Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Green Sea Turtle

Photograph by Tim Laman and published at National Geographic.  Click on link to learn a little more about this critter and its ancestors.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It Could Happen

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 8/27/13 in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

It's nice of Mike to pass the suggestion along to Rep. Issa (Wackaloon-CA).


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

O, Brave New World!

(Cartoon and column by David Horsey and published 8/27/13 by the Los Angeles Times.)

Once upon a time, in the 1960s and '70s, futurists predicted that a day was nearing when we would not have to worry about job numbers. Robots and other kinds of technology would free us from needing to work and we could spend our days pursuing personal adventures or sitting under a tree writing poetry. Well, robots and technology, as well as other transformations of the world economy, have indeed eliminated jobs, but those who have been "freed" from labor are, at best, sitting under trees writing applications for unemployment payments and, at worst, sitting by freeways writing cardboard signs to solicit money for food.

Be careful what you wish for.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Certainly No Change In Content

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich published 8/7/13 for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

I don't know what plans Jeff Bezos has for the future, but he certainly hasn't changed any content in that newspaper.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Some Silliness

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett/Lexington Herald Leader and published 8/18/13 and featured by McClatchy DC.)

Yes, I laughed.  As Granny Weatherwax says, "I ain't dead."


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Funnies: The Clear Winner

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 8/20/13 by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Egrets Nesting

(Photograph by Oskar Neuhold, National Geographic Your Shot)


(Horsey cartoon and column published 8/22/13 in the Los Angeles Times.)

"Ah, to be a conservative climate change denier. While real scientists must do all the research and engage in heated debates about just how bad things are going to be, the deniers can rest easy in the bliss of willful ignorance."


Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Domestic Terrorism

(Editorial cartoon by Lee Judge/The Kansas City Star (August 20, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

Two domestic terrorists were arrested in Las Vegas for their plot to kidnap, torture, and kill police officers.

Can the NSA take credit?

Nope, done with good old-fashioned local police work.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


If you haven't been visiting What Would Jack Do on a regular basis, you really should start.  He's the ultimate snarkmeister.  (Photo snagged from his site to give you just a taste.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cui Bono

(Cartoon and column by David Horsey and published 8/21/13 in the Los Angeles Times.)

1. Border patrols and equipment are up.  Who benefits?  Not us.

2. The "fix" Edison had done several years ago at the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant wouldn't pass inspection by the feds, which meant this part of the energy supplies to California is down, permanently.  Edison now wants the rate payers to pay for the problem, not its shareholders.  Who benefits?  Not us.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Slacking Off

So, here's David Horsey's 8/19/13 cartoon and column.  The column confirms what we all pretty much already knew about the 113th Congress.

So, here's the deal.  I'm suffering from some nagging health problems and, I suspect, a little blogging burn-out.  I've been doing this for about 8.5 years and have put up about 6,500 posts (a chunk of which were written by Ruth Calvo).

I'm going to take somewhat of a break.  If I find a cartoon that tickles me, I'll post it.  If I come across a post on someone else's blog, I'll direct you to it.  Otherwise, I may go a day or two with nothing on the board.

The exceptions, of course, are Friday Cat Blogging, Bonus Critter Blogging, and Sunday Funnies.  Those still are too much fun to give up, at least right now.

Thanks for your kind attention and support over the years.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Doctors of Doom

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin 8/15 in the Miami Herald and featured at McClatchy DC.)

Morin's cartoon was in response to a call that those individuals caught using drugs and were non-violent should not be imprisoned.  I'm using it here to look at the other side of the equation:  the doctors who over-prescribe (or sell prescriptions) and pharmacies who over-dispense (or sell the drugs).  Shouldn't they bear some responsibility?

Yes, Michael Jackson's doctor is currently on trial for his part in the over-dose death of the pop star, but he was more of an employee of Jackson and felt compelled to keep his boss doped up.  But this trial is somewhat rare.  In fact, there are almost no other cases like it, yet people continue to overdose either due to poor medical management or addiction.  The drug involved?  Oxycontin.

The Los Angeles Times did a remarkable series of articles on the issue over the past year.  A good example of that series can be found here with links to the others in the series.

Very little happened as a result of that series of articles, which I found puzzling.  Well, on Friday the Times published an editorial which indicates that at least the state legislature is looking at the issue.

Prescription drug abuse has grown steadily over the last decade, to the point where overdoses send more than 1 million Americans to emergency rooms annually. Although there's no simple way to guard against people abusing many of these drugs, considering the legitimate role they can play in treatment, it would help for doctors and regulators to have better data about the drugs that are being prescribed and dispensed, to whom and by whom.

Until now, lawmakers' focus has been on improving a state Justice Department database that collects records from pharmacists and doctors of all the dangerous prescription drugs they dispense, along with a monitoring program that lets doctors check what drugs their patients have already obtained before prescribing new ones. Both efforts have been so cash-starved, however, they're barely functional.   [Emphasis added]

The problem is a difficult one, admittedly.  Yes, there are some out-and-out crooks who are selling the drugs to users and dealers.  That's the easy part.

The hard part comes with patients who suffer chronic pain from such causes as spinal injuries or fibromyalgia.  The pain is real, something is needed to ameliorate that pain.  Many times the patient cannot be trusted to understand the incredible danger they are in by relying simply on that magic little pill to take the edge off the pain.

It's a tough road, but the state and federal governments need to put some money into such a monitoring program and to at least report the problem to the state licensing boards for further investigation.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday Funnies: Two-fer

 (Political cartoon by Matt Wuerker and published 8/15/13 at Daily Kos.)

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (August 15, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging:

Photo snagged from Ifthethunderdontgetya.  Click on link for more spectacular photography.

It's That Man Again

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (June 3, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

One of the most unpleasant moments of a CVS PR executive's day has to be when a message is delivered indicating that David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times has a few more questions about CVS pharmacy policies.  Lazarus is still working hard to reveal the mega-pharmacy's shoddy practices.

Since February, CVS Caremark has been pushing its pharmacists to enroll customers in a prescription-drug rewards program.

The benefit to customers is the opportunity to earn up to $50 a year in store credits that can be used to buy shampoo, toothpaste or other products.

The benefit to CVS is persuading pharmacy customers, through questionable means, to give up federal privacy safeguards for their medical information and permitting the company to share people's drug purchases with others. ...

The fine print on CVS' website says that "each person must sign a HIPAA Authorization to join" and that "you must re-sign the HIPAA Authorization once per year to retain active enrollment."

Among the site's frequently asked questions for the program is, "Why do I need to sign a HIPAA Authorization?"

The answer: "The HIPAA Authorization allows CVS/pharmacy to record the prescription earnings of each person who joins the ExtraCare Pharmacy & Health Rewards program."...

Basically, HIPAA requires insurers, hospitals, doctors, dentists and pharmacies to keep your medical information under wraps. Breaking the law can result in civil and criminal penalties, including prison terms and fines of up to $1.5 million for each violation.

What CVS calls a "HIPAA Authorization," therefore, is not to be taken lightly. Nor is it simply a matter of allowing the company "to record the prescription earnings" of ExtraCare members, as CVS indicates during the final stage of the enrollment process. ...

Rite-Aid and Walgreens have found ways to reward drug customers without violating their HIPAA protections.

What is it about CVS' program that necessitates customers abandoning their federal privacy rights? CVS isn't saying.

But $50 worth of store credits is hardly fair compensation for such a marketing prize.
   [Emphasis added]

So what's the problem?

Well, that last paragraph says it all.  CVS isn't just collecting that information, it's passing it on to the people who are making the drugs, and I think it's clear that CVS isn't just handing over that information free of charge.  That corporation has found yet a new revenue source, one that doesn't cost them much at all, just a few bucks for cheap cosmetics or toothpaste sold at a premium anyway.

I hope David Lazarus continues this crusade until the state and fed AGs finally get involved to halt these corrupt practices which are costing patients and health care insurers bundles.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Guantanamo Bay

(Cartoon by Tom Toles and snagged from the Boston Globe.)

Yes, I'm feeling better.  I think the shock of seeing DINO DiFi actually say something reasonable scared the bug right out of my body.  In an op-ed piece the California Senator co-wrote with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, some pretty sensible analysis emerges.  Keep in mind that Dianne Feinstein  is chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Dick Durbin  is assistant majority leader of the Senate.

The detention facility on our military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is holding 166 individuals. Most of them have been there a decade or more.

Operating Guantanamo costs about $450 million a year — or about $2.7 million a detainee, according to the Defense Department. Consider this: It costs $78,000 to hold a convicted terrorist in the most secure federal prison in the United States, Supermax in Colorado. With the sequester stretching budgets and Defense Department employees under furloughs, the U.S. is spending, per Guantanamo detainee, roughly 35 times the amount it spends at Supermax detaining a convicted terrorist. ...

Guantanamo has devastated our reputation as a champion of human rights, weakened our international partnerships and remains a powerful recruiting tool for terrorists.

The hopelessness at Guantanamo led detainees to go on a hunger strike this year — more than 100 at its peak. Twice a day, military personnel force-feed them with a tube inserted through their noses. For some detainees, this has been going on for more than five months. This large-scale force-feeding violates international norms and medical ethics. ...

As chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, respectively, we are committed to preventing terrorist attacks. We believe terrorists deserve swift and sure justice, and severe prison sentences. But holding detainees on an island off U.S. shores for years — without charge — is an abomination. It is not an effective administration of justice, does not serve our national security interests and is not consistent with our country's history as a champion of human rights.   [Emphasis added]

The prison is also operating in violation of several international treaties and conventions to which the US is signatory, treaties and conventions approved by Congress.

 This is one subject Mr. Hopey Changey needs to use the bully pulpit for.  He needs to speak dramatically and forcefully and embarrass Congress Critters into some sensible and meaningful action.  Perhaps he could start out by reminding them that we are not by nature a bunch of cowards, that we really do believe that the rule of law is more powerful than the threat of terrorism, real or imagined.

Is that too much to ask?


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Still Sickly

Verticality is still a challenge, so Horsey's column (which raises some interesting questions) is located here.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Day Off

I'm feeling decidedly punky, so I'm taking the day off.  There's still plenty of superb content out there on the intertubes, however, like

Ifthethunderdontgetya for superb nature photographs;

Echidne for snake goddess wisdom;

Phoenix Woman and Charles for solid analysis.

You'll enjoy them all.

Hopefully I'll be back tomorrow.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Vacation Time

(Editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman / Sacramento Bee (August 6, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

So, members of the 113th Congress left Washington DC for their 5-week summer break.  They were able to fly home (or wherever) because one of the few things they exempted from the sequester cuts was air flights.

Michael Hiltzig took notice of that fact and others in his latest column.

What has been Washington's remedy for an economy that plainly needs another shot of fiscal stimulus? The automated austerity regime known as the sequester, a package of budget cuts cynically designed to fall heaviest on our most vulnerable communities — the penniless, the disabled, the homeless and the very young. True, the sequester caused an early crisis in air travel, when it seemed that enforced furloughs of air traffic controllers would bollix up flight schedules. Congress remedied that provision, but quick. ...

The product of a political culture in which intransigence is held up as the highest form of statesmanship, the sequester is policy designed to enshrine congressional incompetence into law.

It was a gun Congress held to its own head, designed to be so lethal that our lawmakers wouldn't dare to pull the trigger, the required across-the-board budget cuts being so draconian that Congress would have no option other than to reach agreement on a more measured response. No one told the trigger finger. So as of March 1, budget cuts totaling $85 billion this year alone went into effect. ...

In the first place, the cuts will shave as much as 1.2% off gross domestic product — after inflation — through this year and next, according to the Congressional Budget Office. They'll cost as many as 1.6 million jobs over that time frame, the CBO says. That's not counting the damage that has occurred since March 1.

By the way, none of that damage affects members of Congress personally. Their salaries aren't cut by the sequester. For reference, rank-and-file senators and congressmen touch $174,000 annually, not including the millions in the agriculture subsidies they can vote for their own family farms. Take a bow, Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale)!

The people who are affected reside mostly at the other end of the income scale — for example, people dependent on public housing assistance. ...

So what was Congress up to in the weeks before it went on vacation? The House passed a dead-on-arrival measure repealing the Affordable Care Act (which of course benefits lower-income Americans) for the 40th time. The lawmakers debated a bill, introduced by the majestically useless Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), to name all coastal waters out to the U.S. 200-mile jurisdictional limit after Ronald Reagan.

All the rest has been gridlock, grandstanding and gutter politics.
There's some debate over whether this Congress has been the worst in history or merely one of the bottom two, but either way it's bad enough. For this they deserve a vacation that the average European would envy?   [Emphasis added]

Not only was Section 8 Housing Assistance cut out, so was SNAP, the first time the food aid program was separated from the Farm bill.  It's just so easy to kick the poor our congress critters can't resist.  And that leads to Hiltzig's concluding thought:

The test of a civilized society is that it looks out for its neediest members. With this Congress in place, we're failing that test.

The bastards.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Two By Toles

Published 8/5/13

Published 8/7/13

Both cartoons by Tom Toles and published in the Washington Post.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Long Eared Jeroba

(Photo snagged from Stress Effect.)

Talkin' Baseball

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich published 8/6/13 by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

I've decided to take a break from all the bad news and grief on the political scene.  Today I want to focus on an issue that has been grinding away at my last nerve for years:  juicing in baseball.  I love sports, from hockey to football, but my real love is baseball.  I played it as a kid.  I snuck into games with my brother when I was a kid, often skipping school to do so.  I loved the Brewers while that team was in Milwaukee, and I love the Dodgers since moving to Southern California, but I follow all of the teams, especially this time of year with post-season games looming.

And I'm appalled at the recent news of the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs by players.  They have decided to pollute their bodies and the game so they can pull in the big bucks.  That makes me furious.

Major League Baseball suspended a dozen players — including three all-stars — for the rest of the regular season Monday for violating the league's ban on performance-enhancing drugs, and it ordered one of the game's all-time best sluggers, Alex Rodriguez, off the field through 2014. It was a headline-grabbing crackdown that, in an encouraging sign, drew cheers from some big-league players. But it also suggests that baseball needs to do still more to deter players from trying to advance their careers by enhancing their body chemistry.

The 13 players suspended Monday — all of whom, save Rodriguez, accepted the sanction without appealing — are the latest to be brought down by the scandal at Biogenesis, a now-closed anti-aging clinic in southern Florida. None of the players were tripped up by the league's vaunted drug-testing regimen; instead, they were exposed by a whistle-blower and the Miami New Times tabloid.

That's not to say the league's testing program, which has gotten steadily tougher since it began in 2005, is ineffectual. Four other players connected with Biogensis failed drug tests in 2011 and 2012 — three of them all-stars too — and all were handed suspensions ranging from 50 to 65 games.

Still, the scandal shows that determined cheaters can often stay a step ahead of testers, even when the regimen is as stringent as baseball's. Some fans argue that the league should admit defeat and let the players do as they please. But that's ridiculous. It would turn the game into a competition between doctors, not athletes, and would send a dangerous message to kids around the world, whose path to adulthood is challenging enough without steroids, human growth hormone and synthetic testosterone.   [Emphasis added]

 First of all, the regimen for testing is most assuredly not stringent.  If it were, more of these freaks would get caught from the get-go.  The owners and staff know who's juicing, as do the player's teammates. The signs for most PEDs are pretty blatant:  personality changes (" 'roid rage"),shriveling testicles, acne lesions on the face, stomach, back, sudden growth of the shoulder, back, and leg muscles.  Someone else is taking the juicer's drug test, which is pretty hard to do in secret.

Second, those doing the juicing are making a mockery of a game which relies on skills which take years to hone.  Kids see this and feel justified in starting the drug regimen early, in high school and certainly in college.  For many of those kids, it's a way out, a way up.

So, what's the answer?

One thing that might help is to impose a huge fine on any team with players caught cheating, a fine so steep that owners have to flinch and make certain their drug testing programs are real, not easily circumvented.  Next, the owners and players' union should negotiate a clause that any player caught and suspended for the use of PEDs cannot collect salary or salary insurance from any source, no matter who paid for the policy.

That's just for a start, but I hope baseball is finally willing to take some steps.


Friday, August 09, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Shall We Dance?

(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers and published 8/6/13 by the Charlotte Observer and featured at McClatchy DC.)

President Obama has cancelled his up-coming meeting with Vladimir Putin over Russia's granting of asylum to intrepid leaker Edward Snowden.  Does this mean we are at the start of a new Cold War?  Not hardly, according to the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times.

 If President Obama's decision to cancel a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled a refusal to engage with Russia on matters of mutual interest, we'd be concerned. Although Russia lacks the superpower status of the now-defunct Soviet Union, it retains a veto on the U.N. Security Council and could still play a constructive role in resolving the civil war in Syria. The two countries also have unresolved bilateral issues, including further reductions in nuclear stockpiles and Russian objections to the deployment of a NATO anti-missile system in Poland and Romania. 

Because it doesn't end other contacts between the U.S. and Russia, cynics will say that Obama's decision to cancel the summit is political Kabuki theater and that it won't change any minds in Moscow. Perhaps not, but the president is entitled to register his objections to Russian conduct by actions as well as words. And this action speaks louder than anything Obama might have said to Putin at a ceremonial summit meeting.   [Emphasis added]

I agree with the editorial writer to the extent that this is simply an act of symbolism, theater, if you will.  But the intended audience is not Putin or the Russian people.  Rather, the intended audience is actually the American people and its Congress.  The president has chosen to demonize Snowden further so he doesn't have to deal with the real issue:  domestic spying.

No surprise there.

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Thursday, August 08, 2013

The New Newspaper Tycoon

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 8/7/13 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)

Jeff Bezos, Mr. Amazon, stunned us all by purchasing the Washington Post.  It's hard to imagine just what he has in mind for the venerable publication, but Michael Hiltzig has a few ideas.

Bezos, the founder of whose $250-million purchase of the Washington Post was announced Monday, is just the latest in a string of billionaires who have taken up or expanded their newspaper holdings this year.

Only days ago the commodity trader and Red Sox team owner John W. Henry bought the Boston Globe, which had been put on the block by New York Times Co., for a paltry $70 million. (The New York Times had purchased the Globe for $1.1 billion in 1993.) Earlier this summer Warren Buffett added the Atlantic City Press to his company's holdings of 30 medium and small newspapers.

And a number of billionaires were said to have been circling around Tribune Co.'s newspapers, which include the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, until the company put the papers' sale on hold last month.

But Bezos' play may be the most intriguing. Bezos, who is buying the Post personally, outside of Amazon's corporate structure, hasn't said what his goals or intentions are; in an open letter to Post employees he declared, "The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper's duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners. We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads."

But he also observed that "the Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition.... Charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment." ...

Bezos is one business owner who has shown he's not averse to giving up profits, at least for some lengthy period, while aiming for much greater gains in the future. The challenge he faces with the Washington Post, and the goals he may have set for himself as a newspaper magnate in the digital world, might be encompassed by another line from "Citizen Kane": "It's no trick to make a lot of money … if all you want is to make a lot of money."  [Emphasis added]

It's the experimentation which will bear watching.  Will Fred Hiatt and his stable of op-ed scribblers continue without any change?  Will the journalists continue their stenographic ways?

This is going to be interesting to watch as the real story unfolds.


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

With More To Come

David Horsey predicts the obstructionism from Tea Party Loons will continue for at least the next year, possibly well into the next Congress.

While normal human beings are spending sunny August days at the beach or the lake or on the road with the kids, tea party activists are crowding into town hall meetings with members of Congress and screeching at the top of their lungs about the imagined evils of Obamacare.

The aim of all this right-wing activism is to get Congress to defund the comprehensive healthcare law that was passed back in the bygone days when Democrats controlled the House and Senate and President Obama had dreams of actually getting something done in his first term. Now, though he has won a second term in office, Obama is blocked on every front by the GOP-controlled House and the filibuster-addicted Senate Republicans. ...

Republicans, conservative lobbying groups and tea party organizers are doing their best to put together one-sided gatherings in which only condemnations of the healthcare law are heard. Back in 2010, that tactic worked pretty well and facilitated the GOP takeover of the House of Representatives in the fall election. At that time, Democratic lawmakers ran away from what they had achieved in passing the Affordable Care Act, leaving the right wing free to set the debate agenda.
This time, the situation may be different. Americans have had time to live with the law and discover that no one is sending Granny to a death camp, and liberals have not been cowering in the corner. Democratic Party activists are putting together a counteroffensive directed by two groups, Americans United for Change and Protect Your Care. It would be a surprise if they were able to summon up a force equal to the frenzied, angry tea party horde, but at least the right wing propaganda will not go unanswered.   [Emphasis added]

I think a combination of the rebuttals from Democrats and the kicking in of various provisions of the ACA (including the shrinking and eventual ending of the donut hole for meds) will certainly have some impact.

But I don't think it will quiet the loons, nor do I think moderate Republicans (what few are left) will dare challenge the Tea Partiers.  That means the 114th Congress will be as obstructionist as the 113th even in the unlikely event Democrats pick up a few more seats.

It's going to be a long four three years.

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Tuesday, August 06, 2013

It's My Birthday

Today is my 67th birthday.  Presents are not mandatory, but if you are fortunate enough to have some spare cash lying around, please feel free to hit the donate button.  No, I'm not about to be evicted or thrown into debtors' prison, but it would be nice to have a little walking-around money, enough cash to make my Medicare co-payments at the time of the doctor's visit and such like.

As I've said in the past, August 6 is an interesting date.  Orthodox Christians celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration on this date, when Jesus went up on Mount Tabor to pray with his disciples and they saw him suddenly start glowing.  That's kind of ironic, given what else the date is famous for.

On this date in 1945, the US dropped in atomic bomb on the people of Hiroshima, causing a deadly glow of its own and ushering in the nuclear age.

And then in 2001, on August 6, President George W. Bush waved off a CIA officer trying to deliver his Presidential Daily Briefing warning that Al Qaeda was about to attack.  On September 11, they did just that and set in motion events which have essentially defined events since then.

With the post 9/11 attacks came the Patriot Acts which get renewed with great regularity.  Those acts made it possible, even justifiable for the massive spying program of the NSA, a program with no real oversight.  We are all now subject to having our emails, our regular mail, and, yes, our blog posts monitored by the government, First and Fourth Amendments be damned.

It's been a rough year for civil libertarians, especially progressive ones.  More time and effort has been spent on spying on us than dealing with very real problems like the economy and the environment. 

So it hasn't been a very good year for me, or the rest of the world for that matter.  I guess our charge is to keep plugging along and doing what we can to change things.  But I'm 67 and I'm getting worn out.

I'm counting on you folks to keep things moving.  That would be the best birthday present of all.

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Monday, August 05, 2013

Internal War

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

Doyle McManus took a look at the GOP and noted that the war over who owns the brand continues, and will presumably continue throughout the next year.

We've all grown used to a Congress locked in bitter warfare between two parties, producing gridlock on federal spending and other pressing issues. But the Congress that left Washington last week hit a new high in another category: gridlock among Republicans. ...

How divided are Republicans in Congress? So divided, one conservative joked, that it shouldn't be called a civil war: "It's not organized enough for that." ...

Every political party has its factions, of course. And parties that have recently lost presidential elections — as the GOP just did — are often the most divided.

But the current brawl in the GOP seems more destructive and personal than most. McCain has called Paul and Cruz "wacko birds," for example, while Cruz called his GOP critics the "surrender caucus." Christie warned that Paul's views were "very dangerous." Paul responded by calling Christie "the king of bacon." ...

But perhaps the biggest problem the Republicans have is one of leadership. When asked to identify the leader of the Republican Party, the first-place winner in the Pew poll was, accurately enough, "nobody."

"The single biggest difference is the disappearance of an organized establishment," said Richard Norton Smith, a historian at George Mason University who has written several books on GOP history.   [Emphasis added]

And the disputes range from immigration, to the budget, to Obamacare and beyond.  I would argue that it's not merely the Tea Partiers versus the establishment, but the Tea Parties vs. the Libertoonians vs. the Moderates (what few there are left).  I'd be very surprised if that changed in the coming year and during the 2014 elections.

That means gridlock for at least two more years unless the Democrats make some amazing gains in 2014, and I'm not to optimistic about that.

Even popcorn doesn't take the edge off a non-functioning Congress.

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Sunday, August 04, 2013

Sunday Funnies: 2-fer

Political cartoon by Matt Wuerker, 8/1/13, and published at the Daily Kos.

Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich, 7/31/13, and published by the  Atlanta Journal Constitution.


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Tardigrade

(Photograph by Eye of Science, Science Source and published at National Geographic.  Click on link to learn more about this tiny creature.  And, no, it wasn't dressed up for this picture:  this is what it actually looks like.)

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (June 3, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

Open Secrets marked a memorable milestone last week, one that shows why those of us in the 99% can't seem to make any headway.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has made big news with the filing of a simple quarterly report.

When the behemoth business trade group reported its lobbying numbers for the second quarter of 2013 on Monday, it set a new record: The Chamber became the first organization to report lobbying expenditures of more than $1 billion, according to Reporting that it spent $19.11 million from April through June, its grand total now stands at $1,002,845,680 since 1998, when the Center for Responsive Politics began tracking lobbying data. ...

In 2012 alone, the Chamber -- which boasts a business membership in the hundreds of thousands -- devoted $136.3 million to influencing government policy, more than triple the total of the second highest spender. In fact, the lobbying expenditures of the next five firms added together still wouldn't equal the Chamber's outlays.

Yet the Chamber, which did not respond to requests for comment on this story, spent even more in previous years. In 2010, it dished out an all-time high $157.2 million on lobbying; 2009 was a close second....

In the 2012 election cycle, the PAC gave just $222,500 to federal candidates -- 89 percent of it to Republicans. And the rightward lean was no anomaly: In six of the last eight election cycles, the lobbying organization's PAC sent more than 82 percent of its cash to Republicans. The best that Democrats have been able to do was in the 2008 cycle, when they captured 37 percent of the PAC's gifts. But that didn't last long, as the figure dropped right back to 12 percent in 2010.

The Chamber used its treasury to make a far bigger partisan splash, giving $2.25 million to the Republican Governors Association in the most recent cycle and more than $4 million to the Republican State Leadership Committee (both are most active in state, not federal, politics); on the other side, the Democratic Governors Association was given just $100,000.    [Emphasis added]

A billion dollars over 15 years, most of it to the GOP.  That's a pretty hefty figure, but what really shocks me is the amount of money given on the state level, quite clearly to affect local affairs.  That would certainly explain a few things, wouldn't it?

It's pretty hard for us to compete with that kind of money.  Probably impossible.

Again, I'm not that optimistic. 


Friday, August 02, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Sleazy Is As Sleazy Does

David Horsey makes a pretty strong point with his cartoon and column from August 1.  Weiner's behavior was indeed scandalous, but then so has the behavior of most members of Congress been (both sides of the aisle).

All but a few macho holdouts among the let-men-be-men faction agree that Anthony Weiner is not worthy of becoming mayor of America’s biggest city, but there is a perennial threat to our democracy that is far larger than the turgid tweets of the former congressman from New York. That threat is the ongoing whoredom of members of Congress who remain in office.

It is no secret that our senators and representatives expend a significant amount of time and effort every week of the year soliciting campaign donations from lobbyists for corporations and other special interest groups and from fat cat donors who have interests of their own. Most who take the cash will insist that they are not selling their votes and, in most cases, that may be technically correct. The reality, though, is that all that money drives the congressional agenda and buys an open door into the rooms where legislation is crafted. The votes automatically follow.

Certainly, there are a few men and women in Washington whose motives and philosophy are so pure that money does not sway them, but, too often, the money shapes the philosophy and justifies the motives. ...   [Emphasis added]

Congressional freshmen are told to plan at least four hours each and every day raising funds for the next election.  The amount of email requests I get the last few days of each month lends some credence to that assertion.  Raise the money, get re-elected, take care of your donors.  Unfortunately, small time donors like the 99% of us don't given enough to really get their attention.

And now our Congress critters are beginning their 5-week recess.  When they return they will be in full election mode for 2014.  Little has been done this past year.  I suspect even less will be done in the next year.

Well, they might be foolish enough to shut down the government, but that would require some action, and I'm not sure this congress is capable of that.

I am not optimistic.

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Thursday, August 01, 2013

Pesky Little Gnats

(Editorial cartoon by Steve Sack, published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and featured 6/28/13 at the Denver Post.)

The Bradley Manning verdicts are in (it looks like he'll be spending most of the rest of his life in prison) and Edward Snowden remains in limbo at a Russian airport.  Both men were foolish enough to believe that the American people and the world needed to know about the massive spying program undertaken by the US government.  Now both men are suffering for their naivete.

Michael McGough has an op-ed up at the Los Angeles Times which acknowledges the contribution both young men have made.

They call it the “Snowden effect.” Whatever you think of fugitive former National Security Agency consultant Edward J. Snowden -- hero, traitor, something in between -- his revelations about electronic surveillance programs have inspired a debate about broad questions of policy that was impossible because of the secrecy that enshrouded the programs themselves and their legal rationale. And that debate in turn has prompted defenders of the program to acknowledge that it can be reformed. ...

The improvements Feinstein proposes fall short of abolishing the bulk collection of telephone metadata unrelated to a specific terrorism investigation. But would even these refinements be on the table if Snowden hadn’t released information about the metadata program? Would President Obama be inviting congressional critics of the program (along with supporters) to the White House? According to Politico, the president will host a powwow on the surveillance program Thursday.

And without Snowden’s revelations, which continued Wednesday with a report in the Guardian about a versatile search program called XKeyscore, would the Senate Judiciary Committee be discussing changes in the way the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court operates and in how its judges are selected? Would the administration have released key documents about the metadata program, as it did Wednesday?   [Emphasis added]

As McGough put it, "not bloody likely."

Unfortunately about all that will be done is a few cosmetic patches will be loosely stuck on the programs, nothing more.  The spying will continue.  There will be no pardons.

We can't expect anything more.  After all, the administration has bound all government employees to the same secrecy, asking them to spy on each other and to report anything "suspicious."

Transparency in government?

It is to die for.

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