February 2016 Archives

Bowie in a Fish Mandress

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So What Does Kill More Americans...Guns or?

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Oscars Selection System is Unrepresentative

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Lawrence O'Donnell, the former political aide who hosts MSNBC's Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell, let loose on Wednesday night with a fusillade of arrows aimed at Hollywood and the Academy Awards. O'Donnell used the final segment of his program for a withering takedown of the Oscars' nominating process that resulted in this year's all-white acting nominees, while blasting presumably clueless voters for ignoring both Straight Outta Compton and, especially, Beasts Of No Nation.

The host -- one of prime time cable's smartest observers of the political and cultural scenes -- declared the latter film and its star, Idris Elba, deserving of at least as much attention as any of the other nominees. But he claimed that when voters received their screeners over the holidays, they threw the DVDs for Compton and Beasts into the pile of films they had no intention of watching. O'Donnell offered no evidence to back up his observation, other than to quote the published comment of one voter who admitted that he hadn't watched Mad Max: Fury Road.

"There were a lot of great performances this year," O'Donnell said after showing a clip from Beasts Of No Nation. "But no actor gave a better performance than Idris Elba did in Beasts Of No Nation."

George Carlin Doesn't Vote

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Thomas Piketty on the rise of Bernie Sanders:

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The US enters a new political era

The Vermont senator's success so far demonstrates the end of the politico-ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the 1980 elections

How can we interpret the incredible success of the "socialist" candidate Bernie Sanders in the US primaries? The Vermont senator is now ahead of Hillary Clinton among Democratic-leaning voters below the age of 50, and it's only thanks to the older generation that Clinton has managed to stay ahead in the polls.

Because he is facing the Clinton machine, as well as the conservatism of mainstream media, Sanders might not win the race. But it has now been demonstrated that another Sanders - possibly younger and less white - could one day soon win the US presidential elections and change the face of the country. In many respects, we are witnessing the end of the politico-ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the 1980 elections.

Let's glance back for an instant. From the 1930s until the 1970s, the US were at the forefront of an ambitious set of policies aiming to reduce social inequalities. Partly to avoid any resemblance with Old Europe, seen then as extremely unequal and contrary to the American democratic spirit, in the inter-war years the country invented a highly progressive income and estate tax and set up levels of fiscal progressiveness never used on our side of the Atlantic. From 1930 to 1980 - for half a century - the rate for the highest US income (over $1m per year) was on average 82%, with peaks of 91% from the 1940s to 1960s (from Roosevelt to Kennedy), and still as high as 70% during Reagan's election in 1980.

This policy in no way affected the strong growth of the post-war American economy, doubtless because there is not much point in paying super-managers $10m when $1m will do. The estate tax, which was equally progressive with rates applicable to the largest fortunes in the range of 70% to 80% for decades (the rate has almost never exceeded 30% to 40% in Germany or France), greatly reduced the concentration of American capital, without the destruction and wars which Europe had to face.

A mythical capitalism

In the 1930s, long before European countries followed through, the US also set up a federal minimum wage. In the late 1960s it was worth $10 an hour (in 2016 dollars), by far the highest of its time.

All this was carried through almost without unemployment, since both the level of productivity and the education system allowed it. This is also the time when the US finally put an end to the undemocratic legal racial discrimination still in place in the south, and launched new social policies.

All this change sparked a muscular opposition, particularly among the financial elites and the reactionary fringe of the white electorate. Humiliated in Vietnam, 1970s America was further concerned that the losers of the second world war (Germany and Japan in the lead) were catching up at top speed. The US also suffered from the oil crisis, inflation and under-indexation of tax schedules. Surfing the waves of all these frustrations, Reagan was elected in 1980 on a program aiming to restore a mythical capitalism said to have existed in the past.

The culmination of this new program was the tax reform of 1986, which ended half a century of a progressive tax system and lowered the rate applicable to the highest incomes to 28%.

Democrats never truly challenged this choice in the Clinton (1992-2000) and Obama (2008-2016) years, which stabilized the taxation rate at around 40% (two times lower than the average level for the period 1930 to 1980). This triggered an explosion of inequality coupled with incredibly high salaries for those who could get them, as well as a stagnation of revenues for most of America - all of which was accompanied by low growth (at a level still somewhat higher than Europe, mind you, as the old world was mired in other problems).

