August 02, 2008

U.S. allegedly protected Karadzic

A Serbian paper is reporting, via AFP, that until 2000, the CIA was on the down low with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, as long as he withdrew, and kept withdrawn, from political life.

What happened then? He was caught on cell phone talking with old associates.

There’s some HUGE questions to be answered.

1. How high up in the CIA was this known?
2. Who officially signed off on it?
3. And, the biggest, who knew about it outside the CIA? Clinton Administration members could be sitting on a land mine.

Personal refrigerators, coffee makers and microwaves will also be verboten from classrooms if the new policy is adopted.

Beyond trolling to child-level Nietzsche; behind trolling, sociopathy

The real hard-core trolls of the Internet get a more-than-sympathetic look from The New York Times Magazine.

First note – if dead trees are migrating to electrons for the purpose of more and more articles like this, well, then, contrary to defenders of the Net as the greatest thing since sliced Gutenburg Bibles, it’s more of the same, spread thinner, with a different pastiche, that’s all.

That said, it’s said that übertroller Jason Fortuny has this horrendous past:
“Am I the bad guy? Am I the big horrible person who shattered someone’s life with some information? No! This is life. Welcome to life. Everyone goes through it. I’ve been through horrible stuff, too.”

“Like what?” I asked. Sexual abuse, Fortuny said. When Jason was 5, he said, he was molested by his grandfather and three other relatives. Jason’s mother later told me, too, that he was molested by his grandfather. The last she heard from Jason was a letter telling her to kill herself. “Jason is a young man in a great deal of emotional pain,” she said, crying as she spoke. “Don’t be too harsh. He’s still my son.”

And still hasn’t learned empathy. Maybe, he hasn’t even learned much in the way of self-empathy.

That said, Fortuny is wrong on page 6, when he claims the solution to trolling is to stop giving trolls attention. “Amateur-level” trolls will move on, to be sure. But, I think the Fortunys of the world will simply pump up the troll volume in an escalation of their demands for attention. I have no doubt Fortuny would do that himself. And get scarier as he did so, sort of acting out all the abusiveness he suffered himself.

Author Schwartz himself notes that “None of these methods (for controlling trolling) will be fail-safe as long as individuals like Fortuny construe human welfare the way they do.”

Also in the story is Weev; his child-level “Nietzschean” (for lack of a better term) pseudointellectual riffs on the world are on his LiveJournal.

“Deeply veiled gnosis.” What a load of crap.

Not-so-deeply-veiled narcissism would be more accurate. What a putz. But, behind the putz, I suspect is someone who also has a history of an abusive childhood. For one thing, I don’t think his racism came out of the blue.

Hu Jintao gets ‘Groundhog Day’ treatment from Bush

President Bush must have thought he was meeting Vladimir Putin again for the first time, and not Chinese President Hu Jintao, judging by these fawning comments:
“I enjoy the man,” Bush said in an interview with the Post and other Asian press at the White House before his trip to the Beijing Olympics next week.

“I find him to be a straightforward guy. I’m very comfortable in his presence, and we will talk about the kind of issues we always talk about.”

Did you look into his eyes and see that you could trust him?

Just what George Bush are we talking about?

The NYTimes, in the midst of an otherwise excellent editorial on the Postville, Iowa, meatpacking raids, has the following HUGE clunker:
The harsh prosecution at Postville is an odd and cruel shift for the Bush administration, which for years had voiced compassion for exploited workers and insisted that immigration had to be fixed comprehensively or not at all.

Even Bush I was forced to sign the family leave act under Congressional pressure.

Bush II was the president who had the EPA lie about conditions at 9/11 Ground Zero so workers inhaled asbestos.

Bush II was the president who gave massive tax cuts to the rich while opposing a minimum wage increase.

Obama threatens to go Kumbaya on offshore oil

Well, it’s been a month since the FISA collapse, so I guess maybe it’s about time for him to go soft on something else. But, he should know better than to believe he can negotiate with Repubs and Big Oil on an issue like this.

Now that he’s compromised, they’re going to smell blood in the water.

It would be another thing if he had talked about making a real compromise after getting elected.

But, you never surrender your positions in advance on issues like this.

That said, the compromise he supports, per the story, could be OK. It’s not great.

It does repeal Big Oil tax breaks, but from what I read, there’s nothing in the compromise specifically redirecting that windfall to renewable energy tax breaks.

And, if Obama wants to show more leadership, he can try to “steer” that compromise, too.

It’s called “projection.”

Dems need to eyeball offshore drilling as campaign issue

Why?

Well, if 51 percent of Californians favor offshore drilling, this is an issue that’s gaining traction. Even 35 percent of California Dems in the poll favor it, up 6 percentage points from a year ago.

The ‘Big Chill’ could hit Cedar Hill classrooms this winter

At its most recent meeting, the Cedar Hill School Board discussed setting a district energy policy for the upcoming school year. If passed, that energy policy could include this:
A district energy policy, which Chief Financial Officer Mike McSwain presented to the board for initial reading, would ban space heaters in classrooms, among other things.

Personal refrigerators, coffee makers and microwaves will also be verboten from classrooms if the new policy is adopted.

The energy policy in general seems to presume teachers and students are cold-blooded. It calls for classroom air conditioning to be at 74 degrees, but heating at just 65 degrees.

If you're a basketball or volleyball player, though, you get the extra winter comfort of 68 degrees in gyms.

I think 67, while offering energy savings a degree off 65, would be good enough. That said, at older school buildings, space heaters might be an electric safety issue as much as an energy issue.

McCain behind Iraq war push conspiracy?

Raw Story stars connecting the dots about the Bush Administration’s use of the October 2001 anthrax attacks for beating the drums of war against Iraq.

The key is from this Think Progress post.
On October 18, 2001, McCain appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman. When asked how the war in Afghanistan was progressing, McCain volunteered that the invasion of Iraq would be the “second phase” of the War on Terror. He preyed on the public’s fear at the time by claiming that the anthrax “may have come from Iraq” …

Concluding the interview, McCain warned once again that Iraq was next. “The crunch time will be if – and emphasize if – we have to go after Iraq, and then that coalition could be strained,” he said.

There you go – Schmuck Talk Express™ the warmonger.

August 01, 2008

Two new arms – no Frankenstein

In the world of medical wonders, German surgeons have just performed the world’s first double arm transplant. Doctors from the surgery, which lasted 15 hours, will need as long as two years to get use of the transplanted arms — if that happens.

