Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ubuntu Linux Update - UPDATED


No, my problem is still not solved, but I thought I'd take the opportunity to say a few things about Ubuntu Linux as an environment in which to work and play.

  • From a user standpoint, Linux is not Windows. And it is not the Mac OS, though there are similarities in any two *-nix-based systems. Windows users will find that things are not in the same places, and many things do not work the same. If you do your own system administration and maintenance, familiar tools are missing, and others take their place.
  • That said, most familiar tools, apps, games etc. have more or less exact equivalents in the Linux world:

    • notepad becomes gedit in Linux;
    • the Firefox browser and Thunderbird mail/news software have exact equivalents (and I do mean exact) in Linux;
    • the OpenOffice.org office suite, authored by Sun and used by Sun, HP, Dell, IBM and other familiar names, is a functional equivalent of Microsoft Office Word, Excel, etc., even to the point of reading/writing the same file formats if you wish;
    • the games are simpler and a bit slower-running than those on Windows, but Solitaire, Mahjongg and Tetris are all present in some form (sometimes in many forms);
    • Both simple and high-powered graphics editing software is available; some say that gimp beats PhotoShop, though I'm not one qualified to confirm that;
    • There's a simple photo manager, FSpot, that will exasperate you if you are accustomed to the Microsoft tools.

The good news about Ubuntu Linux (and many other, um, Linuxes? Linuces?) is this: everything is free... almost all software support is available without cost to the home user. This is a philosophical decision by the foundations that produce the software.

The bad news about Linux is this: everything is free. If you as an end user need support on a software product, you put your name in the queue and wait until someone with expertise recognizes your problem and feels like answering you. For my one big problem so far, I have received no answers in several days... none. Commercial support is available if one wants to pay for it. The whole concept is unfamiliar to (former) Windows users.

A lot of times, the problem emerges from the home-brew software that so typically fills the gaps in the operating system as shipped. For example, there is no intrinsic backup software in Ubuntu Linux, and you are pointed to a freeware product called Simple Backup Suite for what would be a rather nicely turned backup system with facilities for automation, etc. ... if it worked properly. Instead of working properly for me, it broke my filesystem; I have lost access to about 80 percent of my hard drive. Such is the cost of free software. Of course, all this free software is supplied with source code; I actually waded through reams of Python source in an attempt to find what, in the backup software, was wrecking my home. No, I didn't find it. But the source code is there, as is the legal license to modify it, if one feels inclined to a do-it-yourself approach... and if one is a developer by trade, has an environment set up for doing the job, etc. etc. Good luck.

Is Ubuntu (or any other) Linux a suitable free replacement for Mac or Windows in a business setting? Only if you have a support staff and environment equal to the task. It is cheaper to install, but no cheaper (and no easier) to support. I'd think long and hard before I committed a business of any size to a Linux-based network. Then again, there are the examples of IBM, HP, Sun, etc. There's no one answer: as in the rest of the real world, you have to evaluate by your own criteria and live with the decision you make.

I'll write more on the subject as it occurs to me.

UPDATE: The solution to my problem began with a reboot, a rare animal in the *nix world in my experience. Apparently, the memory image... but not the disk content... of the part of the filesystem containing the backup directories was somehow corrupted. A reboot (at least; other things I did may have had some effect) allowed me to see the previously invisible backup directories and to use 'sudo' to remove the files and then the directories. I have about 85GB (or 85 GiB, as it seems to be known in this universe) of free space now, having kept two of the full backups, one from yesterday and one from the beginning of June when I started this unplanned OS transition. For an old machine, 85 GiB is quite a bit of elbow room, especially given my reduced picture-taking habits these days. It's a good thing I don't have one of those new 20+ megapixel dSLR's...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Soon It's Gonna Rain... I... Can... Read... It...

Houstonians, expect a really rainy week. I... can... tell...

Exterior Decoration

TPM quotes from the Kagan confirmation hearing:

Ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) criticized Kagan for having "associated herself with well-known activist judges who have used their power to redefine the meaning of our constitution and have the result of advancing that judge's preferred social policies," citing Marshall as his son, Thurgood Marshall Jr., sat in the audience of the Judiciary Committee hearings.

In an example of how much the GOP focused on Marshall, his name came up 35 times. President Obama's name was mentioned just 14 times today.

Sessions said Kagan's reverence for Marshall "tells us much about the nominee," and he meant that more as an indictment than a compliment.

Kagan has said Marshall, who served as the lead attorney in the Brown v. Board of Education case leading to the desegregation of schools, is one of her heroes. ...
I believe there are some blatantly racist GOPers who need to spend some time having their faces rearranged. Would anybody care to join me for a couple of Sessions of nose redecoration?

Senator Robert Byrd (1917-2010) On The Eve Of The Iraq War

The lamentably late Senator Robert Byrd speaks out against the needless, preemptive, invasive, aggressive war the United States entered in 2003 and still pointlessly and destructively pursues today:

Byrd was unquestionably the greatest orator of our time in the US Senate. Watch his persuasive condemnation at the beginning of the pointless war that may yet destroy our nation, and see whether you are not moved to tears.

Byrd was not a perfect public official. It seems unlikely that someone who accumulated that much power over a political career could resist the temptation to apply that power in behalf of enriching his friends (and his state). But the good in him unquestionably outweighed the bad. His knowledge of and devotion to the principles of the US Constitution were unequaled and irreplaceable. What we have lost in Byrd is hard to estimate at this point, but as time passes and votes in the Senate transpire, that loss will be revealed, event by event, to our great sadness. R.I.P., Robert Byrd.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Need Ubuntu Linux Advice

... and cannot find it on the web site or any of the forums. Ubuntu Linux 10.04 Desktop; a third-party product called Simple Backup Suite 0.10.5ubuntu2.

Problem: Product went south after Linux version change 9.x-10.x. Continued backing up to local directories, filling my HD to within 1.0 GB of full. I decided to uninstall the backup s/w, and chose the "complete" uninstall, which wasn't: it didn't remove the backup files themselves. They're all under root-root ownership; I'm an Administrative user but that didn't help me delete them. Tried the famous "sudo" command; that didn't work. Weird internal format file that the filesystem doesn't even recognize. I need my HD back. I posted my woes on the SourceForge forum for the product, but my problem may be simpler than that, a simple misunderstanding on my part of user privilege in Ubuntu Linux. Any suggestions, folks?

(That's what I get for trusting a free product written in an event called the Google Summer of Code.)

(There goes Blogger, tinkering with the way its basic formatting works again...)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Kamikaze Kat Blogging - UPDATED

Here's Esther, with Lily, in one of their more peaceful moments:


Lily has a habit of backing up, running full tilt and crashing into the blind side of... a cat? a person? a wheelchair? It doesn't seem to matter much to her; it's the full-tilt part and the blind-side crash that appeal to her kitten's sense of play.

Night before last, it finally got to her. I was in my wheelchair, stopped at a hall crossing. I could not see Lily at all. I knew she was around, so I looked left, right, ahead and behind for about 30 seconds. She was none of those places. But she was directly below me. As I inched away from my parking spot, Lily made her typical move, a dash-out-in-front followed by a sudden reverse and face-off of the wheelchair.

She never made it. Let me emphasize right now that ultimately she was unharmed... but that was no certainty at the moment, as she let out a blood-curdling yowl. I had no idea which way, or even whether, to move. Eventually I inched forward. Wrong direction, as it turned out. Lily, who was still yowling, yowled louder. Esther (Lily's mom, remember) dashed in front of me, whirled, did a bit of yowling and growling herself, extended her claws at me and questioned my goodwill. I, in turn, questioned the legitimacy of her offspring. "What's 'legitimacy'?" she effectively replied. "That's where you find a smarter tomcat next time," I snarked, forgetting for a moment that she would know no more tomcats. She stalked off with her aggrieved kitten; I inched off toward the bathroom, which is where I was headed in the first place.

Two days later, all is quiet. Lily has made no further moves toward the wheelchair. I use the walker instead of the chair whenever I feel strong enough to do so. Ruffled fur and raised voices are much less frequent today. It's a good thing cats tend to forget conflicts! What concerns me most is that Lily is one of those kittens who have no fear, and I don't know how that can be taught in the proper degree without harming or terrifying the poor thing.

UPDATE: I think Lily is suicidal. First, Stella spotted her crawling through a hole in the base of the built-in dishwasher; one presumes the works are in there somewhere. Since Stella saw her, we didn't start the d/w until she emerged, and she was unharmed. Later, about 4:30am today, I heard a racket near the base of the lamp plugged in next to the easy chair I sleep in: of course it was Lily, doing her best to bite through the live power cord (the lamp was on). She did not stop even when I poked at her, shouted at her, etc.; I had to get up and chase her away in person. Stupid, stupid kitten, and fearless to boot! I hope she survives to a size where she cannot crawl inside equipment, and that she learns not to use power cords as chew toys. Sigh!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Killer Drones With Broken Phones... That Enough To Chill Your Bones?

emptywheel thinks so:
As bmaz pointed out last week (and Darkblack illustrated so brilliantly), killer drones are coming to America.

In fact, they’re coming to America in more formalized fashion, as Janet Napolitano confirmed that the US will add drones to the Texas border.

The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it will station an aerial drone in Texas as part of its stepped-up surveillance of criminal trafficking along the Mexican border.


Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) had pressed for months for a pilotless drone, and when it was slow in coming, Cornyn blocked Senate confirmation of Michael Huerta to be deputy director of the FAA.

On Wednesday, after learning that the agency had given its approval for the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, to operate in Texas, Cornyn said he would allow a vote on Huerta.

Wunnerful, jes' wunnerful.

Supremes: Skilling Skates

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling's conviction on conspiracy because the law which he allegedly violated covered bribes and kickbacks, but Skilling was not alleged to have engaged in either of those activities.

Skilling is at present serving a 24-year sentence for this and other convictions in a prison in Littleton, CO. It is not clear yet whether the Court's reevaluation of the conspiracy conviction will affect the other crimes for which he is serving sentences.

I said it when the whole Enron scandal blew up: every Enron exec will eventually walk free. That's how it is in a corporatist society, and Dog knows corporations run America. So far, Ken Lay has died (that's one way to escape a sentence*) and Jeff Skilling may walk (or may not). At this point I'm 2 for 2 on our watching the bastards skate free. Anyone want to make predictions for the rest of the charges against Skilling or anyone else?

Welcome to America! Steal a little money, go to jail; steal a lot of money, go to the club and have a drink. May we join you at the club, Mr. Skilling?

*The most overtly Christian among Stella's friends, herself a former Enron employee, assures us that Lay got right with the Lord before he died. So... not serving his conviction on Earth, and not punished in the afterlife. Would you say Lay got a (ahem) damned good deal?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Obama Was Right To Relieve McChrystal Of Duty

McChrystal, or perhaps his staff, but certainly with his go-ahead, released statements which supposedly we will see tomorrow that are unacceptable to his role as a high-ranking military commander. It was an in-the-face challenge to the Commander-in-Chief, who happens to be Obama at the moment. If it was a deliberate affront by McChrystal to see how far he could push matters, well, the General learned exactly that. If it was an unintended overreach (unlikely in my opinion), it represented a failure of essential discipline of himself and his staff. Either way, Obama had no choice but to follow Harry Truman's course of action with General MacArthur: effective insubordination, whether it meets the legal definition or not, is simply not to be tolerated in an effective military.

BP's Catastrophic Spill

... of coffee:

(H/T Needlenose.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

DNS Slow, Blogger Fucked - I'm Going To Bed Early

At present, my domain name service takes nearly a full minute to look up www.google.com, with other lookups comparably slower. Yes, in answer to the typical first question from the AT&T Indo-Pak help guy's script, I've taken the whole connection down, rebooted the computer and reconnected, all in the proper order... twice. (I wish there were a way to poke those guys with a stick when they begin that script. This time I simply omitted calling altogether.)

As if that were not enough, Google is making changes to Blogger that are passing strange. On three separate posts, I clicked the link to the specific post, and found myself at the bottom of the page. I looked at the link behind "Link to this Post" and sure enough, there it was: a link to the #links anchor. Why? Ya got me; it makes no sense at all.

So I'm giving up for the night. By morning, it'll all be working properly, right?


Don't let that stop you from reading the post below about the judge's ruling against Obama's moratorium. As chaotic and incremental as the post is, it contains something you need to know.

UPDATE: I must be tired to have clicked the "Links" link instead of the link to the post. Oh well. Unfortunately, the DNS really is count-on-your-fingers slow tonight. I'm going to bed anyway!

UPDATE: Next morning, everything's fine, including domain name service. So it (the DNS) was out, or at least very slow, for about 12-16 hours. It does make one think about the alternatives to land line DSL; there seem to be more of 'em every week.

Once Bought, Does He Stay Bought?

Clearly this anonymous federal judge is wholly owned:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Tuesday ruled against the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a blow to the White House which had hoped the ban would provide time to ensure other wells are operating safely.

A lawsuit was filed by Louisiana-based Hornbeck Offshore Services LLC and was joined by more than a dozen companies involved in offshore drilling operations to reverse the drilling ban imposed by the U.S. Department of Interior.

There's not much more in the article. Note, though, that the whole thing was done so secretively that it is not even clear which Louisiana federal judge made the ruling. Here we go again...

UPDATE: Sierra Club is appealing the decision. We still don't know what date, what court, etc. We must be mushrooms...

UPDATE: Ooooh, interesting, from the last-named article:

Feldman's financial disclosure report for 2008, the most recent available, shows holdings in at least eight petroleum companies or companies that invest in them, including Transocean Ltd., which owned the Deepwater Horizon. The report shows that most of his holdings were valued at less than $15,000, though it did not provide specific amounts.

It's not clear whether Feldman still has all of the energy industry stock listed in the report. Recent court filings indicate he may no longer have Transocean shares. He did not own any shares in big companies such as BP PLC, which was leasing the rig that exploded, or ExxonMobil.

Feldman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his current holdings.

Once bought...

UPDATE: My DNS is going out again, so this is probably my last post on the subject for the moment. The blog Slabbed has a link to Judge Feldman's 2008 Financial Disclosure Report (.pdf), on which it appears that Energy is his middle name, or perhaps Offshore... in any case, he bought lots of such investments in 2008 (mostly reinvested dividends from the look of it), and there's no indication whether he sold it. This should be veeeery interesting, unless the good Judge manages to squelch the ensuing investigation of his potential conflict of interest. (Now we cross our fingers as I attempt to post this through whatever 'net problems I'm experiencing out there...)

UPDATE: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is preparing to issue a new ban, of which he says the following:
He promised that the new order will include evidence that "eliminates any doubt that a moratorium is needed, appropriate, and within our authorities."
Anyone who is not blind, deaf and dumb can see and hear the evidence on the evening news, but I suppose Salazar will offer something a bit more formal.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Supremes Include Some Speech In "Material Support" Of Terrorism

This is not the first time the Supreme Court has ruled that some speech is not covered by the First Amendment (other than the classic "shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater"), but most previous such rulings have been of the nature of "publishing a recipe for building an atomic weapon" or something similarly tangible and undeniably dangerous. Now the Court has ruled that Congress and the Executive branch may decide that providing "material support" to a designated terrorist organization, even if that support is advice and even if the aspects of the organization being supported are admittedly benign, is illegal, in spite of the First Amendment:
WASHINGTON — Rejecting a First Amendment challenge, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law that bars providing “material support” to terrorist organizations.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority in the 6-to-3 decision, said the law’s prohibition of providing some forms of intangible assistance to groups said by the State Department to engage in terrorism did not violate the First Amendment.
“At bottom, plaintiffs simply disagree with the considered judgment of
Congress and the executive that providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization — even seemingly benign support — bolsters the terrorist activities of that organization,” the chief justice wrote. He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony M. Kennedy and Samuel A. Alito Jr,
Please note that the decision breaks the usual majority split in the Court by including John Paul Stevens. Note also that Sonia Sotomayor, whom many of us were more than a bit concerned about at the time of her confirmation, once again voted in the civil-liberties bloc.

If Congress and the Executive branch are able to enforce a particular view of constitutional rights, then they aren't rights; they're privileges granted by the powers-that-be. That is not how the First Amendment was taught to me: even unpleasant speech, offensive speech, and unpatriotic speech are protected, according to tradition.

But tradition means nothing these days. If we have lost Stevens in his last year, we have lost the Court; if we have lost the Court, we have lost civil liberties. Let us mourn the death of protected free speech in America. How long will it be before what I am writing at the moment will be legally disallowed as "pro-terrorist"? It would never happen, you say? How recently would you have assured me that no American would be ordered killed by the government with no shred of due process, let alone a trial? What about "extraordinary rendition"; how recently would you have said such a thing was impossible in America? "Sedition" will return as a crime within my lifetime... and I'm rather old. Good work, fearmongers!

The One That Is 3 Feet Tall, Round, Wearing A Hemispherical Hat...

I just sent a comment to TCEQ (the state agency in Texas most like the EPA at the federal level) complaining about some of their staff revisions to water quality regs, specifically, changes to classifications of water for recreational use that would almost certainly result in adverse bacterial level changes in bodies of water designated safe for for swimming, boating etc. The comment, like most of them, was directed at a half dozen government officials, including the Governor's Office. So what did I receive in reply from Gov. Goodhair?
Thank you for sharing your opinion with the Office of the Governor. It will be forwarded to the appropriate staff member.
This message has been automatically generated. Please do not respond to this email.

Elsewhere, I found a photo of the staff member to which the comment was referred...


I awoke in the small hours of last night with a sharp pain mostly in a single point on the top of my left shoulder-blade, a sort of "cold" in the shoulder. It is difficult for me to type; worse, it is difficult for me to move to and from the computer. (Ever try propelling a standard wheelchair when your shoulder hurts?) A bit of aspirin and a little time have improved matters (even kitten Lily has offered sympathy and seems to understand not to afflict me with her usual rough play today), and I have every expectation of being able to blog more easily by sometime later today. But for the moment, it's really uncomfortable. Thanks for your patience; check back later.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Krugman On Washington's Replay Of 1930s Stupidity

Suddenly, creating jobs is out, inflicting pain is in. Condemning deficits and refusing to help a still-struggling economy has become the new fashion everywhere, including the United States, where 52 senators voted against extending aid to the unemployed despite the highest rate of long-term joblessness since the 1930s. 

Many economists, myself included, regard this turn to austerity as a huge mistake. It raises memories of 1937, when F.D.R.’s premature attempt to balance the budget helped plunge a recovering economy back into severe recession. And here in Germany, a few scholars see parallels to the policies of Heinrich Brüning, the chancellor from 1930 to 1932, whose devotion to financial orthodoxy ended up sealing the doom of the Weimar Republic. 

Yes, both political parties are acting as if fiscal austerity will result in saving the American economy. Oh, yes. All those jobless people and starving families will do a world of good, just as they did in 1937. Learned lessons are so easily forgotten, one wonders why historians and economists even bother to write anything down. Obama and Republicans alike are intent on proving which of them can act the bigger fools, which might be amusing if it weren't on the verge of driving millions of Americans to economic ruin.

I hope the Villagers end up eating like the very worst-situated of the people harmed by their actions. GODDAM FOOLS!

Whacking Social Security Because It's Not Solvent

Somebody with a good, sturdy right fist needs to plant it about two inches deep into Alan K. Simpson's face. Aside from his utterly unfeeling attitude toward the poor and the elderly, he is one of the rudest motherfuckers ever born in the U.S. of A. Read Jane Hamsher's account of the interview by Alex Lawson. What would Simpson's mother think?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Utah AG Offers Execution Play-By-Play On Twitter

That's right... on Twitter. Here are Mark Shurtleff's three tweets, as provided by TPMLiveWire at the link above:
A solemn day. Barring a stay by Sup Ct, & with my final nod, Utah will use most extreme power & execute a killer. Mourn his victims. Justice

I just gave the go ahead to Corrections Director to proceed with Gardner's execution. May God grant him the mercy he denied his victims.

We will be streaming live my press conference as soon as I'm told Gardner is dead. Watch it at www.attorneygeneral.Utah.gov/live.html
Oh, yeah, now that serves a purpose. If nothing else, it labels AG Shurtleff as one of the most self-righteous SOBs in the nation. But it's worse than self-righteousness or even self-promotion: Shurtleff is enjoying the whole proceeding.

I'm sorry: no one, not even the victims' families and most certainly no government official, has a right to enjoy an execution. If it were anywhere other than Utah, I'd urge citizens to impeach Shurtleff, to throw him out of office immediately. But you know there's no hope of that.

Friday Cat Blogging Re-Run

See Tuesday's post. I can't possibly top that, and Lily isn't exactly being cooperative. It's a good thing Esther is so (relatively) calm...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hayward To Be 'Sliced And Diced' By Angry Congress

BP group chief executive Tony Hayward will face Congress today after he and chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg met with Obama on Wednesday. Word has it that Congress is "fuming" at Hayward's interactions with the U.S. government to date.

BP's chief executive faces a flaying from furious US lawmakers Thursday over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, a day after the energy giant pledged at least 20 billion dollars for compensation claims.

Tony Hayward faces fuming US lawmakers, some of whom have publicly suggested senior BP officials should "commit hara-kiri," after he and BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg were summoned to the White House on Wednesday.


Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee, and the full committee chairman, California Democrat Henry Waxman, wrote Hayward this week to expect questions on documents showing company decisions before the explosion "that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense."

Ahead of the session, Stupak said of Hayward's appearance, "I expect him to be sliced and diced."

(I'll wager you never thought I'd quote Bart Stupak on this blog. Well, you lose!)

I hope Congress does the job with good, sharp knives, not those "it slices, it dices" devices (doggerel, anyone?) they advertise on late-night TV.

I'm off to the doc in a few minutes. If you see the event, let me know how it goes. If anyone ever deserved it...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

'The Dutch... And The Norwegians... They Are Known For Dykes...'

So says Sarah Palin, proposing international assistance in response to Bill O'Reilly's question regarding just how Obama, against whom Sarah is ranting, is supposed to stop the BP leak.

I have worked with Dutch dykes several times, and some of them are truly superb musicians. Exactly what that... or Dutch expertise with the other kind of dyke... has to do with capping a blown oil well under thousands of feet of water is quite beyond me. Tell us, Sarah; clearly you know, and you have such a way with words...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How Much Anti-Gay Hatred Is Enough?

Apparently, no amount of raw bigotry is enough to satisfy the Prop. H8 folks:

(06-15) 17:47 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- As the trial over California's prohibition on same-sex marriage enters its final stage Wednesday, the ban's sponsors are urging the judge to go a step further and revoke state recognition of the marriages of 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who wed before voters passed Proposition 8.

Such an order would honor "the expressed will of the people," backers of the November 2008 ballot measure said Tuesday in their final written filing before Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker.
Such is the nature of our nation today: legally enforced discrimination against people different from oneself is somehow a sacred right of the hate-mongers. When did hatred become a virtue?


A public service message to those who might otherwise confuse these similar terms:



Officers' Mess:

(H/T ellroon for the pic of that poor oily bird.)

Everybody's Home - Tuesday Unscheduled Cat Blogging

Esther is home, minus a part or two. Lily hasn't completely figured out why Esther no longer wants her to nurse:

To say that Esther is irritated with Lily would be an understatement. Once in a while, Esther licks Lily on the head as in the old days. More often, she bats her in the face in response to Lily's pestering the fool out of her. But hey, all kitties are home and healthy now; that's all we could ask for.
(Using a recent version of IE? Click the pic to see the full image... IE chops off the right edge. Don't lose the kitten!)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

"We're All Fucked. I'm Fucked. You're Fucked. ..."

"... The whole [thing] is fucked. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely fucked." So said Sir Richard Mottram regarding the BP spill. Mottram is quoted by bmaz of Firedoglake, who sets about listing the facts necessary to prove Mottram's assertion. If you are American, it won't surprise you to learn that your government and BP are handing you massive lies about every technological aspect of the well failure. Also not surprising: BP's use of substandard components in the well in most places in which better materials would have made a difference in preventing the chaos.

I read somewhere (Mustang Bobby's blog?) that some Brits are convinced that Americans are merely exercising their anti-British prejudice in voicing their anger toward BP. What utter and total crap. We're exercising our right to petition for a redress of one very, very large grievance. And the grievance is not being addressed in any satisfactory way. That it is a British corporation involved has nothing to do with it: any corp that behaves as BP is behaving should be banned from doing business in the United States. And I would be just as vocal in condemning it if it were chartered in Antarctica.

(H/T ellroon.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dawn Johnsen Speaks Out On OLC - emptywheel Analyzes, Responds

Dawn Johnsen, nominated by Obama to head OLC, stonewalled by Republican filibuster threats, not supported in any meaningful way by Obama (who, it seems, would rather allow the OLC to go leaderless than vigorously defend his own nominee to the post), finally speaks out on the crux of the matter: What will it take to re-establish the Office as an effective check on the propensity of today's presidents to lead the OLC into illegal and even partisan actions inappropriate to the Office, i.e., to seek OLC rulings tailored to something a president wants to do, whether that something is within the law or not, as at least Mr. Bush did in the matter of the Bybee torture memo?

emptywheel has some thoughts and some questions, including the obvious one: why is Johnsen speaking now rather than earlier, and is she responding to some specific action by Obama... say, an impending disastrous appointment on his part to the OLC position?

Friday No-Cats Blogging

Esther is sleeping it off in a cage at the vet clinic, recovering from the able scalpel of her doc. Lily is moping around at home, missing her mother, or occasionally dashing around after toys, but generally invisible. I'll wager she's really going to miss Mom when she realizes Mom has dried up! And there are other reasons for my not posting cat pics this week. You know where all the good ones are; go find 'em!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Prepaid Cell Phones To Be Outlawed?

See what Bob Barr has to say. The effort is being made by Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Apparently, our entire government, or at least the two major parties, intend to deprive us of all means of private communication, allegedly to provide protection against terrorism. How likely is that to work? I believe even typically honest and crime-ignorant people like me could obtain enough fake ID to buy such a phone in a name other than my own. Do you think real terrorists would have to hesitate even a moment?

AFL-CIO To Dems: Don't Tell Us Our Business

June 08, 2010

    * 2010

AFL to White House: 'Labor isn't an arm of the Democratic Party'

The major labor federation AFL-CIO took sharp objection tonight to a White House official's assessment that they'd "flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet" in the "pointless exercise" of supporting the failed bid of Bill Halter to unseat Sen. Blanche Lincoln.


"Labor isn't an arm of the Democratic Party," Vale said. "It exists to support working families. And that's what we said tonight, and that's what we're gong to keep saying."
Exactly so. If it comes to a choice, count me with labor instead of the Democratic Party. And the Dems seem to be trying awfully hard to drive that schism.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Robert Reich's Un-work-able Proposal

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich says, "Put Jobless Young People to Work Cleaning Up BP's Mess and Order BP to Pay" ...

And then what? Who's really going to pay them when BP doesn't, which they won't? The government? Uh-huh. That's doubtless precisely what BP wants: the government to pay for the cleanup.

Reich is rarely as naive as he has been regarding BP. He needs to take a long, hard look at who they really are, and contemplate the likelihood of their following through on any court order imposed on them. It ain't gonna happen unless their execs are tossed in jail. Nothing less will make them pay.

Say WHAT??

Parody could not be as ridiculous as reality in today's "Democratic" Congress: please read "Schumer: Climate Part of Climate Bill to Be Offered As Amendment" by David Dayen on Firedoglake. This is getting downright surreal.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blogger Break Break

Blogger broke for a while this afternoon, forcing me to take a break from blogging. Commenting was iffy at best; sometimes Blogger posted a comment, sometimes more than once, sometimes not at all. It looks on the interface as if they've rolled back some changes not ready for prime time. In any case, things seem to be working again... I hope. Apologies for the interruption of service, not on Blogger's behalf but on mine. If you had earth-saving comments to make, please add them now. Thank you.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Shrek-lich! McDonald's Engages in Shrek-less Behavior

What a cad(mium)!

DETROIT, June 4 (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) has recalled at least 13.4 million "Shrek"-themed drinking glasses in the United States and Canada after consumers were warned to stop using them because they contain the toxic metal cadmium.
If the lead don't git ya then the cadmium will...

Falcon 9 Rocket Flies; Flight... And Fly... Immortalized On Video

Watch the video of the massive Falcon 9 rocket, a private venture by SpaceX, as it lifts off for orbit. There was a bug, a sort of fly in the ointment. The launch was just about textbook perfect (can we still say "textbook perfect" after the Texas SBOE wrought its havoc?), but there was a bug nonetheless. Watch the video.

Actually, the bug looks less like a fly and more like a mosquito...

AFTERTHOUGHT: it could reasonably be argued that the apparent bug is really Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AssholeAlabama).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Love-Hate Relationship With AT&T DSL Tech Support

After the power came back on for the third time, and stabilized for a while, I restarted everything on my network, in the proper order, and got a connection on which the domain name service looked up google.com in about 30 seconds (as opposed to instantaneously), the National Weather Service site in about 45 seconds, etc. In other words, it was "alive" but unusable.

I called AT&T to tell them they had a problem. I waited my turn in line... only about 3 minutes of AT&T ads and preachy little messages about what else I should do before I called AT&T... and spoke to a young woman who asked a couple of questions about my DSL modem and ran some remote tests. After a bit, she concluded that the power outages had left some sort of really bad line conditioning on the DSL itself. At that point we were... you guessed it... disconnected. I don't believe I've ever talked to AT&T tech support without being disconnected at least once. The promised callback didn't come within the next five minutes.

So I phoned the number again. Waited in line again. Got a MOST unsatisfactory agent on the line (a very few people from India are capable of being assholes despite the polite nature of much of their society, and all of them work the phones for AT&T). I'll spare you the details except to say that he wanted me to pull the filter on my phone line (I refused, explaining that crippled people cannot grub around on the floor plugging cables etc.) and later reasonably asked me to reboot. (I'd already "rebooted..." started the computer after the power outages... duh). After sparring with the fellow for probably 45 minutes, I found a way to sign off politely (all the platitudes from him extended the call another minute or two), shut down everything and restarted, again in the proper sequence. Everything works properly now. My conclusion: the first agent followed through on what she had found, and got the DSL crews to recondition the line... between the first time I tried and the second.

Why do we put up with this? Why must I all but verbally abuse the agents to direct them to a solution that actually works? The first task is always convincing them that a) I don't call support until something is really wrong, b) it worked a mere few hours ago, and c) there's no reason not to at least pursue the issue I suggest as the problem. But noooo.... maybe 1 agent in 10 will do that.

Here ends the post-power-outage rant for the day.

(Emailed Post During 3rd Power Outage.)

Pwr out here+n'hood. 3 fails this PM. Bk when able-SB

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Kit For Tat

Household Standoff
One housemate, in a fit of pique,
Banned her name from the blog this week.
For just this week? not half so clever:
She banned her name from the blog forever!
She banned her name, and just for kicks,
She also nixed all photo pics.

"But you may post the cats," said she.
"Oh, no," I shook my head with glee.
"No name, no pics of you? No posts
Of cats! They'll vanish, quick as ghosts!"
And so things stand: no one relented;
The cats shall go undocumented.

SB the YSS

(OT: Can someone suggest a reason one can no longer even manually change a font-family to Comic Sans MS in Blogger? How far has Google carried intervendor spite?)

Lily Takes Center Stage Again

With Esther moaning and moping (her operation has to be put off until the heat is off, so to speak), Lily is more sociable with her human housemates. Here, she approaches Stella's legs and climbs right on up:

This kitten is too cute for words.

Friday Hot Cat Blogging

We think Esther may have gone into heat tonight, with her frequent meowing, rubbing against things, approaching within a couple of feet of me (!!), exploring in places that once held other kitties, etc., all brand-new behavior. We are being exceedingly careful how we open doors. The catlock (see upstream) is now the mandatory means of human entry/exit. And she's probably going to the vet tomorrow, if the vet we like will come in to do the deed.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gone To Seed

Monsanto (who else) is giving 475 tons of seed to Haiti. Of course the seed is imported and hybrid. Haiti's peasants traditionally save seed year to year and plant crops of local seed.

If I may venture a suggestion to the peasant farmers of Haiti... cook the motherfucking stuff and eat it. Monsanto deserves nothing less.


We live in the (too-much-) Information Age, which means most of us lived through the Space Age, which regrettably seems to be almost over, except for military purposes. (What a run-on sentence!) But that means virtually every resident of an industrialized nation, certainly any that have engaged in human space flight, knows what an airlock is. Well, Stella has contrived a catlock: the back door of the house leads into a tiny utility/laundry room; a sliding wooden door leads from that room into the den. Thus, in theory, are people permitted to go in and out of the house, but cats are not... including Esther, who will be spayed as soon as she shows the least sign of heat, and who is the primary motivator for the catlock.

The only problem is that Stella does not trust me to work the catlock properly, and since I have to go out to a doctor's appointment today, she has penned up the kitties in a bedroom. It seems a drastic solution to me, but then again, so do most of the doors barring my daily passage through the house into and out of, oh, say, the office, the bedroom where my clothes are stored, my bathroom, etc. It makes me feel less welcoming toward the new kitties. Pity!

Back from the doc. Catlock worked exactly as intended. Now to release the kitties...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

There's Nothing As Stupid As A GOPer

Rachel Slajda of TPM informs us about a Republican trick, and the Democratic response that defeated it:

Last month, we told you how Republicans very nearly killed the COMPETES Act by slipping an anti-porn measure into a motion to send the bill back to committee. The move scared several Democrats into voting for the Republican motion, which would have also cut much of the bill's funding, and leadership pulled the bill off the floor.
The bill passed the House last week. Democrats pulled it off by splitting the Republicans' motion to recommit into parts, allowing members to vote for the anti-porn measure while voting against language that would have cut tens of millions of dollars from the bill.
Put aside for a moment the level of unmitigated, deep-seated stupidity the GOP evidenced by introducing the motion to recommit with the trick embedded in it, without realizing how straightforwardly their ruse could be defeated. Think instead about the more substantive question: why do Republicans hate scientific research so much in the first place? Why don't they believe it should be funded? How dumb is dumb?

Placing BP Under Receivership

Robert Reich suggests Obama take steps toward placing BP under temporary receivership, forcing a switch in company loyalties from the stockholders to the public interest. "But... but..." we all say; I know I did. Reich answers the questions that came to my mind immediately in the linked post. Yes, he has the authority. No, it doesn't matter that BP is based in the UK. And so on.

Would this work? I don't know. But Reich is a pretty smart fellow. And we have to do something... soon.

Obama On Gitmo North: Forward, No Matter What

Time's Pentagon Correspondent Mark Thompson:
The Obama Administration is seeking to move the 181 detainees still at Gitmo to a state prison in Thomson, Illinois. That would clear the way to shut the Cuban detainee center, a key Obama pledge. But the House voted 282-131 on Friday against using funds in the 2011 Pentagon budget for that purpose....

The Senate is likely to follow suit,  ...

But the Obama Administration is undeterred.  ... "I think the law prevents the Department of Defense from, but not the Department of Justice from, purchasing such a facility," notes White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

No matter if it's DoD or DoJ, a massive civil liberties violation and a violation of the laws of war are not things the U.S. should continue. Repatriate the detainees and close the damned place. Do not reconstitute Gitmo here at home.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

There's A Bug In My Phone

No, not on my phone, apart from the inevitable NSA/AT&T recording of every damned thing in that room in California. No, in my phone (or actually in its combined answer machine), as in, in its firmware. If you set the number of rings before answering to its maximum of 6 ... a good number for a person with mobility problems or a low tolerance for phone spam ... the machine answers with the default outgoing message, not the one you recorded yourself. Reduce the number of rings below 6, or set toll saver, and your personalized outgoing message reappears. "These are the days of miracle and wonder..."

Supreme Court Further Eviscerates Miranda Rights

The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that a suspect must explicitly inform the police of an intent to remain silent and a need for a lawyer. (PBS article here; decision here [.pdf].)

Pretty soon, Mr. Bush's appointments to the Court will undo a half century of advances in civil liberties. The Justices voting to affirm the conviction... i.e., against a genuine Miranda right... were Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia, reversing the Sixth Circuit on the matter.

I am relieved to note that Sotomayor voted to sustain Miranda... much good it did. Bush apparently succeeded in his efforts to pack the Court.

Breast Cancer Vaccine Works In Mice: 10 Years To Human Version?

Breast cancer afflicts 12.7 percent of American women. How many do you know? I've known quite a number of such women over the years; I'm sure you have too. The number is lamentably high.

As you doubtless know, breast cancer runs in families, and risk increases with age, age at first period (women who experience menarche before age 12 are at greater risk)  and age at first live birth. (If I remember correctly, nulliparous women are at greatest risk.)

Just think of what a vaccine could mean!

And it's the Cleveland Clinic that has made the announcement, a respected institution indeed. Please read the details in one of these articles:
And women... if you are at risk, and relatively young, take hope.

Insanity, Thy Name Is BP

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results," said... no, not Albert Einstein, not Benjamin Franklin, and not Mark Twain; look it up on wikiquote and you'll be astonished.

But damn, it's certainly true of BP: "BP Tries Again to Divert Oil Leak With Dome." The quote from the article that struck me most is this one:
If successful — and after the string of failures so far, there is no guarantee it will be — the containment dome may be able to capture most of the oil, but it would not plug the leak.
Oh, yeah, give 'em a chance; surely it'll work this time...

The Season Has Begun

"Rescuers search for survivors as Agatha toll tops 150," says the BBC. The season of tropical weather has begun, as advertised, with many deaths and a lot of destruction of property. Will it continue this way? Probably: the NHC's prediction is for a very active season, with lots of storms and a few big ones. Keep your fingers crossed that they're wrong.

Ogden Nash, Serious Poet

I must be kidding, right? No. One of the greatest writers of light and humorous verse in the past hundred years wrote serious works as well. Here are three that are worth your attention:

'The Return' is hard if not impossible to find on the web. But it occurs... and I found it... in a new volume called "The Best of Ogden Nash," a few hundred verses selected and edited by Linell Nash Smith, a daughter of Nash. The man had many sides not revealed by "Candy is dandy"; his entire opus is worth exploring.

And the book, which is damned expensive, is nonetheless worth owning. I bought it tonight, full price, locally, a sort of "pearl of great price" that takes my recreational book budget for the month. It was worth it.

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes