Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Think about it before you go trick-or-treating:

Should your vegetarian child accept a (ahem) chocolate moose?

The Hostage-Taking Party

Now we see what the GOP learned from its ignominious defeat in the debt ceiling government shutdown:

GOP Threatens Mass Blockade of Obama's Top Judges (i.e., judicial appointments):
Republicans are threatening a mass blockade of President Barack Obama's three most important judicial nominees ahead of an expected Thursday vote on the first of them.

Backed by House colleagues and GOP attorneys general from around the country, Senate Republican leaders are whipping opposition to advancing the nomination of Patricia Millett -- or anyone else -- for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is one notch below the Supreme Court and often has the final word on matters of executive authority.

Pick it, John!
John Cornyn accuses Obama of "court-packing." Historically, "court-packing" meant expanding the size of a court in order to appoint a commanding majority; FDR attempted this with the Supreme Court... and failed. Obama is merely appointing vacancies to the DC Circuit that occurred during his term as president... ordinary, run-of-the-mill judicial appointments. Blocking these appointments a priori without regard to their qualifications is interfering with usual constitutional process.
Mr. Cornyn, would you accept such behavior from a Democratic Senate if the president were a Republican (I mean, officially)? If your only reason for this obstruction is partisan, you have to expect the next Republican president facing a Democratic Senate to see the same thing happen to his (face it, if the president is Republican, he will be male) nominees. Oh, and your argument about the cost of these judges' salaries... I'll believe you when you start declining your own salary. You talk about wasted money...

McCain Threatens to Hold Yellen Nomination Over Benghazi Details
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Wednesday that he and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) plan to delay the nomination of Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve in order to obtain information on the 2012 Benghazi attacks from the Obama administration, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"That's the only way we get their attention," McCain told the Journal. "It's the only way we get any response."

"Get off
my lawn"
Yes, you motherfucking bastard, that's because your party has lost two presidential elections in a row... failed even to steal them the way you stole the one before that.
Let me quote the celebrated Republican president preceding Mr. Obama: "Elections have consequences." Apparently GOPers believe that is true only if they, not Democrats, win those elections.
To hell with all of you!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NSA Has Infiltrated Comm Between Yahoo, Google And Their Cloud‑Based Data Centers

Kevin Gosztola at FDL:

The Washington Post has revealed that the National Security Agency has infiltrated the main communications that connect Yahoo and Google to [their] data centers located around the world. Such revelation could have huge ramifications for the NSA.

According to documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden—and as reported by Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, the NSA has developed a tool as part of a project called MUSCULAR. The NSA, in partnership with UK spying agency, GCHQ, are able to copy “entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.”

Over a period of 30 days from December 2012 to January 2013, the NSA sent copies of “millions of records” to warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters. The agency’s “field collectors” were able to collect, process and send 181,280,466 records in that time span. The records included metadata and content “such as text, audio and video.”

(Note: the bracketed "their" above was originally "its" in Gosztola's post, but that cannot be correct; please see the linked WaPo article for the proper reading.)

Yes, the data includes American citizens' data, because a Yahoo or Google cloud is typically not confined to servers on American soil. Not that that would probably matter to most of the NSA geeks...

UPDATE:  oh, and there's this, from the linked WaPo article:
The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process.
I am reminded of Lawrence Block's fictional burglar, Bernie Rhodenbarr, who occasionally waxes eloquent on the visceral thrills he experiences entering other people's homes and stealing things, even things he could afford to buy. Do Keith Alexander and James Clapper experience a similar rush when they steal data they have already obtained legitimately by a court order?

Grand Bargain: Unofficially Dead, Killed By Paul Ryan (Thank You, You !@#$%^)

Sahil Kapur at TPM:
Harry Clarke, "Faust"
Paul Ryan killed any lingering hopes of a grand bargain within moments of the budget conference kickoff on Wednesday.

In his opening remarks, the Wisconsin congressman and chairman of the House budget committee laid down a firm marker against new taxes, which are essential to any major deficit reduction proposal that can pass Congress and be signed into law.

"Taking more from hardworking families just isn't the answer. I know my Republican colleagues feel the same way," Ryan said. "So I want to say this from the get-go: If this conference becomes an argument about taxes, we're not going to get anywhere. The way to raise revenue is to grow the economy."

In the same opening remarks, Ryan urged action on scaling back Social Security and Medicare -- which progressives want to avoid at all costs, and which President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders have promised not to touch without new federal revenues.

No... the way to raise revenue and grow the economy is for citizens to boot every goddamned Republican from the House of Representatives, say "f∧<k that" to the grand bargain, resume taxing the (almost never hardworking) rich, and engage in reasonable government spending on needed programs. There you have it in a nutshell.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I kid you not... when I googled "bargain with the Devil" on Google Images, about halfway down the results, I came across a picture of... get this... Paul Ryan, posted on Politico back in late March. Google it yourself if you're interested; I don't hate Politico, but I have no interest in increasing their hit count from here for something so frivolous.

'Congress' Hears Pakistani Family Whose Grandmother Was Killed By US Drone

Kevin Gosztola at FDL:
Members of a family in Pakistan, who became victims of the United States drone program in October of last year when their grandmother was killed and children were wounded, traveled to the US to inform Americans of what the US government is doing to Pakistanis and how it directly impacts them.

Rafiq ur Rehman, the son of 67-year-old Mammana Bibi who was obliterated by Hellfire missiles fired by a drone while she was out in the family garden, addressed an audience at a congressional briefing convened by Congressman Alan Grayson today. Rafiq’s son, 13-year-old Zubair, who was injured in the strike, and his daughter, 9-year-old Nabila, also injured in the strike, spoke as well. Brave New Films director Robert Greenwald was present to introduce the family and show a clip from his new film in which the family appears, “Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars.”


Only five congressmen, including Grayson, made an appearance at the briefing: Rep. John Conyers, Rep. Rush Holt, Rep. Rick Nolan and Rep. Jan Schakowsky.

Five members of Congress. Five Democrats, mostly progressives. Only those five turned out to hear the aggrieved family. What does that tell you about how much the House of Representatives cares about Mr. Obama's drone victims?

So... an isolated mistake in a big war? Hardly. From the same article:

Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer for the human rights organization, Reprieve, provided testimony and put the attack that killed their grandmother into perspective.

“This tragedy is far from the only one,” Gibson explained. “Since 2010, Reprieve and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights have interviewed more than 150 families and civilian victims of US drone strikes. Only three could make the long journey from the tribal areas of Pakistan, but all of them have stories, largely unheard and untold here in the US. Together they reveal a secret war that is immoral, unlawful and counterproductive. Mistakes like the mistake that killed Mammana Bibi are not stand-alone events. They started with the very first strike this administration took.”

