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Nature Mort © Robert Sommers 2017

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Seven Curses

"Never trust a court appointed attorney..."


An interesting link in the New York Times today to a summary page for executed inmates in Texas, including last statements. I managed to go through the top thirty or so before becoming totally depressed.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice death row page can be found here. Wonder how many of these people really were actually innocent?

i can't stand the rain

Saturday, June 29, 2013

French Chef

Local fare

Several readers, including close friends and family, have notified me that they are sick of reading about politics and would it kill me to write something about food? So here goes.

We had friends from New Mexico in last week for Terry's son Mac's wedding so we accompanied them to dinner a couple nights in a row. Mike is a Texas barbecue man par excellence so I tried to take them to Moo and Oink but they were closed Tuesday and we went to Trupiano's instead.

Faro Trupiano's family came to the United States from Italy in the 1960's. Faro was taught to cook by his mother, who was taught to cook by her mother. He cooks traditional italian food without pretense. Not nouvelle but adventuresome enough.

I have always liked Trupiano's but I think that they have significantly raised their game in the last several years. Haven't had a mediocre meal there in ages. They used to have problems with sullen waitresses and slow service, not to mention uneven food. These days none of those problems exist and it is always delicious. I don't think Faro is spending all his time in the kitchen but whoever is back there has definitely got it together and has been trained well.

Trupiano's is more of an east coast style italian restaurant. It has a pretty extensive menu but the ambience is definitely family style. Booths or tables, quite informal. The first thing you get there is a plate of tantalizing hot bread sticks soaked in garlic and olive oil. The trick is to limit your bread intake because the entrées are gigantic.

When people ask me what to eat in Fallbrook I mention three things at the top of my list; Rosa's camarones mojo de ajo, La Caseta's shrimp diavalo and Trupiano's melenzana alla florentine. All of their eggplant dishes are wonderful but this one, baked with spinach, mozzarella, tomatoes and ricotta, is scrumptiously light and simply out of this world.

Mike ordered the eggplant, Leslie and Terry had the cannelloni della casa, a giant mound of grilled New York steak, ground beef, veal, ricotta, spinach and mozzarella. It is wrapped in a house made crepe, and finished with a rosy bolognese cream sauce. The cannelloni is rich, the sauce delicious. I don't know where else one would go to get cannelloni like this?

I had beautiful rare lamp chops this time, served standing up in a bed of mashed and broccoli. The meals were all uniformly fantastic, unfortunately left no room for desert.

I have been to a few cooking classes and demonstrations Faro has performed. He is very engaging, and it is a pleasure to watch him work. Considers himself a cook, not a chef, not trying to reinvent the wheel, cooking in a manner that has been perfected in Sicily for generations. The homestyle way he has been taught. He does what he does very well. If you haven't been back in a while I encourage you to give him another shot. The food has been really good for a while. Our guests said that it was the best italian fare they had ever had.

Trupiano's Bistro

760-728-0200
info@trupianosbistro.com
Address 945 S. Main Ave
Fallbrook, CA 92028
Hours Monday:  11AM to 9PM
Tuesday:  11AM to 9PM
Wednesday:  11AM to 9PM
Thursday:  11AM to 9PM
Friday:  11AM to 10PM
Saturday:  11AM to 10PM
Sunday:  11AM to 9PM

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The next night we got back together with our friends and headed over to Oink and Moo. We had to get reservations because the place is packed to the gills every night. And deservedly so. Jonathan and Jennifer Arbel have a right to be very proud for what they have created at Oink and Moo. They are very serious about their food but it is still fun. The place rocks.

How do I start to talk about this restaurant? Great kicky atmosphere, funky southern with very pretty waitresses that are encouraged to do their own thing. Oink and Moo had a few growing pains in the beginning but they have all been ironed out and they have definitely found their stride. The food is slow cooked, in the beginning it sometimes took forever to get to your table but the timing is on now and the wait has not been an issue for quite a while.

I typically start out with a glass of their unique and excellent homemade lemonade, something different every night. They have the best maple honey drizzled biscuit I have ever had outside of my mom's own table. Fantastic cole slaw with a little extra dill for punch. Sweet potato fries that are sweet without being cloying and are quite addictive, mac and cheese fritters wrapped in bacon. Tater tots. Crazy corn, soaked in butter, garlic and parmesan. If you have not figured it out, the place is all about comfort food. 

We usually get a rib sampler. When they opened he was doing kobe beef ribs but the supply got less than consistent and he went through a few different iterations while checking out vendors. The ribs are back to being really good. Superb baby backs, chicken, in fact really great barbecued chicken. Sounds so ordinary but you taste it and go, whoa.

Jonathan is from Ithaca originally I believe, I think his father teaches at Cornell. He ran a popular chain of restaurants in the Bay Area (that I have dined in) but being serious about food had a vision about doing things his own way, according to his own approach and imprimatur. And so a very unique restaurant was born. He could be open lunch and packed if he wanted to but I think it is enough to do what he is doing, the food taking sometimes days to prepare and being quite labor intensive. They are working their asses off and why kill yourself?

I wanted to bring Mike Bradford over because Mike is the best barbecue man I know. He is a Texan who has been doing hill country style barbecue semi professionally for over thirty years. I have been to a couple of his fourth of July feasts in Santa Fe and they are legendary. He cooks on a large Santa Maria style barbecue, usually on oak. Mike is thinking of opening his own dining establishment in Albuquerque and I thought that he would appreciate Oink and Moo's approach. I was right.

We ordered piles of everything, far too much food but I wanted Mike to get a feeling for what they were doing. I told him that Jonathan's take on brisket was pretty far afield from Texas style and it is, more like grandma's pot roast, with onions and mushrooms. I order it every time, loving grandma's pot roast and not getting that sort of thing at home. Terry loved the brisket and so do I but I don't think it was the Texan's cup of tea, but he grokked everything else. The Arbels cook their brisket on a mix of apple and cherry wood, smoking it for up to 14 hours, and you do that, you just don't get any blood left.

That is cool, I know where he is coming from. The barbecue joints around Bourne, Round Top and Luckenbach do things differently, the brisket comes rare on paper, sold by the pound. Frankly the best I have ever had, best barbecue I have ever tasted. But there is room for many styles of brisket in this great big world of ours.

Very hip and fresh decor. There are a couple really tall chairs they will sit you in in back that give you a nice perch to view the surroundings. The Arbels have recently planted a fresh herb and vegetable garden in the back. 

There is always something surprising featured on the menu. They go to great lengths to keep it all fresh. A variety of game burgers. Had a really nice duck burger with a blueberry sauce a few months ago. I salute them for both their culinary chops and iconoclastic vision. Place is really cooking.

I think one of the signs of a great restaurant are lines of people waiting to get in outside (something that never happens in Fallbrook), a packed parking lot, and uniformly happy faces on the diners. People have a good time here, kids to adults and it shows. Plus the classic music selection is simply killer. Not a lot of places that you can order ribs to the sounds of Tales of Brave Ulysses.

I have written about Oink and Moo once before and although I was 99% affirmative I think I was a little smarmy about one food item and it might have got under the owner's craw. I confess that I know many people who happen to adore the particular culinary item in question so I must take this opportunity to apologize for being such an elitist swine and take it back, which I happily do.  If you have not tried Oink and Moo, hustle over. But do yourself a favor, go early and make a reservation.


Oink and Moo Burgers and BBQ 
121 North Pico Ave, Fallbrook CA 92028 (760) 451-6005

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Saturday the wedding was held for about 200 people way out on a ranch in Valley Center called Rancho Magdalena. Bradford cooked tri tip and chicken all day with Haskell on a rented Santa Maria. Couple outrageous Texas and Santa Barbara salsas.They were a bit shorthanded so I donned an apron and ladled out the vittles to the guests. Didn't get to eat too much but practiced my running patter and had a really great time!

Kestrel Surveillance


Need a tool to watch the muggles 24/7? May I suggest the Kestrel Persistent Wide Area Surveillance System?

Saw this in Homeland Security Today. A new system developed for the defense department that can watch an area the size of a city and take a picture every second.
Under contract to the Department of Defense (DoD), Logos Technologies has deployed 11 of its Kestrel intelligent persistent surveillance systems to forward operating bases in Afghanistan. DoD uses Kestrel mounted on aerostats, where the devices can scan wide areas for suspicious activity. Kestrel, which can watch an area the size of a city, also can help its operators retrace the steps of criminals or insurgents to uncover their activities or to figure out their patterns, John Marion, Logos Technologies executive vice president, told Homeland Security Today.
"It takes a picture every second and stores it. It's good in real-time for situational awareness and for monitoring -- for instance -- the border fence in Nogales," Marion said. "But it's also a time machine in the sense that you can go back in time and recreate what occurred."
During the test in Arizona, the CBP operators used the system in one case to monitor trespassers with backpacks, a certain sign that they were smuggling drugs. The subjects under surveillance managed to hide their backpacks at one point; they may have been lost to authorities if a solution like Kestrel had not been able to rewind surveillance video and see where the backpacks disappeared and thus locate where they were stashed.
In a similar way, Border Patrol agents could use Kestrel to discover the patterns in movements of illegal migrants or drug smugglers as they cross into the United States, Marion suggested. In Afghanistan, soldiers have been able to understand the patterns of insurgent networks by observing their behavior with Kestrel and tracking the various key points in their routes. Using this information, warfighters have been able to determine where drop points or communications hubs for high-level insurgents have been as Kestrel was able to track the movements of low-level insurgents over time.
Kestrel, like the Vader radar system, is a paradigm-shifting technology, Marion said. They allow security forces to perform innovative tasks in new ways.Border Patrol agents were able to track the number of getaways, illegal migrants who escaped, using Kestrel because of its ability to track everything in its range. As lawmakers call upon the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to improve its metrics for detaining illegal aliens, Kestrel can help, Marion said.
"They were impressed that virtually everybody we could see, we caught," he said.

This spring the US Department of Homeland Security tested the Kestrel system for border security around Nogales, Arizona. A Raven Aerostar aerostat was fitted out with a Wescam MX-15 hi-res, narrow-field camera from L-3 Communications  and a Kestrel day/night medium-res, wide-area persistent surveillance system. Thanks to the system, authorities apprehended 30 suspects on the first night of the demonstration and made a total of 80 arrests over the course of the week. Hot dog! 'Cause if somebody is wearing a backpack, you can be sure they are doing something illegal.

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Argus

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BAE's Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System

Friday, June 28, 2013

Kurukshetra



Marcus Miller and Trilok Gurtu - Solidarity of Arts 2011, 20.08.2011 Gdańsk. The story of the warrior Arjuna's fight against the Kauravas from the Indian epic Mahabarata.

Listen up


We are nearing the end of a long, busy, but pretty successful week. I think that I need to do some spygate housekeeping before we put this sucker to bed.

After several weeks of denials, the Guardian spilled the beans, and now the NSA says it did collect personal data and communications domestically from Americans, for two years under Obama, but they stopped the program in 2011 and purged all the data. Perhaps it is the least untruthful statement they could make, pardon me if I still harbor a doubt or two.
The program, described in a top secret draft report from the NSA inspector general, described the efforts of then-NSA Director Gen. Mike Hayden to fill gaps in intelligence gathering after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. One NSA officer quoted in the report described “NSA standing at the U.S. border looking outward for foreign threats” and “the FBI looking within the United States for domestic threats. But no one was looking at the foreign threats coming into the United States. That was the huge gap that NSA wanted to cover.”
We even have a couple new NSA code name monikers; evilolive and shell trumpet.
The NSA called it the "One-End Foreign (1EF) solution". It intended the program, codenamed EvilOlive, for "broadening the scope" of what it is able to collect. It relied, legally, on "FAA Authority", a reference to the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act that relaxed surveillance restrictions.
This new system, SSO stated in December, enables vastly increased collection by the NSA of internet traffic. "The 1EF solution is allowing more than 75% of the traffic to pass through the filter," the SSO December document reads. "This milestone not only opened the aperture of the access but allowed the possibility for more traffic to be identified, selected and forwarded to NSA repositories."
It continued: "After the EvilOlive deployment, traffic has literally doubled."
The scale of the NSA's metadata collection is highlighted by references in the documents to another NSA program, codenamed ShellTrumpet.
On December 31, 2012, an SSO official wrote that ShellTrumpet had just "processed its One Trillionth metadata record".
It is not clear how much of this collection concerns foreigners' online records and how much concerns those of Americans. Also unclear is the claimed legal authority for this collection.
Will be interesting to see what else shakes out in the Guardian? Like the parents tell an errant child, we should demand that the administration let us know what is really going on before we read about it in an obscure British newspaper, it usually goes easier on you that way.

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I saw another interesting story the other day, something we have touched on of late. Protesters in Washington are being classified as domestic terrorists. From the New York Times, Defendant added to Protesters Spying Suit.
An investigator working with an intelligence-gathering office in Washington State placed the names and photos of antiwar protest organizers into a domestic terrorism file, according to an amended complaint filed on Monday with the Federal District Court in Tacoma. The investigator, Chris Adamson, was described by plaintiffs as a member of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and a director of regional intelligence groups with the Washington Joint Analytical Center, which became the Washington State Fusion Center, one of dozens of counterterrorism offices financed by the Department of Homeland Security. Mr. Adamson helped coordinate Mr. Towery’s spying efforts and listed at least four protesters in a “national domestic terrorist database with pictures, and identifying personal information along with false claims alleging a propensity for violence,” the lawsuit said. Lawrence A. Hildes, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the database was controlled by the Washington State Patrol.
“They have taken upon themselves to say, ‘We don’t like this person, therefore he’s a domestic terrorist,’ ” Mr. Hildes said. “It’s not only illegal — it’s absolutely chilling.”
That of course is one of the dangers of all this domestic surveillance business, when the telescope peers within, if you are the authority, it is really quite easy and tempting to target people who engage in legal dissent or just plain don't agree with you.

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I can't put my finger on any source material but I seem to recall the administration deciding a few years ago that people could be prosecuted for putting pieces of intelligence together that by themselves were legal to divulge. I believe that this is based on something called mosaic theory. Not hard to imagine these type of laws being utilized to squash legitimate dissent, is it?
Michael P. Goodwin (2010 winter). "A National Security Puzzle: Mosaic Theory and the First Amendment Right of Access in the Federal Courts". Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal. Retrieved 2012-04-07. "The tension between public information and secrecy is even more pronounced when the government justifies secrecy based on "mosaic theory" - the idea that even  apparently innocuous information could be harmful if pieced together by a knowledgeable observer. Mosaic theory has had a profound impact on Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") litigation. As terrorism-related cases play out in federal civil and criminal litigation, mosaic theory has the potential to affect First Amendment access jurisprudence as well."
 Benjamin Wittes"The Emerging Law of Detention 2.0: The Guantánamo Habeas Cases as Lawmaking -- Chapter 8 – Mosaic Theory, Conditional Probability, and the Totality of the Evidence". Brookings Institute. Retrieved 2012-04-07. "Disparate items of information, though individually of limited or no utility to their possessor, can take on added significance when combined with other items of information. Combining the items illuminates their interrelationships and breeds analytic synergies, so that the resulting mosaic of information is worth more than the sum of its parts.
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Today a lawyer for the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, Harold Johnson, was bemoaning yesterday's 5-4 SCOTUS decision which was contrary to the apparent will of the people of California as expressed in Proposition 8.
Whether one opposes or supports Proposition 8, it's disturbing that the U.S. Supreme Court has seriously undercut California's venerable institutions of direct democracy," Johnson said. "In essence, this ruling lets elected officials pull the plug on duly enacted initiatives simply by refusing to defend them against federal lawsuits." 
An interesting question, Mr. Johnson. I have another one for you. Where were you when we said the same things about the subversion of the people's will regarding Propositions 215 and 420 decriminalizing medical marijuana? Does it merely have to do with whose oxen are getting gored?

Drunken Bodhisatva



This is on the Steely Dan Gold CD, unedited from the Santa Monica Civic. They cleaned this YouTube clip up a bit. I love the soused opening from the man who actually drove their equipment truck, Jerome Aniton. Jerome was quite the character, crashed the truck a few times, read more about him here.

Smite them

From TPM:


An openly gay state senator was censured by his colleagues on the Pennsylvania House floor Thursday when he tried to comment on the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
State Rep. Brian Sims' (D) remarks during a part of the House session where representatives are allowed to speak openly were cut off almost immediately by a procedural maneuver. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R) objected to the remarks on the grounds that Sims was speaking out "against God's law."
"I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God's law," Metcalfe said, as quoted by WHYY-FM.
Sims told WHYY that Republicans approached him after the session to apologize.

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More on the story here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lone Justice

Did the Texas GOP commit a felony and tamper and falsify the date stamp on an official government document? Read the story here. You boys are in trouble with a capitol T.

"Sing Sing Sing"

Road goes on forever...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Save the Nepenthes!

My friend Shawn has spent a great portion of his life, not to mention his life savings, devoted to saving rare species of plants in Thailand. He needs funding very badly. Thousands of rare plants under his loving care are in danger of extinction if he fails to get money to save them. If any of you have the means to make a donation please check out this link. Thank you.

http://www.savenepenthes.org/


http://www.savenepenthes.org/

R.I.P. Alan Myers



Devo's great drummer has succumbed to brain cancer. Still the best show I ever saw in my life. California Theater in San Diego, I was accompanied by my friend Mike Halter.

You got to walk home baby!

Re: Edward Snowden

I have an honest question, if you please, regarding all this surveillance business? Is the United States government more afraid of what the Russians and Chinese find out is actually happening or what the American public discovers is really going on?

More tough love from Washington

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander has a great idea. Get rid of the minimum wage and instead give the working poor higher earned income tax credits.

Let me see if I get this straight? A guy is now back to making four bucks an hour at McDonalds and can't afford rent, to eat or gas for his car but it's all cool because the poor slob is going to get some money back on his taxes in March.

Does it make you feel any better to know that Alexander is the ranking Republican on the Senate Labor committee?

Do these people have a fucking clue?

The Poets c. 1966

Wendy Davis

Big shout out to Texas State Senator Wendy Davis. From teen mother to Harvard Law graduate. Exemplary day yesterday.

11 hours on her feet filibustering with no bathroom breaks.  Not allowed to lean on her desk. They tried to disqualify her for letting somebody help her put on a back brace first and then said she was off topic when she brought up sonograms. Vermin.

Dumb DOMA Doomed

Alexander the Great 333 b.c. Battle of Issus - House of the faun, Pompeii

Cromwell, Alexander, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Emerson, Willie Cather, Jane Addams, the list of gay and lesbian people is as old as the history of mankind. I applaud today's SCOTUS decision overturning DOMA, a decision which chips away at the ossified societal rubric that would deny gay couples equal rights.

These rights include rights of receivership and probate, of immigration of a foreign born spouse, the right to visit one's spouse in the hospital, social security benefits, seemingly normal societal privileges that heterosexual couples take for granted. Real tangible stuff.

The end of the oppression of gay people and their ascension to equal standing in our society is no less a watershed as the end of slavery. The fact that slavery was such an old institution did not make it right. The corollary is important. The marriage contract has been a tool to subjugate historically. In fact, until the end of the civil war, blacks had no rights to marry in this country. Jews could not marry gentiles in Germany prior to the holocaust. Interracial marriage was banned in California until 1948.

I read the entire opinion and dissent today and it was enlightening.

 
Roberts obliquely warns in his dissent that this is merely a structural bookkeeping type matter, and woe to those who think that the matter has been settled. This is the way it has always been done everywhere.

Alito takes an originalist posture, the right of same sex marriage is not spoken for in the constitution and this is the proper province of elected officials.

Which is sort of funny because yesterday SCOTUS overturned a Voting Rights Act voted on near unanimously by the elected officials and that was not good enough. Things need to be enacted by the legislature unless we don't agree with them. Scalia, as expected, evokes the most fire and brimstone. Why not polygamy now? - all that crap. Society has a role in enforcing traditional morality.
"When the Court declared a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, we were assured that the case had nothing, nothing at all to do with 'whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.'"Now we are told that DOMA is invalid because it 'demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects." Justice Antonin Scalia


Anyway you can read the dissent if you are bored, certain parts of the legal gobbledy gook are instructive.
The reaction from some conservatives is pretty funny and pretty typical. God is crying. God needs a tissue.





"Marriage was created by the hand of God. No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted.What the Court has done will undermine the best interest of children and the best interests of the United States.”
Michele Bachmann

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"The DOMA ruling has now made the normalization of polygamy, pedophilia, incest and bestiality inevitable. Matter of time."
Bryan Fischer - American Family Association

Boy, they always want to bring up that bestiality stuff. What's up with that?

It is clear, the tide is turning. People will have to make a decision which side of history they want to be on. This is a major human rights issue of our time and it is far from over.

Rebel Music

Sweet dreams and flying machines


My friend Jonathan Hill from Santa Fe has sent me some very interesting stuff of late. Jonathan is a superb guitar and saxophone player and a longtime dealer in tribal art and antiquities.


Recently he sent me a link to a story regarding the curious notebooks of Charles Dellschau (1828-1923). In 1969 a picker found 15 of Dellschau's notebooks, with illustrations of flying machines that long predate the Wright brothers, all encrypted in an arcane script. Read the fascinating story here.

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Jonathan also sent me a link to a curious new art form - Pakistani folk art that incorporates a new element of their landscape, the Predator missile.


This work bears a distinct thematic resemblance to the afghani war rugs that started sprouting up in the early seventies during the Soviet years, filled with the cross cultural iconography of tanks, planes and Kalatchnikovs. Who says that we no longer have any international influence?


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Merry Clayton

Alabama


"wheel in a ditch and a wheel on the track"

Selectively indignant

If you run into any conservatives talking about the I.R.S., I suggest that you give them a wide berth right now, they are pretty steamed. You see for weeks they have been engaged in a kabuki drama of wallowing grief because the I.R.S. was said to be going after Tea Party groups seeking non profit status.

Now liberals are crashing their pity party. You see, when the I.R.S. man was questioned by Chairman Issa, he was specifically asked about right wing groups and that is what he spilled on. Now word comes, that people from both sides of the spectrum were being singled out for abuse, words like Progressive, Occupy, Israel, Medical Marijuana, Blue all got your file put in the dumper for further scrutiny and delaying tactics.

When word broke about the targeting of conservatives, many liberals, myself included, were outraged. Nixonian, wrong is wrong, etc. You think that the conservatives will return the favor and chastise the I.R.S. for going after progressives? Not a chance. They would rather play the "who's the bigger victim" game.

There are several possibilities here. One, the I.R.S. employees were doing there jobs as best as they saw fit, and this was just business as usual, two, they were actually targeting the administration's enemies on the left and the right. In any case I hope that the Republicans will stop with the crying about persecution. It's getting to be an old act.

You can read a bit more about the saga here.

Sweet Home Alabama

Plantation Politics


The Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act today, the provision of the landmark civil rights law that designates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court. The VRA was defeated by a 5 to 4 vote.

This ruling overrules Congress, which had near unanimously upheld the act a few short years ago. Predictably, Republicans and conservatives, especially in the southern states, were giddy, now happy that we live in a world where racism no longer exists, unless of course it is that pernicious brand that targets white people.

The opinion, authored by Chief Justice  Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that “things have changed dramatically” in the South in the nearly 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965.

The court’s opinion said it did not strike down the act of Congress “lightly." “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” Roberts wrote.


I wish I felt so sure about our post racial world. Texas, as well as several other states, immediately went into Voter ID operational mode and instituted their plans to redistrict in areas with historic institutional racial bias that required federal pre clearance before today. A Federal Court ruled last year that the Texas law was discriminatory and imposed undue burdens on the poor.
“The State of Texas enacted a voter ID law that — at least to our knowledge — is the most stringent in the country,” the opinion, embedded below, reads. “That law will almost certainly have retrogressive effect: it imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty. And crucially, the Texas legislature defeated several amendments that could have made this a far closer case.”
Now the Lone Star State can have at it.

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Roberts has long been a warrior against the Voting Rights Act, way back when he was a lowly lawyer soldier in the Reagan Administration. Even when confronted with and acknowledging clear cases of institutional and governmental racism. Read this interesting story at Mother Jones.

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Other reactions were somewhat predictable.

Arizona Governor Theresa Brewer - "It's hampered us for a long time." "I think we were being punished by the Voting Rights Act for indiscretions, for bad things that took place decades ago and those don't take place any longer. We have grown and so it was the right thing to do so I'm pleased."

South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham - “Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was a necessary tool to preserve voting rights, but due to the reform and advances in South Carolina election law, it is no longer necessary." "The Supreme Court noted this tremendous progress in South Carolina’s electoral system and it was the underpinning of their decision. I concur with the Court that our state has made tremendous progress."

Adam Cohen writes an interesting piece in Time MagazineViewpoint: Voting Rights Decision Spells the End of Fair Elections It also nullifies on the most important pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. History
The part of the Voting Rights Act that the court held unconstitutional (Section 4) was a critical one: the formula that specifies which particular states and localities must clear significant voting changes in advance with the Justice Department. That process – “pre-clearance” – ensures that unfair voting rules can be stopped before they are allowed to interfere with actual elections.
An example of why it’s needed: in 2001, the all-white leadership of Kilmichael, Miss. abruptly cancelled the town election when it looked like voters might elect the first black mayor. Using the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department required that the election go forward – and a black mayor was elected. That was only one of more than 700 discriminatory voting changes the Justice Department blocked from 1982 to 2006.

Justice Roberts cynically opines that the Congress is free to set new conditions, presumably more in tune with today's world. The reality is that in today's increasingly polarized congress, any such agreement will be near impossible.

Republicans know that they are in danger when too many people vote. Many say that Voter ID laws unfairly hurt the poor. 11% of Americans lack such identification. Last year the Brennan Center for Justice published a study that shows how such laws disproportionally affect the poor, elderly and minorities.

It is funny that southern conservative voices have trumpeted the end of discrimination in their communities today while their black peers in the same districts are clearly worried. Which side is right?

Justice Ginsburg is also worried. From her dissent today:
"The Court does not contest that Alabama’s history of racial discrim­ination provides a sufficient basis for Congress to require Alabama and its political subdivisions to preclear electoral changes. Nevertheless, the Court asserts that Shelby County may prevail on its facial chal­lenge to [Section Four’s] coverage formula because it is subject to [Section Five’s] preclearance requirement by virtue of that formula. …This misses the reality that Congress decided to subject Alabama to preclearance based on evidence of continuing constitutional violations in that State.
I wish that I was as optimistic as some that we had surmounted the forces of racism and bigotry that have long impacted our nation. I am not. They clearly continue today. Justice Roberts and his cohorts have torn down the last wall that protects the fox from the henhouse. It will be interesting to see what new methods evolve in the areas of both voter suppression and redistricting. You really think that things have changed?

Is the south more racist than the north? This current study from UC Davis says yes, yes it is. (You will need to link to the pdf to read the paper.)

Selma

Thanks, bro!

From Huffpo:


Monday, June 24, 2013

6.24.13

Was Michael Hastings the victim of a car hack? From HuffPo:

"There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers" -- including the United States -- know how to remotely seize control of a car."
Former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke

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Senators Wyden and Udall write General Alexander a letter, which questions his veracity in regards to NSA's Section 702 Fact Sheet Inaccuracy. But it is illegal for them to get specific. So much for transparency.



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Interesting to see how many "liberal" journalists are carrying water for the establishment regarding the Snowden disclosures. I was reading from Edward Bernays 1928 book Propaganda yesterday and found this quote:
“But being dependent, every day of the year and for year after year, upon certain politicians for news, the newspaper reporters are obliged to work in harmony with their news sources.” 
Bernays (1891-1995) was Sigmund Freud's nephew.

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"In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits, where a woman can get cleaned out," said state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R), sponsor of the controversial SB 5, according to The Associated Press.

Texas has just approved the most draconian abortion policy in the nation. This woman has just showed the world the breadth of her ignorance, the function of rape kits is to provide evidence of a rape, not "clean a woman out."

Not to be outdone, Texas wacko congressman Louie Gohmert says that sex education programs are straight out of Soviet Russia. What he doesn't get is that the highest national rates of teen pregnancy are in the red states, obviously the parents aren't doing too good of a job either.

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Poor George Zimmer. I liked the guy, he had the huevos to stand up for decriminalization. Don't think that I will buy another thing from Men's Warehouse.

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Clarence Thomas is whining about Affirmative Action. He actually compared it to slavery today in his opinion. Which is rich, because the program allowed him to enter Yale Law School and to subsequently get a job clerking for John Danforth, and finally sit on the nation's highest court. He said that he still couldn't get the good jobs like the white kids when he left school but it looks like he has done all right to me. But he makes a good argument actually. He has been an abysmal justice, mute for the last eight years, bitter, with a king sized chip on his shoulder, or is it a can of coca cola? He is a total embarrassment who should be grateful that he was given an opportunity and now wants to deny others of his race the same opportunity he got.

And I guess that Justice Alito has been a complete dick.

Bill Bruford and Annette Peacock

Hail the Coming Singularity!

I sent BigDave a link from Extremetech for these nifty new bionic eyeballs this morning, Wireless, solar-powered bionic eyes benefit from sub-retinal placement. Pop a wireless visual processor into a small pocket created in the retina and presto! Sight.

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I got some weird response from Dave invoking the coming singularity. I try to stay on top of these things and admit to being a little fuzzy on the subject.  I forget, what the hell is this singularity business again?


Dave sent me this handy little singularity tracker, The above graphic is a partial screenshot of a constantly upgrading link that counts down to the infernal/blessed event. Check out the link and see if it makes any sense to you. Here is the verbiage from the website:

What is the singularity?

     The concept of 'the singularity' is somewhat loosely defined, but most people agree that it means a point in our future when the rate of technological and intellectual progress becomes unimaginably fast.  It is based on the observation that many things in our society become increasingly more sophisticated, faster and faster, as we build better tools to make the whole process even faster. 

     One of the main predictions people make about the singularity is that it will be driven by artificial intelligence that is self-improving.  People think this, not because artificial intelligence is so easy to create, but rather, because of one very convincing argument:  If artificial intelligence could surpass human intelligence only slightly, it could create other forms of artificial intelligence by itself, and give them the ability to self improve.  This would lead to a very sudden and rapid improvement in all forms of automation. 

     The word singularity in this context is borrowed from mathematics and physics, where it usually means a point so extreme, that the currently understood rules fail to explain what will happen at this point.  This word is appropriate because if the future is anything like some people are predicting, the singularity will represent a fundamental change in humanity. 

When will the singularity happen?

    It could never happen, as many of the advancements necessary for the singularity are rather speculative and rely on solutions to problems we haven't found yet.  Still, some are optimistic that we will not only solve these problems, but soar past them.  There is probably no one more optimistic than futurist Ray Kurzweil who has set a date of 2045 for the singularity, and written prolifically on the subject. 

A point in the future when the rate of technological and intellectual progress becomes unimaginably fast? That doesn't sound very scientific. Your imagination or my imagination? There is a difference.

Artificial intelligence that is self improving? Hello, Blade Runner... Time to watch those pesky robots again. The aforelinked website's computing section lists some pretty cool advances that you might want to check out but I must admit I am a bit agnostic about the whole proposition.

You see, these sort of predictions come around every couple years and never add up to a hill of beans. In the 70's we had Kohoutek, remember? Then Y2K, the Mayan end of the world crap, thanks Terrence McKenna, that really helped your credibility, people peddle so much of this twaddle with a straight face. Writer Ray Kurzweil is apparently responsible for this one.

The following graph is the kind of mumbo jumbo that really floors me. When the great nonbiological intelligence spreads like the master controller in TRON. Wow, epoch 6. The universe finally wakes up and I blew it and slept in.




There are distinct singularity conceptions floating around and apparently Kurzweil's is not the most optimistic, Vinge's is. From Wiki:
The technological singularity is the theoretical emergence of superintelligence through technological means. Since it is believed that the capabilities of such intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the technological singularity is often seen as an occurrence, akin to a singularity, beyond which events cannot be predicted, yet many have made educated guesses about what will follow.
The first use of the term "singularity" in this context was by mathematician John von Neumann. Neumann in the mid-1950s spoke of "ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue". The term was popularized by science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who argues that artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement, or brain-computer interfaces could be possible causes of the singularity. Futurist Ray Kurzweil cited von Neumann's use of the term in a foreword to von Neumann's classic The Computer and the Brain.
Proponents of the singularity typically postulate an "intelligence explosion", where superintelligences design successive generations of increasingly powerful minds, that might occur very quickly and might not stop until the agent's cognitive abilities greatly surpass that of any human.
Kurzweil predicts the singularity to occur around 2045 whereas Vinge predicts some time before 2030. At the 2012 Singularity Summit, Stuart Armstrong did a study of artificial generalized intelligence (AGI) predictions by experts and found a wide range of predicted dates, with a median value of 2040. His own prediction on reviewing the data is that there's an 80% probability that the singularity will occur in a range of 5 to 100 years.
5 to 100 years? Wake me up when it gets here.  But don't get too hung up on the technological singularity, because you puny humans might want to be aware of the gravitational singularity as well, where the quantities that are used to measure the gravitational field become infinite in a way that does not depend on the coordinate system. These quantities are the curves of space and time and my god, this stuff really makes my head hurt. Of course there is also the mathematical singularity to contend with. If you can figure it out and explain it to me without giving me a migraine, be my guest.

This singularity stuff is apparently quite the little cottage industry. We now have Singularity University, the Singularity Hubnot to mention the Singularity game. Can you say, let's cash in, boys and girls?

I know. If any of us make it to 2045 and the machines haven't supplanted us yet and driven us into a life of thrall like bondage, we will toast the whole notion of cyborg superior. I will tell my nastiest dirty joke and if I can get the robot to crack a real smile and genuinely laugh I will take my hat off to our new mechanical overlords and say have at it. After all, we humans have not set the bar very high. How much worse could the machines really do?
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Why plants are smarter than we are. One day they can fight it out with the machines.


Big Oak Estate Sale

I am doing my first estate sale ever this weekend, in partnership with my friend Kim DiNardo.

It is a very cool house on the Big Oak Ranch, site of  one of the largest and most famous oaks around. House is full of great stuff, in all price ranges.

Check out the link here and here for more information. Hope to see you there.

Sale starts at 9 friday. The address is 1045 Big Oak Ranch Rd.

Limited parking at the end of Silver Spring or walk up from Mission. Do not block driveways. Please be courteous.

The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game



Quite a few people have done credible versions of this song, Blondie, Grace Jones, Jerry Garcia among others. Ella does a nice version here. I had assumed that it was written by the Marvelettes, a band that performed the gold standard of the hit, but I was wrong.

It was actually written by Smoky Robinson. Here is the Miracles version. The Marvelettes singer Wanda Young Rogers was in fact married to Miracles member Bobby Rogers.

There's gold in them thar icebergs

photo: Gerard Van der Leun

When the world starts thawing its ice, make frozen daiquiris.

Okay so the arctic is melting. We admit it. Know what it means? There's money to be made! Read this incredibly vapid and shortsighted article by Scott Borgerson at Foreign Affairs, The Coming Arctic Boom As the Ice Melts, the Region Heats Up. Chillingly stupid. Lets not worry about the ramifications of the cataclysmic environmental spiral that we have helped promulgate, let's think about plunder and planting our flag...
"Thanks to global warming, the Arctic icecap is rapidly melting, opening up access to massive natural resources and creating shipping shortcuts that could save billions of dollars a year. But there are currently no clear rules governing this economically and strategically vital region. Unless Washington leads the way toward a multilateral diplomatic solution, the Arctic could descend into armed conflict..."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bobby Blue Bland

Subject:FBI investigation, re:NSA

Investigative reporter Michael Hastings gets weird vibes that he has run afoul of the Blue Meanies and sends this email out a few hours before his mysterious death in a single car accident. Hmmm.


Christian Domestic Discipline

Your spouse been a little disobedient? Jesus thinks they may need a little paddling.

Check out this article over at the Daily Beast. There's even a Christian BDSM fetish board and this website.

I been real bad, lord...

St Louis Browns

Quotes from Propaganda, 1928

Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government.

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

“But being dependent, every day of the year and for year after year, upon certain politicians for news, the newspaper reporters are obliged to work in harmony with their news sources.” 

“It is asked whether, in fact, the leader makes propaganda, or whether propaganda makes the leader. There is a widespread impression that a good press agent can puff up a nobody into a great man. The answer is the same as that made to the old query as to whether the newspaper makes public opinion or whether public opinion makes the newspaper. There has to be fertile ground for the leader and the idea to fall on. But the leader also has to have some vital seed to sow. To use another figure, a mutual need has to exist before either can become positively effective. Propaganda is of no use to the politician unless he has something to say which the public, consciously or unconsciously, wants to hear.” 

“Universal literacy was supposed to educate the common man to control his environment. Once he could read and write he would have a mind fit to rule. So ran the democratic doctrine. But instead of a mind, universal literacy has given him rubber stamps, rubber stamps inked with advertising slogans, with editorials, with published scientific data, with the trivialities of the tabloids and the platitudes of history, but quite innocent of original thought. Each man's rubber stamps are the duplicates of millions of others, so that when those millions are exposed to the same stimuli, all receive identical imprints. It may seem an exaggeration to say that the American public gets most of its ideas in this wholesale fashion. The mechanism by which ideas are disseminated on a large scale is propaganda, in the broad sense of an organized effort to spread a particular belief or doctrine.” 

If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it. 

Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda 

Shady Grove


I was looking for news about my local town on Google News this morning and I ran across this ad from the Union Tribune disguised as news, LAST CHANCE TO OWN AT KB HOME’S SHADY GROVE IN FALLBROOK.

This development is an encapsulation of the absurdity of the American mercantile system. They have been trying to peddle these poor things for years. Kauffman and Broad bought what was actually once a shady grove, mowed it down to bare soil with nary a tree in sight and then marketed the development as Shady Grove. Serious semantical hubris. Shady all right but never quite a fit in a community that is still lucky enough to have a few real shady groves left.

FISA frame up

There is a very interesting exposé in the Washington Post this morning on the makeup of the FISA secret surveillance court, Worth reading. All ten of the current judges appointed by Republicans, six former prosecutors, all handpicked by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts. No wonder they have such an exemplary "can't miss" record on never turning down a surveillance request.

I have decided that in the face of such awful behavior from both parties that I am going to withdraw my registration from the Democratic party and become some sort of an independent. Parties are meaningless, especially when their candidates campaign one way and then govern in diametric opposition to their supposed convictions. Parties don't matter, issues matter.

Judy Henske



A remastered look at Henske's powerful take on Billie Edd Wheeler's famous coal mining ode. Probably my favorite version from a seriously under rated singer.

High flying bird


The Obama administration and its proxies have been engaged in some seriously bellicose sabre rattling with Hong Kong this weekend regarding sending Edward Snowden back to face legal retribution and justice. I have just read a single source report, as yet unconfirmed, that the bird has flown the coop to Moscow, on way to a third country, possibly Iceland.

The Obama administration should breathe a hidden sigh of relief that he has not returned. The reality is that most americans, I believe, are more aghast at the exposure of the scope and scale of the ever growing spy state than they are at what some regard as Snowden's treasonous activity. As bad as the leak, many, like me, feel like they owe him a debt of gratitude for lifting the veil.

A public trial would unmask a fault line and schism between establishment figures from both parties and the civil libertarians that would I think be historically divisive. Recent statements from liberals like Pelosi, Feinstein, Franken and Klobuchar in support of the programs are no less noxious than those of Lindsay Graham, Cheney and the figures on the right.

Quickly slap dashed privacy boards, rubber stamping FISA courts and Senate Intelligence committees that muzzle dissenting members have not assuaged the view amongst most of us that we are witnessing a government surveillance state run amok. A fishing operation in which billions of americans personal communications are cast into an ever growing net to harvest in order to connect the dots for a meager handful of terrorist operations seems overly draconian and unnecessary to most clear thinking americans. The cure is simply worse than the disease. We are simply more afraid of "us" than we are of "them."

They recognize what a national dialogue is and what it is not. It is not a mere briefing, it is a decision that every American will personally decide and weigh in on and ultimately have the final say on. An NSA that rummages through our personal data and communications looking for "inadvertent" signs of criminal behavior while operating as a hand maiden for the FBI strikes me as totally un american and contrary to our country's ideals. We have no faith in a government that assures us that they are the "good guys" and promises to police itself. It is precisely at tough times like these when we should redouble our efforts to protect our constitution and bill of rights, not degrade them.

These programs stink, whether they are a creation of Republicans or Democrats. Once again, thank you Edward Snowden for letting us know how bad things really are. While not everybody, certainly many loyal americans believe that we owe you a debt of gratitude.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sky Reflector- Net


Did anybody see the New York Times article on the new Fulton Street subway station roof last week?

What an architectural marvel, I hope that I can photograph it one day. The roof is comprised of 952 perforated aluminum panels that are suspended on cables. The panels have a varied amount of stippling, creating a gradient affect.


“It’s almost like you’ve taken the whole sky and folded it in." James Carpenter

The roof is called Sky Reflector-Net. Cost a little more than $2 million dollars.

More information can be found here.