SocraticGadfly: 11/9/08 - 11/16/08

November 15, 2008



Love is not beauty.
Love is not sex.
Beauty is formed in the eye of a loving beholder.
But itself cannot create love instead of lust.
Love is more than sex, and extends and exists beyond it;
And even better without it at times.

Beauty is not sex.
Beauty is not love.
Many people, at swingers’ parties and clubs
Have engaged in sex when not beautiful, or with those not beautiful
And many beautiful people either cannot or will not
Find or give love.

Sex is not love.
Sex is not beauty.
As John Holmes said, without love
Sex is but mutual masturbation.
And we have plenty of mutual masturbators, as well as solo ones,
In our world.
And sex doesn’t make me, or a partner
Any more beautiful in and of itself.

— Nov. 10, 2008

Quo vadis A-list Democrats?

I’m focusing on Democrats who are elected officials and aren’t likely to be in an Obama cabinet.

Hillary Clinton? I expect her to make a run for Senate Majority Leader at some point, whether 2011 or 2013, I’m not sure. She may consider a 2016 presidential run, but the greater degree to which older women still face ageism is problematic. A 73-year-old Biden wouldn’t be running, that I know. Hard to say who else would be on the presidential horizon then.

My best guesstimate is that she pushes for the Majority Leader slot after getting re-elected to a third Senate term in 2012.

I don’t expect her to be Secretary of State. Obama’s offer may have been like Veep talk, where he said she’d get no shortcuts on her background check; he may also have hinted that Biden would have a strong voice on foreign police

Bill Richardson? SOL to some degree. He’s not going to be Obama’s Secretary of State, I don’t think. I believe he’d be afraid of playing second fiddle to Biden on foreign policy. And, I don’t think Biden necessarily wants him there anyway, even if Obama talked to Big Bill.

Would he take Interior? It’s a step above Energy and the UN in Cabinet pecking order, and he is a Western governor, a traditional consideration. In any case, does he regret not running for Pete Domenici’s Senate seat?

John Edwards, of course, is toast.

Howard Dean? As I’ve said elsewhere, unless either he wants out of the DNC or Obama wants him out to put his own stamp on it, I don’t see him leaving to join the Cabinet for HHS or other things. I think he likes it where he is.

Joe Lieberman, the man who would be Democrat again? Well, unless he can line up enough Verizon-like Senate backers like Chris Dodd, he’s out.

Harry Byrd? Will not run for re-election, now that he’s stepped down from Appropriations. Obviously.

Dianne Feinstein? I expect her to not run for another Senate term, either. Antonio Villaraigosa might be able to overcome his by-then-old affair news to win the Democratic primary. Right now, he’s coy about whether or not he’ll run for governor of California in 2010. I expect a number of Democratic dominos are waiting to see how Feinstein falls, then him. Also, whether or not der Ahhhnold on the GOP side leaves the statehouse for a Senate run could be a factor.

An open letter to President-elect Obama

Ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched a veritable blizzard of New Deal programs quickly after taking office, the idea – or the myth – of a presidential “100 days” has grown and grown.

And, if fancy-pants well-paid columnists at places like the New York Times can offer their “100 days” advice to Barack Obama, well, why can’t I? After all, they put their hands on their keyboards the same way I do.

So, here goes.

First, increase the gas tax by $1 a gallon, phasing that in over five years to not be too hard of a hit.
This kills three birds with one stone.

I’ll look first at the less obvious birds.

As the Minneapolis I-35 bridge collapse of a few years back illustrates, we have a lot of highways across the country in need of major work. The federal highway fund, based on the federal gas tax, is running dry.

Rather than just raising the tax by a few pennies, since it’s on a per-gallon basis, and not on a per-sales-dollar basis, a serious increase would pay for a thorough program of road construction.

More road construction means more work. That, then, in the midst of an apparent recession, would be an economic shot in the arm.

That’s the two less-obvious stones – road repair and economic stimulus.

The obvious one? Or, more obvious from where I sit behind this keyboard?

It would increase fuel conservation.

Frankly, the sharp plunge in oil, and gasoline, prices worries me. Yes, worries me.
I’m afraid that, if it goes on too long, too many people in the country will forget about $4 gasoline of not so long ago, and feel less need to conserve, whether through better driving habits, or through buying SUVs never likely to take a tire tread off concrete or asphalt.

And, even if the cheap gas goes away soon enough, the extra tax would boost conservation even more.

If we don’t need all the money for road-building work, we can use some of it for research on alternatives to today’s gas-powered cars.

Second, be careful about bipartisanship, especially in your cabinet appointments.

If you truly feel the best person for a certain position is a Republican, fine. But, if you’re just trying to appear “bipartisan,” that’s often been a one-way street.

Third, if you’re really about change, please show it. Don’t appoint a bunch of Clinton administration retreads. Especially, don’t name Larry Summers to once again be the Treasury secretary. While you’re at it, don’t name any Goldman Sachs employee, past or present, to head Treasury, the Office of Management and Budget or the Council of Economic Advisors.

In other words, per one of your campaign commercials at the Democratic convention in Denver, show that your vote for the bailout, and Barney Smith’s vote for you, were not votes for Smith Barney.

Fourth, and related to that, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And, make mistakes out of boldness, not timidity. If “change” is more than just a slogan to get elected, that’s the only way to make mistakes.

Fifth, and related to that, you were elected on the idea you get us out of Iraq. Do more than that. Bring change to our foreign policy. By your cultural heritage – an African father, doing part of your growing up in Indonesia, you present a new American governmental face to the world. You have the opportunity to present a new American attitude as well, beyond both Bush’s more naked imperialism and Clinton’s imperialism lite.

Sixth, work and think outside the box, as you already have done. The recruiting of so many small-dollar campaign contributors was brilliance from a marketing viewpoint; it gave people a sense of ownership. It also, through the ease of online contributions, gave you a massive e-mail database. You have an opportunity to use that as an electronic bully pulpit.

Seventh and last, get more points of view more involved in our country. As a third-party voter for the second presidential election in a row, I can personally attest to that. A small but consistent segment of voters in this country, as well as other intelligent people who have tuned out, know that the two-party duopoly hasn’t often listened to them. Those of us who haven’t tuned out would like a more level political playing field.

Solar panels made 40 percent more efficient

A new silicon coating for solar panels boosts their sunlight absorption from 67 to 96 percent. The new, anti-reflective coating also makes it easier to capture sunlight from all angles, which means solar cells can now be placed on sites that don’t generally face south.

Price? Not expected to add more than 2-4 percent to current solar cell costs, according to the scientific developers of the nanotech coating.

Be good for goodness sake!

And not for godness' sake.

The American Humanist Association has started a secular Christmas campaign.
"Humanists have always understood that you don't need a god to be good,"
said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "So that's the point we're making with this advertising campaign. Morality doesn't come from religion. It's a set of values embraced by individuals and society based on empathy, fairness, and experience."

Indeed, ethics ultimately is an inside job

Army busted Photoshopping four-star’s pic

And, not just any four-star, either, but Photoshopping Ann E. Dunwoody, the Army’s first female four-star.

Why? It’s PR to make her look better in some way, that’s why.

Then, it got busted in a lie, for claiming the editing, which changed the background of the pic, which also hid that it was an old three-star uniform she was in, didn’t alter the picture in any material way.

And, since it’s not the first itime recently the Army has been caught Photoshopping PR pics, the AP is going to stop using DoD PR pics for now.

Read for yourself; from my background as a newspaper editor, this was a HUGE no-no.

November 14, 2008

Friday scatblogging — scathound on the evidence trail!

Mocha watches her handler, Lindsay Madden, examine scat in the Sierra.

Yes, some dogs are now being trained to scent scat. But, they’re not tracing just any poop — they’re on the nose of scat in its technical sense, of wild animal feces.

Why? For population biology studies and similar reasons. Radio collars break or break down. In some cases, animals learn how to shed them.

Besides thast, scat has plenty of clues about an animal’s diet, as well as some about its well being, and even a bit about the animal version of “emotional states.” For example:
By analyzing recovered killer whale scat for certain hormones, the researchers have been able to demonstrate that whale-watching boats are stressing the whales, as are lack of salmon and certain industrial chemicals in the water.

Scatdogs are becoming so in demand, the University of Washington has constructed a training facility on the shoulder of Mount Rainier.

Friday scatblogging — nothing like Smart Scat

Boy, it’s been a while since I’ve done this. Since Kevin Drum and his catblogging migrated to the pages of Mother Jones from Washington Monthly (and has anybody ever said why?) I’ve had a bit less incentive to scatblog. But, time to get started!

The smart money was on Smart Scat at the Southwest Reining Horse Association’s Non Pro Futurity. How can you remain non-pro with a name and success like that?

And, given what I said about the human body, and how we know bacterial action contributes to human body odors, I’m sure we’re scratching just the surface of this scratch-and-sniff iceberg.

Videogaming ‘addiction’ is addiction

Going by brain scans, no scare quotes are needed to talk about videogame addiction. The same areas light up as in drug addicts.

Is food flavor 90 percent bacterial?

I’m riffing on the commonplace of human biology that the human body is actually 90 percent bacterial cells.

Well, if not 90 percent, bacteria on at least some foods contribute to the food’s flavor and odor. Those foods include, so far, grapes, onions and bell peppers.

And, given what I said about the human body, and how we know bacterial action contributes to human body odors, I’m sure we’re scratching just the surface of this scratch-and-sniff iceberg.

GOP govs OK with corruption?

At the annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association, when challenged by Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska to make a pledge calling on convicted felon, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, to resign immediately, the silence was deafening from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who first said the GOP needs to got honest about ethics, and all his fellow Republican governors.

EPA gets internal hand-slapping on Utah coal plant

Indian tribes caught in middle

An Environmental Protection Agency appeals panel has blocked the EPA from issuing an approval permit for a Utah coal-fired electric power plant.

The panel said EPA’s Denver office failed to justify its approving the plant without stringent carbon-dioxide controls. Is the change in presidential administration already starting to produce some environmental backbones, even as EPA continues to twiddle its thumbs on specific regulations to control carbon dioxide as a pollutant, per Supreme Court ruling?

That’s the take of David Bookbinder, a lawyer representing the Sierra Club in its challenge to the Bonanza plant, which would have been built on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in eastern Utah. The “usual suspects,” including American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Chemistry Council and the National Association of Manufacturers, wanted EPA to steam full speed ahead.

That said, the ruling will also keep particulate pollutants from the plant from wafting into Dinosaur National Monument and the High Uintahs Wilderness area.

At the same time, it will cost Ute Indians on the reservation whatever construction and operations jobs they could have gotten.

With our first black president, what about our first gay? Or woman?

Marc Oppenheimer speculates about the who and when for our nation's first female, Hindu, Muslim, east Asian and even atheist presidents.

He's surely right that atheists are at the end of the line, behind gays, at least, in their likelihood to inhabit the Oval Office.

BUT... Oppenheimer's a historically-challenged idiot on gay presidents.

Lincoln was NOT a "closeted gay."


The author who claimed that a couple of years ago was grinding a gay PR ax and misinterpreting early Victorian male conversation.

Likely gay and non-closeted? His predecessor, James Buchanan. He and his apparent lover Alabama's Sen. Yancey, were even referred to -- all the way up to Andrew Jackson -- as "Miss Nancy and Sen. Yancey."

And, we still have letters between the two that make clear that, even in light of the degree of intimate conversation shared by early Victorian era males, they were more than just close friends.

Hillary at State? Why?

Whence do rumors and speculations like this arise? And, is this more due to stupidity of some pundits in the Beltway’s chattering class, stupidity of pundits in Beltway MSM, deliberate monkey-wrenching by non-media pundits or what?

First, from Hillary Clinton’s point of view. Especially with Biden as Veep, the Secretary of State is not going to have a lot of free rein. (That’s part of why another rumored candidate, Bill Richardson, won’t be going there either.) Second, beyond that, even, it does little to advance her political future, assuming she’s still looking beyond where she is now. Hell, It’s not even a novelty to be a female SoS any more.

I still say that she gets re-elected to her Senate seat in 2010, then makes noise about trying to become Majority (or Minority, as it may be) Leader.

Second, from Obama’s POV. He already passed on having her inside the tent as Veep, why would he want her at State? That train got left in the station in July.

My only other guess as to this rumor is that it was deliberately started from somewhere inside Clintonland as a shot across the bow, letting Obama know she expects to be “consulted” regularly.

Ted Rall hopes President-elect Barack Obama remembers her very well, specifically, that he remembers her 1996 Peruvian show trial for allegedly helping Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.

Rall says its similar trials to that which we would get here if we adopt Obama’s “special court” system for trying Guantanamo detainees.

That said, Rall appears to have left his brains, and certainly any Realpolitik, lying on the side of the road on this one.

Rather than next saying we should try all Gitmo detainees in regular federal courts, he instead says that, because evidence may be tainted, we ought to set them all free.

And then give Gitmo to Cuba.

Sorry, Ted, but you lost me on this one.

November 13, 2008

Cedar Hill-Plano West football playoff liveblogging

OVERTIME III - Game over, Longhorns! Eduardo Camara hits a 21-yd FG

Welcome, all you readers. To you Plano West fans, let me say that, if you had a smarter head coach, you would have won this game.

Two particular instances stand out.

First, in the first half, using your backup halfback on third and goal was dumb enough; trying a fake FG from the 4, rather than just running a fourth-down offensive set, if you're not going to kick it, was dumber yet.

But, that pales in response to the end of regulation.

Why, when you're on the 14 and on the left hash with a right-footed kicker, you run LEFT again instead of to the middle of the field to set up the potential game-winning field goal is beyond my comprehension.

That said, Longhorn coach Joey McGuire won't look that gift horse in the mouth.

And, with that said, here's how the game played out in regulation ...

Well, in the first half, here Plano West is. Halfback Darrius Cohen has more than 175 yards rushing in the first half, almost all of it in the box between the tackles.

That includes three touchdowns to stake the Wolves to a 21-0 halftime lead over the Cedar Hill Longhorns. Were it not for a failed fake field goal attempt either being sucessful or else replaced by a 21-yard chip shot field goal, the score could be even worse.

Emblematic of the first half was the Longhorns ending the first half at the PW 2-yard line, out of time outs and the Longhorn offense acting with less than full urgency.

In the second half, the Longhorns have their work cut out for them in trying to come back from their biggest deficit of the year.

10:34 3Q - Well, Cedar Hill's defense failed to answer the bell for the second half. Cohen had a 65-yard run on the second play from scrimmage and scored two plays later. He's over 250 yards rushing and we're at 28-0.

8:33 3Q - Aided by two personal-foul facemasks against PW (there is no five-yarder in high school), the Longhorn offense HAS answered the bell. Driphus Jackson hits Ben Malena for a 20-yard TD and it's 28-7.

6:08 3Q - After a bad PW punt snap put the ball at the PW 8, Malena runs in, and we've got a ballgame at 28-14.

4:17 3Q - Malena on a 62-yard run, CH fans getting noisy first time tonight. 28-21.

Time for me to gameplan for PW a bit. CH is playing 8 in the box. Time to pass on first down. And they don't.

1:38 3Q - Option pass by CH backup QB Le'derian Cockrane to John Coleman. 28-all.

10:37 4Q - After a short punt, the Horns go 38 yards in four plays. Malena scores from 3 yards out.
Wacky play. PW called for face-guarding on a fade to the end zone, then PW's cornerback and somebody else, apparently, BOTH get unsportsmanlike conduct flags on the dead ball on the same play.

1:13 4Q - Set up by Chance Hutcheson's blocking a punt, the Wolves moved 39 yards in 10 plays, with Travis Wilson scoring on a QB draw to tie the game.

Next came PW's missed field goal, Cedar Hill scoring on 4th/24 in the first OT, when Laquan Harper got behind PW double coverage, PW bouncing back in the second OT, but then finding itself out of either emotional or physical gas in the third OT.

And, I know PW's kicker has the leg for a 44-yarder to be at least worth an attempt, rather than going for it on 4th/12 in the third OT.


The sun set
An hour earlier today
Than yesterday.
The leaves turned redder,
Or browner in this dry year,
And my hike ended at late dusk.
The time that flees is mine
More than the thirst-unquenched oak’s.
But the wrath that could be mine
At passed days and lost opportunities —
As the change of time reminds me
Of the change of life —
Is not, on many days, is not.
An emotional detachment often plays
In the pensively introspective
Key of B minor.
Tempus fugit, dies irae.

Red oak and eastern red cedar,
Windmill Hill Preserve,
DeSoto, Texas/Steve Snyder

Cornyn a shoo-in for NSRC head?

Norm Coleman has pulled out of the running to fight for chairing the National Republican Senatorial Committee, leaving John Cornyn with the inside edge in a walkaway.

A silver lining to the recession – cheaper lawyers

In this recession, unlike previous ones, law firms are having to tighten their belts, too. That includes flat-rate billing, among other things.

Beyond that, some firms have already gone belly-up.

But, law firms charging less for their corporate services is unlikely to trickle down to you and me.

GM bankruptcy vs. bailout watch

First, contrary to hand-wringing by Rust Belt Congressmen, including (apparently) one who just happened to be elected President recently, there’s evidence a GM bankruptcy would be well short of a catastrophe.

On the stakeholders’ side, as the story notes, most GM stock equity is already toast. On employees’ future, GM says pension obligations are already funded adequately.

So, that leaves the old 1970s Fram oil commercial question – “Do you want to pay a little bit now or a whole lot later?”

Setting aside the question of further stranding environmental costs by propping up the often anti-environmental Big Three, I don’t want to pound more money down that rathole.

And, for better or for worse, a GM bankruptcy, while huge, would be far smaller than that of Lehman Brothers earlier this year.

So, Mr. President Elect, don’t give — or loan — the formerly-Big Three $25 billion, let alone $50 billion.

Soros – don’t allow what you don’t know how to regulate

Pretty smart advice from George Soros, speaking before a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on hedge funds, with Soros one of five fund managers averaging $1 billion-with-a-b in income last year.

And, judging by representatives’ comments, maybe, in addition to regulation, the House will find the conejos to steamroll Chuck Schumer and tax interest carryovers as income. I'm sure Henry Waxman would like to go that direction. Now, what other regulation could happen, who knows? But, “transparency” was the buzzword of the day.

Obama ‘faulty memory’ on Wright explored

I thought that, during the campaign, Obama said he “praised Jesus” at Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ every Sunday. Well, via Beliefnet, a 2004 interview in the Chicago Sun-Times confirms that.
Do you still attend Trinity?

Yep. Every week. 11 o’clock service.

That is followed by this:
Well, my pastor [Jeremiah Wright] is certainly someone who I have an enormous amount of respect for.

In an earlier post, I offered these five possibilities for the Obama-Wright relationship and how Obama claims he had never heard anything like “God damn America” out of Wright’s mouth.
• A massive liar about hearing difficulty, or
• A similar liar about his comprehension level, or
• A whopper-teller about his memory skills, or
• Ditto on the frequency of church attendance, or
• A champion-level Sunday morning pew sleeper.

Well, unless he was stretching the truth on No. 4 well before running for president, we can rule out the non-attendance excuse.

Papers seek Hatfill documents

The NYT and LAT want all government documents related to the FBI investigation of Steven Hatfill as a “person of interest” in the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Great. Let’s get nearer the bottom of that part of the investigation; maybe we can find out more about how legitimate, or how shaky, of a case the FBI had against Bruce Ivins, then.

What? Not even a show trial?

Fifty bucks says any Obama Administration “truth and reconciliation team” won’t go too far down the road of truth in finding out just how much BushCo criminality there was and is.

Issue No. 1, of course, is Bush pardons. How many people would he pardon, if he does?
“The classic pardon is an identifiable individual; here you are talking about potentially thousands of people involved in illegal activities,” explained Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington Law School. A blanket pardon of this variety, Turley said, “would allow a president to engage in massive illegality and generally pardon the world for any involvement in unlawful activity.”

But, it’s legally doable without identifying people by name. As the story notes, Carter pardoned all alleged draft dodgers, and Andrew Johnson pardoned all Confederate soldiers.

Issue No. 2 – would pardoned people cooperate with a truth and reconciliation commission?

Hell, no. The presidential pardon only covers criminal actions; if, after being pardoned, they talked about anything, the tidal wave of lawsuits would come.

Unless, of course, “FISA 45 percenter” President Obama pushed for these folks to get retroactive civil immunity by law.

Obama transition team thoughts 2 — so much for environmentalism

Since I know a bit about environmental issues in particular, let me just say rhetorically – David Hayes ramrodding Interior/EPA transition?

Well, we now know that Obama’s environmentalism will be bland centrism of the Clinton-Gore type, rather than REAL environmentalism. The Progressive Policy Institute is a DLC shop. The Environmental Law Institute counts mega-clearcutter Weyerhauser among its clients, as well as Gang Green members NRDC, EDF, WWF, Sierra, and Defenders of Wildlife.

Other big corporate clients of ELI are Chevron, AT&T, Lockheed Martin, GE and IBM. In other words, ELI teaches Fortune 500 folks how to “get by” on environmentalism at the edges of the law.

Beyond that, then, it networks companies like this to Gang Green enviros, for the possibility of exchanging greenwash for corporate contributions.

WWF is, of course, Gang Green, and American Rivers is kind of Gang Green lite.

Calling Jeff St. Clair for what he’ll be writing!

Obama transition team thoughts — ‘Where’s the change’?

No. 1 thought — is anybody still left to turn the lights out at McKinsey & Company, which is an “insider of insiders” consultant shop. (Read to the end of the Wiki entry for how McKinsey has been under fire for its links to Hurricane Katrina and would be weasel-out insurers.)

No. 2 thought — how does this, and the ex-Clintonites who are not from McKinsey but are still on the transition team, spell “change”? I mean, somebody like archetypal neolib Reed Hundt just has “change” written all over him.

$700 billion, my ass

Forbes says that the real cost of the financial bailout is $5 trillion and counting!

That’s counting all the money the Fed has pumped into various companies this year, the $700 billion “financial stabilization” bill, and the FDIC’s guarantee of senior bank debt.

November 12, 2008

Hypocrisy alert – King Abdullah warning about terrorism

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah warning the UN General Assembly about terrorism?

Until we have evidence this is about more than image-burnishing, including evidence that you’ve stopped financing Wahhabism both abroad (including in the U.S.) and at home, call me just a tad skeptical.

I’m not asking Abdullah to grovel and beg for forgiveness for his country’s primary part in contributing to terrorism. I am asking for more disclosure on what he’s doing now to stop contributing.

Yellowstone wins, rich lose

Montana’s tony Yellowstone Club development, hardly more than a stone’s throw away from the national park, has filed for bankruptcy.

Grizzlies and wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are crying a schadenfreude river as we speak.

Pickens puts wind farm on hold

Oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens said falling natural gas prices forced him to put his West Texas wind farm on hold for now.

But he expects that to be just temporary. He said he expects oil prices to be back at $100/bbl within a year.

Will Robert Gibbs be a BushCo-type press secretary?

This Washington Post profile shows that, contrary to Steve Benen and other MSLBs beating up on Dean Reynolds for complaining about the Obama campaign plane, they instead should have been beating up on Robert Gibbs for stiffing reporters, playing favorites with reporters, and otherwise “managing” the media in a way that would do Ari Fleischer proud.

And, for people who complain about the boo-hoo factor of folks like Newt Gingrich, there’s this tidbit:
(Gibbs) says Reynolds, in his CBS blog post about the campaign’s shortcomings, “hurt the feelings” of his staff and made complaints that the newsman had not raised in person.

Well, cry me a river.

And, do we really want a press secretary who is “not someone who stays above the fray,” per Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe?

Midnight Bush shenanigans may be cut off at pass

The Congressional Review Act of 1996 means any executive regulation finalized within 60 days of Congressional adjournment, in this case, Oct. 3, are considered, for Congressional purposes, as finalized Jan. 15, 2009. So, the new Congress would have two months from then to review late-night Bush rule-making decisions.

Because CRA actions can’t be filibustered, they draw scrutiny; I would a gree that a vote u p or down on a whole package of egregious Bush rule-makings is the best Obama strategy.

Obama the Secret Service ‘Renegade’ – in poetry

“Renegade” is the Secret Service code name for President-elect Barack Obama.

The rest of the family?

Michelle Obama is “Renaissance,” 10-year-old Malia is “Radiance,” and 7-year-old Sasha is “Rosebud.”

The story also has the Biden code names; the idea goes back to the Truman Administration, as explained in the story.

With that, I post a poem by a witty friend of mine, Michael O’Grady, an ex-pat living in France:

So this is where we "R":
Not a Maverick but a renegade,
The success of a rising star
During the transitional parade.

With rebirth of the essence,
Michelle will bring a brightness
To a White House Renaissance
That engender certain lightness.

To thoughtful Malia good wishes,
Shining beyond mere obedience,
Enjoying pets with joy delicious,
Brightening offices with radiance.

And for Sasha, roaming in the halls,
Grander than those of Citizen Kane's,
May Rosebud see no neocon walls
Where nonsense sang refrains.


Supremes heart Navy, hate whales

In a 5-4 split yesterday, the Supreme Court overruled lower-level courts and lifted restrictions on Navy long-range sonar use. The sonar has been shown to cause a number of problems for whaes.

Chief John Roberts said the appellate court ruling didn’t cite any of such problems and otherwise, that the court, and the original district court, abused their discretion. It also appears Roberts and the other four on his side took at face value the Navy’s claim to use such sonar as much as it does. (The original ruling was just to restrict, not ban, such sonar.)

Roberts also ignored the fact that the lower courts pointed out the Navy never bothered to conduct an environmental impact statement. That’s why timber groups were among the folks filing amicus briefs on behalf of the Navy.

Paglia gets Obama concerns right, Palin fluffing wrong

Camilla Paglia says the media blew it for not giving a serious look at Wiliam Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. I agree.

I, too took more than a cursory glance at Ayers, and at the Woods Foundation. Some of the culture-specific educational programs it funded, while not quite as far as, say, an Ebonics Academy, were iffy enough that they should have been easy-picking low-hanging fruit for McCain.

The failure to capitalize reflects more on the ineptitude of his campaign staff than him in person in debates, though. All they had to do was pull up a list of grant recipients made while Obama was also on the board, and had McCain read through a few of them, in the form of rhetorical questions: “Sen. Obama, do you support … “ (If you haven’t actually done reading for yourself about Ayers, or Dohrn, Paglia has more on the top of the jump page.)

The reality is that Obama and other board members, like most nonprofit boards, probably rubber-stamped a lot of grants.

But, then, McCain could have gone after Obama for lack of involvement, and related issues.

That was the opening on Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

IIRC, Obama talked about praising Jesus “every Sunday” at Trinity.

Well, re his claims to have never heard stuff like that out of Wright, that would make him either:
• A massive liar about hearing difficulty, or
• A similar liar about his comprehension level, or
• A whopper-teller about his memory skills, or
• Ditto on the frequency of church attendance, or
• A champion-level Sunday morning pew sleeper.

I suspect the answer is a mix of points three and four. Which of those two is greater, I’m not sure.

I don’t doubt that Obama “fluffed” his church attendance to some degree. That in turn makes me wonder how much he’s committed to expanding Bush’s faith-based principles for reasons of faith, how much for reasons of campaign politicis, and how much for yet other reasons.

This is an issue that McCain could better have handled through 527 surrogates rather than personally.

Anyway, so far, so good from Paglia.

But then, turn the cyberpage, and read down a little bit, it’s off the deep end she goes.

Comparing Sarah Palin to John Edwards? Puhleeze. You know it's about more than abstract "experience," but knowledge and a willingness to learn.

And, to claim this was ultimately all about Palin’s pro-life issues is more ridiculous yet.

So, Ms. Paglia, if you wrote this part of the column even after Palin’s “Africa is a country” statement became public, well, you've reached a new low in some sort of po-mo idiocy.

An Obama mistake to skip stiff G20 summit?

I think it’s a big mistake for Obama to skip this weekend’s G20 summit. His presence there would in no way signify we have two presidents at one time.

Instead, his absence leaves the rest of the developed world and upper-tier developing world listless.

I think it’s obvious that the real reason Obama is skipping out is he doesn’t want to tie his hands with even the most general of global economic comments; I didn’t need the reporter in the story to tell me that.

Flip side is that the “boldness” the rest of the world thought they might see, including foreign leaders? Not so much.

At the same time, this shows the weakness of the American political system. A new British or Canadian prime minister would have no choice but to be involved.

The Onion strikes again on Obama

While newspapers and MSLBs wring their hands on how people like Jon Stewart and SNL will do Obama humor, The Onion plows straight ahead.

Yeah, where IS that $85 mil?

November 11, 2008

Does Obama favor government openness or not?

One wonders about that, when Obama financial advisor Jason Furman refuses to comment on a Bloomberg Freedom of Information Act suit designed to get the Fed to reveal who's gotten $2 trillion of Fed loans.

Even m ore, Bloomberg wants to know what was offered as collateral for all these loans. Seeing this would let the broader world know how the Fed is valuing — or possibly overvaluing — all sorts of assets at struggling financial institutions.

Bloomberg says this:
Revealing the collateral lists is “central to understanding and assessing the government's response to the most cataclysmic financial crisis in America since the Great Depression.'”

That said, Furman, presumably “not speaking” officially on Obama’s behalf, certainly isn’t alone in indicating Bloomberg and others should just “move along.”

Barney Frank is also OK with the Fed not providing the information. So is New York Fed chief, and rumored Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner.

This certainly inspires yet more belief that Obama will be a Bill Clinton neolib.

Iran computer nuke documents possible fakes

That’s the conclusion of Raw Story in a special investigative report. As President-elect Obama will be encouraged by “centrists” in the Democratic half of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment to keep “continuity” in our Iran policy, the need to stand up to neocon lies on Iran suddenly comes into stronger relief.

Pressure is growing within the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop relying on contents of the computer that U.S. intelligence “came upon” in 2004. The files claim that Iranian company Kimia Maadan is actually a front company for Iran’s government to upgrade its Shahab-3 missile to handle a nuclear warhead.

The IAEA and Director General Mohamed ElBaradai as Gareth Porter points out, in the case of the Niger-Iraq-yellowcake documents, has had no problem in the past calling a forged spade a forged spade. So, stay tuned for an IAEA report due out later this month that includes Iran’s responses to the possibly-forged computer files.

Neoliberalism could become neo-torturism with Obama

And civil liberties take a back seat

Reportedly, Barack Obama, he of the FISA 45 percenters among Congressional Democrats this summer, thinks “bipartisanship” extends to torture lite. At least, many of his transition team foreign policy and national security advisors are pushing for that kind of “centrism.”

Hey, if Rep. Jane Harman is seriously getting discussion as Homeland Security Secretary or Director of National Intelligence, that shows you just how much President-elect Obama cares about civil liberties.

That Kool-Aid gets “tastier” all the time, doesn’t it?

Fake Egyptians want real religious freedom

Will SCOTUS grant it?

The religion which calls itself Summum is a bit “interesting,” indeed. Between the story and the picture, I think you can understand how “fake Egyptian” is a good description.

Nonetheless, as King Ed said about some South Sea Islands king either being a real king or else just a dark-skinned brute, Summum, in terms of the First Amendment, is either a real religion or fakery.

And, it’s now in the lap of the Supreme Court to decide that issue nearly so much as it is to decide the connected issue of whether it then deserves First Amendment protections.

In 2003, the president of Summum church wrote to the mayor of Pleasant Grove City, Utah, asking to erect a monument inscribed with his religion’s Seven Aphorisms in the city park, “similar in size and nature” to the one devoted to the Ten Commandments.

The city said no, and the legal battle was on.

Both the relevant federal district court and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled in Summum’s favor. SCOTUS has said cities can’t discriminate on pamphleteering in public places, but has yet to give an explicit ruling on donated religious objects.

Mayor Michael W. Daniels is spinning this as a history issue:
Only donations concerning the city’s history are eligible for display in the park as a matter of longstanding policy, he said, and only when donated by groups with a long association with the city. The Fraternal Order of Eagles, a national civic organization, donated the Ten Commandments monument in 1971.

But it’s really not that.

As for whether it’s a religion or not, beyond the Supremes, I guess the IRS is the final arbiter.

And, SCOTUS won’t be tackling it on that legal angle anyway, even though that’s the undercurrent.

The case instead is proceeding as a free-speech issue, hence the possible parallels with religious pamphleteering.

And, that said, I don’t know whether that angle will make it easier, or harder, for “civil religionists” like Nino Scalia to overturn the appellate court.

Genes — the 1 percent ‘solution’

Individualized genetic medicine? Not so fast there

Yes, that’s right.

The “binary” bits alleged to be the centerpiece of human heredity, beloved of evolutionary biologists, population geneticists, and above all, capital-letter Evolutionary Psychologists, in reality are only the 1 percent solution of heritability. Elementary!

As to WHY the gene is only the “1 percent solution,” here’s the details of the latest research.

First, one strand of DNA may code for several different proteins. (In a process known as alternative splicing, a cell can select different combinations of exons to make different transcripts, the story notes.)

Second, said “gene” can combine with several other different genes, in different situations, to produce yet more different proteins.

Third, genes often encode for RNA, not proteins.

So, throw out the 1 gene = 1 protein idea.

Beyond that, “genes” may make up as little as 1 percent of DNA. “Junk DNA,” which more and more is proving itself to be anything but junk, makes up much of the remainder.

And, non-coding introns can lie in the middle of a stretch of DNA that makes up a single coding exon.

Also, some DNA, such as methyl caps, and histones, controls whether or not an exon can even be expressed, or how. They’re part of “epigenetic marks,” an area of DNA far more poorly understood than genes, as traditionally described. And, it gets fun with them:
When an embryo begins to develop, the epigenetic marks that have accumulated on both parents’ DNA are stripped away. The cells add a fresh set of epigenetic marks in the same pattern that its parents had when they were embryos.

This process turns out to be very delicate. If an embryo experiences certain kinds of stress, it may fail to lay down the right epigenetic marks.

But, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, epigenetic marks can be inherited.

And, in a bit of quasi-Lamarckianism (though not quite as much so as prions), it takes RNA to guide these markers to the right spot on DNA.

And, if that’s not enough, studies of micro-RNA and half a dozen other “non-basic RNAs” show even more the role RNA plays, no subservience to DNA involved, in cellular development

So, this all his tie-ins for our commercial, chemical modern world.

Very preliminary research indicates that chemicals that appear to cause “genetic” damage may well be causing epigenetic damage instead.

That, in turn, throw the whole biotech tout sheet of “the promise of genetic medicine” into a big kink.

And, we haven’t even talked about the amount of viral DNA stuck inside yours and mine.

Greenwald misses the boat on Obama-Lieberman

It’s rare when Glenn is off track, but this post about Obama’s comments in the Lieberman-Democratic caucus issue are a bit off.

The problem is that Glenn accepts Obama’s comments that Lieberman’s future with the Senate Democratic caucus is solely a matter for the Senate Democratic caucus at face value.

If Obama really felt that, he didn’t have to say anything. But, by issuing a “statement,” it appears he’s also implying that, via surrogate Chris Dodd or somebody, he’d like to be “consulted.”

Are your mom and dad fighting inside your brain?

No, I’m not talking Freudian psychology. Nor gestalt, nor modern humanistic or self-actualization theories.

I’m talking about the latest theory on the heritability of mental illness.

Bernard Crespi and Christopher Badcock claim this:
An evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg can, in effect, tip brain development in one of two ways. A strong bias toward the father pushes a developing brain along the autistic spectrum, toward a fascination with objects, patterns, mechanical systems, at the expense of social development. A bias toward the mother moves the growing brain along what the researchers call the psychotic spectrum, toward hypersensitivity to mood, their own and others’. This, according to the theory, increases a child’s risk of developing schizophrenia later on, as well as mood problems like bipolar disorder and depression.

My first thought? It may not be Freudianism, but it carries as much sexual stereotyping baggage as Freud did.

That said, the story notes that their work leans heavily on David Haig. A decade ago, he argued that pregnancy was in part a biological struggle for resources between the mother and unborn child, with natural selection favoring mothers who could limit the nutritional “vampirism” of fetusus and fathers whose offspring were greedy as they could be in the womb.

So, Crespi and Babcock aren’t totally barking up the wrong tree.

But, beyond their sexist-sounding take on mental illness, they seem to have a black-and-white view of genetic and epigenetic effects, too, which leads them into their one-axis view of all mental health conditions.

So, right now, if mom and dad are fighting inside you, they are more likely to be fighting inside your mind rather than in genetic or epigenetic coding in your brain.

Stanley Fish – why psychologists participated at Abu Ghraib

Stanley Fish has an thought-provoking column noting that many psychologists have a “hired gun” attitude, part of how he contrasts them with psychiatrists:
Psychology, on the other hand (vs. psychiatry), is not exclusively a healing profession. To be sure, there are psychologists who provide counseling, therapy and other services to patients; but there are many psychologists who think of themselves as behavioral scientists. ... Are psychologists experts for hire, or is it understood, as a matter of professional self-definition, that their expertise is to be deployed only for benign purposes?

As a matter of fact, psychological skills are purchased and deployed as commodities all the time. ... Large corporations employ psychological profilers to help make them make personnel decisions. Sports teams hire “coaches” whose job it is to motivate players and make them more aggressive. Hospitals use the results of psychological examinations to decide whether or not a patient should be released. And of course the military employs psychologists in an effort to identify techniques that lead prisoners to spill what they know.

Thought that was interesting? THIS is the nut graf:
In fact, the moment psychological knowledge of causes and effects is put into strategic action is the moment when psychology ceases to be a science and becomes an extension of someone’s agenda. Employing psychological skills in the course of any verbal interaction – be it a domestic conversation, classroom teaching, a performance in a law court, or an interrogation – will always have the effect of subordinating the facts and the truth of the matter to the desire for an outcome.

And, that’s exactly what happened at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib.

But, psychiatrists could have done the same things.

But, per some of the commentors to his column-length blog post, I think he has a point about the “persuasive professions” in general without drawing a largely artificial distinction between psychology and psychiatry. After all, psychiatrists have, in the past, used drugs in the service of the CIA and other organizations.

And, the whole premise of “Brave New World” was based on chemicals, not talk.

In fact, it wasn’t psychologists shooting up people at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, or Bagram, with pentothal or other drugs, now, was it.

Rather, it probably was a difference in politics between the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association that led psychiatrists to proscribe participating in interrogations more than two years ago.

Then, Fish goes Socratic on us.

As a linguist and philosopher, Fish then ties this to the ancient Greek skill of rhetoric. Shades of the Protagoras! He argues that psychology, like rhetoric, risks being a content-free tool.

I’m just scratching the surface of an stimulating, if flawed, column; read it all for yourself.

The Stalinist EPA

When, more than a decade on, the Environmental Protection Agency still hasn’t completed an assessment of the carcinogenic threat level of tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, it’s easy to see that “Stalninst EPA” isn’t just hyperbole:
“It feels like Stalin-era Russia, like the administration set themselves up to decide what’s allowable science and what isn’t.”

Perchlorate is another chemical where the EPA has been shamefully and deliberately lax.

As the story goes on to explain, if you thought cleaning up other parts of the Bush mess was going to be tough, tackling the EPA is really a ripper.

And, that’s only half the problem. Letting the Office of Management and Budget have any part in EPA risk assessments has the ultimately message of “money outweighs scientific truth.”

Saying ‘like’ twice in 30 seconds an automatic Prez disqualification

Yes, I mean you, Sarah Palin, with Val-speak like this:
“I’m like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don't let me miss the open door”

Elsewhere in her Fox interview, Palin:
• Brought poltical self-lowballing to a new level by saying she doesn’t know how “we” (her and some old Arizona geezer” did as well as they did against the mighty Obama machine.
• Said it was Bush’s fault they lost.

Read the full story for the star of Palin’s 2012 strategy.

Trevor Hoffman, you’ll look good in Cardinal red

If the Padres don’t want you at $4 mil a year, well, maybe John Moziliak has some Bird Bucks in St. Louis to offer.

No, he’s not a perfect answer to the bullpen. But, wouldn’t you feel comfortable with him as a closer and Izzy in setup?

November 10, 2008

Another reason not to name Western govs to the Cabinet

Three of four Western governors talked about as possible Obama cabinet members have Republican lite govs as their wingpersons.

So, maybe think again about Montana's Brian Schweitzer or Wyoming's Dave Freudenthal at Interior (in addition to Schweitzer definitely not being green and Freudenthal a non-greenish blank slate). Hold off on Arizona's Janet Napolitano at AG.

And, hold off on naming Big Bill Richardson to anything.

Gates may not stay on at Defense – is the job Hagel’s?

Reportedly, Gates isn’t that interested in staying on. And, another bandied-about name, Richard Danzig, reportedly doesn’t want it, as his No. 1 choice. But, I don’t think Danzig willl get named national security advisor.

In addition to the Defense Secretary choices, what about Obama defense spending? He’ll probably keep it flat, the story reports.

Gitmo cases – new court, or new version of old one?

Is a new “hybrid court” the answer for Gitmo detainees? President-elect Obama thinks the answer is yes. Off the top of my head, I wonder if the FISA court couldn’t be adapted to try cases like the most serious, intelligence-tangled Gitmo cases instead.

Reid and Pelosi invite Big Three to the hog trough

Not accepting a rare bailout “no” from Henry Paulson, and despite the fact that automakers aren’t banks, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are determined to get automakers bailout money.

That’s the new Democrats — not socialism, just plenty of corporate welfare.

How focused a regulatory eye in the Obama Administration?

That's probably one of the biggest questions about the eventual Obama Administration, with rumors about which former Clintonite might become Treasury Secretary fueling the debate about Obama's degree of neoliberalism.

Reuters suggests defense contractors and the healthcare field are likely to get the toughest scrutiny..

November 09, 2008

Judge doesn’t understand either free speech or taxpayer rights

A federal district judge in Denver has upheld BushCo booting three protestors from a taxpayer-funded appearance and speech by Bush.

District Court Chief Judge Wiley Daniel ruled the protestors had no right to be at an invitation-only event, despite it being taxpayer-funded and despite them getting tix from a GOP congressman. He said that previous courts had allowed a restriction of speech at presidential events.

At the same time, Wiley conflated speech rights and free assembly rights with this gem:
"President Bush had the right, at his own speech, to ensure that only his message was conveyed," Daniel wrote. "When the president speaks, he may choose his own words.”

Uhh, judge? A bumper sticker did nothing to interfere with Bush’s speech.

To quote Ronald Reagan, “Mr. Bush, We the People paid for that microphone.”

British discuss major press censorship

The British government is looking at an official policy of pre-emptive newspaper censorship of stories deemed too much about national security to be printed.

And, despite many public expressions of concern, the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee is derermined to press forward.

Well, even Shrub didn't try that one.

Why we need a $1-gallon fuel tax increase

ABC offers the worries that plummeting fuel prices could mean a return to 1980s cheap gas and 1980s cheap gas mentalities.

That $1 a gallon, sensibly phased in over five years, would keep Americans of 15-minute mindsets from rushing back to SUVs when the recession lightens.

It would also keep the floor higher for alt-fuels (and, hopefully, alt-fuels besides the ethanol ABC touts in the story).

More on those first two points at HybridCars.

It would fund a massive road-and-bridge repair project.

That, then, would help the economy, right now.

I'll have a newspaper column about this later this week.

Dreher: Time to accept gay marriage


Mr. "Crunchy Con" himself is ready to throw in the towel on a culture war cornerstone and accept gay marriage.

Well, Rod, expect to have your Republican Party membership platinum card revoked at any moment.

Seriously, although Rod hits clinkers about 85 percent of the time, is OK about 10 percent of the time, this might be a 5 percenter, at least in its prescriptions for the GOP.

The whole column is a definite read.

We're too optimistic - American exceptionalism, domestic division

Yes, a conservative, even a paleoconservative like Daniel Larison, has a chestnut of opinion on occasion.

His main argument? We're too optimistic about what's actually changeable in the future:
As we are beginning to face a world where there are no longer problems to be solved so much as realities to be borne, a healthy move away from optimism is the first step toward finding some lasting happiness.

That said, I deliberately truncated his last comment, about finding that happiness "in a confused and fallen world." I don't necessarily disagree with "confused" part, but of course, our world hasn't "fallen" from anywhere. And, if he's associating "confused" with that, I reject that, too.

But, he's right otherwise. Technology can't solve all our problems, or at least, it's not guaranteed to. And, it certainly can't solve our non-material problems.

Here's the nutgraf of his take on that:
Any nation that possesses an optimistic mentality does not possess a feeling for the tragic in history, because they have recast their history as a series of triumphs over foreign enemies and benighted and undeserving traditions at home. As such, they gradually lose respect for their own history, propelled onward to new and ever-greater campaigns. At the same time, their expectations of continuing advancement and success put them increasingly at odds with their own future.

It's an excellent column; read the whole thing.

UK brass hat – ‘No’ to direct troop move from Iraq to A-stan

Sir Jock Stirrup, the chief of the British defense staff, says British troops need a reduction in operation tempo — ASAP — and should therefore not be moved directly from Iraq to Afghanistan.
“I have said for a very long time that the British armed forces are stretched. We are doing more than we are structured and resourced to do in the long term. We can do it for a short period, but we can't continue doing it ad infinitum.”

President-elect Obama? Defense Secretary (to be held over?) Gates? Are you listening?

Stirrup (would have been a great name for a cavalry general a century ago) said other NATO countries need to get more involved in Afghanistan, too.

Bipartisanship Obama DOESN'T need

Douglas Holtz-Eakin in an Obama Cabinet? Yep, that's bipartisanship, David Brooks style. If H-E ain't enough, Brooks says, "Jim Talent," too!

When is an audit not an audit?

When the Defense Department is auditing one of its contractor big buddies.
“We have been basically on the trust system for years,” said one auditor. “It did not work on Wall Street and it is not working for federal contracts.”

Missing paperwork, obfuscation about paperwork and more – it’s all there, or not there.

Cards look at Ludwick for Holliday

This is a deal I make in a minute. Holliday is younger and has more upside. And Cards GM John Moziliak has shown he’s ready to spend, as needed.