Monday, December 31, 2012

US Prepares to Sign Off On Foreclosure Fraud Settlement

JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo are two of the
banks involved in the current negotiations. (photo:
New York Magazine)
By Jessica Silver-Greenberg, The New York Times
31 December 12

anking regulators are close to a $10 billion settlement with 14 banks that would end the government's efforts to hold lenders responsible for foreclosure abuses like faulty paperwork and excessive fees that may have led to evictions, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.
Under the settlement, a significant amount of the money, $3.75 billion, would go to people who have already lost their homes, making it potentially more generous to former homeowners than a broad-reaching pact in February between state attorneys general and five large banks. That set aside $1.5 billion in cash relief for Americans.

Most of the relief in both agreements is meant for people who are struggling to stay in their homes and need the banks to reduce their payments or lower the amount of principal they owe.
The $10 billion pact would be the latest in a series of settlements that regulators and law enforcement officials have reached with banks to hold them accountable for their role in the 2008 financial crisis that sent the housing market into the deepest slump since the Great Depression. As of early 2012, four million Americans had been foreclosed upon since the beginning of 2007, and a huge amount of abandoned homes swamped many states, including California, Florida and Arizona.

Federal agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are continuing to pursue the banks for their packaging and sale of troubled mortgage securities that imploded during the financial crisis.
Housing advocates were largely unaware of the latest rounds of secret talks, which have been occurring for roughly a month. But some have criticized the government for not dealing more harshly with bankers in light of their lax standards for making loans and packaging them as investments, as well as their problems with modifying troubled loans and processing foreclosures.

The GOP's Lost Year In the Fox News Bubble

By Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America
31 December 12

uffering an election hangover after having been told by Fox News that Mitt Romney's victory was a sure thing (a "landslide" predicted by Dick Morris), some Republicans have promised to break their addiction to the right-wing news channel in the coming year. Vowing to venture beyond the comforts of the Fox News bubble, strategists insist it's crucial that the party address its "choir-preaching problem."

Good luck.

This grand experiment of marrying a political movement around a cable TV channel was a grand failure in 2012. But there's little indication that enough Republicans will have the courage, or even the desire, to break free from Fox's firm grip on branding the party.

For Fox News chief Roger Ailes, the network's slash-and-burn formula worked wonders in terms of catering a hardcore, hard-right audience of several million viewers. (Fox News is poised to post $1 billion in profits this year.) But in terms of supporting a national campaign and hosting a nationwide conversation about the country's future, Fox's work this year was a marked failure.

And that failure helped sink any hopes the GOP had of winning the White House.

From the farcical, underwhelming GOP primary that Fox News sponsored, through the general election campaign, it seemed that at every juncture where Romney suffered a major misstep, Fox misinformation hovered nearby. Again and again, Romney damaged his presidential hopes when he embraced the Fox News rhetoric; when he ran as the Fox News Candidate  READ MORE

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Best of just for laughs part 9 Merry Xmass all- enjoy

Boehner Blows It with a Plan Destined to Fail

December 22, 2012

The main thing that has held Republicans together philosophically is the belief in holding down taxes. Not one of them in Congress has voted for a significant increase in more than two decades. Now that very issue is tearing the GOP apart and making it an all-but-ungovernable majority for Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to lead in the House.

Disarray is a word much overused in politics. But it barely begins to describe the current state of chaos and incoherence as Republicans come to terms with electoral defeat and try to regroup against a year-end deadline to avert a fiscal crisis.

The presidential election was fought in large measure over the question of whether some Americans should pay more in taxes. Republicans lost that argument with the voters, who polls show are strongly in favor of raising rates for the wealthy.

But a sizable contingent within the GOP doesn’t see it that way and is unwilling to declare defeat on a tenet that so defines them. Nor are they prepared to settle for getting the best deal they can, as a means of avoiding the tax hikes on virtually everyone else that would take effect if no deal is reached.  READ MORE

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fla. senator files 'stand your ground' revision

Trayvon Martin shot, killed Feb. 26

Published  9:46 AM EST Dec 20, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. —The state Senate's Democratic leader has filed a bill revising Florida's "stand your ground law" following the Trayvon Martin shooting.

Sen. Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale said on Wednesday said his bill (SB 136) was inspired by the unarmed 17-year-old boy's death in Sanford. Martin was shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman who is claiming self-defense under the law.
One key change would eliminate protection from prosecution for someone who provokes violence or pursues a victim. The bill also would remove automatic immunity from arrest or detention and clarify that a suspect can be arrested following a questionable death.
It is likely to face opposition from Republicans who control the Legislature and backed the current law. A panel created by Gov. Rick Scott has recommended no major changes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The NRA Has a Head Start Against Newly Energized Gun Control

Protesters marching with the social activist group CREDO

Dec 18, 2012 4:45 AM EST

Americans anxious to join the fight for stricter gun-control laws in the wake of the Newtown school shooting are finding there isn’t much of a fight to join—and the NRA is supremely organized. David Freedlander reports. 

Imagine you live in Connecticut, not far where the Sandy Hook massacre took place. Or, say, Oak Creek, Wisc., where a gunman shot and killed six at a Sikh temple in August. Or in Denver, Colo., near the Aurora movie theater, where 12 were shot in July.

 Fed up, and maybe a little scared for your safety, you decide that something needs to be done. But what? You check out the nation’s most prominent gun control group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, hoping to find an organization to join or at least some simple steps you can take immediately to join the fight—a march to attend, a congressman to pressure, news of legislation coming up before key committees in your local state legislature. For each state, the website gives you a generic form to fill out to contact your state chapter, which may be several towns over, a button to donate money to the group, and a link to learn about local gun laws.

Compare this with the National Rifle Association, which for years has been reaching out aggressively to would-be supporters everywhere from college campuses to CPAC by culling conservative email lists and by catching people at the point of sale of a firearm. Indeed, if you are thinking about joining the NRA, it is probably because the group has already reached out to you.    READ MORE

 Note: There's a White House petition on gun control that's receiving runaway votes, HERE

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sixteen US Mass Shootings Happened in 2012, Leaving at Least 88 Dead

President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he talks
about the Connecticut elementary school shooting,
Friday, December 14, 2012, in the White House briefing
room in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Connecticut shooting: Gunman forced his way into school, police say

Connecticut State Police say a gunman who massacred 26 children and adults at an elementary school before committing suicide forced his way into the building. By Tina Susman, Brian Bennett and Michael Muskal December 15, 2012, 9:34 a.m. NEWTOWN, Conn. -- The gunman in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history forced his way into a Connecticut elementary school, where he killed 26 children and adults before turning a weapon on himself, state police said Saturday, adding that they were continuing to search for evidence to explain how and why the rampage took place. “We're doing everything we need to do to literally peel back the onion, layer by layer,” State Police spokesman, Lt. J. Paul Vance told reporters at a news conference. The gunman “was not voluntarily let into the school,” Vance said. “He forced his way in.” Vance did not name the gunman, who has been identified by other law enforcement sources as Adam Lanza, 20, who lived in town with his mother, Nancy. PHOTOS: Shooting at Connecticut school Sources have said that Lanza began his spree by killing his mother and then driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School several miles away. At the school, those sources said, he fired two handguns, killing 20 children and six adults before killing himself. READ MORE

Super MoonWalking

Top 10 Worst School Massacres Worldwide

by Samehrocks, January 1, 2008

It is always tragic when a large number of people lose their lives, but it is worse when the deaths are of children. This is a list of ten of the worst massacres at schools.
10. Cologne school massacre 11 killed | 22 injured | Walter Seifert

9.The École Polytechnique Massacre 15 killed 14 injured | Marc Lépine | the worst school massacre in Canada’s history.

8. Columbine High School Massacre 15 died | 24 injured | Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold

7. University of Texas Clock Tower Shootings 18 killed | 31 injured | Charles Whitman

6. Dunblane massacre 18 killed | Thomas Hamilton | (the deadliest attack on children in United Kingdom history)

5. Erfurt massacre 17 killed | 7 injured | Robert Steinhäuser (Worst German Rampage)

4. Ma’alot massacre 26 killed | 60 wounded | DFLP, PLO | Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Palestine Liberation Organization

3. Virginia Tech 32 killed, many more injured | Seung-Hui Cho

2. Bath School disaster 45 died | 58 injured | Andrew Kehoe

1. Beslan school hostage crisis At least 386 dead, including 31 hostage takers | Over 700 injured | Shamil Basayev’s Riyadus Salihiin group

Addendum: Red Lake High School massacre 10 killed | 12 injured | Jeff Weise

Deadliest U.S. school shootings

Updated 11:50 am, Friday, December 14, 2012  from sfgate


Iraqis cannot forget what Americans have done here.

by Cathy Breen on 4/12/2012

“It is not written in our hearts, it is carved in our hearts.” I awoke this morning still shaken with these words in my head.

Yesterday I was in Ramadi and Fallujah. Instead of bringing a message of caring, of empathy for their suffering and a desire for peace, my presence as someone from the U.S, seemed to open wounds that are unfathomably deep.

I sat in on a lecture, given in English, to maybe fifty or more young men and women at a college in Ramadi. They were all about 22 and 23 years of age, in their last year of a 5-year program. That means they were about 13 or 14 years old during the U.S. led invasion and beginning of the occupation. I was invited to speak by the president as an “honored guest” after the lecture. To my embarrassment the professor graciously hurried through his lecture on my account. I had everyone’s attention. It was awkward for me, and after introducing myself, I said I would be grateful to hear from them. There was only silence. I am sure my words sounded empty, trite and artificial.

Then a young man in the front row only a couple of feet from me said in a quiet voice “We have nothing to say. The last years have been only sad ones.” Again there was silence.

Sami, my host from Najaf and part of the Muslim Peacemaker Team, stood and shared. He told the story of how, after the U.S. bombing assaults on Fallujah, he and others came from the Shia cities of Najaf and Karbala, to carry out a symbolic act of cleaning up rubble and trash in the streets of Fallujah. This gesture, he said, melted hearts and healed some of the brokenness between Sunni and Shia. He spoke of the delegation of peacemakers from the United States who were just in Najaf for twelve days, of the work to build bridges and seek reconciliation.

An impassioned young woman from the middle of the lecture hall spoke up. It was obviously not easy for her. “It is not,” she said, “about lack of water and electricity [something I had mentioned]. You have destroyed everything. You have destroyed our country. You have destroyed what is inside of us! You have destroyed our ancient civilization. You have taken our smiles from us. You have taken our dreams!”
Someone asked, “Why did you this? What did we do to you that you would do this to us?”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Moyers: ‘Washington’s revolving door’ is the core of America’s corruption

Moyers: ‘Washington’s revolving door’ is the core of America’s corruption (via Raw Story )

In a special comment on Friday’s episode of “Moyers and Company,” the former press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson pointed out what he believes to be at the very core of corruption in Washington, D.C.: “the revolving door” between working in government and lobbying it. “[The] revolving…

Speed Camera issue ticket for 0 mph ?!?

Baltimore man gets speed camera ticket for going 0 MPH (via Raw Story )

The City of Baltimore recently issued a ticket to Daniel Doty for speeding 38 miles per hour in a 25-mph zone — but photos and video captured by the speed camera system showed that his car was stopped at a red light at the time. Doty told The Baltimore Sun that photos included with the ticket issued…

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Obama's Got DA STYLE!!!

Let's see Bush top this!  (wink)

McDonald’s Worker Makes $8.25 an Hour, McDonald’s CEO Made $8.75 Million Last Year

The CEO makes almost 600 times as much as one Chicago worker.
December 12, 2012

Bloomberg has an  article today highlighting the pay gap at McDonald’s. The whole piece is worth a read but the beginning is particularly striking. It highlights Chicago man Tyree Johnson, who holds positions at two different McDonald’s. Between shifts he has to give himself a quick scrubbing in one of the restaurant’s bathrooms because he can’t even show up for work at a McDonald’s smelling like a McDonald’s.
“I hate when my boss tells me she won’t give me a raise because she can smell me,” he said.

Johnson, 44, needs the two paychecks to pay rent for his apartment at a single-room occupancy hotel on the city’s north side. While he’s worked at McDonald’s stores for two decades, he still doesn’t get 40 hours a week and makes $8.25 an hour, minimum wage in Illinois.

This is life in one of America’s premier growth industries. Fast-food restaurants have added positions more than twice as fast as the U.S. average during the recovery that began in June 2009.
Johnson’s circumstances look particularly grim when they’re compared, as Bloomberg does, to the compensation enjoyed by executives whose pay gives a whole new meaning to “McJob.”

Nothing Says Native American Heritage Like White Girls In Headdresses

Gwen Stefani in No Doubt’s “Looking Hot” video.
Maybe it’s totally cool to be an oblivious racist these days. Whatever the case, there have been unusually high rates of “playing Indian” this year.
December 11, 2012

There is something insidiously ironic about being American Indian during the fall of the 21st century. It all starts with Columbus Day to mark our “discovery,” then moves right into the “it’s totally not racist to dress up as a hypersexualized Indian” for Halloween parties, and goes out with a bang on Thanksgiving when we celebrate the survival of the Pilgrims and that harmonious, mutually beneficial relationship forged between colonizers and Indigenous peoples everywhere! However romanticized or factually inaccurate, these holidays happen to be the three days when Native peoples actually enter the mass psyche of American culture.

I don’t know about you, but I usually spend the autumn months parading around in my Navajo Hipster panties, feather headdress (on loan from model Karlie Kloss and singer Gwen Stefani), Manifest Destiny T-Shirt and knee-high fringed moccasins made in Taiwan while watching a Redskins game, smoking a pack of American Spirits, and eating genetically modified Butter Ball turkey, because I’m just that traditional.

Perhaps it was that warm Indian summer weather that seemingly made non-natives so eager to sport culturally demeaning faux Indian apparel and legitimize it under the guise of “ignorance” or “appreciation.” Maybe it’s totally cool to be an oblivious racist these days. Whatever the case, there have been unusually high rates of “playing Indian” this year.    READ MORE

Twinkie CEO Admits Company Took Employees Pensions and Put It Toward Executive Pay

Hostess company continues to screw over its workers.
December 11, 2012

Twinkie-maker Hostess continues to screw over its workers. The company is in the process of complete liquidation and 18,000 unionized workers are set to lose their jobs. More troubling – they could lose their pensions.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal , Hostess’ CEO, Gregory Rayburn, essentially admitted that his company stole employee pension money and put it toward CEO and senior executive pay (aka “operations”). While this isn't technically illegal, it's another sleazy theft by Hostess executives - who've paid themselves handsomely while running their company into the ground. Just last month, a judge agreed to let Hostess executives suck another $1.8 million out of the bankrupt company to pay bonuses to CEOs.  

If there's no way to recover the money for the Hostess pension plans for workers, then the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. will have to foot the bill to make sure workers get at least some of the retirement money they paid in.

Hostess shows us clearly what Bain-style predatory capitalism is all about: big bucks for the very few rich executives, layoffs and poverty for the workers and their communities.  READ MORE

How Michigan Republicans Caught Labor Off-Guard, Making Law Worse than Wisconsin's

Photo Credit: Michigan AFT
A law that seemed to happen overnight was actually years in the making, but Gov. Snyder's election-year fear of a Koch-funded group may have tipped the balance.
December 12, 2012

It seemed to happen so fast. Actually, it was years in the making: A law designed to eviscerate the membership rolls of labor unions in the state in which the mighty United Auto Workers makes its home was rammed through both houses of the Michigan legislature and signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Rick Snyder. As Wisconsin is to public employee unions, so is Michigan to the unions of the manufacturing sector -- a place emblematic of labor’s political sway, a force now diminished by the new law.

Taken up in a lame-duck legislative session, the prospects for the bill’s passage caught everybody off-guard, thanks to a sudden change of heart by Snyder who had, throughout his term, expressed opposition to any law that, like the one he just signed, would allow workers in union shops -- such as those employed by the big-three automakers whose plants account for more than 136,000 Michigan jobs -- to opt out of paying dues to the unions that represent them.

But Snyder faces re-election in 2014, which means his campaign begins now, with this opening volley. Had the legislature passed the law, drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (the organization funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch that drafted Wisconsin’s anti-union law), and Snyder failed to sign it, he might have faced fierce opposition from Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-funded astroturf group that was also instrumental in the passage of the Wisconsin law. Even worse (for him), Snyder might have faced a primary challenge.    READ MORE

5 Unbelievably Creepy Surveillance Tactics

They could be ripped from the plot of a sci-fi movie.
December 11, 2012

Since the erosion of Americans' civil liberties depends on high levels of public apathy, some of the most dangerous privacy breaches take place incrementally and under the radar; if it invites comparisons to Blade Runner or Orwell, then someone in the PR department didn't do their job. Meanwhile, some of the biggest threats to privacy, like insecure online data or iPhone GPS tracking, are physically unobtrusive and therefore easily ignored. And it'll be at least a year or two until the sky is overrun by spy drones. 

So when a method of surveillance literally resembles a prop or plot point in a sci-fi movie, it helps to reveal just how widespread and sophisticated commercial and government monitoring has become.  Here are five recent developments that seem almost unreal in their dystopian creepiness. 

1. Buses and street cars that can hear what you say .
You can't really go anywhere in America without being tracked by surveillance cameras. But seeing what people do is not enough; according to a report by the Daily, cities all over the country are literally bugging public transportation. 

In San Francisco, city officials have plans to install surveillance cameras that record sound on 357 buses and trolley cars, the Daily reported. Eugene, Oregon and Columbus, Hartford and Athens, Georgia, also have audio recording plans in the works. The systems have the capacity to filter background noise and hone in on passengers' conversations.    READ MORE

Why ‘Slut' Label Refuses to Die

How sexual stigma impacts both women and men.
December 12, 2012

For women, engaging in casual sex still carries a stigma, and the prospect of being judged dampens their interest in one-night stands.

That’s the key finding of a newly published study that suggests sexual mores remain stubbornly stable. It concludes that, more than a half-century after the introduction of the birth control pill , the sexual double standard is alive and well and still influencing women’s everyday behavior.

The research, published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, is by three University of Michigan psychologists led by Terri Conley . Last year, she authored a paper that challenged evolutionary psychology’s thesis that women are less interested in casual sex than men. Men have a better chance of passing down their genes to a new generation if they sow their seed widely, according to that widely circulated evolutionary psychology theory , while women’s odds increase if they’re in a stable relationship in which the man helps raise their children. Thus a different set of deep, unconscious impulses lead men to be more promiscuous than women.

In contrast, Conley’s research suggested that, under the right circumstances—that is, when the experience promises to be safe and pleasant—women are just as likely as men to engage in casual sex. Her new paper adds stigma and the prospect of backlash to that equation, and finds they inhibit women’s choices.     READ MORE 

(Please note that today,  "slut" has also become a term of endearment,  meant to signify that "this sex is so good it must be illegal".  Some modern women can be insulted if not called a slut, but only in private,  where it's absence would mean that you did not enjoy the sex.)

Why God, Family and Tradition Do Not Equal Happiness

Conservatives are freaking out about the death of the traditional family. But the family appears to be getting better.

  December 12, 2012

Are we living in a post-familial age? According to a new report, The Rise of Post-Familialism: Humanity's Future? , the answer is yes: the traditional family unit is slowly dying out as more people choose to forgo children and even marriage. As a result, society is economically imperilled, lacking the necessary workforce to support older generations. We're also "values-challenged", entering a brave new world of materialistic indulgence, selfishness and protracted adolescence.

Sounds awful, doesn't it? Luckily, almost none of it is true.

People around the world are indeed delaying childbearing and marriage, and larger numbers of people never marry or reproduce at all. But that is not synonymous with a moral decline, or selfish decadence. It represents an uptick in women's rights, a commitment to creating the family one wants, and wider choices for everyone.

It's no shock that the drop in the number of children a woman has came along with the advent of the birth control pill. The countries with the highest birth rates aren't just highly religious; they're poor, have abominable human rights records and lack access to reliable birth control. Contrary to New York Times columnist Ross Douthat's position , it is not in fact the country with the most babies that wins: if that was the case, Nigeria would be running the show.    READ MORE

Too Big to Jail: Big Banks Can Finance Terrorists and Walk Away Scot-Free

Asia-focused bank HSBC said on Tuesday it would
pay US authorities a record $1.92 billion to settle
allegations of money laundering that were said to
have helped Mexican drug cartels, terrorists and Iran.
HSBC receives get-out-of-jail-free card in a real-life game of Monopoly.
December 12, 2012

The New York Times reports this week that megabank HSBC has escaped criminal prosecution for money laundering that probably funded terrorists and narcotics traffickers. Why? Because regulators and prosecutors were petrified that an indictment would undermine the entire financial system. The Times quotes anonymous government sources who confessed fears about bringing formal charges because doing so would be a "death sentence" for the bank. So they let it off the hook.

That’s right, HSBC is officially above the law. Too-big-to-fail has become too-big-to-prosecute. 

A year-long investigation found that the British banking giant had blown right past federal laws by laundering billions of dollars from Mexican drug trafficking and processing banned transactions on behalf of Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma. A Wednesday Times article serves up vivid passages about the shady goings-on, including HSBC officials working closely with Saudi Arabian banks linked to terrorist organizations.    READ MORE

The South Has Been at Civil War for 150 Years

Photo Credit: Creative Commons license/ Flickr
The film Lincoln ends after the Amendment that ended slavery throughout the nation passed. But for blacks, earning the rights of citizenship was to prove a much more protracted war.
December 10, 2012 

Lincoln is a magnificent movie. But as I left the theatre, to echo Paul Harvey, the late radio commentator, I wanted to know “the rest of the story.”

The movie begins in January 1865, exactly 2 years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring slaves of the Confederate States “thenceforward and forever free. ”

As Lincoln himself told Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles issuing the Proclamation was a “military necessity. We must free the slaves or be ourselves subdued.” Indeed, Lincoln wanted to issue the Proclamation in July 1862 but Secretary of State William Seward cautioned that the series of military defeats suffered by the Union army that year would lead many to view such a move simply as an act of desperation. The victory at Antietam in September gave Lincoln the opportunity he needed.

The Emancipation Proclamation helped the Union immeasurably. It converted a war to preserve the union into a war of liberation, a change that gained widespread support in key European nations. And by rescinding a 1792 ban on blacks serving in the armed forces, the Proclamation solved the increasingly pressing personnel needs of the Union Army in the face of a declining number of white volunteers. During the war nearly 200,000 blacks, most of them ex-slaves joined the Union Army, giving the North additional manpower needed to win the war. As historian James M. McPherson writes, “The proclamation officially turned the Union army into an army of liberation…And by authorizing the enlistment of freed slaves into the army, the final proclamation went a long step toward creating that army of liberation.”

Abolitionists viewed arming ex-slaves as a major step toward toward giving them equality. Frederick Douglass urged blacks to join the army for this reason. “Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”

U.S. judge orders 9/11 suspects' CIA experience kept secret

Waterboarded 182 Times on Trial
MIAMI | Wed Dec 12, 2012 2:23pm EST
(Reuters) - The U.S. military judge overseeing the Guantanamo prosecution of five alleged conspirators in the September 11 attacks has issued an order maintaining secrecy over the defendants' experiences in clandestine CIA prisons.

The protective order safeguarding classified information in the case was signed on December 6 by the judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, and unsealed on Wednesday.

It is not limited to documents formally labeled "Top Secret" by the CIA or produced by the government, but also prohibits disclosure of the defendants own "observations and experiences" in the secret CIA detention, rendition and interrogation program.

Pohl is the chief judge overseeing the war crimes tribunals established by the United States to try foreign captives on terrorism-related charges at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.
The defendants in the 9/11 case, including the alleged mastermind of the hijacked plane plot, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Pakistani, Yemeni and Saudi captives, face charges that could lead to their execution.    READ MORE

Friday, December 7, 2012

Spartan Multi Clipboard

Spartan multi clipboard is THE number one upgrade to the Windows operating system.

Why a multi clipboard?

Simple. A multiple item clipboard doesn't just mean that you can copy more than once before you paste!
It means that every single piece of useful information that appears on your screen can be saved for future reference simply by copying it.
Why Spartan ? Are there not other multi clipboards?

There are lots of other multi clipboards but they all suffer from various drawbacks. Some only copy text. Some copy graphics but cannot paste them into Outlook or Windows mail. Some cannot copy combined text and graphics as in a a clip from MS Word. Worst of all, most other clipboards stop at just saving the information. What is the point of saving a web page address if you cannot click on it to visit the page. With Spartan, you can visit copied web sites. You can start email to copied email addresses. You can open copied files and folders. If you have a modem, you can even dial copied phone numbers.

See Spartan in action... New video demo...Click here

Monday, December 3, 2012

"How California’s Three-Strikes Law Struck Out"

Norman Williams votes in the Nov. 6 election. He
received a life sentence under California's three-strikes
law for a series of petty thefts and burglaries but was
released in 2009.
Photo by Michael Romano.

It was slain by a couple of professors, their students, and a district attorney who wanted reform.

By |Posted Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, at 2:43 PM ET

In last week’s election, California voters made a decision that was at once historic and obvious: They reformed the state’s infamously harsh three-strikes law. Proposition 36, the ballot measure that passed with an amazing 69 percent of the vote, changed the state’s three-strikes law so that offenders who have committed no serious and violent crime will no longer go to prison for life. The vote was historic because when voters see crime measures on the ballot, they almost always pull the lever in favor of retribution, not mercy. And yet this time the result was also a no-brainer: The state was locking up petty thieves and shoplifters for life, and given the chance to stop this, the voters resoundingly did.

The original three-strikes ballot measure passed in California in 1994, following the terrible murder-kidnapping of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, who was snatched from her own slumber party. The killer turned out to be a criminal with a violent past who was out on parole. That was all voters needed to hear to pass a measure that said it would keep “career criminals who rape women, molest children and commit murder behind bars where they belong.”

But as the Los Angeles Times pointed out in an editorial this week, it’s not clear that Californians intended to go beyond the rapists, murderers, and molesters to permanently lock up offenders like Norman Williams, whom I wrote about for the New York Times Magazine two years ago. Williams’ third strike was a conviction for petty theft in 1997: He stole the floor jack of a tow truck when he was homeless and addicted to drugs. His earlier crimes also weren’t the work of a hardened and dangerous career criminal: In 1982, he burglarized an empty apartment while it was being fumigated. After he was robbed at gunpoint on the way out, he helped the police find the stuff he’d stolen. In 1992, he tried to steal tools from an art studio. When the owner confronted him, he dropped everything and ran.  READ MORE


Friday, November 30, 2012

'Stand your ground' laws: Do they put teens in greater danger?

Ron Davis, the father of Jordan Davis, is embraced as he arrives at the funeral home for the visitation and a memorial service for his son Jordan on Wednesday in Jacksonville, Fla.
Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union/AP

Ron Davis, the father of Jordan Davis, is embraced
as he arrives at the funeral home for the visitation and
a memorial service for his son Jordan on Wednesday
in Jacksonville, Fla.

Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union/AP
Three shooting deaths in the past week raise questions about whether prank-prone and reckless teens are particularly vulnerable under states' 'castle doctrine' and 'stand your ground' laws.

By Staff writer / November 29, 2012 


Recent events are raising questions about whether "stand your ground" and "castle doctrine" laws – which offer legal protection to people who hurt or kill someone in self-defense – could disproportionately harm teenagers.

During the past week, three teenagers in states with such laws were shot to death for doing things that, critics of the laws say, teenagers regularly get caught doing.

In Florida, unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Davis was allegedly shot and killed by 40-something Michael Dunn after an argument about a loud car stereo outside a convenience store.

And in Minnesota, retired State Department employee Byron David Smith allegedly wounded and then killed two teenagers, Haile Kifer and Nicholas Brady, who broke into his house on Thanksgiving, apparently on a hunt for prescription drugs.

This week also saw three teen boys charged with murder in Alabama after their friend, Summer Moody, was shot in April. When a man caught the four breaking into fishing cottages in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, he allegedly fired a warning shot that killed Summer in what a district attorney called a "tragic accident." On Wednesday, a grand jury indicted the three boys, not the man who shot Summer.

SYG laws will eventually,  if left to their own devises,  make us effectively our own jailers,  afraid to even walk the streets for fear of one another.  This intolerable situation will lead us to beg our authorities to take absolute power,  to remove guns from our society,  as the only way we can survive as a nation.  How ironic is it that the 2nd Amendment is leading us back into dictatorship?

Sign the anti SYG petition here;   and spread the word so that others can do so as well.  Sure it's not going to overturn the laws that many states have already passed,  but it will make the showing needed to empower others to move on this important matter.  Thanks for all that you do.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

'Stand your ground' task force just political theater

Beth Kassab
8:16 a.m. EST, November 17, 2012

This is why Florida is the butt of the nation's jokes.

We can't count our votes on time. The road to CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus' downfall veered straight off Interstate 4 and into the mansion of "Tampa Kardashian" Jill Kelley. We order government studies to answer questions that are already painfully obvious such as whether texting and driving is dangerous (Yes!).

And when we have the opportunity to do something serious — something that could make us a leader for improvements and reform — we waste it

I'm talking about fixing the law that made Central Florida the epicenter just nine months ago for explosive debates about racism, gun rights and when one person has a right to kill another.

But memories seem short since George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin on that cold and rainy February evening.

The law at the center of it all known as "stand your ground" caused two prosecutors to come to two wildly different conclusions.

People rightfully began to scrutinize "stand your ground," a 2005 law written by National Rifle Association lobbyist and Tallahassee puppet master Marion Hammer that removed the "duty to retreat" from Florida's self-defense statute.

In other words, if you believe you are in danger, Florida law says there's no need to run away or get yourself out of the situation if you can. You can just pull out your piece and fire, with immunity from prosecution.

Trayvon's death shined a light on other cases that had invoked "stand your ground": a gang member who got off scot-free for a shooting. A case of road rage that ended with one man stabbing another with an ice pick.

Feeling pressured to do something, the governor named a task force to study the law and make recommendations.

But this was nothing more than political theater. Gov. Rick Scott stacked the committee with members already convinced it was a good law and not in need of major reform.   READ MORE

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How the media shouldn't cover a mass murder

A look at the "Batman killer" front pages.

Every time there's a mass shooting, I remember this piece of footage from Charlie Brooker's BBC series Newswipe. In it, a forensic psychiatrist outlines the guidelines for news reporting of such a tragedy, assuming that your aim is to prevent further ones.


He says:
If you don't want to propagate more mass murders...
Don't start the story with sirens blaring.
Don't have photographs of the killer.
Don't make this 24/7 coverage.
Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story.
Not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.
Do localise this story to the affected community and as boring as possible in every other market.
Here are this morning's front pages. Judge for yourself who has done a good job of heeding that advice, and who hasn't.  See More Newspaper Front Pages


It could be a very unlucky time to be the lucky winner of Wednesday’s $425 million Powerball jackpot. Whether Congress and the White House reach an agreement on deficit reduction by the end of the year or not, new taxes on the rich are bound to take a large chunk of the prize money.
Financial advisors usually recommend lottery winners spread their winnings out over several years to avoid temptations of spending the money too quickly. But with the fiscal cliff threatening to shrink the prize money through a bundle of new tax hikes, advisors are recommending the winner takes the lump sum as soon as possible. “A lump sum could save you millions in taxes,” Matthew Goff, a financial adviser in Houston, told Marketwatch.

- Read more at Marketwatch


Grover Norquist

Conservative groups are less than amused with Republicans who are considering raising revenue in exchange for entitlement cuts in fiscal cliff negotiations.

Brent Bozell, chairman of For America, a conservative action group, wrote an angry letter to Republican leaders Tuesday, blasting the lawmakers for putting tax increases on the table.

 “You led the Republican Party for two years claiming emphatically that the tax increase on “the wealthy”... is really a devastating tax hike on small business owners that would kill jobs and decimate any kind of economic recovery,” the letter said. “Now conservatives see daily stories asserting that the GOP agrees with the President that “revenues are on the table” and GOP elite are all over the airwaves asking if the Tea Party will care if “a few multi-millionaires pay more in taxes.”

 The group said that by agreeing to raise revenue, Republicans are only emboldening Democrats to demand higher taxes. “Liberals feel comfortable making such outlandish proposals because they feel you are weak enough that you will continue to surrender to evermore higher taxes having capitulated once already. They will never be satisfied. You know that.” The letter was sent just days after a handful of senior Republicans publicly distanced themselves from conservative activist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. - Read the letter here

Small businesses big enough to hit these thresholds incorporate to escape them.
The real target is the Corporate Executives of public corporations,  who can now take their compensation in salaries plus benefits,  because the top income brackets are now low enough,  to make "raiding the corporate treasury via compensation and benefits packages",  a viable option.

If taxes on the proceeds of these corporate treasury raids are high enough to prohibit them,  then corporate executives will have to take their compensation in stock and options.  The difference is that,  to get and preserve the capital gains they get from stock and options compensation deals,  they must ensure that the company performs well.  That means that as the company performs well,  not only do they get the high pay they seek,  but shareholders get benefits too.  That puts more money into the economy,  than would happen if only these executives get higher salaries,  which are paid them,  regardless of company performance.  Many taking herculean pay,  even while the corps they manage sink beneath the waves.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales

Koch Industries Executive Vice President David H. Koch,
left, poses for a photo with Julia Koch during the opening
night at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on
Sept. 26, 2011.
Bloomberg Markets Magazine
In May 2008, a unit of Koch Industries Inc., one of the world’s largest privately held companies, sent Ludmila Egorova-Farines, its newly hired compliance officer and ethics manager, to investigate the management of a subsidiary in Arles in southern France. In less than a week, she discovered that the company had paid bribes to win contracts.

“I uncovered the practices within a few days,” Egorova- Farines says. “They were not hidden at all.”
She immediately notified her supervisors in the U.S. A week later, Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries dispatched an investigative team to look into her findings, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its November issue.

By September of that year, the researchers had found evidence of improper payments to secure contracts in six countries dating back to 2002, authorized by the business director of the company’s Koch-Glitsch affiliate in France.

“Those activities constitute violations of criminal law,” Koch Industries wrote in a Dec. 8, 2008, letter giving details of its findings. The letter was made public in a civil court ruling in France in September 2010; the document has never before been reported by the media.

Egorova-Farines wasn’t rewarded for bringing the illicit payments to the company’s attention. Her superiors removed her from the inquiry in August 2008 and fired her in June 2009, calling her incompetent, even after Koch’s investigators substantiated her findings. She sued Koch-Glitsch in France for wrongful termination.
Obsessed with Secrecy

'Pinocchio effect': Lying sends nose-tip temperature soaring: scientists

Telling a lie may not make your nose grow like Pinocchio but it does send its temperature soaring, according to Spanish scientists. A rise in anxiety will see the tip of the nose heat up - while making a 'great mental effort' will help in cooling it down - says the University of Granada's Emilio Gómez Milán and Elvira Salazar López.  READ MORE

The GOP's Voter Suppression Strategy

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)  

ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection

This article is part of a Nation series exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council, in collaboration with the Center For Media and Democracy. John Nichols introduces the series.

Hundreds of ALEC’s model bills and resolutions bear traces of Koch DNA: raw ideas that were once at the fringes but that have been carved into “mainstream” policy through the wealth and will of Charles and David Koch. Of all the Kochs’ investments in right-wing organizations, ALEC provides some of the best returns: it gives the Kochs a way to make their brand of free-market fundamentalism legally binding.

No one knows how much the Kochs have given ALEC in total, but the amount likely exceeds $1 million—not including a half-million loaned to ALEC when the group was floundering. ALEC gave the Kochs its Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award, and Koch Industries has been one of the select members of ALEC’s corporate board for almost twenty years. The company’s top lobbyist was once ALEC’s chairman. As a result, the Kochs have shaped legislation touching every state in the country. Like ideological venture capitalists, the Kochs have used ALEC as a way to invest in radical ideas and fertilize them with tons of cash.

Take environmental protections. The Kochs have a penchant for paying their way out of serious violations and coming out ahead. Helped by Koch Industries’ lobbying efforts, one of the first measures George W. Bush signed into law as governor of Texas was an ALEC model bill giving corporations immunity from penalties if they tell regulators about their own violation of environmental rules. Dozens of other ALEC bills would limit environmental regulations or litigation in ways that would benefit Koch.
ALEC’s model legislation reflects parts of the Kochs’ agenda that have little to do with oil profits. Long before ALEC started pushing taxpayer-subsidized school vouchers, for example, the Koch fortune was already underwriting attacks on public education. David Koch helped inject the idea of privatizing public schools into the national debate as a candidate for vice president in 1980. A cornerstone of the Libertarian Party platform, which he bankrolled, was the call for “educational tax credits to encourage alternatives to public education,” a plan to the right of Ronald Reagan. Several pieces of ALEC’s model legislation echo this plan.  READ MORE

Friday, November 23, 2012

One-Party Control Opens States to Partisan Rush

Though the Nov. 6 election maintained divided government in Washington, the picture is starkly different in capitals from California to Florida: one party will hold the governor’s office and majorities in both legislative chambers in at least 37 states, the largest number in 60 years and a significant jump from even two years ago.

“For quite a period of time, people were voting for divided government because they wanted compromise, middle ground,” said State Senator Thomas M. Bakk, the minority leader — and soon to be majority leader — in Minnesota. Democrats there seized control of both legislative chambers, creating single-party rule in St. Paul for the first time in more than two decades. “But they’ve come to realize that compromise is getting awfully hard to accomplish. The parties have gotten too rigid. Maybe this whole experiment with voting for divided government is starting to wane. I think that’s what happened here.”
Twenty-four states will be controlled by Republicans, including Alaska and Wisconsin, where the party took the State Senate, and North Carolina, where the governorship changed hands. At least 13 states will be Democratic, including Colorado, Minnesota and Oregon, where control of the legislatures shifted, and California, where the already dominant Democrats gained a supermajority in both chambers. (The situation in New York, where the potential for single-party control by the Democrats rests on the makeup of the Senate, is still uncertain.)

Power will be split in, at most, 12 capitals — the fewest, said Tim Storey of the National Conference of State Legislatures, since 1952.

So while President Obama and Republican leaders in Washington have made postelection hints of an openness to compromise, many in the states may see no such need.

“The fact is, they can do whatever they want now,” Chris Larson, the Democrats’ newly chosen Senate minority leader in Wisconsin, said of the Republicans in his state. He noted, glumly, that they have been holding planning meetings behind closed doors since the election.  READ MORE