Jan 07

The Stupid, It Burns!

In 1854 a Medical Scientist, Dr. John Snow, was able to isolate an outbreak of Cholera in London to a single public water supply on Broad Street.

Now Cholera is nasty and it comes out both ends. It’s not necessarily fatal (though it can be) if you treat the symptoms and replace the water and electrolytes you lose while you’re ghastly ill. Still, not the kind of experience I would call fun as I’ve been through the preparation for a lower Endoscopy more times than I care to remember.

Cholera is not the only thing you should be worried about. There’s also Giardia, Legionella, Norovirus, and Campylobacter. All exceedingly nasty. To say as some do that the nice, safe, tested stuff that comes from your municipal water company stinks of chlorine and flouride so I’m going to risk real sickness instead is sheer idiocy.

“It has a vaguely mild sweetness, a nice smooth mouth feel, nothing that overwhelms the flavor profile,” Kevin Freeman, a shift manager at San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery, told the Times of his store’s au naturale H20. “Bottled water’s controversial. We’ve curtailed our water selection. But this is totally outside that whole realm.”

Don’t like the way your water tastes? Get a Brita.

Real survivalists like Les Stroud (the only one worth listening to in my opinion) never drink anything that hasn’t fallen from the sky (fresh snow, rain) or that they’ve thoroughly boiled and strained (learn to make a friction fire dolt or better yet carry around some waterproof matches). One thing I’ve seen him use that I thought an incredibly good concept is a Lifestraw. It’s basically a super Brita in a tube and should work in a cesspit though that wouldn’t be my first choice (it doesn’t make it taste better, it makes it safe).

They’re cheap, like $15 on Amazon. I picked up 2 to throw in my First Aid Kit (you want one of those too).

Look Raw Water drinkers, you’re Morons- Rubes. You’re getting ripped off by Con Artists just like the Anti-Vaxxers are. Grow up!

Science is real and Medical Science, while not perfect, works.

Jan 07

The Breakfast Club (Rats)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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AP’s Today in History for January 7th

First U.S. Presidential Election; Clinton goes on trial in Senate; Khmer Rouge overthrown; Emperor Hirohito dies.


Breakfast Tune Green Rats Band – Pills


Something to think about, Breakfast News & Blogs below

Here Are the 19 Senate Democrats Still Not Committed to Defending Net Neutrality
Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

As of this writing on Friday, 29 senators—28 Democrats and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—have signed on to Sen. Ed Markey’s (D-Mass.) effort to undo the Republican-controlled FCC’s December vote to kill net neutrality by introducing a “resolution of disapproval” that would, if passed, restore the 2015 net neutrality protections that are currently being scrapped.

Nineteen Senate Democrats—as well as Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)—have yet to announce their support for Markey’s resolution (see list below). A minimum of 30 votes are needed to bring the resolution to the Senate floor.

In an email on Friday, Greer noted that the “FCC’s official release of the final text [of Pai’s proposals] starts the clock for the order to be entered into the Federal Register.”

“Once that happens, we’ll have 60 legislative days to get Congress to reverse it using the CRA,” Greer added. “It’s an uphill battle, but our momentum is growing.”

In addition to Sen. King, the Independent from Maine, what follows is thefull list of the Democratic senators who have yet to sign on to Markey’s resolution:

Cory Booker (D-N.J.)
Tom Carper (D-Del.)
Bob Casey (D-Pa.)
Chris Coons (D-Del.)
Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)
Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)
Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)
Doug Jones (D-Ala.)
Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)
Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)
Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)
Tina Smith (D-Minn.)
Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
Mark Warner (D-Va.)

US: Muslims to become second-largest religious group
Al Jazeera, News

Muslims are expected to become the second-largest religious group in the United States after Christians by 2040, according to a new report.

There were 3.45 millions Muslims living in the US in 2017 representing about 1.1 percent of the total population, a study by Pew Research Center found.

At present, the number of Jewish people outnumber Muslims as the second-largest religious group but that is expected to change by 2040 because “the US Muslim population will grow much faster than the country’s Jewish population”, the report said. …

State Governments Are Already Gaming the Republican Tax Overhaul
Patrick Clark, Bloomberg

Before the ink was dry on the Republican tax bill signed into law late last month, experts predicted that state governments would try to shield their residents from tax hikes they’ll suffer from a sharp reduction in state and local deductions.

It didn’t take long.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said that the new cap on SALT deductions was an act of “economic civil war,” and promised to fight back by suing the federal government and by changing the state’s tax code to shelter residents from the loss.

In California, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León plans to introduce legislation this week that would allow residents to donate to a state entity called the California Excellence Fund in lieu of paying taxes — a move intended to sidestep the new federal cap. …

Americans Haven’t Been This Poor and Indebted in Decades
Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

All “full employment” economies aren’t created equal. And there’s long been reason to think that our current one is less golden than gilded. As I’ve previously noted, we’re living through the weakest recovery in postwar history — one that’s left the prime-age labor-force-participation rate near decade lows, underemployment above pre-recession levels, and wage growth too tepid to compensate for mounting household debt.

Now, Deutsche Bank economist Torsten Slok has added two new, (profoundly) disconcerting data points to the pile: The percentage of families with more debt than savings is higher now than at any point since 1962, while the median American family’s net worth is lower than it’s been in nearly a quarter-century.

So, this is what a “good” economy now looks like in the United States: shrinking household wealth; soaring middle-class debt; wage growth that can’t keep pace with the rising costs of housing, health care, and higher education; job growth concentrated in part-time positions; widespread retirement insecurity; and more wealth-less households than America has seen for 56 years. …







Something to think about over coffee prozac

Rats! DC wages war against resurgent rodents with dry ice

WASHINGTON (AP) — Any mists spotted rising over the swamp may just be Washington wielding its newest weapon in its never-ending war on rats: dry ice.

The District of Columbia’s rodent control division’s program manager, Gerard Brown, tells The Washington Post the frozen form of carbon dioxide complements the poison the city uses, as reported rat complaints reach a four-year high.

Last month, Brown and Mayor Muriel Bowser oversaw a demonstration in which health department staffers stuffed dry ice into a northeast Washington alley rathole. As the ice smoked, the emanating carbon dioxide suffocated the rats, according to Brown’s explanation.

Residents are encouraged to purchase their own dry ice. The city is working on usage guidelines.

Department of Energy and Environment Director Tommy Wells says dry ice is relatively humane, cheap and pet-friendly.

Jan 06

Fire and Fury


Jan 06

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Gazette‘s Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

What To Cook On A Cold Winter Weekend

Laurie Colwin’s Baked Mustard Chicken

This old-school chicken, Sunday-night-supper chicken, even dinner party chicken, is baked for about two hours (yes, you read that correctly: two hours) until its bread crumb-coated skin is crisp — yet the meat miraculously maintains its moisture.

Laurie Colwin’s Creamed Spinach With Jalapeño Peppers

There is the constant awareness of the plight of the busy home cook, those who would just as soon use a package of frozen spinach if the results are just as good as if you washed and chopped an untold number of bunches of fresh spinach yourself.

Quick-Braised Cod With Herbed Yogurt

In this blissfully easy weeknight dinner, cod and shallots are braised in butter and wine, then topped with an herbed, garlicky yogurt sauce.

Irish Stew

Irish stew may be served brothy, or slightly thickened with mashed potato or flour.

Health and Fitness News

Childbirth Deaths Declining in U.S., New Report Finds

Clean Air Act May Be Saving More Lives Than Thought

More U.S. Women Obese Before Pregnancy, Experts Sound the Alarm

Most U.S. Babies Start Solid Foods Too Soon

U.S. Cancer Deaths Steadily Dropping: Report

Hysterectomy May Have Long-Term Health Risks

Layer Up When Temperatures Plummet

New Hope for ‘Ringing’ in the Ears

Prenatal Vitamins Tied to Lower Autism Risk in Kids, Study Finds

Exercise Safely When the Weather Outside Is Frightful

Protect Your Heart in Frigid Weather

U.S. Autism Rates May Be Stabilizing

Jan 06

The Breakfast Club (Little Christmas)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Joan of Arc is born; Samuel Morse demonstrates the telegraph to the public; Commercial airplane completes first round-the-world flight; Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan is attacked; Dizzy Gillespie and Rudolf Nureyev die.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

You’ll never get mixed up if you simply tell the truth. Then you don’t have to remember what you have said, and you never forget what you have said.

Sam Rayburn

Continue reading

Jan 05

Macular Degeneration

That’s a condition in which your retinas develop flaws that can distort what you see (like turning straight lines into curves) culminating in so much damage that you are blind (well, effectively, you can still detect light).

I have that.

There are 2 types- Wet and Dry. Wet is caused by bleeding in the capillaries behind the retina causing bubbles of blood that separate it from the eyeball (thus the distortion). The treatment is horrible. Fully conscious, open eyed and dilated, and under the mildest of topical anesthetic, the Doctor takes a needle, sticks it in your eye, and injects… something, I’m not a Doctor. Side effects include air bubbles in your Intraocular Fluid which manifest themselves as big floaty black spots that swim when you turn your head too fast like a nauseating Lava Lamp. After 2 or 3 days they go away.

The minimum course is 3 shots, 6 weeks apart, which I have had and my Retinologist is very pleased with the reversal of my symptoms and results of my tests and has me under observation which will continue pretty much for the rest of my life.

Thank goodness it wasn’t Dry. There is no known treatment.

But that’s just a metaphor. As it turns out I have to revise and extend my piece from Wednesday.

That was about the Intel half of the problem, what is now commonly known as Meltdown. It is very real, very Intel specific, and has an available cure that slows down your Intel based system by up to a third.

I also hold by my statement that Intel was cheating to convey an inflated impression of its processor capability.

Meltdown allows a Virus to read privileged memory space (like the OS kernel) and takes advantage of an Intel side channel designed to allow quicker access for urgent instructions from user level programs. It does not require any special tailoring to the software currently running since it’s a hardware flaw.

Meltdown (PDF)

Meltdown is distinct from the Spectre Attacks in several ways, notably that Spectre requires tailoring to the victim process’s software environment, but applies more broadly to CPUs.

But, like Wet Macular Degeneration, at least there’s a cure.

Spectre is similar in that it allows access to protected areas of memory and is based on “Out of Order Execution” (having your CPU look ahead when it’s idle or expediting certain instructions), but is more difficult to implement since there are a lot of variables.

Spectre (PDF)

Modern processors use branch prediction and speculative execution to maximize performance. For example, if the destination of a branch depends on a memory value that is in the process of being read, CPUs will try guess the destination and attempt to execute ahead. When the memory value finally arrives, the CPU either discards or commits the speculative computation. Speculative logic is unfaithful in how it executes, can access to the victim’s memory and registers, and can perform operations with measurable side effects.

Spectre attacks involve inducing a victim to speculatively perform operations that would not occur during correct program execution and which leak the victim’s confidential information via a side channel to the adversary.

(note: The links to the specific papers are from meltdownattack.com and my primary source that references them is Kernel panic! What are Meltdown and Spectre, the bugs affecting nearly every computer and device? by Devin Coldewey, Tech Crunch, 1/3/18)

Speculative processing is something everybody does. Allow me to explain the concept.

In modern computing there are many speeds of memory, the fastest being the most expensive and therefore smallest. To maximize the value of this relatively scarce resource it’s commonly dedicated to hold the items that are most frequently re-used. This is called ‘caching’. It is also possible to stock it with things computers anticipate will be needed shortly and to increase performance most chips do this during their idle time, which is almost always because they are so damn fast that during a nanosecond (the time it takes light or electrons to travel about a foot) they can do much more than 12 things.

Is that fast? My monitor is more than a nanosecond away and so should yours be (“Don’t sit so close to the TV, you’ll ruin your eyes!”).

So on the CPU, at lightspeed, it can seem an eternity to fetch a value or 64 out of the fastest DRAM (they arrive at the same time or not so much and you can handle them simultaneously and asynchronously). What do you do for a hobby?

Yes, you’ve already done your chores. Posted results and sent out requests for future anticipated needs. Why not play a game? What if the results of the current operation turn out about the same way they have in the past? What will you do then?

THAT is speculative processing, everybody’s doing it Ma. The reasoning is that it’s totally benign. In the worst case where you stumble across an unexpected result you simply flush your speculation and proceed as if you’d just been sitting there waiting all the time. You don’t even pay a real penalty for day dreaming as the next operation is just as fast as it would have been if you hadn’t.

However, if you happen to be a malicious hacker, you can prime the pump by leading the CPU to anticipate an innocuous result and use the time difference between that and the realization the actual outcome was not expected to execute…


In the current context this consists of enticing the CPU to put pieces of memory that don’t belong to the malicious program in known places that program can access. Little things like passwords.

Heck, even knowing where the kernel is located (it floats around as a security measure) is a huge advantage because you can flip the switches (if you know where they are within the attack target) and give your process all the access it needs to do some real damage.

Now the problem with a Spectre attack is that it requires a deep knowledge of the target’s behavior in specific situations but hey, that’s what you have computers for- even the one you’re targeting.

You might think a handful of idle cycles and a few bytes of memory is not enough to accomplish anything but I remember a conversation I had with a cousin who was programming industrial robots. He was working with a Z80 and 256 Bytes (Byte! that’s like one letter!) of memory for instructions AND data.

As he explained to me, they don’t have to do much. Most of the time he didn’t use half that.

The bottom line is this- if you’re shorting Intel because their processors suck and are incredibly vulnerable to Hardware Viruses or because they’ve been lying about their performance you are exactly correct to do so.

Spectre attacks are never going away and the only good news is that they’re very difficult to implement.

Jan 05

The Russian Connection: A Clearer Picture

The public just got a clearer picture of the case for obstruction of justice by Donald Trump in an attempt to sabotage the investigation into his campaign’s partnership with a foreign adversary, Russia, to influence the 2016 election. In an New York Times article, Michael Schimdt outlines the events that lead up to the firing of then FBI Director James Comey and Trump’s continued attempts to end the investigation by Robert Mueller. According to legal experts that the reporter consulted, there are two issues that Mueller appears to be investigating: whether Trump obstructed justice while in office and whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Public pressure was building for Mr. Sessions, who had been a senior member of the Trump campaign, to step aside. But the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, carried out the president’s orders and lobbied Mr. Sessions to remain in charge of the inquiry, according to two people with knowledge of the episode.

Mr. McGahn was unsuccessful, and the president erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him. Mr. Trump said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert F. Kennedy, as attorney general, had done for his brother John F. Kennedy and Eric H. Holder Jr. had for Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump then asked, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” He was referring to his former personal lawyer and fixer, who had been Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s top aide during the investigations into communist activity in the 1950s and died in 1986.

The lobbying of Mr. Sessions is one of several previously unreported episodes that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has learned about as he investigates whether Mr. Trump obstructed the F.B.I.’s Russia inquiry. The events occurred during a two-month period — from when Mr. Sessions recused himself in March until the appointment of Mr. Mueller in May — when Mr. Trump believed he was losing control over the investigation

Among the other episodes, Mr. Trump described the Russia investigation as “fabricated and politically motivated” in a letter that he intended to send to the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, but that White House aides stopped him from sending. Mr. Mueller has also substantiated claims that Mr. Comey made in a series of memos describing troubling interactions with the president before he was fired in May.

The special counsel has received handwritten notes from Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, showing that Mr. Trump talked to Mr. Priebus about how he had called Mr. Comey to urge him to say publicly that he was not under investigation. The president’s determination to fire Mr. Comey even led one White House lawyer to take the extraordinary step of misleading Mr. Trump about whether he had the authority to remove him.

The New York Times has also learned that four days before Mr. Comey was fired, one of Mr. Sessions’s aides asked a congressional staff member whether he had damaging information about Mr. Comey, part of an apparent effort to undermine the F.B.I. director. It was not clear whether Mr. Mueller’s investigators knew about this episode.

Mr. Mueller has also been examining a false statement that the president reportedly dictated on Air Force One in July in response to an article in The Times about a meeting that Trump campaign officials had with Russians in 2016. A new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff, says that the president’s lawyers believed that the statement was “an explicit attempt to throw sand into the investigation’s gears,” and that it led one of Mr. Trump’s spokesmen to quit because he believed it was obstruction of justice. [..]

Regardless of whether Mr. Mueller believes there is enough evidence to make a case against the president, Mr. Trump’s belief that his attorney general should protect him provides an important window into how he governs. Presidents have had close relationships with their attorneys general, but Mr. Trump’s obsession with loyalty is particularly unusual, especially given the Justice Department’s investigation into him and his associates.

The article goes on to describe the actions of a lawyer in the White House counsel’s office to mislead Trump about his authority to fire the FBI director which demonstrates the concerns many within the White House hasve about Trump’s ability to make rational decisions.

At The MaddowBlog, Steve Bennen notes the case for obstruction of justice is coming into focus:

One of the key elements of the Trump-Russia scandal is the question of whether the president is personally liable for potentially obstructing the investigation. And to that end, Donald Trump’s alleged pressure of then-FBI Director James Comey, who’s claimed the president tried to get him to back off of specific lines of inquiry, is critical to understanding whether the president is criminally liable.

It’s therefore necessary for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team to, if possible, substantiate Comey’s claims. [..]

The fact that Priebus took handwritten notes, which are now in the hands of the special counsel’s office, is a striking new detail.

And while that’s an important detail, it’s not the only reason to care about the new front-page Times piece.

The same article reported that Trump instructed White House Counsel Don McGahn to “stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation” of the Russia scandal. McGahn followed the instructions; Sessions ignored the lobbying; and the president “erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him.”

In the United States, it’s not the attorney general’s job to “protect” the president. [..]

In other words, according to the reporting, the White House lawyer deliberately left the president with the wrong impression in the hopes of preventing Trump from making a costly mistake.

Dhillon, we now know, was right to be concerned – Comey’s firing led to the appointment of a special counsel, whose investigation has put Trump’s presidency in jeopardy – but Trump nevertheless learned the truth about his authority and fired the FBI director anyway.

Michael Schmidt, reporter for The New York Times, talks with Rachel Maddow about his reporting about Donald Trump’s pressure on Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia probe, and Reince Priebus notes confirming James Comey’s notes about encounters with Trump.

Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, talks with Rachel Maddow about how former Trump chief-of-staff Reince Priebus’s notes corroborating James Comey’s notes about meetings with Donald Trump might be used in a court case.

Rachel also reports on some of the reportable, find-out-able claims in Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, beyond the salacious stories that have left the Trump team sputtering with rage and humiliation.

Trump’s continued claims that the investigation is a “witch hunt,” and there was “no collusion” ring hollow. If Trump has done nothing wrong, why would he need his AG or the White House counsel to protect him? These are all actions of someone who is guilty as charged.

Jan 05

The Breakfast Club (12 Drummers Drumming)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Elian Gonzales decision; First female U.S. governor inaugurated; Sonny Bono dies; Pete Rose admits to betting on baseball; Bruce Springsteen’s first album debuts.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

If you are sure you understand everything that is going on, you are hopelessly confused.

Walter F. Mondale

Continue reading

Jan 04

Republican Morality

LePage sends welfare cash to after-school programs to curb ‘out-of-wedlock pregnancies’
By Matthew Stone, Bangor Daily News
January 4, 2018

This school year, Gov. Paul LePage’s administration is spending $1.7 million on after-school programs that once would have gone to low-income families with children in the form of cash assistance.

The administration has described the change as a way to “better support our youth,” but anti-poverty program experts decried it as an ineffective way to keep kids clothed and fed at a time when the rate of Maine children living in deep poverty has been rising.

“After-school programs don’t pay the rent, and they don’t keep kids in underwear. They don’t keep the parents in underwear,” said Luke Shaefer, an associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan and coauthor of the book “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.”

A BDN review of state contracting documents shows more than a dozen nonprofit organizations are receiving more than $1.7 million this school year from the federally funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, grant. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has awarded more than 80 percent of the funds without using the state’s formal competitive bidding process, the documents show.

Grifters gotta Grift.

But the after-school programs account for less than 2 percent of the LePage administration’s reworked spending of the $78.1 million TANF grant the state receives each year. Instead, the administration is tapping much of the unused federal funding so it can avoid using state taxpayer funds.

A BDN review in June showed the state planned to spend most of the funds — after paying for cash benefits for the remaining TANF beneficiaries, employment services and administrative expenses — on pre-existing state social service obligations to free up the state funds normally devoted to those expenses. Those expenses accounted for a third of the LePage administration’s planned TANF spending for this fiscal year.

A DHHS spokeswoman didn’t directly address questions from the BDN about how the department ensured it was supporting the highest-quality after-school programs with TANF, the number of children served by the after-school programs receiving TANF funds, the number of kids who wouldn’t be able to participate in after-school programs if not for the TANF funding, and the analysis DHHS used to decide how it would spend the state’s TANF grant.

“DHHS is committed to helping families and youth,” DHHS spokeswoman Emily Spencer wrote in an email. “Before and after school programming is a proven strategy to help boost academic performance and reduce risky behaviors. We encourage innovative, community based programming that keeps our youth engaged and away from behaviors that can have negative consequences which can follow them for a lifetime. These programs meet the goals of TANF and, more importantly, they keep kids off the streets — safe and engaged in positive behaviors.”

In response to its request for youth program proposals, DHHS didn’t receive many bids from outside of southern Maine, so the department has awarded more than 80 percent of the funds for after-school programs without using the state’s formal, competitive bidding process, according to state contracting documents.

That’s how Fair Haven Camps in the rural Waldo County town of Brooks became the site of one of the TANF-funded after-school programs.

In the summer, Fair Haven Camps is a Christian overnight camp. This fall, for the first time, it welcomed 17 students from Mount View Middle School in nearby Thorndike after school each day for outdoor activities in wilderness survival, arts and crafts, and lessons in financial literacy provided by volunteers from Bangor Savings Bank.

A “Charitable Choice” provision that applies to the 1996 federal law that created TANF allows states to issue public funds to religious organizations such as Fair Haven Camps as long as the organizations don’t use those funds to pay for what federal regulations label “inherently religious activities.”

The proportion of Maine children living in deep poverty — with family incomes of half the federal poverty level or less — grew 1.1 percentage points between 2011 and 2015, to 8 percent, while it grew 0.2 percentage points nationally, to 9.5 percent, according to calculations from the Maine Center for Economic Policy that used three-year averages from U.S. Census data to calculate poverty rates.

Research available on safety net programs that bolster family income — the sort of assistance that has ended for the more than 8,000 Maine families since 2012 — shows that they contribute to improved school performance for the children in those families as well as improved health and long-term earning power.

Which is hungrier, my stomach or my soul? Hot dog!

Jan 04


Dizzy? You probably have Carbon Monoxide poisoning. You should call the Fire Department and EMS.

Not many people know it, but the Fuhrer was a terrific dancer.


Domestic Violence

Happy Shoveling! Remember when snow days used to be cool?

Jan 04

The Breakfast Club (Eleven Pipers Piping)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel suffers a stroke and lapses into a coma; the inventor of braille is born; Jesse Ventura sworn in as Minnesota’s governor, poet T.S. Eliot dies.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.

Everett Dirksen

Continue reading

Jan 03

The Russian Connection: GOP’s Fake Investigation

Ever since the public was made aware of the Russian dossier that was released by Buzzfeed in January 2017, the Republicans have done everything possible to discredit it and undermine the investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia currently in progress under Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

In its attempts to derail the investigation, the founders of Fusion GPS testified behind closed doors before three congressional committees regarding the dossier last year. There have been promises by Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to release the transcripts after they were reviewed by committee and the witnesses. That was completed months ago but still no transcripts. In an editorial in the New York Times, Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch, founders of Fusion GPS, have called the allegations that the dossier was the trigger for the investigation; fake news.

In the year since the publication of the so-called Steele dossier — the collection of intelligence reports we commissioned about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia — the president has repeatedly attacked us on Twitter. His allies in Congress have dug through our bank records and sought to tarnish our firm to punish us for highlighting his links to Russia. Conservative news outlets and even our former employer, The Wall Street Journal, have spun a succession of mendacious conspiracy theories about our motives and backers.

We are happy to correct the record. In fact, we already have.

Three congressional committees have heard over 21 hours of testimony from our firm, Fusion GPS. In those sessions, we toppled the far right’s conspiracy theories and explained how The Washington Free Beacon and the Clinton campaign — the Republican and Democratic funders of our Trump research — separately came to hire us in the first place.

We walked investigators through our yearlong effort to decipher Mr. Trump’s complex business past, of which the Steele dossier is but one chapter. And we handed over our relevant bank records — while drawing the line at a fishing expedition for the records of companies we work for that have nothing to do with the Trump case.

Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It’s time to share what our company told investigators.

We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.

The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.

We now have further evidence that the dossier was not what started the investigation. In May of 2016, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos under the influence of a few too many in a London Pub with a couple of Aussie diplomats, let it slip that Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.

Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired. [..]

The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?

It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies. Interviews and previously undisclosed documents show that Mr. Papadopoulos played a critical role in this drama and reveal a Russian operation that was more aggressive and widespread than previously known. They add to an emerging portrait, gradually filled in over the past year in revelations by federal investigators, journalists and lawmakers, of Russians with government contacts trying to establish secret channels at various levels of the Trump campaign.

Mark Mazzetti, Washington investigations editor for The New York Times, talks with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow about his reporting that the Trump Russia investigation was triggered by a tip from U.S. allies, not the Christopher Steele dossier.


Over at Crooks and Liars, contributor Tengrain has put together an excellent timeline of Papadopoulos’ great adventure into conspiracy with a foreign government to take over the US 2016 election.

No matter how much Donald Trump and the GOP protest that this is a “witch hunt,” it is fairly obvious there is still a lot more to be learned about Trump’s connection with the Russians. It is also very clear the dossier only confirmed what was already known about the Trump campaign’s Russian connection.

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