Saturday, November 18, 2017

Senate Smackdown

He's mad as hell, and he's not gonna take this anymore:

Communication Breakdown

Whatcha gonna do when they come for each other?
It all started when two undercover cops from the 12th Precinct, pretending to sell marijuana, were waiting for customers on a street corner, according to Fox 2 Detroit.

As they waited for customers, undercover special operations officers from the 11th Precinct arrived and ordered the pair to the ground.

The rest of the special ops team from the 12th Precinct showed up and were about to raid a suspected drug den when guns were drawn, leading to punches being thrown after one cop was put in a headlock.

The homeowner stood and watched while the officers brawled.

“You’ve gotta have to have more communication, I guess,” one resident told Fox 2 Detroit. “I don’t understand what happened about that — communicate.”
Why tell others about your own shakedown operation?

No Trophies For You

The elephants stay:
Trump's reversal came hours after his administration released a rule on Friday to allow hunters who kill elephants in Zimbabwe to bring their trophies back to the United States, which had been banned by the Obama administration.

"Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!" Trump wrote.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a statement that he had spoken with Trump and "both believe that conservation and healthy herds are critical." He said the "issuing of permits is being put on hold as the decision is being reviewed."

Early word of the planned change had drawn protests from conservationists, who said it could deplete already at-risk elephant populations. It also caused a social media firestorm, with opponents posting photos of President Donald Trump's sons Donald Jr. and Eric, avid hunters, posing with dead wild animals.
The hunt is off, for now...

Mean Season

Maxine Waters wants to impeach Trump for...being mean?
“When I talk about impeachment, I describe what I think about this president. I think he’s deplorable and I think he defined himself in the campaign the way that he mocked and mimicked a disabled journalist, the way he talked about grabbing women by their private parts,” she said.

“The way he called names of his peers, etc., etc.,” Waters told Bloomberg, apparently referring to his Republican primary opponents.

“I think that’s unacceptable, and for people to allow this kind of behavior to be normalized is beyond what I believe our democracy should be all about, and so I encourage people and I inspire people and I show people that you don’t have to be intimidated. You don’t have to be afraid and you don’t have to be traditional,” she said.
You're still a poopy head...

Friday, November 17, 2017

Jungle Fever

No, it wasn't the cannibals:
Allen, 57, had become feverish and disoriented with what was suspected to be malaria, the BBC reports. He was looked after by Christian missionaries during his trek, the report said.

Allen had been working on the doc for the network when he failed to show up for a planned rendezvous, sparking fears for his safety.

Allen was helicoptered to the Papau New Guinea capital of Port Moseby and was expected back in England on Sunday, the report said.

"Benedict looks forward to being reunited with his family and friends but will need some time to get back to full health," his agent said in a statement. "He would like to send thanks for all the kind messages he has received."
They threw him back?

Top Gun

You're dangerous, Maverick:
Residents of Okanogan County, Wash., sent photos of the obscene skywritings to KREM. The photos resembled a phallic symbol.

One woman told KREM that she was “upset” and was unsure how to describe the drawings to her young children.

Officials from the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island told Fox News in a statement that the drawings were “wholly unacceptable" and have begun an investigation into the incident.

"The actions of this aircrew were wholly unacceptable and antithetical to Navy core values. We have grounded the aircrew and are conducting a thorough investigation - and we will hold those responsible accountable for their actions," the Navy told Fox News in a statement.
The ultimate mansplaining?

As The Worms Turn

North Korea can be bad for your health:
South Korean doctors said the defector was in stable condition after surgery for his gunshot wounds. But physicians identified another reason for alarm: an “enormous number” of parasitic worms that are complicating his recovery, Reuters reported.

Doctors believed the soldier could have had the parasites for a while.

Lee Cook-jong, the defector's lead surgeon, showed photos of the parasitic worms, including an 11-inch long worm found in the man's digestive tract.

“In my over 20 year-long career as a surgeon, I have only seen something like this in a textbook,” Lee told reporters.
Unfortunately the head parasite is still there...

Die Hippie Die

What's taking so long?
Vicky Waters, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said the department would only say that Manson was still living but could not provide any further details.

Kern County Sheriff’s Lt. Bill Smallwood told The Times earlier this week that Manson is at a local hospital.

In January, Manson, 83, was rushed to Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield for what authorities at the time would describe only as a serious medical problem. He was returned to prison a few days later.

Manson’s health problems come as Gov. Jerry Brown is deciding whether to grant parole to one of his followers.
Running out the clock is costing the taxpayers money...

Obamacare Math

Does this make any sense?
How can repealing a mandate be a tax hike? Recall that the mandate imposes a tax on most Americans if they decide that health insurance is unaffordable. In other words, removing the mandate means that Americans will no longer have to choose between paying a tax to Uncle Sam or paying premiums to one of Uncle Sam’s approved insurance companies.

Under most common sense definitions, that’s a tax cut. But Washington, D.C. budgetary projections are largely immune to common sense or reality-based forecasts.

According to the nonpartisan committee, many lower-income Americans will choose not to buy insurance once the mandate is removed. In other words, they will have concluded that the insurance they have available to them–even with generous government subsidies that are not cut by the Senate bill that would repeal the mandate–are not worth the price.

But since they are not buying insurance, they also are not getting the tax subsidies. So, according to the JCT, their taxes are going up–even though their take-home pay would be increasing. That’s because the JCT does not count having to buy insurance under penalty of law as a tax. But it does count not getting a subsidy as a tax increase.
Sometimes a tax is still a tax...

Party Every Day

Gene Simmons gets banned for being Gene Simmons?
“OK, I’m a powerful and attractive man, and what I’m about to say is deadly serious,” Simmons said. “Men are jackasses. From the time we’re young we have testosterone. I’m not validating it or defending it.”

According to the report, “within minutes he was demonstrating it.”

An unnamed Fox News source told The Daily Beast that Simmons was scheduled to do another interview with FoxNews.com’s entertainment section but barged into a staff meeting unannounced instead.

“Hey chicks, sue me!” he shouted as he pulled open his shirt, the source said.
He just wants to shout it out loud...

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The New Gods

It's the gospel according to AI:
The non-profit religious organization would be called "Way of the Future" (WOTF). According to the website (wayofthefuture.church), the movement is "about creating a peaceful and respectful transition of who is in charge of the planet from people to people + 'machines.'"

"Given that technology will 'relatively soon' be able to surpass human abilities, we want to help educate people about this exciting future and prepare a smooth transition," the site explains. "In 'recent' years, we have expanded our concept of rights to both sexes, minority groups and even animals, let's make sure we find a way for 'machines' to get rights too."

There is an inherent contradiction in creating a deity of artificial intelligence and then worshipping it.

"Let's stop pretending we can hold back the development of intelligence when there are clear massive short term economic benefits to those who develop it and instead understand the future and have it treat us like a beloved elder who created it," the site argues. Yet the IRS document spoke about a "Godhead based on artificial intelligence."
Thou shall have no other programs before me?

The New Net Rules

Internet regulation takes a step forward:
In a statement issued late Wednesday, the three GOP members cited the “thousands of comments” from the public calling for new disclosure rules in light of concerns Russian activists used Internet posts on Facebook to try to influence the 2016 presidential elections.

“We hereby move to direct the Office of General Counsel to draft a notice of proposed rulemaking, as soon as is practicable, that proposes revisions to commission rules governing disclaimers on paid Internet and digital communications,” said the three, Vice Chair Caroline C. Hunter, Matthew S. Petersen, and Lee E. Goodman.

They called for a public hearing before any changes would take place.

The support for new disclosure on paid political communications on the Internet fell short of more liberal calls for regulation on non-paid ads and political communications posted on websites like Facebook and Twitter.

Still, it is a victory for Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub who has been pushing for regulations. She issued a note Wednesday saying that she would introduce a new regulation at Thursday’s meeting. In a separate note, FEC Chairman Steven T. Walther said he would move on the issue Thursday and called on Congress to consider new Internet laws.
Come what may, Big Regulator goes on...

The Franken Fix

So now it's Stuart Smalley's turn:
Franken said he doesn't remember the kissing incident but apologized for posing for the picture. He said he intended it to be funny -- but it wasn't.

“I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann," Franken said in an initial statement. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it.”

Franken later issued a detailed statement saying there’s “no excuse” and he feels “ashamed,” while also offering to cooperate in an ethics investigation into the matter.

