Saturday Reads: Newtown Anniversary, Normalizing Gun Violence, and Other News

Henri-Matisse-Painting-011 child reading

Good Morning!!

I spent yesterday preparing for Winter Storm Electra. I stopped by the hardware store to get ice melt crystals and then headed to the grocery store to drop off a prescription and a few things I’ll need in case I can’t get my car out of the driveway for a couple of days.

I had an appointment in the afternoon, and then I made a fruitless attempt to find a parking space in the giant Whole Foods parking lot in Cambridge. Then back to my regular grocery store to pick up my prescription and a few refrigerated items. The store was even more packed this time, so I was glad I had stopped earlier. Finally, I went home, to stash my purchases and scatter ice melt on the all the icy surfaces left over from Winter Storm Dion.

So now I’m in hibernation mode until Monday. I just hope I can handle the shoveling myself. The weather folks are predicting anything from 5 to 12 inches of snow for my area. It was 11 degrees here when I woke up and its only 12 degrees right now. It’s hard to believe it can even snow when it’s so cold. But the weather people say it’s going to snow. If it starts this afternoon, I plan to shovel before it gets dark–then there won’t be so much to do tomorrow. It’s way too early for this. It won’t even be officially winter until next week. Those of you in the Midwest are probably already getting the storm–how is it going there? Is it still cold down South? We can commiserate in the comments.

Now to the news. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Newtown, but today is the anniversary of that awful day. It still breaks my heart when I think about it. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of the families who lost children. From CNN:

Horror struck Newtown, Connecticut, in such a disturbing way that the nation still struggles with its impact a year later.

The legacy of the second-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history is so profound that it cannot hold just one meaning. It holds several. That’s because the crime itself conveys multiple issues in its summary:

A mentally ill 20-year-old recluse obsessed with school shootings enters Sandy Hook Elementary School after the morning bell and kills six adult women, 12 girls and eight boys in 11 minutes. The children were 6 or 7 years old. The heavily armed Adam Lanza, who first killed his mother before taking her car to the school, also killed himself, in a classroom.

On the anniversary of the December 14 slaughter — under the shadow of another school shooting, this time at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado — country and community alike pause and reflect on an event known simply as “Newtown” or “Sandy Hook” and what it says about America on the matters of guns, mental health, healing, and the human spirit.

Henri Matisse-324684

A whole year after the slaughter of 20 first-graders and 6 adults, and our do-nothing Congress has done exactly nothing to control the purchase of weapons of war for everyday use. CBS News reports:

Not a single federal law curbing gun violence has passed in the year since a young man from Newtown, Conn. who’d long exhibited signs of mental instability got a hold of his mother’s AR-15-style Bushmaster rifle and two of her handguns and gunned down 20 first-graders and six of their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School before taking his own life.

Capping a year that saw the most mass shootings in U.S. history, Newtown seemed to mark a turning point in national conversation about gun control. Within a month of the shooting, President Obama - promising to make the issue a hallmark of his second-term agenda - had signed several executive orders to make schools safer and gun purchases more transparent. But real reform, he said, would require bipartisan backing from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Six months after the Dec. 14, 2012 tragedy, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., insisted the push for tougher gun laws and bolstered support for mental health in America was “still on the front burner.” But foundation for that statement was flimsy.

Manchin’s own amendment to strengthen background checks for gun purchases – co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and seen by many in Congress to be the most realistic hope for immediate reform to gun laws – had collapsed in the Senate two months earlier. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had “hit pause” on debate over firearms altogether, pulling the legislation from the floor indefinitely.

The emotions surrounding Newtown, it seemed, were no longer driving the conversation about gun control.

Is anyone really surprised that something a huge majority of Americans support cannot get through Congress? Of course not. We can’t even get them to stop hurting the economy with their obsessive and idiotic push for unnecessary austerity. We should turn every one of them out of office–Democrats and Republicans and start from scratch.

And is anyone shocked that there was another school shooting the day before this horrible anniversary? Why should we be? Our so-called leaders don’t seem to care how many children die so they can keep getting donations from the NRA. A couple of stories on the shooting in Colorado.

matisselike portraits by kids

Denver Post as of last night: Shooting at Arapahoe High School, 1 girl in critical condition, gunman dead.

A student carried a shotgun into Arapahoe High School, asked where to find a specific teacher and then opened fire on Friday, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said. He shot a fellow student in the head before apparently killing himself.

A 15-year-old girl was reported in critical condition after undergoing surgery. Two other students were treated and released from a hospital for non-gunshot injuries.

The gunman, identified as 18-year-old Karl Pierson, was found dead inside a classroom from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Robinson said. Authorities believe he acted alone.

Robinson said authorities are investigating reports that Pierson may have been motivated by revenge against the teacher following a disagreement….Fellow classmates described the gunman as a bright student and a gifted debater whose family attended Bible study meetings.

A little more from USA Today:

The shootings — on the eve of the anniversary of the Newtown school massacre, in which 20 students and six staffers were murdered — sent scores of terrified students and staffers at Centennial’s Arapahoe High School scurrying at about 12:30 p.m. Police and other first responders quickly mobilized to surround the 2,220-student school.

A 15-year-old girl suffered a gunshot wound and was reported in critical condition at a Littleton hospital Friday evening.One other student suffered minor gunshot-related injuries and was released from the hospital hours later, authorities said. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Friday night that another girl taken to a hospital was covered in blood from the other student, but wasn’t injured….

The gunman also brought two Molotov cocktails inside the school and exploded one, KUSA-TV reported. The other was found and removed by the bomb squad.

The incident unfolded when the armed student entered the west side of the school from a student parking lot. He told other students he was interested in confronting a specific teacher. “Word got around immediately,” Robinson said.

The teacher, informed of the situation, fled the building unharmed, said Robinson, who noted that the teacher’s decision to flee helped limit the potential carnage.

