SocraticGadfly: 1/4/09 - 1/11/09

January 10, 2009

Nutbar Tom Coburn still huffy on wilderness bill

One of the Senate’s top GOOP nutbars, Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn, is leading the opposition to the first major wilderness bill in years. That said, he’s joined by fellow nutbar Jim DeMint and others in opposing a vital bill to protect more western land.

Coburn’s objections are primarily to non-wilderness portions of the bill, which would put areas such as Oregon’s iconic Mount Hood under wilderness protection:
Coburn said the bill includes $3 million for a "road to nowhere" through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska; $460 million for a water project designed to save 500 salmon in California; and $3.5 million to help celebrate the 450th birthday of St. Augustine, Fla., in 2015.

I don’t know about the “road to nowhere” (funny how Coburn didn’t worry about that in Alaska – maybe Harry Reid needs to go Ted Stevens on him), but the anniversary money for St. Augustine, the first permanent European settlement in the U.S., is not at all out of line. And, given salmon problems in California, while I’m sure the water project is not the best long-term solution, it is something.

As for the wilderness areas, if Mound Hood doesn’t say enough, go here for a complete list of wilderness areas in the bill. Beyond Mount Hood, major high desert land in eastern Oregon gets protection, as do significant chunks of Zion and Rock Mountain national parks.

THIS golf club goes to 11

And, if it does, that Spinal Tap-style titanium drive could damage your hearing, including tinnitus and reduced hearing. Ping's new G10 tops out at 130 decibels at contact, well above doctors' recommended 110dB limit for close sounds.

Love Field doesn't want to talk about parking issue

In a blog post earlier this week, I talked about my most recent parking experience at Love Field.

Well, Allen Kennedy, the general manager of Parking Company of America, which runs the Love garages, got back to me.

In e-mails back and forth, I said I pulled in at a B-garage entry gate. I noted that at one point, I got turned around (trying to get back to a parking space I saw originally), and went down a way that was apparently one-way against me. I said that, if his cameras showed me parked in an A-garage space, that was possible but certainly not intentional.

I also noted that the ticket receipt's claim that I had parked at Love at 2:43 a.m. Dec. 31, when Love Field doesn't even have any commercial flights, was simply ridiculous.

Well, per his request, I called as well as e-mailing, after his third e-mail. Got his voicemail, left my home and cell numbers. Haven't heard back yet, nor a reply to a follow-up e-mail I sent him.

Obese now pass overweight in America - rapidly pass

Now, I take BMI measurements with a grain of salt, let me first say. I know they're pushed in part by health insurance companies, who have financial reasons to push the BMI as a way of labeling who is overweight and who is obese.

That said, people classed as "obese" in America now outnumber the merely "overweight."

And, here's real bottom line. As a percentage of population, the "overweight" has held steady in the past 15 years, while the "obese" has increased by 50 percent! And, that's not counting, apparently, the 6 percent labeled as "extremely obese."

Both "obese" and "overweight" top 30 percent, and both of them top "normal weight" numbers.

Ricks – Iraq will be tougher for Obama, even without Clintonesque weaseling

New York Times war correspondent Thomas Ricks has several pungent observations related to Iraq for President-elect Obama, focused on the fact that the Status of Forces Agreement probably doesn't mean that much, and that a lot of the easy withdrawing of "combat" troops has been done.

As to the word in scare quotes, and my "Clintonesque" comment in the header, well, I'll let Ricks speak for himself:
News flash for the president-elect: All our troops are combat troops. It isn't like some American soldiers stroll around Iraq unarmed. Nor do the insurgents inquire about the troops' MOS (military occupational specialties) before detonating an IED. Indeed, I feel safer in Iraq accompanying an infantry unit on foot patrol than I do while riding in a convoy of transport soldiers, who are much more likely to get popped by a roadside bomb. So his promise to get "combat troops" out of Iraq in the next 16 months is a phrase that means much less than it appears to.

Total agreement here on all of Ricks' main points. But, I knew that long ago; hat's another reason I had Green, not Democratic, on my presidential vote. Anyway, read the full post for why Ricks thinks a two-term Obama still might not be all the way out of Iraq.

Real science - not a four-eyed fish after all, just unique

Marine biologists may have to rename the four-eyed spookfish.

Turns out it has just two eyes. But, what was thought to be a second set of peepers is actually mirrors for the one set it does have. And that is a first in the vertebrate world.

Obama says NO to BushCo special prosecutor

I and other progressive and left-liberal bloggers have been pushing for this for some time, with petition drives and more, to get a special prosecutor to investigate all potential illegalities in the Iraq War, up through and including war crimes and/or crimes against humanity.

Well, without President-elect Barack Obama himself saying anything, or his transition team talking directly, it's clear the answer is No.

When asked about this issue Friday, Obama's transition team recycled an old Veep-elect Biden non-answer answer from a month ago. (Gee, isn't Obama's campaign/transition team good about those?)
“The questions of whether or not a criminal act has been committed or a very, very, very bad judgment has been engaged in is — is something the Justice Department decides,” Mr. Biden said, adding that he was not ruling prosecution in or out. “Barack Obama and I are — President-elect Obama and I are not sitting thinking about the past. We’re focusing on the future.”

In other words, no special prosecutor. (The NYT notes incoming White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tackled other questions directly.)

And Further proof that Obama intends to do nothing came out Sunday in his Meet the Pres appearance, further confirmed with yet another weaselly “we’re looking to the future” answer that George Stephanopoulos notes on his blog.

And, while Obama may look to the future, in many other parts of the world, as the Israel-Hamas conflict shows, they don’t.

And "discomfort" doesn't cut the mustard or feed the bulldog.

For people touting John Conyers’ "truth and reconciliation" bill? It has only 10 House sponsors and not a word of support from Pelosi OR B.O. himself; sadly, that ain't going anywhere either.


1. Too many Democratic hands have their own amount of blood on them.

2. As I expected months ago, and as Uncle Fester also said after the election, Obama isn't necessarily ready to give up all that BushCo accumulation of power. As with Obama’s flip-flop on the FISA amendment bill, Obama wants the power that Shrub and Uncle Fester accumulated. Don’t you dare think otherwise.

Have another glass of Kool-Aid, true believers.

Among other things, a special prosecutor could still work around Bush pardons by pursuing civil suits, against which pardon is no recourse, and which have a lower burden of proof in court.

And, folks like Obama and Holder, or somebody in Obama’s list of DOJ appointees, know that’s an option too.

The mask continues to slip...

Detroit auto show - celebration or funeral?

No longhorn stampede through Not-so-Big D this year, whether the critters came from Big D or not. (That said, Big D should note that places in the sun aren't guaranteed.)

Besides what can't be afforded, this year's Detroit Auto Show also has plenty of no-shows.

Among dealers, the biggest no-show is Nissan, followed by Mitsubishi, Suzuki and several luxury and miche brands.

Among the cars, what's missing?

First, a final version of the Chevy Volt, or near to it, even as Toyota unveils the third generation of the Prius and Honda revives the Insight line with a Prius 2.0 knockoff. Read the story for a brief comparison of the two.

But, what's really missing is a diesel hybrid. After all, we now have low-cost clean diesels, courtesy of Volkswagen, and some higher-priced versions from other makers.

So, when is somebody going to marry diesels and hybrid drives, and as something more than a project car?

January 09, 2009

ADN's Palin coverage - nothing but wildcat Palin and yellow editors in middle of road

Texas progressive pundit Jim Hightower's most famous book is probably "There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos," available at Amazon.

Well, the Anchorage Daily News has now found that out, per the title twist, this past week.

Per e-mails exchanged with Sarah Palin, and now posted by Editor Pat Dougherty on the ADN's editors' blog at the link above, it's clear the ADN's top editorial staff tried to "straddle" the middle of the road on coverage of Trig Palin's paternity and has been thoroughly flattened.

First, the ADN has confessed and admitted to what blogger Cajun Boy said the week before the Nov. 4 election - it DID have a reporter investigating the Trig rumors - Lisa Demer.

At the same time, the ADN took a mindset in advance of assigning Demer to the story that undercut its own work:
You may have been too busy with the campaign to notice, but the Daily News has, from the beginning, dismissed the conspiracy theories about Trig's birth as nonsense.

Just as it now dismisses theories about Bristol Palin's recent alleged first/second motherhood, of Tripp. And, that explains why Pat Dougherty and others won't answer my e-mails about the ADN's non-coverage of that issue, too.

Needless to say, Pat's getting a reaming in comments to this particular blog post. And deserves it.

Let's take a further look at WHY he deserves it.

He goes on to say this after posting the exchange of e-mails on the blog:
According to the “return receipt” feature of my email, my reply was opened shortly after I sent it on New Year’s Eve. Other than that, I have received no response or acknowledgement of that email.

And he acts half-surprised by this, even given this history of Palin's dealings with Derner:
Lisa Demer started reporting. She received very little cooperation in her efforts from the parties who, in my judgment, stood to benefit most from the story, namely you and your family. Even so, we reported the matter as thoroughly as we could. Several weeks ago, when we considered the information Lisa had gathered, we decided we didn't have enough of a story to accomplish what we had hoped. Lisa moved on to other topics and we haven't decided whether the idea is worth any further effort.

He says he's not sure what to do with Demer's reporting. Helloooo????

Hello, you tie in a sidebar about Tripp/Bristol, per your own comment about that in your email. You then give Sarah one last chance to cooperate.

If she doesn't, you run what you have and note the questions you asked her that she wouldn't answer. (Or that you asked Dr. Baldwin Johnson.)

What an effing maroon.

A number of the commenters on his blog post tell Dougherty this is why they, in essence, gave up on the ADN actually doing anything.

Meanwhile, the ever-whiney Palin (if you can't stand the heat, turn the gas up and stick your head in the oven, perhaps) ends HER e-mail with this:
As a public official, I expect criticism and I expect to be held accountable for how I govern . . . often the refusal of the media to correct obvious mistakes, unfortunately discredits too many in journalism today, making it difficult for many Americans to believe what they see in the media.

You need not worry about discrediting the media; people like Pat Dougherty are giving it plenty of self-inflicted discrediting.

E-mail him about this here.

Belo is now a buck in Dallas

The Dallas Morning News is now a flat $1 for Monday-Saturday issues.

That comes less than eight months after moving Monday-Saturday rates up from 50 to 75 cents and moving Sunday prices from $1.50 to $2.

So long, Bob Rubin; don't let Citi's door ...

Hit you in the ass on the way out.

Yes sir, the non-Republican most reponsible for our current economic clusterfuck (Well, ties in that honor with Obama's economic Swengali, Larry Summers), is leaving Citigroup.

Rubin has made $115 Mil in consulting (about what, I don't know), etc, for Citi since 1999. He's going to work on non-profit causes, he says. Funny, since Citi has lost $20 million in the last year, I'm sure many people would say he's ALREADY been doing nonprofit work.

His defenders claim he was just hired as a rainmaker. Right.

Speaking of which, MarketWatch also has a news analysis story on the depth and breadth of Rubin's damage-making, not rain-making, not just limited to finances, but bad corner office hires and more.

Rex Tillerson looks at green light, plays Jay Gatsby

ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is now calling for a carbon tax, saying it’s more “transparent” than a cap-and-trade system.

Well, given what a mess the EU’s cap-and-trade system has become, he’s right.