“I respect women. I don't respect men who don't. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed,” Franken said. “... I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn't matter. There's no excuse.”

He added, “I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.”
Investigate thyself, Stuart...

No Special Counsel For Her, Please

Hillary Clinton is shocked that anyone would want to investigate her:

Friends Of Bob

Bob Menendez gets a mistrial:
A mistrial is a major victory for a senator who had to fight 18 counts of alleged corruption, and a setback for the Justice Department, whose efforts to combat public corruption have been curtailed by a recent Supreme Court decision.

After receiving Thursday’s note, U.S. District Court Judge William Walls decided to interview the foreman and at least one other juror in chambers, in the presence of the lawyers on the case.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to issue a clarifying instruction to the panel, telling jurors they could reach verdicts on individual counts in the indictment, even if they can’t find agreement on all the counts. Judge Walls rejected that suggestion, saying to do so would be “going down the slippery slope of coercion.’’
Corruption is in the eye of the juror?

Reform Goes Forward

State One complete:
The House plan would permanently chop the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent and make other tweaks aiming to make businesses more competitive. It would reduce individual tax brackets to four from seven and make changes to several tax breaks. Among them, the bill would limit state and local deductions and the mortgage interest deduction, eliminate the personal exemption and nearly double the standard deduction.

The vote marks a significant achievement as Republicans push to put a tax bill on President Donald Trump's desk by Christmas. Trump, who along with most congressional Republicans ran on a pledge to trim taxes, went to Capitol Hill to push GOP lawmakers to support the bill before the vote.

Despite passage of the bill Thursday, pitfalls await the party.

Senate Republicans hope to pass their own bill as soon as the week after Thanksgiving. One GOP senator — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — opposes the chamber's bill as written.

Several other Republicans in the Senate, where the GOP holds a slim two-seat majority, have expressed doubts about the upper chamber's version. The budget deficits generated by chopping tax rates, the expiration of individual tax cuts in 2025, and the effective repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate could all turn into sticking points in the Senate plan.
The glass is half full, but who will drink from it?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Amish Way

Along with their furniture, the Amish apparently produce better genes:
Researchers studied 177 members of the Berne Amish community in Indiana, and found 43 who had one mutant copy of the gene, SERPINE1.

These carriers lived to 85 on average, while those without it in the Amish community tend to live to 75.

Amish people with this gene mutation were also significantly less likely to get diabetes, and they had more efficient metabolisms.

The key protein at play in the aging of cells appears to be PAI-1 (plasminogen activator inhibitor,), which is influenced by SERPINE1.

PAI-1 is known to be related to aging in animals but its effect in humans has been less clear.

Northwestern University researchers have partnered with Japan's Tohoku University to develop and test an experimental drug that would inhibit the action of PAI-1, like in Amish people with the mutant gene.
Being a mutant doesn't have to make you an outcast...

The Coup That Isn't A Coup

It looks like Zimbabwe's military has gotten fed up with Mugabe:
Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo addressed the nation Wednesday morning, saying “the situation in our country has moved to another level” and assured the public that Mugabe and his wife were safe and sound.

Zimbabwe's Army Commander, Constantino Chiwenga addresses a press conference in Harare, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. The army commander Monday criticized the instability in the country’s ruling party caused by President Robert Mugabe who last week fired a vice president.

“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover,” the military official said in the broadcast. “We are only targeting criminals around [Mugabe] who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.”

Moyo added that “as soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy” and urged the country to remain calm, while warning that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”
Military coups often don't end well, but then again neither did Mugabe's rule.

He Gave His Life For Political Correctness

He's not their favorite honky:
The video and song was brought to students’ attention when it was played in a humanities class at Reed to spur discussion. Students became so worked up over the video, however, that they have demanded the course be made optional until alternative coursework can be created.

The group primarily upset about the video being played in class, Reedies Against Racism, is comparing Martin’s comedic song to the use of the N-word. The Atlantic spoke to members of Reedies Against Racism to get a better idea as to why they are upset about the King Tut song from 1978.

One member of Reedies Against Racism told the Atlantic the song is “like somebody … making a song just littered with the N-word everywhere.” She went on to say that the Egyptian clothing that the backup dancers wear is racist as well. “The gold face of the saxophone dancer leaving its tomb is an exhibition of blackface,” she said.
Don't want no fancy protest, just one like old King Tut's...

The Empty Spaces

Suppose they gave an atheist event and nobody cared?
The conference, which was scheduled for February of this year, was set to be headlined by atheist novelist Sir Salman Rushdie, who was a huge get for the convention organizers. Iranian cleric Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Rushdie in 1989 in light of his published work, "The Satanic Verses." The book targeted the prophet Mohammad, Sikhs, and religion in general.

"What is there to respect in any of this, or in any of the crimes now being committed almost daily around the world in religion's dreaded name? How well, with what fatal results, religion erects totems, and how willing we are to kill for them," Rushdie once critically said of religion, SMH notes.
....

The author of the SMH report, Anglican Rector Dr. Michael Jensen, writes that he is personally "disappointed" that the conference was cancelled.

"It's a great shame there's a lack of interest," said Jensen. "I say that as someone who believes in God and thinks that it is the most reasonable thing to believe. ... But I also think that the full and frank discussion of fundamental ideas is part of what a healthy culture promotes and enjoys. A Global Atheist Convention is to be welcomed, because every time people think about God and about the meaning of life is a time we more deeply consider the value and purpose of human life. It makes us better citizens."
Maybe that's why they didn't go...

Nuts To Nuts

Beware the other nuts:
The worldwide chain this week recalled its Clancy’s Barbecue Flavour Coated Peanuts, which also contains cashews. because they contain cashew nuts — which did not warn customers about on the label.

The U.K's Foods Standards Agency said that the omission puts people at a “possible health risk." The bags of nuts were only available across three regions in the U.K. — Neston, Darlington and Goldthorpe.

The agency-issued “allergy alert” said: “Aldi is recalling its Clancy’s Barbecue Flavour Coated Peanuts because they contain cashew nuts, which are undeclared on the label. This means the product is a possible health risk for anyone with an allergy to nuts."
Some nuts are more equal than others...

No Kids For You

Another "expert" who hates kids:
Rieder has written approvingly about population control, and insisted in September 2016 that he liked “small humans in general,” as he admitted he was “pretty wild about my own kid.” Of course, having more than one child must be problematic for Rieder, who noted, “I, like many philosophers, believe that it’s morally better to make people happy than to make happy people. Those who exist already have needs and wants, and protecting and providing for them is motivated by respect for human life. It is not a harm to someone not to be created.”
....

More: “I believe that the seriousness of climate change justifies uncomfortable conversations. In this case, that means that we need to stop pretending the decision to have children doesn't have environmental and ethical consequences. The argument that having a child adds to one’s carbon footprint depends on the view that each of us has a personal carbon ledger for which we are responsible. Furthermore, some amount of an offspring’s emissions count towards the parents’ ledger.”
Climate change nuttery both for the books and on them...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Capitol Creeps

It's creeps all the way down:
"Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution," said Ryan, R-Wis. "As we work with the Administration, Ethics, and Rules committees to implement mandatory training, we will continue our review to make sure the right policies and resources are in place to prevent and report harassment."

The policy change will happen through legislation.

The move comes days after the Senate unanimously approved a measure requiring all senators, staff and interns to be trained on preventing sexual harassment.

During a House Administration hearing Tuesday on sexual harassment prevention, Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., said she was recently told about a staffer who quit her job after a lawmaker asked her to bring work material to his house, then exposed himself.

"That kind of situation, what are we doing here for women, right now, who are dealing with someone like that?" Comstock asked. Comstock said there should be clear-cut rules about the kinds of relationships and behaviors that are off-limits and create a hostile work environment.
The similarities between Washington and Hollywood continue to be striking...

Reds In The Red

Venezuela is now broke:
On Monday Caracas missed interest payments due on two government bonds and one bond issued by the state-owned oil monopoly known by its Spanish initials PdVSA. Venezuela owed creditors $280 million, which it couldn’t manage even after a 30-day grace period.

Venezuela is broke, which takes some doing. For much of the second half of the 20th century, a gusher of oil exports made dollars abundant in Venezuela and the country imported the finest of everything. There were rough patches in the 1980s and 1990s, but by 2001 Venezuela was the richest country in South America.

Then in 2005 the socialist Hugo Chávez declared that the central bank had “excessive reserves.” He mandated that the executive take the excess from the bank without compensation. Today the central bank has at best $1 billion in reserves.

Falling oil prices are partly to blame, but the main problem is that chavismo has strangled entrepreneurship. Faced with expropriation, hyperinflation, price controls and rampant corruption, human and monetary capital has fled Venezuela.
What remains is what the socialists wanted...

The Repeal In The Deal

Repeal comes to reform:
"We are optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal will be helpful," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters. "And that is obviously the view of the Senate Finance Committee Republicans as well."

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, predicted, "We are going to repeal the individual mandate" in the tax bill. And Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., confirmed the plan and said the money saved would help the GOP deliver a tax cut to the middle class.

"It will be distributed in the form of middle-income tax relief," Thune said. "It will give us even more of an opportunity to really distribute relief to middle-income cohorts that could benefit from it."

While Republicans talked about "repeal," the language is expected to keep the individual mandate on the books, but zero out all the penalties that can be applied to people who don't buy insurance. That language will make the individual mandate unenforceable, and will give people the freedom not to buy health insurance as if the mandate weren't there at all.
What happens when the mandate is a mandate in name only?

Radical Fashion Fail

It's the fashion statement rioters haven't been waiting for:
The olive green jacket, which is posed with designer distressed jeans and Doc Marten boots – a symbol of punk fashion – features a bold “Revolution” printed across the front, along with a sloppy anarchy symbol and other “edgy” phrases and quips.

Angelyn Fernandez, VP of Product at Alpha Industries, said in an e-mailed statement to the Daily Dot, “We have seen resistance to power and authority become a trend in our current pop culture and society, often expressed through fashion,” she said.

However, that attempt to capitalize on the pop culture “trend” of resistance to power is what has many outraged on Twitter. Some have questioned if the jacket is fake because of its bizarrely high-price tag (members of the Antifa movement are usually against capitalism), and over-the-top look.

The commercialized jacket tries very hard to look authentically anarchist, while also costing nearly $400 and being mass-produced, but is not winning any fans.
You can't blame capitalists for trying...

Le Cult

The man who would be a Roman god gets a reminder that he's not:
Mr Macron, 39, swept to victory in May in part thanks to the help of an army of grassroots supporters, many with no prior political experience and who were promised they would all have a say in the way his newly-created movement would be run.

But sixth months into the presidency, 100 members of his centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) party - from students to elected officials - say they are throwing in the towel, claiming the party as an "affront to the fundamental principles of democracy with an organisational style worthy of the Ancien Régime".

The self-styled "100 democrats" said Mr Macron had enthused citizens who had lost faith with their elites by promising to place them "at the heart of political life and not as background decor".

Instead, they said the party had fallen foul of a Macron personality cult.

"What a shame that by opting for a top-down organisation and a governance by elites, by shunning collective skills and intelligence, LREM has cut itself off from its life force," they lamented in a letter to headquarters.

The party, they said, had failed to create an internal regulatory body and tolerated "neither freedom of opinion and expression nor internal criticism of power against its own abuse".
Viva Le Revolution?

The Last Offline Zones

Where there is no internet:
Many of these places aren’t on the radar of travellers and their low internet usage is in part down to war, civil unrest, and poverty. Libya, Mali, Yemen, and Burkina Faso, for example, are firmly off-limits, with the Foreign Office currently advising against travel.

But others are well worth visiting. Sarah Baxter’s guide to the 50 best holidays for solitude, published by Telegraph Travel earlier this year, included a beach holiday in Nicaragua, a walking holiday through the Himalayan foothills of Ladakh, India, and a three-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake in Myanmar.
Or you could simply turn off your device for awhile and get the experience while staying home...

Good Clone

Pet clones are here:
For more than 15 years, ViaGen has been cloning livestock. They have cloned thousands of cattle, more than 250 horses, and thousands of pigs and sheep, too. Two years ago, they starting doing dogs and cats.

Shawn Walker, PhD is Vice President of Science and Technology for ViaGen.

“I would have probably never thought about cloning a pet 10 years ago. I was in the livestock world. Now, my biggest regret is that we had one dog that we connected to, and I’d love to bring it back,” he said.

Now you can — or at least duplicate that animal’s genetic DNA — and have the “new” puppy born again.

“The dog that you are going to clone is not going to be a Frankenstein,” says Rodriguez. “(Baxter) is just a normal dog like any other dog. You would never know that he’s a cloned puppy.”
And would it matter? Your friend is your friend...

The Clinton Sessions

Are the Clintons next?
The list of matters he wanted probed was wide ranging but included the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, various dealings of the Clinton Foundation and several matters connected to the purchase of the Canadian mining company Uranium One by Russia’s nuclear energy agency. Goodlatte took particular aim at former FBI director James B. Comey, asking for the second special counsel to evaluate the leaks he directed about his conversations with President Trump, among other things.

In response, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote that Sessions had “directed senior federal prosecutors to evaluate certain issues raised in your letters,” and that those prosecutors would “report directly to the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, as appropriate, and will make recommendations as to whether any matters not currently under investigation should be opened, whether any matters currently under investigation require further resources, or whether any matters merit the appointment of a Special Counsel.”
Well, they did say there'd be a reckoning...

Monday, November 13, 2017

Army Asylum

What could go wrong?
Expanding the waivers for mental health is possible in part because the Army now has access to more medical information about each potential recruit, Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman, said in a statement. The Army issued the ban on waivers in 2009 amid an epidemic of suicides among troops.

“The decision was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available,” Taylor's statement to USA TODAY said. “These records allow Army officials to better document applicant medical histories.”

But accepting recruits with those mental health conditions in their past carries risks, according to Elspeth Ritchie, a psychiatrist who retired from the Army as a colonel in 2010 and is an expert on waivers for military service. People with a history of mental health problems are more likely to have those issues resurface than those who do not, she said.

“It is a red flag,” she said. “The question is, how much of a red flag is it?”
If they can be treated, all well and good. But what if they aren't? That hasn't worked out so well in the past...

Crabbed

Was Amelia Earhart eaten?
The unproven theory suggests that Earhart crashed on the island of Nikumaroro and the crabs ate her remains. A British colonial officer in 1940 who was on the island said that a skeleton with measurements “matched the description of Amelia Earhart," but it was ultimately lost.

AMELIA EARHART MYSTERY CONTINUES WITH CLAIMS OF HER GRAVE

The theory has been around for years and was recently mentioned in stories by The Washington Post and others, while highlighting the ferocity of the crabs.

It was even mentioned in 2013 by the Smithsonian, citing an article from Environmental Graffiti.

A recent video from a scientist highlights a coconut crab attacking and killing a red-footed booby on Chagos Archipelago.
The crabs may know, but they're not talking...

The Word Thief

Cheating at...Scrabble?
A committee member for the association, Elie Dangoor, said Monday that three independent witnesses saw Simmons put a hand with freshly drawn letter tiles back into a bag to draw more tiles — contrary to the rules.

"The natural conclusion had been that he had been cheating," Dangoor told The Associated Press.

There were four instances dating back to 2016, and the committee conducted an independent probe which was concluded a few weeks ago. The matter came to larger public attention only recently, and was discussed during the World English Language Scrabble Players Association event that ended Sunday.

Simmons told the Times he denied cheating, and that he had suffered the same "untimely bad luck from the bag as anyone else."

"You have to remember that at the top level, games can be quite intense and there's a lot going through one's mind let alone remembering to religiously ensure tile drawing rules are followed meticulously," Simmons was quoted by the Times as saying. "From the outset I have said that no one is beyond suspicion and complied fully with the investigative process."
Blame it on the bag?

Blogging In The Years: 1998

When is harassment not harassment?
According to Anita Hill and a number of Mr. Packwood's former employees, the
offensive behavior was repeated for years, despite constant "no's." It also
occurred in the regular workplace of these women, where it could not be avoided.

The women who worked for Mr. Packwood described a man who groped and lunged
at them. Ms. Hill accused Clarence Thomas of regularly and graphically
describing sexual practices and pornography. In both cases, the women said they
had to go to work every day, never knowing what sexual humiliation would await
them -- just the kind of "hostile environment" that sexual harassment law was
intended to reduce.

As reported, Monica Lewinsky's case illustrates the rest of the equation:
"Yes means yes." Whatever it was, her relationship with President Clinton has
never been called unwelcome, coerced or other than something she sought. The
power imbalance between them increased the index of suspicion, but there is no
evidence to suggest that Ms. Lewinsky's will was violated; quite the contrary.
I guess it depends on what the meaning of will is, at least according to feminists...

Moore No More?

Mitch McConnell speaks:
“I believe the women,” McConnell said at a press conference in Louisville. “I think he should step aside.”

The Washington Post first reported last Thursday on the four women who said that Moore pursued them when they were teenagers.

One of the women, Leigh Corfman, said that she had a sexual encounter with Moore when she was 14 and he was 32.

Alabama law would not allow the Republican Party to have a new candidate on the ballot should Moore step aside. Instead, a write-in campaign would have to occur.

However, Moore so far has made it clear he intends to stay in the race. “The person who should step aside is [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell. He has failed conservatives and must be replaced,” Moore tweeted in response to McConnell’s comments Monday.
But who failed more?

Fusion Fear

Did Fusion collude with the Russian government to have a whistleblower killed?
The strong allegation comes from Bill Browder, a London-based banker who spearheaded the Magnitsky Act, a sanctions law vehemently opposed by the Russian government.

Browder made the allegation in response to the recent revelation that Fusion GPS and its founder Glenn Simpson compiled what he says is false information about him that was given to Yuri Chaika, Russia’s prosecutor general, and to Donald Trump Jr. during the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

“If it is true that Glenn Simpson was supplying information about me to the Russian government, it’s far more serious than smear campaigning or Foreign Agents Registration Act violations,” said Browder, the head of Hermitage Capital.

“It would mean that Simpson was assisting the Putin regime in their plot to get me back to Russia to have me imprisoned and killed.”
Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean the Russians weren't back to their old habits...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Company B Closes Down

The Podesta Group is going out of business:
According to CNN, Kimberley Fritts, the Podesta Group’s chief executive, told employees during a staff meeting on Thursday the company wouldn’t survive through the end of the year, said they likely wouldn’t be paid beyond Nov. 15 and instructed them to clean out their desks.

Mueller’s investigation has interviewed several members of the Podesta Group. Tony resigned from the company the day the indictment was made public. He has vowed to fight for himself and his group.

The Podesta Group for decades has been one of the biggest lobbying firms on K-Street, meaning their closure would shake-up Washington. However, Fritts already has plans to move forward.
Will the last rat to leave the sinking ship please turn out the lights?

Humor For The Humorless

The Democrats, SNL style:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Walking In Dimensions

What is the deal with simulated walking?
Exploration — a sub-genre of adventure — traces back to the 80s, and in 2003, Mary Flanagan created “[domestic],” an interactive experience that repurposes early first-person-shooter environments to reconstruct a childhood memory of a fire. It was an early example of a digital experience that most closely resembles what we might consider a modern day “walking simulator.” And the term “walking sim” began appearing on forums, as an insult, in the late 2000s.
While all genre classification is, in some way, reductive, “walking sim” is reductive in a profoundly annoying way. Pretty much all games are basically walking sims, right? You literally walk from place to place and then do a thing. The insult is in categorizing a genre by its limitation, rather than its capability: in walking sims, according to critics, all you do is walk. In “Assassin’s Creed,” a wildly popular role playing game (RPG), “tourism mode” is the “walking sim” version. As Jake Elliott—one of the three creators of “Kentucky Route Zero,” another game that has endured the walking sim designation —keenly points out, “people buy into the term in order to talk about what is missing.”
Real walking could fill that gap...

Breaking The Bank

How to steal a bank for fun and profit:
Haines-Prescott had put his bank (which was more of a depository, really) up for sale more than a year before, attracting a parade of big shots who had rolled into London ready to cut a sweetheart deal. But he wasn’t about to give it away. Haines-Prescott was only 36, so maybe the sharks expected to take advantage of his youth, or perhaps word had gotten out that he was ailing financially. Regardless, his latest suitor, Phillip Kitzer, could easily have been just one more in the parade of empty suits with hollow offers.

But Kitzer’s arrival at Seven Oak had made an impression. At 43, he was wiry but dashing in his tailored suit, light blazing behind the eyes, brown hair parted on the left and swept back. Although his head looked slightly too large for his body, he had a narrow, creased face, a smile that revealed deep dimples, and the prominent chin of an early Hollywood star; he emanated a kind of effortless charisma unique to successful people. He’d arrived with a business partner, Paul Chovanec, who looked a decade younger. Chovanec had dark hair and black horn-rimmed glasses and was taller and heavier, but he was clearly second-in-command. Kitzer had talked up his background, then invited Byron and Emma for a follow-up meal at a swank London restaurant.
Always check for references...

Le Spy Game

The time when Josephine Baker became a WW 2 spy:
“When I gazed deep into my own inner self, I realized that I would be incapable of functioning as a real spy,” wrote Baker. “But intelligence work was different. It seemed the perfect way to fight my war.” It didn’t take long for Baker to start passing along information gleaned at receptions at the Japanese and Italian embassies, parties she personally threw, and other affairs around Paris. “Sometimes,” Abtey said, “she would write along her arms, and in the palm of her hand, the things she heard. I told her this was dangerous, but she laughed. ‘Oh, nobody would think I’m a spy.’”

Following the fall of France in 1940, Baker and Atbey found themselves hiding out—comfortably—in Les Milandes, Baker’s estate in the southwest corner of the country. It was there that they received a courier from Captain Paul Paillole—Atbey’s former boss who was now masterminding an underground intelligence network in Vichy—with a mission. Paillole wanted Abtey to go to Portugal and make contact with British intelligence. But he remained leery of Baker. “I was afraid that she was one of those shallow show business personalities who would shatter like glass if exposed to danger,” said Paillole. Despite his reservations, he agreed to give her a chance.
Now that's jazz...

The Millennial Communist Manifesto

It's socialism for the next generation:
Though she would not yet classify the wave of leftist activism as a mass movement, politics professor Cathy Schneider of American University said the DSA's growth is significant in that it indicates voters shocked by Trumpism are also increasingly disillusioned with the Democratic Party.

"There is a sector of American society who feel that the political parties do not address their concerns," she said. "The Democratic Socialists have said we have an answer for that."

Their current strategy does not necessarily include third-party politics; instead the DSA is fielding socialist candidates for elected office using whichever ballot line makes winning likely, generally that of the Democrats.

And though many members got involved in the aftermath of the Sanders campaign, organizers now say their goal is to build a movement not connected to any single politician but instead based on core issues like universal health care, public investment in education and housing and bolstering labor protections.

Schneider also noted that socialism's "alarming reputation" appears to be fading, no small development in a country that lived through the Red Scare era of anti-communist propaganda.

"People no longer associate socialism with dictatorships in the USSR and China," she said.
But what about North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela?

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Hollywood Squad

It's that type of town, after all:
The district attorney said she has assigned a group of veteran sex crimes prosecutors to work together to examine the cases and “ensure a uniformed approach to the legal review and possible prosecution of any case that meets both the legal and factual standards for criminal prosecution.”

Legal experts said the task force makes sense but continued to caution that such cases can be difficult to prove. Many of the alleged incidents occurred years ago, and detectives need to determine whether physical evidence or witness statements exist that can help build cases.

“It does speak to the culture of the city that this is a major criminal justice issue worthy of a task force,” said Laurie Levenson, a former prosecutor and Loyola law professor. “It is a good idea to have veteran, experienced prosecutors on these cases. But people shouldn’t get their expectations up.”
They'll still have their work cut out for them...

All The Fake News That Fits

I'm surprised they didn't offer her a job:
She first introduced herself as a Times reporter at a Brookings Institute event in 2013. She also claimed to work for the paper in an interview with the Turkish ambassador, and then again at a speech in March by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

“Ms. Bourbon is not, and has never been, employed by The Times, as a reporter for The New York Times, or in any other position or capacity,” the Manhattan Supreme Court suit says.

She has ignored two cease-and-desist letters, it says.

Her scheme “is likely to cause confusion or injury to the business reputation of The Times, or dilution of the distinctive quality of The Times” trademarks, the Times’ lawyers claim in the just-filed suit.
Somewhere, Jayson Blair is green with envy...

The Invisible Cloud

Did a nuclear accident send radiation over Europe?
IRSN, the technical arm of the French nuclear regulator, said in a statement it could not pinpoint the location of the release of radioactive material but that based on weather patterns, the most plausible zone lay south of the Ural mountains, between the Urals and the Volga river.

This could indicate Russia or possibly Kazakhstan, it said. At the source of the leak, the quantity of ruthenium 106 released was "major", between 100 and 300 teraBecquerels, it said, adding that if an accident of this magnitude had happened in France it would have required the evacuation or sheltering of people in a radius of "a few kilometres around the accident site".

But it said that the probability of importation into France of foodstuffs, notably mushrooms, contaminated by ruthenium 106 near the site of the accident was extremely low.

Measurement from European stations showed high levels of ruthenium 106 in the atmosphere of the majority of European countries, at the beginning of October, with a steady decrease from Oct. 6 onwards.
I'm sure everyone over there feels safer now...

Get Off The Bus

In Las Vegas, self driving vehicles still have a ways to go:
None of the eight passengers aboard the driverless vehicle suffered injuries and neither did the truck driver. Instead, the front bumper of the shuttle took the brunt of the damage. A spokesperson for AAA, which is sponsoring the latest pilot program, said on Twitter that the accident was due to "human error" on the part of the truck driver.

A representative of the Las Vegas City government also posted a note on its official Tumblr page detailing the accident. "The autonomous shuttle was testing today when it was grazed by a delivery truck downtown," reads the post. It continued: "The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that its sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident. Unfortunately the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle."
It's always those lousy humans...

Knife Man

That time the president of the Philippines killed a guy:
"When I was a teenager, I would go in and out of jail. I'd have rumbles here, rumbles there," said Duterte, who is in Danang for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

"At the age of 16, I already killed someone. A real person, a rumble, a stabbing. I was just 16 years old. It was just over a look. How much more now that I am president?"

Duterte won last year's presidential elections after promising to eradicate illegal drugs with an unprecedented crackdown that would see up to 100,000 people killed.
He apparently won't stop until he's got it right...

Moore Is Less?

The calls for Roy Moore to get out of the race are growing:
Senate Republicans moved en masse to distance themselves from their nominee almost as soon as the news article was posted.

A statement from Vice President Mike Pence said: “The Vice President found the allegations in the story disturbing and believes, if true, this would disqualify anyone from serving in office.”

That statement was repeated by numerous Republicans, including the president who was traveling in Asia.

“Like most Americans the president believes we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person’s life,” Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in statement from Danang, Vietnam, where the president is attending an economic summit meeting. “However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.”
Moore says he'll fight, but for how long?

Bad Cat

The cat did it?
Investigators found no sign of people entering or leaving the house at the time of the suspected attack, the private network NTV said.

They then realised that Matsumoto's wounds looked like cat scratches, it added.

Police turned their attention to the stray cats loitering around Matsumoto's house, and found traces of what may be human blood on one of them, the Nishinippon Shimbun newspaper said Friday.

"Police are analysing a blood sample taken from the claw of the cat which might have scratched the victim," national broadcaster NHK reported.
Cats can be evil-be prepared...

Family Man For Hire

How to get a fake family member:
As a man whose business involves becoming other people, Yuichi would know. The handsome and charming 36-year-old is on call to be your best friend, your husband, your father, or even a mourner at your funeral.

His 8-year-old company, Family Romance, provides professional actors to fill any role in the personal lives of clients. With a burgeoning staff of 800 or so actors, ranging from infants to the elderly, the organization prides itself on being able to provide a surrogate for almost any conceivable situation.

Yuichi believes that Family Romance helps people cope with unbearable absences or perceived deficiencies in their lives. In an increasingly isolated and entitled society, the CEO predicts the exponential growth of his business and others like it, as à la carte human interaction becomes the new norm.
Family relationships at a discount?

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Scream On

Liberals literally yell at clouds:
Though some of the demonstrators risked losing their voice, they said they haven’t lost their way.

"We are screaming in rage, we are screaming in pain, but we are screaming in unity and solidarity 'cause we have a plan and a way forward," Eva Sahana, a Refuse Fascism organizer, told Patch.com.

The screaming events originated in Boston, where anti-Trumpers gathered at the Boston Common to let out a communal cry. The event was titled on Facebook: “Scream helplessly at the sky on the anniversary of the election.”
Go ahead, let it all out...

Big Weed

What would a pot commercial look like?

No Reform, No Cash

Lindsey Graham is worried about what might happen if tax reform fails:
Graham’s comment comes as Republican unity on tax reform has been imperiled as a result of senate Republicans’ meddling with key details of the tax bill draft released by the House on Nov. 2.

One source of tension dividing the two chambers is a measure that would limit corporate tax avoidance. Republicans in the upper chamber plan to dramatically scale back the measure, reducing the revenue the government stood to recoup in lost tax dollars by roughly 95 percent.

The Senate draft, set to be released Thursday, also eliminates the full estate tax repeal included in the House draft and keeps the state and local tax deduction, which has been a longstanding point of contention among Republicans from high tax states.

Graham, who receives his most substantial contributions from corporations like General Electric, Lockheed Martin and Morgan Stanley, seems aware that the party must deliver on tax reform after months of legislative stagnation.
Otherwise he might have to get a real job?

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

Want to see a doctor in Canada? You'll just have to wait-and wait:
The outlet said that while Hataley was used to long wait times — particularly from specialists — she called the 4.5-year delay “insane.”
“Initially I was just a bit stunned,” she told CTV News Toronto on Friday. “I actually thought I misread it.”
“I put my reading glasses on — because I am that age — to check if it was a 1.5,” Hataley added. “I couldn’t fathom it was a 7.5. I walked to a physician’s room nearby me just to verify that I was actually reading 4.5.”
She said such a wait time deems the referral moot: “Who knows what happens in 4.5 years?” Hataley noted to CTV News Toronto. “Will we even remember that we had a consult? Will we still be on the list?”
Maybe, but you might be dead by then...

Charm City Math

Baltimore kids don't do math:
Project Baltimore found that 13 out of 39 high schools in the city had zero students that were proficient in math, according to the testing data. Another six schools only had 1 percent of their student body who tested proficient in math.

In plain numbers, in half the high schools in Baltimore, out of the 3,804 students who took the state test, a mere 14 were proficient in math.

What’s worse, in 2016, six Baltimore schools had zero students test proficient in any state test, which included math and English.
Of course, considering that math is now apparently racist, maybe they're just ahead of the curve...

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Maine Experiment

Medicare expansion stays in Maine:
A report by the legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review pegged the state spending closer to $54 million a year and said the cost to the federal government would be about $525 million a year.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center in its report, however, raised questions about whether the federal government would follow through on its Medicaid contribution over time.

LePage in his statement pointed to an expansion of Medicaid in Maine tried in 2002 under then-Gov. Angus King, now an independent senator in Congress, as evidence to support his concerns about costs to the state.

“It created a $750 million debt to hospitals, resulted in massive budget shortfalls every year, did not reduce emergency room use, did not reduce the number of uninsured Mainers and took resources away from our most vulnerable residents — the elderly and the intellectually and physically disabled,” LePage said.

Maine is expected to become the 32nd state, not including the District of Columbia, to expand Medicaid under Obamacare to low-income people — those who make less than $16,643 a year.
But for how much longer?

Blue Night

It was a bad night for the GOP:
Murphy’s win and the Northam victory in Virginia, a state Democrat Hillary Clinton won by 5 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election, provided a much-needed boost for national Democrats who were desperate to turn grassroots resistance to Trump into election victories.

Democrats had already lost four special congressional elections earlier this year.

But a strong turnout in the Democratic-leaning northern Virginia suburbs of Washington helped propel Northam, who in the end won relatively easily. With nearly all precincts reporting, he led by a 53 percent to 45 percent margin.

Exit polls in Virginia showed that one-third of the voters went to the polls to oppose Trump, and only 17 percent went to support him.
So yes, the Democrats one, but don't get cocky, kids.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Beast Wars

The Beast as...an evil capitalist?
Sculos teaches in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Florida International University. He was recently a postdoctoral fellow at the Amherst Program in Critical Theory at Amherst College. Sculos makes very loose ties between “corporate capitalism” and the “Beauty and the Beast” films. In a passage that barely mentions the films, Sculos seemingly attempts to link all social ills to capitalism.
....

Sculos finishes his tortured article with an analysis of the Beast. He suggests that the Beast’s transformation back into a human represents social action. “From the beasts created and cultivated by racist, patriarchal capitalism to humane, literate, sensitive, community-defending, cooperative, loving, self-sacrificing people,” he finishes. “We need “men” to become human, perhaps not again but for the first time in history on a mass scale. It is not masculinity that needs to purged of its toxicity, but rather it is humanity that needs to be purged of the toxicity of corporate-barbaric masculinity.”
But what about Sleeping Beauty and those exploited dwarfs? Or Aladdin and his downtrodden existence? Sometimes a movie is just a movie...

Rigging? What Rigging?

Well, except maybe the voters:

Game Of Princes

Being a prisoner in Saudi Arabia might not be as bad as it sounds:
Saudi officials this week have rounded up dozens of allegedly corrupt government officials and have sequestered them in the 492-room Riyadh Ritz Carlton, which the government has apparently commandeered for the purpose of turning into the world’s most posh prison.

The people who have been arrested are very senior in the Saudi government, and many of them are some of the richest men in the world. As a former U.S. official described it to the New Yorker, “It’s the equivalent of waking up to find Warren Buffett and the heads of ABC, CBS and NBC have been arrested… It has all the appearances of a coup d’état. Saudi Arabia is rapidly becoming another country. The kingdom has never been this unstable.” It is difficult to overstate the shockwaves the purges have sent throughout the country and the entire Middle East.

Ritz Carlton officials have announced that the hotel will accept no new reservations until Dec. 1. All the paying guests of the hotel were apparently unceremoniously kicked out on Saturday night when Saudi officials told them to assemble in the lobby with their luggage, whereupon they were transported to other Riyadh hotels. It appears that not all of the government officials swept up in the “anti-corruption purge” are being housed in the Ritz Carlton, but the most prominent Saudi citizens caught up in the net are being held there without access to the outside world. According to the Guardian, a Saudi official explained that it was not considered safe to put many of the people involved into a prison, and using the Ritz Carlton was the “most dignified solution” available.
Enjoy it while it lasts?

Left Wing Donor Blues

A Democratic donor says his party has become too liberal:

Monday, November 06, 2017

The Wrong War?

Democrats admit-Trump may have them right where he wants them:
Party leaders — cognizant they need to gain 24 seats — now say that Democrats could win the House in 2018, a goal considered far-fetched just nine months ago. And whereas Democratic strategists once feared deep losses among their 48-member caucus in the Senate — the party must defend 10 seats in states Trump won last year — they now think they have a chance for a net gain. [Read about the GOP’s 2018 nightmare scenario here.]

But the Republican lean of the expanded Senate and House battlefield increases the pressure to dodge culture-war fights.

“In all the sheer vastness and sheer size of the battlefield, we’re going to compete in districts we haven’t before,” said Dan Sena, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats’ political arm. “The coalition and the votes fought for in those districts will naturally be new.”

To many Democrats, Hillary Clinton’s campaign was too fixated on Trump’s moral failings and obsessed with the Republicans’ litany of rhetorical offenses. But some worry that a singular focus on jobs is simply too hard to maintain. Trump is good at picking out divisive cultural issues and mainstreaming them. And while Democrats doubt his provocations are part of a grand strategy, they say he has a rare instinct for choosing fights that will thrill his base. (Said Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper, “When he’s engaging in divisive culture war fights, that’s when he seems the happiest.”)
Fighting a losing battle isn't a winning strategy. But then, the Democrats seem to have a history of that sort of thing...

Socialism: The Next Generation

They're just not into that capitalism thing:
The first run of tickets to “Capitalism: A Debate” sold out in a day. So the organizers, a pair of magazines with clear ideological affiliations, socialist Jacobin and libertarian Reason, found a larger venue: Cooper Union’s 960-capacity Great Hall, the site of an 1860 antislavery speech by Abraham Lincoln. The event sold out once again, this time in eight hours.

The crowd waiting in a long line to get inside on Friday night was mostly young and mostly male. Asher Kaplan and Gabriel Gutierrez, both 24, hoped the event would be a real-life version of the humorous, anarchic political debates on social media. “So much of this stuff is a battle that’s waged online,” said Gutierrez, who identifies, along with Kaplan, as a “leftist,” if not quite a socialist.

These days, among young people, socialism is “both a political identity and a culture,” Kaplan said. And it looks increasingly attractive.
They'll learn-or maybe not...

When Opposites Attack

The socialist next door:
Local citizens say Rene Boucher, the 59-year-old man who assaulted Paul, was a socialist who frequently fought with neighbors about health care policies and other liberal issues. Boucher and Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, are on the opposite end of the political spectrum, they told reporters.

Jeff Jones, a registered nurse who worked with Boucher at the Bowling Green Medical Center, described Paul’s attacker’s politics as “liberal.”

“He was active on social media and said some negative things about the Republican agenda,” Jones said of Boucher, a Bowling Green, Ky., citizen who lives in the same gated community as Paul. “I think it was unfortunate that they lived so close together.”
Insanity breeds contempt?

Uranium Man

It was a good deal while it lasted:
Podesta collected lobbying fees of $180,000 from Uranium One, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, that discloses lobbying documents filed with Congress. The uranium company states on its web site it is a “wholly owned subsidiary” of RUSANO, the Russian State Corporation for Nuclear Energy.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller already is scrutinizing Podesta and his firm for allegedly failing to register as a lobbyist for the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, a Ukrainian government entity. His role there is tied up with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort who was indicted on 12 counts on Oct. 30, including the failure to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

A cabinet-led federal committee that included former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, approved the sale of Uranium One to RUSANO in 2010, that permitted Russia to acquire twenty percent of America’s uranium reserves.

The sale of Uranium One to Russia today is the subject of at least three separate congressional committee investigations trying to determine if Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation received large financial gifts from Russians and from Uranium One’s owner and CEO. The committees are trying to determine if the gifts paved the way for the sale.
One country's gifts are another politician's charitable contribution...

The Party's Over

The Navy may need some serious housecleaning:
Most of the admirals are suspected of attending extravagant feasts at Asia’s best restaurants paid for by Leonard Glenn Francis, a Singapore-based maritime tycoon who made an illicit fortune supplying Navy vessels in ports from Vladivostok, Russia to Brisbane, Australia. Francis also was renowned for hosting alcohol-soaked, after-dinner parties, which often featured imported prostitutes and sometimes lasted for days, according to federal court records.

The 350-pound Francis, also known in Navy circles as “Leonard the Legend” for his wild-side lifestyle, spent decades cultivating relationships with officers, many of whom developed a blind spot to his fraudulent ways. Even while he and his firm were being targeted by Navy criminal investigators, he received VIP invitations to ceremonies in Annapolis and Pearl Harbor, where he hobnobbed with four-star admirals, according to photographs obtained by The Washington Post.
The hangover starts here...

Old Kentucky Bones

Rand Paul is recuperating from an attack:
Senior Adviser Doug Stafford said it is unclear when the Republican will return to work since he is in considerable pain and has difficulty getting around, including flying. Stafford said this type of injury is marked by severe pain that can last for weeks to months.

"This type of injury is caused by high velocity severe force," Stafford said in an email to The Associated Press.

The Bowling Green Daily News reported that an arrest warrant said Paul told police his neighbor came on his property and tackled him from behind Friday, forcing him to the ground. He had trouble breathing because of a rib injury, the warrant said.

A Warren County official did not immediately respond to an AP request for a copy of the arrest warrant.

Police arrested 59-year-old Rene Boucher on Saturday and charged him with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault with a minor injury. Boucher lives next door to Paul and his wife, according to Warren County property records.
Unfortunately, being a Senator and a former Presidential candidate can't protect you from lunatic neighbors...

The Inside Revolution

It sure sounds like somebody is cleaning house:
The helicopter went down while the group was touring an area near the coast in Asir province, of which Prince Mansour is governor, according to a statement from the interior ministry’s security spokesman. The cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known.

“While returning in the evening, contact with the helicopter was lost…authorities are currently searching for survivors where the wreckage was found,” the statement said.

Eight people died, two Saudi officials said, though they didn’t specify how many were in Prince Mansour’s party and how many were crew.

Prince Mansour is the son of prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, who resigned from his position as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince in April 2015 to make room for King Salman’s son Mohammed bin Salman.
It might have been a rough form of royal justice, but these things can have consequences. Would-be reformers beware...

Texas Action

There are still real heroes:
Summer Caddel told KSAT that her boyfriend, Johnnie Langendorff, watched the gunfight unfold between Kelley and the rifle-wielding resident. She said the neighbor then jumped into his truck and the pair gave chase.

Langendorff later described the dramatic events with local reporters.

“I pulled up to the intersection where the shooting happened and I saw two men exchanging gunfire, the other being a citizen of the community,” he said. “The shooter of the church had taken off, fled in his vehicle, and the other gentleman came and he said, ‘We need to pursue him,’ that he just shot up the church. So that’s what I did. I just acted.”
An evil man with a gun versus a good man with a gun...

Sunday, November 05, 2017

That Kid

Remembering the weird kids:
“It started out with little things, like how he had a natural affinity towards bugs, and tended to pick up pillbugs, spiders, or bees that had fallen. Not really a big deal (although the bees freaked me out a little, naturally). But then it started escalating.”

“He figured after a while, when he got hungry in class and there was no food, he could always use math book pages! No joke, he would tear several math book pages at a time, and eat them. One time he even offered one to me. I accepted it, of course, being so enamored with him, but I only pretended to eat it. I remember, the page was on fractions too (fractions do not look very edible).”

“When there weren't enough math pages to eat, and he really wanted that extra crunch he would eat paper clips. His gums and throat would bleed, but he did it often, enjoying the taste as he claimed.”

She continued: “On top of that, a couple extra things he did was putting little pieces of paper in his eye and pretending they were contacts, or literally out of nowhere screeching, saying his screeches were 'magical.'”

“I think I only liked him because we both liked Harry Potter and he had cool shirts,” she said.
I always thought I was the weird one. Maybe I was just normal...

The Bookworm Hotel

Finally, a hotel for readers:
The Literary Man hotel in Óbidos, Portugal, is a book-lover’s dream come true. It boasts a collection of 65,000 books, all available to be perused by guests at any time, day or night. Each room is stocked with a variety of titles, and the hotel’s lounge is a veritable library. Or, at least, a library in the old-fashioned sense of the word.
....

For better or worse, public libraries have become about much more than books. You can take classes, play computer games, use the internet. There is no longer an expectation of quiet, because not all those things are quiet tasks. The physical volume of books has been drastically diminished because now patrons can “check out” books electronically. “Storytime” for children has become a glorified music class.

But, even as many of us switch almost exclusively to e-readers, we still long for the library experience. Are hotels like The Literary Man the answer?
Who wants to take a reading vacation?

The Crying Man

Mini Me is not happy:
“The U.S.-led racket of brutal sanctions and pressure against the DPRK constitutes contemporary human rights violation and genocide,” the North Korean mission to the United Nations in Geneva said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Sanctions “threaten and impede the enjoyment by the people of the DPRK of their human rights in all sectors,” the North Korean mission argued. “All types of anti-human rights and inhumane sanctions against the DPRK should be terminated immediately and thoroughly.”

In response to North Korea’s tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the firing of missiles over Japan into the Pacific, and a test of a suspected staged thermonuclear device, the United Nations has imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the North, crippling both exports and imports. The U.S. has also imposed unilateral sanctions on the regime, increasing the pressure.
And the dictator wept...

One Prince, One Kingdom

There's a purge going on:
News of the arrests was first reported on Al Arabiya, the Saudi state satellite TV network whose broadcasts are approved by the government, reports the New York Times. Among those arrested was Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, who is one of the royal family’s most prominent members and a major investor in Apple and Twitter.

Just hours before, King Salman had established a new anti-corruption committee headed by the 32-year-old crown prince. The committee is authorized to investigate, arrest and freeze the assets of anybody it suspects of corruption.

The unexpected arrests came on the same day that King Salman fired Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s minister of the National Guard. Miteb was once considered to be a contender for the Saudi throne before the rise of Prince Mohammed two years ago. His removal gives the crown prince, who is already the Saudi defense minister, tighter control over the kingdom’s security services.
Reform-or removing his rivals?

McCabe And Mrs. Clinton

The Clinton email saga continues:
The memos reportedly detail how and when the bureau’s leadership decided not to pursue criminal charges against Clinton for transmitting classified information on her private email server.

Comey concluded that although Clinton was careless, there was no criminal “intent.”

Senate investigators are also interested in the role that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe played in the investigation. New documents on Friday revealed that McCabe recused himself from the Clinton investigation only about a week before the election.

McCabe recused himself over a possible conflict of interest since hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Clinton ally had flowed to his wife’s political campaign.
What's a few hundred thousand dollars between friends? About ten to twenty years...

Refuse Activism

The anti-trump revolution isn't going quite as planned:
The group, founded by Revolutionary Communist Party chairman Bob Avakian, took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to promote the rally, and has enjoyed free press in the national media in the past few days.

Despite the press attention, turnout was low at many of Refuse Fascism’s rallies, which were scheduled to take place in 20 U.S. cities. The exception appears to have been L.A, where local news reported that close to 2,000 protesters gathered.

There were no reports of violent incidents, although a woman accused of deliberately splashing her drink on a Trump supporter was reportedly arrested at the Refuse Fascism march in New York City.
Childish behavior gets adult results...

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Mulling Over Mueller

Is it time for Mueller to go?
Gaetz said in a statement introducing the resolution that new evidence has emerged that the FBI withheld information from Congress about Russian corruption of American uranium companies and prevented a key FBI witness from contacting Congress.

“Although federal agents possessed this information in 2010, the Department of Justice continued investigating this ‘matter’ for over four years. The FBI, led at the time by Robert Mueller, required the confidential witness to sign a non-disclosure agreement,” Gaetz said in a statement.

“When the witness attempted to contact Congress and federal courts about the bribery and corruption he saw, he was threatened with legal action. By silencing him, Obama’s Justice Department and Mueller’s FBI knowingly kept Congress in the dark about Russia’s significant and illegal involvement with American uranium companies,” he said.

“These deeply troubling events took place when Mr. Mueller was the Director of the FBI. As such, his impartiality is hopelessly compromised. He must step down immediately,” he said.
An honest investigation needs an honest investigator...

Here Come The Judges

Trump wins on judges:
In the final days of October, the Senate confirmed a federal trial judge. Then during this calendar week, senators added a second trial judge, as well as four judges on the powerful federal appellate courts, which sit only one step down from the Supreme Court.

Those appellate confirmations began on Tuesday with Judge Amy Barrett’s confirmation to the Seventh Circuit by a vote of 55-43. Then on Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Judge Joan Larsen to the Sixth Circuit by a vote of 60-38. On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Judge Stephanos Bibas to the Third Circuit, 53-43, and Judge Allison Eid to the Tenth Circuit, 56-41.

Two items regarding these confirmations deserve special note.

First, two of these jurists—Larsen and Eid—are on President Trump’s list of 21 potential Supreme Court nominees. The one he selected already—Justice Neil Gorsuch—has proven one of the president’s greatest first-year accomplishments, making it likely that he will adhere to that list going forward.

Second, the votes against the nominees appear to be driven by pure partisanship by Senate Democrats. No substantive allegations have been made against any of the four judges. All four have spectacular credentials in terms of their education, experience, demonstrated brilliance, temperament, and reputations. There is no reason to vote against any one of them.

The fact that at least 40 Democrats voted against all of them suggests that Senate Democrats will vote against any Trump nominee. This will only serve to push Senate Republican leadership closer to revising Senate rules to end this obstruction.
The Democrats better get used to being even more irrelevant...

Friday, November 03, 2017

Blue Labor Pains

Democrats love unions, but do unions love their workers?
Major union figures joined Schumer at a press conference to reaffirm the Democratic Party’s commitment to organized labor. The top Democrat in the Senate lamented to reporters that a Kennedy airport janitor could not make more than minimum wage because her status as a subcontractor didn’t let her join a union.

“I met a young woman on minimum wage cleaning toilets at Kennedy Airport. Twenty years ago it would have been a union job,” Schumer said, according to the Free Beacon. “Freedom to negotiate will turn things around for America, and we’re going to fight, fight, fight to get this done.”

However, airport subcontractors in New York and New Jersey are union members. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) took over contract bargaining for around 7,000 subcontractors at three major airports in 2016, concluding three years of organizing, according to an SEIU press release.

SEIU leaders and new union members celebrated the occasion as a chance for airport subcontractors to make a “livable” wage through the union’s “Fight for $15” campaign, a push to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The contract negotiated by SEIU did not include any changes to workers’ wages or benefits, only improving the subcontractors’ job security and working conditions, The New York Times reports.
No living wages for you...

The Great Green South

America is doing better than Canada in reducing emissions:
Trump decision to walk away from the non-binding Paris accord has not resulted in an increase in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — in fact, emissions continue to fall appreciably. Some Canadian activists argue the country is doing the best it can to meet the deal’s obligations.

“Whether it’s forest fires in Canada, drought around the world or some of the most powerful hurricanes in history, the evidence of climate change is all around us,” Mark Johnson, a spokesman for Environment and Climate Change Canada, said in a statement. “This reminds us all of the need to act now.”

The U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have fallen roughly 12 percent since 2005, due in part to the increased natural gas production from hydraulic fracturing, according to a 2016 report from Energy Information Administration (EIA) report.

EIA’s report attributes falling CO2 emissions to “decreased use of coal and the increased use of natural gas for electricity generation.”
Free market efficiency at work...

The Bloody One Hundred

It's a hundred years' worth of death and destruction:
Communism entered history as a ferocious yet idealistic condemnation of capitalism, promising a better world. Its adherents, like others on the left, blamed capitalism for the miserable conditions that afflicted peasants and workers alike and for the prevalence of indentured and child labor. Communists saw the slaughter of World War I as a direct result of the rapacious competition among the great powers for overseas markets.

But a century of communism in power—with holdouts even now in Cuba, North Korea and China—has made clear the human cost of a political program bent on overthrowing capitalism. Again and again, the effort to eliminate markets and private property has brought about the deaths of an astounding number of people. Since 1917—in the Soviet Union, China, Mongolia, Eastern Europe, Indochina, Africa, Afghanistan and parts of Latin America—communism has claimed at least 65 million lives, according to the painstaking research of demographers.
And some people still haven't learned, even as the rest of the world has moved on...

The Halfway Plan

What would people actually get out of the tax plan?
The dispiriting news is on the individual side. The House would double the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. This would improve simplicity for millions, and it compensates for the bill’s elimination of the personal exemption. But nearly half of American filers already owe no income taxes, and the larger deduction would make the federal fisc even more dependent on a smaller pool of taxpayers.

This is far better than the House bill’s new “family credit,” which increases the child credit to $1,600 from $1,000 in a forlorn attempt to appease the income redistributionists of the right like Senators Mike Lee and Marco Rubio. The credit would also offer an additional $300 for each parent and another $300 for each “non-child dependent.” The credits would phase out for married couples at $230,000 of income. Does anyone think a mid-level manager at J.P. Morgan deserves a subsidy to raise children?
....

Here and there the House plan includes some good news on individual loopholes, such as eliminating the state and local deduction. The bill carves out an exception for property taxes, capped at $10,000, to win over New York and California Republicans, if the House can hold that cap. Another good move is a $500,000 cap on mortgage interest for new homes, and no more tax breaks for second residences. The Realtors will go thermonuclear, but then they refused to support the House blueprint that left the deduction untouched.

The overall impact of the individual tax changes is little reform but more income redistribution. The long-term damage to the tax-cutting cause will also be considerable. Adding credits and deductions for individuals makes rate-cutting that much harder since the affluent pay the vast bulk of all income taxes.
The glass is half full, but who pays for it, and why?

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Bernie's Tax Burn

Bernie Sanders strikes again:
Rehearsing his standard demand that the country’s wealthiest “need to start paying [their] fair share” in taxes, Sanders failed to acknowledge that the revenues required to begin significant MTA overhaul are already locally available. In fact, the city ended the fiscal year in July with a budget surplus of over $4 billion. It appears that Sanders single-mindedly favors any policy that appears to punish the rich, even at the expense of promoting responsible fiscal practices.

Sanders’s subway charade was just another rehashing of the only play in his playbook: raging against the rich. De Blasio couldn’t help but join in, complaining about the rigged financial system and its Wall Street beneficiaries. But he was just playing politics. The mayor has been known for his spats with NY Governor Andrew Cuomo over whether NYC infrastructure spending will be covered on the state or local level. His proposed ‘millionaires’ tax’ is an attempt to put pressure on Cuomo and state legislators and to redirect attention away from the fact that his office has only contributed one-third of what the state has to the massive infrastructure project.
Pay your fair share!

The Russian Connection

In Russian campaign, social media uses you:
Politico reports that lawyers from Facebook and Twitter told a Senate Judiciary panel on Tuesday that Russian-linked agents on their social networks following election day in November 2016 attempted to undermine President Trump’s victory. Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch outlined to the Senate Judiciary panel how a Russian trolling group known as the Internet Research Agency generated content after November 8th focusing on “fomenting discord about the validity of [Trump’s] election.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked at the hearing, “During the election, they were trying to create discord between Americans, most of it directed against Clinton. After the election you saw Russian-tied groups and organizations trying to undermine President Trump’s legitimacy. Is that what you saw on Facebook?”

Stretch and Twitter general counsel Sean Edgette confirmed that Graham’s description was “accurate.”

James Lewis, an international cyber policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, believes that Russians’ anti-Trump misinformation campaign fits with the Kremlin’s information warfare strategy.
Which apparently worked on low information activists...

Generation Red

Today's kids really don't know any better:
According to the latest survey from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a D.C.-based nonprofit, one in two U.S. millennials say they would rather live in a socialist or communist country than a capitalist democracy.

What’s more, 22% of them have a favorable view of Karl Marx and a surprising number see Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong Un as “heroes.”

Really, that’s what the numbers show.

“Millennials now make up the largest generation in America, and we’re seeing some deeply worrisome trends,” said Marion Smith, executive director of the organization. “Millennials are increasingly turning away from capitalism and toward socialism and even communism as a viable alternative.”

But do they even know what it is?

The survey, which was conducted by research and data firm YouGov, found that millennials are the least knowledgable generation on the subject, with 71% failing to identify the proper definition of communism.
Ignorance is always exploitable...

Farming Gone To Pot

Is pot farming bad for the environment?
Researchers from Ithaca College say that the growing number of small pot farms being planted in remote forest areas are having a major impact on the local environment. The New York team points to forest fragmentation, soil erosion, and landslides as the main side-effects of inserting pot farms into the forest.

The college has previously outlined how commercial marijuana farming was poisoning forest animals with pesticides and dewatering streams by improper irrigation in states like California.

“Policymakers and planners need to enact specific environmental and land-use regulations to control cannabis crop expansion,” environmental studies professor Jake Brenner said in the college’s press release.

The study’s co-author added that while the lumber industry still has a larger impact on the size of forests, the impact over a smaller area by marijuana crops was even more destructive.

“Cannabis causes far greater changes in key metrics on a per-unit-area basis,” researcher Van Butsic said.
This is nature on drugs...

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Worry Nation

We are worried:
Almost two-thirds of Americans, or 63 percent, report being stressed about the future of the nation, according to the American Psychological Association’s Eleventh Stress in America survey, conducted in August and released on Wednesday. This worry about the fate of the union tops longstanding stressors such as money (62 percent) and work (61 percent) and also cuts across political proclivities. However, a significantly larger proportion of Democrats (73 percent) reported feeling stress than independents (59 percent) and Republicans (56 percent).

The “current social divisiveness” in America was reported by 59 percent of those surveyed as a cause of their own malaise. When the APA surveyed Americans a year ago, 52 percent said they were stressed by the presidential campaign. Since then, anxieties have only grown.

A majority of the more than 3,400 Americans polled, 59 percent, said “they consider this to to be the lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember.” That sentiment spanned generations, including those that lived through World War II, the Vietnam War, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. (Some 30 percent of people polled cited terrorism as a source of concern, a number that’s likely to rise given the alleged terrorist attack in New York City on Tuesday.)
What have we got to worry about? Take your pick...

Company Men

So who are the men behind the other Russian scandal?
Podesta Associates opened its doors in 1988, co-founded by John and Tony Podesta. The brothers didn’t merely hang out a shingle and rest on their laurels, though. They worked hard and spent years building the business. Over three decades, the Podesta firm would grow. John would leave and return and leave again. The name would change, from Podesta Associates, to Podesta Mattoon, to the Podesta Group.

On Monday, in a federal criminal indictment of Republican lobbyist and Trump aide Paul Manafort, special prosecutor Robert Mueller gave the Podesta brothers' firm a brand new name: “Company B.”

Using that pseudonym, the indictment explains that the Podesta Group represented the same Putin-allied and state-funded organization that Manafort did, at the same time. And the Podesta Group, like Manafort, also apparently failed to disclose its lobbying properly. In the aftermath, Tony has stepped down from the firm that he and his brother John spent decades building up.
No more Russians for him...

Senate Smackdown

He's mad as hell, and he's not gonna take this anymore: