Monday, June 30, 2014

Supremes On Hobby Lobby (And Similar Corp's, Partnerships, Etc.): F*** The Law, You Can Do Anything Your Corporate Religious Beliefs Tell You

From Sahil Kapur of TPM, the decision was, of course, 5-4, along partisan lines. Justice Ginsburg says the Court has "wandered into a minefield"; she is right, of course, but it's worse than that: the Court has already tripped a mine and the explosion has started. Here's an excerpt from Justice Ginsburg's opinion (please don't stop here; read her entire opinion):
In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs. The Court's determination that RFRA extends to for-profit corporations is bound to have untoward effects. Although the Court attempts to cabin its language to closely held corporations, its logic extends to corporations of any size, public or private.
Justice Scalia
Father Antonin
Ginsburg also noted that "... the case, brought by the Christian owners of the retail chain Hobby Lobby, marks the first time the U.S. Supreme Court has exempted a for-profit corporation from a generally applicable law on religious grounds."

As best I recall, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," i.e., Congress cannot declare an official religion for the nation, nor can they prohibit people from worshiping as they damned well please. But as of today, what Congress may not do, business entities may freely do, imposing the practical consequences of their own religious beliefs on their employees, even in defiance of laws passed by Congress... and the Supreme Court will back them up as they do this.

What's next? How long before Hobby Lobby (and similar businesses) send around a general memo that all employees who want to keep their jobs will appear Sunday morning at Holy Smokes Catholic Church for the early service? And when they do, will the Supreme Court back the companies, on the grounds that the RFRA is violated when employees attend a different church, or no church at all?

Is anyone else reminded of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale? Do not, for even a moment, think "it can't happen here"!

AFTERTHOUGHT: a bit more reading and contemplating led me to ask and answer this question:

Q: What makes Burwell v. Hobby Lobby like Bush v. Gore?
A: Both rulings contain explicit self-limiting text that restricts the use of the decision to the current case only, i.e., neither can be used as precedent to rule on cases evoking similar underlying legal principles... because, says the Court, there are no underlying principles to be invoked.

Bush v. Gore:
[from the Court's Opinion]

  • Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby:
[from the Court's Syllabus]
  • This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandate e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.
[from the Court's Opinion]
  • In any event, our decision in these cases is concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate. Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs. Other coverage requirements, such as immunizations, may be supported by different interests (for example, the need to combat the spread of infectious diseases) and may involve different arguments about the least restrictive means of providing them.
Let's simplify the latter a bit: the decision is NOT to be applied generally to any old insurance-coverage mandate that conflicts with an employer's religious beliefs, but rather only to the contraceptive mandate in the ACA. Why is the applicability to be thus restricted, when the entire context is virtually the same? Because we [the Court] say so, that's why.

The Court majority's duck-and-cover on the whole issue is breathtaking: their restriction of application is essentially arbitrary, but they want to be sure no one uses it as precedent in another future case... just as they did in Bush v. Gore. I am no lawyer, but if I were, I suspect I'd find this little tap-dance both incompetent and determined to effect a specific outcome to the detriment of women's health. This song-and-dance really sucks; we deserve better from our highest court.

Six Catholic Supreme Court Justices Walk Into Sit Above A Bar...

... and assure that cases involving women's reproductive health issues virtually never receive a fair hearing. In this case, Harris v. Quinn, the Court struck down a Massachusetts law that placed an invisible boundary 35 feet from the entrance to any abortion clinic, a boundary within which anti-abortion protesters may not go in pursuit of talking women out of obtaining a legal abortion. The Court claimed that the protesters' First Amendment free speech rights were violated by this boundary.

I have traversed the grounds of a Planned Parenthood location many times while working on an IT contract for them, and I can tell you from direct observation that what those protesters do is by no means confined to gentle logical persuasion. They physically obstruct the woman's path to the clinic with their bodies. They shove bloody fetus pictures in her face. They shout at the top of their lungs at her. If the clinic has escorts (most do these days), they actually assault the escorts by falling on them to create a breach in the line protecting the clinic.

There is no way on earth that what they do is limited to "speech." The claim that it is, is a baldfaced lie... a lie now endorsed by the overwhelmingly Catholic-heavy Supreme Court.

