Friday, September 26, 2014

Watch Lists In Post-Constitutional America
How Ray McGovern Ended Up On A ‘BOLO’ List, Though He Engaged In No Criminal Activity, And What It Took To Remove Him From The List

Peter van Buren at FDL has the story; here's an excerpt from the middle to familiarize you with the basic concepts and the specifics of McGovern's case, how he ended up on a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) list, and how he got himself removed from it:

Watch Lists in Post-Constitutional America

McGovern’s case has many touch points to the general state of affairs of post-9/11 government watchlists, such as No-Fly.

Ray McGovern
(NOTE: hair, beard vary
greatly across photos)
The first is that it is anonymous interests, within a vast array of government agencies, that put you on some list. You may not know what you did to be “nominated,” and you may not even know you are on a list until you are denied boarding or stopped and frisked at a public event. Placement on some watchlist is done without regard to– and often in overt conflict with– your Constitutional rights. Placement on a list rarely has anything to do with having committed any actual crime; it is based on the government’s supposition that you are a potential threat, that you may commit a crime despite there being no evidence that you are planning one.

Once you are on one watchlist, your name proliferates onto other lists. Getting access to the information you need to fight back is not easy, and typically requires legal help and a Freedom of Information Act struggle just to get the information you need to go forward. The government will fight your efforts, and require you to go through a lengthy and potentially expensive court battle.
We’ll address the irony that the government uses taxpaying citizens’ money to defend itself when it violates the Constitutional rights of taxpaying citizens another time.

The concept alone is enough to curl your hair: anonymous lists, compiled in secret, involving Americans who are not accused of any crime except that of offending someone in a powerful position, but subjected to surveillance as if they were the most heinous criminal... indeed, traitor.

How much worse can it get? How many of us are on such lists for what many of us consider ordinary political activity and/or speech? The short answer: we may never know.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

‘Amanda’ Expresses My Sentiments Exactly

Enjoy this viral photo which I encountered thanks to Leslie Salzillo at Kos:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

It's Raining Cats, Dogs, Squirrels, Raccoons, Possums, Etc. In Houston Today

... and thundering a lot, and is forecast to do more or less the same for two more days. The streets in some areas are flooded (though not here; I haven't yet moved my car off the street), but if this keeps up a couple days more, it will be up at least to the middle of my hubcaps. (Damned low-slung car!) Stella is out at the moment, but she should be back this evening, and will have a chance to re-evaluate the situation before work tomorrow. Fellow Houstonians, please don't head out in the next two days without consulting the weather!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Church Protests Strip Club — In Response, Strippers Protest Church Service

... topless, of course.

The Ohio town where this takes place repeatedly has sensibly declined to prosecute anybody, but has written letters to the club owner and the minister. After all, between the strippers and the churchgoers, there's really no way to distinguish the relative evils of public nudity and Cross‑dressing...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Have We Not ISIS, Can We Not See? Or, Here We Go Again

Once more, off to war... this time against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also ISIL). Why? Ask the President. Ask the goddam Republicans in Congress.

What kind of war? An air war, of course! no American troops on the ground! Read the disclaimer carefully; they all start off with no American ground troops but they never end up that way. Sooner or later, depending on your age, you or your sons and daughters will die in this conflict.

Who ordered a war? Did you order a war? I didn't order a war! Why does the kitchen keep serving up wars for decades on end when none of us ordered a war? Could it be Daddy Warbucks who really ordered a war, to shovel more profits to the "defense" industry?

When I was a child, I was taught in school that America had won every war it ever engaged in. Unless we're willing to redefine "win" according to some very loose criteria, it's getting harder and harder to make that argument.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NY Times Corrects Article: Cheney Was Veep, Not Prez

NY Times:
Correction: September 9, 2014
An earlier version of a summary with this article misstated the former title of Dick Cheney. He was vice president, not president.

Coulda fooled me...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why I Do Not Tweet

Josh Marshall of TPM addresses the problem in his short editorial comment, The Humbling of Social Media:

I traffic mainly in the world of politics and culture. And there's little surprising about the kind of intense political disagreement that makes it hard to have any real sort of communication. Other times it's simple ignorance or even lack of intelligence. You find yourself in a seeming disagreement. But it's actually not quite a disagreement because the other person doesn't understand what you're saying. And the thin straw of social media contact is simply too narrow to overcome the gap.

Other times - and these are maybe the most frustrating but also most important - the person's no dummy. They're not uneducated or ignorant in a general sense. But the points of reference, experience, the simple 'what they're trying to talk about' and vice versa, is so different that real communication is very difficult or not really possible. ...

I recall the first time I ever heard someone say, "He didn't choose his parents well." (Well, actually the second time, but that's a long story, and this is a short one.) The speaker was a partisan Republican speaking in conversation in his role as a Republican. At first I thought he was joking; in fact, I started to laugh, then caught myself as I realized he was voicing something that was, for him, a truism. It wasn't long before I realized exactly what Marshall is saying: communication with this man was, for me at least, not possible... or perhaps possible only through a mediator, and with explicit expansion of every thing that might have been, for him or for me but never for both of us, a truism suitable for tweeting.

And thus I do not tweet.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Americans' Support For Death Penalty Declining: Pew Study

Via Digby, we have the following from a Pew Research Center survey:
According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 55% of U.S. adults say they favor the death penalty for persons convicted of murder. A significant minority (37%) oppose the practice.

While a majority of U.S. adults still support the death penalty, public opinion in favor of capital punishment has seen a modest decline since November 2011, the last time Pew Research asked the question. In 2011, fully six-in-ten U.S. adults (62%) favored the death penalty for murder convictions, and 31% opposed it.

Public support for capital punishment has ebbed and flowed over time, as indicated by polls going all the way back to the 1930s. But it has been gradually ticking downward for the past two decades, since Pew Research began collecting survey data on this issue. ...

Please see the death penalty favorable/unfavorable graph at the link above. There are peaks in the mid-1950s and mid-1990s. I will not venture to explain either peak, but I will say that at present we know a few more compelling reasons to oppose the death penalty categorically; two reasons in particular are the discovery of how frequently an innocent person is executed despite supposed precautions against such false convictions, and a growing body of evidence that the punishment is in fact cruel in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

I don't have a lot of time to write at the moment, but I'll try to address the issue more fully in the near future, including the marked disparity by race of the person surveyed.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

‘Conservative Reality’

... according to Tom Tomorrow. Almost too true to be funny, but read it anyway...

(H/T ellroon.)

DoJ To Investigate Ferguson MO PD

(Enough acronyms for you?) Seattle Socialist at Kos has the particulars. I don't know how I missed this three days ago when it was reported.

More Details About ‘Interceptor’ Cell Phone Towers

Not this one, I bet
... from weinenkel at Kos. Not that the details are useful to you personally... e.g., there's a cell phone that can identify and inform you if you're connected to such a tower; the phone costs you only $3500.

UPDATE: the "towers" may in reality be mobile devices. (H/T ellroon.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Moyers Talks With Krugman...

... about "What the 1% Don’t Want Us to Know." Here's a sample from Moyers's transcript:
The median pay for the top 100 highest-paid CEOs at America’s publicly traded companies was a handsome $13.9 million in 2013. That’s a 9 percent increase from the previous year, according to a new Equilar pay study for The New York Times.
These types of jumps in executive compensation may have more of an effect on our widening income inequality than previously thought. A new book that’s the talk of academia and the media, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, a 42-year-old who teaches at the Paris School of Economics, shows that two-thirds of America’s increase in income inequality over the past four decades is the result of steep raises given to the country’s highest earners.

Krugman assures us it will get worse. I suppose, with so many local police departments sporting military-style weapons in the streets of cities and towns large and small, the possibility of stopping the onset of oligarchy by threatening a citizen revolt is just about nil. Have a nice day!

ADDENDUM:  while we're speaking of Krugman, here at CUNY TV at the Graduate Center is a splendid hour with Paul Krugman and... fanfare, please... Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). If the Moyers-Krugman interview above saddened you, angered you or scared you, this one will help restore your reasonable hope for our society.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mysterious Cell Towers Infiltrate Phone Companies' Systems

Who built them? Who owns them? What might they do to your cell phone, and on whose behalf? Why are many of them near military bases? Peter van Buren at FDL: The Dissenter discusses the matter, in terms that are necessarily speculative given how little is known at present.

I can't help thinking of Sir Terry Pratchett's later Discworld novels and their clacks, a mechanical optical semaphore long-distance communication system that is the focus of many intrigues, plots and assassinations. If you're not reading Pratchett's Discworld novels, you're missing one of the most thoroughly enjoyable series out there. Call it s/f, fantasy or humor; you'd be correct with any of those categorizations. The first novel in which I remember the clacks appearing is Going Postal, and reading the later novels won't spoil the earlier ones if you choose to read about the clacks out of publication sequence. (Correction: Wikipedia says the first such novel is The Fifth Elephant.)

Dreadnoughtus’, Possibly Most Massive Dinosaur Ever Discovered, Was Vegetarian

Malcolm Ritter at AP via TPM tells us about the gigantic critter discovered in 2005 in Argentina's Patagonia, of which Ritter says, "The four-legged beast, with a long neck and powerful 29-foot tail, stretched about 85 feet long and weighed about 65 tons. That's more than seven times the weight of even a plus-size male African elephant."

And yes, it was a plant-eater. Sometimes people chide me for not controlling my weight better, because "after all, [I'm] a vegetarian... it should be easy." Right. Please see "Dreadnoughtus" for an example of a sprout-eater that was not light at all.

(See pic on AP article. It's a great pic of the reconstruction, which is considerably advanced at this point, but I'm not reproducing a photo from AP on the day it was published... that's just asking for trouble.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

‘Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do...’

"... when Missouri cops, they come for you..."

(Or insert the name of your own great state; MO doesn't have a monopoly.)

There are many cities and towns in which the police are honest and dedicated to protecting the citizenry. Considering that fact, how very much worse your risk must be if you live in a place like Ferguson, MO (or, hell, NYC), to raise the national numbers to this obscene level.

Maybe it's no accident that a show called "Cops" has the theme song "Bad Boys" ...

(H/T bobswern at Kos, from a tweet from @OccupyWallStreetNYC.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Jazzing It: ‘The Way You Look Tonight’

Sometimes we forget that "jazz" was originally more frequently used as a verb than as a noun. I was looking for moderately comprehensive details of the song "The Way You Look Tonight" (music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Dorothy Fields). Sources seem to agree that the song was first performed on screen by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, in the film Swing Time (1936). From that point forward, just about every crooner has performed it, and a lot of them have recorded it or worked it into a film (it even appears in the final episode of Star Trek Deep Space 9).

Searching YouTube yields dozens of versions. Two of them in particular caught my attention as an example of a song played straight vs. the same song "jazzed." In this case the straight version is by Fred and Ginger; the jazzed version is by Billie Holiday, accompanied (says one reader) by a band including Benny Goodman and Lester Young (I own that recording, but it's part of a gigantic set of Holiday's work, and I have not confirmed the accompanists). Please listen to them in that order, and notice the effect of jazzing on one of the most popular songs of the 1930s.

First, Fred and Ginger:

Then Billie Holiday:

Got the idea?

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