Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Blocks Upon Blocks

Be afraid. Be very afraid:
A film adaptation of the classic ‘80s video game “Tetris” will be falling into theaters sometime in the near future.

Threshold Entertainment has teamed up with the Tetris Company to develop a live-action film based on the game. While no directors or cast are attached to the film yet, there is a story in place.

“It’s a very big, epic sci-fi movie,” Threshold’s CEO Larry Kasanoff tells Speakeasy exclusively. “This isn’t a movie with a bunch of lines running around the page. We’re not giving feet to the geometric shapes.”
Fortunately for their sanity, audiences do have feet for avoiding this...

The Goodbye Girl

Julia Pierson is out:
“Today Julia Pierson, the Director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it. I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation,” Johnson said in a statement. “As an interim Acting Director of the Secret Service, I am appointing Joseph Clancy, formerly Special Agent in Charge of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service. Mr. Clancy retired from the Secret Service in 2011. I appreciate his willingness to leave his position in the private sector on very short notice and return to public service for a period.”
Unfortunately, she only seems to be a symptom, not the disease that is infecting the Secret Service...

Sit Down And Shut Up

The White House gives reporters their orders:
The White House’s contempt for the news-gathering process extends to the most petty incidents. On Monday, Michelle Obama came to Milwaukee to campaign for Democrat Mary Burke, who is challenging Governor Scott Walker. To the astonishment of reporter Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, aides to Obama and Burke told her she could not talk to the crowd at a Burke event in Milwaukee.

“Assigned to cover Michelle Obama’s speech today and was told by a Mary Burke aide and one for the White House that I could not speak to the people in the crowd,” she recounted on her Facebook page.

“To say that I was creeped out is an understatement. This is what reporters do in America: we speak to people. At least that’s how I’ve been doing things — at all kinds of political events — since 1979.”
Maybe this will help other reporters remember that they are in fact reporters...

The Poisoned Pill

Democrats aren't too keen on supporting Obamacare:
According to an extensive new research paper from the Brookings Institution's Elaine C. Kamarck and Alexander R. Podkul, only 36 percent of Democrats running for Congress this year have expressed a position in support of Obamacare.

Another quarter (25.5 percent) of Democrats have offered a nuanced position that wasn't clearly in support of the law or against it, while 1 percent outright opposed it and 37 percent have offered no opinion.
This is what you call an albatross...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Week

How a college campus fights the "war on women":
The Sex Week events are sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center, Student Health and Counseling Center, the Graduate and Professional Student Association, and others, Dianne Anderson, director of communications at the university, told via email.

“It is a series of conversations about healthy sexual relationships for those who chose to participate. It is not a required University training and attendance is completely optional,” she added.

Sex Week is part of the Women’s Resource Center’s overall strategy to prevent sexual violence from occurring on campus,” Summer Little, Women’s Resource Center director, told the UNM Newsroom. "We are using controversial titles, and some subject matter, to bring the message to the intended audience." In response to questions from, Little said, “Our purpose is to provide medically accurate sex education, and information on healthy relationships, consent, healthy communication, as well as respect within relationships.”

Little said the event is consistent with university policy, including “the unfettered flow of ideas,” “freedom of expression,” and “the exchange of diverse viewpoints,” which “may expose people to ideas some find offensive, even abhorrent.”
On with the, whatever...

Out Of Bounds

Because this is the most important problem the NFL has right now:
A law professor filed a petition with the agency earlier this month, claiming that the name "Redskins" violates federal rules barring any indecent content on broadcast television.

At a press conference Tuesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he is reviewing the filing.

"We will be dealing with that issue on the merits, and we will be responding accordingly," Wheeler said.

The FCC chief said he personally finds the term offensive and urged the team to change the name. But he didn't say whether he thinks it is illegal.

"There are a lot of names and descriptions that were used for a time that are inappropriate today," he said. "I think the name that is attributed to the Washington football club is one of those."
I guess "domestic abusers" is still in play...