Sooner or later, a woman seeking an abortion will carry a firearm to the clinic for self-protection. Sooner or later, a living, breathing adult human being, one whose humanity is not in dispute by any parties to this debate, will get hurt. And if they are hurt while waving a bloody-fetus poster in a woman's face, I will not feel any sympathy for them. Abortion is an established legal... nay, constitutional... right in America: no woman should be required to tolerate threats to her person to exercise that right.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Race Issue

No, not one color of h. Sapiens against another... I mean the Grand Prix Houston. I can hear the cars from my reading chair at home. The race starts in about 5 minutes; I suppose the drivers will prove whose Prix is the Grandest...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Vanishing Fourth Amendment In The Post‑Constitutional Age

The Nation offers a survey article on the many ways the Fourth Amendment, the source of Americans' privacy rights, has been eviscerated in the post‑9/11 era, to the point at which practically none of the privacy rights we had in our youth are, in actual practice, protected today.

How does all this surveillance/dragnet/poking into private records work? Well, we don't know, because the mofos who do it won't tell us. Put simply, your secrets acquired by your government are available to them, but they're, ah... secret... from you. Got that?

(H/T Enfant, in comments.)

Is Keith Alexander Selling Classified Information?

If not, how else is he demanding and collecting the huge fees he is known to be receiving in his post-NSA enterprises? Alan Grayson wants to know, and emptywheel marshals available information on the subject from Grayson and other sources. From Grayson's letter, we learn that Alexander is receiving a reported $600,000 a month from a variety of banking industry associations. And emptywheel quotes this tidbit from independent security expert Bruce Schneier:
Schneier also quoted, which headlined this news as: “For another million, I’ll show you the back door we put in your router.”
And for a few [million] dollars more... for that much money, why do I not get a sense of security?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Supremes: In General, Cops Need A Warrant To Search Digital Content Of Suspect's Cell Phone

This decision is big. In it, a unanimous 9-0 Supreme Court (!!) holds that, with a few exceptions already long established in Fourth Amendment law, if you are carrying a cell phone when police apprehend you and search you, if they want to page through your phone directory, photos, emails, recent text messages, etc., they need a warrant. This recognizes the intrinsic difference between your cell phone and, say, the contents of your car's glove box: a glove box can easily contain a weapon that you could use to harm an arresting officer or a bystander; a cell phone, not so much. (There is of course a distinction between what the phone "contains" physically, e.g., a razor blade, and what the phone "contains" as digitally represented information about you.)

This is a most welcome decision. Until now, a cop searching the digital content of your cell phone could easily turn up more private information about you than s/he could in a similar search of, say, all your paper file cabinets in your home. Searches of paper documents are fairly easy to specify in ways that prevent "fishing expeditions"; more to the point, no one denies the Fourth Amendment applies to them. Searches of the digital content of your iPhone are intrinsically unrestricted by the nature of the device; they render the Fourth Amendment useless if no warrant is required for such a search.

I found this article by Dahlia Lithwick interesting; you may want to read it.

(H/T Enfant de la Haute Mer in comments to the preceding post for alerting me to this decision. I've been busy with housework and not doing my homework.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: emptywheel has other ideas altogether about what the decision may mean, and not all her conclusions point to actual benefits to civil liberties.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Sharia, Or, GOP House Candidate Asserts First Amendment Doesn't Apply To Muslims

"Believe what I believe... or else!"
Kos's Hunter tells us of Jody Hice, Republican candidate for Georga's 10th district House seat, pointing us to Eric Dolan at Raw Story:
A Republican candidate seeking to represent Georgia’s 10th U.S. House district believes that the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty does not apply to followers of Islam.

“Although Islam has a religious component, it is much more than a simple religious ideology,” Rev. Jody Hice wrote in his 2012 book It’s Now Or Never, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It is a complete geo-political structure and, as such, does not deserve First Amendment protection.”

The House candidate also believes the Muslim Brotherhood is secretly infiltrating the United States in a plot to impose Sharia law on the entire country, a conspiracy theory he shares with Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

Yes, that's just what we need... more Representatives like Gohmert and Bachman.

This approach is not new. A few years ago, a Republican appointed official in Texas ruled that Unitarian Universalism was not a religion and therefore would not receive exemption from state taxes. That one didn't fly, either, but the assertion served its purpose of reminding the religious nut-jobs of Texas to hate us a little more. After all, for GOPers, that's what the First Amendment is about, isn't it... hating everybody who doesn't worship the way they do.

My answer to these fuckheads is simple: you may hate me and people of my religion, but you WILL, b'Gawd, tolerate us.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Few Brave Capitalists Try To Salvage The Wreck That Is Capitalism Today...

Why American capitalism doesn't work
... and Robert Reich explains to those few that the primary task is, unavoidably, to make changes to American capitalism so that it benefits a much broader segment of the American people. That means raising the minimum wage significantly and making useful jobs (e.g., infrastructure maintenance) available to far more people, both by government action at least in the short term. And even with the best-managed government, we have to raise taxes on the 1 percent, back to where they were in, say, Eisenhower's day. If we don't have lower- and middle-class consumers as customers, we don't have the slightest chance of running a free-market economy, and if we don't pay the middle and lower classes a living wage, we don't have consumers... and that's not even considering the consequent human suffering.

You'd think that simple truth would be enlightened self-interest for every small business owner, large company CEO, etc. But at present it's not. Most of them seem to want to emulate the Kochs or Adelson or Trump or some other obscenely wealthy and socially useless (bleep!). I don't have a lot of hope for Reich's success, but it is somewhat heartening that at least some very wealthy Americans see that our current path... I've read that 95 percent of the gains in the so-called "recovery" have gone straight to the top 1 percent... leads to a dead end.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tex-MexRetch ‘Food’

Do you live in Houston, in or near the surrounded small city of Bellaire? Have you noticed a small Mexican restaurant named Carmelita's, located in the shopping center called the Bellaire Triangle (legend has it that SUVs enter and are never seen again)? Hungry for some good Tex-Mex?

Not Carmelita's - Probably Better
Resist... resist... resist the temptation to stop at Carmelita's. On the recommendation of a friend, we tried it yesterday, and it was the worst dog‑awful Tex‑Mex food I have ever had in my life. The. Worst. The spinach enchiladas, I kid you not, were made with canned spinach; nothing else could possibly account for the watery texture and absence of flavor. Stella's enchiladas first arrived, one cheese, one chicken; she sent them back, and they sent out cheese enchiladas with onions... not in the menu ingredient list, and Stella is very allergic to onions. They corrected that as well, but everything happened in slow motion, rendering (oops, bad choice of word) what could have been at least acceptable performance instead unbelievably incompetent.

They say the proof is in the eating, so I tried to make a go of it, but I failed. I left about half the meal on the plate. We're talking about a guy who almost never doesn't finish his Tex‑Mex, but I couldn't do it. If you have a hankering for Tex‑Mex, don't stop at Carmelita's; if you do, you'll be sorry.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I really should provide newcomers to the Houston area a few suggestions of where they can get good Tex‑Mex:

  • (Our old favorite, the formerly down-home and reasonably priced Pico's Mex‑Mex, has moved to upper Kirby and doubled its prices; we don't go there often now.)
  • Our top pick is Chuy's (2706 Westheimer and two other locations): you are guaranteed a good meal; vegetarian options are available (they even make a gravy without meat) and the food is promptly delivered piping hot (what does that expression mean, anyway?). Prices are moderate; service is excellent. I've never had them make a mistake on an order, and they are accommodating about reasonable substitutions. (The Austin Chuy's is [in]famous for carding Jenna Bush back in the day. The manager decided even a president's kid must abide by the liquor law.)
  • Best hole-in-the-wall: Fajita Pete's, in the center near Stella Link and Bellaire. Good food, fast service, flexible about off-menu items for sprout-eaters... what more could you ask? what's that? oh, yeah... CHEEP! CHEEP! Tiny, though, and the small staff necessitates closing between lunch and dinner.
  • Teotihuacan (3 locations) has excellent, very flavorful food, decent service and prices, and only one downside: all three locations are a bit of a drive away from us. Nonetheless, it's well worth the drive. Go for breakfast.
  • Molina's (about 6 blocks from Our House, on Holcombe [same street as Bellaire]), is an old-line mainstream Tex-Mex source, probably in business since my early childhood and still delivering quality food. Not cheap, but not knock-me-down expensive, either. The new one near us is lacking in the Austin atmosphere of the old place, but one can ignore that for the food.
And that should get you started!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Citizens United And Coordination Between Candidate Campaigns And Outside Issue Groups: Results Are Proving As Bad As Opponents Predicted

No, said Justice Kennedy, writing the Supreme Court's opinion in Citizens United: notwithstanding the ruling's opponents, independent issue-advocacy groups will be legally prevented from coordinating their expenditures with candidates' official campaigns, so there will be no "corruption or the appearance of corruption."

