Fake President says declining to fund his wall doesn’t mean Congress actually said “NO”

❝ In the first court hearing over President Trump’s border wall funding plan, administration lawyers on Friday vigorously pressed their controversial argument that Congress did not in fact deny him the money when lawmakers excluded it from the appropriations bill they enacted in February.

To bar spending, Deputy Assistant Attorney General James M. Burnham told a federal judge here, Congress would have had to explicitly say that “no money shall be obligated” in any form…

Trump’s new favorite word – BULLSHIT – applies here as well as most of his blather and bluster.

Ohio fossil fuel pimps pass anti-wind bill that costs schools hundred$ of thousand$ of dollar$


Give frackers a chance to match Ohio earthquakes with Oklahoma 🙂

❝ Superintendent Ken Amstutz dreamed of propelling his rural Ohio school district into a high-tech future with nearly a million dollars in annual revenue from a single wind farm set to go online this year.

That was until the state legislature blocked wind development across Ohio, halting construction of the Long Prairie Wind Farm and leaving Amstutz’s district in financial limbo…

❝ Revenue from the Long Prairie Wind Farm in Van Wert City would have delivered Chromebooks to every student in the district, Amstutz said. It would have ensured existing programs stay in effect and allowed the school to expand its science, math, and performing arts curricula. Teachers would have gotten raises, and the district would have had the resources to support new, innovative programs…

❝ A short drive up the road from Van Wert City Schools, students of Lincolnview Schools saw a different ending to the same story. That district benefits from a program that allows wind companies to provide a portion of their revenue to the local community — 80 percent to schools, 20 percent to the township — instead of paying taxes. Lincolnview’s clean-energy benefactor is the Blue Creek Wind Farm, which went up before the setback rule was changed. The project, which consists of 152 turbines that can power up to 76,000 homes, contributes $400,000 annually to local schools, funding classes like pre-engineering and biomedical.

“Additional revenue allows us to think out of the box and do something new,” said Linconview Superintendent Jeff Snyder. “We’ve been able to pay for new programs, classes, and technologies as a one-time expenditure. We’ve hired a couple of additional teachers, as well as a Special Ed director and a curriculum director… That money is not leaving our area to go somewhere else. It’s staying in our district to benefit our kids and future generations of students as well.”

❝ Lawmakers and lobbyists have seized on local opposition to wind power to pass policies that favor oil and natural gas — despite the fact that infrastructure-related risks, infringement on property rights, and nuisance issues used to justify the state’s aggressive resistance to wind can be common with fossil fuel extraction.

This doesn’t faze Ohio State Sen. Bill Seitz (R), who says that “cheap and plentiful” natural gas doesn’t threaten homeowners because, unlike wind turbines, gas infrastructure operates underground.

Like many Republicans or Conservative Democrats, fracking, problems with gas pipelines are nothing to be concerned about. No doubt they get their campaign checks right on time, too.

❝ There is still hope for the landowners, farmers, families, and schools of northwest Ohio who have not reaped the benefits of wind power…House Bill 190, introduced in 2015, would give setback and siting decisions to individual counties. If that bill is signed into law, schools across the state could see decades of revenue they desperately need.

Ohio state Sen. Cliff Hite (R), who voted for the bill that pulled the plug on Van Wert’s school funding, hopes to revive commercial wind development with HB 190. “I believe these projects should have the chance to thrive where people want them,” he said. “And I believe they will live to fight another day.”

The concept of elected officials providing leadership to a better future – instead of marching lockstep back into some imaginary past – remains an alien concept to an awful lot of Americans. Time to get up off your rusty- dusty folks and fightback.

The CIA is investing your tax dollars in firms helping them to spy on you

Soft robots that can grasp delicate objects, computer algorithms designed to spot an “insider threat,” and artificial intelligence that will sift through large data sets — these are just a few of the technologies being pursued by companies with investment from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm, according to a document obtained by The Intercept.

Yet among the 38 previously undisclosed companies receiving In-Q-Tel funding, the research focus that stands out is social media mining and surveillance; the portfolio document lists several tech companies pursuing work in this area, including Dataminr, Geofeedia, PATHAR, and TransVoyant…

Those four firms, which provide unique tools to mine data from platforms such as Twitter, presented at a February “CEO Summit” in San Jose sponsored by the fund, along with other In-Q-Tel portfolio companies.

The investments appear to reflect the CIA’s increasing focus on monitoring social media. Last September, David Cohen, the CIA’s second-highest ranking official, spoke at length at Cornell University about a litany of challenges stemming from the new media landscape.

The blather requires politically correct lies – so, official chatter is about terrorists.

The latest round of In-Q-Tel investments comes as the CIA has revamped its outreach to Silicon Valley, establishing a new wing, the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which is tasked with developing and deploying cutting-edge solutions by directly engaging the private sector. The directorate is working closely with In-Q-Tel to integrate the latest technology into agency-wide intelligence capabilities…

In-Q-Tel-backed companies are now openly embracing the practice. Geofeedia, for instance, promotes its research into Greenpeace activists, student demonstrations, minimum wage advocates, and other political movements. Police departments in Oakland, Chicago, Detroit, and other major municipalities have contracted with Geofeedia, as well as private firms such as the Mall of America and McDonald’s.

RTFA for all the delightful details. All of this expansion taking place under the aegis of bi-partisan scumbags in Congress – and a liberal Democrat in the White House.

But, we’re safe, now.

GMO may be controversial; but, not to scientists

gmo apple
Click to enlarge

Later this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture may approve the Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden, the first genetically modified apples to hit the market. Although it will probably be another two years before the non-browning fruits appears in stores, at least one producer is already scrambling to label its apples GMO-free.

The looming apple campaign is just the latest salvo in the ongoing war over genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—one that’s grown increasingly contentious. Over the past decade, the controversy surrounding GMOs has sparked worldwide riots and the vandalism of crops in Oregon, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Philippines. In May, the governor of Vermont signed a law that will likely make it the first U.S. state to require labels for genetically engineered ingredients; more than 50 nations already mandate them. Vermont State Senator David Zuckerman told Democracy Now!, “As consumers, we are guinea pigs, because we really don’t understand the ramifications.”

And the apples have been OK’d. The article is several months old – and worth revisiting.

But the truth is, GMOs have been studied intensively, and they look a lot more prosaic than the hype contends. To make Arctic apples, biologists took genes from Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties, modified them to suppress the enzyme that causes browning, and reinserted them in the leaf tissue. It’s a lot more accurate than traditional methods, which involve breeders hand-pollinating blossoms in hopes of producing fruit with the desired trait…

So what, exactly, do consumers have to fear? To find out, Popular Science chose 10 of the most common claims about GMOs and interviewed nearly a dozen scientists. Their collective answer: not much at all.

No need to review all 10 points here. RTFA. POPSCI ain’t exactly a hotbed of politics. Just folks who work for a magazine that’s been writing about science for over 140 years.

In the U.S., farmers have been planting increasing amounts GMO crops since the seeds became commercially available in 1996. Corn, cotton, and soy—which together occupy about 40 percent of U.S. cropland—are the three crops with the highest GMO fraction by area, each more than 90 percent in 2013.

One of our late contributors discovered a bakery in his home state of Georgia – like a lot of really great bakeries – was using a genetically-designed sourdough culture. Chatting with the owners who happened to be friends of his is how he learned about it. And they swore him to a secret he took to the grave – because they know damned well that folks who love the wonderful flavor of their sourdough bread would crap their non-GMO cotton drawers if they knew. And they’d probably be out of business at least in their fashionable Atlanta suburb even though a side-by-side blind test with any other great sourdough would be impossible to tell apart. Except for the consistent results they get from their baking.

Nope. I’ll stick with science, I know enough about peer-reviewed testing to be 99.999% confident – even if “common wisdom” says all studies are funded and owned by Monsanto. Differentiate between the creeps using scientific studies to bad ends – and the science itself. Learn how many rules you have to abide just to get your article published – which is why the most recent bought-and-paid-for creep who violated those standards had to lie.

And if you’re truly concerned – read the science, not opinions from other folks who aren’t reading the science either. Draw your own conclusions. Personally, I find well-written science fun to read. And I love learning about science – whether it be astrophysics or asafoetida. I also realize there are only so many hours in the day; so we rely on folks our experience says are usually right. That can be a problem when those folks try to find facts to back up their beliefs instead of the other way round.

When I became involved in climate science discussions at the millenium, I spent two years reading and studying before I became convinced one way or the other. The delight was discovering regular online publication of a broad range of research from the Max Planck Institute in Germany – in several languages including English. A great find. I hope you can be as fortunate.

Congress leaves town without providing funds to fight wildfires – Thanks for nothing!


What you can expect from the Do-Nothing Congress

Congress took a five-week summer break without deciding whether to provide $615 million in additional money to fight wildfires this year, punting the debate into the fall.

Senate Democrats were unable late Thursday to secure 60 votes to advance a $3.6 billion emergency spending bill for a vote.

The bulk of that money was for the Obama administration to handle the influx of unaccompanied minors along the Southwestern border but it also had $615 million for the U.S. Forest Service and the Interior Department to fight fires. That would have eliminated the need for “fire borrowing,” or transferring money from other activities including efforts to prevent fires

Senate Republicans blocked the $3.6 billion measure, arguing blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!…

The congressional debate came during a week when firefighters grappled with 27 large fires in eight Western states

Last month, along with requesting emergency money, President Barack Obama asked Congress to add wildfires to the list of natural disasters eligible for disaster assistance. That move would eliminate the need for the government to dip into wildfire-prevention programs to pay ever-increasing firefighting costs.

The right-wing clown show running the Republican Party won’t respond to that request until they sort out appropriate guidance from the Old Testament, the ghost of Joseph Goebbels and someone who channels Ayn Rand.

Conservative ideologues contribute as little of use to society as an epoch of plague.

Egypt court obediently finds Al Jazeera journalists guilty

A judge on Monday convicted three journalists of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast false reports of civil strife in Egypt.

Two of the journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison, and the third was given 10 years, the three additional years apparently for his possession of a single spent bullet. The case has drawn condemnation from international rights groups and Western governments because there was no publicly available evidence that the journalists had either supported the Brotherhood or broadcast anything inaccurate.

In a potentially embarrassing turn for the Obama administration, the verdict came a day after Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cairo in a show of renewed partnership with the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former general who led the military takeover here last summer. Declaring that the Egyptian president “gave me a very strong sense of his commitment” to “a re-evaluation of human rights legislation” and “a re-evaluation of the judicial process,” Mr. Kerry expressed confidence that Washington would quickly resume the $1.3 billion a year in military aid to Egypt that the administration had partially suspended after the takeover…

Just in case anyone out there actually thought the United States had changed foreign policy since the days of Joe McCarthy and John Foster Dulles.

The three journalists convicted on Monday are respected professionals who were reporting for Al Jazeera’s English-language network at the time of their arrest and who had previously worked for established international news organizations. Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian citizen of Egyptian descent, previously worked for CNN and The New York Times; Peter Greste, an Australian, previously worked for the BBC and had spent only a few days in Egypt at the time of his arrest; and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian, previously worked for the Japanese news organization The Asahi Shimbun.

All three have been in jail since their arrest in December after a raid on Al Jazeera’s makeshift studio in a Marriott Hotel, and they have been described in the state-run and pro-government Egyptian news media as “the Marriott cell.”

Rights advocates have described the charges as farcical…When asked by the court to screen the allegedly false news reports obtained from the defendants’ laptops, prosecutors showed images that included Mr. Greste’s family vacation, horses grazing in a pasture in Luxor, Egypt, and a news conference by the Kenyan police that Mr. Greste had covered in Nairobi…

Several students were also convicted and sentenced along with the journalists, apparently on charges that they had collaborated with the journalists to generate inflammatory news reports of student protests against the takeover.

Outside the courtroom, the British, Australian and Canadian ambassadors all denounced the conviction as a blow to freedom of the press, and all pledged diplomatic pressure to free the imprisoned journalists.

The military junta governing Egypt behaves as expected. The United States behaves as expected. In general, Western democracies will do what can be done through diplomatic channels to try to reverse the phony findings of the Egyptian court.

Meanwhile, Uncle Sugar will resume pouring our tax dollars into the pockets of the thugs in power.

Diageo latest to pull funding from anti-science Heartland Institute

Diageo, one of the world’s largest drinks companies, has announced it will no longer fund the Heartland Institute, a rightwing US thinktank which briefly ran a billboard campaign this week comparing people concerned about climate change to mass murderers and terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, Charles Manson and Ted Kaczynski…

The London-based drinks giant, which owns brands such as Guinness, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Moët & Chandon, said this year that it was “reviewing any further association with Heartland” following the release online of internal Heartland documents which revealed its corporate donors as well as a plan to promote an alternative climate change curriculum in US schools. Following the widespread outcry triggered by Heartland’s billboards, a Diageo spokeswoman told the Guardian: “Diageo vigorously opposes climate scepticism and our actions are proof of this. Diageo’s only association with the Heartland Institute was limited to a small contribution made two years ago specifically related to an excise tax issue. Diageo has no plans to work with the Heartland Institute in the future.”

In February, a US scientist, Peter Gleick, admitted obtaining and publishing internal Heartland documents which showed that Diageo had given the thinktank $10,000 in 2010. The documents, one of which Heartland later claimed was a fake, said the thinktank was expecting another $10,000 from Diageo this year.

On Friday, Heartland, which is trying to promote its annual conference for climate sceptics phonies, to be held in Chicago this month, said it was withdrawing the billboard campaign. However, it refused to apologise, claiming the campaign was an “experiment”. Its website is still hosting the original press release, which includes the claim that the “most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

Microsoft, which has a policy of supplying free software to all non-profit organisations in the US, posted a blog on its website on Saturday distancing itself from Heartland. The thinktank received software from Microsoft worth $59,908 in 2011. The blog said: “Microsoft believes climate change is a serious issue that demands immediate, worldwide attention and we are acting accordingly … The Heartland Institute does not speak for Microsoft on climate change. In fact, the Heartland Institute’s position on climate change is diametrically opposed to Microsoft’s position. And we completely disagree with the group’s inflammatory and distasteful advertising campaign.”

In March, General Motors, the world’s largest carmaker, said it was ending its funding of Heartland after 20 years owing to the thinktank’s hardline climate scepticism.

The boycott is one of those traditional democratic means of expressing your contempt for corruption. Voting with your wallet, expressing disagreement with miserable low-life political fronts like Heartland by letting corporate sponsors know they will get to share the guilt.

Add this one in on top of the boycott of Rush Limbaugh sponsors for his misogynist bigotry — as another worthwhile action.

Food Stamp program helps reduce poverty — NSS!

A new study by the Agriculture Department has found that food stamps, one of the country’s largest social safety net programs, reduced the poverty rate substantially during the recent recession. The food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8 percent in 2009, the most recent year included in the study, a significant impact for a social program whose effects often go unnoticed by policy makers.

I like that turn of phrase: “unnoticed by policy makers”. Does that mean the ignorant hacks in Congress…or the creeps who want to take over the seats of the ignorant hacks so they might cut off aid to working people and the poor…like food stamps?

The food stamp program is one of the largest antipoverty efforts in the country, serving more than 46 million people. But the extra income it provides is not counted in the government’s formal poverty measure, an omission that makes it difficult for officials to see the effects of the policy and get an accurate figure for the number of people beneath the poverty threshold, which was about $22,000 for a family of four in 2009…

Enrollment in the food stamp program grew substantially during the recession and immediately after, rising by 45 percent from January of 2009 to January of this year, according to monthly figures on the U.S.D.A. Web site. The stimulus package pushed by President Obama and enacted by Congress significantly boosted funding for the program as a temporary relief for families who had fallen on hard times in the recession.

But the steady rise tapered off in January, when enrollment was down slightly from December, a change in direction that Ms. Dean said could signal that the recovery was having an effect even among poor families.

In an e-mail to supporters on Monday, Representative Allen B. West, a Florida Republican, called the increase in food stamp use a “highly disturbing trend.” He said that he had noticed a sign outside a gas station in his district over the weekend alerting customers that food stamps were accepted.

“This is not something we should be proud to promote,” he said…

The program had a stronger effect on children because they are more likely to be poor and they make up about half of the program’s participants. Another reason for Republicans to be upset. They hate children almost as much as they hate women, gays, lesbians, non-whites, students and the ever-popular intellectuals.

I hope I didn’t leave anyone out. I didn’t count my readers in other countries because you don’t threaten reactionary American politicians by being able to vote in our elections – even though we may invade your country next year. 🙂

FEMA does best job in a decade – so, Republicans want to cut funds


Prince Eric of Richmond
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

As rescuers raced Tuesday to free people trapped by floodwaters caused by Hurricane Irene, Washington politicians bickered over how to pay for it.

The same budget arguments that nearly brought the first government default in history earlier this month now raise questions about whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency will have enough money to deal with Irene’s aftermath…

With conservative House Republicans calling for spending cuts to offset any increase in emergency funds — a condition opposed by many Democrats — the ability of Congress to act quickly on the issue remains uncertain.

The notion that we would hold this up until Republicans can prompt another budget fight and figure out what they want to cut, what they want to offset in the budget, and to pit one section of the country against the other and to delay this and create this uncertainty, it’s just the latest chapter and I think one of the most unsavory ones of our budget wars,” said Rep. David Price, D-North Carolina.

Irene first made landfall on the U.S. mainland in North Carolina, devastating some coastal areas. Price said GOP efforts led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of neighboring Virginia to offset additional emergency funds amount to “an untenable position and one that simply is unresponsive and insensitive to the kind of situation we face…”

Even the White House got involved in the fracas, with Press Secretary Jay Carney telling reporters Tuesday that he wished Cantor and other conservative Republicans had the same commitment to spending offsets “when they ran up unprecedented bills and never paid for them” during the administration of President George W. Bush.

Cantor and his fellow royal Republicans never address the question of need when confronted. They only answer questions with one question, the only one that counts to Republican elitists: cost and budget?

The hypocrisy of Democrats who blather about Congressional Republicans during the Bush years of fiasco ignores how many of that spineless lot rolled over and stuck all four feet in the air any time Bush ordered more funds for his wars. You know which wars. The two that Obama has continued to staff with American troops.

But, the essential question remains – where are your priorities? FEMA proved the result of the reforms brought to that incompetent organization comes from having solutions in place before the disaster starts to kill and destroy. FEMA’s readiness easily eclipsed Bush’s fiddling style of sending a questionnaire round to be filled out after death and destruction – guaranteeing days and weeks before aid reached the people who needed it.

Cantor’s loyalty to corporate accountants assures him a place in infamy. That’s truly saying something in the history of Congressional scum.