SocraticGadfly: 11/16/08 - 11/23/08

November 22, 2008

The Scottish Beaver Trial is NOT Guy Ritchie and Madonna

No, the Scottish Beaver Trial is not Guy Ritchie’s battle with Madonna. Instead, beavers will be seen in Scotland soon for the first time in 400 years

So why isn't Obama jumping into auto bailout issue?

Contrary to this AP story, it's NOT necessarily that hard to get stuff passed during a lame-duck session of Congress, even significant stuff.

The 13th Amendment was passed by a lame-duck Congress and sent to the states for ratification after the 1864 election, for example.

Could it be that Obama knows this is at least a "tough sledding" issue, if not a controversial one, and wants more time, more chronographic breathing space? Quite possible. OR, even more, that he doesn't want to commit to any of the possible options?

On the other hand, supposedly, he has staff working behind the scenes to deliver up a prepackaged bankruptcy plan. But Big Three CEOs have already said they like that less than restructuring under a supervised bailout.

If major GM shareholder Kirk Kerkorian is correct in his guess that at least some of the Big Three have just weeks left, not months, it seems like Obama risks suffering worse falling by waiting than by committing himself to some particular line of action.

Indiana OKs ‘In God We Trust’ for free on car plates

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld keeping the phrase from U.S. coinage on the state’s car license plates. Complainants said that the statement was, in essence, a vanity fee, and should incur a $15 charge like other Indiana vanity plates.

The ACLU is looking at an appeal. It’s more than just a religious imposition, though, as the state lets some other vanity plates avoid the fee as well.

So, this does not look like it’s any better as a possible SCOTUS test case than Newdow did. And SCOTUS would probably call the phrase civic religion anyway.

Not all is harmonious at eHarmony

The online dating giant faces an acrimonious class-action lawsuit for not offering gay and lesbian personals.

However, it could become more harmonious, as the case was ordered to mediation.

Brigham Young with 27 HUSBANDS?

Pharyngula wants to take the good old Mormon idea of baptism by proxy for the dead and, in light of the LDS support for Prop. 8 in California, convert the dead to being gay by proxy. My dea just carries things one step further, into his plural marriages.

Deflation hits America’s breadbasket

Wheat prices are collapsing even faster than banks in America’s heartland.

And, that cheap price at the gas pump, in addition to running the risk of deluding Americas into buying SUVs again, undercuts the ethanol-propped price of corn.

Prices may well drop another 50 percent, reversing part-time farmers, many of them perhaps retirees fleeing the coasts, doing farming. OTOH, land prices will probably drop by at least that much, enticing semi-retirees to cybercommute from the heartland.

Cedar Hill-Southlake Carroll football playoff liveblogging

Read all about this game and other Cedar Hill sports at Cedar Hill Today.

Cedar Hill fans, looking ahead to next week - It's Mansfield as the next opponent, at Texas Stadium again. The Longhorns will have the early game Saturday; time to be announced.

And, high school football fans in general, drop back by.

0:50 4Q - Icing on the cake. Eduardo Camara hits a 29-yard FG.

2:52 4Q - SLC scores, on a pass in which quarterback Piland looked like he was past the line of scrimmage when he threw it. 28-18, and SLC has to convert an onside kick... and fails.

6:22 4Q - Game very over! CH's Chandler Williams intercepts Southlake's Piland.

6;41 4Q - Game over! Malena scores again for Cedar Hill, from 2 yards out. 28-10. Southlake has shown me nothing in the second half to indicate it can come back from three scores down.

10:58 4Q - Laquan Harper 25 TD pass from Driphus Jackson. CH 21-10, as the second half is looking almost all CH so far.

2:50 3Q - Malean from 2 yard out... CH 14-10.

4:42 3Q - FUMBLE! SLC QB Piland hit by Aaron Benson while trying to pass. CH at SLC 15.

6:02 3Q - CH marches 34 yards after a 63-yard kickoff return, with Ben Malena scoring from 9 yards out. Longhorns break the ice and we're at 10-7, Southlake.

9:36 3Q SLC marches 7 plays but stalls out in the red zone. Cade Foster hits a 21 yard FG.

Halftime analysis: The scoreboard may not favor Cedar Hill, but the rest of the halftime statistics do.

For example, Ben Malena has more yards rushing than Southlake has in total offense.

Can Southlake's defense continue to hold up, bending but not breaking?


I didn't think we would have this low-scoring of a game, but we do. Both offenses have been feeling each other out. Add in the story line that Cedar Hill's defensive coordinator came to the Longhorns at the start of this season from ... Southlake Carroll, and we may continue to have a tight game in the second half.

1:15 2Q - Eduardo Camara hooks a 45-yard FG wide right, after SLC calls a time out to ice him.

7:02 2Q - Southlake scores First! Ryan Walker hauls in a 21 yard TD pass.

First quarter ends, no score. SLC gets a good punt and CH starts at its own 7.

0:55 1Q - LOnghorns go for it on 4th/4 at SLC 38, fails, in first big play of game.

3:30 1Q - CH has the ball back after a 3/out on its second series, followed by a SLC 6/out.

Longhorns 5/out first series. Camarea is punting as well as placekicking for Cedar Hill again. SLC then goes 6/out on its first series.

OK, we're just about to start here. Carroll won the toss and has deferred, so Cedar Hill gets the ball to start the game. People reading this blog and unfamiliar with Cedar Hill can check my liveblogging of the Horns' playoff game last week and a couple of regular season games.

Twenty minutes before gametime here in Texas Stadium.

Although there could be a lot of scoring, this is going to be a game that hinges on defenses. Can Southlake find the toughness to stop Cedar Hill's running game? Can Cedar Hill have its young secondary stay disciplined enough to stop Carroll's passing game?

Both teams look to get back to state title glory of 2006 in a rematch of last year's area round playoff game in Class 5A Division II.

As for the team support, it looks like Southlake's fans have "traveled" a little bit better than Cedar Hill's.

Pumpkin bread – cooking, Gadfly-style

5.5 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 cups multigrain whole-grain flour (Good local health grocery has this here; it’s a mix of whole wheat, whole oat, brown rice, barley, rye, triticale flour, flaxseed flour and soy flour; it adds the additional protein profile of soy flour and flaxseed flour, too)
(If you insist on using white flour, I can’t be responsible! ....)
1/3 cup pecan meal
1/4 cup flaxseed meal (non-essential)
6 tablespoons wheat gluten (used extra here than I normally do, with the pumpkin)
2 packs rapid-rise dry yeast
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp cardamom
1/2 sugar (turbinado plus conventional brown here)

Liquid ingredients
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
1 egg plus one extra white
1/8 cup honey

Mix all the dry stuff together while yeast is in warm water to start
rise. Add in liquid ingredients.

Add in one can of canned pumpkin.

Finish kneading. (I do NOT use a bread machine!)

After first rise, separate into loaves.

After second rise, bake!

375F, about 55 minutes; needs a bit more time than regular yeast bread due to the pumpkin moisture.

It’s rich, with the butter plus half-and-half, even if fat-free, but tasty. It’s on the mild side as far as spiciness; add another tbsp. each of cinnamon and clove, plus an extra half teaspoon of cardamom, or half a teaspoon of ginger, for more flavor.

What Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder may be hiding about Marc Rich

Forget the MSLBs, and mainstream liberal magazines, too.

You have to go to Counterpunch for all the juicy details about fugitive financier Marc Rich, and some of the details on how Obama's Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, and Secretary of State nominee, Hillary Clinton, helped him get his pardon.

The connection starts with Holder suggesting that Rich hire Jack Quinn as his attorney; friends of Hillary's spread much of the final icing over Bill's missing conscience to push his pardon pen over the top.

Read the full story for more.

Even from St. Clair, it's unclear, beyond recommending Jack Quinn, how much heavy lifting Holder did. After all, by the time Rich became linked to some controversial arms deals as well, most of Clinton's staff was strongly against giving him a pardon.

It's somewhat more clear how much Hillary Clinton was involved, as far as friends of hers serving as go-between beggars from Quinn to the Slickster.

Unfortunately, your local Democratic Senator probably won't be asking about this. With either one of them. And, since Rich may still be peddling arms somewhere, and looking at the level of involvement, it's actually Clinton, not Holder, who probably deserves more grilling on this issue.

November 21, 2008

I’m not too hip on Jones as NSA

The reason I’m not hot on retired Marine Gen. James Jones as Obama’s national security advisor has nothing to do with Jones’ experience or other qualifications.

It’s simply a question of — why would we have a military man in this position?

Does this send the wrong message to other countries?

Does this indicate a mindset of Obama’s?

Friday scatblogging - missing orcas and unwanted foxes

University of Washington researchers are trying to figure out why people are seeing fewer and fewer killer whales in Puget Sound. Among their tools? Orca scat.

Meanwhile, the island of Tasmania, off the southern coast of Australia and known to be fox-free before the year 2000, has fresh indications that's apparently no longer the case.

Mike Mussina — Hall of Famer, or not?

King Kaufman makes a strong argument without legislative approval.

I’m not sure he should be a first-rounder, but I think he should qualify.

Or, following up Kaufman, and with statistical analysis to back it up, per

Mike Mussina, almost to a T, is Bert Blyleven.

Look at the bottom of both players’ pages and the HOF-related numbers.

So, Yankee fans, and Yankee baseball-writing fans (and yes, you exist) — if you do want to vote the Moose in, you have to vote Bert in first.

D/FW among worst airports

Not a huge surprise, especially given its volume, but D/FW International was ranked as the nation's fourth-worst airport for delays ion 2008, per Travel and Leisure, with 30 percent of flights delayed.

Canada more PC on obesity than US

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that obese people can buy two seats and fly for the price of one.

This is so ridiculous. Even if body chemistry has a fair amount to do with obesity, personal eating habits are still part of the pic.

I'm 6-5. Should I get two seats for the price of one - mine and the one in front of me - for my legroom, over which I have even less control than an obese person does his or her weight? And, trust me, I've flown coach in enough MD-80s to really think this would be a great idea if I could get away with it.

Petland a giant puppy mill

The Humane Society of the United States has leveled accusations that Petland-sold puppies come from puppy mills.
"They are buying from puppy mills where these dogs are not treated like pets," Michael Markarian, an executive vice president with the Humane Society, told a news conference. "They're treated like a cash crop, where mother dogs live in wire cages, sometimes stacked on top of each other in filthy, dirty, cramped conditions, where they receive little socialization or human interaction or exercise."

And, they're getting as much as $3,500 per puppy.

Read the full story for more.

Court says no to Shell in Alaska

Fortunately, Shrub Bush’s last –minute environmental shenanigans can’t extend to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which put the kibosh on Shell’s plans for offshore drilling north of Alaska.

In a 2-1 ruling, the court said the Minerals Management Service, the federal agency in charge of offshore leasing, violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not taking a deep enough look at the impact offshore drilling would have on bowhead whales in the Beaufort Sea and Native Alaska communities on the North Slope.

November 20, 2008

A kinder, gentler, John Cornyn?

He actually reacted quite favorably to Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel's visit to Republican House and Senate leaders today.

It remains to be seen how long this lasts, but, there's several factors contributing to this.

1. No more Bush.
2. Chairing the NSRC, Cornyn has read the election tea leaves enough to know he can't be too in-your-face in recruiting Senate candidates for 2010.
3. Maybe with no Bush, Big John feels he has less need to pander to nutbar elements of the GOP.

Score one hit against cronyism for Obama

Barack Obama's financial hookup guru and antiwar speech prodder Penny Pritzker will NOT be Commerce Secretary. She doesn't want to undergo the more rigid vetting.

That said, for first of all prodding him to give THE single speech (no, NOT his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech) that propelled him to the White House, followed by hooking him up with neolib/DLC moneybags to run the race, there's a a A-list ambassadorship waiting for her if she wants it.

Are we trying to antagonize Pakistan?

Firing Predator drones inside Pakistan’s North West Frontier is one thing, but shooting deeper into Pakistan is another thing.

Detroit on the clock – 12 days and ticking

That’s how long Congressional Democrats gave the formerly-Big Three to come back with a real bailout plan, or they’re not likely to get a dime from Congress.

And, the political gamesmanship has already started:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid called their news conference to pre-empt a gathering of senators from the states with the biggest stake in the auto industry who said that they had forged a bipartisan compromise to speed up access to $25 billion in loans for the automakers that have already been approved by Congress and signed by President Bush.

That said, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger is smart to focus on:
1. Jobs, not the formerly-Big Three
2. Tax breaks some southern states handed out to attract non-union, non-American car company plants. Richard Shelby, for example, will be harder pressed to oppose any bailout at all.

Judge orders five Gitmo detainees freed

Judge Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court in Washington said the five, Algerian nationals, including SCOTUS landmark name Lakhdar Boumediene, had been held unlawfully for nearly seven years and should be freed.

Leon said the evidence against the five was too thin to keep holding them; at the same time, he did say a sixth Algerian had enough evidence against him to keep in custody.
“The decision by Judge Leon lays bare the scandalous basis on which Guantánamo has been based — slim evidence of dubious quality,” said Zachary Katznelson, legal director at Reprieve, a British legal group that represents many of the detainees. “This is a tough, no-nonsense judge.”

The ruling also gives president-elect Obama perfect timing for leverage on closing Guantanamo.

Healthcare reform has a good shot

But to what?

Beyond the nomination of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the Wall Street Journal notes former opponents are now in support of major healthcare reform.

The insurance industry says it’s OK with a health insurance mandate. Big Pharma’s lobbyists have an ad out about affordable health insurance.

But what about the sausage-making specifics?

“Talk is cheap on the front end of this thing,” said Robert Laszewski, a health care consultant and former insurance industry official. "The rubber hits the road when that 1,000-page document comes out with specifics.

That said, America's Health Insurance Plans, the health insurance industry’s professional group, is already on the ground with its version of a mandate system.

Here’s my first sneak peak at the “sausage” issue.

The insurance industry is going to view sick people as akin to the “stranded costs” of electric utilities with old power plants. They’re going to want government dinero, and that’s why they’re out front on this issue.

Big Pharma? They’ll want to be funded separately, kind of like Germany, where prescription coverage is separate from hospitals/doctors.

Waxman topples Dingell – hope for energy future

Two big things to note on Henry Waxman’s ousting John Dingell as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

One is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi does have elbows, and she’ll use them. (Why she didn’t use them more on other issues in the past two years, lie Iraq withdrawal, is another subject.)

Two — a Big Three bailout on blank-check terms ain’t gonna happen. If Detroit wants help, it’s going to have to overhaul itself.

Gay rights gets new life in California

The California Supreme Court is going to officially review whether or not Proposition 8 should have been on the ballot without legislative approval.

Oral arguments could be heard by next March.

November 19, 2008

Fed to head into Japan territory

Notes from the Federal Reserve’s Open Markets Committee meeting for October indicate Ben Bernanke et al could cut the federal funds rate below 1 percent next month.

The problem is, as Japan so painfully learned for a decade, once you do that, you’re stuck as far as getting financial benefits from monetary policy. If this doesn’t have the desired result, suddenly, Ben Bernanke’s new clothes are revealed in all their nonexistent splendor.

Dialing up the Big Three hypocrisy at Ford

Show up to bailout hearing in hybrid Ford Fusion, cry crocodile tears, then fly home in private jets for $20K a pop? Check.

Call back laid-off workers, NOT to build more Ford Fusions, but to build moore gas-guzzling F-150s as soon as pump prices fall? Check.

Alan Mulally may have just passed Rick Wagoner of GM as most odious Big Three CEO.

Bush enviromental sellout No. 2 - coal power plants

Not content with making political appointments into civil service employees, Bush now wants to build power plants next to national parks.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposes to change the practice of measuring pollution levels near national parks, so that pollution spikes would no longer violate the Clean Air Act. As the story notes, a number of national parks already have air quality problems, and this would only make things worse.

There is nothing subtle at all about this, and I think the public will quickly know that.

Mark Wenzler, who directs clean-air programs for the National Parks Conservation Association, said NPCA would file a petition for reconsideration if EPA goes through with this.

I am getting soooo tired of the Big Three

Their latest offense in begging at the bailout hog trough? Claiming their survival is essential to national security:
Chrysler's chief executive, Robert Nardelli, told the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday that a crippled auto industry "would undermine our nation's ability to respond to military challenges and would threaten our national security.”

Well, if our national security really is dependent on the Big Three, we’re already up shit creek. Besides that, it’s simply not true.

As far as “not punishing them for past mistakes,” many of Detroit’s mistakes are current ones.

1. As we speak, GM still has money on the books for hydrogen car research, after a decade of using a hydrogen car as greenwash and an excuse to do real environmentalism;
2. Ford has a 65mpg diesel hybrid it was unveiling at auto shows two years ago. Why isn’t it on an assembly line as we speak?

No, we don’t want to reward tem for continuing to not just make “mistakes,” but be willfully oppositional in the cars they build.

And, if the formerly Big Three wants to localize “Armageddon,” let’s localize the gasoline dollars lost, the carbon added, etc. in local communities through not building better cars.

And, you know? If y’all hadn’t blown $50 mil in nine months on lobbying, you might not be at the hog trough right now anybway.

Hybrid scooter on the way!

And almost 150 mpg

Italian maker Piaggio may even beat Toyota and GM to the punch with the first off-theshelf plug in hybrid in its cool-looking, quick-driving MP3 three-wheeled scooter, pictured above.

The basics?
•125cc gas engine plus electric;
• Plug-in cord built in;
• 0-60 mph in 5 secs;
• Like some cars with different “settings” for performance vs. economy, three hybrid settings;
• Just 40 percent of carbon emissions of a Prius;
• Last but not least, 141 miles per gallon.

Read the full story for more details.

Stuart Kauffman erects anti-reductionistic straw man

Kauffman, the former long-term scholar at the Santa Fe Institute, says we need spirituality to exorcise the demons of reductionism from science.

Here’s one example:
To take one example, I argue that the evolutionary emergence of the human heart cannot be deduced from physics. That doesn't mean it breaks any laws of physics. But there's no way of getting from physics to the emergence of hearts in the evolution of the biosphere.

Contrary to Kauffman playing pin-the-reductionistic-tail on Steve Weinberg, though, no mainstream scientist has tried to get evolutionary biology deduced from quantum physics. That’s what Dan Dennett calls “greedy reductionism,” not reductionism.

Then, Kauffman goes well beyond that nonsense to the major leagues of creating straw men. He claims that, in essence, we can’t appreciate value, can’t have a sense of aesthetics or awe at the world, etc., with a reductionistic stance.

This is the typical canard repeated, nay thrust at, atheists by theists. Coming out of the mouth of a professed atheist like Kaufmann, it’s disconcerting at the least and off-putting at the most. Even more than that, is his insistence that we should use the word “God” to discuss this non-reductionistic aesthetics or, as I will call it …

Stuart Kauffman’s metaphysics. Proof?

Kauffman goes Paul Tillich at the end of the interview:
Not that there's a supernatural god. I think that there's something else. I think the creativity in nature is so stunning and so overwhelming that it's God enough for me, and I think it's God enough for many of us if we think about it.

Ridiculous. But not the first time I’ve heard such stuff out of the mouth of a professed philosopher.

Prius 3.0 spotted!

Read all the basics about the third generation of the Toyota Prius. Click the Prius tag on this blog for several previous posts about the new Prius, including how Toyota says it will have more room, more horses AND better MPG than the current version.

And Toyota has an official Prius 3 website now up.

Salon riffs on possible Obama SCOTUS pics

President-elect Barack Obama is likely to make at least three Supreme Court appointments in just four years, without serving a second term. The court’s senior member, John Paul Stevens, 88, is surely ready to step down, as is Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 75. and, in all likelihood, David Souter, 69. For that matter, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are both 72. With the young Chief, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito, still in their 50s, and Clarence Thomas not much older, one presumes that, unlike Clinton, Obama will look at younger nominees.

So, Salon has a good rundown of likely candidates.

Sonia Sotomayor is a good bet, IMO. First Hispanic candidate. A woman, especially if Ginsberg beats Stevens to retirement. Being nominated to the bench by Poppy Bush, she would certainly signal moderation.

Or Ruben Castillo could fit that bill. And, as former director of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, he would bring good civil liberties cred to the table.

Another choice to broaden the court’s ethnic basis, and to also be a strong liberal presence, would be Harold Hongju Koh.

Deval Patrick? I think not, and on his grounds. I think he wants to replace Ted Kennedy.

Elena Kagan could also “replace” Ginsberg, and was at the University of Chicago with Obama.

Leah Ward Sears would be the court’s first black woman, and a little more liberal than the names above.

Merrick Garland has a great resume, and is probably the most prepared to step up judicially, now being on the D.C. Circuit Court.

Beyond political gaming, my preference, to the degree I’m familiar with their work, would be Koh, then Castillo.

Could bankruptcy be good for the General?

That’s the argument at US News, and not a bad one.

Among other things, Rick Newman notes that Continental underwent bankruptcy not once but twice and is now a healthy airline.

Bankruptcy would also have Washington less on the hook for whatever money it will inevitably offer GM, too.

November 18, 2008

Gingko no help on dementia

A large study of more than 3,000 people using a standardized gingko extract shows it offers no help in slowing or arresting the progress of Alzheimer's or other dementia.

Here's the money quote, from Dr. Steven DeKosky of the University of Virginia, a neurologist who led the clinical trial:
"We did show it was fairly safe -- that is of some reassurance," said DeKosky, dean of the University of Virginia Medical School. The only harm that could come from taking ginkgo, he said, is "spending money on something that may not be useful."

When people ask what's the harm in alt medicine, well, there's an example right there.

If you know you have a fatal medical condition, rather than pounding money down an alt-med rathole, you could spend it on things you like.

Cautions on Obama climate speech

The speech that President-elect Barack Obama made to the governors’ climate conference sounds good as far as it went. But, then again, one could say that about many an Obama speech.

First, what’s missing? Carbon taxes, in my opinion.

I don’t believe a cap-and-trade will work well, or that it’s strong enough by itself, to effect real change on controlling carbon dioxide emissions. Also, no details yet on how a U.S. cap-and-trade system would be better than the original EU version.

Second, Obama is going to need some source of revenue for the $15 billion a year he wants to spend on research on how to reduce carbon emissions. Well, with a carbon tax, there’s your money.

Plus side? He didn’t mention carbon offsets as a serious part of the solution.

D/FW air traffic controller suing FAA

$1 mil is too low, in my opinion

Anne Whiteman has filed a $1 million whistleblower claim against the Federal Aviation Administration.

Whiteman has battled the FAA for nearly a decade over its mishandling of air traffic control problems, followed by cover-ups of said problems, at D/FW International Airport.

The main expense listed in her filing is $720K in lost wages due to not getting promotions, etc.

Next is $250K for total jaw replacement. That’s incredible that TMJ or whatever became so severe over a decade of FAA harassment to necessitate that much in surgery.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert on Perot dime? What about Royce West and JWP?

Over at the Dallas Observer, Jim Schutze has the goods to expose has Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert is essentially the Perot family’s whipping boy and stalking horse to do about anything he can to stall, delay or damage the prospects of the Dallas Logistics Hub, the centerpiec of trying to get a federal government-sanctioned “inland port,” with trade advantages, established in southeast Dallas, Lancaster, Wilmer and Hutchins.

That includes Leppert’s latest idea, a “master plan” covering the entire area and cutting across government boundaries.

But, why now, Tom? Because your other efforts on behalf of the Perots (who own Alliance Airport and control all the logistics ventures facilities there), have failed? The Logistics Hub has been in the air for a few years by now. You could have proposed a master plan three or more years ago. Instead, Perot tools went to the Lege instead, and lost.

Where then does long-time Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price come in?

Well, his past head-butting with Hutchins Mayor Artis Johnson over bridge-building money says that with JWP, it can at times, many times, be about access, friends and money. An off-the-cuff guess would be that the Perots might be throwing some friends of his some construction work bones. Just a guess. If that's not the correct guess, let's just say that JWP isn't all hot about a master plan because he's got a sudden worry about uncontrolled development.

Besides, like Leppart, where was he four years ago? Butting heads with Artis Johnson, but not talking about a master plan for the logistics hub, that's where.

And what about state Sen. Royce West, who is now also reportedly pushing harder for a master plan for the Dallas inland port area? If he were involved …

Well, we know that Royce’s baby is UNT-Dallas. Maybe a Perot-endowed chair of business management? Hmm, just a guess. Or, maybe he's looking at a run for higher office in two years. But…

Marcus Knight? The Lancaster mayor may just have some sincere concerns. Or, he may be under JWP’s spell, wing or tutelage. Or, maybe his family’s business gets some Perot bones. A Google search on his name + Perot didn't turn up any links, but you never know what can fly beneath the radar.

Paulson bailout thinking started in January

That’s among the gems buried in the middle of a five –page story on Paulson’s bailout zigs and zags.

In Juanuary, he was talking with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke about some sort of bailout. By March, as Bear Stearns nearly got in trouble before its eventual demise, he was getting Treasury staff to start putting stuff on paper.

I appreciate that Paulson is reportedly not a free-markets ideologue.

Nonetheless, if we was ramping things up this early, what took him so long to put stuff into action? Sounds like some degree of negligence to me.

Bush environmental hatred goes beyond executive orders

Bush’s environmental hatred is so bad, and so deep, he’s going beyond using last-miuute executive orders, like Clinton’s roadless rule, and trying to convert political jobs in the Department of the Interior into civil service positions. That includes Robert D. Comer and Matthew McKeown.

Comer, who was was regional solicitor for the Rocky Mountain area, was named to the civil service post of associate solicitor for mineral resources. Clean Water Act and other violations by mining companies would fall under his purview; how tough will he be on them or not?

McKeown got Comer’s old Rocky Mountains job, now mad civil service. Getting BLM to get oil companies to do cleanup, getting Fish and Wildlife to prosecute Endangered Species Act violations in this area, etc., will all be difficult with a partisan like McKeown in place.

The two can be reassigned, and even beyond their current commuting area, within 60 days. However, they would keep their civil service rank, pay, etc.

On time — 125 years ago, today

Prior to Nov. 18, 1883, if it were noon in Pittsburgh, Pa., it might only be 11:54 a.m. in Youngstown, Ohio, 11:44 a.m. in Cleveland, etc. That was until the U.S. and Canadian governments, and the major railroads, got together and established modern time zones, including the idea that, within each time zone, the time was uniform throughout.

Focus on the Funding

For all the GOP pundits who say the party has to move even further right, they might want to check the unemployment lines in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Why? Some 149 Focus on the Family employees could be there, since their jobs won't be replaced and will be killed by attrition, and 53 vacant positions won't be filled.

Yep. Dr. Dobson's obviously done a great job.

Actually, it's because people aren't sending him enough dinero.

Geez, maybe Sarah Palin can do a Focus-a-Thon.

Obama sellout 1 - No war crimes trials

That's the word from two advisors who requested anonymity because Obama's "get out of jail free" idea isn't finalized.

First, it's "nice" to see that the politics of "change" includes playing media games the same as previous administrations, i.e. floating a pinata, seeing who takes what sort of whacks at it, and going from there.

So, if this isn't roundly knocked down, it will become official Obama administration policy.

Second, will civil liberties groups, and other more generalized liberal activist groups try to mobilize e-mails to knock this down, or will they "play nice" with Obama?

Here's the softies:
Asked this weekend during a Vermont Public Radio interview if Bush administration officials would face war crimes, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy flatly said, "In the United States, no."

"These things are not going to happen," said Leahy, D-Vt.

Robert Litt, a former top Clinton administration Justice Department prosecutor, said Obama should focus on moving forward with anti-torture policy instead of looking back.

"Both for policy and political reasons, it would not be beneficial to spend a lot of time hauling people up before Congress or before grand juries and going over what went on," Litt said at a Brookings Institution discussion about Obama's legal policy. "To as great of an extent we can say, the last eight years are over, now we can move forward — that would be beneficial both to the country and the president, politically."


What this says to the rest of the world is that, America still doesn't think its shit stinks too much, whether a half-cocked Republican or a "change" Democrat is sniffing it. It also makes some of the rest of the world wonder how much, beyond show, Obama disagrees with Bush's actions.

Here's the right answer:
Michael Ratner, a professor at Columbia Law School and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said prosecuting Bush officials is necessary to set future anti-torture policy.

"The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it," Ratner said. "I don't see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable."

Hell, for all I know, Obama made a deal with Bush last week, something like this:

I won't prosecute if you don't offer pre-emptive pardons.

And you don't know that didn't happen.

Larry Lewis on way out from Lancaster ISD

The smooth-talking but controversial superintendent is the target of termination by the Lancaster School Board.

The technical language is in the hyperlinked area because the Lancaster School Board did not actually fire Lewis Nov. 17, but instead approved a motion to send Lewis a notice of intent to terminate his contract.

In addition to both the real and not-so-real complaints of Lancaster School Board President Carolyn Morris that prompted her to get the board to hire Harold Jones of the law firm Anderson Jones to investigate Lewis, that investigation found new concerns.

Chief among those was a payday advance program, with Anderson Jones finding promissory notes for at least 10 such advances.

Technically, paycheck advances are loans, and that’s against Texas Education Agency regulations.

Second, and relevant to Morris’ concern about how Lewis handled board copies of a TEA audit mailed to his care this spring was the revelation that he never gave board members copies of a preliminary version of the TEA audit, which would seem to be a clear violation of board policy. And, he had received the preliminary audit just days before the board in place in March voted to extend his contract.

Once Lewis officially gets written notice of his termination, he has 15 days to appeal.

Lewis, when hired five and a half years ago, made grandiose projections about what he would do in five years, stuff not likely even with Joe Stalin administering a USSR Five-Year Plan.

Not even made words from the Lord could help Lewis accomplish that. (Nor could they amplify his own not-inconsiderable persuasive powers to try to charm me the first time we met in spring 2003.)

That said, while Lewis brought a fair amount of his own trouble, once Morris became board president, this was bound to happen. It’s unfortunately TEA conservator James Damm has limited powers. (James, now that you’ll be in the middle of the rugby scrums between Morris and Ed Kirkland, I’d buy stock in Advil.)

As for the belief that Lancaster ISD now has nowhere to go but up, I wouldn’t bet in favor of that if you gave me 10-1 odds. Sadly.

That’s especially true if the Perot family seduces Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, and others, to kill the inland port and Dallas Logistics Hub.

November 17, 2008

End of the line for Klamath dams?

Pacific salmon, Indian tribes, fishermen and environmentalists can only hope that a new working framework for removal spells the end of the line for four Klamath River dams.

The Bush Administration, the states of California and Oregon, and PacifiCorp, which runs four aging hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River, which rises in southwest Oregon and goes through northwest California to the Pacific, have agreed to a non-binding framework for eventually removing the dams. Here’s the details:
The new agreement, which is expected to be final by June 2009, provides specifics on financing the dam removal. PacifiCorp, which is a subsidiary of the MidAmerican Energy Holding Company and operates as Pacific Power on the West Coast — would add a 2 percent annual surcharge, amounting to about $15 on average, for its 550,000 customers in Oregon and 45,000 in California.

In addition to the $200 million generated in part by these surcharges, $250 million would be raised by a bond issued by California. The dams would also be transferred to a new federal agency set up for the purpose, relieving PacifiCorp of liability during the actual removal.

Even though the agreement is non-binding, it’s hard for PacifiCorp to walk away. It’s being adequately compensated, yet while not being able to fleece customers for stranded costs, and it’s able to let go of liability.

Update, Nov. 18: I may have had too much initial praise for this.

Among other contraindications to the deal:

1. Not all the affected Indian tribes are jumping with joy;
2. Many people are wondering why the wait is until 2020 to potentially take action;
3. Irrigators would get a first-in-line legislative degree for water rights in dry years;
4. A required cost-benefit analysis could allow PacifiCorp (held by Warren Buffett) to permanently avoid an actual tear-down;
5. Schwarzenegger may have some dam California reasons for pushing this.

Read High Country News' full story

The yen of Yang

Ain't what it used to be. In a no-brainer, even for a brainwashed Yahoo board, CEO Jerry Yang has been given the boot.

So, is Microsoft interested again? Actually, I'll take Steve Ballmer pretty much at his word and say, "perhaps."

First, the poison pill on layoffs that Yang got passed will have to go bye-bye. Yahoo won't get more than a seat or two on an enlarged Microsoft board. And, Yahoo will have to accept that Microslob will jettison parts of the company to satisfy regulators, too.

Behind many a good GM car is good Toyota engineering

Some late-night GM bailout thoughts after conversations with a friend...

My best friend Kevin, who lives near Columbus, Ohio, offers a few thoughts.

1. Given the partnerships between companies, like GM and Toyota, exactly who would get bailed out?

2. Speaking of that partnership, he notes that dealers selling the Pontiac Vibe actually boast about how many Toyota components it has (as a twin to the Toyota Matrix), as a sales point.

3. Talking to acquaintances of his who have worked for both the General or Ford and now for Honda at its Marysville, Ohio plant, and asking them about the difference between Japan and the Big Three?

He said one guy just shook his head.

Another said, "At Ford, they just talk about quality. At Honda, they do it."

A bit of fudging on Big Three ripple effect – look south

The NYT notes that the formerly Big Three purchase 85 percent of their components here, vs. 60 percent of foreign-owned brands’ cars from U.S. plants.

But, the Times doesn’t use the word “here.” It uses the phrase “North America.”

Now, U.S. and Canadian work has been woven together for quite some time. And, I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about the post-NAFTA Southern shuffle. A fair piece of that 85 percent is “Hecho in Mexico.” Let’s be honest about that.

Chrysler takes a bailout playbook page from AIG

Well, paying top execs $30 million in retention bonuses is certainly a great way for Chrysler to try to qualify for federal bailout help.

Yes, the execs may be due them under law, but the image it projects — to both Congress and the UAW — is hugely arrogant.

And, it sure seems easy to blame Daimler-Benz for a lot of stuff, doesn’t it? Makes you wonder how Mercedes ever sold a car in the U.S.

Sub-ice floods increase Antarctic glacial melt

And scientists now have the first direct evidence of those floods.
That’s what Bloomberg claims, trying to make the case that the opposition to the Big Three bailout is all being driven by senators who have foreign carmakers plants in their states.

Well, wrong. Or, at the least, Bloomberg’s story is incomplete, and excludes information undercutting it’s argument.

For example, Toyota has its huge plant in Kentucky, and Mitch McConnell hasn’t weighed in one way or the other on the baiout

GM’s No. 1 SUV plant is down here in Arlington, a stone’s throw away from the new Cowboys’ stadium, and Kay Bailey Hutchison hasn’t said anything one way or the other either.

I am with Josh Marshall on one thing. If it looks like the General faces liquidation rather than “just” bankruptcy, let’s have the government structure either a slimdown or a takeover.

I think 1 million potential lost jobs from a GM liquidation is a bit of high-side hype re the formerly "Big Three.” Beyond that, the remaining two would join Japan in vulture-feeding on whichever one of the formerly Big Three goes down first.

That said, if a government-facilitated restructuring included allowing foreign carmakers a shot at takeover, and no strings attached on how many or how jobs and plants they would keep, I say let Toyota fire away at acquiring GM.

Hypocrisy alert — Carl Levin on Big Three

Michgan Sen Carl Levin says Big Three CEOs should resign in order for their companies to get government bailout loans.

And will you be joining them, Carl? And taking brother Sander? And Reps. John Dingell and Dale Kildee, among others? And Sen. Granholm, Gov. Stabenow and yet more?

Along with that, how about UAW Prez Carl Gettelfinger? Will Michael Moore resign from documentary filmmaking since he failed to look at all of these angles in “Roger and Me”?

To be fair, a Detroit Free Press columnist says it’s not fair for today’s Big Three to be tainted by past mistakes.

Agreed — at least for the sake of argument.

But, Detroit has plenty of current-day mistakes as well.

Ford had a 65-mpg diesel hybrid at auto shows two years ago. Where is it?

Why wasn’t the Volt ready years earlier, instead of GM going for do-nothing greenwash with hydrogen cars?

Spamalot! In the recession

Spam — it’s really what’s for dinner

Allen Brisson-Smith for The New York Times

Austin, Minn., has 13 restaurants with Spam on the menu, including Johnny’s.

Yes, Hormel, the folkis in Austin, Minn., love the recession. That’s because, when times get tough, the tough-gutted buy more Spam.

Right now, Hormel’s Spam factory, or whatever you would call it, has literally been running around the clock seven days a week since July. And, it’s not going to let up. One day shift recentl cranked about 150,000 Spam tins.

Well, two out of three from Obama not bad

President-elect Obama told 60 Minutes he would draw down (whatever the hell that means) troops from Iraq and close Gitmo, while taking those troops from iraq and pounding them down the rathole of Afghanistan.

If I’m generous, I’ll give Obama a 1.5. Half a point on “drawing down” Iraq troops, which is NOT, of course, a withdrawal, and sets aside whether Obama is still limiting his withdrawal to “combat troops,” whatever they are, and also sets aside what Obama will do if the government of Iraq is serious about wanting ALL U.S. troops out.

And, as readers here know, I totally disagree with bailing out GM.

Rather canned to satisfy Rove!

You gotta love the discovery process in lawsuits. And, Dan Rather’s wrongful firing lawsuit against CBS is turning up exactly that — the Eye canned Dan the Man to pander to the GOP.

Andrew Heyward, the former president of CBS News, was asked in a sworn deposition about the composition of a special panel CBS named in 2004 to look into the veracity of letters claiming Bush dodged the draft. And, Heyward acknowledged that he had wanted at least one member to sit well with conservatives:
“CBS News, fairly or unfairly, had a reputation for liberal bias, the harshest scrutiny was obviously going to come from the right.”

And, while Rather has yet to find the fingerprints of Rove in particular, they’re there.

By the time we get to the actual open court, Heyward, Les Moonves and Sumner Redstone could all be on the stand.

That is, if Rather’s got enough money to burn beyond the $2 mil he’s already spent.

November 16, 2008

Dreher - Prop. 8 victory 'Pyrrhic' for conservatives

For the second Sunday in a row, Dallas Morning News "crunchy conservative" op-ed columnist Rod Dreher devotes his space to Proposition 8 fallout.

He notes that conservatives have not won any "war," that openness to gay marriage increases the younger look in the voting spectrum, and that, with the inevitable tide marching forward (even without Gavin Newsom's attitude), not coming to terms with this could produce a religious backlash against religious conservatives:
No, pastors won't be jailed for anti-gay sermons. Nor are clergy likely to be forced to marry same-sex couples. But because marriage carries with it a vast array of legal rights and obligations, a live-and-let-live settlement is hard to imagine.

If courts place homosexuality on par with race in civil rights jurisprudence, a host of penalties against traditionalist religious organizations – including the loss of tax-exempt status – will kick in.

I disagree on his last sentence. I don't think churches are likely to lose tax-emempt status, nor likely to be sued for hiring decisions that happen within purely internal programs such as church services.

That said, could church-run day cares and schools that accept children from outside their congregations of ownership be sued over hiring practices? Possibly. Could a parochial school refuse to accept an openly gay student, or would that provoke a suit?

I don't know, and beyond that, why would a parent try to force such an issue if another private school were more tolerant.

G20 like Beltway as Bush resists specifics

The G20 developed and top-rung developing nations financial conference didn’t even have that much sound and fury so far, and probably still siginifies nothing.

President Bush is resisting a supersized International Monetary Fund, the pet dream of Gordon Brown. I’m sure continential members of the Eurozone aren’t so fond of Brown’s idea either, but are content to let Bush take the hit on it.

Yes, this conference will talk some vague goals, then set the date for another conference to work further toward those goals, which will … lather, rinse, and repeat.

Sounds like a “special commission” in DC, doesn’t it?

Pakistan complaints about Predator drones for internal consumptions

The reality of Predator drones striking on Pakistan’s side of the border with Afghanistan is more complicated, though.

Essentially, as lobng as our strikes are reasonably accurate, avoid civilian casualties, and, to the degree we supply Pakistan with some intelligence findings or they already know the score, the government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is going to complain long and loud for internal consumption, and then accept the results.

In fact, it may even like them.

Let GM die

Both the formerly Big Three AND UAW leadership have been anti-environmental for 30 years. Passive Pelosi’s™ Band-Aid, of “requiring” the not-so-Big Three to building more fuel efficient cars with theirs bucks is contraindicated by the fact that the CAFÉ standards increase passed by Congress earlier this year has voluntary targets for nearly a decade.

What, are you going to make “voluntary” tougher?

As for GM’s whining about it’s extra healthcare cost overhead, is GM, even today, lobbying Congress for a national healthcare bill?

No. And — neither is the UAW.

(Dirty little secret — unions joined the AMA and American business organizations in killing Truman’s national healthcare plan nearly 60 years ago. The reasoning? “We got ours” on health bennies by joining a union; go and do likewise.)

Go to hell, GM. And take some politician and union dinosaurs with you.

And, I’m far from alone on that thought. If you can't restructure, or else get bought, well, that's it.

The fact that GM continues to pound money down the hydrogen car greenwash rathole, and isn’t content to launch the Volt with nickel-hydride batteries to start with, if need be, just underscores the problem.