July 05, 2008

Liberal white spoofing author speaks up

Christian Lander, the author of the blog, and now, a book, “Stuff White People Like,” has a great interview at Salon about his skewering upper-middle-class liberal whites, from their being Obamiacs to moving beyond old-news Nalgene bottles to schlock like this. (Shock me that it’s from Switzerland.)

If you’re not familiar with him/it yet, here’s his blog, with the full list of the 103 cool things these types of whiteys like.

It’s hilarious the take Lander has on many things in the interview, like the holy trinity of liberal-certified Target, Apple and IKEA. Target is just Wal-Mart with better marketing (don’t you know they have labor issues there?), IKEA is coasting on Swedish image, and Apple’s Steve Jobs is, in his own way, as arrogant as Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer.

As a non-upper-middle-class white who is actually more liberal, as well as more skeptical of many things than the people he skewers, I find other things laughable.

Like Whole Foods? It’s about image for these folks, not the organics. (Which usually aren’t local, either. And, possible not fair-trade priced, either.)

Lander doesn’t go too much into the PC language side of these types of white people, who always want to read the worst into language about race, gender and other issues people outside their club use, but it’s still a great read.

NOT on the coffee table – Pat Buchanan’s latest

Folks, when the errors start ON THE DUST JACKET, you've got a bad book. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn't have a negative-star rating.

Bad from the dust jacket on is indeed the case, as Buchanan perpetuates and propagates the myth of the "punitive" treaty of Versailles. Adjusted for inflation and France's smaller population, the Prussian treaty imposed at the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 was far more punitive, in terms of reparations.

And, you know what? The French paid off the whole thing. In advance. Without inflating their currency.

There's other nonsense, starting with his coverage of World War I. In the Pacific, Japan may well have declared war against Germany without any British alliance. They were smart enough not to go after British islands or American ones; that left German holdings.

As for World War II in Europe, even someone as bumbling as Hitler might have beaten the Soviet Union without Britain at his back. (The real "story" of WWII is that Hitler tried to have "guns and butter" until 1943, not putting the German economy on a total war footing until after Stalingrad.)

Then, in spite of post-Munich evidence to the contrary, Buchanan would have us believe if Neville Chamberlain and French Premier Edouard Daladier had forced Poland's Beck to appease Hitler by giving up Danzig and a rail corridor across the Polish Corridor, Hitler would never have asked anything more from Poland. (Hitler's second meeting with Chamberlain, of course, had him saying the Sudentenland was not enough.)

Then, we have the absolute laugher of Pat claiming that Hitler's motivation on attacking the USSR was not ideology. That said, re the paragraph above, also contrary to Buchanan, Hitler would not have invaded the USSR in 1940 if the British and French had not declared war on im in 1939.

Contra page 360, where Buchanan claims there's no evidence Hitler intended to make Britain a slave state, we have a Nazi list of British intellectuals and politicians Hitler intended to round up and send to concentration camps.

But, when has Buchanan let facts get in the way of a story line?

Next, "Mr. Realpolitik" reaches deep into the right-wing dungeon to trot out the old "sellout at Yalta" schtick.

Then, we get into errors in Cold War history. Many historians would argue with Buchanan that Yugoslavia was not behind the Iron Curtain after 1954. And, Buchanan also overlooks Albania's "defection" to Beijing in 1961.

Then, there's annoyances of his writing style.

I have NEVER before heard Joseph Chamberlain called "Joe," first and foremost.

And, at oversized type and leading, this is really a 300-page book, too.

Finally, we have the irony, and hypocrisy, of Buchanan criticizing Churchill on grounds of racism.

And, any legitimate puncturing of Churchill's myth can be found in real history books rather than this rag. Amazon ought to bar the tag "history" from being used on this book.

Dallas NOT a safe place to drive

Whether you’re in the good hands of study-conductor Allstate or not, you’re surrounded by bad drivers here in Big D. (Scroll about halfway down.)

Worse than in Helltown, I mean Houston, even.

Is the AP ‘out to get Obama’ or not? I say ‘not’

I’d say it’s not quite the open-and-shut case that some liberal bloggers want to make it to be out of Jennifer Loven’s story.

First, Obama had a string of clear flip-flops coming up to the “refine” comments about Iraq and Iraq withdrawal. That includes a huge flip-flop on FISA, a notable straddle on gun control after the DC handgun ban was struck down, and a flip-flip at least as big as the FISA one when he opted out of public campaign financing. (Josh at TPM overlooks all those in the commentary he has behind the AP story.)

That said, let’s look at what Obama was getting at, specifically in his second July 3 conference, where he had the opportunity to explain his “refine” comments:
He said the refining wouldn’t be related to his promise to remove combat forces within 16 months of taking office, but to the number of troops needed to train Iraqis and fight al-Qaida. But then he acknowledged that the 16-month timeline could indeed slip if removing troops risked their safety or Iraqi stability.

No, it’s not a flip-flop, like the first and third issues above. It’s not even a straddle, like the gun control issue.

Is “trimming” a fair word, though? Especially given the history leading up to this on other issues? He admits that he may redefine the number of troops that will need to stay in Iraq as “combat troops,” (he still has never talked about just how he will decide what constitutes “combat troops”), and he did say, clearly, that the 16-month time span could lengthen — without saying by how long.

I say yes, “trimming” is a fair word.

As, as for the point I made above, Obama also, while saying he may refine how many troops need to stay in Iraq, has never, from his first iteration until now, even offered a guesstimate of how many that will be.

In other words, it’s clear he really is trying to have his cake and eat it too, on Iraq, and liberal Democratic Party bloggers like Marshall, Kos, etc. are refusing to call him on it.

How many of them have ever asked Obama to put a number on it?

You know the answer, and it’s “zero.”

Science roundup — Greenland, Mercury, Pompeii, Mexico, West Nile, pulsars, sweat

Greenland glacier melt not as fast as fearedNot that this gives George W. Bush, or Chinese President Hu Jintao, a reprieve in the global warming court of world opinion. Iconic images of rapid-flowing Greenland glacial meltwater are a summer-only phenomenon. On the other hand, isn’t that a “duh” finding, to some degree?
Pulsars confirm general relativityTwin pulsars orbiting one another confirm the theory.
Volcanism on MercuryThe MESSENGER spacecraft from NASA says volcanism played a key part in shaping Mercury’s surface. It also says the planet is shrinking faster than expected, in just two of several interesting discoveries already made.
Pompeii at risk againNo, Vesuvius is not about to blow its top again. Instead, the Italian government needs to put a crowbar in its wallet to adequately fund maintenance of the historic site.
Mexican cave openedArchaeologists have started to explore a Mexican cave found 30 years ago and kept sealed since then.
New West Nile strainAnd it could do better in the U.S. than the older strain, and even push West Nile into Canada.
Don’t sweat summer outInstead, get used to it and adapt. Agreed. I exercise outdoors, pretty briskly, three days a week in Dallas summers.

Hot dog contest goes to OT

As if eating nearly 60 hot dogs in 10 minutes isn’t stomach-challenging enough, a tie in regulation meant this year’s annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest went to overtime. Joey Chestnut held on to the title for the second year in a row, beating six-time past champ Takeru Kobayashi by eating five more dogs more quickly in OT.

But, all is not over. They’ll square off again over Krystal’s sliders in September.

And, you can play hot dog glutton yourself, on your computer.

July 04, 2008

Bush clueless about Poland’s history on missile defense

It’s no surprise Poland has rejected Bush’s defense package offer, in exchange for siting elements of an antimissile shield there, as inadequate. Once Putin said Poland would become a target of Russian missiles, it became clear that Bush needed to take into account centuries of Polish fears of Russia. (Of course, those fears cut both ways, and with reason. Four hundred years ago, Poland tried to install a puppet tsar in Moscow.)

Anyway, putting Patriot missiles on Polish soil for one year was so inadequate it’s laughable.

And, Bush will continue to be clueless elsewhere.

Lithuania as a site? It’s obvious Moscow was behind last week’s cyberattacks on Lithuanian computers, as a shot across the bow to Washington.

Happy 400th, Québec!

A good day to remember that the British weren’t the only European people colonizing North America.

On this day in 1608, Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec City, usually, and officially, known as Québec, with the accent. Here’s a sample, from the column, of what was driving and motivating him:
What we might remember today is that Quebec City and Canada grew from another great idea, different from that of the United States, but just as expansive and important, and it too will challenge us for a thousand years.

The idea was Champlain’s, the central figure in New France for three decades, from 1603 to 1635. He had a dream that grew from his experiences in France. As a child in the small seaport of Brouage, he had become accustomed to diversity. As a youth in the province of Saintonge, he lived on the border between different cultures and religions, and moved easily between them.

In essence, Champlain was looking to, in his own way, found “a city upon a hill.”

And, as the column points out, Champlain was the first in a series of French explorers, pioneers, settlers and governors to generally maintain better relations with American Indians — and to attempt more and better understanding and acceptance of them — than their primarily British competitors to the south.

So, Vive la Québec! Vive la France! Vive la Canada!

(For more on the historic city, visit Wikipedia.)

Friday scatblogging — Scat and the History Channel

Yes, it’s not just me with a scat focus. The History Channel has a show all about it. It’s run once before and will run again tomorrow, July 5 at 5 p.m.

Coffee made from poop! A 100-foot pile of bat guano!

Unfortunately, there are no paired items in The History Channel’s gift shop.

Hat tip to science blogger John Hawks.

Obama tells FISA opponents ‘I hear you but I ain’t listening’

Barack Obama has responded to the 17,000 (at last count I heard) members of his blog who have formed a group protesting his cave on the House’s FISA bill.

As I said in the header, he has “heard” you, but he ain’t listening.

In fact, he’s snow-jobbing you.

Shorter BO:
I appreciate you activities making a valuable contribution to participatory democracy. BUT, I really do feel the need to support and pass something in this, an election year. That said, I’m willing to accept 5 percent of a loaf, not only by ditching telecom immunity, but also by accepting basket warrants and accepting the lie that this bill for the first time ever says that FISA is the sole governance for intelligence surveillance.

To get the GOP off my back, because I don’t want to bother fighting them for civil liberties, and because they’re giving us Dems the sop of deciding telecom immunity in the regular court system, I don’t have a problem passing this.

And, and you, especially if you’re involved with the ACLU or the EFF, you’ll get the same answer if there’s more fire behind the smoke on cell phone snooping, too.

Love and Kumbaya and celebrate freedom on the Fourth of July, because it really is just another word for nothing left to lose.

Have fun with BO, Obamiacs.

Two other things about all this.

One, Obama assumes that the Obamiacs will eventually see the superior wisdom of their Fearless Leader, I guess.

Two, Obama must believe that his Internet community sees the Internet as just a campaign finance and campaign social networking tool, rather than an instrument for research, and that he can float these snow jobs about what he claims FISA is and actually be believed.

Horsemeat: It’s still what’s for dinner

In many places besides the U.S., that is.

As I and many other bloggers predicted several months back, the closing of the last three U.S. horsemeat slaughterhouses has done nothing to stop American wild horses from being butchered for food. They’re just being butchered in Canada or Mexico.

Part of why nobody’s adopting a wild mustang these days? Cost:
Room and board for a horse is around $200 per month now -- and the cost of fuel, hay and grain, and basic care is climbing. At the same time, because of a surplus of unwanted horses, auction prices have plunged, down to $100 or less from an earlier average of $300 to $500. If you figure in the cost of euthanasia and disposal at $750, it’s a swing of about $1,200 for the owner looking to get rid of an unwanted equine.

But, some people who want to enshrine the slaughterhouse ban into federal law are a bit shaky on history:
“Horses have never been raised as a food animal in this country,” says Stacy Segal, equine protection specialist for the Humane Society of the United States. “We give them medications that would never be allowed for a slaughter animal. None of the mechanisms to protect meat for human consumption are in place.”

Wrong on all counts. Many American Indian tribes, if not specifically raising horses for food, certainly considered that to be the normal end of a horse after it was too old to carry someone on its back. And, both Indians and mountain men had no problem “going heavy” on horses in a pack trail to allow for food for “filler.”

Lewis and Clark ate horsemeat without batting an eye, for doorknob’s sake. And, a century ago, it was still fairly common for white farmers and ranchers on the high plains to eat horsemeat.

As for Segal’s second sentence, sure, if a horse is a prize Thoroughbred, it gets all doped up. But, some Western rancher who actually rides a horse as part of the job? Not so much.

For a more visual experience on how the slaughterhouse ban is hurting wild horses, see the High Country News slideshow.

Loopy Lupe Valdez gets JWP woodshed spanking

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price has written a blank check of political support for fellow Democrat, Sheriff Lupe Valdez (and why do we elect sheriffs rather than appoint them?) for the past three-plus years.

But, inviting Discovery Channel to film the magical improvements at Lew Sterrett without a tip-off to him, at the minimum, was too much.

Fortunately, it was just before a long holiday weekend, giving both Loopy Lupe and Just Wanna Play a chance to hash this out, plot damage control, etc.

That said, County Judge Jim Foster, also a Dem, thinks Valdez just needed to notify commissioners, not get formal permission.

But, JWP likes to be stroked. And, just asking ain’t stroking.

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

July 03, 2008

NorthPark style coming to Cedar Hill

The high-end steakhouse world is moving south of the Trinity in Dallas.

Hitchens — I know waterboarding is torture

Hitchens, though still supporting the war in Iraq, has never been one to write blank checks to George W. Bush. And, he still is a progressive on most civil liberties issues.

So, he let himself be waterboarded. And then, while trying to give the best interpretation to pro-waterboarders, concluded it is torture:
I call as my main witness Mr. Malcolm Nance. Mr. Nance is not what you call a bleeding heart. In fact, speaking of the coronary area, he has said that, in battlefield conditions, he “would personally cut bin Laden’s heart out with a plastic M.R.E. spoon.” …

I passed one of the most dramatic evenings of my life listening to his cold but enraged denunciation of the adoption of waterboarding by the United States. …

I had only a very slight encounter on that frontier, but I still wish that my experience were the only way in which the words “waterboard” and “American” could be mentioned in the same (gasping and sobbing) breath.

Read all about Hitchens crossing that frontier.

Texas Lege getting requests to allow breed-specific dog bans

The city of Duncanville has officially memorialized the Texas Legislature, with Cedar Hill expected to follow, to get the Lege to change state law and allow cities to consider breed-specific dog bans. Cedar Hill and Duncanville have already both toughened their dog ordinances to require a $100,000 insurance policy or line of credit for owners of dogs officially declared dangerous.

I recently editorialized, encouraging the Lege to give cities more animal-control freedom.

That said, as I note, there are several legal issues. One is that there is no American Kennel Club breed called “pit bull.” Another, also noted in my column, is the animal-level version of the old “nature vs. nurture” argument on why some breeds of dog fight more.

It is time for the National League to remain the NL

That includes keeping the same nine position players filling out the same spots in the batting order. No, Tim Cowlishaw, we don’t need the DH.

To me, that’s such a trash sports rule.

As I e-mailed him, why not have courtesy runners for catchers, if you’re going to have the DH?

Especially with the steroid effect at least diminished, I want to see all-around baseball.

Reuters outsourcing reporting -- and Morning News too

Note the location of the author of this story about Rush Limbaugh’s big new contract with Clear Channel.

Bangalore, India.

For a story less than 200 words long.

Apparantly Reuters has outsourced all its U.S. financial news to Bangalore The time difference means Indians are pecking at keyboards in the middle of the night for a fraction of the cost of U.S. reporters.

Good luck, Reuters, with a sleep-challenged Indian, at 3 a.m., calling an American businessman at 3 p.m. and trying to put together a coherent interview.

Hell, we probably won’t even get interviews any more. Just e-mail your press releases to Bangalore, Fortune 500.

The Dallas Morning News outsourced its IT support to Bangalore not too long ago, I also see.

Obama FISA suck-up reader at TPM

Talking Points Memo reader and obvious Obamiac JP weighs in on the need to continue to rally around. Democrats’ Fearless Leader.
Before we all torpedo the best candidate we have had in 30+ years over this FISA thing, be aware of the two facts: (1) there is a long-established government contractor immunity doctrine in American law & what the telecoms did after 9-11 in obeying government demands for compliance is right in stride with that doctrine, and (2) in any event, the federal government is likely required to indemnify the telcos for any judgment or settlement they'd have to pay. Is this really the make-or-break litmus-test the netroots is clamoring for? No way. Is this just another example of liberals eating their own? You betcha.

Here’s what I e-mailed back to TPM:
Calling telcos “government contractors,” especially when the warrantless wiretapping started before 9/11, is a stretch at least.

And, once again, remind JP of Qwest. At least one telecom knew this was illegal.

Meanwhile, TPM also has an Obama FISA flip-flop timeline/quote-watch.

Short-term gain, long-term pain in Columbia hostage trickery

Yes, pretending that army units were aid workers got 15 hostages freed in Columbia from FARC, but in the long term, this has to backfire, I think.

An angry FARC will be on the lookout for more high-profile hostages, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will up his distrust of Columbian President Álvaro Uribe and, should McCain be elected president here, he also will be widely distrusted by Chavez and allies due to his getting a pre-hostage release briefing.

RIP former NPS Director George Hartzog

From a National Park Service press release:

George B. Hartzog, Jr., March 17, 1920 – June 27, 2008, served as the seventh director of the National Park Service (NPS). During his nine-year tenure, 1964 to 1973, Hartzog led the largest expansion of the National Park System in its history. During those nine years, seventy-two sites were added to the National Park System, sites that included national parks, historical and archeological monuments, recreation areas, seashores, riverways, memorials, and cultural units celebrating minority experiences. Hartzog was a visionary and his efforts went a long way in enlarging the agency’s role in urban recreation, historic preservation, interpretation, and environmental education.

“George Hartzog was one of the great champions of the National Park Service,” said NPS Director Mary A. Bomar. “His vision of what the national parks should be and should mean to the American people left an indelible mark on the agency he so loved and believed in. His goal of making the National Park Service relevant to people who previously had been overlooked, especially minorities and women, has strengthened our agency.”

Hartzog joined the NPS in 1946, when he entered the service as an Attorney. Field assignments as Assistant Superintendent at Great Smoky Mountains and Rocky Mountains national parks came along soon after. While serving in St. Louis, he brought to completion one of America’s most recognizable landmarks, the Gateway Arch.
Former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall noted "Hartzog was able to leave behind a legacy that to this day is unsurpassed in the amount of land acquired, and the amount of legislation passed to protect public lands.” He described Hartzog as a reminder "of the glories of public service and the legacies our best bureaucrats leave to future generations."

There are many achievements as NPS Director that Hartzog was proud of, but it was his resolve that the NPS should reflect the Nation’s increased awareness for minorities that might stand the highest in many people’s eyes. Hartzog made it a high priority to advance programs that would include minorities. During his tenure he named the first African American park superintendent, the first female superintendent from the career ranks, the first Native American superintendent, and the first African American chief of a major U.S. police department. – the United States Park Police.

Preserving Alaska and expanding the National Park System was also a priority, and in 1971 Hartzog worked closely with subcommittee chairman Senator Alan Bible to develop legislation for the expansion of the National Park System in Alaska. The Bible Amendment of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 was finally enacted in 1980 and more than doubled the acreage of the National Park System.

In addition, Hartzog was a strong supporter of The Wilderness Act; The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act; the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act; and the National Trails System Act, all of which passed while he was Director. He also advocated for creation of Gateway National Recreation Area around New York Harbor and Golden Gate National Recreation Area at San Francisco Bay as the Nation’s first urban national parklands outside of the Nation’s capital.

According to former NPS Historian Robert M. Utley, “George Hartzog made great things happen.” “The National Historic Preservation Act would not have passed, at least in 1966, but for George Hartzog. Many people worked hard on this initiative, but without Hartzog’s largely hidden political labors on Capitol Hill, with congressional staff as well as members, the law would not have been enacted.”

Green Party presidential candidates

Here’s your Green Party candidates for president, 2008:

1. Jesse Johnson, 2006 US Senate candidate and 2004 gubernatorial candidate for the Mountain Party in West Virginia (now affiliate state party of the Green Party of the United States); filmmaker.

2. Kat Swift, Kat Swift, Texas Green organizer; former Campus Greens leader; activist with Clean Money San Antonio and San Antonio Democracy Now.

3. Kent Mesplay, 2004 candidate for the Green presidential nomination; former president of Turtle Island Institute; environmental engineer, alternative energy activist; California Green organizer.

4. Cynthia McKinney, former member of the US House of Representatives (Georgia), 1993 to 2003, 2005 to 2007; former member of the Georgia House of Representatives, 1988-1992.

Cynthia McKinney? Stereotypes and smears related to 9/11 aside, her temper, and sense of entitlement, do concern me a little bit. She also (and this coming from someone who doesn’t come close to supporting the Israel lobby) can flirt with the boundaries of something approaching anti-Semitism.

Per the first sentence in the paragraph above, her indulgence of 9/11 “truther” crackpot theories, as articulated when she was in my area, in Fort Worth, in February, also concern me.

But, she’s got name recognition, and as a female candidate, might appeal to Clintonites who have a political brain, as well as anti-Obama anger, rather than Clintonites deluded enough to join a GOP-flacked PUMA group. And, yes, I could accept her as presidential material.

But, let’s also look at the not-so-famous candidates.

Mesplay, with his background in alt-energy, has a strong “core Green” issue, and one of importance. He favors Instant Runoff Voting (and please, flacks for other alternative voting systems, I know IRV is not perfect; do not inundate me with comments). And, Mesplay, with Blackfoot Indian heritage, also brings minority background to the table.

I have a bit of familiarity with Swift. Clean money is a good emphasis. However, her website has had little updating in months, and, it’s not too much above the amateur level as far as layout, etc.

I know less about Johnson; he’s run for U.S. Senate and the governor’s mansion in West Virginia.

Yet another big negatory on Obama – expanding the military

He wants to increase the size of the military. That in turn begs the obvious question of …

WHY?

His speech says it’s part of expanding national service opportunities.

Squeeze me, Herr Obama, but the armed forces aren’t AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps, and the brass hats will be sure to let you know that.

Our military is ultimately created to be a fighting and killing machine, and we don’t need any more people than we have now doing that as “national service.”

L.A. Times continues to crater

When a 21st-century newspaper cuts Internet news jobs, you know it’s floundering.

The Times’ editorial staff will be shrunk 17 percent by Labor Day. The paper will also put out about 15 percent fewer pages.

BushCo is now spying on your cell phone

And refusing to hand over the details to the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Rightfully, it’s lawsuit time

I wonder how Barack Conservative Obama feels about another round of retroactive immunity, and further amendments to FISA.

And, yes, Obama is going to continue to get needled. Also righfully so, and with perfect timing, thanks to the ACLU and EFF.

July 02, 2008

Thurgood Marshall — the man who should have been Chief Justice

If LBJ could have not practiced crony politics in 1968 and nominated Thurgood Marshall as Chief Justice, think of how different SCOTUS would have been into the 1970s and 1980s.

Marshall certainly didn't have Fortas’ baggage, and there is no way Northern Republican Senators would have voted against cloture, or voted against Marshall's actual nomination.

Happy 100th birthday anniversary, Thurgood.

Anyway, how would this all have played out, if Marshall had been nominated and approved as chief justice?

Let’s say that Southern Democratic Senators would have dropped threats to filibuster in exchange for LBJ not nominating anyone to fill Marshall’s associate judgeship vacancy.

Then, let’s say Nixon would have appointed Warren Burger to that position. He would have spent his career as a mediocre associate justice instead of as a mediocre chief justice.

Abe Fortas’ acceptance of retainers from private individuals might never have come up, neither the original ones that knocked out LBJ’s actual attempt to elevate him, nor the later ones that drove him off SCOTUS completely. But, if they had, Blackmun still would have replaced him, let’s assume. Would Lewis Powell or Rehnquist have gotten the nod to replace Hugo Black, then, if there had been two openings?

Especially if Fortas’ issues had not come to light until well into Nixon’s second term, he wouldn’t have dared to have named Rehnquist, given Rehnquist’s position as Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Counsel. Marshall, in fact, might not had been averse to directly talking to Nixon.

Ford still would have had the William O. Douglas position to fill. I’m going to assume he still would have named John Paul Stevens.

Note who just got skipped? William Rehnquist, again.

Carter, of course, made no SCOTUS appointments.

But, if Fortas had hung on until Carter became president, Carter might have named LBJ Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. Or, he might have beaten Reagan to naming the first female justice.

That takes us to Reagan.

With his pledge to nominate a woman, O’Conner gets the nod. Still no Rehnquist, possibly.

We would have had no Rehnquist Court. And, of course, no Burger Court either.

Given a more liberal composition of the court in general, I think Reagan would then have flinched from naming Scalia to the court. And, I think Democrats would have rallied against him.

Marshall himself? Maybe he would have felt more invigorated by being chief justice. He might have held out until after 1991, especially if he saw the chance of Bill Clinton winning as the 1992 election loomed.

Clinton, as a “new Democrat,” and a complex person, might well have nominated Stevens from his associate justiceship.

Anyway, food for thought.

Olbermann grasps at FISA straws to defend Obama

Keith Olbermann says there’s still a raw of hope in the House’s FISA bill because the immunity clause is for civil cases only, not criminal charges.

So, tell me, Keith, have you heard Obama pledge that he will appoint an attorney general who will root out criminality in illegal, warrantless wiretapping?

Didn’t think so.

STFU.

Oh, and listen to Greenwald on this issue.
“In general, Olbermann’s commentary about Obama’s FISA position was much more critical, in both senses of the word. Still, there are numerous, glaring flaws with the fantasy that Obama will criminally prosecute telecoms.”

Besides, Bmaz notes an elementary point that unconstitutional doesn’t necessarily mean illegal.

Welcome to the White House, next president

Whoever gets elected will face an economic slowdown likely to last through all of 2009. And, even that may be generous.

Assuming either Obama or McCain refuses to deal with Peak Oil and is mealy-mouthed on global warming issues, and refuses to replace Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman, the economy will struggle past 2009.

Read the whole story for specifics of economic analysts concerns.

Kenneth Copeland refuses to ‘render unto Caesar’

Showing he has a highly selective reading of the Bible, including the words of Jesus himself, the Revvvvvv. Kenneth Copeland refuses to give the Senate Finance Committee copies of his IRS records.
“It’s not yours, it’s God’s, and you’re not going to get it,” Copeland says of his financial records.

Besides ignoring Jesus’ charge to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, Copeland forgot these words from Romans 13:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. … He who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted. Rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but those who do wrong.

Kenneth Copeland, grade-A “religious” hypocrite.

Special watchdog needed for airline safety

That’s the bottom line from the Department of Transportation’s inspector general.

The report says a quasi –independent watchdog within the Federal Aviation Administration would do more than the FAA’s own plan that would allow whistleblowers to directly report safety and inspections concerns to top officials.

The DOT inspector general’s findings were based on FAA’s slow reaction to whistleblowers talking about Southwest Airlines inspection blowoffs earlier this year.

For more on the Southwest inspections story, look up old blog posts with my Southwest tag.

The inspector general, in light of that, also recommends airplane inspectors be rotated between assignments, something the FAA has resisted.

I agree it’s a great idea, but good luck getting that done in a federal bureaucracy.

American may lay off 900

American Airlines says it is looking at furloughing 900 flight attendants next month. That’s combined with retirement packages for those over the age of 50 and with more than 15 years of American service time.

While it has a severance package, I don’t see that that includes a years-of-service credit for those with less than 20, or whatever.

Besides, why are they not being rehired as baggage police?

At American, I have no doubt this is known as “taking an Arpey” on your employees.

Green convo in Chitown July 10-13

Via Green Party e-mail:
The Green Party Convention this year will be held from July 10-13 in Chicago. The main attraction this year is the nomination of the Green Party Presidential Candidate. On Saturday, July 12, the party will choose a candidate from four recognized contenders: Jesse Johnson, Cynthia McKinney, Kent Mesplay and Kat Swift.

The convention will host an impressive array of speakers, including peace activist Kathy Kelly, community activist Malik Rahim and drug policy activist Cliff Thornton, as well as more than 60 inspirational and fascinating workshops and caucuses.

Note that none of those speakers is likely to be a speaker at a Democratic National Convention.

Also note that Ralph Nader is NOT a “recognized contender.”

That said, I’m sure he’ll continue on another ego-driven independent run for the presidency.

But he is NOT, and will not be, the Green Party nominee.

I will post more information on the nominees later this week.

$6.55 an hour is not enough

The July 1 increase in the minimum wage was a pittance even before soaring oil prices. Even the increase to $7.25 an hour next year isn’t enough.

Plus, Democrats were sellouts last year for refusing even to consider a COLA index as part of the minimum wage bill.

But, you can do something. Read about what a universal living wage should be.

Then, sign the petition.

Obama’s real middle name is ‘Conservative’

The hell with him worrying over “Hussein” and the hell with the 20-something Obamiacs or Obamabots, take your pick, adopting “Hussein” as their own middle names.

His real middle name is “Conservative.”

Obama the conservative on faith-based initiatives.

Obama the conservative as party leader of the “Democratic exercise in defeat and cowardice” on the FISA bill.

Obama the conservative and his personal sellout on the FISA bill.

Obama the conservative throws MoveOn under the bus.

Obama the conservative and his three-year past history (at least) of unconstitutionality on faith-based issues.

Obama the conservative sucking up to Big Ag on ethanol. (I have older posts on him and Big Coal.)

Obama the conservative and his recycled, traditionalist foreign policy advisor team.

Obama the conservative and his bland, centrist-oriented Veepstakes.

Obama the conservative and his silence on Dennis Kucinich’s articles of impeachment.

I think you get the drift.

J’accuse!

If you don’t believe me listen to Greenwald on this issue. (Although he’ll never tell you to vote either Green or Libertarian.)

A Strad by any other name wood still sound as dense

For years going on to decades, various theories have abounded about why a Stradivarius had its special sound — the type of wood, the exact chemical nature of the varnish, etc.

Now, a Dutch doctor and an Arkansas violin maker, using a CT scanner, think they have the answer — it’s the density of the wood.

Their full paper is at Public Library of Science.

Bring your FISA protest signs to Austin in two weeks

Nancy Pelosi, the infamous Passive Pelosi™ herself, is supposed to be at the formerly styled Yearly Kos, now known as Netroots Nation, taking place in Austin July 17-20 at the Austin Convention Center. Obama has been invited; no word if he will show up.

Question: will folks like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and ACLU be there to protest?

I would assume that the ACLU of Texas, if it is going to stand up for ACLU traditions, will be there, with at least a news conference if not a protest.

If the ACLU of Texas gives me any info, I’ll let you know.

If you want to ask it the same question, or badger it into action, here’s your e-mail link.

Still hope on FISA telecom suits? I think not, but …

Lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union are still working on legal challenges if the Senate passes the House’s FISA bill with telecom immunity.

One option, though I don’t see how it will fly, would be to claim the immunity clause violates the separation of powers between branches of government. Frankly, I think a judge would not only reject that, but if there’s some version of rejecting that with prejudice, would do so.

There’s multiple Senate amendments out there, but, as the story notes, when Chris Dodd tried to strip immunity from the original Senate bill, that got only 31 votes.

Wally-World on the hook for $6.5M – for now

A Minnesota state judge found that Wal-Mart violated state labor laws more than 2 million times and so owes affected employees that amount, the AP reports.
“We believe that this award not only helps the individual clients, but it also sends a message to Wal-Mart that it has to pay for its mistakes,” said Justin Perl, an attorney representing the former Wal-Mart employees named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

But wait, that’s not all!

Wally-World could eventually be on the hook for punitive damages and civil penalties; the jury will decide those in October.

And, given just what Wally-World put some employees through, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, punitive damages are very possible:
Nancy Braun, one of four named plaintiffs on the suit, said Tuesday that she was “ecstatic” about the judge's decision. Braun, who worked in an Apple Valley store for about 14 months beginning in March 1998, said the store repeatedly didn't find people to give her breaks when she was the sole cook and waitress at the store's grill.

In several instances no one came in time for her to go to the bathroom. “I would end up soiling myself,” said Braun, now 53 and living in Rochester. “Sometimes I’d have other clothes with me in my locker, or they would say to me, ‘We have clothes in the store you can buy.’”

Can a Minnesota jury consider something besides cash dollars as part of punitive damages? After reading this and other tales, I have an idea or two …

July 01, 2008

Defeat Google’s Big Brother ad targeting

Google wants to target ads at you based on your previous search history. Given Google’s partnership with Yahoo, using Yahoo for searches may not be an answer.

I suppose you could use Jeeves or something, but here’s the snarkier idea.

Once every day, throw some HUGE outlier into your searches. (Warning: Try this only at home, not on an office computer.)

For example, look for “gay Albanian porn.” Or “Betty Crocker” + “John F. Kennedy” + “secret relationship.”

You get the idea.

Once a day, drive Google crazy.

Note: I actually searched for “gay Albanian porn” after starting this post and got five hits!

Or, here’s another twist. Do a normal Google search, but add the words “Sergey Brin” in front of it.

That said, should Google ever disappear this blog, Blogger being a Google-owned product, look for me at socraticgadfly.wordpress.com or something.

Faith-based Obama rejects Constitution — updated

Boy, does he become more conservative in more ways every day.

Now, Barack Obama wants to expand Bush’s faith-based programs, including faith-based hiring and firing.

Err, Obama, the Constitution says:
No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. (Emphasis added.)

That’s public trust, like faith-based programs, not just public office.

And, this idea of “segregating” funds so that faith-based groups “only” hire/fire in the non-federally funded portion of their activities? Yeah, and how well does that work with funding non-wall building portions of Israel’s budget?
David Kuo, a conservative Christian who was deputy director of Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives until 2003 and later became a critic of Bush's commitment to the cause, said Obama’s position on hiring has the potential to be a major “Sister Souljah moment” for his campaign.

Yesterday, he threw MoveOn under the bus; today, it’s secularists, and the Constitution, for the second time in 10 days. How many “Sister Souljah moments” does Obama have up his sleeve?

Oh, and what’s with having Kuo consult on all of this? This is a man who criticized Bush for not going far enough with faith-based initiatives

What next? By the time we get to the Fourth, we won’t have anything left to be patriotic about if we follow Obama.

Here’s Obama’s full speech, via TPM. Here’s the takeout graf:
First, if you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we'll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.

As I note above, this “segregation of funds” has been nothing but an enabler and pass-through when it comes to Israel and its building of the West Bank Wall.

Second, if you’re serious about this issue, how much is it going to cost for that much monitoring of faith-based groups that get federal funding?

Third, are faith-based groups going to try to avoid or dodge that scrutiny?

Fourth, I’m sure this WILL wind up being no less a photo-op than it was for Bush.

Will the last one to leave Chrysler please turn out the lights?

All of the formerly Big Three are bleeding, and even Toyota had struggles in June sales, but Chrysler is hemmoraging.

Forget Toyota and forget Honda. By the end of this year, Hyundai will have half as many American sales as Chrysler.

Its June numbers aren’t out yet, but in May, Hyundai had 46,000 U.S. sales; Chrysler’s June sales were 117,000. American Honda, meanwhile, sold 146,000; Nissan sold 81,000.

Back to GM. Six-year car loans with no interest? As inflation is rising, not falling, and Ben Bernanke will have to hike interest rates after the November general election?

Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Turkey tottering toward coup?

So it would seem, with the arrest of 24 people with alleged coup connections. The Turkish army has, of course, intervened in Ankara government in the past when it worried Turkey’s leaders were abandoning its secularist tradition.

This time, it looks like the arrests are a pre-emptive strike.

The sweep comes on the very day prosecutors presented an indictment to the Turkish Constitutional Court to close down Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party.
“It seems the government is throwing down the gauntlet to the key players in the secular camp,” said Erik Zurcher, a professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands and author of “Turkey: A Modern History.” “Perhaps it feels it has nothing left to lose because the party's closure will come anyway.”

Bloomberg notes the court ruled against Erdogan in a related case in June, striking down a law allowing women to wear Islamic-style headscarves at universities. Turkish law prohibits explicitly religious political activities, hence the case calling to disband Erdogan’s party.

Meanwhile, the turmoil has majorly roiled the Turkish stock and bond markets. I’m sure it doesn’t help the rocky path to EU membership, either.

Why not just CANCEL bad loans?

It’s an idea that’s catching on, via the federal Truth In Lending Act and similar state laws, in states that have them. Last week, the state of Illinois sued Countrywide (you know those folks, Sen. Dodd?) asking for all Countrywide loans to be voided, or recised.

That said, look for Countrywide and many other folks like Angelo Mozilo to start rubbing elbows with the Chris Dodds of the world to get the Truth In Lending Act rewritten (an attempt failed in the 1990s) to ban recission.

And, if they can get away with it, to make the ban retroactive.

You think Sen. Hedge Fund, aka Chuck Schumer (sit down, former Sen. Hedge Fund, John Edwards), wouldn’t salivate at swapping out Dem votes for major mortgage PAC payola?

Court turns back on Maher Arar

A federal appeals court said the Canadian national was never in the U.S. when he was illegally abducted from JFK airport for illegal rendition.

Excuse me? Is JFK now the new Gitmo, magically not a U.S. possession?

Be very scared for our future

If James Kunstler is right. I’m not an apocalypticist futurist like he is. That said, I certainly reject both salvific technologism and American exceptionalism.

The confusion of a non-literal Christian physicist in dealing with myth

Meet Karl Giberson, physics professor, believer in evolution, and committed Christian, including being committed to talk about how evolution has no incompatibilities with religious belief. You work to reconcile religion and evolution, as a scientist, but can’t think straight in your own mind.
One of the points of the Garden of Eden story is that Adam and Eve got this idyllic situation and all they need to do is make a set of simple choices that are right and avoid one kind of no-brainer that is wrong. And what do they do? They choose the wrong thing.

Either the early chapters of Genesis are myth, in which case that story is not literal and you have to stop giving it a literalist interpretation, or it is literal, and you’ve just hoisted yourself by your own petard.

Elsewhere, you say you agree with Dawkins et al that modern science has shown it works just fine without the need for God as an explanatory hypothesis, as Laplace knew 200 years ago.

So, you drop back and punt, with the old transcendentalist stance. You argue that most people don’t come to religious faith at the end of a long argument. Well, secular humanists certainly don’t come to faith with the petering out of an untenable argument.

Needless to say, neither I nor Richard Dawkins will be reading “Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution.”

‘Big’ Three — two years and 100,000 jobs later

Yes, that’s right. The so-called “Big Three” have shed 100,000 jobs in just the past two years.

Another decade at that pace and they literally will cease to exist.

As for “Big Three,” Toyota may have finally passed GM into the top U.S. sales slot in June. And, the Street knows that; that’s why GM’s stock price has fallen more than 50 percent — since the first of the year.

Meanwhile, as the story documents, plenty of workers are among the human detritus left behind by Big Three arrogance, Big Three refusal to be honest with themselves corporately, their employees and the general public about environmental and economy issues and more.

But, the 100,000 employees discarded in the last two years don’t get corporate golden parachutes.

Meanwhile, workers like John Martinez are the ever-more-frequent castaways making up the real story.

Faith-based Obama rejects Constitution

Boy, does he become more conservative in more ways every day.

Now, Barack Obama wants to expand Bush’s faith-based programs, including faith-based hiring and firing.

Err, Obama, the Constitution says:
No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. (Emphasis added.)

That’s public trust, like faith-based programs, not just public office.

And, this idea of “segregating” funds so that faith-based groups “only” hire/fire in the non-federally funded portion of their activities? Yeah, and how well does that work with funding non-wall building portions of Israel’s budget?
David Kuo, a conservative Christian who was deputy director of Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives until 2003 and later became a critic of Bush's commitment to the cause, said Obama’s position on hiring has the potential to be a major “Sister Souljah moment” for his campaign.

Yesterday, he threw MoveOn under the bus; today, it’s secularists, and the Constitution, for the second time in 10 days. How many “Sister Souljah moments” does Obama have up his sleeve?

Oh, and what’s with having Kuo consult on all of this? This is a man who criticized Bush for not going far enough with faith-based initiatives

What next? By the time we get to the Fourth, we won’t have anything left to be patriotic about if we follow Obama.

Why enviros still don’t embrace nuke power

(And that would be including me, to a fair degree.)

Nuclear plants violating safety regs 30 years on doesn’t inspire confidence in much of anything, other than the same plants and their ownership violating other nuclear regs for 30 years in a row if given half a chance.

And, these aren’t nitpicky, technical rules — they’re fire control regulations. And the Government Accountability Office says our country’s nuclear power plants average 10 fires a year.

The latest (as of 2004, the “latest”) NRC prescriptive rules have been adopted by less than half of the country’s nuclear power plants.

The report also says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been unable to resolve many long-standing issues in this area.

Uhhh, it’s called massive fines? Shutdowns if necessary. Period.

The full story has a complete laundry list of cheap-assed jerry rigging. No, a power plant core hasn’t been threatened — yet.

Google still won’t fess up to being pwned by Obamiacs

Needed — The implosion of the Democratic Party.

At least, that’s what I sense from reading this intro and a few of the affected blogs.

I wouldn’t like to migrate to WordPress. It doesn’t have as many features I like as Blogger. But I would if I had to, even though I am NOT part of JustSayNoDeal and the only way I would join it is if someone had a gun to my head.

Most the member bloggers, while attacking Obama, and rightly, for many psuedoliberal stances, are themselves on the right hand edge of Hillary Clinton.

You know, maybe the U.S. will be like Great Britain 80 years ago, when the Liberals finally imploded and were replaced by Labor. Because that’s what’s really needed —

The implosion of the Democratic Party.

And, this all said, this would have been a hellaciously different race if Clinton had figured out a way to tap the energy of people like Diane Mantouvalos, AND their online energy and creativity, six months ago.

But, she didn’t. And, even given allowances for misogyny in the media, sorry, Ms. Mantouvalos, but ultimately, Clinton has to look in the mirror to assign blame.

Beyond politics, though, this is troubling about Google. And, as I’ve said here before, if Google offs me for suggesting that you give it the Monkey Wrench Gang treatment by Googling “gay Albanian porn” or similar once a day (which I have yet to do for today), well, look for me, same start of URL, at WordPress.

Larry Lewis, say hello to your new boss

James Damm, who oversaw Wilmer-Hutchins ISD as an interim superintendent, is now the new TEA-appointed conservator for Lancaster ISD. Damm has also been chief financial officer at Plano, Highland Park and El Paso ISDs.

Good luck, Mr. Damm. You’re going to need it.

You’re probably going to need every ounce of skill and energy to keep Lewis and Carolyn Morris from killing each other.

TEA Commissioner Robert Scott cited not just the past year’s financial management, but several years of less than stellar financial diligence.

In addition to financial and budgetary oversight, he’s also supposed to look at communication issues in the district.

As, I said above:
Good luck, Mr. Damm. You’re going to need it.

Oh, and in case you didn’t read down to the bottom of Scott’s bullet points, Larry, Damm can:
• Disapprove any action by the superintendent;
• Recommend additional sanctions against the district.

Mr. Damm, you probably should start by nosing around district personnel matters, hiring and firing, human relations and other issues.

Drop Commissioner Scott an e-mail line, maybe with a temporary e-mail account, if you have things James Damm needs to look at. (I did.)

‘A Democratic exercise in defeat and cowardice’

Those aren’t my words, all you “my-Democrats-right-or-wrong” types, they’re Mark Klein’s.

You remember him.

The AT&T engineer who spilled the beans on warrantless wiretapping.

Three guesses as to what he’s calling “a Democratic exercise in defeat and cowardice” and the first two don’t count.

Are you listening, Herr Obama? Passive Pelosi™?

June 30, 2008

Congressional Dems were rats deserting the Clinton campaign ship

That’s one of the strongest things I took from Gail Sheehy’s magazine tome on the rise and fall of the Hillary Clinton campaign. Like this:
But no matter how impressive her victories in swing states like West Virginia, the super-delegates were not breaking her way. The new Democratic establishment, led by D.N.C. chairman Howard Dean and the increasingly respected Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, just didn’t want the Clinton circus back in town.

Earlier in the piece, Sheehy notes how Democratic Senators who had befriended her as a junior member of the club, or even when she was First Lady, were quick to turn to Obama.

Last month, I blogged that I thought she lost in part by competing in Iowa. Even after the leakage (by Mark Penn?) of Mike Henry’s “skip it” memo, I still think she could have skipped Iowa.

But, Sheehy offer yet another reason for Clinton’s loss.

She failed to run as fully Hillary Clinton, a human being who is also a woman.

American to whip out baggage police

With American Airlines leading the pack on a $15 surcharge, one way, for a passenger’s first checked bag and $25 for the second, well, DUH… obviously people are going to try to take more stuff as carry-on.

So American and United and using in-terminal baggage police to try to keep people from flouting carry-on rules.

And, these employees are being diverted from where? Or paid how much overtime?

Well, it’s worse than that: They may be contract employees hired for this purpose.

If I can find where in the Metroplex American CEO Gerard Arpey lives, I’ll tell you where to mail a big steaming turd.

Major newspaper groups could default on loans

In a word, wow. The Journal Register Co., MediaNews Group Inc. and Tribune Co. (if Sam Zell can’t sell some buildings) could all be in default.

Lower pay and all at community papers is better than no pay and on the street trying to freelance.

U.S. mercenary contractors sued over Abu Ghraib

Four Iraqis held prisoner at Saddam Hussein’s former torture center are suing top American mercenary contractors involved with their imprisonment.

The suit also alleges destruction of evidence, hiding prisoners from the International Red Cross and other no-nos.

Obama throws MoveOn — and progressive activists — under the bus

Just.Another.Politician.™ is just another politician in spades.

Note how tricky he is.

First, he gets MoveOn to disband its 527 advocacy group, then he not only throws it under the bus, but backs up for a second run-over in the same speech.

And, he would also seem to attack many American citizens who got the most fired up about the war in Iraq, when he talks about the “so-called counter-culture of the sixties.”

As someone who marched in multiple antiwar events, if that’s his take, he’s part of the problem as much as being part of the solution. Making one speech for calculated political reasons as much as for idealism, in 2002, shows that.

Video for a second run-over in the same speech, in case reading the text isn’t enough.

You know, I don’t know whether to hope Obama wins, so I can say “I told you so” for four years to My-Democrats-right-or-wrong” type of Democrats, or hope he loses so those people finally get a clue about not letting candidates drift to the right.

Or deliberately take sharp turns to the right.

I also agree with Josh that Obama doesn’t make sense to back off Schmuck Talk’s war record.

A boatload of sobering economic analysis — bubbles, bankruptcy and oil

MSN has boatload of half-year sobering news. Liz Pulliam Weston on consumer bankruptcy tells us how lenders who caused the problems are abusing the “reforms,” including with attempted foreclosures. And, one judge is forcibly keeping one mortgage broker on the hook:
A bankruptcy judge has opened a window for borrowers. In a little-noticed decision, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Leslie J. Tchaikovsky let a California couple off the hook for debt they owed their home-equity lender because the incomes they had listed on their applications were obvious "red flags" that the lender had ignored.

The couple had jobs as a delivery driver and for an auto-parts distributor but claimed on one loan application that they earned a combined $146,000 a year and, on another, filed six months later, that they made $191,000.

Amen.

Then, Bill Fleckenstein gives Alan Greenspan a hard smackdown, while saying we have plenty of bottom still to be found in the current economic situation. He notes that George Soros says we are near the end of a 25-year superbubble.

Gee, that would coincide with a 25-year mix of Republican and DLC Democrat leadership.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency is doing a worldwide audit of oil fields. It’s only partway through, but gives Alan Greenspan a hard smackdown it says … hold your breath … it shows a significant reduction in estimated reserves. (So far, OPEC countries aren’t cooperating.)

Brokaw goes hardball on ‘Press the Meat’

In his first Sunday as short-term replacement for Tim Russert, Tom Brokaw reportedly baked Arnold Schwarzenegger on the coals:
“When you ran for governor in 2003, you ran as a fiscal conservative who would change the system, who would bring business-like techniques,” Brokaw said. “Now, you are facing a $15-billion deficit here in California. Unemployment is running at about 6.8 percent; you’ve got the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression. If you were the CEO of a public company, the board would probably say, ‘It is time to go.’”

And, no, that wasn’t a one-off crack; Brokaw kept up the grilling.

I haven’t watched any of the Sunday Morning Soaps™ (c’mon, folks, that’s what they are) for more than a decade. Maybe I’ll tune in on Brokaw.

Mmm, coffee!

Everything you wanted to know and more about java is in Michaele Weissman’s steamy new pageturner, “God in a Cup,” reviewed by Salon.

The book is also everything you wanted to know and more about the obsessive hunt for the perfect cup.

And, it also tells you that things like fair wages for coffee farmers do work:
The third-wave coffee guys, happily unfettered by degrees from Wharton, decided the only way to ensure that farmers earned a decent living was to change the way the specialty business is run. Instead of buying low and selling high, they decided the specialty coffee business had to run on a model that said: Buy high and sell high. These guys — and many older people and women who operate at the high end of the specialty business — are totally committed to increasing what quality-oriented coffee farmers earn. The only way to do this, they say, is to pay more and charge more.

But, that doesn’t necessarily include the touted Fair Trade program:
The irony is that, as a social justice program, Fair Trade ain't that great. To participate in Fair Trade programs, coffee farmers and coffee roasters both pay pretty significant fees.

But, it is a sort of backup insurance in case coffee prices collapse.

Anyway, it sounds like a great book, even if a bit higher than I am on the coffee snob level.

Big lie of omission on U.S. vs Euro birthrates and illegal immigration

And, I’m pretty sure it’s deliberate, which makes it a LOT worse. On page 6 of his NYTimes Mag story “No Babies?”, Russell Shorto (sorry, no e-mail addy for him, but here is a generic one for the magazine) compares America’s relatively robust birth rate of 2.1 to European countries, which range from 1.9 all the way down to 1.3, with 2.1 being the “break-even point.” (Italy could lose half its population, not counting immigration, in less than 50 years.)

Anyhow, here’s the start of the erroneous nutgraf on page 5:
“Europeans say to me, How does the U.S. do it in this day and age?” says Carl Haub of the Population Reference Bureau in Washington. According to Haub and others, there is no single explanation for the relatively high U.S. fertility rate.

WRONG.

It’s an explanation of two parts that neither Haub nor author Shorto may want to tackle, though.

Take a look at the CIA factbook. Mexico, the primary source of our immigration, especially of the illegal variety, has a birthrate of 2.37. Guatemala, possibly the top Central American source of illegal immigrants, has a fertility rate of 3.59.

American-born residents in the U.S. have a fertility rate of below 2.0.

Indeed, it looks like Shorto actually tries to HIDE the immigration explanation on page 8, discussing the higher birthrate in Great Britain vs. continental Europe:
The British situation today seems a far cry from “lowest low,” but it doesn’t mean that immigration is the answer to low birthrates. The actual numbers, according to several authorities, are discouraging over the long run. By one analysis of U.N. figures, Britain would need more than 60 million new immigrants by 2050 — more than doubling the size of the country — to keep its current ratio of workers to pensioners, and Germany would need a staggering 188 million immigrants in the same time period. One reason for such huge numbers is that while immigration helps fill cities and schools and factories in the short term, the dynamic adjusts over time. Immigrants who come from cultures where large families are standard quickly adapt to the customs of their new homes. And eventually immigrants age, too, so that the benefit that incoming workers give to the pension system today becomes a drag on the system in the future.

Ahh, but, what if the immigrants keep coming? Obviously, that’s what’s happening to our south.

The second part of the explanation of “how we do it” also gets ignored — the difference between ethnic groups among American natives in birth rates, as well as the difference in socioeconomic classes, tied with the bigger income gap here than in Western Europen.

Oh, no Mr. Short and Mr. Haub, the explanation is quite easy. You just don’t want to talk about it.

Weeds reflect global warming

A study of a western Maryland organic garden, a suburban Baltimore park and an inner-city Baltimore park, Lewis Ziska shows the future of global warming in terms of everyday flora.

The answer? Especially in central city areas, more weeds, taller weeds, more weed/trash trees and more pollen.

Why? Anthropogenic carbon dioxide benefits weeds more than crop plants.

Also, Ziska and Andrew MacDougall try to get people to think of “invasive” weeds, especially those on the prairies, in a new light — as passengers in, rather than drivers of, changes in fields.

Read the whole story for more insights.

Tightwad companies in UK as well as US

Scottish meat-processing firm Brown Brothers gets the Golden Toilet Award for making people clock out to go to the bathroom.

Of course, just as in a US meatpacking plant, that means removing all your protective gear, etc… which is also supposed to be done off the clock.

June 29, 2008

Bush (George), China, global warming, Jintao (Hu), United States

It could happen, short-term, by the end of this summer. And that would be a first in historical times, and surely the first for myriads of years, not just millennia.

Jintao now says “time is limited” in finding efficient solutions to global warming. He claimed more efficient energy use in China, and more forest cover there, could be keys.

Please. You’re drowning your forests under dams, and what you’re not drowning, you’re chopping down, or leading the search to denude places like Indonesia.

As far as energy efficiency, regional party leaders simply laugh at most environmental directives out of Beijing.

Robert Thurman spins myths and lies about Tibet and Dalai Lama

People like Robert Thurman (father of actress Uma) are why Christopher Hitchens, in “God is not Great,” was prescient to tackle the foibles and worse of Eastern as well as Western religion.

Thurman, the first American to be ordained as a Tibetan monk, has a few untruths about China vis-à-vis Tibet:
The Chinese have been brainwashing their people into thinking that Tibet is an inalienable part of their territory. No Chinese people lived in Tibet before 1950. Zero. It’s absurd they claim that they were there.

I don’t disagree with the first sentence at all; no country has an “inalienable” right to ANY of its current territory. That’s like believing in the “end of history.”

That said, “zero” Han Chinese in Tibet before 1950 is a flat lie. The implication that pre-1950, Tibet was never part of the land holdings of any Chinese dynasty is also a lie.
The Chinese have been brainwashing their people into thinking that Tibet is an inalienable part of their territory. No Chinese people lived in Tibet before 1950. Zero. It’s absurd they claim that they were there.

I don’t disagree with the first sentence at all; no country has an “inalienable” right to ANY of its current territory. That’s like believing in the “end of history.”
(Question): In a recent article Slavoj Zizek argued that the Tibetans are not necessarily a spiritual people — that we’ve created that myth out of a need to imagine an alternative to our crazy Western consumerism.
Zizek is simply misinformed. It’s leftist propaganda meant to legitimize China’s aggression in Tibet.

No, it’s a very thought-provoking argument. While not justifying Han Chinese aggression, it should be noted that, pre-1950, Tibet was a feudal theocracy that, if not Afghanistan, arguable had as much in common with the 13th-century Brabant as the modern world.

Thurman goes on to talk about being breast-fed by Dick Cheney as his mother in a previous life, and how Freud would regard such a search for enlightenment as “infantile regression.”

Well, Freud could be right at times.

Obama pander to Hillaryites flops

Like the proverbial blind pig and acorn, MoJo Dowd halfway makes sense in talking about the Obama-Clinton Unity-fest. Here’s the clueless line from Obama:
As Obama tried to ingratiate himself with the Hillary partisans in the crowd by saying that because of the New York senator, his daughters “can take for granted that women can do anything that the boys can do and do it better and do it in heels,” Carmella put her fingers in her ears.

As Obama tried to curry favor with Hillary, looking over at her sensible, sturdy shoes and marveling, “I still don’t know how she does it in heels,” Carmella (Lewis) tore up a tissue and stuffed it in her ears.

The line may have been funny 50 years ago, to society at that time, when uttered by a third-party in comparing Ginger Rogers to Fred Astaire.

In the first-to-second person, by Obama, at least as written out, it sounds like a lead balloon.

Of course, we have one humonguous hypocrisy alert by Dowd, for actually trying to appear to care about a woman’s issue.

For more, see my Hypocrisy alert tag.

Intelligence not necessary to be an A-list liberal blogger

Proof? Ezra Klein doesn’t understand why apartment rents didn’t increase along with housing prices during the bubble:
No one's shocked to see we had a housing bubble, but I'm a bit surprised that rents were totally unaffected. In theory, the run-up in costs should've made it relatively more profitable for landlords to sell, thus depleting the rental stock, and forcing renters to stay competitive by paying more. That didn't happen, though I'm not sure why.

Uhh, Ezra, it’s called the demand half of supply and demand. More people buying homes means fewer people wanting to rent, which means apartment owners can’t raise rates.

Even a communist like me knows that.

New explanation for Tunguska 1908

Instead of being caused by either a meteorite or a comet (and NO, not an alien spacecraft), the Tunguska explosion of 1908 in eastern Siberia may have come from inside the earth. Sounds like it’s worth further research, at least.

Mexican-American split personality?

No joke, no snark, no bashing. Bilinguals, especially if each language tracks with a different culture or social group, may have two personalities:
People raised bilingually and biculturally often unconsciously adopt different behavior and personality traits, depending on which of their two languages they're speaking, according to a study released Thursday.

Per other details of the study, folks at Telemundo, American companies with strong Hispanic markets and such will all be studying the research carefully and avidly.

Obama lists three benchmarks for his term – fat chance

First, of course, you have to be elected.

But, let’s assume that, for argument’s sake. Given your cave on FISA, your back-step on gun control, your opt-out on campaign finance and your continue to fund the war in Iraq, will you really achieve what you targeted in Politico? (Toggle the full/summary link for the post to “full,” and the comments are just below:
“If I haven’t gotten combat troops out of Iraq, passed universal health care and created a new energy policy that speaks to our dependence on foreign oil and deals seriously with global warming, then we’ve missed the boat. Those are three big jobs, so it’s going to require a lot of attention and imagination, and it’s going to require the American people feeling inspired enough that they’re prepared to take on these big challenges.”

Well, specific to these three, as I already mentioned, you continue to vote for war funding. Plus, your own plan allows for “reinjecting” combat troops, and doesn’t define what “combat troops” mean. (Remember, we had “advisors” in Vietnam before “combat troops.”)

On national healthcare, wiser heads than mine, starting with Paul Krugman, have pointed out you don’t call for national healthcare right now.

And, deal seriously with global warming? Try stopping your suck-up to clean slightly less dirty coal.