Friday, October 2, 2015

Will The Incidents Of Mass Gun Violence Never End?

President Obama spoke on the tragedy yesterday in Roseburg, Oregon:

Clearly he was exasperated at having to make this speech one... more... time, one of hundreds of incidents in America this year alone, incidents which simply do not happen in great quantities in any other free and democratic society in the world... including some in which law-abiding citizens' access to guns is, in practice, no more restricted than it is in the US. We have guns; they have guns— we have rampages, episodes of mass killings using guns which American criminals seem always able to get their hands on; they do not.  (Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee criticized Obama for making this obligatory speech, which Fuckabee called political. Then again, the Guv is known for shooting... shooting off his mouth, that is.)

How many hundreds of episodes of mass homicide by firearm must we endure every year before Americans awaken to the fact that ready availability of guns, moment to moment, legally or illegally but in any case not "well-regulated," is a primary cause of these events?

Yes, I know the drill: an armed society is a polite society; if a household always has guns at hand, it can always protect itself; etc. etc. ad nauseam. The problem with all such statements is that the statistics do not bear them out: the person likeliest to be shot with a personal handgun is the gun's owner or his/her family member, and America is the only free and democratic nation that experiences hundreds of incidents of gun-inflicted mass violence every year.

And yes, I know there is a national organization that makes its bucks by scaring people into implementing the 2nd Amendment in a manner that almost guarantees repeated, frequent, terrifying incidents of mass gun violence. The problem with that org is that... do I really need to explain this one? Let me know if President Obama takes away your guns— if he actually does, maybe I'll modify my position, but I'm not holding my breath.

Chris Harper Mercer's source of guns?
At gun shows, shot happens, you know...

A personal aside: in 1990, my mother died of Alzheimer's disease. The last year before she had to be institutionalized, Mom, being a country girl by birth, started begging Dad to buy a shotgun, ostensibly because Mom was hearing prowlers around their mobile home, itself quite a way out in the country.

Now there's improved safety for you: one aged and diagnosed demented member of a household hears people who aren't there, and demands a shotgun to protect herself from those nonexistent people. Oh, yeah; having a loaded gun handy was really going to heighten the safety of everyone living in or visiting that household. Uh-huh. Right.

Dad actually handled the situation very well: given that Mom's requests for a gun were ceaseless as long as she had no gun she could see and, theoretically, put her hands on, Dad bought the gun, and a small amount of ammunition, placed the unloaded gun in plain sight in a closet at home, and hid the ammo where only he could get to it. I wasn't present for the event, but I think Dad test-fired the gun once, again in plain sight so Mom could take comfort in the fact that the gun worked. The ammo? well, that disappeared until I found it when I cleaned out the mobile home after both of them had passed away.

Upon Dad's death, I gave the gun to his next-door neighbor, who already had three hunting rifles in his house. Three guns; four guns— it was IMO unlikely he'd do more damage with four than with three.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

New Slogan: ‘Alabama... The N****r-F^<king State’

Tierney Sneed at TPM:
What happens when a state with a tough voter ID law suddenly makes it much harder for minorities to get driver's licenses? We are about to find out in Alabama.

Facing a budget crisis, Alabama has shuttered 31 driver's license offices, many of them in counties with a high proportion of black residents. Coming after the state recently put into effect a tougher voter ID law, the closures will cut off access -- particularly for minorities -- to one of the few types of IDs accepted. 
According to a tally by columnist John Archibald, eight of the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of non-white registered voters saw their driver's license offices closed.

This seems truly blatant to me. But that only implies that the outcome depends on how thoroughly the judiciary in Alabama is bought and paid for. As Repub's become more desperate to "win," they are willing to move more aggressively and take more chances of being convicted of out-and-out theft by a variety of means. If the various balances of power... federal vs. state, judiciary vs. legislature, etc. ... fail to result in significant court cases, at the federal level at least, we could see more of Alabamans' fundamental voting rights yanked away from citizens and defended only to the extent the state judiciary wants them defended. Which, in Alabama, may not be very damned much.

Representative democracy, even a sorry, low-life representative democracy like the one in America, requires a meaningful process that allows every adult permanent resident h. sapiens to vote according to her or his district. What happens if we don't have that? You tell me...

The GOP's [Not So] Great War On Women: The Party's Ongoing Attempt To Kill Planned Parenthood

There's no doubt about it: if you're an American citizen of the female persuasion, you do not want to live your life in the dystopian version of American society the Republicans are building.

