August 09, 2008

Krugman has good advice for Obama

Per Paul Krugman’s latest, Barack Obama should just forget the idea that light-hearted, satirical mockery of John McCain’s campaign commercials will wipe out whatever hold they have on people’s minds.

Krugman focuses on the offshore drilling push, characterizing the GOP line as “Drill here! Drill now! Drill here! Drill now!”

Think again, Krugman says to the Obama mindset, and look at recent polling changed by McCain’s ads:
According to one recent poll, 69 percent of Americans now favor expanded offshore drilling — and 51 percent of them believe that removing restrictions on drilling would reduce gas prices within a year.

Think again, Krugman says, and look at recent past history:
Republicans, once hailed as the “party of ideas,” have become the party of stupid. … In the case of oil, this takes the form of pretending that more drilling would produce fast relief at the gas pump. … Is this political pitch too dumb to succeed? Don’t count on it. Remember how the Iraq war was sold.

Read the full column; the last graf clearly tells B.O. to forget the idea of Kumbaya bipartisanship.

CIA official for phony Habbush memo fingered

Via Raw Story, Ron Suskind has posted a transcript of his interview of former Deputy Chief of Clandestine Operations Robert Richer.

Suskind himself notes that it goes against normal journalistic practice and is something he’s never done in 25 years, but that the amount of White House pushback about Suskind’s story that the White House forged a document, allegedly from Saddam Hussein’s chief of intelligence, Tahir Jalil Habbush, claiming Iraqi connection with Muhammad Atta and other 9/11 actors.

Here’s Richter, in black and white:
“Now this is from the Vice President's Office is how you remembered it--not from the president?” Suskind asked.

“No, no, no,” Richer replied, according to the transcript. “What I remember is George (Tenet) saying, ‘we got this from’ — basically, from what George said was ‘downtown.’”

“Which is the White House?” Suskind asked.

“Yes,” Richer said. “But he did not — in my memory — never said president, vice president, or NSC. Okay? But now — he may have hinted — just by the way he said it, it would have — cause almost all that stuff came from one place only: Scooter Libby and the shop around the vice president.”

“But he didn't say that specifically,” Richer added. “I would naturally — I would probably stand on my, basically, my reputation and say it came from the vice president.”

Well, Richter, your reputation has been staked. Too late to try to pull it back.

Read the fullRaw Story account for more background, then head to Suskind’s webpage of book interview transcripts.

Blame Georgia, not Russia, for South Ossetia problem

Whether it was an official Georgian government-organized incursion or something unofficial, by mid-level Georgian government or military officials, it’s pretty clear Georgians invaded South Ossetia on the hope Russia would be distracted by the Olympics, or otherwise would not respond quickly for some reason, and have been roundly disabused of their delusions.

As usual, A Fistful of Euros shows it’s worth at least that much as a European news and opinion blog.

About that pot grown on federal land

Much of the marijuana in places like California’s Sequoia National Forest isn’t hippie homegrown stuff, or even sophisticated pseudohippie stuff, but comes from complex operations run by Mexican drug cartels, according to U.S. government experts.

Supposedly, its getting hard enough to smuggle pot across the border that the cartels are setting up inside the U.S.

My chicken has a first name, it’s S-T-A-P-H

An Arkansas Pilgrim’s Pride chicken hatchery has at least eight employees that have Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus i.e, have antibiotic-resistant staph infections.

Reportedly, the eight have been sick on and off for about a year. Who knows how many MRSA chickens Pilgrim is raising.

It’s all due to overfeeding antibiotics, of course.

And, the eight actually just seems to count those who are on leaves of absence right now. One anonymous employee claims that he/she and more than 30 other coworkers have had MRSA.

August 08, 2008

Dallas connection to John Edwards affair

The Dallas Morning News reports that Dallas lawyer Fred Baron paid housing and relocation expenses for Rielle Hunter to move from North Carolina to an undisclosed location.

Baron claims Edwards knew nothing of the arrangement.

Uhh, um, sure.

At this point, I wouldn’t believe if someone from John Edwards’ campaign told me what time of day or night it was.

McCain has no business questioning Obama ‘readiness’

The worst 2005-07 voting record in the Senate besides Tim Johnson, recovering from a brain aneurysm? Check.

Lack of Senate accomplishments? Check.

Lack of House accomplishments? Check.

Lack of military accomplishments, other than wrecking three planes and getting a fourth shot down? Check.

That’s just the biggest points in the non-record of Schmuck Talk Express™.

When it gets warmer, it pours

Global warming is doing a rain-riff on the old Morton Salt slogan.

Combine the heavier rains with monsoon patterns in the tropics and the number of small tropical islands already worried about global-warming induced sea level rises and … well, I hope you get the picture.

Fannie Mae craters

A $2.3 billion with a B second quarter loss.

Looks like the federal bailout program could get triggered soon if this keeps up. And, since housing prices nationwide could drop another 7-9 percent before the end of the year, there’s more and more of a “triggering” push on the horizon, methinks.

Or, to put it another way, the only stocks lower than Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac right now are Big Three automakers.

Ivins case — where’s the motive?

While depression, or more serious mental illness, if true, may be an explanatory factor in lowering inhibitions that “normal society” has in mind, it is NOT a motive.

Even in criminal cases involving an insanity defense, the mental state is an exculpatory factor, not a motive.

Now, if we had a specific act, connected to mental condition, like Ivins writing a “Taxi Driver” letter to the Princeton chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, we’d have motive. But we don’t have such a thing and never will. If it existed, the FBI would be trumpeting it.

Justin Raimundo, before going a bit around the bend, notes that the government seems intent on playing this up as the pervert angle on Ivins.

