May 10, 2008

Booze is coming to Hutchins -- and Wilmer!

Voters in the small southern Dallas County suburb appear to have approved an initiative for package sales of beer, wine, and alcohol..

With all five precincts reporting to Dallas County Elections, the measure was up 58-42 percent. If that holds up, Hutchins would be the only place in the county south of the Trinity River to sell spirits as well as beer and wine.

Meanwhile, an identical proposition passed 51-49 in neighboring Wilmer, with one of two precincts reporting.

Well, Lancaster folks, throw in the towel once and for all. Even without beer-store funded opposition from Clyde Hairston and the Gonzales brothers, you'll never get anything passed now.

Subprime foreclosures could hit 35 percent

That’s the word from Kenneth Rosen, chairman of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California at Berkeley, speaking at an Urban Land Institute gathering in Dallas.

And, he says, we are nowhere near the bottom of the subprime collapse:
He thinks foreclosures could rise as high as 35 percent of all subprime loans in the next 18 months, from 13 percent in late 2007.

Can you say “Holy Shit”?

Rosen expects continued tightness in commercial mortgage lending, too. And, he says odds are about 50-50 the recession will be deep, not mild.

How Rick Noriega can close the gap on John Cornyn

Both John McCain, against either Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and John Cornyn, against Rick Noreiga, are polling below 50 percent right now.

Especially with Cornyn being an incumbent, he and the GOP have to be worried about that.

Cornyn has vulnerabilities, beginning, of course, with Iraq. And every Democratic activist knows Noreiga’s story of National Guard service in Afghanistan, so I won’t go into the details other than to say this is a big wedge issue.

Cornyn’s also on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Noriega can hang the most controversial recent Supreme Court decisions, as well as the actions of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, on him.

Cost overruns, bad troop quarters, the horrors of Walter Reed, etc., beyond being connected with the stupidity called Iraq, can also be laid at Cornyn’s feet given that he’s also on the Armed Services Committee.

And, Cornyn’s failure to get an immigration bill through the Senate is a personal legislative failing.

Other recent votes up for exploitation include his opposing S-CHIP expansion, his opposition to federal stem cell research, and his support of tax breaks for Big Oil.

With anger over rising gas prices, that last one is a no-brainer. With the recession hurting incomes, so is the first.

At least I don’t work at a daily newspaper

Things are bad enough at a community weekly at times, but

not this bad!

Humans and animals run through same crematoria – use lye instead

And? What’s the big deal? They’re DEAD. Is the soldier himself or herself going to know?


They’re DEAD.

And, so what if the family knows. Fundamentalist Christians have obviously forgotten their own “ashes to ashes.” Is it going to “contaminate” your husband/wife/father/mother if a bit of Fido somehow accidentally got in the same set of cremains? No.

But, even somebody as allegedly rational as BlueGirl is all ga-ga over the fact that some cremated soldiers may have bits of animal cremains mixed with theirs. (Actually, it’s “Guest Blogger,” but, still, it’s her blog.)

Here’s the smart new idea, anyway: Lye under high pressure to dissolve a body, then the remains into the sewer system and back to nature.
It uses lye, 300-degree heat and 60 pounds of pressure per square inch to destroy bodies in big stainless-steel cylinders that are similar to pressure cookers.

And speaking of animals, it’s been used for nearly 20 years to dispose of animal bodies.

As for my personal choice, I told my sister I want a modern takeoff on American Indian ideas, with a bit of a hat tip to Ed Abbey.

Take my totally chemically untouched body in a private plane and push it out over Death Valley for the ravens and coyotes.

My remains return to nature in one of America’s best national parks.

Beyond this, as an irreligious person, as an atheist, this is a tempest in a teapot.

Natureblogging for bikers and voters in Cedar Hill

Bikers and spectators at the Cedar Hill Rotary Club’s Head for the Hills Rally, as well as voters in municipal elections, got to see stuff like this group of Indian blankets blanketing the roadsides today.

Housing rebound still a long ways off

Local economists agree with city of Cedar Hill Finance Director Hardy Browder — housing market recovery here in the Dallas-Fort Worth is a ways off.

How far off? Economists and housing industry leaders meeting in Dallas said very late 2008 or 2009 before the housing market begins to recover.
“I think we are at the bottom but I think the bottom is very rocky and long,” said Robert McLeod, chairman of San Diego-based Newland Communities, which has several housing community projects in Texas. “It’s not going to feel very good until about the third quarter of 2009,” McLeod told members of the Urban Land Institute on Friday. The international real estate

Nationally, with about $680 billion in ARMs due to reset this year, Texas A&M economist Jim Gaines said recovery might not start until 2010.

Dear Kay Bailey – get OVER your ANWR shibboleth and fetish

Every week, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison sends our newspaper group her weekly column. And, just about every week for the past two months, I can guarantee I will find a call to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling in there somewhere.

Here’s this week’s nuttery:
On U.S. soil and off our coasts, we have significantly more oil than Venezuela’s 80 billion barrel reserve, and our available natural gas reserves exceed that of Iraq, China, Yemen, Oman, Nigeria, and Venezuela combined.

Wait, we went to war with Iraq for oil, Kay. Not natural gas. Nice, smooth bait-and-switch there. You caught me for just a second.
Last week, my Senate colleagues and I unveiled sweeping legislation to begin to tap some of these resources to increase domestic fuel production and lessen our reliance on other countries. The American Energy Production Act of 2008 would leverage both traditional and renewable sources of energy that could add enough domestic production supply to satisfy U.S. energy demand for five years without foreign imports.

You forgot the word “Republican” between “Senate” and “colleagues,” Kay.

And, what’s this “leverage” mean? Subsidies to Big Oil to do HUGELY destructive exploration of oil shale in the Western Slope of the Rockies?
The legislation would allow coastal states to petition the U.S. Department of Interior to lift drilling moratoria for offshore oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It would also grant U.S. oil companies access to the 10 billion barrels of available oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain (ANWR).

Coastal states already have a lot of control over offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and Florida has said no. California has said no to Pacific coastal drilling ever since the 1971 Santa Barbara oil spill. What lies there.

But, we’re to ANWR. And Kay is inflating numbers. From Wikipedia:
A 1998 U.S. Geological Survey report did little to end the controversy (over estimated oil reserves). It estimated that there was significant oil in ANWR and that most of the oil would be found in the western part of the "1002 Area". This differed from the 1987 USGS report which estimated that less oil would be found there and that it would be in the southern and eastern parts.

Beyond that reserves existed, however, little was agreed upon by both sides of the debate. Supporters of the drilling claimed there were as many as 16 billion barrels of oil to be recovered, but this number was at the extreme high side of the report and represented only a 5 percent probability of technically recoverable oil across the entire assessment area, which included land outside ANWR. Opponents of drilling pointed out that the USGS report actually estimated 7.668 billion barrels of oil to be recovered. …

A 1998 United States Geological Survey (USGS) study indicated at least 4.3 billion (95 percent probability) and possibly as much as 11.8 billion (5 percent probability) barrels of technically recoverable oil exists in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 1002 area, with a mean value of 7.7 billion barrels In addition, in the entire assessment area, which covers not only land under Federal jurisdiction, but also Native lands and adjacent State waters within three miles, technically recoverable oil is estimated to be at least 5.7 billion (95 percent) and as much as 16.0 billion (5 percent) barrels, with a mean value of 10.4 billion barrels Economically recoverable oil within the Federal lands assuming a market price of $40/barrel (constant 1996 dollars - the highest price included in the USGS study) is estimated to be between 3.4 billion (95 percent) and 10.4 billion (5 percent) barrels, with a mean value of 6.8 billion barrels, (current market prices are over $120 and using inflation rate between 1996 to 2007 it comes out to $89 dollars in 1996)

The U.S. consumes about 20 million barrels daily. If the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil reserves were used to supply 5 percent of the U.S. daily consumption — most is imported from Canada (19 percent), Mexico (15 percent), Saudi Arabia (11.5 percent), Nigeria (10.5 percent) and Venezuela (10.percent) — the reserves, using the low figure of 4.3 billion barrels, would last approximately 4,300 days, or almost 12 years. Using the high estimate, the reserves would last approximately 11,800 days, or 32 years. Total oil independence at 20 million barrels per day (using the before mentioned 10.5 billion barrel mean) would only supply the United States for 525 days (or less than a year and a half, but this complete supporting is impossible).

Ignoring the question about how underground geology, etc. might constrain actual per-day pumping levels, we now have some factual numbers to slap Kay Bailey in her cheerleader face with.
Further, the bill would allow access to alternative sources, such as the over one trillion barrels of shale oil in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. These sources, which presently sit unused, are equal to three times the reserves of Saudi Arabia.

What disingeniousness. No, they don’t “sit unused.” They, the shales, will be more expensive to get at, with less energy return per energy expended, and with more environmental destructiveness, than the oil sands of Alberta.

