Apr 282016

I'm back again.  I have my course in liberal biblical studies tonight which is interesting but somewhat time intensive — 4 hours of homework in addition to 3 hours of class time plus dinner each week.  The course goes for another four weeks after tonight.  Tomorrow is teaching at Lucia's house, and then Sunday is the Alzheimer's Walk for Memories and a visit with my mother.  Once the course is done, I'll have a bit more time.

Short Takes

NY Times — Senator Ted Cruz of Texas often casts himself as the rightful heir to Ronald Reagan’s mantle of conservatism, and on Wednesday he took a page directly out of the former president’s playbook.

By tapping Carly Fiorina to be his running mate, Mr. Cruz becomes the first presidential candidate since Reagan to name a vice-presidential pick without having the nomination locked up. In 1976, Reagan teamed up with Richard S. Schweiker, a Pennsylvania senator, in a desperate attempt to grab the nomination from President Gerald R. Ford as it was slipping away. At that point, Mr. Ford’s delegate lead had become virtually insurmountable.

Rachel had this to say about Cruz's announcement.

Carly Fiorina??  The word 'dafted' comes to mind as a description for Cruz.  He is trying to reignite his campaign but he may just blow it up!  After all, this tactic didn't work so well for the patron saint of Republicans, Saint Ronnie Reagan in 1978.  He lost to Gerald Ford who then lost the general election to Jimmy Carter.

Daily Beast — As the self-proclaimed Islamic State trumpets its global terrorist campaign, U.S. special operations forces have quietly killed more than three dozen key ISIS operatives blamed for plotting deadly attacks in Europe and beyond.

Defense officials tell The Daily Beast that U.S. special operators have killed 40 “external operations leaders, planners, and facilitators” blamed for instigating, plotting, or funding ISIS’s attacks from Brussels and Paris to Egypt and Africa.

That’s less than half the overall number of ISIS targets that special operators have taken off the battlefield, one official explained, including top leaders like purported ISIS second-in-command Haji Imam, killed in March.

The previously unpublished number provides a rare glimpse into the U.S. counterterrorist mission that is woven into overall coalition efforts to defeat ISIS, and which is credited with crippling ISIS efforts to recruit foreign fighters and carry out more plots like the deadly assault on Paris that killed 130 last fall.

As proof of the campaign’s overall success, Pentagon officials this week said the influx of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria had dropped from up to 2,000 a month last year to just 200, and the overall size of ISIS from a high estimate of 33,000 a year ago to between 19,000 to 25,000 fighters.

I spoke with an Iraqi woman yesterday who said that she hoped Trump would become POTUS for only one reason . . . he'd go after ISIS.  Well I don't support her choice of Trump and told her so.  But no worries, she lives in Canada. She is sick of the destruction of her native country by ISIS and is quick to say that ISIS does not believe in Islam. They are about power and greed, nothing more.

Alternet — White, who’d been sickened by the debilitating, irreversible and often fatal disease at work in a foundry, watched in disgust as Republicans attempted to overturn the rule that the Labor Department said could save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis annually.

Last week, GOP House members conducted a hearing to further their case against saving those lives. They did that just days before Workers Memorial Day, April 28, when organized labor renews its solemn pledge to strive for workplace safety rules and formally commemorates those who have died on the job in the previous year.

The totals aren’t in for 2015 yet, but the year before, 4,679 workers died on the job. That’s nearly 90 a week, 13 a day, seven days a week. Twenty-eight members of my own union, the USW, died on the job since Workers Memorial Day 2015.

But the GOP position is clear. Republicans will do whatever it takes to ensure that corporations can sicken and kill workers with impunity. (emphasis added)  If the argument is that workers’ lives and lungs must be sacrificed to ensure that foundries and fracking operations and construction companies can make bigger profits by releasing silica particles under 40-year-old standards now considered dangerous, then the GOP will take the side of CEOs who value workers as trivial.

This one image from TC says it all:


My UniverseThere is nothing cuter than baby animals.  Be prepared for the Aww factor!  Here are just a few but click through for the rest of them.

The smiley bunch . . .

baby giraffe

baby sloth

The hungriest . . . 

baby hippo

The cuddliest . . .   ?

baby alligator

The most timid . . . 

baby foxes

Aw shucks . . .

baby duck

Y'all come back now, ya hear!

Apr 232016

It was another rough week. I was even more challenged than last week to limit myself. So, out of eight that I bookmarked (although there were even more that I didn't), here are three which really call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them. 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."

Of the two police brutality stories, I picked this one, even though no one died (which someone did in the other one); in fact, there don't seem to have even been any marks left on the hapless arrestees (that's pending a health check, as two are diabetic).  What makes it so jaw-dropping face-palming outrageous is that (a) the five or more arrestees were children.  The oldest was 13, the youngest 6.  Most were under 10.  (b)  The children were arrested, with warrants, at their school, in front of their peers.  (c) The charge was that they failed to break up a fight which, incidentally, occurred, not in a public place, but in someone's backyard.  At least two of the arrestees were not even present at the disagreement.

You know, if I had a child who was six years old, and he was in a friend's back yard, and a couple of other kids disagreed about a basketball game and pushed each other some, I would hope to God he would NOT try to break it up.  But these arrested children have been charged with criminal responsibility for each other (which sounds to me like they are being charged as adults, which is insane.)

Jen Hayden, who uses her real name in her bylines at Daily Kos, but whose Twitter handle is @Scout_Finch, had this to say: "Any way you slice it, these kids did not deserve to be handcuffed in front of their peers, hauled away to juvenile detention without notifying the parents and ultimately headed down the classroom-to-prison pipeline."

This happened in Murfreesboro, TN, where the chief of police is Karl Durr.  That is really all I know about him.  Someone about whom I know even less of but we all probably should know more about is the judge who signed these warrants with which the officers apparently showed up.  He's the guy (or, I hope not, but possibly she's the gal) who precipitated this abomination.  I am going on record that this whole scenario can best be described as grudging, so, Megaera, I trust you will be on it.

Staying with the legal profession for the second item, there is a county circuit court judge in Mississippi, name of Jeff Weill, who has a habit of holding piblic defenders in contempt … for doing their job.  Well, mostly he threatens it rather than does it, but a little over a week ago, on Wednesday April 13 to be precise, he actually locked one up.  Of course leaving his client, a woman with a three month old baby, without representation.

In fact the public defender had to get a lawyer himself, to file an emergency appeal with the state supreme court, which, to their credit, granted it, or most of it.  To their discredit, they wanted $500 bond from the public defender while he appeals.

His supervisor, THE Hinds County Public Defender, Michele Purvis Harris, stated on Thirday, "The actions of Judge Weill on yesterday in effect criminalized the very job we are sworn to do."  Yup, that's about the size of it.  She added that every public defender who has served in Judge Weill's courtroom "has at some point been threatened with the contempt that has never occurred in any of the other courtrooms."  She herself was thrown out of his courtroom in December (the word she uses is "escorted out" but that sounds like being thrown out to me.)  The State Supreme Court sided with her also (he doesn't learn, does he?)  But, she adds, “We will not be intimidated. We will not be bullied.”  I believe the consistent repitition of this injustice qualifies it as unceasing, so, Alecto, off you go.

I will give the voter ID issues a rest this week, as well as the obligatory legislator arrested (this one in Georgia, open container, open carry, 4 children in vehicle, BAC 3x legal.  Do I need to say he is a "family values" Republican?  I didn't think so.)  I'll just move right along to the New York Tactical Officers Association (NYTOA) annual conference, this year to be held in Verona, New York the end of this month.  It's the kind of gathering that police go to to learn to be the bullies we all hate, instead of getting mental health and crisis diffusion training which we all want them to have.

And there are a lot of these gatherings, and the general public and journalists are excluded from them.  They keep a very low profile.  The only reason this one has attracted a little attention is that somehow word got out that Ryan Mauro will be honored as a key presenter.

And who is Ryan Mauro, when he's at home. you may ask?  Well, for starters, he is an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist who has been personally designated an extremist by the SPLC.  And now I'll bet you can see vengeful destruction coming right up.

His day job is as a national security "analyst" for the anti-Muslim think tank Clarion Project.  Among other things, he things the DHS is full of Muslim Brotherhood types.  He has stated that "civilians really need to step up" and start reporting suspicious activity they see on Facebook.  Seriously.  He has promoted the discredited myth of Muslim no-go-zones and fear-mongered over Somali refugees living in the US.  Media Matters outed him in 2014 as "not (a) credible source … given (his virulent history of Islamophobia."

"There are reasons police violence fill our headlines and politicians ride waves of hate. One of those reasons is SWAT trainings and expos like NYTOA, where Islamophobia and major arms dealers take center stage," Ali Issa, national field organizer for the War Resisters’ League, told AlterNet. "Unnoticed, these trainings happen all the time, all over the country. Stopping this national phenomenon means empowering our communities to live without fear."

The executive director of the NYTOA, Larry Beresnoy, however, is a believer.  “Ryan Mauro is a national expert on terrorism and Islamic extremism,” he said. “His entire job is researching the issue. I’ve looked at Ryan’s stuff, looked at Clarion’s stuff. I’ve seen their videos Third Jihad and Obsession. There are many experts who believe that the information is accurate. He has good information to share.”

I won't even go into the details of the martial arts training and weapons manufacturers' booths which will be part of the fun.  I think it is already pretty clear that this is not just vengeful destruction, but organized, state-sponsored vengeful destruction.  Knock yourself out, Tisiphone.

The Furies and I will be back.

Apr 152016

It was a rough week.  I was truly challenged to limit myself to three stories and a reference in passing which really call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them.  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."

Did you know that the CIA has a "Venture Capital Arm"?  I didn't, but I do now.  It's called In-Q-Tel.  You can read about it at its own website or on Wikipedia (probably less self-serving).  I'm sure it will surprise no one that this entity is investing in tools to mine technology such as cell phones and social media, but my eye was caught by a deal it has going with a skin care company.  Skin care?  WTF?

Yes, Skincential Sciences is getting funding from In-Q-Tel for a product they call "Clearista."  It is, or is based on, and I quote, "a patented technology that removes a thin outer layer of the skin, revealing unique biomarkers that can be used for a variety of diagnostic tests, including DNA collection."  It is, quote, "said to require only water, a special detergent, and a few brushes against the skin, making it a convenient option for restoring the glow of a youthful complexion — and a novel technique for gathering information about a person’s biochemistry."

Now, you may be wondering – I know I am – how in the world they expect to harvest this stuff in any way that is traceable to any particular person.  However – I have little faith in the CIA's ethics, but I have great faith in their ability to dream up ideas like harvesting DNA.

The names of several other firms funded by In-Q-Tel have come out this week, and if anyone decides to try to follow the money, you will find it is quite a Pandora's Box (I'm sure the Furies are familiar with those LOL).  The CIA, on its own and through In-Q-Tel, seems always to be messing with things that don't concern them.  It just never quits.  So I think, maybe Alecto, you might be the one to look into this.

And while we are speaking of spying and intrusion (and sometimes it seems that those are one and the same – a class action suit has been filed by the Michigan chapter of CAIR on behalf of 18 named plaintiffs and thousands of unnamed plaintiffs against the Terrorist Screening Center, which comes under the FBI.  One of the named plaintiffs – well, the court has his name but his identity is being protected – is a young man, an American citizen, now four, whose name was placed on the watch list when he was seven months old.  Numerous current and former employees of the Terrorist Screening Center are also individually named in the suit.  Apparently any one of us could get onto the list if someone is having a bad day and happens to see our names.  "No accountability" hardly seems to cover it, does it?  But I'm happy to let CAIR handle this for now.  We can always jump in later.

Now I have a situation in Arizona.  Seems their state Speaker of the House, David Gowan, has come up with a New Rule, as speakers are wont to do.  Under this rule, any reporter who wants access to the floor of the house will have to submit to a background check.  Anyone with certain offenses on their record will be disqualified from the floor of the house for up to ten years.

Quote: The new policy goes as far as to list specific offenses, including misdemeanor ones like trespassing, which automatically disqualify a reporter from being on the House floor for up to 10 years. That’s significant because misdemeanor trespass is an offense that Arizona Capitol Times reporter Hank Stephenson was convicted of following a bar fight a couple years ago.

Early this year, Stephenson wrote a piece scrutinizing Gowan’s use of a state vehicle during a 19-day period last October during which he logged nearly 4,800 miles of windshield time. Some of the events he traveled to were related to his congressional campaign, and using a state vehicle for that purpose is unlawful. Gowan has since reimbursed the state more than $12,000, and his is office is now under investigation by Arizona’s Attorney General for misuse of public resources.

And, as Hunter at Daily Kos says,

Yes, what ARE the odds that the only House reporter who seems to be disqualified by these new, very specific rules is the one whose reporting cost David Gowan $12,000 worth of free state vehicle time. It is uncanny, and so forth, and so on.

To their credit, state reporters are refusing to go along with the "background" checks, because there doesn't seem to be anyone in the state who really believes this is about anything other than David Gowan being peeved that reporters caught him doing something blatantly illegal.

That's vengeful indeed.  So, Tisiphone, this one's for you.

As I said, it's been a busy week, and I could give another voter ID story, but this story on a different subject just seemed so grudging I had to put it in for you, Megaera.  Readers Digest version:  "If you had an abortion in Missouri between 2010 and 2015, you’re on Missouri State Senator Kurt Schaefer’s hit list."

Schaefer (need I say he is a Republican?) is demanding that Planned Parenthood, and a St. Louis area pathologist, turn over to him all medical records of all women who had abortions in Missouri  between 2010 and 2015.  (Need I say this would be a blatant violation of HIPAA?)  Doesn't phase him.

He hasn't mentioned what he would do with the names if he got them, but I'm thinking suboenas to a House hearing, which would also result in publication, which would certainly resuly in shaming, if not harassment, if not dangerous physical violence.

Even the main stream media (in the form of the St. Louis Post Dispatch) says his demand is “…a thinly veiled effort to expose the identities of abortion patients as a means of shaming and discouraging other women from exercising their constitutional rights.”  But he is not backing down, and has managed to seduce or extort the Missouri Senate's Rules and Ethics committee to approve a resolution to compel Planned Parenthood's CEO to “appear before the whole Senate to explain why they should not be punished for failing to comply with the demand.”  (Spoiler: It's HIPAA, stupid) 

Did I mention he is running for Attorney General?

He has also threatened to hold her in contempt if she fails to produce the list he wants.  Personally, I think she would be rationally able to rejoin, "What a coincidence.  That's exactly how I feel about you."  But she probably has better manners than I do.  Besides getting him, Megaera, I hope you will have her back.  Many thanks.

The Furies and I will be back. 

Apr 012016

There were several things which happened or transpired last week which really should call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them. I'll share one in some detail, and a couple of others in passing. 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."

When I saw the headline "Terrorism concerns: Chase Bank stops dog owner's check over pet's suspicious name," I knew it deserved some looking into.  Firstly, in the story but left out of the headline was the fact that this was a service dog.  "Bruce Francis depends on his dog, a nine-year-old pitbull mix named Dash, for more than just companionship.  Francis has a rare form of M.S. and Dash is a certified service dog."  To their credit, both Raw Story and AlterNet put this information into their headlines.  But to continue –

"Earlier this month, as was his routine, Francis paid Dash’s dog walker using his online banking account with Chase. On the memo line for the check Francis had typed Dash’s name."  The next thing Francis heard was that the dog walker had not received the check.  He went on line to look at his account, and found a message, "Please explain what Dash means.  To OFAC (the Office of Foreign Assets Control, an office of the US Treasury)."

Francis called OFAC and was informed that the transaction had been flagged because "Dash" is similar to Daesh.  The bank stopped payment on the check.  Francis says he thought, "Great, they're stopping the world's stupidest terrorist."

dashKTVU, which originated the story, is a Fox affiliate, so I must give them credit for seeking comment from Edward Hasbrouck of Identity Project, a civil liberties group, who pointed out that many (perhaps most) people don't realize that "banks are required to scan all the financial transactions of their customers and turn over anything suspicious to the Treasury Department."  So Chase was simply following the law here. (A pity, because I had hoped to be able to bring Jamie Dimon into this, but it looks like he is off the hook.)  But the law itself is questionable to Hasbrouck, because it's all done in secret.  He says, "What happens is that the government requires the banks to become in effect, outsourced spies for the government.”

A spokesman for Chase told KTVU, “If a name on the OFAC list appears on a payment, we are required to review it.  This is an important part of ensuring that crime does not filter through the us banking system. In this instance, the payment was flagged, reviewed and eventually released.”  Oh, yes, the dog walker did eventually get paid.

Francis himself says, “I think anything we can do to stop the terrorists and the funding of terrorists, let’s do it. And if it means an inconvenience to me and my dog walker then that’s a price I’m totally willing to pay.”  I think that's very understanding and kind of him.  I'm not (willing to pay that price).

As Hasbrouck points out, because this is all done in secret, no one but OFAC and the banks know what is on the list.  Are these terms, all IMO conceivable names of pet or service animals, on the list?  Brand, Alice, Baker, Ace, Deuce, Barnes, Brother, Knight, Duke, Pioneer, Storm, Hammer, White.  All these words come from the SPLC list of Hate Groups and have, or could have, some connection to one or more white supremacist hate group(s).  Because, if they are not, point one, that is discriminatory; and point two, more importantly, we are not really being protected from real dangers.

Dear ladies, Alecto, Megaera, Tisiphone, I apologize for not having done all the detective work here.  But I am only a citizen.  There are secrets that I can't access.  So, first, could you check out the list I compiled against the OFAC list?  And, second, could you find out what law or laws (I have suspicions of the Patriot Act, but there could well be others) dictated the existence of the OFAC list.  And then – well, you know what to do, probably better than I do.  After all, I am only a citizen.

In other news, there's a fellow in Florida who likes to play with guns.  A bit under two years ago, he was trying to show his guests how he could quick draw "like a cowboy" and ended up sending a bullet into the temple of a pregnant woman, killing her and incidentally the potential baby.  He was not charged.  He claimed to have sworn off firearms for life, but this month, he was caught trying to "teach his girl friend's daughter (16) how to shoot" and was therefore discharging a shotgun into the air.  At least this time he was arrested.  Convicting him of a felony would at least prohibit him from owning or purchasing firearms.  There's a petition to that effect.  If we can get enough signatures, the Furies may not have to go deal with him.



And one last thing – Lamar Seeligson Smith (R-TX) is the chairman of the House Science Committee.  Last year, he started a campaign, intending to discredit all legitimate scientsts, which is a tall order, but he could make them so tied up in red tape that he could slow down their work.  He subpoenaed thousands of emails – any email which contained the word "climate," "change," and "temperature."  Supported by people and organizations, the NOAA refused to release them.  But now Smith is asking (did I say "asking"? I should have said "demanding") again.  And, yes, he is still wrong.  I'm sure the Furies can instruct him.

The Furies and I will be back. 

Mar 282016

Well it has been a quiet day.  I decided my cold was not sufficiently gone to risk going to see my mother.  I have been hacking all day.  I did get 2 bags of clothes I no longer wear ready for pick up tomorrow by the Diabetes Assc. Hurray!  More room in my closet!  This week will be my final pastoral care class and then comes the criminal records check for working in hospitals and hospice venues.

Short Takes

MSNBC — A petition for the open carry of firearms at the Republican National Convention has amassed over 32,000 signatures as of Sunday morning.

The convention is scheduled to take place in Cleveland from July 18 to 21 at the Quicken Loans Arena, which bans all weapons on property. While Ohio allows open-carry, the venue’s ban is permitted by state law. 

2014 NRA Convention

People listen to speakers at the 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control rally outside the NRA's Annual Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 26, 2014.  Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC

… finds fault with the policy, calling it “a direct affront to the Second Amendment.” Pointing to an article that ranks Cleveland among the United States’ most dangerous cities and mentioning “the possibility of an ISIS terrorist attack,” the author said the Republican National Committee and the Quicken Loans Arena are putting people at risk.

In my view, the 2nd amendment is stretched to the max with its current iterations.  Guns at a highly charged political convention where one candidate routinely and continually incites violence?  Drumpf has already said there will be violence if he does not win the nomination.  An ISIS attack?  Just a little paranoid!

Politico — This is not a joke. Senator Al Franken should be the Democratic Party’s choice for vice president.

If I had said that 10 years ago, or even six months ago, the notion would have been preposterous: a former Saturday Night Live writer, perhaps best known as the mock self-help guru Stuart Smalley, Franken became synonymous with left-wing bombast thanks to his best-selling book Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot. He took the presidency itself as a joke, writing a satirical campaign memoir, Why Not Me, in which Franken wins the White House on a platform of eliminating ATM fees, only to be quickly chased out by the “Joint Congressional Committee on the President's Mood Swings.”

Hillary Clinton and Al Franken

But for a 2016 presidential race that’s already stranger than fiction, his party truly needs someone like Franken if it’s going to win the presidency.

The primaries and caucuses aren't even over; the party nominees not yet decided.  But talk is surfacing in some quarters about potential VP running mates.  I find it rather presumptive that Clinton is the nominee, but whatever. This isn't about her but about a possible running mate.

Alternet — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is defending Bernie Sanders’ decision to keep campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination and calling out Donald Trump for being the worst kind of predatory capitalist.

Warren spoke to reporters after visiting a community health center in suburban Boston and made the following six points about Sanders and Trump, which were quickly picked up by Associated Press.

1. Sanders is good for Democrats and the country. “He’s out there. He fights from the heart. This is who Bernie is,” Warren said. “He has put the right issues on the table both for the Democratic Party and for the country in general, so I’m still cheering Bernie on.”

click through for the other five ways Elizabeth Warren trashed Drumpf and stood by Bernie.  Lizzie is spot on in my view.

YouTube — This is a little humour for you from John Oliver.

My Universe — from Care2 — Meet Nutz, a pet squirrel . . . a rather hyperactive pet squirrel.

Mar 272016

Yesterday I really slept late, later than ever before — 4:50 pm!  To say the least, this cold has knocked me for a loop. Although it is getting better, it has altered my schedule.  I hope to go see my mother tomorrow providing my cold is even better than today.  This week coming up will be busy.

Short Takes

Huffington Post — What Green realized was Syrian refugees are more similar to us than they are different.

rob green

"They're just like everyone else in the community that would be helping out. And he's part of the community now."

A short article with a universal truth that we all need to remember!

PoliticoCondemnation of the attacks in Brussels, as in Paris, Istanbul, Damascus, Baghdad, Bassam or Ouagadougou, has to be firm, absolute, and without exceptions, half-measures or attempts to distinguish between victims. Clarity is essential here, as it is in the terminology we use and the solutions we propose. But before we can formulate a response, we must face the problem head on and try to understand its origins (this in no way means justifying acts of terrorism, whatever George W. Bush may have said, and what Manuel Valls says today).

It is imperative that we untangle the reasons behind this hard swerve toward violent extremism — because it is not just “mad,” “irrational” and “inhuman.” These words only serve to confuse our vocabulary, and offer no political clarification on the elements of the equation. They add blindness to an emotional reaction already stoked by fear. What we need today is reason and measured conversation — we have to be tough, yes, but above all, reasonable.  

We cannot support dictatorships, be political and economic partners with states who export literalist Salafi doctrine, be silent when civilians are massacred south of our borders and hope that we will not receive a response to the injustice and humiliation we have provoked.

The author makes some very valid points.  As to this last point made above, how many people have said "Why is Saudi Arabia an ally of the US?" .  Saudi Arabia is engaged in war crimes in Yemen using weapons bought from the US and Great Britain.  That relationship is not lost on others.  We all need to look at our relationships and define them in terms of our values.

Huffington Post — This World Water Day, however, millions of people who share our planet are constantly thinking about water. How could they not be? Their children die from waterborne illnesses, because the local stream is contaminated. Others forfeit their schooling to trek long distances for water each day. Families lose their harvests — and their food supplies — because there's no irrigation for their parched crops.


22 March was World Water Day.  This year, the focus is on water and jobs.  Here is a short UN promo.

When I saw some of the pictures in the article, I immediately thought of my friend Lucia who is from South Sudan. The picture above could easily have been her — walking 10 kilometres to the river for water, and then 10 km home twice a day.  She and her sister did not go to school at all but rather worked in the fields and hauled water for the family to use.  What a difference a clean water source would have made to her community.  But the lack of clean potable water is not only an issue in third world countries.  This Global News piece outlines some of the problems that First Nations communities in Canada encounter.  Flint is another example.  We must ensure that clean water is available to all peoples — water to drink, water for bathing, water for food preparation.  

My Universe

cat gifs, cats gif, funny cat gifs, funny cat gif, cute cat gif, best cat gifs, cute cat gifs, animated cat gifs, cat animated gif, hilarious cat gifs


Hoppy Easter


easter bunny catturban

La Grande Dame

easter bunny cats

Les Tous Petits

easter bunny cat 2

La Chaton de Paques

easter bunny cat 3



Mar 252016

I'm sure there is more than one thing which has happened which really should call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it, but I'll only share one this week. 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."

Certainly both Megaera and Tisiphone will be interested in this incident – but Alecto may as well go along, since having reinforcements never hurts.

On March 6, 2016, three human beings, Jesus Manso-Perez, Phia Vue, and Mai Vue, were shot and killed in their apartment building on the south side of Milwaukee.  A fourth, Jesus Manso-Carrasquillo, was shot at but managed to escape.

As difficult as it is to believe, it appears the victims may have been targeted for the heinous crime of not speaking English.

The story starts as Manso-Perez and his son, Manso-Carrasquillo, were walking to the apartment's laundry room.  The shooter, Dan J. Popp, also lives in the building; as the two were walking past his apartment, he asked them if they wanted a beer.  They declined, and he then asked where they were from.  They replied they were from Puerto Rico, and Popp said, "Oh, that's why you don't speak English."

After starting the laundry (in the basement), the two turned and climbed the stairs to return to their apartment.  However, Popp, now armed with a rifle, stood over them on a landing.  He said, "You guys got to go," and shot Manso-Perez in the head.  Manso-Carrasquillo was able to run for the front door and escape just in time to hear the second shot, which he is sure was meant for him.

Phia Vue and his wife Mai lived with their four children in another apartment in the complex.  Phia and Mai had been out of town over the weekend; the children were with a 25-year-old relative.  Shortly after the couple's return, Popp knocked on their door, but after asking whether someone was knocking and being told "No," he left.  A short time laters, the Vues heard gunshots in the hall, and all hid in a bedroom.  Mai handed the sitter a cellphone to call the police

Popp kicked in the front door and found the family in the bedroom.  Pointing the rifle at Phia, Popp ordered him to leave.  Phia was later found dead in the bathroom, shot in the head.

Returning to the bedroom, Popp started dragging Mai and two daughters out of the apartment; in the confusion, some were able to run outside.  But Mai was later found dead in Popp's apartment.

Police arrived just prior to the shot which apparently killed Mai.  After declining (from inside) a request by an officer to speak with him, a few minutes later Popp came out of the building, dropped the rifle off his shoulder, and was subdued and arrested.

I'm sure you ladies will have no trouble finding Dan Popp in custody.  If I may offer advice, I hope one task you will accept is ensuring he is not able to post his $150,000 bail – which seems a little low to me and to other writers for the death of three human beings.

On Sunday, March 13, 2016, friends and families of the deceased gathered together for a memorial service for their loved ones who were killed.  Prayers were offered in English, Hmong, and Spanish.

Update – There is now a petition circulating to District Attorney John Chisholm
requesting that this triple shooting be investigated as a hate crime.

The Furies and I will be back. 

Mar 232016

The Daesh, political extremists that are hijacking Islam for their own perverse ends, just committed a horrific act of terrorism, by attacking the the Brussels airport and subway station, killing over 30.  Whenever such attacks happen, their counterparts, political extremists hijacking Christianity for their own perverse ends, call for religious discrimination and a crackdown on civil liberties.  They are wrong about the problem.  In Brussels, the problem was, at least in part, inadequate preparation.


A week after the attacks early last year in Paris against the magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery, Belgian police officers were fired on as they executed a search warrant in the town of Verviers. Officials learned that the assailants were members of a terrorist cell that had been planning a significant attack on Belgian police officers or civilians.

The incident changed the way counterterrorism officials perceived the Islamic State threat in Europe and made clear that Belgium itself had a greater problem on its hands than it realized.

Before the plot was disrupted, the United States Department of Homeland Security would later explain, nearly all of about a dozen Islamic State plots and attacks in the West had involved lone assailants or small groups. But, the report presciently warned, “the involvement of a large number of operatives and group leaders based in multiple countries in future ISIL-linked plotting could create significant obstacles in the detection and disruption” of new plots.

Indeed, that is now the case, and as the investigation of the even more brutal November attacks in Paris showed, Belgium is a major source of the threat. The attacks on Tuesday in Brussels raised the most serious questions about how prepared the nation was for that threat…

Inserted from <NY Times>

Click through for more detail on how Brussels was unprepared to defend their inhabitants against a terrorist attack.

While Rachel Maddow did not come to a conclusion on preparation, she does provide some excellent background.

Republican responses to the attack have been what we would expect from the pseudo-Christian version of the Daesh.  Fecal Dump Trump would close our borders, infiltrate mosques, and torture suspects.  TRUSed Uranus Cruz blamed Obama for the attack, and called for closing the borders, increasing support for Israel,  and carpet bombing civilian populations where the Daesh has fighters.  KKKsich called for closing the borders.

Those are not the answer.  Whenever we, whichever nation we are, respond to terrorism by making ourselves less fess free, the terrorists win.  Every time we respond to terrorism by discriminating against the religious population that the terrorists are hijacking, the terrorists win.  That guarantees them new recruits.  The best thing we can do is to harden our targets, vet potential immigrants carefully without ethnic profiling, and build a discrimination-free economy where all ethnic groups can thrive.  And as for the people of Brussels…

Je Suis Bruxelles

Mar 032016

Today was a "me" day.  After physio, I went out for lunch and read my book as I noshed on a turkey sandwich and a green salad.  Then home to do the PP monthly report.  Unfortunately, I am having some technical difficulties which I will try to rectify tomorrow.  I ended up using a Lona cat nap which was refreshing.

Short Takes

Huffington Post — Retired neurosurgeon and bestselling author Ben Carson said in a statement Wednesday he does "not see a political path forward" for his campaign after his poor showing on Super Tuesday.

Carson announced he won't attend the Fox News GOP debate on Thursday in Detroit, and said he would further discuss his political plans at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on Friday.

"not see a political path forward" sounds suspiciously like Carson is suspending his campaign, but when asked to clarify, he simply said "We'll see."  I guess we will, just like we will see tomorrow at 11:30 am EST when Mitt Romney is scheduled to give a major speech on the 2016 presidential race.  Will he enter the Republican fray?

Just in, the Associated Press obtained excerpts of Romney's speech.  Read the CBC report.

Alternet — Valentino’s Ghost lays bare the truths behind taboo subjects that are conspicuously avoided, or merely treated as sound bites by the mainstream American media: “Why do they hate us?” “Why do we hate them?” What were the events that led to the 9/11 attacks? What are the politics behind the U.S.-Israeli relationship?  Why is there a robust debate about these subjects in Europe, the Arab World and in Israel itself, but not in the United States? 

At the end of the article is the full 100 minute documentary "Valentino’s Ghost" which I encourage everyone to watch. The articles title tells us much "Valentino's Ghost: Powerful Documentary Explores How US Foreign Policy in the Middle East Drives Islamophobia at Home" as experts "explain how the U.S. media and govt are the source of fear and loathing of Arabs, Muslims and Islam."

Raw StoryFormer ABC News anchor Ted Koppel said on Wednesday that his Fox News counterpart Bill O’Reilly has undermined journalists’ ability to interview Donald Trump.  

You have changed the television landscape over the past 20 years — you took it from being objective and dull to subjective and entertaining. And in this current climate, it doesn’t matter what the interviewer asks him; Mr. Trump is gonna say whatever he wants to say, as outrageous as it may be.”

The real estate mogul’s audience, Koppel added, was not even a television audience, but one better suited for Twitter.

“They deal in messages of 140 characters or less, which keeps it nice and simple,” he explained.

Good on Ted Koppel for nailing O'Lielly!

Daily BeastThe intellectual leader of the tea party movement in the Senate is secretly holding up a bill to help the residents of Flint, Michigan, who have been poisoned by their own water supply.   

Lee [Republican, Utah] doesn’t like that the proposal is not being put through the ordinary and time-consuming gamut of Senate procedures known as ‘regular order’; has objections on how money from the stimulus is being repurposed for water infrastructure; and is concerned about the federal government getting involved in what he views as a local issue.

Lee, an intellectual?  So this is how Republicans look after American citizens in crisis through no fault of their own. What a putz!

My Universe — 


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I'm in training!  I must improve my time before the Olympic trials!


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Whoa! Aliens! I'm outa here!


Feb 192016

Stuff does happen which seems to me to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with it. 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."

To make a long story short, this situation appears to me to be one where the victims have been released from the custody of the actual vengeance-deserving criminals, but are now, though innocent, still being victimized by the ignorant.  I think maybe you can put on your Eumenides panties* and deal with this.

It was the hashtag that turned the spotlight on the crisis of Nigerian girls and women being abducted by Boko Haram: #BringBackOurGirls. But now that government and humanitarian efforts are resulting in some women being rescued from the Islamic militant group and returned to their homes, it seems not all Nigerians are welcoming them with open arms.

According to a joint report released Tuesday by UNICEF and human rights group International Alert, many women and teen girls who were once held by Boko Haram are being rejected by their families and communities. People treat the former captives with mistrust over fears the women have become radicalized supporters of the extremists. But the suspicious behavior of family members tends to become explicit persecution if the former captives bore children after being sexually assaulted by members of Boko Haram.

The babies may be innocent, but they are seen by locals as being infected with “bad blood” from their rapist Boko Haram fathers, according to the report. “There is a belief that, like their fathers, the children will inevitably do what hyenas do and ‘eat’ the innocent dogs around them,” wrote the report’s authors.

The girls and women who have been rescued don't really include many, if any, of the 300 schoolgirls abducted from Chibok almost two years ago, and who were only 300 of over 2,000 women and girls abducted since 2012.  My source doesn't say how many have been rescued – only that those who have, rejected by their families and neighbors, are being pushed into poverty, prostitution, homelessness, and the children into abandonment, discrimination, and violence..

The groups working on getting additional humanitarian aid towards the survival of these innocents appear to be UNICEF and International Alert.  Both of course accept donations; neither, as far as I can find, has a system to earmark donations for any particular project. 

By the way – when you finish helping these poor girls find justice – I don't think anyone reading this will be unhappy if you decide to scrap the Eumenides panties and go after Boko Haram.

* According to Aeschylus, Athena, with a combination of bribes and threats, convinced the  Erinyes to direct their focus away from just vengeance and in the direction of simple justice, including the protection of the innocent.  At that time they received the new collective name of "Eumenides" – kindly or merciful ones.  My allusion to "big girl panties" was intended to tap into the "coming of age" implications of this myth.

The Furies and I will be back.