Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One of my favorite dreams

From the pen of Ben Sargent

Stockholm Syndrome move over

Here comes the Kentucky syndrome. Perhaps it is just a variation on why domestic abuse victims stay with their abusers, but the people of Kentucky are poised to vote for the very people who kick them like dogs on the furniture.
The Affordable Care Act allowed Robin Evans, an eBay warehouse packer earning $9 an hour, to sign up for Medicaid this year. She is being treated for high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, after years of going uninsured and rarely seeing doctors.

“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”

But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”

Ms. Evans said she did not want the law repealed but had too many overall reservations about Democrats to switch her vote. “Born and raised Republican,” she said of herself. “I ain’t planning on changing now.”

Kentucky is arguably one of the health law’s biggest early success stories, with about 10 percent of the population getting coverage through the state’s online insurance marketplace — albeit mostly through Medicaid, not private plans — and none of the technology failures that plagued other enrollment websites. The uninsured rate here has fallen to 11.9 percent from 20.4 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll that found only Arkansas experienced a steeper decline.

But there is little evidence that the expansion of health coverage will help Kentucky Democrats in this fall’s midterm elections. Republicans hold all of the state’s Congressional seats except for one, in a district centered in Louisville, and none are considered vulnerable this year. Republicans, who already control the State Senate, have a chance of taking the State House of Representatives, where Democrats hold an eight-seat majority. And several recent polls have put Mr. McConnell ahead of his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, even though his approval ratings are tepid.

Mr. McConnell and other Republicans here, while more focused on other issues, like protecting Kentucky’s coal industry, continue to attack the health law as a symbol of government overreach and Democratic bungling. And far from flaunting Kentucky’s strong enrollment numbers, Democratic candidates — most notably Ms. Grimes — have remained reticent about the law, even its successes.
“Born and raised Republican,” is no reason why she should support a man who would be happy to take away the program that will keep her alive. It is quite obvious in Kentucky that years of pourting bulshit into their ears has replaced the brains of far too many of them.

Karzai of the Afghans still rules in Kabool

Because there is still no decision on who won the election to replace him. And while that plays out, the Taliban shows us what will happen with the troops left behind in our hoped for Imperial outpost.

A powerful explosion rocked Kabul early on Tuesday morning, killing at least six soldiers and wounding more than 25 other people, according to police — one of the worst attacks on international forces in the Afghan capital in months.

The attack targeted a convoy near the U.S. Embassy compound, which is also home to other members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Tuesday’s violence comes amid a months-long political stalemate and an emboldened insurgency in the country, alongside a still unresolved presidential election ahead of the scheduled departure of foreign combat troops by the end of the year.

Farid Afzalai, chief of criminal investigations for Kabul’s police, confirmed reports that the bomber targeted a foreign convoy. The bomber struck near the country’s Supreme Court on a busy road that runs from the U.S. Embassy to Kabul’s airport, aiming at soldiers from the ISAF.

There was no immediate word on any Afghan casualties.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide car bombing via a recognized Twitter account and in a statement emailed to journalists. It said a suicide bomber, identified only as Bilal, had been lying in wait for foreign troops in a car packed with explosives.

The blast, which witnesses described as huge, tore through cars on the main airport road near the embassy, leaving them tangled hunks of metal.

Ambulances rushed to the scene within minutes of the explosion.

In the aftermath of the explosion, which occurred during heavy rush-hour traffic, Afghan and foreign troops secured the area as fire and rescue vehicles moved in.

At the side of the road, foreign troops gave first-aid to some bloodstained fellow soldiers from the convoy.

About half a dozen cars stood damaged, and investigators inspected an empty black four-wheel-drive vehicle, its windows smashed and exterior pockmarked by shrapnel. One vehicle from the convoy was thrown off the road and destroyed by the blast.

In recent months, the Taliban has targeted several government facilities in the war-torn country, which is still grappling with a political impasse after a contested presidential election between Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani.

The government has been paralyzed for months, and that has emboldened the Taliban, which vowed to disrupt the elections, weakened the fragile economy and put future international military and economic aid at risk.

The United Nations has expressed fears that a disputed election result could revive the ethnic violence of the 1990s’ civil war, when chaos allowed the Taliban to come to power.

Meanwhile, in western Herat province, one U.S. soldier was killed when an unidentified member of the Afghan security forces turned on his trainers late on Monday, the latest incident in a string of green-on-blue attacks.

A Western official, who asked not to be identified, said the U.S. soldier was killed when the Afghan threw a hand grenade at his trainers.

Also overnight, two suicide bombers set 26 fuel tankers ablaze in an attack on a customs post near a border crossing into Pakistan in Afghanistan’s east, local media reported on Tuesday.
The Russians were really smart to end their mistake in Afghanistan completely.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Jazz up your Monday

With Cyrille Aimee a charming French jazz singer. This song, "Bamboo Shoots" is from her latest album, It's A Good Day, released last month.

R.I.P. Tony Auth

Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist dead at 72.

There is existential and then there is existential

And if you don't know which one is which, Tom Tomorrow has a handy little guide to show you the way.

ISIL more dangerous than marijuana

Talk about walking a fine line

John Kerry and others understand
full well that any actions against ISIL/ISIS will require the cooperation and involvement of a country that we have been hostile to for the last 30 years.
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that the Obama administration would keep the door open to confidential communications with Iran on the security crisis in Iraq, despite sarcastic criticism from Iran’s supreme leader, who said the American plan for bombing Islamic militants, their common enemy, was absurd.

Mr. Kerry acknowledged that the United States had opposed a role for Iran at the international conference here on strengthening a coalition to help the new government in Baghdad fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Both King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and top officials from the United Arab Emirates had informed the United States that they would not attend the meeting here if Iran was present, said Mr. Kerry, who also stressed that the United States would not coordinate militarily with the Iranians.

But Mr. Kerry also said that American officials were still prepared to talk to Iranian officials about Iraq and Syria, including on the margins of the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, which will resume in New York on Thursday.
President François Hollande of France greeted President Fuad Masum of Iraq at the Elysée Palace in Paris on Monday. Credit John Schults/Reuters

Just because Iranians were not invited to the Paris conference, Mr. Kerry said, “doesn’t mean that we are opposed to the idea of communicating to find out if they will come on board or under what circumstances or whether there is the possibility of a change.”

Mr. Kerry said that “having a channel of communication on one of the biggest issues in the world today is common sense.”
Our Sunni buddies don't like Shi'ite Iran but there is no hiding the fact that Iran is the major player in Iraq. But the Sunnis in Iraq mistrust the Shi'ite leadership in Iraq and nobody likes the Kurds. Meanwhile ISIL/ISIS is doing everything it can to convince Sunnis in areas they control that they are on their side. And we expect to strighten this all out with a few smart bombs. Yeah, that'll work.

Once upon a time in Kansas

A stern eyed, hollow souled man rode to victory in the gubernatorial election on a wave of bright shining "promises". As time went by these promises turned out to be no more than a pack of chimeras and lies. In Kansas now, Sam Brownback's "real, live experiment" carried out on the backs of lower and middle class Kansans has proved to be a dismal, costly failure.
Brownback told Kansans in 2012 that over five years the new tax policy would create more than 22,000 jobs beyond normal growth and attract more residents. The governor described the effort on MSNBC’s Morning Joe as a “real, live experiment”; given Brownback’s national ambitions, many wondered if his real goal was expanding his laboratory to include the other 49 states.

Then the results started coming in. Unemployment fell, along with the rest of the country’s, as the economy improved from the worst years of the recession — thanks in part to the federal stimulus. But contrary to Brownback’s promises, Kansas job growth has lagged all its neighboring states’ except Nebraska’s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Its population has grown at half the national rate.

Rather, the most immediate effect of the tax cuts has been the more predictable one: less money for state services. Kansas collected $310 million less in revenue than planned during the April and May tax season. The state’s nonpartisan legislative research division estimated when the tax cuts were passed that the state would collect $4.5 billion less through 2018. To make up for some of the losses, the state government targeted the pocketbooks of low-income consumers, reducing a planned sales tax cut and eliminating tax rebates for items like food, child care, access for the disabled and alternative-fuel equipment.

It wasn’t enough for creditors. After the reported shortfalls came in, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s downgraded the state’s credit rating.

Brownback’s campaign defends the falling revenue. “That’s what happens when you cut taxes,” spokesman John Milburn said at one of the governor’s campaign stops in the capital, Topeka. “As long as you’re able to provide those services — which we are — that’s good governance.” The governor’s plan is still for the income tax rate to ultimately fall to zero, he said.

But many Kansans don’t feel that state services are up to par. By far, the most politically damaging problems for Brownback have been in education. Public schools, which educate 95 percent of Kansas schoolchildren, have seen their budgets shrink, contributing to school closings and stoking anger across the state. Earlier this year, the courts stepped in to order the legislature to provide the needed funds.

“Brownback’s cut us pretty hard on the financial and the educational funding, and what he’s done to the teachers is just disgusting,” said Clyde Taverner, a Davis supporter from Wichita whose wife is a retired high school language-arts teacher.
When he was elected, Brownback had a Republican legislature eager to do what he asked. And even now, Sam and his wealthy buddies are doing well and can't understand why people are complaining. The best hope for Kansas is for the people to realize that Sam Brownback and his Republican cronies are just a bunch of mean spirited lying douchebags who need to be thrown out.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

For someone born and raised on Lon Gisland

Shannon McNally sounds less like Fran Drescher and more like the folks down South she has lived with the last 15 or so years. This is "You Can't Pin A Color On Another"

Your Iraq War Part 3 Infographic

From the pen of Brian McFadden

The road to a new business model is difficult

And one of the best places to see that in action is Germany which is pushing hard for renewable energy sources, so far at the expense of traditional ones.
Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power. Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset.

A reckoning is at hand, and nowhere is that clearer than in Germany. Even as the country sets records nearly every month for renewable power production, the changes have devastated its utility companies, whose profits from power generation have collapsed.

A similar pattern may well play out in other countries that are pursuing ambitious plans for renewable energy. Some American states, impatient with legislative gridlock in Washington, have set aggressive goals of their own, aiming for 20 or 30 percent renewable energy as soon as 2020.

The word the Germans use for their plan is starting to make its way into conversations elsewhere: energiewende, the energy transition. Worldwide, Germany is being held up as a model, cited by environmental activists as proof that a transformation of the global energy system is possible.

But it is becoming clear that the transformation, if plausible, will be wrenching. Some experts say the electricity business is entering a period of turmoil beyond anything in its 130-year history, a disruption potentially as great as those that have remade the airlines, the music industry and the telephone business.

Taking full advantage of the possibilities may require scrapping the old rules of electricity markets and starting over, industry observers say — perhaps with techniques like paying utilities extra to keep conventional power plants on standby for times when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. The German government has acknowledged the need for new rules, though it has yet to figure out what they should be. A handful of American states are beginning a similar reconsideration of how their electric systems operate.

“It’s pretty amazing what’s happening, really,” said Gerard Reid, an Irish financier working in Berlin on German energy projects. “The Germans call it a transformation, but to me it’s a revolution.”

The potential payoff for getting the new rules right is enormous: a far greener electricity system that does not pump as much greenhouse gas and other pollution into the atmosphere. Yet as the German experience shows, the difficulties of the transition are likely to be enormous, too, and it is still far from clear whether the system can be transformed fast enough to head off dangerous levels of global warming.
A new way to approach the power grid is needed, as yet the way is not clear. And along the way there will be resistance from the usual gang that resists all change. But it will be done sooner or later, we can't continue with buggywhip methods for long.

You can't just polish them forever

So that silver tongued devil John Kerry has finally gotten some sort of commitment from various Arab nations that we have armed to the teeth over the years to finally use some of that hardware.
Several Arab countries have offered to carry out airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, senior State Department officials said on Sunday.

The offer was disclosed by American officials traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is approaching the end of a weeklong trip that was intended to mobilize international support for the campaign against the group, also known as ISIS.

“There have been offers both to Centcom and to the Iraqis of Arab countries taking more aggressive kinetic action,” said one of the officials, who used the acronym for the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East...

The State Department officials, who asked not to be identified under the agency’s protocol for briefing reporters, did not say which Arab nations had offered to carry out airstrikes.

There are other ways Arab nations could participate in an air campaign against ISIS, without dropping bombs, include flying arms to Baghdad or Erbil in the Kurdistan region, conducting reconnaissance flights or providing logistical support and refueling.

The officials said the Arab offers were under discussion.

“I don’t want to leave you with the impression that these Arab members haven’t offered to do airstrikes, because several of them have,” the first State Department official said. “The Iraqis would have to be a major participant in that decision,” the official added. “It has to be well structured and organized.”
And it will be just like those joint maneuvers they have participated in over the years.

And you want Turkey to help?

NATO member Turkey surprised and upset people this week when it refused to sign on to efforts to stop ISIL. The problem is that Turkey has real issues that a great lumbering US led military effort would only aggravate.
Turkey has sent mixed signals about its willingness to take a more public position alongside the Americans. While Ankara did label the Nusra Front a terrorist organization in June, Turkish opposition figures claim that the government still isn’t doing enough to stop jihadists from using Turkey as their way station to Syria.

