May 062017
 

I got some sleep last night, and I must have been really tired as I napped again this morning.  Tomorrow Wendy will be here to de-stink the sticky TomCat and help with assorted chores, including the dreaded task, so please expect no more that a Personal Update or an Open Thread.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:47 (average 5:08).  To di it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Jeff Merkley [D-OR]: In response to President Trump’s executive orders removing protections and moving to reopen risky offshore drilling, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today re-introduced the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act, a major piece of legislation to permanently protect the Arctic from offshore drilling.

The legislation would prevent any new or renewed leases for the exploration, development, or production of oil, natural gas, or any other mineral in the Arctic Ocean planning area.

“Opening up new areas to oil exploration in the Arctic at a time when we are already dealing with the devastating impacts of climate change is the height of irresponsibility. The Trump administration’s reckless efforts to open a vast new source of carbon pollution would threaten local communities, resources and ecosystems, while exacerbating the climate change already damaging our economy and environment,” said Merkley. “The Arctic is much too fragile to withstand the type of oil spill that would be inevitable if drilling proceeds. In order to prevent environmental catastrophe, we must put the Arctic Ocean completely and permanently off limits to drilling.”

The Department of the Interior estimates that there is a 75 percent chance of a large oil spill, exceeding 42,000 gallons, should drilling leases in the Arctic be developed. The Arctic has one of the world’s most delicate ecosystems, as well as some of the most extreme and dangerous navigational conditions, severely limiting ability to respond to an oil spill or accident. To date, there has not been a successful oil and gas operation in the Arctic Ocean. Shell’s initial 2012 venture into the Arctic resulted in an abandoned oil rig and a Coast Guard operation to save eight lives.

The Arctic is also home to endangered species such as bowhead whales, polar bears and ringed seals, as well as invaluable and fragile ecosystems that are critical to local fisheries, indigenous populations and subsistence hunters. Drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean will threaten these species and communities, all for oil that will set back efforts to transition to a clean energy economy.

Because of these costs and dangers, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management removed Arctic Ocean leases from its five-year program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf. Additionally, former President Obama, in conjunction with actions by the Canadian government, moved to permanently protect large areas of the Arctic Ocean from offshore drilling. However, President Trump has already signaled a fossil-fuel focused energy plan and today explicitly pledged to increase offshore oil and gas drilling.

The truth is, we cannot afford to continue burning fossil fuels for decades upon decades if we want to maintain a safe environment for our children. The worst impacts of climate change will happen if we allow global warming to exceed 2 degrees Celsius, or almost 4 degrees Fahrenheit. The world must transition aggressively and rapidly away from conventional fossil fuels and toward the use of renewable energy, and we certainly cannot continue to push new, dangerous fossil fuel development.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA).

Senator Merkley first introduced the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act in July 2015. In June of that year, Senator Merkley led a group of Senators in authoring a letter to President Obama urging the administration to rescind Shell Oil Company’s conditional Exploration Permit in the Chukchi Sea. Senator Merkley wrote that new lease sales in the Chukchi Sea and Arctic Ocean are an unnecessary risk that threatens local communities, fragile ecosystems, and efforts at climate change mitigation.

A PDF of the Stop Arctic Drilling Act of 2017 is available here.

Support Jeff’s Stop Arctic Drilling Act of 2017. Call your Senator. Oregon leads the way! RESIST!!

From TPM: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said he would “consider” waiving some of the Affordable Care Act’s insurer mandates, including its protections for people with pre-existing conditions, as would be an option for states if a GOP Obamacare repeal bill that passed the House this week became law.

Republicans have been arguing that the waivers in RepubliCare do not matter, because no Republican governor would even consider waiving protections for those with preexisting conditions. The former Wisconsin isn’t even bright red, but the Fartfuhrer of Fitzwalkerstan is just drooling to strip those folks of coverage, even though that would kill several.  RESIST!!

From Think Progress: On Wednesday, a customer service representative from the FDA’s Office of Facilities sent an email to staff informing them that TVs in a Silver Spring, Maryland office will now be exclusively turned to Fox News.

The email — a screencap of which was initially obtained and shared to Twitter by journalist Paul Thacker and later by BuzzFeed’s Julia Reinstein— was sent to “let everyone know” why TVs had been changed “from CNN to FOX.” It was sent to researchers at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, the FDA branch that oversees medical products.

“A decision from the current administration administrative officials has requested that all monitors, under our control, on the White Oak Campus, display FOX news,” it says. “Sorry for the inconvenience, but I am unable to change any of the monitors to any other news source at this time.

Poor people! Fo9rdsing them to watch the Republican Reichsministry of propaganda is torture, and that’s against the law!!  RESIST!!

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Everyday Erinyes #66

 Posted by at 2:15 pm  Politics
Mar 182017
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can't include.  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."

One of the detainees released from Guantánamo by President Obama before leaving office was Abdul Zahir.  It's not clear how long he was held after the government conceded that he was not the man they had intended to arrest, another Abdul (not Zahir) who shared a nickname ("Abdul Bari") with him.  This is as if white supremacist terrorists had bombed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), not on account of public lands, but because they were under the impression that it was Black Lives Matter (BLM).

I don't want to go into everything that Zahir suffered while in Guantánamo, though it would make a column by itself – possibly two.  Rather, I want to emphasize, with the author of the linked column, that release after fourteen years of being unlawfully detained (and tortured) may be a step in the right direction – but it does not by any means constitute justice.

Moving on could be difficult for Zahir. Many former Guantánamo and CIA black site detainees continue to face mental health problems even after being released, such as depression and post-traumatic stress. That makes it difficult for them to readjust into normal society. This means true justice for Guantánamo detainees entails more than just releasing them to another country. It also must include redress for the torture inflicted upon them and the physical, mental and emotional problems resulting from that abuse.

However, true justice does not currently seem within reach for current and former Guantánamo detainees. There arecurrently 41 detainees in Guantánamo, including 26 held in indefinite detention — people whom the government does not have enough untainted evidence to prosecute but claims are too dangerous to release.

I think that the details of Abdul Zahir's suffering (though I didn't share them), as well as the sufferings of those still detained (though I don't have those details) make this a case for you, Tisiphone.  I should note also that the photo here shows protestors, NOT actual current or former detainees.

Next, I'd like to share a story from California (but which I'm sure has its counterparts all over the US and likely the world). 

In what is commonly called “pay-to-stay” or “private jail,” a constellation of small city jails — at least 26 of them in Los Angeles and Orange counties — open their doors to defendants who can afford the option. But what started out as an antidote to overcrowding has evolved into a two-tiered justice system that allows people convicted of serious crimes to buy their way into safer and more comfortable jail stays.

An analysis by the Marshall Project and the Los Angeles Times of the more than 3,500 people who served time in Southern California’s pay-to-stay programs from 2011 through 2015 found more than 160 participants who had been convicted of serious crimes including assault, robbery, domestic violence, battery, sexual assault, sexual abuse of children and possession of child pornography.

California law allows someone convicted of a misdemeanor to serve his/her time in the county jail of the county in which convicted, with judicial discretion.  But judges are allowing the privilege to felons, and extending it past county lines, neither of which is an option specified in the law.  Perhaps what shocked me most in this story, though, is that there are cities with jails which actually ADVERTISE their services on their websites"The Pay to Stay Program assists persons interested in serving their commitments over a series of weekends, who need a program that permits them to attend work daily or who are simply searching for a less intimidating environment.  Options such as these provide the opportunity to preserve career standing, maintain family support obligations and the ability to serve a commitment in safety and with dignity."

Some people are saying, like John Eum, a detective with the LAPD, that "The whole criminal justice system is becoming more and more about: How much money do you have? Can you afford better attorneys? Can you afford to pay for a nicer place to stay?”  Others, like be, believe that this has always been the system, but it is certainly coming more and more out into the open.  Alecto, is there anything you can do?

With 65 prior Erinyes columns under my belt, plus one special edition, you may wonder just what it would take to render me speechless.  Well, wonder no more.  It is not a huge atrocity with blood and guts and explosions.  It it just so darned petty that I can't find words for it.

A ban on crayons. That’s what it came to at the visitors’ center at the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City, Texas, one of three immigration detention centers that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) currently uses to house mothers and children who’ve been stopped seeking asylum in the United States. Six volunteer lawyers who work with detained families wrote a letter to ICE explaining why they liked to bring crayons when they met with clients: “Having children color and draw provides a distraction for children while their mothers relate incidents of trauma, violence and abuse. Other children sit outside the interview rooms and draw at the tables, so they are not forced to listen to their mothers’ harrowing narratives nor witness their mothers’ fragile emotional states during these interviews.” But ICE determined some of the children were doing “damage” to tables and walls in the visitors’ center while coloring. The crayon ban was just another blow to children already essentially being housed as prisoners by the federal government. The latest memos from the Department of Homeland Security outlining plans for enforcing the executive orders on immigration issued by President Donald Trump mean the numbers of children and mothers being detained this way (in America) will only swell.

A. ban. on. crayons.

My. God.

Megaera, could this possibly be the definition of "grudging"?

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/4042940

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Everyday Erinyes #61

 Posted by at 8:06 am  Politics
Feb 042017
 

Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage.  These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that.  Even though there are many more which I can't include.  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."

I have some stories about local happenings which, though vile, are two weeks out of date: the restaurateur who threw a customer out for being black, a quadriplegic who was denied admission at a private school for being disabled, a climate activist killed for walking barefoot to draw attention to climate change, even a city councilman who boldly proclaimed (/s) that women have a right – "to be slapped."

But I would rather discuss the new "administration" directly, particulary since things are moving so fast that actual atrocities are sneaking under the radar, or so it seems.  For instance, everyone here had heard of Rex Tillerson and Neil Gorsuch.  Most of us have heard of Scott Pruit and Andrew Pudzer.  But Ajit Pai?  Did anyone know his confirmation had gone through?

The FCC’s new Chairman Ajit Pai has told 9 companies, who had just recently been given the green light, that they will not be allowed to participate in the Lifeline program that helps subsidize internet services to low-income homes. 

The move, announced Friday by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, reverses a decision by his Democratic predecessor, Tom Wheeler, and undercuts the companies' ability to provide low-cost Internet access to poorer Americans. In a statement, Pai called the initial decisions a form of “midnight regulation.” 

Last spring, the FCC moved to expand the Lifeline program in the hopes of bridging what’s called the “digital divide.” This is the expanse of information and technology unavailable to people who do not have a lot of money. Pulling back on nine companies is a huge step back to the program—which is what kleptocrats like chairman Pai seem to relish. 

Click through for more details, and also for a petition to sign.  Alecto, it's not just this person you need to – um – educate, it's the entire "administration,"  really.  Good luck with that.

While we are speaking of individuals in government, let us not forget Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), who is still the Chairman of the House Science Committee.  I'm sure we've all heard of him, just not for a while.  He is now trying to get his Secret Science Reform Act of 2015 passed, and his chances are much better than when the Senate previously quashed it.

  This bill would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from proposing, finalizing or disseminating any rule, regulation or other "covered action" unless all scientific and technical information relied upon to support that decision is made available to the public in a manner where the research can be independently analyzed and substantially reproduced. While this appears to be a reform that provides greater public transparency in agency rulemaking, these new requirements would force the EPA to ignore any scientific information related to personal health and other confidential data legally protected from disclosure – jeopardizing the agency’s ability to use best-available scientific data and weakening its scientific integrity….

Further, by requiring EPA to maintain detailed descriptions of all materials, data, codes and models used to create rules, as well as instructions on how to access and use them, the agency would be forced to waste limited funds working through burdensome reporting requirements instead of important public health protections. 

Haven't I said that, although they worship money, Republicans have no objection to spending it as long as they can punish someone by so doing?  Preferably a whole lot of someones.  Megaera, good luck to you too.

I am convinced that the reason we are being bombarded with "off" things by the new "administration" is exactly so that, while we are all looking at the shiny stuff, we will not see some of the darker stuff – like torture.  I can't tell this story any better than by re-quoting this quote:

IN MAY, 2013, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported that the head of the CIA’s clandestine service was being shifted out of that position as a result of “a management shake-up” by then-Director John Brennan. As Miller documented, this official – whom the paper did not name because she was a covert agent at the time – was centrally involved in the worst abuses of the CIA’s Bush-era torture regime.

As Miller put it, she was “directly involved in its controversial interrogation program” and had an “extensive role” in torturing detainees. Even more troubling, she “had run a secret prison in Thailand” – part of the CIA’s network of “black sites” – “where two detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh techniques.” The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture also detailed the central role she played in the particularly gruesome torture of detainee Abu Zubaydah.

Beyond all that, she played a vital role in the destruction of interrogation videotapes that showed the torture of detainees both at the black site she ran and other secret agency locations. The concealment of those interrogation tapes, which violated both multiple court orders as well the demands of the 9/11 Commission and the advice of White House lawyers, was condemned as “obstruction” by Commission Chairs Lee Hamilton and Thomas Keane. A special prosecutor and Grand Jury investigated those actions but ultimately chose not to prosecute.

That CIA official’s name whose torture activities the Post described is Gina Haspel. Today, as BuzzFeed’s Jason Leopold noted, CIA Director Mike Pompeo announced that Haspel was selected by Trump to be Deputy Director of the CIA.

Ms. Haspel's profile is so low I could not find a confirmed photo of her.  There wasn't one with the linked article, but I looked anyway.  Tisiphone, this seems to me serious enough to call for you to investigate.  The very best of luck to you.

One other article at Daily Kos (or diary, as they call them) asks whether anyone is keeping score of the atrocities.  If someone is, I would be delighted to hear of it.  In the meantime, all I can do is try to scout out the stuff from which the distractions are trying to distract us.

The Furies and I will be back.

Cross posted to Care2 at http://www.care2.com/news/member/101612212/4034763

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Jan 262017
 

I don’t know why, but I slept poorly last night, so with your permission, I’ll dispense with my normal chattiness and get to the task at hand.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:15 (average 5:28).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From YouTube (GQ Channel): How the Media Needs to Respond to Trump Now | The Resistance with Keith Olbermann

 

Amen Keith! The Fourth Estate has two choices. They can do their duty or they can become an insignificant pawn of the Fifth Reich! RESIST!!

From The Rachel Maddow Show: PPP poll: Trump base deluded by false facts

Rachel Maddow gives an exclusive first look at the latest PPP poll showing Donald Trump with historically low approval ratings and that most Americans do not believe his lies about inauguration numbers, though his supporters do.

 

This reiterates what Keith said.  Media might as well report truth.  Only deplorables will believe the Fuhrer’s lies anyway!  RESIST!!

From NY Times: It contained crossed-out phrases and typos. It said that the Sept. 11 attacks occurred in 2011, rather than a decade earlier. It was clearly not meant for public consumption.

But the draft of a Trump administration executive order that spilled into public view early Wednesday — a document that raised the prospect of reviving C.I.A. “black site” prisons like those where terrorism suspects were once detained and tortured — has the potential to further fracture a national security team already divided over one of the most controversial policies of the post-9/11 era.

Time to dust off the Statue of Republican Liberty. RESIST!!

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Sep 062016
 

I’m feeling rather tired, as I slept poorly last night.  I had a persistent  itch on my left foot, which I could not scratch, because it no longer exists.  That is so frustrating for a scratcher like me.  I’ve been known to strip off my T-shirt and scratch my back with a tree.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:47 (average 5:41).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Tales:

From YouTube: Joan Baez Live @ Woodstock 1969 Joe Hill

 

Mitch brought up this song in comments yesterday. Here is where I first heard the song.

From NY Times: But the country’s historic incarceration boom has given rise to companies that provide services and products to government prisons. Many of these provide necessary equipment and services, of course, but some do so in rather unsavory ways.

Take, for instance, the prison phone industry, a market that’s dominated by several large, privately held firms that earn an estimated $1.2 billion per year. Short phone calls from prison can cost up to fifteen dollars, largely because the companies operate as monopolies within prison walls. The private companies also offer state and local authorities a percentage of their revenue, which contributes to the surging cost of the calls and creates other perverse incentives. Some jails, for instance, have removed in-person family-visitation rooms to make way for “video visitation” terminals, provided by private firms, which can charge as much as thirty dollars for forty minutes of screen time. One prison phone company, Securus Technologies, says in its marketing materials that it has paid out $1.3 billion in these so-called commissions over the past ten years.

“In some respects, this is worse than the private prison companies,” Peter Wagner, the executive director of the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit criminal-justice think tank, said. “I expect the government to waste money. But it’s totally different for the government to collude with a private company to make poor people lose money.”

Prison phone companies are hardly the only private venders that capitalize on a captive market. Corizon Health, one of the sponsors of the Louisiana prison trade show, is the country’s largest prison health-care firm. It treats more than three hundred thousand prisoners nationwide, earning about $1.4 billion in annual revenue. It is also the subject of numerous investigations and lawsuits. The company has been named as a defendant in at least six hundred and sixty malpractice lawsuits over the past five years, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

This is my own "boutique issue".  Republican states are the worst, but as much as I hate to admit it, abuse of prisoners and their families for profit is bipartisan. There is much more to read. Please click through.

From Crooks and Liars: The penchant for mendacity and injustice among the cabinet of the Bush Administration makes it difficult to pick the absolute worst of Bush/Cheney’s sadistic war criminals. That said, no one would argue that former A.G. Alberto Gonzales was certainly a standout for numerous reasons, including hard evidence of lying under oath about torture.

John Dickerson’s Sunday episode of Face the Nation provided a forum for Gonzales to peddle his apocryphal tale, True Faith and Allegiance, which is hyped as a story of service and sacrifice in war and peace about his life and time serving the George W. Bush administration.

Bush Reich Barf Bag Alert!!

This evil sleaze-bag  may be the worst liar in Republican history, prior to Rump Dump Trump. After he fired federal prosecutors, because they refused to file bogus charges against Democratic political candidates on the eve of an election, and replaced they with goose-stepping Republicans, he was called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He lied, saying "I don’t recall" and it’s variants 64 times. CBS owes America an apology.

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Jun 162016
 

It’s another busy day as I had to find a replacement fort Julie.  A woman she recommended has agreed to take the job, and another woman she recommended, has agreed to be on-call backup.  Both are registered with the same agency.  I have to use it, because the state pays for six hours per month of my care through their disabled seniors program. I have to pay for the rest, but every little bit helps. Tomorrow, I have my last pre-surgery blood tests, so please expect no more than a Personal Update tomorrow.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:46 (average 5:46).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos: The Dixie Chicks are back, and they’re already making trouble. The much-loved liberal bad girls of country/pop kicked off their North American tour this month with a nice big flip-off to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Unabashed in their political views, the three Grammy-winning musicians have taken the long way getting back on tour, after dissing George W. Bush in 2003 while on stage in London. The trio suffered a backlash not many artists can or will survive. Like millions around the world, they were angry at “W” for starting the Iraq War. In comparison to the racist and incredibly disrespectful remarks made publicly about President Obama on the likes of Fox News every day, the Dixie Chicks’ lead singer Natalie Maines merely said she, "Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."… [emphasis original]

The article did not include a picture of what they did to Rump Dump. Here it is.

0616trump-dixie-chicks

The article did include the song they played right after dissing Crawford Caligula. Here it is.

I love that tune!! Kudos to the Dixie Chicks!!

From NY Times: After the Central Intelligence Agency transferred Abu Zubaydah to the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and he was brought before a panel of officers for a hearing in March 2007, he described in broken English how he had been tortured in the agency’s black-site prisons.

He said his body had shaken when he stood for hours, naked and shackled in a cold room and unable to shift his weight to an injured leg. He spoke of his humiliation at having to relieve himself in a bucket in front of other people, “like an animal.” And he described being waterboarded until he stopped breathing and required resuscitation.

“They shackle me completely, even my head; I can’t do anything,” Mr. Zubaydah said. “Like this, and they put one cloth in my mouth and they put water, water, water.” At the “last point before I die,” he said, interrogators stood the board back up and “make like this” — he made breathing noises — “again and again they make it with me, and I tell him, ‘If you want to kill me, kill me.’ ”

Mr. Zubaydah’s testimony was contained in newly declassified transcripts of military hearings for the C.I.A.’s former prisoners. The government disclosed the accounts this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which provided the documents to The New York Times.

Bush, Chaney, Rice, Rumsfeld Gonzalez, Yoo and more belong behind bars for this.

From Alternet: At first blush it seems almost un-American—a universal basic income (UBI) that grants an income to every US citizen without any obligation to work or perform a socially mandated task. In a country that celebrates hard work as the path to fulfillment and riches, the idea of getting money for nothing—even if it’s just enough to keep you and your family off the debt collector’s call list and above the poverty line—is heresy. And yet, in some ways, UBI is as idealistic, optimistic, and American as the Declaration of Independence and its foundational principle that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Even with our current economic problems, we live in a land of abundant wealth and resources. And UBI is rooted in the belief that every human being should have at least the basic means to choose the life they want for themselves and their families. At a time when the tried-and-true twentieth-century solutions are failing us, UBI has the potential to give our troubled economy a twenty-first-century shot in the arm by transforming the technological disruption that’s been causing us so much anxiety into a force for self-fulfillment and the common good.

If these sentiments sound lofty and gilded, as I’m sure they do, my hope is that the conversations here will inspire you to see UBI as a policy that can raise the floor and reinvigorate our nation’s founding principles while providing new scaffolding for the American Dream.

Click through for his detailed support for his position. I agree with him.

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We need it back!

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