Thursday, February 28, 2013

House Passes Violence Against Women Act

A GOP-majority House passed the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act... the Democratic version, the one already passed in the Senate... by a vote of 286-138. Obama of course has announced his intention to sign it.

The reversal of the GOP position was probably their only hope of not losing their House majority in 2014: can you imagine a party going into an election in a country in which women have the franchise (though some Republicans would change that if they could), having deliberately defeated renewal of such a law?

Over a period of two decades, VAWA has markedly increased reporting of "domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking," diminished murder by an intimate partner by 34% among women and 57% among men, and "saved taxpayers at least $12.6 billion in net averted social costs." (All numbers from NNEDV.)

Any law that saves lives and dollars in such quantity should never have been a partisan issue in the first place. And it wasn't, for most of two decades... until the GOP morphed into the crazy entity it has become in the past few years, actually since Obama's election in 2008.

One Republican could not resist a bit of "humor" regarding transvaginal ultrasounds: Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) said he couldn't comment on the procedure because... this is a quote... "I haven't had one." What a bastard. Wisconsin women in his district, please take note.

Scalia: Voting Rights Act A 'Perpetuation Of Racial Entitlement'

Questioning the good faith and good judgment of every Congress that has passed and renewed the Voting Rights Act since 1965, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said, "This is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress,"

Well, then: who can we leave it to?

One could easily argue for a fundamental right to vote, a right which it has proved necessary to protect in law. Scalia seems to be proclaiming the right of a state to suppress voting. He is correct about one thing: that is precisely the kind of arbitrary wielding of state power the Voting Rights Act was passed (and repeatedly renewed) to prevent.

We have a word in our language for a person who would substitute his or her own judgment for that of a legislature in enacting laws for our nation. And that word isn't "justice."

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Executive Warrantless Eavesdropping OKed By Supremes

Five Justices of the Supreme Court... I don't even need to mention which five... dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act [of 2008], the law that underpins most warrantless eavesdropping. Glenn Greenwald's assessment:
This means that the lawsuit is dismissed without any ruling on whether the US government's new eavesdropping powers violate core constitutional rights. The background of this case is vital to understanding why this is so significant.
The consequences are pretty obvious to me: any vestige of constitutionally protected privacy we may once have had (e.g., under the Fourth Amendment) is rapidly slipping away. I'd say the only privacy Americans have left is the privacy they can manage by technological means. And given the reputedly high level of tradecraft of the NSA, I wouldn't put a lot of stock in that, either.

There is some irony here. The most right-wing Americans are all in favor of this kind of warrantless spying on American citizens, on the basis that it keeps us safe from terrorists... a loss of political privacy from government snooping is essential, in their opinion, to our physical safety. Yet many of those same right-wing nutjobs, especially those obsessed with a religiosity I cannot comprehend, are intent on suppressing the obvious outcome of any personal sexual privacy we may once have had. I suppose there's a sort of foolish consistency there... no privacy of any sort is to be allowed... but I am not happy to see the hobgoblins taking over the little minds again. Damned if I am relinquishing my privacy, personal or political, for the sake of some terrified bastard's notion of physical safety and security.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Prosthesis Arrived Today!

My prosthetist turned it over to me at today's appointment. He had completed the socket, and with a suitable liner and other miscellany, it was ready to go. Not me; I'm exhausted (don't ask). And I have an appointment with the hospital case manager tomorrow, so I can't stay up tweaking the "new" computer as I would prefer, so I'll have to write more later. Thanks as always to friend and neighbor George, who prevented this day from ending before it began because of transportation obstacles.

"Tomorrow, tomorrow [evening], there's always... tomorrow..."

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ubuntu 12.04 Mostly Pleasant To Use - UPDATED

Ubuntu Linux 12.04.2 LTS continues to be mostly satisfactory to use, enough so that I can foresee using it for the approximately 4 years remaining in its support period (if I live that long).

The interface is attractive. Somehow I could never find it in myself to say that about any Windows system. This one is colorful and (depending on how you set it up) relatively tasteful. Does that matter? Ask anyone in the arts if it matters. Things I like about the interface:
  • The Dash, a launcher after my own heart. Type a few letters of the name of the app; The Dash shows you icons for all apps matching what you typed. Click one; Dash disappears and the app starts. For elderly command-line jockeys like me, this is just about the ideal blend, and a lot less fussy than a large main menu stuffed full of entries.
  • Thanks to the Workspace Switcher, I am actually inclined to make use of workspaces for the first time. Before, it was too easy to lose track.
Things I don't like about the interface:
  • The main launcher bar (I don't know the proper term yet) is a single column of buttons that holds perhaps two dozen or fewer launchers. Within limits, you can set the size of the buttons, but if you want more than will fit in that one column, you have to place the launcher on the desktop instead. Windows users will be fine with that; Linux/Unix users are generally less inclined to clutter the desktop.
  • When you use any given app, its navigation bar, document information (e.g., URL textbox), etc. are across the top of the app's main window... all except the app's main menu. That appears at the very top of the display, and appears only when you're running that app and hover the mouse there. It's a little disorienting if you do much with the menu.

The office suite, LibreOffice 3, does things a little differently from MS Office, but most of the functionality is there. As with most Linux software, it's free; just install it and use it.

The default browser is Firefox, currently version 19.0, so far satisfactory. This box is just enough faster than the old one that there's no longer a "Firefox penalty" compared to Google Chrome. That said, I'll still install Chrome before long; it is always good to test things in at least two browsers.

The only email software installed is Thunderbird. If you have a major email provider, it's probably great. If you have a provider too small to be in Mozilla's database, the auto-account-creation tool is so dysfunctional it will send you screaming when you try to create an account. I've put it aside for a rainy day, and am using my email host's (very well-implemented) webmail for everything at the moment.

The photo manager, Shotwell, is new to me as of tonight, but it is a great improvement over their previous offering. You could call it "F-Spot done right" and not be far off the mark. It isn't exceedingly feature-rich, but it does the things a manager needs to do, and makes it easy to offload genuine editing to a real editor. I chose GIMP for that purpose... appropriate for a cripple, eh? ... and familiar to me from a couple years' use. Note: tags, an essential tool, are done right, something F-Spot could never claim.

I'll post interesting things as I find them. Perhaps when you get old, you, too, will want to change to a truly free operating system with free software. I did, and I have few if any regrets.


LibreOffice 3 Writer, like its OpenOffice predecessor, will produce various MS Word-format files, as well as .PDF files.

Google Chrome works like a champ (no surprise there), but for various reasons I'll probably keep Firefox as the default browser.

I resolved the problem with Thunderbird: I had misread something in my mail host's documentation, so it's not really Thunderbird's fault (though that auto-account-creation process is a PITA unless you use a major email host... at the recommendation long ago of the NearlyFreeSpeech guy, I use, a commercial (and industrial-strength) mail host, which is not tiny and is very reliable, but not major enough to make the cut to be in Mozilla's database. Thunderbird made another major improvement: they ditched that combined-inbox feature; each account now has its own inbox and every other folder, corresponding to the IMAP setup of each account. Whew! I don't miss the combined inbox!

Now I need to find a suitable calendar... it doesn't have to be Thunderbird-integrated, just clear and reliable. And free!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Back Online In My Own Chair

I now have a working Ubuntu Linux 12.04.2 LTS machine, a probably 5-year-old PowerSpec retired when I retired, functional and effectively free, but at a cost: the install DVD (downloaded .ISO) insists that it could not install Ubuntu Linux so it could cohabit with Windows XP. It may be something was wrong with Windows (it was virus-ridden; that's why I retired that already somewhat old computer in the first place), but I had to sacrifice that copy of all my photos. I have several backups if I can only find them. That's one of many things I need to look for. Oh well, at least this box is noticeably faster... Blogger's editor no longer drags down; both processor and memory are adequate to the task.

I did my exercises today. I can really feel the effects, positive and otherwise. Daily exercise is a foreign notion to many programmers, especially old guys like me. But if I want to stay alive and walk on my own two feet (one natural, one purchased), I have to do it.

Time to look for a few more missing items for the computer... sigh!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I Walked Today

... on two feet... for the first time since mid-December. I walked about a dozen steps forward between room-length parallel bars, and a dozen steps back... twice. I walked in a test of the prototype (apparently very nearly complete) of my new prosthesis. I walked fully upright, with confident stability, but unsurprisingly with some discomfort. I walked s.l.o.w.l.y. I've seldom taken such pleasure in walking two dozen steps in my life. In two or three weeks I'll begin training on the proper use of the prosthesis.

My general physical therapy... rehab... continues tomorrow. Soon I will receive my prosthesis and begin bringing it to rehab sessions to be trained in its use. It's going to be a long... walk. But I feel genuine hope for the first time in ages. Now that is hope I can believe in!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Putts Putz Stopped Here

... and probably not just the putz, but more than a few bucks, stopped here: Last weekend, Obama golfed with oil executives, at the very moment 40,000 protesters besieged the White House regarding the Keystone XL pipeline.

An old union song from almost a century ago came to my mind: Which Side Are You On? (YouTube, Pete Seeger) One could well ask Obama that question, based not only on his campaign promises and inaugural speech, but even on the climate change references in his State of the Union speech... and I, at least, would not feel a great deal of confidence if he were to answer, "Yours!"

It's time to prove that, Mr. President. Stop playing with the petroleum pro's. Stop contributing to climate change!

Will SCOTUS Kill Voting Rights Act Section 5?

What is Section 5? Sahil Kapur of TPM tells us:
Section 5 requires states and municipalities with a history of racial discrimination (read: mostly in the south) to seek preclearance from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes to their voting laws. The law was upheld in 1966 by a Supreme Court that deemed it valid to correct the “insidious and pervasive evil” of racism. The law was most recently reauthorized in 2006 by a nearly unanimous Congress, with Section 5 intact.

For over 47 years, then, the Voting Rights Act, including Section 5, has stood as the law of the land. And it makes sense: people who are or were, or whose ancestors were, victims of racial injustice that prevented them from voting deserve extra protection from likely present-day attempts to do the same thing to them. You don't think it happens? Really? Are you seeing a solid brown field of view? C'mon, pull it out; look at the real world. Look at Election 2012, and tell me the Voter ID laws in a lot of states weren't in fact an attempt to prevent Blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, First Peoples, etc. from voting. We need the Voting Rights Act... all of it... as much as we did in 1965 when President Johnson signed it on my birthday.

One would think it just makes sense. But not necessarily to this Supreme Court. Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito are almost certain to vote to strike down Section 5, leaving Justice Kennedy in his usual position as swing voter.

It is not right that one man in a position of great power should be able to endanger the right to vote of millions of people with almost no power except their vote. But it may well happen.

Big Surprise: GOP Breaks Its Bargains

Sahil Kapur of TPM tells us: a PowerPoint presentation by the Orange Tan Man himself has surfaced, one which makes it clear that Boehner intended to sell his GOP caucus on voting for the sequester by promising to blame it on Obama. Well, BOHICA. Republicans break their word; what else is new?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Computer Dilemma

My old Ubuntu Linux computer seems truly dead, and believe me, it's too old to bother repairing. This may take a while to resolve. I could...
  1. download a new image, probably Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, install it on another retired computer from my garage, and start from scratch,
  2. switch to Windows (ugh), buy a cheap machine and again start from scratch, or
  3. buy a nice Ubuntu laptop at a tidy price (there are some nice ones out there, aimed at developers), and again start from scratch.
I'll probably live with this decision the rest of my life, so I want to get it right. If I buy a new machine, it will have to be online. If I take an old box from the garage and install Linux in place of Windows, it will cost me the price of a blank DVD at the local pharmacy (I'm out at the moment) and a bit of time. I do hope to continue posting on Stella's computer in the meanwhile, but with my rehab sessions starting tomorrow, I may not have a lot of time to search for topics for the blog. (Based on recent comment frequency, that won't be a big deal.)

The one thing in common among all approaches is the "start from scratch" part. Some things are recently backed up, but not everything... major medical woes involving many weeks in hospital tend to impinge on one's best habits and replace them with neglectful ones. Time will tell what is here and what is gone. Patience, readers; patience...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

(Posted By Email)

Pwr glitches. My comp: dead (hd?). Stella's is ok, but no net connect. May be a while...

This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T

UPDATE: Stella's connection is restored. My situation may take a while to resolve.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Are They The Same?

Wife Beaters?

Every Senator who voted against renewal of the Violence Against Women Act was male. And Republican. Draw your own conclusions.

(H/T: Think Progress, via Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of Texas Democratic Party. But any photo of senators voting NO would show the same 22 sorry, despicable faces...)

House Votes To Extend Federal Worker Pay Freeze

In a gesture typical of today's nutjob-controlled House, the House voted to extend the pay freeze on federal workers, already almost three years long, for another nine months. From Bloomberg Businessweek:
“We have to make tough choices,” said Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “But let’s remember these are civil servants who are paid pretty darn well.”
A Miami Herald AP article cites freeze supporters as claiming the average federal worker's wage plus benefits amounts to "nearly double the median US household income." Note the use of the same old ploy, comparing "average" to "median": a few exceptionally well-paid federal employees can tweak the average pay quite high. Comparing median income to median income would be honest, but this is Darrell Issa and company we're talking about here...

The Businessweek article offers this:
Republican Frank Wolf, whose northern Virginia district includes the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency, yelled on the House floor that the bill would target agents who tracked Osama bin Laden, astronauts, border patrol agents, cancer researchers and Veterans Affairs hospital nurses treating wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan.
In other words, federal employees are not limited to the overstuffed payrolls of members of Congress. Many of them do things most Americans would agree need to be done, even if they are not employed by the military (the troops are explicitly excluded from the House's federal freeze). But even the worthiest are frozen along with the rest.

In my career, I worked for the state government for about a decade and the private sector for a few decades, concluding with a 20-year period of self-employment, so I've seen the lot. And I can tell you what happens to the most capable of government employees: they jump to the private sector when they have the opportunity. Opportunities may be scarce now, but sooner or later, if Issa and company kick them in the teeth often enough, good federal employees (state employees, too) will leave. Then GOPers can complain about bad government, neglecting to mention that they made it bad...

Meteor Hits Russia Steve Hits Floor

OK, the meteor didn't really hit Russia; it exploded over Russia, with a terrifying bang, after which some meteorites did indeed hit Russia. But I did indeed hit the floor: I literally fell out of bed, with a terrifying (for me) crash to the floor. There are no photos or videos of this lesser event; sorry. I bit my upper lip and slightly bruised my good knee; otherwise, I seem undamaged. My stump didn't even have a scratch (thank goodness). The only explanation I can offer is that the bed has a slight crown to it, Stella has put very slick sheets and covers on it, and sometimes I sleep close to the edge. Feel free to make up more entertaining explanations if you like; just remember that I'm in my mid-60s...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ockham? Fockham!

Franciscan monk William of Ockham (c.1287-1347) said something scarcely resembling "in explanations, do not multiply assumptions beyond need." According to Jacques Vallee, writing at BoingBoing, Ockham stated it this way:
Nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.
Some of us immediately envision Emily Litella saying, "Oh. Well. That's very different. Never mind!" Scientific explanations simply cannot compete with sacred scripture in authority or simplicity. So unless you're willing to toss out the science with the bathwater... razor away the skin with the beard? ... you may not want to cite Ockham as your authority in simplifying an explanation.

Please go read Vallee's post. It is elegantly laid out, and has nice medieval illustrations including a larger image of the above portrait allegedly of Ockham.

(H/T ellroon, by proximity to another BoingBoing post she linked.)

Fighting Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline, Sierra Club Engages In First-Ever Civil Disobedience - UPDATED

Amy Goodman, publishing on truthdig, has the story. An excerpt from Goodman's post:
For the first time in its 120-year history, the Sierra Club engaged in civil disobedience, the day after President Barack Obama gave his 2013 State of the Union address. The group joined scores of others protesting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which awaits a permitting decision from the Obama administration. The president made significant pledges to address the growing threat of climate change in his speech. But it will take more than words to save the planet from human-induced climate disruption, and a growing, diverse movement is directing its focus on the White House to demand meaningful action.

The Keystone XL pipeline is especially controversial because it will allow the exploitation of Canadian tar sands, considered the dirtiest oil source on the planet. One of the leading voices raising alarm about climate change, James Hansen, the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote of the tar sands in The New York Times last year, “If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.” New research by nonprofit Oil Change International indicates that the potential tar-sands impact will be even worse than earlier believed. Because the proposed pipeline crosses the border between the U.S. and Canada, its owner, TransCanada Corp., must receive permission from the U.S. State Department.

I am long since not a participant in the Sierra Club leadership (though I am still a member and strong supporter of the Club), but I can say with some confidence that the first-ever decision to engage in civil disobedience was doubtless controversial within the leadership. Sierra Club is huge, powerful, sometimes unwieldy, and inevitably a synthesis of diverse factions that run the gamut of styles of environmental activism. No, this was almost certainly not easy. But Sierra Club was only one of dozens of org's engaging in the protests, and the issue couldn't be weightier from the standpoint of environmental consequences if the pipeline goes through.

Search Google Images on 'tar sands'.
Obama, meanwhile, is about as stalwart as... well, as a politician; what can I say. Opinions about his environmentalist credentials vary widely within the community. I, for one, am not impressed. As Dave Lippman said in a broadcast email today, he is "better than Romney." That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, and it's the most I can say about his action (or inaction, or wrong action) on this particular issue.

Stay tuned...

UPDATE: Here's the first of doubtless many shockers: the pipeline has holes in it. Here's Emma Pullman at, in a list email:
20-year-old Isabel Brooks and two of her friends locked themselves inside a segment of the Keystone XL pipeline -- a controversial pipeline being built to carry toxic tar sands oil to the US coast for export -- to protest its construction. While inside the pipe, they discovered something shocking: there are already holes in the Keystone XL pipeline, created by faulty welding.

But moments after snapping a photo of the light coming into the supposedly airtight pipe, Isabel was arrested and held for 24 days in prison. An hour after her arrest, TransCanada laid that segment of pipeline in the ground without inspecting it.

The email goes on to say that TransCanada pipeline contractors hire their own pipeline inspectors. Regrettably this is not unusual in the "awl bidness" (as Texans often pronounce it). They just. don't. give. a. damn.

News Flash! Republicans Admit Austerity Hurts Employment!

From Paul Krugman (what? you don't like Krugman? hooboy, are you ever reading the wrong blog right now!):
Even Republicans admit, albeit selectively, that spending cuts hurt employment. Thus John McCain warned earlier this week that the defense cuts scheduled to happen under the budget sequester would cause the loss of a million jobs. It’s true that Republicans often seem to believe in “weaponized Keynesianism,” a doctrine under which military spending, and only military spending, creates jobs. But that is, of course, nonsense. By talking about job losses from defense cuts, the G.O.P. has already conceded the principle of the thing.
(Bolds mine. - SB)

"Weaponized Keynesianism" ... to this have we sunk.

If any government spending creates jobs, all government spending creates jobs. Whether any given government spending is of value to the Republican observer is irrelevant to the fact that it creates jobs. The only problem is getting GOPers to admit it. Indeed, to their likely horror, government spending in support of increasing employment or providing direct benefits to people who are broke surely increases demand more than bankrolling large defense contractors, who are less likely to spend those bucks than poor people. But that fact runs contrary to Republican "philosophy," if one can dignify what they peddle with that term. So we have, as Krugman notes, John Boehner hawking austerity as the solution to the problem he claims he's seen in his 22 years in government. See Krugman's facts to the contrary, facts doubtless toxic to GOPers like Boehner: a goodly chunk of that time was in Bill Clinton's economically very successful presidency.

We can have austerity or prosperity, but we can't have both at once right now. Austerity will undermine demand; lack of demand will undermine prosperity. Now, that wasn't too difficult to understand, was it? One would think even a Republican... never mind.

Happy Valentine's Day!

     the valentine that really counts

no flowers today, i can't buy 'em or pick 'em;
no greeting cards mailed with no stamps; i can't lick 'em.
no cadbury chocolates, dear; with or without nuts...
no, still, you've got me, love,
   no ifs, ands or buts!

one song i'll deliver, not sung, and not cabled;
one rhyme for you, from your devoted disabled.
one year we're not dining at luxury places...
one house and each other,
   and faces to faces.

two cats and two food bowls (they share just one litter);
two humans in residence, neither a quitter.
two legs, my dear valentine, now i am lacking...
two feet shall we each have next year...
   with your backing!

Happy Valentine's Day, lovely Stella! I love you!

- Steve

(From the bottom of my heart my heart at the bottom!)

In News Of The Disabled...

"Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius, South African paralympic gold medalist known for running on prostheses replacing both feet, has been charged with murder of his girlfriend.

Damn. A week ago, I didn't know Pistorius existed. I discovered him as I searched for information on leg and foot prostheses.

Now he's formally charged with murder. Innocent or guilty, he'll probably find his fleet feet won't help him this time.

(Don't expect a similar story out of Our House...)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Even A Stopped (Analog) Clock...

... is right twice a day, the saying used to go, back when analog clocks were common. According to the GOP, but not to 67% of Americans surveyed, Obama, in that speech, was worse than that stopped clock. He's never right. GOPers will never support anything he proposes, even if that thing is identical to an earlier GOP proposal. Obama can't even appoint a Re-effing-publican to his cabinet without Tea-tard Senator Ted Cruz (R‑Embarrassment) harassing him. That ought to tell everyone what it is they are really opposing (*cough* Black Democratic president *cough*).

Back to the SOTU... I have no love for Obama. I have policy issues piled high. I do not care for the very idea of bipartisanship: as the GOP has proved, strong minority party powers lead to a fracturing of majority ability to govern. And I don't, myself, like all the Re-effing-publicans Obama has appointed. But I have to admit it... the man certainly can speak. If inspiration were the sole task of a president... if moderate-to-liberal-sounding speeches were a substitute for moderate-to-liberal governance... Obama would be a great president. Unfortunately, now we have to live through the (probably vain, possibly deliberately vain) attempts to put any of his great-sounding policies in place.

(I'm getting to be as crotchety an old man as John McCain, and that's embarrassing. At least I'm less likely than he to put my foot in it, specifically, half as likely...)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

WaPo Retraction: Story, Like Sarah Herself, Was Made Up

The Washington Post on Tuesday issued a correction to a piece that incorrectly claimed Sarah Palin was joining the pan-arab news network Al Jazeera. In the piece, published Tuesday morning, Suzi Parker quoted The Daily Currant, a satirical news site, on Palin's move:
“As you all know, I’m not a big fan of newspapers, journalists, news anchors and the liberal media in general,” Palin told the Web site The Daily Currant. “But I met with the folks at Al-Jazeera and they told me they reach millions of devoutly religious people who don’t watch CBS or CNN. That tells me they don’t have a liberal bias.”
The Daily Currant is, of course, a satire site.

Casting The First Stone Stump

The prosthetist came by last evening, pronounced my stump suitable and made a plaster cast from which the socket of my eventual prosthesis will be made. Although the first "draft" of the prosthesis will be crafted this week, and I will "stand" on it (only for test purposes) next week, it may still be months before I am walking regularly on it. Meanwhile, with the obstacles Our House presents, getting out of the house will be an ongoing problem. Stella provides steadfast support, but a person working full-time can only do so much; friend and neighbor George is assisting today in an errand that simply cannot be put off.

Starting a week from today, I have rehab twice a week (soon to expand to three times) at TIRR (The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research... the "T" originally stood for Texas). Insurance pays for most of the rehab, but cab fare being what it is, I could surely use a regular ride to TIRR Kirby Glen that doesn't cost an... oh, never mind; ellroon beat me to that joke. Yes, Houston MetroLift is theoretically a possibility; reality remains to be seen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

National Weather Service's Greatest Deficiency Is...

... computing power? You're kidding me, right? According to Cliff Mass (via Prof. Matt Strassler), the answer is NO, I'm not kidding you: the funding, distribution and actual use of available current computing technology to weather-related real-world problems combine to make America's weather service foremost second considerably less than the most desirable in the world.

Think this is not a political issue? Guess again, or read Mass's post. Here's one of his conclusions:
For the price of a single warplane we could have greatly improved weather prediction that would save lives and property.
Hurricane Sandy
And that's not the half of it... and yes, much of it is controversial. If you're curious about weather, or were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, or are reading this after your power returned after the current superstorm in the Northeast, you'll want to read Mass's post. I'm not enough of a weather geek to offer analysis or assessment, but clearly the problem is real, and it is upon us right now.
UPDATE: sure enough, as Mass points out, the US GFS model blew it again, on the Northeast superstorm, predicting only "a minor trough with little weather." Clearly this will not do. Be sure to scroll down to the chart, "Most Powerful Weather Forecast Computer by Country" ... the US ranks seventh.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Poll: GOP Link To NRA Could Cost Party In 2014 Elections

Evan McMorris-Santoro of TPM cites a survey released by Women Donors Network, "a self-described progressive 'community of women philanthropists,' " as showing that "a subset of women voters who usually don’t vote in midterm elections are more likely to vote in 2014 on the issue of gun violence." McMorris-Santoro points to a similar observation by moderate Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) ("moderate" is relative, of course, within the GOP) that the GOP's decision to maintain a close association with the NRA could cost the party dearly in the 2014 elections.

AK-47, Nat'l Museum of Am. Hist.
Let's face it. Americans luvs them some guns, but they don't like mass murders, and we seem to be seeing a lot of those recently. And ready access to high-capacity firearms and clips makes mass murder easy; no two ways about it. The notion that "everybody in the (workplace, classroom, etc.) armed assures everybody safe" is pure BS when "everybody" ... actually, even just one body... is packing semi-automatic or automatic weapons with large magazines. The NRA, once the representative of gun safety among ordinary citizens, has become the visionary of classrooms full of armed adolescents and similarly insane notions. The Second Amendment can be preserved without one of our major political parties falling into the clutches of this society of nut-jobs: the GOP just needs to decide whether it wishes to remain one of our major political parties.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Awlaki 'Kabuki'

Read Kevin Gosztola regarding Jeremy Scahill's remarks on Democracy Now! concerning John Brennan's CIA confirmation hearing and the likely consequences. WASF...

(Suggested term for what Feinstein and Brennan did to al-Awlaki: post-assassination character assassination. Makes you prooouuuddd... to be an 'merican... [/irony])

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Now It's Michigan GOP With Transvaginal Ultrasound Bill

UPDATE 2/8: Michigan Republicans back down.

Sahil Kapur of TPM:
Michigan Republicans have introduced a bill requiring all women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before obtaining an abortion, a move that rekindles last year’s firestorm when other GOP-led states were considering similar measures.

The legislation introduced Tuesday in the state House ensures the “performance of a diagnostic ultrasound examination of the fetus at least two hours before an abortion is performed” and requires her to sign a consent form prior to the abortion. ...

Katie Carey, a spokeswoman for Michigan’s House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel, categorically said the bill would mandate transvaginal ultrasounds for women before an abortion.

This is NOT an electric toothbrush!
“This is an unnecessary and unwarranted intrusion into the health decisions of women,” Greimel told TPM in a statement. ...

The bill requires the use of ultrasound equipment “providing the most visibly clear image of the gross anatomical development of the fetus and the most audible fetal heartbeat.” As a practical matter, that requires transvaginal ultrasounds, said Donna Crane, the policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“It does lay bare that the real motive is to make abortion providers continue to acquire more and more and more equipment before they’re even eligible to perform an abortion,” Crane told TPM. “They’re trying to make it harder for doctors to do their jobs.”

(All images added. - SB)

Follow the link... TPM's picture of the instrument shows its size better, but not its usage. If nonmedical use of this implement does not effectively constitute rape, I do not know what does.

This is an unmitigated attempt to punish women for obtaining a legal abortion. Every legislator who votes for this bill (all are Republican, of course) should, if female, be required to undergo the procedure herself. If male, the same implement should be applied to the legislator in another orifice. AND LEFT THERE.

ADDENDUM: Via RH Reality Check, the analogous bill in the Tennessee legislature would require a women who refuses to look at her ultrasound to hear a detailed description of it by the clinician (no doubt containing state-prescribed words). Who knew free speech could be violated not by prevention of speech but by its prescription!

You know, with a little help from Planned Parenthood or a similar org, childbirth and childrearing can be joyful experiences, with risks greatly reduced through good medical practices. Abortion, when appropriate (and sometimes it is), can be made much safer for the woman who must undergo it. There is no need whatsoever to inflict deliberate physical or emotional trauma on a woman seeking such care. But some (mostly conservative male) state legislators apparently literally or figuratively "get off" on the pain and/or emotional suffering that can be inflicted on a woman in a medical context. Those men, not the women afflicted, are the moral reprobates.

How To Rein In A President Who Kills Americans

That's every president in these troubled times, so what Ian Millhiser and Zack Beauchamp of Think Progress offer in "5 Practical Ideas To Rein In The Presidential Power To Kill Americans" is well worth contemplating. Reducing each idea to a single phrase, they are
  • Public disclosure,
  • Mandatory (presidential) consultation (with Congress),
  • Special courts (which evaluate and approve or disapprove targeted killings),
  • Lawsuits after-the-fact (allowing current courts to review the legality of targeted killings after-the-fact, circumventing the "state secrets" rebuttal),
  • An outright ban (of targeted killings of American citizens).
I am the first to point out that every one of these entails a hornet's nest of constitutional issues, but we'd better start discussing these and other possible resolutions immediately, because after two administrations' use of targeted killings, including Obama's targeting of American citizens... one administration from each major political party... the provocation isn't going away any time soon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Amy Goodman Interviews Dan Ellsberg On NDAA Unconstitutionality

An absolute must-view (or -read) of one of the definitive figures in the history of First-Amendment law, interviewed by one of our remaining genuine journalists. Don't miss this!

Addendum: from Ellsberg's day (Nixon's presidency) to the present under Obama, presidents have more and more frequently attempted to squelch journalists, not merely by imprisonment but by death threats (see Bradley Manning). If we would restore something of the First Amendment freedoms our nation's founders listed, we must put an end to these presidential practices: the chief executive must not have sole power to imprison or execute Americans, particularly whistleblowers.

Going Post-Postal

WASHINGTON — Faced with billions of dollars in losses, the Postal Service announced on Wednesday that it would seek to stop Saturday delivery of letters, a sweeping change in mail delivery that immediately drew criticism from postal unions, some businesses and lawmakers.

The post office said a five-day mail delivery schedule would begin in August and shave about $2 billion a year from its losses, which were $15.9 billion last year. The Postal Service would continue to deliver packages six days a week, and post offices would still be open on Saturdays. ...

The move raised immediate legal questions on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers claimed that the Postal Service could not change its delivery schedules without Congressional approval. The post office has made earlier attempts to change the law, only to meet with objections or delays in Congress. ...

Whether it will succeed is difficult to predict. ...

Ah. At last, an issue that is truly nonpartisan. Well, not quite; Democrats' sympathy (perhaps due to postal union support) seems greater, while the House, declining even to act on its own postal funding bill (which would have allowed the USPS to close on Saturdays), seems uninterested.

However that plays out,
  • The Post Office exists by constitutional mandate;
  • The USPS has competition never dreamed of in colonial days;
  • Some of that competition is electronic, also never dreamed of.
My affinity for unions notwithstanding, I do wonder how the USPS can survive, let alone thrive, on decreasing budgets and increasing competition in package delivery. (Stella and I just received two new phones to replace mine [defunct] and hers [quickly going defunct], from Amazon... by UPS, certainly not USPS.) What do you think? Will USPS survive purely as a letter-carrying service, on a budget that a small rodent couldn't live on?

Having The Wrong Discussion

Robert Reich says we're still having the wrong discussion... deficit reduction instead of job creation... and the almost certain result will be disaster for the economy as it affects ordinary working-class people. This is not rocket science, or if it is, it's the science of the Challenger and Columbia shuttles. It's time for our leaders to change directions, and if they don't, it's time for us to change leaders. It is not too soon for those of us who enjoy eating regularly to start applying our efforts to the 2014 House elections. If your district has a Tea Party representative, sign on to his/her opponent's campaign now... and while you're at it, begin flooding Obama with letters (if you think it will do any good). FDR was smart enough to reverse himself in a very similar situation... is Barack Obama?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

CBO (very quietly): Austerity Has Harmed Economy

From the we-could-have-told-you-this-would-happen department, via Brian Beutler of TPM:
Here’s the buried lede from the Congressional Budget Office, which on Tuesday released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the coming decade: D.C.’s deficit obsession has been quite effective at cutting deficits at the expense of the still-struggling economy.

“[E]conomic activity will expand slowly this year, with real GDP growing by just 1.4 percent,” according to CBO’s projections. “That slow growth reflects a combination of ongoing improvement in underlying economic factors and fiscal tightening that has already begun or is scheduled to occur-including the expiration of a 2 percentage-point cut in the Social Security payroll tax, an increase in tax rates on income above certain thresholds, and scheduled automatic reductions in federal spending. That subdued economic growth will limit businesses’ need to hire additional workers, thereby causing the unemployment rate to stay near 8 percent this year, CBO projects.”


In other words, the Rethugs are winning and America's economy is being sent straight to hell by austerity measures never really intended to benefit the real economy... except for the very rich.

Aside: I'd write more, but I have a lot else on my mind as I enter the real physical therapy period before my prosthesis is complete, which precedes a probably even more intense period of rehab after I receive the prosthesis in about a month. If I post even less than before, please don't give up on me. (Oh, and the big bills are starting to arrive... just remember, "we have the greatest health care system in the world... some conditions may apply... mumble mumble you pay out the wazoo... you are screwed... U!S!A! U!S!A! ..." [/snark])

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Robert Reich: Entitlement Reform Is A Hoax

That's right. Watch him here (YouTube) as he explains why and how this is so. What folly we seem prepared to pursue!

Friday, February 1, 2013

I Am The American Economy's New Enemy

Krugman holds welfare queen
According to Paul Krugman, you can ask just about any right-wing nutjob these days: persons with disabilities are the new welfare queens. Never mind that, as Krugman and others readily demonstrate, it simply isn't true; it wasn't true of welfare recipients either.

Meanwhile, I await in vain a government check in my mail, and it just keeps not coming...

FTR, I will in fact apply for Social Security when I am eligible. I'm probably not eligible for Social Security Disability, but if it comes my way, I won't turn down what the radical right sees as undeserved charity, either, because during my working years, I worked my fucking ass off and paid payroll taxes and other taxes to support all of those programs. I don't deserve it? Fuck that shit!

But at this point I have accepted no government money just for still being alive (as the nutjobs see it). The wingnuts can just cross-thread themselves. I'm happy to help them if they're incompetent to do it alone.

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