September 13, 2008

Gadfly Intrade wrap for Sept. 7-13

A bad week for Obama — slide must be arrested before first debate

I wouldn’t narrow my analysis of “why” to Obama’s not nominating Clinton as Veep, contrary to this blogger (while not denying there may be a woman’s issues angle) but, on my Intrade for this week, I’ll put McCain over Obama at 55/45 odds. That’s a big shift from the 55-45 Obama I had a week ago, but well warranted.

Why?

E.J. Dionne says Obama “has lost control of this campaign.”

Tom Friedman says Obama needs toget off the Valium.

Rich Cohen says he’s being Swift-boated.

In a wrap earlier this week, I ask if his campaign is “floundering or directionless.”

And, both there and floundering or directionless, I noted the Missing Joe Biden.

This all said, not all of Obama’s problems are of his own making. He’s got a lot of “Bradley effect” to overcome in Appalachia and nearby areas.

Now, more on my analysis of how Obama was, to put it bluntly, blown his campaign ever since Denver.

First, the Obama camp should have anticipated SOME woman being considered for Veep, and even if it was not ready for Palin, it should have had more woman surrogates ready to roll. Sens. Feinstein, Murray, Klobuchar and Stabenow all spring to mind. Apparently, they didn’t spring to mind for Obama.

Second, once Palin was rolled out, even better than the woman senators, Govs. Sebelius, Napolitano and Granholm should have topped the surrogate list. Again, these surrogates were missing from the mind of Obama.

Third, where is Biden, per above links?

Fourth, If Obama’s “can’t send an e-mail” ad is a “harder edge,” let’s go ahead and write a loss down in the D column now and beat the rush.

That all said, since I’m not a Democrat, and I’ve never drunk the Obama Kool-Aid, I’ll have plenty of schadenfreude for the postmortem after Nov. 4, should this continue to play out this way.

As for election related sites, Electoral-Vote agrees, now listing the breakdown at 270-268 McCain, including moving Virginia from “toss-up” to “barely GOP.” Also, North Carolina is now running “strong GOP.”

FiveThirtyEight.com is also in agreement, with an electoral vote split of 277-261, with Colorado now in its “lean McCain” campaign and giving him an absolute majority in the popular vote.

On the Senate, a cloture-proof Democratic Senate? Still at 10-90, and contrary to last week, I don’t think I’m putting that too low. (Electoral-Vote’s latest breakout is that the next Senate will be 56-44.) I think that, if Obama remains in this campaign mode, he’s going to start being a lead anchor in some races. FiveThirtyEight has 56-43 with one tossup.

In short, this has definitely been the worst week for Democrats since Obama put a wrap on the Democratic nomination.

In Texas, Cornyn’s popularity/approval numbers at Electoral-Vote are actually up a tick, and the Noriega education plan PR campaign this week didn’t gain much MSM traction.

In Dallas County, I’m still arbitrarily leaving the sheriff’s race at 50-50.

Thanks for protecting our civil liberties, Obama — NOT

NOT! is right

Only a couple of months after Barack Obama, by that time the putative leader of the Democratic Party, caved in the Senate on the FISA amendment bill and voted to allow the possibility that telecom companies would be immunized from prosecution for spying on ordinary Americans, the National Security Agency is moving toward trying to make that a reality.

Justice Department special counsel Anthony Coppolino says the government intends to meeth the immunity bill's procedural hurdles by Sept. 19 and thus seek blanket immunity on behalf of the companies.

Now, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, overseeing 36 commingled lawsuits in a San Francisco federal court, still may not grant that immunity request. In fact, Walker has set a Dec. 2 hearing in which he would allow the Electronic Frontier Foundation to challenge the immunity legislation B.O. helped pass July 9.

Per the Wired story, the EFF is challenging the constitutionality of Obama’s work on five grounds:
1. Congress violated the separation of powers by attempting to usurp judicial authority to decide the Fourth Amendment claims of millions of ordinary Americans who have been, and continue to be, subjected to dragnet surveillance for the past seven years.

2. Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by passing legislation that grants to the Executive the discretion to essentially dictate the outcome of specific, pending litigation.

3. The statute improperly requires dismissal of claims of illegal surveillance between September 11, 2001 and January 17, 2007 based not on a judicial finding about the facts of the surveillance or the legality or constitutionality of the surveillance, but instead merely based on a 'certification" from the attorney general that some unknown member of the Executive branch told the carriers that some undescribed surveillance is 'lawful.'

4. The legislation denies due process to the plaintiffs by granting to the Executive, rather than the courts, the essential decision making about their constitutional and statutory rights.

5. The legislation purports to grant the Executive a unilateral right to require that the court keep secret not only the evidence, but also its own decisions.

On paper, the EFF has got a strong claim. But not ironclad.

Point No. 1 may play well to judges, starting with Walker, who are prickly about judicial prerogatives and independence. Legally, in the narrow sense, a bit different.

Point No. 2 is simply a legal pleading.

Points No. 3 and 4 are the key, with Point 5 tagging along with Point No. 4 on due process issues.

But, since Obama is a constitutional law genius, he anticipated all of these concerns and duly weighed them before rejecting them, right?

So much a constitutional law genius that Passive Pelosi™ and the other FISA 45-percenters in the Democratic party followed right along.

You know you still have an option.

Vote Green.

What WON’T McCain lie about?

Or Palin?

Lying about crowd size is an old and honorable political tradition, as long as claims aren’t stretched too much, buut lying about where you got your numbers?

It’s ridiculous, immature, and stupid.

Plus, it’s one more potential voter you risk pissing off.

And, while McCain is certainly the leader in this, Obama isn’t St. Francis, either.

Rosenberg figure admits spying

In yet another moment of history that should silence the few Stalinists still running around America, Morton Sobell now admits he was indeed a Soviet spy.

Sobell, convicted in 1951 and sentenced to 30 years in prison, of which he served 18, had steadfastly maintained his innocence to this point.

But, that’s changed — dramatically.

Not only does he admit spying himself, Sobell directly fingers Julius Rosenberg.

At the same time, Sobell, agreeing with the consensus of historians that Rosenberg’s info — sketches and other atomic bomb details that the government said were passed along to Julius Rosenberg by Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass — were of little value to the Soviets, except to corroborate information from Klaus Fuchs and others.

Sobell made his statement in response to information released by the National Archives, in response to a lawsuit from the nonprofit National Security Archive, historians and journalists. The information comes from grand jury testimony in the espionage conspiracy case against him and the Rosenbergs.

The information also confirms that, if not innocent of every dot and tittle, Ethel Rosenberg was certainly no spy.

Millions for Burma, pennies for Cuba

So, we can shell out the money for any right-wing dictatorship hit by a tropical storm or cyclone, but Cuba still gets the back of our hand?

Childhood borderline personality disorder in limelight

Is it real? Is it THAT real? Is it overdiagnosed? Is it the new autism?

I’d definitely say “no” to the last rhetorical question. There’s more fire than smoke with this as compared to the spike in autism. As to the others, I just don’t know.

But, this in-depth story from the NYT Magazine is thought-provoking at least.

Part of the surge in childhood BPD is a rediagnosis of many ADD/ADHD cases. Does that mean, perhaps, that we’re trying for a level of precision in childhood psychological diagnosis that just isn’t possible?

That isn’t so far-fetched, I don’t think.

That said, if something like BPD is actually on the rise among children, why?

The story doesn’t really have an answer.

Get ready to get spammed more?

Virginia’s Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state’s anti-spam law was unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds and ordered notorious spammer Jeremy Jaynes freed from prison. That didn’t please the state:
Lawyers for the state had argued that the First Amendment doesn't apply because the Virginia law bars trespassing on privately owned e-mail servers through phony e-mail routing and transmission information. The court rejected that characterization of the law.

Attorney General Bob McDonnell promised to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The journalist in me appreciates the support for the First Amendment, and also can’t see how spam e-mail is significantly different from junk snail mail. (Virginia is the only state in the country with a law against non-commercial spam e-mail.)

Hurricane Ike makes landfall – oil refineries and more at risk



As of noon, a bit of downward revision; 7.5 overall and 6.5-7 for Houston, it appears


Updated 12:30 p.m. Saturday

The eye officially coeme on shore at about 2:10 a.m., according to the National Hurricane Center. The National Hurricane Center says it officially fell 1 mph short of Categore 3 status, which is small potatoes. With high tide at about the same time as the eye made landfall, this could have been a likely disaster of great magnitude, but it appears we have dodged the worse.

The map above comes via Wired and illustrates major oil/petrochemical facilities at risk. The worst of the storm surge is predicted to hit right in the area of the Houston Ship Channel.

Gas prices?

Best scenario is 7-10 days on restarting the shut-down refineries.

Worst-case scenario? A month or more.

Given that the ship channel had at least a 10 percent chance of a storm surge of 23 feet or more, we could have ahd serious effects not only on gas prices, but as the Port of Houston is one of the nation's three busiest ports, on a variety of goods imported from China and elsewhere.

But, the storm surge was not measured above 15 feet anywhere, and not even that high in Houston itself. Probably no major damage to piers in the port. Heaviest storm surge appears to be in the Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange area.

Refineries now shut down in Houston and the surrounding area produce about one-fifth of U.S. oil products. The effects will be felt throughout the central states.

My guess on refineries is 10 days max in Houston itself, but possibly two weeks or more in Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange.

The worst of the storm surge appears to be from Baytown east, as far east as Port Arthur; indeed, the Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange area may suffer almost as much damage as Houston. The eye passed just about dead center through Galveston Bay after crossing the island; I'll put the storm surge in the ship channel area at an "8" on a 1-10 scale, based on what radar I see.

Shipping? A lot of known effects. Wal-Mart and Home Depot both have major distribution centers in metro Houston, at Baytown.

One pier at Galveston is already confirmed as damaged, as a storm surge of about 20 feet hit the island.

Obviously, hurricane winds and the storm surge have the port shut down as we speak. Whether shipping facilities will be severely damaged remains to be seen.

Skyscrapers have reported some damange in downtown Houston, as Ike had strong winds aloft as well as at the surface.

Electricity? As of early Saturday, almost 2 million customers were already without electric power. I would guess that Galveston Island will remain without power at least 72 hours, and that's very conservative.

Note: That is customers and not people... almost 5 million people are without power.

Conservative, indeed, on the island! Galveston City Manager Steve LeBlanc says it could be weeks before all power is restored on the island.

On the mainland, I would say Wednesday before Harris County is lit back up.

Overall, in dollar costs, Ike could be the U.S.'s third-most-destructive hurricane ever, after 1992's Andrew and Katrina in 2005.

I am not sure if this will hold; I will at least keep it in the top 10.

The human cost? One storm surge drowning in Corpus Christi, so far.

The continued pounding?

Information below from the National Hurricane Center:

It is likely to remain at hurricane strength by noon Central time. And, more likely to still be a tropical storm than a tropical depression by midnight Saturday/Sunday.

Tropical storm warnings cover the entire eastern half of Texas, including up here in Dallas. Tornado watches over half of Louisiana and all of lower east Texas. Almost all of coastal Louisiana is suffering a storm surge, including areas not yet recovered from Hurricane Gustav.

Up here in Dallas, it looks like it is going to start bending to the northeastward enough to spare us serious fallout; we started getting light rain about noon and winds are still below 25 mph on top gusts.



Update: More storm damage reports from the AP, AFP and elsewhere as of 3 a.m.:
• Landmark Houston restaurant Brennan’s burns;
Already six feet of water in the Galveston County Courthouse;
• Multiple unextinguished, and currently unextinguishable, fires in Galveston;
• Nearly 40 percent of Galveston residents refused to evacuate, many invoking monotheistic religious fatalism;
• Electricity failed in Galveston as of 1 a.m.; that also means no potable water without power to run water supply equipment, as well as commingling of storm surge water;
• Port Arthur and other towns on the upper end of the Texas Gulf Coast could join Galveston underwater;
• At 3 a.m., the count on those without electricity was now 1.3 million;

From the AFP story, comes a preliminary estimate on possible damage costs:
Jack Colley, from the Texas Department of Emergency Management, said officials estimated the storm's economic impact would be "somewhere in between the 80-billion dollar and 100-billion-dollar range."

On the front lines, the Houston Chronicle (photo above of mingled fire and flood in Galveston) says we could run short of gas up here in Dallas, as Chris Newton, president of the Texas Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, said tanker trucks can't safely travel in winds over 40 mph. (Ike is expected to still be at tropical storm strength when it gets up to us, and its outermost tentacles are just starting to do that.)

Dallas/East Texas update: Scattered power outages in East Texas; none here in the Metroplex. Trees waterlogged from Gustav are falling in some places in east Texas. And, across the state line, flooding as far east as Lake Charles, La., which has a bit more effect on oil prices.

The worst part about this year’s campaign lying?

The level of lying by McCain-Palin may reach the “turnoff point.”

Not the “not voting” turnoff point, though, since low voter turnout traditionally has favored the GOP, McCain-Palin might not mind that.

Rather, it’s the fact-checking, truth-caring turnoff factor, as Charlie Cook explains:
“We have created a system where there is not a lot of shame in stretching the truth,” said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

It’s Hitler, the Nazis and Nuremburg rallies — tell a big enough whopper, long enough, with enough emotion and pseudo-conviction. …

September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike – oil refineries at risk



The map above comes via Wired and illustrates major oil/petrochemical facilities at risk. The worst of the storm surge is predicted to hit right in the area of the Houston Ship Channel.

Go here for a much more comprehensive update.

Cedar Hill-Euless Trinity football blogging

We have Euless Trinity, ranked the NO. 1 high school team in the nation by ESPN, is playing fellow suburban Dallas team Cedar Hill, which I cover as my day job as a suburban Dallas newspaper editor.

We've got a barnburner here, with Trinity up 14-7 at the end of the first quarter. It could be worse; Cedar Hill's Longhorns got a controversial fumble recovery well into Trinity Trojan territory and scored a play later.

Update 8:11: Make it 17-7. Trinity recovered a fumble at the Longhorn 12 just before the end of the quarter, but couldn't cash in for a touchdown.

Update 8:34: Looking more and more all Trinity. At 2:47 before halftime, Tevin Williams scores from 24 yards out; a bad snap on the PAT and its 23-7.

Update 8:45: The score is still 23-7 at half and Cedar Hill has less than 100 yards in total offense. If not for the controversial fumble recovery, we wouldn't have a game at all.

Update 9:28: Trinity has posted touchdowns on its first two drives of the third quarter. With 5 minutes still left in the quarter, we're now at 37-7 and officially in the area of "rout."

Update 9:48: We're in garbage time and it's still 37-7.

Hurricane Ike gas price gouging in Dallas Metroplex

Specifically in Duncanville, there’s a Phillips 66 on South Main Street, across from the DrPepper StarCenter, that’s jacked its price 40 cents a gallon.

More info as this develops.

Bristol did the wrong thing with marriage pledge, etc.

That’s Ted Rall’s take on Bristol Palin’s decision to “keep” the child of her current pregnancy:
Bristol is doing the wrong thing. She's having the kid. She's marrying the father. Three lives will likely be destroyed. …

Those who keep silent about Levi and Bristol's bad decisions — especially those marketing them as examples to be emulate — -are doing society a disservice. Levi and Bristol are about to compound one tragedy (unplanned teen pregnancy) with another (involuntary marriage). They're setting a terrible example for other teenagers who will find themselves in their situation.

As for Bristol, Rall points out that, while there are exceptions, teen moms are more likely to drop out of high school and teen brides are more likely to drop into poverty.

Beyond that, 60 percent of marriages made when both people were under 18 fail in 15 years or less.

Sure, Sarahcuda will pull strings (perhaps literally on college admission or state job placement) for both Bristol and hubby-to-be Levi Johnson, of whom Rall says:
A few days later, Extremely Nervous Boyfriend blinks under the bright lights of a stage in St. Paul, elevated to the even more challenging role of America's Unhappiest 18-Year-Old. I met a guy the night before he was executed. Levi Johnston had the same look in his eyes.

Rall’s snarky answer? A federal law to ban teen marriage and require teen abortion.

Actually, it’s not his snarky answer, it’s his real answer, which shouldn’t surprise regular readers of Rall:
Even pro-choice liberals are afraid to speak the truth: teen marriage and parenthood are disasters for everyone concerned. I have serious problems with well-off married couples who decide to terminate their pregnancies for frivolous reasons. Conversely, abortion ought to be mandatory for people under 18. Twenty-five would be better. Teen marriage should be banned.

Well, that is too much for my taste, but, if we change “abortion” to “birth control,” I wouldn’t see anything more wrong with prescribing the Pill than prescribing MMR vaccines.

Josh Marshall has free passes for Georgia

Well, actually, they’re for the Obama-Biden campaign on Georgia, as Josh claims it has a significant difference with McCain-Palin.

Here’s Josh:
It's true that Obama and Biden both favor Georgia's accession into NATO -- a very bad policy position, as I've argued before. However, I do not think that their positions and McCain's positions are equal. The best analogy I can point to is the nominal agreement on Iraq policy (embodied in the Iraq Liberation Act) between the Clinton administration and the most radical neocons in the late 1990s. Nominally, they shared a policy. In practice, however, it was one group that was completely nuts and gung-ho in favor of a reckless idea and another that was sort of dabbling in and passively favoring the same policy. Not that that is saying much in the latter's favor. But there's a big difference.

And, here’s my response:
Given the ultimate reason WHY both political campaigns of the “bipartisan foreign policy establishment” want Georgia in NATO — a three-letter word called “oil” — I think your “Clinton ain’t a neocon” analogy doesn’t carry the freight, Josh.

BOTH campaigns favor the same thing — NATO membership. Neither has proposed NATO observer status or some other “NATO lite.”

Both campaigns, in essence, we’re willing to back Georgia in a war against Russia.

(Either that, or they’re lying through their teeth.)

And, that’s another reason I’m voting Green, or planning on it.

As I’ve said before, this is almost a mirror image of Iraq, which Obama criticized.

Update: A Talking Points Memo reader points out that Obama-Biden (like Bush himself), only wants to put Georgia on the “ Membership Action Plan ,” otherwise known as the slow-boat-to-China way of joining NATO.

But, it’s still a plan for Georgia to join NATO. And, the ultimate reasons why the Bipartisan Foreign Policy Establishment want Georgia in NATO still stand. Namely, o-I-l.

Also, the distinction is one, vis-à-vis McCain-Palin, that Obama-Biden aren’t making.

So, I still think it’s a fair critique.

Obama’s ‘Appalachia problem’ isn’t fading away

It looks like the Hillaryland of later Democratic primaries is FAR from embracing Obama. No wonder. Between the tenacious grip of the Muslim rumors, the “elitism” talk, the soft bigotry, hard bigotry and occasional outright racism, he’s got an uphill battle.

The nut graf is buried near the end of page 2:
Beyond the necessity of connecting with rural America, the Obama campaign is hoping to gain ground by winning over suburban independents in battleground states. In Columbus, Ohio, I encountered several white, upper-middle-class swing voters who said they would support Obama. But Terry Daniels, 53, a black man who runs a clothing store in downtown Columbus catering to the city's suburbanites, was skeptical that would happen. “Everyone likes to think they’re progressive,” Daniels said, “but when it comes down to it, they’re not going to vote that way.”

If Daniels is right, Obama has a notable Bradley/Wilder effect problem in Appalachia and its outliers like the automotive-world parts of Michigan.

Polls can’t factor that in, but I can factor it into polling splits.

As Election-Vote and FiveThirtyEight report more state-by-state polls in coming weeks, I will allow for a Bradley/Wilder effect of a couple of percentage points in some of these states.

‘Can’t send an e-mail’ not exactly an attack ad

If challenging McCain on that regard as him being anything but an exemplar of change is a serious example of a harder-hitting Obama, well, we can just fold up the sidewalks, cancel the debates, declare the election over …

And immediately proceed to the 2009-2012 round of Democratic presidential failure naval-gazing.

Beyond it being weak tea in general, it reflects and exemplifies much of the criticism of Obama the presidential campaigner that’s been coming from left of center and not just the right.

1. Elitist/out of touch with ordinary Americans. You could attack him on plenty of non-change issues which would resonate more than this one.

2. The “cool” Obama. The ad does nothing to change that impression.

This is not so much Gore or Kerry redux as it is Mike Dukakis — Obama as emotionally detached, cerebral wonk.

Update: It’s an especially bad, not just weak, ad, if McCain CAN use a Blackberry.

And, per the link above, even the “can’t use an e-mail” claim appears to be, well, the “L-word” that the Obama staff bandies about McCain-Palin:
Q: Do you use a blackberry or email?

Mr. McCain: No

Mark Salter: He uses a BlackBerry, just ours.

Mr. McCain: I use the Blackberry, but I don’t e-mail, I’ve never felt the particular need to e-mail. I read e-mails all the time, but the communications that I have with my friends and staff are oral and done with my cell phone.

Is it time for an Obama staff shakeup?

It sucks to work at these places

Not just WallyWorld. Not just WallyWorld plus the various dollar stores. Rather, WallyWorld, dollar stores and even some supposedly higher-level retailers are pretty much shitholes not only for hourly workers at stores, but store managers, pressured by corporate higher-ups to break federal law by knocking hours off workers’ clocked-in time, among other things.

Originally from the The New York Times Review of Books:
(Drew Pooters) placed his resume on Monster.com and found a $26,000-a-year job at Family Dollar, another discount store, as a manager-in-training. He rose quickly to become manager, but he was now required to cut back the hours worked by his employees. And he found he had to put in fourteen- to sixteen-hour days to keep up with the work they would ordinarily have done. A father of four, he needed the job. But then Pooters found that his district manager also was jiggering the time records of his employees.

Problem is that Hilzoy at Washington Monthly doesn’t go far enough in the condemnation.

The slippery slope to W.’s wage policies began, though much more softly, back with Reagan, and continued through Bush I.

Then Clinton did nothing to arrest it.

Sorry, folks, but that’s the fact. Take a look at the Slickster’s record on labor issues when he was governor of Arkansas.

So, once again, the DLC/neolib wing of the Democratic Party hoists its moral compass, or what’s left of one, by its own petard.

REALLY pissed at Palin lying about Lincoln

In her ABC interview with Charles Gibson (what’s the male equivalent of a “fluffer”?) she not only lies about a bunch of other stuff, she lies about Lincoln:
GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God." Are we fighting a holy war?

PALIN: You know, I don't know if that was my exact quote.

GIBSON: Exact words.

PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln's words when he said -- first, he suggested never presume to know what God's will is, and I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words.

But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that's a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side.

That's what that comment was all about, Charlie.

It was NOT AT ALL all the comment was about, you lying bitch, and you know it.

Lincoln is not just turning over in his metaphorical grave, he’s throwing up in his mouth. You know your statement is TOTALLY different.

Even YOU aren’t that dumb. You did claim, contra Lincoln, that we knew the position of God re the war in Iraq.

Lying about Lincoln is like stepping on Superman’s cape.

But, then again, lying in the name of a higher purpose has never been far from organized Christianity, despite Jesus’ own admonition:
“Let your yes be yes and your no be no.

Why does Sarah Palin hate Jesus?

Lehman — bankruptcy, Bear Stearns bailout or what?

Something is going to happen to Lehman Bros., and given the way this low-compression engine is leaking massive amounts of oil, two of the three “something” possibilities will likely happen this weekend, assuming it makes it through the rest of the day today.

No. 1 would be a takeover by another private-sector company. But, given a Korean bank’s pullout earlier this week, and Lehman’s 42-percent drop yesterday (with further after-hours losses), Bank of America or other suitors will pay only pennies on the dollar.

No. 1A would be a government-brokered private-sector takeover, as with Bear Stearns. Catch? The buying company, as in the Bear case, would insist on some federal guarantees. Coming the weekend after the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac takeover, this would be economically explosive in the presidential election.

No. 2 possibility, of course, would be a direct government intervention. But, see No. 1A.

No. 3 is the one that wouldn’t happen until next week and that, of course, is a bankruptcy filing. Of course, nobody on the Street wants that to happen.

Meet the real fake Sarah Palin

It should be no surprise she’s drawing a boatload of online parody; here’s a roundup of some of the best.

Refresh your mind with new Skeptic’s Circle

The latest issue of Skeptic’s Circle is now up, hosted by skepticism’s own secular patron saint, Bob Carroll, creator of the Skeptic’s Dictionary. A good variety of posts, including by yours truly, are on this week’s biweekly cycle.

‘Obama has lost control of this campaign’

The words of E.J. Dionne and not me.

And spot on.
Obama bears responsibility (for the mudfest), too: His task is to remind Americans that the stakes in this election are far higher than the matter of who said what and when about Palin. He isn't doing that.

Dionne then combines the straight talk for Obama with some political analysis which will test whether he “gets it” or not:
One test in the coming weeks will be whether Obama continues to contest North Carolina. … If Obama does his job in framing a national message, this state should at least be competitive enough to force McCain to expend resources here.

But Democratic politicians say that won't happen unless Obama grabs the campaign back. “One of the criticisms is that he hasn't cut through all the Republican rhetoric to reveal in a clear and simple way what his plan is, which I believe would resonate with the electorate,” says Jerry Meek, the Democratic state chairman. Voters, Meek says, “like a fighting spirit.”

Dionne then says Obama can’t wait for the media to do what it should be doing. He needs to get cracking.

September 11, 2008

‘Subprimes’ in Shanghai hint of recession

Chinese credit markets are too tight for it to have a subprime mortgage market.

But, there is a subprime-like bubble in Chinese real estate, and it’s now at least leaking air, if not in the process of bursting.

The year-over-year rate of increase in Chinese real estate values has nearly halved this year as compared to last year’s growth rate (New York Times graphic).
“It’s collapsing; it’s unbelievable, and most of it is from mortgages — I don’t see how the housing sector is going at all,” said Nicholas R. Lardy, a specialist in Chinese finance at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

He added that the decline was so precipitous that it had to reflect weaker demand for housing, and not just regulatory restrictions on credit.

And, it’s part of a greater cooling off of the Chinese economy. Shanghai stock prices have dropped two-thirds in a year.

In short, both Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin need to get honest that we are going to have a recession, it’s not going to end overnight, and it could be strong.

Palin suck-up watch — ‘Working moms love her’

Based on a focus session with a grand total of eight women who claim “she’s just like us,” the WaPost’s Mark Fisher gushes over her.

That said, the “connectivity” theme appears to be gaining traction amongst the MSM, both in straight news and in the op-ed world.

Per Mencken, nobody ever went broke overestimating the stupidity of the American public.

Sarah Palin — the antifeminist on the down low

Over at Salon, Rebecca Traister voices the fears of many progressive women:
Palin's femininity is one that is recognizable to most women: She's the kind of broad who speaks on behalf of other broads but appears not to like them very much. The kind of woman who, as Jessica Grose at Jezebel has eloquently noted, achieves her power by doing everything modern women believed they did not have to do: presenting herself as maternal and sexual, sucking up to men, evincing an absolute lack of native ambition, instead emphasizing her luck as the recipient of strong male support and approval. It works because these stances do not upset antiquated gender norms.

Which leads to this fear:
Which leads us to my greatest nightmare: that because my own party has not cared enough, or was too scared, to lay its rightful claim to the language of women's rights, that Sarah Palin will reach historic heights of power, under the most egregious of auspices, by plying feminine wiles, and conforming to every outdated notion of what it means to be a woman. That she will hit her marks by clambering over the backs, the bodies, the rights of the women on whose behalf she claims to be working, and that she will do it all under the banner of feminism. How can anybody sleep?

Indeed.

Why does Sarah Palin hate rape victims?

Why does she hate them enough that Wasilla charged them the price for criminal testing kits while Palin was mayor?

while Palin was mayor?

And why is she lying about it when she’s been caught, again, stone cold dead to rights?

Godwin’s Law be damned. Palin and McCain clearly are in the Hitler school when it comes to lies — tell big ones and tell them repeatedly.

MMMmercury — the new alt-med ‘cure’

Well, maybe mercury — and lead and arsenic — aren’t intended to be alt-med helps, but they’re present in many ayurvedic medicines in toxic doses.

But, that’s nothing. Mercury by itself is used as a “cure” in some ayurvedic practice, in a practice called rasa shastra.
Nearly half of the rasa shastra remedies tested had dangers levels of metals; several were 10,000 times over the U.S. safety limit.

MMMMercury — it’s what’s for Ayurvedic dinner!

MMMmercury — the new alt-med ‘cure’

Well, maybe mercury — and lead and arsenic — aren’t intended to be alt-med helps, but they’re present in many ayurvedic medicines in toxic doses.

But, that’s nothing. Mercury by itself is used as a “cure” in some ayurvedic practice, in a practice called rasa shastra.
Nearly half of the rasa shastra remedies tested had dangers levels of metals; several were 10,000 times over the U.S. safety limit.

Atmos chief full of gas — and some myth

Robert Best, president and CEO of Atmos Energy, the nation’s largest gas-only utility company, spoke to the Best Southwest Chamber of Commerce — an umbrella group of south suburban Dallas chambers of commerce — at its quarterly luncheon today.

Much of Best’s talk was based on what he called the “eight myths” of natural gas.

On some of the myths he was totally true, or nearly so, that they are indeed myths. On some, he was partially true. And on one, he was mythmaking himself.

Let’s take that last one first.

Best said offshore wells don’t leak. Of course, as the Congressional GOP pushes to open up more offshore oil and gas drilling, this is a pet claim.

Fact? I don’t know about gas wells, but yes, oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico do leak under storm conditions. They did during Katrina, and Ike is going to give us another test.

Best was true on liquid natural gas not being a serious part of the answer, though he fudged when he said we have “60 years of gas” here without talking about Peak Natural Gas. He was also true on clean coal not being so clean.

He was semi-true on conservation and alternative fuels not being significant parts of our power answer. That’s based in part on how you define “significant.”

Also, given that nobody who gets gas heat is likely to modify their house to have electric heat, why he needed to fudge the alternative energy supply issue, I don’t know.

For more news from south suburban Dallas, go to Today Newspapers, your south Dallas County news source.

Can the War on Drugs get any more whack-jobbed?

Florida makes salvia divinorum criminallized for up to 15 years?

This is an herb that will “trip you out” about as much as rubbing a tab of acid across your skin, or throwing one magic mushroom in your spaghetti with mushrooms dinner.

As for the “Jackass” style YouTube vids of tweenagers allegedly on salvia, how do we know they were on it? And, if they were, was that the only thing they were on?

But those vids are the reason Texas state Rep. Charles Anderson of Waco is sponsoring one of several bills that could come up in next year’s Lege to ban salvia.

Second, Rep. Anderson, this is video of kids trying to get messed up. Criminalize salvia, they’ll just get drunk, gobble Ecstasy, huff glue or gasoline, or whatever. Don’t be a doorknob.

Besides that, you’ve been punked.
He also told his colleagues about a video that depicts a salvia user behind the wheel of a car. (In fact, that video, “Driving on Salvia,” is one in a series of popular parodies featuring Erik J. Hoffstad, a production assistant in Los Angeles. In the two-and-a-half minute film, Mr. Hoffstad smokes salvia from a bong in a parked car — his friends made sure he did not have the real keys — and then freaks out when a cat unexpectedly pounces on the windshield.)

And, it’s not like the Lege doesn’t already have a boatload of serious issues lined up for next year, including — the franchise tax, TxDOT, school finance, TTC and more.

Hell, Rep. Anderson from Waco, I could probably find somethingdrug-like in DrPepper’s 23 flavor ingredients.

Taking the Wide Stance on the witness stand

Sen. Larry Craig has raised his right hand, placed his left hand on a bathroom stall roll of toilet paper, and made oral arguments (insert all the jokes or other items you want) and argued on appeal against his Minneapolis airport stall guilty plea last year.

You can also insert the “you haven’t got a leg to stand on” line, wonder about Craig’s legal “stall tactics” and more.

Will his case remain in the crapper? Only the Minnesota Court of Appeals can tell.

Picture this bit of dialogue:
Craig: No shit, officer, I’m Sen. Larry Craig.

Officer: No shit? Well, I don’t care who you are, I can tell you don’t give a crap about why you’re here.

And yes, if you have more bad puns about toilet humor, let me have them!

Don’t worry about a post-Senate career, either, Larry. Apparently, per an e-mail I got, there’s a big market for for gay real estate agents.

Speculators DID spike oil prices

That’s the claim by Masters Capital Management, which seems to bear at least a bit of merit.

Masters says speculators pumped $60 bil into oil futures the first five months of the year, then pulled $39 bil back out.

The report comes as both the House and Senate consider bills to put additional curbs on oil market speculation and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission is believed to be about ready to release a report on oil market speculation.

ElBaradei to leave International Atomic Energy Agency

Mohamed ElBaradei had been in office as head of IAEA for 11 years, so he probably decided it was well indeed time to move on.

Obviously, this has the biggest play on Iran, depending on who replaces him. At least, he’ll be in office until after the Chimpster leaves.

Beyond that, the IAEA will probably be looking at how it needs to expand its mission in the future as part of hiring a new executive director.

Is Biden having regrets about being on the Obama ticket?

That’s the buzz around the Internets after Sen. MBNA said Hillary Clinton would have been as good as him or better as a vice presidential nominee.

I think people are reading a boatload of stuff into this that just isn’t there.

That said, Biden’s not exactly been a bit pull so far as Veep nominee.

Friedman weighs in on Obama — wake UP!

The world may or may not be “flat,” but in Friedman’s world, Obama needs to get off the Valium.

Three great pull quotes. First:
Somebody needs to tell Obama that if he wants the chance to calmly answer the phone at 3 a.m. in the White House, he is going to need to start slamming down some phones at 3 p.m. along the campaign trail.

Then:
As Neil Oxman, political consultant at The Campaign Group, put it to me: For half the country, “Sarah Palin is Roseanne from the ‘Roseanne’ show. ‘Roseanne’ was the No. 1 comedy five years in a row and seven out of nine in the top 10.” She is connecting at a gut level. So does McCain — and, therefore, they don’t need to give their constituents many details.

I’m not sure the level of accuracy that analogy has.

But, for laugh value (as I think about Roseanne Barr the “¿real?” person grabbing her crotch while singing the National Anthem in San Diego) that second quote is spot on.

And the third:
My own totally unscientific, seat of the pants poll tells me this: When you say Obama’s name today and ask people for their first impression — a quick, flash, gut, first impression — no single word or phrase or policy comes to mind. His opponents will fill that vacuum if he doesn’t. They already are.

Obama did strive hard to define his own narrative in Denver, but Friedman’s certainly on the right track with this.

Anyway, Friedman’s been more sensical in the last month or two commenting on political issues, even though he’s technically not a political columnist. Maybe that’s why he’s making more sense!

Bush: Ain’t my fault bin Laden got away

I’m only human, Prez claims

Giving credence to a new theory, namely that if one Republican woman lies, it’s open season for all GOPers of the “fair sex,” Dana Perino uncorks the latest White House whopper.
“This is not the movies. We don't have super powers,” said White House press secretary Dana Perino. “But what we do have is very dedicated people who are working with our allies and trying to bring (al-Qaida leaders) to justice.”

Would those “very dedicated people” include the Afghan tribesmen Bush and Tommy Effing Franks expected would seal the perimeter at Tora Bora?

Meanwhile, in the ongoing hunt for Osama, it looks like the What-a-gon plans on using more Predator drones.

That’s not a new strategy as much as it is an admission of failure of the old one. And, it might be no more likely to succeed.
Pakistani officials said the CIA and the U.S. military have played into bin Laden's hands by pursuing al-Qaeda with bombs and missiles. Pashtun tribes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, angry at the number of civilian casualties, see the United States as the enemy, the officials said. Despite a $25 million reward posted by the U.S. government, no one has been willing to turn in the al-Qaeda leader.

“Unless you have people who support you, human intelligence will never work,” said Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai, a retired Pakistani general who oversaw efforts to track bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders after 2001. “You have to have friendly people.”

At the same time, bureaucratic infighting between Pentagon and CIA has been an ongoing issue.

Read the whole story. It’s a pretty damning indictment of the BushCo clusterfuck in Afghanistan.

To add to the scariness, it’s now being reported that in July, Bush authorized cross-border excursions into Pakistan without Islamabad’s approval.

Well, that’s just wunderbar.

In international law, I think that’s called invading a sovereign nation.

Bush creating casus belli on Pakistan frontier?

To add to the scariness on Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan’s North West Prontier, it’s now being reported that in July, Bush authorized cross-border excursions into Pakistan without Islamabad’s approval.

Well, that’s just wunderbar.

In international law, I think that’s called invading a sovereign nation.

Especially with the special nuclear arms deal with India reaching its final stages, this is just incredibly mind-boggling.

September 10, 2008

Play ‘Nickname that Palin!’ Illustrated and lyricized!

“Barracuda” lyrics backfire on Palin, but she is “Dazed and Confused”

With all the jokes and cracking wise about Gov. Sarah Palin, it’s clear that she needs some serious nickname help.

And, with the help of a few illustrations, and some song lyrics, including the real last stanza of “Barracuda,” here we go.

1. Mayor (of) Whazzup! Whazzup is an Alaska town of about 9,000 real people, a few dozen Religious Right “wedgies” for wedge politics, and a few politicians on the take. (Hey, it’s oil country, and oil corrupts there just as much as Nigeria or Saudi Arabia, right?) That’s not counting a few moose to be shot from the ground and a few wolves to be shot from airplanes.

Whazzup goes down in fame or infamy as the political launching pad of Mayor Whazzup, now Gov. Whazzup, as the “dazed and confused” look (cue Led Zeppelin) shows how well she’s earned this name.

And, speaking of cueing the Zep, here’s the second stanza of “Dazed and Confused”:
You hurt and abuse, tellin’ all of your lies
Run 'round sweet baby, lord, how they hypnotize
Sweet little baby, I don't know where you been
Gonna love you baby, here I come again.

Well, change “here I come” to “away I run” and this is spot on. Mike Wooten? Walt Monegan?

2. Governor to Nowhere. Speaking of classic rockers, it’s time to cue up the Beatles for this one, with a little editing help:
She’s a real nowhere gov,
Lying about her nowhere bridge.
She’s as blind as she can be,
Just sees what she wants to see,
Nowhere Gov can you see me at all?”


Unfortunately, because the bridge money has now been spent on other pork instead, we have no photo of an actual bridge to show you.

Or, still on the musical theme, let’s riff on Robin Trower with “Bridge of Lies!”

3. Barra-chola. Tying Gov. Palin to her Southwestern-based “partner and soulmate.” ¿Se habla “La gran mentira sobre el puente a ninguna parte”?

Beyond that, has the Schmuck Talk Express™ campaign staff actually looked at the “Barracuda” lyrics? The real last stanza, not my snark, says a lot:
The real thing don't do the trick, no?
You better make up something quick
You gonna burn, burn, burn, burn, burn it to the wick
Ahh, barra- barracuda!

The “Barracuda” is a barracuda indeed in the “make up something quick” field.

4. The MILF. No, not that MILF, but the Moron I’d Like to Fuhhgeddabout. Or, the Mom I’d Like to tell to Fuck Off.

Unfortunately, Schmuck Talk Express™ has a different view of this MILF who is, per the above, his “partner and soulmate” after all.

And, if the former Miss Whazzup and cheerleader babe could get all hot and sweaty for the “boys” in Kuwait, maybe she can have the same hot and sweaty campaign effect on the former “boy from Hanoi, Hilton that is.”
Did you know John McCain used to be a prisoner of war?

5. The Whore of Wasilla
(per Revelation 17: 3-18 and the fact that Alaska will be safe territory during the Rapture).
I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet gas pipeline. … The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet. … She held a golden oil barrel in her hand. I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of Walt Monegan and Michael Wooten and Mary Ellen Emmons. … The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of Fundamentalism will be astonished when they see the beast.

Or, in a more literal sense, per the National Enquirer, she could be the Whore of Wasilla.

And, here's your chance to VOTE!


Free polls from Pollhost.com
Gov. Sarah Palin is:
Gov. Whazzup! Nowhere Gov Barra-chola The MILF The Whore of Wasilla
  

Artificial life in the lab?

If this pans out, Sarah Palin and her creationist friends will crap all over themselves

But, while the story is somewhat hyped and breathless, let’s at least say that a lab at Harvard is closing in on creating proto-life. That is, the life-like microscopic aggregations they are making certainly wouldn’t qualify as cellular life, but could be seen as precursors to that, whether that’s the way cells actually formed in “the real world” or not.
Protocellular work is even more radical than the other field trying to create artifical life: synthetic biology. Even J. Craig Venter's work to build an artificial bacterium with the smallest number of genes necessary to live takes current life forms as a template. Protocell researchers are trying to design a completely novel form of life that humans have never seen and that may never have existed.

Basically, this research is based on the idea that a virus-like bit of RNA at some point wandered into a “bubble” of fatty acid, and started replicating. The lead Harvard researcher, Jack Szostak, has already shown how such fatty acid bubbles could remain stable in a great variety of conditions. John Sutherland, a chemist at the University of Manchester, has demonstrated one plausible way that RNA could have spontaneously been created in such a prebiotic world. And Szostak has shown how nucleic acids could have then reproduced inside such an environment.

This is a must read if you’re a science junkie, so click that link.

I’d pay good money for Uncle Fester on the witness stand (aka Cheney)

And the guilty plea, to foreign bribery charges, of former KBR CEO Jack Stanley provides at least a glimmer of hope to the possibility of me having to put a crowbar in the wallet.

Can you imagine the bailiff?

“Sorry, Mr. Cheney, but you can NOT bring that shotgun in the courtroom!”

(Beyond that, something like bribery is probably too soft and subtle for Uncle Fester.)

More seriously, Stanley pled guilty last week to resorting to bribes, kickbacks and high-level corruption to secure deals in Nigeria.

And, remember, KBR was at this time a subunit of Halliburton.

And, “this time” was before midsummer 2000.

Making Jack Stanley’s boss one … Richard B. Cheney.

And, the FBI is investigating this, not the SEC or white-collar folks inside Justice.

Cheney’s office said he would “cooperate fully,” or similar.

BUT!

But… that was before Stanley’s plea, when he was still refusing to cooperate.

Now that he’s singing like a canary in an oil well….

The Veep’s office, not wanting to influence ongoing litigation, refused to comment.

Palin supports Alaska secession?

Tells AIP to “keep up the good work” this year

Alaskan Independence Party chairwoman Lynette Clark says she’d pull the lever for Sarah Palin, if Alaska-hating John McCain didn’t top the GOP ticket. She also makes clear that, even if Palin never was a member (husband Todd WAS, 1995-2002, just before Mayor (of) Whazzup ran for and got elected to that position, that Sarah Palin was quite sympatico with AIP’s “vision.”