But, if you thing he’s doing this out of the goodness of his heart, or some newfound greenness, I’ve got some “clean coal” in Barack Obama’s Illinois to sell you.

Having protested outside multiple annual eXXXon shareholder meetings here in Dallas, there's no way Rex Tillerson has looked at the green light and seen anything but Jay Gatsby's orgiastic future.

Best case scenario, from the point of view of We the People? He thinks this will save his corporation more money than a cap-and-trade system.

Not so good case? He thinks that either, or all of the above below:
• He can get a tax watered down as hurting the economy in today’s environment;
• he can muddy the waters of public consumption and have that become fallout in Congress;
• He can play some sort of either bait-and-switch or moving the goalposts after Congress says OK to the tax idea.

Winter, recession causes cold SCAT in League City

Or, you could say it left SCAT high and dry, at least temporarily.

SCAT, in this case, is the Space City Aquatics Team, in League City, Texas, down in NASA land.

Here's the basics of the team's woes:
The League City-based youth swim club has moved its practices from the public pool in League City to the public pool in Friendswood after the League City city council dropped pool heating expenses from its annual budget.

For the second time in seven years, SCAT purchased a $20,000 heater for the pool in the fall of 2007 under the assumption the city would pay the monthly expenses. Ten months later, the city decided not to renew the agreement during the budget-making process for the current fiscal year.

Then, when SCAT asked to have the heater returned, a League City spokesperson said an item in the Texas Constitution does not allow for the city to give the heater back as a gift. According to the constitution, the swim club must pay fair market price, public information officer Kristi Wyatt said.

Well, Ms. Wyatt, depending on exactly what your mayor, city manager or parks and rec director said orally in discussions with the swim club, there might be a thing called "breach of contract."

But wait, it gets worse. The two sides are also having an issue over pool drain covers. The city then said the club would have to fill a Public Information Act request to get official copies of any correspondence. (The story said FOIA request, but that's federal law not state.)

So, a HUGE thumbs down to League City, Texas and its city staff.

More medical quackery from our government

I'm sure battlefield acupuncture will prove to be just as effective as morphine the next time one of our Air Force pilots gets shot up, have to crash land, or whatever.

That said, how often does that happen?

If Dr. Richard Niemtzow had any guts, he'd try his quackery in the Army and Marines.

And, how did he get a bullshit title and gig like "Consultant for complementary and alternative medicine for the Surgeon General of the Air Force"? Is my tax money paying for this?

Dumb but true crime - probation becomes six months

Northeast of Fort Worth, James Franklin, panicked when hearing the prosecution push for a life sentence on a drug case, even though advised by his defense attorney he had a shot at probation, "went to the bathroom."

Whilst he was escaping the Wise County courthouse, the jury sentenced him to $1,000 fine and six years in prison, which they recommended be probated.

Well, after he was corralled again, some time and a Taser shot later, the judge gave him 180 days in the cooler as part of his probation, and, of course, he faces the escape charge.

Alt-year Lege costs Texas fed biolab site

I've been saying for years that it's RIDICULOUS for the country's second-largest state to have a legislature that only meets every other year for it.

Well, now Texas has gotten burned by that horse-and-buggy/anti-Reconstruction mentality, and burned big.

The Department of Homeland Security has awarded the siting of a $450 million federal biolab to Kansas, not Texas. Why?

In part because of financial incentives the Kansas Legislature passed in 2008. The Texas Lege, of course, didn't meet in 2008.
"A process that asks states to put together $100 million-plus packages within a month – while some legislatures are not in session to assist with such appropriations – is fundamentally inequitable," Gov. Rick Perry said in aletter to DHS.

Well, boo hoo.

Put that on the Lege's agenda for this year - a constitutional amendment for an every-year legislature.

Newsweek tells Obama to get tougher with Israel

Hmm, maybe the "Israel rules" are losing a bit of their bite with the MSM. Aaron David Miller gets down to brass tacks pretty early:
Despite efforts to sound reassuring during the campaign, the new administration will have to be tough, much tougher than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush were, if it's serious about Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

Miller then says that, without ignoring the various transgressions of Hamas, Obama will have to deal more with Israeli actions on the ground. He says legitimiate punishment of Hamas can't be used to crush Palestinian economic development. He next says Obama needs to do more than previous presidents on the West Bank settlements issue.

Read the full story for more of Miller's thoughts.

For libs disillusioned with Obama, a new phrase

Whether it is hearing him sound Republican in wanting to rein in Social Security, or Clinton-like in touting the savings from "reinventing government," or, in hearing either speech and recognizing what less infatuated minds have been saying all along, that he's long on ideas, short on specifics -

I introduce the new phrase "Obama hangover."

January 08, 2009

Obama fever wearing down at Talking Points Memo?

Over the last day or two, Josh Marshall, owner/publisher of the combined blogging-news site Talking Points Memo, seems to be having the rose-colored Obama glasses sliding further and further down the bridge of his nose.

Take this quote, for example:
Over almost two years, I've learned not to underestimate Barack Obama or assume reflexively that if he's not following my idea of the best way to proceed that he hasn't thought up a much better one I hadn't considered. But it does look to me like he's ceding the initiative to Congress (on his stimulus package).

Then, there's a brief comment in a linkto a reader blog post, about, "What's the deal with all the talk about reining in Social Security?"

And, that poster then says, re Obama targeting that and Medicare, "How can we honestly address the economic challenges we face if the solutions being offered don't seem to address the problem at hand?"

At the same time, earlier this week, Marshall linked to a WSJ blog post noting that Larry Summers, B.O.'s economic Swengali, led the bashing of Raghuram Rajan’s 2005 presentation at the Kansas City Fed’s Jackson Hole symposium about the upcoming dangers in the marketplace and how markets don't always get it right.

Marshall didn't mention Summers by name in his post, and when I pointed that out, noted the post spoke for itself. Maybe he didn't want to show too much Obama disillusionment?

Obama stimulus IS trickle-down

At least on the tax side, and I don't need Tom Harkin to tell me that.

Anyway, the Iowan and other Senate Democrats aren't fully on board with all of President-elect Obama's stimulus package ideas.

As for the business hiring tax credit, North Dakota's Kent Conrad has the nut graf:
"If I'm a business person, it's unlikely if you give me a several-thousand-dollar credit that I'm going to hire people if I can't sell the products they're producing."

Or, to go back to Harkin, per Talking Points Memo, businesses, like individuals, getting tax cuts "are going to be salting it away, not spending it."

Oh, and talks about reining in Social Security right as Baby Boomers are looking at retirement, is both bad politics and bad policy.

Is B.O. really becoming that much of Bill Clinton II that quickly? It's surprising even me.

Is Obama in housing industry pocket?

I can't think of why else he would let homebuilders extend the period from which they can write off old losses for a retroactive tax break from two years to five years as part of his stimulus package, especially when some 1,800 union leaders, by petition, opposed a similar Congressional idea last April.
Daniel Gross has more on that at Slate.

If the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is so in favor, that's another reason to be skeptical.

And, in many parts of the country, the housing bubble has yet to be fully lanced, anyway.

Sarko, Merkel fire warning shot across Obama bow

Say U.S. will not be world’s only financial regulator

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are presenting a united front to the U.S. in front of the April G20 summit of economically developed and strongly-developing nations. They say the European Union’s work on its own set of financial regulatory reforms won’t take second place to any American ideas.

Israel gets more fallout from Gaza widening

First, it appears Hezbullagh or somebody else has decided to take potshots from Lebanon. Given that Israel hasn’t faces any real multi-front action since hte Yom Kippur War 35 years ago, this isn’t good news.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross says Israel is falling short on international standards for helping the wounded in Gaza. World political analysts say the criticism is strong for the Red Cross.

Finally, at Salon, Juan Cole helpfully explains just how neoconservatives got Israel, while dragging us in tow, to this dead-end point in the first place.

My quick thoughts:

1. Israel doesn’t care about the Red Cross. And, despite the RC’s studied neutrality, even when it came to not “pushing” about human rights issues at a place like Gitmo, neocons and fellow travelers will claim this as proof of RC “bias.”

2. Rockets from Lebanon are a different story. Enough different that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may look seriously at getting back out of Gaza short of the crushing of Hamas that many Israelis to the right want.

3. On neocons and their relation to Israel, Olmert will try to deal with Lebanon, and point No. 2, while nervously looking over his shoulder at Bibi Netanyahu.

Uncle Fester claims to be loveable

Yes, Mr. Unindicted War Crimes Co-Conspirator, you’re loveable, and I’m the Tsar of all the Russians. I'm sure Pat Leahy finds you loveable, too.

The only thing Monsanto dryland corn will really grow well …

Is gullible dryland farmers’ indebtedness to Monsanto. It grows only properly interpreted your own rulebook before making decisions about its applicability.

That said, a new post by Audrey on her blog Jan. 6, marginally better in drought, in exchange for which it performs well below average in normal conditions. And, yes, it’s pricey.

How Reid and Senate Dems got Burris wrong

It would help if you properly interpreted your own rulebook before making decisions about its applicability. No wonder they caved in on bare threats of filibusters the past two years.

January 07, 2009

Want to quit drinking in 2009? Address quitting smoking, too

New studies show a synergistic effect between the two addictions. They also show that cigarette-smoking alcoholics smoke more than non-alcoholic smokers. And, while I'm not in Big Pharma's pocket, and don't normally tout particular products, it appears Chantix can help on the smoking side.

Hoffman not in the Cards

The St. Louis Cardinals' search for a new closer will continue to stumble on; long-time aging closer stud Trevor Hoffman appears headed for the Dodgers or maybe the Brewers.

If Hoffman goes to LA, would the Cards take a flier on Takashi Saito and hope he's recovered from his elbow injury?

Trans-Texas Corridor dead; GOP politics alive and kicking

Gov. Rick Perry, claiming the program was "misunderstood" by the Texas public, who apparently weren't collectively sheeple-ish enough for him, has weighed in on the "demise" of the Trans Texas Corridor. (And, could we just pay some Iraqis to "graciously detain" him for a while?

Uhh, yeah, right. Aside from the most extreme worries about a North American Union (the more moderate level concerns had some grounding), it's clear the public new just what was up, Gov. Helmethair?

And, was this all a matter of coincidence, anyway, on "dismantling" and renaming the TTC? The Texas Department of Transportation fixing to come under more direct oversight from the Lege, if it follows Sunset Commission recommendations, and Lil Rickster looking ahead to 2010.

Hutchison thinks not.

A new target for Hamas?

"Joe the Plumber," aka Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, is going to cover the Israel-Hamas fight for 10 days as a Pajamas TV reporter.

Obama says will attack waste, fraud, abuse

Not a ding on Obama, whom I hope succeeds in this effort, but per his pledge, haven't we heard this all before? From Reagan, and other GOPers, with "welfare fraud" and "Medicaid fraud" (try looking at private health insurance fraud, perhaps?) to the Clinton/Gore "reinventing government" pledge.

That said, not all the $1 trillion or m ore in annual deficit projections for the next couple of years is Obama's fault.

Part of this, beyond general economic mismanagement and incompetence by his administration, is Bush's fault. Things such as TARP and the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac prop-up, which the Bush Administration labeled as "investments," are counted as part of this $1 trillion by the Congressional Budget Office, and rightfully so.

Pakistan admits citizenship of Mumbai attacker

After weeks of silence, Pakistan has admitted that surviving Mumbai attacker Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasib is a Pakistani national.

And, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has fired his security advisor, Mehmood Ali Durrani, apparently related to this revelation.

Russia 2009, like Russia 1998, could affect world economy

Jim Jubak at MSN lists several reasons to worry about Russia's current economic problems. The problem starts with Gazprom and Rosneft and slumping oil and gas prices. Jubak also notes that Russian companies owe nearly half a trillion to foreign investors. Finally, the ruble is in the tank.

Summary? All this plus tight credit markets could hurt Russian energy development when oil and gas prices start going back up more. Read the full story for more.

Yay! Mississippi passes Texas

We in the Lone Star State are now just No. 3 in teen pregnancy rates, edged by No. 2 New Mexico and lapped by No. 1 Mississippi.

Another good reason for Obama to get TOTALLY out of Iraq …

And to not dump too many new troops in Afghanistan, either?

Those $1 trillion deficits he expects for several years to come. Of course, since Shrub has put the Iraq spending off budget, technically, Obama cuts in Iraq spending wouldn’t make a difference to the budget. But, such cuts would make a difference to investors from Wall Street, Shanghai and elsewhere.

Even outside of that, the key tell is the deficit as percentage of gross domestic product. Here, Obama’s potential 7 percent deficit would break Ronald Reagan’s 1983 6 percent previous non-war record.

That said, part of this is Bush's fault. Things such as TARP and the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac prop-up, which the Bush Administration labeled as "investments, are counted as part of this $1 trillion by the Congressional Budget Office, and rightfully so.

Oh, speaking of that, I am getting tired of talking heads saying we’re in the worst economic crisis since the Depression. Being old enough here to remember the 1980-82 double-dip recession, I can say that current economic stats aren’t yet close to matching even that situation.

While whistling past the economic graveyard sometimes is just that, at other times, it’s good self-talk. At this time, especially since there’s no evidence to back up media doom and gloom talk, we could use more whistling past the graveyard.

Speaker Straus a boost for urban Texas

Over at THE Dallas Morning News, William McKenzie has the basic insight on why Texans of any political stripe, whether Repubilican, Democratic, independent or third party, if they’re from around Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio or Houston, should welcome Joe Straus as Speaker of the Texas House rather than Tom Craddick:
Straus' emergence is a good thing. The San Antonio Republican is inclusive, understands modern Texas' challenges and hails from an urban area. The latter part is especially important since so many of the state's problems stem from issues surrounding its cities, whether it's transportation systems, air pollution or water supplies.

Indeed. Craddick’s Midland is smaller than a number of DFW or Houston suburbs. Even Mdiland-Odessa combined is smaller than a few.

Ditto for the Amarillo and Lubbock – previous Speaker Pete Laney living halfway between the two in Hale Center.

Not since the end of Gib Lewis in 1993 has Texas has an urban/suburban central/eastern Texas Speaker, and Fort Worth in 1993 was still Cowtown to some degree that today’s Fort Worth isn’t.

Straus, Perry, Hutchison and 2010

Over at THE Dallas Morning News, William McKenzie has an excellent multi-part column on this year’s Texas Legislature, including thoughts on the apparent new House Speaker, Joe Straus.

And, I got to thinking, after reading the last section, will Straus’ leadership of the House affect the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary between incumbent Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison? Here’s the grafs from McKenzie that got me thinking:
Perry will consider about every bill this year with an eye toward his 2010 primary race against Hutchison. …

Perry will portray himself as something other than a D.C. Republican like Hutchison. Look for him to side with social conservatives and anti-taxers, which could lead to end-of-session problems. For example, would he veto a new way to pay for water projects and harm Texas?

But, we know the gov doesn’t have a lot of power, or always even a lot of legislative throw weight, in Texas. What if Straus is just a little less cooperative with this idea than Tom Craddick would have been?

Or, what if Straus is so successful as Speaker, he gets his own political throw weight and supports Hutchison in some way?

Update: Weighing in on the "demise" of the Trans Texas Corridor, Gov. Helmethair claims he'll have no problems working with Straus. (And, could we just pay some Iraqis to "graciously detain" him for a while?

And, was this all a matter of coincidence, anyway, on "dismantling" and renaming the TTC?

Hutchison thinks not.

January 06, 2009

Cohen: Stop blaming Israel

Thee loudest drum-beater for Israel and "Israel rules" in the American MSM, Richard Cohen cries a river about all the people allegedly picking on Israel. He adds a claim that Israel apparently needs to continue to occupy the West Bank to keep Qassam rockets from being launched there.

Uhh, lemme see, Rich. That argument worked really well in Lebanon a couple of years ago. Yes, you say Hezbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah says it was a mistake to bait Israel. Doesn't change the fact that the Israeli offensive didn't work quite so well.

Cohen then goes on to accuse the 750,000 or so Israeli Jews in the U.S. of giving up on Israel.

Hey, Rich, did you ever thing that maybe, instead, they just gave up on your idea of Israel?

Do hunters cause reverse evolution?

In a story that will surely inflame hunters' passion, Newsweek makes a good argument, complete with lost of empirical evidence, that this is exactly the case.

Shrinking, smaller-horned bighorn sheep in Canada. More tuskless elephants in India and Africa. And, the animals not shot as trophies are the losers, or would be the losers, amongst males for breeding rights. Now, with trophy males dead at the end of a smoking gun barrel, they're not.

Some ideas on my part?

States that don't currently have two-sex hunting of game animals should. And, all states should charge even higher prices to hunt males.

