Category: Progressive

Colbert lampoons Steve Pearce – New Mexico’s primo Republican hypocrite

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Like any politician skewered by Colbert, Pearce has now passed beyond the deer-in-the-headlights stage and has his minions running hither and yon – trying to soften the effect of Colbert and his army of fans who laugh at what passes for a conservative in 21st Century America.

Thanks to Steve Terrell

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New Obamacare customers are happy


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We’ve known for a few months now that lots of people signed up for health insurance this year in new marketplaces. A new survey shows that the people who did so are also pretty happy with their purchases.

The survey, from the Commonwealth Fund, a research group, came to similar conclusions as other surveys about the expansion of health insurance. It found that about 15 percent of adults younger than 65 now lack health insurance, down from 20 percent before the Affordable Care Act rolled out in January.

What was more surprising is that people who got the new coverage were generally happy with the product. Overall, 73 percent of people who bought health plans and 87 percent of those who signed up for Medicaid said they were somewhat or very satisfied with their new health insurance. Seventy-four percent of newly insured Republicans liked their plans. Even 77 percent of people who had insurance before — including members of the much-publicized group whose plans got canceled last year — were happy with their new coverage.

Larry Levitt, the senior vice president for special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation, another research group that polls on the Affordable Care Act, said he wasn’t sure we’d see such high satisfaction so early

The Commonwealth poll appears to be the first national survey since the health-law passed to have gone beyond questions about insurance status and asked about satisfaction and usage.

Of course, since the article appears in the newest copout version of the NY TIMES, they meet the editorial requirement of stuffing the end of the article with beaucoup “what-ifs” just in case you might take a positive view – of a positive poll.

Perish the thought that changing times, a wee bit of change in politics as usual, might support even further movement in a population world-reknowned for ennui.

RTFA for more good news about legislation that benefits 99.9% of this nation.

Boy Scouts make statement by marching in gay pride parade


James Estrin/The New York Times

The color guard leading the annual Gay Pride March down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Sunday carried flags of sky blue, navy blue, red-white-and-blue and rainbow. But, for these marchers, the colors that mattered most were the ones they wore.

Khaki shirts, olive pants and rainbow neckerchiefs: the Boy Scout uniform, pride-style — a uniform that had never been seen on a group of marchers in New York City’s pride parade before.

They had come to mark progress — the Boy Scouts of America’s breakthrough vote last year to end a decades-old policy of prohibiting openly gay youths from being scouts — and to call for more. However, the organization, a touchstone of traditional America, still bars openly gay adults from participating as troop leaders or volunteers. Ending that ban has become a signature cause for the gay-rights movement…

The marchers’ uniforms were a provocative statement. Boy Scout officials have said that scouts are forbidden to wear their uniforms in events that support social or political positions, including gay pride events, and have disciplined scouts and scoutmasters in other states for doing so. But the New York area council has adopted a nondiscrimination policy that leaders of the parade group, called Scouts for Equality, said they believed would protect them.

A spokesman for the national organization declined to comment on the group of marchers, which included parents and straight supporters of the gay rights movement as well as gay and straight scouts and leaders…

The scouts did not take their “marching” lightly. No meandering on the asphalt for them, no dancing and high-fiving the spectators. As they stepped off to frenzied cheers from the crowd, lifting their flags, Peter Brownstein conducted their progress in low, determined tones, as if he were directing a military procession: “Left, right, left right left right.”

As the group passed the Stonewall Inn, the West Village bar known as the birthplace of the gay-rights movement, he and the other marchers paused and gave the Scout salute.

Mr. Brownstein, a Boy Scout leader from Utah, was forced to leave his troop after marching in the Salt Lake City pride event last year. That did not deter him in the least from coming to New York’s celebration.

We’re showing,” he told his fellow scouts, “that we belong.”

Power to the People still means all the people, folks. Cheers to the scouts who marched for progress.

Blimp flies over NSA data centre protesting our secret police

anti-nsa blimp
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Activists flew a blimp emblazoned with the words “Illegal Spying Below” over the National Security Agency’s data centre in Utah on Friday in protest against the US government’s mass surveillance programmes.

The one-hour flight was carried out by the environmental group Greenpeace, digital rights activists the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a conservative political organisation, the Tenth Amendment Centre.

The 41 metre blimp, owned by Greenpeace, was adorned with a sign that read “NSA Illegal Spying Below”.

In an email to Reuters the agency declined to comment. But a spokesman did note there was no restricted airspace over the data centre, housed on the grounds of the Utah National Guard’s Camp Williams in Bluffdale, 23 miles (37km) south of Salt Lake City.

The NSA says the facility provides the government with intelligence and warnings about cyber security threats. It is thought to be the agency’s largest data storage centre.

The blimp protest coincided with the launch of an online campaign that rates members of Congress on actions the activists say either further or stop data collection efforts by the NSA…

It’s right pleasing to an old activist like me to see an issue of human rights and privacy carry across ideological boundaries. The only one of the three groups that put this protest together that I’d ever find myself sharing a song together with – would be the EFF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The occasion is not one for differences but common ground. That being a government that has marched away from the heart of the constitution that is the foundation of this nation. Maybe they tip-toed because they didn’t want us to hear what they were doing. A whistleblower named Edward Snowden took care of that.

Here’s a link to the website they were advertising with their flight. I hope it moves the cause of privacy forward, aids in bringing back the intent of a democratic United States of America.

Displaced people numbers worldwide are the highest since World War 2

More than 50 million people were forcibly uprooted worldwide at the end of last year, the highest level since after World War Two, as people fled crises from Syria to South Sudan, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday.

Half are children, many of them caught up in conflicts or persecution that world powers have been unable to prevent or end, UNHCR said in its annual Global Trends report…

The overall figure of 51.2 million displaced people soared by six million from a year earlier. They included 16.7 million refugees and 33.3 million displaced within their homelands, and 1.2 million asylum seekers whose applications were pending.

Syrians fleeing the escalating conflict accounted for most of the world’s 2.5 million new refugees last year, UNHCR said.

In all, nearly 3 million Syrians have crossed into neighbouring Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, while another 6.5 million remain displaced within Syria’s borders…

Afghan, Syrian and Somali nationals accounted for 53 percent of the 11.7 million refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility. Five million Palestinians are looked after by a sister agency UNRWA.

Most refugees have found shelter in developing countries, contrary to the myth fuelled by some populist politicians in the West that their states were being flooded, Antonio Guterres said.

“Usually in the debate in the developed world, there is this idea that refugees are all fleeing north and that the objective is not exactly to find protection but to find a better life.

“The truth is that 86 percent of the world’s refugees live in the developing world,” he said…

The EU bloc has harmonised its asylum system, but the 27 member states still differ in how they process refugees and in their approval rates for asylum applications, he said.

A record 25,300 unaccompanied children lodged asylum applications in 77 countries last year, according to UNHCR.

Republicans and other blivets in the United States characterize pretty much all refugees as someone coming to the United States to steal a job. I’m not clear on how they re-distort that lie to cover the children fleeing Central American gangs and economic disaster.

In truth, virtually all the child refugees streaming into the US from Central America aren’t even trying to sneak across the border. They present themselves directly to the Border Patrol at the Mexican border and ask for asylum. If they have relatives in the United States, they hope to reach out to them. Otherwise, they’re here to ask for aid and mercy – like any others displaced by violence.

Not that our media barons care to make that point.

SCOTUS won’t stop gay marriage in Oregon

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a conservative group’s move to halt same-sex marriages in Oregon in a brief order Wednesday.

The Oregon attorney general has refused to challenge a judge’s ruling in May that found the state’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. The National Organization for Marriage has been attempting to win standing to appeal.

