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Simply Appalling

A jaundiced eye on the news

Last Build Date: Sun, 18 Feb 2018 12:47:00 +0000


Quote of the Day: On the conservative commentariat

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 13:26:00 +0000

The original neo-conservatives knew how wrong they had been in their youth, and re-learned their politics after forty. Unlike their forbears, today’s neo-cons never have had a self-critical moment. Today’s guardians of the sacred flame of the sacred conservative flame are to the manure born.... They are mediocre ideologues incapable of learning from past failures, clinging to their careers because they are unsuited for honest work. Trump may not know much but he is capable of learning. That can’t be said for his detractors. —David P. Goldman, writing as "Spengler" in "Trump lacks experience but his detractors lack common sense"

Goldman is one of the few members of the conservative commentariat who have not repudiated Donald Trump's grotesqueness, instead preferring to bring down his considerable wrath upon his fellow commentators.

Of all those commentators I have always found "Spengler" to be the most fun to read, not because of his perspicacity (after all, who can still contend that the Donald is capable of learning) but for his fulminating wit. Then there's the supercilious tone reminiscent of the late William Buckley, who might very well have used the word "epigonoi" as Goldman managed to do in this article.

Update on Moshe Katsav

Thu, 04 Aug 2016 13:47:00 +0000

In my last post some 5 years ago I expressed skepticism that Moshe Katsav, former Israeli president and convicted rapist, would serve any time on his 7-year sentence. Well, kudos to the Israeli government! Mr. Katsav not only went to prison but, thanks to an Israeli parole board, will continue to serve out his sentence.

As I noted at the time, Katsav committed a sex-related crime, which is about the only crime the Western world will not countenance in its leaders.

Memo to Donald Trump: Should you inexplicably become President of the United States, keep those trousers zipped and those little hands to yourself.

Related post
Criminal of the Day: Moshe Katsav (3/22/2011)

Criminal of the Day: Moshe Katsav

Tue, 22 Mar 2011 14:02:00 +0000

An Israeli court sentenced Moshe Katsav, the country’s former president, to seven years in prison for rape on Tuesday. The sentencing is the latest stage in a sordid drama that Israel’s leaders point to as proof of the principle of equality before the law, but one that has also seen the prestige of Israel’s highest office brought to a historic low. —Isabel Kershner reporting in "Ex-Israeli President Sentenced to Prison for Rape"

I am always cheered at the prospect of a national leader going to jail, since justice will not have been served until George Bush and Dick Cheney have done some time.  But, alas, there are some points to be made about this "proof of the principle of equality before the law."

First is that Katsav was the head of state, not the head of government—an office held by the prime minister. As such he held no significant power. More like the Queen, really.
Second, Mr. Katsav has not gone to jail yet.  As his lawyer noted, “Regarding the sentence, I have no doubt that this was not the last word.” Neither do I.  After the appeals I will be pleasantly surprised if Mr. Katsav serves a day of his sentence.
Third, the crime was about sex. Heads of state and government should take heart that they can commit any atrocity, any fraud, any deception, any aggression, any torture—indeed, any crime whatsoever—so long as they keep their pants zipped. We should remember that only the second impeachment in American history was occasioned by a blow job (yes, I know—that he lied about it) and that the term of the current Italian Prime Minister and media tyrant Silvio Berlusconi may be brought short by his dalliance with a 16-year-old.

So much for the rule of law.

Update: Update on Moshe Katsav (8/4/2016)

Technological Advance of the Day: Laser Electrolysis in Space

Thu, 17 Mar 2011 12:57:00 +0000

A new laser device created at the University of Central Florida could make high-speed computing faster and more reliable, opening the door to a new age of the Internet. . . . 

But there is still one challenge that the team is working to resolve. The voltage necessary to make the laser diodes work more efficiently must be optimized. 

Deppe said once that problem is resolved, the uses for the laser diodes will multiply. They could be used in lasers in space to remove unwanted hair. 

— in "Miniature lasers could help launch new age of the Internet"

Quote of the Day: On the effect of inflation

Wed, 08 Dec 2010 12:37:00 +0000

Inflation is a redistributive mechanism in favour of the few that can protect living standards, against the large majority who cannot. —Tim Ash, emerging markets chief of the Royal Bank of Scotland, as quoted in "China's credit bubble on borrowed time as inflation bites"

Mr. Ash, of course, was applying this insight to China. But it applies to any country you like—the U.S. for instance.

I point this out so that you may better understand why Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve bank, which sets U.S. monetary policy, is so afraid of deflation.  As he said in his famous speech of 2002,

I am confident that the Fed would take whatever means necessary to prevent significant deflation in the United States and, moreover, that the U.S. central bank, in cooperation with other parts of the government as needed, has sufficient policy instruments to ensure that any deflation that might occur would be both mild and brief.

Of course in 2002 Bernanke also thought that "the chance of significant deflation in the United States in the foreseeable future is extremely small." He has revised his opinion lately. In October he opined,

... in effect, inflation is running at rates that are too low relative to the levels that the [Open Market] Committee judges to be most consistent with the Federal Reserve's dual mandate in the longer run. In particular, at current rates of inflation, ... the risk of deflation is higher than desirable. Given that monetary policy works with a lag, the more relevant question is whether this situation is forecast to continue. In light of the recent decline in inflation, the degree of slack in the economy, and the relative stability of inflation expectations, it is reasonable to forecast that underlying inflation ... will be less than the mandate-consistent inflation rate for some time.

I also mention the redistributing effect of inflation so that you will have a reply ready the next time you hear about "socialist redistribution schemes" from your right-wing pals. 

Incomes are constantly being redistributed in all economies, and a significant portion of that redistribution has nothing to do with "hard work" or individual merit of any sort.  So the political question is not whether redistribution should be allowed—in fact it cannot be prevented. The political question is "from whom" and "to whom."

Related posts
"First" of the Day: Fall of the CPI (12/19/08)
"First" of the Day: Fall in consumer prices (11/20/08)

"Firsts" of the Day for the FDA

Sun, 07 Nov 2010 08:13:00 +0000

The Food and Drug Administration said ... that it would rescind the approval of a patch for injured knees that it granted in error in 2008 after being unduly pressured by four New Jersey congressmen and its own commissioner. The patch, known as Menaflex and manufactured by ReGen Biologics, was so different from earlier devices that it should have been tested far more thoroughly before approval, officials determined. . . .

The F.D.A. had never before admitted that it approved a drug or device mistakenly, never rescinded such an approval without citing new information about the product, never admitted that a regulatory decision was influenced by politics, and never accused a former commissioner of questionable conduct.

—Gardiner Harris reporting in "F.D.A. Vows to Revoke Approval of Device"

Certain Democratic Congressmen appear to have acted on behalf of their generous comporate constituent—

The controversy surrounding Menaflex began last year, when a group of F.D.A. medical officers complained to Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, that the ReGen decision was one of several at the agency in which politics inappropriately trumped science.

The agency responded by releasing a detailed report last year that found that the agency’s scientific reviewers had repeatedly and unanimously over many years declared Menaflex unworthy of approval, but that they had been overruled by agency managers after political pressure from four Democrats from New Jersey — Senators Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg and Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. and Steven R. Rothman. The report also concluded that Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, then the agency’s commissioner, had become inappropriately involved in the decision, and that agency procedures had been bypassed.

All four lawmakers made their inquiries about Menaflex after receiving significant campaign contributions from ReGen, which is based in Hackensack, N.J. Dr. von Eschenbach and the four lawmakers said they acted properly.

Related posts
A ceiling as well as a floor (7/25/04)
Eliot Spitzer targets pharmaceutical industry, criticizes FDA (11/24/04)

"First" of the Day: New hell in the City of Angels

Tue, 28 Sep 2010 03:59:00 +0000

The temperature in Downtown Los Angeles today reached 113 degrees at 12:15 p.m. - that was the highest temperature ever recorded in Downtown L.A. since records began in 1877.

The previous record was 112 degrees set on June 26, 1990. The previous record for the day in Downtown L.A. was 106 degrees set in 1963 - and the previous record for the month of September was 110 degrees set September 1, 1955 and equaled on September 4, 1988.

—CNS report "Los Angeles Sets New Record High Temperature"

The entire area saw records tied or broken—

The high temperature at Long Beach airport today was 111 degrees at 1:09 p.m. - that tied the highest temperature ever recorded at Long Beach airport...which was set October 15, 1961.

It also set a new record for the month of September...eclipsing the old record of 110 degrees set September 26, 1963.

The high temperature at Los Angeles airport today was 105 degrees at 11:30 a.m. - that tied the daily record which was set in 1963.

The high temperature at Burbank airport today was 110 degrees - that broke the daily record of 104 degrees set in 1963.

The high temperature in Woodland Hills at Pierce College today was 111 degrees - that broke the daily record of 107 degrees set in 1993.

The high temperature in Oxnard at the national weather service office today was 100 degrees - that broke the daily record of 99 degrees set in 1963.

The high temperature at Santa Barbara Airport was 100 degrees today - that broke the daily record of 99 degrees set in 1970.

The high temperature at Santa Maria airport was 105 degrees - that broke the daily record of 99 degrees set in 1917.

The high temperature at Paso Robles airport today was 108 degrees - that broke the daily record of 105 degrees set in 1963.

The high temperature at Lancaster airport today was 103 degrees - that tied the daily record which was set in 2003.

The high temperature at Palmdale airport today was 102 degrees - that tied the daily record which was set in 2003.

Related posts
"Global Warming Effect of the Day" (7/25/06)

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"First" of the Day: new campaign spending record

Fri, 24 Sep 2010 10:30:00 +0000

Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for California governor, has surpassed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the highest personal contribution in American campaign history.

Whitman's campaign reported another $15 million contribution late Tuesday, bringing her personal donation to $119 million.

—Juliet Williams reporting in "Meg Whitman breaks US campaign spending records"

And to think, before her run for governor Whitman seldom voted. Why bother to vote when you can just buy any office you like? She may have a point. We'll see in November.

In another story, Williams captures the irony of Whitman's campaign—

For Meg Whitman, there is at least one problem in government worth throwing money at: getting elected.

The billionaire former eBay CEO is using her personal fortune in her campaign for California governor like no other candidate in U.S. political history: $119 million so far on months of wall-to-wall advertising, private jets, dozens of six-figure consultants and other expenses to spread her message of government austerity.

Her open wallet is in contrast to her austerity plans for California. She is promising if elected to dramatically cut state spending, eliminate 40,000 state workers, scale back pension benefits and cut the welfare system, which she says is bloated and unaffordable.

Whitman blames her spending spree on the unions, which have spent a miserly $12 million against her $119 million. Austerity, it seems, is expensive. 

Related posts 
Hire your own judge; you'll help the system and save in the long run (6/15/2005)
Conservative Acknowledgment of the Day (7/19/2010)

Quote of the Day: Guess who said it

Sat, 18 Sep 2010 00:47:00 +0000

Tonight the ruling class knows. They have... they've seen it now. There's a people's revolution!

Select from below:

  1. Karl Marx
  2. Vladimir Lenin
  3. Leon Trotsky
  4. Carl Paladino
  5. Noam Chomsky

If you selected Carl Paladino, the newly elected Republican candidate for Governor of New York, you are ahead of your time.

Related posts
The Second American Revolution goes nuclear (5/16/05)
Truth of the Day: On social change (2/28/08)
A note on Obama (2/15/10)
A domestic suicide attack (2/18/10)

"First" of the Day: Pot tried for pain relief in outpatients

Mon, 30 Aug 2010 16:11:00 +0000

The study used three different potencies of cannabis - containing 2.5%, 6% and 9.4% of the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol - as well as a placebo (dummy version).

Under nurse supervision, participants inhaled a single 25mg dose through a pipe three times a day for five days followed by nine days off, for four cycles.

Those given the highest dose had significantly reduced average pain compared with the placebo as well as less anxiety and depression, and better sleep.

Study leader Dr Mark Ware said: "To our knowledge, this is the first outpatient clinical trial of smoked cannabis ever reported."

—BBC reporting in "Cannabis may relieve chronic nerve pain"

Another interesting outcome of the research was this—

Dr Peter Shortland, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, said: "Importantly, smoking the drug did not produce the psychoactive effects commonly associated with full strength cannabis."

I'm not sure why the the good professor considered this to be important, but the American morals police will be greatly relieved.

With the full-scale legalization of pot coming up for a vote in California's November election (opposed, sadly, by some growers) and with continuing positive research outcomes such as this, I worry about which group will be locked up next to justify current levels of police, prison guards and prisons.

Related posts
Marijuana: Better than faith-healing (1/03/05)
Quote of the Day (5/12/05)
Form Letter of the Day (12/12/05)
Pseudosocialism (qua Leninism) and the DEA (12/12/05)
Granny of the Day (3/07/07)
High Court Decision of the Day: Smoking while herding (3/29/09)

"First" of the Day: Fall in new home sales

Wed, 25 Aug 2010 21:13:00 +0000

The annualised rate of new homes sales fell 12.4% in July to a seasonally adjusted rate of 276,600 a year, the US Commerce Department said.

That makes it the slowest rate since records began in 1963.

—BBC reporting in "US new home sales in sharp fall"

Why would anyone in her right mind buy a new home when there are so many perfectly good homes selling for a fraction of their original cost?

Related posts
High of the Day (6/15/07)
"First" of the Day: Home foreclosures (12/06/08)
"First" of the Day: New housing starts (12/17/08)

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First of the Day: US fatality in Iraq after combat troops pulled

Tue, 24 Aug 2010 04:36:00 +0000

An American soldier was killed by a rocket strike near Basra today, in the first US fatality since the last combat troops left Iraq. —Martin Chulov reporting in "First US soldier killed in Iraq since withdrawal of combat troops"

Chulov reports that—

General Raymond Odierno told CNN the remaining troops could move back to combat if there was "a complete failure of the security forces", or if political divisions split the Iraqi security forces. "But we don't see that happening," Odierno said.

There seems to be almost nothing the military can see happening—even as it's happening.

Odierno did move the Iraqi goal post down the road a bit—

General Odierno said today it could take years to determine if the US-led invasion was a success. "A strong, democratic Iraq will bring stability to the Middle East, and if we see an Iraq that's moving toward that, two, three, five years from now I think we can call our operations a success," he said.

—implicitly admitting that the current Iraq is neither strong and democratic nor bringing stability to the Middle East.

Various interviews and news accounts I've heard over the past few weeks indicate that we are being prepped for "future engagements." (Psst!  We can't leave Iraq because it needs protection from the threat of Iran!) This first casualty of the "non-combat" phase of the U.S. occupation sadly will aid in the preparations.

Related posts
Neocons fear the pain of premature withdrawal (1/29/07)
Training the Iraqis: A contrary view (7/19/07)
It's finally arrived: Iraq on a platter!

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Quote of the Day

Thu, 22 Jul 2010 08:59:00 +0000

If we have a US slowdown with a fresh financial crisis, everybody is going to want to buy the Swiss franc, along with bottled water, tins hats, and a shotgun. —David Bloom, currency chief at megabank HSBC, as quoted by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in "Swiss endure safe-haven agony from euro flight"

Conservative Acknowledgment of the Day

Mon, 19 Jul 2010 15:34:00 +0000

Of course there is not one lever you can simply pull to create a big society. We should not be naive enough to think that simply if government rolls back and does less, then miraculously society will spring up and do more. —David Cameron of the Conservative Party, recently elected Prime Minister of the UK, as reported by the BBC

I am so disappointed. Here I was, thinking that the only thing society needed was for the government to reduce taxes and get out of the way of the capitalists.

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Oil leaks into a California election

Tue, 22 Jun 2010 09:09:00 +0000

There's an interesting special election today in California for a California Senate seat made vacant when incumbent Abel Maldonado was appointed Lieutenant Governor. Turnout is expected to be under 20% since the election follows on the heels of the primary elections held only two weeks ago.  The registration advantage in the district has switched to the Democrats since Republican Maldonado was elected in 2004.

What makes this election noteworthy is the former occupation of Sam Blakeslee, currently a Republican Assemblyman. Blakeslee was an employee of Exxon and a big supporter of offshore oil drilling.  His Democratic opponent, Assemblyman John Laird, has managed to put the issue front and center.

On the one hand, California is desperate for cash, some of which might be extracted from the oil companies.  On the other hand, California has beaches that Californians seem to love.  Will voters come out of the water long enough to vote against oil?

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Victim of the Day

Mon, 21 Jun 2010 17:26:00 +0000

Dr. James Hamilton, 44, a gastroenterologist, said that soon after Father Karadima chose him at 17 to be part of his Catholic Action youth movement, the priest began kissing him on the mouth and touching his genitals. On a retreat at a seaside town west of Santiago when he was 18, Dr. Hamilton said, the abuse went much further, and it continued for nearly 20 years. —Pascale Bonnefoy and Alexei Barrionuevo reporting in "Chilean archbishop refers child abuse case against priest to Vatican"

"When will it all end?" he wondered as he received his medical degree.

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"First" of the Day: The Enron license plate

Mon, 22 Mar 2010 14:28:00 +0000

Florida, like most states, is in dire financial straits. But since it's a also a Republican-dominated state, it has no state income tax, preferring instead to tax the poor and lower middle class within an inch of their lives.  The state does this through a number of devices.  The best known of them is the lottery, which in the beginning was sold to the public as a way to increase funding for education. What they didn't tell the people was that the state would start decreasing the share of general funds already going for education, which has left all levels of public education in an increasingly sad condition. And now the poor and poorish stand in line at convenience stores to buy their chance for a happy retirement. Last year's trick was to increase vehicle tag fees by almost 50%.  Republicans don't raise taxes—they raise "fees." State senator Mike Fasano, chairman of the Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee, acknowledged this on record— We increased the fees significantly last year on people who couldn't afford it. Imagine that!  Now with Republican Governor Charlie Crist trying to overcome the Teabagger crowd to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator, he's asked Fasano to see if he can't come up with a remedy.  So Fasano put his Republican mind to the task, and instead of ideas corporate logos popped out. Here's what he came up with: Florida's "vanity" plates would be offered as a billboard to any corporation willing to buy into the plan. The corporation will pay $200 per tag. Since the current tag fee averages to $71.85 per year, you might think that vehicle owners willing to drive around town with, say, "Exxon" on their rear would get the tag for free or a pittance.  But no.  The proud vehicle owner will still pay $25 for the honor. The state of Florida will pocket the difference.  The cost of all other tags will be reduced by $6. Fasano's comment, as Bill Kaznor reported it, was precious— It's better than nothing, isn't it? When you don't have a job and you're trying to afford putting some food on the table ... a reduction of $6 might just be able to give you that opportunity to renew your tag. Which leaves me with thoughts of dinner: "We're having chicken tonight, honey, 'cause we just got a break on our license plate!" A "first" The proposed legislation has a way to go before becoming law.  It was passed unanimously in Fasano's committee and now must pass the Senate Ways and Means committee before coming to a vote on the Senate floor. But no one has introduced an equivalent bill in the House.  But if the measure gets signed into law, Florida will be the first state to feature corporate advertising on its license plates. It will be a proud day for Republicans. There may be some opposition from Democrats.  Vehicle owners pay $25 extra to sport one of Florida's current crop of over 100 "specialty" plates.  This bill will create a strong economic incentive not to "Support Our Troops" or "Save the Manatee." But Democrats don't have much of a say in Florida. As I drove down the road musing on our future if the bill passes, I wondered if the corporate sponsors would be vetted in some way. Christians have been trying to get Jesus on license plates since the first specialty plate was sold.  So why not start a corporation called "Jesus, Inc." and buy into the plan? Or maybe use an existing corporation such as "Paraclete Armor"?  Under the current Supreme Court it seems unstoppable.  Corporations have unlimited freedom of speech,[...]

Coronary Risk Factor of the Day

Tue, 16 Mar 2010 04:51:00 +0000

... impotence is a more significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease than smoking.
—Geoff Hackett, consultant urologist, as quoted in  "Impotence 'strong predictor' of heart attacks"

I've tried again and again to give up my impotence, but still they get elected. Does anyone know of an impotence-cessation clinic and will Medicare finally pay for my Viagra?

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Is that a pistol you're packing, or are you just glad to see me?

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 16:08:00 +0000

Reality frequently and hastily overtakes our Simply Appalling imaginings. According to a recent Supreme Court decision, guns may be allowed in supermarkets but not in federal courtrooms, which are "sensitive." Only last week I wrote that

In my view, my local supermarket is far more sensitive than a federal courthouse, because I go there often and have the increasingly forelorn hope of not being caught in the crossfire between the armed clerk at the checkout counter and the armed robber or the armed irate customer.

Today Mark Mardell of the BBC reports,

Elm Grove, near Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Other customers stare as Nik Clark and Kim Garny do their weekly shop at a large upscale supermarket. It's hardy a surprise as a TV camera is trailing behind their trolley. But people would do a double-take even if the BBC weren't in tow. In some ways Nick wants them to look.

There's a revolver amid the ravioli, an automatic among the avocados.

Like cowboys out of Westerns, the couple carry handguns on holsters on their hips. She has a Smith and Wesson .38 special with a cute pink grip that makes it look almost like a toy. He has a rather more chunky Glock.

(image) Wisconsin Open Carry. Groups like this have been springing up all over the States in the last year and they've been making an impact in the last week or so, getting Starbucks in California to agree people should be allowed into their coffee shops carrying guns. The groups are made up of people who want to make a point about the Second Amendment right in the Constitution to bear arms, by bearing them openly. Some want to make a point and test whether or not private firms like shops and restaurants recognise that right.

Can it be long before we see replacement bullets alongside the batteries and chewing gum at the checkout stand?

Related post
Reversing my opinion on restrictive gun laws (3/04/2010)

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Proposed Legislation of the Day: Restricting foreign corporations in U.S. elections

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 13:49:00 +0000

Proposed legislation to block foreign companies from contributing money to U.S. elections could end up affecting well-known companies such as Chrysler, Anheuser-Busch and Citgo....
—Clement Tan reporting in "Campaign finance legislation faces tricky issue of foreign corporations"

Wouldn't that be a shame?!  What will become of us, I wonder, if an inept automaker, a beer brewer and a foreign oil company be prevented from influencing our elections.

Van Hollen [U.S. Representative from Maryland, Democrat] said his legislative team is "still reviewing the foreign influence issue."

But he added that it was important to prevent foreign influence on domestic politics. "We must ultimately ensure that Americans decide our elections, not foreign special interests," he said.

Absolutely! It will be much better if our elections are decided by domestic special interests.

And on that note I should refer you to another news item—"U.S. Chamber of Commerce grows into a political force"—in which we learn that the Chamber has established a "grassroots" movement, Friends of the U.S. Chamber, said to embody some 6 million individuals.

Tom Hamburger writes,

The chamber's expansion into grass-roots organizing -- coupled with a large and growing fundraising apparatus that got a lift from Supreme Court rulings -- is part of a trend in which the traditional parties are losing ground to well-financed and increasingly assertive outside groups. The chamber is certainly better positioned than ever to be a major force on the issues and elections it focuses on each year, analysts think.

What makes the initiative possible is a swelling tide of money. The chamber spent more than $144 million on lobbying and grass-roots organizing last year, a 60% increase over 2008, and well beyond the spending of individual labor unions or the Democratic or Republican national committees.

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Stay-at-Home Princess of the Day

Thu, 11 Mar 2010 12:42:00 +0000

... since her marriage, the restrictions imposed by the Imperial Household have meant the former jet-setting Princess Masako has only travelled a handful of times.

It has been assumed that conservatives in the Imperial Household have wanted her close to home so she could concentrate her energies on conceiving.

—BBC report in "Princess trapped by palace guard"

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Reversing my opinion on restrictive gun laws

Thu, 04 Mar 2010 13:28:00 +0000

The Supreme Court aims to decide whether the 2nd Amendment "right to bear arms" restricts the law-making abilities of state and local governments.  Two years ago the "conservative" bloc of the Court found new meaning in the Constitution, asserting that the Amendment implied an individual right to bear arms that is not subject to federal prohibition. It was possible to reach this decision because the case was brought against the District of Columbia, a federal enclave.The majority went so far as to quote from an 1895 decision— United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542, in the course of vacating the convictions of members of a white mob for depriving blacks of their right to keep and bear arms, held that the Second Amendment does not by its own force apply to anyone other than the Federal Government. The opinion explained that the right "is not a right granted by the Constitution [or] in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The second amendment ... means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress." 92 U. S., at 553. States, we said, were free to restrict or protect the right under their police powers. Now, in a case brought against the city of Chicago, the Court will decide the impact of the Second Amendment upon non-federal laws that restrict firearms.  One might reasonably think, reading the excerpt above and the majority's comment upon it ("States, we said, were free to restrict or protect the right under their police powers"), that the matter had been settled in 1895. But no.  The Court apparently intends to restrict the ability of local governments to control firearms as well.Of course when the Court arrived at its conclusions two years ago, it specifically carved out certain exceptions to the limits on federal law—Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Now why, we must ask, are government buildings—such as federal courthouses—exempt from the Amendment? Surely if the Amendment refuses the right of the federal government to pass restrictions on "bearing arms," that constraint should hold most forcibly in a federal courtroom. What's so damned "sensitive" about a federal courtroom anyway?  In my view, my local supermarket is far more sensitive than a federal courthouse, because I go there often and have the increasingly forlorn hope of not being caught in the crossfire between the armed clerk at the checkout counter and the armed robber or the armed irate customer. On the other hand I have seldom set foot in a federal courthouse, so I don't much care what they do there. Might we suspect that the Court wants to foist upon the citizenry a situation that it doesn't want to endure itself?So I am reversing my position on laws restricting guns and demand that citizens be allowed to carry guns on federal property, and I urge the surging right-wing militias to converge upon their nearest federal courthouse armed to the teeth. How else are we to protect our rights?Related post I have a feeling we're not in Disney World anymore: Florida goes "[...]

First of the Day: "Epic" decline in bank lending

Thu, 25 Feb 2010 13:13:00 +0000

Besides registering their biggest full-year decline in total loans outstanding in 67 years, U.S. banks set a number of grim milestones. According to the FDIC, the number of U.S. banks at risk of failing hit a 16-year high at 702. More than 5% of all loans were at least three months past due, the highest level recorded in the 26 years the data have been collected. —Michael R. Crittenden and Marshall Eckblad reporting in "Lending falls at epic pace"

Nothing to see here, folks. Economists have declared the U.S. out of recession. Just move along now.

Related post
The Depression Chronicles – 1: Bankruptcies

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Health Care Summit at 10 am today

Thu, 25 Feb 2010 12:30:00 +0000

President Obama's health care summit to which he has invited the leading Democratic and Republican members of Congress convenes this morning at 10 am. It will be on C-Span, much to the discomfort of Republicans who have repeatedly chided the President for not fulfilling his promise to televise health care negotiations.

If you have the time and interest to watch, there is an alternative to C-Span that you may enjoy.  The Sunlight Foundation, which keeps track of the funds flowing into the coffers of individual Congresspeople and how they subsequently vote, will be following the summit also. They promise that

Some of the things you can expect to see displayed on Sunlight Live as the politicians debate are campaign contributions that the person speaking has received, their connections to lobbyists and industry, personal finances, and key votes that the leaders have made on health care in the past.

You can watch at  

My apology to Tiger Woods

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:42:00 +0000

Tiger, I want to say to you, simply and directly, I am deeply sorry for the irresponsible and selfish behavior the media have engaged in. They feel that they have worked hard and deserve to enjoy all the temptations around them. They feel they are entitled. Their behavior is simply appalling.

I wasn't going to mention Tiger Woods nor his public apology for "letting down" his family and fans here, since I cannot think of anything he may have done that has the slightest repercussion on my life or yours, unless you happen to be Tiger Woods' wife or sponsor and are reading this blog. But now I feel sorry for the man, and for all of us who have to endure the merde that is the American media.

The liberal and somewhat priggish Keith Olbermann of MSNBC devoted over 6 minutes of his Friday show to a discussion with Gene Robinson of the Washington Post on just what Tiger Woods meant when he used the word "entitled." Rachel Maddow of the same network had been ignoring the Woods affair but finally relented, explaining that—

Much as I've tried I'm finding that being willfully ignorant about something this sociologically resonant that everyone [that is, the media] is talking about is an overrated place to be....  Mr. Woods' statement today .... was shown on every cable news channel, and all four broadcast networks broke into programming with it.

Fox News of course became the FoxWoods News, and set its roundtable of right-wing commentators to the analysis of Tiger Woods' life. Their efforts were crowned by this offering from Brit Hume—

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The only media outfit with any integrity left in the matter is Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now." Goodman thinks Tiger Woods is a park in India where they're trying to save endangered species.

It has been widely reported that Tiger Woods intends to return to therapy for "sex addiction," a phrase he did not use in his apology.  I know a little clinic in Reno that may be able to help.

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