Rather than restricting hunting, either to males of a minimum size if males-only, or with that restriction on the male side, perhaps BARRING hunting of males above a minimum size for at least part of hunting season. Or, only allow big bucks to be taken during bowhunting or black powder/muzzle-loader seasons.

Coming out of the closet in Hollywood

Not the gay closet, but theconservative closet.

Andrew Breitbart, the conservative founder of, has launched the website "Big Hollywood" as a cyberspace watering hole for Tinseltown conservatives, complete with space for crocodile tears over their allegedly losing movie roles for breaking Hollywood's liberal omerta.

Seriously, Hollywood has few actual liberals, but many "cause celebrities." And, it has little power to blacklist. In other words, cry me a river, Kelsey Grammar.

Indian PM blames Pakistan for Mumbai attacks

In a statement that indicates the seriousness with which New Delhi views last month's terrorist attack in Mumbai, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, normally known for his low-key demeanor, accused Islamabad of using terror as a policy tool.

Singh acknowledged the degree of home-grown terror in his politically, ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse nation, but said the most sophisticated attacks were coming from outside.

That said, Singh seems to have some darned good evidence of complicity somewhere inside Pakistan (repeat after me: Inter-Services Intelligence) in the dossier Singh's government sent to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

Big Bill Richardson lawyers up

It's looking more and more like the Land of Disenchantment in Fanta Se (aka Santa Fe) for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, starting with the fact he has lawyered up in an ongoing federal investigation of his ties CDR Financial and its president, David Rubin, a Richardson donor.

Also shock me that the Obama team is saying Richardson's disclosures about the grand jury probe were incomplete. Words like "petard," "self" and "hoisting" come to mind.

In case you're wondering what the FBI is investigating, here's the nut grafs:
In New Mexico, the probe of CDR Financial evolved from a larger, nationwide investigation into allegations that investment firms were giving bribes and gifts to local officials to win lucrative work advising local governments on bonds.

The FBI became interested in the New Mexico finance agency, legal sources said, because CDR and its founder had donated $100,000 to two political action committees headed by the governor. The donations, in 2003 and 2004, were made near the time that the authority awarded two contracts to CDR.

Couldn't happen to a better guy, perhaps.

Richardson has had an inflated sense of self, even for a politician, for better than a decade. I'm surprised that, given his plaintive worry that people wouldn't know he's Hispanic going by his last name, that he hasn't changed that. Other than some luck and some chutzpah in the world of diplomacy, he had a thin Congressional record, was trouble at Energy, even if he inherited part of Los Alamos and Wen Ho Lee issues, and has a decent but no better environmental record as gov.

Obama chops busted on Blago contacts

Judicial Watch, getting papers from Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office, says Barack Obama hasn't been 100 percent honest about his post-election contacts with the gov. That said, even a blogger as conservative as Ed Morrissey says surely the Senate seat wasn't discussed even in the period right before the Nov. 17 letter from Valerie Jarrett and John Podesta, let alone around the time of the National Governors' Association conference.

But, that all said, two points are interesting, one mentioned by other blogs and one of my own.

First, yes, why didn't Obama release these two documents? If there's nothing to hide, then why not reveal them? The few conservative blogs I read says it goes to Obama's competence.

I disagree. I think it goes to Obama's secretiveness, and that's illustrated by his flip-flop on the FISA amendments bill this summer. (Everybody should note he "flopped" after locking up the Democratic nomination, and take that to heart. While plenty of Obama nominees have said they're against torture, none of them have said they're against infringing civil liberties.)

Second, why was Jarrett involved with the Nov. 17 letter after Obama named her to a WH position, theoretically to get her out of Blago's clutches?

Burris barred from Senate; legal eagles support him

In what was no surprise, Roland Burris, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's appointee to replace Barack Obama in the Senate, was barred from taking his seat. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Senate Democrats were open to discussing how to handle Burris' future.

That flexibility is probably good, because more and more legal scholars of all political philosophies say Reid and the Senate are wrong.

Warrantless wiretap suit gets OK

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has green-lighted an amended lawsuit by two lawyers who formerly represented a now-defunct Islamic group. This is also good news for the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s lawsuit on FISA immunity; Walker is handing that case, also.

Phosphorus – another US-Israel commonality?

Just as the U.S. allegedly used phosphorus shells in Falluja, Iraq, so Israel reportedly may be doing the same in the Gaza Strip. The issue is still unclear at the moment.

Carpenter to closer for Cards in 2009?

Uhh, I'm not overly fond of this idea of Tony the Red's.

First, the value of closers is often overrated, from where I sit.

Second, the Cards have so far made zero moves, in either free agency or trades, for starting pitching.

So, if Carpenter is healthy enough to be on a Busch Stadium mound next year, he's healthy enough to be out there for the start of the game every fifth contest.

'Israel rules' more than 'Israel lobby' the problem

Saying “Hamas is not the problem; it is a symptom,” Gary Kamiya has an excellent takedown of all the different ways Israel’s attempt to crush Hamas is doomed to failure, or worse.

On the lines of the Stephen Walt piece I blogged about earlier, Kamiya starts with some counterfactual history to illustrate Israel’s wrongness, except he postulates 60 years of angry resistance by ghettoized American Indians. He then tackles how the “Israel rules,” even more than any “Israel lobby,’ make this so hard to discuss in the U.S., even harder than in Israel!

From there, Kamiya notes that, per Napoleon’s murder of the Duc d’Enghein, Israel’s actions toward Hamas are more than a crime, but rather, a blunder.

Finally, he says this is Obama’s first big chacce to prove he does stand for something new in American politics.

For more on what provoked this, read this excellent piece by Helena Cobbam, telling how, among other things, Egypt tried putting the screws to Hamas too hard, as another provocation for the current troubles.

Meanwhile, the loudest drum-beater for Israel rules in the MSM, Richard Cohen, cries a river about all the people allegedly picking on Israel. He adds a claim that Israel apparently needs to continue to occupy the West Bank to keep Qassam rockets from being launched there.

Uhh, lemme see, Rich. That argument worked really well in Lebanon a couple of years ago. Yes, you say Hezbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah says it was a mistake to bait Israel. Doesn't change the fact that the Israeli offensive didn't work quite so well.

January 05, 2009

‘You know,’ Caroline Kennedy wants to be a senator

The New Yorker takes a look at her overuse of this hackneyed phrase, in which overuse she follows in the footsteps of Uncle Teddy.

Counterfactual history, Six-Day War and Gaza today

Stephen Walt offers the bipartisan foreign policy establishment – or the segment of it that will listen – some provocative food for thought about issues in the Gaza Strip.

I’m waiting for the neocon hack job to come out of the mouth of the American Enterprise Institute, Bill Kristol or the New Republic in response.

And now, the Weekly Standard has opened its mouth.

Also weighing in, the loudest drum-beater for Israel in the MSM, Richard Cohen cries a river about all the people allegedly picking on Israel. He adds a claim that Israel apparently needs to continue to occupy the West Bank to keep Qassam rockets from being launched there.

Uhh, lemme see, Rich. That argument worked really well in Lebanon a couple of years ago. Yes, you say Hezbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah says it was a mistake to bait Israel. Doesn't change the fact that the Israeli offensive didn't work quite so well.

Feinstein pissed at Obama

Sen. Betty Crocker, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is steamed at Barack Obama’s nomination of Leon Panetta to head the CIA.

She said she wants an intelligence professional to head the Agency.

Worse than that, former Senator Barack Obama committed the cardinal sin of not “stroking” a committee chair, or even notifying a committee chair before news media broke the story.

Yet more reason to distrust Larry Summers

At a soiree symposium hosted by the Kansas City Federal Reserve, he verbally attacked Raghuram Rajan’s presentation that suggested just maybe free market don’t always get it right.

Subaru defies auto sales odds

The Japanese automaker is the only major manufacturer to post higher sales for 2008. GM, on the other hand, had its worst sales year in half a century.

Bolton, Yoo give Obama advice

If this isn’t rich. Mr. Torture, former BushCo DoJ legal advisor John Yoo, and Mr. Fuck the World, Senate-unapproved UN ambassador John Bolton, both of whom advised Bush on how to trample over Congress, tell Barack Obama don’t do that in a New York Times editorial.

Love Field kypes me out of $20

I have complained about the incident I am detailing below:

I was overcharged for a Dec. 30-Jan. 4 parking trip at Love Field. Even though I was parked in the **B** lot for five days, I was charged at **A** lot rates. As it was after 11 p.m. when this happened, I was too tired to argue about it, or to think about arguing about it, at the parking booth at the time it happened.

Terminal ID: 07894276
Merchant ID: 800000789427006
Batch: 000278
Inv: 13
Date: Jan. 4, 2009
Time: 23:06:04
Auth no: 458966

Customer name, per my Visa card: XXX

I would appreciate your communication as quickly as possible as to how you will rectify this.

We'll see if I get any results.

Will Summers lead Obama to global-warming sellout?

Let’s just say that, from his lever-pulling position inside the executive branch, Larry Summers will continue to oppose a carbon cap-and-trade system.

That said, I agree with Summers that a straightforward carbon tax is better. BUT… due to its regressive nature, it should be ameliorated with something else.

But, given that B.O. himself, drawing on the expertise of neolibs like Summers, already is festooning his stimulus package with GOP-favored, GOP-pandering tax cuts for big biz, a tax to make carbon taxes fairer ain’t gonna happen.

Southwest Airlines racks up three black marks

I flew to Albuquerque Dec. 30-Jan. 4 to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and young niece and nephew.

First, my outgoing flight from Dallas Love was about 30 minutes late Dec. 30.

Second, my return flight Jan. 4 was 15 minutes late.

Third, and worst of all, was bad customer service from Southwest.

When my flight arrived at Albuquerque Dec. 30, our checked luggage was never placed on a baggage carousel. Instead, it was just dumped on the floor in the baggage claim area.

Before other airlines started charging for checked bags, I rarely flew Southwest. While Love Field is closer to my house than D/FW, I never bought all the PR spin about Southwest. And, its agreeing to slow terms in phasing out the Wright Amendment at Love shows that it has no problems playing airline duopoly with American.

That said, not all airlines charge for the first checked bag at least. And, with Wright slow in phasing out, I doubt I'll give any bonus points to Southwest in planning future flights in the near term.

Oh, and a separate bitch: Why, why, does Southwest STILL not let people at least initiate customer service comments/complaints by e-mail?

For years, they have said the same thing on their website:
We are hard at work designing a system that will allow us to accept and respond to e-mail, yet maintain that personal touch that you have come to expect from Southwest.

Bull. Southwest might be in danger of becoming Just.Another.Company.

More curtains pulled back off Northeast Corridor financial shenanigans

I say Northeast Corridor because the bullshit of the last decade (extending back to Larry Summers' time as Slick Willie's frontman) couldn't have happened without Washington and Wall Street acting in tandem.

Basically, the current financial systemis deeply broken. Can it be fixed?

The same pair of authors have some suggested points, from letting big financial com panies fail in a structured fashion as necessary, through getting rid of the Moody's and Fitch's of the world, to tightening the regulatory screws - and the accountability screws - at the SEC.

Obama panders to GOP on stimulus; TPM starts to see light?