In a filing Tuesday with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who handles emergency matters for Western states, NOM said that in Oregon a position decided by voters in a referendum was “invalidated at the behest and encouragement of its elected officials.” Oregon held the vote in 2004 after Multnomah County, which includes the city of Portland, issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Kennedy referred the matter to the entire court, which issued a one-sentence decision denying the group’s request.

“The application for stay presented to Justice [Anthony] Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is denied…” In case you wondered what that sentence was.

Google’s truly self-driving cars haven’t a steering wheel or pedals

Google’s been hacking regular cars to make them drive themselves for a while now, but at the Code Conference…Sergey Brin showed off the next step: an entirely new self-driving car designed from the ground up. The project looks something like a smaller Smart car, and it lacks any human control whatsoever: no steering wheel, no pedals, no gearshift. It doesn’t even have mirrors. It’s just two seats and a window, and you simply call it to come get you, sit down, and let it drive you to your destination. This is my dream.

“We actually designed these with some safety features that haven’t been seen,” said Brin. “There’s about two feet of foam on the front, and the windshield is made of glass, but it’s a plastic glass.” Brin said Google used automotive suppliers and car parts, but those parts have been customized. “We plan to go up to about one or two hundred of these, they’re prototypes,” he said. “There’s no reason they couldn’t go 100 miles an hour or faster once you can prove that they can do that safely.” Brin said the car can be made “far safer” than human-driven cars, and that the current programming is “more defensive” than the average human driver: it waits to go on green, and it uses lasers to monitor the complete 360-degree field around itself.

“I’m certainly not advocating that we get rid of all cars that do not drive themselves,” said Brin, although he wants some of his safety features to hit the mass market. “We worked with partners to build these prototypes, and we’ll work with partners to build these.” The cars will hit the road before the end of the year with safety drivers who can control the car with a joystick, but don’t get too excited. “I think these being broadly available will take several years,” said Brin.

I did feel like I was on a Disney ride,” said Recode’s Kara Swisher, who took a ride in the prototype. “I wanted a drink. I wanted to drink while texting.”

I love this as much as I still love Morgans or Ferraris or Teslas. The definition of a perfect automobile is one that does exactly what it is designed to do. Doing it well, efficiently, while being attractive in its own way.

Like my wife’s La Fiesta.

Thanks, Mike…Thanks, Gracie…everyone wants one of these

Legalizing marijuana created thousands of jobs in Colorado


Click to enlargeOpening Day

Marijuana dispensaries characterize it as a bit of a gold rush: the sudden swarm of thousands of people from in and out of Colorado trying to get into the state’s new recreational marijuana industry…

Since retail sales of recreational marijuana began in January, the state has seen a small boom in jobs. The Marijuana Industry Group estimates there are currently about 10,000 people directly involved with marijuana, with 1,000 to 2,000 joining in the past few months and more expected as high demand for recreational marijuana continues. MIG says it’s hard to separate how many of those 10,000 jobs are tied to recreational marijuana and which are exclusively on the medical side, but at least a few thousand jobs came during and after the preparation and start of recreational sales.

The estimate…doesn’t include other groups indirectly involved in the industry, including construction workers, accountants, plumbers, electricians, and attorneys. And it leaves out restaurants and other businesses who might benefit from out-of-state visitors going into Colorado to try out legal marijuana.

The marijuana industry doesn’t expect its growth to slow any time soon. And there’s good reason for that: at least during the first three months of retail sales, marijuana revenue grew from $14 million a month to $19 million a month…

A 2010 paper from the Cato Institute found legalizing marijuana would net all levels of the government $17.4 billion annually. Half of that would come from reduced spending, particularly for drug enforcement. The other $8.7 billion would come from taxing marijuana like alcohol and tobacco.

RTFA for individual success stories. Don’t hold your breath waiting for major media outlets to catch up to reality until the whole nation is on board, federal politicians start playing catch-up and the pope drops in to split a joint with Obama at a Denver ballpark.

Optimism works at the grassroots level. It takes a lot longer for our leaders to get on board.