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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.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Daily Drift

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Today  is  - Donut Day

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Today in History

1523 Gustav Vasa becomes king of Sweden.
1641 Spain loses Portugal.
1674 Sivaji crowns himself King of India.
1813 The United States invasion of Canada is halted at Stony Creek, Ontario.
1862 The city of Memphis surrenders to the Union navy after an intense naval engagement on the Mississippi River.
1865 Confederate raider Wiliam Quantrill dies from a wound received while escaping a Union patrol near Taylorsville, Kentucky.
1918 U.S. Marines enter combat at the Battle of Belleau Wood.
1924 The German Reichstag accepts the Dawes Plan, an American plan to help Germany pay off its war debts.
1930 Frozen foods are sold commercially for the first time.
1934 President Franklin Roosevelt signs the Securities Exchange Act, establishing the Securities and Exchange Commission.
1941 The U.S. government authorizes the seizure of foreign ships in U.S. ports.
1944 D-Day: Operation Overlord lands 400,000 Allied American, British, and Canadian troops on the beaches of Normandy in German-occupied France.
1961 Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, one of the founders of modern psychiatry, dies.
1966 African American James Meridith is shot and wounded while on a solo march in Mississippi to promote voter registration among blacks.
1982 Israel invades southern Lebanon.
1985 The body of Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele is located and exhumed near Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Non Sequitur


June is Bathroom Reading Month

(Silly us, we thought every month is bathroom reading month!).

The Town Of Books

A bibliophile's sanctuary can be found in humongous libraries and bookstores, but did you know there's a town known as the 'town of books?' In fact, the town is so crazy about literature that it holds an annual literature festival each May. Leave your e-books for a while and rush to Hay-on-Wye, the National Book Town of Wales.
Hay-on-Wye is located on the Welsh/English border in the United Kingdom and lies on the banks of the River Wye. It is one of those towns left untouched by the 20th century and you can enjoy walking around, exploring its castle ruins and mansions.

How Chocolate Might Save The Planet

When you unwrap it, break off a piece and stick it in your mouth, it doesn't remind you of the pyramids, a suspension bridge or a skyscraper. But chocolate, says materials scientist Mark Miodownik, 'is one of our greatest engineering creations.'

5 Historical Attempts To Ban Coffee

Coffee may seem harmless, but its historical rap sheet is a mile long. Coffee has been banned many times by various civilizations. Here are 5 historical attempts to ban coffee.

Sliding Lawn Reveals Hidden In-Ground Pool

It can be tough to choose between having a lawn or a swimming pool in your backyard, at least in a first world problems kinda way, but one homeowner discovered a way to bring the best of both worlds to his backyard.
Engineer and backyard enthusiast Gil Klar installed a sliding astroturf deck that looks like a lawn when closed, but slides back at the touch of a button to reveal a full sized in-ground swimming pool hidden underneath.
Gil was nice enough to share a video of how he created this amazing backyard engineering marvel, and it looks so easy to make that anybody can do it! On second thought...

Random Celebrity Photos

Marilyn Monroe photographed by Andre De Dienes, 1945
Marilyn Monroe in 1945

The repugicans Shouting Impeachment Have Reached Critical State Of Obama Derangement Syndrome

A few days after the President of the United States announced that our last prisoner of war, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, had been rescued from his five years of captivity …

OK. Seriously, this has now gone far enough. A few days after the President of the United States announced that our last prisoner of war, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, had been rescued from his five years of captivity by the Taliban, repugicans are now seriously calling for the President to be impeached for his actions in securing Bergdahl’s release. Instead of congratulating the President for doing whatever was necessary to make sure an American soldier was no longer a prisoner in a strange land and making sure we ‘left no soldier behind,’ conservatives have grown louder in their calls that President Obama broke the law by releasing five detainees from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl.
However, do you want to know the real reason why they are upset? Obama Derangement Syndrome, pure and simple. The President is in his sixth year occupying the White House, and ODS has now reached critical state. They weren’t able to make him a one-term President, despite Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promises. Even though they threw every possible obstacle they could at it, Obamacare ended up becoming a raging success, as millions of Americans utilized the marketplaces to get health coverage. Somehow, Obama is still POTUS in the face of multiple repugican made ‘scandals’ hyped up by a compliant media, all for the sake of creating public backlash against Obama and find some inroad towards impeachment.
Therefore, repugicans, completely infected with ODS, have been, per the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, “quick to jump on the train to crazytown” when it comes to this particular situation. Which is why we have not only wingnut screeching heads calling for Obama to be impeached, but repugican lawmakers in Washington claiming the President broke the law by authorizing the prisoner exchange that freed Bergdahl. Obviously, when you have repugicans in D.C. yelling that Obama “broke the law,” it will eventually lead to them whispering, then shouting, impeachment.
Now, per repugicans, their main beef with this is that the Obama Administration did not consult with Congress prior to the prisoner exchange, and that Congress was not given the necessary 30 day notice. The administration has stated that Bergdahl’s health was a major concern and that it was deemed necessary to get him as soon as possible. Also, the White House had regularly consulted with members of Congress on the possibility of exchanging Gitmo detainees for Sgt. Bergdahl since 2011. On top of that, repugican Senators and Representatives had recently called on the President to do whatever possible to bring Bergdahl back home. Of course, these same Congressional repugicans changed their tune the moment Obama took action and secured Bergdahl’s release.
Per the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel, Kelly Ayotte (r-NH), John McCain (r-AZ) and Rich Nugent (r-FL) have all been extremely critical of the President since the Bergdahl announcement was made. However, each of them made statements earlier this year calling for the administration to do all it can to free Bergdahl. McCain, while on a Sunday show (natch), even spoke approvingly of exchanging prisoners to bring Bergdahl home. Also, in April, Senate repugicans, led by McConnell, pushed forth a resolution declaring that no soldier shall be left behind.
Yet, now that the President has kept the promise that America makes to all of its soldiers, ALL OF ITS SOLDIERS, repugicans have decided that this is their moment to strike and finally nail Obama. Former one-term repugican Congressman, and current wingnut screeching  head, Allen West took to his blog on Tuesday to make the case for President Obama’s impeachment. On Faux News, Andrew Napolitano, a former judge, claimed that the President not only violated the law by not adhering to the 30 day notice, but that he provided material assistance to a terrorist organization, thus violating a federal statute and opening himself up for impeachment. Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy stated that by returning enemy combatants to the field, Obama has created a high crime that could lead to him being removed from office.
All of this discussion surrounding the release of Gitmo detainees is just one angle of attack to make this rescue of an American POW appear criminal and unseemly. A former operative for Mitt Romney’s 2012 Presidential campaign, Richard Grennell, has been organizing interviews between soldiers critical of Bergdahl’s military service and major media outlets. Essentially, Grennell, who also worked for the shrub, is running a campaign to ensure that Bergdahl is held up to as much scrutiny as possible in order to sully his reputation and make the rescue operation dirty in the eyes of the public. At the same end, Bergdahl’s father has been slandered by the wingnut media regarding his appearance (he has a long beard which he started growing to commemorate when his son was captured) and some comments he’s made.
All of this is a concerted effort in order to create a scandal that might finally get the President out of office and cure the repugicans’ deadly strain of ODS. Even though Obama can’t be re-elected in 2016, it is still way too long to make repugicans wait for him to finally leave the White House. Therefore, they will do anything to get out of the ICU that Obama Derangement Syndrome has placed them in. That means telling America that only good soldiers that everyone liked deserve to come home if they are captured. And the President shouldn’t use detainees in Gitmo to secure a captured soldier’s release, even though international law states all of those prisoners there will need to be released very soon anyway.
When you have a bad case of ODS, you don’t have time to think. You only have time to act.

Shinseki Wasn't the Problem: "Taxpayers Get What They Fucking Pay For"

by Adam.Weinstein

Now that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has fallen on his sword, the agency can finally give our growing population of ill and aging vets the care they deserve, right? Not according to the many frazzled VA employees who have sent their stories.
Here's one.

This employee has worked at VA since 2007. Despite holding a graduate degree, the author was "was immediately sat down and ordered to make copies, and make notebooks. For the larger part of not quite a year and a half, I was assigned menial tasks while most of the work was contracted out to 'program support contractors.'"
    My issues with the VA are as follows:
    1. Thanks to Congressional pressure to not grow the government, we rely heavily on contractors to administer services. The rationale being that you keep government from growing and keep costs down (HR and pension costs down), you contract services. However, the American population is still growing as does the need for services. In addition, it is not uncommon to have the same resource in excess of 5 to 10 years (especially if a subject matter expert). We have no way to hire them full time because we cannot offer competitive wages. If you really want to cut down on waste fraud and abuse, private contractors hired should be the first to go. Upon my second year the the VA, 1 single program support contract resource was 250K, whereas a GS12 employee with benefits was valued at 125K. I don't know about you, but it seems as if government employees are still cheaper. That said:
    2. The hookups for a good govt job need to stop. I was hired through an internship program that no longer exists. But, there are many people who hook their family members up that are unqualified and lazy. That is a job that could be going to a new, hungry college grad who is eager to learn and help.
    3. My job started in Washington, DC and I am now in the field. I am appalled by the discrepancy of working conditions between the ivory tower elite of inside the beltway and in the Field VISN's. The campus I currently work in is a shithole. There are condemned buildings, a lack of appropriate IT equipment, textbook, stereotypical, lazy employees, and a lot of egos in management that are not necessarily good directors.
    IMO -
    1. We need more people. PERIOD. We cannot keep up, people are quitting and retiring right and left and we are not backfilling. The Center for Investigative Reporting has been tracking the VA and our problems for a long time.
    That said, VA needs to evaluate all field directors and employees and examine qualifications and see if people know how to do the job they are assigned to do. I guarantee they do not. We also need to fucking clean house and get the useless employees out.
    2. Congress need change their appropriations so that money goes to sustainment and not just contract dollars. VA needs more money to keep the lights on and maintain what is already in place. Stop with the fucking budget cuts. You fucking had two fucking wars and demand that we take care of our veterans, but somehow you can seem to come up with equitable funding that you do for some fucking fighter jet. You love having a fucking new VA hospital in your district, but you don't want to fund personnel. You are fucking pricks.
    3. VA executive leadership needs to be honest with true state of affairs at the Cabinet level. Part of the problemn is that a lot programs just flat out lie un their performance measures rather than admitting that there are problems. And we see how well that turned out.
    I just got this in my inbox.
    I will continue to work here in the VA and I, like many of my colleagues, are sad to see the Secretary go. He was a good guy, unlike much of the Bush people who were lighting this fucker on fire. Yes, we have waste. Yes, we have problems. Firing the one guy who was working to solve it isn't going to help things. Ultimately, the problems we have are broad and systemic. The fucking taxpayers demand that the Federal government not spend money or less money, and that affects the quality of care for many. In the end motherfucking taxpayers get what they fucking pay for. (Emphasis mine - this is a phrase is use often. - Bozo

Top shrub Aide Says Dubya Can Go On Trial for War Crimes

The shrub’s National Security Security Advisor Richard Clarke remarked in an interview yesterday that his old boss is liable for war crimes. The shrub could go on trial for invading Iraq, he told Amy Goodman in Democracy Now’s  War and Peace Report yesterday. He went so far as suggesting that the trial take place at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. What’s too bad is that both he and Amy Goodman displayed ignorance of the law. In so doing, they passed up a chance to educate the public and energize the global justice movement.
Side note: the vast bulk of the interview was about the drone program and how Clarke feels it has gotten way bigger than he ever wanted and decency ought to allow. I recommend the whole interview for your review. It’s worth a look-see. But I can’t escape the fact that Clarke got something very wrong about how to throw the shrub and Company into some court’s dock somewhere.
True confession: for quite a while, I displayed an “Impeach the shrub & Cheney” on my property. I’ve been hoping for years that our Justice Department would throw the book at that whole bunch. Their crimes went well beyond the mere notorious and are a true national shame. There’s really only one option for those who share in the conscience of our nation: sic a dutiful prosecutor on the shrub, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and anyone else responsible under the law for these crimes.
I’m guessing Amy Goodman might agree. In her interview, she asked Richard Clarke outright whether he felt the shrub junta had committed war crimes.
Amy Goodman: “Do you think the shrub should be brought up on war crimes [charges], and Vice President Cheney and [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld, for the attack on Iraq?”
Richard Clarke: “I think things that they authorized probably fall within the area of war crimes. Whether that would be productive or not, I think, is a discussion we could all have. But we have established procedures now with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where people who take actions as serving presidents or prime ministers of countries have been indicted and have been tried. So the precedent is there to do that sort of thing. And I think we need to ask ourselves whether or not it would be useful to do that in the case of members of the shrub junta. It’s clear that things that the shrub junta did — in my mind, at least, it’s clear that some of the things they did were war crimes.”
So his answer, more or less: “yeah but.” The “but” part was that he wasn’t sure that politically it was a good idea. Oh dear. Heaven forbid that maintaining the rule of law prove impolitic.
Things aren’t so good for Clarke on the “yeah” side of “yeah, but,” either. He made a fool of himself when he suggested turning the case over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. “But we have established procedures now with the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” he claimed. Not quite. To be sure, the ICC has been operating for 10 years and actually has a few convictions under its belt. The the ICC’s charter, a treaty known as the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, punishes war crimes, including torture and deportation. The “enhanced interrogation” and “rendition” programs are really torture and deportation-for-worse-torture-elsewhere programs. In international armed conflicts, these are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and in most of today’s conflicts, the ICC can try people for those crimes. As can any country in the world, by the way, even if they haven’t ratified the Rome Statute. And the ICC can have trials for war crimes that occur in non-international armed conflict.
However, the Rome Statute is too full of holes for the Court to have jurisdiction over the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. One of these countries — the U.S., Iraq, or Afghanistan — would have had to have ratified that treaty years ago, which Iraq and the U.S. have not.  Afghanistan has, but the Statute makes an implicit exception: if the armed forces of Country A are in Country B, those countries can agree not to turn Country A’s soldiers over to the ICC.  U.S. and Afghanistan have just that kind of agreement,
Alternatively, either the U.S., Iraq, or Afghanistan would have had to have asked the Court to step in. None of them has done that either. Or the UN Security Council would have had to have asked the ICC Chief Prosecutor to start an investigation. No luck there, either, and you can bet the U.S. would use its veto to shut that whole thing down.
And there’s more: what exactly would the shrub and the rest of that gang be tried for? Clarke wasn’t terribly clear, but considering the context, he might have meant the crime of aggression. Goodman guided him toward acknowledging that he opposed the war in Iraq and resigned before it began. That sounds like a principled stand against the crime of aggression. If I were in his place, that’s what I would have done.
To be fair, aggression is a no-no. The problem is that there simply cannot be any trials at the ICC for the crime of aggression yet. The Rome Statute left that crime undefined. At first, it only had a plan to define the Statute later (see Rome Statute, Art. 5, footnote 1 (on page 4)). Eventually, ICC’s member states agreed on amendments that define of aggression and let the Court go after aggressors. The earliest possible date for trials about crimes of aggression can only apply to acts that happen after January 1, 2017.  For someone to be up on aggression charges, even by that date, his country or the country he attacked have to have ratified those amendments.
Well, neither the U.S. nor Iraq has ratified the Rome Statute, let alone any amendment to it. So Richard Clarke would be just plain wrong to say the International Criminal Court could put the shrub and Company on trial for aggression. Or — see above –anything else, for that matter.
I must point out at this juncture that Democracy Now made a very common mistake: calling aggression a war crime. It is not. International law makes a distinction between laws on when to go to war — jus ad bellum — and laws on how to fight a war — jus in bello. War crimes deal only with the means and methods of warfare and protection of war victims, that is, jus in bello. Actually plotting and starting and waging a war, that is, crimes against peace, including aggression, is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.
Where does this leave us? Considering the rich history of war crimes trials outside the ICC, is there no recourse? After all, the big trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo were held on the basis of charters drawn up for that purpose. And in recent memory, there have been special courts for war crimes in the Balkans and Africa and a former Portuguese colony in the Pacific and even Lebanon. Might the same thing happen today? Of course. But recall that the post World War II trials occurred at the hands of the great powers, themselves victors in that war. The victorious powers in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — the “coalition of the willing” and NATO — don’t seem likely to put on war crimes trials for anyone other than low-level personnel.
My own preference is that we Americans put our own on trial. Parents punish their children as necessary, right? And that proves they’re good parents, right? Can’t we prove that our justice system is a good one? Can’t the American justice system do, you know, justice? I mean really, we have all the authority to do so that we need. Nearly fifty years after U.S. ratification of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, Congress used its power “to define offences against the Law of Nations”: laws passed in the Clinton Administration and later made war crimes federal offenses, even if committed abroad. That was a fine step toward keeping our promise to not only the rest of the world but also to ourselves.
Unfortunately, that train has left the station, at least Stateside. There are laws against taking too long to bring someone to trial. For most federal crimes falling short of killing, the limit is five years.  This, for me, is one of the bitterest pills to swallow. We used to be a country that didn’t torture. We used to pride ourselves on being a nation of laws. That’s harder to say now. All Americans of conscience are left with is the chance to resolve not to repeat the shrub and Company’s national shame. Any takers?

The repugicans Want to Harm Millions of Americans By Killing Obamacare Tax Credit

As repugicans refuse to fund the VA to its needs and continue to sell themselves out to the highest corporate bidder, going to bat for more tax breaks for big business whilst imposing austerity on Americas workers, they are also coming for your Obamacare tax credits.
The repugicans are demanding a halt to all tax credits issued to millions of Americans who signed up for insurance through the Obamacare exchanges in a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew signed by, among many others, repugican cabal budget “wonk” Paul Ryan (r-WI), who never did manage to balance his own budget.
The repugicans claim they need to pick pocket Americans because the Health and Human Services department is still verifying some income information for some families. The repugicans will stop at no measure of oversight to make sure the entire law is messed up in order to keep some people from getting away with something somewhere. Of course, this timeline for verification was expected and anticipated by all who actually read the legislation.
Ways and Means Committee Democrats point out that repugicans are doing this “even though that was always anticipated, which is why the law allows 90 days to resolve any discrepancies.”
Yes, we can’t have “discrepancies”. Best that all Americans who signed up for health insurance be jacked around and possibly lose their insurance to make sure that there aren’t any discrepancies. This only applies to humans, you understand, because when contractors lose billions in Iraq, those kind of discrepancies are Too Big To Fail.
Lest you think that this is a sign of proper oversight and loyal opposition, in 2006, CBS reported, “(M)uch of the $50 billion, which is more than the annual budget of the Department of Homeland Security, has been handed out to companies in Iraq with little or no oversight. Billions of dollars are unaccounted for, and there are widespread allegations of waste, fraud and war profiteering.”
Here are the numbers behind the repugican cabal’s demand to immediately halt all tax credits that have been issued, per the Ways and Means Committee:
6,800,000 Number of individuals and families that received tax credits through the ACA’s marketplace
$4,400 Average tax credit that individuals and families received through the ACA marketplace, according to CBO
“What’s troubling is that in their zeal to continue to play politics with Americans’ health insurance, congressional Republicans are now trying to deny tax credits to millions of individuals and families just weeks after many of them signed up for coverage,” commented Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Democrat Carl Levin.
Just another day of playing politics at the expense of the people. The repugicans would love to create more chaos with Obamacare (more than their state refusals to implement state exchanges and then federal refusal to fund the federal exchange to handle the resulting overload). The media could report on the horror show of Obamacare tax credits being ripped away from at-risk families, and of course, Obama and the Democrats would be blamed for this.
But the real question here is why Senate repugicans blocked a $21 billion plan to build new VA clinics because they said it was too expensive, but House repugicans advanced a $600 billion tax cut for business. If there is $600 billion for business, then maybe repugicans can let the ACA law follow procedure.
The repugicans want you to believe that business requires no oversight; we must let business have its way. But people – oh heavens, people are evil, lazy, no-good cheaters who will rob the government and must be monitored every which way at all times by big government repugicans.
Of course, businesses are run by people, so this argument is a total failure, made worse by the acknowledgement that while most people have a moral compass, businesses have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders to make a profit. Business has no moral compass. It will lie, cheat and steal so long as the market will bear it.
So in reality it is big business that needs oversight first and foremost. That’s just logic. But repugicans are too busy picking the pockets of average Americans to bother with things like integrity, principle, intellectual honesty, and even token compassion.

House repugicans defeat effort to punish wage theft

The federal government shouldn't give its business to companies that violate labor laws to steal their workers' wages. If this statement seems like common sense to you, congratulations: you're not a House repugican. A Democratic amendment that would have prevented businesses with a documented record of wage theft from getting taxpayer money through government contracts was defeated in a party line vote Thursday.
    In a joint statement, Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairmen of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said House Republicans voted "to continue wage theft."
    "The federal government could lead the way by disqualifying contractors who practice wage theft, but House repugicans voted tonight against an amendment to do exactly that," Ellison and Grijalva said. "The failure of this amendment illustrates who repugicans defend ... Unfortunately, working families have been left out of the repugican political strategy."
Pretty much, though occasionally repugicans do include working families in their political strategy as scapegoats or targets. But think about it: repugicans literally voted to keep sending federal dollars to companies that have broken the law. Because it's a law that protects workers, so to repugicans, it shouldn't count. 

And I Quote

The tea party is after Eric Cantor

No Seriously. And it couldn't happen to a 'nicer' guy!

by Matt Bai
US House Majority Leader US Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, speaks during the House Republican Leadership press conference at the House Republican Issues Conference in Cambridge, Maryland, January 30, 2014. (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
In a lot of ways, Dave Brat is your typical tea party-style insurgent running in a repugican primary this year. He's an economics professor at a tiny college, a striped-tie, free market enthusiast who decries debt and immigration. He has the backing of the crankiest wingnut bloggers and radio hacks, one of whom, Laura Ingraham, appeared with him at a rally this week.
But Brat isn't running to unseat some mush-ball moderate or no-name state legislator backed by the local chamber of commerce. No, Brat's opponent in next Tuesday's primary is Eric Cantor, the congressman from Virginia's 7th District and the second most powerful repugican in the House. Which highlights a question that's becoming more germane as this season of repugican disunion drags on:
Just how wingnut do you have to be before these wingnut agitators will leave you alone?
I mean, if the needling Cantor isn't Barack Obama's least favorite repugican on the Hill, he's certainly vying for the title. It was Cantor, you may recall, who forcibly put the brakes on John Boehner when the speaker was edging close to a comprehensive budget deal with the White House in 2011, because he couldn't stomach $1 trillion-plus in new revenue. He distinguished himself, during those negotiations, as the one guy in the room who didn't want a deal and who couldn't be bothered to disguise his contempt for the president.
Until recently, anyway, Cantor was known around Washington as the tea party's guy in leadership, a bridge between the pragmatic old guard (who found him a tick more tolerable than the other young punks) and the new ideologues (who hoped he might rise up and supplant Boehner as speaker).
But let's not trifle with all this wearying reality. Instead, let's look on Dave Brat's website, which features a photo of Obama and Cantor sharing a heartfelt moment as they emerge from the House chamber together, like a couple of newlyweds in Utah. The site says Cantor "distorts the free market" and has "embraced big government."
Brat expanded on this critique when we spoke on the phone a few days ago. He told me Cantor had thrown his weight behind comprehensive immigration reform, refused to defund the president's health care plan and backed down on reducing spending and debt. "In the past few years, Eric has shifted dramatically, and that's the only way to look at it," Brat told me.
Well, maybe not the only way. Yes, Cantor declared himself open to a reform in the immigration system that would offer a path to citizenship for children who have spent their lives here, but, true to form, he opposed the only bipartisan bill that had a chance of passing. He has led House repugicans in voting no fewer than six times to defund the health care law (good luck with that), not to mention a few dozen other votes to strip various provisions.
As for austerity, the Cantor-led repugican caucus overwhelmingly passed Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan, which would save billions by converting huge pieces of the Great Society into block grants and vouchers. ("It solves all the world's problems, with the possible exception of who should run Kashmir," is how Grover Norquist, the wingnut anti-tax crusader, described that plan to me.) It's true that Cantor was one of only 28 House repugicans who voted to lift the debt ceiling without conditions last February, but that was clearly a show of support for Boehner, not some sudden burst of statesmanship.
The fact is, if you wanted a more reliable predictor of wingnut orthodoxy than Cantor, you'd need IBM's Watson team to build it.
But what's going on here doesn't have a lot to do with ideology. It's really all about disdain for the governing establishment, which activists like Brat see as a bunch of corporate bullies. It turns out that Brat ran for state delegate two years ago and blames Cantor and his "Henrico mafia" — that is, the repugican cabal of Henrico County, the heart of the 7th District — for making sure he didn't win. What got Brat most animated when we talked was the way Cantor had tried to freeze him out at last month's state party convention by renting out all the conference rooms at the Hilton.
"He's been working in the state and across the nation to get rid of tea partyers and wingnuts," Brat said. "He's caused the fracture in the cabal, not me. He's in bad, bad shape with the grassroots in his own district."
This last part seems true enough. No one seriously suspects Cantor, who refused an interview request, is going to lose the primary next Tuesday, but he got something of a shock at the convention when agitators booed him during his speech and rejected his handpicked candidate for county chairman.
Cantor's aides insist the primary challenge is more of an annoyance than anything else, but that hasn't stopped them from producing a few million bucks worth of increasingly shrill TV spots and mailers. Cantor calls Brat a "liberal college professor" (clearly he's never met Noam Chomsky), and he's told seniors that Brat wants to take away their Social Security — a pretty cynical strategy coming from a guy who has had to answer the same charges from Democrats.
Leaving all that back-and-forth aside, though, the real question is what the tea party crowd — and in this I include the Ingrahams and Lush Dimbulbs of the world — thinks it's really accomplishing in a race like this.
The theory behind running primary campaigns against incumbents, generally, is that they get you outsize influence, even if you lose the vast majority of them. Other incumbents look at whichever of their poor colleagues is having to spend every last dollar to stave off an embarrassing defeat at the hands of some activist armed with a Facebook page and a bullhorn, and they think: I'd better make these people happy, or they'll come after me next. That strategy has worked pretty well for the tea party so far.
But the strategy works only if incumbents think they have a reasonable chance of placating the pitchfork-wielding mob. If leading repugicans can say all the right things and make all the right votes and lay prostrate before the hate speech radio demagogues, and still they end up fending off primary challenges and getting booed out of their own conventions, then they might just start to wonder: What's the point of all this cowering in the corner, anyway? If you're going to get slammed no matter what you do, then why not, you know, actually try to govern?
 If Eric Cantor isn't anti-government, anti-spending, anti-Obama enough to insulate himself from grass-roots rebellion, then you've got to ask yourself: Who is?

ID law blocks 93-year-old voter in Alabama

A Republican primary precinct worker hands back a voter's driver's license before handing over a voters access card in Madison, Miss., Tuesday, June 3, 2014.

A repugican primary precinct hack takes a voter's driver's license before handing over a voters access card in Madison, Miss., Tuesday, June 3, 2014.
by Steve Benen
Two years ago, the nation was introduced to Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old widow in Pennsylvania who had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Applewhite has voted in nearly every election for the last-half century – right up until 2012, when the state told this African-American woman she wouldn’t be allowed to cast a ballot because Republicans policymakers had created a voter-ID law to combat voter fraud that didn’t exist.
After Applewhite’s story garnered national attention, election officials helped get her situation straightened out – and more recently, the law itself was struck down as unconstitutional – but the incident was a reminder about the real-world impact of unnecessary voter-ID laws.
Two years later, Zachary Roth introduces us to a similar face – of the same age – in the “war on voting.”
Willie Mims, 93, showed up to vote at his polling place in Escambia County Tuesday morning for Alabama’s primary elections. Mims, who is Africa-American, no longer drives, doesn’t have a license, and has no other form of ID. As a result, he was turned away without voting. Mims wasn’t even offered the chance to cast a provisional ballot, as the law requires in that situation.
Jenny McCarren of Empower Alabama, a progressive group that gave Mims a ride to the polls, recounted the story for msnbc. McCarren said Mims’s voter file showed he has voted in every election since 2000, as far back as the records go.
How many Alabamans lack ID isn’t known – in part because the state made no effort to find out before the ID law. But nationwide, most studies put the figure at around 11%, and as high as 25% for African Americans.
Up until last year, there’s no way Alabama’s voter-suppression law would have been cleared by the Justice Department, but because a narrow Supreme Court majority gutted the Voting Rights Act, Alabama’s voter-ID law was never subjected to federal scrutiny.
It’s against this backdrop that the Alabama repugican cabal is “so desperate” to prove imaginary voter fraud exists, repugican cabal hacks are offering cash rewards.
Tuesday is the first test of Alabama’s voter ID law – and the state’s repugicans are desperate to dig up some voter fraud. So desperate, in fact, that they’re offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who helps them find any. […]
Bill Armistead, the Alabama repugican cabal chair, wrote on the cabal’s website Monday that repugicans will fork over the cold hard cash to anyone who provides “information that directly leads to a conviction of a felony for voter fraud.” Signs saying “Reward – Stop Voter Fraud,” and directing people to call a toll-free hotline, will be placed at polling sites around the state both for Tuesday’s primaries and November’s general election, Armistead added.
I can appreciate the degree to which cabal leaders are eager to substantiate their reckless voter-suppression tactics. These laws, the harshest voting restrictions seen in the United States since the Jim Crow era, are impossible to defend if they address a problem that doesn’t exist.
But there’s no reason to believe the Alabama repugican cabal will have to pay up anytime soon – voter fraud is still a problem that exists solely in the minds of wingnut imaginations.
As for 93-year-old Willie Mims being turned away before he could participate in his own democracy, now would be an ideal time for Alabama officials to feel ashamed of themselves.

Lush Dimbulb Is In Ruins ...

Bad News Coming From Every Direction - Including The Wingnuts

by Leslie Salzillo
It's been a very bad week for hate speech show hack, Lush Dimbulb, and a very rewarding week for the millions of Americans who have protested his extreme hate speech for decades. Two years ago, newer groups like BoycottLush/FlushLush/StopLush began a massive national boycott movement that is exposing Dimbulb and crushing his career. Here are four new recent developments: 1. Politico published an article revealing that tea party cabals (some created by the Koch brothers) have contributed millions to Lush Dimbulb. What does this mean? For Lush, it means they helped sustain him while thousands of sponsors pulled their ads. It means this may lead to an investigation to see if the funding was done legally. According to the FCC, if you receive money from an organization that pays you to promote their propaganda, without telling your audience, it may be considered 'payola' - and it may be illegal.

"The Heritage Foundation at the end of January ended its five-year sponsorship of El Lushbo’s show, for which it had paid more than $2 million in some years and more than $9.5 million overall. In 2012, FreedomWorks paid at least $1.4 million to make him an endorser, though it’s not clear that the sponsorship is ongoing."
2. Forbes Senior Political Contributor and regular on Forbes On Faux, Rick Ungar, believes Lush Dimbulb has become a joke. He also shows, via FrontPageMag.com data, that Limbaugh has outlived his audience. Ungar, also known as Forbes 'token lefty' implies Lush is now in the, toss out the old - bring in the new, demographic category. The median age of his dwindling audience (as well as the aforementioned sponsor boycott) no longer appeals to advertisers.

"At long last, it appears that Lush Dimbulb has run out of steam. I have to acknowledge that I have sensed Rush getting by on fumes for some time now (yes, I tune into his show from time to time to enjoy his broadcasting skills if not his message). However, it was only recently that the world of Dimbulb crossed that thin red line from partially serious to total self-parody and audience deception—a line crossed from which there is often no return."

"Network television doesn’t just fail to count older viewers; it tries to drive them away. A show with an older viewership is dead air. Advertisers have been pushed by ad agencies into an obsession with associating their product with a youthful brand. The demo rating, 18-49, is the only rating that matters. Viewers younger than that can still pay off. Just ask the CW. Older viewers however are unwanted."

3. Speaking of advertisers, Lush Dimbulb can't seem to hold on to them, without doling out heavy discounts and/or free ad space. After his notorious on-air verbal attack of then unknown, Sandra Fluke, the national protests was set into motion. Hardworking FlushLush volunteers now monitor The Lush Dimbulb Show nationwide. They document the sponsor ads they hear on his show, into the StopLush Database, along with contact and ad details. The sponsor data is then posted back into the FlushLush private Facebook group, and onto the BoycottLush Facebook page for public use. There have been hundreds of articles written about Lush Dimbulb and the boycotts against him, that have appeared in at least a dozen political online news groups, including Liberals Unite and Daily Kos, and have been viewed by millions. The result? Dimbulb and the radio stations that carry him have lost millions in ad revenue. Very few took the Dimbulb boycott seriously two years ago. It reminds me of the Gandhi quote:

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
4. And lastly; Ed Shultz interviewed Holland Cooke this week. Cook believes Dimbulb's business is over, for good, due to the various organized boycotts mentioned above. Each does its own part. The protests have been supported by many big and small Liberal organizations, websites, Facebook pages/groups, and Twitter.
Holland Cooke: (via Daily Kos)

"Hundreds of blue-chip national advertisers basically have not only wandered away from Lush Dimbulb and some of the other wingnuts, they’ve abandoned the format entirely. They are afraid to be heard on a news talk station because this man’s use of his free speech triggered the opposing viewpoint exercising THEIR right to free speech. The boycotters are speaking and using the marketplace to say, 'ENOUGH!'"
Here is an audio clip of the Ed Shultz/Holland Cook interview: youtube So now, we're not only hearing from consumers, we are hearing from industry experts on the left and right, many of whom know the business better than anyone and would not risk their reputations on mere gossip. Yes, indeed, the public has had enough. Limbaugh's self-proclaimed 'Dittoheads'/fans like to demand that Dimbulb's right to free speech, also gives him the right to spew misogyny, homophobia, bigotry, and racism on public radio. He's been getting away with it for over 25 years. After the Sandra Fluke attack, the general public soon realized that neither his radio affiliates, nor the FCC, planned to do anything about his hate speech, so American consumers decided to use their own version of free speech via petitions, boycotts, and their consumer dollars, to bring Dimbulb down by way of his sponsors. It's reported 3,100 companies have pulled their ads from Dimbulb, and the protestors and boycotters have never been closer to pulling Dimbulb off the air. When he has moved on, this country will be all the better, and the public will prove once again, it can be done. We can eliminate hate speech from the media, if takes one hack at a time.
You see, you can toss Americans some Dimbulb, Faux News, shrub/Cheney, Koch brothers, even some Supreme Court corruption, but when push comes to shove, Americans will stand up, show up, take charge, and demand a return to democracy and common decency. Salute to all the many boycotters and volunteers.
To learn more about the Lush Dimbulb boycott/protests, visit:
BoycottLush Facebook Group
Dimbulb Sponsor/Clear Channel/Cumulus Petition
Join The Fight To Flush Lush Facebook Group
The StopLush Extensive Sponsor Database

Walmart Moms Go On Strike In More Than 20 Cities To Protest Illegal Silencing of Workers

Female Walmart workers are walking off the job in cities around the country to protest the illegal silencing of Walmart workers who have spoken out about wages and working conditions.
According to workers’ rights group, OUR Walmart, “Walmart moms walked off the job this morning in Orlando (see photo), joining moms who have already walked off the job in Dallas, Pittsburgh, Southern California and the Bay area. More are expected to strike outside their stores in 20 cities today, including Tampa, Miami, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and the Bay area. The National Labor Relations Board’s historic trial prosecuting Walmart – which includes the illegal firing of moms like Barbara Collins – is currently underway.”
A new report from Demos found that giant retailers like Walmart are keeping millions of women and their families in poverty by paying low wages. “Walmart has a unique opportunity to help lift working moms and the families who rely on their income out of poverty,” said Amy Traub, Demos Senior Policy Analyst and author of the report Retail’s Choice. “Our research shows that nearly one in every three women working part-time in retail wants full-time employment, and the rise in erratic scheduling has made it impossible for women in this industry to consistently budget effectively and manage their childcare needs. Walmart could make a tremendous difference for the more than 800,000 women they employ and set a new standard for the industry.”
The odds of Walmart making the choice to lift hundreds of thousands of women out of poverty by paying a better wage are zero. This is why Walmart has to be pushed into doing the right thing. The Walton family is exploiting taxpayers by forcing them to foot the bill through assistance programs because they refuse to pay their workers any more than starvation wages.
These Walmart workers are taking a brave stand, and they deserve your support. This strike is a good reminder that anyone who shops at Walmart is helping to perpetuate a system that is keeping millions of adults and children in poverty.
Those “always low prices” are possible because of Walmart is intentionally underpaying their workers.

The privatization of New Orleans schools is almost complete

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans, corporate education reformers saw and seized the opportunity to speed the charter school and voucher takeover of New Orleans education begun a few years before. Now, the Washington Post reports that the opportunity seizure has been fully realized: the "Recovery School District" that controls most New Orleans schools has closed its last remaining traditional public schools.
Large numbers of the city's largely African-American public school teachers have been fired and replaced with a much more white population of Teach for America teachers. Charter boosters claim dramatic successes, but critics have documented a variety of ways these alleged successes result from cooking the books. Suspension rates are out of control, and a University of Minnesota Law School study concluded that:
    The increasingly charterized public school system has seriously undermined equality of opportunity among public school students, sorting white students and a small minority of students of color into better performing OPSB and BESE schools, while confining the majority of low-income students of color to the lower-performing RSN sector.
Segregation, harsh discipline, the firing of African-American teachers, kids removed from neighborhood schools and dispersed around the city ... the privatization of New Orleans schools is going pretty much according to plan.



Why Are Handsome Men Such Jerks?

You may have heard that said a few times, as well as the converse, “Why are hot women crazy?” And the truth is that neither statement is true. Sure, there are jerks and crazies in any population, but often your perception is colored by Berkson’s fallacy. It’s a math concept. Slate illustrates this concept with a square, in which we assumed all men are scattered around in a fairly even manner.
Now the source of the phenomenon is clear. The handsomest men in your triangle, over on the far right, run the gamut of personalities, from kindest to (almost) cruelest. On average, they are about as nice as the average person in the whole population, which, let’s face it, is not that nice. And by the same token, the nicest men are only averagely handsome. The ugly guys you like, though—they make up a tiny corner of the triangle, and they are pretty darn nice. They have to be, or they wouldn’t be visible to you at all. The negative correlation between looks and personality in your dating pool is absolutely real. But the relation isn’t causal. If you try to improve your boyfriend’s complexion by training him to act mean, you’ve fallen victim to Berkson’s fallacy.
I might add that the men in the upper-right of the square tend to get taken out of the available dating pool at a pretty swift clip, which may contribute to the fallacy. When considering the “dating pool,” I always feel better about growing old, because while time tends to make one’s looks go downhill, it also tends to teach wise men (and women) to be nicer to each other. And what are looks when your eyesight is failing, anyway? An article at Slate explains Berkson’s fallacy in more depth and how it applies to other conundrums in life.

Bodies of 800 children found in Nun’s septic tank

Bodies of 800 children found in Nun’s septic tank
In a town in western Ireland, where castle ruins pepper green landscapes, there’s a two-metre stone wall that once surrounded a place called the Home. Between 1925 and 1961, thousands of “fallen women” and their “illegitimate” children passed through the Home, run by the Bon Secours nuns in Tuam.
Many of the women, after paying a penance of indentured servitude for their out-of-wedlock pregnancy, left the Home for work and lives in other parts of Ireland and beyond. Some of their children were not so fortunate.
More than five decades after the Home was closed and destroyed — where a housing development and children’s playground now stands — what happened to nearly 800 of those abandoned children has now emerged: Their bodies were piled into a massive septic tank sitting in the back of the structure and forgotten, with neither gravestones nor coffins.

Wishing Well goes horribly wrong in Cambodia

Wishing Well goes horribly wrong in Cambodia
Seven people died in Cambodia after a man dropped the equivalent of 75 cents into a well.
The man tried to get the money back, but fell into a coma at the bottom of the well because of a lack of oxygen.
After villagers realized the man was missing they climbed into the well to try and help, but perished themselves.

Daily Comic Relief


US Marshals raid Florida cops to prevent release of records of "stingray" surveillance

US Marshals swept into the offices of police in Sarasota, Florida to whisk away records related to operation of "stingray" surveillance tools that the ACLU had requested. The records detailed the farcically low standard for judicial permission to use a stingray (which captures information about the movements, communications and identities of all the people using mobile phones in range of them), and is part of a wider inquiry to their use without a warrant at all -- at least 200 Florida stingray deployments were undertaken without judicial oversight because the police had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the device's manufacturer and they decided that this meant they didn't have to get warrants anymore.
The ACLU has seen a lot of shenanigans in respect of its campaign to document the use and abuse of stingrays, but this is a cake-taker: "We’ve seen our fair share of federal government attempts to keep records about stingrays secret, but we’ve never seen an actual physical raid on state records in order to conceal them from public view."
ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler called the move “truly extraordinary and beyond the worst transparency violations” the group has seen regarding documents detailing police use of the technology.
“This is consistent with what we’ve seen around the country with federal agencies trying to meddle with public requests for stingray information,” Wessler said, noting that federal authorities have in other cases invoked the Homeland Security Act to prevent the release of such records. “The feds are working very hard to block any release of this information to the public.”
The records sought by the ACLU are important because the organization has learned that a Florida police detective obtained permission to use a stingray simply by filing an application with the court under Florida’s “trap and trace” statute instead of obtaining a probable-cause warrant. Trap and trace orders generally are used to collect information from phone companies about telephone numbers received and called by a specific account. A stingray, however, can track the location of cell phones, including inside private spaces.

Police found drugs hidden in man's belly button

Police in Greenville, North Carolina, say they found drugs hidden in a man's belly button. Officers arrested Randall Streeter of Greenville late last week on numerous trafficking heroin charges after a traffic stop.

Man jailed after pulling police dog's tail

A 60-year-old homeless man was arrested after he reportedly pulled the tail of a K9 officer on Sunday afternoon. Police and paramedics were called to a wooded area in Ocala, Florida, to a report of a man suffering an apparent heart attack.
The man was one of the several living in a transient camp in the woods, according to Ocala Police Department reports. During the incident, Daniel Claude Rosselle walked up to the police dog, Kilo, and said, “puppy, puppy, puppy,” and tried to pet the animal. Kilo's handler told Rosselle the dog was working and could not be petted.
A short time later, Rosselle reportedly approached the dog again and made a similar attempt, but this time screamed “puppy, puppy, puppy.” The dog began to bark and tried to go after Rosselle. The man was once again told to stay back from the dog. After the ill man was taken away by paramedics, officers were talking to members of the camp informing them they were not allowed to stay on private property, when Rosselle reportedly approached Kilo and his handler from behind.
An officer saw Rosselle reportedly pull the dog's tail, which resulted in the dog again trying to go after the man. This time Rosselle was arrested and booked into the Marion County Jail on one count of obstruction/offenses against police dogs. He is being held in lieu of $500 bail.

Why Don't People Adopt Black Pets?

Older cats and dogs don’t get adopted as readily as young animals. Big dogs don’t get adopted as easily as small dogs. We can figure out why. But why do black dogs and black cats seem to be the last to be adopted? Is it because they look scary? Is it because of old legends of bad luck and witches cats? That may have something to do with it, but there are other, more concrete reasons. It could be because facial expressions are harder to read against black fur. Or because they are hard to photograph.
Most shelters feature photos of their animals on a website in an attempt to entice adopters; black dogs are difficult to photograph, and their personalities are often masked in darkness. A 1992 Animal Welfare study presented participants with photographs of different colored dogs: 65% preferred dogs with lighter coats. Anthrozoos published a study in 2013 that found “participants rate yellow dogs significantly higher that black dogs on the personality dimensions of Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Emotional Stability.” The same study found that participants considered black dogs the “least friendly” -- based solely off of a photograph.
Cats suffer from the same photography problems. I have a black cat, and as sweet and smart as she is, she’s never taken a picture that makes her look anything but terrifying. Pricenomics has more on black dogs and cats, and why they suffer from lack of adoption more than other pets that are just like them on the inside.

Animal Pictures