Thursday, May 31, 2012

Who Will Tell The Sea?

TPM's Eric Lach:
Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are circulating a bill which would limit their state agencies’ ability to calculate sea-rise levels, a proposal that one member of the state’s Coastal Resources Commission science panel has termed “bad science.”

The bill has not yet been introduced, but the language in the version being circulated would make the Division of Coastal Management the only state agency allowed to produce sea-level rise rates, and only at the request of the Coastal Resources Commission, and then only under the following conditions:
These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise.
In other words, instead of taking into account global warming to predict higher seas, as expected by most scientists, the bill would have the state rely only on the historical record.

Who will explain to the ocean that the North Carolina legislature has ruled that it may not rise beyond specified levels?

I am creating a new label for this post, "Republicans Too Dumb for Words" ... and indeed I have no words for raw stupidity at this level.

GOP Mofos Disenfranchise Florida WWII Veteran

It worked for them in 2000, so they're going to do it again. I'm talking about the motherfucking Florida GOP and Gov. Rick Scott (R), suppressing likely Democratic voters by purging them from the rolls. David Dayen of FDL quotes from the Tampa Bay Times (I selected a slightly different quote):
Bill Internicola was born in Brooklyn 91 years ago and received a Bronze Star for fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, but, according to the state of Florida, he may not be a U.S. citizen. 
Internicola received a letter in May from the Broward supervisor of elections stating that it received "information from the State of Florida that you are not a United States citizen; however you are registered to vote." The letter was part of a controversial state-led effort to rid the voter rolls of noncitizens. Similar letters were sent to 259 Broward voters. 
Internicola said he was "flabbergasted" by the suggestion that he wasn't a citizen. He called the county's election office and said: "Are you crazy?" 
The quote is from the Tampa Bay Times. Among national newspapers, apparently only the NYT is giving the general issue significant coverage. (Dayen, as he almost never does, goes off on a tangent about whether a veteran's vote should be more sacred than a non-veteran's; I'm not going to follow him there.)

When George W. Bush stole Florida by unleashing a rowdy mob of Bush supporters against the recount effort in 2000, a number of people said that we should not talk open rebellion on the first occasion of vote suppression. Back then I said "fuck that shit," but I am not from Florida. OK, it's happening again... big surprise, eh? What are you going to do about it, Floridians? Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) and Alcee Hastings (D-Miramar) call Gov. Scott's voter purge efforts "misguided"; I am inclined to much stronger language.

How far can we let them go? How many presidential elections must we let them steal as a matter of interparty comity? I say it again, 12 years later: "fuck that shit!"

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rmoney Campaign's iPhone App Misspells 'America'

Fortunately, there's a clip of an image from it. Personally, I don't see the objection: who isn't in favor of "A BETTER AMERCIA"?

Former Rep. Huckster Hoekstra: Create A Birther Office

That's right. Former Rep., wanna-be future Sen. Pete Hoekstra (R) says the feral gummint should form a committee to investigate presidential candidates' birth certificates.

What no birther has ever explained to my satisfaction is the most fundamental question: in this day and age, why the fuck would anyone fortunate enough to have been born elsewhere have even the remotest desire to become POTUS? Maybe in the early 1950s, but... now? really? What's the draw... the salary? the benefits? the short hours and relaxed working conditions? the universal acclaim of the American people? [/snark]

Well, That Was Disappointing

The Texas Democratic primary, I mean. If you're in Harris County (Houston), you may find your time better spent, rather than wading through the Houston Com... er... Chronicle (link is to their results page) reading Charles Kuffner's Off the Kuff; Charles gives you The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

On the positive side, both my favorite US Senate candidate, Paul Sadler, and my US Rep. Dist. 7 candidate, Lissa Squiers, are in runoffs. Sadler is an education wizard in the state Lege; Squiers is one of the most agile speakers on-mic of anyone I've heard this year.

The most disturbing primary to me is the 215th Judicial District. A sitting Democratic judge, Steven Kirkland, was primaried. Why? Apparently because a wealthy lawyer didn't like Kirkland's ruling in a multi-million-dollar case. By whom? By Elaine Palmer, funded entirely by the wealthy lawyer. Palmer is a young African American lawyer who has been reprimanded by the State Bar. Palmer ousted Kirkland, winning over 60 percent of the vote. Charles Kuffner asks the relevant question: now that Palmer has done the dirty work for her sole financial backer... ousting Kirkland... will the backer even bother to fund her run in November? My best guess is that GOPers are licking their chops over this race. Under ordinary circumstances, the election of a young Democratic African American as a candidate to the bench is a happy occasion. Under these circumstances, it makes me wonder whether we should be electing judges at all. Of course, if we didn't, Gov.-for-Life Perry would have appointed every damned judge in the great State of Texas by now...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bradley Manning's America: Land Of The (Indefinitely Detained), Home Of The (Too Cowardly To Grant A Fair Trial)

Bradley Manning is a man imprisoned without charges for a year after his arrest, finally charged with enough crimes to assure his imprisonment for life if convicted, and now, according to his defense team, denied discovery of exculpatory evidence for almost a year to date. Please read the details; even the bare facts are disgusting. This is not how America claims to treat its accused... at least not the America I grew up admiring.

"Show trial." "Drumhead." Call it whatever you want; it is obvious that Bradley Manning will ultimately be convicted on all charges, and exculpatory evidence will never be disclosed. Is the clear message "don't leak secrets"? In my opinion, it's more like "don't make Barry Obama and his buddies look bad." Your mileage may vary.

Maybe you've got the goods on Barry and his boys, but if you leak, your ass is going to jail, probably for life... fair trial be damned.

Is Manning guilty of the nearly two dozen charges against him? We'll never know. The world will never know.

Texas Democratic Primary TODAY!

This is it. This is your last chance. Make your best choices... I know it's not an exciting field this year, but do the best you can... and vote today.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Texans: Honor Your Service Members... Vote Tomorrow

Texans: I can think of no better way to honor the members of the U.S. armed forces and the sacrifices they have made for all of us than to VOTE in tomorrow's primary election. No excuses: do it!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Book Break, Redux

This is a brief followup on the post Book Break, below. If I am scarce on the blog, it is because I am determined to finish the books mentioned in that post before the library reclaims them.

Regarding Complexity: A Guided Tour, I finished reading it today. Dr. Mitchell discusses at least a dozen different examples of "complex systems" by various measures of complexity and occasionally by consensus. Although the book is well-written and well-organized, I felt a sense of vague disappointment that there are not more acknowledged (and thus explored) commonalities among different types of complex systems. I freely admit that many of the ones discussed were previously unknown to me. And after all, the field is only a few decades old, and even then under a variety of names. I am glad I read the book.

Most distressingly, there is apparently a grudge in at least some of the scientific community that led the staid but generally respected journal Scientific American to publish what appears to be little more than a "hit piece" against the entire field of complex systems, a slur of the sort we encounter so often in politics in conservative rags both newsprint and slick-cover. Mitchell herself complains of selective quoting by the author who interviewed her, as if he had a conclusion already in mind and shaped his information-gathering and -filtering to "justify" that conclusion. If that is true, it is a hell of a note for an old-line popular scientific publication.

I began Carole Nelson Douglas's Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta this evening, and it's a mainstream Midnight Louie mystery, her latest, apparently available only in hardback. (Ahem. People like me who are on a limited budget: visit your local library now; buy the paperback when it comes out.) If I recall correctly, Midnight Louie appears in four "playing card series" novels, two compatible books Catnap and Pussyfoot, and Bast alone knows how many alphabetical series novels running from B to V (and yes, she intends to go through Z). My recommendation: start with Catnap and Pussyfoot, then read perhaps three or four of the alphabetic novels. You will then have sufficient character and long-term plot arc background to read the latest ones.

Men who cannot abide the very thought of reading a romance novel should avoid the Midnight Louie series; the series began more as romance than as mystery. Gradually, mystery and adventure came to predominate over romance (but not to replace it!) as the series continued, and I find even the early novels inoffensive on that score. Most of the books are page-turners, though compared to other writers of cat mysteries (e.g., the late lamented Lilian Jackson Braun), Douglas is rather longer-winded... expect to spend several evenings reading any of the middle and later Midnight Louie series novels.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Scott Walker's Texas Deer 'Czar': That Dog Won't Hunt

You might think that Wisconsinites who are very conservative would automatically vote for Scott Walker this Tuesday. I can't say you are wrong, but I can say that there is at least one good reason why they should not vote for him: via Phoenix Woman of FDL, his appointment as "czar" (sorry, Bryan) of wildlife and hunting on public lands a Texan, James Kroll (call him "Walker's Texas Ranger"), who doesn't believe the public should be allowed to hunt on public lands. Under Kroll, deer hunting would fall within the purview of the privileged... those who can afford their own lands... or those with access to "game farms". He is on record describing public game management as “the last bastion of communism.”

An ages-old tradition of sensibly regulated public hunting of the public commons would be put down, for the benefit of... who else... the wealthy. Even a sprout-eater like me is offended by that! How would my grandparents have survived if Grandpa couldn't have hunted a nearby woods for deer? I wouldn't even be here today.

Spread the word: Scott Walker is against your hunting deer... unless you're rich.

Friday, May 25, 2012

In NY, Speech Is Free, But You Pay For Anonymity

H/T Bryan for pointing us to this post by Matt Peckham in Time's Techland blog:
Watching faceless online passerby troll bloggers or mock fellow scribblers can be a drag, but what if legislators’ answer to online ne’er-do-wells was to ban anonymous comments from websites entirely? That’s what the state of New York is planning to do in identical bills — S.6779 and A.8688 – proposed by the New York State Assembly that would “amend the civil rights law” in order to “[protect] a person’s right to know who is behind an anonymous internet posting.”

The bill would require a web administrator to “upon request remove any comments posted on his or her web site by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post and confirms that his or her IP address, legal name, and home address are accurate.” By “web site,” the bill means just what it seems to: Any New York-based website, including “social networks, blogs forums, message boards or any other discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages.”

That sound was, of course, the noise of a few of our nation's founders turning in their graves. For example, the various pseudonymous authors of the Federalist Papers are surely rotating rapidly.

I have published under my real name (well, OK, my real nickname) for decades. But faced with such a law I would make up a pseudonym just to defy it. Anonymous or pseudonymous speech emphatically does have a place in the discourse of a free society. And it is protected under the First Amendment, as our nation's founders understood without having to have it explained to them in words of one syllable.

Based on the proposed law, I have to assume that New York wants its residents to abandon altogether the web hosting business. That suits me, or as Texans say, it's no skin off my back. When I had self-hosted business and personal sites (as opposed to Blogger-hosted or WordPress-hosted), my host was about 30 miles north of me, and they placed as few restrictions as possible on what I posted. That's how it's supposed to be in America.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Conservation Of Church-State Separations

Via Lindsay Beyerstein, here's AFP in the National Post:
OSLO – Norway, which is one of few developed countries to still have a state religion, passed a final hurdle Thursday to separate the Protestant Lutheran Church from the state, parliament said.

The move, which requires changes to Norway’s constitution, was approved by parliament a second time Thursday, in what was a formality after lawmakers voted through with overwhelming support on Monday, with 161 votes in favour and just three opposing votes.

High marks for Norwegians' legendary common sense. There was scant opposition.

Meanwhile, assuring conservation of church intervention in state affairs in America, Catholic church leaders and fundamentalist evangelicals with Catholic assistance...

In America, no liberty won by our forebears ever stays won. No good turn in the world goes unanswered by a selfish one. This is particularly true when we strive to retain our government's independence from the influence of religious organizations. Eternal vigilance, etc.

Pelosi: Save The Millionaires!

Actually, according to David Dayen of FDL, who bases his assessment on a Citizens for Tax Justice analysis, Pelosi's new "middle class tax cut plan" is worse than that: it cuts taxes on anything up to $1 million a year in income, which sacrifices lots of potential revenue from people who are, by any reasonable standards, wealthy:
Citizens for Tax Justice has helpfully run the numbers for me. And it’s pretty much as I suspected. First of all, they note that “Pelosi’s proposal to extend the Bush income tax cuts for taxpayers’ first $1 million of income is a departure from President Obama’s proposal to extend the tax cuts for the first $250,000 that a married couple makes and the first $200,000 a single person makes.” That’s still in the President’s budget, so this represents an undeniable shift. 
As to the numbers. CTJ estimates that Pelosi’s plan would save 43% less revenue than Obama’s plan. ... 
The whole Democratic Party appears to have abandoned us. Nancy Pelosi throws a large, meaty bone to $1m-income-a-year taxpayers; meanwhile, Carl Levin says Congress can ignore a federal judge's ruling against indefinite detention. (It has occurred to me before that Levin may be suffering some form of senile dementia.* Or maybe not...)

My typical behavior in recent presidential-year elections has been to sift the candidates carefully in the Democratic primary, then vote straight-'D' in the general. I don't know if I can do that this year. The party has changed. When even Pelosi abandons us for the $1m-annual-income folks, you know something is drastically different.

* ADDED: our first indication that my mother was developing Alzheimer's disease was that she paid a bill by writing a check for $3 million. Either she was experiencing the onset of dementia, or had delusions of being a member of Congress. Regrettably, it was the former.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Break

Now that I have access to the public library a block away, thank the good Dog, as I did not for the year I was wheelchair-bound, I am starting to catch up on some reading. Monday is always a good day because the library is open until 8:00PM, and this last Monday was, as anticipated, quite a success:

Mitchell, Melanie. Complexity: A Guided Tour. Oxford, 2009.

This is a book for ordinary mortals with an interest in the new ways we think about information. Mitchell points out that in the 17th and 18th centuries (the age of Newton and his immediate predecessors), humanity, or at least a small part of it, fathomed the mathematical laws of very large objects, e.g., the motion of the planets in the Solar System. In the early years of the 20th century, with the advent of quantum mechanics, the science of very small things... atoms and subatomic particles and their simplest combinations... began to be understood, at least mathematically. (I don't think one can fairly claim that the 20th century developed a reliable intuition for the truly bizarre phenomena detailed by quantum mechanics; indeed, quantum intuition is still a scarce commodity.) So... what was still missing, even in broad outline, from the physical sciences? Everything in between: the areas sometimes called "emergent" phenomena, not able to be explained by a formerly typical reductionist approach to science, nor grand enough to be described by the physics of Newton or even Einstein. Living things and their subsystems (brains, immune systems, etc.) are good examples. These areas are at last getting their due, often through expanded notions of "information" and "computation" initiated as early as my college days (late 1960s, early 1970s) as applied to physical systems. This is the primary focus of Mitchell's book.

Deutsch, David. The Beginning of Infinity. Viking, 2011.

I have read this book once before, fairly recently, and may have mentioned it on the blog. Since reading it, I have read Deutsch's earlier book, The Fabric of Reality, which provided a better context for this more recent book. The content of this book is extremely diverse, not to say scatter-shot, ranging from the understanding of science as explanation (what things can be included and what things must be excluded from our current concept of science), to the multiverse (in one of the senses of that word, the concept that quantum mechanics is an expression of the operation of a gigantic multitude of parallel universes differing only in very local particulars), to a fictional dream of Socrates, and so on. It is the only book I know in which the last chapter is titled "The Beginning". Like most books of popular physics, I anticipate that this one will repay a second reading many times over.

Nelson Douglas, Carole. Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta: A Midnight Louie Mystery. Forge, 2011.

Some things never change. I lapsed in reading the Midnight Louie series, a combination mystery series with at least one cat detective (a la the late lamented Lilian Jackson Braun) and romance series possibly... possibly... suitable for preteen girls, depending as always on the girl and her parents. But the lapse has done me no harm. Nelson Douglas's human protagonist Temple Barr (now there's a name for you!) is still the publicity wizard of Las Vegas; "her" cat Midnight Louie ("her" in only a very limited sense) still is the super-intelligent descendant of Egyptian tomb cats who plunges into investigations of human misdeeds for a variety of reasons, Ms. Barr's social life is apparently still divided between the same two men of very different sorts, etc. etc. From the jacket notes alone, I can tell it's going to be a romp... and that I missed very little by skipping the dozen series novels in between.

Anyway, I have a lot to read, and four weeks to read them (including renewal, which HPL allows one to do at initial checkout if one's record is clean), so if I'm not on the blog as often, please forgive me.

I Voted

... but I'm damned
if I can remember
why I bothered...

TPM Engages In Antisocial Networking

TPM has a new system in which, in order to post a comment, one must have an account with Facebook, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail. I have none of those, and at the moment I have no intention of getting any of those. I might consider Twitter, but that's not among the options.

I have been responsible for a good deal of publicity in the form of links to TPM articles. But being cut off arbitrarily from the commenting system annoys me enough that there probably will not be many links from here to there in the future.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dave Lippman: 'Bank The Knife'

Rather than embed this YouTube, I'm going to send you to the original. The song is fairly long, and YouTube also displays full lyrics, which you may need. Don't take my word for it; see for yourself... Dave doesn't let the banksters off lightly. Here's the video. Enjoy, if that's the right word.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chicago, The New Battleground, Following NY, LA, Oakland, Etc. ... Is Your City Next?

Chicago PD came prepared to do violence, and they did violence. The new standard response to nonviolent protest is suppression of protest, serious injury to and arrest of protesters, false witness against protesters. This is all happening right now. Please read Adgita Diaries, Chicago Cops Attack Veterans, L'Enfant de la Haute Mer, At NATO Summit in Chicago, Police Clash with Protesters (14 photos), and Bryan, Chicago Ninja Terrorists? regarding police behavior.

NTodd and others, now may not be a good time to introduce your young children to the reality of protest. Some skulls are being cracked, and the Chicago police seem utterly indiscriminate about whose. Reportedly LRADs are being used as well, and permanent hearing damage is a real possibility.

This is as bad as I had expected. A mere four years ago, I never imagined it would come to this. But it has, and I am no longer surprised.

'218 Frogs In A Wheelbarrow'

That's how Speaker John Boehner describes his House GOP caucus. Who am I to disagree... although, having encountered more frogs dead in research laboratories than live in the wild, and having seen the brainless antics of the House GOP, I think Boehner should have inserted the word "pithed" ...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Easy Sunday

It was one of those almost perfect spring days that Houston has occasionally, mostly clear skies with an occasional cloud just to stave off boredom, a temperature conducive to sitting on the patio most of the day, reading Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad, sipping cool water and contemplating what a life that man led, and how much things have changed from his lifetime to mine. I have read that that book changed the nature of travel books for good, and indeed it is a kind of personal keepsake, a long, rambling, never boring tale as much rooted in who Twain was as in what he did. Travel narrative as statement of opinion is a new concept for me.

In any case, I have no current events to comment on, because I haven't done my homework today. Absorbing the sunshine, watching the birds and squirrels, and making another tiny dent in my four-foot shelf of Twain's works, collected a volume at a time over decades, will have to do. I hope your day, whatever you did with it, was as satisfying as mine!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chicago PD Raids Of NATO Protesters: Real Evidence Of Bomb-Making, Or Warrantless Searches Finding Common Household Items?

Avedon Carol tells the story well, so I will simply leave it to her:

Chicago police raided an apartment housing anti-NATO protesters late on May 16. Interestingly, The Chicago Tribune didn't try to soft-soap the story, making it clear that the police ran around breaking into people's homes in the early morning hours without even offering a pretext. "According to law enforcement sources and police reports obtained by the Tribune, the arrests were the result of a monthlong investigation into a group suspected of making Molotov cocktails - crude bombs usually created by filling glass bottles with gasoline. But the National Lawyers Guild criticized the police raid, saying the nine NATO protesters only had beer-making equipment in their possession." Most people have the ingredients in their homes for making various sorts of bombs, so it's a claim that can be made about almost anyone. A bag of flour is also useful for making a bomb. Every kitchen is a potential arms manufacturing plant. You don't need "equipment" to make a Molotov cocktail - presumably you already have a bottle and a rag, and you can siphon some gasoline out of a car. A bit of motor oil, a dash of kerosene - you can see that pretty much every suburban home is terrorist bomb factory. This is what "probable cause" is all about - if the cops don't have to show a specific reason for coming after you, they can break down any door in the middle of the night on the grounds that you had "the equipment" for making a bomb. And that's just what they're doing now, and they're not doing it to anyone who is genuinely suspected of terrorism, but to people who are known not to be terrorists of any kind. I'm sure these cops didn't all just decide after a few drinks to go out and terrorize some protesters, and I'm just as sure there will be no consequences to the people who decided to use the cops as a weapon to terrorize some protesters. But the law is meaningless without consequences to violators, so it's pretty clear we are on notice that our 1st and 4th Amendment rights are gone. "Witnesses described police officers dressed all in black armed with battering rams and guns drawn swarming into the building, conducting warrantless searches and refusing to tell them what was going on."

That is, indeed, what "probable cause" is all about. All of us, inevitably as a result of having homes to run and gasoline-powered vehicles to maintain, have "bomb-making equipment" around home. If police can break down doors with no demonstrable probable cause to believe a crime is intended, they can always find "bomb-making equipment" in the home of any person, including people whose most nefarious actual intention is nonviolent protest. This is the soul and substance of the Fourth Amendment. Without it, as Avedon says, our rights of protest and our protections against unreasonable searches are gone.

