SocraticGadfly: 2/1/09 - 2/8/09

February 07, 2009

More A-Rod as A-Roid thoughts

Over at Yahoo, Dan Wetzel has a great column on this, noting that allegedly-clean A-Rod was supposed to deliver MLB’s record book from the taint of Bonds.

Beyond wondering if baseball is past even having a sense of outrage, Wetzel notes that A-Rod as A-Roid has the semi-positive fallout of shattering the “roider-as-Popeye” stereotype.

He also wonders whether A-Rod, with his oft-fragile psyche, is capable of standing up to the stress of “user” mixed with “Bonds record chase,” as compared to Bonds’ iron mental discipline.

And, speaking of Barry, Josh Peter breaks down what each of the steroids he allegedly took is supposed to do for you.

Free polls from
Which player do you dislike more?
Barry Bonds Alex Rodriguez   

A-Rod now A-Roid

As is being blogged everywhere in the sports world, Sports Illustrated reports New York Yankee standout whiner third baseman Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003. In case you don’t remember, 2003 was the test year for MLB steroid testing.

But that’s not all it’s reporting.

Supposedly, Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the players' union, tipped A-Rod off in advance about a 2004 drug test. Given that the steroid of A-Rod’s choice was (is?) Primobolan, which reportedly has a much shorter bloodstream half-life than Deca-Durabolin, an Orza tip-off, if true, surely would have allowed him to beat a test.

Question: Will A-Rod break Bonds’ home run record?

He has seven years left on his Yankees-for-life contract, which runs until he’s 40. He’s 210 homers shy, which is 30 per year. Since a no-steroid Hank Aaron hit 40 dingers in 1973 at the age of 39, and had 44, 38, 47 and 34 in the four years before that, at ages 35-38 (A-Rod turns 34 this summer), it seems possible.

That said, in the non-steroid world, Aaron was the definite exception, not the rule, to typical longevity of power hitters. Most tail off about the age of 36 or 37.

That said, lets look at this. Give A-Rod four seasons of 35 dingers a year – through age 37. That gets him 140 of the 210 he needs. To get 70 more over the next three years after that, to pass Bonds, would require 23 or 24 a year.

And, over at Yahoo, Dan Wetzel has a great column on this, noting that allegedly-clean A-Rod was supposed to deliver MLB’s record book from the taint of Bonds.

Beyond wondering if baseball is past even having a sense of outrage, Wetzel notes that A-Rod as A-Roid has the semi-positive fallout of shattering the “roider-as-Popeye” stereotype.

He also wonders whether A-Rod, with his oft-fragile psyche, is capable of standing up to the stress of “user” mixed with “Bonds record chase,” as compared to Bonds’ iron mental discipline.

That all said, since I’ve not had a poll here in a while, and we’re talking about A-Rod chasing Bonds:

Free polls from
Which player do you dislike more?
Barry Bonds Alex Rodriguez   

TARP 2.0 to avoid ‘bad bank’ idea

Reportedly at the insistence of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, he of protecting his NYC hedge fund buddies’ backs, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s bank aid plan scheduled to be unveiled Monday will only have a scaled-back “bad bank” provision. So, it’s probably going to keep skirting the issue of just how bad off some fiscal institutions are.

And, if a bad bank is off the table, certainly, anything close to bank nationalization is out of bounds.

The good part is that, under one program targeted for more Troubled Assets Relief Program funds, the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility, assets from banks in the toilet will reportedly only be bought at a discount, not at their banks’ face value.

That said, how serious of a haircut these banks are forced to take will be another issue.

And, other potentially good news is the FDIC will reportedly have its credit line tripled. To me, that says that the government is not only ready to backstop more banks, but ready to move in, even with full takeovers, in more cases as needed. Perhaps not “nationalization,” but something.

Cops and courts + prostitutes + johns = stereotypical results

From the D.C. Madam to the revelations of a New York City call girl plying her trade to bankers (probably the same ones now plying THEIR trade to TARP), it never fails.

The women get arrested, and the men – especially if they’ve got big dinero/fame/recognition – walk away.

Welfare reform rubber to hit road of recession reality

We haven’t had a real recession since Clinton “triangulated” in 1996 by fellating Newt Gingrich and bending over for Dick Morris.

Well, we’ve got one now. Can the welfare reform of 1996 hold water?

It’s questionable, says Seth Wessler.

AP gets Obama-Iraq ‘withdrawal’ story wrong

If only “combat troops,” whatever the hell they are, are scheduled for removal from Iraq, then we’re not actually withdrawing now, are we?

In fairness to the AP, many Obamiacs missed this distinction six months ago. Or ignored it. Or tried to explain it away.

Is mainstream media fearmongering the recession?

I not only hear that thrown around as a general rhetorical question; as a newspaper editor, it sometimes comes to me personally.

Being over the age of 40, and remembering well, the Carter-Reagan recession, I’d have to give a qualified Yes to that question. For example, this Time graphic compares recent job losses to the 1992 and 2001 recessions.

BUT… if you’re over the age of 35, you know both of those recessions were mild.

Even worse, since the Internet world, especially the Internet commentary world of blogs, blog readers, etc., skews quite young demographically, the “kids” there seem historically clueless about the U.S. economy before Bill Clinton became president.

But, the reality is the Carter-Reagan recession was worse than this one’s been so far.

How much worse? In BOTH 1982 and 1983, job losses, as a percentage of workforce, were , worse than 2008.

But, thanks to historically cluelessness of much of the wired generation, historical amnesia of the “old media,” and, I suspect, a bit of narcissism among Gen X, or at least the younger portion of it (I don’t consider myself to be fully a Boomer OR fully a Gen X person), we get doomsaying that, for right now at least, is indeed over the top.

In fact, the more and more the “ohhhhhh, so bad” line grows as a talking point in the wired world, the more I wonder about whether narcissism, rather than historical cluelessness, isn’t the primary driver

Sirota slams Obama Cabinet as part of duopoly

Calls out “one-party town” still in place

Starting with the fact it has not a single clear-cut Iraq war opponent.

He then goes on to the “corporate lackeys” of Obama’s economic team, starting with eminence grise Larry Summers, noting no “rival voice” to neoliberal worship of market orthodoxy is around:
From former federal officials like Robert Reich and Brooksley Born, to Nobel Prize-winning economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, to business leaders like Leo Hindery, there's no shortage of qualified experts who have challenged market fundamentalism. But they have been barred from an administration focused on ideological purity.

But, Sirota is on a GREAT roll and doesn’t stop there.
Washington is the same one-party town it always has been -- controlled not by Democrats or Republicans, but by Kleptocrats (i.e., thieves).

That’s why I voted Green again.

Read the whole thing.

I didn’t want to believe in Change You Must Be Brainwashed to Accept™.

February 06, 2009

Duncanville tops Cedar Hill in Texas hoops showdown

A jam-packed Sandra Meadows Arena in Duncanville was the setting Feb. 6 for one of the state¹s most anticipated basketball games, round two of Cedar Hill vs. Duncanville in District 7-5A.

If the Longhorns could have bottled their first-quarter performance, they would have had a sure sweep over Duncanville¹s Panthers.

But Duncanville turned up the defensive heat, especially in the second half, to ring up solid 58-46 victory.

Nerves and tension were in the air, along with a bucketful of Panther fan noise. Both teams had several unforced turnovers in early action that contributed to a low-scoring 13-8 Longhorn lead after one period.

Even with the Longhorns taking that lead, though, there were signs that this might be ³one of those nights.²

Shawn Glover appeared to have the first points of the night on an alley-oop dunk, but he couldn¹t cleanly finish the slam. The ball eventually fell, but only with Glover still hanging on the rim; it was waved off with a basket interference call.

About halfway through the quarter, Glover got a chance to dunk a fast break, even without a totally clean angle to the rim. But, he couldn¹t get that to go down, either.

It was worse yet for Duncanville, though. Its outside-oriented offense hoisted three air balls in the first quarter.

Duncanville outscored Cedar Hill 18-10 in the second, keyed by a 10-0 run in the middle of the quarter that forced ¹Horns Coach David Milson to break down and call a timeout. Jourdan Isom hit a three to knot the game back up, but Roger Franklin hit a three at the buzzer for a 26-23 Panther halftime lead.

The ¹Horns came out of the locker room strong to start the second half, taking a 31-30 lead at the five-minute mark on a Tanner Milson three-pointer.

But, that would be the last time the Longhorns saw the top side of the scoreboard.

A block and an alley oop keyed a Panther 6-0 run. The Longhorns got a basket, but the Panthers then had another 6-0 run, which also saw Longhorn post player Thomas Gipson pick up his third foul.

The two runs moved the score to 42-33 Duncanville; the quarter ended at 44-34.

In the fourth, te Longhorns forced a couple of turnovers and twice pulled to within four, at 48-44 and 50-46.

But that would be it. The ¹Horns missed two three-pointers, then had an unforced turnover. Duncanville hit late free throws and wrapped the game.

KBR pleads guilty to foreign bribery

Kellogg, Brown & Root, which was peddling influence inside Texas more than 60 years ago (that’s YOU, “Landslide Lyndon”) has pled guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

by bribing Nigerian officials.

Instead of fines, I suggest, to properly punish this Halliburton spinoff, we get some of Halliburton’s electrocution-prone showers from Iraq and invite KBR officials to scrub up.

Senate agrees to ‘stimulus-lite’ – if Teddy K votes

The Senate has reportedly negotiated a $780 billion economic stimulus package, but it reportedly could require Ted Kennedy to get off his brain tumor sickbed to vote.

Too bad. I was hoping Harry Reid (D-Ballless) would have junked the rules of the Senate to force passage under simple-majority budget enabling resolution standards.

Meanwhile, Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R-Whack Job) had this bit of idiocy:
Obama “could have had a very, very impressive victory early on,” said Cornyn, who heads the Senate Republican campaign committee. “But this is not turning out to be an impressive victory. it is turning out to be a little bit of a black eye.”

True, Obama self-imposed that black eye to some degree, by naively assuming the Congressional GOP would sing from the Kumbaya hymnal.

But, whack jobs like Cornyn threw the punch.

Why do Boy Scouts hate trees?

