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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Daily Drift

Ain't that the truth!

Some of our readers today have been in:
Chisinau, Moldova
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Johannesburg, South Africa
Puchong, Malaysia
San Jose, Costa Rica
Bialystok, Poland
Panevezys, Lithuania
Pretoria, South Africa
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Surabaya, Indonesia
Bordeaux, France
Mykolayiv, Ukraine
Belgrade, Serbia
Klang, Malaysia
Windhoek, Namibia
Suva, Fiji
Peshawar, Pakistan
Baghdad, Iraq
Krakow, Poland
Abu Dahbi, United Arab, Emirates
Lahore, Pakistan
Leeds, England
Paris, France
Katowice, Poland
Minsk, Belarus
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Tawau, Malaysia
Panama, Panama
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Bankok, Thailand
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Today is White Shirt Day

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Today in History

660 BC Traditional founding of Japan by Emperor Jimmu Tenno.
1531 Henry VIII is recognized as the supreme head of the Church of England.
1805 Sixteen-year-old Sacajawea, the Shoshoni guide for Lewis & Clark, gives birth to a son, with Meriwether Lewis serving as midwife.
1809 Robert Fulton patents the steamboat.
1815 News of the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812, finally reaches the United States.
1858 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous, a French miller's daughter, claims to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes.
1903 Congress passes the Expedition Act, giving antitrust cases priority in the courts.
1904 President Theodore Roosevelt proclaims strict neutrality for the United States in the Russo-Japanese War.
1910 Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and Eleanor Alexander announce their wedding date–June 20, 1910.
1926 The Mexican government nationalizes all church property.
1936 The Reich arrests 150 Catholic youth leaders in Berlin.
1939 The Negrin government returns to Madrid, Spain.
1942 The German battleships Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen begin their famed channel dash from the French port of Brest. Their journey takes them through the English Channel on their way back to Germany.
1945 The meeting of the President Franklin Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Marshal Joseph Stalin in Yalta, adjourns.
1951 U.N. forces push north across the 38th parallel for the second time in the Korean war.
1953 Walt Disney's film Peter Pan premieres.
1954 A 75,000-watt light bulb is lit at the Rockefeller Center in New York, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Thomas Edison's first light bulb.
1955 Nationalist Chinese complete the evacuation of the Tachen Islands.
1959 Iran turns down Soviet aid in favor of a U.S. proposal for aid.
1962 Poet and novelist Sylvia Plath commits suicide in London at age 30.
1964 Cambodian Prince Sihanouk blames the United States for a South Vietnamese air raid on a village in his country.
1965 President Lyndon Johnson orders air strikes against targets in North Vietnam, in retaliation for guerrilla attacks on the American military in South Vietnam.
1966 Vice President Hubert Humphrey begins a tour of Vietnam.
1974 Communist-led rebels shower artillery fire into a crowded area of Phnom Pehn, killing 139 and injuring 46 others.
1975 Mrs. Margaret Thatcher becomes the first woman to lead the British Conservative Party.
1990 South African political leader Nelson Mandela is released from prison in Paarl, South Africa, after serving more than 27 years of a life sentence.

Non Sequitur


Famous Secret Societies

Beyonce recently (inadvertently or not) shined the light on the mysterious Illuminati – what other secret societies are out there?

Tokyo man arrested over bizarre hacking campaign

Japanese police Sunday arrested a man suspected of being behind a computer hacking campaign following an exhaustive hunt that at one stage had authorities tracking down a cat for clues, reports said.

Ron Paul wants to expropriate RonPaul.com from his supporters without compensation

From RonPaul.com:
Earlier today, Ron Paul filed an international UDRP complaint against RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org with WIPO, a global governing body that is an agency of the United Nations. The complaint calls on the agency to expropriate the two domain names from his supporters without compensation and hand them over to Ron Paul.
On May 1st, 2008 we launched a grassroots website at RonPaul.com that became one of the most popular resources dedicated exclusively to Ron Paul and his ideas. Like thousands of fellow Ron Paul supporters, we put our lives on hold and invested 5 years of hard work into Ron Paul, RonPaul.com and Ron Paul 2012. Looking back, we are very happy with what we were able to achieve with unlimited enthusiasm and limited financial resources...
...At the same time we offered him RonPaul.org as a free gift so we could keep using RonPaul.com and he wouldn’t have to use something like RonPaulsHomePage.com.
Incredibly, Ron Paul’s lawyers are trying to use our FREE offer of RonPaul.org against us in an attempt to demonstrate “bad faith” on our part!
Of course, they also offered to sell him the .com domain and their mailing list for $250k.

Rand Paul Says Ashley Judd is Attractive, Articulate and Doesn’t Represent Kentucky

Ashley Judd
The tea party representative Senator Rand Paul (r-KY) was on CNN’s State of the Union the other day in an attempt to establish his SOTU address pre-buttal narrative. Asked about the negative ads running against Ashley Judd, Mitch McConnell’s potential 2014 opponent in Kentucky, Rand Paul said she was attractive, articulate and and doesn’t represent Kentucky.
Asked about Karl Rove’s negative ads against Judd in Kentucky, Rand said, “Part of politics is making sure people know about who you are running against. Ashley Judd’s a famous actress, she’s an attractive woman, and presents herself well, and from what I understand, is articulate. But the thing is, she doesn’t really represent Kentucky.”
I guess Rand’s Kentucky doesn’t want to be represented by an attractive, articulate woman. Or maybe it’s that Rove’s repugican cabal PAC Crossroads painted Judd out to be a radical liberal from Tennessee who loves ObamaCare because you should really “know” who is a Muslim Kenyan socialist without a birth certificate, rather than focusing on the people who are still clinging to the Affordable Care Act as a get out the vote tool even though they know they can’t overturn it. After all, the last thing repugicans can afford is to have actual policy discussions with voters.
Rand also offered up his peculiar brand of tea humor, “When I heard Ashley Judd might run for office I thought maybe it was Parliament since she lives in Scotland half the year.” Oh, European boogeywoman! Good one, Senator.
If Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (r-KY) and repugicans aren’t worried about Judd, then why are they going out of their way to attack her? Good question. Mitch McConnell has lowest job approval rating among 90 members of the Senate. His job approval rating is at 37% with a 55% disapproval in Kentucky, according to a Public Policy Polling poll from December. And in a hypothetical match up, Judd was only trailing McConnell by 4% until voters were fed a few tidbits about her, such as her grandmother calling her a Hollywood liberal. Hence, the pre-emptive ads against Judd focusing on her comparative liberalism (also known as wanting Americans to have healthcare) in a wingnut state like Kentucky.
Rand contradicted reports that the tea party is going to primary McConnell, saying it’s unlikely that the tea party would run someone against McConnell. But the European Socialist Hollywood Actress Tennessee loving ObamaCare radical might try to take him on….
Also, in case you thought it was weird that repugicans are giving a double response to President Obama’s State of the Union, Senator Paul assures us this is not weird and it’s also not a problem for the repugicans because he is not going to contradict Marco Rubio in any way. Which begs the question, then why is he giving a second response to Obama?
It’s an “extra response”! Rand danced around this awkward moment, “To me, I see it as extra response, I don’t see it as necessarily divisive. I won’t say anything on there that necessarily is like, ‘Oh, Marco Rubio’s wrong’. He and I don’t always agree, but the thing is, this isn’t about he and I (sic), this is about the tea party, which is a grassroots delusion, a fantasy that there are millions of Americans who are still concerned about some of the deal making that goes on in Washington.”
Yes, okay Senator. You’re not going to say Rubio is wrong, it’s just going to be an “extra” response because the nation can’t get enough tea rhetoric and the repugicans aren’t trying to run away as fast as they can from the tea damage. Please proceed.

Oh, and speaking of repugican dickheads

All of the states in the US have their own problems to work on, but the repugicans in particular can be some real dickheads...

From Daily Kos

Rick Perry begging California businesses to head to Texas
Perry has launched a high-profile battle for California companies, running radio ads in California touting the Lone Star State's low taxes and favorable business climate. The ads will be heard in San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Inland Empire area east of Los Angeles. "Building a business is tough, but I hear building a business in California is next to impossible. This is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and I have a message for California businesses: Come check out Texas," starts the 30-second spot.
Perry hears that building a business in California is next to impossible? The same California that has more Fortune 500 businesses than any other state? The same California that has given us Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Intel, Disney, DirecTV, Amgen, Clorox, eBay, Visa, Mattel, HP, Gap and even Chevron? (How's that for a diversified economy?) Man, how did all those companies build their businesses when it was impossible to do so?
Perhaps Rick Perry heard wrong.
As I noted last week, conservatives have a ton invested in the fiction that California businesses are fleeing to Texas in massive numbers. The reality is that California had 254 businesses leave the state in 2011, only about three dozen to Texas. At the same time, California entrepreneurs started about 167,000 new businesses. So you can imagine, the Golden State isn't exactly trembling with fear.

Bill Maher on Donald Trump’s $5m lawsuit against him

Bill Maher apparently joked that Donald Trump was the son of an orangutan (since he’s all orange), and that he’d give $5m to charity if Trump could prove he wasn’t the child of an ape. Trump’s lawyer sent Maher a copy of Trump’s birth certificate (actually it was only the “short form,” as Maher points out) along with a letter stating categorically that Trump was not birthed from an orangutan (Trump actually had his lawyer write that), and is demanding that Maher put up the $5m. So Trump is now suing Maher.
This is the repugican cabal’s best and brightest. They file lawsuits over jokes about them being born to orangutan’s.  I hope the judge forces Trump to pay Maher’s legal costs.  Trump’s lawyers should be ashamed of themselves.  As should the repugican cabal.  Their embrace of crazy really needs to stop.

Hypocrisy Alert: Eric Cantor Added $3.4 Trillion to Debt But Blames Obama for His Debt

Eric Cantor lied when he claimed that Obama doesn’t care about the debt on Meet The Press. He also forgot his own votes for wars and programs that increased the debt by $3.4 trillion under the shrub.
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

DAVID GREGORY: These core beliefs, I mean what you’re talking about, as you admitted after your speech, is not really something that’s going to be captured in new legislation. There are core beliefs of the repugican cabal that the polls show were rejected by a national electorate that you want to try to recapture some of if you’re going to get to become a national party.
REP. ERIC CANTOR: Not quite sure about legislation. We are going to have follow-up legislation to pretty much everything I spoke of this year. And that’s the point. The point is we’ve got to be talking about helping folks. You know, I’ve got a constituent, she’s 12 years old, her name is Katie. She was diagnosed with cancer at age one. I mean can you imagine? That is a parent’s nightmare, the worst nightmare.
And the federal government’s got a role in research, in basic medical research, trying to find cures for disease. We can work together on something like that. You know, we’ve got so many issues. We know, on the bigger macroeconomic issues, there’s a real disagreement between us and the president. We ought to be making sure we manage down the debt and deficit. He doesn’t share the commitment with us on that.
So okay, we’re going to keep at it on that. But at the same time, you’ve got so many millions of Americans who feel that they have become an afterthought. My purpose in saying this is we have conservative principles that actually can work for their life again. And that’s what we’re going to be about promoting.
Beneath the kinder gentler rhetoric of the repugican cabal are the same old tired lies that they have been pushing since Barack Obama first took office. President Obama has done the exact opposite of not caring about reducing the debt and deficit. Barack Obama has cut federal spending to its lowest level since Eisenhower. The President has signed cuts that will reduce our debt by $2.5 trillion, and as far as the deficit goes, it has been shrinking every year under Obama.
Here is the chart from The Rachel Maddow Show:
As the chart demonstrates, Eric Cantor was lying. He was completely, totally, and comprehensively not telling the truth. Apparently, instead of lying for the wealthy, Cantor and his fellow repugicans are going to lie to the middle class.
Even worse than Cantor’s lies, is his hypocrisy about the debt. The truth is that Eric Cantor is in part responsible for the nation’s debts and deficit. According to data compiled by Bloomberg News in 2011, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell voted for, “Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2001 and 2003 shrub tax cuts and Medicare prescription drug benefits. They also voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. These initiatives added $3.4 trillion to the nation’s accumulated debt and to its current annual budget deficit of $1.5 trillion.”
The repugicans claim that the nation can’t afford Medicare, Social Security, jobs programs, veterans’ benefits, school lunches, an even Meals On Wheels due to the deficit, but it was Eric Cantor who helped run up the debt in the last decade. Apparently, the repugican cabal isn’t the only thing that Eric Cantor is reinventing. The Majority Leader is also re-imagining his voting record, and his own role in running up the national debt.
The numbers show that while repugicans pretend, the real deficit cutter is residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Eric Cantor Embarrasses Himself Playing Sequester Blame Game

Eric Cantor
If Eric Cantor’s performance on Meet the Press this morning is any indication, repugicans are getting a bit nervous about the impending sequester.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (r-VA) fell in line with the repugicans’ sequester strategy by playing the blame game, saying that President Obama proposed the sequester in the first place. “The president, he’s the one that proposed the sequester in the first place.” This is also known as the hot potato game.
It seems repugicans don’t like the consequences of their debt ceiling standoff. They wouldn’t be in this position if they hadn’t chosen to use the debt ceiling as a weapon of mass economic destruction. Their debt ceiling games have already cost us 18.9 billion dollars, so it’s confusing to listen to them whine about who proposed a solution to their threat to tank the economy.
Cantor dug down for the old reliable bludgeon, saying that President Obama wants to raise taxes. And then, because repugicans are so great with math and budgets, he lectured, “This is not… the best way to go about trying to control spending.” Translation: repugicans don’t do compromise, repugicans can’t handle the defense cuts, and repugicans don’t likey where this is going, mommy. Please stop the ride.
To wit, Aerospace Industries (the premier trade association representing the nation’s major aerospace and defense manufacturers) is promoting this tweet today: ‏@AIAspeaks
Tell your elected officials that #sequestration risks 2.14 million jobs across all sectors of the #economy. RT to Stop! pic.twitter.com/IGeTsVW6
But new talking points! Cantor tells us repugicans are all about “helping folks” (eerily, once again, reminiscent of Obama). They are going to help you by first helping the rich people and corporations and defense contractors, okay? Trickle down with the kinder, softer repugican cabal.
Kasie Hunt of NBC News saw right through Cantor’s attempt to deflect responsibility: @kasie .@EricCantor: “The president, he’s the one that proposed the sequester in the first place.” #blamegame #mtp
When NBC News sees through your blame game, you may have overplayed your hand.
Someone needs to put the repugicans in the calm down corner. However, bonus points to Cantor for maintaining his level of smug superiority even as he dished out transparently desperate talking points meant to cover the fact that the repugican cabal’s policies have not changed one iota.
As the repugicans careen toward a collision with yet another repugican cabal-created disaster, they can only hope that someone is still buying what they’re selling.

Wife drops gun at McDonald’s and shoots husband

Gun in schools.  What could possibly go wrong?
Oh right. This:
Carney said a preliminary investigation revealed that Richard Lee Cooper, 47, and wife Barbara Annette Masters, 48, were sitting in the restaurant’s dining area when Masters leaned forward and a the gun fell out of her pocket and hit the floor.
The impact with the floor caused the gun to go off, with the bullet striking Cooper in the abdomen, he said.
Woman with gun via Shutterstock
“I said no mustard.” 
The police are charging the woman with “third-degree assault and reckless endangering.” But does that mean she loses the gun? I’d be curious how that works. Do you lose the right to own a gun after you pull a stunt like this?
I was intrigued that the article quotes a cop offering “the four cardinal rules of gun ownership,” but seems leave out “always have the safety on.”
Carney later offered some reminders of “the four cardinal rules of firearm safety:”
Treat all firearms as if they are always loaded.
Keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until you’re on target and have made the conscious decision to shoot.
Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to kill or destroy.
Always be aware of your target, the backstop, and what lies beyond.
I’m curious whether the gun could have gone off if the safety were on? The article doesn’t get into this point, whether the safety was even on.
Regardless, what is she doing with the gun in her pocket, where it can easily fall out? She could have killed a random kid. And what if this were a school? Yes, let’s have even more guns in schools so some of them can fall out and randomly kill innocent kids.
And one final point.  You lose your Second Amendment right when it impinges on all of my other constitutional rights by killing me.

Meat Industry May Shut Down for Two Weeks If Sequester Happens

Thousands of meat inspectors would be furloughed

Restaurant Refuses to Serve Gay Rights Group, Comparing Them to KKK

"I have the right to refuse service to anyone," owner says

The World’s Most Expensive Pasta Sauce

This isn’t your mother’s Sunday night marinara. Dave’s Gourmet unveils the world’s most expensive pasta sauce, $1,000 White Truffle Marinara, to commemorate its 20th anniversary. The sauce is handmade in Dave’s Gourmet’s own kitchen using fresh vine-ripened tomatoes and some of the world’s most expensive ingredients including imported Italian white truffles and edible gold flakes. Each jar also comes in an antique handcrafted wooden box bearing the company’s insignia.
$1,000 Pasta Sauce
The over-the-top product is part of a yearlong celebration of a company that has grown from a kitschy hot sauce manufacturer to a much broader specialty food brand. Dave’s Gourmet, owned by Dave Hirschkop, had its early roots as a small restaurant near the University of Maryland.

With a typical drunk and boisterous late-night crowd, Hirschkop developed a tongue-sizzling hot sauce to tame the more unruly patrons. The trick seemed to work better than a bouncer and he was inspired to take it to unheard of Scoville levels (the heat measurement of chili peppers) and created the Insanity Sauce. He wore a straight jacket to its debut at the National Fiery Foods Show in New Mexico and the product was banned for being too hot.

Twenty years later, Hirschkop is just as fired up but the specialty food brand now encompasses a broader scope. He’s still producing 10 different hot sauces along with pasta sauces, snacks and drink mixes. Shoppers can also peruse the website by heat level and zero in on products suitable to their palettes.

As far the $1,000 jar of sauce, Hirschkop said, "The White Truffle Marinara is a fun and fitting next step in our mission of developing innovative premium products." If that particular variation is out of your price range, the company has other award-winning flavors including butternut squash and masala marinara.

In addition to the White Truffle Marinara, Dave’s Gourmet will celebrate its 20th anniversary with other events throughout the year. "These events symbolize our continuing commitment to innovate, have fun and grow for the benefit of the consumer, and we are really grateful to our partners and customers for all their support for the past 20 years," said Mr. Hirschkop.

Corn shortage idles 20 ethanol plants nationwide

FILE - This Oct. 4, 2012 file photo shows un-harvested corn in a field near Council Bluffs, Iowa. Corn growers had high hopes going into the 2012 planting season but the drought that began last spring hit the corn crop hard. As a result, corn prices skyrocketed and corn has become scarce in some regions, forcing 20 ethanol plants around the country to halt production. Most are not expected to resume production until after 2013 corn is harvested in late August or September. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File) 
The persistent drought is taking a toll on producers of ethanol, with corn becoming so scarce that nearly two dozen ethanol plants have been forced to halt production.
The Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry trade group, provided data to The Associated Press showing that 20 of the nation's 211 ethanol plants have ceased production over the past year, including five in January. Most remain open, with workers spending time performing maintenance-type tasks. But ethanol production won't likely resume until after 2013 corn is harvested in late August or September.
Industry experts don't expect a shortage — millions of barrels are stockpiled and the remaining 191 plants are still producing. Still, there is growing concern about what happens if the drought lingers through another corn-growing season.
"There's a lot of anxiety in the industry right now about the drought and a lot of folks watching the weather and hoping and praying this drought is going to break," said Geoff Cooper, vice president for research and analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association.
"If we get back to a normal pattern and normal corn crop, then I think the industry is in good shape," Cooper said. "But if this drought persists and it has the same effect on this coming corn crop, then we've got a problem."
America's ethanol industry has taken off in the past decade. Plants in 28 states produce more than 13 billion gallons of ethanol each year, Cooper said. By comparison, in 2002, the industry produced 2.1 billion gallons. Today, roughly 10 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply is made up of the biofuel.
Roughly 95 percent of U.S. ethanol is made from corn. The National Corn Growers Association estimates that 39 percent of the U.S. corn crop is used in ethanol production.
Corn producers had high hopes going into 2012. Record harvests were predicted.
Then the weather dried up. The drought began before planting and never stopped. Even though more acres were planted in 2012 compared to 2011, 13 percent less corn was harvested.
Availability of locally produced corn is vital for ethanol plants since having it shipped in is too expensive. To make matters worse, the drought hit hardest in many of the top corn-growing states.
Six of the 20 ethanol plants that stopped production are in Nebraska, two in Indiana, and two in Minnesota. Ten states have seen one plant affected. Cooper said the 20 plants employ roughly 1,000 workers combined, but it wasn't known how many have been laid off.
Valero Energy Corp., idled three plants last year — in North Linden, Ind., and Albion, Neb., in June; and in Bloomingburg, Ohio, in December.
Five plants ceased production in January alone — Abengoa plants in the Nebraska towns of York and Ravenna; a White Energy plant in Plainview, Texas; an Aemetis facility in Keyes, Calif.; and POET Biorefining's mid-Missouri plant in Macon.
The production stoppages are cutting into ethanol production. The 770,000 gallons per day produced in the last full week of January were the fewest since the U.S. Energy Information Administration began tracking weekly data in June 2010.
That's not much of an issue for consumers, at least for now, because there are plenty of stockpiles of ethanol. Purdue University agriculture economist Chris Hurt said the nation has more than 20 million barrels of ethanol in stock, slightly more than a year ago, largely because Americans are driving less and driving more fuel-efficient cars. Cooper said, though, that stockpiles are expected to dwindle in the spring and summer as demand picks up and plants remain idled.
Hurt said the ethanol industry needs an end to the drought, a strong corn crop and a drop in corn prices. Corn futures were $5.51 a bushel in May, before the drought's impact took hold. Prices rose to a peak of $8.34 per bushel in August and were $7.46 per bushel last week.
"I cannot see any profitability in this industry until we get lower corn prices, and it's going to take a reasonable-sized U.S. crop," Hurt said.
Officials at the nation's leading ethanol makers — Archer Daniels Midland and POET — declined to speculate about whether additional plants will close. POET spokesman Matt Merritt said producing ethanol at Macon became cost-prohibitive because of the lack of available Missouri corn, and shipping it in was simply too expensive.
Cooper said most of the idled plants expect to restart production — just not anytime soon. Corn is expected to remain scarce and expensive at least until the 2013 crop is harvested, starting in late August and into September. Cooper believes ethanol production won't resume at most plants until then.
For now, many of the plants remain open with workers doing maintenance or helping to modernize the facilities while they wait for production to resume, Cooper said.
Only one of the closed production facilities, an ADM plant in Wallhalla, N.D., may be closed for good, Cooper said.
"Generally the industry is optimistic," Cooper said. "We're just going through a rough patch here."
Not everyone associated with the industry is that optimistic.
Brian Baalman farms near Menlo, Kan., typically growing 8,000 acres of corn each year. Last year's crop was about one-third of that. This year, he may plant only the one-third of his acreage where irrigation is available this summer.
Like many growers, Baalman has a direct interest in ethanol. He is on the board of Western Plans Energy in Oakley, Kan., and has stock in seven ethanol plants. He said near-record prices for corn, driven up by the drought-fueled shortage, are making ethanol production costs too high.
"We are burning up all our excess cash just to stay running at a reduced rate to keep people working and keep the people there, keep the lights on, so to speak," Baalman said. "It's very tough right now."
"A lot of these ethanol plants aren't going to make it," Baalman said.

California's top farmland pot growers are Laotians

Last fall, narcotics agents confiscated thousands of marijuana plants, many 10 feet tall, from a 140-acre farm just on the edge of Fresno — one of the biggest pot busts in the county's history. The pot grew hidden among rows of rotting peppers, tomatoes and bitter melons, tended by a dozen immigrant farming families.
Deputies detained 50 people, all of whom were lowland Laotians, a refugee population from southeast Asia that has made its home in California's Central Valley over the past three decades. Investigators say that some of these traditional vegetable growers have become increasingly involved in well-organized medical marijuana growing schemes, with the aim of selling the drug commercially.
The Laotians' involvement has expanded in recent years, with the move toward growing pot in California's agricultural heartland. Now, authorities say, people from this relatively small community account for much of the pot growing in backyards and on prime farmland, while Mexican drug traffickers dominate grows in the forests of surrounding mountains.
"There are many more Laotians involved in the agricultural grows than Mexicans," said Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of California, which conducted several prosecutions of lowland Laotian growers last year.
The problem has become so widespread that the U.S. Attorney's office is producing a brochure in Lao and plans a television program on a local Laotian channel.
While federal law still prohibits marijuana, California's landmark 1996 ballot measure allows patients with a doctor's recommendation or their caregivers to grow pot for medical use. However, investigators say many growers instead are selling marijuana commercially for profit, which is illegal under both state and federal law.
The Laotians cultivate marijuana plants the height of trees, using the state's medical marijuana law and the lush cover of other crops to avoid detection.
"In the Valley, they're the ones growing acreage," said Brent Wood, a special agent with California's Department of Justice who heads the multi-agency Central Valley Marijuana Investigation Team. "They will have 20-30 doctor recommendations from family members, and their plants are humongous monsters. They're very organized and very good at selling the pot out of state."
Community leaders say some Laotian refugees and their adult children, who suffer high unemployment and poverty, turn to pot farming out of desperation, because it seems the only way to make a decent living.
Laotians started streaming into the Central Valley in the early 1980s, in the wake of the Vietnam War and the communist takeover of Laos. They fled bombings, forced labor and persecution to refugee camps in Thailand and later moved to countries such as the United States.
About 10,000 Laotians settled in central California, refugee advocates estimate. The region's productive agricultural land drew them, because many were farmers in Laos and hoped to transplant their skills here.
Instead, community leaders say, Laotians have languished in a region with high poverty levels. Many cannot find work, and at least 40 percent receive government assistance, said John Bosavanh, a Laotian caseworker with the Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries.
Most lack an education and have limited English skills, he said. And small-scale vegetable farming brings in little money and a lot of headaches, including the inability to compete with bigger farmers.
"People are on welfare, they don't have jobs, and those who are working hard cannot make good money," Bosavanh said.
Those in the community who are against growing marijuana are afraid to speak up, because the growers often have guns, he said. Bosavanh, who is also a pastor, says people come to him instead to complain. "In Laos we had nothing, and we came to the U.S. because we wanted to improve our lives. Most of us are honest, good citizens."
There are no official estimates of how many Laotians grow marijuana on farmland and in backyards, but community leaders say it has become common and blatant — something people talk about openly at the grocery store. Multi-generation families are making enough on marijuana farming to buy houses and cars, Bosavanh said, eventually pushing those who cannot afford such comforts to also start planting pot.
"They say, 'I do it because everyone else does it,'" he said.
Lt. Richard Ko, head of marijuana eradication for the county sheriff's office, said the incentive for growers is great: high grade marijuana can bring up to $2,500 per pound locally and $4,000 per pound out of state. Each plant can produce three to 10 lbs — and plants grown on prime farmland with good soil and irrigation tend to be big.
A farmer could reap millions of dollars per acre growing pot, Ko said, compared to a few hundred dollars per acre growing vegetables. "There's a lot of money to be made in farming marijuana."
This summer and fall, federal authorities and six sheriff's offices across the Valley made 188 arrests, and seized 82 weapons, $113,783 in cash and more than 480,000 marijuana plants. Investigators say many of those arrested were Southeast Asian growers, mainly Laotians.
But few growers are charged and convicted, said Wood, the special agent with the Department of Justice, because there are simply too many growers and too few resources to prosecute them. And investigators have to catch them selling out of state or for profit, he said.
In the September raid on the Fresno County farm, all 50 people were released and none were charged with a crime, according to the U.S. Attorney's office. Officials declined to say why no one was prosecuted.
Last year, Wood said, saw a large increase in home invasion robberies and other crimes connected with agricultural marijuana grows — including the shooting a teenager in April at a Fresno-area marijuana farm. Two brothers, both Laotian, will stand trial in the slaying of the teen and burying him in an orange grove.
Michael Voravong, 29, is charged with shooting 16-year-old Sammy Mercado when the teen and two others tried to steal marijuana. Marshall Voravong is charged with being an accessory.
After a third Laotian man was arrested in Utah with a trunk full of processed marijuana, he had led detectives to Mercado's grave. He told investigators he helped the Voravong brothers bury the body, and that the three of them planned to split the pot profits.
Neither brother has entered a plea. Charles Magill, the lawyer representing Michael Voravong, said his client was "being framed by the guy who was caught with the dope."

The Propeller-Driven Camera and 11 Other Photographic Oddities

propeller-driven camera
The Williamson Aeroplane Camera doesn't have a propeller so that it can fly. Users of this World War I-era camera would attach it to the bottom of a plane. During flight, the movement of the propeller advances the film.
This is only one of twelve unusual antique cameras which you can find at the link. The others include a camera hidden in a cane and another that could be carried by a pigeon.

Five crew killed in Canaries cruise ship safety drill

Five crew killed in cruise ship safety drill

Five crew members died in an emergency drill on a cruise ship in the Canary Islands on Sunday, police and the cruise ship operator said.
Cables snapped on a lifeboat and it plunged 20 meters (65 feet) to the ocean and fell upside down, killing the five and injuring three others aboard, during the mock rescue exercise on the Thomson Majesty, operated by British travel group TUI Travel plc. The boat was docked in the port of the capital of the island of La Palma, Santa Cruz.
Safety tests on lifeboats are a significant source of accidents, according to a report by Britain's Marine Accident Investigation Branch.
There were 1,498 passengers on board the 20-year-old ship at the time, a Thomson Cruises spokesman said. None of them was involved in the accident. The ship is registered in Malta and owned by Cyprus-based cruise line Louis Cruises.
"We are working closely with the ship owners and managers, Louis Cruises, to determine exactly what has happened and provide assistance to those affected by the incident," Thomson Cruises, owned by TUI Travel plc, said in a statement.
Three of the dead were Indonesians. The other dead were a Filipino and a Ghanaian. Three more crew members were injured. One person has been discharged from hospital and the other two people were expected to be released from hospital imminently, the company statement said.
In Britain, the general secretary of the RMT shipping union, called for better safety standards.
Union leader Bob Crow said in a statement: "The thoughts of all seafarers will be with the friends and families of those who have lost their lives in this tragic incident.
"Once again the spotlight is on the issue of safety in the UK shipping and cruise industry and RMT awaits the outcome of the investigation and recommendations that can prevent any repetition of today's shocking events."
The Thomson Majesty, with five restaurants and two swimming pools, cruises to the Canary Islands, the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, according to Thomson's website.

Random Photo

Why We're All Above Average

In everything from generosity to driving, most people rate themselves as better than average, even though that's impossible.

Does the Brain Have an Evil 'Dark Patch'?

The brain has a genetic source of violent behavior, says a German neurologist.

What Causes Early Puberty in Girls?

A 9-year-old girl recently had a baby. Why is the age of puberty declining?

Come on in the water's fine

Pool in a pool2

Americans Warming to Climate Change Reality

A Duke University poll found that American belief in climate change has rebounded to its highest level since 2006.

Awesome Pictures


Some pretty astonishing colors in Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah

kill me now i have HAVE to finish planning out the trip with juicy

Upping the Cute Factor

What's up doc
What's Up Doc!?

What My Dog Taught Me About Friendship

One man’s tribute to his remarkable best buddy — a four-legged not-so-fairweathered friend.

There is no doubt in my mind that Lance Corporal Jake, “The Piranha”, U.S. Puppy Corps (off-duty)* was sent to me. He entered my world just as everything in it was turning upside down. I adopted him on Valentine’s Day 2011, as a surprise gift to add a furry-celebration-of-love, to the relationship with my other half.  Just a few months later, I went through a “perfect storm” of events that ultimately left me homeless, and living in a tent, in the National Forest, with my dog.
* “Jake” for short.
In rapid succession, I suffered one major loss after another. My best friend suddenly died, my long-term romantic relationship ended abruptly with the discovery of infidelity, I was fighting (and lost) an unfair eviction suit by a hostile LA slumlord systematically evading rent-control protections, the court system didn’t protect me, and the combination of stressors, logistics and personal dynamics left me with very little money and without anyone to call for help.
My ex laid down an edict forbidding me to remain friends with our former mutuals—and my decision to honor that request cut a very small platform of social support, in half.
I imagine it can be hard to fathom why many would rather live “on the streets” with their dog, than give ‘em up and go to a shelter. Once you’ve lost everything, could you really fathom giving up the one source of love, compassion, companionship that you have?
A Sherriff lockout ensued, and now we were living in a tent, at various county campgrounds, and then the forest. I’d been using my meager unemployment earnings to pay attorney fees, and fell behind on my car payment, so now not only was I alone, and broke, but there was a repo man after the only roof I had—my car. Without some very basic support to prevent it from happening, everything I owned—the contents of a 3,000 sq-ft artist’s loft and 34 years of living and memories—was sold at public auction, by a landlord that didn’t bother to give proper legal notice.
Dogs are truly “in it” with us. Fully invested, fully engaged, fully present in the moment, and wholly committed. For better or for worse. It doesn’t occur to them that:
  • you are a dork pretending to be a cool person
  • they might have a better life with another master
  • they made the wrong choice when they picked you*
* Did you pick your dog, or did your dog pick you that day?
They take the good with the bad, and they simply stick around. (Once upon a time, us humans were familiar with a similar notion—it was called a “friendship”—and it didn’t start by clicking a button labeled “Add Friend.” Or, it was called “marriage”—and you only had one.)  [Dogs: 1 | Humans: 0]
It would appear na├»ve for me to think I’m sharing some new insight about dogs you didn’t already know, but it doesn’t mean we don’t need a reminder about its gravity. With Jake, it didn’t matter why I was in tears. It didn’t enter into his mind that I might deserve the circumstances I was in. It didn’t occur to him to withhold his love as a way to punish me for losing the roof over our heads. All that mattered was that I was experiencing anguish—and he could do something about that. Without hesitation, he’d simply lick the tears right off my eyes. [Dogs: 2 | Humans: 0]
Dogs are truly in it with us … fully invested, fully engaged, fully present in the moment, and wholly committed. For better or for worse.
If you don’t have any experience of homelessness, you might not know that it has many multi-faceted root causes. That discussion aside, I imagine it can be hard to fathom why many would rather live “on the streets” with their dog, than give ‘em up and go to a shelter.
Once you’ve lost everything, could you really fathom giving up the one source of love, compassion, companionship that you have? The purest form of friendship there ever was? There is great safety and comfort in knowing that LCpl. Jake would never willingly leave my side. He would never walk away from me, like almost everyone else did when it really mattered. There is deep, real power in that knowledge. An ineffable safety. [Dogs: 3 | Humans: 0]
At night, on my way back up to my tent-home in the forest, as I’d drive up Angeles Crest Highway, I’d pass a close relative’s house in La Canada, and wonder how my family could be so cruel … so … vacant … of the basic decency I’d always known them to have. They were, in fact, my favorite relatives.
I knew the answer; of course. I just couldn’t seem to accept it. I was being punished and ignored for taking a loud, vocal and unpopular stand against the abuse and neglect of a disabled family member, that no one wanted to acknowledge, or be inconvenienced to face.
Withholding love, to punish, is not something my dog Jake knows how to do. Passive-aggressiveness is not something Jake knows how to do. He’s either passive or he’s aggressive—but his intent is always crystal clear. [Dogs: 4 | Humans: 0]
I believe there is profound truth in the notion that dogs are here, existentially, to teach and inspire us. To model behavior for us. Behavior that, if us lowly, stupid, egotistic humans could learn to adopt more freely, could perhaps save us all from the law of entropy that plagues us today: deep trust, profound willingness towards co-operation, and generous, unconditional love … shown through actions.
It’s behavior that, if we mirrored it ourselves, we could suspend our critical inner-voices and truly deepen our bonds with the people around us. I mean that in the most earnest sense—that, quite literally, this remarkably unique relationship of co-operation that we now have with dogs—are gifts from our creator.
Heck, LCpl. Jake even models good dental hygiene for me. Every night, at bedtime, LCpl. Jake is accustomed to getting a small rawhide bone to gnaw on. In fact, it’s the only time he’s interested in a bone at all, and has no desire to sleep (or allow me to) until he’s “brushed his teeth.”
So often we frame our relationship with dogs, in a master/obedience sense. Sometimes I wonder who really oughta be packleading whom. He is a living, breathing reminder of one of my favorite touchstone theories: Occam’s Razor. (Essentially, the simplest, least-complicated answer has a high likelihood of being a really good one.) Read: If there’s a boo-boo, lick it and give it your attention.
Jake reminds me daily that I am deserving of his love, simply because I am. Simply because I exist. That alone, is enough to be deserving—whether my inner critic wants to accept it, or not. [Dogs: 5 | Humans: 0]
Among the many things that I needed during my homelessness, the most essential and the most simple, was also the most rare: the gift of time and simple companionship. I couldn’t get my own “friends” to come to my campfire for s’mores on my own dime! “I’m here for you” became such a platitude. It’s a phrase I could really live without having to hear again. People were willing to throw me $20 (that I hadn’t even asked for), but not give me an hour of their time. I didn’t need their money, I needed their love. [Dogs: 6 | Humans: 0]
My journey of losing everything down to my underwear drawer, was all meant to happen. Ultimately orchestrated by a loving universe, pulling me forward while I tried to push back and hold on …  to people that were manipulative and dishonest—including my own family—to places that would limit my future, and to old habits and thoughts that would stifle my growth. It was meant to catapult me into an entirely new life, with a deeper and wiser palette of colors to paint a new life with. There is a certain beauty that awaits us, perhaps …  in vibrational escrow, when we accept and release.
This “awakening” prompted a deep examination of my values and daily interpersonal interaction, and then birthed the idea for a new kind of philanthropic movement, one that Jake’s devotion to me helped inspire.
It was through his unwavering acts of empathy, that he showed me a template for why I have so much trouble trusting anyone today, or believing them when they declare us to be “friends.” I kinda roll my eyes inside, and think to myself that I hope I’m never again in a position where I have to test whether you really mean that. Whether you know what the word ‘friend’ really means.
“Friendship is a sheltering tree,” wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Friendship is both a gift and a responsibility. A better word for friendship is this: it’s a covenant.
When I slowed down enough to pay attention, LCpl. Jake showed me what the baseline really is for decent behavior, and how humans are largely failing each other—because we’ve veered so far off the template, and lost our way.
When my time of need came, I quickly learned the perils of being a really honest person in an uncomfortable-with-real-truth, dishonest world. I learned that my newfound commitment to authenticity, while first repelling people from me, was ultimately a gift that took with it the toxic people I thought I should be loyal to, and made room to befriend those worth the investment.
See, LCpl. Jake may not be able capable of empathizing—it requires imaginative projection—but he is so much better at emulating empathy than most humans are currently capable of. [Dogs: 7 | Humans: 0] Our entire social and economic paradigm is, frankly, on the verge of collapse—and it’s not for the reasons you may think. It’s because our modern zeitgeist has rapidly been stripping us of our ability to empathize with someone else’s circumstances. Here’s the science and the proof.
Being the handsome devil that he is, LCpl. Jake gets all the phone numbers, play-dates and wrestle-mates, not me. [Dogs: 8 | Humans: 0] I have a theory, though. There seems to be a strong correlation between having a lot of hair, and getting attractive people to pet you, and rub your belly. I’m looking into it further, fellas. I’ve already got the tail covered, but that’s another story.
Although dogs have kept their larger mission under wraps, (they are very good at keeping secrets: remember the Bush’s Baked Beans dog, Duke?), I’ve been cleared to unveil their worldwide agenda today, on the authority of LCpl. Jake. (He looks pretty serious.)
So, here it is, folks. The mission of the U.S. Puppy Corps is an awareness campaign: to practice acts of unconditional love throughout the world, via the use of copious puppy-dawg kisses. They may not be able to say “oxytocin,” but they’ve been little furry neuro-chemical catalysts for the release of this feel-good, well-being hormone since before we even knew the hormone existed. [Dogs: FTW | Humans: 0]
Go give your dog a hug, and 20 minutes of devoted playtime. He needs that more than he needs another treat. In fact, you both do.

Animal Pictures


Wolverine by Truus & Zoo on Flickr.