Some say the United States has no obligation to "commit suicide" as a nation in the face of terrorism. I agree... but that has never been the issue. Neither does America have the right to kill people indiscriminately with a weapon against which there is no effective defense. Considering the number killed who are innocent bystanders, the practice of drone warfare is often effectively murder.

I am ashamed of what is being done in the name of my country. Ashamed. In my 65 years, I never felt this way until Mr. Bush Junior turned that nation into an international murder machine... and Mr. Obama decided to follow the same awful pattern.

You Knew This Would Happen Eventually: DoJ To Use Data From Warrantless Surveillance In Criminal Case

Warrantless searches aren't just for alleged terrorists anymore. Jeralyn of TalkLeft has the details from a New York Times article:
... the government intends to offer into evidence or otherwise use or disclose in proceedings in the above-captioned matter information obtained or derived from acquisition of foreign intelligence information conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, as amended, 50 U.S.C. 1881a.

It's a sad day for anyone who ever depended on the Fourth Amendment to keep the government's nose out of their ordinary noncriminal business.

UPDATE: via the NYT article, it is, after all, a terrorism case: the charge is "providing material support to the Islamic Jihad Union, a designated terrorist organization based in Uzbekistan." It is still significant because the DoJ has only just begun a new policy of informing defendants if a link in the chain of evidence against them was obtained by surveillance without a warrant, in this case, wiretapping the defendant's phone calls. Damned nice of them to tell them, isn't it?

State Of Texas Goes Court-Shopping On Abortion Ruling

Becca Aaronson at Texas Tribune:
The Texas attorney general's office is seeking an emergency stay, asking the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel’s ruling against abortion regulations in House Bill 2.

Call it whatever you want. I call it court-shopping.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Oklahoma Supreme Court: 2011 OK Abortion Law Is Unconstitutional

This time it's Oklahoma, where the state Supreme Court has struck down the state's draconian abortion law, passed in 2011, based on answers to questions long ago posed by the US Supreme Court:
In answering questions posed by the U.S. Supreme Court, the court ruled that the law "restricts the long-respected medical discretion of physicians” and effectively bans all drug-induced abortions, according to the judge's order.
Look: nobody really likes abortion. It's a last-ditch solution to a problem nobody wants. But as the US Supreme Court ruled way back in 1973 in Roe v. Wade, a woman has a constitutional right under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to control her own body, including a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. Most of the recent state laws on abortion are nothing more nor less than attempts to preempt Roe and violate that constitutional right.

If women are to be fully equal citizens of the United States, they must have fully implemented constitutional rights: as federal courts including the US Supreme Court have noted, e.g. in the complex, divided affirmation of the Roe ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, prior Courts long ago rejected the doctrine of "separate but equal," which was the basis of support for racial segregation in schools in Plessy v. Ferguson but later rejected in Brown v. Board of Education. Perhaps someday Republicans will succeed in appointing a Court that will overturn Roe... the current Court comes damned close to being willing, with its six Catholics... but if that day comes, women will have a constitutional and human right to rebel against any such decision.

If you really want to reduce the impact of the abortion issue, get busy inventing perfect contraceptives, at least one each for women and men, and make them available at no cost and with no restriction to any potentially fertile person, legal adult or not. While you're at it, remove all restrictions from "morning after" pills, which despite claims to the contrary are not abortifacients. It is this blatantly false claim that tells me, as much as anything else, that the fundamentalist Right privately perceives the abortion debate as nothing but an opportunity to take away women's basic human rights, an opportunity having nothing to do with alleged rights of fetuses.

Republicans Speak Their Mind, Reveal Their Nature

The recent Republican practice of "doubling down" ... standing by things they have said that never should have been said in the first place... is getting out of hand.

Twice within the past week a Republican has touched the third rail of racial politics:

  • A GOP precinct chair in North Carolina (on the Daily Show, of all places) spoke of "lazy black people that wants the government to give them everything." Even if we put aside the ignorant lack of agreement of subject and verb in number, that statement, in the second decade of the 21st century, is dumbfoundingly racist in itself. And then the man, in defending himself, used the "n-word" a couple of times, apparently not realizing he had done anything offensive. But the GOP apparently made him resign as precinct chair.
  • Today, another GOPer, this one an assemblyman in Nevada, was revealed in a YouTube video from 2010 (apparently since removed) to have said to a county party meeting that he would vote to bring back slavery if that's what his constituents wanted: "If that's what they wanted, I'd have to hold my nose ... they'd probably have to hold a gun to my head, but yeah," he was quoted in an AP article on TPM as saying in response to a talk show host's question.

When will Americans realize that these videos are not anomalies? When will Americans see that these Republicans are bigots finally coming out to their constituencies as who they really are? When will Americans stop electing these hateful people?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Comment CAPTCHA, Removed At Request, Now Restored... And Removed Again

At the request of NTodd, I removed the CAPTCHA filter (the word and number you have to type to leave a comment). That was four days ago. For whatever reason, during those four days, I received no comments at all... none. On the chance that the changed CAPTCHA setting caused some sort of blockage on comments, I am restoring the CAPTCHA filter. I don't like it either. Sorry, galz & guyz, but just in case that's the problem, I have to try it.

UPDATE: some comments arrived while CAPTCHA was on; now I'm trying it again with CAPTCHA off. Give me a shout, please.

Are 'Good Male Contraceptives' Possible, Or Is It 'Pick Two Of The Three Attributes'?

Birth control: old standards
Valerie Tarico of RH Reality Check discusses eight new possibilities for male contraceptives (some completely new to me) in various stages of testing, and of course necessarily examines women's and men's attitudes, old and new, American and international, toward men's taking responsibility for pregnancy prevention... not all that common through history. Here's an excerpt that gets to the point:

On the surface, it may seem that scientific challenges are the primary barrier to excellent male birth control. A woman produces an egg only once each month, while men produce millions of sperm daily. Female fertility can be detected and timed. It starts later and ends sooner than male fertility. But those in the know say biology isn’t the problem. The question is one of politics and priorities. The National Institutes of Health summed up the problem [.pdf] in direct (if wonky) terms over a decade ago:
The lack of progress in developing affordable, safe, effective, and reversible male contraceptives is due not to the biological complexity involved in suppressing spermatogenesis [the production of sperm], but rather to social and economic/commercial constraints.
Today, research on male contraception is 50 years behind research on female contraception. The difference is as much as anything an artifact of history and tradition, which ripple into the present. ...

Well, yes. Perhaps some progress on that 50-year gap will be made in the more progressive nations of Western Europe, and possibly against all odds in parts of Asia, where the incentives for limiting family size are often matters of both health and law. But I doubt seriously the advances will be made in America or by Americans. If gender relationship stereotypes in America weren't already beginning to harden in highly asymmetric ways, there is always religion to obstruct real progress... and religion's new best friend, national politics. I am not hopeful.

(On a not completely unrelated matter, a federal judge has declared the part of Texas's new abortion law (the one State Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered unsuccessfully) requiring clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital to be unconstitutional, ruling that the provision “lacks a rational basis and places an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.” Note two things: 1) Judge Lee Yeakel did not declare the entire law unconstitutional, only the one provision; and 2) the six Catholics of the US Supreme Court have yet to get their soiled mitts on the law. Don't expect this ruling to be sustained.)

Obamacare As Kludge

Paul Krugman discusses how Obamacare and Medicare got where they are with the "help" of the GOP and concludes:

No, the assault on Medicare is really about an ideology that is fundamentally hostile to the notion of the government helping people, and tries to make whatever help is given as limited and indirect as possible, restricting its scope and running it through private corporations. And this ideology, at a fundamental level — more fundamental, even, than vested interests — is why Obamacare ended up being a big kludge.

... For now, the priority is to get this kludge working, and once that’s done, America will become a better place.

In the longer run, however, we have to tackle that ideology. A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
Your economic wellbeing,
GOP model
The GOP ideology Krugman refers to pitches the same shit Republicans have been pitching for decades. It's no more true now than it was in my childhood; it makes no more sense regarding Medicare and Obamacare now than it ever did about Republican plans (if one can dignify, e.g., Paul Ryan's fantasy with the word "plan") for the economy.

If the GOP withers and goes to ground, America may become healthy for the short time (IMHO) before global climate change hammers us for good and all. But if the GOP continues its minority rule by a relatively small group of crazies in one chamber of one branch of government, we aren't going to last even that long. People driven to the desperation of joblessness, homelessness and hunger aren't as particular about whether their approaches to redress are good for the whole society or not, and even Republicans, whatever they may actually believe, cannot live in the chaos that will inevitably ensue.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mozilla Lightning Crashes On Me

Lightning is the calendar add-on for Mozilla Thunderbird email/list/news client (even though the standalone version of Lightning is called Sunbird). Development ceased on Thunderbird something under a year ago, more-or-less in working condition, and Lightning stopped being maintained sometime after that, and not nearly as far along as Thunderbird was. So all the software is a bit old... and cranky. Old and cranky, sort of like me.

Yesterday and today I was pushing the bleeding-edge limits of RAM while shopping for a suitable Medicare plan (the gov't is open now, right?), opening a dozen or so windows in Firefox. I started up Thunderbird to check my mail and it did so without problem, except that the Lightning calendar window came up... with no scheduled events. And stayed that way.

Lightn... er, Sunbird?
Someone on a forum suggested a reinstall of Lightning in response to a similar problem, and the person with the problem got it working by doing exactly that. So I backed up the SQLite data and reinstalled Lightning. Nope; no good for me.

I am fortunate this happened after all those doc and clinic appointments. I believe I've lost only one appointment, and I know whom to call to find out when it is (sometime in November). Matters could have been worse. Well, except for staying up until 4:00am working on it (and also on getting Gmail going for Stella, but that didn't take long).

Firefox is such excellent software for a freebie; one would think Thunderbird/Lightning should be the same. But noooo...

Friday, October 25, 2013

One More Time I'm Glad I Don't Eat Meat

This post is mainly directed at my many carnivorous friends, because they are in danger and I am not. From the AARP Blog:

Ready-to-Eat Salads With Meat Recalled for Listeria

Posted on 10/24/2013 by Candy Sagon
Updated Friday Oct. 25

Sample only...
NOT the recalled food
Refrigerated, ready-to-eat salads from two firms have been hit with government recalls because of possible contamination with dangerous listeria, both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration announced.

Boston Salads and Provisions Company is recalling nearly 223,000 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken salad products distributed to retailers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the USDA announced today on its website.

Package labels will have sell-by dates ranging from “9/13/2013″ through “11/4/2013” as well as the establishment number “P-17999” inside the USDA mark of inspection. ...

Just a few days earlier, USDA also announced a recall of 22,000 pounds of products by Reser’s Fine Foods of Beaverton, Ore., including several kinds of chicken salad, ham salad, barbecue beans with beef, pasta salad, and potato salad with bacon.

... [The products have been distributed nationwide in the US and in parts of Canada. - SB]

Recalled products will have the establishment number EST. 13520 or P-13520 inside the USDA mark of inspection. The USDA said the packages will be marked with a use-by or best-by date and followed by a plant identifier code of 20.

Most old folks like me eat a lot of convenience foods; e.g., prepackaged potato salad and coleslaw are standards in this household. Grocers are actually pretty good about observing recalls, but in case you're concerned, it doesn't hurt to look at the various links from the FDA Food page.

Here's to your health!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Andrew Bacevich On American Wars, Rumors Of American Wars And The New... New... New... New... New... New... New Isolationism

To an old unabashed peacenik like me, it always seems as if America is quite literally always at war. Somewhere in the world in a place known to the American public or not, for some purpose possibly admirable but probably not, possibly in America's interest but just as likely not, America's massive military might is arrayed and deployed against... whatever. Sometimes against the might of an assortment of dictators, as in W.W.II just before I was born. Sometimes against the only other remaining superpower, as in the Cold War in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies and diminishing through the Eighties, a war that seemed never to heat up and never to end. Sometimes... but never mind; no matter how young you are, if you're reading this, you probably know of America's newer wars within your own lifetime; you may even have participated in them.

Andrew Bacevich, professor at Boston University, IMHO one of the deepest thinkers alive today on American international relations and military adventures in the past century, offers an article, published in this case on, basically framing his latest book, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country, and explaining the perpetuation of accusations of American isolationism for at least the span of the 20th century, what writers have meant by the word, and who has been vulnerable to accusations of isolationism. Hint: apparently, in the minds of anti-Fascists, anti-Communists, neoconservatives and just plain nutjobs, I am one... an isolationist, that is.

And yet it's hard for me to see myself as one. Read the article by Bacevich and see whether you qualify as somebody's isolationist. If you've opposed any war in the 20th or 21st century, you probably are, in the opinion of one or another nutjob, or at least of the New York Times, and they have not been shy about calling you out. Not by name, of course; that would concede too much respect.

As for me, as talk turns to "pivoting" toward African nations (as military targets, what else), I think I'm going to sleep most of this century. My body is telling me that that's what fate has planned for me anyway. At least the timing is good!

Raise Medicare Age To Save Cost? No Significant Savings, Says CBO

TPM's Sahil Kapur:
Raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 saves far less than previously projected, a revelation that makes the policy far less attractive in upcoming deficit reduction negotiations in Congress.

The long-debated policy now cuts the deficit by just $19 billion over a decade, according to a report released Thursday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Last year, the same policy -- of gradually lifting the eligibility age by two months every year until it reached 67 -- was found by the CBO to save $113 billion over the same time period.


Part of the reason for the low savings is Obamacare. Moving 66- and 65-year-olds off Medicare means they'll likely be eligible for federal subsidies or the expanded Medicare program under the 2010 law. But a larger part of the reason for the dramatic drop since last year, according to one expert, is that the CBO appears to have fixed a technical error.

"They were previously basing their estimates of the average costs of the 65-66 year olds who would no longer be on Medicare on the average costs of ALL 65 and 66 year old Medicare beneficiaries," said Loren Adler, the research director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, "which includes disabled and end stage renal disease beneficiaries who are clearly far more expensive than your average 65 or 66 year old."

(Bolds mine. - SB)

There was little enough reason to increase the Medicare eligibility age before the discovery of this error. Now you'd have to be crazy to support it... oh, wait; one could say "now you'd have to be Republican":
A top House Republican budget aide declined to comment.
Right. Admit your insanity by silence rather than admit the truth.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Opinion Or Dominion? Disjointing Or Anointing? Makeover Or Takeover? Ted Cruz's Dominionist Heritage

David Atkins (thereisnospoon) at Hullabaloo first alerted me to this in his post, Ted Cruz, King of the Seventh Mountain, but the basis of most of his information is an AlterNet article by Bruce Wilson, "Ted Cruz's Father Suggested His Son Is 'Anointed' to Bring About 'End Time Transfer of Wealth'," about a sermon delivered by Larry Huch, pastor of New Beginnings Church, an Irving, TX megachurch, and Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz's father, back in August, 2012. Here's Wilson's introduction:
"The pastor [Huch] referred to Proverbs 13:22, a little while ago, which says that the wealth of the wicked is stored for the righteous. And it is through the kings, anointed to take dominion, that that transfer of wealth is going to occur." - Rafael Cruz, August 26, 2012
(Graphic added, not by Wilson.)
In a sermon last year at an Irving, Texas, megachurch that helped elect Ted Cruz to the United States Senate, Cruz' father Rafael Cruz indicated that his son was among the evangelical Christians who are anointed as "kings" to take control of all sectors of society, an agenda commonly referred to as the "Seven Mountains" mandate, and "bring the spoils of war to the priests", thus helping to bring about a prophesied "great transfer of wealth", from the "wicked" to righteous gentile believers. link to video of Rafael Cruz describing the "great transfer of wealth" and the role of anointed "kings" in various sectors of society, including government, who are to "bring the spoils of war to the priests".

Please read the (rather long) article all the way through. There is no mistaking the intention: what Rafael Cruz is talking about is nothing more nor less than overt revolution, overthrow of the secular government of the United States and replacement with a theocracy, in which Ted Cruz is one of seven "kings" of seven "mountains" (listed in the article, or visible [just barely] in the graphic above). If this notion doesn't frighten you, it should. More than just your freedom of religion is at stake, though there is no doubt that that is the Cruz family's target as well. Just read it.

Irving, TX is a small suburb of Dallas, a scary place with a street unofficially known both to locals and to other Texans as "Church Alley." You can drive literally for a couple of miles on Church Alley, passing one church after another. I've never counted them, or surveyed them by their religions, but if you are yourself "off-brand" (UU like me, or Jewish, or [Allah help you] Muslim), you may be inclined to accelerate for the last few blocks just to get out of the neighborhood. I advise against it: you don't want to meet their cops.

Further reading: for a broad context on proposed religious extremist takeovers of the United States, try Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

Cuccinelli Gave Money To 'Crisis Pregnancy Centers'

According to Mother Jones, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli gave thousands of dollars to "crisis pregnancy centers" (anti-abortion advocacy centers) and took it off his taxes. From Mother Jones's Molly Redden:
... [C]risis pregnancy centers... [are] controversial facilities that counsel pregnant women against abortions. Abortion rights advocates have criticized crisis pregnancy centers for showing women graphic simulations of abortions, providing medical misinformation, and opening offices near abortion providers in the hopes that women will confuse the two. At one of the centers Cuccinelli supported, staff told women that abortion increases their chance of breast cancer and that abortion will "haunt" them for the rest of their lives. At another Cuccinelli-backed center, employees falsely told a New York Times reporter that Margaret Sanger, an early advocate for legal abortion, was a Nazi sympathizer.

Out in the real world, abortion does NOT cause breast cancer, women who have abortions by and large get on with their lives untroubled (let alone haunted) by their abortions, and Margaret Sanger... oh, just go read about her; she had her flaws, but Nazi sympathy was not among them. Even the names of such crisis pregnancy centers are dishonest: e.g., "AAA Women for Choice" is NOT pro-choice in the conventional sense. *

People like Cuccinelli don't belong in any aspect of government, let alone as governor of a state. Fortunately, a recent Rasmussen poll (see TPM) shows McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli 50% to 33%.

(Reminder: don't forget to vote. These are "off-year" elections in name only; they are every bit as important as presidential elections.)

* I have tried to use well-known major sources for information about abortion and breast cancer, and abortion and depression. If you want a different answer, you can find it in individual statements and papers by org's with an ax to grind... by the thousands of posts... but the articles linked above, in the American Cancer Society web site and Time online, reflect the overwhelming majority of scientific opinion.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

'Get Off My Lawn Town Hall!'

Ah, yes, Senator McPain. McCain, I mean; McCain. What would we do without him? Caitlin MacNeal at TPM:
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) shooed a man from a town hall in Phoeniz, Ariz., Tuesday after he repeatedly yelled at the senator about American aid to rebel forces in Syria.

The man accused the U.S. of giving weapons to al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria.

McCain repeatedly asked the man if he was finished speaking so that McCain could respond, ...


When the constituent continued to loudly lecture McCain about terrorists in Syria, McCain told the man he was "rude" and shooed the him out of the town hall with a wave of his arm.
OK. McCain had every right to shut the guy up. Dumpy, late-middle-aged men wearing shorts and a T-shirt and sporting beards can sometimes be too loud‑mouthed. (Ahem.)

But McCain is far too self-assured. If he had spent less time in his presidential campaign lecturing people about their faults and more time addressing the needs they perceive themselves as having, he might have ended up as president. That would not have been a good thing; between arrogant Republican McCain and arrogant Republican Obama, I'll take the latter almost any day. But I'll admit I'll be glad when McCain retires.

Victory For Privacy: Federal Appeals Court Rules Police May Not Conduct GPS Searches Without Warrant

Kevin Gosztola at FDL:
A federal appeals court has ruled that police must obtain a warrant in a case involving a “slap-on” GPS tracking device, where defendants had argued they were victims of searches that violated their privacy rights.

The court found the attachment of a GPS tracking device to a defendant’s van was not excused by the argument that law enforcement were acting in “good faith.” All evidence obtained from the search was ordered to be suppressed in the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reacted to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision. “Today’s decision is a victory for all Americans because it ensures that the police cannot use powerful tracking technology without court supervision and a good reason to believe it will turn up evidence of wrongdoing,” ACLU staff attorney Catherine Crump said.

