Thursday, December 24, 2015

‘Merry Christmas To All...’

(well, only to Republican Christians... after all; wouldn't want to offend the GOPers about their holiday...
 and of course, to all except for Bill O'Reilly, Pat Buchanan, et al; ‘Happy Holidays’ to them...)

‘... and to all, a good night!’

Teach your children: believe in improbable astronomical phenomena!
(Yeah, I know; spare me your contrived explanations.)

I may not be around much in the next week or so. Everyone stay healthy (i.e., stay well out of sight of any gun nuts among your friends), eat well, drink sensibly, and be merry!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Well, OK: The Dem Debate

The Dems seem to have gotten their act together. Sanders apologized to Clinton, but emphasized that firing the offending staffer was the most one could reasonably expect of him. The debate was superb: it was not merely staged, it was better than staged. All three candidates... Sanders, Clinton and O'Malley... had their best nights tonight. Perhaps more importantly, they persuaded at least this old-time Democrat that they are in fact mainstream Democrats and concerned with the larger cause to which Dems have always addressed themselves. I am still a Sanders supporter; however, if the inevitable happens, I can live with Clinton as president. The GOP is reported still to be intent on hammering Dems with the Sanders-Clinton conflict, but I do not believe the R's can get much milk out of that sac, and the D's all certainly pounded on Trump as the token (if absent) GOP candidate. ABC analysts spun the debate as being to Trump's advantage, but honestly, I doubt that. Time will tell.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Win For Trump: DNC Database Contractor Screws Inter‑Campaign Security Protection, Sanders Fires Staffers Who May Have Taken Advantage Of Breach, Wasserman Schultz Withholds Sanders's Access To His Own Data, Sanders Sues DNC, Etc. Ad Nauseam — UPDATED

Please read Sanders sues the DNC over suspended access to critical voter list by John Wagner, Abby Phillip and Rosalind S. Helderman of the WaPo. Then read BERNIE 2016, INC. v. DNC SERVICES CORPORATION, d/b/a DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE. That's not the whole story, but the WaPo article and the campaign's lawsuit against the DNC will give you the basics.

I had a friend, an amateur musician who fled Germany eventually to the US just prior to W.W.II. Her English was accented but formally perfect... I don't think I ever heard her commit a grammatical error or misuse a word, except one time as a device for emphasis: she said,

And so I is regusted. [sic] I am disgusted with the baldfaced attempt by the DNC to destroy Bernie's campaign by impugning his character, blaming him for an act he not only did not commit, but was not even informed of by DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz until 24 hours after the alleged blunder-or-plunder ("steal" was the word she used, IIRC)... at which time he found out who in his campaign may have poked around in Hillary Clinton's data (yes, may have, or may merely have assessed the depth of the vulnerability of each campaign's data to opposing campaigns' infringement) and fired them.

IANAL, but it surely looks to me like the DNC violated the terms of their contract with (at least) the Sanders campaign regarding informing them of the complaint in writing, giving them 10 days to attempt to resolve the matter, etc. In the lawsuit, the campaign alleges that, based on its prior fundraising using information from the voter data base, after access to that data was withheld by the DNC, the campaign was losing at least $600,000 per day in donations from Bernie supporters. (Full disclosure: I was one of 'em. Like most of Bernie's supporters, I didn't give much, but there were a lot of us.)

The real question here is just how much the DNC is legally permitted to do in behalf of former Secretary of State Clinton, who is clearly the "fair-haired girl" of the party leadership. IMHO, they have overreached their mandate and should be fined or jailed, or both.

I do not expect this to end well, except perhaps for Donald Trump, the putative Republican candidate. Sanders probably doesn't have the power (read: the money) to prevail in this lawsuit. And that means that his campaign will go to ground before it has had its full influence on Clinton's positions. No one expects Clinton to be rendered a socialist Democrat by Sen. Sanders's influence, but her positions have moved measurably leftward in small but visible ways since she has attempted to assure her ability to keep Sanders's voters after he (inevitably, IMHO) drops out.

I don't know exactly what I'll do when that sad event happens. I had planned to switch my support to Secy. Clinton as the lesser evil remaining in the race. The question now is just how angry I am at what she, or rather, her henchchair, has done. I've occasionally thought of bolting the Party at times in the last decade or more, and I can't even say right now that I won't do that if I feel Sanders has been unfairly treated.

This does not have to happen. In fact, it is easy to prevent... if only Clinton's supporters will fathom the consequences of what they are doing, and realize the inevitable reaction of Sanders supporters. Someone has to convince Ms. Clinton that it's not a done deal yet!

UPDATE Saturday morning 12/19: the DNC has restored Sanders's access to his own data (without which he had essentially no fundraising capability). A lot of Clinton supporters are still ranting, shouting for Sanders's flesh and blood; I'm still uneasy about what happens next. But if those Clinton supporters get their pound of flesh AND their jot of blood from Sanders, I shall stay home on Election Day. Politics is NOT about destroying your own, and despite my passionate hopes to see a Democrat become president in 2016, I will not participate or cooperate in such destruction. C'mon, Hillary supporters: do the right thing; move on.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Please Welcome Mayor-Elect Sylvester Turner!

By a fairly close vote, about 51%-49%, Sylvester Turner is the newly elected mayor of the City of Houston!

There are many things to be thankful for in Sylvester Turner. Some of them are listed in the endorsement vote below. Beyond his many manifest virtues as a consensus-builder (look at his legislative record as a State Rep.), there is the non-negligible fact that Sylvester Turner, now age 61, was once a child of Acres Homes in northwest Houston, one of Houston's most impoverished neighborhoods, and knows firsthand how essential it is to assist hardworking people near the bottom of the economic ladder to climb to middle-class status. Not everyone climbs as high as Turner has... a JD from Harvard, an active attorney and a legislator widely respected in both major political parties... but everyone deserves a chance to rise as high economically as their skills will take them, and Turner not only understands that, he acts on that understanding in his capacity as an elected official.

A word about Bill King, to his supporters and detractors alike: Bill King is not a nut-job! GOPers nationwide, please take note... by running as a genuine conservative, not a radical, they came very close to winning, and in Houston at least, they would not have come so close had King run as a Tea Party radical. That became apparent to me in the candidate debates: he is a mainstream Republican, but his key issues are exactly that, mainstream Republican issues. Regular readers know how much I despise much of the nut-jobbery of the Republican Party today, the Tea Party, the extremists among fundamentalist evangelicals (that's not all of them, but the worst of them are bad enough), etc. Bill King is pretty obviously not an outright right-wing extremist. Perhaps Mr. Turner really can call on him for advice on matters that fall astride the left-right divide.

My congratulations to Mr. Turner. I look forward to his term(s)!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Please Vote For Sylvester Turner For Mayor: Prof. Bob Stein Doesn't Quite Say ‘Ku Klux To Call’ In Turner-King Mayoral Runoff, But Admits Race Is A Factor

Those not blinded by the race difference in this race will agree that State Rep. Sylvester Turner is, on paper and in fact, more experienced in the craft of governance than his opponent, businessman Bill King, notwithstanding the cliffhanger discussed yesterday in 88.7 FM commentator Jose Jimeniz's interview of political scientist Dr. Bob Stein.

King is running ostensibly on his skills as a businessman; unfortunately for him, Turner manifestly has those skills, too, having run his own businesses successfully, and claiming in the first debate (probably factually; I am certain a panelist would have called him on it if it weren't true) to have met every employee payroll. In past years I have heard Turner speak in person: he is a dynamic, driven, passionate person, and his constituency is one of the things he is most passionate about.

Although Houston city offices are elected on a nonpartisan basis (by law), this blog is, at least in principle, a Democratic site; Democratic voters will be happy to note that Mr. Turner is solid on many basic Democratic issues, including LGBT rights, public education, affordable health care, equal justice under law (Turner is an attorney who graduated JD, Harvard Law School), and others too numerous to list, a product of his 26 years as a state legislator.

If you haven't already voted, please come out tomorrow (Sat. 12/12) to vote for Sylvester Turner.

(If Bill King's list of failures were not long enough already, his web site... search for it yourself... has serious mechanical flaws in its home page when viewed with a fully updated Google Chrome browser. Prepare to shade your eyes if you visit!)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Scalia: Affirmative Action May Send Them Darkies African Americans To Classes (Or Universities) Too Advanced For Them

I do not mean to say Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a racist... I don't know what his motivation is... only that the consequence of his assumption of Black academic inferiority is de facto racism. Here's Scalia, as quoted in Tierney Sneed's article at TPM:
[Scalia] pointed to those who "contend it does not benefit African-Americans to—to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less—a slower-track school where they do well."
Someone should inform Justice Scalia that there is a good word for people who believe that stereotype: bigots. Some other conservative Justices (see article) may need similar reminders.

Given the political activist nature of the conservatives on the current Court, I cannot see this rhetoric from the bench as anything but an attempt to kill affirmative action while the Court still has a scant majority of Justices willing to do so. If that happens, we will have to add affirmative action to the list of erasures by the Court that Congress must, to the extent possible, reinstate.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

NYT Editors: ‘End The Gun Epidemic’

End the Gun Epidemic in America,’ they write, in the strongest terms an editorial board can get away with in today's gun-crazed America. I agree, unreservedly. Please read what they wrote. The subhed will do as a sample:
It is a moral outrage and national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.
Indeed. You need a hunting rifle, or even two of them? fine. You need a couple dozen military-style assault weapons and extra-large clips? I don't think so. My thanks to the NYT editorial board for saying so.

NOTE 12/6/2015 9:14PM CT: Some sort of problem afflicted Blogger for at least an hour that I know about. The service itself and comments appear to be restarting now; viewing is intermittent. Patience, please, and apologies for any trouble you experience(d).

Friday, December 4, 2015

Courage And Good Sense

This morning's ABC world news broadcast (at some hour) featured a San Bernadino city memorial gathering honoring those killed in the massacre. Visible front and center in the crowd was a young woman in conventional Muslim dress, her demeanor prayerful, her manner solemn. She had a choice to make, a decision about just what to risk, and in our society, no less rife with religious extremism than, say, Saudi Arabia, she put her own life on the line to make a simple declaration: typical Muslims do not approve of mass violence any more than, say, Christians, Jews or Unitarian Universalists. Kudos to her for her bravery.

My mind's eye looked back 14 years to Sept. 11, 2001. I lived in an apartment then. A young couple, my neighbors across the walkway at the time, were Muslim, she of American birth, he of Canadian. Neither their appearance nor their family name nor any audible accent distinguished them as being Muslim, but somehow, at the school attended by their two young sons, word got out that they were, and the kids... the older one might have been age 9... were harassed, both openly and (more troubling) also anonymously.

I regret to say this story has a happy ending: at the cost of both their jobs, and taking advantage of his Canadian birthright, the couple moved somewhere in Canada. Regret? Yes:  I grieve to see America lose potential solid, hardworking, honest and downright cheerful citizens. Happy ending? Yes: those kids did not deserve to be threatened with bodily harm because of their faith.

Yesterday and today, the young, visibly Muslim woman at the memorial gathering was courageous. Fourteen years ago, the young couple and their sons showed good sense. What kind of America do we put forth to the world, that any of these people have to reckon with consequences just for being who they are?

Here ends the lesson for the day. <sigh />.

Monday, November 30, 2015

‘Transgendered Leftist Activist’ — Ted Cruz Speaks

Ted Cruz says there's no evidence the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter, who killed three people including a police officer, was in any way influenced by the right-wing anti-choice movement's aggressive public statements against Planned Parenthood, but instead is a deranged murderer plain and simple, despite his reported remarks about "baby parts" after his arrest.  Cruz says the murder could just as well have been committed by a "transgendered leftist activist."

There are two problems with Cruz's assertion. The first is that this sort of murderous outrage has been targeted at Planned Parenthood for decades, with at least one murderer caught, convicted and executed for killing a doctor at an abortion clinic in Pensacola, FL in 2003. (I saw that man interviewed on Nightline by Ted Koppel; he was one scary mofo.) And this latest murder, of Officer Garrett Swasey, allegedly by Robert Lewis Dear of North Carolina, was one of no fewer than seven murders of employees of Planned Parenthood or other clinics engaging in a wholly legal medical procedure at a lawfully operated clinic.

The second problem is that Ted Cruz himself, who may not actually be a "transgendered leftist activist" (and I most certainly don't mean to imply that he is; e.g., he's surely not a leftist), is... well, you and I know what he is, though I'm sure we don't know the half of it:

Regular readers (if I still have any) know I oppose the death penalty under all circumstances, but it is difficult for me to find any sympathy for Robert Dear if he committed a crime that deprived us of Officer Garrett Swasey, doing his sworn duty, quite possibly despite his personal opinions on Planned Parenthood... we'll never know. (You have no idea how difficult it can be for a clinic at which abortions are performed to hire an off-duty officer to protect it; back in 1996, Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas forbade his deputies to take off-duty work guarding Planned Parenthood clinics or other "controversial" locations.)

As President Obama put it, simply and directly: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

(My usual disclaimer: more than two decades ago at the beginning of my career as an IT contractor, I did a series of contracts creating apps for the local Planned Parenthood. I am proud of that work, and what I saw of the day-to-day functioning of the clinic convinced me that the women of Texas, young, old or indigent, are in capable hands indeed for their reproductive health care. Shut down Planned Parenthood and you will, with certainty, kill an unknown number of women.)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy T-Day

You say you're eating me? Hah!
Whether 'T' in your world is "Thanksgiving" or "Turkey" or "Tofurky" ... a veggie turkey-equivalent which we cooked one year and found very tasty but a great deal of trouble to prepare; also, the name of the company that manufactures the veggie turkey as well as many other meat substitutes much easier to prepare and including Polish sausage, Italian sausage, various sandwich-style lunch "meats," and so on... I hope your T-Day is a joyous one, celebrated with friends and family, given over to excess in eating (and drinking if you're not driving somewhere), and focused on the notion that we actually have much good in our world to celebrate, notwithstanding the utter stupidity of evil people who do their best to spoil the celebration. I raise my glass to you all!

Stella and I and our decades-long friend Catherine, none of us being interested in cooking this year, are taking advantage of another culture's indifference to the uniquely American holiday (i.e., they're willing to open their restaurant and make money off of us) by dining at India's, one of our favorite Indian restaurants... indeed, none better in Houston, though a few are as good. None of us has family in Houston or easily accessible, and over the years a personal tradition has emerged: gathering a few long-time friends to serve as family (the tradition is old enough to extend back to including, one year, my father and Catherine's mother, who bravely undertook their first sampling of Indian cuisine) and voicing our gratitude that life has, at least some of the time, been very good to us. I raise my glass also to the late Mr. Bates and the late Mrs. Fairchild, and to other willing "family" who were not biologically family, who gathered with us over the years.

Finally, I heft yet another glass (and begin to grow a bit woozy!) to all of you who blog for the progressive or Democratic or other liberal cause. Hang in there. I can't promise things will improve, but I know we will keep trying, as have so many before us, to better the lives of those less fortunate or downright unfortunate. Surely that is why we are really here. Surely it is any such betterment for which we give thanks. Put aside fear for a day; give your best and receive our best. For all of you I give my thanks; to all of you I raise my glass!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Trump-l'œil [sic]

No, not trompe-l'œil, in which the eye is deceived, but Trump-l'œil, in which Donald Trump deceives the voter in as many different ways as his clever yet perverted brain can conceive. TPM provides a lot of examples at the moment, and I didn't even search for all of them, just harvested their main page:
This man is a dangerous nut-job who would be an unholy terror as president... but nonetheless, ohpleaseohpleaseohpleeeez let him run as an independent! At worst, his current followers would vote instead for the Republican candidate; at best, they would bolt the GOP altogether and wreak havoc both in the presidential race and down-ballot. What fun that would be!

For a lot of reasons I'm taking a vacation from politics for a couple of weeks, probably until the local runoff on 12/12, but if events drive me to write, I'll try not to post any more consecutive articles about The Donald. Meanwhile, please wish me good weather, low stress and a lot of time in front of the rainbow‑maker, which is working exceedingly well in the angle of late morning sunlight that Fall brings to Houston. Imagine an entire wall, reflected by a mirror filling the entire perpendicular wall, all full of literally dozens of tiny rainbows like the ones in this video, chasing all around, all over the harpsichord, etc. ... if my camera were working, you wouldn't have to imagine it, but alas it isn't! Meanwhile, here is a video of the device taken by someone who makes much better short movies than I do. Or try this one!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Trump Is A Conservative An Anti-Religious Nut-Job

Well, I suppose he could be both, even at the same time. But anyone who claims to support the First Amendment view of freedom of religion in America can't go shooting off his mouth like this:

Businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said the U.S. will have to "strongly consider" shutting down some of the country's mosques during a Monday morning interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

After the attacks that rocked central Paris and killed more than 100 people, the French interior minister called for the closing of radical mosques in France.

On MSNBC, host Joe Scarborough asked, if President, would Trump consider closing mosques?

"I would hate to do it but it would be something that you're going to have strongly consider," Trump said. "Some of the ideas, some of the hatred, absolute hatred, is coming from these areas."

Perhaps some of the problems do come from "these areas," but their solutions emphatically do not, at least in a nation that wants to be taken seriously in its claim to offer freedom of religious belief.

Religion is about belief, and belief is precisely what is protected by the First Amendment against government infringement.

All belief is protected. But not all action deriving from that belief is protected: your religion can lead you to believe in, say, ritual human sacrifice, but the First Amendment confers no right to perform such sacrifices; murder is still murder. Still, the First Amendment does not permit anyone to shut down meeting places of selected religious groups or treat them differently under law. Those who murder or threaten to murder can be arrested and charged under law, but their houses of worship may not be tainted by the fact that murderers attend.

I am not saying this is easy. We appear to have some evidence that some Muslims indeed want their ritual sacrifices in the name of their god, and are willing to misuse individual mosques in pursuit of such terroristic murders. But we still do not have a right to shut down places of worship because some bad people attend them and try to use them for nefarious purposes. If that were the case, I could surely compile a list of various Christian denominations whose most radical churches should be shut down... oh, never mind; don't get me off the topic here. The simple version is this principle: shutting down places of worship is not a valid or viable solution to the problem that some criminally or terroristically inclined people do their organizing at or through those places. The terrorists may of course be pursued— their religious institutions may not.

And besides, shutting down mosques is surely a self-fulfilling act. Shut down mosques, and you will justify acts by the very terrorists you wish to stop. Why is this so hard for some people to understand?

And so we come full circle to the antireligious Mr. Trump. Those who are contemplating voting for him should think long and hard: Will the GOP always offer presidential candidates who will shut down only mosques? or could the practice extend to churches? or synagogues? or your very own house of worship?

Sick And Tired

No, I mean I'm physically sick, and fatigued as a result. I've experienced this feeling off and on in the past; it usually passes in a day or two. Meanwhile, I have little choice but to stay at home and let kitty Esther try to heal me. Hey, a mother of five kittens all of which grew to healthy adulthood is bound to be pretty good at healing...

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Every Civilized Person Is French Today

Here is TPM's summary article on the Paris terrorist attacks. As of early Saturday morning (1:10 AM CST) the article seems to be updated every few hours. If it seems out of date, please view the TPM main page. Here is a live stream of France 24 provided by TPM. President Hollande of France has declared a state of emergency and closed the borders. According to reports, all the terrorists who struck in Paris are now dead. For what it's worth, our Department of Homeland Security says there is no credible evidence of a similar threat to the US.

Whatever our nationality, we in the civilized world are all with France in spirit today. I am outraged, disgusted and frankly bereft of hope for civilization every time such an incident happens, hopeless because I cannot see how the nations of the world can survive the terrorists of the world. My heart is with the French... how could it be otherwise... but I know that that is not enough to put an end to the terror. Must the world continue to live with these killings of hundreds or thousands of innocent humans for the rest of human existence on Earth? It is not a pattern I am willing to get used to. My thoughts and prayers, like those of most Americans, are with the French people, particularly with the families of those killed in Paris. Courage, everyone. I do not have any easy answers; we must all awaken tomorrow and face the world we live in.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Kitty Esther's Most Recent Transit Through The Pearly Gates (Cartoon)

Thanks to one of Stella's brothers for the ref. Stella promptly reminded me of the frequent diner card we take to Dimassi's Mediterranean Buffet, which is, in its own right, a kind of paradise...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Houston Election Yields A Fallen HERO

The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), approved by City Council and Mayor Parker, failed in its judicially mandated vote by the people of Houston. It wasn't even close: when I went to bed, it was losing about 39% — 61%. I suppose the leaders of the opposition and the fear-filled citizens they misled at every turn (and "misled" is putting it politely) simply cannot abide being protected by a HERO. Well, damn them to HELL (Houston Equality Losing... Lost). Considering how many of the people engaged in the assassination campaign likely consider themselves Christian, the whole sordid business gives me one more reason not to be one.

Sylvester Turner and Bill King will be in a runoff for mayor of Houston. I like Turner well enough and have voted for him in a couple of his many past runs for mayor, more with a shrug than a happy dance, but he seems the best available this time as he was back then. The other guy, a colorless (pun intended) businessman with apparently sterling if not golden conservative credentials, leaves me wondering: which citizens is he Bill‑King?

In Houston, not all precincts have been counted, either citywide At-Large districts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) or regional City Council districts (A, B, C... etc.), so I'll defer addressing those races. And in the districts without incumbents, I don't really know much about a lot of the candidates The only observation I'll offer now is this:
  • Incumbency is an almost overwhelming advantage, but many races have no incumbent running this year.
I'll try to write more later. Today I have to grocery‑shop before another possible bayou‑filling event Thu/Fri/Sat...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Election Day!

It's time, my fellow Texans and Harris County residents and Houstonians. This is your last opportunity to vote for local offices! See for the info you need if you want to vote. I confess to some relief that we shall see no more "bathroom invasion" ads about the HERO on TV; I was beginning to have trouble restraining my murderous impulses toward the people who framed that ad and anyone else who agreed with them... seriously, it's much better to vote on the matter than to threaten someone over it; go vote while you still can!

Monday, November 2, 2015

CBS Newscaster Falls Off His Segue [sic]

Fall from Segway™
I understand that the pressures on the man performing today's 90-second summary in CBS's morning newscast were considerable, but this (non-)transition had unfortunate consequences.

A story about whether ISIS was actually responsible for downing the Russian airliner which crashed in Egypt was followed immediately— segue, no significant pause in verbal transition— by these words:
Ice is reforming in Antarctica.
I am sure that thousands of people, including me, heard that line in its context as
ISIS— reforming in Antarctica.
Well, hell, I suppose there are no guarantees in lightning-fast news summaries, and maybe, just maybe, the sequence was an accident. Maybe the Moon is made of Roquefort, too...

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Harris County Residents: Learn To Use One Easy Site That Monitors Bayous Rising

That's the Harris County Flood Warning System. Please view the page before continuing to read this post. If you enter from the main page, its usage is more or less obvious (except for one quirk), and considering, in every significant rainstorm, how many people here run their cars into deep water, it could be good for drivers (though not so good for car dealers) if everyone visited the site... frequently.

The quirk? The flood gauge boxes are named by nearest major street intersection. Once you've hovered over a flood gauge box to obtain a popup for the particular flood gauge you're interested in, you must mouse to its "more information" link WITHOUT crossing another flood gauge box! You'll doubtless do just that a few times until you learn to watch where you're driving mousing.

Click2Houston similar map
Yes, Click2Houston (broadcast TV Channel 2) has a similar map which provides some people similar info on bayou flooding (see thumbnail at right). It's great, IF you happen to wish to travel near one of its listed flood gauges, carry a 40" flatscreen TV in your car and are able to read very small print on a TV screen in a mere instant... it's not that the Harris County site is better, but that for unassisted home use to obtain info on a specific gauge it's probably more convenient.

NOTE: the web site calls the device a "gage"; please google that spelling ("define:gage") to see why I do not use it. I am confident a reader will correct me if there's an industry-specific reason for using the aberrant spelling. - SB

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Overnight Underwater Report

OK, there's no useful info in this post, but I couldn't resist the subject above. So what happened in Houston?

Flood damage, including even two HPD patrol cars stuck in deep water on Allen Parkway. Wind damage, apparently from tornadoes, which removed roofs in the Friendswood area and trees in, uh, some other places I don't remember. And the reported condition of Hwy. 288 is "Two Gross," a wretched pun attributable to a lot of Rice University students around the year 1970.

And it's still raining this morning, so of course Stella can't resist going out... she doesn't want to miss the second day of her Chinese calligraphy class. I do not consider the class outrageously expensive unless it costs her her car...

Enough. This should all be over by about 6:00 PM, if you believe the TV meteorologists. Until then, please, friends, stay off the roads if you can avoid them, and exercise extreme caution if you can't.

Oh... Our House? It's just fine. I was awakened overnight by the loudest sustained hard rain on the roof I've ever heard here, but it stopped before there was even a threat of flooding. Be careful, good people, and if you can't be careful, be lucky.

UPDATE about an hour later: water is standing on the lawn at about grass height, lapping over onto the brick patio in some places. In the past, this has not been a sign of impending house flooding; I can only hope this event follows the same pattern.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Central Texas: Flooding, Tornadoes, And Every Other Damned Thing

Because of river conditions left over from the Memorial Day floods, the rain last week and today's heavy rains in central Texas, there were some astonishing flood totals on many rivers in central and south Texas. Click here for a Google result and pick your own bad news.

What about Our House? well, some of the same stuff is coming here tonight. It's not raining now and there has been at least some time and sunshine to drop the level of water here, so supposedly kids here will be able to go out for Halloween tomorrow night. But I admit we're looking over our collective shoulder; no one in Houston takes heavy-rain events or indeed any kind of rise in river levels for granted. (Well, actually, I know one Texan who does, and proudly points to never having lost a car since she moved here 30+ years ago as evidence that she can shrug off such events. No, not Stella. But I think it's just a matter of time. Pride goeth before a waterfall...)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver Becomes Speaker Of The House

Wide shoulders?
Nah... narrow mind.
That's right, Paul Ryan (R-WI) will wield the gavel that may (or may not) confer upon him an opportunity to starve an unlimited number of grannies. Or he may receive by turns the unbridled contempt of the paranoid wing and of the merely radical wing of his party, while he accomplishes even less as Speaker than John Boehner. These days, there are no moderates in the House GOP caucus. Ask the Z.E.G.S. in about six months, if he lasts that long.

I confess I detest the man and everything he stands for. He is arrogant, self-important and sententious in everything he says. He also lies egregiously and frequently in his public capacity. One could argue he is better off as Speaker than he would have been as veep, but frankly, Speaker is a more powerful office, in which he can do more damage. The importance of a strong Democratic showing in the 2016 House election, especially if Republicans take the presidency (and I choose the word "take" advisedly, after sElection 2000), cannot be overemphasized.

Dog help us all in the next term!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I Voted Against Term Limits For City Of Houston

I voted. I know that by looking at the sticker a poll worker applied to my shirt pocket. At least the "sticker" (heh) reminds me when its low-bid not-very-sticky stuff doesn't send it straight to the floor again. Must have been a "brother-in-law contract" for the stickers, as my late father used to say.

And never forget what I used to say was the slogan behind this city seal: "Houston — come here to be railroaded! (Or get plowed.)"

If by chance you haven't voted yet, and you live in Houston, here's an alert...

You know, without a doubt about the HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance), City of Houston Proposition 1, which has already passed City Council and (if I understand correctly) is on the ballot because some cranky judge ruled that it had to be approved directly by city voters.  Please vote FOR it.

But I'll bet you don't know about City of Houston Proposition 2: it would impose term limits on all city elected officials, both duration (maximum 4 years) and number of terms (maximum 2). I urge you to vote AGAINST it. If you're voting, you already have a powerful term-limiting document in your pocket which gives you the power to decide whom to re-elect and whom to term-limit. This proposition would wrest that power from your grasp and automate the process; that's about as antidemocratic (small-'d') as it gets. I do not know which political slimeballs a) are convinced they cannot get elected often enough without this change to the city charter, or b) fail to see that forcing the electorate to shake up the whole slate of government officials and replace them with a bunch of newcomers every few years is a terrible idea, but as we lack the authorization to boil the slimeballs in oil (and besides, gulab jamun are much tastier), I suggest you vote AGAINST City of Houston Proposition 2.

See to find your early voting polling place and an early voting schedule. Or vote on Election Day, Nov. 3, at your regular polling place (NOT typically one of the early voting locations!). Final reminder: bring your !@#$%^& photo ID! Republicans did this to you, but you can't vote without it, so bring a Texas DL with your current address on it.

(I surely do miss the helpful election website that Scott Hochberg used to put up before he retired from running for office; we all have to compensate the best we can for that loss... of the site and of Rep. Hochberg, who was the Rep. you longed for if you supported responsive representative government. Thanks, Scott, for your years of service!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dear President Obama And Speaker Boehner:

I have read from many sources including this one that you are very near to closing a deal on the budget and the debt ceiling. I have also read from a couple of sources including the one just cited that the deal includes "significant cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits."

This old geezer is watching you very closely and would like to inform you of my own plans. If you severely whack Social Security, and as a result I find myself getting hungry on a regular basis, I will take a knife and start carving myself some steaks...


(Note to concerned government agents, FBI, etc.: Put the gun down. I'm a vegetarian. I've been a sprout-eater for about 35 years. Give it up; I'm not gonna take a knife to anyone.)

Tom DeLay Wants To Impeach Obama Over Gun Regs. Tom DeLay, F'Chrissake...

Tom DeLay,
not that many years ago
Here's the story; Tom the Crook doesn't like enhanced background checks (which even a lot of conservative gun owners are inclined to accept), and wants to impeach the prez for moving to implement them. And here's part of the wiki on DeLay, as context for any support you may be inclined to give him on any issue.

Some muthafuckas don't deserve your support, ever...

Ben Carson Calls For Abortion Ban — No Matter What

I heard about it on TV, one of the broadcast national news, but you can read about it on another NYT blog stealing another noncommercial blog's name:

Ben Carson Calls for Ban on Abortion in All Circumstances

The Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Sunday that he believed that abortion should be outlawed even in cases of rape and incest, comparing the procedure with slavery.

“I would not be in favor of killing a baby because the baby came about in that way,” Mr. Carson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” citing “the many stories of people who have led very useful lives who were the result of rape or incest.”

Mr. Carson, who has not been shy about using slavery and Nazi metaphors, held up what he said was a historic parallel with abortion.

“During slavery, a lot of the slave owners thought that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to that slave,” said Mr. Carson, a former brain surgeon. “Anything that they chose to do. And, you know, what if the abolitionist had said, you know, ‘I don’t believe in slavery. I think it’s wrong. But you guys do whatever you want to do.’ Where would we be?”

This statement proves just one thing... no matter how quiet-spoken he is,


That is all. Actually, that is almost all...

'Oh, wait, abortion is the worst thing...'

The current second-ranking GOP candidate for president, himself a physician, advocates a policy that will KILL MILLIONS OF WOMEN. While the fetuses those women are carrying... in many cases, given how early most abortions are performed, fetuses at most a few cells in size... are in no meaningful sense human, THE WOMEN CARRYING THEM ARE INDISPUTABLY HUMAN BEINGS.

"It's a moral issue," a Catholic coworker once sententiously told me. "Yes, it is," I replied to her, "and I have contemplated the issue every bit as much as you have, and have concluded that IT IS IMMORAL TO KILL PREGNANT WOMEN WHEN THEIR LIVES CAN BE SAVED SO STRAIGHTFORWARDLY."

If you are female, you must have a deep-seated self-hatred if you vote for Ben Carson.

Now... that is all.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Protester At Trump Event Kicked, Dragged From Room As Audience Chants ‘USA, USA, USA...’

Sara Jerde at TPM:

Crowd Chants 'USA' As Protestor Is Kicked, Dragged Out Of Trump Rally

A protestor attending a campaign event for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was dragged out of the event Friday and kicked by a man described by the Trump campaign as a rally attendee, reported an NBC affiliate.

The campaign rally, ... was interrupted by three groups who were "chanting pro-immigration messages," ...

The protestor, identified by the NBC affiliate as Ariel Rojas, can be seen in a video being dragged by a man who also kicks him while he's on the ground before police removed [him] from the room.

All the while, the crowd chants "USA."

There's a video with Jerde's article, linked above.

(Photo of immigrants protesting Trump,
credit: Business Insider.)
We have to assume the "USA" response is typical of Trump supporters because there were enough of them to get such a chant started in response to a legitimate if unpleasant exercise of First Amendment free speech. Police removing the protester from the event so it could continue was one thing; I can't blame them for that. But unidentified crowd members with no police authority literally kicking his butt and dragging him out rather than allowing the police to remove him was another altogether... and raucously asserting that doing so was a proper response in the USA was altogether outside the pale.

I trust Godwin's Law will not prevent me from observing that this behavior by Trump's supporters is painfully reminiscent of that of Hitler's supporters. Is Trump a Nazi? I seriously doubt it. But he is personally responsible for violent treatment of uninvited people voicing unpleasant speech at his campaign rallies, because he can exercise the weight of his personal influence with the crowd to stop the violence until the police arrive.

A couple hundred years ago, America's founders legalized and constitutionally protected vocal dissent... let's not tolerate its suppression at this late date.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Is The End Of The Rain In Sight? Maybe —

At about 10:30 PM CDT, we just heard an announcement on KHOU-TV that part of the band of heavy rain coming northeast from the coast and passing through Houston (causing some flooding), specifically the trailing edge,  is now visible on radar, possibly 2½‑3‑3½ hours away from Houston. That means there should be an end... sooner than initially expected... to the flooding. So far, the street in front of Our House is not flooded across, and is passable in any but the shallowest vehicle, though I'd prefer not to drive it right now. This may pass us with less damage than we feared. I'll let you know when I know something more myself.

UPDATE sometime after midnight: even the hours mentioned above may not be soon enough at the rate some areas in the central part of the county are flooding. I'm still hoping for good luck at Our House, and what I see out the window bears out my hope. More as it happens.

UN-UPDATE: OK. Great. TV stations KHOU and KPRC have recently given quite different versions of what is expected in the next few hours. Maybe this "weather forecasting" thingy is not quite what it's cracked up to be. In any case, I'm going to quit letting their conflicting reports make a fool of me, at least on this one issue... apologies for the confusion, which is obviously not mine alone.

UPDATE: about 11:15 AM Sunday. The rain has stopped at our location, except for occasional very light, sparse showers. Some other parts of the city got some flooding; I'll leave that to the media to report. Our lawn never got even grass-deep in water, the back patio never had standing water on it, and I don't believe any neighborhood critters (outdoor, whether wild or pet) would have had any trouble surviving. There could always be more weather today, or, Dog forbid, another storm... That's it for me regarding Patricia. What a boring but tense 48 hours!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hurricane Patricia Most Powerful Ever; Not A Wind Event For Houston But Flooding Dangers Are Real Enough

Hurricane Patricia, approaching the Pacific coast of Mexico with possible catastrophic results there and the possibility of dangerous winds on the Texas coast and rain events tracking northeast across Texas and other states, is the most powerful weather events ever recorded. Right now, Friday at about 5:00PM Central time, it is a category 5 hurricane, the highest possible on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with current winds of... get this... 190 mph with gusts to 240 mph (that's tornado-like, said one meteorologist) and comparably low barometric pressures measured at the center (by dropped barometers, not aircraft, thank goodness). [UPDATE from Weather Underground: "At 2:30 pm Friday afternoon, October 23, 2015, a NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft measured a central pressure of 879 mb--the lowest pressure ever measured in a hurricane in the Western Hemisphere." Wow.]

That said, I hope you can set your mind at ease about our hazards from this awesome, awful storm: long before it reaches us, for example 1:00AM CT Sunday just prior to its reaching the Mexico-Texas border, winds will probably be 35-40 mph... not even quite tropical storm level. (See map above for forecast extent of tropical storm winds.) That's according to KHOU-TV, which still guests well-known retired meteorologist and acknowledged hurricane expert Dr. Neal Frank and employs several other very respectable younger meteorologists also with tropical expertise and experience.

The rainfall could be a very different matter. Houston's bayous have been successfully engineered over more than 50 years to cope with rains as high as 8" per hour and may... may... be able to withstand as high as 12" per hour in many parts of the city. But the forecast for this event? Between 11" and 15" per hour at its peak. Why such a wide range of possibilities? Well, for one thing, we're talking about tropical rain and South Texas topography here; it's not that easy to forecast in the best of circumstances. For another thing, Houston is a gigantic, spread-out city; people who talk about the "eight-county metropolitan area" are not speaking just metaphorically. Houston is huge. Worse still, its topography is highly diverse... it won't do to forecast one rainfall rate for the whole city because it doesn't work that way.

Of course I'll continue to post as long as we have power, which may be straight through the event... or not. We have food, water, a fairly elevated location within the city, a house that has survived several hurricanes of categories 1 through 3 over the years, a deep and well-engineered bayou near enough to absorb considerable runoff and far enough that we won't flood just by its proximity. As for gasoline, I'm determined neither of us will use any; the city's orders are for citizens NOT to evacuate but to stay home. Those of you who live along coasts know the drill; those of you who live where other kinds of severe storms occur can at least conceive of it.

I'll let you know what we experience. If we lose power and can't use the usual web interface, I can use a cell phone to post a line or two on this blog... ugly but functional. Or maybe Stella will lend me her iPad for a half hour...

Stay safe and dry, my friends. My prayers for the folks in Mexico who are choosing to stay in Patricia's path.

(I have made several post-posting corrections. - SB)

‘Freedom Of The Press Is Guaranteed Only ...’
Sampling The Networks' Hillary Committee Aftermath

Liebling was right, and his famous quotation is never more apt than when applied to politics on broadcast TV...

[flip broadcast TV — ON]

Charlie Rose, who is I assume a Republican (at least he married in succession two wealthy women), hosted... two Republicans and John Grisham, probably not a Republican (he is on the board of The Innocence Project, and GOPers seldom think anyone is innocent). Three-to-one R-to-D on the set. They weren't shy about it, either. 

A local knockoff of The View; five people on set. I don't know the ratio, but one unabashedly partisan Republican woman dominated the conversation monologue.


A major broadcast network's morning national news. A "political analyst" spins the Hillary testimony. In this case, "political analyst" meant "paid Republican hack."


Another major broadcast network's morning national news. Carly Fiorina, not pitted against any Democrat, ranting derogatory crap about Hillary, with no one on set to defend Mrs. Clinton. You can just imagine... it was as if Fiorina had been given a free ad spot.
[flip — OFF]
There's not even an attempt to be subtle about it. Many Republicans hate Hillary so much that I am worried that if they can't stop her by legitimate means, one or more of them may assault her. But whatever they want to say is OK with me, as long as there is someone on set to present an opposing viewpoint. Somehow, there seldom if ever is such a person.

Regular readers know I am a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, and I wish to goodness it was his year, but as much as I personally enjoy supporting a genuine progressive, I think Bernie is the proverbial snowball in Hell in the race for President. It ain't gonna happen.

When Bernie departs the race, I will revert to type: I am a strategic voter, and as distasteful as I find big-money politics, I plan to vote for Hillary... no matter what stupid (and utterly false) scandals the Rethugs toss at her. Hey, she's gotta be better than The Donald (admittedly not a very high standard).

As to who will win, I have no idea. With the broadcast networks wholly owned by right-wing nut-jobs (even PBS news shows are dominated by executive directors who lean right), the public never has a fair chance to see any other views. (A colleague of mine with whom I carpooled many years ago, a well-educated wing-nut but nonetheless a wing-nut, used to rant about the "liberal media." I can only wish...)

From Buckley v. Valeo (1976) forward, the "spending-is-speech" crowd, themselves mostly wealthy Republicans, have effectively owned US politics. If we want our democracy back, I don't know how in Hell we're going to get it. It's sad, when you think about it. <sigh />

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Select Committee On Benghazi Hillary Clinton

Gawd-a'mighty, it feels good to take a piss... old men are not built to listen to three and a half hours of uninterrupted hostile Republican inquiry inquisition without a break.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (tell me, folks, do you know any real men named "Trey"? OK, do you know any non-Republicans named "Trey"?) rambled on in defense of his indefensible bullshit saying that this was no court case and hence no prosecution. He is right about that— but I have to say, there is a PERSECUTION of former Secretary Clinton.

Hostile GOPer asshole
Gowdy reminds me a great deal of Dan Burton a couple of decades ago. If you're too young to remember that bastard, consider yourself lucky.

Here's the link to the livestream on TPM. Don't drink too much coffee before the next session starts; you'll live to regret it. The coffee, I mean, though you'll probably regret watching the session as well.

I am now convinced... as I have been in the past... that notwithstanding Mrs. Clinton's political differences from me, if Bernie is not selected to be the Democratic presidential candidate, I can live with Mrs. Clinton as a bright, capable, sturdy and assertive substitute. More about that later.

Thu 10/22 4:05PM CT: the above-linked livestream is dead. The Committee took a break to go to congressional session for a floor vote; shortly after the break began, the committee livestream shut down. Maybe you can find it at the MSNBC site if they come back in time.

Kurt Eichenwald at Newsweek has the following observation (about midway through the linked article):
The historical significance of this moment can hardly be overstated, and it seems many Republicans, Democrats and members of the media don’t fully understand the magnitude of what is taking place. The awesome power of government—one that allows officials to pore through almost anything they demand and compel anyone to talk or suffer the shame of taking the Fifth Amendment—has been unleashed for purely political purposes. It is impossible to review what the Benghazi committee has done as anything other than taxpayer-funded political research of the opposing party’s leading candidate for president. Comparisons from America’s past are rare. Richard Nixon’s attempts to use the IRS to investigate his perceived enemies come to mind. So does Senator Joseph McCarthy’s red-baiting during the 1950s, with reckless accusations of treason leveled at members of the State Department, military generals and even the secretary of the Army. But the modern McCarthys of the Benghazi committee cannot perform this political theater on their own—they depend on reporters to aid in the attempts to use government for the purpose of destroying others with bogus “scoops” ladled out by members of Congress and their staffs. These journalists will almost certainly join the legions of shamed reporters of the McCarthy era as it becomes increasingly clear they are enablers of an obscene attempt to undermine the electoral process.  [Bolds mine. - SB]
Shame on you, Republicans! SHAME! If there is a Hell for people who commit despicable political acts, you are headed straight to it!

The GOP Key
AFTERTHOUGHT: Between the aperiodic events resembling today's Benghazi committee hearing, I forget, and find myself gasping in shock, at how deeply many Republicans truly HATE Hillary Clinton— HATE, HATE, HATE her! Often enough, I've seen that hatred manifested by otherwise ordinary Americans, e.g., coworkers; one guy I knew hated her so much that in any conversation in which her name came up, his eyes would get big and the veins near his temples would pulsate with the anger. I'm not exactly a calm fellow, but I don't think there's anyone out there whom I've not personally known but whom I've actively hated that much. I guess you have to be born with the capacity.

AFTERTHOUGHT: a question for the Republicans on that committee: Didn't your mothers ever tell you not to talk to people like that? If I'd turned loose on people I didn't like, the way those GOPers turned loose on Hillary today, my sainted mother would have (metaphorically) washed my mouth out with soap. Which brings up the question:
Q: When you wash a Republican's mouth out with soap, what kind should you use?
A: Lye soap, of course!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ahmed Mohamed Gets Slam’med — Doggerel!

This story angered me so much that I couldn't write about it immediately. Here it is, as soon as I calmed down enough not to spew a relentless stream of obscenities and profanities...

Doesn't he look
(Gimme a break!)
Several days after 14-year-old Ahmed  Mohamed, formerly of Irving, TX, was arrested and jailed for bringing a clock he (re)constructed to school, where one teacher (and apparently the mayor of Irving) thought it was a bomb or a hoax bomb, the whole family decided to forsake the not-so-good old USA and accept an offer from the fabulously wealthy nation of Qatar to enroll young Ahmed in the complex of technology-related schools and universities at Doha. They're on their way, and the wretched anti‑Arab, anti-Muslim bastards apparently now running the US have lost us another bright, talented kid who might have invented something important for America someday, if only the hostile muthafuckas had not chased him and his family off...

     Ahmed Mohamed
     Gets Slam’med

A clockmaker, Ahmed Mohamed,
Did swear that no one would be bomb'ed.
And most folks believed him,
But bigots deceived him,
So into the clink the boy's slam'med.

Thus Ahmed Mohamed takes stock
Right after one night in the dock:
"Forget Harry Potter;
I'm headed for Qatar!"

And thus HE is cleaning THEIR clock!

     - Steve Bates
On the positive side, the kid's invention and subsequent jailing got him an invitation from President Obama to an Astronomy Day at the White House (Butthead Sen. Ted said this was purely political). On the negative side (IMHO), he got another invitation from Mark Zuckerberg...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

[Doowop... Doowop... Doowop...]
‘The Penguins, The Moonglows, The Orioles And The Five Satins’

Those are the four mid-1950s doo-wop/R&B groups that Paul Simon chose for his Rene and Georgette Magritte... to dance and romance to. Guys (or gals), think twice before you queue up these sample songs and dance them with your favorite gal (or guy)... if you aren't already in love before you start, you will be after this feast of close-dancing music!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Basic Nature Of Bernie Sanders: Sanders Saves Andrea Mitchell From Being Trampled

Mikesco at Kos:
Immediately after the debate, a huge stampede of reporters were charging towards the candidates. Reporter Andrea Mitchell, near the front of the crowd, fell down and the crowd didn't appear to slow down. There was a real risk that she was going to be trampled.

Bernie Sanders charged forwards, shouting for the reporters to make way, and was able to stop the onrush of reporters. Then, he helped Andrea Mitchell to her feet. "Are you all right?" he asked her.

She said she was. "That was a dangerous situation," she added.

(Mikesco adds a link to the video. Didn't work for me, but hey, I'm running this weirdo operating system...)

This one act says, better than mere words, who Bernie Sanders is and why his motivation to become president is fundamentally unselfish. Think about the act: how many people would rush in, probably at some personal risk, to prevent a trampling? It's the decent, humane thing to do, regardless of whether it was the political thing to do.

Friday, October 16, 2015

2nd Circuit Rules Index-Building Google Book Scanning Project ‘Fair Use’, Legal Because ‘Transformative’ In Nature

The project creates a database of searchable "snippets" of books, with just enough context from the books' body text to allow the user to determine whether the book falls within the user's criteria for the research at hand. Google does not supply any substantial portion of the body text that could be read by a human user as a substitute for the book itself. In other words, it's the ultimate version of the "card catalog" from the libraries of my youth. Preparing the snippets from the world's approximately 130 million books is Google's "transformative" task that renders such an index "fair use" under even the ridiculously limited copyright law in place today.

That doesn't stop the Author's Guild from filing suit against Google for more than 10 years to this point. And it won't stop the current US Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Roberts who never fails to prefer a ruling in favor of a vendor in preference to a customer, an association in preference to an individual, the interests of a commercial entity in preference to those of a researcher or scholar, etc. etc., from overturning the original ruling and the appeals courts to this point if he, um, if the Court feel[s] like it. Stay tuned.

The easiest way to get a handle on the fundamentals of this issue is (yes, I grasp the irony in this) to read the articles that are listed when you search Google News for "Google book scanning". The first time I searched a few minutes ago, Google News turned up the following articles:

Search again for yourself and YMMV. If by some miracle the ruling survives today's crack‑brained US Supreme Court, it will be a big deal indeed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Democratic Party: Not In Disarray Like Another Party I Could Mention

If last night's debate proved anything, it's that the Dems, for all their reputation for internal squabbling, are not the party close to chaotic dysfunction one sees in the GOP. Five candidates rather than more than a dozen? that's just a sign of, ahem, democracy at work. Actual disagreements among the candidates? none half so vehement as the perpetual disagreement between the Dem candidates and Anderson Cooper, unabashedly hostile and partisan, whose mother needs to wash his mouth out (and possibly his brain) with soap. But for the first time in ages, I could call myself a Democrat and not wince at the thought: they all sounded like Democrats, if you put aside for a moment all thoughts of who may own some of their political souls.

The online post-debate post most worth reading: Ed Kilgore's Last Night's Debate: Democrats Vs. CNN... no f^<king kidding, Ed!

A thought: CNN lived up to its nickname, Conservative News Network, and did so even in the face of the most right-leaning Democratic Party in my lifetime. Do Dems really need CNN in future elections, badly enough to put up with the "Fox Jr. Reporter" kits their staff seem all to have requested from Santa for Christmas? The entire Democratic field handled those offensive throwbacks almost flawlessly, but isn't there another major network that could have conducted the debate without flinging so much sh!t at the candidates?

Another thought: more than ever, I believe America needs Bernie. And more than ever, I feel that's not gonna happen. It's a hard road being old; it makes one less presentable in so many ways. Hillary isn't all that old (67, same as me, actually nearly a year older), but she doesn't come across that way when she speaks in public; Bernie is 74 but seems committed (as am I) to looking the stereotypical progressive in his public appearance. Will the public accept that? If they can ignore that, will they accept his intellectual-socialist manner of speaking? I just don't know. I'm hoping for Bernie but acclimating myself to backing Hillary. Hey, it's not the first time!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In The Land Of [Tom] Cotton, Old Times There Damned Surely ARE Forgotten: Cotton Introduces Corruption-Of-Blood Bill Punishing Families Of Iran Sanctions Violators

The next time a GOPer invokes the Constitution, smack him upside the head. Swing with everything you've got, because it will take a goodly clout to get through his thick skull.

Here's Zach Carter at HuffPo:
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Wednesday offered legislative language that would "automatically" punish family members of people who violate U.S. sanctions against Iran, levying sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

The provision was introduced as an amendment to the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013, which lays out strong penalties for people who violate human rights, engage in censorship, or commit other abuses associated with the Iranian government.

Cotton also seeks to punish any family member of those people, "to include a spouse and any relative to the third degree," including, "parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids," Cotton said.

"There would be no investigation," Cotton said during Wednesday's markup hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "If the prime malefactor of the family is identified as on the list for sanctions, then everyone within their family would automatically come within the sanctions regime as well. It'd be very hard to demonstrate and investigate to conclusive proof."

<Sigh! /> If Cotton assumes the act is treason and bases his bill on that assumption, someone needs to compel him to read Article III Section 3 of the Constitution, the second clause of which concludes "... but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted." IOW, even if it is treason, and even if the accused is convicted of it, the convict's punishment doesn't apply to his relatives or descendants.

Hey, Tom, you should be embarrassed. I know you won't be, dumb-fucking GOPers never are, but you damned well ought to be.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Happy Birthday,’ Screw You —
Happy Birthday,’ Screw You —

Parker Higgins at Electronic Frontier Foundation:
It’s now (probably) legal to publicly sing the world's most popular song, thanks to an opinion handed down yesterday [9/22/2015] by a federal judge in Los Angeles. After years of litigation, the court held that the lyrics of "Happy Birthday To You" are not restricted by Warner/Chappell's copyright, handing a solid victory to a group of filmmakers producing a documentary about the song, not to mention the general public.

We’re glad about the ruling, but we can’t help noting that the case casts some of the deeper problems with our copyright system into stark contrast. For one thing, copyright terms are way, way, way too long.

Regular readers may know I'm not fond of copyright the way it has developed here since the founders of our nation embedded it in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8): a concept intended to do two things— materially reward useful or artistic creative effort ("... by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"), while allowing such work to become part of the commons after a time as a means of encouraging later authors, composers, inventors etc. to develop earlier ideas into further useful creations— has ended up serving only a couple of very powerful trade associations in the movie, music and publishing businesses and simultaneously doing practically nothing to encourage the proper use of earlier material by later creators. That use is, of course, where the real benefit to society resides; now it's gone.

That's what we've seen to date (e.g., kids facing near-million-dollar fines for downloading digital recordings and making their own CDs or iPod content), and I'm pretty sure we can expect nothing but more-of-the-same in the future. That's pretty damned far from the expressed original intention of copyright, but it serves the greedy very well, and that's the nature of America today. [/rant]

So the judge's releasing of America's usual Birthday Song from a faulty copyright held by Warner/Chappell, who exercised it to a profit typically $2 million a year (see the EFF article linked above), is a good thing. I assume the excessive fines levied in some copyright matters will now be challenged in court, at least by those who can afford the legal bills. And that, too, is a good thing.

As to the song itself, which I consider an unartistic near-atrocity, see this post's title for my unchanged reaction to it. That song is not a good thing!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Gun Control: Why We Can't Get There From Here

We all know the list:

  • Guns do in fact kill people; autos also often kill people... indeed, most of any day's local evening news in Houston is about who was killed by a gun that day and who was killed by an auto. But we regulate autos and drivers through a fairly dense web of laws, while we regulate guns and shooters very little if at all: there's not even a reasonable effort to address the problem of people killed by guns.
  • We have whole departments of motor vehicles to enforce state auto laws; but for firearms, we have overworked bureaucracies that may or may not effectively carry out the scant legally mandated regulations but in no case, it seems, prevent people who shouldn't have access to guns... violent convicted felons, young children, demonstrably emotionally disturbed people, etc. ... from obtaining them. 
  • Guns are everywhere until you look for them in the hands of dangerous people; when you do see them there, those people are already busy wreaking havoc in the form of massacres and mass murders. And more massacres. And more mass murders...
  • The gun lobby has a sufficiently full treasure chest of arguably indispensable campaign cash and hence a sufficiently large stable of tame members of Congress to prevent the passage of gun laws which the American people, progressive or conservative, R or D, young or old, of either sex, residing in any state, want passed, according to survey after survey.

Everybody wants a change. (Well, almost everyone.) So why can't we get there from here? The Editors at The Nation do a respectable job of explaining why. Read and see if you concur. Gun nuts may as well save the time it takes to read the editorial; I mean, what if they actually ended up learning something...

US Bombed Doctors Without Borders Hospital In Kunduz, Afghanistan. WHY? Demand An Investigation...

... through Amnesty International.

This link goes to a form at Amnesty addressed to the President and the Secretary of Defense, which seem to me like the right recipients for the displayed petition/letter. If you have prior interactions with Amnesty, your name and address will probably already be filled in. If my name and address appear instead, something's gone wrong; I don't think this will happen, but if it does, just type over or manually clear all fields in the form.

The hospital was effectively destroyed by a US air strike, with many people killed. The US is not being forthcoming about the matter.

If this was a deliberate, systematic destruction of a medical facility run by a non-government org aimed mainly at civilians but sworn to provide medical assistance in war zones without getting involved in the dispute itself, the US has gotten a lot more evil than it used to be, and we deserve to know. How many times have we been told that the Afghan people are not our enemy? I urge you to ask President Obama and Secretary Carter to order an investigation.

(Full disclosure: I make occasional contributions to DwB as an ordinary concerned citizen; I am not a "member" in a formal sense (as I am with some of the other org's listed in the left hand column of the blog). Beyond advocacy, I am not directly personally involved in DwB's activities. I was, however, an active member of Amnesty for several years about a decade ago.)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Benghazi... Benghazi... Benghazi...

For once, congressional Republicans seem to be using their metaphorical guns to shoot themselves in the metaphorical foot (House Majority Leader and [possibly former] Speaker-in-waiting Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA); Benghazi Select Committee chair Rep. Trey (!) Gowdy; etc.) and even conservative print and broadcast political commentators are starting to notice.

And for once, congressional Democrats are starting to feed this free grist to the political mill.

Is it just me, or does anyone else look at Trey Gowdy's actions as chair of the Select Committee and find her/himself reminded of former Rep. Dan Burton (R-Indiana) of the GROS Committee, um, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee? the same style of battering one or more Democrats (in Burton's case, hundreds) with a sledgehammer while refusing to call GOPers to answer equivalent questions? When I hear Republicans whiiiining they are victimized by partisanship perpetrated by Democrats, I can't help thinking of Burton and gritting out through clenched teeth, "you bastards had it coming" ... now I can think of Gowdy as well.

In any case, there's at least a possibility after McCarthy's Clinton-related gaffe and Gowdy's offensively partisan chairmanship that Democrats may see GOPers get their just deserts. (Not to be confused with Gov. Chris Christie, who clearly gets just his desserts...)

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