June 14, 2008

Obama the neoliberal – the bottom line on Barack

At TPM Café, Jim Sleeper does an EXCELLENT job of explaining how Obama really is a neoliberal in many ways, and will likely get trapped in a neoliberal cage of covernance.

How’s his post playing at TPM?

Obamiancs, whom I say will never learn, let alone digest, the old Latin phrase “caveat emptor,” are accusing Sleeper of navel-gazing or worse.

My response, posted there:
To all of you who denigrate Sleeper, I think he's got some great insights.

I don’t know that Obama is as much a neolib as the Slickster was, but, everybody who chants “change” like a Transcendental Meditation mantra will be surprised in a year or two, assuming Obama gets elected.

If George H.W. claimed to be a “kinder, gentler, conservative,” Obama will, whether he makes the claim or not, likely try to govern as a “kinder, gentler neoliberal.”

Or an updated neoliberal version of Jimmy Carter.

Caveat emptor indeed, but most buyers there probably will never check the label.

Cindy McCain, rich bitch? Barack Obama, at the government teat?

How do “ordinary small-town Republicans” relate to the potential future First Lady melting her American Express to the tune of $150,000?

At the same time, for everybody sniping about Schmuck Talk Express™ getting 58 large a year from the U.S. Navy as a pension, the 25-year-younger Obama is already drawing $50K or more as an Illinois pension for a few years of part-time work as a state senator.

So, watch which way those fingers are pointing, Democrats.

Saudis claim will pump another 500K barrels

Color me among the skeptics. And, I’m not alone, obviously.

Hell, I’m not even sure they’re pumping the additional 300K barrels they said they would last month.

And, as for the KSA claim it can add another 3 million barrels a day above current levels by the end of next year? I’ll believe it about three years after it allegedly starts happening.

The Saudis know how to “play” the Western world and Western media better than most OPEC countries.

Call this half a million barrels of PR.

My U.S. Open thoughts after round two

Looking at the scoreboard, it’s probably Tiger’s to lose. He can grind out two more rounds on a still-sore knee, then take the whole pre-British summer off if he hurts that bad. Then, he can take off again until the PGA.

But, “can” doesn’t necessarily mean “will.” So, let’s look at the rest of the field.

Phil’s out of it at plus-4 and seven off the lead, and yes, while he might have some chance, I think this was his “last, best hope,” and Master Samwise ain’t carrying his bags this weekend. I think he’s going to have to rethink the idea of not carrying a driver if he wants any shot at a comeback, too.

The Big Easy? Boy, wouldn’t this be a comeback win for Els?

Karlsson — two subpar rounds, playing steady. D Love III could have a last gasp? Jimenez has potential. And, Ogilvy is up there. If Harrington had not had that 78 in the first round, I’d give him more of a shot, but maybe he can make up six strokes. Maybe Goosen can. Luke Donald could break through, too. Westwood has never done much at majors.

And, that's it as far as people with realistic chances, in my book.

I’m still not ready to bet Tiger against the field, so I’ll put one red on the Big Easy to win his third U.S. Open.

Plug-in hybrids get back of DC hand and Toyota gets screwed

First, just as Wired notes, just $30 million in Department of Energy money for plug-in hybrids is a pittance.

Second, a 2016 timeframe is way behind the curve.

Here’s what’s really needed, per former Clinton official David Sandalow:
• $5 billion to help automakers retool production plants.
• $12 billion in consumer tax credits for plug-in hybrids.
• $1 billion to add 30,000 plug-in hybrids to the government fleet each year for 10 years.
• $500 million to underwrite warranties on lithium-ion batteries until the technology is proven.

Third, the standards — getting a plug-in hybrid that can go 40 miles in electric mode without recharge — are pathetic.

Last, and unmentioned, is the discriminatory crock of giving the money to GM, Ford and General Electric.

Who’s already the No. 1 builder of hybrids? Toyota.

Who already has a near-complete vertical integration of hybrid technology? Toyota.

Who is passing, if not already past, GM in development of plug-in hybrid technology? Toyota.

Not giving it plug-in hybrid grant money is pounding sand down a rat hole.

Also, per something else Wired missed, it’s also arguably protectionist under World Trade Organization standards and subject to formal grievance and complaint, which I hope Toyota, or Honda, does.

Barr gets nutbar love from Paul; Obama should benefit

I blogged earlier this week about the possibility of Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr getting a quasi-endorsement from Ron Paul at Paul’s mini-convention in Minneapolis competing with the official GOP confab. And now, it sounds more realistic.
Roberts then asked Paul about former Congressman Bob Barr, who was chosen as this year’s Libertarian Party nominee after Paul refused to repeat his 1988 candidacy. “Does he faithfully represent the values of the Libertarian Party?”

“I think so,” Paul replied, explaining that Barr may not have had a perfect voting record in Congress, but “that doesn’t mean that he can’t represent these values. He’s saying the things that he should be saying. … He can have a very positive effect in this campaign.”

Video of Paul’s comments at the link.

What would a serious Barr candidacy, to the degree using “serious” and “Barr candidacy” in the same sentence isn’t oxymoronic, mean?

He would threaten to drain enough votes in Virginia to really put it in play for Obama; I don’t think he would do the same in North Carolina, but you never know.

He might really come into play in Arizona and Nevada out west, as well as being the final balance-tipper in New Mexico.

As I have also blogged recently, Obama can win the general election without Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida if he takes Virginia and the three southwestern states I just mentioned, takes New Hampshire along with the rest of New England, and otherwise takes care of business where he’s supposed to.

What’s happening with Cindy Sheehan?

You can check her website here here. Unfortunately, her getting elected would still be too late to put George W. Bush’s impeachment back on the table.

Because it needs to be said.

June 13, 2008

Telco sellout immunity deal reached

Supposedly, Congressional negotiators and the White House have reached a deal on a new FISA bill that purportedly will send individual telco cases to courts to decide, but …

Will have those courts making immunity decisions with a stacked deck:
Under the possible accord, a federal court could immunize a company by ruling it had been given written assurances that its participation in the U.S. government's warrantless domestic spying program was legal and authorized by President George W. Bush, one source said.

This is a SELLOUT, as the ACLU already recognizes:
“This is a terrible deal,” said Caroline Fredrickson of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s just a quick way to dismiss the cases. They (phone companies) just have to show that the president told them to break the law.”

And, you know that, if Bush said nothing specific at the time, he’ll give them an ex post facto get out of lawsuits free card.

Basically, this is like the Kit Bond proposal from this spring, except with district trial courts deciding the immunity issue rather than the FISA court.

Well, we’ll see if Barack Obama is a real progressive by whether or not he filibusters this bill, should it get to the Senate.

Question: Will Silvestre Reyes, et al step up to claim paternity for this bastard bill, or will they slouch toward Bethlehem, or AT&T, whichever they can reach first?

Sioux may get part of historic lands back

The National Park Service is looking at turning the southern half of Badlands National Park over to the Oglala Sioux.
The change would require congressional approval and the process is in its earliest stages, with officials still to decide whether the south section should be handed over solely to the tribal government, become a separate park run by the tribe with help from the park service, or left as is.

Tribal members seem torn. Some say they should be able to build homes there. Others push for a pristine nature preserve. Still others want more development to draw tourists to the massive fossils that remain.

The park service recently held several forums on the reservation and elsewhere in the region to gauge public support for these options. At a forum at Crazy Horse School in Wanblee, S.D., William La Mont, 44, was one of several who argued that the tribe would still need the service's help. "The tribe's not ready," he said. "The tribe's in the red."

Keith Janis, 48, one of the activists who staged the 2000 occupation, believes the land should be returned to its original owners or their descendants to do with as they please.

Unfortunately, Janis still is living by some mythical ideas:
“That’s not respecting the rights of the people who have nothing,” Janis said of the proposal that the land remain a park. “The whole national park system is environmental racism against the Indian people of this country.”

While the original takings of the land often did have a racist background, the creation of national parks decades after the original takings was not itself racist.

That said, you can’t blame Janis for his feelings, especially given failed promises by NPS:
The confiscation of the land that is now the south end of Badlands National Park is fresher in locals' memories. In 1942, the military gave more than 800 people a week to move out.

Legally, the land remained tribal property. But the government continued to oversee it after the war.

Control of it was handed to the National Park Service and the area was incorporated into Badlands National Monument, which became a national park in 1978.

Under an agreement signed in 1976, the park service operates the south unit jointly with Oglala Sioux park officials.

But the tribe has complained that the service has never lived up to many of its promises.

The government said it would build a cultural/visitor center to draw tourists to the southern half of the park, about 40 miles southeast of Rapid City. Instead, the only visitor center in the south is a converted trailer along an isolated stretch of blacktop. Until recently, Oglala Sioux rangers complained that the park service barely gave them any support, making it impossible to patrol the area and giving fossil poachers free rein.

What’s happening now?

NPS figures this is probably a way to save a few dinero out of its always-strained budget, so it’s dumping this land. And I hope that Congress makes sure the NPS doesn’t actually do this.

Bag-check fee catches on — and $2 a pop for pop!!

No. 2 airline United and No. 7 U.S. Airways have joined No. 1 airline American in charging $15 for fliers’ first checked bag.

I’m betting, still, that Southwest doesn’t join the stampede, and winds up using this to actually increase its profit margin.

And, no more free sodas on U.S. Airways — it’s $2 a pop for pop now.

A Godless campaign – fan-dam-tastic idea

Timothy Egan gets a cold star among MSM pundits for this simple suggestion. Ain’t gonna happen, but I’m glad somebody mentioned it.
Teddy Roosevelt, a McCain hero, was prescient on this point as well. He argued against putting, “In God We Trust,” on the currency in 1907, saying it cheapens the divine. “It not only does no good,” he wrote, “but it does positive harm.”

Amy Sullivan will probably whine about this, maybe at Washington Monthly, but tough.

And, meanwhile, Rick Warren gets a big hypocrisy alert kick in the tuchis. He said he did NOT invite a gay group to his church, and, although they’ll be there this Sunday, he won’t.

Friday scatblogging, er, SHATblogging

A pun on a pun? Indeed. William Shatner’s new bio, “Up Till Now,” is now available.

And, if not for a pompadour heading to Hawaii instead of outer space, we’d never be talking about this book.

How’s that.

Well, people familiar with Star Trek know that Jeffrey Hunter played Capt. Christopher Pike in the original pilot. But, for various reasons, he didn’t work out.

Well, William Shatner was NOT the first choice as the new commander of the Enterprise.

Jack Lord was. But, he went off to Hawaii Five-0 instead.

“Book ’em, Spocko,” just doesn’t sound right, does it?

Interestingly, Shatner had turned down multiple chances to be the lead in a TV series before accepting this one.

Ultimately, the book is a good summer read. It’s as over-the-top, and ultimately self-spoofing, as Bill Shatner is in the rest of his life. And, it’s told in Bill Shatner’s own cut-and-forward, Priceline-ish style.

Left unanswered, though puckishly referenced on the last page? The Shatner toupee.

However, he can get defensive at times. Yes, Paramount may have slashed his budget for directing Star Trek V and tinkered with the plot, but the plot was probably an even bigger turkey as he originally conceived it.

Jim Johnson, meet Chris Dodd

The Connecticut Senator reportedly joins the former Barack Obama VP vetter as among people receiving special “friends and family” loans from Countrywide Financial, one of the country’s main subprime mortgage companies.

Dodd’s staff is, of course, denying it:
“The Dodds received a competitive rate on their loans,” spokesman Bryan DeAngelis said in a statement. “They did not seek or anticipate any special treatment and they were not aware of any.”

Conde Nast Portfolio begs to differ:
The magazine first reported Dodd's participation in a special program that awarded preferential rates to people considered “friends” of the company's chairman and chief executive, Angelo Mozilo.

Portfolio reported that Countrywide made two loans at special rates to Dodd in 2003. One was a $503,000 loan to refinance a Washington townhouse. The second was for refinancing a loan on a home in East Haddam, Conn.

Countrywide waived three-eighths of a point, or about $2,000, on the townhouse loan, and one-fourth of a point, about $700, on the second, according to internal documents cited by Portfolio. Both loans were for 30 years, with the first five years at a fixed rate.

Beyond that, Mr. DeAngelis, even if Dodd didn’t ask, he didn’t turn it down. Nor did a number of other “name” people.

The bottom line is, how much did Dodd save? Portfolio estimates as much as $70K, though that's being disputed

This appearance of unsavory behavior is bipartisan, though it’s sad to see the number of Democrats on the list:
The magazine said other participants in the company’s “V.I.P.” program included Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Budget Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and former U.N. ambassador and assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke.

Yet another reason to vote Green or else not vote.

Semis could be 10 percent more efficient

Without semi hybrid drives or anything else high-tech.

The answer? Better aerodynamics.

Semis themselves have gotten more aerodynamic over the years, first, as the old (and hot and noisy, I would guess) cabover designs were abandoned. Then, the long-nose semis got sleeker, got better wind cowlings, etc.

But, nothing was done about the trailers. And, that big, square-lined box has got plenty of room for improvement. Take a look:

Greens – Obama speech to AIPAC means he is war-minded too

Quoting from Obama’s speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Greens worry that Barack Obama appears to embrace Bush-like pre-emption stances.
“I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power. Everything.” (The Iranian government is) “a threat to all of us” and “we should take no option, including military action, off the table.”

Whether he’s that enamored of pre-emption or not, this is a warning to Obama that, among real antiwar progressives, you an only get so much mileage out of a 2002 speech. (Which may have had political undercurrents anyway.)

Hillary lost because of the speech she did not give

That’s Nick Kristof’s very interesting theory. Kristof, who can provoke good thought in me even when I disagree with him, says Hillary Clinton should have given a speech on sex similar to the one Barack Obama did in race.

In fact, he considers the matter so important, he calls on Obama to now give the speech Clinton didn’t. (An even better idea might be for Clinton to give that speech at the Democratic National Convention.)

Kristof has several talking points about the need for this speech, too:
Racism is deeper, but sexism may be wider in America today. In polls, more Americans say they would be willing to vote for a black candidate for president than for a female candidate, and sexist put-downs are heard more publicly than racial ones.

That’s probably true even once you allow for the Tom Bradley effect. Beyond that, the fact that there is no “Geraldine Ferraro effect” that has to get factored in for polling about women candidates underscores Kristof’s bottom line.
We aren’t always aware of our own biases. Some of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters are sure that she was defeated by misogyny, while those who voted against her invariably are dismissive. … The catch is that abundant psychology research shows that we are often shaped by stereotypes that we are unaware of.

Or, we get committed enough to our biases to defend them and argue for them.
A conservative may end up the first woman president. The first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, wasn’t “very Catholic.” In the same way, the first black president probably won’t be “very black,” either in complexion or in any personal history with the civil-rights struggle.

Beyond that, a liberal black like Randall Kennedy might say “so” to the idea that a conservative black could be elected before Obama. I would hope women would say the same.

He’s got more thoughts on the issue at this very good column.

Will Obama be reading?

Back to square one for EU constitution lite

Just a couple of years after voters in the Netherlands and France rejected the European Union treaty/constitution, Irish voters have said no to a less sweeping EU reform proposal.

Ireland was the only EU member state which had scheduled a public referendum on the issue.

EU officials expect the other 26 member countries to proceed with parliamentary ratifications.

Ireland has benefited hugely from EU membership over 35 years, yet, treaty proponents couldn’t overcome loss of sovereignty fears among opponents.

Welcome to Tejas, turtle friend

For the first time in 70-plus years, a leatherback turtle has made landfall in the Lone Star State, at Padre Island. The sighting has been confirmed by wildlife biologists.

June 12, 2008

House Dems call and raise Bush on unemployment

House Democrats got their 2/3 margin today to expand unemployment benefits. What’s more, they called President Bush’s bluff in his comments Wednesday about only extending benefits to high-unemployment states.

In today’s House vote, they agreed to extend benefits to 39 weeks nationwide, with further extension beyond that to high-unemployment states.

And, 49 GOPers crossed the aisle. Because of Democratic pressure back home.

After Wednesday’s vote, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent news releases to the home districts of 20 potentially vulnerable Republicans.

Somehow, I can’t see Harry Reid ever doing that in the Senate.

And, that comes the day after 24 Republicans crossed the aisle to support sending Dennis Kucinich’s articles of impeachment to House Judiciary.

Much as I don’t like Nancy Pelosi for ruling impeachment off the table, she continues to show she’ll play hardball in other ways and areas.

Will Exxon selloff stop Big Oil conspiracies?

Probably not, although this would dissuade any rational person from believing that Big Oil is conspiring to jack up gas prices in the U.S.:

ExxonMobil is selling all, yes all, of its U.S. gas stations.

That includes both the 800 or so it directly owned and operated stations and the 1,400 leased to franchisees.


In a word, even with prices at the pump the way they are, Exxon says there’s not enough profit on that end of the stick.

BUT, if we take Rex Tillerson at face value — a hard thing to do, admittedly — why would anybody else pay more than pennies on the dollar for them?

More seriously, it looks like Exxon is looking for any money it can to help fund additional exploration, or else to build new refineries, or both.

Texas is one of ExxonMobil’s largest sites of company-owned gas stations, from Mobil’s historic presence here, of course.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Supreme Court

And, a Supreme Court that still believes in civil liberties, including habeas corpus.

By a 5-4 majority, written by Justice Kennedy, the court not only reaffirmed the privilege of habeas, but David Souter, in a concurrence, went further:
Souter said the dissenters did not sufficiently appreciate “the length of the disputed imprisonments, some of the prisoners represented here today having been locked up for six years.”

The overall opinion went further, too. SCOTUS also told the Bush Administration to cut the legal hairsplitting on the status of Guantanamo.

The ruling said, in essence, that even though Guantanamo is technically on land rented from Cuba, it walks, talks and quacks like a United States piece of real estate.

Now, what effects will this have beyond the detainees? Well, with Democrats in the majority in Congress, there’s no way a new Military Commissions Act will be passed. (I think.) But, it appears not affect the status of current military commissions, beyond giving the habeas protections to defendants inside those courts. Second, the ruling was only specific to Guantanamo Bay detainees. But, it seems logical that SCOTUS, if another appeal reaches it, would extend those protections.

Beyond that, this obviously removed “terrorism trials” from the2008 election landscape. (And this ruling comes early enough that Schmuck Talk Express™ can’t exploit it this fall.)

And, any ruling that makes Scalia this spluttering mad HAS to be good.

Kevin Drum well asks what the end game is for Gitmo detainees, since, in many cases, their countries of origin don’t want them back. One waggish poster there suggests either Crawford, Texas, or Jackson Hole, Wyo., for Dick Cheney.

Drum is probably right that Afghanistan is the end of the line for most the detainees, the ones where we know they’re small fry, and now, the pressure to open the gates is going to mount.

Some homebuilders appear to have broken Texas law

Texas law, as of a few years ago, required new construction areas to have a one-hour runoff detention standard, in order to cut down on increased flash flooding in urban areas. Well, per an AP statistical list the nation’s four largest homebuilders failed to do that 247 times in Texas.

Joint Chiefs chair has slow learning curve on Pakistan

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says he is only now learning how complex Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier can be:
“I am learning as I go that these tribal areas are extraordinarily complex. There’s no simple answer,”

You’re learning that as you go? Inspires plenty of confidence in how our military handles legitimate questions of dealing with terrorists.

Lancaster ISD Supt Larry Lewis – officially demoted by TEA or still hanging on?

I guess the Texas Education Agency audit didn’t quite “vindicate” the school district or the superintendent after all, if TEA is in fact naming a conservator to oversee the “troubled” district.

Yep, just like Wilmer-Hutchins before its ultimate demise, the Snooze will have their Microsoft Word programs with a text macro to automatically insert the word “troubled” in front of “Lancaster ISD” for the foreseeable future.

TEA told Lancaster School Board President Carolyn Morris that the yet-unnamed conservator will be on campus three days a week.
Lewis said the TEA had not contacted him about the decision on a conservator. He was surprised to learn that Morris had been told first.

“That’s not the Texas Education Agency I know,” Dr. Lewis said. “Generally, they talk to the superintendent and the superintendent then inform the board.”

Well, maybe something got leaked that TEA didn't want to go public yet. Or maybe (see below) Carolyn Morris got something wrong. Or maybe this isn't Shirley Neely's TEA any more.
Morris said she was told by TEA that the cost of the conservator is $60 an hour. According to the agency’s Web site, that is paid by the school district.

That’s $480 a day on a straight eight-hour day, or about $1,400 a week at three days a week.

That said, per a second story, the TEA claims Morris misunderstood them and that Commissioner Scott still hasn’t pulled the trigger on anything.

That said, Lewis said he talked with TEA officials, but isn’t commenting.

Silence gives assent? To the original story, in this case?

Details of what got LISD in trouble are in the 291-page PDF of the TEA audit findings. (The portions after page 64 are basically skippable.)
• Not in compliance with IRS travel reimbursement regs, page 8;
• Unallowable travel per diem when paid from a state or federal grant, page 9;
• Per diem/credit card “double dipping,” page 9;
• MLK dinner at Pappadeaux, page 11 (anytime you spend nearly $600 at Pappadeaux for a Martin Luther King Jr. dinner for less than 30 people - $55 a pop, roughly- , you’re inviting trouble from your own taxpayers - the heck with TEA;
• Other credit card dining, with unnamed city of Lancaster staff as well, page 11ff;
• Counting graduated seniors as attending school after the date of graduation, page 13.

Forest murmurs are all the same temperature

In a biological shocker, scientists have discovered that all sorts of trees, from a Texas red oak to a birch in Michigan, all keep their leaves at the same temperature — about 71F/21C. No matter the ambient temperature around the leaves.

Beyond the wow factor, scientists say this may have implication for how tree rings have been used, and are used, to analyze weather and climate from the past. Here’s why:
For decades, scientists studying the impact of global warming have measured the oxygen isotope ratio in tree-rings to determine the air temperature and relative humidity of historical climates.