It's about time. Warrantless searches, under Bush Junior and then under Obama, have become almost the rule rather than the exception, to the point at which the Fourth Amendment almost doesn't exist anymore. Perhaps this will breathe new life into it, and discourage at least some cops from doing whatever they damned well please irrespective of the Bill of Rights.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Have You Ever Had The Feeling Something Just Isn't... Right... With The AP?

TPM, Daniel Strauss:

AP Reporter And Editor Fired Over False McAuliffe Report

The Associated Press has fired a reporter and editor in connection to a false story alleging Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe lied to a postal inspector in a fraud scheme, according to The Huffington Post.

The author of the report, which was retracted soon after it was published, Bob Lewis has been fired, the news services announced Monday. Dena Potter, a news editor for the Associated Press who covered Virginia and West Virginia, has also been fired.

It's not completely clear from the lede, but that's two people, a reporter and (separately) an editor, who were fired. I wonder how much Ken Cuccinelli paid them to release the story...

UPDATE: AP fired a third employee. Now the News Media Guild, representing AP employees, is getting involved. Pass the popcorn...

Texas: City, County, State Board Of Education Elections Early Voting Begins Today

A few basics...

Here's a map of locations where Harris County residents may vote early. (.pdf format.) IMPORTANT NOTE: in general, YOU CANNOT VOTE EARLY AT YOUR REGULAR ELECTION-DAY POLLING PLACE, AND VICE VERSA! To vote early, find a suitable polling place on the linked map; pick one reasonably close to home. Also: NOTE THAT EARLY VOTING POLLING PLACES ARE OPEN DIFFERENT HOURS FROM REGULAR ELECTION-DAY POLLING PLACES! If you live in Texas but not in Harris County, search the web for your county clerk's office or voter registrar's office. Something like this... "harris county TX 2013 election information" ... gets all the relevant sites on Google.

New this year, thanks to the goddamnGOP: You MUST present a photo ID to vote! Your driver's license will do, but ONLY IF YOUR NAME AS PRESENTED ON YOUR DRIVER'S LICENSE MATCHES THE NAME ON YOUR VOTER CERTIFICATE! If they differ... e.g., if you are a woman who married and took her husband's name, but who has not yet made the change on her driver's license, YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO PRESENT A MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE. The document you present MUST BE THE ORIGINAL, NOT A PHOTOCOPY. Other than a driver's license, several other forms of Photo ID are allowed; SEE HERE... but note that I HAVE HEARD YES AND NO ABOUT PASSPORTS. If you receive definitive information about passports as voter Photo ID, please inform me. (To me, the most interesting fact is that a concealed handgun license is a valid ID for voting. I suppose if you are known to be packing heat, your chances of being allowed to vote improve noticeably...)

If your Texas driver's license name and voter certificate name match except for, say, a middle name versus a middle initial, YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO HAVE THE CLERK FILL IN A LINE ON A "SIMILAR NAME AFFIDAVIT" WHICH YOU MUST INITIAL to confirm that the difference is incidental and only representational, i.e., that the names are the same and are the name of the same person (you). Expect this to take a while. If the goddamnGOP election judge at your poll is a very determined sort, expect this to take quite some time, i.e., don't bet on being able to vote on your half-hour lunch break.

If you have the feeling the goddamnGOP doesn't want women to vote, ask yourself: WHERE DID YOU EVER GET THAT IDEA? [irony /]

‘There's Nothing Surer: The Rich Get Rich...’

"... and the poor get poorer," goes the increasingly accurate but abominably titled song, "Ain't we got fun." Well-known economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, whom the New York Times describes as "a Nobel laureate in economics, a Columbia professor and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist for the World Bank," may as well have quoted that song (omitting the "fun" part) to describe the growth in economic inequality among individuals within developed nations: since the 1980s, individual inequality has grown, using as a basis a paper by World Bank economist Branko Milanović, The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality:

... While the gap between some regions has markedly narrowed — namely, between Asia and the advanced economies of the West — huge gaps remain. Average global incomes, by country, have moved closer together over the last several decades, particularly on the strength of the growth of China and India. But overall equality across humanity, considered as individuals, has improved very little. ...

So while nations in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, as a whole, might be catching up with the West, the poor everywhere are left behind, even in places like China where they’ve benefited somewhat from rising living standards.

From 1988 to 2008, Mr. Milanovic found, people in the world’s top 1 percent saw their incomes increase by 60 percent, while those in the bottom 5 percent had no change in their income. And while median incomes have greatly improved in recent decades, there are still enormous imbalances: 8 percent of humanity takes home 50 percent of global income; the top 1 percent alone takes home 15 percent. ...

The United States provides a particularly grim example for the world. ...

On the one hand, widening income and wealth inequality in America is part of a trend seen across the Western world. A 2011 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that income inequality first started to rise in the late ’70s and early ’80s in America and Britain (and also in Israel). The trend became more widespread starting in the late ’80s. ...

Of the advanced economies, America has some of the worst disparities in incomes and opportunities, with devastating macroeconomic consequences. The gross domestic product of the United States has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years and nearly doubled in the last 25, but as is now well known, the benefits have gone to the top — and increasingly to the very, very top.

Last year, the top 1 percent of Americans took home 22 percent of the nation’s income; the top 0.1 percent, 11 percent. Ninety-five percent of all income gains since 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent. ...

(Bolds mine. - SB)

Please note that this 30-odd-year decline in the economic wellbeing of the lower and lower-middle classes in America spans three Republican presidencies and parts of three Democratic presidencies. It spans vast improvements in technology, especially information technology. It also spans historically unprecedented growth in productivity.

Much good that has done the 99% of us. It doesn't seem to matter whom we elect to the presidency or to Congress. It doesn't seem to matter what we do... only the top 1% are able to get ahead, while the rest of us scrape for what we get, and get a portion of all that average economic growth that never really increases. (Beware any author who praises average incomes. Unless you are wealthy or at least well-off, averages have little meaning. The average— the mean— of your income and that of Bill Gates is probably in the billions of dollars; averages are used mostly by Republicans to paper over bad news for the lower and middle classes.)

And poverty... please see this chart for the US and Texas from 1980 to 2007. Note that poverty goes up and down, but never really descends below 11% in "the greatest nation on Earth."

Welcome to our brave new world.

Stiglitz concludes:

Inequality and poverty among children are a special moral disgrace. They flout right-wing suggestions that poverty is a result of laziness and poor choices; children can’t choose their parents. In America, nearly one in four children lives in poverty; in Spain and Greece, about one in six; in Australia, Britain and Canada, more than one in 10. None of this is inevitable. ...

For these reasons, I see us entering a world divided not just between the haves and have-nots, but also between those countries that do nothing about it, and those that do. Some countries will be successful in creating shared prosperity — the only kind of prosperity that I believe is truly sustainable. Others will let inequality run amok. ...
Stiglitz does not explicitly say which category includes the United States. What do you think?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tom Foley (1929-2013)

They don't make 'em like Speaker Foley (see also) anymore. Some of us think that's a damned shame. • Eagle Scout back when being an Eagle Scout meant something more than parroting right-wing slogans (not to mention toppling ancient rock formations); • later an adult Scout leader for many years. • Prosecuting attorney. • Speaker of the House for 30 years. • Swept out of office in the great Republican purge of 1994; his successor as Speaker could only wish Foley's memory would go away... but it didn't. • As far as I could ever tell, deeply decent guy who cared a lot about our country.

R.I.P., Mr. Foley. All of us owe you a lot... even the liars who refuse to admit it.

The Mythology Of Cheney's Heart

As TPM put it, "Cheney Had Heart Device Disabled To Prevent Terrorists From Sending Fatal Shock."

To which I could only react, uninspiredly, in shock, "Cheney has a heart?"

Krugman: No Happy Days

Krugman, just after the shutdown ended:
The government is reopening, and we didn’t default on our debt. Happy days are here again, right?

Well, no. For one thing, Congress has only voted in a temporary fix, and we could find ourselves going through it all over again in a few months. ...

... the economic damage from obstruction and extortion didn’t start when the G.O.P. shut down the government. ... And the damage is large: Unemployment in America would be far lower than it is if the House majority hadn’t done so much to undermine recovery.


Yet it would be a mistake to conclude that Macroeconomic Advisers overstated the case. The main driver of their estimates is the sharp fall since 2010 in discretionary spending as a share of G.D.P. — that is, in spending that, unlike spending on programs like Social Security and Medicare, must be approved by Congress each year. Since the biggest problem the U.S. economy faces is still inadequate overall demand, this fall in spending has depressed both growth and employment.

What’s more, the report doesn’t take into account the effect of other bad policies that are a more or less direct result of the Republican takeover in 2010. Two big bads stand out: letting payroll taxes rise, and sharply reducing aid to the unemployed even though there are still three times as many people looking for work as there are job openings. Both actions have reduced the purchasing power of American workers, weakening consumer demand and further reducing growth.

[Bolds mine. - SB]

The damage is large. Some of the damage is permanent. Most of the damage falls on our society's most disadvantaged people. And Republicans are gearing up to do it all over again in a few months. Do you still insist "both sides do it"? I'm sorry; I don't care what pundit told you on what TV outlet, it's still a baldfaced lie. Republicans, and only Republicans, and only one species of Republicans, do it, damn them.

On the positive side, Prose Before Hos has gathered some great cartoons, and quotes the following tweet:

Friday, October 18, 2013

'One Might Even Call It A Lie'

That's George Zornick at The Nation, in his article, "Nothing Ted Cruz Said About the ACA Today is True," describing one of many, many "wildly, wildly overstat[ed]" arguments made by Sen. Ted Cruz about ObamaCare. And there are a lot of them.

Cruz is the worst example of the lawyer stereotype, and gives a by-and-large honorable profession a black eye. Of course he does it for the publicity, gearing up for a possible presidential run in 2016. I did not think it was possible for Republicans to contemplate someone for the presidency who was morally inferior to George W. Bush, but I was wrong. At what point will the American people say "enough" and relegate the GOP to history's dumpster?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Republican Backfire

Krugman on "The Backfire Effect":
I’m coming to this a bit late, but I see that there’s now extensive evidence that facts not only don’t win arguments, they make people on the wrong side dig in even deeper: “When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.”

No effing kidding!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It Is Done: Senate Bill Passes House

About five minutes ago the House passed its agreement to the Senate's version of the bill extending the debt limit and reopening the government. Once Obama signs it... which he promised to do tonight; I saw him say it... the deplorable government shutdown is over. I've read comments to the effect that it may take most federal agencies and departments a while to get up and running again. And I've also read an estimated cost of the whole shutdown as about $24 billion. Thank you, Republican Party... thanks for less than nothing.

'And They Cried Out Again, Cruz-ify Him!'

... Mark 15:13, King James version, give or take a few letters, or a language mixture. As far as I can tell, Grover Norquist is in no mood to forgive Ted Cruz and his fellow defund‑Obamacare pushers, and Norquist is scarcely alone among GOPers in that sentiment. Norquist, out of context but just as clear nonetheless:
I think if you make a mistake as big as what they did, you owe your fellow senators and congressmen a big apology — and your constituents, as well, because nothing they did advanced the cause of repealing or dismantling Obamacare.
If you work among a lot of Republican colleagues, be prepared to dodge all the pointing fingers in the next week or so.

Boehner: 'Fought The Good Fight; Just Didn't Win'

John Boehner said, "We fought the good fight; we just didn't win."

Bull-crackers! That was no "good fight." That was the most irresponsible act by a congressional caucus that I have seen in my 65 years of living. In a just world, that act would result in the total demise of the Republican Party as of the next election.

In the real world, on the other hand... (sigh)

Obama's Offer To GOP: Nothing. GOP's Inevitable Response: Surrender

Please read here and here. Wall Street's message to GOP? Get it over with. Ted Cruz? The Houston Chronicle apologizes... sort of... for having endorsed him. Various House GOPers? Busy berating the National Park Service for having closed parks. (Do TPers think we are as idiotic as they are?) Elijah Cummings (D-MD)? He believes Heritage, not John Boehner, is calling the shots.

This is a sorry, disgraceful business, and it's still not quite over. I wish there were a way the GOP could be made to see what they have wrought, but I'm as certain as I can be that even if they lose congressional seats in 2014, they won't have learned one damned thing.

UPDATE: at last, Cruz says he won't bust the deal. He was mighty quiet for a while there...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fitch, Fitch, Fitch...

TPM's Igor Bobic:
Credit rating agency Fitch placed U.S. holdings, which remain AAA, on negative watch Tuesday, as Congressional negotiations over the federal debt ceiling stalled just two days before a Thursday deadline.

"Fitch continues to believe that an agreement will be reached to end the current political impasse and raise the U.S. debt ceiling," the agency said in a press release. "Even if the debt limit is not raised before or shortly after 17 October, we assume there is sufficient political will and capacity to ensure that Treasury securities will continue to be honoured in full and on time."

It's good of them to cut the US some slack. But I don't like the sound of this...

Luckovich: 'Trick Or Treat... Or Else!'

Extraordinary Rendition: It's Not Just A Bush-Cheney Thing

Kevin Gosztola of FDL, yesterday:

Rendition of Libyan Terror Suspect: What If Abu Anas al-Liby Had Nothing to Do With the Embassy Bombings?

By: Kevin Gosztola Monday October 14, 2013 8:11 pm

A Libyan terror suspect kidnapped from Libya in a raid by US special forces on October 5 was transferred from the naval ship, where he was being detained and interrogated, into “law enforcement custody” over the weekend.

The Justice Department indicated in a press release that he was “brought directly to the Southern District of New York, where he has been under indictment for more than a decade.” He was expected to be brought before a judge on October 15.

Al-Liby is suspected of being involved in the bombings of US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Last week, a chief federal public defender, David E. Patton, according to the Los Angeles Times, had pressed a federal judge to order that he be “brought to court immediately,” as he was aboard a ship being interrogated by the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which is a special task force of personnel from the Pentagon, FBI, CIA and other agencies. He had not been read Miranda rights, which he and other terror suspects have a right to be read if they are being prosecuted under US law. But a federal judge would not issue such an order and would not appoint a defense lawyer to represent him either.

A more critical issue is that al-Liby, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, may not be the dangerous al Qaeda terrorist the United States government believes he happens to be.

Please read the rest of Gosztola's post. It is a case study in our government's unconstitutional (indeed un-American) actions in extraordinary rendition cases.

I have read the Bill of Rights many times. I skimmed it one more time before writing this post. And with the possible exception of the 10th Amendment (and it's hard to tell on that one), none of the enumerated rights apply only to US citizens. In particular, in this case, foreigners retain judicial due process rights as surely as citizens.

In spite of this, we see extraordinary rendition inflicted not merely by the admittedly evil George W. Bush and Dick Cheney but also by the allegedly more moderate Barack Obama. Refusing to read Miranda rights as a protection of due process? moderate? refusing to appoint a defense attorney? moderate? Not hardly! Our nation's founders are surely spinning in their graves.

And remember, this is process for a man who appears (to some people at least) to be trying to cooperate with the government... to be sure, acting in his own best interest (that's his right), and possibly having been a terrorist (that's to be determined by trial, not merely assumed without trial), but apparently trying to cooperate.

If our courts begin abducting people who are trying to cooperate (perhaps to prevent their testimony?), if our courts begin denying due process rights (guaranteed by our Constitution not just to citizens, but to people in general when under US jurisdiction), what possible confidence can we have that they will not turn the same extreme measures against American citizens when they find it convenient? And... what a time to decide to do this, while most of us are distracted by the government shutdown!

Niemöller nailed it in 1946, though he was speaking about German Nazis... in one variant, "First they came for the Jews..." Well, now they're coming for the alleged terrorists, and I'm damned if I will remain silent. Even a terrorist deserves a fair trial. Even a terrorist deserves a defense attorney.

UPDATE: from an AP article:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Four years after his failed effort to bring the 9/11 mastermind to New York for trial, President Barack Obama has reinstated the federal courthouse as America's preferred venue for prosecuting suspected terrorists.

His administration has done so by quietly securing conviction after conviction in the civilian judicial system. Meanwhile at Guantanamo Bay, admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's case moves at a snail's pace.

Right. It's amazing how many convictions you can obtain if you refuse to appoint a defense attorney...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Default And Prioritizing: The Horrifying Reality

So what's wrong with the course of action many Republicans seem unable to stop babbling about, namely, defaulting, then prioritizing the government's payments (according to what political scheme I wouldn't hazard a guess)? According to Krugman, there are four reasons not to do that; please read and think about them... especially if you are a GOPer facilely advocating this catastrophic strategy. You say you don't want to read Krugman? That's just too bad; you really need to. Stop wasting your time on this blog and go read his reasoning.

Does America Default? Does The GOP Then Collapse? Stay Tuned...

... for the next exciting episode. For the possibility of default, read here. For the latest poll ratings on the GOP's handling of budget talks, read here.

I have seen remarks to the effect that if this goes on any longer, people will learn they can live without a federal government.

Not me. And I don't think very many people really want that, if they think about it for 30 seconds (or 5 minutes, if they are GOPers).

I have, however, started contemplating life without Republicans, and I believe I can handle that just fine...

Jed Morey: 'The Book Of Morgan'

Yes, this video is an ad for a book. But the assertion Jed Morey makes is breathtaking: Morgan Stanley owns and/or controls most resources required for the delivery of gasoline to the pump, hides everything behind offshore corporations, trades on offshore exchanges whose operation is not visible to ordinary mortals, and makes bundles of money... your money... by doing this. Cynthia Kouril of FDL provides the video:

For me, there is real irony here. Back in my working days, when I began to accumulate a bit of money (it happens if you have an overpaid occupation, no house and no kids), I phoned around to find an advisor to help me do "socially responsible" investing. After considerable telephoning I fould one guy... one investment advisor in all of Houston... who was known to be willing to put up with the eccentricities of someone like me. He was a veep at Morgan Stanley (actually Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in those days).

The story does not have a happy ending: if you are a millionaire or above, Morgan Stanley probably takes the trouble to make money for you, 'cause you're "one of them." If not, well, your money is just fodder for the monster. The best I can say is that I did not lose too much of my hard-earned cash. But, socially responsible or not, I didn't provide myself a very good retirement, either. Younger folks, take note.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Martin Longman Tracking The GOP Folly

Martin Longman at The Washington Monthly (where he has been retained as one of their weekend bloggers) and also his own blog BooMan Tribune (see blogroll for both) has been following the play-by-play among Democrats in Congress and the White House and Republicans in both houses of Congress. I believe he has some insights into the nature and inevitable conclusion of the craziness. See Washington Monthly here, here, here and here. Similar posts are available on BooMan Tribune.

Surveillance Then; Surveillance Now

Kathleen Sharp of truthout explores "Living the Orwellian Life," starting with an examination of the life of actress Dorothy Comingore, best known for her role in the film Citizen Kane:

That was then; this is now. These days, it seems J. Edgar Hoover is not dead, and he has his panties in a knot. And his white index cards with our names on them have been committed to databases...

'Lesus Jesus Wept'

This has to be the typo of the century... Lisa Derrick of FDL explains:
Someone misspelled the name of the Vatican’s raison d’etre, Jesus, on a commemorative medallion, striking 6,000 gold, silver and bronze coins with the name Lesus. Several of the medallions were sold before someone noticed the error. The remaining medallions were recalled, making the four that were sold collectors items.

The coins were struck by the Italian Mint to honor the papacy of Francis I and carried a Latin inscription which the Pope said inspired him to join the Catholic priesthood:

Vidit ergo Jesus publicanum et quia miserando antque eligendo vidit, ait illi sequere me (Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, follow me).


Friday, October 11, 2013

Fukushima: Radiation As Great As 13,000 Hiroshima Bombs Threatens Japan, US, Europe

That's right. If the remaining spent-fuel rods in the pool at Reactor #4 in Fukushima, currently suspended 100' in the air, are not lowered and cooled, or if there's an accident during the lowering and cooling, the zirconium cladding on the rods could spontaneously combust (remember the flashcubes your old camera used 40-50 years ago? those burned zirconium to create the flash), the radioactive fuel rods themselves could ignite and send clouds of radioactive smoke drifting across the entire Northern Hemisphere, carrying the radiation equivalent of 13,000 Hiroshima bombs and killing millions of people on three continents. Please read this post at FDL, and view the video by Harvey Wasserman above, for more information.

TEPCO, the Japanese power company which ran Fukushima when it was in use, as well as the Japanese government, has every reason to downplay the danger, and has shown no sign of having the technological capacity to perform the needed lowering and cooling of the rods, nor does Japan have the money it will cost. In light of the danger to the lives and/or health of literally more than half of humankind, an organization called is advocating that the US assume the technological challenge and the UN assume the financial burden. This org has floated a petition to that effect. It is hosted at MoveOn, but if you visit, you will see a direct link to the petition. Frankly, it's about all you can do. I've done it, and I hope you will too.

UPDATE a few minutes later: Here is a Guardian article about evidence of possible radiation poisoning symptoms— migraines, breathing problems, cancer— in Malibu High School. Californians, keep your eyes on the news.

Gallup: 60% Of Americans Say We Need A Third Party

So writes Igor Bobic of TPM. I presume those expressing that opinion mean a viable third party, a rational third party, a broadly compassionate third party. We already have "third" parties that are none of those.

The other thing people forget when they advocate (or even join) a third party is that if we have a third major party, we'll need a revised system of voting for president (at least); otherwise, the third party will play the role of spoiler and nothing more. Remember when Ralph Nadir... excuse me, Nader... ran for prez as a Green? That really helped us, oh boy, didn't it.

What we really need is a system in which parties offer clearly contrasting alternatives. Right at the moment, while the Republican Party is held by the 'nads by its craziest element, it is pretty easy to distinguish the GOP and the Democratic Party. But when it comes to the President exercising his purported unitary executive privileges, or a party's fulfilling its "obligations" to its large individual donors and corporations, there's not much to distinguish Bush Junior from Obama: both have been a hazard to our civil liberties. Give me two parties, please, representing two outlooks.

Meanwhile, just give me a GOP in control of itself...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sad Story In Rhyme

From the Guardian:
Marc Blackburn has been a park ranger with the National Park Service for nineteen years and currently works at Nez Perce National Historical Park in Idaho. Due to the ongoing government shutdown, Marc hasn't been working for over a week. He will not be paid until the government reopens.
Sad indeed:
A park ranger who works at Nez Perce
Says that matters could hardly be werce:
"While the government's shut
I am stuck in a rut—
And my paycheck, no one can disberce!"

- SB the YDD

Even Heritage Action Opposes Conditioning Govt. Restart On Defunding Obamacare

This was bound to happen at some point: the CEO of a powerful conservative group, Heritage Action (related to Heritage Foundation... link is to wiki, not group website), announces his opposition to what the House is doing. It's not that they oppose defunding Obamacare (see graphic at right), but that they oppose tying that act to the threat of government default.

Via DSWright at FDL, from Howard Fineman at HuffPo:

Michael Needham, CEO of the powerful group Heritage Action, said that he opposed conditioning a crucial vote to increase the government's borrowing authority on the group's main goal: defunding Obamacare.

Under questioning at a breakfast with reporters, hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Needham, a product of the Stanford Business School, conceded that failure to raise the debt ceiling would indeed disrupt the global economy.

I can't quite manage to put it in words of one syllable for the infantile Tea Partiers who need to understand this, but here it is, children, in words suitable for grownups: a default would be bad for all Americans and most people in the developed world, but it would be catastrophic for a central element of the Republican base... the business community. TPers: stand down before you fall down!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In 2016 GOP Presidential Race, NJ Gov. Chris Christie Looms Large

Actually, Catherine Thompson of TPM says merely that he "won't rule it out." Other candidates had better make room...

Oh, Great— 'Constitution' Truckers To Clog Roadways

Hunter Walker of TPMMuckraker:

'Constitution' Truckers Plan To Shut Down D.C. With Protest Convoy

A group billing itself as the "Independent Truckers of America" has vowed to flood the nation's roadways this weekend with a "Ride For The Constitution" in order to "save our nation" from "domestic enemies such as Barack Obama, John Kerry, Lindsay Graham and John McCain."

According to the Ride For The Constitution website, this "Truckers Shutdown" will feature "potentially hundreds of thousands of truckers and millions of citizens" converging Friday through Sunday on the nation's capital. There will also be affiliated rallies at rest areas and displays on highway overpasses. The faces of this event are a right wing radio host, outspoken gun activist and "libtard" hater Mark Kessler, as well as a former trucker who believes President Barack Obama is "a radical Islamist."

What could possibly go wrong?

(I have stripped the link to the truckers' web site because it starts immediately with audio that sounds like it might be a right-wing radio station. Go through the TPM article if you want to subject yourself to that; they have a link.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Krugman On How We Got Here

... in his column titled The Boehner Bunglers.

(H/T ellroon.)

It's One Of Those Years

Olympic torch went out upon arrival in Moscow; torch had to be relighted with a cigarette lighter. Lose some, lose some more...

Englert, Higgs Win Nobel For Higgs Particle Discovery

TPM/AP has a tiny announcement. Fortunately, at age 84, British scientist Peter Higgs is still alive as one of the two recipients of the prize; he is responsible for the earliest theories of the Higgs boson particle and the Higgs field over five decades ago. The other recipient is Belgian scientist François Englert, also very much still alive and active at age 80, also very involved in the theoretical work in the early 1960s. Some of the other theoreticians involved have since died, and thus were ineligible for the prize. The particle was discovered in experiments over the last few years using at least two projects at the Large Hadron Collider, Europe's (!) particle collider, the largest and most powerful in the world.

If you want more info about the awarding of the prize for the Higgs boson, Matthew Strassler at Of Particular Significance has written a post, good if a bit overladen with sports metaphors. If the Higgs boson is completely new to you and you have some scientific curiosity, Strassler has written a whole series of posts, many about the Higgs, suitable for serious amateurs; they are tough going if you're not also somewhat familiar with the general state of particle physics... but Strassler can help you about that, too; he has written a large number of introductory papers suitable (if challenging) for nonscientists.

If you are my age (mid-sixties), the Higgs is by no means the first particle discovered in your lifetime... but its discovery is no less exciting for that; it is the particle that gives some other particles their mass, and hence is responsible for our existence. (Anyone who calls it the [you-know-what] particle in comments will have their comment summarily removed at my discretion. Just don't do it!)

NOTE: there are great pics at many of the above-linked sites, not of the Higgs discovery but of the LHC and various example particle collisions in the LHC. Not only would it be redundant for me to post these here, it would be impossible to select only one or two. Allow yourself 15-30 minutes to browse the pretty photos of equipment and its results; they're beautiful in a way.

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