Wednesday, August 29, 2007

(Selective) Quote of the Day

Daniel Pipes and others managed to get Debbie (Dhabah) Almontaser to resign as Principal of a proposed school in New York City that would teach Arabic and Arabic culture (the Khalil Gibran International Academy) by issuing attacks such as this:
Arabs or Muslims, Ms. Almontaser says, are innocent of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001: "I don't recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims." Instead, she blames September 11 on Washington's foreign policies, saying they "can have been triggered by the way the USA breaks its promises with countries across the world, especially in the Middle East, and the fact that it has not been a fair mediator."

For the latter part, Congressman and Presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) too blames 9/11 on Washington's foreign policies, too (watch him here).

But the above makes the selective quote of the day because to this NYT article, the statement is not in concord with her record and her character and because what Ms Almontaser is supposed to have said:
I don’t recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims.....Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and stolen my religion.

PS: More Ron Paul, The Lessons of 9/11
Unfortunately, the biggest failure of our government will be ignored. I’m sure the Commission will not connect our foreign policy of interventionism – practiced by both major parties for over a hundred years – as an important reason 9/11 occurred. Instead, the claims will stand that the motivation behind 9/11 was our freedom, prosperity, and way of life. If this error persists, all the tinkering and money to improve the intelligence agencies will bear little fruit.

Quote of the Day

Charley Reese gives us this:
Iraq's misery and difficulties remind me of a quotation from a Turkish officer who said, "The trouble with being an ally of the United States is that you can never tell when it's going to decide to stab itself in the back."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Health Insurance Crisis

As per this dailykos diary, the American crisis of health insurance - murder by spreadsheet for-profit healthcare - is continuing to expand.
BIG NUMBERS, like 45 million uninsured Americans, are hard to grasp. But that number came home to me at a recent conference. The keynote speaker was former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Her topic was our healthcare system, and her message was personal and anguished.

The gist was that even she lives in constant fear of major uninsured health bills. Not her own -- those of her son. He can't afford insurance because his son -- her grandchild -- has a preexisting condition.

Happy Raksha Bandhan!

Raksha Bandhan 1,2,3

PS: someone's photo gallery

Monday, August 27, 2007

Quote of the Day

(via TPM)

Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) on the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:
"Alberto Gonzales is the first Attorney General who thought the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth were three different things."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Quote of the Day

As Jim Webb's recent pathetic explanation of his support for the abominable FISA legislation demonstrates, there would appear to be only one value that our politicians refuse to compromise or surrender: their wholehearted, indeed passionate devotion to abject stupidity.

From You, Too, Can and Should Be an "Intelligence Analyst by Arthur Silber.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Now this is not a spoof!

As per modern particle "physicists" - the scare quotes are because I no longer consider them to be physicists, though they occupy postdoc positions and professorships in academic physics departments, and publish in academic journals - a scientific explanation is of the form "If fact A requires B, then A is an explanation of B".

By chasing links from Peter Woit's Not Even Wrong you can find the culprits.

Let's look at an example:

Fact A = We earthlings exist. This requires
B = The earth's orbit is in the habitable zone around the sun.

Our existence, therefore, is an explanation of the earth's orbit.

Fact A = (Olber's paradox) - The night sky is dark, which requires
B = The universe is expanding.

(Olber's paradox is that if our universe is big enough (which it is) then any direction we look there should be stars, in fact, stars enough that the sky should be very bright. Read about it in Wikipedia. This example of mine is without explanation ruled to be somehow different from the previous example, btw.)

We can multiply examples.

Fact A = Airplanes fly, which requires
B = Airplane wings generate lift.

Therefore, the fact that airplanes fly, in the Brave New (Particle) Physics is an explanation of the lift generated by airplane wings.

I kid you not. Read Peter Woit's despairing lament about the descent of particle physics into pseudo-science.


PS: A much better way of stating the problem is,
a. Suppose Fact A has no provided way of being a cause of B (i.e., Fact A is in the nature of an effect of B rather than a cause of B.)
b. Suppose Fact A requires B (i.e., the effect requires the particular cause B.)
c. Modern particle physicists, in particular, a large number of string theorists, regard A as an explanation of B.

The Drawbacks of Democracy

Resurrected from google cache this from the right-wing think tank, Family Security Matters. An excerpt:

However, President Bush has a valuable historical example that he could choose to follow.