Clearly Obama's buddies (read: Rahm Emanuel) and their private police forces (Chicago PD) are down with this approach to squelching protest. My question is to what degree Obama himself supports Chicago PD in this matter. You know, that Obama-Biden graphic in my sidebar is not glued down...

Well, Those Two Texts Were As Ugly As Proverbial Homemade Soap...

... but if I'm in an extended power outage, say, after a hurricane, but my cell phone works, e.g., charged from a car battery, it means I can let you know I'm still alive. Thanks for your patience.
More tests...

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Testing blogger post by text b4 hurricane season

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Endorsements: Federal Candidates

Please understand that I endorse only in Democratic Primary races in which I can vote. You still have today, tomorrow and a week's worth of weekdays in which to early-vote (basic info on voting in Harris County is here) as well as primary election day itself (May 29). Enough preluding; here are the endorsements:

• US Senate: Paul Sadler (D) to replace retiring Kay Bailey Hutchison (R). Sadler, who has decades of experience in the state legislature, is more-or-less the signature Democratic establishment candidate, and would be of little interest to me one way or another except for one thing: he has been a solid vote on the good side of education issues, often crafting the legislation himself in cooperation with retiring State Rep. Scott Hochberg (one of the truly great lights of the Texas Legislature, and yes, there are some). Mr. Sadler also has Mr. Hochberg's endorsement, and that of the Houston Chronicle (for what that last is worth). Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff interviews Mr. Sadler here.

• US House, District 7: Lissa Squiers (D) to replace the deplorable John Culberson, who I've often thought should be named Tom DeLay II. What Ms. Squiers lacks in experience she more than makes up in articulate advocacy on many of my favorite issues; please listen to her interview by Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff. I do not know if I am damning Ms. Squiers by breathing the L-word in the same sentence with her name, but I believe she is one, by my standards.

• President: anyone but Mitt Rmoney. I am reluctantly voting for Barack Obama, not out of any great love of the man or his policies thus far as president, but because either Obama or Rmoney will be our next president, and I surely don't want Rmoney, an even more disastrous frat boy, woman-hater, gay-hater, bully and animal torturer than GeeDubya Bush was. I had hoped that Obama would lead in the race so overwhelmingly that I would be spared the painful task of voting for him, but at least so far that seems unlikely, so I will do my civic duty and dial Mr. Obama's name on the old eSlate machine... which may even record my vote for him.

Here is a useful page listing Charles Kuffner's recorded interviews with Texas candidates. Perhaps it will help you to decide, especially in races in which you do not know the candidates, or don't know them well.

Friday, May 18, 2012

GOP Accidentally Tells Truth

TPM's Igor Bobic discovered this when he clicked a tab on John Boehner's web site. The tab was labeled GOP Solutions and this is what was displayed:

The GOP Solutions tab has since been redirected to an "initiatives" page. I liked it better the other way; it was a rare moment of honesty from the GOP.

The Space Program: What Is Was It Worth To You?

(H/T NTodd.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: Once, long ago, I wrote an app, on a sub-subcontract, a tiny standalone app that allowed NASA to track training and qualification status of Mission Control crew members for various seats. There was nothing deep or sophisticated about the app, and what I was paid was negligible. But every time I think of it, I realize that I was given an opportunity to put my thumbprint on the grandest engineering program humans ever conceived and created. What a privilege it was!

AFTERTHOUGHT: I have encountered people, mostly Americans, surprisingly often over the years who are emphatic in their denunciation of the space program, and outraged that, say, a Moon landing was ever done, because the money could have been used to save starving children. If that is what you believe, if you believe the entire program is a waste of taxpayers' money, I'm certain that nothing I can say to you will change your mind, so I won't even try. But I will correct your error of fact. As Tyson pointed out in the video, the entire budget for NASA from the beginning amounts to 0.4% of your tax dollar... that's one penny out of every $2.50 for the arithmetic-challenged among you. If you really want to discover a waste of taxpayers' money big enough to address essentially all of our social ills that can be addressed with money... look no further than the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy. Rescind the cuts and re-purpose the regained revenues, and hunger is gone in today's America. Of course, that happy state will continue only until the Mitt Rmoneys and John Boehners of the world (not to mention the Grover Norquists) find ways to undo your good work. You say you want to end hunger, and you're attempting to fund your effort from the NASA budget? You're not just a fool but a damned fool. Bark up another tree for a while.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Elizabeth Warren: Reinstitute Glass-Steagall

Asked by FDL's David Dayen if she was confident that the current investigations by the task force co-chaired by Eric Schneiderman, into mortgage abuses and similar malfeasance, would result in an adequate accountability of the biggest Wall Street banks and their leaders, Elizabeth Warren was blunt beyond any mistaking of her meaning:

I am not confident. No. And that’s the answer to your question. The American people are pushing for more accountability. They need to keep on pushing until it happens.

As to re-establishing Glass-Steagall, she said this:

As you remember, the Volcker rule, which I supported, was designed to permit biggest financial companies to stay in trading, but to do it in a way which was safe. Many of [the] experts say that’s not possible. If you look at a trade, or a hedge, it’s often hard to tell in advance what it is. They both exhibit the same kind of properties. So the question is what to do with that. If it’s true that the Volcker rule can’t adequately manage the risks that the largest banks are determined to take on, then the right answer is Glass-Steagall. A modernized Glass-Steagall. Separate commercial banking from Wall Street. I held a meeting and someone asked me, why support Glass-Steagall. And I said, because banking should be boring.

[Commercial] Banking should be boring: hear, hear! In this week in which banking (commercial/investment, no distinction) was anything but boring and quite possibly criminal to the tune of $3 billion, we need to learn and implement that lesson more than ever.

If Warren is elected to the Senate and (Dog forbid) Rmoney takes the presidency, Rmoney is going to shit his pants every time she enters a room...

Krugman: It's 'Not A Greek Problem' - UPDATED

Paul Krugman refers us to Tim Duy of Fed Watch on Economists' View regarding the European Central Bank's attempt to transform, for public consumption, a Europe-wide problem into a Greek (or Spanish or Irish) problem... which in Krugman and Duy's view, it emphatically is not. Krugman:

The morality play the Germans like to tell about how the crisis countries got into trouble isn’t true, but even aside from that, the question is what you do NOW. And the key point is that there is no way out for the troubled countries if Europe as a whole is marked by low growth and low inflation.

Given that reality, lecturing Greek voters on responsibility, while hinting that maybe we’ll ease the terms a bit — oh, and it’s almost time for summer vacation! — just won’t cut it.

We need a conversion experience here, not in Athens, but in Berlin and Frankfurt. Otherwise, the game is almost over.

And Duy:

I thought the last election was supposed to be a referendum on Greece's commitment to the Euro. European policymakers fail to understand that they have provided the Greek people no way out - they are damned if they do, damned if they don't. Even if the Greeks overwhelming[ly] want to remain in the Euro, the austerity program guarantees ongoing recession, and the Greek people are being asked to commit to a program that is effectively already overtaken by events. ...


The rest of Europe might not think this is fair, but let's be honest - ultimately, it wasn't fair to bring Greece into the Euro in the first place.

UPDATE: Later, Krugman shows us the "responsible" [/snark] plan for Greece and graphs its results. As he puts it, "Pain without end, amen."

Products From China That Will Kill You... Or Make You A Cannibal

ellroon of Rants from the Rookery continues her list of dangerous products imported from China, a list that seems always to grow longer, never shorter. At some point, you have to doubt the intent of the Chinese government... and the American government... to rectify the situation. Considering the clearly inadequate inspection of imported Chinese products, I suppose we have to live with poisonous pet food, honey containing heavy metals, pills that contain human remains, ... the list goes on and on; read it yourself. You may not be quite so quick to buy things labeled "Made in China" when you see the pattern.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shhhh! Don't Tell The Public, But The Major Parties Are NOT Both Doing It!

Amazingly, it's right out there, in print, in a book by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, It's Even Worse Than It Looks, in which they document the ways in which the GOP, not the Democratic Party, is overwhelmingly to blame for the decaying relations that have rendered our government very nearly wholly dysfunctional.

As Greg Sargent tells us, these two authors are noted for their lack of partisan bias, and they appear to have done their homework for this potential blockbuster of an election-season book.

So... why have Mann and Ornstein not been able to arrange one single solitary appearance on any Sunday political talk show? Aren't the networks required by the terms of their licenses to be "fair and balanced"? What's that you say? I must have my head wedged WHERE to believe that?

MEANWHILE, John Boehner is setting up for another budget-related hostage-taking...

Obama Determined To Make It Difficult For His Base To Vote For Him

I don't understand why he is doing things like this (from Greenwald , quoting Washington Post):

President Obama plans to issue an executive order Wednesday giving the Treasury Department authority to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone who “obstructs” implementation of the administration-backed political transition in Yemen.
The unusual order, which administration officials said also targets U.S. citizens who engage in activity deemed to threaten Yemen’s security or political stability, is the first issued for Yemen that does not directly relate to counterterrorism.
Unlike similar measures authorizing terrorist designations and sanctions, the new order does not include a list of names or organizations already determined to be in violation. Instead, one official said, it is designed as a “deterrent” to “make clear to those who are even thinking of spoiling the transition” to think again. ...
It is quite beyond me why Obama's apparent need to fix an election in Yemen should become a free-speech issue for any American citizen. But Obama seems determined. I'd like to see how they spin this one.

UPDATE: be sure to follow Greenwald's links to Jeremy Scahill (regrettably in multiple tweets) and Marcy Wheeler.

AFTERTHOUGHT: the above post is probably inadequate to make clear the danger to Americans' free speech rights. So here's Greenwald regarding possible Yemeni or American speech on the one-candidate "election":

In other words, the U.S. Government will now punish anyone who is determined — in the sole discretion of the U.S. Government — even to “indirectly” obstruct the full transition of power to President Hadi. But what if someone — a Yemeni or an American — opposes Hadi’s rule and wants to agitate for a real election in which more than one candidate runs? Is that pure political advocacy, as it appears, now prohibited by the U.S. Government, punishable by serious sanctions, on the ground that it “obstructs” the transition of power to Hadi? Can journalists who report on corruption or violence by the Hadi regime and who write Op-Eds demanding a new election be accused, as it seems, of “threatening Yemen’s political stability”?

(OT, if I ever meet the guy who implemented copy-pastes in the Blogger editor, I shall murder him/her with a blunt instrument... Oh, OK, I suppose I should explain that, too. Suppose your blog body has a yellow background... hey, it could happen. Now suppose you want to copy-paste a paragraph from a quoted web site into your blog. What should the default background be? Why, of course, says Blogger, it should be the background of the original, which nine times out of ten is white! But not just a solid white background for the graf you copy-pasted. Oh, noooo, nothing so sensible. Blogger imposes a line spacing on quoted text, so that the copy-pasted area on my blog consists of black print on a white background for each line... with yellow visible between lines. This is madness. Any damned fool can see that the proper background color for a copy-paste is "transparent" or "inherit"; there is no excuse for introducing another color. The fact that there's no excuse doesn't stop Blogger...)

The No-Pants Dream

I just awoke from one... not a literal no-pants dream, but a dream in which I found myself suddenly expected to deliver an extended presentation before an immense, stadium-sized crowd, a presentation on two subjects on which I am largely unqualified to present. The talks were to be on a gigantic campus of the sort one finds in public universities in Texas, though the campus looked more like Stanford.

The first obstacle was that I had been delivered to "my" classroom on one edge of the campus, and the talks were to be held in a hall on the opposite side, perhaps 5 or 10 miles away. If you haven't seen the main UT campus, or Texas A&M, or UH (University of Houston) campus, trust me... to get anywhere in a hurry, you need a helicopter, or at least an ultralight.

Somehow, magically, I arrived at the hall. The laptop containing my slideshow went missing. Seeing no alternative, I began one of the lectures... the one with the topic, "The Entire History of Western Music" ... without slides. Someone then located a physical box of old-fashioned slides for my talk, but they were in more or less random order. The other lecture was "The Entire History of the Theory and Practice of Public Health." I have almost no knowledge of that subject. I looked at the author line for the lecture; sure enough, it read "S. Bates, MSU" ... and I didn't have to ask what kind of degree that was; I had a "Makes Shit Up" degree.

So this is the first day in weeks that I've awakened in a well-disposed frame of mind, the first in which the reality I awakened to is better than the dream I left behind.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Can Occupy Use Techniques And Approaches From The Civil Rights Movement?

In a long, thought-provoking piece, Ted Rall says NO, and explains his reasons at length and in considerable detail.

For better and worse, the 1950s and 1960s are long, long past. Many conditions of that era which permitted the civil rights movement to accomplish its goals are either absent or completely reversed in today's federal government.

Read what Rall has to say; we all have some hard thinking to do about what comes next.

Chicago To Be Locked Down For NATO Meeting May 20-21

Details available from Kevin Gosztola of FDL. First Amendment assembly rights are slated to be nearly nonexistent... Chicago is requiring permits to protest, and applications for said permits are being steadfastly ignored by the city.

You know, when Rahm Emanuel became mayor of Chicago, I winced. But I've since come to see him as the perfect mayor for a city run by bosses rather than by its people: he's just the guy to do the dirt that has to be done in such a government. And this event is the perfect follow-up, 44 years later, of the Democratic National Convention in that fair city.

I celebrated my 50th birthday in Chicago with Stella. First-timers both, we were utterly awed by the city. A city-dweller myself since birth, I have not felt awed by the sheer size and vitality of very many cities... Vienna, perhaps... but Chicago impressed me, and even intimidated me a bit. I gave serious consideration to moving there.

Now I am ever so grateful I did not. I would feel obliged to join the protest, and I really don't need my skull cracked at my age...

Block The Vote

Over my political lifetime, I've seen all kinds of efforts by Republicans to prevent Democrats from voting. But I have to say, this one, a confrontation over the Wisconsin recall, takes the cake:

A Chippewa Falls man who repeatedly tried to block his estranged wife from driving to the polls Tuesday was hospitalized with head, neck and back injuries when she struck him with her sport utility vehicle. 
The pair had been arguing early Tuesday afternoon over who she was going to vote for in the gubernatorial recall election primary, said Chippewa Falls Police Chief Wendy L. Stelter. 
When Amanda Radle, 30, attempted to pull out, Jeffrey Radle, 36, stood in front of her, according to a police department statement. She nudged him with the vehicle several times. 
Each time he would "retreat and re-establish his ground," the release said. "At one point he climbed onto the hood." 
When she finally attempted to drive around him, Jeffrey Radle jumped in front of the vehicle and was hit. Amanda Radle left the scene and went to the police department to report the incident, the release said. 
"These crazy liberal nuts are always pulling this crap," said Radle's brother, Mike Radle, describing himself and his brother as firm supporters of Walker, the subject of the recall. 
Yes, "these crazy liberal nuts" don't like to be physically obstructed from exercising their franchise. Damn libruls anyway. [/snark]

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Texas Democratic Primary Early Voting Starts Tomorrow, Monday 5/14

Here's how to play (info courtesy of Boyd Richie, Texas Democratic Party):

Check the status of your voter registration.

If you're voting early, find your location through the Texas Secretary of State's Office.

Note: Many counties also have their own web sites with more information. Links to these can be found at the TXSOS site linked above.

If you want to vote by mail, request a ballot by mail. You must be one of the following to vote by mail:

  • be 65 years or older;
  • be disabled;
  • be out of the county on election day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance; or
  • be confined in jail, but otherwise eligible.
(Aside: felons' voting rights are restored in Texas after completion of their sentence. No, I do NOT know from personal experience; I just spent a few years registering people to vote...)

Theoretically, the voter ID law in Texas is not in effect yet, but you still have to bring some sort of ID to the polls. Here are the acceptable ID documents:

  • Your voter registration card;
  • A driver’s license or personal identification card issued to you by Texas or another state (even if the license or card has expired);
  • A form of identification that contains your photograph and establishes your identity;
  • A birth certificate or other document confirming birth that is admissible in a court of law and establishes your identity;
  • Your United States citizenship papers;
  • Your United States passport;
  • Official mail addressed to you by a governmental entity; or
  • A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows your name and address.
Again, many Texas counties have their own voter information web sites. In Harris County (most of Houston), they are the Harris County Clerk's Office, Election Division...

and the Harris County Tax Assessor/Collector and Voter Registrar's Office:

I believe the above will get you to the right poll on the right day, carrying the right material. The rest is up to you!

OOPS, I omitted a detail for early voters in Harris County at least (I don't know if these hours are statewide or not). At all early polling places in Harris County:

May 14th -  May  18th: 8:00 a.m. -  4:30 p.m.
May 19th: 7:00 a.m. -  7:00 p.m.
May 20th: 1:00 p.m. -  6:00 p.m.
May 21th -  May 25th: 7:00 a.m. -  7:00 p.m.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Unanswered Question

Three of us... NTodd, karmanot and I... have been engaged in an extended discussion of the question "why should one vote for Obama," or in another version, "Name one reason you are going to vote for Obama."

Maybe it's just because I'm feeling old, tired, decrepit, sick and cranky today, but the whole discussion reminded me of this work by Charles Ives (which at least the Vermonter among us will know, and I'll wager karmanot knows it, too).

Which part is ours? The chattering woodwinds, of course! Increasingly agitated, more and more discordant, less coordinated. If you recall, Ives's question remains unanswered. Ours will presumably be answered on Election Day, with as many answers as there are voters for Mr. Obama.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

At Least Obama Landed On The Pro-Human-Rights Side Of The Gay-Marriage Issue. Romney, However...

Whatever Obama may have done, whatever he neglected to do, however tepid his affirmation of support for marriage equality, at least he doesn't have this in his background, as revealed in WaPo about Romney in an incident with an allegedly gay student at Romney's prep school:


A few days later, Friedemann entered Stevens Hall off the school’s collegiate quad to find Romney marching out of his own room ahead of a prep school posse shouting about their plan to cut Lauber’s hair. Friedemann followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

The incident was recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another. Four of them — Friedemann, now a dentist; Phillip Maxwell, a lawyer; Thomas Buford, a retired prosecutor; and David Seed, a retired principal — spoke on the record. Another former student who witnessed the incident asked not to be identified. The men have differing political affiliations, although they mostly lean Democratic. Buford volunteered for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008. Seed, a registered independent, has served as a Republican county chairman in Michigan. All of them said that politics in no way colored their recollections.


And you thought Romney's tying the poor dog to the roof of the car was bad!

If what these five men have independently described, reported in the Washington Post, is true, Romney effectively committed assault, bullying a young gay man... and got away with it.

Romney claims not to remember the incident. Then again, Romney lies a lot.

Maybe this story will endear Romney to his base. But jeebus on a crutch... assault? What are they willing to forgive? I suppose the answer is "anything in pursuit of power."

Two Black Men

I have been politely rebuked for dismissing Obama's support of gay marriage for its ambivalence and for its tone of conciliation toward those who deserve no conciliation on issues of human rights. I would like to contrast the words of two African Americans, both of whom loom large in the history of our nation and of their race.

President Barack Obama, 2012: Well-- well-- well, what I'm saying is is that different states are coming to different conclusions. But this debate is taking place-- at a local level. And I think the whole country is evolving and changing. And-- you know, one of the things that I'd like to see is-- that a conversation continue in a respectful way.

I think it's important to recognize that-- folks-- who-- feel very strongly that marriage should be defined narrowly as-- between a man and a woman-- many of them are not coming at it from a mean-spirited perspective. They're coming at it because they care about families. And-- they-- they have a different understanding, in terms of-- you know, what the word "marriage" should mean. And I-- a bunch of 'em are friends of mine-- you know, pastors and-- you know, people who-- I deeply respect.

Frederick Douglass, 1857: Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

"Power concedes nothing without a demand." Why is that so hard for President Obama to comprehend?

Sliiiiime In The Supermarket Sushi!

Houston's ABC-13 was home of the late great Marvin Zindler, a reporter and executive who was famous (infamous?) for many things. For example, Marvin was the character depicted in The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, the newsman whose dogged determination brought an end to the Chicken Ranch. But that's not what brought Marvin to mind today.

Marvin used to read the local health inspector's restaurant journal on the air once a week. He called it the "restaurant rat and roach report," and the classic phrase with which he ended every segment (because in a big city there is never a shortage of violators) was


Well, it's not in the ice machine, but Lindsay Beyerstein of duly Noted has found red sliiiiime, um, I mean, red slime, this time in supermarket sushi. And it is at least as disgusting as the "pink slime" about which so much has been said on evening news segments lately.

I doubt that veggie sushi is affected by this revelation; I presume no one uses tuna skeleton scrapings to supplement the avocado sushi at Whole Paycheck. But the carnivores among you may want to take notice.

Reflection On Obama And Gay Marriage

In my post below, I was wrong about Obama's level of commitment to gay marriage. Rick Klein reminds us:

The president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own. But he said he’s confident that more Americans will grow comfortable with gays and lesbians getting married, citing his own daughters’ comfort with the concept.

In other words, don't expect him to bother backing up his personal position with any political muscle. Not that a president could do much at a state level anyway, but this statement, as Jon Stewart put it, is "weak tea." And those who know me well know I detest weak tea.

I wish Obama would do one damned thing to justify my vote for him. But he probably won't do more than he already has. The only thing he has to offer liberals is this: he's not Rmoney.

UPDATE: here's an excerpt from the transcript of the interview by Robin Roberts:


At a certain point, I've just concluded that-- for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that-- I think same-sex couples should be able to get married. Now-- I have to tell you that part of my hesitation on this has also been I didn't want to nationalize the issue. There's a tendency when I weigh in to think suddenly it becomes political and it becomes polarized.

And what you're seeing is, I think, states working through this issue-- in fits and starts, all across the country. Different communities are arriving at different conclusions, at different times. And I think that's a healthy process and a healthy debate. And I continue to believe that this is an issue that is gonna be worked out at the local level, because historically, this has not been a federal issue, what's recognized as a marriage.

ROBIN ROBERTS: Well, Mr. President, it's-- it's not being worked out on the state level. We saw that Tuesday in North Carolina, the 30th state to announce its ban on gay marriage.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well-- well-- well, what I'm saying is is that different states are coming to different conclusions. But this debate is taking place-- at a local level. And I think the whole country is evolving and changing. And-- you know, one of the things that I'd like to see is-- that a conversation continue in a respectful way.

I think it's important to recognize that-- folks-- who-- feel very strongly that marriage should be defined narrowly as-- between a man and a woman-- many of them are not coming at it from a mean-spirited perspective. They're coming at it because they care about families. And-- they-- they have a different understanding, in terms of-- you know, what the word "marriage" should mean. And I-- a bunch of 'em are friends of mine-- you know, pastors and-- you know, people who-- I deeply respect.

ROBIN ROBERTS: Especially in the Black community.



So that's what it boils down to. To appease Black preachers, Obama is willing to sacrifice a human right, or at least willing to allow it to be sacrificed by others while the "conversation continue[s] in a respectful way." Oh well... add it to the list, along with "tyrant" and "killer"; just remember to vote for him because he's not Rmoney...

Smart Cat, Dumb Kit

Lily, who is Esther's kit, is now about the age Esther was when we brought them both home. Unfortunately, there the resemblance ends. Esther, at that age and now, is smart and sweet and affectionate. Lily, on the other paw...

I was sleeping in this morning, until I was awakened by a gigantic metallic crash. Stella was already at work, so I knew it was one of the cats. Sure enough, Lily had managed to catch her collar in the iron frame that holds the water bowls, inverting both bowls and the frame, in place. Fortunately our cats have breakaway collars.

Lily is nothing but trouble, day after day. How such a bright, sweet mom-cat could produce such a lame-brained offspring, I'll never understand.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Obama Announces Support For LGBT Marriage; Question Still Debated Whether Convention Should Be Moved From NC

(Original title for this post: "Obama, DNC Won't Support LGBT Marriage? Move The Convention And Boycott The Campaign")

Apparently, President Obama is attempting the age-old trick of simultaneously having and eating his cake... and not getting away with it. On the issue of LGBT marriage, he's "evolving,"* meanwhile trying to gather votes in North Carolina... where the Democratic National Convention is scheduled to be held. Meanwhile, North Carolina voters just passed Amendment One. Many LGBT groups and activists are urging the DNC to move the convention out of North Carolina.

Please note that there are two separate issues here: supporting gay marriage as an issue of human rights equality, and punishing North Carolina by moving the convention. I support both. But I no longer give any money to the DNC or to Priorities USA, so I don't expect them to listen to me. Money talks... cripples, um, well, some of us don't even walk very well.

For Obama, this is much more than a matter of obtaining the LGBT vote and funding. There is... was?... a tradition in the Democratic Party of supporting human equality for everyone. That saying blazoned on the Supreme Court building... "Equal Justice Under Law"? Old FDR/JFK Democrats genuinely believe that. If the Party wants to keep us liberals around, even on the periphery, the least it can do is manifest clear support for human rights. Marriage is a human right... and if you don't get to choose your partner, then America is by no stretch a free society. Democrats should be behind marriage equality, all the way.

So we can only sign petitions, phone our legislators and create nonviolent holy hell outside the Democratic National Convention if it is held in a state that does not permit gay marriage. Those things are the very least we can do in our pursuit of human equality.

* LATEST: Obama is supposed to endorse gay marriage today. We'll see.

UPDATE: Obama did it. And his language was, as far as I can tell, unambiguous. Good.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Mikko Alanne of HuffPo has a wonderful thought experiment to be performed by conservative "Christians": "Shall We Vote Away Your Rights Next? An Open Letter To America's Conservative Christians". WARNING: do NOT visit HuffPo without your ad-blocker on!

No News Flash: GOP Hates Education

Sahil Kapur of TPM:

Senate Republicans’ Tuesday filibuster of a Democratic bill to avert a student loan interest rate hike signals a return to familiar territory for the party. The move comes after a brief detour that spurred speculation about whether, with the general election in full swing, Republicans were ready to ease up when it comes to blocking hot-button issues.
As recently as Monday the Capitol rumbled with rumors that Senate Republican leaders would follow the same playbook [as on VAWA] with the student-loan measure — which President Obama’s re-election campaign is seizing on to energize young voters — and potentially let Democrats advance it. But the GOP’s position quickly hardened and it didn’t happen. Tuesday’s party-line 52-45 vote fell short of the 60 needed to overcome the GOP’s filibuster.

Until the rules of the Senate are changed to prevent a 41-vote minority from suppressing legislation even if it has a majority of Senators voting for it... we do not live in a democracy.

As for the issue, I was a poor kid who went to college only because he got an outright scholarship. Without help, or with a loan instead of a scholarship, I'd have been out of luck altogether. On the whole, I think society got a pretty good deal by paying for my education (through the good offices of Rice University). But kids like me today will not have that opportunity... and our nation will suffer.


CORRECTION: "40-vote minority" corrected to "41-vote minority".

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

NY DA: All Your Base Information Are Belong To Us

Kevin Gosztola of FDL Dissenter:

Twitter has moved to quash a court order requiring the company to hand over data on  one of its users. The user, Malcolm Harris, an Occupy Wall Street protester who is being prosecuted in New York for disorderly conduct, has been battling a government subpoena for his communications. 
On April 20, a judge ruled Harris did not have standing to stop the state’s District Attorney from compelling Twitter to produce “any and all user information,” including his email address as well as any tweets posted between September 15 and December 31 of last year. However, under a provision of the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) that allows a service provider to quash orders for information if it would “cause an undue burden,” the company submitted a motion to protect Harris’ data. 
The defense of Harris—a user—that Twitter submitted is significant. It challenges a judge’s ruling that Harris had “no right to challenge the District Attorney’s subpoena for his own communications and account information” because he supposedly has “no proprietary interest in the content that he submits to Twitter.” This, Twitter points out, “contradicts Twitter’s Terms of Service and express language of the SCA.”  
Twitter finds handing over data would force the company to violate federal law, namely the Fourth Amendment. ... 
Not that anyone in power gives a good damn about the Fourth Amendment anymore...

Gosztola then enumerates some prosecutorial fishing expeditions against Occupy members and against Wikileaks volunteers, and details the ACLU and EFF responses. Are these actions relevant to you? They probably are, if you are any kind of activist and want to stay out of possibly indefinite detention. To all appearances, though, Twitter is on your side:
Twitter was ordered to turn over information on the WikiLeaks volunteers. It did not have to let them know they had been given a court order, but they did inform them and that led to the volunteers challenging the order in court (albeit unsuccessfully). 
This cannot end well. If the courts succeed in forcing online services to provide information they hold on users, information not given for the purpose of possibly indicting the users, then they have, among other things, compelled a user to testify against him- or herself.

Welcome to America. "All your base are belong to us."

(The Blogger text editor is a bloody aggravation if you do any block quoting at all.)

Hypocrite Paul Ryan: 'I Got Mine; Fuck You!'

Of course Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) didn't say "fuck you" in words, but rather in his actions. So what hypocritical thing has he done this time? Here's bal of Daily Kos, drawing on a piece from WPRI that (I think) was intended to be complimentary to Ryan:
Entitlement-hating Paul Ryan collected Social Security benefits until he was 18

I guess it's only when social programs help other people that they're bad, because I haven't seen Paul Ryan acknowledging how Social Security benefits helped him and his family in trying times:


[quoted by bal from an article by WPRI]
With his father’s passing, young Paul collected Social Security benefits until age 18, which he put away for college. To make ends meet, Paul’s mother returned to school to study interior design. His siblings were off at college. Ryan remembers this difficult time bringing him and his mother closer.
Within months, Paul’s maternal grandmother moved into the house. She suffered from Alzheimer’s, and it often fell on young Paul to care for her, including brushing and braiding her hair. Ryan credits his father’s death and the care of his grandmother as giving him first-hand experience as to how social service programs work.
Ryan sure did get first-hand experience on how social programs work.  They made it possible for Paul Ryan to attend college, get an education, and make a name for himself in the political world.  And he's now using that name to make sure others don't get the same opportunities he did.
What an evil hypocrite.
bal said it. Ryan effectively says "I got mine; fuck the rest of you." How Republican of him!

UPDATE: I can't help thinking of the second song in this YouTube video...
ASIDE: Speaking of evil... Blogger seems to have changed text editors and code generators on me overnight, to ones that generate "kitchen sink" HTML code which is almost totally inscrutable to the human eye. Any thoughts?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Greenwald On McCullagh On 'Surveillance State Democracy'

Americans: your privacy rights have been vanishing apace since at least 2001, and by now virtually all the laws are in place to allow your government to tap, without a warrant, just about any damned thing of yours they want to tap.

Now that the law has been imposed, the ability must be realized. Of course in many cases it already has been. But the government wants "backdoor" access to literally all forms of electronic communication, mandated by law and forcibly implemented by the carriers. Following an introduction by Declan McCullagh of CNET, here's a sample from Glenn Greenwald, regarding the conflict between RIM (BlackBerry) and the Saudi and UAE government, the two governments' decision to ban BlackBerry possession in their countries, and US official... and unofficial... reaction:

What was most amazing to me back when I first wrote about these Obama administration efforts was that a mere six weeks earlier, a major controversy had erupted when Saudi Arabia and the UAE both announced a ban on BlackBerries on the ground that they were physically unable to monitor the communications conducted on those devices. Since Blackberry communication data are sent directly to servers in Canada and the company which operates Blackberry — Research in Motion — refused to turn the data over to those governments, “authorities [in those two tyrannies] decided to ban Blackberry services rather than continue to allow an uncontrolled and unmonitored flow of electronic information within their borders.” As I wrote at the time: “that’s the core mindset of the Omnipotent Surveillance State: above all else, what is strictly prohibited is the ability of citizens to communicate in private; we can’t have any ‘uncontrolled and unmonitored flow of electronic information’.” 
In response to that controversy, the Obama administration actually condemned the Saudi and UAE ban, calling it “a dangerous precedent” and a threat to “democracy, human rights and freedom of information.” Yet six weeks later, the very same Obama administration embraced exactly the same rationale — that it is intolerable for any human interaction to take place beyond the prying eyes and ears of the government — when it proposed its mandatory “backdoor access” for all forms of Internet communication. Indeed, the UAE pointed out that the U.S. — as usual — was condemning exactly that which it itself was doing: 
Not only is the Obama administration (through FBI-drafted proposed legislation extending existing surveillance to Web-based services) wanting to compel warrantless wiretaps across all sorts of "wires," they also want the carriers to implement the skulduggery for them. This is bad news. If the Obama administration and congressional Democrats do not back us in long-established matters of fundamental individual privacy, who is on our side? The ACLU, of course... but is there anybody in government who doesn't advocate spying on every damned American citizen?

France, Greece Reject Incumbents

It's hardly a surprise, in light of economic events. David Dayen of FDL outlines the results, and discusses consequences for the Eurozone. Paul Krugman offers a few thoughts as well.

Based on what I've read, it seems the French and the Greeks had good reasons to boot out their current governments: in France at least, the political center-right was the author of the failed austerity policy, which together with Germany it managed to impose on the rest of the Eurozone.

Turning to the coming US election, the economic disaster on Obama's watch is largely... not completely, but mostly... the fault of his Republican predecessor, GeeDubya Bush. But the instinct of any electorate seems to be to blame the party in power, and I wonder if our voters will do that.

And if Rmoney wins (or successfully steals) the election, I wonder how long it will be before we have people "dumpster-diving" for food and clothing, as we recently learned is happening in Greece.

L'Enfant de la Haute Mer (start at this link and scroll down) examines both French and Greek elections, though her accompanying graphics (cartoons?) seem not to be serving at the moment.

The frustrating thing is that we know, from actual national experience in the 1930s, how to remedy the greater part of the economic downturn... and our leaders, all of them, are doing just the opposite of what worked before, utterly ignoring the wisdom of Keynes. The "reasons" they offer for the bad policy decisions are all just plain nuts: the real reason is that under current conditions, the wealthiest of the wealthy in America are doing just fine, better than ever.

Aren't you glad we have a representative form of government? [/snark]

UPDATE Mon. about 2:00PM CT: David Dayen of FDL explains: "Hollande Issues Challenge to Germany" ... well worth your time to read.

UPDATE Mon. about 10:00PM CT: Maria Margaronis, London correspondent of The Nation, contributes "The Day After: Europe Rejects Austerity" ... again, well worth your time.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Michael Moore Sings The Times They Are A-Changin'

Here. He's not Bob Dylan... in a way, that's the point; the rendition is emphatically and uniquely Michael's own... but he has a very pleasant voice, and of course the performance is heartfelt. This audio-only recording appears to have been made as part of a set called Occupy This Album. And to my amazement, the excellent work on the pennywhistle is done by... composer David Amram. It's a small world! (No, please don't sing that... please, please...)

Stella's Hanging

No, she's not dangling from a rope. The art opening she attended last night included a collaborative work she created with another artist, a work inspired by an exhibit sponsored by WiVLΛ - Women in Visual and Literary Arts - on the theme "Mixed Messages."

In keeping with the double meaning of the show's theme, each work was a collaboration of at least two artists working in two different media. In Stella's case, the work was a watercolor (by the other artist) with a lettered poem (by Stella) interwoven among the depicted dancers.

A good time was had by all. All Stella's friends were there... well, all of them except for me; this damned cold, or at least the following cough, is not quite gone yet.

 (Blogger is giving me grief as I attempt to publish this. It's not a good second-beginning.)

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