I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat! Steve Bates,
The Yellow Doggerel Democrat
I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat!

for May 2008





Friday cat blogging will be delayed until sometime later in the day.

Tasers Gone Wild

Noah Schachtman on ABC News:

'Peel and Stick' Tasers Electrify Riot Control
Company's New Converter Kit Turns Shields into Shockers

May 14, 2008

Pretty soon, cops won't just be packing stun guns. They'll be carrying electrically-charged riot shields, zapping their unruly without unholstering their weapons. That is, if the folks at Taser International have their way.

The company just introduced the "Taser Shield Conversion Kit featuring the Taser Repel Laminate Film Technology."

The kit "features a peel and stick perforated [f]ilm, power supply and necessary conversion equipment. This laminate becomes electrified providing a powerful deterrent to protect officers and keep suspects or rioters at bay." What could possibly go wrong?

Let me get this straight: police will be able to tase (will have no choice but to tase?) arbitrary people they happen to be directly physically approaching in a crowd control situation, whoever happens to be in front of their shields no matter what those people are or are not doing, without taking overt action to unholster a weapon and initiate the shock?

I can think of some names for such an action. "Police work" is not among those names.

Let us be clear about one thing: lethal or nonlethal, a Taser is an offensive weapon. It is not body armor or protective gear. A Taser is intended to bring down the person it is aimed at. This new add-on lowers the bar to shocking someone... and not necessarily an aggressor... one notch below an already far too low standard. In short: our government should not be making it easier to zap someone, nor making said zapping a significantly more frequent occurrence.

Oh, and wouldn't this be an ideal weapon for, say, disrupting elections once and for all?

(H/T rorschach via Avedon.)


We Have Oasis To Make You Vote

According to a WSJ blog, John McCain recently had an unpublicized meeting with Joel Osteen, televangelist and son of the founder of Houston's Lakewood Church, "An Oasis of Love in a Troubled World." (I always thought "Former Home of the Houston Rockets" would have been a more effective slogan for a megachurch hosted in a former sports venue, but what do I know.)

Meanwhile, in the same post, we learn that Barack Obama is re-releasing a flier in Kentucky emphasizing his religious views.

Candidates: would you please stop campaigning on your religious faith? It's unseemly at the very least. Our nation's founders separated church and state in part because mixing government and religion is bad for religion. How difficult is that to understand?


Noted Without Comment

(H/T Dave at Orcinus.)



Maybe this is news. Maybe not. I'll let you decide...

  • ‘There is no district that is safe for Republican candidates’

    Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report quotes DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen as saying that headline, and if it's true, that's no bad thing. But to me, the more interesting quote was from NRCC Chairman Tom Cole, who, as Benen notes, didn't even try to spin:

    [T]he political environment is such that voters remain pessimistic about the direction of the country and the Republican Party in general…. I encourage all Republican candidates, whether incumbents or challengers, to take stock of their campaigns and position themselves for challenging campaigns this fall by building the financial resources and grassroots networks that offer them the opportunity and ability to communicate, energize and turn out voters this election.

    I have a slightly different attitude: This isn't a campaign problem; it's a values problem. GOP candidates need to take stock, not of their campaigns, but of their lives, their actions and their adherence to their own purported principles and standards. For far too long, there's been no vestige of Abe Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt in the GOP; the party has been little better than a crime syndicate. Once they get their house in order, so that they deserve to win the trust of the electorate, then they can worry about their campaigns. (I know, I know... as if any of that is going to happen.)

  • Charges Against 9/11 Suspect Dropped

    Why? No mystery there:

    Charges Against 9/11 Suspect Dropped
    His Statements Were the Result of Abusive Interrogation, Officials Say
    By Josh White and Julie Tate
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Wednesday, May 14, 2008; Page A04

    U.S. authorities have long considered Mohammed al-Qahtani one of the most dangerous alleged terrorists in U.S. custody, a man who could have been the 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11, 2001, plot if he had not been denied entry into the country.

    But yesterday, amid concerns about using information obtained during abusive military interrogations, a top Pentagon official removed Qahtani from the military commission case meant to bring justice to those behind the vast Sept. 11 conspiracy.

    Susan J. Crawford, the appointed official who decides which cases will be heard in the largely untested commission process, dismissed the charges against Qahtani while affirming those against five other alleged terrorists to stand trial at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Prosecutors reserve the right to charge Qahtani again, and the military says it can hold him without trial for the duration of the counterterrorism wars. But his defense lawyers and officials familiar with the case say it is unlikely that Qahtani will face new charges because he was subjected to aggressive Defense Department interrogation techniques -- such as intimidation by dogs, hooding, nudity, long-term isolation and stress positions.

    Those techniques were later rescinded because of concerns about their legality. In 2005, an official military investigation concluded that Qahtani's interrogation regimen amounted to abuse.

    Officials close to the case said Crawford's office was reluctant to sanction the charges against Qahtani because prosecutors had little evidence against him outside of his own coerced confessions, a point that most certainly would have become a central issue at trial.


    Coerced confessions. Possible double jeopardy. Even military prosecutors declaring the case is too weak to try. Defendant detained six years before trial, and to be detained without charge as prosecutors require, through the end of the war on terror. Just how much of our own constitutionally required due process can we violate?

    The Military Commissions Act is the worst travesty of justice in our age. We could deal with captured alleged terrorists in ways that comport with our legitimate system of justice and the internationally recognized laws of war, but the Bushists have decided instead to act like torture-crazed third world tinpot dictators. I do not want to think what our nation will eventually endure for departing so far from its own founding values.

    Meanwhile, the Military Commissions are making up for losing Qahtani by charging five others with capital crimes. Dog Bless America!

  • Pastor John Hagee says he's sorry for anti-Catholic remarks

    Except that he doesn't really apologize. And then there's this:


    Pastor John Hagee, who heads the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, said in a letter made public Tuesday that he now knew the terms he used to describe the church, such as "the great whore," were "rhetorical devices long employed in anti-Catholic literature."


    He didn't know that it is offensive to describe someone else's religion as "the great whore"? Awwww, gimme a break! Still, the Catholic League accepted the apology, which says a lot about the political ambitions of the Catholic League.

  • The Bell Tolls For Thee, GOP

    So says Houston Chronicle Commons blogger desperado (Craig Yates), who says in his profile, "I am an old-school conservative/libertarian (think Goldwater)." It seems to me that if the GOP is losing people like Mr. Yates, they are in serious long-term trouble, no matter what happens to the party this November.


Fox's Rove-ing Putz


That Pundit on Fox News? An Upstart Named Rove
Published: May 12, 2008

WASHINGTON — Late Thursday night, Karl Rove, the architect of the last two Republican presidential victories, was on his new television perch at Fox News, offering free advice to Senator Barack Obama as he closed in on the Democratic nomination.

Any move by Mr. Obama to declare victory before the last of the Democratic primaries in June, Mr. Rove said, would alienate Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s wing of the party. “That’s a mistake,” he said. “That just is rubbing the loser’s nose in it. And a lot of those supporters will remember it by November.”

In the Obama campaign war room in Chicago, where Mr. Rove’s talking head was just one of several across six television screens, his counsel was taken with a heavy dose of salt.

“Wouldn’t taking his advice be a little like getting health tips from a funeral home director?” said Mr. Obama’s press secretary, Bill Burton.

The bęte noire of the Democrats has turned pundit, and his old nemeses — along with those who used to cover him in the news media — do not always know what to make of it.


First of all, Rove is also arguably the architect of the embarrassing Republican loss in the 2006 congressional elections. If he is a bęte noire, he is sometimes a dumbfucking bęte noire.

Then there's his advice to Democrats. Bill Burton has assessed it for what it is: raw GOP propaganda and monkeywrenching. I am one of those so-called liberal white elites (heh) who voted for and caucused for Hillary... and I and all the LWEs I personally know in the Democratic Party intend to be there for Obama, with bells on as the saying goes, in the general election. Does Rove think we are all suicidally stupid?

Somebody please explain to me how this man came to be known as a political genius. The process must have been similar to the process by which Fox News talking heads came to be mistaken for journalists.


Happy Mother's Day!

The lady you see on the left was my mother. Last year, I wrote a more elaborate biographical post about her, which you can read here. Stella's cats Tabitha and Samantha have a great day planned for their Mom-substitute, including a lot of lap-sitting, chasing around the apartment, and at the end of the day, their presents, which are... their presence. I hope all of you have a splendid day, with your mothers if possible, and with your children if you're the mother.


FDA On Heparin: Protecting Americans?

In a confrontation that involves the peoples of two countries, the executives of two governments, an American drug company, our Congress and the FDA, the Wall Street Journal is certain of just one thing: It's the Democrats' fault...

FDA Withholds List of Chinese Heparin Suppliers From Probe
May 10, 2008; Page A4

WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration is withholding a list of Chinese heparin suppliers requested by congressional investigators looking into problems with tainted supplies of the blood thinner, saying confidentiality agreements prevent release of the companies' names.

Members of Congress also are concerned that Chinese heparin manufacturers and their raw-material suppliers didn't fully cooperate with an FDA inspection team in February, after the heparin crisis erupted internationally, and barred the FDA from complete access to some workshops, records and workers.

An FDA compliance official testified to a congressional subcommittee April 29 that the FDA could try to revisit facilities in China, but said, "I cannot say whether they will admit us or not, or whether they will allow us to do a full inspection."


A spokeswoman for the FDA said the agency is looking at finding a way to give the committee the information it requested 10 days ago without violating confidentiality agreements involving proprietary information.


The Chinese government, meanwhile, has insisted that its products didn't cause American deaths and said this week that Baxter wasn't cooperating in China's investigation. Ms. Gardiner said, "We disagree. We hosted the Chinese in April at our plant in New Jersey and have agreed to provide them with heparin samples."

The FDA is relying on voluntary testing agreements with some companies to check their heparin ingredients for contamination before they distribute their supplies in the U.S., said a spokeswoman for the FDA, citing congressional testimony by FDA officials.

The tainted-heparin scare has become one of several cases congressional Democrats have used to criticize the Bush administration.


Oh, those evil Democrats... insisting on information, prepared to violate proprietary secrets for no better reason than that China may be knowingly supplying tainted medicine to be fed to Americans. Apparently, Bush's FDA would prefer to join the conspiracy of silence. Remember, they "cannot say whether they will admit us or not, or whether they will allow us to do a full inspection."

Um... why not?

As one who is about to be consuming a lot of prescription meds (not including Heparin, as far as I know), I have a personal interest in the matter. I wouldn't be surprised if you do as well. The notion that an Executive agency can stiff-arm a congressional investigation into matters of life and death is becoming all too prevalent these days. It's time to get rid of these people in November.

I know many of you out there feel the Democrats are compromised, and some of you have said they are no better than Republicans. When one of your relatives dies as a result of taking tainted medicine inadequately scrutinized by Bush's FDA, will you still feel the same way? Face it: voluntary "compliance" ... Republican policy in matters ranging from testing of medicine to reducing environmental pollution... just doesn't cut it. And voluntary "compliance" is all we'll get, until we oust the Bushists and defeat McSame in November.


Conason On Hillary

Joe Conason, long-time supporter and frequent defender of the Clintons (please read, for example, the by now ancient and venerable The Hunting of the President by Conason and Lyons), explains Hillary's serious missteps, first on Iran, then (and most seriously) on race as a campaign issue.

I voted and caucused for Hillary (before she made her statements about "totally obliterating" Iran and about "hard-working Americans, white Americans"), but endorsed neither Democratic candidate. I claim no prescience in that non-endorsement, but it does seem to me that Hillary, who is very likely not going to make it as the Democratic candidate, has some damage control to do if she does not wish to inflict serious harm upon the Democratic Party.

As noted before, I am committed to vote for the Democratic nominee in November. Whoever that may be, I sincerely hope Hillary stops alienating core Democrats in her quest for the presidency. We need an intact party far more than we need either one of the current likely nominees; the sooner Hillary realizes that, the better it will be for all Democrats.

(Note: I am not saying Obama is blameless, but at this point, Hillary is clearly the one issuing statements that go beyond the lines of acceptable Democratic assertions about a primary opponent. And don't get me started about her working of the so-called superdelegates...)


Saturday Signs

Again, it's not really a sign; it's an interior stained glass (or perhaps painted?) window used as a partition in Hunan Village Restaurant on S. Shepherd in Houston:

Hunan Village has one of the best vegetarian menus of any Chinese restaurant in Houston.

(Confession: I tweaked this picture quite a bit to compensate for the dim interior lighting.)


Friday Guest Cat Blogging

Catherine's cat Lotus, an Egyptian Mau, poses for us...

Catherine is recovering from eye surgery. Stella came home from work early today, feeling quite ill. And I've been to the dentist once and the doctor once this week... so far. Keep your fingers crossed for all of us.

(Posted early. I need sleep!)


It's Not Funny, Senator McCain

McCain turns standup comic on us about his reported frequent temper tantrums:

May 7, 2008, 2:04 PM
McCain Talks About His Temper
Posted by Andante Higgins| ...

ROCHESTER, MICH. – An energetic crowd at Oakland University here grilled John McCain on his temper and on the war in Iraq.

A young man told McCain his temper was of concern to him, to which McCain joked, “How dare you ask that question?”

“Take that microphone away from him,” McCain continued, to laughter from the audience. The questioner began to read a quote from Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who said that McCain “worries” him because of his temper.

“I’m familiar with the quote,” McCain said. “But if you’d like to repeat it again, please do so.”

The man kept reading, which prompted another audience member on the other side of the room to call out, “He’s passionate!”

“Look, I will confess to you that I get angry,” McCain said. “I get angry when I saw a guy named Abramoff that ripped off Native Americans for millions and millions and millions of dollars and people ended up, including him, in federal prison. I get angry when I see 233 million of your tax dollars going to a bridge to an island with 50 people on it. And that’s your dollars.”


Let me get this straight: uncontrolled anger is a virtue, and McCain intends to campaign on it, mocking his questioners who have a legitimate problem with an historically angry man with his finger on the metaphorical nuclear button? How desperate must the GOP be, to run such a man for president? And yet, with the effectiveness of the GOP election theft apparatus, and the media's preoccupation with the angry man, he may well take the office.


Romp! Squeak!

Great headline from TPM on their news front (not on the article itself):

Obama Romps in NC; Hillary Squeaks By in Indiana

... except that Obama doesn't so much romp as lumber in a dignified fashion, and Hillary doesn't squeak, but rather rasps assertively in a manner demanding attention. Let's be accurate about this, now...

If anyone thinks tonight's primaries caused any real change in the balance, please let me know.


Do You Believe In Magic?

Well of course you do... Florida substitute teacher Jim Piculas just received a lovin' spoonful of it as he watched his contract substitute teaching work disappear:

Magic trick costs teacher job
By Janie Porter


The charge from the school district — Wizardry!

Substitute teacher Jim Piculas does a 30-second magic trick where a toothpick disappears then reappears.

But after performing it in front of a classroom at Rushe Middle School in Land 'O Lakes, Piculas said his job did a disappearing act of its own.

"I get a call the middle of the day from head of supervisor of substitute teachers. He says, 'Jim, we have a huge issue, you can't take any more assignments you need to come in right away,'" he said.

When Piculas went in, he learned his little magic trick cast a spell and went much farther than he'd hoped.

"I said, 'Well Pat, can you explain this to me?' 'You've been accused of wizardry,' [he said]. Wizardry?" he asked.

Tampa Bay's 10 talked to the assistant superintendent with the Pasco County School District who said it wasn't just the wizardry and that Picular had other performance issues, including "not following lesson plans" and allowing students to play on unapproved computers."

Piculas said he knew nothing about the accusations.

"That... I think was embellished after the fact to try to cover what initially what they were saying to me," he said.


This is sick... but so is much of America in matters of religious extremism. It is a sign of the advanced state of our decay as a society that this kind of incident, though it may offend us, no longer surprises us.

My inclination is to take these people by the shoulders and shout in their faces, "Look, you stupid fucks: however much you hate Gandalf and Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter, wizardry is fiction! Got it? Fiction! Made up! Doesn't exist in the real world!" But doing that would not change their minds (if I may use the term "mind" loosely), and I would probably just lose my job as Mr. Piculas did. Oh, wait; I don't have a job...

(H/T Echidne.)


A Few Things I Missed

Miscellaneous items of interest I missed over the past week or two:

  • Congress passes anti-genetic discrimination bill:

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress sent President Bush a bill Thursday forbidding employers and insurance companies from using genetic tests showing people are at risk of developing cancer, heart disease or other ailments to reject their job applications, promotions or health care coverage, or in setting premiums.

    Bush was expected soon to sign the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which lawmakers and advocates called "the first major civil rights act of the 21st century." Federal law already bans discrimination by race and gender.

    "Your skin color, your gender, all of those are part of your DNA," said Francis Collins, head of the National Human Genome Research Institute. "Shouldn't the rest of your DNA also fall under that protective umbrella?"

    Researchers supported the bill because Americans have been refusing to take genetic tests or have been using false names and paying cash because they didn't want the information used against them by their employer or insurance company, Collins said.


    And Bush is/was expected to sign it. Crossing his fingers behind his back? Insurance companies and large employers won't like this bill at all.

  • Krugman: Party of Denial

    Did Obama give away a significant Democratic issue to the GOP?

  • McCain blames Minnesota bridge collapse on wasted money

    By LIBBY QUAID, Associated Press Writer Wed Apr 30, 7:34 PM ET

    ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Republican John McCain said Wednesday that the bridge collapse in Minnesota that killed 13 people last year would not have happened if Congress had not wasted so much money on pork-barrel spending.

    Federal investigators cite undersize steel plates as the "critical factor" in the collapse of the bridge. Heavy loads of construction materials on the bridge also contributed to the disaster that injured 145 people on Aug. 1, according to preliminary findings by the National Transportation Safety Board.

    "The bridge in Minneapolis didn't collapse because there wasn't enough money," McCain told reporters while campaigning in Pennsylvania. "The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects."


    Oh, and how did that happen? Here's a mirror, Sen. McCain; you know how to find the culprit. Of course, your projects are not pork; you're building a bridge to the 19th century.

  • Republicans Crossing Over to Vote in Democratic Contests

    Amazingly, some are not monkeywrenching; instead, they're disgusted with the Bushists. Worth a read.

  • Happy 100th Birthday, Brother Edward!

    Peterr of Firedoglake reminds us of the recent 100th birthday of one of the greatest broadcast journalists America ever produced.

  • Gen Dems: The Party's Advantage Among Young Voters Widens

    So says the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Who am I to say otherwise!

  • Medical marijuana user who was denied liver transplant dies

    SEATTLE (AP) — A man who was denied a liver transplant largely because he used marijuana with medical approval to ease the symptoms of hepatitis C has died.

    Timothy Garon, 56, died Thursday at Bailey-Boushay House, an intensive care nursing center, said his lawyer, Douglas Hiatt, and Alisha Mark, a spokeswoman for Virginia Mason Medical Center, which operates Bailey-Boushay.

    His death came a week after a doctor told him a University of Washington Medical Center committee had again denied him a spot on the liver transplant list. The team had previously told him it would not consider placing him on the list until he completed a 60-day drug-treatment class.

    The case highlights an ethical consideration for those allocating organs for transplant: whether using dope with a doctor's blessing should be held against a dying patient in need of a transplant.


    Hey, guys... play God much?


Busy Weekend, Busy Monday

The weekend was spent helping various people with various computer-related issues, and taking a friend who is unable to drive at the moment grocery shopping. Monday (tomorrow) begins with a visit to the dentist, continues with another errand for/with the nondriving friend, and may involve more computer help-desk kinds of work. If I've been a bit scarce around the blog, that's why. I'll be back soon, I think.


Saturday Signs

Indoors at the local Amy's Ice Creams & Coffees, in Houston, on Farnham near Shepherd...

... hangout of the extremely cool late-teens, early-twenties set, as well as the occasional couple of "ancient" citizens who like the exceptionally good hand-worked ice cream. As far as I know, there are no tricks in this sign; I just like the visual effect. I suppose it's a pretty good representation of the jangled nerves you inevitably experience after you eat even their smallest portion, even if you're careful about the number of fixin's you have them add.


Yo Mama So Fat...

... Wal-Mart thinks you should get her a Wii Fit for Mother's Day:

May 2, 2008 2:32 PM PDT
'Wii Fit' for Mother's Day gift? You shouldn't have
Posted by Mike Yamamoto

If this report is true, then some marketing executives are even more out of touch with reality than we thought. And that's saying a lot.

According to Reuters, Wal-Mart is planning to make a huge push for the Wii Fit as "a perfect gift" for Mother's Day, splashing promotions for the game across its Web site this weekend. We won't even get into the fact that the holiday falls on May 11 this year, more than a week before the game is even available on the U.S. market. Rather, as always, it's the thought that counts--and in this case, it might be one that's gone badly awry.

Do you sign the card, "Dear Mom: Hope you lose weight"? You might as well go all out and get her a scale to go with it. If you really must go there, at least consider including a "Wii Party Station" to soften the blow.

Somehow, I think that if you give her that, Mom will throw a wee fit [sic].


Further Furry Friday Family Blogging

I know the cat-blogging posts have become rather routine lately, but I've felt a real need in these challenging times to post pictures of family...

Stella is not yet completely recovered, but is feeling considerably better most of the time. The ladies are, as always, happy to contribute to her good health, by their mere proximity.


Enforcing Moore's Law

Moore's Law is not a law either in the judicial sense or the scientific sense of the term. Rather, it is an observation, first offered by Intel's co-founder Gordon E. Moore in 1965, of a trend: that the number of transistors (a fundamental active element of most electronic circuits... memory, things that do arithmetic, gates in computer processors, etc.) that can be placed on a given size of chip doubles about every two years. This has been an observable fact for about a half century; it was proposed before my college days, and it continues today.

Recently, Hewlett Packard (HP) announced a new device that should allow the trend to continue for quite some time to come: it's called a memristor, and if you have any interest in the internals of computers, you might want to practice pronouncing it. Why? isn't there some new device or technique or approach invented and published just about every day, and don't some of them contribute to faster, higher-capacity computer memory? Well, yes... but the memristor is a newly discovered (invented? take your pick) fundamental device, something comparable with the traditional three electronic devices... resistor, capacitor, inductor... that have been known and developed for well over a century now, through discrete components soldered into circuits, on through printed circuits, integrated circuits, computer processors on a single chip, etc. The existence of the memristor was surmised as early as 1971; now HP has created them in its lab. The Ars Technica article linked above has the best straightforward explanation I've seen so far:

In the past, electronic circuit theory has revolved around three fundamental components: the resistor, the capacitor, and the inductor. Now a fourth has been added to that list, the memristor. First postulated in 1971 by Leon Chua at the University of California at Berkeley, a working example was recently created by Dmitri Strukov and colleagues at HP Labs. This advance could help shrink transistors even further.

Chua suspected that a memristor should exist based primarily on symmetry. There are four fundamental circuit variables: electric current, voltage, charge, and magnetic flux. For these variables, we have resistors to relate current to voltage, capacitors to relate voltage to charge, and inductors to relate current to magnetic flux, but we were missing one to relate charge to magnetic flux. That is where the memristor comes in.


I'll spare you the details; read the article if you find this sort of stuff interesting. (For the record, I do.) Just how good is this new fundamental device at allowing the creation of more transistors in a given space?

Currently the good folk at HP Labs have exploited this to create simple data storage devices. Using memristors, they have been able to store 100 gigabits on a single die in one square centimeter. That is substantially more than the 16 gigabits for a single flash chip, and a comparable storage density to modern hard drives. In the future, HP thinks they can get that up to a terabit or more per centimeter... with the access speed of DRAM. Clearly, this will vie with other technologies such as IBM's racetrack memory.      ...

In other words, they've created more than five times the current density of storage, even in the prototype... and they anticipate creating 10 times that much. And that's just the prospect for memory applications.

There's also discussion of other possibilities inherent in the memristor that are simply not available in other kinds of devices... analog processors, transistors that behave more like neurons in that they change their behavior with increased use, etc. etc.

It is a truism among software developers that order-of-magnitude changes in hardware speed, storage capacity, etc. result in whole new classes of software applications not previously conceived of. For example, the Web and all sorts of applications based on browsers and web servers were literally inconceivable before a certain level of hardware performance was available. I literally cannot begin to say what another leap forward in underlying hardware capabilities will lead to, but I'm pretty sure it will blow us all away... and I do not say that, or react to new developments, lightly. In other words, I think this may be big.

All we have to do is survive as a technologically advanced society long enough to accomplish the transition. I may or may not live to see this new technology brought to fruition; many of you probably will... if sociopolitical forces do not destroy the social fabric first. For now, I won't get all preachy: this is cool stuff, and I look forward to seeing it happen.


One Nation Under Surveillance

OK, it's not a very original post title, but what comes to your mind when you read this?

D.C. Forging Surveillance Network
Privacy a Concern as 1st Phase Links 4,500 Cameras to Central Office
By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 1, 2008; Page A01

The D.C. government is launching a system today that would tie together thousands of city-owned video cameras, but authorities don't yet have the money to complete the high-tech network or privacy rules in place to guide it.

The system will feature round-the-clock monitoring of the closed-circuit video systems run by nine city agencies. In the first phase, about 4,500 cameras trained on schools, public housing, traffic and government buildings will feed into a central office at the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. Hundreds more will be added this year.

By making all those images available under one roof, officials hope to increase efficiency and improve public safety and emergency response. But civil libertarians and D.C. Council members say the network is being rushed into place without sufficient safeguards to protect privacy.

"The planning has been wholly lacking," said council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, who plans to hold a hearing on the project.

With its vast reach, the system underscores how security cameras have multiplied since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. By this fall, the District will have installed about 5,600 closed-circuit cameras, about triple the number it had in 2001. Tens of thousands of other cameras have popped up at monuments, banks, stores and other places.


Today's technology makes it easy for governments to do things that have no measurable benefits and really should not be done at all. One can argue the merits of individual cameras in sensitive locations, but a system linking 5,600 cameras into a single central monitoring location can really have only one purpose: running a surveillance state.

DC residents: do you feel more secure now that your every move is watched? Oh, and... teens: no more places to park; you might as well get a room.


GOP: Enemy Of The Environment

Just a week ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists reported that half of 1600 EPA scientists reported that they had been the target of political interference. Quoting AP through Paul Kiel of TPMMuckraker:

The Union of Concerned Scientists said that more than half of the nearly 1,600 EPA staff scientists who responded online to a detailed questionnaire reported they had experienced incidents of political interference in their work....

Nearly 400 scientists said they had witnessed EPA officials misrepresenting scientific findings, 284 said they had witness the "selective or incomplete use of data to justify a specific regulatory outcome" and 224 scientists said they had been directed to "inappropriately exclude or alter technical information" in an EPA document.

Today, the Bushists made it worse. Again through TPM, here's a Chicago Tribune article:

TRIBUNE EXCLUSIVE: EPA's top Midwest regulator forced out
Mary Gade, based in Chicago, says Bush administration made her quit over Dow Chemical case
By Michael Hawthorne | Tribune reporter
2:40 PM CDT, May 1, 2008

The Bush administration forced its top environmental regulator in the Midwest to quit Thursday after months of internal bickering about dioxin contamination downstream from Dow Chemical's world headquarters in Michigan.

In an interview with the Tribune, Mary Gade said two top officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington stripped her of her powers as regional administrator and told her to quit or be fired by June 1.


Please read the sorry, disgusting details. Ms. Gade was clearly effectively fired for attempting to use her authority to force Dow to comply with the law in regard to some "dioxin-saturated soil and sediment" ... a clean-up that had been delayed for years. It appears that Dow called in a favor, and Gade was de facto fired.

Have I mentioned lately how much I loathe, detest and despise the GOP approach to things?


Book Blogging: Paretsky

Many of you who love detective fiction know Sara Paretsky through her fictional detective, V I Warshawski, a female private detective. V I (Paretsky usually writes her character's initials without periods) is as hardboiled as anyone Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett ever cooked up, but with a complexity and a variety of internal contradictions that give her a different kind of appeal. If you haven't encountered Paretsky's work, the first in the V I series is Indemnity Only, and your time spent reading any novel in the series will be well rewarded.

But that's not what brings Paretsky to my attention this time. The local library supplied me with her short autobiographical essay Writing in an Age of Silence (see LibraryThing listing, right sidebar). Paretsky not only lived a painful youth that is fascinating reading in its own right... in some ways, I think it is fair to say she was abused, or that she grew up quickly, or at least that the stern authority figures of her youth and her excess of responsibilities at an early age were formative of her own personality and ultimately that of her primary character... but also has been involved in social activism and, most recently, since the passage of the Patriot Act, civil liberties activism, a frequent topic of this blog, in case you hadn't noticed. The entire book has much to recommend it... it is short and intense, two of my favorite characteristics... and I hope you will read it all, as her memoirs set the context for the brief section about civil liberties at the end. But as a product of my own demons, among which civil liberties, civil rights and human rights haunt me the most, I suggest that if you don't have time to read the entire book, please at least read the last chapter, "Truth, Lies, and Duct Tape." Every writer for public consumption, every blogger most certainly included, needs to think about these matters.


Mission Demolished

Paul Reynolds, world affairs correspondent for BBC News online, says it just right in his op-ed,
Still no 'mission accomplished':

President Bush did not say "Mission Accomplished" on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln off San Diego on 1 May five years ago. But the banner above him did.

And the picture of those two words said more than the 1,829 words of his speech.


But the message from the banner said it simpler - mission accomplished. It was all over.

It wasn't. Guerrilla war followed, and this has produced more US casualties than the "major combat operations" did.


Mr Bush explained this in October 2003 and was supported by Navy spokesman Commander Conrad Chun, who told CNN: "The banner was a Navy idea, the ship's idea. The banner signified the successful completion of the ship's deployment."

However, it was not quite that simple. It also turned out, according to news reports, that the banner was made, by a private contractor, with the help of White House staff.

And there can be little doubt that those White House staff ensured that the banner was correctly placed for the cameras.


So much about that visit was planned for effect - the location, the president dressed in combat gear, landing in the co-pilot's seat of a Navy S-3 when he could have used a helicopter, the television cameras.


I leave it to others to look up the cost of this stunt in dollars. The cost in lives ended and ruined in the mission that Bush's staff declared accomplished is clear for all to see.

Bush's official spokesweasel is trying to pretend the sign didn't mean what it says:

Today [4/30], reporter Helen Thomas asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino how the president would “commemorate” the date tomorrow. Perino said the White House had “certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner”:

PERINO: President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific, and said, Mission Accomplished For These Sailors Who Are On This Ship On Their Mission. And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner. And I recognize that the media is going to play this up again tomorrow, as they do every single year.

Sorry, no. The banner was clearly intentionally worded and placed in the photo-op, probably to say something Bush couldn't credibly say aloud himself. How stupid does Perino think we are? Don't answer that; I think we all know the answer.

Five years and 4,064 American troop deaths into this chaos (not to mention an estimated 83000 to 91000 civilian deaths), Bush is willing to concede that the sign was not such a good idea, while simultaneously disclaiming personal responsibility for the sign and the troops killed. And McCain backed him and still backs him, for a hundred, a thousand, a million years of chaos to come.

It is time to begin redeployment of the troops remaining in Iraq... immediately. No excuses, George. No excuses, John. End this horror right now. Well, OK, I'll allow you a few minutes to remove your crushed 'nads from the codpieces of your flight suits...


Does It Matter?

AP on NYT:

National Briefing | Washington
Record on Warrants for Spying Court
Published: May 1, 2008

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved a record number of requests to search or eavesdrop on terrorism and spying suspects last year, the Justice Department said. The court approved 2,370 warrants last year against people in the United States believed to be linked to international terror organizations. That figure is a 9 percent increase over 2006. The court denied three warrant applications in full and partly denied one, the Justice Department said.

Hmph. If the NSA has under surveillance every phone call, every email, every blog post we write and commit to the 'net... if the FBI simply omits requesting a FISA warrant much of the time that one would legally be required... does it really matter how many FISA requests are granted? If (and it's a big "if") every FISA request granted constitutes a legal warrant for surveillance, as opposed to no warrant at all, we should all celebrate the increase in this number. But I have a feeling that, compared to the number of warrantless searches undertaken, this number is miniscule.

All of you have a nice day!


Some Good News

At least I think this is good news; if you genuinely believe there is no substantive difference between having a Democratic president and having a Republican president, you may not give a damn. I don't believe that, and I think it makes a great deal of difference. From the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:

Gen Dems: The Party's Advantage Among Young Voters Widens

by Scott Keeter, Director Survey Research, Juliana Horowitz, Reasearch Associate and Alec Tyson, Research Assistant, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
April 28, 2008

Trends in the opinions of America's youngest voters are often a barometer of shifting political winds. And that appears to be the case in 2008. The current generation of young voters, who came of age during the George W. Bush years, is leading the way in giving the Democrats a wide advantage in party identification, just as the previous generation of young people who grew up in the Reagan years -- Generation X -- fueled the Republican surge of the mid-1990's.

In surveys conducted between October 2007 and March 2008, 58% of voters under age 30 identified or leaned toward the Democratic Party, compared with 33% who identified or leaned toward the GOP. The Democratic Party's current lead in party identification among young voters has more than doubled since the 2004 campaign, from 11 points to 25 points.

In fact, the Democrats' advantage among the young is now so broad-based that younger men as well as younger women favor the Democrats over the GOP -- making their age category the only one in the electorate in which men are significantly more inclined to self-identify as Democrats rather than as Republicans. Use the interactive tool to track generational differences in party affiliation over time.

While more women voters in every age group affiliate with the Democratic Party rather than the GOP, the gap is particularly striking among young women voters; more than twice as many women voters under age 30 identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party as favor the Republican Party (63% vs. 28%).

This analysis is part of a series of reports on changes in the balance of party identification in the electorate. On March 20, the Center released breakdown of trends in party identification in Republican "red" states, Democratic "blue" states, and politically contested swing states.1


Please view the Pew chart before you proceed. Those concerned with proper visual representation of numeric data will note that the Y-axis begins at 0, so what you see is what you get.

In my opinion, this is good news. Those of you who follow this blog... all both of you... know of my frustrations with the leadership of the Democratic Party in the past year or so. I do not expect that to change immediately. But voters, especially young voters, are presumably not registering with or switching to the Democratic Party because of their deep analysis of leadership issues, but rather because they perceive... correctly... that the values that have driven our nation for much of the past century under Democratic and Republican administrations alike have been completely abandoned by Bush, Cheney, McCain and company.

I am under no illusions about this party shift: it is a sign of desperation, or perhaps of allegiance to a candidate, not a sign of partisan fervor. Well and good; I'll take it. I look for two hopeful behaviors in the electorate: a return to liberal thought of the sort common in the administrations of FDR and JFK, and an understanding that one must vote strategically. I'll settle for one, but I'd really prefer both.


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Million-Year McCain

Yes, he said it, in January on ABC News: "Could be a thousand. Could be a thousand years or a million years [in Iraq]." TPM has the video.

Yes, this man will be a war president. Indeed, if he gets his way, every president from now to the end of the republic will be a war president. Maybe McCain will push for a new name for the United States of America: Wars-R-US.


Drilling ANWR Will Not Help


Tancredo: Paranoid Xenophobe


Pogo Was Right


Can't Win Legit? Sue 'Em!


Sittin' In The Dock


Antisocial Darwinism


It's A Cow-Eat-Cow World


McCain Campaign Stays Mainly In The Plane


Saturday Signs


McCain Hearts Huckabee


Friday Mirror Cat Blogging


Scalia: 'Get Over It'


McCain's History Of Hate


Insanity, Or Maybe Just Inanity


Hillary's Beach Boys Imitation


Scarier Than Politics


M$N Giveth Selleth, M$N Taketh Away


McCain Goes Nuclear


Gathering Moss


Baby-Faced Georgie -- DOGGEREL!


Saturday Signs


Friday Family Blogging


Was Mark Twain Prescient?


States Unpack Their Needles


ABC Sucks





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Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the constant omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.
  - FDR

I belong to the Democratic Party wing of the Democratic Party.
  - Paul Wellstone

I am a Democrat without prefix, without suffix, and without apology.
  - Sam Rayburn


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