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Proposed Budget Delivers Blow to Law Enforcement and Mortgage Fraud Efforts

By Lynda Gledhill
Press Secretary for Attorney General Kamala D. Harris

Law enforcement, public safety and key anti-gang operations are all at risk under the budget agreed to by Legislative Democrats and Governor Jerry Brown.

The cut of $71 million will wipe out the state's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and the Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence and eliminate more than 55 statewide law enforcement task forces.  These agents and task forces are on the frontlines of the state's struggle against sophisticated gangs and drug trafficking organizations.  The loss of these task forces, combined with the elimination of DOJ's role in the state witness protection program, will dramatically undermine recent gains made against gangs in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and the Central Valley.

Just weeks ago, the Department of Justice and local law enforcement partners arrested 101 gang leaders and members in the Central Valley.  They were members of a notorious prison-based gang with ties to foreign drug cartels, and this operation has crippled their grip on the drug trade flowing through the central part of the state.  The month before, we took down more than 30 members of a transnational gang operating in the Bay Area, seizing over 100 pounds of methamphetamine.

These are operations of statewide significance, which is why the California Police Chiefs Association is pleading for these task forces to be saved.  

But it's not only gang enforcement that's losing out.  This proposed cut will eliminate much of the California Mortgage Fraud Strike Force that our office recently launched.  The cut would eliminate nearly every one of the Strike Force's investigators, cutting off pending investigations and potential cases designed to protect homeowners and hold bad actors in the mortgage industry accountable.  

The last Attorney General fought against these very same cuts.  It was the right decision then and has even more urgency now, as drug cartel and transnational gang activity in California is rising and our homeowners urgently need protection from predators in the mortgage market.  

The cuts should be undone and, at minimum, be unallocated so that the Department of Justice can make decisions on where to cut and how best protect the programs most critical to Californians.


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Fixing history

For all their hatred of communism, these Tea Partiers sure do like the way they did business:

Bachmann is doubling down on her false statement [that the founders "worked tirelessly to end slavery"] and refusing to admit she was wrong — and not only that, now she’s claiming that John Quincy Adams was one of the founding fathers.

John Quincy Adams was eight years old when the Declaration of Independence was written.

UPDATE at 6/28/11 10:58:15 am
And now, someone has tried to edit the Wikipedia page for John Quincy Adams, to make him a founding father: John Quincy Adams - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Airbrushing history was a hallmark of the old Soviet Union. They tended to take out inconvenient people rather than put preferred people in, but the idea is the same: if you don't like what happened, just alter the history to reflect what you want it to reflect.

It's always so interesting to see the similarities in totalitarians of all ideological stripes. What they don't like, they change by force. All of 'em.

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Mad(man) Money

Why isn't this illegal?

When Eric Cantor shut down debt ceiling negotiations last week, it did more than just rekindle fears that the U.S. government might soon default on its debt obligations -- it also brought him closer to reaping a small financial windfall from his investment in a mutual fund whose performance is directly affected by debt ceiling brinkmanship.

Last year the Wall Street Journal reported that Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, had between $1,000 and $15,000 invested in ProShares Trust Ultrashort 20+ Year Treasury EFT. The fund aggressively "shorts" long-term U.S. Treasury bonds, meaning that it performs well when U.S. debt is undesirable. (A short is when the trader hopes to profit from the decline in the value of an asset.)

According to his latest financial disclosure statement, which covers the year 2010 and has been publicly available since this spring, Cantor still has up to $15,000 in the same fund. Contacted by Salon this week, Cantor's office gave no indication that the Virginia Republican, who has played a leading role in the debt ceiling negotiations, has divested himself of these holdings since his last filing. Unless an agreement can be reached, the U.S. could begin defaulting on its debt payments on Aug. 2. If that happens and Cantor is still invested in the fund, the value of his holdings would skyrocket.

Now, it's my opinion that Cantor is playing the designated "madman" role in the negotiations and that he will "come around" at the last minute after they've squeezed every cut they can. But what he is doing could very well roil the markets, even if they don't recklessly default in the end. No way should he be allowed to benefit from that.

I just can't believe these people aren't forced to put their holding in blind trusts. Why should any lawmaker be in this position?

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Google launches all out social networking assault with Google+ (video)

Social networking has long been Google's white whale. The company has done plenty of dabbling in the space, snatching up Orkut, which has failed to catch on in the US, and rolling out Buzz to the relative indifference of its massive user base. Announced today after seemingly endless leaks, Google+ represents a major push for the software giant. The service began showing itself to a smattering of users last night, as a black bar across the top of various of the company's properties. A "+You" button on the far left of the bar currently brings you to the service's landing page, offering a tour of the many features that fall under the Google+ umbrella. Get to know the services better after the break.

Continue reading Google launches all out social networking assault with Google+ (video)

Google launches all out social networking assault with Google+ (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 28 Jun 2011 14:34:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Blue America Chat: Welcome back Norman Solomon

It was with gladness in our hearts that all of us at Blue America celebrated the state of New York legalizing gay marriage this past week-end. What a welcome reminder that even in this era of Tea Parties and economic malaise, human progress cannot be stopped. Imagine if we had a national government with enough fighters for working families to make progress on all fronts, from civil rights to economic justice to ending our useless expensive wars. Imagine if we had more leaders like Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison and Donna Edwards to press for that agenda.



Yesterday, longtime progressive congresswoman Lynn Woolsey announced her retirement from the Congress after a long and illustrious career. And Blue America endorsee and longtime political activist and author Norman Solomon stands ready and able to carry on the progressive tradition of that district and join that list of leaders.



“We’re gaining the kind of traction that a grassroots campaign needs in order to win,” Solomon says, “the groundswell of support is very encouraging. 

Indeed it is. We need congressional representatives who understand that we are no longer able to afford open ended military adventures and corrupt political boondoggles and Norman has been fighting to end them his entire life.These issues are no longer matters of abstract ideology-- they are necessary and pragmatic approaches to the problems of our time. We need people like Norman Solomon in congress to lead the way.





And please help Norman with a donation if you can.



The good news is that it looks as though we aren't the only progressives who are enthusiastic about him-- the campaign has managed to collect $100,000 already from small donors. But he is not a corporate funded Democrat and will need our help to compete. 



Howie writes today (all the way from Asia!):

Yesterday Norman penned a guest Op-Ed for the Marin Independent Journal that presents a lot of insight into what kind of congressman he'd be-- and into why Blue America is so committed to his candidacy. I bet this is what you wish YOUR congressmember and senator-- not to mention our president-- was saying about the dangers of nuclear energy... and what to do about it. But they're not. It's why it's so crucial that we need real leaders like Norman Solomon, not just someone who will probably vote well in the House.

Several decades ago, three expert nuclear engineers told a congressional panel why they decided to quit: "We could no longer justify devoting our life energies to the continued development and expansion of nuclear fission power-- a system we believe to be so dangerous that it now threatens the very existence of life on this planet."

The Joint Committee on Atomic Energy heard that testimony in 1977, when the conventional wisdom was still hailing "the peaceful atom" as a flawless marvel. During the same year, solid information convinced me to move from concern to action against nuclear power.

By the time the 1979 accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant came close to rendering much of central Pennsylvania uninhabitable, I was nearly two years into full-time anti-nuclear work that included public education, civic activism and nonviolent direct action. Given what was at stake, I didn't mind spending a month in jail for civil disobedience.

More than 30 years later, the ongoing disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant underscores the grim realities of nuclear power, ranging from catastrophic reactor accidents to highly radioactive waste that will remain deadly for many thousands of years.
[...]
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Energy Department have been avidly promoting nuclear power for decades. Periodic calls for more "studies" have kicked the radioactive can down the road.

I reject the notion that we should wait for such nuclear-enthralled agencies to tell us whether nuclear power is an acceptable risk for Californians.

As the director of the National Citizens Hearings for Radiation Victims in 1980, I learned a lot about patterns of official enabling of the nuclear industry-- with awful results for human health and the environment.

Similar patterns persist in this country.

In contrast, the government of Germany has seen the light. At the end of last month, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a reversal of policy-- moving to shut down nuclear power instead of trying to expand it.

The decision to immediately close eight German nuclear power plants and shut the rest by 2022 came in a country that had been getting 23 percent of its electricity from nukes.

Here in California, we're less reliant on this Faustian technology, getting just 15 percent of our electricity from nuclear power. The state has a lot of excess generating capacity from other sources, but far better choices for the environment are within our grasp.

Don't you think that's a point of view that deserves to have representation in the congress? Is it too much to ask that we have at least a few liberal voices willing to speak out on issues like nuclear power and endless wars in the US Congress? We don't think so.

Please consider helping Norman bring this kind of thinking to Washington by contribution to his campaign through ActBlue.

Norman summed his platform up in one powerful sentence today saying is he's elected to Congress, he "will insist that we need to bring our troops and tax dollars home-- that we need healthcare not warfare-- that we must resist corporate power-- that caving in to Wall Street and polluters and enemies of civil liberties is unacceptable."

Please join us over at Crooks and Liars at 11AM to welcome Norman Solomon back to Blue America.

.

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Woolsey Makes Retirement Official

With the budget news and the San Francisco redistricting hearing, I never got to the retirement of a progressive champion in Congress:

Rep. Lynn Woolsey confirmed Monday what many had suspected for some time -- that she will retire from Congress when her 10th term ends in 2012.

In a press conference in the backyard of her Petaluma home amid a crowd that included family members, local officials, news reporters and political supporters, Woolsey said, "I will turn 75 years old just before the next election and after two decades of service to this wonderful district it will be time for me to move on.

"So with enormous gratitude and not one ounce of regret," Woolsey said, ''I am announcing that I will not run for re-election in 2012. I will retire at the end of this current term." (BayArea News Group)

If there's one thing that you can say about Rep. Woolsey, it is that she never failed to follow her conscience.  She has pursued social justice throughout her tenure in the house, and her voice will be sorely missed.

One can only hope to find another strong progressive to fill that seat, whereever its boundaries may be.  Dick Spotswood had a good overview of the potential competitors last week.  Depending on turnout, we may just see a Dem-on-Dem general election in November.


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What’s So Interesting About AMO Physics? [Uncertain Principles]

That's the title of my slightly insane talk at the DAMOP (Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics of the American Physical Society) conference a couple of weeks ago, summarizing current topics of interest in Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics. I'll re-embed the slides at the end of this post, for anyone who missed my earlier discussion.

I put a ton of work into that talk, and had a huge amount of material that I didn't have time to include. I'd hate for that to go to waste, so I'm going to repurpose it for blog content over the next week or so. It'll probably be about a half-dozen posts all told, which should give you some idea of how crazy it was to try to pack all this material into a single talk.

As I note in the slides, the reason for the summary talk in the first place was that the DAMOP meeting has gotten much larger over the last ten or fifteen years. I happened to have a copy of the 2001 program among the junk in my office, and this year's meeting was almost twice as big as ten years ago: the number of talks increased from 270 to 477, and the number of posters from 293 to 548. It's still a long way from the March Meeting, but it's getting difficult to keep track of all the different things going on.

To impose a little structure on the vast amount of material I was trying to summarize, I identified five broad areas of current research interest, and highlighted one invited-talk session from each area. The selection of areas and topics to highlight was a little idiosyncratic-- this was definitely my opinion of what's most interesting in AMO physics, and a different speaker might've broken things down differently. The categories I used are:

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


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It's grant crunch time, as the submission deadline for revised R01s is July 5. However, in a classic example of how electronic filing has actually made things more difficult, the grant has to be done [...]">

The revenge of “microfascism”: PoMo strikes medicine again [Respectful Insolence]

Classic Insolence logoIt's grant crunch time, as the submission deadline for revised R01s is July 5. However, in a classic example of how electronic filing has actually made things more difficult, the grant has to be done and at the university grant office a week before the deadline if it is to be uploaded in time. So, my beloved Orac-philes, I'm afraid it's reruns again today, but, benevolent blogger that I am, I'll again post two about the same topic. Since I recently reran a really old post that started it all, I thought I'd follow up with the two additional posts about the same topic. This is the third one and is from 2008, which means that if you haven't been reading at least three years it's probably new to you!

I hate postmodernism.

Well, not exactly postmodernism per se, but I hate it when pseudoscientists and purveyors of dubious "alternative" medicine treatments invoke bizarre postmodernist-sounding arguments to attack science or, in the case of medicine, science- and evidence-based medicine. Usually these attacks involve a claim that science is nothing more than one other "narrative" among many others, a "narrative" that isn't necessarily any more valid than any other. Even worse, these sorts of arguments often claim that science (or, in this case, evidence-based medicine) is nothing more than a sort of hegemony of the power structure being imposed upon the very definition of "data" or "reality," the implication that it's us white males whose hegemony rules (and, presumably, must be resisted) doing the imposing, as if there are no inherent characteristics in science that make it a more valid means of assessing reality as it exists than, for example, personal anecdote and "experience."

A couple of years ago, I came across the epitome of silly postmodernist rants (a.k.a. "PoMo") that, possibly until now, has exceeded anything I had ever seen applied to medicine before. Basically, it was an all-out assault on the paradigm known as evidence-based medicine (EBM), a paradigm that ranks types of evidence by their rigor, ranking as the highest form of evidence the well-designed, randomized, double-blinded clinical trial. In this all-out assault, the authors of the article in essence played the argumentum ad Nazium gambit and labeled EBM "microfascism" in a hilariously over-the-top screed entitled Deconstructing the evidence-based discourse in health sciences: Truth, power, and fascism. Later that year, after a barrage of withering criticism, the authors of the study, David Holmes, Stuart J. Murray, Amélie Perron, and Geneviève Rail launched an even more hiliarious response. I strongly encourage you to take a trip back to two years ago and read about it before proceeding. Why?

Because three of the original Four Horsemen of the PoMo-calypse ride once again, spreading verbiage, confusion, and, above all, headaches to anyone who tries to penetrate the denseness of their blather, and they're even more unhappy than ever about EBM. One of the bloggers at Holford Watch let me know about it, and I'm not sure if I should thank him or or curse him for it. We'll see. In the meantime, the abstract alone is some of the most concentrated PoMo gibberish I've ever seen:

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


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And the award for best actor in the role sniveling baby goes to ... Wall Street!

And the award for best actor in the role of sniveling baby goes to ... Wall Street!

by digby

Well, yes.

The conventional wisdom, of course, is that Wall Street has turned its back on Mr. Obama out of frustration with his so-called antibusiness rhetoric and “fat cat” comments about bankers.

But Wall Street’s absence may be more about optics — the way things appear— than reality. Behind the scenes, it seems that many bankers are not running away from the president as quickly as some might suspect.

While many of the biggest name financiers feel that they can’t publicly support Mr. Obama through campaign contributions the way they did in 2008 — “it would be bad for business,” one brand-name chief executive of a major bank acknowledged — some still plan to vote for him. And some begrudgingly acknowledged that they don’t yet see a viable alternative to Mr. Obama among the Republican field.

It also turns out that Wall Street is not the only one concerned about optics. The president’s re-election campaign has not been actively courting Wall Street’s biggest C.E.O.’s to appear at such fund-raisers out of fear that their support could offend his most liberal backers, two people involved in planning his fund-raiser at Daniel said.

“A picture of Lloyd and Obama together probably isn’t helpful,” one of these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting his role in the campaign. (It is unknown whom Mr. Blankfein plans to vote for.)

Yeah, it probably isn't...

Of course most of this Wall Street whining was playing the refs. And it worked beautifully to keep any policy options narrow and geared toward everyone's personal interest. Since campaigns are now costing in the billions, any candidate is going to have to give them a certain deference. After all, they have most of the money. (Recall that Wall Street was Obama's single biggest contributor in 2008.)

I think what still astonishes me, however, is the degree to which these Masters of the Universe were willing to play the role of sniveling little babies, insisting that they deserved to looooved not hated. It was mostly for show, but it just proves once once again that there is no depth to which they will not sink in order to grab a buck. They have no pride and no dignity.

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Why are You Fracking Around With My Water?

We interrupt your regularly scheduled budget crisis to bring you this message about your water.  Perhaps it is just me, but I like my water to be free of all sorts of undisclosed chemicals. But the oil and gas companies? Well, they drink Evian of course, so what does it matter?!  Toss some random hydrocarbons in there, it is ALL good.

Fortunately, Asm. Bob Wieckowski has introduced, and passed out of the Assembly, AB 591 to force the energy companies to disclose their chemicals.  You see Dick Cheney, never know for his love of transparency, thought it a great idea to keep a bunch of chemicals that will enter our water table secret.  Our friends over at Credo and the CA League of Conservation Voters are working to make sure that bill passes the Senate. They have [a petition
that you should probably sign on to http://act.credoaction.com/cam... letting your Senator know about your support for the measure.  

California's water is threatened by toxic, carcinogenic chemicals -- and we don't even know what they are.

High Pressure Hydraulic Fracturing (or fracking) is a dangerous method of drilling for oil and gas that is responsible for contaminating water across the country. The practice is spreading at an alarming rate, and California's huge Monterey Shale formation is one of the top prizes for frackers.

Astonishingly, thanks to the work of Dick Cheney and his secretive, industry-friendly 2005 energy policy, fracking has been exempted from EPA regulation, and as such, companies can largely conceal the long list of chemicals they pump deep underground, through our water table.

A vital new state law would change that, and set the strongest standards in the nation for fracking chemical disclosure.1 The bill, AB 591, has passed the Assembly, and is now in the State Senate, where the oil and gas industry's numerous allies are working to stop it. We can't let them. Please urge your senator to pass AB 591.

After you have signed the petition, consider going one step further by contacting your Senator's office and letting them know that you think disclosure is important.  Now, we only need a simple majority, but Democrats occasionally need a bit of spine stiffening when the lobbyists descend.  And on this they will surely descend.


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