Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Out Of This World

David Horsey's very brief column doesn't quite capture the essence of his cartoon, which I think captures the situation involving the White House and Congress beautifully.

They do not seem to be on the same planet. While the White House forges ahead with implementation of the national healthcare plan, the House Republicans hold frequent votes to repeal the whole scheme. As the president tours the country touting his economic recovery proposals,  House Speaker John A. Boehner declares Obama is offering nothing new and, even if it is new, it isn’t going anywhere. Obama says toe-may-toe, the Republicans say toe-mah-toe.

While the House Republicans don't appear to be close to the planet we reside on, neither does President Obama.  He is as far away from our consensual reality as they are.

As I mentioned yesterday, Obama is playing defense.  His call for a "grand bargain" when it comes to tax cuts and the economy was rejected, just as he knew it would be.  He just wanted them on the record on the issue so the rest of us don't blame him for the sorry state of our economy.

Nice try, Mr. President, but you're still a long way from getting it done.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Playing Defense

(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles and published 7/29/13 in the Washington Post.)

In his weekend column, Doyle McManus takes the position that President Obama is not using the 'bully pulpit' in his national tour of speeches, but is rather playing defense.  This is a distinction with a difference and is, I think, a good analysis.

"Repealing Obamacare and cutting spending is not an economic plan," Obama lectured his opponents. "You can't just be against something; you've got to be for something."

But is that true?

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) doesn't seem to think so. When asked recently about the glacial pace of legislation in the House, he responded: "We should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws that we repeal." ...

As one of his allies, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), put it last week: "The only way Republicans will lose the House is to shut down the government or default on the debt. Shutting down the government is not in the best interests of the American people, and it makes you look politically irresponsible."

But Boehner doesn't always control the majority of his own caucus. Tea party radicals in both chambers of Congress are demanding a hard line, with some, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, promising to block any increase in the federal debt ceiling unless Obama's healthcare law is repealed — a proposal another Republican, Sen. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, called "the dumbest idea I ever heard." ...

Obama is doing everything he can to cast the opposition as being obstructionist. But will his return to the campaign trail have any real effect on Congress?

The too-easy answer is no. He's given speeches like these before. He's got no new proposals to unveil. And the House members who stand in his way aren't worried about pressure from voters who support the president; they are more worried about primary challenges from even more conservative Republicans to their right. Speeches from the president aren't going to change their minds.

But that's not what Obama's campaign is about. On one level, it's about influencing votes in the Senate, not the House. And on another, it's about making sure that if this fall's budget battles do result in a government shutdown or, even worse, a financial crisis over the debt ceiling, the president and his party don't get blamed.  [Emphasis added]

This president just doesn't do bully pulpit.  If he did, maybe we wouldn't have gotten stuck with sequester, or the separation of food stamps from the farm aid bill, or the loss of Section 8 housing benefits.  We might have even had a public option in play during health care reform talks.

No, this president doesn't take it to the hoop for his constituents;  he is satisfied with just standing below the basket to try to swat away any egregious shots.

Or, to switch metaphors, he simply refuses to rock the boat.

Eight years wasted.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

What The Frack?

(Cartoon by J. David Bell and published at Bell's Yells on 1/5/11.)

We all await President Obama's decision on the Keystone Pipe Line.  He keeps on saying that his decision will be based on the environmental safety involved, but I think we may already have a clue as to what that decision will be, based on this article in the Los Angeles Times.

In an internal EPA PowerPoint presentation obtained by the Tribune/Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau, staff members warned their superiors that several wells had been contaminated with methane and substances such as manganese and arsenic, most likely because of local natural gas production.

The presentation, based on data collected over 4 1/2 years at 11 wells around Dimock, concluded that "methane and other gases released during drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant damage to the water quality." The presentation also concluded that "methane is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas drilling and perhaps as a result of fracking [hydraulic fracturing] and other gas well work."

Critics say the decision in July 2012 by EPA headquarters in Washington to curtail its investigation at Dimock over the objection of its on-site staff fits a troubling pattern at a time when the Obama administration has used the sharp increase in natural gas production to rebut claims that it is opposed to fossil fuels.

In March 2012, the EPA closed an investigation of methane in drinking water in Parker County, Texas, although the geologist hired by the regulator confirmed that the methane was from gas production. In late June, the EPA dropped a study of possible contamination of drinking water in Pavillion, Wyo., despite its earlier findings of carcinogens, hydrocarbons and other contaminants in the water.

"We don't know what's going on, but certainly the fact that there's been such a distinct withdrawal from three high-profile cases raises questions about whether the EPA is caving to pressure from industry or antagonistic members of Congress," said Kate Sinding of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.   [Emphasis added]

It certainly looks like the administration has made up its mind.  I mean why bury some studies or follow up on preliminary findings if you intend to approve the pipeline.  What is so maddening about this is that we've seen not only the effect of fracking on ground water, but the danger of transporting the natural gas in a pipeline (the people of Arkansas will attest to that).

And it's not as if this country will get the benefit of all that glorious Canadian natural gas.  It's being piped to the Gulf Coast so it can be sold and shipped to the rest of the world.

Halliburton wins again.

We lose again.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Funnies: 3-fer

Cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 7/25/13 in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Cartoon by Tom Toles and published 7/25/13 in the Washington Post.

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker and published 7/25/13 at the Daily Kos.

As always, click on image to enlarge.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Hero Shrew

Photograph by William Stanley, The Field Museum of Natural History, and published at National Geographic.  Click on link to learn more about this tough little critter and its unusual spine.


(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin/Miami Herald published 7/2/13 and featured at McClatchy DC.)

Attorney General Eric Holder is writing all sorts of checks with his mouth that his backside can't and won't cash.  For Edward Snowden's sake, I hope the Russians realize this

Edward Snowden will not face the death penalty or torture if he is returned to the United States to face espionage charges, U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. has assured his Russian counterpart in an effort to dissuade Moscow from granting asylum to the American fugitive.

In a letter made public Friday, Holder told Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov that the former National Security Agency contractor’s professed fears of facing abuse and possible execution are "entirely without merit."

"The charges he faces do not carry that possibility, and the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional, death penalty-eligible crimes," Holder wrote in the letter dated Tuesday. "Second, Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States."   [Emphasis added]

Oh, please.  Not all of us are as dumb as you obviously think we are, Mr. Holder.  Nor are our memories as short as you think they should be.

I mean, do you speak for the CIA?  Can you or anyone in the administration guarantee that an agent won't off Mr. Snowden at the first opportunity?

And as to torture ...

Guantanamo Bay and water boarding.

Abu Ghraib and dogs and water boarding

"Black Hole" prisons and dogs and water boarding and electric wires on testicles.

Bradley Manning and solitary confinement for months on end.

No, Mr. Holder.  I don't believe you and I'm reasonably certain neither does Russia.  Hopefully that country will treat your "assertions" with the seriousness they deserve.

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

No Joke

I've stayed away from the Anthony Weiner story because, to be honest, it really is kind of dopey.  Here's a guy who resigned his House seat after he was busted for sexting his, well, wiener and who apologized for his transgression.  Now he's running for mayor of NYC, and it turns out he continues to send "selfies" of his private parts.


I think that's been David Horsey's take as well, but now he expresses it with grand Horsey Snarkitude, and I couldn't resist.

Obviously, Weiner knows how effective humor can be. He is a friend of The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, after all. What would have happened in 2011 when his sexting activities came to light if, instead of trying to deny it and spin an elaborate lie, he had made himself the butt of jokes? “What do you expect from a guy named Weiner?” he could have asked. “I was just trying to keep up with the cool kids with all this social media and I got way too social.”

Of course he would have had to be serious about taking responsibility and making amends with his wife. He could have flown to L.A. to enroll in a sex therapy program with a few Hollywood stars. ...

Yes, a joke instead of a lie would have helped Weiner back then – but probably not now that we have found out he continued to engage in sexting after he quit Congress and after both he and his wife had gone very public with the story that all that kind of stuff was in the past. It turns out the photos he sent of his private parts got even more explicit, the sexting evolved to phone sex and he adopted the online moniker “Carlos Danger.” (Actually, picking that alias does prove he has a sense of humor.)

The New York Times editorial board and a string of Democratic politicians are now insisting that Weiner drop out of the race for mayor, but nothing he did was against the law and, if hypocrites like David Vitter still have their jobs, why should Weiner have to quit just because he is an embarrassment to the city?

Let the voters decide his fate. The best thing would be for Weiner to be rejected by New Yorkers; not because of his sexting addiction, but because he has proven himself to be a hyper-ambitious, narcissistic, mendacious weasel. The people need a chance to tell him to find another career. The comedy clubs await.   [Emphasis added] 

I think that captures my sentiments exactly.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Two Things

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin/ Miami Herald (March 28, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

David Lazarus's current column has a couple of powerful lessons for us, lessons which show how things should work in this country.

Susan Segal normally spends about $30 for a three-month supply of a thyroid medication from CVS Caremark's mail-order pharmacy.

Recently, though, CVS sent her a different thyroid drug, which cost $23 more — a 77% increase.

Segal, 56, called to complain. A CVS service rep told the Irvine resident that the pharmacy wasn't trying to pull a fast one. ...

Segal asked whether she could return the Synthroid for a refund. No, the CVS rep replied. Once a drug is shipped, it can't be returned.

Segal asked whether she at least could be charged the lower price she would have paid for Levoxyl. Again, no. All sales are final. ...

Christine Cramer, a CVS Caremark spokeswoman, declined to comment when I asked what rights patients should have in situations like Segal's.

But she said that, in response to my bringing Segal's dissatisfaction to the company's attention, "we are providing a credit for the difference in the co-pay." In other words, she'll be charged what she would have paid for her intended drug order.

That's nice, but it overlooks the fact that CVS did nothing when the customer herself brought up the matter. It was only after the prospect of bad publicity arose that the company was moved to act fairly.   [Emphasis added]

Once again CVS Caremark is caught treating its customers badly.  That's certainly nothing new and indicates an ongoing pattern by the mail order division of the large pharmacy.  In this case, however, they do have an excuse: the manufacturer of the original drug pulled that drug from the market because of complaints that it smelled funny.  CVS called Ms. Segal's doctor and advised him of the problem and requested permission to replace it with Synthroid.  I guess the company is beginning to learn.

Of greater importance to me, however, is that when Lazarus called to ask about the situation, the company decided to act fairly with respect to the customer.  That's what the power of the press is all about, and when that power is exerted fairly and rationally, we benefit.  Now, if we could only get hundreds more journalists acting like David Lazarus instead of like the stenographers on staff at most newspapers, this country would be better off.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Still Working It

(Editorial cartoon by Steve Sack and published 5/26/13 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.)

The Strib continues to have a good time sussing out Michele's gaffes and outright lies.  And she keeps providing her home town newspaper with the material to do so.

Bachmann, explaining how immigration reform could hurt the Republican Party, mischaracterized Obama’s 2012 executive order ending deportations of illegal immigrants who were brought into the United States as children:

“I think the president, even by executive order, could again wave his magic wand before 2014 and he'd say now all of the new, legal Americans are going to have voting rights. Why do I say that? He did it in 2012! Do you remember? Anyone who was here as a Latina under, ah, age 30, he said, ‘You get to vote.’ What? He decides you get to vote? If he did it 2012, know — take it to the bank — he'll do in 2014.”

In fact, Obama’s executive order had nothing to do with voting, whether by Latinas or Latinos. Since the interview was posted a week ago, Bachmann's comments have generally been derided as the latest example of her reputation for disregarding facts.   [Emphasis added]

This time, however, somebody on her staff stepped forward (whether at her direction or not) and clarified that what she meant to say was that hypothetically the president could conceivably do so.

Sorry, Michele:  that's a little too little and a little too late. 

It makes me wonder just what it is she intends to do after she leaves the House.

It also makes me wonder just what the Democrats are going to do about it.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

It's heartbreaking that Muslim parents in Pakistan are fighting (and killing) those who would administer the polio vaccine to that country's children.  While we have to lament the foolishness, we also must admit the source of the anger is to some extent understandable.

From the New York Times, via Eschaton:

Usman, who limps on a leg bowed by the polio he caught as a child, made sure that his first three children were protected from the disease, but he turned away vaccinators when his youngest was born.

He was furious that the Central Intelligence Agency, in its hunt for Osama bin Laden, had staged a fake vaccination campaign, and infuriated by American drone strikes, one of which, he said, had struck the son of a man he knew, blowing off his head. He had come to see the war on polio, the longest, most expensive disease eradication effort in history, as a Western plot.

In January, his 2-year-old son, Musharaf, became the first child worldwide to be crippled by polio this year.

“I know now I made a mistake,” said Usman, 32, who, like many in his Pashtun tribe, uses only one name. “But you Americans have caused pain in my community. Americans pay for the polio campaign, and that’s good. But you abused a humanitarian mission for a military purpose.

Anger like his over American foreign policy has led to a disastrous setback for the global effort against polio. In December, nine vaccinators were shot dead here, and two Taliban commanders banned vaccination in their areas, saying the vaccinations could resume only if drone strikes ended. In January, 10 vaccinators were killed in Nigeria’s Muslim-dominated north.    [Emphasis added]

The temptation is to feel some righteous indignation at those foolish Pakistanis putting their children at risk over a CIA trick.  Well, that temptation should be resisted.  We have a lot of people in this country doing the same thing, or nearly the same thing:  holding an unscientific belief about vaccinations of all sorts, including polio.  I posted on this two years ago, and things haven't changed much since then.

It's about childhood vaccinations, the ones that keep diseases like chicken pox and polio and measles and whooping cough under control, if not completely eradicated in our population. California requires proof of those vaccinations before allowing a child to be enrolled in school. This year the state requires that students in 7th grade through high school to bring proof of whooping cough boosters, a requirement necessitated by the resurgence of that illness in the state last year.

We know childhood vaccinations work, yet some parents still resist. Sometimes parents refuse the vaccinations for their children on religious grounds, and the state does allow that as an exception. Sometimes the refusal is based on the fact that the child has a physical condition (e.g., an impaired immune system) which precludes the vaccinations. The state also allows an exemption for this as well.

Too often, however, the excuses proffered are not so sensible. Many still believe that the vaccinations cause autism in children, even though the study which made that assertion has now been thoroughly debunked. Yet others object to those vaccinations being mandated by the government as a despotic intrusion into their lives, even though the whole point of the mandate is to provide for the general welfare of the population, a goal inherent in government.    [Emphasis added]

As I mentioned in that earlier post, when I was a kid we didn't have vaccinations for polio, whooping cough, chicken pox, and measles.  I got whooping cough, chicken pox, and measles, as did my sister (who could have died because her  chicken pox lined her nose and throat).  A neighbor girl got polio and we were unable to visit her until Dr. Jonas Salk came up with his miracle vaccine for that devastating disease.  We saw a wasted little body in an iron lung.  The miracle came too late for her.

Yet we still have people who know better than the scientists when it comes to vaccinations.  Several studies have debunked the autism/vaccination link.  What's even worse, we even give them popular platforms to espouse their opinion (like "The View" on television).  And here's the crusher:  people who can't have vaccinations because of an impaired immune system depend on the rest of us to be vaccinated so they are not exposed to these preventable diseases.

It's not just Pakistanis who are being stupid.  We've done our fair share ourselves.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Say, What?

(Snagged from clipart.)

We don't seem to be hearing much about the "sequester" these days, only about some of the cuts that resulted from this disastrous process.  For example, hundreds of thousands of civilian employees of the Pentagon have been laid off.  One area of the Pentagon budget, however, has not been touched, at least not yet.

Marine Gen. John F. Kelly works in a fortress-like headquarters near the Miami airport. Starting this fall, he will live in Casa Sur, an elegant home with a pool and gardens on one of the area's swankiest streets.

The five-bedroom residence, across the street from the famed Biltmore Golf Course, is provided rent-free to Kelly as head of U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military operations in the Caribbean Latin America.

The cost to taxpayers? $160,000 a year, plus $402,000 for renovations and security improvements now underway.

Casa Sur is one of hundreds of high-end homes, villas and mansions where senior generals and admirals are billeted, according to a Pentagon report prepared for Congress last month but not publicly released. ...

The perks for top military brass, a Pentagon tradition, are under increasing scrutiny in Congress at a time when budget reductions and the mandatory spending cuts known as the sequester have forced the Pentagon to cut services, close facilities, cancel training and missions, and furlough 680,000 civilian workers.

"There is no good news," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told hundreds of defense workers at Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina on Wednesday after one woman, who was forced to take 11 days without pay, said she had to take a second job to support her children. "It breaks my heart."

In the annual appropriations bill for military construction approved by a House committee last month, lawmakers criticized the Pentagon for the "excessive cost" of maintaining "large and aging" homes and for the "apparent unwillingness on the part of the [military] services to seek less expensive alternatives."   [Emphasis added]

One of the excuses offered by the Pentagon for this largesse is that the generals and admirals use these palaces for ceremonial functions, which means they required both luxurious homes and high security.  That begs the question of why we are expecting our generals/admirals to do this kind of entertaining.  I mean, isn't that the function of the State Department?

Or have  we become so militarized that we choose that face to show the world?

Sad, isn't it?

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Poetry: Dylan Thomas

(In Memory of Helen Thomas.  May she rest in peace.)

A Refusal To Mourn The Death, By Fire, Of A Child In London

Never until the mankind making
Bird beast and flower
Fathering and all humbling darkness
Tells with silence the last light breaking
And the still hour
Is come of the sea tumbling in harness

And I must enter again the round
Zion of the water bead
And the synagogue of the ear of corn
Shall I let pray the shadow of a sound
Or sow my salt seed
In the least valley of sackcloth to mourn

The majesty and burning of the child's death.
I shall not murder
The mankind of her going with a grave truth
Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath
With any further
Elegy of innocence and youth.

Deep with the first dead lies London's daughter,
Robed in the long friends,
The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother,
Secret by the unmourning water
Of the riding Thames.
After the first death, there is no other.

--Dylan Thomas

Sunday Funnies: 3 By The Sea

Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 7/14/13 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman, published 7/18/13 by the Sacramento Bee and featured at McClatchy DC.

Political cartoon by Matt Wuerker and published 7/18/13 by Daily Kos.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Fallow Deer

Photograph by Mark Bridger, National Geographic Your Shot, published 7/17/13 in the "Photo of the Day" section.

American Weird

David Horsey's latest column is a bit odd.  I think it likely, however, that he's not really talking about the girls swooning over Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston bombers, but rather that group of people who were appalled that his picture graced the front of Rolling Stone.

The cover photo makes Tsarnaev look like a moody lead singer from a boy band. Critics from actor and comedian Albert Brooks to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino say the image -- a self-portrait snapped sometime before the bombing -- is way too flattering, given the horror of the crime. But there is a small group of people who probably will be keeping the magazine close to their pillows so they can give their favorite heartthrob a goodnight kiss.

Yes, like every celebrity, Tsarnaev has fans who think he is innocent or has been mistreated or is the fall guy in another evil conspiracy perpetrated by the U.S. government -- or maybe just a sweet boy who had a couple of bad days because of his crazy big brother. ...

The editors of Rolling Stone may have made a poor judgment. I’m not so sure they did; the Tsarnaev photo evokes the mystifying dichotomy between the fairly typical, self-absorbed college kid Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was and the coldblooded terrorist he apparently became. That is the story they are presenting in their magazine.

As far as Tsarnaev’s fans are concerned, though, poor judgment does not begin to describe their misguided enthusiasm for their hero. There are other, better descriptive words starting with irrationality, paranoia, vapidity and ignorance. One attribute they cannot claim is empathy -- empathy for the dead and horribly maimed victims of the bedroom-eyed bomber.   [Emphasis added]

Even if I am imputing more irony to Horsey than is present, I do think the furor over the magazine cover by so many other people is sadly misplaced.  The article inside the magazine makes it clear that Mr. Bedroom Eyes is no Mr. Nice Guy.

And what really shocks me is that with all the sophisticated data mining being done by NSA and Booz Allen the bombing incident actually took place.  I guess nobody's perfect, even when it comes to domestic spying.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Unsurprising News

(Editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman published 7/16/13 in the Sacramento Bee and featured at McClatchy DC.)

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by the speed with which the NRA responded to the outcries over the George Zimmerman acquittal.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The National Rifle Assn. made clear Wednesday that it would not budge, one day after U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. made an impassioned speech at the NAACP convention in Orlando, Fla.,  in which he exhorted the nation to take a hard look at states' various "stand your ground" laws.

Such laws have come under scrutiny since Saturday's acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, even though Zimmerman's attorneys in April waived a "stand your ground" immunity hearing.

“The attorney general fails to understand that self-defense is not a concept, it’s a fundamental human right,” Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement to the media. “To send a message that legitimate self-defense is to blame is unconscionable, and demonstrates once again that this administration will exploit tragedies to push their political agenda.”

And so with the NRA marking its post-Zimmerman stance -- which is expected to be echoed by the group's influential surrogates nationwide in the coming days and weeks -- the debate is taking shape, with civil rights groups and public figures across the country marshaling their strength and calling for a repeal.The National Rifle Assn. made clear Wednesday that it would not budge, one day after U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. made an impassioned speech at the NAACP convention in Orlando, Fla.,  in which he exhorted the nation to take a hard look at states' various "stand your ground" laws.

Such laws have come under scrutiny since Saturday's acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, even though Zimmerman's attorneys in April waived a "stand your ground" immunity hearing.

“The attorney general fails to understand that self-defense is not a concept, it’s a fundamental human right,” Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement to the media. “To send a message that legitimate self-defense is to blame is unconscionable, and demonstrates once again that this administration will exploit tragedies to push their political agenda.”

And so with the NRA marking its post-Zimmerman stance -- which is expected to be echoed by the group's influential surrogates nationwide in the coming days and weeks -- the debate is taking shape, with civil rights groups and public figures across the country marshaling their strength and calling for a repeal. ...

Central to changing the law is the question of retreat, which is not obligated under "stand your ground" laws, as opposed to some self-defense laws that treat safe retreat as a duty: If you can get away safely, you can't legally kill somebody.
“We must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely.” Otherwise, Holder said, “by allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety. The list of resulting tragedies is long and, unfortunately, has victimized too many who are innocent.”   [Emphasis added]

The undermining of public safety is the point I was trying to make in my post on Wednesday.  When two armed combatants are out in public standing their ground, everyone around them are in danger once the bullets fly.  That's something the NRA and gun manufacturers don't seem to care about.  All they want is as many guns as possible in as many hands as possible.

This is a recipe for social disaster.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Big Wheel Keeps On Turnin'

(Cartoon by Steve Sack and published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune 4/4/13.)

It's beginning to look like Michele Bachmann really is going to have to reduce her visibility, at least for a while.  Her hometown newspaper has some new revelations on the House Ethics Committee investigation.

A congressional inquiry of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has been referred to the House Ethics Committee, significantly raising the stakes in the Minnesota Republican’s efforts to fend off questions about her 2012 presidential campaign’s financial dealings.

A report issued Tuesday by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) shows that its bipartisan board sent all seven cases before it last month to the House Ethics Committee, meaning they found “substantial reason” to believe they all involve potential ethics violations.

Among the cases known to be pending before the board was a probe of potential campaign finance violations by Bachmann as well as allegations that she took members of her campaign staff on a book tour to promote her personal political memoir, “Core of Conviction.” ...

Sources who have been interviewed by the OCE have told the Star Tribune that investigators focused on Bachmann’s 2011 book tour, which spanned from Minnesota and Iowa to the East Coast. Federal election and House ethics rules generally forbid candidates from using campaign funds or resources to sell or promote their own books, which are considered personal business activities.

Unlike potential campaign finance violations, which could involve top officials in Bachmann’s campaign, the book tour allegations focus on Bachmann’s personal conduct in selling her book.   [Emphasis added]

Now, if we could just get the DNC to put up and finance a Democratic candidate, we might actually pick up a seat.

I guess I ask too much.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Too Many People Carrying Guns

David Horsey has a refreshingly sensible analysis of the whole Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman tragedy.  While a bit understated, the column did pull me back into the entire drama after I thought I could leave it alone.

A string of misperceptions has driven the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman tragedy from the very beginning, including the public misperception that perfect justice can be found in a court of law.

The misperception that propelled events from the very start was Zimmerman’s assumption that a black kid in a hoodie did not belong in his neighborhood. If he had known Martin was the guest of a local resident with no other mission than to reach home with the package of Skittles he had just purchased, Zimmerman would not have followed the young man. In fact, if he had simply not held a stereotype in his head that a young African American in a hoodie is very likely a criminal, Martin would be alive today and Zimmerman would not have had his own life turned upside down.

Conversely, if Martin had not looked at Zimmerman and seen a “cracker” – as Martin described Zimmerman in a phone call to a friend when he noticed Zimmerman behind him – he may have reacted with less fear and anger. If he had seen George Zimmerman as he appeared in court – cleanshaven, wearing a nice suit – perhaps nothing more would have happened than a brief, heated conversation. Instead, he saw a burly Latino man with a goatee, a baseball cap and clothes that made him look like a tough guy from the streets. ...

No matter what Zimmerman’s motivations may have been, no matter his feelings about black people, no matter that a police dispatcher told him not to get involved, despite any of that, the prosecution failed to undermine Zimmerman’s story that, in the thick of the confrontation, it was he who felt threatened. Even though Zimmerman’s attorneys did not base their defense on Florida's “stand your ground” law, the judge’s instructions to the jury had to take that into account. Like it or not, Florida law gave him the right to pull a gun and shoot.   [Emphasis added]

It is that last statement that concerns me right now.  Thanks to the NRA and ALEC, too many people are walking around believing that they can carry a weapon and use it whenever they feel "threatened."  This places all of the rest of us in jeopardy, as this article makes clear:

When the Legislature passed Wisconsin's concealed carry law nearly two years ago, the main argument for it was that good guys needed to carry guns to stop the bad guys.

So what to make of a road-rage incident where two concealed carry permit holders engage in a wild west-style shootout as they sped down a Milwaukee freeway? There has to be a bad guy, right?

Eric Adamany, 27, was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment in the June 26 incident, during which he allegedly emptied a magazine at a fleeing motorist. No one was hurt.

But Adamany says the other guy, 27-year-old Roy Scott, shot first. ... another recent case, concealed carry permit holder Phillip Green, 40, was charged with first-degree reckless homicide after killing Ernest Banks after the two men, who were bar hopping together last May, got into a fight.   [Emphasis added]

Extreme examples?  Not really.  And both are significant for the dangers posed to those who happen to be in the vicinity, whether drivers who have to avoid bullets and careening cars or people in a nearby building when an errant shot pierces a window or a wall.

I just don't believe the old saw "an armed society is a civil society."  It seems to me we are discovering that an armed society is a dangerous one.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

California's Shame

(Editorial cartoon by Steve Sack and published 4/26/13 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and featured at

No, this post isn't about hunger strikers at Gitmo.  It's about hunger strikers in California.  More than 30,000 inmates are protesting conditions in the state's prisons.  Specifically, they are protesting the policy of  isolating certain prisoners in small cells without windows or any human contact. This "solitary confinement" is done for various reasons, none of which appear to be too valid.

Shane Bauer, who wrote this opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times, investigated the situation.  He has some good credentials for doing so.  He was held for 26 months (four of them in solitary confinement) in an Iranian prison after being arrested while hiking near the Iranian border with Iraq.

If the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was as serious about reforming its use of indefinite solitary confinement as it says it is, nearly 30,000 inmates wouldn't have started on a hunger strike last week, with many thousands still refusing meals. ...

These units are bleak. In Pelican Bay State Prison's SHU, which I have visited, most inmates live alone in a 7-by-11-foot cell without windows. They are allowed to exercise, alone, for an hour a day in a 16-by-25-foot cell with a plexiglass roof. They cannot make or receive phone calls or have contact visits with family or friends. They have no access to drug treatment programs and cannot attend religious services. The average inmate remains in isolation for 7 1/2 years.

Some SHU inmates have committed heinous acts in prison, but a prisoner doesn't have to be violent to get put in the hole indefinitely. Until recently, all it took was evidence that the inmate was associated with one of a number of gangs, and the evidence had to satisfy only prison authorities; it was never reviewed by an external body or court.

The parameters for what constitutes gang activity can be arbitrary. In the thousands of pages of prisoners' case files I have reviewed, "evidence" of gang affiliation has included possession of prisoner-rights literature or books like Sun Tzu's "Art of War" or Machiavelli's "The Prince." It has included journal writings on African American history. Even use of the words tio and hermano — Spanish for "uncle" and "brother" — have been cited as evidence of gang affiliation.

A year ago when I checked the numbers, the majority of those serving indefinite SHU terms were not even considered to be gang members but rather "associates," which required only that they had been involved, at least periodically, with other gang members or associates. ...

Prison officials say that, since the last hunger strike, they have moved toward a "behavior-based" approach to SHU incarceration. While previously association with a gang was enough to earn an indefinite SHU term, now an associate must commit one or two (depending on the ranking of the gang) serious rule violations to land there.

But a close look at the new policy reveals that the department has changed the definition of "serious" rule violations. In the past, these violations would have been the kinds of things you'd expect: selling drugs, attacking another inmate, attempting to escape. Under the new policy, a serious rule violation can be the possession of self-made drawings, the wrong books or anything that "depicts affiliation" with a security threat group — in other words, the kind of stuff that has always been used to lock people in the SHU.   [Emphasis added]

It's bad enough that several years ago a federal court held that California's prisons were seriously over-crowded and ordered the release of 20,000 prisoners or the building of new prisons to house the incarcerated in a safe and humane way and to provide them with adequate medical treatment.  California responded by shipping some prisoners to out of state facilities.  Gov. Jerry Brown has resisted doing much more because the state cannot afford new structures or the addition of hundreds of parole officers to handle all of the releases.

Now we learn that there is enough room in our prisons to put prisoners in single units away from everyone else for years.

For shame, California.

For shame.

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Monday, July 15, 2013


(Editorial cartoon by Glenn McCoy and featured 7/11/13 at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

Yes, McCoy's cartoon is a snide comment on the "liberal press" and its coverage of the Zimmerman trial.  The trial is over, however, and the acquittal verdict is in.  The conservative spokespeople have now had their chance to gloat and bloviate.  Everyone on all sides has an opinion on the verdict and what it means for race relations and gun laws in this country.

One of the more interesting and thoughtful pieces to come out is found in an op-ed written by Robin Abcarian for the Los Angeles TimesIn her column, she talks about the attempt by his brother to rehabilitate George Zimmerman now that he has been declared innocent.

The rehabilitation of George Zimmerman has begun.

Robert Zimmerman Jr., George Zimmerman’s older brother, has launched a one-man PR effort, showing up all over CNN, on NPR, even finding time for Breitbart, to extol his brother’s essential goodness and the wisdom of the Seminole County jury that exonerated him of second-degree murder or manslaughter in the death of Trayvon Martin.

At first glance, Zimmerman is an impressive family spokesman.

Calmly, articulately and sometimes sternly, Robert has defended his little brother in a way only a loved one can do. ...

And yet, he also appears to be sensitive to racial injustice. “I will say that Sanford had a history in its police department of having issues with race and equal application and equal access to justice in that community,” he told NPR’s Rachel Martin on Sunday. “I know that has nothing to do with George, but I can see where there were concerns, initially, that something may be afoot in Sanford. Unfortunately, the pegging of George as a white man was essential to get that narrative traction and get that ball rolling.” (The Zimmermans’ father is white; their mother is Peruvian.)

But Zimmerman is disingenuous when he criticizes people for injecting race into the story. In fact, he has done as much as anyone to racialize the case.

In numerous interviews, Zimmerman has subtly injected racial stereotypes into the case, echoing defense attorney Mark O’Mara’s line that Martin was not, as the prosecution portrayed him, a teenager armed with nothing more than Skittles, but an angry, dangerous young man armed with his fists, and a sidewalk.   [Emphasis added]

My only kvetch with Abcarian's analysis is that she failed to point out that "white" refers to race;  "Peruvian" refers to ethnicity.  That aside, however, it's clear that the big brother realizes that George Zimmerman is now walking around with a large target on his back.  I suspect George is aware of that as well.  Perhaps that is a punishment no one considered, at least no one who has had to walk around as a target the way young Black men have to.

In that regard,  I would urge you to click on this link to see just what that punishment entails.

And that is punishment indeed.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Poetry: Langston Hughes

Let America be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

-- Langston Hughes

Sunday Funnies: The Winner

Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (July 9, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.

Read more here:


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Japanese White Eye

Photograph by Boris S., National Geographic Your Shot, and published 7/12/13 in National Geographic as "Photo of the Day."

Texas Fun

(Editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman and published 7/4/13 in the Sacramento Bee.)

It is, to put it in charitable terms, silly season in Texas.  The governor, Rick Perry, has called the state legislature back into a special session so that it can get an anti-abortion law passed.  Because he has announced that he won't be running for another term as governor, I can only assume he wants this law to burnish his credentials for running for president 2016.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday opened up a new round of debate on a restrictive abortion bill, legislation that has galvanized activists on both sides of the issue statewide and nationally in recent weeks.  

House Bill 2 would ban abortion after 20 weeks, require doctors performing the procedure to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles, require abortions to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers and regulate abortion-inducing drugs, among other restrictions. 

The measure failed in regular session late last month after Sen. Wendy Davis led a headline-making 13-hour filibuster to derail a Republican vote. But Gov. Rick Perry immediately pledged that the Legislature would pass the restrictions during a 30-day special session, which began July 1.   [Emphasis added]

But wait!  There's more.

Yesterday, the legislators ruled that no tampons would be allowed into the legislative chambers.  Now this is kind of weird because concealed weapons can be brought into the chambers.  I guess some of the legislators are afraid of feminine hygiene products.  Needless to say, hilarity ensued as the eyes of the country were upon the legislature.  Eventually the state senate backed down on that ridiculous ruling.  I think the sound of an entire nation laughing got heard.

I would love to see a picture of Sen. Davis or her supporters wearing a hat with tampons dangling from it a la the Tea Party ladies.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Battle Of The Behemoths

Like David Horsey, I have mixed emotions on the recent court decision regarding e-book pricing.

In the battle of the technology business mega-monsters, Apple Inc. has lost a round to On Wednesday, a federal judge in New York ruled that Apple “conspired to raise the retail price of e-books” with the aim of cutting into Amazon’s market share. The judge said Amazon may now seek damages from Apple.

The federal prosecutor in the case claimed this was a big victory for consumers. Well, maybe yes and maybe no.

Amazon has become the 800-pound gorilla in the publishing world – actually, make that 8 million. The company sells so many more books than anyone else that it has driven so-called bricks-and-mortar bookstores, both big and small, to near extinction. It may do the same to book publishers. ...

Apple and the publishers may have pushed a line of legality, but just who is the likely winner of this particular game of Monopoly? When most of the bookstores are dead and the few remaining publishers are a shadow of their former selves, Amazon will be the absolute dictator of the publishing world.

The Justice Department may not agree, but that sounds a lot like a monopoly to me.   [Emphasis added]

It isn't too hard for me to cheer the slap-down Apple got from the court.  I'm still angry about that company's cheesy, yet "legal" way of avoiding the payment of US taxes.  We little people don't have such a luxury.

And libraries have found a way to "loan" e-books to their members, so I'm sure bookstores can figure out a way to sell them.  I wouldn't be surprised if my favorite independent bookstore (Vroman's in Pasadena, CA) hadn't already made that service available to its customers.  I will check that out the next time I'm out and about in that area.

Still, the idea of just one major corporation having so much influence on the pricing of a product is worrisome.  Historically, that scenario has never played out well for consumers, and I don't imagine it will this time either.  I say this as an avid Amazon customer who downloads a book every month from their web site.

I guess the publishers will be weighing in next with a law suit of their own.  That might be interesting.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mental Health Day

Sorry, folks, but I don't have the energy to do any substantive blogging today.  I just don't have much to say.

Here, however, are some good people with some great stuff:




Enjoy them and the day!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

It Takes A Cartoonist

David Horsey has done a wonderful job in his latest column in explicating some rather complex issues in a way which somehow has eluded the rest of the mainstream media.

There seems to be one thing that unites all the demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, from the young secular liberals who are jubilant that Egypt’s military has deposed President Mohamed Morsi to the Islamic militants who demand that he be reinstated: they all are furious with President Barack Obama and the United States of America.

On the one hand, the anti-Morsi crowds think Obama gave too much support to Morsi. On the other, the pro-Morsi marchers are calling Obama a hypocrite for giving lip service to democracy while doing nothing in the face of the military coup that overthrew Morsi’s democratically elected government.

As always, it is hard for the U.S. to get it right in the Arab world. ...

The reality, though, is that the authoritarian actions of the Morsi government were proving detrimental to the long-term prospects for permanent democracy in Egypt. After years of waiting for their chance, Morsi and his comrades in the Muslim Brotherhood were unable to restrain themselves from pushing too quickly toward the Islamic state they want. Perhaps just as damaging, they also proved themselves to be incompetent stewards of government.

Millions of protesters filled the streets to reject the slide away from democracy and toward theocratic rule. There was no vote and no election, but the will of the people was being expressed. That, too, is democracy and Morsi refused to respond to that expression, so the military stepped in.   [Emphasis added]

There.  Was that so hard?

Nicely done, David.  Now, if only White House spokespeople could be so direct and clear in their explanations and the traditional media could shake such explanations out of them to begin with and then actually print the story, we might be a better informed nation.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Poor Mitch

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (July 7, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

Poor Mitch McConnell.  It doesn't look like he will be facing a Tea Party challenger for his senate seat, but there will be a Democratic challenger, one who has already won a state-wide election and one who is a "girl."

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

The race between U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes appears to be on.

That’s despite Grimes’ odd rollout of a campaign that apparently wasn’t really a rollout. The real rollout will come later, we’re told. ...

An official campaign rollout done right — particularly if it includes the Big Dog, former President Bill Clinton, the last Democrat to carry Kentucky in a federal election of any kind and a close friend of the Lundergan family — would go a long way toward making people forget Grimes’ announcement.

The GOP’s harping on the rollout could, in fact, show that it has an even bigger problem — an opponent who hasn’t taken many positions and therefore doesn’t have much of an Achilles’ heel.

McConnell’s campaign team acknowledged as much during the infamous strategy meeting recorded by activist Curtis Morrison when a presenter said doing opposition research against her was like looking for “a needle in a haystack.”

The main things they found about her are that she supported the Democratic Party platform in 2008 and that she endorsed President Barack Obama for re-election in 2012, but according to the presenter was “too smart to use his name.”   [Emphasis added]

The lengthy article this excerpt comes from is actually quite dismissive of Alison Grimes and takes more than a few pot-shots at her rather aimless announcement.  Still, it does note that she holds a state office and is friendly with the Clintons.  If Bill shows up to help her campaign, it should help considerably.

Here is a good case for Howard Dean's "50-State Strategy."  If the Dems want to be rid of McConnell, "Mr. Turtle Man," and they certainly should, then pouring some money into her campaign would be money well-spent.

No, she probably won't be another Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillebrand.  What she will be, however, is not Mitch McConnell and not a Republican.  We could use that in the Senate.

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Monday, July 08, 2013

Corporate Cooperation

(Editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman and published 7/1/13 in the Sacramento Bee.  Click on image to enlarge so that you can see the amazing details.  Then please return.)

The emphasis on the story of domestic and international spying by our government has once again turned to the messenger rather than the message.  We are learning all sorts of details about Edward Snowden, about what a flake, what a narcissist, what a jerk he is.  The propaganda is a handy diversion from the fact that our government has not denied doing what Snowden said it is doing.  Even some perfectly respectable liberal bloggers have begun to drink the kool-aid and are concentrating on Snowden's flaws rather than on the real story:  our government is spying on us.

I did find one article in the Washington Post which provided some additional information on the program.

The U.S. government had a problem: Spying in the digital age required access to the fiber-optic cables traversing the world’s oceans, carrying torrents of data at the speed of light. And one of the biggest operators of those cables was being sold to an Asian firm, potentially complicating American surveillance efforts.

Enter “Team Telecom.”

In months of private talks, the team of lawyers from the FBI and the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security demanded that the company maintain what amounted to an internal corporate cell of American citizens with government clearances. Among their jobs, documents show, was ensuring that surveillance requests got fulfilled quickly and confidentially.

This “Network Security Agreement,” signed in September 2003 by Global Crossing, became a model for other deals over the past decade as foreign investors increasingly acquired pieces of the world’s telecommunications infrastructure. ...

The security agreement for Global Crossing, whose fiber-optic network connected 27 nations and four continents, required the company to have a “Network Operations Center” on U.S. soil that could be visited by government officials with 30 minutes of warning. Surveillance requests, meanwhile, had to be handled by U.S. citizens screened by the government and sworn to secrecy — in many cases prohibiting information from being shared even with the company’s executives and directors.   [Emphasis added]

Unlike Booz Allen, which was only too happy to sell its services to the NSA, Global Crossing and the subsequent foreign investors were roped into the deal by making it a condition of ownership of the chunks of fiber optic touching the US. In other words, it was a forced cooperation, one that completed the international network the NSA wanted.

No wonder our international allies are a little miffed with us.

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Sunday, July 07, 2013

Sunday Poetry: C.P. Cavafi

Alexandrian Kings

The Alexandrians turned out in force
to see Cleopatra's children,
Kaisarion and his little brothers,
Alexander and Ptolemy,
who'd been taken out to the Gymnasium for the first time,
to be proclaimed kings there
before a brilliant array of soldiers.

Alexander: they declared him
king of Armenia, Media, and the Parthians.
Ptolemy: they declared him
king of Cilicia, Syria, and Phoenicia.
Kaisarion was standing in front of the others,
dressed in pink silk,
on his chest a bunch of hyacinths,
his belt a double row of amethysts and sapphires,
his shoes tied with white ribbons
prinked with rose-coloured pearls.
They declared him greater than his brothers,
they declared him King of Kings.

The Alexandrians knew of course
that this was all just words, all theatre.

But the day was warm and poetic,
the sky a pale blue,
the Alexandrian Gymnasium
a complete artistic triumph,
the courtiers wonderfully sumptuous,
Kaisarion all grace and beauty
(Cleopatra's son, blood of the Lagids);
and the Alexandrians thronged to the festival,
full of enthusiasm, and shouted acclamations
in Greek, and Egyptian, and some in Hebrew,
charmed by the lovely spectacle --
though they knew of course what all this was worth,
what empty words they really were, these kingships.

--Constantine P. Cavafy

Sunday Funnies: 2 By Joel Pett

Published 7/2/13.

Published 7/14/13.


Saturday, July 06, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Striped Boxfish

(Photograph by Tim Laman and published at National Geographic.)

Two Stories

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich ahd published 7/4/13 in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

I admit to being a little baffled by this Luckovich cartoon, which doesn't happen often when dealing with the gentleman I consider one of the premier cartoonists in this country.  He seems to be suggesting that the people of this country are being shallow by turning off the news in the Middle East in favor of the news in Florida.

I agree that the average American is deplorably, perhaps even willfully, ignorant when it comes to world affairs, especially when it concerns the Middle East.  I also agree that the average American is more apt to want to follow a "sensationalist" story like trial of George Zimmerman on murder charges for the killing of Trayvon Martin.  Still, both stories are important.

The Zimmerman case would never have entered the consciousness of Americans outside of Florida if there hadn't been a lot of noise by the Martin family.  Once the story got picked up, we had to look at a number of issues:  racism, the "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida, the two kinds of justice when it came to local police departments everywhere, not just Florida.  And I think looking at those issues through the lens of the trial proceedings is important.

Sure, many Americans haven't gotten that message yet, but they never will without the coverage which this trial and cases like can bring.

In other words, lighten up, Mike!

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Friday, July 05, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

An Interesting Theory

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 6/25/13 by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

The Los Angeles Times had an interesting article which suggested that the current split in the Republican Party is driven, at least to some extent, by the difference in age amongst various members.

Lawmakers in Congress are voting more often along party lines. But within the ranks of Republicans, there is growing evidence of voting along age lines.

The generational split, fueled by a surge in young lawmakers who won seats in recent elections, has been emerging on a number of tax and spending bills, including last year's transportation funding bill and this year's pending farm bill.

And that divide may be deeper even than differences over Tea Party issues, now that most Republicans in Congress are conservative.

"Clearly, as a group, the younger members coming in the last two or three classes have been more ideologically conservative … than most of the older members," said Norman J. Ornstein, a congressional expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. ...

No legislation, however, has brought the generational divide into focus more clearly than the Internet sales tax bill, which would allow states to require larger online retailers to collect sales taxes from customers as bricks-and-mortar merchants must do.

Senate Republicans split nearly evenly on the legislation, with most older members supporting it and younger ones in opposition. ...

Veteran lawmakers — that is, older ones — are more inclined to support conventional retailers arguing for a level playing field and to back their state and local officials, who want to generate more revenue without raising tax rates.

Younger members, many of whom are Washington newcomers, tend to back Internet companies such as online auction site EBay Inc. in opposing the measure as an undue burden on online retailers and an expansion of a state's taxing authority outside its borders.   [Emphasis added]

Although the AEI analysis may be correct, I still find that rather surprising.  What Ornstein seems to be saying is that such younger members, because they are more comfortable with the "new" way of doing business (the internet, in the example given), such congressmen as Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) are perfectly willing to sell out the brick-and-mortar businesses on the Main Streets of their districts to trim down government.  That doesn't sound very astute to me.

It would, however, explain some of the gridlock in the 113th Congress, which will be perhaps the least productive congress in US history.

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Declaration Of Independence

MY Declaration Of Independence

(With One Additional Signature.)

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.


New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

California:  Diane M. Trzcinski

(Please feel free to sign with whatever handle you prefer in comments.)