Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bonus Critter Blogging: Guanaco

(Photo by Ary Bassous and published at National Geographic.  Click on link for more pictures of this Chilean beauty.)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday Funnies: A Two-Fer

Cartoon by Joel Pett, published 5/9/14 in the Lexington Herald Leader and featured at McClatchy DC.

Cartoon by Matt Wuerker and published 5/8/14  at the Daily Kos.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bonus Critter Blogging: Scandinavian Arctic Fox

Photograph by Tomas Meijer and published at National Geographic.  Click on link to learn more about these cute and fuzzies.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Friday Cat Blogging

Schroedinger was wrong.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


(*Don't Get Out The Vote)

(Cartoon by Lee Judge, published 5/4/14 in the Kansas City Star and featured at Mc Clatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

As I pointed out in a recent post, primary season for the off-year elections is at hand, and one of the difficulties challengers face is getting people to actually vote.  Part of the problem is that when there isn't a presidential election at hand, people tend to not have any great interest in exercising one of their most basic rights in a democracy.

But there's another reason eligible voters don't turn out:  many states have made it difficult for them to vote.  Thanks to Republican-led legislatures, laws have been drafted requiring special identification at the polls and limiting early voting and vote-by mail.  These requirements make it especially difficult for those without transportation or with long work-days to actually get to the polls and to vote.  This hits hard certain elements of the electorate:  the poor, the elderly, and those without easy access to birth certificates.

The Los Angeles Times took a look at the situation in a recent article:

A federal judge recently struck down a Wisconsin law that would have required voters to present a photo ID in order to vote, one in a series of judicial rulings addressing how states can control who gets to cast a ballot.

A slew of voter ID laws were passed after the 2010 election gave Republicans control of both branches of legislature in many states. Supporters say the laws prevent fraud at the polls.
But studies indicate that fraud is virtually nonexistent, and that states that saw higher minority turnout were more likely to pass voter ID laws, said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

"We haven’t seen a legislative movement like this since Reconstruction," she said.
Many of the laws went into effect in 2013 after the U.S. Supreme Court, in Shelby County vs. Holder,  struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act that required certain areas, such as states in the South, to get federal approval before changing their voting laws.

The Wisconsin case was significant because U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman ruled that Wisconsin's law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, an argument that had not been frequently used in voting rights case. Section 2 prohibits voting practices that discriminate against minorities. Adelman wrote that the law made it harder for minorities to vote.  [Emphasis added]

And it's not just southern states which have passed such onerous laws.  States like North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island also have found a way to suppress the vote.  Most of those state legislatures have had help in drafting the law in ways to circumvent challenges, and the help comes from such groups as ALEC, funded in large part by the infamous Koch Brothers.  The organization's web site presents such "models" to illustrate my point.  From the dismantling of Affirmative Action to outright vote suppression to the elimination of capital gains taxes:  ALEC has all the legislators need.

There be monsters here.  Ugly democracy-killing monsters.

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Monday, May 05, 2014

Stone Him!

(Cartoon by Joel Pett, published 5/4/14 in the Lexington Herald-Leader and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I keep waiting for the people of this country to finally be so shocked by yet another botched execution that the death penalty will become a shameful action relegated to the past.  Obviously the time hasn't yet come.  After the latest horror story in Oklahoma, the most people are willing to concede is that death by lethal injection can be awfully painful, and maybe we ought to find a more "humane" way for the state to kill.

Here's how some state officials reacted to that latest execution as noted in McClatchy DC:

After a grisly history of electrocutions, gassings, hangings and firing squads, it is the cold, quiet science of lethal injections that has become America's most common and favored method of executing its worst criminals.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled six years ago that such injections did not violate the Constitution's provisions against cruel and unusual punishment, clearing the way for states to administer the lethal cocktails under their own, sometimes secretive, protocols.

But a gruesome lethal injection gone wrong in Oklahoma has dealt death penalty supporters a potentially stunning setback this week, coming at a time when popular support for capital punishment has fallen and reliable lethal-injection chemicals are becoming harder and harder to get.

Clayton Lockett's unwieldy execution has triggered an already controversial internal investigation and prompted calls for a lethal-injection moratorium across the U.S., with experts predicting the Supreme Court will face greater pressure to rule on whether states can refuse to tell inmates the makeup of the drugs that are being used to end their lives.

"The public has a right to know how we are carrying out this very grave responsibility of the state," said Oklahoma state Sen. Connie Johnson, one of several state lawmakers calling Wednesday for a yearlong moratorium on executions in the state. "This is the worst thing that the government does. This ought to be the most transparent."   [Emphasis added]

Execution for the commission of a crime, any crime, is barbaric.  The language used in the article (especially the part I've emphasized) makes the point beautifully, and (I suspect) that is the point.  Most civilized nations have outlawed it, and I don't see how their murder rates have soared as a result.  Clearly the death penalty is not a deterrent.  It is a form of revenge, and we ought to be beyond that phase.

At this point, I guess the most we can hope for is that less painful, gentler method of committing state sanctioned murder that I mentioned at the start.

Kyrie Eleison.

Read more here:


Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sunday Funnies

Cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 5/2/14 in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Cartoon by Jim Morin, published 5/1/14 in the Miami Herald and featured at McClatchy DC.

Cartoon by Lee Judge, published 5/1/14 in the Kansas City Star and featured at McClatchy DC.

(As always, click on the images to enlarge.)


Saturday, May 03, 2014

Bonus Critter Blogging: Atlantic Wolf Fish

(Photograph by David Doublet and Jennifer Haynes, published in National Geographic.  Click on link to see pictures of other critters in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Click on image to enlarge.)


(Cartoon by Ben Sargent, published 4/16/14 in  the Austin American-Statesman, and found through a Washington Post link.  Click on image to enlarge.)

It's that rather dullish part of the presidential election cycle:  it's too early for any serious campaigning before the public.  Instead the candidates are busy raising funds and seeking the imprimaturs from the heavy-hitting big donors. 

Congressional candidates, on the other hand, are busy scurrying around their districts and states in an attempt to both raise funds and to garner votes from their constituents for the June primaries and the November elections.  Incumbents are dividing their time between doing nothing in Washington D.C. and giving speeches back home about how hard they're working.  Their opponents don't have to do quite the traveling, but they have a tougher time establishing name recognition and motivating their party to pay attention and to help get out the vote.  Voter turn-out tends to be dramatically lower in these "off-year" elections.

That's probably the reason why there's been a resurgence of trash-talking during campaigns.  Immigration reform is off the table, so anti-immigrant sentiments are expressed freely by the GOP, especially since Ted Cruz isn't involved in any major race.  Benghazi will continue to be investigated by the fourth or fifth House Committee because Hillary Clinton will probably declare one way or the other after November.

Kind of a boring time on the election circuit. Even I'm having a hard time getting motivated.


Friday, May 02, 2014

Friday Cat Blogging

Wanted: Doves, Lots And Lots Of Doves

(Cartoon by Yaakov Kirschen and published 5/1/14 at his blog, Dry Bones.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I often disagree with Yaakov Kirschen, the Israeli cartoonist who provides today's pictorial comment, but he raises an interesting point when it comes to the situation involving the Ukraine and Russia.  For some reason, Americans always want easily identifiable good guys and bad guys whenever it comes to a dispute.  Whether it's a fight between neighbors or a fight between neighboring countries, we want to be able to pick the "right" side.  Unfortunately, in the real world, such is almost never the case, and it certainly is not in this situation.

That said, however, Mr. Putin's move into the Ukraine is certainly cause for concern throughout the world, especially in central and eastern Europe.  It is also likely that his move is a violation of several treaties and conventions, which in itself is a worrisome state of affairs.  While I understand the concern and the worry, I do not understand the rumbling coming from various conservatives here in the US suggesting that the president needs to get tough, to take a stand, and (God forbid) send in the troops.  The last thing we and the rest of the world needs is sabre rattling and the commitment of US and NATO troops to "saving" the integrity of the Ukraine.

Unfortunately, President Obama seems to be giving in a little to the conservatives' call for definite action.

From the Los Angeles Times:

In a further sign of mounting tensions between Russia and its former Soviet neighbors, the Russian military ordered a new airborne unit to begin helicopter training missions along the western borders with the now-independent Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The maneuvers were called in response to an "unprecedented" increase in NATO military activity near Russia amid the Ukrainian crisis, the RIA Novosti news agency said, attributing the comments to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization last week ordered stepped-up air patrols of its member states bordering Russia, to reassure allies once under Moscow's domination that the alliance will defend them in the event of Russian aggression.

Hopefully that will be the extent of the involvement.  Hopefully the administration will continue the talks between the Russian Defense Minister and the U.S. Secretary of Defense to defuse some of the tension that is beginning to arise between the two countries.  And, just as important, hopefully Mr. Putin will take the hint from the increasing sanctions being imposed by the president and will withdraw troops threatening to move from their current stations in the Ukraine.

Neither nation needs another Cold War. Nor does the rest of the world.

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Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Cuckoo's Nest: My Rules

Now that I'm feeling a little better and can spend more than a couple of minutes sitting up, I thought I'd post on the rules I would put in place if I were Queen of the Cuckoo's Nest.  The rules are directed to visitors to the joint:  you know, the friends and relatives who feel bad that one of their own has to live in an assisted living facility.

First (and I do mean FIRST), if you don't feel well, or are coming down with something or are just getting over something, please don't drop by.  Most of us have compromised immune systems, which means we'll all get whatever it is you are inadvertently sharing.  And the people who work here will probably get it as well, which means they'll be taking the bug home to their families.  Stay home.  Get well.  Then come visit.

Try to let your family member/friend know when you'll be coming.  If it's a spur-of-the-moment decision, you'll still be welcome, but you may be "interrupting" something your visitee enjoys doing, like eating a regularly scheduled meal, or watching a favorite TV program, or playing Bingo with the other residents.  Sometimes that's OK, but sometimes it puts your visitee in the position of making an unwelcome choice.

If you're planning to take your relative or friend out for more than just a ride or a quick visit to the local fast food joint (which we all enjoy once in a while), make sure you let the facility know.  Residents often are on a medication schedule and you may need to take medication (and instructions when and how to administer it) with you.  When I go out with the angel who visits me regularly, I have to take my portable oxygen unit and emergency inhaler and pills which I normally take at meal time.  If your relative/friend is incontinent, you may need to pick up a couple of "pull-ups" along, just in case.

Do not assume that everyone in the facility you are visiting is deaf.  Some of us do have hearing problems, but shouting at us isn't being kind to us or anyone else in the area.  The rest of us don't need to know that Uncle Sherman has been indicted, nor do we particularly care.

Also, do not assume that everyone is senile.  Most of us can still tell when we are being treated as children and we resent the hell out of that.  A smile and a friendly greeting always works.  Patting us on the head never does.  You got that?

Finally, at least for this session, be nice to all the care-givers and workers at the facility.  Theirs is often a difficult job, one that is always under-paid.  Saying "Thank You" to them will make them happy and will make your visitee proud.

And now I'm gonna go watch Katie Couric for a while.