Tuesday, June 30, 2015

SCOTUS Monday Miscellany — On Tuesday

How can a "house spouse" have so many things to do that s/he runs behind on his/her blogging? If you don't know the answer to that, you're probably not a house spouse, and you possibly don't want to know the answer...

First, a few Supreme Court goodies (or baddies), most of them at Kos:

‘OK... Women and Blacks, go to
the back of the bus, er, I mean,
the ends of the rows!’

Next, a few items of (ahem) varying seriousness:

  • Caitlin MacNeal at TPM: Texas AG: Clerks Can Refuse To Give Marriage Licenses To Gay Couples
    Perhaps this should have been listed with the SCOTUS posts above; then again, Texas seems never to have overcome its self‑image as a separate sovereign nation. Thank the good Dog it's not!

    I am happy to say that the Harris County Clerk's office, though run by a Republican, resolved the matter neatly by assigning deputy clerks who have religious objections to gay marriages to tasks other than, uh, paperwork for gay marriages. Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart has let it be known that there are only three (3) such religious recalcitrants among his clerks, so it's not a very big problem. In any case, Harris County's very large gay population are marrying each other at a steady clip, with few hitches, uh, glitches.
  • Natasha Geiling at Think Progress: High Carbon Levels Can Make It Harder For Plants To Grow
    [/Sigh!] Another frequent conservative canard debunked, as is so often the case, by the actual science involved. No, global climate change, with its associated increase in atmospheric CO2 levels, will NOT result in a surge in agricultural productivity. Don't you just love such damned fools? [/irony]

And last and probably least... 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Supreme Court May Hear Texas Abortion Clinics' Appeal Of Lower Court Ruling That Would Have Immediately Closed More Than Half Of Texas's 19 Clinics

... or This?

AP via ABC 13 Houston has the basics. I try hard not to quote AP if I can avoid doing so, so please go read it in situ. Or is it in shit‑ooh??

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Krugman: ‘America Is A Much Less Racist Nation Than It Used To Be...’


Yet racial hatred is still a potent force in our society, as we’ve just been reminded to our horror. And I’m sorry to say this, but the racial divide is still a defining feature of our political economy, the reason America is unique among advanced nations in its harsh treatment of the less fortunate and its willingness to tolerate unnecessary suffering among its citizens.

Krugman goes on to analyze and describe the nature of the undeniable racism still present in the fabric of America's society and economy. He employs the work of political scientist Larry Bartels and economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser, and Bruce Sacerdote. Krugman compares Bartels's ‘What’s the Matter with What’s the Matter with Kansas? with Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? and concludes this:
Mr. Frank argued that working-class whites were being induced to vote against their own interests by the right’s exploitation of cultural issues. But Mr. Bartels showed that the working-class turn against Democrats wasn’t a national phenomenon — it was entirely restricted to the South, where whites turned overwhelmingly Republican after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Richard Nixon’s adoption of the so-called Southern strategy. [Bolds mine. - SB]
Then, regarding Alesina, Glaeser and Sacerdote's “Why Doesn’t the United States Have a European-style Welfare State? [.pdf]”, Krugman concludes:
... Its authors — who are not, by the way, especially liberal — explored a number of hypotheses, but eventually concluded that race is central, because in America programs that help the needy are all too often seen as programs that help Those People: ...

Now, that paper was published in 2001, and you might wonder if things have changed since then. Unfortunately, the answer is that they haven’t, as you can see by looking at how states are implementing — or refusing to implement — Obamacare.

Please read the rest. Unfortunately, Krugman is as pessimistic as I am about the prospects for a genuine reconciliation between races in America; here's how he says it:
Every once in a while you hear a chorus of voices declaring that race is no longer a problem in America. That’s wishful thinking; we are still haunted by our nation’s original sin.

Gay Pride Parade: The Good G*d, S/He Laughs With, Not At, Houston's LGBTQ Community

Mayor Annise Parker (D,L-Houston)
"We have come a long way since Stonewall"
Houston's annual Gay Pride Parade was moved from the Montrose-Westheimer area to downtown this year, and needless to say, a lot of participants (including some newlyweds!) were very, very happy in their procession beneath the skyscrapers of the Bayou City.

To no one's surprise, some of the city's most conservative ministers, pastors, holy fathers, call them whatever you will, expressed their displeasure with the whole business, said the gay community, along with the Supreme Court, was "defy[ing] G*d's law," and that their own "religious freedom" was being violated (WTF???) by the ruling.

Supreme Court, 6/26/2015
So one might expect the good G*d to display some pique, perhaps even rage, at the Houston LGBTQ community, eh? Here's how S/He did that:
Houston City Hall
  • Right before the parade started, S/He placed a rainbow in the sky, visible from downtown Houston, and
  • S/He held off the rainstorms to the north of Houston from proceeding into downtown until the formal parade was over and the revelers had mostly headed to their evening parties in the Montrose. (For those who don't know, the Montrose is the heart of the LGBTQ community in Houston [and the home of a lot of other good people, including, back in my youth, my family and me].)
That's an odd way for G*d to express overpowering anger, don't you think?

