Thursday, January 31, 2013

Interesting

President Barack Obama violated the Constitution when he bypassed the Senate last year to appoint three members of the National Labor Relations Board, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in a far-reaching decision that could severely limit a chief executive's powers to make recess appointments.

[...]

The court [found] that under the Constitution, a recess occurs only during the breaks between formal year-long sessions of Congress, not just any informal break when lawmakers leave town. It also held that presidents can bypass the Senate only when administration vacancies occur during a recess.

  NYT

Good.

If it stands, it could invalidate hundreds of board decisions over the past year, including some that make it easier for unions to organize.

Not so good.

"The decision is novel and unprecedented," [White House press secretary Jay] Carney said. "It contradicts 150 years of practice by Democratic and Republican administrations."

So it's about time they stopped getting away with it.

The Justice Department hinted that the administration would ask the Supreme Court to overturn the decision, which was rendered by three conservative judges appointed by Republican presidents.

That's going to be sticky.

I'm Just Guessing

[S]tudies in Canada and Britain have shown that drivers on pot are actually safer drivers than not only drunk drivers but sober drivers, too.

  Charlie Pierce

They slow down and they don't get road rage?

Ouch.

Beyoncé Knowles admitted [...] that she had lip-synched her performance of the national anthem at President Obama's inauguration.

[...]

"His inauguration was, unfortunately, at a time when I could not rehearse with the orchestra, actually, because I was practicing for the Super Bowl. So it was always the plan," Beyonce added.

  The Hill

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

Raw? Baked, More Like It

Who was in charge of choosing the pictures to go with the headlines at Raw Story today?


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

Brilliant

Missouri first-graders would have to take a gun safety course under a bill being considered by a state Senate committee.

Sen. Dan Brown, a Republican from Rolla, outlined his proposal Tuesday for the chamber's General Laws Committee. No one spoke in opposition, and the committee did not vote on it.

The bill would mandate the teaching of the National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program in every first-grade classroom.

  NewsNet5

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

h/t Jean

Why Do I Get the Feeling...

...that Blacks are not welcome here?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

John Kerry at State

The only things keeping the nomination of John Kerry as the next Secretary Of State from being unanimous were the votes of the toweringly embarrassing senatorial delegation from the state of Texas, and the dumber half of the senatorial delegation from Oklahoma, which, incidentally, makes the delegation from Texas look like the Congress of Vienna. That he failed to convince John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, and James Inhofe of his qualifications as the country's top diplomat is no disgrace. In fact, it's the strongest argument in favor of Kerry's getting the hell out of Dodge after 28 years in the Senate. Even negotiating with armed lunatics around the world has got to be easier than trying to treat with the many odd critters cavorting through the Inhofe cabeza.

[...]

Kerry's political imagination is global; he is likely to treat climate change as part of his portfolio as Secretary of State the way he treated BCCI as part of his portfolio as a senator. [...] He knows better than most the limits of American power because he was there when they were tested and found criminally wanting, and he was there to test them himself when he came home. Throughout his careers, he has been manifestly distrustful of the culture of secrecy bred by the national security state. He has questioned its operations and its operatives. He has tried to chase down its crimes. He has followed its money. He may not be willing or able to keep this president from tip-toeing right up to the line of covert savagery, but there is nobody more capable of explaining the consequences, or of laying out, in detail, what might come next. John Kerry knows how black ops can turn blood-red, how covert activities become overt combat. He is an expert on how countries delude themselves into wars. That may be enough.

  Charlie Pierce

Or not.

Or, he may suddenly become a backer of all things status quo in the executive branch. We shall see.

So What?

Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins caught up with [Dck] Cheney over the week at the Safari Club International convention for gun owners and manufacturers, where the former vice president and his daughter, Liz, participated in a discussion about gun rights and the realism of torture in the film “Zero Dark Thirty.” Cheney told Jenkins that he was “worried” about President Barack Obama’s efforts to increase gun safety.

[...]

“I think the concern is very real and very legitimate, that the administration sometimes isn’t as cautious or as precise, if you will,” Cheney opined.

  Raw Story

This from the man who shot a hunting companion in the face.

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

In the Name of (Inter)National Security

Niger has given permission for US surveillance drones to be stationed on its territory to improve intelligence on al Qaeda-linked fighters in northern Mali and the wider Sahara, according to a senior government source.

[...]

Niger will be the sixth African nation to have a US drone base. Other countries with drone bases include: Morocco, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Djibouti.

  alJazeera

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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Losing Our Democracy

Much of the attention paid to the ongoing war on democracy taking place in the states has to do with the consequences of rigged redistricting, the finagling with the electoral college, and the fragging of organized labor. All of those are important and worthy of notice. But it is in these little things where the real damage is done.

[...]

Among other things, you can no longer sit quietly in the galleries of the Wisconsin legislature and use your laptop. You cannot read a book or a newspaper. And you damn sure can't make your displeasure felt. No pictures, either. So if your state rep is down there taking a check from the mining company, and then he goes dancing down the aisle waving the check over his head and screaming like a chicken, you can't film him and show it at your next community action meeting. Sit down. Shut up.

  Charlie Pierce

Second Term: No Posing for ReElection

So now do we get Gitmo closed?

[The reason] Senators such as [Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders] voted against funding GITMO's closing wasn't because they were afraid to support its closing. It was because they refused to fund the closing until they saw Obama's specific plan, because they did not want to support the importation of GITMO's indefinite detention system onto US soil, as Obama expressly intended.

[...]

Obama's plan was never to close GITMO as much as it was to re-locate it to Illinois: to what the ACLU dubbed "GITMO North". That's why ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said of Obama's 2009 "close-GITMO" plan that it "is hardly a meaningful step forward" and that "while the Obama administration inherited the Guantánamo debacle, this current move is its own affirmative adoption of those policies." That's because, he said, "the administration plans to continue its predecessor's policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial for some detainees, with only a change of location."

  Glenn Greenwald

But you can bet that if he succeeds in getting it relocated, he and his cheerleaders will claim bragging rights for having closed Guantánamo.

The New York Times' John Harwood this morning reports that "for all the talk that President Obama has shifted leftward, much of his early second-term energy seeks simply to preserve the status quo." Really? Obama is an agent of status quo perpetuation? But he just gave (another) really pretty liberal speech. Is it possible that there's no correlation between his pretty speeches and his actual beliefs and actions?

Surely not. Surely this time we can believe in change.

The State Department on Monday reassigned Daniel Fried, the special envoy for closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and will not replace him, according to an internal personnel announcement. Mr. Fried’s office is being closed, and his former responsibilities will be “assumed” by the office of the department’s legal adviser, the notice said.

The announcement that no senior official in President Obama’s second term will succeed Mr. Fried in working primarily on diplomatic issues pertaining to repatriating or resettling detainees appeared to signal that the administration does not currently see the closing of the prison as a realistic priority, despite repeated statements that it still intends to do so.

  NYT

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

Sunday, January 27, 2013

It's Sunday

A chain of Catholic Hospitals has beaten a malpractice lawsuit by saying that fetuses are not equivalent to human lives.

  Raw Story

Really? So....abortion is okay then?

Lori Stodghill was seven months pregnant with twin boys on the day she died. [...] Stodghill was admitted to the Emergency Room at St. Thomas More Hospital complaining of nausea, vomiting and shortness of breath. She lost consciousness as she was being wheeled into an exam room and ER staff were unable to resuscitate her.

[...]

Frantic ER personnel had paged Stodghill’s doctor, obstetrician Pelham Staples, but the doctor never answered. A wrongful-death suit filed on the twins’ behalf by Stodghill’s husband, corrections officer Jeremy Stodghill, maintained that Staples should have made it to the hospital or ordered an emergency cesarian section by phone in order to save the 7-month-old fetuses.

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

Fetuses are precious giftpersons from the baby Jesus unless that principle happens to cost us a buck. Matthew 21: 12-13, beeyotches.

  Charlie Pierce

It's Sunday

Behind a disguised offshore company structure, the [Vatican]’s international portfolio has been built up over the years, using cash originally handed over by Mussolini in return for papal recognition of the Italian fascist regime in 1929.

[...]

The Mussolini money was dramatically important to the Vatican’s finances. John Pollard, a Cambridge historian, says in Money and the Rise of the Modern Papacy: “The papacy was now financially secure. It would never be poor again.”

[...]

When war broke out, with the prospect of a German invasion, the Luxembourg operation and ostensible control of the British Grolux operation were moved to the US and to neutral Switzerland.

[...]

While secrecy about the Fascist origins of the papacy’s wealth might have been understandable in wartime, what is less clear is why the Vatican subsequently continued to maintain secrecy about its holdings in Britain, even after its financial structure was reorganised in 1999.

The Guardian asked the Vatican’s representative in London, the papal nuncio, archbishop Antonio Mennini, why the papacy continued with such secrecy over the identity of its property investments in London. We also asked what the pope spent the income on. True to its tradition of silence on the subject, the Roman Catholic church’s spokesman said that the nuncio had no comment.

[...]

[The] international value of Mussolini’s nest-egg has mounted until it now exceeds £500m. In 2006, at the height of the recent property bubble, the Vatican spent £15m of those funds to buy 30 St James’s Square. Other UK properties are at 168 New Bond Street and in the city of Coventry. It also owns blocks of flats in Paris and Switzerland.

  Raw Story

Is that where it stashes the pedophile priests?

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

Friday, January 25, 2013

The "TransCanada" Pipeline Is Inevitable

If you understand how short-sighted, self-interested American politicians have become.

Alas, though, the fix seems to be in. The wheels of the giant Not Giving A Damn machine in our nation's capital seem thoroughly greased. You can tell because the 53 senators — including two utterly useless Democrats — aren't even trying to come up with good lies anymore.

  Charlie Pierce

Really, you should read this whole article.

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

They're Not the Boss of Us

Ben Emmerson QC, UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, announced on Thursday that he will head an inquiry examining the impact of drone strikes on civilian populations in five countries; Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and Somalia.

  RawStory

The UN is really trying to get kicked out of New York, isn't it?

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

Just What We Really Needed

A smart phone app for iPhone and Android shows men how the size of their penis compares to other men’s in the world. According to U.K. technology magazine TNT, the app is designed to help men find a better fitting condom.

  Raw Story

Sure it is. Because that would help.

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

P.S. The rumors are true.

Men in Congo came out on top in the Ulster study.

The Stupid Never Stops

David Frum, one of the silver tongues who cajoled this nation to war during the George W. Bush Administration believes that officially allowing women in combat roles, as outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced he would yesterday, would be detrimental to the military because they will get raped by Iranians, Pakistanis and Afghanis.

  Raw Story

I guess I don't have to tell you...

Every year in the U.S. military, an estimated 16,150 women soldiers are sexually assaulted by their colleagues.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The American Way

Making my morning coffee, I always turn on NPR.  Today, I was treated to two American food industry stories. 

One was about a lawsuit that some dairy farmers have brought against their representative organization - Dairy Farmers of America, whose CEOs are paid multi-million-dollar annual salaries - for making a deal in favor of a milk processor over the dairy farmers.  The association finally offered a multi-million dollar settlement (on the actual eve of trial of course) with the caveat that they be allowed to say they did nothing wrong. 

The other story was about tomatoes.  Florida tomato growers are asking Congress to remove the price regulations on Mexican tomatoes, which are set so that Mexican growers can't undersell Florida growers. "Why would they want that?" you ask.  And it's a good question.  The answer is:  People are buying more Mexican ripened on the vine tomatoes, and sales of Florida's ripened with ethylene gas tomatoes are declining rapidly.  Since Florida growers can't or won't compete by selling ripened on the vine tomatoes, and people don't like the taste of their crappy product, they're losing business.  What happens if they get the price regulations removed is that they can then sue Mexican growers for "dumping" product - even if the Mexican growers are not dumping (selling product for less than it costs to produce it).  The lawsuit would allow the US government to impose punitive tariffs on Mexico for this supposed dumping, making the Mexican tomatoes more expensive.   The US Commerce department is appearing to side with the Florida growers, of course.  Interestingly, Wal-Mart is siding with Mexican growers.  They know their consumers, eh?

I don't know where California tomato growers are in this.  They weren't mentioned in the story.  At harvest time, the Sacramento Valley tomato fields make that whole area smell like Campbells soup.  I know a great deal of their tomatoes are sold for processing and canning, so maybe that's the difference.  Maybe they're not producing tomatoes for the table so much. 

I suspect the upshot of a successful bid by the Florida growers would be that people just pay more for Mexican tomatoes.  I don't think they'll decide to go back to Florida crap tomatoes.  That's based on my own preference, however, which has been in place since I left the farm as a kid and was faced with whatever those tasteless pink rubber things were in the grocery store that were sold as tomatoes.  I just quit eating tomatoes. 

I can only suggest that if you can't grow your own, you buy at your local farmers market whenever you can. 

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

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dad

MLK Day: Would King Approve of Obama's Presidency?

"Max Blumenthal suggested that Obama's second inaugural speech be entitled 'I have a drone.' "

Obama's policies are a manifestation of exactly the militaristic mindset which King so eloquently denounced.

[...]

The civil rights achievements of Martin Luther King are quite justly the focus of the annual birthday commemoration of his legacy. But it is remarkable, as I've noted before on this holiday, how completely his vehement anti-war advocacy is ignored when commemorating his life (just as his economic views are). By King's own description, his work against US violence and militarism, not only in Vietnam but generally, was central - indispensable - to his worldview and activism, yet it has been almost completely erased from how he is remembered.

King argued for the centrality of his anti-militarism advocacy most eloquently on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City - exactly one year before the day he was murdered. That extraordinary speech was devoted to answering his critics who had been complaining that his anti-war activism was distracting from his civil rights work ("Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask?"). King, citing seven independent reasons, was adamant that ending US militarism and imperialism was not merely a moral imperative in its own right, but a prerequisite to achieving any meaningful reforms in American domestic life.

In that speech, King called the US government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today", as well as the leading exponent of "the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long" (is there any surprise this has been whitewashed from his legacy?). He emphasized that his condemnations extended far beyond the conflict in Southeast Asia: "the war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit." He insisted that no significant social problem - wealth inequality, gun violence, racial strife - could be resolved while the US remains "a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift" - a recipe, he said, for certain "spiritual death".

  Glenn Greenwald

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

RIP Stan the Man


http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/cardinals-hall-famer-stan-musial-dies-age-92-18260677

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It's Sunday

I didn't vote for Jimmy Carter.  His out-front references to his religion bothered me too much.  But I admit, I was wrong about him. 

Here's the thing: while in my lifetime religion has been allowed to play a bigger and bigger role in our presidential election process, and each president gives more lip service than the last to Christianity during his campaign, none of them actually behave like Christ.  Their careers are all about the power and the money.  And when they're done presidentin', they embed themselves in the corporate/financial world, and perhaps put their name on a charitable project or two. 

Not Jimmy Carter.  Jimmy Carter, at age 88, has been walking the walk since the day he left the oval office.  He's out in the world literally, physically, doing the good works that the others give lip service to when it seems politically necessary. 

I sometimes wonder how he ever got to the presidency in the first place.  Was he more of a politician and less of a humanitarian back in his political career?  I don't know.  But, good on you, Jimmy Carter - the only major US political figure I'm aware of who has the right to call himself a Christian.  And you never hear him mention it. 

Thank God for Those Handy Exemptions

The administration of President Barack Obama is completing a counterterrorism manual that will establish clear rules for targeted-killing operations, The Washington Post reported.

But citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper said the guidebook would contain a major exemption for the CIA’s campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan.

This exemption will allow the Central Intelligence Agency to continue striking Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan for a year or more before the agency is forced to comply with more stringent rules spelled out in the document, the report said.

  Raw Story

And I assume the “rules” can be changed in the future when it's not Pakistan we're drone bombing, but some other country....but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

When Do We Talk About This?


Although in the 1990s the average number of attacks [by far-right groups and individuals] per year was 70.1, the average number of attacks per year in the first 11 years of the twenty-first century was 307.5, a rise of more than 400%.

  Combating Terrorism Center at West Point Military Academy Study 11/22: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right

This may be explained, as the West Point study suggests:

Findings indicate that contentious and conservative political environments as well as the political empowerment are positively associated with the volume of violence; thus, it is not only feelings of deprivation that motivate those involved in far right violence, but also the sense of empowerment that emerges when the political system is perceived to be increasingly permissive to far right ideas.

Speaking of Too Much Money

Here's an interesting little story about a cat named Orlando compared to investment bankers in a study to see how various strategies fared when investing your money.  Hint:  use a cat.

There Is Such a Thing As Having Too Much Money

The $240 billion net income of the world's 100 richest billionaires would have ended poverty four times over, according to the London-based group [Oxfam]'s report released on Saturday.

[...]

The group says that the world's richest one percent have seen their income increase by 60 percent in the last 20 years, with the latest world financial crisis only serving to hasten, rather than hinder, the process.

[...]

"We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true," said Jeremy Hobbs, an executive director at Oxfam.

[...]

In a statement, Oxfam warned that "extreme wealth and income is not only unethical it is also economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive."

[...]

Closing tax havens, the group said, could yield an additional $189bn in additional tax revenues. According to Oxfam's figures, as much as $32 trillion is currently stored in tax havens.

  alJazeera

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

It's Sunday

A Republican lawmaker in California who disagrees with President Barack Obama’s effort to prevent mass shootings says that guns are an “absolutely essential” part of God’s plan.

[...]

“They are used to defend our property and our families and our faith and our freedom, and they are absolutely essential to living the way God intended for us to live.”

  Raw Story

Which is why on the eigth day, God created guns.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Here's What I Think I Know About Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz had to die to become an internet hero. In fact, Aaron Swartz had to kill himself to become an internet  hero. Aaron Swartz may have had a history of depression, but no one has given any evidence of that, and maybe the opposite. Aaron Swartz hacked into MIT's computer storage to download articles that had previously been available for free with no intention to make any money from them. MIT decided to make an example of him, and hard-nosed prosecutors decided that an offer of four to six months in federal prison was a good alternative to the 35 years they could have asked for.

[Boston Globe columnist Joan] Vennochi seems convinced that this was purely an act of civil disobedience and that civil disobedience must needs include jail time — but once we get to the condescension, the piece goes completely off the rails.
An emotion-soaked perspective is understandable from those closest to Swartz. But the widespread revulsion directed at the U.S. Attorney's office is overreach by cyberbullies. Defense lawyers would love to see federal prosecutors back down from other criminal cases.
Lord above, what a crock. I wouldn't have known Aaron Swartz if he'd sat in my lap. I had to have one of my children explain to me what Reddit was the other night. (Yes, I am an idiot. Please proceed.) But I've been around enough courthouses to recognize political ambition in a federal prosecutor when I see it. I've been around enough courthouses to recognize where the real power to bully someone comes from, and it doesn't come from law professors saying mean things about people on the Intertoobz. It comes from the FBI, and a couple dozen federal law-enforcement agencies, and the power to throw people — even for a "mere" six months — into the federal pokey. Every federal prosecution doesn't have to be balls-to-the-wall. You don't have to have known Aaron Swartz to conclude with good reason that the U.S. Attorney had an agenda here beyond simply keeping secure some JSTOR files, or maintaining the integrity of the broom closets at MIT. This is especially true when you examine the bill of particulars put together about [US Attorney] Ortiz and her office by media critic Dan Kennedy on his blog the other day. Ortiz, whom Vennochi seems hellbent on protecting from the slings and arrows of cybermeanies, knows the political value of being "tough on crime."

  Charlie Pierce

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

We're Like a Strip Club with a Million Bouncers and No Strippers



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

Gun Security in Schools

What could possibly go wrong?

Air Travel Will Get Slightly Easier in June

Those airport scanners with their all-too revealing body images will soon be going away. The Transportation Security Administration says the scanners that used a low-dose X-ray will be gone by June because the company that makes them can't fix the privacy issues. The other airport body scanners, which produce a generic outline instead of a naked image, are staying.

[...]

At first, both types of scanners showed travelers naked. The idea was that security workers could spot both metallic objects like guns as well as non-metallic items such as plastic explosives. The scanners also showed every other detail of the passenger's body, too.

[...]

Congress ordered that the scanners either produce a more generic image or be removed by June.

On Thursday Rapiscan, the maker of the X-ray, or backscatter, scanner, acknowledged that it wouldn't be able to meet the June deadline.

[...]

The agency's statement also said the remaining scanners will move travelers through more quickly, meaning faster lanes at the airport. Those scanners, made by L-3 Communications, used millimeter waves to make an image. The company was able to come up with software that no longer produced a naked image of a traveler's body.

[...]

The TSA will remove all 174 backscatter scanners from the 30 airports they're used in now. Another 76 are in storage.

[...]

Not all of the machines will be replaced. Castelveter said that some airports that now have backscatter scanners will go back to having metal detectors.

[...]

The government hadn't bought any [Rapiscan scanners] since 2011. It quietly removed them from seven major airports in October, including New York's LaGuardia and Kennedy airports, Chicago's O'Hare, and Los Angeles International. The TSA moved a handful of the X-ray scanners to very small airports. At the time, the agency said the switch was being made because millimeter-wave scanners moved passengers through faster.

  Denver Post

Of course what really happened is they knew that there would be fewer, less nationally noticed complaints from very small airports.

