Music Monday: Life Finds a Way?

The Russians think they have found life. Life, on the outside of the International Space Station. It’s from Earth, all right, they just don’t know how it got there.


In Closing: hopefully a few last words on Ferguson, the militarization of our police, the death of the right to peaceably assemble, and the press (but it won’t be the last because of race); a “difficult decision“; hey now, don’t get too skinny!; don’t think I’ve forgotten about the NSA; and children in poverty.

More Ferguson

The ASSociated Press has published a little article which my local news picked up. The first paragraph reads:

The fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer has opened a debate over what level of force is appropriate when law enforcement confronts a citizen perceived to be a threat.

Let’s back up just a moment. The question that should be asked in Ferguson and perhaps elsewhere is this:

What should a police officer consider a threat?

We now know that the young man was in fact running away from the officer when the confrontation began. Is someone running away a “threat”? At the very least, the officer can no longer use the “he was headed straight for me” defense without expecting laughter.

Backing up further, is a “thief” who shoved a store clerk a “threat” (even though everyone agrees that the cop didn’t know about the alleged incident)? Well, since it turned out that the theft was trumped up and the film that supposedly proves the young man was a Very Bad Man actually shows him paying, no.

Are photographers and journalists a threat? How about churches?

I leave you with three more Ferguson thoughts. First, what the press might well report if Ferguson were overseas. Second, Ferguson appears to have a rich heritage of discriminatory legal practices. Finally, the police have all kinds of new crowd control toys. One, Taser brags, can incapacitate anybody who happens to be in a target area. Forgive me for wondering how you make a crowd disperse by incapacitating them.

In Closing: I don’t know, maybe you could try doing things voters like?; on privacy and metadata.

Ok, Fine. Bundy.

I thought this was going to blow over fast, turns out I was wrong. So here is a brief summary of my thoughts. It is a local issue to me, actually in Clark County Nevada same as Las Vegas, and so Las Vegas Metro Police Department does actually have [some] jurisdiction. Still, it’s kinda a hike from town.

  • The Bundy Ranch issue was originally brought to my attention when the “standoff” started and a so-called “Free Speech Zone” was in place. Now, I am on the record as saying that Free Speech Zones are an affront to the First Amendment. Thankfully, somebody came to their senses and stopped that nonsense and they did it pretty quick.
  • Half of “the West” and 81% of Nevada is owned by the Federal government and has been for over a century. This includes lands ceded to the Feds as part of our incorporation as a state. This is a fact, sure as “the sky is blue.”
  • Bundy claims to have “ancestral rights” to graze his cattle despite the fact that a) his family hasn’t even owned it that long and b) people whose “ancestral rights” were guaranteed by freaking treaty don’t have them.
  • Contrary to what The Governor of Texas thinks, Bundy does not own the land in question. He owns the land across the Interstate Highway. The issue is that Bundy is using resources that don’t belong to him, just as surely as if I started watering my lawn from the neighbor’s spigot. If I pulled that stunt, my neighbor would be justified in disconnecting my hose.
  • There was a period of some years where Bundy did actually pay the Feds the required fees. I’m not sure anybody understands why he decided to stop.
  • The desert tortoise is a red herring. Ok it’s a tortoise, but it’s irrelevant.
  • The solar farm is just bad timing. Perhaps it made Bundy mad, but it certainly didn’t change BLM plans.
  • Bundy has been in and out of court over this matter for years and lost every single time.  If that’s not “due process of law,” I am unclear on the concept.
  • If anybody else decided they weren’t going to pay the feds money they owed, they would be in deep doo-doo.
  • If anybody else aimed weapons at the feds, there would be deeper doo-doo.
  • Ok, sure, the “militia” is “well regulated.” Well done, thanks much. Now maybe you guys can go home to your jobs and families? Oh right, if you had a job you wouldn’t be able to go to Bundyfest.
  • No, our local sheriff doesn’t have the authority to take guns away from the feds as Bundy wants. Otherwise, Commandant Arpaio would already have tried.
  • I hope nobody is surprised that a nutcase who thinks the feds have no authority over federally owned land is also a racist.
  • At this point, the thing is a full on Vegas festival of silliness, complete with a wedding.

I think the authorities are angling for a way to end this thing without causing an even bigger problem (and hey, glad the anniversaries of the Koresh incident and Oklahoma City bombing are past). And perhaps that’s why Bundy keeps letting this thing get more outlandish: more cameras means less odds of black helicopters or whatever he’s afraid of. Still, the best way to end this is to stop the media coverage.

In Closing: speaking of solar farms; easter [rotten] egg; like a Virgin; a competitor?; if you need a co-signer, you can’t afford it; and a bunch of items on the middle class, typical Americans.

Shorties’ Due

Enjoy some pre-SOTU appetizers.

Keeping an eye on us all: So, here’s the latest links on the NSA, privacy, spying, Snowden, the legality of anything the NSA is up to, and related issues. This just keeps getting messier.

No, the fact that it’s cold outside does not prove that global warming is a hoax: seriously, people.

Check the weather anyway, I think hell froze over: Ben Stein veers away from the party line and says that if the national debt is a problem, higher taxes is the answer.

Stuck in [what’s left of] the middle: on income inequality, the middle class, and related issues.

Afghanistan: I guess there will be no true peace unless everyone agrees to it.

Uh, what?: Some public school in Louisiana thinks that they are a Christian school, apparently. And the sad part is that they will “blame” the non-Christian family for making them teach in accordance with the First Amendment and the Law.

More relevant than he thinks: Religious extremism is dangerous, no matter what the religion is. See also, last two paragraphs.

Same as it ever was: Americans are not happy with their government. However, don’t expect anybody to “vote the bums out” anytime soon.

What, you want accurate facts too??: Rand Paul.

Anti-Abortion and Pro-Life are different things: Amen to that.

Why?: Why, exactly, was personal information about 74,000 on a laptop computer for any reason?

And finally: Budget Bourbon. My current brand of choice is represented, so I may yet try the others.

More NSA

I’m going to start with the revelation that an NSA employee stalked 9 women before being detected by logging and sometimes listening to their phone calls. They called it “spied on,” but let’s get down to brass tacks. That’s just one of a dozen “substantiated” cases of the NSA abusing their abilities. The Guardian says they are “technically breaches of the law.”

No! Going 56 MPH in a 55 MPH zone is “technically” a breach of the law! Listening to not one but nine different women’s phone calls without a warrant is “absolutely” a breach of the law, absolutely a violation of her 4th and 5th Amendment rights, and arguably a damper on her 1st Amendment rights to free speech and free assembly! Let’s stop splitting hairs and call that waddling, quacking thing a duck!

Let’s not forget that other details dropped in the last week include the fact that they’ve tapped effectively the entire internet, and have used phone metadata not for catching terrorists, but for catching people who try to tell the truth to the media.

So, with all this information out there, it should be no surprise that some in the Senate think it’s high time to reform the program. I’d rather it was deleted, but there will still be people out there who know where the back doors are, so I’ll concede that somebody needs to be monitoring that until such time as secure devices can be deployed.

The NSA of course doesn’t want that to happen. Shame Mr. Alexander shot himself in the foot by admitting he’d like to have legal cover for having all our phone records. Um, yeah. Maybe he shouldn’t have said that in public. Alarmingly honest for a change.

Follow Up: Meat Loaf!; on normal people in today’s economy.

In Closing: climate change; debt ceiling; what not to wear at work, duh; looting public pensions; the real sodomites; and way to show you “care.”

Breaking the Shorties

Otherwise Occupied: the OWS movement may actually be getting somewhere. It was really a bad idea to seriously injure a Marine, because they are serious about Occupy. Someone who can’t tell the difference between an enemy who wants to hurt you and an innocent that does not want to hurt you shouldn’t be allowed to carry a gun. Don’t forget other ways to peacefully protest the banks.

Maybe that wasn’t a good idea: B of A is backing down from their boil-the-frog fees.

Be Sure to Double Check the Name: Attention conservatives! Even the CATO guys think medical malpractice damage caps are a bad idea. Last I heard, those guys were just barely less conservative than the Heritage Foundation.

Speaking of Cato: Cato Fellow and extremely talented magician/comedian Penn Jillette has risen to Glenn Beck’s challenge to write 10 Commandments for Atheists.

Speaking of Republicans Being Wrong: The freaking World Bank says they’re wrong about the economy. Regulation is not preventing job creation and it never did.

Not Helpful: yet more talk of a foreclosure fraud settlement proposal that gives the banks a slap on the wrists for trashing our housing values and preventing a meaningful economic recovery. On the other hand, maybe doing something about mortgage debt will help. Good luck making the banks suck that up.

Yeah, it’s the FIZZ and not the SUGARS: Teens who drink non-diet “fizzy drinks” more prone to violence. Note the careful use of the phrase non-diet instead of sweetened.

Strike: General Strike November 2. Don’t work, don’t spend money, don’t do anything taxable. If you must go to work, don’t spend money.

Now will you make a freaking MLS client that runs on Lion???:  Turns out Mac users are more productive. And that includes the time we spend finding workarounds for cludgy Windows only and MSIE only things we need for work! I’m talkin to you, Marketlinx! Don’t tell me “you’re aware of the problem” just fix it.

And Finally: Happy 125th Birthday to the Statue of Liberty.


The Economy is Depressing.

So the poverty level is at its highest level in decades. Think about that a minute. Most people didn’t know what the internet was the last time poverty was this bad. Household income is down 7% since the Bush Administration began. In fact, income hasn’t been this low since 1996. And plans to slash the federal budget to the bone — the heart of the current GOP platform — only make poverty worse. It’s worse for kids: 22% of kids under 18 live in poverty. Remember that. Walk into a typical classroom of 30 kids, and 6 or 7 of them live in poverty (more at someplace like Vegas’s Whitney Elementary, of course).

Since poverty and school performance are directly correlated — that means that poor kids always on average do worse than rich kids, even when you account for how well educated their parents are and how good their local schools are — that says some very, very bad things for our future as a nation.

Heaven forbid we should put people to work building things we need, like better roads, bridges, and school buildings. I mean, that sounds like kind of an FDR sort of idea.

In Closing: Salem was governed by “Christian Values” (and that explains the First Amendment); E-Verify is even more flawed than the Do Not Fly list; more than half of Americans support gay marriage; why is it that Republicans keep forgetting that the Post Office is one of the few government functions explicitly required by the Constitution — you remember, that document that they and the quasi-Libertarians claim to so revere?; turns out the sheep don’t like it when you molest the lambs; or, we could just disband the whole corrupt system.

Target Acquired.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to a whole lot of tech companies. Surely you’ve heard of “Silicon Valley?” Dozens of tech giants from Adobe to Yahoo have their headquarters in or around the Bay, to say nothing of dozens more companies with large offices there.

So then, with thousands if not millions of tech savvy residents, maybe — just maybe — it was short sighted for Bay Area Rapid Transit to attempt to thwart a possible protest by blocking cell phone service. After all, we can’t have people trying to communicate (or call 911) in the event of a possible riot (or First Amendment protected peaceable assembly). Today, Anonymous struck back.

It’s about time we had some peaceful protest that afflicted the comfortable.

In Closing: The law of demand and hiring; handy.

Mulholland Shorties

Was I Wrong About Rahm?: He’s not even sworn in yet, and he’s announced that something he wants to do is enlarge a good old-fashioned public works project! Granted, it’s just bike lanes, but it will put people to work and help other people get around when it’s done.

Food Insecurity is just a fancy word for Going Hungry: Here’s a viewpoint from somebody who once had to endure it. It turns out there are a lot of issues in play.

So You Want to be a Revolutionary: This man wrote a book about non-violent revolution. There’s a link to the PDF, which is credited with change around the world.

Income Inequality: When people in other nations notice it, it’s bad. If that has too many words, this one has lots of pretty pictures. Here’s more.

Release the Hounds: An Indiana Deputy Attorney General suggested using live ammunition on protesters in Wisconsin. Thankfully, he didn’t have the authority to order such a thing. But sanity did prevail: he is now unemployed on the grounds that a man in his position must demonstrate civility.

Speaking of Shafting the People who Teach Your Kids: Providence just sent lay-off notices to each and every teacher. They will decide later who actually gets the axe. Way to promote morale! And just a reminder, the average teacher in Wisconsin makes less than the Wisconsin median income.

Your Insurance Company Believes in Global Climate Change: Because 2010 was one of the worst years for climate disasters ever! That would include things like storms. Oh, and I sure hope those of you in San Francisco enjoy the expected snow.

Too Big to Fail is Too Big to Exist: Seriously, even people from the Fed say so.

Making the Situation Worse: Banks are moving branches from poor neighborhoods to wealthy ones — despite laws requiring them to serve the entire community. In this vacuum, payday lenders and check cashing businesses spring up out of need. And did you know that one in nine banks is in danger of collapse?

Some People Have Never Heard of the First Amendment: Some people think you can outlaw “shariah.”

Who Knew: It turns out Americans like having clean air and water.

Priceless: It turns out you can download sheet music of the classics for free. Mozart’s copyright rights are long since expired.

Truth in Comics: Drew and Bors.

Can we Stop Calling it the Party of Lincoln?: It turns out President Lincoln would disagree with almost everything the current Republican party stands for.

They Really Would Prefer All Women were Pregnant: No word on whether they think we should be allowed to wear shoes.

Plastic Tubes and Pots and Pans, Bits and Pieces: Kids need to do more science.

Batshit Crazy: Qaddafi.

The Only Evidence that I am “Moderate”: I’m clearly somewhere between these two crazy extremes. Honestly, I think of myself as left of center. You know I think that the banks are the root cause of much of our current economic woes, but it would be childish to assert that “Wall Street causes all bad things.”

Placebo: Dogs just want to please their masters. That’s why drug sniffing dogs only have an accuracy rate of 44%. That rate drops to 27% when the person in question is Hispanic.

Lily the Pink: Or, Who Knew Moldovans Drank So Much?

Advice for Democrats: Stop using the Republican’s terminology! I want to scream every time i hear one of you talk about the “death tax” or “tax reform” or “Obamacare” or “Social Security reform.” For pity sake, all these things have names that don’t admit that their way of looking at it is correct!

What Happens When This One Pops?: College textbook price bubble.

The Girl who Played with Shorties

And They Wonder Why the Peasants are Revolting: Even the market news pundits at Marketwatch get it: “In one America, one in 10 of those able to work are unemployed. In the other, Wall Street’s America, bonuses are set to increase.”

Social Security Round Up: I thought about doing a Social Security post, but so many people have already said what needs saying. To whit, most of us have small enough “savings,” “home equity,” and/or “market gains” that we expect to depend at least partly on Social Security (some people depended on it before they even fully appreciated what it was). Social Security needs to be the issue in November, because “saving,” “privatizing,” and all those other words mean nothing more than “destroy.” All those people talking about how “broke” Social Security don’t understand how it works and have an ulterior motive for “reforming” (again, synonym for “destroying”) it. Don’t look at Chile without seeing the whole picture.

Speaking of the Reid vs. Angle race: If this weren’t a race with truly nationwide implications, I wouldn’t spend so much time on elections in an entire state with a population lower than the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. But Senator Reid is the Majority Leader, and Sharron Angle is one of the highest profile teabaggers running. The press is rightfully all over it. Anyway, it’s a tight race.

The Party of Personal Responsibility: Oh! And our other Senator is blaming a “liberal organization” for his woes: namely that he had an adulterous affair and then tried to cover it up by making sure his mistress’s husband was, ahem, taken care of monetarily. Right. ‘Cause his “can’t keep it in his pants” problem? That’s totally the fault of liberals.

Everybody has seen this by now, right?: How dare unemployed people not accept low paying jobs or opportunities that require them to move halfway around the world, ungrateful wretches. Meanwhile, first time unemployment insurance claims are up.

China Knows Better: They know they can’t make do with a Latte Economy. There’s more to a vibrant economy than egg rolls and laundromats. They build stuff, and when they don’t know how to build it they make the West teach them how.

Chuck is Right: Seriously, he’s just a tweak more conservative than I, but this is spot on: “If the number of illegal aliens in this country is something like 20M, you can be real sure that drugs and other criminal activities isn’t what needs addressed. The job picture is what needs [to be] addressed. Enforcement of the pissant employment laws is virtually non-existent, employers know that the chance of getting caught out is tiny and the fines small enough to cover with their illegal hire profits.” Fewer fences, more crackdowns on employers who like workers that don’t stand up for any rights.

They like to call it an “Emergency Department” now: At least there are fewer uninsured people showing up in the ER.

Oh just come out and call Abe Lincoln a damn Liberal: “The genius of Lincoln — and it’s really the greatest historical legacy of the Republican Party — is that all individuals were to be treated based who they are, not who their parents were.” The 14th Amendment is brilliant in its simplicity. It does not need to be repealed, revised, or “interpreted“. Speaking of which, screaming over Anderson Cooper on national television is not a way to be taken seriously.

Priorities: when you think Jimmy Carter outranks Tim McVeigh, the Rosenbergs, John Wilkes Booth, and Benedict Freaking Arnold as worst person in American History, you have some truly messed up ways of thinking. Where’s Lee Harvey Oswald? Oh right, he killed a liberal so that makes him a hero I guess. I’m guessing the criteria included that they be American, which is why Osama and Emperor Hirohito are left out.

This one’s for you, JP: Hal Turner is guilty.

Popularity Counts: Over 25 most popular things. Take it for what it’s worth. I’m glad my car isn’t a “popular” color. I had a devil of a time finding that silver Civic on a parking lot!

I don’t intend to discuss Ground Zero again: Barbara lays it out.

What were they thinking?: No, you can’t legally prevent people from talking to one another at the mall.

Listen up, Ladies: a new “morning after” contraceptive is now approved by the FDA, and is good up to 5 days later.

Things are tough all over: Kroger is expanding their selection of store brand beauty products.

Blame the GOP: So says a Reagan Insider!

Are… Are World Leaders Supposed to Look Like That?: The caption makes the image even stranger.