Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Lily-High-On-Monteverdi Blogging

(Original post here.)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Large Lily Blogging

(Original post here.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Stripes-On-Spots Blogging

(Original post here.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday 'Momcat's Home!' Blogging

(Original post here.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Me! Me! Me! Aaaooowww!

(Original post here.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Lazy Lily Blogging

(Original post here.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday ‘There’s A Nap For That’ Blogging

(Original post here.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Cat Begging

(Original post here.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Interrupted Cat Nap Blogging

(Original post here.)


Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Typical Esther Blogging

(Original post here.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Lily Snockered Blogging

(Original post here.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Last Word On This Blog's Location

The last word is... I don't have to decide, and you don't have to know, because I license a domain I specifically created long ago to use for this blog. I probably won't physically move the blog's content to that domain, but I can simply point that URL to wherever I intend to blog. Here is the one and only address you need for me:

That's it. Bookmark that, and it will take you where I am at any given moment.

Of course, the hardwired versions will still work to get to the individual sites, at least for now.

Something Else Blogger Failed To Restore

Blogger bloggers...

Did you have any static pages (the ones created/edited using Edit Page, not dependent on date and time)? Yes?

Among those, did you have any pages to which you did make changes on a regular (say daily) basis? Yes?

Then you lost any changes to those pages you made since the great crash yesterday morning. This happened to my "Quotes from the Top" page.

Love 'Em And Leave 'Em... And Leave 'Em... And Leave 'Em...

At this rate, I'm going to have changed to a new blog more often that Newt Gingrich has changed wives. But more than 24 hours after the initial crash of Blogger, the failed restore, etc. etc., I finally have all my posts back on this blog, but a bunch of comments have simply not reappeared. They're just gone, apparently.

That is not acceptable. And so until Blogger gets its Shift-key together, I'm going to relocate, probably temporarily, to a blog with a similar URL:

I've overlapped one post on the new site: the 'Getting their Goat' doggerel. Starting with that post, I'll ask you to make comments on the new site, not on this site.

I don't know if I'll move back here or not, but I'll keep you posted. If you made a comment here on Wednesday or maybe even Thursday, you might want to check to see if the comment is still there.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

After OBL's Death? More Of The Same

Glenn Greenwald addresses the commonly heard suggestions that with Osama bin Laden dead, wars will end, troops will come home, civil liberties will be restored, etc., etc.

The reality? Not so much. Meet the new Boss Obama, same as the old Boss Obama. According to Greenwald, we can...

  • Expect expansions of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Expect ongoing wars and even some new ones. 
  • Expect to learn about secret wars already underway.
  • Not reasonably expect Guantánamo to be closed.
  • Expect Congress to issue a new AUMF. (This is already underway in the House Armed Services Committee.)
  • Not expect Obama's executive-detention-without-trial policy to end.
And so on. Read Greenwald's article.

Quoting Greenwald reporting on a letter from the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, among other org's:

In a joint letter to Congress, about two dozen groups -- including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights -- contended that the proposal amounted to an open-ended grant of authority to the executive branch, legitimizing an unending war from Yemen to Somalia and beyond. 

"This monumental legislation -- with a large-scale and practically irrevocable delegation of war power from Congress to the president -- could commit the United States to a worldwide war without clear enemies, without any geographical boundaries" and "without any boundary relating to time or specific objective to be achieved," the letter warned.
We seem headed inexorably toward an executive-only government. I, for one, am not happy about that.

Florida Passes Law Which May Ban All Sex

It has to do with the fact that humans are animals, and the law bans sex with "dumb animals." Details are at Bryan's place, but I'll tell you the story in man-on-doggerel:

 Getting their Goat

So now the moment has arrived Floridians all dread:
The threat of bestiality has reared its Mossy Head!
They think they're safe when people chafe at human-livestock sex,
But soon they'll find it isn't only Oedipus it wrecks!

The men may not be COWards and perhaps they don't do CHICKEN;
The women aren't full of BULL; with human males they're stickin'.
But gals or blades must note, their clades appear in ANIMALIA...
It's laws on bestiality with which they'll try to jail ya!

And thus with "animals" the Legislature is researchin':
Have all the KIDS gone wild? or is each goat a bestial virgin?
Now on each "date" they tabulate what everybody did...
It ain't just Chucky Cheese's WHERE A KID CAN DO A KID!

- SB the YDS

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Full-Blown Bat-Shit Crazy - UPDATED

That would be the Republ(ic)ans in Congress:

The GOP's New Constitutional Amendment: Give States Veto Power Over Federal Laws
Evan McMorris-Santoro and Ryan J. Reilly | May 11, 2011, 4:50PM


A group of Republicans in the House and Senate are proposing an amendment to the Constitution that would allow a vote by two-thirds of the states' legislatures to override any federal law they did not agree with.

The proposed constitutional amendment, a tea party favorite, is being touted by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the Senate and co-sponsored by Sens. John Barasso (R-WY) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). In the House, Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Paul Broun (R-GA) are leading the charge.


That's it for me. If the federal system goes, I go, too. I will not live here under a form of government that our Founders considered, more-or-less tried before the Constitution was ratified, and discarded as being weak and utterly chaotic. In our own time, the United States cannot effectively exist as a patchwork of 50 different independent regions run by an assortment of radical right-wing governments, varying in degree, manner and details of craziness, with no congressional power to keep a firm hand on those right-wing state legislatures. That way lies madness.

You think you've heard the worst the Tea Party can come up with, but they're always prepared to disappoint you and sink to new depths one more time. "Full-blown bat-shit crazy" is the only description adequate to the nutsiness...

UPDATE:  In my anger and haste I probably exaggerated the implication of likelihood that such an amendment to the Constitution could actually pass, even in these crazy times.

There are two ways to propose amendments and two ways to ratify them:

  • to propose, you must gain the support of two-thirds of both houses of Congress, or persuade two-thirds of state legislatures to call a constitutional convention, which then approves the amendment; 
  • to ratify, you must gain the approval of three-fourths of state legislatures or three-fourths of ratifying conventions in each state. 

I doubt they can get this dog past the houses of Congress, which is the route they obviously intend to try, because there are some Teabaggers in Congress. So I'm not packing my bags just yet.

Mad Kane...

... has something rather astringent to say about the men of Der Tzitung, the Hasidic newspaper in Brooklyn with a policy against publishing women's pictures so strict that they literally airbrushed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton out of a photo in the White House Situation Room. And of course, Mad being Mad, she rhymes what she says!

What are you doing, why are you still here? Go... read...

Nashian Rhyme For Lily

Age-Related Annoyance

Almost any adolescent
Will at times behave unplescent.

- Steve Bates

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

President: Commander Or Dictator? - Terrorist: Criminal Or Warrior?

Glenn Greenwald addresses these and one other vital question in his article, "Democratic principles in the War on Terror."

First, outside of the fever-riddled brain of John Yoo and the icy heart of Dick Cheney, is there any basis in a constitutional democracy (remember? that's what we're supposed to aspire to be) for assigning our chief executive total and unreviewable power over citizens and noncitizens alike, including the unilateral power to decide life and death, when those people are far from any battlefield, and when the only "war" going on is what the late lamented Molly Ivins used to call a "war on a noun"?

Second, is terrorist behavior really combat in a war, requiring massive military response and comparably great compromises of our civil liberties in pursuit of victory? Or is it straightforward criminal behavior which can, and in the past, has been, dealt with in our duly constituted courts system, with all its trappings of due process?

Greenwald points out that even Eric Holder, during the Bush administration, answered those questions "no" and "criminal," offering compelling arguments for both answers... but he has now reversed both positions and argues in behalf of Obama's assuming breathtaking powers.

Greenwald quotes Yglesias, who in turn quotes a Rand Corporation study. Greenwald's conclusion is devastating:

... In 2004, the Democratic nominee John Kerry famously (and correctly) said -- echoing Cole's words above -- that Terrorism was comparable to prostitution, gambling, and organized crime:  "nuisances" to be dealt with primarily through law enforcement but that will never go away entirely.  In a 2008 Atlantic article, Matt Yglesias declared that "Kerry was right" when he " said something about counterterrorism being primarily a question to be dealt with through law enforcement and intelligence rather than something that should be understood as primarily a kind of war," and as proof, Yglesias cited this study from the Rand Corporation, which concluded as follows:

Its report said that the use of military force by the United States or other countries should be reserved for quelling large, well-armed and well-organized insurgencies, and that American officials should stop using the term "war on terror" and replace it with "counterterrorism."
"Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests there is no battlefield solution to terrorism," said Seth Jones, the lead author of the study and a Rand political scientist.
That view now, of course -- once the centerpiece of the Democratic Party's Terrorism arguments -- is decreed to be a fringe and radical view.  The same is true for Cole's argument that Terrorists should be deemed criminals, not warriors, and treated exactly the same way we treat criminals: with the full range of due process rights under our normal system of justice.  Believe me, to make that very same argument now is to prompt accusations of radicalism and even Terrorist sympathies. ...

All of those views -- Democratic Party orthodoxy a mere three years ago -- have become relegated to the fringe under the Obama presidency ...  But it's worth recalling that they were indeed the backbone of the Democrats' once-vigorous opposition (at least in rhetoric) to the Bush/Cheney worldview of using war and battlefield theories to fight Terrorism and to erode core Constitutional and civil liberties.
I would like to think that it goes without saying that our civil liberties as American citizens, even in wartime (which this arguably is not), must not depend on who sits in the White House, and what expediencies s/he is willing to resort to in pursuit of goals that may be as much politics as national security.

How do we get from here to there? Perhaps I have too much faith in the core of the old Democratic Party from bygone days, but I can only hope that at least some of old-timers can and will pressure President Obama not to become former "President" Bush, but rather to apply some of that constitutional scholarship he so proudly claims in his speechifying, to leave off his literal assaults on American citizens in a war that isn't a war, pursued not in his role as C-in-C of the armed forces but as a genuine leader in the face of confrontations against an opposition party of certifiable crazies who have no intention of governing, but rather are intent only on milking America dry and scaring her electorate half to death.

Does Mr. O have it in him? I don't know, but under the circumstances, we'd better Hope he can Change.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What Texans Reasonably Expect Of Louisiana

I once had a good job offer at a major university in Louisiana. I turned it down entirely because it would have required me to live in Louisiana. The man who offered me the job, a friend and colleague of mine, asked me forthrightly what the difference was between Texas and Louisiana. I answered, "About 200 years."

That was about 30 years ago, and one could hope things would have changed by now. One would hope that... in vain. Louisiana has put in place something called the Louisiana Science Education Act, R.S. 17:285.1, which requires public schools to allow teaching of creationism and/or "intelligent design" in their science classrooms. The state BOE's discussion made the classic "teach the controversy" argument, which is of course invalid on two grounds:

  • first, a taxpayer-funded public school may not legally, under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, teach any tenet of any religion in any classroom, and 
  • second, a more substantive objection, there is no legitimate sense of the word "science" in which creationism is a science... it is wholly a religious doctrine.

The law also allows schools to include climate change denial in science classrooms... this is less a religious issue than a political one, but the content permitted is just as false.

One 17-year-old student has organized a petition drive, implemented by, demanding that the Legislature repeal the law. It is an open petition, which means you and I may sign it. I have already; I hope you will do so.

And Never The Trains Shall Meet

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) seems to have decided that Americans are not sufficiently put upon by machines that effectively strip them naked when they board a plane, lists that prevent some Americans from boarding a plane at all, with absolutely no recourse for people added to that list in error (or deliberately, with political malevolence), etc. etc.

So Sen Schumer wants to remedy a disparity: he wants to impose similar restrictions on people who ride Amtrak trains. That's right: he wants a "no-ride" list, initially including the demonstrably faulty "no-fly" list.

Um, Sen. Schumer... [stage whisper...] it's not about the passengers. America will be the target of terrorism even if we check every passenger on every city bus against a printed list that would extend from here to the Moon. Terrorism will persist if we stop and check all drivers in all vehicles for driver licenses, voter IDs, passports, whatever. Terrorists will assault America if they have to walk to the next town to do it. Terrorists intent on attacking trains will attack tracks, tunnels and bridges, not the passenger compartments of railroad cars, because they can do so much more damage that way. Terrorist attacks are the inevitable fate of anyone who decides to play the biggest mofo on the block... and the US seems determined to be just that.

In Iraq, are those who use IEDs aboard the vehicles they blow up? No? Then why would they be aboard a train they intend to destroy? They know where it's going: it's not as if the train is going to change routes all of a sudden. Measures to discover IEDs brought aboard trains are a reasonable precaution, and monitoring tunnels, bridges etc. may be worth the effort. But no-ride lists are nothing but security theater. It's simply not about the passengers.

There's also the fact that a bomb on a train... literally on the train... has a relatively local destructive effect. Blow up a plane, and everyone aboard dies; gravity does part of the work. Crash a plane into a skyscraper... well, you know about that. But set off a bomb in a railroad passenger car? It would have to be quite a bomb to kill more than a few people.* No, terrorists will go after tracks, tunnels and bridges.

Senator... this is the stupidest proposal I've heard in a long time, excepting only Paul Ryan's "Path to Pathology" budget. Why don't you just give it up now, before we spend billions of dollars on totally ineffective "anti-terrorist" measures that probably make real terrorists laugh?

* In the 2004 Madrid commuter train bombings, thirteen IEDs were placed on trains and set off at peak traffic times. While many people were injured, fewer than 200 were killed. Bombs carried onto trains are, at best, devices to terrorize, not devices to kill large numbers of people.

Oh, Kay...

If you aren't visiting Kay's Thinking Cap at least once a week for her Groaner of the Week, you must be no more than half groan. This week's downright criminally bad pun sent both me and Stella into fits of groaning and shaking our heads!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Read This

FDL Book Salon hosts Tad Daley on his book Apocalypse Never: Forging the Path to a Nuclear Weapon-Free World. Hosts: Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson. Need I say more?

Actually, I'll say just a bit more. This reminds me of a book I read about 30 25 years ago called The Fate of the Earth, by Jonathan Schell. I found it reprinted perhaps 10 years ago; it is still available in local bookstores. So far, I haven't located Daley's book other than on Amazon and the above-linked Rutgers Press; Houston Public Lib ain't got it, dammit.

A Fence Taken

My back neighbor has been wielding a chainsaw along his side of the fence line, removing large tree branches and cutting them up. He has a perfect right to do so, and probably a need as well, given that hurricane season will be approaching sooner than I'd like to think. But...

DAMN, it's hot in this office (my back bedroom)!

My electricity provider sends me a weekly bill summary by email. Between two weeks ago and last week, the usage literally doubled. This summer is gonna hurt, in more ways than one...

Mutterer's Day

In about 1988 my Mother passed behind the veil of Alzheimer's disease. The portal hidden by that veil is largely one-directional: brilliant, vibrant, articulate people go in; only their incoherent mutterings come out.

Two years later, Mom's body died. It was a tough two years... for Dad, for me, and yes, for Mom: in the early stages of that terrible disease, the Alzheimer's victim is at least partially aware of what is happening to her.

So here's a toast to Mom as I remember her from earlier, better days. If I enjoy wit, poetry, music and fine Southern cooking, it is all because of Mom. Solo singer that she was, Mom must also have been a saint to love and marry my Dad, with his complete lack of pitch sense...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Note To Andy Card: Fuck You

Sometimes the Republan exceptionalism is breathtaking:

President Obama has 'pounded his chest' too much and taken too much pride in the success of the mission to take out Osama bin Laden, according to, of all people, George W. Bush's former Chief of Staff, Andrew Card.


Card, of course, was a top official in an administration noted for its theatrical press events, most notably the decision to have President Bush land a fighter jet on board an aircraft carrier before delivering his famous speech celebrating the invasion of Iraq in front of a giant "Mission: Accomplished" banner.


Does Card have any idea how much his shit stinks? IMHO, he knows exactly how much it does. And doesn't care. Optics for the next election? Fuck optics, says Card; elections can be bought, or if necessary, stolen...

UPDATE: on the above-linked thread, commenter Mickey Bitsko nails it precisely:

Sounds like this Card is missing a full deck.


Floridians: Beware Your Locally Grown Crops!

Jonathan Turley tells you why:

Florida House Approves Use of Human Waste To Treat Crops For Human Consumption
Published 1, May 6, 2011

Some Chinese may be steaming eggs in urine but Florida is about to grow its crops in such waste. After a heavy lobbying effort by industry, Florida is about to rescind a ban on the use of human waste to treat crops. Soon more than 90 companies will be pumping waste from about 100,000 septic tanks on to their fields — an estimated 40 million gallons treated with lime. ...
(Emphasis mine.)

We've only known of the dangers of doing this for, um, what? two or three millennia? I suppose the lime is supposed to make everything hunky-dory, but somehow I wouldn't want to depend on that to render the human waste literally safe for consumption.

And I thought Texas was bad...

Obama Issues Presidential Assassination Orders - Revisited

Glenn Greenwald is among the very, very few columnists who address this issue: on what possible constitutional basis is the President granted the unilateral power to issue an assassination order against an American citizen, omitting due process altogether and playing the roles of judge, jury and executioner, as he has done in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki? Isn't this the sort of thing, among many others, that led to the original American Revolution? Isn't this the sort of tyrannical, arbitrary punishment without due process of law that caused our Founders to craft the Bill of Rights in the first place?

Greenwald points out that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution "expressly guarantees that 'no person shall be deprived of life[, liberty, or property,] without due process of law' -- and provides no exception for war." The U.S. has managed to survive numerous terrible wars and one extended, ideologically driven Cold War without sacrificing that guarantee to the degree Obama seems willing to sacrifice it. When a president begins ditching constitutionally guaranteed liberties as easily as he would pour out yesterday's coffee, I have a problem with that... and you should, too.

I will not be voting for Mr. Obama in 2012. I will not be voting for his Republan opponent, either, but on the matter of fundamental civil liberties, I see very little difference between President Obama and his predecessor... except that Obama has actually issued assassination orders against American citizens far from any battlefield context, something that even the deplorable GeeDubya Bush never did. How could I vote for someone who illegitimately claims the power to assassinate American citizens without due process?

We are nothing without our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Without those guarantees, none of us... not one solitary American... has anything that can reasonably be called "security." I do not have an easy answer to Obama's behavior, but I know with certainty that if he is not confronted and the behavior addressed concretely, we can kiss our freedoms goodbye, no matter what terrorists Mr. Hopey-Changey manages to kill.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Fat Cat Blogging

Lily has grown rather large, larger than Esther, larger than any cat Our House has ever had in residence...

I am glad I never met Lily's father; he might be rather frightening!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jobs A Priority? Not To House GOP: See HR 3

H.R. 3, just passed by the Republan-dominated House with the assistance of 16 Democrats, is a draconian anti-abortion bill. It goes so far as to penalize businesses (by eliminating their tax credits) for offering employees insurance that covers abortion... even when the insurance is paid for with private money. Now there's a "conservative" maxim for business owners: "you can't spend your own money on a legal procedure, indeed, a constitutionally protected right, if we disapprove of the procedure." The bill also redefines rape in a way that requires a woman to prove she was forcibly raped before allowing her an abortion... now that's just what society has always wanted, a way to force a woman to bear her rapist's baby. [/snark] I've always said today's GOP has a cruel, dictatorial streak running right through it.

Once again, for the record, though I have grown tired of saying it: the Hyde Amendment, attached as a rider to a succession of funding bills since 1976, already prevents federal funds from being used for abortion. Although that amendment slashes access to abortion for poor women by removing it from Medicaid coverage, that's not the issue here. This bill goes much further than that: now the GOPers want to place the same restriction on the use of private funds. It seems to me that is mighty close to burdening a woman's right to an abortion as established in Roe.

Reportedly this bill has zero chance of making it into law. That's presuming the Senate does what it says, or Obama actually keeps a promise and vetoes it. But the fact that this is the third bill introduced in the GOP-controlled House shows just how much the GOP cares about dealing with unemployment, declining wages, home foreclosures, rising prices of every damned thing, etc.

Welcome to the Republan brave new world, where radical social-conservative measures displace basic bread-and-butter issues at the top of the priority list. Are those your priorities? No? Remember that fact in November 2012.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Obama Refuses To Release Bin Laden Death Photos

... says (at least) CBS News.

In other news, an estimated 572 photos allegedly of bin Laden's corpse, some obviously faked, immediately appeared on the Web... [/snark]

(Seriously, though: the FBI has announced that at least one email purporting to show bin Laden dead is a carrier of a virus. Be careful what you open.)

On Our Terms Or Bin Laden's Terms?

Rachel Maddow examines the issue. Long, but full of insights on both process and substance:

AFTERTHOUGHT: I did not know that a headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security is being built in Anacostia on the grounds of the former St. Elizabeth's mental hospital. Need I say more?

Government By Poll

Obama's poll approval jumped by 9 points in the wake of bin Laden's assassination:

Immediately following the announcement that American forces had killed Osama bin Laden, President Obama's approval rating leapt to its highest level since 2009 in a Washington Post/Pew poll.

In the poll, which was conducted on Monday, 56% of Americans said they approved of Obama's job performance, compared to 38% who said the disapproved. That's a marked turnaround from one month ago, when 47% of Americans gave Obama positive marks on his job performance, while 45% said otherwise.

It worked for GeeDubya Bush; why shouldn't it work for Barry Obama? Americans luuuuuvs them some violence: if a president's approval ratings are slipping, he (or she, someday soon, please?) can always improve them by ordering direct military action. We are not a subtle people, and we (that's the generic "we," not including me) don't want a subtle president.

But time and Rove wait for no man, and I am certain as I sit here that Obama's lead will evaporate long before November 2012: the truths told about him will be bad enough, and the lies will be still worse.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Low Teacher Pay

This PSA is brought to you courtesy of a post by PZ Myers of Pharyngula, reflecting an NYT op-ed by Dave Eggers and Ninive Clements Calegari... TEACHER PAY SUCKS BIG-TIME. The op-ed contains many interesting facts, but the center of it from my perspective is in these three grafs:

At the moment, the average teacher’s pay is on par with that of a toll taker or bartender. Teachers make 14 percent less than professionals in other occupations that require similar levels of education. In real terms, teachers’ salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000. This prices teachers out of home ownership in 32 metropolitan areas, and makes raising a family on one salary near impossible. 

So how do teachers cope? Sixty-two percent work outside the classroom to make ends meet. ...

We’ve been working with public school teachers for 10 years; every spring, we see many of the best teachers leave the profession. They’re mowed down by the long hours, low pay, the lack of support and respect. 

When I was born, Dad, trained as a schoolteacher, was working as a shipping clerk for a railroad, basically so he and Mom could afford to have a kid AND rent a very modest place to live. (Two-income households were uncommon in the working class in those days.) A decade later, when Dad decided he really, really wanted to teach school, we made the decision as a family, because it meant a drop in annual income from $13k to under $10k. Add another decade; Dad's salary was still not back to where it had been, though he was well over halfway to a Master's degree earned at UH in night classes, and I went to work in my first full-time job as a programmer... at a salary higher than Dad's salary at the time.

Add 40+ years, and not a damned thing has changed except the dollar amounts. Forgive me if I barf on the next person who says a bunch of damned lies about public school employees including teachers having such a great deal. That person is already soiled in my opinion; it's going to be difficult to see exactly how much of them to wipe away...

Another Question Answered: Torture, Once Again, Did Not Work

You all know by now that bin Laden was located at least in part by his use of a courier. In all the bragging since bin Laden's assassination, some security hawks have claimed that "harsh interrogation techniques" (let's call it what it was: torture) led Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to reveal the name of the courier.

As with all such claims to date, this one is bogus. Since I'm going to quote AP from ABC News, you'll have to depend on Mother Google to find the quote; I don't need the harassment:

Mohammed did not discuss al-Kuwaiti while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He acknowledged knowing him many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic.

Bolds mine. Only a news wire wholly owned by the tough guys on the right would say that it leaves matters "up for debate"; clearly, torture didn't work, and standard interrogation did. Suck on that, nut-cases!

(H/T jamie of IntoxiNation.)

Killing Him Was The Mission

I don't often send you to Politico, but there are a couple of interesting items in this article:


The SEALs took fire on their way to the compound’s third floor, where bin Laden had been sleeping, officials said. The encounter with bin Laden lasted only seconds, and ended with a kill shot to his face.


“They were told, ‘We think we found Osama bin Laden, and your job is to kill him,’” an official recalled.

So at least in theory, and with some risk, the SEALS presumably could have captured bin Laden... but their specified mission was to kill him. I take that to mean that bin Laden knew things that some Americans did not want said aloud.

How long before WikiLeaks releases the contents of those hard drives? [/snark]

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fair Play For The Texas Senate - UPDATED

The Texas Tribune:

Senate lawmakers have tentatively passed a controversial measure to require women seeking abortions to receive sonograms — and have the details of the fetus described to them — prior to the procedure. Pending a final vote tomorrow, the bill will head back to the House so the lower chamber can sign off on the Senate's changes. 

This bill is certain to pass, and Gov. Goodhair is certain to sign it. I found this exchange very revealing, between Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) and Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth):

Davis alleged the purpose of the bill "is to traumatize women." Patrick fired back: "You know me better than that."
Oh, indeed, we know you well, Sen. Right-Wing-Radio-Talk-Show-Host-Turned-Right-Wing-Pol. We know you better than you want to imagine.

OK. Once we've established in law that the State of Texas can require a doctor to perform a procedure that is medically unnecessary but conforms to a set of social/religious views, I propose the introduction of a similar law, one that requires every male state representative or senator who voted for that law to undergo a sonogram every time a woman in their district is compelled to undergo the same.

But wait... how can a male be given such a sonogram? Isn't it biologically impossible? No, it's not. Have you ever seen the device used to treat urethral meatal stenosis in a man, a thick steel rod? Surely the transducer of a sonogram isn't much larger than that. Just cram that muthafucka into that muthafucka and PUSH...

AFTERTHOUGHT: a friend reminded me on the comment thread that in my anger I advocated avoidable violence and the resulting pain. Perhaps I am becoming what I most abhor. More likely, I was just mad as hell at people bent on harming women. Either way, in the light of day (actually it's not quite dawn yet), I retract my fantasy violence. Dog knows there's enough of the real thing out there.

Glenn Greenwald

... offers a sensible assessment of the killing of Osama bin Laden. What he says is not that different from what I said upstream, but as always, he says it much better than I ever could.

Limericks 101 Assignment

OK, class, we have more serious material than usual available to us today. In the spirit of the Lipinski-Lewinsky-Kaczynski limericks of a few years ago, please write a limerick that rhymes...

  • Obama
  • Osama
  • yo Mama

You have 30 minutes. Use your time wisely.

Let The Mythology Begin

From the Guardian: Osama bin Laden corpse photo is fake. They even show the original images of which the fake is a composite. The photo has already been out on the intertubez for two years, in various publications with various labels.

Here we gooooooo...

Follow-Up: Interview With Baratunde Thurston About His Trump Video

Here's the interview by Steven Thrasher in Village Voice. As Thurston also works for The Onion, don't miss this one-panel jewel. He swears it came from The Onion's staff writers, that he had nothing to do with it...

H/T Kay for the link to the interview.

'Obama 1, Osama 0'

Thus spake a handmade cardboard sign, reminding us that bin Laden's death is a political victory for the president. After all, this is America; every president has to prove himself (herself? will that ever happen?) as a mighty warrior. If signs could contain more words, this one might have held another line: "Obama succeeded where Bush failed." Of course, neither president was really there when the deed was done; if there's to be credit, it must go to the troops in that firefight. But whatever. I am content to allow Obama to bask in reflected glory; it's the American way.

Meanwhile, TPM offers a large number of snapshots of the celebrations in NYC and DC.

I can understand that in these awful times the public needs a victory of some sort. We've lost our jobs; many of us have lost our homes. But by damn, we killed bin Laden... and no one else is ever gonna pull a stunt like 9/11/2001 on us again. [/snark]

These scenes are heartening in their own limited way. But jeez, folks, it ain't VE Day. I just looked around and all my problems are still here this morning. How about you?

AFTERTHOUGHT:  the NYT can never resist a partisan political cheap shot. Headline: "Bin Laden is Dead, Obama Says." Awwww, c'mon, folks... maybe, just once, you could, like, do some actual reporting and find sources to tell you whether bin Laden is dead, rather than using that maybe-it's-not-true voice? I don't recall any headline 10 years ago that read, "Mission Accomplished, Bush Says" ...

AFTERTHOUGHT:  I will bet you money that this gets the wing-nuts chattering:
US officials say that Osama bin Laden has now already been buried at sea. 
Islamic tradition calls for quick interment, preferably within hours of death. But that won't keep the nut-cases from talking endlessly about how he's not really dead, the body buried was not really Osama, etc., etc. ad nauseam. "Show me the death certificate!!1!11!!!!"

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Killed

Details here.

Over the decade in which I have written this blog, I have had a tacit policy of not celebrating anyone's death; doing so seemed at best tasteless and at worst counterproductive. I think you will forgive me if I suspend that policy in this one instance: Good riddance to bad rubbish. Yet even that celebration is counterproductive.

Bin Laden's death changes essentially nothing, at least nothing for the better. The United States is still involved in (arguably) three wars directly and ineffectively related to terrorism, and some unspecified number of covert conflicts that are wars in all but name. The US is also still violating treaties, international laws including the Geneva Conventions, its own military laws, and various US policies against things like torture, as if there were no tomorrow and none of America's actions would ever come back to haunt us.

Meanwhile, our civil liberties are being revoked at a breathtaking pace, allegedly in the effort to curb terrorism, but we all know the real reasons. As some of our enemies predicted, the US is effectively destroying itself.

Bin Laden, on the other hand, seems to have gotten everything he wanted. Economically, militarily, and in terms of international relations, the US is headed downhill so fast it makes our heads swim. And presumably Osama is busy with those 72 virgins...

I have only one arguably partisan question: why did this never happen during the administration of George W. Bush? Forgive me if I doubt that omission was accidental: they wanted to leave this on the Democrats' plate. I suppose that turns out to have been a political fuck-up on the part of the GOP.

But before you dance on bin Laden's metaphorical grave, remember this: our nation is probably being buried along with him. To use the phrase popular in 2001... the terrorists have won. Welcome to Hell; enjoy your stay.

Supremes Effectively End Class Action Lawsuits Against Corporations

Elaine Magliaro on Jonathan Turley's blog has details.

The case is AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion. Along classic 5-4 ideological lines, the Court voted to validate contracts with clauses that require arbitration or mandate individual rather than group claims in the event of disputes. As you might surmise, corp's can fight such a lawsuit simply by exhausting an individual's resources: even if there are thousands of such individuals, they can be drained and defeated one-by-one using the corp's effectively unlimited supply of lawyers.

Welcome to the new order. Maybe you can fight City Hall, but I doubt seriously you have the money to fight AT&T.

Don't Proselytize Me

There I was, "easy like Sunday morning," sitting in my most comfortable chair, sipping soda and reading an excellent murder mystery.

There was a knock at the front door. The mystery was suspenseful enough that the knock made me jump, but there are a few friends who know me well enough to be welcome to drop in, so I got out of my comfy chair, onto my walker and galumphed my way to the front door. I could not see anyone through the peephole, so I didn't open the door; I merely said "Who is it?"

After a second, a young family, dressed for church and carrying their bibles, appeared. The young man said something; I didn't understand and asked him to repeat. Rather than repeating himself, perhaps influenced by my reluctance to open the door, he said "Have a nice day" and departed.

My strong feeling is that these good people came by with the intention of converting me to their religion. Maybe they are "required" to do so by some mandate, real or imagined, of that religion. Usually they are not interested in the give-and-take of real discussion; they know they have the One True Religion, and they need only tell me about it... truly a one-directional communication... for me to be Saved, as they already are.

I know these people are exercising their First Amendment right, and I do not begrudge them that. I am invariably civil in my interactions with them. But they are wasting their time with me, and life is too short for them to waste their time, or mine.

Unlike one friend's car, I am not convertible. I have my views on Life, the Universe and Everything, and I'm just not interested in buying a package someone else is selling. Threatening me doesn't work, either; I find it utterly incredible that an all-powerful god would bother to condemn anyone to an eternity of hell, for any reason whatsoever. If belief in your god requires me to accept the existence of a hell, I don't want to waste your time or mine talking with you. (Atheists and agnostics, on the other hand, are welcome here. Have a seat and I'll fetch you a beer.)

In earlier days, in another house, on Sundays, in pleasant Spring weather, I often sat inside with my front door open, with a screen door to keep out mosquitoes, reading and sipping, enjoying the breeze. Unfortunately, the whole proselytizing game became too popular in that neighborhood, and I found myself becoming less than polite to those not easily discouraged by a first rebuff. Eventually I started closing my door. Bye bye, Spring breezes.

So let me make it clear to anyone walking in my neighborhood: I don't buy anything sold door-to-door. That includes religion and politics, even though I've done some block-walking myself in the past. If you're a friend or neighbor, come on in. If you are walking for a candidate, please stick a brochure in the outer door. If you have any other agenda, please just keep walking.

Republans At It Again: Gerrymandering Texas

You may have thought that Republans (note: I shall continue to lose the "ic" in "RepublICan" until Republans stop losing the "ic" in "DemocratIC Party") could not possibly do any more redistricting damage than they did in a mid-cycle redistricting in 2003 through the efforts of now convicted criminal money-launderer Tom DeLay (R-Jailhouse). But if you thought that, you would be wrong.

Republans in the Texas House have created a plan that does more minority packing than I would have thought possible after what DeLay already succeeded in doing less than a decade ago... but no, the state House succeeded in diluting-by-combining minority voting strengths, both African American and Hispanic, even more than was done in 2003. State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) (official site/political site/public statement on this issue) has written a heads-up letter to US AG Eric Holder regarding the problems this unreservedly Republan plan has with respect to the Voting Rights Act. Read Coleman's letter to see what the bastards are up to this time. It's at least as ugly as what DeLay & Co. did in 2003. And it's being done without even minimal input from the Democratic delegations of counties most affected.

I'm sorry to have to say it... these people are just plain evil. They have, or at least display, not the smallest shred of conscience, nor the tiniest intention of submitting to the will of the majority. If I believed in Hell, I'd cheerfully consign them there.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Last Gas, 90 Miles, Um, I Mean, Last Books, 90 Days

Today was the last day open for a while for the nearest branch of the Houston Public Library, the one that is only 1½ blocks from our house, the one that supplies us most of our fiction, our movies, our new audio CDs, etc. in this era of, um, limited resources. Starting tomorrow (well, OK, technically it's Monday) our branch will be closed for renovations for approximately 90 days. Damn!

What renovations? The plant is at most 10 years old; what needs renovating so desperately that we have to lose our library for three months? Good question. Stella asked them parts of that question; I asked other parts.

The building is very open-looking, more or less one humongous room under a swoop-shaped space-age roof, glass walls in every direction. They plan to add some more internal glass walls for the sake of sound insulation: apparently, the various age-group-specific events (kids' storytelling, teen book discussion groups, computer workstations, etc.) were not adequately separated to prevent a lot of complaints about crosstalk. This seldom bothered me, but any IT professional who has worked in industrial environments develops an ability to concentrate in the face of almost any amount of noise, so I'm not a good test.

Beyond that, apparently, the topmost parts of some of the windows are not sufficiently sun-blocking, with the consequence that at some times of the day, significant parts of the library are simply unusable for reading or computer use.

There is some good news in all of this. The staff is being temporarily redistributed to other branch libraries (HPL has literally dozens of branches) rather than fired or furloughed, and will return to us once renovations are complete. This is good, because as a former library worker in my younger days, I have high praise for these people: they're good, and I am glad we are not losing them.

Books on hold (often brought in from other branches) will be available for pickup about five miles away at another branch. In sprawling Houston, five miles is like nothing. Indeed, the branch for pickup was at one time our closest library, before the swoop-roofed one was built.

Still, I am having some difficulty getting used to the idea of not having my very own branch library a block away. Let's hope they really do finish the work in under three months.

If You Ever Had The Misbegotten Notion...

... that Mitch Daniels is some kind of moderate, read this:

Daniels To Sign Bill Stripping Federal Funds From Planned Parenthood in Indiana
Melissa Jeltsen | April 29, 2011, 5:15PM

Republican Governor Mitch Daniels released a statement Friday afternoon saying he will sign legislation stripping federal funds from Planned Parenthood in Indiana, the first state to make such a move.

The statement reads:
I will sign HEA 1210 when it reaches my desk a week or so from now. I supported this bill from the outset, and the recent addition of language guarding against the spending of tax dollars to support abortions creates no reason to alter my position. The principle involved commands the support of an overwhelming majority of Hoosiers, as reflected in greater than 2:1 bipartisan votes in both legislative chambers.

Once again, a Republan in a powerful position not only sets out actively to discriminate against women, but attempts to justify an infringement on a woman's right to choose abortion by a reference to public opinion.

This is what Roe v. Wade attempted to clarify: abortion is a right. Rights are not subject to public opinion. Rights are not subject to majority rule. Rights cannot be voted on. If something is a right, it may not be suppressed by a plebiscite.

I suppose Daniels is going to run for preznit. Fine; let him... but I hope this incident puts to rest the notion that he is anything less than a full-fledged right-wing nut-case.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana will survive, no doubt with greatly reduced services. There will be thousands (millions?) more women in Indiana without contraception. As a consequence, there will be vast increases in the number of children that have to be supported in whole or in part by the state (or sent out on the street to starve). There will be substantial increases in STD rates in the Indiana population, including, probably, the infection of a few Republan politicians.

And... I'll say it if Mitch won't... there will be more abortions. Many, many more abortions. Great job, Mitch.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge

Mitt Romney talked today about "hanging" something around President Obama's neck. From the linked Boston Globe article:

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney tread on dangerous ground tonight as he talked about "hanging" a misery index around the neck of Barack Obama, the nation's first black president.

Romney almost immediately caught himself, with the English major declaring "metaphorically" speaking, but the mix of nervous laughter with applause indicated at least some in the audience realized its potency.

I'm sorry... there's not a chance in Hell that this was accidental on Romney's part. This was a message to the most racist among the Republan base. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Absolutely, totally morally deplorable.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Powerful, Moving Deconstruction Of Donald Trump

Comedian, political commentator and blogger Baratunde Thurston has had it up to here with Donald Trump. His commentary on Trump's racist birther rhetoric (NSFW if your coworkers are sensitive about even occasional well-chosen profanity) is among the most powerful and inspiring condemnations of racism I have ever seen. Indeed, I am reminded of the late great Langston Hughes's poem "Let America be America Again," with its refrain "(America never was America to me.)"

As Thurston reminds us, the most dismaying thing about Trump's recent tirades is that they are happening now, almost a century and a half after the theoretical end of slavery in America. That fact has given me reason to believe that our nation is fragmenting in ways that may never be repaired. And people like Trump are part of the cause. Ironically, Trump would be lucky indeed to possess an intellect even remotely comparable to Thurston's. But he does not. Instead, he possesses only great wealth and an unjustifiably self-pleased attitude. If ever there were a one-man argument against rule by the rich, Donald Trump is it.

Barack Obama has not been the president I hoped and anticipated he would be. His track record on civil liberties places him squarely in the middle... the middle if the right-wing Republican crazy crowd. But this is not about whether I like Obama, or whether you or I voted for him (I think you know I did), or whether there is reasonable hope for national sanity if he is re-elected. This is about one thing and one thing only: the fact that President Obama is Black. To the birthers, nothing else matters... nothing. And their attitude is morally deplorable.

H/T Mustang Bobby.

Manually Generated Comment Spam

To me, it seems the hard way to do things, but I suppose it doesn't require hiring an IT professional or buying software. There has been a rash of comment spam lately, obviously manually generated (copy-pasted?), with comments along the lines of "Nice post" followed sometimes by a URL... anything to get those numbers up, I suppose. This has become common enough in the past week that from now on I'll delete it unremarked.

What an annoying phenomenon! In other news, water is wet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Panetta/Petraeus Shuffle

Obama is reshuffling his national security structure, and I found David Dayen's take on the matter enlightening. Dayen concludes:

Panetta was Chief of Staff under Bill Clinton and before that a US Representative from the Central Coast of California. He’s been CIA Director in the Obama Administration, which as I understand it now is basically the Secretary of Defense job, given all the covert operations. And then you have a military commander moving to the CIA. So the merging of the military and the intelligence community is complete. Within a few years it’ll just be one big black op. The good news is they can cut the military budget then, and put everything into the secret, off-the-books intelligence budget so as not to raise suspicion.

(Emphasis mine.)

Our Founders had the foresight to place the military under the command of the most powerful civilian in our government. But they surely had no notion of a military-industrial complex, no notion of literally waging war by a series of black ops, and no concept of a government agency with the mandate and secret budget of the CIA.

Perhaps this simplification by merging of functions will help the folks who merely pay for it all with their taxes to understand better: now there's just one big entity that does all this stuff, and it works behind the scrim.

Feel better now?

Krugman On Obamacare/Romneycare

Paul Krugman examines the fundamental provisions of Obamacare one by one, then declares that Obamacare is essentially Romneycare (Massachusetts health reform). Krugman concludes:

There are no more conservative alternatives — not unless you give up on the whole idea that everyone should have coverage. There are alternatives to the left — single-payer, VA-style government provision — but Obamacare is already as conservative as a plan to make health insurance more or less universal can be.

Which means, of course, that the GOP has no interest in covering everyone under any plan whatsoever. For their money (so to speak), people who would be unprofitable should just go ahead and die, as long as insurance companies get their big bucks first.

Are You American? Could You Get A Passport Today? - UPDATED

H/T ellroon, who points us to digby, who says...

Remember when Alaskan extremist candidate Joe Miller cited East Germany's border fence as a fine example and we all laughed and laughed because their fence was built to keep their own people in rather than keeping foreign people out?

Well, the laugh's on us. We may not be literally building such a fence, but we are creating a virtual one:

If you don’t want it to get even harder for a U.S. citizen to get a passport — now required for travel even to Canada or Mexico — you only have until Monday to let the State Department know. The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for some passport applicants:

It seems likely that only some, not all, applicants will be required to fill out the new questionnaire, but no criteria have been made public for determining who will be subjected to these additional new written interrogatories. ...


Digby's assessment:
This is Big Brother stuff --- they are setting up a series of roadblocks to use "just in case" they want to deny someone a passport. The question is, who and why? ...
Big Brother stuff. Is that too strong a statement? I really don't know, and I hardly ever travel these days, domestically, let alone internationally.

But about a couple years ago, some time after I moved to this house, I ran across my old passport as I unpacked from the move. It was about to expire, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Something told me that it was worth the time and money (which was considerable; I missed the renewal date by ONE DAY) to have a current passport. I doubt seriously that I shall outlive this new one, but I had a sense that it was not a good idea to wait until I had imminent travel plans to undertake the renewal. I promptly renewed the passport. Now I can at least visit the West Coast of Canada again if I'm lucky enough to regain my physical ability to travel; that was one very beautiful place, and I'd like to see it again before I step on a rainbow.

Why is this happening? What kind of USA wants to make international travel difficult for ordinary citizens? It makes no sense, even for the purveyors of empire, to restrict travel. Hell, it's bad for business of just about any kind. Why are they proposing to do this? I cannot think of an innocuous reason; can you?

UPDATE: BadTux says this turns out to be just another way of obtaining a passport, the only way if your original proofs of citizenship are lost. Let us hope that's all it is. See BadTux's comment on the thread of this post.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

No Barbour-ous Presidential Candidate

Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Racism) says he will not run for president, and gives his reasons:

A candidate for president today is embracing a ten-year commitment to an all-consuming effort, to the virtual exclusion of all else.  His (or her) supporters expect and deserve no less than absolute fire in the belly from their candidate.  I cannot offer that with certainty, and total certainty is required.

Fire in the belly? Barbour? Water on the brain, maybe...

Elizabeth Warren: Recess Appointment To Head CFPB?

David Dayen has details. Needless to say, appointing someone apparently both sane and expert would be a first for Obama, and I doubt she can be confirmed when it's time to re-up. But Warren is so obviously the right person for the job that... um, never mind; I forgot for a moment what world I'm living in. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Newly Leaked Docs: Guantánamo 'Quite Simply A Mess'

The quote is from Obama, in May 2009 as reported on McClatchy in the article linked below.

The mess... well, if the WikiLeaks documents are valid, to say that Guantánamo has suffered mission creep is far too kind. Please read Amy Davidson in The New Yorker and Carol Rosenberg and Tom Lasseter of McClatchy. Americans, prepare to be embarrassed on behalf of your country, or perhaps even ashamed of it.

Two Via Digby

H/T Digby for links to the following two articles:

Both are rather long; both are worth your time.

Want To Cut The Budget? Reduce Military Spending

Sorry I missed this when it came out, and thanks to TrueMajority for emailing me a reminder: amazingly, the New York Times is on board with the "Not $1 More" campaign fronted by several progressive groups.

Let's face it: if we're going to leave people jobless and homeless in a quest for more money for rich folks budget reductions, we really ought to recognize two things: one, our military budget exceeds in size the military budgets of all other major nations combined, and two, the horrendous size of that budget... $7.5 trillion over the next decade, apparently not counting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan... is so large in part because it addresses force structure and procurement needs for a bloated Cold War context that is simply no longer applicable.

If even The Newspaper of Wreckers recognizes (wreck-ognizes?) the scope of the problem, you know it's got to be bad. If the GOP is serious about deficit reduction (OK, stop laughing; I do know exactly one Republican who really means it, and he's not a happy camper these days), they will cooperate in addressing the item that overwhelms the rest of the budget. If not... very likely IMHO... we know it's business-as-usual into the foreseeable future.

RELATED INFO: Krugman talks about the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget proposal.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

More About iPhone And Android Tracking

David Drumm on Jonathan Turley's blog provides more details on the warrantless tracking info aggregated on modern smartphones and transmitted to the companies that provide services, or other companies, as the manufacturer may choose. First, the basics:
iPhones and Android smartphones regularly transmit their locations back to Apple and Google. The location information is used for the estimated $2.9 billion location-based services market. Location-based advertising targets consumers with location-specific advertising on their mobile devices.

According to research, the HTC Android phone collects location information every few seconds and transmits the data back to Google several times an hour.
What if you don't want to be targeted for location-based advertising?
According to Apple, GPS and cell tower data collected by the device and transmitted to Apple is assigned a random identification number that cannot be associated with a particular customer or device. Although, Apple could easily and secretly change this as part of a software “upgrade.” iPhone customers also have the option of disabling location-based service capabilities under the “General” menu under “Settings.” If this option is disabled, no location information will be collected. The more iPhone users that opt-out, the less location-based service revenue for Apple.
Anyone even remotely technologically inclined will realize that if the location service can be turned off locally by a user, it can surely be turned on remotely by the service provider. I suspect the ability to disable location service is a temporary provision, until Apple etc. can pay their tame members of Congress to fix the laws to allow location service to be activated silently and without permission.

Is it constitutional? does it amount to a "search" when a network locates a user for commercial purposes without the user's permission and without a warrant? Well, there's an app a Court for that...

My location is "at home" probably more than 99 percent of the time. And I am not particularly secretive about other places I may go. And my phone is old and cheap; obviously the cell tower system can find it, but I doubt seriously there's enough capacity in it to do the kind of real-time tracking described above.

But if I replace my phone, as one inevitably does if s/he lives long enough, I'll probably start turning it off when I'm out and about, unless I'm expecting an imminent incoming call or about to place a call myself... in other words, I'll use the phone more as a glorified answering machine. Call it my small personal stand for minimal privacy.

The feature I shall miss most if I turn my phone off is the displayed date and time. But they still sell devices that perform only that function; if I recall, they're called "wristwatches" ...

Drumm concludes with this thought:
... If police have warrantless access to your cellphone’s tracking data, the tagline will become “let me see your driver’s license, registration, proof of insurance, and cellphone.”

Happy Easter To My Christian Friends

And please be kind to bunnies!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Cult Of Zero

I have just returned from a thread on emptywheel's blog, on which I learned that there are still people defending Obama even for his utterly inappropriate public claim that PFC Bradley Manning "broke the law." As far as I know, Manning has been charged with, but neither tried for nor convicted of, the acts for which Obama publicly condemns him.

It is a truism of American justice (reinforced implicitly in the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution) that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty under the law before a duly constituted court. What part of "innocent until proven guilty" does our self-proclaimed legal scholar president not understand?

At some point, support of Mr. Obama... even as he defies the law and the legal tradition of due process, proclaiming Manning's guilt in public, a public including military service members  who will eventually serve as Manning's jurors in trial proceedings by a military of which Obama is commander-in-chief... amounts to a kind of cultism in which Obama, just by being Obama, is above the law.

I'm sorry... that just won't wash.

It Was All A Misunderstanding

An afterthought on an earlier post about Sen. Jon Kyl's "misstatement":

Sen. Jon Kyl's aide did not, after all, say that Sen. Kyl's Planned Parenthood comment was "not intended to be a factual statement." What the aide surely actually said, which of course never made it onto the evening news, was that it was "not intended to be a fuck-you-all statement." But as they're all Republicans in that office, even that statement is a lie.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Hitch In Time

Christopher Hitchens is dying of cancer. The link is to Hitchens's farewell letter to the American Atheist convention, which he was to have addressed, but was physically incapacitated past any hope of speaking. A big H/T to PZ Myers for publishing the letter. It may be the best thing Hitchens ever wrote.

Let's get something out of the way up front. Hitchens is a cantankerous man who drinks too much and has a real capacity for offending people. OK, I've posted the obligatory qualifier. But I am pretty cranky myself, and I don't write a tenth as well as he does. (I almost said "did" ... but as far as I know, he is still hanging on.) We can respect him for his good aspects. Speak no ill of the (almost-) dead, and all that.

Over the course of my 62 years (can you believe it? Hitchens is younger than I am) I have transitioned from non-belief (my very early exposure to Christianity simply didn't "take") to quasi-New-Age belief (I was influenced by friends toward that), to write-your-own-belief (I was a UU... an agnostic who admires our nation's Founders could do worse than to be a UU) to leaning-toward-unbelief, which is where I stand these days. The physical universe contains so many improbabilities, and their number and conceptual complexity seem to increase every time I revisit them after a few years, that I can no longer find it in myself to profess doctrinaire belief in any formal religion. And I seem to be able to speak God's alleged name only when I'm cussing a blue streak.

I've played music in services offered by an astonishing variety of Unitarian-Universalist churches, Christian churches both Catholic and Protestant, Jewish synagogues, and so on. That means I've heard sermons by a lot of different kinds of preachers. All I can say is, it is a good thing I was paid for listening to those preachers, um, I mean, playing those services...

Some preached moral truths; some among those actually addressed moral issues rather than listing thou-shalt-nots. Some stuck to the thou-shalt-nots.

Some preached Christian or Jewish stories; some of those stories were part of traditions thousands of years old... and none of them, not a damned one, was true in any literal sense, not that they didn't have their attractions and uses as myths.

Some UU ministers preached that I should create my own religion and traditions and stories from scratch or with help from any sources I chose. That came closest to fitting my needs (though I was too lazy to engage in much myth-making), and I stuck around for several years at one UU church.

But eventually I did not need a church for fulfillment. (I confess I do miss the music... but for performers, the music goes away one day, no matter how much you wish it wouldn't.) And as I don't need a god for salvation, blessing, justification for what I do, or formalizing of my human relations, I left most of my sense of God behind when I left the churches. I still have a vague, nebulous, nonspecific and certainly non-doctrinal sense of Presence, but I'm the first to admit that it could be (and likely is) brain chemistry.

So I have a great respect for the path chosen by Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and the other serious atheists of our era, as well as the street fighters in behalf of that tradition, such as PZ Myers.

As for Hitchens, I shall miss the cranky bastard when he's gone. I offer no prayers, but I shall raise a glass in his memory.

Amazon Weather Forecast: Not Cloud-y, Community Suffers

According to Reuters, Amazon's "Elastic Compute Cloud" service has experienced serious problems, starting early Thursday and continuing into today. This has affected me principally in the absence of login and comment facilities on Talking Points Memo; those services just returned to me within the past hour.

Yes, I know, some of you don't like TPM... or FDL, or Kos, or one side or the other of occasional blog wars between smaller blogs. Nothing wrong with that. But many of us find our blogging experience considerably enhanced by the presence of a community associated with a large blog.

For example, I learn more than a little bit by reading the comments on FDL; many of their commenters (yes, I am one, though only occasionally, under the name "SBtheYDD") are themselves bloggers in the manner of journalists, who do serious research and post at least some of it in comments or personal blogs on that site.

I am not as much a member of the TPM community (though I do post an occasional comment under the name "doggerelist"), but I lurk on their threads. It is not difficult to filter the good stuff from the crap, and sometimes the good stuff represents quality work by people not as well-known as the named authors.

So the commenting facility on a blog is a community-building tool, for progressives and liberals as surely as for wing-nuts. I am glad TPM seems to be back "on the air" with its full community visible from here once again.

Kyl Erases His Bogus Planned Parenthood Statement From Senate Record

Of course anyone who has ever had anything to do with following the doings of members of Congress knows that the congressional record is NOT anything like an official transcript of proceedings: basically, any member of Congress can change it, introducing, deleting or rewriting parts of speeches they made on the floor.

But the senator who can spell neither John nor Kyle properly, who claimed on the Senate floor that "[i]f you want an abortion you go to Planned Parenthood and that's well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does," then later responded to criticism of the statement by issuing a disclaimer, "[h]is remark was not intended to be a factual statement," has retroactively changed what he said, in the congressional record. Visit David Kurtz's account in the TPM Editors Blog at that link.

Next week, Sen. Kyl will reassure us that the federal government does in fact spend 15 percent of all taxpayers' money on foreign aid, that Social Security is broke and is going broker, that Saddam Hussein plotted 9/11 with the Saudi conspirators, that welfare mothers live better than you do, etc., etc.

Shorter Jon Kyl: it doesn't have to be true; it just has to sound good from one's own ideological perspective. Hey, maybe I'll remember that next time... nah. Unlike some people, I couldn't live with myself if I flung that kind of bullshit.

AFTERTHOUGHT: just in case you are wondering, Planned Parenthood does do abortions; according to their 2009 report, abortions represent about 3 percent of all services they provide. Much of the rest... women's reproductive health exams including cancer screening (17 percent of services), STD exams (31 percent), and supplying contraceptives (36 percent)... vastly exceeds the total for abortions. Planned Parenthood is often the only reproductive health care available to women of limited means and to teens whose parents, for one reason or another, will not provide them necessary medical care. Source: Media Matters... but practically any honest site on reproductive health can tell you that.

If 'God' Be Against Us, Who Can Be For Us?

"God" in this case is Barack Obama, who said in public about PFC Bradley Manning that "he broke the law."

Well, maybe he did, although I'd feel better about that assertion if they, like, you know, tried Manning and convicted him before the President of the United States went around proclaiming his guilt...

In a just world, in a just nation, this alone would be grounds for a mistrial in all subsequent trials of accusations against Manning. But I suspect Obama has no intention of ever letting the question of Manning's guilt see the inside of a courtroom. He's just going to hold him forever, shuffling him from one detention facility to another to try to defuse public discontent over the manner of Manning's imprisonment. And the Pentagon has as much as admitted it. From the same FDL article by Michael Whitley:
As a reminder: the Pentagon plans to hold Manning indefinitely. Might as well, since they think he’s guilty already.
Follow the above link and read the quote from the Pentagon's lawyer at the press conference: they're planning on holding Manning
... for what we expect will be a longer period of pre-trial confinement...
... we are probably months off from the trial of this case.
Why? Manning has been imprisoned for most of a year. He has been charged with a laundry list of crimes, at least one of them capital, for several months. Why is the prosecution not prepared, after all this time, to try him? I can only conclude that "justice" is far from the object of this case. The word "persecution" comes to mind instead. And the real crime? defying the will of "God."

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