It is pretty sad when Barack Obama is proposing to First, we have the ADN getting scooped out Bush-Bush on tax cuts as part of his economic stimulus.
The Obama tax-cut proposals, if enacted, could pack more punch in two years than either of President George W. Bush's tax cuts did in their first two years. Mr. Bush's 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut of 2001, considered the largest in history, contained $174 billion of cuts during its first two full years, according to Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation. The second-largest tax cut -- the 10-year, $350 billion package engineered by Mr. Bush in 2003 -- contained $231 billion in 2004 and 2005.

And, that's only PART of this Christmas tree. Read the full story for details. In non-inflated dollars, the total Christmas tree sounds like Reagan's 1981 cuts.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell still ain't satisfied. He wants money to states to increase the federal portion of Medicaid spending to be made a loan.

Hey, Obamiac Kool-Aid drinkers, any of you ready to start taking off the rose-colored glasses?

Josh Marshall isat Talking Points Memo.

January 04, 2009

WHAT is up with the Anchorage Daily News on Tripp Palin?

First, we have the ADN getting scooped by People magazine, a non-news enterprise

Then, the mystery deepened, with People changing its initial report of the day of Tripp's birth, two different birth weights reported, etc., the ADN gave us an unbylined story as its initial reporting.

That, then, was followed by Gov. Palin's lying press release about Tripp's birth, in which the ADN didn't challenge a single claim of Palin's press secretary about unidentified alleged lies in media coverage of Tripp's birth.

Then, the ADN runs an inane story on People's "Levi's not a dropout" phone call from Sarah Palin.

You can e-mail Kyle Hopkins, perpetuator of the latest non-story "story," here.

Other e-mail addresses include:
1. Pat Dougherty -- Senior Vice President & Editor
2. Julie Wright -- Managing editor
3. David Hulen -- Assistant managing editor

Here's what I told the four:
Let me see, so far you've been stiffed with a non-press report from Gov. Palin's press spokesman Bill McAllister, followed by uncritically printing one that had the whopper lie of claiming "misinformation" in coverage of Tripp's birth without specificing WHAT misinformation was run by either conventional media or blogs.

In between, the ADN has run your story about Sarah's phone call to People, and had its initial report of the birth being nothing but linking to People's story.

So, when is the ADN going to do some ACTUAL reporting?
1. What hospital was Tripp born in?
2. Any information, on background (to get around HIPAA for attribution in a story) from someone from that hospital?
3. Any pics? What? No photog sent to that hospital, if you knew which one it was?
4. If you didn't know which one it was, why not?

Couple of other things:

First, if McAllister refused to answer follow-up questions, why was that not noted in the initial press release story?

Second, did ADN editorial staff think of running a list of those follow-up questions on which he stiffed you?

Given the background of Trig's birth, I can't believe inquiring minds aren't getting more out of you.

Write them something similar yourself!

Also ask the triumvirate of editorial brass hats this:

Why is rural affairs reporter Kyle Hopkins, rather than Sean Cockerham, your state politics reporter, covering Tripp's birth, anyway?

Update, Jan. 3: None of the four ADN folks above have responded to my e-mails. Please, take up the cudgels!

From the Department of Economic Self-Delusion

Blue Chip Economic Indicators thinks the recession will be over by mid-year.


Big Bill bows out from Commerce

Obama gets his first Cabinet nomination ding, as New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has withdrawn his name from nomination as Barack Obama's Secretary of Commerce.

Richardson cited an ongoing federal grand jury probe over "pay-to-play" questions. An Albuquerque grand jury is looking into whether CDR Financial Products was given a contract with the New Mexico Finance Authority because of pressure from Richardson.

Given the current situation in Illinois, I'll give you 5-1 odds that Obama staff saw something on internal vetting and/or FBI checks and asked Senor Richardson to exit the nomination process, stage left.

Third-hand smoke?

Some scientists and health professionals worry a health hazard could lurk in all the smoking-caused pollutants that stick to walls, curtains, etc. in homes, etc. primariliy frequented by smokers.

According to the story, among the substances in third-hand smoke are hydrogen cyanide, butane, toluene - used in paint thinners, arsenic, lead, carbon monoxide, and even the radioactive polonium-210.

Read the full story and make your own judgments.

Reid - No Triple-J in the Senate

If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is ready to use the Capitol Police to bar Roland Burris from the Senate, what would he have done if, Read against his express wishes, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich had appointed Jesse Jackson Jr.? Showed up in person on the Senate steps with an Uzi? Designated Joementum to do that?

Oh, and it's interesting that the potential appointees Reid opposed were all African-American. No, I don't think he's racist, but, he has boxed himself into more of a corner re Bobby Rush's claims.

Obama wants to expand unemployment bennies

And, it sounds like a generally good idea. Unemployment bennies for part-time employees sounds particularly good. Government support for employers to offer COBRA benefits is also good. Even better is letting people laid off from companies that did not offer health insurance to immediately apply for Medicaid.

Read the full story for more.

I will add the suggestion of a COLA for the minimum wage as another boost.

Israeli stupidity on display again in Gaza - with US support

First, it's clear that Israel wants to crush Hamas in Gaza. But, haven't we been through this, over and over, through the past 26-plus years, since 1982 Lebanon?

Hamas won't be crushed. Its leadership will move elsewhere, destabilizing Arab countries, whether Lebanon, Egypt or Jordan. (I don't see Hamas in Syria.) Israel increases Arab-world enmity and solves nothing. Meanwhile, Gaza itself becomes the locus for a grassroots intifada or similar.

Meanwhile, at the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. snuffs a cease-fire resolution. Shock me.

Now, if Israel's resolve is to crush Hamas, short of using scorched-earth tactics, this operation will run past Jan. 20. I'll take a guess that somebody pushes the Security Council for a new resolution under the new U.S. Obama Administration.

I'll also take a guess that the Obama Administration severely waters down anything with the threat of a similar veto.