Wednesday, July 31, 2013

NSA's XKeyscore Allows Analyst Access To 'Nearly Everything A User Does On The Internet'

Read Glenn Greenwald's article on it. Follow the link to the training presentation. Then imagine a bright young analyst at his/her keyboard, with no prior court authorization or only the most generalized authorization, looking for literally anything, looking through your stuff, all of it, even especially if you are American...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Manning Verdict (Apparently Conviction) To Be Announced Today On An Historic Day That Is No Coincidence - UPDATED

Courtroom Sketch of Manning
by Clark Stoeckley
via Kevin Gosztola
Kevin Gosztola of FDL, present for most of Manning's two-month trial, will announce the details when the judge rules this afternoon. This link is to Gosztola's preface, backgrounder, setup, call it what you will. He begins by noting the historical significance of today's date chosen by the judge, clearly no coincidence:
A military judge is set to issue a verdict in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier prosecuted for disclosing information to WikiLeaks, [today] in the early afternoon. The verdict will come on the same day that America passed its first whistleblower protection law.

The law passed by the Continental Congress on July 30, 1778, declared that it was the “duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by an officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.”
This law emphasizes the crux of the matter: whistleblowing is a duty of everyone in military or civil service to the US. It is not discretionary; it is obligatory.

In the 1778 case, the man on whom the whistle was blown was powerful, and immediately engaged in retaliation against the whistleblower. Some things start early and never change; retaliation against whistleblowers is one of them. Unlike the early case, it is likely that retaliation against Manning, who reported some activities that are manifestly illegal, will be allowed to take place... with the active cooperation of the military system of justice. Given what has been reported to date, I am convinced that Manning's trial... from his year-long abusive detention with no opportunities to defend himself, through to the military judge's repeated rejection of defense's introduction of potentially exculpatory evidence... is a drumhead, a trial whose outcome is predetermined, in this case by no less than the President of the United States.

Here's Gosztola on Manning's actions:
Manning did not go to Congress with his information but had he gone to Congress it is a virtual guarantee that he would have lost his security clearance for trying to provide information to Congress that included evidence of torture and other war crimes. The world would never have seen the information he disclosed to WikiLeaks.

Not every one of the more than 700,000 documents he released contained evidence of a major crime, and yet a statement Manning read in court February 28 indicates his decisions to release certain sets of information were that of a classic whistleblower. Yet, he faces a potential sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted of “aiding the enemy.”

Manning was categorized by prosecutors as "anarchist," "hacker" and "traitor." He will be convicted of every charge and sentenced to life without parole, that is, if the government doesn't renege on its promise not to seek the death penalty, which would not surprise me. Manning is being made an example of, indirectly by your man Barack Obama. Whistleblowing and leaking, both essential to journalism in pursuit of illegal government activity, will likely dwindle to nonexistence after Manning's verdict. And Manning may never see the light of day again.

It was a great country while it lasted...

UPDATE 7/30/2013 6:00pm EDT - Manning was acquitted of the most serious charge... "aiding the enemy" ... but convicted of 19 other charges, mostly under the ancient W.W. I-era Espionage Act, created in its own day specifically to harass, discredit and disable antiwar activists, and a point of contention thought to be at odds with the First Amendment... until now. Please read Kevin Gosztola's post What the Verdict in Bradley Manning’s Trial Means for Whistleblowers. This is a day in which the phrase "military justice" may well have become an oxymoron as surely as "military intelligence." As a nation we should be ashamed, not only of this result but of the deplorable actions of the court which brought it forth.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Poverty Update

I was shocked when I read 1½ years ago in a Center for Public Policy Priorities study (.pdf) that 25% of Texas children lived below the official poverty level in 2009, the newest figures then available. But I was really blown away today when I read this on AP via TPM:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The four-out-of-five figure results from a survey by AP-GfK. The survey format allows interviews about related subjects and reflects opinions or impressions of American citizens of their own economic status, not published official statistics. But all of it taken together paints a relatively bleak picture that cannot easily be summarized. Please read the second linked article above; they do the numbers better than I could.

Have I experienced the trappings of poverty in my life? Well, yes, during two periods: my very early childhood and my recent old age. In the former case, my father nonetheless managed to stay employed full-time at a railroad job (therefore a union job), and we never missed meals or were homeless. Today's poor do not enjoy any protections to speak of, and my own income-free existence is cushioned mainly because I put away a lot of money while I was earning a lot, and Wall Street hasn't managed to kill my savings completely yet. If I had a few more years without income (note: I should start receiving Social Security fairly soon) or one more major medical event (another note: I should apply for Medicare this year), I could end up in literal, subjective poverty. I have some hope that will not happen.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

America's Secret Enemies

Back in college I was in a square dance club. (This was Rice University. Yes, they had a square dance club; trot out all the Rice stereotypes, because they all applied. Well, all except the TRG stereotype; many of the young ladies were beautiful.)

In the square dance club was a fellow named Doug. Doug's whole raison d'être was ROTC. (Trot out all the ROTC stereotypes; they, too, all applied.) Doug usually attended dances in his ROTC uniform. Doug was always trying to impress the ladies with his supposed involvement in secret military activities. (This was Rice University. The ladies weren't fooled for even a moment.)

In breaks between dances, Doug had a pattern. He would begin a story apparently about some military matter, a story designed to provoke a polite listener into asking a polite question allowing Doug to pursue the story. Doug would go to great lengths to induce his listener to ask such a question. When the listener asked (if for no other reason than to get Doug to shut up), Doug would stiffen his spine, assume a very dark, serious expression on his face, and say, barely audibly, scarcely parting his lips,
It was very important to Doug to appear to be very important.

Which brings me at long last to the substance of this post. The indefatigable emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler) has a lot to say On the Growing Fight Against America’s Secret Enemies. Wheeler begins by quoting Cora Currier at Pro Publica:
At a hearing in May, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of Al Qaeda affiliates.

The Pentagon responded – but Levin’s office told ProPublica they aren’t allowed to share it. Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for Levin, would say only that the department’s “answer included the information requested.”

A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that revealing such a list could cause “serious damage to national security.”

Sometimes even members of Congress... e.g., Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence... have been told they may not have the list of enemies. Wyden finally obtained access to the list in February. And he was not, and as far as I know is not, able to tell the public.

This poses a real dilemma. It is a treasonable act for an American citizen to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States. But who, exactly, must we not aid? Sorry... "WE CAN'T TELL YOU THAT."

Square-dancing ROTC Doug must be in hog heaven (Doug heaven?) these days.

As to how you and I can avoid giving aid and comfort to America's enemies, without official information on just who those enemies are?

You can't. You're on your own. "WE CAN'T TELL YOU THAT."

UPDATE: Wheeler has also recently written on a related topic, Candidate Obama’s Tribute to Whistleblowers Disappears Two Days after First Snowden Revelations. It seems Obama's past remarks about the virtues of whistleblowers are silently disappearing from his web sites. I suppose the boot is on the other neck now.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pepper-Spraying Cop Applies For Workers Comp, Claiming Psych Injuries

This is astonishing. At the same time, in this day and age, it's unsurprising. Here's a submicroscopic snippet from AP via TPM:
Cop Who Pepper-Sprayed Students At Occupy Protest Wants Worker’s Compensation For ‘Psychiatric Injury’

DAVIS, Calif. (AP) — The former police officer who pepper-sprayed students during an Occupy protest at the University of California, Davis is appealing for worker’s compensation, claiming he suffered psychiatric injury from the 2011 confrontation.

You remember? THIS guy?

I agree he needs therapy. I suggest music therapy. Perhaps a thousand repetitions of the inimitable Dave Lippman's "Sgt. Pepper Spray & Heads Clubbed Band" ...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Typo Of The Day (At Least)

From Annabel Lyon, The Golden Mean, Thorndike Press, 2009, p. 25:
We overlook a small courtyard with a blabbing fountain...
You know how insufferably gossipy those blabbing fountains can be!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The 0 Administration's Attitude Toward The Proposed Amash Amendment

Rep. Justin Amash (R) and Rep. John Conyers (D) have introduced an amendment that would restrict...
... [the]federal government’s ability under the Patriot Act to collect information on Americans who are not connected to an ongoing investigation. The bill also requires that secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court opinions be made available to Congress and summaries of the opinions be made available to the public
That's what the amendment's authors say about it. The amendment has some bipartisan support.

So... what does the Obama administration say about the Amash amendment? Here's Kevin Gosztola of FDL:
President 0
President Barack Obama, however, opposes this effort to curtail the power of the NSA. White House spokesperson Jay Carney said, “We oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counter-terrorism tools.” And, “His blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process. We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.” (Notice the White House does not mention the name of the Democratic Representative who also introduced the amendment, misrepresenting the bipartisan support for this amendment.)
(Bolds mine.)

"... [N]ot the product of..." Oh, the irony. Do they even see it?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pro Publica Addresses The Question, 'Does The NSA Tap That?'

'Does The NSA Tap That?' Here's a summary of Pro Publica's conclusions,
I'm wired... you're not!
expressed in tiny quotes from its article:

Is the NSA really sucking up everything?
It’s not clear.

Is purely domestic communication being swept up in the NSA’s upstream surveillance?
It’s not at all clear.

Are companies still cooperating with the NSA’s Internet tapping?
We don’t know.

What legal authority is the NSA using for upstream surveillance?
It’s unclear, ...

How much Internet traffic is the NSA storing?
We don’t know, ...

How does the NSA do filtering of the data it gets off cables in the United States?
... “I think it’s an incredibly difficult problem.”

Is NSA the Alberto Gonzales of government agencies, or is Pro Publica the Alberto Gonzales of news sites? I'm betting on the former...

I can't recall...

Monday, July 22, 2013

On How Boehner And His GOP House Should Be Judged

Boehner says he knows how he and his GOP caucus should be judged, and he told us on CBS's "Face the Nation" yesterday:
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner says Congress “ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.”

Well, OK; Boehner got it almost right...

His caucus should be judged on how many seats they resign. That would be a fair measure of how much good they do for the nation.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Announces Closing Of Three Women's Health Centers: For Now, The Bad Guys Have Won

This is discouraging. Here is an excerpt from a Statement from Melaney A. Linton, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, on the closure of Bryan, Huntsville and Lufkin health centers:
State restrictions result in thousands of women likely to face no access to reproductive health care in three rural, underserved communities.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has been providing high quality family planning and basic health care in Houston and Southeast Texas for nearly 80 years. Four decades ago the state of Texas asked Planned Parenthood to be a partner in bringing healthcare to the most underserved rural communities. With the generous support of individuals throughout Houston and Southeast Texas, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has proudly cared for women and men in the underserved communities of Bryan, Lufkin, and Huntsville for nearly forty years.

In recent years, Texas politicians have created an increasingly hostile environment for providers of reproductive health care in underserved communities. Texans with little or no access to health care services have been deeply affected by state budget cuts to programs provided by Planned Parenthood health centers and dozens of others that provided lifesaving cancer screenings, well-woman exams and birth control.

Deplorably, the combined impact of years of budget cuts to women's health care services and the dismantling of the successful Women's Health Program will take affordable, preventive health care options away from women in Bryan, Lufkin and Huntsville -- just as these policies have taken health care away from an estimated 130,000 others -- when Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast is forced to close these family planning health centers at the end of August.


It is a travesty that Texas politicians are stripping healthcare from women across the state, harming lives and unraveling the health care safety net that has taken decades to build. As voices in support of women's health continue to grow within the state and as the chorus of alarmed people nationwide focus their attention on Texas politicians, Planned Parenthood will continue to work strongly to eliminate these politicized barriers and to stand up for women in Texas, no matter what.

Supporters can go to and tell politicians to stop interfering with women's health.

Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast remains committed to continuing to provide women with the health care they have trusted from us for more than 75 years.
(Bolds mine. Background and details are provided in the remainder of the statement.)

Here's my selective curse: May every Texas Republican politician's wife (just about all the GOP politicians are male) and daughter (they don't always tell Daddy what's going on in their lives) find themselves at a loss for reproductive health care when they need it most... because the Planned Parenthood they secretly depended on was killed by Daddy's legislation.

I am always astonished that GOPer legislators and their families, when caught seeking an abortion, offer a rationale why their wife or their daughter may carve out an exception to the GOP policies on abortion... often, especially in the case of the daughters, by going to Planned Parenthood without telling Daddy.

Well, girls, guess what: Daddy is at long last successfully killing Planned Parenthood, and you are now in the position of thousands of less well-off women over the past century, unless you can persuade Daddy to fund your abortion without his disowning you. How does it feel?

God damn hypocritical Republican politicians. God damn them to a Hell of their own making.

Family Values, The Family Bates, The Family Al-Awlaki, Secret Courts, Drone Assassinations, And Trial By Internet

Eighteen years ago about this time of year my dear and much-admired father passed from this earth. When I had dealt with my grief sufficiently to be more philosophical about his death, I occasionally remarked that Bill Bates managed to stave off death until a Democrat held the big chair in the White House and Dad's beloved Houston Rockets held the NBA championship, assuming rightly or wrongly that the world could do without him in light of the trend of improvement he observed in his last year or two. Dad passed with no worries that I would be secretly ordered assassinated, let alone by the President of the United States.

Nasser al-Awlaki, father of Anwar al-Awlaki (American citizen, assassinated by an American drone in September 2011), grandfather of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki (American citizen, assassinated by an American drone in October 2011), was not so fortunate. As we were informed by Nasser's NY Times op-ed a couple of days ago, he learned of the deaths of his son and grandson by news reports. Though both his son and his grandson were American citizens (the grandson by birth, in Denver), neither was afforded the constitutionally required "speedy and public trial": they were on an Obama administration list of people targeted for assassination by drone, and b'gawd they were assassinated by drones. Despite Nasser's repeated legal inquiries, he has received no meaningful response to his queries about his son's and grandson's deaths; it seems he lacks legal "standing" to ask. The op-ed is very moving. You will understand the fundamental wrongness of the process, or rather the absence of due process, much better if you read Nasser's words. Here is a sample:

... I stood over it [his grandson's grave], asking why my grandchild was dead.

Nearly two years later, I still have no answers. The United States government has refused to explain why Abdulrahman was killed. It was not until May of this year that the Obama administration, in a supposed effort to be more transparent, publicly acknowledged what the world already knew — that it was responsible for his death.

The attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., said only that Abdulrahman was not “specifically targeted,” raising more questions than he answered.

My grandson was killed by his own government. The Obama administration must answer for its actions and be held accountable. On Friday, I will petition a federal court in Washington to require the government to do just that.

The NY Times often selects a reader's letter to publish first, a letter that seems to the editors to typify the opposition to an article. In this case, the published response letter was from "Ben" in Cincinnati, who had this, among other things, to say:

It would be good to know why the grandson was targeted, but revealing any information must be weighed against the concurrent problems in making any intelligence available. It is obvious that any grandfather would pine for the memory of his son and grandson.

But It is highly disingenuous that an intelligent man writes so many words yet makes no mention whatsoever of the actions or rhetoric of his son, which were published on the Internet for all to see. He says that he loves the United States, its universities, and its national parks. How about its people? What did he feel, say, or do, when hearing his son advocating the death of American people? Was he really suprprised when the country came after his son?

Bill Bates, may he rest in peace after experiencing as a combatant the horrors of war in his lifetime, lived long enough to see the first flowering of the Internet. As he was the person who initially taught me about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, he would have been fascinated with what is available on the 'net today regarding those two documents and their application in these troubled times. But I am afraid I would not be able to explain to him Ben in Cincinnati's reference to trial by Internet; I just can't find it in the copies of the Constitution available to me.

Call me a terrorist if you want... if I live long enough, I'm certain one or another American government will call me such... but I have to agree that grandfather al-Awlaki has a right to his answers from the DoJ, unabridged, justified as best they can. Goodness knows I cannot for the life of me see any justification for killing anyone, let alone any American, far from any combat zone merely because they verbally advocated killing Americans when Americans had recently killed their own son father.

And to think I've been counting on that "free speech" thingy to save me...

UPDATE: 7/19/2013 the judge declined to rule immediately on the DoJ's motion to dismiss grandfather al-Awlaki's petition, expressing grave reservations about the government's claim that no court could reach the matter:
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer did not immediately rule on a government request to dismiss legal challenges to the killings of three Americans, including al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, brought by civil rights advocates and Anwar's father, Nasser al-Awlaki. But she strongly questioned the government's assertion that the courts were "not in a position to second-guess'' security officials when faced with an imminent threat.
Read the rest of the USA Today article and/or Judge Collyer's ruling, and stay tuned; I'll try to report when I have more information.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

'Stand Your Ground' Laws As Gun Industry Marketing Tools: Bill Moyers Interviews Industry Analyst Tom Diaz

Here's Tom Diaz in brief:
What we have is fewer and fewer people buying more and more guns. I think most average Americans simply have no understanding of the mindset of the diminishing number of people who own firearms and who own them specifically to carry out on the street… that mindset is ‘danger lurks everywhere and you better have your gun to protect yourself.’
Fewer and fewer... more and more. In other words, much of the danger we experience from firearms comes not from any imagined "typical" gun owner purchasing guns while seeking to protect his or her family, but rather from a relatively small number of "gun nuts" who purchase, own and carry an ever increasing number of guns. The crazies now run the asylum.

It wasn't easy for Diaz to obtain this information. There are laws in place preventing, for example, the Centers for Disease Control from spending any money analyzing what many of us would unhesitatingly label an "epidemic" of gun violence. What they aren't allowed to know can and does hurt us.

Moyers's segment is under 15 minutes long; please take the time to watch it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Something Obama Did Right

I am so frequently (and justifiably) critical of President Obama that when he does something just right, with the right message delivered in the right tone, in a manner that reduces rather than increases the divisiveness intrinsic in practically every issue Americans face and debate, his right action should be rewarded. This short speech on his reaction to the Trayvon Martin killing and the nature and outcome of George Zimmerman's trial are certainly such a right thing. Without further chatter, here is President Obama:

Exactly so. America's racial conflict truly has decreased since my youth 50 years ago, and if we can somehow avoid responding to the people who would rather stir up trouble over an incident than learn from it, grieve, approach the incident as constructively as possible in an inevitably tragic and divisive situation, maybe, just maybe, we can make things better for the next generation. In my opinion, it is long past time to attempt a more constructive approach.

(H/T TPM for the White House video.)

P.T. Or Not P.T., That Is No Longer The Question... I'm Done!

Today was my last regular physical therapy session at TIRR Kirby Glen. I am, at long last, done, after about seven months of combined home health and outpatient physical therapy. Everything I said in January is still true in July, and I expect it to continue, renewed and probably intensified, as Stella embarks on a course of physical therapy of her own.

There's always a lot to learn, and sometimes there are things one cannot learn at home, or alone. I feel as if I have completed a semester of harpsichord lessons from a professor at a school of music... and now have seven or nine semesters more in front of me before I can claim anything like mastery of the instrument. When the instrument is your body, the motivation is very strong, but the learning is not necessarily easier. We progress as fast as we can, and no faster. I'll keep you apprised of our progress.

To be continued...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

(Bleep!)ified Messaging™

When I replaced our phones a few months ago, I decided I could do what Stella was already doing about voicemail: rely on AT&T Unified Messaging™ (or as I call it, (Bleep!)ified Messaging™ or BM™ for short). That is proving to be a disastrous decision for several reasons:
  • The software/firmware is highly phone- and CO-version- and hardware-dependent. For example, Stella's much older version of BM™ uses hardware in the phone (our phones are identical, and we have separate accounts, drops and phone numbers) to indicate the presence of messages, both visually and aurally when the handset goes offhook for some period of time. Mine doesn't. Indeed, it does nothing of the sort: to learn whether I have messages, I have to dial the code to receive messages. As I get very few messages, this is a major PITA. It might have been acceptable in 1975, but not more than three decades later.
  • Messages are often delivered to me one or even two days after they are left by a caller. Yes, I know; it's "only" a home phone, but a lot of us depend on timely delivery of our messages. For me, an hour late would be marginal, and overnight would be unacceptable. As it is, I'm getting messages as late as 2 or 3 days after they are recorded.
  • The default BM™ ring pattern delays 5½ rings before answering. This figure can be adjusted only by phoning a live human at AT&T. No word on whether there is an extra charge for anything other than the default ring count. Why is this a problem? Because some automated systems, e.g., Target Pharmacy automated prescription notification, begin talking after a fixed time; I seldom receive more than one syllable of my prescription notification.
  • My phone, an earlier model Panasonic that is still manufactured and sold through Amazon, is theoretically equipped to deal correctly with AT&T's voicemail, but in fact about all one can really do is buy a Panasonic answer machine (yes, there is still such a thing manufactured) for about the same price as two of the phones. I haven't quite talked myself into doing that yet.
So... what's the lesson here? don't buy Panasonic phones? then what else should I use instead? don't use AT&T phone service? same problem: what else should I use? buy high-end equipment presumably better suited to responding to different kinds of central office equipment? ouch, what a reason to spend extra money... buy an old-fashioned answering machine? etc. There appear to be no good solutions to an exceedingly common problem, and yes, I blame AT&T.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Zimmerman Verdict

It has been over a day now since George Zimmerman was acquitted of the killing of Trayvon Martin. That is almost too little time for us to gain perspective on an event in which someone was deliberately killed (as far as I can tell, no one disputes that), but decisions have to be made, and this one has been made.

Despite the phone call in progress between Martin and Rachel Jeantel at the moment of the shooting, only two people know what really happened that day, and one of them is dead. Thus the jury was deprived of a primary source of evidence in the case. This could not have been rectified after the fact; any information from Martin is gone, and one cannot expect information from Zimmerman to be objectively true.

Then there is the American criminal legal tradition that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt... a tradition that helps the accused individual counterbalance the presumably far greater resources available to the state in making a case. The law in question in this case lists some bases on which jurors may make conclusions, but not only were the six jurors not unanimous on whether to convict (three wanted to convict either of second-degree murder or of manslaughter), but at least one juror said that despite hours of examining evidence, jurors were unable to reach a unanimous conclusion of guilt or innocence. Thus the traditional presumption of innocence continued to prevail, and Zimmerman was acquitted. It could not have been otherwise.

This is not to say Zimmerman is blameless. He could have, and in my opinion should have, obeyed the police and stayed in his car rather than chasing Martin. We do not know Zimmerman's state of mind, or that a cop would have been less liable to give chase under the circumstances, but I've known a few cops, and all of them have voiced a real reluctance to pursue and shoot at a suspect when there are other ways to resolve the matter. Zimmerman, on the other hand, may well have decided how things would go down at the moment he exited the car. This is one of the major disadvantages of volunteer citizen patrols, or any other sort of vigilantism: the volunteers involved may not be capable of exercising good judgment when the confrontation turns potentially violent. Of course, that can happen with police as well, but at least police are trained in how to avoid needless violence.

So what is the best way to avoid such cases in the future? The answers are not easy, but for one thing, we have to instill in every individual volunteer carrying a gun in a law enforcement context the same sense of awesome responsibility that anyone in America carrying a firearm on the streets must have. Law enforcement is not a casual business, no matter who performs the necessary actions, and should never be taken lightly. Otherwise, there is far too great a probability that the enforcer will become judge, jury and executioner all in one.

(An aside: as Bryan Dumka points out, despite some claims, the case did not hinge on "stand your ground" behavior by Zimmerman.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Michele Bachmann Tells Us Exactly How She Would Influence President Obama: 'Spanking'

Who knew Bachmann was that kinky! From Perry Stein at TPM:
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) had some strong words Monday for President Barack Obama's use of executive orders, specifically in the immigration battle, warning that the GOP should focus on giving the president a "spanking" through his "checkbook."

"He has a perpetual magic wand and nobody’s given him a spanking yet and taken it out of his hand,” Bachmann said in an interview with WorldNetDaily. “That’s what Congress needs to do, give the president a major wake-up call. And the way we spank the president, we do it through the checkbook. We have the power of the purse. The most powerful body in Washington D.C. is the United States House of Representatives, of which I'm honored to be a part.”

She continued, asking "what is wrong with us that we would give the president ten cents to fund Obamacare?"
So... does the President carry his checkbook in his vest pocket or his hip pocket? Either way, Bachmann's suggestion makes her sound pretty kinky to me... that kind of treatment of a president by a congresswoman should probably be discouraged!

(TPM has video at the above link.)

Your Gun Misuse Report For The Day


Arizona Man Accidentally Shoots 2-Year-Old Niece In Leg

Zoe Schlanger [TPM] 10:25 AM EDT, Monday July 15, 2013

Authorities said a 2-year-old girl on Saturday near Tucson, Ariz. was shot in the leg by her uncle, who accidentally discharged his weapon, the Arizona Republic reported.

Richard Moreno, 23, was just outside the girl's home when the firearm went off, authorities said. The bullet went through a wall and struck the girl in the leg while she was in another room. Moreno then fled the scene, according to authorities, who later arrested him in his mother's home.

The girl was recovering, according to Phoenix television station KPHO.
Ah, yes... another fine example of the kind of (ahem) responsible gun ownership we keep hearing about. Neither article mentions the type of gun that was accidentally fired. So I have no pic to offer. What good is a firearm article without a pic of a piece?

According to the Arizona Republic article, Moreno was arrested at his mother's house and charged with aggravated assault. I suppose gun violence is OK if you keep it all in the family...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Update On Confiscation Of Tampons And Maxipads By Texas DPS

If you haven't heard of the incident, please see the entry two posts before this one.

Then add this to the list (from an email from Daily Kos):

On July 12, as the Texas state Senate voted on a devastating anti-choice measure, state troopers ordered all women seeking to enter the building to surrender their tampons and maxipads.

In at least one case, a woman was also ordered to remove her diabetic supplies. “I’ve never been so humiliated in my life,” she said tearfully.

Confiscating tampons was discrimination against certain people because of an accident of birth... the sex they were born with. Confiscating diabetic supplies is no less blatant discrimination: harming people because of an accident in the genes they were born with. Yes, I am diabetic, and yes, I am offended. God damn the officers who did this, and especially the person man who ordered it done..

If whoever ordered this had instead ordered discrimination against individuals with kinky hair... mostly Blacks and people of Middle Eastern origin... it would have been unquestionably illegal, and in a society in which laws were duly enforced, some DPS officers would have been jailed. But in Texas, among other states, there is always someone new to discriminate against, and there are always plenty of bigots to do the discriminating. Damn them all to hell, or (my strong preference) to jail.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Astronomers Determine Color Of Planet Outside Our Solar System

Via TPM:
LONDON (AP) — Astronomers have for the first time managed to determine the color of a planet outside the solar system, a blue gas giant some 63 light years away.

NASA - Kornmesser
So... will it be named "Flatt" or "Scruggs"? Well, what would YOU name the first detected "blue gas giant" outside our solar system? Actually, it has been designated "HD 189733B" but we can hope for something more poetic yet to be announced...

Texas GOP To Women: You Have No Rights

I am still not calm enough to write this post in any detail, so I will simply refer you to Chris Tomlinson and Will Weissert of AP at TPM. Texas has passed arguably the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the nation. Only one Democrat (who? anybody know?) voted for it. No Democratic amendments were permitted by Republicans. Pro‑choice protesters frequently disrupted proceedings, not expecting to be able to stop the bill, but persevering nonetheless... please see the photo below of the T-shirt.

This bill is almost certainly unconstitutional, and no one is giving up the fight. Ricky-boy Perry may think Texas has seceded, but he is about to learn that in America, the laws of the land also apply to Texas. He may also learn a thing or two about Texas women... I don't know, though; he's pretty damned stupid.

(T-shirt pic found on Facebook.)

UPDATE: yesterday, DPS was confiscating tampons from women entering the state Senate gallery. Not handguns... if you had a concealed handgun license, you could still carry your pistol into the gallery... but not a tampon. Apparently the GOP was afraid women would throw tampons at the legislators after the vote, which I believe speaks volumes about the concerns of the GOP where women are concerned. (Apologies for the large graphics file.) No word on whether the GOP was inspecting women for concealed tampons...

(H/T Charles Kuffner. Also read Juanita.)

Friday, July 12, 2013

VA Governor/Chef Scandal Suggests A Slogan

Eric Lach of TPM tells us about the scandal:
When he was the executive chef of Virginia’s governor’s mansion, Todd Schneider kept track of what the seven members of the state’s first family liked and didn’t like to eat. Schneider knew that Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) was a brussels sprouts man. He knew that the first lady, Maureen McDonnell, was partial to crab-seasoned popcorn. He knew that everyone liked bananas.

“I’m in heaven here,” Schneider told The Richmond Times-Dispatch in a July 2010 interview, while standing in front of a rosemary bush in the gubernatorial garden.

Three years later, Todd Schneider is far from heaven. Accused of taking property from the governor’s mansion kitchen, Schneider is facing several charges of embezzlement in Virginia court. At the same time, he has become a key player in the scandal swirling around the McDonnells and Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Revelations about the relationship between the McDonnell family, Cuccinelli, and a prominent political donor and businessman, Jonnie Williams Sr., have been trickling out for weeks. Williams, the CEO of a struggling dietary supplement company called Star Scientific, has given McDonnell tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds over the years, as well as reportedly tens of thousands of dollars in undisclosed money and other gifts. The undisclosed funds are now at the center of federal and state investigations, according to The Washington Post.

And I tell you about the slogan, if you're willing to imagine an approximately 60-year-old sign in front of the Virginia governor's mansion:

OVER $10,000 SERVED!

Gawd, wouldn't it be great to see Cuccinelli go down!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Drone Arrested!!1!

What's that? A fighter-shaped drone aircraft performed an arrested landing on an aircraft carrier? Oh. Well, that's completely different. <emily_litella_voice> Nevermind! </emily_litella_voice>

Actually, that's quite a technological achievement. I wonder if anyone seriously thought about the reaction of America's potential enemies to its possession of a completely new, arguably offensive weapon. Do we really want to start a new arms race? Whether we want it or not... that's what we just did. Welcome to the post-nuclear arms race.

Tea Party Rep: Trusting Obama On Border Security Is LIke Trusting Your Daughter With Bill Clinton

Despite eight years of George W. Bush and four full years of Obama, GOPers continue to play the Bill Clinton card.

I am amazed that there are still American voters who even remember Bill's sexual escapades, let alone think they have any bearing on Obama's border policy decisions... but apparently there are GOPers out there for whom time stopped in 1996 and nothing important has happened in the world since Monica gave Bill a BJ.

Um, people... since then, we've had a major terrorist assault, a Republican president, an almost-Republican president and more shit hitting more fans than you can count, notably an economic crisis that may eventually affect your paycheck if it hasn't already. If giving a president an illicit BJ will return the economy to the condition it was in during Bill Clinton's terms, I'm all in favor of it. Somebody help the man with his zipper, please...

(BTW, the Republican rep's name, "Huelskamp," is... (said in hushed tones) Dutch. You know how sexually promiscuous the Dutch are. Pass the word.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Long Day Wednesday, Blogging Late

My Wednesday contains an early doc appointment, a pharmacy run and a grocery shopping trip, separated by a total of four (4) METROLift™ rides and the usual interminable waiting. Oh, and an exercise session. I'll be back to the blog when I'm able. Thank you for your patience.

Monday, July 8, 2013

ProPublica FAQ On NSA-Collected Data


Goodhair Will Not Seek Re-Election

So he announced:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) announced Monday that he would not seek an unprecedented fourth full gubernatorial term. He previously served as George W. Bush's lieutenant governor for the state, taking over the governor's mansion in 2000, when Bush resigned to become president. He has since been elected for the state's top post three times.

But Perry, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, left the door open Monday for a 2016 presidential run, saying that he would spend the remainder of his term leading "this great state" and praying and reflecting to "determine my own future path."

"I will arrive at that decision appropriately," he said.
Right. Translation: tha muthahfuckah is goin' ta run fer preznit.

Quoth McRaven: 'Nevermore!' - Top Special Ops Commander Orders Bin Laden Raid Files Sealed In CIA

Richard Lardner at TPM:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s top special operations commander ordered military files about the Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout to be purged from Defense Department computers and sent to the CIA, where they could be more easily shielded from ever being made public.

The secret move, described briefly in a draft report by the Pentagon’s inspector general, set off no alarms within the Obama administration even though it appears to have sidestepped federal rules and perhaps also the Freedom of Information Act.

An acknowledgement by Adm. William McRaven of his actions was quietly removed from the final version of an inspector general’s report published weeks ago. ...

(As always with AP material, please read it on the original site.)

The fact that the Obama administration is attempting to run the whole bloody government in secret is hardly news, but it is still regrettable that they are not even willing to conceal their secrecy. I do not know if history will look kindly on their attempts to hide everything they do, but it is certain that historians won't.

OK, I'll be honest. I just wanted an opportunity to use that post title...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Krugman On How Austerity Could Become 'The New Normal'

Paul Krugman points to the changing reaction worldwide to the increasingly manifest bad consequences of austerity: bad results are settling into "the new normal," provoking no significant policy changes despite growing degrees of economic suffering among Americans and Europeans. Ever more prevalent is the reaction, "never mind the resulting economic decline; we KNOW austerity is the right course of action!" Here's Krugman:
I guess what I’m saying is that I worry that a more or less permanent depression could end up simply becoming accepted as the way things are, that we could suffer endless, gratuitous suffering, yet the political and policy elite would feel no need to change its ways.

Oh, and have a nice day.
Let me rephrase Krugman's message a bit: Any large-scale, widespread economic policy that propagates ongoing depression, however virtuous that policy may seem in the short description, is dysfunctional, and should be assiduously avoided.

Oh, and... have a nice day!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Your (At Least) Weekly Firearm Mayhem Report

I offer no comment on the ultimate cause of this incident; I just hope no one thinks it would have happened if a firearm had not been available to a person apparently incapable of using it responsibly:
Virginia Boy Struck By Stray Bullet At Fourth Of July Event Dies

Tom Kludt [TPM] 1:28 PM EDT, Friday July 5, 2013

The 7-year-old Virginia boy who was struck by a stray bullet while on his way to watch a Fourth of July fireworks display died Friday, according to Richmond-based NBC affiliate WWBT.

Police said the accident was likely the result of someone firing a gun in the air to celebrate the holiday. It is still unknown who fired the shot.

The boy and his father were walking to watch a fireworks show in Brandermill, Va. when the youngster fell behind before suddenly dropping to the ground. His father thought his son had passed out until he noticed the bullet wound on top the boy's head.

The boy died at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, Va.
If you have, or feel you have, a compelling need to own and carry a gun, please, pleez, don't point it in the air and pull the trigger. Once approximately 45 years ago, on New Years Eve or July 4 (I don't recall which), a bullet crashed through the bedroom window of our upstairs neighbor, who was also our landlord, a man in his middle fifties, missing him by approximately a foot, lodging in the opposite wall and spraying window glass all over him. Glass notwithstanding, he remembered his Army training, rolled off the bed onto the floor and took cover under the bed for a few minutes until he was relatively confident no more bullets were forthcoming. Thanks to a 10-year-old neighbor girl who witnessed the shooting, the woman who fired the shot several blocks away was apprehended.

Bullets are just as deadly when fired in celebration as when fired in anger. Just don't do it...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Your Dose Of John Philip Sousa!

The Muppets, performing John Philip Sousa's stirring "Stars and Stripes Forever..." what could be more, um, stirring!

What could be more stirring? Perhaps the US Marine Band...

or the US Army Field Band...

or choose your own performance from YouTube... there are dozens out there, appropriately enough for a nation (once) dedicated to diversity.

Happy Fourth! Don't get sick from overdosing on hot dogs or and beer!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Spooks And Snoops And Plots... For Tots?

There are many oddities in the news today, but the one that raised my eyebrows the most is this story by Hunter Walker of TPM about NSA's outreach programs for kids K‑12:
Along with running a massive surveillance apparatus, the secretive National Security Agency operates a program dedicated to getting its agents inside America’s elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. These K-12 NSA operatives guide children through math exercises, “cyber ethics,” and even mock spy games.

The NSA’s classroom initiatives are part of the Mathematics Education Partnership Program, which is described by the agency as an “outreach program to promote mathematics and science education at non-profit educational institutions.” MEPP began in the early 1990s due to concern among some at the NSA about the future of math and science education. ...

Along with a “Cryptokids” website featuring cartoonish recruitment materials, the NSA promotes several classroom initiatives as part of MEPP including “summer institutes” for teachers who work with children in second through fifth grades and a program that involves NSA volunteers mentoring students and repairing school equipment. The agency also offers a series of “interactive talks” NSA staffers can deliver to students from kindergarten through high school. ... A spokesperson for the NSA declined to comment on this story.

(Bolds mine. See original for links.)

I don't get it. When I was a kid, all the mathematically adept students were fascinated with the concept of cryptography, even if they didn't end up doing it for a living. Now the real spies have to make it entertaining for today's kids...
They're creepy and they're kookey.
Mysterious and spookey.
They're altogether ookey...
The modern NSA!

... and do you also offer 'Teach Everyone'?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Doing My Homework

These days I have no job. I do have physical therapy, which is a strange sort of job in which you pay (or your insurance company pays) the provider. One thing doesn't change, though: my PT is effectively my boss. Lately she has begun assigning "overtime," extra exercises that I am to do at home. I admit I need them: two guided sessions a week will not give me strength and balance enough to function in daily life. But two more self-guided sessions a week are enough to exhaust me for real, and that's one reason I'm not posting a lot.

I like my PT, really I do; she's of about the age to be my youngest daughter or oldest granddaughter if I had one. But it isn't always easy trying to keep up with a young-twenties-ish kid, fit and trim to the last ounce and muscle, who takes her job seriously. Please bear with me...

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