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Wednesday, Aug 20th

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Californians getting hammered on provisional ballots

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by Bev Harris, founder of Blackboxvoting.com

More than one in ten voters who shows up at the polls in California is being given a provisional ballot. While you might think this is due to voters missing from the list, only 10% of rejected provisionals in California are because the voter is not registered. Ninety percent are rejected for other reasons -- calling into question why provisional ballots were issued in the first place.

I did a spreadsheet analysis using a pile of U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) data(1) and found that voters who show up to vote in California are getting hit hard with provisional ballots, making it more difficult to vote and expanding disenfranchisement.

In Riverside County, a whopping 14.4 percent of all polling place voters were given a provisional ballot in 2010, and 17 percent of the provisionals were rejected.

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Hitchhiking Across the Plain of Megiddo

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I’ve always liked the following snippet of purple prose.

Before the beginning, after the great war between heaven and hell, God created the Earth and gave dominion over it to the crafty ape he called man… and to each generation was born a Creature of Light and a Creature of Darkness… and great armies clashed by night in the ancient war between good and evil. There was magic then. Nobility. And unimaginable cruelty. And so it was until the day that a false sun exploded over Trinity, and man forever traded away wonder for reason. -- Season One opening narration from the HBO series Carnivàle

I don’t buy into the “god” part, heaven and hell, or the idea that after the bomb humanity embraced reason. But the seemingly forever war of Good vs. Evil … resonates.

For the last week I’ve tried to jettison some words from my day-to-day vocabulary. Old habits die hard but the mind experiment is interesting. Try it yourself. For one week don’t use these words:

Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, Right Wing, Left Wing, or any other label like Left of Center, Center, or Right of Center. Get rid of all quasi-political descriptors. Because they don’t really work anymore. They’re not very accurate or applicable. If I needed you to take care of my dog you’d need to know if I was talking about a Great Dane or a Chihuahua. “Just saying “dog” isn’t good enough. These days our political labels don’t really tell us anything. And while we’re at it let’s get rid of all the “-ists” and “-isms.” Socialism/Socialist, Communism/Communist, Capitalism/Capitalist, and Fascism/Fascist, are so emotionally charged some of us can’t think straight when they’re plopped into a conversation.

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Bits, pieces and body parts

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New unemployment claims fell again last week setting another new record since the Bush economic collapse. The Federal Budget deficit continues to fall, not so much from spending cuts but from increased revenue as the economy continues to improve despite the efforts of Republicans.

 

Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced a bill that would require Federally backed student loans to be issued at the same rate that the Federal Reserve lends money to billionaire owned banks. Good luck with that.

 

The average wage for a two year community college grad is now higher than that of four year college diploma or higher. Not unexpected since fully half of all 'real college' grads either have no job or are working at Best Buy. Most new jobs that should be done by US college grads like engineering, medical research and even corporate law are now done in China or India. Youth unemployment in the US is now higher than in austerity ridden Europe.

 

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Politics continues to trump science and even common sense

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The Obama Administration's FDA is attempting to sidestep a Federal Judge's ruling removing all restrictions on the sale of the Morning After Pill. The so called Plan B contraceptive will now be sold on the same shelf with condoms and similar products, but will still be age limited contrary to the Court ruling. The age will be lowered to 15, but anyone attempting to make the purchase will be required to show a valid ID to complete the transaction as the product scan code will alert the checkout clerk. This FDA rule only applies to the 'Plan B' trademarked drug, generic versions will continue to sold only from behind the pharmaceutical counter to age 17 and up, also required to 'show papers please'.

 

This 'technicality' will not only make it unavailable to most younger teenage women who lack official ID, but also any adult similarly lacking in 'papers'. The drug is only effective if used within 72 hours and best if used in less than 24, and it has no effect if the woman is already pregnant  It also introduces the 'shame factor' into the transaction reducing effective availability. The reproductive rights group who brought the original lawsuit has indicated that it will continue Court action.

 

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The Frog and the Scorpion

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The origin of the story, The Frog and the Scorpion, might go back to the ancient Sanskrit traditions collected in the Panchatantra, but I first heard the tale while watching a bootleg copy of the 1955 Orson Welles film, Mr. Arkadin forty years ago.

A frog and a scorpion meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” And the scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will drown too.”

The frog is satisfied, and they set out. Half way across, the frog felt a terrible pain - the scorpion had stung him.

“Why did you sting me?” gasps the frog. “Now we’ll both die”

“I know,” replied the scorpion, “but I cannot help myself - it is my nature.”

A scorpion’s job, other than to make baby scorpions, is to sting, kill, and eat its prey. If there had been another frog down by the stream bank it might have asked the well intentioned, trusting frog, “What part of sting, kill, and eat didn’t you understand?” But it was just the two of them … the frog and the scorpion down by the stream. And the frog agreed with the scorpion’s irrefutable logic. Why would it cause its own demise? Believing the words of a scorpion, but ignoring the nature of a scorpion, they set off to their mutual doom.

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This is the end, Hold your breath and count to ten....

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A Big Box Store owned sweat shop in Bangladesh collapsed into a twisted pile yesterday, 90 known dead and hundreds still missing. When I say the Walmarts of the world own these sweat shops, I mean it in an economic sense, not in the paper fiction consisting of layers of corporate ownership that they hide behind to evade criminal responsibility. If you or I did the things the Walton family have done behind the bureaucracy of their corporate holdings we would never see the light of day again. That's not to say they are the only ones doing this, the decriminalization of mergers & acquisitions by the Reagan Adm has put most of the world's corporate holdings in the hands of sociopaths.

 

The fiction promoted by the corporate media is that these garment factories are locally owned, but the margin they operate on is so small that they have no choice but to do exactly what they are told by their corporate masters. It's true that they aren't explicitly told to lock the fire exits and ignore the giant cracks in the concrete, but they'll be joining the ranks of the starving poor if they don't, and they will simply be replaced by someone who will. The thing is, it really doesn't make the poorly made shirt that you buy cheaper, labor is not a big portion of the cost, it just deprives people a living wage, and that is the goal of the Neo-Cons.

 

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Bare Boobs Kill! No, actually it's Right Wing boobs that kill

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The blast in West, Texas produced a yield equivalent to about a kiloton of TNT. They know this by measuring the size of the mushroom cloud. You see they did so many open air nuke tests in the 40s and 50s that there is actually a formula for this. The amount of anhydrous (dry) ammonia gas in the tanks was enough to yield 1.2 kilotons if it was all consumed in the blast. This was 1350 times what was allowed by Federal regulations, but since the Reagan Administration it's been up to the states to enforce these sort of work place rules. We don't know yet if the massive amount of ammonia nitrate also stored on the sight played any roll in the blast, it's an oxidizer and won't explode unless mixed with fuel oil.

Texas doesn't like to interfere in the rights of business. In fact there was nothing keeping the plant or something even worse from being right in the middle of town. The only zoning restriction in Texas is how close a strip club can be to a residence, church or school. Nuclear scale explosives? No problem, there's a vacant lot between the school and the nursing home, move right in, as long as your female workers keep their tops on. The thing about anhydrous ammonia is it's not particularly flammable, it burns at a lower temperature than its ignition point. The big concern for public safety is that you can use it to cook meth. That is it's safe as long as you follow the applicable regulations, funny how ignoring what the nanny state tells you tends to work out badly.

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