January 05, 2008

When is the last time California lost a House seat and electoral vote?

The most recent analysis of population changes this decade says the Golden State could drop a seat after 2010 reapportionment. Other potential losers include New York and Ohio dropping two seats each.

The big winner? Texas could gain as many as four seats. And, with Hispanic numbers and migrancy from the north, while Texas will surely remain Red-state leaning, it’s not an Oklahoma or Kansas monolith now and will be even less so in the future.

Other projected winners are Florida and Arizona both gaining two seats. The changes would give Florida the same Congressional representation and electoral votes as New York.

Of course, if we’re lucky, as Ed Abbey knew, nature will finally win out over homo sapiens, and millions of recent migrants will be forced to move back out of Arizona, Nevada and maybe even Southern California. And, as last year’s, still ongoing, drought has shows, Georgia leaders shouldn’t get too happy about their state’s rate of population growth either.

Someday, the Ohios of the country will seem more attractive again.

Bush plays Slick Willie with “establish”

The Bush Administration is claiming a law blocking the White House from using any money to “establish” any program to let Mexican trucks in the U.S. doesn’t apply to a “demonstration” program started in September because it was already “established” before the legislation was passed.

Considering the bill passed by veto-proof margins, will Congress actually do anything? Well, enough border-state GOP Congressmen may get scared enough, perhaps.

A court hearing is scheduled Feb. 12 over a lawsuit filed to block the demonstration program. Five bucks says the hearing happens before Congress raises a finger.

Of course, if many of those same Dems hadn't passed NAFTA in the first place ...

January 04, 2008

Another reason why Peak Oil should scare you

What if all the new oil we’re discovering right now doesn’t do much better than 1-1 on energy return for energy invested? The linked piece is long, about 5,000 words, but, short of James Kunstler apocalyptic, something like this should scare you.

The deafening silence of all presidential candidates of both major parties about Peak Oil isn’t staggering (because it doesn’t surprise me), but it is disgusting.

I’ll shortly be doing a more in-depth post about major issues missing from this year’s presidential campaign.

Judge limits Navy sonar use off California

After a previous total ban was rejected at the appellate level, U.S. Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, in a rehearing, put limits on Navy sonar use to protect whales. The Navy has said it will review the decision.

Let’s hope their review accepts the judge’s ruling, or negotiates something close to it, with environmental groups. If the Navy really needs more unfettered use, it can get it elsewhere.

Jared Diamond explains pending resource collapse

The renowned author of “Collapse” and “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” using the “rule of 32,” explains how resource depletion could easily accelerate this century.

With population expected to move to 9 billion people before the end of the century, Diamond explains that if China and India, in particular, get close to Western levels of consumption, from the Western resource depletion point of view, it will actually be the equivalent of 72 billion people on the planet.

Diamond notes that if China and India are less wasteful, they can achieve much without U.S.-level energy guzzling. (Our energy consumption is twice that, per capita, of Western Europe.) At the same time, obviously, we have plenty of work to do on reducing our own consumption levels.

Iowa breakout and New Hampshire portents

Here’s a takedown on CNN’s Iowa breakout, followed by my analysis of what this means for New Hampshire.

First, the Democrats:
Obama won among both men and women. Clinton won among those who rated Pakistan as very important; Obama won the “somewhat importants” and Edwards the “not importants.” Obama took central and eastern Iowa, Clinton the west. The two were about even among Democrats; Obama won crushingly among crossover Republicans and handily among independents. Obama ran better among people making more than $100K than less than that. And, in the less than $100K category, he still ran a little better with those making more than $50K rather than those making less than. Edwards, populist schtick aside, ALSO ran better with the rich set. Only Clinton, of the top three, polled better with lower incomes. Edwards did best with self described conservatives (weird), while Obama won moderates, liberals and very liberals.

For the GOP.:
Huckabee took all Pakistan categories, though Paul challenged him closely on the “not at alls.” Romney won the non-evangelical vote. Huck took those enthusiastic, satisfied or dissatisfied about Bush, while Paul won, with an absolute majority no less, those angry at Bush. Almost no Democrats crossed over; Paul won independents, again with an absolute majority. Romney won the over $100Kers; Huck took the unders, and in all individual income classes under $100K. McCain and Romney tied for the moderates; Huckabee took the somewhat and very conservatives. Romney won among voters considering experience and electability, Huckabee on shared values and straight speaking. Huckabee won those who said religion was very or somewhat important, Romney among the not much or not at all groups. A number of Huckabee’s supporters had decided for him more than a month ago, somewhat belying the “groundswell” theme.

Notes for New Hampshire?

Democrats:
Edwards can stand to finish third, but not with anything less than 20 percent, in my book. If he can’t do that, it shows his Iowa finish was due to nothing other than camping out there. Should Clinton go more negative and paint Obama as the candidate of the rich and non-Democrats, given Iowa? She may have to, in some way, shape or form.

For Obama, winning GOP crossovers and independents means, as stupid as it is, his “nonpartisanness” theme is winning points, and so is the idea of electability. Stay the course.

Biden and Dodd are out. Kucinich was never in, even before getting visited by a UFO.

That leaves Richardson. He has to break 10 percent in New Hampshire or effectively write his candidacy off. And, with Tom Udall already declared for the New Mexico Senate race to replace Domenici, that leaves sitting in the statehouse in Santa Fe, unless he can elbow out Biden to be Secretary of State.

For the GOP:
I think Romney needs to start spinning the “expectations” game in New Hampshire ASAP. Pump up McCain, talk about how both the Concord Montor and Manchester Union Leader have “anti-endorsed” him, etc. That makes second, as long as it’s a close second to McCain, seem OK.

Huckabee, if his staff has any brains, needs to spin expectations as well. It’s unlikely that he’s going to do better than a fairly distant third.

Paul? He needs to beat the bushes for antiwar independents and even crossover Democrats who haven’t seen through him yet, as well as angry, anti-Bush fiscal conservatives. And, if Fox won’t let him debate, campaign against Fox, too, with famously or stereotypically independent New Hampshireites. Given Huckabee’s lack of organization, and the relative lack of the Religious Right in the Granite State, a third-place finish for Paul is not out of the question at all. If he beats out Huckabee, the GOP race threatens to become the bloodbath we’d love.

Thompson? He did break double figures in Iowa. If he can do that again in New Hampshire, maybe he means it about sticking in the race.

Rudy? If you can’t get at least 5 percent here, fold it up.

January 03, 2008

Drug samples don’t help those in need — word to Obama

A new study discloses that free samples by drugmakers almost totally go to those already well off and insured.
Seventy-two percent of those who received a sample had income in excess of 200 percent above poverty level.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says that’s because the poor don’t get most their health care at doctor’s offices.

Duhhh. Of course, PhARMA says nothing about why drug manufacturers aren’t sending more of their samples to clinics in the first place.

Related to matters political, I guess this is another reason I don’t buy Obama’s claim that we can all just “reason together” on healthcare.

If he tries something even close to full national health care with that attitude, this shows just how much Big PhARMA will hand him his head on a platter.

Financial managers smoking crack?

Despite the fact that a recession seems likely this year, financial managers predicted the S&P 500 would finish the year up 8 percent.
Confidence ran high for the S&P in 2008, with 33 percent saying it would gain 8 percent and 23 percent estimating a surge of more than 10 percent. The S&P closed 2007 up about 2.1 percent.

Nice to see that De Nial is a river still flowing strong in today’s financial world.

It’s official: Toyota passes Ford

The Japanese car company is now the U.S. No. 2 seller, behind only GM. With high gas prices looking like they’re back in the picture with $100/bbl oil, look for Toyota’s lead to only widen.

January 02, 2008

Oil hits $100/bbl; you can book a recession

Oil prices crashed through the huge symbolic barrier of $100/bbl today. As a result, the Dow fell below $13,000.

Several notes.

1. With this psychological barrier broken, oil stands a good chance of going up, especially going up a lot this summer.

2. This summer is when mortgage resets on adjustable-rate mortgages are set to peak.

3. Ergo, you can just write the word “recession” in on your summer 2008 calendar. Will political candidates be prepared?

4. Beyond that, the price ceiling breakthrough will open the door for Iran, Venezuela and other anti-American countries at the edge of OPEC to renew their calls for dual denomination of oil prices. The Saudis will continue to resist, worried about how much further the dollar, and all their American investments, will fall. Don’t be surprised if some of these members seriously look at going rogue and trying dual pricing on their own.

5. OK, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, more than ever, has to put up or shut up on claims it can crank out 12-13 million barrels of oil a day. Guess what? They’re going to have to shut up, or else spin. They can’t produce that much.

Oil hits $100/bbl; you can book a recession

Oil prices crashed through the huge symbolic barrier of $100/bbl today. As a result, the Dow fell below $13,000.

Several notes.

1. With this psychological barrier broken, oil stands a good chance of going up, especially going up a lot this summer.

2. This summer is when mortgage resets on adjustable-rate mortgages are set to peak.

3. Ergo, you can just write the word “recession” in on your summer 2008 calendar. Will political candidates be prepared?

4. Beyond that, the price ceiling breakthrough will open the door for Iran, Venezuela and other anti-American countries at the edge of OPEC to renew their calls for dual denomination of oil prices. The Saudis will continue to resist, worried about how much further the dollar, and all their American investments, will fall. Don’t be surprised if some of these members seriously look at going rogue and trying dual pricing on their own.

5. OK, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, more than ever, has to put up or shut up on claims it can crank out 12-13 million barrels of oil a day. Guess what? They’re going to have to shut up, or else spin. They can’t produce that much.

Body heat to produce power in Stockholm

That’s what the central train/subway station and mall complex in Stockholm plans. They’re going to use a passive water system, similar to ground-based heat-circulation water line systems.

McCain shoots himself in the foot with one-term comment

John McCain continues to get plenty of comments about whether, at the age of 71, and 72 should he be elected, he is too old to be president. Well, in New Hampshire, he decided to address the issue head-on by saying he might only serve one term:
“If I said I was running for eight years, I’m not sure that would be a vote getter,” McCain said shortly before leaving New Hampshire for Iowa.

To me, all the Schmuck Talk Express™ has done is draw more attention to his age, not negate it as an issue.

And, I think age is a fair issue. Reagan did seem to tire more in office his second term, and was he having pre-Alzheimer’s issues before he left?

January 01, 2008

Bhutto reportedly had info about Pakistani ISI election sabotage

And now, Musharraf is practicing other “sabotage”

Assassinated Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto reportedly had information Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency was working to rig the Jan. 8 parliamentary election. And, not trusting BushCo, she was going to present this information to Sen. Arlen Spector and Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

The fraud reportedly was to include fake ballots, and U.S. aid money was being funneled to finance the effort.

I don’t doubt something like this, to be honest. Nor do I doubt President Pervez Musharraf knew ISI was up to something. Exactly what he knew, I don’t know.

Now, the assassination itself. My guess is ISI was behind it. The gunman, as I’ve noted before, is not al-Qaeda/Islamist style. At the same time, the way he was able to penetrate so closely to Bhutto suggests someone who had been spying out the campaign, possibly even someone with at least a tenuous “in.” I doubt Musharraf was involved. He probably figured a mix of ballot-stuffing, martial law and post-election browbeating was enough; in short, I don’t think even he would be that stupid. If nothing else, if Bhutto got to be trouble, he could have revived the old corruption charges against her or invented new ones.

Now, that said, how high in ISI might the assassination plot have gone? Given that a brigadier general is reportedly behind the election fraud, I’d say someone about the same rank would have headed operational planning. Higher ranks may have heard something, but only on a “plausible deniability” basis.

At the same time, could Bhutto have done more to protect herself? She talked to U.S. officials about hiring private U.S. or British bodyguards; the U.S. suggested she look at private Pakistani companies with international reputations who already do things like provide embassy service.

This is a toughie. I can understand the U.S. position that even private U.S. guards would have looked like too much direct involvement by the U.S. On the other hand, if ISI did penetrate the security she had when she was killed, they might have penetrated a private Pakistani company, no matter how sterling its reputation.

But, in either case, she never did beef up her security. Perhaps she had a stereotypical Muslim fatalism expressed in one of two classic words: “kismet” or “inshallah.”

Meanwhile, Musharraf has announced he will suspend the election; a “date certain” has not been announced, and may or may not be on Jan. 2.

December 31, 2007

Why Ron Paul is NOT a civil libertarian

Contra claims his followers make, by sponsoring this Congressional bill to keep the Supreme Courf from adjudicating state cases on abortion, First Amendment issues, sexual orientation, privacy rights, etc., Paul has shown he’s really a states-rights paleoconservative dressed up in libertarian drag.

And, yes, taking Glenn Greenwald at his word that he’s not supporting Paul’s campaign, why couldn’t he hold up Dodd and especially Kucinich more, and Paul less, even if they’re getting less MSM publicity, as legitimately injecting discussion about American imperialism into the presidential campaign, especially since they’re Democrats and we know no Republican is going to retreat from American imperialism?

I think Glenn’s been great on civil liberties issues, as well as American imperialism issues, the past few years, but, beyond that, to the degree he’s talked about other policy issues, I pretty much disagree with most of his stances.

Let’s remember Greenwald is ultimately a libertarian, and so on fiscal, regulatory, socioeconomic and other issues, he is NOT going to be a progressive.

In the latest ‘shock me’ news from Pakistan

First, it’s alleged that Rawalpindi’s police chief, and not Benazir Bhutto’s husband, blocked an autopsy into the exact cause of her death. And, in the totally unsurprising, President Pervez Musharraf sounds like he’s going to (indefinitely?) delay the Jan. 8 parliamentary election.

So, will Bush/Condi Rice actually do something beyond hand-wringing, like cut aid to Pakistan, or something even more serious, like a mild, but visible, set of limited sanctions against the country, up to working behind the scenes to encourage Musharraf to resign?

This is doubly true now that Britain’s Channel 4 has aired video footage clearly showing Bhutto being shot before the explosion. Gun-wieldng hitman are definitely not the mark of al-Qaeda; I would guess the same to be true of Islamist groups inside Pakistan.

That, the blocked autopsy, (her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, has said the family was against exhumation because it did not trust the government) and the refusal to use international help to investigate, all point to some degree of Pakistani government connection, if not outright collaboration. Simple hand-wringing just won’t cut it.

Meanwhile, political opponents inside Pakistan, and not just Nawaz Sharif, are calling for Musharraf to step down and be replaced by a national unity government. In U.S. politics, its interesting that this was the position adopted by Bill Richardson, then some other “second-tier” Democratic presidential candidates; however, none of the Democratic “big three,” nor any Republicans, have taken up that position.

From where I stand, the tepid response of the Democratic “big three” is yet another reason to question just how much newness they bring to foreign policy, and another reason to not vote for them.

Bloomberg run: Would it hurt Dems or GOP more?

It looks more and more likely New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will run for president. So, as I rhetorically asked about the “Mitt Romney” Christmas card a couple of days ago, cui bono?

I think which party benefits depends on the candidates, though, given Bloomberg’s stance on most social issues, he seems more likely to take actual or potential Democratic/Democratic-leaning independent votes than GOP ones.

If Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, even if her “divisiveness/Clinton history” negativity is overrated, it’s not non-existent, either. I think Bloomberg takes a heavy cut into her vote.

Edwards would probably be hit second-hardest, and Obama the least hard of the top three Democratic candidates.

On the GOP side, it would be hit hardest if Huckabee is nominated. Given that the non-Mayberry conservative hardcorers are already piling on Huck in National Review and elsewhere, some of them will see Bloomberg as solid enough fiscally to jump ship.

I think Romney and Giuliani are hit somewhat, and that McCain, rightly or wrongly seen as a “straight shooter,” gets hit the least.

Meanwhile, former Missouri Senator John Danforth summed up where many more moderate GOPers feel:
Danforth said he remains a Republican but finds little cause for optimism among the current GOP candidates. "My party is appealing to a real meanness," he said in an interview, "and an irresponsible sense of machismo in foreign policy. I hope it will be less extreme, but I'm an American before I'm a Republican." Danforth has also written critically about the impact of religious conservatives on the Republican Party.

Yes, John, but did you pull the lever for Shrub in 2004, or at least stay home if nothing else? And, let’s not forget that you’re the senator who foisted Clarence Thomas on us. Even if you couldn’t have seen everything about him in advance, the man showed his intellectual dishonesty in advance of his confirmation by essentially denying he’d ever been helped by affirmative action.

In addition, as Steve Benen points out at Washington Monthly, in comparing Unity ’08 to most Democratic candidates, at least, the movement’s focus on “bipartisanship” is a problem in search of a solution, as Obama, Edwards and Richardson have all pledged to have Republicans in their cabinets. (Whether such a pledge is a good idea, and whether “bipartisanship” is such a good idea, is another question entirely.

Update: Per Glenn Greenwald, the simplest characterization of Bloomberg is either as Rudy Giuliani with much more money, or a kinder, gentler, neoconservative.

That second characterization is especially apt.

Bloomberg gave blank-check support to the invasion of Iraq, on that issue, and, as far as being in the Israel lobby’s corner, gave blank-check support to Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon.