November 29, 2008

Is there EVER an ‘accidental shooting’ with an NFL player?

Sorry, but I’m waiting for another shoe, or hamstring, or something to fall in the case of Plaxico Burress and his accidental encounter with a bullet late Friday night.

That begins with the fact that per the No Folderol League, the situation could involve, ahem, further law enforcement investigation.

Do tell!

Paging Jack Nicklaus…

All those Golden Bear commercials on Sunday afternoons couldn’t save his deep-pockets talking point, the Royal Bank of Scotland, from falling like a lead balloon so badily as to need a UK bailout.!

Cedar Hill-Mansfield football playoff liveblogging

1:18 4Q - Longhorns hold on to onside kick. As noted, Mansfield is out of timeouts. Time for a couple of kneel-downs.

1:20 4Q - Mansfield refuses to die. Taylor has a 31-yard receiving TD on a screen and its 41-35 with the onside kick coming.

4:46 4Q - Game effectively over. Mansfield stopped on downs at CH 39, and out of timeouts. Longhorns' next opponent is the winner of the Arl. Bowie-Wylie game, playing later today here at Texas Stadium. That regional title game should also be played here.

8:18 4Q - Horns intercept Daniel Green, score a play later, with Malena. 41-28 with two-pointer.

9:23 4Q - CH right back on top with a Malena 8-yard run. Two-point attempt fails, and CH is up 33-28.

11:17 4Q - Mansfield takes its first lead of the game on a Taylor 35-yard TD run. 28-18 Tigers.

0:40 3Q - Longhorns get two big offensive plays but Mansfield stiffens in the red zone and holds them to a 29 FG. 27-21.

4:29 3Q - Mansfield got one first down on its opening drive, then had to punt. But, they then got their first big play of the game, getting the ball back on a muffed punt. Eight plays later, Taylor scored and we're at 24-21, Cedar Hill.

HALFTIME - A 24-14 Cedar Hill lead, and a few thoughts and summary.

First, did you think Cedar Hill would have more than 150 yards passing in the first half? Driphus Jackson have two TD passes? Ben Malena have more yards receiving than running? Well, it all happened here.

Otherwise, it's been a game of big plays and special teams, with most the big plays, including the late bomb to Darrius Smith and the first-quarter Mansfield lost fumble, favoring Cedar Hill.

0:39 2Q - Well, we did have a game until Mansfield's pass coverage broke down. Darrius Smith gets behind Mansfield coverage, and Driphus Jackson hits him on the fly for a catch-and-run 60-yard TD.

1:25 2Q - After a GREAT catch on a 4th/8 play, Stepfan Taylor scores again for Mansfield. 17-14 CH and we've got a game.

11:18 2Q - Elijah Olabode had an 80-yard kickoff return for Cedar Hill, but the Longhorns wound up settling for a 29-yard field goal. (Apology for originally having 1:18 on time.)

1:10 1Q - Mansfield responds with a 14-play, 80-yard TD, including two successful fourth-down plays.

8:10 1Q - Mansfield fumbled the kickoff after Cedar Hill's initial TD. Five plays later, Malena scored on the ground. Unlike Plano West two weeks ago, the idea of the Longhorns surrendering a big lead seems unlikely.

10:53 1Q - The Longhorns waste no time with ... the vaunted passing attack. Ben Malena takes a screen 56 yards to score.

10:45 a.m. - About 15 minutes to game time. Expect a quick game, with two run-heavy attacks.

Brookings – drug war failed

We all know that’s true, but a major think tank has finally admitted the obvious. And, in shades of the so-called “War on Terror,” the report says a large part of the problem is pursuing a force-only strategy against drugs, rather than addressing the demand side, and what drives the demand side.
The reason? Harper and his finance minister haven’t offered a stimulus package yet.

Beyond all the other areas in which he has pledged “change” (and so far, lied or deceived about that), here’s an area to make a HUGE difference.

First, he own Veep’s name is on another report describing the failures of Plan Columbia.

Second, as America’s first minority president, and a self-identified African-American, Obama KNOS what the WoD has done in black neighborhoods.

And, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, the listed author of the Brookings report, known’s how much the WoD has failed from the other side of the fence.

Obama as ‘Dear Leader’

Finally, from the pen of David Sirota, a progressive pundit and blogger with more “name” than mine who states what I’ve held for some time: Americans elected a cult of personality Nov. 4
.
That’s why I continue to say, as I’ve said since Nov. 4 to people who voted for BO with blind eyes on that date — especially those who should have known MUCH better:

Tasted the bitter almonds at the bottom of the Kool-Aid yet?

Harper on way out in Canada?

And, effects on automakers?

The opposition Liberals and New Democrats are in talks that could topple the recently re-elected minority government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The reason? Harper and his finance minister haven’t offered a stimulus package yet.

That said, an opposition takeover might make it easier to coordinate a cross-border bailout of the Big Three, which, of course, have factories on both sides of the border.

November 28, 2008

Jim Leach in the Cabinet?

Yes, according to Obama Svengali John Podesta, the neolib financial sellout of the incoming Obama Administration is almost complete. Smell the Change™!

One of the three coauthors of 1999’s Gramm-LEACH-Bliley legislation, former GOP Congressman Jim Leach, will be somewhere in the Cabinet, according to Podesta.

Leach’s early endorsement of Obama should have made any real progressive or liberal start smelling a rat six months ago, coming from Chicago’s South Side and riding a horse named Change™! No wonder Obama once said he hated the slogan.