That was in 2010; now, in 2014, it isn't turning out that way at all. Take, for example, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, as described in a NYT editorial:
In the years since that disastrous opinion, politicians around the country have set out to prove Justice Kennedy wrong by stealthily working with the “independent” groups that raise money on their behalf. The latest to get caught doing so is Gov. Scott Walker, Republican of Wisconsin. According to state prosecutors, he was at the helm of a broad and illegal fund-raising effort that involved coordinating with outside spending groups and even controlling them.
No intelligent person living in the politically extreme real world of today's America could have failed to predict this, and worse. Look at the GOP: their attitude on this matter is "anything we can get away with surely must be legal" and "if we can delay the resolution of any legal action brought against us long enough, the election will be a moot point, and we will have won." Democrats may be slow to follow, but believe me, if this ruling stands, they'll get there... and then our elections will be wholly owned.

Our nation's founders would without a doubt have fought a revolution against such a provocation. Given today's military options available to the party in power, from drones to extreme crowd control devices and techniques, a revolution just isn't going to happen, and that's just as well, if we can resolve the matter without one. But steps must be taken to disarm Citizens United... or we shall have no government "of the people," let alone by or for those people.

I know Obama's attitude seems to be "can't we just all get along?" But in the case of Citizens United, the answer is an emphatic NO. There's no time like the present to start shutting down this truly evil Supreme Court ruling.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Maine Republican Is Anti-Abortion And Pro-Rape

It beggars belief that any American woman would risk her personal safety by even being in the presence of this Republican nut-job, let alone voting to put him in Maine's state House of Representatives. Via Brainwrap at Kos, in turn via Igor Derysh at IssueHawk, we hear from Mike Tipping at his blog The Tipping Point at Bangor Daily News:
Representative Lawrence Lockman of Amherst is in his first term in office, but he has quickly established himself as a vocal leader of the GOP’s tea party wing. He led the group of 26 Representatives ...


In the early 1990s, Lockman was active on the issue of abortion. He became a director of the Pro Life Education Association and in 1990 was quoted as sayingIf a woman has (the right to abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.”

Most of us know the Tea Party is a house of nuts. If you ever wondered just how extreme their insanity can be, now you know. Why any woman would vote for such a nut is quite beyond my understanding. But just to make sure you understand, in GOP terms, what form of rape you were subjected to, someone has constructed the following chart:

Note: the first quote, "Emergency Rape," from Linda McMahon, is nearly illegible; here it is, from ThinkProgress:
It was really an issue about a Catholic church being forced to offer those pills if the person came in in an emergency rape.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Esther Loves Steve

Sometime yesterday afternoon, Esther decided to join me in the recliner. She asked permission (as always) and she was careful with her claws (as she usually is). Late in the evening, as I sat reading in the chair, Esther stayed with me. Still later, when I drifted off to sleep and then awoke, Esther was on my lap. Even later, around 3:00 AM, I had to get up, and finally Esther departed the chair. Today when I sat to watch a bit of classic TV, Esther again graced me with her presence.

This behavior isn't unheard of, but it's been quite a while since Esther loved me so enthusiastically. I guess an old love renewed is the best love.

(Photo by Stella!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How The Global War On Terrorism Has Supplanted The American Bill Of Rights

Via l'Enfant de la Haute Mer in comments here, we have two versions of an excellent article by Peter van Buren, "RIP, The Bill of Rights" (at TomDispatch) and "How the ‘War on Terror’ Became a War on the Constitution" (at The Nation). Van Buren's thesis is that America has lived through two eras and into a third era of governance:
  • a monarchy when America was England's colony, 
  • a constitutional era after the American Revolution and for approximately two centuries, and 
  • a post-constitutional era beginning (as I perceive it) not later than the presidency of Ronald Reagan and coming to fruition in the presidencies of Dick Cheney, er, I mean, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. 
We may call the last era the era of the imperial presidency, or the era of the unitary executive. The first and third eras bear a striking and painful resemblance to each other: unitary rule is always arbitrary rule, no matter what you call the chief executive. The difference is how he (in America it's always been a "he"; see many European examples of a "she" as chief executive) is chosen: a kingship is an hereditary position with the initial king allegedly chosen by God; a presidency is not hereditary but rather, um, er, not really elected by the people either, unless you consider monetary units as ballot-weighting units. Once an American president or a constitutional monarch takes office, the differences are few.