It’s because they like the the green of cash that clearcutting Scout-owned woods brings. Or, the green of cash from selling lands that had been deeded to Scouts as camp sites, to clear-cutting logging companies.

Boy Scout executives say they have to do this because they’re losing money by banning gays and atheists from Scouting.

The story details how some logging has disturbed preserved natural areas next to Scout lands.

Anyway, Scouts continue to move more and more away from a nature focus, so it’s probably not so unexpected that leaders don’t care.

Genesis planet Pakistan releases Khan

Pakistan’s high court has ordered that rogue nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan be released from house arrest.

Will the new civilian government monitor him more closely than did President/General Pervez Musharraf?

I thought this was what Volcker was for?

If President Obama has Paul Volcker already serving as an outside economic advisor (albeit one getting stiffed by Larry Summers) why does he now also need an Economic Recovery Advisory Board consisting of Volcker and others? Given the bipartisan nature of this board, with Reagan-era economic advisor Martin Feldstein and a few CEOs, it sounds like a Congressional lobbying group as much as anything.

When you’ve already been critiqued from a more liberal point of view for being tardy on taking charge, it seems to me that adding even more cooks to the broth is a risk proposition.

And given that “multiple cooks” seems as good an explanation as any for other Obama Administration screw-ups, like that of the nomination of Gen. Zinni as ambassador to Iraq, Team Obama needs to be careful.

How Japanese stimulus offers insights to US

There’s a few takeaways for American politicos and economic policymakers from Japan’s attempts to spend itself out of the “lost decade” of the 1990s.

• Have spending plans, both for the nonce and longer-term;
• Roads and bridges aren’t the best job-producers – think education, followed by community/cultural;
• Make sure specific spending is done for economic and not political reasons.

Read the full story for more.

Your local police are unscientific

At least when it comes to forensics. That’s the conclusion of an strongly worded report by no less than the National Academy of Science — a report which the Department of Justice had tried to kill or delay, “rightfully” worried about the findings.

It’s not the first time the National Academy has fou8nd fault with police “science” at either the local, state or federal level. A 2004 report repudiated the F.B.I. technique of matching the chemical signatures of lead in bullets at a crime scene to similar bullets possessed by a suspect.

The nonbinding report says Congress should create a federal agency to guarantee the independence of the field.

That said, although the report is nonbinding, it’s a huge tool for criminal defense attorneys; Congress is going to have to adopt the basic findings of the report.

February 05, 2009

Don’t blame MSM for global warming ignorance

Instead, blame politicians and policymakers, Matthew Nisbet says. He explains that the Obama Administration has its work cut out for it, if it’s really ready to do that work.

The good, bad and ugly of Senate GOP stimulus trimming

First, if we really want to trim money, how about cutting, oh, $100 billion from the Defense budget? Or more?

Instead, a band of theoretically non-wingnut fiscally conservative Senate Republicans are offeriug a grab bag of cuts.

Let me comment on just a few.

We don’t need to slash the Coast Guard’s icebreaker upgrade budget to zero. With global warming and increased shipping through the Arctic, this is invaluable.

We could cut even more from NASA’s manned exploration budget than we have. Between osteoporosis likelihood and cosmic ray dangers, the idea of manned missions to Mars any time in the next 20 years, or manned missions to the Moon as a stepping stone to that, need to killed. Stone. Cold. Dead.

It’s a good political solution but a stupid bureaucratic solution, as Team Obama continues to make ad hoc decisions, often forced on it by failure to fully do original homework.

And, it’s another think, like Obama’s “czars,” that muddies bureaucratic lines of control.

Nearly zeroing out more Heath and Human Services wellness program money is penny-wise and pound-foolish, pun intended on that.

And, from down here in Texas, zeroing out more money for the U.S-Mexico International Boundary and Water Commission just won’t fly.

The loophole in Obama’s executive pay cap

I figured it wouldn’t apply retroactively. I’d have liked that, but not a killer reason to beat Obama upside the head. But applying the pay cap in the future only to companies that get “extraordinary” federal bailout aid rather than everyday(?) bailout aid?

Big loophole.

Yeah, the Senate is going to look at tightening up both the retroactivity and tax deductibility of executive pay, which should be eliminated, not just restricted

Nonetheless, it’s another misstep by President Obama on the road to financial credibility with the American public.

Other loopholes there, too. Stock grants may be a way around the caps. Subjecting CEO pay in the future the nonbinding shareholder votes? Window dressing.

And, given that Larry Summers is already putting the bureaucratic squeeze on Paul Volcker, five bucks gives you a guess whose fingers are on that loophole, whether directly or via Summers’ little pocket weasel, Tim Geithner.

Judd Gregg, the Democratic Congress, and the 2010 Census

In addition to not being a fan of the Commerce Department in the past, President Obama’s Commerce Secretary nominee, New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, wasn’t a fan of spending a lot of money on the 2000 Census.

Especially given than Census undercounts tend to favor the GOP, The New York Times editorializes about whether or not Obama has thought through all the political ramifications of the Gregg nomination.

Good example. Texas is expected to gain as many as three House seats.

What if undercounts cost the D/FW Metroplex, or Houston, a seat, and a Democratic one at that?

Aha. In response to complaints from black and Hispanic leaders, the Obama Administration is pulling the 2010 Census out from Commerce control.

It’s a good political solution but a stupid bureaucratic solution, as Team Obama continues to make ad hoc decisions, often forced on it by failure to fully do original homework.

And, it’s another think, like Obama’s “czars,” that muddies bureaucratic lines of control.

Obama find the cojones to defind Hilda Solis?

So far, after backing off the importance of the Employee Free Choice Act, President Obama has let his Labor Secretary-designee, Hilda Solis, twist slowly in the wind, like L. Patrick Gray.

Besides ramming through neolib Larry Summers buddy Tim Geithner to run Treasury, NOT trying to ram through Solis is one of the primary proof points Obama isn’t necessarily all that liberal.

On the other hand, Solis’ husband’s old tax liens mean she’d be a good fit in the adminstration.

Will Obama make Panetta give back TARP money?

Seems President Barack Obama’s CIA nominee, Leon Panetta, has been getting serious dinero in speaking fees from companies under the TARP. And, other “honoraria,” etc.

The Great Communicator Obama ain’t…

And no, to Obamiacs, including those continuing to challenge me, it ain’t just this left-liberal saying that. Joan Walsh of Salon is the latest, and one of the most high-profile, mainstream liberal commentators to ask the rhetorical question of:

WTF is up with Obama?

She notes he’s done a poor job selling his stimulus bill. Earlier today, on Talking Points Memo, Theda Skocpol excoriated him for needlessly empowering the Congressional GOP.

Let’s look at Walsh, though:
Obama is the most remarkable Democratic communicator of my lifetime, I think, and even he's not rising to the task, yet. He needs to lay out his priorities, clearly; he needs to simplify his pitch, yet he also needs to add some depth to his and our understanding of how we got here.

I agree with everything after the first clause.

I’m not sure he’s better than the Slickster.

That said, Walsh, linking to this Robert Reich colunn, says Obama as Democratic Great Communicator needs to make the point that income equality has been slipping back away since the 1970s.

Here is her bottom-line advice:
He needs bigger and simpler themes.

I would not disagree, but why hasn't Great Communicator II already recognized that?

And, as for relying on the Democrats?

Let’s start with 1977.

Twelve of the last 32 years have had a Democratic president. The slide may have been less under Carter and Clinton, but it kept happening. Ditto for the 20 of the last 32 years the Democrats controlled the House.

That said, would I like Democrats addressing this issue more than Republicans?

Well, yes, but, that’s a bit like saying I’d rather die from a heart attack at 60 than a car accident at 45.

I’d really rather live to be 80 and enjoy my retirement.

Walsh notes how much more government work we need to do to truly transform America into the 21st century.

February 04, 2009

Zinni gets stiffed for Iraq – and maybe he should have been

Former Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni was first proposed to be Obama’s ambassador to Iraq, but then had the rug pulled out from under him in favor of Chris Hill, and didn’t find out about it from retired Marine Gen. buddy James Jones, the national security advisor, until shortly before it hit the media.

Zinni was obviously steamed.

But, doesn’t appointing the guy who was executive VP of Dyncorp, with all of its Iraq-based defense contract money, until the end of last year violate at least the spirit of Obama’s no-lobbying pledge?

Answer, yes.

Zinni has much less reason to be steamed at the Obama Administration than do We The People.

One Obama supporter mad about bipartisanship

Theda Skocpal says that, by playing the bipartisanship tune, Obama needlessly empowered Republicans.

Unemployment to top 7.5 percent

That’s Gallup’s prediction of what January employment numbers will show when released Friday.

Unemployment to top 7.5 percent

That’s Gallup’s prediction of what January employment numbers will show when released Friday.

Amway seeks to be your economic stimulus

The name that is gone but not forgotten from the multi-level marketing world could be back again.

Umbrella company Alticor, which acquired the Amway name in 2000 and changed it to Quixtar, wants to revive it for what would be Amway’s 50th anniversary, claiming it can revive the company’s mystique.

Public: GOP more to blame for incivility

Obama’s bipartisan outreach attempt on his economic stimulus package has gotten some favorable upside from the American public. By 10 percentage points, it finds the GOP more to blame

All that’s wrong with MSLBs on Obama

Is on full display in in this Washington Monthly post, in which Hilzoy engaged in great apologetics, with lips fully pressed to Obama’s backside, followed by the majority of commentors engaging in dittohead ass-kissing of their own for Hilzoy.

Here’s my take on Obama’s mea culpa of last night.

Obama gets 2/3 of a kudo for fessing up on Daschle and Killifer. He loses a full 1/3 of a kudo for not talking about Geithner.

Hilzoy gets a full kudo for getting plenty of Obamiac ass-kissing over this post, riffing back to Doubtful's comments. Obamaics lose a kudo, go direct to jail, do not pass go, and put down the Kool-Aid.

For Obamiacs who consider it a “smear” for me to continue to use that last phrase?

“Deal with it.”

I’m by no means alone in that observation, and not just by dyed-in-the-wool Republicans, either.

As I blogged yesterday, my wish is that Obama would apologize for some of his early flubs AND that you all would apologize for your hero worship. So far, we have 2/3 of the first half and zero of the second half.

