Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Spot of Good News

U.S. District Court Judge Vanessa L. Bryant [appointed to the bench by President George W, Bush on April 2, 2007 today held in a federal case in Connecticut that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act — the federal definition of marriage — is unconstitutional.

Bryant, in a case brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, follows several other federal judges over the past two years to have reached the same conclusion. Federal judges in Massachusetts, California — in two different courts — and New York also have found DOMA's provision defining "marriage" and "spouse" as only being unions of one man and one woman in all federal laws unconstitutional, as well as one federal appeals court.

[…]

The ruling comes as the Supreme Court is facing requests in several cases to decide the question of DOMA's constitutionality once and for all.

   Buzzfeed

It's Reportedly Hot - and Dry - in Hell

Well, we seem to have a record-breaker on our hands this year, thanks partly to the great climate-change hoax and the greedy scientists who are so obviously behind it.

[...]

The drought in the 1950's is less deeply romanticized [than that in the 30s], but it was quite serious, kicking the unshirted hell out of Texas, among other places. You will note that the drought of the 1950's was used as the occasion for vigorous government action aimed at preventing the large-scale damage that the drought had done.

[...]

Now, of course, the governor of Texas is an anti-science meathead whose response to a drought a few years ago was to get everybody together to pray for rain.
  Charlie Pierce
While politics and our attention span in this country makes everything seem further gone than it actually is, that wasn't a few years ago, Charlie. That was last year.

Because George W Wasn't a Big Enough Idiot/Ass/Jerk/Slimebag for the GOP

You probably already know about Mitt's remarks in Israel to the effect that they're so much better off financially than the Palestinians because they're Jews, and that means they know how to make money.
In a salute to Israel's economic growth, Romney compared the GDP of his hosts to that of the Palestinian territories as though they were just any old neighboring countries. "As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality," he said.

Romney (who actually grossly overestimated Palestinian GDP) made no mention of the Israeli occupation, and its restrictions over Palestinian life.
  TPM
Hey, that only proves his point. If the Palestinians were half as glorious as the Israelis, they wouldn't be in that spot.

He also said this:
“Do you realize what health care spending is as a percentage of the GDP in Israel? Eight percent. You spend eight percent of GDP on health care. You’re a pretty healthy nation,” he said Monday at a breakfast fundraiser, according to the New York Times. “We spend 18 percent of our GDP on health care, 10 percentage points more. [...] We have to find ways — not just to provide health care to more people, but to find ways to fund and manage our health care costs.”
  TPM
Wow. How do they do it?
Israel contains costs by adopting a very centralized, government-run health care system.

[...]

Reformed in 1995 on the basis of a European model, Israelis are forced to buy insurance from one of several competing not-for-profit plans, which are heavily regulated by the government, according to the journal Health Affairs. The state requires them to cover everyone regardless of health status, and establishes a broad benefits package insurance policies must provide, updated annually by a committee of appointed experts. The government pays the full cost of these policies, mostly through higher taxes. The state also caps the level of annual revenue hospitals can earn from an insurance plan. Care is largely delivered through government-owned facilities; there are private providers, but they tend to charge more.
Yeah, he didn't mention that, either.

And, PS, in case you think he's limiting his derrogation to the Palestinians, and praising the worthiness of the Israelis alone, catch this...
"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said, citing an innovative business climate, the Jewish history of thriving in difficult circumstances and the "hand of providence." He said similar disparity exists between neighboring countries, like Mexico and the United States.
  AP

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

     (slightly snipped - full toon)

Oh, and....


That one's here.

Unless It Was Intentional, Of Course

As someone who supported (and supports) TARP, my criticism [is] primarily aimed at the failure to condition bank bailouts on their taking actions that helped homeowners.

[…]

I don't think [Treas. Sec Tim] Geithner's motivations really matter on this. His policies on the homeowner crisis were simply incompetent, disastrous and by any measure a complete and utter failure. If that answer is difficult for you, then you are either ill informed or not telling the truth.

You can argue that Geithner faced political constraints that did not allow him to go further, but that is not what Team Geithner has ever said. They said they got the policy just as they wanted. This seems likely in that there was over $40 billion available to structure a much better homeowner relief program (for say, a HOLC program.)

[…]

The long and short of it is Tim Geithner has a been a terrible Treasury Secretary when the country needed a great one.

Speaking for me only.

  Talk Left
No. For me, too.

Yes, We Are a Violent Nation - Part 2

Part 1 showed a chart for the US compared to other countries.  Here's one that compares US states in assaults resulting in death:


I must say I'm surprised that Texas and New York are not higher on the list. And I'll ask again:  What's going on in Louisiana?

Guantánamo Injustice

Most simple of all is the fact that, unlike the usual case of plea bargaining, the options aren’t pleading guilty or going to trial. Rather those who plead guilty get a definite (and usually relatively short) sentence on top of their detention, while those who do not are held indefinitely without trial.

All of this is relevant now that the Obama Administration is trying to “normalise” the plea bargaining process, by getting those who have pleaded guilty to testify against others accused of more serious crimes. The idea that the state can torture someone, imprison them indefinitely, and then use their “voluntary” testimony (given in the hope of release) against another, then claim that this is an improvement on using confessions extracted by torture of the accused is more reminiscent of the legalisms of a totalitarian state than of anything that could be described as the rule of law.

  Crooked Timber
Rule of law? What's that?

Stage Right

Obama will be freer to attack Iran than Romney would be because Democrats, progressives, and the “international community” (that’s neocon for: Europeans) passively accept or even cheer for violence, aggression and executive power abuses when ordered by a sophisticated, urbane, Constitutional Law Professor with Good Progressivism in his heart, and only cause a messy ruckus when done by an icky, religious, overtly nationalistic Republican.

To see how true that is, just compare the years-long screeching over President Bush’s mere eavesdropping and detentions without any judicial review or transparency — he’s assaulting the Constitution and Our Values! – compared with the reaction to Obama’s more extremist assassinations without any judicial review or transparency. Or consider how a high-level aide to John Ashcroft marveled with envy over Obama’s ability to prosecute whistleblowers with such abandon, noting to The New York Times that the Ashcroft DOJ was deterred by the prospect of a political storm that Obama simply does not face:  ”We,” lamented the Ashcroft aide, “would have gotten hammered for it.”

This was the same dynamic that led former Bush OLC official and current Harvard Law Professor Jack Goldsmith to explain quite presciently (and celebratorily) back in May, 2009, that Obama — by leading progressives and Democrats to support his embrace of Bush/Cheney Terrorism and civil liberties policies — was doing more to entrench those once-controversial policies as bipartisan consensus than Bush and Cheney themselves could ever have dreamt of doing:

  Glenn Greenwald
He always said his goal was bipartisanship in Congress. And knowing the GOP never gives an inch, it was given that he would have to go their way to get it.
Exactly the same argument was made by the CIA in a largely overlooked, secret memo prepared by the agency in 2010 and published by WikiLeaks. In it, the CIA worried that Western European populations were rapidly turning against the war in Afghanistan and would force their governments to abandon it. But the agency concluded that their biggest asset in preventing this was having Obama use his popularity with Western Europeans to persuade them of the war’s merit. In other words, replacing the swaggering, smirking, cowboy imagery of the despised George Bush with the prettier, kinder, gentler, and more intellectually elevated Obama as the face of American militarism would make the war appear more justified and noble, and thus more popular.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bailout

Neil Barofsky, the Inspector General of the TARP bailout program from 2008 until 2011, has a must-read new book entitled Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street. When he was serving as IG, I praised Barofsky’s independence and adversarial watchdog mentality several times when he was warning of the Treasury Department and Tim Geithner’s overarching devotion to the interests of Wall Street at the expense of everyone else. But this new book lays out the case as clearly and powerfully as it can be made that the Obama administration and Geithner, as The New York Times‘ Gretchen Morgenson put it, “eagerly served Wall Street interests at the public’s expense, and regulators were captured by the very industry they were supposed to be regulating.”

[...]

Barofsky is as well-positioned as it gets to describe the priorities and loyalties of the economic policymakers inside the administration, and is one of the very few Washington officials with the independence and courage to do so. Unsurprisingly, his book presents the definitive case for how the Obama administration devoted itself to the interests of the very plutocrats who precipitated the financial crisis in the first place.

[...]

As one very good review of the book began: “I sincerely did not think it would be possible at this point to lower my opinion of Tim Geithner. Nor did I think it possible, after the year and a half I just spent there, to make me think less of DC. . . . [F]ormer TARP watchdog Neil Barofsky has accomplished both with his just-published book Bailout.” Barofsky has been particularly critical of the Treasury Department’s failure to use the billions in funds allocated by Congress to help distressed homeowners as part of the HAMP program, on the ground that bankers — rather than ordinary Americans — were their only real concern (MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, citing this New York Times article on the administration’s HAMP failures, previously said that the “[White House's] foreclosure mitigation failure has been so egregious and cruel, it makes me question their motives on everything”).

Predictably, Barofsky, a life-long Democrat and 2008 Obama supporter, has now become a Prime Enemy of Democratic partisans and banker-loyal, establishment-protecting, status-quo-perpetuating apparatchiks.
  Glenn Greenwald

Dial Back the Crazy

The liberal Boston Globe Editorial Page denounced [...] Boston Mayor Thomas Menino['s declaration to prevent Chick-Fil-A from doing business in that city] and wrote: “which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand? A business owner’s political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license. . . . History will render judgment on the views of Chick-fil-A executives. City Hall doesn’t have to.”

That’s so basic that it’s just astounding that anyone, let alone Mayors of big cities, need to be told this. Then again, the reason the prohibition was put in the First Amendment — and the reason it’s so often violated — is precisely because every petty tyrant, by definition, has the temptation to abuse his power to punish those with views he dislikes.
  Glenn Greenwald
Another petty tyrant following Menino? Rahm Emanuel of Chicago.
”The anti-gay views openly espoused by the president of a fast food chain specializing in chicken sandwiches have run afoul of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a local alderman, who are determined to block Chick-fil-A from expanding in Chicago. “

Perhaps Rahm Emanuel is motivated by beneficent ends, or maybe he’s motivated by political considerations and a love of his own power, but either way, abusing his power to punish views he dislikes is at least as offensive as — and definitely more dangerous than — the targeted views themselves.

[...]

I’m happy to observe that most liberal commentators opining on this topic are condemning Emanuel, and for exactly the right reasons; see, e.g., Kevin Drum, Adam Serwer, Scott Lemieux, Digby, Richard Kim, John Cole, and Atrios. The true test of a belief in free speech is whether you defend that right not when views you like are being punished — then it’s easy to object — but when views you intensely dislike are being punished.

[...]

UPDATE: The uproar over all of this today seems to have produced some positive movement. In Boston, Mayor Menino now acknowledges that his planned actions would violate the rights of the restaurant chain, and thus “backed away from a threat to actively block the fast-food chain from setting up shop in the city,” saying: “I make mistakes all the time. That’s a Menino-ism.”

There Were No Arabs in London to Check With?

The Mayor of London: We're ready for the Olympics, Mitt Romney be damned:



Well, not everybody was ready.
The official shopping centre of the 2012 Olympics apologised on Thursday for putting up “Welcome to London” banners in Arabic that read backwards.

The banners at the giant Westfield Stratford City complex — at the main entrance to the Olympic Park in east London — were also written with spaces between the letters, making them even more difficult to decipher.
  Raw Story
What will Mitt have to say about that?

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Speaking of Crops

I wonder how many Republican farmers in the corn belt will be turning down their government welfare subsidies for their lack of harvest due to the drought.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Not Good


From Charlie Pierce - He doesn't say where this picture was taken.  Corn belt at any rate.
[Ag Sec Tom] VILSACK: I'm not a scientist so I'm not going to opine as to the cause of this. All we know is that right now there are a lot of farmers and ranchers who are struggling. And it's important and necessary for them to know, rather than trying to focus on what's causing this, what can we do to help them.

My God, what in the hell does that mean? Am I just a slow person, or doesn't knowing what causes something actually help you prevent that thing's happening again, or at least, doesn't it help you prepare yourself better for when it does? I begin to wonder if climate change is going to be one of those issues like gun-control where well-financed paranoia and heavily subsidized ignorance wear the political process down to the point at which people simply give up trying to fight them.

And then we all die of thirst.

A Little Entertainment with Your News?

Friedman of the Plains here. Thanks for the mention. I'm thinking of making it my new stage name. And I still feel for the single men of Ada, Oklahoma--those with balanced checkbooks, collision AND comprehensive on their cars, and working relationships with their ex-wives who can't buy a date. They have to be thinking. "And this Smith guy has a fiancee? WTF!" As for the entry-level Dust Bowl reporter position, fine, I accept, but I'm going to need a 3x5 index card with the word CUB or INTERN--not INCIPIENT, which I'm thinking could be misconstrued as condescending and elitist-- to stick in my Fedora before I head out to the plains again. It's a dangerous, often barren, hot (not due to global warming, mind you) land and its people don't take kindly to those without credentials who come into town and not only air their dirty laundry, but send it over the Intertoobz for comments.
That was in response to this:
Pausing for a moment to admire how handsome Utah looks up there on the auction block, we move along to Oklahoma, thanks to a tip from Friedman of the Plains, friend of the blog and incipient Dust Bowl correspondent. He hipped us to the saga of Fred E. Ray Smith, a man with a middle initial and a middle name — suspenders and a belt! — and the sad country song he has made out of his life and his campaign.
And you can read the saga here at Charlie’s blog.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

He Has All Four Feet in His Mouth Now

Mitt Romney’s carefully choreographed trip to London caused a diplomatic stir when he called the British Olympic preparations “disconcerting” and questioned whether Londoners would turn out to support the Games.

“The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging,” Mr. Romney said in an interview with NBC on Wednesday.

That prompted a tart rejoinder from the British prime minister, David Cameron. “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” an allusion to Salt Lake City, which hosted Games that Mr. Romney oversaw.

  NYT
Nice one.

Seriously?

Former Penn State University president Graham Spanier said he will soon begin working for the federal government on projects related to national security.

“For the next several months, as I transition to my post-presidential plans, I will be working on a special project for the U.S. government relating national security. This builds on my prior positions working with federal agencies to foster improved cooperation between our nation’s national security agencies and other entities,” Spanier said in an Email.

Spanier was ousted as the university’s leader on Nov. 9, less than a week after former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with child sex abuse.
  Penn Live

Some times you would just like to pretend that the notion that if someone behaves badly or poorly enough in a high position, then they will get a job at the White House, is hyperbole. Alas, it is not.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

This Time, Banksters, You've Gone Too Far

So says the House.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for a piece of legislation Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has been pushing for more than a decade, calling for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to audit the nation’s central bank, despite the Federal Reserve chairman’s warning that such action could produce a “nightmare scenario.”

Members of the House passed Paul’s “Audit the Fed” bill by a vote of 327-98. Only one Republican voted against the bill: Rep. Bob Turner of New York. In all, 89 Democrats joined Republicans in passing the bill, including arguably the chamber’s most liberal member, outgoing Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who cited recent reporting by The Washington Post that claims the New York Federal Reserve knew but did not tell regulators about manipulation [of] a key inter-bank lending rate known as Libor.

[...]

The Texas stalwart and longtime foe of central bankers supported a Fed audit in 2010 that became part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. That audit required the Fed to disclose its lending practices during the 2008 financial crisis, revealing that the bank doled out more than $16 trillion in loans and assets swaps to financial institutions all over the world in an effort to stabilize global markets.

[Fed Chairman Ben] Bernanke warned that any effort by Congress to compromise the independence of the Fed would weaken its ability to stabilize the economy in the event of a crisis like the near-collapse of 2008.

“The nightmare scenario that I have is one in which some future Fed chairman would decide to say, raise the federal funds rate by 25 basis points, and somebody in this room would say, ‘I don’t like this decision and I want the [Government Accountability Office] to go in… and give us an independent opinion of whether or not that would be the right decision,’” he said.

  Raw Story
Oooh. Nightmare!
[The Dodd-Frank Act] did not satisfy Paul, who saw it as a stripped-down version of his original proposal because it did not examine Fed monetary policy negotiations as well.

[...]

While the victory will likely be seen as one of Paul’s crowning achievements in Congress, it will progress no further this session thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has refused to bring it up
Gotta protect those banksters.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Don't Mess With Texas

Texas leads the nation with 25 percent of its population uninsured. A report issued by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality ranked Texas last in delivering health care to its citizens.
  Charlie Pierce
But wait! That's not all.

Our brilliant governor – who wanted to be your brilliant president – has announced that Texas will not be availing itself of federal money from the ACA to cover health costs for its uninsured. So there.
It is, of course, too early to know with real certainty which states will be affected. But states whose Governors had by mid-July been relatively outspoken about rejecting Medicaid expansion funding include Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. In those states alone, as many as 5.5 million individuals who would otherwise have received coverage under Medicaid will remain uninsured. Republican Governors in an additional five states (Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey and Nevada) have indicated that they are inclined not to expand coverage, although a final decision has not been reached. Those states represent an additional 1.4 million uninsured individuals who would likely have been coveredunder Medicaid. If these 10 states ultimately were to decline Medicaid expansion, coverage for nearly 6.9 million low-income persons would appear to be at risk.
  RCHN Community Health Foundation
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

UPDATE:  Jean, from Missouri, would like to inform the above-quoted source that the governor of Missouri is actually a Democrat, although he at times acts like a Republican.  Thanks for the catch, Jean.

Caveat Lector

There is only one thing you ever have to keep in mind about America's energy companies.

They always lie.

Always.

If they don't lie to your face, they hire someone else to do it. If their lies cause obvious damage to the environment, or to the political commonwealth, or to both, they simply lie about the damage, or hire someone to do it for them. If forced to actually, you know, do anything about the damage they cause, they will lie about what they're doing, or hire someone to do it for them.
  Charlie Pierce
If you read on, this post is specifically about a professor who is making whopping big dollars by fronting for a Houston drilling company. But it applies to countless others. Which is what makes it hard for me to ever defend any scientific claims coming out of universities.

Wyden Battling the Surveillance State

Good luck with that.  I'm surprised that he got this much:
The US government has admitted to violating the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures on at least one occasion during surveillance efforts.

In a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR], the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) confirmed a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court finding that “some collection carried out pursuant to the Section 702 minimization procedures used by the government were unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”

[...]

Without providing details about when and how the violation occurred, or the extent of the “unreasonable” surveillance, the DNI letter confirmed that FISA has “sometimes circumvented the spirit of the law.”

[...]

The government says it has “remedied” the FISA Court’s concerns regarding the constitutional violation and will continue to lawfully collect e-mails and phone calls, but the letter’s indication of at least one “unreasonable” search remains a troubling fact to Americans concerned about their privacy. 

While the DNI confirmed a fault, the director’s office claimed it was in the country’s best interest to publicize the issue, stating, "the public interest in disclosure outweighs the damage to the national security that might reasonably be expected from disclosure.”

[...]

Wyden is threatening to block the government’s requested five-year extension of the statute unless lawmakers receive more information about the extent of the wiretapping. The Senator is concerned that communication between “law-abiding Americans” is being unlawfully intercepted.

[...]

In June, the National Security Agency (NSA) refused to disclose how many Americans have been affected by government surveillance. Wyden responded by noting that the fact that the number is unknown hides the extent of the spying.

In response to the NSA’s secrecy, Wyden offered an amendment prohibiting warrantless searches of domestic communication, which was rejected.
  RT
The letter, also sent to the Senate committee chairman, Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, and ranking Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, says Clapper concluded “the public interest in disclosure outweighs the damage to the national security that might reasonably be expected from disclosure.”
  Business Week
Dianne might disagree. (See previous post.)

You Heel

Years ago while living in San Francisco, when Dan White murdered Harvey Milk and George Moscone in San Francisco and propelled Dianne Feinstein to political heights, I had the pleasure of a visit in my kitchen from a man (whose name I am ashamed to say I do not remember) who wrote a song which I believe was nominated for a BAMMIE, sung to the tune of Kenny Rogers' You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille.  This song was called, I believe: Ode to Dan White.    The only words I can remember are the first two lines: You picked a Feinstein to lead me, you heel.  Four lousy years and she doesn't like queers.

Glenn Greenwald has a post today about Ms. Feinstein's (and her defense contractor husband's) enrichment while she's been a senator snarling after whistleblowers all the while being "one of the biggest leakers in Congress."

If you are voting for Ms. Feinstein (jeez, how long has she been in Congress?), please stop.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

He Calls Me Bill

An active duty Army colonel testified Tuesday that the three-star general who headed the training mission in Afghanistan made him retract a request for an inspector general's investigation into corruption and horrible conditions at a U.S.-funded Afghan military hospital. Col. Mark Fassl, who was inspector general for the training command, said he was shocked when Lt. Gen. William Caldwell cited the then-upcoming 2010 congressional elections and asked, "How could we ... make this request with elections coming? He calls me Bill."

Fassl said he believed this was a reference to President Barack Obama.

[...]

In September 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported from Kabul that U.S. officers found that patients at the hospital were routinely dying of simple infections and starving to death, while corrupt doctors and nurses demanded bribes for food and basic care.

[...]

Retired Army Col. Gerald Carozza Jr., who was chief of legal development assisting the Afghan Army and defense ministry, also said Caldwell expressed concern that the request was too close to the 2010 congressional elections. But Carozza added that in his view, Caldwell "did not want the request to go to the DOD IG (Defense Department inspector general) at all."

"The general did not want bad news to leave his command before the election or after the election," Carozza's statement said.

[...]

[Rep. Jason] Chaffetz [R-Utah ] introduced a Sept. 12, 2011, memo from the training command that he described as an attempt to destroy evidence. The memo ordered destruction or deletion of unofficial audio and video recordings and photos of patients and conditions at the hospital.

[...]

”The lack of transparency with lawmakers, the inspector general, and the American people is stunning."
  CNS
Suddenly the Republicans care about millitary coverups and corruption in the “War on Terror.”

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

We're Melllllllllllllllllllllting


No, wait. That's not the picture I wanted.  Here we are...

Greenland's surface ice cover melted this month over a larger area than ever detected in more than 30 years of satellite observations, NASA has said. According to measurements from three separate satellites analysed by NASA and university scientists, an estimated 97 per cent of the ice sheet surface thawed at some point in mid-July, the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to data error?" NASA's Son Nghiem said.

[...]

Results from other satellites confirmed the findings. Melt maps drawn up showed that on July 8 about 40 per cent of the ice sheet's surface had melted, rising to 97 per cent four days later.

Until now, the most extensive melt seen by satellites in the past 30 years was about 55 per cent.

The news comes just days after NASA satellite imagery showed that a massive iceberg twice the size of Manhattan had broken off the Petermann Glacier in Greenland.
  alJazeera

Monday, July 23, 2012

Meanwhile in Iraq

Officials said at least 172 people were wounded as a result of 21 different attacks mounted in 13 cities, shattering a relative calm which held in the lead-up to the start on Saturday of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

[...]

The attacks came a day after a spate of bombings across Iraq killed at least 17 people and wounded nearly 100 others.
  Raw Story

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Yes, We Are Are Violent Nation

From the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):  Assault deaths per 100,000 people.




"Other OECD" data include the following countries:  Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Speculate away about the peak in the 70s and the continual drop afterward.  I don't know what it is - I read some speculation that improved trauma care might be the answer, but if that were the case, you would think the other countries would show the same type of curve.

But whatever the reason for the fall, we still outstrip the next "first world" country in the group by more than two times.

Looks like our high ranking is thanks mostly to the South. Imagine that.


(Source:Wikipedia - and PS, Wikipedia, change up colors, not tones - that's too hard to read.)

PS:  What's going on in Louisiana?  (Biggie-big the map)

PPS:  This reminds me - here's an actual-relative-size map of the globe:




Because You Deserve a Treat


(Couldn't embed - you'll have to click the picture to go to the YouTube vid.)

And in case you missed it:

(strum with your cursor when you get there)

Here in Looney Toon World

The president of Tea Party Nation declared on Thursday that if Mitt Romney is to release his tax returns, President Barack Obama should release medical records to prove he’s not a drug addict who smoked crack and had gay sex with a lifelong con-man.
  Raw Story

And I blame George W. Bush.

No, I don't blame EVERYthing on Dumbya, but the outrageous public imbicility, I do. By prancing around as “the most powerful man in the world” with a C (and I bet he cheated to get that) average in college, by making light of being ignorant – and in fact – being proud of it, and by doing the same for being bigoted and crass, he paved the way for what used to be considered inferior and laughable character to take hold in politics and positions of power.

OK, so Ronald Reagan gave him a start.

What's the Matter with Colorado - Part 2

A 35-year-old Colorado man avoided a jail sentence on Wednesday even after pleading guilty to conspiring to sell more than 30 machine guns with optical sights, five pounds of C4 explosives, grenades and 14 semi-automatic pistols smuggled into the country from Iraq.

Richard Paul, of Durango, brokered a deal for five years of probation and eight months of home confinement by pleading guilty and agreeing to testify against his co-conspirator, 34-year-old former Navy SEAL Nicholas Bickle, who Paul had known for more than 18 years, according to The Durango Herald.
  Raw Story

Friday, July 20, 2012

Speaking of Roger Rabbit

A world where Michele Bachmann is a member of a Congressional Intelligence Committee is not a real world anyway.

