My favorite Holiday light show

Featured twice on ABC’s Good Morning America – song is “Christmas Can Can” by Straight No Chaser. This is my first year decorating and this is my first sequence ever. I built almost everything from scratch using wood and acrylic. I am a music/teacher director for a living (COVA Conservatory in Oakland and Centerville Presbyterian Church in Fremont), hence the massive instruments! The guitar is 17′, the piano is 19′ — Tom BetGeorge

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Right-wing nutballs plan takeover of Arizona county

Earlier this month, Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff and popular “Patriot” movement speaker, gave a speech in Pueblo, Colorado, in which he announced that he was launching a new bid for public office.

Mack said that he would be moving to Navajo County, Arizona, to run as the county sheriff in 2016 and told the members of the Tea Party group in his audience, “I need some backup and I wouldn’t mind if you went there, too.”

He wasn’t joking. In fact, Mack is the most prominent recruit of a group that is seeking to stage a political takeover of the sprawling rural county as an experiment in creating a local government that will ignore and “nullify” federal laws — such as federal lands restrictions and gun regulations — that its leaders believe to be unconstitutional…

The former sheriff explained how a group called the Constitutional County Project had approached him and asked him to join their first experiment in creating a “constitutional county,” what Mack said would be a “blueprint for freedom” that could then be replicated across the country…

The Constitutional County Project’s website says that once it achieves its political takeover of Navajo County, its allied elected officials get to work repealing “local and county laws and regulations which are unrelated to protecting individual rights,” enforcing environmental regulations at the “county level,” cutting taxes and regulations and using “legal and political means to protect the county’s residents against any attempt to un-Constitutionally interfere with peaceable living and enterprise.”

Just in case you thought utopias were only an expression of anarchist politics in the 19th Century or Hippie Love in the 1960’s.

Fascist-minded idjits are equally capable of rejecting society’s standards for their own interpretation of communal human needs. Of course, they needn’t waste time over anything learned from history or science – and no doubt won’t concern themselves about the health and safety of someone who doesn’t carry anything less than a 10-mm sidearm.

My only curiosity is which he-man will end up sucking the most dollar$ from the idjits that join the colony. I expect they will follow the same general economic model of the average American fundamentalist religion.

12 million routers may not have been patched for Misfortune Cookie

Researchers at the security software company Check Point say they’ve discovered a serious vulnerability lurking inside the routers and modems used to deliver Internet connectivity to 12 million homes and small businesses around the world, and it’s going to be a complicated matter to fix it.

Dubbed the Misfortune Cookie, the weakness is present in cable and DSL modems from well-known manufacturers like D-Link, Huawei and ZTE, and could allow a malicious hacker to hijack them and attack connected computers, phones and tablets. An attacker exploiting Misfortune Cookie could also monitor a vulnerable Internet connection, stealing passwords, business data or other information. Check Point didn’t disclose how an attack might be carried out. Spokespeople for D-Link, Huawei and ZTE had no immediate comment on the vulnerability.

In an interview with Re/code, Shahar Tal, a researcher at Israel-based Check Point, said the company traced the vulnerability to a programming error made in 2002. That error originated with Allegro Software, the Massachusetts-based developer of RomPager, which unwittingly introduced it into the widely used embedded Web server…

The list of devices affected by Misfortune Cookie includes some 200 products from more than 20 companies. All told there are more than 12 million devices with the vulnerability in use today, including some that were manufactured as recently as this year. And yet to date, no real-world attacks using Misfortune Cookie have been detected.

Reached for comment, Allegro Software downplayed the severity of the vulnerability and its responsibility for it. “It’s a 12-year-old bug that was fixed nine years ago,” said CEO Bob Van Andel. He conceded, however, that many of Allegro’s customers haven’t bothered to install the code that protects RomPager against Misfortune Cookie — nor can the company force them to do so.

So, if you suspect your router or modem has the Misfortune Cookie – Tal suggests calling the manufacturer or the company that provided the equipment. See if they’re one of the bright ones that actually keeps up with patches. Of course, if that was true you would have already received notice of the update.

Right?

Pic of the Day

SalarDeUyuniBolivia21
Click to Enlarge

Photography by Michael Kittell – “I have been a photographer for a number of years, and have only recently started to do so professionally. I’m an alpine climber, so most of my work focuses on mountains, climbing, and climbing culture.”

I found this at one of the photo sites I link to, Photobotos. Michael’s website is mkwild.com.

VA incompetence creates $6,324 bill for dying veteran who got married


Debbie Shafer cares for her husband, Rob ArthurSteve Ringman/The Seattle TIMES

Snohomish County, Washington — When Rob Arthur was diagnosed with brain cancer back in January, the gaunt, gray-haired Vietnam veteran decided to wed his longtime girlfriend, Debbie Shafer, in a hospital room.

The marriage has been a source of comfort for this couple as they face the challenges of an unforgiving disease, deemed terminal, in a trailer home set by the steep flanks of the North Cascade mountains.

It also has been a big source of stress in their dealings with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Last summer, the VA ruled that Arthur — his earnings boosted by his wife’s wages as a nurse’s aide — was no longer eligible for an income-based pension and would have to repay $6,324 in checks mailed out during the more than six months that the department took to make this decision…

These overpayments are more fallout from the troubled VA’s inability to keep up with a massive caseload of veterans who turn to the department for benefits. These delays sometimes can create major financial problems for the veterans by sticking them with unexpected bills to repay checks they should not have received.