Ditto as far an anthrax vaccine and motive.

The only way that mere work on an anthrax vaccine could be considered as motive would be if Ivins had been psychiatrically diagnosed as suffering Munchausen by proxy.

And he hasn’t.

Otherwise, if we had information that Ivins had talked to Pfizer or Glaxo about commercial production of a vaccine he had developed, then we’d have a motive.

Again, though, we have no record of such talks, because they obviously didn’t happen.

Beyond that, it looks like the FBI is throwing crap at the wall and seeing what sticks, such as claiming that Ivins’ ardent pro-life stance is a motive.

I’m not alone in asking these questions. One of the anthrax letter targets, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, is asking the same thing. Supposedly, Leahy met with FBI director Robert Mueller late Thursday, but so far, nobody’s talking about what was said.

And, per Vermont Public Radio, Mueller may or may not tell us more, saying more details may be released in the future.

Well, Sen. Charles Grassley wants him to start talking NOW, along with Attorney General Mike Mukasey, not just about Ivins but also about the botched deliberately heavy-handed investigation of Steven Hatfill. He’s got an 18-point questionnaire on the subject is a motive.

Key points:
1. Was there a polygraph of Ivins? If so, show it.
2. Who besides Ivins, of the more than 100 people who had access to anthrax strain RMR 1029, was provided custody of samples sent outside Fort Detrick?
3. What, if any, late-night video surveillance did Fort Detrick have?
4. If the FBI now believes (or claims to believe) Ivins’ mental health was such a factor, when did it first know about his mental health history and why did it not focus attention on him instead of Hatfill then?
5. What more are you going to release?

Grassley’s phone number is 202-224-3744. Call him and comment him for the effort, and to stay the course.

Oh, and beyond Hatfill, let’s not forget the FBI’s botched deliberately heavy-handed investigation of botched deliberately heavy-handed investigation of Steven Hatfill. He’s got an Richard Jewell.

Maybe some of Ivins’ relatives could try suing the FBI over wrongful death by forced suicide.

Electric rubber? How shocking

Japanese researchers have produced a form of rubbery polymer that’s an electrical conductor rather than an insulator.

The stuff, made from carbon nanotubes, bends and flexes like real rubber.

Among possible applications? Wiring for joints in limb replacements, as well as various consumer electronics.

Not a slim American around

In 40 years, that is. At that time, all Americans could be overweight.

Some food for thought, if you will:
“We are terribly, ominously off-course,” says Dr. David Katz, co-founder of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “To close the gap, we need to fix everything that’s broken — from neighborhoods without sidewalks, to the high price of produce, to food marketing to children, to misleading health claims on food packages, to school days devoid of physical activity and school cafeterias devoid of healthful offerings. The list goes on and on.”

Others cite individual responsibility for diet and lifestyle habits. Dr. Neal Barnard says dietary modification could be a crucial step in solving the problem.

“U.S. eating habits are nowhere near where they should be,” he says. “The average American eats 50 pounds more meat and 20 pounds more cheese per year, compared to the 1960s. ... I would strongly encourage Americans to adopt more vegetarian meals.”

Now, assuming he has a whole-grains focus, I agree.

Beyond that, it’s intellectual laziness. Foods have been labeled with at least basic health information for what, 30 years or more?

And, intellectual laziness by parents is hurting their own innocent children.

If this prediction becomes true, it’s in part because obesity problems may start as young as 2 years old.

Ayad Allawi — phony CIA memo conduit

Joe Conason makes a compelling case for former Iraqi premier Ayad Allawi being the conduit for phony Tahir Jalil Habbush memo the CIA allegedly concocted.

There’s a key timetable element – Allawi was at CIA HQ in Langley the week before the Sunday Telegraph in London “broke” the story about the memo.

Allawi would have plenty of reason to benefit, above all by boosting his name in U.S. political infighting vs. Ahmed Chalabi.

Another Bush greenwash lie

Two years after announcing the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off the northwest Hawaiian Islands, President Bush has cut its cleanup budget 80 percent. Meanwhile, as you can clearly see, the oceanic trash that he won’t pay to clean up (let alone push for tougher international standards to combat) continues to pile up.

And, it’s only getting worse. Ocean currents bring an estimated 57 tons of garbage and discarded fishing gear to the 10 islands and the waters surrounding them each year.

Meanwhile, debris removal has fallen to 35 tons a year since the islands became a monument, about a third of the 102 tons that boats and divers collected on average before that, including junk that was already there, according to the story.

So, Bush’s touted ownership society was actually doing the right thing until he came along and made it all fubar for a greenwash image before the 2006 midterms.

August 07, 2008

Is Obama the end of black politics?

That’s the provocative title of Matt Bai’s new piece in the New York Times mag.

Here’s the cornerstone of the story, from page 2:
The generational transition that is reordering black politics didn’t start this year. It has been happening, gradually and quietly, for at least a decade, as younger African-Americans, Barack Obama among them, have challenged their elders in traditionally black districts. What this year’s Democratic nomination fight did was to accelerate that transition and thrust it into the open as never before, exposing and intensifying friction that was already there.

On the final couple of pages, Bai deals with the issue of whether being the country’s first black president could be constraining on Obama in some ways.

He offers no answers, but, this and other open questions he raises, in the broader context of the future of black politics, are ones worth discussing.

Hold the phone more on Bruce Ivins

I blogged yesterday that Gerald Posner questioned the guilt of alleged “anthrax terrorist” Dr. Bruce Ivins.

Now, the Wall Street Journal weighs in with more questions.

Way down in the seventh graf, the article notes that the FBI has yet to postulate a motive for Ivins, if he was the anthrax attacker. Related to that is both the lack of a suicide note and what appears to be a facile assumption that Ivins’ suicide reflects the biblical proverb that “the guilty flee when nobody pursues.”

Well, in the case of depression, sometimes the innocent flee tyranny and bullying, even if the “fleeing” is life-ending.

From there, the story goes to the biggest evidentiary issues:
More than 100 people had access to the anthrax in question, a larger number than many had previously believed. The FBI didn't find any anthrax spores in Dr. Ivins’s three cars or in his house.

As a result of these and other issues, scientists in this field are split on the strength of the evidence.

The New York Times adds more thought on the issue of scientific skepticism, in the last few grafs.

So, too are some Members of Congress skeptical:
New Jersey Democrat Rep. Rush Holt, who was briefed by phone by FBI Director Robert Mueller, said there are “still big questions” about whether Dr. Ivins acted alone. “So maybe there is still a murderer at large.” Mr. Holt's district is home to some of the anthrax victims and to the mailbox where the letters were mailed. “My measure of when we can call this case closed is when the people of central New Jersey ... feel that they have closure. I would say so far it's probably not good enough to put all their fears to rest.”

Read the whole story. It’s got information on how Ivins could have accessed his lab late at night, with graphics, and more.

And, yet one other telling point against the airtightness of the government’s case — why isn’t either FBI Director Robert Mueller or Attorney General Mike Mukasey hogging headline space and microphone airtime to announce the conclusion of this allegedly successful investigation?

Fred Phelps now has to bug Canada too

Not satisfied with antics such as protesting U.S. servicemen’s funerals, the Revvvvvv. Fred Phelps plans to go north of the border this weekend, after claiming God is punishing Canada through the death of Tim McLean Jr., beheaded on a Greyhound bus last week.

As the story notes, it’s not the first time the Revvvvvv. Phelps has played ugly American in the Great White North.

The Revvvv. and his “church” aren’t the only ugly Americans on this issue, though. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ranks equally high in the stupidity scale, claiming McLean’s murder by an allegedly emotionless Vincent Li was no worse than animal slaughterhouse operations.

Maybe the Revvvvv. Phelps could go to a PETA meeting and protest all the gay animals in nature. Or PETA could go to Phelps’ church and protest that his Scofield Reference Bible is leather-bound.

Hamdan gets 5.5 years, or six months

Salim Hamdan got a sentence of five and a half years, but with time served, that’s six months left.

Or does it?

Per the AP story:
It remains unclear what will happen to Hamdan once his sentence is served, since the U.S. military has said it won't release anyone who still represents a threat. The judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, said Hamdan would likely be eligible for the same administrative review process as other prisoners.

But, six months puts us into a new presidential administration. So, this will have to play out by ear.

I won’t drink to that!

More Americans than in the past, even younger Americans, are becoming moderate drinkers rather than bingers. And, the number of non-drinkers is increasing as well.

Flip side? No decrease in the rate of alcohol addiction or alcohol-related disorders, such as alcoholic cardiomyopathy or alcoholic cirrhosis.

Texas RR Commission chair Williams good for a laugh

From the “I get newspaper e-mails” division …

Michael Williams, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission and the Governor’s Competitiveness Council, is clueless, disingenuous or something.
In November 2007, Gov. Rick Perry created the Governor’s Competitiveness Council. … As chairman of that dynamic group, I had the pleasure of reporting our findings to Gov. Perry at the Competitiveness Council Summit on Aug. 6.

As a starting point, we discussed the current strength of the Texas economy, which can be credited in large part to our business-friendly economic climate. This climate has drawn a large number of new companies and encouraged existing Texas companies to expand. As a result, Texas continues to lead the country in job creation while nationwide unemployment has risen. …

In conjunction with this report, the council also drafted the Texas 2008 State Energy Plan. Without significant reforms in how we acquire and generate energy, especially electricity, Texas will be incapable of succeeding in any of the previously identified industry clusters.

Energy costs have increased, requiring Texans to dedicate larger percentages of our income to keep the lights on, drive to work and to run our stores and factories. It, therefore, becomes critical that Texas formulate an energy policy that keeps the lights on, keeps energy rates competitive, and continues to draw business to Texas.

While the document proposes more searches for alternative/renewable energy, it also touts clean coal and offshore drilling.

That’s bad enough.

The glaring problem is it refuses to address deregulated electricity rates, which will surely promote an anti-business view of Texas, if companies who move here have employees getting summer sticker shock, as this story indicates.
“The high bills in Texas demonstrate what a huge mistake deregulation has been," said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the consumer group Public Citizen in Austin and a staunch opponent of the process.

“The Legislature created this monster, and only they can change it, but they won't unless they hear from citizens.”

With Texas having the hottest summer since 1998, at least, and a population that’s grown at least 25 percent since the Legislature passed dereg in 1999, elected officials do need to hear from the public.

That’s contrary to business libertarian bushwah like this:
“These prices aren't about deregulation and the market — it's about natural-gas prices and limiting of other options of producing power like limits on coal and nuclear,” said Bill Peacock, director for the Center for Economic Freedom with the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

“We will see the benefits in time, and you can't go back on deregulation.”

Would those benefits include electric companies scamming customers?
Betty Garza was incensed last month when she opened up her power bill: a whopping $682, her highest ever, and about half of her monthly house payment.

Garza called her power provider, Stream Energy, and discovered that the rate she had locked in had expired. She said she should have received advanced notice that the lock-in period was ending.

How many other start-up electric companies are doing this to how many other customers?

Meanwhile, Williams and Gov. Helmethair, Rick Perry, apparently still aren ‘t giving up on the Trans Texas Corridor, either. More from Williams:
Even with our current strength, the Council recognized several
significant economic disconnects that will stunt our growth if they are
not closed. They include a transportation infrastructure that is ill-prepared to accommodate our ongoing population growth.

That statement has TTC written all over it.

Musharraf to face impeachment – A-stan impact?

The ruling coalition in Pakistan has announced plans to impeach President Pervez Musharraf. In what could be the understatement of the month, the story says this is likely to increase political instability in Pakistan.

To me, this underscores even more the stupidity of sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Islamists in Pakistan’s North West Frontier are likely to run even more wild.

That said, could Mushrraf dissolve Parliament (he has the legal authority) to try to beat an impeachment rap? Could the Inter-Services Intelligence stage a coup?

Frankly, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of civil war in Pakistan. Witness this attack on a government post by pro-Taliban militants.

Both Obama and McCain would have to be stupid in spades, and not just pandering to the “Global War on Terrorism” meme, to send more troops to Afghanistan while this is playing out.

Amateur astronomy in the digital age

Today, amateur astronomy can involved sifting through online digital pictures of stars or galaxies, or crunching stellar and interstellar chemical data, just as much as peering through a telescope.

And, it can still produce new findings, such as the new discovery of a “a cosmic ghost” found by Dutch schoolteacher Hanny van Arkel. The finding is significant enough to get Hubble Telescope time next year.

Well, with a 49 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit, Brinker’s obviously hurting.

Bitchslap time for Joel Osteen’s wife

The lawsuit by Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown against Victoria Osteen, wife of the Houston megachurch preacher, is expected to go to trial, with opening arguments today.

To refresh your memory, here’s the background behind Osteen’s alleged assault of Brown:
The misunderstanding occurred when the Osteens boarded the first-class cabin and Victoria Osteen noticed a liquid spill on her seat. She asked one flight attendant to clean it, but the attendant was unable to do so at the time because passengers were boarding. Osteen then asked another flight attendant. That attendant was also busy and instead gave Osteen napkins to clean it herself.

What happened next differs depending on who's telling the tale. According to two written complaints filed by the attendants to union officials, Osteen became angry and barged toward the cockpit saying that she “wanted to speak to someone in charge.” One attendant tried to stop her and she pushed the attendant aside, according to the reports. A second attendant stepped forward and Osteen grabbed that attendant by the wrist and engaged in an argument outside of the cockpit

Touching a flight attendant is a federal offense, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Iloff said that he didn't know if Osteen had touched the attendant.

Osteen was removed from the aircraft and her husband and two children accompanied her. For nearly two hours, the flight waited at the gate as the Osteens' bags were removed. The family later took a chartered Continental flight to Vail, according to a source within the flight attendants union.

Note: No federal charges have been filed in the incident. But, there’s more:
On the Lakewood Church website, Victoria wrote a letter to members calling the incident a “minor misunderstanding” and saying that it was her choice to deplane.

Ahh, let’s compound uppityness with a hypocritical lie.

On the other hand, Brown is coming off looking like a gold-digger with asking for 10 percent of Victoria Osteen’s net worth.

Hell, put the two of them in mud or a Jell-O pit, and have two out of three takedowns, or let jurors judge it on style points.

Better yet, since Rusty Hardin is Victoria Osteen’s attorney, can he get Roger Clemens in there as a character witness? Unless, of course, Roger the Dodger has eyes for any underage Osteen daughters.

Free speech gets cattle corral at DNC

True, protestors in Denver will probably be somewhat closer to the action than for the Republican convention in Minneapolis, but that’s small consolation when confined behind fencing, and all relative anyway.

The “security concerns” that U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger cited are just a scapegoat.

Oh, by the way, I will be flying back from vacation, from Denver, Aug. 24, as conventioneers fly in.

Beijing hopes for a rainy day

In fact, China is trying to create more rainy days. The countryside could use rain as rain, of course, but the capital wants it as an “air shower” to scrub pollution.

Meanwhile, at least in the Sierras and Intermountain West, U.S. pollution (hello, California) seems to reduce rainfall.

Mark 4 degrees for the global warming target?

And, that’s 4º Celsius, not Fahrenheit, according to British professor Bob Watson.

Watson says he fully supports the European Union’s goal of limiting the target increase to 2º C but just doesn’t think that’s realizable.

He’s predicting we have nearly a 20 percent change of hitting 4º C and so should prepare accordingly.

He also worries that Arctic waters could release methane hydrides at that point.

August 06, 2008

Real ‘war crime’ of Hiroshima Japanese refusal to surrender

Besides mourning the use of the world’s first atomic bomb, mourn also the Japanese militarism that required it.

Mourn the Japanese militarism that refused to surrender even after Nagasaki.

Mourn the Japanese militarism that refused to surrender even after Nagasaki and knowing the U.S. had guaranteed Hirohito would stay on the Imperial throne.

Mourn the Japanese militarism that required Hirohito to break imperial/cabinet protocol and demand his war cabinet sue for peace.

Mourn the Japanese militarism that tried a coup against Hirohito to prevent him from announcing to the nation Japan was suing for peace.

War is always hell, as Billy Sherman said. But the Japanese chose to extend hell with incredible irrationality. Beyond everything I mentioned above, the Japanese military knew the Soviet Union was going to attack after refusing to re-up the neutrality treaty, then refusing to continue to act as a go-between with the U.S.

Especially when Japan still refused to surrender after the first bomb, let’s remember where to start the mourning.

Beyond mourning, if you want to call anything a “war crime,” call the Japanese generals’ refusal to surrender a war crime.

And, tell the truth about the alternatives to the bomb.

Yes, a U.S. invasion could have cost hundreds of thousands of deaths. (Not to mention, with the time factor, possibly resulting in Stalin demanding he get Hokkaido, not just the Kuriles.)

A blockade would have had the same international affairs fallout, plus, unless we blockaded the Inland Sea, Japan would have resisted for as long as two full years, yes, with many U.S. naval casualties.

Global weirding

Tom Friedman admits that on climate, the world will get weirder, not flatter. More seriously, his global warming column, by using the phrase “global weirding,” provides an easy catch phrase to explain how climate change is going to make our climate more “dynamic” until we hit a new equilibrium.

Brooks on Obama as outsider

Every once in a while, when he can drop his dual schticks of “Bobo Buddha” and “kinder, gentler, neocon,” David Brooks actually makes sense. And, his column on Obama as outsider certainly does.

It’s not a “dissing” column in any way. Just an analytical column. Here’s the nut graf, which Brooks then supports with a fair amount of anecdotal evidence:
There is a sense that because of his unique background and temperament, Obama lives apart. He put one foot in the institutions he rose through on his journey but never fully engaged.

Perhaps that’s why his become a blank slate for political projectionism, especially among many progressives who are now wondering what sort of pig in a poke they bought.

Obama throws Muslim advisor under bus

Steve Clemons is 100 percent right. It’s cowardly, timid, stupid, and seems to be part of an ongoing record of bending over backward on Muslim issues.

It appears that he still is trying to run from, not confront, allegations that he is a Muslim himself.

In my opinion, as I’ve blogged before, he needs to confront the question, not run away. He needs to call out the bigotry that says there’s something wrong with being Muslim.

Muslims may not vote for McCain, but they can always stay at home. And in swing-state Michigan and Pennsylvania, that has to be a concern.

There goes the ‘surge’ neighborhood

Some 80,000 Iraqi Sunnis under arms and affiliated with the Anbar Awakening could soon be out of work. A joint U.S.-Iraq plan would disband the Sons of Iraq.

Ahh, what brilliance.

So, folks who are armed, have some U.S. military training now, and unemployed are just going to sit on their hands?

God in the dock in Omaha

A Nebraska state senator is suing God.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers says he’s doing it because other Nebraska legislators are trying to block the filing of some lawsuits.

House GOP Twittering about sit-in

John McCain may be clueless about even e-mail, but House Republicans are Twittering away during their ongoing “sit-in.”

The GOPers are using Twitter to broadcast alerts about pending blog posts appearances, quotes and live-time descriptions of the “action” in the out-of-session House.

Airport pet motels

Or “hotels, excuse moi!”

Now, I’ve heard everything. The rich can pay $18-$35 a day to board Fido or Fluffy at a pet hotel at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, if it goes through with plans.

And, apparently, there’s gold in them thar pets.

According to the story, Pet Paradise operates locations at airports in Jacksonville, Fla., New Orleans, Houston (George Bush Intercontinental and William P. Hobby), Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.

Beijing – ‘it’s only mist’

Yeah, President Hu Jintao, tell a marathoner in another week that the soup in Beijing called air is only mist.

Actually, it’s not any Chinese government or Communist Party official claiming that.

It’s Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of the IOC's medical commission.

Read on and see if you agree.

Gerald Posner says ‘hold on’ on Bruce Ivins

I greatly respect the author of “Case Closed,” “Why America Slept” and “Killing the Dream” for his journalistic research and, definitely, for his debunking of conspiracy theories in his JFK and MLK assassination books, “Case Closed” and “Killing the Dream,” the two definitive works in the field.

So, when Posner says wait a minute on fingering Dr. Bruce Ivins as the “anthrax terrorist,” I’m willing to listen.

Part of why Posner doesn’t trust the government case is that social worker Jean Duley, who said she was so worried about Ivins she got a restraining order against him, has a boatload of her own problems. And, he raises this point:
“How does a biological weapons expert with fantasies, supposedly, of mass murder, get to sign himself out of a psychiatric facility, and what’s the deal with this woman?”

Follow the link to find out what “the deal with this woman” is, and to see Posner’s “Countdown” video with Keith Olbermann.

Now, the Wall Street Journal weighs in with more questions.

Update: More thoughts of mine on Ivins here.

NO, NO on Chet Edwards as Veep

This would be, what, reason No. 232 to not vote for Obama. I don’t give a damn if The Dallas Morning News’ Michael Landauer (not the sharpest knife in their editorial drawer, IMO) is flogging him along with 5,000 other people.

First, he voted to invade Iraq.

Second, he was one of the Democratic 45 percenters who voted to amend FISA.

Third, he’s piss-poor on gay rights.

In other words, he’s right with Obama on No. 2, probably somewhere in Obama's neighborhood on No. 3, and had Obama actually been in the Senate in 2002, might have been in Obama's neighborhood on No. 1.

August 05, 2008

Cell phone job-offer scamming

This company has tried, several times, to get me to apply via the Net for one of their jobs like this one. I actually applied, or tried to, the first time I was solicited.

But, it won’t let you apply unless you select the next-to-bottom pulldown on the right and name your cell phone company.

It’s discriminatory against people who have cell phones, and I’m sure it’s somehow illegal. (True, it does let you list “other,” but that’s besides the point.)

Here’s the answer on why this company wants your cell phone number and provider, per Tom Inglesby, who looked at its “about” page:
Wireless Policy

We may use personal information to provide the services you've requested, including services that display customized content and advertising. In addition to any fee of which you are notified, your provider's standard messaging rates apply to our confirmation and all subsequent SMS correspondence. You may opt-out and remove your SMS information by sending "STOP", "END", "QUIT" to the SMS text message you have received. If you remove your SMS information from our database it will no longer be used by us for secondary purposes, disclosed to third parties, or used by us or third parties to send promotional correspondence to you. You may also send an email to with your wireless number and the words “Stop”, “Quit” or “End” in the body to be removed

Detailed Wireless Policy

Data obtained from you in connection with this SMS service may include your name, address, cell phone number, your provider's name, and the date, time, and content of your messages. In addition to any fee of which you are notified, your provider's standard messaging rates apply to our confirmation and all subsequent SMS correspondence. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. We will not be liable for any delays in the receipt of any SMS messages, as delivery is subject to effective transmission from your network operator. SMS message services are provided on an AS IS basis.

We may use personal information to provide the services you've requested, including services that display customized content and advertising. We may also use personal information for auditing, research and analysis to operate and improve our technologies and services. We may share aggregated and non personal information with third parties outside of Career Network. When we use third parties to assist us in processing your personal information, we require that they comply with our Privacy Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures. We may also share information with third parties in limited circumstances, including when complying with legal process, preventing fraud or imminent harm, and ensuring the security of our network and services.

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Those cell-phone number text-spamming scam-artistry bastards!

Anybody else run into this scam?

Maybe Big Biz will finally get serious about ID theft

If you’re a TJMaxx and you’ve had to pay Visa and MasterCard nearly $70 million related to ID fraud, wouldn’t you push the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable or others to overcome financiers’ lobbyists and tighten standards on ID protection?

Is Bayh the one?

Over at Huff Post, Bil Browning claims Barack Obama will name Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh as his vice-presidential candidate tomorrow morning.

Kicking more sand in progressives faces … (not that he ever was totally one).

Update: Bayh denies rumors.

Does Horton hear an end of housing woes?

Fort Worth-based homebuilder D.R. Horton may offer hope that the housing slump is past the worst, as it “only” posted a second-quarter loss of $400 million.

That’s still better than the $826 million it lost for the same period a year ago.

On the flip side, the number of homes Horton sold during the most recent quarter was down 36 percent from a year ago to 6,167.

Chili’s avoids a chill

Last week, upon the closure of Bennigan’s restaurants, I pondered what eateries might be next, and noted that Brinker’s was high on the list of many analysts.

Well, with a 49 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit, Brinker’s obviously hurting.

Well, non-Chili’s restaurants in the chain are, at least.

Macaroni Grill, different story. Brinker is selling its majority interest, and if Chili’s is doing OK, that means Macaroni and other Brinker restaurants ain’t. However, analysts don’t like that Brinker is keeping any share in Macaroni, which means it must really be stinking.

And, Bennigan’s appears to be a harbinger of recession-related restaurant weakness.

The Dallas Morning News story notes Bennigan’s bankruptcy filing was one of four major restaurant bankruptcies during the first seven months of 2008, compared with just two during all of 2007.
“In periods of stress in the industry before, we typically have not seen more than six bankruptcies in a year,” said Ron Paul, president of Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. “And we already have four.”

“We’re well on our way to the most we’ve seen in a single year” since the 1980s, he said, when the economy was roiled by tumbling real estate values and the S&L crisis.

Back to Brinker’s.

Frankly, I’d worry about On the Border, too. It’s got plenty of competition in the Mexican restaurant world, from grab-and-gos like Chipotle below it to, here in Texas, a place like Matt’s Rancho Martinez, a cut above in quality.

Cindy McCain – drug dealer

That’s the argument of a pot-legalization group, arguing the Budweiser Cindy McCain peddles through her beer distributorship is far worse. (Photo by Raw Story.)

The only question I have is the reward amount. Is there some significance to $420?

Does Horton hear an end of housing woes?

Fort Worth-based homebuilder D.R. Horton may offer hope that the housing slump is past the worst, as it “only” posted a second-quarter loss of $400 million.

That’s still better than the $826 million it lost for the same period a year ago.

On the flip side, the number of homes Horton sold during the most recent quarter was down 36 percent from a year ago to 6,167.

Driving while brown could get worse in Denver

A group called Future Denver, connected with the Minutemen and other fun folks, wants to impound the cars of illegal immigrants.

I agree we need to crack down more on illegals, but this will do nothing but waste Denver PD manpower.

Problem No. 1 at Freddie and Fannie – shareholders

With Freddie Mac CEO Richard F. Syron on the hot seat for not showing more due diligence over subprime loans, how familiar does something like this sound:
“This company has to answer to shareholders, to our regulator and to Congress, and those groups often demand completely contradictory things,” Mr. Syron said.

That boils the problems with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae down to a nutshell.

Of course, there’s just a few things that needed to be added to the picture.

First, Syron has made more than $38 million in compensation since 2003 for his “troubles” in dealing with all this.

Second, other than Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and current Treasury chief Henry Paulson playing scolds on Freddie’s capitalization, Syron’s regulatory oversight has been toothless. And, that’s ignoring Bernanke’s predecessor, St. Alan of Greenspan, wanting to pump up the housing world.

Third, tis true that Congress wanted what St. Alan wanted, in spades.

Of course, Freddie is still clueless. Why else, in looking to replace Syron as CEO, would the name of Alan Schwartz, who headed Bear Stearns as it collapsed, be tops on the list?

Cindy McCain — ‘Preserved in aspic’

That’s the best line yet about Cindy McCain.

I call women like that “claymation women” myself, from the amount of makeup they slather on.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Mitchell is right, on Hardball, then the reason he's "out of it" is most likely the age issue.

Now, unlike McCain raising issues directly against Obama, which Joe Klein noted was strategically stupid, Obama (should he raise this issue) would surely have the brains to do it through surrogates.

Question is.... since oldsters have a high voter turnout AND since Florida is a big swing state... do you raise it? If so, how gingerly?

The future of the online newspaper

Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein, combined with my own professional interest on the matter and riffing on Ted Rall

First, to those who would claim that Internet ads have such high penetration rates, or similar, I say that technology has empowered we the "Net consumers," so that we have the power to "not see ads."

Example: I have Firefox on a PC. Between Firefox’s ad block, my extensive list of URLs on my hosts file and Firefox’s No Script to block videos from launching I simply do not see most ads.

That's a far physical difference from a hard-copy newspaper. Even if you know the ads are all “down there” on the bottom half, or bottom two-thirds, of the page, they at least partially catch your eye.

Heck, even with junk mail, it may catch the corner of my eye for five seconds.

Second is the atomization of news brought on by the Net. How likely is Poltico, Ezra’s focal point for his post, of even staying about water after the November election? Until recently, the major daily newspapers could charge such high ad rates because they had such large readerships.

Combine the two factors — relatively low readership of many online sites and the ability to dodge ads, and I can’t see that the present model is highly viable.

If you’re a specialized online news magazine, the obvious solution is a subscription model. And, a subscription model might be tweakable to defeat host files, or cookie-deniers or whatever, and force people to eyeball ads.

For the old hardcopy paper or mag? To me, the Guardian solution — not only being private, but being run by an official nonprofit — may be the way to go. It would reduce the focus on the bottom line, and it would also get financial speculators, the Sam Zells of the world, out of the business of buying newspapers.

August 04, 2008

McCain outbursts — crotchety old man?

If Andrea Mitchell et al want to argue that Dr. Nice is being bamboozled by campaign aides because he’s “out of it,” that leaves open the question of WHY is he “out of it”?

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Mitchell is right, on Hardball, then the reason he's "out of it" is most likely the age issue.

Now, unlike McCain raising issues directly against Obama, which Joe Klein noted was strategically stupid, Obama (should he raise this issue) would surely have the brains to do it through surrogates.

Question is... since oldsters have a high voter turnout AND since Florida is a big swing state... do you raise it? If so, how gingerly?

Why you and your kids are fat

If you are, in part, it’s because you’re eating too much food. (Graphic from New York Times.)

The average American increased his or her food intake by more than 10 percent over the last 35 years. That 1.8-pound increase includes half a pound of additional fat, the highest gain in any food group. Worse yet was most of this fat was from cheese, cream cheese and sour cream, all saturated fats with cholesterol, especially when produced by fatter cows fed more grain and less grass.

Second highest was grains, which would be great if it were whole grains, but 90 percent of what Americans eat there is refined grains with no fiber. And corn, which is lower in fiber than whole wheat, etc. had the highest grain increase.

Political money-laundering at Hess?

How else to you explain a Hess office manager and her Amtrak husband EACH gave John McCain the legally allowable $28,500 maximum? When they rent a house in a so-so neighborhood in Queens?

Add on top of that, that Alice and Pasquale Rocchio have apparently never before contributed to a political campaign.

In addition to the venality of Big Oil, this also shows the stupidity of many American corporations, once again. How do CEOs earn they’re paychecks when they or top assistants are stupid enough to do something so transparent?

‘Upside down’ applies to SUVs as well as houses

Many owners of Ford Extinctions, or whatever, don’t even realize just how stranded their money is.

Once again, the willful mental isolationism of much of the American public rears its ugly head.

That said, the story, recommending toughing it out with an SUV a person currently owns, makes a glaring booboo when it claims “your insurance bill has probably stayed the same.” Liability, sure. But collision insurance, no.

Obama panderfest now kowtows to Big Three

Hey, both Peak Oil and global warming are serious enough for the government to offer financial support to automakers to help build hybrids.

BUT! ...

Given that Toyota committed to building hybrids long ago, is in the process of passing GM as the No. 1 seller in the U.S. and plans to build a Prius plant here in the future, Barack Obama’s restricting of his support to domestic automakers only is simply not acceptable.
“I know how much the auto industry and the auto workers of this state have struggled over the last decade or so,” Obama said. “But I also know where I want the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow to be built: not in Japan, not in China, but right here in the United States of America. Right here in the state of Michigan.”

This is just another case, like bailing out Wall Street financial institutions, of rewarding past bad behavior.

Besides, people probably can’t afford a plug-in hybrid like the Volt, and besides that, Toyota should have the plug-in version of the Prius to market first.

I could see making Toyota eligibility for subsidy conditional on its building a U.S. plant, but, other than that, it shouldn’t be barred from the program.

Tom Byrd, in comments, supplies this handy link about the number of plants Toyota already has in the U.S.

Alt-A defaults climb

Even as subprime foreclosures seem to be stabilizing, the problems are increasing in Alt-A mortgages, the next class above subprimes.

While many subprime loans were 2/28s or similar, i.e. interest-only the first two years, many alt-As, and even some primes, were 5/25s or 7/23s or similar. And now, the piper is calling the tune on the 25- or 23- year period.

And, here’s more on the uncharted territory of the mix of falling home prices, mixed with rising oil and food prices, that’s pushing more of these alt-A and even prime homes into trouble.

Church integration a fading dream

Between blacks wanting refuge and liberal whites wanting relief from “white guilt,” the idea of an integrated church (professional defined as 20 percent or more minority, usually 20 percent or more of one minority, not total), it appears that the dream of integrated chruches is on hold at best.

Beyond the obvious factors I mentioned, the story was interesting in that, although Hispanics are now estimated to be the largest minority, the focus was almost exclusively on black-white churches.

It’s arguable that’s still the largest racial divide, and it’s also arguable that that particular racial divide might be “fighting for oxygen” in the future.

And, beyond race itself, preaching and social styles may remain sticky wickets for some time.

BLM cuts oil drillers slack

Oil and gas drillers on government land in western states are getting audited less.

Instead, by the claim of “saving audit money” through letting oil and gas companies pay royalties in kind instead of in cash, the Bush Administration is showing the same naïve trust Georgie-Porgie did to Vlad the Impaler Putin.

And, per the story, California officials say their auditors usually recover three times as much money from drillers’ underpayments as they spend on auditing.
If we keep bailing out banks, Nouriel Roubini says the price could get that high

Well, since Obama’s biggest campaign donors are all from Goldman Sachs, he’s no more likely to say no to this price tag than is Schmuck Talk.

Oh, by the way, we’re “in the second inning of a severe, protracted recession, which started in the first quarter of this year and is going to last at least 18 months, through the middle of next year.”

Roubini’s cheery news includes the prediction that hundreds of banks could fail, and that, if not for the “stimulus” checks, retail spending would have declined in June.

And, he’s not alone in that estimated price tag. Goldman Sachs, above others, puts it at over $1 tril.

Grand Prairie company cheats EPA after war profits

Delfasco Forge, which makes practice bombs for Air Force and Navy pilots, has filed for bankruptcy rather than clean up an old metal forge site:
The bankruptcy comes less than two weeks after the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the company to clean up trichloroethylene, a noxious liquid found in groundwater near property owned by Delfasco Forge.

“We intend to work cooperatively with the EPA to some form of resolution,” said Steve Yoder, the company’s lead attorney. “At this stage it’s too early to tell how that will turn out.”

What Yoder is saying it, it’s too early to see how much he can get his company off the hook.

Chinese get Wally-World union, but still not U.S. – with a catch

So, are the Walton family et al going to have Hu Jintao tell millions of WallyWorld employees in China to vote GOP or they’ll lose their newly unionized jobs?

Well, no, because they’ll be voting for Maximum Leader Hu instead.

That’s because you have this snippet: But the government-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions…

As the story notes, in China, as in other communist countries in the past, unions are a management tool to control employees.

August 03, 2008

Is the Allen Group reading this in Lancaster?

I said this already 2-3 years ago, and despite a scoffing idiot or two in the Dallas suburb, soaring oil prices, likely driven by Peak Oil, are crimping the globalization of trade. That, in turn, has to affect the viability, nay, even the necessity of mega-distribution/warehousing centers, like one proposed for a 10-square-mile chunk of land in Lancaster, Dallas, Wilmer and Hutchins.
“If we think about the Wal-Mart model, it is incredibly fuel-intensive at every stage, and at every one of those stages we are now seeing an inflation of the costs for boats, trucks, cars,” said Naomi Klein, the author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.”

“That is necessarily leading to a rethinking of this emissions-intensive model, whether the increased interest in growing foods locally, producing locally or shopping locally, and I think that’s great.”

This is already starting to play out. Some American countries that had factories in Mexico, but moved to China after the WTO agreements, are bringing work back to Mexico. It’s still not in the U.S., but it’s easier to ship point-to-point when you’re already on the same landmass, rather than constricted to just a few ports.

That, then, lessens the need for such warehouses as the Allen Group.

And, because this is shipping by land, there’s no business for an “inland port” designation, to boot.

Why the move back to Mexico, in numbers? The Times story notes that the cost of shipping a 40-foot container from Shanghai to the United States has risen to $8,000, compared with $3,000 early in the decade. In response, container ships have cut their top speed by nearly 20 percent to save on fuel costs. That, of course, adds significantly to shipping times, which may be of importance in some industries.

Canadian investment bank CIBC World Markets says it’s like a 9 percent surcharge or tariff.

Plus, if a “Kyoto II” greenhouse gas treaty includes India and China (and, in essence, stops U.S. companies from exporting pollution), manufacturing costs there will rise even more.

Winners/losers? American wood is staying home for furniture production. U.S. steel production is up.

Winners and losers could include globalization of food. No more cheap Chilean grapes and cherries in winter here, for example.

And, the U.S. might be an overall loser. Too many industries have shuttered too long here; starting them back up in Mexico, even, after more than a decade in many cases, would be difficult.

Hospital deportations latest example of broken healthcare system

Yes, here is where our healthcare system is at. Sick immigrants – both legal and illegal – being deported by American hospitals.

And, not just for-profit hospitals. Even a Catholic hospital in Phoenix (page 2) gets busted.

Why? Medicaid won’t pay for post-hospital medical care for immigrants, whether legal or illegal, and hospitals claim their only option of follow-through medical care is by deportation.

Picture a patient being sent to Guatemala with a traumatic brain injury. Picture an American-born baby nearly deported.

But, you don’t have to picture it. They’re all described Sick immigrants – both legal and illegal – being deported in the story.

Don’t take your Dell to town

Or at least, if it’s a laptop don’t take it on an overseas flight, because you could literally never get it back.

Per newly-announced policies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement claim they can take a computer they seize at an airport check to an off-site location and hold it for an unspecified period of time. They also claim the right to share its files with other government agencies or even private entities as needed.

And, this can happen “absent individual suspicion.”

You CAN ‘have it your way’ – at McDonald’s

McDonald’s is trumping Burger King on menu options, not to mention restaurant design.

Just one problem. You have to go to Europe to enjoy this.

On the food side, it’s pasta in Italy, and (like Jack in the Box here), ciabatta-based sandwiches in France.

On the service and design side? Try built-in table iPods in France, and table service at some Italian Mickey Ds.