When the ancient Roman general Julius Caesar was struggling to conquer ancient Gaul, he not only had to defeat the Gauls, but he also had to defeat his political enemies in Rome who would destroy him the moment his tenure as consul (president) ended.

Caesar pacified Gaul by mass slaughter; he then used his successful army to crush all political opposition at home and establish himself as permanent ruler of ancient Rome. This brilliant action not only ended the personal threat to Caesar, but ended the civil chaos that was threatening anarchy in ancient Rome – thus marking the start of the ancient Roman Empire that gave peace and prosperity to the known world.

If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results: popularity with his military; enrichment of America by converting an Arabian Iraq into an American Iraq (therefore turning it from a liability to an asset); and boost American prestiege while terrifying American enemies.

He could then follow Caesar's example and use his newfound popularity with the military to wield military power to become the first permanent president of America, and end the civil chaos caused by the continually squabbling Congress and the out-of-control Supreme Court.

President Bush can fail in his duty to himself, his country, and his God, by becoming “ex-president” Bush or he can become “President-for-Life” Bush: the conqueror of Iraq, who brings sense to the Congress and sanity to the Supreme Court. Then who would be able to stop Bush from emulating Augustus Caesar and becoming ruler of the world? For only an America united under one ruler has the power to save humanity from the threat of a new Dark Age wrought by terrorists armed with nuclear weapons.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Evading Reality - 6

From the Gretchen Morgenson article cited before

“They have their standard deviations, correlations, ‘stable value’ and ‘real return’ funds and nothing for what the normal human being would call risk at all,” said Frederick E. Rowe Jr., a money manager at Greenbrier Partners in Dallas. “They’ve taken the word ‘risk’ and hijacked it. The concept of risk — the permanent loss of capital — vanished in the minds of the people who speak the new language.”

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Evading Reality - 5

Back in 1994, Dick Cheney explained why invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein would be a bad idea to do.
This dkos diary even links to the video of that interview.

Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place?

That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off -- part of it the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it eastern Iraq the Iranian would like to claim, fought over it for eight years.

In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.

Since nothing really had changed between 1994 and 2001, one can conclude that Vice President Cheney's advocacy of the invasion of Iraq was an evasion of reality. Exactly what he foretold in 1994 has come to pass.

Evading Reality - 4

Based on a Joshua Rosner NYT op-ed piece and some other stories in the NYT:

By law, banks, insurance companies and pension managers can purchase only high quality bonds. The quality rating of such bonds is issued by Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investor Service and Fitch Ratings.

Mortgage lenders make loans to home buyers and aggregate these loans and sell bonds ("mortgage backed securities") in the financial markets. The ratings agencies gave high ratings to subprime-mortgage backed securities (subprime means high-risk loans made to home buyers who previously would not have qualified for them), and only belatedly reissued ratings **after** the subprime crisis was upon us. The crisis is caused by the sort of obvious fact that people who on the average were expected not to be able to make the interest payments on their loans are turning out as expected not to be able to make payments on their loans and so are defaulting.

If so much institutional money was not available because of the high ratings given to such bonds, then subprime lending would have been limited. But...

...the ratings agencies are far from passive arbitrators in the markets. In structured finance, the rating agency can be an active part of the construction of a deal. In fact, the original models used to rate collateralized debt obligations were created in close cooperation with the investment banks that designed the securities.

Fitch, Moody's and S.&P. actively advise issuers of these securities on how to achieve their desired ratings. They appear to be helping investment banks, hedge funds and fund companies, all of which have a fiduciary obligation to investors, to develop the worst possible product that would still achieve a certain rating.

Only slightly more than a handful of American non-financial corporations get the highest AAA rating, but almost 90 percent of collateralized debt obligations that receive a rating are bestowed such a title. The willingness of Fitch, Moody's and S.&P. to rate as investment grade many assets that are apparently not has made structured securities ratings their fastest-growing line of business. Are we to believe that these securities are as safe as those of our most honored corporations?

Of course, simply the fact that someone has rated something as high-grade does not compel a pension fund manager to buy it. The problem is that most institutions do not have the expertise to be able to independently evaluate these financial instruments.

--- This morning's news is that both the European Union and the US Congress will be looking at the performance and conflicts of interest of the ratings agencies.

PS: Cartoon

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

KM Munshi and Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand's magnum opus "Atlas Shrugged" was published in 1957. Sometime in the next decade, K.M. Munshi, then already in his seventies - and/or his wife- read the book. Something about it hit a resonance in him: either Ayn Rand's craft as novelist, or the character of John Galt, Ayn Rand's hero. (Perhaps it was just the artistic device used by Ayn Rand in the passage quoted below. ) Whatever, the ideal of John Galt fused to some unknown non-zero extent (the reader may be the best judge of this) in Munshi's imagination with his hero of the Krishnavatara. Thus, Krishna,hero of ancient times, met the twentieth century John Galt, an event that I, personally, find very fascinating (my image of Krishna has been shaped largely by Munshi's novels).

This is the Krishna whom we venerate, the Krishna who teaches in the Bhagavad Gita, the avataar of Vishnu:

Vasudeva sutam devam, Kamsa-Chanur mardanam
Devaki paramanandam, Krishnam vande jagatgurum.

Son of Vasudeva, destroyer of Kamsa and Chanur, the supreme joy of (his foster mother) Devaki, that Krishna we salute as a teacher to the world.

On what basis do I say this?

Well, here's a passage from Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged". Her heroine, Dagny Taggart has just recovered conciousness after her plane-crash. She opens her eyes, and (there is John Galt)
She was looking up at the face of a man who knelt by her side, and she knew that in all the years behind her, this was what she would have given her life to see: a face that bore no mark of pain or fear or guilt. The shape of his mouth was pride, and more: it was as if he took pride in being proud. The angular planes of his cheeks made her think of arrogance, of tension, of scorn -- yet the face had none of these qualities, it had their final sum: a look of serene determination and of certainity, and the look of a ruthless innocence which would not seek forgiveness or grant it. It was a face that had nothing to hide or escape, a face with no fear of being seen or of seeing, so that the first thing she grasped about him was the intense perceptiveness of his eyes -- he looked as if his faculty of sight were his best-loved tool and its exercise were a limitless, joyous adventure, as if his eyes imparted a superlative value to himself and the world-- to himself for his ability to see, to the world for being a place so eagerly worth seeing. It seemed to her for a moment that she was in the presence of a being who was pure conciousness-- yet she had never been so aware of a man's body . . . .

He was looking down at her with a faint trace of a smile . . .

This was her world, she thought, this was the way men were meant to be and to face their existence-- and all the rest of it, all the years of ugliness and struggle were someone's senseless joke. She smiled at him, as at a fellow conspirator, in relief, in deliverance, in radiant mockery of all the things she would never have to consider important again. He smiled in answer, it was the same smile as her own, as if he felt what she felt and knew what she meant."

Now, here is Munshi, in Krishnavatara, Volume V:

Satyabhama, knocked unconcious by a fall, wakes up (to see Krishna):
Now the man was kneeling by her side. She opened her eyes and gazed at him.

It was not a strange face at all. In all the years since childhood, she would have given her life to see this face --a face so unfamiliar to those living in her father's house; it bore no mark of pain or fear or guilt. She must be in a dream. How could this face be near hers?

She was struck by the face. Did it express pride, arrogance or scorn ? No. It had a look of serenity and innocence, a face which had nothing to hide, a face which had no fear of being seen or of seeing.

His eyes were bright and beautiful; they had an indefinable quality of seeing life as a limitless, joyous adventure; they imparted a superlative value to himself and to the world -- to himself for his ability to see; to the world for being a place so eagerly worth seeing.

Half-dazed as she was, she felt sure that she was in the presence of a divinity. She had never been so aware of a man's body . . .

She felt a strange struggle in her heart, for he was looking at her with amusement. All these years of loneliness, ugliness and struggle she had spent, she felt, were someone's senseless joke. She smiled at him and he smiled in answer as if he knew what she felt.


Perhaps the Munshis felt justified in borrowing because

Gita 10-41
Wherever you find strength, or beauty, or (spiritual) power, you may be sure that these have sprung from a spark of my essence.

Evading Reality - 3

From a NYT article on July 25 :
The evasion of reality:
From 1987 through 1994, New Jersey was one of only a handful of governments that went to the trouble of setting aside money for retiree health care. Gov. Christine Todd Whitman stopped the practice the year she took office, along with cutting back on pension contributions.

