Archive for May, 2012

May 29, 2012

R.I.P. “Doc” Watson

by Ben Hoffman

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Doc Watson, the blind Grammy-award winning folk musician whose mountain-rooted sound was embraced by generations and whose lightning-fast style of flatpicking influenced guitarists around the world, died Tuesday at a North Carolina hospital, according to a hospital spokeswoman and his manager. He was 89.

Arthel “Doc” Watson’s mastery of flatpicking helped make the case for the guitar as a lead instrument in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was often considered a backup for the mandolin, fiddle or banjo. His fast playing could intimidate other musicians, even his own grandson, who performed with him.

The wavy-haired Watson got his musical start in 1953, playing electric lead guitar in a country-and-western swing band. His road to fame began in 1960 when Ralph Rinzler, a musician who also managed Bill Monroe, discovered Watson in North Carolina. That led Watson to the Newport Folk Festival in 1963 and his first recording contract a year later. He went on to record 60 albums, and wowed fans ranging from ’60s hippies to fans of traditional country and folk music.

Seven of his albums won Grammy awards; his eighth Grammy was a lifetime achievement award in 2004. He also received the National Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton in 1997. “There may not be a serious, committed baby boomer alive who didn’t at some point in his or her youth try to spend a few minutes at least trying to learn to pick a guitar like Doc Watson,” Clinton said at the time.

Folklore described Watson as “a powerful singer and a tremendously influential picker who virtually invented the art of playing mountain fiddle tunes on the flattop guitar.” Countless guitarists have tried to emulate Watson’s renditions of songs such as “Tennessee Stud,” ”Shady Grove,” and “Deep River Blues.”

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May 27, 2012

Solar Power Doesn’t Work? Tell that to Germany!

by Ben Hoffman

drugsandotherthings

This weekend German solar power plants set a new record- producing 22 Gigawatts of electricity per hour – the equivalent of 20 nuclear power plants running full tilt. This despite Germanys location- and weather that is similar to notoriously cloudy Seattle or artic Alaska.

Not only that- but the solar met a full 1/3 of the nations energy needs on a high consumption workday (friday), and almost half of the nations needs on Saturday.

Article at Reuters here

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May 26, 2012

Obama spending binge never happened. Government outlays rising at slowest pace since 1950s.

by Ben Hoffman

What people forget (or never knew) is that the first year of every presidential term starts with a budget approved by the previous administration and Congress. The president only begins to shape the budget in his second year. It takes time to develop a budget and steer it through Congress — especially in these days of congressional gridlock.

The 2009 fiscal year, which Republicans count as part of Obama’s legacy, began four months before Obama moved into the White House. The major spending decisions in the 2009 fiscal year were made by George W. Bush and the previous Congress.

Like a relief pitcher who comes into the game with the bases loaded, Obama came in with a budget in place that called for spending to increase by hundreds of billions of dollars in response to the worst economic and financial calamity in generations.

Before Obama had even lifted a finger, the CBO was already projecting that the federal deficit would rise to $1.2 trillion in fiscal 2009. The government actually spent less money in 2009 than it was projected to, but the deficit expanded to $1.4 trillion because revenue from taxes fell much further than expected, due to the weak economy and the emergency tax cuts that were part of the stimulus bill.

The projected deficit for the 2010-13 period has grown from an expected $1.7 trillion in January 2009 to $4.4 trillion today. Lower-than-forecast revenue accounts for 73% of the $2.7 trillion increase in the expected deficit. That’s assuming that the Bush and Obama tax cuts are repealed completely.

When Obama took the oath of office, the $789 billion bank bailout had already been approved. Federal spending on unemployment benefits, food stamps and Medicare was already surging to meet the dire unemployment crisis that was well underway. See the CBO’s January 2009 budget outlook.

Obama is not responsible for that increase, though he is responsible (along with the Congress) for about $140 billion in extra spending in the 2009 fiscal year from the stimulus bill, from the expansion of the children’s health-care program and from other appropriations bills passed in the spring of 2009.

If we attribute that $140 billion in stimulus to Obama and not to Bush, we find that spending under Obama grew by about $200 billion over four years, amounting to a 1.4% annualized increase.

After adjusting for inflation, spending under Obama is falling at a 1.4% annual pace — the first decline in real spending since the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon was retreating from the quagmire in Vietnam.

In per capita terms, real spending will drop by nearly 5% from $11,450 per person in 2009 to $10,900 in 2013 (measured in 2009 dollars).

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May 25, 2012

Dragon successfully docs with space station in historic 1st

by Ben Hoffman


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The privately bankrolled Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station for a historic docking Friday, captured by astronauts wielding a giant robot arm.
It succeeded in making the first commercial delivery into the cosmos.
U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit used the space station’s 58-foot robot arm to snare the gleaming white Dragon after a few hours of extra checks and maneuvers. The two vessels came together while sailing above Australia.
“Looks like we’ve got us a dragon by the tail,” Pettit announced from 250 miles up once he locked onto Dragon’s docking mechanism.
“You’ve made a lot of folks happy down here over in Hawthorne and right here in Houston,” radioed NASA’s Mission Control. “Great job guys.”
NASA controllers clapped as their counterparts at SpaceX’s control center in Hawthorne, Calif. — including SpaceX’s billionaire maestro, Elon Musk, of PayPal fame — lifted their arms in triumph and jumped out of their seats to exchange high fives.
This is the first time a private company has attempted to send a vessel to the space station, an achievement previously reserved for a small, elite group of government agencies. And it’s the first U.S. craft to visit the station since the final shuttle flight last July.

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May 22, 2012

SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon Successful Launch 5/22/2012 HD

by Ben Hoffman

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station early Tuesday morning, carrying the Dragon capsule payload that, if all goes according to plan, will dock with the International Space Station later this week.

This is the first time a private company has attempted to berth a spacecraft with the International Space Station.

This was SpaceX’s second attempt to launch the Falcon 9 rocket. A launch planned for early Saturday morning was aborted after abnormally high pressure was detected in one of the engine’s combustion chambers, causing the computers to automatically shut down the rocket’s nine engines less than one second before liftoff.

Over the next several days, the Dragon spacecraft, which separated from the rocket’s second stage fewer than ten minutes after launch, will orbit Earth and undergo maneuverability and system tests to make sure it’s fit to dock with the space station.

Then, with NASA’s approval, the Dragon capsule, which is carrying about 1,000 pounds of food, clothing and water, will attempt to dock with the ISS on Friday.

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May 19, 2012

Right-wing Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Justice Charged With Corruption

by Ben Hoffman


PITTSBURGH — State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin was charged Friday with illegally using her taxpayer-funded staff in her campaigns for a seat on the state’s highest court in a scheme that ensnared her sister, a senator awaiting sentencing on similar charges.

Orie Melvin said outside court that she will vigorously defend herself against the nine criminal charges, which a grand jury report called a “tale of corruption” that she “actively condoned and even promoted.”

“I am a woman of faith,” Orie Melvin said. “My faith will see me through this. And I will not resign because of these politically motivated charges.”

The high court relieved her of judicial and administrative duties Friday, but she remains a Supreme Court justice, on the payroll with a $195,000 salary and full benefits. The court also ordered Orie Melvin’s Pittsburgh office sealed to secure records, files and equipment that are property of the court.

The charges come two months after her sister Republican state Sen. Jane Orie was convicted of 14 counts of theft of services, conflict of interest and forgery charges. Orie is scheduled to be sentenced in June, and her attorney has said in court filings that she will resign before then.

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She’s a woman of faith and believes that God will help her break the law if it’s in the name of Jesus. As the saying goes: “Please Lord, save me from your followers.”

May 19, 2012

Man arrested for threatening to blow up Democratic Party of Wisconsin offices

by Ben Hoffman

Federal authorities charged a Madison man Friday with making a telephone threat in February to blow up the offices of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, among more than 100 calls, many threatening, that he allegedly placed to the office this year.

William O. Diederich, 61, repeatedly threatened to shoot Democrats and those supporting the recall of Gov. Scott Walker in phone calls he made to the Democratic Party’s office at 110 King St. in January, February and March, according to an affidavit by FBI agent Joseph Lavelle, filed in U.S. District Court in Madison.

On Feb. 24, the affidavit states, Diederich left a voice mail message stating that when the building explodes, the bombings of Sterling Hall on the UW-Madison campus and the federal building in Oklahoma City will “seem like a firecracker compared to what’s gonna happen to you people.”

During another call, on March 4, Diederich allegedly sang a song advocating that “Bama,” presumably President Barack Obama, be shot to death. He also threatened in other calls to shoot any candidates who ran against Walker, and that he would be taking “head shots” at Democrats on the streets around the Capitol. He said during another call that he has a concealed carry permit and that “people better be wearing bulletproof vests.”

Source

May 13, 2012

Bass player Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn of Booker T. and the MGs dies in Tokyo

by Ben Hoffman

Bass player and songwriter Donald “Duck” Dunn, a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame band Booker T. and the MGs and the Blues Brothers band, has died in Tokyo. He was 70.

Dunn was in Tokyo for a series of shows. News of his death was posted on the Facebook site of his friend and fellow musician Steve Cropper, who was on the same tour. Cropper said Dunn died in his sleep.

Source

May 11, 2012

Right-wingers are Sick F*cks – Seller Offers Trayvon Martin Gun Range Targets (a pro-lifer, no doubt)

by Ben Hoffman

A Florida entrepreneur said he had sold out of gun range targets depicting a faceless, hood-clad figure holding an iced tea and a bag of Skittles meant to look like Trayvon Martin.

“The response is overwhelming,” the seller told Orlando’s WKMG news team over e-mail. “I sold out in two days.” The station did not identify the seller, and said it found the ad on a popular firearms auctioning website.

A cached version of the GunBroker.com webpage belonging to a seller named “hillerarmco” from Virginia Beach, Va., shows the paper targets being sold in packs of 10 for $8.

The description of the product reads:

Everyone knows the story of Zimmerman and Martin. Obviously we support Zimmerman and believe he is innocent and that he shot a thug. Each target is printed on thick, high quality poster paper with a matte finish! The dimensions are 12″x18″ ( The same as Darkotic Zombie Targets) This is a Ten Pack of Targets.

Source

May 9, 2012

GOP Newsletter Calls for Armed Revolution if Obama Re-Elected

by Ben Hoffman

In the “Whitehouse Watchdog” column, editor Ponch McPhee says that America cannot survive four more years under Obama, a “political socialist ideologue” who is “unlike anything world history has ever witnessed or recognized.” McPhee argues that Americans will have no option “but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November:”

Source

Good, that will give us an excuse to rid our country of some of these degenerates.

May 9, 2012

Tea Party Activist Threatens To Kill Claire McCaskill

by Ben Hoffman

An activist at a Tea Party Express rally near St. Louis implored the faithful in attendance to “kill the Claire Bear, ladies and gentlemen.” In a hyperbolic rant against incumbent Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, GOP activist Scott Boston exhorted the audience, “She walks around like she’s some sort of Rainbow Brite Care Bear or something but really she’s an evil monster.”

Police in the first-term senator’s home town of Kirkwood, Mo., were asked by federal officers charged with her protection to increase the local security detail. Not only is uncivil rhetoric dangerously taking society in the wrong direction, it is, incidentally, costing taxpayers money and resources. Last month, another branch of federal police, the particularly beleaguered Secret Service, investigated similarly incendiary comments against President Obama from 1970s rocker Ted Nugent.

Source

May 9, 2012

Clint Eastwood on Gay Marriage

by Ben Hoffman

Well, I guess conservatives can add Clint Eastwood to the list of people they hate. I’m glad I’m not a conservative. It must be hell living with all that fear and hatred.
May 5, 2012

Romney and the Republicans in a Nutshell

by Ben Hoffman

Romney and his “friends in Congress think the same bad ideas will lead to a different result or they’re just hoping you won’t remember what happened the last time you tried it their way,” President Obama told an audience in Columbus, Ohio today.

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Republican “solutions” are to give large corporations more power, allow them to pollute the environment, more tax cuts for the rich, fire government sector workers, ban abortion, oppress gays, cut spending on our infrastructure and education, and spend even more on defense. Those things do nothing to make our country better. They’re destroying our country.

May 5, 2012

How Republicans Have Stalled The Recovery

by Ben Hoffman

While Republicans are calling for tens or even hundreds of thousands more public sector workers to be axed, it’s clear that the public sector has already severely contracted even as the private sector recovers. Check out this chart (red is public sector employment, blue is private sector employment):

May 4, 2012

U.S. Leads Industrialized Nations In Health Care Costs, Falls Behind In Quality: Study

by Ben Hoffman

Health care in America costs more than in other industrialized nation and we aren’t even getting the world’s best care for our dollars, according to a new study.

The United States spent $7,960 per capita on health care in 2009, the most of 13 industrialized nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, reports the Commonwealth Fund, a research institution. That’s almost three times the amount spent in Japan, which has the lowest expenses of the countries reviewed.

Americans pay the highest prices for physician visits, hospital treatments and prescription drugs and get expensive diagnostic tests like MRIs at a higher-than-average rate. More Americans are obese, too, though the nation’s population is younger than all the other countries but New Zealand and is the least likely to smoke cigarettes than people anywhere but Sweden, according to the report.

Escalating prices for health care and high use of potentially wasteful, inefficient and unnecessary medical services are the main reasons for the rapidly escalating cost of health insurance, the growing ranks of the uninsured and the fiscal burdens of Medicare and Medicaid. Big price tags also lead Americans, even those with health insurance, to go without care they need.

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