September 20, 2008

Intrade Sept. 20 — Palin on ice; Lupe Valdez campaign and DMN mudslinging

Dallas Morning News op-ed writer Rod Dreher plays bigoted dirty tricks with Lupe Valdez (below)

With Sarah Palin having fundraisers and other appearances cancelled by the McCain-Palin campaign, I offer 50-50 odds that she’s on ice until the vice-presidential debate, given all the different reasons she has for being on ice right now.

If Palin’s rise was worth a boost to Senate GOP hopes of stanching the bleeding, as the Post details here, then how much damage does the bursting of her bubble cause?

I’ll give the Dems a 20 percent chance now of hitting 58 seats, Joementum included. I would still love to see them hit 60, Lieberman counted, to see the carnage of how much Harry Reid would kiss Lieberman’s butt on cloture issues. Hey, I like schadenfreude.

Per the Post story, Liddy Dole’s re-election race in North Carolina will be a harbinger of Senate Dem chances.

That said, let’s go to FiveThirtyEight.com and Electoral-Vote for some presidential and Senate look-see.

The two sites differ pretty significantly on the presidential race. As of early Saturday, E-V was at 265-252 McCain, with Pennsylvania tied. 538 breaks it out at 303-235 Obama, a 50-vote difference. It lists PA as “safely Dem,” the second-highest level, and sees North Carolina less firmly in the Republican camp. I think 538 is a bit too optimistic; it all depends on how the rush of economic-related news plays out politically.

Neither site offers much hope to Rick Noriega against John Cornyn; 538 rates it 93 percent likely Cornyn will win. IMO, I still say Noreiga didn’t do much early other than running on his military career, and that didn’t work for John Kerry in 2004. And, he didn’t have Watts’ personal money to spend on ads. Wrong candidate, Dems, and not the first time in recent years.

Dallas County Sheriff? Earlier this week, I offered an official personal endorsement of incumbent Democratic Sheriff Lupe Valdez, or more, an anti-endorsement of GOP challenger Lowell Cannaday.

I stand firmly behind that, despite, on the horse-race side, knowing that Dallas Morning News editorial writer Rod Dreher’s offensive wedge politics over a sensitivity to sexual preferences survey the Sheriff’s Department used for the first time but that the Dallas PD has used for 15 years.

Even for you, Rod, this is a cheap-shit tactic and you know it, Rod.

Drop Rod a line.

And, as I blogged earlier today, this appears to be the Dallas Metroplex’s version of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” ginning up here.

Financial bailout at $700 bil or more gets a C-minus

Paulson-Bernanke plan rates a “C-minus” so far from me; McCain calls for creation of already-existing federal institution; economic growth to drop by 2 percent

That’s the estimated price from Bush/Paulson to soak up all the bad mortgages, giving the government a two-year window to buy up bad debt of any financial institution?

What’s missing, so far at least? Tit for tat;The story notes the plan does not say what the government would get in return from financial companies.

In other words, what’s missing so far is new regulatory standards.

McCain morphs Palin — And, speaking of that, John McCain thinks a mortgage lenders’ insurance agency (If I can interpret his convoluted thought processes) is what we need. But, Schmuck Talk Express™ has no regulatory powers mentioned. I’m sure thatt’s because Mr. “No More Bailouts” doesn’t want any such regulation.

And, of course, lack of financial reserves for calls on CDOs and other toxic mortgage products is a part of the problem that got us to this point.

Beyond that, can McCain tell me how his Mortgage and Financial Institutions trust is different from the Office of Thrift Supervision, since AIG, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers (as well as the failed IndyBank) were under its supervision? I doubt he can do that himself.

Now, that’s not to say that the OTS doesn’t need both new regulatory authority and new regulatory requirements. And the difference between those two is:
New regulatory authority: OTS, you can (now have the power to) look at these companies’ books once a year.
New regulatory requirements: OTS, you shall look at these companies’ books once a year.

Problem No. 1 is that Paulson’s already resisting some of these ideas:
Democrats said they wanted some concessions. Firms that received government money should restrict executive salaries and give taxpayers a share of their profits. And once the Treasury bought all those mortgage-backed securities, it should work to make sure the people on the other end of the mortgages didn't get thrown out of their homes.

Paulson was cool to those ideas.

And, there’s about a 5 percent chance that Passive Pelosi™ and Land-Swap Harry Reid will actually play brinkmanship with him.

As for the bad-assets auction portion of the Bernanke-Paulson program, I don’t want it unless the Treasury has authority to recover the difference between buy and sale price from the original holder of the mortgage security or whomever for a sufficiently long period, like 20 years. And, I would rather have that than the Treasury having authority to directly hold these products for as long as 20 years in search of better sales terms.

Speaking further of McCain, it appears he ranks high on the WaPost Pinocchio list for his over-the-top attempt to link Obama to former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines.

That said, as far as other, related issues, I do agree with Democrats looking for some sort of relief for homeowners stuck with bad mortgages. I’m sure Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is politically savvy enough to drop his opposition to that, even if Shrub needs some persuading.

BUT, that is NOT the same thing as needed new regulatory requirements.

Among those regulatory requirements that immediately come to mind? If the Treasury is going to extend FDIC-type protection to money market mutual funds, then we’d better have FDIC-type regulations on the issuers of such mutual funds.

Beyond that, snark aside, it raises real issues of who’s in charge of our country. The only thing missing from Gail Collins’ column is a quote or comment from goldbug Ron Paul or other hardcore libertarians.

Meanwhile, off in BizarroWorld, Newt Gingrich pontificates from the wahhhmbulance about Shrub abandoning ideology without offering anything constructive as an alternative. That’s why you’re stuffing your face with freebie donuts at think tanks and getting ready to divorce Wife No. 3 (hey, it’s Newt, it could be happening) instead of running Congress.

Newt’s not alone, though. Here’s Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning:
“The free market for all intents and purposes is dead in America The U.S. Treasury's proposal would "take away the free market and institute socialism in America.”

The “free market” of federally subsidized loan guarantees for small businesses? The free market of federally subsidized student loans? The free market of federally subsidized home mortgage loans? Your middle-class ’winger Kentuckians may be stupid, but, to enlighten them, we’ve never had the “free market” your nocturnal emission dreams lust for.

Finally, here’s an in-depth q&a explainer about how this all came to be.

A couple of talking points:
• GDP growth will be lowered by 2 percentage points for this year and next;
• The AIG backup/quasi-bailout was indeed virgin territory for the Fed;
• Other institutions should (will?) look at Lehman and realize they need to scrounge up more reserve cash, no matter the cost.

‘Palin Family’ + ‘National Enquirer’

Need I say more, in the first issue since the “Sarah Palin affair” last week? You can look for yourself, or I’ll throw a word or two out.

OxyContin.

Booting Bristol out of the house.

If that’s not enough, how does shotgun wedding (rejected by Bristol) sound?

Metroplex version of ‘right-wing smear machine’ against Valdez?

It certainly seems that way, with Dallas Morning News editorial writer Rod Dreher moving his crunchy con schtick to just plain “con,” and apparently doing so in tag team with former Observer writer Matt Pulle, now working at the pseudo-nonpartisan online newsmag Texas Watchdog.

Dreher’s using offensive wedge politics over a sensitivity to sexual preferences survey the Sheriff’s Department used for the first time but that the Dallas PD has reportedly used for 15 years, or so Resource Center of Dallas says.

Then Pulle claims the Dallas PD says, nope, we haven’t used such a survey, according to Texas Watchdog. (Which is only “nonpartisan” in the sense that it’s not officially part of the Texas GOP; Matt’s boss used to work at a ’winger public-policy shop in Nashville.)

I don’t know what’s going on. I’d like to hear from someone higher up in the DPD than just a “spokesperson.” And, since Cece Cox of Resource Center of Dallas said it’s been handed out to DPD recruits “within the last year,” this may be something new over there, new enough for a “spokesperson” to not be familiar with any changes.

That’s my guess; it’s new, or it is in its latest version and so DPD spokesperson Janice Crowther may not be familiar with it. (It’s unlikely the entire DPD, even if the survey goes beyond new recruits, takes such a survey every year.)

That’s putting the least charitable interpretation on this. The idea that Valdez knew in advance what questions were on the survey, let alone the insinuation that she drafted it, is ridiculous.

Beyond that, the whole section of the survey is only about a dozen questions (PDF).

Also, given the right-wing public policy think-tank background of Texas Watchdog founder Trent Seibert, contra Rod Dreher, I think we have the Dallas Metroplex’s version of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” ginning up here.

The Dallas Voice has more on Matt Pulle’s background with stuff like this.

Which also makes it interesting that the Texas Watchdog PDF ONLY has the one page posted. NOT the whole survey.

Ron Fournier misuses ‘Bradley effect’ to get on McCain tire swing

Ron Fournier misuses ‘Bradley effect’ to get on McCain tire swingWhile legitimate questions exist about how much the Bradley effect may or may not cost Barack Obama voters, in this story, it’s arguable that notorious AP Washington bureau chief Ron Fournier is on Josh Marshall’s infamous McCain tire swing.

First, the supposedly straight facts:
• One-third of white Dems harbor negative views toward blacks;
• More than a third of all white Democrats and independents agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks (not sure if this is a separate item or not, actually).

Here comes the tire swing, though. Fournier (and/or co-writers) claim (without saying it was from the same Stanford poll or not) that one-quarter of Dems wonder about Obama’s competency without citing how McCain polls in this area among Republicans.

The story then claims the size of the Bradley effect for Obama could be as much as 6 percentage points. That itself is an outlier, and enough of an outlier to raise my skeptical antennae about the story.

Finally, why does a story like this need five contributors as well as a bylined coauthorI? Is this part of AP’s attempts to insulate Fournier from criticism?

Wachovia hypocrisy-bad timing alert

In the mail today, I get a flyer from Wachovia. I quote:
Celebrate a safe FDIC-insured savings option: a 3.75 percent APY Wachovia Money Market.

First, this had better be a money market savings account instead of a money market mutual fund; otherwise, Wachovia is lying out its FDIC-insured ass.

Second, the fine print:
The Annual Percentage Yield is in effect as of September 2, 2008. This is a variable rate and subject to change at any time after account opening.

First, I HIGHLY doubt it’s at 3.75 percent today. Let me check with Ben Bernanke or Henry Paulson first, including checking to see how much of Wachovia’s bad debt could get dumped on me the taxpayer.

Second, per further fine print, you gotta have $10K to qualify for that rate.

Ramadan and ciggies

Although an occasional Muslim cleric disagrees, cigarettes are generally considered haram and therefore verboten for Ramadan!

Jokes about doubly-surly NYC cabbies aside, be kind to any Muslim friends who smoke.

Google iPhone knockoff just around the corner — a skeptical look

The gPhone, powered by T-Mobile, is just around the corner, priced to move, and slap Apple in the face, at $199. The phone is platformed on Google’s open-code Android software.

The one critique so far is that it lacks the iPhone’s attractiveness quotient.

And, as far as slaps in the face, Research in Motion and the Blackberry may be in Google’s sights more than Apple.

Flip side of skepticism on gPhone?

Will the Android program, like Chrome, turn out to be another version of Google as Big Brother?

Let me put it this way — I wouldn’t bet against that.

Flip side of skepticism No. 2?

Google doesn’t always get things right. And doesn’t always do a good job of fixing what it didn’t get right in the first place.

Permafrost maybe safer than believed

A study in Science magazine says it may resist global warming better than once believed.

September 19, 2008

Big Pharma cons Texas and endangers kids

Big Pharma and its mass marketing arm hornswoggled the state of Texas into blowing $300 million on atypical antipsychotics for children that not only don’t work well, they also cause serious weight gain.

The drugs, such as Janssen’s Risperdal and Abilify, don’t work any better than older generics, according to a national study reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry. So, Big Pharma has sold a big bill of goods:
“States have spent a tremendous amount of money unnecessarily for drugs that are no safer than the older drugs that are a fraction of the cost,” said Allen Jones, a Pennsylvania whistleblower who investigates drug company influence. “It appears, based on what the science is telling us, that an enormous amount of money was spent for no real benefit.”

The study may also bolster a state lawsuit — originally filed by Mr. Jones but joined by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott — against Janssen over allegations the company improperly influenced state officials to add Risperdal to a list of preferred drugs.

In fact, false advertising is one of the counts listed in the suit.

As for the health issues, all the atypical antipsychotics cause child metabolism changes that increase the likelihood of diabetes. One, Zyprexa, caused as much as 15 pounds of weight gain in just eight weeks.

Ahh, that’s Big Pharma for you.

The speculators won — and will win again next week

Despite Henry Paulson et al insisting that Lehman Brothers, AIG, etc. would not be bailed out, it seems like the Treasury-as-auction-house portion of the lenders’ bailout play isn’t even close to a “hard line.”

Here’s why, in a quote, the speculators have won:
“It sounds like there's going to be a giant dumpster for illiquid assets,'” said Mirko Mikelic, senior portfolio manager at Fifth Third Asset Management in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which oversees $22 billion in assets. “It brings up the more troubling question of whether the U.S. government is big enough to take on this whole problem, relative” to the size of the American economy, he said.

If SENATOR Barack Obama signs off on Congressional approval for whatever plan Paulson pushes without attaching major new regulatory requirements, and not just powers, we’ll know that Goldman Sachs’ money has done its job well.

Oh, via BizJournals, let’s not forget that Obama GOP backer Jim Leach was one of the sponsors of suddenly-radioactive 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Also, both Clnton’s then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who pushed hard for it, and his predecessor, Larry Summers, are Obama advisors, McCain’s camp alleges.

Also, given the budget impact of this, there had better be an income tax surtax on some rich individuals and some rich corporations in this field, along with changes in tax code.

Charles Schumer, I mean, I want your personal Yes vote for taxing hedge fund managers’ income as income.

In reality, though, I’ll bet you at 50-50 odds that Congress buys this crap in a bill without attaching significant new regulatory requirements, not just powers, to the bailout.

The House and Senate vote will be largely “bipartisan,” too. Probably a bipartisan whitewash.

You heard it here first. More tomorrow, and I’ll throw some economic odds-making in this week’s Intrade.

Champagne Charlie Rangel strikes again!

This time, it’s a 1972 Mercedes that he’s been illegally storing, unregistered and without plates for four years in a House of Representatives parking lot. It finally got towed .

And, given Champagne Charlie’s ever-growing list of tax issues, this isn’t good news either:
The House Web site says anyone with a reserved indoor space incurs taxable income currently calculated at $100 per month.

I have nooooo doubt that’s been properly reported for each of the past four years.

Next questions —
• Was he driving it illegally during that time?
• Does he have a driver’s license, for that matter?

Even Sully blasts Obama on 'Dos Caras' ad

Andrew Sullivan hops off the Obama tire swing to take a hard shot at the “Dos Caras” Spanish-language ad Obama has.

Per Newsweek’s Andrew Romano, he accuses Obama of playing the race card:
“Playing racial politics this way is not what Obama promised to do,” he wrote yesterday. “Cut it out.”

From what I’ve read about the ad at various sites, it’s pushing some envelopes, at least.

Plus, in being wrong in implying a degree of McCain-Limbaugh closeness that doesn’t exist, it may actually bring into being what wasn’t before.

So, on that ground, the ad was also tactically stupid.

And, on Franklin Raines never advising Obama… well, Obama’s camp has called him more than once, Romano notes.

That’s another exemplar of why I blogged yesterday that Obama will be walking a fine line — and so will the DSCC and DCCC — in trying to politicize the series of financial bailout steps.

Romano does caveat all this:
Most of this stuff is child's play compared to the whole McCain-sponsored “lipstick on a pig” kerfluffle,

True, but Obama risks squandering the gift of being able to take the middle ground and call it the high ground.

That, in turn, moves the “Dos Caras” ad from tactically to strategically stupid, or potentially so.

In any case, to summarize Romano, Obama’s Post-Partisan Politics™ hasn’t lasted long now, has it?

FDA gives some GMO animals a pass

Wouldn’t you want to know if any animal carcass on your dinner plate had been genetically engineered? The Food and Drug Administration, apparently following in Big Ag’s footsteps wallet, thinks you don’t need to worry about that. It said animals will need to be identified only if there’s a significant change in the food. With the FDA getting to decide what “significant” is.

And, like USDA on plants, the burden of proof will fall on us, the eaters of food consumers of food-like substances.

Sarah Palin, environmental liar

Yes, Alaskans love their environment so much she helped kill Wasilla Lake as part of getting more environmentally-degrading big box retailers:
A city official in nearby Palmer, who has lived in the Mat-Su Valley his whole life, sadly admitted: "Sarah sent the growth into overdrive. And now they're choking on traffic and sprawl, all built on their ignorance and greed.

"I try to avoid driving to Wasilla so I won't get depressed," added the official, who asked for his name to be withheld, to avoid Palin's "wrath."

"You get visually mugged when you drive through there. I take the long way, through the back roads, just to avoid it."

Wasilla City Council member Dianne Woodruff hears the same lament about her town all the time. "Everywhere in Alaska, you hear people say, 'We don't want to be another Wasilla.' We're not just the state's meth capital, we're the ugly box-store capital. Was Sarah a good steward of this beautiful valley? No. I think it comes from her lack of experience and awareness of other places, how other cities try to preserve what makes them attractive and livable.

"The frontier mentality has prevailed for so long in Mat-Su Valley -- the feeling that 'you're not going to tell me what to do with my land,'" added Woodruff. "That's fine as long as you have endless open space. But when you start to fill in as a city, you can end up with a sprawling mess. With million-dollar homes next to gravel pits -- and dead lakes.”

Oil rigs? Environmentally attractive. Wolf carcasses as seen from the airplane that shot them? Environmentally attractive.

Actual unexploited environment? NOT environmentally attractive.

Newer NATO members question degree of support

In light of recent events in Georgia, the three Baltic states are now wondering just what NATO just what NATO membership is worth should the rubber ever hit the road in their part of the world.

Per British Defense Secretary Des Browne, at least right now, due to many NATO members still lacking airlift capabilities, the answer would be “Not much.”

We never should have offered them full NATO membership in the first place.

‘But the fundamentals are strong’

Has Schmuck Talk Express™ said anything about Henry Paulson’s Big Bad Bailout yet?

To me, it’s not just the amount of taxpayer money Paulson says will be on the line, it’s the amount of new government powers he says he needs from Congress.

If those powers, at the least, aren’t connected to major new regulatory standards, then we’ll wind up with the problem being worse some day in the future.

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said some economists, to get specific about the money involved, estimate that a $250 billion bailout could increase each American household’s part of the national debt by $2,300.

Bush wants to elbow NATO aside in Afghanistan

This idea, that of America taking sole command in Afghanistan outside of NATO structures, ought to go over like a lead balloon on the other side of the pond (and north of the 49th parallel if Canadian PM Harper loses his snap re-election bid).

I can see putting all NATO forces, U.S. or otherwise, under one general, a la Eisenhower in the ETO in World War II. But, no NATO existed then as an alliance structure.

And, I’m sure BushCo did nothing to “test the waters” before dropping this one out of nowhere.

Obama continues to hog the campaign cash

Earlier this week, he told Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid “no” on helping raise money for Senate candidates.

I think the “control freak” observation of Scholars and Rogues is playing truer all the time.

You know, if Obama does get elected, we could have the next Jimmy Carter, in some ways.

We WILL see Shrub and Uncle Fester in court (I hope)

Worried that the government will find a way to trash its spying suit againt AT&T et al, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing Cheney and Bush themselves.

First, assuming a judge even lets this case sniff a courtroom’s air — by the time it gets there, Fester and the Preznit will be out of office and his lawyers will be paid entirely out of his (rather substantial) dime.

Besides Cheney personally, other notables on the EFF lawsuit include, but are not limited to, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Attorney General and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Cheney's chief of staff David Addington.

For whatever reason, Wired doesn’t list Bush as a defendant, but he is named, on para. 29, page 6 of the PDF (link below).

EFF’s idea is to monkeywrench the government’s ability to grant immunity to the telcos in the first place. (Are you listening, Barack Obama?) And it’s hoping it’s got enough whistleblower evidence for a court to grant standing.

PDF of the actual filing is at EFF's site.

Among the hugely relevant complaints is that the government is getting ex parte information funneled back to itself from AT&T, and that the government may well be spying on the plaintiffs as we speak.

The more than one dozen counts in the suit allege violation of the Fourth Amendment, First Amendment (free association as well as free speech), FISA, 50 U.S.C. § 1809, (specifics regs of electronic surveillance), 18 U.S.C. § 2511 (knowingly using material believed to be illegally intercepted), 18 U.S.C. § 2703 (secure content of stored electronic communication), 18 U.S.C. § 2703 and separation of powers (Congress and Executive usurping judicial functions).

We got Ike but no ice

Ahh, more FEMA brilliance at work. FEMA now says it’s not delivering ice among relief supplies.

Even worse, the policy has been on FEMA’s books since last year, but it hasn’t seen fit to tell state and local officials.

A FEMA spokesperson said it’s part of a more business-modeled policy. Oh, and this from the administration that blew a multi-trillion surplus and put a war off budget? Wunderbar.

And, that’s not the only Ike problem. A San Antonio-area truck driver is claiming drivers in the Ike recovery area are sitting idle, unable to deliver supplies. This particular trucker’s been trying to deliver for five days.

Three guesses as to what he’s got in his truck, and the first two don’t count!

You’re doing a heckova job, post-Brownie FEMA!

September 18, 2008

Calling Todd Palin’s secessionist bluff

Note to Todd Palin:

Go ahead and take your Alaskan Independence Party and secede. With the way Alaskan oil production has dropped off in the last few years, to fall well behind Texas and Louisiana, and the money the rest of us would save not paying you Commies $213 per person , we’d come out ahead of you WOULD secede.

In a decade, you’d run out of oil money to replace the federal tit, run out of oil, find that ANWR doesn’t have that much oil, and probably piss off Canada so much it would block Mayor Whazzup’s gas pipeline.

Palin follies — private e-mail, Stevens connections

All the latest from Mayor Whazzup and hubby, Alaska Chief Dumbass

• You wanna use a generic private Yahoo e-mail account to try to avoid Alaskan open records laws, Gov. Palin? Well, then you deserve it when your e-mail gets hacked.

• You’re against earmarks but hire a “city lobbyist” when you’re leading a town of 6,000, Mayor Whazzup? And, he’s got Ted Stevens’ fingerprints all over him. Way to be about the “reform.”

• And, that’s just another reason to agree with GOP Sen. Chuck Hegel that you’re not ready.

• No wonder the state’s Chief Dumbass refuses to testify about just what you did — or he did — in Troopergate.

• Finally, Mayor Whazzup makes Shrub Bush sound like an Ph.D. in English with babble like this.

One would think neocons ran Wall Street

Irony alert, hypocrisy alert or both:
“We have the irony of a free-market administration doing things that the most liberal Democratic administration would never have been doing in its wildest dreams.”

That quote comes from financial historian Ron Chernow, talking about this week’s series of federal bailouts of financial institutions.

Per the story, it could have the biggest fallout in southeast Asia, still pissed over the IMF’s adherence to hardline capitalism in the Asian currency crisis a decade ago.
“Washington is following a different script this time,” said Yung Chul Park, a professor of economics at Korea University in Seoul, who was deeply involved in the negotiations with the IMF. “I understand why they do it. But they’ve lost credibility to some extent in pushing for opening up overseas markets to foreign competition and liberalizing economies.”

In other words, we’re now about as credible on exporting capitalism as we are on exporting democracy.

Chrysler bailout and financials bailout — alternative history

Both should have been let die

That bold-red thesis comes from Barry Ritholtz in his pending book, “Bailout Nation,” now available for Amazon pre-order.

Ritholtz argues that if the Carter Administration had let Chrysler cave, somebody would have bought it, restructured it, and refocused its carmaking market away from Ford and GM, and continued to do so even when oil prices collapsed after the end of the second embargo. He says Ford and GM might have paid heed, even more so if nobody bought Chrysler at the brink.
“If Chrysler goes belly up, it also might have forced some deep introspection at Ford and G.M. and might have changed their attitude toward fuel efficiency and manufacturing quality.”

Leonhardt notes this is all good to ponder as the formerly-Big Three take collective hats in hand to the Capitol for beg for $50 billion.

Unfortunately, BOTH Schmuck Talk Express™ and Just.Another. Politician.™ are on record as favoring passing out Halloween candy.

Rall —editorial cartoons attract young readers to papers?

That’s Ted Rall’s thesis, and he’s in a position to know. His colleagues have made him president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC), the organization for professional political cartoonists.

Here’s his take on op-ed cartoons as a “hook”:
Editorial cartoons are the most read — often the only read — feature on a newspaper's opinion page. Slate and the Politico both place a big emphasis on cartoons. It's paying off. Papers out to increase circulation should be hiring professional cartoonists.

Read the whole column for an insider’s look at the cartoonist’s craft.

And, if you want to offer him congrats yourself, drop him a line.

Palin chicken watch in the OC

Buck, buck, bucccaw…. Sarah Palin cancels a two-day California campaign swing.

SFChron columnist Carla Marinucci says McCain-Palin is pulling the plug on competing in California, and this shows it, while the McCain-Palin campaign says this is just about scheduling issues.

Well, what if Marinucci’s wrong AND McC-P is lying?

Instead, what if, after the “stump the candidate” program had Mayor Whazzup hoist her own petard over AIG, Schmuck Talk decided to put her back on ice in Mat-Su?

I mean, c’mon, Carla. Was even McCain and his campaign staff dumb enough to think it could actually compete in California?

I say she’s back on ice. I mean, SoCal is the heart of electronic media, and a petard-hoisting there would have instant legs.

Update: Per this TPM individual blog, she’s scrubbed other fundraisers, too; my guess is she’s on ice until the Veep debate, given her disastrous last day or two.

Other suggestions are being floated at Huff Post and elsewhere. The most common is that, with the revelation about her massive per diems, it’s come to somebody’s attention that some of them may have been illegal to receive (her family members, not her own), or that she may have failed to report some of this as income on her 1040s.

Third option, besides debate cramming and 1040 amending, is Troopergate strategerizing. Now that Schmuck Talk Express™ has upped the monkeywrenching ante, the legal flak he’s flown into Anchorage probably need to sit down with Real Nowhere Gov and plot strategy.

Possiblity No. 4? Her own loose mouth on “Palin-McCain” rather than vice versa, may be getting her a trip to the woodshed and other straightening out.

And, these four possibilities aren’t mutually exclusive.

In either case, the usual Palin lies aside, and hubby First Dumbass’s claim about her “anointing” aside, it’s clear that she’s officially on ice at least through the end of this weekend.


There is a silver lining, though. Maybe, she can find Trig Palin’s birth certificate during her down time.

Palin follies — private e-mail, Stevens connections

You wanna use a generic private Yahoo e-mail account to try to avoid Alaskan open records laws, Gov. Palin? Well, then you deserve it when your e-mail gets hacked.

You’re against earmarks but hire a “city lobbyist” when you’re leading a town of 6,000, Mayor Whazzup? And, he’s got Ted Stevens’ fingerprints all over him. Way to be about the “reform.”

Oh, sidebar about stupid Alaska law. In a sense, I can’t blame Palin for hiring a city manager. In most states, by law, a mayor of a city of 6,000, to use business-world terms, is only chairman of the board and is NOT the town’s CEO. Of course, except for a per diem or similar, a mayor of a town of 6,000 in most states is also an unpaid chairman of the board.

The two-party duopoly is bought and sold for Prez debates

Maybe it’s better that Cynthia McKinney (or Bob Barr) aren’t part of such a corporate bribery clusterfuck as this, the list of Fortune 500-level sponsors The Commission on Presidential Debates, the “window dressing” of the Republicrats, has lined up:

• Anheuser-Busch? Given Cindy McCain’s A-B distributorship, isn’t there a HUGE conflict of interest on this ?

• BBH New York: The U.S. branch of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, a British advertising agency. Any advertising agency sponsoring a presidential debate is suspect.

• EDS. Given that EDS has been bought by Hewlett-Packard, former jobsite of John McCain campaign advisor Carly Fiorina, another conflict of interest, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, from the third-party perspective, here’s more of what’s wrong with the current debate structure.

If you want to see how the two-party duopoly hammer out Memoranda of Understanding, part of a quadrennial attempt to exclude certain issues from debate, read about how this process is “gamed” from the word go.

And, if you want to try to change the process, click here for Open Debates’ online petition.

Finally, it’s arguable that the Commission on Presidential Debates violates Section 501(c)(3) of IRS code.

Cedar Hill PD in largest drug bust in North Texas history

400 kilos cocaine, 400 pounds meth involved

Cedar Hill Police arrested two people as part of 22 arrests made in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in what the Department of Justice, Northern Division of Texas, called the biggest drug bust ever, in terms of combined quantity of drugs and money.

Neighboring Best Southwest cities of DeSoto and Duncanville also had arrests.

‘America is in danger of becoming something of a legal backwater’

Not my quote but that of Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court of Australia. He and other justices of supreme courts around the worlds, or at least the English-speaking world, consider our own Supreme Court less and less relevant to them.

Why?

In two words, “Antonin Scalia.”

Scalia is the intellectual powerhouse of a U.S. Supreme Court that has become more and more disdainful of international law, and other countries top judicial decisions, even as more and more countries have modernized court systems.

And fellow Justice Anthony Kennedy doesn’t like the attitude:
“There’s kind of a know-nothing quality to the debate, it seems to me, of being suspicious of foreign things,” he said in remarks at a judicial conference in July.

Of course, I think that’s Nino’s attitude to anyone why disagrees with him, but that’s another thing.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has a better insight:
“Foreign opinions are not authoritative; they set no binding precedent for the U.S. judge,” she said in a 2006 address to the Constitutional Court of South Africa. “But they can add to the story of knowledge relevant to the solution of trying questions.”

So, it’s not just that Nino is suspicious of foreign things, but that he’s contemptuous of them.

Obama walks a fine line on financial regulation

After all, he’s gotten 50 percent more in campaign contributions from the financial sector than McCain has, a whole $3 billion difference.

And Goldman Sachs, lucky enough to still be standing, is Obama’s single top source of campaign cash; three executives from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have raised at least half a million dollars for Obama.

I’m sure that, as we blog, McCain’s camp is combing through his past statements to find, if nothing else, silence from him on the issue of calls for tightened regulation of the sector.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (a Goldman Sachs alum, as was Robert Rubin, Clinton’s last Treasury Secretary) proposed giving the Federal Reserve more power over investment banks.

But the Fed has powers NOW that it hasn’t been using. And, given the Fed’s record over the past few years, wouldn’t that be the fox consorting at the henhouse door?

Beyond that, why should we expect real reform? Also don’t forget that Rubin was a prime driver behind passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which broke down the Glass-Steagall Act and eliminated the wall between commercial and investment banking.

Has Obama or McCain ever called for reinstituting Glass-Steagall protections?

The silence is deafening.

Global warming can stress plants and soils — proved

They can take up to two years to recover from an extremely hot summer.

Well, with global warming, we’re going to have ever-more extremely hot summers, compared to the baseline for plants and soils.

Plots of soil from the breadbasket, central Oklahoma, were tested, subject to a 7-degree rise in the second of two years of study.
Researcher Jay Arnone said the increase was based on between eight and 11 exceptionally warm years in the weather records, spanning from 1873 to 1999, where the plots had been dug up. These warm years were between 1.0 and 3.8 C (1.8 and 6.9 F) higher than the region's long-term average, but were not accompanied by drought.

So, his test was at the high end of high-temperature historic years, but not anomalous, as global warming deniers are surely already claiming.

Howie Kurtz still on McCain bandwagon

Leave it to Howie to take a one-week advertising slice, the week after the RNC, in which Obama responded to some of McLies (I’m NOT Lovin It) ridiculous previous claims, and, the week in which he responded to the announcement of Sarah Palin and make the statement that Obama is more negative than McCain.

One week countervailing a long-term trend and Howie decides to write about it:
Ken Goldstein, who directed the study by the Wisconsin Advertising Project, based at the University of Wisconsin, says the pattern was a reversal from earlier months, in which McCain's advertising was consistently more negative than Obama’s.

So, why are you writing NOW, Howie? Where have you filed your stories about McCain’s negativity?

September 17, 2008

Palin rebels against God over Troopergate

Romans 13 says —
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities. ... He who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has established. ... Rulers hold no terror for those who do right.”


Why does Sarah Palin rebel against God after going to church every Sunday (as I assumed she does)?

Here’s how she dishonors her god, by the way, with the false apostles she recruits even while she masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11)

Letting Edward O’Callaghan, a high-priced John McCain lawyer, lead the charge on her refusal to cooperate with a politically lawful, therefore divinely established, investigation of her actions, and leading him into perdition;

Supporting Alaska Speaker of the House John Harris in his determination to obstruct the established timetable of a politically lawful, therefore divinely established, investigation, and delay its report of findings until after Nov. 4;

Accepting Liberty Legal Institute help, knowing that she could be leading it astray, enmeshed in the “secret power of lawlessness” of 2 Thessalonians;

Embracing the Man of Lawlessness revealing of Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg as he supports lawlessness, from the same chapter of the Bible.

Revealing other men of lawlessness, the Alaska Republican legislators suing to block an investigation of the truth, from the same chapter of the Bible.

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan, displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that destroys those who are perishing. They perished because they refused to love the truth.
— 2 Thessalonians 2: 9-10

As the Church Lady says, “Could it be…. Sattttaaan?”

Why does Sarah Palin love Satan?

Bring it on, you fundies; I’m ready.

Senate remains skeptical of FBI on Bruce Ivins

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, one of the targets of the 2001 anthrax attacks, says he believes Bruce Ivins did not act alone. And he said so today while FBI Director Robert Mueller was in front of his committee.

Mueller is giving the appearance of giving in to Senate pressure though, and has named an independent review, from the National Academy of Sciences, to take a close look at how the FBI has handled the case.

For more analysis, here’s Mueller is giving in to Senate pressure though, and has named Glen Greenwald’s take. He notes that Mueller’s panel of scientists will ONLY review the scientific methods used and NOT the full FBI case.

In other words, Mueller refuses to submit the FBI’s deductive reasoning, dot-connecting, etc., to scrutiny, which caught the attention of Sen. Charles Grassley.

Palin the 'bordello' elitist

“It looked like a bordello”

That quote comes from former Wasilla City Council member Nick Carney, Sarah Palin’s original political mentor. And that’s not all he has to say about her allegedly illegal mayoral office remodeling, done for $50,000, without city council approval:
“I thought it was an outrageous expense, especially for someone who had run as a budget cutter,” said Carney. “It was also illegal, because Sarah had not received the council's approval.”

Of course, I don’t think I need to use a hyperlink for the tanning bed that Mayor Whazzup put in her office, which would help the Whore of Wasilla™ be properly tarted up to run the bordello.

Read the rest of the story for more of her budget-busting antics.

Drink up, Cowboy fans!

Will MADD get mad?

Gregg Easterbrook, in his always-interesting Tuesday Morning Quarterback column at ESPN, calculates that Jerry Jones’ new deal with Miller means the boys from Milwaukee South Africa will have to pour a lot of brews down your throat:
Miller will pay Jones $8 million annually for the next decade. An NFL team plays 10 home games annually. Assume Miller keeps around $2 for each $7 beer sold. That's a guess -- stadium concession economics vary a lot from place to place. Anyway, this suggests that merely to cover the promotional fee, Miller must sell 400,000 Lites per Cowboys game. That's six beers per game per seat in Texas Stadium, five beers per game per seat in the larger new facility.

How long before Mothers Against Drunk Driving, headquartered not much more than a stone’s throw from Texas Stadium, gets wind of how this calculates out?

Oh, and the WSJ aside, WHERE is this in the American media?

New House offshore drilling bill — how bad?

I haven’t had a chance to look too much yet, but Frances Beinecke of NRDC says it’s weak tea on renewables.

That said, it will have to go to conference with the eventual Senate bill, and I predict one of two things will happen:

1. Falling gas prices will give Dems in conference committee some spine (don’t hold your breath, though);
2. If we’re real lucky, NOTHING will happen. That’s right. No bill before the election. Afterward, a lame-duck Congress can give the issue a better look. I mean, I doubt even Rex Tillerson’s got a bunch of extra mid-level offshore drilling rigs stashed away on rental hold, burning holes in some offshore driller pockets right now. There’s no time crunch of that level.

Spare me Gil Hodges and Ron Santo

How about ‘none of the above’?

MLB’s Veterans Committee has trotted out the same old names as putatively worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Well, they ain’t. — with one possible exception.

Luis Tiant?
You know, I’d never even thought of him before, but…

Decent ERA for spending much of his career in Fenway. Solid WHIP. Four 20-win seasons. Nearly 2,500 strikeouts back in the day when Gibby was the only 3K-Ker besides The Big Train.

Two ERA titles. Five times in the top 10 in K/9 ratio. His 49 shutouts are 21st-best ever.

You could call him “the poor man’s Catfish Hunter” and not be wrong.

He’s got the best case here.

Now, on to the two biggest myths.

Gil Hodges? Gimme a break. A first baseman with a career slugging average of under .500 AND less than 2,000 hits. Why the hell is his name even on the list? And…

Ron Santo? Not. Sorry, Cubbies, but other than a brief flare-up in his BA in 1972, his career was over by the time he was 30.

Or, to put it another way?

You want Ken Boyer in fhe HOF? Because they’re the same player, down to Gold Gloves (five each) BA, slugging, etc. If you don’t believe me, go to Baseball-Reference.com and see for yourself.

Joe Torre? Arguably more than halfway deserving as a manager. But, as a player? Solid All-Star, but this is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good.

Maury Wills? Did revolutionize the game, or turn it back, especially in the NL. Strictly as a player, though? No.

Dick Allen? Less than 2,000 hits. Too short a career.

Jim Kaat?
Sorry. Very sorry. Lots of wins, yes, from pitching nearly 25 years. Great fielder. But … Weak ERA, bad WHIP. Borderline, but if you were to go, Tommy John should go first.

Tony Oliva? WTF is he doing even on this list? Less than 2,000 hits, even with playing four years as a DH.

Al Oliver? A toughie. About as much on the borderline as Kaat.

Vada Pinson? A notch below Al Oliver. Sorry.

Montana wolves get reprieve

U.S. Fish and Wildlife backs off plans to remove endangered species listing for Montana’s gray wolves.

Hyundai improves engineering while Big Three whine

Hey, both Obama and McCain, before you give in to the Big Three TittyBabies demands for not only $50bil in loan guarantees, but also their push to loosen last year’s toughening of CAFÉ standards, read this from the Wall Street Journal.

Or, read this, since I found it first, although it’s French.

(Google Translator helps you out)
“The Hyundai group is able to meet by 2015, the standard fuel consumption of 35 miles per gallon (6.7 litres per 100 kilometres) which must apply to the USA in 2020 without recourse to hybrid vehicles,” said Lee Hyun-soon, head of research and development division of the Korean manufacturer.

Well, that’s pretty plain English.

If that’s not good enough for you, Schmuck Talk Express™ and Just.Another.Politician.™, here’s more from that same story.

Hyundai says it can do this by a combination of using more lighter materials, dual valve variable valve timing, and – eight-speed automatics.

Now, Lee’s comments about hybrids aside, Hyundai has a hybrid partnership, in Korea to start and coming here in 2010, with Kia.

I found the general story line referenced in this week’s issue of Gregg Easterbrook’s always-interesting Tuesday Morning Quarterback column at ESPN.

Oh, and the WSJ aside, WHERE is this in the American media?

And, ask me again why I plan on voting Green?

More than schadenfreude — the Euro left on capitalism

On the other side of the pond, at least, it’s arguable that leftist intellectuals have brought the sharpest scrutiny to the future of capitalism since 1968.

The Guardian captures reflections and analysis of a number of them, beginning with legendary ’68er Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

The two other names most recognizable to bourgeoisie Democratic liberals on our side of the pond would be George Monbiot and George Galloway, followed by former Labor minister Tony Benn.

Galloway expects capitalism as we know it to end, but isn’t sure how, given the continued rightward move of both Labor and the LDP.

Benn expects a resurgence of the working left inside Labor… call it New Labor Labor, or New Left Labor, puns intended.

Monbiot, a Guardian columnist, sees this as both a chance for a Green upsurge in Britain and a new level of left-of-center coalition building:
It is striking that the left has been slow to capitalise on the situation. There is now a good opportunity to build a common front between trade unions, disillusioned labour voters, greens and people who feel that their economic position is slipping.

I’m not familiar with the details, but I think the Greens as a political party, while stronger than here, are weak compared to the Continent. But, good luck indeed with that hope, George.

Cohn-Bendit excoriates the worst of neo-liberalism while rhetorically asking if it can learn from this:
This financial crisis is for capitalist neo-liberals what Chernobyl was for the nuclear lobby. It's a catastrophe. I hope we all learn lessons from it. But am I optimistic that we will? That's another question. To think that the biggest neo-liberal nation in the world would start nationalising banks ... we're rubbing our eyes in disbelief.

Indeed.

That said, Cohn-Bendit thinks capitalism is capable of still reforming itself, and that it will do so.

Mortgage woes cross the pond

The UK’s largest mortgage lender, HMOS, looks very shaky. And, it’s list of problems is the same as similar agencies over here, beginning with undercapitalization and collapsing shares.

AIG should have gone under

If it did, due to all the fingers it has in various financial pies, we might finally get near the bottom of the slice-and-dice morass of the bubbleland of CDOs, CDSs, and other financial skimming alphabet soup. Yes, we’d pay for it now. But, we need to.

And, no, Mr. Levitt, AIG should not have gotten a Fed bridge loan.

Unfortunately, Ben Bernanke, kitchen creator of Uncle Ben’s Cooked Books, disagreed with me.

September 16, 2008

Eff you, Ben Bernanke

Bailing out AIG with a blank check.

You have no guarantee its assets will be sold off in “an orderly fashion” OR at enough value to repay the $85 billion loan.

This comes AFTER the NY Fed repaid two JP Morgan loans to Lehman Brothers.

It’s times like this that, as nutbar as I know goldbug libertarians are, that I think they have half a point. More of a point than The Worst Fed Head Since Greenspan.

Palin bubble starts bursting

Pro-con poll split dives 10 percent; even David Brooks jumps off bandwagon

Andrew Romano points out that, per Diageo, she’s had notable slippage just since last Friday!

Since then, her unfavorable rating is up 6 percentage points and her favorables are down 4 percent.

Romano says we’re getting beyond the mooseburger and hockey mom “profile” stories the MSM ran the first week after McCain tapped her and into serious critical pieces. And, the scrutiny from the public is starting.

David Brooks? He doesn’t get into the lies at all, but does voice his concern over her lack of experience:
She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.

First Cohen, then Brooks? Wow.

Obama and McCain differ on several science issues

McCain IS McSame on NASA/manned flight; ScienceDebate asks a couple of iffy questions

ScienceDebate2008 has does a great fairly good job of comparing their stances on 14 science-related questions. After reading through the questions more, one question seemed just wrong to me, and second one not much better. More on that below.

One thing that John McCain flat gets wrong is manned space flight:
• It’s unnecessary.
• It could be dangerous, even lethal, viz a viz cosmic rays, to engage in it as far away as Mars.
• We can’t afford it.

And now, the two iffy questions.

National security:

• I feel uneasy about this question even being here.
Yes, our national security has become more and more technological. But, as a good left-liberal, this almost seems to me to be asking:
“And, how would YOU expand the military-industrial complex”?

Pandemics and biosecurity:
• I feel uneasy about this question even being here, at least as phrased, on similar grounds to the one above. Throwing in the “biosecurity” element seems to give more weight to the so-called Global War on Terror. That said, Obama actually went into that part of this issue before McCain did.

On to the other topics, though.

Nuclear:
• Both favor it, but only Obama adds the all important caveats about safe nuclear power that addresses nuclear waste, etc.

Driving:
McCain actually gets a point here, for talking about needing tougher penalties on carmakers who miss CAFE standard benchmarks.

Climate change:
• Similar in what they claim they will do. Obama aims to get 80 percent below 1990 emissions by 2050, while McCain aims for “just” 60 percent.
How realistic either one is, especially with the paucity of specific actions they plan, or details on cap-and-trade carbon plans as far as what baseline standards will be, is another issue altogether.

Energy:
• Obama talks about greener/more efficient building standards.

Education:
• As I said in a longer post specifically dedicated to this issue earlier today, both candidates hugely miss the boat by not pushing for a 200-day school year.

Genetics:
• Obama goes into more detail, and sounds more knowledgeable.

Stem-cell research
:
• This is a clear McCain pander to the Religious Right, and, after the nomination of Sarah Palin, what did you expect? Basically, without calling it the “Bush policy,” he supports the Bush policy.

Oceans:
• Obama a winner for stressing we need to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention.

Water:
• Both are shamefully skimpy, and neither connects future water issues to global warming and climate change.

Space:
• McCain writes three times longer, without necessarily saying a lot more.

Government science integrity:
• Obama goes into more specifics about finding scientists of integrity for top White House and agency positions. He also promises the nation’s first chief technology officer.

Research funding priorities:
• McCain basically dodges the issue; Obama commits to life sciences.

Health:

• Both talk, necessarily, about health care costs. Obama’s plan is and will be better than anything of McCain’s, but it won’t be what Obama claims it is, either.

Overall:
• On a 1-0 scale, I’ll give Obama a 7.75 and McCain a 6.5. They both get scored down on the education issues, which is a pet peeve of mine.

But, don’t be satisfied with my summary. Hopefully, I’ve whetted your appetite, without making your eyes glaze over, to read their answers for yourself.

Or, you can read the NYT take on their statements.

Global warming: 112 years, 2.7 degrees

That’s the extremely accurate climate change record from Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, N.Y.

Seven of the hottest years in that period come from 1990 or later.

Meanwhile, the story also details the painstaking work of amateur sites that help the National Weather Service gather much of its data.

It's a great read in New Paltz, N.Y.

Latest bad news on phthalates

They’re not only bad for your hormones, they’re bad for your heart, it appears.

The American Chemistry Council is already pooh-poohing the findings, as you’d expect.

That said, other research experts say there’s insight, but no definite proof of linkage here.

That sounds about right, but that’s alarm enough.

Pakistan says — Fire on U.S. troops

Well, W’s idiotic “hot pursuit” order of last week could start the religious World War III that Sarah Palin, John Hagee and similar numbnuts want.

Pakistan Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said troops have order to open fire at the next U.S. raid across the border from Afghanistan.

And, Abbas said this is a “no tolerance” policy.

This is obviously stare-down time, and if anybody can talk an ounce of sense into our Preznit, it had better be stand-down time, too.

Some Western reading for the next president

High Country News corralled a posse of Western historians, novelists, and essayists, including former Texan and Palo Duro homilist Dan Flores, and asked them what they’d recommend the next president read.

Their broad-ranging list includes Marc Reisner’s “Cadillac Desert,” Charles Mann's “1491,” Jared Diamond's “Collapse,” Doug Peacock’s “Grizzly Years,” Ed Abbey’s “Desert Solitude” and David Stuart's “Anasazi America,” among others.

Recommended books that might be less familiar include “Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations,” by Charles Wilkinson, which is THE go-to book for American Indians battling Washington on tribal sovereignty issues.

Leslie Marmon Silko, Cormac McCarthy, Wallace Stegner, Rudolfo Anaya and Ivan Doig lead the recommendations on the fiction side.

Read the whole list; you just might find yourself some new reading.

Why was Nino Scalia at …

(The pics that will make you hurl!)

A “Lady Liberty” dinner honoring long-term ACLU President Nadine Strossen?

First, we have Nino getting a hug from Nadine, while fellow Supreme Court Justice David Souter DOES look like he’s going to hurl. Or crap his pants. Or like he's already crapped his pants.

Or, maybe he's struggling to hold in a bad joke.

But, that’s not the best!

HERE’S the best. Nadine making love eyes at Nino.

Nadine, did you smoke a cigarette afterward? Did you use protection? Did you ask him to lock you up in a mock Gitmo cell? Did he offer to waterboard you?

Anyway, back to the rhetorical question:

Why was Nino Scalia at a “Lady Liberty” dinner honoring long-term ACLU President Nadine Strossen?


That would be like the Sierra Club inviting Dick Cheney to a Carl Pope dinner. (Of course, that, too could still happen.)

OK, that would be like Defenders of Wildlife inviting Sarah Palin to a fundraising banquet.

I saw this with my own orbs on page 11 of the summer 2008 issue of “Civil Liberties,” the ACLU’s national newsletter, and then Google Imaged for the pics.

This is the same issue where hypocritical Executive Director Anthony Romero (after being hired as ACLU’s executive, he was teaching major U.S. companies how to comply with the Patriot Act, and when an ACLU board brouhaha broke out, Strossen supported him) has the P1 column entitled “Fighting for Justice at Guantánamo.”

Excuuusseee me, but hasn’t your biggest adversary in the judicial branch been Antonin Scalia?

Maybe if the ACLU had Dick Cheney’s shotgun to raffle, with part of the prize including a free shot or two at Nino, but otherwise …

‘This is like Hurricane Ike’ — finance perfect storm

That quote is from Charles Pistor, former CEO of Republic Bank Dallas. He and other veterans of Texas’ 1980s S&L-fueled collapse know what they’re talking about with statements like that.

Here’s former Mcorp CEO Gene Bishop:
“We will recover, but it’s going to take longer to recover than most people are predicting,” he said. “I’m pleased I’m not in the banking business today.”

The Fed agrees with the worries, as shown by its massive cash infusions today. I’m betting the Fed holds off on rate-cutting, though.

Missing from BOTH Obama and McCain education policies

We need a 200-day school year

ScienceDebate2008 does a great job of comparing their stances on 14 science-related questions.

Bothare AWOL on the critical issue of American schools and students needing alonger school year, as I e-mailed ScienceDebate’s Shawn Otto.

All other advanced democracies have a school year of at least 200 days, compared to our puny 180 days. Most go 210 days or more, or even push 200 days or more.

Is it no wonder our students fall further and further behind, when they get 15 percent fewer days in school every year?

And,remember, that as each school year theoretically builds on the learning ofa previous year, that 15 percent gap compounds itself, year after year.

That said, there are some definite differences between the two on science issues, which I’ll be tackling later today.

A job Sarah Palin CAN do for Carly Fiorina

Maybe she’s not qualified to run Hewlett-Packard (and, Carly, obviously, you weren’t either), but…

Couldn’t Sarah Palin help you dig through reporters’ trash cans?

You remember that, Carly? Part of what got you fired at H-P?

Trashpicker sounds about right.

Will Volt jump-start Chevy?

Fuhhgeddaboutit

NOT at a $40K price tag, as rumored. And, when you’ve had this car in concept for two years, with a promise of moving toward production the whole time, not to release the price point …

Well, that’s like a studio refusing to release copies of a new movie for advance screening.

Plus, it’s got other problems, including seating just four, not five, and many people finding the production version having a bit of ugliness problem compared to the original concept version.

Now, on the performance side, it has the equivalent of 150hp, which ranks ahead of the current Prius, version 2.0, and tops out at 100 mph. More tech, and pix, here.

Throw in the fact that Prius 3.0, at least in conventional hybrid version and most likely in plug-in form also, will be to market ahead of Volt, and I can’t see GM selling more than 20,000 a year.

On the price point, that’s why Prius didn’t make 3.0 a plug-in version from the ground up, and Toyota could have sold it as a loss leader.

That said, it may try to do that anyway.

Could McCain win increase European anti-Americanism?

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland has exactly that worry.

He says previous anti-Americanism has actually been anti-Bushism. But, he says a McCain victory, especially with Mayor Whazzup™ as his vice president, would lead to more serious reactions.
Suddenly Europeans and others will conclude that their dispute is with not only one ruling clique, but Americans themselves. For it will have been the American people, not the politicians, who will have passed up a once-in-a-generation chance for a fresh start.

From there, he talks about other Euro-worries that necessitate reading the book of Matthew.

For example, Europeans possibly using a McCain victory to tut-tut the U.S. as incapable of transcending racism? Err, what about the second-generation Turks in Berlin and second-generation Algerians in Paris? The Euro-left might need to pull out a log or two.

And, in chiding Americans for the “politics of personality” (and rightfully so), how did you feel about Bill Clinton? Or what all drives your Obama feeling?

But, Freedland’s peroration is spot-on:
If Americans reject Obama, they will be sending the clearest possible message to the rest of us - and, make no mistake, we shall hear it.

We shall see.

Schadenfreude and petard-hoisting around Obama campaign

Big-time Dem political wheelers and dealers are so worried about the organization level, or whatever, of the Obama-Biden campaign that they’re urging big-time Dem check-cutting wheelers and dealers to avoid Barack Obama’s firmly stated stance on the matter and start sending money to 527s and similar groups.

Schadenfreude? I love some of the posters to the TPM blog linked here, who insist Obama is running a “new type of campaign” and other people “don’t understand.”

Wrong on both counts.

First, Obama, as compared to John Kerry, by percentage of donors, let alone dinero amounts, is not getting a lot more money from small donors.

Second, as far as Obama scolding donors away from 527s, that’s not “a new type of campaign.” Per Scholars and Rogues, he’s been running the campaign of a control freak for some time now.

Proof positive McCain a Washington insider

He wants to appoint a commission to study the current economic crisis.

Decoded, he’s saying:
• I know my hands-off economic principles have caused this, but I can’t admit that;
• I have to pretend I’ll do something;
• A commission makes me look “bipartisan.”

Meanwhile, as AIG goes further in the tank, and drags the rest of the market with it, it takes neither a commission nor rocket science to tell us lack of government regulation in statutory terms, and failure to use statutes that were at hand, were at fault.

Air Force stops lying about Afghan deaths

Remember the Aug. 22 bombing, where the Air Force claimed it killed a bunch of Taliban ops, and Afghans said, no, you killed regular tribespeople?

Well, the brass hats finally have stopped lying and admitted our bombs blew up 90 Afghans.

And, Obama, why do you insist on sending more troops to a country like this? With the border to Pakistan closed to our hot — or cold — pursuit (some North West Frontier militiamen will eventually start sniping on U.S. troops that Bush has said can cross the border without notification now), there’s no chance of capturing bin Laden.

Get out.

Rich Cohen throws McCain WAYYYY under the bus

Then, he drives around the block a couple of times. Cohen first pleads “guilty” to long having been in the Schmuck Talk Express™ corner, but denies it was because of McCain’s easy access.

Instead, he says it was because of the truth and honor McCain claimed to represent, exemplified by his admitting he lied about his stance on the Confederate battle flag in South Carolina.

That said, it’s too bad Cohen couldn’t put the bus on autopilot and run over himself, too:

Sidebar: Rich, I’ve got news for you. Schmuck Talk knew the campaign was heading back north and that he needed to change his stance. In other words, he was flip-flopping and spinning at the same time. Perhaps we ought to rename him again as Slick Talk Express.

That said, Cohen’s got a GREAT kicker:
Karl Marx got one thing right -- what he said about history repeating itself. Once is tragedy, a second time is farce. John McCain is both.

And, re my observations about Schmuck Talk’s lying flip-flopping of non-virtue eight years ago…

Rich, hell hath no fury like a lover deceived, eh?

September 15, 2008

NYT — Rangel should step down

I fully agree with the New York Times editor calling for ethics-shortchanged House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel to step down while his ever-mounting financial woes are under investigation.

Actually, I don’t fully agree. This is politics, not a court of law, and I think Champagne Charlie should resign.

Palin says Jesus’ return is right around the corner

An anti-Palin rally in Anchorage outdraws the real thing, her “un-pastor” community activist speaks; Palin expects Jesus ASAP


Howard Bess speaks — In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, Bess is the Baptist minister from Wasilla neighbor Palmer, who wrote the No. 1 chart-topper on Sarah Palin’s Books to Ban list, “Pastor, I am Gay.” He’s now talking further, and bluntly:
“She’s Jerry Falwell with a pretty face.”

Bess has had years of conflict with Palin over his work as …

Wait for it …

A community activist.

Now we know why, to use one of Gov. Venice Beach’s favorite words, Sarah Palin is such a “hater” of community activists.

Read and bluntly; there’s more, including her attempt to make the Wasilla school board look like Dover, Pa., before its smackdown from a federal judge a few years back.

If that’s not enough to scare you, here’s the worst:
Another valley activist, Philip Munger … also asked Palin if she truly believed in the End of Days, the doomsday scenario when the Messiah will return.

“She looked in my eyes and said, ‘Yes, I think I will see Jesus come back to earth in my lifetime.’” (Emphasis added.)

Holy shit.

She’s clearly in the John Hagee camp now, and this explains the blank check for Israel, too. All that’s lacking is the ashes of the red heifer.

Women against Palin— The Alaska Women Reject Palin rallyoutdrew the Welcome Home rally by at least a 3-2 count.

Vote Lupe Valdez for Dallas County Sheriff

No, she’s by no means perfect. She’s not even close.

But, the campaign, at least, of GOP opponent Lowell Cannaday, or else the Dallas County GOP, is making a collective ass of itself down here in Cedar Hill.

Every October for 71 years now, Cedar Hill has held a big downtown festival called Country Day on the Hill. It starts with a parade led by a flag honor guard, then the King and Queen of Country Day.

Well, Cannaday’s staff, or county GOP, whichever, asked if he could lead the parade. They then offered to throw in nominal chump change money. And, have been intolerably “persistent” ever since…

Ever since April, when this request first came up.

That said, if Valdez wins, I hope she does the smart thing and announces this will be her last term.

And, for the 944th time, this is why it’s stupid to elect sheriffs.

Doctors to study near-death experiences

A group of doctors are going to study cardiac arrest patients to bring a medical perspective to the study of NDEs.

I say “medical” and not “scientific” because I assume the doctors are going to use the standard medical study p-value of 0.05 rather than natural sciences’ 0.0001 p-value.

Since this is NOT a study upon which matters of life and death hinge, not using a stricter standard means this research will have less than the greatest of scientific insight or foundation.

Long-term Green leader dead

California Green Peter Camejo, a three-time candidate for governor who described himself as “green on the outside, red on the inside — a watermelon,” has died at 68 . The “red on the inside” is from him being a long-term Socialist before helping found California’s Green Party.

His activism included free speech, migrant labor rights, and, obviously, environmentalism.

His Progressive Management Asset Inc. in Oakland pioneered in ethical investing, allowing investors to avoid companies involved in animal testing, weapons or sweatshop labor. He also created the first environmentally screened fund — the Eco-Logical Trust — for a major Wall Street firm, Merrill Lynch. (Before starting PMA, Camejo worked at Merrill, who booted him when they found out about his political leanings.)

Read the whole obit to understand why we need independent, non-duopoly candidates at local, state and national levels.

Delicate Arch at sunset from my vacation

Here's some sunset and near-sunset pictures of world-famous Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Utah.

Unfortunately, I was one evening too late to get the just-before-full moon inside the arch at sunset.

This is why I hike the West on vacations, and, as in some of these pics, it is also why I have an ultra-wide lens.



More pictures from this and previous vacations of mine are here.

‘Saturday Night Live’ still sux

Fortunately, especially with Obama not being there, I forgot all about watching this year’s season opener. Apparently, behind the teasing hype, I once again missed nothing. (I can’t recall watching more than five minutes of a single show in at least seven years.)

I don’t think the earliest years of SNL were necessarily the glory years, although they were good, even very good, and, I’m old enough to remember, if not the first season, not too long afterward. The mid-80s would rank in the same range, though I never was that much of a Joe Piscopo fan, either on SNL or elsewhere.

But, I thought the late 1980s had the best cast ever.

Dana Carvey and Phil Hartman were just spot-on. The show had possibly its best-ever set of female leads at that time. Franken and other full-time or part-time old-timers were still there. Dennis Miller was surely the best news anchorperson since Aykroyd and Curtin as a team, and not yet being a right-wing nutball. Jon Lovitz was great. A. Whitney Brown was a good ensemble player.

And, with talent like that, you could hide Kevin Nealon’s limitations, then try to nurture Rob Schneider (modest success), Mike Myers (great success), and Adam Sandler (moderate-good success).

A good, brief summary of SNL’s casts and history is here.

Pay yet more for food this fall?

Although the remnants of Hurricane Ike may help, a dry summer in much of the Midwest (remember those June floods in Iowa!), will cut corn and soybean production from earlier projections.

The USDA has upped its price estimates — it projected the season-average price for corn will be between $5.00 and $6.00 per bushel, up 10 cents from last month, while soybeans will be between $11.60 and $13.10 per bushel, also 10 cents higher.

Obama lead in NY down to 5

According to the New York Daily News, that’s what Siena says in its latest poll. And, Obama’s down below 50 percent support, with a 46-41 margin.

Dallas Morning News autowriter now GM fluffer

In the Sunday business section of The (Fast Hemorrhaging) Dallas Morning News, auto writer Terry Box goes into full fluff mode about GM’s 100th anniversary, coming up on Tuesday, and the tie-in with GM’s plant in Arllington (home of sucker citizens and rich sports team owners).

Among the fluffery from Box, who regularly bashes hybrids as “underpowered” in his Automotive section scrivenings, is this:
In addition, GM offers hybrid versions of several of its SUVs, its full-size pickups and the Malibu. While continuing to develop fuel-cell vehicles — a small fleet of which are already on the road — GM expects to bring the Chevy Volt to market by 2010. The Volt's electric motor can go 40 miles before it needs a recharge from its small on-board auxiliary gas engine.

Beyond fluffing GM for the number of light, and not true, hybrids it builds, Box worships at the ethanol-guzzling god of flex fuels and is, per CCR, “blinded by the Volt.”

That got this response from me:
In the Automotive section, you have no power bashing hybrids for being underpowered. Then, you fluff GM for all the hybrids it builds …

While completing the hypocrisy trifecta for not reporting that most of them are “light” hybrids that don’t offer that great of gas savings, just an investment in, ahem “greenwash,” which seems to have returned a good dividend.

As for Volt? It’s going to get its ass kicked.

First, I think Toyota’s right that most people won’t pay for a plug-in hybrid’s cost.

Second, in case Toyota’s wrong on that count, its plug-in version of the Prius is expected to release before the Volt.

Third, the Honda Insight, version 2.0, will release later this year at $19K

Sayonara, GM.

And, sayonara to the idea of an insightful auto writer.

Mac and Firefox users love me

Sitemeter, the visitor statistics add-on that is in the upper right-hand corner of this blog, upgraded its basic accounts over the weekend, and now provides a welter of new information.

Among this:

•Almost 25 percent of readers are using some version of Firefox and more than 5 percent are using some version of Safari.

•15 percent of visitors are on Mac OS X, well above ownership averages. I'm even getting a few Linux users.

My past comments about Mac have been about the cult of Mac and cult of Steve Jobs, I should note. As a newspaper editor, I have used Macs at work for more than a decade, and now have my first home Mac.

As for browsers, PLEASE ... no Google Chrome users. As much as I've kicked the ass of Obama and many other Dems, as well as the GOP, on stuff like the FISA bill, I don't want people who will blindly use the Big Brother Browser™ to visit here.

That all said, Sitemeter has rolled back to the older version of its service, but may be looking at relaunching a similar version soon.

Gov. Strickland tackles ‘Bradley effect’ in Ohio

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, African-American himself, knows how important Ohio is to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. That’s why he’s going around the state, talking openly about the “Bradley effect.”

The “Bradley effect” is named for former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who had a surprisingly close first election after polls had him well ahead. Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder had a similar situation, and the phenomenon is also known as the “Wilder effect.”

What phenomenon?

Pollsters, behavioral psychologists and political scientists are all familiar, from different perspectives about this.

People surveyed for polls, and quite clearly told their answers are anonymous, will — even if surveyed on the phone and not in person — have some leaning, on controversial topics, of either telling pollsters what they think the pollster wants to hear or what they think is the “right thing.”

The Bradley effect is one of those things.

Hardcore racists couldn’t care less about public perception.

But, people less biased, whether they would be classifiable with the word “racialist” or not, recognize that society as a whole would be condemnatory of the idea of voting against a black person just, or primarily, because that person is black.

So, they lie to the pollster.

And that’s why Strickland, who is not up for re-election this year, is out on the hustings, along with surrogates:
“I know there is a real concern out there that some people who normally would be voting Democratic might not vote for an African-American,” said Tim Burke, the Democratic chairman of Hamilton County (Cincinnati and its suburbs). “Gov. [Ted] Strickland has spoken openly about this.”

Campaigning for Obama in Jackson County in the Appalachian southeastern corner of the state earlier this month, Strickland declared, “I’m going to talk about the elephant in the room — and I'm not talking about any Republican. The elephant in the room is what everybody's thinking but nobody willing to talk about ... it’s race.”

Add that to the “Obama’s a Muslim” rumors, etc., and Strickland’s got his work cut out for him.

BofA rebuffed Lehman — for Merrill Lynch

After dropping out of the race to buy Lehman Brothers Sunday afternoon, Bank of America switched to Merrill Lynch , acquiring the financial giant to the tune of $44 billion, or $29 a share.

The price is well above where Merrill was trading recently.

Merrill is a winner, or Merrill shareholders are.

In the long term, BofA shareholders may be, but, with the amount of debt and purchases the company has made recently, I don’t know about the short term.

The takeover comes on the heels of buying Countrywide earlier this year.

And, it’s not the first time BofA has acted swiftly. As the story notes, it bought MBNA (the card company, not the senator and Veep candidate) in 2005 on a week’s notice.

Finally, is it good for the consumer? Or the country as a whole?

Well, BofA is going to give you a vomitorium Yes answer to that, touting mortgages, investment banking, commercial banking and more all under one roof.

I’m not so sure about agglomeration of this size. What if some CEO of the future, in some future subprime mortgage-type bubble, overextended an institution of this size?

September 14, 2008

Childhood bipolar disorder disorder in limelight

Note: this is a repost of a post from Sept. 13, with a new header. I originally slugged the header as referring to borderline personality disorder, another matter entirely.

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.

A Palin-Obama similarity?

Just as Barack Obama’s 2002 speech at a Chicago antiwar rally had a fair degree of political calculation behind the idealism (don’t deny it, either, Nancy Pritzker and others are on the record about it), did Alaska Oil and Gas Commission Chairwoman Sarah Palin’s “outing” of state Republican leader Randy Ruedrich for having his hands in the till having a political dimension as well?

I say Yes. The rest of the story notes her “political restlessness” — another similarity with Obama.

Barclay’s and BofA lead to take over Lehman

My, how fast news moves. This Sunday morning story about possible Lehman buyers, listing Barclay’s and Bank of America, was hugely out of date hours later. Neither will pull the trigger before the 9 a.m. Monday opening bell on Wall Street.

That, in turn could send the market plunging, especially depending on what the assessment is of Hurricane Ike damages by that time.

The holdup is that both would-be buyers have said they’d like some sort of federal guarantee, which ain’t gonna happen.

So, as I first blogged Friday, the options are:
• A fire-sale price;
• Bankruptcy;
• And, a new option No. 3, where Lehman’s bad debt gets dumped in a pool and divvied up somehow, to make it a better sale target, similar to Long-Term Capital Management in 1998.

One option on the fire sale would be a sale in pieces. As for the “bad debt” or “bad bank” idea, lots of financial companies that were flush in 1998 aren’t now.

Barclay’s, as of Saturday, was reportedly in the running, but the British bank has pulled out, specifically over Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s refusal to grant a guarantee deal like that in the Bear Stearns bailout.

Bank of America was reportedly also a suitor. Make that one a definite was.

You can count out Bank of America now, too. It dropped out for the same reasons as Barclay’s.

That sound you here is Lehman stock already plummeting amongst Asian traders, and about to do so in Europe.

That said, I’ll offer up 1-in-5 odds that, despite all the talk about how the government “doesn’t want this to happen,” etc., Lehman files for bankruptcy before the end of this week, probably before the end of business Wednesday.