March 29, 2012 archive

Mar 29

You’ve been slimed.

I’m not a vegetarian, though I don’t eat much meat because I don’t see the point of it.  Some hummus and a nice ciabatta (that’s a Silence of the Lambs reference, but the important thing about my jokes is that they amuse me).

Still, if you are a vegetarian you don’t have to worry about things like this-

The other day my email got hijacked and I had to send a warning to all the people in my contact list.  I was pleasantly surprised that my address for CSI Bentonville (a vegetarian of my online acquaintance) is still good and she seems to be well and happy.

Mar 29

Cartnoon

Crusader vs. the Pirates

Crusader Rabbit Crusade 2 Episode 20

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Open Thread

Mar 29

On This Day In History March 29

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 29 is the 88th day of the year (89th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 277 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1951, the Rosenbergs are convicted of espionage.

In one of the most sensational trials in American history, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are convicted of espionage for their role in passing atomic secrets to the Soviets during and after World War II. The husband and wife were later sentenced to death and were executed in 1953.

The conviction of the Rosenbergs was the climax of a fast-paced series of events that were set in motion with the arrest of British physicist Klaus Fuchs in Great Britain in February 1950. British authorities, with assistance from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, gathered evidence that Fuchs, who worked on developing the atomic bomb both in England and the United States during World War II, had passed top-secret information to the Soviet Union. Fuchs almost immediately confessed his role and began a series of accusations.

Fuchs confessed that American Harry Gold had served as a courier for the Soviet agents to whom Fuchs passed along his information. American authorities captured Gold, who thereupon pointed the finger at David Greenglass, a young man who worked at the laboratory where the atomic bomb had been developed. Gold claimed Greenglass was even more heavily involved in spying than Fuchs. Upon his arrest, Greenglass readily confessed and then accused his sister and brother-in-law, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, of being the spies who controlled the entire operation. Both Ethel and Julius had strong leftist leanings and had been heavily involved in labor and political issues in the United States during the late-1930s and 1940s. Julius was arrested in July and Ethel in August 1950.

By present-day standards, the trial was remarkably fast. It began on March 6, and the jury had convicted both of conspiracy to commit espionage by March 29. The Rosenbergs were not helped by a defense that many at the time, and since, have labeled incompetent. More harmful, however, was the testimony of Greenglass and Gold. Greenglass declared that Julius Rosenberg had set up a meeting during which Greenglass passed the plans for the atomic bomb to Gold. Gold supported Greenglass’s accusation and admitted that he then passed the plans along to a Soviet agent. This testimony sealed Julius’s fate, and although there was little evidence directly tying Ethel to the crime, prosecutors claimed that she was the brain behind the whole scheme. The jury found both guilty. A few days later, the Rosenbergs were sentenced to death. They were executed on June 19, 1953 in Sing Sing Prison in New York. Both maintained their innocence to the end.

Since the execution, decoded Soviet cables, codenamed VENONA, have supported courtroom testimony that Julius acted as a courier and recruiter for the Soviets, but doubts remain about the level of Ethel’s involvement. The decision to execute the Rosenbergs was, and still is, controversial. The New York Times, in an editorial on the 50th anniversary of the execution (June 19, 2003) wrote, “The Rosenbergs case still haunts American history, reminding us of the injustice that can be done when a nation gets caught up in hysteria.” This hysteria had both an immediate and a lasting effect; many innocent scientists, including some who were virulently anti-communist, were investigated simply for having the last name “Rosenberg.” The other atomic spies who were caught by the FBI offered confessions and were not executed. Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, who supplied documents to Julius from Los Alamos, served 10 years of his 15 year sentence. Harry Gold, who identified Greenglass, served 15 years in Federal prison as the courier for Greenglass and the British scientist, Klaus Fuchs. Morton Sobell, who was tried with the Rosenbergs, served 17 years and 9 months. In 2008, Sobell admitted he was a spy and confirmed Julius Rosenberg was “in a conspiracy that delivered to the Soviets classified military and industrial information and what the American government described as the secret to the atomic bomb.”

Mar 29

Adrienne Rich: Diving Into the Wreck

Biologically, the default body-plan, including humans, is “female,” without which there could be neither males nor females (I consider “selfers,” aka xerox-ers, as inherently female).  And yet, sex obtains, a lot, to the point of hermaphroditism.  Why even have males?  Why halve reproductive success with a male partner?  Halve-sies?  You better have a good mother flipping reason to go “halve-sies,” because “half” is a large cut in pay.  Selfers take the entire reproductive pot.  “Why is there sex?” is a difficult question almost like “why is there air?”  To pump up volley balls! Except “to pump up volley balls” is an evasive, smart-ass response.  The problem of sex is deadly serious, perhaps not unrelated to our problems of empire.

Some say that sex evolved in order to stay one step ahead of the parasites; change the locks on the immune system every generation, and therein lays the value of going halve-sies. That sounds “just so,” but whatever the explanation, the sexes began specializing.  We are all steeped and infused in piping hot myth.

Mar 29

Mandated Health Insurance: Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Can the government force you to eat broccoli or buy a cell phone? Those were some of  the questions asked during the first two of three days of hearings before the US Supreme Court over whether it is constitutional for the government to mandate an individual to buy health care insurance from a private company or face a “penalty” to be collected by the Internal Revenue Serve. Candidate Barack Obama opposed a mandate but changed his mind, including it his “signature” [Affordable Care Act , taking single payer and then the option for a public sponsored insurance off the table. At this point, the majority of the public is opposed to the mandate and about a third want the entire bill scrapped, even though it has a few good provisions such removing pre-existing conditions as a reason to deny coverage and the implementation of lifetime caps on what the insurance company will pay.

Dahlia Lithwick, a senior editor and legal correspondent for Slate, gives her analysis of the first two days:

One thing was clear after the two hour session (pdf) at the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act: The outcome of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement probably rests on the shoulders of two men-Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. Or, to put it differently, everyone else seems to have staked a clear position. [..]

In the beginning, all eyes were on Kennedy who opened his questioning by asking Solicitor General Donald Verrilli to “assume this law is unprecedented.” (Gulp. That isn’t the way Verrilli wanted this to begin.) Both Kennedy and Roberts pressed Verrilli to enunciate a limiting principle on the congressional power asserted here. Or as Kennedy put it, early in the argument: “Can you identify any limits on the commerce clause?” [..]

Kennedy had serious doubts and Verrilli appeared unable to allay them. The odds on a 5-4 vote to strike down the law looked good. Kennedy asked far fewer questions of the challengers, although near the end of the morning he said, in his inimitably oblique style that young people are “uniquely, proximately very close to affecting the rates of insurance and the cost of providing medical care in a way that is not true in other industries.” That may suggest he believes that the health insurance market really is unique in some ways. [..]

My sense is that we saw only a part of what the justices were really thinking today. We heard Roberts and Kennedy expressing doubts about each side of the argument. But we didn’t get to hear them think aloud about what it actually means to strike down a monumental act of congress. We can assume that is weighing on some of the justices, nonetheless. The other thing we didn’t hear much about today was case law. Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out more than once that the justices weren’t there to debate whether or not they liked the bill. But it may be worth counting up the references to forced gym memberships, cellphone purchases, and broccoli mandates, and tallying them up against references to actual court cases. That’s either because the mandate is so unprecedented that precedent doesn’t matter. Or, because precedent just doesn’t matter.

What we do know is that an individual can survive very well without broccoli or a cell phone but at some point that individual will need health care. In another article by Ms. Lithwick she points out that the conservative argument that this is about freedom has a very dark side:

It’s always a bit strange to hear people with government-funded single-payer health plans describe the need for other Americans to be free from health insurance. But after the aggressive battery of questions from the court’s conservatives this morning, it’s clear that we can only be truly free when the young are released from the obligation to subsidize the old and the ailing. [..]

Freedom also seems to mean freedom from the obligation to treat those who show up at hospitals without health insurance, even if it means letting them bleed out on the curb. When Solicitor General Donald Verrilli tries to explain to Justice Scalia that the health care market is unique because “getting health care service … [is] a result of the social norms to which we’ve obligated ourselves so that people get health care.” Scalia’s response is a curt: “Well, don’t obligate yourself to that.” [..]

Freedom is the freedom not to rescue. Justice Kennedy explains “the reason [the individual mandate] is concerning is because it requires the individual to do an affirmative act. In the law of torts, our tradition, our law has been that you don’t have the duty to rescue someone if that person is in danger. [..]

Freedom is to be free from the telephone. [..]

Freedom is the freedom not to join a gym, not to be forced to eat broccoli. It’s the freedom not to be compelled to buy wheat or milk. And it’s the freedom to purchase your health insurance only at the “point of consumption”-i.e., when you’re being medivaced to the ICU (assuming you have the cash). [..]

Some of the members of the court find this notion of freedom troubling. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg notes that: “Congress, in the ’30s, saw a real problem of people needing to have old age and survivor’s insurance. And, yes, they did it through a tax, but they said everybody has got to be in it because if we don’t have the healthy in it, there’s not going to be the money to pay for the ones who become old or disabled or widowed. [..]

Sotomayor, again pondering whether hospitals could simply turn away the uninsured, finally asks: “What percentage of the American people who took their son or daughter to an emergency room and that child was turned away because the parent didn’t have insurance-do you think there’s a large percentage of the American population who would stand for the death of that child if they had an allergic reaction and a simple shot would have saved the child?” {..]

This case isn’t so much about freedom from government-mandated broccoli or gyms. It’s about freedom from our obligations to one another, freedom from the modern world in which we live. It’s about the freedom to ignore the injured, walk away from those in peril, to never pick up the phone or eat food that’s been inspected. It’s about the freedom to be left alone. And now we know the court is worried about freedom: the freedom to live like it’s 1804.

My biggest problem is that forcing people to buy insurance from a private company that does not insure access to care and cost controls or without an inexpensive public option, like buying into Medicare, is just a financial gift to the insurance companies. Without a public option, this bill is a major failure and unlikely to be fixed in the future, as so many Obama supporters claimed, or be replaced if SCOTUS declares the bill unconstitutional.

Mar 29

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning


Etch-a-Sketch

Mar 29

Late Night Karaoke

Mar 29

Late Night Karaoke

Mar 29

My Little Town 20120328: Aunt Bess and Uncle Richard

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

Uncle Richard was my father’s eldest brother.  He was born in 1900, whilst my dad was born in 1919 (and he was NOT the baby).  You can see right away that my grandfather’s family was really spread out over the years.

They lived in Illinois, so I did not see them really often, but they did come to visit enough that I got to know them fairly well.  Uncle Richard was a bit talker and a big drinker, whilst Aunt Bess was quiet and dignified.  My mum really liked Aunt Bess, and they were close as could be in the early 1960s with expensive long distance and no internet.  They communicated mostly by letter, and postage at the time was around 6 cents.