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QUOTE  Mention [Texas House Speaker Tom] Craddick's name and the words "mean," "small" and "autocratic" come up. I've heard him called autocratic so often I'm surprised they haven't started calling him Otto - as in "Otto" Craddick. - John Kelso, Austin American-Statesman  QUOTE
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I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat! Steve Bates,
The Yellow Doggerel Democrat
POLITICAL GRAVITY -- POLITICAL LEVITY -- VERSE AND WORSE
I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat!

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for May 2007 (cont'd)

 


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Fortune Cookie

From today's (non-organically-grown, probably GMO-laden, possibly melanine-containing, surely at least MSG-filled) Chinese buffet meal:

When you use force
Not even your shoes fit.

Ain't it the truth.

Steve
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Oh Yeah, That Should Work

Reuters:

WASHINGTON, May 30 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush would like to see a lengthy U.S. troop presence in Iraq like the one in South Korea to provide stability but not in a frontline combat role, the White House said on Wednesday.

The United States has had thousands of U.S. troops in South Korea to guard against a North Korean invasion for 50 years.

Democrats in control of the U.S. Congress have been pressing Bush to agree to a timetable for pulling troops from Iraq, an idea firmly opposed by the president.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush would like to see a U.S. role in Iraq ultimately similar to that in South Korea.

"The Korean model is one in which the United States provides a security presence, but you've had the development of a successful democracy in South Korea over a period of years, and, therefore, the United States is there as a force of stability," Snow told reporters.

     ...

(Emphasis mine.)

H/T Josh Marshall, who offers a lucid analysis of why this is the worst crack-brained idea since... well, since Bush's last crack-brained idea. Hint: Iraq is nothing like Korea, and US involvement in Iraq is nothing like US involvement in Korea, in any aspect relevant to such a plan. But please read what Josh wrote.

Steve
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The War Prayer

... by Mark Twain, as you've never experienced it before.

(Allow yourself some time for contemplation afterward. Not suitable as bedtime viewing.)

Steve
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Frankenfood Wins A Round

... or, arguably, two rounds. Recently, ellroon and Fallenmonk have written on the companion subjects of how organically produced food is defined (the USDA has just changed that definition, and not for the more restrictive) and the whole large question of the potential and/or demonstrated effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food supply on human health. Fallenmonk and ellroon point to two  posts by Kirk James Murphy, MD on Firedoglake, broadly addressing those issues. The posts and the comment threads are both worth your time (though the comments can be gritty going, as presumed food industry or pesticide industry hostiles assault Dr. Murphy in classic concern-troll fashion). I'm not going to summarize Dr. Murphy's posts; if you're interested in what you're eating without knowing it, you'll read them yourselves.

Though I've been a vegetarian for about 25 years, I came late to the Frankenfood debate. Questions about the deleterious effects of many pesticides on the human organism were already largely resolved in my mind by the time I chose to become a sprout-eater, but I, being of an age at which I've surely consumed enough DDT in my youth to kill a large horse, continued (and continue) to eat chemically grown foods (OK, "conventionally" grown foods, if you're a Whole Foods manager) with pesticides presumably less immediately toxic than DDT. That's an awfully big presumption, I know, and I may live... or die... to regret it. But that's where I stand at the moment, not in deep shit, but in deep chemical fertilizer. Over the past year or so, my diet has migrated from mostly chemically grown food to perhaps just under half organically grown. It ain't cheap, and it isn't always easy, but I am gradually changing my eating habits toward organic produce, dairy, etc.

Enter the question of GMOs, sometimes called "Frankenfoods." They take the question of chemical intervention in food production to a whole new level, quite beyond fertilizers and pesticides: they splice into plants some genes taken from other organisms altogether. The results are unpredictable, not only in the original insertion but in later generations.

Why does this matter? It's just an experiment, right? You can still get organically grown food, right? The answer to the second question is that the range of the experiment is the entire of agriculture on the planet, because there is no way of isolating an organically grown plant from pollination by a nearby GMO plant. The answer to the third question is a definite "maybe," because USDA has just introduced changes to the regulations that would allow industrial agriculture and pesticide producers to label food "organic" even if it contains some ingredients produced with chemicals. And even if everything is properly labeled (as I suspect many current small growers of organic produce will continue to do, as a matter of good faith), there's the question of contamination by cross-pollination by GMOs. Does that answer the first question for you? Monsanto may be wreaking an irreversible change in the genetic content of all produce everywhere.

Is the transition pernicious? I do not know. I am not inalterably opposed to all uses of genetic modification techniques; such techniques show real promise in the battle against the few remaining widespread and damnably challenging diseases for which no cure is known. But given that we don't know the long-term results of applying small, non-natural genetic changes to the crops we eat, it seems a really bad idea to bet the farm (so to speak) that they will have no catastrophic effects today or next year or next century.

Many proponents of GMO foods belittle my concerns, saying that every species alive today has experienced thousands (at least) of random mutations in its genetic makeup in the normal working out of evolution. That much is true. But the resulting species are the survivors of the process... the organisms in which these random mutations have produced beneficial, or at least neutral, changes in the ability of the organisms to survive in their habitats and to reproduce themselves. Mother Nature has as long as it takes, with an unlimited number of failures along the way, to happen upon mutations that confer survival advantages on the evolutionary winners among species. We have limited time, and absolutely no slack for error, if we attempt to introduce genetic mutations that may or may not benefit our species in particular, by enhancing or diminishing... or even destroying... the survivability of our agricultural crops.

Putting aside for a moment (but only a moment) the potential long-term catastrophe, what about us as individuals? Should a person in a free society at least have the opportunity to know what she is eating, whether chemical pesticides and fertilizers were used in its production, and most especially whether its genes have been tampered with? The EU seems to think so. The US? not so much. Not only has the USDA introduced proposed changes to the definition of "organic," but a provision has been inserted in the farm bill that would prohibit state and local governments from imposing additional safety and labeling requirements on foods, beyond those approved by the Secretary of Agriculture. If these foods are so manifestly safe, why are both the producers and our corporatocracy federal government so reluctant to tell us what we are eating, or allow us to impose restrictions on it?

Steve
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Angle Of The Dangling Participle

It's time for something political... and silly. The following quote is from a press release by a staffer (and blogger) for one of the best, hardest-working, most passionately dedicated Democratic State Representatives in the whole Texas Lege, so I'll quote it anonymously rather than dwell on whose error it was. The content is right on target, but as my late mother used to ask me, with my grandmother in full sight, "Where's your grammar?"

(Austin) - House Democratic leaders lamented the close of the 80th Regular Session as another session that failed the people of Texas. Marred by cover up, chaos, and a costly failure of leadership, many House Democratic leaders said the session will be remembered as the "session of missed opportunities."

For the record... "many House Democratic leaders" are not "[m]arred by cover up, chaos, and a costly failure of leadership"; that dubious distinction belongs to their opponents, who control the Texas House at the moment. But the 80th Regular Session... we have a regular session every two years, and an irregular special session several times a year when Gov. Goodhair can't get his work done in regular session... was indeed a mess. Call it welfare if you like: the Texas Lege provides the poor with free entertainment whenever the Lege is in session. You can't say Texas isn't a full-service state.

Steve
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R.I.P. Carla 1956-2007

Stella's sister Carla was a generous soul with a passionate sense of fairness. (Did I mention that Carla was a Democrat?) We miss her a lot. Her time on this Earth was far too short from our perspective, but Carla faced many ongoing medical problems, and she is now free of her burdens. Godspeed, Carla.

In my previous post, I offered a poem by Archibald MacLeish for the war dead, written early in W.W. II. Let me offer a very different kind of poem for Carla, this one by 17th-century poet, musician and man of the cloth, George Herbert (the poem is probably known best through its choral setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams):

Virtue

Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky:
The dew shall weep thy fall tonight;
For thou must die.

Sweet rose, whose hue angry and brave
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye:
Thy root is ever in its grave,
And thou must die.

Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie;
My music shows ye have your closes,
And all must die.

Only a sweet and virtuous soul,
Like seasoned timber, never gives;
But though the whole world turn to coal,
Then chiefly lives.

- George Herbert

R.I.P., Carla; we miss you. The memorial service will be on the morning of June 2.

Steve
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The Young Dead Soldiers

(I am reproducing my Memorial Day post from last year. It is regrettably still appropriate, and between the ongoing needless death in the international arena and the highly personal experience of death here at home, I do not have it in me to write a better one. Heaven help us all, I believe the Devils-in-Chief are about to start another pre-emptive, invasive war of aggression. How many more young people must we memorialize a year from now, if Congress does not find the courage to put a stop to the doings of two madmen? Last year's post follows, unchanged...)


Archibald MacLeish, c. 1941:

THE YOUNG DEAD SOLDIERS DO NOT SPEAK

   Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them?

   They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.

   They say, We were young. We have died. Remember us.

   They say, We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done.

   They say, We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave.

   They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them.

   They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say: it is you who must say this.

   They say, We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.

   We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us.

Is war inevitable? is it part of human nature? I don't know. Even if it is, there is a lot of human nature we put aside in the interest of civilization. We have laws against murder, rape, robbery and other heinous crimes, all of which are arguably products of human nature.

People who start wars in the absence of physical threats against themselves... terrorists and neocon's alike... are engaged in uncivilized behavior. War, absent a legitimate casus belli, is another heinous crime. So are some of the more extreme practices of war: we have laws against that sort of uncivilized behavior, too; they are embedded in international treaties and conventions to which the U.S. is legally and constitutionally committed as surely as to its own domestic laws.

The only way we can give meaning to the deaths of the fallen is to take our grief and anger and redirect them into a re-establishment of civilization. Civilization entails freedom, democracy, and peace... or at least the absence of meaningless war... as a steady state. There is no victory in a preemptive, invasive, endless war of the sort our current administration has inflicted upon us, and may again inflict upon us. There is only chaos... and more young dead soldiers and civilians.

As to those who have died already, remember them. Give their deaths meaning. "Give them an end to the war and a true peace."

Steve
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Saturday Signs

Incivility warning: this post contains propane language!



Spare tank? No thanks... for a number of years, I had a spare tire, and I am happy to be rid of most of that.

Steve
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The Texas Bible Bill Revisited

(This post started life as a comment in reply to jams o donnell's comment regarding my post below on the bill the Texas Senate passed permitting or requiring the teaching of academic classes about the Bible in Texas public schools. jams discusses the system in the UK; it is worth your time to read his comment first.)

I have absolutely no problem with teaching the Bible... whichever of the 157 varieties suits you... in private religious schools. Indeed, it is an American citizen's constitutional right to do that... in private religious schools. It is also that citizen's right to pray, individually or in groups, in public schools... as long as the prayers are not state-sponsored, e.g., as long as the school doesn't read prayers over the public address system to classrooms full of captive students.

It is the notion of state sponsorship... or suppression... of religion in general or any religion in particular that our founders were so wary of. That's what the very first clause of the First Amendment is all about. Madison and Jefferson both wrote about the necessity of separating church and state in a religiously pluralistic society such as ours; Jefferson used the metaphor of a "wall of separation" between them. From the founders' era forward, there have always been Americans eager to breach that wall. Some of us see it as our task to stop them. Indeed, more than a few Christian ministers want to see the wall undamaged.

To a UU like me, the Christian Bible is an interesting document, containing some questionable history, some good (and some not-so-good) moral advice, some good (and again some not-so-good) fiction, and a lot of sex and violence that some Christians choose to ignore. Yes, we study it, but it is no more and no less a holy book to us than, say, a volume of Shakespeare's complete works. If the purpose of this bill were to teach the Bible... and the Torah, and the Quran, and a dozen other religions' holy books... as literature, I would have no objection... but that is clearly not the intent of the bill or of its sponsors. We UU's live here, too, and most of us are unwilling to see public sponsorship of any kind of Christianity or any other religion, especially in the public schools. If the First Amendment doesn't prohibit such taxpayer-funded proselytizing, then it doesn't mean very much.

I think it is unlikely this bill, presuming it becomes law, will pass constitutional muster. But those things take years to determine. It troubles me greatly that there is an entire movement dedicated to turning the U.S. into a "Christian nation"; our founders are surely turning in their graves at the notion.


ellroon offers a video about the intent of the dominionists regarding the U.S. government. The presentation is rather drab, but the content is terrifying. You might want to view it.

Steve
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Correction To Dell Story

According to Jeremy Reimer of Ars Technica (which has a splendid slogan on its new web front, "New Face. Same Ars."), Dell is selling its new Ubuntu Linux machines at $50 less than comparable Windows machines. The YDD is uncertain why Wired said otherwise as noted in my post below. The Ars Technica article mentions specific models and prices, apparently taken from the Dell announcement. The YDD regrets the error. What kind of world is it, when you can't trust Wired.  <snark />

Steve
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Friday Family Drinking Blogging

Why, yes, we all share drinking glasses; why do you ask?



I know, I know: we shouldn't encourage the children in bad habits. But they seem convinced that the water in those glasses is somehow superior to the very same water in their bowls.

(The real challenge was taking this picture with my right hand, arm extended to gain a suitable distance.)

Steve
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Bible Thumping In Public Schools

Well, OK, the Texas Senate passed the legislation authorizing (mandating? no one seems sure) academic study of the Bible in public school classrooms, and it's headed for Gov. Goodhair's desk. One can well imagine where else this is headed.

But thanks to the inimitable CEWDEM's Democratic email list (CEWDEM is Carl Whitmarsh), we have a wonderful commentary by State Democratic Executive Committee member Sheryl Roppolo. I trust none of the parties involved will mind if I reproduce Ms. Roppolo's unofficial response, as received on CEWDEM's list:

I believe that the Bible Class legislation may be the single most important law passed this session.

We will have a ready base to pray for all the children left off the CHIP roll.....hey some of them may be praying for themselves.

We will have a ready base to pray for all the elderly folks who have to choose between paying for thier medicines and paying for electricity.......since the electricity bill relief legislation was severly diluted.

We will have a ready base to pray for the protection of our borders.

We will have a ready base to pray for all of the people for whom stem cell research may have brought relief from their pain.

We will have a ready base to pray for a wizard who might bring hearts, brains and courage to Bush, Cheney, Perry, Duhurst, and Craddick.

God help us all.

Sheryl Roppolo
Channelview, Harris County, Texas

You got that right, Sheryl... God help us all!

Steve
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Book Blogging: The Annotated Sherlock Holmes

This one will be brief. Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes needs no introduction. And among Sherlockians (amateur enthusiasts like me) and Holmesians (serious Holmes scholars) alike, William S. Baring-Gould, arguably the finest Holmes scholar of the 20th century, likewise requires no introduction. Baring-Gould contributed his own Holmes fiction in an unusual form: a fictional biography of the great detective, Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. And he wasn't above a bit of fun, offering us The Lure of the Limerick as well.

But there is no doubt that Baring-Gould's magnum opus is The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, a gigantic two-volume work from 1967 comprising all the novels and short stories of "the canon" with Baring-Gould's own copious annotations in columns beside the text. (See LibraryThing, right column, for a link.) Baring-Gould died that same year; draw what conclusions you wish from that.

Needless to say, I've coveted this work for years. Recently I found a set in good condition in a local used book store for half-price... half the 1967 price. I know they're not rare or scarce, but I can tell you now that for a Holmes enthusiast, there is nothing quite so fine as holding in one's hands a large, lovely pair of... hardbound volumes like these.


Researching this post, I ran across an assertion that there is an intentional similarity between Sherlock Holmes and Gregory House, M.D. Oh, really? All I can say is that it takes a heap o' limpin' to make a House a Holmes. (Steve runs for the door very, very fast...)

Steve
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This Does Not Look Good

AP via Houston Chronicle:

WASHINGTON ó President Bush said he supports a $120 billion war spending bill on track to pass today, ending weeks of wrangling with Democrats on whether to end the war.

     ...

The House voted 218-201 to advance the measure, paving the way for a final vote later that day. Democrats, who said they were disappointed with the White House deal, agreed not to block debate so long as the House would vote later this year on a separate proposal to bring troops come home before July 2008.

"I hate this agreement," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

     ...

So do I. As I noted in comments, the Democratic leadership has managed to do what Bush, in all his hostility and partisan ranting, has been unable to do: split the Democratic caucus on the continuation of the Iraq war. Thanks a lot, guys 'n' gals; you may be sure that I won't forget this when I receive requests for campaign contributions.

Steve
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Dell Behaves Like Dell

Is anyone really surprised? Dell announced its new laptops running Ubuntu Linux 7.04... and they are priced the same as comparable Windows machines, despite the fact that Ubuntu Linux is free, Ubuntu Linux support is free, and the usual office software and web software shipped and installed with Ubuntu Linux (OpenOffice.org 2.x, Firefox, Evolution email/calendar) is free. So... where does the money you would have paid for Windows go? Right.

Please understand: there is nothing illegal about this. There's not even anything antithetical to open-software principles about this. From the get-go, Linux and associated software were released under licenses that let you copy it, modify it, add to it, package it... and sell your modified version of it for a profit... as long as you do so under a similarly permissive license. Dell isn't doing anything wrong, except being assholes. There is nothing new under the Sun. Um, I mean, at Dell.

If you want a laptop running Ubuntu Linux, and you're even a little bit of a tinkerer at heart, google on

"Ubuntu Linux" laptop

and you'll find the info you need to do it yourself. If you're contemplating installing Ubuntu Linux on a laptop that is a few years old, include the model name and number of the laptop in your Google search; you'd be surprised how many people have gone to the trouble of sharing their experiences. Or look for a similar laptop in this list.

One of my clients runs Windows and Ubuntu Linux on his laptop daily, though I don't have details. Apparently, it isn't rocket science, or even computer science, if you're comfortable tinkering with your computer. One word of caution: if you attempt a dual-boot system like that, please back up everything; it is possible to lose your Windows partition and everything on it.

Depending on my success or failure at resurrecting Windows on an older laptop using the restore disk (from a friend, for a friend), I may be pursuing the Linux laptop experience myself soon. I'll let you know.

If you do it yourself, some things may not work, but on the whole, based on what I've read, the news is good. Then again, you may need something that works out-of-the-box, in which case the premium that Dell charges for a Linux laptop may be well worth it to you. I can't say with certainty that Dell is just picking your pocket, but based on their past behavior and well-documented bad attitude, I wouldn't put it past them.

Steve
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Keith Olbermann...

... speaks for me in the matter of the Democrats' caving in on Iraq.

(H/T to ellroon for alerting me to Olbermann's special comment.)


(Afterthought: actually, I would never have said "To he or she," and Olbermann's doing so made me cringe. Where was his editor? But I agree with the substance of everything he said.)

Steve
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House Liberals To Vote NO?

Via Greg Sargent's morning roundup at TPMCafe Election Central, we found Mike Soraghan of TheHill.com reporting that liberals in the House are likely to vote NO on the new, improved, 100-percent timeline-free Iraq spending bill.

And why should they not vote NO! What's the point of voting for funds that Bush will use merely to escalate and extend the war? If this is some arcane strategy by Pelosi and Reid, if anything good can come of it, I certainly can't see it. Among other things, the Democratic leadership will now have to go to Republican members, hat in hand (figuratively), and ask their support for this misbegotten bill.

I'm sorry. Giving away the farm is not a strategy.


(Mad Kane agrees, and has a pledge you might want to sign. I can't sign it because I am already pledged to support Democratic candidates in the next election, but it is a good pledge; please take a look.)

Steve
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City Council Runoff June 16

Please vote for Melissa Noriega for Houston City Council At-Large, position 3. Stella and I happened to dine at a restaurant at which Ms. Noriega spoke to a group of supporters last night; Stella, whose hearing is better than mine, reports that her presentation was most impressive... and Stella is not easily impressed by politicians and other speakers.

If you happen to be a GOPer who insists on thinking of this race in partisan terms (by law, City Council races are nonpartisan; we won't talk about actual practice), please note that Noriega's opponent is a Republican who doesn't even pay his bills to other Republicans! What kind of Councilmember would he make?

Early voting for the runoff begins June 4. As noted before, be sure to check for changes in your polling place; some polls have been combined for this special election. And please remember... in a short-ballot runoff, the impact of every single vote is magnified. Please help out, and do yourself a favor at the same time: vote for Melissa Noriega on (or before) June 16.


A frustrated note: the Harris County Clerk's office web site does not mention this runoff, nor does its companion site HarrisVotes... they still refer to the May 12 special election. This is unconscionable. When regular county elections come around again, please vote us a real County Clerk; the one we've had for decades is scarcely competent and (in my opinion) has had clear conflicts of interest regarding county purchase of eSlate voting systems for which she also made an endorsement video. Lacking official confirmation, I obtained the information about this runoff from Charles Kuffner and confirmed it with Noriega campaign staffers at her appearance last night.

Steve
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Toothless Benchmarks

This sucks. This doesn't make it any better. I am thinking more along the same lines as that guy Feingold.

Steve
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The Deciderer...

... decides that he is the Commander-Guy-in-Chief in any kind of emergency. And the mainstream media takes no notice.

Continuity of constitutional government, MFA: Bush is establishing a basis for proclaiming himself dictator at some future time, during some unspecified catastrophe. Any bets on whether that will happen shortly before the 2008 elections?

I, for one, won't go along to get along.

(H/T ellroon, The Progressive, Crooks and Liars.)

Steve
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A Linux Day

This has been primarily an Ubuntu Linux day. It felt like a lot of work because as a "newbie" I have to find everything from scratch, but the process has been educational.

For the record: Firefox 2.0 works fine in Ubuntu Linux 6.06 LTS. Just google on

"Firefox 2" "Ubuntu Linux"
and you'll find a recipe and some shell commands to ease the task.

I decided to put off installing any of the usual web standard TrueType fonts, mainly to see if I prefer a plain sans serif font over Comic Sans MS for the YDD body text. Comic Sans MS was more appropriate when the site had a different purpose, namely, silly rude doggerel. As I seem to have turned to weightier matters, perhaps a more conventional font is appropriate. You'll know right away if I change it.

Much of today was spent trying to get a fully working network connection between the Ubuntu Linux box and my local Microsoft Windows Network, using Samba. Viewing files from the Linux machine was possible almost immediately, and editing a text file on the Windows machine from the Linux machine didn't take much longer. Entering some identifying info for the Linux machine made it visible... but not really accessible... from the Windows box. For that, I had to go to the Samba web site, find the appropriate code for the config file, and adapt it to this system. Everything had to be done through the terminal and the (actually rather nice) text editor; very little could be done through the graphical interface. I began to understand why Linus Torvalds said a few years back that the GNOME interface is not powerful enough for his purposes; I might try the other one (KDE, available with Kubuntu) next time I install a Linux system.

Here's the simple message: Ubuntu is quick to install and easy enough for an office worker to use if s/he is familiar with MS Windows and MS Office. And I suspect networking multiple Linux machines isn't rocket science. But if you're going to mix Windows and Linux on your local network, and you're not a wizard, you'd better find a wizard. And I suggest Gandalf, not Rincewind.


UPDATE: I forgot a couple of things. One, it is possible but messy to install codecs to allow you to view .wmv and .mov video files, so you don't have to do without Crooks and Liars. And Ubuntu Linux ships with wicked cool screen savers!

Steve
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Are We China's Dumping Ground?

It's enough to make you sick... literally. The melamine discovered in pet food, then hog feed, then chicken feed was just the tip of the iceberg. The more one reads, the more one gets the feeling that China is dumping any inedible or unhealthy thing on the U.S. market, through legal channels or by smuggling. From the WaPo:

Tainted Chinese Imports Common
In Four Months, FDA Refused 298 Shipments

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 20, 2007; Page A01

Dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical.

Frozen catfish laden with banned antibiotics.

Scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria.

Mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides.

These were among the 107 food imports from China that the Food and Drug Administration detained at U.S. ports just last month, agency documents reveal, along with more than 1,000 shipments of tainted Chinese dietary supplements, toxic Chinese cosmetics and counterfeit Chinese medicines.

     ...

And now the FDA is set to approve importing chickens from China. Why? Because America's beef producers want access to China's markets, and China has more than hinted that our chicken market is the price for allowing that. Beyond chickens, so much of the American economy is intertwined with China's that it is very difficult to put in place any regulations that inhibit immediate importation of anything:

     ...

"So many U.S. companies are directly or indirectly involved in China now, the commercial interest of the United States these days has become to allow imports to come in as quickly and smoothly as possible," said Robert B. Cassidy, a former assistant U.S. trade representative for China and now director of international trade and services for Kelley Drye Collier Shannon, a Washington law firm.

As a result, the United States finds itself "kowtowing to China," Cassidy said, even as that country keeps sending American consumers adulterated and mislabeled foods.

     ...

On top of all that, there's a smuggler's market in Chinese meats that cannot be legally imported. You'll never know it's smuggled in from China. But you might guess so if it makes you sick.

I don't know an easy solution. It's a big world, with lots of people, and somebody's gotta feed 'em. But there is a lot to be said against importing any great quantity of staple foods. Health risks are one thing. Fuels burned in transporting the foods are another.

In any case, the health issues, which affect even vegetarians, will lead me to think twice about eating foods imported from China. That's sad, but until China is willing to cooperate in establishing effective means of inspection, that's reality.

Steve
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Saturday Signs

To my regret, the Russian General was not in when I last visited, nor does the store actually sell Russian generals. It does sell excellent locally baked Russian-style bread, very tasty chocolates from Russia and eastern Europe, tea (strong tea!) and wines from those regions and others, deli items (some of which I can actually eat), and of course those little nesting dolls. This is a thoroughly enjoyable place to shop, even if I never get to meet the Russian General. (For more information on Russian generals, please go here.)


HaloScan comment popups are still empty as I write this. Maybe this is Jeevan's way of telling us to just go McCain ourselves. (Please pardon the obscenity.)

Steve
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GOP Civility In Action

Senators McCain and Cornyn had a disagreement over judicial appeals for illegal immigrants. Fortunately, following the example of Mr. Cheney, they demonstrated for leftie bloggers everywhere just how civil discourse should proceed. Steve Benen, guesting at Talking Points Memo, gives us a credible (though second hand) report:

Apparently, McCain accused Cornyn of raising petty objections, and Cornyn accused McCain of having dropped in without taking part in the negotiations. "F**k you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room," McCain reportedly shouted. Paul Kane added that McCain also "used a curse word associated with chickens."

According to Benen, who has links to reports, this is far from the first time McCain has dropped F-bombs... on other GOPers. Imagine what he would do... no. Don't. Just put it out of your mind.


Stella is working most of the weekend on some contract work that has a rapidly approaching delivery date. I am doing basic household stuff that got put aside for a while when Carla died, and trying to learn more about Linux. I am still not back up to my usual "strident" self in the political arena, though as I read the news, I do feel the urge to scream again, so I should resume political blogging before long. I do have a Saturday sign for you, which I will post presently.


(Parts of HaloScan are defunct on this site at the moment. I can see the Manage Comments page, and the Recent Comments display works, but comment popups are served as completely empty pages. Apologies if it's still that way when you get here.)

Steve
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Friday Made-You-Look Blogging

One might think Samantha has spotted a bee (though not Samantha Bee) near the patio ceiling...



... but in fact she's playing the same game we all did as kids...
made you look!

Steve
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Houston, We Have Liftoff Linux

No, this is not posted from my newly minted Ubuntu Linux installation, but the latter does work. Linux is ready for prime time, but I'm not ready for prime time on Linux. Blogging will take place from here on this Windows machine for a while. (If I weren't so stubborn about not using a blogging service or blogging software...)

Very first impression (and I'm not the first to say it): Ubuntu is brown. The default desktop wallpaper has brown swirls. It is uncluttered and does not visually shout at you.

Actually, that was not my very first impression: that was the ease of installation. I wish all software installed that straightforwardly. The librarian's little movie of her own Linux installation does not exaggerate. It really is that easy.

Second impression, a blogger's impression: the usual fonts common to Windows PCs and Macs, the ones I depend on for consistency of appearance of the YDD, are not there. I suppose somebody owns them and somebody else licenses them, but the version of Firefox shipped with the distro causes displayed fonts to descend to the last-ditch sans-serif backstop. The YDD does not look the same. There may be something I can do about this on the browser end; it's on the list of thousands of things I need to learn.

Ubuntu as distributed found my Windows network right away, and gave me read-only access to the shared part of the filesystem on the new Windows box. The Windows machine did not reciprocate. One direction is better than none.

My biggest laugh: Ubuntu Linux discovered my ancient LaserJet 5L, suggested a reasonable driver for it, and at my request printed a test page... assuming the paper size was A4. Here I sit, guilty as charged of making a blatant cultural assumption.


Thank you, one and all, for your kindness to Stella and me in these difficult days. Apologies for not answering each and every kind comment individually, but now that the original flurry of activity after Carla's death is over, we are trying to catch up on work and other stuff that continues to pile up even when real life intervenes. We now have a date for the memorial service, plane reservations for family, and last but not least, a suitable shelter for the rat terrier. The photo was taken by the officer who recovered her from Carla's apartment; she's presumably a little cleaner now, and has had shots (Carla almost certainly had gotten her shots already, but the papers couldn't be found at the time), and... get this... a microchip for location in case she wanders. I can't say this dog was lucky... I'm sure she is grieving for Carla as we all are... but I think she landed in a pretty good place. Say, if you live near Conroe... (Actually, you might have to fight Stella's brother for her, if he can figure out a way to get her back home to Georgia.)

Steve
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Background Info On Software Patents - UPDATED

Many of you are better-read than I am about software patents, the underlying topic of my recent post regarding allegations by a Microsoft lawyer that Linux and other open software may infringe some Microsoft patents. For the rest of us, here are some useful links on the general topic of software patents:

Via Dwight Silverman at the Houston Chronicle's TechBlog, I found a couple of articles on eWeek a few years ago which give one serious pause concerning the content of Microsoft's statement regarding a third party's (self-interested) assessment of how many potential Microsoft patent violations could be argued as occurring in the Linux kernel and other open source software:

Please note that both of these articles are from 2004, so the underlying issue is not new at all. The third-party study is said to have found 283 potential patents violated; on the other hand, the CNet News article which I linked earlier says Microsoft's lawyer claims 235 violations. Sen. McCarthy, just how many Communists did you say infiltrated our government?


For the record: I am not a lawyer, let alone an intellectual property lawyer. Nothing you find on this site should be construed as legal advice. It's just me, talking through my Red Hat. Uh, I mean...


(Still no new word from Stella this morning. And I'm still in no frame of mind to poli-blog. I'll keep you informed.)


UPDATE: Bryan of Why Now emphasizes the primary point, the one I intended to make with my quip about Sen. McCarthy, much more clearly than I made it: Microsoft is not bringing suits based on specific patents it owns and alleges are violated by the Linux kernel or any other piece of open-source software. Instead, Microsoft is doing metaphorically what McCarthy did physically: holding aloft and waving a fistful of papers, claiming that they contain the names of 235 Communists the numbers of 235 Microsoft patents its competitors are violating. Asked which patents are infringed, Microsoft says its competitors should examine their own works for infringements and negotiate license deals with Microsoft. This is both an attempt to spread FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) among its competitors, and a kind of "fishing" for license fees. Bryan quotes another CNet News article in which Linus Torvalds himself (he originally created Linux many years ago) addresses that issue: "If Microsoft were to actually tell people what patents they claim we violate, we could either laugh in their face and show prior art, or just show them to be obvious, or we could do things differently[.]" Microsoft is not protecting its intellectual property rights; it is just engaging in a sort of patent poker and raw intimidation.


OT: I spoke to Stella briefly; she is dealing with finding a humane no-kill shelter for Carla's terrier. Most family members who would otherwise take the poor thing are allergic to dogs, and Stella's and my apartment complex disallows dogs as pets. Tabitha and Samantha also have made it clear they would disallow a dog even if the apartment complex management did not. Stella has found a shelter in the neighborhood that guarantees it will not euthanize the dog (what an inappropriate term... this terrier is basically healthy; putting it down would not be euthanizing it in any meaningful sense of the word) and was headed there when I spoke to her. She is coming home this evening for a bit of a break and some time with her own dear cats (and me, if I'm lucky), and will head back in a couple of days to resume helping her family.

Steve
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Selected Links To Recent Posts

 
Click any permalink below to go to the original article on a previous page. Click a comment link below to add a comment to the original article. Your comment will be noticed, by the YDD at least: HaloScan has a page allowing me to view recent comments, no matter which post they refer to.

Death In The Family - UPDATED

UPDATE, Tuesday night, almost midnight: Stella is at her father's house, with several other family members, dealing with such details as can be attended to at this early stage. I am back at home... someone has to look after the cats. Many details about Carla remain unknown. Stella sounded very sad when I talked to her late tonight. Anyone who has been through this herself or himself knows it is harder to bear at some moments than at others. Thanks to all of you for your kind wishes, good thoughts and prayers; Stella will appreciate them, and please know that I do as well. I am in no condition to do serious blogging at the moment, but I may do some visiting on other blogs. Thanks for your patience.

(Original post follows.)


Stella's sister Carla (not her real name) is dead. She was several years younger than Stella, and had a number of chronic and sometimes severe health problems that caused her to be frequently hospitalized. She died at home, alone, apparently while Stella was out of town visiting other family members last week and weekend, but her death was discovered only today. We know essentially nothing at this point about the cause of her death. More information should be forthcoming tomorrow. Stella is devastated; I've never seen her so crestfallen before in the approximately 23 years I've known her.

Tomorrow we are going first to Stella's father's home, possibly 30 miles north of here, then another 10 or so miles further north to Carla's apartment, to begin the inevitable long process of dealing with Carla's estate. It would be sad in any case, and it is made sadder still by the untimeliness of Carla's death... she was, by most reasonable standards, simply too young to die. I knew her only tangentially, the way one knows one's partner's siblings, but even I feel keenly the tragedy of her dying too young.

I do not know how the next few days will play out. I am taking my laptop with me, and we are taking two cars so that Stella can deal with returning Carla's car to their father's house, but apart from the question of when each of us gets home, I may or may not have the ability to concentrate adequately to do serious political blogging. I'll keep you informed.

Steve
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Gaining By Threat...

Steve
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Mother's Day

Steve
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Melissa Noriega In Runoff

Steve
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Saturday Signs

Steve
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Hardware Woes

Steve
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Doing The Honorable Thing

Steve
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Rep. Doggett Shows Us How It Is Done

Steve
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Friday Kissy-Cat Blogging

Steve
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Computer Progress

Steve
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May 12 Voter Information - Correction!

Steve
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Blog Maintenance Note

Steve
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Sell CDs? Your Firstborn, Please!

Steve
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Parental Government: The Anti-Drug

Steve
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Houstonians: Vote For Melissa Noriega

Steve
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Goody-Goodling

Steve
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Of Shoes And Ships

Steve
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Saturday Signs

Steve
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Those Damned Democrats Again

Steve
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Maintenance: Push Comes To Shove

Steve
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Friday-Somewhere Patio Cat Blogging

Steve
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Well, That Didn't Take Long - UPDATED

Steve
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Post-Veto Strategy

Steve
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Cough 'Em Up, Gonzo

Steve
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Me And Mah Buddy Veto

Steve
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Mission Demolished

Steve
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Blog Maintenance Matters - Again

Steve
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