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, May 27, 2011

Friday Typical Esther Blogging

(Original post here.)


Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Lily Snockered Blogging

(Original post here.)


Friday, May 13, 2011

The Last Word On This Blog's Location

The last word is... I don't have to decide, and you don't have to know, because I license a domain I specifically created long ago to use for this blog. I probably won't physically move the blog's content to that domain, but I can simply point that URL to wherever I intend to blog. Here is the one and only address you need for me:

http://www.yellowdoggereldemocrat.org/

That's it. Bookmark that, and it will take you where I am at any given moment.

Of course, the hardwired versions will still work to get to the individual sites, at least for now.

Something Else Blogger Failed To Restore

Blogger bloggers...

Did you have any static pages (the ones created/edited using Edit Page, not dependent on date and time)? Yes?

Among those, did you have any pages to which you did make changes on a regular (say daily) basis? Yes?

Then you lost any changes to those pages you made since the great crash yesterday morning. This happened to my "Quotes from the Top" page.

Love 'Em And Leave 'Em... And Leave 'Em... And Leave 'Em...

At this rate, I'm going to have changed to a new blog more often that Newt Gingrich has changed wives. But more than 24 hours after the initial crash of Blogger, the failed restore, etc. etc., I finally have all my posts back on this blog, but a bunch of comments have simply not reappeared. They're just gone, apparently.

That is not acceptable. And so until Blogger gets its Shift-key together, I'm going to relocate, probably temporarily, to a wordpress.com blog with a similar URL:

http://yellowdoggereldemocrat.wordpress.com/


I've overlapped one post on the new site: the 'Getting their Goat' doggerel. Starting with that post, I'll ask you to make comments on the new site, not on this site.

I don't know if I'll move back here or not, but I'll keep you posted. If you made a comment here on Wednesday or maybe even Thursday, you might want to check to see if the comment is still there.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

After OBL's Death? More Of The Same

Glenn Greenwald addresses the commonly heard suggestions that with Osama bin Laden dead, wars will end, troops will come home, civil liberties will be restored, etc., etc.

The reality? Not so much. Meet the new Boss Obama, same as the old Boss Obama. According to Greenwald, we can...

  • Expect expansions of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Expect ongoing wars and even some new ones. 
  • Expect to learn about secret wars already underway.
  • Not reasonably expect Guantánamo to be closed.
  • Expect Congress to issue a new AUMF. (This is already underway in the House Armed Services Committee.)
  • Not expect Obama's executive-detention-without-trial policy to end.
And so on. Read Greenwald's article.

Quoting Greenwald reporting on a letter from the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, among other org's:


In a joint letter to Congress, about two dozen groups -- including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights -- contended that the proposal amounted to an open-ended grant of authority to the executive branch, legitimizing an unending war from Yemen to Somalia and beyond. 

"This monumental legislation -- with a large-scale and practically irrevocable delegation of war power from Congress to the president -- could commit the United States to a worldwide war without clear enemies, without any geographical boundaries" and "without any boundary relating to time or specific objective to be achieved," the letter warned.
We seem headed inexorably toward an executive-only government. I, for one, am not happy about that.

Florida Passes Law Which May Ban All Sex

It has to do with the fact that humans are animals, and the law bans sex with "dumb animals." Details are at Bryan's place, but I'll tell you the story in man-on-doggerel:

 Getting their Goat

So now the moment has arrived Floridians all dread:
The threat of bestiality has reared its Mossy Head!
They think they're safe when people chafe at human-livestock sex,
But soon they'll find it isn't only Oedipus it wrecks!

The men may not be COWards and perhaps they don't do CHICKEN;
The women aren't full of BULL; with human males they're stickin'.
But gals or blades must note, their clades appear in ANIMALIA...
It's laws on bestiality with which they'll try to jail ya!

And thus with "animals" the Legislature is researchin':
Have all the KIDS gone wild? or is each goat a bestial virgin?
Now on each "date" they tabulate what everybody did...
It ain't just Chucky Cheese's WHERE A KID CAN DO A KID!

- SB the YDS

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Full-Blown Bat-Shit Crazy - UPDATED

That would be the Republ(ic)ans in Congress:

The GOP's New Constitutional Amendment: Give States Veto Power Over Federal Laws
Evan McMorris-Santoro and Ryan J. Reilly | May 11, 2011, 4:50PM

...

A group of Republicans in the House and Senate are proposing an amendment to the Constitution that would allow a vote by two-thirds of the states' legislatures to override any federal law they did not agree with.

The proposed constitutional amendment, a tea party favorite, is being touted by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the Senate and co-sponsored by Sens. John Barasso (R-WY) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). In the House, Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Paul Broun (R-GA) are leading the charge.

...

That's it for me. If the federal system goes, I go, too. I will not live here under a form of government that our Founders considered, more-or-less tried before the Constitution was ratified, and discarded as being weak and utterly chaotic. In our own time, the United States cannot effectively exist as a patchwork of 50 different independent regions run by an assortment of radical right-wing governments, varying in degree, manner and details of craziness, with no congressional power to keep a firm hand on those right-wing state legislatures. That way lies madness.

You think you've heard the worst the Tea Party can come up with, but they're always prepared to disappoint you and sink to new depths one more time. "Full-blown bat-shit crazy" is the only description adequate to the nutsiness...

UPDATE:  In my anger and haste I probably exaggerated the implication of likelihood that such an amendment to the Constitution could actually pass, even in these crazy times.

There are two ways to propose amendments and two ways to ratify them:

  • to propose, you must gain the support of two-thirds of both houses of Congress, or persuade two-thirds of state legislatures to call a constitutional convention, which then approves the amendment; 
  • to ratify, you must gain the approval of three-fourths of state legislatures or three-fourths of ratifying conventions in each state. 

I doubt they can get this dog past the houses of Congress, which is the route they obviously intend to try, because there are some Teabaggers in Congress. So I'm not packing my bags just yet.

Mad Kane...

... has something rather astringent to say about the men of Der Tzitung, the Hasidic newspaper in Brooklyn with a policy against publishing women's pictures so strict that they literally airbrushed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton out of a photo in the White House Situation Room. And of course, Mad being Mad, she rhymes what she says!

What are you doing, why are you still here? Go... read...

Nashian Rhyme For Lily

  
Age-Related Annoyance

Almost any adolescent
Will at times behave unplescent.

- Steve Bates

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

President: Commander Or Dictator? - Terrorist: Criminal Or Warrior?

Glenn Greenwald addresses these and one other vital question in his article, "Democratic principles in the War on Terror."

First, outside of the fever-riddled brain of John Yoo and the icy heart of Dick Cheney, is there any basis in a constitutional democracy (remember? that's what we're supposed to aspire to be) for assigning our chief executive total and unreviewable power over citizens and noncitizens alike, including the unilateral power to decide life and death, when those people are far from any battlefield, and when the only "war" going on is what the late lamented Molly Ivins used to call a "war on a noun"?

Second, is terrorist behavior really combat in a war, requiring massive military response and comparably great compromises of our civil liberties in pursuit of victory? Or is it straightforward criminal behavior which can, and in the past, has been, dealt with in our duly constituted courts system, with all its trappings of due process?

Greenwald points out that even Eric Holder, during the Bush administration, answered those questions "no" and "criminal," offering compelling arguments for both answers... but he has now reversed both positions and argues in behalf of Obama's assuming breathtaking powers.

Greenwald quotes Yglesias, who in turn quotes a Rand Corporation study. Greenwald's conclusion is devastating:

... In 2004, the Democratic nominee John Kerry famously (and correctly) said -- echoing Cole's words above -- that Terrorism was comparable to prostitution, gambling, and organized crime:  "nuisances" to be dealt with primarily through law enforcement but that will never go away entirely.  In a 2008 Atlantic article, Matt Yglesias declared that "Kerry was right" when he " said something about counterterrorism being primarily a question to be dealt with through law enforcement and intelligence rather than something that should be understood as primarily a kind of war," and as proof, Yglesias cited this study from the Rand Corporation, which concluded as follows:

Its report said that the use of military force by the United States or other countries should be reserved for quelling large, well-armed and well-organized insurgencies, and that American officials should stop using the term "war on terror" and replace it with "counterterrorism."
"Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests there is no battlefield solution to terrorism," said Seth Jones, the lead author of the study and a Rand political scientist.
That view now, of course -- once the centerpiece of the Democratic Party's Terrorism arguments -- is decreed to be a fringe and radical view.  The same is true for Cole's argument that Terrorists should be deemed criminals, not warriors, and treated exactly the same way we treat criminals: with the full range of due process rights under our normal system of justice.  Believe me, to make that very same argument now is to prompt accusations of radicalism and even Terrorist sympathies. ...

All of those views -- Democratic Party orthodoxy a mere three years ago -- have become relegated to the fringe under the Obama presidency ...  But it's worth recalling that they were indeed the backbone of the Democrats' once-vigorous opposition (at least in rhetoric) to the Bush/Cheney worldview of using war and battlefield theories to fight Terrorism and to erode core Constitutional and civil liberties.
I would like to think that it goes without saying that our civil liberties as American citizens, even in wartime (which this arguably is not), must not depend on who sits in the White House, and what expediencies s/he is willing to resort to in pursuit of goals that may be as much politics as national security.

How do we get from here to there? Perhaps I have too much faith in the core of the old Democratic Party from bygone days, but I can only hope that at least some of old-timers can and will pressure President Obama not to become former "President" Bush, but rather to apply some of that constitutional scholarship he so proudly claims in his speechifying, to leave off his literal assaults on American citizens in a war that isn't a war, pursued not in his role as C-in-C of the armed forces but as a genuine leader in the face of confrontations against an opposition party of certifiable crazies who have no intention of governing, but rather are intent only on milking America dry and scaring her electorate half to death.

Does Mr. O have it in him? I don't know, but under the circumstances, we'd better Hope he can Change.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What Texans Reasonably Expect Of Louisiana

I once had a good job offer at a major university in Louisiana. I turned it down entirely because it would have required me to live in Louisiana. The man who offered me the job, a friend and colleague of mine, asked me forthrightly what the difference was between Texas and Louisiana. I answered, "About 200 years."

That was about 30 years ago, and one could hope things would have changed by now. One would hope that... in vain. Louisiana has put in place something called the Louisiana Science Education Act, R.S. 17:285.1, which requires public schools to allow teaching of creationism and/or "intelligent design" in their science classrooms. The state BOE's discussion made the classic "teach the controversy" argument, which is of course invalid on two grounds:

  • first, a taxpayer-funded public school may not legally, under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, teach any tenet of any religion in any classroom, and 
  • second, a more substantive objection, there is no legitimate sense of the word "science" in which creationism is a science... it is wholly a religious doctrine.

The law also allows schools to include climate change denial in science classrooms... this is less a religious issue than a political one, but the content permitted is just as false.

One 17-year-old student has organized a petition drive, implemented by change.org, demanding that the Legislature repeal the law. It is an open petition, which means you and I may sign it. I have already; I hope you will do so.

And Never The Trains Shall Meet

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) seems to have decided that Americans are not sufficiently put upon by machines that effectively strip them naked when they board a plane, lists that prevent some Americans from boarding a plane at all, with absolutely no recourse for people added to that list in error (or deliberately, with political malevolence), etc. etc.

So Sen Schumer wants to remedy a disparity: he wants to impose similar restrictions on people who ride Amtrak trains. That's right: he wants a "no-ride" list, initially including the demonstrably faulty "no-fly" list.

Um, Sen. Schumer... [stage whisper...] it's not about the passengers. America will be the target of terrorism even if we check every passenger on every city bus against a printed list that would extend from here to the Moon. Terrorism will persist if we stop and check all drivers in all vehicles for driver licenses, voter IDs, passports, whatever. Terrorists will assault America if they have to walk to the next town to do it. Terrorists intent on attacking trains will attack tracks, tunnels and bridges, not the passenger compartments of railroad cars, because they can do so much more damage that way. Terrorist attacks are the inevitable fate of anyone who decides to play the biggest mofo on the block... and the US seems determined to be just that.

In Iraq, are those who use IEDs aboard the vehicles they blow up? No? Then why would they be aboard a train they intend to destroy? They know where it's going: it's not as if the train is going to change routes all of a sudden. Measures to discover IEDs brought aboard trains are a reasonable precaution, and monitoring tunnels, bridges etc. may be worth the effort. But no-ride lists are nothing but security theater. It's simply not about the passengers.

There's also the fact that a bomb on a train... literally on the train... has a relatively local destructive effect. Blow up a plane, and everyone aboard dies; gravity does part of the work. Crash a plane into a skyscraper... well, you know about that. But set off a bomb in a railroad passenger car? It would have to be quite a bomb to kill more than a few people.* No, terrorists will go after tracks, tunnels and bridges.

Senator... this is the stupidest proposal I've heard in a long time, excepting only Paul Ryan's "Path to Pathology" budget. Why don't you just give it up now, before we spend billions of dollars on totally ineffective "anti-terrorist" measures that probably make real terrorists laugh?

* In the 2004 Madrid commuter train bombings, thirteen IEDs were placed on trains and set off at peak traffic times. While many people were injured, fewer than 200 were killed. Bombs carried onto trains are, at best, devices to terrorize, not devices to kill large numbers of people.

Oh, Kay...

If you aren't visiting Kay's Thinking Cap at least once a week for her Groaner of the Week, you must be no more than half groan. This week's downright criminally bad pun sent both me and Stella into fits of groaning and shaking our heads!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Read This

FDL Book Salon hosts Tad Daley on his book Apocalypse Never: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World. Hosts: Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson. Need I say more?

Actually, I'll say just a bit more. This reminds me of a book I read about 30 25 years ago called The Fate of the Earth, by Jonathan Schell. I found it reprinted perhaps 10 years ago; it is still available in local bookstores. So far, I haven't located Daley's book other than on Amazon and the above-linked Rutgers Press; Houston Public Lib ain't got it, dammit.

A Fence Taken

My back neighbor has been wielding a chainsaw along his side of the fence line, removing large tree branches and cutting them up. He has a perfect right to do so, and probably a need as well, given that hurricane season will be approaching sooner than I'd like to think. But...

DAMN, it's hot in this office (my back bedroom)!

My electricity provider sends me a weekly bill summary by email. Between two weeks ago and last week, the usage literally doubled. This summer is gonna hurt, in more ways than one...

Mutterer's Day

In about 1988 my Mother passed behind the veil of Alzheimer's disease. The portal hidden by that veil is largely one-directional: brilliant, vibrant, articulate people go in; only their incoherent mutterings come out.

Two years later, Mom's body died. It was a tough two years... for Dad, for me, and yes, for Mom: in the early stages of that terrible disease, the Alzheimer's victim is at least partially aware of what is happening to her.

So here's a toast to Mom as I remember her from earlier, better days. If I enjoy wit, poetry, music and fine Southern cooking, it is all because of Mom. Solo singer that she was, Mom must also have been a saint to love and marry my Dad, with his complete lack of pitch sense...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Note To Andy Card: Fuck You

Sometimes the Republan exceptionalism is breathtaking:

President Obama has 'pounded his chest' too much and taken too much pride in the success of the mission to take out Osama bin Laden, according to, of all people, George W. Bush's former Chief of Staff, Andrew Card.

...

Card, of course, was a top official in an administration noted for its theatrical press events, most notably the decision to have President Bush land a fighter jet on board an aircraft carrier before delivering his famous speech celebrating the invasion of Iraq in front of a giant "Mission: Accomplished" banner.

...

Does Card have any idea how much his shit stinks? IMHO, he knows exactly how much it does. And doesn't care. Optics for the next election? Fuck optics, says Card; elections can be bought, or if necessary, stolen...

UPDATE: on the above-linked thread, commenter Mickey Bitsko nails it precisely:

Sounds like this Card is missing a full deck.

Yep!

Floridians: Beware Your Locally Grown Crops!

Jonathan Turley tells you why:

Florida House Approves Use of Human Waste To Treat Crops For Human Consumption
Published 1, May 6, 2011

Some Chinese may be steaming eggs in urine but Florida is about to grow its crops in such waste. After a heavy lobbying effort by industry, Florida is about to rescind a ban on the use of human waste to treat crops. Soon more than 90 companies will be pumping waste from about 100,000 septic tanks on to their fields — an estimated 40 million gallons treated with lime. ...
(Emphasis mine.)

We've only known of the dangers of doing this for, um, what? two or three millennia? I suppose the lime is supposed to make everything hunky-dory, but somehow I wouldn't want to depend on that to render the human waste literally safe for consumption.

And I thought Texas was bad...

Obama Issues Presidential Assassination Orders - Revisited

Glenn Greenwald is among the very, very few columnists who address this issue: on what possible constitutional basis is the President granted the unilateral power to issue an assassination order against an American citizen, omitting due process altogether and playing the roles of judge, jury and executioner, as he has done in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki? Isn't this the sort of thing, among many others, that led to the original American Revolution? Isn't this the sort of tyrannical, arbitrary punishment without due process of law that caused our Founders to craft the Bill of Rights in the first place?

Greenwald points out that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution "expressly guarantees that 'no person shall be deprived of life[, liberty, or property,] without due process of law' -- and provides no exception for war." The U.S. has managed to survive numerous terrible wars and one extended, ideologically driven Cold War without sacrificing that guarantee to the degree Obama seems willing to sacrifice it. When a president begins ditching constitutionally guaranteed liberties as easily as he would pour out yesterday's coffee, I have a problem with that... and you should, too.

I will not be voting for Mr. Obama in 2012. I will not be voting for his Republan opponent, either, but on the matter of fundamental civil liberties, I see very little difference between President Obama and his predecessor... except that Obama has actually issued assassination orders against American citizens far from any battlefield context, something that even the deplorable GeeDubya Bush never did. How could I vote for someone who illegitimately claims the power to assassinate American citizens without due process?

We are nothing without our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Without those guarantees, none of us... not one solitary American... has anything that can reasonably be called "security." I do not have an easy answer to Obama's behavior, but I know with certainty that if he is not confronted and the behavior addressed concretely, we can kiss our freedoms goodbye, no matter what terrorists Mr. Hopey-Changey manages to kill.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Fat Cat Blogging

Lily has grown rather large, larger than Esther, larger than any cat Our House has ever had in residence...

I am glad I never met Lily's father; he might be rather frightening!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jobs A Priority? Not To House GOP: See HR 3

H.R. 3, just passed by the Republan-dominated House with the assistance of 16 Democrats, is a draconian anti-abortion bill. It goes so far as to penalize businesses (by eliminating their tax credits) for offering employees insurance that covers abortion... even when the insurance is paid for with private money. Now there's a "conservative" maxim for business owners: "you can't spend your own money on a legal procedure, indeed, a constitutionally protected right, if we disapprove of the procedure." The bill also redefines rape in a way that requires a woman to prove she was forcibly raped before allowing her an abortion... now that's just what society has always wanted, a way to force a woman to bear her rapist's baby. [/snark] I've always said today's GOP has a cruel, dictatorial streak running right through it.

Once again, for the record, though I have grown tired of saying it: the Hyde Amendment, attached as a rider to a succession of funding bills since 1976, already prevents federal funds from being used for abortion. Although that amendment slashes access to abortion for poor women by removing it from Medicaid coverage, that's not the issue here. This bill goes much further than that: now the GOPers want to place the same restriction on the use of private funds. It seems to me that is mighty close to burdening a woman's right to an abortion as established in Roe.

Reportedly this bill has zero chance of making it into law. That's presuming the Senate does what it says, or Obama actually keeps a promise and vetoes it. But the fact that this is the third bill introduced in the GOP-controlled House shows just how much the GOP cares about dealing with unemployment, declining wages, home foreclosures, rising prices of every damned thing, etc.

Welcome to the Republan brave new world, where radical social-conservative measures displace basic bread-and-butter issues at the top of the priority list. Are those your priorities? No? Remember that fact in November 2012.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Obama Refuses To Release Bin Laden Death Photos

... says (at least) CBS News.

In other news, an estimated 572 photos allegedly of bin Laden's corpse, some obviously faked, immediately appeared on the Web... [/snark]

(Seriously, though: the FBI has announced that at least one email purporting to show bin Laden dead is a carrier of a virus. Be careful what you open.)

On Our Terms Or Bin Laden's Terms?

Rachel Maddow examines the issue. Long, but full of insights on both process and substance:


AFTERTHOUGHT: I did not know that a headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security is being built in Anacostia on the grounds of the former St. Elizabeth's mental hospital. Need I say more?

Government By Poll

Obama's poll approval jumped by 9 points in the wake of bin Laden's assassination:

Immediately following the announcement that American forces had killed Osama bin Laden, President Obama's approval rating leapt to its highest level since 2009 in a Washington Post/Pew poll.

In the poll, which was conducted on Monday, 56% of Americans said they approved of Obama's job performance, compared to 38% who said the disapproved. That's a marked turnaround from one month ago, when 47% of Americans gave Obama positive marks on his job performance, while 45% said otherwise.

...
It worked for GeeDubya Bush; why shouldn't it work for Barry Obama? Americans luuuuuvs them some violence: if a president's approval ratings are slipping, he (or she, someday soon, please?) can always improve them by ordering direct military action. We are not a subtle people, and we (that's the generic "we," not including me) don't want a subtle president.

