Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day

My father, William M. Bates, USN:

He was the gunnery officer on a troop landing ship. Yes, he was there at Normandy on D-Day, and once observed to me that however much he was being shot at, dodging bullets and shrapnel (mostly successfully) as he directed fire control, the troops actually landing that day had it far, far worse than he did. My thanks to every one of them who served then, and to those who serve today.

War is unpleasant, nasty business... Dad emphasized to me that it was anything but glorious... but we all owe our lives to the men and women who prepare for it. Today is their day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Esther Gets Equal Time

It wasn't easy to get a photo of Esther, who is always either in motion or hidden, so I settled for one in which the green-eye is fairly evident. That's a shame, because her real eye color is downright golden most of the time:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Scared(y) Cat Blogging

The kitties have arrived! Esther is so freaked that she spends a lot of time hiding, so kitten Lily has the honors of the first web appearance:

Why scared? We were the ones who were scared! Shortly after Lily's arrival, after walking around mewing constantly for a few minutes, she hid and went silent. We hunted for her for close to an hour, increasingly frightened that she had gotten trapped and perhaps harmed... or worse. Eventually, Lily coughed, making a classic cat barfing noise (sorry to be so explicit), and both of us heard it. Soon she was found, beneath a bookcase and behind a stack of wall mirrors we never put up. Stella wept while we searched; I cried when she was found... what a relief!

Lily is a sweet, curious, active, playful kitten, and I hear Esther is similarly well-disposed. She'll be around eventually.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

If We End Up Without Power In A Storm...

... I'll probably send one of these:
Test short post, pls ignore
This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T
The above short post was emailed from my cell phone. The limit appears to be the old-fashioned 160 characters of text messages of days of yore. If we are without power in a hurricane, and if my cell phone has a charge, I'll try to post our status this way.

Quiet Tonight... Kitties Tomorrow!

Sometime tomorrow, through Stella's efforts and with blessings from the spirits of Tabitha and Samantha, our household is scheduled to be two cats richer. All I'll say at this point is that one is a kitten and the other is its mother, and I am accustoming myself to the notion of a few more claw marks and bite marks in my hand. Watch this blog for details... and maybe even pictures!

Letter: Who's Doing What, And How, Responding To BP Disaster

Please read this letter to Josh Marshall from a reader with apparent expertise in offshore drilling and insight on the situation in the Gulf of Mexico. It's short, and well worth your time.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Adventure In Computer Disaster Recovery: Contacts

How many times in your life have you keyed in all your contacts, when no import from your previous contact management software was available? I believe this is my fourth or fifth.

I abandoned Evolution for Mozilla Thunderbird, which is what I used on Windows. My only file backup of my contacts is in an Outlook.pst file on an external hard drive; Thunderbird can (theoretically) import those... but only on a Windows computer with Outlook installed! Having an Outlook.pst file alone is not enough!

All I could find is a printed copy of the list from 2005. That, with an occasional assist from my cell phone and from the few hundred emails in the cloud (IMAP), enables me to (groan) re-create the contacts list in Thunderbird's address book, which is decent for the purpose.

Excuse me now. After an afternoon spent, I'm only through the B's...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Truly From The Depths, Via PBS

(I hid the widget because it was taking far too much bandwidth supporting the live video feed. Please visit PBS to see the widget.)

H/T Bryan of Why Now?

Meet Ranger...

... Texas Walker:

Ranger is another new necessary contraption in my life. Ain't technology grand? You should see this one fold... one hopes not under me. What I've learned from this one is that my arms are really, really weak.

Monday, May 24, 2010

First Photo Posted From Linux

Appropriately enough, from the set that lives on my main CF card on the camera...

Bill Shows His True Colors

... in the Arkansas U.S. Senate race, of course: "Bill Clinton To Campaign For Blanche Lincoln In Arkansas". If you ever wondered what kind of "Democrat" Bill is...

New State Motto: 'In Texas, You're In An Ignorant State'

The Texas SBOE actually did it:
Texas Board Of Ed Approves Right-Wing History Textbook Standards (VIDEO)

Justin Elliott | May 21, 2010, 6:36PM

After months of debate and national controversy, the Texas State Board of Education Friday afternoon passed new high school textbook standards that recast U.S. history from the point of view of a movement conservative.

The AP reports on the 9-5 vote by the Republican-dominated board:

The partisan board has amended or watered down the teaching of the civil rights movement, slavery, America's relationship with the U.N. and hundreds of other items. ... They dictate how political events and figures will be taught to some 4.8 million schoolchildren in Texas and beyond for the next decade.

