Monday, April 29, 2013

FBI court documents recount alleged Pilot rebate scam

NASHVILLE: When federal agents descended on the Knoxville headquarters of Pilot Flying J on April 15, it was the first inkling the public and company executives had of an FBI and Internal Revenue Service investigation that began nearly two years ago.
After the country’s largest diesel retailer sought to downplay the probe, federal officials took the unusual step of unsealing an affidavit that helped authorize the raid before any charges have been filed. The sworn statement recounts internal Pilot conversations that led investigators to conclude there was a widespread scheme to defraud trucking company customers in order to boost company profits and pad sales commissions.

The privately held company with $31 billion in annual revenues is run by CEO Jimmy Haslam, who also owns the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. The Haslam family, including brother Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, holds a majority stake.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has said the league had no plans to ask Haslam to relinquish operational control of the Browns during the investigation. There is obviously a chance the league could change its stance as the legal process evolves.
The investigation started May 4, 2011, when the FBI was contacted by someone who said he had been told by a Pilot regional sales manager that customers were being cheated out of contractually set price rebates.

The affidavit gave no details about whether the person, identified in the document only as confidential source No. 1, was a colleague, customer or how they were connected to Pilot.
The source agreed to cooperate with the FBI, and the next month began secretly recording conversations with the sales manager, who outlined how two top sales officials at Pilot would withhold portions of money due to customers in a process most often referred to as “manual rebates.”
The recorded conversations also pointed agents to a former regional sales manager, Cathy Giesick.
Federal agents contacted both the sales manager and Giesick in the first week of October 2012. Both agreed to cooperate and confirmed that their supervisors reduced rebates due to customers.
Giesick and the current sales manager, identified as source No. 2, were granted immunity for their cooperation.
Giesick told agents she left Pilot in part because of her discomfort with the rebate-lowering scheme. She provided an example, saying if a customer was due a $10,000 rebate, her supervisor, national sales director Brian Mosher, would cut that payment to about $7,500.
No charges have been filed in the case. While Jimmy Haslam has denied any wrongdoing, he has suspended several members of the sales team, but has declined to identify exactly who has been suspended. The company has not made any of its other workers available and Haslam has made statements, but not taken questions from the media.
Haslam has called for the review of all 3,330 trucking customer contracts and making all billing and payments electronic.

Smaller accounts targeted
Giesick said the fraud “was typically directed at smaller accounts where the customer would not have the capability to catch the reduction,” according to the affidavit.
If a customer complained, Giesick said Mosher told her “blame the error on a computer glitch.”
Meanwhile, source No. 2 began secretly recording conversations with other colleagues on Pilot’s sales team. On Oct. 17, Omro, Wis.-based sales manager Rob Yurnovich was recorded as saying the rebate reductions can become difficult to manage.

“I wouldn’t say it’s unethical. I’m just uncomfortable with it,” Yurnovich said on the recording. “And the fact that when you get caught you have to do so much back pedaling, you lose a ton of credibility whether you can cover it with a story or not.”
Sales directors talk
Later that month, source No. 2 recorded a regional sales directors meeting at the Rockwood, Tenn., lake house of John “Stick” Freeman, Pilot’s vice president of sales.
Freeman told younger colleagues that they should carefully target customers.
“Some of ’em don’t know what a spreadsheet is. I’m not kiddin’,” Freeman said. “So, again, my point is this: Know your customer.
“If the guy’s sophisticated and he truly has gone out and gotten deals from the other competitors and he’s gettin’ daily prices from us, don’t jack with his discounts, ’cause he’s gonna know, OK?”
Freeman regaled his colleagues with a story of being caught withholding $1 million in rebates due to client Western Express. Freeman said Pilot had to pay up that amount but laughed because the company still came out $6 million ahead.

Source No. 2 later asked Freeman what Jimmy Haslam’s reaction had been.
“He knew it all along. Loved it,” Freeman said. “We were makin’ $450,000 a month on him — why wouldn’t he love it?”
“Did it for five years, cost us a million bucks,” he said. “I mean, we made $6 million on the guy, cost us a million bucks.”
Although the affidavit doesn’t include any recordings of conversations with Haslam, Special Agent Robert H. Root said the transcripts don’t cover every recording.
Mixed reaction
At the training session, Mosher cautioned his colleagues to be careful about how they described what was happening with rebates.
The instructions from the senior sales staff drew differing reactions from more junior staff.
“Welcome to the gray side,” Holly Radford, a regional account representative based at Pilot headquarters, said to laughter from her colleagues.
Jason Holland, a sales manager based in Nashville, followed up with, “I’ll be honest, I’m struggling with the gray part.”
Mosher responded that keeping the rebate steady will avoid confusion among customers when prices — and margins — spike or fall. A customer accustomed to receiving a $25,000 rebate will raise questions when it suddenly surges to $75,000 and then back to $15,000, he said.
“So my answer is, why put him in that situation, where he needs to even ask?” Mosher said with a laugh. “Don’t ever pay him the 75!”

By April 9, source No. 2 had told the FBI that the Pilot Flying J general counsel, Kristen Seabrook, was requiring all information needed to approve rebates be submitted by April 12, with the next round of payments scheduled to be sent April 15.
That’s the day the FBI and IRS agents raided Pilot’s corporate headquarters, the building housing its computer servers and the homes of sales team members Mosher in Bettendorf, Iowa, Arnie Ralenkotter in Hebron, Ky., and Nashville-based sales director Kevin Hanscomb.
The three men did not return telephone calls from the Associated Press.

Expert witness costs ND $21K in abortion trial

BISMARCK (AP) - The North Dakota attorney general's office has paid a doctor nearly $21,000 to help the state defend an abortion law passed by the Legislature two years ago.
The lawsuit that begins this week in Fargo is over a 2011 law banning the widely accepted use of a medication that induces abortion.
Records obtained by the Associated Press show the state has spent about $23,000 in legal costs to date, and almost all the money has gone to Dr. Donna Harrison of Eau Claire, Mich. to act as an expert witness.
Harrison is the president the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights is representing the Red River Women Clinic in Fargo in the lawsuit. A judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of the law.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

CNN Taking Revenge On Snarky Viewers By Inflicting Newt Gingrich On Them

CNN, the fallen child prodigy of television journalism, has spent the majority of its time after the Clinton Impeachment periodically re-branding in an increasingly pathetic attempt to stave off the inevitable decline into irrelevance. The most recent iteration of CNN has involved copying their meth-ed out stripper of a sister channel “HLN” because nothing says “respecting your audience” like savaging them with non-stop Casey Anthony updates. However even this effort ended terribly as CNN continually bungled its Boston Bombing coverage to the point where even your mom was getting decent cracks at their expense on Twitter.

Obviously this sort of awfulness calls for a desperate attempt at salvation, and since CNN has no confidence in the intelligence of its viewership, the idea of just recycling an older crappy show makes sense. So it was in that vein that CNN announced earlier this year that they are taking full advantage of Jon Stewart’s temporary absence from TV to re-introduce “CROSSFIRE”, a show featuring the same commentators that you hate in other shows but with MOAR SCREAMING.

TV Gold right? Well obviously that depends on the hosts that CNN’s new head, Jeff Zucker (aka the man responsible for the war crime of keeping Donald Trump relevant), chooses from “the right and the left.” But judging from the rumors about who these individuals might be, it is apparent that CNN is done trying to woo viewers and is now just going to hate fuck them into compliance with performance art levels of absurdity. So look out world because Newt fucking Gingrich will be scaring your children while grifting from your grandparents on the tee-vee this summer.

Stephen Colbert Made A Complete Laughingstock Of Reinhart, Rogoff, Paul Ryan, And The Austerity Movement

Joe Weisenthal 

A big theme this past week has been the decline of the austerity movement.
Austerity has been discredited as a path to economic prosperity for awhile. But last week, a paper by a graduate student (UMass Amherst's Thomas Herndon) debunked the famous Reinhart & Rogoff study, which had claimed that growth slows precipitously when a country's debt rises above 90% of GDP.
Since then, in Europe, we've seen a backlash against austerity from various names, whether it's the International Monetary Federation criticizing the UK, fund manager Bill Gross critizing the UK, or European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso talking about the limits to austerity.
And now all of this has broken through to the mainstream with last night's Colbert Report, where Thomas Herndon was the guest.
Colbert had two segments devoted to making the austerians look like total laughingstocks.
One was the actual interview with Herndon. The other came as part of a news roundup, where he mocked Paul Ryan and "Rogaine and Braveheart."
It's one of those cultural moments where you can see the losing side made to look like fools in mass media.
Incidentally, this is exactly what Paul Krugman predicted last week would be the significance of Herndon's paper:
The point is that the next time Olli Rehn, or George Osborne, or Paul Ryan declares, sententiously, that we must have austerity because serious economists (i.e., not Krugman and friends) tell us that debt is a terrible thing, people in the audience will snicker — which they should have been doing all along, but now it has become socially acceptable...................................................

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Meet The New Man At The Center Of The Ricin Case


As the case against Paul Kevin Curtis for allegedly mailing ricin was unraveling Tuesday afternoon, FBI agents were already searching the house of another man in connection with the ongoing investigation.

Their focus has shifted to Everett Dutschke — a failed political candidate, taekwondo teacher, and bluesman who’s currently facing child molestation charges. While the feds has been publicly silent about Dutschke and the search of his home, Curtis’ lawyers have been very loudly and publicly pointing the finger at Dutschke, claiming he framed Curtis because of a feud that began with music and martial arts.
Dutschke has not been charged in the case and has denied involvement in the mailing of the ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and two other officials. 

At a strange, celebratory press conference after the charges against Curtis were dismissed Tuesday, his attorney Christi McCoy, suggested he was freed because investigators have moved on to “another suspect.” Though she did not name this other suspect, McCoy said she believed investigators were still at Dutschke’s home. McCoy first connected Dutschke to the case earlier this week when she suggested he was interested in framing Curtis for the crime because of a longstanding argument between the two men. 

Curtis provided further details about the feud at the press conference when reporters asked him about his relationship with Dutschke. He claimed he did not know Dutschke well, but had received angry messages from him and heard indications from others that Dutschke had a major grudge against him. Curtis implied Dutschke may have developed these negative feelings towards him when they studied taekwondo together or because of his career as an Elvis impersonator. According to Curtis, one of the messages he received from Dutschke was an email saying, “I’ve created a band called Robodrum and we’re going to throw you off the national circuit.”

Multiple websites identify Dutschke as the frontman of a group called Dusty and the Robodrum. On Facebook, the group’s act is described as “Live-Loop Oriented Rock with tons of lasers.” According to reviews, Robodrum has released numerous albums and recorded with several other artists including Pearl Jam drummer Dave Abbruzzese. 

In addition to his musical activities, Dutschke operated a taekwondo studio and worked as an insurance agent. Advertisements posted on a Myspace page under Dutschke’s name and a username he used in his personal email dubbed him “the insurance warrior.” An investigator with the office of First Circuit Court District Attorney Trent Kelly confirmed to TPM that Dutschke is currently out on bond and facing three charges of fondling for an incident that the county sheriff has said involved a seven-year-old girl who was at his taekwondo studio.

Dutschke also dabbled in politics. In 2007, he ran against a man named Steve Holland for a seat in Mississippi’s House of Representatives. A YouTube page with Dutschke’s name and username shows several videos he seems to have made attacking Holland during that race. It also included a clip of a man identified as Dutschke conducting surveillance on people who were allegedly vandalizing his campaign posters and driving after them while listening to talk radio. Dutschke was defeated by Holland in that race. 

Along with President Barack Obama and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) a ricin-tainted letter was received by Holland’s mother, Mississippi Justice Court Judge Sadie Holland. In a conversation with TPM on Tuesday, Steve Holland said he hasn’t heard from Dutschke since their race.

“I’m telling you the gospel truth, he ran against me and I saw him four or five times in the course of the campaign in public discourse,” Holland said. “He’s never bothered me. He ran a very nasty, vicious, angry campaign against me, but I didn’t think anything about it. … I don’t think the guy’s thought twice about me since then. … I’ve had no indication of it.”
Holland said he felt Dutschke’s campaign was vicious because it was solely focused on attacks against him.

“Everything he did was negative. I don’t remember him saying, ‘I, Everett Dutschke stand for this, I’m going to do this,’” Holland explained. “He was always negative about ‘Boss Holland,’ that’s the term he gave me.”
Dutschke apparently did not call to congratulate Holland after his victory.
“You kidding me?” Holland said. “Hell no.”

Dutschke has previously denied any involvement in the ricin mailings. TPM spoke to Dutschke this afternoon shortly before FBI agents reportedly arrived at his house. He expressed shock upon hearing Curtis had been released and then said he had to go. Subsequent attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful. Both the FBI and the local Lee County Sheriff’s Department have not responded to multiple requests for comment on this story.

In addition to the many attacks on Holland, the YouTube page that appears to be Dutschke’s also featured a clip from September 2008 in which Dutschke predicted that year’s presidential race would be won by “whoever treats us as if we’re, you know, intelligent.”

“If you’re beholden to the Republican Party or if you’re beholden to the Democrat [sic] Party, you are not a free and independent thinker by your very nature. … I am so fed up with people who cling to their labels, their party labels, way too tightly,” Dutschke said, before adding, “It’s September 11th, I’m feeling a little reflective today, so that’s just my one small voice.”

NH State Rep. Suggests Boston Bombing Was ‘False Flag’ Conspiracy


A Republican state representative in New Hampshire posted a video by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Facebook last week suggesting the Boston marathon bombing was a "false flag" operation carried out by the US government. 
Rep. Stella Temblay (R), a member of the state's 400-person House of Representatives, posted the video on Glenn Beck's Facebook page on April 19 with an accompanying message:
Just as you said would happen. Top Down, Bottom UP. The Boston Marathon was a Black Ops "terrorist" attack. One suspect killed, the other one will be too before they even have a chance to speak. Drones and now "terrorist" attacks by our own Government. Sad day, but a "wake up" to all of us. First there was a "suspect" then there wasnt. Infowars broke the story and they knew they had been "found out"
Reached by phone, Temblay told the local Foster's Daily Democrat that she had suspicions of some kind of plot involving Secretary of State John Kerry, Saudi nationals, and "black ops" soldiers at the scene of the marathon. Several of these elements have popped up both in Jones' work and various Internet fever swamps since the bombing.
Officials told the Washington Post on Tuesday that Djokhar Tsarnaev confessed to carrying out the attacks in tandem with his brother, telling authorities they were upset with American foreign policy towards the Middle East. 
Temblay has a history of spreading conspiracy theories. Last year she e-mailed out a video claiming President Obama was not a citizen, according to the Huffington Post, promptiong a Democratic colleague to label her "an embarassment to us as a chamber."
The state's Democratic Party condemned her latest episode on Tuesday. 
"[E]ven for the New Hampshire Republican Party, which has become synonymous with the Tea Party and radical extremism, Representative Tremblay's claims are a new low," New Hampshire Democratic Party Communication Director Harrell Kirstein said in a statement. "She is an embarrassment to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, to her constituents, and to the entire State of New Hampshire."

After Demanding Senate Pass A Budget, GOP Refuses To Enter Budget Negotiations


House Republicans spent most of their time over the last three years reminding Americans that Senate Democrats hadn’t passed a budget in two, then three, then four years. It was a regular Republican talking point, a particular favorite of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s. But now that the Senate has returned to regular order by passing a budget, House Republicans are refusing to come to the table to negotiate a long-term spending plan.
Republicans passed their own budget, the plan Ryan authored, in March, and since the proposal differs from the Senate budget, regular order requires the two chambers to come together in conference to iron out their differences in a compromise budget that is then taken back to the full memberships of each house. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has hinted at forming such a conference for more than a week, but Republicans have shown no willingness to join him. This morning, Senate Republicans blocked Reid from creating a conference committee, a move that led Reid to accuse them of turning “a complete 180″:
It seems House Republicans don’t want to be seen even discussing the possibility of compromise with the Democrats for fear of a Tea Party revolt,” Reid said.
He noted that Republicans have called for “regular order” for years.
“A strange thing happened: House Republicans did a complete 180 — they flipped. They’re no longer interested in regular order even though they preached that for years,” Reid said.
The GOP offered numerous excuses for why they wouldn’t approve a conference, including that certain rules need to be worked out. Ryan and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R), the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, have said they need to agree to “framework” for a deal to make a compromise more likely.
What that “framework” would need to be to get Republicans to agree to conference, however, is clear: a deal that cuts spending but includes no new tax revenue. That has been a consistent GOP demand throughout budget and spending fights over the last three years, a sticking point that has brought the government to the brink of both shutdown and default. It’s also a concession Democrats and President Obama are unwilling to make, given that they have already agreed to nearly $2.5 trillion in spending cuts while receiving little revenue in exchange. Any new deal, in fact, would have to achieve 90 percent of its deficit reduction from tax revenue to balance the overall reductions achieved in the last four years.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Republicans Who Voted Against Sandy Aid Ask For Aid To West, Texas After Explosion


The death toll and injury count in the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion that took place last Wednesday continues to rise, with 35-40 dead and 60 still unaccounted for. Recovering from the disaster will likely take a lot of time and resources, and President Obama has already pledged federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other agencies.
Some Texas Congressmen have also requested aid to help the victims and the town rebuild. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said he is “working to ensure that all available resources are marshaled to deal with the horrific loss of life and suffering that we’ve seen.” Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) has said that he, plus Senators Cruz and John Cornyn (R-TX), are working with Congressional leaders to extend necessary assistance. Cornyn has also said there is funding under his subcommittee for chemical site security standards and infrastructure protection.
Yet when Northeast cities needed disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that killed hundreds, all three Congressmen voted against the aid package:
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz lambasted the Sandy Aid package, voting against the measure in January. Cruz issued a statement explaining that he voted against the aid because it included a number of spending measures that were not related to disaster relief, including “Smithsonian repairs, upgrades to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration airplanes, and more funding for Head Start.” […]
After Flores voted against the Sandy aid package, he justified his vote by saying the package was “too large” and did “more than meet the immediate needs of Sandy victims.”
On top of seeking funding for West, Texas, John Cornyn has also requested drought relief and disaster aid for wildfires in the past.
Funding would have also been useful in preventing the blast in the first place. The plant has been victim of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) underfunding, as it hadn’t been inspected since 1985. Yet Flores voted for the 2011 House Republican budget, which would have reduced OSHA by $99 million, and also voted to pass the Budget Control Act, which has also decreased funding for OSHA’s inspections.

Metallica: Until It Sleeps

Korn - Chaos Lives In Everything


White Zombie - La Sexorcisto Devil music Vol. 1 [Full album HD 1080p]

White Zombie-Electric Head Part 2

White Zombie - Electric Head Pt.1

Shinedown - Sound Of Madness

Mudvayne - Scream With Me

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Texas fertilizer company didn't heed disclosure rules before blast

(Reuters) - The fertilizer plant that exploded on Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Yet a person familiar with DHS operations said the company that owns the plant, West Fertilizer, did not tell the agency about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do, leaving one of the principal regulators of ammonium nitrate - which can also be used in bomb making - unaware of any danger there.
Fertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb (180 kg) or more of the substance. Filings this year with the Texas Department of State Health Services, which weren't shared with DHS, show the plant had 270 tons of it on hand last year.
A U.S. congressman and several safety experts called into question on Friday whether incomplete disclosure or regulatory gridlock may have contributed to the disaster.
"It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid," Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a statement. "This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up."
Company officials did not return repeated calls seeking comment on its handling of chemicals and reporting practices. Late on Friday, plant owner Donald Adair released a general statement expressing sorrow over the incident but saying West Fertilizer would have little further comment while it cooperated with investigators to try to determine what happened.
"This tragedy will continue to hurt deeply for generations to come," Adair said in the statement.
Failure to report significant volumes of hazardous chemicals at a site can lead the DHS to fine or shut down fertilizer operations, a person familiar with the agency's monitoring regime said. Though the DHS has the authority to carry out spot inspections at facilities, it has a small budget for that and only a "small number" of field auditors, the person said.
Firms are responsible for self reporting the volumes of ammonium nitrate and other volatile chemicals they hold to the DHS, which then helps measure plant risks and devise security and safety plans based on them.
Since the agency never received any so-called top-screen report from West Fertilizer, the facility was not regulated or monitored by the DHS under its CFAT standards, largely designed to prevent sabotage of sites and to keep chemicals from falling into criminal hands.
The DHS focuses "specifically on enhancing security to reduce the risk of terrorism at certain high-risk chemical facilities," said agency spokesman Peter Boogaard. "The West Fertilizer Co. facility in West, Texas is not currently regulated under the CFATS program."
The West Fertilizer facility was subject to other reporting, permitting and safety programs, spread across at least seven state and federal agencies, a patchwork of regulation that critics say makes it difficult to ensure thorough oversight.
An expert in chemical safety standards said the two major federal government programs that are supposed to ensure chemical safety in industry - led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) - do not regulate the handling or storage of ammonium nitrate. That task falls largely to the DHS and the local and state agencies that oversee emergency planning and response.
More than 4,000 sites nationwide are subject to the DHS program.
"This shows that the enforcement routine has to be more robust, on local, state and federal levels," said the expert, Sam Mannan, director of process safety center at Texas A&M University. "If information is not shared with agencies, which appears to have happened here, then the regulations won't work."
Chemical safety experts and local officials suspect this week's blast was caused when ammonium nitrate was set ablaze. Authorities suspect the disaster was an industrial accident, but haven't ruled out other possibilities.
The fertilizer is considered safe when stored properly, but can explode at high temperatures and when it reacts with other substances.
"I strongly believe that if the proper safeguards were in place, as are at thousands of (DHS) CFATS-regulated plants across the country, the loss of life and destruction could have been far less extensive," said Rep. Thompson.
A blaze was reported shortly before a massive explosion leveled dozens of homes and blew out an apartment building.
A U-Haul truck packed with the substance mixed with fuel oil exploded to raze the Oklahoma federal building in 1995. Another liquid gas fertilizer kept on the West Fertilizer site, anhydrous ammonia, is subject to DHS reporting and can explode under extreme heat.
Wednesday's blast heightens concerns that regulations governing ammonium nitrate and other chemicals - present in at least 6,000 depots and plants in farming states across the country - are insufficient. The facilities serve farmers in rural areas that typically lack stringent land zoning controls, many of the facilities sit near residential areas.
Apart from the DHS, the West Fertilizer site was subject to a hodgepodge of regulation by the EPA, OSHA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Office of the Texas State Chemist.
But the material is exempt from some mainstays of U.S. chemicals safety programs. For instance, the EPA's Risk Management Program (RMP) requires companies to submit plans describing their handling and storage of certain hazardous chemicals. Ammonium nitrate is not among the chemicals that must be reported.
In its RMP filings, West Fertilizer reported on its storage of anhydrous ammonia and said that it did not expect a fire or explosion to affect the facility, even in a worst-case scenario. And it had not installed safeguards such as blast walls around the plant.
A separate EPA program, known as Tier II, requires reporting of ammonium nitrate and other hazardous chemicals stored above certain quantities. Tier II reports are submitted to local fire departments and emergency planning and response groups to help them plan for and respond to chemical disasters. In Texas, the reports are collected by the Department of State Health Services. Over the last seven years, according to reports West Fertilizer filed, 2012 was the only time the company stored ammonium nitrate at the facility.
It reported having 270 tons on site.
"That's just a god awful amount of ammonium nitrate," said Bryan Haywood, the owner of a hazardous chemical consulting firm in Milford, Ohio. "If they were doing that, I would hope they would have gotten outside help."
In response to a request from Reuters, Haywood, who has been a safety engineer for 17 years, reviewed West Fertilizer's Tier II sheets from the last six years. He said he found several items that should have triggered the attention of local emergency planning authorities - most notably the sudden appearance of a large amount of ammonium nitrate in 2012.
"As a former HAZMAT coordinator, that would have been a red flag for me," said Haywood, referring to hazardous materials.
(Additional reporting by Anna Driver in Houston, Timothy Gardner and Ayesha Rascoe in Washington, and Selam Gebrekidan and Michael Pell in New York; Editing by Mary Milliken and Robert Birsel)

The GOP Goal for Goverment

Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Proves Priceless Value Of Freedom

See that? That is a fertilizer plant in Texas exploding and killing a still unknown number of people. It is the sound and sight (and smell, probably) of FREEDOM. FREEDOM from having a sprinkler system, an alarm, a shut off system, or a firewall system.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Florida student files complaint against Allen West over online ‘threat’


A student has filed a complaint with the Florida Atlantic University police against former Rep. Allen West (R-FL), claiming a statement he made online was threatening.
“As students, we deserve to feel safe exercising our First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble and express our grievances with the University,” Stephanie Rosendorf of the Florida College Democrats wrote in her complaint, which was obtained by Raw Story. “These days you never know if a threat on social media is to be taken lightly, and in this case it certainly should not be. Allen West is making me feel in danger at school.”

Rosendorf told Raw Story that she fears some of West’s followers might react violently.
“As a student at FAU and a member of the community, I felt shocked and threatened to see Allen West’s comments,” she said via email. “We as students should be able to exercise our First Amendment right to peacefully assemble without fear of violent retaliation from Allen West or any of his like-minded followers. I urge the University to take extra steps to ensure that Allen West is not allowed on or near our campus.”

In a Facebook post, West warned FAU students would face “the side of me that you do not want to see” if they continued to target his wife Angela Graham-West. He said students from Florida Atlantic University had “stalked” his wife and “sent letters to her company headquarters.”
“How dare you animals attack my wife and her professional reputation. This is your one and only advisory notice,” he concluded.

West’s wife is a member of FAU’s Board of Trustees. The board has faced student-led protests over a $6 million stadium-naming deal with private prison operator GEO Group. The private prison company has been accused of mistreating and neglecting inmates. GEO Group backed out the deal on April 2.
Angela West told New Times Broward Palm Beach she felt harassed because students came to her office uninvited and also called for her to be fired.

Texas Fertilizer Plant Failed To Disclose Massive Amount Of Ammonium Nitrate


The West, Texas fertilizer plant where a powerful explosion killed at least 14 and injured dozens on Wednesday failed to disclose a massive ammount of ammonium nitrate ordinarily regulated by federal officials, according to Reuters.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires fertilizer plants and depots to disclose amounts of ammonium nitrate, which can be used to make a bomb, above 400 lbs. The West, Texas plant, West Fertilizer, reportedly held 270 tons of the substance, 1,350 times that limit.
"This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount to be regulated under the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards Act (CFATS), yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up,"  Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bill Maher on Glenn Beck & Sarah Palin

Glenn Beck Is a Fraud and a Hypocrite

Beck & Barton Say Romney Will Win Because 'We are Repeating all of the Steps' the Founders Took to Create This Nation

Glenn Beck Gives Obama Till Monday to Admit Boston Bombing was Inside Job

Cruz called Sandy aid ‘pork’ but wants ‘all available resources’ after Texas blast


Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) says that he is prepared to make “all available resources” available from the federal government to assist in the recovery after an explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas — but the senator voted against aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy earlier because he said it was “pork.”
The Dallas Morning News reported on Thursday that Cruz had reacted to the fertilizer plant explosion that killed dozens in West, Texas earlier this week.
“We are in very close touch with officials on the ground and we’re monitoring the tragic accident closely,” Cruz said in Washington. “It’s truly horrific and we are working to ensure that all available resources are marshaled to deal with the horrific loss of life and suffering that we’ve seen.”
In a statement on his website, Cruz added that “[w]e remain in communication with Gov. Perry’s office and emergency management officials, and stand to offer whatever support we can.”
But following the super storm that devastated much of the East Coast last year, Cruz was not as willing to part with taxpayer money.
According to The New York Times, the junior Texas senator voted against Sandy aid three times.
“Hurricane Sandy inflicted devastating damage on the East Coast, and Congress appropriately responded with hurricane relief,” Cruz said in a statement earlier this year. “Unfortunately, cynical politicians in Washington could not resist loading up this relief bill with billions in new spending utterly unrelated to Sandy.”
“This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington – an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt.”
On Thursday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) also asked President Barack Obama for a “quick turnaround” on federal aid.

TN lawmaker passes resolution to honor himself 

A Tennessee legislator is catching heat for passing a resolution to honor himself.
While Tennessee lawmakers have long been criticized for wasting time and money on frivolous bills, some say this one tops them all.
Resolutions are basically congratulatory notes for an achievement, an occasion or a job well-done, and so far this year, lawmakers have passed 476 resolutions - each one typically costing taxpayers about $300.
Sen. Ophelia Ford has passed one to honor her intern, Sens. Matthew and Timothy Hill have honored their late grandmother but Sen. Jon Lundberg just passed a resolution to honor himself.
"I think it's important for us as a state to say, 'Hey, great job on creating jobs and moving the ball forward,'" said Lundberg, R-Bristol.
Lundberg's resolution, written by his own staff, honors his public relations firm, The Corporate Image, and says things like "the owners and employees of The Corporate Image are many such noteworthy persons" and "the company has continued to set the standard for the highest quality professional services."
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

Authorities Confirm They Are Seeking Marathon Bombing Suspect After Watertown Shootout


Authorities have confirmed a man who remains at large after allegedly participating in a night of violence that ended with a shootout in Watertown, Massachusetts is "consistent" with the description of one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing.
"What we're looking for right now is a suspect consistent with the description of suspect number two, the white capped individual who was involved in Monday's bombing of the Boston Marathon," said Colonel Timothy Alben of the Massachusetts State Police in a brief press conference, referencing photos of the bombing suspects released by the FBI Thursday. "You've seen the picture, you all have it. That's the individual that we're looking for at this moment." 
A statement from the Middlesex County District Attorney's office said the situation began with a report of shots fired at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge around 10 PM. An MIT campus police officer was subsequently found dead in his vehicle. Afterward, police received reports two suspects carjacked a man at gunpoint and kept him in the car for about 30 minutes before releasing him at a gas station.
According to the District Attorney's statement, police searched for the vehicle and pursued it into Watertown where they exchanged gunfire with the suspects, who also threw "explosive devices" from the car. A police officer with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority was "seriously injured" during this pursuit. One of the suspects was also injured and, according to the statement, he was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead.
Alben said the second suspect in the shootings and carjacking was the one who matched the description of the Boston bomber and "was able to flee from that car."
"There is an active search going on at this time," Alben said. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Former chief of staff to break silence on Michele Bachmann

KEVIN DIAZ , Star Tribune

– GOP operative Andy Parrish, a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, is expected to tell an Iowa Senate ­ethics panel that her 2012 presidential campaign made improper payments to its state chairman.
Having maintained a public silence so far, Parrish referred questions Wednesday to his attorney, John Gil­more, who said his client will corroborate allegations from another former Bachmann aide, Peter Waldron.

Waldron, a Florida pastor, claims that the campaign hid payments to Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson, in violation of Iowa Senate ethics rules that bar members from receiving pay from presidential campaigns.

Until now, Parrish has been identified by the committee only as “Witness A,” Gilmore said.
“The time has come to confirm that ‘Witness A’ is Andy Parrish, and he’ll be providing an affidavit with supporting material that completely supports the representations previously made by Peter Waldron,” Gilmore said.
Sorenson has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, calling the ethics charges “totally baseless, without evidence, and a waste of Iowans’ time and money.” Lawyers for the Bachmann campaign also have denied the allegations.

Waldron’s accusations are also the subject of inquiries by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. The investigations are part of a growing web of legal problems facing Bachmann, including a lawsuit by former staffer Barbara Heki alleging that Sorenson stole a proprietary e-mail list of Iowa home-school families from her personal computer. Those allegations also are the subject of an ongoing police investigation in Urbandale, Iowa.
Gilmore said Parrish can provide the ethics panel documentary evidence that Sorenson was paid $7,500 a month to work on Bachmann’s campaign, money that was funneled to him indirectly through C&M Strategies, a Colorado-based company controlled by Bachmann fundraiser Guy Short.
Among the sources of the funding, Waldron contends, was Bachmann’s independent political organization, Michele­PAC, also headed by Short. Attorneys for Short have denied the allegations, which also are part of the FEC inquiry.

Sorenson rocked the Bachmann campaign in the waning days of the Iowa caucuses when he left to join the campaign of rival Ron Paul. At the time, Bachmann suggested that Sorenson’s defection was prompted by money.

Parrish’s willingness to go public against his former employer and political mentor is likely to send shock waves through Minnesota GOP circles, where both he and his attorney are well-known figures.
Parrish served as deputy campaign manager of last year’s unsuccessful effort to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. Gilmore is a well-known conservative blogger.
“Andy is taking a bit of a risk,” Gilmore said. “But at the same time, he feels loyal to Peter Waldron. Peter’s been out there doing the best he can.”
Waldron, for his part, said Parrish’s willingness to come forward “reflects impeccable character and a sense of civic duty that is extraordinary.”

Parrish’s decision to go public came hours after the Iowa Senate ethics panel set a 10-day deadline for “Witness A” to step forward publicly with information.
The six-member panel — made up of three Republicans and three Democrats — also directed the Secretary of the Iowa Senate, Michael Marshall, to get an update on the status of the police investigation in the Heki case.

Iowa Sen. Wally Horn, a Democrat who chairs the ethics committee, said the panel felt it needs to move forward to resolve the allegations or dismiss them. Waldron originally filed three complaints against Sorenson with the ethics panel in January. One of them, alleging improper business disclosures, has been dismissed. The other two complaints, alleging hidden payments and misappropriation of the e-mail list, are still pending.

Horn said he hopes to resolve the ethics complaints before the legislature adjourns next month. Meanwhile, two sources close to the Bachmann campaign have told the Star Tribune that congressional ethics investigators have questioned them about allegations that her presidential campaign played an improper role in her 2011 book tour.

New Research Undermines The GOP’s Austerity Agenda


In the debate over government spending, the central data point wielded by fans of austerity is the claim that once a country reaches a debt load over 90 percent of its economy — a threshold the United States is approaching — economic growth goes into a tailspin. That argument came from a 2010 study by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. After surveying a wide number of countries, they found that, on average, once the 90 percent mark is crossed, economic growth slows. Though the paper always had problems that kept many economists from embracing it, that didn’t stop it from becoming “the most influential article cited in public and policy debates about the importance of debt stabilization” as Slate’s Matt Yglesias put it.
There were already problems with the Reinhart-Rogoff study, but up until now, other researchers haven’t been able to replicate or pick through its numbers. A new paper finally has, and as Mike Konczal over at Next New Deal reports, it dug up some truly mortal flaws.
First, Reinhart and Rogoff excluded the post-war years for certain countries that enjoyed robust economic growth despite debt levels well over 90 percent. They also chose a skewed method of weighting the data: for example, New Zealand’s single year of terrible growth while over the 90 percent threshold wound up counting just as much as Britain’s 19 years of healthy growth. And they even incorrectly input at least one Excel spreadsheet formula, wrongly excluding several countries form their calculations.
In short, the central argument in support of austerity — cited by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, the New York Times’ David Brooks, and multiple times by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) — is now defunct. No one disputes that a country should avoid a big build-up in debt over the long-term. But every concrete signal we’re getting from the American economy — our high unemployment, our low inflation, our extraordinarily low interest rates, and our negative real interest rates — are a signal that more debt spending in the short term to fight the depression is perfectly appropriate. Thanks to the austerity drive that was heavily influenced by Reinhart and Rogoff’s study, American lawmakers ignored those signals (and plenty of others) and cut spending, delivering the most destructive fiscal policy we’ve had in any recession since at least 1980...............

Friday, April 12, 2013

Metallica - Enter Sandman

Marilyn Manson - I Put A Spell On You

Theory Of A Deadman - Bad Girlfriend

Five Finger Death Punch - Bad Company

Metallica - One

Rob Zombie - Run Rabbit Run

Rob Zombie - Everything Is Boring

Rob Zombie - The Man Who Laughs

Rob Zombie - The Devil's Hole Girls And The Big Revolution


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Godsmack - voodoo

Georgia lawmaker who supported drug testing for welfare gets second DUI


Georgia state House Rep. Chuck Sims (R-Amrbose) was arrested last week and charged with Driving Under the Influence, his second such arrest in the last three years. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday that Sims was arrested and taken into custody shortly before midnight on April 2.
An officer in Coffee County reportedly observed a motorist driving erratically who then accelerated, plowing their vehicle into into the highway shoulder. Sims was arrested and booked into the Coffee County Jail in Douglas, Georgia, then released on $1,487 bond. 

In a statement, Sims said, “Just as I do not intend to seek any special treatment, I hope that I am not unfairly pre-judged based on rumor and speculation. I am confident that as facts of this situation are revealed, the interests of justice will be served.”
Sims was arrested for DUI in 2010 by Atlanta police. He is among the state lawmakers who voted in favor of House Bill 861, which mandated drug testing for all Georgians seeking public assistance funding.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Agribusiness Pushes To Lower Farm Workers’ Wages May Undermine Deal On Immigration Reform


As lawmakers prepare to release legislative language for proposals that would allow an estimated 11.2 million undocumented immigrants to earn a path to citizenship, a small bipartisan group of senators is struggling to reach a deal for how to create a steady supply of labor for farmers and growers, threatening to undermine the newfound momentum for comprehensive reform. 

Lawmakers agree that the roughly 1 million individuals currently working without legal status in the agricultural industry are essential to maintaining America’s food supply and should be able to achieve legal status through an expedited legalization process. But the parties remain deeply divided over how to treat future flows of farm workers. Four senators — Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) — are currently involved in tense negotiations between growers and advocates for farm workers, represented by United Farm Workers of America. The talks, which hinge on the wages workers should earn and the number of new visas that should be issued, are close to a standstill, sources involved in the negotiations tell ThinkProgress, as the growers refuse to make concessions and are insisting on paying future farm workers less than they are earning now. 

Under current law, growers can legally bring foreign agricultural workers into the United States under the H-2A visa program after making an active effort to recruit U.S. workers in areas of expected labor supply. Employers must pay the higher of the state or federal minimum wage, a local prevailing wage rate or the adverse effect wage rate (AEWR), a Reagan era formula based on the USDA Farm Labor Survey of the average wages of nonsupervisory field and livestock workers. Growers who import labor are prohibited from paying their agricultural workers less than the average of the wages in their region and are exempt from paying Social Security and Medicare taxes on H-2A compensation. As a result, foreign workers cost growers an average of 11 percent less than American workers.
Lax enforcement of H-2A standards, however, has allowed growers to routinely circumvent protections, including advertising requirements and the hiring of illegal international recruiters to import even cheaper labor from Mexico. Workers on H-2A visas, advocates say, are abused by employers, cheated out of pay, and lack basic labor protections like occupational safety standards. Farm workers are paid some of the lowest wages in the country and are more likely to live in poverty and lack basic access to health care than salary employees. 

Groups representing farm workers argue that the H-2A system is rifle with abuse, while growers complain that red tape, mass delays, and overregulation serve as barriers to importing needed labor. Both sides have now agreed to establish a new visa program outside of the H-2A structure that would be included in a broader immigration reform deal — but are very far apart in the details of that plan.
Individuals involved in the negotiations say that growers are demanding wage standards that would amount to a significant reduction from the current AEWR formula, allowing employers to import cheap foreign labor while significantly undercutting American workers and lowering the earning potential of future streams of workers. Growers, whose opening offer would have paid workers just 10 percent above the federal minimum wage, have proposed numerous pay formulas, one person directly involved in the negotiations told ThinkProgress, but appear uninterested in compromising with labor groups. Kristi Boswell, Director of Congressional Relations at the American Farm Bureau — the organization representing growers — pushed back against that formulation, saying that while the discussions are “ongoing,” the growers’ proposals would “increase wages” for farmers and would better represent market conditions. The current AEWR average is $10.80, while grower proposals would pay workers less than $8.
“It must take incredible willpower for growers to utter the words ‘farmworkers are overpaid’ with a straight face,” Marshall Fitz, Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, said. Farm workers “are the most difficult and physically demanding jobs in America and are performed by workers making barely above the minimum wage.”

A policy analyst close to the negotiations told ThinkProgress that growers may be refusing to give ground during Senate negotiations in hopes of securing a more favorable agreement in Republican-controlled House. But GOP senators taking part in the talks are growing frustrated, and immigration reform advocates fear that without a clear deal governing future flows of immigrants, comprehensive reform may be in trouble. 

“Agribusiness lobby power has kept farm workers excluded from every major labor law for decades,” said Maria Machuca, spokeswoman for the Keene, California-based UFW, in an e-mail. “It would be a grievous mistake to allow agribusiness to use the debate over immigration reform to further reduce wages of the poorest workers in the country.”

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Pompous, Arrogant Windbag Calls O’Reilly a ‘pompous, arrogant windbag’


Bryan Fischer, the director of issues analysis of the fundamentalist American Family Association (AFA), on Wednesday blasted Fox News host Bill O’Reilly for accusing conservative Christians of not being able to do anything but “thump the Bible” during arguments against same sex marriage.
Last week, O’Reilly had angered many social conservatives when he announced that “the compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals.”

“That is where the compelling argument is. We’re Americans, we just want to be treated like everybody else,” the Fox News host explained. “And the other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible.”
On his Wednesday radio show, Fischer called O’Reilly “blindly ignorant of all of the arguments that we have made that go beyond the scripture, that confirm the scripture, that are in alignment with the scripture to support our contention that God has defined marriage as a one man, one woman institution — and it should not ever under any circumstances be redifined.”

“Now, have we thumped our Bibles? Absolutely!” he admitted. “Because we believe it is the revealed word of God, that’s where we take out stand, that’s where plant our feet.”
Fischer added that O’Reilly was a “pompous, arrogant windbag” and was “completely oblivious” to the fact that he had insulted the “Bible thumpers.”
“The implication is we’re a bunch of Neanderthal, redneck, hillbilly Bible bangers. That’s essentially what he’s saying we are… He’s insulting us to our face!”

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Right Is Furious at How Much Disability the Right Is Claiming

Philip Bump

Conservative columnists are newly outraged by Social Security data showing a rise in disability applications. But this isn't Obama's fault. In fact, it's kind of theirs.
Here's the key data, as articulated by conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg.
In 1960, when vastly more Americans were involved in physical labor of some kind, 0.65% of workforce participants between the ages of 18 and 64 were receiving Social Security disability insurance payments. Fifty years later, in a much healthier America that number has grown to 5.6%.
And the spittle-flecked argument at
[E]very guy who signs his “disability” application with an “x” is yet another cross the productive people have to bear. It’s one more headache. It’s one more straw on the back of the camel. It gets easier every morning to cross over. I could take the blue pill and fill out the paperwork.

I could sign it with an “x” and tell Doctor Feelgood that “Muh teacher didn’t larn me no goode.” The pencil would whip. My legs would go up on the couch, the check would roll in. You could carry me. It would be just that easy. Until nobody bothers at all…
The author of that piece, Repair_Man_Jack, links to data from the Social Security Administration that includes this graph.

"Jack" got that from this blog, which says of the data: "I'm surprised that the government posted these on their .gov site."
After all, look at that spike in applications! Why so many disability applications?
Before we answer that question, let's look a little closer at the data. What's economically important, for those who worry unduly about such things, is how many disability claims Social Security is awarding. That graph is the bottom line above, but we've broken it out below.

Social Security disability awardsJanuary 1985January 1987January 1989January 1991January 1993January 1995January 1997January 1999January 2001January 2003January 2005January 2007January 2009January 2011January 20130250005000075000100000
Still an increase over time, but consistently. But notice that the government is actually awarding far fewer applicants. Applications are way up, awards are consistent. Here's the percentage of applications that resulted in awards over time.

Percent awardedJanuary 1985August 1986March 1988October 1989May 1991December 1992July 1994February 1996September 1997April 1999November 2000June 2002January 2004August 2005March 2007October 2008May 2010December 201110.00%30.00%50.00%70.00%90.00%
Leading to this chart from the Social Security Administration, showing the number of people receiving payment at the end of each month. Over the past thirty years, those receiving benefits have increased — very, very consistently.

Receiving payment at end of monthJanuary 1985August 1986March 1988October 1989May 1991December 1992July 1994February 1996September 1997April 1999November 2000June 2002January 2004August 2005March 2007October 2008May 2010December 201102.557.510millions
So let's get back to the question of those applications. Why so many more?
Go back to that first graph. Notice when the big application spike happened — 2009 or 2010. Now, subtract 65 from that number. 2010 minus 65 years equals 1945. The year the Second World War ended. And the year that the baby boom began in earnest.
America's population has gotten steadily older. Here's the population distribution from the censuses of 1990, 2000, and 2010. That bump that's moving slowly to the right is the baby boom. (It's getting smaller as more Boomers die off.)

Population distribution by age2010200019900-410-1420-2430-3440-4450-5460-6470-7480-840.

Data from Census Scope and the U.S. Census.
And as the National Institutes of Health and the CDC would remind us, older people are more likely to suffer from disabilities. Going back to Goldberg:
Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health notes in his recent book "A Nation of Takers: America's Entitlement Epidemic" that 29% of the 8.6 million Americans who received Social Security disability benefits at the end of 2011 cited injuries involving the "musculoskeletal system and the connective tissue."
That's called arthritis.
The greatest irony here is that those older arthritics fall into another group besides "most likely to file for disability". That group is "the Republican party". Here's how people in different age groups voted in 2012.

Nov 2012 Exit PollsObamaRomney18-2930-4445-6465+3040506070
Using data from Pew Research's historical voter registration polling, we put together this rough estimate of the age composition of the Republican Party. It is quite literally not getting any younger.

Age distribution in Republican party18-2930-4950-6465+1996200420126%17%28%39%50%
In fact, this is the party's main challenge right now: It's weighted heavily toward older, whiter voters. And while those older voters may enjoy taking umbrage with the freeloaders exploiting the "productive" people, the critique hits much closer to home than they seem to realize. Lots of stones being thrown in increasingly creaky glass houses.

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