December 28, 2011

better days ahead . . .

it is intriguing that this slightly neglected plant (myrtus communis) might one day be allowed to express the exuberance of its lineage . . .

that, with a little benign neglect, it might one day look like
this . . . a true myrtle, a roman myrtle . . . so I have some hope for this almost orphan who may weather my "too busy elsewhere" neglect to achieve some potential of expression . . .

December 22, 2011

when is a beer in Texas really a beer . . . ?

Or, when is speech really free . . . ? Evidently many of us in Texas only thought we were drinking a beer or maybe an ale because the brewers couldn't always tell us the truth. That's weird as hell . . .
Texas brewers can finally call a beer a beer.

They can call an ale an ale.

They can also tell folks where to find their beers and their ales, as well as their malt liquors.

Ruling in favor of plaintiffs who asserted that some Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission rules were unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said the state was effectively forcing brewers to lie about their products.

The commission said it won't appeal the ruling.

The plaintiffs, Authentic Beverages, Jester King Craft Brewery and Zax Restaurant & Bar, argued in an Austin courtroom that the word beer encompasses all malt beverages, while ale means a style of beer that is made with a certain kind of yeast through warm fermentation.
Just wondering if this will affect my favorite Houston brews?

December 21, 2011

midwinter . . .

clock ticking . . .

Except for the inevitable "he said, she said" angle, McClatchy has a pretty thorough story on the likely tax hike.
WASHINGTON — The bitter showdown of Republicans versus the White House and congressional Democrats over a Social Security tax break grew uglier and more tense Tuesday, and the result is that 160 million people face the increasingly likely prospect of a tax increase Jan. 1.

The GOP-led House of Representatives, by a 229-193 vote, formally disagreed Tuesday with a bipartisan Senate plan to extend the current tax rate for two months. Employees have paid a 4.2 percent tax this year; it's scheduled to go up to 6.2 percent next year unless the current rate is extended. The House vote makes an increase likely.

Read more here.

TPM manages to review the events leading to the mess without the "he said, she said" tangle.
This debate started when President Obama introduced his jobs bill, the priciest provisions of which were a one year renewal (and broadening of) this year’s payroll tax holiday, and an extension of emergency unemployment benefits.

Republicans were never wild about moving ahead with either of these items to begin with — but a very public campaign by President Obama made it too politically toxic for GOP leaders to oppose them outright. Instead they just made it as difficult as possible for either to pass. They could’ve agreed to support the measures without paying for them, or to pay for them with war savings, as some Dems to suggest, or with a mix of payfors that included a balanced mix of tax revenue and spending cuts. Likewise they could’ve agreed to pass the measures “cleanly” — without attaching unrelated policy riders to the legislation.

But they did neither. And it created a huge problem.

December 20, 2011

House GOP set to raise taxes on 99%ers

Chairman Boehner and House leadership have decided against allowing the Senate extension an up or down vote and are playing games instead - they evidently think it is a strategy to kill the taxcut extension while not actually having to vote against it.
Hanging in the balance are 160 million American workers who would see the taxes that fund Social Security rise by 2 percentage points on Jan. 1, doctors who would get hit with a 27.4 percent cut to reimbursement rates for treating Medicare patients, and recipients of welfare and certain unemployment benefits that are scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

Read more:

December 18, 2011

all rocks go to heaven . . . dogs go too . . .

Maybe I could attend Catholic church if this is an example of their theology . . . you've got to visit the blog and see the sequence of signs . . . at least as good as the old Burma Shave signs.

December 17, 2011

will the good folks on wall street get a chance to help rebuild main street . . .?

If you don't regularly review Dan Froomkin's column column on Huffington Post, you may be missing more than you realize.
Advocates of a tiny but lucrative tax on financial transactions are increasingly hopeful that President Barack Obama's need to more firmly establish himself as the Main Street candidate in 2012 will lead him to back the measure.

The tax -- though nearly inconsequential on a per-trade basis -- would reap billions in revenue from Wall Street's most rapacious institutions while also cutting down on their incentive to engage in the high-stakes, lightning-fast gambling that has proven particularly lucrative for them, at the expense of others.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced legislation last month that would impose a 0.03 percent fee on financial transactions, an amount so small that its sting would only be felt by speculators who rapidly move vast sums in and out of trading positions.

But because of the enormous volume of transactions, the new tax would still raise $350 billion in next 10 years, according to nonpartisan congressional scorekeepers.

The bill is "generating some interest in the White House, and I'm hopeful that the president will pick up on this," said Harkin, a fifth-term senator.

"I think there's interest in the White House at looking at sources of revenue, and I think this is one that's got their interest," Harkin said. "They haven't said yes, they haven't said no."

Mike Lux, a progressive strategist, said he thinks that despite some internal opposition within the administration -- most notably from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner -- the tax may be an idea whose time has come.

December 16, 2011

1949 - 2011 . . . .

The lines from Edna Millay's poem "Dirge Without Music" come unbidden to my mind at some deaths:
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
When reading Christopher Hitchens I have at least as often been exasperated, even irritated, rather than admiring. But he also sometimes shared piercing insight so that the moments, even months, of exasperation have been worth it for the moments of flashing brilliance. There will doubtless be many of his friends or colleagues who will pen moving and thoughtful tributes. I think that David Frum's tribute on FrumForum is probably as good a place to start as any . . .
One sometimes hears of people who try to model their writing or their persona on Christopher Hitchens’ example. The results are usually absurd and sometimes perverse. Christopher did not offer a model of what to think. He offered a model of how to think – and how to live. Fully. Fearlessly. Joyously. And then, alas too soon, of how to die: without bluster but without flinching, boldly writing until the fingers moved no more.

December 13, 2011

flying away . . .

Thinking about my friend DK . . . aka DKS and DMS . . .

We miss you DK . . .

thinking about gifts and such . . .

Amazon and similar sites (are there similar sites?) are a godsend when choosing gifts for great grandchildren but there is something so impersonal about the way we cruise along not able to keep up with the "perfect" gift for a niece, grandchild, etc. But then, was there ever a perfect gift? I don't remember getting such a thing . . . I have appreciated many of the thoughtful gifts that I have received, but (and this may be almost universal for folks over 12) the giving is more fun than the receiving. UNTIL . . . until suddenly we're inundated with "buy this" or "No! buy this" and our children (grandchildren) are exposed without our references . . . Christmas (not the religious aspects) is not living up to my expectations . . .

But, finally, it's what the family pulls together each year that makes the difference, that sets the tone for the next year, the next decade . . . I remember the Christmas mornings of my childhood (some of them) and mostly they are positive memories - mostly. Our responsibility as parents and grandparents may be to prepare out family get-to-gathers in such a way, that it can be a positive memory for our children and grandchildren.

let's drug test congress . . . not the unemployed!

Michael Ettinger has it exactly correct when he says that it is congress that needs to be tested for drugs.
The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives Thursday proposed allowing states to require drug tests for anyone receiving unemployment benefits.
I’m not sure why they think that those who have had the misfortune of losing their jobs in these difficult economic times particularly need to be tested for the use of illegal substances. But if they’re gung ho for drug testing, it seems like we ought to be sharing the blood-drawing joy. I can think of plenty of places where it would be much more useful.

It seems far more important to the nation that members of the House of Representatives be free of the influence of reality-altering substances than unemployed people. After all, when members of Congress make decisions under the influence of hallucinogens, it affects the entire country. Your average unemployed person? Not so much. And truthfully, which group of Americans demonstrates more evidence of drug-induced behavior? If you have any doubts, take a look at the House Republicans’ budget proposals.

December 12, 2011

time to get tough . . .

Jonathan Bernstein in The New Republic thinks it is time to get tough . . . He has a suggestion for President Obama . . .
Throughout 1903, the Senate minority was blocking several nominations put forth by the White House. President Roosevelt should have been able to wait for that Congressional session to adjourn and make his recess appointments before the next session was scheduled to begin, by Constitutional mandate, on December 7 of that year. However, House Speaker Joe Cannon refused to go along, keeping the House in session throughout the break.

In response, the Senate leadership concocted a plan. On the big day of December 7, the Senate convened, adjourned, and immediately began an entirely new session. As The New York Times report had it the next day:

The conclusion has been reached that between the time of the falling of President pro tempore Frye’s gavel signifying the conclusion of the extraordinary session and the calling to order of the Senate in the regular session of Congress, an appreciable lapse of time occurred. In this time the appointments technically were made. … There was but one fall of the gavel, but one stroke, and but one sound.
And in that instant, Roosevelt made 168 military promotions that normally would have to have been approved by the Senate, as well as “about 25 civilian appointees.”

Was it legal? No one knows with certainty, as it wasn’t adjudicated in the courts.

December 08, 2011

Twas the night . . .

A fun poetic parody posted at Cheers and Jeers on Daily Kos:
Twas the night before Wednesday, and all through the camp
Occupiers were settled under the glow of street lamps
Their banners were hung from their tent poles with care
Peaceable assembly is why they were there
Some slept quietly, some sawed logs,
A few were awake updating their blogs
They donned winter coats and warm winter hats
They slept on bubble wrap and flimsy foam mats

When out on the street there arose a great din
Like a band of thugs drunk on vodka and gin
The riot cops' knives were out in a flash,
Tearing open the tents, with a hack and a slash

The moon up above watched the police army grow
Illuminating the mayhem in the park down below.
When what to our bleary eyes should appear,
But Lieutenant John Pike, parachuting down in full riot gear

A goon with a goatee all scruffy and thick
We knew in a moment he must be St. Prick
More rapid than eagles the officers came,
Pike whistled, and shouted, and then he proclaimed:

Click here to read it all!

December 06, 2011

Not all Iowa Republicans are pre-neanderthal . . .?

There is a very interesting (even surprising!) post on Daily Kos (The Jed Report) about the GOP view of undocumented aliens who have been in U.S. for 25 years who "have paid taxes and not broken the law" during those years.
There's obviously a lot more to immigration policy than the issue that Romney and Gingrich battled over, and it's not like Gingrich has the world's greatest position on it. (For example, he opposes a path to citizenship for long-term immigrants who came here illegally.)

But it's important to recognize that even among Republicans, Mitt Romney's decision to side with the neanderthal extreme backfired. As you'll see later today when we release national results on the same question, Republicans across the nation are even more strongly opposed to Romney's stance than they were in Iowa. That's actually good news for America: unlike Mitt Romney, most Republicans think immigrants should be treated like human beings.

December 04, 2011

no matter the reality . . .

Here is a story worth reading about how the scientific method works - some of the people not so well, but the result gives us hope but also a warning about how some of us want what we want no matter the reality . . .
In 2006, scientists announced a provocative finding: a retrovirus called XMRV, closely related to a known virus from mice, was associated with cases of prostate cancer. But other labs, using different sets of patients, found no evidence of a viral infection. Before the controversy could be sorted out, another research group published a 2009 paper containing an even more intriguing claim. XMRV, it said, was associated with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a disorder that some had claimed was purely psychosomatic.

Reaction came quickly. The CFS community, viewing a viral cause as a validation of their malady, embraced the finding. One author of the XMRV/CFS paper, Judy Mikovits, landed a position as research director of a private foundation dedicated to CFS. A company associated with the foundation started offering tests for infections.


It's no surprise that patients who frequently had their disorder treated with dismissiveness would respond positively to indications that it had a concrete, biological cause. But demonizing scientists who don't support something that appeals to you is never going to end well, especially when all indications are that the scientists are being careful and thorough. Unfortunately, we're now seeing more of this sort of behavior in areas as diverse as climate change, vaccine safety, and animal research.

December 02, 2011

protecting the one-percenters . . .

The Baltimore Sun talks economic pig-heaven.
Much of the GOP counter-proposal seems to have been fashioned for political effect — including a prohibition on millionaires and billionaires receiving food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). We don't know what budget documents Republicans have been t studying, but when last we looked, Warren Buffett's SNAP card wasn't one of the bigger drivers of the nation's deficit.

To be charitable, it's good that Republicans have at least shown some interest in extending the payroll tax break. It's the kind of policy that they've endorsed in the past, but Mr. Obama's interest in it (as part of his jobs bill) initially cooled theirs.

Still, what's maddening about their counter-proposal is not simply that Republicans would hold the well-being of millionaires over all others but that they would do so under the guise that they are looking out for "job creators," as if the rich were chiefly responsible for growing the economy.

Here's a news flash: The wealthy don't drive the economy. Job creation depends on both investment and consumption. The payroll tax can stimulate both sides of that equation, but keeping down taxes for the rich has little bearing on either. If it did, the country would be in economic pig-heaven, as effective tax rates on the highest earners among us haven't been lower in 30 years.

spot on . . .

Chuck Raasch on permanent campaigning.
The Republicans are paying the costs of the permanent campaign. President Barack Obama is reaping its benefits.

But ultimately, the permanent campaign hurts everyone by valuing ambition over governing competency, by exposing governance to the corrosive effects of constantly negative messaging and by giving leaders excuses for postponing big decisions. The length of our campaigns for president should cause Americans to again ask if the process produces the best nominees and presidents.

2011 should tell us that the answer is no.