“It can be an incredible hardship,” said Amy Fairweather, a policy director at San Francisco-based Swords to Plowshares, a nonprofit veterans service organization. “The onus should be on the VA to take care of these matters and not to go after destitute or low-income veterans to pay back pensions.”

VA officials say their actions are guided by blah, blah, blah…

And, gee, you could ask Congress to fix the problem – in the next century or so.

The 68-year-old Arthur and his wife say they accept the loss of the pension. But they want the VA to drop demands to pay back the pension checks sent out earlier this year.

“We simply cannot afford to survive should we be held responsible for this debt,” Arthur wrote in a letter to the VA. requesting a hardship exemption. “We did not do anything to deceive the Department of Veterans Affairs. We completed any and all documentation required of us in a timely fashion…”

The debt owed the VA adds to the uncertainty over the future. Shafer frets that the department might try to garnish her wages, or even take part of her husband’s Social Security check.

Earlier in the fall, she sent the VA a $5 check to start to pay off the debt.

“I don’t have time for all this. I want to spend my time with Rob,” Shafer said.

I want him to die in peace.”

Meanwhile, government bureaucrats, elected officials, use the same defense offered by all Good Germans at the end of World War 2 — “We’re just following orders.”

Convicted Wall Street trader sues customer who turned his sorry ass in!


Creep of the week

A former Jefferies & Co. managing director convicted of fraud for lying to customers about the price of mortgage-backed securities sued the AllianceBernstein Holding LP (AB) executive who reported him.

Jesse C. Litvak sued Michael Canter, head of the securitized assets group at New York-based AllianceBernstein, in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan yesterday, accusing him of using “wrongful, unfair or improper means” to interfere with his employment, directly resulting in his termination.

Litvak was accused of defrauding investors of $2 million by misrepresenting how much sellers were asking for the securities, or what customers would pay, and keeping the difference for Jefferies…

Canter testified for the prosecution during the case, saying the spreadsheet showed that Litvak had misled him about how much Jefferies had paid for bonds, including one instance when Canter agreed to raise a bid, yet the firm still paid the original price.

Litvak was found guilty in March of securities fraud and making false statements, as well as fraud connected to the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Along with his prison sentence, he was ordered to pay a $1.75 million fine.

Throw away the key!

This sleazy bastard and the lawyers representing him are perfect examples of how low legal processes have sunk in the United States. From kissing butt for every fundamentalist nutball who doesn’t want to pay taxes – to the open buying and selling of Congress and lesser members of the mutant species we have for elected officials – corruption is justified by every crook in the country.

They act as if the only birthright in the country that doesn’t need validation is that the powerful have every right to steal.

The judge should call him back for re-sentencing – and double the time, triple the fine!

Shop like a pharmacist — don’t buy brand names!

If you’re looking to save a few dollars — who isn’t, really? — here is some fail-safe advice: stop buying Advil.

Stop buying Tylenol, Aleve, Motrin or any other brand-name painkiller while you’re at it. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t buy any painkillers at all — just that you should pick up the generic version — the acetaminophen and ibuprofen and naproxen that your local drugstore chain markets for about one third of the price.

This is something that Tylenol sales data suggests a lot of us aren’t doing. Fewer than half of painkiller sales in the United States are for the generic, private label brands that pharmacy chains manufacture

CVS sells 100 Advil tablets for $9.99. It sells a bottle of 100 generic ibuprofen tablets for $4. They are, aside from their shape and color, the exact same pill. Each has 200 milligrams of ibuprofen, a compound discovered by a British scientist in 1961 and first used to treat arthritis.

Pharmacists, whose whole job it is to know about drugs and how they work, have caught onto this. While regular shoppers choose brand-name painkillers 26 percent of the time, according to research published last year by Dutch economist Bart Bronnenberg, pharmacists pick brand-name products in 9 percent of their purchases.

Learn what is the active ingredient in the OTC medication you need. Look for that – not the brand name.

Save yourself a few bucks, folks.

Poor old Noah – he doesn’t qualify for an $18 million tax break

A Noah’s Ark-themed amusement park may have sprung a financial leak after being denied millions of dollars in tax incentives.

The Ark Encounter, a Genesis-themed attraction with a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah’s Ark, was denied approximately $18 million in tax breaks from the state of Kentucky. Why? According to Think Progress, it may have something to do with refusing to comply with the state’s existing nondiscrimination policies…

This isn’t the first time that Ark Encounter and its parent company Answers in Genesis have been tied in with state taxes. When the park was announced almost four years ago, MSNBC reported that it would be eligible for $37 million in state tourism incentives, despite worries that taxpayers were funding a religious theme park.

Fast forward to early October, when the park’s president Mike Zovath let it slip that he only planned to hire creationists. Ark Encounter had received preliminary approval for $18 million in sales tax rebates over the next 10 years, but the Secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet had warned Zovath that companies which discriminate on religious bases cannot receive these incentives.

And it turns out that the Cabinet was true to its word. In a letter, Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart noted that “the use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible…”

Is there a Christian nutball in the country who doesn’t also feel it’s their fundamental[ist] right to be given taxpayer dollar$ to fund their personal religious beliefs?

Thanks, Mike