Friday, July 30, 2010

'I'm Ready For My Friday Glamour Shot'


Lily repeatedly played with the hanging ball until she heard me getting out the camera, then reverted immediately to her "glamour shot" pose:

Like other members of this household, she knows what she wants and how to get it!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lindsey Graham Is A Mistake - The YSS


Eric Kleefeld of TPM:

Is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) starting to step away from his image as a relative GOP moderate? He's now calling for a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants, an idea that has become a cause célèbre on the right.

"But there's another problem we have in this nation that I think is novel and needs to be fixed. If you come across the border illegally and you have a child in America, automatically, that child becomes an American citizen. Under the 14th Amendment, three court cases says there's a constitutional right to that," Graham said in an appearance Wednesday on Greta Van Susteren's show.

He also added: "But I may introduce a constitutional amendment that changes the rules if you have a child here. Birthright citizenship I think is a mistake, that we should change our Constitution and say if you come here illegally and you have a child, that child's automatically not a citizen."


Oh, I understand. Lindsey Graham venerates George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln (possibly not just their images on bills). Yet the first three gentlemen listed were not even born American citizens! Oh, the horror of watching non-Americans grow to greatness in the pantheon of American leaders, while Americans born here to foreign parents... uh, well... Lindsey wants to strip them of their citizenship, and probably deport them once it's gone. (I wonder what he would do in the case of Native Americans, who were not only born here but whose parents' parents' parents' parents were also born here. Hey, Lindsey, do you plan to reintroduce discrimination against the people of our First Nations into the Constitution?)

First question: Could you ask for any better example than Lindsey Graham of where the GOP would take us if they regained control of the government? Among Republicans, hate is an American value.

Second question: Is Lindsey Graham really necessary?

Boot Pains


My trip to the "boot people" (see upstream post on the boot) yielded only bad news. The fit was bad enough that they're going to have to make a new one... not their fault, necessarily; my foot had swelled since the boot was made, to a point at which the sides of the very hard plastic boot scraped little holes in my skin... but in the week it takes them to make the new one, I am enjoined from walking any more than absolutely necessary. No more making 12 trips a day to the computer! I was already on a light blogging schedule; it may perforce become even lighter.

If necessary, I may email some of those tiny text-only posts from my cell phone. At least I can do that from my easy chair. But the emailed posts are limited in length by my cell phone provider, and they look awful: "nasty, brutish and short," I guess you'd say.

Y'know, aging is a real pain in the... foot.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Slip-Sliding Away


Paraphrasing Paul Simon...

We work our jobs, Collect our pay; Believe we’re gliding down the highway When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away.
But if you work for a BP contractor, you don't even always collect your pay. From Dahr Jamail, truthout:
BP oil disaster response workers are reporting endemic problems, such as not being paid on time, low morale, rampant sickness, equipment failures and being lied to regularly.

"Yesterday was a catastrophe," one worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Truthout. "People are waiting 2-3 hours for their paychecks to be brought to them and I know for a fact three people that didn't get paid and no reason was given."

The woman has been working as a clerk for Gulf Asphalt Contractors (GAC) ,,,


Read the rest. But finish your breakfast first. It's pretty disgusting.

(Correction to Paul Simon lyrics made after initial posting. I had mixed the two versions of the last stanza.)

Being Given, Um, Sold The Boot


The past two days I've dealt with a new boot for my right foot, one intended not to cure it but to lengthen and level it so I can walk with a walker. Success has been mixed. I'll write more after two docs have had a chance to examine and adjust this rather pricey and markedly inconvenient device.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Two Cats, One Woman, Three Frames (Of Mind)





Once again, I have to say that the Blogger post editor is the single worst text editor ever made, anywhere, by anyone, for any purpose. If I could speak to its author, I'd recommend a short one-way trip to the nearest train track.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Herbert Hoover's Ghost


Robert Reich says it's haunting Washington. He calls our economic disability the "1.5 dip recession":


The 1.5 dip recession should cause the President to demand a large-scale national jobs program including a new WPA that gets millions of Americans back to work even if government has to pay their wages directly. Included would be zero-interest loans to strapped states and locales, so they didn't have to cut vital services and raise taxes. They could repay when the economy picked up and revenues came in. The national jobs program would also include a one-year payroll tax holiday on the first $20,000 of income.

The President should stop talking and acting on anything else – not the deficit, not energy, not the environment, not immigration, not implementing the health care law, not education. He should make the whole upcoming mid-term election a national referendum on putting Americans back to work, and his jobs bill. Are you for it or against it?

But none of this is happening. The hawks and blue dogs are still commanding the attention. Herbert Hoover's ghost seems to have captured the nation's capital. We're back to 1932 (or 1937) and the prevailing sentiment is government can't and mustn't do anything but aim to reduce the deficit, even though the economy is going down.


It didn't work in 1932. It worked still worse in 1937 when FDR let himself be persuaded by the Right to do the "conservative" thing. Not until FDR prevailed over the worst of Hoover's policy advocates did the Great Depression begin to reverse.

But today, the right-wing economic nut-cases keep trying the same thing again and again, just certain it will work this time. No, it wasn't Einstein who labeled that behavior "insanity," but the definition has stuck anyway: trying something over and over again when it hasn't worked yet is pure and simple insanity.

If that is correct, then we are being led by a lunatic. All you Obama fans... I hope you enjoy being broke, hungry and jobless, because we already know from experience that that's where this policy leads.

AFTERTHOUGHT about Obama fandom: Lately I've seen comments, posts and even occasional correspondence telling me that if I am a Democrat, I should support Obama in every regard, because he is "our" president.

I'm sorry, but that's ass-backward.

If Obama were acting even remotely like a Democrat, I'd support him, and I'd probably still be a Democrat myself.

But he is not. He is acting more conservative than a mainstream Republican from, say, Eisenhower's day, and repeatedly showing no support for workers' rights, women's rights, civil liberties and economic sanity. A Democrat is as a Democrat does. Obama doesn't.

Obama has clearly abandoned the Democratic tradition of the late 20th and early 21st century... my tradition... and so I have abandoned Obama. The fact that the party has tagged along after Obama for whatever reason has driven me to abandon the party as well. Give me back the traditional Democratic Party and I will probably rejoin it... but I'm not holding my breath for that to happen.

And you people who are telling me to "grow up" and "get over it"? Fuck you with a corkscrew. Here, you can borrow mine...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Death Penalty: Unbelievably Expensive To Taxpayers


The ACLU Blog of Rights uses California as an example:

Let's Cut the Death Penalty and Save California $126 Million a Year

The California Supreme Court has just 'sentenced' our state's taxpayers to an additional debt of at least $180,000 more per year. How? The state's high court upheld the death penalty in two cases.

Imposing the death penalty adds enormously to the cost of prosecution and permanent lifetime housing for an inmate. The death penalty is certainly a polarizing public policy issue, but I wonder how many people realize that it's also a vortex-like drain on their own pocketbooks.

Whether you're for or against the death penalty, you are paying for it. Here are the staggering numbers, from a report by the ACLU of Northern California:

  • $90,000 a year: taxpayers' extra cost of holding one inmate on death row, over and above the cost of keeping an inmate in the general prison population
  • $10.9 million: taxpayers' cost of one death penalty trial, based on the records of a sample of trials
  • $117 million a year: taxpayers' cost of seeking execution, after conviction, for inmates throughout the state

Altogether, Californians spend as much per year in pursuit of executions as the salaries of more than 2,500 experienced teachers, or 2,250 new California Highway Patrol officers.

There's no answer to that one.

Provide any less due process and you're risking executing innocent people... believe me, that approach was very popular in Texas in the 1980s when many Texans didn't give a good damn whether innocents were executed as long as they got their fill of executions. It was an ugly business.

But you know it won't do. Due process is spelled out, detail by detail, in the Constitution, and most of us know enough history to understand why it's there.

But let's suppose a state decides to ignore the dangers and the constitutional shortcomings. Are there any other reasons not to execute people who merely might have committed a murder? Well, yes: see the list of taxpayers' money wasted in the process.

BP Thinks It's Funny But It's Snot



Contractor: BP Pumped Unusual Chemicals Into Well Before Explosion
Rachel Slajda | July 20, 2010, 10:14AM
A contractor working on the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded testified  yesterday that the day before the explosion, BP had pumped an unusual chemical mixture into the well -- a mixture that later rained down on the rig like "snot."

Leo Lindner, a drilling fluid specialist for M-I Swaco, told the panel investigating the causes of the explosion that BP decided to mix two chemicals the company had a surplus of -- two chemicals that aren't usually mixed -- and pump them into the well to flush out the drilling mud.


Lindner said BP wanted to use 400 barrels of the mixture, more than twice the amount of fluid usually used, because the company had hundreds of barrels of the chemicals and wanted to get rid of them.


No wonder BP is acting paranoid: they did something almost certainly illegal (not to mention dangerous).

New Senator In Town


Word has it that the Dems will now pass an extension of unemployment benefits. Many words have been wasted by the President and others, explaining why this has taken so long. But it boils down to this:


Democrats have been one vote short of pushing the measure through the Senate. But on Tuesday, a new Democratic senator from West Virginia will be sworn in to succeed Robert C. Byrd, who died last month, putting Democrats in position to overcome the Republican blocking tactic and bring the bill to a final vote.


There... that wasn't hard, was it? Now we can await the Blue Dog Republican Democratic senator who steps up and somehow breaks the deal...

Heh. Manually adding "color:blue;" to the above blockquote caused Blogger to wrap all quoted paragraphs into a single paragraph. The behavior is reproducible, and is one of many crazy-assed editor bugs in Blogger. As it seems Google won't fire him or her, would anyone object if I broke all of the programmer's fingers?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Alan Simpson Aims For 'Rude Ignorant Asshole Of The Year' Award

There may well be no more insulting person in the world than Catfood Commission member Alan Simpson, especially when he explains to a reporter younger than himself (which they all are) the mythical mechanism by which Social Security is going broke:

Do you ever encounter someone so arrogant that you want to remove his teeth without delay? Simpson trots out all the canards, the economic absurdities, and insults anyone who has actually investigated the planning of Social Security. He is wrong on everything, insulting everybody... but his greatest offense is being an ignorant asshole.

An Excess Of Intelligence


... that's not what you would expect from the U.S. government, but the Washington Post has done a study that strongly indicates exactly that. From the study itself:

A hidden world, growing beyond control 

By Dana Priest and William M. Arkin

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

The investigation's other findings include:

  • Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

  • An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

  • In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space.

  • Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.

  • Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year - a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.
If you read this blog, none of this will surprise you... not that I've reported it in detail; Ms. Priest has the skills and resources to do that... but that from the Bush era forward, our government has been obsessed with an improper and, to appearances, deplorably badly run mission to collect information about everyone on everything. Everyone. Everything. You know I'm not exaggerating. Read the report, but swallow your coffee first.
UPDATE: please note the ACLU's analysis of this article.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Teachers Or Food: Obama Administration Says Choose One


The Obama administration is downright evil. Read emptywheel from yesterday:

Remember that important NYT story from early this year describing the growing number of Americans whose sole income consists of food stamps?


Well, months after that report came out, some genius in the Obama Administration, according to a very shrill David Obey, proposed offsetting funds to keep teachers in the schools by cutting food stamps. Said genius wanted to cut these people’s only safety net so Arne Duncan could go on privatizing our schools.


Evil, I tell you. Read emptywheel's post. I don't have any notion that I am failing to understand: the administration is, in fact, proposing pitting teacher funding against food stamps, offsetting additional teacher funding with cuts to food stamps.

These are Democrats?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Boehner Goes Full-Blown Nutso: "No Regs For A Year"



Boehner: No New Regs!

Rachel Slajda | July 16, 2010, 3:08PM

House Minority Leader John Boehner, fresh out of a meeting with business and trade group lobbyists, announced a new idea this afternoon: A moratorium on all new federal regulations, for a year.

"I think having a moratorium on new federal regulations is a great idea it sends a wonderful signal to the private sector that they're going to have some breathing room," he said, according to Greg Sargent.

"I think there's probably a way to do this with an exemption for emergency regulations that may be needed for some particular agency or another," he said. "But if the American people knew there was going to be a moratorium in effect for a year that the federal government wasn't going to issue thousands more regulations, it would give them some breathing room."


"If the American people knew there was going to be a moratorium in effect for a year" on all new regulations, including air pollution regulations, they wouldn't have anything to breathe.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Obama Inserts Stupak Amendment Into High-Risk Pools


I wish I could say this astonishes me, but I've almost come to expect it of the Obama administration as surely as I did of Bush's:

Obama Administration Applies Stupak Amendment to High Risk Pools

By Jessica Arons
Created Jul 15 2010 - 6:04pm

This week, a commotion [1] arose over the question of whether Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans, also known as high risk pools [2], can include abortion coverage.  The Obama Administration responded immediately by imposing a total ban on abortion coverage in the pools that echoes the Stupak Amendment [3], even though nothing in the law requires such action.


Women entering these plans are, by definition, those who have experienced serious medical conditions—so serious that insurers are unwilling to sell them insurance.  In other words, those who get pregnant are already at a heightened risk for needing an abortion for health reasons when compared to the general population.


In an eleventh-hour political compromise to obtain health reform votes from antiabortion Democrats, President Obama agreed to sign an executive order [8] that reiterated the funding restrictions in health insurance exchanges and also, in direct response to last-minute concerns raised by abortion opponents, applied funding restrictions to community health centers.


So in the Obama administration, as in the Bush years, women's health has become an expediency that can be sacrificed for political purposes. Women, please take note.

Friday Lily-Of-The-Morning Blogging


Lily is actually calm at this time of day (unless Lily is rowdy this time of day):


Today is a doc day for me; I'll see you later in the day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Good Neighbour Policy


Spelled "neighbour" because it's from a print ad for Alberta, CA, the rest of the ad tells us this:

A good neighbour lends you a cup of sugar.
A great neighbour supplies you with 1.4 million barrels of oil per day.

OK. So Deepwater Horizon was 1/42 of the way to being a great neighbour to the Gulf Coast...

I just received an email from Sierra Club informing us that the flow at Deepwater Horizon "has finally been stemmed," whatever that means. According to the leak meter from NPR at the top of Bryan's blog, the collapsed well leaked only (ahem) an estimated 92,208,506 gallons of oil.

Cue a BP exec to remind us again what a big ocean it is compared to the quantity of oil leaked...

Afterthought, from the Sierra Club mailer:
The oil industry argues that this was an isolated event. We agree--research confirms that oil catastrophes are strictly isolated to oil industry operations. We have not yet found oil spills at wind farms, nor have we found evidence of gushers erupting in solar plants or marshlands devastated by business owners retrofitting their buildings. The best way to prevent another oil disaster is to shift away from oil and onto clean energy.

