Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nobody Did Nothin' - Not Yoo, Not Me, Not.... By-Bee

John Yoo and Jay Bybee have been cleared by Obama's DoJ of accusations that they violated professional standards in their advice to the Bush administration on matters of torture. This is particularly odd, since in December 2008, H, Marshall Jarrett, head of the Office of Professional Responsibility, came to the opposite conclusion in the same matter. From the above-linked article by Jason Leopold,

But as I reported last April, Obama's Justice Department appointees began to  water down those previous conclusions in early 2009 after OPR received responses on the report's conclusions from Yoo and Bybee, who both worked in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC):
Legal sources familiar with the internal debate about the draft report say OPR is in the process of "watering"- down the criticism of legal opinions by [OLC] lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee in 2002 and 2003 and by [OLC acting head Steven Bradbury], who in 2005 reinstated some of the Yoo-Bybee opinions after they had been withdrawn by Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith when he headed the OLC in 2003 and 2004.
File under "things that make you go 'hmmm'" ... or maybe things that make you go 'holy shit, they're getting away with it!'"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Very Early Friday Guardian And Observer Blogging

Samantha guards Stella's cane, and keeps an eye on some of her other essential possessions...
Samantha takes guard duty very seriously. She understands what happens if Stella cannot bring her food and litter. Come to think of it, I'm doing a fair amount of cat-feeding and human meal preparation these days. It isn't easy feeding a household of two disabled humans and one lively cat!

Stella and I are in reasonably good spirits considering our physical status. It does grieve me to see how much Stella aches when she walks. But we are told she will experience only 4-6 weeks of this discomfort. (4-6 weeks? Aaaaaaaugggghhh!)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The President's Hit List Of American Citizens

Read emptywheel or Greenwald on Dana Priest's revelation of the existence of a list, two lists actually, of American citizens whom President Obama claims the right to target for assassination. This is so far outside the bounds of the Constitution's role for the Executive branch as to render Barack Obama not materially different from George W. Bush when it comes to matters of basic due process in accusations of criminal behavior. I admit I am easily spooked (ahem) on such issues, but this is the scariest thing I've seen since the Bush administration. And that's a strong statement.


I may not have been inspired; it's not easy to inspire me these days. But I was reminded... and it's a damned good thing... what would have happened to America if McCain had been elected, or if GeeDubya had stuck around past the end of his term. (Hey, I still believe that could have happened.) For all of Obama's shortcomings... for all that he is an Eisenhower Republican... we might have ended up with far, far worse in that office. OK, I've said it, but don't expect me to repeat it. There are, after all, all those civil liberties issues he declined to address... don't get me started.

Obama and I may resume "speaking" if he fires Rahm Emanuel. But nobody... nobody... calls me a "fucking retard," over a mere policy issue, without consequences. It's up to you now, President O.

Krugman: Obama Liq... Obama Does WHAT To Himself? - UPDATED

Paul Krugman, on his blog:

A spending freeze? That’s the brilliant response of the Obama team to their first serious political setback?

It’s appalling on every level.

It’s bad economics, depressing demand when the economy is still suffering from mass unemployment. ...

It’s bad long-run fiscal policy, shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead.

And it’s a betrayal of everything Obama’s supporters thought they were working for. Just like that, Obama has embraced and validated the Republican world-view —

Sigh. Why did I ever allow Obama to deceive me? Please read the whole Krugman post.

UPDATE:  Blue Texan offers Rachel Maddow about Obama's progress... and then his concession... on the state of the economy. Maddow also interviews UT economist James Galbraith.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Obama: Stupid, Desperate, Both, Or Misreported? - UPDATED 3x

If this really happens as leaked... always a big "if" with people like Rahm and Rove in the world... I see nothing to stop the Democratic Party's slide straight to the bottom of the hill (Hill, if you prefer):

Obama Announcing Three-Year Discretionary Spending Freeze
By: David Dayen Monday January 25, 2010 5:39 pm

Breaking tonight, the President will propose a discretionary, non-security spending freeze for three years starting in FY 2011 as part of his State of the Union address.

The move, intended to blunt the populist backlash against Obama’s $787 billion stimulus and an era of trillion-dollar deficits — and to quell Democratic anxiety over last Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate election — is projected to save $250 billion, the Democrats said.

The freeze would not apply to defense spending or spending on intelligence, homeland security or veterans.

The proposal is in line with a plan floated by Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), a fiscal hawk, who told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt last week that there was a “fighting chance” Obama would propose a freeze in most discretionary spending by the federal government as part of his address.

I [David Dayen] have to head out the door here in a moment, so more on this tomorrow. But Obama is basically saying that the stimulus fixed the economy, that there will be no further government support measures and that he’ll govern like a hybrid of John McCain and Herbert Hoover for the rest of his term to curry favor with the deficit maniacs.

[Steve again...]

Jesus Christ on a crutch in a crap-heap. They're all nuts. How was I deceived by this man and by this Party for so long? Was it always thus, or is this new behavior (my instinct says the latter, for the party at least)? And is there even the faintest hope that we will not have a repeat of the late 1930s? FDR learned his lesson; is Obama bright enough... no, he is that; the question is, is he sane enough... to learn from history?


Afterthought: Dayen quotes Matt Yglesias saying in essence that the whole thing could be a head-fake by the administration to draw the ire of progressive blogs, and that the real speech and announced policies may not even resemble the leaks. Who knows. We live in interesting times.

UPDATE: Apparently, House Democrats have told Obama uh-uh, no way, fuggedaboutit. So... is Obama intimidated, and how quickly can he rewrite the speech to contain different lies?

UPDATE 2: In the video attached to the above-linked article, Rachel Maddow interviews Jared Bernstein (advisor to VP Biden). Bernstein lists many things in the coming SOTU that the President may freeze if he wishes under the general freeze to be announced; indeed, it sounds as if Obama has in mind a rewrite-after-the-fact of a congressionally passed budget. Forgive me for reminding everyone that in 1996, Congress and President Bill Clinton discovered the hard way that presidential line item vetoes are unconstitutional.

UPDATE 3: I'm not sure this is directly related, but it seems to fit: Congress just defeated the Conrad-Gregg Commission, which would have established in legislation a congressional commission to propose tax cuts and spending reductions that would have required Congress to vote on them up-or-down, with no debate and no amendments. (Can Congress regulate itself that way?) Of course, Obama can still establish such a commission by executive order, but it would not have the up-or-down, no-amendments requirement. This is nuts. Perhaps it is conservative to render government spending not merely difficult but impossible; if so, conservatism is even more crack-brained stupid than I thought.

Our Two-Cripple Household

What's newly broken around our house?

Stella's patella.

She didn't want me to post a pic of her bandage, or of the scrape on her nose, so you'll have to imagine both. Somewhere in the Texas Medical Center, a well-intended but rushed person, attempting to pass Stella on the sidewalk, knocked her into a fault in the pavement... and down she went.

Given that I usually depend on her to compensate for my mobility limitations, it could be a while before we attempt to imitate Gomez and Morticia's tango... it takes two, they say, and right now, if you're counting people with working legs and feet, we have zero. Wish us a speedy recovery; this is a real pain in the knee and/or foot.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Seeing The World Through Bankers' Eyes

That's Bernanke, according to Krugman. Please read. Here's a tiny excerpt:

What happened here? My sense is that Mr. Bernanke, like so many people who work closely with the financial sector, has ended up seeing the world through bankers’ eyes. The same can be said about Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, and Larry Summers, the Obama administration’s top economist. But they’re not up before the Senate, while Mr. Bernanke is.

Still, Krugman advocates Bernanke's reappointment on this basis: anyone else could be worse, and anyone worse could be disastrous for us all. OK. My understanding was that things were already disastrous for us all...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Samantha's Diner

It's not much, says Samantha, but at least I have a roof over my head while I'm eating...

Samantha's shelves are convenient for her humans, and sometimes for her when she feels like "defending" her food: she crawls around behind it, facing outward from the wall, surveying all her bowls and anything going on in the kitchen. I tried hard to get a pic of her in that position, but unfortunately for me, her Noncooperation Clause kicked in at that moment... she had already cooperated with me for as many minutes as her contract required on that day... and I had to make do with this shot.

Does anyone else have cats who manufacture their own wet food? Samantha scoops her prescription dry pellets (who knows how they taste) out of the food bowl and, to the extent possible, into the water bowl (or else she splashes water on the pellets on the floor). I had never seen anything like it before she came along. She prefers commercial wet food (shown above), of course, but her resourcefulness is pretty amazing when she doesn't get the canned stuff.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Left - UPDATED

UPDATE: Jane Hamsher expands on the blame-the-progressives mentality specifically in the healthcare reform context. This is well worth a read.

Original post follows.

Your Left... your Left... you always start out on your Left...

Greenwald reflects on the degree and frequency with which everyone... the Obama administration, his enthusiastic supporters, the Party regulars, you name it... blames 'The Left' for everything that has gone wrong since at least the middle of this administration, and often enough since before.

Excuuuuse me?

I am always amazed to find myself listed as part of that Left. I mean, in high school, I won the D.A.R. Anti-Communist Essay Contest, and read the essay aloud before wildly cheering crowds at a high school that was, in retrospect, far right-of-center. If I am part of "The Left," that's news to me. But it's news that a lot of pundits and a few blog trolls seem intent on repeating until it's widely believed.

Leftist? Huh?

And yet, if one insists that the comparison is with the genuine nut-cases... the Tea-Baggers, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, etc. etc., well, yes, I suppose I am to the left of those people... after all, who isn't.

But make no mistake: the Democratic Party abandoned me, not the other way around. And I was their base. I had been a Democrat in fact for about 40 years, and a Democrat in registration (and contributions) for about 30. What did it profit them to insult me to the point that I stopped claiming membership?

I am at a point of abandoning party politics altogether. The fact that I, who once called himself The Yellow Doggerel Democrat, am about to abandon ship should give some people pause to think. But nobody within the Obama administration, no one among the Blue Dogs, etc., will pause for a moment if I leave the party I've advocated for the last three decades. Why should I stay? Right: I shouldn't.

The Tea-Baggers, unrequested, added me to their mailing list, apparently perceiving statements like the one above as a reversal of political outlook. Sorry, folks; fuck that shit. I am, indeed, The Left, compared to today's formally constituted Democratic Party. And I don't like that one bit. I'm where I am because I have nowhere else to go.

Read Greenwald, as linked above. And contemplate whether you have any place to go. I do not like being party-less. But I have no intention of once again, for the dozenth time, being dragged kicking and screaming along with people like Rahm Emanuel into a party that has not, for a decade or so, represented my real political positions. Enough is enough. Call me part of The Left if you must... I don't give a fuck.

Follow-Up: Supremes Rule Corporations May Own Politicians

That's the effective message: corporate free speech (!?) is violated by a part of the McCain-Feingold law, which is therefore unconstitutional, which means corp's can dump effectively unrestricted amounts of money into, say, congressional campaigns. We're cooked.


The long-awaited 5-4 ruling, in the Citizens United v. FEC case, presents advocates of regulation with a major challenge in limiting the flow of corporate money into campaigns, and potentially opens the door for unrestricted amounts of corporate money to flow into American politics.

In the case at issue, Citizens United (CU), a conservative advocacy group, was challenging a ruling by the FEC that barred it from airing a negative movie about Hillary Clinton. CU received corporate donations and the movie advocated the defeat of a political candidate within 60 days of an election. CU argued that the FEC ruling violated its freedom of speech, and that the relevant provision of McCain-Feingold was unconstitutional.
I don't see any remaining avenues for individuals who are not wealthy to participate meaningfully in choosing our leaders, even to the limited extent we did before. We simply can't compete with corporations; few if any individuals have the money. And if you don't think money is the determining factor in the vast majority of election outcomes, spend a little time browsing Open Secrets, the campaign finance information web site.

Any notion that America is a representative democracy died today, murdered by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision along expected lines. It's all over, folks.We hope you enjoyed your ride...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Aftermath, Or Rather, The AfterSocialStudies

About two hours after the networks called it for Brown, Stella, previously closeted back in the office, walked into the den, where I was scouring the web for clues and finding nothing satisfying.

"We're screwed, aren't we?" she moaned. Unlike me, Stella still considers herself a Democrat, and I allow her among all people to refer to me as if I were one. Hence, "we're screwed."

There are a lot of aspects to that question, and as many answers as there are (former) Democrats. Are "we" screwed? Probably so, if "we" are talking about implementing the rest of Obama's presented agenda within the rest of his (almost certainly only) term. On the other hand, I think it is likely that some sort of healthcare reform may be easier to implement now that there is no 60-vote threshold to worry about: Dems will be forced to use reconciliation, or abandon the effort altogether. Maybe a better bill will result. Maybe. What is certain, and what entered my mind immediately after the results were announced, is this: Joe LIEberman woke up with a lot less power this morning than he had yesterday morning. That's no bad thing.

Jane Hamsher and Jon Walker of FDL had several interesting things to say about the future of the Democratic Party and of progressives within it. I recommend both entire posts, but here are a couple of quotes that struck me:

Joe Lieberman was personally responsible for killing the public option/Medicare expansion in the Senate bill.
The good news? Nobody needs Lieberman’s vote to pass either one any more. The non-budgetary “fixes” like banning the exclusion of those with pre-existing conditions have already passed the Senate. A public option — or an expansion of Medicare — can be added through reconciliation, which takes 51 votes. The Republicans certainly had no fear of using reconciliation when George Bush was in office. ...

- JH

The party out of power can always run on stopping what the party in power is trying to do. That is often part of their job as the opposition party. Letting the Republicans obstruct, or claiming that Republicans have obstructed the Democrats’ ability to govern only makes the GOP look better organized and more powerful.

The party in power must run on their accomplishments and point to those accomplishments as a down payment on other promises they will fullfill if they are allowed to stay in power. You must deliver something to the voters and hope they like it. If Democrats can’t run on their record of passing legislation that makes positive change in people’s lives, they will suffer terribly in 2010.

 - JW
Well, golly gee whiz... old-fashioned political due diligence. Who'd a thunk it.

OK, Democrats, quit yer bellyachin'. OK, Somethings, it's time to shoulder the load Democrats seem to have found too heavy. Forget bipartisanship. Indeed, fuck bipartisanship. It's time to get some work done. If people wanted a free comedy show, they'd watch broadcast TV, not your sorry, chaotic farce in Congress. It's time to stop pretending you have an audience and start doing your jobs.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Meet Your New Senator From Massachusetts

Enjoy, straight women...and gay men, but especially straight women... I've read that MA's new Senator would withhold contraceptives from rape victims.

(Democrats, there's no need to rush to blame; there's plenty to go around. And I don't know if Ted Kennedy turned in his grave, but I'd swear I heard my father AND mother turn in their urns in the living room.)

Anti-Progressive Rhetoric By Rahm & Co.

I just read News Writer's excellent post Doomsday, on today's nailbiter of a special election between Martha Coakley (D-MA) and Scott Brown (R-Hell) in Massachusetts. News Writer makes a classic argument that I've made on this site many times back when the blog name was a bit different, basically an argument in favor of strategic voting in tough times, particularly urging progressives to throw their lot in with that of the "centrist" Democrats who run the show (well, actually, the GOP runs the show, doesn't it) as a strategy for avoiding the worst. There's the usual implication that progressives should simply stop being obstructionist and put aside their principles just this one time... just this once, only for a short while... to allow the Good Guys to win in a tight spot. Please read the post; I don't want to misrepresent what NW has said. But it did get me to thinking about the path that has led the DP to its current sorry status of losing even when it wins. Here's the comment I left on Newsie's site; it's a passable statement of my relationship to today's Democratic Party:

Newswriter, I’ve made that argument for over three decades. I’ve strategically voted for Democrats because the alternatives were allegedly so much worse. And I’ve proactively urged others to do the same, in an attempt to stave off national disaster in our post-Reagan world.

Now, for my troubles, Rahm Emanuel has placed the heel of his boot against my face, just to make sure his aim was true, drawn back his foot and kicked as hard as he could. He and his cohort are certain they don’t need progressives, either their policy positions or their votes, to win elections, and their rejection of the likes of me is not merely passive.

Well and good. For at least 30 years I’ve compromised on one issue after another, one candidate after another, block-walking and phone-banking and contributing money to candidates some of whom made me choke when I contemplated their positions and records. And for at least 30 years I’ve watched the Democratic Party first drift, then run, to the right. What, exactly, has all this strategic compromise bought me?

I’m available for reconciliation (pun intended) with the DP. But first, after 30 years, I want to see at least the slightest, tiniest indication that any policy position I’ve ever espoused will be supported, or at least not casually opposed, by the DP.

And I want Rahm’s boot out of my face. Immediately and unconditionally.
 Any questions?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Praise The Lord, OR Pass The Ammunition?

Jeebus H. ... oh, never mind. Just read a little of what Justin Elliott of TPM has to say:
Despite Extensive Online Discussions, Military Denies Knowledge Of Rifle Scope Bible Verses

Justin Elliott | January 18, 2010, 6:20PM

Responding to the revelation that rifle sights used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan are inscribed with Bible citations, a Marine Corps spokesman told TPMmuckraker today that the branch simply didn't know about the inscriptions until inquiries were made last week.

But posts on gun enthusiast forums from as early as 2006 and Youtube videos watched thousands of times extensively discuss the Bible verses on the Trijicon rifle sights, casting doubt on the military's claim that it was unaware of what was apparently a poorly kept secret.

At issue here are citations of various New Testament verses (e.g. John 8:12 -- "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'") that are inscribed in abbreviated form (JN8:12) on sights made by Trijicon, a major supplier for the Army and Marines. The inscriptions, which are visible with the naked eye, typically follow the serial number on Trijicon's scopes (see examples here).

I kid you not: the First Amendment is dead. Now we have an army pointing their explicitly Christian rifles at people many of whom are Muslim, all the while pretending to advance "freedom and democracy."

I give up. Wake me from the dead when this is over...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Thirty-Seven Second Men

I seem to have been added simultaneously to the bulk mail lists of the teabaggers and the Minutemen (the border nuts, not the original patriots; I don't think anyone has resurrected them and taught them to use email). Both lists come from the same list server, as evidenced by a quick examination of the message sources. Neither org appears to be any more coherent in its email prose than in speech (if one may dignify their oral sounds with that term).

I haven't the faintest idea why I'm on their list. Perhaps it's my occasional vocal dissatisfaction with Obama? Perhaps I used the word "b*or*der^w^all" in some long-ago post. Or maybe these nuts are mailing to all bloggers, or all bloggers in states bordering Mexico or Canada. For a while, I'll let 'em ramble on. Hey, we've already learned that teabaggers are connected to minutemen. Is anyone surprised?


I'm blogging from the den, sitting with the ancient laptop in the big easy chair, Samantha sitting near me (oops, she moved; I think noncooperation is part of her license agreement)... what scene could be more pleasant?

Well, for example, the wireless router, the wifi card in this laptop, and the wireless driver in Win XP SP3 could all actually work together. When M$ installed XP SP3 a couple years ago, they broke my wifi connection. Three subsequent exhaustive (and exhausting) web searches revealed no fix for this problem, just a lot of people asking the question.

Tonight I took the bull by the shit the horns, dug an ancient 100' Cat 5 cable out of the garage and strung it along baseboards from the office to the den. Yes, it's kind of ugly; I'll spare you a picture of it. But it does enable me to blog from the most comfortable seat in the house, and that's worth something. I could have waited another 3 or 4 years until Mr. Gate$ decided to order the problem fixed, but hey, I could be dead long before he does that...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday Sign

It's sort of like kindergarten...

... but for baby pandas, to teach them the basics, such as stripping eucalyptus leaves bamboo [h/t Anya for the correction] with their non-thumb, looking terminally cute to humans, etc. (Seriously, it's a decent Chinese restaurant; we used to go there occasionally before we grew afraid of eating food imported from China.)

Uh-Oh... Actually, A Whole Decade of Uh-Ohs

Terrance Heath of Campaign for America's Future provides us a list of "The Uh-Ohs: A Decade of Conservative Failure." And what a list it is. If that wasn't the worst decade America has ever suffered, I can't imagine what was. Read Heath's list; it is long, relentless, and pretty much incontrovertibly true, item for item. America has survived a lot over the past two centuries. Can it survive this? I doubt I'll live to find out, but if you're young, you may want to start planning to counteract everything Bush did (and Cheney obviously continues to do), or your golden years may feel leaden. Good luck.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Late Friday Samantha Blogging

Samantha shares Stella's colorful kitty holiday blanket...

Until moments before I took this pic, Samantha was comfortably snoozing away under the blanket, Stella equally comfortably sitting beside her. Once in a while, the household scene is just perfect.

'Give Me What I Want, Or I Will Kill Your Baby'

That's what Big PHrMA has said, in effect, to Obama: don't cut the period of patent protection of biologics from 12 to 10 years, or we will withdraw our support from your healthcare bill.

But remember, kids, medications are your friends...

Afterthought: Consider me as an example. There are five prescription medications I take every day, month in, month out, for my chronic conditions. All are carefully chosen to be available in generics, and in particular, to be available at $4 for a month's supply or $10 for a three months' supply. There is at least one exception for which a month's supply, even for the generic, is $24; don't ask me for an explanation. All these meds are years, in most cases, decades, out of the development phase. Profits have been made and paid, high-priced parties thrown, and laughs laughed about the expense to the poor schmoes who pay for it all. In a society truly interested in motivating the invention and development of more effective medicines, that ought to be enough.

But suppose the price of each med was $24/month. Hell, suppose it was $89 or $129/month; I've been quoted those figures for some non-generics. Suppose... this is not just a supposition; I've had it happen... suppose the prices were $500, $600, $700 a month. Guess who doesn't get his or her medication? Hint: it isn't Barack Obama, and it isn't any executive in the employ of Big PHrMA. You can read the handwriting as clearly as I can.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

China Hacks Google And Others, Pursuing... What?

UPDATE Thurs. afternoon: WSJ says the attack exploited a heretofore unknown security gap in Internet Explorer. (Which versions? not mentioned.)  Reuters says Microsoft has yet to patch the flaw. The Guardian says Verisign's iDefense Labs has stated that IP addresses indicate that the Chinese government "or its proxies" are responsible for the attack. Fun times a'comin', friends; fun times a'comin' ...

I'm not a security specialist. I have the basic knowledge a competent tapper of code has to have to avoid the most common hacks... you can't work in the industry without that basic knowledge... but I'm no specialist, and beyond the level of coding to protect a running app from a malicious user, I don't know very much.

Even so, China's hack of Google (and apparently a couple of dozen other U.S.-based companies) bugs the crap out of me. For one thing, it is not clear from public statements just how much was obtained, or what malevolent uses are being made of it. Hacks of TSP data seem particularly pernicious to me, though again, I don't know the details; it's all a gut feeling for me. Read the linked article by bmaz on Emptwheel/FDL; it's one of the more thought-provoking. And be sure to read the comments; some of the commenters appear actually to be experts in the field.

What does it all mean? It means that China's exports of tainted food are not isolated incidents of shoddy products to the larger world: they are part of a systematic effort to subvert our nation's integrity. If a country deliberately sends us dangerous foods, all the while spying on private government documents (never mind whether those documents ought to be private; National Security Letters are an issue unto themselves), what are we to take away from that country's actions?

The reaction on the part of most of the businesses involved seems to be "but there's soooo much money to be made in China!" Yes, there is... and if you're going to sell your grandchildren's future for that money, I certainly hope you got a price sufficient to ease your conscience.

Is China's behavior worse than the U.S.'s so-called counterterrorism measures? Does one nation ever deserve more contempt than another for its behavior on the international stage? I don't know. China looks pretty bad to me these days; so does America. But if we don't take adequate steps to defend ourselves... something more than collecting copies of everyone's phone calls and emails, torturing alleged terrorist suspects, etc. ... I think we may look forward to a very unpleasant future.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What Am I To Say...

You say "tomato," I say "tomahto" ...

H/T TPM, above an article on Tea Party Nation's loss of sponsorship. Apparently this is/was one of those sponsors; see TPM for details. I'll wager he's as bright as, say, Sarah Palin...

Update a few minutes later: as I reread the article at TPM, it is not at all clear to me whether this individual is the sponsor discussed in the nearby text, or merely a protester with a sign guaranteed to make you spew your coffee.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Campaign Finance Law In Danger

If Zachary Roth of TPM is correct about a coming Supreme Court ruling, we could find ourselves in a sort of corporate heaven in which corp's could contribute unlimited amounts of campaign money to candidates:

The Supreme Court could rule this morning on a case that may radically reshape our campaign-finance laws, opening the door for unrestricted amounts of corporate money to flow into American politics.
In a nutshell: The FEC ruled that the conservative group Citizens United (CU) was prohibited by the McCain-Feingold camapign-finance law from airing a negative movie about Hillary Clinton. CU received corporate donations and the movie advocated the defeat of a political candidate within 60 days of an election. CU is arguing that the FEC ruling violated its freedom of speech, and that the relevant provision of McCain-Feingold is unconstitutional.

I have long since given up attempting to predict how this Court will rule on constitutional issues, because their rulings have shown so little relationship to precedent or even to typical conservative/liberal splits in the votes. And the whole notion of "corporate personhood" still boggles my mind. But one fact is indisputable: if the Court rules to allow greater or unlimited corporate contributions to candidates on a First Amendment basis, both the First Amendment and participation in politics by natural persons are dead, and we may as well all hang up our keyboards.

Summary of HCR Status

Jon Walker of FDL offers us a sort of editorial summary of the status of various proposed (and ignored) healthcare reform legislation, ranked from "The Perfect" to "The Bad." If you participate in the debate as infrequently as I do these days, it's worth reading as a rough framework for evaluating what comes next.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bryan Faces Network Difficulties

Bryan of Why Now? reports in  an email a comment on his Internet provider troubles:

OT:Steve, I'm not stuck on an ice floe in the middle of the bayou, but the iguanas with H1bs who power my DSL are all pining for the fjords or something. I have been without a connection since Thursday afternoon, and it looks like Monday night before it might be back on.

Over 100 hours of down time is not exactly professional level service.

I borrowed a Mac on a cable modem, that's how bad it is.
This highfalutin' hi-tech world we supposedly inhabit still apparently contains quite a few people barely able to put on their socks when they find them. I've had an ISP like that in the past; I know just how Bryan feels. Try visiting his place tomorrow.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

'Harass Sarah'

Hey, don't look at me... it's a (ahem) Palin-drome.

(H/T ellroon.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Will Work For Health Insurance, Um, I Mean, Health Care

Please read Marcy Wheeler's article at Firedoglake about the deficiencies of some self-proclaimed healthcare reform advocates' notions of "affordability." Face it: a plan that leaves out any substantial fraction of Americans, no matter how it makes the cut, causes the whole reform effort to be more expensive for everyone, including those who are in fact covered. Most of the economies of scale can be obtained only by universal coverage, but some supporters of "a plan by SOTU-time at any cost" seem to have omitted a few basic facts from their analyses. Wheeler's article relates to an article on "affordability" (a word one can apparently define to one's taste and economic class) as analyzed by authors from Gruber (MIT) and Seif (Harvard). See, in particular, what Wheeler notes that those authors omit: simple facts such as the very similar Massachusetts state plan, under which something like 21 percent of participants find themselves forced to forgo necessary medical care for financial reasons. Does this sound like reform to you?

Down, Down, Down

It feels strange to sit in the den window looking out on the patio, from morning into afternoon, as the temperature drops from 32°F at the moment to its predicted low of 20°F tonight.

And I tend to believe it will get that low. Why? Samantha loves to sit on a big green ottoman Stella placed in that window for her enjoyment, staring out at everything going on behind the house... stirring creatures (probably including mice), rustling dead leaves, clanging wind chimes and flapping cloth kitty banners, all driven by wind, wind and more wind, almost every day since we've moved here... but not today. Today, Samantha abandoned her post as too cold to be worth the trouble, moving to a fleece blanket on a bed against an interior wall. That's what kind of night... what kind of weekend... we have in store.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bill Bates At 90

My father would have turned 90 years old today (Thursday). No one in our family on either side ever lived that long, but still we celebrate Dad's birthdays, even if he actually experienced only 75 of those anniversaries. As you can see in this picture, Dad was editor of his college newspaper, The College Star at Southwest Texas State Teachers' College (since renamed twice, now Texas State University), just before W.W. II.

I've thought a bit today about the differences in political usages from his day to mine. Both of us lived in (in his case, through) a depression. In Dad's case, the Great Depression rendered him a Democrat, since there were really only two choices... no Yellow Dogs, Blue Dogs, New Dogs, etc., just Democrats and Republicans. He was an FDR admirer; I grew up hearing Dad's tales of what FDR did to alleviate the worst of the depression. Unsurprisingly, most of the tales turned out to be true.

These days, his son has been vehemently wrested from his former status as a Yellow Dog Democrat... the Yellow Doggerel Democrat, in fact, though I coined the phrase after Dad's passing... into some undetermined flavor of independent... I don't have a name for the flavor, but it resembles that of Sen. Bernie Sanders a great deal more than Sen. Joe LIEberman. Dad encountered very little of Sen. LIEberman, but I am certain he would have detested him... not for his conservative politics; Dad was amazingly tolerant of political differences, but for his pervasive, ongoing dishonesty. Mom always taught me, "be honest"; Dad taught me, "be more than honest; your sincerity and veracity must be beyond question when you deal with politics." Dad would shake his head in dismay at today's political realities.

Nor would he have been interested in a third party, or in someone such as Sanders, who seems anything but reluctant to be known as a Socialist. This is where the generational difference in usage appears: to him, probably thanks to the efforts of J. Edgar Hoover, "Socialist" was too close to "Communist." To me, it's just another descriptor, one that may apply legitimately to me (though without the capital S) now that I am no longer officially a Democrat.

As you can tell, I miss Dad a lot; we had some great political discussions. But he is beyond politics now; his own and Mom's physical remains are in urns in my living room. Thus pass the glories of the world. Happy Birthday, Dad, if you still exist in some form, time and place to receive the greeting.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

AFL-CIO's President Trumka Arrested During Hotel Boycott

Michael Whitney of Firedoglake has details; no need for me to repeat them here. Count me as one who believes... strongly... that the nation's long-term survival as a productive economy and a viable community for workers to live in must have an active, aggressive union movement. In pursuit of some very traditional labor issues, e.g., who gets what benefits, unions must engage in dramatic public action; I'm sorry, but polite negotiation at the table simply hasn't done the job. Kudos to Richard Trumka for refusing to back down... it's damned well time unions and their leaders started drawing lines.

Full disclosure: I am a member in good standing of AFM Local 65-699, the local of the musicians' union. I can physically no longer perform, but the nominal fee to belong is both my statement of support and my thanks for the years in which they actually confronted employers on my behalf and that of many other musicians. If anyone tells you unions don't do anything anymore, or we don't need them anymore, point them to the episode in San Francisco. Or have them talk to me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Don't You Feel Safer?

The TSA shows evidence that some of its agents have gone full-blown fucking nuts. Fox:

TSA Confiscates Boy's Play-Doh at New Orleans Airport
Tuesday, January 05, 2010  Associated Press

ST. LOUIS, Mo. —  Extra security at the airport in New Orleans has cost one small boy a Christmas gift from his grandma.

On a post-Christmas flight out of New Orleans last week, the TSA confiscated young Josh Pitney’s Play-Doh.
Play-Doh. Somebody please explain to me how Play-Doh is indistinguishable from, say, C4. Play-Doh is NOT on the TSA list of prohibited items and substances; the parents checked before they departed. TSA asserts that this places the matter at the discretion of the TSA agents on the line. It seems that rules are meaningless, and there is nothing you can reliably take with you when you fly. Is this what you expected in the United States of America in 2010? Welcome to our brave new world.

Not A Good Day So Far

This was inevitable at some point: I woke up this morning (insert blues riff here) to find that I have the same $%^&* cold that Stella had for about three weeks. The air outside is actually better than it was yesterday... lots of "green" panels in the Houston area page for TCEQ numbers... but I feel a lot worse, throat and sinus alike.

I'd just go back to bed, but we hired our lawn guy (a very bright, capable fellow) to weatherize our house this morning, so I have to stay up awaiting him. Stella has prepared a task list for him, the poor fellow. :-) Most of the essentials are done; the cars have antifreeze, the plants are to be moved into the garage, there's food in the pantry for a few days, and (perhaps most important) the heating system seems to be working fine (crosses fingers). Stella is in "project mode"; she's, ah, quick to respond to anything I say. This, too, shall pass. This morning, the temp is only 31°F  (-1&degC); it could be a lot worse... and Thursday night it's supposed to get a lot worse, with sleet and conditions one would just as soon not go out in.

As I glance around, it looks as if many of you in the South are in similar circumstances. Please feel free to report in in the comments; I'd be glad to hear from you.

Monday, January 4, 2010


That was the first word I groaned when I awoke this morning. People are supposed to breathe air, but I don't think they're equipped to breathe this stuff.This morning it's foggy and smoggy and guaranteed to interact unhealthily with the lining of your lungs. The temp isn't supposed to drop until tonight, and this first of at least two freezes this week is supposed to be relatively mild (29°F), but the crap in the air pretty well guarantees that I will be sick from now until then. This is not the post-holiday I had in mind. How's your encounter with "winter"?

Aside to Minnesotans who think we're wimps down here: I'll trade you a day, one of your early winter days for one of our 100°F/100% days. Enjoy drinking your T-shirt!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Please Give Up The @#$%^ Corporate Boycotts!

A couple of months ago, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey wrote a wildly über-libertarian op-ed in the WSJ mocking people who wanted genuine healthcare reform and suggesting that each of us has the opportunity to improve our health by simply... you guessed it... shopping at his stores. Don't expect the feral gummint to solve everything for you, the ruggedly good-looking, probably disgustingly healthy and well-insured Austin resident told us.

That did it for a lot of us. People announced they would not shop at Whole Paycheck Foods for a period of time varying with the individual. I said I would boycott until Congress passed healthcare legislation, for good or ill. They passed it for ill, and Obama will doubtless sign a truly oppressive version of it this year, but I was looking forward to a few flavors I can get only through Whole Paycheck, and had made a list for a trip there tomorrow.

Then Blue Texan of Firedoglake informed us all today that Mackey is a global warming denier. Writing in a post on Firedoglake, Blue Texan strongly implies we should continue the boycott.

BT, did I mention that Whole Paycheck is geographically the single closest grocery store to my home?

BT, I probably also forgot to mention that I am mobility-impaired. Driving six blocks is difficult for me. Driving six miles... well, I can expect to be laid up for a few days if I have to do that.

BT observes, correctly IMHO, that John Mackey hasn't yet realized that he gains no advantage as a grocer by preaching to his customer base. When will you, BT, realize the same thing about your preaching to your "customer base," your fellow activists?

In the era of globalization and corporate consolidation, boycotts seldom work. Let's see. For possibly 10 years now, I've boycotted Wal-Mart, a store whose bad corporate behavior exceeds all normal humanitarian bounds. The result of my boycott and everyone else's? The bad corporate behavior continues, and Mall-Wart, not five years ago, built a new store about a mile from me.

I boycotted Target stores a few years back over their alleged bad relations with charities that had connections with Planned Parenthood. I obtained my info from a usually reliable source. She was wrong, just completely wrong. The result of all the Target boycotts (I wasn't the only one who did so)? A new SuperTarget opened about 15 blocks from me approximately four years ago.

Gosh, those boycotts really were effective, weren't they? Oh, yeah. They were effective at making a low-income person have to stretch his low income even further, effective at making it even more difficult for a vegetarian in the city to obtain the food he needs, effecting at hammering on a cripple. Oh, yes, that was effective.

Given that organized boycotts are, on the whole, ineffective at obtaining the desired result... can't we citizens, especially activists, just shit-can the damned things, and spend our money and efforts on something that works, like buying a couple of members of Congress? [/snark]

The Cheney Of Command

Jeff Danziger names his terrifying cartoon exactly that... set down your coffee or beer.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Show Your 'Nads For Security

Via WaPo, we learn that former DHS secretary Michael Chertoff really wants airport security guards to see all air passengers in graphic detail:

Ex-Homeland Security chief head said to abuse public trust by touting body scanners

By Kimberly Kindy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 1, 2010

Since the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day, former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff has given dozens of media interviews touting the need for the federal government to buy more full-body scanners for airports.

What he has made little mention of is that the Chertoff Group, his security consulting agency, includes a client that manufactures the machines. The relationship drew attention after Chertoff disclosed it on a CNN program Wednesday, in response to a question.

An airport passengers' rights group on Thursday criticized Chertoff, who left office less than a year ago, for using his former government credentials to advocate for a product that benefits his clients.

 Ooooh, yeah. The responses practically write themselves, don't they?

  • A clever male passenger might use plastic creativity to display an immense member in the full body scan (that is, if he were willing to risk jail, and I think it might almost be worth it);
  • A woman might superpose a dollar sign in three strategic places (again with the caveat about jail time);
  • A particularly clever hacker might manage to load some replacement of the displayed image, say, an effectively naked image of Michael Chertoff;
Add your own ideas... this is fun and not difficult, if you wave away technological and legal difficulties.

If a passenger decided to traverse the security frame naked, a lot of narrow-minded right wingnuts would object vociferously that exposing oneself is against the law. One wonders if they distinguish the difference between someone standing facing the open outer front door of his home, wearing what he was born with, and someone else staring in through a window of the same house at that same man naked in the shower. Is that such a difficult distinction?

"Those that would trade a little privacy for a few TSA employees' getting their jollies in a day's work and a security consulting corp raking in millions in taxpayers' bucks shall lose both their privacy and their tax dollars, and deserve neither." Isn't that what the venerable Benjamin Franklin said?

HaloScan Soon Gone. HaloScan Soon Gone.

Is there an Echo in here? NO!

This is the day says they'll turn HaloScan off on my old site. Having encountered first JS-Kit's intermediate mess and later JS-Kit's Chaos, um, I mean, Echo on a few friends' blogs, I thought I'd do us all a favor and tell them to go ahead and pull the trigger on that gun they held to my head. I don't appreciate extortion.

I modified the old site so that comment links, at least on the current home page, launch a popup with instructions on how to request a comment from an old post. You're requesting it of a human... me... so be polite. There are a few references to HaloScan still embedded in the code over there; please forgive any oddities you find. I'm not being especially diligent about it; blogs are supposed to have a certain forward motion in time, and I believe my time is better spent on this new one. As I find stuff I can reasonably fix or port, I'll do it, but it's low on the priority list.

With luck, this will be the last ref on this blog to... that commenting system, what was its name?

Friday, January 1, 2010

... In With The New

New Year's Day has turned into one of those crystal-perfect days, sunshine with no precipitation of any sort, just chilly enough to make one reach for a jacket, lots of light coming from all the windows in the house instead of all the electric lights... the sort of day one lives for, the sort of day one hopes for on a holiday. Call me seasonally affected if you want; I'm happy when it's sunny.

We spent a good deal of the morning working our way through Stella's rather sizable collection of recordings of klezmer music. It makes me feel like dancing (no, I don't), or playing tuba (no way), or dragging my childhood clarinet out of its case to attempt some of the instrumental leads in those klezmer dances (but I've already confronted my diminishing ability to do that, in the previous post). So I sit and tap my foot like any idiot enthusiast who never picked up an instrument in his life. But that's OK; I had a good two decades working with Isabelle Ganz in one of her numerous groups covering various aspects of the Jewish literature, in that case, Sephardic music, the music of the diaspora. I had a good ride performing that literature, and I can scarcely complain now if a few formerly working parts don't work as well. Fortunately, we live in an era when a CD or an .mp3 file can bring me Andy Statman and crew, so the music is neither gone nor forgotten.

And in a way, that's the point, for an aging musician who performs music in some specific historical tradition: the continuity, the preservation, the ongoing spinning of the creative threads that originated in a bygone time, transcend the details of when or why I decided to hang up my axe. There are plenty of younger, healthier folk with axes they clearly know how to use at least as well as I ever did. No performer ever carried a tradition by himself or herself; no tradition ever carried itself without a critical mass of involved performers. Someone will do this. That's very important to me. And if my hearing holds up, I can continue enjoying the music without expending the effort... how's that for a lazy man's attitude?

May 2010 be your best year yet, and the first of many good years.

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes