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QUOTE  And here’s a modest suggestion for political reporters. Instead of trying to divine the candidates’ characters by scrutinizing their tone of voice and facial expressions, why not pay attention to what they say about economic policy? - Paul Krugman  QUOTE
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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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Huckabee: Put 'God's Standards' In Constitution

Via Michael Moore, we find a Raw Story explaining how Mike Huckabee wants to amend the Constitution to insert God and religion... Huckabee's, of course:

The United States Constitution never uses the word "God" or makes mention of any religion, drawing its sole authority from "We the People." However, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee thinks it's time to put an end to that.

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution," Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. "But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

     ...

That's Huckabee, in a nutshell, so to speak. What more could I possibly add to that.

Steve
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Some Primary Polling Locations To Move

If you live in Texas, and if your regular Election Day polling location is a school, it may well be moved. Tuesday, March 4 is not only the date of the primary; it's also the date of the TAKS test, Texas's entry in the high-stakes academic testing arena. As no one not directly involved in TAKS is allowed on campus during the tests, at least some polling locations will be moved. If you live in Harris County as I do, it is just about certain that many polls will have to be relocated.

My usual sources of such information, the Harris Votes! site and State Rep. Scott Hochberg's nonofficial site, do not have the information posted yet.

In Harris County, while Election Day locations are frequently moved for one reason or another, early voting locations are typically stable, though fewer in number and not as close to home. I strongly recommend you vote early if you are able: the lines are shorter and the poll workers are just as helpful. Some of you may be eligible to vote by mail in the primary. If so, be sure to apply for a mail ballot by February 26. (Again, thanks to Rep. Hochberg for the information. Oh, how I wish I still lived in his district!)

I'll post additional info as I find it.


One blogger in Richmond, TX, Hal of Half Empty, sees a possible conspiracy to reduce the vote. That may be... or it may be a legitimate screw-up by the schedulers. I retort, you deride. Here's Hal's take:

     ...

     ... Can it really be that this was all a machination to suppress the vote? By advancing the school calendar statewide, everything gets moved 2 weeks ahead. TAKS testing, normally taking place in mid-February is moved to March. There was a concerted effort on the part of the Democratic Party to move Texas’ primary day from March to February last year, but this was met with stiff resistance by Republicans backed by Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. At the time, the idea among Democrats was to make Texas’ primary more important in the national context before the presidential nomination had been all but locked up.

     ...

Voter suppression has become somewhat of an art form among the Republicans. Can it be that one of them saw this change in the school calendar, and how it would affect the location of polling places? Is this why the Republicans were so steadfast in their refusal to alter the primary calendar? They knew it would conflict with the testing calendar if unchanged?

I know this sounds paranoid, but as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said, “Even paranoids have enemies.”

Hal may be right. I have wondered why the R's exhibited such resistance to moving our primaries to Feb. 5.

Steve
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US In Iraq - Forever?

Not quite forever, but close enough. Here are the significant paragraphs from Paul Kiel:

     ...

The Iraqi defense minister, Abdul Qadir, is in Washington, D.C. to continue work on defining the American commitment in Iraq. A formal agreement will emerge by July, The New York Times reports. As TPM alum Spencer Ackerman reported here, such an agreement would not require Congress' approval, but would require the Iraqi parliament's OK.

So... the numbers. Qadir tells the Times that 2012 and 2020 are his target dates -- for full internal security and security against external threats, respectively. What that means for the size of our "enduring presence" isn't so clear:

     ...

Please read the particulars Kiel quotes from the NYT. It looks to me as if both numbers above are being pulled out of a hole. But if anything, the actual numbers are likely to be worse than what Abdul Qadir is willing to admit to. That means that Bush and Qadir are making plans to tie down U.S. troops in Iraq for the next president's entire time in office, even if s/he is elected (or selected) to two terms. For good measure, Bush throws in another four years after that. And according to some constitutional interpretations, Congress can't stop him. (Personally, I question that assertion. Ackermann has details in the article linked above.)

If Bush succeeds in putting this in place... maybe you should just shoot me now.

Steve
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Have A Heart

NYT:

Medicine’s dream of growing new human hearts and other organs to repair or replace damaged ones received a significant boost Sunday when University of Minnesota researchers reported success in creating a beating rat heart in a laboratory.

Experts not involved in the Minnesota work called it “a landmark achievement” and “a stunning” advance. But they and the Minnesota researchers cautioned that the dream, if it is ever realized, was still at least 10 years away.

     ...

Ten years is probably too long for Dick Cheney to wait for a synthesized human heart, but maybe they could let him have the rat heart now? Surely that would be more heart than he appears to have at this point...

Oh, and while they're at it, could they grow Bush a brain?

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Colorful Chilly Child Edition

I've occasionally felt sorry even for the "little green men" in bad s/f... but these poor "orange little girls" have even lost their coat. How sad is that!










Steve
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Borris Miles In Trouble?

Oh crap...

The Harris County District Attorney's Office is investigating a complaint that state Rep. Borris Miles, D-Houston, made threats and brandished a gun at a holiday party last month.

According to witnesses, Miles entered a St. Regis Hotel ballroom uninvited, confronting guests, displaying a pistol and forcibly kissing another man's wife.

David Harris, who threw the party for his property management company, said he believes Miles, an insurance agent, was angry at him for investing in a rival business.

     ...

If the accounts from witnesses are true, it would be the second incident involving a pistol and Miles.

Last July, Miles shot and wounded a burglar who police said was trying to steal copper from the lawmaker's 9,000- square-foot Third Ward home. Miles, who had a concealed handgun permit and was not charged in the incident, said the shooting was self-defense.

"When he is out and about in public, especially in the district, which is a rough area, he carries a gun with him as a matter of principle," a Miles spokesman, Donald Fields, said at the time.

     ...

Later in the article, Miles is alleged to have kissed Harris on the cheeks and the mouth, placed the gun in Harris's hand (odd indeed), and forcibly kissed a woman who is the wife of one of the witnesses. If all that is true, one would have to think Miles was drunk and carrying... never a good combination.

I cannot blame Miles too much for carrying. There are parts of Third Ward which by reputation are really rough. But if he is going to carry the means of deadly force, and he cannot hold his liquor, he simply must curb his drinking when he carries his firearm. Of course, Rep. Miles is presumed innocent until proven guilty. With multiple witnesses, that may not be too difficult.

Why is this of concern to me? Mr. Miles is my State Representative. He defeated long-time Democratic incumbent Al Edwards, and many of us were glad to see the office change occupants. For decades, Edwards did virtually nothing useful that I could see. Moreover, he did not even answer letters from constituents. It doesn't get much more unresponsive than that. Borris Miles, by contrast, has won several awards for his community service in the past. Many of us were pleased to see him take office. This incident, if true, is a shocker to those of us who did not know Miles personally.

Needless to say, Edwards, seeing an opportunity, now intends to run for his old office again, opposing Miles in the primary. Sometimes I wonder why I bother voting...


(H/T CEWDEM of the excellent Democratic email list.)

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Sound Advice Edition

If you absolutely insist on driving inside a bank...



... the accounts you save may be your own.

Steve
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Stella's Friday Cat Blogging

... may be seen here. View her sketch of Samantha... that's right, an actual pencil sketch, not a heavy-handed snapshot like mine. There are also rhymes. Enjoy!

Steve
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Close Gitmo Now

Everything that has been done at Guantánamo is a stain on the good name of America. It never should have happened. The atrocities must cease immediately. And prisoners at Gitmo must be provided their due process rights under the Geneva Conventions.

This is the day everyone is supposed to wear orange in support of the due process rights of combatants held in violation of the Geneva Conventions. I don't own any orange clothing, not even an armband... I look terrible in orange... so this ACLU graphic serves as my virtual armband.


Steve
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Get Real

In my youth, jazz musicians used "fake books": handmade perfect-bound books, sold under the counter, containing literally a couple hundred tunes arranged as melody lines with changes (chord symbols). This was in the era of "Copyright? what's copyright?" The arrangements were written by hand, and to all appearances, no attempt was made to pay royalties to anyone. At some point, a fake book called The Real Book became more or less the standard. Over time, it grew to three thick volumes. Also over time, most of the egregious errors were corrected. Yes, I have a copy of The Real Book; more than 20 years ago I bought it literally out of the trunk of someone's car, just as Dog intended. By now, Hal Leonard Publishing has bought the rights to all those songs, so that The Real Book is, well, real. You can buy it over the counter at most any sheet music store. Fake books became The Real Book, and The Real Book became real.

As with fake books, so with fake IDs. Thanks to our wonderful preznit and Congress, your driver's license will eventually be replaced by a Real ID (Houston Chronicle, WaPo) which, in the interest of "fighting terrorism," contains more info about you than you want to think about. And it should be ready this year. Um, make that 2011. Ah, actually, 2014. Uh, 2018, if you're over 50 years old. Apparently, senior citizens can't be terrorists.

Needless to say, the ACLU is upset about this. Tracking terrorists by tracking everyone may be convenient for the operatives of the surveillance state, but it is antithetical to principles America has stood for from the very beginning, most particularly, what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called "the right to be left alone." * If they ever get the Real ID program going, the invasive approach sometimes known as "round up all the usual suspects" will be amended to include "... and everyone is a usual suspect, all the time." Will you be safer? I doubt it. Is this un-American? Damned right it is.

This probably won't affect me personally. If I'm still alive in 2018, I'll look around me and say, gee whiz, I never expected to see the day. (Well, I probably won't say "gee whiz"; I've seldom said anything that mild.) But it probably will affect you, and it certainly will affect any younger children you have.

Hmm. I remember reading that Canada is near the top of the list in protecting its citizens' privacy rights...


* In some sources it is rendered "let alone" rather than "left alone." The quote is attributed variously. And the phrase is now the title of a movie by and about Larry Flynt.

Steve
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Friday Soulful Samantha Blogging

Samantha does her best to imitate the wide-eyed, little-lost-kitty look that Tabitha achieves so easily. Yes, it really is Samantha, though I might not have been certain if this were not one of a series of pictures of Samantha in that location:



The green-eye effect seems to me to enhance the soulful look, so I left it uncorrected.

(Taken with the 20D, on the day I shipped the A95 to be repaired. Soon enough I'll stop mentioning which camera I used. For uncropped photos, you can tell by the aspect ratio, which is 3:2 for the 20D and 4:3 for the A95.)


(OK, so it's two hours early. It's just after midnight somewhere, just not in the Central time zone, and I need to go to bed Real Soon Now.)

Steve
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It's Baaaack...

... the little Canon A95 point-and-shoot. It's as good as new, as far as I can tell. Did I mention how happy I am to have it back? There are places one simply cannot take a dSLR.

I have entirely positive things to say about Canon's response to the situation. The process, from the initial phone call to the eventual repair and return, was everything one could hope for.








Steve
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Best Cat Video Ever?

"Marcus VS Hp deskjet". (Via BadTux.)

Steve
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First Laugh Of The Day

This is funny in a perverse way...

FBI wiretaps dropped due to unpaid bills
Lax FBI Money Controls Lead to Shutdown of Surveillance, Justice Department Audit Finds
LARA JAKES JORDAN
AP News
Jan 10, 2008 11:17 EST

Telephone companies cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau's repeated failures to pay phone bills on time, according to a Justice Department audit released Thursday.

The faulty bookkeeping is part of what the audit, by the Justice Department's inspector general, described as the FBI's lax oversight of money used in undercover investigations. Poor supervision of the program also allowed one agent to steal $25,000, the audit said.

More than half of 990 bills to pay for telecommunication surveillance in five unidentified FBI field offices were not paid on time, the report shows. In one office alone, unpaid costs for wiretaps from one phone company totaled $66,000.

And at least once, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation — the highly secretive and sensitive cases that allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies — "was halted due to untimely payment."

"We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence," according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

I am at a loss for words... which is a shame, considering that I could say anything while the tap on my phone is disconnected for FBI nonpayment. <snark />

Steve
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White House Must Answer About Missing Emails - UPDATED

A federal magistrate has ordered the White House to answer a simple question: does it, or does it not, have backups of White House emails between 2003 and 2005. The judge, John Facciola, ordered a lower court judge, Henry Kennedy, to issue a court order requiring an answer:

The Bush administration had offered to have the government file a sworn declaration stating that the White House is safeguarding all backup materials. Instead, Judge Facciola recommended that the judge in the case, Henry Kennedy, issue a court order because “a declaration is not punishable by contempt. In other words, without such an order, destruction of the backup media would be without consequence.” Mr. Kennedy did as Judge Facciola suggested.

(That's via Buzzflash, quoting an AP article in the Globe and Mail.)

This could get interesting. The period of the emails in question includes the outing of Valerie Plame. The Bush administration now has a choice of admitting it has the tapes... thus facing subpoenas for their content... or refusing the court order, presumably leading to charges of obstruction of justice. Stay tuned.


UPDATE: No good. Judge Kennedy refused to probe the destruction of the videotapes, saying (according to AP) that "there was no evidence the Bush administration violated a court order and the Justice Department deserved time to conduct its own investigation." Once again, the executive branch investigates the executive branch. In other times, in previous administrations, that might not raise so many concerns. But in the post-Gonzo era, it is difficult to believe in the independence of the Justice Department from the White House.

Steve
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Are Conservative Bloggers IT-Challenged?

Atrios brings us a whine from RedState (sorry, no link to them) that is almost too funny for words. Short version: they have had a succession of problems trying to scale up their site, originally developed in Scoop, hastily redeveloped in Drupal and now once again intended to be ported back to Scoop... and they're blaming liberals for their inability:

     ...

You see, when we started RedState in May of 2004, we used a website program called Scoop — the same program a lot of similar sites on the left used. But, as the number of visitors to our site grew, Scoop kept crashing on us.

If we’d been a liberal website, we would have been able to fix the problem quickly and relatively cheaply. The online left loves Scoop. Unfortunately, there weren’t really any conservative Scoop developers out there to help us. We kept crashing and were out of money. We had to close down or take drastic action.

     ...

Let me get this straight... RedState's web developers are incompetent to deal with scalability issues because their platform is used mostly by liberal bloggers? Awwww, poor babies!

CTOs, please take note: hire liberal/progressive/lefty IT personnel; we'll get the job done for you.

(H/T Avedon.)

Steve
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Headline Of The Day

It would be hard to top this one from the Philadelphia Business Journal:

Nutter plans safer, better educated city

Yes, of course, the reference is to Philadelphia's new mayor, Michael A. Nutter. One would think that someone like me whose family name was the subject of endless rude puns in my youth would refrain. But noooo...

I've been to Philadelphia once many years ago on business. I liked the place a lot. The best of luck to Philadelphia and to Mayor Nutter.

Steve
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Miscellany

Noted recently...

  • Oil Hits $100 a Barrel for the First Time
    Pretty soon, I'll have to write new doggerel...

  • Big Brother gets bigger, says global privacy study

    According to a new international privacy report, governments around the world are increasingly invading the privacy of citizens with surveillance, identification systems, and archiving of private data.

    Driven by concern over immigration and border control, countries have been quick to implement database, identity, and fingerprinting systems, according to the 2007 International Privacy Ranking report.

         ...

    The rest of the article is not any more reassuring.

  • Can You Count on Voting Machines?
    Short answer: no way. One recent election night nightmare is described in detail in the article.

  • Perrspectives gives us Huckabee's extremism: the top 10 moments and 10 more moments.
    I missed this last month; I'm sure Huckabee has added several more outrages by now.

  • New security rules for batteries on planes
    You may carry two (2) spare lithium ion batteries for a "camera, notebook or cell phone" as long as they are in clear plastic baggies. The one inside the device is apparently presumed harmless. Remember: the object of this security theater is not to make you safer but to acclimate you to ever greater degrees of invasive behavior by an increasingly dictatorial government.

  • Universal flu jab works in people
    I love the British term "jab" for what Americans would call a "shot"; it is far more descriptive. I also love the notion of a single jab, administered once, effective for life against all influenza A.

  • Sony BMG Ready To Sell Some Music Without DRM

    BusinessWeek.com says Sony will become the last of the four major labels to do away with copyright protection on at least some of the music it sells.

    Is this for real, or is it a head fake by Sony? They don't exactly have a good record in their treatment of consumers.

Why is the theme music from That Was The Week That Was running through my mind? (Other than the obvious fact that I'm old enough to remember the American version of the show...)

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Tacky Edition

I'm glad this was not our actual waitstaff at Baba Yega for lunch on New Year's Eve. In fact, we had a young gay man (it's in the Montrose, after all) who had the routine down perfectly and received a very decent tip from us. And he didn't wink at me (or Stella, for that matter) or call me Toots, nor was his clothing spattered with who-knows-what. The food is consistently good there, and they have one of the best collections of old signs I know of.









Steve
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The Daft Talk Express

Via TPM, from David Corn at Mother Jones:

McCain in NH: Would Be "Fine" To Keep Troops in Iraq for "A Hundred Years"

The United States military could stay in Iraq for "maybe a hundred years" and that "would be fine with me," John McCain told two hundred or so people at a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire, on Thursday evening. Toward the end of this session, which was being held shortly before the Iowa caucuses were to start, McCain was confronted by Dave Tiffany, who calls himself a "full-time antiwar activist." In a heated exchange, Tiffany told McCain that he had looked at McCain's campaign website and had found no indication of how long McCain was willing to keep U.S. troops in Iraq. Arguing that George W. Bush's escalation of troops has led to a decline in U.S. casualties, McCain noted that the United States still maintains troops in South Korea and Japan. He said he had no objection to U.S. soldiers staying in Iraq for decades, "as long as Americans are not being injured, harmed or killed."

After the event ended, I asked McCain about his "hundred years" comment, and he reaffirmed the remark, excitedly declaring that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for "a thousand years" or "a million years," as far as he was concerned. The key matter, he explained, was whether they were being killed or not: "It's not American presence; it's American casualties." U.S. troops, he continued, are stationed in South Korea, Japan, Europe, Bosnia, and elsewhere as part of a "generally accepted policy of America's multilateralism." There's nothing wrong with Iraq being part of that policy, providing the government in Baghdad does not object.

In other words, McCain does not equate victory in Iraq--which he passionately urges at campaign events--with the removal of U.S. troops from that nation. After McCain told Tiffany that he could see troops remaining in Iraq for a hundred years, a reporter sitting next to me quipped, "There's the general election campaign ad." He meant the Democratic ad: John McCain thinks it would be okay if U.S. troops stayed in Iraq for another hundred years.....

     ...

Jeebus! Haven't we had enough of presidents who are certifiably full-blown bat-shit crazy?

Steve
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Don't Stray From The Script!

Thus spake America's "mainstream" press and media regarding the results of the Iowa caucuses. I found the percentages quoted in IHT:

On the Democratic side, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Obama had 37.58 percent of the delegate support, Edwards 29.75 percent and Clinton 29.47 percent. Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico was fourth, at 2.11 percent.

The difference between Edwards's and Clinton's counts is tiny. But consider my Google News searches on "Clinton Iowa" and "Edwards Iowa":

45,839 "Clinton Iowa"
32,632 "Edwards Iowa"

Though hardly scientific, the search results are suggestive: Edwards is being severely under-reported. Not shown in that result is the frequency (among articles I glanced at) with which Clinton is mentioned before Edwards in the body of the articles. And Edwards seldom appears in headlines.

This is more of the same behavior we saw by the media in 2000 and 2004: when candidates follow the media's preferred script, that is reported; when they don't, it is not. I realize that Clinton may well have an advantage nationwide. But that doesn't excuse failing to report individual state primaries or caucuses as they happen, not as the media wishes they happened. Anything else is pure spin.

(I may say something about the Iowa winners later today. For now, I'll just remind everyone that just because Iowa goes first, it is not by any means definitive. We have a lot of horserace ahead of us. Stock up on antacids!)

Steve
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Friday Kitty New Year Blogging

New Year's Eve means nothing special to Tabitha and Samantha... I interrupted their nap with the flashing box, as I so often do:



I regret to report that Tabitha (left, 19 years old) remains somewhat thin, while Samantha (right, 13 years old) continues to grow. Both are moderately healthy for cats their age, especially Tabitha, given that most cats never reach her age. Tabitha's purr makes it clear that she is the happiest cat in the world, well loved and well attended to by everyone around her (except by Samantha when they compete for food or attention, and even so, they are sometimes affectionate). Tabitha could easily outlive me!


(Posted early so I can watch the last of the Iowa Caucus results with Stella.)

Steve
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Kucinich And The Texas Dem Primary

In a comment to the preceding post, I noted that Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has been removed from the Texas Democratic Party presidential primary ballot for refusing to take a standard oath pledging to support the Party's eventual nominee for president. While I am sure you would be justified in assuming that many Texas Democrats are happy at the prospect of Kucinich's not being allowed on the ballot, there are many others who feel completely differently, and I am one of them. At the 2004 Texas Democratic Convention, to which I was a delegate, the room... and not just the Kucinich supporters... gave Kucinich a standing ovation when he spoke. The Texans in that room were solid Democrats by any reasonable measure. Obviously things are different now, but Kucinich is well regarded here among the Democratic Party membership, even by those who do not support him for president.

Kucinich's objection to signing the oath is based on his refusal to back any candidate who supports the continuation of the Iraq war. According to the Chronicle article above,

[Democratic Party spokesperson Amber] Moon said Kucinich's aides wanted to change the pledge to say the party nominee had to promise not to use war as a tool of foreign policy, but the party staff could not change the oath.

Campaign spokesman Andy Juniewicz said Kucinich filed documents Wednesday in a federal court in Austin to challenge the requirement. He said Willie Nelson is a plaintiff, along with Kucinich.

One has to admire Kucinich's dedication to a matter of conscience. It does seem that something could have been worked out, e.g., some sort of "signing statement" along with his application, but it wasn't. I suspect Dem officials had little legal choice but to act in accordance with the bylaws, and I don't doubt for a minute that the oath is a requirement to which they are bound.

I do understand the motivation for the oath, even as I disapprove of it and of its results here. We've had trouble in the past in Texas with DINOs who entered primaries and then later, when they lost, ended up endorsing the GOP candidate in the general election. That's dishonest. What a surprise, eh?

I am uncommitted in the primary, which is scheduled for March 4... by which time even the shouting will be over. But I'd like to have the option of casting a protest vote for Kucinich if I remain dissatisfied with other candidates.

Kucinich is suing to restore his name to the ballot. Willie Nelson, one of our best-known and best-loved Texans and a long-time Kucinich supporter, has added his name to the lawsuit, presumably to assure standing in a Texas court. A judge has scheduled a hearing on the matter in Austin on January 11.

Steve
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Michael Moore Muses

... in a letter about who, if anyone, should receive our Democratic primary votes. While there's nothing earth-shattering in the letter, he offers one of the clearer summaries I've read of Hillary, Obama and Edwards (with a nod to Dennis Kucinich, of course) and what one could expect of each if elected. This is worth a read. (H/T CEWDEM's email list.)

Steve
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GOP Xenophobia

This is Jared Woodfill, the chair of the Harris County GOP. Ignore for the moment the question of who has the biggest... gavel... and focus on the sign to his right. If you are a Mexican-American living in Harris County, and if you ever considered voting for GOP candidates, maybe now would be a good time to reconsider.



Steve
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No Fly Zoned

Sic. It's advice to airline pilots... don't fly when you're so sleepy you're zoned out of your mind... advice which current conditions and practices in the industry apparently don't permit them to take. NASA spent about $11 million of our money on a study to find this out.

But NASA doesn't want you to know the results of that study:

NASA yesterday released partial results of a massive air-safety survey of airline pilots who repeatedly complained about fatigue, problems with air-traffic controllers, airport security, and the layouts of runways and taxiways.

Reacting to criticism about its initial decision to withhold the database for fear of harming airlines' bottom lines, NASA released a heavily redacted version of the survey on its Web site yesterday afternoon. But the space and aeronautics agency published the information in a way that made it difficult to analyze.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told reporters in a conference call that the agency had no plans to study the database for trends. He said NASA conducted the survey only to determine whether gathering information from pilots in such a way was worthwhile.

Despite the lack of analysis by NASA scientists, Griffin said there was nothing in the database that should concern air travelers. "It's hard for me to see any data the traveling public would care about or ought to care about," he said. "We were asked to release the data, and we did."

     ...

No, you didn't, Mr. Griffin. You released a useless, redacted, incomplete set of data tables. I know Dubya Bush feels free to lie so baldfacedly that literally everyone can see that he is lying. But when even upper-level administrators of government agencies begin to do that, some of us begin to wonder if anyone in government is accountable in any way.

Presuming this is NASA's main public page for the survey, we learn from it that their redactions include the entire first three sections of the outliers report, and that only partial raw data is available to the public. This is clearly a deliberate stick-in-the-eye response by a federal agency charged with an aspect of public safety. And why are they doing it?

NASA had refused to release the data several months ago in response to a request by the Associated Press, saying publication might affect the public's confidence in the airlines. NASA was roundly criticized by members of Congress and aviation safety experts for refusing to publish the survey.

(Emphasis mine.)

U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), chair of the House Science and Technology Committee, promised hearings on the redactions.

Apart from safety issues, what else might redaction of this report lead to? Could it be that pilots are being pushed past their physical limits in the interest of airline profits? If so, who's watching the airlines? If the survey "might affect the public's confidence in the airlines" ... perhaps it damned well should.

We all take risks every day. Driving anywhere on a Houston freeway is probably a far greater risk than flying out of IAH on a commercial plane. But we paid for this survey, and it impacts our safety. We have a right to know the results.

(For the record, I no longer fly... at all. It's not fear of flying; I always loved to fly. But I am afraid of what I might say to an overzealous security staffer at a gate. Bryan and his commenters have many good observations on the degradation of quality of experience by the typical airline passenger over the years. There's just nowhere I want to go badly enough to put up with that.)

(Minor change made after initial posting.)

Steve
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Happy New Year



MOODY GARDENS FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS


New Year's Day is turning out to be busier than I anticipated, and besides, the weather is stunningly beautiful outside. So it may be a while today before I embark on a serious post. But there's a rumor floating around that Stella is resuming blogging, at a new URL that I will publish when she finishes her first new post.

In any case, I hope all of you have a happy New Year. May 2008 treat us better than the previous one... that wouldn't be hard, would it!


UPDATE: Stella's Cup is now online!

Steve
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A Moody Evening

We spent yesterday evening at the Moody Gardens Festival of Lights on Galveston Island. On some level, it was fun... pure kitsch, but fun.

Here are my pictures of it. As you can tell, I really haven't learned how to take pics outdoors at night with the 20D, but you'll get the idea. If you're viewing from a dialup, please advance the viewer manually; pressing Start and letting it go as a slideshow is advised only if you're on broadband.

Steve
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RIAA Goes Completely Crazy

You knew it was bound to happen:

It's the last IT Blogwatch of 2007: in which the Recording Industry Association of America is loved by precisely nobody (not even the artists it claims to represent). Not to mention a 50 ft. Hungarian bird...

Marc Fisher reports:

In an unusual case ... the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further ... [the RIAA] maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer ... Whether customers may copy their CDs onto their computers -- an act at the very heart of the digital revolution -- has a murky legal foundation, the RIAA argues. [more]

     ...

(Bolds original.)

IT Blogwatch follows up with quotes from a half dozen other tech industry observers who are almost unanimous (with one dissent) that the RIAA is cutting its own throat by announcing that it will sue its customers for an activity that is, by general agreement, legal under current copyright law.

There's something fundamental the RIAA appears not to understand: music exists independent of medium. The CD that contains the music is not the music. And the purveyors of music through media other than those shiny discs in pretty jewel boxes are moving away from draconian requirements on use after purchase. DRM-free music is now available from a couple of major vendors, and Mark 'Rizzn' Hopkins notes a couple of examples of evidence that the RIAA itself may be on its way down:

EMI to Cut RIAA Funding
In late November, EMI, in an attempt to figure out ways to save money so that they could return their company to profitability, announced that they’d be “substantially cutting their funding to industry’s trade bodies.”

Music Group Going Belly Up
A couple days after EMI announced their disappointing financial results for the year, Warner Music Group announced that they made less than half the amount of money that Radiohead did for the year. The cause? A significant portion of the proceeds from artist creativity went directly to suing the customers by way of contributions to the RIAA. A couple days before the disappointing financial results were announced, WMG CEO Edgar Bronfman, Jr. finally came to the realization that it was a mistake to go to war with the consumers, and publicly said so.

(Hopkins offers another example you may find entertaining.)

Look: I can understand suing someone who is regularly, unapologetically stealing from you. But RIAA's suing of people who legally purchased a CD, just because they ripped a track to place it on their .mp3 player for personal use, is an act that shows all the business acumen of, um, well, of someone who sues his or her best customers. It is folly. Bonkers. Full-blown batshit crazy.

Regular readers know that I have stopped purchasing audio CDs except as gifts, in response to the potential legal complications (ahem) ensuing from even the most legally legitimate uses of that CD. Expect me to eliminate the "gifts" exception this year: do not ask me for a new audio CD as a gift. Forget it.

As to my own collection... I guess I need to say explicitly that I have never illegally downloaded any music... I declare it effectively complete. I've collected music recordings for four solid decades. The vast majority of those recordings were acquired by purchase in stores, often enough at new full price. In my last few years of collecting recordings, I switched to buying used CDs because of the cost (did you notice that brand-label CDs are among the few products that never went down in price after their introduction in the early 1980s, despite the development of new manufacturing technologies that would have made that easy?), but if I recall correctly, the RIAA and its army of lawyers is going after the used CD market as well.

Enough! If I have any spare money this year after paying for my medical insurance (yes, it went up again), enough to spend on musical entertainment, I'll save up a few CDs' worth and buy a concert ticket instead. At least they can't sue you for remembering a live performance...

(Oh no... I hope I haven't given the RIAA an idea..)


If the pictures from last night's Moody Gardens Festival of Lights turn out OK, I may be back to blog later in the day, but in case I am not, a very Happy New Year to all of you... 2008 is bound to be better than 2007 has been.

Steve
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Dems Look Good In Harris County

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Cell Phone Ads

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Friday Sack Blogging

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Just Point-And-Shoot Me

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Oscar Peterson 1925-2007

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Truly Tasteless Season's Greetings

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The Sun Has Set - UPDATED

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Saturday Signs

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What Mentality?

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Friday Wise Old Cat Blogging

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America, America

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ChriFSMas Is Almost Here

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