A progressive agenda

Reagan also decided to freeze the federal minimum wage level, which from 1980 was slowly but surely eroded by inflation (little more than $7 an hour in 2016, against nearly $11 in 1969). Again, this new political-ideological regime was barely mitigated by the Clinton and Obama years.

Sanders' success today shows that much of America is tired of rising inequality and these so-called political changes, and intends to revive both a progressive agenda and the American tradition of egalitarianism. Hillary Clinton, who fought to the left of Barack Obama in 2008 on topics such as health insurance, appears today as if she is defending the status quo, just another heiress of the Reagan-Clinton-Obama political regime.

Sanders makes clear he wants to restore progressive taxation and a higher minimum wage ($15 an hour). To this he adds free healthcare and higher education in a country where inequality in access to education has reached unprecedented heights, highlighting a gulf standing between the lives of most Americans, and the soothing meritocratic speeches pronounced by the winners of the system.

Meanwhile, the Republican party sinks into a hyper-nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-Islam discourse (even though Islam isn't a great religious force in the country), and a limitless glorification of the fortune amassed by rich white people. The judges appointed under Reagan and Bush have lifted any legal limitation on the influence of private money in politics, which greatly complicates the task of candidates like Sanders.

However, new forms of political mobilization and crowdfunding can prevail and push America into a new political cycle. We are far from gloomy prophecies about the end of history.

Nothing Left

The long, slow surrender of American liberals

By Adolph Reed Jr.


For nearly all the twentieth century there was a dynamic left in the United States grounded in the belief that unrestrained capitalism generated unacceptable social costs. That left crested in influence between 1935 and 1945, when it anchored a coalition centered in the labor movement, most significantly within the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). It was a prominent voice in the Democratic Party of the era, and at the federal level its high point may have come in 1944, when FDR propounded what he called "a second Bill of Rights." Among these rights, Roosevelt proclaimed, were the right to a "useful and remunerative job," "adequate medical care," and "adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment."

The labor-left alliance remained a meaningful presence in American politics through the 1960s. What have become known as the social movements of the Sixties -- civil rights activism, protests against the Vietnam War, and a renewed women's movement -- were vitally linked to that egalitarian left. Those movements drew institutional resources, including organizing talents and committed activists, from that older left and built on both the legislative and the ideological victories it had won. But during the 1980s and early 1990s, fears of a relentless Republican juggernaut pressured those left of center to take a defensive stance, focusing on the immediate goal of electing Democrats to stem or slow the rightward tide. At the same time, business interests, in concert with the Republican right and supported by an emerging wing of neoliberal Democrats, set out to roll back as many as possible of the social protections and regulations the left had won. As this defensiveness overtook leftist interest groups, institutions, and opinion leaders, it increasingly came to define left-wing journalistic commentary and criticism. New editorial voices -- for example, The American Prospect -- emerged to articulate the views of an intellectual left that defined itself as liberal rather than radical. To be sure, this shift was not absolute. Such publications as New Labor Forum, New Politics, Science & Society, Monthly Review, and others maintained an oppositional stance, and the Great Recession has encouraged new outlets such as Jacobin and Endnotes. But the American left moved increasingly toward the middle.

Today, the labor movement has been largely subdued, and social activists have made their peace with neoliberalism and adjusted their horizons accordingly. Within the women's movement, goals have shifted from practical objectives such as comparable worth and universal child care in the 1980s to celebrating appointments of individual women to public office and challenging the corporate glass ceiling. Dominant figures in the antiwar movement have long since accepted the framework of American military interventionism. The movement for racial justice has shifted its focus from inequality to "disparity," while neatly evading any critique of the structures that produce inequality.

The sources of this narrowing of social vision are complex. But its most conspicuous expression is subordination to the agenda of a Democratic Party whose center has moved steadily rightward since Ronald Reagan's presidency. Although it is typically defended in a language of political practicality and sophistication, this shift requires, as the historian Russell Jacoby notes, giving up "a belief that the future could fundamentally surpass the present," which traditionally has been an essential foundation of leftist thought and practice. "Instead of championing a radical idea of a new society," Jacoby observes in The End of Utopia, "the left ineluctably retreats to smaller ideas, seeking to expand the options within the existing society."

RvsD.pngThe atrophy of political imagination shows up in approaches to strategy as well. In the absence of goals that require long-term organizing -- e.g., single-payer health care, universally free public higher education and public transportation, federal guarantees of housing and income security -- the election cycle has come to exhaust the time horizon of political action. Objectives that cannot be met within one or two election cycles seem fanciful, as do any that do not comport with the Democratic agenda. Even those who consider themselves to the Democrats' left are infected with electoralitis. Each election now becomes a moment of life-or-death urgency that precludes dissent or even reflection. For liberals, there is only one option in an election year, and that is to elect, at whatever cost, whichever Democrat is running. This modus operandi has tethered what remains of the left to a Democratic Party that has long since renounced its commitment to any sort of redistributive vision and imposes a willed amnesia on political debate. True, the last Democrat was really unsatisfying, but this one is better; true, the last Republican didn't bring destruction on the universe, but this one certainly will. And, of course, each of the "pivotal" Supreme Court justices is four years older than he or she was the last time.

Why does this tailing behind an increasingly right-of-center Democratic Party persist in the absence of any apparent payoff? There has nearly always been a qualifying excuse: Republicans control the White House; they control Congress; they're strong enough to block progressive initiatives even if they don't control either the executive or the legislative branch. Thus have the faithful been able to take comfort in the circular self-evidence of their conviction. Each undesirable act by a Republican administration is eo ipso evidence that if the Democratic candidate had won, things would have been much better. When Democrats have been in office, the imagined omnipresent threat from the Republican bugbear remains a fatal constraint on action and a pretext for suppressing criticism from the left.

Freedom to Stand Accountable for Your BS

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Arrest Pastor Kevin Swanson?

Freedom of Speech lies atop a short list of the most important civil liberties we enjoy as Americans. And it must vigorously protect the sorts of speech that are likely to cause offense. But it must not and does not provide safe harbor for those whose speech is likely to incite illegal activity and violence.

The Incitement Test, which flows from the decision in the 1969 Supreme Court case of Brandenberg v. Ohio, sets forth the following criteria to determine when the government may curtail speech in light of incitement...

"The constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."

I believe that the words of Colorado Pastor Kevin Swanson at last weekend's so-called National Religious Liberties Conference, and on many previous occasions, may well meet the definition of incitement to illegal action and that he should be arrested under available federal statutes, in order to determine whether his speech legally qualifies as incitement.

Courts may well disagree, and that's fine, but countless reasonable people will see that this is clearly the case. Pastor Kevin Swanson is as unhinged a person as any public figure I've witnessed, but his comically labored breathing and froth-cornered mouth are nothing compared to the venom he espouses. His comments at last weekend's Iowa GOP candidate event (brilliantly deconstructed by Rachel Maddow) at which he blamed most everything wrong with America on "the homosexuals", are an implied and direct incitement to violence against LGBT people.

It seems only a matter of time before a follower of Mr. Swanson takes his words straight to heart and kills a member of the LGBT community in the belief that they are helping to "cleanse" the country of what ills it. Or maybe a parent will take his advice, and drown their child for partaking of "satanic" Harry Potter books. (It wasn't clear from his comments whether watching the movie "Frozen" is in itself also reason to put children to death, or merely subject them to some lesser punishment.)

I take comfort that Swanson is part of a decided fringe, and that there are countless Christians in this country that are as offended by his attitudes as I am - I just wish they would be louder. And I am heartened that most people will take his argument - that attempts to call him out for his hate speech are part of an effort to oppress Christians - for what it is... absolute rubbish.

People like Swanson, even when they are not manifestly mentally ill, occupy a distorted mental space where Christians, a vast majority in this country, are actually an oppressed minority whose very existence is under constant threat. A siege mentality like that drives people to do crazy things, and if anyone enacts violence against an LGBT person based in part on Swanson's words, blood will be on the perpetrators hands, and also on Swanson's.

Apart from Mr. Swanson, who appears to be fully bathed in misery, and surely lives in a daily hell of his own making, I have to wonder what consequences there will be for the three GOP presidential candidates who attended the Iowa event last weekend. Well, at least one of them. Bobby Jindal is something less than an also-ran at this point, and will soon disappear into the annals of risible GOP trivia, and Mike Huckabee is simply on the latest leg of a perpetual book tour made possible by free media coverage. But Ted Cruz is increasingly talked about as a potential contender - a real contender - in the GOP race for the presidental nomination.

Before attending the Iowa event, Cruz was questioned on CNN about the wisdom of being the guest of a pastor known to have made radical and violent condemnation of LGBT people a foundation of his "ministry". Cruz, in the vein of a college debater who thinks he's clever but isn't, said he wasn't sure what Swanson had or had not said. Even if this was true then, it is not today. He sat through Swanson's breathless rant about the evils of "homosexuals", and then was interviewed by him on stage, essentially kissing his ring.

While President Obama may or may not have been in attendance for controversial comments by the Chicago Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who made inflammatory but comparatively dull statements about the history of race in America, Ted Cruz was inarguably in attendance for, and a keynote invitee of, Swanson's event.

If the mythical "liberal media" was anywhere near as liberal as right-wing provocateurs claim, Cruz would presently be questioned about nothing else but this choice for the next several weeks. There would be New York Times editorials about his attendance, and his radical, not-even-close-to-mainstream views would be once-and-for-all exposed. And his candidacy would be rightfully, mortally wounded.

Here's to hoping.

Wanna See a Sleaze Bucket Human?

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Maddow interviews slimeball Tim Phillips about his underhanded GOP activities.

Scalia Reprieve

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The old bastard conservative monster finally bows out. Never ever have I encountered a human being more woerthy of contempt or more perfectly acted as the definition of asshole..

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia found dead in Texas

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead Saturday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement.

According to the San Antonio News-Express, which was first to report his death, Scalia was found dead in his room at a West Texas resort.

Scalia, 79, was one of the staunchest conservative members of the court. He was nominated in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. He championed the philosophy of "orginalism," meaning he interprets the Constitution according to what he believes the original authors intended over 200 years ago.

In a 2008 interview with "60 Minutes," he told correspondent Lesley Stahl that he believes the Constitution is an "enduring" document he wants to defend.

"It's what did the words mean to the people who ratified the Bill of Rights or who ratified the Constitution," Scalia said.

"But you do admit that values change? We do adapt. We move," Stahl asked.

"That's fine," he answered. "And so do laws change. Because values change, legislatures abolish the death penalty, permit same-sex marriage if they want, abolish laws against homosexual conduct. That's how the change in a society occurs. Society doesn't change through a Constitution."

His replacement to the court would be President Obama's third nomination. He previously nominated Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Gravity Waves from Two Blacks Holes Merging

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Cosmic Chirp From Black Holes Colliding Vindicates Einstein

Scientists say they heard the faint chirp of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, fulfilling Einstein's general theory of relativity.

Chocolate Rain

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FOD : Depp Does the Donald

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Officials Outraged After 'Shocking' Report on NYPD Kicking People Out of Homes


Read the main story here

New York City officials said reforms were needed after our investigation showed that the police have been locking out residents who haven't been charged with a crime.

by Sarah Ryley for ProPublica

A wide swath of public officials are calling for change in response to a Daily News and ProPublica investigation about the NYPD's use of an obscure type of lawsuit to boot hundreds of people from homes. The cases are happening almost exclusively in minority neighborhoods.

Several city council members said they were considering amendments and other reforms to safeguard abuses.

Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson said the statistics included in the story are "shocking."
Public Advocate Letitia James said she would conduct a thorough inquiry into "some serious legal and constitutional questions" raised by the story. "Some of the rights that individuals are forfeiting, to me, constitutes coercion."

The judge who oversees the day-to-day operation of the state's trial courts, which handle nuisance abatement cases, also said there should be more safeguards.

"It strikes me that this law may be broader than it should be," said Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks. "The Mayor's Office and the city council might take a close look at that."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was elected on a promise of police reform, deferred comment to the NYPD. The NYPD ignored repeated requests for comment.

As a result of the story, Marks said that an educational session for judges handling the nuisance abatement cases would be held later this month. Marks stressed judges are independent and entitled to apply the law as they interpret it.

Requiring more recent evidence, prohibiting hearsay evidence, and requiring that cases include an arrest or conviction are all issues that would need to be addressed legislatively, Marks said.

The Daily News and ProPublica story found the NYPD has used the nuisance abatement law, enacted in the 1970s to clean up Times Square, to lock families out of their homes over investigations that often never led to a criminal conviction. After reviewing more than 500 cases filed against residences during 2013 and the first half of 2014, the investigation found:

  • In 75 percent of cases, judges approved the NYPD's request to lock people out before residents even had a chance to come to court
  • NYPD requests for locking out residents came an average of six months after the alleged illegal activity, even though the requests justified such an extreme measure by claiming illegal activity was "ongoing".
  • In order to settle the cases, tenants and homeowners often agreed to onerous provisions, such as banning specific family members for life, warrantless searches, and automatically forfeiting leases if merely accused of wrongdoing in the future.
  • 173 of the 297 people who gave up their leases or were banned from homes were not convicted of a crime. Forty-four of those people appear to have faced no criminal prosecution whatsoever.
  • Tenants, who rarely had lawyers, described scenarios of being left to fend for themselves against an NYPD attorney, while a judge was nowhere to be seen.
"I would hope that the administration, including the mayor and the police commissioner, (Bill) Bratton, gets to the bottom of this," said James, the public advocate. "The office of public advocate will be drafting a letter asking for the specificity and answers to some very serious questions."

James said she would look at whether there's a pattern of "illegal enforcement," of the law, the lack of criminal convictions in the cases, the reliance on confidential informants, and whether this is "a continuation of Broken Windows," referring to the NYPD's strategy of aggressively enforcing low-level offenses to prevent more serious crime.

City Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) said his office is working on three legislative items: a bill that would require the NYPD to produce regular publicly available reports on its use of the nuisance abatement law; establishing a 90-day window within which the NYPD must file an action after the last-known violation; and stipulating that these cases can only be brought after an arrest or conviction.

Alright

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Possibly one of the finest pieces of political art this century from one of it's most unique artists.


Alls my life I has to fight, nigga
Alls my life I
Hard times like God
Bad trips like: "God!"
Nazareth, I'm fucked up
Homie you fucked up
But if God got us we then gon' be alright

Nigga, we gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
We gon' be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
Huh? We gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright

Uh, and when I wake up
I recognize you're lookin' at me for the pay cut
Behind my side we lookin' at you from the face down
What mac-11 even boom with the bass down
Schemin'! And let me tell you bout my life
Painkillers only put me in the twilight
What pretty pussy and Benjamin is the highlight
Now tell my mama I love her but this what I like
Lord knows, 20 of 'em in my Chevy
Tell 'em all to come and get me, reapin' everything I sow
So my karma come and Heaven no preliminary hearing
So my record and my motherfucking gang can stand in silence for the record
Tell the world I know it's too late
The hoes, the girls think I gone crazy
Try and fight my vices all day
Won't you please believe when I say

When you know, we been hurt, been down before, nigga
When my pride was low, lookin' at the world like, "where do we go, nigga?"
And we hate Popo, wanna kill us dead in the street for sure, nigga
I'm at the preacher's door
My knees gettin' weak and my gun might blow but we gon' be alright

Nigga, we gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
We gon' be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
Huh? We gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright

What you want, a house or a car
40 acres and a mule, a piano a guitar
Anything, see my name is Lucy, I'm your dog
Motherfucker you can live at the mall
I can see the evil, I can tell it I know when it's illegal
I don't think about it, I deposit every other zero
Thinkin' of my partner put the candy, paint it on the regal
Diggin' in my pocket ain't a profit, big enough to feed you
Everyday my logic, get another dollar just to keep you
In the presence of your chico ah!
I don't talk about it, be about it, everyday I see cool
If I got it then you know you got it, Heaven, I can reach you
Pet dog, pet dog, pet dog, my dog that's all
Pick back and chat I shut the back for y'all
I rap, I'm black, on track and rest assured
My rights, my wrongs are right till I'm right with God

When you know, we been hurt, been down before, nigga
When my pride was low, lookin' at the world like, "where do we go, nigga?"
And we hate Popo, wanna kill us dead in the street for sure, nigga
I'm at the preacher's door
My knees gettin' weak and my gun might blow but we gon' be alright

Nigga, we gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
We gon' be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
Huh? We gon' be alright
Nigga, we gon' be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright

I keep my head up high
I cross my heart and hope to die
Lovin' me is complicated
Too afraid, a lot of changes
I'm alright and you're a favorite
Dark nights in my prayers

I remembered you was conflicted
Misusing your influence, sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screamin' in the hotel room
I didn't wanna self destruct, the evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went runnin' for answers

Paul Simon: Wristband

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A new tune he performed on the Prairie Home Companion show Feb 6th 2016


Reinstalling Windows 10

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Tech Tip

By J. D. BIERSDORFER


Q. The Windows 10 upgrade is a free download for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 machines, but it doesn't seem to have its own serial number and obviously didn't come with an installation DVD. What happens if I need to reformat my hard drive and reinstall the operating system? How do I reactivate Windows?

A. Depending on how you upgraded to Windows 10 and the version you were previously using, you may not need a product key (serial number) to activate Windows 10 again after a clean installation. Microsoft notes that product keys for many versions of Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 can be used now, starting with Windows 10, version 1511, which was released as a system update last November. The product keys for Enterprise editions of those older Windows versions, as well as those from volume licenses or counterfeit copies of Windows, will not work, though.

When Windows 10 was first released as an upgrade for Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 users, Microsoft was activating the new software with what it called a "digital entitlement" that took the place of a product key. As long as the computer is running a fully upgraded and legitimate version of Windows 10 that was activated without errors, the digital entitlement should allow you to reinstall the system on the PC as needed. (However, the company says that if you have made major changes to the computer's hardware, like swapping in a new motherboard, you may have to call Microsoft Customer Support to reactivate Windows 10.)

Before you reinstall Windows 10, make sure the system has indeed been activated by going to the Start menu to Settings, then to Update & Security and on to Activation. Later, if you are asked for a product key during the reinstallation (and did not use the number from an older version of Windows to originally activate the software), click the Skip button; Windows 10 should automatically activate itself after it finishes installing.

If you have to fully reinstall Windows 10, you can do so in several ways, including from a previously created recovery drive or from Windows 10 installation software on a DVD or USB drive. The Microsoft Software Download page on the company's site has the software and tools you need to create a bootable Windows 10 DVD or make your own USB recovery drive, as well as a frequently asked questions page that may have some useful answers.

Another example of why conservatives = death

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The Republican Refusal to Aid Flint

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD NYTimes

flintwater.jpgThe water crisis in Flint, Mich., has elicited a lot more hand-wringing and apologies than concrete actions to provide for the needs of children and adults whose health may be damaged by water from pipes that are leaching lead into taps all over the city. The state government, whose officials caused this crisis, has been loath to commit substantial funds to long-term needs, and Congress, under the control of Republicans, is finding excuses not to rescue this poverty-stricken, majority-black city of nearly 100,000 people.

The evasions were on prominent display on both sides of Congress this week.

A House oversight committee held a hearing on Wednesday whose purpose was purportedly to identify those responsible for the Flint crisis and determine what could be done to alleviate it. But the committee failed to summon Rick Snyder, the Republican governor of Michigan, whose environmental officials and emergency managers were the ones who made monumental blunders that led the city to draw water from the polluted Flint River without treating it properly. Instead, Republicans heaped blame on the Environmental Protection Agency, which made mistakes but was a bit player in this drama.

Then on Thursday, in the Senate, negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on a financial aid package for Flint, to be attached to a bipartisan energy bill awaiting passage, broke down, and Democrats refused to approve the bill without the aid package, pushing any hope of assistance into next week.

The Democrats have already yielded a lot of ground, cutting their original $600 million aid package to less than half of that, only to meet Republican objections that the costs were not fully offset by other cuts in federal spending and that no money should be provided until Michigan had a more thorough plan on how the money would be spent.

There is little doubt that some, perhaps all, of Flint's corroded pipes will need to be replaced, at a cost that the governor estimates at $767 million and others say could be above $1 billion. We believe that the Army Corps of Engineers ought to do the job and bill the state for its services. It is outrageous that Flint residents, even though the city has switched back to cleaner water from Lake Huron, still have to rely on bottled water and filters because the lead continues to leach from the pipes.

A Poem

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Juggling Excess and Imbalance in a Time of Drones
Amy Uyematsu

-- after Juan Felipe Herrera, "Fuzzy Equations"

Pilotless warplanes + nonstop surveillance - Al Queda targets = innocent civilians + American hostages

Forgiving Bush for making an illegal war on Iraq > forgiving Obama for being black

Spyware + a pair of sneakers purchased on my Visa = tsunami of ads on my iMac screen

No talent Kim Kardashian + cocky Kanye West = reward + punishment for a brainless American public

People who know the names of "American Idol" judges > people who can name 1 American Poet Laureate

Bigger classes + underpaid teachers + corrupt bureaucrats + over-testing = kids who can't frickin read or write

California's water supply - agribusiness usage - oil company fracking = homeowners who better cut back

2 lumpectomies + 31 days of radiation = 1 more breast cancer survivor

Leftover rice + bacon + green onion + egg + soy sauce + salsa = Japanese lunch for my Chicano husband

Restaurant table of 7 friends รท 7 cell phones = 1 pitifully lonely meal

3 e-mails + 2 voice messages + 1 text = no guarantee that a Gen X child will call back

Khaled Said memorial page on Facebook = 400,000 followers + uprising in Cairo's Tahrir Square

Freddie Gray - 6 Baltimore cops = Michael Brown - 1 Ferguson policeman = Eric Garner - 2 NYPD officers

Tents + shopping cart closets + makeshift car motels = 44,000 homeless in LA county alone

WALK sign x impatient driver who looks me straight in the eye = pedestrian suicide

The # of cars crawling south on the 405 from 6 AM to 10 AM = routinely diabolical City of the Angels procession

Suffering + courage + forgiveness = heart

Truth + imagination + hope = art

Line of the Day

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Death dances silently in everyone's shadow

Pussy Riot Returns

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MOSCOW -- Wearing police uniforms and fishnet stockings, they whip hooded prisoners and waterboard them in their prison cells. The well-made-up women gleefully throw wads of cash into the air and flirt viciously with their viewers.

The Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot sashayed back into the public eye on Wednesday with the release of a music video savaging the country's prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika, who locked up three members of the group in 2012.

It is a black satire of the Russian criminal justice system, in which the women, playing prison guards, rap lustily about money and torture a man with hot clothes irons.

Obama's Visit to Mosque

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A major problem is the President's lack of addressing Muslim women's issues during his visit.

Obama's About to Make Muslim-Haters' Heads Explode

This was bound to happen: Barack Hussein Obama's first-ever visit to a U.S. mosque as president. The right-wing freakout was bound to happen, too.

The anti-Muslim bigotry from the right in America is so predictable it's actually boring. They're like Pavlov's dog, but instead of salivating, they instinctively attack anything Muslim. No offense intended to dogs, which are far smarter.

We heard Herman "Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan" Cain exclaim on Fox News that Obama is going to the mosque because he wants to "go kissy-kissy with the Muslim Brotherhood." And right-wing publications like The Daily Caller, Breitbart.com, and Town Hall all wrote of nefarious ties between this mosque and the Muslim Brotherhood.

I wouldn't be surprised if Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or Ben Carson makes similar allegations or claims that Obama cares more about Muslims than Christians or Jews despite the fact Obama has visited synagogues and prayed at numerous churches over the years.

The reality is that it doesn't matter what mosque Obama visited. The anti-Muslim industry, in a six degrees of Kevin Bacon type of way, would connect the mosque leaders to someone who once ate a falafel with a guy who is friends with a dude who is a neighbor to a guy allegedly in the Brotherhood.

Now if you are wondering what exactly is the Muslim Brotherhood in America, you are not alone. I'm Muslim and have appeared at hundreds of Muslim-American events across the United States and have yet to meet a person who even mentioned it. And if you Google "Muslim Brotherhood," you will be treated to numerous articles written by these very same right-wing publications incestuously citing one another for support.

But putting partisan BS aside, does anyone actually believe that Obama would make his first visit to an American mosque that's tied to radical Muslims or terrorism? But facts don't matter to these media outlets. They smear every visible Muslim, be they members of Congress, Muslim organizations, or even Muslim American comedians--with the goal being to marginalize Muslims from every aspect of American society.

Now just so it's clear, as a Muslim American, I can assure you that I have zero tolerance for any terrorism, be it Muslim or right-wing anti-government terrorists like the Bundy gang in Oregon. And I have an even greater interest in ensuring that not one more Muslim is involved in any type of terrorism because I don't want to see people killed in the name of my faith. So if you see something suspicious involving Muslims or anyone for that matter, ignore political correctness and immediately contact the authorities.

Homo Thugs

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