Thus it begins:
Under SB270, plastic bags will be phased out of checkout counters at large grocery stores and supermarkets such as Wal-Mart and Target starting next summer, and convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016. The law does not apply to bags used for fruits, vegetables or meats, or to shopping bags used at other retailers. It allows grocers to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for using paper bags.

State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, credits the momentum for statewide legislation to the more than 100 cities and counties, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, that already have such bans.

The law marks a major milestone for environmental activists who have successfully pushed plastic bag bans in cities across the U.S., including Chicago, Austin and Seattle. Hawaii is also on track to have a de-facto statewide ban, with all counties approving prohibitions.

"This bill is a step in the right direction — it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself," Brown said in a signing statement. "We're the first to ban these bags, and we won't be the last."
Plastic bags? Oh, the horror...

Shake The Disease

Ebola has arrived:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed on Tuesday that a patient being treated at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case diagnosed in the United States.

The patient left Liberia on September 19 and arrived in the United States on September 20, CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden told reporters at a press conference Tuesday. It’s the first patient to be diagnosed with this particular strain of Ebola outside of Africa.

“[The patient] had no symptoms when departing Liberia or entering this country. But four or five days later on the 24th of September, he began to develop symptoms,” said Frieden.

The patient, who was in the U.S. visiting family in Texas, initially sought care on September 26, but was sent home and was not admitted until two days later. He was placed in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, where he remains critically ill, according to Frieden.

“The next steps are basically threefold,” said Frieden. “First, to care for the patient … to provide the most effective care possible as safely as possible to keep to an absolute minimum the likelihood or possibility that anyone would become affected, and second, to maximize the chances that the patient might recover,” said Frieden.
I'm sure there's nothing to worry about...

Unlocked Room Mystery

The head of the Secret Service says she's sorry:
“It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly. I take full responsibility; what happened is unacceptable and it will never happen again,” Pierson said in her opening remarks to the committee, which addressed a security breach on Sept. 19. A 42-year-old Texas man, Omar J. Gonzalez, was able to scale the White House fenceand enter the front doors of the building, which were apparently unlocked. On Monday, CBS News reported that Gonzalez ran through the main entrance and all the way into the East Room before he was apprehended, contrary to initial reports from the Secret Service that he was caught just inside the North Portico doors.
You can't just keep relying on luck.

The Buck Gets Passed Here

President Obama's blame game wears thin:
The difference between bureaucratic incompetence and not being fully truthful with the American public is a big one. In the aftermath of scandal, it's easy to understand why the administration, when choosing between portraying the president as disconnected or dissembling, has chosen the former. But throughout his presidency, Obama has acted far from detached. In his second term, he's relied increasingly on loyalists who are less likely to push back against the president's wishes. It's hard to square a president who reportedly is micromanaging airstrikes in Syria with a president who was unaware of the growing threat from Islamic extremists, which had been increasingly trumpeted on the network news.
Sooner or later, people see the man behind the curtain...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Equally Alienated

Where do fed-up voters turn to?
From chic farmers markets in Madison to industrial Illinois, in midsize towns of Ohio, Virginia and New York, voters' sentiments match polling data that show we are in the longest state of pessimism with Washington in modern history — and we firmly believe that Washington is not only broken but that no one is fixing it.

To a person, such voters want thoughtful leaders, not ideologues; they want elected officials to work across the aisle, want their next president to be less of a celebrity or a divider and more of a bold reformer, tough on corruption and decisive on the day's big issues.

Voters think both parties have a ridiculous amount of nothing going on.

And therein lies the problem: This has been an election about nothing; mechanical and ideologically scripted, it has sucked the life out of the robust debate that American politics used to be, and has left voters searching for something new.
We have become Seinfeld?

Who Is Greg Orman?

Does even he know?
Orman, who entered the race in June, has surged on the strength of his pitch to fix a broken Washington without any allegiance to a political party. But now the enigma is under increasing pressure from voters to provide a clearer sense of his ideology and politics, while facing attacks from the Roberts camp over his business ties and Democratic past.

