Friday, April 30, 2010

A question for Cape Cod NIMBY's

Which is uglier?


Or this:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Girl tries to convert huge audience during graduation speech

What kind of educational institution needs to have a speaker repenting for idolatry for worshiping the intellectual mind?

That's what I call the old-time religion!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Apple? Again? Really?

What is it with these guys?

And what is it with Apple's fans?

If you're a fan maybe you can fill me in, but I don't think I'm going to be sold. After all, we've been here before.

Once again, we see that the cool, hip, Apple people decide that the way to act in the world is to do their best impression of the Spanish Inquisition. This time Gizmodo ran an article about the next generation of the Apple Brick, which. I'll grant you, may be a totally cool phone.

What does Apple do? Gizmodo has the story:

Police Seize Jason Chen's Computers

Last Friday night, California's Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team entered editor Jason Chen's home without him present, seizing four computers and two servers. They did so using a warrant by Judge of Superior Court of San Mateo. According to Gaby Darbyshire, COO of Gawker Media LLC, the search warrant to remove these computers was invalid under section 1524(g) of the California Penal Code.

Even taking at face value that the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team is a real thing, and not a made-up name for some kind of farcical police squad, and that's pretty hard to do, Doesn't this seem like a bit of an overreaction to you?

Me too. Wherever you draw the line, breaking into journalists' houses so that Steve Jobs has the chance to launch his new toy at his next event is way over that line. I'm hoping the journalist shield defense holds up.

Meanwhile, if you're an Apple supporter, just pause for a moment and think about the activities your dollars are supporting.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy birthday, Bernadette!

I got to meet Bernadette Devlin McAlliskey one time back in the 1980's when she spoke in Vermont. The group I was part of at the time, the Vermont Committee for Irish Human Rights sponsored her speech at the Barre Opera House, and she was great.

Devlin has been a great hero since she was first elected to the English Parliament at age 21, and was immediately famous for her electrifying maiden speech on the floor. She was also a witness to the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry but was refused the right to speak on the subject, and then punched Reginald Maudling, the Secretary of State for the Home Department in the Conservative government, when he made a statement to Parliament on Bloody Sunday stating that the British Army had fired only in self-defence.[1][6] She was temporarily suspended from Parliament as a result of the incident.

She told us the story of the assassination attempt she survived in 1981. A member of a Protestant paramilitary group broke into her house and shot her and her husband. Before anyone could call the police the English soldiers were at the door. As the police came in the building, she heard the assassin say, "Well fuck this for a dirty job."

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This guy is useless

I honestly don't get what people see in David Brooks. He always strikes me as just another smirking conservative, but apparently he is urbane enough to pass in polite society that liberals inhabit.

His persona, both on McNeill-Lehrer and in the Times, is of a "reasonable" conservative, someone not infected by the hate and anger of people like the teabaggers.

Of course, that doesn't stop him from engaging in distortions or pure fabrications when it suits his purposes.

Like today's column, in which he regrets (he seems to be pretty good at regretting) the polarization we have seen in our politics since Obama became president. Of course, part of what he demonstrates is the MSM's fetish for the pox-on-both-your-houses meme.

The country had just elected a man who vowed to move past the old polarities, who valued discussion and who clearly had some sympathy with both the Burkean and Hamiltonian impulses. He staffed his administration with brilliant pragmatists whose views overlapped with mine, who differed only in that they have more faith in technocratic planning.

Yet things have not worked out for those of us in the broad middle. Politics is more polarized than ever. The two parties have drifted further to the extremes. The center is drained and depressed.

He has to know that this is just false. Why is it so hard to criticize the Republicans without feeling that you also have to criticize the Democrats? He's absolutely right that the Republicans have not just drifted, but charged, to the extreme right.

The Democrats, on the other hand? Absolutely not. The program of the national Democratic Party, whether it's the abandonment of single-payer health care, or even a public option, or Obama's conciliatory statements to the bankers yesterday, or Obama's embracing of most of Bush's attacks on civil liberties, is more conservative than it has been at any time since the southern racists decamped for the Republican Party in the 1960's. In Brooks's view, though, they have both drifted to the extremes.

Is it official? Is Brooks now the leading acolyte of High Broderism?

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hank Williams: Lovesick Blues

I didn't get to post this when I found out, but you may have heard that Hank was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize this year for his career.

Here's the Pulitzer citation:

A posthumous special citation to Hank Williams for his craftsmanship as a songwriter who expressed universal feelings with poignant simplicity and played a pivotal role in transforming country music into a major musical and cultural force in American life.

It's about time.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A rare decision in favor of separation between church and state

And it's a big one.

MADISON, Wis. — A federal judge in Wisconsin ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional Thursday, saying the day amounts to a call for religious action.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic.

Before this, the biggest statement against the National Day of Prayer came from Jesse "The Governor" Ventura:

* I believe in the separation of church and state... We all have our own religious beliefs. There are people out there who are atheists, who don't believe at all... They are all citizens of Minnesota and I have to respect that.
o Explaining his refusal to sign a "National Day of Prayer" proclamation (6 May 1999)

The decision is only a District Court decision at this point, which means two things.

First, we can expect an appeal, first to the Circuit, and then, potentially, to the Supreme Court.

Second, we can expect to hear a lot of whining and wailing from conservatives. As with the Pledge of Allegiance, I suspect they can be counted on to claim that the prayers that all these devout Christians are making really don't mean anything.

This should be fun.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Obama can think about more than one thing at a time

Tonight's news: equality for same-sex couples in hospital visits.

For all hospitals that accept Medicare or Medicaid. In other words, for almost every hospital in the United States.

WASHINGTON – President Obama on Thursday ordered his health secretary to issue new rules aimed at granting hospital visitation rights to same-sex partners, and making it easier for gays and lesbians to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners.

"So what?" you say? He's just responding to pressure?

Well, that's our job, isn't it?

McCain sure wouldn't have done it.

Tax Day, Part Two

A favorite theme with conservatives is that rich people are overtaxed. You know, 47% of people pay no taxes (false), the percentage of income tax that rich people pay is too high, blah, blah, blah.

Courtesy of David Corn we have a chart that dispatches these claims handily.

I think we now know why most people, including a lot of teabaggers think they're taxed fairly: it's because they are.

Have you paid your taxes?

Notice anything different?

I did.

I got done with preparing my taxes kind of late, and I filed them electronically. (Just the feds. For some reason that's free but it costs $19.95 to electronically file my state taxes.) For years I've been doing my taxes electronically using a commercial program. I'm not convinced that it does a better job than I would do by myself, but it seems to be faster, and it gives me a chance to spend some quality time with my computer, so that's how I do it.

One of the things that my tax program had this year is a two-year summary. It gives me the chance to compare all the pertinent facts about this year's tax return with last year's, and I learned some interesting facts.

Pretty much as long as Obama has been president, we've been hearing the wingers complaining about how Obama is raising our taxes. It's gotten even worse since they started working on health care, and since they passed it it's been pretty extreme.

So I thought I'd be interested to see what happened to my taxes. We're making more money than I ever thought we'd make; as a friend used to observe, sometimes our checking balance threatens to skyrocket into the three figures. I think it's a good thing that two people working in the public sector, and doing socially beneficial work can make a living, but we're far from rich.

But wait, what happened to our taxes this year? Did they go up, the way the teabaggers have been telling us?

Actually, now that you ask, they did not. In fact, our income went down a little bit and our taxes went down by a lot. I can tell exactly why this is, and it is due in large part to changes in the law pushed through by resident Obama. So even though we're squarely in the middle class, and we work hard for everything we have, the result of over a year of Obama's presidency has not been that he's been in our pockets, taken everything we have, and left us wearing barrels to work.

What about you? Did your taxes go up this year? Down? Stay the same?

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Kissinger: Murders by Pinochet A-OK!

Here's the latest news on that reprehensible war criminal Henry Kissinger:

Back in 1976, when the United States had knowledge that the Pinochet regime was planning an international campaign to murder its political opponents, senior State Department officials urged him to deliver a memorandum to the Chilean government warning them against carrying out its plans.

An August 30, 1976 memoranda from Shlaudeman titled "Operation Condor," advised Kissinger: "...what we are trying to head off is a series of international murders that could do serious damage to the international status and reputation of the countries involved," including Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil.

Kissinger's response: The Secretary "has instructed that no further action be taken on this matter," stated a September 16, 1976, cable sent from Lusaka (where Kissinger was traveling) to his assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs, Harry Shlaudeman.

The next day, a massive car-bomb claimed the life of former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and his 26-year old American colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, as they drove down Massachusetts Avenue in Washington D.C. The bombing remains the most infamous attack of "Condor"—a collaboration between the secret police services in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and several other Latin American military dictatorships, to track down and kill opponents of their regimes.

So let's see: the coup in Argentina, murder in Chile . . . Is there any crime in the last quarter of the 20th Century he wasn't complicit in?

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Those Patriotic Conservatives!

UPDATE--Oh, that slavery thing?

Guess I just kinda forgot.

Elections have consequences. We can celebrate that at the national level when we have a president who ends torture, prevents a depression, and makes the first steps toward health care reform.

We can also see it at the state level, and it isn't always pretty.

Take Virginia, for instance. Just last month we saw Virginia's new attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, order all of Virginia's colleges to start discriminating against gay people, reasoning that there is no basis in Virginia law to treat them as equal human beings.

RICHMOND -- Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has urged the state's public colleges and universities to rescind policies that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, arguing in a letter sent to each school that their boards of visitors had no legal authority to adopt such statements.

After health care reform passed Cuccinelli announced that he'll join the groundless federal case challenging the health care reform law.

The latest move is right at the top, though. In addition to a new Republican AG, Virginia has a new Republican Governor. You know what he's into? Supporting slavery and treason.

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has quietly declared April 2010 Confederate History Month, bringing back a designation in Virginia that his two Democratic predecessors -- Mark Warner and Tim Kaine -- refused to do.

The last Republican governor, George "Macaca" Allen, also signed on in favor of the Confederacy back in 2002.

The next time you hear some conservative attacking liberals as being anti-American and unpatriotic, just remind him about this.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I remember the first person I knew who visited the Soviet Union. That was pretty exotic, but any high school Model UN student could get a subscription to Soviet Life, so it wasn't as big as all that, but it was definitely something.

Then my wife's cousin went to China in 1976, back when the only way you could go was to be a member of the U.S.-China People's Friendship Association. He brought back slide shows of stuff that nobody here had seen, and I chuckle to think that, when I was wearing my Mao hat to law school, the student sitting next to me remarked that she had never actually seen or held in her hands something that came from China.

This all pales next to North Korea. In the West we know essentially nothing about life there, except that they don't seem to mind starving their people to fund their military. Who knew they were followers of Ronald Reagan?

The author is a journalist who provides a detailed account of everyday life in North Korea based on extensive interviews with a handful of North Koreans who managed to defect to the South. The author's novelistic technique, and her focus more on the lives of a few individuals than on the statistics, provides the reader with a vivid idea of what it must be like to live in North Korea, where you are spied on relentlessly, your apartment is inspected to see if you have been properly dusting your government-issued portraits of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il, and you are forced to continue to go to work years after they have stopped paying you.

I recommend Nothing to Envy as a great introduction to life in this strange, closed society.

View all my reviews >>

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Ratzinger on child rape: STFU

Yes, another day, another chance for the Catholic Church to come out strongly against child rape and for the child victims.

Oh, well. Maybe tomorrow.

Instead, today the Pope's anger was directed at news organizations that have the temerity to report on the crimes of the church and its employees, agents, and officers.

Warsaw Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz said the church should take notice of individual tragedies and treat sex abuse cases very seriously, but at the same time he criticized the media for "targeting the whole church, targeting the pope, and to that we must say 'no' in the name of truth and in the name of justice."

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