So watch for the Rapiscan manufacturer's label in your airport after June, and refuse to go through if you see one. It's illegal then by Congressional action.

Rapiscan parent company OSI Systems Inc. said it will help the TSA move the scanners to other government agencies.

[...]

"There's quite a few agencies which will have a great deal of interest" in the scanners, Edrick said.

"Quite a few?" 

Some of them will be going to prisons, where the belonged in the first place. Wouldn't want to waste taxpayer money.

Oh, what?

[Rapiscan parent company] OSI is taking a one-time charge of $2.7 million to cover the money spent trying to develop software to blur the image, and to move the machines out of airports, Edrick said.

The contract to change the software on the scanners came under scrutiny in November when the TSA delivered a "show cause" letter to the company looking into allegations that it falsified test data.

Rapiscan....is that with a short “a” as in “Rapid” or a long “a” as in “Rape”?

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

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why the ATF Is Really the AT

Aside from the fact there has been no permanent director for six years...


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

Further Update on the French Spy

Al-Shebab, the Somalian armed Islamist group, say they have executed a French intelligence agent who they had held captive since 2009.

The al-Qaeda linked group said they killed Denis Allex on Wednesday. French officials dispute the claim, saying they believe Allex was killed soon after a failed rescue attempt on Saturday.

  alJazeera

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Update on Failed Rescue of French Spy

The armed Islamist group al-Shabab has said it has decided to execute a French intelligence agent who has been held captive for three years and was the object of an unsuccessful rescue bid in Somalia on Saturday.

The al-Qaeda-linked group released a statement on Tuesday saying it had "reached a unanimous decision to execute the French intelligence officer, Denis Allex".

[...]

French officials had previously said that Allex, presumed to be an alias for the agent, was most likely killed by his captors during the failed rescue attempt, which left two French soldiers and 17 rebels dead.

French troops retrieved the bodies of one of the soldiers killed in the attack, and Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defence minister, said on Saturday that the other soldier was missing, presumed dead.

[...]

The statement released by al-Shabab on Tuesday said that the "commander" was severely injured during the attack and captured by the group, but later succumbed to his injures at a hospital. 

  alJazeera

”Most likely” and “presumed” are not attitudes I'd care my government to have toward my disappearance in enemy territory.

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Do We Need to Think About This a Little More?

Tests of the 30,000-pound (13,600-kilogram) Massive Ordnance Penetrator made by Boeing Co. (BA) demonstrated the redesigned weapon “is capable of effectively prosecuting selected hardened, deeply buried targets,” Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational testing, said in a report to Congress.

Pentagon officials have said the bomb could be used if the U.S. decides to attack Iran’s nuclear program, with its deeply buried and hardened Fordo uranium enrichment facility that holds a stockpile of enriched uranium.

While Gilmore didn’t mention any specific uses for the bomb, he said it is intended to hit targets “requiring significant penetration” that are located in “well-protected facilities.”

  Bloomberg

I'm guessing the first thing you thought of when you read that was, “Gee. I wonder what would happen if you hit a bunch of enriched uranium with a megabomb.

MLK: Jan 15, 1929 - Apr 04, 1968

Monday, January 14, 2013

Operation Fail

US president Barack Obama says American forces assisted in a failed attempt to rescue a French secret agent captured by insurgents in Somalia.

"United States combat aircraft briefly entered Somali airspace to support the rescue operation, if needed. These aircraft did not employ weapons during the operation," Obama said in his letter to to Congress on Sunday.

Obama said the troops provided limited technical support to French forces leading the operation on Friday.

The president sent the letter to US lawmakers to fulfil his obligations under the War Powers Resolution, which requires him to inform policy-makers within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action without congressional authorisation.

  alJazeera

"These aircraft did not employ weapons during the operation."  Did that have anything to do with the failure?


Obama said the operation was warranted to further US national security interests, and said US forces "took no direct part in the assault on the compound where it was believed the French citizen was being held hostage."

The French team was trying to free Denis Allex, held since 2009 by al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab, but insurgents apparently killed their hostage during the raid, along with a commando.

[...]

The French defense ministry said that 17 Somali fighters also died in the fight.

[...]

French officials say the hostage is almost certainly dead.

For his sake, I hope so.   [UPDATE 1/16]

But the al-Shabab militants denied Mr Le Drian's assertion that they had killed the hostage, a secret agent whose alias is Denis Allex, adding that they would decide his fate in two days and issuing a stern warning to Paris.

[...]

An al-Shabab statement said "in the end, it will be the French citizens who will inevitably taste the bitter consequences of their government's devil-may-care attitude towards hostages".

[...]

The al-Shabab statement said the French carried away "several" of their dead.

[...]

"Several French soldiers were killed in the battle and many more were injured before they fled from the scene of battle, leaving behind some military paraphernalia and even one of their comrades on the ground.

"The injured French soldier is now in the custody of the mujahedeen and Allex still remains safe and far from the location of the battle," the terrorist group said.

A Bulomarer resident, Idris Youssouf, said: "We don't know exactly what happened because the attack took place at night, but this morning we saw several corpses including that of a white man.

"Three civilians were also killed in the gunfight," he said.

  The Australian

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Heard on the Radio

"No one under the age of 27 has experienced a 'colder-than-average' month."

UPDATE:

It’s beyond astonishing primarily because it’s only half-true. The line Bump emphasized is referring to the “average temperature across land ocean surfaces” which means it’s a figure that applies to total global averages over the past 332 months. The way Bump is reading this—or at least the way he is conveying it—is that for 27 years no month anywhere on earth has been colder-than average.

This is not even remotely the case, though it certainly makes for an astonishing, alarmist headline.

[...]

Take, for instance, Northwest Ohio. This October marked the third consecutive colder-than-average month for the area. For the U.S. as a whole, October broke a 16-month warm streak. Turns out for the citizens of the United States this past month was colder-than-average, though the year as a whole will be warmer-than-average.

I don’t doubt that climate change is real and man-made and that the earth is growing ever warmer; nor do I doubt the possible ramifications of this process.

But alarmist headlines that are so obviously misleading will not help further the cause.

  Forbes

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Speaking of Guns


Two men walked the streets of Portland armed with assault weapons earlier this week because they said they wanted to “educate” residents, who reacted by fleeing and calling police.

Warren Drouin and Steven Boyce told KPTV that they were forced to take drastic measure to make sure people were aware of their Second Amendment rights.

[...]

The men insisted that they understood that people were on edge after recent mass shootings but hoped residents would approach them to ask questions during future demonstrations.

“We did mind the school posting signs,” Boyce pointed out. “We don’t don’t want to cause any trouble with that. We totally respect — there is a little bit of emotional sensitivity towards that and it’s just — we were walking the streets.”

  Raw Story

We're going to start looking like the third world country we're becoming. 

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

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gun Control

Yesterday, I heard that the NRA would not be participating in Joe Biden's gun control talks because it would make it appear that they had some responsibility for gun violence. Today, I hear that the NRA is in fact meeting with Joe.

I keep wondering what it must be like for the families of the slain children in Newton, CT, to know that their children had to lose their lives before the government would make a serious effort to prevent this type of thing.  It's not like there weren't plenty of previous lives lost to make that point.

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

Where Did It All Start?

Probably not with Richard Nixon, but boy did he bring it to full view. We the People don't know how to choose a leader.

I know the president doesn't want us to look back, but until it's a punishable crime, let's do it anyway.

If he were still alive [...] this would have been Richard Nixon's 100th birthday.

[...]

If there had been any justice served in 1974, this would be the 29th anniversary of Nixon's having finished his 10-year bid in the federal slam for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

  Charlie Pierce

Somebody remind me again. When was the last time justice was served in the US government?

And, not for nothing, but last December 18th was the 40th anniversary of the "Christmas bombing" of Hanoi and Haiphong, in which United States warplanes dropped 20,000 tons of bombs and killed almost 2,000 Vietnamese people. And this is what was said about that by Henry Kissinger, who I think is possibly even less excusable a human being than Nixon: "We bombed the North Vietnamese into accepting our concessions."

Do what you're good at. That's our national motto.

For me, I stand with what Lewis Lapham wrote on the occasion of Nixon's death:
When Richard Nixon resigned the office of the presidency twenty years ago this summer, I thought it possible that in his own peculiar and crooked way he might have done his countrymen an honest service. It wasn't the one that he had in mind, and honesty was never a trait for which he had much liking or use, but by so conspicuously attempting to suborn the Constitution and betray every known principle of representative government, he had allowed the American people to see what could become of their democracy in the hands of a thoroughly corrupt politician bent upon seizing the prize of absolute power. The civics lesson was conducted in plain sight over a period of eighteen months on network television and memorably illustrated by the singular ugliness of Nixon's character. The more obvious aspects of that character (its hypocrisy and self-pitying rage) had been made, as he so often said, "Perfectly clear" during his prior years in public office, but the congressional hearings preliminary to his certain impeachment showed that he was also vindictive, foulmouthed, and determined to replace the rule of law with corporate despotism. Nixon's distrust of any and all forms of free speech was consistent with his ambition to shape the government of the United States in his own resentful image, and when he left for the beach at San Clemente, as grudgingly as a dog giving up its bone, I remember watching his helicopter rise for the last time from the White House lawn and thinking that his fellow citizens wouldn't soon forget the constitutional moral of the tale.

The assumption was mistaken.


Soon and repeatedly.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Just Thought I'd Share

Picture of the grandkid...





Look out world.

In a Nutshell

We Should Have Expected Nothing Less

The board of A.I.G. will meet on Wednesday to consider joining a $25 billion shareholder lawsuit against the government, court records show. The lawsuit does not argue that government help was not needed. It contends that the onerous nature of the rescue — the taking of what became a 92 percent stake in the company, the deal’s high interest rates and the funneling of billions to the insurer’s Wall Street clients — deprived shareholders of tens of billions of dollars and violated the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the taking of private property for “public use, without just compensation.”

  NYT

Amazing.

On the other hand, I guess the government could have just let you go under. Which might have been my vote. 

[N]owhere is the application of [Obama's “look forward; don't look back” principle] more obvious in [its] moral idiocy than when it is applied to the various thieves and brigands who wrecked most of the national economy and then stole what was left, whose piracy was then rewarded by a chance to open the federal treasury hydrant and frolic in the streets. The reluctance to bring criminal cases — a lot of criminal cases, a metric ton of criminal cases — leading to punishments so severe that their greedy grandchildren would think twice about doing it again cemented in the national government the notion that the bankers were nothing more than some businessmen who'd made some terrible mistakes that were exacerbated by unprecedented circumstances, instead of the cabal of sleek crooks who gamed the country out of its wealth and then found to their surprise that the government had discovered a heretofore unknown obligation to save them from personal ruin. That reluctance was founded on the lunatic notion that these people also were responsible public citizens who would learn from what they'd done to the country and to the world.

[...]

AIG didn't give a damn about its shareholders when it was letting Joseph Cassano run riot at its financial products division, a collateralized-debt obligation/credit default swap land mine that finally blew up the company, and nearly took the U.S. economy down with it. […] As a measure of how chastened it had become as it entirely went into the dumper, and as a perfect illustration of the corporate culture that persists to this day, AIG kept giving out bonuses to its executives.

[...]

This little exercise in hubristic cupidity has drawn the attention of the newly minted, soon-to-be senior senator from Massachusetts, Senator Professor Elizabeth Warren who, according to a statement out of her office today, is having none of your nonsense.

  Charlie Pierce

Go get 'em, Liz.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Business as Usual

House has only so far approved $9 billion of the $60 billion relief bill, and will take up the rest of it next week, because as [Daily Show host Jon] Stewart put it, “what’s another week when you’ve been fucked for months?” He scolded the sixty-seven House Republicans who voted against the bill and wondered why they would vote against the bill, asking, “What would Jesus, or any other human being that isn’t an asshole, do?”

As for the argument that the bill was loaded with pork, Stewart shot back by saying that there were only two [...] paragraphs in the entire bill, about as much pork as in a PETA staff fridge. He said their reasoning was “bullshit,” and in particular called out a Mississippi Republican [Steven Palazzo] for voting against the bill while also, last year, requesting money for the national flood insurance program this past year for his constituents [for 2005 Hurricane Katrina reparations].

  Mediaite

Typical politician. Here's another Republican vote against the $9 billion in flood relief:

MSNBC host Martin Bashir called out former future Vice President Rep. Paul Ryan on his show Friday for voting against $9.7 billion in Hurricane Sandy relief, when, in 2008, Ryan was happy to pass flood relief as part of a $162 billion supplemental appropriations bill.

[...]

[Mike] Viqueira explained that “They voted against it for the reasons Paul Ryan said. They said it wasn’t paid for, that the flood insurance program is essentially a bankrupt program. They’re essentially raising the debt ceiling on that, they object to that.” Bashir then noted, of Rep. Ryan, that “in 2008 he voted in favor of additional disaster response funding for the flood ravaged Midwest. It was called roll call vote 432, to be precise. He touted it in his own press release. Has he lost all compassion in the last four years, or does he just not like people in the Northeast?”

[...]

Viquiera responded, “Well, Martin, I cannot look into the man’s heart, but we can look at the fact that his own district around Racine, Wisconsin, Janesville was affected by some of that flooding in 2008. That was an enormous bill. [...] That was a $162 billion catch-all of the old school in Congress, that had all kinds of stuff in it. There was money there for overseas operations. there was money for military construction.

  Mediaite

Ummm....pork?

Eighteen of the 67 dissenters are first-term members, sworn in just a day earlier. But of the 49 Representatives with a prior House record who opposed Sandy aid, at least 37 had previously advocated for or touted emergency aid services following other disasters that affected their own constituents.

  Think Progress

The list of 37, along with their requests for relief in their own areas, is in that Think Progress article if you're interested.

And let's give those 18 newbies the benefit of the doubt.  Let's see what they do when their constituents are faced with a natural disaster.

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

P.S.  Alan Grayson called the 67 "the bath salts caucus - they'd rather eat your face than raise taxes on the rich."  At which point, they were rechristened "the zombie caucus" by radio host Stephanie Miller .

Monday, January 7, 2013

Teh Crazy Never Stops

But the punditry didn't really hit the fan until a congressman from (where-the-fk-else) Arizona named Matt Salmon waxed nostalgic for the last time Republican meatheads shut the government down.