Chinese shaman busted for about 2 pounds of pot

Also, the marijuana reportedly had a high THC content.

It should be noted, though, that this Chinese shaman lived 2,700 years ago. The world’s oldest maraijuana stash was found in a tomb in northwest China.

Scientists say it was clear it was pot for getting high, and not part of hemp for clothing.

Auto industry crisis going global

German carmakers estimate they could lay off 100,000 employees. Sales are sagging, and the credit crunch is as bad in western Europe as here, so German makers can’t borrow to retool factories.

And, like American companies, the Germans fueled much of their sales growth in the first half of the decade by offering easy credit to customers. And, like here, they can’t do that now either.

Opel (German’s GM subsidiary), VW, Daimler and BMW are all seeking guaranteed loans from Berlin.

Read the full story for all the woes of the Euro auto industry.

From the halls of Montezuma to anywhere but the shores of Mogadishu …

Ted Rall wants to know why, if we’re bombing the hell out of Afghanistan, including weddings, we’re doing nothing in Somalia to the pirates there.

A good question, indeed.

Guess Shrub hasn’t read the Marine’s Hymn, including the first-line words about eh “shores of Tripoli” — to fight piracy.

Or, riffing on the most famous line from that era, today’s words should be:

“Billions for defense contractors, but not one cent to oppose piracy.”

Willacy DA lays out case against Cheney – and private prison system

District Attorney Juan Guerra says Uncle Fester is financially connected with the death of inmate Gregorio De La Rosa, Jr., at the Willacy State Jail in Raymondville in 2001. How?

Guerra says Cheney owns shares in the Vanguard Group, an investment company that has holdings in Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group and Cornell.

Willacy is operated by Geo Group, a subsidiary of Whack Your Nuts, I mean Whackenhut.

Rahymondville also houses a federal detention center, also privately operated. State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. had done consulting with operator MTC and two affiliated companies, hence Guerra naming him in the indictment.

Some “liberals” may laugh at Guerra or think he’s whack jobs.

But, private prisons violate at least the spirit of the 13th Amendment, and he’s spot-on with these indictments.

November 27, 2008

BIG BEND ESCAPISM



Big Bend escapism
Escapes me this year.
No four-day weekend
For my Thanksgiving;
I have to work Saturday.
Yes, cry me a river, I know,
As you play your tiny violin for me.
Without justifying myself,
Let me say
That I exchange low pay, and low benefits otherwise,
Even low for my shaky profession,
For some time off,
To enjoy the nature that refreshes me.
A day trip will have to do;
Perhaps Big Bend will come at Christmas.
But for now?
Big Bend escapism escapes me.

— Nov. 26, 2008



At top, the Chisos Rim looking south into the Sierra del Carmen and Mexico; above, me on Emory Peak, the highest point in Big Bend. You can see why I go here every Thanksgiving I can, and I haven't mentioned the 100-degree hot spring.

Neolibs get stupider witth Big Three gravy train

Here's the latest stupidity, courtesy of Washington Monthly and author Jeffrey Leonard?

Give every American a 50 percent rebate off any made-in-America car if the carmaker sufficiently restructures.

First, Leonard says any American-made car.

Good, gimme 50 percent off a Honda from Marysville, Ohio. Or, if I am allowed to hold off a year or two, an American-made Prius. Honda and Toyota are already sufficiently restructured.

Leonard is full of crap otherwise, especially when he claims to have "addressed the concern" of bribing America to buy Detroit's anti-environmental, gas-guzzling crap:
[O]ur automakers aren’t as bad as you think. If you go to Europe or especially China and Asia, you will see excellent small cars produced by Ford and Chevrolet that sell very well. You won’t see them in the United States, however, because these are not the cars American have been buying. Like it or not, a major reason that American automakers have built the cars that they’ve built for the domestic market is that they’ve had to contend with highly misleading long-term market signals based on cheap gas.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, Jeffrey Leonard

The Big Three have KNOWN Peak Oil is coming down the pike; yet, they bought off John Dingell and other hacks to FIGHT CAFE increases. They have CAUSED the market to go askew and fought the future.

November 26, 2008

Sean Penn on the real Hugo Chavez - as part of Tres Amigos

Penn pulls the mask of the mainstream media, Vice President-elect Joe Biden (and Obama?) and the rest of the turgid "bipartisan foreign policy establishment to take a look at the real Hugo Chavez.

And, no, this wasn't some touchy-feely Hollywood liberal thing.

Accompanying Penn were respected, renowned historian Douglas Brinkley, not a touchy-feely liberal in anybody's book, and the acerbic, skeptical, insightful political and intellectual wild card ... Christopher Hitchens.

It's a much more realistic report than the bullshit PBS put out yesterday on Frontline.

That said, the Raul Castro part wasn't quite so well. He would meet only with Penn, not Brinkley or Hitch, and not even with Penn's Hispanic majordomo riding shotgun. He said that was because he'd informally promised his first official interview as president to somebody else.

That said, did you know Cuba's military and that of the U.S. have held monthly meetings over Guantanamo-related issues for more than a dozen years? And that Raul is willing to open Cuba's offshore oil rights to foreign exploration? Castro also refutes (and has U.S. military conformation) the idea that Cuba sponsors drug smuggling.

That said, Penn asked about, and Castro denied the mass existence of, political prisoners in Cuba.

Read the full story for the real story on both Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez.

Reverse mortgages - the next subprime crisis?