Our children are dying violently in this country, in places in which they should be safe–their schools and their homes. Why aren’t we doing anything to protect them? At an age when they should be concentrating on learning, developing social skills, and just having fun, our children are threatened by gun violence on a daily basis. What kind of nation allows this kind of slaughter to continue in the name of “second amendment rights” and greed? A few more links from around the ‘net:

Reuters: Obama marks Newtown school shooting anniversary with call for gun control

Star-Tribune Nation: In Newtown, a year of wrenching reminders

Mother Jones: Portraits of the Hundreds of Children Killed by Guns Since Newtown

Matthew Lysiak at The Guardian: We can no longer allow sick individuals like Adam Lanza to go on untreated

New York Daily News: Another year of the gun 

Gawker: What Kind of Monster Wants to Shoot Up His School? (highly recommended)

Matisse reading

In other news, 

Here’s a surprising story from Jonthan Turley’s blog: Federal Court Strikes Down Criminalization of Polygamy In Utah

It is with a great pleasure this evening to announce that decision of United States District Court judge Clarke Waddoups striking down key portions of the Utah polygamy law as unconstitutional. The Brown family and counsel have spent years in both the criminal phase of this case and then our challenge to the law itself in federal court. Despite the public statements of professors and experts that we could not prevail in this case, the court has shown that it is the rule of law that governs in this country. As I have previously written, plural families present the same privacy and due process concerns faced by gay and lesbian community over criminalization. With this decision, families like the Browns can now be both plural and legal in the state of Utah.  The Court struck down the provision as violating both the free exercise clause of the first amendment as well as the due process clause.   The court specifically struck down language criminalizing cohabitation — the provision that is used to prosecute polygamists.  The opinion is over 90 pages and constitutes a major constitutional ruling in protection of individual rights.

I just don’t know what to say about this, because I associate polygamy with the abuse of women and children. Am I a bigot? A couple more links:

Salt Lake Tribune: Federal judge declares Utah polygamy law unconstitutional

The Telegraph: ‘Sister Wives’ reality star wins legal fight against Utah anti-polygamy law

I haven’t been following the Robert Levinson story, but I will be from now on. Levinson has been missing in Iran for 7 years and has just been outed as a CIA operative. Links:

NYT: A Disappearing Spy, and a Scandal at the C.I.A.

ABC News: Family of Robert Levinson, American Held In Iran, Says He Was Spying for the CIA

The Register-Guard: White House declines to discuss missing American Robert Levinson’s CIA ties

Gawker: ABC, NYT Repeatedly Lied About CIA Operative Robert Levinson

Liberty Voice: Robert Levinson: Used by CIA, Forgotten by USA, Burned by Media, Left in Iran

WaPo: Sen. Bill Nelson: I told AP not to run Robert Levinson story

Those are my offerings today. What stories are you following? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!


Tuesday Reads: Are Things Really As Bad As I Think?

morning coffee book

Good Morning!!

I don’t even know where to begin this morning. I wish I could write a coherent diatribe like the one Dakinikat wrote yesterday, but I can’t do it. I have a sense that things are very wrong, but I can’t explain the feeling in any rational way.

As we head into the holiday season, I feel as if the country is leaderless. The public focus of the Obama administration and the media is on the glitches in a website; and yet in the background are terrible problems that are building  and growing more and more intractable as our political “leadership” fiddles with nonsensical issues like Obamacare and Benghazi.

As Dakinikat noted yesterday, there is a problem of growing poverty and income inequality become institutionalized and normalized. There is the issue of gun violence and our total failure to respond to it with any kind of rational regulations on guns. There is the devolution of education in the U.S., and of course there is the continuing attack on women’s autonomy and Democratic politicians seeming willingness to use women’s bodies as bargaining chips. Finally there are the already institutionalized problems of racism and hatred of immigrants. What have I missed?

As our real problem grow, it seems the American political and media classes, either don’t notice because as part of the wealthy 1% they simply aren’t affected, or because they’ve got theirs and they just don’t care about the mass of people who are struggling to survive in a poisonous system. And because of the obsessive focus on the end-of-year holidays, nothing will happen in Washington until we hit the next debt limit and our “leaders” mobilize briefly to kick the can of our economic and social problems down the road once again and so they can return to their focus on minutiae.

Is there any solution to the political and economic stagnation we find ourselves in? Is the situation really as surreal as it feels to me on this Tuesday morning? Am I nuts?

Anyway, here a some of the stories leading the news at the moment.

Jeff Bezos tells Amazon customers to expect home delivery by drones. NBC News reports:

Amazon.com hopes to deliver small packages to your home in just 30 minutes by unmanned drones within five years, chief executive Jeff Bezos said Sunday.

In an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Bezos was actually less optimistic than what his company said in its online announcement, which declared that tiny robot aircraft could be landing on front porches as soon as 2015.

Bezos said Amazon already had the technology in place and had even flown a working prototype, which he showed off in a video the company published Sunday:

He promised “half-hour delivery, and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.”

The rest of the work, Bezos said, is in quality control and getting the plan OK’d by the Federal Aviation Administration — something technology experts said was unlikely on Bezos’ time frame.

So basically, this is just a silly idea that has no chance of actually  happening anytime soon. But the media sees it as more urgent than poverty, income inequality, and people getting killed with guns day in and day out.

From the Washington Post: U.S. students lag around average on international science, math and reading test.

Scores in math, reading and science posted by 15-year-olds in the United States were flat while their counterparts elsewhere — particularly in Shanghai, Singapore and other Asian provinces or countries — soared ahead, according to results of a well-regarded international exam released Tuesday.

While U.S. teenagers scored slightly above average in reading, their scores were average in science and below average in math, compared to 64 other countries and economies that participated in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which was administered last fall. That pattern has not changed much since PISA was first administered in 2000.

Gee, I wonder why this is happening? It seems like something that should concern our “leaders.”

The test scores offer fresh evidence for those who argue that the United States is losing ground to competitors in the global market and others who say a decade’s worth of school reform has done little to improve educational outcomes.

“While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools — has failed to improve the quality of American public education,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. The AFT released a video on Monday in which it implored the public not to blame teachers, the unions, parents or students for poor PISA results.

But were intentions really good? Check out these years-old headlines on profiteers (including the Bush family) who cleaned up after passage of the Orwellianly titled “No Child Left Behind” law was passed.

Bush Profiteers Collect Billions from No Child Left Behind (Project Censored: The News That Didn’t Make The News, March 30, 2007)

Bush’s Family Profits From `No Child’ Act (LA Times, Oct. 22, 2006)

No Bush Left Behind (Bloomerg Businessweek, Oct. 15, 2006)

There are plenty more headlines where those came from.

And yet, nearly a decade later, we’re stuck with that awful law and the damage it has done to our public education system. Why have Democrats done nothing to reverse it? Most likely because they too profit from the continuing privatization of education.

What about the latest media narrative on Obama care?

From the Washington Post: Health-care enrollment on Web plagued by bugs:

The enrollment records for a significant portion of the Americans who have chosen health plans through the online federal insurance marketplace contain errors — generated by the computer system — that mean they might not get the coverage they’re expecting next month.

The errors cumulatively have affected roughly one-third of the people who have signed up for health plans since Oct. 1, according to two government and health-care industry officials. The White House disputed the figure but declined to provide its own.

The mistakes include failure to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies. The errors have been accumulating since HealthCare.gov opened two months ago, even as the Obama administration has been working to make it easier for consumers to sign up for coverage, the government and industry officials said.

