March 29, 2008

Ten items to change the world? I think not

The new issue of Time touts what it claims as 10 items to change the world’s future.

Color me skeptical.

First, the list in general sounds like kinder, gentler American exceptionalism in some ways.

Second, some, like the “new austerity,” have been heralded, prophesized or dreaded in print for 20 years or more, as Time itself knows. Thank St. Alan of Greenspan for “bubbling” off that new austerity to the next generation, and expect Americans to keep trying that for as long as they can.

Third, most people will NOT be doing handstands over the elimination of customer service, item No. 2 on the list. Self-serve grocery checkouts offer an example. We didn’t get a discount when stores went to this; instead, Kroger, et al, just pocketed more money. At the same time, the kiosks don’t always work perfectly.

As far as phone-based customer service, what, are we going to work entirely with computer voice-activated programs over the telephone, or keystrokes online?

And, some are just over-hyped, such as “Re-Judaizing Jesus,” which isn’t a “future” thing at all, but simply the latest evolution of a hermeneutic that is more than 30 years old.

As far as this one actually changing anything, fuhgeddaboudit. Christian Righters still cozy up to Israel just because they believe in a literal millennium, Jews have not suddenly cozied up to Jesus, and Muslim fundamentalism has been on the rise.

Joe Conason too nice to Hillary over Scaife

Contrary to Conason’s take in Salon, political necessity didn’t force Hillary Clinton to meet personally with Dick Scaife, even if she felt she had to drop by his newspaper, the Pittsburgh Press-Tribune.

Joe, we haven’t seen pictures of Barack Obama with Dick Scaife, have we? Whether or not he drops in on the PPT. And, it’s arguable that, because of the particular angle the PPT takes on the op-ed page, Clinton didn’t need to visit there at all, unless she’s pandering for votes of Republicans changing their registration.

What next, Joe? Especially if there’s a pre-convention gridlock, is she supposed to drop in on the Washington Times and visit the Revvvvv. Moon in person?

I think Steve Martin has enough to worry about in Duncanville

Without trying to inform Lancaster residents as to which of the three mayoral candidates would be best for bringing “sweeping change” to that city.

(And, he’s wrong on Morris Mosley.)

Obama blew it on Edwards endorsement

So says New York’s John Heilemann, and explains why Barack Obama hasn’t gotten a John Edwards endorsement.
Two months have passed since Edwards dropped out and still no endorsement. Why? According to a Democratic strategist unaligned with any campaign but with knowledge of the situation gleaned from all three camps, the answer is simple: Obama blew it.

Speaking to Edwards on the day he exited the race, Obama came across as glib and aloof. His response to Edwards’s imprecations that he make poverty a central part of his agenda was shallow, perfunctory, pat.

Clinton, by contrast, engaged Edwards in a lengthy policy discussion. Her affect was solicitous and respectful. When Clinton met Edwards face-to-face in North Carolina ten days later, her approach continued to impress; she even made headway with Elizabeth.

Whereas in his Edwards sit-down, Obama dug himself in deeper, getting into a fight with Elizabeth about health care, insisting that his plan is universal (a position she considers a crock), high-handedly criticizing Clinton’s plan (and by extension Edwards’s) for its insurance mandate.

Heilemann (and Joe Klein, who linked him in Time) say this shows Obama may be still a work in progress as a politician.

Heilemann also says the continued “vetting” Obama is getting by the race still continuing is doing him more harm than good. Certainly, it’s arguable that, if he learns from what he did wrong with Edwards, that will do him good.

If he doesn’t …

Addington behind Bush gambit on Vienna Convention

As Time notes, both anti-U.N. type right-wingers and internationalists alike were baffled earlier this week over the Bush Administration arguing against the state of Texas that a Mexican national convicted of murder should get a new trial because, contrary to the 1967 Vienna Convention, he never had a chance to be aided by Mexican consular officials.

But, Vice President Dick Cheney’s legal counsel, David Addington, appears to have been behind this political chess playing:
Back in 1969, the U.S. had joined the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, part of which requires countries to give arrested foreigners access to consular officials. … The Administration renounced that part of the treaty after the ICJ ruled Medellin should get a retrial. (The U.S. still abides by the parts of the Treaty governing immunity for embassy officials and sovereignty of embassy buildings.) Yet Bush told Texas to retry Medellin anyway — since the ICJ ruling came before the U.S. backed away from the treaty. In essence it was a double power grab: Bush wanted the right to unilaterally leave a treaty — and still order state courts to comply with obligations while the treaty was in effect.

The Supreme Court said treaty implementation details were up to Congress. That, on the other hand ignores the clear language of the Constitution that a treaty, when approved by the Senate and signed by the president, becomes part of the “supreme law of the land.”
Most treaties, the Court ruled, don't automatically apply domestically unless the full Congress passes a separate law specifying how and when the treaty should be implemented. … Law professor Marty Lederman of Georgetown University, writing on the widely read Scotusblog after the decision was handed down, called the majority opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts "an implausible interpretation" that was "potentially very troubling for construction of treaty obligations going forward." He worried that by letting states ignore treaties unless Congress ordered them to abide by them, the Supreme Court had opened the door for chaos in compliance with all international law.

Of course, that then gets into knotty issues of treaties versus “executive agreements,” which need the approval of both houses of Congress, but only by simple majorities — and are nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. (That, in essence, is how John Tyler did an end run around the Constitution when leaving office in 1845 and got an independent Republic of Texas admitted to the Union without a formal treaty.)

As Time notes, most countries approve formal treaties in that fashion, just like other legislation. Time tries to put a silver lining on the issue, arguing we may move in such a direction, perhaps through enabling legislation being attached to treaties. But, whether that itself would require constitutional amending or not is unclear.

Regular readers here should not be surprised to know my thought that, if this is something that would require a constitutional amendment, by changing the powers of the Senate, it would be the perfect time to do that as part of broader changes giving us a more parliamentary government.

Wal-Mart hits new low in hardheartedness

Eight years ago, Debbie Shank was in a traffic accident that took away much of her memory. And here’s where Wally-World exceeds its previous reputation for evilness.

Suing a brain-damaged former employee for money back out of her health plan after she recovered money from a lawsuit against the trucking company that caused the accident is beyond dhe ordinary callousness.
Eight years ago, Shank was stocking shelves for the retail giant and signed up for Wal-Mart’s health and benefits plan.

Two years after the accident, Shank and her husband, Jim, were awarded about $1 million in a lawsuit against the trucking company involved in the crash. After legal fees were paid, $417,000 was placed in a trust to pay for Debbie Shank's long-term care.

Wal-Mart had paid out about $470,000 for Shank’s medical expenses, but in 2005, Wal-Mart’s health plan sued the Shanks for the same amount.

Yes, corporate rules allow it.

But, that doesn’t make it right.

And, the three-year delay makes it ginormously callous. That's the thing that stuck out the most:
The family's attorney, Maurice Graham, said he informed Wal-Mart about the settlement and believed the Shanks would be allowed to keep the money.

"We assumed after three years, they [Wal-Mart] had made a decision to let Debbie Shank use this money for what it was intended to," Graham said.

Wait! I am shocked!

Did Wally-World not sue for three years of interest as well? They must be falling down on the job.

Update: Keith Olbermann is now going after Wally-World on this. Video here, as it looks like Wally-World may shoot past Bill O’Lielly to the top of his Worst Person list.

Earth Hour 2008 tonight – don’t forget

Remember when the Sidney Opera House turned off its lights last year? Well, they just got done doing it again this year, to start off the worldwide effort for Earth Hour 2008. WWF and other groups want to make that global this year and get you to turn off your lights from 8-9 p.m. local time March 29. More information here. And WWF has a 10-point list of things to do to make sure Earth Hour is more than just a one-hour “event”:
1. Host a Green Party
Get your friends together for an Earth Hour eco-party. Fire up the flashlights and battery lanterns, serve organic food, avoid the disposable utensils, use natural décor (like flowers and hanging plants) and have a friend provide acoustic music. Talk to your guests about how you’re each reducing your environmental footprint and share ideas and solutions for saving more energy, money and carbon dioxide.

2. Give Yourself an Energy Makeover
Use Earth Hour to make your home more energy efficient: Replace your old light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs; install power strips (so you can turn computers and electronics on and off more easily); and change your air conditioner filters. Or go one step farther and install one new energy-efficient item, like an EnergyStar qualified DVD player. And on Monday, call your local utility and sign up for green power-like wind, hydro or solar. (Except here in North Texas, where you support the truly hard-core “winger” Wyly brothers if you buy electricity from Green Mountain instead of looking at “green” electricity from another provider.)

3. Go Green with Your Kids
Earth Hour is a perfect time to talk to your kids about the environment and why we need to protect our planet from the dangers of climate change. Check out books on the environment from the library and read by flashlight, or head into the yard and have a night picnic. Or how about a night of board games?

4. Do a Recyclables Scavenger Hunt
Get your flashlights and scour your cabinets and shelves for cans, bottles and cardboard (like cereal boxes) that you don't normally recycle. Make a list of all the non-recyclable containers you’re using now (like plastic shopping bags and butter tubs), and figure out ways to reduce your consumption of items that end up in landfills. One easy tip: get reusable grocery bags... and reuse them!

5. Green That Workspace!
Working the night shift? Even if you can’t turn off all the lights at work, look around and see what you can unplug, turn down or use less of (like consuming less paper by printing double-sided). Every day millions of computer screens and speakers are left on overnight — shut ’em off! And talk to your coworkers about what they can do to help make a difference, too.

6. Involve Your Local Leaders
If your city or town isn’t hosting an Earth Hour event, ask your local government to set up a community “green” discussion this spring. Help organize attendance by reaching out to local environmental and community groups, and come prepared to ask your leaders what they’re doing to make your city greener.

7. Clean Up Your Neighborhood
Grab a flashlight and take a long walk through your neighborhood, picking up trash and recyclables as you go. It’s a great chance to do some stargazing, too!

8. Unplug and Chill Out
Most of our daily activities — like watching TV, shopping online and texting friends — require loads of electricity, but do we really need to do so much stuff all the time? Take one hour for yourself to just chill... turn off the screens, put down the handheld devices and just take some “you” time to reflect, read or talk to your family.

9. Take Your Temperature
Your thermostat and your refrigerator are responsible for a huge portion of your carbon footprint. If you lower your thermostat by just 2 degrees and set your fridge to 37 degrees F. and the freezer at 0 degrees F., you’ll make a big difference.

10. Make a Pledge for the Planet
Earth Hour shouldn't end at 9:01 p.m. — it’s a chance to take a first step toward lowering your overall impact on the environment. So use part of that hour to make a personal pledge to do more — recycle, drive less often, turn off or unplug electronics, and beyond.

There you go.

And, note that National Dark Sky Week follows up on Earth Hour, running March 29-April 4.

Note to Best Southwest Chamber – invite a Democrat to lunch

In the seven-plus years I’ve worked at two newspapers in the southern Dallas suburbs that make up the Best Southwest, I don’t think the Best Southwest Chamber of Commerce has yet invited a Democrat to speak at one of its quarterly luncheons when a politician has been the speaker. Maj. Gen. Kathryn Frost, former director of AAFES and wife of former Congressman Martin Frost, was the closest it has come.

Both U.S. Senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, have spoken. But, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson hasn’t. Neither did Martin Frost before he was redistricted out of a job.

In 2006, independent gubernatorial candidates Carole Keeton Strayhorn (when she was still a Republican) and Kinky Friedman spoke. Democrat Chris Bell didn’t.

Are you seeing the pattern yet? I am, and I don’t really like it.

Hillary antics in Texas to disenfranchise caucus delegates …

Or so it would seem.

Somebody is calling the caucus-selected portion of Texas Democratic presidential delegates selected at the local level March 4 and telling them their county or state senate-level caucuses have been canceled.

Well, there’s only one person who would benefit from such robocalls.

Hillary, a variation on the old “put down the shovel and stop digging the hole deeper” cliché, I suggest you …

“put down the gun and stop shooting yourself in the foot.”

March 28, 2008

Take THAT again Mr Mac Cool Guy

Yesterday, a MacBook was hacked before a Sony Vaio with Windows Vista and a Fujitsu U810 running Linux.

Today? Black Hat says Apple is slower than Microslob at patching exposed security issues:
Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology looked at how many times over the past six years the two vendors were able to have a patch available on the day a vulnerability became publicly known, which they call the 0-day patch rate.

They analyzed 658 vulnerabilities affecting Microsoft products and 738 affecting Apple. They looked at only high- and medium-risk bugs, according to the classification used by the National Vulnerability Database, said Stefan Frei, one of the researchers involved in the study.

What they found is that, contrary to popular belief that Apple makes more secure products, Apple lags behind in patching.

Researchers say Apple doesn’t have as good a relationship with the computer security industry, and that’s a large part of why it’s behind.
The study proved to be such a glowing affirmation of Microsoft’s increased focus on security in the past few years that it prompted … Andrew Cushman, director of Microsoft’s Security and Research … to ask Frei, “Did Microsoft fund this research?”

Nope, it’s independent research, he said, that just happens to show Microslob is far ahead of Apple on this issue.

And, why is that?

Well, if you read between the lines of the story, it’s clearly due to Apple arrogance.

At the same time, Microsoft desperately needs to build some marketing and PR, based on these findings and many other things. In the past four years, its branding reputation has slipped dramatically.

In fact, and ironically, the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials are cited by analysts as part of the reason for that decline. The irony value is because the Cool Mac Guy claims he doesn’t get viruses. Yes, hacking is not the same as viruses, nonetheless, they’re in the same general realm of computer security issues.

I wonder if Microslob can hire the two actors for their own commercials, if Mac doesn’t have them locked up. The PC Guy, John Hodgman, would be alone on screen, then start checking his watch. Then, he would go looking for the Mac Guy, Justin Long, only to find him wailing over a punked, hacked computer.

Long won’t be in new Mac ads because he struck people as a “smug little twit,” per Seth Stevenson, ad critic for Slate, who said Long is:
“Just the sort of unshaven, hoodie-wearing, hands-in-pockets hipster we’ve always imagined when picturing a Mac enthusiast.... It’s like Apple is parodying its own image while also cementing it.”

And, it looks like the hacking results will further cement Apple’s image.

American Indians walk again 30 years later for their rights

Long after 1978’s Longest Walk brought American Indian issues onto the public radar screen, veterans of the original walk, including Dennis Banks are at it again (e-mail subscription link):
The 2008 walk, which began Feb. 11, is “a cry out to all native people for unity and solidarity,” according to Jimbo Simmons, a Choctaw. It’s split into two different routes. Simmons is leading the northern one, which follows the same trail used by the walkers 30 years ago. And American Indian Movement co-founder Dennis Banks, now in his 70s, is leading the southern route, which passes through Indian land. Both Simmons and Banks are veterans of the original walk.

“Nothing’s changed,” Simmons says. “There’s still a systematic violation of human and natural rights.”

People on the southern route take a rest on the lower Colorado River:

The area has sites sacred to various lower river tribes.
Despite the passage of the Religious Freedom Act, Simmons says threats to Indian sacred sites have intensified. He mentions 15 sites that are threatened or already compromised: Mount Shasta in California, for example, where tribes and environmentalists are fighting geothermal development, and Bear Butte in South Dakota, where bikers, chainsaws and a shooting range have desecrated Lakota sacred areas. At Yucca Mountain in Nevada, sacred to Shoshone and Paiute people, tribes have played a prominent part in protesting a long-planned nuclear waste dump.

There’s also a continued economic exploitation of various tribes, as this story makes clear.

The walks will end at the Capitol in July; from there, Banks will draft a manifesto to Congress based on comments and input from various tribes he meets on his walk and in Washington, D.C.

But, we shoudn’t lump all tribes under the generic “Native American” or “American Indian” anymore than we should all African-Americans, let alone sub-Saharan African descendants who moved here from the Caribbean, or as free persons from Africa in recent years.

For example, at least one tribe WANTS to store nuclear waste, if the dollars are there. (That said, “official” tribal governments were usually installed from above, i.e., at the behest of the Department of the Interior, and aren’t always seen as totally representative of tribal people as a whole>

And of course, especially with the rise of the New Age Movement since 1978, there’s a flip side or two. For example, on this recreated walk, only about one-quarter of the walkers are American Indians. Others have interest in Native American issues as they are, and some are probably, as is the case with New Agers in the Southwest, fusing or shoehorning real Native American beliefs into their own metaphysical schemas:
Another fourth are dread-locked or tie-dyed activists and the rest come from everywhere else, including as far off as Germany or Australia.

There is a large group of Japanese with three-month visas who flew in to the starting point, including a Buddhist woman with a shaved head and a Polish man who once wrote an article for a magazine about the sacred sites he saw for the first time on Friday.

Takuya Sasa, 28, flew in from Tokyo, where he works as a shoemaker. He came along on the trip because he wanted to see America by foot, and because he once had a great experience with American Indians in South Dakota. Every time he thinks of them, he says, it touches his heart and gives him the same sensation he gets at a Japanese temple.

The flip side of this flip side is that activists in foreign countries have been an important part of holding U.S. elected officials’ feet to the fire since 1978.

Personally, I know one major issue is for the Department of the Interior to stop stonewalling on the multibillion lawsuit filed against it for squandering Indian allotment money.

That, too, is something that will ultimately get put off until the next presidential administration. But, that too, like many other things that got worse under George W. Bush, has its roots in the Clinton Administration.

Newspaper ad drop reflects recession ahead?

Newspaper ad rates dropped almost 10 percent in 2007. The decline, in percentage, was the biggest since the Newspaper Association of American started tracking ad sales stats in 1950.
National print advertising revenue dropped 6.7 percent to $7 billion last year. Retail slipped 5 percent to $21 billion. Classified plunged 16.5 percent to $14.1 billion.

That last number, the anchor bringing the total print advertising drop to 9.4 percent, shows the effects of Craigslist, which continues to try to be like a newspaper classified advertising website when it suits its purposes, but then claims it isn’t one when it wants to avoid federal fair housing law. (Click the Craigslist label for more.)

Meanwhile, online ad revenue, while continuing to grow, had its rate of growth slow last year. Some of that is natural. Between all of the above, online ad revenue now makes up 7.5 percent of total newspaper ad revenue.

Nader says how he could drop back out of Prez run

Ralph Nader says he offered John Kerry a list of 20 consumer protection ideas in 2004 and promised to drop out of the race if Kerry would publicly support three of them. And, Nader says, that never happened. (Judging from the deafening silence on a LOT of issues by the Kerry campaign, I have no reason to doubt Nader on this.)

Well, Nader has made the same offer to whomever wins this year’s Democratic nomination. We’ll see if it’s taken up.

That said, I’m assuming that, as in 2004, Nader will NOT get the official Green Party nomination, and so would have few votes to deliver to Obama or Clinton. And, at this point in the political reincarnation of Harold Stassen, you have to take anything Nader says with some grain of salt.

Take THAT Mr Cool Mac Guy beat by a PC

Looks like Steve Jobs is going to have to reshoot a whole freaking bunch of Mac commercials after a Mac was hacked before a PC at a hackers’ contest:
It may be the quickest $10,000 Charlie Miller ever earned.

He took the first of three laptop computers — and a $10,000 cash prize — Thursday after breaking into a MacBook Air at the CanSecWest security conference's PWN 2 OWN hacking contest.

Show organizers offered a Sony Vaio, Fujitsu U810 and the MacBook as prizes, saying that they could be won by anybody at the show who could find a way to hack into each of them and read the contents of a file on the system, using a previously undisclosed "0day" attack.

Nobody was able to hack into the systems on the first day of the contest when contestants were only allowed to attack the computers over the network, but on Thursday the rules were relaxed so that attackers could direct contest organizers using the computers to do things like visit Web sites or open e-mail messages.

The contest rules allowed Miller and others only to attack computers based on pre-installed software, so the flaw is in vertically integrated Mac software.

This is soooooo fricking funny. I’m waiting to get flamed by Mac worshipers.

Peak Oil may abate worst of global warming

And, that word comes from nobody less than James Hansen. Here’s the bottom line:
If conventional oil production peaks within the next few decades, it may have a large effect on future atmospheric CO2 and climate change, depending upon subsequent energy choices. Assuming that proven oil and gas reserves do not greatly exceed estimates of the Energy Information Administration, and recent trends are toward lower estimates, we show that it is feasible to keep atmospheric CO2 from exceeding about 450 ppm by 2100, provided that emissions from coal, unconventional fossil fuels, and land use are constrained. Coal-fired power plants without sequestration must be phased out before mid-century to achieve this CO2 limit.

Note that Hansen says this is with constraints on coal, and CO2 sequestration from coal-fired power plants.

There’s more discussion on how this paper (PDF of full paper available at the webpage above with the html summary) impacts Peak Oil “vs.” global warming at Open the Future, which has more analysis of what Jamais Cascio calls “King Kong vs. Godzilla.”

That includes this helpful graph of different Peak Oil scenarios Hansen projects:

Cascio ends with a few caveats about reading too much into Hanson and P.A. Karechia’s paper:
Unfortunately, I have a feeling that more than a few global warming-focused activists will see this report — despite coming from Hansen — as an attempt to reduce the urgency of the need to deal with anthrogenic carbon emissions.

What this report tells us, however, is that we can't simply focus on one crisis — no matter how large and looming — without taking into consideration the other key drivers of change. The onset of peak oil will alter how we deal with climate disruption, rendering climate strategies that don’t take peak oil into account of limited value. Similarly, the fact of global warming must shape how our economies deal with a permanent oil crunch.

Well, there are silver linings. Dick Cheney’s Big Oil greed wing of Republicanism, along with Big Oil itself and its fellow travelers like Daniel Yergin and Cambridge Energy Research Associates refuse to even admit the slightest possibility that Peak Oil could be here in 15 years, let alone right about now.

So, the White House (which doesn’t read scientific white papers anyway) won’t be using this as an excuse, beyond the excuses it already proffers) to do nothing about global warming.

The audacity of lying – Obama and the Wright stuff

After being a member of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ for more than 20 years, after having listened to audiotapes of Wright when at Harvard Law, having sought out Wright and his church when he moved to Chicago, Barack Obama has the audacity of something besides hope to tell this whopper:
“Had the reverend not retired, and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country, for all its flaws, then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying at the church,” Obama said Thursday during a taping of the ABC talk show, “The View.” The interview will be broadcast Friday.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

I actually agree with a fair amount of Wright’s non-race driven, and non-AIDS, comments. Our foreign policy has brought a lot of our issues on ourselves. (That’s not to say we “deserved” anything.)

But, you can find those comments among certain libertarians, including ones not racist unlike Ron Paul, and you can find them among plenty of left-liberals like me.

I actually don’t see anything to apologize for there.

But, on some of the other stuff, it is offensive. And, no, Sen. Obama, this didn’t just come up overnight, and you know it. And, your tax returns show you made enough contributions to Trinity to be more than just an occasional, uninvolved member.

I guess, with polls showing a favorable take by the public on his speech last week, but a significant minority still having questions, Shtick Talk Express™ decided he hadn’t yet said enough on the issue.

Maliki forces being routed by Mahdi

In both Basra and Baghdad, the BushCo myth of “Iraqis standing up” is showing itself to be amongst the more vapid of his long list of brainlocked ideas. In battles between the Iraqi army militia of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and elements of the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, government forces are turning tail and running.

Some government forces have defected. The Basra police chief was almost assassinated. In Baghdad, Mahdi forces simply took over neighborhoods by ordering police to leave their checkpoints, which many of them did.
One witness saw Iraqi Shia policemen rip off their uniform shirts and run for shelter with local Sunni neighbourhood patrols, most of them made up of former insurgents wooed by the US military into fighting al-Qaeda.

Other southern Iraq cities besides Basra, like Kut, are starting to fall under Mahdi control.

It’s no wonder that retiring Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel called President bush’s latest detached from reality speech on Iraq “another episode of ‘Alice in Wonderland’” (with video clip).

Good news for Obama and more Hillary foreign travel scrutiny

First, Barack Obama just scored a timely endorsement from Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey. As the story notes, it could especially help Obama among Catholics and working-class white voters in the Keystone State.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s attempts to be Rick Steves continue to blow up in her face, this time with more flack over trips to Belfast:
Her critics point to an empty, wind-swept Belfast park — which Clinton a decade ago proclaimed would become Northern Ireland's first Catholic-Protestant playground — as evidence that her contribution as peacemaker was more symbolic than substantive.

“She was in charge of christening this wee corner (of the park) as some kind of peace playground. It never made any sense then, and there’s nothing there today,” said Brian Feeney, a Belfast political analyst, author and teacher. “Everything she did was for the optics.”

Critics say the playground-that-never-was illustrates the wider lack of accomplishment from Clinton’s half-dozen visits to Northern Ireland — that they emphasized speechmaking, chiefly to women's groups, leaving no lasting mark.

And, you know, Pennsylvania’s Irish vote, perhaps including Catholics with last names like Casey, isn’t insignificant, either.

Diesel hits truckers hard

Fuel costs, possibly for the first time ever, or at least the first time since 1979-80 are a bigger part of trucking companies’ overhead than labor is.

Con-Way Freight lowered its’ trucks governors from 65 mph to 62. Now, many companies are calling for a national 65 mph speed limit, in large part for the safety of not having faster cars dart around slower trucks.
Last week, the American Trucking Associations also renewed its call for a federal regulation that would require that newly manufactured trucks have electronic speed limiters installed that can be set no higher than 68 mph. No problem for the big trucking companies, most of which already are slowing down. (Clayton Boyce, spokesman for ATA, says 77 percent of the ATA's member companies have electronic speed limiters set at 68 mph.) But expect resistance from smaller, independent trucking owner-operators.

I disagree. You want governors at that speed limit, come to agreements with manufacturers.

Spanish economy as credit-sickly as US?

A Fistful of Euros notes Spain has many of the same credit- and mortgage-related problems as America does.

And, interestingly, it looks like the European Central Bank may be willing to play a “pawnbroker” role similar to the Federal Reserve. Read the whole post for more.

It’s long and somewhat economically wonky, but very interesting.

And, I’m sure that Germans who feared the loss of bank independence when the Bundesbank was superceded by the ECB are tearing their hair out at the possibilities.

March 27, 2008

Hillary IS ‘the vast right-wing conspiracy’

The hook-up between Hillary Clinton and Dick Scaife, beyond her latest Rev. Jeremiah Wright comments, is provoking a whole bunch of additional thought in my mind. And yes, “hook-up” is deliberately chosen.

Clinton, of course, said, in a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the paper owned by the billionaire financier of the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” Rev. Jeremiah Wright would “would not have been my pastor” if she were a member at Barack Obama’s home church and Wright said some of the things attributed to him.

The comment was interesting enough, but the organ for it was the big thing.

And, it wasn’t just talking with PTR staff, it was talking with the oozing billionaire conspiracy leper himself:

And, for further viewing pleasure, Raw Story has video of this wondrous meet-up, or hook-up, or whatever.

This was the billionaire thorn in Bill and Hillary’s side from early in the days of their administration. This is the man who called Vince Foster’s death the “Rosetta stone” for his conspiracy theories. This is the many who funded the American Spectator to investigate the pseudo-issue of “Troopergate.”

I know politicians in general stereotypically have few principles.

But, this is at a whole different level of infinity, to deliberately get in bed with one of the ringleaders in the effort to try to destroy your husband’s presidency.

And, who initiated this meeting — Scaife or Clinton?

That’s not the only question this tête-à-tête brings to mind. Another, related one, comes up.

The second is the old Latin cui bono? Hillary’s getting something out of this, but what?

At the least, it’s a greater degree of cred with the GOPers changing their registration in Pennsylvania as we speak.

Is it more?

We know her campaign is way short on money compared to Obama. Is Scaife rounding up dinero from some wingers?

As far as the registration changes, is he organizing drives to do that?

There’s a lot here that still isn’t answered. But, knowing the history of the Clintons, while Hillary was easy with Scaife, she sure wasn’t cheap. (That’s better than saying “fellating,” right?)

As for Scaife, he gets to play kingmaker, distract his mind from his nasty divorce, and pretend that he’s getting his conscience assuaged.

Hypocrisy alert – Pope Benedict and Vatican

You can’t have a highly-publicized Easter weekend baptism and then expect you can magically distance yourself from your convert’s comments. If you were worried about that, you should have let Islamic convert Magdi Allam be baptized in Milan.

Allam, after the baptism, came out with this tidbit of in-your-face on Islam:
Explaining his decision to become a Christian, Allam wrote in Sunday's edition of daily Corriere della Sera, where he is deputy editor: “The root of evil is innate in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictual.”

The Vatican then said, in essence, he’s our superstar, but pay no attention to him anyway:
“(Allam) has the right to express his own ideas,” chief Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

“They remain his personal opinions without in any way becoming the official expression of the positions of the Pope or the Holy See.”

Uhh, sure.

For more posts like this, see my Hyporcrisy alert tag.

USDA says trust us on meat

The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to limit meat recall information except when it determines there is a serious health risk.

There are so many things wrong with this.

First is that it would let USDA protect big slaughterhouses by making its own determination of what a level of health risk actually is.

Second, this could be just a step away from USDA shielding those slaughterhouses from liability suits.

Third, it lets the USDA hide itself from criticism as to how badly it may be doing at various steps of its meat inspection process. In other words, if it’s missing a lot of stuff at the slaughterhouse level, and it is allowed to limit its recall information to not tell what stores are selling bad meat, it comes off smelling like a relative rose.

As for recent past history, here’s where the rubber would hit the road:
Had that been the rule in place last month, consumers would not have been told if their supermarkets sold meat from a Southern California slaughterhouse that triggered the biggest beef recall in U.S. history.

The story notes that currently, USDA only discloses a recall itself, not where the meat was sold.
Partly for competitive reasons, industry groups support the way recalls are currently done, where a description of the recalled product is released by the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service along with some other information including where it was produced.

Retailers must remove recalled meat from their shelves but there’s no requirement that they notify their customers about meat already sold, though some take voluntary steps to do so.

But, packaged hamburger, other than a story label, doesn’t have a brand name like Del Monte or whatever. It’s hard for buyers to know if their meat is bad or not.

USDA is now trying to spell its name as CYA.

Update, added from comments by me:
I beg to differ.

First, yes, it's clear it’s a proposed rule change.

BUT, the purpose of blogs, activists, etc., is to ALERT people to proposed rule changes, before the horses are out of the barn.

I think the meatpacking industry “concern” there is disingenuous.

Second, and to correct what I originally posted and in comments, yes, I did say this would let them not tell how many pounds of meat are recalled. However, that is not to say that isn’t coming down the pike. As it is, with minimal inspection, I would not trust current USDA numbers on the pounds of meat it does list in a recall.

The “secrecy” factor is, IMO, a de facto idea that USDA would be deciding what an imminent health risk is, or not.

Without knowing all the retail stores bad meat went to, we have no way of knowing how many people got sick on the bad meat.

Of course, the “secrecy” factor is par for the course on BushCo.

As for what additional information the public will get, I’m all ears, if you want to post that info, and a link, here.

Maliki-Mahdi fight affects oil prices – $120/bbl next

An oil pipeline in the Basra area was attacked and damaged as part of battles between the Iraqi army militia of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Mahdi Army of cleric-in-training Moqtada al-Sadr.

Oil prices hit $107/bbl today after the attack reduced Iraqi oil output almost 25 percent, from 1.56 million barrels per day to 1.2 million
“We’re going to be getting less oil because of the explosion,” said James Cordier, founder of, a Tampa, Fla., trading firm.

For traders, the big factor is that Iraqi oil supplies were cut by a deliberate act of terrorism, Cordier said. That raises the prospect of more attacks, and less oil.

That’s despite unnamed “oil officials” denying such a cutback happened.

No word yet on the severity of damages or how long repairs will take, but Corder says to expect the worst:
“I think crude oil is easily going to be testing $120 (in coming weeks),” Cordier said. Crude futures rose to a trading record of $111.80 early last week before retreating.

Well, that negates much of the IRS stimulus checks.

Clinton pushes Obama-Wright issue with wingers

Clinton, of course, says Rev. Jeremiah Wright would “would not have been my pastor” if she were a member at Barack Obama’s home church and Wright said some of the things attributed to him.

First, note the source. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, mouthpiece of billionaire (at least, until his divorce is finalized) wingnut Richard Mellon Scaife.

And, here is the picture that should get every Democratic superdelegate to vote for Obama instead of her: Hillary Clinton talking to the oozing sore of winger finance himself:

We know, from the Tribune-Review story, that at least three editorial staff interviewed Clinton for 90 minutes or more. AND, we know that she met with Scaife himself.

That's obvious not only from the picture, but Raw Story has video of this wondrous meet-up, or hook-up, or whatever.

This was the billionaire thorn in Bill and Hillary’s side from early in the days of their administration. This is the man who called Vince Foster’s death the “Rosetta stone” for his conspiracy theories. This is the many who funded the American Spectator to investigate the pseudo-issue of “Troopergate.”

I know politicians in general stereotypically have few principles.

But, this is at a whole different level of infinity, to deliberately get in bed with one of the ringleaders in the effort to try to destroy your husband’s presidency.

And, who initiated this meeting — Scaife or Clinton?

That’s the $64K question in my mind right now. It’s essentially a question of exactly what layer of Dante’s Inferno Hillary Clinton has selected for herself.

As I said above, seeing Hillary Clinton in bed with Dick Scaife should make every Democratic superdelegate, even the ones already committed to Clinton, vote for Obama — and announce right now they will vote for Obama.

Oh, and which comments should Obama disavow? Just the ones that push race issues or AIDS conspiracies too far, or the allegedly (but not actually) anti-American ones?

Or, anything that is “liberal,” since your campaign is sinking so low that you r next trick out of the GOP playbook is to try to label Obama with the “l-word”?

And, speaking of disavowals, all that’s fine, Hillary, but when are you going to disavow the Fellowship?

And, if we’re going to get into the disavowal game, are you going to disavow your own misstatements lies about your trip to Tuzla? That was not just a “misstatement” and you know it.

But, back to the religion issue. I do believe valid questions about the Obama-Wright relationship still exist, but I also believe you, Hillary Clinton aren’t anywhere near the first person to be in good standing to raise those questions.

As for needing a “spiritual advisor” in general, Martin Luther said he would rather be ruled by a good (governmentally speaking) Turk than a bad Catholic. ALL the remaining major party candidates should reflect on that, though none will.

Wouldn’t you, religious people, rather be ruled by a good atheist who doesn’t need a spiritual advisory?

Needed: single, orphaned, childless atheist to run the country.

The Shi’ite story line is not all truth

Scott Ritter has a great post about how little many of our elected leaders are ignorant about much in Iraq and specifically about all the details of Sunni-Shi’ite antagonism across the centuries.

The first page is great for calling out Congressional Democrats on their failure to act on changing course in Iraq, ultimately toward withdrawal.

And, Ritter does a very good job, in some ways, of explaining the complexity and depth of Sunni vs Shi’ite issues.

But, in other ways, he seems to follow Shi’ite talking points.

First, I’ll state my thesis up front. The Shi’ites have a story to tell. While there may be small or large chunks of truth in the story, that doesn’t mean the story is true as a whole. (The same thing is true of Tibetan Buddhists, for that matter, but that’s a subject for another post.)

In essence, Ritter himself oversimplified the history of the Islamic Middle East. Multiple separate emirates had split off from the Abbasid Caliphate by two centuries after Muhammed’s death, in the 830s or so, including one run by a descendant of Ali on the south shore of the Caspian, and protected from directly bordering the Caliphate by a larger, Shi’a-tolerating emirate.

Multiple independent Sunni caliphates were in existence by a century later, by the 930s or so, meaning there was no “central caliphate” (would be nice if people would play this up more, the lack of a central caliphate) could persecute Shi’ites.

In short, some of the martyrdom complex of Shi’as is overwrought. And, Shi'as have a story to tell, one that may not always match up with reality.

Also, an explicit claim for the origin of Sufism from Sunni Islam is not unanimous, at the least, and highly controversial at the most, among experts. Some claim it goes back to Muhammad itself; others that it at least arose before the split between Shi'as and Sunnis became final. Yet others argue that Sufism was influenced by pre-Muslim Persian beliefs. Sufism in the Ottoman Empire probably developed from pre-conversion Turkish shamanism brought with them from Central Asia.

And, Christian, Christian Gnostic and non-Christian Gnostic groups had already had their influence on groups like the Alawite and Druze.

Apathy’ and ‘frustration’ the watchwords on Iraq

Note: This is selected from my weekly newspaper column for March 27. — SocraticGadfly

Five years on from March 19, 2003, “apathy” seems to me to be the watchword for the war against Iraq.

When you have Congressional leaders from both parties who, as of a year ago, still didn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, did not know that al-Qaida was specifically Sunni-affiliated, and in some cases, still try to claim that a religious fundamentalist movement of a minority religion in that country was affiliated with the secularist government of Saddam Hussein, one can hardly blame much of the American public for apathy about Iraq five years on. When you know these same attitudes and lack of historical and religious knowledge are held in spades in the executive branch, apathy about Iraq is almost excusable.

After all, the White House continued the “guns and butter” approach to Iraq that LBJ did with Vietnam, and with even less public criticism, even as inflation started taking its inevitable bite in the last year or two. Of course, LBJ couldn’t outsource either U.S. debt or electronic entertainment manufacturing to China 40 years ago.

When you have a president who won’t admit the fact that the truth is, this war has cost $3 trillion right now, and that’s why we’re getting further and further in debt to Chinese buyers of U.S. Treasury securities, and you have a Congress which continues to vote for on- and off-budget spending bills for Iraq, and won’t admit that they know the cost of the war is $3 trillion and growing, apathy should be no surprise.

When none of our elected officials will come clean about how our alleged ally and oil best buddy Saudi Arabia is behind much of the world’s Sunni Muslim terrorism, because we are addicted to oil but refuse to do anything serious about it, apathy of people who think gas is pricey at $3 a gallon and would have heart attacks over $5/gallon gas is to be expected.

When much of the terrorism in the Middle East is connected, directly or indirectly, to Israel, and none of our leaders want to discuss this 800-pound gorilla, even when it hurts, not helps, our own (and not Israel’s) national security for fears of being called anti-Semitic, or losing Jewish votes in elections, or votes of Israel-first conservative Christians, apathy is probably normal.

Above all, when none of the current major-party presidential candidates, Democratic or Republican, are willing to admit that the ultimate truth is that we’ve probably already “lost” Iraq, as ex-CIA agent Michael Scheuer says in his new book, “Marching toward Hell,” apathy, mixed with frustration from people who do know that truth, is no surprise at all.

As someone who was against this war before it was launched, and who knew the difference between Sunnis and Shi’as, and secularist and Islamist governments in the Middle East, at that time, the watchword is that undercurrent of “frustration” much more than apathy.

A Democratic Party that regained control of Congress in 2006 elections, in large part because of vague promises to “do something” about Iraq which were followed by doing almost nothing about Iraq, is a big frustration-inducer.

Too many Congressional Democrats who have been complicit in, or at least accepting of, the folding, spindling and mutilation of our civil liberties shouldn’t be surprised about this frustration.

Purportedly anti-war people who believe we have to stay in Iraq until it becomes a stable state, not asking if we can even do that with only about 50,000 or so actual combat troops among our 150,000 in Iraq, can be frustration-inducing. So, too, can a belief that last year’s troop “surge” accomplished, or will accomplish, anything in the Iraq political world.

Frustration-inducing, too, can be people who don’t want to know more about the Muslim world, who want to stereotype it, who don’t want to learn about something like Peak Oil, who want to believe that technology will save the U.S. military effort, or who believe that the U.S. will always and inevitably come out on the right side of such things,

Well, there are no such guarantees. The words “United States” are nowhere in the Bible as the subject of prophecy of guaranteed victories or permanence. Nor is the phrase “American exceptionalism” found in our Constitution.

How much of that $3 trillion ultimate war bill are you, or we, willing to pay? How much less gasoline are you willing to use? Are you looking for a more economical car? Are you trying to learn more about what the Middle East is really about than accept words of political leaders?

Long campaign not good for Democrats

First, Dan Baltz is simply wrong when he talks about the benefits of a long Democratic primary contest.

On the turnout numbers, he ignores pretty clear information that a lot of Republicans crossed over in Texas’ open primary and re-registered to vote Democratic in Ohio’s semi-closed primary. Hell, he doesn’t even mention Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing talk radio people urging this.

Second, Kevin Drum has an incomplete version incomplete version of the backstory to Dick Scaife and Hillary Clinton having their now-infamous sitdown earlier this week.

Drum only talks about how Scaife seems to have moderated his opposition to the Clintons. He nowhere talks about the likelihood that Clinton approached Scaife, rather than the other way around, for this meet-up, just as she has used Drudge for quite some time.

Drudge is one thing, but the man willing to spend from his billionaire bucks to take down your husband’s presidency?

More proof a long campaign is not good for Democrats. Clinton’s approval numbers are down in the 30s with an 8-point drop-off; Obama saw a slighter decline. At the same time, Obama still struggles to finish shaking off Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Dallas No. 1 in growth

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex added 162,000 residents from July 2006-July 2007, making it the biggest growing metropolitan area, in terms of numbers, in the nation.

With Houston No. 4 and San Antonio and Austin both in the Top 10, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was right yesterday, it would seem, when he predicted a doubling of the state’s population to 45 million in 30 years.

Now, how much of this growth comes to my Best Southwest area of south suburban Dallas, and what it means for state highway infrastructure that Dewhurst mentioned, local amenities like possible city-sponsored Wi-Fi in Cedar Hill and more, remains to be seen.

News briefs – Obama joined by Anna Nicole in passport snoop, Hugo Chavez bros, RFK nuts

Passport snooping broader than politicians

Deceased former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith was among a number of non-political celebrities who join Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama in having had their passports snooped into by State Department contract employees.

Chavez bros not so socialistic?

Two of Hugo Chavez’ brothers allegedly acquired 17 ranches in Venezuela; the National Assembly is investigating.

RFK conspiracy theories ready to launch

So-called “experts” claim Sirhan Sirhan could not have killed Bobby Kennedy. Please.

Pharmacist fined for denying birth control

States allow pharmacists to not refill birth control prescriptions themselves, but they have to refer a client to another pharmacist when they refuse themselves. Wisconsin pharmacist Neil Noesen thought he was above the law, but an appeals court has agreed with the state pharmacy board that he isn’t.

Ottawa complicit in Gitmo?

Canadian “interviewers” of terrorism suspectOmar Khadr reportedly violated his civil/human rights. Ottawa refuses to give his attorney info it gave U.S. interrogators after the sessions.

March 26, 2008

If the Religious Right has trouble with McCain…

What about the Schmuck Talk™ daughter? Meghan McCain reportedly likes people with tattoos and is a fan of Dita von Teese and
She told GQ she thinks the uber-trashy bisexual hook-up show “A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila” is “hilarious!”

I hope Mad Jack lets her speak at the GOP convention.

David Dewhurst in south suburban Dallas

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst spoke at the Best Southwest Chamber of Commerce luncheon today.

Brief notes:
• He’s OK with RealID, with or without the feds picking up the funding slack. Says it’s a national security issue; apparently unworried about civil liberties issues.
• Called our healthcare system “great,” although he added that we could learn more from Euro countries with more of a focus on preventative healthcare.
• Said the Texas Senate passes most things “nearly unanimously,” while ignoring his attempt to pass a biased voter ID bill, his part in the mid-decade redistricting, and his attempt to suspend state senate cloture rules.
• Only once, and mildly and indirectly, threw Speaker Tom Craddick under the bus.

Other than that, he comes off as an island of relative Republican sanity compared to Rick Perry.

Will Shortz made an error

New York Times crossword puzzle editor Shortz goofed on the Sunday, March 23, edition by listing “Herod” as “king in 1 B.C.” Any biblical scholar knows he died in 4 B.C.

Besides that, Shortz could start using the more academic B.C.E., in my opinion.

Wonder if anybody has called him on this yet?

How NOT to play the National Anthem

The Best Southwest Chamber of Commerce luncheon in south suburban Dallas March 26 featured a “soul” version of the Star Spangled Banner, except played on a soprano sax rather than sung.

I’m not sure how much of it was a soul version played that badly for a soul version, and how much of it was an attempt to play a soul version that came off that badly as an attempt.

And, it clearly broke the 2-minute mark on the long side.

Just play it, or sing it, as written.

Home sales hit 13-year low in unscientific economic news

February home sales slumped to a level not seen since 1995. Accompanying the 1.8 percent sales decline from a year ago was a 2.7 percent price dropoff. The one sliver of bright news? Sales in the West, where L.A., Vegas and Phoenix have been pretty much the national poster children for the housing bubble, were actually up slightly.

Meanwhile, on unrelated concerns about durable goods, the Dow gave up about 150 points in morning trading. Durable goods orders fell in February for the second straight month, another recessionary sign.

And, showing how economics still isn’t scientific, we have dueling story lines on the housing sales. The first linked story says the 1.8 decline was worse than expected; the second says it wasn’t as bad as expected.

No wonder CDOs are over the head of all but acolyte insiders if we have two different story lines on something this basic.

Hillary or nobody

Apropos of my post about Hillary Clinton getting in bed with Dick Scaife, MoJo Dowd, in a column of hers that actually says something sensical, wonders if Clinton’s increasingly scorched-earth strategy isn’t setting up a 2012 run.

It makes purely analytical sense, and I’m sure makes sense to her too.

Ding Obama badly enough he loses in November. Claim again that this proves your electability.

Look at McCain either voluntarily serve just one term, as he has hinted he might, or see him get hit by more economic problems and become viable.

Step into the breech in 2012.

Problem with that is, as I already noted a few days ago in my Quo Vadis Hillary post, that assumes that 2012 Democrats will buy her electability argument rather than hold old memories about how she torpedoed Obama.

So, even if Hillary is thinking in terms of a four-year strategy now, that doesn’t mean it will be a successful four-year strategy.

New D.B. Cooper evidence complexifies old case

Remains of a parachute that may have been used by famed 1971 plane hijacker Dan Cooper have been found in Washington state.

The site where children found the parachute remnants match where Cooper, early on and mistakenly identified as D.B. Cooper, would likely have landed.

One problem, though. From this site, if Cooper died soon after his jump, there’s no natural way for some $5,000 of the $200,000 he was given in the hijack to have been found in 1980 on a Columbia River beach near Vancouver, Wash.

So, did he survive for a while after all? Or more than a while? Or is this not Cooper’s parachute?

That’s doubtful. If he survived for any great length of time, he surely wouldn’t have dropped that much money in one chunk.

I don’t know how the $200,000 in hijack money was bundled. Perhaps he lost some of it while jumping. Money is light enough that, from the air, it could have floated far away from him.

Or… either humans or wild animals have already found Cooper’s remains.

There’s a difference between political courage and political gamesmanship

But, Uncle Fester doesn’t care.

For Dick Cheney to compare the decision to invade Iraq with Gerald Ford’s decision to pardon Nixon shows that he and Bush don’t even care what sort of lies they tell — they’re just going to continue to throw shit against the wall until they get something to stick.

Of course, Cheney made no such comparison while Ford was alive, either. That’s because he knew both what Jerry Ford thought of the decision to invade Iraq and what he would have thought of such a slanderous comparison.

And, Cheney’s lying in that he’s not even discussing how the Iraq war vote was ultimately an act of political gamesmanship. Of course, we have former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt to thank for that, too, if we want to bring political cravenness into the picture.

Gephardt undercut other members of his own party while keeping an eye on the 2004 presidential contest. Daschle was just fucking spineless, as he was so often, and with more power in his hands than Gephardt, in some ways. How you could not filibuster or threaten it, or use other Senate procedural tools to force the war vote off until after the midterms?

No political courage there, either.

(Note: I’m not praising Ford’s pardon of Nixon, but I do agree that it was an act of political courage.)

Coming this summer – bipartisan lemmingitis

Wiley sums up well what I think this year’s major party national political conventions will be like.

John McCain will inextricably bind himself to BushCo policies, Clinton will finish self-destructing, to eventually offer grumpy support to the Obama candidacy, and Obama will… who knows?

Probably win, have short Congressional coattails, not actually bring about real change, and be a one-term president presiding over Japanese-style long-term recession or stagflation. The Democratic Party will find new ways to tack to the right on fiscal and civil liberties issues.

Both parties will continue not to take bin Laden at his word and we’ll still have troops in Iraq four years from now.

Jump away, you lemmings.

March 25, 2008

Spain hits 40 percent on windpower

Yes, earlier this year, at one point, 40 percent of Spain’s total electric generation was windjammer.
As heavy winds lashed Spain on Saturday evening wind parks generated 9,862 megawatts of power which translated to 40.8 percent of total consumption due to low demand during the Easter holiday weekend, AEE said.

Between Friday and Sunday wind power accounted for an average of 28 percent of all electricity demand in Spain, which is a leading world producer of such energy, a statement from the association said.

Why can’t we do this? Shrub and Uncle Fester, where’s your national energy policy?

YES move Forest Service to Interior

An idea whose time has been knocking at the door for 50 years or more, moving the U.S. Forest Service from the Department of Agriculture to Interior, may finally, finally be here.
“Today the evolution of our forests has gone away from production and more towards preservation, and it seems to me that the natural move has made it over under the umbrella of the Department of the Interior rather than the Department of Agriculture,” Rep. Todd Tiahrt (Kan.), the top Republican on the subcommittee, said at a Feb. 12 hearing on the agency.

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), the panel’s chairman, believes such a move would help shore up the Forest Service's budget and align agencies with similar missions, said his spokesman, George Behan.

“You have more recreational campground areas in the Forest Service than you do even in the Park Service,” Behan said. “So there's a logical reason for considering it. However, the question has to be asked, ‘Is it the best thing for each agency and for land management?’”

Tiahrt is not being close to telling the truth, of course. Not in this administration. Anybody who has e-mailed petition after petition to members of Congress, the Forest Service or both, on things like Bill Clinton’s roadless rule, Bush’s Healthy Forests initiative, preservation of the Tongass and more, clearly knows that.

But, that does underscore even more why the USFS needs to be moved — to send a message and put it on a tighter rein.
Don Kettl, director of the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania said moving the Forest Service to Interior might send a symbolic message that national forests are to be preserved and enjoyed, not harvested and developed, which could be perceived as a threat to the timber industry.

Heck, I would support the Reagan-era idea of merging the Forest Service with the BLM as part of the process. It’s weird to have a view of Colorado’s famed 14ers, or 14,000-foot peaks, on BLM and not Forest Service lands.

Call Dicks’ subcommittee staff director Rob Nabors at 202-225-2771 or Dicks’ office at 202-225-5916 to show your support.

Pharyngula gets creationist movie boot and lies

Sic simper creationist openmindedness to science, eh?

P.Z. Myers, the well-known Pharyngula of evolutionary biology blogging fame, was barred from attending a creationist film in Minneapolis with even better-known evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins got in, and Myers didn’t, after both had made advance reservations for this private screening, and things got fun after that:
The movie the two scientists wanted to see was “Expelled,” whose online trailer asserts that people in academia who see evidence of supernatural intelligence in biological processes — an idea called “intelligent design” — have unfairly lost their jobs, been denied tenure or suffered other penalties as part of a scientific conspiracy to keep God out of the nation’s laboratories and classrooms.

Dr. Myers asserts that he was unfairly barred from the film, in which both he and Dr. Dawkins appear, and that Dr. Dawkins would have been, too, if people running the screening had realized who he was — a world leader in the field of evolutionary biology.

Given that Myers teaches at the University of Minnesota-Morris, and is a well-known gadfly to Minnesota creationists, I’m going to believe him and NOT the “Expelled” spokesperson.

And, speaking of “Expelled” spokesperson, here’s your nutbar narrator/interviewer:

But, please, first, a tip of the hat to the irony of creationists making a movie called “Expelled,” then giving Myers the boot. And a second irony hat tip to the “No Intelligence Allowed” slogan just below Stein's mug. Now, the creationist spin on the moment:
Mark Mathis, a producer of the film who attended the screening, said that “of course” he had recognized Dr. Dawkins, but allowed him to attend because “he has handled himself fairly honorably, he is a guest in our country and I had to presume he had flown a long way to see the film.”

Actually, Dr. Myers and Dr. Dawkins said in interviews that they had long planned to be in Minneapolis this week to attend a convention of atheists. Dr. Dawkins, a vocal critic of religion, is on the convention program.

So, no, Dawkins didn’t fly all the way from Britain just for this film. Lie No. 1.

Second, anybody who has read “The God Delusion” knows that, while Dawkins didn’t write a Christopher Hitchens diatribe, he pulled no punches. So, the “handled himself fairly honorably” is a dig at Myers, a pretense of not having read Dawkins, and Lie No. 2.
And both (scientists) had earlier complained that they originally agreed to appear in the movie — then called “Crossroads” — because producers told them it would be an examination of religion and science, not a defense of intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. People who have seen the movie say it also suggests that there is a link between the theory of evolution and ideas like Nazism, something Dr. Dawkins called “a major outrage.”

In an interview, Dr. Myers said he registered himself and “guests” on a Web site for the film’s screening. A security guard pulled him out of the line but admitted his wife, daughter and guests — including Dr. Dawkins, who, Dr. Myers said, no one seemed to recognize. Dr. Dawkins, who like everyone was asked to present identification, said he offered his British passport, which lists him as Clinton Richard Dawkins.

Lie No. 1 gets further confirmation; Dawkins wasn’t recognized because of the “Clinton” as his actual first name.

But wait, Lie No. 3 is just around the corner:
Mr. Mathis said in an interview that he had confronted Dr. Dawkins in the question and answer period after the screening and that Dr. Dawkins withered. “These people who own the academic establishment and who have great friends in the media — they are not accustomed to having a level, open playing field,” Mr. Mathis said. “I watched a man who has been a large figure, an imposing figure, I watched this man shrink in front of my eyes.”

Needless to say, Dawkins and Myers have an entirely different recollection.

The one thing that surprises me is that Dawkins and Myers would have agreed to appear in the movie in the first place. They’ve been around the block enough times to know that, well, in context…

Lie No. 4 was what the movie was going to be about.

Do I hear Lie No. 5?

P.Z. has his own accounts here and here; more lies of “Expelled” producers exposed; some good snark; a Christian movie reviewer who cut comments off (and no wonder, with a screening attender who said this):
Ben Stein’s “Expelled” is one of the more evenhanded, clever, and well-produced documentaries currently on the market. While the Evolution/Intelligent Design debate can spark much emotion, anyone walking away from this film will be convinced that the merits of Intelligent Design should be on the same level playing field as Evolutionary Theory.

“Expelled” was “evenhanded”? And Hitler was a nice guy when he woke up, until he killed his first Jew of the day. (It’s my blog, and I get to break Godwin’s Law.)

Update: Richard Dawkins has post-expulsion video discussion of the lunacy with Myers. And Salon now has its take on the creationist nutbarrery. with a flood of new viruses. It’s forcing them to radically revamp some of their strategies and operating procedures.

Oh, and welcome all Pharyngula readers. You might be interested in my Shroud of Turin or Amy Sullivan posts.

Also, for more serious comment on matters of science, philosophy, and critical and comparative religion, read my other blog, The Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly.

Oh, the backstory on Mathis’ original bait-and-switch from “Crossroads” to “Expelled” is here.

Blow through Realtor smoke-blowing on homebuying

If a new car salesman tried to sell you a high-dollar vehicle with the closer line, “And, you’ve got equity,” you’d laugh in his effing face.

Well, why don’t you do the same when a Realtor tells you that as part of trying to sell you a new house?

You should. Read the five myths about renting, with their realities:

• Renting is just throwing money away.
Not if you invest the money you’re saving by not buying.

• There are tax benefits to owning.
Only if you make enough money that your mortgage interest deduction (remember, it’s just interest that counts), plus other itemizable deductions, is more than your standard deduction would be if you didn’t itemize.

• It doesn’t cost any more to buy.
Wrong. You have property taxes every year. You have maintenance. You have an average of 11 percent in commissions and closing costs. You have insurance payments.

• Buyers have assets, renters don’t.
Well, yes, depreciating assets. And, the mythical equity of homeowners disappears after 10 years in, or so. Many homeowners then (going beyond the linked story), try to chase sunken costs and build up equity with remodeling projects.

• Houses are a good investment.
Not. Read the point immediately above.

Here’s the reality on that last point:
The reality is that housing is not an investment. It’s shelter. That is all housing has ever been. Self-serving organizations like the National Association of Realtors like to tell people that buying a home is a good way to build long-term wealth, but this statement couldn't be further from the truth.

Although home prices can go up (and down), the rate of appreciation on housing does not surpass inflation levels over the long-term. Between 1890 and 2004, the real return on housing was a pathetic 0.4 percent per year over the last 100 years, according to Robert Shiller, a housing expert and Yale economist.

This blog post brought to you courtesy of the National Association of Realtors, Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve, and various other liars and idiots.

Big PhARMA bribery – free meds get patients hooked

Perhaps not physically, or even psychologically in a narrow sense, but certainly sociologically, if you will.
On average, patients who got free prescription samples spent nearly 40 percent more for medication during the six months they received samples, and nearly 20 percent more in the six months afterward, than those who didn’t, according to University of Chicago researchers.

Big PhARMA, of course, is already on the attack:
Looking at samples in isolation “misses the point,” Senior Vice President Ken Johnson said. “Contrary to statements made by critics, American’s physicians prescribe medicines based on a wide range of factors, not simply receipt of free prescription drug samples,” he wrote.

No, they also do it based on receipt of free clipboards, free notebads, free coffee mugs, etc.

Saddam did NOT try to kill old man Bush

So, let’s go back to suspecting Kuwaiti lies. (See the bottom of the post for possible Kuwaiti motives to set up something like this as an alleged Iraqi assassination attempt, and the ruling al-Sabahs’ past history of lying related to Iraq. Or for the possibility it wasn’t just Kuwait behind this.)

Michael Isikoff, over at Newsweek reports what some of us have known for years:
Saddam Hussein did not try to kill George H.W. Bush in 1993.

Don’t believe me? It’s in the same just-released, albeit only halfway so, Pentagon report that puts Nail No. 942 in the coffin of lies claiming Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction. As Isikoff says:
The review, conducted for the Pentagon's Joint Forces Command, combed through 600,000 pages of Iraqi intelligence documents seized after the fall of Baghdad, as well as thousands of hours of audio- and videotapes of Saddam's conversations with his ministers and top aides. The study found that the IIS kept remarkably detailed records of virtually every operation it planned, including plots to assassinate Iraqi exiles and to supply explosives and booby-trapped suitcases to Iraqi embassies.

But the Pentagon researchers found no documents that referred to a plan to kill Bush. The absence was conspicuous because researchers, aware of its potential significance, were looking for such evidence.

“It was surprising,” said one source familiar with the preparation of the report (who under Pentagon ground rules was not permitted to speak on the record). Given how much the Iraqis did document, “you would have thought there would have been some veiled reference to something about [the plot].”

Isikoff does caveat that the absence of evidence for something is not evidence of its nonexistence.

Those of us who have read alternative accounts of the event from near the time it happened have long suspected the al-Sabah ruling sheikhs of Kuwait made the story up. I mean, the whole thing smelled suspicious from the start. Whiskey smugglers arrested. Their sentences later commuted. And on and on.

And, no, I’m not alone there, either, as Raw Story reports, per a 1993 Boston Globe article:
A classified US intelligence analysis has concluded that Kuwait may have “cooked the books” on an alleged plot to assassinate former President Bush while he was in Kuwait last month. [...] At least one administration official has expressed the fear that President Clinton, under heavy criticism for his indecision over issues like Bosnia, may be tempted to hit at Iraq to prove his willingness to undertake resolute action. The report notes that some of the evidence definitely points to Iraqi involvement. The explosive devices captured by the Kuwaitis, for example, match those used by Iraqi intelligence in other terrorist operations. But the report says it was unable to corroborate the Kuwaiti assertion that the plot was aimed at Bush.

It would have been easy for Kuwait to use captured Iraqi ordinance from the Gulf War to set this whole thing up.

But, why?

Perhaps they were worried Clinton would pull out of the Gulf.

And, there’s nothing to say they were acting alone. Certainly, other Arab sheikhdoms and monarchies, still worried about Hussein two years after the Gulf War, could have been in on the deal.

On the other hand, perhaps the al-Sabahs expected more than just a pinprick missile strike by Clinton. Maybe they thought they could get another invasion of Iraq.

Remember as well that this is the same al-Sabahs who hired a Big Five American PR company to produced false advertising propaganda about newborn babies being snatched by Iraqi troops from Kuwait hospital incubators, who had representatives of this same PR firm lie before Congress (without any criminal sanctions ever being sought) and who otherwise brooked no ethical scruples to make sure we got into the Gulf War in the first place.

This is the same al-Sabahs who provoked Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait in the first place by slant drilling into Iraqi oil fields.

How vouchers would address a bevy of insurance issues

Ezra Klein references Dr. Mark Smith, CEO of the California Health Care Foundation, for his explanation of how health insurance is
a four-legged stool of various needs it tries to address. Smith explained his analysis to the America's Health Insurance Plans a few weeks ago:
It’s a strange business you're in. What you are selling is four different things. Why do we want people to have health insurance? I always get some variant of four answers. 1) We want people to be protected against rare, unpredictable and uncontrollable catastrophic events. 2) We want people to be covered so they can have their preventive services paid for. They’re not rare, they’re not unpredictable. But if we have them put it on their Visa, they don’t do it. So we prepay for it. 3) So you can get discounts, and don’t have to pay rack rate at the doctor. But that’s not insurance, it’s market leverage. 4) so people who have chronic diseases don’t have to pay for the cost of their care, transferring assets from the known healthy to the known unhealthy. Each of these is a socially useful function, but they operate very differently. Saying you need to protect assets from financial loss is a difficult proposition for someone who has no assets to protect.

And, here’s how Western European style voucher programs to shop for your own insurance, versus a stereotypical single payer national healthcare plan, can address that.

The vouchers give you enough money to buy insurance that meets No. 4, even if you're not totally healthy, and No. 1.

You then choose, essentially, how much more you want to pay out of your own pocket for Nos. 2 and 3.

Ideally, we would learn from what works well and not so well in European countries to even let the voucher money be split into multiple payments, such as, perhaps, a castastrophic health insurance policy, a prescription discount policy and a wellness policy where basic checkups would be connected to a certifiable wellness plan.

Vouchers free you not just from rack rate hospital costs, but from rack rate one-size-fits-all insurance coverage.

Insurers don't want to do that because then they can't be lazy; they'll have to actually sell you plans that fit your needs.

And, folks, THAT is why, in some ways, a voucher-based plan might be a tougher sell than a single-payer. But, in other ways, it might be an easier sell within the medical world.

Iraq five years on discussed in print

There’s a bevy of new books about Iraq out, and Salon
has a roundup of the best.

Jonathan Steele has the harshest take, in “Defeat: Why America and Britain Lost Iraq.” He says it wasn’t a mishandled occupation, but rather the simple fact of occupation for any length of over a year or so, that doomed the operation. To professional warnings about all this, and Britain’s own colonial history in the country, all that British PM Tony Blair could do was utter his own brand of neoconservatism and say, of Hussein, “But the man’s uniquely evil, isn't he?”

As the Salon review notes, Steele is an award-winning foreign correspondent for the Guardian and has done eight stints in Iraq.

He also bluntly faults American Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism. Neither of those are new to people who have previously read about the brutality of the American occupation, but it’s good to see it spelled out in book-length form.

Of course, no mainstrean American journalist— yes, that’s people like you, Thomas Ricks — has or will have the cojones to report that in depth.

Aram Rostam then gives us a full biography of Ahmed Chalabi, with “The Man Who Pushed America to War: The Extraordinary Life, Adventures and Obsessions of Ahmad Chalabi.”

Other books on the review look at the culture clash between Americans and Iraqis as it plays out, outside the Green Zone, and Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky give a little quote-based smackdown to all the “experts” who predicted victory oh so long ago.

The Salon review has links to Amazon pages for each of the books.

Consumer confidence and home prices plunge

Consumer confidence hit afive-year low. And here’s the worst part — economic analysts were far off on their predictions:
The Conference Board, a business-backed research group, said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index plunged to 64.5 in March from a revised 76.4 in February. The March reading was far below the 73.0 expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson/IFR.

High gas prices, combined with the continued housing slump, are likely the top culprits. And, speaking of “continued housing slump,” U.S. big-city home prices

were off 11.4 percent in January. It’s the sharpest drop since such information started being collected in 1987

The decline, reported today in the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index, means prices have been growing more slowly or dropping for 19 consecutive months, the story reports.

Greenspan as Frankenstein

It’s his monster of exotic derivatives that officials like Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank are trying to reregulate. His monster:
Speaking in Boca Raton, Fla., in March 1999, Alan Greenspan, then the Fed chairman, told the Futures Industry Association, a Wall Street trade group, that “these instruments enhance the ability to differentiate risk and allocate it to those investors most able and willing to take it.”

Meanwhile, we’re reminded a lot of this fuck-up is bipartisan in the making, another gift especially of the Slickster and his Democratic Leadership Council fellow travelers:
A milestone in the deregulation effort came in the fall of 2000, when a lame-duck session of Congress passed a little-noticed piece of legislation called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. The bill effectively kept much of the market for derivatives and other exotic instruments off-limits to agencies that regulate more conventional assets like stocks, bonds and futures contracts.

Supported by Phil Gramm, then a Republican senator from Texas and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, the legislation was a 262-page amendment to a far larger appropriations bill. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton that December.

How Slick could sign into law anything with Phil Gramm’s fingerprints on it boggles the mind.

Meanwhile, the GOP is still singing the “look here, it’s all OK, no regulation needed” mantra:
Others on Capitol Hill, like Representative Scott Garrett, Republican of New Jersey and a member of the Financial Services banking subcommittee, reject the idea that loosening financial rules helped to create the current crisis.

“I don’t think deregulation was the cause,” he says. “And had we had additional regulation in place, I’m not sure what we’re experiencing now would have been averted.”

Oh, and if someone like Alan Blinder can’t understand derivatives, how can we NOT regulate them more?
“I know the basic understanding of how they work,” he said, “but if you presented me with one and asked me to put a market value on it, I’d be guessing.”

If anybody DOES understand, it might be Kevin Phillips. The former Nixon GOP operative turned serious analytical journalist has a new book out, Bad Money (full title: “Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism”) that probably will enlighten us all too well.

Chris Dodd and Barney Frank want to give the Fed new powers to regulate investment banks, but St. Alan didn’t use the powers he had on commercial banks and so far, St. Bernanke, his Swiss Alps lapdog follower as The Worst Fed Head Since Greenspan™, has shown little additional inclination in that direction.

Meanwhile, a number of people, like former New York Fed President Timothy F. Geithner, were worried, or say they were worried, about the situation several years ago, but refused to be interviewed. Some help they will be in the future.

Quo vadis Dalai Lama and today’s young Tibetans?

Who, really, is the Dalai Lama? Will young Tibetans reject him as a political leader? Is he OK with that? Just what is the Tibetan exile community today like? Pico Ayer tackles all this and more, but in the end, may sink too much into Richard Gere-level hagiography.

And, Iyer doesn’t seem to fully grasp the question of his relevance, or not, to young Tibetans. Book review Louis Bayard notes that his “middle way” is considered appeasement by some:
If what the Dalai Lama professes is truly Buddhism, then it raises the question, finally, of whether a monk can be an agent for political change in such a complex and dangerous world. Certainly, many of his own followers have begun to doubt it.

To talk about peace while Tibetans are being killed, suggests one dissident interviewed by Iyer, is “tantamount to manslaughter.” A 28-year-old protester in Kathmandu, Nepal, recently told a reporter, “I’m Tibetan, but I’ve never seen Tibet. All my life, we’ve been campaigning peacefully — and what have we achieved?”

“Nobody takes the middle way seriously anymore,” declares writer Jamyang Norbu. “This is not non-violence. It is appeasement.”

And, Iyer seems to give a free past to Tibet’s history under the lamas.

Too many people rightly condemn China’s crackdown on Tibetan spirituality and religion without acknowledging that the previous “reincarnations” of the Dalai Lama, and other senior lamas, ran Tibet like a feudal state of 13th-century Europe. Beijing did bring, over time, modern amenities, healthcare, and more, to the Tibetan plateau.

Bayard notes this, also:
Something quite disarming, I would counter. In the warmth of the Dalai Lama's bespectacled gaze, we can more easily forget the less attractive aspects of his thinking — his endorsement of nuclear weapons in India, his acceptance of contributions from Japanese terrorists.

Church and state can be a bad mix everywhere, not just here.

Stop electing sheriffs and get rid of constables

And constables, for those of you, like me, in southern states.

We don’t elect police chiefs at the local level and we don’t elect directors of public safety at the state level. Why should we elect sheriffs? We have no reasons to vote for or against sheriff candidates on political backgrounds.

Instead, let each county’s commissioners court, or county commission, hire that county’s sheriff, just like our city councils hire police chiefs.

As for the office to eliminate entirely, it would require another constitutional amendment, but it’s worth it.

We don’t need constables. We need most of their duties performed, but we don’t need a special position for that, let alone another elected office to not only have partisan elections but waste taxpayer money by being on the ballot.

Instead, the simple thing to do here in Texas would be to amend the constitution to eliminate the office, replacing it, inside the sheriff’s office of each county, with a required deputy sheriff, or even assistant chief deputy, for warrant service or similar.

Since most counties have three or four constable districts, we’d be getting a bunch of offices off the ballot that don’t need to be there. We would also eliminate reduplication of secretarial and other staff that could all be run through a sheriff’s office.

March 24, 2008

So much for the Mahdi cease-fire extension

Expect a new round of civil conflict in Iraq. One militia group loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army says it will now longer obey the mythical “central government,” even as it started clamping down its control on west Baghdad neighborhoods.

The Sadrists in west Baghdad have three demands, that the government release detainees, stop targeting Sadrist members and apologize to the families and the tribal sheiks of the men.

Meanwhile, Sadr forces in Basra have started fighting government units after an attempted crackdown. The government launched that crackdown after Sadrists said they would resist any attempt at being detained. There, Iraqi government announced a three-day security plan, beginning 5 p.m. Tuesday, to seal Basra off from other Iraqi regions, and other countries, shut down schools and institutes of education and ban vehicles from entering the province.

It sounds like Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki probably pushed more than a bit too far.

Update: 22 have already died in Basra, and Sadr himself is calling for “civil revolt.” Shrub and Uncle Fester will keep their heads in the sand on this; Betrayus may prove that MoveOn was not totally correct about him (remember, as a highly political general, he has his eyes on November, too), but, we’ll see.

And, on the occasion of the 4,000th U.S. combat troop death, the Preznit was still looking for his pony:
“One day, people will look back at this moment in history and say, ‘Thank God there were courageous people willing to serve, because they laid the foundations for peace for generations to come.’”

No, many of us will say, Thank doorknob for the 22nd Amendment, so you couldn’t pull a bogus Iran attack out of your ass to try to run for a third term.

Google makes it easier to avoid Morning News website

First, let me say, as tens of thousands of others in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex have said over the last three-plus years since the Snooze, officially known as The (don’t forget to capitalize that “the,” New York Times pretentiousness and all) Dallas Morning News, changed its website to its current form.

It sucks.

It sucks donkey dongs.

It sucks George Bannerman Dealey’s donkey dong, in fact.

It is probably THE WORST website of any major seven-day daily newspaper in the United States, excepting of course, other A.H. Belo papers in Riverside, Calif. and Providence, R.I. (Belo websites suck because Belo blows — the different papers’ websites are mirror images.)

One of the worst things about the Snooze’s website is the impossibility of finding any Snooze story that is not actually linked on the website’s homepage. The story may have been written in the last 24 hours; it may have run in that day’s hardcopy.

But, if it ain’t on the homepage of the website, you ain’t gonna find it.

Solution? After getting frustrated at the donkey-dong sucking Snooze website (see for yourself), I go to Google News, hit the advanced news search, enter Dallas Morning News as my search (don’t even have to use “the,” let alone the prissy-fit capitalized version), and then enter my normal Google search words.

Voila! Link(s) spit out to just the right articles.

Well, now, Google is going one step further.
This month, the company introduced a search-within-search feature that lets users stay on Google to find pages on popular sites like those of The Washington Post, Wikipedia, The New York Times, Wal-Mart and others. The search box appears when someone enters the name of certain Web addresses or company names — say, “Best Buy” — rather than entering a request like “cellphones.”

The results of the search are almost all individual company pages. Google tops those results with a link to the home page of the Web site in question, adds another search box, and offers users the chance to let Google search for certain things within that site.

The problem, for some in the industry, is that when someone enters a term into that secondary search box, Google will display ads for competing sites, thereby profiting from ads it sells against the brand. The feature also keeps users searching on Google pages and not pages of the destination Web site.

Tough shit. Your unsearchable website, with further editorial cuts ahead, certainly won’t get better. If anything, it will get worse.

Oh, and to throw you further under the bus… you have a paper always bragging about the APME awards it wins for sports coverage, then it outsources all its high school stuff to a third-party site, one that doesn’t have as much online high school sports as the DMN did five years ago.

You don’t like it? Make your own website better. Google is, indeed, just saving me more work now.