Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Can You Hear Me Now? Riley v. California Heard By SCOTUS

Riley v. California, one of two cases involving the question of whether police may arrest a person, search his/her cell phone (i.e., the person's phone directory, photos, text messages, emails and anything else in the phone's increasingly capacious memory) without obtaining a warrant, and use the results of the search as evidence against the individual in court. In the named case, Riley was convicted and sentenced to 15 years based on a photo in his smartphone. The case was heard by SCOTUS yesterday, 4/29/2014.

A lot of the arguments for allowing such searches (including Justice Alito's) assert that the information in a cell phone is not substantially different from what police might find in a wallet, which they are allowed to search without a warrant. Sane people, on the other hand, argue against such searches, recognizing that a modern cell phone can hold much of the data about a person's entire life, unabridged, and that searching it is like searching "houses, papers, and effects" ... your computer, your file cabinets, your personal phone directory, your photo albums, etc., and therefore violates the Fourth Amendment.

A good place to begin... always... is with SCOTUSblog's "In Plain English" series entry for the case, which is here. As few of my readers are lawyers, I'm going to leave you with that for tonight, and await more analysis as it comes out. There's no way I'm going to attempt to guess what the Court, which has no clear majority for either the government's case or the defendant's, will decide in a compromise. I don't envy them their work. Even Scalia... EVEN SCALIA! ... has serious doubts about the government's case.

What I can tell you is this: in one article I ran across today, it was asserted that 90% of Americans (cell phone owners, I believe they meant) have smartphones. I am among the 10% with a junky old dumb phone. I have lately contemplated buying a smartphone, which means one for me and one for Stella. Like most Americans, she is fascinated with the possibilities. I, on the other hand, am horrified at the kinds of police fishing expeditions a smartphone combined with any kind of aggressive ruling in this case could enable. No, thank you; if warrantless searches on a law enforcement officer's mere whim are authorized in law, you can forget about my carrying anything easy to search. And if any of you know how to password-protect older cell phones, I'd appreciate knowing how to password my old Samsung.

Other worthwhile references:

'Tinker[ing] With The Machinery Of Death' — With Disastrous Results

The late Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, revoking his prior support of the death penalty in America, proclaiming it under all circumstances unconstitutional (presumably under the Eighth Amendment), said "[f]rom this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death." He was unable to work his will on the Court of his day, and the executions continued. Yesterday in Oklahoma, according to the WaPo, a botched execution gave more credence to the arguments of those of us who say the death penalty should be banned as "cruel and unusual punishment[]":
Tuesday night’s botched execution in Oklahoma, which resulted in an inmate’s writhing death from a heart attack 43 minutes after he received what was supposed to be a lethal injection, was just one in a series of bungled execution attempts the past few years. It’s prompting calls for a moratorium on capital punishment from death penalty opponents.

The inmate, Clayton Lockett, was confirmed unconscious 10 minutes after the first dose in the state’s new three-drug protocol was administered. The first drug, midazolam, is intended to render a person unconscious. But three minutes later, he began breathing heavily, thrashing and straining to lift his head, media witnesses said.


The blinds were then lowered to prevent people in the viewing gallery from seeing inside the death chamber. ...

Patton told reporters Lockett’s vein line had “blown.” When asked what he meant, Patton said the vein had “exploded.”

A colleague of mine once argued that a punishment had to be "cruel AND unusual" to violate the Eighth Amendment. Somehow I doubt that's what the Constitution's framers meant: nowhere is it recorded that any of them were computer professionals. But until one of The Mighty Five (and I'm not talking about composers of music) passes from this world, I'll be very surprised if the Supreme Court rules any method of execution to be unconstitutional. The "tinker[ing]" continues, and the "blown" executions continue...

An Oklahoma death chamber

Monday, April 28, 2014

Net Neutrality Is In Grave Danger

... and Obama's FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is a former telecom CEO. The proposal under consideration would allow ISPs to offer faster internet delivery rates for more money from companies willing and able to pay it, while the rest of us... bloggers, small businesses, small nonprofits, etc. ... would slog along in the slow lane.

Neutrality of transport has been essential to the Internet from its beginning, and everyone involved in the original development of the 'net opposes this pay-to-play scheme. But you know Obama, the closet Republican; he appoints cabinet officials and agency heads who give big corporations whatever they want. You can fight back or watch the 'net you know and love... the content you really want... go to ground to make room for as much fast Fox News as Fox can pay for. The petition on Kos is a place to start; please sign it. You don't have long; the decision will be made in about the middle of next month.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

How To Commit Professional Suicide

L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling shows us how it's done.

If there is a signature African American sport, it's got to be basketball. Racism is of course always inappropriate, but one would think if a white owner of an NBA team were racist, s/he would keep quiet about it... and certainly wouldn't commit it to an audio recording. More proof that wealth does not confer wisdom...

Friday, April 25, 2014


Lamp or listening device?
How would you know?
Via Bruce Schneier, from Wired, we learn about "[a]n eavesdropping lamp that livetweets private conversations":

Two artists have revealed Conversnitch, a device they built for less than $100 that resembles a lightbulb or lamp and surreptitiously listens in on nearby conversations and posts snippets of transcribed audio to Twitter. Kyle McDonald and Brian House say they hope to raise questions about the nature of public and private spaces in an era when anything can be broadcast by ubiquitous, Internet-connected listening devices.


The surveillance gadget they unveiled Wednesday is constructed from little more than a Raspberry Pi miniature computer, a microphone, an LED and a plastic flower pot. It screws into and draws power from any standard bulb socket. Then it uploads captured audio via the nearest open Wi-Fi network to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform, which McDonald and House pay small fees to transcribe the audio and post lines of conversation to Conversnitch’s Twitter account. “This is stuff you can buy and have running in a few hours,” says McDonald, a 28-year-old adjunct professor at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at the Tisch School of the Arts.

It's not just the NSA anymore. We have table lamps in most rooms of the house; so, I'm sure, do you... lamps in your bedroom, lamps in your den, lamps in your office at home. There's probably nothing unique about them; someone could quite possibly replace one without your notice by swapping out a lampshade.

Does anybody have a grudge against you? Prepare to be boarded...

Afterthought: maybe it's time to pay attention to your wireless router's security.

Afterthought: this is probably more amenable to use by people who suspect their spouses of cheating. The installation obstacles would be minimized if you installed it in your own home.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Who Is Buried In Grant's Tomb? And Who Wrote Margaret Truman's 'Capital Crimes' Murder Mystery Series?

I don't know and can't tell you the answer to the first question. But as to the second, I'm increasingly confident the answer is Donald Bain, perhaps in collaboration with Ms. Truman, or perhaps solo. In any case, since Ms. Truman's death, Donald Bain has been writing and publishing new novels in the same series. It surely is good to revisit Mac and Annabel!

American Veteran? Need Urgent Medical Care? The VA Often Can't / Won't Help You

Via Firedoglake, we learn from CNN that at least one VA (Phoenix) has two waiting lists, one real and secret, one fake and public. Many vets never make it to the head of the real list to receive care... they die before they do.

Having worked in various institutions in the Texas Medical Center (not including the VA) over a period of more than 20 years, I've known a lot of VA employees... clinicians and researchers, medical staff and support staff. Virtually every one I've talked to voices frustration, usually quietly for fear of their jobs, at the managerial and political malfeasance that ultimately leads to results such as those in Phoenix. It is not the fault of the medical and research staffers; they're doing everything they can to make it work. But it's a herculean effort in the face of insurmountable barriers.

He survived the IED.
Will he survive the PTSD?
How about the VA?
The political obstacles are often overwhelming. When not only Republican administrations such as the deplorable Bush 43 administration but also Democratic administrations such as Obama's insist on involvement in multiple simultaneously active wars and practices that lead to long-term disability in huge numbers of troops after their service in those multiple wars, coupled with elected executive-branch officials (Cheney, for instance) who themselves have "other priorities" than military service and thus have no goddamned clue what combat in today's wars can lead to for individual troops... when you face and unsuccessfully attempt to deal with both of those phenomena... you end up with a view at the highest levels that troops sent into combat are, in a word, disposable, and there is no hesitation in disposing of them when they come back home in a state of utter medical ruin.

This is not right. Not right at all. All presidential administrations from Ronald Reagan's forward through the present one should be ashamed of themselves.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cat Ballou Balloon


Lily has begun to look rather... inflated...

I have some new batteries for the same old camera. They aren't Eneloop, but they are a variety of NiMH technology specifically designed to maximize battery shelf life, so with any luck, I will be taking more pictures in the coming weeks.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Whatever else I may gripe about, I can't complain that Lily is uncooperative. She sat still for three flash shots, the camera no farther than 18" above her... and slept through it all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

SCOTUS Reverses Sixth Circuit In Michigan Affirmative Action Case

... effectively allowing Michigan voters to keep the state constitutional amendment which prohibits the use of race as a consideration in determining university admission. The decision is here. The ruling was 6-2, with Roberts, Kennedy, Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Breyer voting to reverse, Sotomayor and Ginsburg dissenting, Kagan not participating.

I'm afraid I'm not enough of an armchair lawyer to opine on the breadth or narrowness of this opinion; I invite the very few attorneys who read this sorry blog to offer their insight in comments.

NOTE: SCOTUSblog's live-blog of the opinion offers this:
The plurality opinion stresses that the case is not about the constitutionality or the merits of race conscious admission policies in higher education. Rather, the question concerns whether and in what manner voters in a state may chose to prohibit consideration of such racial preferences.

Monday, April 21, 2014

DNI Clapper Issues Directive: All Intelligence Community Employees Forbidden To Speak To Press

Kevin Gosztola at FDL:
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has issued a directive that prohibits all employees of the intelligence community from speaking to the press.

Signed on March 20, it establishes a policy on “contact with the media,” which leadership in intelligence agencies believe will “ensure a consistent approach for addressing media engagement across the intelligence community and mitigate risks of unauthorized disclosures of intelligence-related matters that may result from such contacts.”

It does not differentiate between classified and unclassified information. Any detail pertaining to an “intelligence-related” matter, if disclosed to a member of the media, is “covered” by the policy. However, the policy apparently does not “apply to contact with the media in connection with civil, criminal or administrative proceedings.”

Emphasis mine.

Note that all employees... not just agents handling classified material... are forbidden to speak to the press. Note also that the press is broadly defined, and most certainly includes internet publications such as blogs. And finally, note that all communication about any intelligence-related matter, even if it is unclassified, is censored by the policy. It appears to me as if this lessens or perhaps eliminates outright the whole concept of something from an intelligence agency that is unclassified, unless it is administrative or related to legal actions.

In these parlous times of consistent over-classification, often obviously for purposes of CYA rather than security, such a policy is obscene. The American public deserves better. This policy provides critics (and I am emphatically a critic) with a good argument for shutting down the three-letter agencies altogether... not that we would be so fortunate as to live to see that happen.

Moyers Interviews Krugman On Piketty

There is nothing I can, or need to, add to this dialogue. Think long and hard about whether this is where you wanted your country to go over the past 30‑40 years... and the evidence is that it's going to get worse for decades to come. Inequality will come to define us as we head into the 21st century with such unimaginable inequalities of wealth and income, quite possibly the greatest ever in recorded history. I cannot help thinking most Americans cannot justify this to themselves... not even Republicans. (Then again, I've thought that before, and been wrong about what GOPers are willing to inflict on the rest of America. The difference this time is that Democrats are playing the oligarchy game too, seeking campaign funding from a handful of wealthy donors who expect to get what they pay for.)

My next task: find a copy of Piketty's book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, either at the library or on sale at a serious discount. After all, I am not among the 1%...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Read And Watch: Influence On Yer Feral Gummint's Policies? You Ain't Got None!

Not yours... belongs
to the wealthiest 1%
jbade at FDL and Cenk Uygur and a couple other guys including one named George Carlin on YouTube tell us how it is: Influence by Economic elite? Check! Influence by lobbies and PACs? Check! Influence by people near median income? That's a big negatory, good buddy!

Uygur gives a good summary of the "oligarchy" business. How about that... we're a lot like Russia. And things have been getting steadily worse... more unequal wealth distribution... for at least the past 30 years or so. Are you surprised? Really?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Robert Reich: Comcast-Time Warner Acquisition A Danger To American Democracy

The new monopolist
In an arena where there is scarcely any competition now, such an acquisition would leave us with only a couple of broadband internet suppliers and effectively one (1) cable company. As democracy today depends utterly on broadcast media and internet communications of various sorts, any concentration of the supply of either internet or cable TV services risks a dangerous possibility... likelihood, one may say... that the supplier will use its near-monopoly status to control what Americans see of their government, and at what speed it is delivered to them.

Robert Reich points out that far from being good for American consumers (as the merging parties claim), such a merger/sale would give Comcast and Time Warner the ability to control data and video content in the way transporters of physical goods controlled physical merchandise available to American consumers of those goods, and at what cost, before 1890, when the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed. Each major technological shift offers new opportunities for would‑be monopolists, and hence demands new law to put a stop to such manifestations of greed. The 1890 law is no longer effective; we need a new one.

As noted earlier, democracy is a scarce commodity in America today, just as it was in the First Gilded Age when Sen. John Sherman proposed a solution to at least the problem of overlarge firms that controlled their various markets in the late 19th century. Now, in the New Gilded Age (I think the term applies, don't you?), we need some brakes on the new kinds of market-controlling technologies and techniques, not to mention the new giveaways by the Supreme Court. It is time to tighten up: blocking the Comcast‑Time Warner merger is a good starting point.

Digby's Rule For Success In Today's America: Find The Right Young Wealthy Philanthropically Inclined Aristocrat... And Brown‑Nose Him Or Her

Sadly, Digby is probably right about this. Her exploration of the subject is nonetheless well worth reading. She starts with a quiet invitation to the White House offered to 100 young aristocrats... I can't find a better word for them; they're heirs to great estates who are likely to engage in major philanthropy as they come into their various family fortunes... and frankly, as I am reading the indefatigable Michael Moore's autobiography, Here Comes Trouble, and I see no other direct path for someone born to limited means (as Moore was) to pursue great things, I suppose I have to recommend Digby's course of action to today's bright but poor youth.

More and more (Moore and Moore?), I realize America is, as the Princeton study found, no democracy, clearly an oligarchy and, unsurprisingly, has an aristocracy. Fight it, but if you're old like me, get used to it; it's going to take more than the rest of my life (and possibly more than the rest of America's) to change. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Krugman: What The Financial Industry Takes And What America Doesn't Get In Return

Krugman's title, Three Expensive Milliseconds, refers to a tunnel being bored through the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania for the purpose of running fiber‑optic cables which will cut the time it takes trading information and instructions to travel between New York's stock markets and Chicago's futures markets... by three milliseconds. That's right: 0.003 seconds. This tunnel will carry, not people in cars, or freight on rail or in trucks, but bucks on wings, for the exclusive benefit of America's masters of the universe... the financial industry. And the financial industry does great things for... um... well, in any case, probably not you and not me; read Krugman's discussion on that issue.

...  made visible!
In the past 20 years, aside from the broker who handled my tiny investment account before he retired comfortably, I have met two people in the high end of the finance industry. Both were startlingly young. One was going back to college so she could get in on the gravy train. The other one was already rich... dripping, filthy rich, no apologies. I can't say either one displayed exceptional virtues that made them worthy of excessive wealth. They would probably tell me about that invisible hand, and how it pointed its finger at them. I would agree, except that the same hand seems to have pointed a different finger at me and 99.999% of Americans.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gabriel García Márquez (1927–2014)

If you haven't read journalist and prizewinning Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez's fiction, you probably don't understand the reality of a goodly portion of the Latin American population. The wiki has a good summary of his life and work. There is literally nothing like his fiction, and good English translations are available for some of it. Start with One Hundred Years of Solitude and possibly Love in the Time of Cholera; those are (deservedly) his best-known works in the anglophone world. R.I.P., Gabriel García Márquez.

Big Surprise! [/irony] America Is An Oligarchy – Princeton Study

Via pajoly at Kos, a quote from the Princeton study [.pdf]:

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

So we're now an oligarchy. Sounds about right to me. Were we ever a representative democracy? You tell me...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pulitzer-Winning WSJ Columnist: GOP Should Nominate Ron Rand Paul For Prez, Because They Need Another Nationwide Landslide Loss

First, last names reversed?
Who says irony is dead in today's high-level journalism? Not WSJ columnist Bret Stephens: he urges the GOP to nominate Sen. Rand Paul (R‑Hunger) for president, "[L]et's get it over with," he says, launching into a catalog of Paul's very public flaws. But, concludes Stephens, it won't matter:
And so [Paul] should be [nominated]. Because maybe what the GOP needs is another humbling landslide defeat. When moderation on a subject like immigration is ideologically disqualifying, but bark-at-the-moon lunacy about Halliburton is not, then the party has worse problems than merely its choice of nominee.
Remember, you heard it first from the WSJ. And no one could be more macho than a man named "Bret"!

(H/T Tom Kludt of TPM.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Jonathan Schell (1943—2014)

Schell speaks to Occupy, 2012
One of the most inspiring journalists/book authors on international affairs and peace has died. He died late last month and I somehow missed it. Jonathan Schell deserves this memorial by Tom Engelhardt, vastly better than anything I could hastily post.

When I was a young man, possibly 35 years ago, Schell influenced many of my own emerging views. My thanks to former colleague and now blogger Anne Buchanan for introducing me to Schell's work all those years ago.

(H/T Michael Moore for directing me to Engelhardt's obituary.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

NSA Has Known About, Used Heartbleed Bug For Years

Via the same Steven D post linked below, we learn from Bloomberg, which has two unnamed sources, that the NSA has been using the Heartbleed bug for a couple of years to gather "critical intelligence."

The NSA of course denies doing any such damned thing. Of course, loyal Muricans should always believe what they say. Yeah, right.

So the NSA's notion of patriotism when it finds a major vulnerability affecting many of the large internet services and their customers is to a) keep a lid on it, and b) exploit it.

I can't tell you what I think should be done with the NSA, but it may involve a corkscrew...

Elections In Miami-Dade Are A Real Pisser

Hunter at Daily Kos explains the messy details, in the post "Miami-Dade blocks voters standing in line from using the bathroom". As the lines in Miami-Dade  sometimes require six hours standing to vote, this effectively disqualifies many people from voting even if they have a voter certificate, an ID and anything else the Florida GOP may see fit to require in a given year.

Not my 2012 polling place, but similar
I remember the 2012 primaries. I voted early, choosing the Fiesta Mart at Kirby and Main, where I also frequently shop. The place was packed. At the time, I was first beginning to notice the problem that would ultimately cost me my foot. The queue of voters snaked through every aisle from the International section to the side of the store nearest Main... between 10 and 15 times across the store, front-to-back. After I voted, I could scarcely walk at all, or even stand, for about three days. I'm sorry, but in a representative democracy that is serious about representing the whole of "we the people," a cripple should not have to cripple him- or herself further just to be able to vote.

People who have to use the bathroom more frequently are similarly disabled. In some cases, medications can induce the problem as they solve a more serious problem; I know this because on the advice of my doctor I just started taking such a medication. It's no fun, but it beats croaking. Republicans, ask yourself: just how much do you hate disabled people? That much? Well, f^<k you too!

Real News: Carter Says Bush Didn't Win In 2000; LBJ Tape Shows Nixon Deliberately Delayed Vietnam Peace Talks Until After American Presidential Election

View it at The Real News. This may surprise some aged GOP faithful, but no other American should be even the tiniest bit surprised.

(H/T ellroon for the link.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Heartbleed Vulnerability

Test your domain's vulnerability here. Read Bruce Schneier's post here; follow his links. Gain some perspective from xkcd here. Know that according to an alleged expert on NBC News this evening, there isn't much the client (user) can do. Sleep as well as you usually do tonight... I plan to.

UPDATE: that easy peace of mind doesn't apply to maintainers of web servers. For them, PC World has a pretty good summary of what they can/must do.

(H/T Steven D at Booman Tribune.)

Navy Research Lab Makes Carbon-Neutral Gasoline From Sea Water For Between $3 And $6 A Gallon

Sea water? Sea water! The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has developed and patented (!) the process, and powered a model airplane with the result. How would it work on a larger scale? Well, first you build a nuclear-powered gasoline factory vessel...

Gasoline factory???

Actually, I have to temper my mockery with the possibility that a cleaner version of the process could be developed. But I am confident based on the Navy's experiments with powerful sound waves that kill whales and dolphins that the Navy will not bother with any damned environmental cleanup. I doubt the oil companies are quaking in their boots quite yet.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

William Boyce: Symphony #4

Notwithstanding the name "Symphony," this is theater music.

From the YouTube post:
This "symphony" is one of eight by Boyce - all of which are really overtures for various theatrical productions. - It was composed in 1751 for a musical entertainment called "The Shepherd's Lottery".
To my ear, Boyce is the most Handel-like composer other than Handel himself: the lines are spacious; the voicings mostly open. Boyce is a few years later (1711‑1779) but clearly he made no attempt to be on the cutting edge of style for his time. This performance by "The Consort of London" (to all appearances, not the group once led by the late lamented David Munrow) is neither spectacular nor deficient. It's cheerful, rollicking English baroque music; grab yourself a drink and a snack, imagine you're sitting in a theater, lean back and enjoy the "play"!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sleepless Night, Exhaustion, Anger... Fear... After Reading This Article

... by Peter Van Buren at Tom Engelhardt's site. Why should anyone who does not himself or herself fly (as I pointedly do not) be driven to fear and anger by an article about Rahinah Ibrahim's experiences with the no-fly list? Many, many reasons, many egregious flaws in the way the entire executive branch of America's government works (I almost said "our" government, but I am increasingly convinced it doesn't belong to us anymore), its virtually total abnegation of our hard-won civil liberties, a creeping (and creepy) onset of the usual manifestations of totalitarian techniques apparently in daily use by all the three-letter agencies (not least NSA, CIA and FBI), ... oh, yes, there's plenty to give one a sleepless night or a few nightmares in this story, despite the obvious mitigating factor that no one involved died as a result of it... yet. Here's Van Buren, near the end of the piece:

A common trope for those considering the way the National Security Agency spies on almost everyone everywhere all the time is that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. If your cell phone conversations are chit-chats with mom and your emails tend toward forwards of cute cat videos, why should you care if the NSA or anyone else is snooping?

Ask Rahinah Ibrahim about that. She did nothing wrong and so should have had nothing to fear. ...

Sad as it may be, the Ibrahim case is a fairly benign example of ordinary Washington practices in the post-9/11 era. Ibrahim is going about her life at peace in Malaysia. Her tangle with the United States seems to have been more a matter of bureaucratic screw-ups than anything else. No one sought to actively destroy her. She was not tortured in a CIA black site, nor left for years in a cage at Guantanamo. Her case is generally seen as, at worst, another ugly stain on the white wall we imagine we are as a nation.

But the watch lists are there. The tools are in place. And one thing is clear: no one is guarding the guards. You never know whose name just went on a list. Maybe yours?
Yes, maybe mine, at least. Maybe the name of any American who has proactively pursued a living, working meaning for the rights- and liberties-bearing texts in our Constitution and its amendments, any American who regularly speaks out, attends the occasional public protest in the post‑9/11 era, contributes money and/or effort to civil liberties organizations such as ACLU, EFF, more than a hundred other American groups (listed here and here), and perhaps forty other groups worldwide, distributed among the nations that claim liberties as part of their mandate (listed here). Yes, maybe their names.

Maybe yours?

Reading Howard N. Meyer's book on the Fourteenth Amendment (see the post about it a couple days back), I have come to realize that America has treated its constitutional liberties "[m]ore honoured in the breach than in the observance." Time and again, matters of liberty and equality have been taken to court, sometimes to the Supreme Court, a ruling made which may or may not reflect the liberties in the Bill of Rights plus the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th and other amendments, and those rulings utterly and completely ignored, defied, spat upon in actual practice. It is disgusting and discouraging, and I do not see evidence of things getting better, certainly not within our lifetime and possibly not before our likely national collapse some time in the next half-century or so in the face of global climate change. The actual prospect for liberties looks pretty bleak to me, and our nation's founders are probably spinning in their graves.

Your Comments On This Blog

My Blogger settings allow anyone to comment on this blog, even Anonymous or an empty name field, without entering any kind of word or number. That means I can't stop you from comment-spamming. It's the price I pay for the openness; some of my commenters have said they like the lack of hassle. So be it. But I can and do take steps to minimize any exposure your spam may receive to the world...

If you comment anonymously (or with an empty name), Blogger puts your work straight into the spam folder. This happens automatically; I didn't have to do anything to make it happen. Once in a while I open the spam folder and, without looking at the contents, delete everything there. Your comment is visible on the web for a duration of perhaps three seconds. Or less. Google Search very likely will never see it. If you're spamming to boost your page ref counts, you're really wasting your time.

If you comment with a name I haven't seen before, your comment goes into the moderation folder. I look there about every week or two, or month or two, or not; it isn't a priority for me. But if you're real (e.g., if I've seen you on other blogs I visit) and you offer a salient comment, I will engage you. If not...

Once in a while, I turn off incoming comments for a day or two. This is as random as I can make it. Please do visit again, unless you're the repulsive vaguely meat-like stuff in a funny-shaped can opened with a key...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Firestone On Inequality, Plutocracy, Oligarchy

Joe Firestone at New Economic Perspectives (home of the Modern Monetary Theory folks), who apparently is also letsgetitdone at Firedoglake, asks the question, Is the MSM Blackout on Inequality, Plutocracy, and Oligarchy Ending? His answer is one of the most insightful examinations of the causes and consequences of the dramatic inequality in wealth in America today that I have ever read, and I've read a few recently. If we are lucky, perhaps the overall answer is Yes, and if we are even luckier, perhaps TPTB will at last see inequality as the core flaw in our economy that it actually is, and begin to rearrange things so we can all enjoy greater prosperity.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dietrich Becker: Sonata And Suite In A Major

Sometime between 1980 and 1990, in Houston, before Ars Lyrica, before Ensemble Mercury, there was the old Houston Baroque Ensemble. We never had a web site (a what?) but for our last three years we had a subscription season, and we had a lot of fun.

In those days, gambist Robert Wayne Moss still lived in Texas. Back in his student days at Oberlin Conservatory, Wayne had little money for purchasing printed music, but he could afford staff paper, and he had a reasonably legible music script, so he spent his spare time sifting through the conservatory library for old 17th/18th-century manuscripts or published music (literally centuries out of copyright) that he thought he might find opportunities to perform... and copying them out by hand.

Forward a couple of decades. Wayne turned up at an HBE rehearsal with parts for a Sonate-Suite by 17th-century German composer Dietrich Becker, of Hamburg. In those days as in these, a musician was likely to find a lot of work in a cultural and commercial center like Hamburg (the better-known Georg Philipp Telemann was there for part of his career). Becker was a master of at least two crafts, virtuoso violin-playing and composition, and apparently made his living in the service of the Hamburg city council. From the wiki:
Little is known about Becker's musical education. His first position was as organist at Ahrensberg. In his second position, in the service of the Chapelle Ducale (Ducal Chapel) of the Duke Christian-Ludwig at Celle, he mainly devoted himself to the violin. In 1662 he settled in Hamburg as a violinist in the service of the Conseil de la Ville (City Council) and in 1667 he was named Maître de Chapelle (Chapel Master).

In 1668 Becker dedicated a collection of pieces entitled Musikalischen Frühlingsfrüchte (Musical Spring Fruit) to the mayor and members of the City Council. This collection consisted of chamber sonatas and suites for 3 to 5 voices with basso continuo. In 1674, his Zweystimmigen Sonaten und Suiten (Sonatas and Suites for Two Voices) was published.
(Aside: "Chapel Master" is a dubious translation of "Maître de Chapelle". "Conductor" might be slightly closer; "band leader" is also pretty close. So is "choir director." Google Translate punts and offers "Kapellmeister" as the English translation. Well, yes, but...)

(Another aside: "Zweystimmigen Sonaten und Suiten" does not translate as "for two voices," because titles in those days often counted only melody voices... the basso continuo, comprising one, two, three or even more bass-melody and chordal instruments, was often not counted, and when it was counted, it was counted as just one part, however many instruments performed from that one part on a given day. Go figure. But it wreaks havoc with the given translation.)

Houston Baroque Ensemble was thrilled with one of the Sonate/Suites suited to our instrumentation: melody parts for a violinist and a gambist (player of viola da gamba), both with a lot of facility; it's rather sprightly music!, and the accompanying basso continuo was well within my more modest harpsichord skills. Somewhere in a closet I still have the copied parts, but I scarcely need them to hear the piece in my mind's ear.

I couldn't find the exact work on YouTube, but there's a ton of Dietrich Becker out there, and this Sonate‑Suite in A Major from "Erster Theil zweystimmiger Sonaten and Suiten" is very similar in character. The artists are Parnassi Musici; their web site is a bit incomplete in the English-language version, but they really play superbly. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Supreme Court Rules 5-4 In McCutcheon v. FEC In Favor of GOP Golden Rule: "Who Has The Gold, Makes The Rules," Or "One Buck, One Vote"

Please read these two articles by Sahil Kapur at TPM:
You can read the particulars and quotes from the sententious majority decision and the outraged minority dissent better in Kapur's summaries than I could explain them to you, but the short version is this: our days as a representative democracy are numbered, if indeed we ever had any such days in reality, and congressional seats, not to mention the presidency, effectively go to the highest bidder from now on. The Supreme Court, while retaining individual limits per campaign, proclaimed aggregate limits contrary to the First Amendment and removed them, so that the few remaining scraps of campaign finance regulation left after the ruling in Citizens United are now gone.

It was fun while it lasted. But America now faces a challenge to its founding principles not less than the one posed by the Civil War, reconstruction, two world wars and the Great Depression. Will we overcome these threats to democracy? We can, but only by facing down the meanest, coldest rich-assed sumbitches that ever lived here and fighting them on their own turf, by their own rules.

Have a nice day!

ADDENDUM: CREDO Action provides Mr. Justice Scalia with a new robe in honor of the occasion:

Think Obamacare Is Crashing And Burning? See These Photos...

... at Kos, from signup locations all around the nation. Note also that says that as of 3/31/2014 (IOW, not an April Fool joke), the grand total of enrollments is 14.6 M—22.1 M. Apparently that's 101.1% of the target for this enrollment period. If I had not already been enrolled in Medicare as of a couple months ago, I'd have been in those lines myself. Obamacare is far from perfect... Medicare-for-all would have been better... but insuring that many Americans is an accomplishment I can only applaud.

As to the GOPer reaction, they're going to regret having so firmly attached Obama's name to this program. Margulies said it well:

Events Affecting Mostly Women In The Workplace

America has always treated women who work worse than men. Now, some of the maltreatment that has gone on for decades that I personally know about is coming to light:
America, the land of opportunity... if you're male.

Women Factory Workers, 1911

Woman at War, WWI

Women at Work Today - Lucky

Woman at Work Today - Not so Lucky

Static Pages (About, Quotes, etc.)

No Police Like H•lmes