Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday, Esther Sat On My Lap

Warning: the gaze of this cat melts hearts of stone!

(If possible, Esther misses Stella even more than I do. And Lily is inconsolable. Good thing their Human Mom returns Sunday evening!)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Guardian US Employees Vote... Unanimously... To Unionize

Some people just know how to do it right!

OT, Stella is leaving today for a three-day visit with her brothers and their spouses. This will be the first encounter either of us has had with commercial air travel since, well, since before 9/11/2001, if I recall correctly. [CORRECTION: I remembered at least one other flight Stella made, about the time we moved to Our House.] I don't envy her that encounter, but at least I'm not going along, and Stella, unlike me, is diplomatic enough not to make any sarcastic remarks to the official pokers/prodders, which might be beyond my personal restraint. Meanwhile, the kitties and I are going to find the house mighty quiet until Stella returns...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

‘Dickless’ Chris Christie Re: States Where Marijuana Is Legal

Sara Jerde at TPM:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) suggested in a town hall meeting Tuesday that residents of states where marijuana is legal roll their blunts and smoke up before the next presidential inauguration, according to Bloomberg News.

"If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” said Christie, a 2016 presidential candidate, during the town hall meeting in New Hampshire, according to Bloomberg. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.


Right. And in reply, all those tokers you're addressing will say to you, "Brainless Fat Boy, beat your dick while you still have it: as of January 2017, you may find it missing..."

The Last Of The Big Flats

A chain pharmacy with a huge presence in Houston carried a truly undistinguished lager named Big Flats, which a quick google tells me has been around since 1901. Starting in the week before Super Bowl Sunday a few years ago and continuing through those years, the pharmacy sold Big Flats really, really cheap, and for good reason. But sometimes a guy (in the gender-nonspecific sense of the term) needs a beer even if that guy is not flush with cash, so over the past few years I've drunk a fair amount of it. Here's a can (and half a glass) of Big Flats sitting on the table next to my reading chair (click the pic for a lager beer, uh, a larger image):

Well, that pharmacy just discontinued selling Big Flats. Since I'm not quite ready to inflect my pitch from Flats to Sharps (which is neither cheap nor alcoholic), I'll be consuming that pharmacy's new cheap beer, Frio, another undistinguished lager and, worse yet, a "light" beer. But I like the pic on the Big Flats can (hmm... based on the pic, is it "a lager for a logger"?), so for pure nostalgia I snapped it in its natural habitat as seen above.

Here's to cheap beer for tough times!

Morning Misc.

And one for fellow Texans...
ADDENDUM: "We have to find a new balance," the Pope is quoted as saying. I am sorry to hear the Pope has lost one of his athletic shoes... <grin_duck_run />

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ms. Klein On Shocks, Mass Privatization, The Second Wave Of Colonialism, Neoliberalism And The Role Of The US

From Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, pp. 244-5:

The regimes that imposed mass privatization on Argentina and Bolivia were both held up in Washington as examples of how shock therapy could be imposed peacefully and democratically, without coups or repression. Although it's true that they did not begin in a hail of gunfire, it is surely significant that both ended in one.

In much of the Southern Hemisphere, neoliberalism is frequently spoken of as "the second colonial pillage": in the first pillage, the riches were seized from the land, and in the second they were stripped from the state. After every one of these profit frenzies come the promises: next time, there will be firm laws in place before a country's assets are sold off, and the entire process will be watched over by eagle-eyed regulators and investigators with unimpeachable ethics. Next time there will be "institution building" before privatizations (to use the post-Russia parlance). But calling for law and order after the profits have all been moved offshore is really just a way of legalizing the theft ex post facto, much as the European colonizers locked in their land grabs with treaties. Lawlessness on the frontier, as Adam Smith understood, is not the problem but the point, as much a part of the game as the contrite hand-wringing and the pledges to do better next time.
I can't help remembering the many instances detailed by the late, great Howard Zinn in his People's History of the United States, of European (and later European-American) colonizers' land grabs, forcible displacements, uncalled‑for physical abuse and gradual but relentless extermination of the continent's First Peoples. It seems we haven't changed very much since our colonial days. [/sigh]

Shatner: Sen. Cruz's Remark About Kirk ‘Silly’

Awwww, gimme a f^<kin' break!

It's been said before, and knowing the Rethugs, it'll be said again. The only part of it that is true is that a lot of military men and women are GOPers. The related fact not stated by Cruz is that a lot of them are NOT Republicans. I've encountered plenty of each, including some excellent officers, and there is simply no basis for Cruz to go predicting someone's politics from their excellence as an officer.

Get over it, Cruz: your assertion... and you... are full of crap.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Texas Supreme Court Boots Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO)

The ordinance (.pdf) would have prohibited "any type of discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy," which are defined as "protected characteristics in city employment, city services, city contracting practices, housing, public accommodations, and private employment": in short, most basic human rights for city employees and contractors, city residents, residents in city public housing, public accommodations (i.e., businesses already obligated to be available to any member of the public who requires their goods and services) and employees of private companies over which the city has jurisdiction. (IANAL; please do not rely on this list, which is for explanatory purposes only, in any legal matters!)

The most frequent objection among opponents comes from people who dislike the ordinance's explicit protection of the rights of LGBTQ people. Heaven forfend that gay people should receive the least shred of human rights from their government, but Dog help them if they fail to pay their taxes. [/sarcasm]

Only in Texas, I hear you murmur (or shout), but I'll bet you a dollar that Texas is only the first among a number of states to void such city ordinances.

Houston has until Aug. 24 to repeal the ordinance or else place it on the November ballot for citizen approval. Again I hear you muttering, that approval will never happen, but I'm not so sure of that; Houston is, or at least has been, the most or second most politically Democratic (cap-D) city in Texas for many years, and it is my perception that all this anti-rights bullcrap is coming from our very Republican state supreme court, not the population at large, certainly not Houston's population.

This invalidation is yet more proof that the Texas Supreme Court, an elected body, is a virtually wholly partisan Republican entity. And to think it used to be the 'publicans who whined about "agenda-based adjudication" ...

AFTERTHOUGHT: I meant to say that it is a really bad sign when any government in a supposedly free and open society institutes laws which specifically remove people's rights rather than protecting them. (Right-wing readers: don't bother giving me that BS about "freedom of religion" ... no matter how many Bible-thumpers proclaim it, genuine "freedom of religion" is NOT equivalent to "freedom to force other people to behave in accordance with your religion." All our nation's founders turn in their graves every time someone asserts that.)

Krugman Quote

I've been reading a rather dated (1999) Krugman book, more for the segment he appended in later editions about the crisis of 2008, but the whole thing has been an education for me, as is usual with his books. Here's the quotation:
"But hype springs eternal..."
— Paul Krugman, The Return of Depression Economics / and the crisis of 2008, p. 146.
You know, I think I really like the guy...

Friday Catch-Up

Too much celebration of Stella's 64th left me in no condition to blog for a couple of days. Here's a list of... uh... stuff... to clear the desktop of things that accumulated:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Happy Birthday To Stella, From ‘Vera, Chuck And Dave’

Which birthday? This birthday! [YouTube video]

Stella, Steve, Kemah Jazz Festival, 2011
I could spend a whole graf listing Stella's virtues (compassion, intelligence, talent as a painter and writer, etc. etc.), but the daily reality of living with Stella, the one I couldn't ignore if I tried, is that this now 64-year-old woman looks about 32. Or younger. And it's a great-looking 32 she looks... her facial features, complexion, figure and the rest all contribute to my distraction. When asked how she manages to keep her, um, stellar appearance, she invariably replies, "It's all those young male virgins I sacrifice." I have no idea where she finds them in this day and age. Or why, having found them, she continues to hang around with me. My good fortune!

Monday, July 20, 2015

AAAS Science Magazine: Best. Email. List. Evah? They've Convinced Me!

Pluto - Geysers?
(see link below)
You can view the individual emails as web pages; if you do so, they're nearly as full of colorful pics as the magazine itself. (IOW, it's very high-quality advertising... and it may well succeed in selling to me at some point.) The pages appear to be persistent, or else they are regenerated when you return to the links later on, and the content is so overwhelming in quantity that I bookmark most items for later reading.

As an example, here are a few items I found interesting among probably a couple hundred others in recently received list messages; the articles are aimed less at scientists than at educated, fascinated nonscientist readers (you have to learn to tolerate the headline writers):

(H/T NTodd, not for any particular item but for making me aware of the list itself and the online mag behind it.)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Why A Democratic Doggerelist Wants Donald Trump
As The GOP Presidential Candidate

Bump chump clump dump frump
grump hump jump lump mump(s)
plump pump slump stump sump trump.

About That Planned Parenthood Sting/Hit-Piece Video...

You don't need me to tell you what's known about the video of three "activists" pretending to be from a biomedical research company, talking over a meal with Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood, who clearly had no idea she was talking to anti–choice zealots intent on framing Planned Parenthood. You don't need me because it's been all over the news. But you're about to hear from me anyway. If you don't like what you read, follow the links. If you refuse to contemplate these credible sources, don't blame me.

It depends on the news source you read or view whether you are told that the distributed short video was edited down from a three–hour conversation. The approximately nine–minute, cut–and–paste, highly edited hit piece, which apparently is the version most people have seen, does not lead a reasonable person to the same conclusion as the three–hour video. Many who have seen both versions say the short version is crap. But it is crap that could affect congressional votes on funding for women's health organizations... and not just Planned Parenthood; apparently the Susan G. Komen for the Cure non–profit is being hit as well for its financial support to Planned Parenthood even though that support is NOT abortion–related at all.

In any case, here is a short reading list you may find helpful in understanding Dr. Nucatola's rather astringent rendering of a sensitive subject (she thought she was talking to other physicians, and believe me, from my own experience, such astringency is the way docs talk among themselves) and why I consider what these three domestic terrorists did as nothing less than murder–by–proxy, or at least assault–by–proxy, of all the women (tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands? more?) to whom reproductive health care services were available only through Planned Parenthood or similar clinics:

Saturday, July 18, 2015

‘ACLU Loses Lawsuit In An Attempt To Force Catholic Hospital’ To Save Tamesha Means's Life

The post subject is my deliberate and hostile parody of the hed at LifeNews (sorry, no link from here) which concluded "to do abortions." Personally I have zero problems with the notion that a hospital should be "force[d]" to take all medically responsible measures to save a woman's life... or take down its bloody shingle and get out of the medical business. Yeah, I know: YMMV...

Here is the ACLU's page on the lawsuit they lost, Tamesha Means v. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops... that is, if you're even looking for another possible interpretation. The guys in the reddish robes and beanies, the ones with huge chips on their shoulders, certainly aren't.

Some will doubtless say I am hostile to religion and to religious rights. F^<k that; I have even been an official member of a denomination that included several US presidents in history. No, what I am hostile to is hospitals that knowingly deprive women of treatment, of knowledge about their condition, of even the ethical minimum... referral to another hospital or clinic where they will be helped... hospitals that send women home to die without medical care. THAT is what I am hostile to, and proud of it.

For your consideration, here is an opinion piece about "The Top 5 Scariest Things Catholic Bishops Have Said About Women." It is written by a woman, not an old man in a beanie... you gotta problem with that?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Handel: Water Music And Music For The Royal Fireworks — BBC Proms 2012

I have a lot to say about these two works and this performance, but perhaps first you should just take an hour out of your day (a well-spent hour, surely — actually more!) to listen to this performance by Le Concert Spirituel conducted by Monsieur Hervé Niquet. The word for the day, the word for this orchestra, this conductor and (to a much lesser degree) this festive music is "idiosyncratic," and I'm going to let you go to the music before I say anything more:

I'll be back sometime this weekend. There will be a quiz. Here's a sample question for you:

George Frideric (or Frederick) Handel (born Georg Friedrich Händel) was
  1. German
  2. Italian
  3. British
  4. All of the above
  5. None of the above

(Answer: 4. Look it up. Or Mother Wikipedia will tell you. Born Halle, Duchy of Magdeburg, Holy Roman Empire; studied in Halle, Hamburg and Italy; lived out his life and fulfilled his promise in a surpassing wonderful career in London.)

UPDATE: forget about the quiz. If people are disinclined to read this blog already, what will they do when confronted with the classroom of their youth? Right. I'd rather keep the two readers I have left.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Wishes For George H.W. Bush's Speedy Recovery

According to reports, he fractured a neck vertebra in a fall at home in Maine. Notwithstanding the vast distance between his politics and mine, and his apparent attempt to start a dynasty of US monarchs presidents, I bear him no ill will, and hope he is able to stick around for many years to come.

(... as a bad example...)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Naomi Klein Speaks To Meeting In Vatican Re: Climate Change

Here. Scroll down to the middle of the page for a video of a meeting on July 1 among five people convened by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, or watch the same video on YouTube. Klein's main presentation starts at around 39:25 into the video. Most of the council members speak Italian; Klein's presentation and occasional comments are in English.

It is good to see that the Catholic Church recognizes its considerable responsibility to communicate with people of all faiths (or no faith at all) on the matter of climate change. Either everybody starts talking to everybody else, or humankind may well not survive. Yes, it's that important.

Speaking Of Krugman... The K-Man Nails The Trumpster

Maybe it's ridiculous of me to react that way, but this brought a smile to my face:
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was blunt Monday when he speculated that real estate mogul Donald Trump was polling so well within the GOP presidential field because he's a "loudmouth racist."

"[Trump]'s a belligerent, loudmouth racist with not an ounce of compassion for less fortunate people," Krugman said in an interview with Bloomberg TV's Joe Weisenthal. "In other words, he's exactly the kind of person the Republican base consists of and identifies with."

The Nobel laureate further predicted that the 2016 election cycle would shake out like a repeat of the horserace that took place during the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. In his estimation, the GOP establishment had "lost control" over the current crop of candidates.

Next week, Krugman reveals the GOP for what it really is...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Krugman On The Eurogroup's Nonnegotiable Offer To Greece

Krugman, in ‘Killing the European Project’:

Suppose you consider Tsipras an incompetent twerp. Suppose you dearly want to see Syriza out of power. Suppose, even, that you welcome the prospect of pushing those annoying Greeks out of the euro.

Even if all of that is true, this Eurogroup list of demands is madness. The trending hashtag ThisIsACoup is exactly right. This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. It is, presumably, meant to be an offer Greece can’t accept; but even so, it’s a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was supposed to stand for.

"[E]verything the European project was supposed to stand for" ... in theory. Coercion is coercion, and has never been about any noble principle; usually, as in this case, it's about making already rich entities (people, corporations, nations) richer while giving the already rich an opportunity to moralize against those who are not. The technique employed is not even novel; read Klein's The Shock Doctrine for several other truly horrifying examples within (many of) our own lifetimes.

Texas Makes The TPM Front Page

... and not for any good reasons, you may be sure:

"God bless you Texas, and keep you brave and strong..." Yes, that's from the official Texas state song, "Texas, Our Texas." And I'll bet you thought it was "The Eyes of Texas," which it's not, unless they've changed it since my childhood.

This has been a PSA (Pretty Stupid Announcement)...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Piketty On Atkinson And A More Equal Society: How We Can Get There From Here

Most of you know of French economist Thomas Piketty and his by now famous Capital in the Twenty-First Century. (Warning: "famous" means "also not cheap" no matter what format or medium you choose.) This month, in the previous issue of the New York Review of Books (thanks, Barbara B!), the estimable Monsieur Piketty reviewed a book by economist, Oxford scholar and inequality expert Sir Anthony B. Atkinson titled Inequality: What Can Be Done, summarizing Atkinson's last several decades of work on that subject, both analysis and field work, concluding with some concrete proposals for a course of action.

Tonight, with Stella's help (she gifted me some coupons she could obtain as part of her B&N membership), I actually got my hands on a copy of that book. B&N being what it is, and the book being from Harvard University, the list price was almost $30 and B&N's starting price was that very list price, so even allowing for Amazon shipping it would have been a couple dollars cheaper to order it online, but I was impatient and Stella, mindful of our approaching birthdays, was willing to help, so I can start skimming Atkinson's Inequality soon. It may be a while before it reaches the top of my serious reading list, but at least I don't have to wait for HPL to acquire a copy and then wait still longer on a hold list for my scant three weeks' visit with the book: this is clearly a book worth owning if you are an amateur economist or even a progressive political activist.

Inequality is fast becoming the issue of the day, and could serve as a significant wedge issue emphasizing the D/R difference in the 2016 elections. Stay tuned!

AFTERTHOUGHT: Perhaps it would be helpful to offer a sample of Piketty's review, so you can see for yourself how it tempted me to go to some lengths to obtain Atkinson's book (the bolds are my own):
To fully appreciate this book and its proposals, we should first place it in the larger setting of Atkinson’s career, for he has mainly produced the work of an infinitely cautious and rigorous scholar. Between 1966 and 2015, Atkinson published fifty or so books and more than 350 scholarly articles. They have brought about a profound transformation in the broader field of international studies of the distribution of wealth, inequality, and poverty. Since the 1970s, he has also written major theoretical papers, devoted in particular to the theory of optimal taxation, and these contributions alone would justify several Nobel Prizes. But Atkinson’s most important and profound work has to do with the historical and empirical analysis of inequality, carried out with respect to theoretical models that he deploys with impeccable mastery and utilizes with caution and moderation. With his distinctive approach, at once historical, empirical, and theoretical; with his extreme rigor and his unquestioned probity; with his ethical reconciliation of his roles as researcher in the social sciences and citizen of, respectively, the United Kingdom, Europe, and the world, Atkinson has himself for decades been a model for generations of students and young researchers.
[/Steve takes a deep breath] Then by all means, let him instruct and inspire me as well in my limited pursuit of economics. Politically, these are times as parlous as the world has ever known; I can use all the inspiration I can find, from Atkinson or any comparable scholar.

Your Cheery Sunday Morning: FBI Director Says Gun Laws Failed In Charleston Massacre

In an ironic twist in the tragic and exasperating Charleston-Roof case, the background check laws aimed at preventing gun sales to convicted felons just plain failed, allowing convicted felon Dylann Roof to buy a powerful handgun more suited to use as a law enforcement officer's sidearm. So says FBI Director James Comey, and surely we can always believe him, right? [/sarcasm] (Everytown for Gun Safety says in a broadcast email that it was "because of an NRA-backed loophole in the law" but we all know the NRA would never do anything that would result in harm to anyone, ever, right? right?? [/extreme‑sarcasm])

Glock 41
Nine people died because Dylann Roof, a convicted felon, was able to buy a powerful handgun (reportedly a Glock 41 semiautomatic) in South Carolina back in April, which he used two months later to murder nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, NC... just because they were Black. Roof even had the unmitigated nerve to attend their Bible study for an hour before he slaughtered them; apparently, though, the message "love one another" didn't take hold in him.

People generally had one reaction, no matter their political or religious outlook: horror, sorrow, a deep sense of loss. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on the other hand, saw the event as an opportunity to proselytize for the gun lobby and for keeping the gun laws just the way they are now:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement: "It's disastrous that this bureaucratic mistake prevented existing laws from working and blocking an illegal gun sale. The facts undercut attempts to use the tragedy to enact unnecessary gun laws. The American people, and especially the victims' families, deserve better."
Yeah, Chuck, it sure as hell is "disastrous." Far be it from me to point any fingers of blame, of course; we're all at fault because a doubtless perfect law did not function perfectly when it was needed most. There is of course no need... never any need... to improve the law. Right, Chuck?

I shall not live to see these terrible tragedies— rather, this one huge ongoing tragedy— come to an end. And that's true even if I don't encounter a convicted felon packing heat who was able to purchase his piece illegally. [/sigh] This is the 21st century, not the 18th; surely there is some way the 2nd Amendment can be interpreted that does not result in widespread criminal ownership and use of firearms. There's gotta be a way.

JEB! Sez You Don't Work Enough Hours

Michelle Chen at The Nation:

When asked about the crisis of unemployment, Bush stated, “Workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families.”

The economy should aim for 4 percent annual growth to sustain more jobs, he argued, so “we have to be a lot more productive.”

Smug JEB!
The comment was instantly assailed as both “out of touch” and incompetent. But the best takedown comes from the latest economic data reports: Americans overall work longer hours on average than peers in many other rich industrialized countries. Full-time employees clock about 47 hours weekly, according to recent surveys. Nearly 40 percent of full-time workers spend 50 or more hours at work each week. Most working households have seen their annual working hours tick up by 9 to 10 percent between 1979 and 2007. Plenty of workers, especially women, are even juggling more than one job.

It’s true that many people are working fewer hours than they’d like, but that’s not for want of trying: they’ve been unable to secure full-time work so they take up part-time gigs. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the number of “involuntary part-time” workers has grown since the recession hit to more than 6.6 million.

And more than 3 million so-called “missing workers” have dropped out of the workforce altogether because they’ve become discouraged from even trying to seek a job. ...

Just so... JEB! is a perfect example of a "person unclear on the concept." Before Junior Bush wrecked the economy in his last year or so in office, I seldom even had to pick up the phone to get as much contract IT work as I wanted: clients came to me, not I to them. Then the flow slowed (over a surprisingly short period of time) and stopped... and no amount of phoning my usual sources of work, or even unusual possibilities, accomplished anything at all: I was involuntarily retired, probably five or ten years earlier than I had intended or expected. This was not my doing, nor was it my former clients' fault: the work just dried up, for them and hence for me. (NOTE to truly ignorant Republicans: yes, the Great Recession began just before 2008, the last year of GeeDubya Bush's administration, not the first of Obama's: "According to the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research (the official arbiter of U.S. recessions) the U.S. recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, ...")

I don't know if JEB! has ever had to have a real job in his life, just to have enough money for him and his family to get by day to day. But I do know this: he never had to look for a job. Republicans in powerful positions, or with powerful connections, just don't. In JEB!'s case, it seems likely that he remedied his slack periods, if any, with a phone call to Poppy. [ADDENDUM: In JEB!'s case, according to Wikipedia, the connection for his first significant job, a bank job (ahem), was GOP kingmaker James Baker.] That's how it is when you're born wealthy and privileged.

As a consequence, JEB! understands being out of work about as much as he understands having to grab his fishing tackle and catch his evening meal if he wants to eat tonight: in other words, he doesn't comprehend it at all.

Don't you think a POTUS should have at least a speaking acquaintance with having to seek work to feed his family? Damn, I sure do!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

GOP Prez Candidate Raises $100 Million... No Beating (Around) The Bushes!

How would you like another Bush family member as POTUS? He would be the THIRD member of his family to hold that office, and I understand their younger generation is reaching adulthood. Royal dynasty, anyone?

Well, you just might get another Bush, like it or not: more than a year out from the 2016 elections, in fundraising through the second quarter, John Ellis Bush has already raised a hundred million US dollars ($100 million)... probably enough to buy the election a couple of times over. (Warning: link is to auto-starting CNN video page. See several well-scrubbed Republicans talk enthusiastically about well-scrubbed Republican fundraising!)

$100 million? Jeebus!

Or perhaps I should say, JEB!ush!

We should have known Citizens United would get us another Bush in the White House. You know I do not lightly advocate amending our Constitution, but if we don't end Citizens United we could very likely see the end of our democracy. What's that? Oh. Yeah, I suppose one could argue it's already gone... [/sigh] I suppose you may as well just Put Your Trust in JEB!ush... (Note: the music is actually pretty cool! Somehow, though, I don't think they're singing about JEB!ush...)

Friday, July 10, 2015

‘It's Friday, Cats! Let's Party!’ Sings Esther

The cat's in the basket, says Stella, though it looks like a box to me. In any case, Esther seems to like the rough texture of the two kinds of cloth that cover the object both inside and out:

Actually, Lily speaks or sings about 10 times as often as Esther: Lily will hold an actual alternating conversation with a human, as long as the human speaks adequate Miau.

(Photo by Stella.)

Little Seizers [sic]

Another recent Smash/Grab
in Houston
Smash-and-grab crimes, in which the thieves ram a vehicle into a storefront window, steal some items and load them into the vehicle, and finally exit the way they entered, have regrettably become as common in Houston as in other big cities; just google the expression "smash grab houston" for some examples. This morning, ABC 13 Houston News reported such a break-in at a location of a well-known pizza chain. (The news item is not yet on the ABC13 site.)

The thieves (there seem to have been a lot of them, perhaps seven people) broke loose the store's safe, seized it (so said the newscaster), and got away with it in the truck. Apparently the safe was subsequently transferred to another vehicle, but the woman driving that car was caught and is in custody. Clearly smash-and-grab is now an equal opportunity offense!
Considering the pizza chain, you could call the thieves little seizers. Apparently no one was seriously hurt, and none of the pizza parlor staff suffered petit mal (little seizures). I regret that there was such a major crime, but I am glad everyone is safe... if any of the thieves ordered (or stole) a salad while they were there, I hope they also got a handful of safe crackers to go with it... (and on and on...)

(FTR, I never go to Little Ceasars. I just don't like what they bake. I'm not saying it's bad, only that I don't like it, and this is a city full of choices when it comes to pizza.)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Lily Captures Stella With Her Big Dark Cat's-Eyes

... which she does not avert from the bright object Stella is pointing at her...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

It's Esther's Turn With Manekinekko

... who signals for more harpsichord music (see Flemish-style 2x8' cembalo partially visible in mirror):

My thanks to Michael for providing the proper name of the Good Luck Cat, in the thread below with Lily's pic. Photo by Stella, of course, wielding her iPad!

Wednesday Wandering
SCOTUS On Abortion And Gay Marriage — Breyer's Glossip Death Penalty Dissent — Piketty et al Write To Merkel — Nichols At The Nation Interviews Bernie Sanders

Here's what I have been reading on the Web (what I've been reading in a book is another matter altogether)...
  • Why Abortion Is Losing While Gay Marriage Is Winning
  • Lauren Rankin at TPM:
    It’s been a wild couple of weeks at the Supreme Court, as a notoriously conservative court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, upheld the Fair Housing Act, and preserved Obamacare subsidies for millions of Americans. Progressives were stunned and delighted at the Supreme Court’s seemingly leftward tilt, cheering Justice Anthony Kennedy for his decisive vote for marriage equality and commending Chief Justice John Roberts for strengthening Obamacare’s judicial footing.

    On Monday, progressives had something else to cheer about, as Justice Kennedy once again joined Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor—the liberal wing of the court—to allow 10 endangered Texas abortion clinics to remain open while the court decides whether to hear the full appeal. It was met with jubilation from abortion rights supporters who knew that, if this law had been allowed to go into effect, only nine abortion clinics would be left to service the more than five million Texas women of reproductive age. Allowing these clinics to stay open wasn’t just a progressive win; it was a life-saving order.

    This move, coupled with their refusal to grant Mississippi’s request to allow them to close their clinic, all but ensures that the Supreme Court will take up abortion rights in their next term. They will likely grapple with whether TRAP laws—laws that single out abortion providers with onerous and unnecessary regulations in order to force them to close—are constitutional or if they do indeed pose an “undue burden” on women’s access to safe abortion care. Basically, the Supreme Court will likely rule on whether hostile states can close safe clinics or not. These implications are enormous.

  • What Justice Breyer’s Dissent on Lethal Injection Showed About the Death Penalty’s Defenders
  • Liliana Segura at The // Intercept:

    In its 5-4 decision Monday, the Court concluded that this drug, midazolam, despite being linked to a number of botched executions, did not violate prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights, because there was insufficient proof its use would necessarily put them at risk of an agonizing death. (The drug, a benzodiazepine, was chosen to replace barbiturates previously used as an anesthetic during lethal injection — for more, see my earlier coverage of Glossip here.)

    But in an unusual and impassioned dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer read Glenn Ford’s name from the bench to illustrate why, putting particular execution protocols aside, the time has come to reconsider the death penalty altogether. “Last year, in 2014, six death row inmates were exonerated based on actual innocence,” Breyer wrote. “All had been imprisoned for more than 30 years.” In Ford’s case, he said, citing a remarkable mea culpa published by the Shreveport Times, “the prosecutor admitted that even ‘[a]t the time this case was tried there was evidence that would have cleared Glenn Ford.” This same prosecutor, Breyer noted, admitted that “at the time of Ford’s conviction, he was ‘not as interested in justice as [he] was in winning.’”

  • Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel
  • "Five leading economists warn the German chancellor, 'History will remember you for your actions this week.' ”
  • Bernie Sanders Speaks
  • "In his most revealing interview, the socialist presidential candidate sets out his vision for America." - John Nichols [An exceptional interview! Please go see for yourself why I feel America needs this man as President. - SB]

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lily The Art Critic

... with her buddy the Good Luck Cat...

Photo by Stella, on her iPad. The quality of photos from that device is astonishing; you should see the pic prior to web-shrinking!

I'm pooped; I'll post more later, or maybe tomorrow morning.

— Brief Blog Break —

My AT&T connection is off, not because the DSL is down, but because they needed me to shut it down while they work on the landline phone, which is indeed down. I am posting this from Stella's completely separate connection. With luck I should be back later today... with Stella's truly charming newest pics of the kitties. Sorry for the involuntary interruption.

UPDATE about 12:50pm: both landline phone and DSL are working again. As much as I hate to admit it, AT&T did a fairly prompt job of locating the problem... no, it wasn't at my residence... and getting someone out to fix it. One would almost think such self-diagnosing systems could also be self-repairing, as in some of the old s/f movies, but I know that's too much to ask.

Kitty pics in 2 or 3 hours, Blog willing...

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Daily Civil Liberties News From DDF/BORDC

Are you following InTheNews from the Defending Dissent Foundation — Bill of Rights Defense Committee? No? You could be a better informed patriot, Fourth of July or any other day, if you did!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Third Of July — Exactly 10 Years Later
I wrote this post on July 3, 2005, read it yesterday and decided that enough of it was worthwhile to merit reproducing it today, with a few amendments.

I drove to the Fiesta Mart in a foul mood, plotting my angry, depressive, generally unpalatable post for the Fourth of July. But in the Fiesta parking lot I came face to face with this...

.. and, as almost always happens, I came away with a completely unreasonable hope that our nation will survive these awful times and one day thrive again. This flag is the size of a football field, representing exactly the kind of commercial gigantism that drives me nuts, and simultaneously the kind of unbridled optimism suited to a car dealership, uh, I mean, to the American people.

We are facing unprecedented threats to America's ideals, threats from within as surely as from outside. But so did John Kennedy and the Cold War generation. So did FDR and my parents' generation. So did Abraham Lincoln, who found a way to save a nation and a people at least as deeply divided as we are today. We must save America from a renunciation of its own ideals; we must... therefore we will. If failure in Iraq is inevitable, failure in the restoration of America's dedication to its most deeply held values is not an option. We must do this. We can do this. We will do this.

Join me now in singing... no, not the national anthem; we've had our fill of rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air and lots of other places... but rather Paul Simon's American Tune. Simon published this in 1973; we all remember what was happening in '73 (don't we?), and the analogy is sometimes hard to take. But bear with me; this is, in its unique way, an American tune, with the text of which just about all of us can identify. If you don't know the tune, think of the hymn "O Sacred Head Now Wounded"; the first two phrases are identical. If you still don't know it, just fake it... that's the American way: sing along with this MIDI, or go find a recording of the Central Park concert view this YouTube video:

American Tune

Many's the time I've been mistaken,
And many times confused.
Yes, and [I've] often felt forsaken
And certainly misused.
But I'm all right, I'm all right;
I'm just weary to my bones.
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home.

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered;
I don't have a friend who feels at ease.
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered,
Or driven to its knees.
But it's all right, it's all right;
We've lived so well so long.
Still, when I think of the road
We're traveling on,
I wonder what went wrong;
I can't help it, I wonder what went wrong.

And I dreamed I was dying;
And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly,
And looking back down at me,
Smiled reassuringly.
And I dreamed I was flying;
And high above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty,
Sailing away to sea;
And I dreamed I was flying.

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower;
We come on the ship that sailed the moon;
We come in the ages most uncertain hour,
And sing an American tune.
But it's all right, it's all right;
You can't be forever blessed.
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day,
And I'm trying to get some rest,
That's all, I'm trying to get some rest.

— Paul Simon, 1973

To all Americans "so far away from home," geographically or spiritually, my heartfelt prayers for your safe return to America... and for America's safe return to its senses.

I probably won't be posting on the Fourth. Some of us are getting together to watch fireworks in the evening, if for no other reason than to try the fireworks settings on our various new digital cameras. May those be the only explosions any of us experience this year. Before the fireworks, we'll probably indulge in the traditional BBQ wheat gluten, veggie hot dogs on whole wheat buns, etc., with "freedom" fries, of course. (Hey, you have your traditions; we have ours... that, too, is what America is about.) Have a safe and happy Independence Day. Remember our founders; remember their success against improbable odds, and keep fighting the good fight as you see it.

Thus ends the post from 10 years ago. A lot has changed; a lot more hasn't. I'm still with Stella, both of us gimping around wielding canes on our good days. America still can't keep its oar out of the troubled waters of war, even with an African American president who is at least in theory a Democrat. Climate change is fully underway, to a degree that, 10 years ago, we could only imagine as happening in the far distant future. America's constitutional separation of powers is almost wholly a myth now; indeed, democracy (such as it was) has mutated into a perverse sort of oligarchy. Cops, improbably, are people of whom citizens are afraid, especially citizens of color. Drones are devastating weapons of war... and of (supposed) law enforcement.

If you see major matters being changed for the good, by all means, post a comment and share them with the rest of us; some of us merely hope not to outlive our time. The aging process is certainly on my side, but some of you are literally less than half my age, and probably will live to see how this oligarchic fanaticism plays out.

But hey, people survived the Civil War; you might survive this, too... and if that looks unlikely, at least try to take some pleasure in the beer, hot dogs and barbeque on the Fourth. And be sure, LGBTQ or straight, to take part in the American pastime... yeah, sex; surely you didn't think I meant baseball?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thinking Of Esther — CATTEREL!

Someone has been mighty friendly and attentive to me lately...
Esther Kitty
Of all the creatures I have seen,
Our Esther's best... and that is that!
Eliza may be fairest queen,
But Esther is the fur-est cat!

Your Maserati, Ferlinghetti,
Each is great, within his Beat,
But if you're seeking soft and pet‑ty?
Esther: no cat's half so sweet.

With Esther on your lap, your chair,
Your dining table... you'll discover
You are truly glad she's there —
The perfect pet: you gotta love 'er!
— Steve Bates
Alternative last clause: "you got a lover!" Pronounced the same, whichever you choose.

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