Monday, April 29, 2013

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013


Here's Your Answer

In case you were wondering whether Congress gives a shit about unemployment in this country.
When a hearing to explore how to get the long-term unemployed back to work kicked off on Wednesday morning, only one lawmaker was in attendance. That was Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who was holding the hearing in her role as the vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee.


Klobuchar was eventually joined by three colleagues (in order of their appearance): Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings. All four are Democrats.

  National Journal
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

She Always Liked George Best

Maybe now we know why they didn’t run “the smart brother.” (Beside the fact that he married a Latina. Which, come to think of it, might just make him the perfect GOP candidate for 2016.)
Amid the celebration surrounding the opening of son George W. Bush's presidential library, former first lady Barbara Bush is brushing aside talk of a Jeb Bush run for the White House.

Appearing in an interview Thursday on NBC's "Today" show, Mrs. Bush was asked how she felt about Jeb, the former governor of Florida, seeking the presidency in 2016.

Mrs. Bush replied, quote, "We've had enough Bushes."

Yes. WE have.

And the Results Are In

MADRID, April 24 (Reuters) - More than six million Spaniards were out of work in the first quarter of this year, raising the jobless rate in the euro zone's fourth biggest economy to 27.2 percent, the highest since records began in the 1970s.

The huge sums poured into the global financial system by major central banks have eased bond market pressure on Spain, but the cuts Madrid has made in spending to regain investors' confidence have left it deep in recession.

Unemployment - 6.2 million in the first quarter - has been rising for seven quarters and the latest numbers will fuel a growing debate on whether to ease off on the budget austerity which has dominated Europe's response to the debt crisis.

"These figures are worse than expected and highlight the serious situation of the Spanish economy as well as the shocking decoupling between the real and the financial economy," strategist at Citi in Madrid Jose Luis Martinez said.

Expected by whom? Is the jury still out somewhere on the result of austerity measures in an economic downturn?

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

What's the Matter with Iowa?

A group of conservatives in the Iowa state House have filed a measure that would cut the pay of state Supreme Court Justices by around 80 percent — but only for the ones who voted to legalize same sex marriage in 2009.

  Raw Story
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

A Thousand Words

At the dedication to the new George W Bush library, where "all books begin with Chapter 11" (Charlie Pierce).
Seen at Dependable Renegade

Yep. We Need Muslim Terrorists, Not Muslim Party Dufuses (Dufi?)

April 24:
The Boston Marathon bombing suspects may have planned to come to New York City — but it was just to party, not to continue their reign of terror, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Wednesday.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has told authorities in Boston he and his brother Tamerlan, 26, wanted to punctuate their day of terror by heading to the Big Apple for some fun, Kelly said.

  NY Daily News
April 26:
Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, has said that the Boston Marathon bombing suspects intended to blow up their remaining explosives in Times Square.

Speaking at a joint press conference on Thursday with Police Commissioner Raymon Kelly, Bloomberg said that the Tsarnaev brothers had a pressure cooker bomb and five pipe bombs they intended to set off.


"The surviving attacker revealed that New York City was next on their list of targets," Bloomberg said at New York City Hall.

"He and his older brother intended to drive to New York and detonate those explosives in Times Square."

The mayor said that Dzhokhar told Boston investigators from his hospital bed that he and his brother Tamerlan had discussed "spontaneously" going to New York to detonate their remaining explosives.

Kelly is going to find himself shut out in his own town if he isn't careful.

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


Possibly related?

It just got “real”.
“The U.S. Marshals Service confirms that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been transported from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and is now confined at the Bureau of Prisons facility FMC Devens at Ft. Devens, Mass.,” U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Drew Wade said in a statement to Reuters.

  The Hill

UPDATE 8:30 am:
This sounds just a tad hinky. If they intended to bomb Times Square, the two of them had at least 48 hours to get out of town to do it before anyone knew who they were. The story now is that, with the net closing in around them, they decide spontaneously, and in what evidently was the beginning of an extended criminal panic, to 'jack a car and drive to New York, not to escape the oncoming dragnet, but to commit more acts of terrorism. They were going to steal a car, take it to Watertown, load it up with the IED's they had stashed there, and then drive off to Gotham. And this was the plan they came up with on the spot last Thursday? I suppose it's plausible but, in the face of the news this morning that Dzhokar Tsarnaev didn't even have a weapon during the siege on Franklin Street, I'm beginning to wonder what to think here, and who's talking to whom, and why.

  Charlie Pierce

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just Not the Brightest Bulbs on the Tree

Mother Jones has an article titled The 11 Most Mystifying Things the Tsarnaev Brothers Did. In it, you will no doubt see items that you were also wondering about.  One of them, and the first thing I wondered about them, is that the younger one was wearing a backward ball cap and no sunglasses, as though he had no concern for being caught on camera.  What Mother Jones doesn't include in that item is that, while the older one had on sunglasses and a ball cap, he had on a very distinctive and not very common ball cap, which I guess he could have ditched later, but it seemed like an odd choice to me for someone who, one would think, would want to blend into a crowd and remain incognito.

Another of the items is that the car they jacked was a Mercedes, as was their car, which they had put in the garage for repairs and then wanted to retrieve after the bombing.  I wonder - did they wait around for a Mercedes to jack?  Another story says that they were going to make their way to New York to celebrate. 

Early on, and the more I read about what was known publicly as well as the impressions of acquaintances of these two guys, I've formed a bystander's impression of spoiled, frat-type young men with machismo issues, and not a lot of sense.  It seems like the older one was hell-bent on self-destruction for some time, and the younger one just wanted attention or thrills.  Or both.    I imagine it's more complex than that, but I have a feeling I'm not far afield.

Time for Some Word Fun

The occasion is the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, in which it is rumored that every book starts with Chapter 11.

  Charlie Pierce
The Walt Disney corporation discovered that some of its staff referred to it as Mauschwitz and sent a memo saying anyone found using this term would be instantly dismissed.

Within 30 minutes the staff was referring to it as Duckau.

  Paradise Cafe
I don’t know if that second one is true or not, but it’s funny, especially the part where Disney officials don’t recognize the irony of issuing a totalitarian response to an insult that compares them to a totalitarian regime. (But it is at least true that people who work there have often referred to it as Mauschwitz.)

WTF, Jen?

[T]he inexplicably employed Jennifer Rubin [...] took to her space in the inexplicably still publishing Washington Post op-ed pre-school to argue the following [...]

Unlike Obama's tenure, [under GWB] there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11.


