Friday, August 30, 2013

My American And Texan Citizenship Restored

Why does the eagle so seldom face left?
Both were suspended due to my failure to drive a motor vehicle or keep one in working condition for a period of over eight months. Yesterday, I got a new battery (no loss there; the old one was already marginal before I entered the hospital in December); today, I gave my car a much-needed oil change and had a burned-out brake light replaced. I drove from the repair place directly to an utterly institutional fast-food eatery (extra credit toward restored citizenship?) and treated myself to a foot-long veggies-and-cheese sandwich (I know; I'm pushing it with that one, but Stella doesn't like the food there) as a sort of welcome-home treat.

So now I'm once again American, at least until the first time I try to vote in a general election after my voter card is stamped "Voted Democratic Primary" and I cold-cock the mofo who tries to stop me...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Nothing To Lear At — UPDATED

How sharper than a serpent's child it is to have a thankless tooth! (Or something like that.)

Having not been to the dentist in several years, I seem to have acquired a thankless tooth; please excuse one or more absences while I deal with it.

UPDATE Tues. morning: the pain diminished considerably overnight, but I'm not done with the problem yet. I'll be content if I can get through two or three busy days before I have to make the "emergency" dental run.

UPDATE Thurs. evening: the pain seems almost completely gone. There's no evidence of damage to the gums (damn, it surely felt like there was while it was going on!) and I don't think an "emergency" trip will be necessary. Now I can deal with getting my car back to running condition, without which my s.o. says she'll stop giving me rides in hers... well, no, Stella didn't actually threaten, but she persuaded me, as only she can, just how much I need to get the car working and get myself back to driving. The first task is about done... I had the battery replaced today and drove the car a few blocks, heading back home when I discovered the brake light switch wasn't working on the right rear, for brakes or for flashers. But tomorrow is another day...

GOP Vs. ObamaCare: Kill It? Greg Sargent Discusses The Bind Boehner Is In

Via Paul Krugman, The Plum Line's Greg Sargent discusses Speaker John Boehner's likelihood of success in selling a "GOP declares victory, celebrates and goes home" approach to his unruly band of thugs that make up the GOP House caucus. Hint: the chances are between that long, tall cowboy and that member of the Sisters of Perpetual Baseless Hope...

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Browsing a bookshelf full of miscellaneous social, political and historical works, doing some reshelving as I browsed, I came across my old copy of The Right to Privacy by Caroline Kennedy and Ellen Alderman, shelved next to their companion volume, In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action.
This dilemma sprang immediately to my mind...

Should I shelve them with
  • history, or
  • fiction?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Obama Admin Asks Supremes To Reverse 1st Circuit, Allow Warrantless Cell Phone Searches — UPDATED

Jonathan Turley has the basics.

I feel no real need to comment on this; what Obama is asking for is so clearly a Fourth Amendment violation that any court... well, any court not having Roberts and Scalia as members... should promptly reject the request. That means we do indeed have cause for concern. 'Nuff said.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Fifty years after the March on Washington, fifty years after the Rev. King's most famous speech, another powerful, well‑spoken African American man, a man twice elected President of the United States, exhorted his Justice Department to approach the Supreme Court, seeking... no, not jobs, though God knows we need jobs, and no, not freedom, indeed quite the opposite... but, rather, permission to spy on every American who uses a cell phone, without obtaining even a simple warrant beforehand, because he knows that "no Warrants shall issue" in the absence of probable cause to believe those millions of individuals have committed even the most minimal crime. To this height has our African American population ascended... and to this depth has President Obama dragged them down again. Shame on you, Mr. President... shame!

UPDATE: thanks to L'Enfant de la Haute Mer, in comments to this post, please read Sarah Lazare's article on Juan Cole's Informed Comment, "Obama wants all the info in your Smart Phone without a Warrant (Lazare)." This 2007 case truly makes a mockery of the Fourth Amendment. Here's what D. S. Wright of Firedoglake says, quoted in that post (link found and added manually, because Wright's article is also worth reading):
“We know the Obama Administration is spying on the American people’s phone calls and emails. Now they want some of their activity legalized,” declared D.S. Wright on FiredogLake. “It seems to be a two tracked system—if it’s illegal the government will do it in secret and if its legal they will do it openly.”
It's like the old coin-flip joke: Heads, they win; tails, you lose.

UPDATE 2, 8/24/2013: Amazing... as reported by D.S. Wright again yesterday, quoted from Bloomberg, now the NSA itself is admitting that some analysts intentionally abused their spying powers multiple times. NOW will there be better oversight? Probably not. Heads, they win; tails, we lose...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Newly Declassified: FISA Court Ruled NSA Domestic Spying Program Unconstitutional

Via FDL's DSWright, from the WaPo:
NSA gathered thousands of Americans’ e-mails before court ordered it to revise its tactics
By Ellen Nakashima, Published: August 21 [Washington Post]

For several years, the National Security Agency unlawfully gathered tens of thousands of e-mails and other electronic communications between Americans as part of a now-revised collection method, according to a 2011 secret court opinion.

The redacted 85-page opinion, which was declassified by U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday, states that, based on NSA estimates, the spy agency may have been collecting as many as 56,000 “wholly domestic” communications each year.

In a strongly worded opinion, the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court expressed consternation at what he saw as a pattern of misleading statements by the government and hinted that the NSA possibly violated a criminal law against spying on Americans.

“For the first time, the government has now advised the court that the volume and nature of the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe,” John D. Bates, then the surveillance court’s chief judge, wrote in his Oct. 3, 2011, opinion.

[Note: to the best of my knowledge, Judge Bates is not related to me. - SB]

Please look at your calendar and note the difference between today's date and the date of the secret opinion. The FISA court has known about the NSA's surveillance of Americans... and known that it was probably a criminal violation... for nearly two years. Yet the court released no public statement about that probable criminality, and the spying went on. And President Obama, as recently as two days ago, in remarks to comedian Jay Leno, continues to deny that there is, in fact, spying on Americans.

What is wrong with this picture?

Baton Rouge, We Have A Problem

I'm sure the Louisiana GOP will simply blame the partisan leaning of Public Policy Polling. I'm more inclined to blame unmitigated GOPer ignorance:

Poll: Louisiana GOPers Unsure If Katrina Response Was Obama’s Fault
Tom Kludt [TPM] 10:33 AM EDT, Wednesday August 21, 2013

A significant chunk of Louisiana Republicans evidently believe that President Barack Obama is to blame for the poor response to the hurricane that ravaged their state more than three years before he took office.


Education dysfunction?
Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren't sure who to blame.

[/rolls eyes]

Several decades ago, a friend of mine casually offered me a job on the staff of a major Louisiana university's computer services department, which he was being hired to direct. I turned him down. Does the article excerpted above give you an idea why?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Marian McPartland (1918–2013)

One of the original great jazz pianists. Jazz radio broadcaster, Pacifica Radio and NPR. Participant in that amazing photo of 57 jazz artists in Harlem in 1958. Jazz composer until she was almost 90 years old. Wikipedia praises her "encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz standards," and lists seven (7) different major categories of jazz into which her long career carried her. Oh, and she was British, and eventually OBE. (She studied at Guildhall. So did several of my early music buddies, many years later.)

They don't make 'em like McPartland anymore. She will be greatly missed.

Bradley Manning's Sentence: 35 Years

Details here.

Particulars aside, the Obama administration may have succeeded in finding what many White House residents have long desired: a way to shut down whistleblowers. And our nation is the worse for it, again putting aside the particulars of Bradley Manning's case.

I spent some time thinking about how social and political change has been accomplished in my adult lifetime, and how Manning fits into the pattern. Very little has been accomplished to the benefit of our nation without premeditated civil disobedience on the part of determined citizens who refuse to be intimidated. Coward that I am, I have never "been to jail for justice" (the closest I've come is having been "escorted" by police away from the scene of a nonviolent Iraq War protest in the middle of Main Street), but most of my friends and political allies have been jailed at some point in their activist lives. For decades now, arguably much longer than that, civil disobedience has been part of our system, without which essential change would not happen. Likewise, leaks of information about illegal government actions, information held secret for the worst of purposes, have been utterly essential to the improvement of the worst aspects of our government. Civil disobedience and leaks are crucial to the improvement of the government in any free society; we can't do without them.

And yet Obama & Co. along with his DoJ wielding the antiquated Espionage Act, not to mention the police departments of many if not most large cities, not to mention other agents of government and a growing involvement of the military, are making their very best attempt to render the consequences of civil disobedience and leaks so unpleasant, so disruptive of a citizen's life, that few citizens will undertake it, in fear of those very consequences.

Believe me: whatever Obama and his henchmen may think, the nation is the worse for the loss of whistleblowers and nonviolent demonstrators. To turn the ACLU's "safe and free" saying on its head, we are now less safe... AND less free. Go ahead and chant "U-S-A... U-S-A..." all you want; the nation has suffered a devastating loss of all the elements that many of us treasured in the U-S-A. And this presidential administration, like the previous one, is very much to blame.

Freedom of speech as a corrective to governmental malfeasance may someday return to America. But it's going to be a long, hard road back...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fukushima: How Bad Is It, And How Bad Will It Become?

The typography alone
should have been a clue
This bad... and not getting any better. In fact, according to this interview with Christina Consolo, "founder and host of Nuked Radio," 1300 spent fuel rods must be extracted in an absolutely error-free manual process, or any one mistake in handling a rod could result in its going critical, triggering a cascading failure, an "above-ground meltdown, releasing radioactive fallout with no way to stop it." Given the danger, one might be inclined not to attempt the high-risk manual process... but doing nothing has consequences statistically just as risky over time.

Remember the 1957 Disney show "Our Friend the Atom," with its glowing (ahem) claims of "power too cheap to meter"? Right. How about "power no one will live to meter"?

The problem with nuclear power is that it requires only one catastrophic failure... ever... to wreak havoc in the very worst way, and all odds aside, we've had that catastrophe at Fukushima. Hold your breath... no, that won't do any good, either...

UPDATE: thanks to ellroon, who did a much better job excerpting the original ZNet interview than I did.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ted Cruz Releases His Birth Certificate And Thereby Proves...

Which finger, Ted?
... that he is a Canadian citizen... as well as a US citizen, but hey, we didn't start the process of accusing presidential candidates of citizenship problems, and Cruz does, in fact, hold dual citizenship. Via TPM, here's the Dallas Morning News, to which Cruz released a copy of his birth certificate:
WASHINGTON — Born in Canada to an American mother, Ted Cruz became an instant U.S. citizen. But under Canadian law, he also became a citizen of that country the moment he was born.

Unless the Texas Republican senator formally renounces that citizenship, he will remain a citizen of both countries, legal experts say.

That's odd... when the same question arose over President Obama's birth, I don't recall any news sources printing the likes of the Dallas Morning News paragraph 1 above, saying that he was American because he was born to an American mother. I guess that only applies if you're a Republican.

What does Teddy-boy say? What do you expect... he lies about it, disclaiming the Canadian citizenship-by-birth, though he has never formally renounced it, saying there is no need for him to do so.

Far be it from me to question Sen. Cruz's loyalty to the U.S. Far be it, because I just don't know the man; I'm not wealthy enough to run in his circles. But if you think for a moment about the clause in Article II Section 1 of the US Constitution that requires a President of the United States to be a natural born citizen, the clear implication is that our founders felt that a natural born citizen is more likely to have that presumably unbreakable bond of loyalty to one's place of birth. On that basis, we have to assume Cruz's loyalties lie with Canada. Now of course that's OK; one could surely do worse than to be loyal to Canada. But we're talking about the President of the United States here, POTUS, the man who occupies the position increasingly appropriately titled Dictator-in-Chief...

As this is really a matter of law more than politics, I'm not going to push it the way "birthers" all but assaulted President Obama. It just isn't an issue with this candidate, any more than it should have been with Obama. So I will dutifully ignore the fact in the case of Ted "Ameri‑Canuck" Cruz...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Krugman: People Are Ignorant Of The Decline... Yes, Decline... Of The Deficit


Paul Krugman
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that voters are poorly informed about the deficit. But you may be surprised by just how misinformed.

In a well-known paper with a discouraging title, “It Feels Like We’re Thinking,” the political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels reported on a 1996 survey that asked voters whether the budget deficit had increased or decreased under President Clinton. In fact, the deficit was down sharply, but a plurality of voters — and a majority of Republicans — believed that it had gone up.

I wondered on my blog what a similar survey would show today, with the deficit falling even faster than it did in the 1990s. Ask and ye shall receive: Hal Varian, the chief economist of Google, offered to run a Google Consumer Survey — a service the company normally sells to market researchers — on the question. So we asked whether the deficit has gone up or down since January 2010. And the results were even worse than in 1996: A majority of those who replied said the deficit has gone up, with more than 40 percent saying that it has gone up a lot. Only 12 percent answered correctly that it has gone down a lot.

Bolds mine. Be sure to tell your Republican coworkers so they can mock you for their ignorance. Your ignorance... I mean "mock you for your ignorance."

Saturday, August 17, 2013

'The NSA Doesn't Care About You Or Your Customers' - Bruce Schneier To ISPs

Well-known security consultant Bruce Schneier has advice to ISPs faced with the choice of simply acceding to the demands of the NSA for their customer data, or fighting and (inevitably) losing battles for their customers' data security. Schneier's advice: fight them. But what of your company's relationship with the NSA? You have no such relationship, Schneier reminds you; the NSA will burn you... or any of your customers... as soon as it is convenient, and your history of cooperation with the NSA will not change that fact. Here's a short segment of the beginning of Schneier's article linked above:
The NSA is Commandeering the Internet

It turns out that the NSA's domestic and world-wide surveillance apparatus is even more extensive than we thought. Bluntly: The government has commandeered the Internet. Most of the largest Internet companies provide information to the NSA, betraying their users. Some, as we've learned, fight and lose. Others cooperate, either out of patriotism or because they believe it's easier that way.

I have one message to the executives of those companies: fight.

Do you remember those old spy movies, when the higher ups in government decide that the mission is more important than the spy's life? It's going to be the same way with you. You might think that your friendly relationship with the government means that they're going to protect you, but they won't. The NSA doesn't care about you or your customers, and will burn you the moment it's convenient to do so.

We're already starting to see that. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others are pleading with the government to allow them to explain details of what information they provided in response to National Security Letters and other government demands. They've lost the trust of their customers, and explaining what they do -- and don't do -- is how to get it back. The government has refused; they don't care.

It will be the same with you. There are lots more high-tech companies who have cooperated with the government. Most of those company names are somewhere in the thousands of documents that Edward Snowden took with him, and sooner or later they'll be released to the public. The NSA probably told you that your cooperation would forever remain secret, but they're sloppy. They'll put your company name on presentations delivered to thousands of people: government employees, contractors, probably even foreign nationals. If Snowden doesn't have a copy, the next whistleblower will.

They say a word to the wise is sufficient. I haven't found that to be true. Remember how you (well, many of you, including me) really thought Obama the candidate was the best thing since sliced bread, and really wanted to believe him? How's that working out for you? And the NSA has even less reason... like, ZERO accountability... not to put a sharp stick in your eye when it's convenient.

ISPs: for your own sake and for ours, please fight them. If nothing else, you will at least establish a trail of actions in court against the process of wanton, needless privacy violation AGAINST EVERYONE by the various security agencies. Perhaps that trail can be used in saner times, say, 20 or 30 years from now. Corporations live that long, and therefore have even more good reason to fight the agencies' most drastic actions than individuals. Yes, you'll lose... but the battle lines will at least be drawn.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Spy vs. Spy Citizen

What did the "infamous" Snowden leaks tell us? Many things, and we're still learning, but here's one, via Joan McCarter of Kos, reported by the WaPo:
NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds
By Barton Gellman, Published: August 15

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans
NSA vs, Us
or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a “quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff.

In another case, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has authority over some NSA operations, did not learn about a new collection method until it had been in operation for many months. The court ruled it unconstitutional.

(Bolds mine. - SB) Please read the whole thing. It will provide you your morning dose of confidence in the competency and goodwill of this most important government agency. [/irony]

UPDATE: Bryan has some additional insight, and a link to some rather trenchant observations by Charles Pierce.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Revisiting Paul O'Dette

Not literally... it's probably been 35 or 40 years since I've seen him in person, and there's no reason he should remember our encounter. But to his good fortune and ours, he became famous after a fashion in the interval since those days, as one of the world's great masters of the lute, both Renaissance and Baroque... they're different instruments altogether... as well as baroque guitar and all the large lutes: theorbo, chitarrone, archlute, etc. Those large lutes differ from each other in important details, but all have a half dozen or more bass strings run off the fretboard to extra pegs (usually on an extra pegbox), pretuned before each piece to the bass notes you need for that piece. (See photo below right.) There is nothing like the sound of those unstopped deep bass notes on a theorbo... a Steinway grand piano today is a lot louder, but the theorbo takes the prize for sheer resonance and color in the bass. Playing recorder or baroque flute, I'd rather be accompanied on one of the large lutes than any other instrument in the world.

(height over 6')
Back to Paul O'Dette. O'Dette, like so many of his generation (he's only slightly younger than I am), started out in a rock band. He then moved to classical guitar, discovered the lute literature, realized more quickly than most young teens that you couldn't do justice to the lute literature on any modern guitar, and started collecting lutes. That was then; now, he tours as a soloist, leads various ensembles, publishes both scholarly research and practical performance advice, and teaches at Eastman. The above picture notwithstanding, his beard is now only slightly less gray than mine.

Here's a fun fact about Paul O'Dette: if you don't watch out, he makes terrible puns. I mean genuine groaners! Or at least he did 40 years ago, and that sort of thing doesn't usually change.

I'm not going to conduct this tour of O'Dette's oeuvre. Just search for him on YouTube; listen to several works, then read this 1993 interview with Bruce Duffie, a Chicago radio announcer. I will get you started with this performance of a song Love's Constancy by Nicolas Lanier; Ellen Hargis, soprano; Paul O'Dette, theorbo. Be forewarned before you listen: you're going to want to collect his recordings, and in his long and creative life to this point, he's made or participated in over 120 of them!

