The problem for Wall Street, [Ken] Langone, [Tom] Perkins and the rest [of the billionaires] is that the old ruses are exhausted. Americans are increasingly aware about how they fixed the game, how they rigged the rules to make out like bandits, and how they blew up the economy and got bailed out, while the rest of the country took it in their teeth. — They keep invoking Hitler and Nazis and the threat to the 1 percent, but their folly is feeding the populism they fear. As former President John Kennedy warned, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” - Robert Borosage, "The Plutocrats Take To The Barricades"

(Earlier banner quotes)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Read And Watch: Influence On Yer Feral Gummint's Policies? You Ain't Got None!

Not yours... belongs
to the wealthiest 1%
jbade at FDL and Cenk Uygur and a couple other guys including one named George Carlin on YouTube tell us how it is: Influence by Economic elite? Check! Influence by lobbies and PACs? Check! Influence by people near median income? That's a big negatory, good buddy!

Uygur gives a good summary of the "oligarchy" business. How about that... we're a lot like Russia. And things have been getting steadily worse... more unequal wealth distribution... for at least the past 30 years or so. Are you surprised? Really?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Robert Reich: Comcast-Time Warner Acquisition A Danger To American Democracy

The new monopolist
In an arena where there is scarcely any competition now, such an acquisition would leave us with only a couple of broadband internet suppliers and effectively one (1) cable company. As democracy today depends utterly on broadcast media and internet communications of various sorts, any concentration of the supply of either internet or cable TV services risks a dangerous possibility... likelihood, one may say... that the supplier will use its near-monopoly status to control what Americans see of their government, and at what speed it is delivered to them.

Robert Reich points out that far from being good for American consumers (as the merging parties claim), such a merger/sale would give Comcast and Time Warner the ability to control data and video content in the way transporters of physical goods controlled physical merchandise available to American consumers of those goods, and at what cost, before 1890, when the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed. Each major technological shift offers new opportunities for would‑be monopolists, and hence demands new law to put a stop to such manifestations of greed. The 1890 law is no longer effective; we need a new one.

As noted earlier, democracy is a scarce commodity in America today, just as it was in the First Gilded Age when Sen. John Sherman proposed a solution to at least the problem of overlarge firms that controlled their various markets in the late 19th century. Now, in the New Gilded Age (I think the term applies, don't you?), we need some brakes on the new kinds of market-controlling technologies and techniques, not to mention the new giveaways by the Supreme Court. It is time to tighten up: blocking the Comcast‑Time Warner merger is a good starting point.

Digby's Rule For Success In Today's America: Find The Right Young Wealthy Philanthropically Inclined Aristocrat... And Brown‑Nose Him Or Her

Sadly, Digby is probably right about this. Her exploration of the subject is nonetheless well worth reading. She starts with a quiet invitation to the White House offered to 100 young aristocrats... I can't find a better word for them; they're heirs to great estates who are likely to engage in major philanthropy as they come into their various family fortunes... and frankly, as I am reading the indefatigable Michael Moore's autobiography, Here Comes Trouble, and I see no other direct path for someone born to limited means (as Moore was) to pursue great things, I suppose I have to recommend Digby's course of action to today's bright but poor youth.

More and more (Moore and Moore?), I realize America is, as the Princeton study found, no democracy, clearly an oligarchy and, unsurprisingly, has an aristocracy. Fight it, but if you're old like me, get used to it; it's going to take more than the rest of my life (and possibly more than the rest of America's) to change. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Krugman: What The Financial Industry Takes And What America Doesn't Get In Return

Krugman's title, Three Expensive Milliseconds, refers to a tunnel being bored through the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania for the purpose of running fiber‑optic cables which will cut the time it takes trading information and instructions to travel between New York's stock markets and Chicago's futures markets... by three milliseconds. That's right: 0.003 seconds. This tunnel will carry, not people in cars, or freight on rail or in trucks, but bucks on wings, for the exclusive benefit of America's masters of the universe... the financial industry. And the financial industry does great things for... um... well, in any case, probably not you and not me; read Krugman's discussion on that issue.

...  made visible!
In the past 20 years, aside from the broker who handled my tiny investment account before he retired comfortably, I have met two people in the high end of the finance industry. Both were startlingly young. One was going back to college so she could get in on the gravy train. The other one was already rich... dripping, filthy rich, no apologies. I can't say either one displayed exceptional virtues that made them worthy of excessive wealth. They would probably tell me about that invisible hand, and how it pointed its finger at them. I would agree, except that the same hand seems to have pointed a different finger at me and 99.999% of Americans.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gabriel García Márquez (1927–2014)

If you haven't read journalist and prizewinning Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez's fiction, you probably don't understand the reality of a goodly portion of the Latin American population. The wiki has a good summary of his life and work. There is literally nothing like his fiction, and good English translations are available for some of it. Start with One Hundred Years of Solitude and possibly Love in the Time of Cholera; those are (deservedly) his best-known works in the anglophone world. R.I.P., Gabriel García Márquez.

Big Surprise! [/irony] America Is An Oligarchy – Princeton Study

Via pajoly at Kos, a quote from the Princeton study [.pdf]:

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

So we're now an oligarchy. Sounds about right to me. Were we ever a representative democracy? You tell me...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pulitzer-Winning WSJ Columnist: GOP Should Nominate Ron Paul For Prez, Because They Need Another Nationwide Landslide Loss

First, last names reversed?
Who says irony is dead in today's high-level journalism? Not WSJ columnist Bret Stephens: he urges the GOP to nominate Sen. Rand Paul (R‑Hunger) for president, "[L]et's get it over with," he says, launching into a catalog of Paul's very public flaws. But, concludes Stephens, it won't matter:
And so [Paul] should be [nominated]. Because maybe what the GOP needs is another humbling landslide defeat. When moderation on a subject like immigration is ideologically disqualifying, but bark-at-the-moon lunacy about Halliburton is not, then the party has worse problems than merely its choice of nominee.
Remember, you heard it first from the WSJ. And no one could be more macho than a man named "Bret"!

(H/T Tom Kludt of TPM.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Jonathan Schell (1943—2014)

Schell speaks to Occupy, 2012
One of the most inspiring journalists/book authors on international affairs and peace has died. He died late last month and I somehow missed it. Jonathan Schell deserves this memorial by Tom Engelhardt, vastly better than anything I could hastily post.

When I was a young man, possibly 35 years ago, Schell influenced many of my own emerging views. My thanks to former colleague and now blogger Anne Buchanan for introducing me to Schell's work all those years ago.

(H/T Michael Moore for directing me to Engelhardt's obituary.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

NSA Has Known About, Used Heartbleed Bug For Years

Via the same Steven D post linked below, we learn from Bloomberg, which has two unnamed sources, that the NSA has been using the Heartbleed bug for a couple of years to gather "critical intelligence."

The NSA of course denies doing any such damned thing. Of course, loyal Muricans should always believe what they say. Yeah, right.

So the NSA's notion of patriotism when it finds a major vulnerability affecting many of the large internet services and their customers is to a) keep a lid on it, and b) exploit it.

I can't tell you what I think should be done with the NSA, but it may involve a corkscrew...

Elections In Miami-Dade Are A Real Pisser

Hunter at Daily Kos explains the messy details, in the post "Miami-Dade blocks voters standing in line from using the bathroom". As the lines in Miami-Dade  sometimes require six hours standing to vote, this effectively disqualifies many people from voting even if they have a voter certificate, an ID and anything else the Florida GOP may see fit to require in a given year.

Not my 2012 polling place, but similar
I remember the 2012 primaries. I voted early, choosing the Fiesta Mart at Kirby and Main, where I also frequently shop. The place was packed. At the time, I was first beginning to notice the problem that would ultimately cost me my foot. The queue of voters snaked through every aisle from the International section to the side of the store nearest Main... between 10 and 15 times across the store, front-to-back. After I voted, I could scarcely walk at all, or even stand, for about three days. I'm sorry, but in a representative democracy that is serious about representing the whole of "we the people," a cripple should not have to cripple him- or herself further just to be able to vote.

People who have to use the bathroom more frequently are similarly disabled. In some cases, medications can induce the problem as they solve a more serious problem; I know this because on the advice of my doctor I just started taking such a medication. It's no fun, but it beats croaking. Republicans, ask yourself: just how much do you hate disabled people? That much? Well, f^<k you too!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Heartbleed Vulnerability

Test your domain's vulnerability here. Read Bruce Schneier's post here; follow his links. Gain some perspective from xkcd here. Know that according to an alleged expert on NBC News this evening, there isn't much the client (user) can do. Sleep as well as you usually do tonight... I plan to.

UPDATE: that easy peace of mind doesn't apply to maintainers of web servers. For them, PC World has a pretty good summary of what they can/must do.

(H/T Steven D at Booman Tribune.)

Navy Research Lab Makes Carbon-Neutral Gasoline From Sea Water For Between $3 And $6 A Gallon

Sea water? Sea water! The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has developed and patented (!) the process, and powered a model airplane with the result. How would it work on a larger scale? Well, first you build a nuclear-powered gasoline factory vessel...

Gasoline factory???

Actually, I have to temper my mockery with the possibility that a cleaner version of the process could be developed. But I am confident based on the Navy's experiments with powerful sound waves that kill whales and dolphins that the Navy will not bother with any damned environmental cleanup. I doubt the oil companies are quaking in their boots quite yet.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

William Boyce: Symphony #4

Notwithstanding the name "Symphony," this is theater music.

From the YouTube post:
This "symphony" is one of eight by Boyce - all of which are really overtures for various theatrical productions. - It was composed in 1751 for a musical entertainment called "The Shepherd's Lottery".
To my ear, Boyce is the most Handel-like composer other than Handel himself: the lines are spacious; the voicings mostly open. Boyce is a few years later (1711‑1779) but clearly he made no attempt to be on the cutting edge of style for his time. This performance by "The Consort of London" (to all appearances, not the group once led by the late lamented David Munrow) is neither spectacular nor deficient. It's cheerful, rollicking English baroque music; grab yourself a drink and a snack, imagine you're sitting in a theater, lean back and enjoy the "play"!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sleepless Night, Exhaustion, Anger... Fear... After Reading This Article

... by Peter Van Buren at Tom Engelhardt's site. Why should anyone who does not himself or herself fly (as I pointedly do not) be driven to fear and anger by an article about Rahinah Ibrahim's experiences with the no-fly list? Many, many reasons, many egregious flaws in the way the entire executive branch of America's government works (I almost said "our" government, but I am increasingly convinced it doesn't belong to us anymore), its virtually total abnegation of our hard-won civil liberties, a creeping (and creepy) onset of the usual manifestations of totalitarian techniques apparently in daily use by all the three-letter agencies (not least NSA, CIA and FBI), ... oh, yes, there's plenty to give one a sleepless night or a few nightmares in this story, despite the obvious mitigating factor that no one involved died as a result of it... yet. Here's Van Buren, near the end of the piece:

A common trope for those considering the way the National Security Agency spies on almost everyone everywhere all the time is that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. If your cell phone conversations are chit-chats with mom and your emails tend toward forwards of cute cat videos, why should you care if the NSA or anyone else is snooping?

Ask Rahinah Ibrahim about that. She did nothing wrong and so should have had nothing to fear. ...

Sad as it may be, the Ibrahim case is a fairly benign example of ordinary Washington practices in the post-9/11 era. Ibrahim is going about her life at peace in Malaysia. Her tangle with the United States seems to have been more a matter of bureaucratic screw-ups than anything else. No one sought to actively destroy her. She was not tortured in a CIA black site, nor left for years in a cage at Guantanamo. Her case is generally seen as, at worst, another ugly stain on the white wall we imagine we are as a nation.

But the watch lists are there. The tools are in place. And one thing is clear: no one is guarding the guards. You never know whose name just went on a list. Maybe yours?
Yes, maybe mine, at least. Maybe the name of any American who has proactively pursued a living, working meaning for the rights- and liberties-bearing texts in our Constitution and its amendments, any American who regularly speaks out, attends the occasional public protest in the post‑9/11 era, contributes money and/or effort to civil liberties organizations such as ACLU, EFF, more than a hundred other American groups (listed here and here), and perhaps forty other groups worldwide, distributed among the nations that claim liberties as part of their mandate (listed here). Yes, maybe their names.

Maybe yours?

Reading Howard N. Meyer's book on the Fourteenth Amendment (see the post about it a couple days back), I have come to realize that America has treated its constitutional liberties "[m]ore honoured in the breach than in the observance." Time and again, matters of liberty and equality have been taken to court, sometimes to the Supreme Court, a ruling made which may or may not reflect the liberties in the Bill of Rights plus the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th and other amendments, and those rulings utterly and completely ignored, defied, spat upon in actual practice. It is disgusting and discouraging, and I do not see evidence of things getting better, certainly not within our lifetime and possibly not before our likely national collapse some time in the next half-century or so in the face of global climate change. The actual prospect for liberties looks pretty bleak to me, and our nation's founders are probably spinning in their graves.

Your Comments On This Blog

My Blogger settings allow anyone to comment on this blog, even Anonymous or an empty name field, without entering any kind of word or number. That means I can't stop you from comment-spamming. It's the price I pay for the openness; some of my commenters have said they like the lack of hassle. So be it. But I can and do take steps to minimize any exposure your spam may receive to the world...

If you comment anonymously (or with an empty name), Blogger puts your work straight into the spam folder. This happens automatically; I didn't have to do anything to make it happen. Once in a while I open the spam folder and, without looking at the contents, delete everything there. Your comment is visible on the web for a duration of perhaps three seconds. Or less. Google Search very likely will never see it. If you're spamming to boost your page ref counts, you're really wasting your time.

If you comment with a name I haven't seen before, your comment goes into the moderation folder. I look there about every week or two, or month or two, or not; it isn't a priority for me. But if you're real (e.g., if I've seen you on other blogs I visit) and you offer a salient comment, I will engage you. If not...

Once in a while, I turn off incoming comments for a day or two. This is as random as I can make it. Please do visit again, unless you're the repulsive vaguely meat-like stuff in a funny-shaped can opened with a key...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Firestone On Inequality, Plutocracy, Oligarchy

Joe Firestone at New Economic Perspectives (home of the Modern Monetary Theory folks), who apparently is also letsgetitdone at Firedoglake, asks the question, Is the MSM Blackout on Inequality, Plutocracy, and Oligarchy Ending? His answer is one of the most insightful examinations of the causes and consequences of the dramatic inequality in wealth in America today that I have ever read, and I've read a few recently. If we are lucky, perhaps the overall answer is Yes, and if we are even luckier, perhaps TPTB will at last see inequality as the core flaw in our economy that it actually is, and begin to rearrange things so we can all enjoy greater prosperity.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dietrich Becker: Sonata And Suite In A Major

Sometime between 1980 and 1990, in Houston, before Ars Lyrica, before Ensemble Mercury, there was the old Houston Baroque Ensemble. We never had a web site (a what?) but for our last three years we had a subscription season, and we had a lot of fun.

In those days, gambist Robert Wayne Moss still lived in Texas. Back in his student days at Oberlin Conservatory, Wayne had little money for purchasing printed music, but he could afford staff paper, and he had a reasonably legible music script, so he spent his spare time sifting through the conservatory library for old 17th/18th-century manuscripts or published music (literally centuries out of copyright) that he thought he might find opportunities to perform... and copying them out by hand.

Forward a couple of decades. Wayne turned up at an HBE rehearsal with parts for a Sonate-Suite by 17th-century German composer Dietrich Becker, of Hamburg. In those days as in these, a musician was likely to find a lot of work in a cultural and commercial center like Hamburg (the better-known Georg Philipp Telemann was there for part of his career). Becker was a master of at least two crafts, virtuoso violin-playing and composition, and apparently made his living in the service of the Hamburg city council. From the wiki:
Little is known about Becker's musical education. His first position was as organist at Ahrensberg. In his second position, in the service of the Chapelle Ducale (Ducal Chapel) of the Duke Christian-Ludwig at Celle, he mainly devoted himself to the violin. In 1662 he settled in Hamburg as a violinist in the service of the Conseil de la Ville (City Council) and in 1667 he was named Maître de Chapelle (Chapel Master).

In 1668 Becker dedicated a collection of pieces entitled Musikalischen Frühlingsfrüchte (Musical Spring Fruit) to the mayor and members of the City Council. This collection consisted of chamber sonatas and suites for 3 to 5 voices with basso continuo. In 1674, his Zweystimmigen Sonaten und Suiten (Sonatas and Suites for Two Voices) was published.
(Aside: "Chapel Master" is a dubious translation of "Maître de Chapelle". "Conductor" might be slightly closer; "band leader" is also pretty close. So is "choir director." Google Translate punts and offers "Kapellmeister" as the English translation. Well, yes, but...)

(Another aside: "Zweystimmigen Sonaten und Suiten" does not translate as "for two voices," because titles in those days often counted only melody voices... the basso continuo, comprising one, two, three or even more bass-melody and chordal instruments, was often not counted, and when it was counted, it was counted as just one part, however many instruments performed from that one part on a given day. Go figure. But it wreaks havoc with the given translation.)

Houston Baroque Ensemble was thrilled with one of the Sonate/Suites suited to our instrumentation: melody parts for a violinist and a gambist (player of viola da gamba), both with a lot of facility; it's rather sprightly music!, and the accompanying basso continuo was well within my more modest harpsichord skills. Somewhere in a closet I still have the copied parts, but I scarcely need them to hear the piece in my mind's ear.

I couldn't find the exact work on YouTube, but there's a ton of Dietrich Becker out there, and this Sonate‑Suite in A Major from "Erster Theil zweystimmiger Sonaten and Suiten" is very similar in character. The artists are Parnassi Musici; their web site is a bit incomplete in the English-language version, but they really play superbly. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Supreme Court Rules 5-4 In McCutcheon v. FEC In Favor of GOP Golden Rule: "Who Has The Gold, Makes The Rules," Or "One Buck, One Vote"

Please read these two articles by Sahil Kapur at TPM:
You can read the particulars and quotes from the sententious majority decision and the outraged minority dissent better in Kapur's summaries than I could explain them to you, but the short version is this: our days as a representative democracy are numbered, if indeed we ever had any such days in reality, and congressional seats, not to mention the presidency, effectively go to the highest bidder from now on. The Supreme Court, while retaining individual limits per campaign, proclaimed aggregate limits contrary to the First Amendment and removed them, so that the few remaining scraps of campaign finance regulation left after the ruling in Citizens United are now gone.

It was fun while it lasted. But America now faces a challenge to its founding principles not less than the one posed by the Civil War, reconstruction, two world wars and the Great Depression. Will we overcome these threats to democracy? We can, but only by facing down the meanest, coldest rich-assed sumbitches that ever lived here and fighting them on their own turf, by their own rules.

Have a nice day!

ADDENDUM: CREDO Action provides Mr. Justice Scalia with a new robe in honor of the occasion:

Think Obamacare Is Crashing And Burning? See These Photos...

... at Kos, from signup locations all around the nation. Note also that says that as of 3/31/2014 (IOW, not an April Fool joke), the grand total of enrollments is 14.6 M—22.1 M. Apparently that's 101.1% of the target for this enrollment period. If I had not already been enrolled in Medicare as of a couple months ago, I'd have been in those lines myself. Obamacare is far from perfect... Medicare-for-all would have been better... but insuring that many Americans is an accomplishment I can only applaud.

As to the GOPer reaction, they're going to regret having so firmly attached Obama's name to this program. Margulies said it well:

Events Affecting Mostly Women In The Workplace

America has always treated women who work worse than men. Now, some of the maltreatment that has gone on for decades that I personally know about is coming to light:
America, the land of opportunity... if you're male.

Women Factory Workers, 1911

Woman at War, WWI

Women at Work Today - Lucky

Woman at Work Today - Not so Lucky

Monday, March 31, 2014

Americans Battle For And Against Constitutional Rights: Not For The First Time

Today, the battle seems to contend over the protective value (or lack of same) of the Fourth Amendment (see my posts on the NSA, here). Goodness knows our rights are fragile enough, and our government sufficiently indifferent to them.

But ours is not the first era in which America's government, or one or another part of it, has governed as if parts of the rights-related amendments to the Constitution (chiefly I through VIII, XIII, XIV, XV, XIX, XXIV, XXVI) had never been ratified. One significant example is reconstruction after the Civil War, when not just one but many courts effectively refused to give the federal government the power to compel the state governments to extend the rights amendments to citizens of each state, resulting in a patchwork application, state-by-state, of rights granted and rights denied. In practical terms, the nation's newest citizens at the time... freed slaves... often found themselves back where they started as their citizens' rights were simply refused them. It was, in our perspective at least, a nightmarish time. But it was not the last such denial, and our own time has a "bad dream" quality about it when it comes to citizens' rights.

I am now reading a very rewarding book, The Amendment that Refused to Die: Equality and Justice Deferred: A History of the Fourteenth Amendment, by Howard N. Meyer (1973, 1978, 2000). (I picked up this book used or remaindered, probably a decade ago, intending to read it when I retired. Guess what: I did in fact live long enough to do that.) The book offers a passionate recounting of the history of abolition, then, almost skipping the war itself, hastens onward to the national dysfunction during reconstruction.

A Fool's Errand - cover
Among other things, Meyer points us to some original sources some of which are easy to find on the web today, e.g., the books of Albion W. Tourgée, introduced in the wiki as "an American soldier, Radical Republican, lawyer, writer, and diplomat" and a "pioneer civil rights activist." (Remember, "radical Republican" in those days meant something almost diametrically opposite to what the phrase connotes today.) Tourgée's book, A Fool's Errand: By One of the Fools is available online, partly in facsimile and partly in HTML text, by Documenting the American South at UNC... next on my historical reading list after Meyer's book (which itself is available literally cheaper than dirt at Amazon; I know for certain, because Stella bought some potting soil for tomato plants this week). Maybe the next time you order something else from Amazon you could drop a few cents (literally) on a copy of Meyer's book. Tourgée's book is available, the whole text, at the link above, for free. Isn't the web wonderful?

Ah! Another Spring In South Texas, And Everyone Is Breathing Mexico...

Agricultural burn, 2013
You may think I neglected to finish that last phrase, and should have said something like "breathing Mexico's Spring air." You wouldn't be wrong, but that rendering wouldn't tell the real story. Here's an excerpt from a forecast page on TCEQ's air quality site, a page that changes daily but not greatly at this time of year (you may skim; detailed reading is not necessary):
Monday 03/31/14
Smoke and haze from Mexico and Central America should return to South Texas this afternoon and evening and could raise the daily PM2.5 AQI into the "Moderate" range in the Brownsville-McAllen area. Elsewhere in the state, moderate winds and low incoming background levels should help to keep air quality in the "Good" range.

Tuesday 04/01/14
Smoke and haze from Mexico and Central America should continue in South Texas and should spread northward into Central Texas and southeastern portions of West Texas. The daily PM2.5 AQI could reach "Moderate" levels over most of the area along and south of a line from Port Lavaca to Temple to Abilene to Sanderson. Winds should be strong enough to generate blowing dust in parts of far West Texas and the Panhandle but the duration and intensity are not likely to be enough to raise the daily PM10 AQI beyond the "Good" range. Elsewhere in the state, moderate winds and low incoming background levels should help to keep air quality in the "Good" range.

Wednesday 04/02/14 Outlook
Smoke and haze from Mexico and Central America should cover South, Central, and North Central Texas, mainly along and west of a line from Port Lavaca to Bonham and along and east of a line from Del Rio to San Angelo to Abilene to Wichita Falls. The daily PM2.5 AQI could reach "Moderate" levels over most of this area. Winds should be strong enough to generate blowing dust in parts of far West Texas and the Panhandle which could raise the daily PM10 AQI into the "Moderate" range in the El Paso area but elsewhere the duration and intensity are not likely to be enough to raise the daily PM10 AQI beyond the "Good" range. Elsewhere in the state, moderate winds and low incoming background levels should help to keep air quality in the "Good" range.

Thursday 04/03/14 Outlook
Smoke and haze from Mexico and Central America should cover most of the eastern half of the state in the morning and could raise the daily PM2.5 AQI to "Moderate" levels over much of this area, mainly along and east of a line from Laredo to Kerrville to Mineral Wells to Gainesville. A cold front should push the smoke out of most of Central and North Central Texas by the evening. Winds should be strong enough to generate blowing dust in parts of far West Texas and the Panhandle and blowing dust could raise the daily PM10 AQI into the "Moderate" range in the El Paso and Lubbock areas. Elsewhere in the state, moderate winds and lower incoming background levels should help to keep air quality in the "Good" range.
I probably should have made that blockquote soot-colored...

As KHOU-TV Channel 11 summarized it in the Spring of 2013,
HOUSTON -- The smoke and haze in the Houston area is coming from agricultural burning in Mexico, according to KHOU 11 News Chief Meteorologist.

The air has reached unhealthy levels for sensitive people in Pasadena, Deer Park and southeast Houston. ,,,

Then KHOU offers "... a fire [sic] of the Mexican fires and smoke." I don't think I really need one; the air is already bringing me more than I want. But if you click through to the Navy map, you'll see that in varying degrees the air in most of the US is affected. There's no preventing it; Mexican farmers have been clearing land this way for at least all of my life.

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. ...
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.