“I’ve been impressed with Greg so far, but we’re still in the ‘I’m an independent’ stage,” said Lynda Neff, 68, a retired teacher. “I’m ready to move past that and hear about some issues. . . . I will support him if he gives me a little more information.”

Perhaps the biggest test for Orman, a multi­millionaire investor who is partially funding his campaign, is surviving the intensifying public scrutiny of his business and personal relationships with Rajat Gupta, the former Goldman Sachs board member who was convicted in 2012 of insider trading and is serving a federal prison sentence.
I can see why he might not want to mention that little tidbit...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Whither Tax Cuts?

Whatever happened to tax cuts?
Though tax cuts have been a mainstay of their campaigns since at least Ronald Reagan, though the top marginal tax rate is now the highest since the 1980s, though the party could win control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in almost a decade, Republicans are barely mentioning reducing tax rates with voters.

“In a campaign, you talk about what people are interested in,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “I keep notes on all my town meetings” and “tax cuts haven’t come up.”

Some lawmakers — including ones no one would confuse for moderates — said they’re less interested in tax cuts than tax reform, a subtle distinction that has major political and policy implications.

Republicans can cut tax rates in a Tax Code overhaul, but not without making wrenching changes elsewhere, as they‘ll need to replace the revenue lost to the Treasury. That means there will be losers — lots of them — unlike, say, with George W. Bush’s tax cuts, when the main question facing Republicans was how to distribute the goodies.
Wasn't that part of the problem?

Caffeine Intelligence

What's it like to serve Starbucks at the CIA?
The baristas go through rigorous interviews and background checks and need to be escorted by agency “minders” to leave their work area. There are no frequent-customer award cards, because officials fear the data stored on the cards could be mined by marketers and fall into the wrong hands, outing secret agents.

It is one of the busiest Starbucks in the country, with a captive caffeine-craving audience of thousands of analysts and agents, economists and engineers, geographers and cartographers working on gathering intelligence and launching covert operations inside some of the most vexing and violent places around the world.

“Obviously,” one officer said, “we are caffeine-addicted personality types. ”
Even spies need their caffeine...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Manning The Legal Barricades

The person who used to be Charles Manning is suing Chuck Hagel:
The legal complaint, lodged with a US district court in Washington DC, accuses the army of repeatedly ignoring her pleas for appropriate treatment for her condition. It names as defendants: the secretary of defence Chuck Hagel, major general David Quantock of the army corrections command, and colonel Erica Nelson who commands the disciplinary barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where Manning is held.

“Every day that goes by without appropriate treatment, [Manning] experiences escalating anxiety, distress and depression. She feels as though her body is being poisoned by testosterone,” the suit says.
Too much male inside? That might be a plus in prison...

The Color Of Journalism

What's missing in certain news reports?
If America’s reporters are so concerned about race relations in the country that such descriptions are included immediately when discussing a case where a white person is charged with injury to an African American, how is such discussion less valid when the roles are reversed? Violence takes place all the time, and the fact is that both attackers and victims cover the full spectrum of skin tones. If it’s an important question for us to ponder as a nation, are not all examples pertinent to the discussion?
Not all the time...

Friday, September 26, 2014

Goodbye Mom

No posting tonight as my mother passed away. RIP Mom 1944-2014

Kim Jong Unseen

Whatever happened to Kim Jong Un?
Kim, usually a focus of North Korean state media, has not been seen since Sept. 3, when he appeared at a concert with his wife.

This absence has sparked much speculation in the South Korean press, with many suggesting that Kim is in poor health: During the summer, North Korean state television showed him walking with a slight limp, which many had taken as a sign of a wider problem at the time. Chosun Ilbo notes that Kim appeared in the North Korean media earlier this week, but it was noted that he was "laboring on" in the heat: Perhaps a reference to fatigue, the South Korean newspaper suggests.

Wilder theories have sprung up further afield. Britain's the Daily Mirror suggests that Kim could have become ill from eating too much imported cheese. The Swiss-educated North Korean leader has developed an infatuation with Emmental cheese, the tabloid reports, and may be suffering ill health due to the weight he has since gained. The Daily Mirror provided no source for this theory.
Blame it on the cheese?

Rocky Mountain Hype

Colorado's Mark Udall is discovering that the war on women isn't working out so well:
The problem is not that the attacks on Gardner haven’t worked, Democrats say — it’s that Udall is swimming against a far tougher tide than many had initially expected, even when the party was preparing for a tough cycle.

They point in particular to President Obama’s underwater approval rating in the state, and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s own tougher than expected reelection thanks, in part, to self-inflicted wounds.

“There’s a little dissatisfaction with Obama that translates down the Democratic ticket,” admitted Mike Feeley, a former Democratic state Senate minority leader. “I think Udall is trying to overcome that.”

Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli, who’s done work for both parties, said that “for a while, the national environment turned very negative against the Democrats” — and agreed that Udall’s “war on women” attacks may be growing stale.

“I do think there is a case to be made that it has run out of impact, that it’s gotten to its marginal utility,” said Ciruli. “And now, there may be a feedback loop making fun of it.”
Feedback can hurt your ears...

Hot Tub Party Machine

No more hot tubs for you:
The grand jury charged Jeffrey Neely, who was a regional administrator for the GSA, with submitting fraudulent reimbursement claims and making false statements, said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and GSA Office of Inspector General, Special Agent in Charge David House.

If convicted, Neely faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 for each of the five charges.

Neely, 59, was infamously pictured in a hot tub during a government-funded junket in Las Vegas that cost taxpayers $823,000.
A picture is worth $250,000.00...


Why do liberals hate animals?
As horrific as de Blasio’s crime was, it pales in comparison to the carnage President Obama routinely inflicts upon the animal kingdom. His victims include: bald eagles, golden eagles, kit foxes, baby tortoises, and baby bats. Obama’s preferred methods of killing are significantly more brutal, including decapitation via wind turbine and incineration via solar panel heat laser. The mainstream media has done its best to ignore this trend, but it’s only a matter of time before the American people wake up and demand an end to the butchery.
They do have a history of this...

Iron Chef

Emeril is not a fan of Obama:
“It’s becoming a very challenging industry to become a very successful average restaurateur,” continued Lagasse. “I can’t charge $300 a person in my restaurant or I would not be in business. Am I using any different ingredients? Not really. Am I using any caliber of service staff? I don’t think so. I think our service is as good or better than most places.”

“And then you add all the Obama nonsense to what it’s become in the last several years. I don’t have anything against Mr. Obama. I’m just saying the way that, you know… the government should stay out of things. [...] Pretty soon, they’re going to wipe a lot of the middle restaurateurs and restaurant cooks. [...] If it continues, then watch: you’re going to have high-end, and you’re going to have fast food, and you’re going to have chain restaurants.”
Common sense is not on the government's menu...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"It's Working, Dammit!"

Ezra Klein insists it is. Others aren't so sure:
Obamacare has shattered virtually every major promise its supporters advanced during the public debate of 2009 and 2010. Premiums are still rising (sharply, in many cases), out-of-pocket costs are increasing, access to care is receding, millions have been unable to retain their preferred plans and physicians (with many more cancellation letters to come), the national health spending trajectory is still pointed upward, the enrollment process is still plagued by technical problems, major components of Obamacare’s less-than-secure website still aren’t built, nonpartisan experts agree that the law is harming the economy, a supermajority of Americans directly impacted by the law thus far say they’ve been hurt by it, and its overall approval rating has languished underwater by double digits for years on end. “Working.”
In Ezra Klein's world, perhaps...

What About Al?

Al Sharpton has ideas:
In a newly-released statement, Al Sharpton announced that he and his organization, the National Action Network, were “engaged in immediate conversations with the White House on deliberations over a successor whom we hope will continue in the general direction of Attorney General [Eric] Holder.”

To be clear, as he told BusinessInsider, he’s not actually picking picking the next candidate for Attorney General. “We did not say we are in the decision making,” he told them in an update. “We are in conversation to reach out to them to have meetings about what we want to see in a successor.”
What could go wrong?

Striking Green

Is the US trying to wage environmentally friendly war?
Officials said the strikes wouldn't target fixed oil fields, a precaution intended to minimize the potential for environmental damage. The U.S. instead targeted small capacity mobile refineries used by Islamic State around northeastern Raqqa province and other locations in eastern Syria, officials said.

The modular refineries produce between 300 and 500 barrels of refined oil a day, the defense department said in a statement. The military said that initial indications were that the strikes were successful. The make-shift refineries are located near the towns of Al-Mayadeen and Albukamal in the eastern oil-rich province of Deir Ezzour and in adjacent al-Hasakah province, the Defense Department said.

Islamic State uses the mobile refineries to process oil from the Syrian fields into diesel fuel. The diesel fuel is then smuggled across the border into Turkey.
Well, you can't really smuggle solar energy...

All Your Properties Are Belong To Us

Vladimir Putin is desperately looking for extra revenue:
Russian courts could get the green light to seize foreign assets on Russian territory under a draft law intended as a response to Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

The draft, which was submitted to parliament on Wednesday by a pro-Kremlin deputy, would also allow state compensation for an individual whose property is seized in foreign jurisdictions.

Italian authorities this week seized property worth about 30 million euros ($40 million) belonging to companies controlled by Arkady Rotenberg, an ally of President Vladimir Putin targeted by the U.S. and European Union sanctions.

The draft law, published on a parliamentary database, would allow for compensation for Russian citizens who suffer because of an "unlawful court act" in a foreign jurisdiction and clear the way to foreign state assets in Russia being seized, even if they are subject to international immunity.
In Russia, property owns you...

Not Our Jihad

Iran tries to shift the blame:
During his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, Rouhani said, “Today’s anti-Westernism is the offspring of yesterday’s colonialism; today’s anti-Westernism is a reaction to yesterday’s racism,” according to a live translation. “Certain intelligence agencies have put blades in the hands of madmen who now spare no one.”

“All those who have played a role in founding and supporting these terrorist groups must acknowledge their errors, which have led to extremism,” he continued. “They need to apologize not only to the past generations, but also to the next generation.”

He also chastised Western media for identifying the Islamic State as being motivated by Islam.

“I am astonished that these murderous groups call themselves ‘Islamic,’” he said. “What is more astonishing is that the Western media in line with them repeats this false claim, which provokes the hatred of all Muslims.”
He's shocked that there are murderous groups in his establishment...

Holder Calls It Quits

Eric Holder is out:
Holder most wants to be remembered for his record on civil rights: refusing to defend a law that defined marriage as between one man and one woman; suing North Carolina and Texas over voting restrictions that disproportionately affect minorities and the elderly; launching 20 investigations of abuses by local police departments; and using his bully pulpit to lobby Congress to reduce prison sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. Many of those sentences disproportionately hurt minority communities.

And then there's his relationship with Congress. From the day Holder's nomination was announced, Republicans led by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled that he would be a political lightning rod.

The attorney general's portfolio, which spans sensitive law enforcement cases and hot-button social issues including marijuana and gay marriage, didn't help. But even longtime aides say Holder didn't do enough to help himself by shrugging off preparations and moot sessions before congressional appearances and speaking off the cuff — and obliquely.
Things hit a crisis point when the GOP-led House voted him in contempt for refusing to hand over documents about a gun trafficking scandal known as Fast and Furious. That represented the first time an attorney general had ever been rebuked that way, but still Holder held on to his job.
Not any longer. And then there were two.