Tuesday, July 7, 2015

— Brief Blog Break —

My AT&T connection is off, not because the DSL is down, but because they needed me to shut it down while they work on the landline phone, which is indeed down. I am posting this from Stella's completely separate connection. With luck I should be back later today... with Stella's truly charming newest pics of the kitties. Sorry for the involuntary interruption.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Daily Civil Liberties News From DDF/BORDC

Are you following InTheNews from the Defending Dissent Foundation — Bill of Rights Defense Committee? No? You could be a better informed patriot, Fourth of July or any other day, if you did!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Third Of July — Exactly 10 Years Later
I wrote this post on July 3, 2005, read it yesterday and decided that enough of it was worthwhile to merit reproducing it today, with a few amendments.

I drove to the Fiesta Mart in a foul mood, plotting my angry, depressive, generally unpalatable post for the Fourth of July. But in the Fiesta parking lot I came face to face with this...

.. and, as almost always happens, I came away with a completely unreasonable hope that our nation will survive these awful times and one day thrive again. This flag is the size of a football field, representing exactly the kind of commercial gigantism that drives me nuts, and simultaneously the kind of unbridled optimism suited to a car dealership, uh, I mean, to the American people.

We are facing unprecedented threats to America's ideals, threats from within as surely as from outside. But so did John Kennedy and the Cold War generation. So did FDR and my parents' generation. So did Abraham Lincoln, who found a way to save a nation and a people at least as deeply divided as we are today. We must save America from a renunciation of its own ideals; we must... therefore we will. If failure in Iraq is inevitable, failure in the restoration of America's dedication to its most deeply held values is not an option. We must do this. We can do this. We will do this.

Join me now in singing... no, not the national anthem; we've had our fill of rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air and lots of other places... but rather Paul Simon's American Tune. Simon published this in 1973; we all remember what was happening in '73 (don't we?), and the analogy is sometimes hard to take. But bear with me; this is, in its unique way, an American tune, with the text of which just about all of us can identify. If you don't know the tune, think of the hymn "O Sacred Head Now Wounded"; the first two phrases are identical. If you still don't know it, just fake it... that's the American way: sing along with this MIDI, or go find a recording of the Central Park concert view this YouTube video:

American Tune

Many's the time I've been mistaken,
And many times confused.
Yes, and [I've] often felt forsaken
And certainly misused.
But I'm all right, I'm all right;
I'm just weary to my bones.
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home.

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered;
I don't have a friend who feels at ease.
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered,
Or driven to its knees.
But it's all right, it's all right;
We've lived so well so long.
Still, when I think of the road
We're traveling on,
I wonder what went wrong;
I can't help it, I wonder what went wrong.

And I dreamed I was dying;
And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly,
And looking back down at me,
Smiled reassuringly.
And I dreamed I was flying;
And high above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty,
Sailing away to sea;
And I dreamed I was flying.

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower;
We come on the ship that sailed the moon;
We come in the ages most uncertain hour,
And sing an American tune.
But it's all right, it's all right;
You can't be forever blessed.
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day,
And I'm trying to get some rest,
That's all, I'm trying to get some rest.

— Paul Simon, 1973

To all Americans "so far away from home," geographically or spiritually, my heartfelt prayers for your safe return to America... and for America's safe return to its senses.

I probably won't be posting on the Fourth. Some of us are getting together to watch fireworks in the evening, if for no other reason than to try the fireworks settings on our various new digital cameras. May those be the only explosions any of us experience this year. Before the fireworks, we'll probably indulge in the traditional BBQ wheat gluten, veggie hot dogs on whole wheat buns, etc., with "freedom" fries, of course. (Hey, you have your traditions; we have ours... that, too, is what America is about.) Have a safe and happy Independence Day. Remember our founders; remember their success against improbable odds, and keep fighting the good fight as you see it.

Thus ends the post from 10 years ago. A lot has changed; a lot more hasn't. I'm still with Stella, both of us gimping around wielding canes on our good days. America still can't keep its oar out of the troubled waters of war, even with an African American president who is at least in theory a Democrat. Climate change is fully underway, to a degree that, 10 years ago, we could only imagine as happening in the far distant future. America's constitutional separation of powers is almost wholly a myth now; indeed, democracy (such as it was) has mutated into a perverse sort of oligarchy. Cops, improbably, are people of whom citizens are afraid, especially citizens of color. Drones are devastating weapons of war... and of (supposed) law enforcement.

If you see major matters being changed for the good, by all means, post a comment and share them with the rest of us; some of us merely hope not to outlive our time. The aging process is certainly on my side, but some of you are literally less than half my age, and probably will live to see how this oligarchic fanaticism plays out.

But hey, people survived the Civil War; you might survive this, too... and if that looks unlikely, at least try to take some pleasure in the beer, hot dogs and barbeque on the Fourth. And be sure, LGBTQ or straight, to take part in the American pastime... yeah, sex; surely you didn't think I meant baseball?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thinking Of Esther — CATTEREL!

Someone has been mighty friendly and attentive to me lately...
Esther Kitty
Of all the creatures I have seen,
Our Esther's best... and that is that!
Eliza may be fairest queen,
But Esther is the fur-est cat!

Your Maserati, Ferlinghetti,
Each is great, within his Beat,
But if you're seeking soft and pet‑ty?
Esther: no cat's half so sweet.

With Esther on your lap, your chair,
Your dining table... you'll discover
You are truly glad she's there —
The perfect pet: you gotta love 'er!
— Steve Bates
Alternative last clause: "you got a lover!" Pronounced the same, whichever you choose.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

SCOTUS Monday Miscellany — On Tuesday

How can a "house spouse" have so many things to do that s/he runs behind on his/her blogging? If you don't know the answer to that, you're probably not a house spouse, and you possibly don't want to know the answer...

First, a few Supreme Court goodies (or baddies), most of them at Kos:

‘OK... Women and Blacks, go to
the back of the bus, er, I mean,
the ends of the rows!’

Next, a few items of (ahem) varying seriousness:

  • Caitlin MacNeal at TPM: Texas AG: Clerks Can Refuse To Give Marriage Licenses To Gay Couples
    Perhaps this should have been listed with the SCOTUS posts above; then again, Texas seems never to have overcome its self‑image as a separate sovereign nation. Thank the good Dog it's not!

    I am happy to say that the Harris County Clerk's office, though run by a Republican, resolved the matter neatly by assigning deputy clerks who have religious objections to gay marriages to tasks other than, uh, paperwork for gay marriages. Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart has let it be known that there are only three (3) such religious recalcitrants among his clerks, so it's not a very big problem. In any case, Harris County's very large gay population are marrying each other at a steady clip, with few hitches, uh, glitches.
  • Natasha Geiling at Think Progress: High Carbon Levels Can Make It Harder For Plants To Grow
    [/Sigh!] Another frequent conservative canard debunked, as is so often the case, by the actual science involved. No, global climate change, with its associated increase in atmospheric CO2 levels, will NOT result in a surge in agricultural productivity. Don't you just love such damned fools? [/irony]

And last and probably least... 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Supreme Court May Hear Texas Abortion Clinics' Appeal Of Lower Court Ruling That Would Have Immediately Closed More Than Half Of Texas's 19 Clinics

... or This?

AP via ABC 13 Houston has the basics. I try hard not to quote AP if I can avoid doing so, so please go read it in situ. Or is it in shit‑ooh??

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Krugman: ‘America Is A Much Less Racist Nation Than It Used To Be...’


Yet racial hatred is still a potent force in our society, as we’ve just been reminded to our horror. And I’m sorry to say this, but the racial divide is still a defining feature of our political economy, the reason America is unique among advanced nations in its harsh treatment of the less fortunate and its willingness to tolerate unnecessary suffering among its citizens.

Krugman goes on to analyze and describe the nature of the undeniable racism still present in the fabric of America's society and economy. He employs the work of political scientist Larry Bartels and economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser, and Bruce Sacerdote. Krugman compares Bartels's ‘What’s the Matter with What’s the Matter with Kansas? with Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? and concludes this:
Mr. Frank argued that working-class whites were being induced to vote against their own interests by the right’s exploitation of cultural issues. But Mr. Bartels showed that the working-class turn against Democrats wasn’t a national phenomenon — it was entirely restricted to the South, where whites turned overwhelmingly Republican after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Richard Nixon’s adoption of the so-called Southern strategy. [Bolds mine. - SB]
Then, regarding Alesina, Glaeser and Sacerdote's “Why Doesn’t the United States Have a European-style Welfare State? [.pdf]”, Krugman concludes:
... Its authors — who are not, by the way, especially liberal — explored a number of hypotheses, but eventually concluded that race is central, because in America programs that help the needy are all too often seen as programs that help Those People: ...

Now, that paper was published in 2001, and you might wonder if things have changed since then. Unfortunately, the answer is that they haven’t, as you can see by looking at how states are implementing — or refusing to implement — Obamacare.

Please read the rest. Unfortunately, Krugman is as pessimistic as I am about the prospects for a genuine reconciliation between races in America; here's how he says it:
Every once in a while you hear a chorus of voices declaring that race is no longer a problem in America. That’s wishful thinking; we are still haunted by our nation’s original sin.

Gay Pride Parade: The Good G*d, S/He Laughs With, Not At, Houston's LGBTQ Community

Mayor Annise Parker (D,L-Houston)
"We have come a long way since Stonewall"
Houston's annual Gay Pride Parade was moved from the Montrose-Westheimer area to downtown this year, and needless to say, a lot of participants (including some newlyweds!) were very, very happy in their procession beneath the skyscrapers of the Bayou City.

To no one's surprise, some of the city's most conservative ministers, pastors, holy fathers, call them whatever you will, expressed their displeasure with the whole business, said the gay community, along with the Supreme Court, was "defy[ing] G*d's law," and that their own "religious freedom" was being violated (WTF???) by the ruling.

Supreme Court, 6/26/2015
So one might expect the good G*d to display some pique, perhaps even rage, at the Houston LGBTQ community, eh? Here's how S/He did that:
Houston City Hall
  • Right before the parade started, S/He placed a rainbow in the sky, visible from downtown Houston, and
  • S/He held off the rainstorms to the north of Houston from proceeding into downtown until the formal parade was over and the revelers had mostly headed to their evening parties in the Montrose. (For those who don't know, the Montrose is the heart of the LGBTQ community in Houston [and the home of a lot of other good people, including, back in my youth, my family and me].)
That's an odd way for G*d to express overpowering anger, don't you think?

Regular people, get it? ‘Gay’ may be
special, but every bit as human as ‘straight’
Look. This is much ado about very little. People who love each other often want to marry each other... including LGBTQ people. Some who marry want to have children. (I have actually had a foolish religious fanatic tell me that gay people violated G*d's law because "they couldn't have children." Bullfeathers! Most adult humans are physically perfectly capable of begetting or bearing children... including LGBTQ people.)

To this point, before five members of the US Supreme Court saw fit to bless gay marriages, this was not possible under law, even though LGBTQ people often married de facto without benefit of stupid state laws. Now they can marry, in all fifty states, and people who are uncomfortable with that may as well fucking get over it, possibly invite a lesbian couple over for dinner, and adjust to the new reality. Did you not see it was inevitable? I don't care if you see it is also right and proper; it's your loss if you don't!

Friday, June 26, 2015

A ‘Good’ SCOTUS Session - UPDATED

... so far, at any rate:
I'll post more as I find it.

(For the record: contrary to fundamentalist rantings, Stella and I, who could always legally marry if we wanted to, did not feel any shift in our relationship this morning, only gratitude that now some of our gay friends in long-term committed couple relationships can marry [Dog help them!] if they decide to.)

UPDATE a few minutes later: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (Rrrrr...) condescends to reply:
I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.
Fine. I believe it was settled by the first Chief Justice, working from the constitutionally mandated oath that every Court member swears to uphold the Constitution, that the Supreme Court has the right of judicial review, not some fuckwit governor/preacher from the Deep South. Do it, Mike; refuse to implement the ruling. I'll laugh and laugh when (after a trial, of course) they take you, whining and complaining, off to the slammer... serves you right. If you need a copy of the relevant wiki linked above, I could mail you one at the jailhouse...

UPDATE sometime after the evening news: If I heard correctly, Harris County (i.e., Houston), TX licensed and actually married about 20 LGBT couples today. How did your place of residence do?

UPDATE 6/27/2015 8:44am CT: Michael Langenmayr at Kos quotes Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's closing paragraph in the Court's opinion; I think it is worth reproducing here:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
It is so ordered.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Disabled Person's Fantasy Comes True In Brazil

The Daily Mail (!) summarizes the whole story in the headline:
NEVER park in a disabled bay in Brazil! Crowd cheer as inconsiderate driver returns to find his entire car has been covered with a blue badge symbol
... made of sticky notes. No apparent actual damage was done to the car, but the "stickering" obviously irritated the bejezus out of the returning driver who parked it there... no damage done, unlike the act of a healthy person's parking his or her car in a handicapped zone, which has actual consequences for the next unfortunate disabled driver who finds the space blocked (illegally, in most areas).
Maybe stickering could become a regular practice! Worldwide!

Hey people, we cripples need those spaces. Depending on our disabilities, we may not be able to park two blocks away and walk or wheel to our destination: the usurpation of a close parking space may compel us to abandon our errand altogether. (Yes, I've had to do that: every cripple has, most of us more than once.)

I can see a healthy driver's wanting a close parking space, but dammit, for us cripples, when you block our spaces, it's not a matter of mere inconvenience. The most ordinary of acts, the simplest of tasks is hard enough for us without your making it harder for no good reason. And don't give me that "I'll only be a minute" bullshit...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

‘The War Is Over; The Good Guys Lost’ –OR–
Senate Voted Cloture On TPP Fast-Track,
Will Vote On TPP As Soon As Wednesday

TPP - the invisible monster
The first step toward passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership was done and the bill itself will likely pass Wednesday. Worse, 13 Senate Democrats and 28 House Democrats voted with Republicans to do the deed, and a Democratic president apparently intends to sign it.

Is there no federal elected official concerned about the public's wellbeing? Hello? Anyone??

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ten A Dozen Essential Ideas For Fixing The American Economy — Robert Reich

Robert Reich has completed, not his scheduled ten, but an even dozen videos succinctly expressing the great ideas essential to making the American economy more robust for all its participants and transforming American society into one more committed to equality of treatment of all its members under the law.

The 12 Videos appear (in reverse order) in the right-hand column of Reich's blog, and each video runs about 2-3 minutes. I can't think of a better way for an adult or adolescent American to spend about a half hour than in watching these videos. (In addition to his insight, Reich has a great hand as a cartoonist, which he exercises along with voiceovers on the current topic. You'll have fun learning some excellently framed talking points!)

A Headline From ‘My’ Newspaper?

No, not mine; I've seldom even been in Indiana, and I cartainly haven't owned a newspaper there. The Batesville Herald-Tribune site shows the following hed at the moment:
Five vying for fair queen

I didn't know there was a contest: wasn't it long ago resolved that Eliza is the Fairest Queen?


This appeared on the news yesterday evening... and this morning... and probably tomorrow morning... and...

I'm glad the humans had the decency to land, even if it made them ultralate...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday Medley

  • Why Conservatives Still Won't Admit That Charleston Was A Racist Crime
    Aurin Squire at TPM lists several prominent GOPers (e.g., Jeb Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Gov. Nikki Haley, a WSJ columnist [anonymous and invisible if you don't have a subscription], etc.) who use words like "I don't know [why it happened]," "unimaginable," "we don't know the motivation," "senseless tragedy," etc., and responds to these protestations of incomprehension:
    Given the history of the South, along the rise of both active shooters and gun access, we can't call what happened Wednesday night a “senseless tragedy.” In fact, the Charleston church shooting is full of savage sense. Thanks to complicity at best, and outright racist at worst, the “inconceivable” is still feasible. The fear tactics that were once localized in the dark backwoods of our political landscape now reach every phone and laptop. ...
    We DO know the motivation, the act is NOT inconceivable, we CAN imagine, and Repub's will find there's no use in pretending we don't or can't.

  • Sixth greatest extinction event in the history of our planet is underway
    (Be sure to click through to the underlying paper and at least read the abstract, in which the authors justify this statement: "These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way.")
    Yes, it IS happening, as demonstrated under fairly strict criteria. Yes, humans ARE causing it. Will H. sapiens survive it? The abstract doesn't explicitly say, but you may live to find out!

  • Supreme Courts rejects appeal of decision overturning NC's mandatory ultrasound abortion law
    (At last, some good news, however limited: because the Supreme Court rejected an appeal of this lower court's decision, women who reside in North Carolina cannot be forced by state law to obtain an ultrasound (an unnecessary, expensive and possibly inaccessible procedure) as a precondition for obtaining an abortion.)
    Now if they can only find a clinic that has not closed and get transportation to it...

And now two that hardly require any explanation, considering the nature of many of today's police forces:
"Monday, Monday..."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Right-Wing Ideology A ‘Shape-Shifter’ — Naomi Klein

In my ongoing (and probably never-ending) effort to ingest the complete works of Naomi Klein, more or less in reverse order (I finished reading This Changes Everything last month), I have begun the formidable task of absorbing The Shock Doctrine, Klein's work on how some governments, many corporations and some leaders both corporate and governmental leverage the public's response to major disasters... acts of terror, natural disasters such as storms or earthquakes, unconventional changes of government, etc. ... to exercise, even in a democracy, a far greater degree of executive and corporate control than previously possible. Klein's term for it is "disaster capitalism," and even a couple dozen pages into the book she makes a compelling case not only for the existence of such a phenomenon but also that the US (among many other nations) is experiencing it, from no later than 2001 forward, possibly from as early as the mid-20th century.

What captured my attention at the moment was her observation about how the terminology changes to obscure what is really being done to us, and to the citizens of other nations (p. 14-15, first [hardcover] edition, 2007):

Naomi Klein
In the attempt to relate the history of the ideological crusade that has culminated in the radical privatization of war and disaster, one problem recurs: the ideology is a shape-shifter, forever changing its name and switching identities. [Milton] Friedman called himself a "liberal," but his U.S. followers, who associated liberals with high taxes and hippies, tended to identify as "conservatives," "classical economists," "free marketers," and, later, as believers in "Reaganomics" or "laissez-faire." In most of the world, their orthodoxy is known as "neoliberalism," but it is often called "free trade" or simply "globalization." Only since the mid-nineties has the intellectual movement, led by the right-wing think tanks with which Friedman had long associations — Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute — called itself "neoconservative," a worldview that has harnessed the full force of the U.S. military machine in the service of a corporate agenda.

The ideology I grew up with at least through childhood and part of adolescence was unmistakably "liberal," no bloody "neo-" prepended, a direct descendant of the political and economic philosophies of FDR, JFK and (in some matters) LBJ. No shape-shifter I! May I add a cross-lingual pun to the terms listed in the previous paragraph: "laissez‑unfaire"?

Klein's book looks likely to prove a satisfying if massive read. Take a look, at least; it should be in your public library, now that it is no longer her most recently published book. Or do an excellent activist-writer a favor and buy it; we need to encourage such people to dedicate themselves to the serious issues of our day.

A Mid-Sunday-Morning Poem For Stella

... written in a rough rendering of Stella's smooth style, with a touch of Dr. Seuss...
Whadd'ya want for brunch?
Will it pack a punch?
Will it make a crunch?
D'ya have a hunch
What ya wanna munch?

Speak soon, or it'll be
   time for lunch!
— Steve Bates

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Priori Nullification: GOPers Prepare To Disobey Possible Forthcoming Supreme Court Order Requiring States To Recognize Gay Marriages

Tierney Sneed at TPM:
Ahead of a potentially historic Supreme Court ruling, leading Republicans are vowing to defy any decision that sanctions same-sex marriage and are challenging the very legitimacy of the high court.

With a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges expected before the end of June, conservatives are confronted with what was only a few years ago a nearly unthinkable possibility: a Supreme Court decision that decisively makes same-sex marriage a constitutional right.

Fearing a huge setback to their cause, opponents of same-sex marriage, including some of the major contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, are darkly warning that they will not "honor" an adverse Supreme Court decision. Some are calling for civil disobedience. Others are moving to strip the Supreme Court of its authority to decide whether gay couples should be allowed to marry, while others have questioned whether the court has that jurisdiction in the first place. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has said that such a decision would be "fundamentally illegitimate."

I've often said Sen. Cruz is "illegitimate," though not quite so politely... [/sigh]

The party of "law and order" as recently as the Nixon presidency, today's GOP is ready, even eager, to defy laws and even constitutional rulings it doesn't like. But what did we expect?

I noticed that Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart (R) has announced that his office will NOT be ready with the necessary paperwork to issue gay marriage licenses, effectively saying that anyone who doesn't like that can just (ahem) suck on it. Willful defiance of a Supreme Court ruling: I wonder how Mr. Stanart would like the view from inside a prison cell?

On the plus side, Dallas County seems to take another attitude. This may be the only time you'll get me to admit that, in this one matter, Dallas is superior to Houston. Goddamn it.

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