More: Oops. This was a test. This was only a test. If this had been a real shutoff, you'd have heard the whining all the way from Wall Street.

Fat Or Smart - Do We Get To Choose?


From US News: Science:

Body Shape May Affect Mental Acuity
Big apples fare better than plump pears

Posted: July 15, 2010
By Janet Raloff, Science News

Being fat may diminish mental performance, studies find — a problem that worsens with age. But among elderly women, where fat is deposited may matter. To wit: The big apple is sharper than the obese pear.

Genetics dictates where people preferentially accumulate body fat. For most it’s around the belly. Among the obese, these apple-shaped individuals tend to run a bigger risk of developing heart disease than do pears — people who deposit most of their excess fat at the hips and thighs. For a host of reasons, physicians had expected that if body shape affected mental performance, apples would again prove the bigger losers.

In fact, the opposite appears true, Diana Kerwin of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and her colleagues report online July 14  in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.


Among apples, the fatter they were, the higher their mental-acuity score, although the difference from slim to morbidly obese was only around 2 points out of 100 possible — and the biggest increase occurred between the slim and normal-weight categories.


I'd love to have heard the conversations that led women to participate in those studies. No, wait; I wouldn't.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Naming The Neurological Disorder


My friend and neighbor Barbara B., who occasionally kindly drops comments on the threads here, has been giving me her previous weeks' copies of The New Yorker (and New York Review of Books, and Harper's, and... Barbara knows I like to read). Today I read an article by Oliver Sacks called A Man of Letters, about some of the neurological problems occurring after a stroke, having to do with the patient's attempts at reading. I've seen a lot of things this week that look like what one patient described as "... Cyrillic one moment and Korean the next. Was this a Serbo-Croation version of the Globe, made for export? ..." But as far as I can tell, unlike that patient, I have not had a stroke; rather, I've been looking at a lot of pages of interesting character sets set in even more interesting typefaces... perhaps "Cyrillic one moment, and Korean the next," for all I know. (See the immediately preceding post.)

But I'd like to focus for a moment on two related events from 1887 regarding a man who did have a stroke and suffered alexia (hmmm... I think I went out with her once). An abstract online of Sacks's article is provided by The New Yorker; the quote below is from the full paper edition:


In 1887, the French neurologist Joseph Jules Dejerine was asked by an ophthalmologist colleague, Edmund Landolt, to see a highly intelligent, cultivated man, Oscar C., who had suddenly lost the ability to read. Landolt wrote a short but vividly evocative portrait of the patient, and Dejerine, in his own paper on the subject, included a long excerpt from it.

... [many long paragraphs snipped]

When Oscar C. died, following a second stroke, Dejerine performed an autopsy and found two lesions in the brain: a recent one, which had probably caused his death, and an older one, which had destroyed part of the left occipital lobe and which he presumed was responsible for C.'s alexia. ...


And thus we have the expression, "French foreign lesion" ... <grin_duck_run />

Typography Day


This has been a day I've devoted to digital type. Through my teen years, several of my friends and neighbors were fixated on putting words into print. One of my best friends owned an 1890-vintage letterpress, though he used it mainly to print his woodcuts and linoleum cuts. (Eventually he switched to digital type and a different sort of art. At least his new "press" didn't weigh literally tons, as his old one had.) When I was growing up, a next-door neighbor was a Linotype operator. (He didn't think much of the new technology just coming into use in the mid-Sixties through early Seventies.) Years before that, Dad was a journalism major in college, and was the editor of his college newspaper. (I don't want to think about what working for Dad must have been like!) More recently, Stella, in her youth, was a reporter for a small-town newspaper in a town about, oh, a hundred miles from here. So I've been around people putting words to paper and articles to press (physical or virtual) almost all of my life.

Lately, forced by circumstance to switch to Linux in the short term, I've developed an interest of my own. Pursuing the dozens of optional typefaces shipped with Ubuntu Linux has led me to some digital foundries on the web that are doing astonishingly beautiful work, some of which they make available under a license that can reasonably be called open source, i.e., free as long as you credit the font designer and make sure any derivatives you make of their work do the same. I'm not going to be designing any fonts in the next week or two, but I am amazed what people apply their skills to... for glory, not for money. There are typefaces specifically designed to assist literacy education. There are independently crafted ftypefaces in web pagesonts designed to replace Monotype Corporation's Arial, Times New Roman and Courier New (all familiar to Windows users) not just in general appearance, but in the particulars of the dimensions, so that they can be used as drop-in replacements when you don't want to pay Microsoft for licenses you otherwise don't need. (Type people, just like programmers, seem to have a commitment to license agreements, probably for similar reasons.)

And don't even get me started on character sets and Unicode. The last decade has seen a sort of holy grail of not just alphabets but also their representations, worldwide, truly comprehensive... that's Unicode for you; think of it as the ASCII of your youth, writ large and internationalized. Too cool for, um, I mean, cool enough for words!

Damn you, Google, you broke the Blogger post editor again. This time, it loses paragraphs unless one explicitly inserts a P tag... BUT ONLY WHEN YOU EDIT THE POST, not when you initially put it up! It gets worse every day...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Court Overturns FCC Language Decency Policy -- Fuckin' A!


WSJ Online Update:

WSJ UPDATE: Court Again Backs Broadcasters In Indecency Case
(Updates with background, details and context, starting in fourth paragraph.)


WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--A federal appeals court struck down the Federal Communications Commissions' indecency policy Tuesday, saying the agency's efforts to restrict the use of vulgar language on air were "unconstitutionally vague."

The decision was a major win for Fox Television, NBC Universal and other broadcasters who have complained that an FCC crackdown on fleeting obscenities was unfair and violated their First Amendment rights.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, saying the FCC's indecency policies were "unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here."

The 32-page ruling was laced with many of the words FCC policy said broadcasters could not allow to be spoken on air. It sets up the possibility that the Supreme Court could be asked to revisit rulings that have formed the basis for government curbs on "indecent" broadcast speech, including a 1978 decision that allowed the FCC to fine the Pacifica Foundation for broadcasting a monologue on dirty words by the late comedian George Carlin.


(Emphasis mine.)

It isn't often I find myself on the same side of a public issue as Fox Network, but the Bush FCC (and later Obama's FCC) has made it possible. The notion that networks should be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for each fleeting occurrence of arbitrarily designated indecent language is, and has been since the late, great George Carlin raised the issue in the Seventies, itself obscene.

GeeDubya Bush's FCC chair Kevin Martin (may he roast in Hell, preferably before he's dead) used the power inherent in over $150 million in fines to attempt to control the social and political content of networks he didn't like. No government should ever have that kind of power over the only broadcast system we've got. And fuck anyone who says otherwise!

Say It Ain't So, Jose!


This just breaks my heart... maybe some other parts, too, but certainly my heart:

Salsa, guacamole -- and a side order of food-borne illness
July 12, 2010|By Tami Dennis, Los Angeles Times
No one is suggesting, even remotely, that Americans give up salsa and guacamole. But it's worth noting the risks that they pose. New research from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does just that.
In analyzing outbreaks of food-borne illness, researchers found that almost 1 in 25 restaurant outbreaks between 1998 and 2008 could be blamed on these two offerings. Improper storage times or temperatures were likely a contributing factor, the report found; food workers themselves were sometimes a source of the contamination.

But the report also noted that many of the common ingredients -- peppers, tomatoes, cilantro – in these uncooked foodstuffs have been implicated in individual outbreaks. Put those ingredients together and you've got more than a zesty condiment; you've got a statistical target.


If guacamole is off-limits, I might as well lay me doon and dee.

I understand and even sympathize with the restaurants. Guacamole is best made (yes, as you may recall, I've done it many times myself) in a quantity suitable for eating on the spot, immediately after preparation, no leftovers, not much chance for contamination. Restaurants have generally clean food prep areas (yes, admit it; most of them are cleaner than your own refrigerator) but they don't have circumstances that allow for that sort of just-in-time preparation, delivery and eating. So sometimes we get sick from the guac. It hardly seems fair!

NOTE: Google appears to have turned its greenest programmer loose on the Blogger post editor. Several times an hour, something different breaks, and this has happened for a couple of days now. The breaks and the necessary manual fixes in the post's HTML are so egregious that I might as well write the post directly in HTML... just like old times at the Yellow Doggerel Democrat! Why do we put up with this kind of crap? Don't say it's because it's free; the whole fuckin' Open Source world is free, and the quality is rarely this despicably bad. Goddammit, Google, get your act together, or at least assign a better coder to the job... I'm tired of covering for your errors!

Monday, July 12, 2010



Not really childhood, more like scenes from when I was 30. And certainly not by Schumann. But the similarities are perceptible.

There I sat, in a house much like this one... the same age, the same hardwood floors, eventually the same harpsichord in the living room. In my hand was K&R... Kernighan and Richie's The C Programming Language... a standard reference (as it still is today) on the subject mentioned in the title. The book is tiny, because the language is tiny, and much of its power is externalized into libraries. The book, not even close to a half-inch thick, is not a summary; it's the whole damned language, all of it. In those days, a person who commanded the content of that book was a powerful person indeed, for many, perhaps even most, of the software written then was written in C. I absorbed those contents, and sought and obtained many a job writing software and applications in C. Ah, those were the days.

Today, the jobs are not to be had. Read fallenmonk's post; the work is really impossible to find, especially for older technical professionals. And here I am, in this nearly identical house, reading an introduction to Python, the programming language, usually associated with Linux but available on most platforms these days. The document is small because the language is itself fairly compact... and powerful. Now if only I can accomplish the same result of earning a livelihood by writing it... nah. That's unlikely. I've read that Silicon Valley employers don't want any programmers over 35, and that they aren't even shy about saying so, even though age discrimination is against the law. Still, it's a nice fantasy, being back in childhood with my child's occupation and my child's income...

While I was writing this, we had a power glitch. The power, and a sort of net connection, came back within two minutes... but as has happened before, domain name service is now excruciatingly slow; e.g., it takes about two minutes for it to look up . So until that is somehow resolved, I probably won't do much more online this evening. Yes, I've cycled the power, etc. etc. Last time this happened, I got my service back sometime in the small hours of the morning. I'm paying too much for "fast" service to put up with this!

Experimental Google News


I have been suckered in by a clever widget offered by Google News. It's very obvious (very obtrusive) in the left sidebar. At present, I have set it to display science/technology, health, and political/election stories. How long will it stay there? I don't know... maybe an hour, maybe a year. Comments welcome.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

More On Raising SS Retirement Age To 70



There's just one problem with raising the retirement age as a means of controlling the deficit and/or balancing the budget: raising the Social Security retirement age doesn't change human physiology one bit.

I think it is likely that medical advances have done about all they can to extend the period of human life during which people can effectively work. Even if by some miracle the overwhelming unemployment rate we see now is alleviated, and there are actual useful jobs for those people, when today's 40-year-olds reach 70, they're going to feel just like today's 70-year-olds... we're kidding ourselves if we believe otherwise. Retirement is a physical matter, not just a budgetary matter.

How about pulling back the Reagan/Bush/Bush tax cuts to the obscenely wealthy and using that money instead to allow people to retire no later than they do now? Does anyone else see that as a fair disposition of the matter? There is no intrinsic "right to great wealth"; one can reasonably argue, though, that there is a right to a healthy and moderately comfortable retirement at a reasonable age. If there's a choice between those two... and I'm not at all convinced it's a choice... a civilized society has an obligation to choose a decent retirement for everybody. Yeah, call me a socialist for saying that, if you think name-calling changes anything.

I'm really, really tired of watching America's rich get richer... repeatedly, and at the explicit expense of poor and middle-income Americans... under Republican and Democratic leadership alike. Reagan and Poppy Bush gave the already obscenely wealthy still more obscene tax breaks. Clinton caught a break on a good economy. Baby Bush repeatedly, with the cooperation of a Democratic Congress, handed the already wealthy an unconscionable portion of the nation's wealth (see the Adrianne Appel quote in the banner as I write this), leaving the rest of us worse off even than we were. And Obama, the one we all hoped would set things right... well, don't get me started.

History shows us this inevitably has to end. And the manner of its ending... civilized or through violent revolution... is largely in the hands of our leaders. I hope they choose a civilized course.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Getting Screwed Without Protection


Despite appearances, this post is not about teens who don't use condoms. It's about, who else, BP: they are refusing to let clean-up workers wear respirators while they work, subjecting them to toxic fumes, sending some to the hospital with "nausea, chest pains, and headaches." (Adam Green of BoldProgressives, who emailed me about it, obviously likes the Oxford comma.) Apparently, BP thinks the appearance on TV of respirators on the clean-up crew will generate worse publicity than the workers' illness.

It is our task to make BP pay for that deeply stupid decision. "Risk your health or lose your job" is a choice no worker should be forced to make.

In response to BP's folly, all kinds of people, from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. of Progressive Change Campaign Committee to Keith Olbermann to dozens of members of Congress to labor leaders to teachers to preachers to you-name-it have mobilized a publicity effort under the name BP Makes Me Sick in hopes of pressuring BP through bad PR to end this awful practice. Yesterday when I signed, there were about 25,000+ signatures; this morning, there are 50,000+. Please add your name to the petition.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Kitty-On-Her-Rocker Blogging


Actually, Lily is on Stella's granddad's rocker, a seat fit for a king (or in this case a queen):

Lily posed for this picture all by herself, waited for me to go get the camera, and stared straight at me as I took the picture... wonders never cease. My only contribution, other than snapping the pic? I gave her two black eyes... in the original pic, the green-eye was a little distracting. (Does anyone know of a photo editor that will correct green-eye without special effort on the part of the user? In the Linux world, of course.)

Notice how fast Lily is growing. Even in real life, even seeing her day-to-day, we notice. So does Esther when the two of them play rough: Lily's mass and strength are obviously better matched to her mom-cat's now.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Headline Of The Day (At Least)


Josh Marshall has it. The headline is about a runner named Gay and a runner named Dix, and it involves the verb "succumb"; you can imagine the rest... or click the link.

Afterthought: they didn't manage to work in "supersede." Pity.

TD Two Heads For The Border


Here is an image, as of this posting, a recent image of Tropical Depression Two. It looks as if it is headed for the Texas-Mexico border (image from Weather Underground):

Up the coast, we're getting a lot of rain from time to time, and over the past couple of days there have been a few tornadoes in SE Texas, but I have to count this one as a miss for Houston. We keep holding our breaths and crossing our fingers. I wish we could be home today, but Stella has work she must do, and I have a doc appointment. So far, the roads do not look too bad.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Democrats Apparently Join Bipartisan Effort To Shovel Social Security Bullshit


Most of us who have at least half a brain are familiar with the simple facts presented (for example) in Dean Baker's and Mark Weisbrot's Social Security: The Phony Crisis, all of which boil down to this: Social Security is solvent, unchanged, for approximately the next 30 years. Moreover, minor changes will extend even that unprecedented longevity.

Yet there is a growing caucus in Congress and elsewhere that repeatedly and stridently shouts that Social Security is going under. One has to make some unsupportably dire assumptions... microscopic growth rates and failure of all kinds of safeguards... to advocate this argument without being laughed off the public stage. But all kinds of people have advanced this position for long enough that many people believe it, evidence be damned. From the above-linked book, published in 1999 but as valid as ever:

The Social Security system is currently threatened more than ever before in its [75]-year history. The problem is not financial, economic or demographic — the standard projections provide no basis for serious concern about the program's financial survival. Nor is the problem a lack of political support for Social Security. This continues to be overwhelming. The problem is that people have become convinced that the program is in serious trouble. As a result of a steady stream of misinformation, the public could possibly allow a program that it values immensely to be seriously undermined or dismantled. Ironically, the greatest threat to Social Security has come from its would-be rescuers.
In the 12 years since Baker and Weisbrot wrote those words, many Republicans have seized upon the opportunity to plant the notion of the impending failure of Social Security deep in the public consciousness, advocating dismantling or privatizing Social Security for what I trust is their own obvious political advantage.

Now it appears many Democrats are joining the effort to misrepresent the status and projected survivability of Social Security, as Brian Beutler of TPM explains:

There's no big surprise there. The Republican minority in the House doesn't have a lot of power, but if Boehner had his druthers, he might well take things quite a bit further. He's the one, after all, who won't take Social Security privatization off the table if Republicans retake the House.

It's the Democrats who have progressives feeling queasy.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer explicitly put the idea on the table as well in a speech last month. "We should consider a higher retirement age or one pegged to lifespan," Hoyer said.
Et tu, Brute?

The Democrats appear to be abandoning, not just the left, not just the center, indeed not any particular political position, but arguably the most popular public program in American history. It ain't broke. But with the Republicans, they intend to fix it.

It's time to get out your pitchforks and torches, folks... metaphorical or otherwise.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Why I Am No Longer A Democrat, Part 9,736


Jane Hamsher explains it about as well as it can be explained:

House Democrats: Nancy Pelosi Tricked Us

By: Jane Hamsher Tuesday July 6, 2010 8:07 am 

Many people are still trying to figure out what exactly Congress voted to do last week when they passed their fake budget. Kagro and Dave Dayen go back and forth here, here and here.

But one thing is for certain: if procedural experts are still trying untangle what happened, there is no way 215 members of Congress knew what they were voting for at the time they cast their votes.

I got this from a Hill staffer that evening:

The real story on this thing is that Members were whipped on the rule before the leadership gave us specifics about what was in the budget resolution or what the amendments would look like. We were merely told that there was a budget and it would be tied to the rule and there would be some sort of seperate vote on the war funding. We got details about the budget resolution in the last 24 hours. It’s bullshit that they claim members knew what they were getting into when they didn’t know the intimate details of the budget resolution or the rule itself until right before the vote.

I’m putting it up because it reflects what I heard from many offices that evening: Nancy Pelosi threw the rule up for a vote and sneaked it by without telling even her own members what she was asking them to vote for. She demanded they vote with leadership on a procedural motion or risk retribution, twisted arms and threatened people to get the votes she needed, and didn’t tell them she had slipped in language to cover her own ass with the Catfood Commission.

Did Pelosi learn this from the Bush administration? If I recall, they frequently thrust completed bills on Congress, insisting on a vote, with virtually no time for members to review the text. Can someone explain to me how this is different?

Vulnerable? No Kidding?



(Reuters) - The Obama administration may succeed in pushing through its offshore drilling ban, despite fierce resistance from the oil industry, since a piece of machinery in short supply has left oil companies and the environment glaringly vulnerable to another oil spill.

The offshore skimming devices -- seagoing vessels that suck up spilled crude -- are the first line of defense in the contingency plans that big oil companies are required to submit when they drill in the deep waters of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

But the vast majority of skimming capacity listed in "worst case scenario" plans to combat major Gulf spills is already deployed to clean up BP's leak, according to copies of the plans made public by Congress and lists of vessels active in the cleanup that were obtained by Reuters.


I disagree with one aspect of this analysis. The Obama administration will not succeed in pushing through such a ban, because they're incompetent, but mostly because they don't want to upset BP or any other large multinational corp. Show me the motivation on Obama's part to do this for real... it's just not there.

Slogan for 2012: "Obama... he talks a great game!"

Privatize Social Security? For GOP, It's A No-Boehner


It's bad enough that the idea recurs repeatedly in the GOP camp. It's still worse that John Boehner can't express himself worth a damn:


Asked whether partial privatization of Social Security, which Republicans pushed unsuccessfully in 2005, would be part of a GOP agenda, he twice replied, "I have no idea." 

Later, he called back to clarify, saying that what he meant to say was that, until Republicans complete their process of soliciting ideas from the American people, there will be no answer to that question. "We're not going to prejudge what's going to come out of this listening project." 


No, he got it right the first time: he has no idea. If this is the strategy that is intended to take back the House in November, I say, bring it on.

(H/T TPM.)

Wastin' Time


The weekend of the Fourth is at last over and done with, and you've probably even finished your fifth. I noticed that, as usual, the Budweiser Clydesdales... magnificent, large horses; I've been to the ranch in Austria at which they are raised*... participated in somebody's Fourth of July parade:

The eight-horse hitch will be pulling the iconic red, white and gold beer wagon. Standing at 18 hands high (about six feet) at the shoulder, each Budweiser Clydesdale wears a full set of hand-crafted, patent leather and solid brass harnesses.

I suppose the theme song for the people sitting on the beer wagon is... wait for it...

Sittin' On the Bock of the Dray.

(I didn't really do that, did I? I suppose I did!)

* Oops, my mistake. A Lippizan is not the same as a Clydesdale. Both are large, magnificent horses, though.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Best Country That Ever Was

... or not, I'm not sure. That part, if ever true, ended not later than 10 years ago, and to quote a line from the talking recitative in the middle of Patricia Barber's Postmodern Blues, "What we're left with... is wrong." I'll not dwell on all the bad stuff; I suspect ultimately it happens to any nation that lasts long enough. I feel privileged that my life overlapped at least some of the good parts; most people who ever lived had no such advantages.

I engaged... indulged?... in my annual ritual of listening to a lot of different kinds of American music, including the abovementioned blues artistry of Ms. Barber, concluding with The Stars and Stripes Forever and The Star-Spangled Banner (somehow it seems symbolic that in standing for the latter, I have to balance on one foot). For something a bit more recent (1974) and less pompous, you can try Paul Simon's American Tune (YouTube video); pay particular attention to the last verse.
Happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans. We never expected this, but now that we've got it, we shall find a way to cope.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A New Day

Of all the things I didn't expect when I awoke this morning, high on the list was... sunshine. All the same weather warnings are in effect... heavy rain, flash floods, etc. ... and I'm still glad I don't have any place I simply have to go. But it was nice, for an hour or two, to see the sunlight struggling through the clouds. If you don't like the weather in Houston, etc.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday 'Face The Camera' Blogging

Esther again. That gal is very considerate about facing the camera...

(Lily, on the other hand, can't stay still when the camera is on.)

We Are Having Weather

Those who do not live on or near a coast may not be aware that tropical weather (in this case former hurricane Alex) can cause severe weather, even after the storm itself is over, hundreds of miles away. We are experiencing that side-effect right now in Houston, even though Alex gave up the ghost in the mountains of Mexico many hours ago.

Much of the city is suffering periods of really severe rain... not much lightning, some wind occasionally, but mostly straight-down, really heavy rain... for periods long enough to flood major freeways and intersections. If you are new to Houston, I beg you: do not take this lightly. In particular, if you are out on the road already or about to head home from work, do not drive into water (e.g., under an underpass) where you cannot see the bottom. A regrettable number of people have drowned that way; many more have lost their vehicles. And do not attempt to swim in a flooded bayou if your car is stranded there: there's a good chance you will be swept downstream to your death.

Stella and I are both safe at home today, as are the kitties. We have canceled appointments and settled in for the moment. The last vehicle that stopped here was a scheduled food delivery; it's rare that there is any advantage to having a cripple in the house, but I am glad we now have at least a week's supply of food just in case we become isolated.

We are still trying to locate some friends, hoping against hope that they are somewhere safe. While we look, we can all say a prayer for non-sheltered homeless people and feral animals; it's going to be a tough night, and the next few days look likely to be almost as bad.

Friday Dignified Cat Blogging

Esther poses in her role as interspecies diplomat:


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ben Nelson (D-Hell) Kills Unemployment Benefits Extension

With people starving and losing their homes because their unemployment benefits have run out, Sen. Ben Nelson joined Republicans, withholding his vote to assure the Democrats lacked the 60 votes needed to overcome the Republican filibuster. This is the third time the benefits extension bill has failed, and this time, it's because of a Democrat, who says the bill is not paid for.

I have known forever that Ben Nelson had no brain. Now I know he also has no heart. I suppose his body is made up entirely of a prick and an asshole.

Any questions about why I am no longer a Democrat? It's simple: there are too many Ben Nelsons in today's Democratic Party. There is no place for a liberal in such a party.

Alex Comes Through

... in more senses than one. According to Dr. Jeff Masters,
... Alex made landfall at 9pm CDT last night, 110 miles south of Brownsville, Texas, as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds. Alex was the strongest June hurricane since Hurricane Alma of 1966, which had 125 mph winds as it skirted the west coast of Florida. Brownsville long-range radar shows that Alex's heavy rains continue to pound the Texas/Mexico border region, and satellite estimates of rainfall (Figure 1) show that some of Alex's spiral bands dumped rains in excess of five inches today, in addition to the 5+ inches that fell yesterday. ...
It's going to be a rough season, as was predicted. If you live near the Gulf Coast, be ready.

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