The race to 100mpg

Wired has the lowdown on the Progressive Automotive X-Prize. The winner has to have a car that delivers 100mpg or its electric equivalent, be capable of mass production of 10,000 units at reasonable cost, and be capable of that production by 2014.

A few Obama kudos

No, I don’t always bash him.

First, he plans on neutering the “Buy American” portion of the stimulus bill the House already passed.

Caveat: He didn’t have much choice. Not only does it violate WTO regulations, the European Union threatening a trade war. And, given that the U.S. economy is smaller than the combined Euroworld economy, that’s a trade war we can’t win.

Second, he is proposing a serious cap on executive pay for companies getting TARP bailout funds.

Caveat, though: As with TARP itself, this legally cannot affect bonuses already part of executive contracts, unless the company in question can do a cram-down renegotation on the CEO in question.

Third, as I requested in a blog post yesterday, he’s eating a little crow over the failed Tom Daschle nomination.
“I screwed up. I’ve got to own up to my mistake. Ultimately, its important for this administration to send a message that there aren't two sets of rules — you know, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes.”

Caveat on this, though – no apology was made over the already-approved Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Also, not a caveat but a musing – how much of the American public’s trust has he lost over the Daschle, Killefer and Geithner nominations?

No, no, no to car-buying stimulus

Congress allowing the interest on new car payments as an income-tax deduction is about the worst middle-class targeted deduction since the one on which it’s modeled – the deduction for mortgage interest.

And, long-term, this could be much more pricey than Congress is estimating, methinks.

Beyond that, overlooked in the focus on the housing bubble, the car industry also “bubbled” due to too many people getting better deals on car loans, and for more pricey cars, than their credit history warranted.

I really, really, don’t like the idea of reinflating bubbles like this.

February 03, 2009

Larry Lewis era over in Lancaster – but life there goes on

In exchange for the Lancaster (Texas) school board dropping its notice of termination against him, suspended Superintendent Larry Lewis has agreed to resign, effective July 31.

Lewis, who got national attention for things such as trying to implement a four-day school week less than two weeks before school started, and supporting a football player wearing an ankle monitor from a criminal case to play at Lancaster, will certainly leave a legacy.

When editor of the Lancaster weekly community newspaper, I reported on other problems he had, such as bad construction of a new high school in Lancaster.

That said, the International Baccalaureate Program that he got started up in Lancaster is reportedly some sort of success, and Lewis did try to change around a culture there.

Now, if only somebody would run against School Board President Carolyn Morris and defeat her, the other half of needed LISD cleansing would happen.

If not “nice” for it to be seen, it would behoove Lewis to have learned lessons in humility and team-building, among other things, from this experience. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath over it.

As for anybody running against Morris, that school district seat and its parallel Lancaster City Council district have NEVER had a contested race since the city and school district went to single-member districts more than a decade ago.

Bonds, Clemens in more trouble

Bonds? A retested urine sample from 2003 has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

And, tomorrow, Judge Susan Illston will unseal at least part of prosecutors’ evidence in Bonds’ perjury trial.

Clemens? His DNA was found in syringes, tested at UCLA, allegedly used to inject him with PEDs.

I have an idea.

Let’s roid up the two of them and throw them together in a locked room.

Car sales an economic dark cloud

The formerly Big Three all had sales drop 40 percent or more in January, compared to a year ago. Chrysler was off more than 50 percent.

The Japanese companies weren’t quite so bad, but had losses in the 25-33 percent range. Hyundai, meanwhile posted another gain. Guess those $7,999 Excel, or Accent, or whatever, ads are catching some eyes.

Duke Energy lies about being green

In the past couple of years, Duke Energy has appeared to be a leader in concerns about global warming, especially amongst its brethren in the utilities business.

Well, per Hastings Group, here's the quite different reality.

. February 5, 2009 NC/Duke Energy News Advisory ...

At 11:30 a.m. Eastern time Thursday, Feb. 5, five North Carolina groups will release a major new report detailing the statewide candidates and elected officials who have benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions in North Carolina by Duke Energy's political action committee (PAC) and its top executives.

The North Carolina organizations joining together to release the report are: NC WARN (North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, Durham, NC); The Canary Coalition (Sylva, NC); Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (Asheville, N.C., office); Southern Energy Network (Chapel Hill, N.C.); and Mountain Voices Alliance (Asheville, N.C.) The report is a comprehensive analysis of State Board of Elections data covering the period January 2005-November 2008.

The new report reveals multiple donations from Chairman/CEO Jim Rogers and about two thirds of Duke's senior executive team. The contributions were made as Duke Energy sought favorable state action on a host of fiercely debated energy matters, including approvals for a new Cliffside coal fired power plant; approval of Senate Bill 3, which shifted much of the risk of building new power plants to the consumer; a possible nuclear plant just across the border in South Carolina; and the "Save-a-Watt" scheme the company touts as a tool to promote energy efficiency but which critics call a consumer rip-off that does very little to reduce demand for electricity.

TO PARTICIPATE: You can join this live, phone-based North Carolina/Duke Energy news conference (with full, two-way Q&A) at 11:30 a.m. ET on February 5, 2009 by dialing 800-860-2442. Ask for the "North Carolina/Duke Political Contributions" news event.

CAN'T PARTICIPATE?: A streaming audio recording of the news event will be available on the Web as of 6 p.m. ET on February 5, 2009.

CONTACT: Leslie Anderson, 703-276-3256 or

Home sales economic ray of sunshine?

An iudex of sales of new homes are UP 6.3 percent.

That said, sales are still down in the bubble-laden West, and the National Association of Realtors cautions against reading too much good news into the data.

Kyrgyzstan to close US air base

Well, THIS will likely put Obama’s plans to send more troops to Afghanistan into somewhat of a new light.

And, given that the Kyrgyzstan announcement came just after a Russian foreign aid pot of gold, which is not the only recent Russian stirring in Central Asia, it’s going to reshape other Obama foreign affairs for A-stan “czar” Richard Holbrooke.

Killifer joins Obama tax smashup

President Obama’s would-be budget reform “czar,” Nancy Killefer, has withdrawn her name from nomination because of… wait for it…


How bad?

She didn’t pay unemployment taxes on a nanny, then resisted making it good.

How bad?

The District of Columbia filed a tax lien against her house.

Yes, she THEN paid the back taxes, but even then, took five months.


The tax lien was announced a month ago, but Team Obama has refused to answer questions about it.

Change He Wants to Force Us to Believe In?

Lemme see, three down in Killifer, Big Bill Richardson, and the just-withdrawn Tom Daschle (who will likely still become the Obama healthcare czar. One indispensable man hoser approved by the Senate anyway, in Geithner.

Let’s see how the Obamiacs spin this one, including Team Obama’s refusal to comment for a month.

Does Obama’s no-lobbyist rule include Daschle?

I know, I know. Tom Daschle, an Obama BFF and his Health and Human Services secretary nominee, is technically a rainmaker and not a lobbyist, so Obama’s anti-lobbying executive order doesn’t apply.

Then again, isn’t the rainmaker vs. lobbyist issue the type of hairsplitting that Slick Willie exemplified.

Should we cut B.O. some slack? Some folks say yes:
“Sometimes you can over-promise,” said former Sen. Warren Rudman.

"”t was probably a mistake to come down so hard on lobbyists,” said Melanie Sloan, as executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “I think the Obama folks' intentions were great here. But sometimes you realize you can't actually govern on just what you campaigned on.”

I’m not so ready to cut slack.

And, at the same time, Peter Baker got a different quote out of Sloan:
“This is a big problem for Obama, especially because it was such a major, major promise,” said Sloan. “He harped on it, time after time, and he created a sense of expectation around the country. This is exactly why people are skeptical of politicians, because change we can believe in is not the same thing as business as usual.”

Bingo, bingo and bingo.

Baker says some unnamed Dems have similar concerns.

In other words, Obama is at risk of becoming the next Jimmy Carter – not the post-1980 sainted Jimmy Carter, but the Jimmy Carter almost loathed by Tip O’Neill.

So, no, contrary to Melanie Sloan in Quote No. 1, I am not ready to cut any slack

I would be, if we could get a little crow-eating from Obama himself, and even more crow-eating from rabid Obamiacs.

I’m not holding my breath on either.

On the first, as I’ve blogged before, I thought there was a fair amount of hubris in Obama’s short-lived pseudo-Great Seal campaign seal from last summer. Ditto for the Roman columns idea at Invesco Field in Denver.

As for the more rabid Obamiacs, well, y’all are just insufferable. Therefore, until you start suffering, I gots no problem continuing to hit you upside the head.

Don’t like it? Find some humility. Admit that he is Just.Another.Politician.™

Ahh, those non-violent Hindus – and Buddhists

When I posted a review of a new Churchill-Gandhi dual biography on Amazon last fall, several Indian nationals made negative review comments, all variants on the “sainted, can do no wrong” claims about Hinduism. Well, as carnage in Sri Lanka shows, the Hindu-religion driven Tamil Tigers, inventors (yes, them, not Muslims) of suicide bombings, are anything but nonviolent.

That’s why Chris Hitchens’ “God is not Great” is the best of the “new atheist” apologetics books.

(Oh, you Buddhists, you shouldn’t be so smug. Although Hitchens points out that Gen. Tojo and other Japanese war criminals worshipped at Shinto shrines, japan has strong Buddhist elements, too.

None of this is to excuse the less-than-savory actions of Sri Lanka’s ethnic Sinhalese majority government over the decades. That said, that government theoretically most represents the Buddhist religious majority of the island, further reason to tell adherents of the other great Eastern religion to not be so smug about themselves.

Nor should the devotees of the Dalai Lama.

Yes, Beijing is trying to wipe out both Tibetian Buddhism and Tibetian ethnicity behind a wave of Han Chinese migration to/resettlement in Tibet.

But, that said …

Before Beijing’s takeover, the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan lamas ruled the country as the equivalent of a Western European feudal religious holding, like the archbishopric of Cologne or something similar.

Listen up, pocketbook anti-greens

Global wind energy grew nearly 30 percent last year, with the growth rate being highest in the U.S. (Germany is still No. 1 in percentage of electric power derived from wind, despite being a less windy country.)

China doubled its wind power. European countries besides Germany saw large increases.

Bottom line is, people wouldn’t be expanding wind power this much if it weren’t viable.

Tears not so cathartic after all

A new study calls for a more nuanced view of the emotions behind crying, and the emotional benefits, if any.

The study says a selective emotional memory may lead people to overrate tear’s catharsis, and to also try to plug that into a one size fits all theory.

Indeed, some tears may be anything but cathartic.

February 02, 2009

Greenwald rips Daschle a new one

From healthcare suck-up/sleaze factor, to adulterous sanctimoniousness in opposing gay marriage, Glenn Greenwald argues you can’t get much sleazier than Tom Daschle.

He also suggests, as I noted in a previous post, that all the money Tommy D has gotten from Big Pharma and insurance companies is a sure sign Obama isn’t serious about in-depth healthcare changes.

And, for you Obamiacs, trying to defend his “pragmatism,” Glenn shows that Tommy D beat you to the punch last summer, on Obama’s telco immunity flip-flop:
“Those who accomplish the most are those who don't make the perfect the enemy of the good. Barack is a pragmatist.”

Meanwhile, Daschle’s firm, with AT&T as a client, was lobbying for telco immunity at that time. And, as for Bob Dole’s support for Tommy D? In addition to being alums of the Old Boys Club called the U.S. Senate, Dole is also a rainmaker at Alston & Byrd right next to Tommy D.

Well, the Obama Administration is officially in the tank.

Change We Can Believe In™, eh?

If you really want to see how bad Daschle is, including being called a “whore,” read this Matt Taibbi article.

This Peter Baker article points out Obama is going to have a "czar" just about everything, paralleling most Cabinet offices, in what is surely a violation of the spirit of constitutional checks, and yet more worsening of "presidentialism."

Tommy D will be the healthcare czar if his HHS nomination tanks.

You Obamiacs make me want to puke at times.

Daschle, insurance, Obama’s healthcare plans

Just a thought here. Could it be that all the insurance agencies and Big Pharma that lined Tom Daschle’s pockets the last two years is part of why Obama opposed mandates as part of his alleged national healthcare plan?

An Obama ‘czar’ for every subject violates spirit of Constitution

Further typifying what’s wrong with “presidentialism,” President Obama sounds like he will wind up appointing a White House “czar” for just about everything this side of hemorrhoids.

It makes a hash of Cabinet government and Constitutional intentions that the executive be accountable to Congress.

The most notable example is Larry Summers as economic czar. And, should his tax problems trip him up as Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Daschle can just become Obama’s health czar instead.

The inanity began with Bill Simon as Nixon’s energy czar, then took off with drug czars, who ought to be shot like their Romanov namesakes.

Back to the seriousness, though.

Obama’s already appointed several “czars,” in the area of foreign affairs, with specific portfolios, including Holbrooke, Ross and Mitchell. I mean, isn’t Hillary Clinton pretty emasculated/defeminized as Secretary of State?

On economics, what happens when Geithner tries to show independence from his former guru?

And, how much more is Obama’s executive office budget going to be because of this?

February 01, 2009

Daschle-Obama follies reach Act II

Update - And appear heading for Act II; see bottom

The tragicomedy is now at the point where it’s a race between Daschle’s ethics woes and the Obama team’s vetting laxness as to which is more laughable.

That’s because the latest bit of ball-moving news is that Daschle was aware that his car and driver might be subject to back taxes way back in June, but opted not to say anything to Obama until after he was offered the health and Human Services Cabinet position.

Especially after Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s own tax lies and screw-ups, plenty of Senate Dems are antsy, at the least:
“It’s totally shocking,” an aide to a Democratic senator said Saturday. “Why do we have to continue to have the same story over and over again with these nominees?”

And, that semi-rhetorical question is the basis of the flip side of the laugh track – what did Obama know and when did he know it?

Plus, as the NYT story linked above points out, there’s the sidebar ethics issue of all the money Daschle has gotten from health-industry companies in the past, and how that squares with Obama’s anti-lobbying stance. Technically, Daschle wasn’t a lobbyist, “just” a rainmaker type. Nonetheless …

And, as the Washington Post wonders, how does Daschle’s $4 mil in income in the last two years square with Obama’s attempt at “everyman” image?
“Daschle is the quintessential Washington story. You leave a powerful position, and you leverage it to make a fortune,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit government watchdog group. “He is not alone . . . [and] it would be hard for Obama to fill his administration without ever turning to someone like that. That said, these are the kind of Washington insiders that Obama campaigned against.”

Daschle’s income stream gets more detail on the job page of the story.

A number of Republicans pointed out things like Obama’s faux Great Seal, the Roman columns at Denver’s Invesco Field, and other style points that came off as looking like arrogance. Beyond the vetting issues with Daschle and Geithner, does the presumption of being able to ram both of them down the Senate’s throat reflect that, too?

Update: A few other blogs note that, re Daschle’s July “discovery,” that was when Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign finished running out the string AND soon after the time he first indicated interest in HHS. Coincidence?

Coincidence We Can Believe In?

And, further typifying what’s wrong with “presidentialism,” President Obama sounds like he will wind up appointing a White House “czar” for just about everything this side of hemorrhoids\, including, probably, Daschle as his health “czar” if he can’t get HHS confirmation.

Renditions to continue under Obama

I already blogged about this several days ago, when Obama’s first flurry of executive orders were released, but it’s worth noting again, as the L.A. Times has
And, as the Washington Post devoted a full story to just this issue.

“Renditions” to third-party, torturing countries such as Egypt or Jordan, will continue. And, let’s remind ourselves again that the practice started with Clinton, not Shrub Bush.

That said, the Obama orders say that the CIA is supposed to not render suspects to countries that torture, but there’s probably a loophole inside that somewhere, too.

In the Obama orders, there’s another loophole, too. The CIA’s own “black sites” CAN stay open, as long as used for “short-term” detentions only. Of course, the executive order doesn’t define “short term.”

And, that might be the loophole, if it’s not closed. Bring some Jordanian “advisors” to a CIA black site rather than fly somebody to Jordan.

I’m still cautiously optimistic on Obama’s civil liberties focs on this issue, but won’t write him a blank check.

Science illiteracy not confined to US

In a survey done in Great Britain as part of the run-up to the Darwin bicentennial, half of British said they don’t believe in evolution.

First, a side note. The theory of evolution is NOT something you “believe in” any m ore than is the theory of gravity. Most people don’t understand well how the word “theory” is used in science; that said, try presenting the analogy I just mentioned of the two theories to your hard-core creationist or IDer, and you’re sure to get a crash course in obfuscation.

As British science instructor James Williams notes, you “accept” evolution, you don’t “believe” it.

That said, more than one-fifth of Brits not only don’t accept evolution, they actually believe creationism.

Needed - parliamentary government with third-party viability

First, for anybody who wants to know more about how a parliamentary system could play out in America, and why we need it, I strongly recommend Daniel Lazare’s “The Frozen Republic.” (Ted Rall was very interested, I know.)

Second, my rhetorical question to any opponent of parliamentary government, ignoring questions about its reality or likelihood in America: How invested are you in one half or the other of the duopoly, and is that restraining you from looking at what might really be best for America?

I’m going to dig in and tackle both parliamentary government and third party access in this post.

I begin by noting the two are separate, though somewhat intertwined issues.

The main reason third parties TODAY (as opposed to the past, per the one commenter to your post) get such short shrift is that the duopoly, in conjunction with the MSM on something that vaguely resembles "debates," conspire to keep third parties off the ballot (the duopoly) or out of the limelight should they qualify (the MSM). The "presidentialism" focus of our modern federal government, with governance "eggs" ultimately in one basket, only exacerbates this problem.

MSLBs are guilty of abetting this, to. In summer 2006, Congressional Dems made noise about a Congressional public campaign finance bill - with the restriction of limiting it to the duopoly. MSLBs like Kos signed on.

Now, on to your talk of "coalitions."

First, not everybody does it the same, contra your claim.

Japan, for example, has a one-party coalition, not a two-party. The Socialists and Japanese Nationalists not inside the LDP are both internally coherent; neither is a coaltion.

Germany, thanks in part to the national list that elects 1/3 the Bundestag, has multiple politically viable parties, MOST of which are NOT coalitions in the U.S. sense. The Christian Dems and Social Dems arguably are; the Free Dems arguably are not, and the Greens and ex-Communists CLEARLY are not.

Israel has numerous political parties, and due to mutual suspicious, you CANNOT lump all of Israel's religious parties under the umbrella of "coalition." (This is shown by the behavior of various religious parties in Israel whenever Likud tries to form a coalition.)

Next is the question of what would better serve America.

From where I sit, a parliamentary government, even without third parties, would undercut the dry rot of presidential hagiography that threatens to make us like a Russia or something.

It would also fight government gridlock; for example, PM Nancy Pelosi would have been leading our government the past two years.

But, parliamentary government WITH third parties would do more. It would force parties to stand for something. Take PM Pelosi, rather than Speaker Pelosi, for example. Failure to do more on Iraq would have provoked enough of a revolt by, say, the Progressive Caucus to risk a no-confidence vote. Or, let's say half the Progressive Caucus members were actually Greens. Beyond a no-confidence vote, in that case, Pelosi would have risked the downfall of the coalition, if she had to be in coalition with Greens.

Ditto on the GOP side. With third parties, especially with German-style national list, the Religious right could "walk" from the GOP and join the Religious Right party we already have, called the Constitution Party.

And, if the James Dobsons of the world wanted to risk "access" for integrity, their rank-and-file could revolt.

Ditto for folks like Gang Green enviro groups; a viable Green Party would put Sierra et al on the spot vis-a-vis "access politics."

Plus, we’d have parties focused on issues rather than just on “winning,” an idea you seem to tout favorably, but another major thing WRONG with our current system.

Finally, if we had to have coalition government in America because we had viable third parties, I'd rather have "external" coalitions hammered out between different parties than have amorphous blobs as the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of the duopoly.

In short, the current duopoly is anti-democratic in spirit and action and stifles political creativity. Parliamentary government would be the best way to booster third-party access, as well as getting rid of the anti-democratic focus on "presidentialism." (Why the Founders, for all their abhorrence of this, didn't more narrowly prescribe and proscribe presidential powers in the Constitution, I have no idea.)

Oh, and "just different" doesn't make our system better, either.