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)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

... to everyone who blogs, starting with jams and moving right around the globe and the clock. Surely 2011 will be an improvement!

AFTERTHOUGHT: 1/1/2011 is my tenth (10th) blogiversary. We bloggers are all fools, but I'm a bigger fool than most of you!

Geloiocracy - Rule By The Ridiculous

The neologism was coined by Paul Krugman in a pair of posts on his blog (H/T Bryan for the link). Indeed. If there's anyone more worthy of ridicule than the banksters and fraudsters of Wall Street, I don't know of them. Read Krugman for details.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stella Is In The Air On Her Way Home


Don't expect any great amount of blogging from me tonight... tomorrow either, for that matter!

(I hope that is not the plane she's flying in, but the clip art reminded me of an old story that ends with the pilot saying, "I have that Fokker in sight now!")

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tucker Carlson On Michael Vick: Execute Dog Torturers

... but he says nothing about torturers of humans. (Here is an example from 2007 in which he speaks approvingly of torture of humans. Apologies for linking to the transcript on a right-wing site, but that's where Tucker Carlson is disgust discussed.)

What a guy. The whole recent segment is nothing but a typical Fox News vehicle for Obama-bashing, but it seems more than a bit extreme... and hypocritical... for Carlson to advocate execution as punishment for torturing dogs.

Hypocritical? Yes. I mean, c'mon, Tucker... did you eat meat for dinner that night? Where do you think that meat came from; did the meat fairy leave it in your kitchen? You've doubtless seen videos taken in stockyards; do you think the cattle are treated humanely before they are killed? Should you, Tucker, be executed for condoning that treatment so you can have your steak for dinner? Back off a bit, and try applying the same standard to yourself as you apply to Vick. Now how does that feel?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Moonstruck

I've been reading Eugene Cernan's Last Man on the Moon, his biography as an astronaut in the Sixties and Seventies... another $2 bargain on the library's book sale table. As I read about the accomplishments of all these young men (in those days, women were not sought or accepted as astronauts), I vacillate between two thoughts:

  • That was an era in which America really accomplished things apart from, or at least in addition to, perpetual warfare;

  • Gawd, what an arrogant, self-preoccupied bunch of bastids those guys were!

Both statements seem to have been true. Take your choice which should be emphasized 40 years later.

AFTERTHOUGHT:  It bothers me greatly that those flyboys truly did not want scientists taken along on missions: in their view, every scientist who flew was a pilot unjustly displaced from the schedule. It seems to me a failure on the part of the pilots to recognize that ultimately, the space program is about science, or it is about nothing. I enjoy a good adventure as much as the next American, but I can't help feeling that if more emphasis had been placed on nonmilitary scientific research, the space program budget might not have been slashed to the point at which a trip to the Moon tomorrow would be simply impossible.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Vick Tory?

Many of you may have followed the career of quarterback Michael Vick, who was sentenced to jail and then probation for running a dog-fighting ring. Subsequently he was reinstated in the NFL, and President Obama just praised the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles for re-hiring Vick, who apparently has played well in the previous season.

For some reason I don't have the usual American male lust for violence that drives men to watch professional football, but I don't in general disapprove of it. Those men expect a certain number of themselves to be severely injured. As far as I'm concerned, it's their business if they want to risk paralysis for a huge sum of money, as long as the law treats them no differently from anyone else.

Animal cruelty... and there's no doubt that dog-fighting is cruelty... is another matter. I have zero tolerance for willful mistreatment of animals. Vick has just announced that he would like to own a dog again after his probation is over. I doubt that's a good idea, considering his history.

Although... it's pretty obvious that today's GOP is for sale, and it's a real dog, even more blatantly than the Democratic Party. Maybe we could sell Vick the Republican Party?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Getting The Wrong Message From The Election

Who's doing that? Obama, of course, says AFP American Edition:


US President Barack Obama is using his Christmas holiday in Hawaii to read up on former president Ronald Reagan, an icon for the resurgent Republicans he will face next year.

The president "is reading a biography right now on Ronald Reagan by Lou Cannon," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs wrote Friday on the micro-blogging website Twitter.

Obama has taken an interest in the former president ahead of his return to a more deeply divided Washington next month, when the Republican opposition will assume control of the House of Representatives.

...

Merry Christmas, America... WASF...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Insert-Your-Solstice-Holiday-Name-Here!

I would simply say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah," or even "Happy Festivus," but how can I pass up an opportunity to offend the bejesus out of Bill O'Reilly?

Stella is finally on her way to the airport. The @#$%^ airport shuttle was 45 minutes late picking her up; I do hope she makes her flight. Presuming she does, she's on her way to North Carolina by way of Atlanta, where she hopes she is not snowed in, and hopes also that her bag gets checked through. Still, it's been ages since she visited her kinfolks in their own home, and this was her opportunity. The kitties and I will have to make do without her for about a week.

Damn, it's quiet around here.

Oh, presents? Stella got two things she asked for from me... a gift certificate at an art supply store and a book of haiku. From her I got several books (details later) and one more gift in a rather large box. "Guess what it is," she said. "Do I get to ask questions?" I replied. "Yes, but only the traditional ones," she said. "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" I began. "No," she began rather tentatively...

It was a breadbox... shiny, large and with the roll top that most of them seem to have these days. Someone's sense of humor is a lot like mine...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

WTF ??

Thanks to nomolos on a thread at FDL, we have this charming bit from the Guardian:

WTF? OMG, LOL! CIA gives WikiLeaks taskforce naughty name

US spy agency forms taskforce to assess fallout from 250,000 leaked US cables


Adam Gabbatt
# guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 22 December 2010 10.27 GMT


The CIA has launched a taskforce to assess the impact of 250,000 leaked US diplomatic cables. Its name? WikiLeaks Task Force, or WTF for short.

...

"Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force. But at CIA headquarters, it's mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: WTF," the Washington Post reported.

...

WTF indeed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Riggsveda

... is blogging again.

How The U.S. Became An Oligarchy

Andy Kroll of TomDispatch provides a satisfactory summary introduction. Frankly, things don't look good for those of us who would prefer another sort of government. It appears the old joke is true: we have the best government money can buy, to a degree never before seen in the history of the world.

Bye Bye, Bill Of Rights: Obama To Issue Executive Order For Indefinite Detention - UPDATED

I guess it's all over but the shouting. TPM:

White House Drafts Executive Order for Indefinite Detention

by Dafna Linzer, ProPublica

The White House is preparing an Executive Order on indefinite detention that will provide periodic reviews of evidence against dozens of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, according to several administration officials.

The draft order, a version of which was first considered nearly 18 months ago, is expected to be signed by President Obama early in the New Year. The order allows for the possibility that detainees from countries like Yemen might be released if circumstances there change.

But the order establishes indefinite detention as a long-term Obama administration policy and makes clear that the White House alone will manage a review process for those it chooses to hold without charge or trial.

...


"[To] hold without charge or trial..." the very words are repugnant to any American who believes our Founders had a different idea. Obama is acting like a king, not a president. Of course some of us will make a fuss, but that's all it will be... and it won't be a fuss by the great majority of Americans.


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, America. Here's your stinking present.

UPDATE: David Dayen of FDL has a lot to say.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Obama's FCC Prepares To Fuck Net Neutrality

Timothy Karr:

Late Monday, a majority of the FCC's commissioners indicated that they're going to vote with Chairman Julius Genachowski for a toothless Net Neutrality rule.

According to all reports, the rule, which will be voted on during tomorrow's FCC meeting, falls drastically short of earlier pledges by President Obama and the FCC Chairman to protect the free and open Internet. 

The rule is so riddled with loopholes that it's become clear that this FCC chairman crafted it with the sole purpose of winning the endorsement of AT&T and cable lobbyists, and not defending the interests of the tens of millions of Internet users. 

Welcome to AT&T's Internet

For the first time in history of telecommunications law the FCC has given its stamp of approval to online discrimination.

...
Will any vestige of the 'net full of small blogs we all know and love survive? Or will the 'net become like cable TV, served by the big players who can afford the tolls, players who deliver content they think you should have? Stay tuned. If putting up and serving a blog becomes something that requires real money to provide an acceptable bandwidth, I'm outta here.

UPDATE: Craig Aaron's piece is well worth reading.

UPDATE: according to the NYT,  the primary deficiency of the regs to be voted on in about an hour is that it permits wireless carriers to restrict content. If I understand correctly, that means AT&T, Verizon, etc. can sell their own version of the 'net, with no obligation to carry content products that compete with their own. Hey, kids, let's play Monopoly™!

UPDATE:  Now the AP describes the regs in terms exactly opposite to those of SaveTheInternet etc. Either I have misunderstood completely or (as I think more likely) the AP will say anything its corporate masters want it to say. Time will tell.

Another Nut-Case Appointed

Ryan J. Reilly of TPM:

Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) -- the guy who thinks that man can't really destroy the planet because the Bible says only God can -- was passed over for chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in favor of Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI).

But now Upton has named Shimkus to chair the Environment and Economy Subcommittee. That subcommittee has jurisdiction over issues like national energy policy, energy regulation and utilization and the Clean Air Act.

Shimkus, you may recall, questioned whether decrease the use of carbon dioxide was taking away plant food from the atmosphere, declared that cap-and-trade proposals were scarier than terrorism and said global warming was not an issue because God promised Noah he wouldn't destroy the Earth again after the flood.

...
When global climate change wrecks the lives of these nut-cases' children in a few years or a couple of decades, they'll find another explanation... no doubt one conformable to their religious beliefs... for why their god changed his mind and reneged on his promises like a Washington politician. Religious zealotry means never having to say you're sorry wrong.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Senate Repeals DADT, Obama To Sign This Week

The vote in the Senate was 65 to 31... it's distressing that we have so many baldfaced bigots in office, but we take what we can get. Whether you're LGBT or merely a civil liberties and human rights activist, you will have cause to celebrate when the President signs this one. And sign it he will, given what a cautious type he is...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Partisan Neighborhood Library

I just returned from the McGovern Stella Link branch of Houston Public Library. On my way out, I noticed an entire display rack... perhaps a dozen books... half of which were by or about Republicans. The other half of the books were not about Democrats. Rick Perry, Dick Armey, Sarah Palin, and Bill O'Reilly were solidly represented.  But there was not one single solitary book by a Democrat in the entire display. None.

This is not the first I've encountered such partisan distribution of books at this neighborhood branch. On the end of every regular shelving unit is a display rack for new books or books to which the librarian wishes to draw attention. You'd be astonished... or maybe not... at how many times these featured books contain volumes from LaHaye and Jenkins's "Left Behind" series. This goes quite beyond informing library users that new material is available: at this frequency, there's no other rational explanation except that right-wing books are being promoted.

It's your tax dollars at work, Houstonians. Feel free to confirm for yourself and then file a complaint.



AFTERTHOUGHT: Do not mistake this as merely a reflection of the distribution of R's and D's in Houston. While Houston has some Republican strongholds in various places and especially in suburbs, the City itself is majority Democratic, as manifested in just about every presidential and midterm election. Be careful what assumptions you make.

Halliburton Bribes Cheney's Way Out Of Going To Jail In Nigeria

Ironically, Dick Cheney was charged with bribery. So his company paid a $250 million (ahem) "fine" to get him off. And to think this man ran our country for eight years...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

'B' Is For 'Bipartisanship'; Also For 'Betrayal'

TPM's Brian Beutler:

On Thursday night, Senate Republicans killed must-pass legislation to fund the government, and forced Democrats to accept GOP spending demands to avert a federal shutdown. ...

After long deliberations with Republican principals Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced on the Senate floor that nine GOP members had reneged on their pledges to vote for the omnibus spending bill, which reflected months of bipartisan negotiations, and included earmarks benefiting both parties. 

That left Reid several votes shy of the 60 he'd need to overcome a filibuster and essentially vaporized a year's worth of work by the Appropriations Committee.

...
(Emphasis mine.)

The congressional Republican caucus has not one shred of honesty in its entire leadership or membership. Some of us have understood this for a long time. What will it take for President Obama to wake up to this simple fact? If you want a Republican to do something, you have to use your raw power to stuff it down his goddamned throat. What part of this does he still not understand?

Krugman Explains Our Unemployment

Paul Krugman, in his usual lucid prose, offers a differentiation of two kinds of unemployment, and tells us which one we have in the US. He takes issue with assertions of structural unemployment, and his conclusion is hardly surprising to those who follow the situation:

...

That is not the case in the United States today. Where’s the evidence of a structural rise in unemployment? There are no large groups of workers with rising wages; there are no large parts of the labor force at full employment, and there are no full-employment states, aside from Nebraska and the Dakotas. And inflation is falling, not rising.

Clearly, in contrast to what you may have heard, the United States is not facing an inflationary obstacle — if you look for evidence, there is none to be found. What the economy needs is more demand; provide that, and you’ll be amazed at how many willing, productive workers there are, currently sitting idle. 

No matter what Mitt Romney says, few people in America remain unemployed by choice or by laziness. But as long as demand is weak, there will be high unemployment, for reasons that hardly require explanation. Therefore government... the last institution with the power to do so... must stimulate demand. So far, it hasn't done nearly enough.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Likely Cure For AIDS Accomplished By German Doctors

In this one instance, it sounds likely. But most people probably would not want to go through what this patient underwent to be cured, given that there are other treatments that effectively stop the progress of the disease:

Doctors in Berlin, working with an American patient with both HIV and leukemia, have declared in a peer-reviewed journal that they believe they have cured both illnesses. It would be the first time an HIV patient has been cured.

...

`` `Cured' is a strong word. But this is very encouraging,'' said Dr. David Scadden, co-director of the Harvard University Stem Cell Institute. ``From all indications, there was no residual virus. It's as good an outcome as one could hope.'' 

...

``I would call this a functional cure,'' said Dr. Margaret Fischl, pioneering AIDS researcher at the University of Miami. ``It's on the level and a very remarkable case. But would we do this with an HIV patient? No.''

The treatment is too radical, its side effects too harsh for general use, Fischl said. Still, it opens up new avenues for researchers to create more practical cures, she said.

...

Read the linked article for more specifics about the patient and the apparent cure. It sounds as if it's on the level, but extremely hard on the patient.

A lot of my friends, especially in the musical community, are or were gay. I say "were" because a few of them died of AIDS. I can never forget... OK, I can never forgive... Ronald Reagan for his refusal even to speak the word, let alone allow government funding of research, for eight years. Given how far behind American researchers were even back then, I am not at all surprised that this first apparently genuine cure was achieved by German doctors.

Truly, in many of the most critical cases, the personal is political. And the political is often enough deplorable.

Some People Never Learn

The 'publicans intend to shut down the feral guvmint again if they don't get what they want, which is... um, it's not clear, as the draft bill already has all the GOP earmarks in it. (What? NO! Surely the GOP didn't ask for earmarks... well, actually, many of them did.)

Can they do it? Probably they can, by filibustering the omnibus spending bill. Is it to their advantage to do it? Heh... has no one ever told them the story of Newt Gingrich in 1994 1996-1998? "Go ahead... make my day."

The New King

In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's novella The Little Prince, there appears a character, the King, who insists that he can "'control' the stars but only by ordering them to do what they would do anyway." (Quoted passage is from the wiki, not the book.)

When it comes to global climate change, there seem to be quite a few people who have mastered half of the King's notion: they are willing to order the Earth's climate to do what they want, or what is expedient to them in selling, e.g., products that are toxic to Earth's atmosphere. The other half of the notion... that they must order the climate to do only what it would do anyway... seems to be beyond their grasp.

Among these are Fox Noise D.C. Bureau Chief Bill Sammon...

Fox News D.C. Bureau Chief Bill Sammon e-mailed staffers last December to instruct them not to assert that the "planet has warmed (or cooled)" without "IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question."

...

... and activist Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli...


...

Last month, reports The Hook of Charlottesville, the AG requested "a sweeping swath of documents" from the University of Virginia, relating to the climate research work -- funded through state grants -- of Michael Mann. 

Mann worked at the university from 1999 to 2005, and now runs Penn State's Earth System Science Center. If he were found to have manipulated data, Cuccinelli could seek to have the research money -- plus damages -- returned to the state. 

...
There are many legitimate reactions to climate-change deniers... assertions that they are religious extremists or tools of business interests that would be affected by any sensible legislation responding to climate change... but the one thing I perceive in common among all the deniers is that they are almost unbelievably arrogant: they are convinced they can order the climate to do something other than what it would do anyway, for no better reason than that global climate change inconveniences them.

And that is nothing more than foolishness. Their climate will change, no matter how many times they deny it. Unfortunately, it happens to be our climate, too.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

God Damn Mitt Romney To The Hell He Proposes For The Poor

In other words, render him indefinitely unemployed... with no benefits he didn't pay for himself. Starve him. Starve his family. And preach to him incessantly about the virtues of work. Put him in a literal living Hell, the very one to which he would consign our poorest citizens.

(If you ever had any notion that Romney was a moderate Republican, well, here's your answer to that. There is no longer such thing as a moderate Republican.)



AFTERTHOUGHT:  Just in case you think I am benefiting from the unemployment system as it is currently framed, no, damn it, I am not: contractors cannot collect unemployment benefits. But neither am I poor. I am not losing my home. I am not missing meals. I don't have a family to feed. Romney is a right (right-wing?) bastard for even suggesting that employees should pay their own unemployment insurance in the current economy.

YouTube's New Flag For Videos

TPM:


YouTube has quietly added a new category viewers can use to flag inappropriate videos: "promotes terrorism."

The new category, which went live in early November, is a subcategory of the "Violent or Repulsive Content" category users can choose when they report material on the site. The addition occurred shortly after lawmakers in the U.S. and Britain pressured the site to do something about terror-related content.

...
Good job, Google, defending free speech just like our governments do. [/snark]

Apparently this has to do with their removal of hundreds of videos of American cleric Anwar Awlaki, "connected" to Al Qaeda - Arabian Peninsula, last month. (The word "connected" is not mine. Read the TPM article.) Again, good job of defending free speech, Google. [/snark]

Considering Assange and Awlaki, it seems free speech is more and more frequently the victim of the government's War on Terror (sorry; I won't give up the term).

Sooner or later, every blogger who writes about unpleasant people, defending their constitutional right to free expression, is going to find him- or herself charged with a crime, quite possibly with no due process rights to challenge what could well be indefinite detention. I've already instructed Stella that if I suddenly disappear, she should try to find me somewhere in the federal prison system, charged with thoughtcrime.

We live in a greeeeeaaaat nation!



AFTERTHOUGHT: I've posted three videos on YouTube. One is a picture of my hand reflecting rainbows projected by one of those sun-powered rainbow makers. Another is an image of a model unicycle riding a wire, the whole apparatus suspended from the ceiling of an ice cream parlor in a small town in Texas. One more is a flower blowing in a strong wind, with wind chimes sounding in the background. I wonder what the alleged terrorist content of those might be...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Federal Judge: Part Of Health Care Law Unconstitutional - UPDATED 2X

Read about it at TPM. They promise updates as details become available.



UPDATE: This is questionable judicial ethics at best. The federal judge in the case, Henry E. Hudson, owns between $15k and $50k in a GOP political consulting firm that worked against health care reform... the very law on which he issued this ruling. What he did may be legal (or not), but it stinks to high heaven, and I suspect it's a hell of a smell. Who appointed Hudson? why, George W. Bush, of course.

I detest the framing of the current health care law. I even deplore the provision Hudson ruled unconstitutional. But Republican presidents, by saturating the judiciary with relentlessly partisan judges and Justices, have performed a wholly unethical act that propagates additional unethical acts ad nauseam. You know if a judge appointed by a Democrat had made an analogous ruling, Fox Noise would be screeching about it 24x7.



UPDATE: Apparently Judge Hudson's decision has flaws quite apart from any conflict of interest he may have. Here's Brian Beutler of TPM:

...

"I've had a chance to read Judge Hudson's opinion, and it seems to me it has a fairly obvious and quite significant error," writes Orin Kerr, a professor of law at George Washington University, on the generally conservative law blog The Volokh Conspiracy.

Kerr and others note that Hudson's argument against Congress' power to require people to purchase health insurance rests on a tautology.

The key portion of the ruling reads:

If a person's decision not to purchase health insurance at a particular point in time does not constitute the type of economic activity subject to regulation under the Commerce Clause, then logically an attempt to enforce such provision under the Necessary and Proper Clause is equally offensive to the Constitution.

Kerr notes that this is all wrong. The Necessary and Proper Clause allows Congress to take steps beyond those listed in the Constitution to achieve its Constitutional ends, including the regulation of interstate commerce. Hudson's argument wipes a key part of the Constitution out of existence. Kerr says Hudson "rendered [it] a nullity."

...
And according to other legal scholars, there may be other errors in the ruling. None of this says the law is wholly constitutional, but there is liable to be quite a scramble now to determine its constitutionality one way or the other. SCOTUS, here we come...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bread... Winner!

I don't mean the head of household... I mean a successful first loaf baked in the "new" oven. Stella and a friend of hers happened to be here as I was finishing it up; both asked for seconds... not out of politeness, because Stella doesn't eat anything out of mere politeness: she liked it and her friend liked it.

The bread was direct from Hollywood... master baker Paul Hollywood of London, who has worked for most of the four-star hotels in that city. Hollywood obviously has a knack for baking, but he also has a knack for teaching, for knowing what to bother saying and what can be omitted or neglected. I tried what appears to be his simplest recipe, a basic whole wheat loaf. It didn't merely work; it wasn't merely functional. It was in texture the lightest whole wheat bread I've ever baked. The sound of the classic "thump" on the bottom was just right; I knew it would be wonderful before I cut into it. And the flavor...

There were two possible improvements. If I hadn't taken Hollywood at his word and added more water (an extra ¼ cup), and if I had used as much yeast as he specified (I've never seen a recipe before that called for a full ounce of yeast), I think it might have been even more wonderful. As it was, the loaf was rather flat and short. But everyone agreed the taste was just right.

The new oven was well-behaved, though Stella swore she smelled gas...

42.9 Million Americans (14 Percent) On Food Stamps

Via peterr at FDL, from the WSJ, according to USDA figures, 42,911,042 Americans... about one in seven... depended on food stamps for survival in September. But in some states (surprisingly, not including Texas, which is close to the median), the situation is much, much worse: e.g., one in five Mississippians and D.C. residents collects food stamps. Remember: this is in the allegedly wealthiest nation on Earth... but approximately one seventh of our people cannot feed themselves on their income.

Yet the WSJ still calls this a "recession and lackluster recovery." When will the major news outlets start calling a depression a depression? Yeah, that's what I think, too... never.

Please help your local food bank if you are able.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Krugman: White House Plan Screws Stimulus Again

The Shrill One says that what Obama and the 'publicans propose won't work to get the economy started. Read FDL's Scarecrow and then Krugman. Just one man's opinion? Well, yes, but I've learned to listen to that one man. It's not that he's never been wrong, but he's been consistently right about this depression. You'd think that would be enough to make the President listen to him, but noooo...

Net Neutrality

One of the best explanations of the issue of net neutrality I've seen is provided by Eric K. Arnold of AlterNet. If you read the blogs regularly, you need to understand net neutrality, which is really all that stands between the blogs and oblivion.

Damn

DADT repeal failed in the Senate. Reid managed to get only 57 votes.

If you had any vestige of a notion that Congress serves the undisputed will of the American people, you can take that notion and about five bucks to Starbucks and buy yourself a venti frappuccino with a lot of flavorings. Or you can leave the notion at home and just hand over the five bucks.

As long as the Senate rules are dysfunctional, we will continue to suffer minority rule. In this case, it results in actual discrimination against LGBT people. What a great nation we have! [/snark]

Higher Taxes For Low-Income Workers? That's Obama's Plan

Chris Adams of McClatchy:

Obama's deal will raise taxes for some low-income workers

WASHINGTON — The tax deal struck this week between the White House and congressional leaders has a little bit for most taxpayers in the country. But some of the nation's poorest workers will actually end up worse off.

...

The break-even point is $20,000 for an individual and $40,000 for a couple. All other things being equal, make less than those figures in a year, and your taxes will go up come Jan. 1, 2011. Make more and they'll go down.

...
There it is, Obama's campaign slogan in action: the oh-dash-it-all of hope.

I don't know yet whether this affects me. But it certainly offends me.

Bread

Actually, bread futures, not in the commodity sense but in the sense Terry Pratchett writes of pork futures... ghosts of loaves of bread yet to come, visible in the mind's eye of my own future.

The old defective stove has been replaced and the new one (well, OK, the new used one) hooked up. At my request, the landlord replaced the old electric range with a gas stove, the stove of my youth (though this one is much younger than I am), the stove I'm told many cooks prefer (and I'm one of them, whether I deserve the title "cook" or not).

Stella was at first terrified. She talked of pilots gone out and gas leaks and kittens leaping into ovens. I tried to reassure her that over 40 of my 62 years were spent living in homes or apartments with gas stoves (and sometimes with kittens), and that it didn't have to be the way she described. This stove has pilots on all burners and one more on the oven. The interface is exactly the same as the electric stove of which Stella was so fond, the one that quit on us. I don't know if she's convinced yet, but perhaps in time she will be.

Meanwhile, I'm thumbing through two of my bread books, looking for relatively simple recipes that don't use a bread machine. There are plenty of such; in fact, one of the reasons I want to bake with a "real" oven is to render myself independent of that little metal box. As wonderful as that box may be, the overwhelming majority of bread recipes are not adapted for it, and I want to try some of those recipes.

And so the ghostly images of loaves of bread yet to come appear before me, drifting futureward like the pork futures in Pratchett's books...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

'Sanctimonious' And 'Purist'?

Obama's speech is offensive beyond words... to whom? to his much-maligned, eternally ignored base. To me, for instance.

The man whines about compromise, but what he's doing has nothing to do with compromise: his interaction with the GOP is limited solely to acquiescence, on issue after issue, without even a challenge or debate from Obama. Have the GOPers moved to impeach him yet? No? Gosh, I can't imagine why not. [/snark]

In that case, has his base moved to impeach him yet?

Fuck the man, and I'm not offering to do the job.

Bernie Sanders Raises Hell Against Tax-Cuts-For-Unemployment-Benefits Deal

 

Sierra Club Does The Right Thing

Jane Hamsher:


Sierra Club Will Oppose Obama’s NAFTA-Style Free Trade Agreement
By: Jane Hamsher Monday December 6, 2010 8:45 am

According to an email from Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, the organization will release a statement in the next few hours on Obama’s NAFTA-Style Free Trade Deal:
We’re opposed.
Good for the Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club opposed the deal when it was negotiated by George Bush in 2007:
Like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Dominican Republic-Central America-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), the investment chapter of this agreement continues to promote off-shoring, and exposes our domestic environmental, zoning, health and other public interest policies to challenge by foreign investors in foreign tribunals. In addition, the procurement rules of this agreement jeopardize our democratically-determined federal and state procurement policies. This means that policies designed to promote clean energy use and reward environmentally-sustainable companies would be vulnerable to challenge in international trade tribunals, even if those policies were developed at the state and local levels.
Those things haven’t changed. But labor secretaries like Hilda Solis have been calling around furiously, trying to get groups to stay quiet and refrain from criticizing the deal — threatening them when necessary, as in the case of the Steelworkers.

It takes guts to get out in front of this when the White House is trying to strong arm people while they take bows with the Chamber of Commerce and Jamie Dimon. High marks for the Sierra Club for showing leadership and being willing to do so.

And so it does.

What's the name of this latest agreement? Let's see... they've used NAFTA. They've used CAFTA. I know... how about KAFKA?



(Full disclosure: a few years ago I served in the local leadership of the Houston Sierra Club. I am not unbiased in this matter!)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Beer And Wine Ban In S. Carolina

People I've known in South Carolina don't generally deserve the stereotyping often applied to them that they are too stupid to get up in the morning. But sometimes you wonder...

TPMMuckraker
D'oh! South Carolina Inadvertently Bans Beer And Wine Permits
David Taintor | December 6, 2010, 8:54AM

Oops, looks like it could be a pretty dry month in South Carolina. A new law authored by state Rep. Mike Pitts (R) inadvertently bans businesses and individuals from obtaining temporary beer and wine permits.

...
Need some spare cash for the holidays? yes? Have any scruples against bootlegging? no? Have I got a job for you...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Another Phase Of Our Totalitarian State Begins

This time the victim is freedom of speech on the internet:


AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Here Come Homeland Security Internet Police, and They're Already Shutting Down Web Sites They Don't Like

Murky new Internet regulation laws could stomp out freedom of speech...and the Department of Homeland Security has already begun.

December 3, 2010  |  Last week, the Department of Homeland Security seized 82 domain names for allegedly hawking counterfeit goods ranging from knockoff Coach handbags to bootleg DVDs. Enacted under the auspices of its Immigrations and Customs Enforcement arm, the sites were wiped out and replaced with an ominous message from the DHS that laid out the stakes, including the warning, “Intentionally and knowingly trafficking in counterfeit goods is a federal crime that carries penalties for first-time offenders of up to 10 years in federal prison, a $2,000,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution.”

Most of the seized Web sites had names like thelouisvuittonoutlet.com and getdvdset.com, and sold reproductions of designer goods and hard copies of jacked movies. A few sites on the list, though, stuck out: Onsmash.com, rapgodfathers.com and dajaz1.com are popular music blogs that were generally involved in the promotion of artists, rather than outright piracy. Well-known among rap fans for posting the latest videos, singles and remixes (always hosted from third-party download sites), their seizure was shocking, not just to the hip-hop blogosphere, but to music sites everywhere. Their inclusion on a list of sites that profit from manufacturing hard goods seemed arbitrary and ignorant. Furthermore, these sites were directly involved with artists, widely viewed as outlets that could help artists build buzz and promote their upcoming albums.

And in what ICE termed its “Cyber Monday” crackdown, a statement on the official DHS site made it clear that this was only the beginning:

...

The DHS seems to be tiptoeing in the music pool, testing its boundaries and seeing what it can get away with. ICE began seizing domain names mere days after Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, blocked the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), a bill that would effectively allow the government to censor any Web site it sees fit, and one that is widely viewed as an attack on our free speech. ...

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Please read the rest of the article. Read it in light of my previous post: it is fairly obvious that the changes Johnson describes can take place only under a government in which the notion of free speech is meaningless.

I don't have any action items on this one. I believe we are fucked to the ears, and probably won't outlast my lifetime, let alone yours, as an allegedly free nation. All I can ask you as individuals is this: please don't pirate music, for the sake of the artists (yes, yes, fuck the recording companies, but please keep it legit for the sake of the musicians), and if you feel you must download illegally, don't get caught by the DHS. DHS, chaotically structured agency that it is, could nonetheless end up our nation's equivalent of Hitler's SS.

I sleep better nights because I have a longstanding commitment to not pirating media or software. You will too. Big Brother is truly watching you, Dog damn him.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chalmers Johnson (1931-2010) - UPDATED

Chalmers Johnson (as quoted by Avedon Carol):

If present trends continue, four sorrows, it seems to me, are certain to be visited on the United States. Their cumulative impact guarantees that the United States will cease to bear any resemblance to the country once outlined in our Constitution. First there will be a state of perpetual war leading to more terrorism against Americans wherever they may be and a growing reliance on weapons of mass destruction as they try to ward off the imperial juggernaut. Second, there will be a loss of democracy and constitutional rights as the presidency fully eclipses Congress and is itself transformed from an 'executive branch' of government into something more like a Pentagonized presidency. Third, an already well-shredded principle of truthfulness will increasingly be replaced by a system of propaganda, disinformation, and glorification of war, power, and the military legions. Lastly, there will be bankruptcy, as we pour our economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects and shortchange the education, health, and safety of our fellow citizens.
It must have been really difficult for this man, not easily pigeonholed and full of such contradictions in life, by the time of his death to be proven right about such important and tragic matters. R.I.P. Chalmers Johnson.





UPDATE: the wiki links an excellent assortment of Johnson's recent articles in significant periodicals:

Three Senators Introduce Bill To Allow Prosecuting Wikileaks After The Fact

TPM from the Wikileaks wire:


Lieberman, Ensign, Brown Intro Legislation To Go After Wikileaks
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The three senators want to make publishing certain names illegal after the fact so they can prosecute Wikileaks. ...
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Considering all the unpleasant facts Assange's Wikileaks has exposed, I suppose that's known as an (ahem) "exposed fact-o" law...

Seriously: such a law would be unconstitutional as hell. It violates Art. I Sec. 9: "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed." And that is precisely what these three senators are attempting to do: make something a crime after the fact, or perhaps simply declare Assange a criminal. How low we have sunk!

Catfood Left For The Cats To Eat

TPM's Megan Carpentier:

The fiscal commission, which already delayed its vote by two days due to internal conflicts, will fail to get the required 14 votes needed to send its report to Congress.

Former SEIU President Andy Stern is the fifth member of the 18-person panel to announce his opposition to the report, making reaching the required supermajority impossible. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Dave Camp (R-MI) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) are also opposed.

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Of all of Obama's ideas, the Catfood Commission has to have been one of the very worst. Just watch: he'll probably take credit for "saving Social Security" now.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Big Advance For Maxwell Smart

A shoe phone? Old stuff... how about a shoe radar, a device that supplements your GPS to track your location when you're somewhere (e.g., in a shielded building) from which your GPS can't receive a signal?

In other fascinating science news, we have Fallenmonk's post on life, found in a poisonous lake, that uses arsenic instead of phosphorus in its DNA. Now there's something truly different.

Or if you're interested in a longer lifespan, read about some work done at UTHSC-San Antonio on a variety of C. elegans.

(Aside: I still feel like crap. Posting will continue to be intermittent.)

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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