But time and Rove wait for no man, and I am certain as I sit here that Obama's lead will evaporate long before November 2012: the truths told about him will be bad enough, and the lies will be still worse.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Low Teacher Pay

This PSA is brought to you courtesy of a post by PZ Myers of Pharyngula, reflecting an NYT op-ed by Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegari... TEACHER PAY SUCKS BIG-TIME. The op-ed contains many interesting facts, but the center of it from my perspective is in these three grafs:

At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender. Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. In real terms, teachers’ salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000. This prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible. 

So how do teachers cope? Sixty-two percent work outside the classroom to make ends meet. ...

We’ve been working with public school teachers for 10 years; every spring, we see many of the best teachers leave the profession. They’re mowed down by the long hours, low pay, the lack of support and respect. 

When I was born, Dad, trained as a schoolteacher, was working as a shipping clerk for a railroad, basically so he and Mom could afford to have a kid AND rent a very modest place to live. (Two-income households were uncommon in the working class in those days.) A decade later, when Dad decided he really, really wanted to teach school, we made the decision as a family, because it meant a drop in annual income from $13k to under $10k. Add another decade; Dad's salary was still not back to where it had been, though he was well over halfway to a Master's degree earned at UH in night classes, and I went to work in my first full-time job as a programmer... at a salary higher than Dad's salary at the time.

Add 40+ years, and not a damned thing has changed except the dollar amounts. Forgive me if I barf on the next person who says a bunch of damned lies about public school employees including teachers having such a great deal. That person is already soiled in my opinion; it's going to be difficult to see exactly how much of them to wipe away...

Another Question Answered: Torture, Once Again, Did Not Work

You all know by now that bin Laden was located at least in part by his use of a courier. In all the bragging since bin Laden's assassination, some security hawks have claimed that "harsh interrogation techniques" (let's call it what it was: torture) led Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to reveal the name of the courier.

As with all such claims to date, this one is bogus. Since I'm going to quote AP from ABC News, you'll have to depend on Mother Google to find the quote; I don't need the harassment:

Mohammed did not discuss al-Kuwaiti while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He acknowledged knowing him many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.

Bolds mine. Only a news wire wholly owned by the tough guys on the right would say that it leaves matters "up for debate"; clearly, torture didn't work, and standard interrogation did. Suck on that, nut-cases!

(H/T jamie of IntoxiNation.)

Killing Him Was The Mission

I don't often send you to Politico, but there are a couple of interesting items in this article:

...

The SEALs took fire on their way to the compound’s third floor, where bin Laden had been sleeping, officials said. The encounter with bin Laden lasted only seconds, and ended with a kill shot to his face.

...

“They were told, ‘We think we found Osama bin Laden, and your job is to kill him,’” an official recalled.

...
So at least in theory, and with some risk, the SEALS presumably could have captured bin Laden... but their specified mission was to kill him. I take that to mean that bin Laden knew things that some Americans did not want said aloud.

How long before WikiLeaks releases the contents of those hard drives? [/snark]

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fair Play For The Texas Senate - UPDATED

The Texas Tribune:

Senate lawmakers have tentatively passed a controversial measure to require women seeking abortions to receive sonograms — and have the details of the fetus described to them — prior to the procedure. Pending a final vote tomorrow, the bill will head back to the House so the lower chamber can sign off on the Senate's changes. 

...
This bill is certain to pass, and Gov. Goodhair is certain to sign it. I found this exchange very revealing, between Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) and Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth):

Davis alleged the purpose of the bill "is to traumatize women." Patrick fired back: "You know me better than that."
Oh, indeed, we know you well, Sen. Right-Wing-Radio-Talk-Show-Host-Turned-Right-Wing-Pol. We know you better than you want to imagine.

OK. Once we've established in law that the State of Texas can require a doctor to perform a procedure that is medically unnecessary but conforms to a set of social/religious views, I propose the introduction of a similar law, one that requires every male state representative or senator who voted for that law to undergo a sonogram every time a woman in their district is compelled to undergo the same.

But wait... how can a male be given such a sonogram? Isn't it biologically impossible? No, it's not. Have you ever seen the device used to treat urethral meatal stenosis in a man, a thick steel rod? Surely the transducer of a sonogram isn't much larger than that. Just cram that muthafucka into that muthafucka and PUSH...

AFTERTHOUGHT: a friend reminded me on the comment thread that in my anger I advocated avoidable violence and the resulting pain. Perhaps I am becoming what I most abhor. More likely, I was just mad as hell at people bent on harming women. Either way, in the light of day (actually it's not quite dawn yet), I retract my fantasy violence. Dog knows there's enough of the real thing out there.

Glenn Greenwald

... offers a sensible assessment of the killing of Osama bin Laden. What he says is not that different from what I said upstream, but as always, he says it much better than I ever could.

Limericks 101 Assignment

OK, class, we have more serious material than usual available to us today. In the spirit of the Lipinski-Lewinsky-Kaczynski limericks of a few years ago, please write a limerick that rhymes...

  • Obama
  • Osama
  • yo Mama

You have 30 minutes. Use your time wisely.

Let The Mythology Begin

From the Guardian: Osama bin Laden corpse photo is fake. They even show the original images of which the fake is a composite. The photo has already been out on the intertubez for two years, in various publications with various labels.

Here we gooooooo...

Follow-Up: Interview With Baratunde Thurston About His Trump Video

Here's the interview by Steven Thrasher in Village Voice. As Thurston also works for The Onion, don't miss this one-panel jewel. He swears it came from The Onion's staff writers, that he had nothing to do with it...

H/T Kay for the link to the interview.

'Obama 1, Osama 0'

Thus spake a handmade cardboard sign, reminding us that bin Laden's death is a political victory for the president. After all, this is America; every president has to prove himself (herself? will that ever happen?) as a mighty warrior. If signs could contain more words, this one might have held another line: "Obama succeeded where Bush failed." Of course, neither president was really there when the deed was done; if there's to be credit, it must go to the troops in that firefight. But whatever. I am content to allow Obama to bask in reflected glory; it's the American way.

Meanwhile, TPM offers a large number of snapshots of the celebrations in NYC and DC.

I can understand that in these awful times the public needs a victory of some sort. We've lost our jobs; many of us have lost our homes. But by damn, we killed bin Laden... and no one else is ever gonna pull a stunt like 9/11/2001 on us again. [/snark]

These scenes are heartening in their own limited way. But jeez, folks, it ain't VE Day. I just looked around and all my problems are still here this morning. How about you?

AFTERTHOUGHT:  the NYT can never resist a partisan political cheap shot. Headline: "Bin Laden is Dead, Obama Says." Awwww, c'mon, folks... maybe, just once, you could, like, do some actual reporting and find sources to tell you whether bin Laden is dead, rather than using that maybe-it's-not-true voice? I don't recall any headline 10 years ago that read, "Mission Accomplished, Bush Says" ...

AFTERTHOUGHT:  I will bet you money that this gets the wing-nuts chattering:
US officials say that Osama bin Laden has now already been buried at sea. 
Islamic tradition calls for quick interment, preferably within hours of death. But that won't keep the nut-cases from talking endlessly about how he's not really dead, the body buried was not really Osama, etc., etc. ad nauseam. "Show me the death certificate!!1!11!!!!"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Killed

Details here.

Over the decade in which I have written this blog, I have had a tacit policy of not celebrating anyone's death; doing so seemed at best tasteless and at worst counterproductive. I think you will forgive me if I suspend that policy in this one instance: Good riddance to bad rubbish. Yet even that celebration is counterproductive.

Bin Laden's death changes essentially nothing, at least nothing for the better. The United States is still involved in (arguably) three wars directly and ineffectively related to terrorism, and some unspecified number of covert conflicts that are wars in all but name. The US is also still violating treaties, international laws including the Geneva Conventions, its own military laws, and various US policies against things like torture, as if there were no tomorrow and none of America's actions would ever come back to haunt us.

Meanwhile, our civil liberties are being revoked at a breathtaking pace, allegedly in the effort to curb terrorism, but we all know the real reasons. As some of our enemies predicted, the US is effectively destroying itself.

Bin Laden, on the other hand, seems to have gotten everything he wanted. Economically, militarily, and in terms of international relations, the US is headed downhill so fast it makes our heads swim. And presumably Osama is busy with those 72 virgins...

I have only one arguably partisan question: why did this never happen during the administration of George W. Bush? Forgive me if I doubt that omission was accidental: they wanted to leave this on the Democrats' plate. I suppose that turns out to have been a political fuck-up on the part of the GOP.

But before you dance on bin Laden's metaphorical grave, remember this: our nation is probably being buried along with him. To use the phrase popular in 2001... the terrorists have won. Welcome to Hell; enjoy your stay.

Supremes Effectively End Class Action Lawsuits Against Corporations

Elaine Magliaro on Jonathan Turley's blog has details.

The case is AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion. Along classic 5-4 ideological lines, the Court voted to validate contracts with clauses that require arbitration or mandate individual rather than group claims in the event of disputes. As you might surmise, corp's can fight such a lawsuit simply by exhausting an individual's resources: even if there are thousands of such individuals, they can be drained and defeated one-by-one using the corp's effectively unlimited supply of lawyers.

Welcome to the new order. Maybe you can fight City Hall, but I doubt seriously you have the money to fight AT&T.

Don't Proselytize Me

There I was, "easy like Sunday morning," sitting in my most comfortable chair, sipping soda and reading an excellent murder mystery.

There was a knock at the front door. The mystery was suspenseful enough that the knock made me jump, but there are a few friends who know me well enough to be welcome to drop in, so I got out of my comfy chair, onto my walker and galumphed my way to the front door. I could not see anyone through the peephole, so I didn't open the door; I merely said "Who is it?"

After a second, a young family, dressed for church and carrying their bibles, appeared. The young man said something; I didn't understand and asked him to repeat. Rather than repeating himself, perhaps influenced by my reluctance to open the door, he said "Have a nice day" and departed.

My strong feeling is that these good people came by with the intention of converting me to their religion. Maybe they are "required" to do so by some mandate, real or imagined, of that religion. Usually they are not interested in the give-and-take of real discussion; they know they have the One True Religion, and they need only tell me about it... truly a one-directional communication... for me to be Saved, as they already are.

I know these people are exercising their First Amendment right, and I do not begrudge them that. I am invariably civil in my interactions with them. But they are wasting their time with me, and life is too short for them to waste their time, or mine.

Unlike one friend's car, I am not convertible. I have my views on Life, the Universe and Everything, and I'm just not interested in buying a package someone else is selling. Threatening me doesn't work, either; I find it utterly incredible that an all-powerful god would bother to condemn anyone to an eternity of hell, for any reason whatsoever. If belief in your god requires me to accept the existence of a hell, I don't want to waste your time or mine talking with you. (Atheists and agnostics, on the other hand, are welcome here. Have a seat and I'll fetch you a beer.)

In earlier days, in another house, on Sundays, in pleasant Spring weather, I often sat inside with my front door open, with a screen door to keep out mosquitoes, reading and sipping, enjoying the breeze. Unfortunately, the whole proselytizing game became too popular in that neighborhood, and I found myself becoming less than polite to those not easily discouraged by a first rebuff. Eventually I started closing my door. Bye bye, Spring breezes.

So let me make it clear to anyone walking in my neighborhood: I don't buy anything sold door-to-door. That includes religion and politics, even though I've done some block-walking myself in the past. If you're a friend or neighbor, come on in. If you are walking for a candidate, please stick a brochure in the outer door. If you have any other agenda, please just keep walking.

Republans At It Again: Gerrymandering Texas

You may have thought that Republans (note: I shall continue to lose the "ic" in "RepublICan" until Republans stop losing the "ic" in "DemocratIC Party") could not possibly do any more redistricting damage than they did in a mid-cycle redistricting in 2003 through the efforts of now convicted criminal money-launderer Tom DeLay (R-Jailhouse). But if you thought that, you would be wrong.

Republans in the Texas House have created a plan that does more minority packing than I would have thought possible after what DeLay already succeeded in doing less than a decade ago... but no, the state House succeeded in diluting-by-combining minority voting strengths, both African American and Hispanic, even more than was done in 2003. State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) (official site/political site/public statement on this issue) has written a heads-up letter to US AG Eric Holder regarding the problems this unreservedly Republan plan has with respect to the Voting Rights Act. Read Coleman's letter to see what the bastards are up to this time. It's at least as ugly as what DeLay & Co. did in 2003. And it's being done without even minimal input from the Democratic delegations of counties most affected.

I'm sorry to have to say it... these people are just plain evil. They have, or at least display, not the smallest shred of conscience, nor the tiniest intention of submitting to the will of the majority. If I believed in Hell, I'd cheerfully consign them there.

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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