Easier to demolish vacant house than to convince vultures to leave

If this keeps up, Philadelphians might want to consider renaming their football team.

The city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections was set to demolish a long-vacant home that residents say has become home to a committee of turkey vultures. Yes, a group of the birds — sometimes also called buzzards — is known as a “committee.”

Christina Ali-Bey says she lives next door to the home and can hear the vultures scratching and walking around all night long, “like a horror movie.”

She’s even afraid the birds will scoop up her tiny dog, Rocco, a teacup Yorkie. Other residents see the birds regularly picking through their trash.

The birds are a protected species, so it’s illegal to harm or kill them.

Perhaps this will serve as a lesson to the city about boarding up – checking to maintain access closed – abandoned housing. Or better yet, put it to temporary use housing the homeless.

Euro Parliament has invited Edward Snowden to testify via video

A European parliament committee has invited Edward Snowden to testify via video link in its investigation of US surveillance practices.

The justice and civil liberties committee voted 36-2 with one abstention on Thursday to seek testimony from the former NSA contractor, who has exposed the reach of the US secret surveillance apparatus…

No date has been proposed and it was not immediately clear if Snowden would accept the invitation.

The investigation is aimed at drafting policy recommendations to better protect the privacy of European citizens and improve IT security in EU institutions.

Obama and his Homeland Insecurity flunkies can use this as an excuse to further justify their spying on millions of friends — for every single enemy of freedom. The hypocrisy of American “democrats” is matched only by the indecent way in which they toss billions of dollar$ to the winds of fear and cowardice in the name of security.

Someone mail me a penny postcard when they decide to spend a comparable sum and effort on poverty and education.

Boy Scouts continue their ban on gay members, gay parents

The Boy Scouts of America has reaffirmed its longtime policy of barring openly gay boys from membership and gay or lesbian adults from serving as leaders…The exclusion policy “reflects the beliefs and perspectives” of the organization, the Boy Scouts said in a news release from its headquarters in Irving, Texas…

Under growing public pressure to reconsider the issue, in 2010 the Boy Scouts formed a committee of 11 “volunteers and professional leaders to evaluate whether the policy was in the best interests of the organization,” the statement said…The committee was kept secret until now, and the Scouts declined to reveal its membership or methods…

“The Boy Scouts of America is one of the last cultural institutions to have discrimination as part of their policy,” said Richard Ferraro, vice president for communications with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, noting that the Girl Scouts, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the 4-H Clubs and now even the military forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Prohibiting or ejecting gay children or leaders sends a dangerous message to all children, Mr. Ferraro said, adding, “It’s policies like this that contribute to bullying in schools.”

Earlier civil rights struggles suffered through the vicissitudes of legal decisions, executive decisions. Like this edict from the Boy Scouts, the public good, rights of public access and freedom of association mean nothing to the bigots making the decision.

Like the battles in Montgomery, like the movement to organize farm workers, an honorable response to reactionary politics is a boycott. Personally, though I have supported the healthier aspects of scouting in America, I feel this is a solid reason why I will no longer support the Boy Scouts of America or recommend that any American who respects the civil rights of our citizens ever donate to the BSA, again.

They must work to rejoin the nation in spirit and deed before they are worth supporting, once again.

Alcohol more harmful to society than heroin or crack

I categorized this post under crime, health and politics. The first two are obvious: illegal addiction produces crime; addiction of most kinds produces ill health. Politics – because political hacks both sides of the pond consider the first two questions only for what they mean when it comes to reelection.

Alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the UK by a considerable margin, beating heroin and crack cocaine into second and third place, according to an authoritative study published today which will reopen calls for the drugs classification system to be scrapped and a concerted campaign launched against drink.

Led by the sacked government drugs adviser David Nutt with colleagues from the breakaway Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, the study says that if drugs were classified on the basis of the harm they do, alcohol would be class A, alongside heroin and crack cocaine.

Today’s paper, published by the respected Lancet medical journal, will be seen as a challenge to the government to take on the fraught issue of the relative harms of legal and illegal drugs, which proved politically damaging to Labour…

Today’s study offers a more complex analysis that seeks to address the 2007 criticisms. It examines nine categories of harm that drugs can do to the individual “from death to damage to mental functioning and loss of relationships” and seven types of harm to others. The maximum possible harm score was 100 and the minimum zero.

Overall, alcohol scored 72 – against 55 for heroin and 54 for crack. The most dangerous drugs to their individual users were ranked as heroin, crack and then crystal meth. The most harmful to others were alcohol, heroin and crack in that order…

The authors write: “Our findings lend support to previous work in the UK and the Netherlands, confirming that the present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm. They also accord with the conclusions of previous expert reports that aggressively targeting alcohol harm is a valid and necessary public health strategy.”

Our governments – and the parliamentary hacks fiddling with the same questions – only seem to care about religious morality. Not the value of that morality. Though a far cry from systematic examinations of ethics, there is an odd bit of value in some of the outdated maundering. But, what counts about morality to our politicians is how many votes will it get at election time.

Witness the horde of Democrats falling over themselves in the United States to capitulate before Tea Party mobs. Unwilling, lacking sufficient bravery to explain last century’s basic solutions to the free market criminals who took their dishonesty into the biggest economic crash this side of 1929. Too cowardly to explain essential solutions to moralists who demand blood – instead of reconstruction.

The Labour Party ain’t much better. Lib Dems? Probably worse – since their parliamentary party is ready to compromise with anyone this side of the Attila the Hun or Dick Cheney in order to get a chance to prove themselves ready to lead minor ministries.

Scientists have offered yet another reasoned analysis to politicians. What’s the likelihood of anyone listening?

Goldman grilled on oversight – by those who ignored oversight


Just about every word – is a lie!

The chief executive of Goldman Sachs has defended his company’s business practices amid accusations of conflict of interests, that it knowingly sold customers products it thought would lose money, and that it helped cause the US financial crisis.

Testifying before the senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in Washington DC on Tuesday, Lloyd Blankfein said customers who bought securities from Goldman were looking for risk “and that’s what they got”.

Carl Levin, the panel’s chairman, said there was a “fundamental conflict” in Goldman selling securities and then betting against the same securities, without telling customers…

The senator told Blankfein: “They’re buying something from you, and you are betting against it. And you want people to trust you. I wouldn’t trust you.”

And we should trust our senators? Fat chance!

But Blankfein, the final witness at the day-long hearing, denied such a conflict.

“We do hundreds of thousands, if not millions of transactions a day, as a market maker,” he said, noting that behind every transaction there was a buyer and a seller, creating both winners and losers…

Senior executives said that they were not prescient about the housing market, just diligent about limiting its risk.

“Unfortunately, the housing market went south very quickly,” Blankfein said. “So people lost money in it…”

The housing market went south through illegitimate gambles on mortgages for people who didn’t qualify. Programmatic sleaze endorsed as often by Democrats as Republicans.

Hoping Tuesday’s hearing would build support for financial reform legislation now before the senate, Democrats said Goldman’s actions leading up to the financial crisis clearly demonstrated a need for stronger regulation.

Over the course of the day, members of the committee left to vote on cloture, to allow debate before the Senate on financial oversight. Every single Republican voted against allowing debate.

Hypocrite of the day was the Democrat Claire McCaskill. Yammering at Lloyd Blankfein, she demanded to know why Goldman, Sachs didn’t provide oversight of derivatives?

She and her peers in Congress have the responsibility to legislate and monitor such oversight. Over the last couple of decades they have done exactly zero to provide what they whined about.

Lobbyists up in arms over dismissal from advisory boards

A tide of anger and dismay is rippling down K Street as the Obama administration implements a new policy limiting the roles of lobbyists on federal advisory committees.

The policy change, described by the White House as the next step in President Barack Obama ’s drive to limit influence-peddling in Washington, could affect hundreds of lobbyists who serve on the panels, which were created by Congress in the 1970s to provide private-sector advice to the government.

By removing a key point of access to the administration, many lobbyists will be less useful to their clients, who will be forced to appoint others to take up the slack. And the information about federal government intentions gleaned from committee meetings will now be unavailable to many lobbyists as they strategize on how to work various issues.

“There is fury,” said a lobbyist who sits on one of the committees. “Absolute fury.” K Street veterans say they sit at the intersection of policy wonk-dom, Washington savvy, and the needs of business, and are therefore best suited to populate the panels.

But the White House views the move as a key step in rolling back what officials see as the open-door policy for K Street created in previous years. According to a senior White House official, the panels have been excessively dominated by lobbyists. “It is one of the ways special interests have historically shaped policy to the detriment of the public interest,” he said.

The policy was announced quietly Sept. 23 in a blog post on the White House Website

First step will probably be official complaints released through those members of Congress deep into the pockets of lobbyists. The names Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley come to mind.

Thanks, Mr. Justin

Pakistan peace committee massacred!

The bodies of 22 members of a government-sponsored peace committee were found dumped near South Waziristan Wednesday after fighting broke out between the Pakistani Taliban and a rival tribe, government officials said.

The peace committee was attacked by supporters of Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, in the town of Jandola on Monday, not far from the Afghan border and about 300 kilometers,or 185 miles, west of Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province.

Some of the 22 bodies were found with bullet wounds, others had been slashed with knives, Marwat said.

The killings come after the Pakistani army reached a cease-fire with Mehsud’s forces earlier this year. It has pulled its soldiers back from Mehsud’s territory in South Waziristan. Under the terms of an accord, the military has exchanged prisoners with Mehsud’s forces.

The movement of Mehsud’s Taliban fighters into Jandola and the killings of the peace committee members from the rival Bhittani tribe are likely to raise questions about the accord between the army and the Taliban.

Like that phrase – “likely to raise questions”?

You have to be out of your fracking mind to place your life on the line for the Pakistan military, government and assorted regional politicians.