The official explanation was that inflation in health costs had subsided and that setting aside money could create a bigger reserve than was needed. Also, her administration noted, the Clinton White House was working on a national health plan.

Not long afterward, though, health inflation went to double digits, and the Clinton initiative collapsed. But by then, New Jersey’s lawmakers had grown accustomed to using retiree-health dollars to balance the budget, which was required under the State Constitution.

Some of the consequences:
When New Jersey stopped funding its retiree health plan 13 years ago, it also stopped trying to keep track of the cost. That created the illusion that the long-term obligation was zero, not billions of dollars, and made it easy for the state to enhance its already rich benefits.
In 1994, New Jersey decided to stop setting aside money in a fund to pay for health care for its retired public workers. The savings paved the way for a big tax cut.
It turns out that New Jersey will need about $58 billion, in today’s dollars, to provide all the care it has promised its current and future retirees. That’s nearly twice the state budget and nearly twice the amount of its outstanding debt. And because of the step it took in 1994, the state has virtually no money in reserve to cover those costs.
Meanwhile, the state’s revenues are largely static. That means that unless something changes, New Jersey will have less money each year to pay for vital services like colleges, hospitals and mass transit. Its popular program to preserve green space just fell victim to the need to devote huge amounts to the retirement plans and debt servicing.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Evading Reality - 2

[This is from C.R. Rajagopalachari's rendition of the Mahabharata, a game of riddles, where Yudhisthira must answer all the questions of the Yaksha correctly in order to redeem his brothers.

PS: Yama is Death.]

"What is the greatest wonder in the world?"

"Every day, men see creatures depart to Yama's abode and yet, those who remain, seek to live forever. This verily is the greatest wonder."

Evading Reality - 1

Via a comment at
George Orwell: ‘In Front of Your Nose’
First published: Tribune. — GB, London. — March 22, 1946.
— ‘The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell’. — 1968.
There is no use in multiplying examples. The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

When one looks at the all-prevailing schizophrenia of democratic societies, the lies that have to be told for vote-catching purposes, the silence about major issues, the distortions of the press, it is tempting to believe that in totalitarian countries there is less humbug, more facing of the facts. There, at least, the ruling groups are not dependent on popular favour and can utter the truth crudely and brutally. Goering could say ‘Guns before butter’, while his democratic opposite numbers had to wrap the same sentiment up in hundreds of hypocritical words.

Actually, however, the avoidance of reality is much the same everywhere, and has much the same consequences. The Russian people were taught for years that they were better off than everybody else, and propaganda posters showed Russian families sitting down to abundant meal while the proletariat of other countries starved in the gutter. Meanwhile the workers in the western countries were so much better off than those of the U.S.S.R. that non-contact between Soviet citizens and outsiders had to be a guiding principle of policy. Then, as a result of the war, millions of ordinary Russians penetrated far into Europe, and when they return home the original avoidance of reality will inevitably be paid for in frictions of various kinds. The Germans and the Japanese lost the war quite largely because their rulers were unable to see facts which were plain to any dispassionate eye.

To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle. One thing that helps toward it is to keep a diary, or, at any rate, to keep some kind of record of one's opinions about important events. Otherwise, when some particularly absurd belief is exploded by events, one may simply forget that one ever held it. Political predictions are usually wrong. But even when one makes a correct one, to discover why one was right can be very illuminating. In general, one is only right when either wish or fear coincides with reality. If one recognizes this, one cannot, of course, get rid of one's subjective feelings, but one can to some extent insulate them from one's thinking and make predictions cold-bloodedly, by the book of arithmetic. In private life most people are fairly realistic. When one is making out one's weekly budget, two and two invariably make four. Politics, on the other hand, is a sort of sub-atomic or non-Euclidean word where it is quite easy for the part to be greater than the whole or for two objects to be in the same place simultaneously. Hence the contradictions and absurdities I have chronicled above, all finally traceable to a secret belief that one's political opinions, unlike the weekly budget, will not have to be tested against solid reality.

They shrunk the NYT!

The August 6 NYT is about an inch less wide than the August 5 edition. The length is the same. After so many days, my main comment is that the paper is now easier to handle one-handed when reading at lunchtime.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Re: Much Ado about Ketchup columnist, Stu Bykofsky, wants another 9/11.

ONE MONTH from The Anniversary, I'm thinking another 9/11 would help America....
Is there any doubt they are planning to hit us again?

If it is to be, then let it be. It will take another attack on the homeland to quell the chattering of chipmunks and to restore America's righteous rage and singular purpose to prevail.
Rip has a great riposte.

Sub-prime fallout

Behind the Times Select firewall, Gretchen Morgenson has explained nicely why the defaults on sub-prime mortgages are affecting all the financial markets.

What is amusing about it to me is that all the hot-shot hedge fund managers and their mathematicians and computers seemed to have forgotten the standard disclaimer that appears with any investment advertisement: past performance is no guarantee of future returns.


Using what are known as market-neutral strategies designed by computer models, hedge fund traders have been blindsided by a correlation between bonds and stocks that they never expected would occur.


For example, a computer might trace the relationship and trading characteristics of two similar assets, like shares of General Motors and Ford. The fund manager then makes trades, going both long and short, based on the way these shares generally trade. If Ford typically trades cheaper than General Motors, the manager would short Ford and buy G.M., capturing what might be small profits, but on a large volume.


Seeing that such bets typically generated profits over long periods left traders believing that their stakes were conservative.

The only trouble is, financial markets do not always trade in a way that is typical or predictable. And when they deviate from the norm, all the wonderful and smart trades stop behaving according to plan.

ANALYSTS call it model misbehavior.

I had to emphasize that last line, it made me laugh out loud.

Fund managers experiencing losses in their fixed-income portfolios who were unable to sell their positions then tried to unwind the trades they could sell — that is, stocks. They cashed in the shares they had purchased and bought back the ones they had sold short.

The result was that stocks that had historically been weaker became stronger, and vice versa.

“It is not simply that model returns are flat (or not working),” Mr. Rothman wrote, “but specifically that the models (ours included) are behaving in the opposite way we would predict and have seen and tested for over very long time periods (45-plus years).”

As a result, “risk models are miscalibrated for the current market environment,” he wrote.

Another line that made me laugh out loud.

The article goes on to explain that many of these funds work with borrowed money, so have to resort to desperate measures as things start unravelling; and that since everyone relied on the same market behavior, they're making the same trades, thereby compounding the effect.

“They have their standard deviations, correlations, ‘stable value’ and ‘real return’ funds and nothing for what the normal human being would call risk at all,” said Frederick E. Rowe Jr., a money manager at Greenbrier Partners in Dallas. “They’ve taken the word ‘risk’ and hijacked it. The concept of risk — the permanent loss of capital — vanished in the minds of the people who speak the new language.”

Risk, and all that it should connote to investors, is back in the language now. Unfortunately, it has brought an awful lot of losses with it.

Victims of Ideology

Just as Russians were victims of a Marxist ideology, Americans are victims of "market is god" ideology.

Read some of their stories in this dkos diary and weep.


The Gray Lady has weighed in with a lengthy editorial.

One fact from there that surprised me:
American doctors and hospitals kill patients through surgical and medical mistakes more often than their counterparts in other industrialized nations.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A fallacy of rationality

There is much in the news about the sub-prime housing loan crisis in the US. Over the past several years, mortgage lenders made housing loans to people who would not qualify in more conservative times. Very often these loans start out with attractive low interest rates that rise later. Now many borrowers are defaulting, either when the monthly payments rise or because of other financial distress.

Two things result - more houses come on the market as borrowers attempt to sell to end their liability or as lenders foreclose. Second, lenders start tightening on credit, shrinking the pool of potential buyers. Housing prices stagnate; new housing construction drops, consumer borrowing against the equity in their homes reduces, the economy slows down, resulting in more borrowers in financial distress.

There is a lot of finger-pointing going on about unscrupulous lenders and stupid borrowers.

But perhaps one should consider the possibility that everyone was acting perfectly rationally in their own best interests. Oh, I'm sure that there are some number of cases where a mortgage broker steered a person to a more expensive loan or in general persuaded them to do something fiscally stupid.

From the borrower's perspective, in a market where housing prices have been rising steadily, it makes sense to borrow. In case of isolated financial distress - say, because of the loss of a job - the house can be sold, and one might even end up with a little money in the pocket. From the lender's perspective, this is a loan against an appreciating asset.

The problem is that everyone doing what appears rational to themselves still doesn't necessary lead to the best outcome overall.

One could say that this is because the "rationality" is based on short term calculations. If one's calculations included - how likely is it that housing will appreciate steadily for the next ten years? or how likely in ten years is an economic downturn that throws people out of work and renders them unable to make their loan payments? - then one might have a different "rational" behavior.

Moreover, if enough of long-term calculators are present, so that most loans are sound, etc., then the short-term calculators' behavior may actually be rational, i.e., if I find myself close to default, then I will be able to sell the asset and that too, at an appreciated price.


If you think about it, environmental problems arise exactly because what is rational for everyone produces a bad outcome when done by everyone. i.e., as one individual in a vast world, my cutting trees, fishing, releasing smoke into the air, producing garbage is harmless. When everyone does it, we have deforestation, species extinction, air pollution, etc.


The only way to let people keep doing what is "rational" for themselves but to make that computation also be rational when everyone does it is to modify the rules by adding costs in the right places. I.e., regulation can be necessary.

The problem of course, is in devising the right set of costs. A secondary problem is that admitting that regulation is necessary is anathema to most ideologues of the free market, libertarians and the like.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Government and the Media

The Hiroshima Coverup
Long story short - The NYT's William L. Laurence won a Pulitzer 60 years ago for spouting American government propaganda about the effects of the nukes dropped on Japan.

The Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment was breached during the Clinton Admin, years and years ago. We just didn't notice.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Boys will be boys

Via my sis., this Tribune, India newsphoto - parts of India are reeling under floods, but what do kids know about that?

Caption: Children jump into the swollen Ganga from the top of a temple in Varanasi on Sunday. — PTI photo

Sunday, August 05, 2007


In my view, this country can repair itself from disasters like the Iraq War or the Katrina Hurricane **provided** the underlying "system" is healthy. That "system" is embodied in the Constitution, the civil liberties it enshrines and the tri-part **accountable** government that it enables.

That system is being severely undermined.

Over the past few days, the President twisted arms and the Democrats who control Congress and Senate caved and passed a bill that "would eviscerate the Fourth Amendment" and "does violence to the Constitution of the United States" (the latter on the authority of the Speaker of the House).

They also inserted a sunset clause, so this legislation will come up for renewal in six months. At that time they (supposedly) plan to have a proper debate, and presumably do the right thing.

But instead of going into recess, why don't they extend the session and do that now? Ironically, forcing an extension of the session till they gave him a Bill was one of the threats the President supposedly used. To the Senate and Congress, their scheduled vacation is more important than the Constitution they took a sacred oath to uphold!

Glenn Greenwald wrote (Democrats' responsibility for Bush radicalism)
Examine virtually every Bush scandal and it increasingly bears the mark not merely of Democratic capitulation, but Democratic participation. In August of 2006, the Supreme Court finally asserted the first real limit on Bush's radical executive power theories in Hamdan, only for Congress, months later, to completely eviscerate those minimal limits -- and then go far beyond -- by enacting the grotesque Military Commissions Act with the support of substantial numbers of Democrats. What began as a covert and illegal Bush interrogation and detention program became the officially sanctioned, bipartisan policy of the United States.

I took what I think the next logical step in this line of thought in this dailykos diary.

In a couple of years of being around that forum, this is only the third diary I've attempted, so it should tell you about my state of mind - angry, angry, angry.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sound the Trumpets!

A few years ago (five?), in trying to make my yard hummingbird-friendly, I planted a trumpet vine. It grew and grew, but did not flower. Given that I had read while researching this plant statements like e.g.,
In Michael Dirr's book Manual of Woody Landscape Plants he describes trumpet vine: "If you can not grow this, give up gardening; grows in any soil and also prospers in sidewalk cracks".
(here and you will find similar statements elsewhere on the web), you can imagine my relief that my gardening career need not be over, when today I saw these. Plain things, but a god-send! :)


Friday, August 03, 2007

In Praise of the Zinnia


The flower would almost cover my palm and fingers. The plants are huge and sprawling - probably they need more intense sunlight than available in my front yard. They make excellent cut flowers, a couple I took to office and stuck in water two weeks ago are only now fading. Jaya, Jaya Zinnia!