As an amicus brief from a long list of prestigious medical organizations and researchers laid out at length, studies show that emergency contraception and the IUD prevent fertilization, not implantation. They are not “abortifacients,” even under the anti-choicers’ peculiar definition of abortion. ... Why doesn’t it matter that there is no scientific evidence for [Hobby Lobby CEO] Green’s position? When did Jesus become an Ob/Gyn? - Zoë Carpenter at The Nation, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was Right, and We Already Have Proof"


(Earlier banner quotes)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sick

Last week, Stella had this cold. This week, starting today, it's my turn. I'll probably keep posting, but forgive me if I take more naps than the kitties do for a few days.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cannonfire Gives Us The Bro Among The Whos

Here. Yes, it reminds one of How the Gingrinch Stole Christmas, which floated around the 'sphere a few years ago.

(H/T Avedon for the link.)

Bread

Say, dainty Nymphs, and speak: 
Shall we play barley-break?

That's Thomas Morley, in a madrigal "Now is the month of maying," in which the singer propositions a "nymph" to lie down and break the barley with him. It would have to be a dainty nymph indeed to fit in the tiny sack of barley flour I'm working with, but I decided to repeat the loaf made with whole wheat flour, barley flour, oats and flaxseed. It was mighty good last time. It may not compare with barley-break, but I think it may be an intense experience indeed.



UPDATE: the oven will be repaired either this afternoon or Wednesday afternoon. (How's that for an appointment time?) Until then, as noted below, it's bread machine bread for me.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bread

Or rather... NO bread. @#$%^!!!

The oven... the real one, the one that is part of the kitchen stove... turns out to have gone defunct since the last time either of us used it, possibly over a month ago. So much for baking any "real" bread right away.

So my next bread will be the size of the bread pan in the bread machine: for me, no loaves "bigger than a bread box." I'll probably repeat one of the recipes described in a previous post... and politely harass my landlord to deal with the deceased oven right away.

Stella found and kindly gave me a small bread book containing very basic recipes for the most popular breads. It's not as diverse as, say, the 100 bread recipes by Paul Hollywood (the "master baker," and you have to pronounce that very carefully, who supplies the fine hotels of London), but it may give me a reference on a few common recipes... which I will explore when the @#$%^!!! oven works again.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Kitty Book Club Blogging

The family that reads together...

... gets lost, each in her own private world!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pity Poor, Poor, POOR Alan Simpson

TPM's Evan McMorris-Santoro:

Pity poor Alan Simpson. Three weeks after he and fellow presidential debt commission co-chair Erskine Bowles tried to put a positive spin on their incredibly controversial prescription to balance the federal budget, Simpson is still taking heat from critics on both sides of the aisle.

"I've never had any nastier mail or [been in a] more difficult position in my life," Simpson told the Casper Star-Tribune in his homestate of Wyoming. 

"Just vicious," Simpson said. "People I've known, relatives [saying], "'You son of a bitch. How could you do this?'"

...
Awwww... did wittle baby hurt himself? Why in Hell did Obama appoint this man to anything?

Bread

... specifically, beer bread. I made it as machine bread because I didn't have everything I needed for the "real" bread I wanted to bake. No, I didn't get drunk from it, and yes, it tastes pretty good. The crust is a bit challenging but the crumb is just about perfect... I wonder if the tough crust is due to my not letting the beer stand for long enough before I used it. The bread takes only ¼ cup. What happened to the rest of the beer? Yep... you guessed it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

TOM DELAY CONVICTED!

... of money-laundering and conspiracy to commit money-laundering. He faces up to life in prison for the money-laundering conviction.


Delay is not only the meanest bastard in Texas politics... he's also responsible for the re-re-redistricting of Texas in 2000 that virtually guaranteed a Republican "majority" (for a certain meaning of the term "majority" that does not coincide with the usual mathematical meaning). As to the specifics of his money-laundering of corporate campaign contributions to the GOP, read the linked article. In brief, DeLay "used his political action committee to illegally channel $190,000 in corporate donations into 2002 Texas legislative races through a money swap."

THE MUTHAHFUCKAH'S GOIN' TO JAIL!!!

Yes, of course, he may yet get off on appeal. BUT HE'S GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY!

IOKIYAR

Republans [sic... an "ic" for an "ic"] get to do any damned thing they want to, despite any agreements, pledges etc. they may have signed onto. This time, the lying SOB is Jon Kyl, who signed onto the GOP ban on earmarks... until he needed an earmark:

Democrats today are shopping around what they're saying is a really juicy (if totally predictable) tale of Republican hypocrisy: Just days after the Senate GOP caucus imposed a voluntary moratorium on earmarking, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) dumped $200 million in extra cash for his home state into a spending bill right before final passage.

But experts insisted to TPM today that what Kyl did isn't nearly as clear or egregious as the AP made it out to be.

...
OK. Read what the "experts" say, and decide whether you think it's an earmark.

Look, it doesn't even matter if the amount goes for a worthy or even necessary cause: if Kyl left it out of the budget, then slipped it in later on behalf of Arizona into a bill "sought by President Barack Obama" which was intended "to settle claims by black farmers and American Indians against the federal government," it's an earmark. Dog knows we need to compensate people screwed by the government; read in Howard Zinn's People's History... about how Indians and Blacks were screwed over by the U.S. government.

But in that case, why not put it in the budget initially? Oh, excuse me... doing that would require one or more Republans [sic] to be honest about the public moneys they intend to take and spend...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bread

The seventh loaf is a multi-whole-grain loaf: whole wheat, barley, oats and flaxseed. It is very dense and could have been used to break windows, but it tastes much too good to waste breaking windows.

I ran into trouble again with the seating of the bread pan in the bread machine. Somewhere in the middle of the second knead, the pan lifted just enough to come loose from one of its two latches. I happened to hear the machine spinning but audibly not kneading; fortunately, I caught it early enough that reseating the pan allowed it to mix and knead properly. I'm not sure how to avoid this problem. As things are, one cannot simply put all ingredients in the pan, start the machine and go away for a while.

I am seriously considering baking a loaf the old-fashioned way. Well, OK, not all that old-fashioned... I'll be using a modern oven... but I'll prepare the dough by hand and knead by hand. For the loaf I intend, I'll need a baking sheet and some sort of lining (parchment?). I'll let you know how it comes out.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

History

Avedon Carol:

Every time I hear someone saying it will take "a long time" or "years" or "a generation" to undo the mess we're in, I think, "Have you no understanding of history?" It was a miracle the Founders created what they did, and it took unique circumstances and thousands of years to get to that point. You think you're gonna come back from this? Unless something stops this train-wreck now - and I don't see anything like that happening - you can kiss it good-bye. Forever.

Sad but probably true.

I often think of the sheer improbability of human life... at all. I am by no means persuaded by the so-called Drake Equation (really not an equation but an expression) that intelligent life must be common in the multiverse. Indeed, the number of physical constants that have to have values very close to the ones we have in our little pocket universe within the presumed multiverse in order to create any kind of life is very large. Add intelligence to the requirement and you have an almost insuperable obstacle to Vulcans and Klingons "out there," let alone anywhere nearby. Given that we're here, and that we're probably rather unusual (religious folks will be overjoyed with that admission), how likely is it that intelligent beings anywhere else ever created anything as good (even with all its unspeakable flaws) as the republic our Founders crafted?

Our nation was a prototype. There are other, better representative governments in the world today. But as totalitarian governments... surely the majority of all governments... acquire the means to vaporize their imagined enemies, I think we can count on ending up "all suffused with an incandescent glow," as Tom Lehrer put it.

And if it goes, it ain't comin' back. Don't bother consoling yourself with the thought that it will.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mortgages: Oh Shit. Ohhhh... Shit!

bmaz on emptywheel's blog:

There are rapidly emerging signs the Obama Administration and Congress may be actively, quickly and covertly working furiously on a plan to retroactively legitimize and ratify the shoddy, fraudulent and non-conforming conduct by MERS on literally millions of mortgages.

When Congress comes back into session next week, it may consider measures intended to bolster the legal status of a controversial bank owned electronic mortgage registration system that contains three out of every five mortgages in the country.
The system is known as MERS, the acronym for a private company called Mortgage Electronic Registry Systems. Set up by banks in the 1997, MERS is a system for tracking ownership of home loans as they move from mortgage originator through the financial pipeline to the trusts set up when mortgage securities are sold.
Just to make clear the implications of this craven action, the White House and Congress are conspiring to give a get out of jail free bailout card to the biggest banks and finance companies in the country to cover up and mask their illegal behavior and behavior that did not conform with state, county and local laws throughout the United States. On at least sixty (60%) percent of the existing mortgages in America.
There are dozens of implications to individuals and both private and public entities. At a root minimum, it will likely decimate, if not bankrupt, most counties in every state of the union.

...
This is one of the few times I am grateful I am not a "homeowner" (give or take a mortgage). If you are one, it seems you'd better make alternative plans, just in case. You know Obama is not going to let the industry suffer, and you know from sad experience who is important to Congress; that leaves homeowners and the entities (counties, mostly) to which they pay taxes to take the hit. Please read bmaz's post and click through to the CNBC column by John Carney.

Good luck. You may well need it.

Who Says Economics Is The Dismal Science?

Krugman makes a funny, and a right good one at that. Well, at least it made me laugh out loud.

Antihydrogen Atoms Created And Captured

... at CERN, of course, in Switzerland. Yes, American scientists (from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley) were involved. No, we don't have the equipment to do it here. Thank you, Ronald Reagan and two Bushes, for murdering the funding of basic research in the United States.

A hydrogen atom comprises one proton and one electron. An antihydrogen atom comprises one antiproton and one antielectron, more typically called a positron. It's sort of a hydrogen atom with the charges reversed (and possibly other differences). When an atom meets its antiatom, both annihilate, releasing a lot of energy. I've also read that an atom of antihydrogen looks mathematically just like an atom of hydrogen moving backward in time.

But the universe contains almost entirely hydrogen atoms, not antihydrogen atoms: antimatter of any sort is exceedingly rare. Why? What's the difference that leads to the drastic imbalance? How did the imbalance come about? What are the particulars of the difference in the physics of hydrogen and antihydrogen? Those are the questions to be answered, and the accomplishment of being able to create and capture antihydrogen is an important first step.

Why do all this? Hey, if you want to power the Starship Enterprise someday...

No, seriously: practically all the technology available to us today, for good and ill, is based on principles found in basic research in only the past 100 or so years. Basic research, fundamental science not aimed at known practical applications, is essential to the support of a civilized society. (Good judgment is also essential, and may be even scarcer in the United States than basic research.) Approximately the past five U.S. presidential administrations and 30 years of Congress have starved basic research. Applications of such research lag the research itself by anywhere between a couple of years and a goodly part of a century, so we are really depriving our grandchildren of those applications... and all because of our recent "give it to me now; forget basic research; give me what you can do without spending any money on basic research" attitude. Well and good... except that it means that the future belongs to other nations, not America.

(H/T Mark Esposito on Jonathan Turley's blog, whose remark at the beginning of a largely unrelated post led me to explore this topic. Political commentary above is entirely my own.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mission Demolished, Again?

Amazingly, there is a question about whether Bush's infamous Mission Accomplished banner will hang in his Presidential Library. But... but... that was Bush's proudest moment! Commemorating the victorious end of a quick, no-fuss war! Oh, wait...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Acquitted But Imprisoned...

... at His Majesty's behest? Glenn Greenwald remarks on the verdict in the cases of Ahmed Ghailani: 1 conviction (conspiracy to blow up a building), 280+ acquittals (murder and conspiracy):

...

... Last month, the federal judge presiding over the case, Lewis Kaplan, banned the testimony of a key witness because the Government under George Bush and Dick Cheney learned of his identity not through legal means but instead by torturing Ghailani (and also possibly coerced the testimony of that witness). ...

But even had he been acquitted on all counts, the Obama administration had made clear that it would simply continue to imprison him anyway under what it claims is the President's "post-acquittal detention power" -- i.e., when an accused Terrorist is wholly acquitted in court, he can still be imprisoned indefinitely by the U.S. Government under the "law of war" even when the factual bases for the claim that he's an "enemy combatant" (i.e. that he blew up the two embassies) are the same ones underlying the crimes for which he was fully acquitted after a full trial.  When he banned the testimony of the key witness, Judge Kaplan, somewhat cravenly, alluded to and implicitly endorsed this extraordinary detention theory as a means of assuring the public he had done nothing to endanger them with his ruling (emphasis added):
[Ghailani's] status as an "enemy combatant" probably would permit his detention as something akin to a prisoner of war until hostilities between the United States and Al Qaeda and the Taliban end even if he were found not guilty in this case.
 ...
(Emphasis original.)

The old curse has been wrought upon us: We live in interesting times.

Dick DeGuerin Screws Up In Defending Tom DeLay

Read about it here.

Basically, famous defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin, defending DeLay on a political contribution money-laundering charge, attempted to establish in a timeline that DeLay did not know of the transaction at the time it allegedly happened, and therefore could not have been culpable. The calendars DeGuerin introduced ended up showing just the reverse: DeLay did, at least according to his calendar, meet with the man who received a blank check from DeLay, in a meeting on Sept. 11, 2002, contrary to DeLay's claim not to have known about the check until Oct. 2. Oops!

From that same Houston Chronicle article:

"I just missed that one," DeGuerin said sheepishly afterward, noting he only had obtained the calendar on Sunday. "The (Sept. 11) meeting was with a bunch of other people."

Needless to say, the prosecution promptly pointed out the discrepancy, DeLay looks guilty as sin, and DeGuerin has egg on his face. To paraphrase a Nixon-era slogan, Dick Deguerin, before he dicks you...

(Minor clarification added after initial posting. - SB)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Old, Regrettably Familiar Song

Most of the day I've spent acquiring (yes, paying money for stuff) the wherewithal to extend my bread-baking project to new recipes, and to make it possible, Dog willing, to bake some bread in a conventional oven, something I haven't done since I was about 25 years old. I consider it a gesture of hope, and not the kind Obama offers his erstwhile supporters.

But that's not what I'm writing about tonight. This evening I continued reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States (link is to Amazon), one of the finest books I've ever read... but not a cheerful or uplifting book. I've gotten as far as the Great Depression (the First Great Depression? we don't quite know yet, do we?), and the late lamented Zinn relates his conversation with the late lamented Studs Terkel about the latter's interview with songwriter Yip Harburg:

Yip Harburg, the songwriter, told Studs Terkel about the year 1932: "I was walking along the street at that time, and you'd see the bread lines. The biggest one in New York City was owned by William Randolph Hearst. He had a big truck with several people on it, and big cauldrons of hot soup, bread. Fellers with burlap on their feet were lined up all around Columbus Circle, and went for blocks and blocks around the park, waiting." Harburg had to write a song for the show Americans. He wrote, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

[Harburg quotes a verse of the song which I had not heard before. - SB]

Once in khaki suits,
Gee, we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee-Doodle-de-dum,
Half a million boots went sluggin' through Hell,
I was the kid with a drum.
Say, don't you remember, they called me Al—
It was Al all the time.
Say, don't you remember I'm your pal,
Brother, can you spare a dime?

It was not just a song of despair. As Yip Harburg told Terkel:

In this song the man is really saying: I made an investment in this country. Where the hell are my dividends? ... It's more than just a bit of pathos. It doesn't reduce him to a beggar. It makes him a dignified human, asking questions— and a bit outraged, too, as he should be. 1
And today, as history repeats itself for a country that seems not to have understood what it said the first time around, I proclaim: "I made an investment in this country. Where the hell are my dividends? ... I am a dignified human, asking questions— and a bit outraged, too."



1 Zinn, pp. 390-91.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The TSA: Shut. The. Mofo. Down.

Glenn Greenwald has just the right assortment of links on GateCrotchGrabGate. Read his post, and Digby's, and even John Cole's.

To my dismay, TSA's proposed $11,000 fine and indictment of John Tyner are having precisely the effect they intend: intimidation of the ordinary flying public. This isn't aimed at terrorists. This is aimed at, for example, Stella, who already has tickets to fly to visit relatives over Christmas. Her flight originates at an airport that does not have a Friendly Porn-View X-Ray machine, so she will have to be groped. Some alternative, eh?

Me? TSA won't get their hands on my equipment (laptop or otherwise): I utterly refuse to fly until all this BS ends. If that means I've flown for the last time in my life, so be it. Airlines, take note: I am not alone in this pledge.

I am serious in advocating a complete and permanent shutdown of the TSA. For over 9 years now, it has had one solitary mission: justifying its own existence no matter what the cost to the flying public, the American taxpayer, and the Bill of Rights. There is not even a hint of anti-terrorism effectiveness in its sorry (and sordid) record. It is time to shut the mofo down. Permanently. In time for the holiday travel rush.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Not-Friday Cat Blogging

The ladies are almost the same size. But it is rare indeed to see Esther (foreground) and Lily on the woolly mat together:

ESTHER AND LILY

Bread - UPDATED

Loaf #6 is an utter failure. It appears I did not get the bread pan properly seated in the oven of the bread machine. That in turn meant the axle of the kneading paddle did not engage with the motor. When I opened the box to reshape the loaf about an hour into the cycle, the ingredients were scarcely mixed at all. I mixed them manually ("kneading" is too kind a term) and put them back in. I'm allowing the cycle to finish, but I have a feeling the result will be inedible. Damn.

Oh well; education comes from experience, and not all experience is good experience.

UPDATE: The results are in. Flavor and aroma: very nice. Texture: how does "aggressive" sound? How about "brick-like"? This bread is within my personal tolerances, and I really wanted some 100% whole-wheat bread today. But I won't be serving this loaf to anyone else.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Change We Wish To See In The World


MOHANDAS K. GANDHI

We must be the change we wish to see in the world.

... as revised by the ...

be   be   BUY

CATFOOD COMMISSION

We must BUY the change we wish to see in the world.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi Released After 7 Years House Arrest

The military government of Myanmar (Burma) has at long last released democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. Read about it here.

Bread

Peppercorn Parmesan French
This is my fifth loaf and my first attempt at French bread. I know, it doesn't look French the way I look Dutch (actually I do; ask anyone from A'dam who happens to meet me). But I didn't have the time to shape individual baguettes and bake them in a conventional oven, so I let the bread machine bake it. It no longer looks like this, because we ate almost half a loaf... and yes, it was better than none!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dean Baker Analyzes Catfood Commission

Dean Baker of The Center for Economic and Policy Research offers the most straightforward analysis of the actions, ideological drivers, ventures outside its mandate and general refusal to acknowledge economic reality of the Deficit Commission. Baker spares no one and offers appropriate level explanations of the Commission's misrepresentation of the nature of current deficits. Here's a small sample, though you really should read the whole thing (it's not all that long):

...

The large government deficits are the only factor sustaining demand following the loss of this bubble wealth. If today's deficit were smaller, we would not be helping our children; we would just be putting their parents out of work. Simpson and Bowles somehow think they have covered this concern by delaying their cuts until fiscal year 2012, 11 months from now. Virtually all projections show the unemployment rate will still be over 9.0 percent at the point when the Simpson-Bowles cuts begin to slow the economy further. This leaves the economy like a plane with one engine already out and Simpson Bowles prepared to knock out the other engine as well.


The failure to understand current deficits contributes to a misunderstanding of the debt burden. For example, Simpson and Bowles raised fears of an exploding debt reaching 90 percent of GDP by the end of the decade. There is no reason that the Fed can't just buy this debt (as it is largely doing) and hold it indefinitely If need be, the Fed can use other tools at its disposal to ensure that this expansion of the monetary base does not lead to inflation.


This creates no interest burden for the country, since the Fed refunds its interest earnings to the Treasury every year. Last year the Fed refunded almost $80 billion in interest to the Treasury, nearly 40 percent of the country's net interest burden.


This means that the country really has no near-term or even mid-term deficit problem, just paranoia being spread by many of the same people who led the economy into its current disastrous situation.


...
Concluding boldface mine. Think it over. For Bowles (again my fingers tried to type "Bowels") and Simpson, the Commission is not a device for addressing a fiscal problem; it is yet another excuse to offer tax cuts for the very wealthy ($700 bn is the figure I see most often) on the backs of the middle class and the poor. I guess Obama would say that's a chunk of change we can believe in.

Pete Peterson Owns The Catfood Commission

No kidding. You think Congress runs it? Think again. David Dayen of FDL:


Pete Peterson’s Purchase of Cat Food Commission, Media Pays Off

By: David Dayen Thursday November 11, 2010 9:48 am

I wanted to highlight something about the Cat Food Commission to permanently shrink government, something we’ve all known about, but which hasn’t been laid out in specific detail in a while. This Presidential commission has been borrowing paid staffers from groups that are ideologically committed to destroying the social safety net in America. This hasn’t been well-reported in the traditional media until today.


Instead, about one in four commission staffers is paid by outside entities, many of which have strong ideological points of view about how to tackle the deficit.


...


The outsourcing has come under sharp criticism from seniors’ organizations and liberal activists, who say the strategy is part of a broader conservative bias favoring painful entitlement cuts over other solutions. The fears of some liberal groups appeared to come true on Wednesday, when the commission’s two leaders recommended significant reductions for Social Security and other social-welfare programs.


... Indeed practically all of the commission staff paid for by outside groups have one tie or another to Pete Peterson, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has sought to kill Social Security for several decades. And this is certainly true of the top-level staff. The Economic Policy Institute [our old favorite liberal economist Max Sawicki used to work for them - SB] sent one staffer, Ethan Pollack, to the commission, and he has clearly been sidelined.


And this played out in the outside coverage of the commission report, which mirrors the position of the commission because it’s paid for by the same person. One of the first words of praise for the Bowles-Simpson report came from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a Peterson-funded group. ...


...

