Friday, February 05, 2016

Harmonies from L.A.

The Wild Reeds sing "Blind And Brave" from their first album.

The Iowa bounce

From the pen of Rob Rogers

R.I.P. Mary Fiumara

One simple role in a spaghetti ad made Wednesday Prince Spaghetti Day and you immortal.

He's going to have a hard time saying why

It turns out that not only did Governor Snyder know the drinking water for Flint was full of slow poisoning lead, but the e-mail trail shows that he also knew that the water contained the fast acting diseases like Legionaires.
Michigan state officials were aware of an increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases and a possible tie to Flint’s troubled water supply at least 10 months before Gov. Rick Snyder informed the public of the situation last month, newly obtained emails show.

The emails, obtained through a public records request by Progress Michigan, a liberal advocacy group, indicate that county health officials were concerned last March about a wave of Legionnaires’ cases, and were at the time raising the possibility of a connection to the city’s switch to a new water source, the Flint River.

“Essentially,” the county health officials are “putting up the flare” and asserting that the “uptick in cases is directly attributable to the river as a drinking water source,” said an official at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in an email to his state colleagues March 13.

Mr. Snyder, a Republican who has faced the harshest criticism of his tenure for his handling of the crisis in Flint, announced Jan. 13 that the state had concerns about whether the water supply might be connected to an increase in cases of the disease, which can be fatal.

A spokesman for the governor said Thursday that he had not been briefed by his aides on the issue until January, shortly before he made his public statements on it.

“He took action promptly and released the information publicly,” the spokesman, Dave Murray, said.

Concerns about Flint’s water have largely focused on the presence of lead. Since Flint, a shrinking city of fewer than 100,000, switched its source in April 2014 to save money, the water has had rising, dangerous lead levels as well as unsafe levels of fecal coliform bacteria. After extra chlorine was added to treat that bacteria, levels of a contaminant from extra chlorine also increased.

But at the same time, the emails suggest, county health officials were noting another problem: a wave of Legionnaires’ disease cases.
Real nice piece of work that Gov. Snyder. Public whipping would be too good for him. But even though in his world government is meant to be ineffective, it is hard to understand why he would take this route at all. There was never any chance he would kill them all.

Hey, they are just like us

Now that the sanctions have been lifted, Iran is working its way back into international commerce. And under the color of limiting western influences in Iran, the ayatollahs in charge are making sure that their BFF's are the ones who benefit.
Behind the headlines announcing big business contracts with European companies it is becoming increasingly clear that, so far, the only deals being struck have been with the state-backed conglomerates. These are the groups that dominate major industrial and commercial sectors of the Iranian economy and are tightly controlled by pension funds and investment companies linked to state organizations, like the Revolutionary Guards.

As a result, little or nothing is trickling down to the lower levels of Iran’s beleaguered but still enormous private sector. “We have a conflict of interest with the government,” said Bahman Esghi, the secretary general of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce. “Because they have outgrown all their competitors.”

All the major international deals signed in recent weeks have involved state or semistate-backed industries. The national carrier, Iran Air, signed at deal to buy more than 100 planes from Airbus. The Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization, one of the largest state entities, started a $2 billion joint venture with an Italian steel producer, Danieli. PSA Peugeot Citroën of France will invest $439 million in carmaker Iran Khodro.

But when smaller private businesses reach out to their foreign counterparts the response they get is still: how will you pay? Nuclear sanctions might be lifted but almost all international banks continue to shy away from the Iranian market because of unilateral American regulations that label Iran as a state sponsor of terror.

“We are not getting any credit, inside or outside of the country, we can’t make transfers and the government has other priorities,” Mr. Esghi said. Next week Mr. Esghi, the public face of the largest private business ownership organization in the country, will be shutting down his own business, a bus factory, and sending his remaining 14 employees home. The reason, he said, is that there is no work and no prospect of any, even after the lifting of sanctions.

“I’ll be the unemployed secretary general of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “Ironic, isn’t it?”
If you have the connections you have a deal, just like in America. And sadly we still label Iran a state sponsor of terrorism while we maintain normal relations with Saudi Arabia and Israel. That kind of thinking may explain why we have Donald Trump and Ted Cruz running for president.

The Cycle of Life

Thursday, February 04, 2016

How can the politics be so bad

In Tennessee when the music is so good. Like with Franklin, TN group Daphne & The Mystery Machine pleasing the crowd with "Resurrection"

Going to be a yooge year

From the pen of Tom Toles

How do you get out of town

When you can't afford to get out of town? Such is the position that so many of the residents of Flint, Michigan find themselves in now. With toxic levels of lead, how can you possibly sell your house? And low income renters wonder how they could ever afford it.
Because the drinking water flowing from their pipes is contaminated, tens of thousands of people here may have been exposed to lead and other toxic chemicals. Untold numbers of them are desperate to leave. But few see a way to pick up and move to a place where the water that flows from the taps is clean and safe.

Homeowners have little hope that they will be able to sell. Renters, like Mr. White, who pays $450 a month for a three-bedroom house, worry about the costs of moving and the difficulties of picking up and starting over in a new place.

“It costs money to move,” said Sandra Ballard, a 62-year-old retiree who lives on the impoverished north side of Flint. She said she struggled to pay her $350 a month rent for a three-bedroom apartment with a patched ceiling. “You’ve got to put first and last month’s rent down. Believe me, I wish I could get out of here.”

People in poor and crime-ridden pockets of cities like Detroit and Baltimore often share the sense of being trapped because of market forces and limited resources. But the people of Flint have a special urgency about leaving.

Because of the health crisis stemming from their tainted water, they spend their days dealing with the consequences.

They use bottled water for drinking, washing their hands and preparing food. In between, they shuttle children to pediatricians for blood tests, lug bottled water home from firehouses and install and change water filters on their home faucets. (Even so, city and state officials warned Friday that lead levels were still so high in some homes that the filters might not be strong enough to be effective.)

Yet many people here have no alternative but to stay.

“I couldn’t rent out my house now if I wanted to,” said Joyce Cruz, 35, a homeowner and the mother of five. “Who would want to move to Flint?”
Gov. Snyder has effectively stolen the equity of every homeowner in Flint and turned it into a lead tainted ghetto. In a perfect world, Gov. Snyder would move the Michigan governors office and the legislature to Flint until the problem is removed. But Gov. Snyder is a Republican, the only thing perfect in his world are his asshole ideas.

Indiana has an HIV crisis

And mainlining drug addicts are the primary vector in spreading the disease. Indiana is also a Republican state so the state in its wisdom has banned funding for the most effective means of stopping the spread of the disease, needle exchanges. It was only the emergency aspect of the problem that forced Gov. Pence to allow counties to set up needle exchanges if they picked up the tab themselves.
The trailer has no electricity — a generator runs the lights, a phone charger and a tiny space heater — but Maupin had bins of whatever a heroin addict might need — syringes in various gauges, aluminum cookers the size of a tea light, ampoules of sterile water, cotton pellets to absorb impurities, gauze, Band-Aids and tourniquets. “You offer them something that they will use and that they need, you get contact with them. And each encounter you mention the different other services that you have,” including HIV testing and referrals to rehab, Maupin explains. “A lot of times they're just really afraid to take that step.”

However modest, Fayette County’s syringe exchange program is a big step forward for Indiana, which banned syringe exchanges until last year. The Republican governor, Mike Pence, is a vocal opponent of the practice as condoning drug use, although it has been proven effective by years of research in preventing the spread of HIV and hepatitis. Even as 31 other U.S. states — including all four of its neighbors — opened the door to syringe exchange, Indiana kept it firmly shut. That changed abruptly in early 2015 when Scott County, another tiny rural community in central Indiana, reported dozens of new cases of HIV, all of them linked to a group of intravenous drug users who had been sharing needles. Under pressure from state and national public health experts, Pence signed an emergency measure in March 2015 establishing a needle exchange in Scott County and later allowed other counties to start their own. “The outbreak pulled it out of the realm of politics and morality and pushed people who had otherwise been more hard-line about this to a place of pragmatism,” says Daniel Raymond, policy director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, a national group advocating for more humane policies toward drug users.

But Indiana’s grudging acceptance of syringe exchanges has done little more than shift the state’s responsibility for a public health crisis to the communities that are least able to handle it. While allowing needle exchanges, Indiana has left in place a ban on state funding, requiring counties such as Fayette that need the programs to come up with the money on their own. “We’ve basically tied both hands behind our back after we said, go for it!” says Beth Meyerson, a professor of public health at Indiana University and co-director of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention.

