"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Sunday, October 23, 2016

What's New at Green Man Review

You know the drill: check it out.

There's even a brand new review of music by Steve Reich.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Out of It

As an indicator of how I just blipped on the world in general this summer, this post from Digby stopped me, especially this part:

Red panda cubs at Lincoln Park Zoo are named in honor of the other Cubs who call Chicago home. The cubs are named Sheffield and Waveland, the streets on each side of Wrigley Field.

"Wait a minute," I said to myself. "That's not right. They were named Clark and Addison." The other two streets that border Wrigley Field.

I checked, just to make sure.

The cubs at the Kovler Lion House—a male (above) and a female (below), as yet unnamed—are the second in two years for breeding pair Leafa and Phoenix, following male Clark and female Addison, now at San Diego Zoo and Northeastern Wisconsin Zoo respectively. Together, all the cubs highlight the strength of zoos’ collaborative efforts to keep their population sustainable over the long run.

I even saw them a couple of weeks ago, and remarked how small they were.

I guess I'd better start paying attention.

Quote du Jour


With thanks to C&L commenter ThermoluxMan.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

An Upside to Trump?

It occurs to me, seeing reports on the frequency with which news anchors and talk show hosts are nailing Trump's surrogates on their lies, maybe we can look forward to TV "journalists" actually pushing back on some of the bullshit that politicians spout on their shows.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Culture Break: Kimmo Pohjonen: Särmä

This is one of the stranger pieces by Pohjonen that I've run across, at least at the beginning. He did a slightly different version of this on Uniko, with Kronos Quartet:

Today's Must-Read

I'm lucky: for someone my age I take remarkably few medications. However, there are a couple that I can't afford to take for the full year because of the "doughnut hole" in Medicare Part D: They're just too expensive for that last month or two. Hence, I was very interested in this article by Gaius Publius at Hullabaloo:

Along with many others, we recently wrote about Mylan's predatory price increases on the life-saving prescription drug product EpiPen. Then came the news that the interestingly named Valeant had increased the price of a prescription drug it had purchased, not developed, more than 2700%, apparently anticipating a growing lead poisoning crisis like the one in Flint, Michigan. ("Did your kids get sick from eating lead paint? We'll fix them right up ... for $27,000.")

At the end of the Valeant piece, I added a section that argued for an industry-wide — and Executive Branch-only — fix. Don't play Whack-a-Mole with individual companies, I argued. Whack drug prices industry-wide, or we'll always be chasing a shadow and fixing problems only when they're reported as scandals.

High prescription prices are an industry problem, not a problem of "outliers" (source; click to enlarge)

It turns out that Rep. Mark Pocan and a number of his colleagues have the same idea. From a letter Pocan wrote, and dozens of his colleagues signed, here are three specific suggestions that the next president can unilaterally enact, whoever she or he may be.

Read the whole thing; it's a fairly detailed and very clear set of ways to rein in not only drug prices but some other bad effects of Republican economic policies that don't rely on congressional action: they're all within the scope of existing law.

The Death of a Thousand Cuts

That seems to be conservatives' response to the things they don't like about America -- like equal protection of the laws, stuff like that:

Fifty Republican members of the Texas Legislature have signed a court brief arguing that the same-sex spouses of government employees shouldn’t be entitled to health insurance and other benefits.

The “friend-of-the-court” brief was submitted Friday in a lawsuit brought by anti-LGBT activists against the city of Houston in response to then-Mayor Annise Parker’s decision to extend benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees in 2013.

They argue that, while the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges establishes that same-sex couples have the right to marry, it doesn't mandate that they are entitled to any of the benefits of marriage.

The primary question before the Supreme Court of the United States in Obergefell was whether or not same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry.1 The Court did not create other rights, such as rights to spousal benefits or even the right to live with your spouse. Subsequent decisions by courts all over the country have affirmed the right to marry, but have refused to expand that right to everything associated with marriage. Post-Obergefell decisions have, for example, found that Obergefell did not invalidate the presumption of paternity statutes nor did it create a fundamental right to engage in homosexual activity or make homosexuals a protected class.

In agreement of the narrow holding of Obergefell, Justice Devine observed in his dissent from the petition for review: “Marriage is a fundamental right. Spousal benefits are not.” Justice Devine was right, and the appellate decision to the contrary must be reviewed and overturned.

Further, while the U.S. Supreme Court did purportedly create a new constitutional right to enter into same-sex marriage, nothing in that ruling compelled the taxpayers of Texas to pay for a vast array of benefits for same-sex spouses. Indeed, it would unnecessarily implicate constitutional issues of state sovereignty if Obergefell were misconstrued as imposing spending requirements on the state of Texas to fund expensive health care and other benefits without authorization by Texas law.

Conservatives' tendency to edit reality to conform with their own preconceptions isn't going to do them any good in this case. The Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell was based firmly on the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection. That means, in the simplest possible terms, that similarly situated persons must be treated the same under the law. In this case, a married couple is a married couple; there is no differentiation under the law for straight and gay couples. So, if straight couples are granted benefits under the law, then gay couples must be granted the same benefits. It's pretty unambiguous.

Amendment XIV, Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

And do note the framing: the Court created a new right to same-sex marriage. That's like saying that Brown v. Board of Education created a new right for black kids to go to school. No, the Court did not create any new rights: it merely affirmed that same-sex couples are entitled to the same treatment as opposite-sex couples under the law. Note this, from the majority opinion in Obergefell:

For that reason, just as a couple vows to support each other, so does society pledge to support the couple, offering symbolic recognition and material benefits to protect and nourish the union. Indeed, while the States are in general free to vary the benefits they confer on all married couples, they have throughout our history made marriage the basis for an expanding list of governmental rights, benefits, and responsibilities. These aspects of marital status include: taxation; inheritance and property rights; rules of intestate succession; spousal privilege in the law of evidence; hospital access; medical decisionmaking authority; adoption rights; the rights and benefits of survivors; birth and death certificates; professional ethics rules; campaign finance restrictions; workers’ compensation benefits; health insurance; and child custody, support, and visitation rules. See Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 6–9; Brief for American Bar Association as Amicus Curiae 8–29. Valid marriage under state law is also a significant status for over a thousand provisions of federal law. See Windsor, 570 U. S., at ___ – ___ (slip op., at 15–16). The States have contributed to the fundamental character of the marriage right by placing that institution at the center of so many facets of the legal and social order.

There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle. Yet by virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives. As the State itself makes marriage all the more precious by the significance it attaches to it, exclusion from that status has the effect of teaching that gays and lesbians are unequal in important respects. It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society. Same-sex couples, too, may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage and seek fulfillment in its highest meaning.
(Emphasis added.)

I guess, after they lose on this one, they'll manufacture a "religious freedom" argument.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

They Just Don't Get It

Sen. John McCain is still against filling Supreme Court vacancies -- if candidates are nominated by Democratic presidents:
"I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up," McCain said.

And then, of course, comes the "clarification":

"Senator McCain believes you can only judge people by their record and Hillary Clinton has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees," said McCain spokesperson Rachael Dean. "That being said, Senator McCain will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications as he has done throughout his career."

One wonders if bullshit smells better in Arizona than in other places.

I really think it's time for the voters to retire McCain. Maybe he can get a gig co-hosting the 700 Club: two dotty old men telling people how to ruin their lives.

As Ian Millhiser points out at Think Progress, this is a very dangerous game:

The tactic that McCain is proposing is nothing less than an existential threat to the Supreme Court itself. Unlike elected officials, who wield legitimate power because they were elected by the people, federal judges cannot claim democratic legitimacy. Their legitimacy flows from their obedience to a written text and the knowledge that they were selected in a fair and constitutional process.

McCain, however, is effectively proposing that only Republicans should be allowed to choose Supreme Court justices. And, as McCain notes, two or even three more vacancies could open up on the Court during the next president’s term, as three current justices are quite elderly.

If those justices are replaced through the same legitimate process that every other justice has endured, then the Supreme Court retains the same legitimacy that it enjoyed before Scalia’s seat became vacant. But imagine a world where Scalia’s seat — and two others — remain vacant for five years because a Republican Senate refuses to confirm anyone named by the president.

What Millhiser doesn't mention is that eroding the legitimacy of the Supreme Court is in line with conservatives' attitudes toward the federal courts in general: they hate an independent judiciary because they can't control it. These are the people who railed against the Court's decision in Obergefell as "lawless" and "unconstitutional" (oxymorons if ever there were such). And these are also the people who created, first, the Tea Party, and now, Trump, who certainly has no discernible respect for the Constitution.

And most Americans think the Senate should just do its job, hold hearings, and vote. Senate Republicans are being viewed with a fair degree of cynicism on this:

A wide majority of Americans, moreover – more than seven in 10 – think Senate Republican leaders are refusing to hold hearings mostly for political reasons rather than because they think delay is best for the country. That view is shared by nine in 10 Democrats, three-quarters of independents and even a slim majority of Republicans.

Maybe Republicans should not be allowed to vote on Supreme Court nominees. Just leave it to the Democrats. Or maybe just not bother with a Senate vote at all.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Compare and Contrast

You may have read about the fire-bombing of the Orange County (NC) GOP headquarters. The reactions are a good illustration of -- well, something.

From Donald Trump:


From Hillary Clinton:

Hillary Clinton Verified account

The attack on the Orange County HQ @NCGOP office is horrific and unacceptable. Very grateful that everyone is safe.

2:13 PM - 16 Oct 2016
0 replies 6,894 retweets 18,031 likes

From some random Democrats:

Massachusetts Democrat David Weinberger heard the news and started a campaign on Gofundme.com to help reopen the campaign office. In approximately 40 minutes, the campaign reached it’s goal from his Democratic friends and then some, according to a WSOCTV reporter.

“As Democrats, we are starting this campaign to enable the Orange County, North Carolina Republican office to re-open as soon as possible,” Weinberger wrote on the page.

“Until an investigation is undertaken, we cannot know who did this or why,” he continued. “No matter the result, this is not how Americans resolve their differences. We talk, we argue, sometimes we march, and most of all we vote. We do not resort to violence by individuals or by mobs. So, let’s all pitch in, no matter what your party affiliation, and get that office open again quickly.”

Gives you a good idea of the differences we're facing.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

It's Sunday at Green Man Review

Lots of reviews, but not the one I had hoped to finish. But click on over -- there's still lots of good stuff.