Regular people, get it? ‘Gay’ may be
special, but every bit as human as ‘straight’
Look. This is much ado about very little. People who love each other often want to marry each other... including LGBTQ people. Some who marry want to have children. (I have actually had a foolish religious fanatic tell me that gay people violated G*d's law because "they couldn't have children." Bullfeathers! Most adult humans are physically perfectly capable of begetting or bearing children... including LGBTQ people.)

To this point, before five members of the US Supreme Court saw fit to bless gay marriages, this was not possible under law, even though LGBTQ people often married de facto without benefit of stupid state laws. Now they can marry, in all fifty states, and people who are uncomfortable with that may as well fucking get over it, possibly invite a lesbian couple over for dinner, and adjust to the new reality. Did you not see it was inevitable? I don't care if you see it is also right and proper; it's your loss if you don't!

Friday, June 26, 2015

A ‘Good’ SCOTUS Session - UPDATED

... so far, at any rate:
I'll post more as I find it.

(For the record: contrary to fundamentalist rantings, Stella and I, who could always legally marry if we wanted to, did not feel any shift in our relationship this morning, only gratitude that now some of our gay friends in long-term committed couple relationships can marry [Dog help them!] if they decide to.)

UPDATE a few minutes later: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (Rrrrr...) condescends to reply:
I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.
Fine. I believe it was settled by the first Chief Justice, working from the constitutionally mandated oath that every Court member swears to uphold the Constitution, that the Supreme Court has the right of judicial review, not some fuckwit governor/preacher from the Deep South. Do it, Mike; refuse to implement the ruling. I'll laugh and laugh when (after a trial, of course) they take you, whining and complaining, off to the slammer... serves you right. If you need a copy of the relevant wiki linked above, I could mail you one at the jailhouse...

UPDATE sometime after the evening news: If I heard correctly, Harris County (i.e., Houston), TX licensed and actually married about 20 LGBT couples today. How did your place of residence do?

UPDATE 6/27/2015 8:44am CT: Michael Langenmayr at Kos quotes Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's closing paragraph in the Court's opinion; I think it is worth reproducing here:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
It is so ordered.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Disabled Person's Fantasy Comes True In Brazil

The Daily Mail (!) summarizes the whole story in the headline:
NEVER park in a disabled bay in Brazil! Crowd cheer as inconsiderate driver returns to find his entire car has been covered with a blue badge symbol
... made of sticky notes. No apparent actual damage was done to the car, but the "stickering" obviously irritated the bejezus out of the returning driver who parked it there... no damage done, unlike the act of a healthy person's parking his or her car in a handicapped zone, which has actual consequences for the next unfortunate disabled driver who finds the space blocked (illegally, in most areas).
Maybe stickering could become a regular practice! Worldwide!

Hey people, we cripples need those spaces. Depending on our disabilities, we may not be able to park two blocks away and walk or wheel to our destination: the usurpation of a close parking space may compel us to abandon our errand altogether. (Yes, I've had to do that: every cripple has, most of us more than once.)

I can see a healthy driver's wanting a close parking space, but dammit, for us cripples, when you block our spaces, it's not a matter of mere inconvenience. The most ordinary of acts, the simplest of tasks is hard enough for us without your making it harder for no good reason. And don't give me that "I'll only be a minute" bullshit...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

‘The War Is Over; The Good Guys Lost’ –OR–
Senate Voted Cloture On TPP Fast-Track,
Will Vote On TPP As Soon As Wednesday

TPP - the invisible monster
The first step toward passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership was done and the bill itself will likely pass Wednesday. Worse, 13 Senate Democrats and 28 House Democrats voted with Republicans to do the deed, and a Democratic president apparently intends to sign it.

Is there no federal elected official concerned about the public's wellbeing? Hello? Anyone??

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ten A Dozen Essential Ideas For Fixing The American Economy — Robert Reich

Robert Reich has completed, not his scheduled ten, but an even dozen videos succinctly expressing the great ideas essential to making the American economy more robust for all its participants and transforming American society into one more committed to equality of treatment of all its members under the law.

The 12 Videos appear (in reverse order) in the right-hand column of Reich's blog, and each video runs about 2-3 minutes. I can't think of a better way for an adult or adolescent American to spend about a half hour than in watching these videos. (In addition to his insight, Reich has a great hand as a cartoonist, which he exercises along with voiceovers on the current topic. You'll have fun learning some excellently framed talking points!)

A Headline From ‘My’ Newspaper?

No, not mine; I've seldom even been in Indiana, and I cartainly haven't owned a newspaper there. The Batesville Herald-Tribune site shows the following hed at the moment:
Five vying for fair queen

I didn't know there was a contest: wasn't it long ago resolved that Eliza is the Fairest Queen?


This appeared on the news yesterday evening... and this morning... and probably tomorrow morning... and...

I'm glad the humans had the decency to land, even if it made them ultralate...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Monday Medley

  • Why Conservatives Still Won't Admit That Charleston Was A Racist Crime
    Aurin Squire at TPM lists several prominent GOPers (e.g., Jeb Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Gov. Nikki Haley, a WSJ columnist [anonymous and invisible if you don't have a subscription], etc.) who use words like "I don't know [why it happened]," "unimaginable," "we don't know the motivation," "senseless tragedy," etc., and responds to these protestations of incomprehension:
    Given the history of the South, along the rise of both active shooters and gun access, we can't call what happened Wednesday night a “senseless tragedy.” In fact, the Charleston church shooting is full of savage sense. Thanks to complicity at best, and outright racist at worst, the “inconceivable” is still feasible. The fear tactics that were once localized in the dark backwoods of our political landscape now reach every phone and laptop. ...
    We DO know the motivation, the act is NOT inconceivable, we CAN imagine, and Repub's will find there's no use in pretending we don't or can't.

  • Sixth greatest extinction event in the history of our planet is underway
    (Be sure to click through to the underlying paper and at least read the abstract, in which the authors justify this statement: "These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way.")
    Yes, it IS happening, as demonstrated under fairly strict criteria. Yes, humans ARE causing it. Will H. sapiens survive it? The abstract doesn't explicitly say, but you may live to find out!

  • Supreme Courts rejects appeal of decision overturning NC's mandatory ultrasound abortion law
    (At last, some good news, however limited: because the Supreme Court rejected an appeal of this lower court's decision, women who reside in North Carolina cannot be forced by state law to obtain an ultrasound (an unnecessary, expensive and possibly inaccessible procedure) as a precondition for obtaining an abortion.)
    Now if they can only find a clinic that has not closed and get transportation to it...

And now two that hardly require any explanation, considering the nature of many of today's police forces:
"Monday, Monday..."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Right-Wing Ideology A ‘Shape-Shifter’ — Naomi Klein

In my ongoing (and probably never-ending) effort to ingest the complete works of Naomi Klein, more or less in reverse order (I finished reading This Changes Everything last month), I have begun the formidable task of absorbing The Shock Doctrine, Klein's work on how some governments, many corporations and some leaders both corporate and governmental leverage the public's response to major disasters... acts of terror, natural disasters such as storms or earthquakes, unconventional changes of government, etc. ... to exercise, even in a democracy, a far greater degree of executive and corporate control than previously possible. Klein's term for it is "disaster capitalism," and even a couple dozen pages into the book she makes a compelling case not only for the existence of such a phenomenon but also that the US (among many other nations) is experiencing it, from no later than 2001 forward, possibly from as early as the mid-20th century.

What captured my attention at the moment was her observation about how the terminology changes to obscure what is really being done to us, and to the citizens of other nations (p. 14-15, first [hardcover] edition, 2007):

Naomi Klein
In the attempt to relate the history of the ideological crusade that has culminated in the radical privatization of war and disaster, one problem recurs: the ideology is a shape-shifter, forever changing its name and switching identities. [Milton] Friedman called himself a "liberal," but his U.S. followers, who associated liberals with high taxes and hippies, tended to identify as "conservatives," "classical economists," "free marketers," and, later, as believers in "Reaganomics" or "laissez-faire." In most of the world, their orthodoxy is known as "neoliberalism," but it is often called "free trade" or simply "globalization." Only since the mid-nineties has the intellectual movement, led by the right-wing think tanks with which Friedman had long associations — Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute — called itself "neoconservative," a worldview that has harnessed the full force of the U.S. military machine in the service of a corporate agenda.

The ideology I grew up with at least through childhood and part of adolescence was unmistakably "liberal," no bloody "neo-" prepended, a direct descendant of the political and economic philosophies of FDR, JFK and (in some matters) LBJ. No shape-shifter I! May I add a cross-lingual pun to the terms listed in the previous paragraph: "laissez‑unfaire"?

Klein's book looks likely to prove a satisfying if massive read. Take a look, at least; it should be in your public library, now that it is no longer her most recently published book. Or do an excellent activist-writer a favor and buy it; we need to encourage such people to dedicate themselves to the serious issues of our day.

A Mid-Sunday-Morning Poem For Stella

... written in a rough rendering of Stella's smooth style, with a touch of Dr. Seuss...
Whadd'ya want for brunch?
Will it pack a punch?
Will it make a crunch?
D'ya have a hunch
What ya wanna munch?

Speak soon, or it'll be
   time for lunch!
— Steve Bates

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Priori Nullification: GOPers Prepare To Disobey Possible Forthcoming Supreme Court Order Requiring States To Recognize Gay Marriages

Tierney Sneed at TPM:
Ahead of a potentially historic Supreme Court ruling, leading Republicans are vowing to defy any decision that sanctions same-sex marriage and are challenging the very legitimacy of the high court.

With a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges expected before the end of June, conservatives are confronted with what was only a few years ago a nearly unthinkable possibility: a Supreme Court decision that decisively makes same-sex marriage a constitutional right.

Fearing a huge setback to their cause, opponents of same-sex marriage, including some of the major contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, are darkly warning that they will not "honor" an adverse Supreme Court decision. Some are calling for civil disobedience. Others are moving to strip the Supreme Court of its authority to decide whether gay couples should be allowed to marry, while others have questioned whether the court has that jurisdiction in the first place. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has said that such a decision would be "fundamentally illegitimate."

I've often said Sen. Cruz is "illegitimate," though not quite so politely... [/sigh]

The party of "law and order" as recently as the Nixon presidency, today's GOP is ready, even eager, to defy laws and even constitutional rulings it doesn't like. But what did we expect?

I noticed that Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart (R) has announced that his office will NOT be ready with the necessary paperwork to issue gay marriage licenses, effectively saying that anyone who doesn't like that can just (ahem) suck on it. Willful defiance of a Supreme Court ruling: I wonder how Mr. Stanart would like the view from inside a prison cell?

On the plus side, Dallas County seems to take another attitude. This may be the only time you'll get me to admit that, in this one matter, Dallas is superior to Houston. Goddamn it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Damn You, Sen. Graham...

... this is in the poorest possible taste, and that's the least unkind thing I can say about it:
Sen. Lindsey Graham Pretend-Shoots Sen. Bernie Sanders with Shotgun
By EricLewis0 [at Kos]

A partial transcript of an MSNBC segment in which Sen. Lindsey Graham teaches Kasie Hunt how to skeet shoot:
GRAHAM: "I'm gonna get you motivated to want to kill the clay pigeon..."

Photo: ericlewis0

GRAHAM: "Alright, do a Bernie Sanders."


GRAHAM: "Pull!"


GRAHAM: "Sorry about that, Bernie!"

Of course, from this point forward, I can't win: if I object to the deplorable "humor" of one US senator's false threat to "kill" another senator, I'll be damned as "having no sense of humor." If I don't say anything, then by default, I condone Graham's attempt at a quip... which I emphatically do not. I'm damned if I laugh, and I'm doubly damned if I don't laugh.

But this is not funny: rather, it reveals a fundamental paradox which gun nuts allow themselves regarding their deadly toys. We should not tolerate the "I was only kidding" defense from them... ever. Real guns, loaded and ready to fire, are serious business and should always be taken seriously, under all circumstances. Period!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mass Surveillance Under International Law Regarding Freedom Of Expression — A New UN Report

Joel Simon at Slate examines the issues.

Slate apparently doesn't believe in inserting content links in its online articles, so I did a bit of googling and searching the hard way and came up with this UN summary of the Human Rights Council meeting at which the report was presented.

Not surprisingly, some of the more anti‑free‑expression nations with membership on the Council had some astringent things to say, and I have to admit that it must have been difficult for the presenters (David Kaye, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association) to deal with, e.g., the United States and its divergence of late from the straight-and-narrow regarding protection of those freedoms.

All in all, a worthwhile report of the Council meeting and an intriguing analysis by Mr. Simon. Recommended! (I did not chase down the report itself; sorry.)

Heaven Help Us All To Survive In This Violence‑Plagued Age

I still cannot fathom the kind of mental disorder that leads someone to mass murder (9 people dead when BBC wrote the story), but I do know that ready availability of guns of types that are of no use for hunting, self-defense, etc. has enabled such disturbed people to perpetrate such crimes:
Charleston church shooting: Police hunt suspected killer

US police are hunting for a man they suspect of shooting dead nine people at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Officials released CCTV images of a man they said was white, in his early 20s, and sat in on a bible study meeting for an hour before opening fire.

This killer got away, and is being sought. Surveillance video footage shows a suspect from the side and a vehicle from the front (see above linked BBC article); unfortunately, SC does not believe in front license plates.

I may not be a great fan of religion, but when we have reached the point at which a church meeting is not a safe place to be, our society is badly deteriorated. My prayers and condolences to the families of those killed.

UPDATE Thu 6/18 about 12:45 CT: a suspect has been captured. From the description, it sounds as if the 21-year-old man is an extreme racist nut-job. See what you think.

The ‘Bill’ That Still Isn't Paid

Tropical Depression Bill has mostly cleared the Houston area (mostly but not completely, if you care about the flooding!), but is still making trouble with flash floods and local river rises "from Oklahoma to Illinois through Friday[.]" Some weather just won't quit; click for map from about 4:58AM CT today.

This is liable to be a very expensive storm, in damage done, misery of displaced families who lost their homes, and (fortunately few) deaths. And I can't help noticing what a great portion of the US has been affected. I hope this is not the new normal, but I'm afraid it may be.

Republican Death Obsession

A Supreme Court death spiral for ObamaCare. Death panels for coverage of end-of-life counseling. Getting rid of the death tax. Why would anyone trust the death-obsessed GOP at the helm?

Flood Gauges In Houston-Harris County Look Good; Surrounding Areas Not So Much

Take a look for yourself. Of course, what looks good and what doesn't may have changed by the time you view the page.

The "hgx" param in the URL names the initial central radar area, in this case, Houston/Galveston, TX (HGX). Once the map opens (which takes a while), you can manually choose an adjacent radar area.

I never knew this resource was available, but since I live in Flood City USA, I suspect I'll be using it again. (Actually I suppose NOLA is Flood City USA. [/sigh].)

Guns Don't Kill People...

... "delicate flowers" kill people! [Link to cartoon by Tom Tomorrow. Hey, I told you the political stuff was returning soon...] Or perhaps you prefer this reusable generic template...

(H/T ellroon.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More Rain

No, not the stuff at the foot of a glacier, just drear, dark drizzle, so far this morning less than 5 minutes of downpour. NWS promises us 100% chance of (heavy) rain, and we've had small amounts, but nothing to strain the street-and-bayou drainage system. If this keeps up, I may get bored enough to resume writing about (gasp) politics before the day is over! But in matters of tropical weather, boring is good...

Monday, June 15, 2015

Here We Go... UPDATED

BOHICA! Yes, "again," a mere three weeks since the last flood-inducing storm... the serious rain is forecast to begin at 4:00 A.M. Wish us luck...

UPDATE Tues. about 8:00 AM CT: finally the rain arrived, just a few minutes ago. T.S. Bill is wide, extending about 150 miles west and 150 miles east along the coast from the center landfall (approximately now) at Matagorda. In that respect only, Bill reminds me of Hurricane Ike. Stella is toying with the idea of going to work (the roads are clear at the moment but who knows about this evening) and I am toying with the idea of finding a rope and tying her down (no, we're not into that sort of thing; I just don't want to see her stranded at her place of employment [which, damn it, has announced it will be open for business]) for TWO DAYS, which is the forecast duration of the potentially flooding rain.

UPDATE Tues. about 3:30 PM CT: at Our House in Houston, there's still no severe weather, very little rain and no flooding at all. Those who live in other parts of the city may have other experiences, perhaps even including tornadoes. This doesn't mean Bill has given us a miss: once the storm center is well onshore beyond Matagorda, we expect bands of rain, possibly training one after another, each brief and intense with short breaks in between, for more than 24 hours. Will we flood? Don't know; stay tuned.

The kitties are rather nervous, and Stella is even more so... she became so annoyed watching the continuous storm coverage on local broadcast TV (overall excellent IMHO) that she took to watching classic TV. I really need to see the end of this storm!

‘A Little Ray Of Sunshine’

That describes neither of us humans in this house, and neither of the cats. But we did see that little ray this morning, for a few minutes just before it up-and-poured rain at a rate that looked liable to flood the patio within minutes. That wasn't supposed to happen until late this afternoon; I was worried. But the intense rain stopped in about a half hour, and the ground here at Our House is not really saturated yet... it has been drying out since Memorial Day. So we're not flooded yet, and moments ago we had Another Little Ray of Sunshine. The TV meteorologists have succeeded in scaring the crap out of me about the approaching weather, but my reaction at the moment is that no one told me that a major symptom of global climate change would be truly weird, erratic weather.

Something's fishy in chair and weather
(too bad our chairs are not this whimsical)
Welcome to our age; please take a chair, a patio or lawn chair. Take it into the garage, so it won't blow away or float away...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Soon We May Be Having Weather

It's pleasant and sunny in Houston at the moment, but if I disappear for a few days, you may want to look at more recent stories about what is now Invest 91‑L. Our main worry if we do get a hurricane is not the wind... this house has withstood everything Mother Nature has blown at it over the past couple of decades... but the water. The ground has not exactly dried out from those floods we had a week or two ago.

I'll try to post for as long as we have power and a 'net connection, and may put up one of those text-only email posts from my cell phone even if we don't.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Pelosi: ‘Slow Down The Fast Track To Get A Better Deal For The American People’ — Trade Deal ‘Sidetracked’ By House Dems, GOP

Astonishing, isn't it? Obama managed, in the secret trade deal for the TPP, to offend Democrats and Republicans alike, for different reasons, but to such a degree that the House slapped his wrist on the matter by a vote of nearly 3-1.

Erica Werner and Charles Babington, at AP via TPM:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House sidetracked a high-profile White House-backed trade bill on Friday, a humiliating defeat for President Barack Obama inflicted by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and dozens of rank-and-file lawmakers from his own party.

The 302-126 vote came a few hours after Obama journeyed to the Capitol to deliver a last-minute personal plea to fellow Democrats to support the measure, which would allow him to negotiate global trade deals that Congress could approve or reject but not change.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership might be bad for us living, working Americans (who knows; we only know of this secretly crafted deal what some people have seen fit to leak), but even worse for the nation: it would represent yet another instance of Congress's granting the President "fast‑track" authority, whereby the President may put up a bill for a congressional vote and Congress must vote it up-or-down, with no amendments. I'm sorry, but that is not the history and tradition of American legislative process, and I believe that if fast‑track were regularly instituted, it would eviscerate the "democratic" part of the democratic process. NO on TPP and NO on fast‑track: it's a two‑fer from the viewpoint of Americans seeking to retain control of their government. TPP may ultimately come back from the grave, but it appears it will at least actually be debated by Congress in (ahem) the American way.

(Look in the article at who supports this rejection: what a coalition! Jeebus, the bedfellows I find myself surrounded with are strange indeed!)

‘I've Got A Lot Of Friends. We'll Have A Rotating First Lady.’ — Presidential Aspirant Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)


Potential rotating First Lady
(proposed by Lindsey Graham)

(If image doesn't animate, do a hard refresh [Ctrl-F5] to get it started. Or right-click the image and choose View Image Info. This appears to be a known bug in Firefox. Or just view the post in Google Chrome.)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bernie Sanders Deserves Better Fact-Checking, NPR Isn't What It Used To Be, And Diane Rehm Sucks Eggs

Brendan James at TPM:
An interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) stopped in its tracks on Wednesday when NPR's Diane Rehm repeatedly pressed the Democratic presidential candidate whether he was a citizen of Israel.

"Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel," Rehm said during the interview on her nationally broadcast show based on station WAMU.

"Well, no I do not have dual citizenship with Israel," Sanders, who is Jewish, interjected. "I'm an American. I don't know where that question came from. I am an American citizen, and I have visited Israel on a couple of occasions. I'm an American citizen, period."

Rehm cited "a list we have gotten" at NPR that said Sanders was "on that list."
And again by Brendan James:
After an interview in which she incorrectly stated the presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was a dual-Israeli-US citizen, NPR's Diane Rehm told TPM she made "a mistake" and got the information from Facebook.
The whole incident is already up on Wikipedia, but hey, can you really believe something on Wikipedia when it is contradicted by "a comment on Facebook," which is how Rehm described her source? [/sarcasm]

I am impressed that Sanders is taken seriously enough that NPR (or perhaps only Rehm) finds it necessary to run an unverified hit piece on him. And Diane Rehm should have her press pass revoked for not bothering to verify something that she read on Facebook. (Facebook? really?)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wednesday Wandering — Soft Drinks, Austerity, Bernie On Jeb, DDF Mailers, King v. Burwell, Housing Discrimination

(I just spent an hour and a half constructing this list, then pressed Undo to retract a small copy-paste, and the Blogger editor "disappeared" (v.t.) the whole damned thing. So here is the reconstruction. I don't know that there's a moral of this story; to the best of my knowledge, Blogger editor doesn't provide any backup facility, but there's always Select All|Copy just before any Undo...)

When the food manufacturers started removing the fat from our food, the taste went with the fat. The answer: Add sugar and lots of it.
Something is rotten in the state of Michigan. ...
Today Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told Jeb Bush to go pound sand on social security. In no uncertain terms Sanders reiterated his stance that "NO we will not cut Social Security." This has been Sanders stance that payments from Social Security should be increased by raising the FICA cap. ...
... If the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the Affordable Care Act in the King v. Burwell case later this June, more than 6.4 million Americans who receive health insurance through the federal exchange could lose their coverage.

Here are 8 important facts about what such a ruling would mean for many Americans. ...
In a ruling later this month, the U.S. Supreme Court could rule against a vital, long-standing tool for fighting housing discrimination against people with disabilities, families and women with children, people of color, and same-sex couples. ...
While you're out and about the web, please take a look at the daily news digests from the Defending Dissent Foundation; here are the issues of June 8 and June 9. This is a useful resource for anyone serious about civil liberties. The "Subscribe" link is at the bottom of each daily digest, or you can just visit the first link in this graf to view the current news.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Bernie For Prez — DOGGEREL!

Of course, after the previous post, the Yellow Doggerel Democrat must deliver a verse advocating Sen. Bernie Sanders for President:

Bernie for Prez
Leave out all the neolib's,
Every Bush, their kids, their sib's,
Every GOPer. I've got dibs
On the man named Bernie.

Skip all guys with names like "Lincoln"
(Too Republican, I'm thinkin').
At O'Malley we're not winkin',
To that favorite son not blinkin'.
Better stick with Bernie.

For the moment, even Hil
Doesn't give my heart a thrill,
Posture: cautious, sometimes chill;
Politics: resembles Bill?
Trade: she's silent... why not spill?
Think I'll vote for Bernie.

Need a prez with knowledge vast?
One not living in the past?
One at whom you're not aghast?
One whose mind is quick, not fast?
Cool, unruffled, unharassed?
Each of you: I hope you'll cast
Your one vote for Bernie!
— Steve Bates

WSJ Article On Bernie Is Not As Unflattering As One Might Expect

"Bernie Sanders Draws Crowds With Matter-of-Fact Message," says the headline in the online edition of the Newspaper of the 1%, and I have to admit, that is what draws me to Sen. Sanders, at least as much as his policy positions: Sanders is as no-nonsense a candidate for high office as I have ever encountered.

Let me make one thing clear. I understand that Sanders will not become the Democratic Party's candidate for president. (I admit, though, I am astonished that, per WSJ, he is only "[t]railing Hillary Clinton by nearly 50 points," pretty good for a guy with scant official party backing and no history of residence in the White House.)

And I want to see a woman POTUS within my lifetime. When Sen. Sanders is, inevitably, defeated in the primaries, I shall vote for Secy. Clinton with no serious regrets.

But meanwhile, I urge you to help me help Sen. Sanders to represent the "democratic wing of the Democratic Party" (as the late great Wellstone put it, and believe me, that wing includes me) in the face of the now almost fully dominant neoliberal wing of the Party. That wing needs to hear from the rest of us, the FDR/JFK wing, loud and clear. Join me in shouting... we can be strident and undignified in a way that Bernie would never allow himself to be!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Goodwin And Clements: Supreme Court Egregiously Wrong, Time To End Citizens United

When the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling emerged in 2010, once I understood it, the next words out of my mouth suggested a course of action that was impolite, illegal, immoral, probably painful, possibly anatomically impossible and... worst of all... completely ineffective.

So I didn't follow my own advice. From that day to this, I have contemplated a simple question: what is the least draconian action that will accomplish a reversal of Citizens United's utter gutting of campaign finance reform laws in America and in each state?

The Roberts Citizens United Amendment

Today I reached a tipping point when I read an article by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and attorney Jeff Clements (found via the indispensable Bill Moyers) titled "When the Supreme Court is this wrong, it’s time to overrule them". Yes, they are indeed "this wrong," and the only way to overrule them... it appears John Roberts did his homework... is with a constitutional amendment.

I am no fan of new constitutional amendments in general. The only one I've ever (sigh!) actively supported is the Equal Rights Amendment, and it was killed by the goddamn conservatives, so my blessing on an amendment may well be a kind of curse.

There are at least three significant points weighing against a constitutional amendment:

  • First, someone may use one essential amendment (such as this one) as an excuse to call another constitutional convention, which would open the floor to every motherloving nutjob's wet dream of wholly destructive rewrites of large portions of the Constitution. 
  • Second, assuming the debate can be confined to the single required amendment (not easy in America's legislative system), the amendment as ultimately crafted may be ineffectual in remedying the real problem. I've seen some of the proposed campaign finance reform amendments; frankly, I could probably write a better one than most I've seen, and IANAL. Note also what at least one of our major political parties has managed to do already to skirt existing campaign finance laws; they're damned good at it, and I doubt the ratification of an amendment will stop their attempts.
  • Third, the amendment may fail to be ratified, again a very real possibility given that at least one and perhaps both of our major political parties will surely oppose it. If it fails, Citizens United will be affirmed, locked in, as you can only imagine in your worst nightmares. As things stand, there's at least some hope that a future Court will overturn the ruling, though I doubt that, under a government of the 1%, by the 1% and for the 1%.
That said, I see no alternative: America must attempt a campaign finance reform amendment. As Goodwin and Clements point out, it's not the first time in our history that a constitutional amendment has addressed a divisive issue that could be solved by nothing less than such an amendment... remember the 19th, for example?

So... put me on record as supporting a well-crafted campaign finance reform constitutional amendment. I'll get back to you on specifics... (sigh!).

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Moyers And Winship: ‘Turn Left On Main Street’

Leave it to the estimable Bill Moyers and his senior writer Michael Winship to come down hard on people like Rep. John K. Delaney, who in his WaPo op‑ed lambastes all members of the Democratic Party who are politically to the left of John Boehner. Thank you, Messrs. Moyers and Winship; my patience with purportedly Democratic members of Congress who insist on pretending the Democratic Party is, was and ever shall be hardcore conservative just because self-proclaimed "New Democrats," "Blue Democrats," etc. have made inroads into the process of turning the DP into a Second Republican Party. Who the fv<k needs that?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday Folly — Rename Austin Street Or Not?

Houston's CBS TV news outlet, KHOU-11 News, ran a story about a street in Austin, TX named

The residents are debating whether to retain that name, or to rename the street

The name change would require the approval of a majority of the street's residents and also the Austin city council.

I propose a compromise: why don't they just rename it
(Sorry, no pic available!)
<grin_duck_run />

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dark Days For Democracy: ‘Leaked TISA Docs Expose Corporate Plan For Reshaping Global Economy’

Proposed TISA nations
(credit: wikipedia.org)
WTF is ‘TISA’? Via ctuttle at FDL, I learned only a couple of days ago about the Trade in Services Agreement, revealed in yet another release by WikiLeaks, and in turn explained in some detail by Sarah Lazare, staff writer at Common Dreams. There's no really short answer to the question, but one can simplify to this: "Leaked Docs reveal that little-known corporate treaty poised to privatize and deregulate public services across globe." Shades of the conspiracy theories floating around in my young adult years! Here's a rather extended excerpt from Lazare's article; it's enough to make the Trans‑Pacific Partnership sound downright benign by comparison:
An enormous corporate-friendly treaty that many people haven't heard of was thrust into the public limelight Wednesday when famed publisher of government and corporate secrets, WikiLeaks, released 17 documents from closed-door negotiations between countries that together comprise two-thirds of the word's economy.

Analysts warn that preliminary review shows that the pact, known as the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), is aimed at further privatizing and deregulating vital services, from transportation to healthcare, with a potentially devastating impact for people of the countries involved in the deal, and the world more broadly.

"This TISA text again favors privatization over public services, limits governmental action on issues ranging from safety to the environment using trade as a smokescreen to limit citizen rights," said Larry Cohen, president of Communications Workers of America, in a statement released Wednesday.

Under secret negotiation by 50 countries for roughly two years, the pact includes the United States, European Union, and 23 other countries—including Israel, Turkey, and Colombia. Notably, the BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—are excluded from the talks.

Along with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, which are also currently being negotiated, TISA is part of what WikiLeaks calls the "T-treaty trinity." Like the TTP and TTIP, it would fall "under consideration for collective 'Fast-Track' authority in Congress this month," WikiLeaks noted in a statement issued Wednesday.

However, TISA stands out from this trio as being the most secretive and least understood of all, with its negotiating sessions not even announced to the public.

And to think we used to fear the Trilateral Commission! And where are the black helicopters? But no, apparently this is new to all of us whose nerves are put on edge by such things, and the people involved could not be described as friendly to genuine democracy. But hey, as far as I can tell, only a lot of old geezers (using the term in a gender-neutral sense) and a few college students are actually friendly to democracy these days...

Please help me out: after you read Lazare's article, keep your eyes open for more details from other sources. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Clear Your Browser Cache — Be Charged With Obstructing Justice, Even If You Never Knew FBI Was Seeking A Warrant Regarding Your Computer

Juliana DeVries at The Nation provides details of one case and a sketch of the history of the use and abuse of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (2002). Yes, you could be prosecuted for clearing your browser history if you were under investigation by the FBI, even if you had no knowledge of the existence of the investigation, and yes, it has happened to one or more people in real life. In the case in question, the cab driver was charged with four counts of obstruction of justice, three for lying to the FBI (always a bad idea) regarding the Tsarnaev brothers of Boston Marathon bombing infamy, and one for removing some material from his personal computer that might have associated him with the Tsarnaevs.

It beggars belief that the simple act of clearing your browser cache, something many people do routinely, something about which your intent or state of mind in doing is almost impossible to prove absent independent evidence, could get you sent to jail for decades.

What an era we live in! I doubt our nation's founders would recognize what has become of federal law enforcement as being in any way related to, let alone descended from, the system they created.

Once again, I wonder whether Mr. Godwin's long-valuable wisdom still reflects reality... I keep having a deep-seated inclination to violate Godwin's Law regarding cases like these.

Big Brother Hoover Is Watching You

This should surprise approximately 0 people who are paying attention:
FBI Runs Secret Air Force Posing As Fake Companies
To Spy On U.S. Cities


WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology — all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government, The Associated Press has learned.

The planes' surveillance equipment is generally used without a judge's approval, and the FBI said the flights are used for specific, ongoing investigations. In a recent 30-day period, the agency flew above more than 30 cities in 11 states across the country, an AP review found.


During the past few weeks, the AP tracked planes from the FBI's fleet on more than 100 flights over at least 11 states plus the District of Columbia, most with Cessna 182T Skylane aircraft. These included parts of Houston, Phoenix, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis and Southern California.

Cessna 182T Skylane
Photo credit: Wikimedia
(aircraft ID photoshopped out)
(actually, GIMPed out!)

Houstonians: just remember: when you raise your middle finger at the FBI, be sure to point it high enough...

Monday, June 1, 2015

Bernie Quote

Enough is enough. This great nation and its government belong to all of the people and not to a handful of billionaires, their super PACs and their lobbyists. 
- Bernie Sanders, via DCCC email

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