Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Blogger

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Finger and Truck Flipping Jeffrey White

Somewhere across the space-time continuum a universe exists where the traffic gods actually do care what happens on the roadways. Evidently, our world has collided with that universe in the black hole of Lakeland, Florida. There, a local resident captured on video a cosmic exercise of justice for a tailgating driver who just couldn’t wait for her to make her turn. Flipping off the amateur videographer as he rocketed on by, the gods have exacted their revenge on 33-year-old Jeffrey White –and they must have a sense of humor.  The unidentified motorist said,  “He just started tailgating me and I’m looking in my mirrors and I’m like dude, what is going on. I didn’t even realize he shot a bird at me until after the video because I was focused on the road.” (video after the fold)

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw) Weekend Contributor

If the title of this piece shocks you, I apologize.  On second thought, I won’t apologize for asking a legitimate question about a prominent politician who has made his proposals to harm the poor and middle class and give tax cuts to the wealthy his calling card in the conservative movement. Recently, Rep. Ryan made a statement about the people who inhabit the inner city claiming that those residents are less than motivated to work for a living.

‘ “Paul Ryan triggered a firestorm of recrimination this week. Speaking recently on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio program, the Wisconsin Republican and self-styled budget wonk linked poverty to “this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work.” ‘ Bill Moyers

It seems obvious to me who Paul Ryan is talking about here. What do you think he is saying here?    Of course, Mr. Ryan tried to walk back from the statements, but how can you unring this bell? (more…)

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by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, weekend contributor

TED2014 Edward SnowdenFor those not familiar with the TED Talks, they were the brainchild of Richard Saul Wurman, an architect and graphic designer. TED was intended as a single presentation in Silicon Valley back in 1984. TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The talks have grown from a handful of views and participants into millions of views. Presenters have come from every walk of life and culture, including entertainers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and educators.

TED has recently redesigned their website, hosting their own original content videos. What does that mean? They are immune from copyright takedown demands. Many people livestream and record the videos. That means it is virtually impossible for anyone to censor or take down a TED Talk. Copies are out there in the wild. At least, they are out there until the Internet is destroyed, but even then, they will be circulated on film and digital media much like the pamphleteers of long ago. I am sure everyone recalls those troublemakers Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin. I posted a story on February 1, entitled Edward Snowden Speaks. In that story, we discussed the mysterious takedowns of the German TV interview with Mr. Snowden on YouTube almost as fast as they appeared.

A few days ago, Edward Snowden was a guest speaker at the TED2014 annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The 2014 conference celebrated the 30th anniversary of TED.

 

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

This session the record is 7-1.  Since October of 2011, the record is 28 wins and 4 losses. That is a record that any team would be proud of and evidence of a significant amount of work and effort to improve its performance on the court.  However, I am not talking about any particular basketball team currently involved in March Madness and the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball tourney.

I am talking about the record a team called The United States Chamber of Commerce has in cases it has argued or filed a brief in front of the Supreme Court.  Even Coach K or Coach Izzo would be jealous of that record. (more…)

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

As the son of a fallen Air Force pilot whose remains were never found, I am sensitive to the plight of family members of servicemen and women whose remains may be recoverable, but yet are still not identified.  There are multiple military and defense department agencies who are responsible for locating and identifying the remains of veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam and Cold War missions.

The purpose of this article is to examine the efforts of just one of those agencies.  The Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, or J-PAC, is an example of an agency that is crucial to both locating and identifying remains, but because of bureaucratic constraints, outdated methods and the possible stubbornness of its scientific head, has produced very little results at a very expensive cost to the taxpayers. (more…)

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By Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

EPALogoA few days ago, there was some good-natured banter in the comments about Chicken, Alaska. Since I have relatives who do gold mining there during the summer months, I followed up with some reading about Chicken. This old gold mining town was founded in 1886. We often hear of something being “in the middle of nowhere.” In this case it’s true. Chicken is a six hour drive northeast of Fairbanks on the Taylor Highway, which goes to Dawson, Yukon.

This is one of the most isolated and difficult to reach communities on the North American continent. The only way in and out is either by the Taylor Highway or a small airstrip. I was surprised to learn that this town of 17 people (6 households and 4 families) was the subject of a raid last fall. The raid was carried out by a black-clad SWAT team in full body armor and armed to the teeth. The eight agents appeared out of nowhere in the tiny town. They were from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on a mission to inspect the water associated with gold mining.

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apple-logoSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a “self-described” conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., happens to be a shareholder in Apple. NCPPR has not been happy with Apple’s environmental initiatives. According to Chris Taylor (Mashable), Apple has made great improvements “in its use of renewable energy” since Tim Cook took over as CEO. Taylor said, “More than three-quarters of the company’s facilities worldwide, including all of its data centers and its Cupertino HQ, now run on solar, wind, geothermal or hydro power, up from about a quarter under Jobs.” Just last year, Cook hired former EPA head Lisa Jackson “to lead the company’s sustainability efforts.”

In a written statement prior to Apple’s recent annual shareholder meeting, NCPPR’s general counsel Justin Danhof said, “We object to increased government control over company products and operations, and likewise mandatory environmental standards. This is something [Apple] should be actively fighting, not preparing surrender.” According to Fortune, NCPPR “was pushing a shareholder proposal that would have required Apple to disclose the costs of its sustainability programs and to be more transparent about its participation in ‘certain trade associations and business organizations promoting the amorphous concept of environmental sustainability’…” Bryan Chaffin (The Mac Observer) said that the NCPPR proposal was “rooted in the premise that humanity plays no role in climate change.” He also noted that there was language in the proposal that “advanced the idea that profits should be the only thing corporations consider.” During the shareholder meeting, NCPPR urged Apple CEO Tim Cook and the board “to pledge that Apple wouldn’t pursue any more environmental initiatives that didn’t improve its bottom line.”

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

The Fifth Amendment protects all United States citizens by guaranteeing us all the right of due process of law. The Fifth Amendment is meant to ensure that the government has to at least prove to a court that a citizen is guilty of any crime that he or she is charged with.

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Cornell Law

Without the Fifth Amendment, the government could grab any citizen off the street and proceed to jail them or execute them without a trial of any kind where the accused could mount a defense to the government’s charges.  It seems that the Obama Administration is once again in the process of deciding whether it will unilaterally execute an American citizen believed to living in Pakistan.  Or at least, preparing us for a kill decision that they have already made. (more…)

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JoshMillerArkansasSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Meet Josh Miller. He’s a young Republican state legislator from Heber Springs, Arkansas. He took office in 2013. Miller also manages a rental property business. More than a decade ago, he was paralyzed when he broke his neck in a catastrophic car accident. Fortunately, Miller hasn’t been confined to an unproductive life because of his accident and subsequent paralysis.

More about Miller from the Arkansas Times:

Miller, 33, was on an alcohol-fueled drive with a friend about 11 years ago (he can’t remember who was driving) when their pickup plunged off a ravine near Choctaw. He was rescued, but suffered a broken neck and was paralyzed. Miller was uninsured. What young, fit man needs health insurance, he thought then. (He had some reason to know better. Not long before, he’d broken his hand in a fight and had to refuse the recommended surgery to fix the injuries properly because he was uninsured.)

Months of hospitalization and rehabilitation followed, including a long stretch in intensive care at St. Vincent Infirmary. There was a $1 million bill. Medicaid paid most of it. Miller was placed on disability and checks began. In time, between Medicaid and Medicare, all his health costs were covered by the federal government. For that reason, he need not be among the 82 Arkansas legislators (61 percent of the body) who enjoy heavily subsidized and comprehensive state employee health insurance.

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509px-MSPSergeantUnknownWe have another case of a police officer threatening a citizen after falsely telling him that filming a police officer in public is a crime. What adds to this particularly case is that Massachusetts state police trooper Kenneth Harold is also now accused of giving false testimony under questioning by driver. We have been following the continuing abuse of citizens who are detained or arrested for filming police in public. (For prior columns, click here and here). Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public, these abuses continue.

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by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

Since February is Black History Month, it seemed to me that a local story was worth discussing. I first became aware of the story when it appeared in the Johnson City (Tennessee) Press last Tuesday . A little further digging revealed the story originated when a member of the church sent a copy of one of “Brother” Donny Reagan’s sermons to The American Jesus blog. The American Jesus blog is run by the Rev. Zach Hunt, who is currently working on a graduate degree at Yale Divinity School. Zach published a brief story and posted the seventeen minute long sermon on The American Jesus blog last week.

“Brother” Danny Reagan is pastor of the Happy Valley Church of Jesus Christ, located between Johnson City and Elizabethton, TN.  He records and archives all his sermons on the church website. Or at least he did until a couple of days ago. Now look what you get when you click the link.

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Comcast

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

I’m sure many of you have read or heard about Comcast’s plan to buy Time Warner Cable. If these two companies merge, Comcast would then become the cable service provider for one third of the households in the United States. It would also give Comcast “a virtual monopoly in 19 of the 20 largest media markets.” In a press release dated February 13, 2014, Michael Copps, the special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative and former FCC Commissioner, said, “This is soFCC-Seal_svg over the top that it ought to be dead on arrival at the FCC. The proposed deal runs roughshod over competition and consumer choice and is an affront to the public interest.” Copps added that the $45 billion deal “would turn the already oversized Comcast empire into a colossus. The combined firms would have the muscle to push competitors out of the marketplace, leaving consumers exposed to continuing price hikes and declining levels of service.”

Copps appeared on Democracy Now! recently. He told Amy Goodman the following:

…This is the whole shooting match. It’s broadband. It’s broadcast. It’s content. It’s distribution. It’s the medium and the message. It’s telecom, and it’s media, too. And it just would confer a degree of control over our news and information infrastructure that no company should be allowed to have. And all of this is happening in a market where consumer prices are going up and up and up, and competition is going down, down, down.

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by Charlton Stanley, Weekend Contributor

Hawthorne CA Police DepartmentThe Hawthorne, CA Police Department has a history of assaultive behavior toward the public. The department’s activities have been reported on this blog before. In one incident, Hawthorne officers Tasered an autistic child, then when his parents complained, they returned and arrested him a week later.  Last year, the same Hawthorne Police arrested a man for videotaping them in a public space, then shot his dog when it ran to his side.

About a year ago, Jonathan Meister, a deaf man, was loading his car with some personal belongings, including his snowboarding equipment.  There had been several robberies in the area recently.  A neighbor yelled at him, but Meister, being deaf, did not hear the call-out, so the neighbor called the police.  When the police arrived, the officers watched Meister as he carried some items into his car. When Meister saw the officers, he sat his boxes down and walked toward them, trying to use American Sign Language to let them know he is deaf.

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LincolnandSonReadingSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Abraham Lincoln was a self-educated man. He once said that he acquired his education “by littles.” The combined total of all the time he spent in school didn’t amount to a year. Still, he became one of our greatest presidents…and I believe some would agree an accomplished writer.

Lincoln gained much of his knowledge through books. He hungered for them when he was young. He read incessantly—beginning with the Bible and Shakespeare. His love of reading didn’t diminish as he grew older.

In his New York Times review of William Lee Miller’s book Lincoln’s Virtues, Eric Foner wrote the following:

During his single term in the House of Representatives, his colleagues considered it humorous that Lincoln spent his spare time poring over books in the Library of Congress. The result of this ”stunning work of self-education” was the ”intellectual power” revealed in Lincoln’s writings and speeches.

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RickBrattinSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

(NOTE: Correction and Update Below)

A Missouri lawmaker has proposed legislation that would make learning about evolution in public schools “optional.” State Rep. Rick Brattin (R), the main sponsor of House Bill 291—also known as the “Missouri Standard Science Act”—introduced the bill in January. Brattin told KCTV, a local station, that teaching only evolution in school was “indoctrination.” He continued, “Our schools basically mandate that we teach one side. It is an indoctrination because it is not objective approach.”

The Kansas City Star reported that Brattin said, “…forcing students to study the natural selection theories developed by Charles Darwin a century and a half ago can violate their religious faith. It’s an absolute infringement on people’s beliefs.” Critics of Brattin’s bill say his legislation “would allow religious faith in biblical explanations to crowd out sound science.”

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Here is one ad that never aired during this year’s Super Bowl:

The Proud to Be video was made by Change the Mascot, a national campaign that was launched by the Oneida Nation. The video was released by the National Congress of American Indians a couple of days before this year’s Super Bowl. Change the Mascot’s aim is to end the use of the term “redskins” as the mascot for Washington, D. C.’s NFL team. The campaign “calls upon the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell to do the right thing and bring an end the use of the racial epithet.”

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

On February 7th, 2014, the sad reports were compiled from the deadly day before.  On Thursday, February 6th, at least 24 people were shot and 14 of them were killed.  Two of the dead were small children.  The shootings and killings were from cities and towns all across the country.  A 17 month old girl was accidentally shot by her 3 year old brother in North Carolina.

A 13-year-old was accidentally shot and killed while playing with a shotgun in the state of Washington.  In Seattle, Washington, a man was shot and killed by a fellow tenant.  A man in his 30′s was shot several times and critically wounded in Owasso, Oklahoma.  A 18 year man was shot and killed at his uncle’s home in South Carolina.  These and others were all wounded or killed by gunfire on February 6th, 2014.  Just one sad day out of many. (more…)

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100px-Coat_of_arms_of_Israel.svgsuper-bowl-ad-sodastreamThe decision to go forward with the ad featuring Scarlett Johansson for SodaStream reignited the controversy over the boycott movement targeting Israeli companies, particularly those like SodaStream in the occupied territories. It was an interesting decision of the company. While marketers often view any publicity as good publicity, the Superbowl controversy has made the company the most visible target of the boycott movement. The success of that movement appears to have been confirmed in a planned meeting of Israeli politicians and business leaders to discuss how to control the damage to the economy, particularly with peace talk faltering with the Palestinians. The Israeli government also criticized Secretary of State John Kerry for merely noting that calls for boycotts are likely to increase if these talks fall.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)–Weekend Contributor

In the years since the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War began, there have been some sizeable protests and demonstrations, but not quite to the level seen during the Vietnam War.  We have seen several significant protests during various economic and political summits and conventions in the United States and around the world, but they have been met with severe police crackdowns.  The Occupy Movement is one example of a long-term protest that on more than one occasion suffered through severe police restrictions and in some cases, brutal police tactics.

In response to the 9/11 attacks, the United States passed so-called anti-terror legislation that many claim have usurped and restricted personal liberties.  However, several  states also jumped on that bandwagon and passed their own anti-terror legislation. The State of Illinois is one of the states that passed its own anti-terror legislation and the use of that legislation prior to the NATO Summit meetings held in Chicago on May 20 and 21st, in 2012 is currently being litigated right now in Chicago in a criminal case brought against 3 protestors known as the NATO 3 under the Illinois anti-terror statute. (more…)

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USPostalServiceLogoSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Back in May 2012, I wrote a post titled Going Postal in Washington, D. C.: The USPS, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006, Union Busting, and Paving the Road to Privatization. In it, I noted the main reason why the USPS is experiencing financial problems—a mandate included in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 that required the USPS to pre-fund employee healthcare benefits for seventy-five years…in just tenDarrell_Issa years time. That legislation was passed “on a voice vote by a lame duck Republican Congress.” As Josh Eidelson wrote in a March 2012 Salon article titled Congress’s war on the post office, the Postal Service’s greatest threat isn’t email or economics. He put the blame where it rightly belongs—on Congress. So did Jeanette P. Dwyer, president of the Rural Letter Carriers Association. Dwyer was quoted by the New York Times last November as saying, “Congress created the problems, and it can fix them by taking away the requirement that no other government agency or business has to face.”

This legislative requirement that the USPS must prefund healthcare benefits for three-quarters of a century in one decade means that it has had to cough up $5.5 billion annually since 2007—and will have to continue to do so through 2016. Congress has not required any other government entity or agency to do the same. Why has the Postal Service—an institution that provides valuable services to businesses and to millions and millions of Americans—been singled out? Why indeed…when one considers that the USPS does not receive any tax dollars? It relies on the sale of postage and other products and services to fund its operations.

Both Alison Kilkenny and Matt Taibbi think that the purpose of the legislation “was to break a public sector union and privatize the mail industry.”

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By Charlton Stanley, Weekend Contributor

NSA logo smallLast Sunday, former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden was interviewed for the German television network ARD.  The interview was big news in Germany and much of the world in both print and broadcast media. However, the interview appears to have been blocked intentionally by US government authorities. In fact, the media in the US appears to have gone to ‘radio silence’ about it. It has been posted on YouTube several times, but is taken down almost immediately.  The video site Vimeo has it embedded, but as I write this, Vimeo is under a DDoS attack.  LiveLeak also has it, and that video is embedded in this report by Jay Syrmopoulos for  Ben Swann’s news page.

Mr. Snowden spoke candidly in a thirty-minute English language interview with the reporter from ARD.

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Author’s Note: Grace Under Pressure is an ongoing series of posts honoring everyday people who courageously make positive differences in their own lives and consequently in the lives of others. It is my own personal affirmation that unexpected heroes live among us and that their service is quiet but unshakable proof that virtue really is its own reward  – and ours, too.

tyler-doohan-300x400Tyler Doohan was sound asleep when his nose twitched at the irritation of the smoke. Staying at his relatives’ single wide trailer with eight other family members and many pets, the fourth grader was instantly aware something was wrong.  Then, Tyler saw the fire coming from the blanket of his 4-year-old cousin.  In an instant, his fate would change .

Tyler loved staying with his grandfather, Lewis Beach,  who adored the child right back. Though disabled, Tyler’s grandfather doted on the child and insisted on keeping him at the trailer whenever he could in the upstate New York town of  Penfield. The Martin Luther King holiday was the perfect time for  eight-year-old Tyler and 57-year-old Lewis to cement family bonds. Tyler traveled the short distance from his home in East Rochester to do just that. This was a family sleep-over with aunts, uncles and cousins and everyone was looking forward to a great time.

Now seeing the danger dancing around his cousin, Tyler bolted from his spot on the floor of the trailer and woke everyone he could find including his two cousins, ages 4 and 6. Six folks made it out of the now blazing trailer alive due to Tyler’s courage but when Tyler made it out of the  14′x60′ trailer he didn’t see his grandfather. Firefighters were en route and would arrive just minutes after the 4:45 a.m. call came in, but that was not fast enough.

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SchoolClassroomSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Blogger

Noelle Roni had served as the principal of the Peak to Peak Charter School in Colorado for eight years when she was fired last November. Matthew Hill, a Peak to Peak parent, told the Denver Post that Roni’s termination was “shrouded in mystery.” He said, “This decision to fire her in mid-year is a very negative precedent for our teachers.  We don’t know why Ms. Roni was fired. The last objective evidence we have is that she did well on her evaluations.” Hill said that neither Kelly Reeser, the school’s executive director, nor any of the board members have any teaching experience. He added that they “made their decision without understanding the confusion and anxiety it would provoke. He noted that teachers at Peak to Peak aren’t tenured and depend on performance evaluations for continued employment.”

Last November, Roni released a public statement—but it wasn’t until this January that she spoke out about the reason for her firing. Roni claimed that she lost her position at the Lafayette charter school “after she demanded that cafeteria workers stop stamping the hands of children – including those who qualified for the free lunch program – when their lunch accounts were empty.” The former principal told the Boulder Daily Camera that as soon as she saw it happening she thought, “No, this is not OK.” She added, “The students felt so humiliated, like they had done something wrong. They didn’t want to go into the lunchroom any more. It’s unethical and disrespectful.”

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By Lawrence E. Rafferty, (rafflaw) Weekend Blogger

We have all heard of the so-called War on Drugs and the recently maligned War on Poverty, but I submit that the real war we should be worried about is the War on the Poor of this country.  The War on Drugs has not done much to stop the use of illegal drugs and the recent legalization of the sale of marijuana in Colorado may be a small step in the direction of ending the War on Drugs which has only succeeded in jailing thousands on minor drug offenses.  The African-American community has been especially hard hit by this failed attempt to end the use of illegal substances.

However, the War on the Poor is in full swing and seems to be succeeding.  One only has to look at the Farm Bill which is set to cut the SNAP program by anywhere between the $4 Billion in the Senate version and the $40 Billion in the House version.  At a time when this same Congress is refusing to extend unemployment compensation, they are attempting a monumental double whammy by cutting the ability of the needy to survive by cutting Food Stamps.  (more…)

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro

I’d like to honor the memory of David Blair Drumm with poetry. It’s the best way I know how.

Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon

Click here to read the full text of Kenyon’s poem.

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For David Drumm (1948-2013)

From his admirer, Mark Esposito

This kitteh says it all. Hail and Farewell, my friend.
Sad-Cat-1

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170px-Freud's_ashes_in_Golder's_Green_Columbarium200px-Sigmund_Freud_LIFEThis is going to take a lot of time on the couch for certain thieves in London. The men attempted to steal of 4th Century BC Greek urn holding the ashes of the founder of psychoanalysis and his wife at a crematorium in London. In the process, they severely damaged a 2,400-year-old urn.

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180px-United_States_one_dollar_bill,_obverse240px-Laundry_in_ParisMoney laundering has long been a crime and the plot to many a good mob movie. However, Nabil M. Lawandy and Andrei Smuk have published results of research in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research that suggests that money laundering might just be the ticket for countries looking to save money. A lot of money.

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150px-muslim_woman_in_yementhumb_at_computer_silloetteThere are times when Iran and other sharia-based countries look like characters out of a Fellini film. This week, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued another fatwa to Muslims that left the rest of the world chuckling. Khamenei has outlawed participation in social networks that include both men and women. He wants something akin to a Cyber Burka for women to avoid even getting as little as a tweet from a man who is not a family member. Adding to the absurdity, he used his website (which presumably has both men and women) to make the announcement.. He also has a Facebook but presumably any future “friends” will be male.

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satan_statueIt is a scene that would warm the cockles of every Satanic heart. In Oklahoma, the Satanic Temple has unveiled the design for a 7-foot-tall statue of Satan that it believes would go nicely at the Oklahoma state Capitol. After all, the legislature put a Ten Commandments monument on the site in 2012. So why not the comforting image of Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard for children to gather around and take strength from on school visits? While it seems a tad unlikely that the Oklahoma legislature (which has a history of intermingling Christian faith with legislation) will add a Satanic element to the Capitol grounds, it forces the question of why it is permissible to depict one religion in exclusion of others.

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Submitted by Charlton Stanley, Guest Blogger

Since it has been somewhat tense around here, I thought a bit of adrenaline might relieve some stress. There is a curious thing about aviators. We hate high places. If you can get a typical pilot on a roller coaster or Ferris wheel, you have accomplished something. Oh sure, there is the occasional outlier who doesn’t mind, but few pilots I know are willing to get out on high places. I once knew a Marine Harrier fighter pilot who went over to a friend’s apartment for a cookout. The friend lived on about the 14th floor. The grill was out on the cantilevered balcony. This tough Marine fighter pilot would not go out there, even when bribed with beer.

I have some theories why this is so, but that involves rather dense aviation psychology research discussion that might give some of our readers a math headache, and is beyond the scope of the #1 Legal News & Analysis Blog on the intertoobz. At any rate, some of us would like to be able to ride a real roller coaster without getting any higher off the ground than we are willing to fall. Quite a feat for a designer to build a fast roller coaster that does not go any higher than the average pilot is willing to fall without a parachute. The Austrians and Swiss have accomplished just that.

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With the New Year, we have been discussing various changes including the general appearance of the site. This is a leading contender but we are not opposed to sticking with our old appearance. (My eldest son Ben described our old site as hopelessly “70s” and, as someone who lived through the large plaids and big hair of that decade, it hit home).
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Res Ipsa Loquitur

Eta CarinaeBy Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
“Everything that has a beginning has an end.“ – Buddha
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Seneca

Perception is a funny thing. So I’m going to make a statement and then address the perceptions.

After many years of writing columns for this blog and participating in its forums, I am taking my leave. (more…)

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

ChildhoodIn my first blog today I alluded to two experientially developed concepts formed in my youth that have played an overarching role in my life. I explored the first and now I will develop the second as alluded to in my title. Unlike some childhood memories there is a particular memory associated with this title of this piece that is indelibly etched in my mind. So much so that as I write this I can see the scene in my mind’s eye and in my chest feel anew the power of the emotional experience. I will relate it to you as I remember and feel it, then explain how it has had ramifications for my entire life and upon my perspective of the environment I live in. (more…)

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

JFKRiceUniversityI’ve written before about the fact that the murder of JFK in Dallas was to me the most traumatic national experience in my life and the fact that I think it changed the destiny of our country in a negative fashion. I think that for many around my age this is also true, but it is now fifty years past and the majority of Americans have no real knowledge of it. The trauma of that day and the ensuing events of history have left me with an admittedly irrational repugnance towards the city of Dallas and I feel almost a shudder when I hear of Dealey Plaza, where the murder took place. These feelings are so intense that I doubt that I will ever visit Dallas in my lifetime, much less go to Dealey Plaza. When I got my weekly E Mail from my favorite investigative journalism website WhoWhatWhy.com I took note of an article about the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. The article was a humorous look at the potential for Christmas gifts that might be available at the museum’s gift shop and of course provided a link to the museum’s website, which I then followed. Going to the website and perusing it caused me to muse about the ability in our country to turn even our most solemn national events into commercial enterprises, while we pretend that they provide an educational service. (more…)

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Submitted by Charlton Stanley (Otteray Scribe)

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
- Buddha

Video made in Russia.
Music: The Cinematic Orchestra: Arrival Of The Birds

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

 727 - CopyChocolate…YUM!!!

I have loved chocolate ever since I was little. One present that I always found stuffed in my stocking on Christmas morning when I was a child was a small sack of chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. How I enjoyed unwrapping the candy coins and letting the dark brown disks melt on my tongue!

Here’s a poem that I wrote about my memories of those candy coins:

UNDER THE TREE

Here’s a gift to savor…not save:

A sack of candy coins

Wrapped in gold…

Milk chocolate medallions

That melt on my tongue.

I won’t stash this sweet cash.

I’m putting this money

Where my mouth is!

© Elaine Magliaro

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MV5BMTc1NDI5NzQyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjc4NTE5._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_There is a controversial ruling out of Texas where, in the view of a dissent judge, the Texas Court of Appeals just decided that “search warrants may now be based on predictions of the commission of future crimes.” If that sounds like an episode of Minority Report, the truth is far scarier. There are no “precogs” just police getting subsequent warrants based a confidential source on the threat of a future crime.

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Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
- Sir William Blackstone KC SL, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765)

Sir William Blackstone

Sir William Blackstone

One of the oldest cliché movie scenes of the past half century is the Gestapo agent, wearing a monocle, slapping a riding crop against his gloved hand, saying with a leer, “Ve haf vays of making you talk…..” Unfortunately, that caricature figure has come to life in in recent years, taking the form of rogue psychologists, unscrupulous investigators, and even the Vice President of the United States.

My motivation to write this is because of a phone call a few weeks ago. An old case I worked on back in the 1980s resurfaced with that phone call out of the blue. Of all the cases I ever worked on, the one I got the call about has been the most bothersome. It involved a murder, a coerced confession, a judge with a troubled psychological burden of his own, and a jury that would not believe confessions could be coerced. Plus, a district attorney with a reputation of wanting to win at any cost. Since this case has resurfaced and the new investigation is still under way, I can’t say too much about it now. As details become public, I will be writing more.

Let me start off by saying that most confessions may be legitimate, but since we have no way of knowing how many are false, no solid statistics are possible. The simple fact that so far, over three hundred people have been released from prison due to wrongful convictions is enough to give one pause. It is reasonable, based on the number exonerated so far, to assume there are a lot of them. We just don’t know which ones. Not all those overturned convictions were due to false confessions, but about a fourth of them were. If a defendant does make a false confession, and there is solid DNA evidence showing the defendant to be innocent, juries convict over 80% of the time, despite the physical evidence. One thing I find curious is the fact some prosecutors continue to prosecute cases even after the physical evidence proves they have the wrong person.

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

104248208I believe that it is impossible to deal with any problem until one understands the underlying nature of that problem. The analogy of a Physician treating the symptoms of a patient, but ignoring the cause of those symptoms, comes to mind. We have the medicine to deal with the specific manifestation of an illness like a headache and a fever, but in ameliorating the discomfort of the symptoms, we may miss the underlying pathology. This happened to me last March when shortly after being prescribed a change in the anti-rejection medicines that keep me alive after my heart transplant, I began to get so sick that I needed hospitalization in intensive care. I won’t bore you with the grimy details of this sudden downturn in health, but I must note that my most important bodily functions began to shut down. What is curious about this incident is that my wife, who is internet savvy, immediately began to suggest to my Doctors that I was having a bad reaction to the medicinal change. At first they ignored her as they had Department Heads in Cardiology, Immunology, Infectious Diseases, Neurology, Proctology, Urology and even Dermatology come in to examine me and pore over my medical charts. Finally, in response to my wife’s unfailing advocacy, they returned me to my prior anti-rejection medication. To my Physician’s surprise and possible chagrin the symptoms almost immediately began to abate and within in days I was home from the hospital and on the mend. (more…)

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

In November, I wrote a post titled State Policy Network (SPN)—The “PR Firm” for ALEC and a Right-Wing Agenda. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, SPN “is funded largely by global corporations and by groups and foundations associated with conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch.” Journalist Jane Mayer provided a good description of SPN in her article Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?which appeared in The New Yorker this past November.

Mayer:

In every state in the country, there is at least one ostensibly independent “free-market” think tank that is part of something called the State Policy Network— there are sixty-four in all, ranging from the Pelican Institute, in Louisiana, to the Freedom Foundation, in Washington State. According to a new investigative report by the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal watchdog group, however, the think tanks are less free actors than a coördinated collection of corporate front groups—branch stores, so to speak—funded and steered by cash from undisclosed conservative and corporate players. Although the think tanks have largely operated under the radar, the cumulative enterprise is impressively large, according to the report. In 2011, the network funnelled seventy-nine million dollars into promoting conservative policies at the state level.

The Guardian newspaper has dug up more information about the workings of SPN…and its plans for 2014. The paper published an article on the subject entitled State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax just last week. According to Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, the authors of the article, SPN and its affiliated conservative groups/”think tanks” are planning “a co-ordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers’ compensation and the environment…”

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bernanke_ben

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

This past week the main stream media made a big deal about the unemployment rate declining to the five-year low of 7%.  While it was good news that over 200,000 jobs were added to the economy and that the unemployment rate decreased, the economy and main street are still lagging behind Wall Street.  The Federal Reserve has been attempting monetary easing strategies in an effort to stimulate the economy.  It may have worked for Wall Street, but the rest of us are still catching up.

“The Federal Reserve is the only central bank with a dual mandate. It is charged not only with maintaining low, stable inflation but with promoting maximum sustainable employment. Yet unemployment remains stubbornly high, despite four years of radical tinkering with interest rates and quantitative easing (creating money on the Fed’s books). After pushing interest rates as low as they can go, the Fed has admitted that it has run out of tools.” Ellen Brown  (more…)

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Contributed by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger

Hickham Field Pearl Harbor 7 December 1941

Hickam Field
Pearl Harbor
7 December 1941

I remember where I was and what I was doing shortly after one o’clock in the afternoon on December 7, 1941. My dad called me in to where he and a couple of his friends were sitting by the huge Stromberg Carlson 350R console radio, its front doors swung open. They were leaning forward, hanging onto every word coming out of the polished walnut cabinet. The breathless announcer was talking so fast he sometimes stumbled over his words. The usual calm and soothing baritone of a professional radio news reporter was replaced by an almost panicked staccato, an octave higher than his voice would have sounded normally. One phrase has stayed stuck in my mind’s ear all these years, “They stabbed our boys in the back!”

At first I thought they were talking about Japanese soldiers bayoneting our soldiers and sailors in the back, as I had seen them do in the newsreels of the massacre of Nanking. Even as a kid, I knew war was on the horizon. Six weeks earlier, a Nazi U-boat had sunk the destroyer USS Reuben James as it escorted a convoy of cargo ships carrying food and supplies to England.

Everyone thought that when war did come, it would come from Europe. No one but a few farsighted tacticians like General Billy Mitchell were looking west, and even predicting that an attack would come by air. Mitchell was Court Martialed for his outspoken military and political heresy. When Americans were killed in what was to be the first military engagement of WW-2 with the sinking of the Reuben James, President Roosevelt held back committing troops and sailors to combat despite the provocation. Hitler was counting on that kind of restraint, or he would not have been so bold as to sink an American warship. He knew the US was not prepared to fight a war, since American troop levels had been drawn down to very low numbers, and much of the equipment was either obsolete or obsolescent. The country was recovering from the Great Depression, and needed time to re-arm.

Admiral Yamamoto took Roosevelt’s options away from him that Sunday morning. Hitler was said to be furious with his Japanese allies.

Which brings us to the story my cousin Jimmy.

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19,000,000

We just passed the 18,000,000 mark last September but yesterday we hit 19,000,000, according to WordPress. Congratulations everyone.

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Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

bins1-15660341jpg-b2a282e054d52e53 walmart

The picture above really says it all. Walmart, our country’s largest retail operation is run by people who are so clueless that they’ve created a culture that doesn’t even understand the massive irony in running a Thanksgiving Food Pantry for its own employees.  The photo comes from a Walmart in Canton, Ohio. The concept of food collections for the poor at retail establishments is widespread in America, even as many Americans deny that anyone in this country goes hungry. The irony of this food drive though is that it is asking Walmart employees, who are already low paid, to donate food to fellow employees who are even worse off than they are. It is also ironic that the food drive is for Thanksgiving Dinner, since almost all Walmart Stores have been open all day for Thanksgiving for many years, so one wonders what type of Thanksgiving Dinner Walmart associates will have at all? What is new this year is that “Black Friday” for Walmart customers will begin at 6:00pm on Thanksgiving Day and run through the night.

The average Walmart Associate makes $8.81 per hour which translates into a yearly income of $15,576 if the Associate works a full time schedule.  Most Associates don’t work full time because working full time would entitle them to benefits that Walmart doesn’t want to pay. Interestingly, the current U.S. poverty level for a three person family in our country is $19,530. So we see that the rare Walmart full time employee, with two dependents, earns about $4,000 per year below the nation’s poverty level. Indeed, Walmart has made it a practice to inform its employees about benefits like Snap and Public Assistance. At the risk of being portrayed as a “bleeding heart” by some of our readers, let me state that I think this company is disgusting in its personnel policies and is an example of what is worst about our country. Let me explain further. (more…)

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marvellweaver-600x450Across the country, including here in Washington, teenagers are playing a dangerous game called “Knock-em-out” where a person is selected at random and a teenager tries to knock him or her out with one punch (often from behind). As the video shows, victims often hit their heads on the pavement and risk serious injury. One teenager, Marvell Weaver, in Lansing Michigan however picked the wrong guy. On this twitter, Weaver is shown holding a shotgun and saying he would “blow your mouth back.”

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245px-JayLenoJul08200px-Rattus_norvegicus_1There is a truly bizarre defamation lawsuit filed against the Tonight Show and Jay Leno by former American flight attendant Louann Giambattista who was the subject of rather crude jokes by Leno referencing allegations that she had snuck a pet rat on flights in her underwear.  Giambattista denies the allegations and says that she was falsely portrayed as “engaging in bestiality and sexual misconduct with a rat.”

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Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

A recent report published by the Center for Media and Democracy has alleged that there is a network of think tanks across this country that has been “quietly pushing the agenda of right-wing groups with funding from Koch brothers-affiliated organizations.” The umbrella organization that these sixty-four think tanks are collaborating with is called the State Policy Network (SPN)—“a nonprofit that nurtures conservative think tanks in all fifty states.”

From SPN’s website:

Founded in 1992 by Tom Roe at the urging of Ronald Reagan, State Policy Network is the only group in the country dedicated solely to improving the practical effectiveness of independent, non-profit, market-oriented, state-focused think tanks. SPN’s programs enable these organizations to better educate local citizens, policy makers and opinion leaders about market-oriented alternatives to state and local policy challenges.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy’s report, SPN and its “member think tanks” promote an “extreme right-wing agenda” that is much the same as that of “David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, Charles Koch’s Cato Institute, and Koch’s Citizens for a Sound Economy spin-off FreedomWorks–all of which happen to be associate members of ALEC.”

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Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger

The dirtiest secret of all in the health care professions is not insurance. It is about tired staff.

Nurse Emblem Letha's MarkerOn March 16, 2013, Registered Nurse Elizabeth Jasper had just gotten off work. She was driving her small SUV eastbound on Ohio 50 when it left the road, going airborne, and hitting a tree. The wreckage careened into a parking lot. One does not need to be an accident reconstrucionist to know the crash was not survivable, by just taking one glance at the wreckage.

Beth Jasper, RN, is dead at the age of 38. She leaves her husband and two children. The preliminary investigation so far has revealed Nurse Jasper was supposed to work three 12-hour shifts that week, but had been held over to work extra doing specialized procedures. She is believed to have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Since that time, James Jasper, her widower, has filed a lawsuit against her employer, Jewish Hospital and its parent company, Mercy Health Partners of Southwest Ohio. As details of the lawsuit emerge, it shines a spotlight on a fact of corporate health care in this country which most people never knew.

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