I hardly need to add anything to that, but Dayen has plenty more to say if you're interested. This is not how the government of a free and open society is supposed to be run. But it's not just Peterson who is running things that way; look at the Koch brothers. Hence, by simple logic, we are not... we are no longer, if we ever were... a free and open society. Respond as you see fit.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Fair Exchange

The late great Howard Zinn, in his excellent book, A People's History of the United States, reports an exchange between an eighty-year-old Susan Anthony and a much younger Eugene V. Debs, conversing on the large number of women who participated in the Socialist movement. Zinn reports the exchange of quips1:

She said, laughing: "Give us suffrage, and we'll give you socialism." Debs replied, "Give us socialism and we'll give you suffrage."

I must note that this was before the days of Sarah Palin. Speaking of former Gov. Palin, I saw a book for sale, used, cheap, titled The Persecution of Sarah Palin. At $5.00, I might have bought it, had I not determined that it was not, after all, a how-to book.

1 Zinn, p. 343
 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bad Policy = Bad Politics

What would happen in the next election if Democrats side with Republicans in making major cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits? Jon Walker of FDL has the results of some surveys, and it frankly looks terrible for Dems:

...


According to a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research memo (PDF), it was concerns about the “cuts” to Medicare in the new health care law that caused such a huge swing away from Democrats among the elderly.
 
 
...
 
 
The Republicans absolutely hammered Democrats with what the GOP labeled as a $500 billion cut in Medicare as part of the new health care law. The fairly misleading message clearly resonated with seniors who really don’t want their entitlements cut.

What the Democrats actually did was reduce projected Medicare spending by around $500 billion by mainly trying to address waste, overpayments, and inefficiency. The so-called cuts were not meant to affect the core coverage provided by Medicare. In addition, some of the savings were put toward reducing the Medicare Part D doughnut hole, reducing the deficit, and expanding coverage for others; positive things that should have at least partially mitigated anger over the “cuts.” But despite all that, senior citizens were still furious over it, and strongly punished Democrats at the voting booth. 


...


And there you have it. Cutting Social Security and Medicare is terrible policy, but hey, at least it's bad politics... um, wait a minute; why would anyone do that...

'Mother-Rapers, Father-Stabbers, ... Father-Rapers...'

Thus spake Arlo Guthrie in Alice's Restaurant about the alleged criminals sitting on the Group W bench with him. I think it better describes the Catfood Commission (see post just upstream) and especially its co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and Montgomery Burns... excuse me, I mean Alan Simpson. For preliminary details of the ways they propose to come after us with fiscal machetes, please read this article by Megan Carpenter of TPM. And don't forget... President Obama set them the task.

Catfood Commission To Seniors: Eat Catfood And Die, Mofo's!

Quoting Michael Whitney of Firedoglake:


Social Security cuts are coming for “virtually every American alive and those yet to be born,” in the words of Eric Kingson, co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign.


And for what? Corporate tax cuts.


Seriously: the co-chairs of President Obama’s deficit commission want to cut Social Security benefits for everyone making more than $25,000 a year. And then cap corporate taxes at just 26%.


Every member of this commission, every member of Congress, and President Obama himself must reject these insane ideas. We’re starting an emergency petition to President Obama, and his Catfood Commission to take Social Security cuts off the table.

...

Middle-class and lower-income readers, it's time to pick up your metaphorical pitchforks and torches. It's time to go after the bastards. Start by inundating the foolish man who instigated this atrocity (I mean Obama, of course) and his Catfood Commission (Deficit Commission) with petitions against any congressional action to reduce Social Security or set the age of eligibility later than it is. Two good places to sign are

FDL Action (same link as above)

and

Democracy for America (button on main page).

Do it right now; you know the bastards are going to act quickly.

The (Still Un)Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act seems, in light of its delayed implementation, to be of approximately no immediate benefit to anyone. David Dayen:

I’m not interested in re-litigating the health care wars, but I think everyone can agree that the delayed implementation for the benefit of a better CBO score was debilitating to the policy, at least in political terms. Because now we’re starting to get the first reports of how Americans are faring in a post-Affordable Care Act world, and because practically nothing that the law has created helps Americans get insurance, they only see that world growing worse:

Nearly 59 million Americans went without health insurance coverage for at least part of 2010, many of them with conditions or diseases that needed treatment, federal health officials said on Tuesday.
They said 4 million more Americans went without insurance in the first part of 2010 than during the same time in 2008.
“Both adults and kids lost private coverage over the past decade,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a news briefing.

Among adults age 18-64, and in case you didn’t know that’s the voting age, 22% are uninsured. Half of the uninsured have incomes over the poverty level. 40% of them have one or more chronic diseases. This is not about being young and libertarian and free, this is about not being able to afford health insurance.
Well, folks, that includes me. I am 18-64 (a lot closer to 64). I have a couple of significant chronic conditions. I am uninsured because I am... was... self-employed, now have no work-generated income and simply can't afford insurance.

Republicans want to kill the whole program. Democrats act as if they don't really care if it works or not, as long as they get credit for having passed it. That fourth branch of government... corporations, in this case, insurance corporations... is surely cheering. If anything has changed for the better in light of this law, I'm damned if I can see it. It's just another reason I'm no longer a Democrat.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bread

Again. Today I baked my fourth loaf, a cheese-salsa "last minute loaf" from a recipe in the booklet that came with the Cuisinart bread machine (shown at left, possibly 5-10 years old, on loan to me for an unspecified period). Of the four loaves, only one failed, and even it was edible: the excessive dryness and hardness may have been due to my misinterpretation of the cycle instructions in a recipe from a different book, which was not specifically for a Cuisinart machine, and used different names for the cycles. The other three have been, IMNSHO, very satisfactory; it is almost as if the machine takes the guesswork out of the difficult aspects of bread-baking. Today's loaf has the distinction of being the first one that met with Stella's full approval. It's not that she has high standards from years of baking (though she probably did that in her younger years), but from her general lack of interest in bread as food. This one, I'm happy to say, caught her attention! And yes, of course, I bookmarked the recipe.

I am surprised and delighted how pleasurable it is to dine on bread one has baked oneself. I know that using a bread machine is "cheating," but there's something about the aroma of the ingredients, both during preparation and of course during and after baking, that simply cannot be topped for sheer pleasure. And after this past week's sour experience, I can certainly stand some sheer pleasure!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mexification

Badtux says it has happened here. And that it is complete, approximately 30 years after the beginning of the Reagan presidency. He points to an op-ed by Nicholas D. Kristof:


In my reporting, I regularly travel to banana republics notorious for their inequality. In some of these plutocracies, the richest 1 percent of the population gobbles up 20 percent of the national pie. 

But guess what? You no longer need to travel to distant and dangerous countries to observe such rapacious inequality. We now have it right here at home — and in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, it may get worse. 

The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.

...
And so on. And so forth. If you are a certain age, and if you were born into the American middle class, you are by now nodding your head vigorously. I was born in the lower class, touched the middle class in mid-career, watched in dismay as my fortunes leveled off and then turned downward, and am nodding my head vigorously. It'd be hard to miss the course of things.

Unless you are the whole bloody Democratic Party superstructure, including President Obama. Then you are convinced that such things never happen, oh no, not in America, land of opportunity.

Fuck that. We've been had. And Dem leaders continue to be had. And our "Mexification" ... Badtux's term for the unapologetic elimination of the middle class by the folks who have money and/or income... continues unabated.

Expect the same to continue as long as Republicans run any part of our government... and also as long as Democrats run any part of our government.

Be sure to read Badtux's post, especially for the concluding joke.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Texas Supreme Court Quotes Star Trek

Here.

Bill Moyers On Howard Zinn And The Plutocracy

Here is another of Bill Moyers's excellent presentations, this one at Boston University as part of the Howard Zinn Lecture Series. Two of my most admired public figures, one living and one lamentably dead, combine to describe the nature of plutocracy as it works itself out in American government since Ronald Reagan. Here's a sample from the middle, but please read the entire piece:

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan also tried to warn us. He said President Reagan’s real strategy was to force the government to cut domestic social programs by fostering federal deficits of historic dimensions. Senator Moynihan was gone before the financial catastrophe on George W. Bush’s watch that could paradoxically yet fulfill Reagan’s dream. The plutocrats who soaked up all the money now say the deficits require putting Social Security and other public services on the chopping block. You might think that Mr. Bush today would regret having invaded Iraq on false pretences at a cost of more than a trillion dollars and counting, but no, just last week he said that his biggest regret was his failure to privatize Social Security. With over l00 Republicans of the House having signed a pledge to do just that when the new Congress convenes, Mr. Bush’s vision may  yet be realized.
So we've been cooked since Reagan's election. Not surprisingly, the middle-class sharing of the American dream has effectively vanished, starting at the same time as Reagan's election but continuing through every president since Reagan, Republican and Democrat alike. That is yet another reason why I am no longer a Democrat: the Democrats are a part of the plutocracy as surely as the Republicans. I am truly weary of being a servant of the wealthy, to no personal advantage. If wealthy Republicrats succeed in privatizing Social Security, it will be clear to all of us that both parties have nothing in mind for us but an infirm and impoverished old age spent in service to them. If that happens, at that point I will have to reevaluate my lifelong commitment to nonviolence.

(You dickheads in Washington: you got that? Fuck with my basic retirement, for which I have paid all my working life, and I will have no way to live... and hence no reason not to respond violently. You can not depend on my being a nice guy!)


(H/T ellroon for the link.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Little Men And Women Who Weren't There

The Democratic Party failed even to field candidates in these races:

U.S. Representative Dist. 7 - my congressional district

State Senate Dist. 17 - my state senatorial district

In State Representative Dist. 134, Ellen Cohen (D) would have won if she had gotten just 800 more votes. Most Democratic incumbents in the State House survived the election, but not mine.

And the new County Clerk, Stan Stanart (R), wants to stop socialism. I guess I can sleep better nights knowing that, though I'm not certain just how a keeper of birth and death records and such can influence socialism at all.

What a steaming pile!

Hey Democrats... The Election Could Have Sucked Worse

Hey Dems... you still have the presidency (and his staff, who give new meaning to the words "ill-advised") and, just barely, the Senate. You even still have Harry Reid, not that that's necessarily an advantage... how about picking someone else for Majority Leader this time around?



Of course, you've lost the House... all of us now have to look at John Boehner, who has one of the ugliest faces in Washington, for at least a couple of years. And you long ago lost that other legislative branch... you know, the Supreme Court. I read somewhere (Digby?) that the party in power typically loses 44 House seats in a midterm election, which means you truly outdid yourselves by losing (as I go to bed) 75 seats. Congratulations... losers!



Then there are the unelected "leaders" of the Democratic Party. How about firing the chairs of the DNC, the DCCC and the DSCC? It won't rid you of a tenth of your incompetents, but it's a start.



If you want to assume the leadership, you have to lead. You have not even begun to do that in the past decade. Leading does not consist in running scared when a Republican says "boo" (hey, if that's what you want, Halloween was two days before Election Day), and that's about all you've done lately. Great leaders persuade people to want their governments to be sensible, generous, and disinclined to unnecessary war. You, on the other hand... where's the wall? I need to bang my head against it.



It's true that you were left a disastrous economy when Obama took office. It's also true that when you made a good-faith effort to improve that economy, the GOP made a bad-faith effort to destroy you. But that is no excuse for your execrable handling of community relations, especially relations with your heretofore loyal supporters in the progressive community, while you scurried about attempting to appease the implacable Republicans. And that was truly stupid of you. Look to your base first: there is no sustaining your power without them, and without power, you are nothing.



You have two years to get your shit together. Better get started...



UPDATE: I didn't go to bed after all, and it's now 65 seats.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Find Your Fucking Polling Place

Here.

Mine is, and I quote from the above-linked site,


MARK FUCKING TWAIN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

3801 Underwood Street
Houston, tx
 Somehow I think Mark would approve.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vote, Damn It!

Gee but it's great to live in Harris County, one of the real centers of attention on Election Day:

Tea Partiers and New Black Panthers To Square Off At Polls In Texas
Ryan J. Reilly | November 1, 2010, 1:15PM

Members of the fringe group the New Black Panther Party have announced they intend to be at the polls in Harris County, Texas tomorrow. So has the Tea Party-backed group True the Vote -- with more than 1,000 poll watchers, they say. Both sides have already traded accusations of voter intimidation -- but, despite all their press coverage, neither will likely play a deciding factor at the polls tomorrow.

The face off between poll watchers alleging massive voter fraud in Harris County and many voters in minority neighborhoods of Houston during the early voting period have already been racially tinged. New developments indicate it will only get worse.

...


Now there's a show I don't even have to pay to see! Neither group behaves what I would call sanely; the Tea Partiers bear no relationship to the Boston Tea Party and the New Black Panther Party is not really connected to the Black Panther Party of my youth. Will we see violence at the polls when these two encounter? I rather doubt it, but who knows.

In any case, as sorry as this election is liable to be, I urge you to vote Tuesday. If one of your U.S. Senators is up for election, I especially urge you to vote in that race; if the Tea Partiers get their way and repeal the 17th Amendment, this may be the last time you ever get to vote for a senator. Paraphrasing the late lamented Molly Ivins... is this a great nation, or what?

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.


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