Monday, November 7, 2016

Once Again, Barely, Able To Post

Human nature is not at its best this week, as candidates both seem intent on proving. Fortunately,the better of the two candidates will probably not be shot, and the worse will go home, whining pitifully... but nonetheless alive. Ah, the glories of the transfer of power in our democracy! 😄

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

Basket Case

Ordinarily, as a good Dog-fearin' ACLU member, I would rush to the defense of this guy, no matter how much I disagreed with the opinion his T-shirt bore. But the convenient availability of T-shirts that just happened to bear the quote "Basket of Deplorables" (quoting Hillary regarding Trump's thugs) might suggest to a reasonable person that the whole stunt was a put-up job of character assassination against Hillary, designed and triggered by, oh, say, FBI hit-man director James Comey. That's just a hunch; it might be false, oh, 1 time in 102576, damn him. The timing of release to GOP congress-fv<kers, to prevent a genuine investigation... aw, fv<k it all.

Angry? me? You must be kidding!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cook Political Report Forecasts Substantial Dem Gains In US Senate

Via Lauren Fox at TPM, "The Cook Political Report reported Tuesday morning that Democrats will take back their majority and win five to seven Senate seats in November." (Technical problems with this borrowed computer prevent a direct link to the Cook site; please click through the link at TPM for content details. More to follow when I can get this box working better.)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Trump: Who Is More Stupid Than A Woman? A Deaf Woman

... or, apparently, any other person with disabilities. In 2011, Trump tangled with well-known actress Marlee Matlin; the result was truly ugly. There are reasons piled atop Trump's sexual assaults that further disqualify Trump for holding any public office.

In fairness, I admit that I am a fan of Matlin and her work, and as a person with disabilities myself, I am outraged at Trump's condescending dismissiveness toward all of us with physical or mental disabilities. He has no business in a position of public "service."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Scary Sh!t, No Way To Tell If True 'Til It Happens

Please read Josh Marshall's editorial, Danger on November 9th. Is Trump & Co. setting us up for an election theft more dangerous by far than the one in 2000?

Hardware Troubles

My ancient desktop rebooted after Linux applied a patch; result was a power down and no further response to buttons etc. I'm borrowing Stella's computer for the moment, but will have to quit using it when she gets home. Meanwhile I'm playing the only game in town, "What will Donald Do Next?" Electrical power is unstable here after some work yesterday by people installing a new concrete walkway; I don't know exactly when I'll be back to regular blogging.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Uncle Donald Goes Mad

My late uncle W, a paratrooper with flat-top hair long after it was fashionable, used to make this gesture at me every time I was in his presence, in hopes it would make me a man...

Here, my ersatz Uncle Sam appears to have similar purposes, and about the same likelihood of success.

Seriously, it looks to me as if The Donald is, as the saying has it, "full-blown bat-sh!t crazy." I cannot imagine his current tirade is going to end peaceably.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Trump On Bills

The Donald...

  • hates Bill Clinton, but
  • loves a Bill of Attainder.

In case you've forgotten, as apparently Trump has, a bill of attainder is a law that singles out a specific person or persons for punishment without a trial.

Donald, I know you're reading this; please also read the Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 9, paragraph 3. Notwithstanding what you said in last night's "debate," even if you become president, you are not permitted simply to declare Hillary guilty of something or other and then, as the thugs who sit at your feet often urge you, summarily "lock her up."

C'mon, Donny Boy; it's not a difficult concept...



Americans, look in the mirror this morning. What do you see?

If you see, not your usual face, but a drop‑jawed, dumbstruck, horrified facsimile of your familiar mug... you are probably all right.

If, instead, you see gleaming fangs, unmitigated hostility, a crazed face atop a body executing a pseudo‑military strut... stop for a moment; be sure you are really looking in the mirror, not viewing an image left paused on your video recorder from last night.

I am 68 years old. When I was about 10, my father told me that there were things no civilized man ever said to any woman, no matter what the provocation. The times having changed, the concept of gender equality being what it is today, I have extended that rule: no civilized person ever says those things to any person, regardless of sex, gender identity, etc., at least not if s/he expects to be taken seriously henceforward by anyone within earshot.

But Mr. Trump has demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that he is not a civilized person. Notwithstanding that horrendous character flaw, he wants to be president.

Dog help us all.

(As he so often does, Josh Marshall, editor of TPM, has worthwhile insights in his editorial, In the Abuser's House.)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

NYT: Trump's Leaked 1995 Tax Records Could Have Allowed Him To Wipe Out Almost $1 Bn, i.e., Possibly ALL Trump's Federal Income Tax From Then To Today

Via Josh Marshall at TPM, we learn that a small portion of Trump's 1995 tax return was leaked to the New York Times. (You may scroll past the video window at the top of the NYT page.)

The Times then hired tax specialists to analyze the effects of the document on Trump's taxes.

Their conclusion was that Trump, if he wished, could have applied the entire $916 million loss to future income that would otherwise have been taxable. The total loss comprised his failed Atlantic City casinos holding company, an "ill-fated" venture into the airline business, and his "ill-timed" purchase of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. According to the NYT, the total $916 million could have covered an estimated 18 years of Mr. Trump's income taxes.

That's from 1995 to within a few years of today, depending on Trump's income, but Trump has refused either to confirm or deny the loss, or his income over the period starting in 1995. And besides, who's counting a few hundreds of millions more or a few hundreds of millions less. Small change, right? Er, right?

But the amount, while awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping and horrifying to poor blokes like us, is not the point. The point is this: How would you or I go about not paying federal income taxes for about two decades?

The Times points out it has no evidence that what Mr. Trump did was in any way illegal. It's just the usual way obscenely rich people shove off a billion or so of their taxes onto poor schmucks like us; no big deal, right? You'll dial or punch Mr. Trump's checkbox on your voting machine with no hesitation, right?

CORRECTED: replaced '$916 bn' with '$916 million'. They may look the same to Trump, but I should know better. - SB

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Trump's Rage And Abuse: Marshall's Analysis

This is well worth your time to read and contemplate: Josh Marshall's incisive analysis, Caught in Trump's Cycle of Rage and Abuse. Marshall's conclusion:
For now and for the next several weeks at least Trump is pulling the country into the drama of his own dominance and abuse rituals, ones that plainly aren't working because his opponent is steadier on her feet than he is. That fact itself is leading him to lash out in wilder and wilder ways, just as electoral reverses are pressuring him into more intense outbursts. The next debate is only a week away. It's difficult to imagine he can right his ship before then.
And if Trump does "right his ship," heaven help America's ship of state in the next four years. Hey, maybe it's not a ship but a plane...

Friday, September 30, 2016

USA Today, WSJ: Not So Much ‘Vote For Clinton’ As ‘Don't Vote For Trump’

This is as much as one could reasonably hope for from America's mainstream conservative news source and America's exceedingly conservative news source. I echo their positions on this. I hope, for America's sake, you will elect Secy. Clinton, but at the very least, don't encourage an ignorant, hostile, possibly criminal, clearly crazy man by giving him your vote. Thank you.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Herbert von Karajan Gives Us A Great Break From The Great Grate Of Donald


Donald makes America grate again; here's a brief respite.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Houston ‘Active Shooter, Active Shootee’ Incident

Some of you may have seen this incident on your local news; if not, you'll surely see it on your national news.

It's one thing to read/view a story about an active shooter incident in a somewhat upscale residential and commercial neighborhood, the shooting focused first on a very nice condo, then on a tidy strip center with nice stores and a post office. It's another thing altogether to have a direct association with the place, though not with the incident.

I once considered it as a place to live, but the prices were beyond my means. Nonetheless, Stella and I have a pair of PO boxes at the post office in the aforementioned strip center, both boxes left over from our respective independent-contractor days. Stella headed out to work this morning with our rent checks to mail. But her car refused to start: we had to call AAA and buy a new battery.

The delay may have saved Stella's life.

A lawyer whose firm was failing financially filled his Porsche with a lot of guns (yes, he owned and carried them all legally), parked outside the very nice condo which apparently contained his home, took a position behind a large tree, unpacked several guns (handguns and rifles including, it is believed, a semiautomatic) and plenty of ammo and clips... and started shooting. At anyone. People he didn't know. People who just happened to be on the street before sunrise, on the way to work, or taking their kids to school. People driving cars: the shooter pointed straight at their windshields, and once those were shattered, directly in the faces of their drivers and/or passengers. Several neighbors risked their lives, not merely to call 911 but to inform their neighbors face-to-face... yes, the shooter was firing through the windows of his neighbors' condos... that they needed to GET DOWN within their homes, below window level, immediately.

Police and firefighters were quick to respond, literally dozens of cars full of them, equipped with robots on the chance that the crazy was distributing bombs. The neighborhood was basically cordoned off as a crime scene; traffic is still being routed around the area, and residents are observing an obligatory shelter-in-place.

Amazingly, as of the time I began writing this post, none of the victims had died, though one was in critical condition and another in serious condition. It's a good thing Houston has a lot of fine hospitals, which in turn have personnel well-trained in emergency response.

Both of us are safe and well, not even as shaken as people who were actually in the middle of the incident.

I read this week in The Guardian that "half of all guns in the US are owned by 3% of Americans." IMNSHO this is more than a mere statistic; it's a substantive fact regarding gun ownership: no one really needs 17 guns (that's the average among the 3% of gun owners who own half of all individually owned guns) for any legal, sane, societally nondestructive purpose. My farmer Granddad owned two shotguns and two rifles; he and my Dad and I had plenty of guns to go hunting together (I hated that activity), with one to spare if Mom, should she choose to participate. (Do not mock my mother's skills with a firearm! She might return from the grave to haunt you!)

Is it too much to ask that the 3% who own half the guns come in once a year and re-qualify in the use of those weapons? Is it too much to ask that every few years they come in for a psychological screening to show that they still understand the social limitations on the uses of such firepower? Is it too much to restrict automatic and rapid-fire weapons to use by military personnel and police? The 2nd Amendment assures you the right to "keep and bear" arms as part of "[a] well-regulated militia," but I still haven't seen the clause that permits you to use them to shoot your fellow citizens dead because you had a bad day at the office.

Remember: the 2nd Amendment was intended to protect the freedom and personal safety of the citizenry. Modern firearms, used as they are being used in real life in America today, are not contributing at all to that goal.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Get this. The name of the street full of condos is... Law. Oh, the irony!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Guardian Offers ‘Lyin' Trump: A Weekly Fact Check’

I just discovered this series this week, but I can tell already that it is going to save all of us a great deal of googling/reading/transcribing in pursuit of the Donald's endless lies:
‘Lyin' Trump: A Weekly Fact Check’.
Good luck; keep your antacid supply handy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

‘I Just Don’t Think She Has A Presidential Look’

That's Donald, speaking of Hillary. Personally, I think Donald DOES have a presidential look... think of former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević, for example, crank down the charm by about 10 percent, and you've got Trump.

But that's not my real point. My real point is that Trump evaluates women entirely by their physical appearance. His wife... er, wives... are good evidence of that: not that any one of them is stupid, but all of them are attention-getting for their looks alone. So the statement that Hillary lacks "a presidential look" means exactly two things:
  • she is not male, and
  • she does not meet Trump's standard of femininity.
Go figure... when Hillary was First Lady, my father used to remark on her good looks. But what part of a president's toolkit is her looks, anyway? My mother was bright and articulate from my earliest memories, but I have pics of her in her young adult years, and she was striking... it's no surprise my father went for the whole package, brains, looks, speaking ability, writing ability, etc. (Occasionally, perhaps just to prove a point, Mom would tune the family car. Farm girls often acquire skills like that, though in her case I think it was probably the tractor she tuned.) But Trump clearly evaluates women with one thing in mind. What a schmuck that man is.

A reminder for poll-watching voters. Lately the big three broadcasting networks have been saying that Trump and Clinton are in a dead heat, statistically tied, use your own favorite phrase (but please... not "neck and neck"). Before you believe that statement in its usual sense, go read; it's on this site's blogroll. You'll find the networks are cherry-picking the polls they average, and rotten-apple-tossing the tweaked results at you. If you can put aside their "methodology" (heh) for long enough to see what Nate Silver & Co. are saying, you'll see Hillary is still several points in the lead... and noticeably more likely to win the office. This does not mean she or her supporters can afford to be complacent, but neither is it time for them to tear their hair out.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Follow-Up: Trump Asks ‘Is There Something Wrong’ With Calling Obama ‘Founder Of ISIS?’
Does Trump Suffer Alzheimer's?
Is Trump FAKING Alzheimer's?

Be forewarned: my speculation at the conclusion of this post is 1) no sure thing, but if true, 2) as sad as sad can be.

Here's Caitlin MacNeal at TPM again:
Donald Trump on Thursday morning refused to back down from his Wednesday night claim that President Obama is the "founder of ISIS."

"He was the founder of ISIS, uh, absolutely," Trump said on CNBC's "Squawkbox" when asked if it was "appropriate" to say that Obama founded a terrorist organization.

And later in the interview, Trump seemed confused as to why he was asked whether his comments were appropriate.

"Is there something wrong with saying that? Why? Are people complaining that I said he was the founder of ISIS?" he asked.

I can only shake my head, shed a tear, and wonder... here's the speculation... whether Mr. Trump is entering the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

I am not an MD, let alone a psychiatrist. But I do have some close experience with Alzheimer's disease: my late mother, may she rest in peace, suffered Alzheimer's for about two years before she died, presumably of complications of the brain damage that dread disease causes.

I am not especially the praying type, and I confess I detested Mr. Trump up to the moment I saw his possible affliction. But if that is the cause of his nonsensical pronouncements, he is more to be pitied than loathed, and he and his family deserve our prayers. For me, that's going to be a difficult transition: I wouldn't wish Alzheimer's disease on my worst enemy. For his sake, I hope I am wrong, and Trump is merely a power-mad nutjob.

But if Trump is showing the early signs of SDAT, he must not be allowed to take control of the world's most powerful office. I don't know what the provisions are, if any, for a president who becomes unfit to serve even before he is elected, but if the problem is in fact Alzheimer's, then Trump would become, long before the end of a single presidential term, incapable of even minimally adequate service as president.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed...

AFTERTHOUGHT: It is just barely possible he is faking dementia. That's harder to do than you might imagine, so it's unlikely. Besides, what possible motivation could a candidate for high office have for faking a mind-destroying illness?

AFTERTHOUGHT: The nature of a person with early Alzheimer's is not entirely predictable, of course, but my mother talked about individuals who obviously did not exist and events that clearly never occurred. These persons and events were as real to her as if the persons did exist and the events had happened. There was no use trying to talk her out of seeing them; they were as real to her as... well, as Obama's founding of ISIS apparently is to Donald Trump.

FINAL THOUGHT: Nah. I saw him on the evening news last night, and he didn't act like someone with dementia. Trump is playing us all for suckers. If Americans let him get away with it, we're all fv<ked. Trump is willing to destroy America in order to own America, goddamn him.

Trump: Obama Is ‘Founder Of ISIS’; Hillary Is ‘Co-Founder’

Caitlin MacNeal at TPM:
During a rant about the Middle East at a Wednesday night rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Donald Trump called President Obama the "founder of ISIS."

“In many respects, you know, they honor President Obama. ISIS is honoring President Obama,” Trump said. “He’s the founder of ISIS. He founded ISIS. And I would say the co-founder would be Crooked Hillary Clinton.”

I'd say Trump's campaign is beginning to, uh, founder.

But seriously, folks... how could Trump believe that? or is this just another of his off-the-cuff remarks aimed at the most ignorant of his base, a remark that, if Trump were president, could endanger every American?

I am not in the habit of advocating formal psychological sanity testing for presidential candidates, but I hope someone in Clinton's campaign is tasked with assembling all these full-blown-batsh!t-crazy Trump clips into pithy campaign ads. Forget about Trump's base; members of the American public who don't pay attention need to understand just how fv<king crazy he is before they elect him president.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sell Texas, Live In Hell

According to the local ABC station, Houston's heat index high yesterday was 116°F. Today is forecast to be similar.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Trump Hints To Gun Nuts: Assassinate Hillary

This just came out in The Guardian:
Donald Trump has hinted at the assassination of Hillary Clinton by supporters of gun rights.

The Republican nominee was speaking at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, about the next president’s power to appoint supreme court justices. “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” he said, adding: “Although the second amendment people – maybe there is, I don’t know.

The second amendment to the constitution protects the right of Americans to bear arms. Trump has accused his Democratic rival of wanting to abolish it, a charge that she denies.

“This is simple—what Trump is saying is dangerous,” said Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook. “A person seeking to be the president of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.

This is getting out of hand. Republicans: when are you going to remove this reckless sociopath from the top of your ticket?

Robert Reich Vs. Chris Hedges On How Bernie Sanders Supporters Should Vote

Robert Reich, who was Bill Clinton's Secretary of Labor working for progressive reform in spite of most of what Bill himself believed, debates reporter and activist Chris Hedges, on Democracy Now! Here's the short version:

Hedges: vote for the Green candidate because there's no substantive difference between Trump and Hillary.

Reich: vote for Hillary because there would be a chance under her presidency to continue the political revolution Bernie started, while a President Trump would have a real opportunity (e.g., through judicial appointments) to establish the actual fascist state that Hedges is rightly worried about.

Bates: does no one remember Nader the Spoiler? A vote for the Green presidential candidate is virtually always a de facto vote for the Republican candidate, and if you're reading this site, you probably agree with me that a Republican in the White House is always a catastrophe for America.

I used to admire Hedges, and there is still much to admire in his person and his political philosophy, but I have to list him as one more lefty who is willing to sacrifice America to save America. Sorry; I'm not that kind of lefty.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

David Cay Johnston...

... knows a lot of facts about the evil man of the hour, and reveals more than a few of them in his book, The Making of Donald Trump. If you can't get a hold of the book (or on the book; HPL is taking its time responding to my hold request) right away, at least read Kathy Kiely's review at ... I have a lot of respect for Johnston, and when he lets rip with flames like those described in Kiely's review, you can expect your hair to be singed.

(Speaking of hair, is it a coincidence that Johnston's hair and beard look very much like mine? Probably wishful thinking on my part.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

So Much For A 'Public Trial'...

AP via The Guardian UK:

[US district judge Gonzalo Curiel]’s refusal to release video of Donald Trump testifying in a lawsuit about the now defunct Trump University denies critics of the Republican presidential nominee a chance to use potentially powerful images against him.

Transcripts of Trump’s depositions have been released over the past few months but videos remained sealed. ...
Read the article for more about what the videos show. This is not a criminal action against Trump; it is a lawsuit, so the Sixth Amendment may not apply. But the judge who is hearing the suit is the one Trump criticized for his "Mexican heritage," and it seems to me Trump owes him an apology. Fat chance of that!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Since Khan-Trump Exchange, Constitution Becomes Bestseller

Too bad I won't be rushing out to buy one; I've had a pocket copy since 1976, though it's missing one amendment. I keep it in the bed headboard, along with a book-sized copy annotated by Linda Monk.

And yes, Lyin' Donald, you can bet your fat ass I've read it, all the way through perhaps a half dozen times over the years, and individual pieces of it several times a month as issues arise.

Oh, and Scott Bixby tweeted (see last graf at Guardian link above), "Donald Trump mocks Hillary Clinton for wanting to build schools, declares he wants to build a $100 million ballroom for the White House." Hmm. I wouldn't have thought Donald Trump's balls required all that much room. Maybe that's his brains I'm thinking of...

Trump Says He Is 'Afraid The [General] Election's Gonna Be Rigged'

What can I say... no one is better positioned than Trump to know whether the election is being rigged.

Apparently Trump intends to challenge the general election. If he does, I want the results of the 2000 [S]Election reopened and challenged as well: I'm still angry enough to want to see (especially) Dick Cheney in prison, and I wouldn't cry if James Baker saw bars as well...

Trump & Co.'s Relationship To Truth: Always Tell It? Never Tell It? Neither: They Say Whatever They Want, With Utter Indifference To Whether It Is True

They can talk about "Lyin' Hillary" all they want, but every new article on Trump's (or any Trump surrogate's) response to criticism reveals their utter indifference to whether that criticism is true or... and this is my complaint... whether their response contains any shred of truth. Katherine Krueger at TPM:

Amid Donald Trump's ongoing attacks on the family of U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, a Muslim-American solider who was killed fighting in Iraq, a number of his supporters latched onto a conspiracy theory that Khan's father is a "Muslim Brotherhood agent" and his son was on an "Islamist mission."

The execrable Roger Stone is apparently involved with this, but Trump himself is no better: he would speak any nasty fiction about an American hero if he thought it would gain him a quarter point in any poll.

Trump hasn't yet figured out that a lie to the public has to be breathtakingly big for the public to react, "Surely he wouldn't say that if it weren't true!" His succession of little lies only increases public mistrust of the man, and proves what a deep-seated bastard he is.

The Khans do not deserve this, but I am sure Trump doesn't give a flying fv<k...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

GOP Adviser Resurrects 2008 ‘Lock-And-Load’ Meme

Josh Marshall voices his concern over the Trump campaign's winking at staffers' and other RWNJs' threats to murder Hillary Clinton. His specific example is the ranting of New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro, an adviser to the Trump campaign on veterans' affairs, who, speaking recently on a RWNJ talk show, said of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, "[Clinton] should be put in the firing line and shot for treason" for her actions regarding Benghazi.

Marshall's primary concern is that Trump and company are "wink-winking" at campaign staffers and spokespeople who make such threats, thus implicitly advocating the assassination of his opponent. One spokesperson for the campaign (see first article linked above) said, "We’re incredibly grateful for [Baldasaro's] support, but we don’t agree with his comments." Wink-wink, indeed; I fully agree with Marshall's assessment of the intended message, and of its direly unacceptable nature.

The only thing Marshall omits (as far as I can tell) is that THIS IS NOT NEW BEHAVIOR FOR THE GOP IN A PRESIDENTIAL RACE. Surely other Democrats remember Sarah Palin's repeated exhortations to "[l]ock and load," delivered to audiences full of gun-toting Republicans more concerned with their personal right to carry than anyone else's right to stay alive.

This is a trend. This is the second consecutive presidential election in which a candidate or his/her surrogates has urged a Republican audience to exercise their Second Amendment right by threatening (at least) to shoot an opposing candidate, or opposing voters, or anyone they don't like the looks of. THE GOP HAS BECOME THE PARTY OF VIOLENCE DIRECTED AGAINST ITS POLITICAL OPPONENTS. I cannot put an end to the threats, but I damned surely can voice my objection to them. America is in theory a representative democracy; WE DO NOT SETTLE DISPUTES ABOUT LEADERSHIP BY MURDERING POLITICAL OPPONENTS. PERIOD!

I am somewhat relieved to see that the Secret Service is investigating Rep. Baldasaro about his naked threat against Secy. Clinton... not that I really expect them to do anything about it, but at least they are making some noises that they will take an "appropriate" action. It's not much, and it won't save Mrs. Clinton from a Glock-toting RWNJ, but it's better than nothing.

Monday, July 18, 2016

GOP National Convention Starts Today, Monday...

... but a quick flip of the remote will transport me to Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.

♪ Would you be my neighbor? ♪ And honestly: which of these two would you welcome in your neighborhood?

Each of them lives in his own land of make-believe; the difference is that Daniel Tiger admits it upfront.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pounds For Trump, Pence For Indigent Women And All LGBTs

Trump is about to choose Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate.

Should you care?
  • If you are an American woman of childbearing age, especially one who doesn't have the money for reproductive healthcare, you have a strong financial interest in Pence and his unconcealed efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.
  • If you are an LGBT American, you have a deep interest in Pence's efforts to pass the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would allow business owners to refuse to serve LGBTs on religious grounds. (He signed such a law, later mitigated slightly, but if he were the Veep instead of a state governor, he would surely push for a law on the national level. Never forget what President, uh, I mean, Vice President Dick Cheney managed to ram through when second to a president about as incompetent as Trump would be.)
  • If you can remember the roaring 1990s, remember that Pence was then a right-wing radio talk show host, known by some people as "Rush Limbaugh on decaf."
Trump has made his first presidential decision, and it couldn't be a worse decision if he tried. Never forget it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Hillary Clinton For President

My head and my heart are both with Bernie Sanders... but Bernie is no longer running for president.

We surely owe Bernie a debt of gratitude for what he accomplished both in influencing Secy. Clinton's policy positions on a great number of issues and in using his five members of the Democratic Party's Platform Committee to embed those improved positions as planks in the platform. Many of us had serious hopes that, in the process, Sen. Sanders would amass enough convention delegates to win the nomination himself. That hope has since been dashed, and Sanders has taken the sensible step of withdrawing from the race and formally endorsing Secy. Clinton for president. That alone is reason to consider, seriously, voting for her.

But you all know there's another reason for doing so: clearly our nation's next president will be either Hillary Clinton or... wince... Donald Trump. No third candidate has a remote chance, and Sanders, unlike (say) Ralph Nader, understands the folly of a third-party run.

So as the slogan goes, I'm with her. The YDDV endorses Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. Do some reading about her; we could do much worse... we could, for example, end up with the DT without even taking a drink.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Cat's Paws

I started out looking for my speaker wires, lost since our move seven or eight years ago, so that I could set up the one stereo in the house that can connect with my decent turntable. That task proving hopeless, I switched to searching YouTube for a particular piece from the Glogauer Liederbuch, a set of 13th-century partbooks with some truly charming ensemble works including this one, called Die Katzenpfote, which in my playing days I had the pleasure of playing many times and actually performing a couple of times.

Here are four settings by several different ensembles; the third one probably most resembles our performances:

Monday, July 4, 2016

‘We Lived So Well So Long...’

That's Paul Simon, from American Tune... suitable Independence Day music for young and old alike. I've already put on my blue-and-white shirt and red shorts; now all I have to do is put on my best singing voice... [ahem] never mind. If that's not what you had in mind, here's something bombastic, pretentious, LOUD; in other words, thoroughly American...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Finally I Get It - Why Bernie Must Stay In The Race Until The Convention

It took The Young Turks to explain it to me... well, them and the short Bernie clip they play in this segment. Bernie cannot drop out now and accomplish his most significant goal, specifically, shifting the Democratic Party... the party platform and Clinton's expressed positions... leftward far enough to make a difference.

Bernie is not stupid, far from it. And I understand he would make a great president... if there were a way for him to get from here to there. But there's not. Any honest American (and that certainly includes Bernie) knows that the president who takes office in January will be the candidate of one of the two major political parties, Democratic or Republican, not anyone else. Bernie will not be one of those candidates... but even so he has a real opportunity from his current position to influence the behavior of one of those parties, by staying in the race all the way to the Democratic convention. If he withdraws earlier, he loses that power. If he announces a third-party presidential run, he becomes Ralph Nader writ large, almost certainly assuring a President Trump (about whom, not so incidentally, I agree with Bernie: America would collapse in chaos within a year if Trump became president).

So Bernie, smart guy that he is, does the one thing open to him that accomplishes the most significant of his goals. In support of his run... even if its success in the usual sense is certainly unrealizable... I continue to endorse him, on this site and in personal conversations, until he and his surrogates have accomplished what they can at the convention. At that point, if I'm still alive, you can anticipate a "Clinton for President" banner in the left column of this blog. Politics makes strange bedfellows, a fact that in this case I willingly accept.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Two Must-Read Posts From Staff

I've come to believe that no one has assembled a more astute team of political analysts than Bill Moyers. In these posts, my belief is reinforced; both are well worth your time:
  • What Will The Democratic Party Stand for in 2016?
    Analyst John Light begins
    Last week made clear that Bernie Sanders won’t be the Democratic nominee. But a meeting of the Democratic Platform Committee in Washington also made it clear that the Vermont senator will wield considerable influence over the party’s future.
    and follows through with an examination of the role of the Democratic Platform Committee, including excerpts from testimony before it.
  • The ‘Truth’ According to Trump
    Prof. Todd Gitlin (jounalism, sociology; Columbia U.) examines how Trump uses a vituperative personal style to convey half-truths and unprovable outright falsehoods to stir up a base that is all too ready to believe the worst about anyone but themselves:
    After the weekend’s carnage in Orlando, Donald Trump didn’t wait long before launching yet another guided missile full of insinuation. He didn’t exactly say that the massacre was the doing of an unreconstructed Mau-Mau descendant born in Kenya. Trump is craftier than that. Monday morning, he told Fox News:
    Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind. And the something else in mind — you know, people can’t believe it. People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on… [Obama] doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands — it’s one or the other and either one is unacceptable. [[Gitlin's] italics]

    Later he told NBC’s Today’s Savannah Guthrie:

    … There are a lot of people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it. A lot of people think maybe he doesn’t want to know about it. I happen to think that he just doesn’t know what he’s doing, but there are many people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it. He doesn’t want to see what’s really happening. And that could be. [[Gitlin's] italics]

    Something else in mind… Can’t believe it… There’s something going on… Maybe he doesn’t want to get it… People cannot believe… A lot of people think… These are Trump’s characteristic high-frequency whistles, repeated and restated and re-repeated to make sure he gets through to the feebler dogs out on the periphery of his adoring crowd. [Final boldface SB]
That is precisely what Trump is doing. If the American electorate buys into it, we are, in the words of George H.W. Bush, "in deep doodoo." And even if they don't, we're in for a campaign season as unpleasant as any we've ever seen, facing perhaps the most vulgar man ever to run for President.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bernie Sanders For President Admirable Person Of The Year

I understand how difficult it must be for Bernie to step aside. But I hope he faces this inevitability as he has courageously faced so many others: the delegate counts simply aren't there for him, and Secretary Clinton, FBOW, will be the Democratic Party's candidate for POTUS. Considering the likely catastrophe threatening our nation if Trump should become President, Sen. Sanders would best serve our nation by ending his own run for that office.

What we progressives owe him is incalculable: the public dialog on traditionally progressive/liberal issues has moved noticeably leftward thanks to Sanders's run, and he has surely made Clinton a better candidate by engaging with her on those issues.

As ambivalent as I am about Hillary Clinton, I admit Hillary is easily the most qualified candidate between the remaining two who have a realistic chance of winning (or, in Trump's case, stealing) the presidency. I'd like to give Sen. Sanders a day or two to make his own endorsement of Secy. Clinton before I remove my own endorsement of him from this site and (as seems likely at this point) begin my advocacy for Hillary Clinton.

More as it happens...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day: Americans' Love Of The Fantasy Of War

Planning on voting for Trump? Before you join the army of goddamned fools intending to install the ultimate fool as President, please at least read The Guardian's Ben Fountain in his assessment of Trump, war and the outright folly of the American electorate, Endless war: Trump and the fantasy of cost-free conflict.

Trump had four or five draft exemptions (depending on who's counting) that prevented him from seeing a single day of combat in Vietnam, and I can only hope at least one of his was as legitimate as my one grudgingly granted exemption. Yes, I was glad not to go, but dammit, at least I was genuinely crippled. Gawd help the poor bastard, not to mention everyone in his unit, who went to war in Trump's stead.

Read Fountain's entire article. Toward the end, he quotes several GOP presidential candidates including Trump, a couple of Democratic candidates as well, and a few military "experts" both actual and self-proclaimed. If America continues to be led by people who think war is a good idea in almost all circumstances, I am practically certain that our nation will not outlast my own presumptively brief lifetime. War is not a hobby, or something to boast about, or a way of getting oneself elected to office, or a way of growing obscenely rich. War is hell... nothing more, nothing less. Those who endure it in our stead merit our sincere thanks. Those who send others to needless wars deserve to be heaped with shame.

Dammit, Americans, STOP VOTING FOR FOOLS!

(The blog break continues.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Blog Break

Friday, April 29, 2016

Here We Go Again... Certain Heavy Rain, Possible Floods, Hail, Tornadoes, ...

Where, exactly? They'll be able to tell us immediately before it happens, not sooner. How bad? Ditto. Houston and surrounding areas, some already saturated, are expected to get 2"-7" rain in some places; needless to say, 2" is a lot less damaging than 7". Oh, and this could happen anytime from tonight to, uh, Monday. We have our cell phones charged up and the ABC13 weather app installed; I already had the NWS site linked... not exceedingly mobile-friendly but I'm accustomed to working it with two fingers. With luck, we will come through this one with as little damage as we had last time (see previous post). When I can post here, I will post here...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Surviving The Weather Event

You may have seen some terrifying photos on the national news of the impact of the storm(s) from the western US as they passed through Houston yesterday. The main difference here is that the same images, along with many more, appeared on the local news, which ran continuously for over 24 hours. The sheer scale of the thing reflected the fact that the storm and its aftermath had no precedent in recorded Houston and Harris County history. Welcome to the new reality, folks.

Stella and I and the kitties are unharmed, and the house we rent was largely undamaged. Apart from a tiny leak under one of the glass doors in the den, we have experienced no flooding to this point. Indeed, the cats found new places to nap through the whole thing. This is in stark contrast to the effects in much of the city:

  • At least 13 local bayous topped their banks, or are expected to do so as rain that has already fallen swells the bayous and creeks upstream of us. We may yet see some high water here.
  • Many, many Houstonians are now homeless. In many cases, families found themselves trapped in their flooded homes and apartments; locating these people, removing them (often from upper floors) and transporting them through frequently obstructed streets (think: swamp boats and big trucks) to quickly established new shelters is a major and ongoing undertaking.
  • Despite best efforts, a few people died: it is hard to imagine, sitting at home, dry and comfortable, why anyone would attempt to drive their small vehicle through a completely flooded underpass (often with flood depth markers, in feet, painted on the columns), but that is one of the most common causes of death in such events here.
  • More rain is on the way today and for a few more days. Ground saturation assures that a much smaller quantity of rainwater implies large problems still ahead. One can only hope and pray that a) people show good sense, and b) we don't get additional large quantities of water at Our House.

Thank you for your patience. I'll probably blog a bit more than I have in the past month, but not as much as I might like. Stay dry, folks...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Blog Break

Not me... I mouse left-handed
and my hair is gray!
Before I had a smartphone, I always imagined it would be much more convenient to do research for blog posts when I'm away from home if I had a mobile device literally always with me. As it turns out, that aspect is true... but the phone does not provide me with any more time or energy actually to write those posts. I made a new folder  in my email called BlogThis and began sending myself links and notes each time I ran across an article or post worth my time (and presumably my readers' time as well). Indeed I blogged a few of those, but the rest of life goes on... significant weather events, my health and that of my friends, household matters, etc. ... and at the moment I have a backlog of 33 articles in the BlogThis folder.

In short, I'm getting the research done, but the blogging is going by the boards. Many of the pending BlogThis entries are obsolete by now, so I believe I'll take a break of a few days, let them all obsolesce, and start fresh, knowing how the presence of the new phone changes things. Please bear with me; I'm not ready to quit blogging yet. But there's this article I found that I just have to make notes on for a future blog post...

Friday, March 11, 2016

Debunking Myths About The Koch Brothers

These myths, documented at by two well-respected Harvard scholars on government and policy, reveal five common fallacies or misunderstandings prevalent among left-leaning and Democratic writers, fallacies which could put our democracy in peril of literal takeover by wealthy but ideologically driven oligarchs. Conspiracy theory? maybe, but I suspect we ignore multibillionaire right-wing crazies at our peril. YMMV.

NOTE: the original draft of this post was written on a smartphone, composed using the Google keyboard with its auto-completion feature. When I saved the original draft, Google keyboard silently changed one word I typed manually, "multibillionaire", to "multimillionaire". The mistake is understandable, but it must have been a lower-level Google developer who saw fit to make the silent change: a Google CEO (or some such) would never have made that mistake.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

In Vino Ver... Oh, The Hell With It — DOGGEREL!

I glanced over my little wine rack today after a minor buying run. No individual wine was more than $5 a bottle and most were cheaper than that... it is possible to buy a very satisfactory table wine for very little money these days, and I've done exactly that, because retired elderly Americans aren't left with a great deal of money, except those who are, ah, left with a great deal of money.

In any case, I noted that the rack contained sixteen bottles of wine. Sixteen wines... hmmm, how could I resist a bit of parody...
In Vino...
Some... people say a wine is made out of grape;
A poor wine gets ya' by the neck o' the nape:
The nape o' the neck, and skin an' bones...
A nose that's weak but a finish strong...

Ya' taste sixteen wines, 'n' whaddya' get?
A little bit drunker and possibly wet;
St. Vincent don' ya' call me 'cause I cain't go...
- Steve Bates
OK, it could be better, but I'm impatient to publish before the effect of the wine wears off...

Monday, February 29, 2016

Trump The Fascist

I do not enjoy publishing an unadulterated slur against a presidential candidate, even a Republican. But Trump is no ordinary Republican candidate, and I choose my words based on Trump's actions at campaign events, from documentation by Juan Cole and from ABC News footage I saw myself, shown on this evening's news.

Trump was interrupted by protesters apparently from Black Lives Matter (no unusual event; so was Bernie Sanders) and responded, "Get them out of here," or words to that effect. A reporter in the "media pen," attempting to take a picture of the BLM protesters, apparently stepped a foot or two outside the line. A Secret Service agent (which, BTW, The Guardian referred to as an "SS agent"!) first grabbed the reporter's throat, then, on meeting resistance, threw him to the floor. Trump's audience cheered; Trump himself beamed.

I ask you: is this presidential behavior? Is it even rational behavior?

Perhaps I'm overreacting, but Trump's actions bug the bejezus out of me. YMMV.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Early Voting Starts Tuesday 2/16 In Texas

Harris County residents please find information and useful links below; also a fragment of parody/doggerel for the occasion. We plan to vote this weekend; one of us has a paying gig that makes weekday voting difficult!

(This post will float to the top while early voting is ongoing, i.e., through 2/26. Election Day is 3/1; your Election Day polling place is most likely NOT THE SAME as any early voting location.)

NYT Editorial On How GOPers Are Behaving

The short version on GOP behavior as a whole: deplorable. The NYT says it better than I ever could:

Forget an up-or-down vote [on Obama's nomination to replace the late Antonin Scalia] on the Senate floor. Top Republicans are pledging not to hold hearings or even to meet with a nominee.

In a statement dripping with sarcasm, Mr. McConnell said that Mr. Obama “has every right to nominate someone,” and “even if doing so will inevitably plunge our nation into another bitter and avoidable struggle, that is his right. Even if he never expects that nominee to actually be confirmed but rather to wield as an electoral cudgel, that is his right.”

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the majority whip, said, “We believe the American people need to decide who is going to make this appointment rather than a lame-duck president.”

These statements are so twisted that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s take them one by one.

And so they do take them and wield them like sharp swords.

This is not my father's Republican Party... yes, Dad was a Democrat, but he could occasionally be persuaded to vote 'R'; he was very proud of the whole system and explained to me why it had so many virtues.

McConnell & Co. were not virtuous when they decided to defy the Constitution by refusing even to consider "advise and consent" on Obama's proposed Supreme Court nominee. If one of us went to one of our bosses and said what today's GOPers in Congress are saying to the President and the American people, s/he would be met with Donald Trump's signature line, "You're fired!"

And the small bit I saw of last night's "debate" ... we don't have cable, but we were having dinner in a restaurant that plays Conservative News Network (CNN) continuously... was a schanda für die goyim... and the GOPers themselves seem unaware of that shame. The Democratic Party ("Democrat Party" if you're the author of Marco Rubio's campaign commercials) sometimes does things that make me squirm in embarrassment, but the Rethuglicans often do things that make me want to toss eggs at them.

Shame! Shame! Shame!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ogden Nash, ‘With My Own Eyes,’ 1950,
America Isn't So Bad After All

View this long poem (but very much worth the reading!) here. Click the magnifying glass "+" several times if the font is too small for you (as it was for me). Or go find and purchase a first edition of Nash's The Private Dining Room, which is where I discovered the poem.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Thomas Piketty On Bernie Sanders: The End Of The Reagan Era

In many respects, we are witnessing the end of the politico-ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the 1980 elections,’ writes Piketty. This column is food for thought, and many of us are very hungry!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

All Animals Democrats Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others

Trevor Timm at The Guardian reminds me... reminds us all, or informs those of you who didn't already know... that the sadly misnamed Democratic Party chooses its presidential candidate using a system that is outrageously undemocratic (small-'d'):

Even if Sanders wins the popular vote, Clinton could still get the nomination

The Democratic party decides its nominee in a massively undemocratic way – and is a ticking time bomb for the party and its voter base if Bernie keeps winning

The Democratic party’s nomination will ultimately be decided by more than 4,700 delegates at its nominating convention in the summer. Most of those delegates are allocated based on votes in each state’s primary or caucus. However, the party also assigns what are known as “superdelegates” –
700 or so people who aren’t elected by anyone during the primary process and are free to vote any way they want at the convention. They are made up of members of Congress and members of the Democratic National Committee – which is made up of much of the establishment that Sanders is implicitly running against.
According to University of Georgia lecturer Josh Putnam, superdelegates exist solely to allow DNC elites to better control who ultimately becomes their nominee. “The reason superdelegates came into being in the interim period between the 1980 and 1984 elections was to allow the party establishment an increased voice in the nomination process,” he wrote on his blog in 2009.

Not that anyone ever asked me, but this is exactly why I ceased giving money to the Democratic Party through the DNC, DSCC, etc., and started giving money directly to candidates' campaigns. Although I've given and will continue to give money to Bernie Sanders for President, I am nonetheless long since not officially a member of the Democratic Party. I vote straight 'D' virtually every partisan election, but I just can't handle the notion of superdelegates.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Friday Monday Catnap Blogging

I really haven't gotten the hang of the camera in the new phone... my heavy-handed application of GIMP (the Photoshop equivalent in the Linux world) makes this pic barely acceptable. Esther catnaps in Stella's grandfather's rocker, which makes Esther the only sentient creature in the household who is not off his/her rocker:

Esther on her rocker

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Scalia. Dead. Yesterday.

I knew about it then, but God asked me to announce it only on a Sunday. 

Dead and (one hopes) gone...
Actually, I found out while I was sitting in a car in the Academy Sports & Outdoors parking lot, waiting for Stella who was trying to buy tennis shoes. I struggled mightily to find a free, unpassworded WiFi available from the parking lot. I found one, with a signal strength so low that its download transfer rate was only 1mbps. About the only news list I subscribe to is The Guardian (what? you expect an American news service to publish straight info on American politics, etc.? gimme a break!), and I saw the announcement of Scalia's death pass quickly before my eyes, but the connection was so iffy I gave up and dismissed the browser. But even the dismissal didn't get through the bad connection; I received one article from the Guardian, sans photos, and read the basics.

I have never had any sympathy for that man. He was a smiling dogmatist, with no redeeming qualities I could ever find. (I guess that makes me one of those "liberals" The Guardian said found him "infuriating" ... fair enough.) Read the article at ThinkProgress for a list of possible consequences of Scalia's sudden absence on the Court; be forewarned, they range from actually beneficial to nearly "chaotic" (their word, not mine). Now that there is a 4-4 tie between conservatives and moderates (the last actual liberal retired and died over a decade five years ago), cases which provoke an ideological reaction from the Right will rebound to the lower court in which they originated; in many cases, that court has more "tighty Righties" than the Supremes... and the result will apply only to the circuit in which that court operates. In other words, no help for Texas, Louisiana or Oklahoma. Sucks, if you ask me.

Here are other articles I found once I had a solid connection from inside a bookstore:
That will do for the moment. Ted Cruz and other Repugnant members of Congress are vowing to torpedo anyone... ANYONE... Obama nominates to replace him. Dog help the next Repub president, whenever they manage to steal that office again...

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Gravitational Waves: They Found Them, For Real

Somewhere in (or out of) the Multiverse, the shade of Albert Einstein is smiling.

From The Guardian:
Gravitational waves: breakthrough discovery after a century of expectation
Scientists announce discovery of clear gravitational wave signal, ripples in spacetime first predicted by Albert Einstein

Physicists have announced the discovery of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime that were first anticipated by Albert Einstein a century ago.

“We have detected gravitational waves. We did it,” said David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (Ligo), at a press conference in Washington.

The announcement is the climax of a century of speculation, 50 years of trial and error, and 25 years perfecting a set of instruments so sensitive they could identify a distortion in spacetime a thousandth the diameter of one atomic nucleus across a 4km strip of laserbeam and mirror.

The waves were discovered in the wake (literally, I suppose) of the collision two black holes a very long distance from us. The signal received from the LIGO matched the mathematical model of the event to a very high degree of probability; in other words, what they observed is for real.

So what difference does this discovery make? Remember: until ~378,000 years after the Big Bang (hence 378,000 light years from that event), space was opaque to electromagnetic radiation, e.g., light and radio waves. So no matter how good a conventional light or radio telescope scientists manage to create, they cannot see closer than that to the Big Bang. But gravitational waves are not similarly stopped. And a lot of awesome and interesting stuff happened in that era; scientists would surely learn a lot about how our universe formed (and presumably about how other universes form, if there's really a multiverse). That alone has me excited.

Here are some other worthwhile articles (not in chronological order; sorry):

Science News: Gravitational waves explained
The Guardian: Gravitational waves: breakthrough discovery announced - as it happened
Sciencealert: IT'S OFFICIAL: Gravitational waves have been detected, Einstein was right

The Exercise Of Executive And Judicial Power, Both To The Public's Detriment

First, the Executive branch, in which the DNI threatens to use the "internet of things" to spy on Americans in their home or at work:
US intelligence chief: we might use the internet of things to spy on you
(Warning: your refrigerator is telling the spooks what you snack on at midnight!)

Not to be outdone, the Supreme Court throws a spanner in the works of Obama's executive orders reducing carbon emissions:
Carbon pollution controls put on hold
(Note: today's Big Event may change what the Supreme Court does about a lot of things. See more recent post above.)

It's not so much that we need [booming Republican voice] LESS GOVERNMENT as that we need more constraints on all branches of government. Say, I know what... we need a Constitution; that should provide the necessary... oh, right; we've got one of those, and it doesn't seem to constrain much of anybody in government...


Early voting in the 2016 primary starts this Tuesday. Here's the Harris County, TX early voting schedule:
Early Voting Hours of Operation:
February 16 - February 19: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
February 20: 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
February 21: 1:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. 
February 22 - February 26: 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Choose your early voting location at this page (.pdf). Any registered voter in Harris County can vote at any early voting location shown on that map. Be sure to bring an approved photo ID (e.g., your Texas driver license or a concealed-carry license). For good measure, if you have your voter certificate, bring that, too, but it is not sufficient; you must have an approved photo ID.

Later today I'll post additional info, but there is no official word on Election Day poll locations yet (goddamn Republicans anyway). Also, there will be a bit of doggerel on this post...

ADDENDUM: Doggerel as promised, a parody with apologies to the late great Nat King Cole... sing this to the tune of his song "Smile":
Vote, though your brain is aching;
Vote, though bad news is breaking.
When their attack is a weight on your back,
If you vote, yes, despite your terror,
Vote, you can face your mirror;
You'll find your life ain't worth a groat,
If you... don't... vote!

        - SB after NKC

Monday, February 8, 2016

‘... Secure In Their Persons, Houses, ...’

This is not really a Fourth Amendment issue because the search party is not from the guvmint. But it is indisputably an unreasonable search.

First of all, this is for real, not some scam, or a setup for a home invasion robbery; the call came from our landlord's secretary, whose voice and caller ID are known to me. That was the first thing Stella asked when I informed her.

Our landlord's insurer on this house has insisted on inspecting the interior of the house for safety violations. When I heard from the secretary, the landlord (generally a good guy) had already set up an appointment for us, this Wednesday at a named time. The insurer will send an inspector. To look for what? I don't know. Her name is Jody, but what are her credentials to do such an inspection? I don't know that, either.

The government would need a warrant to do this, but in our "guilty until proven innocent" era, a private corporation can demand anything it damned well pleases as a condition for doing business with them, and if all the insurance companies conspire together to do these inspections, it's a certainty that property owners will yield.

Welcome to America in the 21st century.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Friday Cat Blogging On Sunday

This pic of Lily is clipped from one of the first photos at home using the new phone:

The original is better, but huge... I had to reduce the file size a lot by reducing the pic size and cutting the jpeg quality a bit. Sometimes Stella wishes she could reduce Lily a bit, but dieting is not Lily's forte.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Walmart Deserves Its Losses — America's Small Towns Do Not

As long ago as the early 1990s, when my father was still alive and living a few miles outside Livingston, TX, Walmart was moving into small towns, engaging in predatory pricing and driving competing mom-and-pop stores out of business. Now, 20 years later, Walmart is closing 154 stores in America, many in those same small towns, in some cases forcing residents to drive to other towns to buy their bread and butter. Will the small grocer now re-emerge? Who knows. Folks gotta eat and clothe themselves...

Between predatory pricing and mistreatment of employees... e.g., at one point Walmart was taking out "dead janitor" insurance policies on rank-and-file employees; such policies do not benefit the employees at all... Walmart is just about my least favorite retail chain. I haven't shopped there in at least 20 years. Indeed, I could truthfully say, in the words of singer/songwriter Dave Lippman, "I Hate Walmart." (That link autoplays an audio recording; lyrics alone are here, including several newer verses not in the recording.)

Regarding Walmart's announcement of store closures (including another 115 stores not in the US), I can only say, they had it coming. If they failed to profit from their deplorable act of driving local stores out of business, the invisible hand should indeed raise its middle finger at them.

I do feel for the Walmart employees who lost their jobs. Walmart did offer them a job in another Walmart... if they were willing to relocate to another town. What part of "home" do the executives fail to understand?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My Smartphone Hears Voices - And Transcribes Them

It is said that idiots are easily amused. By that criterion I am one. I am easily amused by the degree to which speech recognition software has improved from my college days 47 years ago to the present. It still has a few problems even today, but I am managing to write this post using the Google speech to text software built-in to this phone.

And that pleases me more than you can imagine, or at least more than words can express. I am having fun with a technology for the first time in years!

ANNOTATION from the desktop's keyboard: my dictation was halting, as you might expect of someone who is not by training or nature a dictator. But there were only two errors I could not easily correct by speaking rather than typing: one was the sentence "I am one"; the s/w was absolutely determined to change the "one" to the digit "1" no matter what I did. One time it even visibly transcribed it as "one" and then visibly changed it to "1". (sigh!) The other had to do with inserting explicit newlines. The s/w recognizes some punctuation and a few formatting characters when their names are spoken, and "newline" is one of them, but something about my Texas accent must have thrown off the recognition algorithm: sometimes it inserted a Unicode/ASCII newline character; sometimes it rendered it "Near line" or something even more unrecognizable. Even so, there were no more transcription errors than I learned to expect from the cheeky and uncooperative keypunch operator in my first job right out of college. (sigh again!)

Lester Young, The Most Relaxed Sax Player Ever

The POTUS is never relaxed (it's not the nature of the job) but the Prez (Lester Young, tenor sax) certainly was, in 1951 at least. Enjoy a laid-back hour of Prez sitting in with the Nat King Cole Trio, featuring
  • (tracks 1-10) Cole on piano (we forget that the guy did more than sing!), unknown on bass, Buddy Rich on drums; and
  • (tracks 11-14) Cole on piano, Harry Edison on trumpet, Dexter Gordon on tenor sax, Red Callender or Johnny Miller (?) on bass, and again Buddy Rich on drums.
Mmmmm, it's like eating homemade ice cream!
We are fortunate that despite Young's short life (yes, he died Young, at age 49), he influenced many of the great players of the following generation.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Things That Make You Look Over Your Shoulder

Two articles well worth your time to read:
  • It turns out Donald Trump's father was the racist landlord Woody Guthrie hated
    I admit I am a fan of Woody Guthrie (I wish I could truthfully say "This Keyboard Kills Fascists," as Guthrie often labeled his "machine" [guitar]), and not so much a fan of Donald Trump or landlords in general, but based on this article, Fred Trump was worse than the lot regarding racial discrimination. Like father, like son? I wouldn't go that far, but things one learns in youth about interaction with other people tend to last a lifetime, and a racist parent makes me nervous about the child.
  • U.S. will use facial recognition at airports
    I no longer fly because I do not like undergoing invasive searches without a warrant, but these machines, however well they appear to work, make me very uncomfortable. What happens if you're a close match (as the device reckons) with a terrorist? Are your happy urban life, your career, your relationships personal and business, etc. immediately over? I wouldn't bet against it. It's the no-fly list writ large. ("No-live list"?)

    And then there's the fact that these machines work, um, badly. Here's the ACLU on the subject:
    A study by the government's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), for example, found false-negative rates for face-recognition verification of 43 percent using photos of subjects taken just 18 months earlier, for example. And those photos were taken in perfect conditions, significant because facial recognition software is terrible at handling changes in lighting or camera angle or images with busy backgrounds. The NIST study also found that a change of 45 degrees in the camera angle rendered the software useless. The technology works best under tightly controlled conditions, when the subject is starting directly into the camera under bright lights - although another study by the Department of Defense found high error rates even in those ideal conditions. Grainy, dated video surveillance photographs of the type likely to be on file for suspected terrorists would be of very little use.
    Does that give you a lot of confidence?
(I'm afraid I didn't log the sources of these links. If you published one or both, and you are on my blogroll, please accept my thanks.)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Is SCOTUS Preparing A Third Strike Against The Executive?

Arguably, Citizens United was the first strike, using the First Amendment free-speech clause to remove virtually all limits on political campaign contributions by corporations. It seems a strange ruling to me, in that it grants free-speech rights to virtual persons that can live forever and often have and can spend more money than any living human individual.

The second strike was Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, another odd bird that effectively grants First Amendment freedom of religion to corporations, allowing them to impose the corporate owner's religious constraints on medical insurance benefits offered to employees, e.g., refusing to cover the cost of abortion.

And now the apparent third strike: the Court appears to be taking direct aim at the constitutionally listed powers of the Executive branch. As Tierney Sneed at TPM states the matter:
It was not unexpected that the Supreme Court took up a case Tuesday challenging the Obama administration's executive actions on immigration. But it was somewhat of a surprise that in doing so, the court asked to be briefed on whether the memo outlining the administration's policy “violates the Take Care Clause of the Constitution” -- a question which was not addressed directly in lower court decisions and not among those the U.S. government included in its petition.


The surprise is not that the Supreme Court is a political entity; that was true of the very first Supreme Court seated. If there is a surprise, it is that today's Court (possibly influenced by Chief Justice John Roberts) is requesting from trial courts (or other lower courts whose cases SCOTUS ultimately hears on appeal) information on issues not introduced by either side at trial or on appeal, issues to allow archconservative Roberts & Co. to set particular precedents they desire on issues never raised in trial or earlier appeals.

Our nation's founders framed the Judiciary as the weakest branch among the three. The Judiciary, starting immediately with John Marshall, set about rectifying that disparity. Today the Roberts Court, by applying all kinds of powers assumed over the centuries, as well as a few tricks the founders never imagined, can be, when it wishes, vastly more powerful than the Congress or the President. I am quite certain that if a Republican takes the presidency this year, the Roberts Court will find and hear some case that allows them to remove the hobbles they have been placing and continue to place on Executive branch power while Obama is president.

Do these rulings serve the cause of justice? C'mon, gimme a break...

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