A spokesperson for Pence said the governor’s “calendar is full” and declined to provide a comment for this article.
And with the parallel rise in cases of Hep C, you might think any governor would want to slow or stop the spread of long term expensive diseases. In a Republican state, you would be wrong.

Boomer wisdom

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Sisters with music in their veins

Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche may be half sisters but 3 of those halfs are musical genius. McGarrigle, Wainwright and Roche come together in their rendition of "El Condor Pasa" from their album, Songs In The Dark.

Just a matter of shading

From the pen of Matt Bors

A record to be proud of?

Certainly it is good that people falsely convicted do get exonerated, but what does it say that there are so many people who were originally falsely convicted?
A record number of American prison inmates were found in 2015 to have been falsely convicted, according to a report released on Wednesday.

At least 149 defendants were cleared last year, 10 more than in 2014, according to a review by the National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of Michigan’s law school that tracks such cases and also aims to reform the criminal justice system.

The inmates had spent more than 14 years behind bars on average. Some served more than three decades in prison.

The annual tally of false convictions has more than doubled since 2011, the registry said. On average, nearly three convictions were overturned every week last year. All told, the project has recorded 1,733 exonerations since 1989.

“The most notable thing is another increase in the rate of exonerations,” said Samuel Gross, the editor of the registry and a University of Michigan law professor. “That just shows that the problems that are causing convictions of innocent people happen on a regular basis.”

Most of the exonerations in 2015 came from two states: Texas, 54, and New York, 17. The registry linked that trend to efforts by district attorneys in Brooklyn and in Harris County, Tex., to review questionable convictions.

Since taking office in 2014, Brooklyn’s district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, has overseen a broad review of potentially wrongful convictions, an endeavor that has been watched closely across the country by prosecutors, defense lawyers and inmates.

“If that same effort were put in across the country, we’d find many more of these cases,” Mr. Gross said.
Ther bulk of them come from 2 counties. Boy Howdy! What would the numbers be if this was applied across the country as a whole? The thought is chilling.

Chaffinch cranks up a whitewash

To help out his fellow Republican, Michigan Governor Rick "Poison" Snyder, Congressman Jason "Chaffinch" Chaffetz has opened an investigation into the Flint MI water disaster. His first step is not to call the man ultimately responsible, Rick Snyder.
As Democrats pressure Congress to respond to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., Republicans hauled state and federal officials before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Wednesday morning for a rare bipartisan grilling over the breakdown in public health.

“I want to know what happened, and more important I want to know what they are doing to fix it,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah and chairman of the committee. “This was a failure of epic proportions.”

The hearing was one of several Mr. Chaffetz has convened at Democrats’ request, but many of them are angry that the committee did not invite Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, to testify. They also fear a dearth of new information because some of the other government officials who were high in the chain of command as the crisis escalated have since resigned and were not called to testify.

Democrats on the oversight committee, joined by Mr. Chaffetz, also sought the testimony of Darnell Earley, the former emergency manager in Flint, a Snyder appointee who approved the switch to water from the Flint River to save money. The committee issued Mr. Earley a subpoena late Tuesday, according to a member of its staff. But his lawyer, A. Scott Bolden, said in an email Tuesday night that Mr. Earley would be unable to appear before the committee.
Poor little Chaffinch will not doubt find it impossible to get any of the real perps to testify but will probably get some poor schmuck up there for all to bullyrag and badger for the cameras. The Republicans always put on a good show.

He is an immature anchor baby

Who has little understanding of any of the policies written in to his speeches for him. Still in his first Senate term, he is already bored with the job. And in his first attempt at leadership on an issue, he folded at the first sign of opposition. This boy wonder, Marco Rubio, is now the Great Lightweight Hope of the Republican establishment in the face of the success of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, emerging from the first presidential nominating contest in Iowa as the leading Republican mainstream contender, portrayed himself in New Hampshire on Tuesday as the party's best hope to recapture the White House.

But Rubio, 44, a U.S. senator from Florida, faces a strong field of establishment rivals in next week's New Hampshire primary after his stronger-than-expected third-place finish in Iowa behind front-runners Ted Cruz, 45, and Donald Trump, 69.

"If I am the nominee, we are going to beat Hillary Clinton and it won't be by the flip of a coin," Rubio told supporters in Exeter, New Hampshire, taking a jab at the close Democratic race in Iowa between Clinton and challenger Bernie Sanders, where some precincts were decided on a coin flip.

Other more mainstream Republicans including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Ohio Governor John Kasich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, are expected to do better in New Hampshire than in Iowa and vie with Rubio to become the establishment favorite.
Did I mention that he is eager? So eager, he gave his victory speech in Iowa despite only reaching third place.

The heart of a bad day

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

When great artists get together

They are going to have fun with their talent. Like Brandi Carlile, Sarah Jarosz and Chris Thile did on The Prarie Home Companion.

I know the feeling

From the pen of Rob Rogers

Kim Jong Pudge needs attention

And to get it, North Korea has announced plans to launch a satelite using their bestest Unha-3 rocket to do so from their newly renovated Tongchang-ri launch site.
The agency, the International Maritime Organization, said Tuesday that it had received a notification from the North Korean authorities of a multistage rocket launch between the hours of 7 a.m. and noon local time, on an as-yet unspecified day between Feb. 8 and 25. An agency spokeswoman, Natasha Brown, said North Korea’s notification described the payload as an Earth observation satellite it called Kwangmyongsong, which translates as Lode Star.

If the launch goes as planned, the notification said, the rocket’s first stage will fall in waters off the west coast of South Korea and the second stage in waters east of the Philippines.

The notification followed warnings to North Korea advising against a launch from the United States and allied nations, which consider such a step a cover for developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that can deliver a nuclear bomb. Under a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions, North Korea is barred from developing nuclear weapons or ballistic missile technologies.

North Korea had notified the International Maritime Organization of some earlier rocket tests.

Another United Nations agency, the International Telecommunication Union, said Tuesday that it also had been notified by the North Koreans of an impending launch of the Kwangmyongsong satellite, but without specifying a date range. An agency spokesman, Sanjay Acharya, said it had been advised by Kim Kwang-chol, the North Korean minister of posts and telecommunications, that the satellite was designed to function for four years.

North Korea insists that its rocket program is peaceful, aimed at launching satellites to gather data for weather forecasting and for other scientific purposes. But after the country successfully put a Kwangmyongsong satellite into orbit by using its Unha-3 rocket in December 2012, the United States worried that in the process, the North was also moving toward acquiring the ability to deliver a nuclear warhead on a long-range ballistic missile.
And while all the big swinging dicks posture about whose dick is biggest, the standard North Korean diet consists of Rock Soup with a mesclun of dessicated winter grass and seasonal weeds.

Gone are the days

When, as the British did, you could maintain the Empire with a couple of gentlemen officers and a handful of other ranks. Nowadays you have to lay out the heavy bread for the heavy equipment even if you will e letting the local wogs run it for you.
President Obama plans to substantially increase the deployment of heavy weapons, armored vehicles and other equipment to NATO countries in Central and Eastern Europe, a move that administration officials said was aimed at deterring Russia from further aggression in the region.

The White House plans to pay for the additional weapons and equipment with a budget request of more than $3.4 billion for military spending in Europe in 2017, several officials said Monday, more than quadrupling the current budget of $789 million. The weapons and equipment will be used by American and NATO forces, ensuring that the alliance can maintain a full armored combat brigade in the region at all times.

Though Russia’s military activity has quieted in eastern Ukraine in recent months, Moscow continues to maintain a presence there, working with pro-Russian local forces. Administration officials said the additional NATO forces were calculated to send a signal to President Vladimir V. Putin that the West remained deeply suspicious of his motives in the region.

“This is not a response to something that happened last Tuesday,” a senior administration official said. “This is a longer-term response to a changed security environment in Europe. This reflects a new situation, where Russia has become a more difficult actor.”
No one is sure what the Russian response will be, but it does appear that the Pentagon has forgotten that the whole Iron Curtain thing was driven by a paranoia resulting from two German and one Polish invasion in a 30 year span last century. It would be a mistake to think that the Russians have forgotten.

Don't ever say America is broke.

One has only to look at the monies spent so far in the race for the White House to see that the country is awash in cash. With the parties still cleaning up after the first event, the Iowa Caucuses, the amount spent from all sources is already close to $1 Billion.
The 2016 White House race is on its way to being the most expensive in history.

Presidential candidates and the political groups supporting them combined to raise more than $837 million during 2015, driven by a massive influx of cash to big-money super PACs, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of new campaign finance filings.

The new filings show that the campaigns of Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and Republican contenders Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio raised the most impressive sums in 2015. This effectively ensures they’ll remain in the presidential race long past Monday’s Iowa caucuses.

Nearly half the presidential money raised in 2015 came from super PACs, which have no contribution limits. Republican White House hopefuls have been particularly reliant on them.

Super PACs backing GOP presidential contenders raised one-third more cash last year than the candidates’ campaigns — a significant departure from four years ago, when GOP presidential candidates outraised their supportive super PACs by more than 3 to 1.

Federal regulators sanctioned super PACs in 2010 after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and a lower court decision. The super PACs are supposed to avoid coordinating their spending with the politicians they support, but many nevertheless are closely tied.

The result: The presidential campaign is now a super-PAC-fueled arms race in which almost everyone has a money bomb.
And in those cases where you can follow the money, it is easy to see that the few people with the money are seriously trying to buy their agenda.

Virulent but with limited vectors

Monday, February 01, 2016

Straight Outta Brighton

England's Della Lupa does "Feeding Grapes To The Gods"

Media coverage of the primary elections

And the patterns and spins they take as explained by the ever intrepid Tom Tomorrow.

Loosely speaking

From the pen of Clay Bennett

Old and poor is a terrible way to go through life

Many people still conveniently die before they live too long for their money, but more and more Americans are finding themselves having to squeeze every last penny to continue their existence.
t the wise age of 79, Dolores Westfall knows food shopping on an empty stomach is a fool’s errand. On her way to the grocery store last May, she pulled into the Town & Country Family Restaurant to take the edge off her appetite.

After much consideration, she ordered the prime rib special and an iced tea — expensive at $21.36, but the leftovers, wrapped carefully to go, would provide two more lunches.

The problem, she later realized, was that a big insurance bill was coming due. How was she going to pay it? Was she going to tip into insolvency over a plate of prime rib?

“I thought I could handle eating and shopping,” she said, “but lunch put me over the top.”

Westfall — 5 feet 1 tall, with a graceful dancer’s body she honed as a tap-dancing teenager — is as stubborn as she is high-spirited. But she finds herself these days in a precarious place: Her savings long gone, and having never done much long-term financial planning, Westfall left her home in California to live in an aging RV she calls Big Foot, driving from one temporary job to the next.

She endures what is for many aging Americans an unforgiving economy. Nearly one-third of U.S. heads of households ages 55 and older have no pension or retirement savings and a median annual income of about $19,000.

A growing proportion of the nation’s elderly are like Westfall: too poor to retire and too young to die.

Many rely on Social Security and minimal pensions, in part because half of all workers have no employer-backed retirement plans. Eight in 10 Americans say they will work well into their 60s or skip retirement entirely.
Social Security keeps her from being homeless and starving even as the bastards who stole her home are living the high life. But this is not the way it should be in this country.

An interesting attack angle

You don't have to look long to know that Bernie Sanders doesn't take money from PACs and has discouraged the formation of any SuperPACs that want to work on his behalf. That is why this latest attack on Bernie is of interest.
Bernie Sanders may decry how big money influences political elections, but that isn’t stopping groups independent of the Democratic presidential candidate from spending significant cash in his name.

The latest organization to do so: Friends of the Earth Action.

The national environmental nonprofit this week released an ad that praises Sanders’ green record and highlights his early opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

“He’s proven a bold and fearless voice for a healthy and just world,” the ad’s narrator says. The ad, first reported by CNN, is airing in Iowa and New Hampshire markets this week.

Friends of the Earth Action is a social welfare nonprofit, also known as a 501(c)(4) organization. Under law, 501(c)(4) nonprofits are not required to disclose their donors.

These types of nonprofits have increasingly become vehicles for dark money — untraceable and often immense cash flows used to influence elections. Such nonprofits must by law avoid being primarily political, but that has not stopped them from collectively injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into elections this decade.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign labeled Friends of the Earth Action a dark money group in a recent blog post titled “Sanders’ ‘no super PAC’ myth.”

But Friends of the Earth Action rejects the dark money label.

“We’ve got a long history of engaging in the political process that predates super PACs and Citizens United,” said Erich Pica, the group’s president. “So they can call us a dark money group, but we are mainly small-donor driven.”

Friends of the Earth Action says it “provides extra political muscle” to sister group Friends of the Earth, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1969 that “urge[s] policymakers to defend the environment and work towards a healthy environment for all people,” according to its website.
What is most amusing about this claim is that Friends of the Earth Action is acting according to the rules set up to allow PACS, advocating for specific issues without the usual coordination with the campaigns so commonly seen with the Republican candidates.

Republican Mission Statement

Sunday, January 31, 2016

If it looks like a Duhk and sings like a Duhk

It probably is The Duhks, a Canadian group that loves just about any folk/traditional music they hear or write. "Mists Of Down Below" comes from the self titled album The Duhks.

Might work if there were a god

From the pen of Jeff Stahler

When you have to threaten voters

To get them to show up at the caucus, perhaps you don't have what it takes to be an elected leader. Ted Cruz and his brainy bunch took this route with his supporters.
Iowa's secretary of state on Saturday blasted Ted Cruz's campaign over a controversial mailer that aims to drive voters to the polls for Monday's caucuses by claiming they have committed "violations."

"Today I was shown a piece of literature from the Cruz for President campaign that misrepresents the role of my office, and worse, misrepresents Iowa election law," Paul Pate, a Republican, said in a statement Saturday.

The mailer gave the recipient, along with their neighbors, poor grades based on their individual voting history. On one side, the mailer reads: "ELECTION ALERT: VOTER VIOLATION," "PUBLIC RECORD" and "FURTHER ACTION NEEDED."

The other side of the mailer says "VOTING VIOLATION" in red letters at the top before text that reads:

"You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors' are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday's caucuses."

Cruz campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart confirmed to CNN that the mailer was from the Cruz campaign.

"Accusing citizens of Iowa of a "voting violation" based on Iowa Caucus participation, or lack thereof, is false representation of an official act," Pate said in his statement. "There is no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting. Any insinuation or statement to the contrary is wrong and I believe it is not in keeping in the spirit of the Iowa Caucuses."
Republicans get so used to scaring people they start using it for everything and as Cuban Ted found out, it may not be the best idea ever.

Have you got a killer airbag?

If you have one of the many models of the 14 automakers that used Takata airbags (Check here) with the ammonium nitrate trigger that hasn't been recalled yet, you may want to see if the dealer will fix it anyway.
More than a decade after the first confirmed rupture of a Takata airbag in Alabama, and despite a vast recall spanning 14 automakers, a stark reality remains: Tens of millions of people drive vehicles that may pose a lethal danger but have not been repaired or, as in Mr. Knight’s case, have not even been recalled.

Since 2000, Takata has sold as many as 54 million metal “inflaters” in the United States containing ammonium nitrate, an explosive compound that regulators believe is at the center of the problem, according to an estimate by Valient Market Research and provided to The New York Times. About 28 million inflaters in 24 million vehicles have been recalled. And of the 28 million recalled inflaters, only about 30 percent have been repaired. The rest of the inflaters, about 26 million, have not been recalled.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stepped up its scrutiny of the problem, after a series of missteps over nearly a decade, but has stopped short of an immediate recall of all Takata airbags containing the compound. The agency does not have the authority to order people to stop driving the cars and has not advised people to avoid driving them.

Gordon Trowbridge, a spokesman for the safety agency, said that not knowing the exact cause of the ruptures prevented broader recalls.

“It is unknown why some inflaters perform better than others,” he said. “It is unknown why the same inflater, with the same propellant formulation, performs better in some vehicles than in other vehicles.”

Still, he added, “If N.H.T.S.A. believes a vehicle presents an unreasonable risk to safety, the agency would seek a recall.”

Car manufacturers, at the same time, have been reluctant to sound alarms. They would face huge costs if they needed to provide loaner cars for millions of owners. Of the 14 manufacturers affected by the Takata recalls, not one has offered a blanket policy of supplying loaners.

Regulators have no authority to order automakers to make loaner cars available, but Mr. Trowbridge said his agency had encouraged them to consider doing so and had encouraged car owners to ask for loaners.
Given the size of the recall, Takata was the largest manufacturer of airbags, many automakers are dragging their heels because of the cost. Replacements parts have also been a bottleneck to getting it done.

ACLU seeks to repair Jindal's damage

New Orleans is becoming a laboratory for the study of malfunctioning justice. The latest step involves the Orleans Public Defenders Office which has announced that it will refuse new cases because of a massive overload of current cases caused in part by reduced funding, attorney retirements and, to add insult to injury, a hiring freeze. This has resulted in a suit by the ACLU with the purpose of fixing a fucked up system.
In Louisiana the majority of local public defender offices’ budgets are cobbled together from defendants’ fines and fees, mostly from traffic tickets.

In the past year, cuts in state-appropriated funding, combined with a decline in revenue from local fees, have affected how those district offices can represent the poor. So far, four Louisiana parishes, including Orleans, have established waitlists for the indigent.

The OPD handles the vast majority of the city’s cases — serving more than 22,000 indigent clients last year — and needed 70 lawyers and an $8.2 million budget to “protects its clients’ constitutional rights,” according to estimates found by an American University report in 2006.

As of December, it had about 50 lawyers and a $6.2 million budget.

The unreliable funding scheme has led to emergencies like the one in Orleans Parish, forcing offices to resort to measures like refusing clients, according to Buskey and other lawyers behind the suit.

“We do hope in the end to help OPD and other defenders throughout the state,” he said. “We hope to ensure a guaranteed and stable funding system for public defenders so we don’t have these recurring crises every few months or every year.”

This wasn’t the first time the public was warned of impending constitutional crisis due to what Bunton termed an “unreliable” user-pay system.

During a December hearing with Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter, Bunton made an unusual request for judicial mercy, asking the judge to stop assigning new indigent defendants to his office until the caseload crisis is resolved.

Ultimately, Hunter refused to grant the request, but not before several witnesses testified on Bunton’s behalf. They included renowned defense lawyer Barry Scheck, a co-founder of the Innocence Project.

He cited his own research on the effects of inadequate defense on wrongful convictions. “The failure to have an adequately funded defense team … not only endangers the innocent, but it undermines public safety,” he said.

On Thursday, Buskey said the expert testimony “speaks volumes” about what’s going on in Louisiana and elsewhere in the country. Similar lawsuits have been brought in the past year against public defense systems in California, Idaho and Washington.

“I think we agree wholeheartedly. The summary of the whole testimony is you can’t run a public defender system like this,” he said. “You can’t seriously call this a functioning criminal justice system.”
So long as there are Republicans in a position to block it, systemic reform will remain a long term goal but without reform arrest becomes cruel and unusual punishment for those unable to pay for a lawyer.

GOP math never adds up

Saturday, January 30, 2016

From Massachusetts, lives in Boston now

Meg Hutchinson is an important part of the New England folk scene. "Hard To Change" is from her second album The Living Side.

I thought it was familiar

From the pen of Tim Eagan


Along with the increase in numbers of people being thrown into prison, the portion of those being confined in solitary ahs increased as it became all too easy to get dumped there.
The use of solitary confinement has reached a watershed moment in the United States. Most experts — from correctional officials to academics — agree that the hardships placed upon thousands of isolated prisoners, some of whom are mentally ill, push them to a dangerous place. President Obama, citing the “devastating, lasting psychological consequences” solitary confinement can inflict, announced a ban this week on isolating juveniles in federal prisons and reduced the maximum number of days federal inmates can be isolated for a first offense from 365 days to 60.

But for many institutions, that path is strewn with challenges. Isolation has been a pillar of American justice since the 1800s and remains one of the first methods institutions use to punish and protect inmates.

“It is a needed tool within correctional management,” said Thomas N. Faust, director of the D.C. Department of Corrections. “And within my opinion, it’s a tool that corrections have to have. However, I think that we need to do a better job of it.”

A national survey released in September, conducted by Yale Law School and the Association of State Correctional Administrators, suggested that between 80,000 and 100,000 inmates are in isolated confinement — roughly the same estimate as a decade ago.

“It’s really hard to turn the Titanic,” said Deborah Golden, director of the D.C. Prisoners’ Project of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. Reform at the state level “can’t be created overnight,” she added. “Facilities need to be built and designed, and people need to be hired. And the problem is that government bureaucracy is slow.”

Another problem, underscored by Obama’s call for greater transparency, is institutional opacity. Some facilities don’t keep records or disclose how often they isolate prisoners.
With many locales using solitary as a replacement for mental health care combined with poor record keeping and poor supervisory training, too many people are going through hell for too long with to little cause.

Cruising down Bullshit Boulevard

Bill Maher expounds on the displacement of truth by bald faced lies in the face of all evidence.

Guess which one would last 50 years?

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