“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Christmas Tragedy to Our Shared Humanity

We can change the world when those who are sick of things Unite

92 feared dead as Russian plane with military band crashes en route to Syria

A rescue operation on the Black Sea coast at the crash site of Russian Defense Ministry's TU-154 aircraft © Nina Zotina
Rescue helicopters have discovered debris in the Black Sea from a Russian military transport plane which went off radar en route to Syria. Most of the passengers on the Tu-154 were members of the famous Alexandrov Ensemble army choir.

According to preliminary reports, the Tupolev transport plane had 92 people on board, including 84 passengers and eight crew members. It went missing over the Black Sea at 2:40 GMT shortly after refueling at an airport near Sochi.

Most of the passengers on board were members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the official choir of the Russian Armed Forces, the Russian Defense Ministry said. They were travelling from Moscow to the Russian military base Khmeimim near Latakia, Syria to take part in a Christmas celebration with troops deployed there. The head of the choir, conductor and composer Valery Khalilov, is among the 65 members of the ensemble presumed dead in the accident.

Crews from Channel One Russia, NTV, and Zvezda (the official media outlet of the Russian Defense Ministry), each with three members, were on board as well, the outlets confirmed.

The passenger list released by the defense ministry also includes Elizaveta Glinka, a prominent charity activist and humanitarian worker. She is best known by her blogger nickname “Doctor Liza.” Some reports initially said she may have deplaned in Sochi, but the Presidential Council for Human Rights confirmed that she was on board.

Glinka was best known for aiding children with serious conditions like cancer, homeless people, and other vulnerable individuals. In the past few years, she organized humanitarian missions to conflict zones, including eastern Ukraine and Syria. For her efforts, she was awarded the Order of Friendship in 2012, the fifth highest state award in Russia.

Search operation near the coast of the Black Sea where a Russian Defense Ministry Tu-154 plane crashed shortly after take-off © Nina Zotina
Helicopters dispatched from Sochi to search for the aircraft have discovered the crash site, the ministry reported.

“Hull fragments of the Tu-154 plane operated by the Defense Ministry have been found about 1.5 km off the Black Sea coast of Sochi at a depth of 50-70 meters,” the ministry said in a statement.

Around 3,000 people are involved in a search and rescue operation in the 10.5 square kilometer area, the defense ministry announced. The 24/7 operation is being conducted by 27 vessels with 37 divers on board, unmanned flying vehicles, and four helicopters, officials added.

So far, no survivors have been found in the sea, local rescue services told Interfax.

TASS reports that weather conditions in the regions were “favorable” to aviation. No civilian flights have been cancelled yet.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his condolences to the relatives of those onboard the ill-fated plane. 

“I want to express my most sincere condolences to the families of our citizens who died in the plane crash in the Black Sea this morning. The government will do everything to provide support. Tomorrow will be a national day of mourning in Russia,” Putin told journalists in St. Petersburg.
Similar reaction poured in from the international community as well. “I express our sorrow to Russia – an important partner of Italy,” Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said as quoted by RIA.

His words were echoed by other high-ranking international officials, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “In her [Merkel] thoughts, she is with the relatives of the deceased,” vice-government spokesperson Ulrike Demmer announced.

Meanwhile people on social media are also expressing their grief over the tragedy.
“A terrible catastrophe. Condolences to the family and friends of the victims,” one tweet said.

“I express my condolences to the families of those killed in a plane crash! Eternal memory [to them]...!” another person wrote.

The Tupolev Tu-154 is a three-engine medium-range transport plane designed in the 1960s. It is capable of carrying up to 180 passengers, depending on the version. There are about 50 aircraft of this type remaining in operation throughout the world, with the Russian Air Force having the biggest fleet.
The plane that crashed near Sochi was a Tu-154B-2 with registration number RA-85572. The passenger capacity was boosted to 180. The aircraft has been in service since 1983, according to the online registry The defense ministry said the plane spent 6,689 hours in flight.
Over the decades, there have been around four dozen fatal incidents involving the aircraft, most of which were due to pilot error or improper maintenance. One of the most widely publicized crashes happened in 2010 near Smolensk, Russia, when a Tu-154M of the Polish Air Force carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his entourage crashed in foggy weather, killing all 96 people on board.


  1. If the Russian military weren't in Syria propping up a tyrant, whose own people account for about 15% of the population, that is slaughtering his 'countrymen' in every imaginable way, the musicians wouldn't have had to fly there to entertain the troops.

    Some might see it as God's judgement on the whole damned Russian enterprise.

    Others might suggest a newer plane than the old deathtrap Tu-154.

    1. Here's a guy that's actually done something -

      Dec 24, 11:43 AM EST


      AP Photo
      AP Photo/Frank Eltman

      LEVITTOWN, N.Y. (AP) -- To untold numbers of children, he's simply Uncle Tim.

      Nearly 3,300 babies across the country who otherwise might have been abandoned and perhaps died have found homes in the past 17 years, thanks in part to the efforts of Tim Jaccard, a retired New York police ambulance medic who grew weary of responding to calls of dead infants abandoned in trash cans and alleys....

  2. "Over the decades, there have been around four dozen fatal incidents involving the aircraft"


    The same number of flight hours with today's record of safety in US aviation would result in a grand total of ZERO fatalities.

  3. Maybe Quirk is snowed in.

    Couple of weeks ago he was raking leaves.

  4. If it weren't for the fucked up distracto web, I was gonna show you a video of volunteers shoveling out Lambeau Field.

    Found it, they got paid ten bucks/hour

  5. Feliz Navidad

    Dec 25, 6:08 PM EST


    MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Western Mexico's plague of violence continued on Christmas Day with the discovery of six decapitated heads in one state and the slaying of seven people in another.

    The Michoacan state prosecutor's office said the six heads were found in Jiquilpan, a municipality near the state of Jalisco in a region that has been a battleground between competing drug gangs in recent years. In a brief statement, it said the six men had not yet been identified and their bodies had not been found.

    Meanwhile state security officials in the neighboring state of Guerrero said gunmen entered a house and shot to death seven people in the municipality of Atoyac de Alvarez. Five were members of one family and two were a married couple.

    State security spokesman Roberto Alvarez Heredia said in a statement that two of the seven killed were municipal police officers and one a state police officer. The preliminary investigation suggested the gunmen wanted to kill one of the victims in a revenge attack but ended up killing them all.

    Guerrero, where Acapulco is located, is one of the states most plagued by drug gang violence.

    1. Mormons, Mexicans, Indians, they're all animals.

    2. Foreigners are different.

      Different is bad.

      Foreigners are bad.

  6. 100 Million Albums and I don't think I've heard a single song.

    What a loss.

  7. Does Anyone Besides Jeff Sessions Defend Today’s Civil-Forfeiture Practices?

    Sentence first, then the verdict. No ‘judicial process.’ And good luck if you want your house back.

    By George Will — December 24, 2016

    “The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world. . . . The worst thing in the world varies from individual to individual.”
    — George Orwell, 1984

    Philadelphia — For Christos and Markela Sourovelis, for whom the worst thing was losing their home, “Room 101” was Courtroom 478 in City Hall. This “courtroom”’s name is Orwellian: There was neither judge nor jury in it. There the city government enriched itself — more than $64 million in a recent eleven-year span — by disregarding due-process requirements in order to seize and sell the property of people who have not been accused, never mind convicted, of a crime.

    The Sourovelises’ son, who lived at home, was arrested for selling a small amount of drugs away from home. Soon there was a knock on their door by police who said, “We’re here to take your house” and “You’re going to be living on the street” and “We do this every day.” The Sourovelises’ doors were locked with screws and their utilities were cut off. They had paid off the mortgage on their $350,000 home, making it a tempting target for policing for profit.

    Nationwide, proceeds from sales of seized property (homes, cars, etc.) go to the seizers. And under a federal program, state and local law enforcement can partner with federal authorities in forfeiture and reap up to 80 percent of the proceeds. This is called — more Orwellian newspeak — “equitable sharing.”

    No crime had been committed in the Sourovelises’ house, but the title of the case against them was “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. 12011 Ferndale Street.” Somehow, a crime had been committed by the house. In civil forfeiture, it suffices that property is suspected of having been involved in a crime. Once seized, the property’s owners bear the burden of proving their property’s innocence. “Sentence first — verdict afterwards,” says the queen in Alice in Wonderland.

    In Courtroom 478, the prosecutors usually assured people seeking to reclaim their property that they would not need lawyers. The prosecutors practiced semi-extortion, suggesting how people could regain limited control of their property: They could sell it and give half the proceeds to the city. The “hearings” in Courtroom 478 were often protracted over months, and missing even one hearing could result in instant forfeiture.

    1. The Sourovelises were allowed to return to their house only after waiving their rights to statutory or constitutional defenses in a future forfeiture action. Such action was forestalled when their case came to the attention of the Institute for Justice, public-interest litigators who never received the “You can’t fight city hall” memo. It disentangled the Sourovelises from the forfeiture machine, shut down Courtroom 478, and now is seeking a court ruling to tether this machine to constitutional standards.

      There might somewhere be a second prominent American who endorses today’s civil-forfeiture practices, but one such person is “very unhappy” with criticisms of it. At a 2015 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on forfeiture abuses, one senator said “taking and seizing and forfeiting, through a government judicial process, illegal gains from criminal enterprises is not wrong,” and neither is law enforcement enriching itself from this. In the manner of the man for whom he soon will work, this senator asserted an unverifiable number: “Ninety-five percent” of forfeitures involve people who have “done nothing in their lives but sell dope.” This senator said it should not be more difficult for “government to take money from a drug dealer than it is for a businessperson to defend themselves in a lawsuit.” In seizing property suspected of involvement in a crime, government “should not have a burden of proof higher than in a normal civil case.”

      IJ’s Robert Everett Johnson notes that this senator missed a few salient points: In civil forfeiture there usually is no proper “judicial process.” There is no way of knowing how many forfeitures involve criminals because the government takes property without even charging anyone with a crime. The government’s vast prosecutorial resources are one reason it properly bears the burden of proving criminal culpability “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A sued businessperson does not have assets taken until he or she has lost in a trial, whereas civil forfeiture takes property without a trial and the property owner must wage a protracted, complex, and expensive fight to get it returned. The Senate Judiciary Committee might want to discuss all this when considering the nominee to be the next attorney general, Alabama senator Jeff Sessions.

      — George Will is a Pulitzer Prize–winning syndicated columnist. © 2016 The Washington Post

    2. That house saw something; It should have said something.

  8. “good people don't smoke marijuana.”

  9. Will Obama give Blago a present?

  10. Replies
    1. Who is George Michael?


      DougSun Dec 25, 08:19:00 PM EST

    2. NEW YORK (AP) - Reactions to the death of superstar George Michael, who died Sunday at his home at age 53: --- "I have lost a beloved friend - the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans." - Elton John, on Instagram. --- "Heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend Yog. Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved. A xx" - Michael's Wham! groupmate Andrew Ridgeley on Twitter. Yog stands for "Yours Only George". --- "Absolutely devastated to hear of the loss of @GeorgeMichael Truly brilliant talent #sad #sad #sad" - Martin Fry of band ABC.
      Now I know.

      I just thought he was a raging fuck.

      Goes to show.


      Maybe I had him confused with this guy:

      "Confronting Right-Wing Extremism and Terrorism in the USA (2003), The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right (2006), Willis Carto and the American Far Right (2008), and Theology of Hate: A History of the World Church of the Creator (2009)."


  11. AP Top News at 8:40 p.m. EST

    SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Backed by ships, helicopters and drones, Russian rescue teams searched Sunday for victims after a Russian plane carrying 92 people to Syria crashed into the Black Sea shortly after takeoff. Investigators said they were looking into every possible cause for the crash, including a terror attack. All 84 passengers and eight crew members on the Russian military's Tu-154 plane are believed to have died when it crashed two minutes after taking off at 5:25 a.m. in good weather from the southern Russian city of Sochi. The passengers included dozens of singers in Russia's world-famous military choir.


    MOSCOW (AP) - The Russian military choir that lost most of its singers in a plane crash Sunday is often described as the Kremlin's "singing weapon." The Alexandrov Ensemble, sometimes referred to as the Red Army choir, was founded in the 1920s. It won global fame with its patriotic repertoire during Soviet times, but in recent years has sought to cater to modern audiences. Many of its performances have gone viral, including a rousing rendition of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" by singers in full military dress at the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Sixty-four members of the ensemble, including director Valery Khalilov, were heading from Sochi to Russia's air base in Syria to perform a New Year's concert for troops when their plane crashed into the Black Sea on Sunday.

  12. Heh heh

    Tucker Carlson meets his match and gets called out as being 'a sexist pig' -


    Must watch right to the very end.



      (Other than the fact that this "culture" is OVER.)

    2. You're becoming deaf from blowing conch shells.

    3. And you blow in a lava tube !

      The miracle is you can still hear anything at all.

    4. Thigh high boots and creased pants, that's the ticket!

    5. Wish I could get blown in my lava tube, and not by Lady Magma.

    6. Key West kicks Hawaii's ass.

  13. Donald J. Trump ‏@realDonaldTrump

    Merry Christmas and a very, very, very , very Happy New Year to everyone!

    1. HRC@realHillaryClinton

      Die this coming year, all you bastard irredeemable deplorables, you were not worthy of ME !

    2. We can give her credit for not changing one iota since the time she left the Young Republicans.

      Again, dad was quite a guy 'til he wasn't in her eyes, being a guy and all.

      Like Biden's dad was a poor working stiff despite the fact that he owned the most successful car dealership in the state.

      A money printing outfit, at the time.

    3. So much Bullshit when you search google about his self-described poverty.

      The truth:

      "According to Biden, the meeting with Leno marks only the third time the Secret Service has allowed him to drive his personal Stingray since taking up residence at the US Naval Observatory. Biden is the car's original owner – his father, a Chevy dealer, gave it as a wedding gift in August 1967,"

    4. My poor dad gave me a Rolls when I turned 16.


    5. Like Biden's dad was a poor working stiff despite the fact that he owned the most successful car dealership in the state.

      First I've heard of that.

      Joe always told me he was a working stiff.

  14. Guardian: California man fights DUI charge for driving under influence of … caffeine

    Damn fool, hasn't he ever heard of decaf ?

    1. I drink a tiny scoop brewed with 5 cups of water and it sends me on these rants that have to be tempered with alcohol.

    2. Haven't you ever heard of decaf ?

    3. You've got Alzheimer's:

      You just depicted how I became deaf.

      You depicted, I'm addicted.

    4. You need a drink.

      You're ranting.

    5. Whatever happened to shame and embarrassment?

    6. Before she was a blonde, blimp-breasted mess:

    7. George Michael, last Christmas

  15. Ho Ho Homicide

    It wasn’t a merry Christmas in Chicago


    While we’ve been watching this story unfold throughout the year with growing alarm, the city with some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation is finishing up 2016 with the highest murder rate seen in decades. On Christmas Day, an unnamed 18 year old man driving through the Gage Park neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side was fatally shot multiple times in the neck and in the back. He was one of seven people murdered and 27 people shot in the Windy City just over Christmas weekend. And that, as the New York Times reports, brings the death toll to a level unseen since the big crackdown on crime in the 90s.

    At least 27 people were shot, seven fatally, in a 48-hour period in Chicago over Christmas weekend, according to the Chicago Police Department. It was the latest bloody chapter in a city besieged by gun violence…

    Officer Jose Estrada, a spokesman with the Chicago Police Department, said in a telephone interview on Sunday that the total number of homicides so far this year was 745, a 56 percent increase from 476 at the same time last year.

    This year was the first time in nearly two decades that more than 700 homicides had been recorded in the city, The Chicago Tribune reported this month.

    Officer Estrada said the total number of shooting victims so far stood at 4,252, up 47 percent from 2,884 at the same time in 2015.

    With one week left to go in 2016 Chicago has now seen nearly 270 more murders than they did last year… a 56% increase. And among those who were shot and somehow managed to survive, the numbers weren’t much less grim. The Chicago Tribune keeps a running log of the total shootings each week and right now the data is nothing to celebrate. Check out these totals.


    At this point, what is there left to say? Chicago remains under the control of Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats as it generally has for as long as most of us can remember. But the underlying reality is that the Windy City is apparently controlled by its gangs. The tough restrictions on gun sales and ownership put in place by Democrats have done nothing, zero, zilch and nada to stem the tide. The leadership has failed in its mission. Attacks on the police from within the city government have not miraculously led to less crime on the streets.

    This could still be turned around, even though it would take some time and the dedication required to put resources in the right place. It’s been done before in other cities. But as the old saying goes, the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. If the residents of the city continue electing the same old tools of the same party who continue spouting the liberal, namby-pamby policies which have been place for a generation, nothing will change and the death toll will continue to mount. Chicago needs more police with better resources and training. They need municipal government leaders who will stand with the police and on the side of law and order. That’s all going to cost money, so they’ll need to find a way to curb their pension dependent system and start channeling funds into saving their city from turning into an outpost in a Mad Max film.

    But for today, I suppose all that the rest of us can do is pray for the people of Chicago. It’s the citizens – and generally the poorest ones at that – rather than the politicians who are suffering under the weight of this crime wave.

  16. Can you remember and recite ALL the details???

    Girlfriend hoax

    Te'o told many media outlets that both his grandmother and his girlfriend had died on September 11, 2012.[61] Te'o said that his girlfriend, Stanford University student Lennay Kekua, had died after a car accident and subsequently battling leukemia.[62] Te'o did not miss any football games for Notre Dame, saying that he had promised Kekua that he would play even if something had happened to her.[63] Many sports media outlets reported on these tragedies during Te'o's strong 2012 season and emergence as a Heisman Trophy candidate.[64]

    After receiving an anonymous email tip in January 2013, reporters Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey of the sports blog Deadspin conducted an investigation into Kekua's identity. On January 16, they published an article alleging that Kekua did not exist and pointed to a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo as involved in the hoax of a relationship with Te'o.[64][65] Tuiasosopo has been described as a family friend or acquaintance of Te'o.[64][66] Pictures of Kekua that had been published in the media were actually of Diane O'Meara, a former high school classmate of Tuiasosopo.[67]

    On the same day the Deadspin article was published, Notre Dame issued a statement that "Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia."[68][69][70] In a press conference, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick confirmed the university had hired private investigators to uncover the source of the hoax, and he clarified that Te'o's relationship with Kekua was "exclusively an online relationship".[71] This conflicted with previous accounts from Te'o and his family that the couple had first met after a football game and that she visited him in Hawaii.[72][73][74] Swarbrick said that Te'o informed Notre Dame of the hoax on December 26 after receiving a phone call on December 6 from the woman he knew as Kekua, claiming she was still alive. Te'o mentioned Kekua's death in at least four separate interviews in the days following the phone call.[74][75][76][77]

    In response to the growing suspicions that he was involved in the hoax, Te'o agreed to a January 18 interview with sports journalist Jeremy Schaap in which he maintained his innocence. Te'o explained that he had lied to his father and others about meeting her in person because he thought he would be seen as "crazy" for having a serious relationship with a woman he had never met.[78] Te'o said he was angered and confused by the December 6 phone call and had continued to speak of Kekua because the situation was unclear to him.[78] He explained that Tuiasosopo represented himself as the cousin of Lennay Kekua and that the two men had communicated online over the last several years and met once in person at the 2012 Notre Dame/USC game. Te'o said that Tuiasosopo confessed to him on January 16 that he was behind the hoax.[78]

    In a January 24 interview on Katie with Katie Couric, Te'o played three voicemails left by Kekua and said the voice "sounds like a girl", an assessment with which many agreed.[79][80][81] In an appearance on Dr. Phil on January 31 and February 1, Tuiasosopo confessed to the hoax; he admitted to falling in love with Te'o and using the Kekua identity as an escape. He also recreated the female voice behind a privacy screen.[82] Relatives of Tuiasosopo, however, told the New York Post that Kekua's voice belonged to Tuiasosopo's female cousin.[83] Despite the revelation that Kekua did not exist, former NFL player Reagan Maui'a said that he twice met someone claiming to be Kekua, and that they had been introduced by Tuiasosopo, whom he believed to be Kekua's cousin.[84]

    1. I went fishing with a 2nd cousin of Lennay Kekua once.

      We caught some big ones, but there was one that got away you wouldn't have believed....

    2. Or maybe it was a half cousin of a second cousin of Lennay Kekua, can't recall.

    3. I'm battling leukemia after sitting my ass down hard on a Scotch Tape dispenser.

  17. Obama says he could have won 3rd term. Jan 20 can't come quick enough. What an asshole.