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...)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Guns... Guns... Guns... Guns...
Guns... Guns... Guns... Guns...

It must be the Club of CrooksCops and Commandos marching along, 'cause it surely isn't the Mickey Mouse Club armed to the teeth...

First, a quote from Michael Moore that has been around the 'net for a while:

Well, I do what I can do in the voting booth, but in Texas, that isn't very damned much.

Leslie Salzillo at Kos provides us with the full quote, originally from Moore's Facebook page in 2014:

With due respect to those who are asking me to comment on last night's tragic mass shooting at UCSB in Isla Vista, CA -- I no longer have anything to say about what is now part of normal American life. Everything I have to say about this, I said it 12 years ago:

We are a people easily manipulated by fear which causes us to arm ourselves with a quarter BILLION guns in our homes that are often easily accessible to young people, burglars, the mentally ill and anyone who momentarily snaps. We are a nation founded in violence, grew our borders through violence, and allow men in power to use violence around the world to further our so-called American (corporate) "interests." The gun, not the eagle, is our true national symbol.

While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do -- and yet we don't seem to want to ask ourselves this simple question: "Why us? What is it about US?"

Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that?
Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses -- and then we the people refuse to remove them from office.
So the onus is on us, all of us. We won't pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won't consider why this happens here all the time. When the NRA says, "Guns don't kill people -- people kill people," they've got it half-right. Except I would amend it to this: "Guns don't kill people -- Americans kill people." Enjoy the rest of your day, and rest assured this will all happen again very soon.
And so it has, several times. It seems that if anything, such horrific incidents are more frequent every year.

Our nation's founders did not guarantee a right to bear arms with the purpose of watching our fellow citizens kill each other off at an ever-increasing rate; neither did they anticipate that an organization of gun nuts would emerge who are hellbent on, and have the support of the Roberts Supreme Court in, ignoring the whole stated purpose of the Second Amendment as made explicit in its first clause.

If we insist on not taking the founders at their word regarding what the Second Amendment means, our nation may not survive another century. We have handed the bears the raw meat and asked them to distribute it fairly, and you can see as well as I can what we've gotten for our troubles.

Meanwhile, some gun store owners view the massacres with enthusiasm because they bring more business from frightened customers. What is wrong with this picture?

Democratic blogger and magazine editor Ed Kilgore points out that Hillary Clinton has outlined a plan of gun control legislation, concluding his post with the disturbing thought, "But it’s important to understand that according to the Cult of the Second Amendment, opponents of gun measures have every right to fire back, literally." Again, it's hard to dispute what Kilgore says.

And The Nation's National Affairs Correspondent Joan Walsh points out that Sen. Bernie Sanders has made no similar statement to date offering any plan for dealing with the increase in gun violence, making guns the one issue on which Clinton is running a more progressive race than Sanders. (Being from a small state of small towns is bound to make a difference in Sanders's outlook. I'm just sayin'... but it's still an imperfection in an otherwise nearly ideal presidential candidate. Sigh!)

Most of my posts on guns deal with specific incidents or specific reactions to them, and many of the posts contain a photo of the model of firearm involved. This one doesn't work that way because it encompasses a plethora of incidents in the past few years. Unfortunately, Moore will be right before he is wrong: we will have a lot more of them to add to our casebook before the matter is resolved, and we can only hope and pray our loved ones and our own selves are not among the victims.

One last thought: the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence offers a possibly useful resource, a listing of current federal gun laws and comparative lists of state and local gun laws. I hope you don't have any use for it, ever.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

TPP Agreed On; Here We Go...

The dozens of petitions, letters etc. we all signed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership... and there were a lot of 'em... had ultimately no effect on the 12 nations secretly negotiating the details of this secret treaty which no one gets to read before its ratification is voted on in Congress and the other 11 national legislatures because the deal is... um... secret. (Shadowproof; BBC.)

Now we have to stop it in Congress if possible. It will not be easy. The old saying comes to mind, "The opposite of Progress is Congress," and with the manifestly idiotic people in charge, that is very liable to be the case here.

In short, TPP is being crammed down our throats and up our butts by people who do not have our best interests in mind, let alone at heart. Sorry; that's not how we do things here. Or at least it wasn't until the previous and current presidents transformed our government into a corporatocracy and started giving the biggest of businesses everything they ever dreamed of wanting from the government, meanwhile damning the rest of us to our crumb on a take-it-or-leave-it basis (i.e., fast track).

Get in touch with your Senators and Congress-critters. This one is big and bad...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Paul Simon: Two Songs That Each Span Half A Lifetime

First, ‘Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War’; then "The Obvious Child,".

I always wondered why the Magrittes song and The Obvious Child brought tears to my eyes. Finally today it dawned on me why: each of these songs describes a series of events in a person's life (or two people's lives), and manages to elide half a lifetime in a couple of sentences.
First, the Magrittes:

Rene and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Were strolling down Christopher Street
When they stopped in a men's store
With all of the mannequins dressed in the style
That brought tears to their immigrant eyes
Just like The Penguins, the Moonglows
The Orioles, and The Five Satins
The easy stream of laughter
Flowing through the air
Rene and Georgette Magritte
With their dog apres la guerre

Side by side
They fell asleep
Decades gliding by like Indians
Time is cheap
When they wake up they will find
All their personal belongings
Have intertwined


Cool: "Decades gliding by like Indians / Time is cheap" ... Time flies like an Indian arrow, I suppose. Next, "The Obvious Child":


We had a lot of fun
We had a lot of money
We had a little son and we thought we’d call him Sonny
Sonny gets married and moves away
Sonny has a baby and bills to pay
Sonny gets sunnier
Day by day by day by day


Whew! A very small amount of text covers a lot of years. And similarly...


Sonny sits by the window and thinks to himself
How it’s strange that some roots are like cages
Sonny’s yearbook from high school
Is down on the shelf
And he idl[y] thumbs through the pages
Some have died
Some have fled from themselves
Or struggled from here to get there
Sonny wanders beyond his interior walls
Runs his hands through his thinning brown hair

Again, perhaps a greater part of Sonny's lifetime passes in a mere couple of sentences. Then again, IMNSHO, Simon is one of the truly great lyricists of my generation; your mileage may vary, but if you disagree, you're just wrong... :-)

Please go listen to these songs. Listen to each song whole; as you might expect, the texts work best in context. Then allow yourself to while away an evening listening to more of Simon's music; it will be time well spent, no matter what your age.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Will The Incidents Of Mass Gun Violence Never End?

President Obama spoke on the tragedy yesterday in Roseburg, Oregon:

Clearly he was exasperated at having to make this speech one... more... time, one of hundreds of incidents in America this year alone, incidents which simply do not happen in great quantities in any other free and democratic society in the world... including some in which law-abiding citizens' access to guns is, in practice, no more restricted than it is in the US. We have guns; they have guns— we have rampages, episodes of mass killings using guns which American criminals seem always able to get their hands on; they do not.  (Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee criticized Obama for making this obligatory speech, which Fuckabee called political. Then again, the Guv is known for shooting... shooting off his mouth, that is.)

How many hundreds of episodes of mass homicide by firearm must we endure every year before Americans awaken to the fact that ready availability of guns, moment to moment, legally or illegally but in any case not "well-regulated," is a primary cause of these events?

Yes, I know the drill: an armed society is a polite society; if a household always has guns at hand, it can always protect itself; etc. etc. ad nauseam. The problem with all such statements is that the statistics do not bear them out: the person likeliest to be shot with a personal handgun is the gun's owner or his/her family member, and America is the only free and democratic nation that experiences hundreds of incidents of gun-inflicted mass violence every year.

And yes, I know there is a national organization that makes its bucks by scaring people into implementing the 2nd Amendment in a manner that almost guarantees repeated, frequent, terrifying incidents of mass gun violence. The problem with that org is that... do I really need to explain this one? Let me know if President Obama takes away your guns— if he actually does, maybe I'll modify my position, but I'm not holding my breath.

Chris Harper Mercer's source of guns?
At gun shows, shot happens, you know...

A personal aside: in 1990, my mother died of Alzheimer's disease. The last year before she had to be institutionalized, Mom, being a country girl by birth, started begging Dad to buy a shotgun, ostensibly because Mom was hearing prowlers around their mobile home, itself quite a way out in the country.

Now there's improved safety for you: one aged and diagnosed demented member of a household hears people who aren't there, and demands a shotgun to protect herself from those nonexistent people. Oh, yeah; having a loaded gun handy was really going to heighten the safety of everyone living in or visiting that household. Uh-huh. Right.

Dad actually handled the situation very well: given that Mom's requests for a gun were ceaseless as long as she had no gun she could see and, theoretically, put her hands on, Dad bought the gun, and a small amount of ammunition, placed the unloaded gun in plain sight in a closet at home, and hid the ammo where only he could get to it. I wasn't present for the event, but I think Dad test-fired the gun once, again in plain sight so Mom could take comfort in the fact that the gun worked. The ammo? well, that disappeared until I found it when I cleaned out the mobile home after both of them had passed away.

Upon Dad's death, I gave the gun to his next-door neighbor, who already had three hunting rifles in his house. Three guns; four guns— it was IMO unlikely he'd do more damage with four than with three.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

New Slogan: ‘Alabama... The N****r-F^<king State’

Tierney Sneed at TPM:
What happens when a state with a tough voter ID law suddenly makes it much harder for minorities to get driver's licenses? We are about to find out in Alabama.

Facing a budget crisis, Alabama has shuttered 31 driver's license offices, many of them in counties with a high proportion of black residents. Coming after the state recently put into effect a tougher voter ID law, the closures will cut off access -- particularly for minorities -- to one of the few types of IDs accepted. 
According to a tally by columnist John Archibald, eight of the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of non-white registered voters saw their driver's license offices closed.

This seems truly blatant to me. But that only implies that the outcome depends on how thoroughly the judiciary in Alabama is bought and paid for. As Repub's become more desperate to "win," they are willing to move more aggressively and take more chances of being convicted of out-and-out theft by a variety of means. If the various balances of power... federal vs. state, judiciary vs. legislature, etc. ... fail to result in significant court cases, at the federal level at least, we could see more of Alabamans' fundamental voting rights yanked away from citizens and defended only to the extent the state judiciary wants them defended. Which, in Alabama, may not be very damned much.

Representative democracy, even a sorry, low-life representative democracy like the one in America, requires a meaningful process that allows every adult permanent resident h. sapiens to vote according to her or his district. What happens if we don't have that? You tell me...

The GOP's [Not So] Great War On Women: The Party's Ongoing Attempt To Kill Planned Parenthood

There's no doubt about it: if you're an American citizen of the female persuasion, you do not want to live your life in the dystopian version of American society the Republicans are building.

And Republicans themselves, especially the ones who wrongly self-classify as "conservative" (they're actually radical as hell), feel freer every day to speak their misogyny right out in public. Any lie about women that serves their petty political purposes, they say it, often in front of a session of Congress. Any "document" that reflects their partisan position on a women's issue, however antiscientific that doc's content, they dredge it up in front of a House committee, post it all over the Web and talk endlessly about it on Fox, ABC, CNN, etc., who sometimes seem almost to be unofficial branch offices of the GOP.

It's really ugly out there these days, and I don't see Republican behavior improving until after the GOPers succeed in stealing the 2016 presidential election. If they don't succeed in stealing the White House, count on the anti-women rhetoric continuing until they steal an election, or go to ground trying (yeah, I know; wishful thinking on my part).

Planned Parenthood, as you know if you're reading this blog, is American women's essential health care resource: without its existence, its funding, its efforts, many American poor women, or even women of ordinary means, or adolescent or senescent women, or women deep in underserved rural areas, or college students, would never receive even the most basic of reproductive health care, and could and do die of the lack.

GOP leadership (what's left of it) is laying about itself with a broadsword, and it is women who get the worst of it. At its most malevolent, the GOP aims the blade at Planned Parenthood. For the record, and contrary to what you may have heard from Repub's like that chronic liar Carly Fiorina, about 1½ to 2 percent of Planned Parenthood's services are abortion-related. (UPDATE: NPR, which I've heard stands for "Nice Polite Republicans," uses the figure 3 percent. I'm not going to dispute over a 1 percent difference: by law, none of it is federal tax money anyway. But don't believe for one nanosecond those hostile women-hating antiabortion fanatics who would tell you it's 15 percent; that's a figure they made up out of thin air.)

Four women reporters at TPM... TPM regulars Sara Jerde, Caitlin Cruz and Caitlin MacNeal, along with the brilliant and seemingly omnipresent Amanda Marcotte... sample recent GOP output from what many of us appropriately label the GOP War on Women. You may want to read their articles listed below, some of which include videos... I thought I understood how bad GOP hatred of women is, how withering is the blatant public Republican assault pointed at American women, but these reporters' research has convinced me: whatever I imagined, the reality is even worse:

The "GOP chair" referred to is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) (rut?), and I've often wanted to ask him: "Chaffetz, does your mother know what you do to women, not at night, but right out in broad... television lighting?" Then again, I'm sure I'd be a happier person if I never met that asshole...

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