Friday, February 28, 2014

Big Brother Is Watching You

Ordinarily I would avoid a post title quite so melodramatic on the grounds that it exaggerates what is really going on. Not this time.

From Jon Queally at Common Dreams, we learn that GCHQ, with the knowledge and/or assistance of the NSA, is hacking into the webcam chats of "millions" of unknowing users... without a warrant, without even reasonable suspicion that those people are involved in crime, let alone terrorism or other national security issues.

From Queally:

The latest documents leaked to journalists by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and published Thursday in the Guardian newspaper reveal that the British GCHQ spy agency—with possible assistance from its U.S. counterpart—built and maintained a program that allowed it to tap the live webcam chats of millions of internet users with no connection to criminal or national security investigations.

With a program codenamed "Optic Nerve," the documents reveal how the agency hacked into the camera feeds of those using Yahoo! webchats, capturing both snapshots of conversations and metadata associated with the communication. As its name indicates, at least part of the program was aimed at improving the government's ability to use digital eye-recognition technology to detect and catalog online users that may or may be not be part of a criminal investigation.


And yes, of course, many of the images (stills, snapped from webcams used in Yahoo! chats, saved to a GCHQ database) are sexually explicit. You expected otherwise?

Based on what is known, and what the program is called, I'd say they've got a lot of damned Optic Nerve...

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Ted Cruz Refuses To Endorse Fellow Republican Senator From Texas. That's right: RWNJ Cruz won't endorse RWNJ Cornyn as Cornyn is "primaried" by RWNJ Steve Stockman.
I wonder whose side the Koch brothers will take.

Alabama May Ban Abortion Before Woman Knows She Is Pregnant

If this proposal doesn't either inflict "[t]he detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice [abortion] altogether" (Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), wiki, text) or trigger the viability provision of Roe, or both, I don't know what would.

From Lauren Rankin at TPM:

Alabama isn’t exactly known for its pro-choice credentials. The same legislature banned abortion at 20 weeks just two years ago and faces pending litigation over current state restrictions on abortion. Now, Alabama lawmakers have gone even further with the proposed HB490 bill, or the “Fetal Heartbeat Act,” which would “make it unlawful for a physician to perform an abortion on a pregnant woman after a heartbeat has been detected.”

In addition to the Fetal Heartbeat Act, Alabama lawmakers are also considering three more measures: a bill that would expand the current waiting period for an abortion from 24 hours to 48 hours; a bill that would make it significantly more difficult for a minor to obtain an abortion; and a bill that would prohibit abortions based on [fetal] anomalies unless the pregnant person “is made aware of the option of perinatal hospice services.”

Simply put, HB490 would ban abortions as early as six weeks, a point at which many women don’t even know they’re pregnant. Of the bill’s 27 cosponsors, 22 are men.

(Bolds mine. - SB)

Let's see. If you don't know you're pregnant, you don't know you need an abortion. But if you know you're pregnant, it's too late to obtain a legal abortion. Yeah, right; I'm sure that's what the Supreme Court intended in Roe. [/irony]

Put aside for the moment the fact that the Alabama Legislature is a scrotum... isn't that the word for a bag of male nuts?... and consider what they are trying to do. There is no explanation for this provision other than that it is an attempt to ban abortion altogether. If state legislatures can do that, it's a GOP right‑wing nut‑job's wet dream. I just hope there is no fertile woman nearby when he dreams it...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

All That Garbage: What Will Houston Do To Itself?

I'm going to let the Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) tell the story from its beginning (H/T Frank Blake of Houston Sierra Club for pointing me to this source):
What is “One Bin for All?”

In 2012 the City of Houston applied for a Bloomberg Mayors Challenge grant for what it calls “One Bin for All,” a program the City claims will provide recycling to everyone in the City. The proposal is to build a facility which would allow City of Houston residents to throw all of their discards—trash, recycling, yard waste, food waste, etc.—into a single bin for sorting later. This type of facility is what is known as a “dirty MRF.”
In other words, we go back to what we used to do with trash in the pre-recycling days. Why am I not surprised this idea emerged from something with Bloomberg's name on it. Anyway...
What is a dirty MRF?

MRF stands for materials recovery facility, and all recycling centers are MRFs. This is a place where recyclable materials are sorted into their various types so they can be sold on the market—plastics of various types, metals of different types, paper, cardboard, glass, etc. A dirty MRF also sorts out trash. All discards—trash, recycling and organics—come in mixed through the front door, and separate categories of materials come out sorted through the back door.
Except... they don't. The process produces a wet, dirty mess which, unlike single-stream recyclables (i.e., all recyclables in one bin, all wet or nonrecyclable trash in another), has no commercial value as-is.

Why are dirty MRFs a bad idea?

Wet plus dry equals wet. If you take dry, clean materials and throw them in the same bin as wet, messy trash, all of the materials get wet and dirty. Most recyclables are only valuable on the market if they are clean and dry. This means that much of the paper and cardboard you throw in this “One Bin” cannot be sold, and will not be recycled. ... Even plastics collected from real recycling are sometimes considered too dirty. Dirty MRF plastic may not be able to be recycled at all.
Will China take this?
That's because China, our biggest customer for recyclables (they need the plastics to mix into food and sell back to us [/irony]), insists on ultra‑clean plastics for recycling. So...
How much material in a dirty MRF is really recycled?

Estimates from the Royal Society of Chemistry are that 10-30% of dirty MRF materials can be recycled. ...
So we go from recycling, say, a good majority of our recyclable wastes to recycling 10-30%, right? Wrong, based on the experience of the city of Toronto; they managed at best 5-10%. Don't believe everything you're told, and don't believe a damned thing you heard from Bloomberg & Co.

But that's not the last implausible claim:
How can the City of Houston promise 75% diversion in two years?

Dirty MRFs in the past have used trash incineration to claim big “diversion.” The City of Houston has called for the new dirty MRF to use “gasification” and “catalytic conversion” technologies, both of which are defined as incineration by the EPA.
INCINERATION. Finally, the truth comes out. They're gonna burn the dirty MotheRF... I mean, the dirty MRF. Just like the old days. And also just like the old days, incineration of trash is one of the single most polluting processes in the world. Period. Through the "good" offices of some Bloomberg foundation, Houston is proposing to do with trash what our parents and grandparents did with trash.

What an improvement, eh? Eh?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sid Caesar (1922 — 2014)

Sid Caesar (d. 2/12/2014)
Sorry to be so late, but the NYT's Mervyn Rothstein and Peter Keepnews tell the story better than I ever could anyway.

R.I.P., Mr. Caesar. You made us laugh!

Australian Organic Farmer Loses Livelihood Over GMO‑Contaminated Crops

(Subject changed; it's not clear the farmer is suing. FDN could be clearer on the actual facts on the ground. - SB)

Details are taken from a Food Democracy Now petition:
Organic garden
Right now an important case is being heard halfway around the world in Western Australia about organic farmer Steve Marsh, whose organic field was contaminated by his neighbor’s genetically engineered canola. As a result, Steve lost his organic certification and as much as 70% of his Steve’s farm has been contaminated with Monsanto’s patented genes.

With clever fine print in their seed contracts, Monsanto is not legally liable for their patented genes contaminating an organic farmer’s field due to their "no liability" agreement farmers are forced to sign when they plant Monsanto's GMO seeds.

As a result, Steve’s family’s livelihood has been put at risk. He could literally lose everything.

Bolds original... after all, it is a promo for a petition and optional contribution. But the problem is agonizingly real for organic farmers everywhere. If Monsanto proceeds as it has to this point, we could literally end up with genetic contamination of every formerly organic crop everywhere.

It is hard to find any absolutes in the world of GMOs. The subject is scientifically complex, the determinations of safety rarely uninfluenced by commercial interest, and the dangers, if any, quite possibly very slow to appear in the food chain. The cases in which published papers opposing GMOs have been outright faked do not help matters. And there's no denying the substance of what Richard Schiffman says in the same article: whatever the problems in GMOs themselves, the worst thing about them is what they enable in the way of pesticide‑heavy agriculture using repeated dousing of crops to keep them bug-free.

Personally, I'm not happy with R=====p™ or R=====p‑Ready™ crops. It seems to me that the following is only fair, no matter what Monsanto may wish:
  • Foods made with GMOs should be labeled in all cases. That way, the consumer has a choice if s/he has an opinion.
  • Producers of GMO technology should be strictly liable for contamination of nearby organic crops, as GMO contamination renders formerly organic produce valueless.
  • Research on the safety of GMO technology should continue aggressively in an unbiased setting, which probably means not in a country in which GMOs are already heavily deployed (US, India, etc.).
Will that make a difference? Likely not. My best guess is that this sucker is going forward no matter what anyone does to hold it back. Welcome to your future... just remember, you have no say in it.

(I found quite a bit of background info on the blog Food Politics by Marion Nestle, NYU professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health.)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

'Dog Whistle Politics': F. Michael Higginbotham Hosts Discussion With Author Ian Haney López

The breadth, degree and sometimes subtlety of today's racial dog whistle politics as related to its history back through Nixon's Southern strategy is examined by Prof. Ian Haney López, faculty member of U.C. Berkeley's Boalt School of Law, in his book, Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, and in conversation with Prof. Higginbotham, U. Baltimore School of Law, and the usual range of commenters (many undeniably astute) at FDL.

I found this conversation more inspiring of optimism than fear, and I found the subject more complicated than I anticipated. Recommended!

A Fluent Society?

A few weeks ago, browsing one of my favorite used book stores, I happened upon an apparent first edition of John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society. Having never read it when it was published in 1958 (my excuse: I was 10 years old), and having hardly experienced affluence at any time in my life, I decided to find out what the good Professor Galbraith, truly a towering intellect (6' 8", say the biographies), had to say on the subject. I am about halfway through this fascinating book— fascinating if you like economics— and I am beginning to see why it is one of the also estimable Prof. Robert Reich's favorite books. Not that it's easy reading, oh no... but it is not aimed first and foremost at professional economists, and it is not in the least mathematically challenging. You might give it a look if you can find it.

Since the Deepwater Horizon event, I have wondered if instead we needed a book titled The Effluent Society, but it turns out the British political cartoonist Norman Thelwell beat me to that thought by more than 40 years. Have all the great ideas already been thought of?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Obama Rescinds Offer To Cut Medicare, Social Security As Tea Party Insists On No New Taxes

The great schism in the Republican Party has led to the abandonment of the so-called Grand Bargain. Obama withdrew his offer to cut Social Security and Medicare in response to the Tea Party's refusal to offer $800 billion in new tax revenues.

It should never have come to this: Obama should never have put the laws best loved by nearly all Americans (even Republicans not wearing tea bags) on the table in the first place. But he did, in hopes of getting new tax revenues from the GOP. But the Tea Party wing of the increasingly extreme Republican Party wouldn't hear of it. And so we owe thanks, to Obama for finally figuring out reality, and to the Tea Party for being so goddamned stupid as to think the whole world is going to cave to their political desires with no concessions on their part.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

DHS To Make Track License Plates

Not mine, FBOW
Sorry about the error; I suppose it's wishful thinking on my part that the folks at DHS would end up making license plates. In fact, though, they intend to create a nationwide database of license plates and hook it up to all those cameras you see over streets and freeways and buildings everywhere. Your tax dollars at work!

How Do We Get Out Of This Chicken-S#!t Outfit?

Fair warning... if you enjoy eating chicken (it's not my thing, but people's tastes vary), reading this article will cure you of that fondness for good and all:

USDA takes its bad idea of speeding up chicken inspection lines and makes it worse.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mar. 4 Texas Primary, Harris County: Uncertain Where You Vote, Or What Candidates Your Ballot Will Contain?

Use this tool to find out. If you want to vote early (already underway!), here is a map of all the early voting locations in Harris County, with dates and times the polls are open.

Here's the first of several public service announcements: be sure to take an accepted photo ID (e.g., your Texas driver's license) with you as well as your voter registration certificate. You won't be able to vote without the photo ID. The voter certificate alone is not enough. This VOM (Voter Obstruction Measure) is brought to you by your Texas Republican Party... Oh, and please note: some Election Day polling places have been moved from their historical locations. Be sure to check yours online before you head for the polls! This VOM is doubtless also bestowed on us by the GOP...

‘Liberal Revolt’?

I suppose it is good to see the word "liberal" in a headline at a Democratic web site, even if the article is a sort of complaint from the O-bots: "Obama Faces Liberal Revolt On Social Security Cuts" isn't much encouragement to liberals that our brand is enjoying a resurgence of influence. I can just imagine Jay Carney shouting, "Sire! Sire! the peasants liberals are revolting!" and O supplying the conventional reply...

Monday, February 17, 2014

J. S. Bach: Cantata 106, Gottes Zeit Ist Die Allerbeste Zeit (In Memoriam Robert B. Lynn)

Follow this link to the YouTube video to view the text of the cantata.

I remember performing this funeral cantata, written early in Bach's career, under the baton of Dr. Lynn; Paul Mott and I played the pair of recorders. Those were the days. I was young (relatively speaking); Paul was younger still; Dr. Lynn was younger then than I am now.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, recorder was frequently used in sacred cantatas to refer to heaven, sometimes to the ascent to heaven. It was either that, or a pastoral reference in secular cantatas, shepherds charming shepherdesses with their "tuneful flute," etc. So we always got the good parts.

Gay NFL Players Too Big A Problem To Tackle? ESPN Survey Shows Most Players Don't Care

I confess I'm getting really tired of football fans who feel it's just too icky for one of their NFL heroes to be gay. A survey shows it's not an issue with a great majority of the players. So why is the players' sexuality even the fans' business?

'That defensive lineman is
flirting with me!' —
NOT on this man's mind!
This is not about whether players are boinking other players. In general, it's considered bad form in America to hit on one's colleagues (for a meaning of "hit on" that doesn't involve one's job as a defensive lineman), whatever your occupation, for women or men, gay or straight. Not that it doesn't happen, but that people who pursue their love lives at the office probably have more serious problems to contend with than whether someone outside the relationship approves of the participants' sexual orientation.

As a musician, I often found myself in situations in which fifty percent or more of my colleagues on a job were openly gay. I'm openly straight. Why it occurs to anyone that s/he should care about his/her teammates' (coworkers') sexuality is beyond me. And no audience member ever asked me questions or expressed concerns about the matter. Why should it be any different in sports?

I realize football involves more physical contact than music. Or maybe it's about locker rooms, but I can't even comprehend that: when I think of the number of times I've changed into concert dress in the men's room of a hall or museum, I find it just isn't an issue... just before and just after a performance, a musician has a whole lot more on his/her mind than that. The same is surely true of professional football players. And the same should be true of fans.

Put bluntly: if it bothers you, just get over it. It's none of your business... and it's damned tiresome to listen to.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sherlock Holmes Was One Of These, Though Not American

AFP through Yahoo News:

1 in 4 Americans unaware that Earth circles Sun

AFP – Fri, Feb 14, 2014
Source: Copernicus,
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, 1543
Via Wikipedia
Chicago (AFP) - Americans are enthusiastic about the promise of science but lack basic knowledge of it, with one in four unaware that the Earth revolves around the Sun, said a poll out Friday.

The survey included more than 2,200 people in the United States and was conducted by the National Science Foundation.

Nine questions about physical and biological science were on the quiz, and the average score -- 6.5 correct -- was barely a passing grade.

Just 74 percent of respondents knew that the Earth revolved around the Sun, according to the results released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

Fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings evolved from earlier species of animals.

I'm pretty sure that sound I just heard was my late science teacher father's ashes churning in his urn...

Heliocentrism (science-based as opposed to myth-based) goes back at least to Nicolaus Copernicus in 1543. Nonscientific speculation on heliocentrism goes back to 4th century BCE and several of the ancient Greeks. So there's not a lot of excuse for a person living in a science-oriented 21st-century society like ours not knowing what revolves around what. Even Sherlock Holmes dismissed the fact not because it wasn't true but because he had no need of it... and we have only Dr. Watson's word for Holmes's ignorance on the subject; I find it implausible myself.

If you are about my age (within, say, ±15 years of my age 65, you lived in what may come to be thought of as America's golden age of science. I am beginning to think perhaps it was merely gold-plated. I can't say that's a comforting thought.

Update On Robert B. Lynn

Through the kind assistance of Lisa [Lynn] Bailey, I now have a photo of Dr. Lynn. I'll post it here and also with the original obituary below.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Kentucky Sinkhole Swallows Vintage Corvettes

This should make Mustang Bobby shed a tear. It's small consolation that similar things sometimes happen to ancient musical instruments. The sinkhole occurred in the middle of the National Corvette Museum:

(Photos: Zora Dunlov. Follow the link to an index of her beautiful photos in hi-res images, many of intact Corvettes... a real pleasure to view.)

According to the National Corvette Museum, the following eight Corvettes were affected:

Two belonging to GM:
  • 1993 ZR-1 Spyder on loan from General Motors
  • 2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil” on loan from General Motors
Six belonging to the Museum:
  • 1962 Black Corvette
  • 1984 PPG Pace Car
  • 1992 White 1 Millionth Corvette
  • 1993 Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Corvette
  • 2001 Mallett Hammer Z06 Corvette
  • 2009 White 1.5 Millionth Corvette
Chevrolet will oversee restoration of the Corvettes in time for some upcoming events later this year.

Friday, February 14, 2014

You Say You Want No Evolution, Well, You Know...

Drawing: Capt. James Cook voyage 1768-1771
(scientific, pre-Darwinian)
... you're too late to change that world. An old friend of mine from middle school through college, a fundamentalist Christian who home-schooled his kids, nonetheless taught them that facts cannot be debated. No doubt he and I differed on what establishes an assertion as a "fact." But a Missouri legislator has decided to test that concept in the most aggressive way possible: he has proposed a law that would
... require the school district or charter school to notify the parent or legal guardian of each student enrolled in the district of:
(1) The basic content of the district's or school's evolution instruction to be provided to the student; and
(2) The parent's right to remove the student from any part of the district's or school's evolution instruction.
The late lamented Stephen Jay Gould once presented a touring lecture appearing (among many other places) at Rice University in Houston. The title of the lecture began "The Fact of Evolution..." and concluded something like "as Explained in Darwin's Theory," or something similar. The distinction is absolutely critical to the understanding of science education: some things are facts established beyond a reasonable doubt by physical evidence and/or experiment, on the one hand, and on the other, some things are theories created by human minds, explanations of facts consistent with all known established facts.

For example, "evolution," in the sense of "descent with modification" is such a fact: the fossil record proves to any observer with an unbiased mind that later life forms derived from earlier ones. By contrast, "Darwin's theory of evolution," a very specific explanation of the mechanisms by which the established physical fact of descent with modification took place, is a theory. Theories are debatable; indeed, in a scientific context, theories can even be replaced with better theories more consistent with known facts, including new facts learned over time. Facts, on the other hand, in general are not subject to wholesale replacement.

Occasionally, as with the onset of quantum physics, facts previously established are found to be in error to a degree or in a manner that requires a re-evaluation of their particulars. But the whole of physics did not collapse with the first evidence for quantum mechanics, nor was Newton's work literally replaced by Einstein's, Bohr's etc. Some ID creationists are quick to shout "A-HA! Newton was never right in the first place! No eternal truths there!" Perhaps not, but Newton's work was good enough for humankind to navigate from the Earth to the Moon and back, to place satellites in geosynchronous orbit, etc., even if it took Einstein's work to insert the relativistic corrections to make your GPS work properly.

Such deliberate misconstructions might be merely silly, and one might legitimately simply mock people who insist on them. But in today's America, some of those people have in mind to establish their "higher [religious] truths" in our system of public education, by statutory law. Such people must be stopped.

In America, people are free to establish their own religions according to their own beliefs, however nutsy those beliefs may be. People may even form their own schools within the context of their religion, and teach their own kids all sorts of unsupported or even contrafactual things. But religion is not science, ever, even in the best of cases, and the First Amendment to our Constitution assures us that our government may not establish a religion, and that is exactly what the introduction of religion-based "science" contrary to best available present-day scientific thinking into government-sponsored schools amounts to.

Enough is enough. If the courts will not put a stop to this willful distortion of our kids' science education, the show is over, and we might as well strike the set and close the theater.

Valentine's Day. Stella. Dimassi's Mediterranean Buffet.

Need I say more?

Health Care That Works: France

Jon Walker at FDL tells us What a Functional Health Care System Looks Like in France. If you saw Michael Moore's Sicko, you already had an idea; this is just one more example.

Pakistani Drone Victim Seized, Tortured, Released, Threatened With More

You can't convince me this happened without Pakistani and US government knowledge. Kevin Gosztola:
A drone victim, journalist and activist who has spoken out against drone strikes in Pakistan, who was abducted from his home over one week ago, has been released.

Drone strikes vehicle
Kareem Khan, who has been pushing a legal case against the CIA and Pakistan government for killing his son and brother with a drone in December 2009, was abducted in the early hours of February 5 by at fifteen to twenty men. Some of them, family members said, were wearing police uniforms.

According to the human rights organization, Reprieve, Khan was taken to a cell in an “undisclosed location.” Later that day, on February 5, he was “blindfolded and driven for approximately 2-3 hours to another undisclosed location where he remained until his release.”

“While detained, Mr Khan was interrogated, beaten and tortured. He was placed in chains and repeatedly questioned about his investigations into drone strikes, his knowledge of drone strike victims and his work advocating on their behalf,” Reprieve reported.

Khan was driven to the Tarnol area nearby Rawalpindi, where he lives. His kidnappers threw him from the van and warned him “not to speak to the media.”

Prior to his abduction, Khan was due to fly to Europe and address German, Dutch and British parliamentarians about his experience with drone strikes and the work he has done as a journalist investigating strikes in the region. Also, according to Al Jazeera, he was to speak to “UK legislators in London and the International Criminal Court in The Hague.”

Parodying the late great Tennessee Ernie Ford,
If the drones don't get ya, then the state thugs will.
Ya dodge sick tin drones...
We are going through another of those periods in which it is dangerous to life and limb to be a journalist, especially a war journalist... and the dangers are not limited to the weaponry, or to the troops of just one side. And I wouldn't bet on its being confined to Pakistan in the long run.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Obama Targets Another American Citizen For Assassination By Drone

From Dennis Trainor Jr. at FDL, we learn that he's doing it again:

Two recent stories that shed new light on how the Obama administration utilizes drones in the war on terror came to light yesterday. First, Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, via their new venture First Look revealed that:
... [please read the quotations for particulars — SB]
In a related story, the Associated Press reported on the “case of an American citizen and suspected member of al-Qaida who is allegedly planning attacks on U.S. targets overseas underscores the complexities of President Barack Obama’s new stricter targeting guidelines for the use of deadly drones.”

The AP was complying with a White House Request not to release the country where this American Citizen was located because this country, which the Los Angeles Times later revealed to be Pakistan, was not friendly to US Military intervention...

I'm sorry, but this is not the procedure our nation's founders envisioned for dealing with even the most vicious American criminal.

Obama's action is, on its face, unconstitutional: he is playing the roles of judge, jury and (virtual) executioner for an American citizen who has had no trial for the crime of which he is accused. That practice should be unacceptable to every American who ever (in any context) took an oath to that Constitution, and it is certainly unacceptable to me.

I am relieved that my late father did not live to see the day that a president... indeed, a Democratic president... took it upon himself to play all those roles in any case whatsoever. Lots of controversial terms for such a president come to mind, but I don't want to feed the right-wing noise machine...

‘... They're Taking My Rights Away’ — Laura Troth, 80‑Year‑Old Texan, Denied Voter ID

Via karoli at Crooks and Liars, we have Lisa Falkenberg at the Houston Chronicle (damned subscription required) writing about 80-year-old Texan Laura Troth. Here's karoli quoting Falkenberg:
I wonder what Cathy Engelbrecht from True the Vote would say to this 80-year old woman who just wants to cast her vote the way she has in every election before the last one.
Both times she tried, she was told there was something else, another document, another piece of proof she needed to convince the clerks that she's the woman pictured in her expired Texas driver's license.

"I just don't understand why they're trying to keep me from voting," says Troth, a former licensed vocational nurse who considers herself an independent. "To me, they're taking my rights away."

The feisty mother of seven - grandmother and great-grandmother to many more - doesn't take kindly to such things. Her ordeal started last year, when Troth says she was turned away from her voting precinct because she had only her voter registration card, not a photo ID.

Determined to vote, Troth says she had a friend of the family drive her to the DPS office that day to get a Texas ID. She presented the woman at the front desk with various forms of identification - her old driver license, her Social Security and Medicare cards - but was told she needed her birth certificate.


Troth says the same "rude" woman was at the front desk and, this time, the woman told her the birth certificate wasn't good enough because the name on it differed from her married name.

"I told them I didn't get married out of the womb," Troth says.

The elderly widow was instructed to come back with her marriage license. And not only that. Because she lives with her other daughter, Alana Troth, that daughter would have to come in person to verify her mother's residency.
Goddamned Republicans have a lot to answer for...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Robert Burgess Lynn (1930—2014)

My teacher, valued musical colleague, frequent ensemble conductor, thesis committee member, scholar of international repute, and dear friend, Dr. Robert B. Lynn, died yesterday. He was 83. Though not unexpected, his passing saddens me tremendously.

While I mull over what to say of this most influential person in my life, I'll simply quote the Pastor of the church at which Dr. Lynn directed and conducted performances of the Bach Society choir and orchestra:
Robert Burgess Lynn , born in Colorado Springs on St. Cecilia’s day in 1930, passed away February 11, 2014. A musicologist, organist, and harpsichordist, Robert’s BA degree (Phi Beta Kappa) was from Colorado College, followed by an MA in Organ from the Juilliard School of Music, and a PhD in Musicology from Indiana University. He was a Fellow of the American Guild of Organists. A Danforth Associate and Fulbright Scholar, he studied organ in Denmark with Finn Viderø. His studies in Denmark were postponed for several days when the family’s ship, the Stockholm, collided with the Andrea Doria, which sank.

Robert taught musicology for many years at Allegheny College and at the University of Houston where he also directed the Collegium Musicum, and the Graduate Studies Program. Named Professor Emeritus at the Moores School of Music in 1997, he was also a visiting professor at Rice University, Indiana University, and the University of Siegen. He was involved in the Houston Harpsichord Society. From 1982 to 2004, he was the founding director of the Houston Bach Choir and Orchestra at Christ the King Lutheran Church. Robert served as Director of Music and Organist at St. Francis Episcopal Church for 25 years, and also as interim organist at St. Christopher’s, and many other Episcopal and Lutheran churches which were blessed by his gifts.

Robert was a kind, quiet, brilliant person who loved words. His dry sense of humor lives on in his children. He loved learning, reading books in Danish and German, and traveling in Europe where he leaves many friends.

Robert was preceded in death by his parents, Geraldine and Harold Lynn, and his brother, Harold Lynn. He is survived by his wife, Elaine Steele Lynn, with whom he shared a hospital nursery at birth, and who was his sweetheart since 9th grade, including 62 years of marriage. Their children are Michael Lynn of Wellington, Ohio; Lisa Bailey of Denison, Texas and her spouse, Alvin; William Lynn of Houston and his spouse, Maria; and Sarah Elaine Lynn. Grandchildren who treasure their memories are Jeffrey and Robert E. L. Lynn, Christopher Bailey, Taylor Durr, Rachel Lynn, and Sarah Elizabeth Lynn. Robert always enjoyed the presence of children, including great- grandchildren Eric and Nicky Lynn.

The Rev. Dr. Robert G. Moore, Senior Pastor

Christ the King Lutheran Church
Robert B. Lynn, R.I.P. Those choirs of angels had better be well in tune...

(Try as I might, I cannot find a picture of Dr. Lynn online, or at hand around home. When I find one, I'll post it here.) My thanks to Lisa [Lynn] Bailey for kindly sending me the photo above.

Kitty News

This is about our visit yesterday on behalf of Esther's health. Referred by our regular veterinarian, we took her to a veterinary "clinic" (don't be fooled; the thing was a veritable hospital, in size, scope and prices) for a visit with a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Esther extends a foot in greeting
Esther, usually the most sociable of cats (with us and even with visitors to the house), had begun sticking tenaciously to her favorite place in the music room... moved from there by Stella, Esther would promptly return there. Looking for a cause, Stella noticed that one of Esther's eyes has some milky-cloudy spots in it. Our regular vet (actually her assistant vet) was somewhat concerned, but said their general-practice clinic did not have the necessary equipment to make a determination, other than to eliminate a few simple things by blood work.

The clinic/hospital didn't have that problem. They had special cameras to photograph Esther's eyes and lights to shine in them (both much to her annoyance). They had an ophthalmologist who IMHO was very impressive in the depth of her knowledge and her ability to express it.

So we started on a prioritized sequence of tests and treatments, prioritized starting with the least drastic in terms of difficulty of test, severity of disease, and cost of everything. It's a multi-week, multi-visit process. At the least (and most hoped for), it's some sort of inflammation that should be alleviated by a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory ointment (think: ibuprofen in an ointment) which Stella is applying this week; at the worst, it could be feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which is fatal and incurable. Only time, preliminary treatment, and the application of large amounts of money will tell.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday Cat Porting; Chris Hedges Interviews Lynne Stewart

We are headed out in this awful weather to take our kitty Esther to... get this... an ophthalmologist. The problem with going to a high-priced veterinarian is that they feel free to refer to high-priced specialists located far from home. But it's Stella's kitty and Stella's decision. I'm along for the ride to comfort the cat, and of course Stella.

Lynne Stewart
While I'm gone (most of the day), please read Chris Hedges's article/interview of famous civil liberties/rights activist lawyer Lynne Stewart, who is just recently out of jail after four years of a ten-year prison sentence, released because she has terminal breast cancer. Bluntly speaking, she was imprisoned for doing her job, defending her client in the face of impossible odds and in the face of the PATRIOT Act. She failed to win her case in 1995, but after the infamous 9/11/2001 that was not good enough for John Ashcroft, George W. Bush and their unsavory crew when they came into office: Stewart's client was "Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian Muslim known as 'the Blind Sheikh,' who was convicted in October of that year for alleged involvement in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center."

Stewart's crime, in short, was mounting a vigorous defense of Abdel Rahman when the government was determined to put him away for life... which they did. Stewart was sentenced to 28 months. When Barack Obama was elected president, "a federal appeals court under the Barack Obama administration demanded that the district judge reconsider her sentence. She was handed a new sentence by Koeltl—10 years." Message received: the right to trial by jury no longer extends to everyone, and if our government dislikes the accused, they have no problem taking revenge on his attorney. In this case, the government even used taped conversations between Stewart and Rahman as evidence against Stewart, a practice now legal but previously considered a blatant violation of attorney-client privilege.

This is a story to make you despair for the legitimacy of the judicial system in America. And when the courts become a tool of the executive, there is no more separation of powers... and we have no nation as our founders conceived it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Glenn Greenwald Appears To Have Moved...

... to The Intercept, along with a dozen other stellar lights. Nothing fancy there, just a much-needed group of genuine reporters. See blogroll.

Yet Another NSA Lie: Despite NSA Claims, Metadata, Cell Phone Tracking Technology Used For Drone Strikes

Via DSWright of FDL, we have Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald:

According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.

This is bad enough in itself... people use other people's cell phones all the time... but think about it: As various American police departments and other law enforcement agencies deploy drones within the United States, do you doubt for a moment that they will ultimately apply the same approach? Somewhere, the shade of J. Edgar Hoover is smiling his twisted smile...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

[Muslim] Terrorist Hijacker Redirected To Different Airport, Foiled By [Orthodox Christian] Security Team

No big deal, right? Happens all the time, right? OK... now SWAP THE TWO BRACKETED DESCRIPTIONS IN THE SUBJECT ABOVE. THAT'S WHAT REALLY HAPPENED. The obvious point: "bad guys" are not always Muslim; Christians are not always "good guys." This should surprise no sensible American... but the operative word is "sensible."

GOPer Governors Just Can't Help Themselves

One would think Chris Christie's raw treatment of officials of communities that didn't support his run for governor would be burden enough for the GOP. But noooo... as Becky Bohrer at TPM/AP tells us,
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Sean Parnell said Friday that he wasn't threatening the Ketchikan Gateway Borough when he said its lawsuit against the state over school funding could "shade or color" reaction to the community's requests for state money to fund infrastructure projects.
Riiiight, no threat at all there; move along, folks...

It appears threatening tendencies are a character flaw that is damned nearly a requirement for leadership in the GOP. Why anyone would vote for people like this is a mystery to me.

(Maps not to relative scale.)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Are You American? If So, Please View...

... this cartoon strip. It says a mouthful, actually, an ink pen full.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

All The Chocolate You'd Never Want To Eat!

For your morning smile, please see the full-size photo accompanying the article, Pope Francis Meets Giant Chocolate Pope. At least two commenters offered the quip, "Cuckoo for Cocopopes."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pete Sessions (R‑TX) Teaches Us About Morality — Rand Paul (R‑KY) Teaches Us About Service

Both of these gentlemen might better be labeled (R-Hunger) because they believe it is "immoral" (Sessions) and a "disservice" (Paul) for the government to prevent the longterm unemployed and their families from starving. But I am willing to accept the "(R)" as a valid indicator of who they are and what they believe.

If by chance you believe otherwise, and you are a citizen of either Kentucky or the appropriate US House district in Texas, you can contribute to the moral education of these gentlemen, or do them a service, by unemploying them when their terms expire. After all, there is no teacher like experience!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

GOPers Can't Even Decide What They Want For Christmas Debt Limit Increase

Sahil Kapur of TPM:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters on Tuesday morning that the GOP conference still hasn't settled on what they'll demand from the White House in order to raise the debt ceiling.

He said GOP leaders have spoken to members and while there are "a lot of opinions about how to deal with the debt limit, no decisions have been made."

Republicans are considering options such as repealing the "risk corridors" in Obamacare and forcing President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone pipeline. But they're struggling to get the necessary votes for any approach.

The robber on the street walks up to you, puts his gun to your head and shouts, "Gimme something, uh, I don't know what! C'mon, give it to me! NOW!"

Awright, mothersticker...
this is a fuckup!
As for me, standing in amaze as once again the House GOP are about to make damned fools of themselves, I know what I say: "Go ahead. Make. My. Day!"

Monday, February 3, 2014

Food Stamps Cut By $8 Billion

We're supposed to be grateful: the GOPers wanted to whack $39 billion. I wonder how many of the Tea Party Starve-The-Poor caucus actually opened their Bibles to find out how Supply-Side Jesus told them to justify what they did. Failures as human beings; that's what they are... just plain evil, not merely ignorant.

BTW, altogether too many Democrats voted for the farm bill in spite of the food stamp cuts in it. Shame knows no political party.

Sherlock Lovers Take Note

The "No P•lice Like Holmes" panel near the bottom of the page is filling up quite nicely. It's not scholarly; it's just my personal impression of a great variety of Sherlock Holmes-related material, some of which you may find interesting if you like Holmes. See the blogroll index near the top of the left sidebar; click the silhouette of Holmes, and enjoy!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Kansas Attempting To Block City Broadband Internet Access Programs By State Law

This is hard to believe, but there it is, on Daily Kos:
... but not in Kansas!
... the state of Kansas Legislature[] took on a new target: Stop Google Fiber.   And not just google fiber, make sure that cities cannot invest in any broadband network technologies.
(1) Offer to provide to one or more subscribers, video, telecommunications or broadband service; or
(2) purchase, lease, construct, maintain or operate any facility for the purpose of enabling a private business or entity to offer, provide, carry, or deliver video, telecommunications or broadband service to one or more subscribers.
This is almost beyond comprehension, until you read the one-line postfix:
7:40 PM PT: This piece of legislation may be coming to a state near you. It's an ALEC proposal.
It is still a puzzle. Surely all broadband providers would be overjoyed if cities, towns and counties invested in their services. It must be something about the Internet itself: does ALEC perceive lefties as better than righties at using the Internet for political purposes? Do fundagelicals perceive the 'net as the devil's handiwork? C'mon, there's got to be a reason...

I know Texas has done some crazy things (e.g., from the state textbook committee), but I can't imagine any state where the employer base is highly dependent on 'net technology... and believe me, that describes the "awl bidness" in Texas, packed full and running over... would tolerate this kind of restriction. Can anyone inform me on just what aspect of full‑blown right‑wing bat‑shit craziness this reflects?

AFTERTHOUGHT: Reading the link pointed to by Kos (see above), which includes a quote from the law stating its purpose, leaves me even more puzzled. This is just plain nuts!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Obama's 'Imperial Presidency', Says GOP? He's Issued Fewest Executive Orders Since Grover Cleveland

Dylan Scott at TPM has the chart... and the baldfaced lie the GOP is telling about it.

Paul Simon
I am no fan of Obama, but hey, GOPers, you could at least complain about his legitimate failings instead of making shit up. But that's what GOPers do. Why, they even lifted the chorus from Paul Simon's famous song, The Boxer, for their own theme song:

"Lie, lie lie; / Lie, lie lie lie, lie lie lie; / Lie, lie lie..."

(Do click through to this Paris performance. They don't make 'em like Paul Simon anymore, and he's getting a bit old, but it certainly doesn't show in his live performances...)

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