Nov 292015

From Rep. Brian Sims (D) Facebook page:


Terrorism has many faces around the world.  This is the very familiar face of terrorism in the United States.

He's not ISIS, Hamas, or a Crip.  He's not Muslim or an Atheist.  He doesn't have brown skin or wear a kaffiyeh.  He didn't come here in a boat or on a raft.  He hasn't run from genocide or been persecuted by a ruthless dictator.  He's not a refugee, a "thug" or foreigner.  

He's ours.

This is the face of American Terrorism. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Rep. Brian K. Sims is a Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from Philadelphia.  Elected in 2012, Sims is also a lawyer and activist on LGBT civil rights.  Sims is the first openly gay elected state legislator in Pennsylvania history.


Nov 292015

Almost every week, Republicans join a competition to see who can say the most outlandish things, and in the process, they push the envelope on just how outrageous InsaniTEA can become.  I trust that you will believe it, when I tell you that last week was no exception.

FoxPropFox News commenter blames Obama for Colorado shootings.

The Planned Parenthood siege was not even over when Fox decided to go on the offensive—as in totally offensive.  This time the one doing the honors was former NYPD cop and professional blowhard a*hole, Bo Dietl.

Again, this is our president acting like a fool. I mean to see something like this, we noticed when the attacks occurred in Paris, when the cops were in their car getting attacked, we have to prepare ourselves. This is a war. We’re against… terrorists are against this country.

It’s going to open up here in America, and we’ve got to be prepared.

Okay, so first of all, huh?

Second of all, explain again how this is Obama’s fault?

Oh right, because he dared to suggest that maybe we shouldn’t let terrorists, criminals and animal torturers openly carry AK-47s.

Yeah, how awful.

Inserted from <Alternet>

ARGH!  The Republican Reichsministry of Propaganda spews propaganda that is extreme, even for Bubba Bagger.  This is just the third of five Republican outrages from last week alone.  Click through for the other four.

Nov 292015

Yesterday really was a lazy day, because neither PT nor OT came to work me.  While I welcome every chance I have to work, I suppose one day off won’t hurt me.  Today is a holy day in the Church of the Ellipsoid Orb.  My Broncos, minus Peyton, are  meditating with the Patriots in the Sunday night game, so I will get to see it.  May the blessed Orb shine its holy light on your team, unless that team is notorious for wayward snow plows and depressurizing orbs.

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos (Classic 4/2014): We like to assert that Daily Kos is a reality-based community. At the very least we surely do not deny science. A new study appearing at Princeton’s website may test these assumptions for some of us here. For others, it will be grim vindication of what we already know: the United States of America is no longer a democracy, but rather an oligarchy.

The anecdotes are plentiful, from modest gun control proposals that saw 90% public support, to unemployment compensation, to infrastructure spending, to women’s rights; where a plurality exists even across party lines, the median public interest seems to hold no sway in policy making. Now science has proven this to be correct:

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

I’d say that in the last year and a half, we’ve regressed to fascist plutocracy.

From Roots Action: Rahm Emanuel Should Resign Now

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel oversaw the withholding from public view — for more than a year — of a video of a police murder of a teenager.

The police officer who shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, continuing to shoot his motionless body on the ground, has now been indicted for first-degree murder.

The video was kept secret for 13 months, during which time Emanuel never corrected the blatant lies by the Chicago Police Department that maintained the victim had lunged at the police with a knife just before he was shot. The video shows this to have been a complete fabrication.

A mayor willing to cover for the murder of his constituent is no mayor at all. Add your name:

Chicago residents and people across the country demand Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s immediate resignation.


Rahmbo must go! He is a disgrace to the Democratic Party. Click through to sign the petition, please.

From NY Times: With Colorado Springs residents telling chilling tales of hours spent hiding in stores near the shootout on Friday, the authorities shed no light publicly on whether they believed Mr. Dear, 57, had deliberately targeted Planned Parenthood. But one senior law enforcement official, who would speak only anonymously about an ongoing investigation, said that after Mr. Dear was arrested, he had said “no more baby parts” in a rambling interview with the authorities.

It appears that this Republican terrorism is a direct response to the fraudulent Republican videos attacking Planned Parenthood.



Has that map changed, or what?

Nov 292015

Although in one sense not a lot happened yesterday, with December looming, my calendar is quickly filling up.  My Open Threads may be fewer this week (the first time since I began) as I will be attempting to do the monthly reports for October and November under the master's guidance of course.  Just know I won't be far away.  And now, I am off to church.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 2:59 (average 4:07). To do it, click here. How did you do? 

Short Takes

Foreign Policy — Donald Trump could not do more to aid the terrorists of the Islamic State were he to put on a suicide vest and detonate himself in the lobby of one of his apartment buildings. His demagoguery and hate-mongering in suggesting that we create a national database of Muslims — or promoting the sick fantasy that on 9/11 crowds of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the destruction of the Twin Towers — is precisely the kind of reaction on which the extremists were counting to compound the impact of their depravity. It stokes the fears of Americans and alienates Islamic audiences worldwide. And having the leading candidate of one of America’s two principal political parties promoting such ideas suggests that they are not his alone but representative of the view of a great cross-section of the American people.

God help us if they do. Trump’s words are the most vile and ignorant sort of pandering. They test the bounds of free speech because they are, in fact, a kind of hate speech designed to turn one portion of the populace against another. They are also profoundly un-American, ignoring the values of openness and tolerance that are fundamental foundations of our national greatness.

Nonetheless, Trump’s actions are even more unsettling because they are symptomatic of a broader, deeper, and much more profound problem. Terrorism has, since 9/11, mushroomed into a greater global threat than it has ever been before — and it has been a problem in one form or another since the dawn of history. But as bad as terrorism is, our reactions to it have triggered a kind of worsening risk spiral that has made the world a much more dangerous place. Not only are we playing into the terrorists’ hands, and thus giving them needed momentum, the countries of the world are reacting in such an uncoordinated and even conflicting fashion that new geopolitical fissures are emerging that are far more worrisome than any strike or campaign extremists could orchestrate.

Click through for the rest of this longer piece.  I think the author is correct in that the world needs to come together in unity of purpose and leadership.  As the expression goes, "too many chefs and not enough cooks" are spoiling the broth.  Of course, this is easier said than done.  National leaders in general tend to be myopic and unilateral.

CBC — If you're going to sponsor one family of Syrian refugees, why not sponsor 50? That's the logic behind Jim Estill's decision. The Guelph, Ont. businessman, and CEO of appliance company Danby, plans to help bring 50 families to the Guelph area and he's personally footing the bill of over $1 million. 

Jim Estill, CEO of Danby appliance company, is sponsoring 50 families of Syrian refugees, and is footing the $1 million-plus price tag personally.

Q and A with Jim Estill

​Why are you going to do this?

In short, it's the right thing to do. You see what's going on, it's a crisis and we're Canadian. We should do the right thing.

Click through for the rest of the Q and A.  Here is a new Syrian refugee story from Guelph, Ontario.  Some may be tired of reading these stories, but they are likely people embarrassed by the generosity of others.

Raw Story — On a day when the skies were ashen from the smoke of distant wildfires, Chase Hurley kept his eyes trained on the slower-moving disaster at ground level: collapsing levees, buckling irrigation canals, water rising up over bridges and sloshing over roads.

This is the hidden disaster of California’s drought. So much water has been pumped out of the ground that vast areas of the Central Valley are sinking, destroying millions of dollars in infrastructure in the gradual collapse.

Four years of drought – and the last two years of record-smashing heat – have put water in extremely short supply.

Such climate-charged scenarios form the backdrop to the United Nations negotiations starting in Paris on 30 November, which are seeking to agree on collective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And still there are those that continue to deny that global warming and human caused climate change exist.  As water from aquifers is used up, other areas will also show the effects of climate change.

My Universe Reminiscent of this past week's full moon.


Nov 282015

I slept in today and did it ever feel good.  Saturdays should be like that from time to time.  I'm off to pick up some tastey buns that look like cinnamon rolls but instead have pesto and cheese.  They are oh so good!

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:11 (average 4:52). To do it, click here. How did you do? 

Short Takes

The New Yorker  On Saturday, at 2:08 A.M. local time, an American AC-130 began to bomb a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), in Kunduz, Afghanistan. According to accounts from doctors and nurses, the air strike continued for more than an hour, in fifteen-minute waves. The hospital burned for hours afterward; photos and videos from the scene show the structures illuminated by flames from within. “We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings,” a nurse named Lajos Zoltan Jecssaid, in a statement distributed by M.S.F. “In the Intensive Care Unit, six patients were burning in their beds.” At least twenty-two people, ten patients and a dozen staff members, were killed by the strike or by the fires that the bombs started. 

Click through for some of the questions that still need answering, even almost 2 months later.

Common Dreams — Doctors Without Borders is challenging the Pentagon over the findings of internal probes into the bombing of a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz on October 3, saying the military's conclusions offer "more questions than answers" and that claims of "human error" simply don't correspond to the available facts.

"The frightening catalogue of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of U.S. forces and violations of the rules of war," said MSF director general Christopher Stokes. (Photo: Andrew Quilty/Foreign Policy)

Pentagon spokesman Gen. Wilson Shoffner said "some individuals have been suspended from their duty positions" for failing to follow "rules of engagement" and are awaiting disciplinary action. 

Sorry, but not good enough General Shoffner.  Click through to see the log of calls made by MSF Kabul to the OCHA Civil Military liaison in Afghanistan, among others. 

Foreign Policy — As  the powerful American gunship circled over the densely packed Afghan city of Kunduz on the night of Oct. 3, the crew was flying blind, with little prior intelligence as to where potential Taliban targets were located and without access to key video or electronic communications systems, which were down for much of the mission.  

‘Human Error’: U.S. Troops Suspended Over Kunduz Hospital Strike

The exterior of the bombed out Kunduz hospital that was staffed by MSF.

Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, spokesman for the NATO command in Kabul, said members of the crew of the AC-130 gunship “did not follow the rules of engagement” in launching the 29-minute attack, and have been suspended from their duties pending possible disciplinary action.  

The mistakes on Oct. 3 began even before the plane took off from base. An investigation by the U.S. military has found that the gunship launched without being briefed on “crucial mission materials, including no-strike info that would have determined the coordinates of the hospital,” Campbell said. The investigation also found that the crew relied almost entirely on a physical description of the building, as opposed to grid coordinates, which led to the strike on the wrong building.

And when all is said and done, will anyone truly be held accountable for this tragedy?  The MSF is calling for an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC).  I was reading that the MSF has called this a war crime.  

When all is said and done, there should be no wrist slaps or suspensions. There should be real accountabilty including an international trial at The Hague, substantial prison time right up the line (not just those flying the mission that should not have been), reparations and fines.

There is a petition at signed by 542,102 supporters with a goal of 1 million signatures, asking Obama to consent to "an independent international investigation into the events of October 3 by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC), the only permanent body set up specifically to investigate violations of international humanitarian law."

YouTube Pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkeys

My Universe — Simon has a sister and she has a dog!  This should be a PSA!

Nov 282015


When I realized this is Judi’s very first Bug Mouth Award, I was quite surprised.  Judi is so active here that she is one of four people I promoted to write articles here, and she has been doing a magnificent job.  She is a denizen of Care2, where she goes by JL A.  You can find her here.

A resident of California, a place where only the Republican politicians are more Californicated than the climate change fouled weather.  She is a proponent of Animal Welfare, Climate Change Prevention, Green Energy, Human Rights, Minority Rights, Women’s Rights, and more.

I hope that this is her first of many Big Mouth Awards.  Please join  me in showering her with the kudos and praise that are her just due.

Nov 282015

Yesterday OT worked with me on how to take a shower.  I didn’t mind too much. Winking smile  Then PT had me walking with my prosthetic leg.  Today I plan a lazy day, except for whatever OT and PT have in mind.

Short Takes:

From NY Times: Carolyn Bouchard, a diabetic with a slowly healing shoulder fracture, hurried to see her doctor after Matt Bevin was elected governor here this month.

Ms. Bouchard, 60, said she was sick of politics and had not bothered voting. But she knew enough about Mr. Bevin, a conservative Republican who rails against the Affordable Care Act, to be nervous about the Medicaid coverage she gained under the law last year.

“I thought, ‘Before my insurance changes, I’d better go in,’ ” she said as she waited at Family Health Centers, a community clinic here.

Over the last few years, Kentucky captured the nation’s attention as the only Southern state to wholly embrace the health care law, most significantly by expanding Medicaid in 2014 to cover an additional 425,000 people so far. Now, with Mr. Bevin promising to “repeal the expansion as it currently exists,” Kentucky may become a laboratory for the kind of rollback that the law’s opponents have so far only dreamed of.

I feel sorry for the people of Kentucky, but not for Ms. Bouchard. People who don’t bother to vote deserve the deprivations that Republican rule invariably brings.

From NBC New York: Even before the deadly standoff at a Colorado Planned Parenthood was over, messages of support poured in for the health care provider, which itself released a message that was defiant in the face of violence.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted “Today and every day, we #StandWithPP” after shooting broke out at the health center in Colorado Springs, in which police said a gunman killed three people and wounded nine before giving himself up at about 7 p.m. ET.

Supermodel Chrissy Teigen asked her million Twitter followers to follow her lead and donate to the organization.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Planned Parenthood was the target of an attack or if gunfire erupted there for another reason. Authorities repeatedly said Friday it was too early to determine a motive or whether the shooter had any connection to Planned Parenthood.

“We don’t have any information on this individual’s mentality, or his ideas or ideology,” Colorado Springs Police Lt. Catherine Buckley said.

But Planned Parenthood has been attacked before — a clinic was set on fire this year in Washington State – and has long been the subject of protests for providing women with access to abortions.

The head of Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains released a statement on the national organization’s website Friday afternoon saying that the group will never stop doing its work.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this when more information is available. In the meantime, like Bernie and Hillary, I stand with Planned Parenthood. I’d bet that the perpetrator comes from the pseudo-Christian version of the Daesh: the rabid Republican base.

From Alternet:The white supremacists who showed up to a Black Lives Matter protest Monday night in Minneapolis and shot five African-American participants were not there just by coincidence.

As more facts emerge in the case, it’s now beginning to appear that not only was the attack a carefully planned attempt to disrupt the demonstration, but the men who participated in the shootings had been radicalized in the course of conversing on websites and in chatrooms where racist and other far-right extremist ideology flourishes. Indeed, the men began networking in real life as a result of their Internet hatemongering.

See the Republicans hate! Hate! Hate!! Hate!!! Barf Bag Alert!!!!


The safety of the American people is far more threatened by Republican Party terrorism than it is by the Daesh.



Nov 282015

I said when I started calling upon the Furies they there would be no shortage of material for them to deal with, and there certainly isn't. Just as a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as "unceasing," "grudging," and "vengeful destruction."

This being Thanksgiving week, I want to start by calling on Megaera to listen to the tale Leo Gerard has to tell.  You see, every Thanksgiving, at the Old Homestaed Steakhouse in New York City, a very special meal is served.  This year three lucky families will spend $45,000.00 – each – for a Thanksgiving meal most of us can barely imagine.

Each meal includes two turkeys.  Because when would one, 20-pound free-range, organically raised bird at $75 a pound ever be enough?  It includes gravy made with Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, which goes for $4,900 a bottle. Because when would $9 worth of cooking sherry ever be good enough?  It includes whipped sweet potatoes festooned with $1,600-an-ounce Royal Osetra caviar. Because when would the red-light-special, $115-an-ounce can of fish eggs ever be acceptable?  (Let alone – shudder – marshmallows.)   The final course is pumpkin ice cream decked with 24-carat gold flakes and a $4,200 bottle of private reserve rum-infused eggnog sauce.

Oh, yes.  And a 2 carat diamond ring in the stuffing.  Mustn't forget that.

Leo points out that, while we don't have their names (and that must be a sad challenge for them – trying to get their names publicized enough to get them bragging rights, but not enough for the general public to show up at their homes with pitchforks), anyone who HAS that kind of money and CHOOSES to spend it on a single meal has essentially stolen it from working people via their trickling up of productivity gains away from the productive workers and toward overpaid bosses.  Since we don't know names, can we be certain they are people who are helping to take safety nets away from the poor, and keeep the minimum wage as low as possible?  No.  Would we bet money (not that kind of money, but something we could afford) that they are?  Oh, yes.

Of course, Megaera, you are a professional and probably don't need advice – but it did occur to me you might think of reserving standing room in Tantalus's lake for the patrons.  For the restaurateurs, maybe the Midas touch.  Only something other than gold.  They'd just sprinkle that on ice cream.

I certainly thought of Alecto when I saw this sub-heading in Bloomberg Business: "The retail giant is Always watching."

In the autumn of 2012, when Walmart first heard about the possibility of a strike on Black Friday, executives mobilized with the efficiency that had built a retail empire. Walmart has a system for almost everything: When there’s an emergency or a big event, it creates a Delta team. The one formed that September included representatives from global security, labor relations, and media relations.  More terrifying than the thought of a strike was the thought of labor organizing into unions.

The group working on the strike was (and is) called the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart).  Publicly Walmart pooh-poohed the size and potential influence of OUR Walmart.  “This is just another union publicity stunt, and the numbers they are talking about are grossly exaggerated,” David Tovar, a spokesman, said on CBS Evening News that November.

Privately, though – Walmart "hired an intelligence-gathering service from Lockheed Martin, contacted the FBI, staffed up its labor hotline, ranked stores by labor activity, and kept eyes on employees (and activists) prominent in the group. During that time, about 100 workers were actively involved in recruiting for OUR Walmart, but employees (or associates, as they’re called at Walmart) across the company were watched; the briefest conversations were reported to the 'home office,' as Walmart calls its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark."

Over a thousand pages of documents were produced in discovery ahead of a NLRB hearing into OUR Walmart’s allegations of retaliation against employees who joined protests in June 2013.  The testimony was given in January 2015, during the hearing. OUR Walmart, which split from the UFCW in September, provided the documents to Bloomberg Businessweek after the judge concluded the case in mid-October. A decision may come in early 2016.  So Bloomberg is able to go into quite a but of detail about what happened.

The "intelligence-gathering service from Lockheed Martin" is a very little known servce of Lockheed.  From the website: "LM WISDOM® ITI (Insider Threat Identification) is the industry leader in detecting and mitigating insider threats.  LM WISDOM® ITI is a leads generator tool based on employee attributes, behaviors and actions that may be indicators of potential insider threat.   This capability significantly improves the productivity of your security and counterintelligence organizations, allowing analysts to focus on the highest priority threats and take proactive mitigation steps.  Built on best practices from counterintelligence professionals with decades of commercial and government experience, LM WISDOM® ITI takes a holistic approach — seamlessly fusing data sources across the enterprise and modeling behavioral indicators on the individual."

Don't ask me when Lockheed Martin decided it needed to privatize intelligence, because I don't know.  Companies have always kept an eye on their workers, of course.  But this seems to be an unexpected level.  "While most of the OUR Walmart activists being watched expected to be, none thought it would be by a company like Lockheed Martin. 'We’re artists, not ISIS.'"

Training videos, executive memos, and various other anti-union materials have been leaked over the years by groups hoping to embarrass Walmart. A 49-page document from 1997, A Manager’s Toolbox to Remaining Union-Free, begins: “As a member of Walmart’s management team, you are our first line of defense against unionization.” Based on the documents from the ongoing case, many of the tools in the toolbox remain in use. The 1997 guide instructs managers to remain alert for signs of low morale or organizing among their employees. They’re supposed to address the causes of low morale and report the organizing to the Bentonville hotline.There is far too much detail in Bloomberg to give – you are welome to click thorugh.  This year, instead of striking, OUR Walmart has been staging a 15-day fast leading up to Black Friday. Workers want to wait until the NLRB ruling before walking off the job again…. The hunger strike is in support of a $15-an-hour minimum wage and to highlight the problems some Walmart workers have feeding their families.  Some 1,400 people have been participating in the fast as they see fit and about 200 of those are former and current employees.

On Black Friday there were demonstrations around the country, organized by groups connected to OUR Walmart and joined by employees who had already taken the day off or weren’t scheduled to work. In addition to the nation, I'm sure Alecto will have been watching.

Early in the morning of Sunday, November 15, 2015, a young man of color was shot and killed by police in Minneapolis, MN.  Yes, I know this happens all the time, though less often in Minneapolis, which is a fairly progressive city, but stay with me, Tisiphone and readers, I do have a point to make.

Witnesses say Jamar Clark, 24, was unarmed and handcuffed when an officer shot him.  Police, of course, dispute this.  Activists took to the street and protested outside the Minneapolis Police Department.  This too is hardly new.

"The young man was just laying there," Teto Wilson, a resident who claims to have witnessed the shooting, said. "He was not resisting arrest. Two officers were surrounding the victim on the ground, an officer maneuvered his body around to shield Jamar's body, and I heard the shot go off."  Black Lives Matter activists and the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP have called for the officers to be fired.  Still familiar ground.

On the night of November 23, the story took on a little different direction.  There is the background that activists representing several different organizations, including Communities United Against Police Brutality as well as the groups previously mentioned, started to notice on the furst night of the protest, and continuing every night, white supremacist groups (the participants described as masked men in military style clothing) were also out and threatening violence.  The activists were concerned enough to put together a safety committee.  On November 23, then, three men wearing masks and bulletproof vests were noted and were removed from the protest area.  They were confronted by the safety committee, and there was an argument.

The three men walked away from the crowd and through a gate, and some activists followed.  Witness said the three men ran off, with several activists chasing them.  They stopped in an area where there were no cameras, turned around, and opened fire.  Five protestors were shot, fortunately, none was seriously injured.  The shooters were not immediately identified.

Some social media users began claiming the shooters fired in self defense.  Well, we've heard that before too.

That was November 23rd.  On November 24, a suspect was arrested.   A 23 year old while male.  So close in age to Jamal.  So far away in spirit. 

It has now been learned that white supremacists have discussed various strategies online for sparking confrontation at the demonstration, which they described as a “chimpout.”

“Do you know if the BLM n*****s are planning to protest again tomorrow, and if so, at what time?” one white supremacist asked in an email chain.

They agreed to wear camouflage clothing and display a four of clubs to identify each other, and the white supremacist agitators argued over whether they should carry guns or wear Guy Fawkes masks.

SInce then, a total of five suspects have been arrested.  One was released because he was not present at the shooting.  The other four are being held.  The County Attorney has received an extension of time to determine charges; hate crime charges are being considered.

Here's the point I have been going for.  It appears there are numerous people in different groups shooting guns in Minneapolis.  However, only one group is being shot at.  Black Americans.  Tisiphone, I hope you are still with me.  Please, see what you can do.

For the rest of us, there is a petition on Force Change regarding this case.  We too can do something.


Nov 272015

Yesterday my friends were under the weather and could not come, But after PT worked ne with my prosthetic leg, I went down to the café by myself.  The open face turkey sandwich was good, but the raspberry cheesecake had flavor to die for.  I watched football for most of the day, but Pam is really kicking my kitty-butt at fantasy football.  Because this  is such a slow news day, this is my only article.

Short Takes:

From Upworthy: …The shopping surge also means that many retail workers have to leave their loved ones and work on the day after (and sometimes the night of) Thanksgiving.

So if you only get one day-after-Thanksgiving every year, it’s silly to waste it at a crowded store with hundreds of other people who are willing to throw elbows to get a new Blu-ray player.

Instead, here are seven ways to spend Black Friday that are (at least in my mind) a whole lot better than shopping.

1. Take a trip to a state park.

I’m pretty sure that parks offer much better views than the inside of a Walmart. So load up your Thanksgiving leftovers into a picnic basket, find the closest park, and get some fresh air. If you live in Minnesota, you can even take advantage of free admission to all of the state’s parks this Nov. 27.

I do not shop on Black Friday.  I shared one. Click through for the other six.

From NY Times: Clasping hands with youngsters in red Communist Youth League scarves, contestants from more than 110 nations descended on the southern Chinese island of Hainan this week for the 65th annual Miss World contest.

But one contestant was absent from the opening ceremony: Miss Canada, otherwise known as Anastasia Lin, a 25-year-old actress and classically trained pianist who has been denied a Chinese visa to attend the monthlong pageant, apparently because of her outspoken advocacy for human rights and religious freedom in China.

After waiting in vain for weeks, Ms. Lin packed up her Canadian-designed eveningwear on Wednesday and quietly boarded a Hong Kong-bound flight with the hope she might obtain an on-demand visa at the border and perhaps slip unnoticed into mainland China.

It was not to be.

The Chinese authorities, tipped off to her arrival, barred her from flying onward to Hainan.


Kudos to Anastasia. We all should boycott Miss World.

From The Hill: The Obama administration is warning states that they cannot refuse to accept refugees fleeing war-torn Syria, saying that noncompliant states may be subject to penalties.

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) said in a letter to state agencies on Wednesday that they cannot withhold services to refugees based on their country of origin or religion.

“Accordingly, states may not categorically deny ORR-funded benefits and services to Syrian refugees,” the letter said. “Any state with such a policy would not be in compliance with the State Plan requirements, applicable statutes, and their own assurances, and could be subject to enforcement action, including suspension and termination.”

The letter cited the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of race or country or origin.

“Thus, it is not permissible to deny federally funded benefits such as Medicaid or TANF to refugees who otherwise meet the eligibility requirements.”

After their big holiday dinners, you can rest assured that hundreds of Republican politicians and pundits will have huge loads in their pants over this one!



Nov 272015

Picketers playing ball outside closed mill during steel srike.  (Photo by Francis Miller//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Politico — The reason critics like Sheila Bair, Elizabeth Warren, Neil Barofsky, Simon Johnson, Paul Krugman and others (left, right and center) won the day—at least the intellectual debate and the war over public perceptions—was not that they were better communicators. It was that they had a more convincing message: There were alternative ways of rescuing the economy that were fairer and that would have resulted in a stronger economy. Instead, our politics and economics are now locked into a vicious circle: Economic inequality leads to political inequality, and this political inequality then leads to rewriting the rules to increase the level of economic inequality even further, and so on. The result? Ever greater disillusionment with our democracy.

Matters may well get worse. Recent research has uncovered a variety of other vicious cycles. Poverty traps mean those in the bottom remain there. The fortunes of a child of poor parents who does well in school are far bleaker than those of a child of rich parents who does much more poorly in school. About a quarter of U.S. college freshmen from the bottom income half finish college by age 24, compared with 90 percent of the upper quartile. And with wages of those who have only a high school diploma at 62 percent of the typical college grad’s earnings—compared with 81 percent in 1965—the prospects are they will be poorer than their parents.

Taken from Wikipedia, Joseph E Stiglitz is "…an American economist and a professor atColumbia University. He is a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2001) and the John Bates Clark Medal (1979). He is a former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank and is a former member and chairman of the (US president's) Council of Economic Advisers.  He is known for his critical view of the management of globalizationlaissez-faire economists (whom he calls "free market fundamentalists"), and some international institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.  

Based on academic citations, Stiglitz is the 4th most influential economist in the world today, and in 2011 he was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Stiglitz's work focuses on income distribution, asset risk management, corporate governance, and international trade. He is the author of several books, the latest being The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them (2015)."

From Alternet, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now interviews Joseph Stiglitz.

AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about these candidates [Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders] and what they’re saying and what they actually do, what they support.

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, I think we’re in a new moment in America, because I think we’ve had a third of a century of a—you might call, an experiment, a grand experiment, where, beginning with Reagan, we said, "Let’s lower the tax rates on the top. Let’s rip away the regulations. We’re going to free up the American economy. We’re going to incentivize it. The result will be the economy will grow so much—yes, the top will get a larger share, but everybody is going to get a bigger piece, and so everybody is going to be better off." Well, we’ve had a third of a century of this experiment, and it has failed. It has failed miserably. The fact is, the bottom 90 percent have seen their incomes stagnate. Median income today is as low as it was a quarter-century ago. Talking about the minimum wage, minimum wage is the level, adjusted for inflation, it was 45, 50 years ago. You know, if an economy can’t deliver for most of its citizens, it’s a failed economy. What’s so striking is, we’ve had technological change, we’ve had globalization—all the things that were supposed the economy perform better—and in fact it’s performed worse.

Click through to read the rest of these two articles.  In the second, Stiglitz says "…I think the point is the American people have figured out that this model hasn’t worked, you know, the model that began a third of a century ago. So, they’re angry, and they want a change."  If Stiglitz's point is true, then what are the American people going to do to effect the necessary change?  It is, to my mind, imperative that the American people lead with their vote, shake up the establishment.

I also posted The Pitchforks Are Coming … For Us Plutocrats on 31/10/2015 in which Nick Hanauer, billionaire, echoes Stiglitz.

What is the definition of insaniTEA?  Voting the same way time after time yet expecting a different and better economic outcome.



Nov 272015

Today is busy for me.  I'll be off teaching before too long and won't be back til late afternoon.  At least it will be sunny for those out doing Christmas shopping.

Puzzle — Today’s took me 3:20 (average 5:30). To do it, click here. How did you do? 

Short Takes

CBC — A Muslim group in Peterborough, Ont., will kneel and pray today at a local synagogue, where they will be welcomed after their own mosque was damaged in an arson attack earlier this month that police are investigating as a hate crime.

"As Canadians we have to stick together," said Larry Gillman, president of the  Beth Israel Synagogue, in an interview on  CBC's Metro Morning today. "It's not about religion, it's not about race. Canadians do this."

Click through for the rest.  In a post Paris tragedy, the Masjid al-Salaam mosque in Peterborough, Ont was burned.  But the Beth Israel synagogue extended a hand in friendship and now, both Muslims and Jews are using the same space for worship.  Kenzu Abdella of the Masjid al-Salaam mosque said "At the end of the day, it's a house of God."  Amen!

Alternet — And he said quite clearly that he believes,

“we’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule… And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago…”

Does that add up to fascism? Yeah, pretty much. In his book, “Rush, Newspeak and Fascism” David Neiwert explained that the dictionary definition of the word often leaves out the most important characteristics of the philosophy, which are “its claims to represent the “true character” of the respective national identities among which it arises; and its mythic core of national rebirth — not to mention its corporatist component, its anti-liberalism, its glorification of violence and its contempt for weakness.” If that’s not Donald Trump I don’t know what is.

Facism is like a contagious disease . . . it keeps on infecting.  It's not new, but the current crop of Republicans and Tea Partiers sure seem into ensuring its survival.  Dump Trump.

The Nation — China Labor Watch’s (CLW) report on China’s toy industry is a seasonal reminder of how American families’ appetite for cheap toys is fed by not-so-fun factory jobs, in which workers struggle to sustain their own families on pennies an hour. The advocacy group reports:

In workshops that are hazardous to their health, millions of workers toil under cruel management, 11 hours a day, six days per week. Over the course of a year, a toy worker may only be able to see her parents and children one time.

In low-wage factories that bring Star Wars andFrozen toys to big-box shelves, field researchers reported observing up to 80-hour workweeks, widespread wage theft, and apparent violations of both corporate ethical sourcing codes and Chinese labor law—including age-discriminatory hiring, nonpayment of mandatory social insurance, and inadequate safety training. For example, at two suppliers, Winson and Jetta, employers reportedly “diverted” overtime hours to discount weekend work. As a result, CLW claims, “employing up to 11,000 workers, the two companies may be cheating workers out of $1 to 2 million a year.”

Click through fore more.  How willing are consumers willing to finance the oppression of workers in other countries?  If these were American workers, would consumers still finance the oppression?  Given what happens with Walmart employees and with the media, the conditions would be more noticeable.  But overseas, out of sight, out of mind.

My Universe TGIF!!!  Getting ready for the weekend!