SocraticGadfly: 4/27/08 - 5/4/08

May 03, 2008

Haiku homage to Hume

Fleeting sensations
Momentary thought patterns
Consciousness wisps.

Like smoke, nothing is
Apprehendable; like fog,

The wisps come and go
With no quantum gap between;
I can’t find myself.

Psychologist Hume
Metaphysician Descartes
A Scottish triumph.

With no I to think
Or outreason the Frenchman
What ‘Hume’ really won?

Arianna Huffington wrong AND clueless on Alcoholics Anonymous

While the Divine Ms. A has done a lot of good in supporting the growth of the liberal blogosphere, it comes as no surprise, knowing her NewAgeish tendencies in some areas, to know that she totally misses the boat with blank-check support for AA. That, in turn is part of a larger and sadder blank-check support for “faith-based initiatives” in general. (Oh, BTW, what would the Bush Administration, or the Greek Goddess (snark again) do, if a Wiccan or Satanist applied for a faith-based grant?)

Here’s the nut grafs of how she’s wrong:
The evidence is overwhelming that it's infinitely harder to rebuild shattered lives without acknowledging the spiritual dimension of human nature. No, this doesn't mean accepting Jesus as your personal savior. It simply means that, as Alcoholics Anonymous and its many offshoots — including Gamblers Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, etc. — have shown, acknowledgment of a higher power is central to recovery.

First, Bill Wilson only inserted more religion (yes religion, not “spirituality”) into AA because Dr. Robert Smith’s AA group in Cleveland was growing faster than his own in New York City. Wilson was a former stockbroker, and like most salespeople, didn’t care WHY something was selling, just that it was.

But, the more serious claim that AA, and the other 12-Step offshoots, “work”? Not at all. Here’s some of the dirty little secrets AA doesn’t like to admit:
According to AA’s own Triennial Survey of its membership (conducted every three years, of course), of 100 people who join AA today, only about five of them will still be there a year from now. In five years, that figure will shrink to a mere 1.6 to 2.6 percent. These figures have remained consistent for decades. Compare this with the figures describing the natural outgrowth of a substance problem: of Americans who say they’ve ever had a substance problem but have since solved that problem, fully 80 percent claim they either outgrew the problem naturally, or buckled down and took care of it on their own, without any outside help whatsoever.

In other words, AA and other 12-step groups don’t work. And, for the Athenian Airhead to cite AA as a success model so blithely shows she didn’t do any research on her subject. (And, her dissing of atheists in the same column only underscores that; it also puts her broader credibility on the line.)

Of course, as the person above notes, and, as the Greek Gidget sneeringly dismisses, the bigger issue yet is that enforced AA (as for people convicted of alcohol-related offenses) is illegal, per multiple U.S. District Court rulings.

Besides, Huffington is ignorant of Bill Wilson’s real “higher power” when he got sober — belladonna. It’s easy to hallucinate all sorts of spirituality shit when, well, when you’re on a hallucinogen! She apparently also ignores Bill’s late-life jaunts into the world of LSD.

Oh, no. The Athenian Airhead utters this instead:
Leading the nitwit parade on this issue are two very strange bedfellows: Barry Lynn, who has made a career out of warning people of imaginary threats to the separation of church and state, and Pat Robertson, who is worried about “opening the floodgates ... of the federal treasury to aberrant groups” like the Church of Scientology, the Unification Church and the Hare Krishnas.

I guess Rev. Pat doesn't know that the Hare Krishnas have provided help to homeless veterans, recovering addicts and prison parolees with the help of government money for close to 20 years.

First, seven years later, I wonder if Miss A. has admitted that many of these threats aren’t “imaginary.” (I suspect many fundamentalist backers of Bush, if they do worry about things like climate change, simply assume they’ll be “elevated” during the Rapture to serenely watch the world bake. Heck, some may substitute Chinese CO2 output for Soviet tanks and say global warming is the prophesied Armageddon.)

Second, I don’t care whether the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is “aberrant” to Pat Robertson or not, it’s still unconstitutional for it to get money like this.

The ruling of liberal faith-basers’ “favorite” Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, and his blatherings about “civil religion,” aside.

Special K good for depression

And I ain’t talking breakfast cereal Special K, either.

Scientists aren’t horsing around when they claim the notorious horse drug and human drug of abuse ketamine can help depression.

It doesn’t work on levels of neutransmitters like norepinephrine, serotonin or dopamine, either. Instead, in some other way, it’s supposed to “reshape” the orbifrontal cortex of the brain, an area where dread and shame can arise.

AND, it starts to work in just 24 hours, far earlier than the month or so Prozac and other SSRIs can take.

Plus, in what is surely a disappointment for Big Pharma, ketamine is already generic. No high-priced gouging by the Eli Lillys of the world.

Ozone hole slowed Antarctic warming but will change

A former climate change and global warming skeptic says the Antarctic should join the Arctic in seeing more global warming effects in the future.

Why? The Montreal Protocol that got developed nations to start phasing out freons and put worldwide regulations on them in place, is starting to close the ozone hole over the Antarctic.

James Overland, who admits that he used to be a skeptic, called the projected Antarctic changes “startling.”

Meanwhile, preliminary predictions are that this year’s end-of-summer minimum on Arctic sea ice will be as bad or worse than last year’s.

Texas officials ‘admit’ FLDS call was hoax

The Texas Department of Public Safety has dropped an arrest warrant for Dale Barlow.

He is the 50-year-old man that Colorado Springs, Colo., prank phone caller Rozita Swinton claimed sexually abused her in Eldorado, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ West Texas compound/commune.

Colorado court records show the calls made to a San Angelo domestic violence shelter were made from prepaid mobile phones previously used by Swinton, who has been charged with making a false report in Colorado and is on probation there for a similar offense.

But, the boys at DPS refuse to say why they dropped the warrant, let alone that the bogus phone call is the reason why the warrant never should have been filed in the first place. DPS spokesman Tom Vinger did admit Swinton is still “a person of interest.”

Hmmm, what’s that I smell? The first Eldorado lawsuit? For wrongful arrest?

Meanwhile, this issue is now going interstate. Texas claims statutory rape charges could be pending based on the age of girls/young women at Eldorado; it is pretty much refusing to accept sect members’ claims, and paperwork, on the women’s ages.

So, they’re fighting back:
In Utah, members of the polygamous church have asked the state’s governor to intervene in its fight with Texas authorities over the custody the children.

A letter written by FLDS elder Willie Jessop says Texas officials are rejecting Utah-issued birth certificates and other documents as “fake.”

The letter asks Gov. Jon Huntsman to exercise his executive authority to assist in protecting the civil rights of native Utahns and FLDS members. FLDS parents claim they have been denied their due process by the Texas courts.

“Without your leadership and personal intervention in this matter, the parental rights of every Utah family is at risk,” Jessop wrote.

Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelly said the governor has been in contact with Jessop and was reviewing his request.

Speaking of governors, our own Gov. Helmethair, Rick Perry, continues to be hugely AWOL on this issue.

Perry remains AWOL despite testimony at a Texas Senate hearing that
A. Much more manpower and resources are needed; and
B. This could take years to sort out.

Why? As I’ve said before, it’s a religious liberty issue, and he’s running scared from the Christian Religious Right.

Linens ’n Things joins retail bankruptcy hit list

As a New York Times news analysis predicted about two weeks ago, and I blogged, Linens ’n Things has filed for bankruptcy.

And, it will be closing its Cedar Hill, Texas, store as part of its reorganization. That’s one of five Dallas-area stores, 10 in Texas, and 120 across the country it will shutter, while planning to stay in operation as a company during the bankruptcy process.
“The significant deterioration in the mortgage, housing and credit markets and the resulting impact on the retail marketplace, particularly the home sector, has overwhelmed the operating and merchandising improvements that we have made over the past two years,” said Robert J. DiNicola, Linens Holding executive chairman, in a statement.

“We are making the strategic decision to use a Chapter 11 filing to proactively address our capital structure and ensure that our stores will remain well stocked while we work through the steps to align the capital structure of the company with the realities of today's business environment,” DiNicola said.

The company has a total of 589 stores in the U.S. and Canada; Canadian stores are not affected by the filing.

Like Bombay and other home furnishing retailers, the recent housing crunch is believed to have contributed to Linens ’n Things' problems.

Tesla unveils electric sports car

It’s been rumored and expected for some time, and now it’s here.
Specs, both environmental and performance?
• 0-60 in just under four seconds;
• 225 miles on one charge;
• 3.5 hours recharge time;
• Starts at $109K.

Flip side? Lithium-ion batteries, above all. Yes, they allow longer cruise times than more “conventional” car batteries, which typically require a visit to an electric outlet at 100 miles or so.

But, as anybody who has actually had a laptop computer on their lap for too long notes, lithium-ion batteries get HOT. Yes, Tesla has tested this car thoroughly, but, nonetheless, in a place like Phoenix, just how well will these batteries hold up? And, what’s the fire danger in a collision?

Tesla plans an electric family sedan, at a lower price, down the road. I’m interested, but wouldn’t buy without more assurance on real-world battery performance.

The economics of scarcity

Jim Jubak provides an in-depth analysis of why prices are skyrocketing on food, oil and about anything else you can name. It’s called scarcity economics, he says.

