Friday, August 31, 2012

Even Fox News

Even Fox News reporter Sally Kohn calls out Paul Ryan for the lies in his speech. Here's Bonnie Kavoussi of HuffPo:
According to Fox News columnist Sally Kohn, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday "was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech."

"On this measure, while it was Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold," Kohn wrote.

In a surprising move, Fox News joined CNN, The Huffington Post, the Washington Post's Wonkblog, and ThinkProgress in publishing a fact-check of the Republican vice presidential nominee's speech, finding that the speech was full of lies and misleading assertions.

So... does this mean that Fox News has come around? Will they forsake the Rmoney/Ryan ticket and back Obama/Biden?

Heh. Hehheh. Hehhehhahaha-BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The explanation is much simpler than that...

The right-wing bastards no longer care if people know their agenda. They're out of the closet (no, not THAT closet), their hatred on full display for the world to see. Paul Ryan's lies can be called out... because his lies no longer matter. The prize is already in the bag.

Who Owns America?
According to Greg Palast's latest book (H/T Enfant in comments), the election has already been stolen. Yes, he said that in 2008 and it wasn't, but he gives evidence that a serious attempt was made. This time, in a post‑Citizens‑United world, the word "bought" may be more apt than "stolen"; I'm not sure. Either way, it is very possible that your vote and my vote mean absolutely nothing.

Meanwhile, Paul Craig Roberts tells us how America, no longer a beacon of freedom and democracy, is descending into poverty. A lot of you didn't need an article to tell you that. (Again, H/T Enfant.)

Meanwhile again, Michael Moore, in an interview, says we should get used to saying "President Romney."

Not if I can help it!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's Taking Federal Court Rulings, But
Texas Voters Are Getting A Fair Shake

On Tuesday, "Court: GOP’s Texas Redistricting Plan Intentionally Discriminated Against Hispanics"; today, "Federal Court Rules Texas Voter ID Law Is Discriminatory". Not only district boundaries but voter ID requirements are outside the pale. Great. Just great.

Gov. Ricky-boy just can't get anything he wants this year. Good. Texas GOPers have gotten to the point at which they don't even bother to conceal the discriminatory effect... hell, not even the discriminatory intent... of their anti-Black, anti-Hispanic, anti-poor laws. IIRC, today's ruling was by a majority Republican-appointed panel, so you know things must have been bad.

Unfortunately, the message the Texas GOP takes from these rulings will NOT be "we have to treat all voters equally," but rather "we have to conceal our discrimination better." What will it take to boot these bigots out of government?

TruthOut: Court Doc Shows How GOP Hacked 2004 Presidential Election In Ohio

Via ellroon, we have Bob Fritakis at TruthOut:

A new filing in the King Lincoln Bronzeville v. Blackwell case includes a copy of the Ohio Secretary of State election production system configuration that was in use in Ohio's 2004 presidential election when there was a sudden and unexpected shift in votes for George W. Bush.

The filing also includes the revealing deposition of the late Michael Connell. Connell served as the IT guru for the Bush family and Karl Rove. Connell ran the private IT firm GovTech that created the controversial system that transferred Ohio's vote count late on election night 2004 to a partisan Republican server site in Chattanooga, Tennessee owned by SmarTech. That is when the vote shift happened, not predicted by the exit polls, that led to Bush's unexpected victory. Connell died a month and a half after giving this deposition in a suspicious small plane crash.

Fritakis, in the rest of his article, dots the I's and crosses the T's. But it certainly looks like the motherfuckers stole Ohio for Bush in 2004.

I don't have any information on what systems Ohio will be using this year, but I doubt there are any more safeguards in place today than there were in 2004. Certainly there aren't in Harris County, Texas, where a Republican county clerk dominated the selection process in 1998 when voting systems were "updated" to an electronic system. Today we have another GOPer in that office, reportedly even less competent than his predecessor, but most of all, we have exactly the same voting system in place as we did then: Hart InterCivic's eSlate.

Until America returns to paper ballots with a strict chain of custody for blank ballots and completed ballots, and a counting process supervised by all interested parties, we will see repeated election theft... GOP election theft... until the republic collapses. But before we change back to verifiable voting systems, I expect Hell and Texas will freeze over in mid-July.

MINOR CORRECTION: Dr. F's last name seems to be Fitrakis. The misspelling was original in the published article.

Paul Ryan's Speech: In The Words Of Paul Simon, 'Lie-Lie-Lie, Lie-Lie-Lie-Lie, Lie-Lie-Lie...'

The speech was too disgusting to repeat anything, but it was raw meat for the Thug base. Brian Beutler of TPM emphasizes five lies... out-and-out lies, not mere distortions... but I believe there were many more. With what the GOP is spending, this guy could become vice president.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Ryan even blamed Obama for the closing of a Wisconsin auto plant in 2008... a plant that closed before Obama took office. Truth doesn't matter. Fair competition in the marketplace of ideas doesn't matter. Only winning... by any means... matters to bastards like Ryan.

Disgusting, repulsive, thoroughly... Republican. I am going to bed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Euro History Presented By WaPo,
Presentation Criticized By CEPR

WaPo (Howard Schneider), CEPR (Dean Baker). Both are worth a read.

Queen Ann (sic)

Ann Rmoney's speech really should have been prefaced with a warning to diabetics: It was full enough of sugary syrup to be dangerous. Remember, this is the woman who is certain of what "you people" deserve and do not deserve to know about her husband. If her speech is any indication, her answer is "damned little: just STFU and pull the 'R' lever."

My favorite line: "We're too smart to know there aren't easy answers. But we're not dumb enough to accept that there aren't better answers."

Say what??? Perhaps "[w]e're smart enough to know," but... "[w]e're too smart to know"? In other words, we're so smart we don't know there aren't easy answers?

I guess Queen Ann isn't smart enough to know.

Hurricane Isaac Floods Homes Near New Orleans

Isaac is part of a new type of hurricane, a type that we've seen only in the past few years which does its damage not with wind but with water. When I read the NHC site a half hour ago, top winds were only 70kt (80mph)... a category 1 hurricane... and not a very strong one at that.

But Isaac's span of coastline is huge, and its motion is slow, when it moves at all. That means two things: massive storm surge and overwhelming flooding. From NBC News:
Updated at 11 a.m. ET: New Orleans' levees and pumps were holding up to the rain and storm surge caused by Hurricane Isaac, but areas outside the defense network saw flooding, including an 18-mile stretch to the south where up to 12 feet of water invaded streets and homes.

Officials in Plaquemines Parish, where the surge overtopped an 8-foot levee, said National Guardsmen and even residents were trying to rescue people trapped in homes. Up to 60 people appear to be trapped, NBC's Gabe Gutierrez reported from the area. Rescuers earlier pulled several dozen to safety.

"We have flooding, inundated four-to-nine feet in areas on that side" of the levee, parish emergency management official Guy Laigast told the Weather Channel. "We've got homes that have been inundated. We have folks who are trapped in their residences."

My heart goes out to those people. We coast-dwellers build in areas vulnerable to storm surge for very persuasive economic reasons and recreational convenience, but once in a while, we pay the price. My expectation is that the phenomenon "it's the water, not the wind" will prevail more and more often in the near future. Look for "storm surge exceedance" among the products on the NHS site.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Some Help From The Dem Party... Or No Help From Me

Want My Money?
Move Left, Kick Right!
I was just reading a post on BooMan's site, The Dean Dozen, about the twelve Democratic candidates Democracy For America chooses by member poll and on which DFA focuses its fundraising efforts. The first six candidates have been announced; please follow the link to read the list on BooMan's site. Among the candidates I know anything about, BooMan is rightly enthusiastic. It's a good list.

It's also a manifestation of the attitude of the institutional Democratic Party toward candidates in states it doesn't typically win in these sorry times. The list includes candidates from Hawaii, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, California, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania... six states that face much smaller obstacles to fundraising for, and electing, Democratic candidates than, say, the entire South and much of the Southwest, including Texas.

There is real irony here. The DP ignored Texas for years, just wrote it off, wouldn't help its candidates. Paul Kirk, as DNC chair, nixed a convention in Houston, such was his spite toward us. Howard Dean was, IIRC, the first DNC chair to advocate the all-50-states strategy for the party. That didn't last long, and we're back to watching the DP back candidates that are easy and fun to back because they face fewer obstacles.

That's well and good. But until the DNC, DCCC and DSCC put some muscle and some bucks into my neck of the woods, they will get none of my money. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. Just call me a man without a party.

Romney On Abortion

Rmoney flip-flops on one more issue, presumably so he won't be confronted with it until he is president. Here's David Dayen of FDL:
First, Romney said this:
My position has been clear throughout this campaign,” Romney said. “I’m in favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother... . This is a matter in the courts, it’s been settled for some time in the courts.”
As Igor Volsky pointed out, throughout the campaign, the exceptions that Romney delineates (and so I don’t have to reiterate, read here my position on exceptions) have never included the health of the mother, only the life of the mother. Health means something entirely different, especially to the anti-choice movement. When the late-term abortion ban was being legislated during the Bush Administration, a guy named Paul Ryan said that such a health exception “would render (the ban) virtually meaningless.” And of course, the Republican platform, which all Presidential nominees basically control, makes no mention of any exceptions in endorsing a full abortion ban.
Mittens goes on to disclaim presidential involvement in this issue. As if...

I am tired and in pain, and Mitt Rmoney is forcing me to write about abortion. If nothing else clarified what Rmoney would REALLY do regarding abortion if he is elected president, his choice of Paul Ryan, an unabashedly no-exceptions guy on abortion, should tell you all you need to know.

The Supreme Court in Roe did not rule that one or another law protects a woman's right to choose abortion if that is what she thinks best: it did rule, rather, that a woman has a constitutionally protected human right to choose abortion. What is settled is not the political issue; what is undeniably settled is the human rights issue. A woman, because she is a human being, has a right to control her own body.

A government can, of course, take that right away from her by force; it wouldn't be the first time. But if they do so, in this country, in the present day, they can expect my unreserved resistance... by any means necessary... to protect that right.

Monday, August 27, 2012

PA GOP Senate Candidate Refuses To Distinguish Pregnancy Due To Rape, Consensual Sex

I am beginning to realize that current-day GOPers are from another planet, or at least another country. In Pennsylvania, GOP Senate candidate Tom Smith responded to Rep. Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" atrocity by referring to his, Smith's, own daughter's situation. Here's Eric Kleefeld at TPM:

“What that congressman said I do not agree with at all. He should have never said anything like that,” Smith told reporters Monday, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News, during a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg Monday — referring to Akin’s suggestion that women’s bodies can block a pregnancy from rape.

“I lived something similar to that with my own family,” Smith said. He then described his daughter’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy — from consensual sex.

“She chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views but fortunately for me … she chose the way I thought. Now don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t rape.”

Smith affirmed that he believed his daughter’s pregnancy from consensual sex was similar to a rape. “Put yourself in a father’s position, yes, I mean it is similar.”

Don't worry; I won't get you wrong, Mr. Smith (who I sincerely hope DOESN'T go to Washington). I won't misunderstand you when you liken your daughter's consensual sex with her boyfriend to a violent sexual assault against her person... though you may find your daughter doesn't share my willingness not to misunderstand.

Rape is rape. Rape is assault. Pregnancy from rape is an injury from assault, as surely as a bullet wound to the head. No one would expect a gunshot victim to keep the bullet in place if there were a way to remove it. In cases of rape, there is a medically reliable way to remove at least the physical consequences, and believe me, Mr. Smith, it is obvious you can't even begin to imagine the emotional consequences of rape.

You have absolutely no right to make the facile comparison you tossed out. I question whether you even had the right to influence your daughter's decision to keep her boyfriend's child, but I admit that's between you and her. What is not yours to decide or even to influence is whether a rape victim must bear her rapist's child. You have no right. You have no right. You have no right.

Astonishing: Chris Matthews Accuses GOP Of Playing Race Card Against Obama

Let me make myself clear: it is not astonishing in the least that the GOP uses race as a tool in persuading white voters inclined to racism to vote for its candidates. And the GOP has so few black members that they have to harass TV networks into focusing on individual blacks in the crowd at their convention. Ever since Nixon's "Southern strategy," the Republican Party has depended on racial prejudice to win elections.

So what or who is astonishing here? Chris Matthews, that's who. Let's let Pema Levy of TPM tell us about it:
Political observers have noted for a while that Mitt Romney’s claim that President Obama gutted the work requirement in the 1996 welfare reform law is false. But few in the mainstream media have have gone so far as to accuse Republicans of playing the ‘race card.’

But Chris Matthews, the host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” didn’t hold back in a tirade launched against RNC Chairman Reince Priebus Monday morning, accusing the Romney campaign of using race to defeat Obama. Matthews lit into Priebus, citing both the welfare attacks and Romney’s recent birth certificate joke as evidence that the GOP is “playing that little ethnic card there.”

“I have to call you on this, Mr. Chairman,” Matthews said in an appearance with Priebus on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” as he responded to Republicans’ criticism that Obama is running a very negative campaign. “But they’ve both negative. That cheap shot about ‘I don’t have a problem with my birth certificate’ was awful. It is an embarrassment to your party to play that card.”


“You can play your games and giggle about it but the fact is your side playing that card. When you start talking about work requirements, you know what game you’re playing and everybody knows what game you’re playing. It’s a race card and yeah, if your name’s Romney, yeah you were well born, you went to prep school, yeah, brag about it. This guy has an African name and he’s got to live with it. Look who’s gone further in their life. Who was born on third base? Making fun of the guy’s birth certificate issue when it was never a real issue except for the right wing.”

I never thought I'd live to see the day that the GOP's racism would offend even a mainstream media reporter. It's about damned time! Priebus responded with sarcasm, no real answer to the racism charge. Feel free to read his response... elsewhere, not on this site.

Levy goes on to quote a Romney ad:
“Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job,” one of many Romney ads on welfare says. “They just send you your welfare check.”
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. We really have reverted to the era of Richard Nixon's politics, haven't we. This was not forgivable when Nixon did it, but it is incredible that Romney's revived racism is so unsubtle. I suppose it's useless to presume the GOP can change in any significant way.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Foot News

The temporary antibiotic my doc prescribed is having some effect on the foot; I can now get my boot on and off without the obstacle of extreme swelling. There may... or may not... be some small sign of healing of the main wound; it's really too soon to tell. And while it isn't excruciating, the pain is surely annoying, and relentless. As usual, I declined my doc's offer of hardcore painkillers; I'm always afraid I'd get hooked on those things. Aspirin and ibuprofen... carefully timed to avoid simultaneity with the antibiotic... will do me for now.

I'm in no condition to post serious stuff today. Please forgive me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

T.S. Isaac Forces Delay Of GOP Convention Opening

Hey, GOPer guys and (damn few) gals, maybe you should take it as a Sign from God that She doesn't like the shit you've been slinging! (I know I don't!)

Opening verbal terrorism has been delayed from Monday (though an immediate opening and recess will take place then) to Tuesday. Pasty-faced RNC chair Reince Priebus made the announcement. I know that's irrelevant, but his name is so much fun... lather Reince, repeat.
Meanwhile, the Floridians  I  know are hunkered down for another round of the same old same-old. The GOPers are just a buncha whining wusses.

'Romney Girl'

... thanks to Enfant in comments. I know this song ("Barbie Girl") has been parodied a lot, but this is superbly well done:

Also please note the addition to the blogroll of Lynda Lovon (Lynda Williams), The Physics Chanteuse (commercial site) (blog). She's an excellent performer, a commenter on issues of science in society, and not least, a feminist activist. Ms. Lovon has (somewhere...) recorded a parody called "Hi-Tek Girl," not of this song but of "Material Girl." I discovered The Physics Chanteuse years ago; I don't know why I didn't add her to my blogroll then.

ADDED: search for her on YouTube as "Lynda Lovon". I recommend "The Lovon Song" (some physics knowledge helpful) and "We are Toxic" (much more somber).

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mike Konopacki Hits It...

... out of the park with this Rmoney cartoon. Do take a look!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Living On The Big Foot - UPDATED

That's the German equivalent to "living high on the hog." But as many of you know, I live literally on a big foot, an immense boot on my right foot which compensates for the gross distortion of the foot ("Charcot foot" is the name of the condition) and allows me to walk most of the time.

Unfortunately, through a chain of circumstances and probably due to some negligence on my part, my huge boot has rubbed a hole in the foot, and the foot has become infected. I paged my doc as soon as I noticed the problem a couple of hours ago, and will be in his office Friday morning. Will I lose the foot? I'm not certain at this point; the results of the examination will probably determine that. Anyway, don't expect much posting tomorrow morning.

UPDATE Fri. evening 8/24:  No news (good news?) while I wait for the results of lab tests and interpretation of an X-ray. The medical imaging service formerly in my PCP's building closed, so obtaining the X-ray itself required a trip of several miles and the negotiation of one of those "can't-get-there-from-here" passages in an office park. I'm tired now! :-) Treatment begins immediately with a strong antibiotic (that's two strong antibiotics I'm taking now) and some messy topical medicine. It is good to get old; it isn't so good to get crippled... and infected.

Remember Sequestration? Republicans Don't

Remember how Congress, on a bipartisan basis, agreed to automatic sharp cuts in programs of value to both parties, both defense and non-defense programs, for a period of 10 years, as compensation for failure to negotiate targeted cuts?

Well "surprise, surprise": Republicans lied. Paul Ryan announced it today. Here's Brian Beutler of TPM:
If Mitt Romney wins in November, he and a Republican Congress will fast track legislation early next year to replace across the board defense cuts with cuts to food stamps and other programs for needy Americans.

“In January our intention is that if we don’t fix it in the lame duck is to fix it retroactively once a new session of Congress takes place,” Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate, told a crowd in North Carolina Thursday, “We have procedural way in the Senate to advance that legislation very quickly and get it to the next President of the United States who I believe is going to be Mitt Romney, to pass that into law and retroactively prevent that sequester from taking place in January.”

And fuzzy-minded Democrats, including Obama, agreed to this fool's bargain. Even the Democratic Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta rejected defense cuts altogether. It should have been obvious that no such thing would ever actually come to pass.

Do you suppose Obama will ever get tired of the "pull my finger" game played on him by Republicans? I know I am, and the smell in here is getting pretty strong...

Fifth Circuit Overturns Ruling Allowing Planned Parenthood In Texas-Funded Women's Health Care

If ever you needed evidence that the federal judiciary is wholly owned by political descendants of Ronald Reagan, here you have it. From an article by Jordan Smith of Austin Chronicle:
Ruling that the district court "gave insufficient attention" to Texas' "authority to subsidize speech of its choosing" within the Women's Health Program, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned the lower court decision that banned the state from blocking Planned Parenthood as a participant in the health program for uninsured women.

The ruling overturns a previous decision by federal district Judge Lee Yeakel, who concluded in May that the state could not block Planned Parenthood clinics from participation in the Women's Health Program, until a trial on the merits of the case – wherein PP argued that the move to block it from the program violates their First Amendment right of free speech and association and Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under law.

(Bolds original.)

Before I go forward, I want to note as always that none of the tax money involved... none of it... has ever gone for Planned Parenthood's abortion services. And those services make up about 3%... three percent... of Planned Parenthood's total services. The rest are general reproductive health care services, often for indigent women. and they do not even take place in the same clinics, or under the aegis of the same corporation. Planned Parenthood is a lifesaver for millions of women who would never otherwise be attended to in matters of reproductive health. But as the title of a New York Times editorial put it, "In Texas, Don't Even Mention Abortion": because, you know, as the Fifth Circuit ruling says, the great State of Texas has the "authority to subsidize speech of its choosing." According to the Fifth Circuit, you not only have no right to basic reproductive health care... you and your doctor have no right to free speech. Texas can tell your doctor what s/he may or may not tell you. From the NYT editorial:

It is impossible to overstate the callousness of the state regulation and the harm it will inflict. The program serves more than 100,000 uninsured, low-income women, with the federal government paying 90 percent of the roughly $40 million that it costs. The feds are now phasing out support because the rule violates federal law.

The lawsuit against the regulation was brought by nine Planned Parenthood clinics, which operate 49 health centers across Texas. These centers provide basic health services like cancer screening, contraceptive care and other services to more than 40 percent of the women in the program. None of these centers offer abortions because state law has long barred abortion providers and their affiliates from receiving public money.

To comply with that rule, these centers maintain strict legal and financial separation from Planned Parenthood entities that do perform abortions. But the new regulation, adopted this year, says this separation is not sufficient. It defines “affiliate” as any entity that shares a name or trademark with any organization that provides or “promotes” abortion. (In the lexicon of the anti-abortion right, just talking about abortion counts as promoting it.)

So the health clinics are penalized for sharing a name with the clinics that perform abortions. As the NYT editorial put it, "[t]hose activities are entirely legal, and, in any case, none of it applies to the health clinics." This is not merely unfair: there is no intention on the part of the radical religious Right (and Catholicism) that it be fair. This was meant to bolster their already execrable invasion of a woman's right to control her own body. Based on their actions, you have to believe THOSE PEOPLE HATE WOMEN, and they will use the wholly owned federal courts as a bludgeon to deny women the most basic health services... including services at clinics that have nothing whatsoever to do with abortion. Meanwhile, Gov. Goodhair rejected federal funds available for women's health care at a rate of $9 for every $1 spent by the state.

I loathe these people. The mean-spiritedness of such self-proclaimed "Christians" reminds me why I would never call myself Christian, even if I were one. But I need not worry... they wouldn't call me one, either, and I'd correct them if they did.

ADDED... THE USUAL DISCLAIMER:  early in my career I did contract computer work for what is now Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. I am proud of that work as I have seldom been about my otherwise uneventful career. But my statements here are in no way influenced by any Planned Parenthood organization; indeed, I have not been in contact with them since the middle 1980s... except, of course, for my annual contribution.

'I Shot The Sheriff...' Well, No, I Didn't, But The Idea Has Occurred To Me

Nick R. Martin at TPM tells us a few particulars:
Frank Szabo wants the people of Hillsborough County, N.H., to know that if they elect him as sheriff this year, he will do whatever it takes to stop doctors from performing abortions — even if that means using deadly force.

In an interview on Wednesday with local television station WMUR, Szabo said he believed sheriffs were granted special powers under the Constitution. That means, he said, he would be empowered to arrest or even use deadly force against doctors for providing legal abortions for women.

“I would hope that it wouldn’t come to that, as with any situation where someone was in danger,” Szabo said. “But again, specifically talking about elective abortions and late term abortions, that is an act that needs to be stopped.”
Of course Szabo is totally fucking batshit nutso. There is no such authority under the Constitution for a sheriff to violate a Supreme Court ruling on his own say‑so. Doctors performing abortions in the vast majority of circumstances in which they are willing to do so are legally protected by Roe v. Wade, notwithstanding later cases that restrict abortion rights. That certainly limits Szabo's options under law for drastic action.

If Szabo arrests a doctor prior to an abortion, he will be presuming the doctor's future guilt of an alleged "crime" not specified as a crime in law. If he arrests a doctor during an abortion, he will probably be held legally responsible if the woman dies. And if he kills the doctor before, during or after the legal abortion, he'd better have a damned good reason, having nothing to do with the abortion, or else face murder charges himself.

Szabo is, of course, a Republican. This style of campaigning by GOP candidates is becoming more prevalent, which doesn't mean it isn't legally outside the pale. The law is clear. I'm sure he'd love to have a chance to kill an abortionist, but in no way can a law officer legally justify doing so. If this is what our candidates for law enforcement offer us... advance notice that they will violate rather than enforce the law... what else can we expect of them?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

DARPA, Harvard Create Soft Robots, Self‑Camouflaging Like Squid

Was the Internet DARPA's last useful, civilized invention? This time (h/t ellroon, from TPM), they've created at least 75 robots with soft bodies, not readily recognizable as technology (think pillows or rocks or whatever the background is; look at the TPM article's photos and video), in colors that change with the background they're on.

Can anyone think of a benign use for such a device? anyone? just one use? Me neither. These robots are good for spying on people in their private spaces... and not much else. Your tax dollars at work!

AFTERTHOUGHT: to the article's point that "Right now, the robots are attached to cords or 'veins' of liquid, but eventually, researchers hope to make them self-contained," commenter Elvan Poots responds with the thought that "[t]hey can also hope for an infinite supply of unobtainium to power them."

Draft GOP Platform: Anti-Abortion Clause Without
Rape, Incest Exceptions

If you are raped at gunpoint by someone who invaded your home, or if your drunken father forced you as a young woman to have sex, and you got pregnant, the GOP wants you to carry the baby to term. There are no exceptions in the anti-abortion plank being considered in their draft platform, a plank which takes the form of a "Human Life Amendment" to the Constitution.

This is so manifestly inhumane that I don't know what to say. Even the consistently anti-abortion GOP has in the past made exceptions for rape or incest; to make those exceptions is a matter of common human decency. Apparently, basic human kindness is no longer a part of the Republican make-up.

The nut-jobs have taken over the GOP. If they win, they will do their damnedest to force women to carry a rapist's child...

Make sure they don't win.

(H/T Pema Levy of TPM.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: our mainstream media continues to disappoint. The CNN article's hed is "First on CNN: GOP prepares tough anti-abortion platform." There is no acknowledgment that the platform is not tough... it is cruel. There's not even a "he-said-she-said" or "GOPers-said-Dems-said" part of the article, as one has come to expect from the MSM. The entire article is about GOP reactions, GOP platform history, GOP presidential candidate history, GOP, GOP, GOP... Good show, CNN. You didn't even give the story to a woman reporter; I suppose she might not have provided the slant you wanted. Or maybe all your women reporters refused to write it. Or maybe your executives, like some GOPers in Congress, believe the issue is none of a woman's business...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

DHS Purchases 450 Million Hollow Point Rounds. And Some Bulletproof Checkpoint Booths. And Riot Gear.

And then they classified the purchase. I suppose opaque black markers would be a good business to be in right about now. The contract for the bullets has already been let, to defense contractor ATK, so you can't sell them those. Hollow-point ammunition is allegedly never used for training, and its use in actual combat is said to be a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

You have choices in reading about the now-"secret" purchase, ranging from the just-a-wee-bit-paranoid to the almost-reasonable and everything in between. If you read several articles, you'll find that DHS is also purchasing bulletproof checkpoint booths with Stop-Go lights on them. That contract has also been let to a company called Shelters Direct; in fact, it is really public knowledge mainly because Shelters Direct announced it on their web site. (Sorry; no link from here.)

Oh, and did I mention the DHS has put out an "urgent" request for riot gear, supposedly in anticipation of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions?

All these articles are dated March through August of this year, so whatever it's for, it's coming right up. Good: I hate that kind of mystery.

I don't even know how paranoid we should be about all of this. For me, it basically comes down to one question:

What kind of agency is DHS?

It isn't military, but it acquires military gear and military expendables. It isn't border security like ICE (Correction: Bryan reminds us in comments that ICE is part of DHS, as is Border Patrol), but it acquires bulletproof checkpoint booths. (Does anyone else remember the Berlin Wall?) It may be law enforcement, but then what is the role of the FBI? It may be intelligence (OK, OK, stop laughing), but then what is the role of the CIA, etc. (insert names of a dozen shadowy agencies here)?

The very name of the agency is all too reminiscent of Nazi Germany. I know; saying that violates Godwin's Law, but tell me it isn't true. Heimatssicherheitabteilung... is that not a name to inspire fear in American citizens? You tell me!

Ohio GOP Early Voting Cutbacks: Unequivocally Racially Motivated

... well, that and partisan, too. Ari Berman at The Nation spells out the details, and believe me, they're ugly:
Earlier this month I reported how Ohio Republicans were limiting early voting hours in Democratic counties, while expanding them on nights and weekends in Republican counties.

In response to the public outcry, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who intervened in favor of limiting early voting hours in Democratic counties, issued a statewide directive mandating uniform early voting hours in all eighty-eight Ohio counties. Husted kept early voting hours from 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays from October 2 to 19 and broadened hours from 8 am to 7 pm from October 22 to November 2. But he refused to expand early voting hours beyond 7 pm during the week, on weekends or three days prior to the election (which is being challenged in court by the Obama campaign)—when it is most convenient for many working Ohioans to vote. Rather than expanding early voting hours across the state, Husted limited them for everybody. Voter suppression for all!

[The original vote was unanimous for expanding early voting hours.] ... But in a meeting on August 17, the two Republicans on the [county elections] board reversed their position and opposed expanding early voting hours. With the committee deadlocked between Democratic and Republican members, Husted broke the tie in favor of the GOP, like he’s done in Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Toledo.

Yet before breaking the tie, Husted ordered Democratic board members Tom Ritchie Sr. and Dennis Lieberman to hold a new meeting and rescind their votes in favor of early voting. When they refused, arguing that Husted’s directive did not apply to weekend voting, Husted suspended them from the county board of elections. (A third of the 28,000 in-person early voters in Montgomery County in 2008 voted on the weekend.)

So... how do Ohio GOPers justify this manifest discrimination? Simple: they don't bother:
Why do Ohio Republicans suddenly feel so strongly about limiting early voting hours in Democratic counties? Franklin County (Columbus) GOP Chair Doug Preisse gave a surprisingly blunt answer to the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday: “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban—read African-American—voter-turnout machine.” Preisse is not some rogue operative but the chairman of the Republican Party in Ohio’s second-largest county and a close adviser to Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes
Holds Sherlock's Strad
I have several friends in Ohio, people I know from my music-making days. They live in small towns, where they can find enough teaching jobs, weddings, receptions, etc. to make a living, as they could not in a symphony-dominated city like Cleveland. Many of these friends are Democrats. Still more of them have political inclinations I don't know anything about. But I know one thing for certain: they are all adult American citizens, who deserve to be able to vote and to have their votes counted, with no discrimination. This action by a GOP Secretary of State renders that difficult at best and impossible at worst.

This is not democracy... this is not right. If these restrictions are upheld, democracy has died in Ohio. How long before it dies of similar deplorable acts in your state, or mine?

Medicare Under Siege: Mitt Rmoney Will Cut Benefits For Current Seniors

... and fuck the "contract across generations" that has bound our society in one form or another for almost a century. Brian Beutler explains:

But the ticket also contends that a key difference between Obama and Romney is that Romney won’t change Medicare at all for existing beneficiaries — only future ones. Recent statements from his advisers and surrogates, suggest the claim is false.

As outlined in a memo the campaign released Saturday, Romney plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, and thus to spend over $700 billion more on the program in the coming decade than the government would spend if the health care law stands.

That commitment would leave Medicare poised for insolvency in 2016, years before he proposes to phase in the voucher system. Which means Romney would have two options: find new Medicare cuts or taxes to extend the life of the program, or preside over its demise.

On Fox News Sunday, Romney adviser Ed Gillespie tried to address the conundrum. “There are other reforms as well. As you know Governor Romney supports increasing over time bringing the Medicare eligibility age in line with the Social Security retirement age.”

There is a third option Beutler didn't mention: Rmoney could go jump in a lake. It would save the American people considerable grief.

When I paid my taxes for my parents' generation to receive Medicare, I did so in the then-scarcely-questionable assumption that a younger generation would pay my way when my time came. Now Rmoney wants, not merely to whack Medicare, but to funnel that money straight into the greedy hands of the wealthy bastards he thinks he represents. What a deal! It's a lot like what he intends to do to Social Security (see recent post): take all the money we paid into these programs all our working lives, and hand it out to his rich cronies.

Rmoney is threatening to change the rules in the middle of the game, rules on which everyone but the wealthiest 0.001% of Americans depend to stay alive. If Rmoney denies me my well-earned retirement, I will have nothing to lose, through no negligence on my part. We all know what people who are left with nothing to lose do, don't we? Good... I don't have to explain it to you.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Social Security Under Siege: Sen. Bernie Sanders

I could not possibly describe the situation better than Sen. Sanders does:

... Before Social Security existed, about half of America’s senior citizens lived in poverty. Today, less than 10 percent live in poverty.

Today, Social Security not only provides retirement security but also enables millions of people with disabilities and widows, widowers and children to live in dignity and security.


In these highly-volatile economic times, when millions of Americans lost their life savings in the 2008 Wall Street crash, it is important to remember that since its inception, through good economic times and bad, Social Security has paid every penny owed to every eligible beneficiary.

... Social Security, which is funded by the payroll tax, does not contribute to the deficit. In fact, the Social Security Trust Fund today, according to the Social Security Administration, has a $2.7 trillion surplus and can pay 100 percent of all benefits owed to every eligible American for the next 21 years.
... Social Security is run with very modest administrative costs.


As Sen. Sanders emphasizes, the same is very much NOT true of Wall Street firms, where people like Paul Ryan and Pete Peterson want to put Social Security money. We all remember what happened in 2007 when the last bubble burst, yielding the great crash of 2008. If you believe the future does not hold a similar crash at some point, you are a sucker, ready to be taken for everything you've put into Social Security through the payroll tax over the years. Sucker, or smart taxpayer... which will it be?

Sen. Sanders is rightly wary of President Obama's approach to Social Security: the president emphatically said "no cuts" before the 2008 elections, and now isn't saying anything much, except vague statements that it may have to be cut. Sen. Sanders has challenged this by introducing a bill that advocates exactly the program Obama advocated in 2008. I have my doubts that that bill will have any champions except for Sanders in this Dog-awful Congress we have today.

There is no rational basis for cutting Social Security at all:
  • It works... well. 
  • It is solvent. 
  • It is in no way a financial burden; indeed, it runs a surplus. 
  • It will pay out its scheduled benefits for 21 years with no alterations. 
  • With one small change (and this is the crux of the radical Right's real objection), it could continue paying out scheduled benefits indefinitely. 

The change? apply the payroll tax to annual income above $250,000. I have never understood why there is a cap on the payroll tax income in the first place, but we will somehow have to beat down the wealthy bastards, the Pete Petersons, the Mitt Rmoneys, the Paul Ryans of the country, to achieve fairness on this issue. In the Declaration of Independence, there is a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is no similar right to be obscenely wealthy and not share that wealth with society. Benjamin Franklin said it superbly well:
Private Property therefore is a Creature of Society, and is subject to the Calls of that Society, whenever its Necessities shall require it, even to its last Farthing; its Contributions therefore to the public Exigencies are not to be considered as conferring a Benefit on the Publick, entitling the Contributors to the Distinctions of Honour and Power, but as the Return of an Obligation previously received, or the Payment of a just Debt.
And there you have it.

GOP Senate Candidate Offers Absurd Comment On 'Legitimate Rape Victims' - UPDATED

Evan McMorris-Santoro, Pema Levy and again Pema Levy at TPM inform us. First, McMorris-Santoro with the background:
Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri who is running against Sen. Claire McCaskill, justified his opposition to abortion rights even in case of rape with a claim that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

This, of course, is utterly ridiculous, as even the youngest American schoolchild of either sex surely knows. Anyone as ignorant as Akin should be confined to house arrest so he won't hurt someone on his way to work in the morning.

Democrats, correctly IMHO, lay blame on the entire GOP for its approach to women's health issues. Pema Levy quotes DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz:
In an email, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz linked Akin’s comments to a larger trend of “backward statements from Republicans on issues affecting women’s health” and pointed to the anti-abortion bills that Akin and Paul Ryan have worked on together.

“Now, Akin’s choice of words isn’t the real issue here,” Wasserman Schultz said in the email. “The real issue is a Republican party — led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong.”
Shorter Wasserman Schultz: There is indeed a GOP "war on women," and it is waged on multiple fronts.

Finally, we learn from Pema Levy's other article the surprising reaction of the GOP:
On Twitter Sunday, many Republicans reached the conclusion that Akin is no longer a viable Senate candidate. Until Sunday, Akin was the favorite to take incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s seat as Missouri grows increasingly conservative. But both sides of the aisle seem to think Akin’s rape comments could cost him the election.
GOP strategist Patrick Ruffini tweeted a dismissal that makes it clear the GOP doesn't understand the breadth of the problem:
Ultimately Senate nominees are expendable and interchangeable. No political downside in a switcheroo.
No political downside... just as there is apparently no political downside to a GOP war on women's rights.

Why does the GOP regard this as something to be shrugged off? Why should it not cost them this race, and not incidentally, the presidency? What are women to the GOP, chopped liver?

UPDATE 8/21: Akin will not quit, and has issued an ad containing an apology. But I can't help noting that the apology contains these words:
“Rape is an evil act,” Akin says in the ad. “I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them.
You know what it means when a Bible-thumper says he'll pray for you: nine times out of ten it means he thinks YOU have sinned! As far as I'm concerned, it's Akin who deserves to go straight to Hell... but that's useless coming from a UU who doesn't believe in Hell, so instead I'll simply hope this inexcusable gaffe is enough to send him home after the election. What a bastard!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Is Paul Ryan Bought, Paid For And Wholly Owned
By The Kochs, Adelson, Etc.?

rafflaw at Jonathan Turley has found some evidence that the Kochs in particular and the highly questionable Sheldon Adelson have committed truly big bucks (perhaps $100 million from the Kochs) to super PACs supporting the Rmoney campaign... explicitly but secretly in exchange for his nominating Paul Ryan for his vice presidential candidate. Ryan has a history of support by the Kochs, and his worse-than-Tea-Party politics are just about right for their extremist views. And the notion of buying a veep would not trouble them one bit. Nor would the notion trouble the Rmoney/Ryan ticket one bit. Please read rafflaw's documentation. Many of the comments are also worthwhile, give or take a couple of concern trolls.

ADDED: Do not think it does not matter because Ryan would "only" be vice president. When Rmoney's hypothetical presidency is over, who, more often than any other individual, wins the next presidency?

We may be about to watch as our democracy is sold to the highest bidder. I, for one, am not happy with that. "I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Consequences Of Restriction Or Banning Of Certified Midwifery

First, we need to bludgeon the idiots who govern us into realizing that there is a problem. From Eleanor J. Bader at Truthout:
According to Amnesty International, the US presently ranks 50th in terms of safe labor and delivery. Said another way, this means that women in 49 countries have better birth outcomes than women in the US of A. "Deadly Delivery," a 2010 Amnesty study that was updated last year, reports that despite annual expenditures of $98 billion, 12.7 of every 100,000 American women die in childbirth. Predictably, if we look at communities of color, rather than overall numbers, the findings are worse: Women of color are three to four times more likely to die giving birth than their white counterparts.
The US is the wealthiest nation in the world, and spends obscene amounts ($98 billion annually) on hospital delivery of babies. And our outcomes are worse, for mother and/or infant, than those of 49 other countries. About one-third of babies are delivered by C-section, more than twice the World Health Organization's nominal recommendation... again at greater (and often needless) risk to mother and baby.

Why do we do this? Why do we even permit this? Take a look back to the 19th and 20th centuries:

... According to Ina May Gaskin, winner of the 2011 Right Livelihood Award - aka The Alternative Nobel Prize - and the so-called "mother of modern midwifery," midwifery fell out of favor following its demonization in the decades after the Civil War. "Midwifery was destroyed a century ago, in large part, because US midwives had not organized and established midwifery as a profession. The anti-midwife propaganda campaign carried out by organized medicine was not countered by any collective argument from midwives. This is why medicine was able to destroy midwifery with so little expense and effort," her web site states. Add that era's pervasive xenophobia and the fact that most midwives were European-born and trained and you had an ample breeding ground for political backlash. In addition, doctors argued that the pain of childbirth would be diminished if "modern" obstetricians in "modern" facilities handled it. The campaign worked: By the middle of the 20th century, most states had outlawed midwifery, and in-hospital births, attended by university-trained male physicians, became the norm. Female midwives, who had practiced for decades, were shunted aside.

I once worked as a programmer on a study of the effects of drugs prescribed to and taken by pregnant women on their fetuses, as measured in the blood of their newborn babies. The drug concentrations were many times the therapeutic dose for an infant of that size, even assuming the drugs were suitable for infants, which was not a reliable assumption. That's part of what "modern medicine" did for childbirth.

But... would you want your wife or daughter assisted by a nonprofessional? What a load of hooey... certified midwives, both Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) ARE trained medical professionals, qualified to deal with many circumstances, veterans of at least 1,350 hours of clinical experience during their training, and trained to recognize those pathological cases in which a woman must be hospitalized.

Despite that, CPMs are disallowed in 23 states, sometimes (e.g., in Indiana) arrested and charged with "practicing medicine without a license."

Put this in context: we are the wealthiest nation on Earth, and according to Amnesty, our pregnancy outcomes rank 50th among nations. This was not the case in the first half of the 20th century, when midwife-assisted home birth was common. Today, fewer than 1% of babies are born anywhere but in a hospital. As many rural hospitals have closed their maternity wings to save cost, many rural mothers have no access to any kind of birthing assistance at all. Do you think, perhaps, there might be a connection between the lack of midwives and the high rate of birth-related problems in America? and also a connection to the higher rate of C-sections performed? And it's all so hospitals and doctors can make more money.

"America's the greatest land of all." It must be so: the late great Dinah Shore sang it, advertising Chevrolet. I suppose that modern truth-in-advertising laws would require a list of qualifiers similar to those on drug ads. The banning of certified midwifery would surely be among those qualifiers.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Two Good (If Frightening) Reads From Dean Baker

Rep. Paul Ryan's Far-Right Agenda and The CEO Plan to Steal Your Social Security and Medicare. If you think Congress dances to the voters' tune, you may be in for a nasty shock.

Tax Policy Center: Rmoney 'Reform' Would Raise Middle-Class Taxes

Read about it at TPM. Rmoney calls the TPC report "garbage." Here's Benjy Sarlin:

The Tax Policy Center addressed a number of criticisms from the Romney campaign and his supporters in a detailed Q-and-A [.pdf] posted on its website Thursday. None of the complaints affected its conclusions, which the group said were based on running simple numbers around Romney’s previously stated goal of revenue-neutral tax reform that would lower income tax rates while eliminating tax deductions, starting with those that benefit the wealthiest Americans.

If you're wealthy and also have no conscience, you probably don't need me to tell you that Rmoney/Ryan will make you wealthier. If you're part of the 99%, now you know that money is coming from your pocket. Yes, it really is that simple.

People Unclear On The Concept Of 'Truth':
Paul Ryan Edition

When even ABC News says GOP veep candidate Paul Ryan, um, misspoke, you know it's got to be bad:
After repeated denials, Paul Ryan has admitted he requested stimulus cash even after sharply criticizing the program.

Ryan had denied doing so as recently as Wednesday, when he spoke to ABC’s Cincinnati affiliate, WCPO, in Ohio.

“I never asked for stimulus,” Mitt Romney’s new running mate said. “I don’t recall… so I really can’t comment on it. I opposed the stimulus because it doesn’t work, it didn’t work.”

Two years ago, during an interview on WBZ’s NewsRadio he was asked by a caller if he “accepted any money” into his district. Ryan said he did not.

“I’m not one [of those] people who votes for something then writes to the government to ask them to send us money. I did not request any stimulus money,” the congressman answered.

But as we’ve now learned, Ryan did write letters. He did request stimulus funds.

Ryan lives in a fantasy world of Ayn Rand. He has those who publicly oppose him arrested. And he's a liar, liar, plans (for "prosperity") on fire.

Seriously, a man who believes the stimulus was not necessary, when in fact an even bigger stimulus would have helped more, is delusional, and should not occupy the office a heartbeat away from the presidency. Paul Ryan's false claim not to have requested a stimulus, a claim he abandoned only when confronted with the paperwork showing that he himself requested a stimulus, is just another indicator that he is the perfect running mate for Rmoney.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Personhood And Paul Ryan

You all know about the various "personhood" laws passed or advanced in Virginia, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nevada and Missouri. You also know about states which have abortion-related requirements intended to be so burdensome as to discourage women from having one: for example, in Texas, there's a forced transvaginal ultrasound ("hey, he said 'vagina'!") and a requirement of "informed consent" (informed of a series of blatant falsehoods, of course) for a woman seeking an abortion.

Of course there's a proposed national "personhood" law. Just as a reminder, Roe v. Wade was ruled on a constitutional basis; the Supreme Court proclaimed the right of a woman to control her own body regarding matters as serious as childbirth as a constitutional right... it's not merely a federal law that can be arbitrarily changed by a GOP-dominated Congress. (Of course, later Supreme Courts have chipped away at the right, but they have not overturned it.)

So... who in Congress is behind the national "personhood" movement, favoring a federal "personhood" law or amendment? Watch Rachel Maddow; she'll tell you. Here's a hint: he not only opposes all abortion, even to save a woman's life... he also opposes all forms of contraception.

Who could that be? what kind of low‑life scum could hate women that much?

'Hands Off My Clam!'

Songwriter Lisa Koch sings it like it is... you'll laugh! you'll cry! you'll be better off not viewing this at work!

Oh No, Not Popcorn, Please!

Via AMERICAblog's Aravosis, we learn from (forgive me) NY Daily News: Popcorn's butter flavoring may trigger Alzheimer's disease:
Diacetyl, already linked to lung damage in people who work in microwave popcorn factories, is also used to produce the distinctive buttery flavor and aroma of margarines, snack foods, candy, baked goods, pet foods, and even some chardonnays.


University of Minnesota drug-design expert Robert Vince, PhD, and colleagues found that diacetyl causes brain proteins to misfold into the Alzheimer's-linked form called beta amyloid. Vince's team also found that diacetyl has an architecture similar to a substance that makes beta-amyloid proteins clump together in the brain -- clumping being a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

I can live without chardonnay. Candy I can cut back on, if necessary. But I do like my popcorn; I probably eat it once a week. Left to my own devices, I'd use real butter and take my chances, but with microwave popcorn, it's not easy to avoid the artificial buttery flavors. Damn... another of life's pleasures revealed to be bad for you. That really sucks!

Social Security: Just The Facts, Ma'am

Nail your family wing-nut to a chair and make him (or her, but it's usually a "him") watch this:

H/T ellroon.

Headline Of The Day

On a post by TPM's Eric Kleefeld, on a House race in the seat being vacated by Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) as she runs for the Senate:

Wisconsin District Poised To Elect Two Gay House Members In A Row

So... what are they having a row about? I would have thought "another (wo)man," but Ms. Baldwin was, in 1998, the first openly gay House member [in Wisconsin - SB] to win as a non-incumbent, and I doubt State Rep. Mark Pocan, also gay, is really her type...

Seriously... US Rep.-to-be Pocan has it right:
“It just shows that as an issue, society is definitely evolving,” Pocan told TPM before the polls closed. “From the president’s declaration of support for marriage equality, to everything we’ve had over time, it’s clear that people are becoming and more and more appreciative of diversity, I guess.”
To the extent that is true, perhaps Americans are maturing in at least one aspect of their views. It's about damned time!

Cats Ported

I was on for a little more than a year, and quite a number of cat pics accumulated over there. For your viewing pleasure, I have created posts here, on the Blogger blog, with ref's to the cat pics on WordPress. It was too much of a bother to port the associated texts and comments; you can follow links to the originals if you want those.

Shorter "Cats Ported": click the pic of Lily in the left sidebar to see a lot more cat pics than you saw previously. Isn't technology wonderful! [/snark] (Actually, isn't manual labor wonderful... nothing about the portage was automated, except for the "Cats" category/label filter on each blog.)

UPDATE: there are still more cats to be viewed! Click Lily, then when you reach the bottom of that page, click Older Posts. It's more cat pics than a sane person needs to see, but you can be the judge of what you need.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

WikiLeaks Hammered By DDoS Attacks

According to Dara Kerr at c|Net, repeating a tweet from WikiLeaks,
"The attack is well over 10Gbits/second sustained on the main WikiLeaks domains," read one of several tweets the organization posted on Friday. "The bandwidth used is so huge it is impossible to filter without specialized hardware, however... the DDoS is not simple bulk UDP or ICMP packet flooding, so most hardware filters won't work either. The range of IPs used is huge. Whoever is running it controls thousands of machines or is able to simulate them."
There's no way there's not a government behind this: no ordinary group of hackers has the means, or even the motive. Look to the government most embarrassed by WikiLeaks's releases... right.

WikiLeaks has responded with a somewhat credible "Is that all you've got?" ... perhaps not the wisest thing they could do. As of the c|Net article they're still running, if a bit beleaguered. When they reach a point at which they are spending more time fighting attacks than transmitting leaks, they may need to rethink their strategy.

Brown-Out Apparently Local

What can I say... Reliant Energy told us all to reduce our power usage mere days ago. This brown-out appears to have been local to our neighborhood... neighbor and regular commenter Barbara said she experienced it too. Our fine local birdcage liner didn't mention it, so it must not have been widespread. Broadcast TV (we don't have cable) was flinging its usual morning poo. (Hmm... spell-checker objects to "poo"; I wonder if I accidentally left it set to UK English.) I spent a mildly uncomfortable hour or so in front of a tiny table fan by my chair; it was running between ⅓ and ½ speed.

Lindsay Lohan Asks Chris Brown Out
Esther reacted in an interesting way. After the air conditioning faded and the room grew warm, she tried (in vain) to get out the back door. I've often said that these two kitties are very sweet but not too bright...
Oh... the pics? These were among Google Images for "brown-out"; what did you expect?

(Message texted from my cell phone...)

Brown-out, nbrhood-wide or wider. Pwred off cmputers, hope they srvivd!

This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Texas A&M Shooting: 3 Dead

The shooting, for those who know the campus, was at the intersection of George Bush Dr. and Wellborn Rd. (I swear I am not making those names up.) George Bush Dr. is a northeast-southwest street on the eastern border of campus, and the TAMU representative, as quoted by PoliticusUSA from the LA Times said the shooter was "not on campus". The constable, Brian Bachmann, who engaged in gunfire with the alleged perpetrator, was among the slain... as was the alleged shooter himself. From the above-linked CNN article:
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund noted that the slain constable, Brian Bachmann, is the sixth law enforcement official killed so far this year in Texas.
Six officers dead: six too many. R.I.P., Mr. Bachmann.

The problem with casual accessibility of guns to just about anyone who seeks them, with scant or no background checks, is that, among the many gun enthusiasts wanting to purchase guns for legal uses, there are always a few who are actually nuts, and the wide-open atmosphere regarding the sale of guns in the US means that even such regulations as exist requiring criminal background checks are often not enforced. How many of these mass shootings in the heat of summer could be prevented by stricter enforcement of regulations? We have to at least try: the No Rational Argument lobby assures that no politician is going to attempt a legislative solution even if it complies fully with the Second Amendment. We have to work with the laws we have, not the ones we wish we had. Meanwhile, the roll of the dead grows ever longer...

A Lot Of Links, Some Of Them Good, About Paul Ryan

... from ProPublica. You'll have to chase them yourself to decide which are useful.

Youth Rights Texas Publishes ACLU E-Books

Texans (or any other Americans), do you have youngsters in school? Are they (or are you) interested in their rights in the educational setting? Are you facing problems with a particular school administration, or a local or state school board, involving your child?

Youth Rights Texas has joined with the ACLU to publish a series of short e-books available to you free as .pdf downloads. Subjects range from their Youth Rights Manual (in English or Spanish), Stand Up for Children (two volumes on dealing with local and state boards of education), Free People Read Freely (from the ACLU Foundation of Texas's Banned Books Project), and others such as Use of Force in Texas Public Schools (the title speaks for itself), Distribution of Gideon Bibles in Texas Public Schools (I still have mine from my childhood when the Gideon folks did their unsubtle proselytizing unimpeded in public schools), and The Texas State Board of Education (surely the worst of the worst, and one of the most influential on textbooks all over America).

Note that I never "bleg" for myself. But I will suggest that if you have a steady job that pays decently, perhaps you could throw a little money toward the ACLU and/or your state ACLU. It's one of only three org's that I continue to support in these hard times. (The other two are Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood.) Without the ACLU, the anti‑rights agendas of presidents Bush and Obama and possibly (Dog forbid!) Rmoney, would roll over us without obstacle. With the ACLU, we have a fighting chance. Help if you can.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

In For A Penny, In For A Pound(ing):
Ryan To Release 2 Years Of Tax Records

It's almost as if the GOPers are trying to hand Democrats an issue with which to batter them into the ground. Mitt Rmoney claims he will (eventually) release two years of his tax returns; now Paul Ryan says the same. Ryan also says he provided Rmoney "several" years of his returns for vetting. I suppose the implication is that we should just trust Rmoney's judgment about Ryan's worthiness.

Think about what the well-scrubbed white male twins' refusal to release tax returns... they're the first prez/veep candidates in recent history to refuse... could mean:
  • One man (or both) could have paid zero taxes in a recent year;
  • One man (or both) could have substantial money hidden away in offshore tax havens;
  • One man (or both) could have persuaded their doubtless well-paid accountants (I almost typed "accountaints") to claim some dubious or even outright illegal deductions in one or more years;
  • One man (or both) could be perceived as wealthy enough to bail out a large percentage of the national debt out of his own pocket;
  • One man (or both) could have participated in illegal political activities... e.g., illegal campaign contributions, in the days before Citizens United when such were possible... to influence Congress to create tax breaks for them;
  • And on, and on, and on... the possibilities are not limitless, but neither are they negligible.

The very real possibility is that Mittens and Big Ears could have been getting filthy rich, not merely instead of, but at the expense of ordinary working Americans. Would that disqualify them from being prez and veep? The decision will be yours, but consider how much more they could steal, and how much easier it would be for them to do so, if they held the Biggest Chair and the Next Biggest Chair.

This nonsense has to stop. The American people must demand, and receive, those tax returns. If that inconveniences the well-scrubbed white male twins, that's just too bad.

Paul Ryan: What Kind Of Person Is He?

You know about his budget proposal; that's not what I am talking about here. I am talking about his response to people who reasonably differ with him. The response is simple: he kicks them out of town hall meetings, and in some cases has them arrested.

Here's Jason Easley at PoliticusUSA on 9/7/2011 (linked from his more recent article here):
Paul Ryan held his PPV town hall event at Klemmer’s Banquet Hall in Milwaukee. When some protesters who had paid their $15 ...
Wait a minute. Wait a Dog-damned minute. Fifteen bucks to attend a "town hall event"? I could almost stop right there, but it gets worse...
Paul Ryan held his PPV town hall event at Klemmer’s Banquet Hall in Milwaukee. When some protesters who had paid their $15 stood up and asked him questions about jobs and the Bush tax cuts, Ryan not only had them kicked out. He also had three of them arrested.
Arrested... at a paid-admission "town hall meeting" ... for asking questions Ryan understandably doesn't want to answer. Read some of the questions in Easley's article. This is the sort of man Ryan is: he has his political adversaries arrested.

And he seeks the office a heartbeat away from the presidency?

We've already had too many dictators in the Oval Office. One was too many. Enough is enough. Send this man home to dictate to his doubtless long-suffering family.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

He Did It: Rmoney Picked Ryan

... and Democrats are happier than a kid having ice cream for dinner:

... Mitt Romney is inextricably tied now to the architect of the GOP’s plan to privatize Medicare, and Ryan’s proposal to slash entitlements is guaranteed to receive more national attention than ever before.

“In naming Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney has chosen a leader of the House Republicans who shares his commitment to the flawed theory that new budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy, while placing greater burdens on the middle class and seniors, will somehow deliver a stronger economy,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a statement Saturday morning.

The Obama campaign had already spent months trying to link Ryan and Romney together in voters’ minds, highlighting every statement from the Republican candidate in which he praised the House Republican budget Ryan created. Democratic officials routinely referred to the “Ryan-Romney” plan in interviews and campaign materials — now it’s the Romney-Ryan ticket.

Rmoney says he is not running on Ryan's budget plan. To which I can only reply: ya wanna bet, mofo?

This is the gift of a lifetime. Gawd, I hope the Dems don't fuck it up...

It Isn't Just Your Imagination: It's HOT

Via Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, it's official (if preliminary): July 2012 is America's hottest month on record, ever. It was slightly hotter than July 1936, which inflicted drought and brought on the great Dust Bowl, devastating farms and more. This follows a succession of other "hottest month" records in 2011 and 2012, and is reflected in 24 state "hottest 12 months" records; please read Dr. Masters's post.

We did this. If you doubt it, see the recent post on Dr. James Hansen's NASA Goddard report. And I seriously doubt it's going to get any better. We made our bed, and now a lot of people are going to have to lie about it.

One Nation, Under Surveillance: TrapWire

It's the latest thing in government-sponsored warrantless surveillance of American citizens, 24x7, every aspect of their lives... and it's here today. Here's a sample from FDL's TheCallUp:

So what is TrapWire, and why has its leak created such a commotion? According to reporting at RT, TrapWire is a detailed surveillance system that “can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw[s] patterns, and do[es] threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists.” Anything suspect gets input into the system to be “analyzed and compared with data entered from other areas within a network for the purpose of identifying patterns of behavior that are indicative of pre-attack planning.”

According to the article, this system has been secretly installed in most major cities and around landmarks across the United States, in Canada, and in the UK. Most local police forces are installing their own monitoring software that works in conjunction with TrapWire. Private properties, including casinos, are now signing up to TrapWire. Essentially, it sounds like Big Brother identifying you, watching you, assessing your every move for abnormalities, then indexing your behavior.

Please read the whole article. This is effectively the old Total Information Awareness program actually implemented, either in defiance of federal law and the Constitution, or else in compliance with some secret law we have no knowledge of.

Oh, by the way... as WikiLeaks and Anonymous began releasing documents pertaining to the program, they were subjected to the DDoS attack from Hell. It looks like the scariest obstacle to your freedom of speech and your right to know what your government is doing is now... your government.

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