Figuring out how to clean up the backlog of errors and prevent similar ones in the future is emerging as the new imperative if the federal insurance exchange is to work as intended. The problems were the subject of a meeting Monday between administration officials and a new “Payer Exchange Performance Team” made up of insurance industry leaders.

Okay, but what is with the bizarre impatience about some computer glitches from a media that couldn’t care less about institutionalized poverty, racism, and gun violence? And then there’s the Obama administration’s defensive response, as reported by USA Today: Obama to launch new health care law campaign

President Obama and his aides will seek to rally public support for his embattled health care plan in the coming weeks, starting with a White House event Tuesday.

Obama will promote the effort in a speech while surrounded by people who have benefited from the new law, according to an addition to the White House schedule.

The Affordable Care Act has come under heavy political attack since its rollout in October. Problems have included a malfunctioning website and the cancellations of polices that do not meet new federal standards.

In the coming days, Obama and aides will highlight what they call successful aspects of the law. They include provisions that prevent insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing health conditions, and allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26.

A few writers have tried to look at the “Obamacare crisis” slightly more rationally than the mainstream corporate media.

Here’s Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter: As Healthcare.gov Bugs Are Fixed, the ‘Obama’s Katrina’ Script Continues To Be Shredded.

It’s been 11 days since The National Journal‘s Ron Fournier wrote that Obamacare is President Obama’s Katrina. Oh, and it’s also his Iraq, Fournier wrote. Obama’s Katrina and Iraq. Both.

Since then, however, the Healthcare.gov website has been vastly improved and many of the bugs initially reported have been fixed, according to the administration late Sunday.

Back on November 20, Fournier made sure to provide himself with an escape hatch, though, noting that Healthcare.gov isn’t the same in terms of the actual events during and after Katrina, or throughout the Iraq War. Instead, Fournier wrote, the similarities had more to do with incompetence in the execution of a major policy initiative.

Yeah, so incompetence that lasted literally for years in both Iraq and New Orleans, leading to massive body counts on both fronts, is the same as a glitchy website launch. Okeedokee. Roger that. In reality, yes, both administrations made mistakes, but those mistakes were vastly different in terms of magnitude — not to mention that the Bush administration’s response to its mistakes was to, well, make even more mistakes. Again, foryears.

On the other hand, the Obama administration realized there were problems with the website and rushed to address those errors. Within two months most of those problems have been resolved, and, bonus, no one died.

For more rational perspective, read the rest of the post at the link.

I particularly like this uncharacteristically long post by TBogg at Raw Story: Are-We-There-Yet?-American [sic] just wants to go home because we aren’t there yet. Here’s just a taste:

You may remember that about a month ago, which is four score and seven years ago to the iPhone generation for whom a Japandroids download that takes over 20 seconds is an eternity times infinity, that the Great Socialism Project That Will Stomp America Flat (aka Obamacareor Communism) had some internet user problems which is why there are absolutely no healthcare services available in America right now so you should just rub some dirt on your burst appendix, suck it up,  and quit yer bellyaching. In an effort to fix what wasn’t working, the Obama White House brought in some better quality nerds who, fortified with 5 Hour Energy IV drips, promised to get it up and working by Dec 1 or GTFO.

Please go read the rest.

Charles Pierce also had a few choice words for Ron Fournier and the rest of the Obama-hating press.

Ace reporter Ron Fournier of the Associated Press has another scoop for y’all. There is absolutely no fking way on god’s green and pleasant earth that this Obama fellow will be elected president again. He has blown his chance for that third term, and probably the fourth and fifth as well. Ron would like the Pulitzer committee to leave the medallion on the doorstep. Watch out, Obama. The Horsemen ride at daybreak! [....]

I heard my friend Eric Boehlert on the radio this morning, warning us that the traditional end-of-the-year retrospectives are likely to sing in close harmony on the theme of the collapsing Obama administration, even though his poll numbers are pretty much where they’ve been for a couple of years now, and even though the Republicans in Congress continue to have the approval ratings of skin disease. I think he’s right, and I think Fournier, who’s been a tool so long they ought to sell him at Home Depot, is just trying to get a jump on things here.

More hilarity at the link.

And what’s with the efforts to deny that racism exists? From Raw Story: Black female professor reprimanded for pointing out existence of structural racism to white male students.

A faculty member at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Shannon Gibney, received a formal reprimand for her handling of a discussion about structural racism in her Introduction to Mass Communication course.

According to Gibney in an interview with City College News, a white male student asked her, “Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?”

She claims she was shocked, because “[h]is whole demeanor was very defensive. He was taking it personally. I tried to explain, of course, in a reasonable manner — as reasonable as I could given the fact that I was being interrupted and put on the spot in the middle of class — that this is unfortunately the context of 21st century America.”

Gibney says another white male student followed the first, saying “Yeah, I don’t get this either. It’s like people are trying to say that white men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this?”

When Gibney attempted, again, to inform the students that they were mistaking a systemic critique for a personal attack, the students continued to argue. Eventually, she told them that “if you’re really upset, feel free to go down to legal affairs and file a racial harassment discrimination complaint.” This is exactly what they did.

This probably has something to do with our f’d up education system too . . . . As far as I can tell, critical thinking has been banned.

Okay, I’ve ranted long enough. What interesting news have you been reading? Let us know in the comment thread.


Wednesday Reads: Let them eat sh*t…

As Boston Boomer discussed yesterday, perhaps we all are suffering from severe cases of PAD…I know that mine happens to be exacerbated by lack of sleep and loss of brain cells from years and years of the ridiculous shit that never seems to stop flowing from  politicians mouths. I am so sick of all of them.

Funny, I am sitting here watching one of the best films ever made, Jean Renoir’s Grand Illuision, as it depicts the end of the aristocracy…the rise and survival of the Marechals and Rosenthals of the world.  The three social classes examined…aristocratic,  working class and the bourgeoisie, and here we are stuck in this never-ending hell of repeal Obamacare votes, food stamp cuts, war on women’s rights, ridiculous assaults on science and rich ass jerks who take more and more from those with none to give. I could go on listing the horrors, but it will only make me more depressed.

So, I will just give you the links for this morning, in dump fashion because my daughter is due for her pain meds soon and I need to get her something to eat before she takes it.

There was a big gold heist in Europe: Gold shipment disappears from Air France flight to Zurich — RT News

Some 44 kilograms of gold bars from an overall cargo of 300 kg of precious metal have mysteriously disappeared from a flight bound to Zurich. An insider operation could be to blame for a €1.5 million heist at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport.

France’s national aviation police (GTA) is now investigating how and by whom the gold was stolen from the aircraft, after Air France said it had filed a complaint with police.

“We hope the investigations will allow us to quickly determine the sequence of events and identify those responsible,” a spokesman for Air France was quoted by the Local.

Only seven of nine cases handled by the American secure transportation company Brink’s reached the final destination in Switzerland onboard the Air France flight last Thursday.

“We are investigating the matter, and especially the possibility that this was an inside job,”
a source familiar with the investigation told the British Daily Mail.

And if you have followed the America’s Cup…it has come down to the last race: After Comeback for the Ages, a Last Dash for America’s Cup – NYTimes.com

The America’s Cup has produced no shortage of strange scenes in its 162 years. There have been capsizings, shattered masts and shattered spirits, but it has never produced a reversal of fortune quite like this year.

A week ago, the defender of the trophy, Oracle Team USA, bankrolled by the American billionaire Larry Ellison, trailed by eight races to one and was just one defeat from losing the most prestigious prize in yachting to the challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand.

But by winning seven races in succession, including two on Tuesday, Oracle has tied the series at 8-8. Winds permitting, the rivals from different hemispheres will contest one final race Wednesday, winner take all.

I seriously thought that the New Zealand team was going to take the cup…but this has been one hell of a come back.

More speculation on a serial murder case that has haunted London for decades: Jack The Ripper Mystery Solved? Cold Case Investigation Implicates German Sailor Carl Feigenbaum

…after years of investigation, a retired detective is confident he has finally found the culprit behind some, if not all, of the killings attributed to the infamous “Jack.”

Past attempts to identify the man who supposedly terrorized London in the late 19th century have implicated artist Vincent Van Gogh, Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll and even relatives of Queen Victoria. But retired homicide detective Trevor Marriott says that after 11 years of investigation, he believes German merchant sailor Carl Feigenbaum committed an unknown number of the murders.

Marriott, who hails from Bedfordshire, England, told British site Express that he came to his conclusion via old-school document analysis and high-tech forensic science. He also said he found that Hollywood and myth have “distorted” many facts of the case over the years.

Take a look at that article for more information and links to Marriott’s new book.

Here are some nice pictures of The 20 Most Stylish Men of Hollywood’s Golden Age – Best Dressed Men of All Time – Esquire

And when you are finished looking at them, you can take a look at this image from 1937: Full Service: 1937 | Shorpy Historical Photo Archive

July 1937. “Georgia road signs.” Photo by Dorothea Lange, evidently a connoisseur of juxtapositional humor. View full size.

Hot air…and it is free!

Okay, now a bit of links that touch on the things I mentioned in the top of the post:

Gorilla Named Patrick Sent to Gorilla Therapy for Being a Sexist Jerk

A 430 lb gorilla named Patrick has been sent away from the Dallas Zoo to a special therapy camp for, I don’t know, jerk gorillas, because he just can’t seem to get along with anyone. Especially females. The Daily Mail reports,

Dallas Zoo officials said Patrick gets along fine with humans but not with other gorillas.

They said they have tried repeatedly to socialise him with the other gorillas, particularly the females, in the hopes that he might get along and even breed.

Instead, he bit one female and sneered and nipped at others.

What a fucking elitist prick. Reminds me of a guy I knew in college… named Patrick.

Patrick has long been a “problem gorilla;” he was hand raised by people and only really connected with one other gorilla, an old penmate named Jabari who was shot dead by Dallas police after escaping from his enclosure and mauling someone in 2004.

Friendless and terrible with women. Something tells me Patrick would be a big hit on the Gorilla Internet.

My guess is that Patrick is a card-carrying member of the NRA and a big supporter of Ted Cruz.

Now this is something really funny and pathetic: Popular Science Is Shutting Down Its Comments Section Because Comments Are Bad for Science | Geekosystem

Today Popular Science announced that there will be no more comments section on any of their online articles. Why? Because according to a whole bunch of studies, reading polarizing comments in relation to a scientifically factual topic will dramatically skew the way a person feels about that topic.

They explain their reasoning thusly:

It wasn’t a decision we made lightly. As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishingour ability to do the latter.

Specifically they cite a study led by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Dominique Brossard, in which over 1,000 people were made to read a fake survey of nanotechnology with or without derisive comments underneath. This study found that regardless of whether or not people agreed with the survey’s findings, their opinions become much more polarized when subjected to rudeness (although the comments didn’t even have to be rude, per se — just very firm-handed), and they themselves were more likely to be rude about it later. That kind of extreme mentality can be dangerous on something everyone can agree on, but when it comes to more contentious matters like climate change or vaccination efficacy? It can overpower the actual scientific facts completely.

Yup…scientific facts? What the fuck are those? WWJD?

Popular Science: Why We’re Shutting Off Our Comments – Little Green Footballs

A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.

More: Why We’re Shutting Off Our Comments

At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone on the right started a drive to change the name of the publication to Unpopular Science.

It is so disgusting.

I will end with this soundbite from Samuel L Jackson: Sam Jackson on Obama, Republicans and Civil Disobedience

In a new Playboy interview, the highest-grossing actor of all time, who has made an art of the f-bomb, says Barack Obama should “be fucking presidential,” and, on GOP obstruction, “there was a time we would be in the streets about this shit.”

PLAYBOY: Or a society that views graduating from college or grad school as elitist, or one in which President Obama or other highly educated Americans consciously drop gs off the ends of words to sound like Joe Average?

JACKSON: First of all, we know it ain’t because of his blackness, so I say stop trying to “relate.” Be a leader. Be fucking presidential. Look, I grew up in a society where I could say “It ain’t” or “What it be” to my friends. But when I’m out presenting myself to the world as me, who graduated from college, who had family who cared about me, who has a well-read background, I fucking conjugate.

PLAYBOY: With your and your wife’s militant revolutionary background, how political are you today, especially having told Ebony magazine in 2012 that you wanted President Obama to “get scary”?

JACKSON: He got a little heated about the kids getting killed in Newtown and about the gun law. He’s still a safe dude. But with those Republicans, we’re now in a situation where even if he said, “I want to give you motherfuckers a raise,” they’d go, “Fuck you! We don’t want a raise!” I don’t know how we fix this bullshit. How do we fix the fact that politicians aren’t trying to serve the people, they’re just trying to serve their party and their closed ideals? How do we find a way to say, “You motherfuckers are fired because you’re not doing shit about taking care of the country”? If Hillary Clinton decides to run, she’s going to kick their fucking asses, and those motherfuckers would rather see the country go down in flames than let the times change. But as I tell my daughter, there was a time we would be in the streets about this shit.

PLAYBOY: You mean instead of signing petitions on Facebook and Twitter?

JACKSON: You need to have your physical body out there in the streets and let these people—and the rest of the world—know. When our antiwar movement led the world, it was because people could see us in the streets, see our faces, hear the protest music. You can’t do that shit blogging in a room. I can’t see you on your keyboard. I can’t see you sitting there in the dark. Things happen when people get out in the street.

Oh if only Sammy would run for President! But I do agree with him…Hillary will kick their fucking asses!

Y’all use this as an open thread. In the words of Patsy Stone, “Cheers…thanks a lot…”


Wednesday Morning Reads: Michael Hastings, Immigration and Fetus Fanatics

0000-5575Good Morning

The news broke last night, Michael Hastings was killed in a car crash.

Statement On Michael Hastings

BuzzFeed is saddened to report that Michael Hastings died in a car accident early this morning in Los Angeles. He was 33.

Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief, said in a statement:
We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone. Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered from wars to politicians. He wrote stories that would otherwise have gone unwritten, and without him there are great stories that will go untold. Michael was also a wonderful, generous colleague, a joy to work with and a lover of corgis — especially his Bobby Sneakers. Our thoughts are with Elise and and the rest of his family and we are going to miss him.

Michael Hastings Dead at 33 | Politics News | Rolling Stone

Michael Hastings, the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal, has died in a car accident in Los Angeles, Rolling Stone has learned. He was 33.

Hastings’ unvarnished 2010 profile of McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone, “The Runaway General,” captured the then-supreme commander of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan openly mocking his civilian commanders in the White House. The maelstrom sparked by its publication concluded with President Obama recalling McChrystal to Washington and the general resigning his post. “The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be met by – set by a commanding general,” Obama said, announcing McChrystal’s departure. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”

michael hastings

Hastings’ hallmark as reporter was his refusal to cozy up to power. While other embedded reporters were charmed by McChrystal’s bad-boy bravado and might have excused his insubordination as a joke, Hastings was determined to expose the recklessness of a man leading what Hastings believed to be a reckless war. “Runaway General” was a finalist for a National Magazine Award, won the 2010 Polk award for magazine reporting, and was the basis for Hastings’ book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan.

For Hastings, there was no romance to America’s misbegotten wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had felt the horror of war first-hand: While covering the Iraq war for Newsweek in early 2007, his then-fianceé, an aide worker, was killed in a Baghdad car bombing. Hastings memorialized that relationship in his first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.

A contributing editor to Rolling Stone, Hastings leaves behind a remarkable legacy of reporting, including an exposé of America’s drone war, an exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at his hideout in the English countryside, an investigation into the Army’s illicit use of “psychological operations” to influence sitting Senators and a profile of Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl, “America’s Last Prisoner of War.”

“Great reporters exude a certain kind of electricity,” says Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana, “the sense that there are stories burning inside them, and that there’s no higher calling or greater way to live life than to be always relentlessly trying to find and tell those stories. I’m sad that I’ll never get to publish all the great stories that he was going to write, and sad that he won’t be stopping by my office for any more short visits which would stretch for two or three completely engrossing hours. He will be missed.”

Boston Boomer posted in the comments last night that there is speculation that perhaps this was a suicide?

More on this from the LA Times: Michael Hastings’ death remains under investigation 

Authorities are continuing to sort out the details of an auto accident that apparently claimed the life of award-winning journalist Michael Hastings.

The death of the 33-year-old Hastings was announced by his employer, BuzzFeed, which said he died in a Los Angeles car accident.

But the Los Angeles county coroner’s office had yet to determine Tuesday night whether a body recovered from a fiery car crash was that of Hastings.

The body was badly charred and identified only as “John Doe 117,” law enforcement authorities told the Los Angeles Times.

Coroner’s officials were attempting to match dental records to help make a positive identification, according to authorities.

The crash occurred early Tuesday on Highland Avenue near Melrose Avenue.

An earlier LA Times article stated: Michael Hastings was working in L.A. when he died in car crash

Journalist Michael Hastings was living in Los Angeles and reporting on national security issues and the entertainment industry when he died early Tuesday in a car crash in the city, according to his employer.

[...]

The 33-year-old Hastings was writing for BuzzFeed and joined the organization’s Los Angeles bureau after it opened in October.

“Michael Hastings will bring his hard-hitting reporting on national security and politics to the BuzzFeed Los Angeles Bureau while contributing to entertainment coverage as a Correspondent at Large,” BuzzFeed said at the time.

[...]

BuzzFeed did not provide an address of the car crash, saying only that it occurred in Los Angeles early Tuesday.

There was only one fatal car crash reported in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning involving a vehicle that smashed into a tree and burst into flames in the 600 block of North Highland Avenue in Hancock Park, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Authorities with the LAPD and Los Angeles County coroner’s office told The Times Tuesday evening that they had not identified the victim in that crash because the body was burned beyond recognition.

One report says that Buzzfeed learned of Hastings death from a family member.

In other news:

BBC News – Afghan attack kills US soldiers hours after news of talks

Four US soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, hours after the US announced direct talks with the Taliban.

The soldiers were killed by “indirect fire” from insurgents at Bagram air base, US officials said.

Bagram, near the Afghan capital Kabul, is the largest military base for US troops in Afghanistan.

A condition for the talks, due to begin on Thursday in Qatar, was for the Taliban to renounce violence.

In comments made before the news of the attack emerged, US President Barack Obama said the announcement of talks was an “important first step toward reconciliation”.

The talks are set to take place in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban have just opened their first official overseas office.

US officials said prisoner exchanges would be one topic for discussion with the Taliban, but the first weeks would mainly be used to explore each other’s agendas.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government was also sending delegates to Qatar to talk to the Taliban.

Also on Tuesday, Nato handed over responsibility for security for the whole of the country to Afghan security forces.

International troops are to remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, providing military back-up when needed.

And over in the US…In Partisan Vote, House Approves Ban on Abortions After 22 Weeks – NYTimes.com

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the most restrictive ban on abortion considered by Congress in a decade, a largely symbolic vote that laid bare the deep ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans.

The measure, which would ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy based on the medically disputed theory that fetuses at that stage of development are capable of feeling pain, passed in a 228-to-196 vote that broke down mostly along party lines. Reflecting how little common ground the two parties share these days, just six Republicans voted against the bill; six Democrats voted for it.

“I’m not waging a war on anyone,” said Kristi Noem, Republican of South Dakota, offering a rejoinder to the Democratic assertion that Republicans have waged a war on women, a line of attack that harmed conservative candidates in 2012. “Regardless of your personal beliefs, I would hope that stopping atrocities against little babies is something we can all agree to put an end to.”

The bill has no chance in the Democrat-controlled Senate and was put forward by the House Republican leadership in response to demands from anti-abortion lawmakers.

It is a good thing it doesn’t have a chance in hell on making it past the Senate, but this is fucking ridiculous. Check this out: Maddow Tears Apart GOP Fringe Views, Fetal Masturbation Theory: They Keep Finding New Ways To Shock Us | Mediaite

Rachel Maddow opened her show tonight taking the Republican party to task again for their continuing insistence on fighting for stricter and stricter anti-abortion laws, culminating in the GOP-led House today passing a huge federal ban. Maddow found time to break down everything from reminding viewers about the Todd Akins of the party to her explicit shock at today’s newest claim that fetuses masturbate. Yes, that’s where this debate has gone to now.

[...]

Maddow then reminded viewers how the Republicans in Congress have a penchant of questionable decisions in appointing certain members of Congress to certain committees, including Jeff Duncan, Homeland Security Oversight Committee chair and apparent birther, Paul Broun, House science committee member and evolution denier, and Michael Burgess, vice chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health and believer in the idea that fetuses masturbate.

Maddow slammed Broun for trying to remove his name from the Republican anti-abortion bill due to alterations permitting exceptions in cases of rape and incest, but had nothing but shock for Burgess’ bizarre comments. She remarked that with all the anti-abortion rhetoric going around in the last few years, “I felt like I had lost the capacity to be surprised before I heard the fetal masturbation theory.”

Maddow said the GOP attempted to try and put out a more articulate voice by letting Marsha Blackburn push for the abortion bill. However, on MSNBC, Blackburn said that when women report rapes, it gives police people to track down and bring to justice. Maddow described this as “House Republicans effectively forcing you to use your uterus and access to it as a means of helping the police with their investigations.”

Maddow remarked that the GOP’s latest attempt to ban abortion is farther than they’ve ever gone before, even as House Speaker John Boehner insists that jobs are their number one concern.

That Mediate article calls this group of nutcases the GOP Fringe, but this is not the fringe, just take a look at that House vote up top…it ain’t fringe baby…that is the Grand Old Party for ya.

Also, last night John Oliver was kicking ass on the Daily Show, so if you have some time please watch this video clip: John Oliver Tears Into GOP Over Immigration Reform: A ‘Border Fence Built Out Of Ignorance And Spite’

John Oliver opened tonight’s Daily Show tearing into the Republican party for their stubbornness in holding back immigration reform from becoming law. Congress, which Oliver said is in a “nail-biting three-way tie for least popular branch of government,” is set to take up a bill, but there’s been a lot of resistance in the GOP, which Oliver described as a “1000-foot high border fence built out of ignorance and spite.”

Oliver first applauded Republicans for recognizing the most important reason they need to get immigration reform done: they need the Hispanic vote. Of course, the Democrats are acting just as pandering, with one senator making a floor speech in Spanish. Oliver mockingly suggested, “Perhaps you would like to wash down your Latino pandering with a margarita.”

Of course, the GOP may take more convincing, because as Oliver put it, they’ll resist immigration reform like “a frat boy with a condom.” He also mocked Jeb Bush saying immigrants are more fertile, telling him he shouldn’t make his argument “They’re baby machines who love to fuck!”

Oliver also slammed Republicans for their demand that immigrants need to learn English, and for an amendment that would require 90 percent border security. In other words, as Oliver said, “Bring nine friends with you and get in free!”

Then the second part of the segment included a bit with former WWE wrestler Mick Foley that knocked the redneck WWE immigration propaganda showdown on it’s ass.  (I will post a link to the video clip when it gets posted online.)

Here is the link to the video clip:http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-june-18-2013/immigration—the-wwe

Tuesday June 18, 2013

Immigration & the WWE

Professional wrestling engages in a more articulate immigration debate than anything heard in Congress. (06:54)
Watch more clips from this episode or the entire show.

And finally, High Level of Radioactive Strontium Found in Groundwater Near Fukishima Plant – NYTimes.com

Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima, said Wednesday that it had detected high levels of radioactive strontium in groundwater at the plant, raising concerns that its storage tanks are leaking contaminated water, possibly into the ocean. The operator said it had found strontium-90 at 30 times Japan’s safety limit in groundwater near its No. 2 reactor, which suffered a fuel meltdown in 2011. The company has struggled to store growing amounts of contaminated runoff at the plant, but had previously denied that the site’s groundwater was highly toxic. If ingested, strontium-90 can linger in bones, emitting radiation inside the body that can lead, in time, to cancer.

Honestly, does anyone really believe the reports TEPCO gives regarding the radioactive levels around Fukushima? /snark.

So that is all I can bring you this morning, it is enough to get you started. What are you reading about today?


Sunday Reads: Fair Pay in Texas? Hell No. Have a Merry Christmas, Texan Style? You bet your…

Jenny on the Job plays it safe with low heels. New in WWII Posters collection. (via Jenny on the Job Steps Ahead with Low Heals | Vintagraph)

Jenny on the Job plays it safe with low heels. New in WWII Posters collection. (via Jenny on the Job Steps Ahead with Low Heals | Vintagraph)

Good Morning

Well, I guess you can tell from the title of the post, we will start this morning by talking about the big ol’ state of Texas.

This is the first link from Addicting Info, I have a few links from the AI blog today…anyway, here is the latest strike down in Governor GoodHair’s War on Women,  Rick Perry Vetoes Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay – Senfronia Thompson Reacts

On Friday, June 14, Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed House Bill 950 (HB 950). HB 950 would have brought Texas into compliance with the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 signed by President Barack Obama. The bill makes it easier for women to sue employers over wage discrimination between their male counterparts.

You can find a video  interview at the link with,

Texas District 141 Representative, and Chair of the Local and Consent Calendars, Senfronia Thompson, the author of HB 950. She states that she was shocked and disappointed that Texas Governor Rick Perry vetoed the bill. She said she meticulously worked with Republicans to formulate a bill that could garner support in from both parties in both chambers of the legislature.

The bill was passed in the Texas House on April 25, 2013. It passed the Texas Senate on May 22, 2013. The bill was passed by a bipartisan legislature that is dominated by Republicans.

So, Perry even vetoed a bill that was passed by a bunch of Republicans. Sigh. But don’t you worry, at least one thing is safe in Texas, thanks to Perry…because on the same day he vetoed the Fair Pay bill, he signed the “Merry Christmas” bill. Texas Gov. Perry signs ‘Merry Christmas’ bill into law

Surrounded by sleigh bell-ringing Santa Claus impersonators, Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday signed a law protecting Christmas and other holiday celebrations in Texas public schools from legal challenges – but also stressed that freedom of religion is not the same thing as freedom from religion.

It was a serious tone for an otherwise fun bill-signing and should bolster the governor’s Christian conservative credentials before he travels to Washington for the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference with the likes of tea party darlings and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and fellow Texan Ted Cruz.

Dubbed the “Merry Christmas” bill, the bipartisan measure sailed through the state House and Senate to reach Perry’s desk.

It removes legal risks of saying “Merry Christmas” in schools while also protecting traditional holiday symbols, such as a menorah or nativity scene, so long as more than one religion and a secular symbol are also reflected.

Oh, may the Gawds be praised!  At least they have the token secular symbol and “other” religious holiday symbol as a requirement. Believe me, this Merry Christmas bill is still going to piss off some people, cough…. Gretchen Carlson.  Anyway, the sponsor of the bill Republican Rep. Dwayne Bohac of Houston said:

…of Perry: “This is not a governor that shirks away from the tough issues. And this should not be a tough issue, which is what’s even amazing about all this. But this is just political correctness that’s run a-muck and our brains have been completely fallen out as a result.”

tumblr_mkfcaj3xKd1s4c1kfo2_r1_500Funny, it seems like he sure as hell shirked that big “tough” issue of fair pay.

I am going to move on to another “tough” issue, this link is also from Addicting Info, it is a very good post,   Navy Judge Rules Rapists Shouldn’t Be Discharged (VIDEO)

Is the military just completely tone-deaf on the issue of sexual assault and rape in its ranks? Are those who’ve deigned themselves mouthpieces of the military just as clueless in their defense of this heinous situation? It would certainly seem so. Not only are the numbers staggering and inexplicable, but we’ve got idiotic conservatives blaming military rape on pornography, hyper-sensitive feminists, and “hormone level created by nature,” illustrating not only their profound cluelessness about the pathology of rapists, but the reasons why so many rapes and assaults go unreported. In fact, in a recent high-profile case where a victim did speak up and go to trial, the commander overturned the jury verdict to allow a rapist the freedom to advance in the ranks while his victim was stigmatized out of the service.

It’s entrenched, systemic corruption within what has been a very macho, male-dominated culture and it doesn’t appear the powers-that-be intend to take appropriate responsibility for the disturbed, entitled, misogynist criminals under its jurisdiction who are acting out with impunity and, in too many circumstances, to few consequences.

Okay, now get ready for it…

Latest case in point: Navy Judge Commander Marcus Fulton has just ruled that comments made by the President regarding military rape “would unduly influence” any potential sentencing in the cases of two defendants in military sexual assault cases, U.S. vs. Johnson and U.S. vs. Fuentes. Stars and Stripes reports that, per the judge’s ruling, should the two men be found guilty, they cannot be punitively discharged because of “unlawful command influence,” meaning, because of what President Obama, as the Commander in Chief, said. Would you like to know what incendiary, unduly prejudicial, trial-influencing comments the president made, so inflammatory that if two servicemen are actually found guilty of violently raping they should not be punished?

“The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this,” Obama said, according to an NBC News story submitted as evidence by defense attorneys in the sexual assault cases.

‘I expect consequences,” Obama added. “So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable — prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

Do I hear the deafening roar of incredulity at the notion that these comments could possibly be framed as cause to excuse two rapists from punishment? Maybe that roar is just in my head, but damn, it is loud.

No, it the roar is in my head too.  I will continue to post more of this article written by because I have to…

As a woman, a human being; an American, I’m writing this with a knot of rage in my stomach, rage at the notion that a Navy judge could take these firm but generic comments of appropriate anger, comments that are not only justified but, if anything, not strong enough, and use them as justification for NOT PUNISHING RAPISTS. It is unconscionable, amoral, certainly indefensible. But the judge not only stands by his ruling, he seems to think “members of the public” would be incapable of reading Obama’s anger at the horrific, systemic rape of both male and female service members as anything other than a direct command from him… a hypnotic order that would supercede any ability on their part to make judicious decisions about each individual case at hand. Sheep, listening and following the cult leader. Dear God. But here are his own words:

“A member of the public would not hear the President’s statement to be a simple admonition to hold members accountable,” Fulton stated. “A member of the public would draw the connection between the ‘dishonorable discharge’ required by the President and a punitive discharge approved by the convening authority.

“The strain on the system created by asking a convening authority to disregard [Obama’s] statement in this environment would be too much to sustain public confidence.”

And guess what follows this logic? Defense attorneys gleefully grabbing the ruling to use as a “way out” for their rapist (alleged…. I know) clients.

“I think that as a defense attorney, I would raise this argument in virtually any [sexual assault] case I had,” said Victor Hansen, vice president of the National Institute of Military Justice and former instructor at the Army’s JAG school.

However, in recent months there has been a lot more said — and in overly specific terms — about sexual assault by military and political leaders, Hansen noted. Obama’s call for dishonorable discharges is an example of such specificity, which begins to sound to military juries like a direct order from the commander in chief.

“This is bad lawyering on [Obama’s] advisor’s part,” Hansen said. “It’s certainly not a problem to say that sexual assault is a bad thing and we need to weed it out … that’s innocuous. It’s when they get very pointed that it’s problematic.”

So there you go; Obama’s verbiage was parsed as “too pointed” – daring to suggest consequences –  and those who would go to any lengths to get military rapists off, excluded from commensurate punishment and consequence, are now licking their chops at the convenience of the judge’s ruling and how it will positively affect their own cases.

So far no one in the Navy judicial branch, JAG, is willing to address the ruling or its subsequent impact, though they did confirm its authenticity. Nor has the White House yet addressed the issue. But the 26,000 military rape and sexual assault victims of the past year, both male and female, are surely feeling, once again, victimized by a system that seems hellbent on doing everything to protect criminals within its ranks and little or nothing to defend, support and find justice for those who’ve been assaulted, raped, hurt, traumatized and, in many cases, pressured out of the military.

WHEN WILL THIS CHANGE?

tumblr_mkbpf5FC5T1s4c1kfo2_r1_500Sickening.

You know, when the Newtown Shooting happened, my dad said that was the turning point…he said that was so horrible that people would demand tighter gun laws…he said the outrage would bring about change. At the time I told him no, there would be no changes made, sure we would have people talking about it, and laws would get proposed but nothing would change.

I know that there is plenty of attention, well let’s just say temporary attention lately on the military’s “culture” toward sexual assault. And honestly, like the gun control laws…and the equal pay bills, I just feel that there are some things which will never change. At least in my lifetime. Because it seems that they didn’t changed in my grandmother’s lifetime…they are definitely not going to in my mom’s lifetime…and I highly doubt they will in mine.

Boy, I seem to sound like a Cassandra don’t I?

Okay, like I said in the beginning of this post, there is one more link from Addicting Info, this one goes hand in hand with a link I saw on Susie Madrak’s blog. Y’all know the horrible time my family had with Bank of America, and the many times we sent our modification papers in, only to get another letter saying we have to send the same documents once again.

Well, check this shit out. As Susie puts it: BoA gave cash bonuses for HAMP foreclosures

No, it wasn’t just bad luck when that Bank of America rep kept telling you they “never got the paperwork.” We’ve been hearing these disgusting stories for a long time. Glad to hear they’re making their way into court, where there’s at least a chance that Bank of America might actually pay for some of their sins:

Bank of America Corp. (BAC), the second-biggest U.S. lender, rewarded staff with cash bonuses and gift cards for meeting quotas tied to sending distressed homeowners into foreclosure, former employees said in court documents.

Mortgage workers falsified records and were told to delay U.S. loan-assistance applications by requesting paperwork that the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank had already received, according to statements from ex-employees filed last week in federal court in Boston. The lender improperly disqualified applicants to the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP, according to a May 23 statement from Simone Gordon, a loss-mitigation specialist who left the company in 2012.

Bank of America Corp. is being sued by homeowners who didn’t receive permanent loan modifications after making payments under trial programs, according to court papers.

“We were regularly drilled that it was our job to maximize fees for the bank by fostering and extending delay of the HAMP modification process by any means we could,” Gordon said. Managers instructed staff to “delay modifications by telling homeowners who called in that their documents were ‘under review,’ when in fact, there had been no review,” she said.

Bank of America, which has spent more than $45 billion to settle claims tied to its 2008 takeover of Countrywide Financial Corp., is being sued by homeowners who didn’t receive permanent loan modifications after making payments under trial programs, according to court papers. Statements from seven former loan employees were included in a filing last week as part of plaintiffs’ attempt to gain class-action status. The lender has denied the allegations.

Bank Of America Will Give You $500 For Kicking Someone Out Of Their House – Addicting Infotumblr_mk7za8CRL61s4c1kfo2_r1_500

Bank of America has managed to make the news yet again, but not for the right reasons. According to several ex-employees, Bank of America systematically declined homeowners the ability to modify their loans under the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP. Bank of America rewarded staff with various perks, including cash bonuses and gift cards, for meeting quotas by sending homeowners seeking loan modifications into foreclosure. With these new explosive allegations, a new lawsuit is being brought against Bank of America. The former employees’ testimonies and revelations will strengthen the lawsuit, which is a consolidation of 29 separate suits against the bank from across the United States and is seeking class action certification. According to court documents, the lawsuit is being brought by homeowners who didn’t receive permanent loan modifications after meeting their obligations under the trail programs.

I knew those BoA basturds were doing this kind of crap.  I wonder what kind of slap on the wrist they will get for this shit.

This post is getting rather long so here are the rest of the morning’s links, real quick like.

There is a lot of news out of the Middle East this weekend, so I have some articles for you to look at:

Heavy Pressure Led to Decision by Obama on Syrian Arms – NYTimes.com

For two years, President Obama has resisted being drawn deeper into the civil war in Syria. It was a miserable problem, he told aides, and not one he thought he could solve. At most, it could be managed. And besides, he wanted to be remembered for getting out of Middle East wars, not embarking on new ones.

So when Mr. Obama agreed this week for the first time to send small arms and ammunition to Syrian rebel forces, he had to be almost dragged into the decision at a time when critics, some advisers and even Bill Clinton were pressing for more action. Coming so late into the conflict, Mr. Obama expressed no confidence it would change the outcome, but privately expressed hope it might buy time to bring about a negotiated settlement.

You can read the rest of the article and speculation about the meaning behind how the aid to Syrian rebels was announced at the link.

Juan Cole: An Outbreak of Reasonableness in Tehran: Top Ten Conclusions from Iran’s Early Election Returns | Informed Comment

Update: Centrist Hassan Rouhani is Iran’s new president, having won a massive victory in a field of 6 candidates. 13:19 ET, 6/15/13

Early election returns in Iran suggest that former National Security adviser and nuclear negotiator Hassan Rouhani may have won over 50% of the vote, in which case he will have won without needing to go to a second round. Too early to tell if that is so. While it is true that the president in Iran is more like the typical US vice president and is relatively powerless, he can nevertheless set a tone and initiate policies slightly different from those of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iran is not yet a totalitarian dictatorship, and Khamenei himself has sometimes been forced to tack with the wind. Any change will be slow and at the margins, but it could nevertheless be significant in a very polarized world.

U.S. Considers Military Plan for No-Fly Zone in Syria – Wall Street Journal – WSJ.com

Syria lashes out at Egypt decision to sever ties- Newsday

String of Car Bombs Kill Dozens in Iraq – NYTimes.com

Large Risks in Erdogan’s Harsh Stand – NYTimes.com

tumblr_mk9uqjdSgp1s4c1kfo2_r1_500In the US….and stuff:

Rain, Cooler Weather Slow Colorado Fire | WNIJ and WNIU

NYC dispatcher spent almost 8 hours on stroke call | Fox News

Exclusive – Wal-Mart’s everyday hiring strategy: Add more temps | Reuters -No surprises there.

What’s Really on Trial in George Zimmerman’s Case? | Black Agenda Report

Menopause: An Evolutionary Response To Men Chasing Younger Women?

Osteoporosis drug stops growth of breast cancer cells, even in resistant tumors, study suggests

Digby: Sometimes a tweet is just a tweet: Queen of the Village holds forth on Hillary. Again.

Cheetahs’ Secret Weapon – A Tight Turning Radius – NYTimes.com

One more link for you, it is really just a picture, I realize this is one of the first Sunday reads I have written without a history link…so in lieu of a long historic read, I will give you this…a medieval knight…guinea pig style, talk about “your mother being a hamster…”Anyway, enjoy:

Keep your guinea pig protected with a rodent-sized suit of armor

Keep your guinea pig protected with a rodent-sized suit of armor

If your guinea pig routinely dashes off into armed combat (or just likes the look of scale mail), you might want to outfit him or her in this handsome suit of armor, perfect for rolly-polly rodents.

After Lucky, the original owner of the armor and model for these photos, passed away, eBay seller mightys0x decided to auction off Lucky’s armor. All of the proceeds from the auction will go to Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue in Virginia, the organization that rescued and adopted out Lucky. Lucky’s owner made the scale mail and purchased the tiny helmet. The auction ends on June 21st.

Hand-made Guinea Pig Scale-Mail and Helmet (Armor) [eBay via David Willis]

Anyone with a friend who has a guinea pig, and is fond of Monty Python?

And finally, I know that today is Father’s Day, so for all those Daddy’s out there:

Father’s Day by Political Cartoonist Kap

133119 600 Fathers Day cartoons

Have a wonderful day, and if you are around, let us know what you are thinking and reading about today.