, one of the first companies to raise money from private investors to buy foreclosed homes, is quietly shopping as many as 2,000 houses in California that it acquired in the last few years in several private investment funds, said three people who had been briefed on the matter but were not authorized to discuss it. The homes, which are largely rented, are being shown to other companies backed by investor money that have also scooped up distressed houses in states including Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Nevada.

Waypoint is considering selling about half of its 4,000 homes. Some of the biggest institutional investors in the market for foreclosed homes — companies like the Blackstone Group, American Homes 4 Rent and American Residential Properties — have slowed their pace of acquisitions in response to an increase in home prices and a dearth of foreclosed homes that do not require significant renovation.

Waypoint is following other early investors like the Och-Ziff Capital Management Group and Oaktree Capital Management, which have sold homes bought near the start of the financial crisis. But unlike Och-Ziff and Oaktree, Waypoint is not leaving the single-family home market. It is still managing more than 7,000 homes for a publicly traded real estate investment trust, or REIT, it formed last year with the Starwood Capital Group called Starwood Waypoint Residential Trust.

Jason Chudoba, a spokesman for the trust and Waypoint’s management company, said the firm did not comment on market speculation.

The single-family home market, after a wave of acquisitions by companies backed by Wall Street money, is changing as institutional buyers now focus more on expanding their operations to manage tens of thousands of homes across the United States. Industry participants say that the rapid buying of foreclosed homes has ended and that they expect other early institutional buyers to sell homes to lock in profits. They say they also expect the business to consolidate into the hands of a few large companies.
So, the small operators are getting out, and the big operators, aka the too big to fail operators are doubling down, because they figure that they know better.

In a way, the TBTF players are right:  When this comes tumbling down, the taxpayers will find a way to bail them out, yet again.

We are f%$#ed.

Finally, Someone Says IT to a Neocon

Thats Gonna Leave a Mark
Katrina Vanden, editor-in-chief of The Nation finally calls out the Neocons as cowards when she tells Bill Kristol join the Iraqi army:
“For example, the president should go to Congress if he’s going to take military action in Iraq,” she explained. “There’s no military solution to Iraq, and I have to say, sitting next to Bill Kristol, man — I mean, the architects of catastrophe that have cost this country trillions of dollars, thousands of lives — there should be accountability.”

“If there are no regrets for the failed assumptions that have grievously wounded this nation — I don’t know what happened to our politics and media accountability, but we need it, Bill,” she continued. “Because this country should not go back to war. We don’t need armchair warriors, and if you feel so strongly, you should, with all due respect, enlist in the Iraqi Army.”
(emphasis mine)

This needs to be said, repeatedly.

The Neocons have spent decades accusing anyone who does not support their stupid military adventures of cowardice.

Calling out them as armchair warriors who send other people's children to die is an essential part of our public discourse.

27 June 2014

It's Bank Failure Friday!!!! (One Week and One Day Late)

And here they are, ordered, and numbered for the year so far.
  1. Valley Bank, Moline, IL  <== Occurred on June 20
  2. Valley Bank, Fort Lauderdale, FL <== Occurred on June 20
  3. The Freedom State Bank , Freedom, OK
Yeah, I forgot to check last week.

Full FDIC list

The stuff does seem to happen in fits and starts.

So, here is the graph pr0n with last few years numbers for comparison (FDIC only):

I Think that Obama Just Called al-Maliki's Bluff

Kerry just announced that there will be no airstrikes without a national unity government in Iraq:
US Secretary of State John Kerry has ruled out airstrikes against the rapidly advancing Islamist State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) unless Baghdad forms a more inclusive government, upping the political pressure on Nouri al-Maliki to work with the Sunnis and Kurds, or step aside as prime minister.

"It would be a complete and total act of irresponsibility for the president to just order a few strikes," Kerry told CBS News on Tuesday. "But there's no government, there's no backup, there's no military - there's nothing there that provides the capacity for success."

"The president reserves the right to use force as he does anywhere in the world, if it is necessary," Kerry said. "But he wants to do so … with knowledge that there's a government in place that can actually follow through and guarantee that what the United States is working toward can actually be achieved."

But Prime Minister al-Maliki, a Shiite, rejected calls on Wednesday for a national unity government with Sunnis and Kurds, saying such a step would amount to a coup. Maliki's State of Law alliance won the most seats in parliamentary elections last April, but fell short of the majority needed to form a government without help from rival parties.
I'm not sure if this is good news, or bad news.

It's clear that Nouri al-Maliki is the source of most of the problems in Iraq, but our meddling in Iraqi affairs implies that we are getting back in.

It looks like when Obama is desperately trying to get back into the war that he called "stupid" in 2003.

Who says that Irony is dead?

26 June 2014

Why You Should Not Give Money to the Red Cross

Even if you ignore their blood products profiteering which killed a significant portion of the Hemophiliacs in the United States under Liddy Dole, you have their routine and brazen profiteering in the event of major disasters:
Just how badly does the American Red Cross want to keep secret how it raised and spent over $300 million after Hurricane Sandy?

The charity has hired a fancy law firm to fight a public request we filed with New York state, arguing that information about its Sandy activities is a "trade secret."

The Red Cross' "trade secret" argument has persuaded the state to redact some material, though it's not clear yet how much since the documents haven't yet been released.

As we've reported, the Red Cross releases few details about how it spends money after big disasters. That makes it difficult to figure out whether donor dollars are well spent.

The Red Cross did give some information about Sandy spending to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who had been investigating the charity. But the Red Cross declined our request to disclose the details.

So we filed a public records request for the information the Red Cross provided to the attorney general's office.

That's where the law firm Gibson Dunn comes in.

An attorney from the firm's New York office appealed to the attorney general to block disclosure of some of the Sandy information, citing the state Freedom of Information Law's Trade Secret Exemption.

The documents include "internal and proprietary methodology and procedures for fundraising, confidential information about its internal operations, and confidential financial information," wrote Gabrielle Levin of Gibson Dunn in a letter to the attorney general's office.

If those details were disclosed, "the American Red Cross would suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross's business model for an increased competitive advantage," Levin wrote.
(emphasis mine)

Trade Secret Exemption?  Proprietary Methodology?  Competitive Harm?  Business model?  Competitive Advantage?


You are asking us to give you money on the vague promise that you won't blow it all on salaries and severance packages for senior executives (and, you know, give thousands of Hemophiliacs AIDS ……… Oops, too late on that one).

The American Red Cross, and the Susan G. Komen foundations are not charities should be our first choices for donations.

I Disagree With the Rude One

In response to the Supreme Court decision giving free reign for antiabortion protesters to intimidate doctors, nurses, and patients, the Rude Pundit suggests that we engage in aggressive in your face threatening protests outside the churches that winds up the anti-abortion terrorists:
Look at that church. Isn't it a pretty little church? It's St. Mary's Church in Grafton, Massachusetts. It's freakin' idyllic, no? It's also deeply invested in anti-abortion actions. The congregation participated in 40 Days for Life, an action during Lent that 17,000 churches around the world took part in, with another 40 Days planned for September 24 to November 2.

The St. Mary's churchgoers headed over to Worcester to protest at a Planned Parenthood and to "sidewalk counsel" women there. "[I]s it worth it to stand out in the wind and rain and cold to pray in front of Planned Parenthood?" the church's website asks. And, for them, it was. They convinced one woman to not get an abortion. You can see the baby. It's like a taste of something that will keep them addicted to protesting. A crack baby, if you will. No doubt the church will be supporting the baby and the mother until the baby is an adult. No doubt.

Come September, and maybe even before, the parishioners will be harassing every woman who goes to the Planned Parenthood, even those just going for pap smears and help getting pregnant. And they will no doubt be joined by the anti-abortion radicals, the fetus picture carriers, the screamers, the hysterics who shame women.

"Is it really necessary to be out on the sidewalk instead of praying at home?" St. Mary's wants to know. Look up at that picture again. What do you see in front of St. Mary's? That's a nice, wide, very public sidewalk. The parking lot is across the street, so most of the people attending church services on, say, a nice summer Sunday will have to walk that sidewalk, a sidewalk just like the one outside Planned Parenthood in Worcester. A sidewalk like the one that Eleanor McCullen "gently" counsels women from outside a Planned Parenthood in Boston.


So let's get out there, every goddamn Sunday, and head to the churches that send their lunatic Jesus-fellaters out to try to shut down Planned Parenthoods, and stand on their sidewalks, just like the one up there outside St. Mary's in Grafton, and let's make churchgoing a living f%$#in' hell for 'em. Let's bodily block the access to the walkways that lead to the church. Let's bring signs that have pictures of women who were killed by illegal abortions. Let's go up to them and try to convince them to convert or go atheist, following them until we are on church property and have to stop. Let's block the street by walking back and forth in the crosswalk. Let's force the churchgoers to need escorts to even get inside.

Shit, let's plaster the telephone poles with photos of the priests and church leaders, their addresses, their phone numbers. Let's tell them as they pass, "We know where you live." Let's film everyone going into the church and post those on a website. Hey, it's a public f%$#in' sidewalk, man. Let's scream at them about how they're terrible people, how they support raping children, how they have given money to help silence victims. Can't you hear their silent screams? Can't you? F%$#, yeah.

Going to church is a choice, no? Let's make sure they regret that f%$#in' choice, however legal it may be for them to make it. Then let's see how quickly they're begging for buffer zones.
(%$# mine)

First, and most important, is that this behavior is wrong.

Second, the methods that the Rude Pundit is suggesting require that its target already have a credible fear that they will be the target of violent terrorism.  The folks outside the Church will not be slashing tires, setting fire to the church, or shooting priests,* so any such demonstration will be almost completely without impact.

I would suggest, however, that people of good conscience refuse do make other common causes with people who go to places like St. Mary's Church in Grafton, because consorting with terrorists, even at a soup kitchen, is still consorting with terrorists.

*Though some former alter boys might be considering this for a completely different reason.

God Bless The Onion

Humanity Surprised It Still Hasn’t Figured Out Better Alternative To Letting Power-Hungry Assholes Decide Everything

Nostradamus has nothing on the good folks at America's Finest News Source.

25 June 2014


My daughter's phone has stopped working.

The display and touch screen are dead, but the rest of the phone, an LG Mach LS 860, still works.

I've been trying to figure out a way to get the already MyPhoneExplorer synching software to run with no access to the screen.

Why do I do this sh%$?

24 June 2014

Primaries Tonight

And two old war horses, Thad Chochran and Charlie Rangel both won in relatively close races.

I don't know what to say, except that perhaps both of them should get the message, and not run for reelection next time around.

Insurance Companies Go Postal on Advair, Sales Collapse

It appears that pharmacy managers have decided that spending 5x as much as a French patient does is stupid:
Hallelujah. I never thought I’d see the day that I’d praise an insurance company. But the proverbial Atlas just shrugged.
Insurance company pharmacy benefit managers, who have apparently had it with drug companies charging American consumers ridiculously high, and ever-increasing, prices for prescription drugs, are starting to say “enough.”

At the top of the list is my asthma drug, Advair.

Some big insurance company pharmacy benefits managers are simply no longer permitting their plans to cover Advair. Or at best, they’ve relegated Advair to the lower “third tier,” which means the patient has to pay so much of the price that they simply won’t buy the drug at all.
As a result, Advair sales plummeted 30% this year in the US.
(emphasis mine)

It's a battle between two groups of parasites, and I hope that there is a way for both of them to ose.

Come to think of it, there is, it's called Single Payer, bitches.

Another Right Wing Hypocrite

Robert Heinlein, whose life was defined by his US Navy pension, 2/3 of active duty pay, when he was medically retired for TB.

He was in the Navy because his family was politically connected, and got him into the US Naval Academy at Annapolis:

  1. So: Robert Heinlein, that great hero of libertarian culture, was the complete creation of the invisible welfare state.
  2. The invisible welfare state is like white privilege: its whole power comes from the fact it is not talked about. Not seen as welfare.
  3. To understand the American right, we have to understand the process of forgetting that allowed Heinlein to suppress memory of pension.
(Read the rest)

This is Ayn Rand, who had lung cancer from her smoking, going on Medicare all over again.

Libertarians are wrong, and they are hypocrites.

One cannot prove this, but it 'is' in the same sense that Mount Everest 'is', or that Alma Cogan 'isn't'.*

*From The Album of the Soundtrack of the Trailer of the Film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Bummer of a Birthmark, Chris

It looks like Jabba the Governor has yet another bridge scandal:
Investigations into the Christie administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have zeroed in on possible securities law violations stemming from a $1.8 billion road repair agreement in 2011, according to people briefed on the matter.

While the inquiries were prompted by the apparently politically motivated lane closings at the George Washington Bridge last year, these investigations center on another crossing: the Pulaski Skyway, the crumbling elevated roadway connecting Newark and Jersey City. They are being conducted by the Manhattan district attorney and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The inquiries into securities law violations focus on a period of 2010 and 2011 when Gov. Chris Christie’s administration pressed the Port Authority to pay for extensive repairs to the Skyway and related road projects, diverting money that was to be used on a new Hudson River rail tunnel that Mr. Christie canceled in October 2010.

Again and again, Port Authority lawyers warned against the move: The Pulaski Skyway, they noted, is owned and operated by the state, putting it outside the agency’s purview, according to dozens of memos and emails reviewed by investigators and obtained by The New York Times.


In bond documents describing the Skyway reconstruction and other repairs, the Port Authority has called the projects “Lincoln Tunnel Access Infrastructure Improvements.”

The accuracy of this characterization is now a major focus of the investigations, according to several people briefed on the matter. Under a New York State law known as the Martin Act, prosecutors can bring felony charges for intentionally deceiving bond holders, without having to prove any intent to defraud or even establish that any fraud occurred.

Two veteran prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office public corruption unit are working with two S.E.C. lawyers who are experts in such bond issues, one person briefed on the matter said, and another noted that while the agencies were each conducting separate parallel inquiries, they were working together.

In addition to criminal charges under the Martin Act, the investigations could result in civil action under the Martin Act or by the S.E.C., under federal securities laws.
Someone has lost a lot of weight for nothing, because he will never be the Presidential nominee.

If You were Wrong About Iraq, You are a Wanker, and You Will Always be a Wanker

Case in point Peter Beinart, who was a full throated supporter of the Iraq war.

He has since admitted that he wrong, but he just cannot stop wanking about Iraq in ways so egregious that it has Digby apologizing:
Oh good lord. When I look like a fool, I really look like a fool. Just the other day I wrote a nice piece about Peter Beinert being someone worth listening to on Iraq because unlike others, he had repented for being wrong and learned some valuable lessons.

Uhm, I spoke too soon:

Yes, the Iraq War was a disaster of historic proportions. Yes, seeing its architects return to prime time to smugly slam President Obama while taking no responsibility for their own, far greater, failures is infuriating.

But sooner or later, honest liberals will have to admit that Obama’s Iraq policy has been a disaster. Since the president took office, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has grown ever more tyrannical and ever more sectarian, driving his country’s Sunnis toward revolt. Since Obama took office, Iraq watchers—including those within his own administration—have warned that unless the United States pushed hard for inclusive government, the country would slide back into civil war. Yet the White House has been so eager to put Iraq in America’s rearview mirror that, publicly at least, it has given Maliki an almost-free pass. Until now, when it may be too late.

Read on to find out how the Obama administration was supposed to perform magic tricks on the head of a pin to prevent this from happening. They didn't "push hard" against the government to allow troops to stay beyond the Bush administration's residual forces agreement expiration. He quotes his fellow memebers of the wrong about everything caucus Kenneth "Gathering Storm" Pollack saying that the administration "sent the wrong message" saying "the United States under the new Obama administration was no longer going to enforce the rules of the democratic road…. [This] undermined the reform of Iraqi politics and resurrected the specter of the failed state and the civil war.”

If every pundit who supported the Iraq debacle were made to do something useful for a living, maybe washing dishes of changing bed pans in nursing homes, the world would be a much better place.

I So Want to See this Covered on the Daily Show

While posing for a photograph, an American student fell off a statue of a Giant Vagina and had to be rescued by firemen:

On Friday afternoon, a young American in Tübingen had to be rescued by 22 firefighters after getting trapped inside a giant sculpture of a vagina. The Chacán-Pi (Making Love) artwork by the Peruvian artist Fernando de la Jara has been outside Tübingen University's institute for microbiology and virology since 2001 and had previously mainly attracted juvenile sniggers rather than adventurous explorers.

According to De la Jara, the 32-ton sculpture made out of red Veronese marble is meant to signify "the gateway to the world".

Police confirmed that the firefighters turned midwives delivered the student "by hand and without the application of tools".

The mayor of Tübingen told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that he struggled to imagine how the accident could have happened, "even when considering the most extreme adolescent fantasies. To reward such a masterly achievement with the use of 22 firefighters almost pains my soul."
I want this to get the Daily Show treatment.

I am not sure what is weirder, the Germans having a giant vagina sculpture, or someone getting stuck in it.

Help me Jon Stewart, you're my only hope.

23 June 2014

Megyn Kelly, Seriously!?!?!?!? Megyn Kelly!?!?!?!?

The Fox News blond has called out both Dick Cheney and John Bolton for being insanely wrong on Iraq.

So, Megyn Kelly gets that they are miserable failures, and that they have nothing to add to any discussion on Iraq, but, for some reason, the folks who book the more mainstream Sunday shows, don't understand this.

I think that part of the reason for this is that she does not personally have skin in the Iraq game.

When the rest of the media was actively cheer-leading the upcoming war, Kelly was still working as a lawyer, so her critique requires neither self-examination nor an admission of wrongdoing.

Headline of the Day

'We Gave the Americans a Blow Job,' Got Nothing, Says Polish Foreign Minister

This does seem to be the standard model of  American diplomatic gratitude in a nutshell.

Anwar al-Awlaki Assassination Memo Released in Redacted Form

The legal justification basically comes down to the fact that the incredibly broad 911 Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) would justify lethal force.

This appears to me to be good law, but remain dubious of the facts.

Basically, and this is on a quick reading of a heavily redacted memo full of legalese, there is no mention of the actual activities that al-Awalki engaged in that had him declared a combatant, just a justification for lethal actions against American citizens who have assumed a combat role against the United States.

So, we still don't know what he did to be declared a combatant. It could be that he was involved in major military decisions, functioning as a military officer in al-Qaida, but I've never seen any sort of release, either officially or through leaks, claiming this.

What we do some of what he was doing.

He produced and distributed sermons supporting Jihad, and we know that he provided religious advice to people in AQAP, including the Underoos bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

If these are the facts that led the US government, and I am inclined to believe that this is the totality of the actual facts against him.  (See my no leaks comment above)

If this is the case, then the US state security apparatus specifically targeted Anwar al-Awlaki on the basis of activities which are purely clerical in nature.

This begs the obvious question, "When do we start droning the leaders of Operation Rescue?"

After all, if pastoral support of terrorism rates assassination, the ongoing terrorism against abortion providers should be at the top of the list.

Memo, such as it is, after the break.

22 June 2014

LambBaaacon, It's Amazing

As I mentioned earlier, I competed at the Trial by Fire cooking competition.

The cooking went well, but the time limits, juxtaposed with some chronic lateness issues, did me in on the competition part.

There was also a separate competition specific to bacon, called the Bacon Challenge.

I stumbled upon a kosher lamb bacon, Lambbaaacon, which is pretty remarkable.

It is very much an an artisinal bacon, which means that it has some layers of flavor that one would not expect from stuff from the store.

Also note, no nitrites, and thus no carcinogenic nitrosamines, but it also means that it does not have the characteristic reddish hue of normal bacon.

It is an amazing piece of work, because the Silberberg brothers have absolutely nailed the mouth feel of bacon, and added to the normal flavor (strong hints of lamb, of apple, and their amazing spice cure).

In any case, I decided to go with a somewhat older, and more Irish version of New England Boiled dinner, bacon and cabbage.  (pictured)

It came out very nicely, and gave a marvelous flavor to the cabbage (and potatoes, and carrots, and rutabegas, and onions).


Recipe (and funny cartoon) after the break

21 June 2014

Trial by Fire Over

Did not do well.


Nighty night.

Posted via mobile.

20 June 2014

Prepping for Trial by Fire

It's an event/cooking competition put on by our local SCA chapter where the contestants have 4 hours to prepare dishes under camping conditions.
Needless to say, I am currently as busy as a one-legged man at an ass kicking competition, do not much blogging.

Posted via mobile.

19 June 2014

Jeebus. He's Bush with a F%$#ing Tan

First, it is announced that will be sending military advisers to Iraq. It's supposed to be limited, but that will last until someone gets killed there, and then the military and Republican pressure for escalation, and we are back in a war:
President Obama said Thursday that he would deploy up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help its struggling security forces fend off a wave of Sunni militants who have overrun large parts of the country, edging the United States back into a conflict that Mr. Obama once thought he had left behind.

Warning that the militants pose a threat not just to Iraq but also to the United States, Mr. Obama said he was prepared to take “targeted and precise military action,” a campaign of airstrikes that a senior administration official said could be extended into neighboring Syria.

Mr. Obama’s calibrated military moves — coupled with his pointed warning to Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to quell his country’s sectarian fires, and his announcement that Secretary of State John Kerry would embark on a diplomatic campaign — opened a risky new chapter in the president’s reluctant engagement with Iraq.
Advisers and airstrikes ……… Jeebus.

Escalate much?

BTW, while we are at it, it should be noted that the Obama administration is pressuring Maliki to step down as PM, which is probably a good thing, but one of the front runners to succeed him is ……… Wait for it ……… Wait for it ……… Wait for it ……… Ahmed f%$#ing Chalabi:
Iraqi officials said Thursday that political leaders had started intensive jockeying to replace Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and create a government that would span the country’s deepening sectarian and ethnic divisions, spurred by what they called encouraging meetings with American officials signaling support for a leadership change.

President Obama implicitly added his voice on Thursday to the call for change, saying any Iraqi leader must be a unifier. He declined to endorse Mr. Maliki.

The jockeying began as a series of meetings with American officials were held here in which, according to at least two participants, they saw the first indications that the Americans would like to see a replacement for Mr. Maliki, whose marginalization of non-Shiites since United States forces left Iraq in 2011 has made him a polarizing figure.

At least three people, who like Mr. Maliki are all members of the Shiite majority, have emerged as possible candidates to take over as prime minister, with more potential nominees in the wings as parties negotiate alliances from the recent elections. Any prospective successor must convince Iraq’s Sunni Muslims and its ethnic Kurds that he can hold Iraq together, as well as vanquish a Sunni-led insurgency that has escalated into a crisis threatening to partition the country.


It is far from clear, however, whether any of the suggested successors could gather enough votes. The names floated so far — Adel Abdul Mahdi, Ahmed Chalabi and Bayan Jaber — are from the Shiite blocs, which have the largest share of the total seats in the Parliament.

Mr. Mahdi came within a vote of winning the prime minister’s job in 2006 and previously served as one of Iraq’s vice presidents. He is viewed as a moderate who has long worked well with the Kurds.

Mr. Chalabi is a complex figure who has alternately charmed and infuriated the Americans but has ties both to them and to Iran. His biggest liability could be his uncompromising support for the systematic purge of many Sunnis from government jobs after the American-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party a decade ago. Mr. Chalabi now says he supports terminating the basis for that purge, the so-called de-Baathification law.
(emphasis mine)

Seriously, Ahmed Chalabi?

We lost Iraq and Afghanistan well before the current actions by ISIS, it's time to stop throwing good money after bad. 

And we can't help here, because our state security apparatus has been too busy surveilling our selfies on Facebook to accurately pick targets in Iraq:
Army general Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told a Senate panel on Wednesday that "until we can clarify this intelligence picture" the US would have difficulty knowing who it would be attacking from the air, indicating military as well as political reluctance to any return to the skies above Iraq.
Your tax dollars at work.

18 June 2014

Headline of the Day

Uber Drivers Protest Their Dick Boss

Innovation in the area of taxicabs is not a bad thing, but Uber is run by a bunch of self important, randroid assholes who subscribe to the philosophy of murderer, sociopath, and proto-Objectivist William Edward Hickman, "What is good for me is right."

This is not a philosophy of a good employer or an ethical businessman.

17 June 2014


In Japan, the children exposed to the fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown are developing thyroid cancer at 40 times the normal rate:
Some 39 months after the multiple explosions at Fukushima, thyroid cancer rates among nearby children have skyrocketed to more than forty times (40x) normal.

More than 48 percent of some 375,000 young people—nearly 200,000 kids—tested by the Fukushima Medical University near the smoldering reactors now suffer from pre-cancerous thyroid abnormalities, primarily nodules and cysts. The rate is accelerating.

More than 120 childhood cancers have been indicated where just three would be expected, says Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.

The nuclear industry and its apologists continue to deny this public health tragedy. Some have actually asserted that “not one person” has been affected by Fukushima’s massive radiation releases, which for some isotopes exceed Hiroshima by a factor of nearly 30.
Why are children still in the area, and why are they not receiving large doses of KI would displace radioactive iodine from their thyroids.

I'm beginning to think Tokyo Electric Power Company strategy is to channel the Bobby McFerrin song, "Don't Worry Be Happy."

Yes, Please Put the Democratic Party on the Right Side in the Battle Against Cable Company F%$#ery

House Democrats just submitted a bill to enforce net neutrality:
A group of Democrats in Congress have drafted a bill to bar the FCC from allowing "fast lane" prioritization deals.

Dubbed the "Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act," the legislation would call on the FCC to ban carriers from making the paid prioritization deals in which content providers pay service providers to receive better connection speeds. Additionally, the bill would block service providers from prioritizing their own services.

"Americans are speaking loud and clear – they want an internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider," Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said when announcing the bill.

"The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act would protect consumers and support a free and open internet," Leahy said.

The bill is being presented in the Senate and House by Leahy and congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), and is being cosponsored by senator Al Franken (D-MN), congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), and congresswoman Anna Eshoo(D-CA).
I don't think that it can survive a Republican filibuster in the Senate, and it would never even get to the floor in the house, but this is no longer an obscure technical issue.

Thanks to John Oliver, this issue has a name, "Cable Company F%$#ery," and everyone knows what that means.

They won't get the legislation in this Congress, but it is an election winner.

I'm just hoping that if this ever makes it to be a vote, the Dems won't water this down.

Paul Bremer is not Having a Good Week

This time, it's Erin Burnett reminding Paul Bremer that he is clueless incompetent f%$#. She actually led with it:
Bremer penned an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal under the headline “Only America Can Prevent a Disaster in Iraq,” in which he argued for some form of U.S. troops on the ground there. After 4,490 American lives lost and $1.7 trillion spent, Burnett asked him, “How can you advocate any more people, any more lives going to risk for that country?”

“Because it’s in our interest,” Bremer responded matter-of-factly, going to elaborate that the U.S. cannot allow Iraq to become a home base for terrorists like those that constitute the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Taking on the role of the skeptical viewers, Burnett asked Bremer, “Aren’t you the one who got us into this mess?” She confronted Bremer with video from 2003 of him heralding Iraq’s “hopeful” future after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Bremer defended his words and the actions the Bush administration took to bring democracy to Iraq, instead blaming the Obama administration for presiding over the deterioration of those gains over the last few years.
Erin Burnett is just about as establishment as Halperin was yesterday.

She started off at Goldman "Vampire Squid" Sachs, after a stint at CNN, she went to Citi, then Bloomberg, then CNBC, and finally CNN.

She married a guy who worked for Lehman and Citi.

And she just called out Bremer as a clueless incompetent little sh%$.

I'm smelling a very positive trend.

Does Anyone Out there Have an Urge to See Rick Perry's Circumcision?

Yeah, not me either, but it appears that Rick Perry is about to make it available for public review:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) recently broke bread with The New York Times Magazine's Mark Liebovitch at a Jewish deli in Beverly Hills.

“I’m more Jewish than you think I am,” he told Leibovitch over a corned-beef Reuben. “I read the part of the Bible that said the Jews are God’s chosen people."
You're more Jewish than we think you are?

A am NOT willing to check out this claim.

My Daughter Turned 17 Today

Had barbecue at Dougies as a birthday dinner.  (Yes, there is such a thing as Kosher Barbecue)

Your Regular Felix Salmon Fix

I followed his blog regularly until he left Reuters for Fusion, and given Fusion's new focus on multimedia, he has not at this point set up a regular text-base home blog.

He is, however, still blogging, at Fusion, Slate, and other places.

I emailed him, and he suggested that I can follow him via his (generally pretty low volume) personal domain, FelixSalmon.com, which is is using as an index for his various activities.

16 June 2014

Because, Snoops Think that it Is All About Them

It now appears that one impetus for the US state security apparatus to spy on all of us was to cover its own ass:
You may have heard about the government’s spying on the Associated Press. And high-level NSA whistleblower Bill Binney told Washington’s Blog that the government also spied on Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter James Risen, and chief Fox News Washington correspondent James Rosen.

But Senior NSA executive Thomas Drake tells Washington’s Blog that the spying on reporters started 12 years ago – in 2002 – and has been fairly systematic.

By way of background, Drake had championed the “ThinThread” program, which automatically encrypted Americans’ data (data could only be decrypted after a court found there was probable cause that the American was a bad guy).
But after 9/11, NSA instead adopted the competing “Stellar Wind” system, which didn’t protect Americans’ privacy, and was less effective and more expensive.


There was a program called “First Fruits”. They’ve no doubt changed the name of the program [since then.]

And that First Fruits program was a cutout which was designed from all of the domestic surveillance take. “Let’s just pipe off from all” that is involving designated [reporters] … or in some cases whole groups of reporters and journalists.

 So you’re targeting actual newspapers. You’re targeting media outlets.

And you’re monitoring – on a persistent basis – their communications.

WASHINGTON’S BLOG: How early did that start?

THOMAS DRAKE: The preliminary version of that – as far as an active program – was in 2002.
(emphasis original)

When secrecy is used as a weapon to cover up ones own misdeeds, not only does it breed more secrecy, it breeds more misdeeds.

Our secret security state is not protecting us.  It is petri dish for incompetence.

The Neocons Have Lost Mark Halperin???? Seriously???

Roll Tape!
Did Mark Halperin just call Paul Bremeran incompetent loser?

I think that Halperin, perhaps the poster child for the toxic consensus inside Washington D.C,  did:
“It seems what you’re proposing is to double down on the policies that the Bush administration and you thought would lead to, not just a democratic and independent Iraq, but a force for good in the region,” Halperin said. “Why should we even consider going back to the same set of ideas to try to prop up a government with U.S. intervention, which seems to have failed and left us in this position?”

“I’m not proposing to prop up any government,” Bremer said, arguing that Maliki had dissolved many of the post-surge gains in Iraq. “In fact, I explicitly said we need a new government…I explicitly called for him to resign as Defense Minister and Minister of the Interior.”

“But what business is it of the United States at this point who is in the government of people of Iraq?” Halperin asked. “Why isn’t that up to the people of Iraq, civil society and leaders there, to figure it out and not the United States?”

“Because there is no one there who can do it and no other country who can do it,” Bremer said. “The experience of all of us involved in this for the last decade is that only the Americans can help the Iraqis broker across these sectarian and ethnic lines. There is nobody else who can do it, including the Iraqis.”

“What’s our record on that –” Halperin tried to ask, but Bremer cut him off.

“We may regret that, but it’s a fact, and facts have a nasty way of coming back and basically determining your options,” Bremer said.
This was on Morning Joe, and though the aforementioned Joe (Scarborough) seemed to like the idea of re-invading Iraq, but everyone else, the very heart and soul of the Beltway consensus are actually unwilling to swallow the bullsh%$ that Bremer was attempting to sell.

I think that the evil spawn of Henry "Scoop" Jackson, the Senator from Boeing, Richard Pearle, Elliot Abrams, Doug "The f%$#ing stupidest guy on the face of the earth" Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, etc.  may have finally run out their string.

I certainly hope so, but I am an inveterate optimist on such matters.

A Minor Correction

Yesterday, I suggested that Gary Larson had encapsulated the id of Baltimore.

On further examination, I realized that I neglected to mention B. Kliban, who penned this cartoon.

He's best known for his cat cartoons, but he was seriously bent artist.

His cartoon is just one step removed from Attila the Hon.

15 June 2014

Another Day at Honfest

In its celebration of all things Ballmur, it strikes me that two of the prominent cultural features of the Charm City, big hair and those funky retro eye glasses, might lead one to believe that it is the spiritual home of Gary Larson's comic, The Far Side.

Certainly, Mr. Larson and John Waters seem to have a sense of the off beat that comes from similar places.

Posted via mobile.

14 June 2014

I Want this, and I Don't Even Know How to Play It

We were at Honfest (The term "Hon" is a Baltimore thing), and I saw this guitar.

Epic win!

Posted via mobile.

13 June 2014

Wisconsin Attorney General Threatens People Who Obey Court Ruling

I just love how right wing Talibaptist types think that the law does not apply to them:
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said Thursday that same-sex couples who have wed in recent days are not married in the eyes of the law and that county clerks issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples could be prosecuted.

Also Thursday, Republican Gov. Scott Walker backed Van Hollen's work defending the gay marriage ban but sidestepped questions on whether clerks should be charged and what his personal views on gay marriage are now.

Three district attorneys running for attorney general — two Democrats and a Republican — said they would not issue charges against clerks and their area. A Democratic state representative running to succeed Van Hollen also criticized the idea of issuing charges.

"You do have many people in Wisconsin basically taking the law into their own hands and there can be legal repercussions for that," Van Hollen said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "So, depending on who believes they're married under the law and who doesn't believe they're married under the law may cause them to get themselves in some legal problems that I think are going to take years for them and the courts to work out."

The Republican attorney general said he did not believe same-sex couples could be prosecuted but that county clerks risked charges.


County clerks can be jailed for up to nine months and fined up to $10,000 for issuing marriage licenses that aren't allowed under state law. The same section of the statutes also provides penalties for judges, ministers and others who officiate over a "fictitious marriage," but Van Hollen did not address whether they could be charged.


United States District Judge Barbara Crabb last week declared that Wisconsin's ban on same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection of the law. She has not yet entered an injunction instructing public officials what to do about her finding.
After all, who has to listen to some judge anyway?

Judge Crabb, could you please find this rat f%$# in contempt?

Another Day, Another Shooting

Click for full size pop up

Another day, another shooting
This one in a church in Phoenix.

Seriously, They are Getting Advice from the "Stupidest F%$#ing Guy on the Face of the Earth"? Seriously?

In looking at insights in the clusterf%$3 that is Iraq, Politico seeks advice from Douglas Feith.

Feith? Seriously, Douglas Feith?

The man who made the rest of the Bush administration look intelligent, competent, and observant.

Is there anything that a conservative can do disqualify them from being viewed as a font of wisdom?

Kill Me Now

The Teletubbies are coming back.

Seriously, just make it quick.

Another Reason to Shut Down the Fusion Centers

Because they treated a consumer boycott for "Black Friday" 2011 as a terrorist event:
The documents reveal that Fusion Centers and their personnel even conflate their anti-terrorism mission with a need for intelligence gathering on a possible consumer boycott during the holiday season. There are multiple documents from across the country referencing concerns about negative impacts on retail sales.

The Executive Director of the Intelligence Fusion Division, also the Joint Terrorism Task Force Director, for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department circulated a 30-page report tracking the Occupy Movement in towns and cities across the country created by the trade association the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

He directed that the recipients of the document, who included top staff at the Washington, D.C. Fusion Center, “develop a one page product that we can send to our District Commanders to make them aware of the potential threat.”
(emphasis original)

Can you say out of control totalitarian organization?

Good, I knew that you could.


Time to stare into the face of God.

It's not a nova, it's the light from some sort of stellar upheaval reflected off of interstellar gas.

H/t DC at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

12 June 2014

Doubling Down on the Crazy

Former Virginia Attorney General has been hired as president of the Senate Conservatives Fund.

That whole "Adults in the Republican Party" thing?

Not happening.

Eric Arthur Blair is Spinning in His Grave, Again

Over at Emptywheel, Jim White shows us a bit of cognitive dissonance that will make your head spin on the "World" section of the New York Times:
Seriously, first, we, (and the House of Saud) arm rebels in Syria, then they move into, and take over ¼ of Iraq, and take more of our weapons, and the very serious people think that we need to send them more weapons.

We've always been at war with Eastasia.

(On Edit)

And Obama is looking at air strikes to support the government. Obama has gone the full Nixon/Vietnamization route.

Quote of the Day

If a thousand armed Blacks had gathered in one place, pointing rifles at federal officers, and two of them later cold-bloodedly assassinated policemen, the federal response would touch every Black neighborhood in America. But the armed white Right gets a pass. Racists are resources to those in power. “The national security state’s legitimacy is based on (white) mass fear and loathing of the Other.”
Glen Ford at the Black Agenda Report

Is it Just Me………

Or is the latest Cadillac Escalade ad, the one that uses David Bowie's song Fame, the stupidest ad of the year so far?

Canada is a Couple of Hundred Pounds Smarter Today

The great Charlie Pierce made the above comment in response to the news that Senator Ted Cruz has formally renounced his Canadian citizenship, and he follows up with this:
Now, if they don't build our old friend the Keystone XL pipeline, America will be completely free of noxious imports from Alberta.

The World Cup Begins

It is unique among the mega-huge sporting events in that the quality of the sport is actually lower than the ordinary competitions.

At the World Series, or the Superbowl, or the Stanley Cup, or the FA cup, we have the best teams competing with each other, while in the world cup, you don't have a team, you have a bunch of (supremely talented) individual players.

On the other hand, I really don't see FIFA particularly corrupt as compared to, for example, the NCAA, which exists solely to create the myth of "student athletes" in order to codify slavery.

11 June 2014

Some Thoughts on Eric Cantor

First, the very serious people inside the Beltway are freaking for a number of reasons:
  • The results sh%$ on their "tea party is dead, and the Republican adults are back" meme.
  • David Cantor was "people like them", in that he was a soulless apparatchik climber.
  • Freaking out is what they do.
As to the significance, I think that this is all about, as TBogg so eloquently, "All things considered, Eric Cantor probably lost because he’s a dick."

On a slightly more serious note, Cantor did not take his constituents seriously.

To paraphrase Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill story goes, Cantor never asked for their votes.

The Beltway consensus is that it was all about immigration, but as TBogg, and many others noted, immigration reform was supported by nearly 4 to 1 in the district, and that same night, Lindsay Graham not only won his primary, but did so in a large field with enough of a margin to avoid a runoff.

For what it's worth, I don't think that Cantor being Jewish had much to do with his loss, with a margin over 11% in a district that he had dominated before, but I do think that some of the advertising did seem to invoke this (though note that in the article, Salon solipsistically posits that it was anti-Silicon Valley sentiment).

Looking at the ad, where he's hanging with Mark Zuckerberg, I feel compelled to invoke Mr. Subliminal.

You have an ad with the picture Cantor a guy with a Jewish name who looks stereotypically Jewish, and accuses him of giving their jobs to foreigners, and I wonder if this is not a sly reference to his religion.

Neither You, Nor I, Shall Ever Be This Awesome


The only way that this could be more awesome is if it were a white Persian cat.

I can haz Connery?


As an FYI, this is on the set of Dr. No.

10 June 2014

Holy Crap!

Eric Cantor just lost his primary for reelection to a Teabagger:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, was badly beaten in a primary contest Tuesday by an obscure professor with tea party backing — a historic electoral surprise that left the GOP in chaos and the House without its heir apparent.

Cantor, who has represented the Richmond suburbs since 2001, lost by 11 percentage points to Dave Brat, an economist at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. It was an operatic fall from power, swift and deep and utterly surprising. As late as Tuesday morning, Cantor had felt so confident of victory that he spent the morning at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill, holding a fundraising meeting with lobbyists while his constituents went to the polls.
He did not just lose, he got shellacked.

With the possible exception of John Boehner, whose dislike of, and rivalry with, Cantor was very tangible, the Republican establishment must be profoundly unhappy now.

To paraphrase Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain), reports of the Tea Party's death have been greatly exaggerated.

Not sure where the Dems will go from here, but reaching across the aisle would not be my suggestion.

Because by Devaluing Workers and Listening Cockamamie Theories from Rich People Worked So Well for the Rest of Us

It is sure to be appealed, but a judge in LA has just ruled that California's teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional:
Teachers union officials denounced a ruling Tuesday by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge deeming job protections for teachers in California as unconstitutional as a misguided attack on teachers and students.

The ruling represents a major loss for the unions and a groundbreaking win by attorneys who argued that state laws governing teacher layoffs, tenure and dismissals harm students by making them more likely to suffer from grossly ineffective instruction.

If the preliminary ruling becomes final and is upheld, the effect will be sweeping across California and possibly the nation.

Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled, in effect, that it was too easy for teachers to gain strong job protections and too difficult to dismiss those who performed poorly in the classroom. If the ruling stands, California will have to craft new rules for hiring and firing teachers.
Rather unsurprisingly, privatizer in chief, Arne Duncan, loves this, because for Wall Street to make money off of our children, they first have to make sure that they have a cowed and cheap work force.

Interestingly enough I had occasion to look up the record of Geoffrey Canada, the hero of the anti-teacher agitprop Waiting for Superman, the former CEO of  the Harlem Children's Zone charter schools in response to a sickeningly hagiographic article about him.

What did I discover?
  • He was paid $553,000 for a school system with just 1500 students, (link) more than twice the salary of the Chancellor of the New York City Schools (link) a system with 1.1 million students.
  • He lied about the graduation rates, basing his numbers on those the graduation rate for entering seniors, not the rate for people entering as freshmen as is the norm, which would yield a 36% drop out rate. (link)
  • He has "fired" (dumped) entire classes, including what would have been his first high school class to make his numbers look good. (link)
I have no doubt that there are good charter schools out there, but I've let to see one on the national stage.

You have looting behind a not-for-profit corporate façade (Rocketship), widespread forgery and fraud in testing (Michelle Rhee), sexual and financial irregularities (Kevin Johnson, Michelle Rhee's husband), insane levels of teacher turnover (all of them), and aggressive policies to foist low performing students back on the public school district. (again, pretty much all of them)

Seriously, whenever you take a cursory look at the charter school movement, and the educational-industrial complex that supports them, there are layers of corruption and opacity that are at the core of their business models.

At the core of the issues with our educational system are societal problems of grinding poverty, a porous social safety net, and law enforcement that frequently acts more like an occupying force than peace officers in poor neighborhoods.

Until these are resolved, we will have problems educating poor children, no matter how well our schools are run.

But the current focus on fill in the box testing and privatizing education serves only to make money off the backs of our children's future.

Another School Shooting

Click for full size pop up

Another day, another shooting
We just had spree killing at a school:
The first bell had just trilled at Troutdale's Reynolds High School Tuesday morning when the sound of something like fireworks erupted in a locker room by the school gymnasium.

Moments later, a vice principal came over the loudspeaker --"This is not a drill" -- and teachers ran through hallways, yelling at students to lock themselves in classrooms and hide.

A "lone gunman" shot and killed freshman Emilio Hoffman, then was found dead a few minutes later in a nearby bathroom. It is the 74th school shooting in the United States since the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
December 14, 2012 to today is 543 days, or 77½ weeks, or just under 18 months.

77½ weeks74 shootings. That's about 1 shooting a week, just at public schools.

Think about it.  When you add in various spree killings and act of right wing terrorism that don't involve school children, Vegas last week, Washington Naval Yard, Isla Vista, and that salon killing in upstate New York, and you end up with more than one shooting a week since Sandy Hook.

Note that this is without any incidents in the state of Texas.

And how many have there been in all of western Europe over that time?

We are insane as a society.

Thank You for Keeping Maryland Weird

I just heard about this on the radio, and confirmed this on the Prince George's County Police Department Facebook page:
PGPD Issues BOLO for Bunny

The PGPD is asking for our community's help in finding the burglar who snatched a bunny costume. Please keep your eyes peeled for a 6' gray and white furry bunny with pink ears and a pink nose.

Unfortunately, we aren’t joking. On June 6, 2014, patrol officers were called to the 4600 block of Calvert Road in College Park for a burglary. Employees discovered a storage shed had been broken into overnight. The only item taken was the costume.

Last week, we told you about how our officers helped a tortoise (http://tinyurl.com/p2wpojj ). Please help us rescue the hare now too.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Regional Investigation Division - Northern Region at (301) 699–2601. Callers wishing to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers at 1–866–411–TIPS (8477), text “PGPD plus your crime tip” to CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone or go to www.pgcrimesolvers.com and submit a tip online.

Posted via mobile.

09 June 2014

Ummmm……… Isn't This Straight Out Bribery?

The Republicans in the Virginia State Senate bought off state Senator Phillip Puckett with the offer of a 6-figure job and a permanent judgeship for his wife, which threw control of the chamber back to the Republicans:
Republicans appear to have outmaneuvered Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state budget standoff by persuading a Democratic senator to resign his seat, at least temporarily giving the GOP control of the chamber and possibly dooming the governor’s push to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission, three people familiar with the plan said Sunday. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The news prompted outrage among Democrats — and accusations that Republicans were trying to buy the Senate with job offers in order to thwart McAuliffe’s proposal to expand health coverage to 400,000 low-income Virginians.

Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) said Republicans were unable to win the policy argument about Medicaid expansion, so they have resorted to other means.

“It’s astounding to me. The House Republican caucus will do anything and everything to prevent low-income Virginians from getting health care. . . . They figure the only way they could win was to give a job to a state senator,” Surovell said. “At least they can’t offer Terry McAuliffe a job. I hope Terry continues to stand up to these bullies.”

Puckett, a senator since 1998, did not respond to calls seeking comment. Other Republicans denied that Puckett was offered the jobs in exchange for his resignation.
Yeah, sure.

Here is a note to governor McAuliffe:  Now is a time to enforce party discipline:  If you can block Puckett's getting a do-nothing job on the tobacco commission, do it.  If you can block the appointment of his daughter to a judgeship, do it.

Use the veto pen.  It is all fruit of a poisoned tree.

And Then There is George Will………

No link, because I do not want to give him page views, but George Will, the man who coached Ronald Reagan in his debates with Jimmy Carter, using Jimmy Carter's own briefing books, which had been stolen, while commenting on Reagan's debate performance on Nightline, has returned to classic form, arguing that women want to make rape allegations, because it is a "coveted status that confers privileges."

No I won't link to George Will, but I will link to The Onion article, "College Rape Victim Pretty Thrilled She Gets To Recount Assault To Faculty Committee:
Visibly excited for the thrilling hour ahead, college sophomore Megan Anderson enthusiastically made her way to a meeting with members of her university’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution to offer a detailed account of her recent sexual assault, the eager undergraduate told reporters Tuesday. “I get to go into a room filled with a committee of middle-aged men whose primary concern is upholding the college’s reputation and recount in explicit detail the circumstances of my rape at the hands of another student—I can’t wait,” said the pleased 19-year-old, who noted that she’s particularly looking forward to describing her choice of clothing the night of the assault, explaining the nature of her relationship with her rapist, and entertaining a variety of questions aimed at determining whether she herself invited the attack with her words and actions, all while offering a step-by-step account of the most horrific night of her life. “Don’t get me wrong, it was great being interrogated by the local and campus police, but this way I get to tell university officials who have a vested interest in minimizing campus rape statistics and ensuring the steady inflow of alumni donations what exactly I was drinking and why I could have misremembered events. And to think, once I finally give my entire story, I then get the pleasure of listening as they try to push the whole incident under the rug. Lucky me!”
Seriously, if I had a time machine, I'd go back in time to 1940, and give his mom a shot of Depo-Provera.

What a pathetic sorry excuse for a human being.