However, a better name might be Peak Product economics,, based on things like Peak Oil, Peak Copper and Peak Natural Gas. Or “Peak Economics” for short.

Jubak does note that some of his “scarcity economics” is based on Peak Product economics, like Peak Copper:
Scarcity markets aren't created overnight. Potential buyers need to be bloodied by repeated experience on both the supply and demand side. Consumers of copper know that for each of the past six years, the copper industry has failed to deliver projected increases in supply.

In 2008 and 2009, according to UBS AG, the industry will fall short again. The bank projects production a shortfall of 800,000 metric tons over those two years.

But, it’s not just oil or certain metals. It’s fertilizers that may be Peaking, too, and, surprisingly, not because of the expected arrival of Peak Natural Gas in 25 years or so.
You can see scarcity economics at work in today's fertilizer market, for example. Potash of Saskatchewan produces potash and nitrogen fertilizers. But with the world short 1.2 million metric tons of potash in 2008 and desperate for nitrogen fertilizer, Potash is seeing its already high margins soar to astounding heights. In announcing its first-quarter earnings, the company projected that margins in 2008 will be roughly 3.5 times as high as in 2007.

Think that’s insane? As long as scarcity economics rules the fertilizer market, there’s a good chance Potash will get its price, and other fertilizer makers will go along for the ride. The global scarcity has made high-cost, government-subsidized producers in India the price setters in the market: If you’ve got to have supply, you'll pay any price, right? That price and not Potash’s production costs are now setting the market price.

Supply contracts for potash for the second half of 2008 are up for negotiation in Japan and India. Japan paid just $120 a ton for potash in its contract for the first half of 2008. China recently signed a long-term contract for $576 a ton. That was a $456-per-ton price jump. And even with that increase, the Chinese didn’t get all the potash they wanted. The country is now looking at a shortfall that some experts peg as high as 40 percent, just when China is trying to increase food production to cut inflation in domestic food prices.

Did you just hear the sound of rice, corn and wheat prices soaring even higher?

As for Peak Oil, he notes what I’ve blogged elsewhere, that Russian production is slipping and Mexican production is slumping.

Fasten your seat belts for America’s sled ride downhill.

Dallas beer store owner paid for Lancaster beer opposition?

Did two Lancaster anti-alcohol ministers get nearly $5,000 from the owner of
Dallas' Cut Rate Beer and Wine to oppose beer and wine package sale
referendums in Lancaster?

Looks like it could be that way.

I'm not saying the two are brothers, either, but Lancaster people who are
smart wouldn't be surprised that the two have the same last name.

They also would not be surprised that the two are connected to a third
minister, who just happens to be running for mayor of Lancaster.

(And no, not Morris Mosley.)

That money would explain how the two ministers with the same last name could
afford to send out full four-color mailers opposing the referendums in 2006
and earlier.

ACLU demands Dem Convention answers from Denver

The Colorado ACLU wants the city of Denver to cough up more answers about parade routes, protest zones and more for the Democratic National Convention this summer, on behalf of 12 plaintiffs such as Recreate 68:
At the Democratic National Convention in Boston (in 2004), law enforcement authorities set up a much-criticized “demonstration zone” outside the heavily secured perimeter of the convention site. Ruling in a case filed only two weeks before the convention, a federal court described the zone — enclosed by concrete barricades, multiple layers of fencing, mesh, and netting, topped with overhead razor wire and located under an old rail line — as a “grim, mean, and oppressive space” comparable to “an internment camp,” and “an offense to the spirit of the First Amendment.”

And, here’s how that relates to Denver.
“Denver has refused to process any applications for parade permits during the DNC, and it has refused to disclose any information about the ‘demonstration zone’ that it plans to set up, ” explained Steven D. Zansberg, an ACLU cooperating attorney who, along with partner Christopher P. Beall at Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schulz, led the team filing the lawsuit today. “Denver says it is waiting for the Secret Service to decide the outer boundaries of the security perimeter, and the Secret Service says it may not decide until July. If the plaintiffs are forced to wait for these government agencies to act, there will be not be enough time for a court to review unreasonable restrictions on First Amendment activity.”

The court papers filed today refer to two stages of the lawsuit. In the first stage, the plaintiffs are asking the Court to order the Secret Service immediately to provide Denver whatever information the City believes it needs to process applications for parade permits, to determine parade routes, and to finalize and disclose plans for the anticipated demonstration zone. In the second phase, after Denver discloses the plans and its anticipated regulations of First Amendment activity, the Court will be asked to review those restrictions and to prohibit or modify those that unjustifiably infringe on First Amendment rights.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the ACLU, American Friends Service Committee, American Indian Movement of Colorado, Americans for Safe Access, CODEPINK, Escuela Tlatelolco, Troops Out Now Coalition, Recreate 68, Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center, Citizens for Obama, Tent State University, and United for Peace and Justice. Both ACLU and Recreate 68 have been meeting and corresponding with City officials for a year, in an unsuccessful effort to iron out the City’s plans for marches and for demonstrations near the Convention site.

Several of the plaintiffs, including Recreate 68, Escuela Tlatelolco, and Troops Out Now, have filed timely requests for parade permits, but Denver will not process them and refuses to say when it will begin processing them. Plaintiff Citizens for Obama, created by Damian Sedney, a Vermont resident, has asked for permits for several marches in support of Senator Obama’s nomination. According to the lawsuit, Sedney has prepared a website to advertise the planned marches, but he is holding off until he knows whether or not he will obtain the necessary permit. Every day that goes by without action, the lawsuit asserts, reduces the ability of Sedney and other plaintiffs to recruit supporters and participants to come to Denver and join in their constitutionally protected activities.

Shorter version — the ACLU and its plaintiffs are afraid the city of Denver and the Secret Service are trying to exercise prior restraint, and their actions so far indicate that’s a very legitimate fear.

May 02, 2008

Dick Cheney helps pollute his own state

Did you ever think Wyoming would have ozone warnings?

Well, courtesy of all its oil and gas drilling, it now does.

And that’s not all:
The Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab in Ashland, Ore., estimates that every year up to a half-million birds die in oil and gas waste pits in the Rockies. For comparison, the Exxon Valdez spill killed about a quarter-million birds. At what point will we take a hard look at energy development in the Rockies and figure out how we can do it responsibly? Right now, any calls for moderate development are deemed un-American, and when restrictions are proposed, the industry pouts and threatens to leave.

Of course, the author admits he drives a gas-guzzler (which probably actually gets offroad use in Wyoming), but says he is trying to conserve.

Thanks to Blogger! Post options actually is an option now

Now, if you want to delay a post, and you set a later time under “post options,” instead of immediately publishing the post, but showing it with a delayed date stamp to keep that post at the top of your blog, Blogger now will actually delay publication until the time you want.


Steve Ballmer caved!

Supposedly Microslob, with Ballmer taking the point, raised its offer for Yahoo by several dollars a share.

Any time Microslob gets a nut check is a good day in my book.

Science politicized – Dow Chem gets EPA admin fired

Two top representatives of EPA Administrator Chief Hack Stephen Johnson told EPA Region 5 Administrator Mary Cade to quit by June 1 or be fired.


Because she wanted Dow Chemical to do more to clean up years of dioxin waterway discharges from its Midland, Mich., headquarters.

As detailed in the graphic, Dow has a LOT of polluting history for which to answer.

And, it’s sad.

I’ve been to Dow HQ. It’s a beautiful campus. Midland is a nice large town/small city.

And, the Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay attract lots of anglers. But, you just can’t eat the fish there.

Dow not only refuses to do more cleanup, in the past, it has tried to get the state of Michigan to lower its dioxin standard, which is tougher than federal allowance. It also funded paid for a University of Michigan study, not peer reviewed, which claims dioxin soil levels have little to do with human activity.

If there were a “Military-Industrial Complex Hall of Shame,” Dow Chemical would be a first-year dishonoree.

Friday scatblogging – gold in that thar dinoscat

A dinosaur coprolite, a mere 130 million years old, sold Wednesday for $960 at auction in New York City, more than twice the starting price of $450.
Buyer Steve Tsengas of Fairport Harbor, Ohio, owns OurPets, a company that sells products to treat dog and cat waste.

Tsengas bought the dung in hopes of motivating his employees and using it as a marketing tool by displaying it at the company's booth at trade shows, he said.

“Poop,” he said, “is a big business in the pet industry.”

No shit?

And, that coprolite looks like petrified wood. I’m even wondering if you couldn’t cut it with a fine-grade masonry saw and polish it up like a flat slab of petrified wood.

South suburban Dallas elections heat up

In Duncanville, which despite claims to the contrary, local elections approach “partisan” status, some candidate surrogates, when they can’t have every printed word go their own way, don’t have a problem media venue shopping, or even, possibly, helping a willing, if possibly naïve, third party, get help setting up an online “media” venue. Not that I’m mentioning any names, like Steve Madison, rather than just speculating into open air.

(Oh, and governments DO “attempt/try” eminent domain, Mr. Madison, because they don’t always succeed. Eminent domain attempts get defeated in court. They get withdrawn by governments as part of settlement processes, as you well know. They get withdrawn because a local government knows it will lose the case in court. Fortunately, Texas law specifies “constitutional manner” for eminent domain.)

As for “evil giants,” IIRC, the city of Duncanville made a lowball offer to the Hodge family, recognized “constitutional manner” wouldn’t fly and backed off.

Plus, there’s the whole controversy over whether Duncanville ramping up its “going Green” drive at just this time has any connection to the re-election bid of David Green. I would say “little,” but, I’m not dumb enough to say “none.” That said, I supposed people can drive Fords when City Councilman Paul Ford runs for re-election.

And, speaking of the mayoral race and partisanship, I’m disappointed “Rose” Renfroe is challenging David Green. Where’s the “Rosita” Renfroe who wanted to challenge Dallas County Commissioner Ken Mayfield two years ago?

I guess Duncanville doesn’t have enough Hispanic voters for “Rosita” to show up. For all I know and some of what I’ve read, Renfroe may actually be a Republican in drag on some of her stances. And, as I’ve said before, Dallas County Democrats have got to still be kicking themselves for not finding a real candidate to run against Mayfield in 2006, given he was about the only county-level Republican to get re-elected in the 2006 Tuesday Night Massacre.

In Lancaster, which I follow less these days, but where I could write a small book about some candidates, I’m sure Morris Mosley is doing plenty of agitating in the mayoral race. That said, it’s interesting that supporters of either Clyde Hairston or Marcus Knight haven’t found any new criminal activity by Mosley.

Speaking of activity that governments frown on, I wonder if any churches have campaign signs up on church property, which the IRS definitely frowns on.

I also wonder how much Larry Lewis is relishing the idea of Joe Kana on the school board. A better-informed, and more level-headed, critic of many of Lewis’ ideas than Carolyn Morris on the Lancaster ISD school board would definitely tip board dynamics.

Delta and Northwest merger flying like lead balloons in hometowns

The proposed Delta-Northwest airline merger is reportedly a big turkey in the two airlines hometowns.

In all of Georgia, only 40 percent of people favor it with 45 percent opposed. They figure it will make the hellhole called Hartsfield even more diabolical.

And, remember, this year’s GOP convention is in Minneapolis. If GOP federal regulatory agencies approve the merger, with former Northwest jobs start getting shed, it will be UGLY in the Great White North.

And, shed those jobs will be! About 1,000 “Northwest” white-collar jobs could get whacked in the Twin Cities in the merger. Plus, more union-supportive Minnesotans of various stripes don’t trust Sunbelt-incorporated Delta a whole heck of a lot.

Plus, Northwest itself already has a history of not keeping promises made to the state of Minnesota:
In exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars of state aid, Northwest vowed to build an engine facility, maintain three hangars, hire thousands of workers, and keep the hub and headquarters in Minnesota. Most plans fell short or never materialized. Since 1992, more than 6,500 Northwest workers have lost their jobs. …

Northwest executives last week said they'd honor financial agreements with the airport authority and the state. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, though, said he'd consider reworking the bond and loan deals with a newly merged airline.

Later, Pawlenty said the merger could make the state issue an immediate call on $245 million in state-backed bonds.

Beyond that, financial details of the merger already have Northwest pilots bitching at their Delta opposite numbers. Employee turmoil is a great way to smash two companies together.

Sidebar: One complaint about Matt Towery’s article — the first link. claims metro Atlanta is 5 million.


Try closer to 3 million.

What did he do, include the whole state of Georgia as “metro Atlanta”? Throw in Chattanooga?

I’m in D/FW... we're just a little over 6 million, and I KNOW Atlanta isn't that close in size.

Update: Boosted and expanded from comments, per a person who claims metro Atlanta is more than 5 million people, or 5.27 million, to be more precise.

I may have downsized Atlanta a bit, but even with a pretty generous definition of “metro Atlanta,” it’s still straining to hit the 4-million mark.

Per my Rand-McNally (which says most recent Census estimates, so I'm assuming 2005 mid-decade), here we go.

I did a very broad 13-county definition of metropolitan Atlanta:

Bartow, Cherokee Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Forsyth, Gwinnett, Hall, Paulding counties. Note — that includes the Gainesville area.

Total population? 3,649,259.

Even if those are 2000 Census numbers and not 2005 estimates, and I allow a 10 percent increase over eight years, that’s still just 4.01 million now. (And I know that, Sunbelt state and all, Georgia isn’t growing THAT fast. D/FW adds 100,000 a year. Even if we give Atlanta 70,000 a year, over eight years, and assume the 3.6 million is from 2000 and not 2005, that is at most 4.2 million today.)

Sorry, ma’am, but Atlanta just ain’t that big. There’s not a single 1 million-population county in the entire metro Atlanta area. That alone should tell it ain’t that big

Note — my 13-county area does NOT include Athens, 70 miles away, or Macon, 84 miles away, or Dalton, 91 miles away. I’m not being facetious when I say, if you want to do that, then I can make Dallas-Fort Worth have more than 7 million people instead of the roughly 6 million it actually has.

In comparison to Atlanta, the 12 counties which I see making up Dallas-Fort Worth — Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Hood, Hunt, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant and Wise counties — have a population, per the same Rand-McNally, of 5,606,792.

Sorry, Peach Staters, but that’s about 2 million more than Atlanta, for better or for worse.

Canada slammed on indigenous rights

Canada, which joined the toxic U.S., plus Australia and New Zealand, which have their own bad histories with aboriginals, in refusing to sign a non-binding U.N. convention on aboriginal rights, is now getting a public relations black eye. Ottawa, which opposed the resolution on grounds it provided excessive property and legal powers, says it can rehabilitate its reputation.

May 01, 2008

Measles outbreak – doorknob justice would hit measles parties parents

About six weeks ago, I blogged about the latest nuttery in California: measles parties.

That’s where parents who indulge in various conspiracy theories, either autism-type ones against vaccinations specifically, or broader alt-medicine type ones against the “medical establishment” in general, refuse to get their kids inoculated, and instead take them to a party to deliberately expose them to someone with measles.

(I also added that I’m surprised we don’t have more of this stupidity here in Texas since Tejas, like California, lets parents exempt their children from vaccination on non-religious as well as religious grounds.)

Anyway, maybe the chickens are coming home to roost, courtesy of the biggest measles outbreak in seven years. No deaths yet here, but globally? About 500,000 measles deaths a year, primarily in countries where they can’t get or can’t afford vaccines. (That’s excepting places like the Muslim-majority portion of Nigeria, where you have other conspiracy theory peddlers saying vaccines are created to make people sterile.)

Trans Texas Corridor whore Kruzee DWI arrested

Maybe the Trans Texas Corridor DOES drive a man to drink!

Rep. Mike Krusee, chairman of the House Transportation Committee in the Texas Lege for driving while intoxicated. And, here’s the irony of being hoist by your own petard:
Krusee carried and passed legislation in 2003 that created something called the “driver responsibility program” to help fund the Texas Mobility Fund. That program included a number of surcharges for driving offenses, including $1,000 for a first conviction of driving while intoxicated.

Actually, the cost is more than that, from what I’ve read. Plus, he gets the 180-day administrative license revocation. All of that also courtesy of his own legislative skill!

Then we have the untruth of the “one glass of wine” admission after failing a field sobriety test. Throw in that Krusee was driving with expired registration, and we’ve got a doozy.

Krusee decided not to run for re-election this year. I’ll bet the Texas GOP is breathing a huge collective sigh of relief right now.

For more on Krusee’s whoring for the TTC, and just plain whoring, go here. That’s your family values GOP for you!

OTOH, Krusee argued last fall, when he decided not to run again, that he was being made the fall guy for TTC opposition. I’m sure there’s a grain of truth there.

Big Three of myth drop like a rock again

Earlier today I blogged about how automakers spent $70 million on lobbying last year, primarily to fight EPA fuel economy standards increases.

Well, it looks like the Big Three portion of that lobbying should have been spent on more fuel-efficient cars, instead, given April sales numbers.

Chrysler, with the most gas-guzzlers in its lineup, was off 23 percent. Ford and GM were both down double digits. Toyota sloughed off four months of decline to post a 3.4 percent increase.

First, Toyota having four declining year-over-year months in a row is not a reflection on Toyota strategy but on the recession.

Second, it looks more and more like Daimler-Benz bailed on Chrysler at the right time. When you have no hybrids, not even lite-hybrid trucks, and not a single nonhybrid that can bust 35 mpg on the highway, you’re in a shitload of trouble.

Since Chrysler is in the private hands of Cerberus now, it can’t go belly up, per se. But some Cerberus managers who suggested this buy can sure as hell be fired.

Continental backs off United merger

And looks at American Airlines partnership.

American and British Airways, which already have a code-sharing and frequent-flier deal, have invited Continental to join. Continental has similar arrangement with Delta and Northwest, but after they merge, they’re unlikely to need or want Continental.

Also, will U.S. Airways get into the merger mix?

Rockefellers demand Exxon go green

At a New York news conference, 66 Rockefeller family descendants urged ExxonMobil shareholders to support several renewable energy resolutions at its May 28 annual meeting.
They also want Exxon to split its chairman and CEO positions, both held by Rex Tillerson, who rejected the Rockefeller plea:
Tillerson has said he focuses on oil and gas because he expects humans will rely on fossil fuels for many decades.

I don’t know whether Tillerson really doesn’t believe in Peak Oil’s imminence or he’s lying through his hat. Be interesting if somebody tried to push him on fiduciary due diligence for investors.

The job split is one of the May 28 resolutions. It got 40 percent support a year ago.

I presume somebody is organizing a protest at this year’s meeting. I remember being outside the Meyerson in Dallas two years ago.

Among Rockefellers NOT at the New York confab? One West Virginian, Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

Shock me.

Joe Barton and Big Three - irony and hypocrisy alert

The picture of global warming denialist Joe Barton (R-Texas) having to trade in a Tahoe for something greener is indeed poetic justice.
Congress has been bearing down to do more about global warming. But a little-noticed amendment to last year’s energy bill has hit especially close to home. It requires House members who lease vehicles through their office budgets to drive cars that emit low levels of greenhouse gases.

Among the victims: Texas Republican Joe L. Barton, who will probably have to give up his Chevy Tahoe, despite his protests that it is made in his district. “I guarantee you my district is not upset that I’m driving a Chevy Tahoe,” he said.

Actually, Joe, no, as someone who lives next door to your district, I can tell you many people in the district are upset that you won’t try to get anything done about TXI cement plant pollution in Midlothian.
The requirement was sought by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.), who figured that if his colleagues were serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and U.S. dependence on foreign oil, they ought to put their foot where their mouth is.

Only about 130 of the House’s 435 members lease; Senate rules prohibit it.

So, Smokey Joe, you can always buy your Tahoe instead, and pay for it yourself, you freeloader.
Under the legislation, the Environmental Protection Agency will determine which vehicles lawmakers will be allowed to lease, a list that’s expected before the end of the year. Senators are not allowed to use their office budgets for long-term vehicle leases. Lawmakers can seek mileage reimbursement when they use their own vehicles for congressional business.

The EPA’s list could include vehicles such as the Ford Escape Hybrid, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid and the Prius, which received high scores on the EPA's Green Vehicle Guide. The guide rates vehicles on their greenhouse gas emissions on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being best.

Meanwhile, the auto industry spent $70 million on lobbying last year, a 20 percent hike from 2006 and largely focused on efforts to kill a fuel economy increase bill.

And, hypocrisy from Michigan Congressman Joe Knollenberg, who wants a Meanwhile, the auto industry spent $1.2 billion bailout for the Formerly Big Three “U.S.” automakers to meet tougher fuel standards.

Could this be the year to end the Lancaster state track streak?

The Lancaster (Texas) high school girls track team has won seven straight state titles. Having been editor of the community newspaper there for most of that streak, I would never sell the team and coach Beverly Humphrey and her teams short.

That said …

Fort Worth Dunbar has better times this year in both the 4x100 and 4x200 relays. And, in Texas high school track, due to double point values, relay performances is where you win team titles.

On individual sprints, Dunbar runners rank higher than Lancaster on 100 and 200 times, too.

Anyway, good luck, Bev; I think you’re going to need some luck this year. I also see that one runner transferred to another school this year. Is that a first?

Argument 422 for parliamentary government

You don’t have executive orders in a parliamentary government.
In a partial concession to Congressional pressure, the Bush administration agreed on Wednesday to show the Senate and House Intelligence Committees secret Justice Department legal opinions justifying harsh interrogation techniques that critics call torture.

The decision, announced at a Senate hearing where Democrats sharply criticized the administration’s secrecy on legal questions, did not satisfy other members of Congress who have pushed for the documents for several years, notably Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A spokesman for the Justice Department said officials were discussing whether to share part or all the opinions with Mr. Leahy’s panel.

At the hearing, a department official, John P. Elwood, disclosed a previously unpublicized method to cloak government activities. Mr. Elwood acknowledged that the administration believed that the president could ignore or modify existing executive orders that he or other presidents have issued without disclosing the new interpretation.

Mr. Elwood, citing a 1980s precedent, said there was nothing new or unusual about such a view.

Whether Elwood is right or wrong about presidents having the right to, in essence, classify executive orders is besides the point.

In a parliamentary government, if a prime minister tried to do something called executive orders, not just the opposition but perhaps backbenchers in his or her own party might be calling for a ministerial head on a platter.

My professional take – FLDS, Army cases challenge us on religious liberty

From my May 1 newspaper column:

They look different from us. They dress differently. They’re standoffish. They have weird religious beliefs and social customs.

How many of these statements and more crossed the minds of many Americans in the days and weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, thinking about Muslims in America?

By actions if not words, we’re hearing or seeing the same beliefs today — over a splinter Mormon group right here in Texas.

It seems that the state of Texas, including the overworked and understaffed Child Protective Services and District Judge Barbara Walther are acting on presupposition and prejudice in how they have acted from the moment of raiding the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, compound in Eldorado.

First, the phone call itself that led to the April 3 raid on the FLDS compound.

Colorado court records show the calls made to a San Angelo domestic violence shelter were made from prepaid mobile phones previously used by Rozita Swinton. The Colorado Springs woman has been charged with making a false report in Colorado and is on probation there for a similar offense.

Teenagers, especially ones who are mad at their parents or other adults, do that. But, CPS and the Texas Department of Public Safety didn’t show much responsibility or initiative in trying to determine whether or not the call was legitimate before making the raid.

Then came further actions by CPS, many substantiated by Judge Walther, followed by other actions of her own.

First was the decision to separate the children at Eldorado from their mothers. If fathers at Eldorado had forced mothers unto either underage or polygamous marriages, of course, CPS would be right to separate both mothers and children from the men.

But, nobody has charged the mothers with any wrongdoing.

Instead, a surface interpretation of CPS actions would be that the state wants to deprogram these children out of their “weird” beliefs in an “extremist offshoot Mormon cult.”

The idea that the state wants to “deprogram” these 437 children is only furthered by Judge Walther’s actions.

She refused to take the time or effort to treat each child as an individual. Instead, in a temporary custody hearing on whether to keep them in state custody rather than return them to their mothers, she had one giant hearing for all children. She even called it a “cattle call” afterward.

If either polygamous marriages were celebrated, or statutory rape was committed, at the YFZ Ranch, then perpetrators need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Ditto if reports of broken bones or other, lesser child abuse against boys at the compound were committed. Even if the broken bones are not from abuse, but healed poorly due to lack of medical care, then child neglect charges should be filed.

And, even on that issue, The Dallas Morning News notes the injury rate of boys at the compound is in line with other rural areas:
While physical injuries can be an indicator of abuse, checks by The Dallas Morning News suggested broken bones for 9 percent of a group of rural children is not out of line.

According to the Web site of the Seattle Children's Hospital, about half of all boys and a quarter of all girls break a bone sometime during childhood. In 2001, about 16 percent of youngsters under 20 living on farms suffered an injury – the most common being broken bones, a federal study says.

Meanwhile, the story indicates that Child Protective Services is continuing to invent ideas first, then fish for justification for them afterward.

Carey Cockerell, head of the Department of Family and Protective Services, parent agency of Child Protective Services, has claimed that boys at the compound were sexually abused, but at a Texas Senate panel hearing Wednesday, had no proof to offer.

But, the FLDS members, especially before any indictments have even been issued, are entitled to the presumption of innocence just as much as anybody else.

Unfortunately, the state of Texas isn’t acting that way.

Beyond the legal presumption of innocence, all FLDS members, whether fathers, mothers or children, are entitled to their First Amendment rights, protections and freedoms. So, too, are Jews, the Muslims stereotyped after 9/11, the Hindus and Buddhists who moved to our shores later, the American Indians who still practice ancestral religions handed down for hundreds and thousands of years before Europeans came here, and even the irreligious.

At the time that amendment was drafted and ratified, America had more than just Christians. A number of cities had Jewish communities. A number of the Founding Fathers weren’t Trinitarian Christians, but rather Deists, the forerunners of today’s Unitarians. And through French and British philosophers, ideas of agnosticism and atheism were well-known.

Indeed, John Adams said, “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

From where I sit, though there really haven’t been a lot of legal test cases, the First Amendment includes protection of freedom from religion, too.

Spc. Jeremy Hall, a real, live atheist in a foxhole as an Iraq vet, is suing the Army over that very proposition.

Hall came out of the secularist closet last year, after being involved in a firefight as a gunner on a Humvee that took several bullets in its protective shield. Afterward, his commander asked whether he believed in God, Hall said.

“I said, ‘No, but I believe in Plexiglas,’” Hall said.

The issue came to a head when, according to Hall, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn threatened to bring charges against him for trying to hold a meeting of atheists and other secularists.
Welborn claimed Hall dishonored the Constitution. I think Welborn had his finger pointing in the wrong direction.

Likewise, let’s not prejudge the FLDS. Remember, the Pilgrims came here for religious freedom. Remember also that if you try drawing First Amendment lines to exclude one belief, you’ve lost the right to object when somebody else wants to exclude yours.

Calling all global warming denialists

The fact that ocean current cyclic changes MAY produce slight cooling next decade will surely be trotted out by the ExxonMobils, Hudson and Manhattan Institutes and Reason Magazines of the country as “proof” there is no such thing as anthropogenic global warming.

As it is, such ocean changes would only produce cooling in the middle and upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, and not planet-wide.

So, let’s not even speak of “global cooling.” The story is deceptive. The headline on the Yahoo story is deceptive.

Yucca Mountain nothing? Let’s clean up our Hanfords first

Washington state’s Hanford site and the Idaho National Laboratory are huge nuclear waste polluters of the surrounding soil and watersheds.

How bad? Hanford has 60-year-old single-wall steel tanks holding radioactive heavy metals that could burst out about any day.

Idaho National? I wouldn’t want to drink the water in Pocatello, let’s put it that way.

Hypocrisy alert – Schmuck Talk Express™ goes a bridge too far

Blaming the Minneapolis bridge collapse of last year on Congressional earmarks is bullshit even by John McCain standards.

Then, we get the real bullshit, hypocrisy-style:
On the same day, McCain was confronted with an earmark he did consider worthy. During a forum at Lehigh Valley Hospital, he met a woman with ovarian cancer who was treated in a clinical trial funded with $80 million in congressional earmarks.

The hospital was showing off an electronic medical records system that is virtually paper-free.

McCain insisted he was not trying to have it both ways and said that deserving projects can get money through regular channels.

“It’s the process I object to,” he said. “I’m sure that I can give you a list of projects the Mafia funds, and they would probably be good projects. But I can’t give you a justification for the Mafia. I can’t give you a justification for the corruption that's been bred which has sent members of Congress to the federal prison,” he said.

You can’t have it both ways, John.

If the Mafia kept trash off the streets of Newark, would you hold that up as good work?

Or, to pin your woeful Middle East knowledge on you, if Hamas improved water, sewer and electricity service in Gaza over what Fatah did, would you hold that up as good work?

What a lying doorknob.

Maybe OJ is looking for money on the golf course too

O.J. Simpson not only owes the Goldman family a lot of money from their wrongful death lawsuit, he owes the state of California $1.5 million in back taxes.

Man, you have to break into a lot of Vegas hotel memorabilia shows to dig up that kind of jack.

April 30, 2008

Even NRA not Second Amendment absolutist

Proof? The NRA is perfectly OK with the federal law banning convicted felons from having firearms.

Ethanol havoc reaches far

Corn-based ethanol, at least. The proof? Just how much it has affected Iowa farmers, and the defenses people throw out for it.

U.S. farmers investing in Brazilian soybeans because they’re planting former soybean areas with corn.

U.S. farmers giving soil conservationists nightmares and migranes by repeated tilling of their fields.

U.S. farmers pulling more land out of the Conservation Reserve Program. (That also affects wildlife, especially migratory birds, but also other critters.)

U.S. meat-addicted consumers refusing to adjust their dietary practices, so far.

U.S. ranchers refusing to address their grain-feeding of beef, so far.

And, Big Ethanol getting in bed, or in line at least, with Big Ag:
Don Endres, the chief executive of VeraSun and owner of 20 percent of its shares, grew up on a farm in Watertown, S.D., where his father and grandfather raised corn. His brothers are still farmers.

Endres says ethanol plants aren’t to blame for high corn or food prices. He notes that the corn used to make ethanol isn't the kind that people eat anyway. Moreover, he says, ethanol plants like VeraSun's extract the starch in corn for fermentation while producing a dry feed that contains protein and nutrients. Piles of it are collected from industrial dryers at the plant. VeraSun then sells that feed, known as dried distillers grain, back to farmers who raise animals. Much of it goes to Texas, Mexico and China; it accounts for about 15 percent of VeraSun's revenue. When the grain is mixed with inexpensive starch, such as alfalfa, farmers can save money, Endres says.

Finally, he says, yields on corn will continue to increase so that the current acreage will be able to meet both food and fuel demands. His grandfather got 40 bushels to an acre, his father got 80, and his brothers get 160. Someday, Endres says, farms will get 300 bushels an acre.

First, that last graf is ridiculous, and emblematic of the heads-in-the-sand “salvific technologism” (the more wonky phrase for the belief that “technology will always bail out America”).

Second, while beef may out the distillers’ grain, chicken farmers say their birds can only take it in limited quantities.

And, even beef, you can’t feed straight grain for too long; it ulcerates their rumens.

Third, the only way you got to 160 bushels was through massive use of fertilizers, which produce runoff, estrogen mimics among frogs, dead zones down south of New Orleans, etc. It’s environmentally irresponsible to think you can grow 300 bushels of corn an acre, as well as highly unlikely.

Fourth, your fertilizers are made from natural gas, as are many of your pesticides. U.S natural gas production peaked at the start of this decade; production for all of North America peaked a couple of years ago.

But, that doesn’t stop more nuttery, including from an agriculture professor:
“From Washington where Lester Brown is sitting, agriculture can’t do enough to satisfy the nation's energy needs and meet all the demands put on it for food and feed,” says Matt Liebman, an agronomist at Iowa State University. “But from agriculture's point of view, (ethanol) enhances market opportunities. So it really depends on your perspective.”

Ahh, the old GOP answer — the market. That’s the result of the Iowa caucuses.

And, that’s setting aside the fact that corn-based ethanol is no better than carbon neutral and increasingly appears to be carbon-negative. It also appears to have a negative energy return on energy investment.

Which means? Given our current government, ethanol is the perfect symbolic fuel.

Beyond that, we can’t afford ethanol.

Kevin Phillips denotes 40 years of government economic lies

The real unemployment rate in America today? Oh, about 9 percent?

Gross domestic product didn’t grow 0.6 percent this quarter; it slipped.

Inflation? About 6-7 percent, in reality.

A newspaper excerpt of Phillips’ new book, “Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed
Politics and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism,” details how, since JFK, every American president except Carter has jacked with how we calculate unemployment, the Gross National/Domestic Product (remember, one of those changes was to move from GNP to GDP), the inflation rate, or two or more of the above.

Phillips points out it was Jack Kennedy who had his administration invent the idea of “discouraged” workers to lower unemployment numbers.
Under John Kennedy, out-of-work Americans who had stopped looking for jobs — even if this was because none could be found — were labeled “discouraged workers” and then excluded from the ranks of the unemployed.

Lyndon Johnson orchestrated a “unified budget” that combined Social Security with the rest of the federal outlays. This innovation allowed the surplus receipts in Social Security to mask the emerging federal deficit.

Richard Nixon created a division between “core” inflation and headline inflation. If the Consumer Price Index was calculated by tracking a bundle of prices, so-called core inflation would simply exclude, because of “volatility,” categories that happened to be troublesome (and thus in the “headlines”). At that time, it was food and energy (as it is now).

Under Ronald Reagan, the Bureau of Labor Statistics decided that housing was overstating the Consumer Price Index and substituted an entirely different “Owner Equivalent Rent” measurement, based on what a homeowner might get for renting his house. This methodology, controversial at the time but still used, sidestepped what was happening in the real world of homeowner costs. Some say that led to the mortgage crisis today.

Under the first President Bush, officials moved to reorient U.S. economic statistical measure away from old industrial-era methodologies toward the emerging services economy and the expanding retail and financial sectors. Skeptics said the underlying goal was to reduce the inflation rate in order to reduce federal payments — from interest on the national debt to cost-of-living outlays for government employees, retirees and Social Security recipients.

Under President Clinton, the convoluted CPI changes proposed under Bush were implemented. And the Clintonites tinkered with the unemployment number, in part, by changing its housing economic sampling, disproportionately eliminating inner city households. That is believed to have reduced black unemployment estimates and eased worsening poverty figures.

Don’t expect any of this to change. Hillary Clinton’s husband was one of the bigger numbers-fudgers, in a way that “the first black president” didn’t help blacks.

McCain? It doesn’t involve a tax cut, so he doesn’t give a damn, and he’s already admitted his economic cluelessness.

Obama? Maybe, but I won’t hold out too much hope.

But, the bottom line is this has been bipartisan. Republican and Democratic Congresses have acquiesced in Republican and Democratic Presidents doing this.

And, no, in our current two-party system, I really don't expect this to change.

Bush STILL lies about ‘Mission Accomplished’

White House press secretary Dana Perino is still spreading the bullshit about President Bush’s May 2003 “Mission Accomplished” banner on this USS Abraham Lincoln.
“President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific and said ‘mission accomplished’ for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission,” Perino said Wednesday. "And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner. And I recognize that the media is going to play this up again tomorrow, as they do every single year.”

Well, of course it is, because YOU’RE STILL LYING, you hack.

Time for Morning News real estate editor to eat some crow

Eighteen months or so ago, Dallas Morning News Real Estate Editor Steve Brown was leading a parade of that newspaper’s staff writers and go-to information sources saying the subprime crisis wouldn’t affect Dallas. Well, today, Brown changes his tune, although he doesn’t eat crow.

And, he doesn’t change his tune enough to totally dodge hypocrisy charges. Or, Pollyanna the real estate market bull charges.

Brown discusses Dallas-Fort Worth’s 4 percent year-over-year fall in housing prices in February, then says it’s not that bad:
The Dallas-area had the third-lowest annual decline, behind Portland, Ore., down 2 percent, and Seattle, off 2.7 percent.

First, Charlotte, N.C. actually had an increase, so Dallas was just fourth best, or fourth least worst, of the top 20 cities, not No. 3.

Second, throw out the subprime ground zero cities of Los Angeles, San Diego Phoenix, Las Vegas (those two feeling the fallout of more people unable to sell their L.A./S.D. houses), San Francisco, Miami and Tampa, and only three other cities had declines of more than 10 percent.

Detroit? Economy that continues to crumble and people that continue to flee. That’s going to continue to deteriorate. Not sure why Minneapolis and D.C. had double-digit declines.

But, Dallas 4.1 percent is not that much different than Boston’s 4.6 percent, Denver’s 5.5, Atlanta’s 5.6 or even NYC’s 6.6 percent drop.

So, let’s eat a little more humble pie, Steve Brown.

If you want to show him a little love on eating that humble pie, give him an e-jingle.

Recession might become depression, economist says

Raymond Robertson, an economics professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., says that the post-Depression financial system safeguards (many of them emasculated or gutted by bipartisan congressional and presidential action in the Clinton Administration) could fail to hold if a current recession got bad enough.
“Any of the potential shocks that we face could easily slip us into a very, very serious depression,” said Robertson. …

Robertson singles out the “astronomical” trade deficit, the decline of the dollar in favor of the euro and the national debt of $9.3 trillion.

“If they stop lending, we’re gonna have to repay that debt ourselves,” according to Robertson. “We’d have to cut spending, which could cause a depression given the scale. Or we have to raise taxes, which could cause a depression given the scale. Or the United States government would go into default.”

“We’re going to have to do some very serious sacrifice and work in order to correct these problems,” he added.

Consider yourself forewarned.

LSD father dead at 102 — no he’s not?

Maybe Albert Hoffman (pictured at right by Alex Gray) kept having flashbacks to the age of 39. I doubt the chemical compound of LSD itself kept him preserved to 102. Anyway, the man who helped usher in the modern drug age is now dead.

The Dallas Morning News, which filed his death under its religion blog, interestingly, has this quote of his:
“I produced the substance as a medicine. ... It's not my fault if people abused it,” he said.

The New York Times story notes that he called it his “problem child,” but again, that it wasn’t his fault. And, per the Times, this is probably why the News filed his death under “religion”:
“As I strolled through the freshly greened woods filled with bird song and lit up by the morning sun, all at once everything appeared in an uncommonly clear light.

“It shone with the most beautiful radiance, speaking to the heart, as though it wanted to encompass me in its majesty. I was filled with an indescribable sensation of joy, oneness and blissful security.”

Another sidebar: A son of Hoffman’s died of alcoholism at the age of 53. Though Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson is not listed in the Times story as among Hoffman’s direct contacts, such as Leary and Aldous Huxley, Wilson nonetheless used LSD on a semi-regular basis in the mid-1960s and at one time thought it could be an alcoholism treatment by helping alcoholics find AA’s mythical “higher power.”

Reason has more on Hoffman.
Though Dr. Hofmann called LSD “medicine for the soul,” by 2006 his hallucinogenic days were long behind him, he said in the interview that year.

“I know LSD; I don't need to take it anymore,"”he said, adding. "Maybe when I die, like Aldous Huxley."

But he said LSD had not affected his understanding of death. In death, he said, “I go back to where I came from, to where I was before I was born, that's all.”

As an atheist, I can say that LSD, or other “entheogens,” don’t get you any closer to humus than no drug at all. And, accepting that, coffin, embalming and all, you will return to soil someday is different than believing you are mystically interconnected with “all.”

Anyway, I couldn’t resist the Timothy Leary joke.

Keeping up with the Jones’ school contributed to housing bubble

I know people who gamed the system by treating 2/28 ARMs as rental properties. Other people got caught trying to treat houses as stock-type investments. Yet others got burned by predatory loans.

But, Robert H. Frank argues, many people caught in subprrime, or Alt-A, mortgage problems, were trying to buy their way into better school districts:
Hints of how things began to go awry appeared in ‘The Two-Income Trap,” a 2003 book in which Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi posed this intriguing question: Why could families easily meet their financial obligations in the 1950s and 1960s, when only one parent worked outside the home, yet have great difficulty today, when two-income families are the norm? The answer, they suggest, is that the second incomes fueled a bidding war for housing in better neighborhoods.

It’s easy to see why. Even in the 1950s, one of the highest priorities of most parents was to send their children to the best possible schools. Because the labor market has grown more competitive, this goal now looms even larger. It is no surprise that two-income families would choose to spend much of their extra income on better education. And because the best schools are in the most expensive neighborhoods, the imperative was clear: To gain access to the best possible public school, you had to purchase the most expensive house you could afford.

But what works for any individual family does not work for society as a whole. The problem is that a “good” school is a relative concept: It is one that is better than other schools in the same area. When we all bid for houses in better school districts, we merely bid up the prices of those houses.

So, to follow out Frank’s thesis, if we devote even more energy to school reform and improvements, along with fixing loopholes and tightening loan standards, we can address some of these problems.

My idea for legal system apologies to wrongly incarcerated

After reading the story of James Lee Woodard, just freed from prison after 27 years of wrongful incarceration, I have an idea to increase the apologies that someone like him gets offered when they finally get exonerated.

Make the original trial judge, the original prosecutors who suppressed evidence, the original cops who asked leading questions of witnesses, to all come back — on their own dime, if they’re no longer in the area — and make their own apologies.

Second, change any statute of limitations for civil suits on the matter to match the maximum sentence time of the original crime, and start the clock ticking from the moment the person is released.

Bad cops and bad prosecutors would rethink if they knew they could be sued 30 years later, including having pensions garnisheed and such.

Maui Wowi opening at Uptown

Maui Wowi is a Hawaiian-themed restaurant that features Kona Hawaiian-blend coffee, Kona espresso drinks, Ghirardelli-based hot chocolate and fresh fruit smoothies on the drink menu and macadamia popcorn crunch and other Hawaiian-themed food items.

Required reading for Amy Sullivan about ‘the black church’

Washington Post column Eugene Robinson, often underappreciated, makes clear there is no such thing as “the monolithic black church.”
(Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s) basic point — that any attack on him is an attack on the African American church and its traditions — is just wrong. In making that argument, he buys into the fraudulent idea of a monolithic, monocultural black America — one with his philosophy and theology at its center. …

The reality of the African American church, of course, is as diverse as the African American community. I grew up in the Methodist church with pastors -- often active on the front lines of the civil rights movement -- whose sermons were rarely exciting enough to elicit more than a muttered "Amen." They were excitement itself, however, compared with the dry lectures delivered by the priest at the Catholic church around the corner. And what I heard every Sunday was nothing at all like the Bible-thumping, hellfire-and-damnation perorations that filled my Baptist friends with the Holy Ghost -- and even less like the spellbinding, singsong, jump-and-shout sermonizing that raised the roofs of Pentecostal sanctuaries across town.

That said, Robinson also gets to the “throwing under the bus” line, which some white liberals, under the guise of calling it “overused,” seem to think is taboo.

Robinson says, clearly, that Wright threw Obama under the bus and it was time for Obama to return the favor.

Can white liberals who aren’t so skeptical be a little less PC at times?

Meanwhile, MoJo seeks new levels of inanity by comparing The Really Angry Black Man and Sort Of Angry Black Man. I don’t know if she saw all of Obama’s “denounce Wright” speech, or read the transcript; it’s clear that, like much of the MSM, she didn’t do that with Wright.

Ayala to IDers – ‘God is the greatest abortionist’

Francisco Ayala, one of the world’s greatest evolutionary biologists, AND one of the most renowned biological scientists openly defending the compatibility of evolution and religious belief, has been a busy man with the controversy over “Expelled.”

And, he’s not afraid to be as blunt with IDers as Richard Dawkins:
In fact, he said, evolution “is more consistent with belief in a personal god than intelligent design. If God has designed organisms, he has a lot to account for.”

Consider, he said, that at least 20 percent of pregnancies are known to end in spontaneous abortion. If that results from divinely inspired anatomy, Dr. Ayala said, “God is the greatest abortionist of them all.”

Or consider, he said, the “sadism” in parasites that live by devouring their hosts, or the mating habits of insects like female midges, tiny flies that fertilize their eggs by consuming their mates’ genitals, along with all their other parts.

For the midges, Dr. Ayala said, “it makes evolutionary sense. If you are a male and you have mated, the best thing you can do for your genes is to be eaten.” But if God or some other intelligent agent made things this way on purpose, he said, “then he is a sadist, he certainly does odd things and he is a lousy engineer.”

That is also the message of his latest book, “Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion.”

Ayala also offers his take on the “teach the controversy,” or similar statements, espoused by many evolution doubters from President Bush on down, as well as evolution denialists:
He dismisses the argument that it is only fair to teach both sides of the evolution/creationism controversy. “We don’t teach alchemy along with chemistry,” he said. “We don’t teach witchcraft along with medicine. We don’t teach astrology with astronomy.”

Ayala’s work on behalf of evolutionary biology is greatly appreciated.

But, his comments also underscore part of why I became an atheist.

If you accept the idea that God, in the Western monotheistic version, cannot be “all,” how much of a “less than all” do you accept and still find worthy of the label “God,” as far as powers or skills of design?

Or, second question – how much below “less than all” do you get until you recognize that your “God” is nothing but a “god of the gaps” and that these gaps have been being closed by both science and philosophy for 300 years or more?

Or transferring this issue beyond what philosophers call “natural evil” to “moral evil,” how much “inhumanity” (the older Mark Twain would say it’s quite human) do you accept as the production, whether active or passive, of a “morally less than all” divinity before junking the idea entirely?

And, that said, at the end of the NYT story, Ayala himself refuses to discuss whether he is still a religious believer or not.

Addendum: Issues like teratomas and the related human chimeras add to this issue.

Update, May 2, 2021: Fascinating Smithsonian piece here. If you're familiar with what chimeras are, namely a human fetus that has absorbed another in the womb, the discovery that moms can become chimeras from their fetuses is ... fascinating.

Genes make some steroid users test clean – especially Asians

A Swedish study has shown that some men lack a gene that metabolizes testosterone into a form that dissolves in urine.

Result? The obvious one — urine tests don’t identify the mean as ’roid users.

And, of HUGE interest just in time for the Beijing Olympics plus China’s recent rise as an athletic power?

Two-thirds of Asian men don’t have the gene.

The story notes that researchers have known for some time that some men, and Asians in particular, seem to be able to use steroids without being caught. Now, they know why.

So, do we add genetic testing to urine testing? I think we have to. Then, we have to find a non-urine test to find out if gene-lackers are users.

Nuclear meltdown ticking in Charlotte

If Larry Brown thought it was fun working for Joe Dumars in Detroit, I’m sure he ain’t seen nothing yet compared to working for Michael Jordan in Charlotte.

I predict a two-year tenure for Coach Vagabond, with a first-round playoff appearance next year, a failure the year after that, and the explosion about two weeks before the end of the 2009-2010 season.

I guess the final question is, who is dumber, more desperate and/or more neurotic, Jordan for offering the job or Brown for accepting it?

YouTube is waiting in the wings. Especially if MJ drafts the next Darko.

April 29, 2008

Arrest Bush since Pelosi nixes impeachment

That’s Ted Rall’s bottom line on the Bush White House discussing details of torture inside the White House:
The Supreme Court has never resolved the question of whether a sitting president can be arrested by civilian authorities. Even if he were charged and convicted, many legal experts say he could issue himself a pardon.

However, leaving the presidency in the hands of an self-admitted torture killer is unacceptable. Congress could ask a U.S. Marshal to arrest Bush as part of impeachment charges. But the ultimate outcome — removing him from office a few months before the end of his term — seems woefully inadequate given the nature of the charges. In any case, Democrats have already said that impeachment is “off the table.”

And, the silence is deafening with the sound of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi putting impeachment back on the table in the last week.

Rall suggests other possibilities
Bush could be extradited to one of the countries where the torture and murders were committed — such as Afghanistan or Cuba. But he could claim immunity as a head of state.

This wouldn’t even work after his second term ends, not even if Clinton or Obama defeat McCain.

Rall doesn’t project the future out on this issue, but you know that both of them would fight extradition, and not just to Afghanistan or Cuba. Despite tweaking and tightening, it’s arguable that Belgium’s war crimes law might still allow Bush to be indicted there.

Anyway, that leaves Rall offering one other option.
There is, however, a person who could begin holding Bush and the others accountable for their crimes.

She is Cathy L. Lanier, the 39-year-old chief of D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department. Chief Lanier, take note: you have probable cause to arrest a self-confessed serial torturer and mass murderer within the borders of the District of Columbia. He resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Go get him.

History is calling, Chief Lanier. Your city, and your country, needs you.

Of course, Pelosi would probably have the House zero out the Metro PD budget if Lanier actually tried that.

Did David Axelrod fail Obama on self-oppo research?

Many progressive bloggers have been calling Hillary Clinton pollster and all-around eminence grisé Mark Penn an idiot who has major responsibility for costing her what could have been a Democratic nomination she had wrapped up by now.

That said, shouldn’t we hold Barack Obama campaign manager David Axelrod under the klieg lights of scrutiny now, too, with Rev. Jeremiah Wright threatening to become the lead anchor on his own bid?

It’s axiomatic that any major political campaign, and definitely a presidential campaign, does self-oppo research early, early on.

That is, the campaign manager plays devil’s advocate with his own candidate. He or she starts digging into his or her candidate’s own background, to see if they can dig up material that an opposing campaign might use against their own candidate.

Due to the length, micropolling and microadvertising of the modern presidential campaign, all fine-tuned for the GOP by Karl Rove, it’s mandatory you do something like this.

Obama campaign manager David Axelrod, though not of Christian background, is a Chicago native. He knows bare-knuckle politics without any tutoring from Rove.

Even giving Obama 50 percent of the doubt on his “I didn’t know” speech this afternoon, he had to have known something.

(For more on my take on Wright in general, here’s my Jeremiah Wright tag on my blog.)

But, that’s beside the point. Even if he told Axelrod that, as far as he knew, he had no skeletons in his closet beyond the youthful drug experimentation he mentioned in his book, Axelrod shouldn’t have accepted that as his final answer. And, being from Chicago, Axelrod had to hear something about Wright, I would think. (I am assuming Obama is being disingenuous about not knowing anything about this, given that 9/11 and Wright’s post-9/11 Sept. 16, 2001 sermon is nearly seven years old by now.)

I hate agreeing with Hillary Clinton on this, but she is right that this shows Obama hasn’t been thoroughly “vetted.”

This is the result of Jack Ryan imploding as Obama’s 2004 Senate opponent, followed by the eventual fill-in of the clownish Alan Keyes.

People who know Obama’s biography knows that, after killing opponents’ ballot petition drives, he had an unopposed initial election to the Illinois State Senate. In short, the only “vetting” he has ever had in a political campaign was his 2000 U.S. House primary run against Bobby Rush. And, Jeremiah Wright wouldn’t have been a factor in that election anyway.

Hypocrisy alert – Obama‘disavows’ Wright

Here’s the transcript, here’s the opening statement video and here’s the question-and-answer video.

Here’s Hypocrisy Alert Point No. 1:
The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Rev. Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well I might not know him as well as I thought, either.

I doubt that Wright has changed that much in 20 years. Wright may be kind enough not to pull Obama under the bus with him, but some member of Trinity may decide to call Obama to account.

I’m not saying Obama should know everything about what Wright said. He was honest later on when he said he’s not a theologian.

But, I can’t believe Obama missed this much of Wright’s message unless Obama is a “Christmas and Easter Christian” or close to it.

Hypocrisy Alert No. 2:
Now, I've already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before.

So, that would reinforce Wright’s comment yesterday that you’re not that regular a churchgoer, Sen. Obama? And that gets back to your “praising Jesus” comments a few months back.

And, while we’re at it, let’s get some Irony Alert points in here too. Obama, on saying he had not read a transcript or seen a tape of Wright’s comments yesterday afternoon, when asked about Wright’s statements on AIDS:
What I had heard was that he had given a performance.

Well, I’m sure Wright is saying the same about you. See your own “political posturing” comment above, too.

Obama then was asked how this would affect his campaign. Good question.

Obviously, he felt he had to do this as a longer-term strategy.

BUT, but … will black voters in North Carolina’s primary turn their backs on him? Will they think he is a “sellout”?

Back to hypocrisy alerts, though, with Point No. 3, when asked if he would continue to attend Trinity United Church of Christ:
Well, you know, the new pastor — the young pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, is a wonderful young pastor. And as I said, I still very much value the Trinity community. This — I’ll be honest, this obviously has put strains on that relationship, not because of the members or because of Reverend Moss but because this has become such a spectacle.

I believe Moss has already defended Wright, and from Trinity’s pulpit.

That said, Obama had some good points.

One is that, even if Obama had some performance today, Wright had more. As Obama put it, Wright “caricatured himself,” something Obama said “made me angry but also made me sad.”

Second was that, contra Wright, and tied with the point above, the media attacks on Wright were and are not attacks on “the black church.”

And, I think Wright has done serious damage to his relationship with Obama. If I were any political candidate, and I had a minister go out of the way like that, it would strain, strongly strain, my feelings.

Final thought — why isn’t the mainstream media pushing more on John Hagee?

First, what Hagee has said has been bad enough, but not that bad.

Second, he hasn’t gone on an out-of-his-way press tour.

Third, despite the first two points, the MSM has been, if not asleep at wheel, driving on Schmuck Talk Express™ cruise control.

The Post also notes Obama’s claim that his campaign offered Wright public relations help.

That’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t on whether or not the two are coordinating.

Oil prices going nowhere but up

Why? Reason No. 1 is, to bluntly use the phrase, Peak Oil related. When Mexico’s huge Cantarell field has dropped 300,000 barrels a day, this year alone, a 10 percent drop, you know we’re in trouble.

Mexico could be a net oil importer, and in just five years. Kiss 1.5 million barrels a day sent to us good-bye.

And, as I’ve blogged here earlier this month, Russian oil production has been flat for more than six months. The Saudis can’t (let’s drop the “won’t” open the taps, at least not much more.)

I expect oil to easily hit $130/bbl by the peak of the summer driving season.

And, this is yet the latest kink in newspaper business troubles, too. I’ll probably have a post specifically about that later this week.

Interior is on the clock on polar bears and on the hook on wolves

The Department of the Interior has 16 days to stop stalling and decide whether to list polar bears as an endangered or threatened species or not.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken agreed with suing environmental organizations that Interior missed a Jan. 9 deadline to consider listing polar bears. She rejected an Interior request for more time, saying that would violate the Endangered Species Act and congressional intent that time was of the essence in listing threatened species.

Interior said it is considering its options, but you know it’s going to appeal, just to drag this out if nothing else.

Kind of ironic, isn’t it, that this ruling was the same day as Preznit Bush’s press conference, the one in which he again called for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Meanwhile Interior has just been sued over its delisting of wolves in the northern Rockies.
The lawsuit alleges those states lack adequate laws to ensure wolves are not again eradicated from the region. At least 37 were killed in the last month.

The groups are seeking an immediate court order to restore federal control over the species until the case is resolved.

You know, in Montana, a Democratic governor, Brian Schweitzer, could prove he has some environmental cred by working to stiffen laws there, but I’m not holding my breath.

Vacation plans hit 30-year low

That’s among the “undercard” items in the latest roundup of economic indicators, but one that should get more attention.

The percentage of respondents to a survey who said they plan to take a vacation in the next six months hit a 30-year low. Why does it deserve the additional attention?

Vacation travel is one of the bigger drivers of the summertime economy, first of all.

Second, airline industry woes. Airlines are already dealing with soaring fuel prices, plus the Federal Aviation Administration’s recent, belated crackdown on safety inspections. Throw in a weak air travel season, and airlines are going to be hurting this summer.

Some Brownsville folks are not real Americans

At least according to Tom Tancredo, they’re not.

Tancredo, Colorado’s virulently anti-immigrant Congressman, not only supports a border wall or fence to try to stop illegal immigration from Mexico, he thinks it should divide Brownsville in two.

Yes, not all Brownsville residents are actually real U.S. citizens or Texas residents, in Tancredo’s eyes.

It’s bad enough with current fence plans, which would put part of the University of Texas—Brownsville, another college and a golf course south of the fence.

Why build the fence there, though?

With the logic of Tancredo and Hunter, we should build the fence north of Hunter’s Southern California and Tancredo’s area of Colorado. After all, both areas have plenty of United States citizens and legal immigrants of Hispanic background, as well as their own fair share of illegal immigrants.

Hell, Hunter’s probably got illegals mowing his lawn, or cleaning his pool, if he has one.

Tancredo and Duncan Hunter also poo-poohed environmental costs of the fence.

Preznit hypocrisy alert – Dirty energy will stimulate economy

That’s the big message from today’s press conference by President Bush.

Bush said we need to burn more coal to help us out of the current economic “situation,” which he still refuses to call a recession.

After that came the litany of other Big Oil and Big Coal goodies — drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, more oil refineries, heading the list. But, as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) pointed out, ANWR’s oil reserves would lower our oil costs by about a penny.

Rhetorical question: If the economy is not in a recession, Mr. Preznit, then why are you so worried about it?

That said, he’s right that the farm bill could use yet more tweaking. But, when Bush is talking about cutting payments to millionaire farmers, I know there’s a catch somewhere; I just haven’t figured it out yet.

Where dirty energy intersects the farm bill, Bush defended the use of ethanol, despite plenty of information that corn-based ethanol may actually be a net energy loser, is a big cause of the soaring food prices he decried, and is environmentally unfriendly as well, between the fertilizers and pesticides of Big Ag on the one hand and the refining process on the other.

Yet, the farm bill has at least a token 6-cent cut in ethanol subsidies, much of which winds up in the hands of folks like Cargill or ADM and not individual farmers. But, Bush supports ethanol.

Besides the word “recession,” the word “conservation” was also missing from Bush’s lips.

In a sidebar, Bush backed off earlier State Department criticism of former President Jimmy Carter’s meeting with Hamas. Why? He knows Carter has State dead to rights, especially after Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas protested about Bush doing nothing to speed the peace process.

One Syrian nuke site, made to order

Especially if the “made to order” is Photoshopping an image.

As for why Syria wouldn’t want the International Atomic Energy Agency snooping around if that were, in fact, not a nuclear fuel processing site, well, I’ve already blogged that if that was a chemical weapons site, Syria is probably afraid IAEA inspectors would find chemical traces.

And, given that the CIA infiltrated U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq in the late 1990s, Syria has another good reason to be concerned about the IAEA, right?

Allegedly some site photos of Syria’s alleged nuclear processing site have been enhanced; in some cases, that means sharpened, in others, items may have been cloned into pics, which is a biggie.

Preznit looks for pony in economic shitpile

Well, you don’t actually need to wait to hear the glowing word from President Bush’s press conference today. He says we don’t need to do anything because the economy is about to rebound.

That’s right, the Herbert Hoover of the 21st century is at it again, though he’s not explicitly promising a barrel of Iraqi oil in every pot.

Both he and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson are against any further stimulus, i.e., an extension in unemployment benefits like Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing.

Well, if she hadn’t given away the store on this in original negotiations… but, that’s another story.

But, the economy is going to rebound!

Housing plunge worse than first thought

Standard & Poor says housing prices declined 12.7 percent in February in the nation’s top 20 markets. Results were even worse in the nation’s top 10 markets, with a 13.6 percent decline in February from one year previous.

The reality of the housing slump will only bring into sharper relief House and Senate attempts to deal with the situation.

And, here in Texas, despite brags that the problem isn’t that bad here, it’s bad enough due to the petard of another Texas brag — a heavy reliance on property taxes. Metro Dallas declined 4 percent from a year ago.

The Preznit will be speaking shortly. Doubtful he’ll have any real ideas on the housing issue, but comment will come on his speech.

‘Expelled’ goes in the tank

Dropping as fast as George Bush’s poll ratings after “Mission NOT Accomplished, “Expelled” dropped 54 percent in its second week at the box office.

For more about the movie, see Expelled.

April 28, 2008

More evidence humans are ginning climate

Antarctic researchers have found convincing evidence that, until human activity began to massively ramp up carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, that our biosphere could regulate itself.
The average change in the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last 600,000 years has been just 22 parts per million by volume, Richard Zeebe said, which means that 22 molecules of carbon dioxide were added to, or removed from, every million molecules of air.

Since the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century, ushering in the widespread human use of fossil fuels, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by 100 parts per million.

That means human activities are putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere about 14,000 times as fast as natural processes do, Zeebe said.

And it appears to be speeding up: the U.S. government reported last week that in 2007 alone, atmospheric carbon dioxide increased by 2.4 parts per million.

The natural mechanism will eventually absorb the excess carbon dioxide, Zeebe said, but not for hundreds of thousands of years.

Climate change skeptics and outright global warming denialists have claimed that the climate will take care of itself as it has in the past. But, a rate 14,000 times as fast as natural processes tends to refute that.

Photo ID on the Texas Lege agenda?

Don’t tell me Speaker Tom “Kid” Craddock didn’t see the Supreme Court ruling today upholding Indiana’s photo ID law for voters. This is the DeLay-type wedge issue that he thrives on.

The SCOTUS 6-3 vote had two separate votes, a majority and a concurring decision.
The law “is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting ‘the integrity and reliability of the electoral process,’” Justice John Paul Stevens said in an opinion that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy.

The hardcore right of Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas wrote a concurrence.

David Souter spoke for the opposition of himself, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer:
In dissent, Souter said Indiana’s voter ID law “threatens to impose nontrivial burdens on the voting rights of tens of thousands of the state's citizens.”

Stevens’ is the vote that most surprises me. Maybe he was on the fence and jumped off when Roberts told him he could write the opinion, and craft it narrowly.

Update: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has already come out blazing with a promise of a 2007 do-over in trying to ramrod a voter ID bill past the Texas Senate.

Will he go so far as in the mid-decade redistricting fight and try to suspend the rules of the Senate?

Rice crunch hits Dallas

A lot of outsiders probably thing of metropolitan Dallas as a white/black/Hispanic city. Not so true.

Due in part to tech companies like Texas Instruments and EDS, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has a sizeable Asian community, definitely sizeable enough to clearly distinguish Koreans from Indians.

So, it’s no surprise the worldwide rice crunch is hitting Big D.

The weird thing is, according to one agricultural analysis, this is a result of increasing prosperity in developing nations:
“This price spike has not been driven by a bad monsoon or some other weather phenomenon like people might expect,” said Nathan Childs, an economist and expert on the world's rice supply. “The easiest way to explain it is in terms of supply and demand.”

The price of rice began to rise last year when India, Vietnam, China and later Egypt imposed various restrictions on the export of rice.

Each country had its own reasons, but in India and China, Mr. Childs said, the price spike was actually caused by economic prosperity.

As tens of millions of people shifted into the middle class, they began eating less rice and more meat, poultry and dairy products. Rice that used to feed the poor increasingly ended up in the bellies of livestock. Rice supplies dwindled, and prices rose. Government leaders, hoping to keep supplies up and prices low, imposed export bans.

Small consolation to the Indians, Vietnamese and Chinese here in metro Dallas.

Fake IDs and pregnancies latest for FLDS Mormons and AWOL Rick

Texas Child Protective Services claim 31 juvenile females from the YFZ compound at Eldorado, age 14-17, are pregnant.

The FLDS disputes the claims; a spokesman says at least 17 of that number are actually adults. The state, in turn, disputes that, saying it disputes custody.

Meanwhile the state’s guarantee of individual custody hearings by June 5 is a crock. That’s seven weeks away.

Meanwhile, Gov. Helmethair, the man formerly known as Rick Perry, continues to be hugely AWOL on this issue. Has he said more than half a dozen words on this issue in the last two weeks?