And Republicans themselves, especially the ones who wrongly self-classify as "conservative" (they're actually radical as hell), feel freer every day to speak their misogyny right out in public. Any lie about women that serves their petty political purposes, they say it, often in front of a session of Congress. Any "document" that reflects their partisan position on a women's issue, however antiscientific that doc's content, they dredge it up in front of a House committee, post it all over the Web and talk endlessly about it on Fox, ABC, CNN, etc., who sometimes seem almost to be unofficial branch offices of the GOP.

It's really ugly out there these days, and I don't see Republican behavior improving until after the GOPers succeed in stealing the 2016 presidential election. If they don't succeed in stealing the White House, count on the anti-women rhetoric continuing until they steal an election, or go to ground trying (yeah, I know; wishful thinking on my part).

Planned Parenthood, as you know if you're reading this blog, is American women's essential health care resource: without its existence, its funding, its efforts, many American poor women, or even women of ordinary means, or adolescent or senescent women, or women deep in underserved rural areas, or college students, would never receive even the most basic of reproductive health care, and could and do die of the lack.

GOP leadership (what's left of it) is laying about itself with a broadsword, and it is women who get the worst of it. At its most malevolent, the GOP aims the blade at Planned Parenthood. For the record, and contrary to what you may have heard from Repub's like that chronic liar Carly Fiorina, about 1½ to 2 percent of Planned Parenthood's services are abortion-related. (UPDATE: NPR, which I've heard stands for "Nice Polite Republicans," uses the figure 3 percent. I'm not going to dispute over a 1 percent difference: by law, none of it is federal tax money anyway. But don't believe for one nanosecond those hostile women-hating antiabortion fanatics who would tell you it's 15 percent; that's a figure they made up out of thin air.)

Four women reporters at TPM... TPM regulars Sara Jerde, Caitlin Cruz and Caitlin MacNeal, along with the brilliant and seemingly omnipresent Amanda Marcotte... sample recent GOP output from what many of us appropriately label the GOP War on Women. You may want to read their articles listed below, some of which include videos... I thought I understood how bad GOP hatred of women is, how withering is the blatant public Republican assault pointed at American women, but these reporters' research has convinced me: whatever I imagined, the reality is even worse:

The "GOP chair" referred to is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) (rut?), and I've often wanted to ask him: "Chaffetz, does your mother know what you do to women, not at night, but right out in broad... television lighting?" Then again, I'm sure I'd be a happier person if I never met that asshole...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pope Francis Met Kim Davis In DC... In Secret

Only today was that fact acknowledged by the Vatican... and the Catholic Church's history of doing bad things in secret is too long and too egregious to assume anything other than that they, and probably Kim Davis, have something to hide in this case, not sexual in nature but nonetheless abusive of the goodwill of the Pope's American hosts. And to think I was just about to have some positive feelings toward the Church... what folly on my part. Sigh!

"... however, we will listen to Kim Davis,
but only in complete secrecy..."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Dreck Is In The [E]Mail, Or
Firefox 41.0 Kills My Webmail Service

For about a decade I've used a commercial email hosting service at, a service and a company reliable enough that I can forget it for months at a time, which is certainly more than I could say about my previous service. The change to was relatively painless and was, as it turns out, a good decision. I recommend this service to any individual or company requiring exceptionally great reliability in email to and from customers (in my case, contract IT clients). delivers what it advertises, and I am grateful for that. includes in its service an excellent webmail site, good enough that I long ago switched to it for all my email management needs, in preference to (say) Mozilla Thunderbird, which gave me lots of grief for the few years I relied on it. That's right: I use no client-side email software on any of my computers; this webmail fulfills all my email needs. (Pro forma, I have Thunderbird installed, but I seldom use it.)

But every ointment has its resident fly, and this is no exception. Last week, Mozilla released Firefox 41.0, distributed (at least in the Linux world) through the usual software update service which your distro (I use Ubuntu) provides with the OS. It was automatic, seldom gave any trouble and required virtually no individual attention to install the patches. So Firefox 40.0.3 (I think) was seamlessly replaced with Firefox 41.0, no muss, no fuss...

... until I tried the webmail and found it completely dysfunctional under FF 41.0 .

Fortunately, the webmail continued to work under the latest Google Chrome, so I was not completely dead in the water. But I had a lot of my personally valuable links stored in Firefox, and not all of them were replicated in Google Chrome. So I opened a trouble ticket with, explaining that although I understood the problem likely was not in their software, the most direct route to a solution probably involved their efforts testing their own product on FF 41.0, and indeed that proved to be the case. They determined that the problem is NOT just a Linux matter: it occurs on every OS on which FF 41.0 runs and which supports.

As those of you who blog probably know, if you use a webmail service, you often must do your email work and your browsing for the web material on which you base your blog content on the very same browser... i.e., all on Firefox or all on Google Chrome or Chromium or (Dog forbid) MSIE. It's not an absolute requirement, but it can be truly inconvenient to switch browsers 10 times in developing a simple 3-paragraph post. So I am now getting used to Google Chrome as my new single browser, at least until resolves its problems with Firefox.

Now... wasn't that exciting? NOOOO... but if things look a bit shaky on the YDDV blog for a while, at least you know why.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pope Francis Is Wrong About Kim Davis

In an AP article about a wide range of subjects covered in an interview of Pope Francis conducted on the papal airplane, the Pope, who more or less admitted not knowing the particulars of the case, sided with Davis, saying she had a right of conscience to refuse to issue marriage licenses to LGBT same-sex couples:


In another issue pressing on the American church, Francis was asked about the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk jailed for several days after she refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples despite the Supreme Court's ruling making same-sex marriage legal nationwide. Davis said such marriages violate her Apostolic Christian faith.

Francis said he didn't know the case in detail, but he upheld conscience objection as a human right.

"It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right," Francis said.


I'm sorry, but the Pope is mistaken. It happens to every human person, especially when that person is shooting from the hip based on incomplete knowledge, and that's exactly what the Pope did in this case.

The freedom of religion conferred on American citizens by the First Amendment to the US Constitution is a freedom of belief, and that freedom is, quite rightly, very nearly absolute.

But any associated freedom of action is, necessarily, limited by ordinary secular law and common law. If that were not so, what possible effectiveness could any law have on the undesirable activity it was intended to control? If all of us could summarily rewrite or reinterpret any law in our minds and then act on that reinterpretation, the result could be, and probably would be, chaos in society.

The Pope also mistakes what it means to be a conscientious objector. America's history of conscientious objection, to war, to legally enshrined racial injustice, etc., requires that the objector be willing either to step back from the confrontation... in Davis's case, resign from her job in which her nonfeasance is illegal... or to go to jail for the illegal behavior s/he commits in the process of objection. That is the means by which an ordinary American citizen can have an impact on a law which the courts have declined to rule unconstitutional.

(ADDED: The issues in which exceptions have been carved out in law for religious conscientious objection have resulted in IMHO grossly unfair treatment of individuals whose only substantive difference is what they say they believe. A good friend of mine from middle school through college was a member of a religion which the US government recognized as having a conscientious objection to war. While most Unitarian Universalists I know object on principle to war, and I certainly did and do, there is no broad objection enshrined in the religion itself; it is left as a matter of conscience to the individual UU. As a result, my friend had an automatic draft exemption, while I was subject to the draft. I do not begrudge him his exemption, but I certainly begrudged my non-exemption. I later obtained a deferment for my left knee, wrecked in an accident when I was 13 and still troublesome to this day; eventually that deferment was commuted to an exemption. Sigh!)

In other words, the conscientious objector can, in fact, be a law unto herself or himself... but only at a price, and that price is to accept the punishment society's law imposes on him or her. It's the only way conscientious objection could possibly work without leading to unlimited lawlessness.

Davis clearly doesn't understand that (or, in my opinion, just wants to make trouble). But there is no excuse for the Pope; he should educate himself on the workings of such a fundamental principle as conscientious objection.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Articles On Boehner; Articles On Other Outrageous Matters

On Boehner:
According to Igor Volsky at ThinkProgress,
  1. Boehner shut down the government to protect the country from “the threat of Obamacare.”
  2. Boehner killed bipartisan immigration reform because had technical difficulties.
  3. Boehner turned the debt ceiling into a political football.
  4. Boehner ran the least productive Congress in history.
See the article for Volsky's reasoning.

And on a miscellany of outrages:

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Die Zauberflöte, Revisited

The parody below got me to thinking. I have no attachment to the philosophical content of Mozart's Masonic opera, Die Zauberflöte, but it has to be one of the most tuneful operas ever written. And it gives beautiful young people with spectacularly good voices an opportunity to show off!

If you have 2-3 hours to spare, go enjoy Die Zauberflöte; you won't regret it.

(Full disclosure: yes, I do know and used to work with one person in the orchestra in this live performance. If that prejudices me, I think you'll agree if you watch the performance that he must be pretty good to be in that orchestra!)

Krugman On Boehner

Boehner and the Belt. Krugman rightly complains about Boehner's "common sense." Not quite a "good riddance," but more perspective than I showed in my last post.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Boehner To Resign From Congress By End Of October

The Pope Speaks — The Speaker Weeps
Basics available from Laura Clawson at Kos, though I heard the news first on ABC. Here's the statement from Boehner's office via Clawson:

Speaker Boehner believes that the first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution and, as we saw yesterday with the Holy Father, it is the one thing that unites and inspires us all. 

The Speaker's plan was to serve only through the end of last year. Leader Cantor's loss in his primary changed that calculation.

The Speaker believes putting members through prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution.

He is proud of what this majority has accomplished, and his Speakership, but for the good of the Republican Conference and the institution, he will resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective October 30.

(Jeez, I thought when they said "the institution" they meant the Republican Conference. You mean the jokers actually acknowledge there are others in Congress than their own arrogant selfies selves?)

There's no love wasted on Boehner at Our House, but to the extent that his resignation makes another government shutdown more likely, or Obama's last year more difficult, I regret Boehner's sudden departure. Maybe it wasn't just the Pope's speech that left him in tears...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What Will The American Media Do When The Pope Has Gone Home?

Well, perhaps they could produce an opera. Here's a duet from it...

Pope... Pope Pope... 
 Pope... Pope Pope...
Pope... Pope... Pope... Pope...  
  Pope... Pope... Pope... Pope...
... etc. ...
Nah... that's too much like what we're hearing right now when anyone but the Pontiff himself is speaking...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Inquiring Herbivore Minds Want To Know...

The daily Trump TPM email pointed to an article titled "Trump Truth! Was Trump’s Obama/Muslim Questioner A Plant?" Well, surely, yes, but that isn't the half of it; the real question is, what kind of plant?

A ficus? a tulip? broccoli? a forest of giant oak trees (some assembly required)? I'd guess the last option; he was clearly some kind of nut...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fiorina Lies, Or At Best, Is Grievously Mistaken About Planned Parenthood Videos... Nah. ‘Lies’

Via Sara Jerde at TPM yesterday, we have this:
Fiorina Defends Planned Parenthood Comment: I've Seen The Footage!
... which is damned peculiar, since...
Her campaign and the organization that released the "sting" videos can't point to the video that shows what Fiorina described.
What's ugly? It's not her face...
It's her baldfaced lies
Ah, well; all's fair in love, war, and kicking Planned Parenthood every time it offers necessary health care services to poor women. And lying certainly counts as part of that "all," not just for Fiorina but for all the GOPer presidential candidates.

TPM reader The_Mask points us in comments to a NYT article,
Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds,
and a article,
Unspinning the Planned Parenthood Video,
both of which do a lot to put the lie to what Fiorina and other Republicans are claiming.

It is a testament to the political extremism of the GOP: the actions of congressional Repubs (especially John Boehner and his uncontrollable tea-bagging crew) in reinforcing this blatant hit piece are yet more evidence that Planned Parenthood continues to exist because it provides basic health care services to women whom the government underserves or, more often, does not serve at all. And no, I'm not talking about abortion: the GOP clearly wants to prevent these women, mostly indigent women or women of color, from receiving basic exams for cancer and other diseases potentially fatal to them, and that same GOP is willing, nay, eager to destroy the organization that makes those services available. Write it large in your personal notepad:
The GOP kills poor women.
If accomplished by other means, these heinous acts would be called murder, or even gendercide. Does America want to be listed among the countries where that unconscionable crime is committed? The GOP is taking us there in a hurry!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Republican Philosophy Of Government Inaction [sic] And My License Plates

It must have happened in my childhood and early teen years, but I literally cannot remember a time when the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector or the Harris County Clerk was a Democrat. And so it is today: these elected county officials are Republicans. I'm sure they would tell you, as would every GOPer who bothers to tell you anything, that "less government is better" and "government costs too much." When they are in office, GOPers simplify the combination of these two statements into "less government service is better." And act accordingly.

(not mine)
I received a notice that it's time to renew my auto registration. The state, at long last, is doing the sensible thing and combining registration and inspection status into a single sticker. I can't blame Repubs alone for that, though it's been a long time since Dems had the power to legislate it. Anyway, my notice contained a statement telling me "* NEW PLATES REQUIRED *" and telling me in a very few words my options for obtaining the plates. The short version: the notice arrived too late for me to do it online or by mail with any reasonable expectation of plates arriving before my current ones expire. As undiligent as county officials are about notifying, that's how diligent HPD is about stopping people with out-of-date stickers; I am not the only person I know to whom they've done that (never mind that the state failed to send me a notice that year). So today I have to go to the county tax assessor's office to pay my registration fee and get my sticker (now only one) and plates.

In the past, the lines at the closest branch tax assessor's office have been so long and slow that they confirm every GOP stereotype of government inefficiency. I'd be very surprised if that has changed. So my day is cut out for me.

The GOPers will not succeed in making me loathe government; they only succeed at that when their government officials try repeatedly to illegalize or otherwise interfere with a woman's constitutionally protected right to choose abortion, which of course they do several times a year here. If the goddam gummint lets me get back home soon enough today, I'll write an article about the recent execrable hostility of Repubs in Congress and the state Lege to the very existence of Planned Parenthood, which is many women's only source of health care of any sort.

Once more into the fray queue...

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Donald Trump And Religious Freedom

Sara Jerde at TPM succinctly summarizes Trump's problem:
During the town hall in New Hampshire, the audience member also said that President Obama was a Muslim. Trump was criticized for not defending Obama and Muslims to the audience member.

CNN "State of the Union" host Jake Tapper asked Trump on Sunday if he had a responsibility to "call out the hatred."

"Well we could be politically correct, if you want, but are you trying to say we don't have a problem," Trump said. "I think everybody would agree. I have friends that are Muslims. They're great people, amazing people. And most Muslims, like most everything, I mean they're fabulous people, but we certainly do have a problem."

Tapper asked him to clarify what the "problem" was.

"Well, you have radicals that are doing things," Trump replied. "It wasn't people from Sweden that blew up the world trade center, Jake."
I'm going to address Trump's problem... he's almost right when he says "we certainly do have a problem," but actually, HE "certainly do[es] have a problem" ... with an excerpt from Wikipedia on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and his religion:
Jindal was raised in a Hindu household. He converted to Christianity while in Baton Rouge Magnet High School. During his first year at Brown University, he was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. His family attends weekly Mass at Saint Aloysius Parish in Baton Rouge.
Raised Hindu; converted Christian in a magnet high school; baptized Roman Catholic and attends weekly Mass... now THAT is religious freedom, as protected in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. That Constitution does NOT say an American may practice "any Christian religion," nor indeed does it require an American to practice any religion whatsoever, or to refrain from practicing any religion whatsoever, as long as s/he does not violate ordinary secular laws (e.g., forget any notion you may have of engaging in ritual sacrifice of humans; that's still murder).

So Jindal, a stalwart Republican if there ever was one, gets to practice his religion... indeed, his long series of quite different religions over the years... and that's his right under the First Amendment. But according to Trump's audience member, uncorrected by Trump, a Muslim has no similar right: the audience member is certain that America's problem is specifically Muslims, not specifically terrorists.

The late great Thomas Jefferson would have been very surprised to hear an American citizen eliminate that right for Muslims (Jefferson called them "Mahometan," but demonstrably knew what and who they were), and with equal certainty intended the First Amendment to protect them. I guess Trump, like so many right-wing nutjobs, is only selectively fond of our nation's founders, and he disapproves of Jefferson and his liberality toward a wide variety of religions.

Religious Diversity in Symbols
(UU Flaming Chalice: 2nd row, 3rd symbol)
How do you know Trump, if elected, would not at some point disapprove of your religion, if you happen not to be Christian (as indeed I am not; I'm a Unitarian-Universalist)? What would he do about his disapproval? The question is not far-fetched: a few years back, an appointed elected Republican official in Texas issued an order removing tax-exempt status for Unitarians, whose membership historically included three or four American presidents. The order was quickly rescinded under considerable public pressure, but Texas GOPers would do it again in a millisecond if they had the chance.

What's your religious freedom worth to you? More to the point, what's YOUR religious freedom worth to Trump?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bernie In The News This Week

First, let me say I saw Bernie live on CBS News this morning (sorry; I can't find that particular segment online) and I am even more convinced we need this man as president.

Second, note that Hillary no longer has an insurmountable monopoly in all polls, indeed she has dropped even in some national polls. And in at least two early states, New Hampshire and Iowa, Sanders leads Clinton: he holds a 22% lead in NH and a 10% lead in Iowa. I am not an enthusiastic poll-watcher and I don't think this means Bernie will become the Democratic candidate; I just want to rebut those who insist I am wasting my vote. Strategy is well and good, but an honest, democratically motivated vote is never wasted. And yes, I'll switch to Hillary when Bernie leaves the race.
Now a couple of article links:
You gotta love a man that Bill-O can't succeed in ambushing...

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