Does anybody besides me think we should be at least a little bit worried about a change in financial law next year that will let reverse mortgage holders use these mortgages to buy new homes?
"This provision could really transform the industry," says Peter Bell, president of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, in Washington, D.C.

No shit, Sherlock.

I'm picturing thousands of seniors getting inundated with fliers for subprime mortgages. As the story points out, it's not as if financial sharpies haven't already targeted reverse mortgage holders for a variety of financial scams, high-pressure investment pitches, etc.

Cerberus - Daimler misrepresented Chrysler

Ahh, the schadenfreude! And what fun would a holiday be without at least a little bit of that?

Cerberus Capital, current owner of the business formerly known as Chrysler, is complaining Daimler AG fluffed the company too much before selling it. As if a private equity company like Cerberus has never done that itself when selling off a no-longer-wanted bit of flotsam, or that it's never been concerned enough to do due diligence when on the buying end.

Cerberus is talking lawsuit even as it and Daimler haggle about the Mercedes parent selling off the 20 percent of Chrysler it still owns.

Arches National Park gets partial oil reprieve

The BLM has backed down on issuing oil and gas leases near Arches National Park, Dinosaur National Monument and Canyonlands National Park, all in Utah.

Some of those parcels were within a miles and a quarter of Arches' iconic Delicate Arch.

That said, despite listening to some National Park Service protests, the BLM is still leaving in place a number of drilling leases that are on sites readily visible (and audible) from inside Arches.

Note to Josh Marshall - Obama, policies, people

The latest center-left, MainStream Liberal Blog (MSLB) defense of Obama is encapsulated by the Talking Points Memo publisher: It's Obama's policies - ignore the appointments of the people to implement them.

Well, Josh, just a few things.

1. People in different agencies guide the implementation of policies, the tools and strategy to implement them, etc. Unless BO is an even bigger micromanager than he's demonstrated, and is smoking crack to keep going, he can't oversee all these mid- and upper-midlevel appointees on a regular basis.

2. The people who are picked are an indication of policy directions. Shrub Bush said he was going to be a "compassionate conservative." When he picked, for example, Norton to head Interior, though, we all knew that environmental compassion was out the window.

Bob Gates, Richard Danzig and pseudoliberal wishful thinking

First, per the claim by MSLBs that Gates is "apolitical" - hah! His Wiki bio notes his college activity in Young Republicans early on.

And, of course, there’s his Iran-Contra connections. The final report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters claims that he had "many connections" here, but that these did not warrant indictment. But, since this was issued in August 1993, long after Poppy Bush's pardons and Clinton's ignoring any follow-up, would you expect any other report?

And, not just Iran-Contra. How much did Gates know about mining Nicaraguan harbors, Central American death squads and their CIA support, etc.?

But, the fact that whiny torture supporter John Brennan advised Obama to vote for FISA deform should tell us that Obama doesn't care that much about Gates’ record with the CIA, not just with Iran-Contra

Not everybody is so kindly disposed to former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig having a prominent role in DoD either. From the real left, Alexander Cockburn at Counterpunch:
Somewhere down the road we’ll probably end up with another slimy fellow, former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, who counts among his regular roosts CSIS and the Center for A New American Security, also decorated by the odious Robert Kaplan and Dr John Nagl.

The Center for A New American Security? It’s another John Podesta tentacle. The Clintonite employment counselor, if you will, of Podesta. Michelle Flourney, another MSLB "tout," also hung her hat there.

If "change" means the Bipartisan Foreign Policy Establishment, well, there you go. CSIS just confirms this.

Using "but they're better than BushCo" folks as the bottom line is not disappointing, because it's not surprising. For MSLBs, not the Obama Adminstration, to co-sign this bullshit is disgusting.

Volcker the mistake maker heads Obama's economic advisor team

Beyond another lawyer of bureaucracy, what does he bring?

Paul Volcker's cred rides on having nipped inflation in the bud as part of dealing with, and at the same time exacerbating, the 1980-82 recession.

In fact, he himself admits he could have handled it better. Between that fact, and the other fact, that the parameters and causes of our current situation aren't closely parallel to 1980, what exactly does Volcker bring to the table?

Or his cohort, Austen Goolsbee?

As for the bureaucracy levels, why do we need President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board on top of the National Economic Council, Council of Economic Advisors AND OMB?

Another sign of both neoliberalism AND Beltway-itis is the belief that there's no problem that can't be addressed by naming a new board or commission.

November 25, 2008

Karzai threatens Taliban negotiations

That's the ultimate angle behind his statement that the "international community" needs to set a timetable for withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Karzai, taking a page from Obama's book, thinks he needs to talk to all players in Afghanistan, no more preconditions. And, we and NATO can either go along, or be left in the dust, no matter how many more troops Obama sends there.

Because, if $25 million didn't magically produce bin Laden's head on a pike, neither will 25,000 troops.

My personal belief is that partition is at least as good for Afghanistan as for Iraq. Let Pakistan have the Taliban areas to add to its North West Frontier. Of course, the Inter-Services Intelligence might find the Afghani Taliban plus the NWF to be strong enough to secede.

Let Karzai (until the former Northern Alliance topples him) have the center and north, except for northern areas that might join the "stan" to the north.

Elect a Green to Congress

Malik Rahim is running for Congress in Louisiana's Second District against incumbent William Jefferson, the latest in a long line of indicted or convicted Louisiana political shady characters. You can learn more about Rahim here and contribute to his campaign here.

With Democrats in Congress showing they're all too willing to do President Obama's centrist bidding, this is a chance to help elect a truly independent voice.

'I'll cut waste and fraud'

Ahh, more neoliberalism from Obama.

Haven't we heard this all before?

Like Gore's "Reinventing Government"?

Spare me.

Paging Roger Clemens for some DNA

In order to fend off possible perjury charges, former Clemens trainer Brian McNamee has given federal investigators a DNA sample.

It would seem investigators found readable DNA on the syringes, needles and gauze pads McNamee turned over to federal prosecutors in January. And, of course, any DNA not his would be...

Roger Clemens, care to give us a sample? His mouthpiece, Rusty Hardin says he is fully ready to cooperate. Yeah, sure.

Automakers’ 9-11 red-white-blue wash

Whether some PR mole at one of the formerly Big Three automakers started recirculating the e-mail or just some allegedly patriotic American, there’s a largely bogus e-mail in cyberspace right now contrasting the post-9/11 response of the noble American carmakers to the chintzy Japs and Euros.

Well, the e-mail is selective in factual content and lying in produced impression, as Snopes points out. The e-mail startd in October 2001 and has been recirculated recently.

As for patriotism:
1. Is it patriotic to inflict junk on Americans?
2. Is it patriotic to continue to build gas-guzzlers using foreign oil even as you know Peak Oil is coming?
3. Is it patriotic to continue to build gas-guzzlers knowing you’re contributing to global warming?

The answers, of course, are no, no, and no.

Is Luminant, née TXU, selling CAPP cities a bill of CO2 goods?

Coal-fired electricity could clash with green image of cities, and carbon cap-and-trade, and what other rats might be in the bin?

In exchange for locking in electric rates for 24 years with electrical provider Luminant (the generation part of the old TXU and now part of Energy Future Holdings after its buyout by KKR and – lest we forget – Goldman Sachs, ) via the Cities Aggregation Power Project, Cedar Hill (and other participating cities) are getting a minimum of 60 percent coal-fired electricity.

THAT is how the cities avoid the volatility of commercial electric rates priced on natural gas rates.

But, a number of Dallas-Fort Worth cities were members of the Clean Air Coalition. If any of them have signed on to CAPP, how does coal-fired electricity square with this?

And, if President Obama and the incoming Congress pass a carbon cap-and-trade system, coal-fired electric prices are surely going up. Is there an "out" in the contract for Luminant if that happens? Was the possibility even discussed?

It appears that, according to the city of Cedar Hill, and from what I've seen in the CAPP contract (though I haven't looked at it recently), there is no such provision.

All good news on the economic side for Cedar Hill and other cities. But, what if we go beyond cap-and-trade to a full-blown carbon tax? Luminant still appears on the hook... unless it deliberately tries to break the contract.

Luminant has said in the past it's OK with such a system, as long as it did not single out utilities. And, I am sure electric utility lobbyists would take care of that.

Also, Luminant touts its carbon dioxide offsets; if enough cities sign up for CAPP, will it have to build another wind farm to offset all the carbon from its coal-fired plants running nonstop, even if the coal-generated electricity, and its lower price, is only 60 percen t of the total electric delivery?

And, beyond that, neither the old TXU, nor KKR or Goldman Sachs, got rich by either being stupid or by being generous. If they're offering cities like Cedar Hill cheap electricity, there's a catch somewhere.

Getting 2/3 of the money up front does help pay off its LBO debt quickly, but it still seems risky to price even the coal-generated 60 percent of power that cheaply, and unless it gets a LOT of cities to sign up, just the up-front money can't do that much debt-clearing.

Oh, and in case you have forgotten, or did not know, here is a reminder of just how dirty the Luminant coal-fired plants are in terms of mercury emissions – four of their plants produce 5 percent of all mercury pollution in the country.

Biden naiveté watch

Score one for naiveté at Washington Monthly, where Steve Benen thinks Ted Kaufmann’s appointment to keep Joe Biden’s Senate seat warm for Beau Biden is:
[A]rguably the least offensive way to do it. Joe Biden was, just this month, re-elected to a seventh term. Real nepotism would be handing Biden's seat over to his son now, but by having a place-holder senator, who understands the chamber and will vote as Biden would have, voters will be able to choose Biden's replacement at the ballot box in 2010. That's likely to be Beau Biden, but he would at least have to earn it through public support, rather than inherit the seat directly through gubernatorial appointment.

Wrong motive on why this came down, Steve.

It’s that, even in an insular fiefdom like Delaware, the Bidens peré and fils, along with Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, knew that even “First State” voters would gag on the unseemliness of having a Beau Biden who is still in Iraq rammed down their throats.

So, it’s not that this is the least offensive way of doing nepotism, it’s that it’s the only politically realistic way of doing it. at Washington Monthly, where Steve Benen thinks Ted Kaufmann’s appointment to keep Joe Biden’s Senate seat warm for Beau Biden is:
[A]rguably the least offensive way to do it. Joe Biden was, just this month, re-elected to a seventh term. Real nepotism would be handing Biden's seat over to his son now, but by having a place-holder senator, who understands the chamber and will vote as Biden would have, voters will be able to choose Biden's replacement at the ballot box in 2010. That's likely to be Beau Biden, but he would at least have to earn it through public support, rather than inherit the seat directly through gubernatorial appointment.

Wrong motive on why this came down, Steve.

It’s that, even in an insular fiefdom like Delaware, the Bidens peré and fils, along with Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, knew that even “First State” voters would gag on the unseemliness of having a Beau Biden who is still in Iraq rammed down their throats.

So, it’s not that this is the least offensive way of doing nepotism, it’s that it’s the only politically realistic way of doing it.

Want happiness? Kill the boob tube

Research says time watching the idiot box is the single biggest difference between those who report themselves as happy vs. unhappy.

That said, the study doesn’t demonstrate which way the causal correlation goes. So, it may be that people bring their unhappiness to the boob tube seeking drug-like relief, rather than TV-watching weighing them down.

However, people were on average happier doing more, rther than less, of any of the other activities on the list.

Somali piracy bad enough for Blackwater

Boy if this isn’t close the “the devil you know,” for shipping companies to be looking at hiring Blackwater as marine private security, I don’t know what is.

More proof piracy is that bad? Some Europeans are shiping from south and southwest Asia by way of Cape Horn. in an attempt to avoid the area entirely.

Meanwhile, Russia wants to invade Somalia, even knowing full well that our own attempt at “limited war” there didn’t work too well.

And, especially in the case of oil supertankers, or Very Large Crude Carriers, as they’re more technically known, hijacking them is almost ridiculously easy.

They have huge blind spots and small crews, and if the captain things about resisting, a grenade launcher reminds him that he’s sitting on 300,000 tons of oil.

Read the full story for more on the challenges there.

Kiddie psych doctor busted for Big Pharma payola

Dr. Joseph Biederman has been controversial in the world of child psychiatry for years, due to his “pushing” diagnoses of, and medication for, childhood bipolar disorder. Now we’re learning more about how much he’s been paid by Johnson & Johnson to peddle Risperdal, and campaign for a Risperdal-friendly research center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

In case you’re not familiar with the degree of the baleful influence of Dr. Biedderman on child psychiatry, his work helped to fuel a fortyfold increase from 1994 to 2003 in the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder, and parallel explosion in the use of Risperdal and other powerful medications that, we now know, can cause permanent damage to children.

November 24, 2008

NYT greenwashes Bill Ford

It's nice to know that William Ford Jr.'s company, unlike GM and Chrysler, is not in imminent danger of bankruptcy. (It's not that far from the CCU area, though.)

But, claiming he's an environmental wunderkind, even by Detroit standards, is a bit over the top:
Even when Ford was living off profits from its big sport utility vehicles, he was pushing to take the company in a greener direction. Ford was the first automaker to bring to market a hybrid version of an S.U.V., the Ford Escape, and it is introducing a new line of Ecoboost engines next year that will cut fuel consumption by up to 20 percent.

Let's unpack that a bit.

Ford bought the Escape technology from Tokyo.

Bill Ford has noticeably NOT pushed the company's 65mpg diesel hybrid that debuted at auto shows two years ago.

The Ecoboost, described here?

Nice, but note the weasely "up to" 20 percent. 10 percent is more like it. Yes, it has a quick recoup time on its costs, but that's because you don't "recoup" all that much.

And, it's worth noting that Ford is flogging the engine for its increased horsepower as much as for its fuel savings.

And THAT is why Bill Ford ain't touting a 65mph diesel hybrid.

Second time not so holy for Holy Land Foundation

In a second trial after an original mistrial, the foundation and five individuals were convicted of three dozen counts.

Not everybody agrees with the verdict:
“I think this case proves that, with enough effort, the federal government can convict nearly anyone,” said Tom Melsheimer, a former federal prosecutor in Dallas now in private practice. “Retrials tend to favor the prosecution, in my view, because the government can figure out what worked and what didn’t and streamline their presentation of the evidence. The defense, on the other hand, has already shown their cards and the government can be better prepared to respond.

“I fear that these convictions will convince the government of the justness of their overallcause but I view the convictions as compelling the opposite conclusion,” he said.“To spend millions of dollars in time and expenses to prosecute people who were of no real threat to anyone, under the banner of a terrorism case, is a waste of precious federal resources.

I certainly agree with Melsheimer in general, without claiming to know enough about the ins and outs of Middle Eastern charities in this case to know what sorts of shades of gray exist in the middle here.

At the same time, this is sage advice from someone who believes they were guilty:
“Going forward, however, the government must be more pro-active about furnishing guidance to Muslim-Americans who merely wish to fulfill their religious obligations,” said Peter Margulies, Roger Williams University law professor who studies terrorism financing cases.

Good thought, Mr. Margulies, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

The fact of a gray area existing gives the government powers of intimidation.

Show me the Trig Palin birth certificate

Beyond Trig Palin birth certificate, new troubles for Sarah Palin:

Update and final wrap, May 8, 2017: Please read all of my later writings about both Sarah Palin and Trig Palin, as well as the Palin's Deception blog.

My overall summary is that Sarah is Trig's mom. But, that Todd Palin is not necessarily Trig's father. (And, per McGinness, yes, Palin having an affair that resulted in pregnancy would surprise me not one bit.) That is why she couldn't risk giving birth in Texas, or even in Anchorage, if there's any way to "explain" her rushed flight back home where her water broke.

Update, Aug 1, 2009: Is a rumored Sarah-Todd Palin separation or divorce connected to Trig Palin pregnancy and birth issues?

Update, July 3-6, 2009: Head here for my comments on Palin’s resignation announcement.

And, for further speculation on WHY she’s resigning, head here.

The REAL real reason for Palin’s resignation?

It’s all right here.

MSM political commentary doyenne Anne Applebaum goes a bit postal on Palin.

Douthat gets the resignation half right, especially on the political fallout, but not so much on the “poor, persecuted Palin” angle.

A big Washington Post “wrap” story has a few errors.

And, yet more strangeness from The Quitter with a Twitter.

Meanwhile, for the best refutation of the “Sarah is not Trigg’s mom” nuttery that I long-ago abandoned, held only by people who are cultists of the Palin’s Deception blog, visit Celtic Diva.

And, in "The Rogue," Joe McGinniss offers up a new "crazy like a wingnut" angle: Palin adopted Trig, knowing she was a Down's syndrome baby, so Sarah could be a poster child for the pro-life movement. She had to fly from Dallas back to Mat-Su Regional Hospital in such a hurry because the adoption finalized earlier than she expected. Hey, it's as believable as what Sarah claims.

New links back up the evidence McCain campaign op Steve Schmidt can't deny

Update Dec. 5: Sully refutes Michelle Malkin calling this tin-foil hat territory, and says he talked to how likely/unlikely Sarah Palin's story was. You know the answer, but, they were polite about their "unlikely" comments.

He also notes, as noted here months ago, that Mat-Su Regional has no record of Trig Palin being born there on the date in question. Period.

Beyond providing a birth certificate, or offering some logical explanation for why Palin hasn't, the real tin-foil hatters, the one for whom Ms. Sarah is the female Messiah, need to explain why the hospital where Trig Palin was allegedly born has no record of the event.

Update Nov. 24: Palin Deception shows that pics from Bristol's prom may be from a previously unmentioned possible fourth prom date and so do NOT prove she is not Trig's mom.

Update Nov. 12: Sully tells us why Palin still matters:
Forty-six percent of Americans voted for the possibility of this blank slate as president because she somehow echoed their own sense of religious or cultural "identity". Until we figure out how this happened, we will not be able to prevent it from happening again. And we have to find a way to prevent this from recurring.

Because of that, because he notes Palin still has “no self-awareness,” and because he says the MSM abdicated responsibility on Palin, he promises to “stay on the case.”

Update, Nov. 11: Palin Deception scrutinizes Mercedes Johnston's MySpace pix and concludes they were shot at Palin's house and not a birthing room in Mat-Su. Audrey says that, beyond that, they aren't really evidence for or against either Bristol or Sarah as Trig's mom; readers speculate a third possibility, that Mercedes is the mom via Sarah's son and Bristol's brother, Track, or that the baby was adopted from Mercedes and Levi's mom.

And, both Audrey and Sully point out that allegedly-pregnant (again?) Bristol should be at the eight-month mark; will we see anything at Mat-Su's website in a month? Two months? At all?

Update, Nov. 4:Andrew Sullivan has a strong narrative questioning Palin's medical nonchalance.

Boosted from comments: The Palin Deception, an excellent website created by a reported lifelong (until now) Republican.

It’s an excellent roundup of photos that largely refute the pregnancy claims, along with a variety of verbal red flags from interviews she did in the last months before somebody gave birth and more.

A Yahoo Geocities website is also serving as a clearing house on this issue.

Per this photo from the National Governors’ Association, when Palin (front row, second from left) would theoretically have been about seven months pregnant, she sure doesn’t look pregnant.

(For a high-res version, go to the National Association of Governors’ photo page scroll down about three-quarters of the way, and click the link.

First, if top McCain campaign op Steve Schmidt is publicly bitching about Trig Palin paternity questions to the point of breaking alleged off-the-record media conversations (and further damaging his boss’s free ride with the media in the process, this story has legs. Long legs.

Here’s more Schmidt bitching, via Howie Kurtz, where he complains the campaign is “under siege.”

Here’s Howie’s nutgraf, buried in the middle of webpage 2:
News organizations routinely ask questions about allegations in an attempt to determine their veracity, and Schmidt did not contend that they were publishing or broadcasting false information about Palin and her family.

So, Schmidt isn’t denying at least the possibility of truth behind the rumors, just trying to quash the questioning.

Politically speaking, as I note in my roundup of Day 4 of the Palin follies, Palin herself is gun-shy about this issue. But, since B.O. is running Post-Partisan Politics™, someone outside the Democratic establishment will have to keep pushing the political leverage of this issue.

Second, the biggest piece of empirical evidence so far on Trig’s date and place of birth, and therefore on his parentage, is evidence of absence, or absence of evidence. Here’s the webpage of Mat-Su Regional Medical Center births, for April 18, 2008. See who’s NOT listed? Oh, and in case something was wrong on the date? No births at all are shown for either April 17 or April 19.

This is 2008. If the state of Alaska doesn’t itself have electronic copies of birth certificates available as PDFs, it would take a Palin staffer about 2 minutes to make one.

And, in either case, 30 seconds to upload to the Palin campaign website.

We would take a look, assess the genuineness of what was purported to be the Trig Palin birth certificate and go from there.

It’s as simple as that, Gov. Palin. And John McCain. And Steve Schmidt.

Finally,
the “motive” question.

As I mentioned in my first post on this subject, I believe that Sarah Palin was trying to protect her Good Mommyhood Seal of Approval™ from the Religious Right, as much as protect her daughter’s image, if she is passing Trig off as her son when he’s not.

Also, I disagree with Josh Marshall’s contention that Schmidt is spinning this as political smokescreen to divert attention away from Troopergate and other areas of Palin incompetence or ethical shortcomings.

He may have latched onto it for that purpose, but it still has a life beyond that.

Beyond that, it’s a shorthand for how Palin’s camp, and McCain’s honchos, can’t provide straightforward information to the most simple of issues.

AND, if Bristol Palin’s pregnancy now is, indeed, her second child, that Good Mommyhood Seal of Approval™ is tarnishing.

Well, given that between Troopergate, in the investigation of which she now refuses to testify (PDF), her untruths about the “bridge to nowhere” and other reforming efforts she allegedly has pushed, and more, her image is now in tatters, if the Mommy Trig line is just another untruth, albeit one that more than any of her others, goes directly to character, it wouldn’t surprise me.

(More Palin staff Troopergate stonewalling here by Frank Bailey, Palin’s director of boards and commissions.)

And, that all said, if she has been telling and living a lie with Trig, I think she’d have nothing but to gain now by coming out with the truth before any more damage is done.

Finally, given Bob Novak’s Palin suck-up column, it’s clear that we’re not going to get any inside scoop on McCain’s mental processes in the Palin choice, as I e-mailed him to request yesterday.

Consider this the roundup for day 5 of the Palin follies.

CAPP, not Cedar Hill, could be stuck with global warming costs

Coal-fired electricity could clash with green image, and carbon cap-and-trade

Updated from an earlier post:

In exchange for locking in electric rates for 24 years with electrical provider Luminant via the Cities Aggregation Power Project, Cedar Hill (and other participating cities) are getting all coal-fired electricity.

THAT is how they avoid the volatility of commercial electric rates priced on natural gas rates.

But, Cedar Hill Mayor Rob Franke, and the city, have in the past presented an environmental image. How does coal-fired electricity square with this?

In case you have forgotten, or did not know, here is a reminder of just how dirty the Luminant coal-fired plants are in terms of mercury emissions – four of their plants produce 5 percent of all mercury pollution in the country.

And, if President Obama and the incoming Congress pass a carbon cap-and-trade system, coal-fired electric prices are surely going up. Is there an "out" in the contract for Luminant if that happens? Was the possibility even discussed?

It appears that, according to the city of Cedar Hill, and from what I've seen in the CAPP contract (though I haven't looked at it recently), there is no such provision.

All good news on the economic side for Cedar Hill and other cities. But, what if we go beyond cap-and-trade to a full-blown carbon tax? Luminant still appears on the hook... unless it deliberately tries to break the contract.

Oh, and in case you have forgotten, or did not know, here is a reminder of just how dirty the Luminant coal-fired plants are in terms of mercury emissions – four of their plants produce 5 percent of all mercury pollution in the country.

Will Scooter Libby get out of jail free?

On a one-four card survey of the likelihood of “get out of jail free” cards via a pardon from Bush, Slate gives Scooter four cards. Beyond the list of political hacks, there are people who may be deserving of more consideration, such as the two Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who are serving sentences of 11 and 12 years, respectively, for the nonfatal shooting of an unarmed Mexican drug courier in February 2005.

Recession headed to Texas too

Just because housing prices in Dallas and Houston haven’t cratered like Phoenix, Miami and SoCal doesn’t mean Texas will escape scot-free from the economic downturn.

The Dallas Fed has officially weighed in, and the prognosis isn’t good. Much of the state’s economy is at a four-year low, and 2009 is supposed to be worse.

More on Larry Summers and the Seven Dwarves

Economic book cookers and lightweights

First, here’s Politico touting the recession knowledge of Christina Romer, who will head the Council of Economic Advisors:
Romer and her husband David Romer, also a Berkeley economist, were both campaign economics advisers to Obama.

In March, National Journal had this précis on the couple: “As professors at the University of California (Berkeley), they are well-known macroeconomists — experts on the workings of the U.S. economy — who jointly hold one of six spots on the academic committee of economists that decides when recessions begin and end.”

So, the Romers are part of the six-person team of politically-driven book-cookers which tries to decide that recessions aren’t yet happening, due to exigencies of election calendars, etc., is what Politico really means.

Or, to put it another way, she’s on the committee that, per Kevin Phillips’ latest book, hasn't protested how DC insiders of both parties have continually changed the numeric definition of what constitutes a recession.

As for touted progressive Melody Barnes, who will head the Domestic Policy Council , in charge of interagency coordination from the White House?

One commentor (No. 15) to Yglesias’ post says she’s “all hat, no cattle”:
Melody Barnes is one of the slowest, least impressive liberal minds out there. You all must remember her from the OJ Simpson trial days. She was one of CNN’s talking heads, a lawyer brought on to opine on the day-to-day testimony with Leo Terrell. Her insights and how she presented them were so shallow and muddled that by the end of the trial her appearances had been all but phased out.

If you’re too shallow for Judge Ito and Marcia Clark, you’re in the kiddie pool indeed.

Larry Summers and the Seven Dwarves?

Well, there weren’t seven co-announcements along with that of Larry Summers to chair the National Economic Council, but you get the general idea.

Tim Geithner? Never had to do serious heavy lifting; a mid-level Treasury guy, and now, Bernanke’s lackey.

Bob Orzag at OMB? Will probably sign on to be Summers’ willing deputy in “austerity measures,” though not austerity measures for Wall Street.

The other appointments? As if they can stand up to Summers.

Here’s your non-ironic irony alert pull quote, from the Head Cheese:
Obama said that recent news “has made it even more clear that we are facing an economic crisis of historic proportions.”

And, his economic puppetmaster is the guy who, more than any other single alleged Democrat, yes, even more than Robert Rubin, is responsible for this “economic crisis of historic proportions.”

Next, your Breathlessness Alert™:
“This is as big of an economic crisis as we've faced in 75 years,” Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said Sunday on Face The Nation.

I’m not sure its bigger than the 1980-82 recession, or certainly not than the demobilization-related issues after World War II. Let’s just chill there.

Finally, a note on Robert Reich. Part of me says that it must be serious if he’s ready to fork over $500 billion to Wall Street. Another part of me wonders how much Obama Kool-Aid he’s already drunk as an insider. The Reich of five years ago might have had a different opinion.

The Fed’s under-the-radar bailout

That $700 billion from the Treasury? Chump change in the light of more than $7 billion in potential Federal Reserve bailout money.

Problems? Yes, beyond the size of that. The Fed is stonewalling on saying who is getting how much money from it.
“Some have asked us to reveal the names of the banks that are borrowing, how much they are borrowing, what collateral they are posting,” Bernanke said Nov. 18 to the House Financial Services Committee. “We think that’s counterproductive.”

A President Obama who was really about change would have the name of a new Fed head ready to go, and would publicly say so right now. A Congress that was really angry would tighten up the terms on TARP as part of any new bailout.

Will Congress push harder than it has so far for disclosure? It needs to:
“It’s unprecedented,” said Bob Eisenbeis, chief monetary economist at Vineland, New Jersey-based Cumberland Advisors Inc. and an economist for the Atlanta Fed for 10 years until January. “The backlash has begun already. Congress is taking a lot of hits from their constituents because they got snookered on the TARP big time. There’s a lot of supposedly smart people who look to be totally incompetent and it’s all going to fall on the taxpayer.”

But, these are the same folks who passed the Patriot Act sight unseen seven years ago. What the hell do or did you expect?

Citigroup bailout NOT the light at end of tunnel

First, there’s plenty of indications GE is shaky. Probably not shaky enough to need a bailout, but shaky nonetheless. And, who knows who will line up at the hog trough next?

As for the bailout itself, we’re paying more for the company than it’s worth on paper right now? At least it’s not a total pig in a poke. Dividends above 1 percent are forbidden. That’s about the only silver lining here; the turds in the punchbowl are legion, including Citi folks who got it into this mess getting to keep their jobs.

Otherwise, We the People are supposed to eat up to 90 percent of Citi’s bad money. (What happened to the “bad bank” being touted last week? I guess We the People are the bad bank.)

And its sheer size has analysts thinking that we could indeed still have further trains coming down the track like this:
“It looks enormous in size and scope,” said Tony Morriss, senior currency strategist at ANZ Bank in Sydney. “Does this mean support for other financial institutions will be this big? Does this mean there will be more problems around calculation of so-called toxic assets?”

And, it was a big enough big in a poke to let CEO Vikram Pandit stay on the job, which means the Paulson Gang still refuses to hold up a “oral hazard” standard:
“You’re seeing an inept management team being rewarded by the U.S. government,” said William Smith, chief executive of Smith Asset Management in New York, which owns Citigroup stock.

And, while the Paulson Gang continues to fret over massive banks like Citi, and BushCo says bank mergers will just solve all our problems, your Main Street-level banks are still doing well, Washington Monthly says.

IMF economist - worst to come

If the IMF doesn't need a bailout itself

International Monetary Fund chief economist Olivier Blanchard said we won't get out of the recession until 2010.

He then added this lovely bit of cheer:
Withdrawals of capital leading to problems of liquidity "can be so significant that the IMF alone cannot counter them," he said, adding that massive withdrawals of investments from emerging countries could represent "hundreds of billions of dollars.

"We do not have this money. We never had it," he said.

The IMF had spent a fifth of its 250 billion dollar (200 billion euro) fund in the last two weeks, Blanchard added.

Geez, it sounds like AIG.

November 23, 2008

The Chrysler bailout's limited applicability to today

While the 1979 bailout does offer a number of lessons, some of them are about how a 1979-style bailout probably WON'T work well today.

First, the $1.5 billion of 1979 is far less than $25 bil today. And, I'll adjust for inflation and for three carmakers.

Take that up to $5 billion to allow for three automakers. In inflated values, that's $15 billion today, still far less than $25 billion.

On the other hand, though, the formerly Big Three still were the Big Three in 1979. So, we should knock that inflationary $15 billion back to $10 billion. Now do you see how ridiculous, and worrisome, it is for the formerly Big Three to be seeking $25 bil? Sand down a rathole ridiculous?

And speaking of Big Three vs. formerly Big Three, in 1979, they had more than 75 percent of the market. Today? Only half.

And, as the story notes, Japanese cars are now on NASCAR.

Tips on surviving, or thriving in, Black Friday

Black Friday, for those of you with a lower level of retail shopping hankering, is the No. 1 shopping day of the year, the day after Thanksgiving, and NOT the next date for the financial world to implode.

Anyway, here's some tips for getting the most out of the day, including pre-shopping retailers' websites.

The flip side of Cedar Hill's 24-year electric deal ...

Is dark and dirty.

In exchange for locking in electric rates for 24 years with electrical provider Luminant via the Cities Aggregation Power Project, Cedar Hill (and other participating cities) are getting all coal-fired electricity.

THAT is how they avoid the volatility of commercial electric rates priced on natural gas rates.

But, Cedar Hill Mayor Rob Franke, and the city, have in the past presented an environmental image. How does coal-fired electricity square with this?

And, if President Obama and the incoming Congress pass a carbon cap-and-trade system, coal-fired electric prices are surely going up. Is there an "out" in the contract if that happens? Was the possibility even discussed?