March 30, 2012

welcome home soldier . . .

I remember coming home on leave and meeting Fritz as I walked toward the house . . . same kind of reaction except Fritz was a dachshund and not able to leap quite as high . . . it's unconditional . . . there is no way to describe being on the receiving end of such a welcome home . . .

another poet gone . . .

We will miss the clear voice of Adrienne Rich.

March 29, 2012

earl scruggs . . .

Always at the top of my chart . . .
Country Music Hall of Famer Earl Scruggs, a singular talent of collective import, died Wednesday morning at a Nashville hospital. He was 88.
A quietly affable presence, Mr. Scruggs popularized a complex, three-fingered style of playing banjo that transformed the instrument, inspired nearly every banjo player who followed him and became a central element in what is now known as bluegrass music...

Rather than speak out about the connections between folk and country in the war-torn, politically contentious ‘60s, he simply showed up at folk festivals and played, at least when he and Flatt weren’t at the Grand Ole Opry. During the long-hair/ short-hair skirmishes of the ‘60s and ‘70s, he simply showed up and played, with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and The Byrds. And when staunch fans of bluegrass - a genre that would not exist in a recognizable form without Mr. Scruggs’ banjo - railed against stylistic experimentation, Mr. Scruggs happily jammed away with sax player King Curtis, sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, piano man Elton John and anyone else whose music he fancied.

March 25, 2012

the next war . . .

According to a special report from Reuters, intelligence shows that an Iran nuclear threat is not imminent.
The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran's nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead.

Those conclusions, drawn from extensive interviews with current and former U.S. and European officials with access to intelligence on Iran, contrast starkly with the heated debate surrounding a possible Israeli strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities.

But wait
, we haven't heard from Colin Powell yet . . .

March 22, 2012

red rover, red rover . . .

Let all of our friends come on over!
This month, more than a million visitors from across the country and around the world are coming to our nation’s capital to see the cherry blossom trees that bloom each spring among some of America’s most treasured historical landmarks. From the purchase of airline tickets to dining in area restaurants to staying in hotels, these visitors are infusing millions of dollars into the community and supporting local businesses.

As we search for ways to grow our nation’s economy, we must not overlook the travel and tourism industry as a source for economic opportunity. According to data released by the Commerce Department earlier today, tourism spending increased 8.1 percent in 2011 and supported an additional 103,000 jobs, for a total of 7.6 million jobs.

A big factor in the increase was a surge in international visitors to our country: in 2011, 2.5 million more international visitors came to the United States compared with the previous year. These international visitors spent an all-time record of $153 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services.

the near future . . .

2011 was the driest year in Texas state history.

and all that jazz . . .

March 19, 2012

for A . . . (and for me)

corporations: people or not . . . ?

"Claiming they can’t be held liable for human rights abuses, corporations reach a new height of hypocrisy" says Joel Bleifuss:
So, as with Citizens United, the lines are drawn. On one side, a pack of lawyered-up marauders claim their rights as persons one day and deny their culpability the next. On the other side, living beings seek relief from the jackals that gorge upon the fruits of human labor and gobble up the riches of the earth.

March 16, 2012

withholding services from a victim . . .

Heather Michon at Open Salon writes:
The statistics are stark. More than 1 in 3 Native American women will be sexually assaulted their lifetimes, a rate much higher than the general population. In one study, a stunning 92% of young women reported they had been forced to have sex against their will on a date.
One of the primary fears of any rape victim is an unintended pregnancy. The first line of defense against that possibility is, of course, the prompt administration of emergency contraception.

And this is where things get tricky for many Native women. Most receive their health care from the Indian Health Service and affiliated tribal health centers. Of 157 IHS facilities, only 10% surveyed stock Plan B in their pharmacies, and only 37.5% carried some alternative form of emergency contraception. In the Albuquerque Area, which covers almost all of New Mexico and Utah, only two of its 15 facilities stocked Plan B.

"If you are living on the reservation or on the Pueblos without insurance, or the money to pay for EC or transportation to get you to town, you are out of luck, because you do not have accessibility through our own health care provider," says Charon Asetoyer, a Comanche from Lake Andes, South Dakota and Executive Director of [the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center].

And that assumes women even know to ask or find it. "A lot of women in our communities aren't aware that Plan B even exists or they associate it with the abortion pill RU486, they don't realize the difference because the media and the opposition have projected this: it's an abortion pill, when it really is a contraceptive," Asetoyer notes. [...]

The so-called “conscience clause” also comes into play. "We have had rape victims given prescriptions to get EC, but at IHS they wouldn't administer it, because the Pharmacy Director and her staff didn't believe in it, so she wouldn't administer EC," says Lisa Thompson-Heth of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in Fort Thompson, South Dakota. [...]

"It's not an aspirin; it's not cold tablets,” says Asetoyer. “It's withholding services from a victim.”

I first saw this thanks to Meteor Blades (Open Thread for Night Owls) at Daily Kos.

March 09, 2012

time and universal molasses . . .

The search for universal molasses continues apace.
Not all that long ago, the Tevatron particle accelerator, about 30 miles west of Chicago, was the biggest, baddest atom smasher on the planet. It slammed protons and antiprotons together by the trillions at nearly the speed of light to discover some of high-energy physics' greatest hits, including the top quark a host of other new particles. But it shut down last fall after 28 years of operation, the victim of budget cuts, even as the newer and more powerful Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, began churning out its own discoveries over in Europe.

But the Tevatron is still in the game, in a very big way: physicists analyzing data from some of the huge machine's final runs have uncovered evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson, a dreamed-of, talked-about, sought-after particle that has eluded physicists for more than 45 years. It's not the first evidence for the Higgs, which would tie the so-called Standard Model of Physics together with nice, tidy bow. It's not the strongest either: that came late last year, when scientists at the LHC announced an almost-but-not-quite detection that had the physics community humming. But the new findings are an independent, near-confirmation, and when you're talking about some of the trickiest, most complicated experiments ever carried out, that's hugely important. "Based on the current Tevatron data," says a paper describing the new analysis, "and results compiled through December 2011 by other experiments [meaning the LHC], "this is the strongest hint of the existence of a Higgs boson."

Swell. So why is any of this important and what, for that matter, is the Higgs boson? The answer has to do with the masses of various subatomic particles, and those vary wildly. Protons are more massive than electrons, for example, and electrons are way more massive than neutrinos. Photons have no mass at all. For most us, that's no more than a fun fact (and not all that much fun, really). For physicists, though, it's a mystery that demands a solution. Why are the masses so different — and why do any particles have any mass at all?

Read more:,8599,2108525,00.html#ixzz1odfCKJKR

March 06, 2012

balancing act . . .

I think we need a little more balance to this conversation.
"It warrants a discussion. It's totally legitimate for this to be raised," Biden said, adding that he'd spent "thousands of hours" at Senate hearings over the issue.
But Biden said that even if drug legalization might have benefits like reducing prison populations, it also would engender health problems, expand drug usage and even create bureaucracies for drug distribution.
"It impacts on a country's productivity. It impacts on the health costs of that country. It impacts on mortality rates. It's worth discussing," Biden told a group of journalists. "But there is no possibility that the Obama-Biden administration will change its policy on legalization."

There are some persuasive arguments on the other side.

March 02, 2012

the moment we're in . . .

James Fallows at the Atlantic offers up an Iran Reading List worth some of our attention.
I will say that only twice before in my memory, and maybe thrice in American history, has there been as much carefree talk about war and unprovoked strikes as we've had concerning Iran in recent months, including from candidates other than Ron Paul in the GOP race. The twice in my experience were: during the runup to the invasion of Iraq in 2002, and in the "bomb 'em back to the stone age" moments of the early Vietnam era. The time that even I don't remember was the "you furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war" yellow journalism drumbeat before the war with Spain in 1898. This is not good company for today's fevered discussion to join.