FYI



Explication

Washington Post-Apocalypse Cartoonist Tom Toles on the Future

Globalization has eroded the meaning of a job and will continue to do so. We are now in a scramble for any work at any price. Job security? Only if your job is IN security. [...] We have created a world where you are not really needed, except to buy things, but you’re out of money, because you can’t find work. Maybe you can retire (very) early to a little place out in the country somewhere, except the new climate just killed the vegetation and dried up your well. Meanwhile, this election campaign will do everything possible to avoid discussing any of this intelligently. Obama doesn’t really have an answer, and Romney has one that works for him and his friends.
  Tom Toles

Belated Happy Birthday

George Mcgovern turned 90 yesterday.
The worst thing that ever happened to the Democratic party in this country is that, when McGovern lost so big to history's yard waste in 1972, the rest of the party was complicit in turning him — and the politics he represented — into a punchline for the next 20 years. He was the template. He was the first war-hero Democrat — you don't fly 35 missions in a B-24 and come away with a DFC without a big clanging pair of brass ones, kids — who was accused of being a wimp by a flock of chickenhawks. (Ronald Reagan? Who kept the bar at the Brown Derby safe from Nazi occupation? Please to be giving me a break.) He was the first liberal Democrat against whom other opportunistic Democrats bragged about running. He was turned into a synonym for something he was not. He was the vehicle through which Democrats taught other Democrats to be terrified of all their best instincts and all their best policies. Through it all, he remained exactly what Bobby Kennedy said he was [- "the most decent man in the Senate"], and more.
  Charlie Pierce

Myself, I Expect to See Roger Rabbit Any Day Now

And I'm not talking about the movie. We've moved into the Twilight Zone. It happened on 9/11.
Michelle Malkin, the stormy petrel of conservative lunacy, already has drawn the distinction between the people "who sign the back of the paychecks and the people who sign the front." If you can treat someone's salary like a welfare check, and then sell that nonsense to the American people, then we're well on our way back to having to poach our meals from the forests of the Duke.

  Charlie Pierce
If your paycheck has less than 6 figures, it's already being treated like a welfare check by the people signing it.
Running Willard Romney in the aftermath of what happened in 2008 and 2009 makes as much sense as running Gordon Liddy for president in 1976 would have made. On the face of it, it's laughable. It is so comically dissonant with the primary source of the country's difficulties that it borders on parody.

[...]

As I repeat, over and over again, to the point where my friends are now ducking into the Charles River to avoid me, WE ALL KNOW WHO THE REAL THIEVES ARE! We all know where they work, and we all know pretty much what they did. And we are all quite goddamn aware that the greasy bastards are still freaking doing it, while the Masters of our financial universe cluck mournfully and tell us that we all have to tighten our belts for the coming decades of austerity lest we go over "fiscal cliff."

[...]

We went over the cliff in 2008 and 2009 while [Ben Bernancke was] bailing out the banks and the administration was signing off on paltry settlements that kept Bob Rubin's pals out of the Big House.
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

How Long Before You Relinquish Your Remaining Freedom - Internet Anonymity

President Barack Obama warned of cyber threats to critical US infrastructure and called on Congress to take action in an op-ed published Friday in the Wall Street Journal.

“The cyber threat to our nation is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face,” Obama wrote.

“Foreign governments, criminal syndicates and lone individuals are probing our financial, energy and public safety systems every day.”
  Raw Story


Oh, and...
Twitter said Thursday it was appealing a court ruling ordering it to turn over data on one of its users involved in the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

[...]

The announcement came weeks after Manhattan criminal court Judge Matthew Sciarrino ruled that law enforcement had the right to see tweets and other user data from Malcolm Harris, who is being prosecuted for disorderly conduct in connection with an Occupy protest on the Brooklyn Bridge last year.
  Raw Story

What's the Matter with Colorado?

Fourteen people were killed and at least 50 others wounded early Friday when a gunman opened fire at a midnight screening of the summer blockbuster "The Dark Knight Rises" near Denver, authorities and witnesses said.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told reporters that 10 people died at the scene and four others died after being taken to local hospitals.

[...]

Citing officials, NBC News' Pete Williams reported that the shooter had three weapons -- an assault-type rifle and two handguns. The suspect's car has Tennessee plates but authorities believe he was living locally.

[...]

An FBI official told NBC News that the agency was working with local authorities on the investigation, but that there was no early indication of a link to terrorism.

  MSNBC
No LINK? Just what definition are they using for the word “terrorism”?  It apparently has something to do with nationality.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

UPDATE: Jean comments:
Do you suppose the shooter (who obviously doesn't have a name that sounds like Osama) was listening to that fat fuck, rush, the other day?

From the transcript of Limbaugh’s July 17, 2012, show:

"This evil villain in the new Batman movie is named Bane. And there's now a discussion out there as to whether or not this is purposeful and whether or not it will influence voters. It's gonna have a lot of people. This movie, the audience is gonna be huge. A lot of people are gonna see the movie, and it's a lot of brain-dead people, entertainment, the pop culture crowd, and they're gonna hear Bane in the movie and they're gonna associate Bain. The thought is that when they start paying attention to the campaign later in the year, and Obama and the Democrats keep talking about Bain, Romney and Bain, that these people will think back to the Batman movie, ‘Oh, yeah, I know who that is.’ There are some people who think it'll work. Others think you're really underestimating the American people to think that will work."

He wrapped up:

"You may think it's ridiculous, I'm just telling you this is the kind of stuff the Obama team is lining up. The kind of people who would draw this comparison are the kind of people that they are campaigning to. These are the kind of people that they are attempting to appeal to."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Keynote in Tampa

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will deliver the keynote address at next month’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL.
  MSNBC
Or as TBogg puts it:
Plus-sized model, Chris Christie (R-Jersey Shore), has been tabbed to be the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention where he is expected to berate working families by telling them “I gotcher free lunch rite’cher” while groping in the general vicinity of where he thinks his nuts reside.
  TBogg

Still Trying

The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights this morning filed a lawsuit in federal court against several Obama officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus. The suit is brought on behalf of the survivors of three American citizens killed in Yemen by the U.S. Government — killed specifically by the CIA and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command — with no due process and far from any battlefield: Anwar Awlaki and Samir Khan (killed together in a drone strike) and Awlaki’s teenaged son Abdulrahman (killed two weeks later).

The suit alleges that the killing of these Americans violates their Constitutional rights (including their Fifth Amendment right to due process) because “the United States was not engaged in an armed conflict with or within Yemen” and “these killings rely on vague legal standards, a closed executive process, and evidence never presented to the courts.” While there is substantial dispute over the role, if any, that the senior Awlaki played in Al Qaeda plots (the Complaint alleges that he “was not then directly participating in hostilities within the meaning of the law of war”), nobody — not even the U.S. Government — claims that Khan or the American teenager were combatants of any kind. None of the three had ever been indicted, let alone convicted, by the U.S. Government.

[...]

So if — or, rather, when — the Obama DOJ comes into court in response to this new lawsuit and demands that it be instantly dismissed (rather than defending the legality of its acts on the merits), shouldn’t critics and supporters of the Obama assassination program alike jointly and strongly condemn that? After all, shouldn’t proponents of this assassination power — those, such as Andrew Sullivan, who believe it is legal and Constitutional for Obama to do this — want more than anyone else for courts to adjudicate its legality?

  Glenn Greenwald
Say the plaintiffs:
"We filed a case two years ago related to the contemplated killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. This case is different because that killing has taken place. It's not an injunctive case. It's not seeking an injunction for something that might happen in the future, but accountability for something that has happened already.

"The main reason we're bringing the case," Jaffer continued, "is to get some kind of accountability, in the most basic sense of the word. The government has killed three of its citizens and we think the government has to account for its actions, first to acknowledge, then to explain.

"We believe that if you accept that the government has the authority to kill its own citizens without acknowledging its actions, you have set up an authority that will one day be abused. Once you create this power, this power will sit around available to every single future president.

"It is a wrongful death lawsuit, which means that it is a damages lawsuit. In U.S. courts, there are two vehicles: one is injunctive, the other is for damages. We've already filed an injunctive lawsuit. This is for damages.

  Tom Junod
Good for you, but you won't win.

And...”one day” the authority will be abused? I think it already has been. That's why you're filing the lawsuit.

Tom Toles

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Gutter Politics

Do we have any other kind?
[The] candidate who ran on “hope” in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent.

In a move that will make some Democrats shudder, Obama’s high command has even studied former President George W. Bush’s 2004 takedown of Sen. John Kerry, a senior campaign adviser told POLITICO, for clues on how a president with middling approval ratings can defeat a challenger.

“Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney,” said a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House.

  Politico
Republican strategist Karl Rove called President Obama’s recent attacks on GOP candidate Mitt Romney “gutter politics of the worst Chicago sort” and said the campaign is making a big mistake.

  Nation
And who knows gutter politics better than Karl Rove? I thought the Obama campaign had maybe hired him.

Eight Years That Did Nothing to Change Him

“Eight years was awesome and I was famous and I was powerful,” Bush told the Hoover Institute’s Peter Robinson.
  Politico
And you thought the 2009 Onion article was a joke. It was prophecy is what it was:
"I was president," murmured Bush, his mind returning again and again to the thought of "eight years" as he emitted a series of short, guttural laughs that reportedly grew in volume the longer he lingered on his time in office. "That was what I did for a living. Me. George W. Bush. For almost a decade."

"I did that," Bush added. "As my job."

[...]

Bush was then reportedly further tickled by the thought that he once had the authority to issue a televised address to the entire nation on a whim, gain an audience with any foreign leader he pleased, and launch all of the country's 2,700 active nuclear warheads at once, as these are all privileges reserved for the president of the United States, which is what George W. Bush was for two consecutive four-year terms.

"Whew! That's a hell of a thing," said Bush.

  The Onion

Regarding Romney

Jon Stewart went to town on Mitt Romney. Dependable Renegade has it in videos.

Because What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Two Harvard engineers are planning to spray thousands of tonnes of sun-reflecting chemical particles into the atmosphere to artificially cool the planet, using a balloon flying 80,000 feet over Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

The field experiment in solar geoengineering aims to ultimately create a technology to replicate the observed effects of volcanoes that spew sulphates into the stratosphere, using sulphate aerosols to bounce sunlight back to space and decrease the temperature of the Earth.

  Raw Story
Why cut back on carbon emissions and such corporation hassles when you can spray shit in the air to create a fake barrier (and patent the process)?

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Modern Conservative Punditry

Charlie Pierce nails it when speaking of the young conservative talking heads (and some not-so-young, too):
T]his afternoon, as the program [The Cycle on MSNBC] was winding down, [young pundit S.E.] Cupp spent a good four minutes being, weight for age, the dumbest person in the history of cable television.

[…]

Talking about the president's tax proposal, Ms. Cupp rather loosely termed the president's tax policy "collectivist." [...] Kornacki gently reminded her that an increase in the marginal income tax tax rate is a lot of things — including, to my mind, a pretty good idea, but no matter — but it is in no way "collectivist," if English words have any meaning in, you know, English. Kornacki asked, quite reasonably, whether Ms. Cup believed the country was in the grip of a collectvist regime when Dwight Eisenhower was president and the marginal rate was in the 70's. He then asked her if she thought Bill Clinton, who got passed the rates to which the current president is trying to return, was a "collectivist." She then said, "No." This caused Kornacki to take on the general mien of a man who has spent five minutes arguing tax policy with a marmoset. Ms. Cupp then started flapping her gums about this president's "political" philosophy of taking your salary and making it belong to everyone, or somebody or something. I lost a few minutes because I heard a high whistle and everything went black.

I remain convinced that American conservative thought is now not a philosophy but, rather, a book of spells, a series of conjuring words that have meaning only to the initiates.

  Charles Pierce
I'm not even sure it has meaning to them.  They just spout words they've heard and read from other conservatives, whether they know the meaning of the them or not, or, if they do, whether they are appropriate or not.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

The Big Dick Is Loose Again

And hinting at future attacks.
It’s too bad the term drone attack has come to have any meaning other than that of Former Unofficial President Dick Cheney going on and on in his sonorous monotone, doing his Mr. Gravitas routine and trying to put a glaze of sanity on his strategic “thinking” by putting a glaze on the viewers’ eyes.

His latest public appearance, at a fundraiser he hosted for Mitt Romney, he needed to come up with some rationale for backing a man with no foreign policy experience whatsoever, and so into the ol’ chestnut bin he dug. Mitt Romney will be better in a crisis! “Sooner or later there is going to be a big surprise, usually a very unpleasant one.”
  Tom Toles
And when Mitt asks him to find a suitable running mate – voila! Dick Cheney is Vice President again!  And together they have all the extra executive powers Barack Obama has grabbed for the presidency.

Finishing touches on the Empire.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Science of Morality

Long known as a female reproductive hormone – it plays a central role in childbirth and breastfeeding – oxytocin emerges from [Paul] Zak’s research as something much more all-embracing: the “moral molecule” behind all human virtue, trust, affection and love, “a social glue”, as he puts it, “that keeps society together”. The subtitle of his book, “the new science of what makes us good or evil”, gives a sense of the scale of his ambition, which involves nothing less than explaining whole swaths of philosophical and religious questions by reference to a single chemical in the bloodstream. Being treated decently, it turns out, causes people’s oxytocin levels to go up, which in turn prompts them to behave more decently, while experimental subjects given an artificial oxytocin boost – by means of an inhaler – behave more generously and trustingly.

[...]

What counts is being trusted: trust in one person triggers oxytocin in the other, which triggers more trustworthy behaviour, and so on, in a virtuous circle. “Well, that’s except for the 5% of people who are ‘unconditional non-reciprocators’,” says Zak, referring to the consistent minority of people who seem immune to this cycle. “What we call them in my lab is ‘bastards’.”

  Raw Story
Because that's what they are. Many of them reside in New York City. Many in Washington, DC.  A great number of them in the Galveston-Houston area.  (Surely it's more than 5%.)
[The] fact that natural selection has given us oxytocin – a mechanism that allows us to be instinctively trusting and kind – suggests that what most of us think of as “moral” is, in fact, part of how we have evolved to be. […] The Golden Rule – treat others as you’d like to be treated – is, Zak writes, “a lesson that the body already knows”.
They'll be ripping Zak apart in Sunday Schools all over the country.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's Sunday




Wait for it.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

It's Sunday

And a big Amen to the Episcopal Church which has approved a rite for blessing same-sex unions. (78% lay approval, 76% clergy approval)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Nice Work

Love today's Gustav Klimt Google tribute:


That's one of my favorite Klimt works.  ("The Kiss") The colors are  appealing to me.

I like these, too.

  

Actually, it would be difficult to find one I don't like.

Dear old Gustav.  He was mad wasn't he?  Doped up is a good possibility.  Sexually obsessed is another. 




                                    
  


P.S.  Gustav:



P.P.S.  This painting sold in 2006 to a New York gallery for $135 million.


 
That would look good in my house, if you're wondering what to get me for Christmas.

Big Brother

[NSA whistleblower William] Binney, who resigned from the NSA in 2001 over its domestic surveillance program, had just delivered a keynote speech in which he revealed what [journalist Geoff] Shively called “evidence which we have not seen until this point.”

“They’re pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country … and assembling that information,” Binney explained. “So government is accumulating that kind of information about every individual person and it’s a very dangerous process.” He estimated that something like 1.6 billion logs have been processed since 2001.
  Raw Story
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Excuse Me?

Medicare payments for penis pumps have skyrocketed by 500% over the last decade, going from $7.2 million in 2000 to over $36 million in 2011, and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been busy looking into allegations of fraud.
  Raw Story
Fraud?  Why is Medicare even paying for penis pumps? Can I get a face lift on Medicare?

Friday, July 13, 2012

9/11 - What the Bush Administration Knew

I was in the midst of moving and not blogging when the latest NSA documents regarding 9/11 and the Bush administration's response were released. If you missed it, you can read it here.

Among other complaints, I want to lodge this one:  the Bush Administration claims they simply had to torture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and that the torture produced good intelligence (neither claim is true), but then, they did nothing with the information they had, which included seven CIA briefings from June to September 2001 indicating in no uncertain terms that they believed Bin Laden was going to attack at any time.  Of course, George was on vacation the entire month of August, and no one wanted to interrupt him, but that doesn't explain why he went on vacation during the time Bin Laden was known to be actively pursuing an attack.  Unless...

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Compassion Has Little to Do with Human Euthanasia Rights


Of course, that's only because the drug companies haven't yet managed to buy a law that forces us to put our pets on life support.

Wikileaks Victory - In Iceland

Whistleblower website WikiLeaks achieved its first major legal victory in a pushback against the U.S.-led financial blockade that’s crippled the publication and sapped more than 95 percent of its resources since 2010.

In a ruling by the Reykjavík District Court in Iceland, credit card processing company Valitor, partner of both Visa and MasterCard, is required to un-block future payments to WikiLeaks within the next two weeks or face $6,000 in fines every additional day it delays.
  Raw Story

Is $6,000 a day much of an incentive? It would be for me, but I don't know about a credit card processing company.

Still Digging

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney may be guilty of federal felony if he lied to the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) about when he ceded control of Bain Capital, President Barack Obama’s campaign suggested on Thursday.

The Boston Globe reported on Thursday that SEC documents showed that Romney continued to serve as Bain’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” until 2002 — even though he has repeatedly claimed that he left the company in 1999.

In an attempt to defend against claims that Romney was Bain’s CEO during the period that the company invested in firms that moved American jobs to countries like China, FactCheck.org may have accidentally revealed that the GOP candidate committed a “federal felony.”
  Raw Story
(Why is federal felony in quotes, Raw Story guys?)

Plus...
The director to the NAACP’s Washington Bureau revealed on Thursday that GOP hopeful Mitt Romney had conservative African Americans “flown in” to the 103rd convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to make it appear that he had more support than he really did.
  Raw Story
And just yesterday Mitt was ingratiating himself to his white audience saying that those darkies he talked to the day before should understand nothing's really free.  He didn't say, "except air travel for my supporters."

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway. Because Mitt Romney knows that it doesn't matter what he says or does. Elections are rigged.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

House Circle Jerk

In Congress today, there were 244 bishops bopped, bolognas beaten, weeds bled, beefsteaks bludgeoned, chickens choked, shanks cranked, as well dolphins, mules, eggmen, and logs flogged. Meanwhile, 185 flounders went sensibly unpounded.

This is your democracy, America. Cherish it.

  Charles Pierce

If you don't know what Charlie is talking about in this post, read this one.

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Here's Your Explanation

Why the Obama Administration won't even acknowledge certain killings: they've made a deal with whatever country they're killing in not to acknowledge it so that the leader of that country doesn't have to look like the puppet he is. So that's okay then.

...and hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

AMEN

Yes, what's happening with the Farm Bill in the House of Representative is a moral disaster. A $9 billion new subsidy that is paid for by cutting two million families off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program? In the middle of an ongoing recession and with eight percent unemployment? Anybody who votes for this and insists on still calling themselves a Christian should be stoned. But, morality aside, which is pretty much the way we're running the economy as a whole these days, this doesn't even make a lick of pragmatic sense. Keep people fed and you keep people employed. The money from the SNAP program doesn't go into a vault in the Caymans; practically all of it goes right back into the economy, where it helps keep people employed in grocery stores and sundry shops.

As I said, the blog is not an economist, but it will hazard a guess that this notion that you can run an economy without demand took hold when we handed the entire financial world over to people who don't actually sell anything except debt, and risk, and other people's money, and their own arrogant genius, and a lot of other intangible things like that. I hear an awful lot from The Business Community about how politicians don't understand or appreciate their true unleavened genius. Is there any economist propounding this balderdash who's ever actually had a job selling anything more substantial than his own bullshit? You can't run a business if nobody can afford to be your customers.

  Charles Pierce
This is a mock government we have now -- a succession of events so fundamentally detached from reality that it's a wonder the people engaging in them don't arrive at the House chambers on the backs of unicorns.

  Charles Pierce

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ooops

The CDC officer had a serious warning for Florida health officials in April: A tuberculosis outbreak in Jacksonville was one of the worst his group had investigated in 20 years. Linked to 13 deaths and 99 illnesses, including six children, it would require concerted action to stop.

That report had been penned on April 5, exactly nine days after Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill that shrank the Department of Health and required the closure of the A.G. Holley State Hospital in Lantana, where tough tuberculosis cases have been treated for more than 60 years.
  Palm Beach Post

Counterterrorism Is a Broad Term

In pre-dawn darkness, a ­Toyota Land Cruiser skidded off a bridge in North Africa in the spring, plunging into the Niger River. When rescuers arrived, they found the bodies of three U.S. Army commandos — alongside three dead women.

What the men were doing in the impoverished country of Mali, and why they were still there a month after the United States suspended military relations with its government, is at the crux of a mystery that officials have not fully explained even 10 weeks later.

[...]

Mali, U.S. military personnel had ceased all training and civil-affairs work by the end of March, about a week after the country’s democratically elected president was overthrown in a military coup.

The military’s Africa Command, which oversees operations on the continent, said the three service members killed were among “a small number of personnel” who had been aiding the Malian military before the coup and had remained in the country to “provide assistance to the U.S. Embassy” and “maintain situational awareness on the unfolding events.”

[...]

The women killed in the wreck were identified as Moroccan prostitutes who had been riding with the soldiers, according to a senior Army official and a U.S. counterterrorism consultant briefed on the incident, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

[...]

At the very least, the April 20 accident exposed a team of Special Operations forces that had been working for months in Mali, a Saharan country racked by civil war and a rising Islamist insurgency. More broadly, the crash has provided a rare glimpse of elite U.S. commando units in North Africa, where they have been secretly engaged in counterterrorism actions against al-Qaeda affiliates.
  WaPo
Counterterrorism? With hookers?

...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

As Though Voting Elects a President

Under Section 5 [of the Voting Rights Act], and because of their thoroughgoing cleverness through the decades at devising strategies to deprive African Americans of their right to vote, several Southern states, including Texas, are required to obtain pre-clearance from the Department of Justice for any change in their voting procedures. Texas is challenging Section 5 and, through it, de facto, the entire enforcement mechanism of the VRA, which has been a burr under the butt of Southern states ever since they lost the right to segregate their societies in court.

To be sure, this is just another front in the national effort to suppress the vote that we've seen in many places, north and south. But the challenge to the VRA gives this particular case a certain urgency. The Supreme Court already has upheld a voter-ID law in Indiana, but Indiana is not one of the states covered under Section 5 and, thus, the provisions of the VRA were not in play in that case. The stakes are much higher here.

[...]

Texas law [...] occasioned no little hilarity because, under its provisions, a college student ID is not valid for voting purposes, but a state gun license is.

[...]

The 15th Amendment specifically protects the right to vote from actions "by any state." Only political considerations, and inexcusable institutional racism, allowed the states in question to behave the way they did for as long as they did. In 1965. because of the incalculable courage of people like John Lewis, and the indefatigable political will of Lyndon Johnson, those paper guarantees from 1870 were finally, as LBJ himself put it, "written in the book of law."

[...]

It is unlikely that Section 5 — and, thus, the VRA — will fall in the current case, but several lawsuits challenging it seem fast-tracked to the next term of the United States Supreme Court, which earlier had expressed some skepticism over whether or not the disputed sections of the VRA were, in fact, constitutional.

[...]

Sooner or later, it appears, the VRA is going to turn up in front of the Supreme Court and we'll see how liberal John Roberts really is.

CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE & ONGOING COVERAGE OF THE VOTING-RIGHTS CHALLENGE
  Charlie Pierce
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

United We Fall

Can we have a discussion now about how truly bad most of these guys are at their jobs?

Jindal's virtually handed over public education in Louisiana to charlatans and Christian nutballs. Scott Walker's going out marching in Fourth of July Parades wearing an American flag shirt made overseas a week after a Wisconsin company that makes American flags goes bankrupt. And Rick Scott is closing the hospital housing Florida's only tuberculosis treatment smack in the middle of the state's biggest tuberculosis outbreak in 20 years. And Rick Perry, who never met a big idea he wouldn't cover with barbecue sauce and try to eat, has decided that he will fight federal intervention in his state's ghastly health-care system by taking a stand that will guarantee that the federal government takes over even more of it.

"We've got some of the finest health care in the world," he said. "So the idea that this federal government, which doesn't like Texas to begin with, to pick and choose and come up with some data and say somehow Texas has the worst health care system in the world is just fake and false on its face."

[...]

I was in Iowa at the end of last summer when everybody in Republican circles was positively sweating from their teeth for Governor Rick Perry of Texas to get into the presidential race. Then he got in and everybody noticed quite quickly that the man was even a bigger box of rocks than the last governor of Texas to run for president, and even the current Republican electorate realized that "Even Dumber Than George W. Bush" was no way to go through life, or the presidency, son, so Perry got to go back to Texas and be egregiously dumb there for a spell.

And you can't say the man didn't grasp the opportunity.
  Charlie Pierce
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.