Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday Poetry: Robert Frost

The Pasture

I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shan't be gone long. -- You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother. It's so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shan't be gone long. -- You come too.

--Robert Frost

Sunday Funnies: 3-Fer

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 3/24/13 by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

(Political cartoon by Matt Bors and published 3/26/13 at The Daily Kos.)

(Political cartoon by Matt Wuerker and published 3/28/13 at The Daily Kos.)

(As always, click on image to enlarge and then return for the next 'toon.)


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Two-Headed Shark

(Photo: Reprinted with permission from C. M. Wagner et al by National Geographic.  Click on link to learn more about this serendipitous find.)

A Glitch For Mitch

(Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

David Horsey had his snarkmeister cap on for this cartoon and column, and he wears that chapeau well.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will not be facing a challenge from actress Ashley Judd when he runs for reelection next year. Though he may be happy to have avoided the physical comparison -- she, after all, played Marilyn Monroe in a movie, while he looks like an ancient sea turtle dressed in a $1,000 suit -- the Kentucky Republican may miss having such an attractive target for his attack machine.

McConnell is not all that popular back home. Democrats, of course, can’t stand him and tea party Republicans may like him even less. To militants on the right, he is the quintessential Washington insider, dealmaker and compromiser. In January, a Louisville Courier-Journal poll found that only 34% of Kentucky Republicans would definitely vote for McConnell, no matter who his competitor might be.

McConnell is in the kind of political pickle that his Democratic counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, found himself in back in 2010. The Nevada senator lucked out by having a crazy-talking tea party goofball as his opponent and he eked out a victory. Judd would have been a more credible foe, but the McConnell team, backed by mountains of PAC money, could have made the election all about her, and thereby deflected the attention from him. ...

Republican Party officials are openly mocking the Democrats for their failure to come up with a candidate to run against McConnell, but they should not get too smug. Former President Bill Clinton has been urging another attractive brunette to enter the race. The young woman getting Clinton’s formidable charm assault is Alison Lundergan Grimes, who just happens to be a real politician. As Kentucky’s secretary of state, Grimes has run and won a statewide race.   [Emphasis added]

If the Tea Party throws up a primary challenger, McConnell will have to spend money early and fast.  If Grimes does throw her hat in the ring with Clinton's backing, she just might win.  I don't think she'll be a fire-brand liberal like Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand, but she would add to the Democratic numbers in the Senate.  That would help. 

It would also make me happy.  I need to put all this popcorn to use.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Unsurprising News

(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles and published by the Washington Post on 3/28/13.  Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

I should be used to this by now, but I'm not.  I'm still appalled that a president elected twice to pull us out of the morass we were thrown into by a Republican administration and its owners is still catering to those who would do us in.  From the Washington Post:

Obama will have his second dinner in as many months with Senate Republicans on April 10, a White House official confirmed. The president dined earlier this month with a group of Republicans at the Jefferson Hotel, part of a charm offensive.

The new dinner is being coordinated by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). A spokesman for the senator said the president called him in the last two weeks and asked if he would like to help organize a second dinner and Isakson replied he would be happy to.

The dinner party – no location or guest list has been announced yet – will come during what will otherwise likely be a fiery week for Obama and the Republican opposition.

The president is set to release his budget that week – a package of new spending programs and tax hikes that the GOP is sure to oppose. He will also be pushing for quick progress on a bill to overhaul immigration laws and to pass legislation to try to reduce gun violence.

One question: who will foot the bill? The president paid for the Jefferson dinner, complete with Hamachi tartar appetizer and lamb acai and lobster entrees, out of his own pocket.   [Emphasis added]

I'll tell you who will foot the bill:  those of us not part of the 1%.  Whether it's lobster or hot dogs, we're the credit card without limits except when it comes to taking care of our interests.

Even if President Obama were interested in what is best for 99% of the people of this country, those who are struggling mightily to just survive, his continuous pandering to the extreme right, offering to give away anything to "make a deal", makes it unlikely that this latest dinner party will be anything other than mutual back-patting.

And we lose once again.


Labels: , , ,

Thursday, March 28, 2013

EEK! Teh Gaii!

(Click on image to enlarge and then return, or else.)

David Horsey's column on the gay marriage cases before the Supreme Court of the US is an interesting one.  He uses an analogy that is a bit different than the one usually cited.

During oral arguments, some of the nine justices appeared uncomfortable jumping into the gay marriage debate at all. Much time was spent arguing about whether the petitioners on the pro-Prop. 8 side had legal standing to bring the appeal. Determining that they do not, the court could let the lower court’s ruling stand. They could also simply uphold the 9th Circuit’s decision. Either way, the justices could avoid a broader judgment that homosexuals have a constitutional right to marry in all 50 states.

Also wanting to stop short of that outcome, yet still urging the justices toward a somewhat broader middle ground, Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli Jr. offered a position that would open the way to same-sex marriage only in states such as California that already give homosexual couples every legal benefit accorded married persons except the right to marry. Because such states have essentially conceded that there is no societal harm in established domestic partnerships, those states cannot reasonably contend there would be harm in letting same-sex partners marry, Verrilli argued. ...

Oddly, no one pointed out that homosexual couples actually are producing children through sperm donors and surrogate mothers. They are also becoming parents via adoption. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy noted that, in California alone, 40,000 children are being raised by homosexual parents. In the modern world, there is more than one path to parenthood.

Seeking more solid ground for their skeptical view of same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the other court conservatives rallied around the idea that moving too fast on same-sex marriage would be unwise because it is a novel idea that breaks with tradition. Theodore B. Olson, representing the anti-Prop. 8 side, offered the obvious and most pertinent rejoinder: interracial marriage was illegal until the Supreme Court invalidated laws against it in 1967. Such laws enforced a traditional view and were supported by large majorities, not just in the South, but all over the country. Yet the court went against the majority of Americans and against the status quo in that decision.   [Emphasis added]

Most have used the analogy to Roe v Wade, which fundagelicals have long decried as coming out of left field with no juridical precedent.  These cased are  closer to that of inter-racial marriage and the abolition of slavery in which there really was no precedent and in which there was no public outcry.  In that respect, Horsey has nailed it.

He is, however, pessimistic on the outcome.

Me, I'm a bit more hopeful.  One of the justices is in an inter-racial marriage ... one of the (ahem) more conservative ones.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hiding The Salami

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (March 26, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then hasten back here.)

One of Obama's campaign promises in 2004 was to increase transparency in government.  Well, we know how that has worked out.  From drone assassination to enforcement of the Patriot Acts' invasion of privacy, President Obama has actually decreased open government over that of President Bush.  Here is just one more example.

When the State Department hired a contractor to produce the latest environmental impact statement for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, it asked for a Web-based electronic docket to record public comments as they flowed in each day. Thousands of comments are expected to be filed by people and businesses eager to influence the outcome of the intense international debate over the project.

But the public will not find it easy to examine these documents.

A summary of the comments will be included in the final version of the environmental impact statement when it is released, said Imani J. Esparza of the Office of Policy and Public Outreach in State's bureau of oceans, environment and science.

But the only way to see the comments themselves is by filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, a process that can take so long that the Keystone debate could be over before the documents are made available.

The public will not be able to access the full electronic docket online.

The State Department "is doing no more than what they have to do, at a time when most other agencies are moving proactively toward timely disclosure," said Katie Greenhaw, an expert in the regulatory process at the Center for Effective Government, which advocates for public involvement and openness. "This is not meaningful engagement." ...

 After the environmental review is complete, the public will have another chance to weigh in on the Keystone project. This time the State Department will consider the broader question of whether building the pipeline is in the "national interest."

During that phase, too, the agency will consider public comments - but the process will likely be even more opaque, because there are no clear guidelines for that phase, as there are for NEPA assessments. In a 2011 go-around of the national interest process, people who spoke at hearings or commented in writing complained to InsideClimate News that their comments were falling into a black hole, not fully considered by the department, or in many cases were lost.   [Emphasis added]

First, why is the State Department so involved?  Isn't this more properly a subject for the EPA?

Second, what is the purpose of withholding the information, of "hiding the salami," from people who need to know just what this pipeline is going to do to the environment in the US and, quite frankly, the rest of the planet, since most of the tar sands cruised will be shipped out?

We may be stupid, but a lot of that is due to being uninformed.  And that is just the way our owners want to keep us.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Things That Make You Go "Wow!"

(Editorial cartoon by Lee Judge / The Kansas City Star (March 24, 2013)and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then hurry on back.)

Thankfully there are scientists, engineers, and technologists who are more forward thinking than the pro-lifer in the cartoon.  As a result, there is some very exciting news on the medical treatment front for people who have heart problems.

Heart care is in the midst of a transformation. Many problems that once required sawing through the breastbone and opening up the chest for open heart surgery now can be treated with a nip, twist or patch through a tube.

These minimal procedures used to be done just to unclog arteries and correct less common heart rhythm problems. Now some patients are getting such repairs for valves, irregular heartbeats, holes in the heart and other defects _ without major surgery. Doctors even are testing ways to treat high blood pressure with some of these new approaches.

All rely on catheters _ hollow tubes that let doctors burn away and reshape heart tissue or correct defects through small holes into blood vessels.

"This is the replacement for the surgeon's knife. Instead of opening the chest, we're able to put catheters in through the leg, sometimes through the arm," said Dr. Spencer King of St. Joseph's Heart and Vascular Institute in Atlanta. He is former president of the American College of Cardiology. Its conference earlier this month featured research on these novel devices.

"Many patients after having this kind of procedure in a day or two can go home" rather than staying in the hospital while a big wound heals, he said. It may lead to cheaper treatment, although the initial cost of the novel devices often offsets the savings from shorter hospital stays.

Not everyone can have catheter treatment, and some promising devices have hit snags in testing. Others on the market now are so new that it will take several years to see if their results last as long as the benefits from surgery do.

But already, these procedures have allowed many people too old or frail for an operation to get help for problems that otherwise would likely kill them.   [Emphasis added]

Yes, it's too soon to tell if the new devices will be as effective as the old open-heart surgery protocol, and, yes, the devices are very expensive at this point.  Further, some devices which have been approved for use in Europe have not (yet) been approved for use in the US.  

That said, the research opens new doors for such treatments as replacing heart valves,and  fixing irregular heart rhythms (fibrillation), heart defects, clogged arteries, and high blood pressure. 

Like I said ...



Monday, March 25, 2013

Hey, Wait A Minute!

(Political cartoon by David Horsey and published March 21, 2013 in the Los Angeles Times. Click on image to enlarge and then kindly return.)

Oopsie!  Maybe this sequester idea wasn't such a good one after all.  Apparently that thought has finally penetrated the thick skulls of our representatives in Washington.  Doyle McManus took note of all the squealing going on as a result of that chicken run in his weekend column.

Judging from the squeals we're hearing from members of Congress whose districts are threatened by cuts, the effects are intolerable.

The complaints from Democrats, who never wanted the sequester to go into effect, were predictable. But some of the complaining comes from Republicans who welcomed the sequester as an overdue act of belt-tightening.

Tea Party Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) has decried cuts to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which he called "one of the few legitimate functions of government." (The Johnson Space Center, with about 3,000 civilian employees, happens to be in his Houston-area district.) The sequester, Stockman warned, could put all Americans in danger — by hampering NASA's work to protect the Earth from asteroids.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who became famous for shouting "You Lie!" at President Obama during the 2010 State of the Union address, has argued that a big nuclear reprocessing plant in his district should be spared. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) has suggested that all civilian defense employees, including the thousands in his Gulf Coast district, should be exempted from the threat of furloughs.

And dozens of Republicans from rural areas have protested the Federal Aviation Administration's plans to close control towers at 173 small airports, arguing that the needs of plane-flying farmers should come before competing priorities.

It's funny how budget cuts seem more palatable when they affect someone else.   [Emphasis added]

As McManus pointed out in his column, the White House hasn't helped matters by its conduct after the sequester took effect.  Canceling tours of the White House to save a few thousand dollars was a direct slap at congress because members often give tickets for those tours to visiting constituents.  McManus even thinks that the GOP might have won the PR battle.

All things considered, nobody won anything this time around, including us.  I certainly hope this is one idea that finally gets thrown out with some of the other lame trash our government has tried to peddle.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Poetry: David Baker


Yesterday a little girl got slapped to death by her daddy,
   out of work, alcoholic, and estranged two towns down river.
America, it's hard to get your attention politely.
   America, the beautiful night is about to blow up

and the cop who brought the man down with a shot to the chops
   is shaking hands, dribbling chaw across his sweaty shirt,
and pointing cars across the courthouse grass to park.
   It's the Big One one more time, July the 4th,

our country's perfect holiday, so direct a metaphor for war,
   we shoot off bombs, launch rockets from Drano cans,
spray the streets and neighbors' yards with the machine-gun crack
   of fireworks, with rebel yells and beer. In short, we celebrate.

It's hard to believe. But so help the soul of Thomas Paine,
   the entire county must be here--the acned faces of neglect,
the halter-tops and ties, the bellies, badges, beehives,
   jacked-up cowboy boots, yes, the back-up singers of democracy

all gathered to brighten in unambiguous delight
   when we attack the calm and pointless sky. With terrifying vigor
the whistle-stop across the river will lob its smaller arsenal
   halfway back again. Some may be moved to tears.

We'll clean up fast, drive home slow, and tomorrow
   get back to work, those of us with jobs, convicting the others
in the back rooms of our courts and malls--yet what
   will be left of that one poor child, veteran of no war

but her family's own? The comfort of a welfare plot,
   a stalk of wilting prayers? Our fathers' dreams come true as
So the first bomb blasts and echoes through the streets and shrubs:
   red, white, and blue sparks shower down, a plague

of patriotic bugs. Our thousand eyeballs burn aglow like punks.
   America, I'd swear I don't believe in you, but here I am,
and here you are, and here we stand again, agape.

--David Baker

Sunday Funnies: 4 by 2

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (March 20, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

(Editorial cartoon by  Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (March 21, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.)

As always, click on image to enlarge and then return to the next cartoon.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Giant Squid

Photograph courtesy Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum of Japan/AP and published by National Geographic.  Click on link to learn more about the Kraken.

Another Give-Away

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (March 22, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge -- which you really have to do to appreciate it -- and then please come back.)

Michael Hiltzig has a great post on the lack of integrity (and compassion, and intelligence) of the critters in Washington DC.  His subject is the slipping of the chained cpi method for calculating cost of living raises for those on Social Security.

It's a benefit cut. It's not merely a "technical" change. It's not a "more accurate" measure of inflation.

The "chained CPI" has become one of the linchpins of the debate in Washington over what to do about the cost of Social Security. The idea is to ratchet back the annual cost-of-living adjustment provided to recipients by basing them no longer on the standard consumer price index, but this new creature. Its virtue, supposedly, is that it points to a slower inflation rate than the unchained index, by about .3% a year.

But as I wrote in 2011, it's a stealth benefit cut for seniors. After 10 years, the average Social Security retiree will be getting 3% a year less than under current law; after 20 years it's 6%. The change is presumed to be almost painless--who would notice a lower cost-of-living adjustment that amounts to three-tenths of one percent. So the proposal has garnered the favor of Democrats in Congress and President Obama, who seem to think they can offer it as a concession to Republicans and get something good in exchange, like a tax increase. ...

It's a benefit cut. It's not merely a "technical" change. It's not a "more accurate" measure of inflation.

Let's face it. The "chained CPI" is a benefit cut, dressed up in the faux-finery of economic rigor. Can't Washington be even a teensy bit honest about what it's up to?  [Emphasis added]

Why, no, Michael, Washington can't be "even a teensy bit honest about what it's up to."  If it were, and if the Village bobbleheaded press would actually print the truth about the benefit cut, all hell might break loose.

And as for hope that the GOP as currently constituted will give in on the issue of raising taxes, especially on the wealthy, oh, please!  Paul Ryan and his Tea Party Express is still rolling, Mitch McConnell is still not cooperating.  Why shouldn't they continue to say no.  They've snookered the White House, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi.

Joel Pett's cartoon nailed it quite nicely, don't you think?

The question is, what are we prepared to do about it?

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

My, What A Surprise!

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (March 18, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

Well, we've seen how the RNC report I posted on yesterday has been received by the Tea Party/CPAC faction of the Republican Party.  The basest base is clearly not going to roll over and die. Instead, it will indeed hold the knives against the throats of moderate Republicans. 

From the Los Angeles Times:

The austere House budget drafted by Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that has come to define the Republican Party was approved Thursday on a strict party-line vote, as the GOP argues that a balanced budget should now be Washington’s top goal.

The blueprint is merely a proposal, without the force of law, but its overhaul of the Medicare program and steep reductions to other social safety net spending serves as the GOP’s opening salvo in renewed budget negotiations with President Obama. It was approved, 221 to 207, with no Democrats and 10 GOP defectors, largely conservatives or congressman in swing districts.

Republicans are anxious to reopen the debate over government spending with the White House even though some attribute the party’s setbacks in the November election to the plan from Ryan, the party’s former vice presidential nominee. ...

The centerpiece of the GOP plan would turn Medicare into a voucher-like program for the next generation of seniors, those younger than 55. When they become eligible, at age 65, those seniors will be offered a voucher that can be applied either to the purchase of private health insurance or toward the cost of Medicare, though the voucher may not cover all the costs of the policy chosen.

The Ryan budget also cuts Medicaid, the health program for the poor and seniors in nursing homes, as well as food stamps, welfare programs and student loans, while largely preserving money for defense accounts.   [Emphasis added]

Thankfully, the Ryan plan (version 2.2) is merely a proposal, but it does signal what the GOP in this Congress considers fair game for negotiation: the elders, the poor, the vulnerable.

People like me.

It's time for some "kingbirding."

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Uncivil War

Earlier this week, David Horsey took a look at the CPAC conference and noted the rather dramatic split in the Republican Party.  The basest base wants to maintain the purity of a party for the rich and white, while the rest of the party would like to start winning elections.

A new report commissioned by the Republican National Committee reads like an anti-GOP critique from the “lame stream media.” It describes the party as too rigidly ideological, too in thrall to greedy corporations, too disconnected from nonwhite and young voters, and in desperate need of new ideas. ...

Since the Sarah Palin/Rush Limbaugh wing of the party was clearly not represented on the committee, it may not be surprising that conservative purists sustained the biggest hit in the report. Still, the fact that the five took suggestions from 50,000 rank-and-file party members gives the report some weight. And the authors would have been fools if they had ignored information gathered from focus groups that indicates a great many Americans perceive Republicans as a bunch of narrow-minded, out-of-touch, homophobic, stuffy old white men who are interested only in the welfare of rich people. ...

CPAC actually provided a vivid example of the fevered, insular mindset that the RNC committee sees as a huge problem for the party. “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself," the committee’s report says. "We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

Yet, while the RNC is saying it is time to open the doors to new people and new ideas, the lineup of CPAC speakers was composed almost entirely of insular ideologues, gay-bashers, gun fetishists, religious fundamentalists, birth control foes and devotees of wacky conspiracy theories. CPAC stars such as Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Allen West, Donald Trump and the National Rifle Assn.'s Wayne LaPierre do not represent a new direction for the GOP; they represent exactly what the Republican National Committee is warning against.    [Emphasis added]

One wag at Eschaton suggested that CPAC stood for "Crazy People Acting Crazy," and I think that summarizes it nicely.  Recent polls show that a majority of Americans want better background checks for gun purchases, have no problems with gay marriage, and are in favor of immigration reform even if it provides a pathway to citizenship for those undocumented immigrants already here.  That the Republican Party wants to tap into those majorities for votes makes perfect sense. But Palin and Rush are not about to give up, at least not yet.

If the RNC report is ignored and the Tea Party activists continue to hold a knife against the throat of the rest of the party, the GOP may find itself shut out all over the country the way it was shut out in California in 2012. 

And wouldn't that be a shame.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

With Deep Gratitude

Yes, it's a cute cat picture, and a very apt one, I might add.

The response to my post from yesterday was overwhelming.  I've staved off the crunch I was in and found myself lifted from the pit I had fallen into. (How's that for mixing metaphors!)

To say I am grateful doesn't even come close to what I'm feeling.  I am indeed thankful that there is such a caring community to come to the rescue of those in need of rescue.  I am especially grateful to ql and Erin for pimping my post so I didn't have to expose my shattered emotions even further.

To my friends at Eschaton, many hugs.  To my friends from the elder blogs, many hugs.

My perspective has indeed changed, and I'm ready to return to the battles.  Expect substantive blogging tomorrow.  We've got a lot of work to do.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013


No, no cute cat picture or snarky cartoon, just another godawful plea for help.  As I mentioned yesterday, I've got financial problems, serious ones.  A neighbor is assisting me with getting Section 8 housing assistance and whatever else the County of LA can help with (Medi-Cal, Food Stamps).  We spent yesterday morning waiting to see someone at Social Security about the Section 8 only to be told that the benefit was no longer handled by Social Security and the young man wasn't exactly sure who was handling it.  In other words, a wasted morning.

Wednesday or Thursday we will go to the local DPSS  to try to get the Medi-Cal and Food Stamps arranged, but that doesn't solve my problems.  I have no money.  And my checking account has a negative balance.  My Social Security check doesn't come for another three weeks and I have bills to pay and non food shopping to do (cat food, toilet paper, etc.)
 If it sounds like I am freaking out it's only because I am.  I hadn't intended becoming not only old but also poor.

If you can spare it, I would really appreciate the help.  Just hit the PayPal button and make whatever size donation you can. 

I feel like dirt having to ask, but I've run out of options.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What I'm Reading

(Graphic snagged from Mother Daughter Book Reviews.)

Unlike my friends at Eschaton, I don't spend my spare time reading books explaining our current economic and/or political situation.  After all the newspaper articles I read and all the blogs I visit during the day, if I did that kind of reading, I'd open a vein and be done with it.

Instead, I read fantasy.  Not mindless junk, however:  good solid intellect-stretching stuff that makes me smile in appreciation for the imaginative and creative powers of good story tellers.

Right now, I'm re-reading some of Terry Pratchett's Disc World novels.  The thing about Sir Terry is that his work may be fantasy based, but it is primarily satire.  It also helps that he is fall-out-of-your-chair-laughing funny.  I've needed that, especially lately.

I've just finished Lords and Ladies, which is pretty much a stand-alone book but which introduces the witches (Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Oggs, and Magrat Garlick) and some of the wizards from the Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork (including Ridcully, the chancellor, and Ook, the librarian who was turned into an orangutan when a spell went bad and likes it so much he has chosen to remain an orangutan).

The characters are deftly drawn and memorable.  Granny is a practical witch, one who nonetheless has some pretty wondrous powers.  Nanny is a bawdy witch, one that Smolett and Fielding would have been proud of.  And Magrat (whose mother had a spelling problem when it came to naming her) is, well, kind of weak when it comes to witchery, yet when push comes to shove is a remarkably strong woman.

The plot involves the breaking into the human world by the fairies.  In this country, fairies and elves have been Disney-fied, but not so in the rest of the world.  The Lords and Ladies, the Gentry, are other and are frightening as Yeats reminded us.  It takes an enormous effort to drive them back into their own world and to save the human world.  And Pratchett has a helluva good time accomplishing that.

It is that closeness of the wondrous and the marvelous to the mundane that hooks me every time.  Right now, given the fact that I've fallen into the twin categories of "old" and "poor,"  I need that to keep going.

Which brings me to my final point.  Right now times are tougher than usual.  If you can help out with a little donation, please hit the PayPal button above.  I would be grateful, as would my cat.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Poetry: Marge Piercy

It's time to be reminded.

The Low Road

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can't walk, can't remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can't stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction.
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

--Marge Piercy

Sunday Funnies: You Choose

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 3/10/13 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)

(Editorial cartoon by Mike Luckovich and published 3/13/10 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)

(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles and published 3/14/13 by the Washington Post.)

(Political cartoon by Matt Wuerker and published 3/14/13 by Daily Kos.)

(Editorial cartoon by Lee Judge and featured 3/16/13 by McClatchy DC.)

As always, click on image to enlarge, returning to see the next cartoon.  Feel free to indicate your choice in the comments.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Galapagos Tortoise

(Photograph by Christian Ziegler and published at National Geographic.  Click on link to learn more about this species' migratory habits.)

Full of Sound And Fury

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (March 16, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

David Lazarus has a reasonably modest column up on the ongoing GOP war against Obamacare.  It's clear that Lazarus doesn't think the signature act of Obama's first term is perfect, but he does see some improvement in healthcare coverage for millions of Americans who were doing without.

Republican lawmakers, in their budget proposal released this week, showed they're determined to roll back President Obama's healthcare reforms, deny coverage to millions, limit treatment of the poor and essentially hand Medicare over to private insurers.
This isn't just bad public policy. It's the perpetuation of a Darwinian struggle between those who have access to affordable healthcare and those who do not.

"There are goods and services that the private market does a very good job of providing," said Mindy Marks, an associate professor of economics at UC Riverside. "Healthcare isn't one of them."

Obamacare isn't perfect. It doesn't extend health insurance to everyone. It doesn't do enough to reduce medical costs.

But there's no getting around this fact: President Obama's healthcare reform law is the first meaningful change to our monumentally ill-conceived medical system in decades. ...

"We still have to decide whether healthcare is a privilege or a right," said Tony Sinay, a healthcare economist at Cal State Long Beach. "If you look at other countries, it's a right."   [Emphasis added]

Lazarus does a good job ticking off the improvements that Obamacare has brought and will be bringing as each stage phases in.  But it's clear that he, like many of us, believe that a single-payer "Medicare for all" system would be the ideal solution, one that would wrest healthcare from profit-seeking insurance companies.  It would also end the shackling of healthcare to employment at a time when there are so many millions of Americans without jobs.

In the meantime, however, it is a start.  I guess that baby-step incrementalism is all we are entitled to right now.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Oh, And One Other Thing

(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers and published in the Charlotte Observer 3/14/13.  Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

Open Secrets reminded me that appealing to the Tea Party faction was only one impetus for Congressman Ryan's budget plan.  In fact, a more substantial reason exists:

Over the course of Ryan's career in Congress, insurance has been the top industry (after retired people) contributing to his campaigns, with $895,928 in contributions since he first campaigned for his House seat, according to data.The Health Professionals and Pharmaceutical industries follow close behind as his fourth and seventh most supportive industries, contributing $626,249 and $350,282, respectively, since 2000.   [Emphasis added]

If you noodle around the site a little bit, you'll see that Ryan isn't the only active politician on the payroll of these groups.  Lots of folks on both sides of the aisle have been recipients of the largesse of these groups.  Is it any wonder that Medicare is still on the chopping block and that members of Congress and the White House are willing to negotiate it away for the next generation?

Bought and paid for.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Curious Numbers

(Click on image to enlarge and then boogie on back.)

Why, yes.  It is David Horsey Week at Cab Drollery, primarily because once again the man is on fire.  This cartoon and column has to do with an interesting poll which dealt with gun ownership.

According to the General Social Survey, a project of the independent research organization NORC, the number of U.S. households with guns dropped from 50% in 1973 to 34% in 2012. This decline has shown up everywhere, including the historically gun-toting regions of the South and West.

According to researchers, just 23% of people in urban areas have guns, compared with 56% of country folk. Even that rural percentage is down from 70% in the 1970s. The number of hunters is dropping fast. Only 10% of women own firearms. Most young people are shunning guns -- just 23% of those under 30 have guns now, compared with 47% four decades ago. Latinos are a growing segment of the population, but their gun ownership numbers are small.

Democrats and independents have disarmed in droves. The number of Democrats with guns is half what it was when the first survey was taken in 1973. The only two demographic groups that have kept their fingers on the trigger are the elderly, holding steady at 43%, and Republicans, up slightly at 51%.

What may at first seem odd is how these numbers contrast with the many recent stories about gun shops selling out their inventory as people react to the push for tighter regulation of firearms. Who is buying all those assault rifles and handguns? Apparently, there are no statistics that can give us a definite answer, but I have a pretty good guess. ...

If the pollsters are correct, there are a whole lot of people in this country who live in an alternate reality woven from the exaggerations and outright lies of Internet fabulists, talk radio screamers and NRA propagandists. These people tend to be old, male and Republican -- the same folks who have not given up on guns.

So, the answer to the riddle seems fairly obvious: While more and more Americans are finding guns unnecessary for sport or protection, the most paranoid among us are building personal arsenals and driving gun sales through the roof.    [Emphasis added]

A warning:  I tend to be a little skeptical of poll results these days.  Too often there is a bias and that bias shows up in the selection of people polled and in the way questions are phrased.  That said, if the survey David is talking about is even minimally fair, those are some pretty astounding numbers.

I have family members who hunt, and I doubt they've turned in their deer rifles or duck-hunting shotguns.  I also know some liberals who collect guns and see nothing wrong with owning what I would call "assault rifles."  I doubt, however, that they've gone out to WalMart or gone on line to order large magazines, thousands of rounds of ammunition, or a few more military style automatic weapons.  If I'm wrong, my nephew will set me straight in comments.

That said, the danger is not so much from the hunters or the collectors, but from those who would steal those weapons, or those who would use them out of paranoia.  For those reasons, Horsey's comments and the findings of the poll he cites are grounds for some hope at the very least.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Not Really

(Political cartoon by Matt Bors and published 3/12/13 at the Daily Kos.  Click on image to enlarge and then kindly c'mon back.)

There's all sorts of news to pick from:  the selection of a new pope, the saber rattling by North Korea, Karzai's temper tantrum, and the "good" economic news in this country.  The stock market is up and unemployment is down.  It's the last item which concerns me today.

Yes, the Dow Jones is up, higher than it's been since Obama took office in 2008.  And, yes, national unemployment figures are down.  As Matt Bors illustrates in his cartoon, however, all is most definitely not well.  Dean Baker explains why (via Eschaton).

More than five years into the downturn, it doesn't take much to get people excited about the state of the economy. The Labor Department's February employment report showing the economy generated a better than expected 236,000 jobs and the unemployment rate had fallen 0.2 percentage points to 7.7% was sufficient to get the optimists' blood flowing. Unfortunately, they are likely to be disappointed.

First off, if the 236,000 jobs number sounds good to you, then you probably are not old enough to remember the 271,000 number reported last February, or the 311,000 number reported in January of 2012. The strong winter job growth in 2011-2012 was followed by a dismal spring, in which job growth slowed to a trickle. ...

The drop in the unemployment rate is also not as good news as it may initially seem. The Labor Department reported that 130,000 people left the labor force during the month – so they are no longer counted as unemployed. The percentage of the adult population that is employed (the employment-to-population ratio, or EPOP) was unchanged at 58.6%. This is just 0.4 percentage points above the low hit in the summer of 2011; and it is unchanged over the last year.  

While the unemployment rate has fallen back by 2.3 percentage points from its peak, reversing more than 40% of its increase, the EPOP is still down by 4.5 percentage points from its pre-recession level. The drop in unemployment is much more the result of people giving up the search for employment and leaving the labor force, than it is of workers finding new jobs. ...

In short, we have an economy that had been growing at a not-very-healthy pace through the second half of 2012 – and which is virtually certain to be slowed by contractionary fiscal policy through the rest of 2013. Unless there is a rapid reversal of policy, the 7.7% unemployment rate is likely to represent a low we may not see again for some time.    [Emphasis added]

Yes, some folks are doing well, but most of us aren't, and won't be if we fall into even more austerity-driven cuts.  What we need are jobs, and if takes a budget deficit for a few years to accomplish that, then so be it.  We've seen what the contractionary policies have done to the EU.  There is no reason to believe the US will be any different unless we come up with a different approach.

Congressman Ryan and Senator McConnell don't seem to care (no surprise there, eh?) and will be pushing for steep cuts to programs which would make jobs available.  McConnell is already pushing for a vote to defund Obamacare and Ryan will be pushing for destruction of Medicare for those 55 and younger, all to save money so that the Wall Street Banksters can continue to rake in the dough.

Get your dialing fingers warmed up.  It's time to let your congress critters and the White House know what we think of these plans.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Another Shot Across The Bow

(Political cartoon by David Horsey and published 3/7/13 in the Los Angeles Times.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

Yesterday, I posted on Horsey's second cartoon on the morass which is the 113th Congress, so I thought it would be appropriate to give you the first, especially given the news since he posted both.  If he does post the Last Supper cartoon, you can count on seeing it on Sunday.

Since then, Congressman Paul Ryan has returned to the fray, suggesting that what the country needs is the repeal of Obamacare.  Yes, I know he's not a senator and therefore wasn't invited to dinner with the president, but the effect will be the same.  From the Los Angeles Times:

Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, last year's Republican vice presidential nominee, said Sunday his forthcoming budget proposal will include repeal of "Obamacare," as his party calls it. That position puts tea-party conservatives at odds with others in the GOP who want to find common ground with Obama on the nation's fiscal woes after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the health law.

In the Senate, conservatives will press for a vote this week to delay funding for the health law as part of a bill that must pass to keep the government running beyond March 27.

"We say we get rid of 'Obamacare,' " Ryan said on "Fox News Sunday." ...

Key to Ryan's blueprint, to be unveiled Tuesday, is a return to a proposed Medicare overhaul that would create a voucher-like system for the next generation of seniors – when those who are now 55 or 56 become eligible for the program at 65. Under Ryan's plan, seniors would be given a set amount to apply toward the purchase of private health insurance or toward the cost of Medicare.   [Emphasis added]

Ryan claims his stance is not an attempt to wrest Boehner's speakership away, and that may very well be true.  It's more likely that he is stirring the pot in anticipation of running for his party's nomination in 2016 and he wants to keep his credibility with his Tea Party backers. 

But the effect in the here-and-now is to put both House and Senate in the position of having to deal with the issue, which means both Obamacare funding and Medicare will be on the agenda.  It will, once again, push the discussion to the right, and that means our President (not the world's finest negotiator) will probably find a way to cave.

I grow old, I grow old.  I shall wear my trousers rolled.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Perfect Script

David Horsey's March 8th column is actually a continuation of his March 7th:  he wasn't quite finished with the subject.  The two, read together with their cartoons, provide a really interesting look into the way the man's mind works.  Here's a really fun part from the later column:

In my mind, it’s easy to visualize the film version of the dinner. Low lights casting a golden glow on shadowy faces as the camera moves along the table: Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator with his boyish face sinking into jowls; Saxby Chambliss, the beady-eyed, white-haired Georgian looking slightly appalled to be dining with a Kenya-born socialist; Tom Coburn, with his spiky hair, boxer’s nose and Oklahoma common sense that keeps him from pandering to the lunatic fringe of his party; all the other senators sitting tense and alert as they look toward their host. Obama would have to be seated at the head of the table with John McCain, the man he defeated for the presidency, uncomfortably placed at his right. That dramatic juxtaposition would be impossible to resist – unless McCain were in the farthest seat at the other end of the long table, still seething over his lost place in history.

Just add the expository, rapid-fire Aaron Sorkin dialogue and you'd have an instant HBO hit. ...

To be completely candid about my creative process, I should mention I had one other dinner-related cartoon in mind – a Last Supper scene with Obama at the center in Jesus’ seat, flanked by the 12 senators. Obama would say, “One of you will betray me,” and one of the senators would reply, “Only one of us?!”

The whole idea of the President taking twelve senators out to dinner on his own dime is a bit strange, although the idea of a president engaging in a charm offensive I guess isn't all that unusual.  I'm just used to the LBJ model:  twist the arm until it threatens to break.  What is unusual is the careful placement of this dinner in every major and minor news outlet.  No wonder David Horsey can't let the whole story go.  There's so much more to think about.

In any event, I guess we'll discover this week whether it was a useful tool for the president, or whether he's been stiffed once again. We might even get that Last Supper cartoon.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunday Poetry: ee cummings

i sing of Olaf glad and big

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelovéd colonel (trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but-though an host of overjoyed
noncoms (first knocking on the head
him) do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments-
Olaf (being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds, without getting annoyed
"I will not kiss your fucking flag"

straightaway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but-though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation's blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skillfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat-
Olaf (upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
"there is some shit I will not eat"

our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ (of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you

--ee cummings

Sunday Funnies: 2-fer

(Editorial cartoon by Tom Toles and published 3/5/13 by the Washington Post.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (March 4, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)


Saturday, March 09, 2013

Bonus Critter Blogging: Domesticated Dogs

(Photograph by Vincent J. Musi, National Geographic, and published at National Geographic.  Click on link for an interesting opinion piece on how wolves may have adopted us, rather than the other way around.)

Granny Bird Award: Pharmacies and Pharmaceutical Companies

Today's Granny Bird Award, given from time to time to those who go out of their way to rip off elders or harm their rights, goes to pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies who play games with the cost of generic drugs.

From a David Lazarus column in the Los Angeles Times:

Diane Shattuck filled a prescription in December for a generic antibiotic called doxycycline. With insurance, she paid $4.30 for 60 pills at a CVS store in Orange.

She returned at the end of February to refill her prescription. This time, she was told her cost for the drug would be about $165.

"It was bizarre," Shattuck, 73, told me. "And no one at CVS could explain why the price was so high."
Unfortunately, I won't be able to offer a clear-cut answer, either. But my effort to untangle Shattuck's situation cast a harsh light on the shadowy world of drug pricing.

It revealed that different manufacturers can charge wildly different prices for what is essentially the same generic medicine, and that drugstores can rake in unconscionable profits by passing along marked-up meds to customers without the slightest explanation. ...

A CVS pharmacist in Los Angeles, who asked that his name by withheld because of fear of retaliation by the company, shared with me the average wholesale price of different makers' doxycycline, as made available to pharmacists by the McKesson Connect online ordering system.

The system shows that the average wholesale price of 100 doxycycline pills made by Watson with a strength of 100 milligrams is $328.20. The same number of doxycycline pills at the same strength made by Mylan cost $1,314.83.

But the average wholesale price, or AWP, as it's known in the industry, may have little, if any, correlation with what a drugstore charges customers.

"The AWP prices are as made up as the prices that come out of hospitals," said USC's McCombs. "It's not the price that CVS or other drugstores pay."

In other words, drugstores negotiate their own prices with manufacturers of generic drugs, as do the pharmacy benefit managers who often serve as intermediaries in wholesale drug transactions. They may be able to cut sweetheart deals based on the volume of medicine they can move to retail customers.   [Emphasis added]

In other words, elders continue to be targeted by the pharmaceutical companies and the pharmacies with these slimy practices.  Instead of cutting Medicare benefits to the recipients, maybe CMS needs to start busting chops of providers, yes?

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 08, 2013

Friday Cat Blogging

Of Blind Squirrels and Broken Clocks

(Editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman / Sacramento Bee (March 7, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

Sen. Rand Paul's old fashioned, actual talking filibuster on Wednesday was a wonder to behold.  And you know what?  I was cheering him on, something I never thought I'd do.  Apparently some of his GOP colleagues were not as thrilled as I was at his attack on drones targeting American citizens, however.

From the Los Angeles Times:

The political fallout from Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster has begun as fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham switched Thursday to support John Brennan as CIA director, saying the vote has become a “referendum” on the drone program.

Graham’s changed position comes after Paul, the Kentucky tea party favorite, became an overnight political sensation for holding the Senate floor nearly 13 hours as he pressed the Obama administration for assurances Americans would not be targeted on U.S. soil by unmanned military-style aircraft.

“I was going to vote against Brennan until the filibuster, so he picked up one vote,” Graham said. “This whole argument that somehow Brennan and the president are operating outside of just good logic and human decency – I don’t want to cast a vote to suggest that I think that’s credible.”

The South Carolina Republican and his longtime GOP ally, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, held the Senate floor for their own moment Thursday, as they defended the drone program and criticized Paul’s effort as misguided.   [Emphasis added]

What Sen. Paul did was bring the whole issue of drones before the Senate and the American people in a very colorful and newsworthy way.  For that I give him lots of style points.  I also give him credit for taking on the issue of drones being used on American soil against Americans.  I would have really liked him to go further and declare the use of drones for assassinations everywhere against anyone to be contrary to the American and International rule of law traditions.  But at least he said something, and did it for nearly 13 hours.

Way to go, Rand! 

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, March 07, 2013

And Lazy, Too

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (March 6, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

Not much seems to be happening on the sequester front.  The press reports that there are talks between the President and rank and file Republicans in an attempt to get things moving, but that's about it.  Of course, not much else is being accomplished in Congress, so this should come as no surprise.  An editorial in yesterday's Los Angeles Times took dead aim at that lack of activity over-all, especially when it comes to the House of Representatives.

House Republicans often complain that Senate Democrats have been lax on fiscal matters because they haven't approved a budget resolution since 2009. But those resolutions are largely symbolic; the real spending decisions are made in the dozen appropriations bills that Congress is supposed to pass by Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year. And on that score, the House GOP leadership failed miserably last year, and is about to do so again.

This week the leadership plans to bring up a bill to fund the federal government's operations for the final six months of fiscal 2013. The measure would update the spending priorities for the military and veterans but leave the rest of the government on autopilot, with the funding for individual programs left exactly where it was set in 2011. Those funding levels would then be reduced by the mindless across-the-board cuts of the "sequester" that went into effect March 1. As a result of the outdated allocations and meat-cleaver cuts, some valuable programs would receive too little funding while low-priority projects would receive too much. ...

The bigger problem is that House Republicans have been reluctant to follow their leaders, even when it means failing to perform some of the basic functions of government. Lawmakers have missed deadline after deadline in the last two years to update and reauthorize such major federal projects as providing aid to farmers, supporting airports and air-traffic control, and building highways and mass-transit systems. And on the fiscal front, the same Republicans who rail against excessive spending can't seem to handle the responsibility of deciding annually where tax dollars should go.   [Emphasis added]

When combined with this sequester mess, the failure of House Republicans to do even their most basic job essentially puts Congress and the federal government in complete gridlock.  What is so maddening about all of this is that no one seems to particularly care on that side of the aisle.

Maddening and frightening.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


(Click on image to enlarge and then kindly return.)

Wow!  David Horsey is on a tear.  I found absolutely no nits to pick in his latest column, this time on the sequester debacle.

Unwisely, during one of the manufactured budget crises of 2011, President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner agreed that the penalty for failing to reach a comprehensive budget agreement by the end of 2012 would be automatic, across-the-board budget cuts. Their foolish assumption was that no one would be stupid enough to let such a thing happen. As it turns out, plenty of our elected officials are, indeed, that stupid.

Much of the stupidity – though certainly not all – has been exhibited by the most conservative members of the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate, the so-called tea party Republicans. So intent are they on whittling government down to the size it was back in the days of McKinley and the Robber Barons that even the prospect of major cuts in the defense budget did not phase them. Other steep cuts in dollars for scientific and medical research, education, hunger programs, national parks, infrastructure maintenance, food inspection, airport security and a host of other small but useful governmental activities caused them zero concern since, in the tea party version of reality, all those things are simply more big, bad government. ...

Too ignorant to understand the damage they are doing, zealots on the right are congratulating themselves for being so bold and principled. Yet, as irresponsible as Republicans have proven to be, Democrats are not without blame. There are more than a few on their side of the aisle who are pleased that the military budget has taken a big whack. Never before would Republicans have allowed such a thing to happen, so Democrats who have long wanted to reduce the Pentagon’s bloated budget see this as a bit of a gift. ...

If the federal budget is going to be reduced and reallocated, the task needs to be done intelligently and with the full understanding that federal dollars fertilize every aspect of the U.S. economy. Republicans and Democrats in Congress should have been in high gear trying to avoid this self-inflicted damage, but both sides looked way too relaxed as the budget ax fell.   [Emphasis added]

And so we got the worst kind of train wreck, one in which the vulnerable will suffer more than even the Defense Department.  And Horsey is right:  both sides are guilty of deliberate malfeasance.

As Atrios put it, Contractionary Policy Is Contractionary.  Without putting money into the economy in a way that helps put Americans back to work, we'll continue to slide backwards, just as the EU is currently demonstrating.  

I'm old enough to remember a phrase that wasn't considered crazy at the time:  "Prime the Pump."  We could use a little of that pump priming right now.  Not later.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Say, What?

I can't believe I overlooked this Horsey cartoon and column last week!  I guess other news distracted me; that and I was still recovering from the latest iteration of the flu.  But clearly David was more than merely annoyed at Justice Scalia.  He was appalled.  As in steam-coming-out-of-his-ears appalled.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is alleged to be one of the great intellects of conservative jurisprudence, but his comments during oral arguments over a challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act displayed all the mental acuity of a third-tier talk radio bozo. ...

... After extensive testimony, lawmakers determined that a long list of problems still exists and they renewed the Voting Rights Act for an additional 25 years. The vote was overwhelming in the House unanimous in the Senate and was hailed by President George W. Bush as a victory for American democracy.

In court on Wednesday, however, Scalia mocked that vote. He said the Senate’s unanimity simply proved the law had not been given serious consideration. The senators were afraid, he said, to cast a vote against a law with a "wonderful" name. He went on to assert that the reauthorization of the act was merely "a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement."

That sort of legal reasoning may be good enough for someone sitting on a bar stool well into his third pint, but it is not good enough for the highest court in the land. Scalia makes self-serving assumptions about what was on the minds of senators in 2006 -- afraid, not serious, enamored with a name -- with no facts to back up his barbs. ...

Undeterred, Scalia opined that a law governing voting rights is "not the kind of question you can leave to Congress." Oh, really? The right to vote is the core of our constitutional democracy. It is not, as Scalia says, "a racial entitlement," it is an American entitlement. It seems that might be a very useful thing for Congress to watch over and protect. It was eminently important in 1965 and remains important today. ...

Given the weirdness of his comments, it might not be wrong to assume Scalia's true concern is less about "racial entitlement" than it is about making sure his fellow Republicans are entitled. Entitled, that is, to manipulate elections when they can no longer win fair and square.   [Emphasis added]

Preach it, my brother!

Two questions arise in my mind at this point.

First, what will happen with respect to the decision? Will Kennedy vote with the liberals?  Did Scalia overplay his hand, appalling the Chief Justice enough to shift his vote on the issue, joining Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Breyer?  I don't imagine Alito will be bothered:  he's not known as "Scalito" for nothing.  And Thomas?  Oh, please!  He's not going to miss a chance to piss off liberals.

Second, regardless of the outcome of the decision (and those opinions are going to make for some very interesting reading), what will happen to Justice Scalia for his intemperate and injudicious remarks?  Anything?  Because Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life, the only way to remove this yahoo is by impeachment.  I really can't see this House of Representatives introducing impeachment proceedings, much less voting for impeachment.

I think we're stuck with him until he decides to retire or dies.

I really am too old for this.

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 04, 2013

Things That Make You Go, "Meh"

(Editorial cartoon by Kevin Siers / The Charlotte Observer (July 27, 2012) and featured at McClatchy DC. Click on image to enlarge and then please come back.)

 Doyle McManus is a whole lot more upbeat than I am when it comes to congressional efforts at gun control.  His Saturday column salutes the quiet efforts of a bipartisan group of congress critters to shape a passable reform.  I guess he figures something is better than nothing.

Are they getting anything done on Capitol Hill? Yes, and you'll probably be surprised to hear where progress is being made: gun control.

In both the Senate and the House, bipartisan teams of legislators have taken meaningful steps toward passing new laws in the wake of the December massacre in Newtown, Conn.

The measures inching ahead aren't the high-profile proposals that have attracted the most attention. There's little hope that the current Congress will pass a ban on all assault weapons, and not much more that it will pass a ban on ammunition magazines with more than 30 rounds.

But there is a good chance that Congress will do two things: strengthen the system of background checks on gun buyers and toughen the penalties for illegal gun trafficking. In practical terms, those measures are probably more important than an assault-weapons ban, which wouldn't affect the millions of military-style guns already in circulation.   [Emphasis added]

 Oh, please.

There are ways around the problems, like buy-back programs (no questions asked) and enforcement programs, all sorts of possible work-arounds.  The problem is that our national politicians are owned by the NRA lock, stock, and barrell (as it were).

I'm tired of having to settle, of having to accept incrementalism, of having to just be patient.  Too many people are still dying, many from the same weapons which are useful only as collector's items until they're stolen or misappropriated by the deranged, drunk, or angry.

I'm too old for this.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Sunday Poetry: Curtis D. Bennett

(From Normandy)

Frail, old men with weathered hands stand,
Alone, lost on the wide sandy beaches,
Each turning back his rusty mind clock
Piercing the veil of memories
When they were young, anxious and terrified,
Boy-soldiers in battle fighting for their lives,
Experiencing the gamut of fear and death
Watching friends died horribly,
Scarring their young minds.forever.

Blue beaches murmur waves
Splashing old, rusted war remnants.
A sea bird flaps wet beaches
Where the sea swells and crashes gently on wet sand,
Retreating back erasing all footprints.
The men stare the distance,
At blurred memories through tears.
Trickling down their cheeks dripping softly,
To merge with the sea like before.

They came to say good-bye to their friends,
To a confused past which has no answers.
The graveyard crosses watch in stony silence,
Stoically from tree shadows on soft meadows,
In eternal military formation fronted by small, flags,
Wind-shivering in the hush of silence.
Marching the stillness in quiet precision
Protecting the young soldiers buried there,
Frozen in time and death
The old veterans stand awkward, unsure with the dead.
Experiencing those familiar, dreaded, sick feelings
Of remorse, regret, blame, and fault for what happened
To their generation who gave so much for their country.
They have gathered one final time
To share history, blame and guilt for all eternity
Banding together as one, they embrace the moment,
Experiencing once more, this terrible place of

And the same salt sea air, still blows up from the beach
Once inhaled in panic by all the young fighting men
Mired in the beach mud conducting the senseless slaughter of children,
Trapped forever in the obscenity and vulgarity of war,
The pain returns for a moment, overwhelming them,
It hangs suspended, as real as yesterday, then drifts away and mellows away.
Now time, history, and denial blessedly blur the horror and inhumanity
Of what they did; of what was done to them.

The War President from America
Mounts the podiums to prattle the virtues of war,
Attempting to rewrite history, to deny war's reality,
He exploits the moment for selfish means,
To justify his war as a noble cause, ignoring its brutality,
Thoughtlessly attempting to validate, substantiate, and authenticate,

War's vicious crimes against civilization
Turning the senseless slaughter of innocents
Into a righteous cause, to be proud of and condone..
Turning war into a sound-bite of empty words
Of praise, blessing, glory, and accomplishment.
Something to be proud of, to revel in,
To relish with sacred, biblical rhetoric
From a shallow, self-centered political opportunist.
Whose meanings and oratory become quickly lost,
His words floating away with the wind, out of relevance, out of touch
Out of context, drifting, beyond the restive crowds.
To fall useless and disappear, in the cold, impassionate mud.
Falling deaf on the ears of the dead warriors
The ultimate, wasted sacrifice, from another generation

It is at this moment, the old veterans
Eyes mist up, overflow, and tears flow shamelessly

As they at last comprehend all their sacrifice, all their pain,
All their sorrow, all their suffering, all the death,
Did not change or alter a thing, was not a lesson learned
Nor an experience not to be repeated..
Realizing their friend's painful, brutal, ultimate sacrifice
Was only a necessary evil of Mankind's political process
Which has never changed, and never will,
For each generation brings anew to the world
Its own self-styled madness of universal death, tragedy and suffering,
In wars to be fought by the young, bright-eyed children of the world
Unknowingly raised as sacrificial lambs of slaughter,
To be killed and gone forever, for nothing.
That is why, all Veterans cry.

In this hallowed place of the dead
The lonely graves of war's youthful victims
Who died for a thought,
an idea, for a cause
Promulgated by selfish, insane men in power
These war graves and cemeteries are Harbingers
Of the eternal, mindless death cycle of war.
Young men killed by politicians' words and mindless acts,
Their promise and existence forever ended too soon.
Now, forever sleep beneath the green muffled grass
Sharing the earth with the youth and victims of past wars,
Too numerous to count, to numbing to contemplate,
The dead, as powerless and impotent as the now living
To change or alter, or detour the inexorable course of madmen,
They patiently wait for the next generation to join them.

--Curtis D. Bennett