Sunday, March 31, 2013

Drones: Coming To A Police Department Near You

"AR Drone: almost certainly the world's
first Wi-Fi enabled iPhone-controllable
miniature flying device"
(H/T Glenn Greenwald)
Domestic law enforcement use of drones, probably smaller, more agile drones than the ones that fling Hellfire missiles in foreign countries (Pakistan etc.), is not only planned, but is being implemented domestically and being marketed to American police departments. These small drones are weaponized with Tasers or a beanbag gun... "nonlethal" weapons. This is not something that may happen, or will happen in the future: this is something being implemented and marketed right now. Glenn Greenwald provides such details as are known.

Many of your rights as an American citizen, as listed in the Bill of Rights, are for practical purposes at an end. Gratuitous warrantless surveillance is now a technologically realistic possibility; who's to stop your government from watching you?

As I think about the history of various new weapons, I can't help wondering if these technologies have some inherent vulnerabilities to simple, inexpensive countermeasures that will reduce their usefulness to police departments or at least make them very expensive to operate. Pebbles from pocket sling-shots or pea-shooters come to mind. Legal prohibitions against such countermeasures seem to me less than clearly sustainable in the face of people's Fourth Amendment right to be "secure in their persons... against unreasonable searches...", but IANAL. I don't know how much such defenses would be reality and how much fantasy, but it seems to me worth contemplating the possibilities: what are your privacy rights worth to you?

Boehner (Deliberately?) Misinterprets Lincoln

Paul Krugman points out that when John Boehner uses the example of Abraham Lincoln to rail against the deficit, he (Boehner) omits a part of a quote, the part in which Lincoln called for balancing the budget by raising taxes. Right... the greatest Republican ever, the one Republican no Republican today would ever outright contradict because he is sainted much as Ronald Reagan is canonized, advocated raising taxes to fix a severe postwar budget imbalance. Here's Krugman:
Then there’s Greg [Sargent]’s catch: Boehner truncated the quote, leaving out the part where Lincoln called for balancing the budget by raising taxes. And also the point that Lincoln was actually a big government interventionist for his time, a strong advocate of what we would now call industrial policy.
It gets worse; please read Krugman's original post. The simplest version is that Lincoln remedied the post-Civil-War currency problems by debasing the dollar with respect to gold. That's right: Lincoln "let[] the dollar fall to a third of its gold parity." And what were the terrible consequences of this mortal sin of conservatism? Krugman again:
... nothing terrible happened despite 15 years off the gold standard, and despite this fact all the Very Serious People continued to believe that going off the gold standard was a terrible, terrible thing.
And Boehner simply ignored what Lincoln really said and did, and what really happened afterward, because it was at odds with current GOP economic ideology.

The short version: Abe was honest. John is not. Quelle surprise.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Proposed Medicare Changes: Getting Some Seniors' Skin In The Game Grave

Digby at Hullabaloo explains the underlying arguments for three or four different ways that Medicare costs can be shifted onto seniors themselves. The proposal seems to have emerged from Sen. Bob Corker (R‑Tenn., and you thought Bill Frist was bad) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R‑Va., now there's a man to make your skin crawl), and is based on the notion that Medicare recipients premeditatedly consume more medical care than is really necessary because they are insulated from the costs by Medicare.

Holy (bleep)! Only a Republican... nah. Obama seems to believe that, too: Force seniors to have some "skin in the game" and they'll use less medical care.
Taxpayers' worst enemy? Really?
Republicans... and of course Obama and some Democrats... want to make seniors pay more of their medical care costs.

Right. Seniors will have more skin in the game; they'll also die sooner, unless they are independently wealthy. Remind me... what demographic does the Republican Party represent? And what party is Obama a member of? Really? Are you sure?

But it's all OK because it wouldn't kick in until 2016... by which time Obama is (presumably) leaving office and newly minted seniors won't know what hit them.

Read Digby's entire post; it examines several aspects of the bipartisan "kill Medicare" movement in detail, and reminds me why I am no longer a money-giving, card-carrying member of the Democratic Party. Would Rmoney have been worse on this issue than Obama is turning out to be? Maybe, but not by much. Digby's conclusion:
Basically, if this is part of some big budget deal (Grand Bargain) it means they're making Medicare recipients pay down the deficit. They don't anticipate any blowback from the Democrats since it's a Democratic president who's proposing it and they figure that since it will go into affect in 2016, after the president is out of office, the dumbshits who enter Medicare after that won't know the difference and he won't get blamed. It's all good.
Seniors are old and decrepit; I speak from personal experience. There's no way seniors could go on a rampage nationwide, starting riots in every major city, holding members of Congress hostage until they cease this utter bullshit and treat the cohort that paid most of the nation's bills over the past 40 years or so like they were human beings. Oh, no, they could never do that... [/snark]

Shake A Leg! Or... When Life Hands You Lemons...

Fascinating, as Spock will someday say. This was a first-ever experience for me.

MetroLift hires large cabs for short-distance local runs. They're sort of like a bus with only five seats, and I presume they're more fuel-efficient than the small buses used on larger or more distant runs, so it makes sense to subsidize a willing cabbie to carry five people to several nearby destinations.

The one that arrived at TIRR Kirby Glen to pick me up (late, of course) was jam-packed with people. One seat, middle row right, remained vacant, so I began hefting myself into it. Unfortunately, front seat right was occupied by an absolutely imMENSE person. I could not get in; there was no room for my legs. I asked the immense person (I couldn't tell their sex from my viewpoint) to move his/her seat forward; s/he accommodated politely without complaint. I still couldn't get in. The driver checked whether my seat could be moved back; the answer: no.

I looked at the driver and the other passengers, decided they'd seen it all, and muttered, "I have an idea." I pushed the button that releases the pin on my prosthesis, reached down and... yes... took off my leg. I set the prosthesis between my knees, put on my seatbelt, and away we went. No one uttered a sound. Obviously those people had in fact seen it all already.

The moral of the story is this: if you're desperate to climb aboard a packed public conveyance, have an amputation. There might just be room for you if you board the vehicle a piece at a time.


When life hands you lemons, make lemonade... in your hollow leg!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

There's Always A 'Good' Reason For A Bad Policy

We make you wait.™
My days (and to a lesser extent my nights) revolve around METROLift now. I'm always scheduling tomorrow's trips (always tomorrow's; that's the only choice because that's as far ahead as they let you schedule), waiting for a lift (they claim they aim for 90% on-time service; in my experience it's more like 90% late) or checking the increasing lateness of the trip I'm waiting for using their telephone service (lots of fun, as I dial endless digits on the microscopic buttons on my old cell phone to operate their MACS system to find out how much later they will be than they advertised when I first scheduled a trip). METROLift absorbs my life.

Bag it and go?
NO! Hell no!
Today I shall make my first attempt to go to my Post Office box. It isn't far, but it wasn't on the MACS web site's dropdown list, so I had to phone a human at Metro, always a chancy business. I managed to add the PO's location to the list just fine, then asked if there was a provision (as I had been told by one of the drivers) for an errand that was just a five-minute dash: go to the PO, dash in, dump mail from the box into my sack, dash out and get back on the lift. NO, said the very young man on the phone... the minimum time between trips is 45 minutes, and would you like to schedule your return trip?

This will not be easy. This Post Office (like most of them, come to think of it) has no seats in the lobby. So I shall stand with my walker for a minimum of 45 minutes... probably a half hour beyond that, considering METROLift's record of lateness. I don't mean to complain, but that is flat-out unreasonable to expect of a disabled person. I said as much to the very young man on the phone; he launched into a rambling explanation of why it had to be that way... all bullshit, of course. So I shall spend much of the rest of the day nursing my sore foot and stump, all to satisfy a bureaucratic mandate. Welcome to 21st-century America; enjoy your (far too long) stay!

UPDATE: ah, what an optimist I am. The ride home, scheduled for 45 minutes after my (theoretical) arrival time, was actually 1:30 afterward. Yes, an hour and a half. I did not have to stand up that entire time: the cookie shop next door to the PO allowed me to sit at one of their outdoor tables unmolested, and didn't even pressure me to buy a cookie. There are still some decent people in the world.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why Not Just Give Justice Kennedy A Swastika, Have Him Grow A Thin Mustache, And Be Done With It?

TPM's Sahil Kapur, on the first of the gay marriage cases, the issue of standing, discussed by the Supreme Court yesterday:
The case appeared to break down along ideological lines, with four justices in each camp and Justice Anthony Kennedy once again emerging as the likely swing vote.
Many of us believe that in a democracy, final decisions on significant social issues should not be relegated to the exercise of power by one man or woman. It's too much like dictatorship. But that is happening regularly in America in this decade. Sometimes that one man is the president; sometimes it is Justice Kennedy... but in no case is the Constitution, or even a majority in Congress, let alone the voice of the people, who have advanced quickly to majority support of gay marriage, given any weight.

I understand that the Court is supposed to be a balancing branch, a counterweight to current popular sentiment. But must it be so to the detriment of fundamental human rights such as the right to marry? Who will save our rights from the depredations of the political center?

And today the Court hears DOMA...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Even A Liberal Can Detest Bureaucracy

METROLift fucked up trying to take a picture of me two weeks ago downtown for my ID card ("Q Card"), and were unable to detect that fact on screen immediately after they took the picture. (Or so they claim. They wouldn't show me the display when I asked at the time. Personally, I suspect they failed to save or subsequently deleted the photo. They vehemently denied that allegation, claiming faulty equipment that day.)

I could scan and email them my driver's license so that 1) they would have a picture of me, and 2) they could see the identifying information on the license, all without my wasting most of a day traveling downtown. But noooo... I have to come in. I have to waste a day... they do not do any business by email. How nice for them.


Star Dreck: Your Tax Dollars At 'Work'

Yes, the IRS really did make this Star Trek parody video, at your expense, of course. IMHO, it's pretty weak tea... Earl Grey... hot.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bad Headline. Bad, Baaad Headline!

Today's headline failure is at Politicus USA:
In a New Low The NRA is Schilling for War Criminals and Terrorists
I didn't know the NRA had a branch in Austria. What's it worth now in €?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday Signs

I may have posted this one before, years ago...

Amen to that!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Headline Gaffe Of The Morning

Gingrich, Newt Couldn’t Agree On Who Would Be Prez On ‘Unity Ticket’
Well, I've always thought Newt was a bit schizophrenic...

UPDATE: another mangled headline, this one from the Reno Gazette Journal:
Las Vegas Mom accused of tying daughter to bed to face judge
I hope she checked with the judge first!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

MetroLift Afterthoughts

Well, that was an exhausting challenge. METROLift is exTREMEly challenging to use, but it's probably worth it to me to persevere. Here are the vexations:

  • You can use the web site to schedule trips only from 5:00am to 5:00pm (though the trips themselves can be earlier or later). In practical terms, for most people including me, this means getting up at dawn's crack, before this morning's ride, to schedule all of tomorrow's rides, because by the time most people get off work, the site is closed... you can view scheduled trips, but you can't schedule any new trips. Scheduling trips by phone has a time window even more restrictive.
  • You are required to confirm your trip on the morning of the trip. You can do this by phoning or by visiting the scheduling web site. The phone line is overwhelmed at the busiest times of the morning; I was placed on hold for over 15 minutes on three attempts... twice on my cell phone as I was stranded outside waiting for the lift, i.e., with no web access available. I don't often wish for a smartphone, but this was one of those times.
  • When you do get through, you find that the expected time of arrival at your location changes from minute to minute, always to a later time, as drivers take on passengers many of whom don't walk or roll very well. This morning, by the time my van arrived, it was almost an hour late of its originally scheduled time. (METROLift even tells you to lie to its system and schedule all your rides early, well before you actually need to be underway to get there on time.) I reached my morning destination right on time, barely. The afternoon van was a tiny bit more punctual; it was only about a half hour late. Even so, Stella, meeting me after my event, departing from a nearby bus stop, got home before I did.
  • I still don't have my METROLift ID card, probably thanks to USPS... I know my ID number and associated password; those, plus a ticket and a photo ID (my otherwise seldom-used driver's license) will get you on board.

And I get to do it all over again tomorrow. You don't dare casually wander out to the curb 20-30 minutes later than your scheduled time, because not only might you get left standing at the curb, but Metro penalizes you for frequent "no-rides" by removing your riding privileges. They're doing the best they can, I'm doing the best I can, and the results are... well, exasperating is a kind word for them. By the time I got home at around 2:00pm, I was utterly exhausted. I had planned to tell you about the custom wheelchair I may be getting, but I just don't have the energy at the moment.

I think I'd better get some rest now. It's going to be an early morning tomorrow...

Disability Miscellany

Two items: this is my first day to ride METROLift for real, and this is the day the TIRR wheelchair clinic measures me for a custom wheelchair. Stella and I both sincerely hope this one is lighter weight; neither of us can lift my current rental job into the trunk of a car.

Off to the "races" ...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Unfond Farewell: Dying Iraq War Vet's Letter To Bush, Cheney

Tomas Young is dying, in hospice care now after his condition has worsened to the point that he apparently feels treatment would be futile. But he has no intention of departing this world quietly while George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, whom he holds responsible for his paralysis by a bullet to the spine five days after his arrival in Iraq, still get off scot-free for what he sees as their crimes perpetrated against him, several thousand American vets, and an uncounted number of Iraqi civilians somewhere between a couple hundred thousand and a million or more, depending on whom you ask.

His dying words are all over the Web. I ran across them via DSWright on FDL.

I cannot express my feelings better than by pointing you to Dylan Thomas's most powerful poem, Do not go gentle into that good night. Mr. Young, to his last breath, is living the essence: "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

So many humans needlessly killed, maimed, placed in a condition no sentient soul should ever suffer... all for the selfish motives of men like Bush and Cheney. This is emphatically not why America has a military: Bush and Cheney should be tried for war crimes for their uncaring, needless abuse of so many people.

Another Way Obama Disappoints Progressives

There seem to be so many ways, but this is a biggie. Via Avedon, we learn this from Digby:
Demicans and Republocrats
break bread together:
no apparent shortage here
Just FYI, Gene Sperling said today [3/14] on his Reddit chat that the president really prefers the Chained-CPI and that it's not just an inducement to get the Republicans on board with the Grand Bargain. This may sound obvious, since it's been clear from before the inauguration that the administration wants to "reform" the so-called entitlements. But Sperling made it clear today that they believe in this on the merits:
[Gene Sperling's details]
[Digby] ...

You know, I have never understood the logic that says changing to this new cost of living formula more accurately reflects the real cost of living, but don't worry we will fix the part where it hurts the poor, veterans and really old people. The "real" cost of living should be the real cost of living, no? If it isn't a cut, why would these people be hurt?

The fact is that Social Security is already inadequate for millions and millions of people, and not just the poorest of the poor and veterans. And the losses of the past decade have taken their toll on many more millions who are about to go into the system. For reasons that I cannot completely understand, they want to make it worse. There's just no other way to think about this.

It's an ugly business. Obama is no Democrat in any form I recognize, and neither is much of anyone else with a 'D' after his or her name these days. There is no progressive party anymore; we are utterly unrepresented. There are several reasons for preferring even a nominal 'D' in the White House (women's rights, for one) but when it comes to social justice and environmental sanity, Obama is no damned better than the Republicans he gives away the store to.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Texas Lege Attempts Back-Door Abortion Ban

Planned Parenthood is spreading the word. This reached me by email:
Texas politicians have introduced a “Back Door Abortion Ban” (Senate Bill 537), a bill that would virtually ban abortion statewide. This type of bill, termed TRAP (“targeted regulation of abortion providers”), places medically unnecessary and onerous requirements on health care centers, while doing nothing to improve the health or safety of women. TRAP is a back door attempt to deny women access to a safe and legal medical procedure.

SB 537 would require all health centers that provide safe and legal abortions to become licensed Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs ). Among the 117 pages of regulations required of Ambulatory Surgery Centers in Texas are surgical operating rooms of at least 240 square feet, specific requirements for the flooring and outfitting of janitors closets, and ventilations systems required for a sterile operating room, among many other onerous requirements that are excessive for procedures that, like abortion, can be safely performed in a health center setting.

This “Back Door Abortion Ban” could mean the closure of multiple health centers outside of the few major cities and could have a devastating impact on women living in most areas of Texas.

Already, an estimated 200,000 Texas women are going without basic, preventive health care this year because of the state’s ongoing political attacks on women’s health care. If lawmakers care about women’s health, they should focus on restoring Texas women’s access to lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and HIV tests by reinstating the Medicaid Women’s Health Program and restoring funding for the state’s family planning program.

Included was an invitation to "voice [my] outrage." Here is my letter to the Lege in reply:
Subject: I am outraged

Dear [legislator]:

Abortion is a safe and legal medical procedure. The safety is assured by physicians and nurses in the clinics you so regularly attack. The legality? the Supreme Court established that decades ago: a woman in America has a constitutionally protected right to decide whether to bear a child or not, a right to seek an abortion without unreasonable obstruction, a right to quality medical care in the performance of that abortion. Those things are NOT for you to decide: only the woman herself can decide.

If a woman disapproves of abortion on moral grounds, then she should not have an abortion... it's that simple. But each woman must decide for herself. If a man disapproves of abortion on moral grounds... well, don't go there. It isn't a man's right to make that decision for a woman or for all women. Man, what if you had a tumor growing inside you and your wife told you it is immoral for you to have it removed even if it kills you? Is that anyone's decision other than your own? Of course it's not. Abortion is similar: the person it affects most is the woman who would bear a child (or die in the attempt) without it. It is her call, and ONLY her call.

Irrational obstacles to a legally protected, routine medical procedure are unacceptable. Please cease your attempts to invade a woman's privacy and deny her what is hers by right. If you continue, you may count on my full-throated opposition at every turn. If you legislate in ways that restrict a woman's constitutionally protected right to decide for herself whether to remain pregnant, my opposition may extend to legal action and to civil disobedience. This has gone too far: women are human beings; women have human rights... and those rights WILL be protected.

Stephen Bates

(Mumble, mutter, curse...) Buncha goddam self-righteous sons-of-mothers... (More seriously...) Women's rights issues are intrinsically human rights issues. If shit-for-brains legislators can't see that, they have no right to hold their office and should be promptly impeached.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Progress In Solving Decades-Old Art Theft

The year was 1990. Some years earlier, a friend had given me a wonderful framed print of one of Vermeer's few extant paintings, depicting a family making music: a woman sings, accompanied by a lutenist and a harpsichordist. The significance of the scene had to be explained to me: by their dress and their surroundings, this family was of the emerging middle class in the lowlands (today's Netherlands).

In France, around the same time, only the wealthy could afford harpsichords; generally they chose large instruments (2x8', 1x4', two manuals) by the Blanchet or Taskin families, cases finished in a shellac polished so that it looked 10 feet deep, trimmed in gold foil, with an elaborate soundboard painting, often of a pastoral scene.

By comparison, the middle class of the lowlands had a musical sophistication of their own, and a harpsichord-making family, Ruckers, built astonishingly good instruments for sale to them: smaller, narrower compass (mine is from G below great C to c''' two octaves above middle C), cases painted rather than shellacked, trimmed using gold paint and raw wood, and lids papered with elaborately patterned paper on which a motto was often painted (sometimes in misspelled Latin), with or without a soundboard painting, or (in the case of my own) small painted decorations... birds, flowers, insects etc. In other words, these instruments were clearly down-class from the large French two-manual jobs, but they were of such good quality that the well-known French makers often took them apart, enlarged the soundboards, added registers and manuals, etc. to turn them into fancy French harpsichords.

Child of the (lower-) middle class that I am, I confess I prefer the smaller Flemish instruments. That is what I own; that is what I performed on for many years. And that is clearly what the family in the Vermeer painting have and are using. I love my Vermeer print, both for the art and for the reference.

Back to 1990. As Igor Bobic of TPM tells us, the original of that painting, hanging in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, was stolen in broad daylight by thieves dressed as Boston policemen, and, along with other paintings of comparably high value, spirited away and sold. (One wonders: was it a "theft to order"?) While the FBI was and is on the case, the paintings are still missing almost a quarter century later. Now there are leads, and the FBI thinks it knows who the thieves are. Here's Bobic again:
“The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence that in the years after the theft, the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region, and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia, where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft," Richard DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, said in a statement. “With that same confidence, we have identified the thieves, who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the Mid-Atlantic states and New England.”

The FBI added that while they tracked the movements of the paintings after they were sold, they are not able to establish their current locations. Thirteen works of art—including rare paintings by Rembrandt and Vermeer -- were stolen in a brazen heist involving thieves dressed as Boston police officers.
I was crestfallen at the news of the theft. Almost a quarter century later, I am still saddened. Art was taken from public view and secreted away for the private pleasure of wealthy people willing to steal it, damn them to Hell.

Will that painting be returned to public view within my lifetime? I don't know. I've often doubted it. But perhaps there is some hope now.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Moyers Interviews Anthony Leiserowitz On Climate Change

Leiserowitz is director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Moyers is one of the two best interviewers ever. (The late Studs Terkel was the other.) The issue is not so much climate change... a done deal, an issue that has been scientifically resolved for two decades... as how to communicate to the public just what can be done and how they can help in averting the worst consequences of climate change. Here is the interview... calm, rational, well-conceived and persuasive. Go watch it. Please!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Real Paul Ryan

Ryan says what he means:

I take him at his word. And to think this man might have become veep!

(H/T ellroon.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Bit Busy Here Lately...

... apologies for infrequent posting, but stuff has been happening.

Of course I have my usual twice-a-week physical therapy; this week they're teaching me to balance from the hips to distribute weight more evenly between my natural (left) leg and my prosthetic (right) leg when I'm walking; yes, that takes longer to say than it takes to go through one cycle of "shift weight; step (sometimes step up) with the foot not bearing the weight; step down (if necessary); redistribute the weight for the next cycle."

Then on Wednesday I had my MetroLift™ in-person interview in the course of applying to be eligible to use the service, also known as the "are you a cripple? prove it!" interview. I passed. It's hard to miss when I let my shorts leg ride up the way a very flirtatious woman might do, only in my case, what shows is the carbon-fiber top of my prosthesis. Sexy? no. Proof that I'm a cripple? Well, yes. The MetroLift ride downtown to Houston Metro headquarters, the interview, and the MetroLift ride home took, altogether, nearly the whole business day. No one said assisting disabled people was quick or easy. I should receive my MetroLift ID in about a week; then I can begin scheduling some of my daily trips for which I've depended on friends (thanks, George! thanks, Stella!) on public transit.

An aside about MetroLift: if you ever wondered whether the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 had any significant positive consequences, the answer is an emphatic yes: the law requires, say, the City of Houston to provide to people with disabilities transportation comparable to mass transit for non-crippled people... at a comparable price... and that's what MetroLift is all about. Houston goes a step further, equipping all city buses and MetroRail with handicapped-friendly facilities; that doesn't help me because the nearest bus stop is almost a half mile from my home... and I can't walk a half mile yet, if ever. So I spent a day of my life arranging to receive the same functional benefit you can get by walking to the bus stop (rail stop, whatever) and getting on the proper public transit vehicle.

As vehicles have a sixth sense about such things, Stella's auto wound up in the shop yesterday and today, because the brakes were behaving oddly. Diagnosis: master cylinder. Resolution: either replace it or make your plans to run into a car, a wall, a post or whatever in the near future. Of course we replaced it.

With luck, I'll return to actual political blogging soon. I've been thinking about it; I just haven't had time and energy. Thanks for your patience.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Speaking Of Transporters...

Josh Marshall addresses "The Trekker In Me" and posts a charming picture. If you are one (a Trekker, that is), this is a must-see.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Transporter Malfunction? Try Another Transporter

The use of that large well-known volunteer org for transportation from home to my therapy sessions and back is proving fairly much a disaster. First they sent a vehicle I could not board: city-bus-style stairs were its only entrance. Next they sent a vehicle more suitable, but 40 minutes late. I've been burdening my friends and my mate; that doesn't always work out well, because most people I know are full-time employed.

Determined to try again... by this time I'd bought $20 worth of coupons for the service... I called to set up some rides for the following week. "None available, booked up," said the clerk. "How about the following week?" I inquired. "Booked up," she informed me.

"OK," I said, with as much artificially polite patience as I could muster. "Please tell me when there are rides available." There was a moment's pause; then she said, "Starting about April 10." So I have a $20 coupon book, less the two rides I've already used, that can't be used for a full month.

Time to look elsewhere.

My first "elsewhere" is Houston MetroLift, our city transit service aimed at disabled people. I had already applied for it a few weeks back; it takes a while for them to get you on their list. My interview is this Wednesday... yes, they require an in-person interview to confirm that you are in fact crippled, and decide which (if any) services you are eligible for. In their defense, they will provide you a MetroLift ride to the interview. They'll even tell you which day the interview is on... but not what time of day, until the night before. I'll be calling them Tuesday night after 9:00pm, and I won't be scheduling anything else on Wednesday. Whatthehell, cripples don't have schedules to spoil, right?

I believe you still have to buy and use coupons; I'm not sure. But at least it's one more option, cheaper than a cab, and I've heard of only one instance of their leaving someone stranded. Onward we march...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Arkansas Swings For The [Of]Fence,
Passes Ban On Abortions After 12 Weeks

AP via TPM (hence the very short quote):
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas now has the nation’s most restrictive abortion law — a near-ban on the procedure from the 12th week of pregnancy — unless a lawsuit or court action intervenes before it takes effect this summer.
Their legislature overrode a Democratic governor's veto. Gov. Mike Beebe correctly pointed out that this law will cost the state a fortune to defend, and will probably fall anyway in court after a great waste of taxpayers' money.

Twelve weeks, eh? At this rate, soon enough, some state will pass a law forbidding abortion after one day. Hell, they'll pass a law requiring every fertile woman to get pregnant. Or will the ACLU's test of this law... already announced... become the case the Roberts Court needs to overthrow Roe v. Wade?

Why I Do Not Admire Obama

Pema Levy of TPM:
House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday applauded President Obama's outreach to Republicans, which included dinner with a group of Republican Senators Wednesday night and an upcoming visit with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), calling it a "hopeful sign" during a press conference Thursday.
"[A] hopeful sign" for whom? Need I say more?

Expected Result Of US Preemptive War On Iraq:
N. Korea Threatens Nuclear Attack On US

Trinity Test, July 16, 1945
Many of us have expected something like this ever since Preznit George W. Bush ordered the US to launch a preemptive invasion of Iraq: North Korea is threatening a preemptive nuclear strike against the US.

Yes, of course, it's insane. Yes, of course, North Korea probably does not have a nuclear weapon light enough in weight to be carried to the US by missile technology currently available to North Korea. Yes, of course, if they were to succeed, their own ashes would be glowing within hours. It's crazy. Kim Jong Un is apparently even more insane than his daddy.

But the threat itself is utterly predictable, and I blame Preznit George W. Bush, who attacked Iraq unprovoked after concocting and presenting to the UN wholly false accusations that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. That was crazy, too, and it opened the door for other nations to engage in future preemptive attacks on dubious or wholly fraudulent grounds.

That future is now. Those of you who supported Preznit Bush... those who supported the whole concept of preemptive invasion... I hope you enjoy the result.

(H/T DSWright of FDL.)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Alternet's Adele Stan Interviews Paul Krugman

... on the use of language in progressive economics advocacy.

If Krugman is right, we progressives now have the attention of the public in a way we simply did not a mere 10 years ago, but we haven't managed to frame our arguments without trying too hard to appear "reasonable" ... i.e., conservative.

Progressive economists, Krugman says, should forget appearing conservative. Forget "preluding" for multiple paragraphs about how the deficit can be a long- or medium-term problem. Get right to the point: cutting government spending is a terrible idea in the wake of a severe recession. Don't mince words.

(H/T Krugman himself, in a post titled George Orwell and the Zombies.)

Afterthought: I don't believe I was consciously thinking of Krugman yesterday when I got fed up with my overwhelming post-hospital facial hair, but my beard, after I cut most of it off, now resembles Krugman's. One could do worse.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Adventures On The New Leg

Not mine, but similar
A lot like mine
but mine is a right foot
I've been out of the house on two adventures in two days on the new prosthesis, one yesterday to a therapy session (intense!) and one today to a Chinese restaurant. Both were positive in some ways. Yesterday's outing involved transportation through a well-known big‑name volunteer org; their morning ride to TIRR Kirby Glen arrived at my house 40 minutes late and miraculously arrived at TIRR only five minutes late for my session (TIRR runs its rehab like clockwork; it's uncool to be late). Going home was a bit better: the vehicle arrived on time, but the driver had been told to expect a wheelchair passenger, not a walker user, and my entrance to the vehicle was a slide-out ramp below a wide door. I've certainly had my practice on ramps lately, but I suppose I shouldn't complain about a variety of experiences.

Today was my first meal out since the surgery in late December, unless you count the hospital food service as "dining out" (I don't) or the takeout Stella occasionally brings home for us (I do). On a whim, Stella and I went to a moderately old Chinese restaurant on Holcome called Happy All. Happy All was once my favorite Chinese restaurant when I was contracting in the Texas Medical Center, I used to alter my bike route home to take in a meal there; they made excellent veggie spring rolls with peanut sauce, among other things. The food today was good but not outstanding. All eateries that last for decades have their ups and downs.

Two days of actual use on the prosthesis show that it works as advertised. It isn't perfectly comfortable yet, but part of that is my unfamiliarity. This type of prosthesis, I'm told by one therapist, is designed to place the maximum weight on a spot just below the knee of the residual limb (apparently that's the proper term for "stump"), and my upper shin is simply not accustomed to it yet. That's what the therapy is all about. I do what I can, when I can. Meanwhile, on one level, it feels truly grand to be standing on two feet again, even if one of them is supported by some sort of carbon fiber contraption. On we go...

Friday, March 1, 2013

Removed From Blogroll

Secession or expulsion? Neither!
The Hoffman Post (The Drudge Retort) has been removed from the blogroll. Active efforts to remove Texas from the Union are unwelcome on the YDDV. Hoffman of course has a right to say whatever he wants on his own blog, but I will not assist him in promoting an expulsionist agenda. In fairness, I also refuse to promote the secessionist views of insane Texans such as Governor Perry.

Whatever problem America faces, fragmenting the Union is no part of any rational solution. It is, in fact, a terrible idea. Believe in it if you will, but please take it somewhere else.

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