Friday, November 21, 2014

Republicans Won, Now They Must Show They Can Govern? Like (BLEEP!) They Do, Says Jay Rosen

NPR’s Congressional reporter, Ailsa Chang, did it Wednesday morning. About Mitch McConnell, soon to be Senate leader, she said:
If he wants to see the Republicans retain the majority beyond 2016, he has to be able to prove that his party can be more than just the party of no. That means reasonable legislation that they can realistically expect the president to sign.

... [2 more commentators' statements of similar ilk]

These are false statements. I don’t know how they got past the editors. You can’t simply assert, like it’s some sort of natural fact, that Republicans “must show they can govern” when an alternative course is available. ...

The alternative to “show you can govern” is to keep President Obama from governing. Right? Keep him from accomplishing what he wants to get done in his final two years and then “go to the country,” as Karl Rove used to say, with a simple message: time for a change!


Rosen is absolutely right. Republicans have not done anything toward governance in the years since Obama became president, and there is no reason whatsoever to assume they will do so now or at any time while he is still president.

Obama must, as much as I regret the fact, govern by fiat, by executive order, to the full extent allowed by the Constitution, and that's quite an extent. His doing so should please rank-and-file Republicans, right? They liked it when GeeDubya did exactly that, and... what? oh, right... IOKIYAR.

Obama's declaration yesterday on immigration reform, while less than perfect, is a good start toward resuming his actual participation in government. His recent statement on net neutrality sounded as if he might have grown a pair; he even impressed Lawrence Lessig. I am willing to see Obama grab a sword and lay about him for his last two years in office; yes, it's a risk to do so, but considering who may succeed him in office, consequences are probably better than two years of doing nothing while Boner and Turtle eat his lunch every day and do Dog-knows-what to the nation on their way to a GOP presidency that may quite literally never end.

Damn, I hate being put in a position in which President Obama is our nation's last, best hope for establishment of a sane government. I think that sound was Jefferson turning in his grave...

The W.W.I Christmas Truce As Sainsbury's Ad: Moving Or Offensive?

You are probably already familiar with the Christmas Truce in W.W.I, one or more events (historians are uncertain) along the Western Front in which British and German soldiers somehow arranged a brief cease-fire to exchange Christmas greetings, gifts and songs before returning to the trenches and resuming killing each other.

It can scarcely be debated that the event itself is deeply moving; what could possibly emphasize the contrast of war and peace more vividly than a holy if brief cessation of hostilities in the Great War. But when the Sainsbury's grocery chain released a TV ad depicting the best-known Christmas Truce event... sanitized to remove all references to violence, though otherwise conscientiously authenticated with The Royal British Legion, a veterans' group... all hell broke loose among those who disapproved of using their nation's history to sell confections and trinkets. You might say it caused as much of a stir as the exposure of a woman's breast in a Super Bowl ad.

I was moved by the ad, but then again, I was moved many years ago the first time I read of the event(s). The British reaction today is almost enough to make me believe there are two kinds of people, those who cannot live with war and those who cannot live without it. I suppose that is simplistic. But what else are we to think? It seems that for some people, war is sacred, and not to be tampered with in any way. [/shudder]

Back To The ‘Darkie’ Ages: The New Undisguised Face Of Racism In America

If you believe nakedly racist behavior has been eliminated in government services, read here and wonder what happens the next time an African American calls Southeast Bullitt, Kentucky's fire department in an emergency.

If you believe major national news agencies unlikely to misrepresent the fundamental facts in a case in which a White man kills a Black man, read this story about CNN's reporting on the Ferguson, MO incident.

And if you believe (in your inexplicable credulity) that racism in America has no partisan component, read about the incoming GOP speaker of the Nevada Assembly, who believes Democrats have, in his words, a "master-slave relationship" with "simple‑minded darkies."

