As an amicus brief from a long list of prestigious medical organizations and researchers laid out at length, studies show that emergency contraception and the IUD prevent fertilization, not implantation. They are not “abortifacients,” even under the anti-choicers’ peculiar definition of abortion. ... Why doesn’t it matter that there is no scientific evidence for [Hobby Lobby CEO] Green’s position? When did Jesus become an Ob/Gyn? - Zoë Carpenter at The Nation, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was Right, and We Already Have Proof"

(Earlier banner quotes)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Church Protests Strip Club — In Response, Strippers Protest Church Service

... topless, of course.

The Ohio town where this takes place repeatedly has sensibly declined to prosecute anybody, but has written letters to the club owner and the minister. After all, between the strippers and the churchgoers, there's really no way to distinguish the relative evils of public nudity and Cross‑dressing...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Have We Not ISIS, Can We Not See? Or, Here We Go Again

Once more, off to war... this time against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also ISIL). Why? Ask the President. Ask the goddam Republicans in Congress.

What kind of war? An air war, of course! no American troops on the ground! Read the disclaimer carefully; they all start off with no American ground troops but they never end up that way. Sooner or later, depending on your age, you or your sons and daughters will die in this conflict.

Who ordered a war? Did you order a war? I didn't order a war! Why does the kitchen keep serving up wars for decades on end when none of us ordered a war? Could it be Daddy Warbucks who really ordered a war, to shovel more profits to the "defense" industry?

When I was a child, I was taught in school that America had won every war it ever engaged in. Unless we're willing to redefine "win" according to some very loose criteria, it's getting harder and harder to make that argument.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NY Times Corrects Article: Cheney Was Veep, Not Prez

NY Times:
Correction: September 9, 2014
An earlier version of a summary with this article misstated the former title of Dick Cheney. He was vice president, not president.

Coulda fooled me...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why I Do Not Tweet

Josh Marshall of TPM addresses the problem in his short editorial comment, The Humbling of Social Media:

I traffic mainly in the world of politics and culture. And there's little surprising about the kind of intense political disagreement that makes it hard to have any real sort of communication. Other times it's simple ignorance or even lack of intelligence. You find yourself in a seeming disagreement. But it's actually not quite a disagreement because the other person doesn't understand what you're saying. And the thin straw of social media contact is simply too narrow to overcome the gap.

Other times - and these are maybe the most frustrating but also most important - the person's no dummy. They're not uneducated or ignorant in a general sense. But the points of reference, experience, the simple 'what they're trying to talk about' and vice versa, is so different that real communication is very difficult or not really possible. ...

I recall the first time I ever heard someone say, "He didn't choose his parents well." (Well, actually the second time, but that's a long story, and this is a short one.) The speaker was a partisan Republican speaking in conversation in his role as a Republican. At first I thought he was joking; in fact, I started to laugh, then caught myself as I realized he was voicing something that was, for him, a truism. It wasn't long before I realized exactly what Marshall is saying: communication with this man was, for me at least, not possible... or perhaps possible only through a mediator, and with explicit expansion of every thing that might have been, for him or for me but never for both of us, a truism suitable for tweeting.

And thus I do not tweet.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Americans' Support For Death Penalty Declining: Pew Study

Via Digby, we have the following from a Pew Research Center survey:
According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 55% of U.S. adults say they favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder. A significant minority (37%) oppose the practice.

While a majority of U.S. adults still support the death penalty, public opinion in favor of capital punishment has seen a modest decline since November 2011, the last time Pew Research asked the question. In 2011, fully six-in-ten U.S. adults (62%) favored the death penalty for murder convictions, and 31% opposed it.

Public support for capital punishment has ebbed and flowed over time, as indicated by polls going all the way back to the 1930s. But it has been gradually ticking downward for the past two decades, since Pew Research began collecting survey data on this issue. ...

Please see the death penalty favorable/unfavorable graph at the link above. There are peaks in the mid-1950s and mid-1990s. I will not venture to explain either peak, but I will say that at present we know a few more compelling reasons to oppose the death penalty categorically; two reasons in particular are the discovery of how frequently an innocent person is executed despite supposed precautions against such false convictions, and a growing body of evidence that the punishment is in fact cruel in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

I don't have a lot of time to write at the moment, but I'll try to address the issue more fully in the near future, including the marked disparity by race of the person surveyed.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

‘Conservative Reality’

... according to Tom Tomorrow. Almost too true to be funny, but read it anyway...

(H/T ellroon.)

DoJ To Investigate Ferguson MO PD

(Enough acronyms for you?) Seattle Socialist at Kos has the particulars. I don't know how I missed this three days ago when it was reported.

More Details About ‘Interceptor’ Cell Phone Towers

Not this one, I bet
... from weinenkel at Kos. Not that the details are useful to you personally... e.g., there's a cell phone that can identify and inform you if you're connected to such a tower; the phone costs you only $3500.

UPDATE: the "towers" may in reality be mobile devices. (H/T ellroon.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Moyers Talks With Krugman...

... about "What the 1% Don’t Want Us to Know." Here's a sample from Moyers's transcript:
The median pay for the top 100 highest-paid CEOs at America’s publicly traded companies was a handsome $13.9 million in 2013. That’s a 9 percent increase from the previous year, according to a new Equilar pay study for The New York Times.
These types of jumps in executive compensation may have more of an effect on our widening income inequality than previously thought. A new book that’s the talk of academia and the media, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, a 42-year-old who teaches at the Paris School of Economics, shows that two-thirds of America’s increase in income inequality over the past four decades is the result of steep raises given to the country’s highest earners.

Krugman assures us it will get worse. I suppose, with so many local police departments sporting military-style weapons in the streets of cities and towns large and small, the possibility of stopping the onset of oligarchy by threatening a citizen revolt is just about nil. Have a nice day!

ADDENDUM:  while we're speaking of Krugman, here at CUNY TV at the Graduate Center is a splendid hour with Paul Krugman and... fanfare, please... Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). If the Moyers-Krugman interview above saddened you, angered you or scared you, this one will help restore your reasonable hope for our society.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mysterious Cell Towers Infiltrate Phone Companies' Systems

Who built them? Who owns them? What might they do to your cell phone, and on whose behalf? Why are many of them near military bases? Peter van Buren at FDL: The Dissenter discusses the matter, in terms that are necessarily speculative given how little is known at present.

I can't help thinking of Sir Terry Pratchett's later Discworld novels and their clacks, a mechanical optical semaphore long-distance communication system that is the focus of many intrigues, plots and assassinations. If you're not reading Pratchett's Discworld novels, you're missing one of the most thoroughly enjoyable series out there. Call it s/f, fantasy or humor; you'd be correct with any of those categorizations. The first novel in which I remember the clacks appearing is Going Postal, and reading the later novels won't spoil the earlier ones if you choose to read about the clacks out of publication sequence. (Correction: Wikipedia says the first such novel is The Fifth Elephant.)

Dreadnoughtus’, Possibly Most Massive Dinosaur Ever Discovered, Was Vegetarian

Malcolm Ritter at AP via TPM tells us about the gigantic critter discovered in 2005 in Argentina's Patagonia, of which Ritter says, "The four-legged beast, with a long neck and powerful 29-foot tail, stretched about 85 feet long and weighed about 65 tons. That's more than seven times the weight of even a plus-size male African elephant."

And yes, it was a plant-eater. Sometimes people chide me for not controlling my weight better, because "after all, [I'm] a vegetarian... it should be easy." Right. Please see "Dreadnoughtus" for an example of a sprout-eater that was not light at all.

(See pic on AP article. It's a great pic of the reconstruction, which is considerably advanced at this point, but I'm not reproducing a photo from AP on the day it was published... that's just asking for trouble.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

‘Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do...’

"... when Missouri cops, they come for you..."

(Or insert the name of your own great state; MO doesn't have a monopoly.)

There are many cities and towns in which the police are honest and dedicated to protecting the citizenry. Considering that fact, how very much worse your risk must be if you live in a place like Ferguson, MO (or, hell, NYC), to raise the national numbers to this obscene level.

Maybe it's no accident that a show called "Cops" has the theme song "Bad Boys" ...

(H/T bobswern at Kos, from a tweet from @OccupyWallStreetNYC.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jazzing It: ‘The Way You Look Tonight’

Sometimes we forget that "jazz" was originally more frequently used as a verb than as a noun. I was looking for moderately comprehensive details of the song "The Way You Look Tonight" (music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Dorothy Fields). Sources seem to agree that the song was first performed on screen by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, in the film Swing Time (1936). From that point forward, just about every crooner has performed it, and a lot of them have recorded it or worked it into a film (it even appears in the final episode of Star Trek Deep Space 9).

Searching YouTube yields dozens of versions. Two of them in particular caught my attention as an example of a song played straight vs. the same song "jazzed." In this case the straight version is by Fred and Ginger; the jazzed version is by Billie Holiday, accompanied (says one reader) by a band including Benny Goodman and Lester Young (I own that recording, but it's part of a gigantic set of Holiday's work, and I have not confirmed the accompanists). Please listen to them in that order, and notice the effect of jazzing on one of the most popular songs of the 1930s.

First, Fred and Ginger:

Then Billie Holiday:

Got the idea?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Your Tea: Flavored With... Pesticides? Including Even Long-Banned DDT?

Clarissa A. León at Alternet:
Tea time is supposed to be a time to relax and regroup, but it could be one of the riskiest moments of the day. At least, that’s according to a new study released by Greenpeace earlier this month [.pdf] that found a number of popular tea brands contain high doses of pesticide residues. Some teas even tested positive for the long-banned DDT.

Say, will it poison Tea Party folk? or are their brains already too toxic?

Tea - the toxic brew!
The teas cited in the Greenpeace report are from India and (yes, ellroon, add it to your list; it's in a similar Greenpeace report from 2012) China. I drank a lot of tea in my twenties and thirties, but ever since I became a contract IT professional, coffee has been my drink of choice, and necessity... most American tappers of code, apart from those of Asian or direct British Empire heritage, are a lot less interested in tea. I, at least, am never happier than when I've just located a new source of really good coffee, as I did this week. I'll bet a follow‑up study shows pesticide in coffee too...

(H/T BrandonJ at FDL.)

A Presidential Candidate I Could Vote For — With A Clear Conscience

(Click for larger image)
Who else but Sen. Bernie Sanders! Apparently Sanders is contemplating a Democratic primary run against Hillary Clinton. It's not clear in how many states he would appear on the primary ballot; many states have erected unbelievably high financial obstacles to prevent independents from doing just what Sanders apparently intends to do.

Sanders is not a Democrat but an independent who has for years decades caucused with Democrats in Congress. It is very unlikely he could beat Hillary in a Democratic primary. But if he could force her to take positions even one millimeter to the left of her Wall-Street-driven propensity, that would be a very good thing indeed.

Run, Bernie, run!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Town Of Greece, NY Adopts Exclusive Council Meeting Invocation Policy — No Atheists, No Religions Not Common In Town

Sahil Kapur at TPM:
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court gave its blessing to local governments that want to open their public meetings with religious prayer.

It was a victory for the town board of Greece, N.Y., which stressed that it was fighting not just for Christian prayer but for the right of all people express their views regardless of their faith. In a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines, the Court ruled against the Jewish and atheist plaintiffs, who argued that the practice violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Less than four months later, the town of Greece has adopted an invocation policy that excludes non-religious citizens and potentially shuts out faiths that aren't well-established in the town, according to a top secular group.

Seeking to "avail itself of the Supreme Court's recognition" that government prayer is constitutional, the new policy restricts opening remarks to "assemblies with an established presence in the Town of Greece that regularly meet for the primary purpose of sharing a religious perspective."

Translation: atheists and agnostics need not apply. And unless the board clerk decides that your faith has an "established presence" in the New York town of fewer than 100,000, you may not deliver an invocation.

So... all religions are equal, but some are more equal than others. I don't know the status of UUs, but I have a feeling I would not be asked... nay, not be permitted... to say the invocation at a Greece, NY town board meeting.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution is dead; long live the Establishment Clause. And you know that not a damned thing will be done about it. I mean, what do you think you're going to do about it? pass a constitutional amendment? [/irony]

Monday, August 25, 2014


The more the news comes in, the worse it looks. Here is a reasonable summary, with a CNN video. Here is a map. I am waiting anxiously for California friends and bloggers to check in, but I suspect those in the affected area may have other things to do, and may not have net connections... I won't assume the worst about them until I hear it definitively. Everybody please take care.

The Real Bad News: Methane

I awoke this morning from a nightmare of witnessing the crash of an airliner. The real nightmare threatens a lot more people: methane vents are bubbling from the floor of the Atlantic off the East Coast.

Gotta go get my car fixed; gotta keep doing my two cents worth to pollute the atmosphere...

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes

Current and Recent Reading and Viewing

• King, Laurie R., Mary Russell series.
—. The Beekeeper's Apprentice.
—. A Monstrous Regiment of Women.
—. A Letter of Mary.
—. The Moor.
—. O Jerusalem. ...
If you are unfamiliar with Ms. King's Mary Russell series of Holmes novels, please do yourself a favor and begin with the first, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, and just keep going. If you have female children of the right age, you may want to introduce them to these books; Ms. Russell is a splendid role model for someone who would become a strong, intellectual, adventurous woman. King's prose is beautiful, too. Highly recommended!
• Rennison, Nick. Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorized Biography.
Rennison weaves the scant information Conan Doyle provides on Holmes's background into the fabric of the stellar lights of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with such convincing detail that one could almost believe Holmes was an actual historical figure. If you like reading British biographers (face it; Americans write biography wholly differently) and you have a passion for Sherlock Holmes, you will very likely enjoy this book. As in eating a Dagwood sandwich, it helps to take it in small bites at a time.
• PBS Masterpiece - BBC. Sherlock, Season 3. Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman.
Sunday 1/19/2014, Premiere, "The Empty Hearse".
Sunday 1/26: "The Sign of Three".
Sunday 2/2, "His Last Vow".
Need I even comment on this?

I imagine people, especially Sherlockians, will either love this series or hate it. I am inclined to take each episode at face value, as a sort of parody of the traditional Conan Doyle Holmes story model, having (in my opinion) very little obligation to conform to that model as long as it does not deliberately poop on the basic conventions Doyle established. The setting is either present day or near future (some of the technology, and the reference to hardware Holmes apparently has installed in contact with his brain, lead me to call it the future), and many of the human elements are right out of Doyle: Holmes, who has just returned from his "dead" period, is an absolute a(bleep!)hole to Watson; Mrs. Hudson starts out talking to Watson, who announces he is recently engaged, as if he is surely gay; Watson is played (to type) as not the brightest bulb on the string, etc. My advice: do watch, but just sit back and enjoy the fireworks, the effects, and the unsubtle humor. I've read that women find Cumberbatch very good-looking; perhaps some men will as well.
• Douglas, Carole Nelson. Irene Adler series.
—. Good Night, Mr. Holmes.
—. The Adventuress (formerly Good Morning Irene)
—. A Soul of Steel (formerly Irene at Large)
—. Another Scandal in Bohemia (formerly Irene's Last Waltz)
Here's Dr. Watson (i.e., Conan Doyle) on Irene Adler:
To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler... yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.
Carole Nelson Douglas, perceiving the memory of Adler as anything but "questionable," frames a series of mystery novels in which Adler is the detective, accompanied by her own Watson, Penelope "Nell" Huxleigh, Adler's husband Godfrey Norton is the strong male lead, and Holmes appears only incidentally. Adler is granted an astonishing but undeniably plausible variety of skills to ply in her role, and her background as an American opera diva contributes to the stories in an entertaining way. Douglas has done us a real favor in fleshing out this character, who is only once mentioned in the Canon but deserves and receives a much deeper treatment in Douglas's books.
• Millett, Larry. Sherlock Holmes in Minnesota series.
—. Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon
—. Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders
—. Sherlock Holmes and the Rune Stone Mystery
—. Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Alliance
—. The Disappearance of Sherlock Holmes
Millett writes a flavor of Holmes novels that I call either "American Sherlockiana" or "Sherlockian Americana," take your choice. Either way, the series comprises novels in which Holmes and Dr. Watson have an adventure involving America, which nation to all appearances Conan Doyle himself admired. Millett sets his stories in Twin Cities in Minnesota, adds his own detective, Shadwell Rafferty, a barkeep with an analytical mind, and lets loose with a series of five adventures well worth your time. I read these years ago, but they have been recently re-released; see Millett's web site at the link above.