Van Buren has done such a fine job of exploring the particulars of America's government and its relationship (if any) to democracy that I hardly need repeat his work... you may productively give both his versions a good read.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

DoD's Minerva Program: Why Do Pentagon/University Research Programs Conflate Nonviolent Activists With ‘Supporters Of Political Violence’?

This damned good question is posed by The Guardian's Nafeez Ahmed (H/T bobswern at Kos), along with related questions about why nonviolent activists are pigeonholed as "social contagions" and other questions aiming at Pentagon preparedness to beat the shit out of you, me and other nonviolent protesters in the coming conflict they see as both inevitable and violent. To me, it appears that's exactly what the DoD is seeking to justify in the coming decades, and it's paying universities large chunks of your tax money to study and crank out such justifications. Mr. Ahmed posed a version of my subject question to Minerva staffers and received essentially no response:
I contacted the project's principal investigator, Prof Maria Rasmussen of the US Naval Postgraduate School, asking why non-violent activists working for NGOs should be equated to supporters of political violence – and which "parties and NGOs" were being investigated – but received no response.

Similarly, Minerva programme staff refused to answer a series of similar questions I put to them, including asking how "radical causes" promoted by peaceful NGOs constituted a potential national security threat of interest to the DoD.
If you think I am unduly personalizing these programs and their targets, please read carefully:
One war-game, said Price, involved environmental activists protesting pollution from a coal-fired plant near Missouri, some of whom were members of the well-known environmental NGO Sierra Club. Participants were tasked to "identify those who were 'problem-solvers' and those who were 'problem-causers,' and the rest of the population whom would be the target of the information operations to move their Center of Gravity toward that set of viewpoints and values which was the 'desired end-state' of the military's strategy."

Such war-games are consistent with a raft of Pentagon planning documents which suggest that National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance is partially motivated to prepare for the destabilising impact of coming environmental, energy and economic shocks.
That's hitting pretty close to home, isn't it? (Bolds mine.)

This reminds me a great deal of another era in American history... you got it... that of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Oh, and COINTELPRO. Somewhere, Hoover's shade is grinning at us all.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Border Patrol Official: Agents Who Talk To Reporters May Be Prosecuted

Kevin Gosztola of FDL:
CBP Agents Learn to STFU
In an email the Associated Press obtained,  an assistant chief patrol agent warns thousands of Border Patrol agents if they talk to journalists about the crisis with immigrant children crossing the US-Mexico border they may be charged with committing a crime.

Eligio “Lee” Pena warned “more than 3,000 Border Patrol agents that journalists looking for information about what Obama has described as a humanitarian crisis are likely to ask for information,” according to the AP.

Pena’s email also suggested that reporters “may try to disguise themselves” to get agents to provide information. “Agents should not speak to reporters, on or off duty, without advanced permission and warned that anyone who does could be charged with a crime or disciplined administratively.

Bolds mine. I almost titled this post "Executive control freak orders suppression of all conversations between government officials and reporters." But that's not really true, is it? It's really only conversations with Executive branch agents, not the entire government, that are being squelched. Still, it's troubling beyond mere annoyance that the Obama administration feels a compulsion to do this heavy-handed silencing of its Customs‑Border Patrol agents.

Someone in comments to Gosztola's post remarked that Obama's real similarity is not to GeeDubya Bush, but rather to Richard Nixon. Yep!

How To Drive Someone Away From Christianity — Indeed, Any Kind Of Religion

Regular readers know I'm something of a skeptic regarding formal, church-based religion: I have never been a Christian, and as a UU, I exercised the broad latitude extended by that religion to its fullest extent. But heretofore I have been, in my own estimation, very tolerant of other people's religious beliefs, even as I am utterly disinclined to engage in anything one could reasonably call "faith" myself: if something can be demonstrated satisfactorily by proof, example or repeatable experiment, it is at some level "true"; if not, I'm not interested... that thing may be harmless, but it is also useless.

On that basis, I've been tolerant of the religious beliefs of fundamentalist evangelicals I know. But the nature of fundamentalism has been radically altered by the likes of preachers like John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in the San Fernando Valley and radio Bible-thumper extraordinare:

When a "man of God" asserts that parents must disavow their own children, "turn them over to Satan," etc. just for being gay, that's where I must definitively part ways with him: frankly, anyone who is that ready to "turn [adult children] over to Satan" apparently perceives very little difference between God and Satan, and very little difference between himself and a prison guard prepared to inflict torture.

Condemned to an eternity
of Really Bad Hair
and Fraktur Type
In short, if God is not good or if God not only condones but encourages hateful behavior, what possible basis is there for worshiping Him/Her? Right... there's no basis whatsoever. We don't need any more hatred in humanity's already mean‑spirited, afflicted world. And so I say to Hell, perhaps literally, more likely figuratively, with damnation-fixated preachers like MacArthur.

Aside: FWIW, I've been damned to Hell by so many self-satisfied fundy Christians in my lifetime that if you wish to comment for that purpose only, you're wasting your time.

Afterthought: here's Ricky-boy Perry saying that being gay is like being alcoholic. This isn't the first time he's said that. Consequently, this isn't the first time he's been wrong about it. Alcoholism comes in several flavors, some of which are amenable to various kinds of treatment, and there are compelling health reasons for addressing treatable alcoholism. OTOH, as straight guys go, I've probably known more gay guys (and a few gals) than most, and not only do all of them assert that gayness is intrinsic, inborn, but I've yet to see any compelling reason for attempting to modify the behavior... certainly not because a radio preacher or a GOPer state governor thinks you should.

(H/T Christian Dem in NC at Daily Kos.)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Krugman On Cantor: ‘Fall Of An Apparatchik’

Krugman's conclusion:
Whatever the reason, it turns out that being a movement conservative apparatchik is no longer a safe career choice. This is a very big deal. Conservatives, as I said, will always be with us. But the structure that shaped them into a cohesive movement is now starting to unravel, at a time when movement progressivism — which is much less cohesive and much less lucrative, but nonetheless now exists in a way it didn’t 15 years ago — is on the rise.
One can hope.

‘Let's You And Him Fight’

That approach has been around for thousands of years, probably bad grammar and all. Is anyone really surprised we're hearing it from an Iraqi government beset with internal strife? So far, Mr. Obama is rejecting the request, knowing that Americans of more than one political persuasion want nothing to do with any rekindling of the Iraq war. Cue hawkish Republican accusations of Obama's cowardice in 5... 4... 3... 2...

As usual, when faced with "damned if you do, damned if you don't," the right answer is "don't."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wealth-Backed Cantor Loses To Tea Party Brat

Despite a 26-1 money advantage and solid Wall Street backing, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-CreepyVA) is apparently going home, defeated in the GOP primary by Tea Party candidate and economics professor David Brat. Apparently Cantor wasn't enough of a radical conservative to suit Virginia Republicans. Oh well... when it comes to the sausage-making that is Washington politics, the Professor will surely do his Brat‑wurst...

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Title Of Robert Reich's Article...

... is also a good summary: The Way to Stop Corporate Lawbreaking is to Prosecute the People Who Break the Law. Yep. That would help! The other problem with "corporate personhood" is that a corporation has no body (despite its name) which can be confined to a jail cell. Any effective restraint of a corporation's malfeasance must begin with restraint of its all-too-human leaders.

New CEO Office
New Corporate HQ

Sunday, June 8, 2014


The federal government's song-and-dance to avoid any public scrutiny of the charges in a terrorism case in Chicago has danced right outside the pale... and the appeals court is having none of it. Kevin Gosztola of FDL:
A federal appeals court in Chicago ordered a redo of an oral argument in a case where the government filed an appeal against a defendant’s access to secret surveillance records.

Adel Daoud, a young Muslim who was arrested outside a Chicago bar in an undercover FBI sting operation, is charged with “attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction” and “attempting to destroy a building by means of an explosive.” A district court judge granted his defense team access to “foreign surveillance materials” under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was unprecedented.

On June 4, the 7th Circuit US Court of Appeals held argument on the government’s case for why the district court’s ruling should be reversed. The “public argument” part of the hearing was not recorded.