Got the picture? Racism, especially in the Deep South but distressingly often in the rest of the country as well, may have abated for a while, but it's back, quite literally with a vengeance. I grieve for my country as I contemplate what might have been, in place of this gratuitous cruelty.

ADDENDUM: Oh, and I didn't even mention NYPD beating the crap out of Black people...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Robert Reich: The Wealthiest 0.01% Have Bought Out America's Democracy

... lock, stock and barrel, including the Democratic Party as surely as the Republican. Read the details he offers... and weep.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I remember the first time — I believe it was near the 2012 elections, though it may have been earlier — that I realized that total contributions to the Democratic Party and its candidates slightly surpassed those to the Republican Party and its candidates. I knew none of the details which Reich examines in his article, but I knew that the Democratic Party was finished as the party of the working people. I can't say I've had a lot of hope for America since then, at least not as a descendant of the country our founders created. Today, we do what we can — for the sake of women's rights, that usually includes voting straight Democratic, or nearly so — but the country no longer really belongs to its people. Damned shame, if you ask me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Voiceprints: Significant Threat To Privacy, Already Fully Implemented

... but we don't know all the agencies, police departments and private corp's that use them at this point. Peter Van Buren at FDL's The Dissenter has a sketch.

Economic ‘Recovery’? Who Recovers And Who Does Not

Via Robert Reich, here's information from The Levy Institute of Bard College (.pdf):
For the vast majority of people in the United States, economic growth has become little more than a statistical sideshow, largely disconnected from their paychecks. This is starkly illustrated in the figure below, which shows how income growth has become more inequitably distributed with virtually every subsequent economic expansion during the postwar period.

In the 1949–53 expansion, the overwhelming majority of the income growth went to the overwhelming majority of the people—the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution. After that, the bottom 90 percent’s share of income gains gradually shrunk, decade by decade. This trend accelerated in the 1980s, to the point that the richest 10 percent began receiving the majority of the income growth. And from 2009 through 2012, while the economy was recovering from one of the biggest economic downturns in recent memory, 116 percent of the income growth went to the top 10 percent (with the top 1 percent alone taking home 95 percent of the income gains); this absurd result is possible because the bottom 90 percent actually saw their incomes fall, on average, during this growth period.

(See linked article for the figure referred to above.)

This trend and its consequences in people's lives are utterly unjust. Worse, action by a government in facilitating such outright robbery of the poor and the middle class by the very rich is the stuff of which revolutions are made... read America's Declaration of Independence, and note how many of the reasons given for revolt are economic in character. The 1% has basically one choice in its own self-interest: revise the rules to reinstitute a prosperous middle class and substantially reduce poverty. Not that those people listen to me...

DC Circuit: ACA Contraceptive Mandate Does Not Impose Burden On Religious Groups

Via Richard Lyon at Kos, we get the word from CBS-DC:
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a challenge to Obamacare that would have enabled non-profit religious organizations to avoid government-approved contraception programs.

In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the challenged regulations do not impose a substantial burden on religious groups.

Now it only remains for the Supremes to reverse... [/sigh]

GOP Threats Of Impeachment And Allegations Of The Criminalization Of Politics

Jon Perr at Kos gives us a thorough if rambling examination of two of Republicans' favorite whines in his article Criminalizing liberalism. (I'm still looking, mostly in vain, for the liberalism in today's Democratic Party.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

‘Politicians In Robes’

Adam Liptak at NYT examines several studies on the degree to which Supreme Court justices and other federal judges decide cases in ways representative of the politics (specifically, the party) of the president who appointed them. The short answer: the federal judiciary is thoroughly politicized, especially recently in the tendency of Republican-appointed justices to support the (extreme) conservative side in politically charged decisions.

(The title of the post is a fragment of a quotation from the conclusion of Epstein, Landes and Posner's book, The Behavior of Federal Judges, as quoted by Liptak: “... federal judges are not just politicians in robes, though that is part of what they are.”)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Stella And I Are Home

... thank goodness. It was a good hospital with a good staff, as such things go, but even the best of such matters is necessarily unpleasant, and while we are nowhere near the end of the problem, at least we are at the end of Stella's hospital stay. She has considerable pain and is not as mobile as she had expected to be at this point.

I'll tell you more later. Right now, I have to run to the pharmacy...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stella OK; more later.

This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T
Good news: I just spoke with Stella's surgeon; the operation went just fine. She's recovering for the next hour before

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Stella's Surgery Is Today...

Dawn's crack, at which we get up 
... so both of us must get up at dawn's crack, as someone I knew who was not named "Dawn" used to say. Notwithstanding the early surgery, Stella will not go home until Wednesday. I'll post a very brief message when I know the results. I don't know when that will be; I think the surgery is a few hours long.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cell Phone Owners Should Prefer Passcode To Fingerprint Protection

In America, you can't legally be forced to testify against yourself, or forced to reveal a cell phone passcode. But according to a judge in Virginia, a cop can commandeer your finger to accomplish the same thing. Here's Megan Geuss at Ars Technica:
A Virginia Circuit Court judge ruled on Thursday that a person does not need to provide a passcode to unlock their phone for the police. The court also ruled that demanding a suspect to provide a fingerprint to unlock a phone would be constitutional.

More than just the phone can be bent
The ruling calls into question the privacy of some iPhone 5S, 6, and 6 Plus users who have models equipped with TouchID, the fingerprint sensor that allows the user—and ideally only the user—to unlock the phone. It is possible for users to turn TouchID unlocking off and simply use a passcode, and Apple has provided certain extra protections to prevent TouchID privacy issues—requiring the entry of a passcode if the phone hasn't been used in 48 hours, for example. But if a suspect simply uses TouchID to open their phone, police could have a window to take advantage of that when apprehending them.
[/sigh] It's always something, and seldom something good. The assertion of courts is that knowledge from testimony (e.g., telling police a passcode) reveals the suspect's mind and thus cannot be compelled under the 5th Amendment... but a fingerprint is just a biometric, traditionally collected in police investigations. Once again, the law uses a quirk of technological change to enforce a distinction without a difference. Self‑incrimination, here we come.

(H/T Charles Kuffner.)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

‘Greece: A Grave Situation’

Michael Nevradakis at Truth Out concludes his eight-part series on the gravity of Greece's situation and the corruption of their media.

As most of the columns Nevradakis writes are about Greece and the series parts are not numbered in their subjects, the best way to read the series is to visit Nevradakis's page on Truth Out. and read your way through his entire opus. I am working my way backward starting with the conclusion of the series, Greece: A Grave Situation With Very Real Consequences.

Krugman's Conclusion

"Prima facie, cutting [government] spending depresses economies." See Krugman's graphic; it doesn't take a rocket scientist... or a world-class economist... to understand it.

Friday, November 7, 2014

An Unpleasant Example Of Why I Say This Is No Longer A Political Blog

If this were a political blog, I would be obligated to try to debate wingnuts on the effectively indisputable fact that the current Supreme Court acts in a primarily partisan political mode on many issues of greatest import to ordinary American citizens... such as this one.

The Five...
and I don't mean Russian composers!
But it's not a political blog, so instead I'll have a glass of wine and a snack, watch YouTube videos or bad broadcast TV, and let the ACA die an unnatural death at the hands of that all-too-political Supreme Court. Hey, what I propose to do... actually not to do... is the American way, right?

FBI Agent Impersonates AP Reporter

Chris Grygiel of AP via TPM:

In a letter Thursday to The New York Times, [FBI director James] Comey said the agent "portrayed himself as an employee of The Associated Press" to help catch a 15-year-old suspect accused of making bomb threats at a high school near Olympia, Washington. It was publicized last week that the FBI forged an AP story during its investigation, but Comey's letter revealed the agency went further and had an agent actually pretend to be a reporter for the wire service.

Comey said the agent posing as an AP reporter asked the suspect to review a fake AP article about threats and cyberattacks directed at the school, "to be sure that the anonymous suspect was portrayed fairly."

The bogus article contained a software tool that could verify Internet addresses. The suspect clicked on a link, revealing his computer's location and Internet address, which helped agents confirm his identity.

The AP of course responded by deeming the FBI's action in this case "unacceptable." Indeed it was, and is. Paraphrasing AP's executive editor Kathleen Carroll, not only must the government and the press be in fact distinct, but  the public must have confidence in the enforcement of that distinction for the press to fulfill its essential role as watchdog. We simply can't have secret government agents masquerading as members of the press, not if we want to keep whatever vestige we have of checks and balances.

Remember, in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, in reference to Sherlock's brilliant but reclusive brother Mycroft, who was a high official in the British government, it is said that Mycroft was the British government? Well, in today's America, our three-letter agencies (FBI, NSA, DHS etc.) are far less benign than Mycroft, but it has reached the point at which they are the American government. As certifiable motherlover Ari Fleischer said, Americans need to "watch what they say, watch what they do..."

(I know it has an ampersand in it and names a corporation, but can we lump AT&T in with the three-letter agencies?)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

(Texted From My Ancient Cell Phone)

Well, OK, the date of that Constitution edition in the previous post is NOT 1976; sorry... try 1989.

This mobile text message is brought to you by my evil cell network provider.

And Here I Always Thought It Was A Quirk Of 18th-Century Capitalization

But noooo...
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government...

— US Constitution, Art. IV Sec. 4, edited for publication by the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, 1976.

Damned if it doesn't describe the current state of affairs perfectly. [/sigh]

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hey, We At The Chron Don't Know What Happened, But We Have Great Pics Of This Car Crash...

... into my favorite restaurant, Dimassi's Mediterranean Buffet. Leave it to the Comical to get exactly none of the facts one would want to know. The loss of Dimassi's for an undetermined period of time is just insult to injury atop the election. [/sigh]

Somebody on one TV channel (11 Houston CBS?) had someone's amateur video of the crash itself. If I find it, I'll link to it from here. (Yes, some people were hurt, apparently none seriously [but see the update].)

UPDATE: here is the Channel 11 Houston video. 11 News did a great deal better at obtaining the facts: it was an SUV; 9 people were injured, several taken to the hospital; the driver, a first-time customer, accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake. Many a time I've sat in that window or near it; Stella likes window seats. I think it may be a while before Dimassi's hosts us again. (Aside: despite the anchorman's pronunciation, the African/Middle Eastern students I knew at UTSPH years ago said "Dimahssi's," not "Dimessy's." I concede it's pretty Dimessy at the moment...)

Today Is The First Day Of The Rest Of This Blog

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

(Barf. Poop. Green Doggerel-Doo.)

"Don't Tempt Me..."
I'm not sure I've ever seen an election result suck worse than this one does, or at least seems to be, certainly not in a midterm election.

Voters are very, very angry and disappointed with their government (are they? well, aren't they? you don't think unlimited, easily funded campaign lies might have affected their reaction, do you?), so their reasoned, practical response is to take their pistols and shoot every family member who might help them out, or rather, take their fingers and vote out most of the decent politicians who remained in office.

Get your election returns somewhere else; I'm not writing up this dog-awful shit-pile.

If I were a young American woman, between now and 2016 I would scout out a country where one might apply for political refugee status and still have some hope of finding a job. Just in case America is not "Ready for Hillary" ... in fact, I may keep my own eyes open for such a place.


With Republicans like the ones we have today, it may be your last chance.

A Nation Of Sheep

Actually this is a shepherds' protest in Madrid, Spain over urban infringement on long-traditional grazing rights (photo via Independent), but America comes closer every day to being just what the subject says...

AFTERTHOUGHT: if you like sheep, and you like murder mysteries, try Leonie Swann's widely translated novel, Three Bags Full. I found it at the public library and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Monday, November 3, 2014


... learned today that her surgery has been postponed a week and made contingent on approval by yet two more doctors running an assortment of tests. Meanwhile, when she drives (e.g., to/from work), she suffers even greater, almost incapacitating pain. Isn't our medical care system wonderful? (Steve's sarcasm, not Stella's. Steve is the one who thinks this is a case of yet another two doctors sticking their thumbs into her case and pulling out a plum...)

The Great GOP Voter Purge

The GOP generally does better when fewer people vote, especially fewer women and racial minorities. So rather than changing their execrable policy goals to appeal to a greater portion of the electorate, they set out to purge the voter rolls of people likely to vote for Democratic candidates. Ian Millhiser at Think Progress tells us about "The Enormous, Secretive Effort To Purge Thousands Of Minorities From 27 States’ Voter Rolls."

It's small comfort to know that if the GOP takes the Senate, they will do so much the way GeeDubya Bush took the 2000 presidency... specifically, by cheating. C'mon, get to the polls and at least make them sweat.

Robert Reich's ‘Election Day Carol’, Or
A Dickens Of An Election

Let Robert Reich lead you through the four Ghosts, one of Election Day Past, one of Election Day Present, and two of Election Day Future, whose identity should surprise no one.

Reich's tale has a happy ending. If you want a happy ending to the actual election this year, you'd better get to the polls on Tuesday; notwithstanding Republican braggadocio there are many races that are right on the knife-edge: 50% Dem, 50% GOP. C'mon, go to the polls and at least try to make it happen for the D's!

Sunday, November 2, 2014


... very likely has to have surgery this Tuesday. The procedure should not be life-threatening (above the dangers posed by anything requiring general anesthetic), but she will be hospitalized at least overnight, and I suspect her mobility may be limited for an as yet undetermined period after she is released. I doubt I'll be blogging much for a few days, other than to note the outcome. Wish us both luck!

Terrorized... Really... By A ‘Smart’ TV

James Hepburn at Daily Kos has the particulars. The essence lies in the extensive 46-page privacy notice that comes with the TV, though "lack-of-privacy notice" might be a better term for it, coupled with some tracking technology from Hell. Hepburn quotes an article at Salon by Michael Price of the Brennan Center at NYU:

You would be [terrified to turn the TV on] too — if you read through the 46-page privacy policy.

The amount of data this thing collects is staggering. It logs where, when, how and for how long you use the TV. It sets tracking cookies and beacons designed to detect “when you have viewed particular content or a particular email message.” It records “the apps you use, the websites you visit, and how you interact with content.” It ignores “do-not-track” requests as a considered matter of policy.

It also has a built-in camera — with facial recognition. The purpose is to provide “gesture control” for the TV and enable you to log in to a personalized account using your face. On the upside, the images are saved on the TV instead of uploaded to a corporate server. On the downside, the Internet connection makes the whole TV vulnerable to hackers who have demonstrated the ability to take complete control of the machine.

More troubling is the microphone. The TV boasts a “voice recognition” feature that allows viewers to control the screen with voice commands. But the service comes with a rather ominous warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.” Got that? Don’t say personal or sensitive stuff in front of the TV.

(Bolds mine. - SB)

There is a reason I keep my copy of Orwell's 1984 near my left hand...

Notice that much of the spying potential of such a TV is of use more to Wall Street, corporations and vendors than to government. Not that gummint wouldn't make use of it as well...

Fortunately, Stella's new TV is not "smart"; such things are out of our budget range. But it's only a matter of time before Orwell's vision of a TV that watches you is a reality in every household... if indeed the back-end hasn't already been implemented secretly. In any case, you might want to get in the habit right now of watching politically sensitive events on an older TV in a room well away from your newest, fanciest TV.

I believe the very newest TVs are capable of being powered by Orwell spinning in his grave...

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes