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)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) Used Against Peaceful Protest Of Detroit Water Shut-Off

You knew when you read about the development of the LRAD that its use would extend far beyond mere acoustic communications over long distances.

You knew from its use against protesters at the 2004 Republican National Convention that its use as a police weapon would not be confined to control of violent crowds.

And you learned last Friday that Detroit police used it against peaceful protesters at the entrance to Homrich, "a demolition contractor working on a $5.6 million deal to perform the water shutoffs on residents." There's a video on the linked post; despite the manifestly peaceful nature of the protest, the LRAD fires up near the end of the video. All claims aside, the actual clear purpose of the LRAD is physical intimidation of protesters.

Live in Detroit. Miss a water bill. Have your water shut off along with thousands of other households, as part of a "Detroit Water Collection Project." Join an organized peaceful protest of that over‑the‑top action which surely endangered public health. And in response, have your protest physically assaulted by a sound weapon intended for military use or violent crowd control. Got the picture?

The first arrest the cops made was of a guy in a wheelchair. I've spent time in a wheelchair; I didn't attend any protests while I was wheel-bound... it's just not safe. You've got to admire the man for his courage. I hope he was treated with basic human respect. But I wouldn't bet on it.

The cops used presumably the same weapon or its cousin against Occupy Detroit in May 2012, dispersing another pointedly peaceful protest. Do you see a pattern here?

"Land of the free, home of the brave"... MFA!

A small hand-portable LRAD. Notice that it is illustrated as held by police, not military personnel. Even the smallest LRADs are capable of generating sound at levels capable of damaging human hearing. As small as they are, devices like this one have a range of about a half mile.

Chomsky On Gaza

Noam Chomsky (call him whatever derogatory epithets you will, I admire the man immensely) begins his righteous rant on Israel's assault on Gaza as follows:
Even a single night in jail is enough to give a taste of what it means to be under the total control of some external force.

And it hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world's largest open-air prison, where some 1.5 million people on a roughly 140-square-mile strip of land are subject to random terror and arbitrary punishment, with no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade.

Such cruelty is to ensure that Palestinian hopes for a decent future will be crushed, and that the overwhelming global support for a diplomatic settlement granting basic human rights will be nullified. The Israeli political leadership has dramatically illustrated this commitment in the past few days, warning that they will "go crazy" if Palestinian rights are given even limited recognition by the U.N.

Once again, Israel goes beyond the bounds of civilized behavior, not assaulting the people and groups that might endanger its existence as a nation, but instead killing several hundred unarmed civilians who have engaged in no military action against Israel... including several dozen children.

In my youth I was a vocal supporter of Israel. Gradually I realized the inevitability of the kinds of conflict we have seen in the past couple of decades. But by no means is all of Israel's aggressive behavior necessary or helpful. The US must cease its active support of Israel's raw aggression against civilians who are not engaging in war against it, especially until Israel ceases its relentless killing of children. The US has no strategic interest in supporting such uncivilized and unjustified use of force, and it must end its participation.

Monday, July 21, 2014

It's Stella's Birthday...

... and she's somehow arranged to take a week off work. I have a feeling I won't be blogging a lot for the next couple of days.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

John Napier Tye On EO 12333: Does It Spell The Limit Of Democracy?

Via emptywheel, we have John Napier Tye, who "served as section chief for Internet freedom in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from January 2011 to April 2014," writing at WaPo:
What if most American laws looked
like this, even to Congress?
In March I received a call from the White House counsel’s office regarding a speech I had prepared for my boss at the State Department. The speech was about the impact that the disclosure of National Security Agency surveillance practices would have on U.S. Internet freedom policies. The draft stated that “if U.S. citizens disagree with congressional and executive branch determinations about the proper scope of signals intelligence activities, they have the opportunity to change the policy through our democratic process.”

But the White House counsel’s office told me that no, that wasn’t true. I was instructed to amend the line, making a general reference to “our laws and policies,” rather than our intelligence practices. I did.

Even after all the reforms President Obama has announced, some intelligence practices remain so secret, even from members of Congress, that there is no opportunity for our democracy to change them.


(Bolds mine. - SB)

The notion that there are federal government intelligence policies and practices that are a) completely secret, even from Congress, b) implemented exclusively according to the dictates of executive agencies historically operated in strictest secrecy, and c) beyond the reach of, and modification or revocation by, our alleged representative democracy, is a concept that would have been familiar to... but abhorrent to... our nation's founders. They would likely have seen such policies and practices as among the worst that an absolute monarchy had to offer. And IMNSHO they would have been absolutely right.

Even our Constitution, that most stable basis of our government, has means of modification when the times require it. Such modification of our fundamental document has been successfully undertaken 27 times in our history. No such procedure for modification of Executive Order 12333 exists. It is, in theory at least, forever immutable.

Have a nice day! [/sarcasm] 

AFTERTHOUGHT: do I even need to say it? The motherfucker that is EO 12333 was issued in 1981, by.... of course... Ronald Reagan. If there is an afterlife, and if Reagan lives there, I hope he has no temperature control in his room...

Friday, July 18, 2014

GOPers Threaten Obama's Impeachment... In Response, I Have A Threat For Them

Jonathan Capehart, member of the WaPoo's editorial board, discusses... OK, let's be honest, threatens... impeachment of President Obama. This he does under a banner titled "PostPartisan." Heh. What a card!

Sarah Palin, pea-brained, more immature even than the usual Republican, rejected soundly by Americans as Vice President, advocates impeachment of a president elected not once but twice by the American people.

Obama, pensive
I do not like President Obama. He has many shortcomings, some in the specific areas of American governance... civil liberties, privacy, compliance with the Bill of Rights including due process rights... that mean a great deal to me. But on the rare occasions that I wish him gone, I can't get past one simple fact:

The American people elected Obama their President, not once but twice. Just like George Dubya Bush.* Just like Bill Clinton. Obama was solidly elected by a substantial majority, twice; neither election was a squeaker. My feelings about him aside, he was (and if polls are to believed, still is) the duly elected choice of the American people.

Dog knows America has suffered under two-term Republican presidents... Ronald Reagan, for example... and no one seriously sought to throw them out of office before their terms expired. Like him or not, Ronald Reagan was my President. Like him or not, Poppy Bush was my President. Like him or laugh at him, Junior Bush was my President (however dubious the process by which he took office). As a committed American, I accepted the choices of the American people, foolish as I thought those choices were, and got on with business.

Today's Republican Party has another way of doing things. To them, no Democrat, no matter how large a majority s/he receives in a presidential election, can remain President for as long as a term, let alone two terms. When Mitch McConnell said back in 2008 (?) that his most important task was to see to it that Obama did not win a second term, that's exactly what he meant, and I have no doubt he began planning Obama's impeachment that very day.

Impeachment is a safety valve, a last-ditch method for dealing with a President who has gone crazy... and criminal. The main problem with impeachment is that it is undemocratic (with a small 'd') and indeed subverts the democratic process by which at least in theory we choose our nation's leaders. Impeachment is a political process... that's how everything is accomplished in a representative democracy... but it should not be thought of first and foremost as a political option, just another means of getting what one party wants. Impeachment ignores and overthrows the voice of the American people. It's like a fire extinguisher behind glass: you don't break the glass unless there's a genuine fire.

Yet if Obama is impeached, Republicans will have availed themselves of that emergency process twice in my adult lifetime. Maybe, after elections, they will have the Senate votes to convict Obama and remove him from office. But they certainly have no right to do so, not if they continue talking, as Dubya did repeatedly, about "freedom 'n' democracy" as if it were our form of government. Such talk comes from a party that sees its own reign, at all times, as trumping both freedom and democracy.

I have no great love for Obama, as regular readers know. And I have no stomach for rebellion, let alone outright revolution. But if the GOP wants to strengthen my stomach, all they need to do is impeach and remove Obama. In that case... "Go ahead... Make. My. Day!"

*Obligatory asterisk. As in, "vote carefully; you have only one asterisk..."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Trace Browne Of Adgita Diaries (June 7, 1951 — July 10, 2014)

I am saddened; if you have followed MandT, I know you will be, too. You might stop by and offer Michael your condolences.

Study: State Laws To Enhance Business Growth Widen Wealth Inequality

I suppose the results presented by DSWright at FDL should not be surprising:
Who beggars whom?
When state governments try to create a better business climate they run the risk of encouraging a more stratified society, according to a new study by David Neumark and Jennifer Muz of the University of California. The study compares two different policy approaches to improve the business climate of a state – those that attempt to increase growth by lowering business costs and those that work to improve the quality of life.

There was little exacerbation of wealth inequality when states enacted policies to improve their quality of life to create a better business climate, but when the method was lowering business costs to augment growth the wealth gap widened.

(NOTE: the "new study" link above is to a summary of the study. If you want more, downloading the full paper will cost you $5 unless your receiving email address is connected with an "appropriate" institution. Oh, irony! The CityLab link is free, and has more general info about the relationship of business climate to wealth inequality.)

This suggests to me that when business conditions improve, the businesses that benefit do not use any significant portion of their enhanced profits to pay their employees more, let alone to hire more people. This indifference to including employees in the gains reflects what I saw over my working life: my own increased productivity never significantly increased my salary. This result is part of what led to my becoming a full-time contractor (a solution which had its own set of problems for the worker who chooses it).

As far as I can see, there is no simple modification of what passes for capitalism in America that would benefit both employers and employees. All the "job creation" that Mitt Rmoney bragged about is exclusively at the discretion of, and largely to the benefit of, the employer. And states and cities that try to buy into the benefits on behalf of their working citizens by lavishing expensive benefits on the business community are wasting their time... and to a large extent their money.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

‘Weed Card’ - UPDATED

Too funny to pass up...

I've never even tried marijuana. I don't smoke, and I don't want the hassles with the law. If I were in one of the, what is it, 22 states in which it can be obtained for "medical" purposes, I certainly experience enough pain in the course of almost every day to qualify. But Hell Texas will freeze over in mid-July before that great state, run by a radical fundamentalist government selected by a carefully gerrymandered minority, ever legalizes pot. I'm not holding my breath, well, at least not until there's a good reason...

UPDATE: via Jon Walker at FDL, as of today 6/17,  marijuana is decriminalized in Washington, DC. At least one Republican in Congress is trying to use Congress's raw power over our Last Colony to revoke the law; stay tuned.

Monday, July 14, 2014

John Yoo Appointed To Endowed Chair At Berkeley

Yoo contemplating torture?
John Yoo, former Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel and coauthor of the infamous "torture memos" allegedly justifying "enhanced" interrogation... torture... during GeeDubya Bush's Iraq war, has been named to an endowed faculty chair at Cal Berkeley. As DSWright at FDL reminds us, "[i]n America today no good deed goes unpunished nor bad deed unrewarded."

Contrary to rumor, Yoo was not heard to remark in response, "I was only following warders..."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Watch Bill Moyers As He Interviews Linda Greenhouse And Dahlia Lithwick On Hobby Lobby And The Supreme Court...

... but put your credit card and your bullhorn out of reach first, because you may find yourself thinking you need to make a trip to DC to engage in a bit of civil disobedience... no, just watch the video to inform your own condemnation of this decision, its consequences even in the short term, and the whole bloody Catholic Supreme Court as currently configured by GeeDubya Bush and Barry Obama. I can pretty much guarantee you that if you are a reader of this site, this interview will make you angry!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

CIA's Likely Unconstitutional Removal Of Senate Intelligence Committee Evidence Documents From Senate Staffers' Computers, Revealed In March, Goes Unanswered In July

Peter Van Buren at FDL has the story. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein puts it this way (in a WaPo transcript quoted by Van Buren):
I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate Clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities.

[CIA actions] may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.
So... the Senate Intelligence Committee, as part of its balance-of-powers oversight role, investigates likely CIA violations of law; the CIA hacks the Committee's computers and deletes the relevant documents to interfere with that oversight, the Obama administration declines to intervene (see the article), and... nothing. That's right, nothing. Van Buren:
A classified 6,300-page Senate report on torture was prepared 19 months ago, before the details of the CIA spying became public. Calls were made, in March 2014, to declassify parts and release them to the public. Now, in July, we are still waiting.
Feinstein has had nothing further to say since March. You all know what that means: we're venturing still further into the post-Constitutional era. Enjoy your stay!

(H/T Enfant de la Haute Mer in comments. Sorry for the delay in crediting; I read the article independently just this morning and wrote this post after that. Enfant was on top of this issue long before I was!)

Friday, July 11, 2014

NOAA: ‘Tropical’ Storms Move Northward With Climate Change

Pakalolo at Kos describes in some detail the phenomenon NOAA has documented, with helpful diagrams, and explains why it's dangerous to human existence... not to mention most business activity in the Arctic. We can take this seriously now, or we can pay an unthinkable price later. Given how many damned fools there are in our declining nation, I'm betting on the latter.

Dark Pools: Who Owns The Stock Market, And Who Benefits?

Source: Rosenblatt via WSJ
Kos's bobswern has republished, with permission, an article by Pam and Russ Martens at Wall Street on Parade called Who Owns the U.S. Stock Market? The answer may not surprise you... I've known a tiny bit about this phenomenon since around 2007 or 2008, when I was working for some very market-oriented people in my next-to-last contract before I retired... but it damned well ought to frighten you even if your only investment is a retirement account or two. The short version (not adequate, but the best I can do in a sentence): a combination of automated trading algorithms, self-trading in "dark" venues, and massive trading venue ownership by the largest investment firms threatens the stability of the invested wealth of literally everybody else. It's not a pretty picture, if you're part of "everybody else."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Greenwald: NSA Targets Five American Muslim Leaders For Surveillance, Apparently Because They Are Muslim

Via Kevin Gosztola at FDL's The Dissenter, we have Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain at The Intercept revealing yet more NSA activity in violation of the First Amendment's freedom of religion guarantee. Here's Gosztola's summary:

Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept have published a much-anticipated story revealing five prominent Muslim-Americans the National Security Agency and FBI spied upon. The surveillance, which primarily appears to have involved monitoring their emails, was conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The five individuals are: Faisal Gill, a former member of President George W. Bush’s administration and a Republican Party operative; Asim Ghafoor, a public relations consultant, lobbyist, lawyer and advocate for the rights of American Muslims; Agha Saeed, a professor who has mobilized American Muslims to become involved in the American political process; Hooshang Amirahmadi, founder and president of the American Iranian Council, who has done considerable work on American policy toward Iran; and Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is the largest Muslim civil rights organization in America.

The national legal advocacy organization, Muslim Advocates, reacted, “This report confirms the worst fears of American Muslims: the federal government has targeted Americans, even those who have served their country in the military and government, simply because of their faith or religious heritage.  The report clearly documents how biased training by the FBI leads to biased surveillance.”

Oh, and Gosztola notes this bit of raw, offensive incivility:
On a visceral level, The Intercept included a section from July 2005 instructions on how to format internal memos “justifying surveillance.” The NSA did not use “John Doe” in the place where the name is supposed to be. They used “Mohammed Raghead” instead.
And this from Greenwald and Hussain:
“I just don’t know why,” says Gill, whose AOL and Yahoo! email accounts were monitored while he was a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. “I’ve done everything in my life to be patriotic. I served in the Navy, served in the government, was active in my community—I’ve done everything that a good citizen, in my opinion, should do.”
Please read both articles. Apparently, in today's America, being both a Muslim and a civil liberties activist are enough in combination to ensure you will be spied upon by the most invasive arm of your government. If the Hobby Lobby case wasn't enough to signal to you the death of the First Amendment's establishment clause, this revelation should finish the job. If you're not Christian, as I am not, you have a choice: keep a low profile... or expect your government to spy on you. Once again, Thomas Jefferson turns in his grave...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A ‘Kill List’ By Any Other Name... The Disposition Matrix

From Ian Cobain at The Guardian:

In truth, the [disposition] matrix is more than a mere euphemism for a kill list, or even a capture-or-kill list. It is a sophisticated grid, mounted upon a database that is said to have been more than two years in the development, containing biographies of individuals believed to pose a threat to US interests, and their known or suspected locations, as well as a range of options for their disposal.

It is a grid, however, that both blurs and expands the boundaries that human rights law and the law of war place upon acts of abduction or targeted killing. There have been claims that people's names have been entered into it with little or no evidence. And it appears that it will be with us for many years to come.

In other words, this is the menu from which Obama and company in their "Terror Tuesday" meetings can choose the target(s) of their next extrajudicial execution(s)... put bluntly, the secret but official "hit list." How very like a mob. How little resemblance to any of America's stated founding principles. How low we have fallen...

(H/T l'Enfant de la Haute Mer, in comments, for the link.)

Monday, July 7, 2014

One Photo, Two Great Minds

Josh Marshall of TPM has posted a splendid photo from 1943 of poet Langston Hughes holding a small sculpture apparently by Margaret Brassler Kane. Allow yourself a smile this morning: go view this charming picture!

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.