SocraticGadfly: 12/28/08 - 1/4/09

January 03, 2009

Good thing SOMEBODY is testing the water in Tennessee

So far, since last month's coal ash tailings sludge spill, the EPA has rather "conveniently" managed to test only waters upstream of the spill.

Downstream? Well, private testing has stepped into the gap, and the results are ugly - arsenic as high as 30x allowable limits and lead at 21x, among other things.

Once again, Toyota is about to do it again

While it remains a bit of a question right now as to whether the Chevy Volt will ever see mass production, Toyota is, once again, looking at "doing it again" - this time with a solar-powered car.

January 02, 2009

Should we tear down NASA-military barriers?

If it is just for developing joint rocket technology, as the story indicates, I'm in full agreement.

It might also break down some hidebound thinking inside NASA.

Remind me not to fly AirTran

Yes, AirTran DOES own the Irfan family an apology after giving them the back of the corporate hand, which in tern came after panicky passengers apparently engaged in some Muslim profiling.

Obama as Britney - don't just blame MSM

If, per Politico, a blog like HuffPost is also running pix of a topless, swimsuit-wearing Barack Obama in Hawaii and fluff headers for accompanying blog posts and stories, then MSLBs can't just blame the MSM on this issue, of calling Obama "Britney Spears," as Politico did itself.

And, also contrary to MSLBs, don't think Obama isn't laughing all the way to the bank with this puff coverage.

Want a safer cig?

Texas is one of five new states requriring safe-burning cigarettes. But, don't just avoid being one of the 800 people a year who die from cigarette-caused fires. Instead, avoid being one of the 44,000 a year who die from smoking caused illness.

That is the real safe cigarette.

Harry Reid never had these cojones with GOP

But, he wants to arrest Roland Burris if Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's nominee to Barack Obama's empty Senate seat shows up to claim it?

This is just crazy. And Blago is still laughing all the way to ... wherever.

If Senate Democrats get to the point of forcing Burris to sue, Bobby Rush WILL try rally the Congressional Black Caucus. But, that group may itself split on involvement with the issue.

January 01, 2009

Atheists sue over 'so help me God' - misinformed on Constitution

Fox News reports that the Freedom from Religion Foundation and famous atheist Michael Newdow are suing to get "so help me God" out of the Presidential oath of office.

Given that Michael Newdow, and one "village idiot atheist" troll to this post are showing that they should be forever banished from a courthouse until they pass two philsophy classes - one in logic (including modal logic) and another in epistomology, or something similar, I'm overhauling the original post.

First, no, I have not read the actual lawsuit. And, now that, per a comment from the troll, it's clear that Newdow is a fucking idiot, I have no need or desire to do so.

I assumed (a dangerous action with some people), that Newdow and the FFRF were suing Barack Obama as well as, possibly an ancillary plaintiff, Chief Justice John Roberts.


They're suing ONLY Roberts.

That, despite the clear fact that "so help me God," as well as the person administering the oath of office, are both a choice of the new president.

Given that the "so help me God" is not Constitutionally prescribed, it's a matter of individual choice. Therefore, if Obama wants to say "so help me Allah," "so help me Buddha," or "so help me Flying Spaghetti Monster," he has that right. And, the Newdow/FFRF suit could be seen as violating HIS civil rights.

Washington chose to add the phrase, and use a Bible, at his inaugural and the two actions have become traditional since.

From Washington's adding of the "so help me God" and use of a Bible onward, these issues are adiaphora, matters of choice for the individual president as part of his (or her, should we ever get there) day of inauguration.

Nothing is stopping President Obama from ditching one or both as it is, though.

Commenter Brian Westley shows his own ignorance on the second part of the president's choice, as well as showing himself ignorant of history.

Newsweek points out they have a whole crockload of other things wrong in their suit, starting with the fact that they’re suing the wrong branch of government over the wrong oath.

(Update, Oct. 23, 2015. Having now run into Westley on Patheos, on the generally very good Godless in Dixie blog, I'll point out that per Wikipedia's page on Newdow, its section on this suit, I stand by everything I've written.

Update, June 16, 2020: Per my response to Mr. Westley, who I guess is still a mix of bored and Gnu Atheist 11-plus years on, I do need to update one thing. Godless in Dixie is not very good at all. Neil Carter, and his paid minions, it would appear, are pretty hardcore Gnu Atheists. I say this after having been blocked from commenting there multiple times. Carter also doesn't know the bible quite as well as he claims. A bit on the updated reality of Godless here, and much more from my primary philosophy, critical religion and critical thinking site.)

Nothing requires the Chief Justice, or ANY Supreme Court justice, to conduct the oath of office. (I challenge you to show me where in the constitution it says that).) Calvin Coolidge was sworn in by a justice of the peace after Harding's death. LBJ was sworn in by a federal district judge after JFK's assassination.

I have no problem pointing out where atheists are wrong, or acting as "village idiot atheists" or "ugly atheists." I said so about the Dennett/Dawkins idea of "brights."

And, given that Mr. Westley, the trolling commenter here, refused to tell me what he thinks of the merits of the case legally, or the atheist grounds for filing it, and also refuses to disavow Newdow's illogic, until he can address the facts of the matter in a more logical manner than he has, I don't think he'll be commenting here again.

In other words, if Newdow really has no problem with Obama adding the words, since it's Obama's choice who swears him in and what words they ask him to read, Newdow is even more of a fucking idiot than he was four years ago.

I'm am atheist myself who can point out that other atheists are in fact ignorant of the constitution. And, the ignorance is not about the presidential oath; it's about the First Amendment issue involved.

In short, in what is a Twilight Zone moment, I agree with the Veep from the Family Research Council Fox quoted in its story.

That said, Peter Sprig of the Family Research Council is full of bullshit when he claims a successful suit would establish atheism as a national religion.

Atheism is NOT a religion. As a cyberfriend of mine notes, in an online aphorism, "Calling atheism a religion is like saying NOT collecting stamps is a hobby."

Or, per another truism, from before the Internet: "Atheists and Christians are alike, except that we disbelieve in one more god than all the gods you disbelieve, such as Zeus, Allah, Odin, Ganesh, Krishna, etc."

Would I prefer an inauguration free from religious symbolism? Yes. But, the other atheists in question are clearly looking down the wrong end of the First Amendment telescope on this issue, and in so doing, perpetuating steretypes of the "ugly atheist."

Frankly, I think Newdow is as much a gloryhound as American Athiests' Dave Silverman.

Nobody called, nobody wanted me

I forgot to turn on my cell phone yesterday.
Then, when I remembered
I had forgotten to turn it on,
I still didn’t turn it on
Until this evening.
But, nobody had called for me

No voicemails, no text messages.
Not even a list of missed calls.

I guess I’ll survive.

Do I have a choice?
Well, it seems pretty stupid otherwise.

I never thought I would appreciate
The wireless link to the outside world.

But, sometimes it relieves a bit of loneliness;
Is there anything so bad about that?
After all, farmers a century ago led our nation in suicides
Before the wireless waves of radio
Relieved the mind-numbing, stupefying tedium
Of life after dark
In the not-so-idyllic rural heartland.

So, before we overl8y bemoan
The electricity-gobbling technology of modern life,
Let us remember that many would-be Luddites
Actually do not want to make too far a trip
Back into the oh-so-idyllicized past.

Talk of carbon taxes, or traded caps,
Can be a time for reflection
At just what price we paid for our modern era,
And just what we have been paying to escape.

(It still would be nice, though,
To escape the sense, the expectation,
Of on-demand availability
Others may have of us now.
Or that we have of ourselves.)

-- Dec. 31, 2008

My initial Tom Craddick prediction

Can Tom Craddick get re-elected as Speaker of the Texas House? Like two years ago, he claims he has the votes while Dems and anti-Craddick Republicans say he doesn't.

Who's right?

Well, the Dallas Morning News has a rundown of the 64 committed, or theoretically so, anti-Craddick Democrats.

No shock, but PLENTY of disgust, that DeSoto's Helen Giddings does NOT have her name on that letter. Just what the hell is she getting from Craddick? More than just committee assignments? Does Tom keep her "sprightly" in some way?

The News has more on the anti-Craddick chess board at this point, as well.

All of which leads to my take.

If only 64 of the 74 Dems in the Texas House have signed the anybody-but-Craddock pledge<, and at least a few of them are squishes, then I would have to say his chances of keeping the speakership are at least 50-50.

Craddock opponents may counsel that House Republicans who lead the anti-Craddock charge have yet to center on one prime opponent, and that, when this happens, then Democratic support against Craddock will solidify.

I disagree.

To counter that, I note that Craddock has yet to, publicly at least, dole out goodies to Craddock Democrats of the recent past. And, if necessary, he may offer to change his behavior this session or even apologize for some rough elbows in the past, he could shore up his support.

Possible New Year’s resolution No. 1

From me? Hmm.

How about driving to the Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas sometime from Jan. 21 or soon thereafter, and giving a full-moon greeting to Dallas’ newest couple?

(Before the Secret Service manhandles me and beats me to a pulp, that is.)

And, amongst your resolutions?

December 31, 2008

Sarah Palin breaks silence on Tripp birth -slams press but tells no truths

Other than the mush and fluff about God turning lemons into lemonade with teen pregnancy, etc., immediately following is the nutgraf of Mayor Whazzup's statement:
Bill McAllister, the governor’s office communications director, adds: "The governor's office previously declined to comment to honor the family's wishes that the event remain as private as possible. However, the high volume of press inquiries, along with some erroneous information that was published, prompted the governor to make a statement.

I call bullshit.

WHAT "erroneous information"? If you're going to make that claim, that the press, or blogs like this, have gotten something wrong it's incumbent on YOU, Sarah Palin, to say WHAT we got wrong.

So, until you do that, your comment will be treated as just another lie from the Alaskan Addams Family.

Another lie? Telling People taht Bristol and Levi aren't high school dropouts; Levi, at least, certainly is.

And, other than rerunning press releases, is the Anchorage Daily News going to do further reporting on the issue? Doesn't look a lot like it.

Margaritaville has been very, very good to Buffett

And, we ain't talking Warren Buffett, of course.

So, when you're sipping that green concoction tonight, whether actually wearing flip-flops or just wishing you were, while you or somebody else strums that six-string, think about just how good Margaritaville has been to Jimmy Buffett:
You don't have to go to a concert to buy his stuff. Margaritaville boat shoes and flip flops are found in shopping malls. Margaritaville Foods sells salsa, hummus, tortillas and dips in Wal-Mart and other stores. Landshark is sold in grocery stores, and Margaritaville tequila is in liquor stores.

The Cheeseburger in Paradise chain was founded in 2002 and owned by OSI Restaurant Partners, owners of Outback Steakhouse, among others, under a license from Buffett. Landshark Lager, made by Anheuser-Busch, and Margaritaville Tequila, made by Seagram, are sponsors of his concerts.

Last May, the Trump Marina Hotel Casino in Atlantic City was purchased by Coastal Marina, LLC, which will convert it into a destination resort under the "Margaritaville" label.

Retail closes doors on lackluster 2008

More and more news piles in about just how bad this year's Christmas shopping season was, and what it will likely mean for 2009.

The big, big dropoff from last year happened the weekend before Christmas, off 24 percent. What it means is that even those last-minute discounts couldn't drum up fence-sitting shopping business. So, whether or not the retail economy should be that bad, perceptions of it are. Analysts also blame bad weather and the exact time location of this year's weekend relative to Christmas, but I would downplay those factors.

Meanwhile, more bankruptcy filings make it look like 2009 could be pretty Darwinian in the retail world.

Can plebes be taught not to torture?

Repeating the famous 1963 experiment by Stanley Milgram, Cal-Santa Clara professor Jerry Burger has found, 45 years later, people will still torture.

A West Point instructor heard about Burger's findings, and his interpretive comments, and is teaching them in a class. Especially in our post-Abu Ghraib environment, let us hope she is able to break through.

More proof Fitz running a bluff on Blago?

Chicago's already-behaloed U.S. Attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, has asked for a 90-day extensio on an attempt to return an indictment against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

I hope he doesn't get it. I could maybe give him 60 days instead of the normal 30, but no more.

Put up or shut up, Fitz.

Some Blago-Burris follow-up thoughts

While waiting to fly out from Dallas to Albuquerque last night, some more thoughts about the whole latest twist to the Blagosphere, Illinois Rod "Every man is innocent until proven guilty" Blagojevich's alledged attempt to play Illinois politics more bluntly than usual, hit me.

At his press conference announcing the appointment of Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, Gov. Rod Blagojevich offered us a bit of everything while...

Trying to get by with a little help from his friends. Especially a friend named Bobby Rush.

Will Bobby Rush’s race appeal have any traction?

On CNN Tuesday night, Clarence Page said it might, noting Rush is a respected pillar of Illinois politics. What Page didn’t think to mention?

The President-elect is a self-identified African-American.

Second dot to connect? Obama clearly hade his influence felt on Senate Democrats deciding not to strip Joe Lieberman of his committee chairmanship.

Ergo, Gov. Blagojevich was ultimately targeting Obama, not Senate Dems directly.

I wouldn’t even be surprised if some Astroturf groups spring up to support Burris.

But, the twist to all this is that Rush handed Obama's hat to him when Obama ran for Rush's seat in the 2000 primary. (Sidebar note: You know you've entered the Twilight Zone when Al Sharpton is giving Obama advice - unsolicited, of course - about how to practice politics and political ethics.) A juicy Rush quote from back then:
"Barack is a person who read about the civil rights protests and thinks he knows all about it."

Have those feelings changed since then?

Next note.

Did Blago know that Patrick Fitzgerald was about to push to let at least part of grand jury evidence he has against Blago be unsealed for the Illinois Lege to get the ball rolling on impeachment?

If so, it’s clear Blago launched a pre-emptive strike in the next round of his trial by public opinion. And offering more proof that people who underestimate his political acumen, if at nothing more than the pool-hall level, do so at their peril.

Dutch politicians rethink ‘tolerance’

And no, it’s not right-wingers, whether white power-based or not. It’s the Labor Party, part of the Netherlands’ center-left governing coalition, that is leading the charge.

The party, which oversees immigration matters as part of its government portfolio, has issued a party white paper on the subject. Its comments include:
“The mistake we can never repeat is stifling criticism of cultures and religions for reasons of tolerance.”

Lilianne Ploumen, Labor's chairperson, added that “the grip of the homeland has to disappear” for recent Dutch immigrants whom, news reports indicate, retain their original nationality at a rate of about 80 percent after becoming Dutch citizens.

The paper adds that employment, including government programs toward that end, help, but in and of themselves, cannot bring about social integration.

Interesting, following on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s call to end the traditional French policy of “blindness” toward ethnic and cultural differences.

Read the full story for more.

Another liberal hawk non-apology 'apology' - TPM on Georgia

Josh Marshall, the Talking Points Memo proprietor, who never did the mea-est of mea culpas over the Iraq War and his support for it, now mumblingly admits (while trying to invoke group guilt at the same time) that "we" were lucky to have avoided hitching our collective wagons to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

No "we" here Josh. I told you so, literally, by e-mail, when Veep nomineem Joe Biden was practically shoulder to shoulder writing blank checks to Saakashvili after he tweaked Russia one too many times. I said the Biden/Obama/Dem mainstream "NATO lite" policy toward Georgia was wrong, and that you were mischaracterizing it.

That said, here's why Marshall is right. As the story notes, European NATO members have had more brains about Georgia in NATO than the U.S. bipartisan foreign policy establishment has had all along. (Or liberal hawk bloggers have had.)

December 30, 2008

CIA wants YOU – to hire on

OK, I have now officially heard it all in the world of help-wanted ads.

Yesterday, on WRR, the Dallas classical radio station, the Cee Eye Eh, the Spook Shack, was running a help-wanted ad, and for the Clandestine Service, no less.

Never, ever heard of such a thing.

And, of course, I’m wondering “why”?

Friedman to Obama - pass gas tax hike

Thomas Friedman urges President-elect Obama not to pass up raising the gas tax, or even considering a carbon tax.

Friedman notes trucks + SUVs are expected to outsell cars this month with the gas price plunge, meaning such action is urgent. And, at the same time, it does not have to be economically crippling:
He could make it painless: offset the gas tax by lowering payroll taxes, or phase it in over two years at 10 cents a month. But if Obama, like Bush, wills the ends and not the means — wills a green economy without the price signals needed to change consumer behavior and drive innovation — he will fail.

Well, I will give Obama a preemptive "F," then, based on what he has shown so far in the post-Nov. 4 world, and wait to see if he can prove me wrong.

Broncos fire Shanahan

Boy, is today a newsy, bloggy day or what?

First, we have more unanswered Tripp Palin questions. Then we have Blago's nomination of Burris to Obama's Senate seat.

And, now this news from the world of sports: The Denver Broncos have fired Mike Shanahan as head coach and director of football operations.

Guess that three-game collapse to the San Diego bolts was too much on the head coach side. And, some of his questionable player moves, especially on the D-line area, cost him his other hat, I'd say.

And, were it not for help from Ed Hochuli, Denver wouldn't even have been in position to contend for the division title in the AFC West, rivaling its NFC geographic counterpart as the worst division in the league.

I doubt Shanahan will go to the Jets, who are already looking at former Stillers head man Bill Cowher, among others.

But, if given player personnel power in Detroit, that might be his next shot.

Or, the one-year quickie in a network studio gig.

Also in the coaching meat market: Mike Martz, fired as the Niners' O-coordinator.

A college head job might be his next stop.

The Blago follies on display at Burriss-Senate presser

Once again, for Illinois politics, getcha popcorn!

At his press conference announcing the appointment of Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, Gov. Rod Blagojevich offered us a bit of everything while...

Trying to get by with a little help from his friends.

1. Bobby Rush dealt the race card but that is why this was a politically smart appointment by Blago. That said, is Jesse Jackson Jr. kicking himself, or anybody within reach right now, about being neither the black appointee nor the black Senate seat defender instead of Rush? And, what is Bobby getting out of this for running PR flak for Blago, anyway?

Boy, the "considerations" for Rush is an interesting question to which I don't know the answer at all. BUT... if any Chicagoans see a bunch of Indians throwing him a dinner...

2. Also, neither Blago nor legal mouthpiece Ed Genston has commented on this breaking Genston's promise, on behalf of Blago, that he would not make an appointment.

3. And, Burris pulled out his former state AG credentials to fluff the "innocent until proven guilty line" about Blago, all while saying, in essence, "Did I really give him $11K? I don't remember." Gotta love it! And, expect either the Trib or Sun-Times to find out just what government largess went his way as an apparent reselt.

More interesting yet, Burris would NOT commit to being just a "placeholder" Senator until the next regular election in 2010. Frankly, I thought that was even dumber than not being prepared to get asked questions about how much campaign dinero he'd given Blago over the years.

4. Will Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid try to run a vote on refusing to seat Burris, even though he would be standing on constitutional quicksand? Or will he falls back to what appears to be a previous partisan pledge not to allow ANY Blago appointee to caucus with Senate Dems? On the other side of the dome, would the Congressional Black Caucus raise hell on that issue? I say Reid will cave in some way, shape or form, especially if he can get a tacit agreement from Burris not to run for a full term in 2010.

Finally, can Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White really block the appointment? I view his office's legal role here as nothing more than a functionary. Speaking of state AGs, I guess he can get a legal opinion from disappointed "Candidate No. 2," Lisa Madigan. But, would she not have a conflict of interest in making a ruling? Would she recuse herself for the state AG's office No. 2? Without reading the Illinois constitution, I think White's power here is little more than paper-pushing. I doubt we will get to the point of a Madigan ruling.

Why can’t Midlothian get ‘green cement’ plants?

After all, the possibility of “green” cement plants — which replace much of the heat of conventional plants with catalysts and so actually “sequester” carbon dioxide by consuming it, rather than producing it— topped Wired mag’s green tech Top 10 for 2008.

But, between TXI and Smoky Joe Barton, “green” will come to Cement City, Texas in about 20 years.

Chris Hitchens backed invading Iraq because of THIS

Remember how Snitchens boozily bemoaned in late 2002 and early 2003 that nobody understood the Kurds like he did?

And, the "THIS" is?

Kurdistan's disturbing proclivity for female genital circumcision mutilation.

As the story notes, it is the only part of Iraq to practice the barbaric feature.

Blago to name Burris to Obama seat

Will Reid, Senate try to block?

Updated, after Blago news conference:

Yeah, Bobby Rush did deal the race card; but that is why this was a politically smart appointment by Blago. That said, is Jesse Jackson Jr. kicking himself, or anybody within reach right now, about being neither the black appointee nor the black Senate seat defender instead of Rush?

Also, neither Blago nor legal mouthpiece Ed Genston has commented on this breaking Genston's promise, on behalf of Blago, that he would not make an appointment.

And, Burris pulled out his former state AG credentials to fluff the "innocent until proven guilty line" about Blago, all while saying, in essence, "Did I really give him $11K? I don't remember." Gotta love it!

Finally, can Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White really block the appointment? I view his office's legal role here as nothing more than a functionary. Speaking of state AGs, I guess he can get a legal opinion from disappointed "Candidate No. 2," Lisa Madigan.


The Chicago Tribune reports Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will name former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat.

Burris is 71, and seemingly nothing more than a fill-in until the seat comes up for regular election in 2010. He had indicated interest in the seat, but was not on Blago’s A list.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the Senate will not seat any Blago appointment, but, given Reid, per Theodore Roosevelt, has the backbone of a chocolate éclair, might soften his stance if there’s a tacit agreement Burris will not run in 2010.

The Trib has a poll on four appointment-related questions.

A couple of the questions are vague. For example, “Is the Burris appointment good?”

Good for whom? Hell, yes, it’s good for Burris.

“Should he accept?” An ambitious politician, at age 71, who wants a two-year sincecure? Hell, yes, he should accept.

“Was it a smart move?” Hell, yes, again. Appointing an African-American who is relatively plugged in on state politics, but seems scandal-free.

Trib poll voters are looking at these questions in the wrong way.

Burris appears to meet all constitutional requirements for the office. I don’t see how Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic Caucus or the full Senate can do anything BUT seat him.

The Senate could then turn around and vote to expel him, but that takes a 2/3 vote.

And, all this said, Burris’ skirts aren’t totally clean on his connections to Blago.

That said, the person or persons responding to previous Blago posts of mine where I said, “He ain’t that dumb, at least politically,” and they strongly begged to differ, might want to rethink.

Did Soviets steal H-bomb as well as A-bomb?

Without naming names, a new book says yes, and sounds convincing.

Given the even shorter time between U.S. and Soviet hydrogen bombs vs. the four-year gap between fission bombs, and also given that the USSR first built a “cake” bomb — a souped-up A-bomb and not a real thermonuclear — before the real deal, the idea of thievery sounds convincing to me.

Now, since authors Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman don’t name names, who fits their clues of someone born in the United States, who grew up in a foreign country, fell in with communist sympathizers during the Depression, and worked at Los Alamos during World War II, then became deeply involved with H-bomb efforts there?

Howard Stern – irrelevant?

Admit it, since he went to Sirius and its now debt-strapped megabucks, nobody ever talks about him anymore.

This may be part of why, according to blogging diehard Stern fan Mark Mercer:
“Once you get used to hearing it on Sirius, it’s not as shocking as it was when you heard him on terrestrial radio and they’d be bleeping him out,” he says.

Exactly. Did he say “effing,” or “mofo,” or what, behind that bleep? And, what were the censored porn stars saying, too?

Not being heard AND what is being heard by a small audience, relatively speaking, makes for irrelevance. Even his remark that he might retire in two years, when his current contract expires, didn’t cause massive media ripples.

That said, per the story, he might be “retiring” or looking for a new gig in less than two years. I just do not see how Sirius can refinance its debt and I do not think satellite radio is a profit-laden media idea.

NASA as far as ever from men on Mars?

Questions about how far NASA is on both rockets and spacecraft for the future, questions about whether those questions have been stifled for political reasons — the internal NASA politics of NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, not BushCo politics — and questions about what options it has, show that NASA is an agency in search of a rationale, focus, mission and vision on the manned side of space flight (especially beyond the space station), and still struggling with all four of those points.

That said, Griffin is at the heart of much of the controversy, and appears too stubbornly invested in his own views on how NASA should approach manned flight. I think Obama would do well to replace him immediately.

And then have NASA take a look at that rationale, focus, mission and vision — a non-romanticized look. I think manned flight to Mars needs to be shelved for many, many years.

Tripp Palin news rollout adds mystery to birth

Updated, 4 p.m. Central Dec. 30, with even more questions:
1. People, linked immediately below, reports a Saturday birth day, after originally reporting a Sunday birth. A Huffington Post blog linking to it has the Sunday date. And, the New York Daily News either splits the days or else just punts and "over the weekend" was when it happened.

2. People reportedly may pay $300K for the baby pix.

Original story
After People magazine, NOT the local newspaper of record, the Anchorage Daily News, broke the story that Bristol Palin reportedly had a baby boy named Tripp, I was waiting for more from an actual news source.

And, contrary to “Class A liberals” like Jeralyn and her Talk Left readers who think it’s undignified, or tin-foil hatting to ask questions about question-raising political births, I was waiting for the ADN to ask more questions when it could.

And, it now has its own first reporting, but raises more questions than it answers.

First, why is the story bylined “Daily News staff” than a particular reporter or two?

Second, and more importantly, why can’t the Gov. herself, Mayor Whazzup, the Whore of Wasilla, even put out a press release??? Why won’t she talk, or return phone calls?

From the People story:
On Monday, Bill McAllister, a spokesman for Gov. Palin said, “This office will not be issuing any statements on [Bristol’s baby]. We’re here to talk about state government and that matter falls outside of that.”

Bullshit. Sarah put out a PR about Trig’s birth and that was no more state government news than this birth.

And, why did the ADN not get even that comment in its story? Click here for further commentary and questions about the ADN's lack of reporting on this issue, complete with e-mail addresses for you to contact.

Also, why is Bristol’s great aunt the only person commenting for the record, from the People story?

WTF is up?

That right there raises the skepticism antennae. Will the ADN or other media have their antennae up?

If People is so hot for this story, again, contra the “Class A liberals,” where are its paparazzi shutterbugs?

So, while Palinites, who would elect Sarah the Virgin Mary if they could, will claim this birt rules out the timeline that Bristol, not Sarah Palin, was the mother of Trig, I say hold on. The Dec. 20 due date for Bristol with little Tripper wasn’t publicly announced until relatively late in the pregnancy. But, it does crimp that possibility somewhat.

That said, I wouldn’t trust a Palin birthing statement that is unsubstantiated by medical records any more than I would a George W. Bush foreign policy statement.

Doesn't that about say it all with the Alaskan Addams Family?

So, no, I am not closing any books on Palin Family Chronicles stories yet.

Meanwhile, for new visitors to this blog, here is where my Palin family births coverage started.

And, for Sarah Palin's lying initial press release about Tripp's birth, go here.

December 29, 2008

People Mag - Cousin Itt Palin has arrived

According to People, Bristol Palin has a baby boy named Tripp.

NOTE: Go here for a new post on the Tripp Palin birth and how early news cycle coverage is raising more questions than it’s answering.

Nope, nobody posting in comments had that name picked. And, no, the kid's actual first name isn't Drug.

Now, even this does not rule out the timeline that Bristol, not Sarah Palin, was the mother of Trig. The Dec. 20 due date for Bristol with little Tripper wasn't publicly announced until relatively late in the pregnancy. But, it does crimp that possibility somewhat. And, at 7 lbs., 4 oz., Tripp wasn't born two months prematurely.

As for Bristol's own timeline on this pregnancy, I earlier leaned toward the idea of this being real, then, later on, leaned away. Well, one can always second-guess oneself. I really changed my mind the most after listening to Audrey, proprietor of Palin’s Deceptions and the PD blog. She said, about a week before Christmas or so, she had been interviewed by the Anchorage Daily News, with the story supposedly coming out any time now.

Well, the story is out now. I'll check in at her blog later tonight or tomorrow morning, and I will also check in with the Anchorage Daily News. The ADN, earlier today, had only a snippet from the People story, and no original reporting. I have a bit of skeptical antennae-raising over what might be up with that, and even more cynical vomiting that the Palin family would be in contact with an entertainment mag first. Also, note that little Tripper was born Sunday, and, in the era of instantaneous Internet news, we get nothing for more than 24 hours?

Doesn't that about say it all with the Alaskan Addams Family?

Meanwhile, for new visitors to this blog, here is where my Palin family births coverage started.

And, for Sarah Palin's lying initial press release about Tripp's birth, go here.

Arsenic and old coal ash - now touring Tennessee

From the Environmentally Piddling Around (EPA) of BushCo...

We now have the EPA updating the size of the spill from the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston, Tenn. coal ash sludge tailings pond spills from 360 million gallons to 1 billion and admitting that arsenic levels may be above its less than the most stringent standards.

At the same time, the EPA says the contaminated water contains several other heavy metals, but, oh, don't worry, they're all at below EPA's human toxin/carcinogen levels.

But, the EPA has never tested things such as pesticides in combination, and also heavy metals. Like pesticides or other chemicals, we don't know if heavy metals in combination have synergistically negative effects, and neither does EPA.

Nor do we know what the uranium or thorium level is in this sludge, and if the low-level radioactivity would exacerbate heavy-metal poisoning, either.

Does Olmert really want to address Israeli settlements?

Committing a tautology, as well as probably being too generous in his interpretation, TPM's Josh Marshall claims the answer is yes to my rhetorical question in the title.

Here is what he says, tautology included:
The [settlement] numbers have continued to increase right through the Olmert government, which I think really wanted to get about the business of uprooting settlements and solving the core issues. But he wasn't willing or able to do it.

If you wanted to do something, Josh, by definition, you would be willing.

That said, I think either a generous interpretation, or a bit of naivete, by Josh led to this tautological thought process.

Given that there is good evidence Israel kept, in essence, picking, picking, picking at Hamas until it got the action it wanted, I don't think Olmert really wanted to do too much about settlements.

“It is a good time to be me” in bailout gravy train

Those words are not mine; rather, they come from John L. Douglas, a lawyer who helped bank regulators set up the Resolution Trust Corporation in 1998. So, he ought to know!

So, too, does L. William Seidman, first chairman of the RTC, who says, “I am enjoying this.”

And, your third quote is from former RTC official Gary J.Silversmith, who says: “Fortunes will be made here, no doubt about it.”

“It is a great time to be a banking lawyer,” said Thomas P. Vartanian, the former general counsel to the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation in the 1980s, when the lax oversight it had, and loosened regulations necessitated a bailout there.

There are even more fox-guarding-the-henhouse quotes where those came from. And, the ones I pulled are not even the most egregious. (And, any time Sam Zell is mentioned in a story about money-making angles, the grubbery factor is high.)

No wonder the NYT says:
What is obvious to former RTC officials is that, like the last go around, a great deal of money will be made by a select group of investors and business operators, particularly those with government contacts. The former government officials said in interviews that much of what is motivating them is a desire to help the nation recover from this latest stumble. But they acknowledge they intend to be among the winners who emerge.

So, ignore Congressional Democrats, and Republicans, who claim they did not see the fine print on Crazy Uncle Henry Paulson's throw-a-TARP-over-it bailout request. We have wayyyy too much “bipartisanship” involved for any reform of the bailout bill now.

Bush royal dynasty to continue?

Jeb Bush is mulling a run for Mel Martinez’s U.S. Senate seat, according to Politico; here's the telling pull quote:
“Jeb wants to be king. He doesn't want to be a prince,” state Sen. Michael Barnett said. “He's used to getting things done and getting things done now. He’s not one to wait for the process."

Doesn’t that “king" comment apply to every Bush family member (Shrub above all, of course), who has been a political officeholder?

For a further take on the Jebster, Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz says the former governor is “literally the most inflexible public official I’ve ever encountered in my 16 years in office."

Abstinence-only forces try to play down latest study

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that not only do teenage abstinence pledges simply not work, but that, when they’re broken, pledging teens are less likely than others to use condoms or other protection against pregnancy, STDs or both.

So, what does the abstinence-only movement do?

First, shoot the messenger:
“It is remarkable that an author who employs rigorous research methodology would then compromise those standards by making wild, ideologically tainted and inaccurate analysis regarding the content of abstinence education programs,” said Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association.

Of course, no such analysis was done; the analysis of said research was as rigorous as the methodology. In fact, researcher Janet Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins got MORE rigorous than previous research studies, comparing pledging and non-pledging teens with similar attitudes toward sex, using about 100 variables:
“Previous studies would compare a mixture of apples and oranges,” Rosenbaum said. “I tried to pull out the apples and compare only the apples to other apples.”

You don’t get much more rigorous in methodology.

As for analysis, it came down to two basic points.
• How often were pledges broken;
• Comparing condom usage rates.

As for the first, the “pledge failure rate” was 82 percent.

Condom use? About 10 percentage points lower in pledgers.

The story notes that hundres of millions of federal dollars in abstinence-only education funding is up for renewal this year. Will Barack Obama listen to the science, as he claims his administration will do, or will he consider this part of his pledge, pun intended, to expand faith-based programs?

Behind FT reverse crystal ball whimsy, some reality

The Financial Times’ mock “2009 retrospective” is already drawing a fair amount of attention, and deservedly so.

One of its main points is about halfway through. What if John Maynard Keynes as well a Milton Friedman is wrong?

Aside from the points in the news analysis piece about the possibility of 10 percent unemployment, such a washout SHOULD spell the end to Democratic Party neoliberalism. It won’t, in all likelihood, because in reality most Democrats have little more in their political ideas cupboard in many areas than do Republicans.

It wouldn’t totally surprise me if Obama weren’t a one-term president, when all is said and done.

Government interagency screw-up in WoT – or deliberate screw-over?

It would be easy to see the conviction of alleged Afghan drug trafficker and Taliban supporter Haji Bashir Noorzai as an interagency screw-up between DEA and FBI, with the CIA in the background.

That’s the way the Post plays it, while notiong a private company hoping it could profit through “developing” informants in the so-called War on Terror got burned.

That’s the way you could play this story, though the POst leaves open an

First, if Noorzai was a CIA confidante since 1990, why didn’t the Agency keep something like this from happening, the “burning” of an asset?

Could it be … the House of Saud?

Given that Motley Rice, the U.S. law firm that’s taken the lead in trying to sue Saudis for 9/11 damages to be awarded to relatives of 9/11 dead, as page 3 of the story notes, that — the background of the House of Saud, and therefore a government screw-over, not screw-up, sounds more plausible.

'Camelot must be Gaelic for chutzpah'

Not my words but those of Michael Goodwin as he assesses the lack of any offering, besides a last name, that Caroline Kennedy brings to her quest for Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat.

The fact that she has "handlers" and that said folks now want questions to her to be submitted in advance in writing, makes one wonder how close she is to being a somewhat smarter Sarah Palin with a snooty Bay State accent.

For everyone saluting Obama’s science acumen …

Don’t forget that he left the door open for autism/MMR vaccine conspiracy theorists.

(Also don’t forget what I’ve hammered him on more than once – his announced plans to EXPAND President Bush’s generally untested faith-based initiatives.)

December 28, 2008

More mall buildings to stay empty next year

Many retailers are retrenching for 2009, even if not extremely close to bankruptcy, especially if they have large outstanding lines of credit, I’m guessing.

That means some older malls where tenants have been vacating may have spots remaining vacant.

It also probably means that brand-new places, like Uptown Village here in Cedar Hill, suburban Dallas, where not all the store sights have been filled yet, may well also have sites remain vacant throughout the coming year.

Oh, and the 2005 bankruptcy law changes that got so many consumer activists riled? They affected the ease with which retailers can file, too, especially regarding real estate holdings. Per the Journal, bankruptcy attorney Lawrence Gottlieb saidonly two retailers have successfully emerged from bankruptcy proceedings since the 2005 changes.

For more and more retailers, like Linens 'N Things formerly here in Cedar Hill, that means liquidation instead of bankruptcy restart.

‘Trainers’ – didn’t we hear that word in Nam?

Obama’s Clintonesque words on Iraq

Of course we did, and even if Obama isn’t old enough to remember that personally, he knows better. Ted Rall joins me in exposing Obama’s hypocrisy in “relabeling” troops who he intends to keep in Iraq long past the middle of 2009, and probably long past the end of 2011 if he can get away with it.

Rall also notes Obama NEVER voted against a supplemental funding bill.

What's the 'new journalism model'?

Newark Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine wants to know, and says people like Glenn "Instadoofus" Reynolds are full of crap in heralding the rise of "citizen journalism."

He says it would help if fewer people would stop spelling "pundit" with an extra "n."

Winger talking point for 2009 – no global warming

Here in the U.S., attacking the Employee Free Choice Act as undemocratic may well remain conservative blogosphere Point No. 1. But, denying man-made global warming lets wingers from around the world weigh in, like Christopher Bocker at the Telegraph across the pond.

He, like other global warming denialists, make two basic errors, so basic a sweating pig in a forest could correct him.

First, 2008 was an average y ear within the last decade. So, it didn’t seem hottER than previous years because it wasn’t.

Second, they (usually willfully) conflate weather and climate.

It snowed in New Orleans? Well, to them that means anthropogenic global warming is a lie.

I counter that it got up to 85 degrees in Big Bend National Park the day after Christmas, so global warming is VERY real.

Bristol Palin now one week overdue – and her 'preggo' pics?

Hello, Wasilla, Alaska, it is now Dec. 28. And, still no official sign of the little child that is allegedly to be born to the still-unmarried Bristol Palin and Levi Johnson. Yes, first children can be overdue, but, still, no comment from anywhere in Palinland?

So, maybe even Bristol's grandparents can lie, no matter what they told a fluff-story writer in their Grandparents interview.

Makes you wonder where the Sarah Palin dysfunction, and her own apparent lying, started from? Is any of this dysfunction related to her attending half a dozen different colleges?

But I digress.

I want to look at two pictures, courtesy of Gryphen.

The picture at left is identified as being when Bristol allegedly would have been four and a half months pregnant; the one below is from early November, when she would allegedly have been seven 4and a half months pregnant. Gryphen comments on how little weight she appears to have gained in the later months of her pregnancy after putting on so much weight early on. But, I have a different possibility, which I'll discuss immediately below.

What if that weight from this fall, rather than Bristol at four and a half months pregnant, is weight she never lost from having Trig? Some women have a more difficult time of losing weight than others do. I don't know if age of first pregnancy has anything to do with it but, per the second pic, snarfing down junk food before, during and after pregnancy certainly would.

So, we have either a fake pregnancy in toto or a fake due date. Audrey at Palin’s Deceptionsand the PD blog says she has been interviewed by the Anchorage Daily News, with the story supposedly coming out any time now.