There’s no guarantee, of course.

Ted Rall – three big fixes for the newspaper biz

And, given the recent cratering numbers at major seven-day dailies, we all know they need help, right?

Anyway, here goes three fixes that a lot of bloggers wouldn’t like:
• First: newspapers should go offline.
• Second, copyright every article in the newspaper.
• Step three: cut off the wire services.

I generally agree on all three.

Bloggers would howl about No. 1. If they howled enough, they’d pay a subscription.

A-list bloggers would howl about No. 2. But, if they’re making enough money, and newspapers form an equivalent of ASCAP or BMI via the National Newspaper Association, A-list bloggers will pay.

But, as Rall notes, Step 2 ain’t just about bloggers. It would kick TV and radio stations in the nads, too.

Step 3 would cut off the Googles and Yahoos, including the Yahoo that, er….

Carries Rall’s column every week!

Rall notes this wouldn’t work unless the NNA, or possibly, the AP Managing Editors, to force NNA’s hand, adopts this as official policy.

FCC gives Comcast slap on wrist

The big cable and broadband Internet provider was cited by the Federal Communications Commission for various violations of Net Neutrality.

But, “cited” is all. No fine. The “sanctions” are that Comcast is on a 30-day clock to describe planned changes in management policies to address the allegations.

With Republicans a majority of the commission, though, the non-fine agreement was probably the only way to get Chairman Kevin Martin join the two Democratic commissioners for a 3-2 vote.

The violations include Comcast blocking BitTorrent.

Comcast denied any violations and is claiming it’s looking at a court challenge. FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell agrees, claiming the commission majority overstepped the legal bounds of its powers.

Friday scatblogging goes aquatic

SCAT, the Southern Crescent Aquatic Team, is doing a fine job in the pool.

Friday scatblogging — hike at your own risk








The sign above, in British Columbia, ain’t joking. (And, I’ve camped at Fort Steele, with my dad and sister, in high school, 30 years ago.)

Three years ago, when I was hiking in Banff National Park, I saw the signs which require people hiking backcountry to be in groups of six or more. It’s for their protection, as Canada has never had a documented grizzly attack on a party that size. It’s also for grizzlies’ protection, especially sows with cubs, so that single individuals strung out all along backcountry trails don’t stress them out.

And, they’re serious about it. Per Parks Canada, violations of the six-person backcountry requirement can draw a fine of up to $2,000 (Canadian.)

For the blog post that gave me the sign, read Terrierman.

And, speaking of that, I’m headed on vacation in less than two weeks. Don’t know if I’ll get up to Banff again, but I am looking at Yellowstone and maybe Glacier.

Reason 644 not to shop at Wally-World

Your “low prices everyday” money could help elect Republicans.

And, not just your dollars, just your physical presence, as store managers, per Bentonville, Ark. Marching orders, are supposed to lobby the shopping public to vote GOP.

Reason 902 not to send more troops to Afghanistan

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence was the mastermind behind the July 7 bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

It’s criminal, and for you, Obama, per a 2002 speech, a stupid war to send more troops into A-stan under such conditions, unless you’re prepared to do a Ted Rall and invade Pakistan.

In addition, the story makes clear that Pakistan’s new government (and probably Musharraf before that) has/had little control over ISI, especially vis-à-vis its al Qaeda and Taliban links.

Schmuck Talk Express™ might be ‘projecting’ his own urges

Why is Schmuck Talk McCain linking Britney Spears and Paris Hilton to Barack Obama?

It’s called “projection.”

Cindy McCain’s getting old.

Britney, and especially Paris, have even more money than her.

It’s a no-brainer!

July 31, 2008

Science briefs — life-producing diamonds, skinny mice

First, in a variation on the old clay-crystals theory of crystals as a template for early building blocks of life to assemble themselves, German research says diamonds could have turned the trick.

Second, a relatively new drug can make fat mice skinny — without exercise.

Ethics? Is this bad, especially if the “skinny” doesn’t lead to better cardiovascular health? Is this another not-so-good American quest for easy, instantaneous solutions to the problems of life?

Dalai Lama not ‘all that’ for younger Tibetan Buddhists

Many object to his acceptance of a middle way as an acceptable form for Tibet’s future.

Without forsaking nonviolence, younger Tibetan Buddhist monks want full independence for Tibet, not autonomy. Well, that ain’t gonna happen.

And, given the definition of how one becomes the Dalai Lama, he can’t appoint a successor in advance, either.

Dodgers not ‘winners’ with Manny trade – and neither is Manny

Maybe they needed Ramirez to make box office splash after the Angels acquired Mark Teixeira, but contrary to Steve Henson, that doesn’t make the Dodgers “trade winners.”

Rather, I agree with Tim Brown on the reasons this trade is overrated.

Dodger Stadium is a clear pitchers park in general, and in spades compared to Fenway. Along with that, his defensive limitations will be more exposed in the larger Dodger Stadium.

Manny’s never played in the NL before.

It will be easier to pitch around him in the Dodger lineup than it was in the Bosox order.

There’s no DH position to give him a rest from OF duties. (After two years of slim duty at DH, Manny has played one-third his games there this year.)

In spite of all that, Manny’s agent, the brilliant NOT Scott Boras, got the Dodgers to waive his two option years, which were for more than $20 mil each.

Manny will not have a good second half of the year, will start looking old, and, even given the stupidity of baseball owners, will be hard pressed to get more than $20 mil on the free agent market next year.

The Bosox?

Well, Jason Bay is a better defensive outfielder. He’s generally healthier than Manny.

And, in the Boston lineup, he WILL get better pitch views than he did in Pittsburgh.

Plus, he adds a touch of speed, not blazing, but mid-level speed, to the Boston lineup.

The ownership society is unhealthy — literally

In Texas, at least, one of the key components of President Bush and other alleged fiscal conservatives and their “ownership society” has been health savings accounts.

Well, they’re pretty unhealthy here and everywhere
Today, with only 5 percent of the 114 million Americans covered at work opting for such health plans, their future is in question. In Texas, regarded as the birthplace of the HSA, only 387,000 people have signed up out of the 12 million with employer-provided insurance.

Hmm, at 3 percent, Texas is below the national average, even!

The reason HSAs are flopping like a Texas catfish in summer heat?

Lack of employer support:
To be successful, an HSA must have employer support, said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas. “If employers don't put money in the HSA, all you have is a high-deductible plan” — something unlikely to appeal to many employees, he said.

Given that Schmuck Talk Express is likely to tout HSAs as part of the solution to American healthcare needs, this bears watching. Indeed, that’s already happening:
Mr. Goodman said high-deductible plans get at the heart of the health cost problem — overuse of medical services by people who, if they paid with their own money, might decide against that trip to the doctor.

“If a mother wakes up in the middle of the night with a sick child, we want her to think about the cost of the emergency room visit," said Mr. Goodman, dubbed by many the “Father of Medical Savings Accounts.”

Mr. Goodman is now a health policy adviser for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

But, as noted elsewhere in the story, HSAs favor the healthy. And richer.

And, at least here in Texas, there’s yet another problem. Insurance companies (shock me) not passing on all the savings:
Kevin Whitney, chief operating officer for Dallas-based Flexible Benefit Group Inc., … said that HSAs should be cheaper and that insurers are not passing on the savings from the fewer claims they get.

Read the full story; it’s a good one.

Oh, and the insurance issue? IMO, we need federal regulation of insurance companies. A no-brainer.

Yet another reason Texas needs to can constables

Amend the state constitution and delegate the jobs to sheriff’s deputies. We’ll save a bunch of money around the state on elections, and on reduplicative constables’ offices in metropolitan areas like here in DFW. And, we’ll get rid of budget-fluffing crap like here in Dallas County:
Civil deputy positions are funded based on the number of civil papers served. Under the county’s longtime staffing formula, constables get one officer for every 200 papers served, which include subpoenas, writs, eviction notices and lawsuits. The more papers a constable serves, the more deputies he gets.

But county officials say they recently learned the constables have been inflating their numbers.

For example, a deputy constable that goes to the office of CT Corp., a registered agent for hundreds of companies, to serve 50 lawsuits at once counts that as 50 papers served.

Get rid of the office of constable. Amend the constitution and get rid of it.

Unneeded in the 21st century.

Canada kills electric car

Transport Canada said a low-speed (30 mph) electric car was unsafe for city streets.
Dynasty got started after the federal government in 2000 created the new Low Speed Vehicle classification for electric cars restricted to 40 kilometres an hour on city streets.

But, 50 kph, although faster than that, apparently ain’t good enough. Nor was a $15,000 (Canadian) price tag, which made the cars affordable for all. A 30-mile battery life was decent.

It’s “nice,” or sad, to see that anti-green government officials are north as well as south of the border.

In this case, it’s actually worse north of the border. U.S. rules allow such types of electric cars.

Exxon — record profit without growth

Sounds like an oxymoron for the company that broke its own previous profit record, but that’s the word on a company that NETTED nearly $12 bil in the second quarter of this year.
“They are not growing,'” said Philip Weiss, an analyst at Argus Research in New York. “Production is becoming more and more of a concern. For these guys, access to reserves is a very big issue.”

And, here’s the details of that:
Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, 56, is spending $52 million a day to search for new fields after reserves fell in 2007 by the most in at least a decade. Exxon Mobil plans to start 12 projects this year that will pump the equivalent of 411,000 barrels of crude a day, more than the daily output of Prudhoe Bay, the largest U.S. oil field.

ExxonMobil and shills such as Dan Yergin can continue to deny Peak Oil all they want. It’s real, and it’s happening right now.

And, that said, ExxonMobil has a bit of wolf-crying, too:
Exxon Mobil generates about $27 of cash flow from each barrel of production, 21 percent higher than the industry average, Gibbons said. The company was the most efficient oil and gas producer among its peers, yielding almost $3 of cash flow for every $1 spent, he said.

So, cry me a river all the way to Prince William Sound, Rex Tillerson.

Controlling birth control, or abortion by any other name …

Would simply be called “birth control” by most Americans.

However, Bush’s Department of Health and Human Services is not “most Americans.”

A draft version of a proposed HHS rule would, in essence, call birth control pills, and IUDs, among other things, “abortifactants,” and deny federal funds to hospitals that prescribe them.

Carnival of the Liberals is now up

Unlike many blog carnivals, CotL has a “cut,” like in golfing. Only the top 10 submitted posts each fortnight, per the host blogger’s choice, make the cut. Well, yours truly is is on the beam.

The qualifier? My post of about a week ago, about the long Salon story about how Passive Pelosi™, the ACLU, et al, have been talking for a year about a new Church Commission and haven’t done jack with it.

For more about Carnival of the Liberals, Carnival of the Godless, and other blog carnivals, see the PSA ad at bottom of the right-hand rail on the blog.

Passive Pelosi™ gets punked on FISA again

President Bush has asked that all review of the FISA renewal sellout Pelosi and other Congressional Dem 45 percenters helped pass be kept secret.

BushCo also asked that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court only accept legal briefs from the Department of Justice. In other words, it’s trying to bar the door to the ACLU, EFF, etc. The ACLU asked earlier this month that the FISC ensure any proceedings related to the FISA amendments be “as transparent as possible.” (The ACLU is seeking a court ruling declaring the law unconstitutional in the Southern District of New York.)

Yep, Pelosi and The Gang that Couldn’t Legislate Straight decided to trust Shrub again!

Bush has pot on brain

President Bush and the Department of Just-Less apparently just can’t stand the idea that a casual toker might be having fun. So, at today’s Barney Frank-Ron Paul hearing on a new marijuana decriminalization bill, three BushCo thugs had to crash the party. Per Raw Story, it sounds like a “Reefer Madness” moment.

July 30, 2008

What restaurant is next after Bennigan’s?

To tighten ship, or even close, that is.

Locally, here in Cedar Hill in particular and the Best Southwest part of suburban Dallas in general, we have several representatives of the top candidates among restaurant chains to close at least some individual restaurants, if not have company-wide troubles.

In general, think of the casual/semi-casual dining type and you’ve got the idea: from Red Robin at the low end through Cheesecake Factory and on to Brinker, the parent of Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, On the Border, Olive Garden and Red Lobster.

Why?

Anthony Mirhaydari says its because the current recession is shaping up to be more like the Carter-Reagan recession than the H.W. Bush or Clinton-Shrub recessions. I agree.

Both those recessions did not have oil or food prices as drivers. And, neither lasted as long as the Carter-Reagan one.

Beyond that, let me weigh in with some other observations.

Too much overlap.

How different, really, are Olive Garden (Darden’s) and Romano’s (Brinker’s)? No, I’m not encouraging restaurant company collusion, just making an observation.

For that matter, within Brinker’s, how much difference is there between Romano’s and Maggiano’s Little Italy?

As for Bennigan’s? The signs were there a month ago.

Larry Lewis – your five years at Lancaster ISD are about up

Not quite five years ago, on Sept. 30, 2003, rightfully embattled Lancaster ISD superintendent Larry Lewis made this pledge:
“Give me $75 million in February, and I will give you the best school district in the nation in five years.”

Well, Larry, you got your $75 million in the February, 2004 bond election.

And, guess what?

With the closure of Wilmer-Hutchins ISD, consensus of opinion, TAKS scores and more is that Lancaster is the worst school district in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Yes, you may have made gains there, but they’ve been gains at a lower rate than any other school district in the Metroplex.

In other words, you’re not even treading water in your region, let alone “the best school district in the nation,” you’re falling further behind every year.

Delta cheats on bag fees – look below for best deals

Sure, you can still take your first checked bag on Delta for free. But, the second one? It’s now $50. Along with the “airline apartheid” of applying only to coach and not first class.

And, that ain’t all.

Check out the monster fees for third or oversized bags. It’s now $125 for a third bag!

Here’s a Check out the great chart of airline-by-airline comparisons.

Summary? Southwest and Alaska are your best bets.

Rove contempt vote means nothing

So the House Judiciary Committee has finally voted to hold Karl Rove in contempt.

Big deal.

We know that Attorney General Mike Mukasey won’t enforce it.

And, we have no evidence so far that House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, let alone Speaker Nancy Pelosi, aka Passive Pelosi™, has any desire, guts or cojones for a showdown from using Congress’ inherent contempt powers.

So, it’s meaningless.

More proof? Last December’s Senate Judiciary contempt votes for Rover and Josh Bolton.
The panel’s ranking Republican, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who has been extremely critical of the Justice Department, voted in favor of the contempt citations “knowing that it’s highly likely to be a meaningless act,” as he put it then.

You are correct, sir!

Delta cheats on bag fees

Sure, you can still take your first checked bag on Delta for free. But, the second one? It’s now $50. Along with the “airline apartheid” of applying only to coach and not first class.

And, that ain’t all.

Check out the monster fees for third or oversized bags. It’s now $125 for a third bag!

Here’s a Check out the great chart of airline-by-airline comparisons.

Summary? Southwest and Alaska are your best bets.

Frank and Paul want to decriminalize pot –let’s do more

If their House bill becomes law, up to 100 grams (3.6 ounce) of marijuana would be decriminalized, as would “personal transfer” of up to 1 ounce.

It’s good as far as it goes, but it could do better. Move marijuana off Schedule 1 classification of controlled substances.

I mean, stuff like various forms of opium, methodone, morphine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), amphetamine, methamphetamine and phenobarbitol are all on the list of allegedly safer Schedule II drugs.

WTO collapse – not all ‘developing countries’ are the same

In light of the apparent collapse of the Doha round of WTO talks, that the poorer of the developing nations, such as sub-Saharan African countries, aren’t blaming the developed nations of the world, such as the U.S. and other G8 members, the rest of the E.U., etc.

While I in no way claim to be an expert on international agricultural trade issues, and I of course don’t give a blank check to U.S. trade policy, I think in this case India bears as much blame as the U.S. for torpedoing the Doha round over its insistence on a higher cut from the special safeguard mechanism. Worth noting is that, in the longer term, the cut percentage that was on the table could help other countries more than India.

That said, you can’t but expect that the Tier I developing nations – India, China, Brazil, Argentina, etc. – would look “downward” as well as “upward” in trying to figure out what was best for themselves out of Doha.

Dear Turkey – can you redirect a few bombs to one Richard Perle?

Note to Ankara: While you’re bombing Kurdish rebels inside Iraq, can you also drop a few “stray bombs” on Richard Perle’s potential Kurdish oil leases?

More seriously, what’s to stop these Kurdish rebels from doing what Nigerian rebels do, and threatening oilfields to extort money… money for arms, etc.?

Pseudoflap over Ron Founier in liberal blogosphere?

Talking Points Memo flags, as do many other liberal blogs, I’m sure, the Politico story that AP Washington bureau chief Ron Fournier mulled an offer last year to join the McCain campaign.

But, TPM won’t tell you what’s further down in the Politico story, and I suspect other big-name liberal blogs are practicing similar omerta on this:
The revolving door between journalism and partisan politics has turned faster in recent years. Among the most prominent recent converts is veteran journalist Linda Douglass, who joined Barack Obama's campaign in May, fresh from reporting on his campaign for National Journal.

National Journal ain’t quite the AP, but, nonetheless, the sword cuts both ways.

This should not be taken as a defense of Fournier, and certainly not of his Karl Rove e-mail.

Per Politico, yes, it’s private sector to private sector, but in an ideal world, we’d have laws similar to the lobbying laws preventing journalists from immediately working for politicians, at least Beltway journalists.

Josh Marshall misses the point at TPM, but, because he’s ultimately a Democratic blogger, that’s to be expected.

This is really a reflection on the Republican-Democrat duopoly and the press’s part in it.

Another Smithsonian bone to pick — PC agriculture

This time, it’s about the famous, or infamous, Columbian exchange of agriculture, goods, etc. between “New” and “Old” Worlds.

In writing about “A Passion for Tomatoes,” Arthur Allen gets into some editorializing.
The tomato … is a product of what is known as the Columbian exchange, that unequal sharing of genetic material following the conquest of the New World. The Old World got tomatoes, potatoes, chocolate, squash, corn and peppers. The new one got coffee, sugar cane and cotton—and the African slaves to cultivate them—as well as smallpox, measles and other previously unknown contagious diseases that devastated the native population.

Several counterpoints.

1. Some Indian tribes had slavery.
2. Indians also got the horse, cow, sheep, goat and hog, which, if you count ranching as well as farming, transformed New World agriculture just as much as the other way around.
3. The New World (though Indians rarely grew it) also got wheat, which thrives on the American plains. And, it got melons and a variety of other fruits.
4. While the New World got the worst of contagious diseases, the tentative consensus is that it sent syphilis, if not in as virulent a form as today, to the Old World.

So, Mr. Allen, try to be a little less one-sided, next time.

July 29, 2008

Show Pete Sessions – and ‘little Petey’ – the money AND the ladiezzz

Dallas’ most obtuse Congressman just took a turn for the worse, soliciting money in the “beautiful town”of Las Vegas.

How beautiful? Here’s the homepage of Forty Deuce, the “burlesque club” where Sessions was raising his money…

And “raising” who knows what else. A “beautiful town” can have plenty of soft inducements to raising … whatever.

Hey, every conservative should have a “Patriot missile” ready to “rise to the occasion,” right?

Did Pete the “bad Congressman” ask for a little “personal discipline” out there, too? Did he leave a “tip” for any ladies?

And, given Sessions’ recent honor from Focus on the Family, just what does James Dobson think of this?

Given that Dr. Dobson is engaged in his own personal oral obscenities by trying to justify his pending endorsement of John McCain, his mouth is probably too full to talk right now.

So much for the mythical American Indian environmentalist

Rotting caribou carcasses say the myth isn’t always true — not today, and it wasn’t true in the past. This isn’t “white man’s corruption.”
Hunters from the villages of Point Hope and Kivalina are suspected of massacring more than 100 caribou and leaving at least half of them to rot on the tundra earlier this month, according to Alaska Wildlife Troopers.

Investigators arriving at the scene found a total of 120 carcasses scattered along a 40-mile trail about 25 miles east of Point Hope, prompting them to call the killings "by far the worst case of blatant waste" they have ever seen, according to a trooper spokesperson. …

Point Hope is an Inupiat Eskimo village of 700 people 330 miles southwest of Barrow, an area considered one of the longest continuously occupied in the state.

Read the rest of the story for more. It is pretty disgusting.

Domestic spying ‘fusion centers’ start with Clinton

Again, I’m not downplaying the much more egregious illegal domestic spying by the Bush Administration. But, pages 4-5 of a special ACLU report (PDF) on so-called “fusion centers,” putting elements of local, state and national police surveillance under one roof, show this started WELL before 2001.
The San Diego Union-Tribune recently exposed a scandal linking a police task force called the Los Angeles County Terrorism Early Warning Center (LACTEW) to an intelligence fiasco that can only be described as a “perfect storm” of the problems identified in the ACLU’s November 2007 fusion center report.

This one has it all:
• Spying on religious groups in violation of the First Amendment
• Military involvement in domestic spying in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act
• Police officers and military personnel engaged in illegal activity to further their
perceived intelligence mission
• A lack of security over classified material and a lack of oversight over the activities
of “trusted” insiders
• The reported involvement of private defense contractors
• Excessive secrecy that shields all the other problems from public view

LACTEW, established in 1996, has often been described as the first fusion center. It has also been recommended as a model for others to emulate.

Would that emulation include theft of documents by Marines, for monetary purposes?

Would that include, as the second Union-Trib article noted, confirmed by the ACLU, the use of the military for domestic spying, contra Posse Comitatus Act?

Again, Bush has raised this to a whole new level, but Clinton opened the door.

It gives more background to the FISA vote of Passive Pelosi™ and the Democratic 45 percenters now, doesn’t it?

Kick a rabid Blue Dog out of the party …

Glenn Greenwald says it’s time for the Democrats in Congress to boot the Blue Dogs.

Greenwald argues, quite unconvincingly, that the Blue Dogs are to blame for the Democratic “cave” to Bush on FISA, Iraq and more. His bottom line:
At the moment, the Blue Dog contingent is dominant in the Democratic caucus and drives much of what the caucus does. The more Blue Dogs there are in the Democratic caucus, the more dominant they will be.

Uhh, Glenn, Pelosi and Obama personally voted for FISA. On FISA, 45 percent of House Dems voted in favor.

This is far more than a “Blue Dogs” issue.

Or let them lie?


Ed Kilgore (shock me) sayslet them lie.

But, per what I noted above, Kilgore reinforces that Congressional Dems’ progressive shortcomings are more than a Blue Dog issue:
According to Congressional Quarterly's (subscription-only) voting analysis, House Democrats achieved the highest level of party unity in history last year, with 92 percent sticking together on party-line votes (as compared with the low of 58 percent back in 1972). Senate Democrats' party-unity rating in 2007 was 87 percent, just below their all-time high of 89 percent (achieved in 1999 and 2001), and far above the levels common in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.

In other words, Passive Pelosi™ and other House leadership should look in the mirror before applying their boots to anybody else.

Beyond that, Kilgore claims that intraparty challenges to incumbents on the basis of ideology don’t often work.

Dallas no longer cheap place to live

Dallas tied with Seattle for having the highest inflation rate of major cities in the first half of this year. Per Forbes:
Annual Inflation June 2008: 5.82%

Annual Inflation January 2008: 4.33%

Annual Inflation June 2007: 1.05%

There just isn't much you can do if you live in Dallas and want to conserve energy. Driving is a way of life and even with Texas' high oil refining capacity, the city is so spread out that residents are traveling long distances. Add in the summer heat and humidity, and Dallas citizens are pumping the air conditioning non-stop.

Now, a linking MSN article notes that if a city is starting from a good affordability index, the inflation issue isn’t such a big deal.

But, the flip side to that is that low wages accompany low affordability here.

Beyond that, Sunbelt cities like Dallas contribute to people being fat.

How fat? An extra 10 pounds for men, 6 pounds for women.

Black AIDS rates in U.S. approach Africa

In D.C., for example, 5 percent of the population is HIV-positive.

I agree that the feds need to provide more funds for treatment and prevention, as well as for education and information. But those funds won’t do a lot of good unless a fair-sized subsector of African-Americans doesn’t get over homophobia, especially as driven by black churches. (And, despite being liberated enough to have an AIDS ministry, Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s conspiracy theories on the cause of AIDS, also held by many black Americans, don’t help.)

Gay sex “on the down low,” with bisexual partners then infecting women, is a major vector for the spread of AIDS among blacks.

Bennigan’s folds

The restaurant chain, headquartered in suburban Dallas, is shutting its doors.

Bennigan’s, with locations in 32 states, had previously shut low-performing locations like the one in Cedar Hill, Texas, and been facing bankruptcy rumors.

Khelil is right that geopolitical tensions have some influence on oil prices. But not that much.

Obama WRONG to say Muslim issue ‘no-win’

Barack Obama claims the Muslim rumors are a no-win issue.

Well, he’s wrong, in large part because he established a false dichotomy.

He said he can either say nothing and let them bore away, or fight them, and make it look like being a Muslim is bad. (See Arab-Americans, Detroit, taken off camera at Obama rally.)

There’s a third option. It’s called calling out the Muslim comments as bigotry.

I touched on this in more depth in a recent op-ed column for my day job. In that column, I said Obama should say:
“I'm not a Muslim, but so what if I am? Did we have this same whispering campaign eight years ago against our first Jewish vice-presidential candidate? No. I implore Americans of all political stances to reject outright such political bigotry, especially as directed against our nation's second-largest organized religion.”

Why hasn’t he?

For such an allegedly creative thinker, Obama sure ISN’T on this issue.

He can even say this:
“American people are more tolerant and open minded than a lot of the pundits give them credit for”

And yet not think of a third option, like the one I proposed a month ago.

Oil will NOT be $78 a barrel

I don’t care what OPEC President Chakib Khelil claims.

Khelil is right that geopolitical tensions have some influence on oil prices. But not that much.

As I blogged recently, Iran issues probably add about $10/bbl to oil’s price and Nigeria another $5. You could throw in another $10 for invading Iraq and $5 for increased US military use of oil and that still only gets you down to $95 from the actual price of $125, and I suspect I’m crediting too much to Iraq.

Belo deathwatch: The Quick is now the almost-dead in Dallas – as is Decherd’s brain

The Dallas Morning News’ grab-and-go five-day daily, modeled on similar publications in Chicago, is now going to be an entertainment-focused weekly.

Given that 20-somethings can find that already in the Observer or online at Pegasus News, I can’t see where this does anything but aim Quick straight for an early death.

And this new Briefing? If younger wealthier subscribers want a local newspaper, it’s either the Observer or maybe their suburban weekly, depending on how good that is.

Basically, Belo doesn’t have a clue and is grasping at straws.

Especially not when A.H. Belo (print side of the old Belo Corp. media combine) Chairman Bob Decherd utters a truism like this as supposed brilliant insight:
“The key to long-term success is revenue generation,.”

No shit? I’ll bet some of the 14 percent of people you are firing to try to justify your massive CEO salary bet they had thought of that.

Ryanair crashes

Maybe the British budget airline economic model isn’t foolproof after all.

No, it isn’t. And Ryanair’s idea of cutting fairs to recoup its losses is pounding sand down a rathole.

The story points out that, in addition to the selling of advertising space on planes, etc., Ryanair makes money through package deals like rental cars, etc. Nonetheless, relying on cattle-car volume to prop up unprofitable routes doesn’t make sense.

Hear the flip-flops of Schmuck Talk

John McCain’s latest flip-flop is far from minor. Anybody familiar with the history of the modern Republican Party in general and George H.W. Bush in particular should know better than backing off a no-new taxes pledge, but that is exactly what Schmuck Talk Express™ is doing.

And, it’s not just any tax. Schmuck Talk wants to raise FICA taxes. Given that the Grover Norquist type fiscal conservatives, and Shrub the Insignificant in the White House, want to privatize Social Security, a Republican talking about raising Social Security taxes is pretty clueless.

It’s also another Schmuck Talk Flip-Flop against his own staff:
When Obama announced his plan June 13, McCain's top economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, told reporters that as president McCain would not consider a payroll tax increase “under any imagineable circumstance.”

Why does McCain even HAVE an economics staff when he’s always going off on his own, anyway?

Big fire in DeSoto


Most of one unit at Brookhollow Apartments in DeSoto, suburban Dallas, was destroyed Monday night by a multiple-alarm fire that led to multiple units also being called out from neighboring Duncanville and Cedar Hill.

Look in DeSoto Today this week, also online, for details about cause and damages of the fire

July 28, 2008

Is Novak right on Obama?

Bob Novak delves into
the basic questions, such as, why can’t Obama crack 50 percent?

That’s especially a hot-topic question when Novak himself has no trouble reading the obituary of John McCain:
Not even Bob Dole's dismal candidacy in 1996 generated less enthusiasm in GOP ranks than McCain's current effort. In winning the nomination this year, when he had been counted out after the disintegration of his campaign structure, McCain showed more fortitude than skill. He was blessed by a weak field of Republican competitors, who eliminated each other and left McCain as the last man standing.

Is it the “Bradley/Wilder effect,” or similar? Novak hints so:
Obama’s difficulty in reaching the 50 percent mark reflects an overwhelmingly white undecided vote of 10 to 15 percent.

Say what you will about Novak’s political stances, or his hairsplitting personal part in the Plame affair, but he usually knows what the hell he’s talking about in terms of political analysis.

Obama’s own campaign staff can “smile, smile, smile” all they want, but on the inside, they have to be “worried, worried, worried.”

In short, I agree with Novak. I don’t know what’s causing the problem, but I know there’s a problem.

Another dumb BushCo idea – get rid of gas tax?

Transportation Secretary Mary Peters wants to “wean ourselves from the gas tax over time.”

First, kiting this idea without proposing a replacement for the gas tax is pretty dumb.

Second, you can bet one of the ideas in the collective brain of BushCo is going to be more toll roads.

MoveOn — movement or sellout?

Chris Hayes has a great news analysis piece about this at The Nation.

His shorter version is that MoveOn never has been as radical as the O’Reillys of the world claim, the BetrayUs ad aside, and that, for this reason, the question in my header may need more nuance.

But, the conclusion of the “shorter Hayes,” nonetheless, is that one could reasonably call MoveOn a sellout.

Beyond that, Hayes does a good job of pointing out that MoveOn’s time may have come and gone.

Chertoff plays media for suckers

ABC is a good example. It devotes a two-webpage story to the potential for increased terror activity this summer, with so many “high-profile events,” and has this comment buried in the middle of the first page:
The Department of Homeland Security is quietly [my emphasis] declaring a Period of Heightened Alert, or POHA, a time frame when terrorists may have more incentive to attack.

So, it’s “quietly” when ABC writes a two-page story? And, that’s not the worst:
At the moment, the nation's public threat level will remain at yellow, or “elevated,” but not orange, or “high.”

The reasons: There are no specifics indicating an attack on the U.S. is imminent, and U.S. officials do not want to be accused of trying to inject themselves into the presidential campaign.

No, they’re not going to “inject” themselves into the campaign.

They’ll just “quietly insert” themselves.

McCain passes Obama in Gallup poll

So, what does it really mean that John McCain is now 4 points ahead among likely voters?

Probably not a lot. But, maybe something.

First, has enthusiasm for Obama changed the “likely voter” definition? What about the cell-phone issue with polling?

Maybe it shows nothing more than the volatility of voters this far in advance of election day.

Or maybe it shows that GOP social conservatives are starting to circle the wagons, even if not with much enthusiasm.

Why SHOULD taxpayers pay for primaries?

Michael Bloomberg, in the midst of his petulance, has a point. Courts have repeatedly ruled that political parties are private entities. Also, inasmuch as in many states, you have to be registered with a party affiliation to vote in a primary, it’s arguably… wait for it…

taxation without representation

for people like me to fork over dough for Repubican and Democratic primaries.

Olympics ads — good or bad idea for Obama?

Barack Obama’s idea of running campaign ads during the Olympics has potential, but has more potential to spin its wheels, I think.

First, ads in the Olympics are pricey.

Second, you gotta be good to get name recognition off Olympics ads.

Third, how much research are you doing on target audience and demographics? Are you targeting individual sports, such as basketball?

California takes prison lesson from Texas

Yes, that is hard to believe, right? But it is… on prison integration.

And, I did not know Cali segregated prisoners,

But, that’s about to change .

California officials think it will be good in the long run; both black and white inmates, for the most part, think it will increase racial tensions. Here’s a ray of hope, from Texas:
Race has long been a factor when sorting and classifying prisoners, said Chad Trulson, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of North Texas.

Today, most cells are segregated, he said, but several inmate lawsuits have brought about changes to these unofficial policies. That was the case in Texas, which once housed members of different races in separate prisons. A suit prompted integration of the prisons in the late 1970s, and the policy was extended to individual cells nearly a decade later.

Trulson, who studied the aftermath of Texas's integration and is now advising California officials, said violence spiked initially but then subsided.

“Over the next decade and beyond, what we found is that violence among integrated cell partners was no more likely than violence among cell partners who were segregated by race,” he said.

On the other side, California has overcrowding Texas didn’t, and a larger prison gang population.

Another dubious BushCo record

Breaking its own previous top mark for largest budget deficit in history.

Bush officials are already blaming the tax rebate “stimulus” checks for the size of the deficit, while ignoring the $80 billion (by official reckoning) in off-budget spending for Iraq.

Kevin Drum is a DLCer

This post of his last week, approvingly linking to Tyler Cowan and his claim that immigration doesn’t depress wages – without distinguishing between legal and illegal immigration – was the light-bulb moment.

OK with illegal immigration depressing wages? Hiding that fact by refusing to talk about illegal immigration? Check?

OK with “free” trade but won’t ever talk about fair trade? Check?

An Iraq war hawk who never really has apologized for his stupidity? Check.

Democratic Leadership Council, American neoliberal, however exactly you want to parse it, Drum is it.

Of course, so is his employer.

How WM ever settled on him, I don’t know. Atrios (Duncan Black) has government experience and an economics graduate degree. Josh Marshall had a history master’s and journalism experience before starting TPM. Don’t start me on Orange Satan.

No need for new power plants

Joe Romm, a Clinton Administration expert on energy issues, says we don’t need any new power plants if we will just get serious enough about conservation.
A 2007 report from the international consulting firm McKinsey and Co. found that improving energy efficiency in buildings, appliances and factories could offset almost all of the projected demand for electricity in 2030 and largely negate the need for new coal-fired power plants. McKinsey estimates that one-third of the U.S. greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 could come from electricity efficiency and be achieved at negative marginal costs.

Romm notes new building standards in California is already showing how this could be done nationally. I agree. New home building ordinances across the nation, mandating high insulation standards, use of recycled materials, etc., would be a serious step forward.

Along with that MUST go, as in California, close inspection. (One in seven houses in a new development gets inspected for energy issues out there. California already has a reputation as being a stickler on structural inspections.)

Another benefit? Costs of energy efficiency, per kilowatt-hour, are only about one-fifth as high as from building new power plants.

On the corporate side, Romm cites Dow Chemical, which has an annual energy efficiency contest.

Beyond that, Romm says the energy return can happen quickly and at high scale:
In my five years at DOE, working with companies to develop and deploy efficient and renewable technologies, and then in nearly a decade of consulting with companies in the private sector, I never saw a building or factory that couldn't cut electricity consumption or greenhouse-gas emissions 25 percent to 50 percent with rapid payback (under four years). My 1999 book, "Cool Companies," detailed some 100 case studies of companies that have done just that and made a great deal of money.

Read the full story, for more, including how to ramp this up to the federal level.

July 27, 2008

Is Evolutionary Psychology the new sexism, or the new Social Darwinism?

Note – per a blog post earlier this week, I once again have clearly explained the difference between Evolutionary Psychology and scientifically investigatable evolutionary psychology.

Here’s the link to my evolutionary psychology label; a few of the more illustrative individual posts. Several of these are especially illustrative of how Ev Psych approaches, if not goes beyond sexism … and no, you Ev Psychers, not just beyond a social construct called sexism, but, beyond sexism.
Women’s improvement in gaming refutes Ev Psych;
Ev Psych claims for sarcasm are “stretched” (mainly by ignoring cultural evolution);
The stereotypical male-female math gap can be reversed;
Susan Pinker plays wrongly plays down workplace sex discrimination;
Definitional questions EvPsych, and, to a lesser degree, ev psych, leave undefined;
The core of the differences between Ev Psych and ev psych.
Some serious snark about Ev Psych riffing on Leibnitz’s “best of all possible adaptationist worlds”;

And,finally, David Buller’s seminal article on the subject at Scientific American. (To you Ev Psychers who dismiss him as “just a philosopher, what do you do with Dan Dennett, then?)

Read his book, too.

Or, a decent but not really good read is Richard Francis’ “Why Men Won’t Ask for Directions.”

On the flip side, in this post about behavioral economics, among several posts, you’ll see how I praise evolutionary psychology. Just not Evolutionary Psychology.

Do NOT e-mail me, or comment to this post, that I am against evolutionary psychology, lowercase, until you’re read that post, at least, and perhaps others on my blog in general.

That said, I do propose that capital-letter Evolutionary Psychology does threaten to become the new Social Darwinism, and with a political bias to it, too, at least in some cases.

Steve Pinker admitted as much, near the end of “The Blank Slate.”

He told political liberals that they needed to accept the reality of what he said was “evolutionary psychology” (and what I say is Evolutionary Psychology), deal with it as best they could, and adjust their political prescriptions accordingly. Pretty political to me.

The other reason I think that threatens to be Social Darwinism is its focus on sexual differences. By arguing that men have dominated societies in the past (not true, as far as I can see, before the invention of agriculture), capital-letter Ev Psychers give the appearance, at least, of telling women today to accept the glass ceiling, accept secondary status in society, and deal with it – because it’s all normal.

And, if you’re not prepare to describe why you personally, if you do, focus so much of your ev psych discussion, or especially, your Ev Psych discussion, on sexual selection issues, move on. Because that WILL be part of the dialog and investigation from my end.

A book with a few thoughts on that is Robert Sapolsky’s “Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals.”

In fact, let me excerpt a few sex-specific comments from my Amazon review of Sapolsky, by page number:
63. In a study with ducks, with attractive males, it actually appears that the female invests more energy in the egg, laying a larger egg when impregnated by an attractive male. (The egg size is under female control.)
Both of these should put some question to old stereotypes about peacock tails being signs of fitness and so increasing mating, etc. At the least, they should caution us to look for more nuanced explanations.

177. In many species, females in some way manipulate alpha-male type males into fighting over them, to go off and mate with more "nice guy" types.

Some more food for thought.

And, I’m not going to even bother linking to the recent story showing girls do as well on math as boys, which undercuts one of Ev Psychers’ favorite male-female difference talking points.

Beyond that, with true, lower-case ev psych, there’s plenty of things to talk about in the evolution of the human mind, not the “male” or “female” mind.

I mean, look at Scott Atran’s “In Gods We Trust.”

There’s books on behavioral economics; the effect of evolutionary psychology on Homo economics is certainly not small. (Don’t forget to allow for cultural evolution here, too, though.)

Enough said.

On the coffee table: ‘President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman’

William Lee Miller shows there is indeed something new under the sun to be written about Abraham Lincoln.

From my Amazon review:
Miller had an almost throwaway line about halfway through the book where he stated his opinion that Lincoln was the most intelligent president we've ever had, bar none – not even Jefferson.

And, by the time I got done, I came to the impression that this statement (with which I heartily agree) was the fulcrum of the whole book.

Miller breaks Lincoln's Civil War activities down into easily reviewed and analyzed chunks, and in doing so, parses, pulls out, and displays Lincoln's intelligence undergoing presidential growth, meeting the challenges and rising to the occasion.

For more about this and under books I’ve been reading, visit my Amazon reviews.

Se habla Español in vuestras escuelas?

Federal judge William Wayne Justice ruled Friday that the Texas Education Agency has not done enough for the education of bilingual students, and its’ now on the clock. The TEA has until January to submit a plan to Justice to remedy what he sees as state shortcomings.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. MALDEF pointed at scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills as proof the state had not improved the education of bilingual students at the secondary level.

Justice reversed his own 2007 ruling, which looked at K-12 education overall and did not focus on secondary education.

MALDEF also alleged that bilingual programs were inadequately monitored.

Word is that the Lege had hoped to focus the 2009 session on transportation issues, with that being the sunset year for TxDOT, and push any major education issues back to 2011.

With this on the agenda, that’s going to open the floor to other education related items.

And, while I know that house and senate committees meet regularly in the off years, let me once again point out the stupidity of a legislature representing 20 million people meeting only every other year.

Sidebar – while Justice’s ruling applies only in Texas, MALDEF is going to be pushing other states with growing Hispanic populations to get on the ball, too

Imagine there was a Jesus born 100 years early

Let’s say there was a “Jesus,” but it was the Yeshua put to death as a Pharisaic religious and political rebel by Hasmonean king Alexandar Jannai in the 70s BCE, per the Jewish historian Josephus.

Huh, you may say, if you’re not familiar with this.

But, if there is any sort of Jesus of history behind both the Christian gospels and rabbinic legends, he may have lived 100 years earlier than claimed. Wiki has a brief synopsis here.

Then, per Rodney Stark’s theory that Christianity, without miracles, and based on the 175-year history of the Mormons, could grow at 40 percent a year, with a starting point of 100 Christians at the time of Jesus the Pharisee’s death, we would have had about 12,000 at the time of the great fire of Rome in 64 CE.

Stark’s book that explains his growth rate idea in more detail is here.

Given that Rome’s population was about 1/50th of the empire, this would have put about 240 Christians in Rome. That would have been 1/5,000th of the city’s population, or 0.05 percent. Would that have been enough to catch Nero’s eye, whether or not they were actually troublemakers?

Per the original view of when Jesus lived, and Stark’s theory of Christian growth, the empire would have had about 1,500 Christians at the time of the fire of Rome. A mere 30 Roman Christians probably wouldn’t have been enough to draw a letter from the apostle Paul. It certainly, as 1/40,000th of the city’s population, would have been below Nero’s notice.

See this June 2008 blog post for thoughts on how a newly-discovered Jordanian building, alleged to be a Christian church and alleged to date from the middle of the first century CE, would support my contention, setting aside obvious Jordanian tourism reasons to stretch the truth here.

How did Linens ’n Things AVOID bankruptcy so long?

Linens ’n Things officially filed for bankruptcy this spring, as I noted here.

The store in Cedar Hill, suburban Dallas, where I work as editor of a suburban community newspaper, is among those being closed by the parent company.

Right now, their closeout sale is at 30 percent off on most items.

I dropped in and shelf-shopped last night.

I purchased nothing, but gained a whole new level of skepticism for “power shopping.”

I don’t get how a story like Linens EVER had a viable business model.

Even at 30 percent off, their small appliances, like coffee makers, are more expensive than at Fry’s. And, at 30 percent off, their touted Egyptian cotton towels are more expensive than similar ones at WallyWorld.

Image, I guess, is that powerful for many people. It just shows how true behavioral economics is.

Kenneth Copeland has a lot of ’splaining for Grassley

That would be Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, who, earlier this year, asked Copeland and other evangelist$ to appear before the Senate. The goal was not punitive, but to better understand financial organization of megachurches with large electronic ministries, so as to see if IRS code needed to be restructured. Well, Copeland, along with the others, refused to appear, and was one of the most vigorous in his refusal.

Now we know why.

Land use kickbacks to family members. Sweetheart land sales to family members. Too many family members holding too many insider jobs. Board members fobbed off with sinecures.

Plus, Copeland has veto power over everything. Literally.

No wonder Copeland doesn’t wan to appear. He’s probably breaking IRS regs as it stands, and doesn’t want to give it any “fingerprints” via Senate Finance Committee testimony.

The full story has all this financial ugliness and more.