Turkey raised more eyebrows this week at a regional summit in Saudi Arabia, where Turkish officials declined to sign onto a communique expressing support for the campaign against the Islamic State.

But there are other complicating factors that prevent Turkey from taking too prominent a role, not least the fact that the Islamic State is holding dozens of Turkish hostages. In June, the jihadists stormed the Turkish consulate in Mosul, Iraq, and seized 49 personnel, including the consul general. Ankara appears to be taking pains to mute its public criticism of the Islamic State for now, presumably so as not to shut the door on the hostage recovery effort.

“Turkey is a European and regional power but does not yet seem fully committed to dealing with the Islamic State,” Anthony Cordesman, a former defense official who’s now with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in a commentary this week.

“It fears any form of Kurdish separatism, has hostage issues, has major problems in securing its southern border, and does not want more of a Syrian or Iraqi crisis on its southern borders,” Cordesman wrote. “At least some elements in Turkey also seem to benefit from trade with the Islamic State and others are happy to support the Iraqi Kurds in their separatist efforts.”
Turkey has been an established nation for many years now, but it still has deep rooted problems that have moved nearer the surface as the power of the military has receded. It is more fragile than it would care to admit and is walking carefully at the edge of the mess in Syria and Iraq.

Bernie Sanders Rocks Meet The Press

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I don't know what the secret is

One listen to The Secret Sisters and you will want to tell everyone you know what they are missing. The Secret Sisters, who really are sisters, singing "Rattle My Bones"

In the blink of an eye

From the pen of Tom Toles

How many "active shooter" incidents does your town have?

Chances are you have not had one in living memory. But that won't stop your local PD from reaching for some of that good surplus weaponry the Pentagon is handing out so freely. If you are lucky, your town government will put a stop to it, as this one did in California.
The police department of this modest college town is among the latest California beneficiaries of surplus military equipment: a $700,000 armored car that is the “perfect vehicle,” the police chief told the City Council, “to perform rescues of victims and potential victims during active shooter incidents.”

It is well maintained, low-mileage and free, the chief, Landy Black, said in explaining why the department had augmented its already sizable cache of surplus matériel, including rifles, body armor and riot helmets, with an MRAP: a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle.

But the City Council directed Chief Landy last month to get rid of it in the face of an uproar that had swept through this community, with many invoking the use of similar equipment by the police against protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

The vehicle, a behemoth in brown camouflage paint, is now parked out of sight in front of a steamroller in a gully next to a city garage; on a recent day, a lone pigeon cooed overhead.

“This thing has a turret — it’s the kind of thing that is used in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Dan Wolk, the mayor. “Our community is the kind of community that is not going to take well to having this kind of vehicle. We are not a crime-ridden city.”

The mayor added: “When it comes to help from Washington we, like most communities, have a long wish list. But a tank, or MRAP, or whatever you choose to call it, is not on that list.”
Before the REpublicans started giving the tax dollars back to the corporations and rich people, the feds used to give money to cities and towns to do what they needed most. Now most cities and towns are going begging since folks like the Koch Bros. need the money more than they do. In its place the military is doling out military gear to keep the peasants in their place. Keep your eyes on the ground, churl!

Bill Maher picks a district to flip.

Bill Maher explains why John Kline should be voted out of office. Most likely Bill Maher will be sued by the people he ripped apart in this clip.

Miss Lindsey Graham complains

And gets herself all aflutter at the idea that the evil nasty ISIS might sneak into the US and steal her pearls.
South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham took to the Senate floor Thursday, adding a new sense of urgency to President Barack Obama’s plan to combat the Islamic State and saying the group presents a far greater danger than the commander-in-chief acknowledges.

“What bothered me the most is the way (Wednesday’s speech) started. The president tried to tell us we’re safer today than we’ve ever been. Do you believe that? I don’t . . . we are not safer than we were before 9/11,” Graham said Thursday.

Graham was joined on the floor by fellow republican John McCain of Arizona, both of whom have long argued for arming moderate rebel groups against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Graham’s speech was, to a certain extent, a vindicating moment for him. Graham has pushed the administration for months to assist the Free Syrian Army in its fight against Assad. The president’s announcement Wednesday that the U.S. would provide training and arms to non-extremist rebel groups fighting the Islamic State validated appeals that Graham and McCain have been making since 2012.
And yet the poor old thing is totally unfazed that the plan she and gaga old Johnny Bomb-Bomb McCain cooked up was a total failure. She knows that Fux, & CBS & ABC & NBC will have her and Johnny Bomb-Bomb on the Sunday shows forever spouting the same old useless trash and frightening all the sheep.

Why some people love war so much

Even as the disastrous mistake in Shitholeistan winds down for NATO forces, the sinkhole of corruption will continue to bleed $Billions into the hands of the thieves who have already tapped $Billions of aid dollars.
The top U.S. official for monitoring aid to Afghanistan painted a grim portrait of the country’s future Friday, saying it is riddled with corruption and graft.

With most Americans’ attention riveted on Iraq and Syria, John F. Sopko, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan, said the United States’ unprecedented $120 billion reconstruction investment there is at risk.

“The country remains under assault by insurgents and is short of domestic revenue, plagued by corruption, afflicted by criminal elements involved in opium and smuggling, and struggling to execute the basic functions of government,” Sopko said in a speech at Georgetown University.

President Barack Obama’s vow that only 9,800 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan by year’s end, Sopko said, has left many Americans unaware the the United States will spend up to $8 billion a year on reconstruction projects for years to come.

“If corruption is allowed to continue unabated, it will likely jeopardize every gain we’ve made so far in Afghanistan,” Sopko said.

The United States continues to pump billions of dollars into the South Asia country that its government can’t control.

“It appears we’ve created a government that the Afghans simply can’t afford,” Sopko said. “Accordingly, when we build things the Afghans can’t use and when we don’t take their resources into account, we’re not just wasting money. We’re jeopardizing our mission of creating a self-sustaining Afghanistan that can keep insurgents down and terrorists out.”
And we will never admit that we are hopeless as nation builders. Hel, we can't even keep our own nation from falling apart at the seams.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The true quality of a singer

Lies in how they treat a classic tune by someone else. Kate Wolf puts her mark on"Who Knows Where The Time Goes" without spoiling that classic Sandy Denny tune.

This pretty much says it all

From the pen of Stuart Carlson

A bigger recall than GM's

But you may not have heard about the size of it, even if your car was recalled. Because the recall covered several manufacturers and was done in segments rather than all at once.
Today, more than 14 million vehicles have been recalled by 11 automakers over rupture risks involving air bags manufactured by the supplier, Takata. That is about five times the number of vehicles recalled this year by General Motors for its deadly ignition switch defect.

Two deaths and more than 30 injuries have been linked to ruptures in Honda vehicles, and complaints received by regulators about various automakers blame Takata air bags for at least 139 injuries, including 37 people who reported air bags that ruptured or spewed shrapnel or chemicals. In one incident in December 2009, a Honda Accord driven by Gurjit Rathore, 33, hit a mail truck in Richmond, Va. Her air bag exploded, propelling shrapnel into her neck and chest, and she bled to death in front of her three children, according to a lawsuit filed by her family.

Honda’s initial recall to fix Takata-made air bags that might rupture covered about 4,000 cars in 2008. Since then, the Takata air bag recalls have mushroomed to more than 14 million cars at 11 automakers. Air bag ruptures in Honda vehicles have been linked to two deaths and more than 30 injuries, beginning as long ago as 2004.

The details of Honda’s air bag problems, which have not been previously reported, come as General Motors continues to face questions about its ignition switch defect, which some G.M. officials knew about for a decade before the recalls were issued. In echoes of that safety crisis, The New York Times found the inadequate response to the risk of rupturing air bags was rooted in the industry’s ability to report safety problems in a minimal way, a weak regulatory agency and a disconnect between what automakers are aware of internally and what they reveal publicly.

The danger of exploding air bags was not disclosed for years after the first reported incident in 2004, despite red flags — including three additional ruptures reported to Honda in 2007, according to interviews, regulatory filings and court records.

In each of the incidents, Honda settled confidential financial claims with people injured by the air bags, but the automaker did not issue a safety recall until late 2008, and then for only a small fraction — about 4,200 — of its vehicles eventually found to be equipped with the potentially explosive air bags.

The delays by both Honda and Takata in alerting the public about the defect — and later in Takata’s acknowledging it extended beyond a small group of Honda vehicles — meant other automakers like BMW, Toyota and Nissan were not aware of possible defects in their own vehicles for years, putting off their recalls. Only last month, Honda issued yet another recall of its own — its ninth for the defect — bringing to six million the total of recalled Honda and Acura vehicles.
A combination of weasely explanations, foot dragging and good old Republican regulators who didn't want to disturb industry explains why the recall wasn't big enough from the beginning and two people died because of it.

Roger AIles just creamed his shorts.

