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Sunday, April 26, 2015

American "putt-putt" trains need upgrading American Jobs Act

Superstorm Sandy most vividly demonstrated the need for resilient and redundant (Northeast Corridor) infrastructure. Tunnel flooding under the Hudson and East Rivers caused hundreds of millions of $$$ dollars in damage. Without additional capacity between New York and New Jersey, future closures for those repairs could reduce capacity by as much as 75%. The Plan accounts for fixing damaged assets while building to protect assets at risk. These projects will improve reliability, reduce the severity of service impacts during emergencies, and reduce the costs of recovering from future disasters.

Although I'm not an expert on President Obama's proposed American Jobs Act, I'm pretty sure there's appropriations included to improve our deteriorating US train system.  

As a matter of fact, anything, at all, would improve our nation's putt-putt trains.  Here's an interesting article from The National Journal about projects in the wings.  Maybe Apple stock holders can create a futures account, for the purpose of investing invest in American train systems.  

Honestly? If I had the capital, it's where my money would be looking, to bring about a solid return on investment. Obviously, however, my mythical investment will need to wait until Republicans, who are blocking mass transportation projects with their stupid sequester, are eventually thrown out of office.

Eight Critical Rail Projects from The National Journal

A major rail advisory commission presents a sobering new wish list for the Northeast Corridor over the next five years.
BY ERIC JAFFE, CITYLAB

April 22, 2015 There's a new report out from the Northeast Corridor advisory commission, established by Congress to help improve the most critical stretch of rail in the United States, and it isn't pretty. The commission—made up of officials from states, the U.S. Transportation Department, Amtrak, and commuter-rail agencies—has outlined a "first-of-its-kind" coordinated five-year plan for major projects between Washington and Boston via New York. It's effectively a construction wish list for 2016-2020:

The Northeast Corridor is at an historic turning point. 

The decades since the NEC was placed in public hands have been marked by record-breaking ridership growth — and insufficient capital investment. However, unprecedented collaboration is underway to take responsibility for this vital asset and position the country for a globally competitive economic future. The NEC Five-Year Capital Plan is a united strategy to reverse decades of deterioration and rebuild the nation’s busiest passenger railroad.

The NEC Five-Year Capital Plan – if fully funded – would stabilize a national asset that carries 750,000 trips per day. Decades of federal under-investment mean many assets operate today beyond their useful life – everything from rail and power lines to bridges and tunnels – increasing costly service unreliability every day. The loss of service on the NEC for a single day could cost the country $100 million in added congestion and lost productivity.

Seven million jobs, or one out of three jobs in the NEC Region, are within 5 miles of an NEC station. That proportion may grow as billions of dollars of real estate development projects have recently been completed or are under construction within walking distance of stations like Washington, Philadelphia, Newark, New York and Boston. (Julie's note- this investment would improve Maine's economy too, at least in Southern Maine, where many commuters would likely move if there was reliable train service into northern Massachusetts, especially to Boston.)

Much of the NEC we know today was built by private railroads before the 20th century and passengers rely on 100+ year old infrastructure. The largest and most critical of these assets make up the major project backlog: ten movable bridges, two sets of tunnels, and other major structures that date back as far as 1873. These assets will continue to malfunction and cause delays throughout the NEC until they are replaced.

The NEC Five-Year Capital Plan is a first-of-its-kind joint effort among eight states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Amtrak, eight commuter rail agencies, and other stakeholders to integrate the infrastructure investments required over the next five years to reverse decades of deterioration and modernize our shared national asset for future economic growth.

The individual plans of four infrastructure owners and nine passenger rail operators are the basis of the NEC Five-Year Capital Plan. It integrates all types of capital investment, from swapping old rail ties for new, to replacing vital bridges and tunnels. This first-ever region-wide plan reflects unprecedented collaboration in setting mutual goals, sharing information, and coordinating investment.

NEC infrastructure is the beneficiary of investment from many different federal, state, and local sources. However, aggregate funding levels from these traditional sources are far below those required to stabilize infrastructure conditions and prepare the Corridor for the future. The NEC Five-Year Capital Plan identifies these funding gaps and defines how additional resources would build a stronger railroad.

If fully funded, the NEC five year capital plan would create jobs across the country while rebuilding the nation’s most important passenger railroad to promote economic development, grow ridership, and increase resiliency to extreme weather events. (In fact, 35,500 jobs per year, reports the National Journal.)


The NEC carries a workforce that contributes $50 billion each year to the United States gross domestic product. Seven million jobs, or one out of three jobs in the NEC Region, are within 5 miles of an NEC station. The Plan will support these key economic markets with infrastructure, service, and station facility upgrades while putting thousands of people to work.

The NEC is a more than century-old railroad, still hand-operated in places with levers and cranks. The backlog of assets operating well beyond their useful life is staggering and infrastructure components are failing at increasing rates. Loss of the NEC for even just a day would cost nearly $100 million in congestion and productivity losses. The Plan will make progress toward reducing this backlog over five years.

The investment required just to preserve today’s NEC service is immense; but the NEC must also prepare for the future. Recent history demonstrates the need to anticipate extreme weather events and growth in ridership. The Plan addresses these trends with infrastructure projects that will reduce vulnerability to changes in temperature, protect against flooding, and add capacity where needed to maintain and grow service.

(Julie's note- the only fathomable reason why the NEC projects are underfunded, in my opinion, is because there's not enough graft and corruption for Republicans to spread around, in states outside of New England, to attract their votes in support of the funding.)

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

American news media have not reported events in Syria - Assad must be looking for refuge

It's difficult to understand why American news media continue to under report or ignore news. Now that Syrian rebels are showing some success, the only coverage is in The Christian Science Monitor and Al Jeezera America.

"..rebel fighters, including the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, captured the northwestern Syrian city of Jisr al-Shughour on Saturday, for the first time in the four-year-old conflict."

Hmmmmm, This Al Qaeda connection is concerning.....will Al Qaeda have gained a nation after Assad is defeated?

(President Assad must be looking for refuge knowing this is a sea turn.....)

Syrian rebels seize key government-held city
Government forces redeploy to Jisr al-Shughour after rebel alliance overruns strategic city  April 25, 2015 

Syrian rebel fighters, including the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, captured the northwestern Syrian city of Jisr al-Shughour on Saturday, for the first time in the four-year-old conflict.

Syrian state media said the army had redeployed to the city's surroundings "to avoid civilian casualties." They said the army was battling "a large number of terrorists coming from the Turkish border."

The capture of the strategic city is the latest in a series of setbacks for government forces in the south and north.

Opposition fighters and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said the city, on a road between the coastal city of Latakia and city of Aleppo, was now fully controlled by rebels.

"All of Jisr al-Shughour is now liberated, there is no more regime there," Ahmad of the media office of the armed group Ahrar Al-Sham, which is taking part in the battle, told Reuters.

After seizing the city, rebels continued their assault with the aim of pushing the army from the few remaining government areas in the province of Idlib.

Advance on coast


Last month armed groups seized the city of Idlib, the capital of the province of Idlib near Turkey, after forming an alliance which includes Nusra, Ahrar Al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa, but not Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), their rival.

The alliance calls itself Army of Fatah, a reference to the conquests that spread Islam across the Middle East from the seventh century.

The allied groups agreed to unite in the battle for Jisr al-Shughour under the name "Battle for Victory." The formation of alliances by groups before major battles is one of the factors behind the advances, sources say.

By taking Jisr al-Shughour, the rebels have edged closer to the coastal province of Latakia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's stronghold, and are now less than 5 miles from villages loyal to the government near the coast.

"Jisr al-Shughour is more important than Idlib itself, it is very close to the coastal area which is a regime area, the coast now is within our fire reach," Ahmad from Ahrar Al-Sham said.

Syrian forces captured the city of Jisr al-Shughour in June 2011, when what the government described as armed gangs killed more than 120 security personnel in the city after large anti-government demonstrations there.

A rebellion in Jisr al-Shughour, home to 50,000 residents, in 1980 against President Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, was crushed with scores of deaths.

Reuters

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Armenian genocideof 1915 remembered in Maine

Facebook friend Alan Manoian posted this message about the experience of his grandmother, who was a victim and survivor of the Armenian genocide of 1915.  



My grandmother, Agavni (Amboian) Manoian, born in 1904, witnessed the killing & massacre of her mother, sisters, her entire extended family and entire village in 1915 at the age of 11. 