Sigh. Read the sorry details at the linked site.

Lowden Clear: No Chickens At Polling Places In Nevada

Suppressing free speech, are they? Chick-ennnn!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Virus Strikes Laptop, Gets Past eSet NOD32 - UPDATED

I've been hammered by a virus on my laptop. I'm blogging this from Stella's machine, which is on a separate network. Yes, I was doing everything right: WinXP fully patched, eSet NOD32 fully up-to-date. No, I didn't visit any pr0n sites or other "untoward" sites. The laptop is trashed and will probably have to be reformatted. My "backup" is in the cloud these days; I just hope everything is out there. If I'm away for a while, you'll know why. If not, it'll be because my desktop computer is unaffected... and I haven't turned it on recently, so I don't know. I hope this sucker does not hit your machine!

Oops. Please see my comments on the attached thread. It is not ESET NOD32's fault after all!
UPDATE: Worse and worse. Both computers on my network are infected. (As noted before, Stella is on a separate network.) I am beginning to think the NOD32 expiration date was faked by the virus, and my new installation of NOD32 compromised in the install itself today; the date was not the one I had placed in my calendar. I don't know when I'll have regular access again; I'll probably borrow Stella's computer in the middle of the night occasionally. The virus is very thorough; e.g., it even blocks a command-prompt MAIL command... but PING works, proving that the internet connection att a low level is alive. I need to decide what to do next.

UPDATE: I'm back on the 'net with my ancient Ubuntu Linux computer, per Badtux's instructions. Now to install the latest Ubuntu 10.4 for Desktop and all associated s/w. This may blow me off the web again for a while, but it has to be done. See you soon, I hope.

UPDATE: Ubuntu Linux 10.04 Desktop is up and running. Most of the changes from the old version make it easier. I still have lots of exploring and installing to do. But at least I'm not stranded as I was before.

UPDATE: EVOLUTION sucks, and no, I'm not a creationist. This Evolution is the featured preinstalled email s/w in Ubuntu Linux 10.04, and I suppose it's not terrible, but today I replaced it with Mozilla Thunderbird, which is the companion to Mozilla Firefox. I've used Thunderbird for a while on Windows; it's a good interface. Now if I can just somehow import my address book from an old Outlook.pst file on a backup disk...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Malapropism Of The Day

... is from sports lawyer Roger I. Abrams, about the difficulty of explaining high court decisions to the press and to the academic community:
... I have tried for thirty years to breach that gap. ...
 Hmmm. That sounds painful. I don't think I'll be breaching any gaps today, and I hope Mr. Abrams decides to bridge them instead...

A Feature Becomes A Bug

Which part of the caption on this label do you think is about to be yanked from future printings? Yep... that's what I think, too. I mean, really... not just "sea salt," but "PURE sea salt..."

Doc Now, Blog Later

I have a doctor's appointment today, Thursday. I'll be back to the blog later in the day. Thanks for your patients, err, patience.

Good news... my foot has actually improved, for the first time since the current round of problems began. If this continues, who knows... my attitude may improve as well.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Too Many Ironies In The Foyer

Actually some of them have boldly traversed the living room and come to visit me in the den.

Today was my day to check and replace batteries in the devices we will need if a hurricane (or two, or three) comes here: flashlights, camp lanterns, and of course an old battery-powered AM/FM radio, picked up a decade or more ago for $5 at a pharmacy and apparently invulnerable to all the damage I've handed it over the years. It seems there's nothing that can go wrong with it that cannot be remedied by four new AA batteries and some double-sided Scotch tape. We had a fancier one during Rita, but it has since gone the way of all small consumer electronics. No, this tiny radio was our lifeline during Ike (after the batteries quit on Stella's battery-powered TV... i.e., after about half an hour), and it is an admirable if battered old device.

I remembered from our Hurricane Rita experience that one AM station simulcast the sound of the local CBS affiliate TV station, which often had the best hurricane coverage because one of their meteorologists (elderly and since retired) had actually been a bigwig in the National Hurricane Center. So I went looking today to see if there is still such an AM station. I didn't find it, at least not designated as such, but I did find the oldest AM station in Houston, News Radio 740, which happens to be the officially designated outlet for hurricane announcements in the area.

It also happens to be the home of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, etc. etc. ad nauseam. All that and hurricanes too... just call the station Disaster Central.

Aside: if you use AA- or AAA-powered devices, and we use a lot of 'em, look into the Ray-o-vac rechargeable NiMH with I-C3 technology, and use a charger also designated for I-C3 compatibility. Such batteries and chargers recognize each other (yes, there's a port of some sort in the battery); the charger cranks up a super-fast recharge mode that charges the battery in 15 minutes. No, really; 15 minutes. The charge lasts a long time under the load of (say) a camera, and the damned batteries don't go bad... pretty much ever. I bought my first with a digital camera 5 years ago; they're still going. The only problem is that they're hard to find... one store in Houston, a specialty battery store, carries them; often, though, they have to be ordered online at a hefty price. They're worth it... and that's an understatement.

Government To Oil Plume Discoverers: STFU

Once again we are confronted with an instance in which "our" government is manifestly acting in a way contrary to the public interest. Here's Jim White of Firedoglake:

On Saturday, the New York Times brought the world’s attention to the discovery by a team of researchers on the the vessel Pelican that there are large underwater plumes of oil emanating from the Deepwater Horizon spill. Remarkably, the response of the government to the attention focused on this discovery has been to tell the researchers to stop granting interviews with the press. At the same time, the blog on which the researchers had been providing updates has also fallen silent since Saturday.
 Please read the post yourself.

The government agency apparently compelling the Pelican team to decline to inform the public is NOAA. That agency also happens to contain the National Weather Service, which in turn fields the National Hurricane Center. Thus it is inevitably one of the most important sources of storm information for those of us on the Gulf Coast as yet another hurricane season begins.

Will NOAA tell meteorologists and hurricane researchers to STFU rather than reveal something unpleasant to the public about a storm in progress? Just how far does this government suppression of essential information go, and who benefits from it?

Afterthought: NOAA's excuse? not enough ship time available on its limited research vessels to pursue this "academic" matter. Right.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Letter To Texas Education Agency Rules Committee

In response to a request for comments on a set of SBOE proposals to rewrite the requirements of the basic curriculum K-12 in a mode suitable only for right-wing zealots and fundamentalist self-proclaimed "Christians" who, for a very short time yet, own the SBOE:

Subject: SBOE TAKS rewrite: I OPPOSE the proposed changes
From: [me]

This is in regard to the proposed adoption of "Text of Proposed Revisions to 19 TAC Chapter 113. Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Social Studies" and related SBOE proposals. I OPPOSE the proposed changes as they stand.

I am chagrined at the apparently willful exclusion of a great number of traditional American and Texan figures, and all broader progressive concepts of American thought, from the curriculum proposals. The failure even to mention our current President Barack Obama is unconscionable. The omission of Thomas Jefferson is particularly grievous, and may reasonably be called an un-American gesture on the part of the proposal's authors. The American Revolution was not fought exclusively by radical Christian conservatives, nor was the Constitution constructed without the input of some very progressive individuals, and the school children of the great State of Texas are ill-served by the havoc wrought by the rewriters of this curriculum document and related documents who omitted virtually all such figures.

This is a baldfaced attempt to inject right-wing politics and religion into a public educational process that is properly politically neutral and, in accordance with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, free of specific religious teachings. In short, I oppose utterly the adoption of these extremist changes to a system of education that has produced many fine citizens among Texans.

Very truly yours,

Stephen S. Bates

As the son of a man who fought these same battles about 30 years ago before an earlier Texas SBOE... and won his battles... I cannot tell you how much I resent the bastards who are trying to eviscerate the public schools in Texas. The chief culprit is Don McLeroy, a right-wing nutcase who has already lost his primary battle to remain on the Board next year, but is still wreaking havoc in behalf of zealots who do NOT represent anywhere nearly a majority of Texans of any political stripe. If you live in Texas and would like to write your own letter, I'd be grateful. As always, be polite... but don't pull any punches.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Oh, Crap... Surely Not Google!

Whatever Happened To 'Don't Be Evil'?
Google Private Data Collection: Company ADMITS Snooping Via WiFi Networks
Huffington Post    |  Bianca Bosker  First Posted: 05-14-10 05:11 PM   |   Updated: 05-14-10 05:40 PM

In a blog post published Friday, Google admitted to 'mistakenly' collecting sensitive private data sent over WiFi networks.

Germany's data protection authority (DPA) requested Google audit the WiFi data collected by its Street View cars. The audit revealed that contrary to the company's claims, for at least three years, Google has been collecting payload data (the information users send over a wireless network) from non-password-protected WiFi networks. A programming error from 2006 was at fault.

So it was "unintentional." And they're gonna delete it as soon as they can identify the toxic stuff. I wonder how long one or more Google employees has been aware of it... and whether any of them sampled it for their own purposes.

Street View is kind of spooky anyway. In the early days, I played with it endlessly, actually using it legitimately a couple of times (finding and viewing a camera repair shop I had not been to before, showing a friend one rent house into which we might move). Then I realized I could ALMOST see my own apt.; it was just barely too far off a main street. I'd be willing to bet the "almost" has been remedied by now. But I tried to reassure myself by the real fuzziness of the pics, and by Google's "don't be evil" philosophy.

Now I wonder why I was ever so trusting...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Eight-Inch Tarballs Wash Up On La. Coast

Port Fouchon, La. is reporting eight-inch tarballs washing up on its coast. I wonder how many gigabytes of sludge an eight-inch tarball contains...

What's the news reaction here in Oil City, USA? Well, the Chron seems to be pretending it never happened. Don't expect to find much about it on the front page. If you're in Galveston, try the Guidry News site; the Galveston Daily News seems to be ignoring the spill, at least on the front page. Oh, no no no, the spill isn't coming here, and denial is a river in Egypt an oil slick in Galveston Bay.

Look, folks. This is real, and this is right now. No amount of wishing will make it go away. What will be left of our beaches once it's all washed ashore is anybody's guess at this point, but I doubt we'll see any headlines reading "Spill Damage Not as Great as Expected." Well, maybe in a BP press release..

UPDATE: Perhaps I didn't make it clear why residents of the Texas coast should not be so cavalier about the possibility of the spill coming here. Note that scientists in Mexico have concern that the spill could come there in August in response to seasonally changing currents. A spill that lands in Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and (notwithstanding Bloomberg's omission) Florida cannot possibly avoid Texas altogether. This is the whole Gulf Coast we're talking about; no one skates free.

Transocean: Last 7 Hours Of Data Before Explosion Missing

As always, among bloggers, Bryan of Why Now? has the best ongoing commentary on the spill; there's not much I can add to what he posts. But I ran across this article on HuffPo that is an indicator of how things may go as serious attempts are made to assign accountability:
Last Seven Hours Of Data Missing From Deepwater Horizon Rig
ALLEN G. BREED and CURT ANDERSON | 05/14/10 09:15 AM | AP

While some data were being transmitted to shore for safekeeping right up until the blast, officials from Transocean, the rig owner, told Congress that the last seven hours of its information are missing and that all written logs were lost in the explosion. Earlier tests that suggested explosive gas was leaking were preserved.

The gap poses a mystery for investigators: What decisions were made – and what warnings might have been ignored?

"There is some delay in the replication of our data, so our operational data, our sequence of events ends at 3 o'clock in the afternoon on the 20th," Steven Newman, president and CEO of Transocean Ltd, told a Senate panel. The rig blew up at 10 p.m., killing 11 workers and unleashing the gusher.

Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents several rig workers involved in the accident, questioned whether what he called "the phantom test" was even performed.

Ah, yes: Nixon's "18½-minute gap in the tapes," Karl Rove's "missing" emails, and now this. Forgive me if I disbelieve on its face the explanation Transocean gives: if that data is missing, it's because somebody deleted it. It's going to be a looong battle, in court and in the inevitable PR wars...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sign: 'CAUTION: Walk On Water SLOWLY'

Here's another great sign from Jonathan Turley, who remarks that it must have originated with lifeguards at the Sea of Galilee.

Afterthought: or maybe it's advice to shorebirds on beaches impacted by the BP/Halliburton/Transocean oil spill...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Dead Begin To Wash Up

Bryan of Why Now? (the best single source on the web today for ongoing basic information about the oil spill and its consequences) tells us that first sea turtles, then dead dolphins have begun washing up onshore, quite possibly as a direct or indirect consequence of the awful stuff in the water. And he points out that BP and the government are deliberately blocking academic researchers' access to the spill response... water samples, known facts, etc.:
Researchers from universities across Florida claim they are being locked out of Gulf oil spill response efforts by BP and state and federal agencies.

Since the April 20 spill, BP and government agencies have hampered their efforts to secure information about the spill and scientific data, such as water oil samples, collected during response efforts, the academics said.
"Public access is a problem," [Florida state university Chancellor Frank T.] Brogan said. "The inability to acquire data from the organizations involved in this can be frustrating."
"They won't even tell us where they're sampling, none the less what they're sampling or testing for," [UWF center director Richard] Snyder said.
Got that? "It's not your coast. It's not your beach. It's not your marine populations dying and washing ashore. Just shut the fuck up and trust us."

I suppose it is the nature of our times that the people most likely to be able to assess the information and address the biological aspects of the problem are totally shut out of the process... hey, there's no profit for BP for what they do, and probably no votes for the pols in what they say. So BP and the government send a hearty "fuck you" to the public and the experts; their help is emphatically not wanted.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Sen. Jefferson Beauregard "Jeff" Sessions III (R-AL) is in many ways the perfect vapid partisan hack. For example, in Bush's preznitcy, he pushed for exceedingly rapid confirmation of Supreme Court pick Samuel Alito... "You don't have to read everything he's written," Sessions jawboned other senators.

But what about Obama's choice of Sonia Sotomayor? Said Sessions, "There are 3,000 or 4,000 cases that are part of her 17-year record. ... They need to be examined, and they will be examined. I don't think it's good to rush." 

But this time... perhaps in deference to Sessions's all-but-self-admitted reading problems... Obama nominated Elena Kagan, who has not been a judge, and hence does not have a case record in the thousands. So what's Sessions's complaint this time? "Her record is very thin, there's no doubt about that." 

What a damned hypocrite!

And hence my short verse to the senator...

For Senator Beauregard,
I fear I have Leauregard,
Perhaps even Neauregard!

- Steve Bates

Monday, May 10, 2010

New Times, New Rhymes

Here's an old scout camp song, just the way I remember it from my youth... well, maybe I revised it a bit to reflect current events...

           Old Scout Camp Song
         Updated For New Times

There's a hole in the bottom of the sea,
There's a hole in the bottom of the sea,
There's a hole,
There's a hole,
There's a hole in the bottom of the sea!

There's a drill in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
There's a drill in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
There's a drill,
There's a drill,
There's a drill in the hole in the bottom of the sea!

There's a pipe on the drill in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
(etc.) ...

There's some oil in the pipe on the drill in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
(etc.) ...

There's a leak of the oil in the pipe on the drill in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
(etc.) ...

There's a spark at the leak of the oil in the pipe on the drill in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
(etc.) ...

There's a BOOM! at the spark at the leak of the oil in the pipe on the drill in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
(etc.) ...

There's a slick from the BOOM! at the spark at the leak of the oil in the pipe on the drill in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
(etc.) ...

There's a beach 'neath the slick from the BOOM! at the spark at the leak of the oil in the pipe on the drill in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
(etc.) ...

There's a bird on the beach 'neath the slick from the BOOM! at the spark at the leak of the oil in the pipe on the drill in the hole in the bottom of the sea,
(etc.) ...

(And if BP and Halliburton get their way, once again...)

There's a hole in the bottom of the sea,
There's a hole in the bottom of the sea,
There's a hole,
There's a hole,
There's a hole in the bottom of the sea!

- Steve Bates

Whose Side Is HHS On, Anyway? Apparently Not Ours

Astonishing. HHS helpfully points out to insurance companies how they can avoid covering young people on their parents' policies, and reminds them that they can charge more for such coverage if they do decide to offer it:
Limits to be placed on insurance coverage for dependents

By David S. Hilzenrath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 10, 2010; 9:12 AM

Regulations drafted by the Obama administration show that there is a limit to the new requirement that health plans allow families to keep young adults on their policies up to age 26.

"The new policy applies only to health insurance plans that offer dependent coverage in the first place: while most insurers and employer-sponsored plans offer dependent coverage, there is no requirement to do so," the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Monday.

In addition, families can be charged more for coverage of the young adult to the extent "similarly situated" individuals can be required to pay more under their health plan, HHS said. The young adults must be offered all of the benefit packages available to "similarly situated" individuals who did not lose coverage because their dependent status ended, HHS said.


Will someone please remind me what Congress was doing during all those months it claimed to be working on health care "reform"? and what in hell HHS is doing advising insurance companies how to swindle us more effectively?

(H/T David Dayen on Firedoglake.)

Al Gore On The Global Consequences Of The Spill

Here. A man who could, if he chose, be shouting "I TOLD YOU SO!" at all his doubters chooses instead to explain the science of global climate change to the audience of people who actually give a damn. I hope that includes you. Please read Gore's article.

(H/T Fallenmonk.)

Elena Kagan

CNN (among many others) reports that Obama has chosen to nominate current Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice John Paul Stevens, who is retiring. The linked article has a thumbnail biography of Kagan, who is certainly credentialed... former dean of Harvard Law School, clerk for Thurgood Marshall, etc. ... but has little public record to show what manner of judge she is. For a more extensive bio, see the wiki.

But none of the bio's contain any depth on her opinions on case law, the law review articles etc. that would give one a clue whether she is anything like Justice Stevens, whose vote on the court she is replacing. For some clue about that, turn to Marvin Ammon, writing on Balkinization. Ammon examines a number of First-Amendment-related cases, including Citizens United (which Kagan argued in her role as SG... in other words, it was her job to hold those positions, not an expression of personal conviction), and his conclusion, though he still hedges any real prediction of future behavior of Kagan on the Court, is not good news for those of us who prefer an expansive view of the First Amendment for individuals, not corporations.

Will this be the appointment that seals the current tiny conservative majority on the Court? One can hardly tell by which senators support Kagan and which do not; some GOP senators, acting like petulant two-year-olds, have already said they would oppose any nominee Obama puts up. So we have to look elsewhere for information about who Justice Kagan, if confirmed, will be on the bench. Read Ammon's position... as I say, it's not encouraging.

If Obama had any sense and any cojones, he'd nominate for Stevens's replacement an equivalent on the liberal side of Robert Bork on the conservative side. S/he wouldn't be confirmed, but such a sharp stick in the eye of the GOP Senate would serve as a splendid message, a sort of softening-up for a somewhat more moderate nominee to follow. Obama needs to stop all this conflict avoidance!

(Minor editing after initial posting. - SB)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

How Bad Is The Spill?

This bad:

A not-funny joke: Did you hear BP tried to use an improbable-looking device to compress the oil back into the hole? All they got was another tarball.

I Caught A Terrorist Who Was THIS BIG

Attorney General Eric Holder demonstrates...
(Picture via Huffington Post; source unidentified: AG Holder demonstrates his expansive view of Executive power.)


Eric Holder: Miranda Rights Should Be Modified For Terrorism Suspects
Huffington Post    |  Nico Pitney
First Posted: 05- 9-10 09:28 AM   |   Updated: 05- 9-10 09:58 AM

Attorney General Eric Holder said for the first time today on ABC's "This Week" that the Obama administration is open to modifying Miranda protections to deal with the "threats that we now face."

"The [Miranda] system we have in place has proven to be effective," Holder told host Jake Tapper. "I think we also want to look and determine whether we have the necessary flexibility -- whether we have a system that deals with situations that agents now confront. ... We're now dealing with international terrorism. ... I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public-safety exception [to the Miranda protections]. And that's one of the things that I think we're going to be reaching out to Congress, to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional, but that is also relevant to our times and the threats that we now face."


I told you: it has already begun. Is the suspect an American citizen, apprehended in America? No problem... just get Congress to change Miranda again, or some other aspect of due process, to make sure "we have the necessary flexibility" for that, too. There is nothing we cannot do if only we whack away a sufficient portion of the individual rights always accorded citizens and foreigners alike.

Will the Obama regime be content to stop with this? Noooo... you can bet good money on their abridging more rights, curtailing more civil liberties, within a week or two. A totalitarian state doesn't have to come on in a single grand coup: our liberties can die by a thousand cuts as surely as by one.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

You've Got To Be Kidding Me

Via Bryan of Why Now?, we have this news from McClatchy:
Since spill, feds have given 27 waivers to oil companies in gulf
By Marisa Taylor | McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — Since the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded on April 20, the Obama administration has granted oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico.

The waivers were granted despite President Barack Obama’s vow that his administration would launch a “relentless response effort” to stop the leak and prevent more damage to the gulf. One of them was dated Friday — the day after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he was temporarily halting offshore drilling

The exemptions, known as “categorical exclusions,” were granted by the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) and included waiving detailed environmental studies for a BP exploration plan to be conducted at a depth of more than 4,000 feet and an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. exploration plan at more 9,000 feet.

So... when President Obama ordered a halt to offshore drilling, was he just bullshitting us? Nah. He would never do that...

Res Miranda

The Obama administration is aggressively exploiting an exception to the requirement to issue a Miranda warning to terrorism suspects. A Miranda warning is, according to the case of the same name, a constitutional requirement under most circumstances; failing to administer it to a suspect can be severely damaging to the prosecution's case.

Nonetheless, several terrorism suspects have recently been questioned for a reported one to three hours before being "Mirandized." (How I hate that term, but it seems to have become standard.) The linked post... and, surprisingly, the comment thread following it... are, together, an excellent introduction to the scope of the problems involved, both practical and constitutional.

The problem I have with this is that it is another attempt to circumvent the intent of the law in pursuing terrorism charges, after eight years of mostly successful such attempts under Bush/Cheney. Now we have Obama, a self-proclaimed constitutional scholar, and Holder, his formerly respectable AG, trying to nail terrorists by playing tricks with the Bill of Rights.

That alone would be bad news. But considering both Bush's and Obama's military commissions, denial of classified evidence to defense attorneys, imprisoning people for years with no access to defense attorneys, etc., one cannot help seeing a pattern: in order to keep the GWOT going, and to appear to be "winning" it, the most powerful Executive branch figures in two successive administrations are willing to treat the Bill of Rights as yesterday's birdcage liner.

Once again it's time to begin saying farewell to the due process rights accorded not only all Americans until now, but over 800 years of British rights before us. Apparently, we really are going to sacrifice who we are and what we have always believed, in exchange for "safety" from at most a few hundred people. Following Ben Franklin, let me observe that this is a terrible trade-off.

'No One Cares'

Does Chris Hedges nail it, or what! This article is depressing but essentially accurate in Hedges's assessment of the state of America and the world. Where do we go from here?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cheney's Katrina

No, not Obama's Katrina, Cheney's. Please watch as Olbermann explains the many direct and indirect connections between Dick Cheney and the disaster that happened last week.

As noted before... the man belongs in jail.

Do Something About Hunger Besides Feeding Your Own Face

Bryan reminds us that in many parts of the country, this Saturday, May 8 is the day the National Association of Letter Carriers... postmen and postwomen... will pick up bags of nonperishable food items which you place near your mailbox at home and take them to the local food pantry. In some cases, drop-off points are available if you wish to bring in larger quantities of food.

Back in the "bad old days" (the Reagan era), I worked coordinating my church's tiny pantry with the main food pantry in town, and I tell you, it makes a dramatic difference in people's lives to receive those few cans and packages in hard times. I'd say we have hard times again now, no? Give what you can. Actually, give what the canning companies can...

Please note that this food drive is a service of the union members, with limited support from USPS, and is not done at government expense. Sip on that, Tea Party cranks!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Bush, Not Obama, To Blame For BP Disaster

In a column wonderfully titled Sex, Lies and Oil Spills, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. explains with damning clarity how the BP spill, far from being "Obama's Katrina" as the noisemakers on the Right claim, is directly attributable to the lax, industry-friendly regulatory policies of the Bush administration:
A common spin in the right wing coverage of BP's oil spill is a gleeful suggestion that the gulf blowout is Obama's Katrina.

In truth, culpability for the disaster can more accurately be laid at the Bush Administration's doorstep. For eight years, George Bush's presidency infected the oil industry's oversight agency, the Minerals Management Service, with a septic culture of corruption from which it has yet to recover. Oil patch alumnae in the White House encouraged agency personnel to engineer weakened safeguards that directly contributed to the gulf catastrophe.

The absence of an acoustical regulator -- a remotely triggered dead man's switch that might have closed off BP's gushing pipe at its sea floor wellhead when the manual switch failed (the fire and explosion on the drilling platform may have prevented the dying workers from pushing the button) -- was directly attributable to industry pandering by the Bush team. Acoustic switches are required by law for all offshore rigs off Brazil and in Norway's North Sea operations. BP uses the devise voluntarily in Britain's North Sea and elsewhere in the world as do other big players like Holland's Shell and France's Total. In 2000, the Minerals Management Service while weighing a comprehensive rulemaking for drilling safety, deemed the acoustic mechanism "essential" and proposed to mandate the mechanism on all gulf rigs.

Then, between January and March of 2001, incoming Vice President Dick Cheney conducted secret meetings with over 100 oil industry officials allowing them to draft a wish list of industry demands to be implemented by the oil friendly administration. ...

(Emphasis mine.)

Read the entire column. It only gets worse, and is surely the inevitable consequence of leaving foxes in charge of hen houses. These people, particularly Dick Cheney, belong in jail. And all that oil belongs in their back yards.

UPDATE: regarding the as-yet-unrevealed Senate climate bill under negotiation, Bradford Plumer of TNR informs us that Joe Lieberman still insists that offshore drilling must be a part of any compromise legislation: "I mean, accidents happen," says Revoltin' Joe. It raises my gorge to think I ever voted for that man,

Cinco de Mayo

Bryan points us to The Culture Ghost, who reveals the true meaning of the holiday (warning: atrocious visual pun).

The weather here is sparkling clear; it should be a great day for all the outdoor celebrations. Grab yourself a cerveza, put on your favorite Tejano artist (another warning: page has streaming sound), kick back and enjoy another culture (or perhaps your own!) for a little while.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Confronting Old Age

Stella awakened me this morning (she frequently does that, as she has a job that requires her to be, as a friend of mine used to say, up at Dawn's Crack) with a reminder that in less than a week I will be about three months from my 62nd birthday... and thus eligible to begin applying for Social Security if I wish. I intend to do just that. Yes, the payoff is smaller the earlier you start, but two factors weigh in favor of my retiring early:
 Obama apparently intends to cooperate with Pete Peterson and other Wall Street types to... oh, fuck, why am I even bothering to discuss it? Obama is at best a conservative Republican, and I don't want to think too hard about what he is at worst. I am fucked. You are fucked. We are all fucked. Some of us are incapable of just getting over it, but we have no choice but to get used to it. The repeal of the New Deal is already underway. "Buh-bye, old folks... have a nice... um, have a not too painful... um, please go somewhere else to die."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lies And The Lying Liars... Wall Street Edition

Today, not one but two major concealments of truth were revealed. One, if the Bush administration had complied with its constitutional duties, likely would have allowed Congress some input into the attempt at recovery from the Wall Street meltdown two years ago. The other was Greenspan's keeping secret any dissent about the housing bubble that might have aided individual homeowners and homebuyers in their decisions about how the bubble would affect them.

First, Brian Beutler of TPM outlines Pelosi's recent revelation that the Bush administration barred its officials from briefing members of Congress in Fall 2008 even after the Bushies knew impending financial collapse was a certainty:
Nearly two years after the Wall Street meltdown drove the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse, and forced the U.S. government to prop up major financial institutions with hundreds of billions of dollars, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now claims that the Bush Administration prohibited its own top officials who were handling the emerging crisis from briefing Congress until a complete financial collapse was only hours away.

In little-noticed statements to reporters over the last few weeks, Pelosi has alleged that the Bush administration knew well in advance of its intervention that the financial crisis would hit, and that Congress would need to authorize a historic and unpopular bailout - but that top officials, including then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, told her that they had been barred from briefing Congress about true extent of the crisis.

If accurate, the allegation could constitute a major indictment of the Bush administration,...
Then, emptwheel of FDL tells us of this incident, in which Alan Greenspan conceals the internal dissent at the Fed about whether there was or was not a housing bubble, essentially denying ordinary homeowners and homebuyers an opportunity to discuss how the issue affected them:

Ideally, you’ve already seen Ryan Grim’s explosive report on how, in 2004, Alan Greenspan argued the Fed should keep worries about a growing housing bubble secret because the chumps buying the houses were too stupid to engage in a debate about whether there was a bubble or not.
As top Federal Reserve officials debated whether there was a housing bubble and what to do about it, then-Chairman Alan Greenspan argued that the dissent should be kept secret so that the Fed wouldn’t lose control of the debate to people less well-informed than themselves.

“We run the risk, by laying out the pros and cons of a particular argument, of inducing people to join in on the debate, and in this regard it is possible to lose control of a process that only we fully understand,” Greenspan said, according to the transcripts of a March 2004 meeting.
(See emptywheel's post for a plethora of links.)

Do you get the feeling that our government has broken the taxpayers' piggy-bank and is secretly doing anything it damned well pleases with the quarters and nickels inside? And... isn't some of what Greenspan did, um, illegal? And isn't some of what the Bush administration did, um, unconstitutional? We used to have a government in three parts; Congress used to count for something... apparently not anymore.

Don't Fuck With The Mouse Cursor

Two different web sites recently have served me two different ads which took control of the mouse cursor. At first I thought it was one of those fake cursors designed to distract your eye. But no, it was the real thing, yanked away from where I had pointed it and pulled into the ad. To other best evidence, there is no virus or adware on this computer; I'm running eSet NOD32.

Congratulations to the programmer(s) who figured out how to steal the mouse cursor. That was a clever hack; I would not have a clue how to do that. I would like to remind you, though, that if I discover with certainty who you are, I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND FUCKING MURDER YOU WITH A PICKAX just to remove your hostile stupidity from the gene pool.

That is all.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dems Are At It Again, This Time, Advocating National ID Card

Please read emptywheel on the subject; I'm not calm enough to write cogently about it. Then explain to me how we have two political parties...

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes