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I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat! Steve Bates,
The Yellow Doggerel Democrat
POLITICAL GRAVITY -- POLITICAL LEVITY -- VERSE AND WORSE
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for December 2007

 


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20D-Railed - UPDATED

I put the new used Canon EOS 20D in the shop today to have the sensor cleaned. There were several visible spots on every image; a bit of experimenting revealed that they originate from the sensor (one hopes it is the sensor filter rather than the sensor itself). It's not clear how the dust got there; it may have been there before, or it may have been my venture out on a day that had wind gusts of 40-50 mph. In any case, I found a small family shop near home that has been in business since 1990 (I think) and has done sensor cleanings, probably averaging three a day, since 1999. The chatter on local photography forums about this shop is uniformly positive, so I have some hope the problem can be resolved... supposedly by Thursday or Friday. Meanwhile, it's back to the point-and-shoot camera for a few days until the new used digital SLR is, um, back on track.


UPDATE: Fixed! My first impression is that they did an excellent job. And it took them only about a day. The shop is Professional Camera Repair, 4410 Richmond.

Steve
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Ten Senators Support Rule Of Law

The cloture vote on Sen. Chris Dodd's filibuster was breathtakingly lopsided: 76-10 for cloture, i.e., to move the bill toward consideration. But Dodd was on the Senate floor for almost 10 hours today, after which Harry Reid pulled the bill because too many other things have to be done before the Senate recesses. Reid says the bill will be considered in January.

So for now we... Chris Dodd, with a peculiar assist from Harry Reid... managed to stop telecom immunity. Thanks to the ten senators (H/T Dependable Renegade) who voted to preserve the rule of law and the meaning of the Fourth Amendment:

Boxer - D/California
Brown - D/Ohio
Cantwell - D/Washington
Cardin - D/Maryland
Dodd - D/Connecticut
Feingold - D/Wisconsin
Harkin - D/Iowa
Kerry - D/Massachussetts
Menendez - D/New Jersey
Wyden - D/Oregon

Keep your fingers crossed for January. And scream at your senator if s/he voted for cloture.

Steve
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My Sincere Apologies

... for ever having supported, voted for, even campaigned for Joe Lieberman back in 2000.

Now Lieberman is endorsing McCain.

As an elderly German-American friend of mine used to say almost 30 years ago, knowing full well what she was doing, "I is regusted."

Steve
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Show Your Blog Space

Thus requests the estimable PSoTD, and who am I to refuse:



This is my office at home. I write the blog at this table, usually on the computer on the left, the one with the 19" digital display. That's also one of my primary work computers. To the right of that is a Linux box. Partially visible at the right is a laptop; I also do work on that, and once in a while, I write the blog on it. Just out of sight of this photo are five bookcases, four file cabinets, three media racks, two artsy prints, and a partr... um, I mean, an antique chest of drawers. I sit on one of two ancient office chairs.

Mustang Bobby of course wins the prize for the tidiest blog space, but mine is not too bad, especially compared to the rest of my apartment. Things are in about a typical degree of order in this picture. In the office, I do tend to put things away, file them, etc. Yes, there's a bit of haywire under and behind the table, but it is not really prominently visible except in a bright flash photo. (I used my point-and-shoot camera... there are issues with the new 20D at the moment.)

Oh, and unlike MB's blogging seat, mine faces a window. In the daytime, I can look out on the apartment pool, so the pleasantness of the view varies with the season and with who is working on her or his tan.  <dirty_old_man />  

Seriously, though, if one's livelihood involves several computers, there are many good reasons to have the work table or desk in the middle of a room, accessible in back as well as in front. Think about it.

Steve
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Saturday Signs

We don't see a lot of soliciting around our apartment complex. And the amount of literature, distributed or retained, depends mostly on whether classes are in session at nearby Rice University. Back in the day, I often defied this sign and others like it, distributing political campaign materials, hanging cards or small bags of literature (heh) on doors. Occasionally I encountered someone who objected that I was soliciting or distributing literature. For years, I carried a copy in my bag of a NYT article about the Supreme Court decision protecting my right to distribute political material despite such signs. I had to show it only once, to a woman who demanded to know why I was putting something on her neighbor's door here in the complex. She did not back down, threatening to call the apartment office. Go ahead, I told her; I'll wait here. At that, she relented; the last thing she wanted was a DFH (actually I was clean and well-groomed at the time) hanging around her door. I had already long since informed the office of what I was doing; they, of course, had no objections... indeed, they helped one of my colleagues clean our list of people who had moved or died.

There is a point to this ramble: many American citizens these days hold what can only be described as a thoroughly un-American attitude toward people's right to engage in political speech. And not everyone who has such a bad attitude is young: a lot of people my age and older seem to think that political speech is fine as long as they get to set the boundaries. Uh-uh. No. Sorry. It's too bad if someone is offended, but we all have a right to express political opinions. Maybe these folks need to reread the Bill of Rights.

Steve
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Reid Explains Himself

Via Wired, we have Senate Majority Leader Reid's explanation of the path he is taking in bringing the FISA modifications before the Senate. Scroll down to the update. Consideration of the bill begins Monday. He seems to be voicing a sort of "my hands are tied" sentiment which strains at least my credulity.

The ACLU objects strongly to the possibility that senators must make a choice between two evils:

"We implore Senator Reid to lead," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Reid has set up a Catch-22 that forces senators to choose either no immunity for the telecoms or minimal Fourth Amendment protections – but not both at the same time. The ACLU is not ready to accept the two current options as the only possibilities. The American people should not have to choose between telecom immunity and warrantless wiretapping."

ACLU list emails paint a fairly grim picture of the prospects of an outcome that respects civil liberties, and urge everyone to contact their senators. Personally, I suspect it's a done deal, and public input will have no effect on the outcome.

Firedoglake is all  over  this. (Links... not a complete list... are in chronological order from mid-November.)

If you think it will help, give your senators a call on Monday. My senators are Cornyn and Hutchison; I plan to save my breath.

Steve
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Kudos To New Jersey

... which is about to abolish the death penalty. New Jersey is the first state to do so since 1965. The state Senate and Assembly have passed the repeal measure; Gov. Corzine has pledged to sign the measure, probably next week.

Steve
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War On Terror Needs War On Error

Here's an astonishing waste of taxpayers' money, jurors' time, and resources needed for legitimate pursuit of terrorists:

Jury deadlocks on 6 of 7 terrorism suspects

The seventh is acquitted. The case, in which the group is accused of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower and other buildings, has been criticized as entrapment.

By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
December 14, 2007

MIAMI -- A federal jury Thursday acquitted one member of a group accused of plotting to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and declared themselves deadlocked in deciding the fate of the six other defendants in the case of the so- called Liberty City Seven.

The case has divided legal experts over how far the government should go in building a case against terrorism suspects. Paid government informants who provided evidence for prosecutors had proposed acts of violence to suspects under surveillance, leading critics to question whether the case was entrapment rather than, as officials said, a preemptive strike against a genuine terrorism plot.

The entire case was "a script written, produced and directed by the government," Ana Jhones, attorney for alleged ringleader Narseal Batiste, argued before the court in her closing statement two weeks ago.

     ...

Foreign terrorist organizations are a danger to America. But I am not at all certain they are the greatest danger, as long as federal prosecutors persist in pursuing cases against terrorist wannabes. Juries are smarter than that.

Steve
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Holy Leg!

This is silly, in a brutal, inhumane, cringe-inducing way:

Thieves cut off man's 'holy leg'
By Omer Farooq
BBC News, Hyderabad

Police in southern India are hunting for two men who attacked a Hindu holy man, cut off his right leg and then made off with it.

The 80-year-old holy man, Yanadi Kondaiah, claimed to have healing powers in the leg.

He is now recovering from his ordeal in hospital in the city of Tirupati in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Local people believed they could be healed of spiritual and physical problems if they touched his leg.

     ...

Oh, come on. You don't expect me to believe that really happened, do you? Surely you're pulling my leg. Aren't you? Wait... Hey! STOP THAT!

Steve
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Des Moines Register Excludes Kucinich

The Des Moines Register excluded Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich from Thursday's debate. According to the Kansas City Star, here is the reason the Register gave for the exclusion:

The Des Moines Register wrote to Dennis Kucinich’s campaign to explain his exclusion from its debate today.

“It was our determination that a person working out of his home did not meet our criteria for a campaign office and a full-time paid staff in Iowa.”

I will not live-link the Des Moines Register article, but if you want to copy-paste it into your browser, here it is:

http://desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071213/NEWS09/71213050/1056

I am as yet undecided on my presidential primary vote, not that it matters much in Texas. But I have to say this about Dennis Kucinich: he is more deserving of the term "president" than a Des Moines Register editorial board member is of the term "journalist." The fix is in. I wonder how many criteria they had to contemplate in order to find one that would exclude only Kucinich. This cannot be a good-faith decision: the Register included Alan Keyes (heaven help us) in their Republican debate, so the omission of Kucinich is no mere exclusion of a lower-ranked candidate in a large field.

For the last two or more presidential elections, the various presidential debates have been a bunch of silliness, and they still are. They are not debates in any meaningful sense of the term. At best, one sees nano-sound bites, not policy statements, from the candidates. The moderators from various "news" organizations are fatuous and empty-headed. There appear to be no criteria for the amount of time each candidate speaks, other than the "news" organizations' perceptions of what will generate the most sensational, attention-grabbing headlines, and possibly what will make the "horse race" closer.

This is no way for viewers to study to choose a president. I move that we get rid of the TV debates altogether. Candidates: show your spine. Boycott these idiotic circuses.

Steve
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Friday Unfamiliar Camera Blogging

Despite all experiments, I eventually resorted to automatic-everything for this charming shot:



There's even a bit of green eye left. My understanding of the 20D grows only slowly...

Stella, Catherine and I went to a camera shop tonight. Catherine needed some large prints and mounting paraphernalia for the sale of one of her photos; this is one of the shops she considers competent to print at least as well as she does herself. I bought a case for the 20D, a nice, tiny backpack with both a handle and shoulder straps, with a well-designed interior to protect the equipment. If I get an outfit, I can be a cowboy too, right? A trip to a nearby major chain bookstore yielded a generic for-Dummies book on digital SLR use and principles (much needed, as noted earlier), another book on the basics of digital SLRs, and a suitable Christmas present for the new 40D owner in our midst. Not a bad haul for one evening.

I admit it... for a rather cynical old man, I really loves me some new high technology, especially in pursuit of art of any kind.

Steve
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Wanda Adams Wins District D

Put this in your dictionary next to the word "irony": Wanda Adams won Houston City Council District D in large part because of a GOTV campaign by residents of the Montrose, which contains the heart of Houston's LGBT community... despite the deliberate redistricting of Montrose 14 years ago into a district with which it has little in common socially or politically.

Two messages: one, gerrymandering has its own pitfalls; two, if you want to win District D, you'd better consider the views of the LGBT community. Anti-gay bigotry in Houston is now more than just ugly: it's an election loser.

(H/T to Carl Whitmarsh, a.k.a. CEWDEM, the man with the excellent Democratic email list, for pointing me to this article. Thanks, Carl; I learn a lot through your efforts.)

Steve
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The Fandom Of Opera

Sic. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

It's Browser Wars, Episode II. An entire industry coalition is backing Opera Software in its filing of a complaint against Microsoft to the European Commission, alleging illegal ties between Internet Explorer and Windows and deliberate hindering of interoperability by ignoring Web standards.

This was attempted almost a decade ago in 1998, here in the U.S. The DoJ pursued Microsoft for anticompetitive practices against Netscape. Netscape "won," but Microsoft is the one still standing. Eight-hundred-pound gorillas have a way of doing that. Of course, the theft of sElection 2000 had nothing to do with the DoJ's decision to drop the breakup of Microsoft as a remedy, oh, no, that had no effect at all.

The issue (I understand it's not quite the same issue) is not before a U.S. court this time. Bush is overwhelmingly unpopular in much of Europe. Regrettably, he has seen to it that America is similarly unpopular. Nonetheless, this should be a good show. Pass the popcorn.

Steve
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Search Engine Privacy

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX 6), a popular GOP congressman about whom I have mixed, mostly negative feelings, has become a privacy advocate of late, e.g., advocating restrictions on the sale of lists of Social Security numbers. He is a critic of the proposed Google-DoubleClick merger, which is under FTC review.

There are at least two useful items in this article by Declan McCullagh regarding Barton's privacy efforts: a handy chart of privacy-related information for each major search engine (Ask.com clearly is the best for privacy), and a letter dated yesterday (12/12/2007) from Barton to Google's CEO Eric Schmidt, asking him 24 questions (many with several subparts) about specific Google products and also the company's general practices that may affect users' privacy. If you care about online privacy, this is definitely worth a read.

Before I read the article and the letter, my feelings about Barton were pretty well unmixed: he seemed to be a typical Republican big-business toady, loudly wrong on SCHIP, callous on Katrina relief, hostile to the needs of autism sufferers and their families, etc. This article forced me to reevaluate my opinion of him: he has at least one useful characteristic. Given his overall record, it's not much, but credit where credit is due.

Here's a question for you: why are Democrats not visibly all over this issue? I am personally a downright strident civil libertarian, I view online privacy as a civil liberties issue, and I see the Bush administration as one of the most egregious regular violators of civil liberties in all of American history. Congressional Dems, what about it? If a GOPer can do it even in today's liberty-invading GOP, why aren't you in the trenches?

(If there's anybody in the Democratic caucus whose work I'm missing, readers, please let me know.)

Steve
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Arctic Ocean Getting Warm Fast

The fact is not news, but the speed with which it is happening this year has increased dramatically over previous years. Stephen Shankland blogs some of the details on CNET News. His post focuses on results reported at the American Geophysical Union conference. Shankland avoids entirely any reference to human causes of global warming in general, but presents a good description of a prominent model for the positive feedback loop sustaining the Arctic ice phenomenon, whatever its causes. Pay particular attention to the graphics "Changes in sea ice extent" and "July-Aug-Sept satellite SST anomalies"; they are a real eye-opener regarding how much warmer 2007 has been.

Steve
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Headline Of The Day

In the New York Times today:

Gunmen Sought in Bus Stop Shooting

I'm always glad when gunmen with nefarious purposes cease firing... but why were they being looked for in a bus?

Steve
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Old Doggerel. No New Tricks.

The doggerel for the day... old, but as timely as ever. They stole the mofo. Impeach them.

Steve
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Oh, Good First Amendment Violating Grief - UPDATED

Via Firedoglake. Even Jane can't find much to say about this one. And neither can I. A few of the regular "firepups" did a good job in comments of deconstructing the resolution. Most of the rest of us just shook our heads.

Here is the full text of H. Res. 847: Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith. This is a horror which took the mind of Rep. Steve King (R-Hell) to create. I doubt the real Stephen King could have made anything like it.

Here is the roll call vote. They almost didn't need one on this one: except for those who did not vote or recorded present-not-voting, only nine (9) Democrats voted against it, and every Republican supported it. Everyone else voted in favor of Christianity, Christmas, motherhood, apple pie, the flag, the troops, ... oops, I'm getting carried away again. But you really do need to read this resolution to see the depth of its potential unconstitutionality... if it were a law. Good thing a resolution isn't a law, isn't it. But I really don't like it when Congress starts messing about with religious matters. It's not rightly American to do that. Our Founders understood where this sort of thing leads.

In fairness, a lot of Democrats no-voted or voted Present. Given the political-stunt nature of the resolution, I'll give them a pass. But what about all those Dems who voted Aye?

And one other simple question: why did Nancy Pelosi allow this resolution to come to the floor? Is there really such political advantage in having almost everyone of both parties on record as ready to discard the First Amendment's establishment clause? Inquiring religious non-Christian minds (including mine) want to know...


UPDATE: Via Crooks and Liars, on Think Progress, we have King's response to the Democrats who voted Nay. Be forewarned: the frequency with which King lies about our Founders, our Constitution and the kind of nation we are is truly offensive. Set down your coffee before you watch it. Happily, Rep. Alcee Hastings did not take Rep. King's religious slur lying down; an excerpt from his reply may be found on the same page.

Let me remind Rep. King of a few brief matters: The U.S. is not a Christian nation in the monolithic sense he means; it was not founded on exclusively Christian principles (many of the founding principles can be found in any major religion, and most of the rest are products not of any religion but of the Enlightenment); the House Democrats did not vote for resolutions acknowledging Ramadan and Diwali but vote down this Christmas resolution (hello? were you awake at the end of the vote, Rep. King?), and our Founders did not all go to Christian churches on a regular basis (some did, many didn't; those who didn't ranged from nonspecific deists like Thomas Jefferson to actual Unitarians such as the John Adams family). In other words, Rep. King is LYING to suit his purposes. What would Jesus think of that? What would any of our nation's Founders think of that?

King clearly has as his ultimate goal for America a radical conservative Christianist theocracy. That is contrary to all principles most Americans have espoused for our nation from early days to the present. Theocracy of any sort is utterly unacceptable to almost all of us. If Rep. King insists on forcing a Christianist theocracy down my throat, I shall lend him a corkscrew to assist him in implementing my suggestion for his stated policies.

Steve
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Spiders On Mars

No, not Spiders from Mars. We're talking about formations casually known as "spiders," discovered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. And according to this article, they indicate something not seen in nature on Earth... something flowing uphill, probably carbon dioxide.

But the bigger news in this article is the discovery by the lame Spirit rover, moving about with one defective wheel but nonetheless succeeding in investigating a bright spot in the trail it was involuntarily plowing as it moved backwards dragging its defunct wheel:

     ...

They turned Spirit around for a closer look, finding high levels of silica, the main ingredient of window glass. They then aimed the rover at a nearby rock, wanting to break it apart to determine if the silica was just a surface coating, or if the rock was silica all the way through.

The target rock survived Spirit’s charge, but a neighboring rock cracked open. The interior of that rock, which the scientists informally named “Innocent Bystander,” turned out to be rich in silica.

On Earth, such high concentrations of silica can form in only two places: a hot spring, where the silica is dissolved away and deposited elsewhere, or a fumarole, an environment, often near a volcano, where acidic steam rises through cracks. The acids dissolve other minerals, leaving mostly silica. On Earth, both environments teem with life.

     ...

Ponder that for a while!

Steve
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Nutjob-In-Chief Harangues Iran

Bush is nuts. There's no other way to explain the rant he delivered, given the NIE results recently disclosed:

Bush Demands Iran Explain Nuke Program
By BEN FELLER – 5 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush on Tuesday called on Iran to explain why it had a secretive nuclear weapons program, and warned that any such efforts must not be allowed to flourish "for the sake of world peace."

"Iran is dangerous," Bush said after an Oval Office meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. "We believe Iran had a secret military weapons program, and Iran must explain to the world why they had a program."

Bush's comments came after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that it was "a step forward" that U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded that Tehran stopped developing its nuclear weapons program four years ago.

     ...

"My answer to the Iranians is: You had a hidden program that was a military program," he said. "We think you have shut it down now. You have an obligation to explain to the world loud and clear why you had a military program. Do you intend to start it up again. In other words, the ball is in their court."

White House press secretary Dana Perino dismissed Ahmadinejad's comments as "fanciful thinking."

     ...

Anyone who doesn't understand why Iran attempted to develop WMD after Bush labeled them a member of the Axis of Evil, please raise your hand. (I don't see any hands...)

Once you are evil in Bush's eyes, no good deed goes unpunished. That ball that he says is in Iran's court? One wishes Iran could just pick it up, go home and refuse to play this stupid game anymore.

I predict Bush will launch a preemptive, aggressive, possibly nuclear U.S. war with Iran sometime before the 2008 elections. But I saddle that prediction with a couple of conditions: the U.S. still has a functioning military, they still obey Bush's orders, the other major nuclear powers of the world have not combined efforts to compel the U.S. not to attack, etc., etc.

OK, I'm making it up as I go along. But as far as I can tell from Bush's rants, fantasy is the name of the game. Just because I don't expect the Democratic leadership to stop Bush doesn't mean I can't imagine ways his crack- brained policies can be interdicted. To our allies, I offer this reminder: friends don't let friends drive dry-drunk.

Steve
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Not News To Some Of Us

HealthDay News via WaPo:

High Meat Consumption Linked to Heightened Cancer Risk

By Madeline Vann
HealthDay Reporter
Tuesday, December 11, 2007; 12:00 AM

TUESDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- A quarter-pound hamburger or a small pork chop eaten daily could put you at increased risk for a variety of cancers, U.S. government health researchers report.

The more red meat and processed meat you eat, the greater your risk, the researchers from the National Cancer Institute concluded.

     ...

Cross and her team from the National Institutes of Health and the AARP analyzed health data from 500,000 people aged 50 to 71 who participated in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study beginning in 1995-1996. They followed participants for about eight years, during which time they recorded 53,396 cases of cancer. In addition to meat consumption habits, the participants detailed other lifestyle choices such as smoking and exercise.

     ...

"Our findings for colorectal cancer are consistent with the recommendations from the recently published World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research to limit consumption of red meats, such as beef, pork and lamb," said Cross. "Our study also suggests that individuals consuming high quantities of red meat may be at an elevated risk for esophageal, liver and lung cancer."

There are several possible routes by which red and processed meats may contribute to cancer, the NCI researchers said. Meats are a source of saturated fat and iron, both of which have been linked to cancer, and also the source of several compounds that are known to affect cell development, they added.

Cooking at high temperatures might also contribute to cancer risk, Cross added.

     ...

A few notes. First, this does not, in and of itself, argue in favor of your becoming a vegetarian. As I read it, it is mainly about consumption of large amounts of red meat. Second, as one who has worked in cancer research institutions quite a few times in my career, I assure you that there are many, many factors that place one at risk for various kinds of cancer. Diet is one of them, but only one. Finally, that veggie-bacon, veggie-sausage, eggs and toast breakfast I just finished is surely not more healthful than the equivalent meal with real meats. I enjoyed it anyway!

Steve
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Tuesday Bonus Cat Blogging

There's a new camera in the house. Well, OK, a new used camera... our favorite professional photographer, Catherine Fairchild, had to trade up to meet the standards of the stock photo houses (oh, the suffering, having to acquire a better camera!), and as I was the lucky person first in line for her previous camera, I am now the proud possessor of a Canon EOS 20D. This is my first digital SLR. Actually, this is my first SLR of any kind, ever in my life. So I have a lot to learn. But enough talk; here's one of my early attempts. Catherine's cats Lotus and Mitchell were amazingly willing to pose:



All right, so no one will be beating down my door for my photographic services. But having seen what one can do with such a camera, I fully intend to improve. As always, you will view my best results here on the YDD. Enjoy!

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Book Cover Edition

I must really need this book...



... because very often these days I can't remember Jack.

Steve
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Friday Open Road Blogging

Stella and Tabitha Samantha are finding the open road... but not in the RV (Reprehensible Vehicle) shown on the cover of the book.

(Click picture to expand/reduce image. CORRECTED: it's Samantha, not Tabitha.)

Steve
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ES&S Voting Machines Cracked

Via Avedon, we find an Ars Technica article telling us just how extreme the vulnerabilities of ES&S e-voting equipment are, as determined by California's "Red Team" of e-voting experts. The short version: just about every aspect of this widely sold voting system is amenable to attack through a variety of vulnerabilities. There are so many holes in the thing that it appears to me the company is at least negligent in its contract responsibilities, but of course that's for the courts to decide. And that will happen: see links from the Ars article for information on California state lawsuits in progress against ES&S.

So... do you think the e-voting systems in your state and county are more secure than this? Oh, sure. The Red Team has already found vulnerabilities in Diebold (now called Premier) and Sequoia systems.

There is, of course, a voting technology we could use instead. It has vulnerabilities too... they all do... but we have literally a couple of centuries of experience with this one, and the ways it can be cheated are pretty well known at this point. The challenge we face is finding the political will to mandate its use. Legislation to this point has not been encouraging.

We can fix this problem, either by returning to a well-designed and thoroughly audited system of paper ballots or by finding some miracle technology that cannot be easily cheated by a trained chimp riding a unicycle past a polling place... or we can cease to think of ourselves as a representative democracy. I know which outcome I hope for. Unfortunately, it's not the result I expect.

Steve
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Digby On Supreme Court Gitmo Case

Digby offers a scathing deconstruction of "the usual suspects showing themselves to be predictably phony and obtuse about a case they can't really defend on the merits, either as justices or as human beings[.]"

It is a fantasy of mine to be able to write as compellingly as Digby on subjects like this, but as I cannot, I urge you to read her argument that at least two Justices of our highest Court (Roberts and Scalia) questioned lawyers for the detainees in ways that indicate these two Justices are acting in defiance of the Constitution, the laws of our land, and international law in questioning detainees' right to challenge their detention... a right so fundamental that it is at least eight centuries old and has a name of its own: habeas corpus.

As usual, Digby is not shy about discussing actual consequences, including detainees' attempts to commit suicide with their bare hands. Many have been held over six years without being afforded the basic right... yes, it is a right in our tradition... to challenge their detention before a court. Indefinite detention at the behest of the Executive is a still older tradition: it is from the days of absolute monarchs. It is nothing any American should tolerate for one moment. Even citizens of constitutional monarchies have rejected such detention by royal decree for centuries.

Until the Bushists came along, I thought the free and democratic societies of the world were, under most circumstances, better than that. Apparently I was wrong.

If this behavior is allowed to continue unchallenged by Americans committed to the best of our traditions, we shall become, as a nation, as fundamentally evil as those we condemn. The notion that some trick of geography can be used to deprive prisoners of war... let's not mince words; the Gitmo detainees are prisoners of war, no matter what the Bushists may designate them... of their fundamental rights under international law and our own legal tradition is a pernicious notion. The basic rights of about 300 men are under consideration here, but beyond that, the commitment of America to the best of the heritage and values it claims is also in question.

How will our highest Court rule? There is some cause for optimism, and I choose to hold onto it. But make no mistake: this is a make-or-break decision for America's commitment to its own rule of law, and consequently, its commitment to human rights in the international community. We get one chance to do this right. If we fail, we are, for the moment at least, the bullies of the international community. Most of us... the Bushists aside... understand what ultimately happens to bullies.

Steve
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Vegetable Orchestra

No animals were harmed in the making of this orchestra:

H/T Diane of Greatscat!. As I remarked on her thread, it's the ultimate musicians' answer to the inevitable post-performance question... "What're we gonna eat?" Also to a shocked parent's question on learning their child is going to study music at the university: "You're going to study what? Trumpet? How are you going to earn a living? You can't eat your trumpet, you know!"

Steve
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Cronkite: U.S. Must Leave Iraq

Here is Cronkite's statement, published jointly with David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Any bets on whether the Deciderer is saying, "If we've lost Cronkite, ..."?

Steve
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Biden To Bush: Invade Iran, Get Impeached

Once again, Crooks and Liars has the video. Sen. Biden does not hedge one single word, and even calls his statement a "warning" to Bush. Maybe I've misjudged Biden in the past, or maybe things are so bad that older conservative Democrats now see what's going on. Sen. Biden refers to constitutional separation of powers as the basis for his warning, and I agree with him there. I also don't doubt for a moment that an oldtimer like Biden can gather up enough support in the House to bring articles of impeachment against at least Bush and probably Cheney as well.

I'd rather see no invasion. But if there is one, I urge Sen. Biden to follow through. Bush's madness must be stopped.

Steve
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Keith-O Reads Tom-TO On Bill-O

Here-O on C&L-O. ROTFL-O!

Steve
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HPD To Use Unmanned Spy Planes

If you live in Houston, this is probably not the first you've heard of this HPD adventure. Via Grits For Breakfast (who later put up a poll on the practice), we found that Channel 2 Click2Houston did a segment late last month. Be sure to watch the Click2Houston video: they show video of a "secret" test for city officials and a few other invitation-only persons ("no media allowed," read the invitation) in Waller County, a mostly rural county not far from Houston.

The aircraft themselves have some remarkable capabilities:

News Chopper 2 had a Local 2 Investigates team following the aircraft for more than one hour as it circled overhead. Its wings spanned 10 feet and it circled at an altitude of 1,500 feet. Operators from a private firm called Insitu, Inc. manned remote controls from inside the fleet of black trucks as the guests watched a live feed from the high-powered camera aboard the 40-pound aircraft.

Houston is allegedly getting the model called ScanEagle, which InSitu lists as being for "military and homeland security applications." Police applications are not specifically listed. Insitu does make such an aircraft, the Insight, described as being for "commercial and government applications," but that's not the one HPD is supposed to purchase. No, we're getting a spy plane.

Why the secrecy? Good question. Either these drones are to be used for legitimate law enforcement purposes, in which case secrecy is not even remotely arguably necessary... or our city officials have other purposes in mind. Even if the purpose is ordinary law enforcement, the drones have cameras capable of looking into cars, cameras which can be swiveled 360°. In other words, it allows a sort of search of a car (how effective a search is not made clear) without observing any Fourth Amendment requirements, and without even a notification of the search. But never mind... if you're not doing anything wrong, yada yada yada. Yeah, right.

Most aircraft have model numbers. I don't know the model number of the ScanEagle. If it doesn't already have one, considering the concentration of marksmen and women in the Houston area, I'd like to suggest "TP-1" ... "Target Practice 1". (For the record, I neither own nor use firearms. Nor am I suggesting anyone else damage these aircraft. I'm just describing what's sure to happen.)


(All trademarks belonging to Insite™ are hereby acknowledged. They stick a ™ after every damned thing on their web site, but that's too much trouble here.)

Steve
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Iran Stopped Nuke Work In 2003 - UPDATED

Guardian:

Iran halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, intelligence agencies said today, in an unexpected finding that boosts hopes of a diplomatic solution to the problem.

A new national intelligence estimate on Iran concluded, in contrast to two years ago, that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, prompting a conciliatory message from the White House.

"The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically, without the use of force, as the administration has been trying to do," said Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser.

Hadley said the latest finding suggested that George Bush had the right strategy - intensified international pressure with a willingness to negotiate a solution that serves the interests of Tehran while ensuring that the world will never have to face a nuclear-armed Iran.

     ...

So... what country will the Deciderer have us attack next? Can't be a War Preznit without a war... or three.

Actually, he isn't quite finished with Iran yet. Read the article. And the take-away message Hadley suggests in the last paragraph above would make me laugh... except the Bushists probably believe it.


UPDATE: Fallenmonk points us to an article on Common Dreams confirming what we all knew, or should have known: it's Cheney's doing.

Steve
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A HUAC On The Head

This is something between astonishing and fucking nuts. Be sure you're sitting down. I remarked on this before, but did not emphasize it sufficiently. looseheadprop of Firedoglake gives us the basics, and points us to Jeff Dinelli at The Left Coaster for possible ramifications.

The short version: Rep. Jane Harman (D-California) (yes, you read that right, 'D'), chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, authored a bill called the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, HR 1955, intended to designate a whole list of things as "homegrown terrorism." The bill passed the House in late October by an overwhelming bipartisan vote... but it is a terrifying bill nonetheless. It is now before the Senate as SB 1959.

Start by reading the bill's Section 899B, Findings. Then read Philip Giraldi's article on Huffington Post evaluating the Act.

Then weep for your country.

Giraldi notes the similarities to HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) and the similar investigations of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Unfortunately, at first glance, it looks like that to me as well.

Here we go again.

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Village Edition

These signs are in The Village, a very popular shopping neighborhood near Rice University. As you may be able to tell, ground-level parking is frequently in short supply there...



This is the famous Variety Fair, where you can find any kind of cheap toy, gimmick, gadget, etc. you can imagine. Needless to say, as it's been in business longer than I've been alive, the "5 & 10" is more likely to be dollars than cents...



Some people have interesting ideas of what can or should be eaten...



As you shop, take care that you are not grilled or eaten. Unless you want to be, of course...

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.

Are We Hosed?

Steve
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Friday After-Dinner Blogging

Steve
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Henry Hyde 1924-2007

Steve
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Blackwater On Steroids

Steve
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Judge Not

Steve
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Kucinich-Paul Ticket? - UPDATED

Steve
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Predictable Folly

Steve
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Echelon, Carnivore, CALEA, Oh My!

Steve
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Impeachment: It's What's For Dinner

Steve
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Bush's Star Chamber

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Bad Bed Edition

Steve
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Friday Flash Frustration Blogging

Steve
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Bookscore!

Steve
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A Special Place In Hell

Steve
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Two From Salon

Steve
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Seven Score And Four Years Ago

Steve
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Kucinich: Use NASA To 'Green' America

Watch this, and be inspired:

Steve
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Miscellany - Nonpolitical Edition

Steve
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Cézanne Evening

Steve
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Cows Of The Mesozoic

Steve
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Saturday Signs On Friday

Steve
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Boxers Or Briefs? - UPDATED

Steve
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Friday Age And Youth Blogging

Steve
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