If former students can’t meet their payments, lenders can garnish their paychecks. (Some borrowers, still behind by the time they retire, have even found chunks taken out of their Social Security checks.) - Robert Reich, "Why Ordinary People Bear Economic Risks and Donald Trump Doesn't"

(Earlier banner quotes)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Texas Early Voting Starts Today

Early voting runs from today through 10/31. Election Day is 11/4. See here for days and hours if you live in one of the six largest counties, or here if you live in Harris County and want to find your early voting locations or your Election Day polling place.

Early voting poll hours in Harris County:
October 20-October 24:    8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
October 25:               7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
October 26:               1:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
October 27-October 31:    7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
BRING AN ID (e.g., a driver's license or a gun permit) AND YOUR VOTER CERTIFICATE... note that a college student ID is not good enough.


(NOTE: in these days of deceit by the GOP, you may vote and still suffer the consequences...)

Tennesseeans May Vote To Outlaw All Abortion, Even For Rape, Incest Or To Save The Mother's Life

I don't know why this hasn't crossed my desk earlier. Here's Sahil Kapur at TPM:
The ballot initiative "Amendment 1" is the culmination of more than a decade of plotting by anti-abortion advocates, who are finally ready to strike. It says:

"Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother."

Do you get it now? THIS ISN'T ABOUT RELIGION, AND THIS ISN'T ABOUT THE FETUS: THESE PEOPLE HATE WOMEN. THEY WANT TO CONTROL WOMEN'S MOST PERSONAL DECISIONS. If you live in Tennessee, get thee to the polls. If not, don't be surprised to see such a measure on your own ballot, not this election, but not very long from now either.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

(In)Famous Quotation

—"President" George W. Bush

*Offer void where prohibited by Republicans. Some restrictions apply (race, ethnicity, wealth, etc.). Political party membership may disqualify some voters. All voters must be identified by local driver's license and DNA test performed in three labs with halls of sufficient width as specified by law. Voters regardless of age must have been qualified to vote according to laws in effect prior to August 18, 1920. Votes to be counted by machines manufactured by corporations with directors certified to be GOP activists. Have a nice day.
(If you wonder what inspired this "quotation," see the previous post.)

Supreme Court Reverses Lower Court Decision, Allows Texas Voter ID Law To Stand

@#$%^&*! this partisan Republican, politically activist Court!

Actually, a higher federal court reversed the decision, then the Supremes allowed the reversal to stand with three dissents (Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor). Here's an excerpt from Ginsburg's dissent:
The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.

Note that the Texas voter ID case was independently tried, based on evidence gathered in Texas, and that "[t]he judge found that roughly 600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at the polls because they lack acceptable identification."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Esther Rides The X

Esther and Lily have new toys, each an identical foam-rubber 'X' like this one. Each cat claims both of them, which is only a problem when both cats happen to occupy the same room with both 'X's. Generally we take some trouble to see to it that this does not happen! No amount of persuading would cause Esther to face a flashing camera, so we see her ride the 'X' with her back facing us. Sic transit gloria mundi. (OK, so it's Friday.)

P.S. The toy comes with a bag of catnip, which sometimes enhances the fun... and sometimes simply provokes a fight.

Robert Reich: ‘Why We Allow Big Pharma To Rip Us Off’

Reich's article opens:
According to a new federal database put online last week, pharmaceutical companies and device makers paid doctors some $380 million in speaking and consulting fees over a five-month period in 2013.

Some doctors received over half a million dollars each, and others got millions of dollars in royalties from products they helped develop.

Doctors claim these payments have no effect on what they prescribe. But why would drug companies shell out all this money if it didn’t provide them a healthy return on their investment?

Why, indeed.

My PCP is a very pharmaceutically oriented doc. He knows the whole pharmacopoeia... new and old, drugs profitable to developers and drugs more typically profitable to manufacturers because they've been around for a while. One reason I go to him is that he prescribes newer drugs only when he feels there is a very good reason to prefer them to older, well-established drugs. In a presumably honest response to my inquiry, he says he's not hurting financially... he's living a very comfortable life indeed, thankyouverymuch... but he doesn't appear to earn that livelihood by taking kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies. If only more physicians took that approach!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Stolen Prosthesis Is Antithesis Of Civilized Behavior

Sonny Forriest Jr. took the theft of his prosthetic leg by a drunk woman at a tailgate party with better grace than I would. I have to wonder: what kind of person thinks that is a joke?

All of us who wear these things realize they are a mixed blessing: on the very positive side, they allow us to walk around on two legs almost like a real person; on the not-so-positive side, they are a sweaty and occasionally slightly painful nuisance in hot weather. Mr. Forriest is not alone in removing his prosthesis when he knows he will be sitting in one place for an hour or two.

But I still can't think of what the woman, even allowing for her drunkenness, thought she was going to do with the artificial limb. They are not interchangeable: Mr. Forriest's would not fit me, nor would mine fit him. That, in turn, means there is presumably no market for a stolen one. The prosthesis cost Mr. Forriest (or his insurance company) a couple thousand dollars; the woman who stole it could get $0.00 for it... indeed, she probably couldn't give it away.

I wonder if she votes Republican...

ADDENDUM: Here is an article that contains a news video with more details about the incident. Scroll down a screen or two. The woman fled the scene of the theft, carrying the prosthesis; it turned up some time later on the platform at the end of a mass transit line. The woman has not been caught.

Mr. Forriest says that despite his exasperation with her, he does not want her to serve jail time. I agree. I think a more fitting punishment would require her to perform her regular job for 30 days... strapped in a wheelchair, not allowed to leave it even for bathroom breaks. (Yes, I've lived through that, too; there are suitable receptacles to use for potty trips, though the risk of soiling oneself is non‑negligible.)

Arkansas State Supreme Court Strikes Down Voter ID Law

... as violating the state constitution.

Another one bites the dust...

Can The US Seize A Citizen's Passport?

Yes, says Peter van Buren:
Can the U.S. government seize the passports of American citizens who it believes may travel abroad to join ISIS or other terror groups? Yep. The process is almost no-cost to the government, extra-judicial, can be made secret and requires a lengthy court process to even try to contest. No passport, no international travel, the ultimate no-fly tool against would-be jihadis. ...

And the procedure is ostensibly legal... but it has not been much used. Read van Buren's post to learn why.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Judge Posner Condemns His Own Opinion On Voter ID

Well-known federal Judge Richard A. Posner, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Reagan appointee and arguably signature conservative jurist in the nation (apart from those on the Supreme Court), author of the 7th Circuit's 2008 opinion in Crawford v. Marion County (wiki), the case affirming the constitutionality of Indiana's voter ID law, thus opening the floodgates of voter ID laws enacted by other states, has changed his mind about voter ID laws in general. And he's not shy about it. "Dartagnan" at Daily Kos says this:
Posner, joined by four Judges on the Seventh Circuit, authored the opinion requesting a rehearing en banc by the entire Seventh Circuit Court of appeals in Frank v Scott Walker et al, the recent case assessing the validity of the Wisconsin "Voter ID" statute.  A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit had already cleared the way for the Wisconsin law to go into effect prior to next month's elections. Posner's request for rehearing split the Judges of that Circuit 5-5, and thus no rehearing was granted. Posner's opinion, which eviscerates every rationale promoted in support of these suppression laws, was relegated to a "dissent." ...
In short, if Posner were not Posner, his request for a rehearing would sink beneath the waves, and we would have draconian voter ID laws for as long as our nation lasts. But Posner is indeed Posner, and even conservatives listen to him. If we assume that we haven't heard the last in court of the GOP's skulduggery perpetrated by voter ID laws, it is reasonable also to assume that judges in further federal cases will pay heed to Posner, even all but the most extreme Supreme Court Justices.

One can hope. It's that, or cede our representative democracy to a band of thieves with an elephant as their emblem...

UPDATE: I am not the best at reading legal documents, but this one from the Supreme Court site appears to indicate that the Supremes (with Alito, Scalia and Thomas dissenting) have vacated the 7th Circuit's permanent injunction pending a timely petition for, and issuance of, a writ of certiorari by the Supreme Court. So there's more to come on this whole nightmare. I suppose we all know how Alito, Scalia and Thomas will vote, inveterate partisans that they are, but the rest of the Court may be more inclined to hear the appeal.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Putting The Squeeze On The Old And The Ill: Generic Medication Prices Soar

Are you human? Are you old? Do you have chronic medical conditions? Are the prices of medications for those conditions climbing? Please read "Officials Question the Rising Costs of Generic Drugs" by Elisabeth Rosenthal at the NYT. Here's a sample:

Some of the rises have been huge, according to data released by the lawmakers. The price that hospitals and pharmacies pay for a bottle of 500 tablets of doxycycline, a decades-old antibiotic, rose to $1,849 in April, from $20 in October 2013. The price they pay for a bottle of pravastatin, a drug to lower cholesterol, rose to $196 from $27 in that same time. The price of a pill of digoxin, a centuries-old medicine that is irreplaceable for some cardiac patients, rose to $1.10 this summer from 11 cents in 2012.

Maybe you are of the 1% and don't have to use generics. Maybe you are determined to use brand-name drugs no matter what the cost, and are willing to skip some meals to afford them. But if neither of those statements describes you, sooner or later, you will need ongoing prescriptions of generic drugs... and yes, I take a handful twice a day. If you survive to old age, it's inevitable.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are mounting an effort in Congress to do something to control these egregious price increases. Perhaps you could get on Sanders's mailing list to track what you can do to help build support for the bill.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Crap Chunks Keep Falling On Our Heads

... NOT by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, believe me. The shit is being slung so fast I can barely read about it and can't even begin to write it up. So I'll just list it, so you can choose for yourself which stench you can tolerate today:
And a couple of sweet-smelling treats for dessert:

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Agent Orange-Like Herbicide Soon To Be Approved By USDA, FDA; Only Obama Can Stop It

This dropped in my email box this morning like a Vietnam-era defoliant: Food and Water Watch, which has been fighting this battle for a long while, notes that
The USDA has already approved [this herbicide], and the EPA is likely to approve the herbicide that will be used on these crops soon. Our last chance is to urge President Obama, who has the authority to block the EPA's decision, to act to protect our health and our agriculture.
That's right. President Obama, Dog help us, is our last hope to stop approval of herbicides made to be used on "[c]orn and soybeans genetically engineered to withstand 2,4-D — [which] are on the verge of being approved for use on our food." Here is a general (though not recent) article on the subject. Here is a press release published this week, "Approval of 2,4-D Tolerant Crops Speeds up Agrichemical Treadmill", that has a few more details. Regrettably, Food and Water Watch does not have a standalone web page directly connected with its current petition campaign, but here is the link embedded in my email if you want to try to sign on to the letter to President Obama.

Monday, October 6, 2014

That Voodoo That You Do Like Hell

Paul Krugman
Paul Krugman examines the unfortunately very real possibility that if Republicans retake the Senate and retain the House, they will be able, by tweaking the formulas used by the Congressional Budget Office ("heretofore a nonpartisan referee on policy proposals" as Krugman describes it), to reinstitute... you guessed it... what the elder George Bush and many of us even less fond of Ronald Reagan than he was called "voodoo economics."

"Poppy" Bush
Voodoo economics, in brief, is cutting taxes to promote economic growth, the formula used aggressively by Saint Ronald to wreck the American economy from about 1980 for about the rest of my natural life. It never really worked to promote genuine economic growth: it was, and is, a signature of allegedly conservative economic policy which has one measurable effect, namely, to make the rich richer and send the rest of us to economic hell. Since its aggressive promotion in 1980, the world's economists have had almost 35 years to examine voodoo economics in its American incarnation and in a number of other countries where variants of it were tried (see Krugman), and to people willing to accept the evidence rather than the ideology, it is manifestly a catastrophe for everyone except those so wealthy that the economic context of the market in which they operate has no effect on their acquisition of wealth. In other words, as one old song has it, "the rich get rich and the poor get poorer." Ain't we got fun.

I am to a point at which I find it increasingly difficult to advocate empowering the Democratic Party. But the Republican Party is nothing but a fast ride straight to hell, especially for the middle class, who are America's last, best hope of avoiding that steep descent.

"Boy" Paul
In November, you can vote for the disappointing Democrats. Or you can vote for a party full of people like Rand Paul, whom Krugman quotes as follows:
When is the last time in our country we created millions of jobs? It was under Ronald Reagan.
Right. Bill Clinton never existed, and he is now invisible.

Vote for Republicans at your peril.

Governor Glasses Lands In Ebola Soup

Clark Kent 'Glasses' Perry to far right
Lucky Texas received the first diagnosed intercontinental case of ebola virus in the US (Liberia to Dallas). Governor Rick "Glasses" Perry promptly jumped on the case as an opportunity to display his Great Leader skills, issuing statements intended to calm the population.

Playing the typical Republican game that views every tragedy as an opportunity, Perry is betting that Texas has the skills and resources to handle the case without facing a serious outbreak of the disease that is by now rampant in part of western Africa.

Perry is probably right: ebola can be successfully combated, and Texas has medical resources comparable to those anywhere in the country and the public health expertise to mount a successful effort against an admittedly terrifying infectious agent which is nonetheless spread only by direct personal contact.

Will Weissert at TPM has an outline of the political dimensions of the "opportunity." If Perry is good at anything, he is good at political opportunism; whether it can take him to the White House is questionable, but it should be entertaining as we all remind ourselves, per Donald Trump, not to shake hands.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Michigan GOP Campaign Mailer Bears Phone Number Of Dem Opponent's 91-Year-Old Mother In Hospice

Catherine Thompson at TPM:
A Democratic candidate for the Michigan House said Thursday that the state GOP sent out campaign mailers this week that urged voters to call him to complain about Obamacare.

The hitch: candidate John Fisher said the phone number printed on the mailer connected voters to his 91-year-old mother, who is receiving hospice care.

"To direct people to call a suffering woman who deserves peace and comfort is beyond the pale," Fisher said in a statement, as quoted by MLive.com. "Their lack of ethics and contempt for personal privacy is just another reason for people to question what – or better, who – the Republican Party stands for, so that they can make a wise decision at the ballot box on Nov. 4."

I am more convinced every day: this is who Republicans really are, deep down inside... cruel bastards who would do literally anything to anyone to gain more power. It is not just wrong to negotiate with them, as Mr. Obama wishes: it is wrong to concede them even the smallest point. We must fight, not merely to win elections, but to send this organization of cold, contemptible, morally bankrupt people to the graveyard of history.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

‘They Wonder Why They're Hated’: Video Of Tallahassee Police Tasing 62-Year-Old Black Woman In The Back

That's the reaction of an onlooker: All pretense of civilized behavior vanishes as a Tallahassee officer apparently tells a 62-year-old-woman to turn around, then tases her in the back as she walks away slowly, threatening no one:

(Incident is at about 2:38 into the video.)

Sixty or seventy years ago, we wondered what it felt like to be confronted by the Gestapo. Now we can simply look out our windows...

This cannot continue. This. Can. Not. Continue.

(Via Shaun King at Kos.)

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.