Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday Sessions: The Middle Ages

Bertrand de Born: @ 1140-1215

In atonement to FT for Tuesday's Miley Cyrus post ;) 

Possibly W. de Wycombe - Summer is Icumen In  @ 1260 

Vox Vulgaris - Cantiga 166

Friday, August 30, 2013

Twerked Off

Like old men of previous generations, I look at our booty-shaking culture and shake my head...

I am not a prude.  I love women, I find them alluring, and seeing them naked turns me on.  That doesn't make me a pervert; it makes me a man.  Having said that, I'm faithful to my wife, I'm not a peeping tom, I don't go to strip bars (is there a more inappropriate named place than a "Gentleman's Club?"), I don't buy skin magazines, and I try my best to avoid the universal temptation of one-click-away internet pornography. 

My problem with our slut culture must be generational.  I came of age with Madonna.  I remember when she was cute and sassy, still shedding the last of her baby fat.  She was naughty, and I had a boyhood crush on her.  Then she transmogrified into the stringy, muscled dominatrix from hell who pleasured herself with microphones and aggressively tongue-kissed girls young enough to be her daughters on national TV, and her spell on me was broken.

I prefer the quiet, non-pornographic beauty of a Shania Twain, Joan Jett (OK, Jett's beauty was loud, but it was not pornographic), or even Jennifer Lopez, who knows how to be sexy while keeping it classy.  She doesn't have that "look at me, I'll debase myself in any embarrassing way to get your attention!" desparation about her.  A woman can be sexy while still being classy, but we're seeing less and less of that magical combination.

Making sex tapes, imitating a dog in heat on stage, stripping naked and hyper-sexualizing yourself does not make you more appealing.  It makes you boring.  You've lost your mystique (apologies to Betty Friedan.  I've never read the book).  You threw it out there, the male doggies fought with one another to hump you, the hooting baboons fondled themeselves over you, and then the 15 minutes were up, and the door on your pornographic peep show slammed shut.  Paris Hilton, anyone?  And a surprising number of young men see Kim Kardashian as the slut that she is.

Most of the 20th century's sexiest and most alluring women never posed nude.  The few of those who did, did so in tasteful poses, reminiscent of the great nudes of the art world.  They were also never caught in public acting like two-bit whores.

When you've literally exposed everything, there's nothing left, especially if you're an empty-headed moron with nothing besides your body to offer.  And I say that with a profound sadness, because ultimately, all a human being truly possesses is her humanity, her very own being.  The most tragic loss a person can experience is loss of self.

See also:  Camille Paglia:  Miley Cyrus, Go Back to School!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Good Riddance

Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Tuesday defended her decision to allow so-called Dreamers a chance to obtain legal status to stay in the United States and blamed Congress for failing to act on immigration reform.  ~ Politico

Napolitano went on to say:

“Congress had a chance to give these so-called Dreamers a way to stay in our country through the DREAM Act, but unfortunately, that legislation failed to garner the 60 votes needed for cloture, falling just five votes short, despite strong bipartisan support.”

So our laws are determined not by the people, but by a two-bit appointed political hack.


So dumbass... please explain how losing by five votes is a failure to act?  It sounds like congress did indeed act, held a cloture vote, and you lost. A more accurate statement would be congress failed to act the way you wanted them to.  Perhaps a reminder is due...

Article 6, Clause 3:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

"I, _______, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."  

Well and Faithfully Discharging Duties

So how is refusing to enforce the existing laws passed by congress well and faithfully discharging your duties? 

In the context of constitutional law, Article II, Section 4 grants congress the power to impeach "The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors."  It is firmly established that cabinet officers are "civil officers of the United States", Secretary of War William Belknap was impeached.

The Supreme Court has held that such phrases as "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" must be construed not according to modern usage, but according to what the framers meant when they adopted them.  The framers knew full well what "high crimes and misdemeanors" meant and the article passed with little discussion or debate.  To the framers the term had the same meaning as it held in English Common Law.  High Crimes are not serious crimes, but crimes committed by public officials, a citizen cannot commit high crimes unless holding public office.

High Crimes and Misdemeanors in English Common Law

Since 1386, the English parliament had used “high crimes and misdemeanors” as one of the grounds to impeach officials of the crown. Officials accused of “high crimes and misdemeanors” were accused of offenses as varied as misappropriating government funds, appointing unfit subordinates, not prosecuting cases, not spending money allocated by Parliament, promoting themselves ahead of more deserving candidates, threatening a grand jury, disobeying an order from Parliament, arresting a man to keep him from running for Parliament, losing a ship by neglecting to moor it, helping “suppress petitions to the King to call a Parliament,” granting warrants without cause, and bribery. Some of these charges were crimes. Others were not. The one common denominator in all these accusations was that the official had somehow abused the power of his office and was unfit to serve. ~ CRF


Congress needs to grow a set

If the legislatures of the United States wishes to see its legislation not only enacted but enforced,  it needs to take action  when it is not.  We know that that the Republican controlled House of Representatives could conceivably impeach Napolitano, we all also know that the Democratic controlled Senate of the United States is not going to convict Janet Napolitano, not on the grounds of guilt or innocence, but solely for political and party reasons.  


The law is the law,  it is not what we want it to be but what is legislated and written down,  and if you don't like what is written down there are processes to change it.  When you lack the political capacity to change it,  you are stuck with it.  The intent of the law of the United States is the will of the people, not the power of the executive,  and until Congress grows a set it and enforces its will, it will continue to be treated as a bath mat by the executive branch.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Okay, You Can Inspect Now

Too Little, Too Late

"At this juncture, the belated decision by the regime to grant access to the U.N. team is too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime's persistent shelling and other intentional actions over the last five days." WSJ

Right Decision

Nerve agents are predominately organophosphates which degrade rapidly upon exposure to sunlight, air, and soil.  So rapidly in fact that during the time I was in the military I witnessed the transition of response from OMG CHEMICAL WEAPONS... in which upon warning of attack everyone went to MOPP-4 (Mission Oriented Protective Posture, MOPP-4 being full suit, gloves, boots and mask) and stayed, there to the concept of split-MOPP levels.  

Fact is, depending on the agent and environmental conditions the hazard can be significantly reduced in as little as 30-90 minutes.  Weapons such as Sarin,  which is alleged to have been used in the apparent chemical attack in Syria rapidly dissipates about 30 minutes after exposure and testing for Sarin after a week is considered unviable.

 The Point is...

Syria's offer to allow UN inspectors in a week after the attack is meaningless.  They know full well that after all this time the inspectors will be unable to find anything.  French testing of physiological samples (blood, urine, tissue) have confirmed the use of Sarin.  Even before the latest attack (4 June), the French have confirmed the use of Sarin in Syria.  The only question now is who used it?   

It is highly doubtful that the rebels are manufacturing military grade nerve agents, although they could have obtained it by capture or from an outside agency.  It is also highly unlikely they are using it against themselves in an effort to discredit the regime, although that would seem to be a remote possibility one must consider.

Many use the argument that Assad would have to be crazy (although that has yet to be determined) to use chemical weapons upon the arrival of a UN chemical weapons inspection team.  But the fact that the team is there is largely irrelevant,  they are unable to test or corroborate the usage while under the control of the Syrian government despite being only a short drive from the location of the attacks.  The risk present to Assad is no greater with the team present than without. So that leaves the general hazard of an international response, a response from a community that has so far done nothing in way of response to prior use. 

A More Important Question

Dominic Tierney asks a good question in The Atlantic

Why is 1300 dead by chemical weapons a red line when 100,000 dead via conventional means is not?  Or better yet, millions in the Congo not?  While I am not attempting to legitimize the use of chemical weapons... dead is dead. Whether it is by Sarin or Semtex,  it wouldn't seem to be of much relevance to the deceased.  Is the suffering from Sarin worse than the suffering of getting your limbs blown off and bleeding out? Chemical agents are silent, deadly, and thus scary... but is there a moral or ethical difference between killing 1300 with Sarin and 1300 with high explosives?

I am not advocating for or against intervention in Syria,  I'll leave you to make up your own minds about that.  What this is, is an attempt to elicit thought and discussion on the circumstances and use of chemical weapons and the motivation behind intervention.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Watercooler Chatter

Some viewers may find content offensive

Now I don't usually defer posts for pop culture events, but it seems that all anyone was talking about Monday morning was the Miley Cyrus performance at the VMA awards.  I don't listen to Miley Cyrus, or Robin Thicke for that matter, and I didn't watch the VMAs... but this video was unavoidable, no less than five people asked if I had seen it and offered to show it when I said no.

There is no want of commentary on it, practically all of it negative.  From disgusting to disturbing, to my favorite... "I just think I threw up in my mouth a little bit".  Some attribute it to the jarring contrast with her Disney persona, Hannah Montana, but I've never seen Hannah Montana so it couldn't be that.  I have no objections to sexy or sensual dance, unfortunately this was neither.

The general consensus of men 25-60 that I have spoken to is pretty much a unified WTF?  It was the worst of everything all rolled into one.  No one I have spoken to has found it in any way attractive, arousing, or even entertaining.  The collective horror seems universal.

My wife pointed out to me that I corrected my then 15 year old son a few years back for calling Miley Cyrus a slut... I stand corrected, and formally apologize... I also apologize for exposing all of you to... this.

What are your thoughts? 

Come back tomorrow for a discussion of chemical weapons.

Monday, August 26, 2013


Just A Bunch of Extremists

"In U.S. history,there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples."
Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute -  EAOC Student Guide; D. 1. First Bullet (page 43 of the pdf file - Equal Opportunity Advisor Course)

The document cited was obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request.

So, the Founding Fathers were just a bunch of extremists along the lines of the other examples given in the material, like the Neo-Confederates, Black Separatists, the KKK, Neo-Nazis, Skinheads, and White Nationalists.


Keep the Founding Father analogy in mind as you read these definitions from the training material:

Extremism: A term used to describe the actions or ideologies of individuals or groups who take a political idea to its limits, regardless of unfortunate repercussions, and show intolerance toward all views other than their own.

Extremist: A person who advocates the use of force or violence; advocates supremacist causes based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or national origin; or otherwise engages to illegally deprive individuals or groups of their civil rights


What kind of message does this send? 

On a Lighter Note

Extremists should be pretty easy to recognize, what with the powdered wigs, cravats, spatterdashes and easily identifiable extremist literature like Common Sense, The Right's of the Colonists, and What Think Ye of Congress Now? 

Story here

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Politically Correct Discrimination

How far does your boss's authority go?

Apparently in Florida quite far.  The Bert Fish Medical Center recently enacted a policy not to hire smokers and to test smokers for tobacco byproducts.  Employees hired after Jan. 1 who test positive will be subject to disciplinary action up to termination. 

Curiously "The prohibition doesn’t apply to volunteers, medical staff or Bert Fish’s roughly 700 employees who were hired before the implementation date."  Now I get the volunteers and the grandfathered existing employees but "medical staff"?  So the janitor can't smoke but a cardiothoracic surgeon  can?

Indentured Servitude

Now I generally side with employers in matters such as this at work and fully support the hospital's right to ban smoking at work and on their property,  but when it extends to what employees do after work... if you ain't paying, I ain't listening.  To presume that an employer's authority extends 24 hours a day, seven days a week is to step over a line I am unwilling to cross.

“We are in the health care business, and we should be a role model,” said Nancy Evolga, executive director of human resources for the 112-bed hospital. “There is 50 years of data that says tobacco use is bad.” 

I'll take a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Large Fries

If an employer can control one lawful activity 'off-work' they can control another.  That Dbl Qtr Pounder and Fries comes with 68 grams of fat and 1.6 grams of salt so if I catch any of you at McDonald's you're FIRED! Alcohol is also verboten, and if I don't see you at the gym after work (on your time) you're also outta here! By the way, you skydivers, rock climbers, and radical skiers are also fired... pick up your pink slips at the door.  Oh, and by the way... if your spouse smokes... we will no longer be needing your services.

25 states and D.C have laws specifically protecting smoker's rights,  Colorado, New York, and North Carolina have laws protecting all "lawful" off-duty activity. Arizona had such a law but it was politically correctly repealed... and California's has been undermined by their Supreme Court ruling it confers no additional rights. 

So, how far does your boss's authority go?


News Journal

Herald Tribune

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Sessions: The Kinks

This one's for Bradley Breanna Chelsea Manning... 

The Kinks - Lola

Damn, are these guys prescient or what?

The Kinks - Destroyer!


The Kinks - A Dedicated Follower of Fashion

 Oops, sorry, that's not the video... here it is:





Friday, August 23, 2013

Was 35 Years Enough?

Bradley Breanna Chelsea Manning

35 years on 20 charges, most likely out in between 6 1/2 - 8 years for releasing:

91,371 documents collectively referred to as the "Afghan War Logs"

391,832 classified military reports from Jan 2004-Dec 2009 collectively referred to as the "Iraq War Logs"

251,287 classified State Department cables from 271 embassies

How much bullshit can one man shovel?

I’m sorry that it hurt the United States. I understood what I was doing and the decision that I made. I’m sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions...When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people.
 So I am supposed to believe that a trained intelligence analyst, an analyst trained to evaluate the military value of data, didn't know what he was doing or what the impact would be?

What is Intelligence Analysis?

Intelligence analysis is the process of taking known information about situations and entities of strategic, operational, or tactical importance, characterizing the known, and, with appropriate statements of probability, the future actions in those situations and by those entities. The descriptions are drawn from what may only be available in the form of deliberately deceptive information; the analyst must correlate the similarities among deceptions and extract a common truth. Although its practice is found in its purest form inside.  Some highlights of the job:

Assists in establishing and maintaining systematic, cross-referenced intelligence records and files. 

Assists in determining significance and reliability of incoming information. 

Assists in integrating incoming information with current intelligence holdings and prepares and maintains the situation map. 

Assists in the analysis and evaluation of intelligence holdings to determine changes in enemy capabilities, vulnerabilities, and probable courses of action. 

Assists in the preparation of Order of Battle records using information from all sources and in the preparation of strength estimates of enemy units. 

Assembles and proofreads intelligence reports and assists in consolidating them into military intelligence. 

Yeah, Bradley Breanna Chelsea Manning had no idea what he was doing. Yeah, right.

I worked alongside Intel for much of my military career,  and while we may make the requisite jokes about military intelligence being an oxymoron,  I did not, in 25 years, ever meet a dumb intelligence analyst.

So no, 35 years was not enough.

Thursday, August 22, 2013



Gallup's latest data puts the latest unemployment rate at 8.9% and the underemployment rate at 17.9%

Even Ben Bernake admits that "the unemployment rate probably understates the weakness of the labor market" and "we have an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, which I think, if anything, overstates the health of our labor markets given participation rates and many other indicators of underemployment and long-term unemployment."

Are We Masking the Problem?

Seeing the Gallup numbers,I have recently read several articles on unemployment,  there was even a segment on the local evening news not just about unemployment but homelessness as well.  I see on an almost daily basis panhandlers at an interstate off-ramp panhandling under a sign that states "no solicitation".  The cops usually leave them alone,  I've only seen them rousted twice.  The latest controversy here is the cops rousting panhandlers out of the business district downtown.

Aside from the police chasing the "undesirables" away from local businesses and the homeless out of the parks,  I started wondering to myself is technology masking the problem?  It certainly insulates us from it.  Would we have a different opinion if instead of direct deposit, foods stamps, and debit and ebt cards we had lines at soup kitchens like the one above taken during the depression?

Most of us are subjected to the problem in the abstract; 7.6% unemployment (July's official number), 4.7 million long-term unemployed, the underemployed, work-force participation.  These are all abstract terms, 7.6% of what?  You can't even get the experts to agree on what to measure and how,  let alone agree on a figure.

So the question is this... would we react differently socially and politically if today's problem was manifest as it was in the thirties?   Do you know who is unemployed in your neighborhood? Who is on assistance? Chances are, probably not.  As I said, technology masks and insulates us from the problem.

Now before Lester or someone comes along and accuses me of wanting to brand the unemployed with a scarlet letter U,  this is not about the validity of these programs, or even about the unemployed, but about how modern technology shields us from the majority of ugliness in this world and how that shapes our opinions.  Outside of the visibly homeless and the panhandlers,  how much is tucked neatly out of sight?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

And you thought Banks were bad

The tax man cometh

A Pennsylvania woman almost lost her $280,000 home when it was sold at auction for $116,000 due to delinquent taxes...

$6.30 in delinquent taxes...

Actually the taxes were paid, nine days late and  the $6.30 was a leftover penalty fee.

Fortunately the appeals court judges were not as stupid as the Beaver County judge that is responsible for all this and have granted the woman an evidentiary hearing ruling the county judge was in error refusing it and that the woman was denied due process

More interesting is: "the trial court erred in upholding the upset tax sale because Taxpayer made the tax payments in accordance with invoices from the Tax Claim Bureau, which never sent her an explicit invoice for $6.30"  

Basically she was late on an 833 dollar bill in 2008,  penalties and fees were assessed and she was sent a bill for $897.13 which she paid,  unfortunately between the time she received the bill and the time she paid the bill the Tax Claim Bureau had tacked on another $6.30 in interest which remained unpaid, and apparently the notice was returned "unclaimed" to the Tax Claim Bureau.

The following year, also late and assessed penalties resulted in a bill for $3990.03 which was also paid.  They applied that payment to her 2009 taxes But that original $6.30 cents had ballooned to $234.72 and was still being held as an outstanding debt from 2008, and that is the amount they auctioned her $280,000 house for.

It stands to reason that had the Tax Claim Bureau simply billed her for $4224.74 including the delinquent 2008 amount in her 2009 bill she probably would have paid it.  How this auction got past the judge in the first place leaves you wondering.  Is it too much to expect some modicum of common sense from our petty bureaucrats and officials?

Court Filing

Another case

An 81-year-old Rhode Island homeowner was evicted two weeks before Christmas from the home she had lived in for more than 40 years because she had fallen behind on a $474 sewer bill. A corporation bought her house at a tax sale for $836.39 and then resold it for $85,000.


There are approximately $15B in delinquent property taxes per year and those seized and sold at auction often go for, if not pennies on the dollar, at least for significantly less than fair market value. These shares run counter to the interest of the community,  depressing market values as well as the tax base.  Aside from legislating common sense, it may be time to legislate at least fair market value as the opening bid for sheriff's sales (or at least a reasonable discount, say 5 or 10%).  Those who buy properties at a deep discount care little for the properties or the communities in which they are located.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Western Interests In Egypt

Summed up in one old black and white photo

Following the Egyptian military crackdown the price of Brent Crude hit a four month high of $111.23

While Egypt is not a major oil producer/exporter 7% of all crude and 13% of all LNG transits the Suez Canal.

Also of relevance to western interests is the Sumed pipeline, a roughly 200 mile pipeline fro Suez to Alexandria, although this is owned by a consortia of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE.

The question then among the western democracies and other interests is how important is it?  Is stability in Egypt more important than democracy? 

Monday, August 19, 2013

He shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed

Art 1 Sect 1: All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Art 1 Sect 7: Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.


From Healthcare to Immigration, from Education to the Environment the administration picks and chooses which legislation it wants to enforce and which legislation it wants to ignore.  In Labor and Environmental it has even gone so far to decide which law it wishes to create, establishing regulatory agencies with no basis in legislation.

Where is the clamor and the outcry?  What do you think about our Imperial Presidency?

Weekly Standard
Washington Post
Wall Street Journal
New York Times

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Nanny Bloomberg

The Nanny's Latest

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on a Friday morning radio show that NYC Housing residents should be fingerprinted.  He also went on to elaborate that while Housing residents make up 5% of the city's population they commit 20% of the crime.  Bloomberg wants to fingerprint the 600,000 residents who live in public housing.


 A spokesman for Bloomberg said that "All security is moving towards biometrics - even the next iPhone will have fingerprint security".  Apparently the spokesman is unable to differentiate between using your own fingerprint to secure your iPhone and giving it to the government to get into housing... although given the current state of affairs in electronic security, perhaps using your fingerprint to secure your iPhone is giving it to the government.

Fix the Locks

An attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights suggested that perhaps before fingerprinting residents, the city ought to consider fixing the locks on the doors to the buildings.  Now I have to admit we have biometric fingerprint security in my workplace,  swipe your badge, put your finger on the sensor, and the door unlocks.  It prevents people from walking in and out of areas outside of the common public areas, with lost or stolen Id badges.  But I can assure you that it isn't linked to IAFIS (the federal fingerprint database),  I'm not so sure that Bloomberg would make that assurance,  nor am I sure would I believe him if he did.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Waterboys

"The Big Music" period

A Girl Called Johnny was from the band's first studio album "The Waterboys" released in 1983 and was the start of what is known as their Big Music period. Starting officially as a trio with Mike Scott (vocals), Anthony Thistlewaite (sax), and Karl Wallinger (keyboard) the band has gone through some 71 members over the years.

 At the end and apex of the Big Music period and perhaps their best known Big Music Song,  The Whole of the Moon was released on their 1985 album This is the Sea.

Raggle-Taggle Band

With loss of Wallinger and the addition of Steve Wickham the band took on a completely different sound with a distinctly folksy twist  with the release of the albums Fisherman's Blues followed up by Room to Roam.



Following a breakup and seven year hiatus as Mike Scott pursued a solo career the band reformed with the release of Rock in a Weary Land.

 Universal Hall which followed took a distinctly spiritual twist with songs such as This Light is for the World,  The Christ in You,  and Peace of Iona featured below.

There latest album, An Appointment with Mr. Yeats is rather peculiar,  all 14 songs on the album are based off the poetry of Yeats.

I normally try and keep the number of songs limited in a post so as not to overwhelm, but thought it interesting to depict the evolution of the band over time.  You don't need to listen to them all, although there is no harm in that, but this provides you an opportunity to at least sample a few of them.

They have been cited as influence on such bands as Simple Minds, The Alarm, In Tua Nua, Big Country, Hothouse Flowers, and World Party, although it should be noted that World Party was founded by Karl Wallinger, one of the original Waterboys.  The band has also been cited for its influence by both Bono and the Edge of U2.

Friday, August 16, 2013

50 Shades of Grey

Don't worry, I'm not going to talk about the "mommy-porn" book.

“I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?”  ~Bronte


1. A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.

2. A rule or belief governing one's personal behavior.


1.  based on or manifesting objectively defined standards of rightness or morality


1. the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group, or nation

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. ~Abraham Lincoln

Face it, you either have them or you don't, and it seems like many of us, and many more of our politicians have neither.

When did we become so tolerant?

So tolerant of men (and women) of poor character and principles. Better yet, why do we continue to put up with their bullshit?  How many of you would characterize your elected representatives as men of high character and principle?  Okay, you can stop laughing now. Now, look in the mirror... we have no one to blame other than ourselves.

Now a comment yesterday really pissed me off.  I'm sick and tired of people trying to justify the actions of others that are quite obviously and inarguably wrong.  

22 USC 8422 clearly restricts assistance to

"the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree"

"Determining that you are not going to make a determination" is something that I would expect a petulant child to do,  not our elected and/or appointed government."

In Egypt tanks rolled, battalions marched, and the duly and democratically elected president was carted off in chains.  Now, if we feel that he wasn't duly elected, then it is the responsibility of our government NOT TO RECOGNIZE the Egyptian government.  If he was "duly elected" then it is the responsibility of our government not to LOOK THE OTHER WAY as the Egyptian military takes over.

Now I'm not saying we need to get involved at all,  what I am say is we need to act in accordance with our own principles and laws.

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. ~Abraham Lincoln

The tree is dead and we are left with nothing but the shadow. Until we start exhibiting character again we shall continue to be nothing but a shadow of our former selves.  


And don't think this post is about Egypt, it is about ourselves.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Your Bill: $1.3 Billion

The events in Egypt are deplorable... but apparently not deplorable enough to cut off aid or call it a coup.

The US government refused to announce a cut off in the Egyptian military's $1.3 billion annual subsidy, and continually urged restraint and reconciliation.

The State Department on whether or not it was a coup:

"We have determined that we do not need to make a determination,"  ~ Jen Psaki

Today after the crackdown and the appointment of 19 Generals as Provincial Governors,  White House spokesman Josh Earnest said:

"The US is not ready to determine whether Egypt has had a military coup ."

So Josh,  perhaps you can enlighten us... when will you be ready to call it a coup?

Secretary of State Kerry was quoted as saying:

"Blah blah blah blah blah blah"

Policy?  Our policy is to have no policy. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Political Correctness Lesson #6347


Really now? Is this any worse than anything you saw on TV during the Bush Administration? Saturday Night Live perhaps?  Pretty much any comedian on late night... and we don't even want to talk about what is and was on cable, do we?

"The activities at the Missouri State Fair targeting and inciting violence against our President are serious and warrant a full review by both the Secret Service and the Justice Department," says NAACP State President Mary Ratliff, who lives in Columbia. ~ Ozarks First

Because burning President Bush in effigy didn't quite reach that extreme, did it?  I know I can't think of anything better to spend the taxpayer's money on, can you?
T.J. Hawkins rolled out the big inner tube, and the bull lowered his head, shot forward and launched into the tube, sending it bounding down the center of the arena. The crowd cheered. Then the bull saw the George Bush dummy. He tore into it, sending the rubber mask flying halfway across the sand as he turned toward the fence, sending cowboys scrambling up the fence rails, hooking one with his horn and tossing him off the fence.          1994, Douglas Campbell, Philadelphia Inquirer

There's a long history of threatening presidential representations. Hanging in effigy was a common form of political protest in the 18th and 19th centuries. Presidents Washington, Adams, and Jefferson were all hanged in effigy; and before the civil war, "Hang Abe Lincoln on a Sour Apple Tree" was a commonly sung parody of "John Brown's Body."  George W. Bush was routinely hanged and burned in effigy in the United States, including during the famous "Pants on Fire Tour" led by Ben and Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen, who hit the road with a 12-foot tall effigy of Bush.  Slate

While the Missouri State Fair rodeo clown act was undoubtedly in poor taste, what isn't these days?  It is well within the purview of the State Fair Commission to decide what to do with both its employees and its contractors.  But really folks...


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Getting Frisky, Part II


In May we had a post about the NYPD Stop and Frisk program, here is an update on that story.

US District Court for the Southern District of New York

Judge Scheindlin concluded that the stops, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, as well as the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. 

After officers stopped people, they often conducted frisks for weapons, or searched the subjects’ pockets for contraband, like drugs, without any legal grounds for doing so. Also, she found that during police stops, blacks and Hispanics “were more likely to be subjected to the use of force than whites, despite the fact that whites are more likely to be found with weapons or contraband."

Roughly 80% of the stops involve blacks and Hispanics, yet over 90% of the stops produce no summons or arrest.

Nanny Bloomberg freaks out

“Crime can come back anytime the criminals think that they’re going to get away with things. We just cannot let that happen... You’re not going to see any change in tactics overnight. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a lot of people dying."
He does however have no problem being responsible for a lot of people being oppressed by having their constitutional rights routinely and repeatedly violated.

The Judge went on to say

“I also conclude that the city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,”
"The NYPD's practice of making stops that lack individualized reasonable suspicion has been so pervasive and persistent as to become not only a part of the NYPD's standard operating procedure, but a fact of daily life in some New York City neighborhoods." 

And it is off to the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit

Read more:




Monday, August 12, 2013

Does America have a Foreign Policy?

(CNN) -- America's foreign policy has gone into a tailspin. Almost every major initiative from the Obama administration has run into sharp, sometimes embarrassing, reverses. The U.S. looks weak and confused on the global stage.


We've had the Monroe Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, hell we've even had the Reagan Doctrine, Clinton Doctrine, and Bush Doctrine, yet no one seems to be able to define what an Obama Doctrine is.

So what is the Obama Doctrine?  The reset with Russia?  The Arab Spring?  Energy Independence? What about the "pivot" to Asia?  If you're looking for the Obama Doctrine all of these things come up,  yet not one of them even appears to have been successfully executed.

Incoherent & Uninspiring

Whatever the Obama Doctrine is, it is lost in the apparent mindless shuffle from one crises to the next, visionless, poorly communicated & poorly executed.  Broad and immeasurable political platitudes are fairly safe,  but they aren't a policy.

Does anybody have a clue?

A leader needs vision and needs to be able to communicate that vision, inspire that vision to others, and motivate others to achieve it.  I'm not asking whether or not any particular incident was handled properly or even handled at all.  We can argue over Benghazi until we're blue in the face,  but it is all moot if you don't know what direction we are headed or what our destination is.

Ironically, Hilary Clinton was right... without overarching national goals and concrete objectives, not knowing whether we are closer or further from our destination... what difference does it make?


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ars gratia artis

For my subjects there is no question of privacy; they are performing behind a transparent scrim on a stage of their own creation with the curtain raised high. The Neighbors don’t know they are being photographed; I carefully shoot from the shadows of my home into theirs. I am not unlike the birder, quietly waiting for hours, watching for the flutter of a hand or the movement of a curtain as an indication that there is life within.
~Arne Svenson

If you want to peep in windows, better bring a camera.

New York Supreme Court Judge Eileen Rakower ruled that a family's right to privacy "yields to an artist's protections under the First Amendment". 

The Foster's brought suit after discovering photo's of their children taken through their apartment windows in a newspaper article about a showing of the artist Arne Svenson's The Neighbors at the Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea.  The Foster's claimed in their suit that the 

“Plaintiffs now fear that they must keep their shades drawn at all hours of the day in order to avoid telephoto photography by a neighbour (sic)”

Not that objectionable?

I don't find the imagery, at least what I've seen of it, in The Neighbors all that objectionable.  The people in the images are not readily identifiable, although they may be identifiable to the subjects due to the surroundings... "hey that's my rocking chair"!

Other artists have exhibited work that is far more intrusive,  Michele Iversen's Night Surveillance series is far more in your face, both literally and figuratively. 

What do you think?

I believe Svenson's work is done with taste and does show a respect for the privacy of its subjects.  It should also be noted that Svenson agreed to remove the pictures of the plaintiff's children from the exhibit before they sued.  On the other hand, I can also understand the plaintiff's concern as to what other pictures did he take that may not have been fit for exhibit.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


American Bluegrass music has its roots in English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish folk music. 

The song above, Cumberland Gap is believed to be derived from the Scottish ballad Bonnie George Campbell.  I'll have to take the experts word on this one:

The Bluegrass Boys

The term "bluegrass" is believed to have originated with Bill Monroe and his band "The Bluegrass Boys", formed in 1939 the band is a veritable who's who list of Bluegrass music with Earl Scruggs, Lester Flat, Chubby Wise, and Howard Watts.

From Bluegrass to Newgrass




 And the latest out of LA, Old Man Markley



Friday, August 9, 2013

Moral Misfeasance?

It seems I have a ringside seat to the latest gay marriage controversy. The Register of Wills here in Montgomery County, PA.  D.Bruce Hanes, has taken it upon himself to start handing out marriage licenses to gay couples in direct contravention of the laws of the Commonwealth.


This was apparently inspired by a statement from Kathleen Kane, the states Attorney General, that she would not defend the existing 1996 law against challenges. Though she made that statement in light of the recent SCOTUS rulings, it not only stretches the reach of those decisions, it flatly contradicts a prior statement she made while a candidate for the office.

"...the attorney general does not have the right to pick and choose which laws he or she enforces. That’s a dangerous proposition..."

 All of this has led to suit being filed by Pennsylvania's Health Department seeking a Writ of Mandamus to force Mr Hanes to comply with the law, which action is being fought by the Montgomery County Solicitors office.

 So we now have a three ring circus going on around here, all of it at the taxpayers expense. Which leaves me with an interesting dilemma. While I support the right to marry whoever you choose, this is not the way to go about it.  Allowing minor public officials to rewrite the laws to suit themselves should be anathema to all of us.

Ms Kane was right the first time: "That’s a dangerous proposition"

Thursday, August 8, 2013

When in Panic or In Doubt

Run in Circles, Scream and Shout!

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that U.S. anti-terrorism efforts had decimated al Qaeda's global leadership as the United States maintained a heightened security alert in Yemen and urged all Americans to leave immediately.

The State Department said in a travel warning that it had ordered the evacuation of non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Yemen "due to the continued potential for terrorist attacks" and said U.S. citizens in Yemen should leave immediately because of an "extremely high" security threat level.  The British government also evacuated all staff from its embassy in Yemen Tuesday due to increased security concerns.

So which is it?

Decimated? Or about to kill us all?


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Parallel Construction

Law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

You'd be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.' And so we'd alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it. After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip. 


SOD or the Special Operations Division of the DEA is supposedly a partnership between DEA, FBI, CIA, NSA, DHS, et. al.

Oops there goes another Constitutional Amendment 

So much for the right to confrontation granted by the 6th, as well as the disclosure of evidence granted by Brady v. Maryland.

How many traffic stop arrests are fruit of the poisoned tree? 

How can one viably defend against an accusation in court where the investigation leading up to the arrest is entirely fictitious?

How many times do you think the police don't "find an excuse to stop the vehicle"?

How many times do you think that excuse is fictitious as well?

The ends do not justify the means

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Don't give me that do goody good bullshit

Get away
You get a good job with good pay and you're okay
It's a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
New car, caviar, four star daydream
Think I'll buy me an election

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

And his name is Tom Steyer,  a California businessman who is turning out to be the big spender in the Virginia gubernatorial race.  This is the same Santa Claus that spent $630,000 in the Massachusetts Democratic Primary for the Senate race between Steve Lynch and Ed Markey.

Not that I'm picking on Democrats

The Californian's major entry into political spending was when the Texas Koch brothers spent $1,000,000 in support of California Proposition 23 and I can't say I blame him.  It is particularly onerous when the primary factions funding state political measures don't live in the state and can't vote in the state.

National Elections Aside

Overt political funding in national elections is a slightly different matter, in that we all get to vote in national elections.  Despite the obvious problem of folks like George Soros and Sheldon Adelson spending tens of millions... they do have a voice and a vested interest in the outcome of the national election.  Whether or not there should be limits on the national stage is another matter.

Outside Influence in State Elections

The question you need to ask yourself,  is should a billionaire from California, or Texas for that matter, have such a significant say and outsized influence in another state of which they are neither a resident or a voter?  

Washington Post
LA Times


Monday, August 5, 2013


Photo: Laura Poitras / Praxis Films

A member of the US Senate was caught this week trying to make a rather conspicuous edit to Edward Snowden's Wikipedia page .

In a move sure to grind the gears of conspiracy theorists everywhere, a member of the US Senate recently edited Snowden’s Wikipedia page from describing him as a ‘dissident’ to a traitor, according to the entry’s changelog. The user’s IP address was quickly traced back to the US Senate.

It is not clear if the person is an active Senator, a staffer or an intern, but the change certainly came from the Senate.

The attempted edit, made August 2, was rejected by a moderator on the grounds it ‘seemed less than neutral.  

Read the whole article here ~ Daily Mail

Sunday, August 4, 2013


I made a comment the other day that perhaps deserves further attention: Our elected representatives represent the interests of party over the interests of their constituencies.


In what has come to be known as his farewell,  our first president published the following advice:

Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

Partisan Politics

So the question is,  was he correct?   Are our representatives more representative of their party than their constituencies?