Saturday, March 31, 2012

Water, water everywhere

Much of the winter, there was talk of concern about this being a dry winter & snow pack & rainfall being less than average.  No sooner did that chatter begin, when the skies in Western Oregon opened up.
In March we have an average 4.99 inches of rain, and we just hit the 9 inch rainfall mark. 2 inches of rain fell just yesterday. Don't know if you've experienced that kind of rainfall, that equates to hard rain all day & night. The flow from our downspout gutter, looked more like a fire hydrant gushing, yesterday.

* Rain will be increasing tonight as a warm front lifts north
  across the region. Will continue today through early Saturday.
  Rainfall totals since Thursday have generally been 1 to 2 inches
  for the inland valleys...and 3 to 7 inches in the higher
  terrain. Another 1 to 3 inches of rainfall are expected tonight
  and Saturday...with the heaviest amounts in the Oregon Coast
  Range to the foothills of the Oregon Cascades.

With extremely saturated soils from recent rains...if these winds
develop...they could be strong enough to cause some local tree
damage and power disruptions.

You know it's bad when you need a riverboat
to navigate your driveway!
(Not my house, although we do have a "lake"
accumulating at the end of the driveway!)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

R.I.P. Earl Scruggs

Earl Scruggs revolutionized banjo playing, when he developed the 3 finger picking style of banjo playing- at age 10.  Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs wrote "Foggy Mountain Breakdown". Check out this version with Scruggs, Steve Martin, & friends, playing Earl's song.

A tune he wrote, titled: "Earl's breakdown":

Vintage Flatt & Scruggs " Cripple Creek"

Earl recently passed away, of natural causes at age 88. Somehow, you just know he's enjoying a Bluegrass jam in heaven.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gingrich: In the hole

No!  Not another affair & yet another wife . Newt overspent his campaign coffers by $1.6 million bucks. Ooops! So Gingrich is charging $50 bucks to have a photo of You-N-Newt. 
Let’s hope old Newt is feeling photogenic-- because he’d need to sell 32,000 pictures to make up the difference.

Newt is cutting his staff by 1/3, and replacing his campaign manager.  Gingrich only has 128 delegate votes.

Don’t you love the fact this  guy wants to run the country, but can’t manage his own campaign spending?

Maybe if they do one of those cutouts--leave Callista's helmet hair & body, 
and you insert your face, this would be popular.

I bet people would pay double the fee for that photo op!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Hunter becomes the hunted

The once emboldened, and armed George Zimmernam, the shooter in the Trayvon Martin murder case, has had the tables turned on him. A local spinoff of the Black Panthers has placed reward money "Wanted" posters for Zimmerman to be turned in.
Since the shooting, Zimmerman has gone into hiding.

The whole case has spun out of control. The original Black Panthers say they have no affiliation w the "New Black Panther" group. The media is having a heyday, now debating  the concept of if Zimmerman was the "victim".

We were not there, and the only facts we do know is that Zimmerman was obsessed w calling the police about black suspects (49 calls in the last year), and that he was carrying a gun, and disobeyed the 9-1-1 operator's directions, to not follow "the suspect".

Zimmerman escalated & pursued the chase of Trayvon Martin. The latest revelations are that the photos that the media had been using , of the fresh faced 12 year old kid, are not what Trayvon Martin actually looked like the day he was shot to death. He was 6'2" and a young man (indeed the shooter said he looked like a teen).

So what? He was a black young man. That is not a crime. If he looked suspicious, or like someone Zimmerman has not seen in the neighborhood, it still does not make him guilty.

If Zimmerman would have listened & waited, the police would have arrived, and talked with Trayvon, and the misunderstanding  would have been resolved. Peacefully. With non-violence.
There was no crime, and he was not a criminal.

Although my hope would be this does not become a distorted battle, racism comes to the forefront.

I honestly believe a young white girl wearing a hoodie that night on Zimmerman's watch, would not have been shot dead.

But now it's turning into a circus. Selling t-shirts. Wondering out loud if the shooter is a victim. Implying that the young man, most current photos of Trayvon make him a scarier, more guilty, justifiable "suspect".

At the end of his 17 year old life, Trayvon saw a stranger with a gun coming after him. He fought for his life. He broke Zimmerman's nose, he physically fought to take away his gun. He was justified in defending himself. He'd done nothing wrong, and now there was an adult male with a gun chasing him.

Zimmerman has had a taste of his own medicine. Now he knows what it feels like to be targeted.
I don't wish him harm, but I do think the actions he chose to escalate and hunt Trayvon Martin are the core of the reason Trayvon is no longer with us. How different this story would be if he would have just waited 5 minutes for the police to arrive.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Surveillance gone amuck

I wish the above description was a trailer for a futuristic sci fi movie of surveillance gone amuck, but sadly, it is real. Check it out~

1 Geostationary satellites

Four satellites positioned around the globe monitor frequencies carrying everything from walkie-talkies and cell phones in Libya to radar systems in North Korea. Onboard software acts as the first filter in the collection process, targeting only key regions, countries, cities, and phone numbers or email.

2 Aerospace Data Facility, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado

Intelligence collected from the geostationary satellites, as well as signals from other spacecraft and overseas listening posts, is relayed to this facility outside Denver. About 850 NSA employees track the satellites, transmit target information, and download the intelligence haul.

3 NSA Georgia, Fort Gordon, Augusta, Georgia

Focuses on intercepts from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Codenamed Sweet Tea, the facility has been massively expanded and now consists of a 604,000-square-foot operations building for up to 4,000 intercept operators, analysts, and other specialists.

4 NSA Texas, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio

Focuses on intercepts from Latin America and, since 9/11, the Middle East and Europe. Some 2,000 workers staff the operation. The NSA recently completed a $100 million renovation on a mega-data center here—a backup storage facility for the Utah Data Center.

5 NSA Hawaii, Oahu

Focuses on intercepts from Asia. Built to house an aircraft assembly plant during World War II, the 250,000-square-foot bunker is nicknamed the Hole. Like the other NSA operations centers, it has since been expanded: Its 2,700 employees now do their work aboveground from a new 234,000-square-foot facility.

6 Domestic listening posts

The NSA has long been free to eavesdrop on international satellite communications. But after 9/11, it installed taps in US telecom “switches,” gaining access to domestic traffic. An ex-NSA official says there are 10 to 20 such installations.

7 Overseas listening posts

According to a knowledgeable intelligence source, the NSA has installed taps on at least a dozen of the major overseas communications links, each capable of eavesdropping on information passing by at a high data rate.

8 Utah Data Center, Bluffdale, Utah

At a million square feet, this $2 billion digital storage facility outside Salt Lake City will be the centerpiece of the NSA’s cloud-based data strategy and essential in its plans for decrypting previously uncrackable documents.

9 Multiprogram Research Facility, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Some 300 scientists and computer engineers with top security clearance toil away here, building the world’s fastest supercomputers and working on cryptanalytic applications and other secret projects.

10 NSA headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland

Analysts here will access material stored at Bluffdale to prepare reports and recommendations that are sent to policymakers. To handle the increased data load, the NSA is also building an $896 million supercomputer center here.

1 Visitor control center

A $9.7 million facility for ensuring that only cleared personnel gain access.

2 Administration

Designated space for technical support and administrative personnel.

3 Data halls

Four 25,000-square-foot facilities house rows and rows of servers.

4 Backup generators and fuel tanks

Can power the center for at least three days.

5 Water storage and pumping

Able to pump 1.7 million gallons of liquid per day.

6 Chiller plant

About 60,000 tons of cooling equipment to keep servers from overheating.

7 Power substation

An electrical substation to meet the center’s estimated 65-megawatt demand.

8 Security

Video surveillance, intrusion detection, and other protection will cost more than $10 million.
Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Conceptual Site plan

From Wired Magazine:

"This complex will be filled with servers, computer intelligence experts, and armed guards. These newcomers to Bluffdale, Utah will be secretly capturing, storing, and analyzing vast quantities of words and images hurtling through the world’s telecommunications networks.
Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.
The upshot,: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”
In the process—and for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration—the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens. It has established listening posts throughout the nation to collect and sift through billions of email messages and phone calls, whether they originate within the country or overseas. It has created a supercomputer of almost unimaginable speed to look for patterns and unscramble codes. Finally, the agency has begun building a place to store all the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net. And, of course, it’s all being done in secret. To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever."

What has become of our America? Has the government absolutely gone off the deep end with some kind of sick Spy v Spy real life comic? I mean the economy is so bad, most people are spending much of their lives scrambling to just stay afloat. As the cost of living soars & wages do not, most folks are spinning their wheels in the sands of financial hardship realities.

The TSA is busy "touching people's junk", and wasting time & money doing things like patting down babies in diapers, kids in wheelchairs & Grandmother's in Depends. Common sense is long gone in these hyper scrutiny security programs. A baby in Huggies is worthy of some big to do @ the airport while a vigilante who shot a kid dead in Florida is free to walk away because an adult armed with a gun feels threatened by not just any kid ,  a black kid armed with Skittles candy? Did I mention he was wearing a Hoodie? Because some nutcase pseudo "journalists" say THAT is the root cause of the problem. Because if it were a white, blonde girl wearing a hoodie, she would have been shot too? And the all white police department agreed it was justified, self defense. No need to take the shooter's gun, or test him for drugs & alcohol. Homeland security, my ass.

Kids should not be gunned down on the streets, regardless of the color of their skin, or what kind of shirt they are wearing. In Geraldo's mind, we just need a ban on hoodies? Because racism, and guns in the wrong people's hands are not the problem.

The "NCTC",  the National Counterterrorism Center now has the green light to be in full swing. They can now store information about Americans with no ties to terrorism up to five years under new Obama admin guidelines.
One of the huge selling points (for me) for the then Obama candidacy, before the 2008 election, was the fact Barack Obama is a Constitutional Scholar. He chose Civil Rights & Community Organizing, as opposed to Hillary Clinton, who chose Corporate law. I considered those choices they made, gave insight to the "before the spotlight", true spirit & spoke to the ethics of the candidates. But now President Obama has carried on with many of the G.W. Bush policies I (wrongly) assumed a Constitutional Scholar would never allow. Instead, President Obama continued with warrantless wiretapping, and new rules that are a vast expansion of the government's surveillance authority.

To those fully authorized government surveillance authorities- I am not a threat. I live a pretty boring 99%er lifestyle, struggling to make ends meet, a non violent pacifist, Mom & one who loves freedom, democracy, and upholding the Constitution. I honestly think the vast majority of data gathering will be a huge waste of time. Do we really need government files documenting the Smith's needing new gutters, and the Jones family toilet is leaking? They can document how many times one spouse asks the other to pick up milk or bread on the way home from work. Riveting "top security" stuff. Total waste of time, resources & money.

If the surveillance people really are listening in, then here is the list you can document:

• Fund education. We don't want to hear speeches about "Our Sputnik Moments"- have enough teachers & books, and make higher education affordable.  Intelligent citizenry is a sound investment.

• Defund wars. Whatever the hell the mission was, it's over. We have soldiers going off the deep end with PTSD & frankly, if the bad ass superpower can't wrap it up in 10 years in Afghanistan, we have no business being there.

• Fund Veterans. We are going to have a whole lot of Vets with serious physical & mental health issues. Any war funding must include post war Vet care. We asked them to put their lives on the line, we owe it to them. Stop pretending PTSD is not a real & serious issue.

• Respect your elders. Don't tell us extreme cutbacks are needed for Social Security & Medicare & such- those are the safety nets, and people have paid into those funds all their working lives.
Bilking elders of these entitlements (because they are entitled to the benefits) is literally generational theft. The Data center electric bill alone will cost $40 million a year. Don't spend billions to spy on citizens for no reason at all, then tell us there's just no money for important actual needs.

In closing, billions were spent on these spy centers. Are we more safe? Do Americans get the healthcare they need? Is Social Security actually secure? Are we going to be mad as hell when the Government announces people will need to work till we are 80  years old to retire, because the funds for Social Security are just not available? The government pissed away spent huge sums on an Iraq embassy that is too unsafe to inhabit, and bunker surveillance complexes as if money were no object, and built above any, arguably, more important  priorities. We have every right to be pissed off, that the people's money is being spent & wasted in such an unconstitutional way.

In case anyone forgot-- the Bill of Rights:

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment IV (4)
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment X (10)
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Read more here & there.

 What would you add to the list?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

More hostility towards job seekers

Looking for a job? You already knew most employers require drug screening, but now they are talking about requiring drug screening to get unemployment benefits. There is a trend in classified ads, saying only those currently employed can apply. Several states are cutting out 5 months of unemployment benefits because the manipulated numbers State average unemployment rate is under 9% & Congress recently decided that would be the *magic number* that would disqualify people for the extended benefits. But wait! There's more!

This article about a person doing a job interview, was asked by the prospective employer to provide them with his Facebook log in & password- is one more abuse job seekers are having to endure. Even though it is actually in violation of Facebook terms of service, to give out that information, some employers are asking for it, and or using a back door approach, asking prospective employees to "friend" the HR department.

In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person’s social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around.

“It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys,” said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and former federal prosecutor who calls it “an egregious privacy violation.”
SEATTLE — When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.
Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn’t see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information.
Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he didn’t want to work for a company that would seek such personal information. But as the job market steadily improves, other job candidates are confronting the same question from prospective employers, and some of them cannot afford to say no.
All these things combined, create a very hostile environment for those job hunting. Will we see a spate of "dummy" faeebook accounts saying "I HEART CORPORATIONS", where a professional persona can be presented , that carefully avoids topics of opinion, religion or politics?

B-9 the "Lost in Space" Robot. 
Warning! Danger Will Robinson!
You are about to lose your freedom & privacy!

Apolitical Androids, with squeaky clean, anemic, perhaps non-human cyber presence.
Once employed, some workers have been required to sign non-disparagement agreements that ban them from talking negatively about an employer on social media.
It does feel pretty robotic. Piss & or hair samples for drug screens & unemployment benefits, enhanced pre job social media scrutiny, and then having official company policies that dictate what you can say publicly on social media sites. This is starting to feel more like a Ray Bradbury sci-fi novel, or that George Orwell's "1984":

 "A world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, and incessant public mind control.  Big Brother, the deified Party leader who rules with a philosophy that decries individuality and reason as thoughtcrimes."
I don't want to have such a bleak outlook, but all of these elements are emerging in a short timeframe, and it is all targeted at those looking for work. 
The Banksters @ Goldman Sachs are free to trade e mails about how they bilk customers from their investment money they are supposed to be managing, seemingly without scrutiny.

Happy Spring?

Spring turned into a winter wonderland here in Western Oregon (usually rainforest!)
So it's in the 80's in Chicago & Ohio/the Midwest & East Coast... & snowing here??? Because so many trees snapped, taking down power lines, about 15,000 remain without power.
We lucked out & still have electricity & heat. Schools shut down for 2 days in a row-- much to the delight of children, who can ditch homework & enjoy the snow!

The Dogwood tree ~ the right side snapped off the tree from the heavy snow. 7.5 inches fell today!

Officially spring!

Full on busses slip sliding...

Lots of trees came down

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Out of luck- Unemployment reality check

Oregon is one of several states where falling jobless rates brought on the loss of extended federal benefits.

The states losing 5 months of extended  unemployment benefits are:
Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

 "More than 8,000 Oregonians will see their unemployment benefits suddenly disappear. Officials say the unemployed rate has dropped low enough, to make Oregon ineligible for federal unemployment benefits.
Lowered unemployment is almost always a good thing, but for Oregon's there's a looming downside: more jobs in Oregon now means fewer federal dollars coming in for those who need them most.
 20 weeks of unemployment benefits are vanishing with almost no warning.
"You depend on that in your time of need," says Mary Barickman, who is unemployed.
In Oregon, one can collect 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. The last 20 weeks are federally funded in what's called an extension benefit, but that money is going away, because Oregon's unemployment has continuously lowered and is now at 8.8%."
There are some major problems with this plan:
 Unemployment numbers are manipulated:
• Those who have stopped looking or no longer get benefits are not counted. 
• Those who are underemployed, working in sub par jobs with low pay or no benefits are considered "employed", but not gainfully employed- perhaps living at poverty level. 
• When they take state averages, some counties or rural areas may in fact have double digit unemployment, but the metro areas skew the average. 

McClatchy reports:

"Forcing unemployed workers back into the job market will fill the needs of employers who are hiring and help other jobless workers keep their skills sharp. “Now, people may settle for the second-best or third-best job, just to get a job,” Hefner said. “That’s what we want to see happen in the economy.”
Still, Wells Fargo economist Vitner said he is not sure taking away extended jobless benefits while the economy’s recovery still is on shaky ground is the right decision.
“There aren’t a whole lot of jobs out there in a lot of these counties,” he said. “There may not be any jobs there for them to take.”
Hello! People who have been unemployed for almost 2 years are not unemployed because they are enjoying it. How many  college degree holding, years of experience, hundreds of job applications turned in & no job offer scenarios, are you familiar with?

A new trend has developed where classified ads openly state they will only hire those who are currently employed. New ways to discriminate have emerged. 
While Congress played roulette with this reduced benefit concept, the real life application may result in more foreclosures and homelessness, and an even greater reliance on food stamps and welfare. 
To me, this seems like kicking them when they are down. Don't get me started on why banks with shoddy practices get bailed out, and the people who have contributed to unemployment coffers, are, once again getting sold out. 
Locally, the county is about to do mass layoffs due to budget cuts, and even closer to home, my husband's workplace is shutting down the bulk of it's operations & 450 people will lose their jobs. Figures, just before he becomes unemployed, the government changes the rules & takes away 5 months of unemployment benefits. 

Mitt "let them foreclose" Romney

All along, I have felt Gingrich was the more dangerous of the candidates, but that does not equate to me supporting Willard Mitt Romney.

If he becomes the front runner (who knows in this crap shoot GOP roster, of their finest), here are some gems from Mittens.

Here are some facts about oober 1%er, Willard:

Mitt Romney 
• set up shell companies in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda to avoid U.S. taxes.
[Los Angeles Times,  12/19/2007]
• proposed tax cuts for the rich and corporations that would cost $7.8 trillion over 10 years.
[ThinkProgress,  09/7/2011]

• Mitt Romney: "Corporations are people, my friend."
[ThinkProgress,  08/11/2011]
• called the Occupy Wall Street movement "dangerous."
[ThinkProgress,  10/4/2011]

• called for taxes on the poor, saying low-income Americans having no income tax liability is "a problem" that will "kill the country."

[ThinkProgress,  09/21/2011]

• supports privatizing Social Security.

[ThinkProgress,  09/8/2011]
• defended his belief that we "should consider a higher retirement age" for Social Security and Medicare to preserve tax breaks for corporations.
[ThinkProgress,  08/11/2011]
• As governor, Mitt Romney vetoed a minimum wage increase to $8 an hour.
[The Boston Globe,  08/1/2006]
•  Mitt Romney said he "cannot see that a Cabinet position would be justified" for an American Muslim.
[Politico,  11/27/2007]
•  vowed to increase the size of the military by 100,000 troops.
[Associated Press,  10/8/2011]
• Mitt Romney won't say whether he thinks waterboarding is torture.
[Democracy Now,  11/29/2007]
•  opposes regulating carbon dioxide and other gases linked to climate change.
[ThinkProgress,  08/26/2011]
• supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
[The Boston Globe,  12/13/2005]
•  Mitt Romney said the Clean Air Act doesn't apply to carbon emissions.
[ThinkProgress,  07/18/2011]
•  supports unlimited coal and oil production.
[ThinkProgress,  05/20/2011]
•  Mitt Romney wants to see Roe v. Wade overturned.
[Meet The Press,  12/16/2007]
• Mitt Romney drafted a bill to exempt a religious group from nondiscrimination rules, allowing it to ban gay couples from adopting children.
[Associated Press,  03/14/2006]
• Romney has signed the National Organization for Marriage anti-gay campaign pledge, calling for a federal amendment outlawing same-sex marriage.
[ThinkProgress,  08/4/2011]
•  Campaigning in 1994, Mitt Romney said "I don't line up with the NRA." Today, Mitt Romney is a lifetime member of the NRA.
[Time,  05/10/2007]
•  Mitt Romney would repeal the broad prohibition against denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions.
[ThinkProgress,  05/13/2011]
• As of October 2011, Mitt Romney has raised more than five times as much money from Wall St. employees as Obama, raising $1.5 million.
[ThinkProgress,  10/16/2011]
• Tea Party billionaire David Koch hosted one of Mitt Romney's first fundraisers for his 2012 campaign.
[ThinkProgress,  03/15/2011]
•  Mitt Romney plans to bulldoze his 3,000-square-foot $12 million home in California to replace it with one four times its size. Romney also owns a $10 million estate in New Hampshire.
[ThinkProgress,  08/21/2011]