I was here during the government shutdown in 1995. It was a divided government. we had a Democrat [sic] President of the United States. We had a Republican Congress. And I believe that that government shutdown actually gave us the impetus, as we went forward, to push toward some real serious compromise. I think it drove Bill Clinton in a different direction, a very bipartisan direction. In fact, we passed welfare reform for the first time ever, and we cut the welfare ranks in the last decade and a half by over 50%. These are good things. We also balanced the budget for the first time in 40 years in 1997, 1998, 1999. And when I left we had an over $230 billion surplus. This was with a Democrat [sic] president, A Republican -

(You think that's a good idea?)

Yes, I do. I really do. I think it's about time!

The folks at Think Progress did a good job fact-checking this vandal in real time. (And, if there's one trope I'd like to see demolished further this year, it's that welfare "reform" under Bill Clinton has proven to be some kind of unalloyed triumph. Its provisions have made the lives of poor people harder during the ongoing recession, and the fact that this administration had to issue so many waivers in so many places so that so many people wouldn't suffer needlessly left it open to the famously bullshit charge that the president was "gutting" this toweringly bipartisan masterpiece.) But it shouldn't be too much to expect Salmon to notice that it is no longer 1995, and that there's no tech boom or housing bubble on the immediate horizon, and that shutting down the government in the middle of a perilously weak recovery is like trying to increase the acceleration of your car by firing a flare into your gas tank.

  Charlie Pierce

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

"And, if there's one trope I'd like to see demolished further this year, it's that welfare 'reform' under Bill Clinton has proven to be some kind of unalloyed triumph."

Can I get an "Amen"?

About That Deal

Between the payroll tax cut and the sequester, as well as the failure to undo the first discretionary spending caps negotiated under last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA), well over half of the fiscal drag for 2013 that was actually up for negotiation1 has yet to be deactivated. This means that relative to current policy, we will have roughly 1.6 million fewer jobs by the end of 2013 than if these had been definitively extended or replaced with equivalent stimulus.

[...]

Blow-by-blow analyses of the deal can be found elsewhere, but this is the summary:

• The Bush-era ordinary tax rates were allowed to lapse for incomes more than $450,000 per year
• Some mild (but useful) base-broadening was done that would increase taxes starting on households with more than $250,000 in income
• Dividend tax rates were permanently extended at the Bush-era levels
• The estate tax was permanently set at levels far more generous to inherited wealth than before the Bush era tax cuts
• The Alternative Minimum tax (AMT) was permanently indexed to inflation to keep it from creeping down the income scale
• Some tax cuts targeted to low– and moderate-income households, as well as those paying for college tuition, were extended for five years (not permanently)
• Extended unemployment insurance benefits were passed for another year
Further, the automatic  spending cuts known as “the sequester” have been postponed for two months, while the two percentage-point cut in payroll taxes that was in effect for the past two years has been allowed to lapse.

[...]

First, the pluses. Unemployment insurance benefits were extended. Given that the labor market remains weak, this is both compassionate and intelligent economic policy. The sequester has at least been postponed. And we actually will be raising more money from higher-income households going forward—and this will not slow recovery and will allow more resources for necessary public investments and social insurance programs in the future.

[...]

[T]he prospect of paying for [future spending] with a reasonable estate tax seems to have sailed because of this deal, which is a real shame. The permanent enshrinement of low dividend tax rates is bad policy, and looks especially ugly when paired with tax breaks for lower-income households that are not permanent, but sunset in five years. On the bright side, “permanent” really just means “until another Congress changes its mind,” so there’s that to hope for.

[...]

And the big minus is that the verdict on the “sequester” will be decided just as the nation hits the statutory debt ceiling. GOP members of the House of Representatives clearly are hoping this will give them leverage to force their own agenda. And it worked before. Which means that this time, the Obama administration needs to be deadly serious about not negotiating over the debt ceiling.

  Josh Bivens

If the past four years are any indicator, you can kiss that idea goodbye before you even think of it.

First and foremost, the expiration of the payroll tax cut is projected to reduce disposable income by $115 billion, shaving 0.9 percentage points from real GDP growth and lowering employment by nearly 1.1 million jobs relative to 2012 fiscal policy.

The sequester was delayed for only two months, leaving a drag of 0.6 percentage points of real GDP if it materializes for the remainder of the year, or if the sequester is replaced with other spending cuts of a comparable magnitude (e.g., House Republicans voted to replace sequester cuts to the Department of Defense with deeper domestic cuts). This would mean a loss of 660,000 jobs relative to 2012 fiscal policy.

The phase-one BCA discretionary spending caps will ratchet down, shaving 0.4 percentage points from real GDP growth and reducing employment by roughly 530,000 jobs relative to pre-BCA law.

[...]

This debate was always about averting a recession in favor of maintaining anemic growth rates. That may have been accomplished by the budget deal, although much uncertainty surrounds sequestration and the statutory debt ceiling. But this bar for political horse-trading was always set appallingly low. The United States is still mired in a severe jobs crisis, and it’s a safe bet this jobs crisis intensifies in 2013 because of premature budget austerity and policymakers’ abdication of promoting full employment.

  Andrew Fieldhouse

If you need to have something in the deal to be indignant about, how about the payroll tax hike? Not only will it put more than [one] million people out of work, the tax itself is about the most regressive and destructive one imaginable. In a sane society we’d be talking about how to replace it, not raise it.

[...]

In the long run, we’re all dead. That being the case, I don’t think we should sacrifice the economically vulnerable to our fears for the future, including our fear that taxes might be hard to raise in that future.

  Billmon

Charlie Pierce's First Law Of Economics — Fk The Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money.

We're Just Not Trying Hard Enough

It’s laughably easy to imagine a majority party that staunchly backs a woman’s right to choose, supports gay marriage, appeals to African Americans and Hispanics with a carefully selected set of valence issues—and quietly cooperates in dismantling the social safety net under the guise of “reforming” it.

  Billmon

Dear Billmon: We don't have to imagine.

It’s easy to imagine such a party because we already have one.

Oh. Okay.

But I can think of two specific reasons to think a more progressive Democratic Party might be possible to build:

The Democrats (or at least the Obama machine) has re-learned how to organize, and taken it high tech. If those tools could be applied successfully at the local level, and/or by allied forces (unions, nonprofits, etc.) maybe the party itself could develop the grassroots muscle the unions once provided—which in turn could be used to advance an economic agenda, not just win elections.

Yeah. Like “Occupy Wall Street” you mean? Well, they're still amongst us at least,if not very visible, I guess. Oh, wait. The key word there is “successfully” eh? It's kind of difficult when the FBI is in cahoots with the opposition, though.

(And as for unions?  I think we can see by our history that all good things must come to an end once someone sees the personal benefit of corrupting greed and politics.)

Call me pessimistic, but I don't think there'll be much of a progressive party until things get much, much worse here. And maybe not even then, but if Congress and the Executive can't get the howler monkeys in their midst under control, things just might get that bad.  Allowing the single-minded righteous right so much power in order to garner votes may in the end be their downfall. We shall see. Or maybe the next generation shall see.

On the other hand, once we have had enough generations get used to and accept the government's control over them (out of fear of the terrorists, or each other), it could be centuries before an equivalent to the recent "Arab Spring" happens in this country.

The white-collar professionals and paraprofessionals who have defected to the Democrats on cultural grounds are also now in danger of being proletarianized. Technology is rendering their skills (e.g. medical diagnostics, legal research, engineering design, etc.) obsolete. This might make them amenable to a more progressive economic approach.

No. That's wishful thinking. Do those people even exist? Surely not in any meaningful numbers. And what will more likely happen is they'll be fighting each other and the extant proletariat over scarce jobs. And furthermore, once you become proletarianized, you become politically powerless in today's American culture.

We all know the obstacles: A sluggish, corporate-controlled media that likes the status quo just fine, thanks; billionaire donors with money to burn (almost literally, in Sheldon Adelson’s case); a largely de-unionized white working class that clings to the GOP even more tenaciously than it does to its guns and religion.

And thanks for making my point.

Modern technology notwithstanding, there are no magic wands, just updated versions of the same old democratic (small d) tools: organize, agitate, contribute, vote. But it might not hurt to remember that the original progressives, the people who built the unions and fought for the New Deal, did what they did with those same tools.

Pardon me again for being pessimistic, but that was before the corporatization of America took on such monstrous proportions; before the CEO to laborer wealth was so vastly out of proportion; before the media were just another arm of the government; and before the US was a police state and citizens had no real rights and can be spied on, targeted, and even killed by their government with no recourse. It's a much, much different world now.

In any case, we have to try.

Perhaps.

Sometimes, I still think that way.  But I'm never sure the reasons for it are any more valid than trying to fly without some external apparatus given our present physical configuration.

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

There You Go Again

President Barack Obama on Monday will nominate Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.

[...]

Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, withdrew from consideration for the spy agency's top job in 2008 amid questions about his connection to enhanced interrogation techniques during the George W. Bush administration.

  Huffington Post

Continuing the Bush tradition of appointing the most inappropriate people possible to top jobs.

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

Sunday, January 6, 2013

And Furthermore

One of the first actions of the new useless majority of the House Of Representatives was to continue to fund legal actions in defense of the Defense Of Marriage Act. There is no reason to waste money on this kind of thing — The question of same-sex marriage is currently before the Supreme Court — except to be publicly mean and stupid. The country has moved on. The country has acclimated itself to gay people's getting married faster, frankly, than I thought it would. And, employing the most fundamentally American metric of them all, people are turning a fine buck on gay people's getting married. (This should be a cautionary tale for, say, Missouri. Are you telling me that gay marriage wouldn't be a gold mine in, say, Branson? Please.) This is the kind of thing to keep in mind whenever a member of the new useless majority goes on your electric teevee set to talk about The Deficit. They won't spend money to ease the lives of the old and the sick. But they'll spend it to be mean and stupid. The ignorance subsidy is untouchable.

  Charlie Pierce

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

Meanwhile in Pakistan

Indian troops have raided a Pakistani military post, killing one soldier and injuring another, the Pakistani military said, an incident that could heighten tensions between the neighbouring nuclear powers after a period of rapprochement.

The Pakistani army repulsed the attack on the Sawan Patra checkpoint in Kashmir early on Sunday, an army spokesman said in a statement.

The two sides then exchanged fire across the Line of Control, an internationally recognised line in the disputed Kashmir region patrolled by troops from both countries.

Colonel Brijesh Pandey, a spokesman for the Indian army in Kashmir said that Pakistani troops "initiated unprovoked firing" and fired mortars and automatic weapons at Indian posts early Sunday morning.

[...]

Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said attacks across the Line of Control are not uncommon.

"We're getting conflicting reports from both sides. The Indians saying that this was retaliatory fire for a mortar attack coming from the Pakistani side. However, the Pakistani military said a number of Indian soldiers took on a Pakistani military post, after which the Pakistanis retaliated and the Indians were forced to flee, leaving some of their weapons behind," our correspondent said.

[...]

The two countries have been slowly repairing relations in recent months.

  alJazeera

Maybe that should read “had been.”

At least 16 people have been killed and several others wounded in a US drone strike against a suspected Taliban compound in Pakistan's South Waziristan region, according to Al Jazeera's Islamabad bureau.

About eight to 10 missiles were reportedly fired hitting three different targets including a compound in Babar Zariat, a border village between North and South Waziristan, the AJ bureau said.

More militants were believed to be in the locations when they were hit on Sunday, meaning the death toll may rise, according to the Reuters news agency.

The compounds were believed to house fighters belonging to the Punjabi Taliban, a group with close links to al-Qaeda, intelligence officials said.

Al Jazeera identified the commander of the group as Qari Imran. But there is no confirmation on his death.

"We are not sure who was killed on the ground, whether they were indeed militants as claimed by the intelligence sources," Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder said. "Normally, there are civilian casualties as well, particularly when compounds and houses are hit."

  alJazeera

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

It's Sunday



And I can remember when we were frightened of Barry Goldwater! 

Almost makes you nostalgic for those days.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

This Is Not an Onion Article, and There Are Pictures

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A cat carrying a saw and a mobile phone was "detained" as it entered a prison gate in northeast Brazil, Brazilian media reported on Saturday.

Prison guards were surprised when they saw a white cat crossing the main gate of the prison, its body wrapped with tape. A closer look showed the feline also carried drills, an earphone, a memory card, batteries and a phone charger.

All 263 detainees in the prison of Arapiraca, a city of 215,000 people in the state of Alagoas, are considered suspect in the plot, which is being investigated by local police.

"It's tough to find out who's responsible for the action as the cat doesn't speak," a prison spokesperson told local paper Estado de S.Paulo.

Yahoo

Oh My

Regular readers of the blog know that I have some problem with Tom Hanks in his role as official curator of Great Things Done In American History Primarily By White People. Now, it appears that Hanks has joined with the National Geographic Channel — which really ought to know better — to bring to TV the work of noted historian, Bill O'Reilly. Hanks will narrate the films based on O'Reilly's best-selling farragos of barefaced non-facts. The guy can't need the gig, right?

  Charlie Pierce

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

And the Vote...

The US House of Representatives has approved a $9.7bn aid package to pay insurance claims for the many home and business owners affected by Superstorm Sandy, which sparked destructive floods across the eastern coast two months ago.

The House voted 354-67 on Friday to pass the bill, which replenishes the National Flood Insurance Program that was due to run out of money next week with about 115,000 hurricane-related claims.

[...]

All of the no votes on the Sandy aid bill were cast by Republicans.

[...]

Jeb Hensarling, a Republican Representative from Texas, said lawmakers were faced with a "tragic choice of not paying contractual claims to victims who paid premiums or adding 9.7bn to an insane national debt".

  alJazeera

"Tragic."  Listen, my clueless son, the tragic choice belongs to the people hit by Sandy; the choice of a charity shelter or a cardboard box in the snow.

Disaster relief is not a good place to take a stand.

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

UPDATE:

Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin and recent runner-up for vice-president, voted against the flood relief package for the victims of superstorm Sandy. Naturally, because he is a man of Big Ideas, Ryan voted to keep people sleeping in their minivans because that is for their own good, and for the  good of the country.


[...]

Of course, back in 2008, when severe flooding devastated certain portions of the Midwest, including Ryan's own congressional district, the zombie Ayes had it, baby, and he made sure that his embattled constituents knew where they could find those sweet government checks.

  Charlie Pierce

Typical politician.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

And Another Thing...

VAWA [Violence Against Women Act], which has been reauthorized without fanfare since then-Senator Joe Biden spearheaded its passage in 1994, strengthens the criminal justice system's ability to address domestic and sexual abuse and expands services for Americans who have been victims of those crimes. But it expired in October of 2011 after conservative lawmakers balked at the addition of expanded protections for undocumented immigrant, Native American, and LGBT victims of sexual assault. The two chambers have butted heads over the bill for the past year—in May, the Republican-controlled House passed a watered down version to strip the protections for diverse populations, and subsequently refused to cede any ground to the Senate. The beginning of 2013 means the 112th Congress has officially failed to ensure protections for rape survivors. VAWA expired on its watch, and there's no more time to remedy that mistake.

[...]

VAWA [funded] training for about 500,000 law enforcement officials, judges, and prosecutors each year to help ensure that the legal system is better equipped to respond to those reports. The National Domestic Violence Hotline that the law established now receives over 22,000 calls every month. The rate of reported incidents of intimate-partner violence has dropped by more than 60 percent since VAWA was first enacted.

[...]

Sen. Patty Murray, who championed the original version of VAWA in the Senate, plans to reintroduce the legislation in the new session.

  The Atlantic

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

This Should Be Interesting

[John] Boehner will face a vote to determine whether he will remain Speaker Thursday after the 113th Congress is sworn in.

  Mashable

Offered without Comment

The embattled Republican leadership in the House of Representatives promised to settle the issue of Sandy relief funds within the next two weeks, after a day of excoriating criticism from senior GOP figures.

A vote on a $9bn proposal towards Hurricane Sandy flood insurance will be held on Friday, while the remaining $51bn of the relief package will be considered on January 15

[...]

The collective ire of Christie, Peter King and Michael Grimm, combined with that of a host of Democrats in the House and Senate, appears to have prompted action from Boehner and the Republican leadership.

[...]

The pledge follows a series of high-profile attacks by Republicans on their own party. New Jersey governor Chris Christie accused the Republican House leadership of showing “callous indifference” towards the plight of Sandy victims and singled out Boehner for special treatment in a lengthy, angry press conference.

  Raw Story




The Economy's Cassandra Speaks Again

Note: If you watch the video linked in this article, you are offered a free copy of the re-released and updated book Aftershock. I watched the video - it's 30 minutes and you can't pause, fast-forward or reverse it. It's basically a big advertisement, but the author is the guy who predicted the meltdown that no one else seemed to see, so it probably bears paying attention to.

The "free" book (courtesy of Newsmax) comes with a package deal, so that the least you can get it for is $47.00. It will sell for $28.00 in bookstores and Amazon, but those copies will not have a final chapter that's offered in this deal. The final chapter is one which they say the publisher did not want to include because it would cause panic or chaos. It's also the one that gives specific advice, if I understood them correctly. At the end of this post, I'll outline the author's advice for financial security given in the video for what he sees as the second collapse coming up shortly, but it will be without comment, explanation or caveat, all of which are in the book.  Actually, the interview/advertisement is interesting, if highly unspontaneous, should you have the thirty minutes.

Despite the 6.5% stock market rally over the last three months, a handful of billionaires are quietly dumping their American stocks . . . and fast.

Warren Buffett, who has been a cheerleader for U.S. stocks for quite some time, is dumping shares at an alarming rate.

[...]

In the latest filing for Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett has been drastically reducing his exposure to stocks that depend on consumer purchasing habits.

[...]

With 70% of the U.S. economy dependent on consumer spending, Buffett’s apparent lack of faith in these companies’ future prospects is worrisome.

Unfortunately Buffett isn’t alone.

Fellow billionaire John Paulson, who made a fortune betting on the subprime mortgage meltdown, is clearing out of U.S. stocks too.

[...]

[B]illionaire George Soros recently sold nearly all of his bank stocks, including shares of JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs. Between the three banks, Soros sold more than a million shares.

So why are these billionaires dumping their shares of U.S. companies?

[...]

It’s very likely that these professional investors are aware of specific research that points toward a massive market correction, as much as 90%.

[...]

In 2006, Wiedemer and a team of economists accurately predicted the collapse of the U.S. housing market, equity markets, and consumer spending that almost sank the United States.

[...]

Wiedemer calmly laid out a clear explanation of why a large drop of some sort is a virtual certainty.

It starts with the reckless strategy of the Federal Reserve to print a massive amount of money out of thin air in an attempt to stimulate the economy.

“These funds haven’t made it into the markets and the economy yet. But it is a mathematical certainty that once the dam breaks, and this money passes through the reserves and hits the markets, inflation will surge,” said Wiedemer.

“Once you hit 10% inflation, 10-year Treasury bonds lose about half their value. And by 20%, any value is all but gone. Interest rates will increase dramatically at this point, and that will cause real estate values to collapse. And the stock market will collapse as a consequence of these other problems.”

[...]

And this is where Wiedemer explains why Buffett, Paulson, and Soros could be dumping U.S. stocks:

“Companies will be spending more money on borrowing costs than business expansion costs. That means lower profit margins, lower dividends, and less hiring. Plus, more layoffs.”

No investors, let alone billionaires, will want to own stocks with falling profit margins and shrinking dividends. So if that’s why Buffett, Paulson, and Soros are dumping stocks, they have decided to cash out early and leave Main Street investors holding the bag.

[...]

But Main Street investors don’t have to see their investment and retirement accounts decimated for the second time in five years. Wiedemer’s video interview also contains a comprehensive blueprint for economic survival that’s really commanding global attention.

[...]

Editor’s Note: For a limited time, Newsmax is showing the Wiedemer interview and supplying viewers with copies of the new, updated Aftershock book including the final, unpublished chapter. Go here to view it now.

  Money News


Here are Wiedemer's recommendations:
  • Don't invest in real estate
  • Sell your home and rent
  • Refinance to fixed rate mortgage if you currently have an adjustable rate
  • Pay the minimum on your fixed rate mortgage
  • Pay off your car loan
  • Pay off your credit card loans
  • Take out a lump sum payment if you have whole life insurance and use that money elsewhere
  • Change your whole life isurance to term life
  • Look into estate planning and give gifts to children and grandchildren now
  • Relatively safe investments
    • Gold and other precious metals (for a decade or so, and then the gold bubble will burst)
    • Short-term bonds (do NOT buy long term bonds)
    • Foreign currency such as Canadian, Swiss, Euro, Nordic and UDN
    • US commodities
  • Expect the retirement age to increase (up to 73) 
    • Relatively safe jobs will be in the "necessity" sector (eg. health, education, government service)
  • Expect your tax rate to increase after the tax increase on the wealthiest proves to be insufficient
He says the worst case scenario for the upcoming crash is 50% unemployment and three years of 100% inflation, with a second housing meltdown.  He also says that we will still be better off than many other countries and doesn't expect any rioting, because no one is going to starve.  I don't know - I don't think I want to see 50% unemployment.  And, he also says we will eventually recover.  That's nice.  Eh?

Cheers, everybody.

PS:  Here's the direct link to the "free" book offer.