“By inadvertence, the device that makes a sound recording or the oral arguments of our cases was not turned on for the public argument in this case on Wednesday,” according to a court order issued on June 6. The court scheduled a new argument for June 9.

A do-over was ordered to dispel any perception of corruption.

"By inadvertence"? Awwww, gimme a break! If this was not a deliberate attempt to disrupt "a speedy and public trial, I'll eat my Uncle Sam red-white-'n'-blue hat. Clearly there is a policy... a secret policy... that no terrorism trial that comes before the FISA court or any appeal of such a trial will ever allow even the possibility of acquittal, even if that means running a drumhead trial in which the defendant's rights are not merely denied but just plain not even considered.

To repeat myself: this is not the United States of America I grew up in. After W.W.II, even the worst Nazis were subjected to fair trials in international courts. Now, the US will not even protect a terrorism defendant's constitutionally explicitly enumerated due process rights. The entire Obama administration should be ashamed of itself! Ashamed!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Was Einstein Wrong About ‘Spooky Action At A Distance’?

Recent experiments in "quantum entanglement" suggest it is real, and entangled particles subsequently separated can share changes to their quantum spin properties instantaneously... not at merely the speed of light. Einstein was so challenged by the idea that he referred to the phenomenon as "spooky action at a distance." Recent experiments haven't rendered it less spooky, but they have supported the reality of such entanglement... it's spooky, but it's real.
This article is written with a sledgehammer, but it has lots of links to sources that may be slightly more comprehensible. And if quantum entanglement turns out to be real, and if scientists' current interpretation of its behavior turns out to be correct, it could change a lot of things we thought we understood about the physics of our universe.

As I said, you might not want to bet your paycheck on the contents of the article, but do check out a few of the links.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Geithner's ‘Wall Of Money’

Matt Stoller, in his article “The Con‑Artist Wing of the Democratic Party,” attempts to follow Tim Geithner's attempt to explain why he did what he did... the bank bailout, unrestrained... in the supposed saving of the American economy with which he is credited and/or for which he is blamed. Stoller finds, unsurprisingly, that most people in America dislike Geithner, and his book, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, wins scant praise as well.

According to Geithner, the expression "wall of money" is a reference to some visible sign banks must use (e.g., stacks of paper money in bank windows) to reassure customers that the bank is solvent and they (the customers) need not participate in a bank run.

Of course, in a financial crisis, such a display is a con game, which means the Democratic Party has followed the GOP into blatant conning of Americans regarding their financial system. That doesn't exactly project confidence, does it?

(H/T DSWright at FDL.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rocky Mountain High — Maureen Dowd Has A Bad Trip In/To Denver

Dowd's high was indeed rocky, as her trip to Denver to sample the wares was truly a bad trip. I still haven't tried the demon weed myself (it may happen if I live long enough), but among the many college classmates I saw through all sorts of highs (and sometimes subsequent lows), I never once heard anyone describe a trip like the one Dowd says she experienced. I would simply remind the complaining columnist that the grass is always greener...

Recent Kos Favorites; Our Status

Kos posts well worth your time:
Then there's the status of Our House, which isn't really ours. Our landlord, a basically decent guy, finding himself hit with an outrageous tax increase on the property we inhabit, is raising our rent by a commensurately large amount... it's not his fault; he's making no additional profit on this. Stella had already applied for an increase in hours worked per week, which she will know about in the next few days, maybe a week. I have something pending, too: my Social Security benefits application. So at the moment we don't know if we're staying here or moving, or if the latter, how soon the move will be. If I'm not around on the blog very much in the next couple of weeks, you'll know why.

Monday, June 2, 2014

To The FCC

To the FCC:
If ever there were a case of foxes guarding hen-houses, this is it. When I signed up for my two domain names, I was not knowingly signing up for blatant discrimination against small businesses. When I resorted to signing up with a major telecom for an allegedly high-speed internet connection, I did not expect to be competing with megacorporations for access to bandwidth on the backbone. When I placed my meager content on two web sites, I expected customers to be able to actually view and read those web sites without going out for a cup of coffee while the content was downloading. I was promised net neutrality and I expect and demand exactly that. My government must see to it that I get that neutrality... nothing else, and certainly nothing less!
(Sent via

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