The very fact that anyone, even Jennifer Rubin, would make this argument publicly illustrates that we have not entirely integrated the facts of the 9/11 attacks into their proper place in our history and our memory. They were acts of savagery, but they were not mindless. They were deliberate and well-planned and they largely succeeded. Our national intelligence systems, and the people who were running them at the time, up to and including the incurious president of the United States, wandering the Texas scrub with his chain-saw, failed utterly to confront even the possibility that such attacks were possible, and thus failed utterly to keep anyone safe. Then, they responded by lying the country into a war of aggression that failed to keep thousands of American soldiers safe, that failed to keep hundreds of thousands of Iraqis safe, failed to keep the rule of law safe, and failed to keep the national economy, and the people who depend on it, which is pretty much all of us, safe. Those are only some of the things that C-Plus Augustus failed to keep safe, and they all pretty much began when he failed to keep 3000 of our fellow citizens safe in New York and Washington, and in a field in Pennsylvania, where died some brave people who actually did keep some people safe. All of the worst parts of that presidency flowed from that simple fact — that we did not really confront what happened on September 11, 2001.

  Charlie Pierce
I know. I just stand in awe of people who praise Bush saying he kept us safe - after all, there were no successful terror attacks after 9/11. Blinding (or just blind) stupidity.

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



Do YOU Want to Know What You're Eating?

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would require labeling for all genetically engineered foods.

The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act (PDF) would require any food that contains genetically engineered ingredients be labeled accordingly by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If approved by Congress and signed into law, the United States would join more than 60 countries that require food labels to disclose genetically engineered ingredients.

  Raw Story
That’s a big “if” – Monsanto, et al. has a huge lobby.

Tell Me Again...Are They Just Effing Up, Or Is There an Ulterior Plan?

One might be forgiven for asking.

CBS News, April 19:
The FBI admitted Friday they interviewed the now-deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years ago and failed to find any incriminating information about him.

  CBS News
The Boston Globe, April 22:
Senator Lindsey Graham said Monday the FBI told him it was initially unaware Tamerlan Tsarnaev had traveled to Russia early last year because of a clerical error: His name was misspelled.

  Boston Globe 
The UK Guardian, April 25:
The name of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect was added to a terrorist database by the federal government 18 months before the deadly explosions.

  UK Guardian via Raw Story
Yeah, okay. We knew the FBI was covering its butt. And still are.
Authorities had previously said Dzhokhar exchanged gunfire with them for more than an hour on Friday night before they captured him inside a boat covered by a tarpaulin in a suburban Boston neighbourhood backyard. But two US officials said on Wednesday that he was unarmed when captured, raising questions about the gunfire and how he was injured.
But, this is the money quote (pay close attention):
US intelligence veterans have said accusations of “intelligence failures” after such events are routine and warned that mounting criticism of the FBI risks encouraging future infringements of civil liberties.
Got it? So just shut up.

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Remember That Ricin Letter?

Well, it gets really good. Looks like the guy they arrested didn't do it at all. So who did? Maybe this guy.  (I know.  Everyone was wondering why the guy would sign his own initials on the letters.)

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

They Call Them "Stings"

When actually, they're setups.
A teenager from the suburbs of the US city of Chicago has been arraigned on terrorism charges in connection with an FBI sting operation that has raised new questions about whether US investigators are engaging in entrapment.

In fact, the news of this terror plot being foiled by the FBI came right after the Boston bombing. I can only assume they were trying to deflect attention from the fact that it became quickly known the FBI had the Tsarnaevs on its radar for some time. And again, as I said at the time of the Boston bombing, it's not unreasonable to be suspicious that the Tsarnaevs may have been another of the FBI’s operations, and it went south. If not, they are surely playing with fire, and one day sooner or later one of these operations WILL get out of their control.

Beyond that glaring problem with entrapment operations, this particular case is, I think, highly problematic on another count. They arrested the kid for trying to join (through an FBI fake AQ website) an al Qa’ida group that is fighting in Syria.
He was arrested at O'Hare International Airport on Friday as he prepared to start the first leg of a trip that authorities allege he hoped would hook him up with fighters in Syria.
Not only would it NOT have done so; he was hoping to go fight in a civil war in Syria, which really has nothing at all to do with the US.

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

Have I Mentioned How Ridiculous Daylight Savings Time Is Lately?

In recent years several studies have suggested that daylight saving time doesn't actually save energy—and might even result in a net loss.

Environmental economist Hendrik Wolff, of the University of Washington, co-authored a paper that studied Australian power-use data when parts of the country extended daylight saving time for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and others did not. The researchers found that the practice reduced lighting and electricity consumption in the evening but increased energy use in the now dark mornings-wiping out the evening gains.

  National Geographic
Well, exactly. I just can’t understand what people were thinking when they missed that point.

And there’s this from a study in Indiana:
While use of artificial lights dropped, increased air-conditioning use more than offset any energy gains, according to the daylight saving time research Kotchen led for the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2008.

That's because the extra hour that daylight saving time adds in the evening is a hotter hour. "So if people get home an hour earlier in a warmer house, they turn on their air conditioning," the University of Washington's Wolff said.


In an October 2008 daylight saving time report to Congress, mandated by the same 2005 energy act that extended daylight saving time, the U.S. Department of Energy asserted that springing forward does save energy.
And it would, wouldn’t it? 
[D]aylight savings' energy gains in the U.S. largely depend on your location in relation to the Mason-Dixon Line, Wolff said.".


The North might be a slight winner, because the North doesn't have as much air conditioning," he said. "But the South is a definite loser in terms of energy consumption. The South has more energy consumption under daylight saving."
And can least afford it.
A 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that, at least in Sweden, heart attack risks go up in the days just after the spring time change. "The most likely explanation to our findings are disturbed sleep and disruption of biological rhythms.”


Till Roenneberg, a chronobiologist at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, said his studies show that our circadian body clocks-set by light and darkness-never adjust to gaining an "extra" hour of sunlight to the end of the day during daylight saving time. "The consequence of that is that the majority of the population has drastically decreased productivity, decreased quality of life, increasing susceptibility to illness, and is just plain tired," Roenneberg said.
I would think that the problem would come at the beginning of the day when we get up in the dark, because really, who goes to bed in the evening when it's light outside, no matter whether you've been working or not?  (Other than me.  And very old retired people.) 

Now we have something to blame our chronic fatigue on. And I’m all for stopping the ridiculous practice.  If we must do it, can we please stop the utterly absurd practice of resetting the clocks? Why don’t we just agree that we’re going to work an hour earlier and leave the damned clocks alone?
"I think the first day of daylight saving time is really like the first day of spring for a lot of people," Prerau said. "It's the first time that they have some time after work to make use of the springtime weather. "I think if you ask most people if they enjoy having an extra hour of daylight in the evening eight months a year, the response would be pretty positive."
Then let’s ask that question, shall we? I have a feeling we might come up with the opposite conclusion. Not that anyone making the rules gives two shits what “most people” think. If it really doesn’t save energy, the people making the rules are going to rule in favor of the energy company lobbyists.

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Meanwhile, Down Here Where the Economy Is Booming...

That's More Like It

The suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings was read his Miranda rights on Monday after the White House decided not to try him as an enemy combatant.

White House press secretary Jay Carney argued the White House could gain intelligence from 19-year-old bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev without military detention, pointing to previous terror suspects who have been prosecuted in federal court.

  The Hill
I suspect if they didn't have so much photographic and eyewitness testimony they would have made another decision. But at least they made the better one, despite some deranged Republicans' calls for torture and Guantánamo detention.

Couldn't We Just Vote?

Mars One, a Dutch company, has begun its search for volunteers to fly and live on the red planet - but it's a one-way trip.

At a press conference in New York City on Monday, the company's CEO Bas Lansdorp announced an open call for anyone to apply for the flight, knowing that they will never be able to return home. The mission will be one-way only because there currently is no technology that would enable a return trip from Mars to Earth.

  al Jazeera

Sunday, April 21, 2013

It's Sunday

The Harvard Humanist Community was shocked Thursday when their members were, in the carefully-chosen words of New York Times best-selling author Greg M. Epstein, “blown off” and excluded from an inter-faith memorial ceremony for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.


The Harvard humanist chaplain and author of “Good Without God” explained that the exclusion of non-religious Bostonians was particularly shocking because someone dear to the Harvard Humanist Community was gravely wounded in the bombings.

Celeste Corcoran, who was caught in the blast with her daughter and subsequently lost both of her legs to amputation, was a volunteer for the Harvard Humanist Community.


President Barack Obama personally addressed attendees at the service, which was held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. He was joined by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

“We gave the White House an opportunity to exert a little more influence to help include us, and I’m disappointed that didn’t happen,” Epstein added.

  Raw Story

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bring Out Your Stupid

In 2011, [Djohar] Tsarnaev contacted a professor at UMass Dartmouth (the same school Tsarnaev has been attending) to seek help for a research project research on “rediscovering his Chechen origins,” reports Fox News.

At the time, Tsarnaev was a student at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

The professor, Brian Glyn Williams, claims to teach the school’s only course in the United States on the Chechen wars.

“He was sort of in the process of vicariously rediscovering his Chechen origins,” Williams explained to Fox News.

Williams added that he didn’t even recall the interaction until talking to a friend jogged his memory.

“It freaked me out,” the professor admitted. “I couldn’t believe I communicated with this psychopath.”

  Yahoo News
I can’t believe you’re a professor.

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

Friday, April 19, 2013


Zubeidat Tsarnaeva said that the FBI followed her son's online activity for three years.

"How could this happen? How could they - they were controlling every step of him, now they are saying this is a terrorist act?"

  The Lead

The FBI admitted Friday they interviewed the now-deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years ago and failed to find any incriminating information about him.

As first reported by CBS News correspondent Bob Orr, the FBI interviewed Tsarnaev, the elder brother of at-large bombing suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, at the request of a foreign government to see if he had any extremist ties, but failed to find any linkage.


This is an issue they've had in the past. They interviewed Carlos Bledsoe in Little Rock, Ark., before he shot up an Army recruiting station in 2009. They were also looking into Major Hasan Nadal before the Fort Hood shootings.


Although the FBI initially denied contacting Tsarnaev, the brothers' mother said they had in an interview with Russia Today.


"They used to come [to our] home, they used to talk to me ... they were telling me that he was really an extremist leader and that they were afraid of him," Tsarnaeva said. "They told me whatever information he is getting, he gets from these extremist sites... they were controlling him, they were controlling his every step...and now they say that this is a terrorist act!"



Door to Door Searches

Reporters are commiserating with the citizens of Watertown and just downright broken-hearted over how traumatic the door to door searches are for them.

I wonder how many of them have been dragged together and tied up in one room while uniformed and heavily armed men go through their homes. Or even how many have been summarily shot.

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

For the Love of Pete

A female CBS reporter this morning just said that "a lot of us would like to see" the second Boston bomber end up like the first (shot and killed by police), because we can find out what they were up to "dead or alive."

These guys, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,  are Chechens - a region where Russia has been battling terrorists for many, many years as Chechens continue to fight for independence, although these two brothers seem to have an unlikely sports background (Tamerlan a boxer), and their motive may not have had anything to do with religion - or it may (but that won't matter now).

I suppose we could just kill all foreigners and refuse any travel visas.

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

PS (where I'm watching live video feed from CBS surrounding a house in Watertown) showed some CBS video that someone in Watertown took in the night during the shoot-out.  (Why she was filming instead of taking cover, I couldn't tell you - maybe she had full body armor on.) It sounded like the end of a large fireworks display.  I'd say it's possible the dead and wounded officers were hit by friendly fire.  There's a picture purportedly of a house in Watertown where a bullet went through the wall. 

The boys' uncle was on a phone interview with the same CBS station.  He says he hasn't talked to them since 2009, and he is shocked (but he's calling them "pricks" and "losers").  They informed him that Tamerlan had been killed, which he didn't know, and he said "he absolutely deserved" it.  He says if people want to curse him, he is ready to accept it, because he is related to "these bastards."  Poor guy.  He should probably expect more than curses.

I suppose the interview - or parts of it - will be widely published.

The same bloodthirsty CBS reporter says that it's that the younger brother (Dzhokhar) got a high school scholarship that was PAID FOR BY THE CITIZENS OF CAMBRIDGE!

And, Holy Crap!  another CBS reporter interviewing another uncle just let him give them the address of the first uncle on air.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Out of Africa

The Pentagon is deepening its military involvement across Africa as it confronts an expanding array of terrorist movements and guerrilla groups. In doing so, the U.S. government has become dependent on several countries with checkered democratic records.


“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,” acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”

Not to put too fine a point on it.
The official said the administration of former president George W. Bush took the same approach in Africa. Many U.S. diplomats and human-rights groups had hoped Obama would shift his emphasis in Africa from security to democracy, but that has not happened, the official added.

“There’s pretty much been no change at all,” the official said. “In the end, it was an almost seamless transition from Bush to Obama.”
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Here's Your Saudi National, Dark-Skinned, Terrorist Muslims

Who are, according to the many fine commenters at Smoking Gun either Islamic (look at the big nose!) or...wait for it...Occupy Wall Street protestors.

TransCanada Chicanery

[Transcanada asked Texas farmer Julia Trigg Crawford] if they could have an easement across her land in order to build a piece [...] the Keystone XL pipeline, the elongated death-funnel designed to bring the world's filthiest fossil fuel from an ecological moonscape in Alberta, down the middle of the North American continent, and eventually to Texas, where what product hasn't already spilled out all over the landscape, poisoning watersheds and murdering ducks, will be put on tankers and sold to the entire world. [...] Pipelines leak and oil companies lie, and that is generally a bad combination all the way around for farmers. […Crawford] told them, the guy in the next farm over would be more than happy to let you run your pipeline over his land. Go ask him! No, TransCanada told her, we want to build our death-funnel across your property and, taking advantage of the ludicrous Texas permit system, that's pretty much what they did.


(Perhaps the most preposterous moment came when some archaeologists found 145 ancient artifacts of the Caddo Indian tribe in one of Julia's pastures. The Texas Historical Commission told her that the entire pasture probably qualified to be included in the National Registry Of Historic Places — the entire pasture, that is, except for the exact sliver through which TransCanada wanted to run the pipeline [...] )


You will not be shocked to learn that the Private Property Rights Protection Act has a loophole that will allow TransCanada to keep taking people's land to build its pipeline. What is hanging fire now is the stretch of pipeline running from the Canadian border to Oklahoma. That's the portion of the project that still is awaiting the president's decision. TransCanada simply split off the southern leg of the project, renamed it the Keystone Gulf Coast Project, and went on beavering away across people's property, which it would be able to do even if the act in question passed.

  Charlie Pierce
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Ricin and Bombs

There have actually been several domestic ricin plots in recent years, none involving jihadists and most the work of antigovernment radicals. Not that any have come close to executing a successful attack: in late 2011, for example, federal agents arrested four Georgia men with militia ties whose plans included bombmaking and killing government officials with ricin. “This is worse than anthrax,” one of them reportedly boasted. “There ain’t no cure for it either.” The men, all in their 60s and 70s, were busted before they even began brewing the substance, which experts said they likely would have been unable to use on the mass scale of their imagination anyway.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013


The Obama administration is refusing to recognize Venezuelan President-elect Nicolas Maduro and says a recount of this week’s election should occur.

Getting off to a good start, are we not?

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

Ricin Letter Arrest

UPDATE; 4/24/13 - The man has been released, and it's beginning to look as though the actual perpetrator may be a Mississippi GOPol.
Federal agents arrested a man on Monday suspected of sending letters feared contaminated by the poison ricin to President Obama and a Mississippi senator, according to two officials with knowledge of the case. The suspect was identified as Paul Kevin Curtis of Tupelo, Miss.


The letters were signed: “I am KC, and I approve this message.”


The arrest, two days after the letters were intercepted in mail-sorting facilities for the White House and the Capitol, was based on information collected “very early on” about who had sent the letters, said one of the officials.


Republican "Immigration Reform"

I'm sure you can two videos at Raw Story: as told by Jon Stewart and Al Madrigal.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

This Doesn't Bother Us So Much, Though, Does It?

An explosion in Pakistan has killed at least nine people and wounded dozens more at an election campaign rally being attended by a senior politician, officials say.

Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, a senior leader of the secular Awami National Party (ANP), escaped the blast with only minor bruises on Tuesday in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

A hospital official said doctors were treating some 50 people wounded in the explosion, including dozens who were in critical condition.


Jesus H. Christ

Reinhart and Rogoff (R&R) are the authors of the widely acclaimed book on the history of financial crises, This Time is Different. They have also done several papers derived from this research, the main conclusion of which is that high ratios of debt to GDP lead to a long periods of slow growth. Their story line is that 90 percent is a cutoff line, with countries with debt-to-GDP ratios above this level seeing markedly slower growth than countries that have debt-to-GDP ratios below this level. The moral is to make sure the debt-to-GDP ratio does not get above 90 percent.


The basic R&R story was simply the result of them getting their own numbers wrong.

After being unable to reproduce R&R's results with publicly available data, [Thomas Herndon, Michael Ash, and Robert Pollin] HAP were able to get the spreadsheets that R&R had used for their calculations. It turns out that the initial results were driven by simple computational and transcription errors.


This is a big deal because politicians around the world have used this finding from R&R to justify austerity measures that have slowed growth and raised unemployment. In the United States many politicians have pointed to R&R's work as justification for deficit reduction even though the economy is far below full employment by any reasonable measure. In Europe, R&R's work and its derivatives have been used to justify austerity policies that have pushed the unemployment rate over 10 percent for the euro zone as a whole and above 20 percent in Greece and Spain. In other words, this is a mistake that has had enormous consequences.

If facts mattered in economic policy debates, this should be the cause for a major reassessment of the deficit reduction policies being pursued in the United States and elsewhere. It should also cause reporters to be a bit slower to accept such sweeping claims at face value.

And if pigs had wings, they could fly.

Another story on this says that R&R published their findings without showing their data. I’ve never heard of such a thing. And whole countries have been basing their economic policies on a publication that didn’t offer data? Please! I’d say they based their policies on what they wanted and went shopping for some publication - bogus or flawed, who cares? – to support them. The policies have been good for the banksters.

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

America as Torturer

The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national consensus on the torture question.

While the task force did not have access to classified records, it is the most ambitious independent attempt to date to assess the detention and interrogation programs. A separate 6,000-page report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s record by the Senate Intelligence Committee, based exclusively on agency records, rather than interviews, remains classified.


Staff members, including the executive director, Neil A. Lewis, a former reporter for The New York Times, traveled to multiple detention sites and interviewed dozens of former American and foreign officials, as well as former detainees.


The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means.


It confirms a report by Human Rights Watch that one or more Libyan militants were waterboarded by the C.I.A., challenging the agency’s longtime assertion that only three Al Qaeda prisoners were subjected to the near-drowning technique. It includes a detailed account by Albert J. Shimkus Jr., then a Navy captain who ran a hospital for detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison, of his own disillusionment when he discovered what he considered to be the unethical mistreatment of prisoners.

But the report’s main significance may be its attempt to assess what the United States government did in the years after 2001 and how it should be judged.


Like the still-secret Senate interrogation report, the Constitution Project study was initiated after President Obama decided in 2009 not to support a national commission to investigate the post-9/11 counterterrorism programs, as proposed by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and others. Mr. Obama said then that he wanted to “look forward, not backward.” Aides have said he feared that his own policy agenda might get sidetracked in a battle over his predecessor’s programs.


The panel found that the United States violated its international legal obligations by engineering “enforced disappearances” and secret detentions. It questions recidivism figures published by the Defense Intelligence Agency for Guantánamo detainees who have been released, saying they conflict with independent reviews.

It describes in detail the ethical compromise of government lawyers who offered “acrobatic” advice to justify brutal interrogations and medical professionals who helped direct and monitor them. And it reveals an internal debate at the International Committee of the Red Cross over whether the organization should speak publicly about American abuses; advocates of going public lost the fight, delaying public exposure for months, the report finds.


While the Constitution Project report covers mainly the Bush years, it is critical of some Obama administration policies, especially what it calls excessive secrecy. It says that keeping the details of rendition and torture from the public “cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security” and urges the administration to stop citing state secrets to block lawsuits by former detainees.


It offers dozens of legal cases in which similar treatment was prosecuted in the United States or denounced as torture by American officials when used by other countries.


“I had not recognized the depths of torture in some cases,” Mr. Jones said. “We lost our compass.”

No. We threw it overboard.

Oh, Brother

An envelope that tested positive for the deadly poison ricin was intercepted Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol's off-site mail facility in Washington, congressional and law enforcement sources tell CNN. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was told the letter was addressed to the office of Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi.


Sen. Claire McCaskill told reporters after a briefing for lawmakers that a suspect has already been identified in the incident. Members will be warning their home-state offices to look out for similar letters, she said.

And by the way, we never did get a satisfactory explanation for the September 2001 anthrax attacks, did we?

Compare and Contrast to What's Happening to Bradley Manning

An Alaska-based military policeman will serve 16 years in prison and will be dishonorably discharged for selling secrets to an FBI undercover agent who he believed was a Russian spy, a panel of eight military members has decided.


Military prosecutors painted him as a white supremacist who was fed up with the Army and the United States, and was willing to sell secrets to an enemy agent, even if that would cost fellow soldiers their lives.


Spec. William Colton Millay, of Owensboro, Ky., pleaded guilty last month to attempted espionage and other counts. He was sentenced Monday.

UPDATE: 4/20/13 This comparison has been made at Truthout.


Knowing that FBI authorities in Boston planned a press conference this morning to give more information on the explosions, I wanted to wait for that to comment. You all know what's going on.

We also know that the FBI has "foiled" several terror attempts by entrapping excitable and angry young men from Middle Eastern backgrounds who might otherwise simply be excitable and angry without the resources to do anything. If this is one of those deals and it got away from them, we'll never know. That would be covered up. In fact, the Boston police chief and FBI man on the scene told us early on that there was no chatter about the planning or execution of this attack picked up by intelligence agencies - it was totally out of the blue. That's possible. But it would also be what you'd say if you were the FBI and knew about it because you created it by trying to entrap those responsible. I don't know what you'd do with the perpetrators who could talk. But I can speculate with the best of them.

But let's just go with the information we're officially given.

There doesn't seem to be any new information this morning.

I only have one choice for TV news - NBC - but I wouldn't be surprised if they were all more or less the same. But I can tell you that it's no better than it ever has been on NBC. Brian Williams (slightly better than the morning's Today Show crew) yesterday repeatedly compared what happened to things he'd personally seen while covering news in war zones. I guess because he couldn't actually say the attacks were foreign terrorists, he kept repeating that the two blasts were typical of what was happening in the Middle East: setting off a blast and then waiting until people gathered around to help to set off another. No, Brian. Actually, as you know, the two devices were a block away from each other, exploding within just a few seconds. That's not at all what you are continuing to crow.

He brought Tom Brokaw on who calmly claimed that we just have to get used to this kind of thing now, because that's "the price of living in a free country." WTF, Tom? Before the 90s, the foreign terror attacks were on US properties overseas or in the skies. And before Tim McVeigh, large-scale domestic terrorism was mostly limited to the KKK, with periodic incidents like the 1910 bombing of the Times Building in Los Angeles. Presumably we were a free country prior to 1990. In fact, I think it's arguable that we were a freer country then.

But Brian wasn't so calm, and he wanted to remind us over and over again that if we aren't even safe at an event like the Boston Marathon where the security was high, how, oh how, could we ever hope to be safe at big public events?

This morning, the female newscaster on the Today Show was still trying to pump for some "expert" speculation. Fortunately, ex-counter-terrorism official, Michael Leiter ,wouldn't bite when she asked for a "gut" impression of who and why. Leiter replied that this isn't something you use your gut to figure out.

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

Sunday, April 14, 2013


A hunger strike among detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who have been imprisoned by the United States military without trial — some for more than a decade — is continuing to grow, although there is sharp disagreement between the military and lawyers for the detainees about how many are participating.


Lawyers for detainees and military officials agree that waning hopes for any release among low-level prisoners are an underlying cause of the unrest. Congress has placed restrictions on further transfers, nearly halting any departures even though about half of the remaining inmates were cleared for release years ago. The bulk of the low-level detainees are Yemenis.

Because it now appears that the prison will remain open indefinitely, the United States Southern Command, which overseas Guantánamo, has requested nearly $200 million to renovate facilities that were built to be temporary and are now deteriorating, including barracks and a meal hall for the guards.

Military guards at Guantanamo's communal camp fired four non-lethal rounds at detainees early Saturday morning as the facility commander forced them into single cells in an apparent effort to stop a prolonged hunger strike.

Currently, 43 detainees are on a hunger strike at the prison; 13 of those are being force fed.


The action was taken "in response to efforts by detainees to limit the guard force's ability to observe the detainees by covering surveillance cameras, windows, and glass partitions."


The military said that more than 40 detainees are participating in the hunger strike, which began in February, but detainees have told their lawyers the strike is much more widespread and involves the vast majority of the 166 detainees remaining at Guantanamo.

  Huffington Post
The raid came shortly after a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross completed a three-week visit to examine the prisoners and study the circumstances of a hunger strike that has been roiling the camp for weeks.


The military has not allowed reporters to visit the prison for several weeks.

Lawyers for the detainees say the hunger strike was triggered "as a protest of the men's indefinite confinement without charge and because of what they said was a return to harsh treatment from past years.


The US military, needless to say, denies these claims.


As the New York Times' Charlie Savage notes […], the conflicting claims are difficult to resolve. That is in part because journalists have very restricted access to the camp and no access to the detainees.


Whatever is true about the camp, the vast majority of those detainees have been kept in a cage for years - some more than a decade - without so much as having been charged with anything. They haven't seen their families in years. Ten prisoners have died at the camp, the latest one just four months ago under very suspicious circumstances. [...T]here have been recent mass suicide attempts.


Whenever the issue of Guantánamo is raised, there are instantly deceitful efforts to relieve President Obama of any responsibility for the ongoing disgrace that is the camp. That is accomplished with the claim that Congress blocked him from closing the camp, a claim that is true but extremely misleading: as I've documented many times before, and as the ACLU has often noted, Obama's plan was not to "close" the camp but rather to re-locate it and its core, defining injustice - indefinite detention - to Illinois (what the ACLU called "GITMO North"). Indefinite detention - being kept in a cage with no charges and with no end in sight - is one of the prime grievances driving this hunger strike, and Obama - completely independent of Congress - fully intended to preserve that system.


Just last week, detainee lawyers were infuriated when camp officials canceled all commercial flights to Guantánamo, thus severely restricting their access to their clients at exactly the time that grievances over worsening treatment led to the strike.

Not only have most of those detainees never been charged, but dozens of them have been cleared for release by the US government, yet continue to languish in cages with no release possible. That inexcusable injustice is due in part to a moratorium imposed by Obama - that's imposed by Obama, not Congress - on the release of all Yemeni detainees, who compose the bulk of the remaining detainees.


As former Gitmo guard Brandon Neely pointed out last September, after the death of a former hunger striker, more detainees have died at the camp (ten) than have been convicted of wrongdoing in what he called its "kangaroo courts", meaning its military commissions (six).

  Glenn Greenwald

Talk About Your Happy Easter

An Easter morning craving turned into a cause for concern for the chief of police in Lawrenceville, Ohio, after the cake he ate turned out to be laced with cannabis oil.

“All I can describe is, it was the worst feeling in the world,” Mike Berkemeier told WBNS-TV on Friday. “I thought I was dying.”

Burkemeyer said he ate the entire cake on March 31 after seeing it on his kitchen counter. But when he began feeling ill, he told the station, he drove to his station for help.


Medics from the local fire department took Burkemeyer to a hospital. Later, he said, his daughter told his fiancee about the cake’s “secret ingredient.” The cake was allegedly brought to the house by a friend’s boyfriend.


Burkemeyer was given a sedative to sleep off the effects of the cake. WBNS reported that the Sheriff’s office for Hocking County, Ohio, is determining whether to charge the man with assault and “corrupting another with drugs.”

  Raw Story
Wait a minute. He ate the WHOLE cake? Pig.

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

It's Sunday

A giant "monumental" stone structure discovered beneath the waters of the Sea of Galilee in Israel has archaeologists puzzled as to its purpose and even how long ago it was built.

And Charlie Pierce is helping himself to a great heap of Christian hate mail with his comments if I’m any judge of attitude and reaction.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Drone War in Pakistan

After ten years of drone strikes, the Taliban are more brutal than before. What was once called the war on terror is backfiring in Pakistan; the drone is despised.


Pakistan's last parliament voted to block drone strikes, making them illegal under international law, but has been powerless to stop them.


"This might be an effective tool to win a battle but this is certainly a counterproductive tool - an illegal, and unlawful, and also counterproductive tool - to win the war," said former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.


The drones operate out of U.S. bases in neighboring Afghanistan, and according to the White House, target al Qaeda and Taliban hiding in Pakistan's tribal border region - not civilians.

Karim Khan, who is from that tribal region, tells CNN his brother and son were killed in a drone strike in late 2009.

"They were both government employees, they were not involving in any terrorists acts," said Khan.

He is suing the CIA, but given the chance, says he would take revenge on those responsible.

"I will kill them if Allah give me this opportunity, I will kill them. Because they are responsible for killing my brother and my son," said Khan. "I will kill them because they are criminal."

Lawyer Shezad Akbar represents a hundred families like Khan's.


"Drones are creating not just one generation but generations of jihadists, because if you kill a father, his son will come and then if you kill his son, his grandson will come, and this is what is happening," said Akbar.

  Jake Tapper
When Jake Tapper, CNN White House correspondent, worked for ABC, he told NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me audience that when Hillary Clinton first became Secretary of State, he saw her one day and greeted her as Senator Clinton, but quickly amended it to Secretary Clinton. He then asked her which title she liked better, and she said, “I like either of them better than what we call you behind your back.”

Oh, meOW!


If one day in the not too distant future you can go to the dollar store, buy a thin, flat device the size of a playing card, dunk it in a quart of dirty bath water and use it to generate about 100 watts of electricity 24 hours a day, you can thank the Air Force. Along with other federal agencies, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research has been pouring funds into the development of an “artificial leaf,” a low cost solar-powered device that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen, for powering fuel cells.


[L]ead researcher Daniel Nocera (formerly of MIT, now at Harvard) called it “one of the Holy Grails of science.”

  Raw Story
That’s wonderful. But let’s not get too excited. YOU won’t be able to "go to the dollar store" and buy any such thing. (YOU won’t be able to buy any such thing at all if the US government has a patent on it and decides it shouldn’t be sold publicly.) YOU might be able to lease something like that from a corporate energy company some day, but don’t think you’re going to pay any markedly less for it than you do now for your energy consumption.

Two Can Play That Game

Russia has published a blacklist of US officials banned from entering the country in retaliation to a Washington sanction against 18 Russians and Chechens accused of committing human rights abuses.


Russia’s foreign ministry on Saturday called the Magnitsky Act an "absurd" law that "intervenes in our domestic affairs" and "delivers a strong blow to bilateral relations."

"Unlike the American list, which is formed arbitrarily, our list primarily includes those who are implicated in legalisation of torture and perpetual detentions in Guantanamo prison, to the arrests and kidnapping of Russian citizens," the ministry said.

Russia’s list includes John Yoo, a former US Justice Department official who wrote legal memos authorising harsh interrogation techniques; David Addington, the chief of staff for former Vice President Dick Cheney; and two former commanders of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

Fourteen more people are named as having violated the rights of Russian citizens abroad, including the US district judge Jed Rakoff and several prosecutors from his district in the state of New York, as well as several Drug Enforcement Administration officers and FBI agent Gregory Coleman.

It really is the height of arrogant hypocrisy for the US to talk about any other country’s human rights abuses. And Russia would be well within reason to name every director of the CIA since its inception, plus Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz (et al.), and all Commanders in Chief of the US Army ever overseeing Guantanamo Bay prison and secret detention centers around the world. That they didn’t name all those people only shows that they’re playing the same game we are.

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

Friday, April 12, 2013

Negotiating with the Enemy

The same week in which he announced his intention to renege partially on eight decades of Democratic social policy, and to do so in the face of ongoing economic neurasthenia brought on by a whopping huge economic collapse, [Barack Obama went] out of his way to meet with the men whose recklessness and marginal criminality brought on the whopping huge economic collapse in the first place, so they will help him sell measures that will hurt the people who already are suffering from the effects of the whopping big recession these guys caused.

  Charlie Pierce
And he had the GOP to dinner, too....but hey, do what you will anyway.

And Isn't It Great to Have Such a Willing Victim?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

I Don't Know, But...

Hey, CBS News.  I don't think "You May Also Like..." is your best title choice for these pages.

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

I Don't Know if We Can Mutate Fast Enough

Our environmental pollution is outpacing us.
According to new research coming out of the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, floating plastic debris, similar to the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" has been found in the Great Lakes.

The pacific garbage patch is an area of trash in the Pacific Ocean that's estimated to be twice the size of Texas. The spot acts as a vortex of plastic particles and other pollutants that the currents have pushed together. The actual dimension varies because the garbage itself is often hard to see from satellites. The Pacific is not alone, there's also a garbage patch in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, and now the Great Lakes.

One of my greatest fears is that the massive environmental problems this country faces — climate change being only the most serious of them — are completely beyond the capacity of our political system to solve. There are tiny ecological Hiroshimas all over the country waiting to go off — from lagoons of pig feces to leaky superannuated nuclear waste dumps. None of these problems are going to get better. They're all going to get worse, and all the money seems to be on the side of people who profit from the problems and, even if one of them pops on the national radar, there comes inevitably a lavishly funded attack on the science that's telling us what we all need to know.

  Charlie Pierce
...but hey, do what you will anyway.

Actress Glenda Jackson Recounts Thatcher Legacy

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

But We Still Haven't Hit Rock Bottom Yet

Hey, between the Manchin-Toomey gun-control compromise, and the president's new budget, we've entire loaf.

Oh, and feel free to shoot me now.
"We're not going to have the White House forever, folks. If he doesn't do this, Paul Ryan is going to do it for us in a few years," said a longtime Obama aide, referring to the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate who proposed a sweeping overhaul of Medicare that would replace some benefits with vouchers.

Who thinks this way? More to the point, who in the White House ever has thought this way? And what kind of a four-toed idiot gives this quote to a reporter, even anonymously?


There is only one reason for anyone in the White House to adopt this rationale, and there is only one reason for anyone in the White House to float this rationale in public. The only plausible reason for adopting this rationale, or for floating it in public, is because this is what you really want to do in the first place and you are groping for a plausible alibi. The only plausible reason for it is that you've bought the deficit-hysteria to the point where you believe that you have to do this thing right now. Nothing else makes sense, unless the White House mess has changed where it shops for its mushrooms.


There's more in the budget proposal that's pretty damned bad. ("Overhauling" the corporate tax code "in a way that doesn't generate additional revenue"? I will now shave my eyeballs with a lemon zester.) I will yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from New Jersey on the most egregious of those. But my money's still on this budget being exactly what this president wants. Or on the mushrooms.

  Charlie Pierce

How Generous

The Obama administration on Wednesday is expected to grant members of the Senate Judiciary Committee access to its legal justification for killing suspected terrorists who are U.S. citizens.

  The Hill
Perhaps we should ask ourselves: What does a legal justification have to do with national security?

 ...but hey, do what you will anyway.

About Those Drones...

The administration has said that strikes by the CIA’s missile-firing Predator and Reaper drones are authorized only against “specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces” involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks who are plotting “imminent” violent attacks on Americans.

“It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative,” President Barack Obama said in a Sept. 6, 2012, interview with CNN. “It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.”

Copies of […] top-secret U.S. intelligence reports reviewed by McClatchy, however, show that drone strikes in Pakistan over a four-year period didn’t adhere to those standards.


Micah Zenko, an expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, a bipartisan foreign policy think tank, who closely follows the target killing program, said McClatchy’s findings indicate that the administration is “misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted.”

The documents also show that drone operators weren’t always certain who they were killing despite the administration’s guarantees of the accuracy of the CIA’s targeting intelligence and its assertions that civilian casualties have been “exceedingly rare.”


The administration has declined to reveal other details of the program, such as the intelligence used to select targets and how much evidence is required for an individual to be placed on a CIA “kill list.” The administration also hasn’t even acknowledged the existence of so-called signature strikes, let alone discussed the legal and procedural foundations of the attacks.

I know you’re shocked, but not to worry your pretty little head.
Leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees say they maintain robust oversight over the program.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Meanwhile in Afghanistan

US warplanes pounded the village of Shigal in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan today, destroying several houses in the course of a “support” operation that NATO officials bragged led to the deaths of two “senior Taliban leaders.”


Provincial officials checked the houses, however, and found a grim consequence of the bombing campaign: a large number of women and children within were killed and injured beneath the rubble of their homes. 11 children in all were reported killed, and one woman. Several other women were badly wounded.

The deaths came on the same day that a car bomb killed five Americans, including three US soldiers, a young diplomat and a US Defence Department contractor, in the southern province of Zabul.


Good Luck, Arkansas

Activists with the group Tar Sands Blockade published new videos on Sunday showing oil from the Arkansas pipeline rupture purportedly diverted from a residential neighborhood into a wetland area to keep it out sight and, most importantly, out of the media.

  Raw Story
Well, that would be UNHEARD of.
Activists also interviewed a local resident who claimed the oil has continued “flowing” into Lake Conway since the spill happened.
Which is exactly what they were afraid of, although they ought to have some concerns for their groundwater, if they don’t. And since we get media stories, we only know what the media distributors are worried about.
A letter sent by ExxonMobil to residents of Mayflower on March 31 claims the oil did not reach Lake Conway.
It WOULD claim that, wouldn’t it?
While it’s not clear if the oil was intentionally moved into the wetland, the company says it is cleaning pavement with power washing devices, which could cause some of the oil to be pushed off neighborhood streets and into other areas.
Could? COULD? SOME of the oil? Are we to believe that power washers atomize the oil? Make it disappear like a blast from some atomic incinerator? Where the hell do people think that oil IS going?
In two separate videos, nearby residents say they’ve been made sick by the spill, which has tremendously affected their air quality.


“I don’t have allergies,” a man who lives on Lake Conway told tar sands activists. “But now my sinuses are bothering me. My throat’s bothering me. My eyes water constantly. But they [Exxon] act like nothing’s wrong. They don’t have to live here, we do. And we’re not moving just because of them.”
Well, sir. You may HAVE to. Of course, by the time all the oil companies get through polluting all the water resources, I’m not sure where you’re going to go.
This footage has largely remained out of the media due to the lockdown that’s descended upon Mayflower nearly a week since the spill. Reporters touring the damage with Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel were allegedly turned away by Exxon workers. One journalist, InsideClimate News’s Susan White, was even threatened with arrest when she asked a question of Exxon’s “public affairs” desk inside the spill cleanup command center. The company has also secured a no-fly zone over the spill area.
One thing you can say for the oil companies – they’ve learned how to handle an oil spill.
Video of Lake Conway’s wetlands shows thousands of what Exxon called “absorbent pads” — which appear to be nothing more than paper towels — littering the blackened landscape as thick, soupy crude bubbles across the water’s surface. The company insists that air quality in the affected region is being measured by the Environmental Protection Agency, and that tests show “levels that are either non-detect or that are below any necessary action levels.” Exxon also says that the area’s drinking water remains unaffected.
A phone number given by Exxon to reach the company’s “downstream media relations” team did not appear to be correct, and a spokesperson was not available for comment.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

America's Governing Class and the Sequester

[If members of Congress and the executive branch want to give up a pittance of their salary “in solidarity” with the people who are being affected by sequestration,] that is their prerogative. But it really straddles the line between silly and offensive grandstanding. Given that this entire package of cuts was essentially a game of Russian Roulette in which the Washington political class pointed the pistol at most of the rest of the country and then decided to see what would happen if they just decided to pull the trigger, this seems like a particularly tone-deaf way of claiming awareness of everyone else’s pain.

It reminds me, sort of, of the House Republican and No Labels-supported “no budget, no pay” movement, which similarly missed the point. None of these people rely on their paychecks to make the rent or feed a family or pay down crushing debt. The Senate is full of millionaires; the House only looks middle-class in comparison. Instead of calling attention to the real effects of a pointless and intentionally destructive spending cut, comfortable people voluntarily “giving up” a pittance of their salaries only distracts.

So, maybe that’s the aim.

And, I don't think it straddles any line.  It's full-on offensive grandstanding.

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

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

President Barack Obama’s administration will seek $100 million in funding for a mission to tow an asteroid closer to Earth for the purpose of helping future expeditions to Mars, NBC News reported on Saturday.


NASA’s mission proposal, adapted from a scenario (PDF) designed by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, calls for a robotic probe to grab an asteroid measuring approximately 500 tons and 25 to 35 feet in width in 2019 and bringing it into orbit near the moon, which would shorten future asteroid expeditions by months, on top of providing access to the asteroid’s natural resources.

  Raw Story
Another brilliant introduction.

Never mind what happened when someone had the brilliant idea to introduce blackbirds to New York, or kudzu to Arkansas, or brown tree snakes to Guam, or bush currant to Hawaii, or the Indian mongoose to Puerto Rico, or US military bases to Saudi Arabia.

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

Saturday, April 6, 2013


WikiLeaks on Friday released a 2006 State Department cable detailing the Bush administration's strategy for undermining Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez by supporting alleged pro-democracy groups.

  The Hill
Exactly what Chavez was saying and Bush was denying all along. Of course, it’s possible that the only people in the world who believe that “pro-democracy groups” in other countries are not working with the CIA are Americans.
[Then-Ambassador William Brownfield wrote: S]trengthening democratic institutions [...] “represents the majority of USAID/OTI work in Venezuela
When, ostensibly, USAID is for civilian aid in foreign countries where aid is needed.

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

Poor Joe Biden Can't Afford a Furlough

[Joe] Biden plans to take a pay cut if members of his staff are furloughed as a result of the sequester, his office said Friday.

“The vice president is committed to sharing the burden of the sequester with his staff,” a spokesperson for the vice president said in an e-mail.

But the White House has not yet announced plans to furlough employees who work in the West Wing and or for the vice president's staff, creating a potentially awkward disconnect among top administration officials.


Unlike some members of the Obama Cabinet, he is not independently wealthy.

  The Hill
And we’re supposed to feel badly about that? How many federal employees taking a furlough are independently wealthy? How many are making what Joe Biden is making?

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

Friday, April 5, 2013


Galveston Island celebrates the flocking of migratory birds every year with the annual Featherfest activities. I don't know if the birds I've seen the last few days are migratory, but it's the first time I've caught sight of either. I've been throwing seed out all winter and saw some beautiful European starlings a few months ago, but mostly little sparrows and the ever-present pigeons and grackles. The grackles have gone elsewhere, but the pigeons gather at 7:30 am every morning on the wires and eaves, and as soon as I walk out the door, they come to the yard. (Sometimes I think they follow me to work. :-))

At any rate, yesterday morning I saw a purple finch in the palm tree by my back steps.  It was tres jolie.  He looked like a little sparrow that had been dyed red for Easter.  I didn't have my camera, so here's an internet picture:

I also saw a little brown bird with a yellow mask.  I tried Googling that and didn't find it.  Google returned mostly small yellow birds with black masks.  I found this:

but that isn't it.

I tried looking up all birds with yellow, and it's possible that it was a hooded warbler, although I didn't notice yellow on the belly, and the mask was very neatly drawn, and I think had a white ring around it.  I saw another small yellow bird this morning, but fleetingly, and its underbelly was indeed yellow, but I couldn't see its face.  I thought immediately of a finch, and it may have been.

Anyway, the bird in question had a mask like this hooded warbler, but the bird was otherwise all buff colored.  The internet pictures of the female show a similar bird, without the black head, but still looking quite yellow.  The immatures don't seem to have a distinct mask.  So....I don't know.

A couple of years ago about this time, my sister and I watched a small flock of screaming-brilliant blue birds in the yard where I was living.  I think we decided they were indigo buntings.  It was more secluded than where I am now, and I'm not expecting to see them again, but that would be a real treat.  It was once. 

Just, you know, in case you care to know.