Friday, May 31, 2013

The Gun Lobby's Weekly Harvest

It seems this sort of thing is happening about once a week lately:
A 2-year-old boy in Texas was pronounced dead Wednesday after he shot himself in a home that Child Protective Services had deemed unfit for children just last year, KLTV reported.

Trenton Mathis shot himself in the face with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun Wednesday afternoon in his great-grandparents' home in Cherokee County, Texas. Police said both great-grandparents were at the home when the shooting took place.

Mathis and his three siblings were removed from their parents' home in Harris County, Texas last year by CPS due to "abuse and neglect," according to the report. Three of those children, including the now-deceased toddler, were placed in their great‑grandparents' home, despite the fact that CPS denied a home study. Such a denial signaled that CPS did not believe the home was safe for children, according to KLTV. The other child was placed in a foster home.

(Bolds mine. - SB)

In case you don't know where Cherokee County is (I had to look it up), it's about 80 miles ESE of Gun Barrel City. Seriously, no BS, that's where it is. Dallas/Ft. Worth is probably the closest major city, about 130 miles away, but Cherokee County is really out in the country.

Will someone please explain to me why two people old enough to be great‑grandparents needed to keep a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, loaded, just lying around where their 2‑year‑old great‑grandson can get to it? I know there's idiocy in the water in that part of Texas, but really...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

War On Women, International Theater

Katie McDonough at Salon:
After more than a month of delays, El Salvador’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday to deny a critically ill woman a lifesaving abortion. The 22-year-old woman, identified only as Beatriz, is 26 weeks pregnant with a nonviable, anencephalic fetus; her doctors have warned that, due to severe health complications related to Beatriz’s lupus, cardiovascular disease and kidney functioning, she may not survive the pregnancy.

Abortion is illegal under all circumstances in El Salvador, and the court’s ruling is final, according to her lawyers. “The only way now is to go to the international courts,” Victor Hugo Mata, one of Beatriz’s lawyers, told CBS News.

As Salon has previously reported, in addition to petitions from Beatriz and her doctors, President Mauricio Funes, El Salvador’s Ministry of Health, women’s rights advocates and international human rights groups each called on the court to grant the medically necessary procedure.

But the court was not moved to act, and Beatriz’s life now hangs in the balance, her lawyers say.

(Bolds mine. SB)

This is what happens when a society allows a majority religion to prevail in its domination of courts at law, and the religion... as religions will do... takes a position which, for most of us, is not only immoral but also stupid. You say it couldn't happen here in America? Perhaps not now, but if the religious fundamentalists are allowed their way, it could easily happen in the US. It is extremely important that the US maintain its constitutionally protected separation of church and state, and that matters of life and death be judged not on the commandments of a religion (even a majority religion) but upon long-established principles of law, independent of any particular religion. Otherwise, mark my words: it certainly could happen here.

My thoughts are with Beatriz, and my hopes for her survival, unlikely as that may be.

(H/T Digby.)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bye-Bye, Bachmann, Bye-Bye

"And when the radical priest
Come to get me released,
We was all on the cover of Newsweek!"
- Paul Simon, "Me and Julio"
It's kind of sad, actually. The congresswoman who has provided more political entertainment than just about any other member of Congress, Michele Bachmann (R‑MN), has announced she will not run again in 2014.

OMG... how will the United States face down the Soviet Union without her?

And will her stepping down change this observation?

Monday, May 27, 2013

US Entertainment Industry Cannot Resist Threatening Us With Un‑American Things

Specifically, please read Boing Boing's post, US entertainment industry to Congress: make it legal for us to deploy rootkits, spyware, ransomware and trojans to attack pirates! (Exclamation is part of original title.)

I hardly need to repeat myself to regular readers: the entertainment industry is attempting to use technology to enforce a vision of intellectual property directly contradictory to that of our nation's founders, who saw copyright and patent not only as expressions of current benefit for creators of IP, but also as future impetus to create new IP based on existing IP... replacing that with a vision of total ownership and control of transmission media and equipment forever.

How far must we go to end this? Already, after the rootkit a couple years ago, I no longer purchase Sony CDs or insert those I already own in my CD-ROM drive. Shall I stop purchasing movie DVDs and audio CDs? I will do just that if RIAA and MPAA continue to push the boundaries of total ownership. They can goddamn well go to hell without absorbing any more of my money if they insist on treating their customer base that way... already I haven't bought a CD or DVD for myself in several years. And no, I don't fucking steal their products either.

(H/T ellroon.)

(Oh, come fucking on... "movie" is not in Firefox's default spelling checker dictionary! Oh, wait, now I see: for the second time this week, Mozilla has forced a change from my manually entered en_US to en_GB. Do they really want me to switch once and for all to Google Chrome? That's where I'm headed if this nonsense doesn't stop...)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dear Courage Campaign

I don't know who gave you my email for your list; there are many possibilities... and for the moment I'll leave you on my list. And I have to admit that, to all appearances, your political positions and my political views are very, very similar. Thank you for being sane.

But I can't help noticing that your logo is a recolored version of the California state flag. And of the 20 issues linked from the home page of your web site, five (5) are introduced with that California flag, and the linked articles are about issues that may or may not be nationwide in scope, but are certainly California-based in the specific versions that you have chosen to address.

Your splash screen throws up a popup asking me to contribute money. If you're truly an org that spans America in addressing progressive issues, and you want to prove yourself worthy of my money, why don't you take on something harder?

Texas, for example, has far more tough nuts to crack than California...

I notice your logo graphic is named bear_thumb.gif ... an org that actually wants to confront Texas nuts will need to be able to crack them with its (ahem) bear [sic] thumbs! Contact me again when your org is prepared to do that.
Good luck,

Friday, May 24, 2013

Greece: Former Deputy PM Delights Bankers, Blames Working People And Kids For Their Own Hunger

Theodoros Pangalos
It's been a while since I've written about conditions in Greece, but believe me, things have not improved for the great majority of Greeks. Via Greg Palast, we learn that Theodoros Pangalos, former Deputy Prime Minister of Greece, an individual who (ahem) looms large in the politics of austerity thrust upon Greeks of ordinary means for the benefit of European banksters, blames the collapsing economy in Greece on lazy, hungry working people and greedy, starving children. Perhaps the population's hunger problem could be remedied if Pangalos (pictured at right) fasted for a week or two...

(H/T BadTux.)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lather Reince, Repeat: Priebus Claims IRS's Lois Lerner Must Be Guilty Of Something, Since She Invoked The Fifth Amendment

Tom Kludt of TPM:

Let's play anagrams!
During an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," [RNC Chair Reince] Priebus said that pleading the fifth "implies there are some criminal aspects" of the IRS scandal. John Heileman, a writer for New York Magazine who was sitting on the show's panel, cried foul at that characterization.

"But you don't need to plead the fifth if you've done nothing wrong," Priebus said.

"That's not true. That's not what the Fifth Amendment says," Heileman retorted.

Priebus ultimately toned down his interpretation of Lerner's action, saying it "raises questions." Heileman scoffed at the chairman's suddenly vague assessment of the situation.
As I've often stated, the entire GOP is utterly and willfully clueless about even the most basic principles embedded in the Bill of Rights.

Lerner takes oath
Google "lois lerner fifth amendment" and you'll notice immediately that most opinions on whether Lerner waived her right to invoke the Fifth Amendment split along political lines: for example, ABC's political blog The Note strongly implies she waived. But even the WSJ Law Blog concedes that, though ill-advised, Lerner's broad-brush denial of any illegal action on her part is unlikely to qualify as testimony under the Fifth Amendment.

Moreover, Committee Chairtroll Issa engaged in a bit of... let's be honest... entrapment of Lerner. From the linked ABC post:

... Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the committee, said he had not seen the document and asked Lerner to authenticate her answers.

The document was passed [to] Lerner, who put on her glasses to skim through it.

“This appears to be my response,” she said.

“So it’s your testimony?” Issa of California asked. “As far as your recollection, that is your response?”

“That’s correct,” Lerner answered.

Republicans on the committee quickly interjected, challenging that Lerner gave up her right to remain silent and should be compelled to answer questions from members.

If this were a fair trial in a court of law, and Issa were the judge, Issa's use of the word "testimony" alone would be enough to invalidate a claim of waiver of Fifth Amendment rights: using the word is clearly a form of entrapment. But a congressional committee is not a court, and Issa is an asshole not a judge. In any case, if Lerner is now forced to testify after a clear attempt to invoke her right to refuse testimony, no one in America will ever trust the protection of the Fifth Amendment again. And Priebus, also an asshole not a judge, will have the power to declare guilt in the face of an invocation of the Fifth Amendment. What a great day that would be for American legal tradition!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

‘The Payoff’

 Seldom does a Washington lobbyist, lawyer and power-broker write a book. Even less often do I bother reading such a book. But it looks as if I am going to finish Jeff Connaughton's The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins, in record time. It's not a page-turner for the author's writing (middling at best), his great personal charm (none that I can see), his admirable character (maybe, but like most wealthy people, he has some other aspects) or the novelty of the plot (I suspect this crap was going on long before our republic was a gleam in its founders' eyes), but because I find it simply dumbfounding that Wall Street essentially runs unregulated, and has the power to do literally anything it wants.

Read it and weep: we are wholly owned. Don't buy the book; I found it at the corner library, and you probably can, too.


A transformer blew out with a loud report, leaving my block with a brown-out. At first I didn't realize there was a problem; I just reset a breaker and restarted my computer. But repeated attempts to connect to the 'net failed with modem problems. Eventually I noticed the lights were flickering, so I promptly shut down all computers... I once lost an expensive copier due to a brown-out.

About an hour later, the Kilowatt is Reddy again, and I'm back on the net. Some problems never really go away...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Virginia GOP State AG Nominee: Throw Women In Jail For Miscarriage

Just so this won't go unremarked, in 2009, Virginia state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R), nominee for state attorney general, introduced a bill that would charge women with a Class 1 misdemeanor... punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2500... if they failed to report their miscarriage in the absence of medical personnel to police. Obenshain is running to replace right-wing nutjob Ken Cuccinelli, who is now running for governor.

That's today's Republican Party for you: male members want to criminalize being female. Why would any woman vote for a GOPer, knowing the party is full of men like Obenshain and Cuccinelli?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Update to 'Lies, Damned Lies And GOP Slurs Against Obama'

... appended to my original post. Republicans never cease to disgust me with their bald-faced dishonesty. The notion of a fierce but fair political battle is evidently unknown to them.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Open Software — Followup

Following up on the post below, I offer continuing adventures in open software...

I finally got the underpinnings of my project working, the whole stack of apps and components all connected together and (minimally) running. I don't feel like quite such a dolt tonight, though it may be a while before I feel comfortable developing apps for UNIX-Linux systems. One has to start somewhere.

In this case, my frustration was caused by problems in not just one but two of the four layers, the Tcl/Tk library from ActiveState and the PAGE visual form design tool. Unsurprisingly there were no actual errors in ActiveState Tcl/Tk 8.6, only a misunderstanding on my part as to how it was to be hooked up to the PAGE tool. And PAGE worked fine once I ran a configuration script that determined for PAGE just where it should look for its underpinnings. To complicate matters, versions of Python built in the past few years all have an earlier version of Tcl/Tk built in to the runtime/development environment, so that PAGE was attempting to talk to Tcl/Tk 8.5.11 rather than 8.6 . Both errors on my part were educational; I learned still more about some very basic *nix operations in chasing down the problems. I'm afraid I have a lot more very basic things to learn.

I also learned the challenge of installing and configuring software packages that do not reside in well-defined online repositories, which is how a lot of Linux software is distributed. The tools on Ubuntu (some of them borrowed from other distributions of Linux) do not make it easy to install a single package from a vendor who simply provides a single compressed archive (think: zip file).

One frustration to a newbie like myself is that in the *nix world, hardly anyone writing documentation... man pages, forum posts, introductory articles, whatever... feels a need to explain one single fact more than the minimal amount necessary for an experienced person (user or programmer) to use the software described. One painfully common fault is describing the changes one must make to a configuration file without ever mentioning where to find the file. Fortunately I found a good search tool; I'd have been unbearably taxed by doing all the searching in something as slow at searching as, say, Nautilus. This is a marked difference from the Windows world, where the doc writers' assumption is typically that the consumer of documentation is an utter idiot.

Onward into the fray...

Woodward: GOP-Doctored Benghazi Emails Are Equivalent To Watergate

Tom Kludt at TPM:

During an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Woodward said he disagreed with the notion that the controversy surrounding the deadly attack is motivated purely by politics. He said that the emails detailing the revised Benghazi talking points reminded him of Watergate transcripts that were selectively edited by former President Richard Nixon.

"I have to go back 40 years to Watergate when Nixon put out his edited transcripts of the conversations and he personally went through them and said, 'Oh, let's not tell this, let's not show this,'" Woodward recalled. "I would not dismiss Benghazi. It's a very serious issue."

Hmm. Does that mean Benghazi-gate will see a lot of GOPers out of the corridors of power and perhaps into jail cells? Don't hold your breath...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Open Software: What You Get For Free And What You Don't

The First Computer Bug
Back in 1947, a year before I was born, when early computer wizard Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (USN) found a moth fouling a relay in the Harvard Mark II electromechanical computer, she removed the moth and taped it in the project log book, where I presume it is still preserved for posterity. In other words, it's not my fault: computer bugs have been around quite literally all my life. I'll be polite and not speculate on what Adm. Hopper said when the bug got into the relay; I assume that since she was Navy, she knew how to curse.

Fast-forward (now there's an increasingly antiquated term!) to 2013, where I am in the middle of my n'th attempt to become even minimally competent at programming for a *nix (i.e., UNIX or Linux) system, n being a regrettably large integer. With great deliberation over each choice, I have chosen to learn the programming language Python (yes, it's named after Monty Python), the lightweight integrated development environment Geany (perhaps the only piece of developer software with which I've felt instantly comfortable; on the n-1'th attempt I used Eclipse on an old, slow machine and came to regret it), the graphical interface library Tcl/Tk (also known for historical reasons as Tkinter) and the visual form design tool PAGE. I don't know how common these things are out in the real world of *nix because I never had a contract in that world; I just have to start somewhere.

Things went swimmingly up to a point. I managed to construct manually a few simple programs using Tcl/Tk, tapping the code by hand, copy-pasting bits and pieces from examples provided by other people. That all worked pretty well.

Then, after the aforementioned deliberation, I set out to install PAGE. The author of PAGE claims it rests on version 8.5.4 (or newer) of Tcl/Tk. The version installed on this box by the original Ubuntu installation is 8.5.11, so I should have been OK.

I installed PAGE with no significant error messages, I attempted to run it from a command prompt. It quit with a complaint (presumably from the Python runtime) that the program (i.e., PAGE) was attempting to use calls to Tcl/Tk version 8.6, the latest version... NOT 8.5.4, as advertised in the documentation. Thus entered the dark side of free software.

ActiveState, one of the major commercial software and support companies in the Tcl/Tk world, offers a prebuilt freebie version 8.6 package of Tcl/Tk, with no support. I can see the advantages of their doing so: programmers that grow up using the freebie version could very likely influence the subsequent purchase of commercial licenses by their employers or clients. Freebies are pretty much traditional in the Linux world, and the market of people who use them would be a good market to tap into.

I downloaded the Tcl/Tk 8.6 freebie package and attempted to install it... three times, using three different install tools. I got hundreds of error messages, which I could not redirect to a file (due to my ignorance, I'm sure). I ran a few of the handmade programs using 8.5.11 to make sure I hadn't destroyed that; apparently it's OK. But after an entire evening of my life spent on this project, I am back to square one. Even for a guy who used to do this stuff for a living, that's pretty frustrating.

And like Adm. "Amazing" Grace, I know how to curse!

It's Baa-ack! Hurricane Season Is Upon Us

T.S. Alvin is southwest of the southwest coast of Mexico, heading west-northwest and not threatening anyone on land. But it's two weeks early for the traditional June 1 start of hurricane season, and Alvin is a reminder to all of us along the Gulf Coast to check our stocks of food, batteries, etc. Don't be caught without the essentials!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Typo Of The Week

It's from Bury Your Dead, one of the Chief Inspector Gamache series of mystery novels by the excellent Louise Penny, p. 137. In this scene Chief Inspector Gamache is walking through a church in Québec, conversing with a priest, Père Sébastien:
They walked back the way they came, each pausing to cross himself, and across the knave to a small grotto area with a tiny altar lit by votives.
Hmm. Surely the knave objected vociferously to being walked on!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lies, Damned Lies, And GOP Slurs Against Obama — UPDATED

Sarah Jones at Politicus USA has a few words on the subject of White House emails provided by GOP sources to ABC and CNN regarding what really happened within the Obama administration concerning Benghazi... provided, as it turns out, after significant editing by those GOP sources, editing which substantially misrepresents the original content. Here's Jones:

In an exclusive for CNN, [Jake] Tapper reveals that CNN has the original email sent by a top Obama aide, regarding the administration’s reaction to the Benghazi attacks. Tapper reported, “The actual email differs from how sources characterized it to two different media organizations.”

“The actual email from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes appears to show that whomever (sic) leaked it did so in a way that made it appear that the White House primarily concerned with the State Department’s desire to remove references and warnings about specific terrorist groups so as to not bring criticism to the department,” Tapper concludes (my [i.e., Jones's] bold).

GOP Lie-brary
In the same article, Jones notes that Tapper reveals how ABC and the Weekly Standard, both major conservative (or at least Republican) news outlets, "paraphrased" the emails, quoted them "inaccurately" and twisted the original meaning so as to make it appear that then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes was involved in a CYA operation benefitting the Obama administration State Department after the fact.

I suppose all's fair in love, war and GOP politicking, but a democracy cannot function with a continuing misrepresentation of the facts regarding significant events by the opposition party, however politically advantageous such misrepresentations... face it, lies... may prove to be.

Jones concludes that this is only one incident in an ongoing pattern engaged in by the GOP:
This is why we do not run with these stories when they first come out. Consistently over Obama’s first term, we found that when the facts come out later (as I pointed out in the new shiny ball IRS scandal story), it has turned out that the stories were being planted in the press. The information was wrong. There was an agenda afloat.

What is even worse for Republicans is that the real email expresses dismay at the uninformed spreading bullcrap. The only people screaming bullcrap about Benghazi were Republicans who sought to use it to win an election.

Another day, another conspiracy debunked. Now, when will the press stop falling for this crap? Note to the media, the next time a “Republican congressional aide” or unnamed source has a smoking gun OMG!!11!!! Nixon Bush scandal, you might want to find a back up source, and get the original documents before being Breitbarted by edited emails/videos/etc.
And so I paraphrase Disraeli or Twain (take your pick) in the post title. Lies, damned lies, and... not statistics... but GOP fabrications of news stories that actually do have a legitimate backstory, but not one that is to the GOP's advantage. There is plenty wrong with Obama and his administration, but the GOP is unwilling to settle for less than his total destruction, even if it means the country's destruction as well. For our nation to have survived over 200 years of legitimately fierce political infighting, only to be brought low by a party willing to claim anything, and a news media willing to serve as that party's stenographers, would be a damned shame.

UPDATE 5/19 via Josh Marshall of TPM: according to Major Garrett on CBS Evening News, Republicans leaking the emails inserted text referring to the State Department, text that simply wasn't there in the original. Example from an email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes:

  • Original: “We need to resolve this in a way that respects all the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.”
  • Republican leaked version: “We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.”
You know, if I were permitted to revise anything my opponent says, I believe I could win every argument. Apparently that's what GOPers have decided to do.

In The GOP, It Has Come To This

Wow. Just... wow:
Pablo Pantoja, who previously served as the State Director of Florida Hispanic Outreach for the Republican National Committee, has defected to the Democratic Party.

Citing the GOP's "culture of intolerance," Pantoja confirmed his party change in an email sent Monday to Florida Nation. Pantoja also drew reference to a much-maligned dissertation from the Heritage Foundation's Jason Richwine that sought to discourage non-whites from immigrating to the United States on the basis that those groups have lower IQs. Richwine resigned from his post at Heritage last week.

(Bolds mine.)

