KKK prepares to rise again as Trump legitimizes racism

Click to enlargeAP/Mike Stewart

Born in the ashes of the smoldering South after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan died and was reborn before losing the fight against civil rights in the 1960s. Membership dwindled, a unified group fractured, and one-time members went to prison for a string of murderous attacks against blacks. Many assumed the group was dead, a white-robed ghost of hate and violence.

Yet today, the KKK is still alive and dreams of restoring itself to what it once was: an invisible white supremacist empire spreading its tentacles throughout society. As it marks 150 years of existence, the Klan is trying to reshape itself for a new era…

In a series of interviews with The Associated Press, Klan leaders said they feel that U.S. politics are going their way, as a nationalist, us-against-them mentality deepens across the nation. Stopping or limiting immigration — a desire of the Klan dating back to the 1920s — is more of a cause than ever…

Joining the Klan is as easy as filling out an online form — provided you’re white and Christian. Members can visit an online store to buy one of the Klan’s trademark white cotton robes for $145, though many splurge on the $165 satin version…

“While today’s Klan has still been involved in atrocities, there is no way it is as violent as the Klan of the ’60s,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy group that tracks activity by groups it considers extremist. “That does not mean it is some benign group that does not engage in political violence,” he added.

Historian David Cunningham, author of “Klansville, U.S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan,” notes that while the Klan generally doesn’t openly advocate violence, “I do think we have the sort of ‘other’ model of violence, which is creating a culture that supports the commission of violence in the name of these ideas.”…

The Alabama-based SPLC says there’s no evidence the Klan is returning to the strength of its heyday. It estimates the Klan has about 190 chapters nationally with no more than 6,000 members total, which would be a mere shadow of its estimated 2 million to 5 million members in the 1920s.

“The idea of unifying the Klan like it was in the ’20s is a persistent dream of the Klan, but it’s not happening,” Potok said…

The current hot-button issue for Klan members — fighting immigration and closing U.S. borders — is one of the most talked-about topics in the presidential election. Klan leaders say Donald Trump’s immigration position and his ascendancy in the GOP are signs things are going their way.

“You know, we began 40 years ago saying we need to build a wall,” Arkansas-based Klan leader Thomas Robb said…

Candyass commentators, TV talking heads with about as much backbone as an earthworm, legitimize and reinforce the supposed new respectability of racist groups like the KKK and their Nazi kin. If you’re afraid to challenge the racism and bigotry of Donald Trump because he might not grant your network another interview – all you do is diminish and destroy the premise of the Fourth Estate, the mandate for a Free Press as gadfly and truth-teller.

No, TV anchors aren’t required to censor the sleaze that spews from politicians who cater to the coyness of white supremacist code words. Challenging bigotry simply needs backbone more than a bankbook built on ad space.

Mitsubishi apologizes, offers $56 million for Chinese forced labour in WW2 — 71 years after war’s end!

Click to enlargeXinhua/Wang Haofei
Sun Yuanxin, 1 of 20 survivors, views remains of hundreds who died at this mine

A Japanese company that used Chinese forced labour in its coalmines during the second world war has agreed to compensate and apologise to thousands of victims and their families.

Mitsubishi Materials, one of dozens of Japanese companies that used such labourers from China and the Korean peninsula, said it would pay US$15,000 to each of the surviving victims and the families of those who have died.

If all 3,765 people entitled to compensation come forward, the total payout could reach US$56m, making it the biggest deal of its kind so far – From Imperial Japan.

“We have come to the conclusion that we will extend an apology [to the victims] and offer the money as a proof of that apology,” a Mitsubishi Materials spokesman said…

The victims hailed the decision a victory in their long quest for Japanese companies to take responsibility for bringing an estimated 40,000 Chinese to Japan between 1943 and 1945 to work in factories and mines amid a wartime labour shortage.

Almost 7,000 of them died due to the harsh working conditions and malnutrition…

Some of the relatives of former labourers, however, were concerned the settlement was in lieu of official compensation from the Japanese government, which insists that all reparation claims were covered by postwar treaties with former victims of Japanese militarism.

I’m surprised they didn’t wait for a nice round number — like 100 years, eh? Just continue the official Japanese policy of doing little or nothing to compensate anyone for the war crimes committed in the name of that militarist nation. Might only be a dozen or so survivors left by then.

They know they will be backed up all the way by Uncle Sugar – who gets to use Japan’s territory as their own private aircraft carrier and military barracks to “interact” with Asia.

And, now, a gluten-free moment or two…

Reporter Vivien Williams discusses gluten with Dr. Joseph Murray

The Celiac Disease Foundation wants to make the process of going gluten-free easier for people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease. Mayo Clinic experts agree that people with celiac disease should not consume gluten. But, many people who don’t have celiac disease also go gluten-free, because it makes them feel better. Dr. Joseph Murray says for that group, gluten may not be the issue.

In addition:

…Most of the people who reach for gluten-free products don’t have celiac disease and or even a sensitivity to wheat, Peter H.R. Green, MD, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, told WebMD. “The market for gluten-free products is exploding. Why exactly we don’t know. Many people may just perceive that a gluten-free diet is healthier.”

In fact, it isn’t. For people with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is essential. But for others, “unless people are very careful, a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” says Green.

Experts estimate that about 1% of Americans have celiac disease. The condition, caused by an abnormal immune response to gluten, can damage the lining of the small intestine. That, in turn, can prevent important nutrients from being absorbed…

How can you know if you have celiac disease? The only way is to be tested. The first test is typically a blood test that detects antibodies related to an abnormal immune response. If the blood test is positive, a biopsy is performed to confirm inflammation in the lining of the small intestines…

So what’s wrong with the rest of us trying a gluten-free diet a try to see how we feel?

For starters, going gluten-free means saying no to many common and nutritious foods. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten also shows up in many whole grain foods related to wheat, including bulgur, farro, kamut, spelt, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). Some celiac disease experts warn patients to steer clear of oats, as well…

Gluten itself doesn’t offer special nutritional benefits. But the many whole grains that contain gluten do. They’re rich in an array of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron, as well as fiber…

If there’s anything lacking in what the average American consumes it is fiber. Eat lots of processed food? You eat damned little fiber.

Many folks who impulsively decide on going gluten-free gain weight, To make new foods palatable, producers add sugar and fat. Two food groups Americans already love. You also may be losing beaucoup minerals and trace elements from whole fiber foods.

Go talk to your doctor, find a nutritionist who has the reputation of being professional – not plugged into this year’s favorite magic bullet. Make certain you’re not wasting money on food that produces nothing more than increased profits for the corporations that specialize in hustling Americans with the latest fad diet.

Few workers receive federal aid after their jobs are offshored

The Arkwright Advanced Coating plant in Fiskeville, R.I., let go 32 people in February 2015 after its Italian owner, Diatec, moved some operations to factories in Europe. When managers broke the news, there was a silver lining. After discovering a federal program called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) online, the local union president applied to the U.S. Department of Labor. The plant opened up its books, and the government certified the job cuts as trade-related, which meant workers could apply for TAA relief.

That was good news for Kevin Tetreault, 41, who worked on the plant’s coating machines, big as basketball courts. He’s getting government grants to pay for an associate’s degree. When he’s finished, he’ll be certified to install and repair heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems…Tetreault was luckier than most workers in his position. TAA is a small program…

In 2014, according to the Labor Department, 20.4 million American workers lost their jobs. Of those, 63,000 were eligible for TAA, which offers either retraining grants or small wage subsidies to make up the difference for those who take lower-paying work after their jobs vanish overseas. When TAA was last reauthorized, in June 2015, Congress approved a budget of just $450 million annually until 2021.

Politicians often say the U.S. should retrain manufacturing workers who lose their jobs to foreign competitors. But TAA is all that Washington’s offered. As the volume of trade has grown, especially with China, the program’s shortcomings have become clear. It’s “vastly inadequate and improperly designed,” says Matthew Slaughter, a trade economist…

Introduced in 1962…TAA was reduced dramatically under President Ronald Reagan. Until the 1990s, not much assistance was necessary. The U.S. was trading with other developed countries, where wages and labor regulations were roughly equivalent and job losses because of trade were actually less than economic models had predicted. Politicians in both parties were eager to pass trade deals…

That changed with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, under President Bill Clinton. NAFTA “was the first trade agreement we signed with a low-wage country,” says Robert Lawrence…

Economists have only recently begun to understand how trade with low-wage countries affects workers in wealthy ones […hogwash]. In a 2013 paper for the American Economic Review, economists…found that in regions most affected by trade, the majority of federal assistance comes from increased Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security disability payments. Transfers from TAA, they wrote, are “negligible.”

Kara Reynolds and John Palatucci of American University looked at data from the Labor Department in 2008; they found evidence that TAA helped workers find jobs after training, but the new jobs paid less. When industries move overseas, Reynolds says, “pockets of workers in the same geographic region” tend to be put out of work. As a result, the effects of trade-related job losses ripple through local economies — a problem TAA isn’t designed to fix.

TAA also does nothing for workers whose jobs evaporate for reasons other than trade. Until the late 1990s, one of the best-selling products at the plant where Tetreault worked was clear acetate pages for overhead projectors. Those have become obsolete. So while foreign competition played a role — Diatec sent Tetreault’s work to its plants in Germany and Switzerland — the brutal forward march of technology did, too…

Presidential candidates have talked about trade…Congress hasn’t indicated any plan to consider changing or expanding TAA…Addressing the effects of trade requires experimentation with various approaches at the state level, compromise at the national level, and plenty of time, Slaughter says. Instead, politicians are offering up the specter of increased barriers and trade wars…

All of which is a lot easier for Congressional conservatives and liberals alike to justify to folks back home. Even if workers can’t get good jobs at decent pay no one’s taxes go up. Washington politicians don’t have to make decisions. Know-nothing still trumps do-something-useful.

Preview the rise of killer robots

The Munich Security Conference is an annual catalogue of horrors. But the most ominous discussion this past weekend wasn’t about Islamic State terrorism but a new generation of weapons — such as killer robots and malignly programmed “smart” appliances that could be deployed in future conflicts.

Behind the main events at the annual discussion of foreign and defense policy here was a topic described in one late-night session as “The Future of Warfare: Race with the Machines.” The premise was that we are at the dawn of an era of conflict in which all wars will be, to some extent, cyberwars, and new weapons will combine radical advances in hardware, software and even biology…

Guests at a “Cyber Dinner” hosted here by the Atlantic Council considered the dawning world of killer appliances. In the coming Internet of Things (IoT), speakers noted, there will soon be more than 30 billion smart chips embedded in cars, elevators, refrigerators, thermostats and medical devices. These pervasive, connected systems may well have poor security and be easily hackable.

The big worry in the future, argued several tech experts at the dinner, may not be data privacy — forget about that — but data security. “You can know my blood type, but don’t change it,” one speaker explained. Hackers may be able to alter data in financial markets, hospitals and electrical grids — paralyzing normal economic and social activity…

From Obama’s favorite Himmlerite, James Clapper:

❝ “In the future, intelligence services might use the IoT for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials,” Clapper told Congress. And he warned in his testimony that as artificial intelligence is built into weapons, they will be “susceptible to a range of disruptive and deceptive tactics that might be difficult to anticipate or quickly understand.”

The chuckle, of course, is that Clapper is either talking about what is on his implementation schedule – or already has in the wild.

Legal marijuana sales reach $5.4 Billion in 2015

Grow the economy

This week two marijuana analysis and investment firms released a summary of a report that appeared to confirm that the industry has become a gold rush. National legal sales of cannabis grew to $5.4 billion in 2015, up from $4.6 billion in 2014, according to the firms, the ArcView Group, based in San Francisco, and New Frontier, based in Washington.

Demand is expected to remain strong this year, with a forecast of $6.7 billion in legal sales…

The promises and headwinds of the industry are potentially far-reaching and attracting notice on Wall Street. As more states legalize marijuana sales, analysts are weighing the stock market benefits of new businesses as cannabis goes corporate. Funds are considering the ethics of investing in marijuana. Parents are even debating whether to allow their children to buy the stocks.

And say goodbye to the common resealable bags and heat lamps in the closet. Lucrative legal side businesses are spinning off, like the climate systems for growers built by a company in Boulder, Colo., and the FunkSac odor-proof and child-resistant marijuana bags produced in Denver…

The report summary said that by 2020, legal market sales were forecast to be $21.8 billion…

Four states and the District of Columbia allow full adult use, and this year, seven more will vote on allowing it: California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Twenty-three states already permit medical cannabis use, and four others — Florida, Ohio, Missouri and Pennsylvania — are positioned to advance medical laws…

Legalization is also a hot topic of national debate, making the industry vulnerable in an election year.

Given that the ranking indoor sport in the United States is hypocrisy – followed by ignorance – that’s an understatement.

I live in one of the states with medical marijuana regs. They’ve functioned well until we acquired a Republican governor. Governor Susana does her “best” to screw medical consumers of weed. Our state legislature is in session doing their level best to ignore public polls which show support for legal weed in the 60-70% range. I sincerely doubt if any legislation allowing a state referendum on legal weed will somehow squeeze through.

And then there’s Congress, Congressional Republicans – and Congressional Democrats often as cowardly on questions like these as Republicans are backwards.

Keep on rocking in the Free World, folks.

How we waste dollar$ on the Border Patrol drone program?

Click to enlargeMatt York/AP

A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol drone aircraft lifts off at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, AZ

Over the past two fiscal years, Customs and Border Protection – CBP – drones helped nab less than 3 percent of the drugs seized by agents in the few sectors where they were used, according to CBP’s own figures.

By comparison, since this fiscal year began on Oct. 1, manned aircraft have accounted for more than 99 percent of weapons, cash and meth seizures, 95 percent of cocaine seizures, and 89 percent of marijuana seizures in which aerial assets were involved, according to CBP data.

To CBP, drug seizures “are not an appropriate performance measure,” spokesman Carlos Lazo said, noting that the drones “detect illegal cross-border activity … on a daily basis.”

[Actually] For budget reasons, the drones don’t fly every day.

In theory, CBP’s $600 million-and-counting drone program is intended to help close the gaps through which smugglers move people and drugs across the border.

“The problem,” Sutherland said, “is that we can’t usually say we apprehended or stopped a group. All we can say is we detected them.”

But the cost-effectiveness of the drones repeatedly has come under fire from by government auditors. Most recently, in January, a critique by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General said — not for the first time— that the drones cost too much and catch too little. Inspectors recommended that, rather than buy any more drones, CBP look for better alternatives…

The Predator B drone and its marine variant, the Guardian, are made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., of Poway, Calif., an affiliate of General Atomics.

General Atomics and GAAS spent nearly $2.4 million lobbying in 2005, when they won their first CBP contract, according to disclosure forms filed with the government. Since then, the two affiliates have spent more than $23 million more on lobbying, while winning sole-source, non-competitive contracts in 2007 and 2012. Officials at GAAS declined to be interviewed.

RTFA for pages of really interesting info on cost-savings alternatives. Alternatives which suggest greater efficiencies, more useful tasks accomplished for less expense.

Then, reflect for a moment on whether this body of programmatic fact will count for more in the mind of your elected Congress-critters than the size of the campaign donations offered by lobbyists from firms heavily into selling us drones?

Another great piece of journalism from azcentral.com.

Wyoming rakes in more than $4.4 Million from taxes on wind-power

Click to enlargeDave Showalter

More than $4.4 million was generated from taxes on wind production across Wyoming in the last fiscal year, according to the state Department of Revenue.

Albany, Carbon, Converse, Laramie, Natrona and Uinta counties share in $2.7 million with the state’s portion of the revenue at slightly more than $1.7 million…

This year’s taxes from wind-generated electricity are the tip of the iceberg to state and local coffers. When the Chokecherry Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project’s 1,000 wind turbines come online, they could eventually bring in more $10 million in revenues annually, from wind generation alone.

Coupled with property taxes and the sales and use tax, Chokecherry promises to be a financial boon to Carbon County, said Kara Choquette, communications director for the Power Company of Wyoming…

“This represents a very significant and positive financial impact for the county, all of the public entities that get a portion of the property taxes and all of the cities and towns that get a portion of the sales and use tax.” Choquette said. “Along with the generation tax, it’s in the hundreds and millions of dollars. That’s a pretty significant increase over what Wyoming is getting now from all of the wind turbines combined.”

We have much of the same potential plus more solar – especially in downstate New Mexico. Of course the state engineer’s office made the determination that we could be a net power exporting state in wind-generated electricity 20 years ago. Our beloved PNM took no notice.

Congrats to Wyoming for making this growing infrastructure part of a larger picture beyond public utility executives patting themselves on the back.

Of course, we’re all farting around – dawdling behind Colorado when it comes to doing something sensible like legalizing marijuana. A renewable resource that slows traffic, generates income for the state and jobs for the young at heart – and brings miles of smiles.