Obama Admin War On Journalism Continues: Barrett Brown Faces Over 100 Years In Charges

Can you spell "overreach," children? Here's yellowsnapdragon at FDL:
In case you haven’t heard, journalist Barrett Brown is facing over 100 years in jail for alleged crimes relating to his investigation into the world of private intelligence contractors for the US government.

Forty-five years of that potential maximum jail sentence is for copying and pasting a link into a chat room. Along with valuable emails exposing the machinations inside the lair of private spies in the service of government, the link Barrett Brown posted also included private credit card information stored on contractor’s servers.

By contrast, LulzSec hacker Jeremy Hammond, accused of actually stealing the files from Stratfor (aided by government informer Sabu), faces only 10 years.

Government overreach on the charges against Brown apparently isn’t enough. In a motion filed August 7, the prosecution requested that the Judge order restrictions against parties contacting the media. The government is seeking a Gag Order to prevent Barrett Brown from speaking with reporters.

Please read the rest of ysd's post. It is sobering to contemplate what our government is doing to journalists to punish them for doing their jobs.

Telling a journalist not to talk to people is like telling a truck driver not to use the highway system. And charging anyone with a 45-year offense for copy-pasting a single link... "copy-pasting" presumably means the link was already on the web somewhere... sounds like something that would have happened in the various countries whose government we were privileged to call totalitarian, back before the "world's greatest democracy" (heh) started doing the same shit.

A word to Obama and company: jailing, intimidating, assaulting, "disappearing," and killing journalists are things only dictators do. Is that what you are now? How soon before you start jailing bloggers... including Democrats critical of your administration's suppression of the mainstream press and media?

Grammatical Hed Error Of The Day: Mayor Bob Filner Can't Keep A Breast

In a headline at TPM,
San Diego Hooters Refuse To Serve Mayor Bob Filner (PHOTO)
Their use of "refuse" instead of "refuses" leads me to expect a subhead...
Fox News to Interview Right Breast at 9:00pm, Pics at Midnight
Actually, you can't persuade me the printed version was accidental...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Southern California Doc Diagnoses Man As Suffering Chronic ‘Homosexual Behavior’ — Lists DSM Code Not Used For 40 Years

Via Kos, from Salon's Katie McDonough:
The results of a Southern California man’s most recent routine physical revealed a few conditions that really did not surprise him: He has a B-12 deficiency, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

But it was another condition, identified as “chronic” on Matthew Moore’s patient plan, that blindsided him: His physician had listed “homosexual behavior” as a disease on his chart.

Moore, an openly gay man, was understandably shocked, as he told NBC News: “My jaw was on the floor. At first, I kind of laughed, I thought, ‘Here’s another way that gay people are lessened and made to feel less-than,’ and then as I thought about it and as I dealt with it, it angered me.”

When he returned to the office to discuss his doctor’s diagnosis, she defended it to him, explaining that it “is still up to debate” whether or not homosexuality is “thought of as a disease,” according to Moore. (Fact check: It is decidedly  not “still up to debate.”)


The health association returned Moore’s money and included a note of apology distancing itself from his doctor’s actions. ...

“We would like to unequivocally state that the Torrance Memorial Physician Network does not view homosexuality as a disease or a chronic condition and we do not endorse or approve of the use of Code 302.0 as a diagnosis for homosexuality.” ...

I wonder if the doctor keeps leeches in her office on the assumption that their utility in modern medicine is "still up to [sic] debate." (Image intentionally omitted.) Or the surgical kit displayed [right], which was used by Dr. Samuel Mudd to treat John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Lincoln... is its utility in our era "still up to debate" to her? The way this woman is practicing medicine is clearly not compatible with 21st-century medical standards, and if she is unwilling to bring her practices in line with those standards, she should have her license revoked.

Medicine is not a field in which the active application of one's sociopolitical views is harmless and acceptable. The "good" Doctor should be told, "can it... or be canned."

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tea Party GOPer Starts Talk About The I-Word

That's right. Impeachment. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) says the House Tea Party has the votes to do it, but admits that the results would be bad for America. I didn't catch any mention on his part that it would also be damaging to the GOP, but face it... we've seen this movie before; we know how it ends.

Regular readers (all both of you) know I have no great love for Obama. Readers who have been with me a bit longer know I actually supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in the 2008 primary, much good it did me. And there are probably a couple of things Obama has done for which he is legitimately impeachable, not that there's much evidence available to those who might pursue the charge.

But if a bunch of goddamned Birthers in the House mount an impeachment effort, knowing what the Senate will do even if the House brings a charge, and the rest of the GOP doesn't put a stop to it from the get-go... then the GOP deserves every damned thing that happens to it as a result. To hell with them.

Ignoring Parents' Wishes, Judge Renames Baby From ‘Messiah’ To ‘Martin’ — DOGGEREL!

From TPM's Tom Kludt:
A judge in Tennessee ordered that a 7-month-old baby's name be changed from "Messiah," prompting the mother to challenge the ruling.

Jaleesa Martin and the father of the baby were attending a child support hearing Thursday in Cocke County, Tenn. to settle a dispute over Messiah's last name. It was there that Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew took the liberty to hand down a ruling on the boy's first name, too.

"The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ," Judge Ballew said, according to t.v. station WBIR. Ballew said the child could go by "Martin DeShawn McCullough," which includes both the mother and father's names.


As WBIR noted, "Messiah" was one of the five fastest growing male baby names between 2011 and 2012, according to the Social Security Administration.
Well, that's mighty presumptuous of Judge Ballew... what's next? Will she rename all those Hispanic boys named Jesus and girls named Maria? Just how far does this go?

Who Will Save Us? Not Fundamentalist Judges!
A judge who's holier than some
Decided that she wouldn't buy a
Charming little boy whose Mom
Saw fit to name the tyke MESSIAH.

Said Judge Ballew, "that name's reserved...
To call him that is bad behavior!"

"Well," the startled Mom observed;
"How 'bout instead we name him SAVIOR?"

The judge said she would brook no fooling:
"'Nuff of this, now; quit yer fartin'...
I proclaim my solemn ruling:
As of now, his name is MARTIN."
The Mom was ticked; her rage was blind;
"This is not over," said with feeling,
"'Nother judge will shortly find
This charming child to be... APPEALING!"
SB the YDD

UPDATE: the ACLU of Tennessee has offered to assist with the appeal.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Gallup Poll: Hispanics Overwhelmingly Prefer Democrats

The GOP will have to engage in a lot of gerrymandering, voter suppression and other forms of election theft to overcome this result: per Gallup, both U.S.-born Hispanics and Hispanic immigrants to the U.S. lean strongly to the Democratic Party. Hispanic Americans whose parents were both born in the U.S., by a margin of 64% to 30%, prefer Democrats over Republicans; Hispanic Americans with both parents born outside the U.S. prefer Democrats over Republicans by 57% to 25%.

Look for the Supreme Court to stretch very far to overcome the overwhelming Democratic advantage in rulings involving this large and rapidly growing immigrant population. I suspect the Supremes' tweaking of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was just a beginning of an assault on voting rights in many states, e.g., Texas and Florida. No battle for rights ever stays won, and for all the recent failings of the Democratic Party, Republicans are still the champion deniers of rights and liberties. Get ready for a battle...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Be Worried, Not Happy—John Gribbin's The Reason Why

With all respect to Bobby McFerrin, a parody of his excellent work...
Here's a parody I stole;
You might want to sing it whole—
Be worried... ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Not happy... ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Or, more to the point, don't allow your happiness to depend on the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent life in our Galaxy.

The dependably excellent popular science writer John Gribbin, in his slender but densely written 2011 book The Reason Why: The Miracle of Life on Earth, advises you not to take hope from the Drake Equation or your favorite Star Trek episodes or anything else, but rather to ask, with the late great Enrico Fermi, if there is intelligent life elsewhere than Earth, "Where is everybody?" ... and then answer yourself, "there's no one out there."

Gribbin assembles more than a dozen powerful arguments why our life on Earth depends on conditions specific to Earth, Earth's oddities as a planet, other oddities of the Sun and the Solar System, Earth's history, the hazards afflicting all objects in space, and our specific human makeup, conditions so particular that the likelihood of their existing elsewhere in the Milky Way galaxy is effectively zero. Let me quote you Gribbin's conclusion and thus spare you two hundred pages of dense prose in fine print:
... The reasons why we are here form a chain so improbable that the chance of any other technological civilization existing in the Milky Way Galaxy at the present time is vanishingly small. We are alone, and we had better get used to the idea.
So there. Take that, you romanticizing fool!

In fairness, the late great Stephen Jay Gould came to a similar conclusion for different reasons. And Gribbin's arguments are pretty compelling, and encompass a lot of facts about Earth and humankind, including many (especially about Earth) that you may never have thought about, at least not in this context.

Is being alone in the Galaxy a tragedy? I think not. There's plenty of interesting material to last us our civilization's lifetime. Will it be a tragedy if humankind brings an end to its civilization before its likely termination by nature? That's another matter...

Dallas Bests Houston... Today At Least... In The
‘Most Murdered With Firearms’ Contest

I-45: Murder Alley?
In my youth, I was a real Houston booster: in Houston's ongoing rivalry with Dallas, as a place to live and work, I always sided with Houston. Of course, I never actually lived in Dallas (though I occasionally traveled there to visit friends or perform in concerts), but that never stopped me from cheering for Houston.

Well, today I have to cede game and match, also lock, stock and barrel, to Dallas: Houston may have been the murder-and-mayhem capital of the nation at one time, but today Dallas police reported finding four people shot in a southwest Dallas home, two of them already dead when police arrived. The alleged perpetrator apparently then drove to DeSoto, TX, about 16 miles south of Dallas, where he allegedly shot four more people, leaving two of them dying. The suspect reportedly surrendered quietly to police.

I'd say the Dallas area takes the crown as today's murder king.

For what it's worth, there were also stories today of shootings involving children, including a report of a 13-year-old Indiana boy accidentally shot and killed by his sibling (sex not specified; that's the first use of "sibling" I've ever seen in the popular press). There are so many shootings every day that Talking Points Memo's TPMLiveWire column now has the tab bar
All  |  U.S.  |  World  |  Guns
Does anyone else think something is wrong here?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bill Clinton, Vegan... Who Knew!

For the past three years, since his emergency heart surgery, Bill Clinton has eaten a vegan diet, the strictest kind of vegetarian diet, excluding eggs and dairy products. As to "who knew," evidently not the beef industry, or else perhaps Bill is not as famous as Oprah Winfrey, because as far as I know, they haven't threatened to sue Bill for his non-carnivorous habits.

In the summer of approximately 1981 (?), about a month before my 33rd birthday, I turned lacto-ovo-vegetarian. My choices were to go veggie or to eat out for three continuous weeks: the house in which I lived for the duration of the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute had a lot of sprout-eaters in it, and we decided as a community that all of us would go veggie for those three weeks. It was easy, and I liked it so well that I brought the habit home with me.

Today I turn 65 years old. Yes, I'm still lacto-ovo-veggie. No, I don't miss meat at all, though I do eat things like veggie bacon, veggie burgers, etc. But given the typical short lifespan of my mother's side of the family, I believe I've already lengthened my life by switching over.

If you are interested for health reasons, be aware that vegetarianism is like horseshoes... close counts. Cut your meat-eating to a couple of times a week, and you probably will lengthen your life and improve your day-to-day health.

Bill's looking mighty good these days!

(Meanwhile, GeeDubya Bush had a stent put in... my best wishes to him for his continued good health, even if he is a sorry a$$h*le...)

When They Say The Three-Letter Agencies ‘Hoover’ Up Information On The 'Net, They Aren't Talking About A Vacuum Cleaner

Please read "FBI Pressuring Internet Providers To Allow Government Surveillance Software" ... The FBI is not even trying to hide its anti-Fourth-Amendment internet activities any more. If you have any serious secrets, don't transmit them, let alone store them, on the 'net, no matter how good your encryption may be.

Somewhere, the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover is cackling...

Oh, and... welcome to the United States of Surveillance. Bryan of Why Now suggests a new national anthem...

Monday, August 5, 2013

RNC: We Decide What News Networks Shall Program; CNN: Like Hell You Do

Reince Priebus has made another baldfaced royal proclamation on behalf of The Party That Runs The Show:
Try Ex-Lax, Reince!
Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus on Monday called on both NBC and CNN to drop their planned film productions of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or face losing their partnerships with the RNC for 2016 presidential primary debates.
CNN, at least, had something to say about that:

Madame Secretary
Puzzled over what they say would be a "premature" decision to pull several 2016 presidential primary debates should a documentary on Hillary Clinton go forward, CNN on Monday called on the RNC to "reserve judgment" before committing what they call the "ultimate disservice to voters."
A party whose national committee chair has a name reminiscent of European royalty really should think twice before behaving toward one or more of the major television networks as if the party were, in fact, royalty who could dictate to the networks what they could or could not broadcast. I mean, really: in the 2000 presidential selection, it was the CEO of ABC who called the election for GeeDubya Bush. I think the power of the networks to run the show on election night is well-established, whatever Republican royalty (or ordinary citizens) may think of that.

Ramen! Statue Of Flying Spaghetti Monster Built Near Tennessee County Courthouse

From the wide-ranging surfing of ellroon, we learn of an effort by a Tennessee couple who are members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to treat the public space of a Tennessee courthouse with the same respect for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as has been shown by many Christian sects, i.e., by ignoring the First Amendment altogether and placing their religious display outside the courthouse:

Actually, in the original picture, it appears that the FSM sculpture is on the corner of a concrete slab quite possibly on the property adjoining the courthouse lawn. But if that's not the case, I'll excuse the building of a religious icon on government property, because... because I am a true Pastafarian, a believer in the religion of the FSM as the one true religion, and of course any government in America must promote the one true religion! [/irony]

Meanwhile, I found a recent post on the FSM site containing a video of well-known science writer and vociferous defender of the theory of evolution, Richard Dawkins, interviewing equally vocal defender of the dogma of creationism, Wendy Wright. I was able to watch about half of it before my absurdity fatigue set in and forced me to shut it off; let me know how you fare. All I can say is that, measured by his patience, Dawkins is a (secular) saint.

As for the FSM, may you all be touched by His Noodly Appendage. Ramen!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Hunger In America: ‘A Place At The Table

Bill Moyers interviews filmmaker Kristi Jacobsen and nutrition and public health advocate Dr. Mariana Chilton on their film "A Place at the Table" and how America and especially its government continue to ignore and hide food insecurity, obesity and malnutrition... in a word, hunger... despite the vastly greater human costs and monetary costs of allowing people, especially children, to suffer that hunger compared to the costs of establishing food security for everyone. Moyers, always an excellent interviewer, intersperses his insightful questions with well-chosen excerpts from the film. The segment is about an hour, and although I am prejudiced (hunger was an activist interest of my youth), I cannot think of a better way for you to spend an hour. Please give it a try.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

GOP To Get Its Just Deserts?

Brian Beutler of TPM says it with no reservation:
GOP’s Long-Predicted Comeuppance Has Arrived
I wish I felt as confident in that as he does, but I have to admit his reasoning seems sound to me:
In normal times, the House and Senate would each pass a budget, the differences between those budgets would be resolved, and appropriators in both chambers would have binding limits both on how much money to spend, and on which large executive agencies to spend it.

But these aren’t normal times. Republicans have refused to negotiate away their budget differences with Democrats, and have instead instructed their appropriators to use the House GOP budget as a blueprint for funding the government beyond September.

Like all recent GOP budgets, this year’s proposes lots of spending on defense and security, at the expense of all other programs. Specifically, it sets the total pool of discretionary dollars at sequestration levels, then funnels money from thinly stretched domestic departments (like Transportation and HUD) to the Pentagon and a few other agencies. But that’s all the budget says. It doesn’t say how to allocate the dollars, nor does it grapple in any way with the possibility that cutting domestic spending so profoundly might be unworkable. It’s an abstraction.
When a party's policy agenda becomes wholly negative... "the policy of the GOP is to prevent President Obama from accomplishing anything whatsoever, especially anything having to do with social programs..." it leads that party to attempt things that rational people would know better than to attempt. My reaction is probably about like that of most long-time Democrats: part of me would love to see the GOP collapse; another part of me is afraid of what happens to the nation if any substantial portion of its government, whether personnel or policy, is irrational. Hope for the best? The best would be for the House GOP to experience a return to rationality, and I fear that will not happen.

Latest Installment

From TPM:
3-Year-Old Shoots 5-Year-Old Boy In Louisiana
Awwww, just go read it. And remind yourself to keep yer friggin' loaded guns away from yer (and other people's) friggin' kids! Thank you.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Krugman On What's Inherently Important

Krugman, after quoting Raymond Chandler's The Simple Art of Murder, offers his reasons for not writing about the really important things lately, and then offers a couple of paragraphs about one really important thing:

In the short run the point is that Republican leaders are about to reap the whirlwind, because they haven’t had the courage to tell the base that Obamacare is here to stay, that the sequester is in fact intolerable, and that in general they have at least for now lost the war over the shape of American society. As a result, we’re looking at many drama-filled months, with a high probability of government shutdowns and even debt defaults.

Over the longer run the point is that one of America’s two major political parties has basically gone off the deep end; policy content aside, a sane party doesn’t hold dozens of votes declaring its intention to repeal a law that everyone knows will stay on the books regardless. And since that party continues to hold substantial blocking power, we are looking at a country that’s increasingly ungovernable.

Hyde Park Bar & Grill, Austin, TX
"At the Fork in the Road"
No wonder he titles the post, "Chaos Looms." For the record, I am not enjoying the Republican-dominated process, and I shall still not enjoy it even if it leads to the demise of the GOP. It is difficult for me to admit that America is somewhat fragile at the moment, but my beloved nation is at a fork in the road (and not the one in Austin, TX). The GOP can decide to inflict its bitterness about the unpopularity of its policies on the entire nation, or it can ditch its most radical wing and resume a legitimately American way of resolving differences; either way, there's no assurance the nation is sturdy enough to survive the process. If the downfall of the GOP forces the formation of a legitimate American conservative party in opposition to my currently rather pitiful Democrats, it may be worth the pain and suffering. But I wouldn't bet money on the members of today's GOP choosing that route.

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