Here's a party game (Party game?) for you: how many Republicans can you think of whose name contains the fragment "rich"? Anywhere in the name is fine, e.g., "Newt Gingrich" counts.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Going To The Big House — Doggerel

Riding METROLift to physical therapy a few days ago, I was treated to a rapid drive‑by survey of the houses in my neighborhood. The neighborhood is a desirable one; the house we lease is a "tear-downer" that will be gone in a few years, in favor of a much larger monstrosity. That's sad, because the neighborhood has (had?) real character: every house, modest though it may be, was individual, unlike those early suburbs in which every third house on the opposite side of a street was identical in every respect except perhaps the color it was painted. In any case, I was riding in one of the larger, more comfortable METROLift vans, and had my notepad handy; I was moved to scribble this...
Going Bimodal

While some of us fret
  about losing our jobs,
For others, there's hope
  of expansion:
Their pocket's so full
  that it practically throbs . . .
(Hot-damn! There's another

- SB the YDD

(There's a castle with a turret, similar to this one, two houses down the street from me. If I had $3m to spend on a home, I don't think I'd be quite this silly. But YMMV...)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A [Redacted] Day For The ACLU

Glenn Greenwald:
The ACLU submitted a FOIA request to obtain the Obama administration's policy on intercepting text messages sent to and from cell phones. This is the document they received - here [.pdf] - from the Most Transparent Administration Ever™. It's hard to believe that the DOJ isn't mischievously cackling at their own brazenly displayed contempt as they do these things.
For those of you reading on the few remaining mobile devices on which .pdf readers may not be universally available, take it from me: all 15 pages of the requested document are wholly redacted. Yep. Fifteen solid black pages, thanks to your sadly misnamed "Justice" department.

I do not believe this response complies with the spirit of the FOIA. But that seems to be the nature of American government these days: the executive branch does whatever it damned well pleases, and the rest of us suck on it and "like" it.

As you contemplate this response, remember not to text your deepest secrets even to your life partner. Good grief... has it come to this, that the increasingly fascist regime feels it necessary to capture... text messages? OMG I hp thy njoy rdng abbrs...

Remind me: why did I ever vote for this prez?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Stephen Hawking Derided For 'Hypocrisy' For Boycotting Israeli Conference While Using 'Israeli' Technology

Harriet Sherwood in The Guardian:
Stephen Hawking's decision to boycott an Israeli conference in protest at the state's 46-year occupation of Palestine was derided as hypocritical by some, who pointed out that the celebrated scientist and author uses Israeli technology in the computer equipment that allows him to function.

Hawking, 71, has suffered from motor neurone disease for the past 50 years, and relies on a computer-based system to communicate.

According to Shurat HaDin, an Israel law centre which represents victims of terrorism, the equipment has been provided by the hi-tech firm, Intel, since 1997.

Give. Me. A. F**king. Break!

I am frequently critical of some oil-producing countries in the Middle East, e.g., Saudi Arabia and Iraq, for their society's policies on women's rights. But no one has yet vilified me for continuing to drive my car. (Full disclosure: at the moment, I am physically unable to drive my car. But I would drive it if I could, thereby undoubtedly burning Saudi oil.)

And labeling Intel an "Israeli" firm is stretching the notion of corporate nationality past the breaking point. Intel is a multinational firm headquartered in the US. It happens to have an Israeli branch.

To the people in Israel who are critical of Hawking for using Intel technology, I offer the following advice:
  • Unplug your own Intel-based PC from the Internet and the power grid. After all, you'd be using "Israeli" technology. Even if your PC has a chip from another company, you are using a technology originated by an "Israeli" company. Yes, I'm telling you to give up your computers. How does that feel? And yet, I am asking far less of you than you are asking of Hawking.
  • Take your gun (I believe it is a fair assumption that every Israeli owns a gun), shoot yourself in both feet, then in both hands, rendering yourself permanently disabled, but still not quite as disabled as Hawking without his electronics. Welcome to crippledom... it's great fun, isn't it?
  • While you're at it, stop attending Hollywood movies, because many Hollywood stars are openly critical of Israel on human rights grounds. Let's face it: you're slamming Hawking because he is a star, and you can leverage his stardom to obtain publicity for yourselves. Can you see how some people might see that as hypocrisy on your part?
From what I've read, Hawking, a celebrity as few scientists have ever been, can be an annoying person to deal with, sometimes even in professional contexts. But people do not deserve to be told they should not use the technology that allows them to interact with other people day to day. Telling Hawking to unplug his electronic prostheses is exactly equivalent to telling me that I must live my life without my artificial limb. And that's real hypocrisy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Letting The Sequester Fester

I presume everyone who reads this blog is aware of the sequester... how it came to be constructed as a fate worse than debt [sic] for Democrats and Republicans alike, how it was fabricated by a congressional bipartisan bicameral super‑committee, how Republicans (mostly) and Democrats (to some degree) failed to find the requisite budget cuts thereby allowing the train wreck to happen at the beginning of the current year, and... well, I've discovered a lot of people seem not to know anything about the consequences of the cuts forced by the sequester.

And those consequences are, IMHO, horrendous. The sequester, again IMHO, should be ended forthwith. Letting it fester is liable to sink the ship of state, or at least drain the economy that floats it.

So... what are those horrendous consequences? Pro Publica does a good job of explaining the sequester and outlining the disaster it is wreaking on our nation's economy.

Go. Read. It's worse than you imagine. It's cutting a lot more than the silly White House Easter egg hunt.

ASIDE: an old friend of mine since middle school, a generally sane conservative, has nonetheless said crazy things about the virtues of shutting down large portions of the federal government to save tax dollars. It looks as if he, along with the Tea Party dominated House of Representatives, has lived to see that wish come true, at least in part. My congratulations to them. On the other hand...

I hope they don't mind too much when their mothers' Social Security checks and Medicare payments start being cut. And I do wonder how their churches... my friend is very religious... will feel about cuts to, and even closures of, Head Start programs, not to mention Meals on Wheels programs with... wait for it... waiting lists. Yeah, that's real Christian charity, all right.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The One Imperial Power Left Standing, And The Planet It Is Standing On

Tom Engelhardt is, of course, pitching his book, The End of Victory Culture. But I believe he is also saying some profound things about a fundamental change in history, from the story of the rise and fall of empires, to the story of a single empire dominating the only planet humanity has... and contributing to the physical decline of that planet.

With luck, HPL will have the book. If not, it may be a while before I read it. Meanwhile, the linked essay is a good start.

Monday, May 6, 2013

≪ShooterAge≫-Year-Old ≪ShooterGender≫ ≪OptionalFatally≫ Shoots ≪ShotAge≫-Year-Old ≪Relationship≫

There. I've parameterized the headline so you can set up the post one time, substitute the correct parameters and generate the story automatically when it happens again. And again. And again. And...

In this case, the parameters are
"13", "Boy", "", "6", "Sister"
I swear, this is going to happen repeatedly until our gun-obsessed culture undergoes a substantial change, whether or not that change is driven by legislation.

This has nothing to do with any liberal/conservative dichotomy, gun‑wielding or gun‑hating, 2nd‑Amendment‑worshipping or not, etc., etc. It has to do with one thing: a societal casualness about guns that causes some stupid adults to let their young kids play with loaded firearms.

C'mon, folks... stop being such asswipes... keep your guns where your kids can't reach 'em.

Americans: Your Government Records And Maintains Access To All Your Phone Calls, Emails, Etc.

According to Glenn Greenwald, writing in The Guardian on May 4 (you know it is unlikely he could publish this in a major American print news source; it is amazing that CNN broadcast the material), the answer is yes:
The real capabilities and behavior of the US surveillance state are almost entirely unknown to the American public because, like most things of significance done by the US government, it operates behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy. But a seemingly spontaneous admission this week by a former FBI counterterrorism agent provides a rather startling acknowledgment of just how vast and invasive these surveillance activities are.

Over the past couple days, cable news tabloid shows such as CNN's Out Front with Erin Burnett have been excitingly focused on the possible involvement in the Boston Marathon attack of Katherine Russell, the 24-year-old American widow of the deceased suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. As part of their relentless stream of leaks uncritically disseminated by our Adversarial Press Corps, anonymous government officials are claiming that they are now focused on telephone calls between Russell and Tsarnaev that took place both before and after the attack to determine if she had prior knowledge of the plot or participated in any way.

On Wednesday night, Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could:
... [quote from interview with Clemente]
"All of that stuff" - meaning every telephone conversation Americans have with one another on US soil, with or without a search warrant - "is being captured as we speak".

On Thursday night, Clemente again appeared on CNN, this time with host Carol Costello, and she asked him about those remarks. He reiterated what he said the night before but added expressly that "all digital communications in the past" are recorded and stored:
... [video]
(Bolds mine. Please read the Clemente quotation in the Guardian column.)

According to the agent, all of your digitally transmitted conversations with your spouse... these days, that's effectively all of them... are recorded, and "out there," accessible to federal law enforcement officials, without a warrant. The one law they emphatically aren't enforcing is the Fourth Amendment.

This claim is not vague, unattributed "sources say" stuff. The agent has a name, and a journalist with any diligence... and a spine... could, and should, check out the quotation.

As Greenwald indicates later in the column, this is not the first indication of such massive government warehousing of American citizens' communications (consider the WaPo revelations in 2010)... and this is the stuff of which totalitarian governments are made (never forget Saudi Arabia's banning of BlackBerrys because they had no government "back door" in their encryption). Every conversation you have with your spouse, the NSA (at least) records and archives it.

Welcome to 1984. We've arrived... three decades late, but we're there now.

AFTERTHOUGHT: as if we weren't violating enough of our centuries‑old legal traditions, Katherine Russell is effectively being coerced to testify against her husband. Does that personalize matters for you a bit more clearly?

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Third Of Americans Think Armed Rebellion Will Be 'Necessary' Within A Few Years? Really?

Sahil Kapur of TPM:
Poll: 29% Think Armed Rebellion Might Soon Be Necessary

Picture via The National Memo
Three in 10 registered American voters believe an armed rebellion might be necessary in the next few years, according to the results of a staggering poll released Wednesday by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind.

The survey, aimed at measuring public attitudes toward gun issues, found that 29 percent of Americans agree with the statement, “In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties.” An additional five percent were unsure.

Eighteen percent of Democrats said an armed revolt “might be necessary,” as compared to 27 percent of independents and 44 percent of Republicans. Support levels were similar among males and females but higher among less educated voters.

[tables of stats]

Oh, good grief. Give me a break. "Necessary"? Any word on whether they think this contemplated armed rebellion might be possible?

It seems highly likely to me that the US military will continue to follow the president's orders, and any president... including this one... will order any armed rebellion put down, and the US military will not be defeated by a disorganized group of middle-aged fat balding men toting their rifles of which they are so proud. Sorry, guys, it ain't gonna happen! Give it up before you end up looking really, really stupid, not to mention really dead. There may be armed groups in the world that could defeat some units of the US Army under certain limited circumstances... but frankly, you aren't among them. The first crowd control vehicle deployed would send you packing forthwith. Take your toys and go home before you hurt someone, most likely yourself.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

National Day Of Prayer


Afterthought: I found this column about the "nones" [sic] worth reading.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Kids Kill Kids With Handy Guns

TPM informs us that in Kentucky, 2-Year-Old Girl Shot, Killed By 5-Year-Old Brother With Rifle He Recieved [sic] As A Gift. Sources close to the family say the brother was exasperated with his sister's apparent inability to learn the "I-before-E-except-after-C" rule.

Seriously? You say this is no place for flippancy or sarcasm? OK, tell me: exactly what DID most Americans learn from this incident, and tragically many like it every year?

Viral Facebook photo of 10-yr-old
NJ boy holding apparent assault rifle

I assert they learned nothing. That 2-year-old child died to no purpose whatsoever. Others like her will continue to die until our gun-fixated culture relinquishes at least enough personal control of firearms to enable the law to take some measures to prevent guns from getting into the hands... hell, being thrust into the hands... of small children.

This is fucking nuts. Nuts! Nothing about the right of the adult American citizen to keep and bear arms, nor anything implicit in that right about a right to train adolescents to handle guns properly, indicates we cannot legally prevent unsupervised use of guns by young children. Gawd a'mighty, what's wrong with us? Why do Americans... ANY Americans... want this preventable tragedy to be possible?

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