A federal judge has just struck down an Ohio law banning lies and false statements in political contests.
In a ruling that could reverberate nationwide, a federal judge has struck down Ohio's law barring people from knowingly or recklessly making false statements about candidates in a case that the U.S. Supreme Court said needed to be heard.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ruled Thursday that Ohio's law, in effect since 1995, is unconstitutional and prohibited the Ohio Elections Commission and its members from enforcing the law.

The judge said in his ruling that the answer to false statements in politics is "not to force silence, but to encourage truthful speech in response, and to let the voters, not the government, decide what the political truth is."

"Ohio's false-statements laws do not accomplish this, and the court is not empowered to re-write the statutes; that is the job of the Legislature," Black wrote.

The Supreme Court in June found unanimously that an anti-abortion group should be able to challenge the law, in a case that grew out of a 2010 congressional race. The Susan B. Anthony List, an antiabortion group, had contended that the Ohio statute violated free speech rights and chilled a wide variety of political speech.
Just how the judge expects people, carefully misinformed by the current media outlets, to understand what is true or false is not explained in his ruling.

It's after midnight. Atlantic City changing back to a pumpkin

It was a fun ride while it lasted, but not nearly as long as promised. And thanks to massively venal and incompetent politicians, the bulk of the city did not benefit from all the money that flowed through their hands.
Gambling revenue in the city nosedived in recent years, declining to $2.9 billion last year, down from a peak of $5.2 billion in 2006. Seeing the writing on the wall, casino owners brought down the curtain.

The Atlantic Club was the first to go, closing in January. Then Showboat, a fixture on the boardwalk for 27 years, shuttered at the end of August, followed closely by Revel, which opened only two years ago to demonstrate the strength of gaming in Atlantic City. Trump Plaza will be the next to go, and now Trump Taj Mahal announced it is considering calling it quits by November.

To add insult to injury, Trump Taj Mahal management asked employees to go without benefits and pensions to keep the property open longer, union officials said, a proposition the workers declined.

In all, an estimated 7,000 workers in a city of 39,000, will lose their jobs by year’s end...

“We were told they would be good jobs and it was good for the economy and it was, but they never revitalized the city,” Davis said. “They made a box and put everything inside the box that you would possibly need, and said, ‘Stay in the box. Everything you need is in there. Don’t go out in the slums.’”

Indeed, most everyone in Atlantic City has an opinion on how it all went so wrong, laying the blame on mismanagement both by state and local leaders as well as casino management.

“For 35 years the people who make decisions about Atlantic City have made wrong decisions at every turn,” said Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54. "It was poor, poor planning and now everyone is affected by it."

State legislators dragged their feet in approving sports betting, finally green-lighting the enterprise earlier this week, McDevitt said. City officials did not use the additional tax revenue from the casinos to improve roads, crack down on crime, or beautify neighborhoods. Casino managers decided to build additional towers and expand when they should have anticipated the increased competition and could have worked to add amenities to attract non-gambling customers.

These are particularly disheartening times for Atlantic City workers not just because of the scale of the layoffs but because, unlike hospitality and service jobs in other parts of the country, union involvement in Atlantic City had kept wages high and benefits good.
Now the golden goose is dead and the city is left with the same old slums and soon to be impressive ruins along the Boardwalk.

The disaster of Obamacare

Disaster for who?

The Daily Show
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

I don't really know who is singing

One poster said it was the Cranberries but a commenter says it is Trish Nielsen and another post says it is Joan Osborne herself. Whichever, it is a clever parody of Joan Osborne's "What if God Was One Of Us". And the song "What If God Smoked Cannabis" carries an important message. Just fire up a fatty and grok it.

The name fits like a glove

From the pen of Tom Toles

R.I.P. Richard Kiel

Teeth of steel and a great big soft heart.

Some say WW II was just the second half of WW I

So it is no stretch to say that the current war plans are just the fourth period of the Bush Wars against the Middle East. This is, of course, no comfort to all those who will die or be maimed in the days, months and years ahead that will keep pumping $Millions in profits to the Merchants of Death. It probably won't help all those who like to watch those great videos of things getting blown up. At best it may help future historians sort out all the stupid stuff that keeps driving the madness gripping the area. One bit of stupid stuff will be all the assertions that this time it is a different war.
It will be a significantly different kind of war — not like Iraq or Afghanistan, where many tens of thousands of American troops were still deployed when Mr. Obama took the oath nearly six years ago. And even though Mr. Obama compared it to the small-scale, sporadic strikes against isolated terrorists in places like Yemen and Somalia, it will not be exactly like those either.

Instead, the widening battle with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will be the next chapter in a grueling, generational struggle that has kept the United States at war in one form or another since that day 13 years ago on Thursday when hijacked airplanes shattered America’s sense of its own security. Waged by a president with faded public standing, the new phase will not involve many American troops on the ground, but seems certain to require a far more intense American bombing blitz than in Somalia or Yemen.

The battleground for that new phase will now extend beyond the well-known sands of Iraq into the new theater of Syria, a nation racked by more than three years of brutal civil war. After years of trying to avoid entangling the United States in another “dumb war,” as he called the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Mr. Obama is now plunging the United States into the middle of one of the world’s bloodiest, most vicious and fratricidal conflicts.
And our biggest bit of stupid stuff is our insane skilz at butting in to the worst situations at the wrongest times. Let no one ever say we aren't exceptional.

Despite the obvious

A Gallup poll shows a majority of Americans still think Republicans are better at protecting us from Evil Super Terrorists. Don't even ask about the economy.

Quote of the Day

But what do I know? Maybe airstrikes alone will work for the first time in recorded history to defeat a foe.
William Rivers Pitt, examining the the continuation of the Bush Wars in Iraq

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The sisters sang this in '13

But it wasn't posted until '14. The Staves sing "In the Long Run". Too long a wait.

Somebody is not paying attention

From the pen of Tom Toles

Boots on the ground to train sandals on the ground

Yessirree! We are all set to go back into Iraq with the trainers and military missions that Iraq did not want in 2011 because they knew it would compromise their sovereignty. Now that they are threatened by ISIL, theyare much more willing to accept US boots on the ground to train their sandals on the ground.
Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that Iraqi leaders had made sufficient political progress to warrant joint United States-Iraqi action against the Sunni militants who have seized much of northern and western Iraq, and indicated that the United States was now prepared to help train Iraq’s security forces.

“We stand by Iraq,” Mr. Kerry said after a whirlwind series of meetings with the Iraqi government’s new leaders. “And we stand by them as they fight to overcome their single greatest threat.”

The United States carried out airstrikes on ISIS targets in northern Iraq last month, but Mr. Kerry, like other Obama administration officials, ruled out the addition of American combat troops. He said the United States, along with other nations, would help train and rebuild the Iraqi military.

He also highlighted the Iraqis’ decision to create new national guard units that would be recruited locally and given the main responsibility for security in their home areas; they are also likely to require foreign assistance.

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said in Paris on Wednesday that his country was ready to take part in airstrikes against ISIS if needed, The Associated Press reported. Mr. Fabius called for international mobilization against “this transnational danger that could reach all the way to our soil,” the agency quoted him as saying. France is scheduled to host an international conference on Monday to discuss how to stop ISIS and assist Iraq.
And Whoopee! We got ourselves an ally! Thanks France.

Thanks for all the help

But please keep the soldiers
, it will only make things more difficult. Health and aid groups are grateful for any help but well know that a military presence of any kind is met with distrust in West Africa.
Aid agencies have cautiously welcomed the United States’ announcement that it would deliver aid to health workers in West African countries hit by an Ebola outbreak that has killed at least 2,296 people.

With the deadly virus still raging in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, some see the intervention of the world’s most powerful military as a last resort — and best hope.

But Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) — while applauding the U.S. move — said they don’t want the security detail for health care workers that President Obama pledged on Sunday.

And some experts have expressed concerns that the involvement of American forces adds an unpredictable element to the public health emergency.

“In this particular case, the Ebola emergency is so severe and the logistical challenges are so serious and seem so insurmountable that you have humanitarian actors that are normally very resistant to any kind of military aid asking for the military to get involved,” said Laura Seay, a Colby College assistant professor of government specializing in African issues.

“This is one of those things where you have to be careful what you wish for,” Seay said, adding that it is important that the U.S. military abide by the local governments' protocols.
Even in the face of death, people are wary of what has brought so much misery to the area, the military in any form.

To be or not to be

A part of the United States. That is the question about all things Guantanamo. Where Chinese diplomats are informed they are traveling to a foreign country if they fly in from the US and crimes committes on base are handled under applicable US laws.
“If you look at the lease, it’s America as long as we want it to be America,” he says. “I’m not sure how that functionally is any different than Puerto Rico.”