I suppose supporting the AIP’s “vision” would be a sine qua non for addressing its convention, as Palin did earlier this year:
"Keep up the good work," Palin told party members. "And God bless you.”

What good work? The work of trying to secede from the United States. That, after all, IS the AIP’s “vision.”

Clean air or political smog on DFW air quality?

State Sen. Kim Brimer, R-Fort Worth organized a Metroplex air quality meeting at UT-Arlington yesterday, but his Democratic election opponent, Wendy Davis, charged him with “shameless election-year pandering.”

Bremer sponsored Senate Bill 1177 in the 79th Legislature in 2007, to require new air quality testing at Midlothian cement kilns but Davis charged that he had been AWOL or in opposition on several other air quality issue.

Two months left; with both House and Senate Republicans having a number of individual seats under strong challenge, and worried about losing control of the Lege, especially in the House, will we see more “hearings” held by various incumbents in coming weeks?

Kucinich wants South Africa-style political commission

He’s calling for an American version of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission after Bush gets out of office to look at his 9/11 and Iraq War shenanigans.

Fat chance on that one, Denny. Most Dem Congressional leaders probably only have about 2 degrees more enthusiasm for that than they’ve shown for impeaching the Chimpster. Ain't.Gonna.Happen., to quote George the Oldster.

Obama campaign floundering or directionless?

Kid gloves with Palin; possible reverse on 527s?

1. The issue of campaign strategy/chess is getting a lot of punditry play, beginning with a good piece at Salon. Salon notes that Obama-Biden is pushing on the “Palin as liar” theme, which is good because the MSM, and especially a chunk of MSM punditry like Howie Kurtz and the L.A. Times political blog are still giving her at least half a pass.

Democratic consultant Tad Devine, who managed Lloyd Bentsen's Veep campaign in 1988, says it could be counterproductive to spend too much time on Palin. But, Palin gets to McCain’s judgment, or snap judgment, while still offering the possibility of killing two character birds with one stone. See Eagleton, Tom.

2. Kid gloves for Palin? So far, Obama-Biden won’t say Word 1 about the allegations of her affair or about Trig Palin’s parentage, blogged further here, both of which I say could still have political legs.

That said, you don’t have your presidential or vice-presidential candidate broach these things directly. That’s what 527 groups and such are for.

But, Sen. Kumbaya asked MoveOn to shut down its 527 activity, and it stupidly agreed. I can already see more and more of the story line elements of the “how” shaping up if the Dems blow yet another presidential election. (However, look below for more on this.)

Once again, to riff Clauswitz: “Politics is war by other means.”

3. The Quiet Veep — And, speaking of Biden and campaign strategery, hasn’t Sen. MBNA gone kind of quiet again? Is he checking to see if the Fannie-Freddie bailout, despite Obama’s condemnation of a possible CEO golden parachute, is helping his Delaware credit card buddies?

4. I mean, ultimately, the $390 million that Obama’s already got in his pockets from opting out of public financing does no good if he doesn’t start using more now, and using it aggressively.

As Example No. 1, I point out Phil Gramm’s massively funded, and massively failed, campaign. (Of course, his campaign failed because he’s Phil Gramm.)

5. Scholars and Rogues worries that B.O. is going to be too late in getting his ass out of Kumbaya mode. It also points out that part of the reason he has such a massive war chest is he deliberately stiffed MoveOn and other 527s and kept raking in money directly to his campaign.
Obama has made no attempt to hide that he’s a control freak. He’s ordered donors to stay away from 527s and called all the money to his campaign directly. He’s cold-shouldered the grassroots and Netroots. And he’s ignored the blogs like a high school quarterback ignores his 14 year-old sister when his friends are watching.

And Kos and the others have come back for more. Hah!

Meanwhile, S&R points out that B.O. may finally be admitting he effed up this whole line of thinking.

No shit! Is the phrase “campaign surrogate” not even in his vocabulary? Where are women governors Sebelius and Napolitano as part of a takedown on Palin? MIA? Ignored? Overlooked?

Anyway, read the whole S&R post. Obama deservedly gets a good butt-kicking behind the woodshed.

Early Wednesday Palin wrap — child abuser?

Child abuse chiding and staffer affair top list

1. Child abuse? Yes, before she became governor, a state judge warned her that her harassment of ex b-i-l Michael Wooten was a form of child abuse.
“Disparaging will not be tolerated — It is a form of child abuse,” (Judge John Siddock) told a settlement hearing in October 2005.

In that case, the “Barracuda” probably has a long history of abuse. Did she badger kids checking out “undesirable books” at the Wasilla library?

2. Just a fad? Novelty act? That’s the claim of another female governor, Kansas Democrat Kathleen Sebelius. Really, c’mon, that’s pretty thin even for political rhetoric.

Sorry, Gov. Sebelius, but your fellow Dems have wasted wayyy too damned much time on a kid-gloves approach to her. Why Obama and/or the DNC didn’t trot out you and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano at first light 10 days ago to fire back, I have no idea.

Instead, she’s gotten traction now, and, even though she was a novelty act (and still is a circus act), you can’t hang that on her any more. As for “returning to issues,” whether on her affairs (or affair) and many other items, Palin herself should have been the issue. Suffice it to say that I’ll be adjusting my “Intrade” odds this Friday/Saturday.

3. The governor’s affairs? Well, if the National Enquirer is correct (and nobody’s yet denied it, although Kumbaya Democrats don’t like to talk about it), it’s OK for Gov. Palin herself to have an affair. If the Wall Street Journal is right (ahh, the NE and the WSJ in the same breath!) ONLY Gov. Palin gets to have an affair amongst people in the gov’s office.

Meanwhile, the Journal has this classic take on the Frozen Tundra:
But at times, Alaska seems more like a small town, run by folks with overlapping professional, political and personal ties that can be difficult to untangle.

And, Mayor (of) Whazzup, now Gov. Whazzup (more tonight), is the knot, or the naughty, in the middle of the tangle.

Seriously, the more I read, the Palins sound like the Addams Family of Wasilla. I suspect that Palin is lying about much of what she says about Mike Wooten, but I know that domestic affairs, from my journalism experience, quickly devolve into “he said, she said” situations.

4. The GOP is selling a meet, greet and glossy pic of the gov for 50 grand a pop. Now, we know that nobody would pay that for a male Veep’s 8x10, so, tell me, GOP, why isn’t this sexist?

5. Meanwhile, the battle for endorsements continues. First, like dentists recommending Trident, three out of four Palin friends, friends for 15 years, won’t commit to vote for her. But former Bush backer Ed Koch, calling Palin “scary,” WILL commit to vote for Obama. Of course, this is Ed Koch; if you were looking for “maverick” in a political dictionary, you’d see his pic before McCain’s. Or, “contrarian,” even better. Ed probably just was missing the limelight.

Hawking bets against ‘God particle’

Well, actually, to be more scientific, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking is betting against the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, on the Swiss-French border, finding conclusive evidence of the Higgs boson, the primary reason it was built.

We’ll see. Remember, Hawking is a cosmologist, not a particle physicist.

And, he’s certainly right that plenty of other physics discoveries mean the LHC won’t be a “failure,” no matter what.

September 09, 2008

Take ‘Obama the constitutional law scholar’ with a grain of salt

Why?

One word and one phrase.

The word? An acronym named “FISA.”

The phrase? “Faith-based programs.”

Obama was OK with the FISA amendment bill, and openly so, before opponents like Feingold and Dodd even had a serious chance to try to block it.

Specific to constitutional law, why did Obama think Big Telecom needed a “get out of jail free card”?

(Here’s a link to all my “Obama + FISA” posts.)

Faith-based initiatives?

First, Obama is on record as wanting to expand them.

Add to that what I am going to assume is a shell game, a deliberate one, and NOT naivete, over the idea that federal vs. private funds can be and will be “segregated” by faith-based groups. (Our segregation of funds to Israel has sure stopped it from building a wall segregating Palestinians, hasn’t it?)

Top it off with B.O. giving us little idea what programs will or will not cut mustard in his administration, like this one, and his record here is scary.


Specific to constitutional law, I’ve long said most current faith-based programs at least challenge constitutionality if not going well beyond it, and that’s without B.O. wanting to expand them. I don’t need a rhetorical question here.

(Here’s a link to all my “Obama + fait” posts.)

Finally, the University of Chicago doesn’t strike me as a hotbed of progressive constitutional law, and Cass Sunstein doesn’t strike me as being as progressive as he cracks himself up to be.

When ‘green’ is not green — McMansion world

I don’t care how much in the way of recycled materials you use, how much active or passive solar you have, etc., but a 6,500-square-foot McMansion is NOT green.

It’s not green for a number of reasons:
1. Any amount of non-recycled materials are being used in triple amounts than if this were a national-average home of about 2,200 square feet;
2. Unless hybrid-drive construction equipment has been invented, it takes triple the gasoline/diesel to deliver raw materials, recycled or not, to a homesite this size;
3. As the story like this notes, especially out in the West, homes this size are built far out in exurbia, which means more gas burned driving into Boulder for shopping, etc.
4. In light of that, the U.S. Green Building Council has added a size-adjustment factor to its LEED certification program.

Unfortunately, a pseudoliberal, but not-so-pseudoelite Boulder County Commission isn’t helping.

The county has a size limit on new homes, but you can bust that by buying transferable credits from other landowners in the county.

And, guess where this idea came from? Pitkin County, home of Aspen.

Pitkin finally capped McMansions at 15K square feet.

It’s stuff like this that makes heartland America skeptical, if not cynical, about the green bitchfest of Hollywooders and others.

And, unlike HCN story author Monique Cole, I don’t feel a bit sorry for Boulder County’s Abramsons.

Beyond that, throwing some recycled materials into a house that size sounds like it’s being done for the reason many jetsetter elites buy carbon offset credits — It’s the modern equivalent of indulgences.

Rich Cohen — Obama being Swift-boated

Even a stopped calendar is right twice a year, and Cohen is more than right with this grand slam. Basically, he’s right that Obama is getting Swift-boated AND that either Obama thinks his Post-Partisan Politics™ will rise above this, or else he just doesn’t get it yet:
What Obama does not understand is that he is being Swift-boated. (Emphasis added.)

Of course, non-comprehending and Obama’s PPP aren’t mutually contradictory, either. Indeed, they may go together, with Obama thinking, “They can’t be doing this to me, can they?”

As with Kerry’s Vietnam service, Cohen then argues the GOP is going straight for Obama’s perceived strength.

But why is he quiet?

Cohen suggests that maybe he IS worried about the “angry black man” or maybe he's just too cool to ever show that type of anger.
But the result is that we have little insight into his passions: What, above all, does he care about? The answer, at least to the Sunday TV viewer, was nothing much.

Read the whole thing.

If Rich Cohen not only “gets it,” but spells it out, it’s serious. Will B.O. get that?

Oy Vey Agriprocessors

The nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant, the target of a huge illegal immigrant raid earlier this summer, has its first criminal charges: breaking child labor laws .

Whether (allegedly) hiring illegals is “one thing” or “bad enough” or whatever phrase you choose, child labor is a whole nother issue.
The complaint filed by the Iowa attorney general's office said the violations involved 32 illegal-immigrant children under age 18, including seven who were younger than 16. The complaint says in addition to handling dangerous equipment, the children were exposed to hazardous chemicals such as chlorine solutions and dry ice.

Oops.

And, chlorine? Does kosher beef get bleached like the stuff offered up for goys at Wal-Mart and Kroger?

Soros partner — Let Fannie-Freddie go bankrupt

While a pseudolib squish like Kevin Drum continues to link to a libertarian like Tyler Cowan who will nonetheless do philosophical headstands to justify the federal bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “Let the patient go bankrupt.” Damn straight.

Rogers, known for launching the Quantum Fund with left-wing heavyweight George Soros, had plenty more where that came from.
“America is more communist than China is right now,” Rogers told CNBC Europe’s “Squawk Box Europe” Sept. 8. “You can at least have a free market in housing and a lot of other things in China. And you can see that this is welfare for the rich. This is socialism for the rich. It’s bailing out the financiers, the banks, the Wall Streeters.”

“Let the patient go bankrupt,” he said. “We have courts in America; they will be reorganized.”

Indeed.

Meanwhile, the WSJ gives us its take “on bailout winners and losers.

Back to my other rant, though. Drum’s drinking Cowan’s Kool-Aid more than one too many times makes me wonder, other than being a left-coast techie and early in blogger who is mainstream liberal on a couple of hot-button (to conservatives) social issues, why the hell did Washington Monthly ever hire him in the first place? Does he have some negatives of Paul Glastris?

Michael Griffin smoking crack?

The NASA chief went postal in an e-mail that eventually got into the cyber-mitts of the Orlando Sentinel.

His gripe? The 2010 phase-out of the Space Shuttle.

Problem? Two.

First, its Orion replacement won’t be ready until 2010.

Second, the Russia-Georgia situation likely nixes rides on Soyuz.

That combined means no U.S. astronauts on the International Space Station for a four-year gap.

Actually, there’s three problems. Griffin failed to put blame where blame is due for both problems, his ultimate boss at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., “Mr. Man on Mars” and “Mr. Build a Pipeline Through Georgia.”

Ev Psych, metaphysical style, takes another hit

But it’s not totally good news

Regular readers of my science posts here will note that I regularly and carefully distinguish between Evolutionary Psychology, a quasi-metaphysical, and quasi-scientific, belief system that human psychological and sociological differences are almost entirely reducible to genetic evolution and that within that, the biggest driver is male-female difference, and the legitimate study of the genetic evolution component of changes in human psychology, called evolutionary psychology without capital letters.

Well, capital-letter Ev Psych takes yet another hit as a legitimate line of scientific hypothesis-generation, and this one right in its metaphorical breadbasket.

Male-female personality differences vary widely among different societies around the globe.

Flip side? Here in the USofA, male-female personality differences have been widening in recent years.
The biggest changes recorded by the researchers involve the personalities of men, not women. Men in traditional agricultural societies and poorer countries seem more cautious and anxious, less assertive and less competitive than men in the most progressive and rich countries of Europe and North America.

The authors of the study at hand suggest some reasons for this, with which I don’t totally agree, or at least don’t find comprehensive enough.

I think the cyberworld has contributed more to the widening difference than they apparently even thought to consider.

Tamarisks good for the environment?

Maybe not (I and other knowledgeable lovers of the Desert Southwest’s environment shudder at the mere thought) but an ecologist and marine biologist make a paradigm-challenging argument that invasive species are often good for their new environment. They even claim invasive species can spur new evolutionary diversity among natives, either on their own or through hybridization with the invaders.

Critics charge that Dov Sax and Steven D. Gaines are wrong on many counts, most of which have to do with human-induced climate change speed, human-induced number and intensity of invasives, etc.

And, I think I’d have to agree, but read the whole story for yourself.

Worldwatch roundup — Scientology, Chavez, Japanese glass ceiling, tundra Armageddon

Scientology is on trial in France. Charges? Fraud and illegal drug prescription.

The fraud is from an individual who bought an “electrometer,” which basically sounds like an (alleged) at-home gizmo to check your engrams, or tune in Scientologist John Travolta’s old “Kotter” episodes.

Can’t wait to see Tom Cruise go postal on the Champs Elysees. I’m sure Parisians can wait a long time for that.

More seriously, why can’t OUR government ever nail the ElRons on fraud charges?

Yuriko Koike’s goal? Become Japan’s first woman prime minister. She’s competing with three challengers to head Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, which is by no means guaranteed retaining its hold on Parliament. She’s on the good side of relatively popular ex-PM Junichiro Koizumi.

Hugo Chavez tweaks the Yanqui nose in the White House by hosting some Russian warships.

Hugo says, “Go ahead and squeal, Yankees!”

And, since Palin-land is sounding more and more like a foreign country, and the Governor to Nowhere’s hubby once wanted it to be independent, you should take note …

Alaska will be home safe when the rapture comes.

See you in court, Google!

When BushCo hires the Carter DOJ’s top antitrust lawyer, looking at the Google-Yahoo ad deal of earlier this summer, you know the fat’s in the fire.

And, reportedly, Sanford Litvack’s bailwick isn’t just limited to that. Maybe he’ll follow up on my thought of last week and see if Google Chrome is committing fraud over how it handles pop-up ads.

Is it rare for DOJ to hire an outside lawyer for this?

Yes.

Last time? 1998.

Lawyer? David Boies.

Civil defendant? Microsoft.

Have fun in court, Sergey and Larry.

September 08, 2008

Intrade, Gadfly style

Yes, “Intrade” is probably copyrighted by the folks who started the concept but, short of “Horsetrade” or something like that, no eye-catching name has come to me yet.

OK, let’s keep this simple, and in percentages.

First, even though Palin is “started the concept,” that’s not the same as her getting the boot from the ticket.

So, Palin withdrawal/booting odds? 6 percent. With Schmuck Talk Express™ himself striving to quash Troopergate, she's not going away.

Obama vs. McCain? 55-45. I’ll tackle a guesstimate on third-party percentages and such starting in a week, but that will come; can’t have just the duopoly listed.

For more insight yourself, Electoral-Vote is invaluable.

FiveThirtyEight.com is better in some ways, with Intrade-type odds lines. It also isn’t afraid to critique things like ad quality from the presidential candidates.

Meanwhile, of course, the real Intrade is all about wagering, right? Well, some high muckety-mucks from various European Union countries and the EU bureaucracy have also For more insight yourself, placed their bets.

Cloture-proof Democratic Senate? 10-90. (I’m deliberately putting that on the low side, but, honestly, I don’t think it’s going to happen.)

And, what if the Dems get 59 Senators? Rather than boot Joementum out of the caucus, will they instead beg and plead with him to make 60? Or, will they try to get some GOPer to turn… hmmm.

On the Texas state level, now…

Cornyn-Noriega: 57-43. Sorry, but I just don’t feel Rick Noriega burning up the bushes. Psst., Rick… like McCain, you have to run on something more than military service. (FiveThirtyEight.com lists this seat as strongly leaning Cornyn.)

Noriega has not translated his Lege service into a winning campaign message. Also, he does not have Mikal Watts' money, nor much from the DSCC, and also does not have Watts' other pluses, which I thought Noriega would have transcended by now.

Electoral-Vote’s Senate tracker covers Cornyn-Noriega and all other Senate races. Per its link to Texas Senate race polling, you can see why I remain bullish on Cornyn — but NOT personally, of course!

Dems regaining the Texas House? 40-60

And, here in Dallas County?

Valdez-Cannady for sheriff: (Again, a pet peeve — why do we elect sheriffs?) 50-50. This race boils down to what Dallas power broker John Wiley Price does or does not say or do for Valdez.

And, a commodities shot:

Oil below $100/bbl this year? 20-80.

The Guardian tells us OPEC, next week, will fight hard and plot strategy to keep it above $100/bbl.

And, on the personal side?

Odds of me voting Obama instead of McKinney? Less than 10 percent, and that's charitable.

Tune in next week!

Dallas housing market not out of woods yet

Pre-existing home sales slumped 18 percent in August. The median price dropped 3 percent.

The only reason Dallas home prices haven’t cratered like SoCal, Vegas, South Florida and Phoenix is that they didn’t balloon as much in the first place.

Contrary to Texans for a Sound Economy and other numbnuts, being a more moderate Republican governor (Schwarzenegger, to a degree, Charlie Crist in Florida) doesn’t doom your state economy to hell.

It’s the economy, stupid. Period.

Dallas Symphony getting bowed over by new director

Dallas Morning News classical music critic Scott Cantrell has a glowing welcome to Dallas piece for van Zweden.

But, Scott’s been critical of DSO string play for years. A fair part of the fault lays at the feet of Andrew Litton. (And Scott has noted Jaap got the strings strung right in 2006 and 2007-08 guest appearances.)

And, he laid down the Fort Worth Symphony gauntlet on string play quality recently, to boot. (And, he’s right. If you can do a good M7 — I was on vacation, or I likely would have driven over to Fort Worth to hear for myself — you are top-notch.)

Speaking of that, van Zweden is even interested in some cooperative work with his opposite number, Miguel Harth Bedoya, and the “Cowtown gang.”

In the long term, and with van Zweden wanting to program more modern music, too, and perhaps having a certain vision for the DSO’s string sound (a la the famous “Philadelphia sound” of Eugene Ormandy), will there be clashes with Borok?

Not likely, says Cantrell, who says van Zweden, a former A-league concertmaster, should work well with Borok, whom he says will be pleased to have him here.

Scott also has a separate Q&A with van Zweden, but I’ll be damned if I can find it on the effed-up Dallas Morning News website. Even Google News isn’t showing it in advanced search mode, so some Snooze Net-jockey must have forgotten to upload it or something.

Georgia too much on Obama-Biden mind

Is Obama-Biden willing to risk “oil war” over Georgia in NATO?

Tom Friedman’s snarky riff on our $1 bil aid package for Georgia, and not Georgia, means that this issue isn’t going away.

To riff on B.O. himself, since it’s my space to riff:
I’m not against all decisions of the Bipartisan Foreign Policy Establishment™, just stupid ones.

And, admitting Georgia to NATO would be stupid.

Hugely stupid.

Because it would be offensive, an in-your-face move to Russia.

As offensive to Russia as Bush opting out of the ABM to start our supposed space-based missile defense program, from where I sit.

And, if Sen. Veep nominee MBNA Joe Biden, with his Foreign Relations Committee chairmanship experience certificate from the Council of Foreign Relations on his office wall, doesn’t get that, he’s pretty clueless after all.

If he’s deliberately ignoring that for the sake of political talking points, and B.O. is voluntarily in agreement, well, then, they’re as willing to play politics for a Georgia oil connection as Bush was with Iraq — and to politicize it as part of their campaign.

As I blogged earlier this week, does Obama-Biden still agree with Uncle Fester on Georgia?

Is Obama-Biden going to continue to be Cold Warrior on Georgia?

Is Obama-Biden willing to go to war over Georgia, a war that, given the pipeline issue, would essentially be a “war for oil” that Obama condemned in talking about Iraq?

I WILL keep hammering away at this, you Democrats who are “liberal” in name only and wonder what I’m doing on liberal blog rolls.

Fat teens make for fatty livers

Which then makes for early-life liver transplants. This is NO JOKE/

Is this child abuse? Criminal child abuse? Scroll down for my thought.


Per the story, many of today’s obese teens may need a new liver by their 30s or 40s. The American Liver Foundation estimates from 2-5 percent of American children over age 5, nearly all of them obese or overweight, have the condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease that lies behind this.

How bad is it? In St. Louis, Dr. Jose Derdoy, head of liver transplants at Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, said he’s treated a 15-year-old, 530-pound boy and many others with the condition.

Yes, genes have some influence on our weight, but …

DO NOT TELL ME a 15-year-old hits 530 pounds because of genes.

Harper calls snap election in Canada

Obama campaign connection?

Right now, Canada’s Conservatives govern as a minority party, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper thinks he can change that.

Why the early election date?

Harper, known to many in the Great White North as “Canada’s George Bush,” thinks his party’s odds will be better with a snap election now rather than waiting until after the U.S. November election, especially worrying that an Obama surge would migrate north to help Canada’s Liberals.

‘Math cluelessness’ may be in your genes

In what sounds like it is a bit analogous to dyslexia, it seems some people just don’t have agood feel for numbers.

No word in the story as to how heritable number sense, or its lack, is.

OOPS in Afghanistan on American bombing

Cell phone pix appear to confirm that a major U.S. bombing run last month killed dozens of civilians, something the Pentagon has adamantly denied:
A U.S. military official, who has seen the cell phone imagery but asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said Monday there were about 30 bodies, some covered and some in blankets.

There were "several children who appear to be pulled from the rubble," he said.

Add mistakes like this, and the bullheadedness in refusing to admit them, to why both Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin are wrong about adding more troops to Afghanistan.

The heartless of BushCo on Cuba

As Hurricane Ike is set to basically obliterate Cuba, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says “I don’t think … lifting of the embargo (against Cuba) would be wise.”

Let’s see if John McCain toes the BushCo line for Cuban votes in South Florida or not.

Snopes says ‘Whoa, Nellie’ on Palin book-ban list

While not denying that, as Wasilla mayor, Sarah Palin may have objected to some library books, the good folks at Snopes shoot down rumors that she actually did ban any books, let alone a particular list of them that’s now circulating the Net.

(The first “Harry Potter” book hadn’t been published yet at the time Palin began pushing librarian Mary Ellen Emmons.

Eat a blank check, America!

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson still can’t tell us the final price tag on the Fannie Mae-Freddie Mac bailout.

Wunderbar.

“It’s the economy, stupid.”

Empty Cabinet promise from McCain?

Schmuck Talk Express™ is promising to name Democrat(s) to his Cabinet, if elected.

Question: Since Joementum, Joe Lieberman, still caucuses with Senate Democrats, is McCain counting him as a Dem?

Let’s see McCain make a promise besides naming Joementum his Secretary of State.

September 07, 2008

Palin follies Day 8 — BOTH Palins needed vetting

Across the pond, the Times (London) gives its eye of scrutiny to the “shadow governor,” Todd, as well as the missus.

Here’s just a few things that Schmuck Talk Express™ and Steve Schmidt missed:
• Over the past 20 months, confidential e-mails sent by the governor and other officials had been routinely copied to Todd;
• In case you forgot, or didn’t see, Todd Palin visited Walter Monegan to push what has become “Troopergate”;
• Many senior Alaska GOP officials are surprised he wasn’t vetted, either.