The problem for Wall Street, [Ken] Langone, [Tom] Perkins and the rest [of the billionaires] is that the old ruses are exhausted. Americans are increasingly aware about how they fixed the game, how they rigged the rules to make out like bandits, and how they blew up the economy and got bailed out, while the rest of the country took it in their teeth. — They keep invoking Hitler and Nazis and the threat to the 1 percent, but their folly is feeding the populism they fear. As former President John Kennedy warned, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” - Robert Borosage, "The Plutocrats Take To The Barricades"


(Earlier banner quotes)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Greenwald On 'Tea Party "Treason"'

Glenn Greenwald at Salon asks the highly controversial question, "What powers should the president have against those who [verbally] advocate open, violent revolt against the U.S. government?" The answer seems to depend
  • first of all, on whether you are a Muslim (even if you are a US citizen... cases in point, Anwar Al-Awlaki, citizen and Muslim, as vs. Mississippi Tea Party Chair Roy Nicholson, citizen and non-Muslim, who has similarly made some radically anti-government statements),

  • second, whether there is any sustainable analogy between presidential extrajudicial assassination orders against American citizens far from any battlefield and Lincoln's orders to kill rebels in the Confederate army (who, though arguably American citizens, were nonetheless soldiers in uniform engaging in battles of a systematic insurrection against the USA), as frequently asserted by neocons,

  • and finally, whether individuals who are not charged with any crime against the United States but who associate with and possibly assist the likes of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, may be, systematically, secretly and without a warrant, surveilled by the FBI (case in point, Jacob Appelbaum, an activist whose internet provider has been harassed with no fewer than 23 "national security letters" of which that ISP was not permitted to inform Appelbaum, thus arguably a failure "to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation" [a Sixth Amendment right]).
Be sure to watch the video in which Appelbaum, through incisive questions, pins a DoJ/FBI representative to a very uncomfortable assertion of support in the law for essentially secret and warrantless demands for documents from Appelbaum's ISP. It is chilling to hear these things said out loud by such a spokesperson, who apparently believes the statute (I presume some part of the PATRIOT Act) prevails over the Fourth Amendment.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Greg Palast: The Euro As An Instrument Of Class Warfare

The indomitable Greg Palast, an American with a seemingly steady job at The Guardian, explains how economist Robert Mundell, formerly of the University of Chicago and now of Columbia University, inventor of the concept of supply-side economics, pushed the creation of the euro as a way of obstructing nations inclined to use Keynesian methods to combat recession. Palast quotes Mundell:
...

"It's very hard to fire workers in Europe," he complained. His answer: the euro.

The euro would really do its work when crises hit, Mundell explained. Removing a government's control over currency would prevent nasty little elected officials from using Keynesian monetary and fiscal juice to pull a nation out of recession.

"It puts monetary policy out of the reach of politicians," he said. "[And] without fiscal policy, the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business.

He cited labor laws, environmental regulations and, of course, taxes. All would be flushed away by the euro. Democracy would not be allowed to interfere with the marketplace – or the plumbing.

...
(You can safely ignore the remark about the plumbing, or read Palast to find out why plumbing is an issue to union-hating Mundell.) More on the euro and Mundell:

Mundell explained to me that, in fact, the euro is of a piece with Reaganomics:

"Monetary discipline forces fiscal discipline on the politicians as well."

And when crises arise, economically disarmed nations have little to do but wipe away government regulations wholesale, privatize state industries en masse, slash taxes and send the European welfare state down the drain.
In other words, power is centralized in Europe's wealthiest nations, and the rest (Greece, Spain, Ireland, etc.) can do little within the confines of the euro to avoid austerity programs, ineffective though they may be, forced upon them by the banksters of the euro. A nation without its own currency can find its back to the wall and no effective response. And this, according to Palast, is exactly what Robert Mundell intended the euro to accomplish. How about that... a real live conspiracy that may be more than just a theory!

Of course, Palast predicted that the 2008 US presidential election would be stolen by the GOP, so his record is not perfect... or is it? Did Republicans allow Obama to win as a kind of scapegoat, after whom the nation would elect an effectively permanent Republican majority? But that's another conspiracy theory (although one which IMHO deserves serious consideration), and we will have to deal with that possibility later.

(H/T Michael Moore , with the usual reservations about linking to his front page.)

ADDED: Thanks to L'Enfant de la Haute Mer, in comments on this post, for pointing us to David Dayen's post on FDL about two weeks ago. Dayen writes about Iceland's experience, how it dealt with mortgage debt, how the fact that it has its own currency (the krona, not the euro) made all the difference in its ability to cope. Dayen:
,,,

But there’s another major reason that Iceland has fared better than its neighbors, one I didn’t get to talk about on the show. Iceland wasn’t in the euro. As a result, they had the ability to manage their own currency. And they predictably and smartly dropped the currency in value. Right now, the krona sits 20% below the euro, even as the euro has plummeted lately. And that makes Icelandic exports competitive, which includes tourism. They have not had to live with another country’s monetary policy.

...
His point, which is much like Palast's, is summarized in his post's title: "Iceland’s Lesson for the World: Control Your Own Currency and Help Your People".

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Blogs And 'Professional' News Organizations

Among the MSM org's that reported early on the Affordable Care Act decision, CNN fucked it, Fox fucked it, and MSNBC got it right. That's one of three who reported quickly who also got it right... not a very good record.

On the other hand, SCOTUSblog got it right.

The next time some aged, alcohol-and-tobacco-pickled mainstream media reporter goes on a rant about how awful blogs are, quietly remind them of this fact. Next time, I... on my lowly blog, having no primary sources at my disposal... I shall go with SCOTUSblog.

CNN: SCOTUS Strikes Down Individual Mandate
Sustains All Parts Of Health Care Law

No details yet. I'll post them here when I have them.

CORRECTION: CNN is now saying "Correction: The Supreme Court backs all parts of President Obama’s signature health care law." Now how the fuck could an org like CNN make a mistake like that? Somebody's ass should be fired...

UPDATE about 9:30am CT: fuck CNN; here's a tiny bit more from TPM Editor's Blog, David Kurtz:

Because of the archaic way the Supreme Court releases its decisions, there was lots of initial confusion about what the holding in the case was. We’re still awaiting the actual opinion, but the upshot is that the individual mandate survived under the taxing power of Congress, not under the Commerce Clause.  ...
Brian Beutler of TPM has details.

Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns and Money has a tidy list of important facts.

ADDED: The estimable Laurence Tribe at SCOTUSblog explains, in "Chief Justice Roberts comes into his own and saves the Court while preventing a constitutional debacle," how this decision makes constitutional sense even as it disagrees with the opinions of the other conservative Justices.

AFTERTHOUGHT:  of course I have some thoughts of my own on the Affordable Care Act. It is far from the legislation I would have preferred, which for brevity I will call "Medicare for all" or "single payer." But the most disgusting thing is that when Obama, as he so often does, adopted a Republican position almost intact, the GOP, as a purely political act, with no redeeming motivations of aiding America's ill and infirm, turned 180 degrees and did everything they could to kill it... despite having effectively authored it themselves. They even turned loose their nakedly partisan Supreme Court on it, but one of their regulars (Roberts) betrayed them. The degree of acid-tossing raw enmity almost all Republicans exhibit toward Obama, who aside from being Black is almost one of their own, is... well, actually, no, it is no surprise. The GOP has sunk to the bottom, and is feeding on the toxic waste down there. Couldn't they at least, you know, like... pretend to advocate the good of the nation and its society? But noooo...

Republican evil knows no bounds.

While We Wait, Read About Scalia's Secret Opinion

This satire by Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money is too funny for words. If the opinion isn't in yet, pass the time by reading it. If it is in, read it to take the edge off. Enjoy.

Bill Moyers Interviews Yves Smith And Matt Taibbi:
How The Banks Are As Criminal As The Mafia

This excellent interview should be on your must-view list. Each of these authors has a new book out (which I'll leave to them to describe) about the intimate and frequently criminal relationship between the federal government and the banks which, in these Glass-Steagall-free days, allows banks to take unjustifiable risks with their account-holders' money, defraud the depositors about those very risks, and expect the taxpayers to pick up the losses because the banks are "too big to fail." Often enough, the few remaining honest conservatives advocate allowing these TBTF banks to fail anyway, but that is just another way of transferring the disaster to the public through their relationship, not with the government directly as taxpayers, but with the banks as account-holders.


I am not certain there is any way out of this bind, but holding the banksters directly accountable, as fully as possible, would be a good start. And that means, in the November elections, electing, um... not Republicans because they're in bed with the banks, and, er... not Democrats, because they're in bed with the banks. Never mind.

(Via Glenn Greenwald at Salon. For more by Taibbi, see Taibblog [on blogroll]. For more by Yves Smith, see Naked Capitalism [on blogroll])

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why 'Free Market Solutions' Will Not... Cannot... Address Global Climate Change

David Atkins (thereisnospoon) at Hullabaloo expands on a theme by David Roberts at Grist: not only is global climate change worse than you think, not only is some degree of it inevitable even at this point, but there is, at ground, no solution as long as we insist on approaching the problem through nation-states and (allegedly) free markets. Please go read those two posts before you undertake any serious dispute of that assertion on threads here. (Warning: at the moment, the Roberts/Grist article is serving atrociously badly on their web site. Expect a long wait.)

Many of you will quite understandably shrug, acknowledging the assertion as having already long since proved itself.

Some of you, though... probably not many who bother to read this blog... will object to the whole thesis of global climate change, or dispute its inevitability, or use old science or current papers by pseudo-scientists to dispute the fact of impending climate change, or tell me that God is going to save us. To those few of you, I say this: save your breath; if you're young now, you're going to need it when the shit hits the fan in a few decades.

Contrary to claims you've almost surely heard, science is not a matter of opinion (though there's no shortage of opinions among scientists) nor is it something you believe or don't believe, like a religion. Science is a collection of methods for creating effective explanations, together with the current versions of those explanations themselves. Science contains few if any eternal truths, but it offers the best way of obtaining the current best assessment of what is factually true, and how those facts interrelate. And in matters of global climate change, the best science indicates that, sooner rather than later, a lot of our coastal towns and cities will be under a lot of water, the life cycles and breeding patterns of many species will be unable to accommodate regional temperature changes (with extinction the likely consequence), and humans will continue to ignore the most basic markers of the human condition by fighting wars over what is left, and by suffering plagues we can only imagine. It is not a pretty picture, and it is already underway.

I wish I could propose some marvelous action you could take to avert this catastrophe, but I am afraid that flight departed a while ago. As for "free market solutions," I cannot even fathom what kind of virtuous investment strategy would induce corporations to take the needed actions soon enough to mitigate the worst effects of climate change... the free market is designed to operate on an extremely compressed time scale, and anything that happens a century from now, even if predictable, simply does not seem real to the people and institutions investing in industries whose actions may or may not make climate change happen.

So I have no preachy advice for you. Being who I am, I can't even provide you a tip on a hot new stock, and besides, the heat of that stock would contribute to the problem...

Local Warming

Yesterday's high temperature in Houston was 105°F, a mark which ABC13 News tells me ties the all-time Houston record for the month of June since they started recording temperatures. That record was set about a year ago. The overall Houston record high was in September, 2000, and again in August, 2011: 109°F. (Source: Wikipedia.)

105°F... that's not Houston weather, that's Dallas weather. Or at least it used to be. Houston's hottest average month is July, 84.4°F; that's part of what makes it bearable (and affordable) to live here. Nonetheless, today is forecast at 101°F.

But it doesn't have anything to do with global climate change. Oh no it doesn't. Because... oh, hey, look, Al Gore is getting old! [/snark]

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New SCOTUS Ruling Extends Citizens United To State, Local Elections

The hits just keep coming in the War on Voters. Here's John Nichols of The Nation:
...

The same Court that in January 2010 ruled with the Citizens United decision that corporations can spend freely in federal elections—enjoying the same avenues of expression as human beings—on Monday ruled that states no longer have the ability to guard against what historically has been seen as political corruption and the buying of elections.

The court’s 5–4 decision in the Montana case of American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock significantly expands the scope and reach of the Citizens United ruling by striking down state limits on corporate spending in state and local elections. “The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law,” the majority wrote. “There can be no serious doubt that it does.”

Translation: if Exxon Mobil wants to spend $10 million to support a favored candidate in a state legislative or city council race that might decide whether the corporation is regulated, or whether it gets new drilling rights, it can. But why stop at $10 million? If it costs $100 million to shout down the opposition, the Court says that is fine. If if costs $1 billion, that’s fine, too.

And what of the opposition. Can groups that represent the public interest push back? Can labor unions take a stand in favor of taxing corporations like Exxon Mobil?

Not with the same freedom or flexibility that they had from the 1930s until this year. Last Thursday, the Court erected elaborate new barriers to participation in elections by public-sector unions—requiring that they get affirmative approval from workers they represent (but who may not at the moment be union members) before making special dues assessments to fund campaigns countering corporations.

...
The fat Catholic overgrown choirboy is getting everything he wants, and it isn't even Christmas.

What will a mayor's race cost in a major city? What will it cost in Houston, which is "major" when measured in terms of commerce transacted here? If the popular Mayor Annise Parker chooses to run for a third and final term next year, will she face $1 billion in opposition?

We have gone from strict legal curbs on campaign contributions, together with the Equal Time rule and the Fairness Doctrine, to a freewheeling, devil-take-the-hindmost spending race at every level of government, a race that makes a mockery of the very concept of democracy. That Republicans authored and approve of this change speaks volumes about the party; that Democrats seem to be following that same path to hell is enough to make one cry. As for the rest of us, who have nothing to contribute but our votes... well, that noise you hear is the aforementioned devil at your heels.

Representative democracy: it was nice while it lasted.

Observation

One often hears it said that when Congress is in session, one's pocketbook is not safe. Let me add by analogy that when the current Supreme Court is in session, one's liberties are in danger. And when the president calls secret meetings to choose extrajudicial assassination targets...

How Super PACs Dodge The Citizens United Coordination Ban

It's deplorably easy. And it's easy because FEC regulations are both sparse and weak. Here's Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon:

...

When the Supreme Court overruled almost a century of campaign finance laws in its 2010 Citizens United decision and opened the floodgates to outside money, it made two promises to keep things in check: It expected groups to disclose their donors and activists, and it sought to prevent groups from coordinating with candidates. Both restrictions have proven to be farces.

“The statu[t]e and the Supreme Court have been very strong on preventing coordination. But the FEC regulations have basically gutted the laws and given us very weak laws to prevent coordination between outside spenders and candidates,” veteran campaign finance watchdog Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21 told Salon. This, “despite the fact that the Court’s entire decision in Citizens United is based on the notion that the expenditures are going to be entirely independent from the campaign,” he added.

Indeed, as Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation told Salon, “the FEC has a very narrow definition of what coordination actually is.” As long as a campaign and an outside group don’t directly communicate, and their use of a “common vendor” like Black Rock doesn’t meet several specific criteria, they’re fine. “It kind of boggles the mind, but that’s what the FEC has defined and there’s nothing illegal about it,” Allison explained.

...
Seitz-Wald gives examples before and after this passage. In a North Dakota Senate race, for example, Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS/American Crossroads super PAC is de facto coordinated with the Republican candidate's campaign through an intermediary company, the Black Rock Group, which has corporate officers in common with the Republican candidate's campaign. No explicit coordination is needed, because the same person sits in meetings of the campaign and Crossroads. And this is NOT illegal, despite all the reassurances the Republican-dominated Supreme Court gave us in the Citizens United decision.

Our democracy has been bought, sold, paid for and delivered. I can imagine what Thomas Jefferson would say.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Human-Powered Helicopter Breaks Record

... of flight time for a human-powered rotorcraft. The flight was still under a minute, and was only barely off the ground. I believe this also captures the "oddest-looking aircraft" award:


If your CPU and graphics card can handle it (my box is over 5 years old and cannot), watch full-screen for maximum visual disorientation. :-)

AFTERTHOUGHT: in my bicycling years, we used to distinguish cyclists between "spinners" and "pile-drivers" based on their preferred gear at maximum speed. This fellow is definitely a spinner.

AFTERTHOUGHT: add this to the list of things about which Samuel Johnson said, "It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

Debby Does... Tampa?

That (expletive deleted) storm is still in about the same place as last night, still stationary, spawning at least 20 tornadoes and dumping bathtubs-full of rain on the Tampa Bay area. This quote from Dr. Jeff Masters this morning caught my attention:
... The heaviest rains of Debby affected the Tampa Bay region, where over ten inches were reported at several locations. The Tampa Bay airport picked up 7.11 inches on Sunday. It's a good thing this isn't the week of the Republican National Convention, which is scheduled for late August in Tampa! Minor to moderate flooding is occurring at three rivers near Tampa, and flooding has been limited by the fact the region is under moderate to severe drought.
Dr. Masters never, as far as I know, mentions politics on his weather blog, but it seems to me that Mother Nature herself is pointing the finger at the party most responsible for so many mortgages underwater...

Manning Defense Accuses Prosecution Of Making
'An Outright Misrepresentation', Refusing Disclosure

Welcome to American military justice, where the trial you get is the trial the prosecution wants you to have. From the Guardian:
...

Reports by the Associated Press, Reuters and other news outlets have suggested that official inquiries into the impact of WikiLeaks concluded that the leaks caused some "pockets" of short-term damage around the world, but that generally its impact had been embarrassing rather than harmful.

Such a finding could prove invaluable to the defence in fighting some of the charges facing Manning or, should he be found guilty, reducing his sentence.

Yet Coombs says the army prosecutors have consistently kept him, and the court, in the dark, thwarting his legal rights to see the evidence.

"It was abundantly clear that Oncix had some form of inquiry into the harm from the leaks – but the government switched definitions around arbitrarily so as to avoid disclosing this discovery to the defence."

...
Has the prosecution received a secret order, maybe from the Commander-in-Chief, to win this one at any cost? If so, the cost seems to be the protections traditionally afforded defendants in America's military as well as civilian justice systems.

It will be highly ironic if Manning is convicted, manages to appeal, and has the conviction overturned on due process grounds. But I suspect that, too, has been "taken care of". Ain't America great? [/snark]

Sunday, June 24, 2012

GMO Grass Near Elgin, TX Apparently Kills Cattle

ellroon has the basics, and a link to an article with details. The GM grass, Tifton 85, is a "scientifically modified" (?!) hybrid of a hybrid, in use since 1992, but suddenly, on a number of farms in central Texas, it apparently started generating cyanide. Cyanide, f'chrissake! Sixteen of eighteen cattle on one ranch died; other farms showed traces of cyanide but no deaths.

I've driven through the countryside surrounding Elgin, TX. There is nothing even remotely strange about the farmland there; it looks like any other central Texas farmland, and I've never seen it glow in the dark. But... Jeebus on a crutch... cyanide?

If you've been thinking of writing your member of Congress about labeling foods that contain GMOs, or labeling meat or milk from animals have been fed on plants with genetic modifications, now might be a good time.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tropical Storm Debby

Debby has been established as a tropical storm. The current forecast says that "a tropical storm warning is in effect for the coast of Louisiana from the mouth of the Pearl River westward to Morgan City, not including the city of New Orleans or Lake Pontchartrain" but please note that the storm is projected to make a sharp turn left (West) before landfall and head, with the center over water, toward the south Texas coast after landfall. Houstonians, pay attention; we're not directly in the forecast path, but if Debby survives its initial Louisiana landfall, we're not out of harm's way yet either.

Sources: National Hurricane Center; Weather Underground.

UPDATE Sun. morning 6/24 about 8:10am: the strong (northeast) side of Debby is forecast to hit the Florida panhandle and the Mississippi/Alabama coastline; it may be doing that now. And Louisiana is still under a warning. With a radius of 200 mi, Debby can do all this with the center still over water in its approximately due-westward track, and I think it may visit Houston about next weekend, possibly as a Cat. 1 hurricane. But don't take my word for it; use those links above.

UPDATE Sun. morning 6/24 about 8:45 am: now the Houston Chronicle's SciGuy (Eric Berger) says, "The official forecast understates the shift in the models, most of which are now bringing Debby to the northern Gulf coast. (Here’s the latest European model, for example, which yesterday brought Debby into Texas near Matagorda Bay. It now targets central Louisiana)." Maybe it won't come here after all. ADDED: Berger's "Models Map" shows an increasing consensus among the models of a landfall in southeastern Louisiana. Yes, he says, there is potential danger of flooding in New Orleans, not from storm surge but from heavy rainfall overwhelming the city's pumping system.

UPDATE Sun. afternoon 6/24 about 5:00 pm: Here's Bryan of Why Now?, writing from the Florida panhandle:
The 4PM update shows a totally new track forecast with Apalachicola as the new target. The Warning for Louisiana has been discontinued. From the local wind I knew that the storm was to the East of my location, but it is moving slowly, indicating weak steering, so anything is still possible. The slow movement also impedes strengthening as cooler water is pulled to the surface which reduces available energy.
And so it goes northward into Florida... unless something changes again. Hellooo, climate change denialists... are you ready to surrender yet?

Texas Tamale Company... MMMM!

Houstonians please take note. We had lunch at home today: tamales from the Texas Tamale Company. In addition to their store locations, they also sell through several major local grocers (including, of course, Fiesta Mart) and Bering's hardware store (I kid you not!).

Why are these tamales soooo good? Well, they're almost traditional, except
  • they're gluten-free,
  • they're made with soy oil instead of lard,
  • two of their flavors (spinach-cheese and black bean) are vegetarian, and
  • they're locally made... Houston locavores please take note.
Between us, Stella and I demolished a dozen in no time. If you're inviting guests to share them, be sure you buy plenty; they're not pricey compared to other brands of frozen tamales, especially considering the high quality. Serve them with queso or (my favorite) cilantro sauce made by the same company.

No, no one paid me to promote these. I just wanted to share one of the best food finds I've experienced in a long time.

Hints Of Higgs?

Maybe. The LHC data is there, from 2011 and 2012, but waiting for results to be assessed and a determination made is going to take a while. It's possible, though, that there will be an announcement at a conference on July 4... ironic, since America decided not to be a player in this game by not building the Superconducting Super Collider.

In fairness, I got the news from Carl Franzen of TPM, but the best explanation (for my amateur's purposes) that I have found online is by Prof. Matt Strassler at Rutgers.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Axelrod: Romney Running To Become
'Outsourcer-In-Chief'

From TPM's Evan McMorris-Santoro, a quote from David Axelrod:
After Friday’s Washington Post article detailing Bain Capital’s work with outsourcing during the time Mitt Romney was at the helm of the firm, the Obama campaign seems to think its point about Romney has been made.

“People really have a fundamental choice in this election,” Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod said on a conference call with reporters Friday. “The question is, do they want an outsourcer-in-chief in the Oval Office or do they want a president who’s going to fight for American jobs and American manufacturing and the American middle class.”
Then Rmoney will need to choose a veep candidate willing to tolerate the label, "outsourcerer's apprentice..." <ba_da_boom /> I'll be here all week, folks...

Voyagers On The Edge

Spacecraft Voyager 2 and Voyager 1, launched in 1972 and 1977 respectively, are on the verge of exiting the heliosheath, the area around the Sun within which the Sun's particle emissions meet the galaxy's cosmic rays from interstellar space. Both spacecraft are still working, still sending back information. Now there's some technology for you... when is the last time you owned a TV that worked for more than 30 years?

These are humankind's first interstellar objects. If they keep on working as they go through the heliosheath (a big IF, I suspect), we will learn things about our Sun and our galaxy that have only been speculated on to this point. To those who say spaceflight has no impact on actual science, I can only stand back and point to the Voyager program.

UN Investigator: Drone Strikes Undermine
International Law

Who could have imagined! [/snark] Sending remotely piloted bombs to destroy targeted individuals far from a combat zone, "incidentally" killing dozens of people whose only crime was being there, often following up with a second flying bomb to obliterate anyone arriving to provide medical aid... who could possibly object to that? [/snark] A UN investigator, that's who. Here's Owen Bowcott of The Guardian:
The US policy of using aerial drones to carry out targeted killings presents a major challenge to the system of international law that has endured since the second world war, a United Nations investigator has said.

Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, told a conference in Geneva that President Obama's attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, carried out by the CIA, would encourage other states to flout long-established human rights standards.
Someone please explain to me how America's ostensibly targeted drone warfare differs from Germany's W.W.II actions in lobbing rockets into London.

It seems, in every generation, at least one nation discovers some means of "hands‑free" or "no‑risk" remote warfare, some human rights nightmare that does not trouble the sleep of one or another self-satisfied national leader. And so the atrocities never end. Drones are America's contribution to this horrific idiom.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Obama's War On Leaks

From MichaelMoore.com, with the usual reminder that individual items on Moore's front page are not linkable directly, we have a link to a post at Capital Comment by Shane Harris on the Obama administration's obsession with stopping leaks, and the extremes to which they will go to catch and prosecute leakers... and reporters who use them as sources:
“We’re out for scalps.” That’s what a senior Justice Department official told me when I asked what was behind the Obama administration’s unprecedented number of leak prosecutions. The “we” referred to federal prosecutors, but the official said the desire to see leakers punished extended to the White House, as well. The official, who also made it clear that reporters who talked to sources about classified information were putting themselves at risk of prosecution, asked not to be quoted by name.
The use of the DoJ for manifestly punitive measures against the press, to an extent not pursued by any prior president (even Bush 43), should be grounds for concern by Americans who believe we have a right to know what our government is doing.

This is not a liberal/conservative issue; this is a good-government issue. All presidential administrations... all of them... bend or break the rules all the time, doing favors for friends, sending business their way, giving them advance information about administration plans, trying to make their opponents look bad in press and media, etc. Without leaks, Americans have no hope of knowing about these abuses of government power; with leaks, there's at least a hope. A government without leaks is a government free to be as totalitarian as it wishes. And that is, to all appearances, the kind of government Obama has in mind. Please read the linked post for details. They are unsurprising, but you need to confront them.

Would Rmoney be any better? Silly question... of course not. Rmoney would unhesitatingly throw the whole White House press corps in jail on the mere suspicion that one received a leak. Draconian responses are the M.O. of the Republican Party, and Mittens is about as uninspired, uninspiring and unimaginative a Republican as you'll find.

But I cannot offer Obama more than my personal vote, and that mainly because he is less evil on women's rights. I cannot offer him my endorsement. The oh‑dash‑it‑all of hope has arrived, and my hopes are suitably dashed.

Supreme Court Unanimously Tosses
Broadcast Cursing Sanctions

... to which I can only say, "Fuckin' A!"

The cases at issue were brought by a radical right-wing Bush administration FCC, who wanted almost to criminalize even incidental, fleeting curses or transient glimpses of nudity.

The history of FCC policing of broadcast profanity and nudity arguably got its serious start in 1978 when Pacifica Radio aired George Carlin's famous monologue "(bleep) (bleep) (bleep) (bleep) (bleep) (bleep) (bleep)" where each (bleep) was a different obscenity or profanity. In today's ruling, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed a wish that the Pacifica ruling be overturned as having been wrongly decided, but that didn't happen, fuckin' goddammit.

AFTERTHOUGHT: and I was so looking forward to FCC sanctions on commercials by candidate Joe the Plumber for rear-view shots of the plumber at work...

NSA FOIA Release Of CIA Docs: Bad News For Bush

Via Bryan of Why Now?, we are directed to the following info about the 120 CIA docs just released by the NSA under an FOIA request. From Jordan Michael Smith at Salon:
Over 120 CIA documents concerning 9/11, Osama bin Laden and counterterrorism were published today for the first time, having been newly declassified and released to the National Security Archive. The documents were released after the NSA pored through the footnotes of the 9/11 Commission and sent Freedom of Information Act requests.

... Perhaps most damning are the documents showing that the CIA had bin Laden in its cross hairs a full year before 9/11 — but didn’t get the funding from the Bush administration White House to take him out or even continue monitoring him. The CIA materials directly contradict the many claims of Bush officials that it was aggressively pursuing al-Qaida prior to 9/11, and that nobody could have predicted the attacks. “I don’t think the Bush administration would want to see these released, because they paint a picture of the CIA knowing something would happen before 9/11, but they didn’t get the institutional support they needed,” says Barbara Elias-Sanborn, the NSA fellow who edited the materials.

... The Pentagon approved the plan for surveillance purposes.

And yet, simultaneously, the CIA declared that budget concerns were forcing it to move its Counterterrorism Center/Osama bin Laden Unit from an “offensive” to a “defensive” posture. ...

...

So tell me again... just how are Republicans better than Democrats at counterterrorism? It seems to me that Bush administration's truly terrible judgment allowed this to happen despite an effective initial effort by the intelligence community. And now we have Republican asswipes blaming Democrats for 9/11. What a large, steaming pile.

The worst of it is that the release of these documents will change nothing. The MSM will not cover them, or will give them a single segment and then move on. Most Americans who would vote Republican in the first place will never hear of these documents, or will blame the source, or will find some other crack-brained way to defend their incompetent, negligent heroes. This should be an earth-shaking release... but it won't be even a tremor.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Kind Of Economics Did You Say?

From Paul Krugman, in a post about his own inefficacy in deflecting the current horrible turn in economic policy both in the US and in Europe despite his having been right about almost every aspect of it:
Meanwhile, Ed Balls — who I gather was nearly forced out of a leadership position by the Very Serious members of the Labour Party — has been right all along, and now has a great term for the failed policy prescription: since it was advocated by Cameron, Merkel, and Sarkozy, he calls it “Camerkozy” economics. Well done.
Well done indeed!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Do Republicans Hack The Vote?

That's what Republicans will do if they have the opportunity. I am basing my assertion on what they have done, as demonstrated by statistical anomalies of the recorded vote from exit polls, in more than a third of 300 recent state elections. ellroon points us to Bob Fitrakis at The Free Press, himself a PhD in political science with a high-level understanding of statistics. To get straight to the point, Fitrakis cites statistician Richard Charnin as follows:
One of my favorite mathematicians is Richard Charnin, who on his website using readily available public information, calculates the odds of the so-called ‘red shift" occurring from the 1988 to 2008 presidential elections. The red shift refers to the overwhelming pick up of votes by the Republican Party in recorded votes over what actual voters report to exit pollsters. See Richard Charnin's article[.]

In Charnin's analysis of exit poll data, we can say with a 95% confidence level – that means in 95 out of 100 elections – that the exit polls will fall within a statistically predictable margin of error. Charnin looked at 300 presidential state exit polls from 1988 to 2008, 15 state elections would be expected to fall outside the margin of error. Shockingly, 137 of the 300 state presidential exit polls fell outside the margin of error.

What is the probability of this happening?

"One in one million trillion trillion trlllion trillion trillion trillion," said Charnin.
In other words, there's no way in heaven, hell or earth that it happened as a result of ordinary voting patterns and ordinary exit polling in elections in the real world. Maybe a dozen of the "red-shift" elections could be explained that way... but 137 out of 300 [ADDED], 134 Republican and only 3 Democratic? Don't make me laugh.

(The rest of this post is taken largely from a comment I left on ellroon's site.)

Speaking as a computer professional, not as a partisan, I've read the relevant papers about voting software used in the past several elections on major vendors' machines, and it has so many holes in it that I could hack it (having no prior experience in hacking), and in some areas, even someone who is not a computer professional could hack it, by tweaking certain aspects of the setup for a particular election.

I have no doubt in my mind that two of the last three presidential elections have been stolen outright... and that the last one was not stolen only because the Democratic Party ran a Republican for president. (I know some heads will explode when I say that, but tell me it isn't true... Obama is an Eisenhower Republican, despite being the least flawed candidate offered by either major party this year.)

Some years back, John Dean wrote a book titled Conservatives Without Conscience. I read the book; it was long, repetitive, tedious... and exactly on point. What are we to do when confronted with a party full of people who have no problem facing themselves in the bathroom mirror after they steal an election the night before?

If America cares... and I'm not sure whether they do... they should hold not "tea parties" but "voting machine parties" ... send 'em all to the bottom of the bay, and force a return to some sort of indestructible paper or cardstock ballots, with a strict chain of custody from purchase to polls to counting centers. Otherwise, we're just play-acting at being a democracy... and we will have Republican rule, chosen by a minority of the vote, to the last days of our nation.

My Other Career Option

Via Atrios, we learn at philly.com Sports that "Roger Clemens [was] acquitted on all charges". The jury found that Clemens did not lie to Congress in either his deposition or his public testimony regarding his alleged performance-enhancing drug use. The jury neither was asked nor offered a verdict on Congress's asinine use of taxpayers' money in pursuit of a five-year investigation into Clemens's actions.

I am reminded of the time I went to my doctor and he offered me, for good and sufficient medical reasons, a series of injections of a medicine similar to those performance-enhancing drugs. "Now Steve," he intoned seriously, "you realize that this injection will disqualify you from participation in the Olympics."

He waited a mere two seconds for that to sink in, then resumed: "But it may qualify you for a career in Major League Baseball."

There's a reason I choose that doctor among the vast number of primary care providers available to a Houstonian.

Vagina! Vagina! Vagina!

No apologies... I just had to do it. A narrow-minded Republican made me.

Most of the public response to the brutal silencing of two Michigan state legislators, Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, and Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, women who committed the unpardonable sin [/snark] of mentioning their vaginas in floor speeches during a heated debate of an unconscionable anti-abortion bill, has displayed better grace and good humor than I would have managed under similar circumstances. E.g., Naomi McAuliffe of the Guardian:
Apparently, when discussing a medical procedure, it's not really appropriate to use medical words. Well not about lady bits anyway. It makes me wonder what euphemisms would be acceptable. "Will the representative get his hand out of the otter's pocket?" "Can the honourable gentleman refrain from trespassing in the lady cave?

Meanwhile, the formidable Eve Ensler joined Reps. Brown and Bynum and a crowd of about 2500 in a performance of Ensler's The Vagina Monologues on the steps of the Michigan capital. The entire event serves to point up the Michigan state House debate of perhaps the most draconian anti-abortion bill anywhere in the nation, proposed by the Republican men of the House, who seemed determined not even to let women representatives speak in their own behalf.

I could go on and on about the utter folly of Republicans' determination to go forward with such blatantly unconstitutional bills in an election year, perhaps appeasing their base of maybe 30 or 40 percent of the male population, while alienating the entire veritable army of women, probably slightly over 50 percent. But I won't do that. Instead, I'll just quote the title of a book by Michigan Rep. Maxine Berman, D-West Bloomfield...

The Only Boobs in the House are Men”.

Krugman's Wrap Of Greek Elections

Krugman's perspective sees "Greece as Victim". There is much substance in this short op‑ed, which takes the position that Greece's fundamental problems are not primarily internal and stem rather from attitudes in the economically powerful nations in the euro zone: major failures in the framing of the currency itself, failures not soluble by any amount of Greek austerity. Here's a sample:
...

On the other hand, many things you hear about Greece just aren’t true. The Greeks aren’t lazy — on the contrary, they work longer hours than almost anyone else in Europe, and much longer hours than the Germans in particular. Nor does Greece have a runaway welfare state, as conservatives like to claim; social expenditure as a percentage of G.D.P., the standard measure of the size of the welfare state, is substantially lower in Greece than in, say, Sweden or Germany, countries that have so far weathered the European crisis pretty well.

So how did Greece get into so much trouble? Blame the euro.

...
As so often happens here in America, the banksters in Europe are flinging poo like a great ape. Don't let it hit you! Use some judgment in how much credence you give to the self-interested emissions of northern European leaders.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Irony

Our public library, one of several dozen branches of Houston Public Library, this one about 1½ blocks from Our House, is a beautiful place. From outside, the Nike-swoosh-shaped roof is more graceful than a roof should be, and is nonetheless impervious in a climate in which it never snows. Inside, the library is light in a way few contained spaces are light: there are few pleasures exceeding that of sitting in a comfortable chair by an outside wall (they're all glass), direct or indirect sunlight streaming in (depending on which wall you choose and what time of day), reading... well, whatever pleases you. Ah, bliss!

Today Stella and I made a hasty trip, more a functional run than a pleasure outing, to that library, near closing time. While Stella collected the on-hold books she had reserved online, I returned one of the library's two books by Richard Dawkins (not including his signature popular work, The Selfish Gene... never fear, the library has dozens by Tim LaHaye) and browsed through the sale books. Those books were donated to the library but were in one way or another unsuited to inclusion in the collection... most were popular fiction, novels of which the library system doubtless has dozens of copies already.

One book attracted my attention by the fact that its title included "Darwin". I pulled it from the shelf, only to discover that its title was "Fighting Darwinism" with some equally ridiculous subtitle. Stella happened to be nearby, so I showed it to her and asked, "Is it worth $2 to me to have the privilege of destroying this book?" No, we agreed, $2 should be better spent. A middle-aged African-American lady with the shortest hair I've ever seen was browsing nearby, and said, "I noticed the book you were looking at; I think I'm going to buy it... it might be useful sometime." Realizing that I was being poked at in jest, I replied, "For a window prop?" Fortunately she was good-natured enough not to be offended. But she did indeed buy the book.

So I went to the library today and contributed to the ignorance of the community. At least I feel no need to apologize to any deity for what I did, and after all, the lady did get what she wanted...

Chart Of Greek Election Results

Thanks to Enfant, we have a pie chart, which she kindly translated into English. If I'm not mistaken, "Conserv." is New Democrats, "G.D." is Golden Dawn (radical rightist). The inner pie shows fractions of votes; the outer ring shows seats in the parliament. In the Greek parliament, the party with the most votes is awarded an additional 50 seats.
Due to serious illness in her family, Enfant may be absent from the threads for a while. We send her our best hopes and prayers in these difficult times.

He Was Either Responsible Or Irresponsible:
Nixon Was Worse Than We Ever Knew

Please read Phoenix Woman of FDL's "What Even Woodward and Bernstein Can't Say Out Loud: Nixon Wrecked the Paris Peace Talks" and Robert Parry of Consortium News's "The Dark Continuum of Watergate".

Even after four decades, the shit Nixon is revealed to have done still makes me angry. Someone in comments on the FDL post remarked that Ford's pardon of Nixon was the trigger of the entire "imperial presidency" phenomenon. I don't know if it's that simple, but I do know it makes me wish I believed in an actual Hell...

Hail, Yes!

Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground tells us about a hailstorm... a hell of a hailstorm:
Insured damage from a massive 3-hour hailstorm that pummeled Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, June 13, may reach $2 billion, said the Southwestern Insurance Information Service (SIIS) on Friday. If true, this would be the fourth billion-dollar U.S. weather disaster of 2012. A cluster of three severe thunderstorms dropped hail the size of baseballs over a heavily populated area, damaging thousands of cars, puncturing skylights at a local mall, and shattering the expensive tile roofs of hundreds of homes. It was the second major hailstorm to hit the region this year; an April 3 event cost close to $500 million, and damaged 110 airplanes at the DFW airport. ...
There's a photo with the post, of hail falling into White Rock Lake... and onto some rather pricey-looking boats. Individual hailstones are visible in the photo.

And the nut-jobs say there's nothing going on with the climate...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Greek Elections - Live Update - UPDATED

... in English, from The Guardian.


Be sure to click the
    This page will update automatically every minute: On
link on the Guardian page.

It's about 5:10PM in Athens as I write this. Polls close in two hours. This blog post will "float" to the top for a few hours while results are reported.

UPDATE: from the Guardian live blog, something under an hour ago (all times are London time; commentary is in blog order, newest on top):

8.26pm: Samaras has just made his speech.

... [Main points of speech presented here; please read at The Guardian.]

He summarised his speech in English:

His party would honour commitments to the EU.
It was a victory for all Europe.
A call for all political parties that share objectives to form government.
Sacrifices of Greek people will be reflected.
Determined to do what it takes and do it fast.

8.16pm: Not a smooth start. Samaras is poised to make his speech but is having problems with the microphone.

8.13pm: Amid a busy press scrum New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has arrived in Syntagma Square in Athens, ahead of a victory speech.

8.09pm: The parties in Greece it seems have accepted a win for New Democracy in Greece.

Alexis Tsipras from Syriza has reportedly called Antonis Samaras to offer his congratulations.

It seems that Syriza may be planning to mount a strong opposition rather than wait to see if New Democracy can form a coalition government. Even if it fails.

Now they have the pleasure [/snark] of forming a government; that's the nature of parliamentary democracy. It looks like Greece will be committed to austerity; I don't see how that can work, but I will await Enfant's commentary on the result.

AFTERTHOUGHT: here is one thing presumably all Greeks can be happy about:
Greece pulled off an unexpected win against Russia in the European Championships.
If you think sports obsession is a primarily American phenomenon... think again!

UPDATE: Krugman has an analysis that makes sense to me. "And then what?" indeed!

Americans: Do You Know What Your Government Is Flying In Secret? - UPDATED

Neither do I... but if the Guardian is right, apparently it looks something like this:

Supposedly Secret Unmanned X-37B Shuttle

The Guardian has such details as are available to me (it's ironic but unsurprising that my only source is a foreign news org). The one significant thing I noticed is that the budget for the craft is "[h]undreds of millions of dollars" but the actual total is secret. If you ever wondered how much of your tax dollar is going to off-the-books projects... keep on wondering. The craft has reportedly been on two missions so far, each lasting several months. If you're wondering what it did in those months... keep on wondering.

What am I bellyaching about? Simple: there's no budget to produce a working successor to the Space Shuttle, which had a combined scientific and military mission, but "hundreds of millions of dollars" have been spent on a secret military vehicle with more limited capabilities and no known civilian mission. Can you say "aerospace/defense industry boondoggle," children? I knew you could!

UPDATE: Bryan of Why Now? provides additional information in the comment thread that leads to a different assessment of the utility of these vehicles, which he says are not secret (though their cargoes may have been). I have to defer to his greater knowledge of aerospace matters. I still don't like finding out about it after the fact, from a news source overseas.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Unemployment In The Developed World: Business Insider Slideshow

Business Insider presents basic data on unemployment in 34 countries and two regions around the world. The slideshow contains pretty pictures, but the unemployment situation overall is not a pretty picture. Young people are particularly at risk of joblessness, and the numbers in Greece are painful to contemplate.

Most of this is preventable, but of course high unemployment benefits the obscenely wealthy, so action on the problem is liable to be slow. Pressure may or may not help. Still, wherever you are in the world, ask yourself this question: Have I hugged my child kicked my bankster today?

(H/T Enfant.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Greece: Elections, Currency, Threats From Lenders

The Parthenon, or
The Greek Economy
After Enforced Austerity
Of course I don't have information on all those things apart from what is in the news. According to Laurence Knight of BBC News, Greek elections are on Sunday; a growing number of Greeks are withdrawing their money from banks (in euros, I presume), "the radical left-wing upstarts of Syriza" (Knight's description, not mine) are poised to become the biggest party in the parliament (though not necessarily a majority), and Germany and other lenders are saying to Greece, again in Knight's words, "Vote Syriza and you are out." Ah, tradition! It's good to see Germany as committed to democracy as it has always been. [/snark] The fun never ends in euro-land...

AFTERTHOUGHT: this is my second post in a week containing a photo of a building with a lot of columns. (The other was the US Supreme Court building.) I suppose what my highly admired high school English teacher once told me is true: "Steve, you have an edifice complex." <grin_duck_run />

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Congratulations To Ron Barber

... former aide to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who won a special election yesterday to finish her unexpired term in the House. MSNBC.com's Michael O'Brien had this to say about the race:
The race evolved into a bruising battle between [Jesse] Kelly and Barber, fueled by hundreds of thousands of dollars of outside spending in the campaign. The district will be redrawn for this fall’s election, slightly in Democrats’ favor. But Giffords first won accolades for her political resiliency in a district that Republicans have won in the previous three presidential elections.

Democrats focused their resources on painting Kelly as an extremist who would seek radical changes to Medicare and Social Security even well beyond what most House Republicans had voted for in Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budgets the past two years.

Look quickly: this may be the last time the GOP fails to buy an open seat. The notion that a Democratic representative was nearly killed... murdered... to render the seat open, and that just maybe a Democrat should finish out her term, never entered their mind. Next time, you can be sure the GOPers will spend more money, run more and meaner attack ads, etc. Citizens United changed everything.

(H/T Mustang Bobby for the link.)

Walker's Wisconsin: Why? - UPDATED

Andy Kroll at MichaelMoore.com offers a long piece contemplating the course of the protest movement, its ultimate effective absorption and co-opting by the traditional Democratic Party, and its downfall in the recall election. This thought-provoking piece gave me much to think about. A couple of my conclusions:
  • Traditional establishment Democratic Party candidates do not provide adequate motivation to voters to swing the small undecided vote;
  • The Democratic Party, intent on playing elections by the methods they've used for years, are lamentably vulnerable to the overwhelming Republican money advantages brought about in part by Citizens United.
We are all still learning how politics can and cannot work in this brave new world (and I'm using the phrase in the sense of Aldous Huxley, not William Shakespeare). I hope our lefty learning curve improves quickly.

UPDATE: David Dayen of FDL offers an insightful post-mortem. Good comments, too.

UPDATE: Rick Perlstein at Rolling Stone talks about How How Republicans Cheat Democrats - and Democrats Cheat Themselves. Right on target!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Shorts - UPDATED


In Houston, it's certainly the weather for shorts... hot as hell in the daytime, but almost no rain encouraging mosquito breeding... oh, wait, that's a different kind of shorts. Here are a few short items that have caught my attention recently:
  • Michigan's War on Women Hits Dangerous New Low - ACLU
    It seems that Michigan politicians are hell-bent on making the cliché “when the country catches a cold, Michigan gets pneumonia” a reality.

    For proof, look no further than the more than 50 pages that make up a three-bill package: HB 5711, HB 5712, HB 5713. This legislative behemoth is on a fast track in our State House of Representatives, and will make safe abortion services virtually inaccessible to Michigan women.
  • Stewart Lansley, guesting for OECD Insights, offers the first of three posts arguing that, contrary to conventional wisdom, economic inequality inhibits rather than promotes growth.
    It always seemed obvious to me, but it is good to have someone formalize this notion. I'll try to link parts 2 and 3 when they're published. (Via Mark Thoma of Economist's View.)
  • Activists: In The Fight Against AIDS, Obama Doesn’t Measure Up To Bush - John Donnelly, GlobalPost.com via TPM:
    ... In the middle of this tightrope, the end of AIDS appears closer than ever because of new scientific discoveries that could dramatically reduce new HIV infections all over the world. But at the moment, there’s new danger of falling because political leaders in the United States as well as the developing world may have lost their sure-footedness for the way ahead, no longer talking about AIDS as a pressing matter of life and death and putting crucial funding in jeopardy.
  • UPDATE: Via Bryan, Weather Underground guru Dr. Jeff Masters informs us about "Spring 2012: most extreme season in U.S. history". No kidding!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Remember Habeas Corpus? Remember Boumediene vs. Bush?



Apparently, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals doesn't remember either of those things, and even the Supreme Court's memories are... selective. Here's Ryan Cooper at Washington Monthly:
Back in 2006, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, which abolished habeas corpus rights for noncitizens, among other things. This part of the law was overturned in 2008 by the Supreme Court in Boumedi[e]ne vs. Bush as unconstitutional.

Today, it looks like the Supreme Court gave up on that line of reasoning. Marcy Wheeler reports:
SCOTUS has just declined to take all seven of the pending Gitmo habeas corpus petitions, including Latif and Uthman.

This effectively kills habeas corpus.
The problem here, as Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer puts it, is that the “conservative judges on the D.C. Circuit have interpreted the law in a way that assumes many of the government’s claims are true and don’t have to be proven in court.” Or as the Center for Constitutional Rights puts it:
Today’s decision leaves the fate of detainees in the hands of a hostile D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has erected innumerable, unjustified legal obstacles that have made it practically impossible for a detainee to win a habeas case in the trial courts. The D.C. Circuit, the country’s most conservative court of appeals, has reversed every detainee victory appealed to it by the government, and as consequence, district courts in D.C. have ruled in favor of detainees in only one of the last 12 cases before them.
(Ryan Cooper offers examples after that.)

This is really bad news. The right of habeas corpus predates the founding of America by several hundred years, and denying habeas is one way to remove a major burden of proof from the government that there is a reason the accused should be detained. It is only a slight stretch to say that detainees denied habeas start out already halfway to "guilty". The Supreme Court has indeed ruled on this matter in Boumediene, but it appears the federal courts, including the Supremes, are going to wink and look the other way at violations against alleged terrorists.

No matter how badly you want a conviction of an actual terrorist, if you accept the tweaking of the most ancient aspects of our system of justice, those tweaks will bite you in the butt someday. Either everyone, citizen and noncitizen, receives due process, or no one, citizen or noncitizen, truly enjoys due process rights. "Splitting the difference" just because it's a terrorism case is, quite simply, un-American.

The most regrettable aspect is that so many Americans... Democrats included; mark my words... are perfectly content to allow this kind of rigging of trials to make sure every alleged terrorist is convicted. I know such a person, a friend of Stella's, a Democrat, a baby-boomer, Jewish; i.e., someone who remembers what happened to Jews in the Holocaust... and she is still just fine with this kind of tampering with justice in terrorism cases.

I predict that all significant due-process rights will be effectively dead no later than the 2016 presidential elections... no matter who is elected President this November. We're screwed.

Spitzer Infrared Telescope Captures Images Of Very Old, Distant Objects

On bad days, I awaken with the feeling that I am the Universe's oldest object. Apparently that's not so, according to a post by TPM's Carl Franzen, who shows and links some dramatic NASA photos of some very, very old objects.

The Big Bang occurred very close to 13.7 billion years ago (that figure looks more reliable all the time), and the images captured by the Spitzer seem to be of objects at the right distance to be our Universe's oldest... stars? galaxies? Exactly what they are remains to be determined; infrared has its limitations, and the obstacles are formidable. Roughly speaking, an object's distance is a measure of its age in an expanding universe, and these objects are about 13 billion light years away. The filtering required to extract the signal from the noise of nearer, brighter objects must have been a computational tour de force.

Please note that there is increasing evidence of multiple universes that either do not interact or interact only very weakly with our own, and also of other universes nearly identical to our own in which some of the processes of quantum mechanics work themselves out. We will presumably never observe the former... things? places? I am at a loss for words... directly with any sort of telescope, and we may well interact with the latter, our quantum-mechanical doppelgangers, moment to moment. It may or may not make sense to talk about how far away those are. Good popular authors on that subject include David Deutsch, John Gribbin and (on different but related subjects) Lisa Randall, to pick just a few of literally hundreds out there. And believe me, they are "out there"!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Obama Faithful: Watch Your Words

I rarely lift someone's post or comment intact, but this comment by micki at FDL recounts an incident that is so perfectly on target about the problem I have with the Obama faithful that I cannot resist reposting most of it:
I don’t usually try to buttonhole strangers in parking lots, but I just returned from the market where I saw a vehicle with the bumper sticker:

For Obama then…
For Obama now

The driver was about to get into his car. I said to him (very politely), “Excuse me, I noticed your bumper sticker. I was wondering if you can tell me how you square the Obama of “then” to the Obama of “now” given what he’s done while in the Oval Office.”

The guy looked at me and said, “F**k you.”

...

Perhaps that response has some appeal to one of the Obama faithful. But you know what? It repulses the Obama apostate like me, and makes me even less likely to return to the fold. I voted for Obama in 2008 because he inspired some hope in me. That hope was largely misplaced. If I vote for Obama this year, it will be not out of hope but out of fear of the havoc Mitt Rmoney would wreak as president, and a highly questionable assumption that Obama would wreak any less. Being told "fuck you" by an Obama acolyte is unlikely to enhance my hope that Obama will change anything. Sincere Obama supporters, please take note... because you can't do it without me and a lot of people like me.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Obama And 'The Church Of St. Drone'

Tom Engelhardt explains:
Be assured of one thing: whichever candidate you choose at the polls in November, you aren’t just electing a president of the United States; you are also electing an assassin-in-chief. The last two presidents may not have been emperors or kings, but they -- and the vast national-security structure that continues to be built-up and institutionalized around the presidential self -- are certainly one of the nightmares the founding fathers of this country warned us against. They are one of the reasons those founders put significant war powers in the hands of Congress, which they knew would be a slow, recalcitrant, deliberative body.

Thanks to a long New York Times piece by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” we now know that the president has spent startling amounts of time overseeing the “nomination” of terrorist suspects for assassination via the remotely piloted drone program he inherited from President George W. Bush and which he has expanded exponentially. Moreover, that article was based largely on interviews with “three dozen of his current and former advisers.” In other words, it was essentially an administration-inspired piece -- columnist Robert Scheer calls it “planted” -- on a “secret” program the president and those closest to him are quite proud of and want to brag about in an election year.

...
(More links available in original.)

Obama seems determined to make it as difficult as possible for me to vote for him. Each new revelation about his supposed counterterrorism efforts involves still more human rights violations. I am down to advocating, for the first time in many presidential elections, voting for the lesser of two evils. But this kind of behavior is still undeniably evil, and I hate supporting it even with one vote, even considering the truly horrifying alternative in Mitt Rmoney.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Racing Neutrinos - Since I Started This...

... I may as well finish it. From ScienceDaily news:
ScienceDaily (June 8, 2012) — At the 25th International Conference on Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics in Kyoto today (June 8, 2012), CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci presented results on the time of flight of neutrinos from CERN to the INFN Gran Sasso Laboratory on behalf of four experiments situated at Gran Sasso. The four, Borexino, ICARUS, LVD and OPERA all measure a neutrino time of flight consistent with the speed of light.

This is at odds with a measurement that the OPERA collaboration put up for scrutiny last September, indicating that the original OPERA measurement can be attributed to a faulty element of the experiment’s fibre optic timing system.

“Although this result isn’t as exciting as some would have liked,” said Bertolucci, “it is what we all expected deep down." ...

...

Yes, it damned surely is. As is so often the case, and contrary to a popular misconception, a well-established theory usually trumps an anomalous new experimental result, not the other way around, upon thorough examination. In other words... you won't get very far by betting against Mr. Einstein!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

'Hey, Venus! Oh, Venus!'

It's naught to do with Frankie Avalon, but Venus passed between the Earth and the Sun two days ago, resulting in this time-lapse image:



This will not happen again for 105 (Earth) years, and TPM points us to a NASA composite video of the transit. Please have exact change, ticket or passkey ready upon entry. Oh, wait, different transit...

Race For Judgeship Reads Like A Jay Leno Wedding Announcement

Ryan J. Reilly of TPM:
...

Gary Kreep, the star of commercials questioning President Barack Obama’s birthplace and who has argued lawsuits challenging his eligibility for office, just might be California District 34’s new judge.

Kreep, who heads the California-based United States Justice Foundation, is currently beating Garland Peed, who has been a prosecutor in the San Diego County District for 27 years. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Kreep has 147,739 votes, or 50.01 percent, while Peed has 147,683 votes, or 49.99 percent. There are still about 135,000 absentee and provisional votes left to be counted in San Diego County.

...
That's right... it's the Kreep‑Peed race for California District 34 judge. And what I've seen of politics in the past few days has left me Kreep‑Peed out!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Greece And The Euro

Ellen Brown of truthout, referencing Paul Simon's clever song "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," examines five of those "50 ways" by which Greece could remedy its dysfunctional relationship with the Euro and the ECB. In brief, the five courses of action Brown examines are these, taken from her subheadings:
  • The Open Marriage: Return to the Drachma Without Abandoning the Euro
  • Keep Separate Bank Accounts: Fire Up the Printing Presses at the Greek Central Bank
  • Divorce: Turn and Walk Away
  • Spousal Support: The Public Bank Option
  • The Dowry: Impose a Financial Transaction Tax
Brown concludes with a quote from Mike Whitney, and a delightful reference to the Simon song she started with:
The problems of Greece and the euro zone stem from an arbitrary set of rules that were entered into by agreement and can be changed by agreement. Where there is a will, there is a way. The problem is finding the will, particularly among the Eurocrat leaders holding the reins of power, who may not be looking for an amicable workout. In a June 3 article titled "Europe Moves Closer to Banktatorship," Mike Whitney maintained:
These people are not interested in fixing the EZ economy. They are engaged in a stealth campaign to radically restructure EU society, to unravel the welfare safety net, to roll back the progressive gains of the last century, and to reduce much of the continent to 3rd world poverty. A banking union will further solidify the power of big finance over the individual states, and that is the main objective.
... Greece is a vivacious woman chained to a tyrannical old man. She can dance again if she can be free.
I am far from qualified to evaluate the merits of the possibilities, but the article was thought-provoking, and it reminded me of the one course of action that is simply not an option: do nothing.

Spanish Follies: Greatness Appreciates Greatness

"[W]e listen to a lot of early music in our household," writes Paul Krugman, in a tribute to the world-class musician from the Nobel-winning economist. We do at Our House, too. Follow the link to Krugman's post containing a YouTube of the great Jordi Savall (wiki), arguably the greatest living master of the viola da gamba, now in his mature years, and improved like a fine wine since the days in the late Eighties when I attended a workshop by him. (I haven't followed up, but recalling the appearance of Jordi's wife, soprano Montserrat Figueras, lamentably deceased in 2011, I would guess that the strikingly beautiful child at the harp is his daughter, or perhaps granddaughter.)

Europe: The Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Paul Krugman quotes Martin Wolf (note: FT requires a free trial subscription, but you don't need it; the quote Krugman includes is sufficient for the point here):
Before now, I had never really understood how the 1930s could happen. Now I do. All one needs are fragile economies, a rigid monetary regime, intense debate over what must be done, widespread belief that suffering is good, myopic politicians, an inability to co-operate and failure to stay ahead of events.
Krugman then notes that the ECB has declined to take any action that might help matters, such as cutting interest rates; the result is an undesirable decrease in inflation. Krugman's conclusion:
I don’t think there’s any conceivable economic logic for the ECB’s decision. It can only, I think, be understood as some kind of refusal to admit, even implicitly, that past decisions were wrong.

Like Martin Wolf, I’m starting to see how the 1930s happened.

Will Walker Face Fate Worse Than Recall?

upyernoz points to a post on Cognitive Dissidence reminding us that Scott Walker's troubles may not end with his survival of the recall. Here's Capper, quoting a post by David Shuster of Take Action News back on June 2:
According to government lawyers familiar with a Milwaukee criminal corruption probe, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is now a "target" of the investigation.

The legal sources, who are not involved in Wisconsin's recall, spoke on condition of anonymity. They said Walker faces "serious legal challenges," including "a possible indictment," regardless of the election results on Tuesday.

The sources indicate Walker's status was clarified more than a week ago, allegedly following a series of requests by Walker's legal team that prosecutors publicly clear him of any wrong doing before the recall election. Take Action News reached out to Governor Walker's spokesperson for comment on this story and received no response.
I wonder about Wisconsin law: can Walker govern from prison?

UPDATE: Here's more info from the same post by Capper:
Walker, even as recently as Saturday, has denied that he is the target of any investigation and that his "high level of integrity" will be apparent when he is cleared. But that's not quite true. In fact, it's a pretty galling lie.

There is a code that US Attorneys follow that requires them to provide a letter to a person stating that they are not the target of their investigation. And word is, like they're supposed to, Walker's attorneys have been asking for such a letter for weeks. And if Walker had such a letter, he would be free to produce it and remove any doubt about his innocence once and for all.

But Walker has produced no such letter, basically because none exists.

Likewise, if Walker had done nothing wrong, he would not be required to withhold any of the 1,400+ emails that were found on the secret router. He could easily release those emails and clear his good name. But he consistently refuses to, saying that he can't, per the DA. We already know the only way he couldn't is if he had to appear before Judge Nettesheim and testified about his emails.
It certainly sounds as if something is going on...

AFTERTHOUGHT: of course, the Walker backers (hmm... "you dirty Walkerbackers!") could always buy a judge or two...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Walker Wins

... by a large majority.

I will not cast aspersions on the people of Wisconsin for choosing the governor they want. But I will say that Scott Walker loves his mother more literally than anyone I know.

Tom Tomorrow: 'How A Secret Memo Justifies A Kill List'

... or "Schoolhouse Rock, the Sequel." 'Nuff said... view it and weep.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Seamus's Story

Of all the Romney stories told and to be told, the one that struck me most deeply was the one of the Romney family Irish Setter, Seamus, who was strapped in his carrier on the roof of the family station wagon on their 1983 vacation trip from Massachusetts to Beach O' Pines, Ontario. According to the wiki, some concluded that Seamus suffered excessive air pressure on his head, and the president of PETA (never an organization to shy away from making a strong statement), called it animal cruelty and torture.

In any case, back in the day, before my career as a blogger, when I was writing mainly for friends' amusement, I was able to obtain an interview with Seamus. Without further ado...


Interview with Seamus,
The Romneys' Dog, 1983

The Romneys are packed for their yearly vacation,
Their wagon is bound for a neighboring nation,
Stuffed full. What of Seamus? Now what is his station?

    ROOF! - ROOF! - ROOF!

So Seamus, you rode on the roof of the wagon?
At eighty per hour, the wind had you gaggin'?
So what did it feel like... they're shaggin', you're draggin'?

    ROUGH! - ROUGH! - ROUGH!

To ride on the roof while your daddy and mummy
Sit cozy inside... why, how thoroughly bummy!
Say, Seamus, that surely was hard on the tummy?

    RALPH! - RALPH! - RALPH!

Vacation the next year; last summer's behind him,
And where is old Seamus... you think Mitt can find him?
Oh... what's with the rope, Seamus? where will you bind him?

    ROOF! - ROOF! - ROOF!

- Steve Bates

Seamus is no longer in the land of the living. But Mittens lives on. Life isn't fair, is it?

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes



Current and Recent Reading and Viewing

• King, Laurie R., Mary Russell series.
—. The Beekeeper's Apprentice.
—. A Monstrous Regiment of Women.
—. A Letter of Mary.
—. The Moor. ...
If you are unfamiliar with Ms. King's Mary Russell series of Holmes novels, please do yourself a favor and begin with the first, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, and just keep going. If you have female children of the right age, you may want to introduce them to these books; Ms. Russell is a splendid role model for someone who would become a strong, intellectual, adventurous woman. King's prose is beautiful, too. Highly recommended!
• Rennison, Nick. Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorized Biography.
Rennison weaves the scant information Conan Doyle provides on Holmes's background into the fabric of the stellar lights of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with such convincing detail that one could almost believe Holmes was an actual historical figure. If you like reading British biographers (face it; Americans write biography wholly differently) and you have a passion for Sherlock Holmes, you will very likely enjoy this book. As in eating a Dagwood sandwich, it helps to take it in small bites at a time.
• PBS Masterpiece - BBC. Sherlock, Season 3. Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman.
Sunday 1/19/2014, Premiere, "The Empty Hearse".
Sunday 1/26: "The Sign of Three".
Sunday 2/2, "His Last Vow".
Need I even comment on this?

I imagine people, especially Sherlockians, will either love this series or hate it. I am inclined to take each episode at face value, as a sort of parody of the traditional Conan Doyle Holmes story model, having (in my opinion) very little obligation to conform to that model as long as it does not deliberately poop on the basic conventions Doyle established. The setting is either present day or near future (some of the technology, and the reference to hardware Holmes apparently has installed in contact with his brain, lead me to call it the future), and many of the human elements are right out of Doyle: Holmes, who has just returned from his "dead" period, is an absolute a(bleep!)hole to Watson; Mrs. Hudson starts out talking to Watson, who announces he is recently engaged, as if he is surely gay; Watson is played (to type) as not the brightest bulb on the string, etc. My advice: do watch, but just sit back and enjoy the fireworks, the effects, and the unsubtle humor. I've read that women find Cumberbatch very good-looking; perhaps some men will as well.
• Douglas, Carole Nelson. Irene Adler series.
—. Good Night, Mr. Holmes.
—. The Adventuress (formerly Good Morning Irene)
—. A Soul of Steel (formerly Irene at Large)
—. Another Scandal in Bohemia (formerly Irene's Last Waltz) ...
Here's Dr. Watson (i.e., Conan Doyle) on Irene Adler:
To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler... yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.
Carole Nelson Douglas, perceiving the memory of Adler as anything but "questionable," frames a series of mystery novels in which Adler is the detective, accompanied by her own Watson, Penelope "Nell" Huxleigh, Adler's husband Godfrey Norton is the strong male lead, and Holmes appears only incidentally. Adler is granted an astonishing but undeniably plausible variety of skills to ply in her role, and her background as an American opera diva contributes to the stories in an entertaining way. Douglas has done us a real favor in fleshing out this character, who is only once mentioned in the Canon but deserves and receives a much deeper treatment in Douglas's books.
• Millett, Larry. Sherlock Holmes in Minnesota series.
—. Sherlock Holmes and the Red Demon
—. Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders
—. Sherlock Holmes and the Rune Stone Mystery
—. Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Alliance
—. The Disappearance of Sherlock Holmes
Millett writes a flavor of Holmes novels that I call either "American Sherlockiana" or "Sherlockian Americana," take your choice. Either way, the series comprises novels in which Holmes and Dr. Watson have an adventure involving America, which nation to all appearances Conan Doyle himself admired. Millett sets his stories in Twin Cities in Minnesota, adds his own detective, Shadwell Rafferty, a barkeep with an analytical mind, and lets loose with a series of five adventures well worth your time. I read these years ago, but they have been recently re-released; see Millett's web site at the link above.


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