In 1965, he said, the U.S. declared the base a special maritime jurisdiction and brought a Cuban to federal court in Miami for the machete killing of another non-U.S. citizen on base. For that crime, Guantánamo was subject to the prosecutorial jurisdiction of the United States. Since the Bush administration chose to imprison war-on-terror captives seized across the globe, it has sought to make sure the opposite applies.

That’s why moments before boarding a U.S. military charter to Guantánamo at Andrews Air Force Base — the place where the Pentagon parks the president’s plane, Air Force One — an airman warned two Chinese journalists that going to Guantánamo would amount to entering a foreign country, and their single-entry work visas would be invalid on their return.

They were invited by the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense to report on some war crimes hearings and were scheduled back a week later, on a nonstop flight.

They didn’t go.

Had they gone, they could’ve purchased a souvenir plastic cup at the commissary for $6.99 — duty free by federal code covering “articles of foreign origin” at GTMO, the military’s shorthand for the base. A study in schizophrenia, the souvenir is stamped GTMO, USA, Cuba.

It is for this base of about 6,000 residents that the U.S. military is building a $40 million undersea fiberoptic link to Florida so data can reach the Pentagon as swiftly as any office on U.S. soil.

And while there has been a continuous American presence at Guantánamo Bay since U.S. forces took it in a Spanish-American war battle in 1898, it’s technically leased territory. From Cuba, whose landlord, Fidel Castro, told the tenants to go home long ago.

The U.S. government says it’s a tenant barricaded behind a Cuban minefield and, as though to prove it, cuts a check each year for $4,085 — rent, based on a 1934 treaty made public by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

It’s a one-way transaction. The Cuban government does not cash the checks.

Babies born to Americans at the base hospital are automatically citizens. A diplomat from the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, the closest to the base, periodically visits to process paperwork for Guantánamo’s American babies, says Kelly Wirfel, the Navy base public affairs officer.

But that’s not a privilege passed along to Filipino or Jamaican guest laborers who work as waitresses at the Irish Pub or clean the officers’ guest quarters. Were one to get pregnant at Guantánamo, she’d probably get a ticket home to avoid the issue of her baby’s citizenship.

Which is why nobody was willing speculate on that baby’s theoretical nationality. Would that baby be Cuban? Guantánamite? Stateless?

Guantánamo is not like Puerto Rico, says the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. It’s more like a U.S. embassy (with school, golf course, church and prison), and babies born to non-citizens at embassies aren’t entitled to citizenship, either.

And that pretty much reflects the pick-and-choose approach that’s become all the more pronounced as the war court hears pretrial motions in six death-penalty cases...

She calls it pick-and-choose patriotism.

“It’s America when the environmental protection laws prohibit us from killing an iguana or committing drunken driving,” she said.

“But it’s not America when they can get away with paying less than minimum wage” to the Jamaicans or Filipinos who clean the officers’ Guest Quarters. “It it’s not America when they want to violate American law regarding torture. And it’s not America when they avoid applying the Geneva Conventions.”
A territory of convenience. How very useful when you have something you can't do at home.

Teabaggers pick Carpetbagger in primary

The Republican/Teabagger element
of the "Live Free Or Die" state, where no one says you have to be smart enough to tie a shoelace, picked that Prince of Fools Scott Brown of Massachusetts as their Senate candidate. As many of you may remember, Scott fled from Massachusetts when the voters realized he was just not smart enough for the Senate. Indeed, he turned out to be a walking male blonde joke.
Among the marquee races Tuesday was the primary in New Hampshire, in which Brown whittled away at the skepticism from New Hampshire Republicans that greeted his entrance into the race. Since then, party members have backed him in greater numbers as the most formidable candidate to unseat Shaheen.

Shaheen's lead over Brown has shrunk to single digits. A University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll had them a few points apart late last month, although more recent surveys have shown Shaheen with a larger lead.

Brown campaigned vigorously during the primary, holding town hall meetings with voters across the state. But while he trained his attacks on Shaheen, his Republican rivals pounded him as an outsider who was too close to special interests.

One GOP opponent, former state Sen. Jim Rubens, won the backing of the MAYDAY "super PAC," a political group that aims to lessen the influence of super PACs. The group put out mailers over the weekend claiming that Brown worked as a lobbyist for the Nixon Peabody law firm. Brown, who worked as a business and governmental affairs adviser for the firm, has threatened to sue the group over what he views as a false charge.
Scott was helped by the fact that his opponents in the primary would have had difficulty beating a stray dog for town dogcatcher. Now Scotty has to see if a less intelligent voter base will help him return to a life of leisure and just following orders.

Teabaggers sure are hard working people

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