Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Wrong, It's Gotta Be Right

While I wasn't paying much attention to the Internet, Robert Reich went and said something egregiously stupid:
So the Democratic ticket for 2012 is Obama-Clinton.

Why do I say this? Because Obama needs to stir the passions and enthusiasms of a Democratic base that’s been disillusioned with his cave-ins to regressive Republicans. Hillary Clinton on the ticket can do that.

My Political Prediction for 2012: It’s Obama-Clinton
There aren't a whole lot of things I know about politics, but one of them is surely this: I know, within a half percent of the electorate or so, how many voters who don't live or work in the Washington, DC area care about who the vice presidential nominee is on a ticket. That number is zero. No one cares. Face it, next to who is second in the American League's most walked category each year, there is nothing that matters less in our lives than who is the person who sits around for four years not quite daring to hope that something bad happens to the President.

Unless the Vice President is named Dick Cheney, the person occupying that position has almost no power to affect anything of importance. In fact, President Bush would have been within his rights to tell Cheney to shut the hell up and stay down at the Naval Observatory until he was needed, which would be about the same time that Hell froze over.

That's the first thing Reich got wrong.

The next is what we're upset about. It's not about Obama's "cave-ins" to the GOP. It's that this is what he wants to do, and that no one in the Democratic Party has been willing to tell the truth about that, let alone stand up for what the party should be about.

What they do instead is suggest things like changing Vice Presidents.

All that wrong in a few sentences.

The only thing he may not have gotten wrong is that Obama will make this change. It won't make any difference, but there are plenty of folks like Reich who think it will. One of the things you can count on from our leaders is that when the going gets tough, the tough change the org charts. If I thought Hillary Clinton still had her own ambitions about being President some day, I'd think it unlikely that she'd accept such an offer, but she's in her mid-sixties now. She may really be thinking about retiring soon.

Being associated with the failures of a second term of Barack Obama's presidency would be an excellent way to guarantee having nothing better to do than go home. I suppose that under those circumstances, being the first female Vice Presidential candidate who got to move into the Observatory would be achievement enough.

So it's possible that Reich could be wrong, and still be right. Sadly, that's how things are these days in our nation's capital. Often, doing something dramatic is more important than doing something that makes sense.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Has It Been That Long?

Five years, and still proudly obscure:

funny dog pictures - Sticking nose in others business'es  since 2006

Image credit: I Has A Hot Dog

Five years ago was the first time I published here. Not much has changed since then. I suppose that's just as well.

Actually, I just loved the cartoon. I've seen that view of a Labrador Retriever many, many times.


The Story In The Rocks

Apparently, a bit of my work is going to be published soon. No, it's not this picture, though I wish it could have been:

Image credit: Cujo359

Follow-Up E-mail From Darcy Burner's Campaign

As an update to this article about Darcy Burner last week, I received an e-mail response yesterdayTuesday, which I'm going to print in its entirety minus valid e-mail addresses:
From: Alex Hendrickson <xxxx.xxxx@darcyburner.com.invalid>
To: Cujo359 <nom-de-ordinateur@a-big-isp.net.invalid>
Subject: Re: Send a nerd to Congress
Date: Dec 27, 2011 11:18 AM
Hi Cujo359,

Thank you for sharing your blog,

Darcy has some very strong feelings about the NDAA 2012 bill, as follows is her statement:

"I remain strongly opposed to this bill.

Many members of the media and of Congress have tried to assure us that the ‘improved’ language in the NDAA 2012 renders Americans ‘safe’ from the draconian provisions which lie within it. But regardless of how this President says he would interpret the language, I am opposed to any erosion of our Constitutional rights-especially when we are asked to rely on the goodwill of whomever the President might be in the future.

Due process was given extensive protection in the Bill of Rights for good reason. I wholeheartedly believe our modern world requires greater due process protection, not lesser.

We can not continue the illegal and immoral Bush era policies of rendition and torture of any person, regardless of their nation of birth. Simply sweeping suspected terrorists off to indefinite detention, without due process, representation or basic human rights is unacceptable, and un-American."

Please let me know, if I can provide you with any further information!


Alex Hendrickson

Darcy Burner for Congress
I tried to do an Internet search for any mention of this online, and have not found anything. Ms. Burner's issues page still does not mention this issue specifically. I'm sure that the Burner campaign assumed I might publish this e-mail, since it is from a public official discussing a publicly accessible Internet site (mine).

Interesting, only one congressman from the Washington delegation voted against the NDAA. That congressman was Jim McDermott:
“I have heard from nearly a thousand of my constituents in opposition to the appalling language in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which contains sweeping provisions that allow the President to indefinitely lock up American citizens without charge or trial. History shows that acting on fear has dangerous and irreparable consequences on our nation – the illegal internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II is a prime example. I also reject the language in the bill that would severely restrict the transfer of detainees in Guantánamo Bay for any purpose, including trial in federal court. The Senate bill is un-American, unconstitutional and unnecessary. I urge my colleagues on the Senate and House Armed Services committees to strike out these abhorrent provisions in the final defense budget bill.”

McDermott Statement On Defense Bill’s Indefinite Detention Provision
The Stranger has has an article containing his speech on the floor of the House that day.

What I find appalling is that no other of the state's Democrats joined in rejecting that bill. This is why I don't take statements like Darcy Burner's at face value anymore, at least when it comes to figuring out whom to support.

UPDATE: I actually put this on a timed release two days ago, so the e-mail in question arrived the day before that, Tuesday.

In a followup e-mail, Burner campaign representative Alex Hendrickson mentioned that he expected there would be some updates to the issues page of the website, and that Darcy Burner has mentioned this issue in some of her campaign speeches recently.

I'll keep an eye out to see what's going on both with the Burner campaign and other local congressional campaigns.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's Redistricting Season

The Washington State Redistricting Commission (WSRC) has come up with a proposed set of new congressional districts for our state. I've taken the Google Maps overlay of the districts and labeled them:

Caption: Latest proposal for new congressional districts by the Washington State Redistricting Commission.

Image credit: Screenshot of WSRC's Google Maps overlay and yellow district number annotations by Cujo359

If you can't read the map, click on it to make it full size.

There are a few interesting things about the new districts. One is that they don't look gerrymandered. I'm sure there was some possibility for political hijinks here, but generally speaking, these are districts constructed out of communities that are similar to each other. In contrast to the old 9th District, the new one is made up of emerging cities around the periphery of Seattle. We all have similar issues and concerns.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

And So This Is Christmas...

Well, it's Christmas. For those of you who celebrate it, I hope it's a good one. For the rest of us, for whom it's a somewhat normal day, there's not as much to do. Thankfully, some folks have been beavering away on the Internet, providing new content.

First, let's listen to one of my favorite Christmas songs:


Just one year, I'd like to not have to think "Yes, I wish that's the way it was" when I listen to this song. Maybe next year. More likely about when Hell freezes over.

Now, let's start with a comment left yesterday by stanchaz:
You don’t need to be religious to understand -and embrace- the idea that "Whatsoever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." But many of the 1%, in blind greed and endless schemes, have forgotten this. They have closed their eyes to what the word "society" should really mean, what it can mean. But due to Occupy Wall Street, we are finally talking less about CUTS and more about BLEEDING.

Quote Of The Day, Dec. 23, 2011 (comment by stanchaz)
Go to the link to read the rest. It's a worthy rant. As I've often explained, to me the major religions are better as Rorschach tests than as inspiration - what people get from them tells you more about them than it does the religions themselves. It does amaze me though, as I've mentioned before, that a religion whose founder was executed for picking a fight with moneychangers in a temple has managed to accumulate so many greedy and feckless adherents.

Image credit: via Art Pronin/TM.com

Over at Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Oscar, James Ala has some thoughts on the ease with which the American upper class use the term "class warfare" any time we expect them to share more of the burden of running our society:
I have no patience with the meme, as I hope you have gathered. It is an over-the-top bit of hysterical heavy breathing. No one in the US is rallying the lower orders to fetch their weapons and torches to burn down the residences of the new Robber Barons. No one is advocating that the 0.1%, hyper-wealthy billionaires be chopped up into cat kibble. No one is advocating that the women-folk of this subset be raped, or that the even smaller subset of pregnant hyper-wealthy be cut open, or their infants be beaten to death before their mother’s eyes. Wall Street was temporary occupied, it was never burned down to its foundations.

I wonder when or how the super-wealthy became so thin-skinned. When did they come around to the notion that they should never, ever, hear a discouraging word? What weird form of egomania makes them need to hear how marvelous, great, wonderful, munificent, and super sexy they are? When did they become so thin skinned?

On Class Warfare
I think the trivial use of this term happens for a couple of reasons. The first is that this generation of upper-crust types has been so insulated from the world the rest of us live in, and so protected from any real danger, that they have absolutely no idea what a real war is. The other reason is that it's a cheap propaganda phrasing, and there are plenty of folks who think thoughts no longer than what you can print on a bumper sticker. They'll latch onto that phrase and repeat it endlessly.

Of course, the real irony is that it's the rest of us who are dying in this "class war", not they. We die because we can't get medical treatment, because we live in the pollution they cause and successfully lobby the government not to be forced to clean up, and when they cut our safety net programs to pay for their using the financial markets as a slot machine.

So, I guess maybe for us it actually is a war. If that's the case, we're definitely losing.

Finally, in keeping with our theme of (lack of) Christmas generosity among those most able to show some, here's a quote from Art Pronin at TM.com:
Recently Damon also said this great bit on paying higher taxes. Note the ending line there:
“The wealthy are paying less than they paid at any time else, certainly in my lifetime, and probably in the last century,” Damon told a reporter at the same event. “I don’t know what we were paying in the Roaring ’20s; it’s criminal that so little is asked of people who are getting so much. I don’t mind paying more. I really don’t mind paying more taxes. I’d rather pay for taxes than cut ‘Reading is Fundamental’ or Head Start or some of these programs that are really helping kids. This is the greatest country in the world; is it really that much worse if you pay 6% more in taxes? Give me a break. Look at what you get for it: you get to be American.”
Paying higher taxes to pay for better education, Pell grants and access to the American Dream. What a concept!

Progressive Notes: BREAKING NEWS ON SC VOTER ID LAW/DOJ, A Wyden-Ryan Take Down, Damon Strikes Again, Taibbi on OWS Pushing Pols, and Other Doings
Yes, what an idea. Making our economy more productive by educating people better - that's an idea most of us used to buy into. It's not just about being generous, it's about making your own world better. Which I think is what that Christ guy was talking about...

Merry Christmas, or happy Sunday, whichever it is for you.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Captchaing Comments

Because this subject came up on another blog, I thought I'd add a point about how I manage comments here.

The first thing I should say is that, thanks to the way I have things set up, I don't have to manage them all that much. I like it that way. I don't have to spend a lot of time, as I do for another blog I associate with in a different persona, cleaning out spam comments that people from around the world feel obliged to leave there.

I've written before about how I have comment moderation set up, and none of that has changed. What I have not done is noted that I also use captchas, which is that annoying graphic that looks vaguely like Roman alphabet letters that you have to type in so that you can comment here. Compared to that link in the last sentence, I think that the Blogspot captchas are easier to read. Still, they are deliberately made more difficult to read than standard print. That is supposed to make them more difficult to interpret using software, which in turn makes them more difficult to fool to put spam into blog comments and online forums.

Still, if someone has a bit of difficulty reading anyway, captchas can be an obstacle to posting. I suspect that people who are dyslexic, for instance, would have more trouble. People who have trouble reading the screen to begin with, of course, are also going to find it harder to interpret captchas.

I don't intend to change this policy. I'm sorry that it's harder to comment because of them, but the only alternative I see is either to put every comment into moderation, which can take time and (at least theoretically) limits commenters' ability to interact with each other, or to spend a lot more time watching comments. I don't want to do either.

So, what I will do is offer some advice on how to make them a little less irritating.

Most modern browsers, Firefox being the one I'm most familiar with, have had a way of enlarging whatever is on the web page the user is looking at. That feature, normally referred to as "zoom", enlarges both graphics and text. Using Firefox, a page can be zoomed larger by using the Ctrl-+ key, which means holding down that key in the lower corner of the keyboard marked Ctrl, and then hitting the plus (+) key (of course, you'll have to hold down the Shift key at the same time, if you're using a standard U.S. keyboard). The Ctrl-- key (the minus key with Ctrl) will zoom the page smaller. If you can't remember how many times you enlarged or reduced the screen, then just hit Ctrl-0 to reset it to what it would be normally.

It looks as though Google's Chrome works this way, as does Internet Explorer.

Go ahead and try it by scrolling to the top of this page and using those keys. Note that both the image of the Stooges and the type get larger or smaller. That's what will happen to captcha images as well.

To sum up:
  • Zoom in (enlarge): Ctrl-+
  • Zoom out (reduce): Ctrl--
  • Reset to normal size: Ctrl-0
That should be true for just about any modern web browser on just about any operating system that doesn't include the syllable "Mac". For those afflicted with that particular OS, there are doubtless other ways to zoom in and out. (If someone happens to know how to do that on a Mac, please leave a comment explaining how, or a link to a page that does.)

Give it a try. It's possible that this won't be enough. In that case, please let me know, but it's something to try. It's also possible to comment via e-mail. I promise I'll read your comments, provided they aren't caught in the spam filter of my e-mail account.

UPDATE: In a comment, James Ala explains how things work on Macs:
In OSX the Command key works almost like the control key in Windows. Thus command +/- to zoom in or out. Works in Firefox and in Chrome, plus in Opera. I won't test Safari because I can not stand that browser.
So, to sum up, substitute the Command key anywhere you see Ctrl in the article, and it should work on Macs, too, with the possible exception of Safari.

Thanks, James.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Hope You Don't Mind Brown For Christmas ...

Caption: My front yard on Christmas day, back in 2008. This will be an increasingly rare sight in the years to come.

Image credit: Cujo359

Looks like Think Progress has found another measurement of climate change to supplement the not-quite-universally recognized Climate Change Cherry Tree:
This winter has been unusually warm, crippling ski resorts, ruining holiday traditions, and dashing hopes of a white Christmas across the northern hemisphere. While the billions of tons of greenhouse pollution in our atmosphere sometimes encourage freak snowstorms, the primary effect of global warming on winter is, well, warmer temperatures — making white Christmases less likely.

Global Warming Hates A White Christmas
Locally, the National Weather Service is predicting rain for Christmas day.

Seems like one of the costs of our continued dependence on fossil fuels will be fewer white Christmases and less opportunity to engage in winter sports that can't be played indoors.

Personally, even this doesn't cost doesn't seem worth it to me.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

One More Thing ...

Caption: Three Fingers Mountain, near Conway, Washington.

Image credit: nordique/Flickr

Actually, three more things before I give up for the night. As if there isn't enough to read out there, here are some interesting links from the blog roll.

First up is University of Minnesota Associate Professor P.Z. Myers on a fascinating topic, why women menstruate.
A new paper by Emera, Romero, and Wagner suggests an interesting new idea. They turn the question around: menstruation isn’t the phenomenon to be explained, decidualization, the production of a thickened endometrial lining, is the key process.

All mammals prepare a specialized membrane for embryo implantation, the difference is that most mammals exhibit triggered decidualization, where the fertilized embryo itself instigates the thickening, while most primates have spontaneous decidualization (SD), which occurs even in the absence of a fertilized embryo. You can, for instance, induce menstruation in mice. By scratching the mouse endometrium, they will go through a pseudopregnancy and build up a thickened endometrial lining that will be shed when progesterone levels drop. So the reason mice don’t menstruate isn’t that they lack a mechanism for shedding the endometrial lining…it’s that they don’t build it up in the first place unless they’re actually going to use it.

So the question is, why do humans have spontaneous decidualization?

The answer that Emera suggests is entirely evolutionary, and involves maternal-fetal conflict. The mother and fetus have an adversarial relationship: mom’s best interest is to survive pregnancy to bear children again, and so her body tries to conserve resources for the long haul. The fetus, on the other hand, benefits from wresting as much from mom as it can, sometimes to the mother’s detriment. The fetus, for instance, manipulates the mother’s hormones to weaken the insulin response, so less sugar is taken up by mom’s cells, making more available for the fetus.

Why Do Women Menstruate?
And no, it's not because it's fun. That's a different topic.

There's lots more, of course, including a cladogram with lots of funny-sounding names on it ("Llama Glama" is my personal favorite), but that's the gist of it. This gets back to a discussion I had a couple of weeks ago at Paul Sunstone's blog, on an article about why horses have manes. I said, mostly correctly I think, that animals do not evolve or keep features they don't have a use for. It's not worth the energy and materials (food) needed to create them.

The thinking about menstruation goes along those lines. With that little added notion, it's worth a read, I think, to understand a bit about how evolution changes us.

The second bit is more typical fare for this blog, an article by Robert Reich on the current state of the Republican Party, and how it got there. It's pretty true, I think. The only thing I think it's important to add is that the Tea Party, while it went about it much differently, was another reaction to the unresponsiveness of our political institutions, particularly at the federal level like the Occupy movements have been. The Tea Partiers, though, tend to be authoritarians who believe in individual profit, whereas the Occupy folks tend to take the view that if the community is better off, so are we all. Neither is true or right under all circumstances, but I'm usually more in agreement with the Occupy folks. Communities can help themselves, individuals can't always.

Those are important points, because when you understand them it's much easier to see why the Tea Party was quickly subordinated by the Republican Party and Occupy movements have refused to be co-opted by the Democratic Party. I don't think it's because the Occupy folks are stronger, nor do I think they are necessarily smarter. They're just more committed to collective action. They make their decisions in assemblies, sometimes by unanimous consent only, others by a supermajority. That can be unwieldy, of course, but when they do make a decision it's a lot more likely that they will all be committed to it. Since these movements exist in large measure due to the failure of the Democratic Party and traditional progressive institutions, the relationship between them is likely to be arm's length at best.

The third is an article that James Ala wrote a couple of days ago at his place:
A crime was committed this week. It was murder most foul. Some might call it a mercy killing, the victim was barely alive after all, but this ignores how the victim was starved, beaten, and abused over the course of a decade.

The murder was quite nefarious and performed by a cabal of bad actors. The conspirators had a long history of malice towards the victim and had laid their plans long before the actual act.

At first the attack was focused on the Forth Amendment. The cabal used all matter of devious, incremental means to chip away at the protections of the Forth. Most useful in that chipping away was the “War On Drugs.”

The Slow Death Of Civil Liberties.
Like Reich's article, it's a good review of how we got to this sorry state of affairs, this time that state of affairs being the demise of what was once a promising experiment in self-government. Think of it as an expansion on this article that I wrote three weeks ago. It's actually a lot more than that, but you can think of it that way anyhow, because if I had the heart to contemplate the subject long enough, I would have written something similar.

There, that should keep you for awhile.


Quote Of The Day

Image credit: OWS/Tumblr

In an article discussing a letter from The Council Of Elders, a group of leaders from "social justice movements" of the 20th Century, to the Trinity Episcopal Church of New York concerning Occupy Wall Street, Joyce Arnold wrote:
“This moment of deep social crisis” and “The pursuit of justice in America.” That’s one of the best summaries of why the Occupy / 99% movement came into existence and continues to evolve that I’ve heard. There is a deep, wide, expanding crisis for millions. Lose your job, be unable to find another one within six months or so, and you have a mark against you in the job market. Be unable to find full time employment for a year or two, and the marks are bigger and probably permanent. Trust the professionals who assured you the mortgage you were being offered was good, find out how wrong that was and join the millions foreclosed upon, and you have a mark against you. If you were fortunate enough to have health insurance to begin with, but lost it along with your job, and you have a mark against you. Graduate from college at a time of high unemployment, be unable to get a job in your field, and you have a mark against you. Bump into the racial, gender, economic, orientation and other existing prejudices, and you have a mark against you, and “the pursuit of justice” becomes a bigger uphill climb.

“This moment of deep social crisis”: Council of Elders and Occupy
That puts where we are and why the Occupy movements exist about as succinctly as anyone has. It's also why I, among other people, have little use for the Democratic Party or many so-called progressive organizations. They've stood by as all this happened, fooling themselves, and many of us, into thinking that they were actually going to do something about all this Real Soon Now.

And here we are, looking up at what we were a generation ago.

There's really nothing constructive I can add to that thought, come to think of it.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A New Kind Of Identity Politics?

Caption: A publicity shot from Darcy Burner's last campaign. I'm too apathetic about her latest to find a new one.

image credit: www.darcyburner.com

This message came in several of my e-mail inboxes from Darcy Burner's campaign today:
Congress has lots of doctors.
Congress has lots of lawyers.

You know what Congress doesn’t have lots of? Geeks!

So when they consider legislation affecting the Internet they get it wrong – and defend themselves by saying, “I’m not a nerd.”

It's time to change that! Will you help by contributing to my campaign?

The Internet is the most important invention of the last 50 years. It has increased the transparency of government; made it possible for grassroots donors to bind together and change campaigns nationwide; and was used to organize the Arab Spring.

Over the last couple weeks, Congress has been considering legislation that would destroy the open Internet. It would allow anyone holding a copyright to say that a site – even just a commenter – infringed on their copyright – and the domain name of the site would be revoked without due process.
I've already explained my view of identity politics, but I think there is something to be said for more diversity in the career paths people take to get to Congress. It would be nice to have some technology professionals there (a category that includes engineers), as well as a few tradespeople. Better yet, how about a few people who are unemployed? If there's one group of people who are getting a look at America's future, it's the folks who are already on the unemployment rolls.

So I have mixed emotions about this.

Still, in interest of further derailing a conversation about intellectual property rights that is never going to happen, I'd like to let the Burner campaign see how their front page looks to me:
Image credit: Screenshot by Cujo359

So, one nerd to another, how about making use of that NOSCRIPT tag, eh? Your geek cred isn't looking too shiny at the moment.

Thanks to things like this, I'm largely over my Darcy Burner crush. On the day Congress passed the defense authorization that effectively eliminated habeas corpus for federal agencies, I got an e-mail from her office with some platitudes about thanking veterans. I see nothing about that event on her issues page. She was plenty outspoken about Republican malfeasance back in the good old days. Unfortunately, Ms. Burner has proved to be another progressive politician who is good at avoiding issues that are troublesome for the Democratic Party. We have plenty like that already. What we need are progressives who will make trouble.

If I happen to end up in Darcy Burner's congressional district, I'll vote for her. When it comes to spending time and money getting her elected, however, I'm sure I can find better things to do.


Quote Of The Day

Image credit: Twitter image via Matt Stoller

It's from a couple of days ago, but it's still a good one. After discussing the changes that have happened in our nation's capital in the last couple of decades, the increased defense spending, Medicare costs going out of control thanks to the program not being allowed to negotiate prices the way private insurers can, and the trend toward favoring the rich with tax breaks, Robert Reich concludes:
“Big government” isn’t the problem. The problem is big money is taking over government.

Government is doing less of the things most of us want it to do — providing good public schools and affordable access to college, improving our roads and bridges and water systems, and maintaining safety nets to catch average people who fall — and more of the things big corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy want it to do.

Some conservatives argue we wouldn’t have to worry about big money taking over government if we had a smaller government to begin with.
...
A smaller government that’s still dominated by money would continue to do the bidding of Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, oil companies, big agribusiness, big insurance, military contractors, and rich individuals.

It just wouldn’t do anything else.

The Defining Issue: Not Government’s Size, but Who It’s For
People who talk about making government smaller have been selling, or buying, a bill of goods. We are the fourth largest country in the world based on population, with by far the largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We, as a nation or as individuals, have economic and military commitments around the world that dwarf some countries' GDPs and defense establishments. Expecting our government to be small is an exercise in foolhardiness on that basis alone.

Image credit: Occupy Together/Twitpic

But the more obvious, and more telling point is that "small government" has really served as a shorthand for the rich serving themselves, by helping themselves to our tax money, our government revenue, and to its ability to make changes in our society. They have used the courts to make it easier to do whatever they want to their employees, reversing decades of reform. They are making it harder to put them in prison for their malfeasance, thanks to a weakened regulatory system. Every year or two they try to change the way the Internet works so that they can crowd out the small, independent voices and businesses by, in effect, charging them protection money to make sure their sites are served.

They already own any news organization large enough to matter. They managed to bribe the government into letting that happen, too.

They could do this with small government, too, and even more easily. Power and wealth tend to accumulate in the hands of the people who are aggressive and ruthless enough to take it. That is a lesson that's as old as civilization, and only outright fools ignore it. Government can be a way of minimizing that trend, but only if it works for us. It doesn't now, and it hasn't for a long, long time.

None of the people who advocate for smaller government have proposed a practical alternative. Which, I think, should tell you where their loyalties really lie, assuming they're not outright fools.


Happy Solstice, 2011

Caption: Snow even improves the look of a big set of stone blocks in the middle of a field. One of the reasons Stonehenge exists is to mark the coming of the Winter Solstice.

Image credit: English Heritage

Every other day of the year I'm an atheist, but one day each year brings out whatever pagan instincts I have:
The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, it occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, which is located at 23.5° south of the equator and runs through Australia, Chile, southern Brazil, and northern South Africa. This year, the Northern Hemisphere solstice will occur at10:30 pm MST on December 21, 2011. For a complete listing of the dates of the winter and summer solstice's and spring and fall equinox's through 2020, check out this site from the U.S. Naval Observatory.

In astronomy, the solstice occurs at the moment the earth's tilt away from the sun is at a maximum. Therefore, on the day of the winter solstice, the sun appears at its lowest elevation with a noontime position that changes very little for several days before and after the winter solstice. In fact, the word solstice comes from Latin solstitium or sol (the sun) + -stit-, -stes (standing).

The Winter Solstice
Yes, once again, it's the Winter Solstice. Soon, the too-short days in my neck of the woods will start to get longer, and in a month or two, we'll be thinking about spring, which might include the idea of planting things, or might only include the idea that very soon we won't have to remember to bring extra clothing and tire chains on a trip. For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, at least, it's a day of hope and renewal.

Caption: Buds from the not-quite world famous Climate Change Cherry Tree, which is nature's way of telling us whether climate change is happening this year or not. Taken on February 20, 2011.

Image credit: Cujo359

So, whether you celebrate the Winter Solstice as Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Bodhi Day, Ramadan, or whatever, happy holidays.

If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, just remember that you get your own version in six months, and enjoy your summer.


PZ Myers On Christopher Hitchens

I haven't felt like writing about Christopher Hitchens' passing. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I think his credulous and arrogant support for the war in Iraq was probably the biggest reason. Whatever else he's done, and he has done a lot, that's a stain that deserves to be on his memory. No one with a properly skeptical mind would have believed the case for war. It wasn't there. Yet Hitchens trumpeted it as though he was a high priest delivering the word of his god.

Meanwhile, in his second article about Hitchens, biology Professor P.Z. Myers gets it pretty close to right, I think:
Hitchens was a complicated fellow: talented and intelligent, and on some subjects he was warm and humane and a true child of the Enlightenment. And on others, a bloodthirsty barbarian and a club-carrying primitive. At least in his final months it was the civilized and thoughtful humanist who emerged most.

The dark side of Hitchens
Besides his support for that disastrous war, my other lasting impression of Hitchens is his voluntarily subjecting himself to waterboarding. As he wrote before the experiment, he didn't believe it was torture. After experiencing it for himself, he courageously wrote that it was, indeed, torture. That was Hitchens in one bad afternoon - the arrogance to think that what other people who had experienced it said about it wasn't true, the curiosity to try it for himself, and the honesty to write about what he experienced and what he felt afterward.

Oh, and by the way, in that article he finally got around to mentioning Malcolm Nance, a counter-insurgency and SERE expert whom I'd quoted almost a year previously. He wasn't hard to find.

It was interesting to see that Prof. Myers was somewhat in awe of Hitchens. I can't see PZ being fooled by some con job like the "case" for the Iraq War, nor would he have ever been fool enough to believe that waterboarding wasn't torture. For my money, Myers is a hell of a lot smarter. I suspect that's because, as a scientist, Myers is uncomfortably aware that even really smart people can be really, really wrong. All they have to do is forget that it's possible.

Hitchens was a complicated man. Whether he will be missed probably depends on how those complexities worked out for you. I'm sad to say that I won't miss him all that much, except as an example of how arrogance can make you stupid.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Photo(s)

Last September, I finally got to see one of the most famous places in the state of Washington, Mt. St. Helens. I have written before about the eruption that took place back in 1980, the year after I arrived in the Pacific Northwest.

These are pictures I took at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which is named after USGS geologist David A. Johnston, who died making observations of the eruption.

Image credit: Screenshot of Google Maps data presented on TangoGPS software taken and annotated by Cujo359



That's a screenshot of a TangoGPS image of Mt. St. Helens, using Google's satellite photo data. I've added the notations to show where state route 504 ("S.R. 504") and the Johnston Ridge Observatory are in relation to the Mt. St. Helens crater.

As the first ridge the eruption hit, Johnston Ridge didn't fare all that well. Thirty years later, the ridge is still littered with dead trees and stumps that were created by the explosion.

There's a big multimedia presentation at the Johnston Observatory about the eruption, and the things that have happened on the mountain since that day.

Image credit: All photos by Cujo359

The most spectacular view, of course, is the mountain itself. The Observatory sits near the open side of the Mt. St. Helens crater, providing a view of the still-active region inside. This is a panorama of the mountain, with the Observatory's patio on the right:

Catch the mountain at the right time, and you can see into the crater itself:


The lava dome is clearly visible within the crater. That view didn't last long. As the preceding photo shows, the clouds started obscuring the crater. Before we left less than two hours later, it was barely visible.

That dome has changed shape several times since 1980. As I said, this mountain is still active. This sign shows that rather clearly, as it discusses the various eruptions and changes that have happened just in the last few thousand years. Every few centuries, something about this mountain changes in spectacular fashion.



Click on the images to enlarge. Have a good Sunday.

UPDATE: Added an explanation of the last photo.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Only In America

Image credit: Various artists

Well, maybe other countries could have come up with this sort of thing, but it's really just our style:
A new Occupy Wall Street-related art project: the "Police Brutality Coloring Book." The copy states explicitly that it's "not for kids." The description continues:

"This is an art project/zine. 46 contemporary artists have contributed drawings in response to the recent wave of excessive force used by the police in U.S. cities."

The list of artists includes big names like Shepard Fairey (who caught some flak for his Occupy poster and did the art for Time Magazine's Person of the Year issue for "The Protester") and Quel Beast.


Shepard Fairey is also famous for this poster:


Image credit: Shepard Fairey/Wikipedia


Which, with the Obama Administration's efforts to coordinate all the beatdowns of Occupy movements lately, is something I find to be rich in irony. Apparently, so does Shepard Fairey, as his defense of a more recent variation on that theme has shown:
Caption: The version of Shepard Fairey's "Occupy Hope" poster that some Occupy members were complaining about. Fairey later altered the poster, as can be seen at the quote credit link.

I have zero contact with the Obama campaign. I am disappointed with many aspects of Obama's presidency and I am far from an unconditional Obama supporter. The round logo I made is not Obama's O logo. His O uses curved stripes and a white sun. The stripes in my 99% logo are straight. I saw my 99% logo as subverting his logo more than amplifying it. I wanted a patriotic frame for the 99% logo to assert that the Occupy movement IS patriotic. The use of the word HOPE is more saying that Occupy is the greatest Hope we now have, but it would be great if Occupy pushed Obama in the right direction.

Shepard Fairey Changes Unpopular 'Occupy Hope' Poster Under Pressure
Speaking of irony, what other country can honestly say that they've put so much money and effort into making police forces so well armed and so isolated from the people they do the things that are no doubt described in this book, and can also create a group of artists who are willing to chronicle the end product of that process in all its ugly detail?

I can't really recommend this book, because I haven't seen any of the art, even after poking around on the Internet for awhile. I can, however, observe that there is plenty of material out there, a fact that many of us have been documenting for some time.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fearless Predictions For 2012

Caption: "Answer unclear".

Image credit: Mashup of this image and this one by Cujo359




I hate to make predictions, since I hate having to grind my teeth months later when I see what I wrote. Nevertheless, since I published these in a comment elsewhere, here are mine for 2012:
  • Occupy will continue to change tactics. Realizing that their nonstop protests aren’t getting it done, they’ll make more efforts to cost Goldman Sachs, et. al., real money in hopes that they’ll change their ways. I think those predicting that there will be violence at one or both of the party conventions next year are accurate. What I will add to those predictions is that the violence will be mostly, if not entirely, perpetrated by police.
  • The Republicans will nominate someone “safe”, like Mitt Romney, for President. He will win. Between progressives being so unconcerned with Obama’s re-election, and times getting even worse, he won’t stand a chance.
  • Times will get worse. The stimulus has run out, and there’s nothing to replace it. Government will respond by doing the same things that got us here – more austerity, and less regulation.
Of these predictions, I think only the last one needs any elaboration. The first is pretty vague, but the events it describes are subject to rather vague forces, so I don't think one can do much better.

The economy will continue to get worse. By that, I mean that it will grow at a rate that is less than that which will create net jobs beyond what is needed for an expanding population. That typically means something less than two-ish percent growth. No, you don't get to say I was wrong if growth is 2.1 percent. You get to say I was wrong if there were more than a million net jobs added next year. That means a million beyond labor force growth, which I would conservatively define as:

12 months * 90,000 jobs/month = 1.08 million jobs.

So, if the numbers of employed grow by more than two million jobs, I was wrong. I say that this is a conservative estimate, because it's the smallest number of new laborers per month that I've seen any credible economists use. I think that number should be higher, but we'll be conservative here.

We'll be lucky if there's any net growth at all. Nothing that either our government or Europe's various governments are doing instill any confidence at all that things will get better. Austerity will continue until the economy improves, which is to say that the economy will not improve.

So there, fearless predictions. For the most part, this is obvious. The only risky one is predicting that Obama won't be re-elected, but I'd give that one at least two to one odds of being right.


Hey, Wow, I Was Right!

Caption: The Constitution. To the surprise of no one with a working mind who has been paying attention, the President wiped his ass with it again today.

Image credit: National Archives


I thought I'd start with the good news for once. I was right when I wrote this:
That provision [allowing the President to detain anyone he deems to be a terrorist indefinitely], part of the Defense Authorization Act (DAA), will now go to the President for signature. In light of the announcement today that he can kill anyone he wants as long as he can convince himself that that person has "taken up arms" against the United States, I think the odds of him vetoing this bill are about the same as mine winning the Powerball lottery this week.

No, I did not buy a lottery ticket.

Democracy's Last Gasp?
The bad news is that as of today, as Glenn Greenwald reports, you can take the question mark off the title of my article now:
In one of the least surprising developments imaginable, President Obama – after spending months threatening to veto the Levin/McCain detention bill – yesterday announced that he would instead sign it into law (this is the same individual, of course, who unequivocally vowed when seeking the Democratic nomination to support a filibuster of "any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecom[s]," only to turn around – once he had the nomination secure - and not only vote against such a filibuster, but to vote in favor of the underlying bill itself, so this is perfectly consistent with his past conduct). As a result, the final version of the Levin/McCain bill will be enshrined as law this week as part of the the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I wrote about the primary provisions and implications of this bill last week, and won't repeat those points here.

Obama to sign indefinite detention bill into law
[links from original article]

Yes, it's at least conceivable that some later Congress will retract this bill. As Greenwald points out, there is precedent from the 1950s for this sort of bill. But back in the 1950s, there were leaders and prominent individuals who were willing to stand up and say that this was wrong. I don't see too many of such people this time around. Certainly, the con man who occupies the White House has no such scruples, as Glenn reminds us:
[T]he most persistent and propagandistic set of myths about President Obama on detention issues is that he tried to end indefinite detention by closing Guantanamo, but was blocked by Congress from doing so. It is true that Congress blocked the closing of Guantanamo, and again in this bill, Congress is imposing virtually insurmountable restrictions on the transfer of detainees out of that camp, including for detainees who have long ago been cleared for release (restrictions that Obama is now going to sign into law). But — and this is not a hard point to understand — while Obama intended to close Guantanamo, he always planned — long before Congress acted — to preserve Guantanamo’s core injustice: indefinite detention.

Obama to sign indefinite detention bill into law
[emphasis from original]

There will be a few prominent progressives who speak out about this, and probably some libertarians, maybe even a few conservatives, but not many. Most "progressives" will be making excuses about how this was so necessary due to the vastly greater threat posed by a few religious fanatics who are now dead, or how those nasty Republicans were responsible for making a Democratic Senate pass this bill, and for making a Democratic President sign it.

Anyone who both has the convictions and courage to resist this and the ability to do so has been purged from the Washington, DC system.

So, this is a good news, bad news story. Somehow, I don't think the good news outweighs the bad, but I keep getting lectured that I'm not being an optimistic enough Internet persona, so I guess we'll call this a "balanced" news story.

UPDATE: In this video from yesterday, Cenk Uygur finally gets it.
Cenk returns to the Defense Authorization Act, which the White House now says senior advisers will not recommend that President Obama should veto. “In all of the troubles I’ve got with President Obama, he couldn’t be that bad, right?” Cenk says he thought, even as others argued that NDAA seemed constructed to give the executive branch more power, not less.
Better late than never, I suppose.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Embrace Your Inner Rich Douchebag"

The Daily Show's John Oliver gives Mitt Romney some priceless advice on rhetoric for rich presidential candidates:


Yes, just explain to your opponents that you'll do to them what you've done to everyone else.

(h/t Comrade E.B. Misfit, who usually finds these gems before I do.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Morning Videos

It's Monday, so let's just sit on the couch and look at some videos:

Via The Partisans, via Dusty, here's a marvelous parody of Texas Governor Rick Perry's recent ad declaring that he believes in his god, no matter who doesn't:



What's so funny to me about Perry and his paranoid view of the world is that non-believers have been voting for candidates of nearly all political parties since we've been here. It's not that we don't have choices. We could always start our own minority parties, after all. It's just that, in most cases, it doesn't matter that much to us. Sure, I'd like for there to be more atheists and other religious minorities in government, but that has always come a distant second to my desire for better government, and for a better world. If Christians want to bring those things about, then I don't care if it's because they think their bearded guy in the sky told them to or not. If, as in Rick Perry's case, they want to make things worse, then I don't care if they're outspoken atheists who want to expunge all religious tests and references from government - they're still the wrong candidates.

Heck, looking back on it, I wrote this almost five years ago on this topic:
Organized religions are too often political institutions themselves, in that they seem to spend far more time worrying about things like their religion's popularity and finances than to their spiritual beliefs. They don't strike me as any more interested in the good of the nation than oil companies or big pharma are. The more the people who run them are ignored, I think, the better off we'll be as a society. Having a diverse range of religious beliefs represented in Congress can go a long way toward making that happen.

In short, with its first female Speaker and more minority religious views represented, the Congress became more representative of the country today.

More Diversity
Does Congress really seem any more representative of all of us to you? I certainly don't think so. In my opinion, they've never missed a chance to screw us in favor of the people who finance their campaigns. That's certainly not what all of them are there to do, but whether Congress were composed entirely of white, Christian, heterosexual men of northern European ancestry, or of Asian lesbian women who were all staunch non-believers, wouldn't make a bit of difference to me if they continued to produce what they've been producing.

Barack Obama has certainly proved that it's going to take more than voting for someone from a different ethnic background to change things. In retrospect, Nancy Pelosi showed that it's going to take a lot more than putting women in positions of power in Congress, too.

If anything, identity politics means even less to me now than it did back then. It's what a candidate has done in his political and other careers that matters, not what he looks like, what nonsense he believes in one day a week, or where he carries his (or her) genitals that matters.

The other video has no political ramifications that I'm aware of, but it's one of those things that you just don't see every day:



Thanks to Starspider and Dana Hunter for preserving the memory of this treasure. After all, videos of cats and dolphins so rarely attract attention, we need to do all we can to promote them. Otherwise, the malevolent forces waging the War Against Felines And Cetaceans will win, and we can't have that now, can we?


Saturday, December 10, 2011

December, 1941

Over at Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Oscar, James Ala reminds us that at about the same time that this was going on:

Caption: U.S. Navy battleships burn during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.





so was this:

Caption: Soviet soldiers advance on skis and tanks during the Battle of Moscow, December, 1941.

Image credit: Wikipedia

When the invasion did come, Stalin went into a three day funk. He locked himself into his room and took no callers. Most people would have done the same. The first days of the invasion were utter disaster. The Nazis chew up Soviet men, material, and land at a frightening pace. Most of the front line Soviet assets were gone by day three. The Red Army barely had a pot to cook in. Air power was vaporized on the ground, tanks, artillery, and men quickly followed when they lost air support. The Wehrmacht was turning Russia into their own personal playground, and there was not much the Red Army could do about it-- other than retreat.

The Less Know December Event Of World War Two, 70 Years On
Eventually, the Soviet Union stopped the German advance, at a tremendous cost. Then, on December 5, 1941, they began a counterattack that would drive the Nazi armies away from Moscow.

As James notes, we tend to forget, if we even knew, that the real job of breaking the Nazi war machine was mostly done by the Soviet Union and its few allies in the region. Tens of millions of people died there in what must rank as one of the most brutal campaigns of any war. The North African and Italian campaigns, and even the Western Allies' air campaign against Germany were sideshows in comparison.

And by comparison, the human losses at Pearl Harbor probably would have seemed like an average morning.

If you're not familiar with the goings-on in that part of World War II, then do yourself a favor and go read his excellent summation.


Saturday Entertainment: The Game That Moves As You Play

Based on the subject matter, you'd never know that this song was composed thirty years ago:



Drink at the Bar Nothing bar anything
But the bottom step of the ladder
It keeps gettin' higher and higher

Dawn comes soon enough for the working class.
It keeps getting sooner or later.
This is the game that moves as you play.

X: The Have Nots
The song's lyrics make it clear that the things Occupy has been protesting, and the things that a whole lot of us have been pointing out in the last few years, aren't recent phenomena. The gap between the rich and the poor started getting wider back in the 1970s, and it was folks, as the composer put it, at the bottom of the ladder who were the first to notice.

This is one of the more well-known songs of a Los Angeles punk rock group called X. According to their website, they'll be doing a tour of the Southwest soon.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Twittering Of The Day

I suppose that in a virtual world where a rabid St. Bernard can blog about politics, something like this was inevitable:

Image credit: Screenshot of this Twitter page by Cujo359

What's next, spiders?


Progressive Idiocy: The Power Of Inconvenience

Image credit: Occupy Together



A few years ago, the transit workers in New York City went on strike over declining benefits. Needless to say, this inconvenienced a lot of people, most of whom had little or no power to affect things. But it worked because it also inconvenienced the people who really count. That was the only way things were going to change.

Anyone who says that they shouldn’t have gone on strike, and there were quite a few, were saying that the people in those unions should accept the lower benefits that were offered, so that they could go on about their own lives unaffected.

So it is with some "progressives" who complain about the tactics of the various Occupy movements. Actually, that's a rather broad claim. There's been senseless destruction and some criminal activity. That's not helpful. That's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about the disruption, inconvenience, and other costs of having a bunch of people just suddenly show up somewhere that wasn't meant to handle them.

Most of us already have all the trouble in our lives we can handle, so when things like this happen, it’s natural to resent it. There will always be people among them who are going to claim,without ever offering viable alternatives that haven’t already been tried and shown to fail, that there were other things they can do. Someone yesterday thought he was justifying such a claim by passing along an article about how K Street lobbyists said they weren’t inconvenienced by what’s going on in DC. Seriously? Why in the world would I expect a group of people who make their living as lying hypocrites would be telling the truth all of a sudden? Of course they’ll say that. They want people to think that this is having no effect on them. It’s like asking a professional sports team before the game if they think they can win – if you don’t know the answer already, you don’t know what you’re looking at. They want you to think that you’re the only ones being inconvenienced, because if it is then what is being done is useless.

This is affecting the people who run things. It’s probably not affecting them a lot, and it’s certainly not affecting them enough, but it is affecting them. The only thing they care about is profit and loss. Make the losses big enough, and they’ll change. Don’t, and things will continue as they are.

They’ve made a big, coordinated effort to make this problem go away. That isn’t because they give a crap about whether we’re inconvenienced or not. It’s about them. When people choose not to go to some place because it’s crowded with protesters, or when the docks are shut down, or the homes they fraudulently repossessed are occupied, they’re taking losses, and they don’t like that.

I’d think that all this would be obvious by now, but apparently it’s not. I guess there are a lot of people out there who don’t know what they’re looking at, and see that as someone else’s failure. So we’ll go on belaboring the obvious until enough people catch up.

Afterword: This was a comment I left at another site, slightly edited.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Progressive Idiocy: Forgetting How We Got Here

Caption: The Constitution. Safely hidden from prying eyes in the Library of Congress.

Image credit: National Archives

The progressive "blogosphere" is all a-twitter (and a-blogspotter, one supposes) about the latest Republican congressional travesty:
Republicans in the U.S. Senate today blocked the nomination of Richard Cordray as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The vote, on a motion to end debate, was 53-45, with 60 votes required to move the nomination ahead.

U.S. Senate Republicans Block Cordray for Consumer Bureau
Certainly, the Republicans deserve blame for this. No one made them vote to filibuster this nomination. The sad fact is, though, that the Democrats had an opportunity to change this at the start of the Senate session last January, and they demurred:
Senate Democrats had an opportunity to get together and make the Senate a working, majority-rule-based chamber. They could have recently used the “Constitutional Option” at the start of this new Congress to rewrite the Senate rules to either eliminate the filibuster outright or at least make staging a filibuster more difficult. Yet, due to a combination of a greedy refusal to give up any individual power, and a pitiful cowardice about a potential future in which the voters reject them, Senate Democrats collectively chose to throw away this opportunity. By doing nothing, they effectively voted to give Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell total veto power over everything.

After Failing to Change Senate Rules, Democrats Lose Right to Blame Mitch McConnell
[link from original article]

The "Constitutional Option" he's referring to is that the Constitution says in Article I, Section 5 that Congress can decide what rules it will work by. Generally, each new congress agrees to use the same rules as the previous one did, but there's no reason that can't change.

Why did they refuse to do this? Two possible reasons come to mind:

First, they are politicians, and politicians never give up power willingly. You might find that a cynical statement, but it is not. Politicians need power to do their jobs effectively. Whether they define "doing their jobs" as building a better society or plundering it, they need power to do it. In my opinion, this is the most fundamental rule of politics. To not understand it is to discuss politics at the level of a babbling idiot. In fact, babbling idiots would probably find such a discussion boring, too.

Second, and this is me being cynical, it seems like a great excuse for Democrats to not do the things that their supporters want them to do, but their benefactors do not. The financial, defense, and energy industries, to name three of the more blatant ones, have their own agendas and very deep pockets. Those agendas are not progressives', generally speaking.

Progressives and others have begged the Senate to make this change in the past, and they have not. Unless the power to pass legislation and get other things done is more important than having the power to stop it, then I don't think that's going to change without, as I like to say, someone making a demand.

What's more, as anyone who wants to think back as far as the last presidential administration would recall, when the Democrats could have blocked radical conservative appointments to the Supreme Court and elsewhere, they declined. They also declined to block the bill that made Bush's illegal surveillance of Americans legal, among other things. They didn't use the power of filibuster to their supporters' advantage when they held it.

So, while blaming the Republicans for exploiting this predicament is no doubt emotionally satisfying to some, it is only part of the story. The other part is that the Democrats really have no one to blame but themselves.


Saturday Entertainment: Me Talk Pretty (Special Thursday Edition)

One of the few e-mail lists I haven't unsubscribed myself from is for one of the local entertainment ticket agencies. Every once in a while, there's a band on one of their announcements that sounds interesting, if for no other reason than they have a clever name.

Such is the case with this band, Me Talk Pretty:



They sound like a band with potential. Julia Preotu, the young woman who fronts the band, has one of those versatile voices that works well in rock and roll, and the band behind her sounds pretty tight. You can listen to their album at less-than-hi-fi at Soundcloud. Of course, saying they have potential sounds like a really backhanded compliment, now that I see they've been around since at least 2006:
Me Talk Pretty can call New York City its home, but its members aren’t all from around here: recent Romanian emigre Julia Preotu fronted the band, her small, thin form belying a strong voice, with barely a trace of accent; on guitar Spanish-born Leon Lyazidi provided solid backing with a strong grunge influence, along with the rhythm section of James Kluz on drums and Joseph Smith on bass. Me Talk Pretty’s set built well, climaxing with “Ana,” which is the title of their new CD.

MedusaFest 2006
Judging from the lack of any other album information on their website, I'd say they have recently gotten a big contract, but who knows? I count one EP and at least one other CD that they've produced, in what is apparently the new style: on their own.

They're coming to the Pacific Northwest this weekend. If it weren't for my twin aversions to crowded, dark places with lots of beer on the floor, and to being the oldest person in the room by a healthy margin, I'd probably go see them. (Plus, sadly, I already have other plans.)


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Progressive Idiocy: Repeat After Me - "Power Concedes Nothing..."

Caption: King John of England signs the Magna Carta, handing over power to nobles and granting rights to English citizens. He didn't do it because he wanted to. If it had been up to today's progressives, he never would have.

Image credit:
Cassell's History of England - Century Edition (via Wikipedia)




On days like today, I think that I need to start a campaign to have this quote stamped on the foreheads of progressive activists in reverse, so they can read it each morning when they look in the mirror:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

Frederick Douglass
It's certainly not a concept they're familiar with.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Twittering Of The Day

Retweeted by several folks, this one captures a lot about Occupy Wall Street, the banks, and the sometimes daft priorities of our society in fewer than 140 characters:
#OWS should take a bath right after the banks get their haircut. #newtsbeautysalon

Twitter Message by @Casual_Obs
I see nothing to add.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Photo(s)

I saw this little guy at Lava Butte, in the Deschutes National Forest, Oregon, back in August:

Image credit: All photos by Cujo359

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What Killed Cain's Campaign

Humor, particularly political humor, can often put things in perspective in a way that serious analysis can't. An example of this phenomenon is provided by The Onion,referring to the presumed end of Herman Cain's presidential bid:
Rumors Of Extramarital Affair End Campaign Of Presidential Candidate Who Didn't Know China Has Nuclear Weapons

The Onion
If he had flubbed a question like "does Israel have nuclear weapons?", or "does Pakistan have nukes?", I might have been able to overlook his not knowing. But China? They've had nukes since Cain was a teenager.

And yet, it appears that it will be an affair that finally dooms him. There's a case to be made that in Cain's case, this is just another in a long string of examples of the man's mendacity, but to me, lack of knowledge of basic facts about our national defense trumps character flaws. If character was the overriding issue, I don't think I would have voted for anyone in a general Presidential election since I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, and before then pretty much every election since I turned 18.

UPDATE/Afterword: As Stephanie Zvan points out, even if one just looks at the various accusations of womanizing by Cain that have surfaced recently, there are still far worse things than a long term consensual extra-marital affair to worry about:
He was fine when four women said he sexually harassed them and assaulted at least one of them. Those four women could be dismissed on the campaign website as “money hungry,” “vile liars,” conducting a “liberal lynching” for “5 minutes of fame.” Their character and even their sanity could be called into question while Cain brought in more donations than ever. But then…

Then one woman showed up who said her interactions with Cain were consensual and long-lasting and that he helped to support her. And this is when everyone decided Cain’s campaign was over.

Where We Draw The Line
For what it's worth, I thought Cain's campaign was essentially over two or three debates ago. Still, it's interesting that this is what finally did him in. It may just have been the last straw, after numerous allegations that had at least a little substance, but it does seem a strange thing to end this campaign on.

It's certainly among the least of his alleged sins, and it doesn't hold a candle to his clear ignorance of just about any subject related to being President.