Oxygen atoms within water molecules evaporate more or less quickly depending on the number of neutrons they carry, and the ratio between these differently weighted atoms in tree trunk rings has been used as a measure of year-to-year fluctuations in temperatures and rainfall.

“The assumption in all of these studies was that tree leaf temperatures were equal to ambient temperatures,” lead researcher Brent Helliker told AFP. “It turns out that they are not.”

Read the full story for more details; especially to prepare yourself for the James Imhofes of the world who will likely use this to argue against the reality of anthropogenic glocal warming.

On the more serious side, researchers did not indicate how much this might force past paleoclimate measurements to be recalibrated or in what ways.

BP chief reads from Cheney script

BP CEO Tony Hayward said the world has 40 years of oil, IF — those damned enviros will just let us drill wherever we want.

Well, yes, we have a near-inexhaustible supply of nuclear energy, too, if we just don’t worry about nuclear wastes.

But, even that’s being too kind to Hayward. He, like Cheney, knows the truth about places like ANWR. He also knows that he’s not prepared to make an advance payment as a lien or collateral against future environmental damage to drill in places like Florida’s Gulf Coast, where damned enviros like former Gov. Jeb Bush and current one Charlie Crist are strongly opposed.

But, it sounds more like a plea for OPEC members to give private oil companies like BP more access to fields.

Ain’t gonna happen, and certainly not on BP’s terms.

June 11, 2008

Twenty-four GOPers have either a conscience or tough elections ahead

Twenty-four is the number of House Republicans that joined a unanimous Democratic caucus to vote to send Dennis Kucinich’s 35 articles of impeachment to the House Judiciary Committee.

Video of Kucinich presenting his articles of impeachment, with partial text transcription, is here. PDF of the full articles is here.

Blackwater book author in Dallas June 24

Jeremy Scahill’s book “Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful
Mercenary Army” introduces the secretive private army hired by the U.S.
government in the “global war on terror.” Scahill comes to Dallas on
Tuesday, June 24 at 7 p.m. to discuss his findings at Half Price Books, 5803
E. Northwest Hwy.

Passive Pelosi on impeachment – I charge protectionism

Dennis Kucinich’s articles of impeachment, cosponsored by Robert Wexler, aren’t getting Democratic leadership traction, and constitutional law scholar Jonathan Turley says America’s founding fathers:
“would have been astonished by the absolute passivity, if not the collusion, of the Democrats in protecting President Bush from impeachment.”

Not just passivity, but collusion — that’s pretty strong. And, there’s real stuff here, Turley says:
Despite noting that not all of the articles Kucinich presented were “impeachable offenses” in a strict sense, Turley says “there are pleny of crimes there — this is a target-rich environment.”

So, why no push by Pelosi?

Well, although Pelosi herself opposed the war vote, of course, many Democrats didn’t. If Iraq war intelligence lies were to be pushed as the basis of an article or two of impeachment, Bush’s White House lawyers would subpoena Members of Congress as part of House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings.

So, behind Pelosi’s claims that “it’s too late” (yeah, because you’ve stalled for 18 months, and took it off the table before the 2006 election), or that “Cheney would still be there,” there’s some CYA at bottom line.

Hell, next thing you know, Pelosi will riff on Jerry Ford and talk about “national healing.”

Toyota prepared to kick more American butt

Not only is Toyota ready to launch a plug-in version of the Prius in 2010, it promises it will have better batteries than current lithium-ion versions. Right now, it’s entering a joint project with Matsushita, the maker of Panasonic products, to create lithium-ion batteries while building its own battery manufacturing plant.

It also continues to research fuel-cell vehicles, without putting most of its eggs in this basket, unlike you, GM. And, it’s talking about developing diesels, though I think the ever-growing price spread between diesel and gasoline in the U.S. is going to keep the lid on diesel vehicle sales.

Gazprom head predicts $250 oil

Alexey Miller, head of Russia’s nationalized gas giant, predicted oil prices would hit that mark “in the foreseeable future.”

Milley made his comments before the European Business Congress in Brussels.
He warned that the world was experiencing a fundamental shift in energy prices that will end at a “radically new level. We expect that the oil price will approach $250 per barrel in the foreseeable future.”

Here in the U.S., the home of cheap driving, we’re talking around $10 gasoline if oil gets to that price.

Obama DEFINITELY needs to start vetting

Yesterday, it was the news that VP search leader Jim Johnson got some sweetheart loan help from Countrywide Financial’s Angelo Mozillo.
Or else making better decisions in the first place.

Today, it’s the uncovering of economic policy advisor Jason Furman as an unreconstructed Slickster/DLC neoliberal. I guess Obama was right with Austan Goolsbee’s whispering campaign about NAFTA to Canadian officials.

Finally, the news that Obama is looking hard at military brass hats as VP candidates doesn’t sit well with me, at least, either.

And, he has started some ex post facto vetting: Jim Johnson is stepping down from the VP search team.

That’s good reaction, but the initial action of tapping him is still questionable.

I know, I know — diehard Obamiacs in particular and Democrats in general will argue these are tempests in teapots. But, you get enough teapots boiling at once, and soon enough you’ve got heat enough to drive most people out of the kitchen.

On the coffee table – ‘The Great Warming,’ by Brian Fagan

In “The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations,” Brian Fagan does an excellent job, with the knowledge we have today, of illustrating what lights paleoclimatology may be able to shine on today’s global warming, with sufficient warnings for the humans that are causing it.

Specifically, the flight to the Sunbelt, especially the Desert Southwest, with its low-density sprawl and little mass transit, on the one hand, and demand for air conditioning, on the other, continuing to fuel anthropogenic global warming, Fagan would be excused if he didn’t serve up a whole plateful of Schadenfreude crow for the largely conservative denizens of this part of the U.S. to digest.

He didn’t, but he could. Why?

Based on paleoclimatology, it appears likely that this part of the country will experience the same long-term drought that wracked the Anasazi at Chaco Canyon, then later at Mesa Verde. Of course, the nearly 20 million of Southern California’s Southland, the almost 5 million of the blot called Phoenix and the moving toward 1.5 million inexplicably in the Las Vegas area are a lot more thirsty for water than the Anasazi were.

But, move beyond the U.S. to sub-Saharan Africa … (see my complete review as part of my Amazon book reviews for more.)

New hiking trails in Texas and elsewhere

In honor of National Trails Day June 7 and the 40th anniversary of the National Trails System, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne recently designated 24 trails in 16 states as National Recreational Trails.

National Recreation Trails are components of the National Trails System and recognize already existing trails that connect people to resources and improve their quality of life. The program is jointly administered by the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program and the U.S. Forest Service in conjunction with other federal and nonprofit partners, notably American Trails. Each of the trails added to the system will receive a certificate of designation and trail markers. They become part of a network of more than 1,000 trails encompassing more than 12,000 miles.

Following are trails from Texas and some of my favorite hiking states and areas

Black Canyon Trail – Located in the Bradshaw Mountain foothills of central Arizona and managed by a diverse partnership led by the Bureau of Land Management, this world-class hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trail system stretches over 62 miles, benefiting both residents of the Black Canyon Corridor and visitors from metropolitan Phoenix. I have hiked sections of this with a friend who used to live in Phoenix.

New Mexico
Canyon Trail – Located in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, this 2.2-mile interpretive trail offers school groups and visitors year-round the ability to study tracks in the shifting sands, evidence of kangaroo rats, box turtles, and a host of other wildlife that call the refuge home.
Chupadera Wilderness Trail – Traversing the Chupadera Wilderness Area of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, this 9.5-mile backcountry trail is rich in wildlife and wildflowers, and takes hikers through a range of landscapes culminating in a 360-degree view of several mountain ranges. Beautiful place. I’ve hiked Bosque del Apache before.

Heritage Trail Loop – Serving as the backbone of the city’s trail system, this 3.1-mile rail-trail and bikeway links area residents to numerous recreational facilities, historical sites, and a local renewable energy demonstration project.

Lions Park Nature Trail – Given its artistic features, hilltop vistas, and recreational facilities, it is easy to see why this 2-mile walking trail is so popular with Temple residents of all ages.

If ‘first church’ dating is correct …

Theories of Christian origins get thrown in a cocked hat.

Jordanian archaeologists are claiming they have found a church that dates back to the purported lifedate of Jesus himself.
“We have uncovered what we believe to be the first church in the world, dating from 33 AD to 70 AD,” the head of Jordan’s Rihab Centre for Archaeological Studies, Abdul Qader al-Husan, said.

He said it was uncovered under Saint Georgeous Church, which itself dates back to 230 AD, in Rihab in northern Jordan near the Syrian border.

“We have evidence to believe this church sheltered the early Christians — the 70 disciples of Jesus Christ,” Husan said.

These Christians, who are described in a mosaic as “the 70 beloved by God and Divine,” are said to have fled persecution in Jerusalem and founded churches in northern Jordan, Husan added.

Before we let fundies go all ga-ga, a couple of caveats.

One, Jordanian archaeologists are surely seeing American tourist dollar signs in their eyeballs. I want more research, and by other archaeologists, before I come close to accepting those dates for this church.

Two, what if they’re correct?

For Jesus’ followers to be big enough to have had one subgroup of them big enough to start a church in 33 AD, the moment of Jesus’ death would have had to been long before that.

And that’s not just SocraticGadfly, atheist, speaking.

Per religious sociologist Rodney Stark, a 40 percent growth rate per decade for Christianity, with nothing more miraculous than that, would have gotten Christianity from a population of 1,000 in the year 50 to a slight majority in the Roman Empire at the time of the Council of Nicaea. (Stark gets the 40 percent growth rate from the 160-plus year history of the Mormons, bolstered by observations of the shorter history of the Moonies.)

Backtrack that 40 percent two decades from 50 AD and you have 500 faithful (ironic coincidence with Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 15 about resurrection appearances) in the year 30.

Take the book of Acts as having a grain or two of fact, that early Christians had some sort of diaspora beyond Jerusalem. Would there have been enough of them to have started a church in an out-of-the-way part of today’s Jordan?

I say no.

So, either the Jordanians are trying to blow smoke up tourists’ skirts, or else Christianity started earlier than the Christian Bible’s accounts claim. That, then, means either dates for Jesus’ life are wrong or he didn’t exist.

Beyond the fact that Yeshua bar Yusuf may not have existed, the rest of the story makes clear that the Jordanian archaeological institute is peddling a boatload of early Christian myth.

Obama can win without OH, PA or FL

And you can demonstrate it for yourself, like I did, at this interactive election map.

How does he do it?

I give Obama Virginia, all of New England including New Hampshire, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada out west, along with the Pacific Coast states, and Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan. McCain gets the rest of the Midwest and Rust Belt, including Missouri, in addition to the states mentioned above.

True, it would be the first time since 1956 that the Show-Me State wrong-footed itself in a presidential election, but, that's my call.

Without breaking down Nebraska or Maine by Congressional district (both states allocate the “House of Representatives” portion of their electoral votes that way), my map lets Obama win on the button, 270-268.

HUD a bipartisan clusterfuck on subprime crisis

Congressional Democrats so anxious to find GOP scalps to nail to the wall over the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s throwing gas on the flames of the subprime crisis should look in the mirror.

First, in 1995, the Slicker’s HUD agreed to let Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy up more subprime loans.

Second, both parties in general have kissed the giant buttocks of the National Association of Realtors and its peddling of the myth of the “American dream of homeownership.”

Third, the bipartisan push in the late 1990s that eventually overthrew Glass-Steagall lay behind the lax oversight from both parties, though it did get worse in the Bush Administration.

That said, I’m sure a Gore Administration would have gone along for the same ride.

June 10, 2008

Obama and 20 VP possibilities — first impressions

Barack Obama’s vice presidential search team reportedly has 20-candidate list.

Who’s NOT on there, and who’s most likely not on there, might be a good starting point.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a favorite of pundits, has said “no, thanks.”

More on Strickland’s ixnaying here.

John Edwards declined some time back. You know Al Gore doesn’t want it, anybody who holds to that idea.

I’ll take an unofficial gander that both Joe Biden and Chris Dodd don’t represent “change” enough.

The CNN article throws out the intriguing name of Michael Bloomberg, but I seriously doubt he would settle for the No. 2 slot, either.

We’ll start learning in a day or two who wasn’t getting serious consideration by the “no, thanks” comments from people who, unlike Strickland, weren’t on the A list in the first place.

Ron Paul taking his own ball to Twin Cities; will Barr be on team?

Not yet officially rebuffed from speaking at the Republican National Convention, but not feeling any love from Schmuck Talk Express™, Texas Congressman and GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul is going to hold a parallel convention.

He’s already indicated he won’t endorse John McCain, so, just like Bob Casey with the Democrats in 1992, he shouldn’t be surprised, or upset, he’s not getting an invite.

That said, now that he’s officially establishing an alternate venue …

Will he endorse, if in not so many words, Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr? Hmmm …

Who is vetting the Obama VP vetters?


“I am not vetting my VP search committees for their mortgages.”

That’s what Barack Obama said after it was revealed that one of the three people on his vice presidential candidate search troika, Jim Johnson, was revealed to have gotten sweetheart loans from Countrywide Financial, one of the top aiders and abetters of the subprime crisis.

Desired answer?


Kind of a stumble for Obama there.

Yes, his past loan history may be irrelevant to the job he’s doing for Obama right now.

But, it’s not at all irrelevant to Obama’s campaign image.

Gas prices hit rural areas hard

Earlier today, I noted how Midwestern rain was pushing corn futures strongly upward, and added that this wasn’t even taking gas prices into consideration.

Well, here’s the gas prices story.

The rural south, Desert Southwest and High Plains are hardest hit. The story notes that, although nationally, people spend about 4 percent of their income on gas, that figure hits 13 percent in the Mississippi Delta.

Why? Because of the poverty there, obviously.

The interactive map shows the correlation pretty clearly.

Midwestern floods — even higher food prices

The flooding in the Upper Midwest has corn crops well behind the curve, whether from delayed planting, or delayed growth. Soybean plantings are also running late.

Result? Corn futures prices hit a record $6.57 yesterday.

Wheat is looking better, at least in the U.S. However, predictions that Australia would emerge from drought seem to have been somewhat premature. Most wheat farmers there have been unable to plant, it’s so dry.

And, we haven’t even factored in that potential $150/bbl oil.

Bush — Rove firing shows evil genius and not clueless idiot

His mangling of the English language aside, at the time of the 2000 presidential election and even before, there was a lot of liberal debate, including inside myself, as to whether Bush was a clueless idiot, or he was consciously nefarious.

But, the way Bush fired Turd Blossom — in church — clearly points to the “evil genius” side.
That, according to a new book — “Machiavelli’s Shadow” — by former Time magazine reporter Paul Alexander, is where President George W. Bush informed trusted advisor Karl Rove in 2007 that his services would no longer be needed at the White House.

“On a Sunday in midsummer, George W. Bush accompanied Karl Rove to the Episcopalian Church Rove sometimes attended,” writes Alexander. “They made their way to the front of the congregation. Then, during their time in the church, Bush gave Rove some stunning news. ‘Karl,’ Bush said, ‘there’s too much heat on you. It’s time for you to go.’”

Maybe Bush knew what he was doing in breaking such bad news in such serene atmosphere: As Alexander documents, Rove has quite the temper.

Follow the link for some anecdotal comments about that temper, and about the short-term gain, long-term loss of Rove’s political style, all from Republicans.

Gary Kamiya speaks well on Obama and race

Kamiya has several good talking points in his article about Obama and American racial issues.

First, because of his mixed parentage, he may indeed be helping to put paid to the “one drop” idea. Related to that, Kamiya is right that, a Barack Obama with two black parents might not have gotten the nomination.

The next big thing is an honest look at the nexus of race and culture within the African-American umbrella:
A 2007 Pew Poll showed that 37 percent of blacks no longer regard black people as constituting a single race, and that 70 percent of college-educated blacks said that the “values gap” between middle-class and poor blacks had widened over the past 10 years. These remarkable findings clearly reflect a growing rejection by middle-class blacks of the crime and other pathologies so often associated, rightly or wrongly, with the black underclass.

I don’t doubt that’s true. In suburbs of major American cities, such as here in Dallas, that clearly plays out on a regular basis. For a further Kamiya take on that Pew poll, go here; that includes the fact that identity politicians are the ones who appear to most bemoan the black cultural values gap, the rise of multiethnic identity, etc.

Anyway, Kamiya ties that thread together with the first one, and comes out on the optimistic side about long-term discussion of racial issues in America, without ignoring specific downsides such as the black underclass.

Why I think Sebelius would be a good VP pick — or Napolitano

HuffPost’s Sam Stein gets into the policy and politics details, adding flesh to the strategery bones, from where I sit, of picking a woman candidate. To me, the only other female candidate, off the top of my head, would be Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, who might give Obama a bit of western states boost. Like Sebelius, she has been elected and re-elected in a traditionally Republican state, and has been similarly unafraid of playing hardball with the state legislature.

First, she’s clearly not afraid to go on the political attack in general. That makes her good VP material. Second, she has progressive credibility. Third, she’s got political skills.

Finally, although VPs generally aren’t big on tickets, nonetheless, I think Obama’s best bet is a woman running with him. True, there are some Hillaryite last-ditchers who say they won’t vote for an Obama-any other woman ticket, but we’ll see.

Some people have suggested retired Army three-star Claudia Kennedy, a John Kerry advisor in 2004, but I think she would be better as the first female Secretary of Defense, though we would have to wait a year for that due to the 10-year rule.

Back to Sebelius. I’ll take at face value her explanation that her response to the 2007 State of the Union address was not the proper place to go attack dog. Whether her decision was politically correct or not, it’s a decision she made. I don’t think she just had a “clunker” speech night.

Take a note – 65 years ago today

The Biro brothers patent the not-so-lowly ball-point pen.

Michael Lind gets too optimistic about liberalism

Telling people to “relax, the battle’s been won against conservativism” is crazy.

First, the current SCOTUS is not as deferential to precedent as he would have us believe.

Second, as a result, while it might not directly overturn Roe, it might chip away more than it has. Look at what it did to anti-discrimination progress with the Goodyear case.

Third, it ignores that the current government, even though this was not part of original conservativism, HAS chipped away at civil liberties.

Fourth, many losers keep fighting long after it’s clear they’ve lost.

Early markets ignore Bernanke to listen to Bernanke

Just after Big Ben Bernanke claimed our wonderful economy was in no danger of a substantial downturn, he, in pretty much the same breath, essentially shot himself in the foot by using his strongest language yet to warn about inflation.

Well, over in Asia, then in Europe they listened to the second Bernanke, and started dumping short-term Treasuries like toilet paper.

The Worst Fed Head Since Greenspan™ strikes again!

Richard Branson ready to go where no civilian has gone before

No, it won’t quite be the five-year, or ongoing, voyages of the starship Enterprise (wait until Friday for that on this blog), but suborbital space travel for (relatively) cheap prices is one giant step for mankind closer.

WhiteKnightTwo, a specially designed jet carrier aircraft built to haul the passenger and crew-filled SpaceShipTwo to release altitude of roughly 50,000 feet, will be arriving in California in July.

How big of a step is this? This big:
Some 254 people have plopped down cash to earn priority seating onboard SpaceShipTwo in the first couple of years of suborbital flying, Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn explained. “They’ve paid up-front between $20,000 and $200,000 ... and we’ve got about $36 million, as of today, in the bank.”

As the story says, Richard Branson’s cash registers are indeed going to be ringing in space.

When a synapse is not just a synapse

In new findings, not only are human synapses far different from, say, invertebrates, synapse within the human brain are quite different from one another.

I’ve felt for quite some time that modern neuroscience and cognitive science were, at best, in something like the Chalcolithic, if not the Neolithic period of discovery. Now, that’s still far ahead of the Paleolithic, but far away from the Iron Age, let alone the Age of Steel or beyond.
Vertebrate synapses have about 1,000 different proteins, assembled into 13 molecular machines, one of which is built from 183 different proteins.

These synapses are not standard throughout the brain, Dr. Grant’s group has found; each region uses different combinations of the 1,000 proteins to fashion its own custom-made synapses.

This shows just how far we have to go in learning how the human brain works. And, what an exciting journey it’s going to be.

Warren Jeffs burned the governor’s mansion!

C’mon now. He had motive. He had nothing to lose. Torching the governor’s mansion in Austin was just a warning shot, a shot across the bow to Rick Perry to get CPS to back off.

It all makes perfect sense!

June 09, 2008


T.S. Eliot was wrong.
The world will end neither in a bang nor a whimper,
But a ceaseless dull roar.
Long after ashes have gone back to ashes
And dust to dust,
New oceans will rise up and inundate dry lands.
The ashes of cremains,
And mouldering, formaldehyde-shot carcasses,
Both will wash out to sea.
And so, the ocean will rule.
Go to the beach, go to the seashore.
Hear and see the tale you cannot stop long.

Jay Rockefeller, translated: ‘I’m still chickenshit’

That’s what West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller really meant when he said propaganda activities of the White House Iraq Group were outside the purview of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Of course, Rockefeller, as the top Senate Dem pushing telco immunity in a new FISA bill, is really a “little-d” Dem at best anyway.

Pray tell, Senator, what IS IN the purview of your committee?

It’s not just Joe Lieberman who’s a dead anchor on the Senate Democratic caucus.

Subprime fallout hits Lehman Brothers

The nation’s fourth-largest investment bank had its first quarterly loss since being spun off in 1994. Why?
Revenue during the quarter suffered from “negative mark to market adjustments and principal trading losses.”

In other words, it had a bunch of mortgage crap on its books, not priced to reality.

Speaking of that, in what is certainly ironic, Moody’s, which contributed to all these problems in the first place, lowered its rating of Lehman’s to negative.

Obama health care like supply side economics?

Well, Froma Harrop trots out the “back-of-a-napkin scribbling” line to descrbe what Obama isn’t offering.
Obama's health-care plan looks like a back-of-the-napkin scribbling by someone who didn't care all that much but needed something. How curious that out of the smoke and drama of the Democratic race, there emerged a "candidate of change" whose health-care proposal is not universal, much less bold.

Her idea? Instead of purchasing mandates for private insurace, just enroll everybody in Medicare.

I’ll give Liz Cheney ‘more hawkish’

Liz Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, says President Bush has not been hawkish enough against Syria.

You want hawkish, Liz? Bomb-throwing hawkish?

Let’s get hawkish on all the GOP lesbians and gays who continue to support the party of organized discrimination. Let’s rattle a few sabers and throw a few bombs at the likes of you.

Obstruction of justice at Gitmo

What else could you call an order to interrogators there to destroy handwritten notes, specifically because of worries they might be called on to testify?
The lawyer for Toronto-born Omar Khadr, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, said the instructions were included in an operations manual shown to him by prosecutors and suggest the U.S. deliberately thwarted evidence that could help terror suspects defend themselves at trial.

Kuebler said he’s going to see dismissal of charges. If this were a civilian court, he’d have a great shot, I think. Don’t know about a military court, especially with all the politics overhanging this.

So now I say, yes, let’s have these show trials before November. And tie McCain/McSame to obstruction of justice in the name of torture.

Why Clinton lost – in one word


Specifically, the prognostication of advisors like Harold Ickes that she had an excellent chance of winning Iowa, combined with the orchestrated outrage that she might skip it.

She should have said “screw it” to the faux outrage, and like Bill in 1992, skipped it.

But, the decision to “cave” to Iowa Dems’ outrage and get back into full campaign mode there at a late stage showed, even before Dodd nailed her in the debate, that she was vulnerable.

It also showed her campaign still wasn’t organized. She didn’t have a series of talking points about WHY to stay out of Iowa.

Other possible factors? Dodd exposing her vulnerability to attack, not inevitability, specifically over then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give illegal immigrants drivers’ licenses.

As for the caucus vs. primary issue, the story linked above notes that she actually won the Nevada caucuses, so that’s a myth as much as reality.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has a round-up of pundits with their takes on her demise’s causes. Worth a read.

McCain’s latest lobbyist problem

This time, it’s on the foreign policy side. Randy Scheunemann gets paid well to advocated for independent countries from the former Soviet Union to try to join NATO. It happens to dovetail nicely with Schmuck Talk Express’™ desire to boot Russia from the G-8, so on he stays, at least for now.

Meanwhile, McCain’s policy toward Russia is more radical than anything Obama has proposed, and he pays a known neocon to be his chief flack.

June 08, 2008

George Soros on why oil prices are soaring

In a word, it’s called reflexivity. To use a relevant, non-Deepak Chopra analogy from quantum physics, by the act of buying commodities futures in certain size blocks at certain prices, etc., traders influence the future of those commodities.

Soros noted that in his talk to Congress last week.

The Oil Drum explains exactly what this means, as Soros shows why the neoclassical economics of the U. of Chicago, etc. is dead and needs to be replaced by behavioral economics in every American college and university.

And, it’s not just oil. As the graphic shows, all sorts of commodities are being inflated beyond reason.

Yes, it is likely that some precious metals are getting near world peaks in production, but “Peak Copper,” for example, has been less studied than Peak Oil.

Of course, since this time, agriculture futures have climbed more and more, too. One has to wonder how much of THIS is a bubble. And, a bubble with a head of steam behind it:
Commodities have not had a boom since the late 1970s, and until recently have played a minor role in general portfolio asset allocation. Combined with media coverage (e.g. Jim Rogers) and rapid growth in demand and tightening of supply, commodity markets have had explosive moves the last 5 years. Pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, university endowments and other index speculators have been allocating money away from stocks and bonds into commodities.

Soros doesn’t deny part of the problem actually is Peak Oil, though, so his words carry extra weight.

On the other hand, this is the man who single-handedly nearly wrecked the economies of several southeast Asian countries in 1998.

On the other hand to that, re his Congressional testimony, “To catch a thief …”

Kunstler – the Paul Revere of Peak Oil

James Howard Kunstler continues to sound the alarm of of how radically Peak Oil will change America. Unfortunately, too few people are listening.
The public, and especially the mainstream media, misunderstands the "peak oil" story. It's not about running out of oil. It's about the instabilities that will shake the complex systems of daily life as soon as the global demand for oil exceeds the global supply. These systems can be listed concisely:

• The way we produce food.
• The way we conduct commerce and trade.
• The way we travel.
• The way we occupy the land.
• The way we acquire and spend capital.
And there are others: governance, health care, education and more.

As the world passes the all-time oil production high and watches as the price of a barrel of oil busts another record, as it did last week, these systems will run into trouble. Instability in one sector will bleed into another.

Shocks to the oil markets will hurt trucking, which will slow commerce and food distribution, manufacturing and the tourist industry in a chain of cascading effects. Problems in finance will squeeze any enterprise that requires capital, including oil exploration and production, as well as government spending.

These systems are all interrelated. They all face a crisis. What's more, the stress induced by the failure of these systems will only increase the wishful thinking across our nation.

I’m not as alarmist about Peak Oil as Kunstler is. Nonetheless, I’m more alarmist than many of the people who he finds are still asleep at the switch.

It’s sad that the college students in many of his lectures still appear to believe in American exceptionalism. So much for social conservatives bete noire of the “liberal academia.” Would that it were liberal enough to actually challenge such beliefs.

Then, you have folks like Amory Lovins at the Rocky Mountain Institute. I criticize Lovins for something else than Kunstler does, namely, his wide-eyed optimism for the hydrogen economy.

What both Lovins and too-wet-behind-the-ears college students either fail to, or refuse to, recognize is that empires have fallen in the past and ours is no different.

That’s unless we, as a society, officially withdraw the statement our leaders made at a U.N. conference, and accept instead that the “American lifestyle” HAS TO BE up for negotiation.

The future of California will only come up dryland roses

Don’t expect new drought-related restrictions on development to be just a passing fancy.

Assuming everything is correct about how climate change is going to affect the Desert Southwest, water in southern California will get even tighter in the future. And, in neighboring Arizona and Nevada, too.

Eventually, either the federal government will take the voluntary lead in renegotiating the Colorado River Compact, or else one state is going to sue.

In all likelihood, it would be California suing to try to force the other two states of the Lower Colorado Basin to implement similar governing restrictions on development.

Big Pharma buys Harvard Big Lies

Specifically, those are the lies of Harvard child psychiatrist Joseph Biederman, along with colleague Timothy Wilens.

The pair admitted each getting more than $1.6 million in Big Pharma consulting fees from 2000-2007; another Harvard prof, Thomas Spencer, admitted getting more than $1 million in that time.

Here’s an example of the lies Biederman had been telling in the past about Big Pharma payoffs:
In one example, Dr. Biederman reported no income from Johnson & Johnson for 2001 in a disclosure report filed with the university. When asked to check again, he said he received $3,500. But Johnson & Johnson told (Sen. Charles) Grassley that it paid him $58,169 in 2001, Grassley found.

Meanwhile, Biederman, after getting busted, had this laughable reply:
In an e-mailed statement, Dr. Biederman said, “My interests are solely in the advancement of medical treatment through rigorous and objective study,” and he said he took conflict-of-interest policies “very seriously.”

Wilens and Spencer said in their own e-mails they thought they had complied with conflict-of-interest rules.
Tenure or no tenure, Harvard ought to do everything they can do to fire the trio.

Obviously, Biederman’s shilling psychotropic drugs for juvenile use is HUGELY flawed; plus, it’s obvious he has violated federal and university research rules.

Beyond that, it’s even more obvious the trio violated basic scientific standards.

Death by forced IV overdose of Prozac would be about right.

Dallas County being sued for false imprisonment

Specifically, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Lupe Valdez, for false imprisonment issues.

The plaintiff? Lancaster ISD orchestra director Theresa Dobbs, who made national news headlines two years ago after being “forgotten” in Dallas County’s Lew Sterrett Justice Center, aka the Dallas County Jail, for three days before finally bonding out.

For those of you not familiar with the story, in late 2005, Dobbs got a ticket for driving without a seat belt after being busted in a mall parking lot. She intended to fight the ticket, but entered the wrong court date in her day planner. Well, at the end of August, and the start of the Lancaster ISD school year, a zealous Dallas County constable’s officer, Ronald Bostic (perhaps overzealous, to put it mildly), showed up at Lancaster High School with a warrant.

Then, it got Kafkaesque. Due to paperwork mixups, misfilings, a screwy system, etc., she got forgotten about for three days. Basically, a clerk didn't retrieve her paperwork from a tray, and she wasn't placed on the daily municipal court docket. The morning and afternoon “cattle calls” for bail hearings? She never got called.

It gets worse. A friend came by, thinking she was there, to bail her out. The sheriff’s department said she wasn’t there.

Finally, she asked a person in the next holding cell, when that person got out, to contact the “outside world.”

Lupe Valdez has already faced enough problems over Lew Sterrett that I cannot believe she wouldn’t settle this, even if Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins is advising otherwise.

Add to that a $17 million county budget shortfall, and I don’t get why the county won’t settle.

But, nooh. (And I’ve heard that Valdez not Watkins, is the holdup on a settlement anyway).

Instead, with general election season just around the corner, this baby’s going to trial in July.

Not being a registered Democrat, AND someone who thinks the idea of electing sheriff’s is stupid, this is all enough to make one seriously consider pulling the level for Lowell Cannady.

As a point of snark, somebody has started a MySpace page for Lew Sterrett.

Early winner on Kevin Drum’s worst post of the week

The comments, as well as Kevin’s original post, about the possibility of Hillary Clinton as Barack Obama’s VP are what make this one such a doozy.

Commenters proposing her for SCOTUS. Commenters saying she could run in 2016, imagining that sexism in the MSM and elsewhere would lessen with her being an “old woman” of 68 at that point.

Of course, Kevin ignoring the fact that Clinton’s campaign shoved her name into Obama’s face as part of wondering if she really wants it is interesting enough. And, then, there’s the waste of cyberspace by linking to the latest pro-Hillary inanity from pro-corporate shill Armando.

I'll venture that Clinton supporters like Juliet, a poster over at the WM threat, want to be "stroked." And no, not by Obama himself, but by Obama supporters who don't seem inclined to do that yet. Or possibly ever.

That's exactly what Arachnae is saying.

I don't many will vote for McCain, but, will a fair amount stay home? Yes.

If Vegas gave me odds on a certain percentage, I'd even make a small online bet.

A Euro heads-up to U.S. immigration policy

Eurozone countries that have tighter skill-restrictive immigration policies actually end up with a less skilled mix of immigrants than countries with more open immigration.
For example, 45 percent of Ireland’s foreign-born residents and 34 percent of Britain’s have a university degree, compared with only 19 percent in Germany and 11 percent in Italy.

A Fistful of Euros, the best left-of-center overview blog of European issues I know of, has its overview of this paradox. As AFOE notes, there’s enough variation among Eurozone countries in immigration policies that an answer to this paradox may ultimately spit itself out.

Is it an English-language issue? Spain is getting more immigrants from Latin America, while both the UK and Ireland are getting an influx from current and former Commonwealth countries.

For the nonce, though, it seems clear the next president of the U.S. needs to lighten up on the drastic post-9/11 tightening of immigration.

Of course, as one commenter to the AFOE piece notes, Americans don’t even have to look across the pond: Canada has both looser immigration standards and, arguably, less xenophobia than the U.S.

Public financing of Congressional elections?

Whatever happened to it after Democrats regained Congress?

Oh, it likely went down the earmark rabbit hole.

And, it’s interesting, or hypocritical, that Barack Obama says he would force Congress to cut any earmark-laden bill it sends him next year, in light of:
Anti-pork watchdogs, for example, point to the $1.8 million in five earmarks for Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, which ran $8 million in the black last year and has embarked on a four-year, $100 million fundraising campaign. With that kind of money, why should taxpayers fund a $400,000 program earmarked by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to help the aquarium conduct a program aimed at preventing juvenile delinquency, watchdog groups ask.

Somehow, I doubt that particular item would be on President Obama’s chopping block.

As for Schmuck Talk Express™, there’s plenty of ways of bringing home Congressional bacon without earmarks. All you have to do is defend old, entrenched federal largesse. Out West, that means, below-market grazing fees on federal land, below-market water rates from federally-impounded lakes and below-market hydroelectricity rates. It’s called Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam.

There’s two ways to really reform Congress.

One is to pass a public campaign finance bill.

With one HUGE caveat. It has to include reasonable provisions for financing third-party campaigns. (Fat chance of that actually happening, though.)

The second is to amend the Constitution to put House members on a four-year election cycle.

You CAN prove the nonexistence of God

And, the proof is simple and elegant.

So much so that I can’t believe atheists even more philosophically versed than I readily sign off on the “you can’t prove the nonexistence of God” argument.

Per formal symbolic logic, the attempt to prove the nonexistence of anything is the equivalent of dividing by zero, basically.

But Bob Carroll, creator of The Skeptic’s Dictionary, goes back to classical times and the good old modus tollens.
To begin any such proof, we must begin with clarifying our terms. What do we mean by “God”? If you mean “eternal, all-powerful, all-good, invisible being who created the universe out of nothing but an act of will” then I would proceed thusly:

Premise 1. If God exists, then innocents should not suffer the horrendous torments of famines, floods, hurricanes, etc.

Premise 2. Innocents do suffer the horrendous torments etc.

Therefore, God does not exist.

All well and good. It gets directly at the problem of evil, and can be extended, with the proper subpremises/subwarrants, in the face of people who will quote the Yahweh of Job and Romans, or the kismet of Islam, etc, and say that “God’s ways are above human ways.”

(Those subpremises all hinge on the psychological suffering of a God who either can’t or won’t make his ways explicable to/understandable by human ways.)

Back to Carroll, who talks more about the argument in general and primarily about the first premise:
The above proof (by modus tollens) is valid. The second premise is indisputable. You and others will probably quibble over the first premise. Perhaps you will claim that God must have good reasons for allowing innocents to suffer so terribly, even if we don't understand them. Perhaps, but that seems to beg the question. It hardly seems an adequate justification for believing in God. In any case, whatever objection you bring up to my proof will hinge on your extending the meaning of “God” to include qualities that will seem contradictory to me.

Either that, or by “lowering your expectations” to a faith in a god who is either far less than omnipotent or else far less than omnibenevolent.