In the midst of the mass slaughter someone grabbed her and hid her in the indented corner of a house, placed a barrel in front of her and told her to be quiet; the Turkish soldiers missed her. She arose after the massacre and alone walked off in the "death march" through the high desert. She amazingly survived. Seven years later in Lowell, Massachusetts someone tells her uncle Nazar Garabedian that they have seen Agavni Amboian in an orphanage in Aleppo, Syria. Uncle Nazar responds "No, it can't be, they are all dead". He seeks and finds her in the Aleppo orphanage and brings her to Lowell, Massachusetts, where she is met by and wed to Arakiel Manoian, (both the Amboians and Manoians were from the same ancestor town in Armenia). They go forward to live at 33 Basset St. in Back Central Lowell, have three strong sons and live their American dream. Agavni lived strong until the age of 97 years. She was determined to survive.


Obama should say “genocide” when he talks about what happened to Armenians

In Maine, the Armenian genocide is remembered at an exhibit at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center (HHRC) on the campus of the University of Maine Augusta (UMA) in Augusta.

http://www.centralmaine.com/2015/04/13/hhrc-exhibit-to-focus-on-maines-armenian-community/

AUGUSTA — The Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine joins the Armenian Cultural Association of Maine to present “Nor Ashkhar: Maine Armenians in the Century After Genocide” opening Thursday, April 16, and running through May 29, at the Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta, according to a news release from the center.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Russia can't save Assad - Americans must keep up pressure to save Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can't hold out forever.  
Looks like Russians can't prop him up for much longer.

Even if Assad is forced to negotiate a compromise cease fire to finally end the killing, the fact is, the millions of refugees living in camps, as a result of Assad's war, will petition for reparations.

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting (meanwhile, main stream US media isn't reporting this story, yet, thanks CSM)
:
Can Syria's Assad withstand latest battlefield setbacks?

A sudden uptick in coordination among Assad's regional rivals and signs of discord in his own ranks are raising anew the question of whether he will be forced to compromise to stay in power.

BEIRUT, LEBANON — Having clung to power for four years amid an armed uprising, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is being buffeted by a series of battlefield setbacks that could place fresh strains on its internal cohesion.

While there are no indications yet that Mr. Assad plans to drop his hard-line strategy against the armed opposition, a recent flurry of reports of suspicious deaths and disappearances point to possible tensions developing within the regime.

If the trend of rebel successes continues – placing ever more pressure on an already exhausted and overstretched Syrian Army – those reported internal stresses might squeeze the regime into finally considering a negotiated settlement, some observers say.

The calculation, says Robert Ford, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington and US ambassador to Syria between 2010 and 2014, is a matter of cutting losses and holding on to a core region that supports the regime.

“The progression of events will lead over … a period of months to different elements in the regime beginning to calculate whether or not it makes sense to continue being ground down or to begin to negotiate some kind of deal in the regime’s favor while they still have some relative advantages in terms of holding some populated areas and air power,” Mr. Ford says.

In the past month, rebel factions – fueled in part by the stepped-up coordination and support of Assad’s regional rivals – have won a string of victories, seizing the ancient town of Bosra ash-Sham in southern Syria, capturing the long-sought prize of Idlib, a provincial capital in the north, and then grabbing the Nasib border post, the last functioning crossing on the Syria-Jordan border. Furthermore, regime offensives launched in the southern provinces of Deraa and Quneitra and Aleppo in the north have proved unsuccessful.

“The last few weeks have been very tough for them,” says a United Nations diplomat. “It’s difficult to tell how they will react in the coming months, but the [hard-line] mindset hasn’t changed yet.”

'Diminishing cohesion' in ruling circles

Still, the setbacks coincide with the rumors about internal feuding within Assad’s circles. Last month, Mohammed Assad, a relative of the president, was shot dead in the regime stronghold of Qardaha, reportedly over a dispute about money and influence. Last week, another Assad cousin, Monzer al-Assad, was arrested on the direct orders of the president for “illegal activities.” It remains unclear whether that alludes to common criminal practices or plotting against the regime.

Hafez Makhlouf, a cousin of the president and a key hardliner who headed the powerful General Security Directorate in Damascus, was reported last September to have been dismissed from his post, and later left the country for Belarus or Russia, where his father, Mohammed, lives. Official Syrian media said Mr. Makhlouf was subject to a routine personnel change to reflect a promotion.

Another incident that spurred intense speculation involves Rustom Ghazale, the head of Syrian political intelligence, who was alleged to have been badly beaten in February following a heated argument with Rafik Shehadeh, the head of military intelligence.  The source of the argument is said to have been differences over Iran's increasingly influential role in helping prop up the Assad regime.

Syrian media said Mr. Ghazale had been wounded in fighting with rebels in the south and was recovering in the hospital. Accounts from other sources have varied, claiming he subsequently died from his injuries or remains on life support. It was widely reported, including in media supportive of the Assad regime, that the Syrian president had dismissed both Ghazale and Mr. Shehadeh from their posts because of the fracas.

“There are more and more signs of diminishing cohesion within the ruling circles in Damascus,” says Ford.
Regional coordination

Still, there has been no shortage of predictions about Assad’s imminent fall or reports of the deaths or defections of senior regime figures that ultimately turned out to be false. The impenetrability of the Assad regime has long been a source of frustration to world leaders, diplomats, politicians, and analysts seeking to understand the thinking in Damascus. So far, Assad has defied forecasts of pundits who predicted that his regime would collapse soon after protests broke out in March 2011, instead surviving a brutal conflict that has spawned extremist Islamic groups and left some 220,000 people dead.

The regime’s recent setbacks in Idlib and the south are due in part to Assad’s regional enemies – including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan – agreeing on the need to unite rebel factions to oust Assad, according to analysts and regional diplomats.

“Before you had four forces fighting each other – [Al Qaeda-affiliated] Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State, moderate rebels, and the regime,” says a Western diplomat based in the Middle East. “But now everyone is ganging up on the regime, and that has changed the whole dynamic. It has been extremely sudden.”

The Assad regime insists it is fighting “terrorists” and has shown little willingness to engage in serious negotiations with the opposition. The opposition demands that any negotiations must include an acceptance that Assad can no longer stay in power, a condition unacceptable to the regime.

“The regime’s negotiating position is extremely rigid,” says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “So I think people are thinking that we have to work on changing Bashar’s calculus.”

If the rebel forces in the north and south are able to build on their recent gains and advance toward Damascus, the regime will come under tremendous pressure to find an alternative not only to its hard-line policies, but perhaps an alternative to Assad himself. The coming months will tell, but there are plenty of skeptics.

“The regime is not capable of changing.… It is so barren of initiative that it cannot come up with any creative thinking,” says a former Syrian official speaking on condition of anonymity. “They don’t want to negotiate under duress because they think it is a sign of weakness. But when they feel strong, they don’t want to negotiate because they don’t feel they need to.”

Another incident that spurred intense speculation involves Rustom Ghazale, the head of Syrian political intelligence, who was alleged to have been badly beaten in February following a heated argument with Rafik Shehadeh, the head of military intelligence. The source of the argument is said to have been differences over Iran's increasingly influential role in helping prop up the Assad regime.

Syrian media said Mr. Ghazale had been wounded in fighting with rebels in the south and was recovering in the hospital. Accounts from other sources have varied, claiming he subsequently died from his injuries or remains on life support. It was widely reported, including in media supportive of the Assad regime, that the Syrian president had dismissed both Ghazale and Mr. Shehadeh from their posts because of the fracas.

“There are more and more signs of diminishing cohesion within the ruling circles in Damascus,” says Ford.

Regional coordination



Still, there has been no shortage of predictions about Assad’s imminent fall or reports of the deaths or defections of senior regime figures that ultimately turned out to be false. The impenetrability of the Assad regime has long been a source of frustration to world leaders, diplomats, politicians, and analysts seeking to understand the thinking in Damascus. So far, Assad has defied forecasts of pundits who predicted that his regime would collapse soon after protests broke out in March 2011, instead surviving a brutal conflict that has spawned extremist Islamic groups and left some 220,000 people dead.

The regime’s recent setbacks in Idlib and the south are due in part to Assad’s regional enemies – including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan – agreeing on the need to unite rebel factions to oust Assad, according to analysts and regional diplomats.

“Before you had four forces fighting each other – [Al Qaeda-affiliated] Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State, moderate rebels, and the regime,” says a Western diplomat based in the Middle East. “But now everyone is ganging up on the regime, and that has changed the whole dynamic. It has been extremely sudden.”

The Assad regime insists it is fighting “terrorists” and has shown little willingness to engage in serious negotiations with the opposition. The opposition demands that any negotiations must include an acceptance that Assad can no longer stay in power, a condition unacceptable to the regime.

“The regime’s negotiating position is extremely rigid,” says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “So I think people are thinking that we have to work on changing Bashar’s calculus.”

If the rebel forces in the north and south are able to build on their recent gains and advance toward Damascus, the regime will come under tremendous pressure to find an alternative not only to its hard-line policies, but perhaps an alternative to Assad himself

The coming months will tell, but there are plenty of skeptics.

“The regime is not capable of changing.… It is so barren of initiative that it cannot come up with any creative thinking,” says a former Syrian official speaking on condition of anonymity. 

“They don’t want to negotiate under duress because they think it is a sign of weakness. But when they feel strong, they don’t want to negotiate because they don’t feel they need to.”

Julie's note - It appears that providing US military assistance to Syrian rebels may have had an impact, but the Syrian people still need enormous help to regain their lost homeland.  (When Assad eventually falls, will Russia take in him and his family?)

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Drone strikes are more effective than carpet bombing in a war!

War is horribly terrible. Why do human engage in it?
Death is the outcome for millions of people caught in the horror of wars. As Americans are defending against the expansion of world terrorism by Islamic extremists, the use of drone warfare is now, tragically, routine. Obviously, innocent people die as a result of any war. Terrorists know this, so they deliberately put innocents in harms way as a futile response to protect against drone attacks. Well, Americans simply can't take the chance of protecting hostages when an opportunity to use drones will exterminate Islamic extremist leaders. Collateral damage is the worst tragedy of horrible war......but, sadly, we can't stop now. We are at war.

I'm old enough to remember what happened every time President Lyndon Johnson stopped bombing North Vietnam, because there was the outcry about killing innocent civilians. What happened in Vietnam?  Americans lost thousands of military lives, the lull in bombing didn't save any lives and millions of people suffered when South Vietnam fell on April 30, 1975.

Washington Post journalists Craig Whitlock, Missy Ryan, Greg Miller report how a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) drone strike in January, that was aimed at a suspected gathering of al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan, accidentally killed two hostages, including a kidnapped American, U.S. officials acknowledged.

Obviously, innocent lives lost are tragic. Unfortunately, the American military involvement in the Middle East requires a ruthless offensive, even when innocent people die.  

Drones are more effective than carpet bombing.  

The best way to avoid innocents being accidentally killed by drones is to end the wars on terrorism. I can't understand why Islamic extremists like evil ISIS are obsessed with destroying humanity, but the deaths of innocent hostages are the result of terrorism. Americans can't be responsible for innocent people killed by drones when the evil extremists and Islamic terrorists are the cause of the aggression.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Loretta Lynch is a black white litmus test for racist Representatives and Senators

Congratulations Attorney General Loretta Lynch!

Senators and Congressmen who vote against the appointment of qualified Loretta Lynch for US Attorney General better have a reason why they oppose her appointment. Otherwise, without a valid reason, the "nay" votes will be rooted in racism. In other words, those who oppose Ms. Lynch are racists, unless they can confirm a viable reason why they oppose her appointment to the position of Attorney General.

Republicans are in  a quandary over the vote on Loretta Lynch because there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to oppose her appointment. Obstinate Republicans give the reason for their reticence is because of Lynch's support of President Obama's executive immigration actions. That's a petty excuse to oppose her appointment.  It seems to me, if Republicans are holding back their Lynch "yeah" votes because of the President's immigration actions, they're missing a golden opportunity to gain favor with newly Americanized immigrant voters.

By CARL HULSE reports in The New York Times
April 17, 2015

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans do not want to be held responsible for rejecting the historic nomination of Loretta E. Lynch, the first African-American woman picked to be attorney general. But they also are in no hurry to see her confirmed because of her defense of President Obama’s immigration policies.

That contradiction showed signs of being self defeating on Friday, when a visibly emotional Mr. Obama elevated the issue at a news conference by saying “Enough! Enough!” about the record delay, after a call the day before from Jeb Bush, one of the top Republican presidential prospects, to confirm Ms. Lynch.


Ms. Lynch is nearing six months in a state of suspended Senate animation, her nomination moving neither forward nor backward but instead becoming a bargaining chip in an unrelated battle, a calculation that carries no small irony given that no Republicans have challenged her credentials, and almost all of them had expressed their enmity for the man she would replace, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

The inert situation shows just how Republican anger and resentment over the president’s immigration actions color issues ranging from Ms. Lynch’s status, to trade negotiations, to the nuclear talks with Iran. Republicans’ central rationale, remains that they cannot trust the president.

After months of simmering over the very slow walk of Ms. Lynch’s nomination by the new Republican majority, Democrats unloaded this week.

The White House spokesman accused a leading Republican senator of duplicity over the treatment of Ms. Lynch. Democrats threatened procedural tactics that would force Republicans to block a vote on bringing up her nomination, stirring additional political repercussions.

So far, though, Senate Republicans have adopted the position of their leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, that he would not bring Ms. Lynch’s nomination for a vote until senators had passed a human trafficking bill. That bill contains some abortion provisions that Democrats find untenable.

Mr. Obama on Friday called the Republican refusal to set a vote on Ms. Lynch an “embarrassing” example of partisanship by the Republican majority. “There are times where the dysfunction in the Senate just goes too far,” Mr. Obama said during a news conference with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy. “This is an example of it. It’s gone too far. Enough! Enough! 


Call Loretta Lynch for a vote. Get her confirmed. Put her in place. Let her do her job.”

Senator McConnell sought to quiet the growing furor over the Lynch stalemate, telling his colleagues the Senate would get to her next week, just as he had always planned.  (?? says Julie?)

“I have indicated, gosh, (oh paaaleeze!)  at least for six weeks now, we are going to deal with the Lynch nomination right after we finish trafficking,” Mr. McConnell said on the floor Thursday.

Just the fact that Mr. McConnell, by his own admission, has been talking about it for at least six weeks is galling to Democrats, who think she should have been confirmed months ago. 


They see the Lynch nomination as a prime case of Republican partisan mischief and ill-treatment of woman with a distinguished career as a prosecutor.

While some difficulties were always expected with Ms. Lynch, given the traditional political sensitivities of the post of attorney general, no one anticipated after her nomination on Nov. 8 that a vote would still be pending in late April.

As the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Ms. Lynch had a formidable reputation as a prosecutor and administrator and had the strong backing of law enforcement and civil rights groups. Some of the most conservative Republicans were expected to oppose her, but her ultimate approval never seemed in doubt.


But at her confirmation hearing on Jan. 28, Ms. Lynch said she found it reasonable that the Justice Department had concluded that Mr. Obama was acting within the limits of his power when he decided to unilaterally ease the threat of deportation against millions of undocumented immigrants. 

That quickly cost her backing among Republicans, who said they could not vote for Ms. Lynch if she was willing to side with the president on his immigration actions.

It is unclear what the Republicans thought she should say, since she could hardly be expected to use her confirmation hearing to denounce the actions of the man who had picked her for the post, or assert that he had broken the law and would be held accountable once she became the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

Republicans certainly realized this. 

But, their rush to declare opposition made it clear that they did not want to be viewed as endorsing the president’s immigration policy, even through an association as tangential as voting for a nominee, who had nothing to do with shaping the policy, but simply refused to condemn it. 

Ms. Lynch has won public backing from five Republicans, just enough to secure her confirmation when a vote takes place.

Democrats initially thought Mr. McConnell held back on scheduling a vote to demonstrate that he was in charge and was not about to hurry things along for the president.

As the weeks passed with no movement, Democrats became more concerned. Then there was the abortion-related blowup on the sex trafficking bill and Mr. McConnell declared he would not move forward with Ms. Lynch until that fight was resolved.

Mr. McConnell has been clear that he would eventually allow a vote and he most likely will at some point. He and his fellow Republicans might not be thrilled with Ms. Lynch, but they will almost certainly allow her to be confirmed.

With the prospect of Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic presidential nominee next year,  and given the party’s struggle with minority voters, the Senate’s new Republican majority does not want to be remembered for killing the high-profile nomination of a highly qualified black woman.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Russia's Putin might be going going going - but the resulting vortex drains into a dangerous void

"..the intrusions (from Russia) have become so probing, that Russian hackers have even gained 'carte blanche access' to portions of the White House and State Department servers, including portions of the White House and State Department servers including 'access to the president's private schedule'."

Although I'm not any kind of an authority on, or about, Russia, my father's ancestry, coupled with common sense, tells me there's serious trouble brewing for Putin.  But he won't be done in without causing horrible turmoil.

Nevertheless, Putin is still capable of causing enormous discord, even as his leadership is pulled into an international vortex, leading to the black hole of his extinction.

Meanwhile, Russia's impending leadership implosion is terrible news for the world.

Here's what we know:

1. Russians are living under Putin's authoritarian rule. Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov's assassination was a warning shot for the entire nation. Don't oppose Putin. If you do, prepare to be as dead as the assassinated Nemtsov or poisioned with nuclear toxins like Alexander Litvinenko.

2.  Russia's ruble is worthless. Although some oligarchs prop up the Russian national currency, the bottom line is, the currency is useless. As global oil prices plummet, the ruble becomes buried in the lost revenues.

3.  Meanwhile, the US is engaged in a secret war with Russia, reports Ben Branstetter in DailyDot.com.  "...the latest in a long chain of attacks by Russia against the United States, a problem so severe President Barack Obama issued an executive order giving the Treasury Department official capacity to sanction any participator in such an attack, a similar punishment currently being levied against North Korea after their suspected involvement in the notorious hack against Sony Pictures last fall.

Despite constant threats from China, North Korea, and a myriad of other nations and private groups, breaches by Russia or Russian interests of American institutions of power is a common enough and serious enough concern that it should be treated, not as the vague capabilities of a former enemy, but as direct attacks by a current enemy, a cyberwar in the most literal sense of the term.


The U.S. is the top target of cyberattacks in the world and faces a variety of enemies, but the regularity with which massive piles of sensitive data are leaked onto Russian black markets speaks not to the devotion of a criminal element but to the apathy of the Russian government. The threats coming from within Putin’s country are far from rare—in fact, they are ongoing. The sanctity of everything from government communications to the financial markets is at stake and it is well past time to take it seriously.

"American's secret war with Russian has already started", writes Branstetter.  "It may not make the news most of the time, but 'vital components of the U.S. government and the national economy' are now under daily attack from Russian cyber criminals who enjoy the Kremlin's tacit support." 

In the midst of this uncertainty, President Putin must be feeling the pressure of Washington DC retaliation and his own internal insecurities. After all, in spite of Putin's delusional Napoleonic ambitions, he's just another power hungry human being who's as mortal as all who came before him.  

Unfortunately, just like all who came before him, like Attila the Hun, Napoleon, Hitler and Mussolini, Putin will cause an enormous amount of destruction before he falls into the black hole leadership vortex towards his extinction.

Meanwhile, the world is at the brink of a Middle East World War, while Russia works behind the scenes, engaging in power games and assaulting the US with dangerous cyber security attacks.  

It's hard to decide how to deal with Russia, when Putin uses cat and mouse diplomacy and cyber wars are assaulting US security. America must put in place an international alliance of leaders who are of one mind about how to protect the world against Putin, who will likely become unstable as he enters the demise of his mortal vortex.  

Moscow Times has reported, in the past, how Russia was potentially headed toward another Revolution, as a result of Putin's aggressive leadership. Well, the uncertainty of the value of the Russian ruble, plus Putin's desperation, might push the people to eventually remove him from power.  Maybe.  Maybe not. 

Nevertheless, Putin's mortality is the only given in the choices of how to deal with the growing war with Russia.  

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Hillary Clinton has a brilliantly colored logo: She now can charge Republicans royalties

There's a lot of buzz about Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign logo. Regardless of how people feel about the campaign logo, the fact is, the image is copyrighted.  

In my opinion, Mrs Clinton's name is a trademark.  


In as much as she has branded her name, in the "H" logo, Mrs. Clinton has earned the right to claim her name, like any other celebrity's name, as her copyright. 

Consequently, every time Republicans use her name, they owe her royalty payments. That's what I think.

Democrats could accuse the Republican candidates of copyright infringement when they obsess about Hillary Clinton's name.  

It's totally boring to hear the line up of male candidates using Hillary Clinton's name in vain. At the very least, it's very ungentlemanly and plagiarism, at worst.

Paying royalties, every time Hillary Clinton's name is mentioned by a GOP candidate, will deter Republicans from their one note messaging, while they're campaigning for the presidential nomination (without ideas to promote).

Frankly, Mrs. Clinton can raise money for her political campaign by charging royalty fees to Republicans who use her name.  Maybe, by earning money from her copyright name, Mrs. Clinton can challenge the line up of male Republican presidential candidates, to talk about ideas, rather than just name dropping.  

I say, Mrs. Clinton's campaign logo is a copyright and Republicans must pay up every time they use her name.  I suspect a good lawyer could make this case, very effectively.  

Let me think about this. Copyright infringement charges against Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham and Mike Huckabee would create quite a campaign chest for all Democrats....because, after all, Hillary might consider sharing the wealth.  Of course, the alternative to a copyright infringement for use of Hillary Clinton's name is for the Republicans to talk about their no cost, worthless, ideas.  Yawn.


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