And, let’s get a little Wikipedia on oil shale:
According to a survey conducted by the RAND Corporation, the cost of producing a barrel of oil at a surface retorting complex in the United States (comprising a mine, retorting plant, upgrading plant, supporting utilities, and spent shale reclamation), would be between US$70–95 ($440–600/m3, adjusted to 2005 values).

These numbers are certainly on the low side.

Oil sands production cost in Albert is up to $65/bbl right now. Oil shale here in the U.S., in the Rockies, surely would cost $100/bbl to produce right now. Shell Oil claims it can do shale oil for $30/bbl, but it’s full of shit.

And, beyond general environmental destructiveness, we haven’t mentioned the massive amounts of water that shale oil mining requires .

May 09, 2008

Bonus scatblogging — San Fran wants Bush in the crapper

Memorialize the Preznit!

John Rinaldi is trying to get a new sewage treatment plant in San Francisco named after the Preznit:
Virginia-born activist and ordained minister John Rinaldi, a co-sponsor of the petition who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year under his nickname “Chicken John,” said the initiative would turn “every toilet in San Francisco into basically a shrine for George W. Bush and all his great achievements in his eight years as our commander in chief.”

Rinaldi — flush with pride about the idea — said renaming the plant is “the highest honor available to us.”

If I were in San Fran, I would gladly “pull the lever” on this vote.

Or, get a toilet bowl brush with a George Bush head!

Update: I got to thinking — does Crawford, Texas, expect to need a sewer upgrade anytime soon?

New global warming worry – DDT

DDT and other toxins have accumulated for decades in the icecaps of Greenland and Antarctica. And global warming is new releasing some of this stew. Adélie penguins are being exposed, so far in trace amounts, in the Antarctic. Polar bears and other animals have already been exposed in Greenland, and Canada’s northernmost islands. So far, no worries there, either, but it is something to monitor, given the other threats to polar bear survival.

Stick a fork in Hillary – and call Texas LULAC

First, old Clintons pal Terry McAuliffe says a joint Dem ticket is fine, without saying Clinton should head it.

Second, Obama got eight superdelegates today.

Third, the American Leadership Project isn’t spending an money on Hillary in West Virginia.

Fourth, a group of state Democratic chairpersons gathered at Obama’s Chicago headquarters Friday.

Of course, not everybody has gotten the message yet, or wants to.

LULAC’s Texas branch and the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston are suing the Texas Democratic Party over the two-step primary. The Hispanic organizations are widely recognized as Hillary surrogates, given her Hispanic voter push in the Texas primary.

And the Slickster, fresh off his rousing North Carolina garden clubs tour, got into an argument with a West Virginia voter, producing yet another YouTube moment. (Doesn’t he have enough for a greatest hits DVD by now?)

John McCain against lobbyists – except when he’s for them

The New York Times and the Washington Post deliver separate takedowns on the reality vs. the myth of the Schmuck Talk Express™.

Both document how he has no problem with listening to lobbyists, especially former staff members who have become lobbyists, to help with sweetheart land deals back in Arizona.

They also note McCain is an environmentalist only up to the point it has the smallest of conflicts with development.

The Arizona Republic, conservative as it is, has had no problem showing the Schmuck Talk has no clothes, and doing so for years.

The paper notes the “maverick” stances of Big John somehow disappear around presidential elections, based on his Senate votes in 1999, 2000, 2007 and 2008.

Why aren’t Europeans searching for aliens?

More specifically, why is almost all the sky-scanning, etc., of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, or SETI done in American?

My thoughts?
Europeans have done a more realistic calculation of the Drake numbers and, from that, made a better prioritization of resources.

You don’t see any of these individual countries, or the European Space Agency as a whole, talking about manned missions to Mars, either.

A number of other commenters noted that SETI is looking for radio waves precisely when we’re moving away from that area of the frequency spectrum.

Also, as far as the Drake equation numbers, the explosion in planets discovered may show that the estimates of how commonly life develops on planets, let alone intelligent life, is way overblown.

Instead, European countries are spending money on things like national healthcare.

Or, on using their satellites to examine Antarctic ice.

Finally, there’s a philosophical reason, I think. Even many scientists here in America appear unable to accept the existential realities of our ever-expanding, heat-death dying universe.

It’s like American exceptionalism is getting projected onto SETI.

Oil, corn, soy, rice all surge as Bernanke wilts

Oil jumps past $126/bbl. Inflation in the Eurozone means the European Central Bank won’t be cutting rates anytime soon. And, with the EU economy larger than the US economy (yes, you read that right, we’re no longer the world’s largest unified economy), Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s hands are tied and his efforts on the US economy more limp and impotent all the time, as he lives up to his moniker of Worst Fed Head Since Greenspan™.

The oil surge was prompted by Venezuela jitters as the country and President Hugo Chavez’s ties to FARC rebels in Columbia are closer than the US first thought. If the US tries sanctions against Chavez, he might just turn off the pumps. And, since most of the oil industry in Venezuela is nationalized, he can do that.

Ag costs surged because the USDA expects corn production to drop 7 percent this year due to wet-weather planting delays.

Soybean futures were up mildly, while rice futures in Asian stock markets climbed the maximum permissible. The Myanmar cyclone devastation is certain to have a major impact on its rice crop. And, if reports are true that the country could have 500,000 dead, obviously the rice harvest is problematic anyway.

Oh, and I guess somebody forgot to give Uncle Fester Cheney the memo that the US economy was no longer No. 1.

Will McCain denounce Sun Myung Moon?

He should. As Raw Story notes, imagine the shit that would rain on Barack Obama’s head if Rev. Jeremiah Wright had said Jesus had failed in his mission, the cross was a sign of that failure, and that he, Jeremiah Wright, had been personally sent by God to complete the job.

Of course, Rev. Wright also did not say, I must have a secret coronation ceremony inside the U.S. Capitol, I must have this sponsored by members of Congress and GOP hangers-on such as McCain buddy Charlie Black, and more.

Also, Rev. Wright did not say, I must have your GOP money to continue to sink into my money-losing newspaper.

Well, McCain, via that Charlie Black, has enough connection to Moon to make the charge stick.

Matt Taibbi infiltrates John Hagee’s church

So, what’s it like inside the heart of the operation of John McCain’s spiritual advisor? (And, does Schmuck Talk Express™ get a new spiritual advisor to add to his fleet every couple of weeks?)

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone has the full lowdown, from sardonic snark on styles, to demon-cleansed women, on down.

You’ll get to read about the mashup of success Gospel/Christianized Hazelden recovery mush thought/Christian Freudianism and more.

But, then, you get into the real nutbarrery:
• Homosexuality? All caused by sexual abuse;
• “Family history”? Nope, all original sin, if not demonic influence.
• “Harry Potter” reading makes kids ill;
• Handwriting analysis is demonic
• So is philosophy.

Meanwhile, Taibbi works on developing a more convincing schtick for his drill-sergeant pastor and how to speak in tongues.

Friday scatblogging — pornworld edition

Let’s just jump right to the facts:

Next month, Ira Isaacs, a 57-year-old Los Angeles–based video director, will sit center stage at what may be the most extreme obscenity trial in U.S. history.

There's no question the titles are extreme: Laurie’s Toilet Show, Mako’s First Time Scat, Gang Bang Horse (Pony Sex Game), and Hollywood Scat Amateurs No. 7 — the last of which Isaacs directed himself — feature coprophagy and bestiality.

So, is this “art,” or even if we aren’t that charitable…

Meanwhile, that’s not just a head, that’s art that Radar has to lead off the story. (If you don’t believe it’s art, read the artist’s name that’s part of the photo URL.)

(If you don’t believe it’s art, read the artist’s name that’s part of the photo URL.)

But, the bottom line is …

Is it free speech? (Isaac’s videos, that is.)

Hell, yes.

The government dropped two counts that Isaacs didn’t properly document the age of people in the films. So, it’s just over what is “obscene.”

Frankly, the whole “(no) redeeming social value” criterion is obsolete from where I sit.

First, what social group or subgroup are we talking about? Can Isaacs claim that a jury of his peers should consist of likeminded hardcore porn producers?

Without agreeing that what Isaacs produces is “art,” I don’t doubt that what he produces makes money, enough money to show there’s a fair-sized social group getting some sort of “redeeming” value from it:
There was a guy who shit in a can and sold it for the price of gold. [In 1961, Italian conceptual artist Piero Manzoni canned his feces in 90 tins and sold them for the price of their weight in gold.]

About when he got busted:
There’s FBI all over the place. But I’ll tell you, they were very, very pleasant people. They were really nice. Those guys would rather be fighting terrorism than being the sex police. The FBI guy was as curious as you are. He asked me, “Off the record,” he asked me, “How do you convince girls to do this kind of stuff?” I said, “I do it very well.”

I am laughing my head off at some Mormon FBI agent from BYU or University of Utah (the FBI explicitly recruits both campuses) taking notes, and a “Hmmm” moment hitting the back of the frontal lobes of this straitlaced Mormon brain.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors know they don’t have much of a case, I guess:
They offer me a plea deal. I met with them at the beginning of March [2007]. They say, “Take a year and half.” I said no. Then they call me up, and they say four months in prison and four months house arrest. And I turned that down.

Shit, they’re begging, just to get a conviction for some BushCo U.S. Attorney to mail back to D.C. and Alberto Gonzales (at that time).

And, Isaacs has irony:
The only thing I regret is not putting Bach in the background.

I agree that the feds will have a hell of a time trying to convict him in LA.

If you must drink bottled water …

Using a bottle with less plastic helps. And, it is cheaper than recycling.

Coke is trying to get a bottle with 30 percent less plastic.

Now, if Coke would just stop killing Columbian union organizers, it might turn into a decent company.

Drug-resistant bugs now superbugs

The hardiest of drug-resistant bacteria don’t just rebuff antibiotics they eat them for lunch:

The researchers, led by George M. Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, found hundreds of bacteria that can subsist on antibiotics as their sole source of carbon. They isolated strains from soils in 11 locations, including alfalfa fields in Minnesota and urban plots in Boston, and fed them 18 natural and synthetic antibiotics, including common ones like penicillin and ciprofloxacin. Bacterial growth was seen with almost all of them.

The story notes that none of these bacteria cause disease in humans, BUT …

Bacterial gene transfer could have these superbugs pass some genes on to bacteria that DO make us sick.

American Airlines could be in more FAA hot water over Paris flight

And it should be.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating why the pilot of an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Paris in which the Miami-based captain continued the 10-hour flight even after crew members heard what they believed to be an explosion in the cargo hold 14 minutes after takeoff.

As I blogged yesterday:
An e-mail battle is brewing between American cockpit pilots and management office pilots as to whether an American captain on a Dallas-Paris flight should have turned back to D/FW, or flown on as he actually did, after a 3x6 foot panel fell off the belly of his Boeing 767. Management says it was the best decision with available information.

Excuse me, but when you hear a noise and feel a vibration, shouldn’t you turn around?

Especially given the Federal Aviation Administration’s recent crackdown on safety inspections at American, with more due by the end of this month, this will have repercussions.

Anyway, the noise and vibration are now being called a “very strong vibration” and “a loud explosion,” according to an e-mail from an unnamed American flight attendant. It’s not clear whether or not this person was on the flight in question.

Wunderbar. And I’m flying an American 767 to San Francisco in three weeks. Out of D/FW.

As for the Steve Chapmans of the world who claim recent FAA crackdowns on American and Southwest are just CYAs, well, if CYAs will help safety, I’m all for it.

Sierra Club defends Clorox suck-up

I got a PR e-mail from the Sierra Club today, boasting about the impending rollout of the GreenWorks deal with Clorox. I immediately e-mailed back to the membership services addy, saying I woudn’t be renewing my Sierra membership over that and Project Leadership, as well as the disenfranchising of the board of the Florida Chapter of Sierra.

And, I got an e-mail press release back, signed by Sierra Club Board President Robert Cox as well as Sierra’s press secretary, David Willett.

I quote from the PR in some detail:
This note is in response to reports about the Sierra Club National Volunteer Board of Directors’' vote to suspend the Florida Chapter volunteer Executive Committee for four years. What has not been clear in some reports is that the action is the result of requests from Sierra Club members in Florida for national volunteers to investigate internal disputes and comes after much dissatisfaction, anger and frustration at the Chapter level and a multi-year process at the state and national level to improve the situation before this action was taken.

While it is a serious step and was a very difficult decision, it was made after much thought and extensive review. The impressive work of Florida 18 groups to protect the environment will continue unaffected by this action. The Sierra Club looks forward to healing this rift and is confident that the Sierra Club in Florida will come out of this situation a stronger organization.

Well, even if there is some fire behind the smoke, a four-year suspension is awfully steep.
Some reports have either explicitly or implicitly connected the suspension decision to opposition to the Sierra Club's recently announced partnership with Clorox Greenworks products or other disagreements over national policies adopted by the volunteer Board of Directors. This is completely false and a spurious connection. In fact, the difficult and exhaustive process to address the dysfunction of the Florida Chapter began long before the partnership with Clorox was announced — to be clear, Sierra Club and Clorox did not even begin initial conversations until July of 2007, with internal review among committees occurring last fall and the public announcement this past January. The process to address conflict in the Florida Chapter that ultimately resulted in suspension began in at least 2006.

Second, I didn’t connect the two in my e-mail to you. I listed Clorox issues first, then Project Renewal (not even addressed by Cox/Willett). I clearly listed them as separate items:
I”m not renewing my Sierra Club membership over the BS "greenwash" with Clorox, about which I have blogged more than once, and Project Renewal, about which I've also blogged.

Dear actual membership services person:

Carl Pope seems to have adopted the idea of the “unitary executive” from George Bush and Dick Cheney. Arbitrarily suspending the Florida board was as unprecedented as the branding deal with Clorox.

Note that I did NOT link the two. (That’s my entire e-mail.)

Cox/Willett finally get to the Clorox issue itself.
On the issue of the Clorox partnership itself: The Green Works products and The Clorox Company were vetted by a broad number of volunteers and staff — including the Toxics Committee, the Energy Committee, and the Environmental Quality Committee. The Corporate Relations Committee also vetted this and approved of the Green Works products and of The Clorox Company, but did not approve the cause-related marketing relationship that would generate revenue for the Club. The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors approved that program because the Board is the decision-making body on cause-related marketing programs such as this one.


First, this gets back to the blog post I had about Sierra governance. OK, I was wrong. The vote wasn’t so small not because the board meeting didn’t have a majority of the board present, but because only the ExCom gets to vote on these issues.


We know why, Mr. Cox. It’s easier for Executive Director Carl Pope to control just the ExCom than it is the entire board of directors. Nice.
This partnership -- our first cause-related marketing venture involving a widely-distributed consumer product -- was announced the week of January 14 as part of the 2008 launch of the Green Works line of five natural household cleaning products. The Green Works cleaning products are made from coconut-based cleaning agent and essential lemon oils; there is no phosphorus or bleach; they are biodegradable and 99% petrochemical-free; there is no animal testing and they are hypo-allergenic.

All the Clorox corporate PR in this about GreenWorks? (And, please don’t insult my intelligence by pretending Sierra/Willett wrote that entire paragraph without help/word borrowing from Clorox.)

Lots of companies have been putting out products like that for years. Where’s the Sierra partnership? Where’s the Sierra branding?

This is greenwash, and I and plenty of other mad members, or soon-to-be former members, know that.

More greenwash from Clorox in the grafs to follow from Cox/Willett:
The Green Works line will make it easier and more affordable for millions of Americans to buy eco-friendly products and this a huge opportunity for the Sierra Club to influence the buying behavior of millions of people and give a giant kick-start to the market for safe, green, affordable household cleaning products. Up until now, a big stumbling block for families who want to live a greener lifestyle has been the high cost of “green” products and the fact that they are not always easy to find. Green Works’ natural, environmentally-preferable cleaning products are priced at only 20-25 percent higher than conventional cleaning products, which is much lower than other natural cleaning brands, which can be priced 50-100 percent higher. Green Works products will also be easy to find in 24,000 mainstream stores in the United States and Canada.

Bullshit, bullshit and bullshit.

100-percent recycled toilet paper and paper towels have been around for what, a decade or more?
To us, the fact that Green Works is the first new product that Clorox has launched in 20 years is a sign that major companies see the green market maturing and recognize it’s possible to manufacture and sell products that will be good for business and for the planet. Industry has to be a part of the solution and the Sierra Club has the power to influence corporations to move in the right direction. We believe and hope that this will be a selling proposition that other companies will be quick to adopt.

OK, so is Cox more stupid, or more gullible?

Gee, that’s a tough question. I honestly don’t know, based on the last graf.

May 08, 2008

Stimulus checks mean it’s your patriotic duty to shop!

Per a news service release from the University of North Texas, Terry Clower, an associate professor of applied economics and associate > director of the Center for Economic Development and Research, says the 1Q estimate of a 0.6 percent gain for GDP will certainly be revised downward to show that the U.S. economy “is treading water, at best, but may very well have slipped into negative growth late in 2007.”
“Increasing job losses, household budgets stressed by rapidly rising gasoline and food prices, the continuing effect of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, weak housing markets, and concerned consumers offer a litany of negative pressures on the national economy. Moreover, even if the economy is still growing slowly, it is not growing fast enough to sustain current employment.”

Clower said that because of technological change “that makes our labor > force increasingly productive,” the U.S. economy needs to grow by about 1.6 percent on an annualized basis just to support current employment levels.

Hell, we haven’t done that during most of the Bush Administration.

Prof. Clower is also just a BIT cynical about a possible BushCo message that will follow mailing of the “stimulus” checks.
He says that Americans should not be surprised if one or more government officials “tell us over the next several weeks that it is our patriotic duty to go out and spend, just as we saw after the attacks of 9-11.”

Sacrilege, Prof. Clower! Mon Dieu!

Since when is it illegal to flip off a cop?

Frank Patti of Long Island crashed his chopper after flipping off two cops who then gave chase.

The story says he charged with fleeing police, resisting arrest and several traffic violations. It also says that police don’t know if he has an attorney.

Rather, the cops should be charged with excessive use of force, reckless pursuit or anything else that will stick.

Last I checked, we had a First Amendment.

St. Louis Cardinals news and notes and Walt Jocketty

Adam Wainwright had a great four-hitter through seven innings against Colorado Wednesday night, but no decision. Izzy blew his fourth save of the year.

Meanwhile the man who COULD have been the Cards’ closer, or co-closer, if they had re-signed him in the off-season?

Troy Percival. Had a history as a closer. Showed last year he was apparently over and beyond a series of injuries. Now tearing up the pea patch as Tampa’s closer. Thanks, Walt Jocketty.

Meanwhile, Mark Mulder has a “mild rotator strain” and will take (for now) a week off from his minor-league rehab schedule.

Thanks again, Walt Jocketty. Pundits said, after the 2004 World Series, that the Cards needed a strikeout pitcher against a lineup like that of Boston.

So, what do you do? Trade the top AAA-league strikeout pitcher for a soft-toss lefty.

And, no, the A’s won’t give us Dan Haren back.

Will the Lancaster mayoral truth-teller please stand up?

And avoid the hypocrisy alert?

Morris Mosley claims three different addresses, including giving Duncanville police what may be a false address, as well as the city of Lancaster a possibly false address when he submitted his mayoral candidacy application

Clyde Hairston, meanwhile, claims to have no idea that a $4,800 donation to his anti-alcohol political action committee came from the owner of Cut Rate Beer and Wine.

Unfortunatately, unless smart residents of Lancaster turn out in droves to vote for Marcus Knight, one of these two people will be Lancaster’s next mayor.

Oh, I forgot to mention.

Both Mosley and Hairston are ministers.

Jon Markman again bullishly idiotic on economy

Like David Leonhardt, he basically says, “there’s no real inflation,” and “we’re already rebounding from a non-recession.”

And, he actually thinks tax rebates (not yours, but things like accelerated depreciation for big corporations), will actually start the bounce-back any day now.

Here’s all of his latest stupidity. Here’s a good starter, as it’s his starter for the column:
An unprecedented flood of monetary and fiscal stimuli, and renewed global demand for our agricultural and industrial exports, appear to have yanked the U.S. economy out of a nose dive and landed it for a slow roll on the tarmac with just a few bumps and bruises.

Yeah, right. Try reading your fellow MSN columnist, Jim Jubak.

Spygate – Pats partially off the hook

Former New England Patriots assistant coach Matt Walsh did not have any info on the Pats taping the St. Louis Rams’ pre-game walk-through at the 2002 Super Bowl, but did have info about the Pats taping regular-season games in 2000-2002. That includes new revelations that Pats head coach Bill Belichick has denied in the past:
While the tapes reportedly include recordings of opponents' offensive signals, an NFL official cited in today's Hartford Courant said Belichick did not admit to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that the team taped offensive signals. Belichick had previously admitted to taping opponents' defensive signals.

And Greg Aiello is speaking the party line for Goodell, it appears:
“This is consistent with that the Patriots had admitted they had been doing, consistent with what we already knew,” Aiello, the NFL’s senior vice president of public relations, told the Associated Press.

Sounds like pretty thin ice for Belichick. Given that all the games that Walsh has allegations on occurred before the Patriots’ first Super Bowl victory, even if the Rams’ walk-around wasn’t taped, Belichick is not close to being totally off the hook.

Unfortunately, Dillon appears to be swallowing Aiello’s line as well. Referencing Aiello’s comment, he says:
In other words, the NFL isn’t expecting to discover anything it doesn’t already know.

Well, Dennis, expectations can be wrongly focused as well as set too high.

And, you just have what we know so far. Walsh still has a meeting scheduled with Roger the Dodger May 13. He also has one scheduled with Sen. Arlen Specter, who’s been pushing the league on this because his Philly Iggles lost to the Pats three years ago.

That leads me to repost this old poll:

Free polls from
Is Bill Belichck, regardless of whether any legal action is ever actually pursued
Criminally guilty of "stealing a trade secret"? Civilly liable for depriving Kurt Warner of earnings? Neither   

And to offer this new one:

Free polls from
Is Belichick lying about not taping offensive signals of other teams?
Yes No   

More Dallas housing woes

Pre-existing home sales fell 11 percent in April. That’s the ninth straight month of double-digit declines.

Sales prices of pre-existing homes also fell, by 3 percent. And, the time it took to sell a house increased 14 percent. Condo prices dropped more, off 24 percent.

The only “good news” is that the housing stock surplus in the area is only 6.5 months. Six months is considered good.

BUT, that’s in part due to new-home builders continuing to cut back on activity, which the Snooze’s story doesn’t note.

And, while the state of Texas may be flush with oil money, local cities and school districts won’t be seeing any benefit from that, unless next year’s Lege diverts some of its state oil revenues to school districts.

This is all even more true of Cedar Hill and other Best Southwest suburbs, which do not have the office and commercial real estate that Dallas and parts of north suburban Dallas do.

Cedar Hill and metro Dallas not immune to recession

Is the real-estate crunch glass half full or half empty?

An area real-estate columnist last week downplayed Dallas-Fort Worth’s 4.1 percent year-over-year fall in housing prices in February, saying it's not that bad.

The Dallas area had the fourth-best of the top 20 markets, behind smaller declines in Seattle and Portland, Ore., plus a slight increase in Charlotte, N.C.
That said, most of the big losers are in the subprime ground zero of California, its spillover effects on Phoenix and Las Vegas, and south Florida.

But, Dallas’ 4.1 percent decline is not that much different than Boston's 4.6 percent, Denver's 5.5, Atlanta's 5.6 or even New York City’s 6.6 percent drop.
In other words, although it's too early to tell, prudence would dictate at least allowing for the possibility the glass might be half empty as well as half full.

Although the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and southern Dallas County specifically, is not Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Miami, the subprime housing mortgage crunch has Cedar Hill city officials being prudent with financial projections, as that city already works on budget planning for the next fiscal year and beyond.

A new Cedar Hill Fire Station No. 2 has been moved back one year, to fiscal 2011, on the city of Cedar Hill's capital improvement budget. That was the primary point of fallout at an April 29 capital improvements workshop by the Cedar Hill City Council.

Other cities in the area may have slightly better or slightly worse news; so far, DeSoto appears the least affected. However, it seems likely that all area cities will need to re-examine economic ideas for the next year or two.

In Cedar Hill, Finance Director Hardy Browder expects a two-year slowdown in property value growth. Instead of a $200 million increase for fiscal 2009, which the city has shown the past few years, he expects just $125 million.

And, the price crunch is definitely affecting home building. Sims said the city was adding just eight-10 new homes a month. Again, other cities' mileage may vary, but, from what I have seen, you can drive around the southern sector in general and see a lot of flattened plots of earth with not a lot of housing activity right now.

Local closings of Bombay and Linens ’n Things only adds to the downcast financial picture.

Browder said he was predicting a slight decline in individual property values for fiscal 2010 as well as 2009. As for preventing the subprime crisis from recurring in the future, the current Bush Administration proposals would actually further deregulate the financial industry, and Democrats haven't offered anything better.
Well, a Cleveland financial institution, Third Federal Savings and Loan, has a much better, and simple, idea.

Pay loan officers straight salary rather than commission.

Third Federal also bucked the recent tendency to slice and dice mortgages into things like collateralized debt obligations, instead keeping most the loans it originated on its own books.

While it does seem intrusive for the federal government to consider that degree of business regulation, consider that Franklin D. Roosevelt's “intrusive” New Deal financial regulation kept our country from any major economic downturns until a bipartisan Republican-Democratic Congressional consensus started dismantling those protections during the administration of President Bill Clinton.

American Airlines safety alert

An e-mail battle is brewing between American cockpit pilots and management office pilots as to whether an American captain on a Dallas-Paris flight should have turned back to D/FW, or flown on as he actually did, after a 3x6 foot panel fell off the belly of his Boeing 767. Management says it was the best decision with available information.

Excuse me, but when you hear a noise and feel a vibration, shouldn’t you turn around?

Especially given the Federal Aviation Administration’s recent crackdown on safety inspections at American, with more due by the end of this month, this will have repercussions.

Josef Frankl – Only in America Austria

Sounding like he has just come off an American New Ageish talk show or a softcore 12-step rehab program alleged Austrian incest monster Josef “I’m not a monster” Fritzl now claims he’s addicted to incest.

Does this guy have American trial lawyers representing him? He’s already airing out for public consumption three different defense lines, including, “I’m not that bad,” “I’m addicted” and the insanity line.

What next? “Every Austrian does it”?

On a more serious note, child sexual abuse guesstimates run as high as one in three girls and one in six boys in America. So, if that becomes a fourth line of defense for Frankl, it will be the closest encounter yet he’s had with the truth.

Texas targeting uninsured drivers – but not car insurance companies

Three years after the Texas Legislature passed a bill to crack down on uninsured drivers, the state will start to crack down on uninsured drivers.

But, as usual with the business-suckup Texas Lege and state regulatory agencies, there’s not a peep about cracking down on car insurance companies.

After all, the new law gives insurers, as a unit, a captive audience.

And, we all know what has resulted from state insurance commissioners’ get-tough talk with homeowners’ insurance companies the past several years.

Enjoying those big insurance savings from Farmers yet?

Oh, by the way, MADD’s argument that drunken drivers are less likely to have insurance than others is specious at best and empirically unsubstantiated at worst. (Do they offer any evidence on this claim? Not in the story.)

Mothers Against Drunk Driving was founded on a noble purpose and did good work in its early years. But, it’s moved from that in the direction of broader neo-prohibitionism in general and sticking its nose into areas outside its original mandate.

Surprisingly, the head of the state auto insurers’ trade group says his members aren’t that enthusiastic.

What both the Lege and MADD are ignoring is:

The percentage of uninsured drivers who are illegal immigrants.

Enough said.

Now I know Chrysler is going bankrupt

Offering guaranteed $2.99/gallon gas for three years to new-car buyers has to be about the stupidest marketing gimmick the Big Three have ever tried. (Of course, Suzuki is doing the same thing.)

Try making more fuel-efficient cars.

Global warming on 1956 radar screen

Yes, it’s true. Way back when, The New York Times, was highly worried about global warming, DeSmog Blog notes:
Despite nature’s way of maintaining the balance of gases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is being artificially increased as we burn coal, oil and wood for industrial purposes.

In a few centuries the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere will be so large that it will have a profound effect on our climate.

Here’s the one-page PDF of the original.

David Leonhardt – economic court jester to Bush

It’s bad enough that Judy Miller and others at the “paper of wrecks,” the The New York Times, lied us into war in Iraq. Now Leonhardt is trying to lie us into believing we’re not in a recession.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, he notes, is expected to announce next week that the Consumer Price Index increased only fractionally, three-tenths of a percent, in April. Contrary to Kevin Phillips, and many others, who have documented how the government, not just under Bush but also his predecessors, has played with economic statistics for decades, Leonhardt expects us to actually believe these numbers.
Price increases are simply more noticeable — more salient, as psychologists would say — than price decreases.

As for the number of items whose prices have been flat in recent months, Leonhardt doesn’t even dig into the whys, such as recession-influenced sales declines (certainly true on appliances with the housing market in the tank)

He also defends past changes to the CPI on the grounds that it used to overstate inflation. Ahh, yes, the “people will shift from steak to hamburger” argument.

What a fucking moron. As a writer, an economist and a psychologist.

Send him some e-mail love.

Feldstein tells Commerce stop lying as Bush kicks recession down road

Feldstein said the Commerce Department’s much-touted (by itself and the rest of the Bush Administration but nobody else) 0.6 GDP increase in the first quarter is worse than misleading it leads the administration into false comfort, that precludes more aggressive action.

Actually, Feldstein is being too charitable to BushCo. We could have had a negative GDP report and the White House still wouldn’t take aggressive action. Bush is kicking the recession, like Iraq, onto the watch of the next administration.

That said, his generosity or naiveté aside, Feldstein is plenty worried about further housing problems.

Countrywide sinking into sunset crapper as housing woes continue

A day after its second-quarter bad news came out, D.R. Horton couldn’t escape the Street, off 6.6 percent. Pulte was off nearly 6 percent.

But here’s the biggie: Countrywide Financial shares were down 7.5 percent to $4.94 today as speculation grew that its merger with Bank of America will crash or be renegotiated. Here’s why:
Standard & Poor's equity analysts wrote today that they believe Bank of America “will renegotiate a lower price due to large losses in CFC’s loan portfolio.” They value the shares at $6, on the expectations that the deal will be reworked.

Bank of America’s recent regulatory filing intimating that the company may not guarantee Countrywide’s debt has also increased the cost of default insurance.

I think S&P, the second-biggest financial rating company after Moody’s and itself responsible for some of this crap, is being too optimistic. And I’m not alone:
Earlier this week, Paul Miller, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets, wrote that Bank of America could slash its offer from roughly $7.25 a share to $2 or less.

Countrywide’s $95 billion loan portfolio has “deteriorated so rapidly” this year, Miller said, that buying the company could dent Bank of America's earnings or force the banking giant to raise additional capital.

Rick Perry sucking up to Spanish Ambassador … is Cintra on the agenda?

From an e-mail I got at work from the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce:
The Honorable Rick Perry will be among a host of business executives and Texas leadership welcoming U.S. Ambassador to Spain Eduardo Aguirre to Dallas on Monday, May 12, at the Rosewood Crescent Hotel hosted by the Greater Dallas Chamber.

“We are pleased to welcome the Governor and the Ambassador to the Dallas region for this important event,” said Victor Almeida, chair of the Greater Dallas Chamber¹s International Business Council (IBC) and CEO of Interceramic Inc. “The Chamber has a long history of working to recruit inward investment and trade development opportunities to North Texas. This is an excellent opportunity for Dallas-area businesses to connect with Spanish companies without crossing the Atlantic,” continued Almeida.

Companies like Cintra, the Spanish tie-in with Zachry Construction for the Trans Texas Corridor?
In four years time, Spain has quadrupled its investments in the United States. Spain is now focusing its attention on the North Texas region. The Honorable Eduardo Aguirre, U.S. Ambassador to Spain and the American Chamber of Commerce in Spain will lead this U.S.-Spain development mission to the State of Texas to promote Spanish investment in Texas and develop joint ventures and technology exchanges with key Texas cities. This mission includes 20 Spanish companies from the following sectors: life sciences, aviation technologies, food and wine products, and sustainable technologies including renewable energies, water treatment and industrial manufacturing.

What, where’s road construction?

But, aviation technologies? Maybe Cintra wants to toll our air traffic controllers?

Anyway, hold on to your hats.

American business will crumble with $200 a barrel oil

Just what will America look like if some of the most bearish predictions about oil prices come true? Charley Blaine has some scary thoughts in a must-read, and I’ll add a few of mine in parentheses.

(First, Blaine notes that über-bearish Goldman Sachs analyst Arjun Murti was also right on predicting $105/bbl oil back in 2005.)

Anyway, time to “document the atrocities,” as Atrios says on his blog.

First, if $1/bbl increase equals a nickel a gallon at the gas pump, $150 oil is $5 gas and $200 oil is $7.50 gas. While Europe adjusted to that with high gas taxes after the 1979-80 Iranian oil embargo, such rapid change here would be shock therapy.

• One, the Big Three might fold up. (I have five bucks that says Chrysler does that by the end of the decade. Dunno about Ford and General Misfits. Oh, and unlike 1980, our gummint doesn’t have money to bail out Chrysler, let alone Ford or GM.)

• Two, the “legacy” airlines might try to merge even smaller, if regulators allowed it, or just fold. (Ditto on lack of bailout money. And, I live in the home of one of those “legacy” airlines, American.)

• Three, convention cities are going to be in trouble. It ain’t going to be cheap to convention in Vegas with $500 coach tickets at the cheapest. (That’s Dallas, again.)

• Four, historic/arts type tourist destinations are in lots of trouble.

Beyond that, here’s additional thoughts of mine:

• Logistics hubs for intermodal shipping, like the Dallas Logistics Hub in southern Dallas and neighboring Lancaster, are going to be losing propositions. $200/barrel oil is going to mean a lot less made-in-China stuff. Yes, much of that, if it comes back across the Pacific, will be Mexico-built, not American. Nonetheless, much of it will be shipped via conventional semis, not on intermodal rail. And, a fair amount that is shipped intermodally will probably go to smaller sites. The big intermodal hubs will be like hub-and-spoke legacy airlines.

• American businesses, anti-union issues be damned, are going to come under more pressure from management as well as rank-and-file to stop relocating to sprawled-out Sunbelt cities.

• Lets not forget food prices. Higher diesel for the combines, and grain transportation trucks, down on the farm. Higher diesel costs to ship refined foods, and truck-farmed items, to the grocery. If natural gas starts pressuring upward, higher fertilizer and herbicide/pesticide costs. Maybe 15 percent or more higher than now.

• Just as an increase in gas taxes will become even more necessary for decaying infrastructure, the will to impose it will shrink even more.

• Unemployment will surge above 8 percent in modern faked (per Kevin Phillips) record-keeping, and reach a real rate of at least 12 percent. And, we would be tempted to call that something worse than a recession.

• And, my last thought – GOP wingers will say we need another tax cut because of this.

Hillary – let them eat campaign debt

Word is she’ll step aside IF Obama’s campaign retires her campaign debt AND pays her/Bill back the money she personally loaned her campaign.

As Josh Marshall notes, the first part, paying off people she owes, isn’t controversial.

The second part, given her tax returns earlier this year, is HUGELY controversial.

Hey, Hill, if you’re that worried about the money, you should have quit a month ago.

I guess the “elitists” that make up Obama’s small-cap donors (at least in the mythical retelling) might not like paying you back your own money.

May 07, 2008

Steel yourselves …

Congress wants the U.S Mint to not only consider making steel pennies, but steel nickels, too.

The cost of a current penny, almost all zinc and very little copper, is about 1.25 cents. A nickel, which is actually three-quarters copper and one-quarter nickel? About 7.5 cents.

But, in BushCo executive wrangling, the White House opposes the bill as being too prescriptive to the Mint and not delegating enough leeway.

This is part of why Arafat wouldn’t pull the trigger on Oslo

Or couldn’t, perhaps.

As Israel gets ready to celebrate its 60th birthday, a little reflection from the other side of the wadi:

A pre-state of Israel Jewish National Fund , a quasi-governmental group that was founded before the state of Israel to buy and develop land in Palestine and later oversaw land distribution in the Jewish state. The JNF also controls land owned by Palestinians before they fled or were driven from their homes when Israel was founded.

Uhh, yeah, if I had parents or grandparents who lost their land in 1947-48, and I didn’t think Oslo had adequately addressed this, which it didn’t, I’d want Arafat’s head on a platter or signatory hand on a chopping block.

Here’s another reason I can’t imagine why Israeli Arabs think the nation, on the cusp of its 60th birthday, is racist.

National insurance benefits depends on completing military service. Few Arabs serve in the army: unlike for Jews, service is not compulsory.

If I were an Arab, why would I want to serve in the Israeli Army?

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman, Mark Regev, says these things are just “differences of opinion,” not racism.

Umm, sure.

Obama – the other white meat

You just can’t beat the headlines Ted Rall uses on his columns.

First, Rall compares Barack Obama “denouncing” his long-term pastor, Jeremiah Wright, to George McGovern dumping Tom Eagleton as his vice-presidential candidate in 1972 after Eagleton’s history of depression, including treatment with electro-convulsive therapy, came out into the public.

Rall argues the controversy would have eventually faded away if McGovern would just have listened to Tammy Wynette to “stand by your man.” Instead, he folded, and the GOP knew he could be pushed.

Rall figures the same is in store for Obama. Especially since, well, Wright was right on 9/11 comments, at least:
What is truly ridiculous is that, six and a half years after 9/11, many Americans still think the attacks were motivated by crazy freedom-haters out to forcibly convert them to Islam. The rise of radical Islam resulted from what Chalmers Johnson termed “Blowback” — CIA jargon for the unintended consequences, in this case of arming and funding Islamist fighters against the Soviet Union. But Wright was right. “America's chickens are coming home to roost,” the Reverend said after 9/11.

It wasn’t an original thought. Ward Churchill said the same thing. So have countless analysts in other countries. Only in the U.S. is it prohibited to say something so obvious--particularly in a public forum.

Osama bin Laden and the 19 hijackers didn't think flying planes into buildings would make Americans join the local mosque. They were motivated by a desire to bring America’s wars home to its people, to ensure that it would suffer the consequences for having “supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans,” as Wright said. Like Wright, bin Laden has referenced these issues.

Well, I’ve e-mailed back and forth with Ted enough that I know he’s expects Obama to remain the other white meat, rather than the duck a l’orange of change. And, Ted has heard enough from me, and regular readers here know, that I don’t expect Obama to change, either.

Here’s what I don’t get.

You listened to Wright’s tapes at Harvard Law, Obama. You deliberately sought out Wright’s church in Chicago. You had to know something about black liberation theology.

So, was this a social climbing strategy move?

You are looking more and more like Just. Another. Politician.

Tom Friedman smears Venezuela

Friedman claims that Venezuela is part of a sphere of non-democratic petro-autocracies.

No, Tom, no. Hugo Chavez willingly accepted that he did not win a referendum last year to expand his powers.

That said, Tom, your neo-neo friends inside the U.S. government, who backed the coup against Chavez four years ago, tried to make Venezuela into a non-democratic petro-autocracy, but you’ve seen fit not to mention that, either then or now.

Just remember that however flat the world is, it’s not as flat as Tom Friedman’s head.

Paulson proves BushCo loyalty by willingness to lie

The latest whopper? That we’re past the worst of the credit crunch. In a narrow sense, vis-à-vis investment banks, that may (or may not) be true. As for small biz and residential mortgage credit, not even close.

Lie No. 2 in the same story?
“Later this year, I expect growth will pick up.”

Followed by a self-undercutting:
“Even the optimists here believe that you’re going to continue to see in the next several months” newspaper headlines that will say prices have declined even further and foreclosures have increased, he said. “That’s what happens during a correction.”

So… “several months” — wouldn’t that be well into “later this year”?

And, I guess it’s not that bad if we’re just in a “correction” and not a “recession.”

News briefs – Blair, Begala, FBI, evangelicals

FBI caves on another National Security Letter
This one against an online library, not bricks and mortar.
Begala shoots self in foot
Claims that Dems can’t win with blacks and eggheads.
Evangelical leader calls for step back from politics
Leith Anderson, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals, is calling for fellow believers to detach from partisan politics.
No EU presidency for you
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has thrown in the towel on his effort to get Tony Blair named first president of the European Union Council.

Gitmo courtroom clusterfuck is emblematic

Sound systems that don’t work. Closed-circuit broadcasts that freeze up.

No, it’s not likely that the “state-of-the-art” (state of what art, Iraq Green Zone no-bid contracts?) $12 million courthouse $12 million courthouse for Guantanamo detainees won’t have any trials wrapped up in time to provide icing for John McCain’s 100 Years War election bid.

And, with growth in the movement by some Guantanamo detainees to, in essence, boycott their own trials, Schmuck Talk Express™ would only get show trials, anyway.

Speaking of Gitmo, none of the 2 1/2 remaining major-party presidential candidates has talked much yet about the nearly seven year of wrongful incarceration of Sudanese journalist Sami al-Haj.

Hillary in more fiscal trouble – Bill to the rescue?

She has lent her own campaign an additional $6.4 million. Guess it’s time for the Slicker to start doing more speeches at $100K a pop or to have his foundation cozy up to some new shady international wheeler-dealers.

Doorknob, would you love to be a fly on that wall after the election is over?

Bee colony deaths increase

Colony collapse disorder hit 29 percent of commercial honeybee hives, in a survey of 19 percent of commercial beekeepers.

CCD and other problems knocked off 36 percent of hives last year, something that is obviously unsustainable.

So, if you see honey and fresh fruit prices continue to rise, you know why.

‘A religion of peace’ will kill you if you disagree

Sam Harris puts it well. Radical Muslims claim to be a religion of peace, up until the moment critics actually take a look at what radical, literalistic Muslims believe.

Dutch politican Geert Wilders knows. Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard knows.

He also notes that U.N. President Ban-Ki Moon, other European politicians, the editorial board of the Washington Post and that of science tome Nature are all ready to whitewash Islam’s sins, too.

Unfortunately, Sam Harris is secular humanism’s flip side of the coin, since his ultimate answer is atomic weapons raining down on the heartland.

And, while Chris Hedges went way too far in calling New Atheists in general neoconservatives, Sam Harris comes off as an interventionist paleoconservative, if you will.

Child abuse changes the brain

Specifically, it changes RNA in an epigenetic process known as methylation.

Clear evidence Gitmo defense lawyers are being bugged

Phones making funny sounds. Government prosecutors asking Guantanamo detainees about matters discussed with defense attorneys during privileged lawyer-client times. Government non-denial no-comments on the allegations.

Yep, I’d say Gitmo defense attorneys are having their phones bugged.

Inside the Microsoft-Yahoo talks – Gates says Microsoft doing it ‘our way’

Microsoft founder Bill Gates said the company isn’t pursuing other deals after the collapse of Yahoo takeover efforts.

Meanwhile, as Yahoo Chairman Jerry Yang and the company’s board fend off the potential flood of lawsuits over rejecting Microslob’s final $33/share offer, they say Steve Ballmer wasn’t serious about the offer because it wasn’t in writing.
While they differed on some details, the people agreed Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft didn't spell out the $47.5 billion offer in writing. Instead, it was orally presented by both Ballmer and Brad Smith, the software maker's general counsel.

In contrast, Microsoft's initial bid of $44.6 billion, or $31 per share, was sent to Yahoo’s board in a Jan. 31 letter that contained specific financing terms.

Although raising a takeover bid orally isn't ideal, it's acceptable when two sides like Microsoft and Yahoo already have been engaged a lengthy dialogue, said Morton Pierce, a New York lawyer specializing in corporate acquisitions.

“You would always prefer to have (an offer) in writing to see if there are any conditions attached, but it’s not necessary when people have been negotiating in good faith,” Pierce said.

Other theories abound.

Some think that Ballmer attached conditions, or presented the offer in a way to make sure it was turned down, allowing him to escape a deal that the Street didn’t think was good for Microslob.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to argue with major Yahoo shareholder Eric Jackson that Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and fellow Yahoo founder David Filo probably have too many emotional ties to the company to have conducted Yahoo’s side of negotiations by themselves.

Excessive school bus stops contribute to child obesity

I live in DeSoto, a south Dallas suburb, in an apartment complex. There’s another complex adjacent to mine.

I stopped by my place last Friday afternoon, after going to the bank and before heading back to work.

Buses stopped in front of both apartment complexes, a whole 15 yards apart.

No wonder kids are obese.

James Fallows gives 1964 Senate a pass on Tonkin Gulf

Atlantic Monthly writer James Fallows, on the mag’s blog, had a contest today for stupidest bipartisan policy clusterfuck of the past 50 years.

BUT, he excluded the U.S.Senate’s 88-2 vote for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964.

The US Senate's 88-2 vote in favor of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964 doesn’t count: they didn't know what lay ahead.

To which, I call bullshit.

Here’s what I e-mailed him:
I disagree with Fallows ruling out Tonkin Gulf from consideration.

The Senate should have known, whether it actually did or not, about both the stupidity involved, and the 2,000 years of Vietnamese-Chinese history (illustrated again in 1979) that showed just how ridiculous the "domino theory" was.

Hell, if Senators would have read the Geneva Accords that we refused to sign in 1954, it was clear Ho was a nationalist as much as a communist.

So, sorry, Tonkin does count. And, as Vietnam affected the 2004 presidential election, and Swift Boating entered our political lexicon, it should have been part of your contest

In the top 1,500!

I am, that is. Among Amazon book reviewers. So, if you want to see what I like and dislike, beyond a few reviews I’ve recently posted on the blog, click the link!

Dan Yergin says $150 oil coming

If Mr. Big Oil Flack, Daniel Yergin, head of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, says $150/barrel oil is coming, it’s coming.
“It’s not that the genie is out of the bottle — it’s that 100 genies are out of the bottle,” said Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. Normally known for optimistic forecasts of lowering oil prices, Mr. Yergin’s firm now says the price could rise to $150 a barrel this year.

The world's diminished spare production capacity remains the strongest single catalyst for high prices, Mr. Yergin says. The world’s safety cushion — the amount of readily available oil that could be pumped in a moment of crisis — is now around two million barrels a day, according to most estimates. That’s just 2.3 percent of daily demand, and nearly all of the safety cushion is in one country, Saudi Arabia. Everyone else is pretty much pumping all they can, which makes the world vulnerable to political or other shocks.

Ready for gas to hit $4.50, maybe $5 a gallon? Food to go up another 5-10 percent? Here it comes.

Can Lancaster Lady Tiger track hold off Dunbar?

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.

Update Lady Tiger track post by noting no 100 or 200 runners, two in the
400. Give them 12 points in the 400, 10 for Ashley Starks in the 300
hurdles, 8 in other events and 20 in the 4x400... that's 50.... how much can
they do in other two relays?

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?

Drumbeat for Iran war moves to Afghanistan

The latest allegations of Iranian meddling in Iraq aren’t enough. Now it’s allegedly doing the same in Afghanistan.

And no, it’s not the usual unnamed sources making the claim. Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for south and central Asia, went on the record with his observations, at a press event.

Good teachers admit bad teachers hard to dismiss

Why the problem?
1. Tenure;
2. Quick annual reviews by harried principals, assistant principals or district staff;
3. Inflated evaluations because principals think tenure means they can’t do anything.

But, this can be counteracted. Classroom walk-ins by principals on a regular basis are one way.

Peer reviews, rather than by principals, are another:
In recent years, some educators have been looking to Toledo, Ohio — a district served by about 2,000 teachers — for ideas on how to make evaluations meaningful. There, experienced teachers evaluate first-year teachers and also help determine the fate of seasoned teachers who get poor reviews from their principals.

That said, the story notes increasing pressure from No Child Left Behind to “teach to the test” doesn’t help in weeding out bad teachers.

Business security goons are Princes of Peace – hypocrisy alert

According to a personal friend of mine, ASIS International, formerly the American Society for Industrial Security, is going to have “Let There Be Peace On Earth” as the final song performed by all the entertainers they have contracted for their big seminar in Atlanta this fall.

Sign up and sing a bar, if you want.

This friend of mine is among the hired entertainment.

Clinton aides losing hope

Yes, Obama, not Clinton, was the one who said Indiana would be the “tiebreaker” between a Clinton win in Pennsylvania and an Obama win in North Carolina. And, yes, he once talked about winning the state, ignorant of possible downstate bias and GOP crossovers.

Nonetheless, even if Clinton holds on by the narrowest of margins, it’s a statistical tie, she’s running out of “comebacks,” and she won with the support of a lot people who wn’t vote for her in November. No wonder some of her aides are becoming more disparaged.
“Absent some sort of miracle on May 31, it’s going to be tough for us,” said a senior Clinton official who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to be frank. “We lost this thing in February. We're doing everything we can now . . . but it's just an uphill battle.”

And, if Timmeh Russert, dean of Sunday’s TV talking coneheads, says Obama has wrapped it up, then it’s time to be more discouraged, right?
“We now know who the Democratic nominee is gonna be, and no one’s gonna dispute it,” before listing reasons why it would behoove Clinton to reconsider going forward with her campaign “hoping against all hope.”

That said, another Clintonista “player” is offering a different take, one not helpful to either candidate.
A Clinton adviser said the situation was increasingly becoming one in which “she cannot be nominated and he can’t get elected.”

I don’t know if the second half of the statement is true or not, but the (Jeremiah) Wright elephant in Obama’s living room isn’t going to do anything but go on a steroid diet if he gets the nomination.

On the other hand, the electability issue of Obama winning southern states with large black percentages in Democratic primaries, but states that haven’t gone Democratic since 1976 for Carter, and 1960 before that, is a legitimate matter of discussion and debate.

Drug crime racial bias goes beyond crack sentences

It goes to the actual likelihood of jail time.

Black men? Twelve times more likely to do jail time for drug offenses than white men. Black women? Five times more likely than whites.

Ridiculous. Of course, many poor blacks, or other minorities, get public defenders who, I guess, are too incompetent or too lazy to get them rehab time.

And, because poorer minorities are more likely to have theft convictions to support their habits (something the story doesn’t delve into), they’ve got longer criminal records. The same would be true of poorer whites, too.

I’d like to see a similar study controlled for income. I don’t doubt that even with that, blacks still are more likely to do time in drug cases than whites, though.

May 06, 2008

Rush 7 percent effect in Indiana?

Did Rush Limbaugh’s “marching orders” for Indiana Republicans to cross over and vote Hillary really make up 7 percent of the Democratic electorate, as Obama claims?
Indiana exit polls showed that four in ten Democrats who said they would vote for McCain over Clinton in a general election nonetheless voted for Clinton on Tuesday; however, just twelve percent who would vote for McCain over Obama voted for the Illinois senator.

However, as Obama has lost Indiana by less than 7 percentage points, the most obvious thing is that this is Obama spin: “Real Democrats would have given Obama the state.” That of course ignores crossovers for Obama in places like New Hampshire.

Besides, other folks, like Crooks and Liars, minimize the Rush effect. (Will popping Rush give you a headache in the men’s room?)

Bush loses last few marbles on FEC compromise

The Preznit and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have agreed to three new Federal Election Commission compromise member being nominated, but Bush insists on continuing to push Hans von Spakovsky , claiming he would get confirmed if offered a full Senate vote:
The White House believes he “would be confirmed by the Senate if allowed a vote,” said White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in a letter to Reid on Tuesday.

Any Democrat who does vote for him deserves to be flogged, then tarred and feathered.
“We will work towards the confirmation of the remaining nominees and expect to defeat von Spakovsky,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said.

But, does Bush really believe that Clever Hans can get nominated? What a doorknob.

Air travelers take note – gas prices and demand NOT the oil driver

Instead, it’s production bottlenecks for non-gasoline oil products, says Goldman Sachs analyst Arjun Murti.

He notes that not too long ago, the refining price spread, or “crack” had the oil equivalent of gasoline about $9/bbl higher than jet fuel. Now, jet fuel is $30/bbl higher on a per-barrel basis.
“Gasoline, at least in the short-run, has traded more like an annoying by-product of crude than as its core fundamental driver.”

The “crack” widening on jet fuel is going to make the airline industry suffer more. The story notes that airlines are divided between those that regularly “hedge” their fuel costs and those who don’t. Those who don’t, who thing prices are high, even artificially high, right now, may be due for a rude awakening:
Chris Avery, aviation analyst at JP Morgan, told CNBC those that have decided they can’t bear to hedge at current price levels, perhaps because they feel the price is not reflective of a longer term picture, will be hit hardest by ongoing rises in crude prices. For the time being he says the strength in crack spreads is irrelevant, it’s the underlying price of oil that is causing the biggest pain.

But overall trend is undeniable according to products traders. They say demand for jet fuel can only continue to rise as Europe races to compete with soaring demand from the Middle East & Asia. This they say means strength in middle distillates is likely to remain a long-term rather than short-term trend.

OPEC, insisting there is no supply issue, blames the weak dollar, which appears to have bottomed out (for now), and speculators.

But, we know different. The Saudis, in particular, have enough invested in American securities that they can’t afford for the American market to take too much of a hit. So, if they can’t do more, whether through pumping, or other means, to rectify the situation, then there’s a problem.

Airplanes dirtier than previously thought

How much dirtier, in terms of carbon dioxide emissions? About 20 percent worse:
An unpublished study by the world’s leading experts has revealed that airlines are pumping 20 per cent more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than estimates suggest, with total emissions set to reach between 1.2 billion and 1.5 billion tonnes annually by 2025.

The report, by four government-funded research bodies, is one of the most authoritative estimates of the growth of pollutants produced by the industry. It was presented to a conference co-organised by the United States’ Federal Aviation Authority but not given a wider audience.

And, that’s not all.

The four bodies estimate aviation-caused CO2 will more than double by 2025.
Zogby says his latest polling has Barack Obama with a statistically insignificant 2 percent lead over Hillary Clinton in Indiana.

Two issues, though.

First, every other poll of significance disagrees with Zogby.

Second, Indiana has open primaries, and in downstate GOP strongholds, there’s First, every other poll of significance a lot of party-switching — enough that some areas are worried about running out of Democratic ballots.

Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham didn’t go on the air in the past week urging GOPers to vote Hillary, so I have no guess whom this benefits. Hillary-haters could want her on the ballot, or Republicans who think Obama has too much Jeremiah Wright baggage could want him on the ballot.

And, who knows how well any of the polls are at picking up on ballot switchers?

We’ll find out in a couple of hours.

That said, if Zogby is right, Clinton needs to face reality and pack it in.

Tropicana – fresh squeezed bankruptcy after bad roll of the dice

Tropicana the gaming giant, and not Tropicana the orange juice giant, has filed Chapter 11. Luck be a fickle, scorned and spurned lady.

New Jersey gaming regulators stripped Tropicana’s Atlantic City casino of its operating license in December, when the New Jersey Casino Control Commission determined that Tropicana was incapable of running a "first-class operation" required by state law and stripped it of its casino license after less than a year. prompting a cash flow problem that eventually forced the bankruptcy.

But the problems started before that, and reflect that even the gaming industry is starting to have recession-related problems:
When it bought Aztar Corp. for $2.1 billion after a heated bidding war, the company unwittingly violated a fundamental principle of business — buying high just before the market fell.

Using tactics it had successfully employed elsewhere, management began cost-cutting measures including nearly 1,000 layoffs in Atlantic City, prompting an uproar from unions.

A slowing national economy made gamblers more cautious about parting with their money, and real estate values plummeted as well. Then credit markets tightened, leaving Tropicana Entertainment “very little margin for error,” Tropicana President Scott Butera wrote in court filings. The company simply could not afford any significant setbacks, he added.

The company suffered a huge setback with the loss of the Atlantic City casino license. The company is appealing the license denial, but the bidding process is well under way and a new owner could be selected within a few weeks.

The company will receive the proceeds from the sale but is worried that a forced sale in a bad economy will result in a depressed price.

It is already selling its Evansville and Vicksburg casinos to help reduce its debt and could decide to sell other assets as the restructuring process unfolds, Butera said.

Any company dumb enough or arrogant enough to think it could stiff unions in New Jersey deserves the corporate butt-kicking. Unfortunately, employees, including those unionized ones in New Jersey, will suffer.

And, it makes me wonder if this isn’t part of why the casino commission yanked the license in the first place. Not that Joisey government folks would ever play hardball on something like this, would they?

The larger picture leads me to wonder if companies like Tropicana have much in the way of the equivalent to subprime mortgage debt on their books.

Ditto for strip malls that have been built in the last five years to add new outlets for places like the now-bankrupt Bombay and Linens ’n Things.

Mexican economic future not on candidate radar screens

Neither border-stater John McCain, nor Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, in either their ignorance of, or refusal to discuss, Peak Oil, has had comment No. 1 on the possible tanking of the Mexican economy within five years.

The continuing surge in oil prices is fueled in fair part by declining Mexican production .
A new Goldman Sachs prediction that oil prices could rise to $150 to $200 within two years seemed to motivate much of Tuesday's buying, although a falling dollar and increasing concerns about declining crude production in Mexico and Russia contributed, analysts say.

Mexican production, year-over-year, was off 8 percent the first quarter of this year. The country is expected to become an oil importer by 2015.

And, given the Mexican economy’s dependence on Pemex, that could send a new wave of illegal immigrants across our southern border.

Since Pemex is government-owned, that’s reason one the decline will hurt the economy in the longer term, especially if the Mexican government isn’t banking the “windfall profits” it’s getting right now.

And, since Pemex revenues go into the Mexican government’s general revenue stream, helping fund government welfare payments for NAFTA-displaced peasant farmers and other folk, when Mexico becomes an oil importer, the economy will at least stutter, if not stagger or even crash.

Alcohol may come to Wilmer-Hutchins

Interestingly, the story made no reference to Lancaster’s Mark or Aaron Gonzales.

Either Wilmer-Hutchins, unlike Anna and Rockwall, are off their non-Lancaster map, or they’re saving their efforts for a last-minute anti-alcohol blitz.

That said, if it does pass there, well, Lancaster will never get beer and wine package sales, and the modest boost in sales taxes.

How high on oil prices during summer driving season?

With crude moving back above $120/bbl (and now to $122) this morning and likely to stay there, this brings up further questions.

Memorial Day and the traditional start of summer, and the summer driving season, is just three and a half weeks away. Even if recessionary problems get worse, I still see more pressure on gas prices this summer.

Oil prices continued to push higher during the day today, with Jim Jubak’s prediction, which I blogged about a week ago, that oil could hit $180/bbl, getting new support.
A new Goldman Sachs prediction that oil prices could rise to $150 to $200 within two years seemed to motivate much of Tuesday's buying, although a falling dollar and increasing concerns about declining crude production in Mexico and Russia contributed, analysts say. …

Oil prices have nearly doubled from about $62 a barrel a year ago, which Goldman sees as a sign that the world is in the midst of a "super spike" in oil prices. Analyst Arjun Murti said in a research note released Monday that prices would ultimately force demand to fall sharply.

Mexican production, year-over-year, was off 8 percent the first quarter of this year. The country is expected to become an oil importer by 2015.

In other Nymex trading Tuesday, June gasoline futures rose 5.58 cents to $3.1087 a gallon after earlier setting a new trading record of $3.1163.

So, where will oil be at by Labor Day, the traditional end of the summer driving season?

Free polls from
By Labor Day, oil prices will be ....
$125/bbl $130/bbl $135/bbl $140/bbl $145/bbl $150/bbl or more   

Horton hears a loss

That would be D.R. Horton, hearing the sound of a monstrous second-quarter loss.
Fort Worth-based D.R. Horton Inc. posted a loss of $1.31 billion, or $4.14 per share, compared with year-ago profit of $51.7 million, or 16 cents per share. The latest period, reported Tuesday, includes pretax write-down charges of $834.1 million.

Throw out the tax writeoffs and Horton STILL lost a cool $500 mil, or more than a buck-fifty a share.

Surprisingly, the stock was trading UP about 50 cents a share, in the 16.50 range today. That’s after it opened at 15.36 after yesterday’s 15.97 close.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in trouble?

It’s possible. Quite possible.

Even the word “bailout” is on some insiders’ lips.

The two quasi-federal mortgage agencies lost more than $9 bil last year, and some analysts think things could get worse.
Some financial experts worry that the companies are dangerously close to the edge, especially if home prices go through another steep decline. Their combined cushion of $83 billion — the capital that their regulator requires them to hold — underpins a colossal $5 trillion in debt and other financial commitments.

On Tuesday, Fannie Mae reported a loss of $2.2 billion or $2.57 a share in the first quarter compared with a profit of $961 million, or 85 cents a share, in period a year ago. Analyst surveyed by Thomson Financial exepected a loss of 81 cents a share in the latest period.

In other words, Fannie Mae could lose $9 billion by itself this year.

Meanwhile, both Fannie and Freddie are pushing back against any possible new regulation to require a higher reserve percentage backing their mortgages. And their regulator, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, has promised to reduce that reserve backing requirement to 15 percent from 20 percent.

Its director, James B. Lockhart, is bullish, but an anonymous staffer says, “It’s not irrational to be thinking about a bailout.”


Frankly, I think we should abolish both agencies as a freebie subsidy to the home-building and mortgage-lending industries.